Top Of My Head

Thoughts on everything from Politics to Video Games

Category: Issues (page 1 of 12)

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We were married!!!

Giving Cheryl her ring

Photo courtesy of “Loki” David Lott

On November 14th, just after 7PM, Cheryl and I did what thousands of couples before us have done – we were legally married.  We’ve been together for nearly 19 years and it has been an amazing ride.  We’ve gone through home ownership, trying to have children, having grandchildren and more.  Our journey isn’t ending, but this new beginning is, well, just something.

I honestly didn’t think that when I awoke on the morning of November 15th that I would feel any different.  After all, Cheryl and I had married in 2001 in a ceremony complete with gowns, unity candle and the breaking of the glass.  I have considered myself married for the last thirteen years.  How can a piece of paper make that much of a difference?

Lighting the Unity Candle on April 28, 2001 - our first wedding. (Look how young I was!)

April 28, 2001 – our first wedding.

Well, it does.  I feel closer to Cheryl, more involved, safer.  I know that my family would never be the kind that would toss her out on her ear if something would happen to me and I’m pretty sure her family wouldn’t do that to me,.  But, I’ve been kept out of her hospital room (not for long) and a nurse did tell me that I wasn’t Tommy’s grandmother, so I wouldn’t be able to be in his room.  No one will ever be able to tell me that again.

Cheryl’s daughter, Kim, has always treated me as a true step-parent.  She’s always respected our relationship and I’ve always treated her like a daughter. Dustin took a little time to warm up – accepting your wife’s family can be

Listening to Pastor Dana

overwhelming – but he’s always called my parents grandma and grandpa and he’s been a pall bearer for my family, I think more times than for his own.  His acceptance of Cheryl and I extended to his family.  Having all of them be a part of our wedding day was amazing.

The outpouring of love from friends and family was amazing.  Having our relationship be recognized by the state, as well as people close to us is an indescribable joy.  I can’t wait for the whole country to come to their senses and legalize gay marriage.

Our first official introduction as Julie and Cheryl Totsch

Photo courtesy of “Loki” David Lott

 

Marriage Equality

Going to the Chapel and we’re gonna get married…

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal cases for Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Indiana.  This means that marriage equality in those states have won.  Virginia has already changed their forms.

This morning at around 11:30, I called the Racine County Clerk’s Office and spoke with Pat. She very sweetly informed me that yes, they were issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.  I cried.

I’m really torn and stunned by this.  I’ve overjoyed that Cheryl and I can now make it legal, but I wish my mom was still here.

For a very long time, my mother was against gay marriage.  We went round and round.  Then, one day, I either explained it better or she just gave up the fight, because she agreed with me.  For the rest of her life, at least once a month, she would say to me, “Why don’t they just let you get married?”

Now, they are letting us get married and she’s not here to see it.  In the year and four months, since she’s been gone, I don’t think I’ve missed her more.

So, now, Cheryl and I have to pick a date.  I think we’ve narrowed it down to two.  🙂

 

Rich Men and Camels

I’ve been thinking about what Jesus said about it being easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven.  Why was Jesus harshing on rich guys so bad?  Is being rich inherently evil?

If you listen to these megachurch, superstar ministers; no – being rich isn’t evil and in fact, Jesus wants us all to be rich.  I don’t believe anyone who is preaching in a church the size of a stadium has a huge grasp on what Jesus wants.  However; I do believe that being rich doesn’t equate evil…

Unless…

If you have plenty and you don’t share – that’s evil.

If you pay your employees minimum wage — that’s evil.  The fact that we have to have a minimum wage is pretty evil.  Sure, there are some companies who pay fair wages, but there are a lot more companies who would pay less than livable wages if they could just get away with it.

If you don’t provide healthcare for your employees, evil.

We allow businesses – and, I’m talking about corporations, not the mom and pop small businessperson who is barely getting by – I mean the WalMarts, the WalGreens, the companies owned by the Koch brothers – anyway, we allow them to write a lot of expenses off their taxes.  I would like to suggest that we throw these complicated tax laws out.  We need to institute a new plan, so that corporations pay their fair share.  They benefit from our roads, bridges, military, police officers and fire fighters – schools train their next employees; but, when it comes to paying for all of this, well, they don’t want to.

They put out ads saying that it’s wealth distribution, but it’s not – it’s paying your fair share of what it costs, so you can run your business in the land of the free.

I say, we let them write off everything they pay their employees – no taxes on payroll, no taxes on healthcare costs — BUT, if that employee is outside the United States, we tax the hell out of whatever product they made when it gets shipped here.  (They would still have to pay their side of Social Security and Medicare.)

If we allowed companies to deduct the cost of employees, you can bet employees would go back to being well paid and important to companies – consider assets and not just cost centers.  Every tax break the upper 1% has received has not driven them to higher more employees – it’s just given them more to horde.

And, that’s why Jesus said, in a much more elegant way than I’m about to do so, that the rich ain’t getting into Heaven.  It’s all about how you treat others and the rich in this country, aren’t passing the camel test.

FCC and Net Neutrality

I sent the following to the FCC about Net Neutrality.  I encourage everyone to pass this around and encourage letters to the FCC to keep Net Neutrality going. Click here to contact the FCC.

Protecting the neutrality of the Internet is the biggest First Amendment issue facing us today. I am a blogger. Without Net Neutrality, Internet providers can make it difficult to find my site. They can charge me extra to guarantee a lane from a reader’s home into my site. I pay an Internet fee to my broadband provider. I pay another fee to have my site hosted. Without Net Neutrality, Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon could all demand that I pay them a fee to allow traffic through. This will end the ability for new ideas to be fostered. A large company could essentially pay to kill a news story, simply by out paying for traffic.

Further, from a consumer standpoint, killing Net Neutrality means that small Mom and Pop shops will not be able to compete with larger, well funded stores. Traffic can be slowed, delayed or even re-routed entirely because a small consumer store will not be able to pay extra fees. This kills competition and innovation.

Finally, Internet access is very much like phone access. By disabling Net Neutrality, you are allowing companies to decide where and who their customers see and talk to. Imagine if this was the phone company. AT&T cannot prevent their customer from calling a Verizon customer. In reverse, Verizon cannot block calls to their customers from AT&T customers. Without Net Neutrality, that’s exactly what these companies can and will do. They already skirt the issue by making their customers pay more for faster service – imagine what they will do when they can become the traffic cops of data and information.

Sincerely,

 

Medical Marijuana

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has announced that he has changed his mind regarding medical marijuana.  After years of being against medical marijuana, he is now for it.  However; some people do not like this idea.  According to a USA Today article, “Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse,” isn’t thrilled about this.  She believes that legalizing another drug would be harmful to society, because “If you look at the data, the costs associated with drugs in our country, which are gigantic, are driven mostly by legal drugs because they’re so accessible.”

I think she’s a little off base.  The costs of drugs in this country are “gigantic” to use her word, but it isn’t because “they’re so accessible”.  Now, I don’t know Nora Volkow, but totally based on her statement, I’m thinking she didn’t pay attention in economic classes.  More accessibility means less cost, not more.  Drug costs are up because of the drug manufacturers, not because of their accessibility.

Manufacturing and development of new drugs and patent protection laws are two of the major factors that influence drug spending. Drug manufacturers increase drugs costs to try to recoup the often significant outlays in research and development costs for drugs that make it to the market as well as those that do not enter the marketplace.

Kaiser Family Foundation
Prescription Drug Costs

With no offense to Dr. Volkow, she is coming at this idea from the side of drug addiction. She’s worried about the next person who becomes addicted. I understand that, but the idea of medical marijuana isn’t to cure an addiction. There are serious medical conditions that can be helped by medical marijuana and I believe that this outweighs any harmful affect there might be in society.

Fact Check and Insurance Rebates

I’m going to start this by saying that I trust FactCheck.org.  It is at the top of my list of places to check when I receive emails where I’m not believing or I doubt what I’m seeing.  What I like about Fact Check is that I don’t always agree with them.  I am human and I don’t like it when facts mean I have to reconfigure my beliefs.  You can make this statement about a lot of humans – you know who you are.  People do not like to be proven wrong and they especially don’t like being proven wrong with numbers and facts.  Anyway, if they agreed with me 100% of the time, I would think they are biased and if they disagreed with me 100% of the time, I would believe that they were biased.

Anyway, Fact Check recently wrote an article about President Obama’s July 18th speech touting the savings of the Affordable Care Act (which is more commonly known as Obamacare).  Fact Check called the article “Obama Overhypes Health Savings“.  I’m not going to disagree with Fact Check that President Obama made the health savings sound wonderful, he did.  Unfortunately, his hype is needed to overshadow the hype on the other side, which claims no savings and total financial ruin for all if we continue on the Affordable Care Act path.  I just think Fact Check is overhyping the overhyping.

Case in point the following quote from President Obama

Last year, millions of Americans opened letters from their insurance companies — but instead of the usual dread that comes from getting a bill — (laughter) — they were pleasantly surprised with a check. In 2012, 13 million rebates went out, in all 50 states. Another 8.5 [million] rebates are being sent out this summer, averaging around 100 bucks each.

Fact Check takes issue with this because ” The average rebate is about $100 per family — not per person. It’s not 8.5 million rebates “averaging around 100 bucks each,” as the president said. Instead, it’s 8.5 million consumers who will benefit, with an average rebate of $100 per family.”

I’m not really sure what the issue is here.  Fact Check admits that the rebates average $100 each.  When millions of Americans open the letters, I’m sure that the letter opener most likely be either the male or female head of a family.  I’m sure that the rebates for single people will be less than the rebates for families.  No, President Obama didn’t say millions of American families opened letters, but I don’t think what he did say was too much hype.  — This is a matter of opinion, not an actual fact.

The fact is that millions of rebates will be sent out this summer and that the average of these rebates is around $100.

But wait…there’s more!

Fact Check, also, takes issue with the fact that President Obama didn’t mention that a lot of these rebates are going to businesses.  In fact they say just that:  “But the more glaring omission is an acknowledgment that a lot of this money goes to businesses, not individuals.”  I don’t see the problem in this, either.  Even if the employer gets the rebate, it has to be used to benefit the employee.  In fact, Fact Check even quotes the  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as saying such, ” if you bought your insurance through your employer, your employer must use the rebate for your benefit.”  I don’t really understand their problem with the hype in this case.

I think the main point in all of this is that the Affordable Care Act is to some extent causing people and businesses to save money on their health care insurance premiums.  Second to this is that it didn’t cause premiums to go up, as the opposition claimed it would.

 

Indiana’s Unconstitutional Anti-Gay Law

According to Indiana law, which will take affect next July 1st, breaks the separation of church and state in a manner that is shocking:

IC 31-11-11-5
Solemnization of marriage in violation of this article
 Sec. 5. A person who:
(1) is authorized to solemnize marriages by IC 31-11-6; and
(2) solemnizes a marriage in violation of this article;
commits a Class C infraction.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.

In other words, if you are legally capable of performing marriages in the State of Indiana and you perform a gay marriage, you commit a Class C infraction (“A person who commits a Class C misdemeanor shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of not more than sixty (60) days; in addition, he may be fined not more than five hundred dollars.*“)  Really? And, two sections down, there’s this:

IC 31-11-11-7
Solemnization of marriage between persons prohibited from marrying
Sec. 7. A person who knowingly solemnizes a marriage of individuals who are prohibited from marrying by IC 31-11-1 commits a Class B misdemeanor.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.

If you perform a gay marriage, you commit a Class B misdemeanor, which can result in 180 days in jail and a $1000 fine*. I’d like to mention that this is not only against the Constitution of the United States of America – it is, also, hypocritical. One of the right-wing arguments against gay marriage is that it is against their religion (which isn’t true).  But, if they believe in religious freedom, how can they possibly support a law that restricts religious freedom?

Oh, who am I kidding?  Anti-Gay people would give up their own freedom in order to harm gay people.  They’re truly crazy!

Obamacare and unAmerican Companies

Here’s a quick, yet truthful thought.  Every large company that is announcing cutting employees’ hours to avoid paying healthcare for them isn’t a company that should be held up in esteem.  It is a company who should be avoided as much as possible and derided for being unAmerican.

It is time the profit hogging corporate types and Wall Street bozos start taking care of business and the American Worker.  You break your back for forty years, do you get a pension?  Hell no, you probably don’t even get a watch.  You get a 401K that isn’t worth shit if the banks and Wall Street screw with the economoy, like they did in the run up to the crash of 2008.

Our health care system needs  a lot of changes.  We spend more than nearly every other developed country and, yet, we’re sicker than ever.  Part of this is that we don’t take care of ourselves and part of it is that companies don’t take care of employees.

I have healthcare.  I happen to have a skill set that will remain in demand probably until the day I die and beyond.  I am blessed because of this.  Many people – in fact, the majority of people – are not blest as I am.  I will not have to worry about health care, because I’ll never have to work for a company that doesn’t offer it.  Even when I worked as a contractor, because of my earning power and salary, I was offered health care paid for by the company – that doesn’t happen often in contracting jobs.

Don’t blame President Obama for forcing companies to do what they should’ve been doing all along.  The CEO has health care.  The President of the company has health care.  So should the workers on the floor who actually perform the duties that keep the company going.

The Republicans don’t understand this.

Fox News doesn’t understand this.

The people in the red states don’t understand this.

We do the work, we should reap the benefits.  The guy on top – he didn’t dig that ditch, put that car together, bake that pizza – the guy on top is receiving the big salary made possible by YOUR hard work.

Don’t forget that.

Shelling Out to Access Your Pay

How would you feel if you had to pay a fee to access the money from your paycheck?  I know I’d be pretty upset.

That’s what’s happening to employees at various companies.  These companies have phased out paper checks or direct deposit and there’s nothing the employees can do about it.  They don’t have a choice, but use the prepaid cards their employers are handing out.

According to an article in the New York Times, “one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.”

This is totally outrageous.  When people complain about regulations, they don’t realize the reasons behind why we have them.  This is a reason.  Companies shouldn’t be cutting costs by so much that their employees have to pay fees in order to receive their own money from their paychecks.

Read the article and decide for yourself if I’m correct.

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