Posts Tagged ‘gaming the system’

Preface to Polyandress

January 23, 2020

From the Museum of Erotic Art in Barcelona Spain

The BACKYARD BREEDERS are, anyways. People who breed their pets for ‘fun & profit’, who sell to anyone with cash,  and don’t screen buyers to determine if they are ready for the dog they want, and don’t take any responsibility for the animals they breed…are filling our shelters.  The ‘do-gooders’ promoting ‘no-kill’ don’t count them as breeders. They are actually demonizing responsible breeders instead and are letting the bad ones totally off the hook.

They retort that no breeder is responsible. These people who influence ‘conventional wisdom‘ know nothing about animal husbandry, genetics. or animal behavior. Also, they don’t know the facts. They have a cartoonish, anthropomorphic view of animals. They hew a party line.

The facts are that over 90% of dogs in shelters were bred by backyard ‘I’m-not-a-breeder’ breeders, who deny they are breeders because they don’t have five breedable bitches, or they don’t have a kennel building, or they aren’t living off their dogs. In urban areas, most are Pit Bulls, or Pit-x, but some areas have a lot of Chihuahuas, Beagles, or shepherd type farm dogs, We’re not seeing rare breeds in shelters unless a dog has been lost. Let me take that back. Now we are seeing more Cane Corso in my metro area. I guess the foundation breeders didn’t make it clear to buyers that they should not be breeding if they weren’t going to be responsible for what they breed.

No matter. When you own the mommy animal at the time she gives birth, you are THE BREEDER.

They’ve also spread this idea that dogs are just bred for their beauty (conformation) and can’t do what they were bred d to do. That is laughably untrue.

We are ‘the fancy‘. That’s what purebred dog lovers—fanciers—call ourselves.  I’ve worked for hobby breeders for over 50 years. Most I work for are extremely concerned about genetic defects and strive to breed genetically sound dogs that can do what they were originally bred to do, and more. We call obedience, rally, agility, racing, lure coursing, hunting, dock diving, nose work, barn hunt, etc.: performance.

More important, these breeders love their dogs. They network to find homes for older dogs, often support their breed-specific rescue if a dog ends up in a shelter & the breeder can’t be found, and they will take back dogs they’ve sold if the buyer can’t keep the dog. They do not want to lose track of the dogs they’ve bred. This is why you don’t see rare breeds such as Glen of Imaal Terries, Borzoi, Clumber Spaniels,  in shelters. The breeders take them back. They also make clear to buyers why pet dogs should not be bred.

The do-gooders blame the hobby breeders, demonizing them for the situation the backyard breeders have caused.  We are losing breeds. I wonder if Bedlington Terriers or Affenpinschers have viable gene pools.

The reason I am a purebred dog fancier is predictability. A breed is considered a breed by the bona fide registry organization when the fanciers have a breed standard describing the physical dog, and dogs that breed true for three generations. With a degree of statistical certainty (with a standard deviation, I’m sure), you can tell what size, coat type, and temperament a purebred dog will have.

This is not so with mixed breeds/designer dogs. It would be amusing if it wasn’t infuriating how many grooming clients groomers have who bought ‘designer’ Poodle crosses and are disappointed with the size and coat type of the dog. If you would not buy a purebred Poodle, why would you pay more for a Poodle mix? I think the doodle breeders’ marketing must be very good. That and people don’t spend enough time researching a purchase.

Rarely do hobby breeders reach out to the public. They have too much conventional wisdom to dispell in a short amount of time. Veterinarians, who should know better, are not helping, either.

Now, due to ‘the economy’, where land rents might eat up over 50% of a household’s income, coupled with credit card debt and outstanding student loans, few people can even afford to own a dog, let alone breed them.

Ethical breeders are dying of old age. Younger people don’t have the time, money, or interest in breeding quality dogs. A veterinary dental for a dog hovers around $400 in my neck of the woods. The last thing people who have a lot of debt need is a high maintenance breed of dog, but pet buyers are naive and emotional.

When people try to guilt me about being a purebred dog fancier, I remind them that all dogs come from breeders, and I don’t want ignorant, dimwitted backyard breeders choosing the type of dog I should own. Humans ‘invented’ over 400 breeds for various reasons. it’s fine if you want to take any random dog, but we will not make a dent in irresponsible behavior; i.e. backyard breeders, if we ignore that they are the elephant in the room.

OK. So..what does that have to do with erotica? Nothing. But if I made one of the characters a dog fancier, and she explained why integrity is important, and she enjoys having mind-blowing sex…would you read that?

I rest my case.

What We’re Missing About Drug Addiction

January 11, 2020

My brother is a drug addict. He is —or was—-a licensed pharmacist and veterinarian. He had the degrees and got licenses. He  learned, how people become addicted. He told us that chemicals bond with the pleasure-seeking parts of the brain, and once that happens, there is no going back.

He was not prescribed opioids by a physician to treat chronic, physical pain. He was seeking pleasure. He knew how addiction occurred, but he had access to drugs, so he took them.

It’s true that many people take drugs to deal with psychic pain, but whatever the reason people take addictive drugs, once you are addicted unless you have a very strong personal will to totally change your life…that’s it.

I’ve had friends who became addicted to heroin in Viet Nam tell me it was easier to go through withdrawal from heroin than it has been to kick tobacco. You have to wonder…why would tobacco be legal and not other addictive drugs?

Clearly, the reason is political lobbying and marketing. We waste so much money on law enforcement, and people get shot in the crossfire. If drugs were legal, like tobacco and alcohol, we could tax sales and to an extent regulate it, but our overly puritanical ‘all or nothing’ Christian culture won’t allow it.

Now, some people just buy drugs in the cash economy, but more and more we are finding people who started on the road to addiction by physicians and hospital personnel.  The physicians don’t do any counseling about not taking too much too often, and what you will have to do if you find you are becoming dependent. The whole medical industry is totally off the hook…because they are doctors? Like Gods? They have so much integrity?

So now, because families of addicts want the rest of us to DO SOMETHING..there is a push for ‘treatment centers’ and ‘drug counselors’. The fact of the matter is, the success rate hovers around 30%. Google it, I dare you. No amount of talk therapy is going to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Your success is based on you wanting to be clean. if you have family supporting you no matter what, you have no incentive to be clean or stay drug-free. Drug addicts will tell you this. Alcoholics will tell you this.

Some people can not live without adult supervision. They can’t be trusted with money, and they can’t be trusted to not endanger themselves, and it doesn’t matter what anyone wants. If you’ve been through this with a friend or family member who has been ‘in treatment’ or ‘detox’ more than once, you know this is true.

The solution would be to have these people committed to a care environment where they can be kept busy doing physical labor, something that gets them so tired that at the end fo the day, all they can do is fall into bed.

Instead, many states license ‘sober houses’ where addicts who have been through detox and chill and not be homeless until they are ready to start using again. Colton Vooron recently wrote a very interesting article about this for the New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/10/21/my-years-in-the-florida-shuffle-of-drug-addiction

Can RPCV Influence Foreign Policy?

January 1, 2020

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

In 1992, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer  (PCV) serving as a Town Planner in Blantyre, Malawi.  This was a very tumultuous time in Malawi history…the end of an era.  PCVs are not supposed to be in ‘politically sensitive’ positions, but there I was, tasked with encouraging residents of ‘traditional housing areas’ (unplanned, squatter communities) to organize to develop recycling programs,  working on development control issues,  enforcing planning guidelines,  and making sure regular city services were provided.   I also was tasked with taking over records and rent collections for public housing in my geopolitical area—‘Local Authority,” from Malawi Housing Corporation.   I was told to do all this by the ODA—Overseas Development Assistance. This was the British equivalent to  USAID funding  Malawi government operations.

Lots was going on.  The ‘European Community’ was putting pressure on Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda to allow for a free press and to schedule multi-party elections.  Corruption, of course, was endemic.  Just about everything I did was being sabotaged by a government employee who feared I would uncover a major corruption plan that worked very well for himself and a few friends.    Business people who had ties to the Malawi Congress Party constantly complained that I was meddling. 

I tried to get others to take responsibility for some of my more unpopular, but clearly legal, decisions, but I was the only one who really was not in danger of being ‘disappeared’.

‘.

What I really wanted to do was make a difference.  I had two plans that would have really helped low-income residents of the city townships set their communities on the road to sustainability:   One plan was to give them rate (real estate tax) rebates for planting fruit trees and buying energy-efficient ceramic lined cookstoves.  The other was for them getting titles—  recording their plot ownership—with nobody being allowed to own more than one plot in a Traditional Housing Area (to prevent people from becoming absentee landlords).

Unfortunately, there was no political will.   With the squeeze on for political reforms, foreign aid was frozen.  The Malawi Kwatcha was devalued by over 30% (although government high-level managers were immediately compensated with raises), causing a general strike.

 I was finally threatened by a Host Country National, who complained directly to Peace Corps, because I had demonstrated that I had the capacity to take down illegal developments.

30 years have passed.  I visited Malawi three years ago.  Not much has changed, and what has changed has increased social stratification. Yes, more people have access to credit, but deforestation and overfishing are really taking a toll.  Social indicators have barely improved, but even very poor rural people have access to cell phones..

I believe that once most PCVs have a base in the place where they are serving, they realize that good intentions are not enough.  In some cases,  teachers are really making a difference.  In other places, volunteers are being used as  ‘place fillers’ or technical support, and underlying issues are not being addressed.

I started thinking about this again, just recently, when Ambassador Daniel Foote, our man in Zambia, said what needed to be said:  This is an excerpt from a report on National Public Radio:   ”…..  it started last month with this court ruling where they sentenced two men to 15 years in prison for having sex with each other. The ambassador said he was “horrified” by Zambia’s jailing of same-sex couple Japhet Chataba and Steven Sambaand.  The Zambian government basically told him to mind his own business. And Ambassador Daniel Foote then unloaded. He released a diplomatic statement, that I have seen, you know, few as pointed as this one was.

And he said that the U.S. had saved more than 1 million lives in Zambia with just its HIV programs, and then he went on to accuse the government of being hypocritical, of outright stealing millions of dollars intended to go to important welfare programs. He said that while the corrupt officials doing that don’t even get a slap on the wrist, two men having sex get 15 years in jail. And then he said that everyone should just stop pretending that the U.S. and Zambia have cordial relations.”

 

Long story short,  “…..Zambian President Edgar Lungu was seething mad, and he essentially declared the ambassador persona non grata, and the U.S. had to pull him out of the country.” Oh, btw (from Wikipedia) In 1992, Foote became a Peace Corps volunteer in Sopachuy, Bolivia.

We do-gooders, American citizens,  naively believe our foreign policy upholds human rights and fights corruption. We also believe we are donating money so people can get on the road to both economic and environmental sustainability.  This would be laughable were it not so tragic.  How can Peace Corps Volunteers serve in countries with so little regard for basic human rights?  Certainly, our gay brothers and sisters are not safe.

We all come to consciousness about what is ‘right’, ‘fair’ and ‘tolerable’ in our own time.  Many of us do not remember legal racial discrimination, or that inter racial relationships were illegal in many parts of the USA.  Many of us have never heard the expression that “Rights are never given. They are always taken.”

Going back a bit further, in the USA many women (and people of color) could not get access to contraception without the permission of a husband, or credit without a man co-signing (I have personal experience with this).

Now, many of us might laugh at how stupid and unfair, even counterproductive such laws were.  They were developed by (white) men who wanted to legally restrict those not like themselves.

Is there not a PVC who has not said, “If only the policymakers acted with integrity”?

Being from Chicago, where we had a political machine for over 60 years, I’m in no position to say whether a country is more or less corrupt than where I live.  Because I’ve traveled, I’ve experienced being with people who live in communities that have benefited by the mindset that when wealth is shared and opportunities are equalized, everyone benefits.

How can we tell where the policies of equalization work?  We can look at the improvement of social indicators since the end of WWII, with the correlation of the introduction of Peace Corps Volunteers into countries.  Why is it literacy rates, improvements in infant and maternal mortality, flourishing communications infrastructure,  and access to credit in places like Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and Costa Rica have improved life outcomes in those countries, as well as economic growth, but Nigeria, Mauritania, Malawi, India, and Bangladesh still have such a high percentage of people living in poverty, with no in improvement in social indicators?  Obviously, it is not just a lack of political will, but being rewarded with foreign aid no matter how corrupt they are.  We used to justify this because they weren’t ‘communist’ countries, but what does that really mean?

I’ve joked that the Danes should be in charge of all foreign aid, because, according to Transparency International, Denmark is the least corrupt country on the planet. hpps://www.transparency.org/cpi2018

Is it really too much to ask for transparency, a free press, and respect for RULE OF LAW?  Shouldn’t foreign assistance of any kind ( that is not humanitarian or crisis aid) be linked to accountability and ‘best practice’?

What good does it do us as volunteers when we ignore human rights abuses?  We look disingenuous.

Obviously, the Trump Administration, with his bloviating over the corruption in  Ukraine, isn’t really concerned about corruption in other countries, or even are own when  ‘swamp dwellers’ as most of us would have identified them have been put in charge of government agencies and purses.  Isn’t it time that we, who have served,  address our responsibilities as global citizens?

I am sure most of us who are not involved in the sausage-making wonder on what basis it is that funding is offered to any foreign country. The late George Crile, in his book, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” described in well-researched detail who got what and why over  30 years ago.  Not much has changed:  From the Rapid City, South Dakota, Journal, we got  an interesting piece of information that  Crile addressed: https://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/sd-republican-leader-receives-k-monthly-for-pro-saudi-arabia/article_b1352b18-3685-5515-b103-05f3536fcbbe.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share&fbclid=IwAR0EnV8VdpFBTcT1uR3KjUDZxVu2_AVPMi5n_npBX9wKcvU5NOMXLYE8zQ8

Now, granted, Dan Lederman is not an elected official. He is merely a lobbyist for a foreign country and also happens to be the head of the GOP  in…South Dakota.  One has to wonder how he got connected to the Saudis, but never you mind.  This is how our foreign aid budget is allocated.   Can you say Quid Pro Quo?

Thankfully, now that we have the internet, it is easier for all of us to get this information in a timely fashion.  But  I also know that because so many  PCVs returned disillusioned, and feel that we can’t overcome this, they’ve become less politically active.

I think the ideas of accountability and sustainability, as well as respect for human rights should now be part of the discussion. We are invited by host countries to serve. We’ve demonstrated our value.  Shouldn’t Peace Corps state that this is what we want in return?

Book review: Candy Girl, by Diablo Cody

October 31, 2019

 

 

If you saw the movies ‘Juno’ , ‘Tully’, or ‘More’, you know this woman can tell a story. She can really set a scene, and it’s easy to see how her description of a somewhat sleazy undertaking became a launching pad for her.

Candy Girl is about her foray into the world of ‘exotic dancing’: stripping. She claims she was bored with her job at a marketing agency. Although she was well-liked and promoted, she felt unfulfilled, so she decided to try stripping at local clubs in Minneapolis.

Her boyfriend is all for it, and very supportive. She walks into a club, says she is interested in dancing, and is hired. Just like that. She meets women from all walks of life, and learns how the system works, which she explains in detail. If you’ve seen the Jennifer Lopez movie, ‘Hustlers’, you get a sanitized version of the life. Most women do not do that well. However, they are making more money than they would as elderly companions, cooks, or child care workers.

She explains this, and how she saved enough money for a car and a down payment on a house. This is not erotica. It is a description of work for a better income than she could make from what her college education prepared her for.

I’d like to think of myself as a writer, but this Cody Diablo really paints a picture. This should be a classic. I’m sure you can find it on Amazon. If you’ve ever wondered if this is a possibility for you, read this book. Even if you say, “I could never do this, you will find a brave writer here vividly describing what she and others did.

The Newest Scam: Pretrained Puppies

September 20, 2019

My Saluki as a young dog.Sold as a pet, he finished his AKC championship in fewer than 10 shows.His breeder trained him—& didn’t charge for the training!

Anyone working in service in the pet industry knows…’the fancy ‘ is dying. there are fewer and fewer ETHICAL HOBBY BREEDERS, BREEDING FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THEIR BREEDS.  Often, you have to be on a waiting list  if you want a puppy.  Thus, what is happening is that our clientswho had previously  chosen and owned purebred dogs are buying—-for way too much money—mixed breed ‘designer’ dogs (meaning a mix of 2 breeds) or, trusting  very well produced websites that claim they work with ‘reputable ‘ breeders & will choose a dog for you…without ever meeting you—just what you tell them in an email or on the phone

When I worked in Africa,  the country I was in was, essentially, a dictatorship.  it was a single party system.  One day, the ‘life president’ gave a speech, and of course,the next day it was reported in the  (state owned) newspaper how well-received the speech was to the crowd in the stadium.  I was talking  about it with my co-workers, and they said, “Well Robyn, notice there are no photos of the crowds in the stands.”   You had to read between the lines.

I bring this up because some clients, very nice people, older, no kids, recently bought a dog from a website: http://www.snakerivercanine.com.  They had had two Miniature Schnauzers in a row. The last one had kidney failure (not uncommon in the breed, possibly genetic…), but they kept him alive  for years. They spent a lot of money on veterinary care & there was no doubt they loved him.

I knew that ultimately, they would want to get another Schnauzer puppy, but we got out of touch.  I thought they might call me for a referral to a breeder, but the fact is that not only are local breeders  getting old and no longer breeding, one of the most well known breeders in the country, Joan Huber, who really bred some outstanding dogs, got shut down for  cropping her own dogs ears.  She was arrogant, and invited the wrong people to work for her.  She essentially was a commercial breeder.  However, that’s how it is now. If you want a Miniature Schnauzer that looks and acts like a Miniature Schnauzer, you could have done a lot worse than Blythewood, her kennel. You could have gotten a dog from the so-caled ‘reputable breeders’ that Snake River buys from to resell. How do I know?  Go to their website.  I’ve worked with really reputable breeders for years. so many different bloodlines—and these people have studied their breeds.  You  go to a dog show, and  all  the Miniature Schnauzers are. 13.5 inch dogs —extremely uniform in size—salt and pepper color (sometimes solid black, or black & silver).  & that is the breed.

So, how is it the  Snake River dogs are  parti-colored, liver colored, and even blue eyed?  Well, my client says he got papers, and they are AKC.  & his veterinarian  told him the AKC wouldn’t accept the registration if they weren’t purebred. Huh?  The reason so many dog clubs and truly ethical hobby breeders are taking their stud books back is because the AKC doesn’t enforce their studbooks.   they wil register a camel if you have the papers & submit the fees. They do not sue breeders who breed  mixes and claim they are purebreds. There is no way a purebred Miniature Schanuzer could be liver colored, parti-colored. or have blue eyes unless another breed was in the mix. The odds of  so many  of these livestock/commercial breeders having dogs of these off colors with blue eyes is about a billion to one.

We’re seeing Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, and Pomeranians  with these colors, including merling.  Breeds that for decades (keep in mind, these breeds have been breeding ‘true’ for between 100 and 200 years)—‘rare’, and ‘exotic’ colors. These dogs, no matter what the ‘papers’ say—are not purebred dogs. Those registration papers are only as honest as the breeders.

So, what these sellers do, as you will see from the  website, is buy puppies and ‘train’ them for you.  As we were discussing…aside from housebreaking, leash training, and possibly the ‘sit’, what can these  women be  training for….$6000?

Last year, a client asked us how much we would charge for  housebreaking a puppy. I had no idea. I said $200. What an idiot I am!

Go  back to the Snake Rive website. These women are very good with prose. Still, if you don’t know Schnauzers, you’d think these women have integrity.

I pointed out to my client.  While I am happy they love their puppy,  these women are not honest. They are excellent marketers. They are…Christians (we are Jewish). They believe, I am totally sure…that because Jesus Christ is their savior, they are imperfect people, and even if they lie and cheat people, as long as they ask Jesus for forgeiveness, they will go to Heaven.

They consider those of us with our own ‘moral compass’ to be heathens and a threat.  I sure hope I am a threat.  I am just not as good at ripping people off.

 

book review: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” by Chris Kenry

June 29, 2019

I found this book in a neighborhood book bin.  The main  character, raised  upper middle class,  was the ‘boy toy’of an older gay man who was killed in a freak accident. Suddenly Jack is destitute. His college major was art history.  He never had a plan.  Meanwhile, due to self-indulgence, he got himself into massive credit card debt.  He had no idea what to do, but  because of a gay friend, he, by chance, met  Ray. He also had to apply for public aid, but since he  was not a good waiter,and could brely manage ‘custoner serive’,  he  signed up for an entrepreneurship program .  One thing led to another, and he  found he and Ray were into what we’d euphemistically call the ‘escort’ business.

I  found this book (published in 2001:  https://books.google.com/books/about/Can_t_Buy_Me_Love.html?id=Q0ATjNjLMdMC&hl=en),  very funny and well written.  I’d suggest it to anyone with an open mind who  might be interested in starting a business.  They guys do get caught…but they couldn’t ber nailed on tax evasion!

How this On-line Dating Thing Works

June 16, 2019

I haven’t had an actual date in over 40 years. Let’s start with that.  Why?  The guy I was with was not just a cheapskate…he didn’t want anyone seeing him with a white woman in public.  He won’t admit it, and things have changed…but too late.  He had his chance  and blew it royally.

I really don’t know why his mindset changed, but I know why  my mindset did.  I’ve been living with a man for  almost  20 years.  We do not have a physical relationship.  I am not his ‘cup of tea’.  Because I’m a woman, I accept that, and I accept that we get along well as roommates.  He’s the most reliable man I ever met.  He gives me stability.  I incorporated  aspects of our relationship into my book, ‘Polyandress’, which should be  published aroung the end of 2019.

I was lucky to have  a couple of  good, adventurous, tender, giving lovers in my  younger days.  Are any of those men still out there at the age I am?

Pickings are slim.  As my sister says, we’re lucky to have a gene which keeps our skin looking good.  We’ve aged relatively well.  I am finding men even younger than I am  often look old enough to be my father.  Appearances don’t matter to a lot of guys,  they matter to me.

Another issues is that these guys  are…lonely.  I am not lonely.  I want ‘romance’.  Is that a euphemeism for  an interesting sex life? Guilty.  But, as my grandmother told us over 50 years ago…these guys are looking for a cook and a nurse.

I bet a lot of women over 50 , particularly those who have no retirement plan except Social Security, are looking for a guy to improve their ‘quality of life’ in an economic way.  Spreading costs between  2 Social Securuty checks is a good plan if you have nothijng. That’s not me.

I own property, I have a retirement plan I built via research and  investing.  I am, if a  guy  pushes, looking for a guy to keep me in the style to which I would like to become accostomed.  I am accustomed to the style I live in already.  Both my grandmothers  told us girls that this was what we should aim fior.

Crass?  You can be stupid when you are young and think you are in love. I am not looking to make my economic situation more precarious.

Unfortunately….these dating sites leave a lot to be desired.    No matter what parameters you put in, they suggest  guys who don’t meet your criteria. Proximity is important. They ‘match’ you with guys way too far away.  Maybe some women don’t care &  are willing to move. I’ve had long distance relationships and I am not interested. I say in my profile, I am not looking  for a guy  obesessed with spectator sports. They send  profiles of guys who love a sports team or love to watch them on TV.  I say I am not looking for a Christian guy. They send Christians.  Not guys under or over a certain age. Too many. Or, the guy is in my age range, but you look at his profile, and HE wants someone younger.  I say I am a progressive. Do I have to spell it out?  Trump supporters respond, Ugh.  On one site, I get responses from men  overseas, 30 years younger.  Please…

On ‘Plenty of Fish’,, in the past two months:   A guy who wanted to know my bra size (I am busty…you don’t need to know  that until you are prepared to buy me a bra); two Christian guy who go to churche every week (&  they wondered why that should matter); and 3 guys who said ‘Let’s Meet’, and I said, “Great!  Pick a time and a date’ and they didn’t follow through.  So much for taking a risk.

Both Match  and  JDate want you to pay extra to actually be put in touch. so, you really don’t know who, like me, put up a profile, then didn’t actually pay.  So you can’t meet.

On all sites,  a few—I’d say less than 5%—-seem really good looking, fun, and interesting—-but are over 40 miles away. We’re too old to deal with that distance.

I bet these sites work if you are under the age of 40, or if you are willing to give up your life and  move to a strange place for  what you hope to be a romance and marriage..  I may be interested in moving after I’ve actuly formed a relatioship with a man, but not now.

So, this has beenmy experience.

 

Mayor Lightfoot: Here’s Your Chance!

June 3, 2019

I am sure most people in the rest of the country, let alone Chicagoans, wonder “What the f**k happened?” A true long shot whom hardly anyone knew, got elected mayor.

Let me give this a bit of context. Our mayor, Rahm, who sold himself as a ‘progressive’ (after all, he was Obama’s Chief of Staff…). made things worse, if that was at all possible. Our biggest problem was and is paying for running the city. Shootings? Please. Yes, there are a few pockets of neighborhoods that are totally out of control, but there is no mystery about why this is: absentee landlords who don’t do credit checks on landlords, lots of poorly educated adults who can’t make a living wage bearing children they can barely parent, no jobs for the unskilled… a true lack of both literacy and numeracy…and police designating that, since they will never eliminate crime, ‘containing’ it to certain neighborhoods.  Yes…that’s right:  the police know who the problems are…they  just don’t  make arrests because they do a poor job of collecting evidence & they  know  too many judges give probabtion (meanwhile, we have  non-violent people taking up space for drug violations…,.go figure…)

We had about 14—yes—14 candidates running for mayor, and virtually all had either (Democratic) machine ties, or were outliers: Not funded well, unlikable supporters (Amara Enyia— Kanye West and Dorothy Brown. Dorothy has been under indictment…Amara, you blew it…). Where had Gery Chico been all these years? Bill Daley? Totally clueless. He felt there would be enough white people votes, and that everyone would forget his father and brother. I had voted for Susana Mendoza for comptroller, but she really offered nothing new. I was leaning towards former school teacher Toni Preckwinkle. I was almost ready to forgive her support for corrupt assessor Joe Berrios, and then it came out she put Alderman Ed Burke’s totally useless son on her payroll at $100,000 for doing virtually notnhing but harass and annoy people (while cutting other county jobs).

So, essentially, due to so many candidates running (Unless you went online and looked at their platforms, you wouldn’t know what their actual platforms were), and a very low voter turnout, Lori won by default.

We all know what the problems are, and many of us know the solutions, In fact, Ken Dunn, of Resource Center, who started out as a Peace Corps Volunteer, then developed a reputation as a community-based recycler, has helped to create more income generating projects for marginally employable people than just about anybody in Chicago. Yet, because he’s not an elite and doesn’t contribute to political causes, he’s virtually ignored.

But I digress. Rahm declined to run. He would have won based on inertia, But he bowed out, leaving us with a bigger mess in terms of debt & the proverbially underfunded pension funds than he came in with. He had the intelligernce and the means to fix this. He just chose to enrich elites. Several great examples of this are:

  1. His predessor, Richard M. Daley, bought a shuttered hospital for….? Oh, right… the city was acquiring land for the Olympics before we got the bid to host (we didn’t—-dodged a bullet there! Ask any city that has hosted since the 1970s if they made or lost money on hosting!). So with taxpayer money, Daley bought Michel Reese Hospital for way more than it would have sold for. It sits there, akin to a shuttered nuclear power plant. Then, Rahm decides that the city needs a $9 million training center for the police—-way across town. Why? Why couldn’t this site be reconfigured? Nobody gives a clear answer. I partly blame the press in Chicago for pandering. In fact, Georg Lucas wanted a site for a Star Wars museum. This site would have been perfect! Very easily accessible by public transportation. No, Lucas and his wife, who don’t live in Chicago, wanted a site on the lakefront. It was the lakefront or nothing. So, it turned out to be nothing. They took their toys and went home because the lakefront belongs to all of us. Rahm tried to get his way for them, but a fluke, democracy prevailed.
  2. By having an appointed rather than elected school board, Rahm got us Barbara Byrd Bennet, a military veteran who had been a school administrator with no apparent record for improving educational outcomes anywhere. Worse, she committed massive fraud. She cost the citizens a huge amount of money (she was convicted) and closed down many schools instead of improving them. We had implemented Local School Councils over 20years ago, which never got enough support from CPS, but no matter. Rahm should be held as accountable as BBB, and we need an elected school board.
  3. The pension fund shortfall. What sense does it make to have about half a billion dollars (according to journalist Ben Joravsky and a few others who have analyzed the budget) sitting there in a Tax Increment Financing Account, and then issue bond funds to pay for what this TIF $$$ should be paying for?
  4. In fact—- did nobody in city government at all DO THE MATH of giving $900,000,000 to Lincoln Yards developers? Forget about the traffic, and that any jobs to be created for our proverbially ‘low income/unskilled’ citizens would be temporary in nature. How much does this actually add to the cost of each housing & business unit…and how do we get paid back? The reason for TAX INCREMENT FINANCING is to support a project that—but for the lack of money—-would not be built. This complex only benefits elites. If the developers could not get financing from the private sector, it should not have been approved. That’s how capitalism works. For our aldermen to approve this project shows that they are grossly overpaid…. and arrogant, and innumerate. I don’t know if we will be able to overcome this because we also have…
  5. The pension funds being underfunded…hello! Wasn’t Tony Rezko, the politically connected fundraiser for both political parties, for some reason on the committees that approved pension plans for public employees? No matter. Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union members and teacher had a great idea: tax trades at the Chicago Board of Trades. I know from working for elites that they’d never miss the money. they may ultimately move out of the city but until then… what’s the alternative? To continue adding to the hotel tax?

 

Mayor Lightfoot— embarass the incumbents who got re-elected—for being arrogant, innumerate, and failing their constituents. They waste money and reward their friends. They pander.You really have nothing to lose!

The New Bait & Switch: Long Term Care Insurance

June 9, 2018

Insurance. Everyone loves the topic. The first thing you need to know about insurance is that the business is modeled on fear that you won’t have the money to fix something, or to live, after a disaster, and the company not paying out. That’s it, pure & simple.  The odds are, your house won’t burn down (as an ‘act of God’, like a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake are not covered unless you specifically pay for that kind of additional coverage).  You may have an accident in your car, like by sliding on ice or being  pushed by another car, but odds are  it won’t happen…but if it does…

In an ideal world, our government would offer the same kind of  insurance for citizens that  all the governments of all developed countries offer: health insurance, a decent old age pension, assistance for the elderly.

This is not the ideal world. This is America, where insurance is not considered a right, but a commodity to be  bought and sold.

I totally understand the need for home owners liability and fire insurance, as I understand the need for car insurance, but for the last several decades, the  insurance industry has been  promoting  long term care insurance.  It had been sold as an annuity:  you pay in  every year for  a certain number or years, until  you are vested, and the fee is the fee…no matter how old you get…and the benefit is locked in with the fee. For me,  It WAS  $1564.91 per year as offered by  Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, and offered, after a 90 days ‘exclusionary period ‘(where you actually had to pay  for care on your own, at a rate of well over $100 per day..), once you notified Northwestern Mutual that you needed to benefit, it started paying $220 per day for  a nursing home, There were other benefits as well if you didn’t need a nursing home, ‘but assistance’.  However, the cap on benefits— ‘defined benefit’ as they call it, for my plan, is $481,800.  That’s it.

This seemed like a decent value 10 years ago.  How did Northwestern Mutual come up with the cost of the policy? Why…they paid actuaries:  mathematicians not only trained, buy licensed by the state, to  come up with fees, costs, and what the company  would need to  still be profitable if they paid out.  Really.  I-thought—BY LAW—the contract I signed was the deal.

Apparently not.   Apparently, all those actuaries that were employed by all the companies offering  Long Term Care insurance, in a phrase, fucked up royally. They are claiming now, 13 years into my paying the locked in rate for locked in benefits, that “….thanks to medical advances, people are living longer today than ever before.  While this is something we are thankful for, it has increased the anticipated cost of future LTC claims for the industry as a whole….”  So. long story short, they want to raise the rates $380 a year, to  $1942.60 until  2021, and they the rate will be  $2460.60. They claim they don’t anticipate a rate increase after that.  Riiight—-as I have a contract that says the rate is $1564.91  PREMIUM PAYABLE FOR LIFE.  What did I miss?

More bullshit follows.  People are not living appreciably longer than they were 10 years ago when they sold me the policy.  While there is a lot of ‘fake news’ out there, you can Google life expectancy. https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html  or how about: http://www.data360.org/dsg.aspx?Data_Set_Group_Id=195

They are raising rates because they know nobody is going to charge them with fraud.  Or,actually,  after I complained to my state representative that the the foxes watching the henhouse at the Illinois Department of Insurance approved a rate hike of 25% for the next 3 years, and then 50%  I  got a  letter from the president & CEO explaining that they had to justify the increase to the Illinois Dept. of Insurance.  The whole point of buying the policy while I was ‘young’ (in my very late 40s) was to keep premiums low, but alas, you can’t beat the house—ever.  To make this even  crazier….insurance is based on a pyramid scam:   new policies help fund  old policies…but they are not writing any new policies, at all, at any price.  I have  very wealthy friends who would like to preserve wealth for their children in case they have to go into a nursing home, and these parents can’t buy a policy at even $20,000 a year.

What I learned was, not only is Northwestern Mutual raising their rates, but Unum, Allianz, and  several other companies are….same excuse:  “People are living longer”   and interests rates are  down..all the same  per centage. What are the odds?  Also—-very  funny—-this  insurance policy is only good in the USA.  You can’t go to Mexico, India, Viet Nam, etc, where the cost of  care is much cheaper.

Capitalism  relies on  integrity.  It relies on the concept that if  a seller says a product is a  certain price, you pay that price.  Otherwise, there is no trust. That’s what Adam Smith said in so many words.  But if Trump can change the terms of a contact when it is inconvenient for him, why not everyone?  As I said, people are not living longer. What is happening is that  the people who bought this policy are expecting it to pay out and are taking advantage of the benefit they paid for. The actuaries were wrong (and whether you like it or not,  our rates paid their salaries as well).  This is right up there with the GOP  insisting that Social Security is an entitlement after we’ve all paid for it….and they are convincing journalists to call it an entitlement.  But I digress.

So, they’ve given me 3 options:  to accept the rate increase, to continue to pay the same rate at a vastly reduced benefit, or no longer pay anc accept  the benefit of the premiums I have already paid, which are $20, 334.

I am still mulling over pros and cons of keeping this policy in force, but no matter what the law says, i…and many others I know, feel defrauded.

 

Mental Illness is not a Moral Failing

November 3, 2017

Recently, I’ve been pursued by an anonymous bully.  I have an inkling of who he is, but not where.  Hell, in the modern world, does it matter where he is?  He’s crafty.  He doesn’t have the balls to  call me directly…he calls my  employer and harasses office staff.  He’s done this to me several times, and I’ve been fired for it.  Don’t tell me what is legal or illegal. Women are fearful of men, and will acquiesce.

This guy has posted that I am crazy and mentally ill. His point?  That he is better than me?  Stronger?  More intelligence?  Not sure what his point is.  I think he is probably more mentally ill than I am, but nothing we can do about it.

Being mentally ill doesn’t mean you can’t think. Not all mental illness is schizophrenia or dementia.  I  was taking medication for depression at one time, and a friend said to me, “You know, you might have to take that for the rest of your life.” And I responded, “If I were diabetic, would you say the same thing to me?”

People clearly don’t understand mental illness. Wouldn’t YOU be mentally ill if someone you didn’t know was attacking you, calling your boss telling them to fire you, and  you didn’t know why?  Wouldn’t that cause you stress? Well, stress is also mental illness.

But..it is not a moral failing.   A moral failing is taking an action that you know affects your community in a negative way—and doing it on purpose.  Finding a dog, knowing that someone lost it, and not attempting to find the owner, but deciding you will be a better judge of what a good home is.

Rescuing a dog from an animal shelter and finding out it is a biter, and knowing what it will take to make that dog a pet and not doing what needs to be done, because you are either too lazy or want to spend the money on other things…is a moral failing.   Keeping that dog confined for months—or years, because you aren’t killing it…but not making sure that dog isn’t stressed out every day he lives…is a moral failing.

Breeding a dog that you know had  genetic ‘defects’ that not only affect its quality of life, but will cost a lot of money, when you  don’t have to breed that dog…is a moral failing.

Denying that any of this is important, and running a business that you promote as humane…is a moral failing.

I had written all this months ago, and because I work  in the pet industry, I encounter a lot  of this.  Just recently, many women have come forward and spoken out about being harassed by men.  it’s not all sexual harassment, you see, but it is still all about bullying women.