Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Has the media chosen to ignore the Kermit Gosnell abortion trial?

Kermit Gosnell
Has the media chosen to ignore the Kermit Gosnell abortion trial?

Michelle Bachmann thinks so...

Last Thursday, Mrs. Bachmann, (R-MIN) made the following remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives...

“Mr. Speaker, it’s difficult for me to even speak about this subject today,” Bachmann said from the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday. “I’m a woman who’s been privileged to give birth to five children and I’ve also taken 23 children into my home as foster children.”
Michelle Bachmann
“It’s very hard for me to imagine, Mr. Speaker, that a doctor in this country—a doctor who took an oath to do no harm—would, in fact, kill a woman at his abortion clinic and he would sever the heads off of four babies that were born alive and potentially others, and commit one gruesome act after another and shamelessly the mainstream media has all but gone silent and failed to cover this horrific violence against women,” she said. “No one—Democrat or Republican—believes in violence against women, we abhor it.”
“But there’s nothing that comes close to what’s happened in this abortion clinic in Pennsylvania,” Bachmann continued. “And the officials in Pennsylvania in the State Department unfortunately, it appears, willfully ignored this heinous crime and also it appears that this has been ignored now across our nation.”
“Well, we won’t,” she said. “And I thank God for the men who stood up here today to stand for women and against violence against women. And I lend my voice and my support to that effort as well. I yield back [my time].”
I take issue with Mrs. Bachmann's suggestion that the "mainstream media has all but gone silent and failed to cover this horrific violence against women."

I don't much care for the style of politician Mrs. Bachmann is. She made such the impression upon me during the health care reform battles of recent years, including her infamous "death panels" that I trust almost nothing she says. Did the media fail to cover this story? Well, its pretty easy to find out. 

I did a google search for "kermit gosnell" under the CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, USA Today and Newsmax websites, searching specifically within their news departments. Here's the number of references I found for "kermit gosnell" on each of these websites:

CNN.com - 36 references 
CBS.com - 32 references
ABC.com - 251 references
NBC.com - 115 references
FOX News.com - 283 references
USA Today.com - 21 references
Newsmax.com - 48 references

I haven't read them all but I highly doubt there's a single story/editorial that defends Gosnell's unspeakable actions. (If you're unfamiliar with the story, read the Grand Jury report, its pretty damning to say the least.)  Now, reasonable people can disagree whether this story has gotten the right amount, too little or even perhaps too much coverage. The big three broadcast news organisations, (CBS, ABC and NBC) have an average of 132.7 related stories and articles about this tragedy. Two other news organisations, the USA Today, a national newspaper and Newsmax, a popular conservative news organisation, averaged 35 stories between them. ABC and Fox news were heaviest hitters on this story with an average of 267 related stories from their search. 

I think once again, Mrs. Bachmann is grandstanding and embellishing something that frankly stands on its own. For her to fight this imaginary fight against the evil "mainstream media" doesn't do anyone any good. Its a distraction from the real matter at hand, which is to figure out with a clear eye with Gosnell and his associates did or did not do and then what level of punishment is deserved through our legal system.

Bachmann would have us believe that this is a common occurrence in a land where abortions are legal. Which of course is wrong on many levels. Are their likely other clinics where regulations are not followed? Almost certainly. Might they be as bad as Gosnell's clinic? I hope not. I don't know what la-la land Mrs. Bachmann lives in, or thinks that we all live in, but if she woke up tomorrow and could close all the abortion clinics with a snap of her fingers, the horror stories would be common place and there would be NO place to legally and safely pursue an abortion. Abortions will not stop if you ban abortions. 




Monday, April 29, 2013

Glen Beck: Why "I left" Fox News...

 Forbes Magazine has an article out featuring an interview with talk show host Glenn Beck, where he discloses why he had to leave Fox news. It has to do with preserving his soul.

Read it here... 

Meanwhile, from this morning's Politico Playbook:

--A FOX NEWS SPOKEPERSON: "Glenn Beck wasn't trying to save his soul, he was trying to save his ass. Advertisers fled his show and even Glenn knows what that means in our industry. Yet, we still tried to give him a soft landing. Guess no good deed goes unpunished."




Bipartisan political cooperation? Don't hold your breath

Most of us want bipartisan statesmanship, I know I do. But frankly it isn't fair to our politicians to expect it. Incentives drive behavior, and the incentives for cooperation generally aren't there. If you can accept that most politicians are rational human beings - admittedly a stretch in some cases - then we should expect party-centric behavior to remain the norm and inter-party teamwork to only be an occasional pleasant surprise.

Consider this from Ezra Klein:

"Elections really are zero-sum affairs. For one party to win, the other has to lose. The incentives this creates are stunningly dysfunctional. Imagine a workplace where the only way to win a promotion was for the boss to fire your colleague. Even worse, if he likes your colleague’s work, you get a pay cut. Now imagine that your colleague needs your help to finish a big, difficult project. Think you’re going to help him?"

This dichotomy of incentives is at the heart of why we see so little true bipartisan cooperation. Again from Klein:

"Bipartisanship is popular, and it typically redounds to the particular benefit of the president. But bipartisanship is, unusually, a precious political resource that the minority party has exclusive control over. It is entirely in their power to make even an accommodating president look like a polarizing figure who’s unable to work constructively with the minority party. And more to the point, it’s entirely in their interest."

Our first two presidents tried to warn us about the dangers of political parties. 

George Washington:

"However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."

John Adams:

"There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.

Despite that, the mold for political parties was  cast during Washington's time in office due to the competing views of either favoring a strong central government (preferred by Alexander Hamilton) or granting power to the states (championed by Thomas Jefferson).

As an aside, with the advent of political parties came partisan and contentious media. In the early days of our government, newspapers tended to be voices for one party of the other, and the truth wasn't always the objective. There are even Founding Father roots of partisan media: Benjamin Franklin Bache, the great patriot's grandson, inherited his namesake's printing equipment and ultimately published a newspaper that was fiercely critical of Washington, Adams, and the Hamiltonian Federalists. Bache even suggested that Washington corroborated with the British during the Revolutionary War, and during Adams' tenure his journalistic activities led to his being arrested under the Constitutionally dubious Alien and Sedition Acts.

Let's fast forward to 2008. President Obama is making serious overtures to both parties for a new spirit of bipartisan collaboration.  According to Bob Woodward in "The Price of Politics":

"[Republican House minority leader Eric Cantor's chief of staff] Steven Stombres … was impressed. If this really was a bipartisan 'coming together' it was precisely what the country needed at such a critical time, and as a citizen he found it genuinely inspirational. As a Republican, though, he was worried: If Obama followed through on this promise of political togetherness, Republicans would be in bad shape.

He need not have worried - there were ample forces on both sides of the aisle to derail such an accomplishment.

It's easy to sit back and say that if we were in Washington we would act differently and be team players. But given the incentives that face our politicians, I'm not so sure. While one can justifiably question the extremes of political selfishness, as a general rule partisan behavior is quite rational.

Sources for this article:  

Woodward, Bob (2012-09-11). The Price of Politics (p. 9). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition

Friday, April 26, 2013

Imagine a World Without Balloons...

 These are important days in the United States House of Representatives. Critical issues such as the budget, sequestration, immigration and gun reform, etc. all warrant some significant chunk of this esteemed body's limited time. The business of America must be done.

Representative Hank Johnson-D (GA) issued some entertaining remarks on the amount of time the House devoted to debating a bill that addresses concerns over the management of the country's helium supply...The merits of that legislation aside, Mr. Johnson makes a point that perhaps the House's time might've been spent better on other more important issues...

Watch his remarks...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Frank Luntz Tells It Like It Is...

Frank Luntz is one of America's most well known political consultants and pollster. A Conservative, Mr. Luntz has worked for several well known politicians including Newt Gingrich, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan as well as providing counsel to President Bush regarding climate change in 2002. Mr. Luntz is also utilized frequently on Fox News over-seeing focus groups after political debates. He is also known for a now famous GOPAC internal memo that suggested to Republicans to describe Democrats and their policies as “corrupt,” "devour," "greed," "hypocrisy," "liberal," "sick," and "traitors." He also  won Politifact's "Lie of the Year" in 2010 for calling health care reform a "government takeover." 

Mr. Luntz gave a speech and took questions at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania on April 22 to a few dozen students. At one point, he was asked about the current state of political polarization. In short, he was uncomfortable answering unless all recording devices were turned off and his response was off the record. The representative from the school newspaper agreed to turn his recorder off, but an audience member then decided to record Luntz' response with his iphone. Mr. Luntz was aware of this nor was any consent given. While I wonder why he didn't simply deflect the question into a more comfortable subject manner, it was wrong of the student to record his comments.

That said, the toothpaste is out of the tube and I think Mr. Luntz knows how this goes from here. Mother Jones has the video and its own, more detailed write up. Luntz opines on the problem that right wing talk radio, including Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh, etc...are causing other Conservatives like Marco Rubio on immigration reform.

Mr. Luntz seems to be a step or two ahead of many in his party as witnessed not only by his "off the record" comments at Penn, but also his January 11th column in the Washington Post, where he takes a pretty eyes wide open look at the current GOP. I agree with him that the Republican Party would be well served to rebrand their party totally in a way more in tune with the voters they so badly desire votes from.

Click here for the Mother Jones article...

Watch just the video below:







Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Using Drones Abroad: Helping or hurting the United States?

The United States military uses drone aircraft to combat terrorism in several countries around the world,  most of them in the expanded Middle Eastern region. There are certainly pros and cons to such use. Its hard to argue that this technology saves American lives. At least short term. The team that is responsible for the craft and its mission are usually in a far less dangerous environment than traditional combat soldiers would be.

As I said, its a mixed bag when it comes to their use. Too many times innocent civilians including children have been injured and/or killed as the result of these weapons. While many "bad guys" have been eliminated, the fall out from innocents being hurt or killed has far reaching implications. Are our foreign policy objectives being well served by their continued use?

While its understood that there's collateral damage in war, the United States most certainly has not declared war on Yemen or Pakistan. Yet, we've launched several targeted attacks in their countries, sometimes with horrific and unfortunate results.

 Below is the video testimony of a Mr. Farea Al.Muslimi, who appeared at a hearing yesterday that Senators Dick Durbon and Pat Leahy held to investigate the use of such drones in Yemen and Pakistan. Mr. Muslimi attended school here in the United States, has an appreciation for America and is deeply concerned over he unintended consequences of drones, particularly in his home land of Yemen. He works as a youth advocate and a writer in Yemen...

Another perspective that many of us rarely get to hear...not the rantings of a crazy ideologue or jihadist, but an educated, thoughtful young man who describes the effect of drones on his village.

I wonder, in spite of the efficiency of the drones, could we actually be perpetuating the next generation of peoples who hate the United States? Are we safer or less so because of our policy?

Watch it here:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A smart take on the budget ...

 This morning, Ezra Klein's Wonkblog has an interesting take on the budget process in Washington....

(Written by Evan Soltas)

Some fun news this morning for budget wonks. ”Leader Reid is very likely to ask for consent to move to conference [this] morning,” e-mails a Democratic Senate aide. “We will see if Senate Republicans who have talked about regular order will actually stick to that and allow us to move to conference or if they will drag their feet and provide cover for House Republicans who want to drag their feet on negotiations.”
If that means nothing to you — and, if you’re a halfway normal human being, it shouldn’t mean anything to you — then perhaps we should back up.
For the last two years, congressional Republicans have argued that the real problem in the budget debate is that Democrats have abandoned “regular order.” By regular order, Republicans mean — well, I’ll let Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, explain it.
“Secret deals have not worked and are an affront to popular democracy,” he argued in January. “The right process is the regular order. The House produces its budget–as it has–and the Senate passes its budget, all in accordance with the Budget Act of 1974. Under that law, the Senate Budget Committee must approve a budget resolution by April 1st. From there, the law requires the budget to be considered on the Senate floor where it must receive 50 hours of open amendment and debate. A budget cannot be filibustered and is adopted by a simple majority in both committee and the full Senate. Then, once the issues and differences are clarified by this open process, the work of conferencing must begin.”
Got that? The House should pass a budget, the Senate should pass a budget, and then the two chambers should head to conference to work out the differences between the two budgets — all of it out in the open. No more of these backroom negotiations. Let Congress work as Congress was intended to work.
Regular order has achieved a totemic significance on the right. Bringing it back by forcing Senate Democrats to pass a budget was, in fact, the lure that House Speaker John Boehner and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan used to convince their colleagues to raise the debt ceiling.
“The good news is that we now have a vehicle for regular order,” Ryan exulted in March. “Democrats derailed the budget process when they gave up governing a few years ago. Nearly four years without a budget. We brought them back in the game this spring. That is a good thing.”
But a funny thing happened after Senate Democrats passed their budget: House Republicans, it seemed, weren’t that eager to move to regular order after all. There’s been no evident interest in the next move, which is appointing conferees to begin reconciling the two budgets. “It seems to us they want to slow this down, keep it in the back rooms, keep it quiet, because there's no advantage to them in having a formal public process,” said one Democratic aide.
In fact, Republicans see a disadvantage in a formal public process. “If you appoint conferees and after 20 legislative days there's no agreement, the minority has the right to offer motions to instruct, which become politically motivated bombs that show up on the House floor," Boehner told reporters.
Senate Democrats don’t find this a very convincing excuse: They note that they had to vote on dozens of Republican amendments – many of which were designed to embarrass them.
House Republicans instead want a private agreement — a “framework” — that would direct the conference committee as they attempt to reconcile the budgets. “What we want to do is have constructive dialogues to find out where the common ground is and go to conference when we have a realistic chance of coming out with an agreement,” Ryan told reporters. There’s precedent for this sort of thing. But it’s not what’s traditionally meant by “regular order.” Rather, it’s a return to the precise kind of backroom, leadership-driven dealmaking Republicans have spent so much time assailing.
And Senate Democrats aren’t having it. After years of Republicans complaining about secret deals and hammering Senate Democrats for betraying regular order, they’re calling the GOP’s bluff. That’s why Reid intends to move towards conference this morning. Either Republicans will agree, and regular order will proceed — which will likely mean no deal, and which will then give House Democrats a chance to throw their bombs — or Senate Republicans will filibuster, and that will be the end of the regular order talking point.
But that’s all political theatre. However it works out, the point is more than proven. What’s holding up a budget deal isn’t disagreements over the process. It’s disagreements over the budget.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Best soap commercial ever...

Best soap commercial ever...

As a father of three daughters I love very much, I'll confess it brought a tear to my eye.

A soap commercial...

Yes, tears to my eyes...

Watch it:

Well done, Dove....

Conservatives agree Boston suspects can't be tried in military tribunal...

From Think Progress...

On Friday, while the manhunt for suspected Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev continued, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) published aseries of tweets suggesting that he wanted to revive the George W. Bush-era debates about whether terrorism suspects can be denied many constitutional rights and tried by a military tribunal. In a statement Graham released yesterday with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Rep. Pete King (R-NY), however, the four conservatives acknowledge that shunting Tsarnaev into a military commission is not a lawful opinion. Tsarnaev is an American, and federal law does not permit U.S. citizens to be tried under the military commissions system.
On CNN this morning, Graham articulated what now appears to be the conservative position on how Tsarnaev should be treated:
GRAHAM: This man, in my view, should be designated as a potential enemy combatant and we should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that may exist that he has knowledge of, and that evidence cannot be used against him in trial. That evidence is used to protect us as a nation. Any time we question him about his guilt or innocence, he’s entitled to his Miranda rights and a lawyer, but we have the right under our law — I’ve been a military lawyer for 30 years — to gather intelligence from enemy combatants. And a citizen can be an enemy combatant.
He is not eligible for military commission trial. I wrote the military commission in 2009. He cannot go to military commission.
Click here to watch the segment...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ruslan Tsarni's Remarkable Statement...

Ruslan Tsarni is the uncle of both Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his now deceased brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the two men who are suspected of planting two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last Monday afternoon. Mr. Tasrni addressed the media this afternoon, before his nephew Dzhokhar was captured after a dramatic manhunt. 

His comments are an alluring mix of shame, personal responsibility and compassion. Tsarni makes no excuses for either of his nephews other than to suggest that someone "radicalized them." He speaks passionately of his feelings about the boys, their actions, the effects of those actions on the Chechnyan race, the United States and the victims of Monday's bombings. 

Watch his remarks in full here:

No excuses, no finger pointing at America for anything. I found it to be very powerful and attractive in its bluntness. His attitudes revealed profound and impressive levels of shame in his nephew's actions and the repercussions that followed as well as his love of the United States. His willingness to assume some level of responsibility for the actions of others, albeit in a sensibly indirect way, were striking:

“Those who suffered, we’re sharing with them, with their grief—and ready just to meet with them, and ready just to bend in front of them, to kneel in front of them, seeking their forgiveness. … In the name of the family, that’s what I say.”

Well said, Mr. Tsarni...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Alex Jones: Boston explosion a government conspiracy

Well, of course, Alex would think this....

Alex Jones: Boston explosion a government conspiracy

Good thoughts for Boston...

Don't have enough info yet to write much of value just yet, so we're just going to use a musical form to pass on some good vibes for those effected by today's bombings...

Hang in there, Boston...

Where our Federal Income Taxes Go...

Today, Monday, April 15th, 2013 is known affectionately as "Tax Day." All citizens of the United States who qualify in terms of earned income must report and file a tax return (or apply for an extension) by the end of today. The above graph, based on data gathered from the Office of Management and Budget, shows us where and how our tax dollars are used. 

You can find more detailed information soon, I think when the White House activates its "Your 2013 Federal Taxpayer Receipt" link, which they've provided to all of us for the last few years. You can see the 2012 information here: Your 2012 Federal Taxpayer Receipt.

I'm on record as saying we should, in general be paying higher taxes. Especially after we address the loopholes and subsidies that many of us enjoy to the point of exploitation. Sometimes good stuff costs money. And, yes, of course, we should continue to seek out and eliminate waste and fraud in government spending.

(We have not yet discussed this, but I suspect my partner Mr. Dickinson may feel differently. I look forward to discussing this in person with him later this week when Reasonable Conversation convenes its first ever staff meeting at a local watering hole while Tim visits the Buckeye State on other business.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It shouldn't be this hard...

 My thoughts today are on the recent problem at the Research Medical Center, a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri where a duly designated same sex partner, Roger Gorley, was denied access to his loved one "Alan" due to other family members and a less than impressive performance by some hospital staff. You can read accounts and related articles on this story here, here, here and here.

I'll start out by saying that I don't downplay the fact that Roger Gorley may have behaved in a fashion that was inappropriate at the hospital. Getting loud, becoming "disruptive and belligerent" and ultimately arrested isn't good form almost anywhere. Exhibiting those qualities during a time where a problem needed to be resolved, not complicated or muddied with a distraction isn't good judgement ever. Most of us understand that when the shit's going down, you're much better served if you keep your cool, stay respectful and take the high road. Its a much more productive way to act.

 If I'm in that situation, and the reasonable approach hadn't worked, would I have gotten upset, raised my voice, appeared agitated? Quite possibly, yes. Absolutely. What kind of spouse just walks away calm as a cucumber under those circumstances?

To try and understand what Mr. Gormley felt that day is so hard for me. Any time that my wife Patty and I have needed medical attention, small or otherwise, we've always been together. Husband and wife, devoted partners, etc. It's how want and expect it to always be. Perhaps we're both over dramatic but there's always those little thoughts in the back of your head like "what if something goes wrong today?", "what if the anesthesia causes a bad reaction?" "What if, what, what if?" We're probably not unique among couples that way. Its mostly well contained fears but we are both in our fifties and at some point in the next 15 years or so one of us is likely to get some bad news in one form or another. We don't take much for granted.

I struggle to even comprehend what my reaction would be if suddenly my ability and right to be at her side and participate in her health care decisions was not just challenged, but over-ridden by an outsider. Its incomprehensible to me. We've lived together as man and wife for over 20 years, and we do so much together. We coordinate our schedules, parenting strategies, shopping lists, dinner plans, who's picking up milk and dog food today and who's cleaning the bathroom this weekend. And a hundred other things.

We live a perfectly normal life just like thousands of other couples do across the country.

It appears Roger and Alan had everything set up as officially as Missouri law permits. They are set up as each other's Power of Attorney for all health care decisions. No where are Alan's other family member's, who have not been involved in his health care decisions for 20 years, granted any authorization to know, be informed, consult, let alone make any decisions about his health or any treatments. Alan, as we all do, under the HIPAA law, has the right to privacy and choice when it comes to his private medical matters. Roger and Allan were "married" five years ago and while Missouri doesn't recognize their marriage or even civil unions, Missouri does recognize state laws regarding power of attorney and the federal HIPAA regulations.

Clearly something went wrong that day. The timeline is laid out here by Mr. Gorley's daughter, Amanda in some detail. Why was Alan's brother and sister waiting for them at the house that day and why were the paramedics and police with them?  Everything after that just seemed to spiral downward.

Here's a video with both Roger and Alan's brother Lee...

There's probably some things we don't know yet on this. But to step away from the details of this specific situation, let's focus on the larger, grander issue. Equal rights for same sex partners. The 14th Amendment of the Constitution I believe addresses this over-arching issue:

(The text of the amendment)

Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

There is, before we even get into the meaning of  words, something that needs to be addressed in terms of how to read or "interpret" this amendment. Some say we should take the words literally, while others suggest its best to consider the time and place that we apply these words as the Constitution to some is a "living and breathing" document.

I will defer to those 2nd Amendment advocates who suggest we needn't and shouldn't interpret what the words mean, just follow them.

There's no questions that Roger and Alan and countless of other LGBT people who wish to marry the loved one of their choice are citizens of the United States and therefor are entitled as their birthright to all the privileges and protections of the Constitution. This is covered in the first one and a half lines of the amendment. Now we get to the part where is forbids any State to deprive any person of life, liberty or property (then changed to read pursuit of happiness) without due process of law not deny anyone equal protection under the law.

I've read it a hundred times and "except gay people" just isn't there.

Its never going to be there, is it?


One of the things that's admirable about how our country was constructed was that everyone has a fair shot and equal footing/treatment at least in some theoretical way. We know equality doesn't exist across our population. Blacks, women, immigrants, the old, the disabled, non Christians, etc. all can point to a dark time in their history as a sub-group and tell some horrific tales of discrimination. We are getting better. We're trying. We need to try harder.

I hope before I leave this life, we've agreed as a country and as a people to apply the laws and founding principles toward everyone regardless of color, faith, orientation, health etc. It, to me, seems like this shouldn't be so hard, so scary to get right.

It just shouldn't.







Monday, April 8, 2013

WSJ opinion column endorses carbon tax

Conservatives George Schultz (former Secretary of State for Nixon and Reagon) and Gary Becker (Nobel Prize winning economist) endorsed a revenue neutral carbon tax in a Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday. 

"A revenue-neutral carbon tax should be supplemented by a reasonable and sustained support for research and development in the energy area. However, we would eliminate any program (loan guarantees, etc.) that tempts the government to get into commercial activities. Clearly, a revenue-neutral carbon tax would benefit all Americans by eliminating the need for costly energy subsidies while promoting a level playing field for energy producers."

There are some sensible things here. 

Click here to read the entire article

It must be the revenue neutrality that got this one through. Less than two weeks ago, the WSJ opined: "Some of our conservative friends want us to endorse a carbon tax, and it certainly beats taxing income. But until someone finds a way to stop [Congressional] liberals from using the additional revenue simply to expand the government, we're with the ... Senate's anti-carbon tax majority."



Friday, April 5, 2013

Frum: Somebody Has to Drive Down Healthcare Costs

In an article at the Daily Beast, David Frum asks the question: who will drive down healthcare costs? Will it be a Sam Walton-like individual in private enterprise  or the federal government?

From an economic perspective, the health care industry is inefficient in so many ways, and this results in our paying way too much while not always getting what we need. As an example, Frum cites Ezra Klein's blog post about a single 15-minute toenail clipping that a hospital charged $1,206 for.

I agree with Frum's implication that we cannot afford this over the long haul and necessity, if nothing else, will drive us to a solution.

Making the industry more competitive will reap tremendous benefits in terms of lower cost and improved service, but the magic silver bullet exists and can be found elsewhere. Look for an upcoming Reasonable Conversation article about that.

Click here to read the entire article

Thursday, April 4, 2013

RIP Roger Ebert...

Film Critic and writer Roger Ebert passed away from cancer today. Several media outlets have worthy obituaries available here, here, here and here.

We've thought it interesting to share with our readers a glimpse at some of the out-takes from the "At the Movies" program.

Slightly racy and includes some language...

RIP, Mr. Ebert...





Hillary, Equal Rights, Constitutional Hypocrisy, Guns, Race, Obama paycheck stunt...

A mixed bag today:

1) Hillary Clinton is very likely to run for President in 2016. The Democratic field she'd have to conquer isn't a very impressive or deep one at this time and I suspect it would be a short primary season for her. Her biggest obstacle is Joe Biden, and unless some controversy arises with Mrs. Clinton, (Bhengazi?) that can't be managed, I don't see him getting in her way.

2) I get the problem for congressmen and women when it comes to equal rights. In many places, their constituents don't really want equal rights. Yes, often these are the same people yammering about the destruction of the Constitution under this President and his Administration, but too often when the rubber hits the road, people don't really want equal rights for everyone. Many strong religion voices in our country get upset at the (mostly imagined) idea of the war on Christians. Ask these folks how they feel about Islam being taught in our schools and you'll see what I mean.

3) Several politicians have stepped up and proudly announced, like President Obama did before the election, that after much personal reflection they now feel all Americans deserve a fully recognized and equal right to marry the person of their choice. I didn't get too misty-eyed when Obama finally got around to it and I'm not getting too excited now. The list of those whose "evolution" had come out in favor of same sex marriage grows by the day. Almost always its a matter of political expediency. The 14th Amendment doesn't leave out certain groups, it says no person shall be denied equal protection under the law. Period.

4) Who can miss the irony that so many pro-gun folks who can recite the 2nd Amendment by memory but poo-poo any attempt to "interpret" its meaning consider those who want to apply the same standard to the 14th as some clear cut sign of lunacy? Hypocrites.

5) I wish the pro gun-reform folks who like to post pictures referring to the Newtown, CT shooting would stop. While it does play on our emotions when you do that, its not going to help the reform effort at all. Realize this. Massacres like that are almost impossible to prevent. Crazy people do crazy things. Hopefully, we get better as a society at stopping them. Any serious gun policy won't aim (sorry) at the random, insane acts that happen infrequently. Rather, it would attempt to get a better grip on controlling the manufacturing (smaller clips/magazines), better regulating all sales and creating an improved background check system. We should control all the guns in the country at least as well as we control our cars and trucks.

6) We all should be asking ourselves why it took a string of senseless shootings of mostly white people to get (hopefully meaningful) gun reform on the table again. While the murder of 20 small kids turns anyone's stomach, the overall numbers are striking:

Recent gun related shootings and # of deaths: 

April 1999: Columbine shooting - 13 dead
April 2007: Virginia Tech shooting - 32 dead
April 2009: Binghamton, NY office shooting - 13 dead

November 2009: Ft. Hood shooting - 13 dead
January 2011: Tuscon shopping ctr. shooting - 6 dead
April 2012: Oikos University - 7 dead
July 2012: Aurora Theater - 12 dead
August 2012: Wisconsin Sikh shooting - 6 dead

December 2012: Newtown school shooting - 26 dead

...Nine gun related attacks resulting in 128 deaths and even more injuries. While there was some increase in the general discussion on the need to improve gun laws in this country, it wasn't until our President wept openly before cameras the afternoon of the Newtown shootings that we collectively sat up and took notice.

...Looking at one city - Chicago, over a two year period, we see: 

2011 Chicago gun related deaths: 433
2012 Chicago gun related deaths: 535
TWO YEAR TOTAL: 968 deaths...

I'm not suggesting this is apples and apples, but my point stands. We mostly stand by quietly on the urban area shootings day after day while the body count increases well into the hundreds, but finally dub it a call to action when 20 children are wiped out in under ten minutes in the suburbs. Maybe its the sheer number we saw in Newtown or Tuscon, Ft. Hood, etc. but numbers equal to those or higher occur on average every week in Chicago.

We as a country don't seem to especially care if a group of us get gunned down from time to time. If its a group of small school children, then yes, we'll emote for a while and perhaps pass some mild changes into law. If its 6-10 blacks or latino folks losing their lives to a bullet every week in our cities, we really, as proved by our collective actions, don't give a shit...

7) President Obama continues to have a tin ear when it comes to avoiding unnecessary wrong notes. While the Country is coping with the effects of the sequestration, a by product of the inability of both Congress and the White House to avoid its across the board spending cuts, the first family is taking flak for its vacations. Never mind that Mr. Obama has taken less time off than his predecessor did, never mind that the Obama's pay for everything out of their own pocket except for security above and beyond the allocated $50,000 given to them for "expenses" and the $100,000 provided for travel. While we can dismiss the asshats like Sean Hannity for his role in this, I again wonder why this administration continues to throw these softballs right down the middle for his opponents to smack out of the park? This is not a first family that spends lavishly or excessively as some would suggest, but the appearance is damning just the same. The President's announcement this week that he will give back 5% of his salary to stand with those who have been hurt by the sequestration is a cheap stunt. Mr. Obama has a net worth of over 11 Million dollars and a fortune beyond anything I can imagine waiting for him once he steps away from public service. He's not going to miss  the 20K he'll give back. Its this sort of "out of touch-ness" that pisses people off.

I have supported this President and usually defend his actions. Perhaps he has decided he has no more elections to worry about, that no matter what he does or doesn't do he will be criticized by his detractors, etc. so damn the torpedoes, the Obama's will do what they want without regard to public perception. For all the offensive crap they've had to absorb as a family, perhaps he's entitled. But it comes at a cost.












Monday, April 1, 2013

Millions of Facebook users change profile pic to support gay marriage...

As one of the giants in the social media world, when something happens socially of import in America, it usually finds its way to the pages of facebook. The events at the Supreme Court last week certainly effected changes of sorts to millions of facebook users, including yours truly, who changed their profile picture as a modest show of support.

Apparently, Facebook tracks this stuff and reports that last Tuesday, 2.7 Million people more than usual, changed their profile pic. That seems like a lot to me.

Here is a image that shows where the profile changes were geographically by county:

(Click on image to enlarge it....)

The darker areas represent a higher number of those people who changed. Lighter areas showed locations where there were fewer profile pictures changed. 

Facebook also has information available on when the changes were noticed by the researchers at facebook, as well as the demographics involved. Generally speaking, most of those who changed their pic were 30-somethings, with a very slight higher percent of women rather than males making the change. 




GOP makeover? Not so fast...

"The GOP today is a tale of two parties. One of them, the gubernatorial wing, is growing and successful. The other, the federal wing, is increasingly marginalizing itself, and unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future." - from the report by the Republican National Committee's Growth and Opportunity Project, March 2013.

The current conventional wisdom is that the Republican Party must adapt to the changing national demographics to find renewed competitiveness in national elections. This view is challenged in an intriguing article last week from the Poli-Sci Perspective, a "Wonkblog" feature of the Washington Post. 

To summarize some of the author John Side's major points:

  • The perspective that the weak economy of President Obama's first team should have resulted in a Republican victory in 2012 is just not true. It is hard to defeat an incumbent president, even in a slow growing economy, and Mitt Romney's defeat can be chalked up to this alone.
  •  In voter surveys, Romney's views were closer to the average voter than Obama's.
  • While America has moved left on a couple of prominent issues - gay marriage and marijuana legalization - overall the country has become more conservative during Obama's first term. This is a historical trend - in the past 50 years, public opinion has tended to track in the opposite direction of the administration in office. 
The Republican's position for 2016 is not as dire as is being presented:
  • "People tend to overestimate how much policy and ideology have to do with election outcomes, which is why the losing party spends so much time debating how to renovate its platform.  But the Republican Party’s loss in 2012 was predictable given only the economic fundamentals.  And those same fundamentals could easily give Republicans the presidency in 2016."
  • "...only once since the 22nd Amendment limited the president to two consecutive terms has a party held the White House for more than two terms in a row."
Click here to read the entire article.