Joan Rivers looked into the camera and asked us a question. She wanted to know how many times we had said that we would drop AT&T long distance in 30 seconds if we only had the chance. Then she told us that we now had a choice – MCI. And we still had 20 seconds.
The message was simple and to the point. We all hated AT&T. Who was MCI? Who cares? MCI wasn’t AT&T and that was all we needed to know.
Neither MCI nor Joan Rivers are still with us. Worse AT&T still is. So is the concept that some choices are positive and some are negative. We are forced, at times, to pick the other option.
Nowhere is that more obvious than in this year’s presidential election.
Regular viewers of FOX are constantly reminded that Senator Bernie Sanders is a democratic SOCIALIST. And Secretary Clinton? OY. Teetotalers could participate in a FOX drinking game that has the participants downing a shot of vodka every time FOX mentions Mrs. Clinton and doesn’t also include a reference to emails. Viewers may be confused about who (other than Trump) is running as a Republican, but they are fully versed on all of the Dem’s negatives.
MSNBC offers the mirror image. Want to know which racist, white supremacist groups, or reprehensible preachers have endorsed Senator Cruz? MSNBC’s got you covered. Senator Rubio’s latest flub? Rachel Maddow has it in slow-mo. And if Governor Kasich is ever deemed a worthy opponent, we’ll be treated to his innumerable detractors here in Ohio.
It would be difficult to find a reason to vote for someone. We just know who we don’t want. And the political attack ads will be wall to wall on TV once we get closer to next month’s primary.
I’ve talked to my Republican friends. Asked about Cruz and they immediately tell you how much they hate Clinton. They only have one word if you mention Trump, Benghazi. Pressed, they may also add Socialist. That’s it. In their minds the Dems are disqualified so they will vote for whichever Republican survives the ongoing cage match.
Many of my Democratic friends are just as frustrated with their options. Talking with a self-identifying Dem, they admit their reticence about a Clinton candidacy. But what choice do they have? Cruz? Rubio? Seriously? Trump? C’mon! They don’t like Bush or Christie, but they understand the attraction. How can the Republicans nominate Cruz the Canadian or Rubio the unprepared after seven years of Obama-bashing and birthers?
Sure there are some enthusiastic Sanders’ supporters. Trump, too. They look and sound surprisingly alike.
It turned out that MCI was a miserable choice. It would be a couple of years before service and reception equaled AT&T’s. What we learned was just how bad our choices were. Kind of like today.
Anger. Resentment. Righteous Indignation. Henry (name changed) had it all. But mostly anger. And he was sharing it with me. His voice, both pitch and volume, got higher as his rant went on. Every once in a while he stopped and made sure that I understood that this had nothing to do with me. He wasn’t blaming me. And then the phone call continued where he had left off.
As you may have guessed, Henry was angry about his health insurance premium. He was sure that he was being punished. He and his family are too healthy, too middle class, too responsible. He wondered how many families his excessive premiums were supporting.
This is where I could insert little factoids such as that Henry and his family pay less under the new law. Or I could shock you with his significant income. And by the way, his premium for a couple in their 50’s with a college aged daughter was a touch under $1,000 per month. But none of that really matters.
$1,000 for health insurance is $1,000 too much.
Henry isn’t alone. I regularly encounter people who are “Otherwise Responsible”. They are doctors, attorneys, dentists, etc… with mortgages and all of the normal trappings of the upper middle class, but they either don’t carry health insurance or they complain incessantly about it. Waste of money! They would rather spend the money elsewhere, such as on vacations or at the mall.
And the speech is always the same. They tell me about the indigent person who got first class care at The Cleveland Clinic. There was an uninsured neighbor or co-worker who was treated at University Hospital for cancer, FOR FREE! “Why should I buy insurance?” Why indeed.
I used to try to appeal to their better angels. I used to remind them that being indigent and dependent upon society shouldn’t be a life goal. Now? Now I just remind them that they are collectable. That always shuts them up.
* * * * * *
We’ve been going through a lot of tissues in my office. I wish my awful cold was the main reason.
It has been a tough eight weeks. Several clients have passed away. Another in the last few days. I won’t pretend that every client is a close personal friend, but the vast majority have spent time in my office and talked about more than just their aversion to needles or their frustration with the Browns. And some, like two of the clients who recently succumbed to major illnesses, had been friends for years.
I had two emergency appointments this past week. One was a widow. The other was a widower. Both had lost his/her spouse in the last 10 days. And now, in the middle of mourning, they were forced to meet with an agent to resolve their health insurance prior to February 1st. They didn’t know each other and I hadn’t met either of them prior to our appointments. Their friends had given them my name and number.
I was struck by the similarity of the conversations that I had with the two of them. Both the widow and the widower were grateful. They were grateful for the time that they had had with their spouse. They appreciated the care that their loved ones had received, even though a cure had not been possible. They were grateful for the access that they had had to a system that couldn’t guarantee a positive outcome, just a fair chance of success.
The widow and the widower weren’t the only recent visitors thankful for that box of tissue. It was that kind of week. A week of balancing the resentful with the grateful and the entitled with those who would give everything they possess for just five more minutes.
Who’d a thunk it? Who would have predicted six months ago that Donald Trump would be ahead in all of the Republican polls? Not me! Welcome to the 2016 I Told You So Contest. This is your opportunity to have your genius fully appreciated as you attempt to predict 2016 before it happens. There is no cost to enter and the contest is open to anyone. Please feel free to share this with all of the usual suspects – political pundits, market timers, and general know-it-alls (we know who we are).
Though the contest is for fun, there are prizes.
1st Prize – $50 Gift Card to Shuhei or the restaurant of your choice
2nd Prize – Lunch with me
All entries must be submitted to me by January 4, 2016. The winner will be determined by the number of correct predictions. In lieu of exactly correct answers, the closest to the correct answer will be given credit. The decision of the judge (me) will be final. The second tie breaker is a coin toss.
Don’t be intimidated. No one will get them all right.
- The Republican nominee will be ___________________________________.
- The winner of the 2016 Presidential election will be _____________________.
- The winner of the 2016 Ohio Senate race will be ________________________.
- The winner of the February 7, 2016 Super Bowl will be ___________________.
- The Cleveland Indians will win _____ regular season games.
- The 2016 Cleveland Browns will win _______ regular season games.
- The 2016 Academy Award for best picture will go to ______________________.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average will close on December 30, 2016 at ________.
- There will be ____ justices on the US Supreme Court on December 31, 2016.
- A gallon of milk will be $____ at Giant Eagle, Legacy village on June 30, 2016.
The picture at the top of this post is of the Introduction to Sweet Jane, signed by Steve Hunter. You can see mine at the office or get your own here. What does Jack do for a living? ________________________.
Have a Happy New Year,
It was Jewish Community Night at the Indians game. The last time I went to one of these games must have been about ten years ago, maybe longer. Whole sections were sold to various synagogues, youth groups, and public service organizations. Many of the fans looked just like the thousands of other attendees. Some of the women did look a little overdressed for a pleasant summer evening. They wore long skirts and blouses or sweaters that covered most of their arms. Some of the boys and men had brightly colored kipot (yarmulkes) a top their heads. The stadium had plenty of places to purchase Kosher Hot Dogs and they were being washed down with bottled water, soda, and more than a few beers.
As sundown approached a group of men, many of them bearded and in dark suits, stood in one of the sections, faced east, and began to quickly pray the evening service. Others joined them, though you might not have even noticed had the stadium been more crowded. The bearded men were Orthodox and once they were done, they were done. No fuss. No big deal. The daily evening service is part or their daily lives.
But what if you weren’t Orthodox? What if you weren’t even Jewish? Did some of the Protestants at the game wonder, maybe for just a moment, what was happening to their country? Was the U.S. being overrun, invaded, by bearded foreign men who spoke in a different language and wore odd clothing? Would their children, the REAL American children, be forced to change to accommodate those men in Section 505?
There are pictures of Muslims praying on Facebook. The nerve of them! What right do a couple hundred Muslims have to gather at a public park in any city in the USA, much less Brooklyn, and pray to their G-d as if it was legal and acceptable? The camera pans in and out and we see that the field is between a freeway and the water’s edge. The crowd has old men, young men, children. CHILDREN! Are these future terrorists or just the kid that sits next to your kid at lunch?
I was trying to leave my office. I needed to get home, but I watched the video twice. I forgot where I lived and I’m not sure that I can find my way home.
Aren’t we better than this? We have candidates suggesting a religious test for entry to the U.S. One blowhard even crossed the line to suggest special ID badges for Muslims. Well, we’ve seen how that plays out. It hasn’t even been one hundred years since our relatives wore those stars on their clothing. The moment we force a group, any group, to be publicly identified due to their religion is the day we permanently lose ourselves to hate and fear. G-d knows we came close during World War II and the Japanese internment camps. Mandatory identification of a religious minority would be the final step.
I didn’t forget where I lived. I live in the United States of America. We are the land of the free. The home of the brave. When I see this hate and fear from our friends and politicians I have to remind myself the value of being both Free and Brave.
Give him a cookie, maybe he’ll go away. If that line brings a smile to your face then you probably remember the greatest insult comic of all time, Mr. Warmth, Don Rickles. His audiences WANTED to be heckled by the guy on the stage. Nothing was out of bounds and nobody was safe. His humor centered on stereotypes, repeating them and holding them up to the light. And in the end he understood that he was funny because he really didn’t believe any of it. He was just being funny.
Lots of entertainers studied at the feet of Don Rickles. The most famous of them did 95 minutes recently in Iowa. An hour and a half set is a long time to do insult comedy, but another Don, Donald Trump relished the opportunity. The links so far have been to vintage Rickles and Trump. Sure, Rickles was funnier, but Trump has learned well. And as long as you don’t think about the possibility of him becoming the president, Donald Trump can be very funny.
Have we really come to this? Choosing a president this time is like shopping at the food bank – all of our options are picked over, in some way damaged, or way past their sell-buy date.
Special note to Ben Carson: The Chinese have started to exercise influence even here in Northeast Ohio. First reports are that it is delicious.
Mike Huckabee has attempted to get on the news, any news, since Friday’s terrorist attack. Gosh, I hope to never need attention that badly. This paragraph may be one of his few mentions about his new Cub Scout reference to Obama.
Bernie Sanders wants us to believe the climate change is one of the main causes of terrorism. The melting of the polar ice caps is one thing. Suicide bombers may be a stretch, almost as big a stretch as believing that Bernie Sanders could ever be elected president.
Cuba/Canadian/American, Ted Cruz, thinks that we should only let Christian Syrian refugees into our country. I’m worried about the thousands of peaceful Pastafarians who will be stopped at our borders.
Hillary Clinton. What can I say about Mrs. Clinton that the vast right-wing conspiracy hasn’t already screamed for the last twenty-five years? It doesn’t matter if any of it is true. You can debate how many of her wounds (think email) are self-inflicted. The election is a year away and I am already suffering from Clinton fatigue.
Sure we still have Kasich, Bush, O’Malley, Pataki, Schmidlap, Graham, Bush, Fiorina, Jindal, and others vying for our attention. It was a struggle just to remember all of them. Hell, give them a cookie. Maybe they’ll go away.
Dr. Ben Carson, presidential candidate and amateur self-help motivational speaker, was re-explaining his positions to Andrea Mitchell. He always sounds so calm and measured, especially if you can’t hear his actual words. We were driving back from Marietta. We could clearly hear every word and had plenty of time to listen to the entire interview.
Dr. Carson’s leadership is purely speculative. It is all If Only. If Only he was in the room with the armed assailant. He would have led the charge against the gunman unlike those hapless victims who must have just waited for their turn to die. If Only the Jews and gypsies had had guns. The armies of the Third Reich which rolled through France, Poland, etc… would have been held off by tailors with pistols. If Only…
I’m hitting fast forward
Seems like we’ve gotten kind of stuck
Time to get out of town and try to
Set the controls for sometime in the future
When people will be happy instead of
Getting dumber and getting scareder all the time
Scared of their own shadows and scared to take a fall
Either miserable with millions or dying for a dime
Desperate to live forever or lucky to live at all
Oh to hit fast forward. But how far in the future do we need to go? If we skip ahead two weeks, will we find that the Republicans have decided that the Speaker of the House, the second in line to succeed the President after the Vice-president, should be a strong leader who actually believes in government? If we skip ahead thirteen months, will we find that the election results are as clear as 2008 or will we be facing the turmoil of 2000?
How far is far enough? While some of us pine for an idealized future, others dream of an impossible return to the 1950’s and a past that never existed.
There is a nip in the air and October is but a day or two away. We are required, as Americans to make or eat at least one pumpkin pie between now and the end of December. Some of you may try to substitute sweet potatoes or yams, but the color will be about the same and you may, or may not, be able to tell the difference. I’m a huge fan of pumpkin pie and this blog has a recipe for my pecan crusted version. Still, it was time for something completely different.
This is my version of a lower carb pumpkin cake. I have seen several versions of this online. This is the first I’ve seen without tons of sugar.
1 Pillsbury Sugar Free Classic Yellow
1 15 ounce canned pumpkin
1 t Cinnamon
¼ t Nutmeg
1 Pinch of Cloves
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. My oven needs a bit of a push so I set it for 340.
- Butter a tube pan, a Bundt pan, or a 13 x 9 pan. I used a tube pan.
- Empty mix, pumpkin and spices into a large bowl.
- Separate the eggs and hand whip the whites for 2 minutes. Fold into the mix. Beat the yolks. Now stir all of the ingredients with a large spatula.
- Pour into the pan.
Bake for 40 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean.
This version was light and the pumpkin flavor was subtle. I hope that you find this a pleasant change.
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, was about to take the stage at the InterContinental Hotel. I had a ticket and had planned to attend, but I was still at my desk, staring at my computer screen, fighting my way through a meaningless quiz. I needed to get 7 out of 10 correct to get past this roadblock. The questions weren’t difficult. I eventually scored 10 out of 10. The problem was that the quiz was embedded into an animated soccer game. Slowly the question loaded. Quickly I answered. And then the animation, think circa 1994, showed a goal being scored and the goalie reacting. And then, and only then, did the process begin anew for the next question.
Somewhere a six year old is missing a quiz game.
July, August, and September are devoted to my annual recertifications. Medicare requires an online class that takes about five hours to complete. Each section of the class has periodic quizzes and a test at the end. There is a 50 question final exam. This is followed by a 2 hour class and test for each insurer. I tend to represent 3 -4 companies each year. And once I’m done with Medicare the whole process starts all over for the federal exchange.
The insurers’ classes rehash the basics of Medicare, the basic rules, and the highlights of their products. Some companies respect our time. Some, like our soccer people, pretend that they are the only company selling these products. They aren’t.
There are lots of ways to waste time in my business. (Lots. I’m posting this while I’m on a webinar!) I attended a product rollout class yesterday morning. The insurer had the best of intentions, a comfortable meeting room, and useful materials. Unfortunately, the meeting was hijacked by two guys known more for their rants than their talents. I don’t know whether they were running a latte shy or if it was the 5 to 1 ration of women to men, but these guys and their grandstanding added over 30 minutes to a meeting that was already scheduled for two long hours.
These annoyances aren’t unique to my business. Scott Adams has mined the horrors of the cubicle farm in Dilbert, his comic strip, for 26 years. But I can only share with you my challenges and my new found success at animated soccer.