The Godfather of Fake News

Before there was the web as we know it, there was fake news – thanks to Stephen Glass. The New Republic was stung worst by Glass, the journalist who will go down in history as the craftiest pathological liar. If you’re unfamiliar with who this man is, you can look up the movie, Shattered Glass, which sprung from a Vanity Fair article of the same name.

Of course the film is a somewhat fictionalized version of the true story about the journalist who sold lies as factual articles to multiple national publications, including Rolling Stone. (Yes, that does mean there were fabrications in print from that magazine long before the University of Virginia gang rape debacle.)

As for Stephen Glass, he can be credited with creating the glass ceiling on lies in journalism. It would be nice to say that the journalistic world learned a long-standing and important lesson from this pathological liar, but any lessons learned didn’t necessarily lead to greater integrity in the vocation. Whether or not current editors are consciously aware of it, Glass set the limits for fabricating “facts” for print. That’s readily apparent from the apology interview Glass had with 60 Minutes.

The previous video is just under 13 minutes, but if you are really wanting to understand the motives behind creating fake news, it’s worth the time. Glass attempts to explain himself, and his habit of creating stories that were completely fabricated. Today’s “half-truths” and “exaggerations” have slightly more complex motives, but at their core, are the same. The bottom line is getting the “home run” as Glass put it. He destroyed his own career in journalism in the pursuit of constant attention, adulation, and a record of seemingly perfect stories.

He wanted fame.

Today’s fake news is driven by the desire for “hits” online, and unfortunately, the desire to manipulate the masses. Because neither Glass nor the purveyors of fake news today are concerned with presenting factual information, it is just an exercise in building egos. Glass got away with his lies because he gamed the system – he could get past the fact-checkers because he had done their jobs already. He knew what they would look for, and gave them it.

Sites and publications that offer fake news are no different. They just rely on the public being stupid.

They rely on the public not taking the time to check facts.

They just are very talented at manipulating readers by playing to the emotions of their intended audiences.

In military speak, they are propagandists who are well-versed on the tools of psychological warfare.

Glass was the same type, but instead of needing to manipulate large masses of people, he just had to keep offering “perfect stories” to his editors. The editors were duped because they wanted to believe that it was possible for a single journalist to consistently deliver exciting stories for their readers.

Today’s publishers of fake news have far more sinister desires, and all of them have to do with controlling their audiences as opposed to entertaining them.

Of course, this is all in reference to “fake news” that is really offering lies as truth – not news sources that are accused of being “fake” simply because someone disagrees with them.

Glass got away with his lies because people wanted his stories to be true.

Fake news flourishes today because the people have become too lazy to bother making sure that what they are reading is accurate.

Either way, it boils down to the public believing lies. What has changed is that believing the lies today involves falling prey to the agendas of others, instead of just feeding the ego of one pathological liar who managed to get a job as a journalist.

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Source: Literat Politik

The Godfather of Fake News

Do Trump Supporters Oppose the First Amendment?

Not very long ago, people on the right were upset about the fact that many (mostly left-wing) college students thought that the First Amendment doesn’t (shouldn’t?) protect hate speech. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, it looks like there’s some lack of understanding about our freedoms when it comes to speech and the press.

Yes, that was the president suggesting that our nation needs to take a step closer to state-run media. There is no way to call it anything but that, since the reason the president is giving for revoking broadcast licenses has everything to do with the fact that he didn’t like what the stations in question were broadcasting.

That’s like taking a page from the book of this guy:

Senator Ben Sasse called it right on his personal Twitter account:

And that brings us to the question at hand: Do Trump supporters oppose the First Amendment?

It’s likely that they will all say “no” to that, but if they are defending the president’s statements about revoking broadcast licenses of television networks that happen to “hurt his feelings” by reporting news in ways he doesn’t like? That is censorship.

Also, it is essentially a toddler-style temper tantrum.

Perhaps we have to agree with Trump supporters about one thing: Trump definitely is beating Obama on a couple metrics. He’s got a thinner skin, and he’s more a narcissist.

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Source: Literat Politik

Do Trump Supporters Oppose the First Amendment?

Birth Control, Conscience, and Choice

Several groups on the left have gotten upset over the fact that Donald Trump is rolling back the “free birth control” clause of the Affordable Care Act. Theoretically, that’s justified, since millions of women have been taking advantage of the program. How many of those millions honestly couldn’t afford birth control in the first place is probably up for debate.

Also, it’s debatable whether or not the new battle front for these groups should involve petitioning for the FDA to allow some more birth control options to end up available over the counter. (Don’t expect to see that, even though it theoretically would make the pill available to more women, because if it’s over the counter, there wouldn’t be any subsidies through any kind of prescription coverage.)

But, no matter what, it’s disingenuous to suggest that great numbers of women who want to use birth control will no longer be able to have it because their employers refuse to pay for it. Before the birth control mandate, birth control was generally treated like any other prescription, which meant that prescription drug coverage partially subsidized the cost of the pills. Without the mandate, it’s fairly safe to assume that it will go back to that standard. Also, insurance companies aren’t going to be forbidden from offering birth control coverage directly to women, even those who are employed by companies that do not want to pay for the drugs. Remember, the issue is about companies not wanting to pay for a particular type of coverage, not forbidding women from having that coverage on their own.

These organizations that are upset about this would be better served by starting to cut deals with the birth control manufacturers themselves, and make coupons or other discount programs available to women who can’t afford the full cost of birth control themselves. (Again, this number isn’t as high as they would have people believe, thanks to multiple generic options.)

If they were really serious about increasing access for women, they would be asking pharmacies with clinics to start offering birth control services.

The primary problem with this issue is that people are focusing on the emotions, as opposed to the money. The bottom line remains that insurance companies didn’t complain about this mandate in the first place because keeping women on birth control is cheaper for them than covering care for pregnant women or women who would have other health problems if they did not take birth control. Insurance companies will find a way to keep the status quo, because it has been helping their balance sheets at least a little. The same goes for the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the drugs. If anyone believes that they will easily give up their sales over this, they need to rethink their position.

If we’re lucky, the solution to the issue will involve removing both government and employers as brokers between women and access to birth control. Maybe it’s time for women to stop demanding that employers and government hand them their pills, and start demanding better options directly from insurers and pharmaceutical companies?

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Source: Literat Politik

Birth Control, Conscience, and Choice

I am right – you are wrong – right?

“You won’t change my mind.”

This is a statement that is used as a quick stop to just about any debate – political or otherwise. In the American political sphere, it is said by people on both sides of the aisle, and members from both sides regularly accuse the other side of saying it more often.

Which isn’t true.

Both are equally guilty, and usually the statement involves holding onto political “principles,” or otherwise showing complete loyalty to the concepts being promoted by the pundit du jour. And both sides are guilty of holding onto long-standing political philosophies simply for the sake of loyalty, in spite of changing facts on the ground.

For example, on the left, there is the “settled science” of climate change caused by man – an oxymoron on its face, since there is no such thing as “settled science.” Also, in all of the documentation about our changing weather patterns, there is barely (if ever) any mention of other relevant forces, like our sun. When there is talk about reducing carbon emissions, there is no talk about recycling carbon, to create bio-fuel. Perhaps that is somewhat fair, since the “fuel” that can be created like that isn’t particularly suitable for making fuel for our cars, but petrochemicals are everywhere in our society. It is difficult to think that bio-fuel made by algae that is fed with carbon emissions cannot be used to produce something, even if it’s packaging for our “never touched by man” drinking water.

On the right, there is the general thought that the US has too many immigrants. They are taking up all of our jobs, and bringing crime to our shores. Statistically speaking, neither statement is correct, but we still need a wall. The saddest part of this political thinking is that it is assuming that our nation has a cement ceiling restricting economic growth – no matter what we do, there will always be a finite number of jobs and businesses, and sooner or later, we will reach that limit. Presumably, we must reserve that limited resource for people who were born here, and ignore the fact that historically, our nation has enjoyed the greatest levels of economic growth when we have allowed or encouraged immigration.

The problems that we’re facing today as a nation are not simple, but more often than not, solutions to problems lie somewhere in between the political lines we have drawn to divide ourselves. Environmental problems like carbon emissions are more likely to be solved by capitalism, through scientific innovation that is focused on reducing emissions through recycling. We have done a great deal to reduce emissions at this point, and the next step is to find ways to use waste to make something else of value – like plastics from algae. The left won’t suggest that, but people on the right have occasionally been suggesting it.

Fear over job losses and immigrants have been brewing for years, with a steep increase starting after 9/11. While both sides have been battling over this issue, the primary problem with immigration has been largely ignored. Our legal immigration system is broken. There is no point to saying “people need to enter this country legally” when the bureaucracy involved is so flawed, it is nearly impossible. Before we talk about illegal immigrants, we should be demanding that our elected officials fix the legal immigration system, since there’s no point to tackling illegal immigration before that is done. We also need to remember that safety and freedom are not good bedfellows.

Above anything else, we need to stop dismissing potential solutions to problems simply because of the sources. People have political ideologies. Good ideas are non-partisan. Dismissing roughly half of the potential solutions to a given problem only increases the probability that no solution will be found. This radical notion is not about accepting “all” the ideas of anyone on either side of the aisle. It is stating that there is nothing wrong with taking the best bits and pieces of ideas from wherever they are found.

When we were young, we were taught to search for answers from multiple sources. That was meant to be a life-long skill – something all adults should do when faced with a problem to solve. Somewhere along the way, Americans stopped doing that. They chose sides, and allowed the leaders and pundits from their respective places on the political spectrum to spoon feed them information to regurgitate on demand. They created multiple generations of “You can’t change my mind” people. That has left us with massive debt, government as the largest employer (when adding all levels together), and freedom and innovation choking bureaucracies. It’s also left us sitting on one side or the other of a political divide, which only serves one group of people – the professional politicians.

Maybe it’s time to rethink how we’re doing things?

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Source: Literat Politik

I am right – you are wrong – right?

Sleek Blush is a Dupe?

 The Sleek blush I have in Rose Gold looks like Nars Orgasm. The color in the pan looks darker, but once on the face they look identical. They both have the same golden sheen, peachy tone, and lasts just as long. I will say this very pigmented and a little goes a long way. I have not noticed any real difference between them. I got this off of Amazon for $5.99. So that is great for anyone on a budget.


Source: The Sensitive Shopper

Sleek Blush is a Dupe?

Congress needs to take part of a cue from Taiwan

Public officials behaving badly in the US usually means something to do with sex or money, but we’re slowly getting into an international trend of misdeeds that involve violence. So far, we haven’t gotten to the point where Taiwan has (and a few other countries) since our lawmakers haven’t started all-out brawls… yet.

I guess the stress of the job can get to lawmakers, but water balloons? We’ll get back to that in a moment.

The problem lies in the fact that we have warring factions working with each other daily, and they never stop fighting. That wasn’t always the case, especially in the US. Back during the Reagan and Clinton years, members of the House and Senate used to socialize with each other, and not based on party politics. So, you could see two senators who were practically screaming at each other on the floor of the Senate during the day drinking together in a DC bar that night. That doesn’t happen anymore, at least nowhere near as often as it did.

We’ve all been warned to leave work at the office, and decompress at home, right? And that’s because the experts who tell us to do that know that people need to leave the stress of work behind to keep sane.

So, why are we telling politicians to do the absolute opposite, by demanding that they live and breathe on the politicking?

Apparently there are a lot of people out there who think that it’s a good idea to have less-than-sane people running things, because we’re making insane demands. Think about that the next time you see someone complaining about politicians talking nicely with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

Seriously, it’s surprising that we haven’t seen anything like what happened in Taiwan on the Hill.

Now, back to those water balloons.

While I have no idea why in the world there were water balloons in the hands of Taiwanese lawmakers, I do know why the airmen in the photo here have them. They were celebrating an “excellent” rating on an inspection back in 2012. It was a well-deserved break, and shows that there’s nothing wrong with cutting loose to relieve stress (without brawling.)

Maybe Congress needs to do the same thing, but not as a reward – as a pressure relief. I’m not joking.

Congress needs to have a water balloon fight. They need to get out their frustrations on each other in a way that is generally harmless. Adding a few kegs of beer, and maybe a few cases of hard liquor would help, too. If they keep it on private property in DC, why not throw in some pot – it’s legal there.

And the people need to stop thinking that the warring factions need to be at war at all times. It’s funny, but both sides look back on the Reagan and Clinton years respectively as their party’s time to shine – their president got so much done! What did those two men have in common? They really did know the “art of the deal” since they knew how to reach across the aisle. The “my way or the highway” garbage is just a half-step from a dictatorship or fascism. That’s not us – that’s not the US.

So, commence the water battle and revelry, to prevent a brawl!

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Source: Savannah Snark

Congress needs to take part of a cue from Taiwan

Evil conservatives hate disabled people

…or something.

USA Today must have been desperate for articles today, or they’re just another media outlet that’s willing to fall victim to the outrage train.

Ok, I’ll give them the fact that it’s despicable for authorities to end up grabbing disabled people out of their wheelchairs over a protest.

As for the rest of it, well…

Sure, there are conservatives out there who would like nothing more than to totally dismantle Medicaid. Most of them are not holding office right now in Congress.

That means the few who really want to do it, and happen to be able to vote on the issue, are in a severe minority on the Hill. It’s political suicide, because one other thing that was right in that particular rant (it’s not an article), is that most Americans really don’t want to hurt people who really need the services provided by Medicaid.

But, I digress.

Yes, opinion contributor Jason Sattler did suggest that the deep cuts to Medicaid that are on the wish list of a select few members of Congress are somehow related to the pro-life movement?

Uh, talk about conflating issues?

Also, Sattler is making me about as angry as the kitty here, since he’s literally forcing me into a corner where I have to (almost) defend the pro-life movement. (I mean beyond defending their right to have their say.)

This rant was just going after the “feels” of course, so why not bring up the idea that the pro-life movement has often painted itself into a corner where it appears like it doesn’t really care about what happens to human beings after they’re born?

Anyway, it doesn’t make much difference anyway, since the health care “repeal, reform, rinse, repeat” maneuvering seems to have stalled anyway.

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Source: Savannah Snark

Evil conservatives hate disabled people

Musings on Writer’s Block

Lately I’ve been coming across more and more people who have been searching for solutions to writer’s block. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or in my inbox, the issue seems to be more prevalent than usual. Of course, my standard advice is to write. It seems counter-intuitive, or even mean. How dare I suggest that someone sit down and write, when they’re telling me that they are unable to write?

The issue of writer’s block really isn’t about an inability to write at all. It’s really about not being able to write what we want at a specific moment in time. Our brains are keeping us from being able to concentrate on a specific bit of work that we want to do. For the fiction writer, maybe that means the characters he wants to write about aren’t “speaking” to him right then. For non-fiction writers like myself, maybe it’s a matter of missing the correct angle, or missing pieces to a puzzle we want to solve for our readers through words. Either way, the problem isn’t an inability to put coherent words together in sentences and paragraphs. It is simply a matter of our brains being too stubborn, and unwilling to focus on what we want at that moment.

So, why would writing in general be useful at that point? How can writing something random (or not so random but on another topic) be useful?

Simply writing helps to clear the mind, and usually makes it possible to focus on what we really want to do. Forcing our minds into submission, and putting words on paper (or the screen) helps. They may be useless words, or they might lead to something that we really want to share. No matter what, it’s training our brains to start producing words on command. Writers who talk about waiting for the muse to appear usually end up producing far less than writers who regularly force themselves to write even when the muse is absent.

The silly, counter-intuitive and mean advice is that writers need to own what they are. Their purpose in life is to write. Writing is not just a job, it is a vocation. The difference between the two is a deep emotional attachment to the work at hand. If you don’t love writing, and consider the concept of forcing yourself to write even when your brain objects a horrible chore, perhaps you should rethink things. You really may not be a writer after all.

Yes, that might seem harsh, but consider the reality. Writing involves dealing with editors, criticism, and often defending what you do in the eyes of the masses. There are rejection letters, rewrites, and all manner of obstacles to face from first draft to finished product. If you’re dealing with writing in the world of media, there is fast-paced work that can sap the creative soul out of the best of us. Writing is not an easy vocation by any stretch of the imagination, and becoming great at it requires a great deal of work and dedication.

Most people are not made for the life of writing, pure and simple.

So, the next time you see someone asking for advice about how to get beyond writer’s block, take a look at the responses. How many of the people offer advice that includes anything but writing? I’m willing to wager that you will see a pile of people suggesting a calm walk, a day off from writing, television binge watching, music (without a keyboard or pen nearby), and any number of other things. They mean well, and very well may be writers who have managed to convince themselves that anything but writing can resolve writer’s block. Of course, you won’t see anyone asking those people how many days they’ve gone without writing, by using all those other activities to break writer’s block. I get tempted to ask sometimes, but I never have. Maybe I will one day.

*The previous has a raw word count of 658 words, written in 15 minutes, using an iPhone timer – to break writer’s block.


Source: Liz Harrison

Musings on Writer’s Block

In Praise of Cultural Appropriation

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As a girl, I would ask my mother, “Why can’t I have curls?” She’d always frown a little, and remind me that our hair is straight. My grandmother would get permanent waves, and my mother ended up nearly losing her hair to a truly disastrous chemical treatment – all in the pursuit of what we did not have from birth. The irony of this was that more often than not, the girls with the ringlets that I envied would have preferred to have smooth and straight locks like my own. It is that basic envy and admiration of what we don’t have that drives the imitation of styles we see on others – what some now call “cultural appropriation.”

The real problem isn’t the fact that people are “borrowing” from the styles of other cultures, because that has been happening from the time that people started wearing clothing and adornments. Today, we have an intellectual elite class that is teaching the masses that this act of imitation is essentially the same as being photographed was to some cultures that feared it desperately because they believed the images somehow trapped their souls. The problem is that people are being told that imitating style is equal to ripping something essential from their very existence.

These high-minded individuals have failed to recognize a very basic part of being human – as human beings, we engage in mimicry. In modern society, it is a very selective process, which means that we only choose to emulate actions (or in this case, styles) we highly admire.

There was an adage that applied to this phenomenon – “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Elvis Presley imitated music from black artists, because he admired their work not because he wanted to somehow keep those artists from advancing in the music industry.

The current targets of the intellectual elites are being told they can’t make certain fashion choices, like hoop earrings, because those styles are the exclusive property of minority cultures. Those same people are telling members of those cultures that they should feel insulted if people from other cultural backgrounds want to imitate them. The entire premise is based on two fallacies: first that anything in our collective culture is the exclusive “property” of a given ethnicity, and second that anyone who chooses to borrow styles from other ethnic backgrounds is doing so for malicious or racist reasons.

Every culture on the planet at this point has borrowed from other cultures at some point, so there is no such thing as “cultural exclusivity”. Humans have been migrating around the planet for millennia, and have picked up bits and pieces of their culture from the places they have called home over the years. The intellectual elites who are claiming that there is such a thing as “cultural exclusivity” must have skipped History, Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Psychology during their studies.

The claim that there can only be malignant or hateful reasons for people to emulate each other has no basis in reality. In truth, it is in direct contradiction with more than a few theories that these intellectuals should have learned in even the most basis courses on Psychology and Sociology.

So, this entire exercise is an anti-academic and anti-scientific social movement with the simple goal of causing outrage among minority groupings. Generally speaking, such activities have historically been used to control minority factions within a society. If the minority groupings are focused on being angry at a specifically defined “pseudo-enemy” that really isn’t a true threat to them, the ones telling them that they should be angry can then gain their trust on other matters. Those “other matters” are usually laws and policies that are truly a threat to those minority groupings. In America today, that could be the perpetuation of a permanent underclass for minorities, particularly in urban centers. Those intellectuals are also opposed to education reforms that could improve educational opportunities for that permanent underclass the government and intellectuals created.

But, it’s more important to be upset about the “wrong” cultural groups wearing the fashions inspired by minority groupings, right?

Image: Dr. Umesh Behari Mathur (CC)

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Source: Subculture

In Praise of Cultural Appropriation

Where Has All the Health Insurance Gone?

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I want to start going to a fitness center, and since I broached the subject in front of some family members, they helpfully offered the advice that I should double-check what my health insurance offers. It makes some sense, since their point was to prevent me from paying membership fees if they were already included in my policy. Unfortunately, this has become a normal conversation in America, because we have – as a nation – completely lost the true meaning of the phrase “health insurance.” I can’t blame anyone for that, because the language we use to talk about insurance has changed radically over the years.

In spite of being eligible for AARP (by merit of marriage), I’m not yet 50. But, I’m old enough to remember the evolution of how Americans have paid for medical services since the 1970’s, and the terms we’ve used for that.

Medical Insurance – This one is simple, mostly straightforward, and is what we called policies that would usually just cover hospital visits, and emergent care. Some policies would take a small bite out of the costs of routine doctor visits from the start, but most wouldn’t start paying for those regular visits until we had paid a generally high deductible out-of-pocket. My parents would usually eat right through that, since I was a sickly child. “Finally! The insurance kicked in!” was a common statement from my mother by around May or June of each year, when the receptionist in my doctor’s office would tell her those happy words, “No charge for today!” The bottom line for these policies was that people paid premiums to cover primarily extremely expensive services that they couldn’t afford otherwise, and routine care was paid primarily out-of-pocket. Those expensive services were mostly for grave illnesses or injuries.

Health Management/Maintenance Organization (HMO) – Arriving in the early 1980’s at least in our region, the HMO was a godsend in my mother’s eyes – at first. Sure, the paychecks went down more than with the old insurance, since the premiums were so much higher. But, all doctor visits were blessedly low cost! No more writing checks over $50 for just a routine check-up. Before my mother could absolutely declare it paradise, she ended up seeing a pediatrician to remove an in-grown toenail. You didn’t misread that. This was when my mother learned what the “management” part of that acronym really meant – patients will see whoever is cheapest for the organization, so that means the correct specialists might not fit that description. My mother ended up with blood poisoning, a hospital stay to receive IV antibiotics, and a lot of follow-up visits to other (not necessarily correct specialty) doctors to make sure there was no lasting damage to her foot or leg. Needless to say, this was the beginning of the end of people relying entirely on the advice of physicians. It’s great that people have become advocates for their own health, and learn about their medical problems. But, it would have been much better if it hadn’t started out of necessity, because many people were just like my mother – being given the cheapest care their HMO’s could throw at them. The bottom line for HMO’s is to have customers pre-pay for care through high premiums, out-of-pocket expenses are relatively low, but these organizations are focused on saving as much money as possible. They have fallen out of favor because they got a reputation for pushing questionable care – like my mother received – at the expense of patients’ health.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) – This is something that started sometime in the 1990’s in Western Pennsylvania at least, and is essentially still an HMO in how it operates. The primary difference is that instead of telling patients who to see, there is a list of providers to choose from within the region. The companies offering these policies negotiate contracts with hospitals, pharmacies, provider groups, and occasionally with health clubs – which is what I theoretically should be checking. Calling PPO’s “Preferred Provider Organizations” is a misnomer, and if there was truth in advertising, they would be called “Pre Paid Office-visits”. The bottom line for PPO’s is again forcing customers to pre-pay for care, which means that the majority of people do not get anything close to their investments back in these programs. Instead of the problems of questionable care seen in HMO’s there are issues with “in-network” versus “out-of-network” providers. Some regions like my own are ruled by medical monopolies, which means that depending on which insurance company is underwriting a PPO policy, customers could be restricted from using certain hospital and health networks entirely. This has become an issue since insurance companies are increasingly becoming directly involved in providing medical care, and hospital systems are starting their own insurance companies.

Right now, there’s yet another “health care” bill being considered, but because it’s not going to change the status quo of the insurance market that is essentially limited to high-premium pre-paid care policies, it’s no better than its predecessors. I understand, it’s been around 40 years since we had “real” health insurance in America, and that many people don’t remember it clearly at all. But, people really do need to think about this, and reconsider how we’re doing things. We don’t have real choices anymore when it comes to health insurance – the differences are just in costs, not in what they really offer. The primary reasons why traditional health insurance of the 1970’s and before fell out of favor was because of restrictions on Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s), and now that we’re finally easing those, perhaps it’s time to demand that government get out of the insurance business. Let the people demand what they really want from insurance companies. I sincerely doubt that I’m the only person in America who would love to return to a system where I have a policy to cover major medical problems, deductibles on routine care, and real pricing on health care – instead of the imaginary pricing created by government and insurance companies.

For now, it’s time to for me to find out if I can get a health club membership discount thanks to my current insurance – not because I “like” the idea, but because I’ve already paid for it!

Image: ccPixs.com

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Source: Subculture

Where Has All the Health Insurance Gone?