Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chik-fil-A: Liberal Hypocrisy Is Still Hypocrisy...

For as far back as I can remember, there has been a movement towards equal rights in the United States. I was born in 1960 in Pittsburgh, PA and grew up in the suburbs about 20 miles away. There were black kids on my street, in my school, in my class and in my church. There were pretty similar to me except for the obvious physical differences. Mostly, I never understood what the big deal regarding equal rights was about until I got older, learned some history and understood. 7 year old kids don't think on these things. Things are better now than they were then, and I suspect will continue to improve over time.

I see a similar curve for the LGBT community, although a much steeper one. Progress seems to be coming at a faster pace than it did for Blacks. Ten years no States permitted same-sex marriage. Currently, seven States have made it legal, with three more recognizing it. Twelve more recognize same sex civil unions. Public opinion, which was at just 25% approval for same sex marriage back in 1996, has basically doubled in less than twenty years. President Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is currently not even being enforced by President Obama's Justice Department. We know where this winds up. In my children's lifetime, this Country will see widespread equal rights for the LGBT community when it comes to marriage benefits.

Both groups have been in pursuit of equal rights. Not special rights. Equal rights are guaranteed to each of us by the Constitution. White, Black, Asian, Straight, Gay, Bi, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist, etc. Everybody in America has a birthright of equal rights.

This week the comments from Dan Cathy, President of the fast food chain "Chick-fil-A" regarding his traditional Christian views that marriage is between one man and one woman drew fire from many on the left. Here's exactly what Mr. Cathy said:

"We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives."

A growing list of Democratic politicians have gone public with condemnations of Cathy's remarks and some have pronounced his company "not welcome" in their cities. The mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco have sent a message loud and clear to the company that new locations planned by Chik-fil-A should look elsewhere. 

I fully appreciate the irresistible temptation to pander whenever possible to constituents, but Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel are way wrong on their response to this issue. Totally wrong to threaten punishment to a business because of its Christian viewpoint. As it would be to a Muslim business or a Jewish business or an Atheist business.

I don't personally agree with Mr. Cathy's definition of a family. Not at all. However, when government starts to pick winners and losers in this area, its a bad, bad idea. Its hypocritical. How high and fast would the Left jump if some back woods mayor in America's southwest decided "we ain't having no gays running a business in our town." The left wing media would lose their minds and initiate a bloodbath. 

There are no charges or allegations that any discrimination has taken place in any of Chick-fil-A's store's. None whatsoever. If there were wrongdoings, then there are remedies via the legal system to punish them. That's not the case here, is it? These people are entitled to believe in whatever form of religion suits their fancy. 

For all the words over the years about "equal rights" its disappointing to see a few of our largest cities leaders   lose sight of this fundamental principle. Equal rights isn't just for things you believe in, its also for things you may not believe in as well. If you're truly an advocate of equal rights, then you should defend unconditionally Mr. Cathy's right to say what he said. If you don't-you've gotten caught up in the moment and the emotion and opted to score cheap political points with a group of voters who's vote you likely already had. So, you probably gained very little and looked foolish in the process. Nice job...

The public will express their opinion of Cathy's remarks with their wallets and pocketbooks. Frankly, I'd never heard of this gentleman before this story broke but now with the predictable pushback from Conservatives, the bluster & blunders from a few will likely result in a increase in revenues for the chain, at least in the short term. So, while there might be a case to make for the stimulative economic effects, its hardly what they had in mind. Both Menino and Emanuel have walked back their comments acknowledging that do deny Chick-fil-A business permits would be illegal and un-Constitutional

Mind you, I don't think the hypocrisy is limited to those who fowled this up on the left. With the outpouring of support from the conservative religious community, I have to wonder where was this support when it came to the 911 Mosque in New York City a few years ago? The very public concern for religion's "equal rights" seemed to be lost in the noise and pandering of that time as well, didn't it?

Sometimes its best just to leave a thing alone. Leave it be and it usually goes (mostly) unnoticed. Want it to flare up into something it otherwise would not have? Try and ban it. There's an old Billy Joel story about his song "Only the Good Die Young." The song had been floundering on the pop charts in the late 70's when one day the radio station at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, a catholic institution, banned it. Then the archdiocese of St. Louis banned it also. Then Boston banned it. The record became a big hit because somebody in authority tried to stop people from enjoying it. When preparing to release his next album, Joel wrote letters to these archbishops and Seton Hall asking them to please ban this one too...


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Obama, Romney Comment on Guns...

Two articles referenced below that both address the issue of guns in the United States. In last night's speech to the Urban League in New Orleans, LA, President Obama said, "Gun laws should be common sense" and “I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers not in the hands of criminals, that they belong on the battlefield of war not on the streets of our cities.” The President supports tougher standards on background checks to prevent the mentally unstable and criminals from obtaining these weapons.

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate running against Mr. Obama, said, 
"Well this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and other devices and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them." We can sometimes hope that just changing the law will make all bad things go away. It won't.  Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential, to improve the lots of the American people."

I think both men make sense with their comments. As long as we have such an appetite for guns in our country, the onus is on the industry and local, State and federal governments working together to find the safest way to regulate purchases of reasonable hand guns and firearms.  Obama's point is common sense to take stronger steps to screen gun buying applicants. Romney's point is also well-taken in that we can make the laws tougher, but it can't stop every deranged person who's hell bent on hurting people. 

Romney claims that the weapons used in the shooting last Friday night were illegal, but he is incorrect. Various media reports have established that all of the weapons purchased where done so legally. Legally acquired weapons, then used in an obvious illegal way. 

I doubt President Obama will use any tougher language let alone make gun reform much of an issue on the campaign trail. Politically, it too toxic to really get involved with right now. On the other hand, I think if Mitt Romney would come out soon for tougher screenings, and a ban on assault weapons being sold to the general public, it would serve him surprisingly well with the undecided independent voters who will largely determine which man is sworn in to office next January. I don't think for a second Romney will do any such thing, regardless of the optics for the indies. The optics to his own base, which have been shaky since before day one, would not be well received  to say the least. 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Obama Ad Changes Tone, Hits Mark...

The newest political ad for President Barack Obama debuted Tuesday morning in most swing states...

 I really like the fresh direction of this ad.

 The focus on Bain Capital didn't really work and with the general election about 100 days away, its a good time to change things up. This spot reverts back to and embraces the often mocked "Hope and Change" flavor of President Obama's '08 campaign. No attacks on Mitt Romney, no scary music, etc. All in all, a pretty adult ad. Its a long ad, as far as July political ads go, with most being of the :30 second variety. This ad will cost the Obama campaign quite a bit of money, which isn't flowing in as it was in 2008.

As a recent NBC/WSJ poll from June reveals, voters are seeing both candidates in a more negative light with  unusually high "very negative" scores. President Obama's scores at 32%, Mitt Romney's score at 24%.

It remains to be seen if changing the tone has any measurable effect on future polls.


Monday, July 23, 2012

The Latest Lie About Obamacare: Medicare Premiums Will Soar! - DailyFinance

"As the AARP notes in its response to what it describes as a "bogus email," because premiums are calculated based on Medicare costs, there is no way of predicting how much they will rise -- or fall -- in the next few years. However, the AARP points out, there are provisions in the PPACA that could conceivably lower Medicare Part B costs in upcoming years.

"It's just another attempt to scare older Americans and has no basis in fact," continues the AARP bulletin."

Good article from

Sunday, July 22, 2012

ATTN: Vets - On The Military Suicide Epidemic

If you're a Vet, please read this short commentary and then click through to the TIME article on military suicides and visit the website...

Maybe this is the route we should be moving, eh?

Long Strange Journey by Patrick G. Eddington - Long Strange Journey - On The Military Suicide Epidemic:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Two points to be made about the tragedy in Aurora, CO...

We Need To Ban Semi-Automatic Weapons Now...

Two points to be made about the tragedy in Aurora, CO...

 1) As the Nation tries to unravel just what happened in Aurora, CO Friday night, there's been reports of a massive arsenal of weaponry and ammunition the suspect, James Holmes allegedly had. The AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, pictured above, was designed for military grade use. It wasn't designed for hunting, sport shooting or home protection. More about this in a bit. 

 I've heard an ABC News reporter, Brian Ross, claim Holmes was affiliated with the Tea Party, which was later retracted. I don't personally know if he ascribed to the Tea Party platform or not. It doesn't matter to me. The Tea Party supports smaller Government, not shooting innocent people in a movie theater. Any suggestion that they might have been a factor in this crime is asinine. 

 One way or the other, Mr. Holmes is severely mentally disturbed. As much as I disagree with the Tea Party folks, I can't support the idea that because of some alleged association or admiration, this guy basically launched an all out attack on the captive patrons in a movie theater Friday night.  Until I see some evidence that there's a direct conspiracy of sorts, any suggestion that what happened that evening is related to those voices from the Right is dubious, to say the least. 

 While I default to what is usually a moderate position on most issues, I can't in good conscious aim for a mid-point where some unfair criticism of any group or persons is ok. It's wrong. And while it would be a helluva story to discover that some vast complicated plan had been hatched by some politically driven party or interest group, unless there's some good hard evidence available-which there isn't-this sort of talk and "what-if" fantasizing is dangerous and immoral. 

2) I'm not a gun owner. I've fired a weapon a few times and generally, didn't enjoy it. I do not hunt. I do not target shoot. I don't do anything with guns at all. I also don't generally believe that guns kill people. I think people kill people in terrible ways sometimes. To those who think that we ought to remove guns from our society because of gun deaths, I'd ask are they prepared to remove knives, as well? 

 While firearms account for about 43% of deaths by weapons, knives account for 30% of those deaths. There's no serious support for a "get rid of knives because they're dangerous" campaign, is there? Of course not. And there won't be, any time soon. These cases of murder are mostly the result of criminal acts or accidents. The appetite for guns in the United States is well known and long-established. Neither political party shows any interest in making gun control a campaign issue for obvious reasons. The Second Amendment of the Constitution is pretty safe, despite what some voices on the right fear is a diabolical plot by President Obama and the United Nations to take our guns in a second term. 

 We could certainly, reduce the number of firearms in the Country if we wanted to. Other Countries around the world have much tougher laws regarding guns and also possess lower fatality rates related to guns. Those Countries have made a priority of this issue and we have not. I have great doubt we ever will. No matter how many people are gunned down each year, no matter how many children are shot, no matter what, etc. Until we decide that's a change we want, it won't happen. 

 That said, I do think semi automatic weapons should be banned outright. There are classes of weaponry that are deemed legitimate for hunting and target shooting lovers, as well as a wide group of guns that are made for defensive purposes. Those products should be left available, with proper credentials/background checks, etc., to the general public. 

 The weapons made for more military purposes should be banned from purchase in the United States. Period. I am not sympathetic to those gun rights advocates who claim we have the right to arm ourselves anyway we see fit. Society should not have to suffer consequences of this level when a vendor or gunshop doesn't (or can't) uncover a hidden reason why an individual should not be allowed to buy a gun of this magnitude. The scope of the damage is so large, so widespread that society should be able to protect itself by placing limits on how powerful a weapon the average Joe Blow can get his hands on. 

 The argument that if we ban these weapons, criminals will find a way around the laws and obtain them anyway isn't without merit. Some determined people will press on and find a way to purchase them illegally without regard to the laws. However, some will be deterred. I've yet to read any suggestion that Holmes acquired these weapons illegally. That may change, but for now, if he'd not been able to buy a weapon like the AR-15, not to mention the massive amount of ammunition he had as well as the tear gas, his attack on the theater may still have happened. People still would've likely died. But I think the victims would have been fewer. Lives would've been saved. 

 We can and should continue the discussion about firearms in our Country and what their appropriate place should be. We should also continue to fund aggressively mental health treatment across the US with the hope that a larger program may prevent more incidents like this one. Gun right's groups like the NRA should be more aggressive with reasonable gun law reform measures. Any proposed reform or tightening of gun laws in general isn't necessarily an attack on anyone's Constitutional rights. Its just not. 

 If the only two positions we can hold are:

A) Ban all guns...
B) Any additional gun laws are a threat to our 2nd Amendment Rights...

...we won't get where we need to be. We need an adult conversation...a reasonable make meaningful and fair minded changes to how guns and weapons are purchased in this Country. 


Friday, July 13, 2012

Off the Charts Blog | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities | Scare Talk on Medicaid Costs Doesn’t Square with Reality

 "Texas Governor Rick Perry says that the health reform law’s Medicaid expansion would “threaten even Texas with financial ruin.”  Florida Governor Rick Scott calls the provision a “massive entitlement expansion” and claimed it will cost Florida $1.9 billion a year (his staff has since admitted the figure was overstated).

Our revised report provides a reality check for such scare talk, explaining that the Medicaid expansion will cover 17 million low-income people at a very modest cost to states — and that savings in state-funded services for the uninsured will offset part (and possibly all) of that cost."

We know this is the season of silliness when it comes to politics, but "financial ruin" is a pretty dramatic and erroneous way to categorize the Medicaid expansion component of the Affordable Care Act. This is a good response to the wilder claims coming from a few our of Governors, who I think are mostly posturing until after the election. Unless there is a clean sweep of Congress and the White House, the ACA is probably here to stay. However, it doesn't make sense to soften a political position for Gov's. Perry or Scott when its possible Mitt Romney could win the election and the GOP muster enough votes to start dismantling the ACA.

Like the original Medicaid program back in 1965, there will be stragglers who are slow to come on board. However as the private health care industry supports this expansion, it will be very difficult for these Governors to explain why they'll not accept essentially free money for a few years and then upwards of .90 on the dollar going forward. They can try, I just think its a losing hand...

Read the rest of the CBPP article here:


Thursday, July 12, 2012

" Grateful for health insurance" Must reading from our friends at the Incidental Economist...

In the never ending battle to better understand this health care system of ours, and what has and might be done to improve it, there have been a great many articles, essays, papers which I've found tough to read. Largely self-taught, I've come to rely upon a handful of trusted, high quality websites for the accurate information that I seek. Sometimes the reading is arduous, technical and intimidating. I'm not complaining, mind you. I don't think this is the type subject matter that lends itself to a simplistic approach. Its complicated stuff, and its slow going quite often to correctly understand what the very bright and knowledgeable people who do this for a living are trying to say. 

One such resource I use daily is called the Incidental Economist. They describe themselves in part as, "This is a blog (mostly) about the U.S. health care system and its organization, how it works, how it fails us, and what to do about it. All blog authors have professional expertise in an area relevant to the health care system. We are researchers and professors in health economics, law, or health services. By avocation and as bloggers we’re actively trying to understand our health care system and make it better. Our goal is to help you understand it too, and to empower you with research-validated information so you can be a more informed observer of or participant in the ongoing debate over how to reform our system."

This morning I read a piece by the founder of TIE, Austin Frakt, which blew me away. Austin is a health economist at Boston University, with an educational background in Physics and Engineering who earned his PhD in statistical and applied mathematics. Read the rest of Frakt's bio here... 

He's a serious guy.

Today's offering from Frakt was possibly the most personal thing he's shared with his blog's readers. He talked about how the concept of having a thing called health insurance has effected him. Not in an academic or wonkish way, but in a human way. The way a husband, a father, a friend would feel about it. There are no charts, no graphs, no formula to digest. Mostly, the concept that people can come together as a community and solve a problem that as individuals they won't or can't solve by themselves. 

I thank Austin for his permission to share his words from this morning with the Reasonable Conversation family. Here they are, as they appeared on his blog: 

Grateful for health insurance

I could not have known this would happen at the time, but since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance has played a large role in the lives of some family and friends. Last year a colleague was diagnosed with cancer. He’s insured through work. Earlier this year, a family member with a serious medical condition requiring many surgeries, was caught — perhaps saved — by Medicaid. Recently the five-year-old daughter of friends was diagnosed with leukemia. They’re insured, I suspect through a non-group plan.
All of these people and their families now face high medical costs for care, or would if they were not insured. I doubt all of them would receive the same level of care without coverage. All of these people live in Massachusetts. That fact may not be decisive in their insurance status, but it could be, and it certainly is for many others. These people are not so different from me or my children. They are not so different from millions of others in other states with weaker safety nets and a culture less committed to health insurance as a basic necessity. Massachusetts is unique in that it has a coverage mandate.
I live in Massachusetts. For its safety net, its culture of coverage, its mandate, and its expensive and, yes, wasteful health system, I pay more in taxes. I pay more in premiums. What would otherwise be my wages are helping to care for my sick family members, friends, their loved ones, and many others I don’t even know. Next year they might be paying for me.
I’m grateful for it. I assure you, I would not voluntarily put aside thousands of dollars to help pay for the care of my friends. I’d likely not do it for anyone outside my nuclear family. I certainly would not do it for strangers. This is not because I’m callous or greedy. It’s because I probably wouldn’t think of it. Even if I did, I might not want to dwell on such unpleasant thoughts. Thankfully, I don’t have to.
Our society, or at least the one we have crafted in Massachusetts, in its messy, political, imperfect way, has already thought it through. Through decades of struggle, thought, and effort, policymakers have cobbled together a way for me to care for those I love and those just as deserving that I don’t (but someday might!) — and for them to care for me — without each of us having to think it through on our own. Even though we’d each like access to what would otherwise be health care too expensive to afford in the moment, we would likely not provide enough privately to make that possible. I certainly would not trust that my neighbors would pay for all of my chemo with their retirement savings if and when the time comes.
We have solved a collective action problem. It’s called insurance. Of course it could take many other forms — and many of those would be just fine, if different. Certainly we could reorganize the health system it funds to be more efficient. And we should! But at least we have done something, in Massachusetts, that solves a problem I’d not have solved on my own. Now more than ever, I’m grateful for it.
Austin Frakt
Sometimes its healthy to step away from the micro-level stuff and get a view from thirty thousand feet or so. Frakt shows us that while people may disagree on the details of how we fundamentally care for each other as a community, there is an "everyman" aspect to this. We all have friends who with or without insurance, have faced intensely difficult times related to health issues. To appreciate that a community can, sometimes, find a way to assist these people, is very human, I think. 
(You can follow The Incidental Economist here and I strongly encourage you do to do so. Bookmark them. Make them a part of your daily reading. Tell your friends about them. Frakt, Dr. Aaron Carroll and the rest of TIE team provide fresh topical content on a daily basis. They welcome comments and respond to readers emails and questions. You WILL learn more about health policy, how things work and why things are the way they are if you do so.)


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest...

Merriam-Webster's definition of Earnest: : a serious and intent mental state 

I had a life changing experience driving home from my first gig today. I surfed my XM radio over to the Patriot / Conservative channel to catch Sean Hannity's opening monologue. 

I have to hand it to Mr. Hannity. I really do. In a little less than 10 minutes or so, he had found a way to mention virtually every single negative talking point about Barack Obama that I think exists. He was able to string together Obama's "transformation" of the United States, Obamacare's hidden taxes (which keep getting bigger and bigger), Obama's strong desire to divide the Country, Obama's hatred of the upper class, Obama's hatred of good, decent hard working Americans, Obama's unseemly and dishonest campaign tactics, Obama's lies, Obama's failures, Obama's deceptions, Obama's Socialistic tendencies, Obama's Eurocentric direction for our future, Obama's war on religion, Obama's war on freedom, and a few more things Obama's trying to do that I can't recall because I began to weep at this once in a lifetime artistic execution that I'd never experienced before.

The pure skill involved in weaving all of these together in a tapestry of sorts is very high level stuff. Something only the likes of a Pavarotti or Puccini could really appreciate it and understand. So many things going on in such a sophisticated way that the listener has no real chance of fully absorbing on the first listen. Like many great works, Hannity's performance today is the kind of thing that ought to be preserved and studied in classrooms across America for decades to come. Required listening for all.

Like a great artist, Hannity has a way of sharing his art in an almost intimate way with his audience. For a few miles there, I felt like he was speaking directly to me. Just Sean and Bill having a conversation about the plague known as Obama. I could feel my pulse quicken as he made this point and that point. This charge and that charge. This claim and that claim. Like all good orators, he used his voice as a musical instrument. Start in a lower voice, half tones...let it develop organically into the mid voice with more feeling and emotion behind it...finally the climax of the last refrain. Full voice, open throat, let the technique serve you best on the most dramatic phrases. With the skill and prowess of one of the great vocalists of our time, Hannity mesmerizes his audiences. With both words and unspoken feelings, his message comes across as pure. Barack Obama...for the sake of our evil and must be defeated. Like Handel using repetition in his masterpiece, The Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah, Hannity also knows how to use that device. Barack Obama...for the sake of our evil and must be defeated. Barack Obama...for the sake of our evil and must be defeated. Barack Obama...for the sake of our evil and must be defeated...

Then, my senses returned to me. I understand what Hannity's doing and God damn, he's good at it. I mean that sincerely. To be able to compact that much fear, that much loathing into ten minutes and have millions of people buy it lock, stock and barrel is a phenomenal skill. 98% pure, grade A, American and christ-blessed bullshit of the first order. His fans soak it all in as gospel. Too often, these fans have forsaken education as they view advanced learning as a curse of sorts. Who needs that brainwashing, Hannity implicitly seems to have told his followers? I'm sure there are loyal fans of his that have college degrees, but its hard to understand why they would enjoy his programs. Or, it says something not so good about the value of an advanced degree these days. 

While we can find the same kind of crap on liberal media outlets, (and make no mistake, its out there...), its not as good as the Hannity crap. Rachel Maddow's crap doesn't begin to compare to Hannity's. Maddow's crap is merely good crap, where as Hannity's crap is gold plated, Hall of fucking Fame crap. Possibly without rival anywhere in the cosmos. 

The saddest thing of all isn't how Sean Hannity chooses to handle his business. Its the degree to which so many of his fans swallow his message without hesitation. To broaden the point, I'll say the same thing towards the media voices from the Left as well. They're mostly the same.

If you think for a second that when you watch Sean or Rachel or Bill or Keith or Glen or Rush or Ed, you're getting an objective, impartial version of the news, you might be an idiot. Its not news. IT'S NOT NEWS!!! Its an entertainment show disguised as an informational program. "I love Glen...everything he says is right on, that's what I think!" "I love Ed...everything he says is right on, that's what I think!" This is not the way to become an informed person. This is how you become a fan of a television personality. (Remember, fan is short for fanatic-which is fine for baseball teams and players, but a foolish way to try and understand our world.)

To then run off to facebook or wherever you go to post your opinions and try to portray yourself as an informed citizen is painful for many of us. To chastise others to become "informed" like you are is laughable. I know this sort of talk immediately raises the defenses and is, perhaps not very reasonable, but at some level bullshit has to be called what it is. Bullshit. Chances are very, very good that if you watch some of these shows on a regular basis as your main source of information, you are spreading bullshit. And most of us know it...

Rather than pose as an informed citizen, I'd suggest turning off the cable tv and finding some of the policy experts from both sides on the issue of your choice. Whatever it is, you can find them. All political persuasions, in fact. Go to your library and take out a few books on the subject you're interested in. Don't select them by the ones that seem to fit to your world view, pick them by the expertise of the author. Health care, Economics, Finance, Foreign Policy, etc...they're all out there. Seek out the moderate voices and writings. Study the history of the topic. What's worked, what hasn't? Invest some time educating yourself. Audit a college course. Contact an expert from the industry and email them a question, many will respond. In other words, teach yourself about the issue you care about. Synthesize all of this info into new opinions and attitudes. Understand that the talking heads on cable TV are often the worst places to find information. If you're on facebook or a message board spouting about politics, health care, economics, etc. and have a hard time naming 2-3 experts in the field, you're on shaky ground.

If you do this, people will respect your opinions a great deal more than they probably do now. Chances are good you'll develop an appreciation for the complexities of the given topic. You'll find merits from both sides of the political spectrum. Forget the default positions of Right or Left, they will misguide you almost every time. Forget winning and losing. Learn to enjoy learning. Passion and emotion are great attributes, but without an underlying basis of knowledge and information you're the 45 year old angry young man that Billy Joel sang about in the 70's or you're the teen age girl who doesn't know why she's crying. She just is. Emoting for the sake of emotion is mostly annoying.

Forget emotion, get passionate about knowledge and information and the emotion will resurface at the right time in the right way.

Americans Warming Up To Obamacare...

From Greg Sargent's "The Plum Line" in this morning's Washington Post:

* Support for health law rising: One other key Post finding: In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, voters are exactly split on whether they support the Affordable Care Act, 47-47. That’s a sizable swing from April, when Americans approved of it 39-53.
Also: While opinion tilts narrowly against the ruling, only 33 percent support repealing the whole law, which is Mitt Romney’s position and will get a vote in the House this week. Thirty percent support repealing unspecified parts of it — which could reflect dislike of the mandate.
Look for continued approval over time, as long as Obama wins re-election.  In a Obama second term, the PPACA will continue to churn toward 2014 when the State Insurance Exchanges open and millions have access to affordable, quality health insurance.  If Romney wins, look for him to take immediate steps, as promised, to repeal the ACA.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

This doesn't make one patriotic...or not...

I've seen this image several times over the last few days and its pretty weak. Most of us agree that our highest profile politicians, especially our Presidents, should be noting these memorable anniversaries that have significance to our Country, our military, etc.

That said, pictures like these aren't about patriotism. Images like these are more about attacking a figure you don't agree with ideologically. Often, its people with direct ties to military service that have posted these on facebook or some other social media. There's a notion that since they've served, that they have a little more right to slam someone for something than those of us who haven't served.

I don't think serving this country gives any veteran a special right to do so. What serving this country does do is earn those folks an extra measure of respect. I've never heard one returning vet suggest military service was easy, so we should tip our hat to them. On the other hand, I'm not in the group that believes everyone who ever served this Country is a "hero". If everyone who ever served is a hero, then its nothing special anymore. If the guy who never left stateside and was in charge of handing out supplies for a facility is now a hero like a combat vet who sacrifices his life for his buddies, well...I say its not. And, we ought to stop it.

The President is our Commander in Chief. He makes decisions no one else has to. As I said earlier, we do like it when our POTUS pays tribute to our history on certain dates. But no POTUS does it 100% of the time. If we take Obama to task for this, shouldn't we also take George H.W. Bush to task for not attending a single Memorial Day service at Arlington? Shouldn't we take Ronald Reagan to task for attending only four of his eight Memorial Day Arlington services? Does the fact the Bill Clinton was present for all eight of his Memorial Days make him more worthy than these other Commander's in Chief? Of course not.

This sort of content is cheap and second...third rate, and destructive. It is, un-American...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Crushing Cost of Health Care -

"A primary goal of the 2010 health-care overhaul that the Supreme Court upheld last week is to slow the growth of costs. Even so, the law does little to address a simple fact: A sliver of the sickest patients account for the majority of U.S. health-care spending. In 2009, the top 10% of Medicare beneficiaries who received hospital care accounted for 64% of the program's hospital spending, the Journal's analysis found."

Read Scott Crawford's story...

The Crushing Cost of Health Care -

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Americans Support Cutting The Deficit, But Not Cutting Specific Programs | The Big Picture

Americans Support Cutting The Deficit, But Not Cutting Specific Programs | The Big Picture:

Nothing new here as once more we see that Americans feel strongly about reducing the deficit, yet when it comes to which programs they want to cut. things come to a halt pretty quickly...

Election Day 2012: Four months out...

We're fast approaching the home stretch in our quadrennial spasm where we decide who will work out of the Oval office for the next four years. The incumbent, President Barack Obama, has governed during the most challenging economic times this country has seen since the depression. He's pushed through his signature piece of legislation, The Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, in the most clumsy of ways and just last week seen the Supreme Court surprise just about everyone and rule it Constitutional. (Many pundits felt the Individual Mandate would be its undoing.) Along the way President Obama has signed several tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses, signed various other pieces of legislation into law while seeing more compelling successes abroad than he has at home. The wrapping up of operations in Iraq, a clear willingness to target and kill terrorists throughout the Middle East, not to mention giving the green light to pursue and kill Osama Bin Laden. Who could have conceived that foreign policy might have been the strongest part of his report card when he was elected?

Fair or not, President Obama is not considered by many to be a unifying force in today's politics. While most people give the President high marks for personal character and likability, the economy and unemployment in particular has been a long slow trod toward improvement, and some of his decisions have polarized the populace. Implementing the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", ruffled feathers in the military. His recent choice to not pursue illegal immigrant between 15-29, as long as they have completed high school, served in the military and not committed a serious crime infuriated many who felt it as a move beyond the proper scope of presidential authority.

Advocating for gay marriage, holding to a strict schedule on the Keystone pipeline project, the aggressive use of drones, etc. have all proven to be highly irritable to various voting segments. There has been no shortage of criticism, some warranted-some specious, leveled at Obama. He is a lightening rod for it.

That said, he clearly is not dead in the water. Far, far from it.

Incumbents traditionally hold a pretty serious advantage over their opponents. With the SCOTUS ruling mostly in favor of the ACA, that issue ceases to be the blade that could sever Obama's chances at re-election. The issue won't go away, but now there's enough positive about it that I suspect it will be moved frontward in the re-elect Obama arsenal. Given the lackluster performance of the economy and jobs over the last 3-4 months (another underwhelming jobs report is due out Friday) why wouldn't he talk about healthcare?

Combine the situation at home with the financial uncertainty abroad, Obama's pitch I suspect will be a strong visionary approach. How do you view the future? He'll suggest yes, we're in hard times and I've told you from the beginning this economy couldn't be turned around quickly. However, we're going the right direction and it would be a massive mistake to change course and head back the way we came. We need more time to realize the economic gains and improvements to our health care sector. Oh, and an even slightly more cooperative Congress would be nice too, ok?

If Obama wins, it won't be by much...a margin of victory smaller than he won his first term with for sure...

His opponent, Mitt Romney on the other hand is far more difficult to assess.

Which may be exactly how Romney wants it.

The two most prominent issues in this campaign, are probably the economy and healthcare reform. According to Mitt Romney's campaign, his economic plans are preferable to Obama's because 1) He's a business man and he knows how to turn things around and 2) Obama's plans haven't worked. There is no question Romney is the most seasoned businessman of the two men. That said, do we really want our Government to operate like a business would? In someways yes, in someways - no. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that Romney's economic plan would in fact, increase the deficit. To be fair, we don't have all the details from the Romney campaign, so you're working on limited information. When will we get the details of the Romney economic plan? Who knows?

Looking at health care, Romney had to be stunned, like most of us were, when the Supreme Court voted that "Obamacare" was Constitutional. In spite of the Affordable Care Act being modeled after "RomneyCare" in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney isn't taking any bows for it. He strains to differentiate the two plans, with questionable success. In his comments after the Court decision was announced, Romney said he would like to see health reform legislation that "... ensures "people who want to keep their current insurance will be able to do so," enables people with preexisting conditions to get insurance, gives states more support in their efforts to expand health care access and focuses on lowering the cost of such care."

In other words, Obamacare...

Romney can say he wants people to be able to keep their insurance, but as you beef up the minimum standards for insurance, some of the players don't necessarily want to stay on board. How would he provide people with pre-existing conditions to get insurance without the mandate, that he's quite well familiar with? Insurers won't agree with that unless there's a mandate. Romney knows this from his experience in Massachusetts and he knows it from the experience with the ACA. He can say he wants to help states increase their access to health insurance and lower costs, which again, is exactly what the ACA does with the Medicaid expansion. 

So...On the two main fronts this campaign, Romney is being pretty vague about his economic plans, and saying that we must get rid of Obamacare on his very first day and replace it with, uh, Obamacare.

Is this really the strategy that could win him the White House? 

The election is four months away. Unemployment is going to be close to 8%, no matter what Obama does between now and then. Fuel prices are expected to continue dropping, but except when their very high, no one really seems to care too much. The war in Afghanistan drags on with the understanding that soon we'll be reducing our troops on the ground. Immigration is hanging around, but neither side seems willing to partner with the other side and pass reform. The budget sequester looms large on December 31, with the Bush tax cuts set to expire. Obama won't extend the cuts for the wealthy, while the Republican's won't cooperate for an alternative to the sequester unless the cuts are for everyone, including the wealthy. Come January 1st, especially if heading to a second term, Obama will posture himself as the adult in the room when it comes to reducing the deficit. If you think back to the mid-term elections in 2010, reducing the deficit was all the talk. It was the biggest issue facing us bar none and especially hateful was the insane debt we were handing off to our children. But know this, should Obama force the sequestration to become reality, the issue of reducing the deficit will quickly fade and be replaced with "we must repair the damage Obama has done to our military!" 

How does one of these imperfect candidates pull away and build a lead between now and then? For Obama, a downward trend in the unemployment numbers wouldn't hurt and an avoidance of any missteps is crucial. For Romney, his best shot is to continue to be the anti-Obama and carefully play up his conservative bona fides. He should avoid talking about healthcare as much as Obama should avoid talking about the economy. 

Historically, we're told that the "undecided voters" don't really begin to pay attention and make up their minds until after Labor Day. Most people don't watch the Conventions, so each candidate will get a temporary bump, probably a small one, after their Party's Convention. The wild card in this may be the debates. There will be two Presidential debates and one Vice Presidential debate. Given how close things project to be, these will be crucial for each man. President Obama is considered to be a strong debater, but Romney impressed a lot of people with his ability to avoid getting smacked with a direct hit during the GOP primaries. Many tried, none succeeded. 

If somehow Romney can avoid giving details he doesn't really want to give between now and Election day and at least break even with the President in the debates, that may be enough to win him the Presidency. If Obama can drag details out of Romney and then exploit them, avoiding any blunders of his own, while delivering a more effective sales job on the ACA the rest of this Summer, that may carry him to another term. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

President Obama Asks Campaign Donors to Send Him More Money - The Daily Beast

This is an interesting look into the content of a candidate's call for donations. All political candidates do this at virtually all levels, but the "inside baseball" of this makes for interesting reading:

A preview:

Exclusive: President Obama Asks Campaign Donors to Send Him More Money - The Daily Beast: " “We are going to see more money spent on negative ads through these super PACs and anonymous outside groups than ever before. And if things continue as they have so far, I’ll be the first sitting president in modern history to be outspent in his reelection campaign.”

Read the entire piece here...