Monthly Archives: September 2013

Calculate How Much Obamacare Will Cost You

The Kaiser Family Foundation has a fairly decent calculator to help you figure out how much your health insurance will cost you if you need to sign up under an Obamacare plan (which most of you will not have to do).  Most states are completely flubbing getting information out to the public prior to the implementation of the signup tomorrow.  It’s good that someone was able to collect everything and put it in one place.  For instance, just try finding out any information about the Illinois plan.  Sheesh.

The costs shown in the calculator are for the Silver plan and plugging myself in for various states seem to indicate that health insurance is going to be pretty affordable for those that don’t get a subsidy.  $211/month for where I live.  $270/month for the national average.  This is comparable to what I pay now with a $5,000 deductible and fairly comprehensive coverage, but it’s hard to compare the two since items like that are not included in the calculator.

T minus one day till the exchanges open.  Things are about to get interesting.

Movie Review: Rush

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: Good story.  Engaging characters.  Made racing interesting.  Excellent racing scenes.  Beautiful backdrops.

Niki Lauda is a complete asshole.  Everybody thinks so.  Everybody says so too.  But here’s the thing.  James Hunt is equally an asshole, but everyone loves him.  Well, except Niki Lauda.  To Niki, James represents everything that is wrong with racing.  James just happens to be an asshole in all the socially acceptable ways while Niki is not.  In the end, they are two sides to the same coin.  Driven.  Frightened.  Crazy.

“Rush” tells the true(ish) story of the rivalry between the two men.  They are both the best at what they do and that’s drive cars at irresponsible speeds.  The two best are bound to be rivals, but I think this is fueled more from the mutual recognition that there is something in the other that both James and Niki crave.  James wants Niki’s methodical determinism.  Niki envies James’ free spirit and devil-may-care attitude.  The rivalry makes each better than they every would have been alone.

The storytelling is very effective.  You quickly get a feel for both Niki’s and James’ character.  Where they come from.  What drives them.  What their weaknesses are.  It drags slightly during the middle third but only for a while.  There is also a bunch of inside racing stuff that is sure to be fun for all the people who know more about cars than I do.  Niki Lauda was quite a mechanical genius in addition to being a top driver.  Changes he made during his time revolutionized the racing industry.

And since this is a movie about racing, something should be said about the race scenes, no?  They are top notch.  Filled with beautiful camera angles and spectacular cinematography.  You get a good feel for why someone would be stupid enough to strap themselves in to a speeding bomb and race other people in an effort to see who doesn’t blow up.  Friends who know much more about formula one racing than I do say that it was much more interesting in the 70’s than it is now.  Like all racing, more interesting means more dangerous.

“Rush” is a great effort by Ron Howard.  I don’t think it’s good enough for Oscar contention, but it’s certainly the kind of movie that generates Oscar buzz.  Regardless, it’s a movie worth seeing.

The Meaning Of Life

I can think of no greater instruction on how to live your life that what Tim Minchin mentions here:

I have been an admirer for a long time, but this definitely puts him in the category of people I want to have in my neighborhood.  I imagine him in some sort of M.C. Echeresque house for some reason.

Ode To Ted Cruz

At one point during yesterday’s fake filibuster, Ted Cruz read from the book “Green Eggs and Ham”.  A man adamantly refusing to give Obamacare a shot reading a book about adamantly refusing to give a meal a shot.  Irony meters hundreds of miles away burst into flames.  And it also screams for a little parody.

"That President there!
That President there!
I do not like that President there!"

"Do you like Obamacare?"

"I do not like them
you total square.
I do not like

"Would you like it
if it helped the broke?"

"I would not like it
if it helped the broke.
For all I care
they can have a stroke.
I do not like 
I do not like it
you total square."

"Would you like it
if it were cheaper?
Would that make it
a definite keeper?"

"I would not like it
if it were cheaper.
That does not make it
a definite keeper.
I do not like Obamacare.
I do not like it you total square."

"But look, it covers
Surely that's a
noble mission."

"So what it covers
That is not a
noble mission.
I do not like Obamacare.
I do not like it you total square."

"What if the benefits
were proven true?
Then would it be
the right thing to do?"

"I do not care
if it all were true.
Just try and convince me
till your face turns blue.
You cannot combat
the lies I'll spew.
And to those this would help,
a big FUCK YOU!"



I used to have a Siberian husky.  This reminds me of him playing in the snow.  Also, what a beautiful yard for a husky.  I wonder how they managed to keep it devoid of holes.


The Speech I’d Like To Hear Obama Make

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.  A few years ago, an unprecedented thing happened.  Republicans in Congress risked the full faith and credit of the United States of America by threatening to not raise the debt ceiling.  The debt ceiling is an imaginary number that, in the past, has solely been used for political grandstanding of the highest order with the full realization of all involved that the debt ceiling MUST be raised lest America suffer the gravest of financial catastrophes.  I say to you now that the debt ceiling will never again be used as a weapon to be brandished to force political concessions like it was in 2011.

Congress has two choices before it.  Raise the debt ceiling.  Repeal the debt ceiling.  Nothing will be given in return for either of these options.  It’s time for Congress to prove that it can be part of the solution and not just part of the problem.

Regardless of Congress’ action or inaction on this issue, I promise the American people this:  The debt ceiling is the gravest of National Security concerns.  It affects our government’s ability to function and our ability to effectively defend ourselves.  I will do everything in my power to protect America from this crisis.  As this crisis looms ever closer, there are many options available to me and I promise to use any and all of them to ensure to America and the world that the full faith and credit of the United States is sacred and shall not be infringed.

Thank you and good night.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

This Is The Way The World Ends, Not With A Bang But A Jellyfish

Subtitled: No One Ever Suspects The Jellyfish.

You need to read this article.

Many years ago, I was in Boston walking across one of the bridges.  If you looked down to the water below, you’d see a very large population of jellyfish hanging out in the shadows of the bridge.  It was kind of beautiful.  Various sized blobs of goo pulsating in the water.  Lately, that beauty has turned into horror.

It turns out that jellyfishification is totally a thing!  Our oceans have been getting much warmer and much more acidic than is good for the biome.  Coral reefs for example are experiencing a massive die off because of it.  One sea animal is totally fine with it.  The jellyfish!  The conditions have caused a population explosion of jellyfish to occur around the world.  The scale of this explosion is massive beyond belief.  The phrase ‘breeding like rabbits’ may need to be replaced with ‘breeding like jellyfish’.  Jellyfish are taking over the world!  Prime beaches have had to be closed.  Ships are getting disabled from traversing jellyfish blooms.  Fisheries are reporting losing entire catches because of scooping up thousands of pounds of jellyfish.

This is the stuff or horror movies, folks.  It is very possible that we could be looking at the extinction of fish (and mammals) and the oceans reverting to a time long ago when simple animals were the only occupants.  It may get to the point where it is unsafe to swim anywhere in any ocean.

There is one tiny, tiny bright side to this.  Jellyfish are edible.  I hope you like them because you may be eating a lot of them.  Jellyfish is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, jellyfish-kabobs, jellyfish creole, jellyfish gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple jellyfish, lemon jellyfish, coconut jellyfish, pepper jellyfish, jellyfish soup, jellyfish stew, jellyfish salad, jellyfish and potatoes, jellyfish burger, jellyfish sandwich. That- that’s about it.

Movie Review: Prisoners

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: Showed lots of promise.  Too long.  Some ineffective storytelling.  Some stupid detective cliches.  Great acting.

It’s been a while since I’ve gone to see a movie that I was actually looking forward to seeing.  “Prisoners” was such a movie.  The concept is excellent.  Children disappear and signs point immediately to an individual.  When the individual proves to be too stupid to have committed the crime and there is no evidence to tie him to the crime, the police have to let him go.  He is soon thereafter kidnapped by the parents of the missing children and “enhanced interrogated”.

The movie starts really promising.  The introduction is crisp and clean.  You get an immediate feel for what kind of person Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is.  Hope for the best.  Prepare for the worst.  Do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.  All of this sets him up perfectly for the events that are about to occur.  More importantly, you believe him capable of the actions he performs to get his daughter back.

Fifteen to twenty minutes into the movie and the girls are already missing.  And the race begins.  Judging from the intro, I was expecting a taut, effective search for two missing girls filled with agonizing decisions and dead end leads and the all around effective storytelling that comprised the opening half hour of the movie.  What I got instead was a bunch of overly long, occasionally plodding scenes that bore no resemblance to the introduction.  At 153 minutes long, I was worried that we would be shown an hour long saccharine view of the family life of two girls before their disappearance even happened and the search for them would be shallow and perfunctory.  Now I wish that the movie was like that.  It is desperately in need of a good half hour more of scenes thrown to the cutting room floor.

A lot of the problems with the movie surround Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal).  It is quickly established that he is a great detective and that, in true movie cliche fashion, he has solved all of his cases.  Why then does he not make a painfully obvious deduction that links two of the characters together?  Why do they use another pathetic detective cliche of throwing things around in a fit of rage only to have a valuable clue stand out from the mess?  This is sloppy storytelling of the highest degree.

On the plus side, the acting is really top rate all around.  Hugh Jackman really brings to life a man who is all about control and completely loses it when that control is threatened.  Maria Bellow plays his wife as exactly the kind of wife you’d expect a control freak to marry.  Terrance Howard and Viola Davis play the parents of the other missing child and beautifully provide both the enabling of Hugh Jackman’s actions and the only voice of sanity.  Paul Dano and David Dastmalchian play incredibly effective creepy guys.  And Melissa Leo, oh I loves me some Melissa Leo.  No one plays earthy characters better than she does.  She is one of those people that makes me want to see a movie regardless of how good it is just because she’s in it.  If I had my way, she would be in every movie.


Why The American Disdain For The Poor?

Have you ever been trying to merge on the highway and you’re doing everything right but there’s this person who very purposefully speeds up so you can’t merge between him and the car in front of him?  It seems to happen quite often.  It’s as if the offender is trying to prevent a stranger from taking advantage of them in some way.  In the end, they gain nothing and they actually risk injury by driving recklessly.  This is similar to how many Americans seem to view the poor.

This view was highlighted beautifully by the surreptitious recording of Mitt Romney telling a gathering of rich people that 47% of the population are moochers.  This is an incredibly galling statement coming from someone who made his fortunes by trying to create as many of those “moochers” as possible by taking over companies and firing people and then selling the companies.  It’s like when your big brother grabs your arm and punches you with your own arm and asks you, “Why do you keep hitting yourself?”  But he’s just one unconscionably rich person who has spent his entire adult life devoid of any contact with poor people.  There were millions of others in the United States who were nodding sagely at Romney’s comments, though.  Most of them cannot use Romney’s excuse of studiously avoiding poor people.

The problem, I think, stems from a pathological belief that everybody you don’t know is out to take advantage of you in some way.  They just know that there are tons of moochers on welfare living off of their hard earned tax dollars despite not personally knowing a single one who is actually doing so.  This makes no statistical sense.  If the people you know who are or have been on welfare are using the system as they should, where are the moochers?  And if you do happen to know a moocher or two that are taking advantage of the system, why aren’t you turning them in?  “But I just KNOW that they’re out there somewhere!”, you might intone and you’d be right.  It’s not that there isn’t waste in the system because there assuredly is.  No system, governmental or private, has zero waste.  The problem is that there is no proof that the welfare system is more corrupt than any other system in existence.  And yet we have demands for more oversight and spending more money on rooting out waste when that money would be much better served just being given to the vast majority of welfare recipients who very temporarily need the money.

The House (and by The House, I of course mean Republicans) recently voted to cut food stamps by $39 billion.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this will cause 3.8 million people to be dropped from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) next year.  Most people on this program have jobs.  The jobs our economy can provide them do not even meet the lowest standard of living.  Thus the Supplemental portion of SNAP.  Our society is so afraid of poor people right now that we elected 217 people to represent us who think providing the minimal amount of food subsidies to those who actually need it is too much for government to do.  Who are these people?  How did we get to this point?

Welcome to the United States of America where the only thing we seem united against is the poor.  And we are all the poorer for it.

If Studs Terkel Were Alive Today…

First off, I have to say, wow is Studs Terkel an American treasure.  I don’t think I have ever read anyone that is so in touch with the American experience.  Maybe Walt Whitman or John Steinbeck.  Besides having the coolest name ever, Studs also has a way with prose that is both folksy and deep.  His words flow off the page and my mind gobbles them up like candy.

I’m currently reading “Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression”.  It was written in 1970, but the edition I am reading was released in the late 1980’s.  As with many new editions of old works, this one contains a foreword by Studs.  In it, he documents the great divide between the realities of poor people and the headlines declaring stock market boom times during the late 1980’s.  I was struck both by how little has changed and how much worse things are now.  Back then, all the good manufacturing jobs were starting to leave Chicago for points Chinese.  Occasionally, a few jobs would become available and hundreds of people, mostly blacks, would line up for a chance to get that job.  Now, the manufacturing jobs are all gone.  Nothing is being offered and no lines are formed.  We have gone from a country of hope to a country of desperation.

For a good segment of our population, there is no such thing as a good job anymore.  The choice is between starvation and eking out the barest of existences.  There is still a ladder to climb, but the rungs that can get you from lower class to middle class are missing.  If you started below the gap, you’re stuck there unless someone reaches a hand down to give you an opportunity you wouldn’t otherwise have.  If you are middle class and you slip a rung, you find yourself suddenly far below where you once were, overqualified for any job that is available and shunned by the keepers of the jobs they are qualified for because of lapses in employment.

These are the people you are fighting against if you are against Obamacare and Medicaid and Welfare and Food Stamps.  The people that use these programs are not moochers and thieves.  They are human beings trying to get by.  These are not socialist programs enacted by people trying to destroy the American way of life.  They are missing rungs inserted back into the great ladder of progress that maybe, just maybe, can be used by people to reach up as high as they can to the next rung and pull themselves up to a modicum of safety and security without the need for help from the government.

Robert Reich was on “The Daily Show” this week talking about how he thinks we’re repeating history and are on the cusp of another Progressive Era like we saw in 1901.  I hope he’s right because there are still more rungs to be replaced and we owe it to our society to replace them if we are at all to be the moral people we pretend to be.