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Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

RIGHT AND LEFT

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm

You may want to slide into doing pieces about some Democratic figures, Obama and the like in order to present something other than a death defying anit-Christ, Jew hating, Nazis Republican Corporate Tax Cheater with a long-leg for Justice and a short memory of the American flag….

* * * * *

I received this email recently from a conservative friend who sometimes reads my blog. Since his sentiments may be shared by others, I will respond accordingly.

I have written more often about Republican transgressions than Democratic ones. But not because I believe Democrats are all saints and statesmen. All people are flawed, with plenty of stupidity and criminality to go around for any party.

I have focused primarily on Republican bureaucrats for two reasons:

First, I believe it’s the Right that’s on the move in America, not the Left.

It’s the Right that

  • keeps on introducing one anti-abortion/birth control measure after another to the ballot or Federal/state legislature.
  • is trying to limit–rather than expand–voting rights by demanding sharp reductions in the amount of time allowed to sign up voters.
  • wants to return us to the days when insurance companies legally denied coverage to anyone with a “pre-existing” medical condition.”

So I write about the Right because it–and not the Left–is the dominant force in American politics today.

Of course, right-wingers like Sarah Palin insist that it’s the Left that holds power over the media. But most of the political talk-show hosts on radio and TV are right-wingers–such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly and Laura Ingraham.

Pew researchers found in 2004 that

  • 17% of the public regularly listens to talk radio.
  • This audience is mostly male, middle-aged and conservative.
  • Forty-one percent are Republican and 28% are Democrats.
  • Forty-five percent describe themselves as conservatives.
  • Eighteen percent say they are liberals.

True, there are commentators on the Left such as Randi Rhodes, but they command only a fraction of the following–and influence–of their right-wing counterparts.

As for my having “a short memory of the American flag”: I believe I have a far better grasp of American history than most people. As proof, I cite my three-part series on the Alamo and my four-part series on the toxic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.

When Rightists talk about “the flag,” they usually do so as a substitute for confronting problems that need redressing.

So if you’ve been victimized by your medical insurance company and feel serious healthcare reform is needed, the Right attacks you as being “down on America.”

Thus, if you’re

  • against allowing corporations to pay no taxes;
  • against allowing corporate polluters to go unpunished;
  • for letting women decide if they want to have children,

you don’t have time to offer these views because you’re too busy defending yourself.

Most right-wing attacks on the patriotism of their opponents are not meant to “ defend” America. They are intended to suppress views Rightists disagree with.

The second reason I often write about the Right lies in the fundemental difference I see between Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats want to be the party of inclusion. They seek to extend legal rights to almost everyone–including illegal aliens and street-polluting vagrants.

They want to allow illegal aliens to attend American colleges–at public expense. They defend the rights of vagrants to defecate on sidewalks against the rights of tax-paying citizens to be safe from such filth and disgusting sights.

Republicans, by contrast, want to be the party of exclusion–by denying rights, not extending them.

They talk endlessly about “getting government off the backs of the people.” But they have sponsored a mind-numbing series of laws to interfere with the most private aspects of a woman’s life.

Throughout 2011, Republicans introduced more than 1,100 anti-abortion provisions in state legislatures and enacted 135 of them.

Escalating their attacks on women’s sexual privacy, Republicans now seek to deny their legal access to birth control.

Republican legislation has similarly invaded the privacy of thousands of 9/11 “first responders” while slandering their patriotism.

The responders have been required to have their names run through the FBI’s database of suspected terrorists. Otherwise, they will be barred from getting government-supplied medical treatment for their numerous, worsening ailments.

I’ve offended some on the Left by demanding an end to illegal immigration and street-polluting vagrants. And I’ve offended some on the Right by attacking their efforts to curtail the right to abortion, birth control and affordable medical care.

That puts me somewhere in the middle of the political road, where I’ve always seen myself anyway.

If some others don’t, I can live with it.

RICH RIGHT-WINGERS GET SECRET SERVICE “WELFARE”

In History, Politics, Uncategorized on March 27, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Ever wondered how much it costs to protect a Presidential candidate?

On March 20, GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul let slip a valuable clue.  He did so while appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Leno noted that GOP candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum had all requested Secret Service protection.  Why hadn’t Paul?

“It’s a form of welfare,” said Paul. “You know, you’re having the taxpayers pay to take care of somebody and I’m an ordinary citizen.

“I would think I should pay for my own protection and it costs, I think, more than $50,000 a day to protect those individuals. It’s a lot of money.”

Given the hatred that wealthy GOP Presidential candidates have expressed toward welfare for the poor, Paul’s comment raises an interesting question:

Why aren’t these men footing the bill for their own security?

It isn’t as though they can’t afford it.

Rick Santorum’s federal income tax returns reveal that his work as a Washington-based corporate consultant and media commentator brought him an annual income of

  • nearly $660,000 in 2007;
  • $1.1 million in 2009; and
  • $923,000 in 2010.

Then there’s Mitt Romney.  Through his career as a venture capitalist at job-destroying Bain Capital, Romney had ammassed, by 2007, a net worth of between $190 and $250 million, most of it held in blind trusts.

As for Newt Gingrich: According to the Daily Caller online news site, his total assets were valued at between $6.7 million and $30.7 million in 2010.

Gingrich has peddled influence as a Congressional lobbyist, written 23 books and produced eight documentaries. He commands between $40,000 and $50,000 per speech.

But even if these men couldn’t afford to pay for such protection, their Super Political Action Committees PACs) could.

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission:

Romney

  • raised $11.5 million in February
  • and spent $12.4 million.
  • He began March with $7.3 million in cash, slightly less than in January.

Santorum

  • raised more than $9 million in February
  • but spent $7.9 million.
  • He ended with $2.6 million in cash.

Gingrich

  • raised $2.6 million,
  • spent $2.9 million
  • and had about $1.5 million in the bank, barely enough to keep his campaign going.

And what do Romney, Santorum and Gingrich think about welfare for the poor?

Romney has endorsed drug-testing for welfare reciprients.  But he has not endorsed income-testing for those requesting Secret Service protection–and thus requiring those who can afford it to reimburse the government for their security.

Go to “Elect Mitt Romney/elect Mitt2012.org” and you’ll read this:

“America’s future depends on reversing the dangerous course that Obama has driven for the past several years. This means major cuts in spending, by a reform of Medicaid, wage alignments, federal workforce reductions and undertaking a major restructuring of government programs and services.”

Romney, in short, wants to impose “major cuts in spending” by

  • reducing healthcare opportunities for the poor;
  • reducing wages for the average American; and
  • the mass firings of government employees.

But he isn’t willing to make “cuts in spending” by footing the bill for his own security.

As for Santorum: ”I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.”

Apparently, Santorum is willing to make his own life better by using someone else’s money–that is, money paid by taxpayers–to finance his own Secret Service protection.

And according to Gingrich: “The welfare state reduces citizens to clients, subordinates them.”

Yet, in accepting government-supplied Secret Service protection, Gingrich has made himself a client of the Department of Homeland Security (which operates the Secret Service).

And he has agreed to subordinate himself to the protective restrictions imposed by that agency.

For self-important and wealthy politicians like Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, government subsidies are all right–so long as they are the recipients.

It’s only when ordinary, un-wealthy Americans need them that such subsidies are wrong.

As Napoleon, the power-mad pig-dictator in George Orwell’s Animal Farm put it:

ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL.

BUT SOME ANIMALS

ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.

GET THE (MENTAL) HELP YOU NEED – PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Politics, Self-Help on March 23, 2012 at 12:00 am

Feeling trapped in her mother’s house, Karen became increasingly aggressive.

She became verbally–and sometimes physically–volatile.  She found a stash of money Valerie had stored for an emergency–and went on a junk-food buying spree with several friends.

Valerie was trying to run a business and care for her daughter.  She was quickly reaching the limits of her stamina.

Clearly something needed to be done.

First, Valerie filed a request for an appeals hearing weith Golden Gate Regional Center (GGRC). 

Then she waited.  Karen had been rejected for help in July.  The hearing was scheduled for December.

Second, Valerie assembled witnesses to testify to her daughter’s inability to support and care for herself.

Third, she authorized me to represent her at the appeals hearing.  In preparation, I thoroughly immersed myself in the documentation of Karen’s medical history.

Fourth, I relentlessly pressed to learn the actual reason why GGRC had rejected Karen as a client. 

Finally, on the day before the appeals hearing, I learned the truth.

The tip came from a staffer at a State Senator’s office, who insisted on anonymity:

The then-director of GGRC didn’t like the costs of supportive housing–which Karen needed.  Thus, any applicant needing supportive housing was automatically slated for rejection. 

This allowed the director to boast to his superiors in Sacramento: “See how much money I’ve saved you.” 

Naively, I had not imagined there might be a political reason for GGRC’s refusal to help Karen.

Fifth, Valerie, her witnesses and I attended the GGRC appeals hearing. 

Armed with copies of medical documents proving Karen’s disability, I pointed out:

  • Karen suffered from epilepsy, autism and mental retardation.
  • Any one of these met the criteria of the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act–a California law which serves as the Bible for treatment of the mentally disabled in this state.
  • Thus, there was no medical reason for GGRC’s refusal to accept Karen as a client.

The three GGRC representatives attending the hearing weren’t impressed.  A psychologist acknowledged that Karen suffered from epilepsy–but said this was “only” petit mal, not the more severe form known as grand mal.

I recalled Niccolo Machiavelli’s advice: It’s nice to be loved, but it’s safer to be feared.

So I raised the ante:

  • GGRC’s “final evaulation report” on Karen had noted that–at 22–she was under the care of a pediatrician.  A pediatrician is a doctor who treats children
  • GGRC had accepted Karen’s pediatrician as an expert medical practioner and had advised Valerie to continue Karen’s treatment by that doctor.
  • Karen’s pediatrician had written a letter to the agency, stating in detail that her patient could not look after herself–and that Valerie was nearing the end of her emotional tether.  The doctor begged GGRC to assist Karen before her mother collapsed under the strain.
  • Yet the final report never mentioned the pediatrician’s diagnosis that Karen was mentally incapable of looking after herself. 

In short, I was charging GGRC with deliberately suppressing medical evidence to prevent a medically-qualified applicant from receiving its services.

I did not threaten to share this evidence with the California Department of Developmental Services, which oversaw GGRC.

Or, if that failed to produce results, with the State Attorney General’s Office.

But, then, I didn’t have to.

The three GGRC officials could see their careers going down the toilet.  All I had to do was flush it.

Suddenly there was a noticeable change in tone on their part.

Yes, they could now see a way to admit Karen as a client.  She simply needed to be examined by a clinical psychologist, and the report submitted to GGRC.

The GGRC official presiding at the hearing offered to arrange this.  But Valerie wisely said she wanted to find an independent expert to do so.

Karen was soon placed in a supportive housing residence in Marin County.

So if a loved one needs mental healthcare:

  • Fully document the person’s history with mental illness.
  • Call your local/state/federal representatives for the names of mental-health agencies.
  • Familiarize yourself with state/federal laws affecting the mentally ill.
  • Call public/private mental-health agencies until you find the right one.
  • Be patient while the case is being processed.
  • Remember: Even medical agencies often make decisions for political reasons.
  • If the applicant is rejected, ask for an appeals hearing.
  • Carefully prepare for the hearing. 
  • Bring an advocate who can present your case professionally.
  • Bring any witnesses who can support your case.
  • Remain calm and professional, even if you feel insulted.  Don’t make threats or give insults.
  • If the agency has violated state/federal mental-health laws, be sure to point this out.
  • Remember: There may be a higher agency you can appeal to if this hearing proves unsuccessful.
  • If all else fails, take your case to the media and/or hire an attorney.

GET THE (MENTAL) HELP YOU NEED – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Politics, Self-Help on March 22, 2012 at 12:00 am

You have a family member or friend who needs mental health services–but the authorities who provide them refuse to do so.

What to do?

First, assemble all the documentation you can on the person’s history with mental illness.  This will include:

  1. Medical records: Visits to psychiatrists/psychologists, hospitalizations for mental-health problems.
  2. Education records: Schools s/he attended for the developmentally disabled.
  3. Social organization records: Any groups s/he joined that provide help to the mentally disabled.
  4. Legal records: If s/he’s ever had a run-in with the police/courts owing to mental-health problems, there’s certain to be a   file.

If the person you’re seeking help for has lived all his life in the same city, your task will be easier.  If s/he hasn’t, you’ll have to obtain these from different institutions in different cities/states.

If you’re the parent of that person, chances are you’ll be able to obtain these records without difficulty.  Otherwise, you may have to hire an attorney to do so.

Unless you’ve been keeping a file on the person (such as a son or daughter) you need to remember that assembling this information will take time.  Chances are you’ll be dealing with officials you don’t know in schools, hospitals and/or mental treatment centers far removed from you.

Even if all of the people you contact truly want to help you, it will take time to dig up the records and mail them out to you.  Be ready to pay photocopying costs, which can add up if the file is lengthy.

Second, accept that you have a lot of learning ahead of you–because you will. 

Parents of mentally-ill/retarded children often don’t know which agencies to approach for help.  They may not know anyone who shares their special difficulties.  So they feel isolated and frustrated.

Third, start your research by calling any mental-health agencies or private organizations that you already know about.   Take careful notes of all your conversations.  Especially take down the names of all other agencies you’re referred to.

Fourth, call your local/state/federal representatives and ask for the names of all agencies serving the mentally disabled. 

Legislators employ staffers who are expert at helping constituents negotiate the maze of government agencies.   And they have reason to help you: Satisfied voters show their gratitude at election-time.

Fifth, use “the snowball theory of information.”  Think of each bit of information you get as a snowflake.  You put enough of those together and you get a large snowball.  Then you can roll it downhill.

Sixth, when you find the appropriate agency, be ready to fill out multiple forms and talk with many officials.  And be prepared for frequent turnover among the officials you deal with.

Seventh, expect to wait weeks or months before a decision is made to admit the person needing help.

Eighth, if you’re working on behalf of a parent or guardian who’s trying to arrange such assistance, insist that you be provided with an official “Power of Attorney” document.

You’ll need this in negotiating with agencies to (a) access the medical documents about the person needing help, and (b) persuade them to accept him as a client.

When dealing with issues of medical privacy, officials–public or private–want to protect themselves against potential legal trouble.  A “Power-of-Attorney” form assures them: “If anything goes wrong, I’m covered.  I can prove I did due diligence.”

Ninth, if the person you’re trying to help is rejected by the mental-health agency as a client, it might not be for purely medical reasons.

In San Francisco, Golden Gate Regional Center (GGRC) acts as the “gateway” agency for those needing mental health services.  A rejection by GGRC means: No other mental health agency will provide help.

Sometime ago I helped a woman I’ll call Valerie obtain supportive housing for her mentally-disabled 22-year-old daughter, Karen.

Karen was living at home–and aware that it wasn’t normal for people her age to still be doing so. She longed to be in a place of her own–but there were two problems with this:

  1. In high-rent San Francisco, Valerie couldn’t afford a separate apartment for her.
  2. Karen needed constant encouragement to perform such basis tasks as brushing her teeth, making her bed and cleaning her dishes. Otherwise she would neglect to carry them out.

Valerie assembled all the necessary documentation and submitted this to GGRC. Then she waited about a month while the agency decided whether to admit Karen.

GGRC sent Karen a letter saying “we were glad to meet you” but they had determined she didn’t really need their help.

Valerie asked Karen what she thought of the letter.  She replied, “I’m glad they were happy to meet me.” She didn’t realize that her hopes for leaving home had just been dashed.

Valerie couldn’t understand why her daughter had been refused help.  The reason had nothing to do with medicine.

THE IDEAL REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE

In Humor, Politics on March 21, 2012 at 12:00 am

The Republican race for the Presidency rages on–straight for disaster.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has stacked up the most delegates for his party’s nomination.  But the right-wing base still believes he’s secretly a liberal.  Worse, they know he’s a Mormon.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum truly excites his far-right constituents with his calls for banning aboertion, birth control and pornography. But he lags behind Romney in delegates.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wants to ban abortion, bomb Iran and arrest Federal judges who displease him.  The Republican base loves him for this–but doesn’t believe he has a chance at getting elected.

Many Republican strategists fear that President Barack Obama has a lock on the White House until 2016.

What to do?  Perhaps science has the answer.

By 2016, scientists may have perfected cloning–and thus allow Republicans to create their ideal Presidential candidate.

Imagine how this could affect the outcome of the 2016 election:

The top officials of the Republican Party decide to create the perfect, unbeatable Presidential candidate.

They direct scientists from the National Institute of Health to resurrect–via DNA samples–several past, hugely popular Republican leaders.

The first of these, of course, is Abraham Lincoln: Destroyer of slavery and defender of the Union.  The scientists then introduce him to a sample of Republican voters to gauge his current popularity.

The test audience erupts–but not the way party officials expect.

“Race-mixer!”

“He’s the reason we have all these damn civil rights laws.”

“He destroyed states’ rights!”

To head off a riot, the scientists rush the startled Lincoln-clone off the stage.

Then they introduce their next resurrected candidate: Theodore Roosevelt, the trust-busting conversationist.

Again, the test-audience goes wild:

“Tree-hugger!  Tree-hugger!”

“He’s the guy who broke up the big corporations–lousy Commie!”

Once again, there is a near-riot as startled Republican officials hustle Roosevelt out of the building.

Finally, they bring out their third choice for victory: A cloned Ronald Reagan.

“Not him!  He legalized abortion in California when he was Governor!”

“Yeah, and his first wife, Jane Wyman, divorced him.  We can’t have a divorced guy in the White House!”

Desperate, Republican leaders go into a huddle.

“What are we going to do?” asks one. “Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan were our most popular Presidents.”

“Yeah, but that was in the PAST,” says another.  “We need a candidate who speaks to our base TODAY.”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” says the first one.  “But it’s a bit radical.  The guy I have in mind wasn’t actually born in the United States.”

“So what?”

“That would violate the Constitution.”

“Screw the Constitution.  You know what our friends in the oil industry say: Why spoil the beauty of the thing with legality?”

So the Republicans once again call in the scientists and tell them to go back to work one last time.

When the last resurrected candidate is presented to the test-audience, the crowd rises as one, shouting: “That’s him!  That’s him!”

“The one we’ve been waiting for!”

“The one who REALLY speaks for us!”

“He’s totally anti-abortion and he REALLY hates upity women!”

“Yeah–he hates Commies, gays and non-whites, and he REALLY believes in a STRONG military!”

“All right, all right, I’ll do it,” says the clone-candidate. “But the last time I led people to greatness, they proved unworthy of me.

“So I’ll do it again–but only under VON condition!”

“Yes, yes!” screams the test-audience.  “Anything you want!  What is it?”

“Ziss time….”

….no more Mr. Nice Guy!”

TELL YOUR AIRLINE TO FLY OFF

In Bureaucracy, Self-Help on March 20, 2012 at 12:45 am

Imagine the following situation:

  • You’re vacationing in Denver and must return to San Francisco for an urgent-care medical appointment.
  • You’re disabled but nevertheless arrive at the airport on time.
  • The airport–in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act–doesn’t have anyone assigned to help disabled passengers get onto departing planes.
  • As a result, you arrive at the gate–just as the plane takes off.
  • The airline informs you that if you want to board a plane, you’ll have to pay for another ticket.
  • You can’t afford to buy another ticke–and your urgent-care appointment is tomorrow.

What do you do?

In this case, the stranded passenger called me: Bureaucracybuster.

First, I instinctively called the airline company. And that meant starting at the top–the president’s office.

I punched the name of the airline–and the words, “Board of Directors”–into google. This gave me several websites to click on to obtain the information I needed.

I started dialing–and quickly hung up: I had just remembered the day was a Sunday.

Nobody but cleaning crews would be occupying the airline’s executive offices that day.

I had to start all over.

Next, I decided to call Denver Airport and find an official who would help Rachel onto another flight–without charging her for it.

I didn’t know where to start, so I decided that starting anywhere was just fine.  As I was routed from one person to another, I would develop a sense of who I needed to reach.

Some of those I reached seemed genuinely concerned with Rachel’s plight. Others gave me the “that’s-life-in-the-big-city” attitude.

One of the latter felt I wasn’t deferential enough in my tone. He threatened to notify the chief of airport security.

“Go ahead,” I said. “I once worked for the United States Attorney’s Office. I’ll be glad to talk with him.”

He backed off–just as I had assumed he would.

Usually the best way to deal with threats is to directly confront the person making them.

(A friend of mine, Richard St. Germain, spent part of his 11 years with the U.S. Marshals Service protecting Mafia witnesses. Many of them didn’t like the places where they were to be relocated under new identities.

“I’m going to complain to the Attorney General,” some of them would threaten.

St. Germain would reach for his office phone, plant it before the witness, and say, “Call him. I’ll give you his number.”

The witness always backed off.)

Eventually I reached the Chief of Airport Operations.

I outlined what had happened. He didn’t seem very sympathetic.

So I decided to transfer the problem from Rachel to the airport.

Without raising my voice, I said: “It isn’t her fault that your airport was in non-compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and she missed her flight because there wasn’t anyone to assist her.”

Suddenly his tone changed–and I could tell I had definitely reached him. No doubt visions of federal investigations, private lawsuits and truly bad publicity for his airport flashed across his mind.

And all this had been achieved without my making an overt threat of any kind.

He said he would see to it that she got onto another flight without having to buy another ticket.

I called Rachel to give her the good news. But a few minutes later she called me back, almost in tears.

The airline official at the departure gate was giving her a bad time: “If we have to choose between you and another passenger who has a ticket for this flight, he’ll go, not you.”

She laid out a series of other scenarios under which Rachel would remain stranded in Denver.

So once again I called the Chief of Airport Operations: “She’s being hassled by an official at the gate. Can you please send someone over there and put a stop to this nonsense?”

A few minutes later, I got another call from Rachel–this one totally upbeat.

She said that a man who identified himself only as an airport official–but wearing an expensive suit–had visited her at the gate. When the ticket-taking airline official had protested, he had cut her off.

The official had then walked Rachel and her baggage onto an otherwise fully-loaded 777 jet bound for San Francisco.

Soon she was en route to San Francisco for her urgent-care medical appointment the next day.

 

So if you’re having troubles with an airline:

  • Start by calling the highest-ranking airline official you can reach.
  • If s/he isn’t available or sympathetic, call the airport.
  • Be persistent–but businesslike.
  • Don’t let yourself be bullied.
  • If you can cite a legal violation by the airline and/or airport, don’t hesitate to do so. But don’t make overt threats.
  • Don’t hesitate to play for sympathy: “This is a woman has an urgent-care doctor’s appointment….”

Then cross your fingers and hope for the best.

STOP INSURANCE RIP-OFFS!

In Law, Politics, Self-Help, Uncategorized on March 19, 2012 at 8:51 am

An insurance company suspends your medical coverage for months–or longer.

Even though you’ve faithfully paid all premiums for your medical insurance–and have the records to prove it.

Think it can’t happen to you?  It did to a couple I’ll call Diane and Mike.

Mike worked as a paralegal for a Los Angeles law firm.  He was getting health insurance for himself and his wife, Diane, under a COBRA arrangement.

COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985.   It’s a Federal law that was passed by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan.

One of its provisions creates an insurance program giving some employees the ability to continue health insurance coverage after leaving employment.

But a COBRA can sometimes act the same way the deadly poisonous snake does–with unpredictable and lethal results for those depending on it.

In this case, after Mike left his law firm to work at another, he found the COBRA didn’t operate as it was supposed to.

A snafu developed, involving

  • the COBRA management company,
  • the hospital where Mike and Diane had long been patients, and
  • Mike’s former employer.

Each of these institutions blamed the other for failing to provide appropriate information.

So the insurance company suspended Mike and Diane’s health insurance–completely ignoring their medical needs.

Then, one day, Diane called me on an unrelated matter.  During the conversation, she let slip the suspension of her medical insurance.

I was stunned at the news–and outraged when she said this had been going on for six months.

At once, I offered my services as a troubleshooter.  She accepted.

I decided to call the office of my State Assemblyman.  In California, the 80 members of the Assembly serve two-year terms, and are limited to being elected three times.

The 40 members of the State Senate serve four-year terms, and can be elected twice.

Because they face re-election sooner, members of the Assembly must stay closely attuned to resolving their constituents’ problems.  That’s why they employ staffers who are experts at navigating through the maze of State agencies.

And State Senators make certain their offices are equally well-staffed with such experts.

When I called my Assemblyman’s office, I didn’t ask to speak with him.  I knew I was too politically unimportant to rate a direct chat at that level.  And I didn’t need to talk with him, anyway.

I simply told the secretary that I wanted to speak with the office’s specialist on insurance.

California has an Insurance Commissioner who directs the state’s Department of Insurance.  The mandate of this agency is to license, regulate and examine insurance companies.

Soon I was speaking with Frank, the Assemblyman’s expert on insurance matters.  I quickly explained the problem my friends were having.  And, to my surprise, I found that he and I hit it off right away.

Frank said he had a friend–Steve–who worked as an investigator for the Department of Insurance.  Then he generously offered to put me through to him.  I thankfully accepted.

Soon Steve and I quickly found ourselves getting along well.  Then he asked me: “What’s your friend’s number?”

Diane hadn’t authorized me to give her number to anyone, but I decided to forward it.  If Steve was that interested in examining their problem, I wasn’t going to throw a damper on his enthusiasm.

Soon Steve and Diane were discussing the situation.

And shortly after that, her insurance company got an unexpected call from the Insurance Commissioner’s office.

The message was simple–and blunt: Restore that coverage–now.

And, within 48 hours, it had been fully restored.

There are several important lessons to be learned here:

  • Maintain accurate records of all your premium payments.  And keep them accessible–as in file folders, a safe deposit box or an online file.
  • Don’t let your insurance company victimize you.  Once you’ve paid your premium, you’ve lived up to your part of the arrangement.  Now it’s their obligation to provide the medical care you need.
  • Know the names, addresses and phone numbers of your representatives–at local, state and Federal levels.  Websites such as http://www.govspot.com/ and http://www.capweb.net/usa/California will instantly provide this information–and a great deal more.
  • Know the name, address and phone number of your state Insurance Commissioner.
  • If your elected representatives can’t or won’t assist you, complain to the news media.  Start with the local newspapers and TV stations.  If that doesn’t work, try the Internet.
  • If the agencies that are supposed to help consumers won’t aid you, make them part of your complaint to the media. 
  • If you’re disabled and/or have children who are affected by the insurance cut-off, play up this angle in your contacts with public agencies and/or the media.
  • If all else fails, consider filing a lawsuit against the insurance company.

RICK SANTORUM EXPLAINS IT ALL FOR YOU

In Humor, Politics on March 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm

And now, a few words on behalf of GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum:

The Ayatollah….

….of Birth Controllah

REPUBLICANS AS VOYEURS

In Bureaucracy, History, Humor, Law, Politics on March 17, 2012 at 1:12 am

At the height of World War II, Dr. Hans Lammers, legal advisor to Adolf Hitler, issued this legal directive at the enraged order of his Fuhrer:

“In many [criminal] cases it will undoubtedly be necessary to determine whether there were sexual relations between two people or not.

“But if this much is known, it is wholly superfluous to probe for closer particulars as to how and where such sexual intercourse took place.  The cross-examination of women in particular should cease!

“Every time that cross-examining police officials or judges keep probing for details as to the how and where of the sexual intercourse, the Fuhrer has gained the very clear impression that this is done for the same reason that the same intimate questions are asked in the Confessional box

“The Fuhrer wants clear instructions issued for the abolition of unnecessary cross-examination.”1

By contrast, the Arizona legislature has introduced a bill that:

  • requires women who want their contraception covered by their health insurance to prove to their employers that they are taking it to treat medical conditions—not to prevent pregnancy; and
  • makes it easier for employers to fire a woman for using birth control to prevent pregnancy.

Current Arizona law states that health plans covering other prescription medications must include contraception.

To override this requirement, the State House of Representatives passed House Bill 2625 in early March.  The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed it on March 12.

The full Senate has yet to vote on the legislation.

House Bill 2625 allows any employer to refuse to cover contraception that will be used “for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes.”

If a woman wants the cost of her contraception covered, she must “submit a claim” to her employer providing evidence of a medical condition, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, that can be treated with birth control.

Even more invasive, the law allows Arizona employers to fire a woman upon finding out that she took birth control  to prevent pregnancy.

In short: While Adolf Hitler was outraged at public officials taking what he considered prurient interest in a woman’s sex life, Arizona’s Republican legislators feel no such restraint.

“I believe we live in America,” said Majority Whip Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale), who sponsored the bill. “We don’t live in the Soviet Union. So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

This should come as no surprise to anyone–least of all women.

Throughout 2011, Republicans attacked women’s reproductive rights–not simply access to legal abortion but even birth control.

At the state level:

  • State legislators introduced more than 1,100 anti-abortion provisions and had enacted 135 of them by year’s end.
  • Seven states either fully defunded or tried to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides basic health care, contraception, breast cancer and STD screenings to millions of low-income women each year.

At the Congressional level:

  • Republicans used abortion and Planned Parenthood funding to extort Democratic concessions during budget negotiations and threatened to shut down the government.
  • Republicans introduced mandatory ultrasound bills.
  • Republicans tried to narrow the definition of rape to include only “forcible rape.”  Under this change, a woman who was coerced, drugged or otherwise incapacitated by a rapist, would not be legally counted as a rape victim.
  • Republicans barred the District of Columbia from using its own locally raised funds to help low-income women pay for abortions.

During the first two months of 2012:

  • Virginia Republicans introduced a bill whose original language required women to undergo an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure 24 hours before having an abortion.
  • A modified version of the bill–requiring women to receive trans-abdominal ultrasounds, was signed into law instead.
  • With the connivance of House Republicans, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, tried to pull cancer-screening grants from Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics provide abortions.
  • The House Oversight Committee convened a hearing to deny contraceptive insurance coverage under the guise of “protecting religious liberty.” The Democrats’ one female witness, Sandra Fluke, was forbidden to speak at it.
  • Right-wing broadcaster Rush Limbaugh and Foster Friess–Rick Santorum’s chief financial backer–publicly equated birth control use to sexual promiscuity.

And yet Republicans insist they are not waging a “war on women.”

The situation calls to mind a famous joke:  A wife unexpectedly returns home and catches her husband in bed with another woman.  Before she can speak, her husband demands: “Now, what are you going to believe–your own eyes, or what I’m telling you?”

The sheer number of laws proposed or enacted by Republicans at state and Federal levels–to control the sex lives of American women–is staggering.

The dictatorial mentality of right-wingers who advocate such legislation can best be summed up in yet another joke:

Q.  What’s the difference between the Republican Party and the Taliban?

A.  The Republicans are still working on their Arabic.

__________

  1. David Irving, The War Path, Viking Press, 1978.

IRRATIONAL? NO PROBLEM

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 16, 2012 at 2:09 am

Bureaucracies are not made up of robot-like machines.  They are comprised of flesh-and-blood men and women.

That includes even the most important bureaucracies–such as those of the House, Senate and White House.

And as much as Americans like to believe their elected leaders always behave rationally and intelligently, they don’t.  In fact, they can’t.

In a democracy, those who hold public office reflect the values of those who sent them there.

Consider the following:

On the eve of the 2012 Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, a Public Policy Poll survey revealed a series of startling  truths about the voters in those states.

Among the Republican voters of Alabama:

  • Only 26 percent believe in evolution.
  • Sixty percent don’t believe in it.
  • Thirteen percent aren’t sure about it.
  • Twenty-one percent still think interracial marriage should be illegal.
  • Twelve percent aren’t sure whether it should be.
  • Forty-five percent believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
  • Fourteen percent think he’s a Christian–although he’s always attended a Christian church.
  • Forty-one percent aren’t sure.

Among Republican voters in Mississippi:

  • Only 22 percent believe in evolution.
  • Eleven percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-four percent think interracial marriage should be legal.
  • Twenty-nine percent believe it shouldn’t be.
  • Seventeen percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-two percent think President Obama is a Muslim.
  • Only 12 percent think he’s a Christian.

These are among the voters who vilified a black, Harvard-educated, rationalist Obama–first as a Presidential candidate, and then as President.

And they aren’t going to change.  It’s easier–and more comforting–to believe we are fallen angels instead of risen apes.

Just as it was easier for Germans in 1920s Germany to deny they had been defeated on the battlefields of World War 1.

It was far more satisfying to believe–and assert–that they had been “stabbed in the back” by “Jews and Communists” at home.  Out of this denial of reality came the Final Solution.

Now, fast-forward to the 21st century.

The winter of 2011-2012 was the 4th warmest winter on record, behind 2000, 1999, and 1992. Winter temperatures have increased by about 1.7°F per century.

Despite ever-mounting evidence that global warming is indeed a reality, millions of right-wing voters refuse to accept it.  The largest portion of these are concentrated in the South.

In April, 2010, America suffered its worst oil-spill disaster.  For the next three months, 4.9 million barrels worth of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico from a BP oil rig.

BP tried one oil-capping method after another–and the country feared that nothing might work.  Those who had cheered on Sarah Palin in her chant of “Drill, baby, drill” during the 2008 Presidential race suddenly fell silent.

The second anniversary of America’s worst environmental disaster–April 20–is fast approaching.

And the country’s oil- and coal-producing conglomerates are flooding the airwaves with billions of dollars’ worth of lying propaganda.

“Clean coal” ads promise that America can meet its needs for energy and protect the environment.  These ads never mention that the technologies for supposedly doing this are still in the experimental stage.

But most of the people watching these ads take them at face falue.  They want to believe they can have all the cheap gas they can get– and not feel guilty about destroying the world for their children.

Once again, millions of Americans–including those who live in the still-damaged Gulf of Mexico–are demanding that President Obama “unleash America’s energy resources.”

President Obama is easily one of the best-educated men to occupy the White House.  Like John F. Kennedy, he believes in rationality as a problem-solving tool.

But smarts at the top cannot make up for irrationality at the bottom.

During the 2008 Presidential race, Obama made a near-fatal mistake.  He said that many Americans “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The fact that this was–and remains–absolutely true did not help Obama.  In fact, it threatened to cost him the election.

No doubt Obama knows there are millions of Americans who will rabidly hate him until he leaves office.  And many will hate him long afterward.

But he may believe this is another problem that lends itself to rational solutions.  It isn’t.

If he’s to win re-election, he’ll have to pursue a strategy that aims to:

  • Neutralize some portion of those voters who hate him–that is, persuade them to sit out the election; and
  • Persuade independents to vote for him.

The strategy must be the product of rational planning.  But the arguments aimed at these audiences must appeal to emotions rather than reason.

Emotions such as greed, fear and pride.

Obama will do it–he wants another four years in office.  But he will hate himself for doing so.

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