Tuesday, August 30, 2011

House Republican Bill Cuts Hurricane Monitoring Funds That Help Save Millions Of Dollars | ThinkProgress

House Republican Bill Cuts Hurricane Monitoring Funds That Help Save Millions Of Dollars | ThinkProgress:

Yes, disaster relief needs to be paid for. If you have a unexpected problem at home and you need to spend a few thousand unexpectedly, you'd probably cut back spending in some areas to recoup your financial standing.

Call it a rainy day fund. If the rainy day comes, and depletes your funds, don't you continue to put more money into that cookie jar?

Or, as suggested, would you decide to put even less money away for the next unexpected problem?

Drug testing for Welfare recipients: Good or bad?

Florida has received the first results of their drug testing for welfare recipients. From an initial batch of about one thousand tests, only 2% came back positive. The costs of each test is roughly $30.00 and Florida has between 1000 and 1500 new applicants a month for welfare benefits. Which means the State of Florida spent almost forty thousand dollars to test people who came up negative. The results were a bit surprising, I imagine, for some.

According to studies, the general public has a drug use rate of between 6.5% and 8.5%, so the 2% positive test results is well below that of the public, not higher.

The idea is simple. No taxpayer wants to see their hard earned tax dollars pay for someone on welfare to buy drugs with. That's perfectly sensible. I agree with that sentiment. I'm guessing you do as well. The devil, as they say, is in the details. With 4th Amendment issues regarding unreasonable search and seizures, this was bound to be a slippery slope from the start. The US Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against a Georgia law requiring candidates for State offices to pass a drug test. In the ruling, drug testing where public safety was at risk would be Constitutional, but short of that standard, no. In 2003, a US Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Michigan law regarding drug testing for welfare applicants as a violation of the 4th Amendment rights. The ACLU is expected to file suit in Florida against Governor Rick Scott new law that requires testing for all welfare recipients, citing it singles out a particular group.

So, is it discrimination against the poor, or is it a reasonable effort to verify that tax payer dollars aren't being misused?

Technically, it seems that it may have a hard time standing up to Constitutional muster. With two decisions already on the books that seem to question the legality of it, it appears that the ACLU may have some success if they decide to pursue a case against Gov. Scott. From a populist's point of view, this will likely stir up even more contempt for the poor than already exists.

In my eyes, a certain group is being singled out because we grant tax breaks, write-offs, subsidies, etc. to the wealthy and corporate entities, (corporations are people, remember?) That group is not subjected to drug testing. A cynic might suggest we'd be making better use of our time testing "misuse of government funds" in other places than with the poorest of the poor, but I digress...

If the problem lies in the singling out of a particular group, then why not change the scope of the testing? The idea of holding of Government accountable, reducing fraud and waste, etc. plays well in today's highly partisan world. Everyone wants to see improved Government accountability, everyone wants to see reduced fraud and waste. Why not open the testing criteria up to all State vendors, all contractors, etc? Anyone who receives state dollars should be held to a high standard because they aren't receiving private sector dollars. They are receiving public sector dollars. The Government should advocate for the the taxpayer. As Lincoln said and I've repeated many times, Government is best utilized doing things that the people can not do for themselves.

You or I aren't in a position to administer drug tests. The Government is. If a State came out today and announced that any individual, vendor, company, etc. doing business with that State must submit to random drug testing, I think...based on what I've read...it would stand up to Constitutional review and become law of the land. If one State does it successfully, then others will surely follow. Which would allow a much larger step to be taken toward fiscal accountability with those who receive State monies. It would also appear to less of a political ploy to most people as well. It would, over time, raise the standard of what our tax dollars are able to purchase. If we punished both the small and large, the poor and the wealthy, then I say let the testing begin.

One caveat.


I have a big problem with this scenario. Dad's long gone, Mom is working a part time job taking care of her 2 year old son. She would like more hours at work, but they're not available. She has no health care beyond Medicaid. Occasionally, when her son is at Grandma's, she hangs out with her friends. Sometimes, someone will have weed. If she tests positive, is she really to have her benefits terminated? If we're playing hard ball, then the 2 year old will certainly be effected by it. My fear is that a child gets punished for the actions of a parent. Its a bit of a grey line as well. Do we put the above Mother into the same group with welfare recipients who commit fraud?

I'm not sure what the difference is. I know this perception that welfare mommas are living high on the hog, watching wide screen TV's, wearing Rolex's and driving Lexus's is bullshit. If you're on welfare or medicaid, you by definition are the poorest of the poor. I don't care about anecdotes. I don't believe most of them anyway. What your friend heard from her cousin about a friend of a friend of a friend isn't anything that we should be basing public policy on.

I repeat we're talking the poorest of the poor. For example, if you're a couple in Alabama and between the two of you, you earn more than $2,500.00 a YEAR, you won't qualify for Medicaid. Which is about the only shot you have at any kind of normal health care. To single out a group in this economic bracket seems cruel to me.

It will be interesting to see additional data come out on the test results. If future reports suggest that the initial finding of just 2% is an average for those welfare recipients using, a rate lower than society in general, then the entire basis of testing this population for drugs will have been proven to be a highly questionable use of public monies.

Test anyone who receives public monies via a State. I think we'd be shocked at the returns on that idea.

UPDATE: In my main work, I provide live musical entertainment for a variety of venues, including Nursing Homes, such as the Veteran's Administration offers all over the Country. As I then receive public monies, I say test me. In fact, test me first...Bring it on, I'm good...







Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene and the benefits of Big Government - The Washington Post

Hurricane Irene and the benefits of Big Government - The Washington Post:

Dana Milbank writes on the myopic vision of Tea Party budget cuts and the effect on "Big Government", especially with regard to our ability to respond effectively to natural disasters.

I recently finished reading the Constitution and all the related Amendments to the Constitution. I understand the founding fathers didn't express a desire for the Federal Government to establish a department of emergency management. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, government should do for the people that which the people can not do for themselves. Is a department like FEMA really big government run amuk?

Hardly, I say.

This isn't someone's earmark for the bridge to nowhere back home. This is a fairly benign assistance agency charged with minimizing the impact of a natural disaster. Its not preaching a doctrine, unless safety and planning qualifies. I know the Tea Party types always want less Government, and maybe if FEMA went away tomorrow, States would understand what's at stake, band together and plan for all outcomes, but that's how it use to be, way back when. It wasn't efficient, practical or effective. By enjoying the economies of scale from the Federal Government, plus trying to have national guidelines for how things would flow during a crisis, lives were saved.

Congressman Ron Paul was heard this weekend citing the many issues with FEMA and that it just isn't really necessary. Most of us have heard about the terrible calamity that hit Galveston, Texas decades ago, where thousands lost their lives. There sure hell wasn't any federal program around then, either. Was that really preferable to what we have in place now. Did those who drowned years ago feel like their liberty was being served as they went under for the last time?

Like every Federal department, agency, etc. there are problems to be addressed within FEMA. Rather than demonize this most benign agency, I say a rational, serious discussion on how to prune the waste is in order. This blind cut, cut, cut approach from the far right seems loony.

It is loony.

And short sighted, to say the least...

Social Security vs. Ponzi schemes in one Venn diagram - Ezra Klein - The Washington Post

Best use of a Venn diagram I've seen in a while...

Social Security vs. Ponzi schemes in one Venn diagram - Ezra Klein - The Washington Post:

I hear/read this a lot from Conservatives as well. Its a famous talking point that just won't go away. For decades now, every Social Security recipient has received every penny due them. As Klein says, its been around for more than seventy years with a rather impressive stretch of consistency.

YES, there are some adjustments that should be made to ensure its future consistency. Increase the personal contribution amount, raise the retirement age, etc. Any one of those or a combination of each would provide decades of additional security. Of the "big three" (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) Social Security is by far the least problematic.

So when a candidate chooses to rail against the evil that is this Country's longest entitlement program, realize it for it is. A political ploy to scare voters to vote a certain way. Its not an intellectual approach, its a visceral one.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

US needs to support Palestinian state at UN - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

US needs to support Palestinian state at UN - Opinion - Al Jazeera English:

Thought provoking article on why the United States should support Statehood for Palestine...

Perry's Texas is no health care model | The Des Moines Register | DesMoinesRegister.com

Perry's Texas is no health care model | The Des Moines Register | DesMoinesRegister.com:

Scathing editorial targeting Governor Perry's record on healthcare...

Worth a read...

Karl Rove: Sarah Palin Showed Signs Of 'Enormous Thin Skin' (VIDEO)

Karl Rove: Sarah Palin Showed Signs Of 'Enormous Thin Skin' (VIDEO):

The pertinent section begins around the 13:20 mark...

I'm curious what Conservatives think of Rove's remarks? Typically anyone who says anything salty about Mrs. Palin gets called a hater and that she's forced to put up with ungodly attacks from the lame stream media. Well, friends, this isn't some liberal goof ball this is Karl frickin Rove and its not the New York Times or MSNBC, its Fox News.


Should 9/11 First Responders be offended at Anniversary DIS-invitation?

No, they shouldn't...

The tenth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11 is fast approaching and there's some coverage in the media that  New York City Mayor Micheal Bloomberg is way out of line by not inviting the "first responders" to the ceremonies that day.

Bloomberg's office issued a statement saying that due to space constraints, this year's September 11th memorial ceremony at ground zero (the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks) was to focus on the victims' family members, and that first responders (and other groups) would be honored at "different places and times."

There are those who feel everybody should be included in the ceremony, because leaving someone/anyone out seems wrong. I wouldn't say they're wrong. On the other hand, it seems likely to me that for this anniversary, they're trying to make it as special as they can for the family of those who lost loved ones. As much as the first responders; Police, Fire, EMS, etc. sacrificed that day, does the price tag they paid outweigh the price of the families? It's a damn sensitive question, but I say no, it does not.

It's important to note this is not an all or nothing position. If I suggest that the families suffered terribly it doesn't in any way mean I think the 1st responders did not. Of course they did. Everyone associated that day will carry scars of all shapes and sizes to the grave with them. It's silly and selfish of anyone to suggest that Mayor Bloomberg is purposefully elevating one group over another to discredit that group. Its ridiculous and offensive to try and turn this into some kind of political issue.

As I'm writing this, I see stories crossing the wires that Religious leaders will also be kept from the ceremony on September 11th. "There are hundreds of important people that have offered to participate over the last nine years," Evelyn Erskine, a mayoral spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal in response to religious leaders' outrage, "but the focus remains on the families of the thousands who died on Sept. 11."

The invited guests, who include President Obama, former President George W. Bush, will read prepared lines of poetry and not make speeches. “We’ve tried very hard every year to keep the focus away from politics and politicians, and on families, where it belongs,” Bloomberg said at a news conference Thursday morning in Queens. “This day isn’t about any of us,” the mayor added, referring to the elected officials who will participate in the nationally televised ceremony next month. “It is about the families of the 3,000-odd people who lost their lives 10 years ago. And none of us in elective office, I think, should ever forget that.”

There is an event to be held on September 6th to honor all the first responders, which will also include religious leaders making remarks.

Its a slippery slope to decide who does and who doesn't get to attend an event like this. Open it up to everyone and while you increase the scope of the experience you almost certainly sacrifice some intimacy, some solemness perhaps by doing so. To decide who gets to attend and who doesn't isn't a fun job. No one wants to hurt anyone's feelings, but a decision was made and its a reasonable one. 




Perry: Buzz doesn't equal support...

Gallup has a new poll out, with Mr. Perry zooming to the top...

Perry Zooms to Front of Pack for 2012 GOP Nomination:

This isn't a shock. There's been a substantial amount of chatter about his candidacy and now that he's officially in the race, a lot of people are rather excited. I suspect its similar to the kind of splash New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would make if he decided to run for President. Right now, things look good for Mr. Perry. Which is probably not such a big deal to Mitt Romney, but certainly a big deal to Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, etc.

The buzz is nice for Perry, but it may be short lived. There are three GOP debates scheduled in September, on the 7th, the 12th and the 22nd. Then there's two more in October. Front runner Romney has a major jobs speech planned for September 6th from Nevada, which while aimed at President Obama, is also a shot across the bow of Perry and all the other GOP candidates to do the same. Romney's ready, are any of them? The three debates will give us a chance to see how Perry presents himself within the mix of the rest of the GOP field. Will he be aggressive and go on the attack? Will he "play nice" and try to survive September and save his big guns for later on? I think for those candidates who are hanging on by a thread, (Santorum, Gingrich, Huntsman...) Perry has a bull's eye on his chest. I think the upper tier of Romney and Bachmann will play nice...Bachmann doesn't really need to push anything just yet and I think Romney isn't convinced of threat level the Perry campaign poses to his. Plus, I've written before and suggest again today that a Romney/Perry ticket would have a lot of appeal across the Republican party, hold strong geographical strength and pose a massive threat to Obama's re-election hopes.

So, while its Rick Perry all the time on the cable news channels, this will pass. I've seen nothing yet that suggests Perry is now a shoe in for the nomination. He's an interesting guy who seem to have a lot of sizzle about his campaign right now. We'll have to wait a while to see if there's any steak on the way as well.

September will be very interesting in the GOP world...


Monday, August 22, 2011

Adventures in Indiana State Fair Food 2011 | The Incidental Economist

Adventures in Indiana State Fair Food 2011 | The Incidental Economist

Annually, Dr. Aaron Carroll and his family visit the Indiana State Fair and sample the food.

This year's highlights, (with pictures) include fresh fried fruit, donut burgers, deep fried Koolaid, the garbage burger, the ice cream burger, etc...


GOP power rankings 8/21/11...

Howdy, Mr. Perry!!!

Rick Perry officially joins the race, Romney is business as usual, Bachmann promises $2 dollar gas while Huntsman prepares for his last stand...

This week's rankings:

1) Mitt Romney - Romney stays #1 because no one else has really made him sweat just yet. Best organisation and deepest coffers of all the candidates, Romney is staying on message. While newcomer Rick Perry seems to speak his mind freely, Romney is a more polished, more national, more electable candidate. Perry may be more fun to cover right now, but sooner that style catches up with you. Romney may get some grief about his plans to build a much larger home (quadruple the size of his current three thousand square foot home in California in favor of a eleven thousand square foot residence. (Last Ranking: #1)

2) Rick Perry - Welcome to the campaign, Governor. Since the official announcement last weekend, I've heard a lot of expert analysis of Mr. Perry's chances. He's the new shiny thing right now, but there's a lot of chinks in that armor. First off, what works in Texas doesn't necessarily work everywhere else. Secondly, he needs money and lots of it to compete with Romney. There's a boatload of cash on the way, but he's still months behind the man from Massachusetts. Thirdly, he seems to appeal mostly to the Tea Party voter, which is bad news for him. Its bad news because Perry's already got the far right vote locked up. I wonder how many independents watched him over the last week and said, "YES! That's the guy we need..." So far at least, I don't think its very many...(Last Ranking: #3)

3) Michelle Bachmann - Uh-oh...That crazy guy from Texas is stepping on my toes. They both play well to the far right/Tea Party electorate, but as I said above, the GOP nomination is already going to get those votes. Bachmann pronounces that she's going to get us back to $2 .00 gas prices. Kind of like President Obama was going to cut the deficit in half during his first two years. Right. She might be missing Pawlenty soon...(Last Ranking: #2) 

4) Ron Paul - Jumps over Santorum to the number 4 slot. When a candidate complains about not getting enough air time due to the partiality of the news media that's one thing.When John Stewart agrees with you on national tv, that's another. September's debates are huge for Mr. Paul. (Last Ranking: #5) 

5) Sarah Palin - Her bus tour is back on!!! Her bus tour is now off!!! Name recognition wise she rules but that's it. Gallup shows her positive intensity (PI) score as equal to Romney's at 15, which is behind Cain, Perry and Bachmann. I know Karl Rove predicts she'll run, but I just don't see it. Its possible, certainly...but I say she's not running and will continue to make big bucks for Fox news. (Last Ranking: #8) 

6) Herman Cain - At the top of Gallup's PI rankings and coming off a 5th place finish in the Ames straw poll, Cain has moved onto New Hampshire. He is not currently part of the "upper tier" of candidates and will need to score some big points in the three September debates. If he tags Romney and/or Bachmann/Perry a few times, he'll remain viable. If he's not able to take on a high profile position in September, he may begin to plan his departure from his Presidential aspirations. (Last Ranking: #6) 

7) Rick Santorum - Eager to see how he does at the upcoming debates. He scored points in the last one, especially against Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Not likely to be a cross over candidate, I think he'll plan his exit unless he really injures one of the big guys. As he continues to toss his constituency red meat on issues like abortion, the environment, etc. he excites his base, but at the likely expense of broader appeal. (Last Ranking: #4) 

8) Newt Gingrich - How's Hawaii, Newt? (Last Ranking: #9) 

9) John Huntsman - Threw bombs over the weekend to cast his competition as too far to the right and that some have "zero substance." I liked his reasonable stances on global warming and evolution. Huntsman's trying to position himself as a reasonable, rationale alternative to the Romney, Bachmann's and Perry's of the race. It makes sense, as the far right of the field is pretty crowded. Will it work? Not well enough to matter, it won't. (Last Ranking: #10) 

Overall Rankings: (The lower the score, the better...)

(After 6 rankings...)


1. Romney - 6
2. Bachmann - 13
3. Perry - 24
4. Cain - 29
5. Palin - 33
6. Paul - 40

7. Santorum - 41 
8. Huntsman - 52
9. Gingrich - 55

(NOTE: Rankings are compiled by simply adding the rankings each week to a running total of same...)

Friday, August 19, 2011

13-Year-Old Looks at Trees, Makes Solar Power Breakthrough - Technology - The Atlantic Wire

13-Year-Old Looks at Trees, Makes Solar Power Breakthrough - Technology - The Atlantic Wire

Pretty sharp kid, I didn't even know what the Fibonacci sequence was until just a few weeks ago...

(Thanks to Dr. Aaron Carroll for the heads up...)

Army vet with PTSD sought the treatment he needed by taking hostages...

Army vet with PTSD sought the treatment he needed by taking hostages – but got jail instead - Stripes - Independent U.S. military news from Iraq, Afghanistan and bases worldwide:

I thought about writing on what was responsible for this kind of nightmare. There's plenty of blame to go around, but I'm not going to focus on that. That part of the "system" that was supposed to help this soldier failed. It probably wasn't one particular thing or person that could be held responsible. Patients slip through the cracks all over the healthcare realm and the metal health field specifically is a particularly damn slippery one. Two patients present with identical self described symptoms. What med works for one, doesn't work for the other, or potentially makes it worse. What works today may not work a week from now. Until the Affordable Care Act, Mental Health treatment and Substance abuse treatment has usually been its own special thing instead of a component of a traditional health insurance policy. In today's world, both Military and non-military, Mental Health services deserve more respect, funding and attention.

This all should've happened a long time ago...

Just consider this a perfect storm of a sick soldier who couldn't get the attention/treatment he really needed until he did something over the top.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Glasser and Aron on the fall of the Soviet Union | FP Passport

Glasser and Aron on the fall of the Soviet Union | FP Passport

Interesting interview with two Foreign Policy Magazine writers about the anniversary of the the fall of the Soviet Union.

Very interesting...Quality work from Tim Farley of Sirius/XM Radio Channel 124m (POTUS) as usual...

Crashing the Tea Party - NYTimes.com

Crashing the Tea Party - NYTimes.com

Tea Party support declining?

Live Blog on Pr. Obama's Town Hall in Atkinson, Illinois...

President Obama's Town Hall in Atkinson, IL

(End of Q/A....)

2:00 - Question re: Why are there cuts to supportive programs that help people struggling? (ie. Heat assistance) Obama says we shouldn't be cutting those if we can find other programs to cut instead. Congress needs to work with POTUS on a balanced approach to really, meaningfully address or economy. A wealthy/decent society like ours should've have to pick between cutting budget and people being cold in the Winter.

1:56 - Question re: Chance of Social Security Cost of living increase next year? Obama says based on inflation estimates, seniors should get one...Says SS is not in crisis, unlike Medicare and Medicaid....

1: 53 - Question re: Status of Ethanol...We support bio-fuels, new science suggest corn based ethanol can be made more efficient. Going forward can we generate alternate fuels with alternate materials that don't involve food chain members.

1:48  - Question re: What college majors would Obama suggest for best employment opportunities? Obama talked about Supply Chain Mgt. (Questioner's major) and education/teaching in general. Math, Science, etc...Also stressed the value of speaking additional languages to a career.

1:43 - Question re: Revenues (Taxes) - asks Obama if he'll promise that any new deal will have new revenues in it. Obama says yes. It doesn't have to hurt the middle class. Wants to target loopholes to find new revenues. Says his pledge is actually the Oath he swore when inaugurated, not a special interest pledge...

1:38 - Question re: Jobs/What can you do without Congress? ...Cited returning Veterans needed assistance in finding proper job opportunities via the DOD. Basically outplacement services for Vets returning to the workforce. Said we really need support of Congress to make the needed improvements...

1:33 - Question re: Effect of Simson/Bowles committee and beyond...Cited previous bi-partisan efforts and debt debate that  ran into republican opposition. Talked about upcoming budget plan (to be released in the next month) that will have everything in play, featuring more cuts than revenues...

1:28 - Question re: Housing market issues...Boilerplate about needing more time to allow the market to return to a more healthy condition... Tried to tie in debt debate fiasco as part of the problem...

1:20pm - Question re: from farmer on over-regulations...Obama suggests not believing everything rumor you hear about this new reg or that one. He suggested calling the Dept. of Agriculture directly for current information...

Perry’s No Tea Party Darling in Texas : Roll Call Politics

Perry’s No Tea Party Darling in Texas : Roll Call Politics

Interesting write up on how some in his home State of Texas view him...

The killing of Bin Laden: What really happened that night...

The Mission to Get Osama Bin Laden : The New Yorker

A detailed, gripping tic-toc of how it all went down...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Bullsh*t is overwhelming this week...

It really is...

And it's only Tuesday...

Let's review...

(In no particular order...)

President Obama: Ok, you're not campaigning but it sort of looks like campaigning to me. Your handling of the Tea Party couple during the rope line meet and greet after your speech today wasn't exactly deft. They were upset about VP Biden referring to the Tea Party as "terrorists" with regard to the debt ceiling dance. I know Biden meant it metaphorically, but your attempt to justify it or explain it away didn't work. You should've said something like, "Yes, we need to do better than that," shook his hand and moved on. Having listened to two of your "Town Halls" from the Midwest this week, your answers seem a little weak. Yes, some of your points resonate well (compromising), but others (trade deals and patent reform) don't. Step it up, man...safe is for losers.

Michelle Bachmann: Mrs. Bachmann, congrats on winning the straw poll and running Tim Pawlenty out of the race. They missed you at your family reunion the other day and this wasn't Elvis' birthday, it was the anniversary of his death. Not a big thing, but wow...Speaking of big things, watch and learn from Rick Perry as he works the crowd. He's not a three term Governor for nothing, you know. Stop with the rock star stuff.

Rick Perry: Nice job on Sunday making the most of the campaign event. Your mojo is in good shape. Bad job calling Fed Chief Ben Bernanke's policies "treasonous." Even the former Bush staff people pushed back on that one. When something you say allows Karl Rove of all people to assume the "high ground" you're really gone too far. Your States growth in jobs is impressive and apparently legit, so anyone who blindly attacks you on that front had better get their ducks in a row.

Rick Santorum: Rick, I'd never vote for you-ever, but I gave you props for last week's debate performance and even showed you a little love in Sunday's GOP Power Rankings. I agree that Perry's remarks about Bernanke were in poor taste, but when you play the "we don't impeach" people card, its an epic fail. First off, Perry didn't play the impeachment card, Herman Cain did. Secondly, guess who voted for the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton? You did, remember? So be quiet.

Herman Cain: Impeachment? It would be great, in fact? Seriously? Shame on you....

Ed Shultz: Hey bozo, when Gov. Perry used the phrase "there's a black cloud hanging over America..." it isn't code for President Obama. Maybe he meant Obama, maybe he didn't...but when you run your mouth about it you and the Democrats/Progressives look weak and stupid. Now that its clear the clip you and others used was edited, to possibly make it look worse, you look even more full of crap than you did before. Not to mention that you guys just gave the Perry campaign an early Christmas present. Breitbart (once again) comes out smelling like a rose. Ed, if you have an ass-hat lying around the office, put it on your head.

Its only, Tuesday....


Monday, August 15, 2011

Bachmann will need to step it up...

Perry schools Bachmann in Waterloo - POLITICO.com Print View

"I am a real person"

Michelle Bachmann, August 14, 2011

On one hand I want to give Michelle Bachmann credit for being where she is this morning. Six months ago, if you had told most political observers that Bachmann would have worked her way into a short list of three GOP hopefuls, I think you would've found some non believers. I would've been one of them. With her performance in the debates, and a certain determination to stay on message, she's at worst, in the mix for the Republican nomination for 2012. She also survived the gauntlet of the Sunday morning talks shows rather well, I thought.

Much has been made of her one on one battle with fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty. TPaw is history now and maybe part of Bachmann's appeal this morning comes from his inability to swat her aside when he had the chance. Maybe the Bachmann team knew something about Pawlenty's personality, perhaps knowing he wouldn't play too rough with her. Its hard to say but here we are with Bachmann sitting in the seat most of us had saved for Tim Pawlenty.

With the addition of Rick Perry to the campaign, Bachmann would be smart to take a good look around her and make some quick changes to how she engages her crowds. The above story is one of a few I've seen this weekend about how disengaged she has been with people trying to see her. The amount of new info pouring into her head has to be pretty high right now, but Mr. Perry has been in more elections than she and seems to be a little more seasoned.

There's several more debates in the next few weeks, and I think Bachmann will have to up her game. She can avoid a lot of the crowds at her events, but there's no good hiding placed on the national debate stage. She will have to engage.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tim Pawlenty quits Presidential Race...

Breaking News:

“We needed to get some lift to continue on and have a pathway forward and that didnt happen, so I’m announcing on your show that I’m ending my campaign for president,” the former governor said on “This Week.”





Republican Candidates Power Rankings 8/14/11...

(UPDATE: Tim Pawlenty announced this morning on ABC's This week with Christiane Amanpour that given his performance in the Ames, Iowa straw poll, he will be ending his campaign. )

Quite the week...

Mitt Romney performed well during Thursday's debate, Michelle Bachmann wins the Ames, Iowa straw poll and Rick Perry officially announces his candidacy. How's all of this effect this weeks GOP Power Rankings? Read on...

1) Mitt Romney - Romney remains number one until someone knocks him down a peg or two. So far, no one's laid a glove on him. That may change now that Texas Governor Rick Perry is officially in the hunt. Staying above the fray during Thursday's Fox news debate is smart strategy, but its not a strategy that can last forever. Someone will line him up and attempt to take his head off. If I were his strategist, I might tell him to go on the offensive and not wait for someone to come after him. He's still the front-runner, he's still has the most money and the largest organisation of anyone. Its better to give a punch than take one. Just ask Tim Pawlenty. (Last Ranking: #1)

2) Michelle Bachmann - Winner of the 2011 Ames, Iowa straw poll, Bachmann had a terrific week. On Thursday, she proved she could go toe to toe with Tim Pawlenty, although she got her facts rather mixed up on TPaw's  policies while he was Governor of Minnesota. While edging out Ron Paul for 1st place in Ames, she more than doubled the votes that Pawlenty got, which is great news for her, terrible news for him. Bachmann should be able to hang around for quite a while, which earns her extra chips to use come endorsement time. I doubt she will be the nominee, but she will have a comfy, soft landing somewhere...(Last Ranking: #2) 

3) Rick Perry - The Texas Governor officially announced his intention to pursue the Presidency early Saturday afternoon. None of the candidates are thrilled about this, especially Romney, Bachmann and Santorum. Perry is the worthy opponent Romney has been lacking, while Bachmann and Santorum are lighter, less serious versions of Gov. Perry. His organisation and fundraising are several steps behind the others, but I'm guessing that those who were pushing him will see to it that neither holds him back. (Last Ranking: #3) 

4) Rick Santorum - I know, I know...Santorum finished dead last in both the recent CNN and Fox news polls but both were conducted before last weeks debate. Nonetheless, I felt Santorum did pretty well during the debate, and his 4th place showing in the straw poll is better than I thought he'd do. I still consider him a massive long shot, but if he can keep putting together weeks like the one he just did, he may surprise us all. He's the candidate who's quickly becoming the pain in the ass that no one needs. Perry's entrance hurts him more than most, but Perry isn't really aiming at him, is he? (Last Ranking: #8)

5) Ron Paul - The "Babe Ruth" of straw polls narrowly missed taking first place from Bachmann. Combine this with a solid showing during the debate and it adds up to a reasonably good week for Paul. However, Paul usually does well during the straw poll and then slips in the primaries. His frank remarks about Iran and nuclear weapons during the debate will probably hurt him going forward. I look for Paul to attack Romney, Bachmann and Perry directly next debate as he needs to prove he belongs in the upper tier of candidates. (Last Ranking: #4) 

6) Herman Cain - For someone who basically came out of nowhere to stand on a national stage with some veteran politicians, Cain is doing better than expected. The only other candidate to amass more than 1000 votes, he was only 200 votes behind Santorum, and finished in 5th place. He didn't help himself a great deal during the last debate, so how he campaigns over the next few weeks will be interesting. Does he keep his head down and stay out of the limelight and try and hang around or doe he go on the attack? (Last Ranking: #7) 

7) Tim Pawlenty - Rough week for TPaw. First he barely breaks even in a donneybrook with Michelle Bachmann on the Thursday night debate, but then she kicks his ass in Saturday's Straw Poll, by more than a two to one margin. I know his campaign quickly released a statement that he was staying in the race, but who exactly would donate money to him? If he couldn't rise up to one of the top two slots before Rick Perry was around, what makes anyone think he'll do so now that Perry is on board? There might be one more debate in his future, but he's got to come up with something dramatic in order to survive much longer. (Last Ranking: #6)

8) Sarah Palin - In spite of Mrs. Palin being in Iowa "for the State Fair" of course, its appears that she will not be running. Her camp says a decision will be announced by  the end of Summer. I fully expect her to continue on at Fox News as a commentator. Which is probably best for everyone involved. In spite of what an old classmate thinks, Palin is NOT the answer to any of our problems. She is best at self-promotion and taking cheap shots at Democrats. While I fantasized about her and Gingrich going at it, it's not gonna happen. I look forward to culling her from the GOP herd by month's end. (Hopefully) (Last Ranking: #5) 

9) Newt Gingrich - A pathetic showing in Ames after a fiesty performance in the debate this week doesn't move the needle enough to reconsider his chances. Rick Santorum got over 4 times the votes Newt did while BOTH Bachmann and Paul got more than 12 times the number of votes. Yes, he might be the smartest guy in the room but he has royally screwed this campaign up. Fundraising is a major problem for the former Speaker of the House. How long does he allow this embarrassment to go on? (Last Ranking: #9)

10) John Huntsman - Isn't this a nice new picture of Huntsman I found? Take a good look at it because I think the Huntsman campaign (and his mug shot) will be going away very soon. He did nothing to distinguish himself during the debate and he got 69 more votes in Iowa than I did. Was it really all that bad working for the Obama Administration? China's pretty cool, right? (Last Ranking: #10)

Overall Rankings: (The lower the score, the better...)

(After 5 rankings...)

1. Romney - 5
2. Bachmann - 10
3. Perry - 22
4. Cain - 23
5. Pawlenty - 27 (Withdrew from race)
6. Palin - 28
7. Santorum - 34 
8. Paul - 36
9. Huntsman - 44
10. Gingrich - 46

(NOTE: Rankings are compiled by simply adding the rankings each week to a running total of same...)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Obama New Counter-terrorism strategy, good or bad?

Reza Aslan: Obama's "Weak", "Politically Correct" Counterterrorism Plan Will Make Americans Safer

Pawlenty says he's still in it...

2012 Presidential Election - News, Analysis, Candidates, Polls - POLITICO.com Just released statement from the Pawlenty camp...

He's still in it...

Ames, Iowa Straw Poll results announced...

1st place: Michelle Bachmann   4823 votes

2nd place: Ron Paul   4671 votes

3rd place: Tim Pawlenty   2293 votes

4th place: Rick Santorum   1657 votes

5th place: Herman Cain   1456 votes

6th place: Rick Perry  718 votes  (Write in votes only...)

7th place: Mitt Romney  567 votes

8th place: Newt Gingrich  385 votes

9th place: John Huntsman  69 votes

Big win for Bachmann, who edged out Mr. Straw Poll himself Ron Paul by less than 1.0 %. Disappointing showing for Pawlenty, who was had less than half the votes Bachmann did. Can't think that Santorum and Cain are surprised or bummed about their performance too much. Perry did nicely given that he wasn't even on the ballot.

Front runner Mitt Romney basically said "who cares" and invested next to zero effort in Iowa this time. Gingrich and Huntsman bring up the rear, as expected...

Source: http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/08/13/7366544-bachmann-wins-ames-straw-poll

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Unites States has the best health care quality in the world, right?

I'm going to ask every reader of Reasonable Conversation to give this podcast from the Incidental Economist a thoughtful listen. You'll hear Dr. Aaron Carroll, and Austin Frakt discussing the quality of the health care in the United States. What you won't hear is a specific policy being pitched. Just a very good, very informative discussion on how quality is measured in the US with regard to healthcare and how the US does compared to other G8/OECD Countries.

 I especially ask those who typically disagree with my belief that the healthcare system in the US is not producing good quality results, especially given what we pay for it. I found this compelling because its a bit of a reset. Its not wonky in the least, and I think paints a very fair minded, rational picture of where we are today.

  You can listen to this podcast right here: LISTEN

  Its about 22 minutes long.

 You can read both Dr. Carroll's and Frakt posts daily at: http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/

Ten thoughts on last night's GOP debate...

Ten thoughts on last night's GOP debate:

1) No one has really tagged Mitt Romney yet. I'm not even sure if anyone is really trying that hard. The candidate that WILL probably go after Romney directly will arrive Saturday. 

2) While the back and forth between Michelle Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty was certainly entertaining, I thought the exchanges between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were equally so...

3) I thought the guys from Fox News did a terrific job moderating it. Best job by a mile of the first three debates. Tough questions were asked, especially some I didn't expect (Chris Wallace's "gotcha question" about Gingrich losing his staff was great.)

4) John Huntsman seems like a pretty interesting guy. John Huntsman does not however, look anything remotely close to a serious Presidential candidate. I think Huntsman goes bye-bye in the next sixty days or so...

5) Newt Gingrich was plenty feisty last night, but just seems to be one of two cranky old guys in the room. The proverbial "toothpaste is out of the tube" and I'll be surprised if the former Speaker can put it back in anytime soon. 

6) I liked Ron Paul's responses the best, by far...His remarks on bringing our troops home and Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon were probably the most mature things I heard all night...Mind you, those same comments probably destroyed any shred of hope he was clinging to. (How long till the "Ron Paul is no friend of Israel" comments start?)

7) Rick Santorum had his best performance this far. He's on message, projecting some forcefulness and did as much as any other person on stage to improve his chances. He'll be around a while it seems, although don't confuse that with a belief that he can win the nomination. He won't. Santorum's campaign will also likely be hurt by the entry of Perry to the race this weekend. 

8) Michelle Bachmann, I thought, slipped some last night from her previous debates. While sparring with Pawlenty, she made a few false statements about TPaw's record, which may or may not come to light over the next few days. Its certainly more ammo for her fellow Minnesotan. As with Romney and Santorum, the Bachmann campaign will be hurt substantially when Rick Perry joins the fray.

9) Herman Cain seemed to fumble on some questions and I'm just not sure how well his "I know more now than the last time we debated" line will play. I don't see him as a long term candidate. I may be proven wrong, but I don't see a path forward to victory for him.

10) Fox Anchor Brett Baier asked if any candidates would endorse a deficit reduction plan that included any tax increases. ALL said no. He then rephrased and said what if the ration was slanted heavily towards spending cuts but still included a small tax increase...such as for every dollar in new taxes, there would be ten dollars in cuts? Still, no GOP candidate raised their hand in approval. If former President Reagan could raise taxes several times during a period not remotely close to the fiscal emergencies we're experiencing now, why can't a single candidate endorse even the theoretical notion of a 10:1 ratio of cuts/taxes? 

Answer? Grover Norquist and his anti tax pledge, the Tea Party and Right Wing talk radio...

Summary: A GOP debate this early doesn't mean a great deal, but I suggest it means more that Saturday's straw poll will. I heard nothing said last night that indicated anyone laid a glove on Romney. I thought Bachmann/Tpaw and Santorum/Paul were entertaining, but chances are very, very slim that any of those four will be the nominee. Huntsman, Cain and Gingrich seem to be filler right now. That leaves Texas Governor Rick Perry as the most viable threat to the Romney express. Sarah Palin is not running, but will be a factor, for sure...I think she aligns more closely with Perry than she does Romney, so I anticipate a tag team of Perry and Palin going after Romney before Memorial Day next year. The deck can be reshuffled at any time, especially if a scandal emerges from one of the higher profile campaigns, so stay tuned. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Here come cuts to defense spending...

House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have released the six names of the "Super-Committee" that will work on coming up with mutually agreed upon budget cuts to the tune of $1.5 Trillion dollars over the next decade.

From the House, Dave Camp (R-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) have been named along with Jon Kyl of Arizona, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio from the Senate. 

All have signed Grover Norquists anti tax pledge which reads: 

Taxpayer Protection Pledge      

I, _____, pledge to the taxpayers of the (____ district of the) state of ______ and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

So much for bipartisanship and compromise...Somehow I knew Olympia Snowe wasn't going to be chosen...

Stand by Pentagon officials for your marching orders in several weeks...




Monday, August 8, 2011

Republican Candidates Power Rankings 8/07/11...

August will be a very interesting month for the GOP field...

My rankings as of today...

1) Mitt Romney- Still atop the Reasonable Conversation Power Rankings, we should see a slightly more engaged Mitt Romney. While he's skipping the Ames Straw Poll next Saturday, he will participate in the Fox News debate on Thursday evening. Fundraising is in terrific shape. I fully expect Tim Pawlenty to fire at least one solid shot across Romney's bow during the debate...I also fully expect Romney to deftly swat it aside. (Last ranking: #1)

2) Michelle Bachmann-Slides into the number two slot as much on the slips and trips by Herman Cain. Bachmann's got a lot invested in the Straw Poll and the debate this week. Pesky issues such as her husband's clinic and her own unforced public comment errors have taken a little of the glean off of Bachmann. Her campaign has to be dreading an entry by Texas Governor Rick Perry into the race, as he covers most of the bases Bachmann does, with a different yet similar kind of following. (Last ranking: #2)
 3) Rick Perry-Not declared as a formal candidate yet, but all signs point toward a likely entry into the fray. His "The Response Rally" yesterday went off well, although only one of 40 Governor's invited (Kansas' Sam Brownback) showed up. His entry would effect the Pawlenty, Bachmann and Santorum campaigns more than the others. Perry's college transcripts surfaced on the internet over the last week and let's just say they weren't too impressive. How relevant they are is highly questionable.  (Last ranking: #5)
 4) Ron Paul-Paul continues to do his thing leading up to the debate and straw poll. One pundit called him the "Babe Ruth of straw polls." I'm not sure that it really matters as he's not in the same limelight as Bachmann is for example. No matter what happens this week, Paul will be just about where he stands right now a week from now. If he could find a way to be taken more seriously by the bulk of the electorate, he could be a force. Perhaps finding a way to destroy Romney in one of these debates might do the trick. (Last ranking: #8)

5) Sarah Palin-What's the hurry to announce that she's not running? I think Palin is more concerned with her celebrity than much of anything else. No serious policy work, no serious campaign staff being assembled, etc. Palin will do what Mike Hackabee refused to do. Continue to be a distraction. We should know one way or the other within a few weeks. She has a great future at Fox News and possibly GBTV (Glen Beck Television). I rank her this highly because if she would decide to run, her name recognition alone would elevate her into the top tier of candidates immediately. (Last ranking: #4)

6) Tim Pawlenty-Much is on the line for Pawlenty this week. First up is a long awaited chance at redemption for not going after rival Mitt Romney when he had the chance at the last debate. I will be shocked if Pawlenty doesn't attack Romney at least once in Thursday night's debate on Fox. Then comes the Ames Straw Poll, where he hopes to do reasonably well. If...IF...Pawlenty has a poor showing on Thursday evening in the debate and on Saturday in the Straw Poll, his weak fundraising may slow to a trickle. Don't be shocked if TPaw pulls out of the race by Halloween... (Last ranking: #6)
7) Herman Cain-Cain seems to be coming off a bit of a rough stretch with a dust-up over his comments towards Muslim Americans. He said he meant his comments towards creepin sharia and jihadists, but after a meeting at the Islamic ADAMS Center in Virginia, he offered an apology to any Muslim Americans. Smart not to let this fester, Cain, a true underdog candidate, is holding steady and looking for a solid performance in Iowa this week. (Last ranking: #3)
8) Rick Santorum-Perhaps realizing that his chances are somewhere between slim and none, Santorum has begun to find fault with fellow candidates Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul, two figures expected to do well in the upcoming Ames Straw Poll next weekend. Santorum felt that both Bachmann and Paul should've taken on more of a leadership role in the debt crisis debate. “I didn’t see their input at all in this whole process,” Santorum said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “So how can you say you want to be the leaders of the country if you can’t even lead the congress?” Santorum said he would've voted against that deal that was recently passed into law. (Last ranking: #7)

9) Newt Gingrich-Eeeh Gods, man...end this, will you? The campaign most plagued by controversy now saw accusations of fake Twitter followers signed up by a third party firm. Regardless of how many were actually living breathing humans, it just looks stupid. This is a campaign that has bewildered many political pundits. We all felt we'd see a campaign or two crash and burn in the first few months of the 2012 GOP campaigning season. We just didn't think it would be Gingrich's. (Last ranking: #10)

10) John Huntsman- Campaign staff resignations, poor fundraising, low name recognition scores all add up to 10th place finish. Not sure how this plays out. Perhaps he's attempting to hang on until some bigger names (Pawlenty, Palin, Gingrich) wash out and then he can fill some of their void. This is a bright man with moderate Conservative ideas, which may not resonate with the Conservative voter this go-round. He may play better with Independents, actually. (Last ranking: #9)

Overall Rankings: (The lower the score, the better...)

(After 4 rankings...)

1. Romney - 4
2. Bachmann - 8
3. Cain - 17
4. Perry -19
5. Palin - 20
6. Pawlenty -20
7. Santorum - 30 
8. Paul - 31
9. Huntsman - 34
10. Gingrich - 37

(NOTE: Rankings are compiled by simply adding the rankings each week to a running total of same...)