Archive for October, 2013

h1

PRESS POSTURING

October 31, 2013

The headlines covering private insurance companies cancelling individual policies have been disconcerting.

Then I read “Why Some Plans are Being Cancelled” the other day and learned the facts:

  • 15 million people (5%) have 12 month health insurance contracts that are NOT automatically renewable.
  • They are plans designed for emergencies such as being between jobs or needing to wait a period of time for new coverage, or whatever.
  • Only 17% of that audience normally purchases the same plan again. I think that means less than 1% of people who purchase this type of insurance are being impacted.

In 2010, these plans were grandfathered even though they did not comply to new  Affordable Healthcare Act.  They would remain protected AS LONG AS THEY MADE NO CHANGES including the addition of new members to the existing plan coverage.

But, of course, that’s not how insurance works.  Changes were made; they lost their grandfathered status and now must comply.  A SIMPLE, UNDERSTANDABLE EXPLANATION which appears to be fair.  Had the insurance companies followed the rules, many of the folks you are seeing on nightly news crying “Woe is Me” would still have coverage.  The INSURER , not the GOVERNMENT, renigged – thinking they could either get away with it, or to take advantage of the time before ACA went into affect to continue to RIP OFF these folks..

Advance the calendar to four years later.  Without new buyers, the plans without changes were unsustainable.  It made no business sense to continue.  So the trusted insurers pulled the plug.  And the Republicans rose up in arms, scouring their states for impacted individuals, parading these poor folks before the Press cameras as PROOF that Obama lied – you could not stay on your existing plan; you just needed insurance…and it became more fodder to rage over to  accompany the legitimate but predictable  muck-ups in getting a system up and running.  

All this seems reasonable to me, so why the focus on it? 

This is impacting 7-12 million people in total-all of whom have had four years notice.  It is being shouted about on the street corners of every town across America.  But after you listen to the first one, you slowly realize every single interview or incident “captured on tape” has identical talking points.  That smells like yet another Republican Ruse to me!

Meanwhile, I have now witnessed person after person being interviewed….all spouting the same script…how they have been harmed by Obamacare.

Common sense tells you that if they do not have the initiative and where-with-all to stop throwing away money on a bad plan, they probably have not miraculously carefully crafted a message that never deviates across the country – no matter where the person lives.  That may be harsh but the fact these incidents have been tracked to TEMPORARTY ‘bridge” policies is a bit revealing.

But thanks to the STRIB and the Washington Post…now I know.  Sensational news trumps Informative helpful news…one more time.

If you just got cancelled for that or for the fact your insurer never upgraded the policy to include care that has been mandated essential, then turn your back on those caring Repos making fools of you and call 1 800 318 2596.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
h1

THE EVOLUTION OF MEET THE PRESS

October 28, 2013

THE EVOLUTION OF MEET THE PRESS

We got our first television in the late 50s – and MEET THE PRESS became a “Must See” event in our family.  It has always been the weekly resource for well–researched current events that reported without a bias, and gave equal time to multiple sides of an issue- whether that be political or otherwise.

Enter David Gregory.  For a long time, I thought it was just me.  I didn’t particularly care for him, but I felt I was not giving him an unbiased chance simply because I was so vested in his predecessor, Tim Russert .  However, over time, I became more disenchanted…sometimes to the point I would just turn it off.

Sunday might have been a turning point. 

My first clue was when the Governor of Kentucky pushed back on Gregory and flatly told him he was wrong.  Hmmm…Gregory is the Moderator, not the opposing viewpoint, right?  What is wrong with this picture?

Next, we had a single guest – Andrea Mitchell.  She was introduced as NBC’s expert  and together she and Gregory had a public discussion about Obama…filled with ”Is not”, ”will not”, and ”did not”  which culminated  with  a justification that Obama was wrong and weak based on Saudi Arabia and Israel’s  unhappiness with him.

Even at this point, I am thinking:  OK, Cheryl…the whole world seems to think this is a mess Obama created; perhaps you should rethink some of what you understand to be the situation.

And then the conversation transitioned to the latest Snowden leak.

And Meet the Press failed the test.  (see below)  They did not even bring up the most important question.

I shut off the TV because Meet the Press in my mind has crossed the line.  Instead of reporting and discussing news of the day and its possible impacts, its mission has evolved to “GOTCHA”.

It makes me sad that this oldest program on TV, long the friend of America, has fallen into the pit of sensationalism and ratings only.  Although, it does free me up to get to church ON TIME instead of a few minutes late!

 

MY PLEAS TO THE PRESS:  Just the facts AND THAT MEANS ALL the facts:

The latest in the Snowden epic is a release of a document that indicates eves-dropping activities from 80 US embassies and consulates.  It included several countries in Europe we consider our allies, including Germany.  Here are the dates I can find so far:

2002       NSA MAY have included Merkel’s personal phone in the dragnet

2005       The document leaked by Snowden indicates Merkel’s phone number was accessed.  However that document reveals the number being caught in the dragnet, but one cannot determine if the number was actually listened to.   

2009       Obama is inaugurated as President of the United States.   (NOTE:  This is at least four years and possibly seven years after the reported incident occurred.)

2010       NSA reports to Obama they have the numbers/are eves-dropping. I presume the actual date of that is recorded someplace, but I could not find if it was January or December.

20XX      At some point, NSA was told to STOP by Obama. Obviously, someplace there is a record of that.

20XX      Snowden steals document – I am sure by now, investigations could tell us the date it was stolen, but I do not have at hand. Nevertheless, the impression from Press was “IS”  listening in not WAS listening in.

2013       Snowden reveals the leak.

2013       Obama/Merkel phone call;  Obama assures Merkel the  US is not now nor will in the future eves-drop on her conversations.

Now, I am not a reporter; I am not expected to be the one who digs into the facts, but really, am I the  only one in the world that wonders why the dates above in red have not been revealed?  And am I the only one in the world that recognizes this began in 2002 and NOT after Obama became President?

I’m just saying, fill in the blanks and report the story in full.

 That was the reputation of what Meet the Press would do in the past.  That is not the story of Meet the Press today.   This may indeed be a major misstep that can be attributed to President Obama himself or it could be a risk taken that starts a movement toward meaningful conversations and actions; or it may be a twisted fact that sells magazines, newspapers and TV program ratings.    What I most fear it is that some of the continuing propaganda is being seeded by the Tea Party who are so intent on discrediting Obama as a man that they forget some of the spin discredits us as a nation.  And as a citizen, that really irritates me.

 

MY OWN TAKE ON THE MIDDLE EAST TODAY

For as long as I can remember, the Middle East has been an issue…early in my growing-up and adult life, it was trumped by Viet Nam a bit, but it has ALWAYS been a delicate balancing act because we have brought together in a very small place three major religions of the world (READ:  Commitment and Emotion) and a whole lot of oil (READ: Economics and Riches ….and somehow, that all means trouble.

Of course, we need to heed voices of concern from Israel and Saudi Arabia re Iran and Syria…but we also have to acknowledge that bellicose confrontations have not yielded results in the Middle East despite 45 years of trying to out-shout one another.

Of course, there is a possibility that movement in discussions toward eliminating chemical weapons and  nuclear capabilities could all be a ruse…but it could also be an opening to talk to one another and initiate possible change.  Does anyone expect that Israel will be worry-free (or even happy)?  No, but responsible countries cannot ignore the possibility that change could ultimately come and the bellicose confrontations and threats have not achieved much to date except death-so I think it is worth the effort to test it.

So when I read headlines like “Syria files plan to destroy (chemical) weapons” and “Anti-US signs ordered removed in Iran”…I continue to think:  “It’s working; proceed with caution; and see where this takes us.”

Of course, those complaining that Obama is foolish and weak; Obama is not following through; and all the other common Republican talking points that the Press has swallowed up as truth are really MOST INTERESTED in short term results – the Press wants ratings so they can keep their jobs; the politicians want votes  so they can keep their jobs.  And too bad about the viewers and readers that are searching for the truth.

Neither seem to understand  changes predicted for our world are here and now-not something that might happen in the future.   The Digital World has connected us all and that change alone calls for collaboration and compromise.

Unfortunately, all we know is WIN /LOSE, military might and wars.

All I can think of is another headline today that is also pretty thought-provoking – “Iraq crumbles under new attacks.”  To me that raises the question – how much money did our little boys spend playing live war games for ten years and with what result?

Sometimes I think that men will never give up their toys; thus their inbred-looking-backwards stupidity will be the death of us all.

 What I DO know is that in my mind, Meet the Press has moved from a thoughtful trusted resource to Edutainment at best.  I only hope the “evolution” has not stopped there but will survive this hiccup and that soon it will right its ways and continue on.

 


 

 

h1

OBAMACARE

October 27, 2013

Indeed, we know there are significant system issues accessing the Exchanges on-line; we now have a team in place promising relief in a month; and at the same time, the Republicans are happy as can be to see it falter so the grumbling and screaming has increased….this time, as they try to take advantage of  the situation and turn this into a political win rather than a win for the people they represent. .

Unfortunately, a technical hiccup – no matter how big a disaster it is, does not change the facts.  A whole lot of people are trying to take advantage of its availability.

Underneath the noise, we continue to hear that more folks were trying to sign up right away than anticipated which magnified the problem.

 Hmmm.  My immediate question was why was this NOT anticipated?   Indeed, we know now it was more than just the volume causing the problem but nevertheless, as the volume dropped off, access improved despite the design or code problems in the system.

It appears the fact remains, Americans were inquiring in droves – many more than planned for and it contributed to the problem.  Assuming they return when the system is smoothed out, the interest – even though it was under-predicted- demonstrates the need!

 So back to basics, there was a GREAT need; there is A GREAT interest. Which brings me full circle…then why did the plan not allow for that?

 Ironically, the massive amount of calls often originated in those states like Texas where 90% of the citizens have no health care insurance.  What’s the connection there?  And a nagging thought kept coming back – why is MNSure doing ok?

As time unfolds, we learn high volume was exasperated by not enough time to write and test code. Vendors started pointing fingers to the government and the blame game became the focus.  

And now very quietly after the roar of the last two weeks, I am starting to hear more and it is starting to make sense to me.  For instance, although Texas has 90% of its population uninsured, Texas is one of the states that refused to follow the plan and develop an Exchange.  Seems to me Rick Perry by putting party propaganda first, shot himself in the foot….now he has a whole lot of unhappy folks who eventually will figure out it may not have been the system, but politics instead that contributed to all this mess.

As I focused on State vs. Federal Exchanges, a little voice kept saying – wait a minute – is this a clue to what really happened?

14 states went ahead and developed Exchanges, just as the plan called for.  I haven’t fact-checked yet, but I seem to recall Minnesota has been working on that for a year or so.  So when did the Federal Government realize that step was being boycotted and ignored?  Did the refusal to comply contribute to the fact that there was a scramble at the last minute to determine how to minimize the impact of that? Did that cause the frantic programming that just began last May – not because of bad planning but because States ignored the plan and the federal government had to step in and build a safety net?

Does that mean the culprit here is neither the Federal Government NOR the software developers initially working on the project, but the faulty political stance led by Tea Party States that snowballed – if they refused, then we will too?

This may be one to watch closely…as the issues could  have their roots in a Mad Hatter scheme of wishful thinking that became reality and harmed every one of us as well as the country.

 

h1

TIDYING UP MY DESK…..

October 26, 2013

NORTH DAKOTA PIPELINE

The September 29 oil spill of 20,600 barrels of crude in Tioga ND that no one noticed was happening fortwo weeks was disconcerting enough but today we learn there has been 300 ND pipeline spills in less than 2 years – all of which went unreported.  That is an average of almost ONE every other DAY!

Yes, about half were small apparently, but it raises the question of accountability as far as this # 2 oil producer in the US – at least for me. 

If they do not report when the spills happen, why should we believe all but 490 barrels were contained in this last year and that there was no permanent damage?

I confess, I know nothing about how land owners or a state gets compensated when an oil producer is given rights to the land….but if compensation is tied to barrels produced vs. barrels sold, one can see how the secrecy helps the oil developer and hinders the people of North Dakota.  And who is responsible for long term cleanup costs?

 Not being an oil industry person, I do not even know if that number meets normal expectations or if that many leaks might signal some shortcuts happened or a lack of concern for what follows in the aftermath. And being a little Minnesota-centric myself, I admit I care most if there is an impact here than I do about a North Dakota impact…so I did not take the time to research and perhaps answer my own questions.

I am sure the people living in the midst of this know the answers and I presume there was sufficient worth vs risk analyses done to make them happy,

As for me, I would rather put my focus on solar and wind.  Yes, I know wind has issues particularly with the birds and sound…but it seems like focusing on those issues will have better payback.  Both the energy source itself, and those harmed are renewable resources so let’s put our efforts to eliminating the cause of damage – knowing that there is no risk to the source itself “drying up”!

 

MSP’s OWN ARCHDIOCESE

Yes, I know, now that they are in the news daily they are having a Eureka! moment and at least appear they may start thinking about their problem and how to control- if not fix -it.  Unfortunately I have no faith that counseling of the offenders will alleviate the problem.

I try hard to be tolerant of ALL religions, and certainly as a Christian,  it is easiest to find excuses for an arm of my own basic faith.   But seriously, one more time, I am at the point where I am saying, if I were a member of this Archdiocese, I’d be in line asking for a refund!

Eleven Million Dollars squandered to cover-up priest misconduct?  Plus, no matter what, it is the parishioners’ dollars that go to the abuser’s salary continuation, room and board, annual contributions to pension, education, rehabilitation, psychological treatment, counseling, and legal expense-all above and beyond the cover-up money.

I tried, but it was not easy to match cover-up costs and on-going expenses for life to the amount the Church ends up giving the victim as compensation for something that cannot be repaired with money. But too many barriers, undisclosed dollars, and from my perspective, too much time by me to make it worth it to move my thoughts from emotional reaction to factual disdain.

And of course, that’s just me – the one that has more empathy for the abuser who did not get help than for the institution who obviously consistently puts the fiction of infallibility of the institution above the care of the flock. 

Raised in a Christian denomination where the emphasis was placed on teachings straight from the Gospels that established the parameters of the early Christian faith before the emergence of the Pomp of the Popes and the Vatican, I recognize some of my disdain comes from a lack of understanding of the Catholic faith.

 And every time this issue has popped up in places outside Minnesota I have had the same response; I have spent  time now and again trying to trace back to scripture the command of celibacy and I have historically been reminded over and over that as late as the Middle Ages, the son of one Pope actually succeeded him as the next Pope.  So I tend to say- perhaps the Catholic Church should reexamine the pros and cons of celibacy.  It obviously is something that not even Popes have been able to abide by, so on occasion, heads are turned the other way when even the Pope has affairs with married female parishioners and the result of that affair can succeed him.

As for me, I just become more and more convinced that the root of the problem is not the offender, but the hubris of a man-made institution to pretend it sits a notch above the flock.

 But truthfully, I have no idea what the answer is or how it might be found.  That does not take away the contempt I have for those with oversight in a parish or diocese or the archdiocese to lie and cover-up. So it saddens me to hear that that does not just happen elsewhere, but it happened right here in Minnesota as well.

 

ANOTHER CONSTITUTIONAL PROBLEM TO PONDER….

And that is the right of free speech vs. the right of the native People to object to the “r” word.

Here we are in another discussion of rights that clearly demonstrates our founding fathers were not “all-knowing” in what they put to pen and paper at the time, but that they were “all knowing” in recognizing that what is right today would change over time and thus the Constitution had to have a built in means to be changed and updated.

The original immigrants to the Eastern coast of North America brought with them native peoples kidnapped in Africa to “do the work” that was required to make this space into the original Thirteen Colonies.  It took eighty years of battling that culminated in a Civil War to free those Africans from slavery, and another 100 years to declare that African Americans were equal in rights and forever more, change the appropriateness of the “n” word.

We are now approaching 225 years and we have yet to ban the “r” word which is equally offensive to the People who lived and cared for this land we call the Americas for 10,000 years-before the white man “discovered” it.

But so far, they are battling alone without the support of a lot of whites; and again this week, they lost the battle.  It was ruled that to eliminate the “r” reference in the Metrodome tomorrow could be interpreted as a denial of “freedom of speech”. 

I am sad that a game trumps human dignity in our world today and that the People must continue in their quest – just for one little show of respect.

h1

October 26, 2013

THE BEST THEY CAN DO…

Think about that.  If you were failing at your job, should you be maintained by your employer because it is the BEST you can do?  Or would you understand if you were released from employment so that you could move on to find something that you could do well and your employer could also find someone to better fit the parameters of the job?

That is a basic principle of business.  Define a need; write a job description; outline requirements, and prioritize those responsibilities and needs.  Then recruit, interview, hire and monitor results against expectations on an annual basis.

This morning I learned that Paul Ryan and Harry Reid agree:  There will be no coming together on a United States budget; the BEST they can do is to perhaps take a small step to reduce slightly the impact of sequestration!

I believe I am recalling correctly that the Federal Budget is a top priority responsibility of Congress outlined in Article I of the US Constitution.

 If Congressional leaders, members and staff cannot accomplish what we pay them WELL to do- (remember the figures of $170K/annually, lifelong healthcare and retirement benefits)-then is it time we the public OWN UP to making some significant hiring mistakes?  

I think it is time to review the Job Descriptions, make any agreed-upon adjustments, give official notice to these folks they have  been granted a probationary time to improve , while at the same time,  we take the initial steps to start looking for and recruiting talent that match the needs  that have been so defined by the founding fathers and  recommitted to by the  majority of the people  in 2012.

That’s what I would have been expected to do in my twenty-five years in the corporate world; that is what I do on a smaller scale in my small business. 

Unless you are an HR person, no one likes to write, review, redefine job descriptions.  No one likes to prepare for and participate in Annual Reviews, and no one likes to get bad marks and that discussion of improve or you are gone and no one likes to start the cycle all over again whether you are the employer OR the employee.  But that’s life. And that is what needs to be done here.   

THE BEST THEY CAN DO is not good enough.

“WE HAVE LOST THE TRUST OF THE  EU”

The STRIB Front Page Headline reads “Germany, France want new spying ground rules” with a tone that the Press loves to reinforce….even our friends have lost their trust and yet the reality appears  to be that what they want is the same kind of relationship we have with the Brits, Canadians, and other English-speaking countries.  It’s one of those mutual trust/mutual respect issues …”we will both quit spying on each other”.  From my perspective, wouldn’t that be a step in the right direction?  But meanwhile, we are all in a frenzy that Obama (my, but he is a powerhouse to be able by himself to create all this mischief:-) is so terrible that he has EU allies concerned and distrustful.  Seems to me, if BOTH parties are spying, we are BOTH distrustful.  So ever the optimist, I take the stand this a good thing- but probably not something that was planned.

 However, now that concern has arisen, I am in agreement that we need a sensible review of the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which was written in 1966 and came into force in 1976.   That was before the internet or the now all-encompassing Digital World.  It is an acknowledgement of that world and the fact the rules have changed and is perhaps the nudge that is needed to start shutting the door on the 20th century and putting our heads together to RETHINK the 21st!

Meanwhile:

THE RUSSIANS NEED US…

Is a topic outlined in “Top News” on the front page, and there it is on Page Three – Russians ask for teamwork and US help…

And guess what they need us for?   They need help in identifying threats and keeping the Olympics safe.

To be fair, Russia is reaching out to US and 80 other countries to help them identify threats from abroad.  Most worrisome are the Russian militants that are fighting in Syria along with Al-Qaida.  They are expected to return home well trained in Al-Qaida ways…thereby adding to the problems the Russians are already having, battling extremists in the North Caucasus.

As it turns out, the US and Russians started discussing this at the time the Chechens wreaked havoc on the Boston Marathon.   Putin/Obama agreed to intensify security cooperation for the Games and we will send an undisclosed number of Diplomatic Security agents to Sochi to help ensure safety of American athletes and corporate sponsors.

My mind connects the two situations.   More fodder to make NSA such a difficult issue with no right answers when judged by 20th century principles in a 21st century world.  Maybe all this represents the “growing pains” of reinvention for a new world and how we will balance going forward security vs. privacy issues. .

 

h1

SATURDAY

October 26, 2013

I soooo  need to make good use of this last weekend  of October with sunshine and “fairly” good temperatures to RESET myself to keep pushing forward.  We have a great new opportunity with a client to push the envelope –one more time- to redefine “Meetings and Events”.  Normally, that is energizing.  Right now I just feel “scattered”.

 I have spent two weeks, distracted and unfocused on the task at hand as I let the world around me interject a lot of disrupting “noise”.  Another fall, a good bit of pain, the loss of one of my custom hand splints, (now HOW can that happen in my tiny little space?) concerns about unhealthy family members, remorse that I cannot be in Rochester to lend a hand, lingering thoughts of maybe It’s time to wish MSP goodbye and return to my roots- but  with no network, could I continue to work, my almost empty checkbook with two months to go before it is “reinforced”, and maybe with my defenses already down, I have let in a little bit TOO MUCH of that dislike of Halloween that always surfaces this time of year! J or is it just because I am deviating from plan, and I have not yet tackled my third quarter financials and the END of October is in sight!  Whatever it is, I need a reset to fight that depression I call the “Kranz disease” made worse by  a whole new worry….how old was my sister when she first started presenting symptoms of her dementia …and am I scattered because I, too,  am destined to suffer a similar fate? 

So, this needs to be a memorable, sunshiny weekend filled with positive vibes and energy that allows me time to reset my course by Monday – as well as spend some needed time at my desk focusing on the project at hand!  Any good vibes sent my way will be appreciated and put to GOOD USE!

 

h1

MISINFORMATION

October 25, 2013

And if I thought I was confused about the NSA activities on October 23, today it gets worse!

First I read that “all countries” listen in on each other and that while it appears several European countries are quite upset with the US for doing so, others in the same group admit they assume at least six foreign countries are listening in on their calls at any one time and in fact, frequently spread misinformation – just to add to the confusion of all this. And from there, one commentator today explained the whole crisis is because Obama insists on having a Blackberry when he was told he could not have one.

Then I read all my worrying over drone strikes in Pakistan and the repeated denouncing of same by the Pakistanis is also somewhat of a ruse. In fact, Pakistan secretly endorses the program which they were aware of from its inception, and they get classified briefings on strikes planned, implemented and casualty counts.

So my question for the day is:

If I pinch myself, will I wake up to discover that I fell asleep in a bad movie fifteen years ago and all of this back and forth is just a dream ?

No wonder I am confused about where I stand on all of this.