Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Don't Mess With Texas...

 I leave this morning bound for Dallas, Texas via Charlotte, NC to hook up with my older brother and drive him back to Ohio, where we will attempt to live together for the first time in a long time.

A very long time...

Blogging is still light as the mid-term elections are still a ways off and real life continues to be in the way. Things will pick up, I predict before too long. The Republicans will prevail in the House, they have a good chance to capture the Senate and the Democrats look poised to pick up a few Governor seats across the country. I have some pieces in the pipeline I hope to have out shortly after my return to our compound here in Troy. One looks at the correlation of the growth of partisanship in Congress with the growth of talk radio. The other looks at the recent Pew Poll that looked at opinions about how we look at ourselves and each other politically.

I'll try not to offend anyone while I'm in the Lone Star State. I probably won't discuss politics or health care reform with a single soul. I won't bring up the number of uninsured, public education, etc. while I'm passing through.

Hopefully, none of the guns I hear about around here will be involved in anything unfortunate.

Do Texans have a sense of humor? Hmmm, should I find out?

Uh, probably not.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Newsmax Editor-in-Chief: Don't Blame Obama For Iraq - The National Memo

A very interesting and fair-minded op-ed from the Editor in Chief of Newsmax.

That's not a typo. Christopher Ruddy, Editor in Chief of the anti-Obama website Newsmax.com, writes:

(In this column, reprinted with permission from Newsmax, Christopher Ruddy, the conservative publication’s CEO and editor-in-chief, dissents from Republican rhetoric blaming President Obama for the deteriorating situation in Iraq and accusing the White House of bad faith in the prisoner swap that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — while reserving his disagreements with the Obama administration on other issues.) 
Oh, the foreign policy woes of a president in his second term.
“Blame Obama” seems to be the mantra of the day, especially from the Republican side of the aisle, whether it be the Bergdahl-Taliban swap or the new crisis in Iraq.
Think for a moment about an American president who deals with the supporters of Islamic terrorism, a rogue organization dead set on killing Americans… with a history of having murdered hundreds of American servicemen.
That same American president decides he wants to open up a dialogue with them, and also actually sell them American arms!
Even though they have held American hostages, he sends emissaries to do a deal and doesn’t even bother informing Congress. No, this wasn’t Barack Obama, and it wasn’t the recent deal with the Taliban to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. This was the story of President Ronald Reagan and his behind-the-scenes deal with Iran in the mid-1980s.

Read the full column here:  Newsmax Editor-in-Chief: Don't Blame Obama For Iraq - The National Memo:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Best Healthcare in the World, My Ass....

The Commonwealth Fund has released its latest report on how the healthcare system in the United States compares to other industrialized countries. It's not good. In fact, its terrible.

Executive Summary
The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world, but this report and prior editions consistently show the U.S. underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance. Among the 11 nations studied in this report—Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004 editions of Mirror, Mirror. Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity. In this edition of Mirror, Mirror, the United Kingdom ranks first, followed closely by Switzerland (Exhibit ES-1).
Expanding from the seven countries included in 2010, the 2014 edition includes data from 11 countries. It incorporates patients’ and physicians’ survey results on care experiences and ratings on various dimensions of care. It includes information from the most recent three Commonwealth Fund international surveys of patients and primary care physicians about medical practices and views of their countries’ health systems (2011–2013). It also includes information on health care outcomes featured in The Commonwealth Fund’s most recent (2011) national health system scorecard, and from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
It's hard to fathom just how poorly our system works, especially given the sky-high price we all pay for less than full access and questionable results. Ranking worst out of the eleven countries reviewed in 6 of the 12 categories considered. (Cost-related issues re: access, efficiency, equity, healthy lives, health expenditures per capita and  overall ranking.)

In the other categories, (quality care: effective care, safe care, patient centered care and access: timeliness of care) we ranked in the middle somewhere.

In no category did the US rank in the top two.

Who came in first?

The NHS from the United Kingdom, which is socialized medicine.

Conservatives in America will likely point to the report as reason to move toward a more "free market/less government involvement" style of health care delivery. While such a response has far more to do with politics than it does with sound, evidence based delivery of health care, it also defies common sense.

The US system is a blend of free market private and/or employer based health insurance combined with a social safety net combination of medicare for people 65 and older and medicaid for the disabled, children, pregnant women and the very, very poor.

None of the countries in the report has as small an amount of government involvement as the US does. Put another way, all of the countries in the report - who all fared batter than the US does - have a higher level of government interaction in their HC delivery than we do.

The answer to our health care issues is not less government involvement. We need more.The rest of the world has figured this out. Except us.

Before anyone accuses me of being a socialist or anti-american, we should be copying our friends in Europe and Asia who have devised an effective system of a strong, comprehensive government provided or administered system that covers all citizens for basic health care needs. Complimenting that foundation is a robust private market that competes for consumer dollars by offering supplemental and additional levels of insurance and benefits.

As the report indicates, the data used for this study do not yet take the effect of the Affordable Care Act into consideration. Going forward, its expected the United States will perform better in areas like access.

Unless, of course, a Republican President and Republican controlled Congress would repeal it.

Other coverage of the Commonwealth Fund's report can be found here, here, here and here...

NOTE #1: I attempted to provide a link to Fox News.com's coverage of this story and none was to be found on their homepage, on their "health" page or the "US News" page. Likewise, I found nothing on the Newsmax.com website either.

NOTE #2: Our talented friends over at the Incidental Economist have a related column up on their website. Its worth a visit. You can find it here: Zombie arguments defending the US healthcare system....






Friday, June 6, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake...(Just not wedding cake...)

I like cake.

As a kid, my favorite was something called cherry-chip cake with white frosting.

As I grew older, I left my cherry-chip phase and turned toward a spice/carrot cake type cake with cream cheese frosting.

Now in my 50's, I don't eat much cake at all. I'm now in my pie phase with peach pie and pecan pie (both served warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream next to it are my favorites now.)

Most of you have heard the story of the same sex couple who have been refused service by a bakery in Colorado. The short version is that Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, CO, has refused to make a cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig's wedding reception. Mullins/Craig took the bakery to court, claiming discrimination. The bakery was found guilty and instructed to make the cake. Phillips now says he's stopped making all wedding cakes, and has no plans to make the same sex couple one for their reception.

Mr. Phillips argument is that its a violation of his religious beliefs that he be forced to provide service/products to a customer he believes violates his faith.

Discrimination is illegal in this country and a person's interpretation that its acceptable because of a religious belief doesn't make it right.

Yes, the couple could've taken their business elsewhere and found a cake, but that's not really the point, is it?

The bakery could've made the cake and used the transaction as a sign of their Christian tolerance and acceptance of all.

A person's religion doesn't trump another person's basic civil rights.


The following exchange occurred on facebook recently regarding this issue. (The person's name has been changed to protect their privacy..)

  • John Doe: Wonder if He'll be forced to bake cakes for KKK events now?
    June 4 at 9:59pm · Like · 1
  • Bill Corfield The fewer businesses we have around that discriminate the better...
    Yesterday at 12:34am · Like
  • John Doe: The man said he would bake.a birthday cake for them. That's not discrimination against a person and their rights. This is opposition to an event. What if a group of Nazis wanted a neo-Nazi celebration of auscwitz cake? He has to bake it. Even if he's against the event. Bizarro world.
    Yesterday at 1:48am · Like · 1
  • John Doe: How many German soldiers were required to do what they were opposed to because it was illegal to do otherwise. Yes. We are getting back to that.
    Yesterday at 1:50am · Edited · Like
  • Bill Corfield The couple in question doesn't want a birthday cake. They want a wedding cake. As virtually ALL wedding couples do for their reception. 

    Your question about Nazi's is well, ridiculous. Wedding cakes have been a staple item of wedding celebrations sinc
    e the 1700's and perhaps before. 

    When you have to "invent" an absurd "Auschwitz" cake to defend your position, you've already lost the point. 

    Simply put, if you want to enjoy the benefits of conducting business in the US, you'll have to not discriminate while you do so. 

    The veiled Hitler references are tired and boring.
    10 hrs · Like
  • John Doe: Let's be honest here. A cake is sweet bread with icing or fondant decorations as a celebration for any event. Wedding cakes are not special. Anything can be put on one as cake boss has gloriously illustrated. With this ruling the bakery has no choice but to bake the cake even if they do not support the activity. Such as a extremist Muslim group having a burning American flag with dead fondant American soldiers that says death to the infidels. Sorry, but let's not be naive.
    5 hrs · Edited · Like
  • Bill Corfield I think you've summed it up very nicely, John. There's nothing left for me to say. 

    1 hr · Like

  Good grief...



Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Gun Debate: Sixteen common sense ideas could take us a long way....

We really don't need to ban guns in the United States...

We really can't ban guns in the United States...

Despite the nonsensical social media and talk shows battles that arise predictably after a shooting like we saw recently in California, there is NOT a serious effort afoot to eliminate guns from our culture. The silly "Obama's coming for our guns" fear is irrational and usually partisan in its origins.

As various "mass shootings" occur, they generate a lot of media attention and buzz. Much of that attention is appropriate. Some of it is not. I'm also puzzled by the type of shootings the media and secondarily we pay attention to. Over the past weekend in Chicago, 7 people were killed and 23 others wounded in various shootings around the city. In Dallas, there have been multiple shootings on local highways and another shooting recently that left one dead and three others injured. Recent shootings have also occurred in Norfolk, Virginia, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Erie, Pennsylvania and Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

You get the idea...the ones I just listed haven't got a lot of play in the national media. Frankly, I didn't know anything about any of them until I did a google search.

Now, the shootings we probably have heard about:

Most of us heard about the McDonalds shootings back in 1984 with 21 dead, the Edmond, Oklahoma post office shooting in 1986 where 14 died, 22 killed at a restaurant in Killeen, TX in 1991, the Long Island railroad shootings that left 6 dead in 1995, 23 dead in the 1999 Columbine HS shootings, 7 dead in a office shooting in Hawaii in 1999, 9 killed at the Red Lake Indian reservation in Minnesota in 2005, 5 dead Amish school girls in Pennsylvania in 2006. Five more dead back in 2007 at a Salt Lake City shopping mall. 32 killed later that same year at Virginia Tech. There's plenty more, feel free to browse this collection by the LA Times...

You can make a reasonable argument that the scope of the second group of shootings warrants the media coverage and I would't disagree with you. The person who is killed by a shot gun blast by a mentally unstable person is just as dead as the person shot in a gang-related shooting or a road rage incident or a hunting accident.

On one level this is very straightforward.

The United States has more guns per person than any other country as well as a very high rate of those guns resulting in injuries and/or deaths.

The United States is 13th in the world in terms of firearms-related deaths: (per 100,000 population...)

1. Honduras-64.8
2. Venezuela-50.9
3. El Salvador-41.1
4. Jamaica-39.7
5. Swaziland-37.2
6. Guatemala-36.4
7. Columbia-28.1
8. South Africa-21.5
9. Brazil-19.0
10. Panama-17.6
11. Uruguay-14.0
12. Mexico-11.2
13. United States of America-10.3
14. Argentina-10.1

Some feel suicides shouldn't be included in fire-arm related stats, so let's adjust for that:

1. Honduras-64.8
2. El Salvador-39.9
3. Jamaica-39.4
4. Venezuela-39.0
5. Swaziland-37.2
6. Guatemala-34.8
7. Columbia-27.1
8. Brazil-18.1
9. South Africa-17.0
10. Panama-16.1
11. Mexico-10.0
12. Paraguay-7.3
13. Nicaragua-5.9
14. Costa Rica-4.6
15. United States of America- 3.6
16. Uruguay-3.4

Still, not so good, eh?

I could dig in and see what sort of gun control laws each of these countries have and conversely what the low end of the spectrum countries have, but I won't. Why? Because its futile. It doesn't matter what other countries are doing, does it? America has this stick up its ass that we must do things OUR WAY. (Which should rarely be confused with the best way.) Given our current political state, there's no "big change" coming when it comes to guns in the US. There just isn't, so I suggest we find another approach to improving our performance in the area.


"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

That's not going anywhere, either. Furthermore, it probably shouldn't. I've waiting for years to find out exactly a "well regulated militia" means. The argument that "we the people" may need to keep arms in order to overthrow our federal government someday is laughable. Your gun vs. theirs? Seriously? Its a stupid notion and one that I won't devote another word to here. 

So, it's likely a matter of hours before there are some shootings none of us hear about unless we live in the same city where they occur. It's likely a matter of weeks, perhaps days, before a shooting occurs that does rate national and our attention. Et its fit. And so it goes and goes and goes...

What can we do, what can be done?

After studying this issue, I believe it will be a combination of ideas that improve our gun violence problem. There are many things we can do that don't involve the banning of guns or amending the Constitution. We needn't do either to see a real improvement via these common sense actions:

(In no particular order...)

1) Mandatory and rigorous background checks for all retail firearm purchases- This won't close the gun show loophole or address private sales, but its widely popular across the country, even from gun owners.

2) We should have a national gun registry, with the ability for any law enforcement officer to access a database to learn where a gun was manufactured, where it was sold originally and who the subsequent owners have been.

3) Increased funding for additional field inspectors of gun shops. Inventories of some drugs are required by law. Inventories of all gun dealers should be as well.

4) Seamless communication between states and federal law enforcement agencies regarding guns used in the commission of a crime. Perhaps related to the national gun registry, a tiered system of communication across local, state and federal law enforcement agencies would increase the ability to access relevant information regarding a gun.

5) Repeal the Tiahrt Amendments- There should be little obstruction when it comes to law enforcement agencies as well as the CDC, HHS and academia having full access to gun records. I understand President Obama has rescinded some of the regulations within the Tiahrt Amendments, but its time for them all to go. (This is not to say granular level ownership information should be printed in the Sunday newspaper, it shouldn't.) Let serious people have full access and be able to study and do evidence based research in this area. Which leads us to...

6) Fully fund evidence based research into guns and violence-I understand money is tight these days, but if the Tiahrt Amendments are fully repealed, and Congress refuses to properly fund this research and database maintenance, then where does this get us?

7) Expedite communications between mental health professionals and law enforcement- Too often information passed on from mental health experts fails to reach the proper authorities in a timely fashion, if at all.

8) Increase funding for gun education and safety/Offer safe gun handling classes in all public high schools-If we agree guns aren't going away, then the more training and education our young people are exposed to, the better. I'm not saying it has to be a requirement for graduation, but at minimum, make it an option. (I'm confident our friends at the National Rifle Association would be happy to help with the expense.)

9) Redouble the efforts within public schools for life-training & life-skills type classes. The pressures on children today are of a greater magnitude and entirely different scope than what previous generations had to deal with. Social media can be a blessing, but it can also be a non-stop, 24/7, inescapable complication/nightmare. Coping skills have never been more important than they are today.

10) Broaden the list of crimes that will disqualify someone from owning a gun. Currently, federal law prevents those with felony convictions from gun ownership, but doesn't go far enough to disqualify those who have committed violent acts (even multiple occurrences) at the misdemeanor level. Further, those with multiple DUI's should likewise be prevented from gun ownership.

11) Its time to raise the federal excise tax on alcohol. We know alcohol often plays a part in violent crimes, including gun related crimes. The data suggests that raising the tax on booze, will have a positive effect on overall crime, auto deaths and other accidents. In Michigan, raising the excise tax seemed to contribute to an overall decline in violent crime of 9%. (The federal excise tax on alcoholic beverages was last raised in 1991, 23 years ago.)

12) Increase incentives for buy-back programs in inner cities and areas with known gang activity.

13) Restrict clip sizes-Even if limiting clip size or capacity results only in the slowing down of the firing of a madman's weapon, its worth it. This article from the Blaze suggests that a trained shooter will be slowed down by 8-14 seconds. That's not much, but it might be enough to slow down or reduce the carnage during a shooting spree. Most appealing, is the delay it would incur upon a non-trained shooter. You take what you can get.

14) Restrict military grade weaponry to state approved shooting facilities-Rather than ban the automatics and semi-automatics fully, (which isn't going to happen anytime soon) perhaps a compromise might be to limit certain weapons to certain shooting facilities.

15) Increase funding for smart gun technology-There's a lot of interesting ideas out there in the way of personalizing guns and the ability to shoot them. Technology can be pretty creative when it comes to making sure no one but the proper person can actually fire a gun.

16) Increase funding for local law enforcement via the COPS program- More money provided to local law enforcement with minimal regulations from the Fed on how the money be utilized. Tie grant renewals to evidence based crime reduction/gun violence reduction performance measured on an annual basis.

That's 16 different, common sense ideas that would, I think, begin to tilt the scales in a healthier direction than we've been in the realm of guns and gun violence. No guns are banned, the 2nd Amendment is still intact, our children are better informed, better trained to handle both guns and stresses, we make it harder for criminals to access guns, we increase the information flow for law enforcement and research institutions to do good work on this issue. We enhance our background check system to become more comprehensive and we finance technological advances in firearms to produce a new generation of safer weaponry.

We're America...13th or 15th worst in the world just isn't good enough....