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Insurance Company Loansharking

Posted by on Feb 27, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

 

 

Um, no it’s not, you lying-ass stooge!

U.S. health insurance companies are not, according to this early-morning tweet by President Trump, “provid(ing) great healthcare to the American people.”

Insurance companies are, in fact, undermining health care in America.  They’re doing whatever they can to deny coverage to as many Americans as possible, at the highest possible margins to ensure massive company profits — to the exclusive benefit of shareholders and bonus-whoring company executives.

Yes indeed, great healthcare *is* being provided by some extraordinarily dedicated people in this country.   Allow me to mention them now.

They are called doctors.

They are called nurses.

They are called medical technicians.

They are called caregivers.

They are also called researchers and educators.

These are the genuine heroes of American medicine — not an Oval Office crammed with insurance executives, you morally-bankrupt, dim-witted, anti-intellectual prick!

Add up all the hefty salaries ending in lots of zeroes and the expense accounts paid out just to the 13 insurance industry loan sharks who visited to President Trump this Monday morning.  Their average salary rings in at about $14 million, not including all the bonuses and stock options to be paid out.  Then, there’s all the dirty PAC money spent to keep this corrupt for-profit, milk-the-American public system fully in tact.  These cretins are President Trump’s heroes of healthcare, greedy bastards much like himself with no real objective in life other than to cream their sweet margins off the top at the terrible expense of everyone else struggling to keep up.

Meanwhile, all the medical professionals who actually make the sacrifices for their patients — the doctors and nurses — get stuck with massive student loan debt.  They suffer disproportionate levels of family breakups, including divorces.  They endure considerably more stress than virtually every other occupation, working all hours of the day and night to keep us as healthy as possible.

A Tweet from President Trump thanking the real heroes of medicine would have been nice.  A thought or two acknowledging the dedication of those who willingly chose the medical profession would be a noble gesture.

But instead, the self-absorbed clueless rube sitting at his desk in the most powerful office in the land choose to make an absurd statement that it’s insurance companies which “provide great healthcare to the American people.”

The only thing insurance companies provide is higher costs to all Americans and obscene payouts to their executives.  That’s it.  Nothing more.  Nothing else.

 

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My Thoughts on the 2017 Academy Awards

Posted by on Feb 26, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Movie Reviews | 0 comments

 

 

“La La Land” seems like a stone-cold lock of all ages to win the Best Picture Oscar in what’s otherwise been a disappointing year for movies.

The merry musical was the lone sweet cherry piled high atop a giant shit sundae heaping with plentiful box office busts, instantly-forgettable docudramas, mindless futuristic fluff, Star Games, the Hunger Wars, kiddie crack, and several embarrassingly awful films which should never have been green lighted (hang in there, Warren Beatty — I’ll get to you later).

Everything about La La Land” worked for me.  I loved the catchy music, infused with piano and jazz.  I loved the romance.  I loved the two main characters — played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who were perfectly cast and dazzled with their acting, singing, and dancing.  Call me sentimental, call me old fashioned, but I adored the quirky retro-tale about two struggling dreamers trying to make it big in Hollywood.  I was also riveted by the unknown of what would happen at the end.  Until the final curtain and closing note, we have no idea if Gosling and Stone will end up together as one.  This was a great movie.

“La La Land” received a ton of nominations — and rightfully so.  It deserves to win several Oscars.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is, there wasn’t much else worthy of praise.  Unfortunately, the competition was so weak this past year, that I expect a record low number television viewers (partially due to half the country buying into the anti-Hollywood ruse).  Those who do tune into the 89th annual awards show will be utterly sick of the repetitive speeches from pretty much the same filmmakers over and over again by the time we reach the Animated Short category.

In fact, between the expected Oscar overkill for La La Land,” cringe worthy political posturing from the usual suspects, and the woefully unfunny Jimmy Kimmel doing his very best to remind us why we all miss someone genuinely funny like Billy Crystal, or Ricky Gervais, or Jim Carey who would have done a much better job in their sleep — I don’t expect to make it all the way through Sunday night’s telecast.  That’s really saying something, since I’ve seen (I estimate) 42 out of the last 44 Academy Awards telecasts, from start to finish. [SEE FOOTNOTE ABOUT KIMMEL BELOW]

That doesn’t make me a film critic.  But it does provide the basis of an opinion.  Here are my thoughts on some of the films I’ve seen this year, and many I have not seen, which have been nominated for Oscars.  The envelope of pleasure and pain, please:

“Arrival” — This was a better-than-average sci-fi flick which was greatly enhanced by some marvelous special effects.  That said, there’s no way this film deserves Best Picture consideration or anything else other than a few technical Oscar mentions.  “Arrival” was filled with jaw-dropping plot holes big enough to make a James Bond scriptwriter bust out in hives.  One thing that cracked me up:  If an alien spaceship the size of the Empire State Building really landed in the middle of Kansas and wasn’t able to communicate with humans, wouldn’t the U.S. Government hire more than just one linguist?  Go figure.  I was also annoyed by the bigger story which eventually gets revealed and somehow engulfs the entire previous episode of how the world reacts to invading space aliens.

“Hell or High Water” — Copy cat of the outstanding “No Country for Old Men” this film lacked much originality.  Story about a couple of erratic brothers who turn into wildly reckless bank robbers in dusty West Texas, while they’re pursued relentlessly by an impossible-to-understand local sheriff played by mumbling Jeff Bridges, who’s mouth is filled with so many marbles he could stock a gumball machine.  To be fair — this movie does have it’s moments as a very watchable crime hunt caper.  But in the end, we all know what’s coming, and the conclusion is less than fulfilling.  I can’t think of a single thing about this movie that’s Oscar-worthy.

“Manchester by the Sea” — I hated this movie.  I hated it.  I hated it.  I hated it.  Dreadfully dull and depressing blow-your-brains-out downer of a film about a pathetic loser-janitor from Boston who makes one bad choice after another until the point where we (the audience) have completely run out of patience.  Just jump off a bridge and end this, please.  There’s hardly a character in the movie who’s appealing (aside from the orphaned teen son, who’s excellent, by the way).  Casey Affleck (personifying the same sub-par acting abilities of his more famous brother) becomes the accidental star in this bore of movie — as someone you’d pluck out of shitty job, cast in a movie, and then praise for his authenticity playing common working man.  Hell, any half-shaven truck driver in America could have played this part.  The drug-addicted turned religious nut of a wife is just as bad.  Inexplicably, this film is up for several awards.  I have no fucking idea why.  A horrible movie.

I’m embarrassed to say I’ve not yet seen some movies that were nominated in various categories that look quite decent, and perhaps might ultimately change my opinion of the caliber of films released this past year.  Foremost among these is “Hidden Figures,” the remarkable little-known story about a group of Black female mathematicians who fought prejudice and ended up making great contributions to the NASA space program.  I admit I’d not heard about this story before, so I look forward to seeing the film, which is being praised highly by those who saw it.

Moonlight” also looks like a film worthy of seeing, of for no other reason than it received eight nominations.  “Loving” was on my radar screen earlier when it was released, but didn’t receive as many positive reviews, so I put that on the back burner, until later.  “Lion” looked intriguing.  However, I then saw a film documentary on the actual person who was lost as a child on whom this movie was based.  After being exposed to the real-life tale, the movie didn’t interest me quite as much.

As for movies and actors I’m rooting for strictly as a personal preference, here are my thoughts:  First, “La La Land” can do no wrong.  Anything it wins will be well deserved, especially in the Best Director and Best Picture categories.  “Fences” was the blood and sweat of the always excellent Denzel Washington, who finally deserved and got his chance to produce and direct the movie he’s wanted to make for a long time.  This film probably won’t be called out much when the envelopes get opened; however Viola Davis seems like a worthy choice in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Viggo Mortensen has done some outstanding film work of the years, and he’s among the very best actors working today.  I saw only a glimpse of “Captain Fantastic,” a challenging emotional role for which he’s been nominated for Best Actor.  I’d love to see him win.  Admittedly, this is probably Ryan Gosling’s award on Sunday night, but Mortensen walking onstage would be just as satisfying.

The Best Actress race looks especially intriguing, this year.  Meryl Streep is Hollywood royalty among peers and critics, but she won’t win anything this year for a film what was pretty awful (an inexplicable third remake of a rich English woman who can’t sing).  I have great respect for Natalie Portman and her talent, but would prefer she not win for the title role in “Jackie.”  Please.  Enough of the Kennedy’s — already, especially the over-sanctified JFK period, an average presidency at best which has been so ridiculously overblown, it’s warped our view of history.  No surprise here, I’ll go with Emma Stone in LLL.

I customarily see most of the documentaries and foreign films which are nominated.  But due to timing and logistics, it also takes me a while to get around to seeing all of them.  I’m also one of the very few people who has seen every short and animated film (nominee) over the past three years from the Oscars (there’s a special showing, I’ve attended and written about), but this is typically a post-Oscar endeavor.  Accordingly, I can’t say much about these films, yet.  However, the massive archival undertaking that was “O.J.: Made in America” really stuck with me.  I watched all 8 hours over an extended period, and watched some of it again.  Filmmakers took a subject we all thought we knew well, and yet somehow still managed to make this a riveting detective story, with quite a bit of fresh eye-opening material, not just on the O.J. Simpson trial, but the modern history of race relations in America.  This was an amazing film series that I would describe as a “must-see.”  Note:  Why wasn’t this included in the Best Picture nominees?  Can’t a documentary be the best movie of the year?  Why the bias?

In closing, I’ll give out my own sour grapes award for the worst film/worst performance of last year.  Remember legendary Warren Beatty?  Well, he’s my winner — or make that, loser.  Beatty starred in a dreadful bio-epic as Howard Hughes in the laughably awful, “Rules Don’t Apply.”  Marieta and I stormed of the theater after wasting an hour plus 15, and $24 in cash, so I can’t comment in detail about this garbage other than to spoil the fuck out of it and save anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.  Trust me, I’m doing you a favor.  Beatty, who in real life is age 80, plays Hughes when he’s about 50, which requires applying enough makeup to bronze Donald Trump for an entire month.  Hughes’ (Beatty’s) still got it, though.  Taking his cue right out of 1975’s “Shampoo” when he was at the top of his acting game and managed to bed every hot ounce of female flesh in Hollywood, the eccentric octogenarian has a sexual tryst and then later marries a 22-year-old virgin starlet (which never happened!).  Poor real Howard Hughes.  His grave must be spinning like a top, helped by all those oil drills that made him a billionaire.  This is the worst performance of anyone on screen within the last five years, and that’s really saying something since Adam Sandler has released four movies within that time frame.

 

Footnote:  Credit Jimmy Kimmel on a surprisingly strong performance as Oscar host.  I didn’t expect much, but he delivered.  

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The Tipping Point on Gay Rights

Posted by on Feb 21, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

 

 

Last night, I attended a monthly meeting at the Clark County Democratic Party headquarters, here in Las Vegas.

As is regularly the custom, speakers from various organizations show up at these meetings to inform and educate those of us in the audience on important issues of the day.

James Healey was the latest guest speaker.  He’s a progressive activist who also works full time as a casino executive for MGM-Mirage corporation.  Healey previously served as a legislator in the Nevada State Assembly.  He also happens to be gay.

I normally wouldn’t mention that, because it’s no more relevant than if he has blue eyes or brown eyes.  But since our nightly topic of discussion was gay rights, which are now under serious threat by the Trump Administration (and many state legislatures and localities — which lean Republican), his presentation was accompanied by both an added sense of passion and urgency.

Let’s be clear.  To our credit as a nation, American public opinion has evolved rather quickly on the once-controversial topic of gay rights.  Virtually everyone now knows someone who’s openly gay.  Popular television shows and movies feature gay characters, who are usually portrayed in a positive way.  Young people overwhelming see a person’s sexual orientation as a total non-issue.  The stats don’t lie — For the first time ever, a majority of the country believes gay people are entitled to equal rights and protections, including marriage equality.

That’s all a good thing.

After I heard the talk, while driving home, I pondered my own mental and emotional “evolution” on the subject of gay rights.  I’m not proud of this, but as a teenager, I used to engage in the typical pranks of philistine adolescence, which — sorry to say — included making derogatory remarks about those who were suspected to be homosexual.  I used insensitive slurs, including “faggot” and other mean words on regular occasion.  That didn’t make me a bad person.  Those actions were however, a reflection of my ignorance, and to a greater extent — a lack of exposure to the full diversity that makes up the American Experience.

I’m not sure there was any single moment that qualifies as a “tipping point” for me on gay rights.  That is to say, I don’t remember any specific incident that transformed me from the typical brutish-acting macho straight guy into someone far more empathetic and compassionate for people who on other times would have been inviting targets.  Perhaps it was attending college and simply being exposed to new ideas.  Maybe it was getting older and wiser.  Probably, it was working long hours in bars and restaurants, a trade where I regularly encountered people who were openly gay.  That was way back in the early 1980’s, an era that wasn’t nearly as tolerant about alternative lifestyles, as today.  There was also the terrible AIDS scare happening at the time, which certainly didn’t help straight culture to better understand gay culture.

Maturity, I believe, is incremental.  It’s all a gradual process.  Over time, I came to understand that gay rights was to our time as the civil rights struggle was to the generation which proceeded us.  And today, there are other noble causes, and there will me more things to fight for in the future.  The struggle for justice never ends.  There’s always a voice in the dark needing aid and comfort from torment.  Freedoms are an obligation to be protected by all, whether we agree or not with those whom need our support.

What I wonder is this — what made most of us (who are straight) to come around on the subject of gay rights?  Was it watching Will and Grace?  Was it finding out that a friend or loved one was gay?  Was it a personal experience that changed your mind?  What was it?

I think this is a critical question to ask because it provides a list of formulas that are proven to be effective.  If many of us who used to sling cruel derogatory slurs could evolve and ultimately become outspoken advocates of gay rights (which includes many reading these words right now), then we should try to employ those same tactics and with others who haven’t caught on yet in the future.  My belief is this — nearly everyone is capable of being swayed on this issue, dare I say — even conservatives and religious people.  I do believe many conservatives and religious people are good people who want to do the right thing.  Perhaps those who continue to strongly oppose justice and equality for all simply haven’t been approached yet….in the right way.  Our mission must be to find ways to reach them.

To be clear, there is a vocal contingent within the gay activist movement which vociferously rejects the notion of gaining “acceptance” from mainstream society.  Rightfully, their belief is that human rights and legal protections aren’t souvenirs to be handed out by the majority as though they’re providing favors.  In other words, they don’t give a damn whether you approve of them, or not.

Good for them.  Defiance can indeed be courageous.

However, since the potential rollback on gay rights is now very real in this country (and certainly continues to be a monumental problem in many foreign cultures), it would be advisable for those of us who are engaged in the fight to try and better understand on what works, versus what doesn’t.

And so, I ask those of you who wish to contribute to our understanding of this issue:  What, if anything, was the major turning point that transformed you from either opposition or indifference, to being a supporter of gay rights?

Obviously, this question is geared to those who have successfully evolved on this issue.

To those of you who haven’t yet, we’ll get back at you later.

 

[To join the discussion on Facebook, please CLICK HERE.]

 

A final thought:  I would be remiss were I not to point out Mr. Healey’s observation that Nevada, while progressive on many other issues, doesn’t have much to brag about on this issue.  Yet, strangely enough, within the poker culture, gay rights enjoys widespread support.  Many top poker pros who are openly gay, which makes poker way ahead of other competitive enterprises.  That’s something to be proud of.

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A Moral Dilemma — What Would You Do?

Posted by on Feb 21, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Rants and Raves | 8 comments

 

 

A MORAL DILEMMA:

Something happened today that’s causing me considerable mental anguish.  Perhaps you will help and might offer some advice.

This morning, I went shopping at the local Costco.  While in the parking lot, I noticed a man loading his SUV with several boxes.  He reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet.  Next, he put the wallet on the top of his vehicle, and then proceeded to load remainder of the cargo.

Just as I walked past, the man got into his Hummer, started the engine, and then began to drive away.  The man’s wallet tumbled off the top of his car and landed on the pavement, right at my feet.  I picked the wallet up and tried to flag the man down.  However, he drove away too quickly and I wasn’t able to get his attention.

However, I did notice something quite interesting.  The Hummer had a “TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT” bumper sticker on one side and an NRA decal on the other.  The car sped away as I was yelling for him to stop.

There was only one thing I could do.  I looked inside the wallet and found the man’s ID, along with his home address.  He also had several business cards which listed his phone number.  Also, to my astonishment, I found $870 in cash stuffed inside the wallet.

So, now my dilemma is this.  Perhaps you can advise:

Should I fire the whole wad of cash tonight on LSU +3, or use it to pay some bills?

 

Writer’s Note:  Most of this story is purely fictional.  However, I did shop at Costco today.

 

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America’s Biggest Embarrassment

Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 0 comments

 

 

A SERIOUS QUESTION:

Admit it — he’s America’s biggest embarrassment.

The rest of the world looks at him in bewilderment and wonders how the hell he made it to such a lofty position.

Everything’s so far that he’s done has been a miserable failure.

Nothing he says makes any sense.

Whatever he puts out gets ridiculed by critics.

They trash him unmercifully in the media.

I must admit, that when I watch him on TV, I want to vomit.

He’s not funny.

He’s not entertaining.

He’s a terrible influence on our culture.

I cringe that children might be watching.

Nobody with a shred of self-respect wants to work with him.

He’s toxic for anyone’s future career plans.

He’s never won an award.

His last few projects lost millions.

So, my question is this……

After so many disasters, how’s it possible later this week, they’re releasing another Adam Sandler movie?

 
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