Monday, January 02, 2012

How Reagan lowered the bar for Republicans

My personal experience with Ronald Reagan

Despite his "sainted" status by the "right," in reality, Reagan was a liar, a big one, and a bad one. That's just a fact.

That whole, "One... small shipment..." which was of course a bunch of planeloads and clearly arms to our enemies for hostages (and more favors) and he pauses, looks down, all the classic signs of lying--he's supposed to be an actor and he can't deliver it convincingly.

There are many reports of him being outright senile in office, too, people visiting the oval office and he thought they were visiting him on a set in Hollywood. May be apocryphal but I don't think so.

I met him once when I was in a singing dancing group--he was still gov of CA, so maybe I was 15 I have his signed photo.

He and Nancy rented a house for $2,000 a month (that's when my parents were paying $127 a month for their mortgage) because the governor's mansion wasn't nice enough.

It was a huge tudor estate and they'd built a stage over the pool in the backyard for this party.

We were flown up, put up in nice hotel rooms, given a bus tour, they went all out. We waited for the show in the basement pub of his house (just like a British pub), with a big pool table.

Several times Nancy came down and yelled at us, "Don't touch the pool table!"

So we did the show, over the pool, afraid we were going to fall in (there was enough of the pool left exposed for that to be possible).

After, Reagan had his picture taken with us, and we were all shocked because he was wearing full makeup--to a party (well, he had to look good in photos--but other politicians didn't do this and he wasn't that old at the time).


But clearly, he played the part convincingly enough to get elected president.

But Reagan was really the end of the Republican party as anything even remotely reasonable.

Now the bar for Republican presidential candidates is just not to be crazy. So far very few of them have been able to get over that bar that's so low you could trip over it. Romney's "presidential" and I'll give him credit for persistence, too. He tried to run in 2008, he's run tirelessly now. Trouble he, he's changed his positions because he was too liberal. And, he's Mormon, which means most Christians in the south won't vote for him, because they think Mormons aren't Christians (and if they don't know it, they kind of suspect it because of the space alien underwear business).

I expect Palin to rear her ugly head at some point when there's no clear leader, but I also don't think she wants the job--she's quit every political job she's had--she just wants the attention and money.


Why is it difficult to find a Republican candidate who isn't crazy?

All it takes is a cursory glance at the Republican politicians running for President in 2012, and you start to wonder why it's so hard for Republicans to find a candidate who isn't either stupid (though Bush clearly lowered the bar on that one), or just plain crazy (or both).

The bar has gotten lower and lower for Republican candidates to the point where now all you have to be is "not crazy" -- though most of the candidates fall well under that bar.

Why is it difficult to find a Republican who isn't crazy? I wonder if it's because the belief system required to be a Republican requires not only a suspension of disbelief of reality, but of our constitution and the entire concept of a civilized society as well. 

Ron Paul doesn't believe that education is a right? What, exactly, does he think the next generation, that will be taking care of the world (and him) will be like without an education? Has he ever looked at the countries that put the most emphasis and availability on education and how they do better than those that don't? 

So let's go back to St. Reagan for a minute. To listen to Republicans today, the man is God-like in his brilliance and ability to cut taxes and government. They conveniently forget that he grew government, created the biggest deficit in the history of the nation, actually raised taxes, gave arms to our enemies--and lied about it all. It's true. But Republicans don't believe in reality, or education, or being smart or realistic.
Taxes: Reagan raised taxes four times between 1982 to 1984, increasing the payroll tax, broadening the base of Social Security payees, applying the income tax to higher earners and rolling back corporate and individual tax breaks.

Reagan’s historic tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, whose rate went from 70 percent to 28 percent during his administration, ultimately forced the president to raise taxes on more people than any other U.S. president during a time of peace, according to New York Timescolumnist Paul Krugman. In total, Reagan raised taxes 12 times during his two terms in office. (
Look--I can totally understand "libertarians" if they have a real view of a smaller government. But this current group of Republicans want lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations, but not on 99% of us who earn our living. They want less interference on business, but more on our personal lives and what we can do with the people we love and even our own bodies. 

That's called Fascism. And normal people who vote for fascists are either as stupid or crazy as the current crop of candidates. It's a very sad state for the world.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

FACE FACTS: Changing your mind is STRENGTH when the facts change!

Obama is responsible for killing Osama

Pretty simple and clear, right? 

Bush had 7 years to do it and either didn't bother (Bush In 2002: "I Truly Am Not Concerned About" Bin Laden. From a March 14, 2002, Reuters article titled, "Bin Laden not a concern: Bush"), or was too inept.

Obama got the job done.

Yes--to anyone who lives in the "fact-based reality" (that Bush mocked) knows this to be true. But anyone who still lives in BushWorld, the facts are irrelevant, and it's Bush's victory!

Washington Times' Brett Decker: "Bin Laden's Death Is More Mr. Bush's Victory Than Mr. Obama's." [The Washington Times, 5/2/11]

But, remember, facts don't matter to these people, not the propagandists at the top, and not the blind followers at the bottom.

They will always believe what they want people to believe/or are told to believe, because that's easy. Here's their mindset:
If you were to have to change your mind-based on facts of all things--then that might mean you were wrong at some point, and that's simply not allowed. Just not. You cannot be wrong, because that means you were weak--and worse, if you were wrong once, you might be wrong again, and that introduced doubt, which is the enemy of faith, right? 
So if you admit you're wrong, you're consorting with the enemy, which makes you the enemy, and, Lord God, I can't even finish this thought without wondering where my handgun is and if I have enough bullets to shoot myself, given what a bad shot I am...
 It's the year 2011. I keep hoping by this point in history people might have evolved enough to understand that when the world changes around you, you have to face the facts and react. Otherwise, if you just keep doing the same thing and expecting different results, well, we all know that's Einstein's definition of insanity.

Stop the insanity people (or at least the stupidity). Face facts.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Republican hate and fear is like Nazi rhetoric and leads the same terrible place

I'm all for real libertarianism, less government everywhere. I'm not for the Republican idea of less government control for corporations and more for individuals. That's not progressive, that's regressive and dangerous.

And no, the Democrats are not doing that. Yes, they want more of a social democrat nanny state (which is what's been successful in European countries, like Scandinavia, where a friend of mine was aghast that I pay $720 a month for health insurance and get only two doc visits a year and am lucky to be able to get that!)

And I can understand when some people are against that kind of nanny state, because Americans have a long history of taking care of themselves. But in civil societies we must take care of each other, too. And since some people--and corporations--would harm us for their own profit, there must be some form of policing, just as we want a police force to keep us safe from people who would do us harm.

The real danger today is springing dangerously forth from the rabid right's rhetoric of hate and fear. It's the same tactic the Nazi's used, and left unchecked, it will lead to the same place. 

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

We like to think that can't happen now. Like we liked to think that a depression couldn't happen now. But it can, and if the hate and fear mongers have its way, it will. They will control your life, just as they invent outright lies to try to make you afraid that it's the other side that will.

I'm reading a book about WWII, about how the Nazi's gained power through their rhetoric of hate and fear. Sounded a lot like Beck and Rush and those so called "entertainers." And not just fear--fear of groups of people--gays, immigrants, Muslims, "foreigners."

And it made me wonder--are gays the new Jews to the rabid right? Can it possibly be OK to deny people basic human rights such as marriage? Can it possibly be constitutional when "all men are created equal"?

And is it just the start of a calculated attack on everyone who is not "like them"? Like Nazis.

  • First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
  • Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
  • Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
  • Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

By Pastor Niemoller


When hatred is used to create power, which is what the Republicans are doing, it erodes society, bit by bit, until unchecked power and persecution are the results.

So beware--because their language is coded, and what they say is the opposite of what they mean. They don't want freedom from government (except for corporations), they want to control your personal life with it. What they call "freedom" is like what was called freedom in the book 1984. It's total control of individual lives, and it's the worst kind of nanny state, because it's only in their best interest--not in ours.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

love vs hate, hope vs fear--which choice is ALWAYS better

I have been a harsh critic of Democrats in recent years, too--but overall I feel they do a better job.

The sharp divide between "us" and "them" is not a good thing, but both sides (and really, in this case, the Right, which has Fox and a great propaganda machine--and don't forget "you are either with us or against us," which became their credo) has pushed their followers further to the edges--and used the power of fear and hate to rally them--no good comes from that.

It's also meant the Left also has to move further to the edges to counter--it's a no-win game and the derisiveness it's created is toxic.

Yes, "wealthy" is a relative term, and especially in expensive places to live, like SoCal or the Bay Area (or NYC), the median income needs to be higher just to stay the same.

You talk about two parties agreeing to what's fair--and therein lies the problem today--given the sharper divisions created in the past 10 years by what was an openly Fascist regime (though they wouldn't call themselves that--their actions were clear). Yes, this country had been moving that direction for years-money=power--that's not new, but it was taken to new levels.

You and I aren't "normal" cases in terms of business. We can be individually creative--we're more like craftsman of ideas and things--some of them real, some of them digital.

And no, I don't think you're greedy. I think you would like a country with less interference from the government--in all forms. As I've said, true libertarianism makes sense--if it's consistent. But for too long we've had too much government control on individuals and not enough on corporations (whose sole goal is to make money--no matter the human cost).

No--I don't want small businesses to suffer--they are the most creative group of people. But there always have and always will be unfair, greedy employers who require rules and regulations to help keep them in check. This is also why there are labor unions--so much under attack. Yes, they, too, go too far and can undermine the very foundation that their members need.

But it all comes down to moderation--TRYING to get people to agree, being reasonable, trying for a win-win situation.

And you can't have that when one side's only goal is to eliminate the other side. It's long been a problem of religious battles all over the world (and still is in many places).

And, unfortunately, this religious fervor has been intentionally injected into the political party system, because "us vs. them" is a powerful motivator.

When one side's battle cry is, not only "we're right and you're wrong," but "we're real Americans and you're all perverts, and [inert bigoted name calling here] then there's no possibility for a discourse, no win-win.

So--no matter what party you're in, you need to be open to listening to the thoughts and fears of people who disagree. Which is what you and I have been doing in an intelligent way.

But do you think the much-publicized "tea baggers" (who are ignorant to so much, including the alternate meaning of this term!) are open to discussion?

No, for them it's religious fervor "us vs. them." For us the case is already closed--they're right, everyone else is wrong.

I can only hope that each new generation will be a little smarter, or more open, or more accepting, than the previous one, and overall I think that's true.

But, to quote Rogers and Hammerstein's angry anti-bigotry song written in the 40's right after WWII, "You've got to be carefully taught,"

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!


Today, unfortunately, that bad teaching extends to anyone who believes anything different from you do--be it religion. politics, or even simply who they love.

So I say--join with groups that are accepting and open minded. Those with positive goals. Avoid those who have their minds firmly shut and use hate and fear to control.

And everyone has a choice--they can choose love or hate, hope or fear.

Which of those choices tends to lead to new invention, progress, and a better world?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just say YES! Fear vs. Hope. Progress vs. Stagnation.
In the debate leading up to the victory for health care reform, President Obama urged lawmakers to do what is right, while opponents relied on fear and cynicism.
Yesterday at 3:42pm · · · Share
Maria Russo
Maria Russo
Or the party of "just say it often enough, and people will believe it"
Yesterday at 4:11pm ·
S Forest King
S Forest King
And the Democrats are the party of... Democracy? Ooops... guess not.
Yesterday at 4:46pm ·
Daniel Will-Harris
Daniel Will-Harris
Democrats are the party of "of the people, by the people, for the people," as opposed to "of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations." The public demanded health care reform by a overwhelming margin (before negative propaganda designed solely to scare people worked). We NEEDED health care reform in this country, and, quiteamazingly, we got it.

It may not be perfect, but it's a start--and certainly better than the Republican plan of "do nothing, except maybe give more tax breaks to insurance and pharma companies."
Yesterday at 5:42pm ·
S Forest King
S Forest King
Daniel, if they were of the people as they are supposed to be, they would not have shoved this monster down everyone's throat without reading it themselves. Well over half the population in every poll I saw stated they didn't want the bill. In the case of Democrats who are supposed to be in support of "Democracy" it doesn't matter whether the fear was rational or not... the majority didn't want it. Remember how loudly the left wailed about democracy when they discovered the electoral college? And to further state they are not in bed with the pharma/insurance/unions which are also made up of organized groups of people... most of which are also corporations is utterly foolish.
Yesterday at 6:01pm ·
Daniel Senie
Daniel Senie
For the consideration of S Forest King: The USA PATRIOT act was not read by the members of either party. That shouldn't have been passed either. Are you sure all the reps and senators read the tax bills Bush pushed that borrowed money from the next generation to give to the rich?

The United States is not a democracy, we are a Republic. Recite your Pledge of Allegiance, and you will find that to be the case. Legislation is not enacted by popular vote. If you think it should be, examine why California is ungovernable.
Yesterday at 8:37pm ·
Sandi Tinker
Sandi Tinker
I'm with the Daniels.
Yesterday at 8:58pm ·
S Forest King
S Forest King
I agree, the Patriot Act should not have been passed. Nor should Bush's Prescription Drug bill had seen the light of day as it was similarly rife with corruption, almost as bad as this Obamacare is.

Perhaps you should read my statement again, I never said the US was a Democracy, I stated that's the philosophy the Democratic party is supposed to adhere to. Just as the Republican party is supposed to be "representative". But now we see it's only when convenient and they are no better than their opponents. Neither party represents the people anymore, and until a critical mass of the people become aware of this, we will soon find ourselves in far worse trouble than we do now.
Yesterday at 9:25pm ·
Sandi Tinker
Sandi Tinker
Without Part D, I would be dead.
Yesterday at 10:36pm ·
Daniel Will-Harris
Daniel Will-Harris
The recent supreme court ruling doesn't help with "democracy" since now corporations have openly unlimited power to buy politicians. Then again, the Supreme Court stopped protecting and defending the constitution in the 2000 election when they votes to NOT count the votes--a supremely unconstitutional action we will be paying for for years.
14 hours ago ·
S Forest King
S Forest King
Daniel, they have been buying politicians all our lives, all the way through McCain/Feingold too. The only thing the Supreme Court decision did, was put it back out in the open. Wouldn't you rather see the money trail as opposed to it's being covert? Seriously, why do you think there are over 16,000 pages (more depending on who you ask) making up the tax code? There is so much graft going on, it would boggle the mind.

Also, corporations, like all businesses are just groups of people with a common goal, the legal status of the group has nothing to do with it's integrity. There are good groups and bad groups, but pointing your finger at the people who buy the politicians is like blaming drug dealers for the drug epidemic. If there were no buyers, there would be no need to worry about who is supplying them. We are not supposed to have control over the groups of people, we are supposed to have control over the politicians.
10 hours ago ·
Daniel Will-Harris
Daniel Will-Harris
I agree the tax system is a horrible mess.I'd like to see a flat tax. But it's too simple, not enough loopholes for wealthy people and corporations to wriggle through.

(a side note about "wealthy." I think it's great when people can make money and be rich. I have had years when I made a lot of money--and I GLADLY paid a lot of tax. I did it, because I said, "If I ever make a lot of money I won't complain about paying my share," and I did what I said. So--I CAN now complain about those who make a lot of money and whine about having to pay taxes. Amazingly, people are wealthy all over the world, even in countries with much higher taxes than in the USA. So taxes don't stop wealth.

And the whole "redistribution of wealth" thing--Bush and Cheney did more to redistribute it from the lower and middle class to the upper class than any other administration in history. That was the true redistribution of wealth, and we see how badly that's working for the overall economy. Yet then their supporters turn around and claim the Democrats are doing it--that's absurd, ridiculous and precisely the kind of misdirection propaganda the Republicans are so expert at.

Back to a flat tax--there were fake flat tax proposals like those from billionaire Steve Forbes. His version didn't tax income from investments, so it was like a half-flat tax--the half of the people who actually paid were those who actually have salaries, while the wealth could get away paying almost nothing. That was a bad joke.

And--corporations are owned by stockholders--and if they want to band together for political purposes--that's fine. They should vote on it within the corporate stockholders groups. If, however, the CEO or Board want something for political purposes, no, that's not the same as the individuals asking for it. And no, it doesn't mean that all the stockholders agree. So no, corporations are not individuals and should not be treated as such.

As for their contributions being transparent--yes, of course they should be, no matter what other restrictions apply. Your contributions are public record, so are mine--of course ADM, Exxon, and every other corporations contributions should be public.

Finally--I'm all for libertarianism--when it's consistent. But that's not what the Republicans or "neo-cons" are. In fact, they have done more to undermine the constitution than any outside force in history! They cry that Obama is a communist, when they really had a one-party system, they didn't allow Democrats to read bills before votes, and they just pushed through everything, from phony wars to tax cuts on the wealthy. So when they cry about Democrats being mean now it's' absurd--they may have learned from tricks from the right (at long last--that's the only way they got the health care bill through--giving Republicans a taste of their own medicine!), but they are at least working in the public good!

And--today's Republicans are not conservative by any measure. Just saying "no" doesn't make you consecrative, it makes you blind to the possibilities.

I'm not saying Democrats are saints or even always right, but I am saying that what they create is more in favor of citizens than what Republicans do--which is so clearly, TRANSPARENTLY aimed at the wealth of corporations and a small group of individuals. Those who don't get that are support them are simply voting against their own interests, and as I've said before, there is no other living being on the planet that works against it's own interests--which makes Republicans uniquely unsuited to sustaining life on this planet!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Health Insurance & Reform SCAM

(First I'll say I'm always afraid to complain about my health insurance--because they could cancel me. I don't get much from it now, but if something major happened I'd need it--so I keep paying and paying--and they could cancel me at any time for any reason. Even so, it's important to speak out about what a criminal racket this really is.)

The more I deal with my insurance company, the more I realize it's a scam. I spent two hours today trying to get my insurance company to pay for a doctors visit. One pleasant rep told me one thing, I called the doctor's office, they called the insurance company who told them this wasn't true (and pretended they didn't know who I talked to). I called and spoke to another pleasant rep who knew who I'd talked to earlier (of course, it's all in my permanent record!) and said the first rep was right and the one who talked to the doctor's office was wrong and filed a grievance for me--which will take 45 days to resolve.

At issue--I get two doctors visits--a year. The insurance company counted one earlier this year for which they paid ZERO. They paid nothing, yet they counted it as one of my two visits. Then when I have a ear-nose-throat visit that needs payment, they refuse it. WTF? On one planet is this fair? No, it's a f-ing scam.

And the Senate's so-called health-reform bill is another scam which basically gives a half a BILLION dollars in tax breaks to health insurance companies. Huh? If Republicans can afford to give HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS to Health Insurance companies, why can they not afford to give Americans something, like a $1,500 per person tax credit for health care--or, better yet, a real public option like every other civilized democratic country has?

I guess money talks, and health insurance companies can afford to spend tens of millions in lobbyists and campaign contributions, and what a great deal for them--they'll get 100x return on their money!

Meanwhile, American citizens get what we always seem to get from the Senate--screwed.

It's time for us to get up in arms about this, to contact our representatives and DEMAND REAL CHANGE, not yet another givaway to big business.

Here's the email I sent to my senators:

I am mortified and disgusted that the Senate's so-called health reform bill is really yet another giveaway to big insurance companies.

We need REAL SECURITY in this country, we need a PUBLIC OPTION or at least strong laws that allow everyone, including the self-employed with pre-existing conditions, to buy AFFORDABLE health insurance.

I pay $600 a month. For that I get two doctor visits a year. Just two. this year, my insurance company has paid $40 for one visit, and NOTHING for the other. Meanwhile, they won't pay for the $400 specialist bill I have, because they counted the $0 visit as one of my two visits.

That's right, I pay $7,200 a year and they have saved me $40. This is criminal.

I simply cannot believe that the Senate is so beholden to the Insurance Industry lobbyists and campaign contributions that you cannot create a REAL HEALTH INSURANCE ACT FOR AMERICANS--NOT INSURANCE COMPANIES.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE HELP US. Insurance companies don't need help. CITIZENS NEED HELP.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Obama White House mismanages mainstream media

As he proved during the campaign, President Obama can be a great "persuader." Watch this recent weekly address to the nation and you'll see his tremendous ability to speak clearly and convincingly.

Now the question is--did you see that speech before? No? I didn't either. Where is it shown other than online? I don't know, either.

While candidate and President Obama has been very smart with his online and new-media efforts, he's failing on the mass-media front. There, screaming, crying Republicans are winning--because they're making the most noise.

There, President Obama shows up only in a few short clips per week, while the cry-babies (why people would take a crying man seriously about political issues is beyond me) are getting air time, eyes and ears.

Most people still get their news through network and cable TV.

And this is key--on TV you can't choose the stories you want to hear about--they're pushed at you. So even if you don't want to hear about Obama's strategy in Afghanistan, chances are the newscasters are going to talk about it (even if briefly, except on days when Tiger Woods private life becomes "news that affects us all."

On the web--if you don't want to read about world events, if you don't want to read about politics or the president, you can easily avoid it. Then you never know. Which is the case with the uneducated and many Republicans--they want to pretend Obama wasn't elect (even better--pretend he's not really American!).

While I agree it's important for the White House to be on FaceBook and Twitter, to have a comprehensive and useful web site and email blasts, it's clear that these forms of communication still don't have the impact of mass media--network and cable TV.

So if you aren't getting your message out--clearly--daily--then your opposition will be, and you will lose the war of minds.

As incompetent as the Bush administration was at actually running anything, from hurricane Katrina to Iraq to the economy--that's how organized and effective they were at manipulating the US mainstream media.

The Bush White House's propaganda machine (starting with the 100% political Republican propaganda) managed to make reality take a back seat to staged events that were so simple it got their message out--with no possibility of the media re-interpreting them.

Despite some apparent blunders such as "Mission Accomplished" (or, to a lesser extent, the President continuing to read to children while the twin towers were attacked on 9/11 rather than actually doing anything about it), the truth is that the mainstream media never criticized those events.

9/11 became too sacrosanct ("we must all stand behind our president--unless he's a Democrat, in which case this would have been his fault!") and the propaganda effect of "Mission Accomplished" was that most people actually believed the words--it was accomplished.

Republicans understand that all you need are the words. You don't need the actions. That makes it much easier, because all you have to say is, "We've made America a safer place!" and that line is repeated over and over, despite the fact that what you did was actually make us more vulnerable to terrorists--and now financially, too! It doesn't matter, because the ignorant masses people have heard "We have made you safe!" repeated and repeated endlessly, so that's what they believe.

Democrats, the Obama White House included, mistake actions for words. They think if they actually do things, then people will recognize, appreciate and applaud their accomplishments.

But these accomplishments are bound to be complex--the way all political solutions must be, and therefore difficult to explain in under five words. And, being smart, if not "too smart for their own good," Democrats try to explain the situation or their accomplishments in 500 words.

Now--while 500 words can be more elucidating, most listeners won't know what "elucidating" means.

The bigger problem is that if you give the press 500 words, you give them the ability to edit them down to whatever 5 words they want. The ellipsis (...) is a powerful thing.

"Health Insurance companies are taking advantage of Americans. The citizens of the United States need and want quality, affordable health care, and it is the goal of this administration to finally bring true security to the health care of Americans."

can become

"Health Insurance companies... want... to finally bring true security to the health care of Americans."

Uh oh. Wrong message.

And when delivered on TV, where the "..." are invisible--there's no way to tell that the message was changed.

While this may be an extreme example, the truth is that if you give the mainstream media too much information, you give them the power to change your message.

The other truth is that if the mainstream media was really doing its job in news reporting, it wouldn't accept five word phrases as news, it wouldn't repeat them endlessly as if they were fact.

Reporters should go out, double check stories, demand two independent sources before quoting mere rumor as fact. That's what I learned when I got a degree in Journalism. For the most part, that's not what's happening today. Today somebody, anybody, even "Joe the Plumber" just has to say the words--words remember--doesn't matter if they're true or even actually make sense--and they're repeated and repeated until they sound true, and then are taken as fact.

Another twist on all this is that there's so much more noise and information from every direction--the TV, computer, radio, SMS, Social Media... So people have more information and less time. Which means that messages must be delivered in shorter, faster ways.

Complex stories need to be distilled down to bullet points.

While it's unfortunate, and leads to the oversimplification of complex issues, it's also necessary to get your point across.

This White House already does this online. Why did President Obama find it necessary to have a "New Way Forward" in Afghanistan? Well, first, "New Way Forward" is a great propaganda term--it sounds good but says nothing, and doesn't give any hint that the new way forward sounds suspiciously like the old way backwards.

But they distilled the issue to a few bullet points (originally posted on Twitter)--and to a 4 minute version of the President's speech (though they both should be on the same web page, otherwise the bullet points are under a 30 minute speech, which few are going to watch in its entirety).

But again we get back to the problem--did you see these bullet points? No. Did you hear the condensed version of the speech? No. Did the mainstream media get and regurgitate the bullet points? No (if they got them, they didn't spit them back out--and even if they got them--guess what--there are too many of them--guess how many--that's right, 514--ten times too many.

It doesn't matter that these were originally delivered via Twitter at 140 characters each--because they add up.

What could the White House have told the media?

"The Taliban still wants to kill us!!!," is 7 words (!!! doesn't count!!!), too long, but still simple and powerful--you are going to die unless we do this. Something even bawling Fox viewers can understand. And something that can't be as easily manipulated--at least not directly.

In today's newsless world (and I saw "newsless" because what passes for news is rarely straight reportage--it's most often now a form of editorial written in a newsy way) it will always be possible for pundits and commentators to outright lie--which is how Fox News operates. Because their lies are carefully crafted to be simple, they can be stronger than honest complexity.

So the best, if not only way to fight them is to fight fire with fire--be simple in return--make your message short, sweet, and clear even to third graders (which, thanks to another Fox show, we have learned that fifth graders can be smarter than most adults, so perhaps adults can understand at a third-grade level).

Remember the old adage: KISS=Keep It Simple Stupid

Let's hope the Obama administration can do that--if not, they'll continue to be too smart for their own good.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What is Obama thinking about Afghanistan?

I sent this letter to the white house today. I truly believe President Obama is a brilliant man--so I can only hope he has his reasons for continuing our military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. The problem is--he hasn't made those reasons clear to the country--or the world. So, unfortunately, it just seems like the same old-thing, when we'd hoped for a fresh start.

So I'm asking for an explanation, that's all--that the White House help us all make sense of their decision:

Mr. President

No one in the history of the world has ever won a guerrilla war. Why do you believe we can?

Russia bankrupted itself in Afghanistan. Why do you think we won't?

We voted for you for peace--why do you not to serve the people who voted for you?

We believed in you. Why do you let us down?

I'm sure you have your reasons--you're smart. But please tell us why continuing the wars you said you'd end is so important. There must be a reason--we need to know what it is. Otherwise it seems like a continuation of the ruinous folly of the Bush Administration. And we HOPED for more from you.

Thank you.

P.S. Thank you for your work on improving health care.

It's the key to real national security and despite my feelings about your handling of Afghanistan, I do deeply appreciate the work you are doing to help Americans be more secure about their health care.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My health insurance company does nothing for me except waste time

I pay $600 a month for health insurance that doesn’t cover the procedures my doctors ask for, and then even makes it difficult for me to pay for them out of my own pocket. A company that would rather have me on the phone taking up their representatives time for three hours than just answer a simple question.

This is literally insane. They not only don’t provide the service I pay for, they get in the way of me paying for those necessary services myself. In no way does this make sense, or is it a useful, efficient way to run health care.

Here’s my story:

My ear nose throat doctor (who cost me $500 for one visit after insurance) wanted me to get an MRI of my sinuses, which have always been a problem for me. I'm having trouble smelling and of course he wants to know if it's a tumor or just bad genes. I'm voting for bad genes, but at some point you have to stop guessing and make sure, just in case it’s nothing serious, like a lemon sized lump in your noggin.

It takes the doctor two weeks to get an authorization (though a third-party company whose sole job is to get authorizations through insurance companies since it's clearly so hard). I get a letter saying I’m authorized, but I know better than to rush into getting the procedure, because I need to know how much this approved procedure will cost.

I call the insurance company to find out the co-pay. How much will this covered procedure cost me?"

"We can't tell you," they tell me, like that’s a good answer.

WTF? I think but don’t actually say. “Why not?” I ask, politely.

"We don't know, it depends on your policy and provider."

Well, you know my policy and here's the doctor's name.

"We still don't know. What I can tell is that we won't cover it."

WTF redux.

"You haven't met your "out of pocket" expenses."

No, I only pay $600 a month for which I get TWO doctor visits a year (that's it, just two!) and yet I haven't spent another $3,500 of my own money to pay for what they should be paying for out of the $7,200 a year I've been paying them for years--out of which I've gotten $2,600 worth of service (I know, because they do manage to keep track of that!)

It's a great deal, right? $7,600 a year for at least five years, $38,000 to get $2,600. Wow, what a value. And--even after paying them all that, they still won't cover a prescribed and approved procedure.

But--and this is great--I can get it at their contracted price! Whopee! Why am I happy? Because insurance companies usually pay less for service than individual human beings without unlimited profits do.

A few years ago I had a colonoscopy when I had no insurance. It cost me $5,000, which is when I realized I had to have insurance, because the insurance company would have paid $1,200 but the uninsured get to pay $5,000.

(Note, I've had a colonoscopy since getting insurance and and it still managed to cost me $1,500, even though according to Marin General hospital, the insurance company only paid them $1,200, so in reality insurance didn't cover anything at all, in fact, the insurance company seems to have made $300 from my procedure rather than paying me anything--and they still chalk it up to my lifetime limit of what they’ll give me!)

So now how much is their contracted price? They won't tell me. Part of their contract says that they protect doctors from the patients knowing what something really costs.

AH! Of course! Because otherwise I might know how much more I’m paying than they pay. The only reason I knew what they paid for a colonoscopy is because when I balked at $5,000 (since I was told $2,500 in advance), the hospital finance person told me that insurance would pay them $1,200 and I said, “I’ll pay that,” and she said, “We won’t accept that from you, only an insurance company.).


I call the doctor. They don't know the price, either, it depends on the policy. Call your insurance company. Thanks.

An hour or so later of phone time (which costs the insurance company money--money they don't spend on care), I'm told I have to find out the tax ID and CTP code from my doctor. I call, and get it. Call the insurance company, go through the menus (I've memorized them, #4, my SS#, #2,#0 - waiting between each step), and give them the info and they say they'll get back to me--in a week. It takes them a week?

OK, so can they tell me? Which means they aren’t protecting the contracted price at all, which means none of this makes any sense and is just a gigantic waste of time designed to get people to simply stop bothering them.

Except they never do. I hear nothing from them. I do get an email saying I have an important confidential email in my secure email section of my online account. Well, I’ve been using the web since 1995, when it became public. I had one of the first sites on the web. I’ve worked with IBM on information design. And I could not find this magical secure email section. It’s not listed on the site at all after I log in. I try every single solitary link, even one that makes no sense to take me to WebMD or something, and there I see a link to a secure email box.

Why there couldn’t be a link in the main area is a mystery, except it seems to be part of the “let’s make it as hard as possible to do anything so they’ll give up and stop bothering us, other than to send us a check every month,” ethos.

That email turns out to be reminding me it’s time to have a physical, which I already got, on my own dime, because I didn’t want a routine office visit to count as one of my two doctor’s visits for the year, which somehow it ended up counting as anyway, meaning that they paid for an $120 visit instead of a $500 visit to a specialist.

Everything is clearly designed to simply make you the insured patient just give up. After a while it’s not worth the time or effort to get a fucking MRI that your doctor said you should have. Who the fuck cares what’s going on in my head other than the hold music of the Health Insurance call center.

Today I decide to call them back and try again. 45 minutes on the phone--they never called because the approved facility is no longer under a Health Net contract. Really? First, they couldn’t tell me this? Next--The company that does approvals didn’t know that when it’s their entire job? (They told me they get their database from the health insurance company).

I call the MRI company, get the Tax ID and CTP numbers again--they are the same.

800-blah-blah-blah, 4, ss#, 2, 0 wait... give them that information, and gee, it’s the same. That facility hasn’t been in their system since Feb 2008. Interestingly, the facility says they take my insurance, and the pre-approval company says they do, too, only the insurance company says they don’t! And it’s pre-approved, remember.

So finally, after another 45 minutes, I ask if there’s an approved facility, and she gives me another facility in my area, and will have the research department that never contacted me before contact me this time with the price. If the doc’s office would call they could find out today--but they already told me they won’t do it because it takes them a half hour and its a waste of their time--which it clearly as, just as it’s a waste of my time and the insurance company’s operator (and in this case supervisor, because she has to keep asking her, too).

BUT--first I have to now get it all approved all over again, because it’s a different facility. Same approved procedure--which will take weeks, and which, remember, the insurance company is not paying for. But in order for me to get the contracted price, it all has to be pre-approved again.

So I call the pre-approval company, MedSolutions, and they say they can make the change instantly online, it doesn’t need another approval, and they do. It’s the same procedure, it’s my legal right to have it done anywhere I want--except the insurance company never told me this--even though they’re not paying!!!

And how much will it cost? The nice woman at the pre-approver (the nicest person I’ve talked to) suggests I just call the facility and ask. I say, “I’ll try, but the other one didn’t know).

So I call the facility, Bay Area Open MRI, and yet another perky chipper nice person (Julie) answers. She knows the contracted price (how is that possible, given that nobody else does?) It’s $800. But wait--they have a special for the uninsured or those who don’t want to run it through their insurance. OK, I wait for it--since the uninsured always pay more than insurance companies who can afford to pay more.

The special price is $600.


It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of an individual being charged less than an insurance company, but it probably is so much less trouble for the MRI company, and so many people are uninsured--or worse--unable to use their insurance because it won’t cover it, or get approval, or simply even return a call or an email, that I guess whoever runs this place is smart and figures that in this economy offering a 25% discount make sense (in the retail world, 15% discounts across the board are now standard--to start).

So, in the end, three hours of phone hassle is actually going to save me $200, which, amazingly, makes it a good use of my time. Of course, the insurance company could have just told me, “Here’s a place you can get it for $600” to start with, but I’m sure their contracts with doctors prohibit giving patients the best deal. Or, the insurance company could have paid for a necessary procedure, which, I used to think, is what I'm paying them $7,200 a year to do.

Now, the question is--why do Americans have to suffer through a terribly wasteful and stupid system like this? Hopefully it will be changing, but there are still many Americans who are afraid of this change. Afraid the big bad government will keep us from getting the health care we need--the way that the big bad insurance companies are already doing now.

Except with government involvement there will be caps on what we have to pay, instead of the current outrageous mortgage-sized premiums. And then we won’t be able to get canceled if we get sick (unlike now, where you can be canceled at any time, no matter how much you’ve paid--which is why I’m not naming my health insurance company here!). And then you will also be able to get insurance if you have a pre-existing condition, whereas now you simply cannot unless your employer offers it or you can pay a premium that’s higher than your mortgage (the entertainment industry insurance alliance used to be great--now it costs $1,400 a month--a month, which is a dirty trick so that the insurance companies can say, "See, we offer insurance to people with pre-existing conditions!" but they do it at such an outrageous price it's literally impossible for 99% of people to afford!

Anyone who cares about their health, and the health of their loved ones needs to support health care reform. Because even if you are afraid of the government in your health care--at least then you'll have some kind of vote on it. Now you have no say--except to not have insurance, which if so financially dangerous you can’t do it.

So give yourself a vote on health care and costs. Let the government do what good governments do--help you. That’s what they’re meant to do. That’s what they do in Canada, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Holland, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and countless other civilized free democracies. If they can do it, surely we can, too, right? Because anything they can do we can do better? Let's prove it, at long last.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Which GOP will win: infantile, idiotic, dangerous or conservative?

The GOP is having an identity crisis. They're clearly losers--because they've lost (and this is the thing they can't stand the most--though losing to an African American man probably makes it worse for many of them).

The GOP is being exposed as "the party of NO," and as the RADICALS that they have been. They aren't conservatives, they are neo-CONS (con-men). They have given us the biggest government, the biggest deficit, the most intrusion on our personal lives of any US administration in history. They are really Fascists, controlled by corporations (that's what Fascists are) but they either don't know the meaning of the word, or pretend not to.

The GOP used to have solidarity through greed (by way of stupidity--as if what was good for the few was good for the many--instead of what Kennedy said, "A rising tide lifts all boats" which is really what happens in society).

Now the GOP has multiple directions it can go

  • The Palin (I'm so stupid I don't know I'm stupid and I'm afraid of smart people who might outsmart me, and I believe that stupid people are the best people to run things because they won't outsmart you except they will be so stupid they can only make things worse/Bush route).
  • The "we're really conservatives--we remember what that means--we're almost libertarians but we're not wackos.
  • The WE HATE EVERYBODY including ourselves *because we secretly like all the things we claim to hate)--but mostly we hate anybody who isn't one of us, because you're either with us or you're a terrorist--obviously.
Two of those three directions require a high-degree of stupidity, and an even higher degree of fear. One of those directions has logic behind it, rather than just infantile idiotic crying and screaming about how everyone else is going to ruin their lovely little country which is perfect as it is, and please, work against our self-interest, because we are the stupidest creatures on the planet.

But it's hard to imagine that the intelligent, logical, true-conservative (vs. the neo-con-men), can beat the screaming and crying which is so much easier to understand, because you don't have to understand anything at all.

The Republicans have a century long history of saying NO to anything new including Medicare and Social Security. Those both cost money and we don't want to spend our money--on other people. Though, interestingly, you don't see Republicans turning down that money and saying, "We have principals, and since we're against these programs, we aren't going to be part of them." No, they cash their checks, and then complain about the other people who had the unmitigated gall to cash theirs.

So which GOP do I think will win? The ones who are the biggest, loudest, most insincere hypocrites. Because when it comes to the history of the GOP, they usually have.