Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sticker Shock


Yesterday’s post about my personal introduction to Obamacare lacked only one thing. Since I have been unable to penetrate the gauntlet of fire breathing dragons that protect Healthcare.gov, I have only been able to fret over what the cost might be. I said yesterday that my “trick knee” was telling me that I was about to be paying a lot more for my health insurance. Now, the truth can be revealed. Always trust your trick knee.

A friend of mine and colleague, Blair, happens to be a broker with Anthem, and as such has what amounts to a back stage pass to the troubled web site.(How come it’s always the beautiful blondes that wind up with back stage passes?) Anyhow, she was kind enough to print out all of my Obamacare options for me. Eight pages long, and 22 different options thick, I was greeted with a dizzying array of precious metal choices, bronze, silver and gold. I can only assume that the platinum and titanium levels are restricted to politicians and their families.

Ok, my present coverage with Anthem carries with it a $3500 deductable and a $5000 family out of pocket per year, which means that I have to rack up over 5 grand in medical expenses every year before my policy will pay anything. For this catastrophic coverage I pay $610 per month. So, the first thing I did when presented with my eight page printout was to find which plan was the closest to what I already have. It turned out to be something called the “Anthem HealthKeepers Preferred Direct Access HMO GOLD plan. Only, this plan carries a $7000 family out of pocket. Wait, I thought that one of the objectives of Obamacare was to give people better, more comprehensive protection. But, the richest plan offered to me will require me to pay MORE out of pocket, not less. Hmmm. Now for the fun part. What will my premium be for this inferior policy? Instead of $610 per month, it will be my new privilege to fork over $1384.15 per month, a 127% increase. The good news, I’ll have “wellness care.”

No reason to panic, I thought. After all, that was the Cadillac gold plan. Suppose I buy the bare bones bronze plan? Turns out that going back to the Bronze Age would force me to accept a $12,700 yearly out of pocket expense, and my premium would still be higher than I currently pay, $770.77 per month compared to $610.

So, it would seem that under Obamacare I will have to accept much higher out of pocket expenses and ridiculously higher premiums, a twofer!

When I consider the fact that this bill was conceived and designed by politicians, I am reminded of that old line about the camel and the racehorse. “A camel is a racehorse designed by a committee of politicians.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Obamacare Hits Home


Back in March of 2008, I had to make a decision about my health insurance. The coverage I had back then was getting very expensive. My insurance company offered me some less expensive options. In order to lower my premiums, I would have to be willing to accept much higher deductibles and copayments. As I began doing the math, it occurred to me that the money I was saving on premiums could be set aside in a Health Savings Account, and by the end of the year would add up to more than the amount of the higher out of pocket expenses I might incur. In fact, if my family had a good health year, and didn’t use it much, I might even turn a profit on the deal.

I’ve been doing this for the past five years now, and I must confess, haven’t turned much of a profit, but I’ve been happy with the results nonetheless. My premiums have gone up since I started with the Health Savings Account, but modestly. Overall, I have been happy with this arrangement. It was my choice. For me, in my financial situation, it is a perfect system. I buy health insurance to protect me and my family not from the cost of doctor’s visits, checkups, and prescription drugs. I buy health insurance to protect us from the possibility of a $250,000 heart operation, in other words, catastrophic coverage. If I can comfortably write a check for it, I don’t need to insure it.

Well now. Along comes the Affordable Care Act, and I discover that my current plan isn’t good enough for me. Someone in Washington has decided to save me from the consequences of my foolish decision to self-insure the small stuff. Not only are my deductibles and copayments much too high, my current plan doesn’t cover oral and vision care, not to mention the all important “wellness services,” whatever the hell they are. What was I thinking?

Yes, but no problem since my plan is “grandfathered,” right? I bought it prior to March of 2010, so my plan is grandfathered…only not really. When Nancy Pelosi told us that we needed to pass Obamacare first so we could find out what was in it, she wasn’t kidding. On page 34560 of the regulations(I am NOT kidding about that page number, you can look it up), we discover that if your deductable goes up by more than $5, then your plan can no longer be grandfathered. Hmmm, let’s see now, two years ago my insurance company raised my deductable by $500 dollars. I’m screwed.

But Doug, but Doug, your new plan will have much better coverage with lower deductibles and lower out of pocket costs, and you will have oral and vision care and the highly coveted “wellness services”. Yes. But how much will this new coverage cost me? Ah, there’s the rub. I’ve been trying to find the answer to that question through Healthcare.guv for weeks now with no luck, but my trick knee tells me that I’m in for a sizable premium increase. That’s usually what happens when you purchase more of something. But what if I don’t WANT more? Suppose I’m perfectly happy with my current plan? My President assured me on a thousand occasions that if I liked my plan, I could keep my plan. Actually, his exact words were:

That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

What he meant to say was, “if WE like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan.”

So, a voluntary arrangement I entered into as a free citizen of my country is about to be nullified by people in Washington who think they know better what kind of health insurance I should have than I do. These are the same people responsible for a $650 million dollar website that doesn’t work, a 17 trillion dollar national debt, a National Security Administration that monitors my phone calls, and an IRS that targets the government’s political enemies.

What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Texting With My Son


Just because my son lives in Princeton, New Jersey doesn’t mean that we don’t get to watch the World Series together, thanks to Steve Jobs and his handy smart phone. For the past couple of nights, I have been firmly ensconced in my movie room, snacks at the ready, watching the games on my 52 inch HDTV. I watch them by myself since neither Pam nor Kaitlin are huge baseball fans, and I think maybe I scare them a little this time of year what with my loud, unpredictable outbursts.

So, there I was last night, watching the game and having a running text dialogue with my Son. I will now share some of the highlights. First off, a critique of Harry Connick Jr.’s National Anthem performance:

Me: Harry nailed the anthem accapella.

Patrick: For once, an anthem that isn’t a riffing contest!

Then he proceeds to chastise me for my take on the NSA spying scandal from my earlier blog called “Spy vs. Spy”.

Patrick: I’m not sure “self interest” justifies spying on 70 million private phone conversations.

Lovable kid, my son. Idealistically naïve, but lovable.

Then the game gets into the 8th inning and Red Sox manager John Ferrell decides to bring in closer Koji Uehara with two outs and the Sox up by two runs.

Me: Don’t like this move. Lester hasn’t thrown that many pitches!!

Patrick: UEHARA=SAYONARA?

Me: He better be.

Patrick: Let’s cross our fingersara.

Me: hahahahah

Patrick: “hahahahara”

Me: Hope this isn’t a kamakazi mission.

 Uehara proceeds to strike out the first batter he faces on three pitches.

Me: Wow

Patrick: Koji pitch any better??

It’s a very proud moment as a father when your son gets the better of you in a pun slinging contest.

Then it’s time to rag on the commercials.

Patrick: So tired of this iPhone commercial.

Me: Good Lord! I’m tired of the Taco Bell PS2 one too.

Patrick: Yeah. Still doesn’t make me want to eat Taco Bell. In all likelihood I would buy it to see if I won, then when I didn’t, give the food to someone else.

Me: Oh, and the Budweiser one with the fireworks at the end?

Patrick: I kinda like the Budweiser “Do you know who brewed your beer?” one. Although that quip about them being the “biggest local brewery” made me want to vomit in my mouth.

So, thank Steve Jobs for creating something that allows me to enjoy watching baseball with my boy from 290 miles away.

By the way, Uehara WAS sayonara.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spy vs Spy


The salons of Europe are atwitter with indignation at allegations of American spying. Thanks to Mr. Snowden’s revelations, it would appear that our NSA has been quite busy intercepting millions of phone calls on that continent, most troubling to European sensibilities, even those from Prime Minister Merkel’s cell phone. This is apparently a bridge too far for the Euros. Howls of protest are being heard from Brussels to Berlin, from France to Finland. Merkel dialed up Obama herself, (presumably on a secure satellite phone), to scold him in no uncertain terms that “friends do not spy on one another.”

Excuse me. I will continue to write this blog after I take a few minutes to roll on the floor laughing.

“Friends do not spy on one another?” What universe has Frau Merkel been living in for the past sixty years? Friends spy on each other every minute of every day and have been doing so for 4,000 years of recorded history. We spied on the Brits during World War II, and the Brits spied on us. It’s called “self interest”. All of this feigned outrage coming from Europe isn’t over the shocking news that the NSA has managed to hack their calls. The outrage comes from the embarrassment attending such a one sided revelation. If Mr. Snowden had access to all of Germany’s intelligence comings and goings, it would be the United States who would be feigning outrage.

Listen, every American ambassador understands when he first walks into his new embassy home, whether it’s in Berlin, Paris, or Moscow, that job number one is to  remove every listening device he can find, knowing full well that the possibility of a private conversation is virtually impossible, same thing in Washington. Why? Well, human nature being what it is, we have a hard time trusting each other. Individuals as well as nations are constantly looking out for their own self interests in ways large and small, and while we may have tons in common strategically and culturally with Great Britain, they would sell us down the river in a New York minute if the opportunity presented itself. The instinct for self preservation is powerful and has no scruples.

I’m no fan of the NSA when it comes to its increasing domestic snooping what with the no scruples thing, but when I hear that they managed to tap Merkel’s cell phone, I gotta say…impressed. It’s called doing your job.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Game Three. Holy Cow!


The following instant analysis of game 3 of the 2013 World Series may not be not be rebroadcast, retransmitted, or in any way rewritten without the express, written consent of Doug Dunnevant….unless a sizable check changes hands between you and me.

 

Top of the first: The guy on the mound pitching for the Cardinals, the one who looks like an accountant, is throwing 98 mph cheese with movement. Might be a long night for the Sox.

Bottom of the first: Peavy looking a little shaky. When he goes to his mouth with that chaw in there, is the tobacco in his spit considered a foreign substance? 2-0 already. Red Sox nation ready to “trade da bum!!”

Top of the second: Carpenter makes an amazing play robbing Nava of a hit. Without Napoli in this lineup, there isn’t much to scare you. Without the DH, St. Louis is a better team.

Bottom of the second: First Erin Andrews sighting, always a good thing. Peavy settling down. Also saw the Clydesdales. Instantly wanted a beer.

Made it through 2 full innings without seeing an erectile dysfunction commercial.

Top of the third: Stephen Drew looks like an out. Poor kid doesn’t have a clue at the moment, but plays a mean short stop. 4 for 43 in the post season ain’t gonna cut it. The kid is one error away from death threats in Bean Town.

Ahh yes, Cialis commercial. Suggestion for their marketing people...nothing happening with separate bathtubs. Just saying.

Bottom of the third: Can’t decide which was more little-leagueish, Ellsbury’s drop or Hollidays’ horrible base running. Bad call on the strikeout of Adams. Ball was low. Peavy looking better.

Top of the fourth: Ellsbury gets first Sox hit. Victorino looks terrible at the plate. Love watching Pedroia swing the bat. He’s the toughest player on the field. Need Big Papi to hit one out here. Smart strategy by St. Louis. No way I’m letting Papi beat me. Make Nava be the hero. Yep, coulda used Napoli in that spot.

Verizon commercial about the family who goes trick or treating while obsessively looking into their smart phones is one of the things wrong with America. Leave the phones at home Mom and Dad!!

Bottom of the fourth: How come every time I see Yadiar Molina play I think he’s the best player on the field? Maybe because he is. Best defensive catcher I’ve ever seen. Bases loaded, nobody out. Strike out, pop up, pop up. Great job by Peavy!!

Top of the fifth: Leadoff triple by Boegarts. Yeah baby. Momentum shifting. Walk. Very large Cardinal pitching coach to the mound. Cardinal relief pitchers begin in-game Yoga, or synchronized stretching. Either way, creepy. Poor Drew. Carp pinch hitting for Peavy, looks like an out waiting to happen, and grounds out but scores the run. 2-1. Umpire suddenly blind to outside corner. Great at bat for Ellsbury…but strikes out. Time for some snacks.

Triscuits and Colby jack cheese with a Jonathan apple.

Bottom of the fifth: Two out double brings Molina to the plate. Nervous. Walk him? Yes! Make Freese beat you. At some point in this game a ball is going to be hit to Ortiz at first, I just hope it’s not now. Doubrant has just made two great pitches that were both called balls, but overcomes by getting Freese on a flyout. Now for the 16th commercial  trying to sell me a pickup truck.

Top of the sixth: Who looks worse at the plate right now? Drew or Victorino? V  gets a walk, so I guess it’s still Drew. Pedroia lines out. New pitcher for the Cardinals. But first a word from Geico. I was tired of the green lizard two years ago. Oh, and the 865th airing of the Taco Bell PlayStation 4 commercial. Ortiz is soooo clutch. 1st and 3rd, one out. Somebody besides Big Papi is going to have to get a big hit. Whose it gonna be? Daniel Nava!! Base hit scores the run 2-2.

Bottom of the sixth: Doubront looks hittable, but isn’t. Cardinal crowd is stone cold quiet. Don’t think a silent crowd is part of the “Cardinal way.”

Top of the seventh: Battle of the bullpens. Fourth of the night for St. Louis is on the mound throwing 98. Drew put out of his misery, pinch hit for. Three up, three down. Navy man just belted God Bless America out of the park. Wow. Stretch time.

Bottom of the seventh: Third Sox pitcher, Breslow. Check swing base hit. Now Beltran. Nervous. Ball grazes him. Two on, no out. Bye Bye Breslow. Tazawa coming in, Japanese pitcher number one. High cheese, then ripped down the line to left, 4-2 Cardinals. Big hit by Holliday. Tazawa looks uncomfortable.

Top of the eighth: Sox have six outs left. Better get cracking. Lead off single by Ellsbury will help! Victorino looks terrible, then gets hit. Huge gift! Come on Pedroia! Ferrell starts the runners so Peedy’s ground out advances the runners. Now they load em up by walking Ortiz. Good strategy, make Nava beat you. Rosenthall coming in. This guy is unbelievable. 100 and nasty. What a great game! Nava scores a run on a groundout. 4-3. Now it’s the kid’s turn. He comes through!! Tie game baby. Where the heck is Erin Andrews?

Bottom of the eighth: Bench player for Cardinals leads off with a hit. Isn’t that always the way it is with baseball? Pop up. Two outs. Beltran. Nervous again. Always nervous with Beltran. The rookie steals second. Single scores the go ahead run. Now they walk Beltran to pitch to Holliday, a guy who has already knocked in 3. Hmmm…. Glad I’m not a big league manager. GOT HIM!!! Let’s go to the ninth tied at 4. Why yes, I think I will!

Top of the ninth: One, two, three. Heck of a time to ask a relief pitcher to have his first career at bat!? “At least he didn’t get hurt,” the announcer says. Haha!!

Bottom of the ninth: Let’s see if we can get Molina out. Nope. Japanese pitcher number two coming in. Hopefully Uehara will equal sayonara. Craig rips a double to left. Runners on second and third with one out. Fly ball wins the game. Why are we pitching to Jay?? WHAT?????? Thrown out at the plate, then a wild throw past third then another throw out at the plate but interference is called. The game ends on an obstruction call? Great play by Pedroia. Wow! Amazing game ends with the most obscure call in the rulebook. Holy Cow.

 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love baseball.

Friday, October 25, 2013

It's Nobody's Fault


Anyone who reads this Blog with any regularity surely knows how much I love baseball in general and the World Series in particular. The fact that the Red Sox are playing this year makes it all the more awesome. But, I have noticed something lately about sports and sports fans that fascinates me, that is this strange notion that if one’s preferred team loses, it is always the result of either incompetence, or treachery.

Last night, for example, the Red Sox lost game two. They had a 2-1 lead going into the 7th inning. Manager John Ferrell removed his starting pitcher with one out and two runners on base. He replaced him with a left handed relief pitcher who had pitched brilliantly throughout the post season. This time however, the Cardinals pulled off an audacious double steal, then scored a run to tie the game on a sacrifice fly and the another on two errors on the ensuing play. By the time Ferrell removed his left hander, St. Louis was up 4-2, which is how the game ended.

This morning, a friend of mine on Facebook made the observation that the Sox had “blown it.”  Others have blamed the loss on Ferrell’s quick hook of starter John Lackey. No Red Sox fan I can find has thought to credit the Cardinals for daring to attempt a double steal, down by a run. No one has lauded sore-ribbed Carlos Beltran’s clutch single that scored the insurance run.

Listen, I’m a Red Sox fan, but I’m sorry, they didn’t “blow” the game. They got beat. This is baseball. Stuff happens. Teams don’t always “lose” games, sometimes they just get beat. It’s no one’s fault. Give the Cardinals credit for a gutsy comeback.

Read your newsfeed the day after a big Virginia Tech game or a Redskins game. If either of them lost, you will be treated to a laundry list of reasons why they got hosed by the officials, or how stupid a coach’s decision was, or how horrible so and so is because of a fumble or an interception. The other team’s performance never has anything to do with the outcome of a game.

I suppose it’s a natural reaction of fans, short for “fanatic.” And yes, sometimes my teams do lose because of ill-conceived strategy, or dumb blind bad luck. But more often than not, it’s just…..baseball. Last night’s game was every bit as fun to watch as game one for me. It’s October, and I’m watching great baseball. I have a sneaking suspicion that whoever wins this World Series will deserve it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

In Search of Humility


So, last night there was a bit of controversy in the first game of the World Series. A double play ground ball was hit by one of the Red Sox. If properly executed, the Cardinals would have gotten out of the inning unscathed. Instead, the shortstop completely missed the ball. It glanced off of the webbing of his glove. Bases loaded. Except the umpire who was standing 5 feet from the play with a perfect view inexplicably called the runner out. As you might expect, Red Sox nation proceeded to have an apocalyptical fit. But, because this is baseball, sanity and justice would prevail. Immediately after the horrible call, the other five umpires converged on the second base bag. A conference began, in which a unanimous conclusion was drawn that Dana Demuth had in fact made a bad call. The call was reversed, order restored, whereupon Mike Napoli hit a bases clearing double. None of this is to say that Mr. Demuth is a horrible umpire. He just made a mistake.

As I watched this unfold, a thought passed through my fertile imagination. What if politics worked this way?

What if the Republican Party after 9/11 would have gotten together and said, “You know, these terrorists are real bastards and all, but do we really want to fight a ground war in freaking Iraq? And, I know we’re all scared right now, but this Patriot Act thing might really come back to bite us in the buttocks one day. Why don’t we all calm down a little, and take some time to think this all through?”

What if the Democratic Party after the roll out of HealthCare.gov would get together and say, “Holy Crap! How do you spend 650 billion dollars on a website and end up with this? Listen guys, I know that most of us have wanted Socialized medicine for all of our lives and all, but this Obamacare business is a train wreck. Do we really want to be associated with such a colossal disaster? How about we go back to the drawing board and design a bill with 200 instead of 2000 pages?”

Although baseball is clearly showing us the way, the above two scenarios will never happen because it would require basic humility and an admission of error.

Never gonna happen.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's All About The Women


It’s been four days since my last blog. For me, that’s a long time. The simple fact is that I’ve had nothing to say. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally a fog descends over me. For two or three days at a time, everything seems heavy, my movements become leaden. It becomes a colossal effort to think critically. I never know when such days will come, and they leave me as abruptly as they arrive. This morning, for example, life is lighter.

It occurs to me that those of you fond of psychoanalysis will have a field day with that paragraph.

So, this morning I have learned that Denmark has been declared the “happiest nation on earth”, by some United Nations outfit who arbitrarily declared itself the judge of such things. Why are the Danes so happy? Apparently, it’s all about the women.

In Denmark, women are fully represented in government. They even have a female Prime Minister. Their most popular TV show also features a female Prime Minister. Women in Denmark contribute a much higher percentage of household income than women in the U.S. When a women has a baby, she is given 52 weeks of paid maternity leave, then when she does go back to work, her child gets free day care. The Danes have free health care, and they use the heck out of it, the average Dane consulting with his or her primary care physician 7 times a year. So, it would seem that the Danes are happy because they enjoy cradle to grave Socialism. No mention is made in this “Happiness Survey” as to whether the Danes are pursuing this happiness or having it presented to them by enlightened government programs, but the suggestion is very clear that it is the latter. No mention was made of what kind of tax burden is borne by the happy Danes, so I had to do a little research. The Danes pay income taxes at a top rate of 56%. In addition, there is a VAT tax on all purchases which amounts to a 25% sales tax. This year, a new tax was added on fatty foods that would make Michael Bloomberg proud. By comparison, our top tax rate is 39.4%, and our sales taxes vary by state by average around 5%. The American idea has always been, keep more of your earnings, go out there and pursue your own happiness wherever you can find it. The Danes philosophy seems to be, give us your money and we’ll provide your happiness.

Of course, the happy Danes do have a couple of peculiar advantages over us melancholy Americans. First, they aren’t expected to be the policemen of the world. They don’t have a military budget that chews up 25% of their GDP. Secondly, Denmark has no aggrieved minority; they don’t have to wrestle with a melting pot of nationalities, those teeming masses yearning to be free, a melting pot that hasn’t melted much over the last 30 years. So, there’s that.

But, give the Danes their due. They have learned something as a nation that our grandmothers and mothers, wives and sisters have been telling us for years. When momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week in Review


The Week In Review:

Government shutdown ends, and within minutes the National debt clock, which had been mysteriously stuck on $16,800,000,000,000 for months, suddenly bolted upward by $328,000,000,000. We continue to be assured by all the smartest people that this is, in fact, a good thing, or at least, not a bad thing. Would the last person leaving the Republican Party please remember to turn out the lights?

Major League baseball seems to already have found a successor to Mariana Rivera, in the long-faced Japanese closer for the Boston Red Sox, Koji Uehara. Like Rivera before him, Uehara struggled early in his career until miraculously becoming unhittable around 3 months ago. His five out save in game five of the ALCS was as overpowering as any I’ve seen in my 45 years of watching baseball in the post season, prompting me to declare on Facebook that Uehara=Sayonara. The fact that my son didn’t chastise me for latent racism for the remark must mean that I am growing as a person.

A 17 year old girl caught shoplifting in a New York City Victoria’s Secret, was found to be carrying a dead baby in her shopping bag. Her story initially was that she had experienced a miscarriage earlier in the week, but upon further investigation, it was discovered that the child was born fully formed and viable at 8 and a half pounds. The 17 year old mother of a two year old boy could be charged with murder in addition to shoplifting sexy lingerie and makeup, officials say. A spokesperson from Planned Parenthood pointed out that this whole disturbing incident could have been avoided by a safe and legal abortion. A spokesperson from Health and Human Services pointed out that the shoplifting charge could also have been avoided if only lingerie were on the approved essential purchases list for the Food Stamp program.

My week dramatically improved this morning when Pam made apple pancakes with apple syrup along with thick pepper encrusted bacon. A spokesperson from Michelle Obama’s Fitness and Nutrition task force pointed out that by consuming such a breakfast, I have most likely taken 22 hours off my expected life span. My reply to this news is that if I have to read very many more stories about 17 year olds carrying around dead babies at Victoria’s Secret, my demise couldn’t come soon enough!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Welcome To Our Future


 The 16 day shutdown of 17% of the Federal Government is now over. All of those furloughed workers are back at work and will be given back pay, an angst-filled 16 day paid vacation, courtesy of the American taxpayer. The National Parks will reopen. Obamacare escapes unscathed, and now the government can borrow money again, our National debt, free once more to continue its skyward trajectory without the pesky intrusion of a debt limit. Meanwhile, 16 days after its rollout, the State of Delaware yesterday celebrated its very first successful Obamacare enrollee. I’d say that things are going swimmingly.

Bill Clinton famously stood before a joint session of Congress in 1996 to declare that the era of big government was over. Aside from the fact that it wasn’t true lies the fact that it can never be true. Government, like the universe, is and will ever be a constantly expanding project. Ronald Reagan himself, perhaps the greatest champion of limited government ever to occupy the Oval Office presided over an eight year expansion of the state. All anyone of Libertarian sensibilities can hope for is a slowing of its growth, and now with the arrival of the mother of all entitlements, Obamacare, even that hope has been crushed. Republican stunts like this shutdown/defund Obamacare disaster are nothing more than tilting at windmills. Don Quixote vs. Leviathan.

But I struggle mightily, against all evidence, to remain an optimist. There are benefits to towering debt, escalating interest payments and exploding actuarial assumptions. There will be less and less money available for military misadventures abroad. Twenty years from now when 40% of the budget is consumed by interest payments on the debt, future President Kardashian will think twice before sending troops to the Middle East since the budget for such adventures will be $ 32.99. Its past time that our Defense budget got scaled back, and now it will have to be. Ultimately, people in democracies get what they want, and the American people have for the past 50 years, more often than not, voted for the guy who promises the most stuff. Now, we are scrambling around, shutting down the government, trying to figure out a way to pay for it all. Welcome to our future.

Twenty years from now, we will all be paying higher taxes for all levels of government, and I do mean all of us, not just the evil 1%. Our National debt in the year 2033 will make our present debt look like a rounding error. But, at least our health care will be free, and besides…I’d still rather live in a totally broke America than anywhere else. At least we aren’t Bangladesh.

Remember, I’m an optimist.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hey Bob Costas..What About Us?


I was watching the baseball game the other night so I missed it. I missed Bob Costas’ scolding sermon to the nation about the appalling fact that in 2013 we still have a sports team named the Redskins. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, now that Bob has broached the subject, there are a couple of other offensively named teams that need to be held to account.

You don’t have to be of Scandinavian descent to be offended by this violent marauding caricature of an entire ancient culture. Yes, the Vikings were known to raise a little hell back in the day (sorta like American Indians), but is this really a fair and wholesome way to honor an entire race of people? It would be one thing if the Vikings were a team from Arizona or Tennessee, but the team is in Minnesota for corn’s sake! Talk about rubbing their faces in it? Appalled doesn’t even begin to describe what the good people in Minneapolis must be thinking.

Then there’s this hideous affront to civility. Being of Irish heritage myself, this one hits close to home. Notre Dame’s Leprechaun mascot is possibly the second most racist symbol in America next to the Confederate flag, playing up as it does that most ancient slur, that of the Irishmen as drunken brawlers. Cannot the Irish be depicted as great poets, inspired musicians and dancers? Must it always be the Irish as undisciplined pugilists? Yes, I’m aware of the old adage about God creating whisky to keep the Irish from ruling the world, but this is 2013 and past time to overcome these hateful stereotypes.

So, preach it Bob. But I hope your next rant will include a little indignation for people of pallor. Surely Scandinavian and Irish Americans deserve better.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Where Have you Gone, Jimmy Braddock?


None of us get to choose the times in which we live. From a cultural and aesthetic standpoint I am a man of the 1940’s, with its grand struggles, big band music and fedora hats. I would have been equally happy as a twenty year old in the 1770’s amidst the revolutionary chaos of our nation’s birth. But, I live in the 21st century, in a country that no longer makes sense to me and from which I feel increasingly estranged.

I saw this picture, the logjam of overflowing shopping carts abandoned in an aisle at a Walmart somewhere in Louisiana. There was a video of how they got there on YouTube. As I watched, I felt myself recoiling from the world. I tried to conjure up some degree of detachment, to place some emotional distance between me and the story. I read all I could find about the details, hoping to find some mitigating circumstance that would provide me with some intellectual cover. The more I learned, the worse I felt. What I was trying desperately not to believe about the pictures became more and more untenable. The pictures did in fact tell the unfiltered truth, a thousand word tale of what has become of shame in my country. It has vanished, cast off by a people seduced by entitlement.

The facts are few and uncomplicated. The Louisiana Food Stamp EBT debit card program temporarily malfunctioned, suddenly removing all credit limits. Word of the glitch began spreading like wildfire among beneficiaries of the system. Literally within hours, Walmarts in two Louisiana towns became swamped with customers loading up all the carts they could manage to handle, stripping inventory off the shelves. Walmart officials made the mistake of honoring the purchases anyway. When the temporary glitch was finally suddenly fixed hours later, shoppers simply walked away, leaving carts burdened with perishable food abandoned in the aisles. One man racked up $700 worth of goods on his EBT card which carried a .49 credit balance before the windfall.

In America today, it is a dicey business to set about criticizing this sort of thing. Charges of insensitivity or worse, racism, often follow anyone who complains about Food Stamp fraud. In fairness, many who do most of the complaining are actual racists. Still, I read stories like this and something inside me screams out, no, no!! this is just wrong, no matter who is doing this, it’s just wrong!!

I think of Cinderella Man. I remember the look on Jimmy Braddock’s face as he stood in line to get his first public assistance payment. He was at the end of his rope. His family was starving. The money would save their lives. And yet, the shame on his face, the humiliation of having been reduced to charity was almost too much to bear for such a proud man. The most powerful scene in the movie was when, after winning his first big payday fight, Braddock stands in the line again; only this time he’s holding a wad of cash which he gives to the teller, paying back every dollar he received down to the penny. The year was 1936. Today those lines don’t exist. There’s only an EBT debit card, and when that card malfunctions, a feeding frenzy ensues.

I’m not one of those people who think Food Stamps are evil. There exist in this country people who through no fault of their own are in dire straits and desperately need help. We as a people do have a moral obligation to help the least of these, our brethren. But when I see this picture, I see less and less funds available for the truly needy. Because of the greed of people savvy and energetic enough to drop everything and run to Walmart to take advantage of a glitch in the system and yet not energetic enough to find work, these are the people stealing from the needy.

But, this picture will not change anything. This is the country I live in, the land of the free and home of the brave. But it has not always been so. There used to be millions of Jimmy Braddocks.

Monday, October 14, 2013

One Pitch


Day seven of the most miserable weather in Short Pump, Virginia in recent memory happens to be Columbus Day. That means that the banks are closed, the mail doesn’t run, and the government is shutdown. No, wait, the government is already shut down. Does that mean that when it reopens, the union will demand an additional day off as compensation for missing one of their nine paid holidays?

The only thing that redeemed this past weekend was last night’s baseball game between The Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox. I watched the game, I saw what happened, and I still can’t believe it. Through the first 16 innings of this series the Tigers pitching staff had made the Red Sox look like an American Legion team. Between Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer, 30 Red Sox hitters had struck out. I can’t remember a more dominating pitching performance in the post season. Down 5-1 in the eighth inning after losing game one, the Sox were on the verge of being swept in their own ball park and looking awfully bad doing it. But there I was watching the Sox somehow load the bases. Tiger manager Jim Leyland then brings his fourth pitcher of the inning in from the bullpen, while David Ortiz strides to the plate looking bored, almost disinterested in the proceedings. Fenway was rocking, the fans were going wild, but Big Papi looks like a man who would rather be back in the clubhouse watching Breaking Bad. Reliever Joaquin Benoit decided to throw Ortiz a changeup on the first pitch, and when the ball ended up in the mitt of the Boston bullpen catcher, Fenway Park was transformed into a madhouse. Big Papi, as he’s done 15 times in the post season, rounded the bases slowly, zero emotion registering on his face, while his teammates jumped up and down like a Little League team after beating the Taiwanese. One inning later, The Sox win on a walk off single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who no one will remember twenty years from now. This night was about Big Papi and the magic of one swing, a grand slam home run that brought Boston back from the dead.

Yes, I know that most of America was watching the Cowboys and the Redskins playing a meaningless football game. Yes, I get it that baseball is a shell of its former self, that it has fallen far behind football and maybe even basketball in the imaginations of American sports fans. But for me, nothing in sports can match the sheer emotional drama of one pitcher and one batter going toe to toe with the game on the line. It is ironic that in this most emphatically team sport, the issue so often comes down to an individual match up, the balance of a game, even a season comes down to one pitch, an ill-advised changeup launched into the night by the most clutch hitter in Red Sox history.

God bless baseball.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

New Found Respect For Noah


Day 5 without the sun and I’m about ready to curl up in a corner with a Faulkner novel and die. For the past 96 hours my world has been oppressed by low clouds, temperatures in the 50’s, and unrelenting drizzle. Everything is saturated with heavy moisture, and the entire universe smells like that old pair of tennis shoes that you cut the grass in after you accidently left them outside in the rain. At this point I would be thrilled to see even a cloud, anything would be an improvement over the thick charcoal grey canopy of doom hanging over formerly beautiful downtown Short Pump.

To make matters worse, I had my lawn aerated and seeded two weeks ago yesterday, and haven’t been able to cut it since. Now it looks like a field of soy beans out there, thick and gnarly and growing more unmanageable by the minute. I stare at it through the rain-streaked windows and can practically hear it mocking me.

The longer this goes on the more British I feel. “Buck up, old boy,” I encourage myself. For the poor Brits, this is a way of life. I pop in a Downton Abbey DVD and notice the relentless rain as Matthew and Lady Mary stand over the grave of the dear departed Lavinia, umbrellas in their gloved hands, and think how lucky I am not to live in such a place. “Quite right,” I reassure myself.

Still, although I know that surely the sun will return any day now, I grow more annoyed with each new wave of rain. If there were any justice in this world, the entire United States would be enjoying 60 degrees and crisp, bright sunshine, and this dreariness would be limited to the 68 square miles that is the District of Columbia.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Congressional Lunch


Don’t ask me how I obtained it, but I am in receipt of a taped conversation between two Congressmen. From the noises in the background I can only assume that they were having lunch somewhere, perhaps the Congressional cafeteria. Neither of the Congressmen are identified except for the obvious fact that one is a Republican and the other a Democrat, hereafter referred to as RC and DC. I publish the transcript of their conversation in my role as a citizen-journalist, without editorial comment.

RC: The reason the government is shutdown is because your party is controlled by a bunch of amoral statists who can’t stand the thought of one day going by without the government being there to redistribute wealth.

DC: No, the government is shutdown because your party is controlled by those knuckle dragging Tea Party illiterates who want old people and babies to die without health insurance. Can you pass the salt?

RC: Sure, but take it easy on that stuff. It can send your blood pressure through the roof. Well, some of the Tea Partiers might be a bit irrational, but at least their heart is in the right place. The loons in your party want to install communism and make everybody a ward of the state.

DC: Actually, I heard not long ago that salt isn’t as bad for you as doctors used to think. Better a ward of the state than to live in a country that castrates homosexuals, and wants women to stay at home barefoot and pregnant.

RC: Well, if our women were pregnant, at least we would celebrate it instead of aborting the child. If you guys had your way we would all be homosexual, that way nobody would ever be pregnant. Is it just me or are these rolls a little stale?

DC: Oh sure, you Republicans and your culture of life routine. Please! You guys are all about life until the child is actually born, then you’re the first ones to defund Head Start. You’re right, these rolls are probably left over from yesterday.

RC: Better a culture of life than a culture of death. You Democrats want to abort every baby and then you want then euthanized by Obamacare’s death panels when they get old. How can you live with yourselves? Got any plans for the weekend?

DC: I sleep like a baby at night with a clear conscience, secure in the knowledge that I care deeply about what’s best for humanity. And because I care so much, I get invited to all the best parties in town. Just the other night I got to shake hands with Angelina Jolie. I was hoping to take Barb and the kids to the Smithsonian but since your Neanderthal party shut the government down, that’s out. How about you?

RC: Yeah, we were planning on checking out the WWII memorial but since your Stalinist party turned the National Park Service rangers into your own private Gestapo, I guess that’s out too. Who cares about Angelina Jolie? Last week Jill and I got to meet Megyn Kelly, talk about a babe!

DC: If I weren’t morally opposed to gun ownership, I would be tempted to take an AK-47 to that tramp. Fair and balanced, my ass.

RC: Well, I guess it’s time to head back to the salt mines. Can’t believe you took 30 minutes out of your day to eat lunch, what with all the kickbacks you need to collect from your union thugs.

DC: Same here. The Koch Brothers must be getting worried since they haven’t heard from their most trusted tool in the past fifteen minutes. Give Jill my love.

RC: Will do. Same time tomorrow?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Morning at Healthcare.gov!!


Since our President didn’t get a single question about Obamacare’s disastrous rollout at his press conference yesterday, I figured that all the “glitches” had been fixed at Healthcare.gov. So, this morning I decided to pay the site a visit. Who knows, maybe I would find some sort of health insurance miracle, or stumble upon some heretofore unknown subsidy that would relieve me of my nearly $1000 monthly insurance expense.

Upon entering the site, I am greeted by a lovely brunette with perfect teeth and just the slightest hint of Latino heritage in her dark eyes. The screen proudly proclaims in large font that the HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACE IS OPEN! It then implored me to click on the apply now tab to see if I qualify for lower costs. Intrigued, I quickly hit the tab and was seamlessly transported to the second screen, this one featuring an older Asian woman and her daughter, both smiling widely as if they had just won the Lottery. Here I’m welcomed to the health insurance marketplace that I was assured was open for business on the first screen. I am then asked to choose between individual/family coverage or small business coverage. Who said there wouldn’t be options with Obamacare? I hit the family coverage tab.

At this point, I am ushered to the Let’s Get Started screen, where I find that before I can sample the wonders of government health care, I must first set up my marketplace account. The first set up screen is straight forward, only asking for my name, the state where I live, and my email address. Then comes the obligatory username and password screen. Finally I’m asked to choose three separate security questions, and for the first time I become uncomfortable. I am given 12 questions to choose from, but all 12 seem…odd. Some examples below:

What is your favorite radio station?

What is a relative’s telephone number which is not your own?

What is the name of the manager at your first job?

Who was the first Republican you voted for?

Ok, ok, I made that last one up, but the other three are legit. Seriously, they want me to offer a relative’s phone number??

Undeterred, I pick the three least intrusive security questions from the list and plow forward. I excitedly press the green create account tab whereupon I am informed that an email has been sent to the email address I provided and I should open it and go to the highlighted link. Sure enough, there is the Healthcare.gov email awaiting me in my inbox. I click on the link and am greeted by a yellow screen with the encouraging words, Almost there. This step may take a few minutes. The time was 7:10 am.

At exactly 7:18, large black letters declared the disappointing news that, THE SYSTEM IS DOWN AT THE MOMENT. In smaller letters underneath this shocking news was the comforting assurance that “We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Please try again later.” Damn glitches.

At this point, I decide to go back to the beginning and chose small business instead of individual/family. Perhaps the business side of the website was more amenable. Here a distinguished elderly African American woman is beaming at me while holding a phone to her ear. I begin to wonder if men are even allowed to be on this site since all of the smiling people I’ve seen are women. The small business screen is a bit more involved, explaining that in order to apply for group coverage; a five step gauntlet must be endured. I clicked through the steps and realized that my small business did not qualify for any subsidy. Imagine that?

So, there you have it. Can’t wait until Obamacare is fully implemented. Can’t wait!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Unsupervized Cartwheels. Finally a Thing of the Past


I read the headline and immediately thought that it couldn’t possibly be accurate, there had to be another side to the story. So I clicked on it and read the entire sorry tale and discovered that yes, children at the Weber Middle School in New York would henceforth be banned from playing with “hard” balls during recess. No more footballs, baseballs, or lacrosse balls would be tolerated. In addition, games of tag would be forbidden, and no cartwheels without the aid of a coach.

Port Washington Schools Supt. Kathleen Maloney explained that there had been a rash of playground injuries of late, and that some of the injuries could become quite serious. “We want to make sure that our children have fun, but are also protected.” A spokesperson from the local emergency room offered that he had been seeing some head injuries, along with bumps and scrapes of late and that there were worries about concussions. The story also included this sentence:

Without helmets and pads, children are much more susceptible to getting hurt, experts said.

Luckily for this “expert’s” self respect, his or her name was withheld.

When I was in middle school, recess was my only salvation. Let’s just say that sitting at a desk in a classroom for hours at a time didn’t mix well with my personality type. Every day I would count the minutes until recess. Whenever it rained or snowed, it was something very close to hell for me. What did me and my friends do during recess? I see no need to go into the gory details here, but suffice it to say that if our activities didn’t result in at least one bump or scrape, we would have thought it a colossal failure.

When I read stories like this, it makes me wonder how it is that the people who wind up running public schools are so pathetically uninspiring. What is it about the education bureaucracy that produces such people? From zero-tolerance policies that result in little Johnnie being kicked out of school for pretending to throw a pretend grenade into a pretend fox hole, to the banning of unsupervised cartwheels, modern public education seems to be run by an army of soulless, rubber stamping, idiots who couldn’t pour water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.

It hasn’t always been like this. The Principals at the schools I attended were large and in charge and not to be trifled with, but they were also Solomon-like in their application of justice. I remember the time when I got caught loosening the tops of all the salt shakers at the teachers table in the cafeteria back in elementary school, (I was ratted out by Frank Hargrove). When I was called to the principal’s office, it scared me to death. I was given very strict punishment, but I’ll never forget the smile on his face as I was explaining how I had came up with the idea from a Three Stooges show. He told me that he had seen that one too and it was one of his favorites. How cool was that? Then the hammer came down and I had to help the janitors clean toilets after school. Can you imagine any elementary school child today being made to clean toilets after school?  Between child labor lawyers and union work rules, any Principal imaginative enough to come up with such a punishment would be sued within an inch of his life. Besides:

Children being forced to do degrading and humiliating work at a young age as punishment might suffer self-esteem issues later in life, experts say.

So, thanks to lawyers, helicopter parents, and woosified education bureaucrats, the kids at Weber Middle School will be sitting on the ground in encounter groups during recess, made safe from the runaway skinned knee epidemic by the brave and proactive Ms. Maloney.

Maybe she has a future at the Department of Education.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Throwing a Flag on Breast Cancer


 
The NFL in October can only mean one thing, the color pink. Yes, it’s that time of year again, when that most testosterone infused game becomes infested with pink arm bands, pink towels, and this past weekend even pink penalty flags, in honor of the single most hyped disease since the Bubonic Plague, breast cancer. For an entire month football fans have their awareness raised to dizzying heights, and money is raised in a race for the cure. A few observations.

Breast cancer is the third leading cause of death among women in the United States, behind heart disease and lung cancer. My mother had breast cancer and one of my best friends is suffering with it even now. So, why do I feel oddly annoyed when I see 300 pound men running around on a football field wearing pink cleats? Why does finding a cure for breast cancer seem like such a commercialized crusade? More importantly, how on Earth did the National Football League manage to get co-opted by the Susan G. Komen Foundation?

Then, it hit me. Never take your eye off the money. After all, the NFL isn’t about football anymore; the NFL is a marketing colossus. This whole breast cancer thing is about expanding the brand. Football has locked up practically every demographic of men in America, now it’s time to lock up the women too! Brilliant.

But still, breast cancer? If heart disease and lung cancer kill more women every year than breast cancer, why not hype those? I guess since men are far more interested in breasts than lungs, the question answers itself. But, who plays football? Men. And what kills 30,000 men every year? That’s right, prostate cancer! So, how about a month long propaganda blitz about prostate cancer? The problem would be coming up with a signature color. What color would be appropriate for such a disease? Yellow? Black? Perhaps rust, to symbolize leaky pipes? The possibilities are endless. If breast cancer can become the cause célèbre of professional football, maybe prostate cancer can get a gig with the WNBA or the LPGA?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wedding Planning. Episode One.


Saturday afternoon Pam and I sat down with my daughter and her fiancée for our first official wedding planning meeting. So far, our wedding planning has consisted of picking out the venue and forking over a couple of deposits. Kaitlin has been overwhelmed with her first month of teaching, so Pam has spent all day and all night doing research on the internet. Saturday it was time to discover what she had learned. Thanks to the government shutdown, Jon has been furloughed, so he was available.  There we all were sitting in our den, captivated by the Apple TV presentation on the big screen, blown away by the otherworldly organization skills of my wife.

There before us, in all of its 52 inch HD brilliance, was an Excel spreadsheet with each line item of our wedding budget. I use that word very carefully since in reality the dollar signs on the screen represent our fervent hopes and dreams and as actual hard and fast numbers, serve as mere suggestions. The term, “in the ball park” frequently comes up in our conversation along with, “more or less” and “roughly”.

After the first hour we have chosen a DJ for the blessed event and in so doing saved several hundred dollars from what was budgeted. This decision was not made without much angst and trepidation, since hiring the wrong DJ could be disastrous. (Picture  200 mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly religious people trying to wrap their heads around the lyrics to Niggas in Paris!). Luckily for us, Pam’s brilliant research was flashed up on the screen complete with pro’s and con’s, copies of text conversations with Patrick with his observations, as well as user reviews of our guy with Dynamite DJ’s. She even threw in audio clips of some suggested aisle walking music. I’m told that when Wagner’s bridal march was played, both Jon and Kaitlin got teary-eyed. I didn’t notice because I couldn’t stop staring at the minimized spreadsheet with our budget up in the corner of the screen. Were we seriously going to have to pay for chair rental for every fanny over 150 at the reception? Are you kidding me? Not only do I have to feed these people, I have to provide chairs for them to sit in? Whatever happened to mingling?

At the two and a half hour mark, we had managed to check several items off of our to-do list, and schedule a tasting party at our venue for next Wednesday. This is where we get to sample the different types of dishes that can possibly be served at the reception, everything from vichyssoise to corn dogs, I’m told. I am assuming that this “tasting” is complimentary, but as of yet, no word on whether chairs will be provided.

There will be many more of these wedding planning meetings to come over the next several months, I’m sure. There will be surprises, little unplanned detours down the road of our master plan, like this morning when we discovered that the amount we had budgeted for a photographer might only cover two rolls of film, one tripod and four pictures of the wedding cake. Apparently, capturing images of this event for posterity will cost me more than I paid for my first automobile.

I will keep all of you posted on the thrilling details to come as we take this matrimonial journey together.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Politically Correct College Football Picks


Many of you have complained that I have abandoned last year’s wildly popular weekly college football picks. Honestly, none of you have complained about it, and frankly, my feelings have been hurt about the whole thing. So, today I am reintroducing my picks with a twist. This time  I’m going to make my picks based on political correctness alone. I will ignore things like won loss records or strength of schedule, or how many good players a team has. No, I will try to answer the question of which team will win based solely on what outcome would be more fair and equitable, given all the injustice in the world today. Here goes…

 

Maryland vs. Florida State

Here we have the Terrapins, the lowly turtle, possibly the slowest creature on Earth, who plods along trying desperately not to be run over and crushed by the single biggest menace to the environment ever built, the modern automobile. They will be going against the Seminoles, a team that has wrapped itself in the traditions and lore of a noble Native American tribe. This blatant racism most notably displays itself with that most irritating tomahawk chop, and a stadium full of white people imitating the Seminole war chant. This contest boils down to the environment vs. racism. Take Maryland and the points.

Georgia Tech vs. Miami

Georgia Tech is a school that trains the finest mechanical, technical and nuclear engineers in the country. Their graduates then go on to work for big corporations that produce products that befoul our environment, endanger our communities and in doing so produce obscene levels of profit. Miami, on the other hand, has perhaps the most racially diverse student population in America. It’s President is none other than Donna Shalala, who served for eight years as the Secretary of Health and Human Services under Bill Clinton,  the one department of our government most determined to stand against obscene levels of profit. Profits vs. people? Take Miami to cover.

Ohio State vs. Northwestern

Northwestern University is perhaps that most loathsome of institutions, the private research university. Its classes are filled with only the very best and brightest students. In all of the Big Ten, it is no doubt the most elitist. On the other side of the line of scrimmage will be the Ohio State buckeyes, a school which accepts an amazing 68% of its applicants, as clear a refutation of elitism as can be imagined in academia. In addition, Northwestern’s  mascot is something called Willie the Wildcat, a gross and tawdry example of the personification and ultimate subjection of the animal kingdom. Ohio State in a blowout.

Washington vs. Stanford

This is a tough one. While Stanford is also a private research university which accepts only 7% of its applicants and therefore represents the elites of our culture, they did make the brave decision several years ago to divest themselves of their racist past by removing the offensive Indian as their mascot and replacing him with “the Tree”. It was a beautiful thing. However, their opponent today is the University of Washington, a fine public school which accepts anyone as a student who can fog a mirror, an egalitarian record it can be proud of, and yet…there’s the tricky business of their personified mascot, the embarrassingly named “Harry the Huskie.” This is a call that can go either way. The tie breaker comes down to team colors. Washington’s purple is a color of peace, while Stanford’s cardinal red is the universally recognized color of war. Take Washington to eek this one out in overtime.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Secession!?


It’s getting harder and harder to visualize America’s future. We are so divided by politics, so annoyed with each other, that the word secession has started to pop up in the national conversation. One day I read where some county in Colorado wants to secede, the next day it’s some town in Maine. Maybe it would be for the best. It has gotten me to thinking about the possibilities…

1.     New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania and Maryland all form a new country and call themselves The Utopian Republic. They elect Michael Bloomberg as their first President. They immediately install a single payer universal health insurance system, and declare college education will henceforth be free. The minimum wage is unilaterally raised to $23.50 an hour, every citizen is issued free condoms, food stamps, and a new house. 20 oz. soft drinks are outlawed, and corporate profits are criminalized. To pay for all of this, the Utopian Republic becomes the first modern nation state to outlaw the military, saving billions.

2.     Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee get together and form a new country, calling themselves The SEC. Paula Deen is elected by acclamation as their first President, and immediately declares butter to be the official national condiment, making the use of margarine punishable by the death penalty. Rudeness is declared to be a felony. Military academies are established in every county in the new Republic, and every SEC boy is required to attend. Each and every meeting of the National Congress begins with a covered dish supper, and ends with mint juleps under the Spanish moss trees in the courtyard. A tongue awfully similar to English is declared to be the official national language. Charleston, South Carolina is declared to be the capital city of the SEC.

3.     Texas makes itself its own country, and warns everyone in the world to not mess with it.

4.     Mexico annexes New Mexico and Arizona. It thinks about throwing California into the deal but decides that it has enough financial problems without getting stuck with that train wreck.

5.     California, thus scorned by Mexico, decides to just go for it. They elect Sean Penn as Generalisimo, and declare themselves to be the People’s Republic of Free Lovia. Negotiations between the nascent nation and Cuba begin in earnest, as Penn sends Alec Baldwin to Havana to work out the details.

6.     Oregon and Washington State combine to form the progressive new country of Caffenia, where each and every citizen is issued an umbrella and a $1000 gift card to Starbucks.

7.     Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota become a colony of Canada, and declare rust as the official Colonial color.

8.     The entire upper and mid west from Montana down to Arkansas form the largest of the fledgling countries and call themselves the Flyover Republic. Of all the new breakaway states, the Flyover Republic is destined for greatness by virtue of the fact that it’s the only place in North America where anyone knows how to farm anything. They immediately become an insanely rich country by exporting grain and beef to its very hungry neighbors.

9.     West Virginia becomes the only former state not to become its own country, waking up one day to discover that it was no longer receiving huge federal subsidies and wondering what the hell happened.

10.  The people in the District of Columbia finally get their wish, finally able to cast a meaningful vote, which they do by declaring themselves a Protectorate of Venezuela.