The Godmother

Karen Ignagni is the Voice of Big Health Insurance.  She thinks everything is fine just as it is, and is paid over a million dollars a year (roughly over half the worth of a health insurance policy for one person) to make sure Congress thinks so, too.

Karen will be known as Karen Ignoramous on this blog.  Karen is Part of the Problem.

It seems that in the last several months, we’ve seen Problem after Problem exposed in the U.S.  All of these problems involved a privileged business class of unbelieveably arrogant assholes trying to stick it to the rest of us, often with the government’s blessing (don’t even get me started on Microsoft’s government-paid bridge between campuses; one wonders why they need that, anyway — what they really need is a fucking bridge to India). 

None of these problems is new, but all of them have led us into the situation we’re currently in.  All this in spite of the Fat Man’s insistence that CHANGE is the problem, that nothing has ever been wrong, that the economy is fine, that healthcare doesn’t need to be fixed (he keeps getting Viagra illegally at the snap of a finger, doesn’t he?), and everything would be just dandy if we had a Republican white man in the White House, and blah, blah, blah.  What confounds me is that his listeners — most of whom are not in any better financial condition than are the rest of us — worship his every word and continue to support a system that does not help them, merely out of the fear of change he has instilled in them.  But I digress.  For a change, the Fat Man is not the subject here.

The subject is this: the health insurance industry in this country is nothing better than organized crime, and it’s Karen Ignoramous’s job to be its enforcer.  To put it nicely, Karen is the Godmother of the health insurance industry.  Her job is to make sure that nothing changes.  The trouble with her job is that if nothing needed change, then she wouldn’t have a job.  She only has a job because nearly everything about the health insurance system needs to be changed.

Personally I have taken a dim view of that industry ever since a day about 20 years ago when I received a reject letter from Blue Cross of Illinois.  I had applied for individual health insurance 3 months earlier.  It took them 3 months, but they tangled up a mess of fact-defying, ridiculous, just plain fucking stupid and put it in a letter to me, stating that I was uninsurable except under a state healthcare plan (administered by Blue Cross) that cost roughly 5 times more.  This was, as I said, in spite of the fact that they had ignored more than 9/10’s of my medical records, relying only on speculative remarks my internist had made in my chart to make their decision.  They decided that I had never followed up on any of my “disturbing” symptoms — when in fact I had, and they had been found to be nothing. 

BTW I’d called Blue Cross long before I was rejected and told them about the specialists’ opinions, and they said that they had simply decided not to look at them.  Too bad.

My story is rather mild in comparison to many I’ve heard; the point is, nearly everybody has a story — and that shouldn’t be the case.  Quite like IMG, the health insurance industry is no better than the Mob, and they are bullying the rest of us, and the government has no business listening to them.

But if the government stopped listening to them, poor Karen, that saint, would be out of a job.  Horrors.  One can only hope that karma is real and that one day, Karen finds herself out of a job, unemployable, and unable to secure health insurance.  She deserves nothing better.  So does nearly everybody else in that industry.

For further info on Karen Ignoramous, see this link: The Godmother.

The agony and the irony of cell phone addiction

I sometimes make stuff with oven-bake or air-dry clay.  At one point not long ago, I was considering creating cell-phone earrings.  But I decided not to go forward with the idea because it might interfere with all those people trying to function while holding the real contraptions up to their ears, or wandering about appearing to be talking to themselves through those things that are fitted in the ear (btw, the latter makes the person look like a nutcase, if only because there are so many people wandering around actually talking to themselves).

As I’ve said previously, I work with the public.  I see this every day, countless times a day.

Work isn’t the only place where I witness this behavior.  My car has been rear-ended three times by people who were too busy talking on their freaking cell phones to pay attention to what they were doing at the time — which was, allegedly, driving.  None of the accidents was serious, and in every case the offending driver got out (still talking on his or her cell phone), and told me that the damage wasn’t serious and there was no use going to the police.  Then they got back into their minivans and drove away (all three incidents were with apparent cell-phone addicts who were, for some reason, driving minivans; I guess I should be grateful that they weren’t driving gigantic SUVs).

People like this have continued to drive with cell phones glued to their ears in spite of the rising number of municipalities that fine drivers who chatter and drive.  They just don’t seem to be able to break their addiction.

I even saw one woman nearly go through a stoplight because every time she screamed into her cellphone (she was having an argument with someone), she took her foot off the brake and her SUV lurched forward.  By the time the light turned green, she was about 1/3rd of the way into the intersection.

Sometimes I suspect that there’s no one on the other end of the line, and these people are wandering around talking into some contraption just to avoid talking to anyone who is actually physically present.  Other times I marvel at the people who talk about very intimate parts of their lives, very loudly, in the middle of a public place, into a cell phone.  Are these the same people who are so wildly concerned about governmental invasions of privacy?  No doubt.  How about me, though?  All rules go out the window, kiddo — if you’re standing 10 feet away from me screaming into a cell phone about your divorce, I’m all ears.  And you can bet I’m going to snicker out loud about it when you’re gone.

I’m not a psychologist, but have considered coming up with a 12-step program to break people of their cell-phone addictions.  Ponder as I might, though, I can only come up with one step: PUT THE FUCKING CELL PHONE DOWN.

NO ONE needs to talk to someone else 24 hours a day, especially not when they are driving, or are also trying to have a conversation with someone standing right in front of them.

Also, cell phones do not make you look cool, professional, popular, or even busy.  Kind of like smoking, they make you look like a hopeless addict.

There’s some evidence now that they even ruin your health over time, kind of like cigarettes do.  Want a brain tumor?  Talk on a cell phone 24/7.  It’s far from a guarantee, but it may increase your chances of developing brain cancer, kind of like smoking cigarettes definitely increases your chances of developing lung cancer.  (For more balanced views on this topic, refer to http://www.ehso.com/ehshome/cellphonecancer.php and http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-cell-phones-can-cause-brain-cancer.)

Definitely obsessive cell phone use is either a mental health hazard or a symptom of a deeper problem. 

The fact is that cell phones are just plain rude — or rather, the people who use them obsessively are rude.  It’s a new sort of modern-day, self-centered rude, but it’s rude just the same.  And as I said, with some people, cell phones seem to be a sort of social-contact avoidance device.

Will my griping help?  No.  With some of these people, I reckon an institution is the only answer.  Or maybe Big Pharma will come up with a designer drug for the problem.

But somebody has to do something.  In the meantime, I can only beg, once again, PUT THE FUCKING CELL PHONE DOWN before you hurt someone — even if that “someone” is only you.  After all, if you are an obsessive cell-phone blabberer, you are the only one who matters, right?

Kind of ironic, but all too true.

“What’s the matter with kids today,” again and again and again

Jack Caffery wrote a column about the behavior of today’s kids that was a very good concept which collapsed into conjecture and fuddy-duddyism with one idea: kids are misbehaving because mommy works. 

Uh…probably not.  Except for a relatively brief period between the late ’40’s and the early ’70’s when married women were strongly discouraged from working, many urban moms have worked outside the home.  My paternal grandmother was one; my maternal grandmother refused to work outside the home due to her chronic ill health, but was under constant pressure to do so anyway.

Besides, working outside the home isn’t the only way not to be home.  All this considered, I think we probably have to look for a new cause for our kids’ problems — one that does not automatically point antiquated and misinformed fingers. 

 My theory is that the trouble with kids is that kids are basically trouble.  It has never been any different.  I remember reports of kids displaying severe behavioral problems as far back as the early 1960’s, when most moms answered to the title of “housewife.”  Back then, my first-grade teacher actually retired rather than stay on to teach the next year because the next bunch of kids after our class had already gained a reputation in kindergarten for being insufferable brats.  So this problem is not something recently minted.

But if you want to stick to that tired old argument, consider this: in my job I see a lot of stay-at-home moms; I also see a fair number of stay-at-home dads.  Intact families are the rule, not the exception.  But it doesn’t seem to matter, because most of their kids are brats. 

About half of them discipline their kids.  The other half don’t, and you don’t dare say anything to their darlings, or even look at them funny.  Both camps seem to have trouble with their kids’ behavior. 

One parent told me that part of the problem is that she may sharply discipline her kid at home, but she doesn’t dare in a public place for fear that some busybody will call the police with a claim that she is abusing her child.  Certainly this preys on the minds of lots of parents these days.  And these kids are manipulative: they very quickly learn that there are “safe” places to do whatever the hell they want, and that’s just what they do.  Nowadays, the “safe” place to act out is in public.

Another problem is the opposite of the absentee parent: the “helicopter parent,” the one who hovers over his/her kids’ lives indefinitely, making sure nothing goes wrong for the poor little babies.  Think those people have normal kids?  Guess again — but don’t do it too loud, because mommy or daddy will go running to your boss with a complaint.

So what’s the problem here?  Busybodies, for one.  But busybodies can only thrive in environments where there is little or no agreement about what constitutes acceptable behavior.  And that’s what we’ve got today.

The sort of parents who believe their kids can do no wrong (and you have to agree, or else) need to gain some perspective on the word “community.”  Mostly what I find lacking in these parents is a sense of community.  They desperately want to believe that they are better than anyone else, and separate.  This aggressive fearfulness (which may be in small part caused by the presence of busybodies) and lack of real self-esteem is bullying behavior, not parenting.

Abdication of responsibility is another part of the problem.  I’ve seen parents actually team up with their kids to cause problems where I work.  That has gone on since I can remember, though, even when I was a kid.  There will always be parents who think they are their kids’ best friends, and no older than their kids’ current ages.  These parents arguably never should have had kids in the first place.  But there is nothing you can do with them, except not give them any reward for acting like children.

Part of the cure for under-perfoming parents is to throw out the TV set and the video games, and whatever else is distracting them and their children from the community they live in.  To have empathy for other people, kids have to have contact with actual other people, and not on a TV show where other people are shot, killed, sexually abused, etc., just for entertainment purposes. 

We also have to stop glorifying childhood.  These days it’s almost a career choice.  Back in the day, kids aspired to be adults.  It wasn’t a bad thing except when they were allowed to grow up too soon, which could and did produce tragic results.  Not growing up at all, on the other hand, produces dysfunctional adults — and parents — which is equally tragic.

So you see, fixing the trouble with kids isn’t as simple as Mommy staying home and baking brownies all day.  It’s going to take a whole readjustment of attitudes in our society, and a lack of tolerance for under-performing parents.  We have to realize that kids are not automatically wonderful, functional community members.  The one place where I totally agree with Cafferty is that kids aren’t automatically wonderful at all.  They may be born with “wonderful,” but after that, “wonderful” has to be developed to become apparent in their lives.

They have to have parents who are willing to help get them there, and we have to develop a lack of tolerance for parents who abdicate that responsibility.  Dictating a particular, narrow lifestyle to parents is not going to do it.  Demanding that both parents and kids be responsible not only to themselves, but to their communities…now you may be talking about something.

Defining “socialism”

First, look at the AIG situation.  The government bailed out AIG; AIG went on a bonus bender with some of the money it was given and is now being asked to give some of the money back.  That is not socialism.

George W. Bush greatly expanded the federal government and the power of the office of the President during his 8-year reign, and apparently even considered suspending the First Amendment at one point.  He also gave the greatest tax cuts to the top income-earners in the U.S.  Some of this is close, but overall, none of it is socialism.

Barack Obama is now planning to reverse the longtime trend toward tax cuts for the wealthy.  That is not socialism.

In his final months in office, George W. Bush was talking about nationalizing the banking system.  Whoa!  Wait a minute!  That may be socialism.

Read this link: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism for some common definitions of socialism.  Obama is talking about only one of them (nationalizing the healthcare system — if indeed, that is the plan; it’s unclear at this point).   Again, Bush actually considered implementing some of them. 

Certainly he succeeded in the “unequal distribution of goods and pay” part, although he got it backwards.  I’ve heard that some of his beneficiaries on Wall Street are considering covering their well-heeled tracks by threatening to go on strike to let the rest of us see how hard they work and how valuable they are (and I’ll wager that at this point, the rest of us won’t even notice if they actually do).

To state it briefly, if you’re talking strictly about “Big Government” meaning “socialism,” kiddo, you’ve been listening to the Fat Man too much, and not paying enough attention to how big the government already got in recent years.  It’s all a matter of what you want to believe.

If you still want to believe, after all these years, that the Trickle-Down theory works, look at AIG.

If you want to believe that a retooled and refocused Big Government isn’t just about the only way to turn the economy around, look at the early 1930’s.  If those times didn’t turn us into a socialist nation, neither will the actions of the present.

If you believe that our present healthcare system is a total, affordable success, you must work for either a pharmaceutical company or a health-insurance conglomerate.

If you want to believe that continuing the policies of the last 20+ years will reverse what is now happening, I can’t help you.  No one can.

But if you are willing to try to keep some version this old saw in mind: those who are ignorant of the past are doomed to repeat it (that’s my version, anyway), you will stop falling for the Fat Man’s rhetoric and the blabbering of his ilk.  You will stop being afraid.  And perhaps…just perhaps…we can start getting something done around here.

You have got to be f*ck*n KIDDING

As you’ve guessed from the title, this post is about AIG.

Come to think of it, however, there is nothing I can say about AIG that hasn’t already been said in the past 48 hours.  So I’ll just leave it at this:

–My congrats to AIG’s executives.  They have given a whole new depth of meaning to the phrase WTF.

–Senator Grassley, before he backtracked on the suggestion that AIG’s execs take a hint from the Japanese and commit suicide, was absolutely right.  Except that the Japanese have backbones, and the AIG execs are nothing but parasitic protozoa.  As far as I know, single-celled parasites don’t commit suicide.  Darn.

–AIG execs never saw a dollar bill they didn’t like, because they wouldn’t know a dollar bill if they saw one.  Unicorns, on the other hand, seem to abound in their heads.

–Note to any AIG exec: No, honey, you are not living in a castle and we are not all living in mud huts within your walls. 

–Another note to any AIG exec: Sweetie, what color is the sky on your planet?

–And yet another: since I brought money into your firm with my taxpayer dollars, do I get a bonus?

–Still more: if you’re “the best and the brightest,” humanity must be devolving.

–Oh, by the way, which would you prefer on a prison name tag: Arrogant Fucktard or Sleezy Bastard?  How about Fucking Stupid?  (This is unlikely to happen, but one can dream.)

I’ll end with the one phrase nearly everyone has uttered when thinking or speaking about AIG execs today: fuck you.  🙂  Get used to it, AIG darlings.  It’s the nicest thing you’ll hear for many months to come.

And the point is…?

Years ago the singer Sting crooned, “I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in New York.”  Then he went on to whine about feeling like an alien in New York City.  (Hell, Sting — New York even does that to native U.S. citizens, so chill, will yuh?)

Duh.  I mean, really.  If you’re not in your home country, you’re not home.  No use whining about it.

To take the same point to an extreme, over the weekend the Chicago Tribune told us the story of a gravely-ill illegal alien who “just wanted the pain to stop” and stole another woman’s identity in order to get extensive medical care.  The illegal eventually went back to her home country, Mexico, presumably to die; the woman whose identity she stole is in jail here in the U.S.; whether or not she will be held liable for the bills was a question not answered.  I’m sure the government, which paid for the illegal’s care believing she was someone else, will be stupid enough to do that.

To my eye, this is a case where everyone is wrong and no one is right.  That’s all I got out of reading the story; I don’t even know what the intention of the article was.  Were we supposed to feel sorry for the gravely-ill illegal for everything that’s happened to her (she left Mexico and her children and entered the U.S. illegally after being beaten almost to death by her boyfriend, who turned out to be involved with a drug cartel, then found out she had cancer).  Are we supposed to feel sorry for the woman whose identity she stole?  She was barely mentioned.  Are we supposed to bemoan the fact that our public healthcare system, or lack of it, failed to save the life of this woman at taxpayers’ expense, when legal residents of the U.S. are going without healthcare because of the cost of the private insurance most of us have to rely on?  Are we supposed to feel sorry for the children she left behind in Mexico?  Are we simply supposed to be amazed at how many catastrophically wrong things can happen in a single life story?  What the hell is the point?

To put it another way, yes, there is a problem here.  But whose problem is it, and why should we be hearing about it?  Those questions were not answered in any way; the article was just there.  Because it was just there, it was useless and probably had the opposite of what I’m imagining was the intended effect: we were probably supposed to feel sorry for this poor woman and her plight, and angry with the system for driving her to crime in order to get treatment.  Instead, I’m imagining a lot of people who pay huge premiums for their own health insurance are angry at finding out about abuses of the system of this magnitude.

A few pages later (or was it before..), some columnist was sniping something to the effect that if “we kill each other to live (meaning human embryos), what does that say about us?”

To that columnist I say, read your own bleeping newspaper and try to make sense of it all.  You’ll be wracking your brains for a long time because it doesn’t make sense. 

Giving free healthcare to the illegal alien who has the best Queen for a Day story doesn’t work if millions of legal residents are doing without because they can’t pay for the healthcare that most of us use, which definitely isn’t free.  Who tugs at your heartstrings more?  Who should? 

And this embryo commentary was not only deeply ironic, being as it was in the same edition as the illegal’s story, but it had no business being in any newspaper at all.  All this kind of “pro life” is about is seed-saving.  It has nothing to do with women and children or the actual business of everyday living.  If you doubt what I’m saying, note that most of the seed-saving commentaries are made by men, as was this one.  (Also consider that at the real extreme of seed-saving, we have the Octomom.  That’s what it can lead to.  So be careful, Mr. Columnist, what you wish for.)

But, back to my point:  what was extraordinary was seeing two ends of the same extremist coin in the same newspaper on the same day.  On one page they appeared to be bemoaning the impending death of a woman who broke the law and then broke the law again — which is not to say she deserves to die; it is only to say that she is not a very sympathetic figure.  Then the other page, the one with the embryo-hugger’s column, left you wondering just what the columnist would have thought of this woman if her life had been able to be saved by an embryonic stem-cell transplant.  Probably not much. 

It proves my idea that extremists are, once you strip them of labels, all the same — all they have is knee-jerk reactions (which are, ironically, often basically the same reactions), but no solutions.  Worse, they expect the rest of us to have the same knee-jerk reactions.  If we don’t, then the bullying starts. 

Even Sting seems to be guilty.  He probably thought he was making a statement and we’d just nod in agreement.  Instead, some of us have been sitting out here for years occasionally wondering what the hell he was whining about whenever we hear that song on the radio.  He’d likely be astounded if he ever found out.

Duh…

The Cornell Shell Game

The economy has fallen apart.  Our healthcare system is a silly but unfunny joke.  We are still being robbed by the same bankers we bailed out.  Reportedly about 13% of the world’s population is starving.  The climate is changing.  Everyone’s depressed. 

Keith Olberman and Ann Coulter are fighting about which Cornell is better. 

Apparently there are two Cornells: a working-class one and an expensive one.  Guess which personality went where.  Oh, fucking joy — at last, something truly funny in the midst of all this sorrow; something  that is not only amusing but also supports my theory that Education Doesn’t Cure Ignorance.  Granted, I’m talking about Coulter, the Bitch of Beltway, more than Olberman.  At least I sense a kindred spirit in Olberman and sometimes cheer what he says.  But for him to waste time on Coulter is a bit like the Republican Party bowing down to the Fat Man.  Well…maybe not that serious.  But you get the idea.

If you don’t, I’ll put it as briefly as I can: Ann Coulter is a waste of time.  I’ve wasted time in this blog on him/her/it, and no doubt will make that mistake again.  But this blog is nothing more than my personal rant.  Sometimes you just have to get “it” out of your system, and if Coulter isn’t “it,” then there is no “it.”

But Olberman has a truly public forum at his disposal and should not waste it doing an imitation of Bill O’Reilly, who is a person incapable of yapping more than 10 minutes without yipping about himself for 8.  Not that O’Reilly would be griping about Coulter so much as kissing its cocktail-dressed ass, or dreaming of doing so.

What Keith Olberman is, is a real world version of the pretend anchor of the Comedy Channel’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart.  And that’s where his value lies.  He should strive hard to remember that, and not get tangled in the equally pretend world of right-wingnut pundits.

Then again, I suppose it’s good for a laugh now and then.