Hey, Look. What’s That Sound?


Enough is enough.

Newest Headline: 13 Killed At Oregon College Campus

Average Americans, by nature, are really nice people willing to overlook behaviors that make them uncomfortable. This is especially true when it comes to the Constitution – at least the document that was actually written and is currently used for governance, not the made-up one that the lunatic fringe is always using as an example.

As of today, October 1, 2015, there have been more mass shootings than days this year. According to the Shooting Tracker, a crowd-sourced project by the Guns Are Cool subreddit (for those who don’t have a sense of humor, the title is sarcasm), there have been 295 mass shootings in 2015. A mass shooting is defined as four or more people shot in one incident.

Shot, as in they got a bullet in their body somewhere.

This has happened 295 times already.

October 1 is the 274th day of the year.

Just think about it. Every single day of this year there was a mass shooting. Every single day. It boggles the mind. Of course the news isn’t reporting this, it’s becoming so common no one is paying attention anymore. Something that happens every day is no longer newsworthy.

While the majority of Americans would like to see some form of gun control, the fact that more than 20 elementary school children were killed and we still don’t have any regulation shows that nothing will stop the gun lobby. Dead children would not convince them. They are heartless.

But all is not lost.

There are two words that we can use in the Second Amendment to try and bring some sanity back to our nation.

Well regulated.

The very first words of the Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

  • Irresponsible and/or mentally disable people with a closet full of guns are not well regulated.
  • Unstable people with open carry permits are not well regulated.
  • People who give small children guns with NO training are not well regulated.

This nation requires citizens to be a minimum age, take a test, and carry a license to drive a car. Cars are perfectly capable of killing people. Auto accidents kill people all the time. There are laws governing responsible driving and if someone is found incapable of being responsible then they lose their license.

Driving is well regulated. Gun ownership is not.

In the interest of full disclosure I grew up around guns. My father and extended family were hunters, venison is still one of my favorite meats, and my uncle kept trained Labrador dogs for duck hunting. From an extremely young age I was taught 2 very important rules:

  1. ALWAYS assume the gun is loaded.
  2. DO NOT point a gun at anyone or anything you don’t intend to shoot.

Those rules were drilled into me constantly. Back in those days (60s-70s) the National Rifle Association (NRA) supported gun laws and training for those who wanted to learn. Even today state Fish and Game departments offer classes on safe gun handling.

Today’s NRA is vastly different from the one in my younger years. And they are the biggest problem. They are using their platform to prey on the fearful and paranoid and the gun companies are making billions of dollars in sales. The NRA is still one of the biggest lobbyists on Capital Hill. The NRA controls the ability to create laws that would infringe on gun ownership. Any time they or their members feel threatened they scream “Second Amendment.” But their Second Amendment is only half of the actual Amendment.

The term “well regulated” is ignored, but it is the very first clause of the Amendment. Even our Forefathers knew that too many crazy people with guns would be a problem for this developing nation. Well regulated means that we should have background checks, that we should be licensing people to own guns, and that we should be more intelligent than we have been.

Everyone is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness according to the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment does not overrule that statement. Children that are safe in their schools and people who are safe in their homes are more important than an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment already states that the government can control who does and does not have the right to keep guns.

It’s time for all of us to wise up and fulfill the first clause of the Second Amendment.

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Doctor, Doctor, Give Me The News

There is a much larger problem in this nation that Roe vs. Wade and the Hobby Lobby ruling.

There are people who are not doctors that want to dictate what a patient (exclusively female) can and cannot due for their medical health. Citing deeply held religious beliefs, certain employers want to control which medications their employees can take and right-wing legislators are backing them up.  In addition, people who claim to be “Pro-Life” want to get rid of clinics that offer health services to woman who desperately need medical exams to maintain their health and to screen for cancer. Without these health services, women die. How can that possibly be Pro-Life?

We need a new Amendment to the Constitution that states:

The Federal government shall make no law that abridges access to health care. Medical care is determined by an individual and their chosen health care provider.

No one, except the patient and doctor, should be making medical decisions. No religious group or politician should even consider telling someone which health services they are entitled to. We need to go back to minding our own damn business and get our noses out of others. Those that only care about babies when they are in the womb but turn around and vilify single mothers are NOT Pro-Life. They are most definitely NOT Christian, despite their belief they are.

Let’s push for a single-payer healthcare system. Taking away employer-sponsored health insurance will make the Hobby Lobby ruling null and void. Healthcare professionals are the ones who need to take back the power from legislators. In what universe does it make any sense to have politicians who are against science make decisions about healthcare – which is a science.

Health insurance is the biggest scam in America. Hospitals and medical offices have to charge more to cover the cost administrating claims to multiple health insurance companies. If we had national healthcare then it would be only the government that medical offices would deal with. The costs of a medical practice would go down and the cost of providing services would also go down. A single-payer system would save BILLIONS. Doesn’t that represent fiscal responsibility?

The bottom line is, the sooner we take healthcare back from the private sector the better it will be for everyone.


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Send In The Clowns. There Ought To Be Clowns.

Behold the too-early-to-do-anything Presidential race of 2016. The polls are polling. The percentages are percentaging. And Right-wing candidates and voters are frothing at the mouth in anticipation of the Republican National Convention nomination which is still 11 months away. Isn’t politics exciting?

I know that it’s hard for people to remember what it was like at this time four years ago. It’s just all so confusing. They probably don’t recall that the candidates polling the highest this early in the game were long gone by the time the convention rolled around. We still have sound clips from Jimmy “The rent is too damn high” McMillan, the months where pizza chain owner Herman Cain was polling higher than the other candidates because he was funny, and vocal supporters of Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich gave them their high poll numbers well into the months before the convention. Then there was the Libertarian favorite, Ron Paul.

Paul was such a pain in the GOP establishment asses the convention organizers made sure his delegates were seated far from the stage. They refused to let him speak unless he endorsed Mitt Romney, the appointed “heir” to the nomination as declared by the billionaire donors who bought him fair and square. Like hell they were going to let some independent-thinking outsider get THEIR nomination. The same thing is happening now.

The Koch Brothers are betting their 9 million dollars on their pet, Scott Walker. Walker is a good little Koch-soldier, does everything they tell him to do, and pushes all their favorite welfare-for-the-rich buttons. I mean really, who wants to put money into universities for those stupid middle class and poor people when you can have a brand new basketball stadium where the rich people can watch their teams in complete comfort.  What are you, some kind of communist?

Of course Donald Trump has really been the monkey-wrench in the works. He already has tons of money so he doesn’t need backers like the Kochs. The man can say whatever he wants because he’s rich and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. In fact, the worse his sound bites the higher is poll numbers. It’s Karma in all it’s glory – the shining Republican candidate who accurately reflects the face of the modern Republican Party is an anathema to the “establishment” Republicans.

I think I know why Jon Stewart left The Daily Show before the elections. The absolute idiocy by the Right not only makes it too easy to create satire, but it also flies in the face of common sense and reason. Those of us who can think for ourselves are both amused and appalled at the amount of stupid on display. Just when you think they can’t go any lower, someone in politics (or Fox News) takes it as a personal challenge and lowers the bar even more.

It will be an interesting campaign for the Republican candidates. All of them. But I know for sure the “establishment” Republicans will chase off Trump. But that’s okay because he says he’ll come back as an Independent. I really, really hope he does because if Jeb Bush wins the nomination it will be 1992 all over again: a Bush, a Clinton, and an Independent. A bleeding-heart liberal can only hope.

Maybe Clint Eastwood will be at the convention again like he was in 2012. Or even better, maybe the empty chair.


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Too Much Time On My Hands

Whew. WordPress blocked me from my own blog and it took some effort to get it back. Weird.

The job market for middle-aged people absolutely stinks. And the “at-will” employment clause that so many states have adopted is a boon for employers but no so much for employees. Just this week I was called into the owner’s office and told I was being let go. No explanation other than the lame “we’re going in a new direction” excuse. To say I was devastated was an understatement.

The owners of this small company had praised everything I did for them, seemed to be excited about the experience I brought to the table, and generally were very supportive. There were no warnings, no reprimands, no indication that my work was unsatisfactory. Then, BOOM, I’m handed my final paycheck and out the door.

Yes I cried. I’m allowed when that kind of stuff happens.

To top it off, they professed to be “good Christians” which always makes me suspicious. That whole “do unto others” clause didn’t seem to be in their thoughts when kicking someone out the door. And to top it off they posted a want ad for exactly what I was doing but when I point-blank asked what was wrong with my work I got no answer. They could have at least said they were looking for someone with different qualifications, which I would have understood and been a valid reason. But no, it was a lame excuse and some paperwork.

At least at the last job I was let go from I KNEW the General Manager didn’t like anything I did. He told me often enough. He complained about everything I did and constantly compared me to the previous person who held the job – who according to others was not as good as the GM made him out to be. I maintained the same profit margin but it was a horrible place to work and I honestly was glad to be let go.

So now it’s back to spamming out resumes, hoping for a response, and crossing my fingers that the date I graduated college won’t cause the reviewers to flip out. There is an assumption that if you’re my age (50+) and don’t have a job then there is something wrong with you. It’s as if the crash economy has nothing to do with the lack of jobs, the number of people who lost good-paying jobs, and the overall difficulty getting a job. It’s a very poor system and so many are caught in it.

I’m apparently too old to work, but I’m too young to retire. Where is there a place for a worker like me? Why don’t employers value experience? Why are jobs, and employers, so horrible to employees. We have an economy that is a race to the bottom and then businesses wonder why they are losing profits.

To echo the 80s – It’s the economy, stupid.

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Some Observations on ObamaCare and HealthCare.gov, Part 2


So here’s an analogy I have about the current state of our healthcare situation.

You are still paying the auto loan on an older model SUV that guzzles gas. It costs you about $100/week just to fuel this behemoth and that’s just to do normal errands and work travel. You can’t take any unnecessary trips because you can’t afford the cost.

Recently, an auto dealership has offered you a chance to turn in your old SUV and get a new, great mileage hybrid for a LOWER MONTHLY PAYMENT. On top of that, they’ll even subsidize part of your payment depending on your income.

Who wouldn’t love this deal?

Well, plenty of people according to editorials, blogs, and comments in the newspapers and online. Armchair pundits who know little about health care in American, or they do know but still don’t care that millions are without it. Even people who stand to benefit from the changes are against it. A friend of mine with chronic pain is against the ACA even though it allows her to see a doctor and benefit from pain management and treatment.

Additionally, mental health coverage is mandated from insurers which will go a long way in getting people the help they need but our society wants to sweep under the rug. As the mother of an autistic child, this is welcome relief. So many therapies that my son could benefit from were not covered by his father’s insurance policy. Getting treatment was and is expensive and trying to enroll him in the state-run program a exercise in futility and hoop-jumping.

Pundits are more upset that the President “lied” while glossing over the fact that the information promoted by certain “news” agencies has been nothing but lies since the ACA was adopted. The sheer amount of mis-information spread about the ACA is mind-boggling. We’re living in an Orwellian society where the lies are the truth and the truth is lies. Where all people are equal, but some are more equal than others. (For those that aren’t familiar with author George Orwell, these are themes from his books 1984 and Animal Farm.)

The Head of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, has been grilled mercilessly by a Congressional panel for the stumbling launch of the HealthCare.gov web site. Because we all know that technology always works first time out of the box. She’s been “chastised” for not signing up for healthcare through the site, even though it is against the law for her to do so because she is already covered by the gold-plated insurance coverage given to our lawmakers.That gold-plated insurance that we average Americans could never hope to have – except now we can through the ACA.

Yes, everyone has to pay. That is how insurance works; a pool of money is collected from people with different needs knowing that some will use more than others. That is how the system is supposed to run, except that insurance companies decided they wanted to pocket all that money coming in and not pay out as they were supposed to. As the pool of people buying insurance got smaller, premiums began to rise – some every year. Doesn’t anyone remember those days when our employers were shifting more of our health insurance premium payments out of our own paychecks? When our choices for health plans during open enrollment changed every year because our employers were trying to find ones that wouldn’t bankrupt the company?

The original proposal for the ACA was to have a single-payer option like Medicare, but the Republicans balked and began their campaign against reform with talks of “death panels” and “rationed healthcare”. But think how a single payer option would be an advantage to businesses; they wouldn’t have to carry health insurance as a benefit and could actually hire more people which in turn would have more people making a living wage and paying taxes. And more working people with living wages means less people needing safety net programs like SNAP, and that would mean our deficit would go down even faster because people are able to afford to take care of themselves and their families.

Wow, what a concept.

Speaking of concepts, here is a great video that explains how the ACA works:

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Some Observations on ObamaCare and HealthCare.gov, Part 1


When someone requested permission to repost a comment I made in a Facebook discussion, I realized it was time for me to address this. I’ve found over the years that situations that seem perfectly normal and expected to me often causes huge amounts on non-critical thinking and knee-jerk reactions from others. Like the situation with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the web site HealthCare.gov

Now, for 16+ years I worked as a government contractor and I understand how contracts are awarded. Usually the winner is the one with the lowest bid; not the best qualified, not the contractor with the best plan, just the lowest dollar amount.  So to anyone who understands how the government awards contracts, it should be no surprise that a massive undertaking like HealthCare.gov would not be perfect on roll-out. Even big guns like Microsoft and Apple have had their share of not-so-great products like Windows Vista and the iPhone 4 Apple Maps.

When the ACA was passed in 2010, states were told if they wanted to have their own exchange then they had to have it “vetted” by the Federal government. This was to make sure that the insurance companies offering insurance on the exchange (no, the government is not selling the insurance, they are just offering a marketplace) would meet the technical requirements. As of October 1, 2013 there were 31 states who had declined to offer an exchange to their residents and refused to expand Medicare in their state.

As expected, these were red states who were hoping the entire program would never see the light of day. Now that the final portion of the ACA is being implemented, these states are scrambling to take advantage of the 100% reimbursement the government is offering for expanded Medicare and their insurance companies now want to be listed through HealthCare.gov. But because they didn’t go through the review, their computer systems and databases don’t “talk” to the ones from HealthCare.gov. So now you have hundreds of different computer systems talking gibberish to each other.

One of the reasons HealthCare.gov is slow and takes time to complete is the number of verifications it has to process for the application. First, the system has to make sure you are eligible to buy insurance on the exchange so it checks Social Security, Immigration, and other databases to find you. The system wants to verify that you are who you say you are, make sure you don’t already have insurance through your employer, and determine whether or not you qualify for government subsidies that actually lower the cost of the insurance plan.

Conservatives should be thrilled that the system takes the time to make sure that no fraud is being committed and only those eligible are allowed to buy insurance. Isn’t that the reason for all the voter ID laws they want to pass?

When I read diatribes about awful the system is and how it should be dismantled, I have to shake my head at all these “armchair” computer  analysts and system administrators.  Unless you were an IT person back in 1999 working on Y2K (Year 2000) projects, you have no idea what you are talking about. The sheer number of computer systems that have to communicate to each other and exchange information for the application process is mind-boggling. Three years might seem like a long time, but given the complexity of this project it probably should have been five or more years.

For those with short-term memory loss, Medicare Part D was also a massive failure when it launched in 2006; I don’t recall Senators screaming to have it  abolished at that time.

Another reason for the slow response is because SO MANY PEOPLE WANT TO GET AFFORDABLE HEALTH INSURANCE. The system is overwhelmed with people who want this very badly. It doesn’t help when all the “news” people do their own false applications which just tie up the system and keep out real people. (I put “news” in quotes because most news today is info-tainment not real, actual journalism; my role model Andy Rooney is spinning in his grave.)

And by the way, the President didn’t lie when he said you could keep your individual plan if you were happy with it. He really meant that. What happened, however, is that the ACA raised the level of minimum care insurance policies had to offer consumers – lower cost preventative care, equal coverage across the board for every consumer, more bang for the buck. It was YOUR insurance company that canceled the policy, not the President. YOUR insurance company could not handle the COMPETITION in the FREE MARKET of the health care exchanges.

This is true capitalism, an open market with competition between companies. So why are conservatives against this?

For those that don’t want affordable health insurance? Don’t buy it; no one is holding a gun to your head. You will have to pay a penalty of 1% of your total income but that would still be less expensive than being “forced” to have health insurance. Personally I would love to see a complete opt-out where, if you have a terrible accident or life-threatening illness, no medical aid will be offered because you didn’t want to pay for it. Why should the Emergency Room staff or cancer specialists treat you for free when the rest of us are being responsible? Don’t be a “taker”.

Part 2 coming soon. More rants; more reasons.

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The Circle of Economics

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You know, I really don’t understand how all these “pundits” are so stupid when it comes to economics.

Everything they say or suggest is absolutely counter intuitive. The middle class is starving because we lost our living-wage jobs and yet the politicians want to take away every safety net in our government because we’re “lazy”. Where Wall Street executives lost all of our savings and retirement, we were pressured to bail them out just so they could go back to what they were doing in the first place that caused the Great Recessions with absolutely no criminal indictments. Because the top 1% is benefiting from the “recovery”, they think everyone is.

I freely admit I’m not an economist, but from my non-professional standpoint it seems that when the middle-class made a living wage (i.e., enough to pay for housing, food, transportation, insurance, college, even vacations) then everyone prospered. Because so many people were paying their taxes, because they actually made a wage that could be taxed, then the government had enough money to pay for infrastructure (roads, bridges), education, social services, and war/defense.

In the 80s and 90s our consumer culture fed so many businesses that they hired more workers because they needed to produce more product. So I’m completely confused when businesses don’t want to pay their workers, who are ultimately their consumers, a living wage. How are businesses going to make a profit if no one can afford their products? In the Wal-Mart “race-to-the-bottom” method of business, they use the taxpayers to provide benefits for their employees because they refuse to pay a living wage. That means the ever-shrinking pool of taxpayers (remember, people making poverty wages don’t pay taxes) are now responsible not only for the most helpless of our society but for working members of our society. And conservatives have the gall to call these workers “lazy” because they don’t make enough to pay for food for their families so they rely on food assistance. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling.

Here’s how I see the model working successfully, in my non-professional opinion:

– Workers get paid a living wage.
– This wage gives them purchasing power.
– Business sell more products/services because of the power of the consumer.
– Business make more profit that allows them to hire more workers.
– More workers making a living-wage are lifted out of poverty and can pay taxes.
– More taxes being collected helps pay down our deficit, fund social programs and defense.
– More taxes gives the government more money to upgrade roads, bridges, dams, levies, etc.
– Businesses (who never built it themselves if they used interstate roads, public water, sewers, police/fire protection) can expand due to a better infrastructure.

The austerity and sequester supporters are not living in the real word. Cutting back only hurts everyone; even the Great Depression was overcome with government borrowing to step into World War II. We may be “exceptional”, but all we’re exceptional at these days is beating a path for us to become a Third World Nation. On a global scale we do less for our people than other countries, and the sad part is that many are proud of that.

But I’m just and middle-aged, unemployed person, so what would I know.

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