Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Open letter to Canada...

Dear Canada, 

Hey.... it's the USA dropping a line! Just wanted to write and tell you how sorry we are for your Rob Ford. He just has to be our fault and we're very, very sorry. No matter how patient, sane, well meaning, or positive anyone is, no one can stand up to the onslaught of stupid shit going on here, which is probably spilling over into your country. 

Being so close to us, you have to watch and listen to our far-right politicians whining that Obamacare is government intrusion and over-reach even as these same knuckleheads pass law after law that allows that very same government to reach farther and farther into the vaginas of American women. 

You stand as a silent witness as we keep walking to the edge of the fiscal cliff, almost bringing about global depression by playing childish games with our debt-ceiling. 

You suffer as we put up more and more impediments to your crossing our northern border, a border shared by a staunch ally and one of our largest trading partners.

You have to put up with spilled-over TV and radio broadcasts that include pathologically stupid people like Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and the far-right-of-right-wing voices of Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, and any number of Faux News folks paid to speak without thinking. Even some of our left-wingnuts, like MSNBC's own Martin Bashir, can be mean-spirited and crazy-making as they practice their own special brand of ready-fire-aim commentary.

It's small wonder that anyone could wade through this flood of fools and stay dry and clean.

So it's not at all surprising that Toronto's own mayor, the Honorable Rob Ford, has finally... er... cracked and turned to drugs and alcohol, as well as to the Olympic-class gibberish-spouting usually reserved for our most dumb-assed politicians and mean-spirited talking heads. Sure, you fairly and squarely elected Stephen Harper as your PM, but it could be argued that he'd been hanging around with folks like Bush 43 and his handler, Darth Cheney, so Mr. Harper is probably our fault as well. Anyway, please know that it's not been easy for us either and we all (well, some of us) feel really badly about all of it. 

Hey, look at the bright side! Before you know it, Mr. Ford will be a distant memory and you'll be back to being aghast and agog at one of our holier-than-everyone politicians once again opining about this or that end-of-times-inducing activity or at our absurdly abiding anxiety that someone from Canada might try to bring a gun into a country that already has five times more guns in it than Canada has people. You might even miss Rob, who knows?

Please take care and write when you can. 
Your friend,
The United States of America

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Honk if you haven't heard this...

I've watched and read a considerable amount of what's been televised and published about the ACA rollout's undeniable cockup, but in all of it I've yet to hear any one of the Republicans blasting away at Secretary Kathleen Sebilius say, "How can we help to get this working?" 

Not one.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Beware the buzzkill...

Several years ago I started reading Noam Chomsky and became a total buzzkiller. Allow me to explain. 

A good friend had been raving about Chomsky for years, about his intellect and perspectives, and my friend suggested I give Chomsky's stuff a look. I did. I was so taken with Noam that I bought everything I could find at the time and just immersed myself in it all. After ingesting about four or five books over a two-week period I found myself in a funk, a dark place in which I'd never before found myself. 

I couldn't seem to shake it. I couldn't view anything around me without this state of thinking and feeling coloring what I was seeing, what I was doing, what I was perceiving. I was finding cause to rant about just about everything, driving my friends nuts. "Hey, lighten up," they'd tell me. I couldn't hold a normal, civil conversation with anyone without interjecting some aspect(s) of what I'd read in a Chomsky piece. This started to happen during seemingly innocuous conversations, about music, or about sports, or about pretty much anything. I was driving my friends nuts, which was driving me nuts. 

During a conversation about this with my wife, she suggested I try backing off reading so much Noam, and maybe interspersing it with something a bit lighter, a bit less weighty, like fiction. 

It worked.

I'd always enjoyed reading, and this was coupled with a strong feeling that I was out of touch with current and historical events. Reading Chomsky seemed to be the perfect solution: read about what I felt I was lacking. 

My overload was not Noam's fault. Noam was just being Noam. He still is and you have to love him for it. I still read him, as well as Chris Hedges and many, many others, but I do so in much smaller pieces and always intersperse it with escapist fiction to maintain balance. I've not fallen into the funk overload since then and I'm far happier, and so are my friends, I'm sure. I know my wife sure is. 

Long, long ago I came to realize that what I thought at the time were original, unique ideas and views I was developing were actually nothing of the sort. I was merely thinking along lines shared by others, maybe millions of others. The important part, though, was what I did with those ideas and thoughts: did they offer balance or buzzkill? I wonder, therefore, if something similar happens to anyone who might be immersing his or herself in the writings of folks who are sure they have the truth, who are sure they're right, and these could be folks on the right or on the left. Maybe people who watch too much Fox News are doing the same thing to themselves as I did with too much Noam Chomsky, who is as far from what Fox News espouses as one can get. But maybe there is a parallel. 

Finding balance is the key, I think, and leaning one way too much, right or left, makes it impossible to balance yourself, figuratively as well as literally. Balance or buzzkill? Which will it be?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Created a Healthcare.gov account...

Today I was able to create a HealthCare.gov account and have it verified, all on line. This was the first time I tried it. 

The server did seem a little pokey, but no worse than many business servers I've encountered and better than others. The account creation process was intuitive and logical. It took me no more than 10 minutes. Most of the effort I expended revolved around taking some easy steps toward account identity protection, which involved selecting security questions and answers and responding to three or four "trick" questions having to do with a simple credit history check. This really was a painless process. 

We're applying for health insurance under the ACA because our $1200-per-month COBRA health insurance will expire in January 2014. Today was the first step. The next step will be to shop on line, which is a pretty cool feature considering every attempt to shop for health insurance prior to the ACA involved having to talk to really annoying insurance brokers and receiving (and occasionally responding to) their incessant, prying, and equally annoying phone calls and emails. 

So far so good.