I write all day at work. Lucky! you might say. And yeah, it’s the kind of work I’m good at. But it’s not that simple.

You see, I work for a health insurance company, and my job is to write correspondence, all day long, letting doctors and hospitals know why we’re not paying them for treatment–or not paying them as much as they thought we would be.

There are all kinds of reasons for why a medical provider might not get paid. They didn’t jump through the hoops of getting the treatment authorized. They did not sign a contract with us. Our medical experts have reviewed the treatment and deemed it to be experimental.

I can take some slight comfort in the fact that most of the time, when the insurance coverage is denied, the provider is required to write the charges off–so they are not allowed to bill the denied amount to the patient. Still, I’m sure the extra costs are passed on in one form or another.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, just to let you know that I am, in fact, what Sarah Palin and the Tea Party warned you about back when they were screaming about Obamacare. I am the bureaucrat who stands between you and your health care.

Of course, Republicans are strangely silent about people like me. Apparently, the fact that I’m getting paid for my health care denials by a private corporation rather than the government makes them more acceptable. On their end, medical providers have to create entire departments to deal with insurance billing and authorization rules, time and money which isn’t being spent on treating patients. Once again, though, the same conservatives who abhor extra government regulations are very capable of turning a blind eye to those same regulations when they are created in the name of private profit.

The truth is, health care costs will need to be controlled, no matter what the system in place. If we ever do have a single payer system, it will be funded with taxpayer money, and that taxpayer money should be treated with respect. We will still have to determine that the treatment being prescribed is reasonable, and that providers aren’t recommending unnecessary procedures (and by the way, providers trying to charge patients for fraudulent or ineffective treatment is something which happens frequently in our for-profit health care system). Republicans try to paint a scary picture of a single payer system in which you will be restricted from getting the care you want, whereas they claim that in a privatized health care system you have the freedom to choose any doctor and treatment you like. That is simply not true. Sure, you are free to choose any service you like–if you can pay the sky-high uninsured costs for it, which the vast majority of people can’t. You need health insurance to help pay for your care, and when you have insurance, the insurance company restricts what care you can get.

Of course, in our system the very wealthy do have the freedom to pursue whatever kind of medical treatment they want–and travel to get it wherever they like–and these are really the only people the conservatives in Congress care about, anyway.

My fundamental point is that single payer health care is nothing to be scared of. Your health care options are not going to be any more restricted than they are now, and you will be able to get treated for your illness or injury without having to go bankrupt in the process. Not a bad idea at all.

Take it from a health insurance bureaucrat.

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I rarely ever post non-fictional political blogs anymore, mainly because everything is just too depressing.  And it’s not just the scandalous tweet of the day….it’s all the stupid little things.  Today I was once again reminded that we left the UN Human Rights Council a couple months ago, and felt another little pang of regret for another stupid decision.

Sure, the UN is mostly a rambling deliberative body and isn’t capable of stopping war and conflict in the world.  But it’s the symbolism of the thing.  The Human Rights Council continues speaking out on rights violations in Myanmar, Sudan, Syria.  The United States is not a part of that anymore, only confirming the suspicion that it didn’t care much about this stuff in the first place, anyway.

Is it a coincidence that we’re leaving the Human Rights Council just as our country is on a not-so-subtle slide down the road to fascism?  Legal residents are having their passports taken away.  Journalists are condemned as the “enemy of the people.”  Many refugee children torn away from their parents have still not been reunited with them.  What other human rights violations would the Trump administration love to be able to get away with?  What violations is it planning to get away with in the near future?

Anyway, there are my sad musings for the night.  For what it’s worth, another reason I have less time to blog is that I have been phone banking and canvassing like crazy for my local Democratic Party.  Will there actually be a Blue Wave coming in November?  I have no idea.  I’m the wrong person to ask, because I’m naturally a pessimist…about everything.  But I will keep working for it, whatever the chances of it happening may be.  Lord knows we need someone different than the people in charge right now.

 

 

One fine day, I decided that I, too, would build a wall. It would be the most beautiful wall, the best wall. It would keep all the scary stuff out. I would put the wall in my front yard. I didn’t like how my driveway was open to everyone. Way too many random drivers were using it as a turnaround spot. And more and more people were moving into my neighborhood. God only knows who all was coming in these days.

My fantasy was to make the wall out of gold and pink marble, like one of President Trump’s bathrooms. Unfortunately, I wasn’t rich–in fact, I could barely afford my retirement. So I would work with what I had. I started stacking old cans and beer bottles up to form the foundation of my wall. A few of my neighbors gave me strange looks, but they just didn’t understand what going after the American dream is all about.

My next door neighbor came over to chat with me. She was one of those do-gooders who have to stick their nose into everything. She said she loved my art project about recycling. Annoying old witch. Soon, I would no longer have to see her. Once my wall was tall enough, I would no longer have to see anyone. I wouldn’t have to see the kids running down the sidewalk, screaming “Hi!” at me. If I made it soundproof, I wouldn’t have to hear the crazy dog across the street barking its head off. Or the cars driving by with their rap music turned up way too loud.

Over the next couple months, I kept building away. I brought whatever junk I could find to my construction site, and taped and glued it together. But it still wasn’t enough to make a truly intimidating barrier. I even tapped into the emergency food and water supplies I was saving for the inevitable war against the government, so that I could add the emptied packaging to my wall. I took the old newspapers piling up in the guest bedroom and ground them up, using the paste to plug holes in my structure. I hesitated for a moment when it came to my books–but, really, it was a no brainer. Defending my property was far more important than reading.

I stood back and surveyed my work with pride. It was beautiful. But something was missing. Something big.

How could I have not thought of it earlier? All the idiots on TV hated the President. Watching it was a waste of time.

It was just as I was pondering how exactly I would make the television a part of my masterpiece that the mailman drove up.

“Hello!” he called out with a smile. I could barely see him from behind several feet of wall material.

“What’s all this?” he asked.

“It’s…a new security system.” I tapped my fingers nervously on a rusting can. “Gotta be careful. All kinds of people out there. I know it doesn’t look like much right now, but I’m working on building more layers.”

“Oh. How are you going to pick up your mail?”

Good question. I hadn’t thought that through. It seemed that his voice was tinged with a little sadness. We always used to talk whenever I was out in my yard. He was a real friendly guy. But we were living in the end times, and I couldn’t let myself worry about that.

“I’ll leave a crack for you to slip the mail into,” I ventured.

Once I had nailed the TV down, hacking the rest of my furniture to bits was the next logical step. I didn’t have any sentimental feelings as I methodically destroyed my home. The dining table–I never had any guests over for dinner. The chest with my childhood toys. The shelves, the chairs, the bed. I didn’t mind sleeping on the floor. It was best for me not to sleep too comfortably anyway.

My wall–my baby–kept growing. It was now far taller and thicker than I had ever envisioned, blocking out the neighboring houses and the late sunset skies. I even managed to make some DIY barbed wire to decorate the top.

One evening, as I sat in my gutted house sipping a glass of water which had been carefully filtered through my sock, I heard sirens approaching. I paused and listened. Yep, they had come to a stop in front of my place.

I went out to greet them. I liked cops, for the most part. It wasn’t their fault that they worked for a corrupt government. Of course, that didn’t mean I wouldn’t take a weapon out there with me.

I heard the cop’s voice coming through the makeshift mail slot.

“Good evening! We’re here because someone gave us a call about a structure which violates building and safety codes…”

That stupid woman again.

“You know how it is–we had to check it out. That’s quite a fence you got yourself there.”

“Did what I had to do. This neighborhood isn’t what it used to be. You understand what I mean, officer.”

“Hahahaha…sure do, but don’t say that too loud, or some of your neighbors will get even more offended. You armed?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. We need armed citizens like you. You keep an eye on things. Or an ear, I guess.” He chuckled. “Excuse me…there’s some punk in a hoodie walking around here. Gonna go take care of that.”

“Thank you for your service, officer.”

The sirens sped off again.

Even though the police had been so reasonable, the incident made me even more paranoid. All my suspicions were confirmed–I couldn’t trust my neighbors. They were out to get me.

Well, fuck them. I was a maker. Unlike them, I did not spend pathetic evenings staring at one screen or another. They might think I was ridiculous, and everything about me might get wiped away, but my wall would remain. A tribute to my ingenuity and hard work. A tribute to America.

*****

From the Gentry Village Times website, dated August 20, 2018:

Fire sadly claimed a fatality today, reminding us of the dangers of our unusually dry weather. The Gentry Fire Department responded to a call about a blaze consuming a local home, and found the body of a Mr. Alexander Jones at the site. The way his charred corpse was positioned indicated that he died while making a futile attempt to climb a giant wall of trash stacked up around his house. It is unclear why the wall was there, but neighbors say Mr. Jones was a hoarder and in need of a mental health intervention. Numerous complaints had been lodged with the community homeowner’s association.

One anonymous neighbor was quoted as saying: “Somebody should’ve probably told him that he was acting completely bleeping insane. Before the wall got out of control.”

“But we never expected the fire.”

The young woman had been camped out in front of City Hall for over a month. Her hair was straggly, but she had a smile on her face and she was holding a donut.

“Can you tell us why you’re still here?” the local news interviewer asked.

“I’m here because of my deep commitment to equity and fighting the oppression of marginalized communities,” the woman said. Granted, she looked like she wouldn’t recognize a marginalized community if she tripped over it on her way to her local co-op vegan cafe, but I loved her anyway.

I was obsessed with the protests. Every afternoon, as soon as I got home from work, I dropped onto my couch, slipped off my shoes and watched the latest. The campers were opposed to the Mayor’s harsh treatment of the homeless. Their encampment was supposed to be a reminder to him of how those without a home were forced to live. It sprawled out from City Hall into the nearby park, littering it with insulting signs, red flags and communal kitchen pots.

They weren’t going to accomplish anything in the end. And there was no way that I could go sit there with them, not with my job and my mortgage. Despite all of that, I fantasized about the protesters. I fantasized about ordering pizza for them, going to bring them homemade soup. Maybe I could knit scarves for them. I would hand out a scarf to each of them, give them a hug and tell them how special they were. I would be like the Mother Theresa of the City Hall camp. It was the least I could do.

I turned off the TV and went to pour myself a glass of wine. The rice was already cooking. I switched on the radio. The local leftie community station was broadcasting from the camp. I listened and the little butterfly of excitement started fluttering around my belly again.

I could feel a shift in my body and suddenly, another voice drowned out the activist on the radio. The voice was calm and logical, sounding very confident even though it was offering public testimony in front of the city council.

It’s not that we don’t want this development to be built at all. It’s just that it’s too big. It’s going to change the character of the neighborhood…

I shook my head and stared down into the sink. No matter how much I wanted it to turn off, the voice continued.

And is the building going to have sufficient parking? Where are the residents going to park? I’m betting the cars will end up on our street…

I turned off the radio. Mother Theresa. What was I thinking? I walked back to the living room with my wine glass, but the voice followed me.

We all agree that affordable housing is so important, but…

The shift had already happened to me a long time ago. I had turned into the person who testifies against affordable housing projects if they’re being planned for her neighborhood. I could indulge in rebellious nostalgia all I wanted to, but I was not who these anarchist hippie kids wanted to see at their protest, not any more than I wanted to have an actual conversation with someone who was homeless. Not any more than I would have liked to see the City Hall camp in my backyard, if I was going to be honest.

I had shifted far past what I had once believed in, floating off on the stream of comfortable daily habit until I no longer knew where I was. Was I even a progressive? I had no idea.

Well, sitting here and feeling bad for myself certainly wasn’t going to help anyone. I wiped my eyes and turned on the Lifestyle Channel. They always had the best decorating tips.

Dedicated to my Bernie-loving friends

First, they would come for the guns.  That was obvious.

He had always expected that to happen.  He was surprised that it hadn’t happened during the Obama years–the international left-wing cabal must’ve been even craftier than he suspected.  The Trump years were a relief, although he knew the deep state never stopped working for evil.

But now, the unthinkable had happened, and that Bernie guy had won the presidency.  Goddam commie.  How was this possible?  Sure, President Trump–Trump would always be *his* President–he had made a few missteps.  The recession and the massive tent cities were bad PR.  And that incident with Angela Merkel, the one which caused a break in diplomatic relations between US and Germany–people thought that was a big deal, although who needs Germany anymore?  They should be taking better care of their local Muslims, he muttered.

So now, Barfie was President.  Brokie?  He really needed to come up with a better nickname for him.  He had a lot of fun with “Obummer” during Barack’s tenure, but he just wasn’t feeling as creative right now.

Anyway, now was not the time for fun–it was time to be vigilant.  Thank goodness he was self-employed and mostly worked from home, so he only left the house when absolutely necessary, and never unarmed.  Fox News kept him informed about the goings-on in the outside world–the Great American Crisis, as they called it.  He had started seeing black and brown kids walking around his neighborhood.  What were they up to?  Where did they come from?  Another sign of the times he was living in.

It would be gradual.  First, taxes would go higher and higher, so they could fund all those government programs.  He already had some dumb bitch at his door a few days earlier, telling him about a public health care program he could sign up for.  It would be less expensive, she said.  He slammed the door in her face.  He was no fool.

Soon, they would want everybody to stop driving.  He remembered when they built that light rail line near his house.  He had known that was trouble even back then.  If these people had their way, everyone would be riding a bicycle.  And if they couldn’t force him to bike, he would end up on some stupid train with a bunch of loud and smelly assholes who didn’t speak English half the time.

Then the final blow:  they would come for the homes.  These leftie planners didn’t like the suburbs with the big yards and parking lots.  They would take the houses and move everyone into tiny apartments in the city, so that the space could be given back to nature, or some stupid shit like that.  Not that he hated nature.  He had hunted since he was a little kid.  Animals had been created by God as a special gift for man’s enjoyment, and he appreciated that.

By the time they would take his house, the gun confiscation program would have been completed, so he would either be dead or in prison by then.  At least he hoped so.  He didn’t want to be around to see this.  Although he was planning to put up a hell of a fight before he went out, that was for sure.

Once they got all the people crammed together in the city, they would be easy to control.  Then the social engineering could really get rolling.  The only jobs available would be in government-owned factories and stores.  No freedom at all.  Going to church would be forbidden.  Women could be ordered to get abortions.  Hell, they would probably outlaw soda and fast food, and make the sheeple eat a mandatory vegan diet.  He shook his head at the thought.

The day of reckoning hadn’t come yet.  But it wouldn’t take much longer, he figured. And when it did, he would be right here waiting for it, with his television on and his gun in his hands.

 

Those of you who are following my blog (and let’s face it, there aren’t that many of you) may have noticed that the posts have dropped off a bit lately. Fact is, life has been very much on the hectic side. I’ve been planning my wedding for a few months from now…and wedding planning, it has turned out, is craziness. Part of me is excited, part of me will be relieved when it’s all over and done with.

But enough about romance…I’m going to use my entry into marriage as an excuse to talk about politics…because of course I am. Thinking about the married state, husbands and wives, has reminded me of one wife in particular. Specifically–oh, how much I miss having Michelle Obama as a First Lady.

Michelle and Barack are such a great model of what a marriage is supposed to look like. I loved her feistiness. I loved that when she and Barack started dating, she wasn’t that interested in being with him at first. He had to prove to her that he was worth her while. She was a strong and successful woman in her own right. I loved the way they would tease and poke fun at each other in conversations.

And now that he’s no longer President, Michelle has gleefully admitted that he got the “worst room” in their new house.

What a contrast with what we’ve got now. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think Melania Trump is a mindless bimbo. That’s what makes this situation even sadder. She is also a strong and intelligent woman. But she is not able to or chooses not to show it. Her role in the relationship with Donald is not that of an equal partner. She is a woman who was purchased by a rich husband, and so she is expected to be a beautiful, silent backdrop to what he does. Some of Trump’s fans call it being “classy” and “gracious.” That Michelle was so loud and so opinionated (and so black!) I’ve always found the concept of a graceful woman a bit suspicious. Too often, women are called graceful when they’re quiet, when they behave. When they don’t raise too much of a stink about things they disagree with.

Now, I have seen the photos and videos of Melania refusing to touch Donald or swatting his hand away from hers. They are certainly amusing. But it’s all so…passive aggressive. Again, it’s a woman who can’t allow herself to express her feelings in the open. It’s hard for me to imagine Michelle putting up with Barack cheating on her as brazenly as Donald did with Stormy. The man would be out on his ass, most likely.

Perhaps the best we can hope for is that after Donnie is out of office, Melania will sue for divorce and take him for all the billions he doesn’t really have. The best I can hope for is that my own marriage will not be full of dishonesty and manipulative little games.

It has to be a true partnership, and you have to really really like and respect the person you’re married to because it is a hard road. I mean, that’s what I tell young couples. Don’t expect it to be easy, melding two lives and trying to raise others, and doing it forever. I mean that’s a recipe made for disaster, so there are highs and lows. But if in the end you can look him in the eye and say, “I like you.” I stopped believing in love at first sight. I think you go through that wonderful love stage, but when it gets hard, you need a little bit more. — Michelle Obama

 

Sometimes I would have one of those days when nothing went my way–one of those days when my boss criticized me for my productivity levels, my cat meowed at me all afternoon, my best frienemy and I had a falling out. When it was that kind of day and everything felt wrong, I would sit down at my laptop and go to my favorite social media sites. And then Fakelina would flutter up to me, tap me on the forehead with her magic wand, and she would make it all better.

Fakelina was a news fairy, and she was very special. Anything you wanted to believe was true, no matter how much of a stretch it was, she could make it so.

“Fakelina, is chocolate good for me?”

“Naturally! You should eat as much of it as you can. The more you eat of it, the lower your chances of cancer!”

“Fakelina, I wish I didn’t have to go to the dentist.”

“You shouldn’t. Have you heard that the anesthesia they use can cause dementia?”

But then I got greedier and the wishes got bigger.

“Fakelina, I wish all these awful school shootings were just a reality show.”

“They are. I can show you the video which proves that the kids are all paid actors.”

“Oh, good! That makes me feel so much better. You know…I really hate thinking about that Trump guy, too. The things he’s doing to the EPA…our judicial system…”

“Shush…don’t think about any of that. Did you know he peed on a prostitute once?”

“No way! Tell me more, Fakelina!”

“Yep. Somebody somewhere is supposed to have evidence of that, or so I’ve been told. And did you hear what he tweeted last night?”

“Ugh! I’m not sure he’s even human. Do you think he might be one of those lizard people?”

“Nope, not a lizard person.” Fakelina shook her head. “It’s even worse. He’s a fungus which has taken on human form. He’s from a different planet. Watch this–it shows where his disguise slips for a second, and you can see a little bit of the mold coming through.”

“I knew it,” I mumbled.

“The world is controlled by alien fungi. Here’s another one about Barack Obama…”

I paused. What? But I liked President Obama! This couldn’t be true. Or…could it? The theory did make sense… They were all a part of the elite, so they were all fungus.

And the videos were undeniable. Oh, God… President Obama was fungus… Prince William was fungus…

I sat motionless, taking it all in. Fakelina was scratching one of her glittery wings.

“Amazing, isn’t it? You have just found out the thing they don’t want you to know. You were courageous enough to research it, and now the secret is yours. You’re not like the sheeple who believe everything the media tells them.”

She was right. I felt special. Like I was smarter than everyone else.

“You have to spread the news,” Fakelina commanded me. “The people of this country don’t know what’s being done to them. But remember–you’ll get a lot of blowback from those who haven’t yet seen the light.”

I did not shirk my duty. I spent the following weeks delving deeper and deeper into the archives of secret knowledge on the Internet, and becoming more frightened as I went. The leaders of Black Lives Matter were aliens. The leaders of the Women’s March were aliens. All the Hollywood actors and popular singers and rappers were aliens, too.

I shared as much as I possibly could with my friends and family online. I tried to warn them. But just as Fakelina had said, the people I once thought I loved and cared about turned out to be blinded sheep, who bleated at me about “rational thought” and “credible sources.” There was a deadly international conspiracy going on, and all they could think of were my sources? It was painful for me, but I had to accept that they were not ready to wake up, not ready for the enlightenment I had experienced. So I blocked and unfriended them, one by one. I would have to walk this path alone.

Or…not alone, actually. I had new friends–better friends. People who were fellow alien fungus researchers. They understood me. And whenever I got too discouraged and was about to give up my quest, I could feel Fakelina perched on my shoulder, whispering in my ear: “Keep going! Keep watching Youtube videos! You will find the answers!”

So I kept going. Months, or maybe years, passed. And as I spent more and more time studying the conspiracy theories, I shrank–first my mind, then my heart and the rest of me, until I became a very shrivelled little creature indeed.

One night, I woke up around 2 am, curled up next to my laptop, and I noticed that I had grown a pair of sticky, glittery wings. They didn’t help me fly, though. I could only flap them listlessly.

Fakelina was slouching on my sofa, smoking a cigarette.

“Am I magical fairy now, too?” I asked her.

“I guess so.” She shrugged. “Oh no, don’t give me that look. It’s not like we’re going to be fairy BFFs or anything. Time for me to take off.”

“What?? But…but you gotta keep helping me! What about our mission of bringing knowledge to the masses?”

“You have learned enough to continue the mission on your own, gullible grasshopper.” I heard a “ding!” and a tiny, sparkly suitcase appeared in her hand. “Besides, I sold all the data about you to Cambridge Analytica and I need a vacation.”

She floated up to me and tapped me with her wand one last time. “I now endow you with the power to not only share fake stories, but to make up your own shit as well! If you spin your web of lies well enough, you can play on people’s fears and prejudices and fanatical obsessions. And then you can do all sorts of things. Influence elections….sell useless nutritional supplements…”

My shoulders slumped. “Wow. Not quite the fairy tale ending I imagined.”

Fakelina laughed. “If you wanted a happier ending to your story…you should’ve used your brain!”

I could still hear her cackle long after she was gone.