LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Waiting for Due Process

No Due Process


After 9/11, they said, irony was dead.

Someone should tell the immigration bureaucrats.

A lawsuit filed by the ACLU and an immigrants’ advocacy organization cites government data that shows that the average wait time for a “reasonable fear determination” is 111 days. (For the chronologically challenged, that’s nearly four months.)

America may the land of the free and the brave, and Lady Liberty may welcome the tired, poor huddled masses. But if you’re exactly the type of immigrant who most needs to get in — a person fleeing a tyrannical homeland whose government goons want to torture you, kill you, or torture you and then kill you — the U.S. government doesn’t welcome you with open arms.

First, they lock you in detention. In other words, prison. Bad prison. The kind of hellhole where, according to an ACLU report, rape is among an epidemic litany of horrors, alongside medical and psychological abuse. (For some reason, the guy who died of treatable penile cancer — the feds didn’t treat him, but they did issue him an extra ration of boxer shorts before he croaked — sticks in my memory.)

There are three ways out of immigration prison.

First: deportation back to the motherland.

Second: death.

Third: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, grants you asylum.

“A person applying for asylum must prove that he or she has a fear of persecution in their country of nationality that is well-founded because of their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion,” according to the government. The magic ticket to asylum, and release into the sweet fresh air of American liberty, is a “reasonable fear determination.” (The “fear” refers to your fear of being tortured or killed because the government back home is out to get you, or is powerless or unwilling to stop private the bad guys — a drug cartel, for example — who are after you. The “reasonable” means that you’re not just paranoid, that they really are out to get you.)

A reasonable fear determination, as we’ve said, takes four months. Sometimes less. Sometimes longer.

ACLU lawsuit aside, there’s something more than a little, um, ironic about these delays. As Kate Linthicum reports in The Times, regulations say that asylum seekers are entitled to get their yeas and nays within 10 days. Which, considering that thing about rape and penile cancer, seems plenty long as it is.

Just an aside, but doesn’t it seem a little strange — OK, totally wack — that we throw political dissidents, women running away from female circumcision, people who have lost everything but the clothes on their backs — into prison? Even if it is for “just” 10 days…much less four months? You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Why not put them up in hotels instead?

The current system at a glance: welcome to the United States of America! Sorry you got raped. Oh, and did you hear about our unemployment rate?

Still not convinced America is a downright mean country to asylum seekers? Consider this: Germany — you know, the country where Hitler came from — pays applicants for asylum while they’re waiting to hear about their requests to stay.

Maybe it’s time to send Mme. Liberté back to France.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Obamacare Website to New Yorker: Drop Dead

This week, we wrap up a personal saga of bureaucratic incompetence and institutional corruption: my attempt to sign up for Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act officially launched three weeks ago. As one of 50 million uninsured Americans, I’ll pay a tax penalty unless I purchase for-profit insurance from a wildly profitable corporation (the healthcare sector pays its CEOs the highest salaries) via my state’s “health insurance marketplace.”

Alas, my first attempt to shop for a plan ended four hours into the process, when New York’s website crashed and ate most of my info. Two weeks later, I was able to register. But the system couldn’t tell me if I’d qualify for a subsidy, or whether any of the plans cover my doctor or local hospital.

As the leaves pile up and I head out to buy a last-minute discount pumpkin just in time for Halloween, will the system work — the one that was supposed to launch three weeks ago? Let’s find out.

Fortunately for President Obama, his Republican rivals were so busy committing electoral suicide by shutting down and pushing the federal government to the brink of default that no one noticed his lame excuses — “we expected glitches” — for his incredibly shitty websites.

“These are not glitches,” an insurance executive told Forbes. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous.”

Hey, it’s not like they had three years to get ready.

Now Obama says: “I am the first to acknowledge that the website that was supposed to do this all in a seamless way has had way more glitches than I think are acceptable and we’ve got people working around the clock to do that.” Which is totally true, if by “first to acknowledge,” Obama means “fifty millionth to acknowledge after stonewalling and refusing to admit anything’s wrong.”

OK, so the president is a liar. But then he says “people” are “working around the clock” to make things work “in a seamless way.” Which inspires me with confidence. After all, I’m a person. “People” are members of my own same species. We’re on the same team!

I’ll admit, though, I’m not exactly Hoping for a big bucket of Change.

Like Mulder, I want to believe. The problem is, two days ago, The Newspaper of Record printed an article that, among other things, says:

“Most of the 15 exchanges run by states and the District of Columbia do not have provider directories or search tools on their Web sites — at least not yet — so customers cannot easily check which doctors and hospitals are included in a particular plan’s network. Most allow customers to search for providers by linking to the insurers’ Web sites, but the information is not always accurate or easy to navigate, health care experts say.”

Well, let’s see for ourselves, shall we?

Log in: no problem.

Take that, Tea Party Patriots!

The last time I slogged through this process, I wasn’t able to find out whether I’d qualify for a subsidy. So I’m on tenterhooks. Am I poor enough, have enough newspapers canceled me, slashed my fee and/or kept me at the same rate for years as inflation ate away my standard of living to score a break on Obama’s for-profit healthcare mandate?

I click the tab marked “financial assistance.” Fortunately, all the information I spent hours typing in a week and a half ago is still there. Inexplicably, however, I have to scroll through each page, individually re-approving them. There are 28 of them in all. Terrible design. What is this, iOS7?

The little wheel turns. And turns. Is it working? Yes! I get a message:

“You and your family cannot pick a health plan right now. You will get a letter or an email telling you when to log onto your Marketplace account to pick a health plan. Call 1-855-355-5777 to find out how to pick your plan if the Marketplace has not contacted you by the middle of December 2013.”

Thus endeth my adventure with the Great Privatized Healthcare Marketplace Experiment of 2013. Which, apparently, will soon become the Great Privatized Healthcare Marketplace Experiment of 2014. Or 2015. Whichever comes last. Or ever.

Which really sucks.

It sucks for two reasons:

First, like 50 million other Americans, I really do need insurance. Like most cartoonists and writers, I work for a syndicate that considers me an “independent contractor” for tax purposes. So even though I work 80 hours a week, I get zero coverage. I feel healthy, but you never know. Swine flu nearly killed me a few years back. Also, I drive too fast.

My experience isn’t unique. How many Americans won’t be able to buy health insurance between now and December, or whenever Obama finally gets his act together? How many will die due to lack of insurance? (The back of the envelope guesstimate: about 3800 per month.) How many will go broke paying for-profit doctors and hospitals?

Second, Obamacare is a Catch-22.

Bloomberg wire service reports: “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires most Americans have an active health insurance policy by March 31 or pay the higher of one percent of their annual income or $95.”

As the not-typically-quotable John Boehner asked recently: “How can we tax people for not buying a product from a website that doesn’t work?”

To which New York’s healthcare marketplace exchange thingamabob gives an elegant answer: “Error 500: org.opensaml.common.SAMLRuntimeException: Error determining metadata contracts.”

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)


SYNDICATED COLUMN: Ted Rall Registers for Obamacare, Part II

Crashes, More Crashes and Sticker Shock

This week: I shop for Obamacare so you don’t have to!

Last week I spent six hours shopping for Obamacare on New York State’s healthcare marketplace website. Officials had estimated that it would take the average person seven minutes.

Either because I am not an average person or because the Obamacare people are idiots, I spent six hours setting up an account. You can’t log in without an account.

There were many questions. The site ran painfully slowly. But I slogged through.


SYNDICATED COLUMN: Ted Rall Signs Up For Obamacare, Part I

Here’s How It Went

My pre-October 1st cartoon about the then-impending launch of the Affordable Care Act (henceforth to be referred by the initially insulting, then appropriated, now drolly cute Obamacare) anticipated that the websites for the 50 states’ “healthcare marketplaces” would immediately crash.

Even after all these years and all this crap, there are still Obama defenders and they jumped down my virtual throat. Faithless! They cried. They were right. I am faithless. And I was right about the crashes. Though the pro-Obama media made excuses for the Administration’s lack of preparedness: “But it remained unclear whether the array of problems — many people received messages saying the system was down, and others were unable to create accounts to buy insurance — stemmed more from heavy traffic or from flaws in design,” reported The New York Times. I’ll pick “(b) flaws in design.” Cuz, like, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that millions of people would check out those sites yesterday.

Which is why I waited until today.

Here’s how it went.

Step one: Find the site. Not a problem for an English-speaking, web-savvy, former computer programmer who went to an Ivy League engineering school (though they did kick me out). To the Google! Honestly, though, I shouldn’t have had to do this. Everyone should have received a mailing containing the basics, including the URL. I get a postcard every year telling me where to vote. Why didn’t the government do the same thing for Obamacare?

Here’s what came up:

The website came right up. So far, so good. Yes we can! O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma! But then…an Error Message. Actually more of a You Might Get an Error Error Message. Which is even more confusing than an Error Message. It’s a like a store that puts a sign on its window reading “Maybe Closed, Maybe Open.”

Come back later? That’s not the American way! Did Chris Columbus come back later? (Basically, yes, but shut up. Telling people who know facts to shut up is the American way!) Did the Conquistadors come back later? (They were Spanish. SHUT UP!)

I need healthcare today, not tomorrow. Well, I do need it tomorrow, but you know what I mean. I hope, because clearly I don’t.

Anyway: onward!

What is an “insurance assistor”? Does it involve anal probes? I’m not asking and I’m not telling. “Get started” — that’s me!

Now I am not so happy. Registering for anything online sucks. Can’t I just log in with Facebook or Twitter or Klout like I do for everything else? Apparently not.

Let’s create an account:

Good news! The User ID I wanted is available. I’m ready to go on a mad shopping spree for some awesome Obamacare!

Or not so much.

I have to wait for the confirmation email to arrive.

Waiting…waiting…waiting…there it is.

I can click. I will click. There — I clicked.

A new browser window opens.












OK, President Obama, you’ve got me back. Drones forgotten! Bankster bailouts a thing of the past. Who could resist the charm of a government program whose Secret Question Options include “first concert ever attended” (Sid Vicious solo) and “favorite comic book / cartoon character as a child” (Peanuts / Popeye)?  The “band poster” (Blondie, or was it The Clash) question is — dare we say it? — hip!

Let’s not dwell on the “last 5 digits of your favorite rewards card.”


I picked a password.






There’s a lot of clicking “continue” to do. But I’m American. Like Coronado!






Back to the first screen:



Obamacare is a metaphor for the Sisyphean metaphor for life: back to the beginning, under the virtual rock of the Sort of Error Message.

“Click Here to Login”? Sure. But then: