Thursday, February 28, 2013

Did the White House threaten Bob Woodward?

Playbook has the story on last night's cable tv drama that unfolded between Bob Woodward and a WH Advisor, who turned out to be Gene Sperling. Give it a read, but let's get a grip on this notion that the WH is plotting to kill Woodward, ok?

From this morning's Politico Playbook...

DEEP THROAT : POLITICO this morning obtained a fascinating email exchange last week between Bob Woodward and Gene Sperling, President Obama's economic adviser. Woodward had told us and CNN's Wolf Blitzer yesterday that a senior White House official - whom he didn't identify - had emailed him to warn he would "regret" questioning administration statements on sequestration. Woodward -- author of the bestselling "The Price of Politics," about 2011's failed quest for a grand bargain -- was reaching out to the official in advance of an opinion piece by Woodward in Sunday's Washington Post. One White House official, after reading Sperling's email and Woodward's reply, was surprised by Woodward's response in the interviews, given the "incredibly friendly" tone of both emails.
--From: Gene Sperling ... To: Bob Woodward ... Feb. 22, 11:52 p.m.: "Bob: I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall -- but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.
"But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying ... that Potus [President of the United States] asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bar[g]ain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding -- from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios -- but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA [Budget Control Act of 2011]: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)
"I agree there are more than one side to our first disagreement, but again think this latter issue is different. Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.
"My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize. Gene'
--From: Bob Woodward ... To: Gene Sperling ... Feb. 23, 7:23 a.m.: "Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved. I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today. Best, Bob Sent from my iPhone"

Hi!, I'm Tim...

  About a year ago, I “met” Bill Corfield through a mutual online friend. Shortly thereafter, I started seeing Bill’s political posts on Facebook and found the Reasonable Conversation blog.  

  Reasonable Conversation’s approach immediately struck a personal chord: there is an acceptance of legitimate positions on issues regardless of ideology, the use of logic and facts to back opinions, and avoiding the robotic rhetoric of party lines. This contributed to a deeper personal involvement in following and discussing politics than I had practiced for some time and, to cut to the chase, here I am. I’m happy to introduce myself with this article, and provide some context for what might follow later.

  Politically, I describe myself as a moderate who leans to the right. I do not ascribe to either party, but in the past if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to commit to one I would have claimed to be a Republican. Now I’d tell them to shoot. It’s not that my positions have changed radically, but that the right has moved farther away from center. However, my biggest concern with the Republicans is the unwillingness to work for the good of the country within the framework of government. But this will ultimately change, and hopefully we’re seeing signs of it already. While acknowledging the frequent inefficiency and ineptitude of government bureaucracy, I’m not quite ready to abandon the current system.

  As far as Democrats go, while I share positions with some, but don’t expect to ever join that club. Besides, my wonderful wife of 29 years is a liberal Democrat, and that is plenty for one household in the conservative hotbed that we live in. 

  Generally, my point of view is pragmatic: I try judge a position on its own merits, not on who came up with it; am less concerned about ideology than effectiveness; and expect that no one person or group has all of the correct answers. There is rarely only one way to accomplish a goal, and it is better to accomplish something using a less preferred method than to not accomplish it at all. Still, there should be an inherent caution for any governmental action and expansion. First, this requires money out of my pocket and yours – which is exactly where it should stay unless there is an overriding reason to require it. Second, legislation almost always has unexpected side effects and negative consequences. We should make sure that it is the right thing to do when the government acts. 

  Bill and I disagree with some frequency – for one thing, he has a higher opinion of the President than I do – but he is a good person to disagree with: respectful and informative. You can disagree for a long time if you criticize ideas and not people, and avoid being judgmental. 

  As for personal details, I’ll be 54 years old for a short time longer and have somehow managed to live in the Atlanta, Georgia area for all of that time. I attended public schools, and have BS / MS degrees in Industrial Management from Georgia Tech. I’ve spent my career working in software development, and currently manage projects for a small software company. My interests, besides politics, include sports (I try to play golf every weekend that I can), music (just listening, I envy Bill’s talent), and reading (lately with a focus on American history).

  During the previous year, when many online political discussions were openly hostile, I could usually expect to find an informative, and, well, reasonable approach in this blog and its ensuing discussions. I look forward to being a regular contributor and continuing in this tradition. 

Tim Dickinson

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Welcome Aboard, Tim Dickinson!

Tim Dickinson joins the RC staff...
I'm very pleased to welcome Tim Dickinson to the blog. Tim, a self described moderate conservative, works in the software industry in Atlanta, GA and brings a slightly more conservative voice to these pages. His interest in Politics and American History make him a natural candidate to add to my team, and I think will add quite a bit of quality to what we do here.

For the last few months, I've been playing with the thought of bringing a few new voices to the blog. Its a big step to do this, adding others means less control over the tone and message of the content, which I take seriously. The pros surely outweigh the cons as adding a fresh, moderate, thoughtful perspective to the blog, I think, makes it a better blog.

With the mission of Reasonable Conversation being what it is, I wanted to find a like-minded soul who had an interest in politics/current events but also felt facts were more important than rhetoric. RC will never be a site that intends to inflame the issues along partisan lines. About a year ago, Tim and I met through a mutual friend. Fairly quickly, as I got to know Tim a bit, he struck me as a kindred spirit. As we participated in various facebook political discussions both private and with others, I was impressed with his attention to facts and data, as opposed to tired memes, strawmen or red herrings as debate techniques. While politically in different places, he and I quickly found common ground more often than not. We could disagree while never being disagreeable.

As the healthcare debate was raging with the Affordable Care Act heading to the Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality, we often discussed its merits. At roughly the same time, I learned of an online course being taught by Dr. Ezekial Emanuel at the University of Pennsylvania on the ACA. Dr. Emanuel was one of the architects of the health reform package, so I jumped at the chance to take this online course. Shortly before classes began, I suggested to Tim that he join me in taking the course, as it would help us both  understand the ACA more fully and accurately. He agreed, which impressed me. I really enjoyed the numerous discussions we had about this aspect or that aspect of the ACA. It was fun and planted the seed that maybe Tim could become a part of RC someday. That time has come.

In our discussions over the last week or so, Tim has let me know, generally speaking, what topics he'll be active on. Economics, Government policy and current events will mostly define Tim's topics, but I've put very few restrictions on him, so if Tim thinks its important, it'll most likely get published.

Tomorrow morning, RC will post Tim's first contribution. In it, he'll say hello and tell us all what to expect.

I look forward to working with Tim. I've enjoyed getting to know him over the last year and find him to be a very smart guy. Where this collaboration takes us, we don't know, but we invite you to come along for the ride.


Reasonable Conversation Announces New Regular Contributor!

Later this evening, Reasonable Conversation will introduce its newest contributor. We've pondered bringing other voices on board over the last few months, and have decided one who the first one will be.

They are a moderate, like myself, and will provide fair-minded, rational, fact-based opinions to these pages. I've given this a great deal of thought, and I think this person's contributions will  elevate the blog to "the next level." (Whatever that is...)

Check back later this evening or look on facebook, twitter, Sulia, etc. for the official unveiling.



Monday, February 25, 2013

Steven Brill's (Long) Essay into why our health care costs so much...

This is the longest feature article from a single author ever published in the history of TIME magazine. Some 26,000 words that attempt to explain why health care in America is the most expensive in the world, and almost twice as much as some other industrialized countries pay.

It is well written, and while I don't agree with some of his conclusion (especially his thoughts on tort reform) it is a worthwhile read if it brings the topic and discussion to a broader audience. The more we understand how the health care system works, and how it doesn't, the better we as readers can understand the ongoing discussion. The conversation isn't close to being over. Single payer advocates feel that with every passing day, they're one day close to a Medicare for All style of health insurance. Others feel that once the Affordable Care Act fulls deploys, it will be such a total disaster, that eventual repeal is just a favorable November General Election result away.

It is a contentious issue.

Take some time and work your way through this. Its worth it...


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Great Sportsmanship...

Great story out of El Paso, TX about one young man's sense of compassion and sensitivity toward a less able peer from a different high school. They matched up on the basketball court recently and both emerged winners.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer for Pres?

 National Journal has an interesting piece on Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Keep an eye on this guy as we churn toward the 2016 election. Schweitzer caught my eye with his 2008 Democratic Convention speech in Denver. His appeal comes not from an Ivy League degree or long business career on Wall Street, but as a rancher in Whitefish, Montana. His education is in international agronomy from Colorado State and a graduate degree from Montana State University in soil science. He is a supporter of green energy programs and signed the Montana Firearms Freedom Act into law that exempted all state residents from federal firearms laws. He is a supporter of a national single payer health care system. He'd be hard to paint as an East Coast elitist or socialist type.

His wiki file...

As the article and most pundits agree, if Hillary Clinton decides to run for President in 2016, its believed that she's a lock for the nomination, with and outside shot of Vice President Joe Biden being her most serious competition. (But not really.) However, if Clinton decides not to run, then Biden becomes the front-runner, but he'd turn 74 a few weeks after the general election in November 2016. Plus, Biden is perceived by many as a Washington insider and could easily be attacked as an extension of the Obama presidency, which may or may not hurt him with independent voters. If the electorate decided Biden wasn't for them, a moderate liberal like Schweitzer, who has a history of working across the aisle in Montana politics, (he appointed John Bohlinger, a Republican, as his candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2005. Never before in Montana politics had a Democrat and a republican ran together in a Gubernatorial election.)

Seems to be an interesting voice. The Democratic bench isn't nearly as long as the GOP's bench is, so who knows?

Just tuck his name away in your memory for later purpose...


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sequestration: What really happens...

Reuters has a nice write-up on what actually happens should the sequestration kick in on March 1st...(H/T Politico Playbook)

An excerpt:

"U.S. government won't fall apart on 'sequester' day of reckoning," by Reuters' Richard Cowan and David Lawder : "While some furlough notices will be issued to government workers, there will be few outward signs on March 1 that the cuts have been launched. Under the law, retirees are shielded and so their Social Security checks will arrive on schedule at the beginning of March and every month thereafter. Similarly, the elderly and the disabled will not see their federally backed Medicare healthcare curtailed at all over the seven months. Every U.S. soldier will get paid and the Defense Department will be allowed to shift funds to ensure that combat operations and 'critical military readiness capabilities' are not degraded, according to the Obama administration. Unofficially, many members of Congress are betting that a few weeks into the automatic spending cuts, Democratic and Republican leaders will get serious about negotiating a replacement to the sequestration and the $85 billion in spending cuts will not have had time to really bite. ...

"On March 1 and in the days immediately after , while no dramatic shakeup is anticipated, there will be some early tremors. * Government agencies are likely to issue 30-day warnings of impending furloughs of government workers. They could be told that starting on April 1 they will have to stay home for a maximum of 22 days between March 1 and Sept. 30. * New government contracts could slow in anticipation of no deal being reached to replace the sequestration. This would hit defense contractors and road and bridge builders alike. * Members of Congress, who are not exempt from the spending cuts, will be advised to begin preparing their staffs for either salary cuts or layoffs if they have to shave funds from their approximately $4 billion in annual appropriations." 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why the Balanced Budget Amendment is a bad idea...

The conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute's Ramesh Ponnuru says the popular right wing goal of a balanced budget amendment is a bad idea and a waste of time.

" All the Republicans and 22 of the Democrats in the Senate, plus all the Republicans and 56 of the Democrats in the House, would have to vote for the idea to send it to the states. Then three-quarters of the states, which have grown increasingly dependent on federal deficit spending to keep their own budgets in balance, would have to ratify it. The amendment isn’t going anywhere.
Voters already know that Republicans are concerned about the deficit. Exit polls during the 2012 presidential election showed that voters favored the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, over President Barack Obama by two percentage points as a deficit-cutter. The 15 percent of voters who said the deficit was their top issue backed Romney 2 to 1.
The Republican Party has a lot of problems. A fight over the Balanced Budget Amendment would, at best, solve one it doesn’t have."
Is he right?

Read the whole thing here...


Saturday, February 16, 2013

What's Driving Gang Violence? Great read from the Atlantic...

There's a great read over at The Atlantic featuring a thoughtful discussion between Ta-Nehisi Coates, Senior Editor for the magazine and Dr. Harold Pollack, an expert on youth violence from the University of Chicago's crime lab. The article is in conversation form and while a bit lengthy, is pretty interesting.

A preview:

I sometimes travel in some pretty tough neighborhoods, and it's been maybe 20 years since someone has laid an unfriendly hand on me. The gray hair seems to put me in a different category. The kids we encounter are sometimes a bit struck that one can be a shrimpy, nerdy guy and be a successful adult man. That option doesn't seem as open to them.
I remember when Allen Iverson came into the NBA and people could not understand why he walked around with twenty dudes. I totally understood, and I suspect a lot of black males did too. But one thing that's become clear to me, and that I've tried to grapple with in my blogging, is that cultural practices that offer some protection in one place are often quite harmful in another. Iverson's clique may have saved him countless times in Virginia Beach. But in that broader world, they sometimes empowered his worst urges. So much of my work is about how young black males negotiate violence, and how those negotiations affect them when they interact with the broader world.
I get a sense of that when I talk with young men in Chicago who participate in violence prevention efforts. Kids are wearing that ice-grill for some very real reasons in their world. It's just a tough assignment to be a 17-year-old kid in urban America.
We often hear some version of this story: "Dr. Pollack, I'm so glad you are doing this. There are too many guns, too much fighting out here. My friend was shot. But you have to know something: If some guy gets in my face in the hallway, I'm going to have to kick his ass because I can't afford to allow anyone to mess with me."
Your comments are right on the money that kids' approaches can be protective in one context, but quite harmful in another. If another 17-year-old gets in your face, you might have to be tough. If that's your automatic response, things won't go well when your 11th grade English teacher gets into your face over a missing assignment.
The academic literature also suggests that aggression-prone kids aren't very good at deciphering the unspoken intentions of other people. Psychologists speak of "hostile intention attribution bias," whereby youth interpret other people's ambiguous behavior as more hostile and more threatening than it actually is.
Some of the best interventions help kids with social-emotional and self-regulation skills so that they can deal more safely and productively with each other and with adult authority figures. We've found in randomized trials that such interventions can reduce violent offending. But you can't tell kids "Don't fight." That's not realistic in their world.
I do believe that kids are exposed to some pretty toxic messages about adult masculinity. Their lack of a decent roadmap is reinforced by crummy pop culture from Chief Keef to video games to BET. Much more important, though, many of these kids don't have adult men in their everyday lives available to show them how it's done. One could write 500 Ph.D. dissertations about how hip-hop or pornography mis-socializes young men in their relationships with women. I'm not thrilled about some of what the kids are listening to or viewing. Yet the Tipper-Gore-style anxieties seem misdirected. Media dreck is much less important than the ways youth observe adult men in their lives actually treat women. Much of the hip-hop that adults dislike reflects kids' real experiences. It isn't pretty to hear, but what's coming through people's ear-buds isn't the real problem.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Let's clear this Church sign business up, ok?

I made this sign...

Conservatives, Liberals, Independents, Believers, Non-Believers, Old, Young, Educated, Not Educated, etc. can make a sign...

You too can make a sign...

Have some fun with it, but don't think for a moment, they're serious representations from some church's readerboard, ok?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Blogging Break, Comments...

Blogging has been light for the last ten days or so. This is a temporary thing, as it just seems like a time to step back and let some things digest. What will Congress do about Sequestration? Just how ambitious, if at all, will President Obama's State of the Union address next Tuesday night be?
What happens with gun reform, the continued roll-out of the State based health insurance exchanges and the Affordable Care Act, immigration, etc?

My performance schedule has also been pretty demanding as has the adding of new material. Put it all together, Reasonable Conversation is in sort of a "lite mode" for the next few weeks. I plan on blogging about the SOTU address next week and if something else grabs my attention, I won't hesitate to write...