The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘the internet’ Category

READY, AIM, STEAL

Poor Target Corporation.  The 112 year old retailer today disclosed that its original estimate that 40,000 of its customers’ credit and debit cards that were used during the Holiday shopping season might be low – now suggesting that as many as 70,000 such accounts might have been compromised.  In addition to card and pin numbers the data which hackers might have collected may also include home addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses.  In response, the corporation is taking steps to ameliorate the damage by offering free one year subscriptions to data security services for those customers who might have been affected.

Speaking of identity theft, the House conducted hearings late last year in which they interviewed five IT experts and asked them if, given the stories about the lack of security built into the Obamacare website, they would entrust their personal data to it.  All five responded, “No.”

Today, the House of Representatives passed a simple two page bill which it sent to the Senate where Majority Leader Harry Reid will most likely not allow it to come up for a vote.  The Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act would simply require that the government notify anyone whose identity was compromised while using www.healthcare.gov within a 48 hour period after the data breach occurred.  That doesn’t sound terribly controversial.  In fact, 67 Democrat Representatives voted in favor of the bill which passed 291-122.

Rep.Elijah Cummings, (D – MD) who voted against the bill said, “There have been no successful security breaches of HealthCare.gov.   Nobody’s personal information has been maliciously hacked.”  Prior to the assault on Target’s customers, I suspect that corporation could have made the same claim.

The purported principle underlying Obamacare is that by requiring all Americans to have health insurance it would provide greater health security for everyone.  Fortunately, one of the mandated requirements is that the policies issued under the law must include treatment for psychiatric conditions.  And that’s a good thing.

If a for-profit, well run company like Target Corporation cannot completely defend itself or its customers against electronic hacking, consider what we might expect from a flawed website where no front to back testing for security has yet to be conducted.

Incidentally, the prime contractor on the website, CGI Federal, which had a number of other flawed projects under its belt previous to their receiving this contract, was fired today.  Apparently the Obama administration has finally figured out that there is another “F” word other than the one that polite people try to avoid using.  Watch out Kathleen Sibelius.

The good news is that, considering the horrific job creation numbers for December of a mere 74,000, when the breaches to the website start occurring there should be an uptick in the earnings for the nation’s psychiatrists, psychologists and others in the mental health business.  Of course the question remains, will any of them accept the insurance that Obamacare offers?

THE CHALLENGES OF A MODERN CHRISTMAS

In our small apartment in New York there was very little room for extraneous things like Christmas trees – but somehow we managed to have one every year.  It was certainly nothing like the mammoth that appeared in Rockefeller Center, but it was fresh and new and smelled piney.

Mom had embroidered a beautiful tree skirt replete with cherubs and Wise Men and candles and there were several boxes which I presumed contained the gifts that the Magi had brought to the baby Jesus.  In addition to being decorative it was very functional.  It collected the pine needles which began dropping from the tree due to the low humidity in the apartment.

Of course, one of the great traditions was trimming the tree.  We had a small supply of ornaments which had been used for years.  And then there were some wonderful lights.  My favorite were the ones that contained oil and which  bubbled when the contents had been heated by the electric current.  They were probably dangerous and have no doubt been outlawed by some government agency in the interest of the public good.

The best part of our tree’s decorations were the Christmas cards which were strung with red or green yarn and placed strategically to fill in the gaps where there were no ornaments or lights.  There were a lot of cards as people seemed to enjoy sending them just as much as we enjoyed receiving them.  And the cards were beautiful and mostly religious in their theme.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the number of cards I have received has declined substantially.  I don’t think that this is attributable either to the demise of some of those who included me on their Christmas card list or that I’ve managed to irritate a lot of people.  No, I still get a lot of cards – but most of them are sent electronically and reside on my computer.  Most of these contain the ever so banal wish, “Season’s Greetings,” and a number are animated.  One person whose mental health I have questioned sent one last year that included fornicating reindeer.  Well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.

So as I looked at my tree, I couldn’t help feel that it was a little bit bare – devoid of the usual Christmas cards that I had enjoyed in years past.  And I tried to find a way to correct this deficiency.  Then it occurred to me.  Since I had a lot of electronic cards on my hard drive, all I needed to do was pull the laptop from my office and put it on my tree.  So I removed the star from the top of the tree and attempted to replace it with the computer.  This created a few problems.

Even a small laptop is weighty and was more than the top branches could support, so I tried to prop it up by supporting it with several brooms.  While this worked, it didn’t have quite the aesthetic look I was trying to achieve.  Furthermore, I found that even with this makeshift solution it was very difficult for me to do any work on the laptop while standing on a stool.  The pressure of my fingers typing tended to cause the laptop to shift and I was concerned that the laptop and perhaps the tree itself might topple over.  So I came up with a solution to this conundrum.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has wonderful Christmas cards.  They always put together a collection of various images from years past and box them for sale.  And as it is close to the end of the season for Christmas cards, I was able to order four boxes of wonderful religious cards at a discount which I should be receiving next week.

What I intend to do is send myself one from each of the people who sent me an electronic card and write a wonderful and warm Christmas greeting from each of them.  When they’re delivered, I’ll pull out the needle and the yarn and place them on the tree, just as my family did when I was a child.

And now that I’ve resolved this challenge to the outward displays of Christmas, I can turn my attention back to its essence.  That there was a child born who changed the world and who gave us a message which each of us is expected to observe.  That we are to conduct our lives in Peace and with Love for our fellow men and women.

YO, BAMA–DO YOU CARE?

Well, there I was, trolling through the “news” shows yesterday when I heard something that truly startled me.  That news item was that those who have been hired (through government grants to various organizations) to become “navigators” for helping people enroll in Obamacare are getting paid up to $48 per hour.  By my quick math, assuming full time employment (now defined as 30 hours per week), that comes to just about $75,000 per year.

That’s not bad when you consider that apparently all you need to qualify is 16 hours of training.  When I compared that to what we pay a starting teacher who needs to spend a minimum of four years in college, I thought this sounds like a pretty cushy job.  So I thought to myself, “Well, self.  You’re retired, have time on your hands and have a background in insurance.  Why not check it out and see if you can pick up some extra income – and potentially become a one person fifth column?”

So I went to the internet to see where there were offices in Las Vegas where people could sign up for Obamacare.   As it turned out, that was somewhat akin to the journey that Jason and the Argonauts undertook in Greek mythology.

After spending nearly two hours on the internet trying to find a “center” where they had “navigators” helping with the process, I finally gave up because each link that I checked brought me back to the same place where I had begun my search.  So, I decided to call the toll free number, stupidly thinking that I might actually be able to speak to someone.  “Oh, what fools these mortals be.”

Naturally, I followed the computer’s instructions, trying to locate a center which served my zip code.  After punching in all the requisite numbers, including my zip, the system returned the answer that, “No centers were found.”  Not to be deterred, I tried again, seeking to locate a navigator for my area.  Once again, “No navigators were found.”  So I hung up.

After sitting back for a moment, I thought of another way to attempt reaching a person.  I called back and requested information on making a payment, the first of the computerized options.  I was finally connected to a live person.  (It’s funny how government always makes it as easy as possible to send money to them).

I spoke with a nice young woman who, when I asked where I could sign up for Obamacare, effervescently responded that, while she didn’t have any “centers” listed, she did have the telephone numbers for three “navigators” who would be available to service me based on my zip code.  She then provided me with the phone numbers of these three gentlemen (yes they were all men, how sexist).

I called all three of these “navigators” to find out how they could “facilitate” my enrollment in this divinely inspired program but was unable to reach any of them so I left messages for each.  That was about eight hours ago – but I have yet to hear from any of the three.

So here’s my analysis in review of this program thus far.

We know that there are fatal flaws, a/k/a “glitches” in the computer program.  After a fair amount of effort I tried an alternative method, the old-fashioned one on one contact.  Those who are being paid a substantial rate to get people enrolled have not responded to my inquiry.  Oh, did I mention that yesterday I created an account but when I went to access information based on the computer accepted account, it didn’t recognize me?

While I can’t verify this, purportedly during the first two weeks of the rollout of Obamacare, approximately 38,000 people have signed up.  If, in fact we are going to enroll 30 million people in this program, at that rate it will take a little over fifteen years to accomplish this goal.  And that’s a good thing.

You see, if this abominable law stays on the books that long, I guess that if I’m ever able to figure out how to be a “navigator,” in that period of time I could earn over $1,125,000 – all at the expense of other taxpayers.  America – what a country.

BRAZIL – ARE YOU NUTS?!

Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Patriota is upset.  It seems that his government has received reports that billions of Brazilian email and telephone conversations have been monitored and archived by the United States of America’s “Do-gooder protect us from all evil agency”, the NSA.

On the surface, it might appear that the United States of America is employing the same sort of tactics that the former USSR used in its foreign surveillance activities.  But there are good reasons why these spying activities are in place and I would like to offer an explanation to help relieve the Foreign Minister of his concerns.

Irrespective of whether or not the Congress is able to come up with any sort of reasonable and workable immigration bill, it is clear that from the standpoint of our neighboring citizens to the south, America is still the land of opportunity.  Free phones, free food and free medical care are merely some of the benefits of living in the United States – whether that is legally or otherwise.  So who wouldn’t want to move in?

Given this continuing trend, it is my expectation that the land between Mexico and Panama within five to ten years will be empty.  That is what G-30 government analysts refer to as a “void.”  Imagine, all that land going unused – and therein lies one of the justifiable reasons for the NSA’s activities on Brazilian citizens, corporations and government.  In less than a decade, Panama City will effectively be the United States’ most southern urban establishment.

Now the nature of geography has inconveniently placed the continent of South America on which the Foreign Minister resides, awfully close to our new southern border.  And while it is true that between his country and Panama, Venezuela and Colombia are in the way, let’s face facts.

With the death of President Chavez, the Venezuelans are too busy trying to find a new dictator to rule them to care about geographic expansion, and the Colombians are too involved in perpetual fiestas funded by all the money they have made selling their drugs in the United States to care.

Brazil, the largest geographical country and the most technologically advanced in South America, naturally poses a threat with the potential of moving northward and poaching the resources of our new southern border.  And what is to prevent Brazil from continuing this wave northward?

With the abandonment of Central America and Mexico by its people in favor of the much nicer weather and other bennies to be found in the United States, Brazilian armies could just take over the entire Central American peninsula.  And the best part is that since no one will be there, your Portuguese speaking troops wouldn’t even have to take immersion courses in Spanish.  Surely, Mr. Foreign Minister you can see the threat involved to American sovereignty.

If this weren’t a long term game plan of your government, then why did you officially name your country The United States of Brazil?  Huh?  Answer me that one.

Of course, I suspect there is a bit of hubris involved in your shock and outrage at these legitimate spying activities.  I mean, Mr. Foreign Minister, do you think that you Brazilians are better than us red blooded Americans?  The NSA conducts the same sort of illegal surveillance on American citizens.  So if it’s good enough for us it should darn well be good enough for you.

And if you think otherwise – then you’re just nuts.

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