Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ode to a Bestest 54th Birthday Ever

Andre Milteer 01/24/14
This year, I celebrated my 54th birthday [thank you thank you]. The actual date was Friday, January 24th.  As anti-climatic as it could have been, it was actually my bestest ever. I've come to really appreciate birthdays --- my own as well as that of others. Facebook deserves HUGE praise for alerting me to the birth dates of my FB friends as they occur.

Fifty-four is nice because I'm not yet 55; but also not 18-25. Looking back to bithday age pasts, 37 was my coolest year. That was the year in which I completed 20 years of military service. Also, I completed my graduate studies (psychology) that same said year [1997]. The biggest accomplishment -- or realization,  is that I no longer have to figure everything out. No longer do I have to be a know it all...I simply have to exist. In other words, I just need to enjoy this human experience that my spirit and soul is manifesting.

My friends and family presented truly wonderful gifts to me. Perhaps that know, as do I, that giving feels so good. ALMOST as good as it does to receive. A few of my LinkedIn connections took a moment to e-message warm birthday regards [thanks Dennis, S. / Christopher, G / and Diane, F.] Many FB friends reached out [thanks Brandon, M., Tony, L., Gavi, H., Michelle, E. & Marian, B.] and good friends from my hometown sent wishful emails [thanks Lynn & PFR].

At the end of the day, we all only have this moment; the luckiest of us have family. For better or worse, family is the thread that weaves us into the fabric of the universe. My brother-in-law (Misha) wished me happy birthday via FB (although I completely forgot about his birthday two days prior {es tut mir leid, bruder}. My dear and sweet sister-in-law (Hilda) called me to wish a very warm birthday. Hilda's warm wishes were incredible given that she was enduring a NJ winter of INCHES of snow + FREEZING temperatures compared to a warmer Texas climate @my home.

I worked on my birthday. Drove 45 miles over icy backroads to get to the job. No one at work knew (or cared) about Andre's special 54th birthday. No big deal...wait, I Lie! I made sure to tell enough employees -- they were blown away that I'm 54. The average age at my workplace is 27; how can they even began to process my age. Many were Blown Away! that I had Lived to be 54.



While @work, one of my sons (Marcello) called...it went to unanswered. I knew why he called, so I text responded affirmatively. Around 2pm, my spouse (Barbara) called (voicemail) to say that an outside pipe had burst -- water GUSHING everywhere! Not able to leave work until 4pm, I called my BRO (Danny) for help. Dan is like a brother to me... he went over and shut off the water main. On birthday night, I spent three hours mending a broken lawn sprinkler pipe in 35 degree cold weather.

Many of my old Army Band alumni congratulated me via FB [thanks Debi, Tony, Eric, Levi, Bix, et als]. Speaking of bands, my sons (Marcello and Maurice) gave me some great music CDs. Ever heard of jazz composer/pianist, Amina Figarova? Neither had I...the music was totally groovy. Maurice's Big Band CD compilation was education. Track one featured the Count Basie Orchestra performing Ain't Misbehavin. The selection started with an organ intro. Sweet!


My niece (Mavis) text messaged a digital wallpaper snapshot on my Nokia Lumina phone. The message: Let the Rays of your Smile lead your path today. [how awesome] Another cool text message was a video received from [future] daughter-in-law (Sheena). Embedded into the phone message was a private home video featuring her 2 y/o daughter (KZ, aka -My Granddaughter). KZ acappella-sang, Happy Birthday (ala Marylyn Monroe style) **Precious**  My wife (Barbara) gave me an [authorized] blu-ray copy of Oprah Winfrey's, The Butler (starring Forest Whitaker). I really wanted to see this film and this was a selfless act of giving from my wife [she is NOT a member of the O/W fan club].

Perhaps my greatest gift was from my deceased maternal grandfather (Fred, W.). Facing the challenge of a busted and frozen water pipe coupled with a potentially expensive plumbing bill, Fred (as I affectionately called him) taught me the tenets of tradesman repair. Roofing, electrical, masonry, horticulture, carpentry, and also -- plumbing. I put my Granddad's training to use on birthday night. My dinner was a pre-ordered Papa John's pizza and wings.

How will you celebrate your birthday...what do birthdays mean to you? For all that gave to me this year, I say thank you. And of course, by participating in my birthday, you too brought a sliver of 'Rays of Your Smile' into your own life as well. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

America's Veterans 2013

I've always posted something to my blog relevant to Veterans during this time (November) of year. As a former Army [non-commissioned] officer, my honorable service lends itself to a membership into the elite Band of Brothers/Sisters.

This year is certainly no different. Thus, just allow me to say to all Honorably discharged Veterans, Thank You for Your Service!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Train Wreck that is Not Obamacare (audio)

Last week, I published my commentary about Obamacare. Rather than publishing a rather long read, the idea came to record an audio version of the posting to assist with digesting the content. Follow this link or copy and paste into your browser to hear the full audio version [http://encouraging-people.podbean.com/2013/10/31/obamacare-is-not-a-train-wreck/]

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Train Wreck that is NOT Obamacare

(Photo: www.healthcare.gov)
(Photo: www.healthcare.gov)
Much has been said about Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act of 2010. One prominent U.S. senator has referred to the law as a train-wreckReferencing thefreedictionary.com, a train wreck is defined as:
A train wreck or train crash is a type of disaster involving one or more trains. Train wrecks often occur as a result of miscommunication, as when a moving train meets another train on the same track; or an accident, such as when a train wheel jumps off a track in a derailment; or when a boiler explosion occurs. 
The answers beg the question: Is Obamacare a Train Wreck?

As a point of contention, the Republican-led House of Representative (2013) took a political position of challenging the funding of President Obama’s signature health care initiative as a preamble to the legislative roll call vote to pass a federal government funding and/or debt ceiling limit bill. As widely reported, the president responded with a “no negotiation” response.

The Socialization of Medical Managed Care


For starters, the beginning of federal government involvement into socialized medical care entitlement (as we know it) found its way into the American way of life with the FDR Presidency. President Roosevelt issued in a New Deal …one of an economic social safety net with the advancing of the Social Security Administration and social benefits for retirees and disabled citizens. As time went on, President LBJ introduced a law to provide economic help with medical expenses for U.S. citizenry. That entitlement, known as Medicare, was signed into law in 1965.

President G.W. Bush expanded Medicare in 2003 with the signing of the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) which is commonly known as the Part D prescription drug plan. Once thought to be an entitlement of enormous public disdain and a potential economic burden, the Medicare Part D entitlement is now seen as a benefit that is a managed care success…popular with both Democrats and Republicans alike.

MMA was believed to have been a potential disaster during its conception and infancy – a train wreck waiting to happen – yet this was not the case. The roll out began in earnest in 2006; the benefit is a resounding success in 2013…roughly 10 years post-legislation.

Managed Care 101

Physicians and hospital operate under partnerships with private insurance companies, state government, and the federal government. Other than indigent persons (not verified ability to pay for service), the medical community depends on reimbursement for service. The infinitesimal percentage of wealthy persons that engage in private fee for service cannot sustain the medical profession’s need for a billable fee schedule. Insurance companies along with [State] Medicaid and [Federal] Medicare reimbursements are the ways that managed care operates in this country.

According to Medicare.gov, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is the federal agency that runs the Medicare Program and monitors Medicaid programs offered by each state. In 2011, Medicare covered 48.7 million people. Total expenditures in 2011 were $549.1 billion. This money comes from the Medicare Trust Funds.

Medicare is a very popular entitlement for eligible individuals. Medicare is a political sacred cow. Even staunch conservative fiscal hawks view Medicare entitlement as a property right. Yet how odd is it that these same said persons see 
Obamacare as a Train-Wreck. Can Obamacare one day become the golden child entitlement of both left and right wing politics?

As a licensed Life and Health Insurance agent with a health care (AHIP) certification, I hear fear and misplaced outrage from Medicare-entitled member enrollees voicing unsupported opinions regarding 
Obamacare and Medicare. Top 5 things to know about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if you have Medicare are that (1) your Medicare coverage is protected,  (2) you get more preventive services, for less, (3) you can save money on brand-name drugs, (4) your doctor gets more support, and (5) the ACA ensures the protection of Medicare for years to come. [Source: Medicare.gov; http://medicare.gov/about-us/affordable-care-act/affordable-care-act.html] 



The Repealing of Obamacare

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives along with a Dem-Senate rammed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through the chambers up to the White House in year 2010. Republicans were not supportive for numerous reasons. Moreover, whatever the case, Republicans were perhaps naturally resentful of the politics of the Law’s passage. Regaining the House shortly thereafter, Republicans have introduced, voted, and challenged ACA (aka Obamacare) 40 times over a three year period. The negative economic ramifications of the Law are mired in fact, fiction, opinion, and bias.

ACA arguments pros and con include:
  1. Obamacare is a job killer.
  2. Obamacare is the enemy of small business (50 employees or less).
  3. Obamacare is unfair to those that are self-employed, retiree/pensioners, and the middle class.
  4. Obamacare is grossly unpopular with the majority of constituents, both Republicans as well as Democrats.
  5. Obamacare is a Bad Law!
  6. Obamacare is a Train Wreck.
  7. Obamacare is disliked because Barack Obama is disliked.
Rather than debate the facts and/or perceptions, it is widely known that the Public hears what they believe…they believe what they hear. Researching the economics and the meritocracy of ACA would not sway those opinions to a noticeable degree. The one component of the argument is that the nation does have concerns about ACA’s affect upon job growth. Will Obamacare indeed become the Train Wreck of job creation and stability?

The truth of the matter is that small businesses are exempt from ACA. Large businesses (over 50 employees) will need to implement ACA by year 2015. The Obama administration granted a one year extension to the mandate for large business due to the concerted consensus of the business community. For many, employer-sponsored health insurance is the only path to accessing the health care system. The factors of employment status, selective risk, and/or affordability are the key roadblocks to citizens being insured or insurable.

The ACA (aka Obamacare)  has several moving parts. Many of us are most familiar with the disappointing rollout of the Healthcare.gov website. Politicians, the media, as well as the president have expressed disapproval and concern with the inability of the site to handle the traffic demands of persons wanting to access the information. 

In an October 2013 CNN blog post it was reported that the president was not going to sugarcoat his dissatisfaction with the site itself.
"Nobody's madder than me about the website not working as well as it should, which means it's going to get fixed," Obama said during an appearance at the White House Rose Garden. But he didn't specify exactly what went wrong or who was to blame for the problems, which include long waits to log onto the federally administered website and maddeningly long wait times once online. There's "no excuse for the problems," Obama said.
Accessing the site tonight (10-25-13), I had no problems gaining access. Since I currently have insurance, I wanted to know about how Obamacare would affect my coverage. The answers on the site were positively surprising. As with many Americans, I too am concerned with privacy and protection. In my mind, having the government’s hand in my medical care is already a past occurrence. Managed care, being what it is, is already run by insurance companies along with state and federal agencies. The cool thing is that eligible persons with preexisting conditions and protections for women are inclusive components of ACA.

Conclusion

Republicans hate Obamacare, yet haven’t presented an alternative solution to remedy the plight of America’s uninsured. Representative (Rep-CA) Darrell Issa floated the idea that health care access for the masses be covered under the Federal Employee Health Care system as an alternative to Obamacare. Hmm…pensions plan that is an employer-sponsored program for +1 million persons become a national health care default program for 40 million persons? Uh, no…don’t think so.

ACA is the law of the land. For now, eligible persons must enroll into the ACA program via telephone call center operators. Eventually, the website will be fixed (see Examiner.com article 10-25-13). Millions of persons will get in and enroll. States such as California, Kentucky, and Iowa are already seeing early success on their state-sponsored health exchange websites and programs. The shame is that many state opted to stand aside and have the federal government set up the health exchange. Were they hoping that the effort would fail?

States can do a better job with providing services for its’ citizenry. Managed care is health insurance; insurance regulation and policy is under the jurisdiction of the states rather than the federal government. The health care law would be best served by having federal funding with state-by-state execution and administration. No--Obamacare is Not a Train Wreck. The apathy and intentional sabotage by opposing political factions that are more concerned with their self-serving agenda rather than providing for the wellbeing of its’ citizenry is the Real Train Wreck!


Apply now to get health insurance that works for you and your employees


Obtenga cobertura médica que funcione para usted - y sus empleados. SOLICITE AHORA

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Job search aint no walk in the park








Some of you all out there are or were (recently) searching for job. [You know who you are] And so if you are one of those that have recently completed a job search or/are still in the process of job searching, this article is for you. You see -- no one really understands what this is all about, unless they’ve walked a mile in his shoes.

My job search has been with laced ups and downs plus lots of twists and curves. Although I’ve been unemployed a few times in the past, nothing prepared me for the unemployment that I would experience in years 2011, 2012, and a portion of year 2013.

For one, the United States economic recession has been deeper than many of us realized.

Oh sure, there are those that had jobs. You ‘employed’ had to do extra task in the workplace due to delayed hiring. You all had to pick up the slack (i.e. more with less). Yet for those of us that were members of the long-term unemployed, it just seemed like the party was over and that the door would be locked forever.


What could we do?

Oh sure, we all though this hiring slump was just a seasonal thing. How long is the season if we look at the four seasons of the weather? They typically rotate in and out once every three months. Four seasons times three months equals to 12 months…this is one year. But this season of unemployment just went on and on and on and on.

Many of us were lucky enough to draw unemployment and that was truly a godsend. Yet we workers were used to work -- having a purpose. And not being a part of the workforce; well, we just felt like we had some type of disease. We all wanted to return to the former shadow that we left behind. Whether we were professionals in the business world, the banking world, or the education world. Whatever profession or vocation we were in, we thought that if we were just able to hold on then surely the good times would roll again.

Things didn't pan out – 2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013 came and went. We all had to come face-to-face with the fact that maybe the former would not return. That painful realization that we had to search and find a career anew. Perhaps we would never have another professional career again? Many of us were led to become entrepreneurs and/or become self-employed; although that was not part of our quote/unquote PASSION. But we do what we have to do in order to survive… Don’t we? 


Starting all over again ain’t gonna be fun… 

So how do how do we start all over? How do we regain our sense of purpose? For me, the answer was neither to reinvent nor to go back in time. But to look at where I was…right now and in this very moment. I had to find a way to take everything together and cover the basics.

I went back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Dr. Maslow, a famous psychologist, is known for his Pyramid of Needs. The basics, or the bottom of the pyramid, is what we call security needs. At the tippy-top of the pyramid is the elusive and Utopia's place of self-actualization.

Maslow theorized that none of us could aspire to or achieve self-actualization without the benefit of the pyramid needs fulfillment. We cannot move forward unless our security needs are met at its most basic and primal level. Those basics are simply food, clothing and shelter. The secret is that much of our work simply satisfies the basis for the covering of those basics…food, clothing and shelter. And that’s okay!

When we look at Maslow’s pyramid, we begin to understand that we must cover the basics. This covering of basics means doing whatever we need to do – as long as it is moral, ethical and legal. In my case, that meant taking on odd jobs that were either part-time or contractual, or even seasonal. I had to face the fact that I had to do what I had to do in order to survive. It is through this surviving that I learned about what it takes to really understand what life is all about. Understanding myself as a human being. I found my voice. And when I found my voice, I actually found myself.


Money is important like oxygen 


Once upon a time, I believed that I needed to make certain amount of money and/or achieve certain goals. Of course, I still believe that money as well as goals is awfully important. But they’re not the all-in-all of importance. Persons living within Western societies don’t need as much money as we think that we do. We don’t need everything that we have and we don’t need to spend every dollar that we earn in order to survive. I learned that I can make less and enjoy life even more.

Make no mistake, I don’t wish this learning experience upon anyone. Nor is this lesson without pain. However, I did learn that I can make it no matter what. And although currently, I am underemployed, it has been my intention to not waste a crisis without learning something in the process. Of all of the short-term jobs that I had over the last 18 months, I have learned something from and something with as a result of these jobs.

The most important thing in all of this is to never-ever-ever lose hope or give up. Once we give up, the show is over. The fat (opera) lady sings, the curtains come down, and that’s all folks (as Bugs Bunny would say). I learned that it’s necessary to believe; and it’s that belief that I want to speak more about. 

Believe in the possible 
After spending many, many days and hours at the Texas state unemployment office, I noticed that there were signs and slogans posted on the walls. One of the signs simply said, ‘Believe in the Possible’!

Not really understanding what that meant, it seemed to me to be a dream killer. After all, I have hopes and dreams and wants and wishes just like everyone else. I want to believe that everything is possible and that there is nothing impossible. In many cases I want to say, yes we can.

But the truth of the matter is that we can have and be and think and want anything that we want…anything that we can dream up. Yet the simple fact is that our beliefs need to be tempered… Tempered with possibilities.
Our possibilities work best when based in reality and steeped in optimism.

For instance, if I want to become an attorney, I need to have a law degree. If I can believe that I can promote myself and gain an interview – receiving a job offer to work as a corporate attorney (without a law degree), then that’s a belief in the Improbable. Yet with a law degree it is possible -- I could run for public office or even become a general counsel to a large corporation.

The same can be said for a plumber wanting to become a carpenter -- there’s going to be a disconnect. Although plumbing and carpentry are both part of the construction industry. So the belief in the possible is based upon fact, plus reality, plus optimism. Once we combine those three forces together, nothing will be impossible for us.

The main thing to think about here is that if we ever find ourselves in a position that we need to look for job or to make a major career change, note that the road or the path won't be a walk in the park. It'll take a lot of inner work, a lot of outer work, a lot of luck, a lot of faith, and a lot of sweat and tears. Yet all in all, we can make it…because we will learn to survive or die trying. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Food for Thought

Once upon a time, I worked in a grocery store. More than just simply having a job, I was a Produce Department Manager for a Texas-based private grocery chain called H.E. Butt Grocery Company. The red apples, the sweet [and sour] grapes, and the salad green lettuces spread along the department perimeter. I learned about and promoted the benefits of organics. Shoppers were amazed with the taste-sampling derived from biting into a succulent ear of shuckless cob corn.

110302_OC_LSC_0120


Five ways to feed America

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one of those federal government agencies that works -- well, we know who and what they do -- kind of. It's has something to do with agriculture (aka food)...right? The USDA states that the agencies' mission is, we provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management. In a nutshell, the USDA is all about the regulatory business of Food (I think we said that earlier...didn't we?).

Via a national program of regulations, laws, and cooperative partnerships, the USDA goes about its business (keyword: food). Some of the regulatory programs that are exercised and overseen by the USDA include:
No one individual or consumer, to include farmers/ranchers as well as agricultural law attorneys, can possibly keep up with all of the federal regulations pertinent to America's food and agriculture production. Yet many of us have our own pet topics of interests. The Federal Seed Act and/or the PACA are near and dear to the hearts of many. Perhaps at the bottom of the topic list for many is my top-of-mind USDA regulatory program interest. The Cool Program.

My fascination with Cool goes back to my produce department management days. For the life of me, I never understood (beforehand) how grocery stores could sell fresh apples year-round...when my backyard apple tree only produced fruit in late summer. The answer: importing the apples from other countries (coin the phrase, global economy).

Country of origin labeling (aka, COOL) helps me to know where my fruit is grown. Perhaps my peaches are from Georgia (state) -- from Mexico or Peru -- maybe from a major peach exporter such as China. Is that a concern for you or me? Certainly...the water supply that irrigates peaches from China, Georgia, or wherever is a major piece of the consumer food safety of peach exports. Labeling is a BIG DEAL!

Governing Food

During this (2013) time of budgetary sequestration, federal agency downsizing, and fiscal conservatorship, the question of how much versus how little begs to be heard. Yearning for the days of long ago when America was abundant with family farms and ranches, the brand names on the produce and meats mirrored that of the family names of the producers.

Today, we have agricultural conglomerates, consortiums, and international food syndicates. The regulation of food and agriculture, while perhaps not as important to the production and supply thereof, is as important to the post-production food distribution chain as is environmental protection is to oil drilling.

Food needs protection, regulation, and civil involvement. With the stakeholder partnerships of Food producers, ranchers, distributors, consumers and advocates, as well as the USDA, we can all enjoy a healthy and wholesome abundance of food consumables for generations to come. The main question is a simple one: how important (to you) is the food that you eat?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Properly responding to the George Zimmerman Trial verdict

Remembering Trayvon Martin
The verdict is in:

 Not Guilty!

Some believe that justice has prevailed...others do not. two truths are evident:

  • George Zimmerman is a Free Man.
  • Trayvon Martin is Dead!
Where do we go from here? First the answer is not anarchy. No rioting, looting, civil unrest. No-No-No!

The answer is Love...


What's Love gotta do wit it?

If the Trayvon Martin death is to have any significance, it must be one of a cause-to-action. Martin's death demands that we pay increased attention to the plight and potentially dangerous landscape that is faced by America's Black Male Youth. It is DANGEROUS to be a Black Teen in America.

The reality is that RACE is/was the (one of many) factor in the Zimmerman case. Beyond that of race, we also have an issue of economic disparity within our Justice system. Trayvon is a cause celebre -- propelling us to action.

The family and friends of Trayvon have set a foundation to set his legacy into infamy. The Trayvon Martin Foundation is my engine for remembrance, action, and political change. State and Federal laws, Gun Control, and a conversation about Youth in America is desperately needed.

Please join me in remembering Trayvon Martin by supporting the Trayvon Martin Foundation.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Will Justice be served soon for Trayvon Martin

Justice for Trayvon Martin
Justice for Trayvon Martin
The George Zimmerman murder/manslaughter trial is almost over. After a month of No Charges, a 6 month delay with indicting Zimmerman for the Trayvon Martin shooting (after a public media campaign spearheaded by Rev Al Sharpton et als), and a very public attention to the court trial, we will/may soon have a verdict.

The question begs: "Why do we even care about a young Black teen's shooting?" My answer: 'It didn't have to happen.

Why was it necessary for a human being to be shot with a firearm simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?


What's the Big Deal?


I've reported and written commentary about the Martin/Zimmerman issue twice (this is my third blogpost). Although Black Youth are gunned down everyday within these United States, it shouldn't make any of us any less aware nor desensitized. A human being was killed..needlessly.

Trayvon Martin represents a dark mark on our North American culture. That is that race relations and equality has a LLLLOOOOOOONNNNNNG Way2Go! It will be a travesty of justice to send a message that another human being can be lawfully gunned down in the absence of a crime being committed. So Very Sad -- so very sad.

 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Independence Day Blues

Gen. D.A. McArthur
In a former life, I was a Military Bandsman (aka trombone player in uniform). Within my military communities and cities around the United States, the Fourth of July is a BIG DEAL! Fireworks, apple pie, and military band concerts.

In particular, the 1812 Overture is the piece-de-resistance for concluding a July 4th event. The last note is held over by the conductor -- cue fireworks and happily-screaming patriotic fans.

Yet there is one other military music favorite that moves me beyond measure...



Duty Honor Country

McArthur's speech to West Point Cadet, Class of '62, was punctuated with the General's oratory on the meaning of military service and sacrifice. Within his 20 minute -- voice-crackling speech -- McArthur returned again and again to the theme..Duty, Honor, Country.

Read more about McArthur's speech, Military Bands, a YouTube video performance, and why this former military musician has the Independence Day Blues... [Click here to read more...]