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Posts Tagged ‘MEDIA’

“THE HAPPY TIME” FOR HITLER’S GERMANY AND TRUMP’S AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 12, 2018 at 12:39 am

Everyone knows how World War II ended for Nazi Germany: With its Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, dead, and its capital city of Berlin in ruins.

Casualty figures range from 4.3 to 5.3 million dead Germans.

And for 44 years—from May 7, 1945, until November 9, 1989—Berlin was a divided city and Germany a divided nation. The Soviet Union ruled the eastern half. Germans—backed up by American military forces—ruled the western half.

Yet before all this unhappiness descended on the Fatherland, the vast majority of Germans enjoyed what they called “The Happy Time.”

This period began on January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor—and lasted until June 22, 1941.

For most Germans, those years—and especially the year between June, 1940, and June, 1941–were a time of prosperity and joy.

According to Robert Gellately’s 2002 landmark study, Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, the Nazis operated a highly popular dictatorship. They didn’t try to cow people into submission. Instead, they set out to win converts by building on popular images, cherished ideals and long-held phobias.

And their efforts succeeded. The Gestapo owed its fearsome success to ordinary German citizens who voluntarily reported on “enemies” within their midst. These citizens saw themselves as patriots.

Nor, as has long been believed, were Nazi atrocities carried out in secret. From the media, Germans learned about the Nazis’ brutal campaign against the Jews, the concentration camps, and the Nazis’ radical approaches to “law and order.”

But as far as everyday Germans were concerned:

  • The streets were clean and peaceful.
  • Employment was high.
  • The Communists and Jews were being locked up.
  • The trouble-making unions were gone.
  • Germany was once again “taking its rightful place” among ruling nations, after its catastrophic defeat in World War 1.

The height of “The Happy Time” came in June, 1940. In just six weeks, the Wehrmacht  accomplished what the German army hadn’t in four years during World War 1: The total defeat of its longtime enemy, France.

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Frenzied Germans greet Adolf Hitler

Suddenly, French clothes, perfumes, delicacies, paintings and other “fortunes of war” came pouring into the Fatherland.  (Reichsmarshall Herman Goring, head of the Luftwaffe—air force—amassed his own private air collection from French museums.) 

Most Germans believed der Krieg—“the war”—was over, and only good times lay ahead.

But Adolf Hitler had other plans.

On June 22, 1941, three million Wehrmacht soldiers slashed their way into the Soviet Union. The Third Reich was now locked in a death-struggle with a nation even more powerful than itself. 

German soldiers in the Soviet Union

And then, on December 11, 1941—four days after Germany’s ally, Japan, attacked Pearl Harbor—Hitler declared war on the United States. 

“The Happy Time” for Germans was over. Only prolonged disaster lay ahead. 

Now, fast forward 77 years to the America of President Donald J. Trump. According to an official White House statement entitled “American Greatness,” issued on June 4: 

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Donald Trump

“Nearly 3 million jobs have been created since President Trump took office. The unemployment rate has dropped to 3.8, the lowest rate since April 2000, and job openings have reached 6.6 million, the highest level recorded. President Trump has restored confidence in the American economy, with confidence among both consumers and businesses reaching historic highs.” 

Much of this jobs growth, however, was already underway during the closing years of the Obama administration. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from taking credit for it.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubtless spoke for millions of Trump supporters when she said, on June 4: “Since taking office, the President has strengthened American leadership, security, prosperity, and accountability. And as we saw from Friday’s jobs report, our economy is stronger, Americans are optimistic, and business is booming.

“The American people do not believe this strong economy is fantasy or unrealistic.” 

Many Congressional Republicans have echoed this: The American people care only about the economy—and how well-off they are.

Only five days earlier—on May 31—the Trump administration had announced it would put steel and aluminum tariffs on longtime American allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU).

Mexico, Canada and the EU immediately vowed to retaliate. For Americans, this will mean higher prices on such items as beer, baseball bats and cars. The EU has threatened to impose tariffs on motorcycles, bourbon whiskey, Levi’s jeans, peanut butter and cranberries.

A disastrous global trade war could be the ultimate result.

On June 4, Trump claimed, in a tweet: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself….” 

And, making clear how far above the law he thinks Trump is, his attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, told the Huffington Post on June 3: “In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted. I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is. 

“If he shot [former FBI director] James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day. Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.” 

The Germans made a similar devil’s-bargain with Hitler—and paid dearly for it. Americans, by supporting Trump—or at least not opposing him—have made a similar devil’s-bargain.

And such bargains always end with the devil winning.

COVERING TRUMP AS HE DESERVES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2018 at 12:13 am

On June 8, 2017, James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

On May 9, he had been fired as director of the FBI by President Donald Trump.

During his Congressional testimony, Comey revealed that, on February 14,  2017, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

Michael Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

Many reporters who undoubtedly knew better agreed with this excuse: He just didn’t understand the protocols. He’ll get it right next time.

They didn’t dare report the truth: America is being ruled by a dictator in the mold of John Gotti.

Thus, Trump didn’t meet privately with Comey because he didn’t know “how modern government operates.” He wanted a private meeting to make a request he knew was on its face illegal—and he wanted to ensure “plausible deniability” in doing so.

If Comey later told the truth about that meeting—as he later did—Trump could say—as he later did: “It’s just his word against mine. Who are you going to believe?”

Reporters covering the Trump administration need to radically change their methods for doing so.

They should start covering it the way organized crime reporters have long covered the Mafia.

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Donald Trump

First, assume that Trump—and those who serve him—are acting criminally unless they can prove otherwise.

As Niccolo Machiavelli advised in his classic work, The Discourses:

“All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.

“If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason, and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.”

Second, report what he and his minions say publicly—but look for well-placed sources in law enforcement for the truth.

Reporters covering John Gotti found him highly quotable copy. But they also cultivated secret sources within the FBI and NYPD to discover what crimes he had committed—and was committing.

And when they wrote stories about him, they stated—unequivocally—that he was the boss of an organized crime family.

Reporters covering Trump should similarly list his own history of conflicts with the law.

John Gotti.jpg

John Gotti

Third, news media should devote fewer resources to covering the public side of Trump—and  more to unearthing the truths he wants to suppress. 

As robber baron J.P. Morgan once admitted: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.”

What’s said during a press conference—whether by Trump or any other of his officials—is strictly the version he wants stated. This could be transcribed by a single pool reporter, who shares whatever’s said with all the major news media.

This, in turn, would free legions of reporters to unearth truths that Trump doesn’t want revealed.

Fourth, recognize that Trump is fighting an all-out war on the media—and have the courage to publicly state this.

In 1976, Arizona Republic reporter and organized crime expert Don Bolles, was killed by a car bomb. Legions of reporters from across the country descended on Arizona to prove to mobsters: Attacking reporters is as dangerous as attacking cops.

Donald Trump has labeled established news media as “fake news.” He has called reporters “the enemy of America.” On at least one occasion, he told a CNN reporter: “You’re fake news.”

Yet no reporter—for CNN or any other news outlet—has called him a “fake President.” Nor has any reporter dared to call him a pathological liar with dictatorial ambitions.

CNN has started running an ad featuring a shiny red apple, while a voice-over intones:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.”

Unfortunately, many viewers might mistake the “apple” for Apple. Thus, a more effective ad could feature a picture of Trump in an SS uniform, and the following message:

“This  is a Fascist. Some people might try to tell you that he’s a Republican. They might scream Republican, Republican, Republican over and over and over again. They might put REPUBLICAN in all caps. You might even start to believe that he is a Republican. But he’s not. This is a Fascist.”

NEWS MEDIA: HEAL THYSELF!

In History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on May 7, 2018 at 12:25 am

On April 28, comedian Michelle Wolf skewered high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of the nation’s elite media.

She did so as the host of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C.

As a result, she has been furiously attacked by Right-wing defenders of the Trump administration and some of the nation’s most prominent media.

Almost all of their attention has focused on the Trump officials she ridiculed—especially Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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Michelle Wolf

But Wolf threw a series of sharp-edged zingers at some of the Nation’s most prominent media. And these comments have gone largely ignored.

They are, however, well worth examining—for the uncomfortable truths they reveal about much of the news being served up under the guise of fearless objectivity.

On little-watched C-SPAN:  This is on C-SPAN; no one watches that. Trump is president; it’s not ideal.

On liberal media’s obsession with “Russiagate”:  I know there’s a lot of people that want me to talk about Russia and Putin and collusion, but I’m not going to do that because there’s also a lot of liberal media here. And I’ve never really wanted to know what any of you look like when you orgasm.

On CNN—where “news” now consists of a series of “talking heads” pontificating about stories that other journalists have dug up:  We’ve got our friends at CNN here. You guys love breaking news, and you did it. You broke it. Good work. The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.

On Fox News’ sexual harassment scandals involving such prominent (and former) members as CEO Roger Ailes and commentator Bill O’Reilly:  Fox News is here. So, you know what that means, ladies: Cover your drinks. Seriously.

On Fox News’ actual role as the propaganda organ of the Republican party:  People want me to make fun of [Fox News commentator] Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that; this dinner is for journalists.

News Media

On weak-rated MSNBC, which is the liberal version of Fox News:  We’ve got MSNBC here. MSNBC’s news slogan is, “This is who we are.” Guys, it’s not a good slogan. “This is who we are” is what your mom thinks the sad show on NBC is called. “Did you watch ‘This Is Who We Are’ this week? Someone left on a Crockpot, and everyone died.”

On Megyn Kelly, who rose to fame and fortune as a Right-wing propaganda shill on Fox News:  And, of course, Megyn Kelly. What would I do without Megyn Kelly? You know, probably be more proud of women. 

And, by the way, Megyn, Santa’s black. The weird old guy going through your chimney was Bill O’Reilly. You might want to put a flue on it or something.  

[This last jibe centered on Kelly’s infamous December 11, 2013 Fox broadcast where she claimed: “I kind of laughed and said this is so ridiculous.  Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa. For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white….Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man too.”]

On the continuing demise of newspapers—on which TV “news reporters” depend for their information:  There’s a lot of print media here. There’s a ton of you guys, but I’m not going to go after print media tonight because it’s illegal to attack an endangered species. Buy newspapers.

On the media’s—especially the television media’s—morbid obsession with Donald Trump:  There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving.

On the media’s responsibility for the rise of a President they now detest:  You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.

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Donald Trump

[This last joke was probably the most painful the assembled media bigwigs had to endure. Because it’s undeniably true.

Trump’s campaign was saved from spending millions on TV advertising because the major TV news networks covered his every word. This was especially true when he was attacking women, blacks, Mexicans, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama—and even beauty pageant contestants.

For the media, Trump was “good for ratings”—in the same way that Mike Tyson was “good for boxing.” Both were seen as freaks—and thus guaranteed to lure viewers eager to find out: “What outrageous thing has he done now?”] 

THE ALLURE—AND PERILS—OF FLATTERY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2018 at 12:10 am

According to CNN, Arizona United States Senator Jeff Flake will deliver a speech on the floor of the Senate comparing President Donald Trump to former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

The subject of that speech—to be delivered on January 17—will be Trump’s attacks on the news media.

Among those attacks:

  • On February 17, 2017, Trump called the press “the enemy of the American people.”“The FAKE NEWS media,” he tweeted, “(failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • On July 2, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.
  • And on August 15, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

“Mr. President,” says an excerpt of Flake’s upcoming speech made available to CNN, “it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.

“It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.”

Joseph Stalin ordered his critics executed in prison or exiled to Siberia. It’s clear that Donald Trump would like to have that same power.

Joseph Stalin

But that’s not the only similarity that unites the current President and the late Soviet premier.

A second one: Raging egomania.

On December 21, 1949, Stalin turned 70. And millions of Russians feverishly competed to out-do one another in singing his praises.

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love—but fear.

He had lived up to his pseudonym: “Man of Steel.” For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million of his fellow citizens.

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation.

“The novelist Leonid Lenov…foretold the day when all the peoples of the earth would celebrate his birthday; the new calendar would begin with the birth of Stalin rather than with the birth of Christ.”

Lavrenti P. Beria, Stalin’s sinister and feared secret police chief: “Millions of fighters for peace and democracy in all countries of the world are closing their ranks still firmer around Comrade Stalin.”

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov: “The gigantic Soviet army created during [World War II] was under the direct leadership of Comrade Stalin and built on the basis of the principles of Stalinist military science.”

Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov: “The mighty voice of the Great Stalin, defending the peace of the world, has penetrated into all corners of the globe.”

Central Committee Secretary Georgi Malenkov: “With a feeling of great gratitude, turning their eyes to Stalin, the peoples of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of millions of peoples in all countries of the world, and all progressive mankind, see in Comrade Stalin their beloved leader and teacher….”

Now, fast forward to June 12, 2017.

That was when President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convened his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20.

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Donald Trump

On June 12, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

While the Cabinet members sat around a mahogany table in the West Wing of the White House, Trump instructed each one to say a few words about the good work his administration was doing.

Vice President Mike Pence: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”

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Mike Pence

Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “It’s an honor to be able to serve you.”

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue: “I just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me, and the leadership you’ve shown.”

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “Thank you for coming over to the Department of Transportation. I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.”

Politicians—both domestic and foreign—have quickly learned that the quickest way to get on Trump’s “good side” is to shamelessly and constantly praise him.

As Trump infamously said during a 2016 interview: “If [Vladimir] Putin says nice things about me, I’ll say nice things about him.”

Some historians believe that Stalin was poisoned by one of his fawning yes-men—most likely Lavrenti Beria.

The time may come when Trump learns that outrageous flattery can hide murderous hatred.

WHY SETTLE FOR PRESIDENT WHEN YOU CAN BE COMMISSAR?

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 15, 2018 at 1:07 am

On January 17, Arizona United States Senator Jeff Flake is expected to do the unthinkable.

According to CNN, he will deliver a speech on the floor of the Senate where he will compare President Donald Trump’s attacks on the news media to the poisonous rhetoric of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Jeff Flake official Senate photo.jpg

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake

In one of those attacks—on February 17, 2017—Trump had called the press “the enemy of the American people.”

“The FAKE NEWS media,” he tweeted, “(failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

A day earlier, during a press conference in the East Room of the White House, Trump had delivered an unhinged rant, full of anger, personal attacks, self-pity and self-glorification.

Among the topics he covered was his all-out hatred for the press: “….The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it to find out what is going on, because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

Both during his 2016 Presidential campaign and since his inauguration, Trump has called for “opening up” the libel laws to penalize reporters and authors with draconian fines. He has repeatedly attacked any story he dislikes as coming from the “fake media.”

Donald Trump

On the other hand, he has lavishly praised such Right-wing media as Breitbart and Fox News Network. These have steadfastly supported him despite overwhelming evidence that his 2016 Presidential campaign received subversive support from Russian Intelligence officials.

“Mr. President,” says an excerpt of Flake’s upcoming speech made available to CNN, “it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.

“It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.

Joseph Stalin

“This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party. For they are shameful, repulsive statements.

“And, of course, the president has it precisely backward—despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy.

“When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him ‘fake news,’ it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”

Flake—or someone acting on his orders—had clearly leaked an advance text of the speech to the media.

On the January 14 edition of “This Week,” ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos already knew about Flake’s plan to deliver the speech.

“What are you trying to do?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“What I’m trying to say,” replied Flake, “is you can talk about crowd size, and that is pretty innocuous if there is a falsehood there. But when you reflexively refer to the press as the ‘enemy of the people’ or ‘fake news,’ that has real damage. It has real damage to our standing in the world.”

This will be part of a series of speeches Flake intends to give about Trump’s relationship with the truth and the press.

It is especially ironic that a Republican should condemn another Republican as following in the footsteps of an infamous Soviet dictator.

From the end of World War 11 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Republicans slandered every Democratic Presidential candidate as a witting or unwitting agent of “the Communist conspiracy.”

Trump, however, has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, both during his Presidential candidacy and since taking office. In fact, Putin remains the only major public figure that Trump has never criticized.

Perhaps his most infamous defense of Putin came on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

There may be more than a little envy on Trump’s part for how Putin has dealt with his media.

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

And on August 15, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

Joseph Stalin ordered his critics executed in prison or exiled to Siberia. It’s clear that Donald Trump would like to have that same power.

STOP INSURANCE RIP-OFFS

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on January 6, 2016 at 1:58 pm

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

You’ve faithfully paid all premiums for your medical insurance—and have the records to prove it. But the company doesn’t care.

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.

Of course, for most people who have dealt with an insurance company, this won’t come as a surprise.  Insurance companies aren’t in business to do good. They’re in business to make money.

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.

California State Capitol Building

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.

The insurance company Mike and Diane were relying on was, like many such companies, registered in Florida.  But, in order to legally do business in California, it had to obey the laws of the State of California.

And California laws forbade exactly the sort of behavior this company was engaging in.

And shortly after that conversation, Diane’s 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/ 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.

STOP INSURANCE RIP-OFFS

In Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 15, 2013 at 12:07 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.

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.
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