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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Santa's Belt, Fraud in Florida and G.O.P.'s Imminent Wake


Each year at Holiday time, the blog includes a story I wrote approximately ten years ago for children of all ages.  Here it is again ....

Santa’s Belt  

Jack Lippman

It was that time of the year when things were getting hectic at the North Pole.  Santa and the elves had been working overtime to make certain that everything would be ready to go on Christmas Eve.  After all, children of all ages throughout the world were waiting for Santa to bring them the gifts which they had been wishing for, gifts to make their dreams come true.

“Rufus,” Santa called out.  “Are all of the presents ready to load into my bag?  Have our helpers down on Earth, the toy manufacturers, gotten their toys and games ready for the kids?  And how about the parents?  You know, they all have to do their part too!  Hey, we only have a few days left!”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Claus,” Rufus replied.  “There won’t be any foul-ups this year.  The toys are all ready to go!”

“And is my sleigh ready?  Are the reindeer in good shape?”

“Don’t worry, Santa,” Rufus reassuringly replied.  “The sleigh has been repainted, the runners greased and the harnesses repaired.  And the reindeer are just fine.  Comet and Cupid are over their colds and the others have even gotten used to Rudolf, who wasn’t even in that poem about us.  Even Donder and Blitzen have calmed down.  Santa, you must stop worrying.  Everything is going to be fine!”

It had been three years since Rufus had been promoted to the position of Chief Elf in Santa’s workshop.  Of course, he had been helping out there for many years but only recently had Santa learned of Rufus’ prior experience working closely with Merlin the Magician centuries ago.  Some of Rufus’ innovations, obviously learned from that apprenticeship with the ancient wizard, had greatly increased the efficiency of Santa’s operation.  For example, it was Rufus who had developed the mathematical formulas which, when put into practice, enabled Santa to defy mere physical laws and be in many different of places at the same time.  Rufus had solved the problem of running out of toys with a procedure which in effect, cloned one toy from another, so Santa’s bag was never empty. And of course, he used a lot of old Merlin’s techniques to ease Santa’s trip up and down chimneys throughout the world, without his red outfit ever getting dirty.  Finally, it was Rufus who convinced Santa to include intangible things such as peace, love, brotherhood and wellbeing among the gifts he left on Earth for those who deserved them.

It was just a few nights before Christmas when Rufus encountered Santa in a state of real panic.

“Santa, what’s the matter?  Why are you holding your waist like that?”

“Can’t you see, you darn fool!  I’m holding my pants up!  If I let go, they’ll fall down.  It happened this morning.  My suspenders snapped and I don’t have a belt big enough to fit around me to hold my pants up.  Rufus, they keep falling down and if we can’t fix them, how can I go out on Christmas Eve?  Rufus, do something to help me!  You must!”

“Now, Mr. Claus” the elf answered, holding back a snicker.  “I can see how this happened.  Come to think of it, I should have seen it coming and done something about it.  I’ve watched the way you’ve been eating all of that delicious food Mrs. Claus prepares for you.  Pies and cakes, chickens and steaks, soups and puddings, pizzas and knishes, pasta and dumplings and on and on.  I’ve seen you put away enough for an army at one sitting and top it off with a banana split and a chocolate bar.   What did you expect?”

“Stop your preaching, Rufus!  What would your Merlin do?  Come on.  Think of something so that I don’t disappoint all the children who’ll be waiting for me on Christmas Eve!  I can’t go out there with my pants falling down!”

“Santa, I don’t think suspenders will do the job for you any more because of the pear shape you’ve developed!  We must to get you a belt big enough to hold up your pants!”

“What do you think I’ve been doing all day?  I’ve been looking for one and there just aren’t any made that big.”

Rufus thought for a minute and stroked his chin.  He then turned his eyes upward and look toward the stars, fixing them on the constellation Orion the Hunter.  In an instant, using a mystic incantation remembered from his days with Merlin, he turned himself into a thunderbolt and flew up into the heavens directly at the strip of stars which formed Orion’s belt.  Grasping as many as he could, Rufus flew back to Earth and fashioned a belt from them for Santa.  The old man, finding for the first time since his suspenders had snapped that he was able to keep his pants up, was ecstatic.   


                Star map showing the constellation, Orion the Hunter

A few nights later, Santa was able to travel his appointed rounds delivering gifts to children of all ages throughout the world.  As he headed back toward the North Pole, he smiled up at the constellation Orion the Hunter, whose belt, as you can see on any clear evening when you look up in the sky, consists of only three stars, which was all that Rufus left up there.

Circling the Earth, Santa made a promise to go on a diet.  He had learned his lesson.  Soon, recognizing the welcoming lights of the workshop far below, the reindeer guided the sleigh into a slow descent and the jovial old man once more waved his hand to the world, crying out, “Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night, especially to you, Rufus!”




G.O.P. Demise Explained
Those of you who have been following this blog for some time know that I have periodically been predicting the demise of the Republican Party.  The media has begun to catch up with me.  The preceding posting went into some detail pointing out that the Republican Party of today is far different from what the Republicans were before they succumbed to the ideas of the Tea Party people and the radio rantings of Rush Limbaugh.  When they nominated Sara Palin as their Vice-Presidential candidate in 2008, intelligent Republicans should have sensed what was beginning to happen to their party.  And now it has happened.   

What was known as the Republican "Establishment" is gone, and those who claim to be "establishment" seem to be willing enough (or cowardly enough) to cater to their screwball, simplistic right wing which seems to believe there are easy answers to very complicated problems, domestically and abroad.   If the G.O.P. nominates Trump, many Republicans will stay away from the polls or even vote Democratic.  It they nominate someone other than Trump, he still (despite his denials) may run as a third party candidate .... but in any event, those who have supported him thus far won't be easily moved to another candidate, even Ted Cruz (which is a budding strategy in the back of Trump's mind).  Any Democratic candidate will win easily in 2016. even Martin O'Malley.

Three Prominent Presidents from the Party that is no more.

We are going to end up with three parties in this country:  1. a "centrist" Democratic Party, which will include many "establishment" former Republicans, 2. a left-wing Progressive Party which will work for a greater social role for government in health care, education and wealth redistribution and finally, 3. a right-wing libertarian "Republican" party which opposes increased government involvement in the economy and in society.   All three will support a strong foreign policy and increased military spending, but none will want to send troops abroad to police the world.  Those days are over.   I suspect that the Democrats will win the next three or four Presidential elections ... until one of the other two parties musters enough strength to defeat them ... and I suspect that defeat will come from the left and not from the right.

A G.O.P. "comeback" is unlikely because that would require drastic changes in that Party's approach to immigration, women's rights, climate change, regulation of financial institutions,  health care, deficit spending and the needs of young people and minorities.   Frankly, today's Republicans find this too difficult to accept.  So they will be, in Donald Trump's words, "losers" for a long, long time.


Fraud in Florida

I heard on the news this morning that Cigna was dropping out of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange which had made their health insurance policies available to those seeking coverage under the Act’s provisions in Florida.  The reason they cited was that they were experiencing too much fraud in claims coming out of the Sunshine State.  Which brings to mind the thought that there are many people here in South Florida whose ethics are less than scrupulous. 

Many years ago, when I was about ten or eleven, a friend of mine told me he was moving to Florida.  “When?” I asked.  “Tonight,” he replied. We’re packing suitcases right now and taking a cab down to Penn Station to catch a train.  Apparently, his father who was an otherwise legitimate businessman, had been laundering money for his wife's mob-connected brother-in-law and had been told that the Feds were coming to arrest him the next morning.  They successfully fled from Newark to Miami and my friend’s dad was immediately given a job as a parimutual clerk at Hialeah or whatever tracks were operating in Florida at the time.  He worked there until he retired and my friend grew up in Miami, eventually graduating from the University of Miami. 

Hialeah Racetrack in its heyday

I tell this story because I believe a lot of people moved to Florida to get away from more rigorous law enforcement elsewhere in the country.  Things are no longer the way they used to be down here, but the attitude that a little dishonesty is acceptable still crops up occasionally.  Follow the articles in the newspapers about doctors getting involved in prescription drug rackets and the shenanigans pulled on the government and insurance companies by rehab and half-way house facilities.  We personally never experienced identity theft until we visited a hospital in Miami where my wife’s Medicare number was lifted and used for fraudulent claims.

And so I can understand why Cigna is walking away from being an Obamacare provider in Florida.  After all, we have a governor who was CEO of a for-profit hospital chain which was involved in ripping off the government with similar claims.  In Florida, fraud comes with the territory.  Cigna has learned that. 


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Jack Lippman 


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