Sunday, December 29, 2013

We're Home...!!!


We're home, folks!

Yep... slept in our own bed last night...

(Thanks again to Paul Stein for the airport pick-up!)

Last night's dinner: Leftover Christmas turkey (from dad), rare roast beef (courtesy of ShopRite), and cheese sandwiches! (Yeah... plenty of Hellmann's!)

(*PATTING MY TUMMY*)

My God... think about it... I - William R. Barker - was sick and tired of eating out! Couldn't even bear a stop at the Nanuet Restaurant!

Slept from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. this morning. (That should put us back on NY time!) Still... I feel a bit like I assume "He Whose Name Dare Not Be Mentioned" feels on an average day! (It's a nine hour difference between Abu Dhabi and New York...)

(*HUGE FRIGGIN' GRIN*)

I'll start the travelogue either today or tomorrow... maybe get in a bit of newsbiting...

The UAE is one heluva place, folks... it was a wonderful trip... a great experience!

Glad to be home, though...

(*WINK*)


Friday, December 27, 2013

Soon, soon, soon...


Sorry for the "radio silence" these last few weeks.

(Frankly...it's  the fact that I don't have access to a PC here at Kim's place and between my HUGE FRIGGIN' FINGERS and Luddite tendencies I find communicating via Kimmy's "Surface" to be sheer physical and mental torture!)

Today is our last full day in the UAE. It's been a GREAT trip overall! Our (initial) flight back home departs at 7:40 a.m. tomorrow morning and as long as all goes well... we should be landing at JFK at around 4:30 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon.

(GOD BLESS PAUL STEIN...!!!)

Plenty to tell... plenty to share... when we get home. (We've taken literally hundreds of photos!)

Anyway... thanks to Joey Baby and Claire Bear for babysitting Hank!

Thanks to Dad for babysitting Sammie!

Looking forward to seeing as many of you as we can prior to the curtain closing on 2013... 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Safely Arrived!


More to come!

(Forgive me for the brevity, but it's 3:15 a,m, local time, we've been traveling for the better part of two days... and I'm trying to get this out using Kimmy's Surface.)


Friday, December 6, 2013

Barker's Pre-Vacation Newsbites: Fri., Sat., & Sun., Dec. 6, 7, & 8, 2013


Well, gang... here goes! The last few days of newsbiting before "The Wife" and I head off to India for Kim's Indian wedding!

I plan to blog from over there if I can, so keep on checking in here at Usually Right!

Over the next couple days I'll try and post a few newsbites here.

No doubt they'll be at least one more "stand alone" post prior to Sunday's trip to the airport! (And maybe more!)

Anyway... just in case... we'll be back on the 28th - this December 28th that is!

Kudos to KMart


Yep... KMart is my "go to" store for pants. 48X32... no friggin' problem!

And while I'm at it... kudos to Kohl's for finally expanding their Big & Tall men's clothing inventory! I was actually able to find a number of "vacation shirts" in 2XT and a pair of quality shorts for... $4.80

(Yeah... Kohl's clearance is pretty damned impressive!)

JCPenny used to be my "go to," but they've shrunk their Big & Tall section and now they're even playing games with the underwear... creating a new line for Big & Tall called called "Foundry" and charging $20 (or trying to) for a TWO-pack of 2XT undershirts!

Sears...? Not so much. (Which is surprising since Sears and KMart are the same company nowadays!)

Anyway... just a clothing update!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Barker's Newsbites: Thursday, December 5, 2013


Afternoon, folks!

My new tee-shirts are in! (JC Penny just called!) Yep... eight brand new 2XT tees for Billy Boy!

Why am I writing about my tee-shirts...?! Because they're a PAIN IN THE ASS to get!

As Americans get bigger and fatter manufacturers and retailers seem to have responded by limiting Big & Tall clothing offerings! (Hanes discontinued their TALL tee-shirt line years ago!)

Anyway... I'm off to the store to pick up my tee-shirts! The plan is to do some newsbiting when I get back!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Barker's Newsbites: Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Howdy, folks!

Yep... another day of newsbiting - this makes two in a row!

(*GRIN*)

T - 4 days till lift-off... (Heading to India on Sunday!)

Busy... busy... busy...


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Barker's Newsbites: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013


So... folks... let me just throw something out about ObamaCare:

Mary (my beloved bride) works for a small professional firm. 

Mary's firm provides ACCESS to their small-group plan, but the total financial contribution they make to each employee's "employer provided" insurance is $150/mo.

OUR CASH PREMIUM... OUR OUT OF POCKET PREMIUM... $1,327/mo.

And again... this is with lousy vision coverage and NO DENTAL COVERAGE whatsoever.

This is for two adults in pretty good physical condition!

So... about ObamaCare... 

Mary's firm has an insurance broker. He does "insurance shopping" for the firm. Each year he provides the firm and its employees with their options. 

Although the firm's current insurance contract doesn't expire until this coming summer, the firm's broker has already done the legwork researching ObamaCare.

For Mary and I... we'd have a choice of three plans here in New York. Two of these plans don't include our doctors

Costs? Turns out we'd "win the battle but lose the war" if we were to sign up with ObamaCare. 

Mary tells me that according to the broker... we'd save a few hundred bucks a year... A YEAR... if we were to join one of the plans. (I believe this includes all three plans... including the one plan offered that would allow us to retain most of our present doctors.)

HOWEVER...

By switching from a small business group plan to an ObamaCare Exchange we'd LOSE our cafeteria plan and the tax benefit of being able to use "pre-tax" dollars to pay our premiums!

THEREFORE...

We'd actually end up PAYING MORE OUT OF POCKET for ObamaCare than for what we have now!

Nice, huh...?

Not that I want to be subsidized... but where's my $2,500. in savings Obama and the Democrats promised Mary and I?

Why is it that we WOULD be forced to get new doctors if we were to sign up for either of the two (of three) ObamaCare Exchange choices which don't have our doctors "on the payroll?"

Back to the subsidies...

I'm serious! I wouldn't want a subsidy! While what Mary and I pay is truly outrageous, having other taxpayers subsidize the outrageousness wouldn't make the outrage any less - all it would do is further rob Peter to pay Paul and all the while adding to the federal debt!

So who is getting these ObamaCare subsidies?

Are people who own houses getting them? WHY...?!?! Mary and I DON'T own a house and yet I have no doubt our tax dollars will be funding ObamaCare subsidies to people who do own their own homes. How is that fair...???

We had one child because we knew we could AFFORD to raise one child responsibly. Does anyone reading this have ANY doubt that parents who make MORE MONEY than Mary and I and who own their own homes yet have three children or four or five children will get subsidized health insurance which Mary and I will involuntarily subsidize via our tax dollars and ObamaCare premiums...?!?!

Folks... forget for a moment the disasters which have been in the news concerning ObamaCare... just switch to looking at the bigger picture! Even if the website worked... even if the website was secure and trustworthy... how is it that I'm supposed to be grateful for ObamaCare?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Long Weekend Newsbites: Fri., Sat., & Sun., Nov. 29 thru Dec. 1, 2013


Our Thanksgiving ended with me... sober.

Yep...

I don't know what happened! I can't explain it! Just... too much food. I simply can't consume the amounts of food and drink consumed in days of yore!

(Except... sometimes I can! It all depends on the day! Very strange...)

It could have been subconscious, though...

Earlier in the week I'd received a call from my best bud (my gracious host this year) cautioning me about where political talk during the holidays can lead...

(*HUGE FRIGGIN' GRIN*)

Also... tonight is Mary's High School Graduation Class of '83 Reunion; I'm expecting some serious drinking; we're going with two of our closest friends - one a classmate of Mary's and one my good pal!

(*DOUBLE THUMBS UP*)

So, yeah... perhaps yesterday my brain and liver were communicating at a subconscious level... "protecting" me from myself last night!

Oh... get this, folks! Last night after Thanksgiving... after the stroke of midnight which brought us into today... Mary and I actually did a bit of "Black Friday" shopping! No... nothing to crazy. Both of us simply needed new footwear (me, sneakers; Mary, shoes) for the upcoming "American Raj Over India" (Kimmy's wedding!) trip! I got a $59.99 pair of New Balance sneakers for $29.99 and Mary got a pair of $54.99 shoes for $16.49 - plus, with the additional purchase of a $3 candy bar we qualified for a $15 "Kohl's Bucks" certificate!

Later on this morning... off to J.C. Penny (and/or Sears) for some new underwear and perhaps socks! (Buy one get one free if we get there before 1:00 p.m.!)

Anyway... hopefully I'll get around to a bit of newsbiting over this weekend! As always... the actual newsbites will be posted within the Comments Section of this newsbites post!

Enjoy your weekend, folks, and to all my Jewish friends... enjoy the rest of Hanukkah!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Barker's Newsbites: Wednesday, November 27, 2013


'Twas the day before Thanksgiving,
And all through the house...
Sorry, gang - that's all I've got!

Big day tomorrow! Feasting with the VanDemarks! (Already received my marching orders... no politics...)

As for the weekend... we'll see... the only shopping we may do is pre-vacation (Kim's Indian Wedding) cloth shopping. (A new pair of black sneakers, perhaps; a new pair of khakis... some new tee-shirts, socks, underwear...)

No Christmas per se for the Barkers this year! This trip is tapping us out so please... no presents for us.

(Mary refuses to even send cards this year! So don't be offended! All will be back to normal next year!)

Anyway... for the rest of you who WILL be celebrating Christmas with gifts exchanges... allow me to reiterate my yearly plea:

BUY AMERICAN...!!!

Nope. Not everything. Just... what you can. It matters, folks. Just Google "American Made Products and Gifts" or think about what someone on your list would want and search for that item adding the term "American Made."


Monday, November 25, 2013

Barker's Newsbites: November 25, 2013


So, gang... remember once upon a time when if you were faced with the question, "Who do I trust... the Israelis... the Saudis... or the President of the United States," the answer would be clear?

Well...??? Does anyone believe the answer is clear today...???

Anyway... let's put foreign policy aside for the moment so that I can rant about a certain "domestic policy" which really roasts my chestnuts...
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Enough with this "Happy Holidays" crap!!!

And, no, before anyone gets the wrong idea, it's not "just" about Christmas... it's about how political correctness is pissing me off across the friggin' holiday board!

Prior to Halloween... HALLOWEEN... people were wishing me "Happy Holidays!"

Are you friggin' KIDDING me...?!?! Now we can't say "HALLOWEEN...?!?!"

And then there's Thanksgiving...

Thanksgiving is not "the start to the holiday season" in my book; in my book Thanksgiving is...

(*DRUM ROLL*)

...THANKSGIVING...!!!

Is Thanksgiving a religious holiday? Yes and no. Definitely "yes" in the sense that we're talking the friggin' PILGRIMS and they were giving thanks to GOD... the Christian God if you wanna be technical... BUT... Thanksgiving is secular as well... a PATRIOTIC holiday... an AMERICAN holiday... and thus one all Americans regardless of religion (or lack thereof) should be celebrating!

RESPECT THANKSGIVING... IN AND OF ITSELF...!!!

Say it with me, my friends: "Happy Thanksgiving...!!!"

Next... Hanukkah... the Festival of Lights... a MINOR Jewish holiday that this year falls on Wednesday, November 27 (sunset) and goes on through Thursday, December 5 (sunset).

Do I have anything against Hanukkah? Nope! Does my referring to Hanukkah as a "minor" Jewish holiday mark me as a bigot? Nope! (It marks me as educated!)

If a million people were to wish me "Happy Hanukkah" from now till sunset on Thursday, December 5 would I feel blessed? Sure! Why not?! My Savior was a friggin' Jew and I'm guessing that as a boy Jesus looked forward to Hanukkah every year! (And you know what I say... "If it was good enough for Jesus...")

In all seriousness, it's NOT disrespectful to spread the joy of one's holidays! It is indeed a blessing! (So says I and I was made in God's image and therefore...")

(*SHRUG*)

My Jewish friends... each year I sincerely wish them a Happy Hanukkah. To the many Hasidim I run into... I wish them a Happy Hanukkah! If someone wishes me a Happy Hanukkah I wish them one back...!!!

What is so friggin' hard to understand about the logic and correctness of "The Bill Approach?"

But, folks... come December 1... it's CHRISTMASTIME...!!!

It's not "holiday" time no matter how many different religions are celebrating whatever their religions call for them to celebrate.

December is "holiday" time in America and throughout "the Christian World" only in the sense that it's CHRISTMASTIME! This has absolutely nothing to do with Hanukkah... or Thanksgiving or Halloween or New Year's Day...

I believe that current scholarly thought is that Christ was actually born in the summer. Let's say he was. Let's say that instead of celebrating Advent every December... celebrating Christmas Eve every December 24... celebrating Christmas Day every December 25... that in place of all this we "moved" Christmas to August.

(*SMIRK*)

Folks... no Christmas in December... no December "holiday time." 

Winter Solstice...??? (Yeah... good luck with that! Quick... without Googling... what date does this year's Winter Solstice fall upon?)

So... with all due respect to all the non-Christians out there who have a problem with CHRISTMASTIME... 

(*PAUSE*)

Go stuff your heads in thawed "holiday" turkeys and heat up your ovens!

To anyone who disagrees with the basic premise of my call to treat every holiday with respect... to NOT disrespect any one by trying to fold it (or rather "them") into some politically correct all-encompassing "holiday season"...

(*ANOTHER PAUSE*)

Stand up... walk over to the nearest wall... start banging your head against that wall until you either change your mind or knock yourself unconscious!

And that's my rant for "the season."

(Well... one at least! More to come...!!!)


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Barker's Newsbites: Thursday, November 21, 2013


Well, folks... back on a roll! Nine separate newsbites yesterday (including one directed specifically to "He Whose Name Dare Not Be Mentioned") and a stand-alone!

So... what's new today? More "knock-out" attacks in Philly I see...

(Of course I'm sure there's nothing "racial" about... er... what seems to be exclusively or near-exclusively black on white, black on Asian unprovoked attacks...

(Hey... it's just a "game," right?)

(*SNORT*)

(*SHAKING MY HEAD*)

Oh... let's see... what else...

(*PURSED LIPS*)

Oh... this might be of interest to some of you: Harry Reid has just staged a coup!

Well... not literally. All ol' Harry has done is overturn nearly 225 years of precedent...

(*SHRUG*)

Hmm... today should be a good day of newsbiting!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Stand-Alone Based Upon "Perks Ease the Way," a NYT Article by Robert Pear




Members of Congress like to boast that they will have the same health care enrollment experience as constituents struggling with the balky federal website, because the law they wrote [supposedly] "forced lawmakers to get coverage from the new insurance exchanges."

That is true...

* AND THE ABOVE "THAT IS TRUE" WAS SARCASM... (READ ON!)

...as long as their constituents have access to “in-person support sessions” like the ones being conducted at the Capitol and congressional office buildings by the local exchange and four major insurers; or can log on to a special Blue Cross and Blue Shield website for members of Congress and use a special toll-free telephone number — a “dedicated congressional health insurance plan assistance line.”

(*SMIRK*)

And then there is the fact that lawmakers have a larger menu of “gold plan” insurance choices than most of their constituents have back home.

* WHOEVER SAYS "VIOLENCE ISN'T THE ANSWER" APPARENTLY DOESN'T TRULY APPRECIATE THE LIMITED CHOICES!

While millions of Americans have been left to fend for themselves and go through the frustrating experience of trying to navigate the federal exchange, members of Congress and their aides..

* AND... THEIR... AIDES...

...have all sorts of assistance to help them sort through their options and enroll.

Lawmakers and the employees who work in their “official offices” will receive coverage next year through the small-business marketplace of the local insurance exchange, known as D.C. Health Link, which has staff members close at hand for guidance. “D.C. Health Link set up shop right here in Congress,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegate to the House from the nation’s capital.

Insurers routinely offer “member services” to enrollees. But on Capitol Hill, the phrase has special meaning, indicating concierge-type services for members of Congress. If lawmakers have questions about Aetna plan benefits and provider networks, they can call a special phone number that provides “member services for members of Congress and staff.”

* AND... STAFF...

On the website run by the Obama administration for 36 states, it is notoriously difficult to see the prices, deductibles and other details of health plans. It is much easier for members of Congress and their aides to see and compare their options on websites run by the Senate, the House and the local exchange.

(*PURSED LIPS*)

Lawmakers can select from 112 options offered in the “gold tier” of the District of Columbia exchange, far more than are available to most of their constituents.

* THE "GOLD" TIER... NICE...

* 112 OPTIONS...

Aetna is offering eight plan options to members of Congress, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield is offering 16. Eight are available from Kaiser Permanente, and 80 are on sale from the UnitedHealth Group.

(*CLAP...CLAP...CLAP*)

Lawmakers and their aides are not eligible for tax credit subsidies, but the government pays up to 75% of their premiums, contributing a maximum of $5,114 a year for individual coverage and $11,378 for family coverage. The government contribution is based on the same formula used for most other federal employees.

* BUT THEY'RE NOT "MOST OTHER FEDERAL EMPLOYEES."

* BY THE WAY... ALL THE LAWMAKERS AND MID-LEVEL TO SENIOR STAFF ARE HIGHLY PAID. WHY MUST TAXPAYERS SUBSIDIZE THEM AT ALL - LET ALONE TO THE TUNE OF 75% OF THEIR PREMIUMS?! LOGIC CALLS FOR WEENING PEOPLE OFF OF EMPLOYER-BASED COVERAGE! WHO BETTER TO START WITH THAN LAWMAKERS AND THEIR AIDES?!

In debates leading up to passage of the Affordable Care Act, members of both parties suggested that all Americans should have coverage as good as what Congress had. President Obama said in 2009 that people should be able to buy insurance in a marketplace, or exchange, “the same way that federal employees do, same way that members of Congress do.”

* YEAH. PRESIDENT OBAMA SAYS A LOT OF THINGS...

For decades, members of Congress have received coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. They generally like their coverage, but — like millions of Americans facing the loss of their policies next year — they cannot keep it.

In the past, if lawmakers did nothing in the open enrollment period, their coverage would automatically continue. This year, by contrast, they must affirmatively pick a plan. Their coverage under the federal employee program will end on Dec. 31. If they do not choose a plan via D.C. Health Link by Dec. 9, they will lose the government contribution to their premiums and could lose their right to retiree health benefits as well.

* WHY DO THEY GET RETIREE HEALTH BENEFITS IN THE FIRST PLACE...?!?! WHY ISN'T THE SAME SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM THEY DESIGNED FOR "THE MASSES" GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM..?!?!

In addition, lawmakers who go without insurance next year may, like other Americans, be subject to tax penalties.

Jacqueline A. Thomas, a 26-year-old legislative correspondent for Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, said she was able to reduce her monthly premium to $60, from $120, by switching to a Kaiser plan from a Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan. “I’ll be paying half as much for comparable coverage,” she said.

* BUT WHAT'S THE PLAN ACTUALLY COST...?!?! WHAT'S IT COST TAXPAYERS...?!?!

* ONE... MORE... TIME: "...the government pays up to 75% of their premiums, contributing a maximum of $5,114 a year for individual coverage and $11,378 for family coverage."

The congressional work force is full of young, healthy people like Ms. Thomas, precisely the type of customer insurers want to attract.

* I DON'T CARE ABOUT WHOM INSURERS WANT TO ATTRACT! WHAT I CARE ABOUT IS HOW MUCH I HAVE TO PAY TO SUBSIDIZE THESE PEOPLE WHILE STILL PAYING FOR MY OWN HEALTH INSURANCE AT MARKET RATES!

Congressional aides naturally have a few complaints. Some are confused by the large number of options. When they sign up for a plan online, they get no confirmation, so they are apprehensive. In addition, the website for the local exchange does not display the government contribution for members of Congress and their aides.

(*JUST SHAKING MY HEAD*)

It shows, for example, that a couple with one child may pay $1,300 a month for a plan, when, in fact, their share of the premium is only $352; the government pays $948.

* THE... GOVERNMENT... IS... BROKE...!!! THE GOVERNMENT BORROWS WHAT... IS IT STILL FORTY-SOMETHING-PERCENT OF GENERAL OPERATING EXPENSE FUNDING... ADDING DEFICITS UPON DEFICITS, DEBT UPON DEBT?

Local exchange officials said their website had not been set up to calculate premium contributions using the formula required for lawmakers and other federal employees.

(*HEADACHE*)

One part of the new insurance program is veiled in secrecy. Lawmakers may allow some or all of their employees to keep their current insurance by declaring that they do not work in the “official office” of a member of Congress. Members do not have to disclose such decisions, though some have voluntarily done so.

* WHAT'S IT GONNA TAKE, FOLKS...??? HOW MUCH WILL YOU STOMACH...???

Thus, for example, a spokesman for Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, said the congressman had decided that all of his staff members, including those who work in his personal office, could stay in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and would not have to go into an exchange.

* THAT SON OF A BITCH...

By making it easier to compare the costs and benefits of different health plans, the exchange could make it easier for insurers to compete with Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which has long dominated the market on Capitol Hill.

For its part, Blue Cross and Blue Shield says it can best meet the needs of lawmakers and their aides because its national plans have a large network of providers, including nearly 90% of all doctors in the United States.

One perk is not in danger. Lawmakers can receive care from the attending physician to Congress, conveniently located in the Capitol, for an annual fee of $576. And they can get care at military hospitals.

* FOLKS... OVER THE YEARS I'VE SHARED WITH YOU THE REALITY OF "THE ATTENDING PHYSICIAN." YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND - THIS IS CONCIERGE MEDICINE. THIS IS A SCAM. YOU ARE BEING USED AND ABUSED BY THESE BASTARDS AND IF YOU'RE PREPARED TO ACCEPT THAT THIS IS HOW IT MUST BE... THEN YOU DESERVE EVERY BIT OF ILL TREATMENT YOU RECEIVE.