If you see something, say something…

Time for another occasional introspection…

All of us New Yorkers have probably heard of this famous MTA slogan. They only drill it to us every time we ride the subway. Today, I definitely saw something. I saw a backpack just sitting there in the platform of the 7th Ave and 53rd St station. I stared at it for a couple seconds and thought to myself, is this one of those times when I definitely see something suspicious? But first, I had to make sure. I walked over to several people in the platform to see if that backpack was theirs. They looked at it, and yes, like stereotypical New Yorkers, ignored it. They just went on to doing what they were doing. So, I went back up in the lobby of the station to look for MTA employees. There were none. Cops? Nowhere to be found. OK, I see a poster with a phone number. “To report a suspicious activity, call 888…” it says. OK, I would call but I’m underground. I have no signal in that d***ned station! Alas, I heard my train arrive, and I just had to take it because I was in a hurry. Just when I took it, I kept thinking to myself, what if it was really something? What have I done? How could I not have done more to report it? But then again, there was NOBODY in the station to report it too. I would’ve called the number, but that would’ve required for me to exit the station, and then wait 10 minutes until I could use my metrocard again. So, when the train came, I just automatically took it.

But, as I think more about this, I ask this question: why are there no employees in the whole station? When I was coming home for the day, I saw in another station a sign indicating that the booth will no longer be operational. Yes, I have heard of lay offs at the MTA (surprise surprise), and more price hikes will probably come our way. But what are we really getting? And it’s amazing how easy it could be for someone to leave a backpack and just do damage to a whole station. ESPECIALLY at this time when there is nobody around to turn to!

The voters are always right…

It has been a while since I wrote something. Since the last post, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about different things that I keep meaning to post here. But it keeps getting pushed back, and eventually forgotten. What I want to say is that I have been so busy that I could hardly find the time to sit down and reflect to myself over a gin and tonic. But that’s not really the case. I just spent my free time doing other things…like just sitting around doing nothing. But now, I finally have the time to write something. Right when I am about to sleep.

So, if I have to choose something that I have been thinking about for a while, it would have to be politics and the recent election. Yes, it has been four weeks to this day since the election and I am just writing about it now. But I think it is always relevant if not for this last election, but for the next election.

If you haven’t noticed, the Republican Party is the clear winner in this last election. They didn’t take the Senate, but they did gain a considerable amount of seats from the Senate not to mention taking the House. How did this happen? It’s all about the voters. It is clear that the people who voted the incumbents out are not happy with the way the government is handling things at this moment. What are they so unhappy about, one might ask. Perhaps these voters haven’t had a job for a long time. Perhaps they are scared of “big government taking away their freedom”. Perhaps they are just scared that the liberals are now taking over. I don’t know. I can’t speak for everybody. But if there is one issue people should be concerned about, it should be the economy. People really have a short-term memory and seem to have forgotten that we were in a recession. Things are *just* starting to turn back around for this country, but people simply just can’t see that. People seem to have forgotten what happened the last time the Republicans controlled the government. From the time the Democrats took over until now (and that was only two years ago), I think we are where we SHOULD be. A recession is not something one can fix overnight. It’s not something that we can just flip a switch and voila, we’re not in a recession anymore. The truth is that it takes a tremendous amount of work and sound decisions to get a huge country out of recession, and I honestly don’t think that 2 years is enough to turn the country around back to where it was. I think we are where we are, and it is exactly where I expected we would be in 2010. I think it’s a big mistake to turn back to where we were before the recession and implement the same regulations (or lack thereof) that got us into trouble in the first place.

Of course, the reality is that the voters are always right. Yes, politics is like a business establishment where the voters are NEVER wrong. Well, I’m not in politics and I don’t intend to be, so I’m going to say something that no politician would dare say to the public. Guess what, the public is just as responsible for the recession as the politicians and Wall Street. Time and time again, this country is runs on credit cards, loans, or better known as debt. I’m not saying credit is all bad. I think getting yourself into debt knowing that you can’t afford it in the first place is bad.

But first, I want to divert briefly to a TV show that I saw for the first time just because there was nothing else on. The other day, I saw an episode of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”. It was the first time I saw that show, and I happened to catch an episode where one of the housewives was throwing a birthday party for her 4-year-old daughter. Usually, this would be the point where I go and look up the exact details about this particular episode, but I don’t want to waste my energy researching it. It is already draining my energy just thinking about it now. But, to (loosely) quote the housewife, she roughly said that the age of 3 happens to be the age when young girls should start appreciating the value of expensive jewelry. I remember that quote very well, and I also remember the $60,000 birthday party for her daughter. For the rest of us non-housewives, I would say that this is insane! There are people out here that would feel very lucky to even have a birthday party. But, at the same time, there are lot of people here in the US that view this as the “American Dream”. To live in luxury.

OK, maybe not everybody wants a $60K party for their 4-year-old daughter. But there are people out there that want that 5-bedroom house, 4 cars, a pool, or a big backyard. There are a lot of people out there that want that life of excess when they don’t really need it. And these are the type of people that go into debt, knowing that they can’t afford these things in the first place. And of course, the banks prowled on these people and offered them subprime mortgages. And again, yes, they were able to do so because there was nothing in the regulations that preventing them from doing so. So yes, it’s not just the politicians’ fault. It’s not just Wall Street. It’s also the people. It’s also the fact that some people just want that life of excess that they can’t afford. But when it comes to the elections, the voters are always right.

Net neutrality…is…bad?

Earlier this year, just this past April, actually, you may have come across this: a ruling that favored Comcast over the FCC’s effort to promote net neutrality. Here is the NYTimes article that describes this.

A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that regulators had limited power over Web traffic under current law. The decision will allow Internet service companies to block or slow specific sites and charge video sites like YouTube to deliver their content faster to users.

The court decision was a setback to efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to require companies to give Web users equal access to all content, even if some of that content is clogging the network.

The court ruling, which came after Comcast asserted that it had the right to slow its cable customers’ access to a file-sharing service called BitTorrent, could prompt efforts in Congress to change the law in order to give the F.C.C. explicit authority to regulate Internet service.

Check out the whole article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/technology/07net.html

The internet as it is now has been great. It has provided everybody a platform to voice their own opinions. Discussions are much more dynamic and anybody can join in, whoever you are, wherever you are. That is the essence of net neutrality. And it is clear that the FCC wants to preserve net neutrality and sometimes it is imperative to impose regulations to make sure that we don’t take this platform away from people who don’t have the money or power. Just like what they have done to cable companies and network televisions. Regulations sometimes are important and inevitable to make sure that our rights as ordinary people are protected.

Now, let’s take a look at this commercial. I just came across this ad on TV. Granted that I am now on vacation and that I have to say my peace of mind about this ad, that should indicate how much this video just got to me…


Now, I don’t know what kind of lies the people of Americans for Prosperity are trying to convey. OK, I’m going to try and be diplomatic about this, and if they can convince me that the FCC is unnecessary and are “anti-net neutrality”, then I’ll listen. But so far, from what I know, what FCC has done so far (and unfortunately,failed in terms of the Comcast ruling) is the opposite of what the AFP people are claiming. They understand we should not take net neutrality for granted any longer. Knowing that there are greedy people out there who craves control, power, and money, the FCC understands that regulation IS necessary to preserve our rights to free speech and also to keep us away from economic downfall. It’s amazing how people are already starting to forget that we are still in recession, and what caused it in the first place…

More on health care…and caring for your health…

Let me take this opportunity to respond to the comments on my last post. First of all, thanks for all of the comments. I think it’s great to see people expressing a variety of perspectives, which forms the foundation for an intelligent and thoughtful conversation. And this should really be encouraged. Society should be built on civil and thoughtful discussions about issues that matter. It is really scary and mind boggling sometimes when some people, especially those who are elected into office, automatically shoot down ideas without any discussion just because they are proposed by the opposition. In order to move not just this country but any country forward, healthy and thoughtful conversations are so essential if we want to progress at all.

It should be clear that it is my belief that health care is something that everybody should have access to. Using Obama’s words, I think it is our “moral obligation” as a society to make sure that everybody has access to health care and most importantly, to good health. And there should be no compromise there. Health care should be accessible to everyone. When I moved to New York City, I came with no health insurance. I was shocked to find that buying insurance in the city STARTS at $200/month. There is medicaid available, but you have to make less that $18,000/year at the time in order to qualify. So, there is assumption that we should be able to afford health insurance if you make over $18K/year, along with the $1000/mon rent, utilities, and whatever other expenses you might have. I was making about $20K/year at the time as a freelancer, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that $200/mon health insurance just can’t be in the budget with that kind of a salary.

In any case, I think some of my views in my previous post might not have come across clearly for some people. So I’m going to take this time to clarify my stance. I want to go back to one of the main issues that may not sit well with the anti-health care movement: cost.

Health care will cost money, there’s no question about it. It’s not cheap to make sure everybody is covered. But there are ways to make sure that we keep the cost of health care down. I think it should be obvious to a lot of people that if we have a healthier population, the cost of health care should go down. And it is no secret that this country is not exactly the healthiest country in the world. Why is that? Despite the recession, the US is still doing very well compared to many other countries. And a lot of us like to indulge ourselves with excessive unhealthy habits. Instead, we could invest some of our resources to promote healthy habits and prevention. I think in the end, this is way cheaper than sending someone to the hospital.

Now, in the end it is up to the individual to be healthy. And I stress that no one can make anybody else to live healthily. What I am simply advocating for is for the government to encourage healthy living, not tell people what to eat and what not to eat. I think making healthy foods more accessible to the general public is one way. Creating incentives for healthy living is also another way. Something as simple as routine physical check-ups (something that prompted me to start this blog in the first place) should be encouraged. We could get tax credits for joining and actually going to the gym is a good incentive. Buying organic foods and drink could also be a tax credit. Those are just some ideas, but I’m sure others could come up with more. But there’s only so much a government can do. Like I said, it is all up to us as individuals to be healthy and a government that encourages this can never be a bad government.

There’s something fishy about this commercial…

So here’s a commercial about a mother who is trying to ‘make ends meet’. We assume that this mother wants what’s best for her children. We assume that she wants her children to lead healthy lives. We assume she wants her kids to stay away from unhealthy foods. And what do we see in her groceries? What did she buy that she’s trying to ‘make ends meet’? Soda, juice, instant drinks. What’s wrong with this picture? The last time I checked, most mothers would want their kids to avoid these drinks. Most mothers would want their kids to drink more water instead of sugary drinks. So if this mother represents the typical good mother, why is she standing up for these drinks? There are two possible answers, either this mother is a terrible mother or this commercial is paid for by the businesses who want to keep making the big bucks from these drinks. What do you think?

And finally, a health care reform bill

First of all, I would like to congratulate the people in power for passing the health care reform bill. It is definitely a step towards the right direction, and this is exactly what we have been waiting for. Let me just make one comment for those who are opposed to a health care reform. There are those out there that claim that America does not want this bill, and that these protests are gaining strength. Unfortunately, it is the opposite. Keep in mind that majority of Americans CHOSE the president, and if I remember correctly, it was NOT a marginal victory. We also cleaned up the congress and put the Democrats in power. I am just thankful that those who have been elected to power have made progress towards the needs of the American voters that actually put them there.

Now what? What does this mean for the American people? How long until we actually see these changes in effect? Is it enough to hand out health care to everyone and stop there? Well, I don’t think we can stop here. If I may, I am going to let out a little bit of my fiscal conservative side here, and make a couple comments and introspections…

1) From what I understand, one of the things that will go into effect immediately is that the legislation prohibits insurers right away from excluding from coverage children with pre-existing health conditions. Adults will be included in this provision, but not until later. Bravo for this! I think this is one of the most important provision that I applaud. If we are going to bring kids into the world, I think it is the responsibility of not just the parents but society as a whole to provide these kids with some of the most fundamental needs to survive. Health care for any children, regardless of their pre-existing conditions, should be a given, and the government is definitely going in the right track with that.

Now, I can’t help to think what happens without this piece of legislation. That means that kids who are born into this world with special needs may not be fortunate enough to be born to families that cannot provide what they need. One option might be to give that kid up for adoption, to more affluent parents that would be able to provide these basic needs. The question now is: why would anyone would be willing to adopt a child who will cause them a lot of work and pain? My guess is that affluent parents would want to adopt healthy children rather than children who constantly need care. Another option? Maybe the kid shouldn’t be brought into the world at all. Of course, the best way to go with this option would be to not conceive a kid at all, but who can really predict whether or not you will conceive a perfect healthy baby? Or, there is also the A-word, abortion. God forbid for bringing this up as an option, but quite frankly I will steer away from this because I am not a woman. And just because I do not have a strong stance against abortion does not mean I am a “baby killer”. In fact, in my opinion, women who go through abortion can have serious psychological repercussions. I cannot speak personally for women and what they feel, but I think abortion should really be a last resort in any case. But should it be the case where abortion is not an option at all for our little hypothetical situation, then there is no choice but to keep the kid. But it is interesting that many of those very same people who are so “pro-life” are not really “pro-life” after all once a child is brought into this world. Where does “pro-life” go once life is here? For these kids who are less fortunate than others, where is the support from those who claim that every life is precious? It does not make sense…

2) I think now that we have the beginnings of a great health care in this country, here are some comments that I think would bring us towards some great things. I think we should step back and really think about what it means to have “health care”. For me, caring for your health also means maintaining your health! We should think of more ways to encourage this country to live a healthy lifestyle and focus more energy on preventive health care programs. This means that we should have incentives for those who are taking the initiative to live a healthy lifestyle. The truth of the matter is that it is expensive these days to keep healthy. There is the cost of going to the gym. Organic foods are typically accessible to those who have money. Clean air and neighborhoods are usually signs of money. And these days, physical check-ups are not covered by a lot of insurance. We should be looking for ways to bring the costs of these preventive measures down. Being healthy should no longer be just for the rich. Insurance should encourage us to go to the gym, buy organic foods, go to routine physical check ups, or even as simple as drinking less sugary drinks. The Soda Tax plan, I think, is a good plan to encourage people to be healthier, and the money from this tax should go to the cost of making healthy foods more accessible to public. In the long run, I think this will reduce the health care spending significantly. After all, it is much cheaper to spend money on preventive measures rather than on emergency room services.

I have more comments in mind, but unfortunately, I have to stop for now.

That is just mean!

Here is a video that shows some teabaggers a man with Parkinson’s disease. Yes, that is the highlight of the video, but I think the real message that should be taken from this is that people should talk intelligently about this issue. I have to admit that I do not know every single detail about the health care proposal, but the truth is that there needs to be a reform.

More on health care…follow-up

As promised, I would follow up on my thoughts about my health insurance woes.  Since I first posted that entry on health care, I went to the authorities to see what can be done.  Someone had suggested that one way to get the insurer to pay for my bill is to ask my doctor and the lab (which is ridiculously expensive, by the way.  There is really no justification for charging the amount that they do!) to resubmit my claims as an office visit rather than a routine physical.  After all, I did talk to my doctor about some occasional problems that I had.  Apparently, office visits are covered but routine physicals are covered up to $60 every two years.  Ridiculous.

So I took this suggestion and the doctor’s office and the lab will resubmit my claims.  I am now waiting for the results and hopefully we will all come out happy…

Taking health care reform personally…Part I

I have always been an advocate for health care reform.  I believe that the health care system in the US is seriously flawed and it is imperative that something has to be done about it.  I watch the news and see our lawmakers debate on this issue, and I have always agreed with those who are giving their very best to do what is best for the country.  But when an issue directly affects you, when it suddenly invades your life, then it becomes personal.  And this is what is happening to me right now. 

There are times in the last decade or so where I had to sacrifice having health insurance because of cost.  I qualified for medicaid for a while.  But now that my income has increased a little bit so I became unqualified for it.  CUNY has recently jumped on board with NYSHIP, so I was relieved that I don’t have to worry about qualifying for medicaid and I can feel somewhat ‘healthy’ again.

I try to live a healthy lifestyle.  I exercise regularly.  I watch what I eat.  I don’t smoke.  I don’t drink excessively, only in social occasions.  Now, you would think that the insurance companies would want you to maintain your health.  After all, it would be much cheaper to cover healthy people and it would be very smart to keep them healthy.  The standard routine for any healthy people to do would be to go to a routine physical checkup at least every year.  And that is what I did recently, thinking that this is exactly what the insurance companies want you to do.

I went to my doctor in at the end of August for a full physical, thinking that blood and urine work are all standard procedures.  Can anybody imagine having a physical without any of these diagnostics?  A couple weeks later, I received a letter saying that my expenses are not covered by the insurance company, and we are only allowed $60 every two years for a routine check up!  Who in their right mind would go to a physical for $60?  The only thing that would get you is to talk to your doctor for 2 minutes, and that’s the whole $60 there.  Of course, my physical did not cost $60.  In fact, it costed over $3000 and now the insurance company have told me that I basically have to come up with that much money to pay for it.

At this point, I am outraged.  There are so many things wrong with this picture that I cannot even start to list all of them.  This should never EVER happen to anybody! I feel violated.  I feel dirty.  How can a human being do something like this to another human being and feel good about it, just so you can scrounge all the money you can get and satisfy your greed?  This is one of the things where the government SHOULD step in and make sure that this does not happen to its citizens.  For those of you out there who think that health care reform is not necessary in this country should lock yourselves in a box or live in a cave in the Himalayas until you grow yourself a soul.  It is the government’s job to protect its citizens, and that includes taking care of the health of the people.  And I agree with what Obama says, that we have “the moral responsibility that we have toward our fellow citizens” to reform health care in this country.

At this point, I am trying to understand those who do not agree with these ideals.  I am going to guess that people who are afraid of ‘expanding welfare’ are also afraid of taxes and what they call ‘a big government’.  They use excuses like big government=no freedom.  Or capitalism= freedom.  If this is the case, that is just plain bullshit.  They are afraid of government run programs like welfare because they basically don’t want to give up any of their ‘hard-earned’ income for someone struggling just to get by.  They probably blame these people themselves, thinking that the poor basically ‘put themselves in that position’.  I would go back to these people who have this mentality and ask them, where their incomes come from?  Where do they get their money?  Does it just come to them because they made it themselves?  Was it just because of their hard work and this and this alone got them their money?  Of course not.  When people make money, that money has to come from SOMEONE else.  Billionaires are billionaires because non-billionaires have bought their products.  Everytime I buy a toothpaste, a computer, paper, or whatever else, I am giving my money to someone else.  I have to admit that whenever I spend, this is somewhat something that makes me feel better, knowing that my cab fare will go to a family who might need the money more or that extra tip that I gave to my server might help her buy those books for her kids.  Who knows.  The point is that money that comes to you has to come from someone else.


Anyway, enough of the rambling.  But this will be continued as I go through the hoops on my little NYSHIP predicament.  Until next time…