I Can't Figure It Out, So You Are On Your Own…

Source Article:  Businesses turn to private exchange health insurance – USATODAY.com.

This is an interesting article about how some CEOs are giving up trying to figure this health insurance mess out and passing it on to their employees and pensioners. They just give them a set sum of money and basically hand them over to some former insurance executives for advice. In other words they are on their own. Here are people who are supposedly the cream of the crop in the business world who admit they can’t figure this stuff out. So, how are the their worker let alone their pensioners supposed to do that? This healthcare circus is just getting more ridiculous every year.

We in the U.S. take such pride in being the smartest of the smartest in the world. We boast that we are the only true innovators on the planet! But I kind of think we are in a gigantic bubble of illusion here, especially when it comes to healthcare. The rest of the world has long ago figured out that a single payer system, mostly maintained by their governments, is the only way to keep healthcare costs in line. They spend less and actually live longer than we do.  There are no other industrialized countries that spend even one-fourth of what we do per person for their citizens’ well being.

Come on guys, lets finally admit it that sometimes others outside the U.S. have it more right than we do. Let’s get on the single payer system and get off this constantly increasing healthcare merry-go-round. The employer based healthcare system is totally out of control; let’s replace it with something the rest of the world knows is better.

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….

Enough for Everyone

I must admit that I am becoming a big fan of Anthony Bourdain and his show No Reservations. Anthony is a TV celebrity/chef/author who travels to other countries to try to get a real feel for their culture and also their food. He doesn’t spend any time in the touristy places; he goes and meets the real people. Tony is kind of like the guy I would have liked to have been more like in earlier life. He doesn’t hold back much and he is kind of raw on the edges. Actually he is very raw on the edges! 🙂  One of the things I admire most about Tony is that he doesn’t disrespect any of his guest. Even though he is a rough guy he is tender in his relationships with others.

The episode I just got finished watching was about Sweden. I was a serious tennis amateur when Bjorn Borg was the number one tennis star of the world.  And of course I always had a fascination with those blond Swedish girls.  Until this episode that is about all the exposure I had to that country.  One thing that entranced me about this episode was that the swedes have a saying that translates to “Enough for Everyone”. This saying seems to be very entrenched in their culture. They aren’t into the “WE ARE NUMBER ONE” mentality that is so prevalent in the U.S. and some other countries. Looking back now that is probably one of the reasons Borg was so calm even during his tennis events.   The Swedes just don’t have the paranoid desire to always be number one in anything. They think there is room for everyone at the table.

The Radical Right probably call Sweden communists (that seems to be one of their favorite slams) because they have so much socialism in their government. They dare to have universal healthcare for all their citizens and also free education through college. There are not a lot of poor people in Sweden because everyone has a change to make something of themselves. Those who follow my other blog (www.redletterliving.org) know that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us that we are all to be our brother’s keeper and if we want to be first we must humble ourselves into being last. The Swedes, even though they might not know it, seem to align to those teachings.  Our bravado in the U.S. sometimes prevents us from being as much as we could be.

But What do I know..

Indiana – 2011

While most of the barns in our portfolio were taken on one of our many road trips this one is just a few miles from our home. We pass it several times a week.  The backside of the barn sustained considerable damage in the Spring storms. I hope it stay up.

Pre April 27 – (Republicans) –  Obama is not a citizen so he is an invalid president

Post April 27 – (Republicans) – Why is Obama wasting his time producing a birth certificate; he should be creating jobs!!

Please stop the spin cycle – I was dry months ago….

What's Obama Doing Wasting Time….

GOP pivots on ‘birther’ questions, blames Obama for media attention

Ok, here it is. Now that President Obama finally tried to put the birther issue to rest the radical right in the Republican party are hitting on him for wasting time with providing his birth certificate! They say he should be producing more jobs instead of settling this issue. It is just totally amazing to me how they will spin anything the President does to make him wrong.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is what I think of this:

This is so hilarious that I simple can’t write any more. I am truly dumbfounded by idiocy of this latest RR spin.

But what do I know.

GOP pivots on ‘birther’ questions, blames Obama for media attention – The Washington Post.

My Hero.. James Madison

I want to continue on with my report of our vacation through West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia last month. This post will be about another of the five presidential homes we visited on that trip.

I admit that one of my heroes in life is the fourth president of the U.S. James Madison. There are a number of reasons for that admiration not the least of which are the similarity between Madison and me. Compared to many of the other Founders Madison was a little guy. He was 5′ 7″ and small stature while most of the other famous people during that period were broad-shouldered and well over 6′.  Since he was a little guy he had to work harder than many of the others to get any attention. I am currently 5′ 7″ myself (although I was over 5′ 9″ before old age and compression fractures took me down a few inches). Two of my best friends growing up were over 6′ tall so I was always the little guy in the group.

Madison was also an intellectual with an amazing ability for logic and organization. That is what made him so valuable during the Constitutional Convention and got him the moniker of the “Father of the Constitution”. Although I can’t begin to mirror his mighty accomplishments I too am somewhat of an intellectual (IQ in the 130s) and have always had a pendent for organization and writing. So I feel a closeness to Madison that I don’t feel for many other famous people.

So, visiting his home  Montpelier in Virginia was a rare treat for me. His house was not the mansions of Mount Vernon or the Hermitage that I would visit a few days later. Madison didn’t put a lot of weight into being showy. He left that up to his very outgoing wife Dolly Madison. She, except for maybe Elenore Roosevelt, was probably the most outspoken first lady. That is yet another thing I have in common with my hero James, I married a very outspoken woman myself.

It was a wonderful time visiting Montpelier and getting a little closer to my hero James Madison.

Being Deaf Is Lonely…

One of my regular rituals is to go to McDonald once every month or two and get a steak & egg bagel for breakfast. I did that this morning.  I found a picture of one and included it here but it really didn’t resemble the one I got at the counter. Mine had the steak hanging out the right side of the begal while the egg and cheese were clinging to the left edge. 🙂 It has been a few months since the last time I did this. I always sit at a table where I can watch all the people ordering their food. Every time I go there in the morning I see the group of  about a dozen “old guys” sitting around BSing. They seem to have a good time in each others company. They sit at those same tables for a couple of hours. The cast of the scene is constantly changing as some come and others leave.

One thing this reminds me of is just how lonely being deaf is. I would love to be able to join the “old guys” after all I am one of them even though I don’t want to always admit that. I did try it once but when they found out I was deaf all the usual camaraderie just stopped. So instead of enjoying the group I actually caused it to come to a screeching halt!  I don’t blame the guys for this; it is just something that happens. Having someone different who requires some special attention is just something that they can’t handle. Especially during their morning BS sessions. Now when I go, like this morning I give them the usual “guy” nod of the head and head for my special table.

I cope with my deafness on a daily basis. But it can get awfully lonely now and then…

And the journey goes on.

More About Taxes….

Let’s finish up this journey through our tax code in the U.S. and its reform. I know many people out there think that taxes are just government shaking them down.  But I don’t see it that way.  I enjoy going to the store to get a gallon of milk and be assured that drinking it will not make me sick. I also enjoy driving down some reasonably good roads to get there. We all need to pitch in to make these types of things possible. Ok, let’s get on to fixing this tax mess we are currently in.

The one area where we should not have to pay extra is for when we get sick.You can call that a loophole if you want but I just call it common sense. We don’t need to add insult to injury (pun intended) and tax people for that!  If only we would join the rest of the industrialized world and take care of healthcare for all citizens we wouldn’t have to be discussing that here. Let’s do that along with all the simplification. If I can dream I can dream big. 🙂

We all need a certain amount of money to survive so let’s put a floor under all these taxes. Let’s figure out how much it takes to put basic food on the table and a minimal roof under our heads and allow folks to not have to pay taxes on that amount. I know that number would be very different for rich folks and poor folks. But for argument’s sake lets put that number at $24,000. That’s about one and a half times the minimum wage. So, to keep this number in line lets link it to the minimum wage for going forward. That should finally make some Republicans vote for minimum wage increases in the future. 🙂

One area I have not covered yet is the so-called “Death Tax” as Republicans call it. They seem to think that if your daddy made a lot of money it should be your right to get it all given to you without any “government intrusion”.  Well to me this goes back to my idea that income is income no matter what its source. So if daddy want to give you a spare $1 million or so that is fine either before or after he dies. But it is money coming into you so it is “income”. You pay your fair share for this the same as any other income. We all come into this world alone and we will leave this world alone. So it seems fair to see our lives as one of personal responsibility. Daddy was daddy and he is separate from you. If he gives you money it is income to you. Simple as that.

I know I promised a “simple” solution and this one is getting kind of complicated so I better stop here. So, we end up with a small tax on everything we buy; a tax on all our income; and a minimum amount where all this kicks in.  What could be simpler than that?  Now all I have to do is to try to figure out how to get some really courageous people to volunteer a few years in Washington to make it happen. We could promise them that we would not ask them to stay in the hell hole any longer than it takes to get the job done. 🙂  Are there any brave souls out there??

But what do I know…

About Those Taxes….

Having just survived another April 15th tax day has been topic on my mind. As I always say I am just a simple guy and all this tax mess seems to be easily fixed if the politicians just had to courage to do it.  But with all the loopholes in the current tax code there are at least thousands of people occupying each of them and they will not be very happy to see them disappear! They might have to start paying their fair share of keeping this great country running.

I know I am not the first fellow to come up with my own plan but here goes anyway. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread!  I kind of like the idea of when you buy something you should put a little extra into all the government agencies who make what you buy safe to use or eat. So, let’s put a tax on all purchase and I mean all. Putting exceptions on that sort of thing is where we got into the current trouble we are with all this stuff. So the big guys who buy the yachts and fancy cars will have to pony up a little extra when the get them. The same goes for the little guy who buys groceries. This tax is just part of the money coming in so it doesn’t need to be a big percentage. Let’s start out at two percent and see how that goes.

The second part of the RJ tax plan is paying a little back when you make some money.  I don’t care if it is from those yahoos on Wall Street or the over demanding boss on the job or even a pension payout. (now I got all the old folks against me!!) You have money coming in you pay the piper.  Money is money; where is comes from is not really relevant. Since our current legal system including the Supreme Court insists that corporations are actually people (that is a joke to me) then they are also included here. They make a profit they pay like every other “person”. No exclusions, tax breaks or exceptions.

Now for the elephant in the room and that is exemptions. One fellow’s exemption is another fellow’s loophole. Let’s eliminate all of them and I mean all of them. If you want to buy a house you shouldn’t expect the government to pay part of your mortgage so that exemption/loophole should disappear like all the rest. Now I know the story about all the rich folks creating all the jobs so they should get tax breaks and all the poor folks who are struggling but all of us should contribute what we can. That is why most of the money for government should come from income.

Next time I will finish up my version of a simplified tax code. I am a simple fellow so I should be pretty good at this stuff.

But what do I know…

The Depth of Friendships??

One of the things I have regrets about now that I am in my senior years is not having kept up with friends from my past. I guess that mistake is mainly a “man” thing as my wife has regular communications with friends she made over 50 years ago. The girl she shared an apartment with in Milwaukee in the 1960s is among several others still on her contact list. I have some very casual friends from my high school days but that seems to be about all.

I just don’t seem to be able to maintain long-term friendships. I’m pretty sure some, if not much of that problem, is due to my becoming deaf about twenty-five years ago. My old friends from my hearing days, much like the daily casual acquaintances now, just don’t seem to be able to cope with this communications barrier and that hurts me pretty deeply from time to time. An example of that is when I went to my fortieth high school reunion a few years ago. One of my best friends from those days was there but when he found out I was deaf he didn’t bother to try to communicate with me at all. Me and my buddy spent a lot of time together during those school days so to have him basically ignore me at the reunion hurt me somewhat deeply.  I did try to make contact with him but he would not even return the eye contact.

In today’s fast paced world it seems that old friendships are pretty hard to maintain. When a person basically was born, grew up, and died in the same area life long friends were a somewhat common occurrence. Not so much now that we are often spread across the country and sometimes even the world. When we were more or less forced out of our church last year due to our differences in biblical interpretations the friends we made there seem to have for the most part forgotten us now that we are no longer in their weekly cycle. The depth of friendships which seemed to be deep then proved to be rather shallow indeed amongst those Christian friends. I have been thinking about that this Easter morning.

It seems hard to make anything resembling a best friend status now. That saddens me greatly. As I grow older lost friendship become more of an ache in my heart. Due to circumstances beyond our control Yvonne and I are childless so there are no grandkids to fill that gap.

And the journey goes on….

Woodrow's Car… Staunton VA 2011

The picture shown above is of President Woodrow Wilson’s car from 1913 which is currently housed in his Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton Virginia. The library was somewhat spartan by today’s presidential libraries but it was well worth the visit. The reason I chose the his car to represent this visit is that it languished in oblivion for nearly 50 years before it finally found and restored. It’s nice that this little piece of history was not lost.

Oh Virginia… Here’s To You Woodrow

We now move on with our recent vacation trip through Virginia. I must admit that I have been to this State several times and even to a couple of the sites we visited. But one city I had not been to was Staunton, Virginia. Among other things with was the birthplace of one of my heroes Woodrow Wilson. I’m sure not too many people put Wilson on such a pedestal but I admire him for his wisdom and foresight. Wilson spent the majority of his adult life in New Jersey as president of Princeton University and as Governor. He was president of the U.S. from 1913 to 1921. This period spanned World War I. He is the only president to hold a Ph.D.  Some of his accomplishments as president were Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and of course his valiant attempt to start the League of Nations, which was the precursor to the U.N. All of these things proved essential to our lives today.But during his day Wilson was somewhat scorned for his radical ideas. Here is a little bit from Wikipedia about him:

A Presbyterian of deep religious faith, Wilson appealed to a gospel of service and infused a profound sense of moralism into his idealistic internationalism, now referred to as “Wilsonianism“. Wilsonianism calls for the United States to enter the world arena to fight for democracy, and has been a contentious position inAmerican foreign policy.[2] Scholars and experts rank him highly as president–on average as the #6 best president.

For some reasons we Americans have found it difficult to get behind our more intellectual leaders. Wilson was certainly no exception. If only we valued wisdom in our presidents the same way as much of other cultures value wisdom in their aged population.

So here is to you Woodrow. I know you only lived in the house I visited for about a year but it was nice to get even this kind of link to you.

Don’t Confuse Me With Facts….

Over all, it (a poll) showed that Republicans who are considering making presidential bids will have to woo a party that largely identifies with the Tea Party movement….

…more than half of Republican voters said they considered themselves Tea Party supporters — and has questions about President Obama’s origin of birth. A plurality of Republican voters, 47 percent, said they believed Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was born in another country; 22 percent said they did not know where he was born, and 32 percent said they believed he was born in the United States.

(See link below for whole article)

So, according to this poll that was mainly about how the Republicans are fracturing themselves this election cycle show that two-thirds of them believe that President Obama was not born in the U.S.! Given that the State of Hawaii has on numerous occasions verified that he was and that recently the current governor stated he remembers baby Barak when he met his parents soon after he was born. The facts are just overwhelming about this topic. But it seems, as usual, the Republicans don’t want to be confused by the facts. If they don’t believe official documents or personal verification then what would it take to prove that any of us are actually U.S. citizens?  Maybe they should take this same stream of logic, or actually illogical, when it comes to registering potential Republican into their party? That would almost assure their extinction in the not too distant future.


Virginia – April 2011

Keeping in line with a few other of my blogs here is a barn picture taken in Virginia during our recent trip there. There didn’t seem to be as many of these types of barns there as I had anticipated.