“Do Not Call”

The federal ‘Do Not Call’ list is, I believe, a mixed bag.

On the plus side, there’s at least a slight chance that the number of telemarketing calls you’ll receive throughout the day will drop.  And under the law, you can ask those companies that call to take you off their list.  Unfortunately, Congress exempted itself and charitable organizations, as well as businesses you’ve done business with from that list.

Personally, I’d much prefer such laws to come  from the state houses, rather than from Uncle Sam.  One state might have much tougher laws, another might have fewer restrictions.  Of course, then you’d have the problem for the call center of keeping track of what state has what laws, and who could be called at what times, on what days, and how often.

My biggest complaint is the sheer number of calls you get from some companies.  You might call them for information, then be inundated with 5 or 6 or 8 calls a day for weeks on end.  That would be the area I’d like to see restricted.  No more than 2 or 3 calls per day, and for no more than about 7 or 8 days.  Anything more than that is a $1,000 fine per call.  And the business hiring the call center would be subject to the fine, not the call center itself.

When you get calls from a charity, you do have the option to ask them not to call you any more, and I believe there’s a fine if they don’t comply.  So many of these charities are, in my opinion, scams.  I asked a caller one time just how much of the money I might give would end up helping whoever it was- Veterans or the Highway Patrol or whoever.  The representative seemed pretty proud of the 20% that went to the group.  That kind of figure is more than a little disturbing.  Sure, there’s overhead, fundraising expenses and so on.  But 80%?  No, thank you.  Some, but not all, charities are evaluated by websites such as Charity Navigator.

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Church reset- new pastor(s). Again.

I know God acts in His own time, and that He has a plan.  But waiting for that plan can be frustrating.

I’ve been a part of my church ‘family’ since the beginning- about 15 years.  In that time we’ve had 3 pastors, worshiped in at least 6 locations including a movie theater, a school (twice) and a Y.  We’ve had attendance in the low 100′s, and had as few as the 40′s.  We have 2 young ladies & 2 couples from the church itself serving in the mission field.  We had a member arrested for bank robbery, a guy die from AIDS, another commit suicide, and a woman wrote a somewhat threatening letter to an abortion provider.  We asked her to leave the church.

We’ve got a community garden that’s a nice outreach to our neighbors-couples & families from different parts of the world enjoyed it last year.  We’ve got a good VBS program, a spring & fall festival we put on for the community, a new men’s group, a great small/home group program, a Bible study in a local school and have taken part in a city-wide clean up program.  We’ve got a great facility.

But it’s frustrating that despite the great things we have, we’re struggling.  We’re not seeing much growth in terms of numbers.  Recently, in fact, we seem to be shrinking.  Money’s tight.  Two years ago our pastor, who’d been with us about 10 years, took a position at the conference level.  We spent about a year with an interim pastor, brought in a wonderful young woman last Spring, and lost her due to some personal health issues last month.  So once again, we’re in kind of a ‘reset’ mode.  It’ll be as much as two years before we get someone permanent on staff.  Fortunately the denomination has a young couple coming in on Sunday to candidate as our interim pastors.  They’re engaged, and fresh out of seminary, so we’d have co-pastor’s like we did when we first started as a church many years ago.  They’ll be with us for about a year, and at that point we’ll start the search process again.  They might submit their names as candidates for the position, or they might not.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

I just got home from meeting them.  The meeting wasn’t what I expected, though.  I thought we’d all sit down & do kind of a Q&A with them, like we did when Bea was here last year.  This was much more of a chat session, getting to know them.  They’ll preach tomorrow, and we’ll follow up with a potluck (yum!) and more time to get to know them.  Next Sunday we’ll take a vote on whether we want them as interim (and if they want to be our interim) pastors.

But despite all the frustrations & the setbacks, we’re incredibly blessed.  We don’t face the opposition churches & Christians in other parts of the world do.  We don’t face the hatred & violence Christians in the Middle East face.  The radical group Boko Haram, for example, has killed 180 Christians, including 60 kids, and destroyed 20 churches in Nigeria.  Churches in other parts of the world are censored if their teachings might offend someone.

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Life Insurance

This isn’t something I’d usually write about, but it’s important.

Life insurance is something everyone needs.  Most people certainly don’t need millions of dollars of coverage, but everyone needs some.

Younger people, especially if they’re supporting a family, are going to want more protection.  They might want to pay off or pay down the mortgage, provide for their kid’s education, or support a surviving spouse for a while until they’re able to provide for themselves & the family.

But the older you get, the less need there usually is for large policies, and the more you’d look for something along the lines of what some people call ‘burial insurance’.

There are two main kinds of life insurance: term & whole life.

Term insurance is a policy that’s good for a fixed number of years, often 5, 10 or 20.  Term life is usually cheaper, but goes up, sometimes dramatically, when a new term policy is written.  Many term policies also start reducing in value for older customers as well.  Most term policies end once you reach 75-80 years of age.  Term policies are the ones you hear advertised with commercials that offer ‘a 25 year old male can get $250,000 of coverage for only $20 a month’.

A whole life policy will usually last a lifetime, with no increases in premium or decreases in coverage.  That’s a great feature, but it means that a term policy, especially for younger people, will be more expensive.

A typically funeral will cost less than $10,000.  A 50 year old in good health, for example, should be able to get a $10,000 long term policy (20 years) for around $20 a month, or a whole life policy for about $30 a month.

If you’re thinking of cremation, that’s usually less than $3,000.  Our 50 year old should be able to find a whole or term life policy to provide that coverage for their family for under $10 per month.

Of course if you’ve got health issues such as diabetes, or problems with your heart, liver, lungs or kidneys to name a few, your options are more limited.  You’d probably have to look for a guaranteed issue policy.  Most of these aren’t available for anyone under about 45-50 years of age, and have a limited benefit period of about 2 years if you pass away from ‘natural causes’.  Accidental death, though, would likely be covered in full from the first day.

If you are someone who needs a large policy, you’ll probably not only have health questions, but a health exam as well.

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The Affordable Horse Act

NOT mine.  I received this as an email, no idea whose this was originally

THE AFFORDABLE HORSE ACT OF 2013

The U.S. government has just passed a new law called: “The Affordable Horse Act” declaring that every citizen MUST purchase a horse, by April 2014.

These “affordable” horses will cost an average of $54,000-$155,000 each. This does not include taxes, trailering, training, feed and farrier fees, boarding, show and transportation fees, veterinarian bills or the occasional hospitalization. This law has been passed, because until now, typically only wealthy and financially responsible people have been able to purchase horses. This new laws ensures that every American can now have an “affordable” horse of their own, because everyone is “entitled” to a horse. If you purchase your horse before the end of the year, you will receive 4 “free” saddle pads; not including monthly usage fees. In order to make sure everyone purchases an affordable horse, the costs of owning a horse will increase on average of 250-400% per year. This way, wealthy people will pay more for something that other people don’t want or can’t afford to maintain. But to be fair, people who can’t afford to maintain their horse will be regularly fined and children (under the age of 26) can ride their parents horse to show on until they turn 27; then must purchase their own horse.

• If you already have a horse, you can keep yours (just kidding – no you can’t).
• If you don’t want or don’t need a horse, you are required to buy one anyhow.
• If you refuse to buy a horse or can’t afford one, you will be regularly fined $800 until you purchase one or face imprisonment. Failure to ride your horse will also result in fines. People living in the inner-city; low-desert, or who live in cities or areas with no access to stables or show-rings are not exempt. Age, fear of falling, no equestrian experience, neither horsemanship skills, nor inability to ride are acceptable excuses for not using your horse.

A government review board (that doesn’t know the difference between the withers, fetlock or tail of a horse) will decide everything, including: when, where, how often and for what purposes you can use your horse … along with how many people can ride your horse and determine if one is too old or healthy enough to be able to ride their horse. They will also decide if your horse has out lived its usefulness or if you must purchase specific accessories, (like a $5,000.00 saddle) or a newer and more expensive green Warmblood from Europe. Those that can afford Fancy Hunters will be required to do so…it’s only fair. The government will also decide the name for each horse. Failure to comply with these rules will result in fines and possible imprisonment. Government officials are exempt from this new law. If they want a horse, they and their families can obtain a horse for free, at the expense of tax payers. Unions, bankers and mega companies with large political affiliations ($$$) are also exempt.

I was going to order a new horse today, but the website was down, I’m sure they will fix it, I will try again tomorrow!

//

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Obamacare

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
C. S. Lewis

The train wreck that is & will be Obamacare has started.  American are now required by law to purchase health insurance.  And not just any health insurance, either.  Americans are required by law to purchase health insurance that’s approved by the federal government.  Oh, sure, you have your choice of 4 levels of coverage in the federal health care exchanges, and you still (for now) have the option of private insurance, but the things covered by health insurance are regulated by Uncle Sam.

What does that mean?  Well, for one, it means that President Obama lied to us when he said ‘…if you like your plan, you can keep your plan‘.  Instead, existing plans in parts of the country are being cancelled because they don’t meet the requirements of the ‘Affordable Healthcare Act’.

In Alabama, for example, Blue Cross had to cancel the majority of its individual plans as being non-compliant.  Reporter Bethany Wales found one individual whose plan for a family of four would go from about $520/month to over $1,000/month.  Other customers would pay 2-3 times as much for the coming year.

In New Jersey, more than 800,000 people who purchase their coverage on the individual or small business markets will have their coverage impacted.

And in Nebraska, nine companies have notified the state they’ll stop selling health insurance policies.  Most of these companies only have a small share of the market, and it probably isn’t worth making changes to their policies in order to comply with the various mandates of Obamacare.

So, we can ‘keep our plan’ if we like it, huh?   Well, according to NJ State Senator Joe Vitale, that was a bit of a nuanced promise.  ‘The president said he won’t tolerate benefit plans that don’t meet the basic needs of our citizens,” Vitale said.  Of course, it’s hardly the government’s job to determine what my ‘basic needs’ are, when it comes to my health insurance.

At the same time he promised we could ‘keep our plan’, Obama promised we could ‘keep our doctor’ as well.  Not so fast!  In Connecticut, United HealthCare sent pink slips out to thousands of doctors.  While these cuts apply to Medicare Advantage patients rather than anything directly under Obamacare, it shouldn’t take any stretch of the imagination to see other doctors being cut from ‘ACA’ plans.

What else do I expect from Obamacare?

Longer wait times for non-emergency surgery.  It’d be one thing, maybe, for a bit of a wait for elective surgery.  A nose job, for example, is rarely (if ever) a life or death situation.  But waiting on some surgery, even non-critical, can cause further complications later down the road.

Less new technology being developed.  One of the provisions of the ‘Affordable Care Act’ is a 2.3% tax on medical devices.  So what is a ‘medical device’?  Well, according to Snopes,  a medical device is “an “instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, contrivance, implant, in vitro reagent, or other similar or related article” — including “any component, part, or accessory” — that meets certain requirements. The device must be:

(1) Recognized in the official National Formulary, or the United States Pharmacopeia, or any supplement to them;
(2) Intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals; or
(3) Intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals.The device must also “not achieve its primary intended purposes through chemical action within or on the body of man or other animals” and not depend “upon being metabolized for the achievement of its primary intended purposes.” Sec. 4191(b)(1) limits the definition for purposes of the tax to devices intended for humans.Under what is commonly called the “retail exemption,” the tax provision does not apply to eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, and any other medical device determined by Treasury to be of a type that is commonly purchased by the general public at retail for individual use. “
Such a tax is going to make it less profitable for technology to be developed.

Less modern medical equipment availableAs of 2010, the US had about 7900 MRI machines, or 25.9 machines per million people.  Our neighbor to the north had 222 machines- about 6.6 machines per million, and the UK (in 2011) had 304, or 4.8 machines per million people.

Health insurance companies are also being limited to a 15% profit margin.  Any ‘excess’ profits are returned to the consumer.  So what happens if there’s an uptick in illnesses for a few years- a pandemic on the order of the flu pandemic of 1914?  A massive increase in need for healthcare, and suddenly the company doesn’t have anything to work with!

Restaurant chains are also being forced to provide, on their menu, information regarding calories, fat content and other nutrition information.  It’s certainly not to say this information should be kept private, but why require it?  If there’s a demand for it, consumers can ask!  A pizza restaurant could easily have tens of thousands of combinations of toppings- just 8 toppings gives you over 40,000 possible pizzas!.  Will they be required to provide information for each possibility?

This isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be some changes made to how people in need get access to health care.  My wife’s friend has a number of different health issues, including cystic fibrosis & fibromyalgia. She’s unable to work, and relies on a policy through the state which pays very little for the equipment she badly needs.  I agree we can provide for things like that, or a serious car accident, or cancer.  We can & should help those who can’t provide for themselves.  But we also need to create an environment in which that number is as small as possible.  And we need to limit such assistance to the critical situations, not every sniffle, not every headache.  Raise the deductible, prices for health insurance will drop, and people will learn to make smart decisions about when to visit the doctor, and when it’s best to stay home & take care of themselves.

Is there a chance that Obamacare could still be overturned?  I’m aware of two possible paths for it to be taken off the books.

The newest suit comes from Oklahoma, where the Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, is filing suit based on the subsidies, fines & mandates the act brought about by the Act.  According to research from Jonathan H. Adler and Michael F. Cannon published in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, subsidies under ACA were only provided to those receiving their insurance through state exchanges.

The other suits, from Texas and from the Pacific Legal Foundation challenge the Constitutionality of Obamacare on the grounds that revenue generating bills must originate in the House, rather than the Senate (Article 1 Section 7).  However, it’s possible that such challenges would have to overcome precedent which has given the Senate the ability to levee taxes.

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English- what an odd language

English has some very strange rules to it, and some strange words that come out of it.

You have one goose & one moose, but you don’t have two meese.

One is a house, one is a mouse, one is a louse, but you’re not going to find two mouses or louses.  And you’ll never have two hice.

You might see an ox, a fox, or a box.  You’ll even see two oxen, but never two foxen or boxen.  And oxes?  Nope.

One foot is a foot but two feet are not foots.
One boot is a boot but two boots are not beet or beets, they’re boots.

A deer is a deer and two deer are two deer, but a steer is a steer and two steers are not two steer.

We hang up the phone even though we put it down. Why don’t we say we hang down the phone?
And speaking of phone, it’s spelled with a ‘ph’ but pronounced with an ‘f’. Isn’t that phun?
The words ‘cough’, ‘tough’ and ‘enough’ end with an ‘f’ sound, but the word ‘though’ doesn’t.
When something is out in the open is it out or is it in?
And you might lose a tooth or even a couple of teeth, but adding a second booth doesn’t give you beeth

Both a moth and a sloth can eat broth with froth, but why doesn’t ‘both’ rhyme with moth, sloth and froth?If a ‘tune’ can be ‘sung’, why can’t ‘moon’ be ‘mune’?

If you look to see who took a book from the nook, can you lake to saw who take a bake from the nake?

English numbers are even crazier:
1. The words ‘one’ and ‘won’ rhyme, but only one of them starts with ‘w’.
2. ‘Two’ has a ‘w’, but so do ‘twin, twice and twenty’, but why don’t we pronounce the ‘w’ in ‘two’?
3. ‘Three’ becomes ‘thirty’ in the ordinal sense, but why isn’t it ‘threty’ or ‘threety’?
4. There’s a ‘u’ in the number four, but multiply it by ten and it loses ‘u’ (forty).
5. ‘Five’ loses its ‘v’ in ‘fifth’ and ‘fifty’ but unlike ‘live’, its plural is ‘fives’ and not ‘fifes’.
6. ‘Six’ is pretty straightforward, except for its tricks; when being pronounced, it can be confused with ‘sex’.
7. Since ‘seven’ rhymes with ‘heaven’, where is its ‘a’?
8. ‘Eight’ has to be the strangest of all, we get it from German, ‘gh’ and all.
9. ‘Nine’ is fine just as it is (I struggled to find something to add to this list, but it escaped my wit, so it must be dismissed).
10. ‘Ten’ won’t get away so easily, its ordinal version when multiplied by itself doesn’t follow to pattern of its younger siblings tenth, twentieth, thirtieth, fortieth, fiftieth, sixtieth, seventieth, eightieth, ninetieth), if it did it would be the ‘tenthieth’.

People can be incompetent or competent, disorganized or organized, inelegant or elegant, misinformed or informed. Instructions can be imprecise or precise. Food & water can be impure or pure.But what’s the opposite of to ‘disrupt’? Do we ‘rupt’ something? Is someone who isn’t discombobulated ‘combobulated’? Is the opposite of inept ‘ept’? What does a ‘gruntled’ postal worker do? Can you be ‘chalant’, or ‘sheveled’? If digging something up is to ‘unearth’, then are you ‘earthing’ something when you bury it? Are things that aren’t ‘immaculate’ ‘maculate’? If you’re not ‘discouraged’, are you ‘couraged’? People might be ‘comatose’ if they’re asleep, so when we’re awake, are we ‘incomatose’? When you tear something down you ‘dismantle’ it, so maybe building something is to ‘mantle’ it. If you can ‘deny’ something, can you also ‘ny’ it? When you undress, you ‘disrobe’, so maybe getting dressed is to ‘enrobe’. Someone who goes crazy might be ‘deranged’, so a sane person must be ‘ranged’, right? And is the opposite of ‘dismay’ ‘may’?

If something is ‘out of whack’, then what is ‘whack’?
And why do ‘flammable’ and ‘inflammable’ mean the same thing?

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What about Syria?

The Obama administration is pushing hard for an attack on Syria, against the regime of Bashir Assad, and in support of Syrian rebels, including those backed by Al-Queda.  Sec. of State John Kerry has claimed the administration has the authority to attack without Congressional approval under the War Powers Resolution.  “The President has the right and he has asserted that right that he could do what’s necessary to protect the national security of the United States at any point in time,” said Kerry.   What isn’t said is how an attack on Syria protects our national security.  Republicans like John McCain & Lindsay Graham also strongly support an attack in support of the rebels.

But is it legitimate to claim authority under the War Powers Resolution?  And do we really want to back the same people who, just 12 years ago, attacked the US and murdered nearly 3,000 Americans?

To my mind, the answer to the second question should be a resounding ‘No!’.  Better yet, it should be ‘Hell, no!’.  Unlike the Axis powers during World War II, for example, we’ve signed no treaties with Al-Queda, ending hostilities with them.  Unlike in a ‘traditional’ war, we’re not dealing with a state, with a governmental body that can sign & adhere to a treaty, and has control over its military.  Instead, we’ve got a number of affiliated groups who’d be more than willing to break out on their own if it served their own interests.

Sure, we’ve backed leaders around the world who were far from admirable.  The Shah of Iran, for example, wasn’t anyone I’d want leading my country by any means.

But to support a terrorist group- an organization whose members murder non-Muslims, and Muslims who don’t follow the same brand of Islam as its members is insanity!  Syria’s rulers and the Syrian rebels on the other side are both committing atrocities.  Why should we back one group of America hating thugs over another group of America hating thugs?  Why support radical Islamist groups like the rebels (and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt)?  Shouldn’t we be supporting the Coptic Christians in Egypt?  Or those in Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon who are being attacked by members of Boko Haram?

Do I support sending American soldiers to risk their lives on behalf of a group of madmen opposed to another group of madmen?  No.  I don’t even know that I’d support sending Americans to defend the Copts or the innocents in Africa being killed by Boko Haram.  Sending them arms so they can defend themselves?  Absolutely!

The War Powers Resolution was passed as a Joint Congressional Resolution which limits the power of the President to conduct war without Congressional approval.   It requires Congressional notification within 48 hours of committing forces to action, limits that action to no more than 60 days, and allows a further 30 days for withdrawal without Congressional approval.   Armed forces can be sent only on declaration of war by Congress, by statutory authorization, or in case of a national emergency brought about by an attack on the US or its territories, possessions or armed forces.

So just what national security issues would be furthered by aiding the Syrian rebels?  Would it be that Obama drew a line over Assad’s use of chemical weapons, and by failing to respond, he’d look weak?  Do Obama, McCain, Graham and other believe that we can win friends among the radical Islamic movement by backing the Syrian rebels?  Or are they just wanting to try to spread democracy and the ‘Arab Spring’ movement to another part of the world, regardless of the long term risk to the US its security, and the security of our allies?

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