Monday, August 16, 2010

Retained Asset Accounts: Gibberish for Highway Robbery?

In a recent NPR story , we heard the voice of a father entitled to death benefits because his son was killed in the line of duty in Iraq or Afganistan. The man complained about the so-called “retained asset accounts” held by insurance companies instead of distributing the proceeds earned by the ultimate sacrifice of their loved ones in wartime.

The father noted the obvious: that insurance companies profiting from war dead is downright disgusting. The feeble rationalization from the insurance company was that this practice, which provided a checkbook to the beneficiaries, constituted “a convenient service at a time of emotional duress, and gives grieving families one less issue to deal with.” Hunh?? One less issue -- like, uh, a huge pile of cash? -- this was going to ease their emotional distress?? Until checks were written to deplete the account, the insurance company could invest the proceeds of this hard-earned (jeesh!) government benefit and make some dough.

Why is it OK for massive profit-taking in all the many realms in which it occurs? This obscene practice suggests that anything that can be quantified can be profitized, and that this is OK. Watch out! When you join the ranks of the unemployed in Colorado, please be advised that your meagre benefits would be reduced for fees charged against the major bank credit card that will be issued to provide your benefits---in a manner similar to the War Dead Insurance scam described in the NPR story. If you want the benefits, you not be given a choice to receive a lump-sum payment; and you'll have to withdraw the money through your bank after they deduct a fee if you wanted to use the money to, say, pay your (probably overdue) mortgage payment. Deducting the fee from all the unemployed throughout the State of Colorado undoubtedly provided a rather hefty sum to the bank, along with the use of the money of those who drew against it over time, in effect, reducing the amount of unemployment benefits available to help you off-set your lack of a paycheck.

And the disgust at our over-amped capitalism doesn’t really stop there. Why should someone profit from the fact that your home is freezing cold in winter? That your neighbor is unemployed? That you want to watch your TV? That your grandmother has been stricken with cancer?

If you think these questions are thoughtful, perhaps you should rethink your willingness to work for what you deserve.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summertime Mexican-Influenced Shrimp Salad

If you're thinking about visiting sunny Mexico this winter, but in the meantime want to experience a taste of Sonora, why don't you try this fresh, citrus-y shrimp salad (while we can still find them, uh, BP...)?

Serving suggestions for accompaniments follow this easy-to-prepare recipe.

Summertime Mexican-Influenced Shrimp Salad

For two:

About a dozen large shrimp, cooked, peeled and cut in half
1/3 c black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 red pepper, seeds and veins removed, diced
1/2 avocado, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 1/2 T cilantro, chopped
4 small, pickled red peppers (from grocery store olive / antipasti bar or 1 week in refrigerator, any red pepper, with 1-1-1 water, sugar, vinegar quick-pickle)

Mix in a serving bowl and add:

1-2 T olive oil
juice from 1/2 lime

Serve over fresh greens, or not. Serve with lime wedges.

Addition Serving Suggestions

Brown rice, lightly olive-oiled
Grilled zuchini, onions, leeks, and mushrooms
French (Mexican??) bread with softened brie

A well-chilled, crisp white wine, like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Use The Three Ts to Beat Back the Lobbyists

Initially, I was dismayed by the full-page ad in today’s (Boulder Daily Camera, 3/09/10) newspaper, paid for by the Oil-and-Gas Lobby, throwing around tired ultra-conservative conclusions like 'don't raise taxes during a recession' and sneakily signed with a tag-line that includes the hot-button buzz-words like “America” and “People” instead of “Profits,” “Greed,” “International,” and “Thugs” which would be a lot closer to their truth. But now I see how we can fight for ourselves. I call my plan “The Three T’s”. Now I’m going to tell you why we should care and what we can do.

This ad is part of an expensive advance campaign funded by the Oil and Gas Industry to fend off a tax that they believe is going to be proposed (I haven't heard about it yet, but they obviously are in the know on this) that would diminish the already exorbitant profits of an industry that knows no bounds. We don’t know much about the tax, but we’ve already seen 'ordinary citizens' (i.e., actors who look like ordinary people on TV telling us how reducing oil industry profits ‘during a recession’ is the ultimate bad idea.

Hm. Join me in rethinking this notion. Critical thinking and an informed society is what makes our democracy thrive. What to do? I urge you to apply the Three Ts -- TiVo, Turn the Page, and Talk it Up.

1) TiVo through these misleading spin-mongering ads as soon as you see them as you watch TV. These ads are not designed to help you in any way. Your interests do NOT align with those of the Oil Industry. They should pay their own taxes. Encourage your legislators to impose taxes that cannot be passed on to us. We don’t ask the Oil Industry to pay OUR taxes. Why should we pay THEIRS?

2) Turn the Page when you see a full-page ad from the Oil and Gas Industry (even it is signed, dishonestly, using a phrase that includes touchy-feely words like “People” or “America”) don’t be fooled again. Can YOU afford a full-page ad in the Camera? Do you think ours is the only newspaper in which a full-page ad was placed by these weasels? What's more, do you think the industry’s grunts are paying for those expensive ads? Wake up. The massive profits from YOUR fuel bills and gas pump expenditures are paying for these misleading ads.

3) Talk it Up. Talk to your friends and family and urge them not to fall for these ploys. If we can enrich the Marketplace of Ideas, we still have a chance against Big Business, which includes the oil-and-gas magnates like those who paid for this ad in our (and countless other) local newspapers.

Together, we can prevent this kind of corruption and compromise of our democracy: just implement the Three T’s: TiVo, Turn the Page, and Talk it Up.