Thursday, July 20, 2017

Pardon Is Not A Get Out of Jail Free Card


There is reporting tonight that President Trump is asking for legal advice about his powers to pardon his staff, relatives and himself.  Presumably he is looking for a get out of jail free card if investigators get too close to proving illegal activities.

While that may sound like an easy way to avoid penalties of illegal activities, it may be just the opposite.

I don't know if a President can give a blanket pardon for all prior federal crimes even those that are not identified or not associated with their public service.  That might be possible.  I also don't know if a President can give a pardon for future crimes, but that seems unlikely.

If future crimes cannot be pardoned, there would then be a lot of people who once pardoned could not be prosecuted for their prior federal crimes, BUT those people could still be questioned under oath about those crimes.  They would have to tell the truth or be subject to obstruction of justice charges or lying under oath charges.  We would then be able to ask and expect to get complete and honest  answers about the crimes for which they were pardoned.  Those confessions would silence the Trump forever supporters and possibly expose additional crimes for which these or other people could be prosecuted.

A presidential pardon only applies to federal crimes, so crimes in other jurisdictions may be uncovered and prosecuted.

I'm not sure that the Trump billionaires have enough money to pay for all the legal support they will need after the pardons.



Friday, June 09, 2017

Did Russia Influence Brexit?


It was recently reported that Nigel Farage, a British politician, is being investigated as a possible link between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in our election.

Nigel Farage led a British political party that campaigned for Brexit, which committed Great Britain to leave the European Union.  He has a relationship with Donald Trump and appeared on the campaign trail with him.

Earlier this year Nigel Farage was seen leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy in Great Britain where Julian Assange has been staying to evade extradition to Sweden on charges of rape.  As Farage was leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy he was asked why he was there.  He responded that he couldn't remember.

Julian Assange leads WikiLeaks which during our presidential campaign released the emails hacked from John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee by Russia.

If there are possible links between Russian influence on our presidential election, WikiLeaks and Nigel Farage, is it too conspiratorial to wonder if there may be a links between Russian influence in the Brexit vote and Nigel Farage?

If Russia's goal is to destabilize the west, Brexit and our presidential election would have been prime targets.


The Truth Will Set Trump Free


President Trump has said he is "100%" ready to testify under oath.  If he does, the chances he will be impeached is also 100%,

If there is one thing we know about President Trump, it is that he has no intellectual capacity to distinguish between true and false.

For Trump, true and false is always modulated by the moment.  For him, true is whatever seems to meet the needs of the moment.   Whatever is true one moment can be false the next.  He doesn't care what he previously asserted was true.  He probably doesn't even remember because the previous answer was not anchored to any other "facts" in his mind.  A new moment brings a new chance to determine the truth unencumbered by any previous answer..

So when Trump is under oath and there is legal liability for not telling the truth, President Trump will not be able to provide consistent answers.  A skillful interrogator will have him lying repeatedly.

Impeachment will follow shortly and Donald Trump will be free to go back to the former life he prefers.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

President Trump Needs A Health Checkup



I have not seen any reporting that President Trump has received an independent health check up since he was elected. Given the vast number of Trump supporters who seem to have trouble distinguishing reality from obfuscations and fantasy, we need to insist that President Trump immediately have a thorough health evaluation by a team of respected health care professionals.

What little I've heard does not suggest that the President watches his diet or exercises. We do have the word of his personal physician that he is extremely healthy, but that is not good enough. Dr. Oz said Donald Trump was healthy enough to be president, but I would like an independent evaluation.

If the President were to have a sudden, serious health event that incapacitated or killed him, how long would it take for conspiracy theories to convince a large numbers of people that the President's enemies had poisoned him? I suspect that would happen anyway, but it might help to have prior, accurate and public medical facts for counter arguments.

The exam needs to be thorough. The President's personal physician could participate, but not lead the team. Any findings of serious illness or potential issues need to be made public and as many details as possible should be released so independent researchers can do their own analysis.

I would also recommend frequent periodic re-evaluations if the President is not leading a healthy life style or serious health issues are found. I don't think we know if the stress that comes with the office will prematurely age President Trump as it seems to have aged some prior presidents.

Given the ease with which the President's supporters ignore facts, I'm very concerned about what might happen if there is a health crisis and no prior documentation to counter conspiracy theories.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Advice to North Korea: Cool It!


When President Trump feels pressured, he commonly tries to change the focus by saying or doing something outrageous.

It is widely thought that President Trump's libelous accusation that former President Obama wire tapped Trump Tower was such an attempt.

Now that the Director of the FBI and the Director of the NSA have testified these accusations are false, what new outrage will President Trump spew to distract us?

North Korea, now is not the time to be confrontational.   We have a leader who may be more unpredictable than yours.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Earth to Trump: Health Care is Hard!


While addressing the Governors this week, President Trump said about health care,

"It's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated. [DTU]".

Nobody?  One person who obviously didn't know and probably still doesn't know is President Trump.


I've got a few "who knew" questions myself.

Who knew that Donald Trump was so unprepared to be President of the United States?

Who knew that Donald Trump knew so little about health care after campaigning for months to replace Obamacare?

Who knew that Donald Trump would be so unaware of how ridiculous he would look making that statement?

I mean really.  Who knew?



Donald Trump's Fact Free Universe


Over and over President Trump makes outlandish claims that are easily proven false. This happens so often it is safer to assume that anything he says is false until it is proven true.

Why does he continue to make outlandish statements?

My guess is that Donald Trump has lived most of his life in a universe where people never question what he says.  When you live that long in a world where every word you speak is treated like gold, you no longer question whatever comes out of your mouth. 

But alternative facts are only facts in Donald Trump's Universe (DTU).

Much like adding "[SIC]" in a quote to identify an original misspelling, we should add "[DTU]" after quoting a Trump alternative fact.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Trump Lied


Candidate Donald Trump told us on several occasions during the campaign that he would release his tax returns as soon as the IRS audit was complete.

Kellyanne Conway told us today that President Trump will not release his tax returns, ever.

The explanation we are given is that people knew about his tax return issues before the election and he was elected anyway.  Ergo, no one cares.

WRONG! and WRONG!
 
This is another example of Trump's disdain for the truth, disrespect for people who voted for him and a clear signal that his returns contain some really damaging information.

And he probably thinks we will never know what is in those returns.

WRONG! AGAIN!


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Would You Buy A Used Car From Him?


President-elect Trump rails against fake news.  Whenever there is a story in the news that he doesn't like, he accuses the media of being unfair or biased or lying.

Of course, this is so ironic since the major disseminator of fake news is Mr. Trump in his tweets, statements and speeches.  His lack of veracity is so pervasive that fact checking is essentially futile.

Many voters voted for Mr. Trump because he would bring a business perspective to the running of the government.  But businesses are typically transactional operations.  They are less interested in making factual statements than in solving the issues of the moment.

We've all seen examples of business people who will say practically anything to make the sale or calm a disgruntled customer.  Whether or not what they say is really true is not their top priority. Anecdotally, think of the reputation of used car salesman.  Another everyday example are the responses of many customer service call people.

So when you listen to the soon to be President Trump or read a tweet or statement from him, think of the used car salesman.  What is he trying to sell?  Is the statement self-serving or factual?  How can you determine if what he is saying is true?


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ego Tours Will Continue

I guess the Trump victory/thank you tour is over.  But of course, it will never be over.  It may have a different name, but Donald Trump will never be very far from an adoring crowd.

I have long suspected that Donald Trump got into the presidential race to burnish his brand.  He didn't really want to be president, but he stayed in the race for two reason.

First, he never thought he would win.  When he started winning in the primaries, he needed to find a way to lose that wouldn't look like he had somehow failed.  Some of his outrageous remarks seemed to be a ploy to get people to turn against him and force him out of the race.  Then he could blame political correctness, liars and the media. That didn't work.  In the end he just couldn't find a way to get out without taking a tremendous blow to his ego.

Second, he loves the attention.  He is driven and energized by cheering crowds.  It is now coming out that he would say things and take positions on issues just because his crowds loved the ideas and cheered loudly.
 
Why else would he glow on the victory tour when crowds would yell "Lock her up!"?  For heaven's sake.  He won.  But humility is not an emotion he has ever needed.  Humility would imply he is not perfect.

The combination, of not finding a face saving way to get out of the race and cheering crowds that fed his ego kept him in the race.


Donald Trump likes to portray himself as this confident, successful person, but in truth he has very low self-esteem.  His constant exaggerations that he is the best at everything is not to convince other people, it is to convince himself.  He needs the cheering crowds to constantly prove to himself he is really not a failure.

Now he has won the presidency, but even that is not enough. His lack of self-esteem is why he must always lash out whenever anyone criticizes him. It is also why he can't accept that Russia helped him win.

The ego tours will never end.



Republicans Take Credit For Obamacare, Sort Of


Marsha Blackburn, Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee, was interviewed on TV a couple of weeks ago.  She was talking about plans to repeal and replace Obamacare.  She made two statements that astounded me.

First, when questioned about the disruption that repealing Obamacare might cause, she said that there were some good features that would be retained.

Really?

After Republicans have insisted that Obamacare was rammed down the country's throat without Republican input or votes, declared to be a complete failure, blamed for all the ills in the health care system and they tried to repeal it dozens of times because it was beyond repair, I was amazed to hear Representative Blackburn say Obamacare has some good features that the Republicans would like to retain.

When questioned further about these Obamacare features that she would retain, she explained with a wry smile, that they were actually originally Republican ideas that were included in Obamacare.

REALLY!

After six years of hyperbole about how bad and worthless Obamacare is, now you want to take credit for its "good" features?

Actually, she is correct.  There were a lot of features in Obamacare that, at one point, could rightly be called Republican ideas.  They only became vile when Democrats included them in the legislation.  The individual mandate, which Republicans still despise, was also an idea conservatives had once supported.

So now that it is their turn to govern, they want to make sure that they, the Republicans, get credit for all the good features they will keep from Obamacare.

There are dirty, low-down, ornery liars and hypocrites and then there are Republicans.




The Russians Made Me Do It!

And the rationalizations begin.



















Sunday, December 25, 2016

Trump Voters Own Him


I expect that the hard core Trump supporters will never turn on Trump.  I'm sure Mr. Trump was correct, he could shoot someone and they wouldn't care.  I hope I'm wrong, but I fear shooting someone will seem trivial compared to what he  actually does.

I hold every voter who did not vote for Hillary responsible for electing Donald Trump.  They OWN him. They are responsible for very stupid, immoral, unethical or illegal thing he does.  And they can certainly take credit for anything he does well.

And he OWNS the people who voted for him.  They are compelled to explain, defend and support his actions and inactions.  He supported anything people would cheer for.  He claimed he would fix anything and everything to win votes and would do it better and faster than anyone else would or could.

The President-elect is already starting to take back or modify promises.  And supporters are hanging with him; many saying they never believed he would actually do all the crazy things he said we would do.

Sorry folks, we are all responsible the the things we say and do.  People who are now saying they didn't believe everything Trump said are just proving they are low information voters.

If at some point a voter does decide their vote for Trump was a mistake (however unlikely), I think they should take a vow not to vote in a presidential election for a couple of cycles.

Voting for Trump showed a lack of knowledge.  Knowledge about what qualities are needed to lead this country and what qualities Donald Trump would bring to the office.  Trump voters who now realize they made a mistake need to take a while and reflect on how and why they missed all the signs he would be completely unsuitable to be President of the United States.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Trump Twitter Aide


On the news today I again heard the theory that security officials would take away President Trump's phone after the inauguration.  They will take it away just as they took away President Obama's iPhone because it is not a secure communications device.

The thought is Trump will stop his incessant twittering at that point.  Of course that is ludicrous.  The officer who carries the football will car pool with the guy who carries Trump's phone.

Trump will never be more than an arms length from the person with his phone and he'll just dictate his most recent transient thought.



Make Us Proud, Not Cringe

The President-elect has told us he is "like, very smart" and has "a very good brain".

So far I've seen no indications this is true.

Mr. President-elect, actions speak louder than words.

For example, you are not yet President of the United States so shut up at least until you take the oath of office.  And after that, pause and try to use that brain before twittering the next idle thought you have.

People who are actually very smart and really do have good brains know that the mark of intelligence is not how fast you can reply to an issue or how "in your face" your response is or how much cheering you get from a crowd. 

When you become President you represent and speak for our country, not just yourself.  Please make us proud when you speak, not cringe.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Russia Already Has Trump's Number


In a prior blog I noted that President Obama could easily counter birtherism by simply showing his birth certificate.  But it will be much harder for the President-elect to prove Russians did not meddle in our election to help him get elected.

But, the opposite is not true.  It is very easy to prove that the Russians were hacking and leaking secrets to help Mr. Trump win the election.

Very easy.

At least it would be very easy for Russia.  If they did it, they know all the details.  I'm sure they could release enough details to convince 80% of Americans that they were working very hard to elect Donald Trump.  And therefore his presidency is not legitimate.

And the harder Mr. Trump tries to convince us that the Russians did nothing to affect our election, the more ammunition he gives the Russians to blackmail him.

Even if the Russians didn't meddle in the election, even if they have no secret, damaging information about him, Trump is giving them all kinds of ammunition to use against him.

Mr. Trump, even if you don't believe the Russians tried to affect the election.  Do you think they might lie and say they did?   Your presidency would be totally illegitimate. Could your ego handle that? What might you be willing to do to keep them quiet?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Political Karma for Trump


Donald Trump's political ascent has been credited to his absurd and continued questioning of the legitimacy  of President Obama's presidency.

President-elect Trump, in his rush to question the competency of the  U.S. intelligence agencies, has laid the groundwork for questions about the legitimacy of his presidency that will last for the entire time he is in office.

He is very proud that he forced President Obama to produce his birth certificate.  But even when the President showed his birth certificate, that didn't stop Donald Trump from making completely fallacious statements.

There is no simple document that Donald Trump can produce to begin to prove his presidency isn't the result of Russian meddling.

Even worse for the incoming president, his ego will not let him leave unchallenged any suggestion that the didn't win on his own.

That is karma.



Monday, December 05, 2016

We Need A Trump Truth Emoji


Since it is hard to know when Donald Trump is telling the truth, how about a new emoji?

What about a new emoji just for Donald that means "I double down promise this is what I think I believe until it is inconvenient or I get some facts".


I know that is not much of a promise, but it is more than we get now.

What should it look like?

How about a miniature Presidential Seal?  Maybe that would give him pause before he makes outlandish statements.

Forget that.  What was I thinking?



Sunday, December 04, 2016

When Is A Campaign Promise Real?

So Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's former campaign manager believes that voters didn't take everything Donald Trump said on the campaign trail literally.

Given Trump's history and his statements after the election, it seems neither did Donald Trump.

Even today KellyAnne Conway still cited a long list of campaign promises she says resonated with voters and claimed those promises are why Donald Trump won.

How does she know which statements he said during the campaign were things we should believe and what were just hyperbole or statements made to win a vote?

If we can't hold him to what he said and promised during the campaign, then we must assume he lied to win the election or he made statements about issues he didn't fully understand. 

Even now people close to the President-elect won't stand behind many of his most recent statements.  Vice-President Pence down plays current Trump statements and asks us to withhold judgment until the inauguration.

Really!


So we and the rest of the world should not believe anything Donald Trump has said or will say until the after inauguration?

Given Donald Trump's political history, I don't think we will ever be sure when he is telling us the truth. 


Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Zimmerman v Martin – Self-Defense?

I overheard someone stating that the George Zimmerman would never have been charged with a crime if the threat of civil unrest hadn't forced prosecutors to file charges.  This person thought that Zimmerman's claim of self-defense was so obvious that a judicial  review was unnecessary.  That seems simplistic.

Some details have been reported since Trayvon Martin was killed that don't seem to be in dispute.  We also have some reporting on statements Zimmerman has made.  While Ie would hope more details will emerge from the trial, let's analyze what we think we know up to this point and how that might lead someone to believe that Zimmerman should not even have been charged with a crime,

On the night in question, Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who is carrying a legal concealed pistol, spots a suspicious person walking in his neighborhood.  He reports this to police who advise him to not confront the suspicious person.  Zimmerman ignores this advice, confronts Martin and a fight ensues.  - - - According to Zimmerman, at some point Martin is banging Zimmerman's head on the concrete sidewalk and going for Zimmerman's gun.  Zimmerman, fearing for his life, pulls his gun and kills Martin in self-defense.

Clearly self-defense.

Given the above, above scenario, what if Martin had killed Zimmerman, what would his defense be?

Clearly self-defense. 

Replace the last two sentences in the description above (starting at “- - -”) with, “Martin, having been confronted and fighting with a stranger, discovers the man is carrying a gun and decides he must disarm or disable his opponent or risk losing his life.  Martin kills Zimmerman in self-defense.”

I hope we learn more details as the trial progresses, but it should be obvious from the above discussion that if either man could claim self-defense, it is Martin.  Zimmerman was the instigator.  If he had not confronted Martin, there would have been no fight and no death.

This case raises a lot of interesting issues.  I would like to hear Zimmerman's description of the interaction and exchange between the two men that night.  For example, did Zimmerman tell or make Martin aware he had a gun?  If so, what are the legal issues about when and how he conveyed this information.  What are the legal requirements for notifying an opponent that you are armed?  When Zimmerman approached Martin, did he assume Martin was armed or unarmed? Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law may be invoked, but again, that defense would seem to go to Martin.

Thinking through the issues, if a person legally carrying a concealed weapon, gets into a violent, physical fight in a public place with someone who is unarmed, doesn't any “self-defense” claim automatically go to the unarmed person?  The burden is then on the person with the weapon to prove that their claim of self-defense out weighs the same self-defense claim made by his unarmed opponent.

If Zimmerman could draw his weapon and put it to Martin's chest, he could have paused and said “STOP! Or I'll shoot.” 

Zimmerman may have been afraid for his life, but that doesn't mean his life was in jeopardy.   Losing a fist fight is not justification for shooting someone.  The burden to prove self-defense is on Zimmerman.  Having someone on top of you and beating you is not enough.  Was Martin really going for Zimmerman's gun?  We'll never know, but if you were Martin in that situation, what would you do?

Suppose that Martin had gotten the gun, put it to Zimmerman's chest and pulled the trigger, could he claim self-defense?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Contraceptives and Religious Freedom

The Obama administration is taking heat for a decision that requires all health care insurance plans to pay for contraceptive prescriptions. There is an exception for churches, but not for church supported institutions like hospitals and charitable organizations.

The objection is that this requirement infringes on religious organizations, especially Catholics, who believe any kind of contraception is a sin. The Church objects because they would be "paying" for contraceptives.

I think the rational for the requiring insurance plans to cover contraceptives is a women's health care issue. Most women will use contraceptives at some point and it is more likely that they will get contraceptives when needed if they are covered just like vaccinations. Religious institutions, like Catholic hospitals, are not exempted, because many of their employees are not Catholic.

The law would require that insurance plans cover contraceptives, but it does not require any woman to take contraceptives. If no employee used their insurance to pay for contraceptives, problem solved. Why can't the church just use its moral persuasion to convince women to not use contraceptives? Is the Catholic church's moral authority so weak that is must rely on its own version of the law to enforce its religious doctrine?

I appreciate strongly held ethical beliefs, but we live in a secular country governed by a constitution, laws, rules and elections. We all have to reconcile our personal beliefs with those of other people and the law. Why do we have a law that says no federal funds can go to support abortion, but we use federal funds to execute convicted felons? You may see a difference, but if the underlying moral concept is not taking a human life, what is the difference? The difference is that we, as a country, have decided to make that distinction. We all practice moral relativism, including the Catholic church. I'm not sure why they chose to fight this battle at this time in this way.

The Catholic hierarchy believes they should be exempt from the requirement that their insurance plans cover contraceptives because this is a religious and ethical issue. Excuse me, but that makes no difference. We don't allow Mormons to flaunt polygamy laws. We don't allow Muslims to escape punishment for honor killings. I'm sure we could find many examples of religious practices that are no longer accepted in the modern world. Times change. Values change. When I was a kid Catholics couldn't eat meat on Fridays. Now they can (at least most Fridays).

One argument I heard this morning is that Catholic hospitals provide much of the care for people in this country. I appreciate that Catholics provide this service, but what percentage of any Catholic hospital's cost are provided by the Catholic church? My guess is that these are self-supporting institutions. They may have started as charitable activities, but now they are businesses. Is it really Catholic religious money that goes to pay for employee health insurance?

I suppose I could change my position if Catholic hospitals only employed Catholics. And I would be even more swayed if they only provided services to Catholics. But then again, contraception being a sin, no one would be using contraceptives if these were purely Catholic only institutions so health insurance coverage of contraceptives would be a non-issue.

I heard one comment that said the church would be satisfied if they didn't have to pay for any contraceptives. Contraceptives could be provided if they were fully paid by the employee.
Most medical plans have the employer and employee sharing some portion of medical care costs. Why couldn't the church just state that any payments for contraceptives, by definition, come from the employees portion of the insurance payments and co-payments? Problem solved.

Or try this. If having the employee pay for their contraceptives is acceptable, presumably because the Catholic church is not directly involved, why can't you just push responsibility to the insurance company. The hospital pays an insurance provider to reimburse health care expenses. It the health insurance company pays for contraceptives, the sin is on their heads. Again, problem solved.

If this blog has seemed silly at times, that is intentional, but, seriously, I do not understand this issue. Catholic leaders are outraged over being forced to provide a service they believe is immoral, but most people, including Catholics, believe contraceptives are moral and provide health benefits for women. It might even be considered more moral to prevent a pregnancy when parents are not prepared to adequately care for a child.

If this is such as serious moral dilemma, why do the majority of Catholic women use contraceptives? If the moral authority of Catholic leaders can't convince Catholic women to not use contraceptives, why should we and therefore, the government, accept their moral authority? On what moral basis can they claim to be exempt from providing a health care service that citizens consider to be moral and beneficial and is required of other organizations?

The political line is this is an attack on religion and the First Amendment by the Obama administration. Once again, bull crap. This is a health care issue, not a debate about religious freedom. It might be politically expedient to grant Catholics an exception to the insurance requirement, but it would be morally wrong.

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Politicizing Choice

After the re-ignition of political/cultural wars this week and inane comments by conservatives on talk shows this morning, I have to vent.

This week the Susan G. Komen Foundation walked into a self-inflicted firestorm by withdrawing its limited financial support to Planned Parenthood to provide breast cancer screening and referrals for mammograms. They then threw gasoline on the fire with an obviously unbelievable rational.

After being hit with scathing attacks on social media, Komen partially retreated. Several Conservatives whined this morning that this was somehow an attack on a private organization's right to spend their money the way they want.

That is not the way I see it. No one is arguing that Komen can't choose to fund Planned Parenthood or not (a cynic might say they have choices). The objection was to Komen's choice to attack Planned Parenthood over providing abortions (which is about 3% of Planned Parenthood's budget) at the expense of decreasing women's access to other health care such as mammograms.

No one forced Komen to make monetary grants to Planned Parenthood, although they have for many years. No one would have made a big issue if Komen had quietly stopped making grants to Planned Parenthood and used that money to provide mammograms some other way. The problem was that Komen tied their decision to a political decision to attack Planned Parenthood and indirectly abortion. And then denied that is what they did.

Komen's initial defense was that they had made a decision to not make grants to organizations that were under investigation and Planned Parenthood was under investigation. Bull crap. The investigation that sparked the defunding is one started in the House by a Republican Representative. Komen can't hide the fact that they made a political/cultural decision by hiding behind a politically based investigation. Add to that several reports of organizations under actual legal investigation that are still being funded by Komen. The defunding was clearly a political decision aimed directly at and only at Planned Parenthood and Komen's claims otherwise were unbelievable.

But to the spark that ignited my outrage, conservative claims that by some logic the attack on Komen is some extension of liberal, Democrat, Obama, whatever, attacks on personal freedom. They claimed that the attacks on Komen were attacks on Komen's right to make their own decisions. They even tried to tie Komen's problems to the Catholic insurance debate (to be discussed later).

Komen was free to make grants to Planned Parenthood or not. They did. Presumably they monitored those grants to make sure the the money was used properly and effectively. Now Komen is free to withdraw all those grants. Most people are not questioning that. But many people were outraged that an organization that asks for donations to provide better health care options to women chose to make a political statement that decreased options. Komen's choice was not based on what was best for women's health. None of the money from Komen went to provide abortions. All people were saying was that if Komen decided to not help Planned Parenthood provide mammograms, we can decide to send our donations somewhere else.

So how do conservatives tie my choice to not donate to Komen for any reason I choose, to an attack on personal freedom? I don't get it.  Sometimes I think that personal freedom is something that only applies to conservatives.

If Komen really thought their position was morally defensible, they didn't have to retreat. That is, if they really reversed their decision. What I heard was that Komen said they would allow Planned Parenthood to again apply for grants. We will have to wait and see if they actually make any grants to Planned Parenthood. Again, that is their choice, but now we know that Komen has another agenda besides breast cancer and people will be watching.

I have a suggestion for Komen. Don't fund Planned Parenthood. Start your own clinics and provide women, many with few health care options, access to the same kind of health care provided by Planned Parenthood. They can even choose to not provide abortions, if that is medically possible.


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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

When Does Life Begin?







Given the vote today in Mississippi, here is a blog from 2007. Click on the title below.


Does Life Begin At Implantation?


If Mississippi makes a fertilized egg legally a human, every miscarriage will have to be investigated as a murder.

"Excuse me, mam. I am Officer Jones. I understand from your doctor that you recently had a miscarriage so I am required to ask to some questions. Prior to your miscarriage did you engage in any activities that might put your unborn child at risk? This could include use of alcoholic beverages or tobacco, but it also could include any activity that could be considered unhealthy to a child. Please tell me all drugs, legal and illegal, that you have used from the time of the miscarriage back to a month before you became pregnant....."

Is this really what the people of Mississippi want?










Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why Exempt Seniors Over 55?

Cut on hand with only half a band-aide to cover it.In their new budget plan, Republics plan to basically end Medicare, but not for people 55 or older. They say their rationale is that people 55 and older have made plans based on the current system and it wouldn't be fair to take Medicare away from them now.

I suspect their are a lot of people under age 55 who have also been counting on Medicare. Parents putting kids through college may be counting on catching a break on health care costs once they turn 65. Call me cynical, but I think this exemption for older people is probably an attempt to buy them off. If seniors aren't affected, maybe they won't be quite as mad about the proposal.

If privatizing Medicare will lower medical costs and reduce the deficit, why not start it today? We can protect seniors already enrolled in Medicare by giving them vouchers to pay for the full cost of private health insurance. Seniors wouldn't be hurt economically and the country would benefit.

Implementing vouchers for seniors health care now would also give us a chance to see if the idea really works. Come to think of it, has anyone asked insurance companies to develop the kind of insurance policies that the Republics say will be available for seniors under their plan? I'd like to see what they cost and what is covered.

Dog Smart


I saw a bumper sticker today that said

My bulldog is smarter than your honor student.

I'm not so sure about that, but I'd bet that bulldog is smarter than its owner.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Republic Plan To Ration Health Care

Republics screamed about rationing and death panels in the Democratic plans for health care reform. Of course there has been health care rationing forever. As I've written before, unless there are unforeseen changes to health care in the future, there will always be rationing of health care. The question in whether we can find rational, humane ways to ration.

Republics plan to save Medicare by giving people tax credits and having them buy insurance on the open market. From the reports we've heard, the plan is to control and reduce health care costs by giving people less in tax credits than insurance is expected to cost. Therefore people will have an incentive to buy only the coverage they need and use only the services they need. This is self rationing. In addition, the amount of tax credit the government will give will not be tied to the rising cost of health insurance. So as rates go up, individuals will have to pay ever more out of pocket costs or decrease their coverage.

From reports I've heard, Republics believe this difference between what people will have to pay and what the government will pay will incentivize private health insurers to control costs. It's nice to know Republics still have a sense of humor.

The Republic plan is guaranteed to work just as they plan. The costs to the government will go down and Medicare will be destroyed. Will the health of Americans be better?

Pass The Damn Bill

The stakes for the next budget battle are even greater than the one just completed. If Congress fails to authorize an increase in the debt limit the result could be devastating. History and current Republic statements indicate that many Republics will not vote for an increase without guarantees of drastic spending cuts.

There will be an agreement before the United States defaults. Banks and big business know that default is not an option. Even threats could damage the credit standing of the United States in the world. Business will jerk the leashes of Republics and make sure a bill is passed.

I would like to make a suggestion. Republics should agree to increase the debt limit enough to cover the debts projected for the next three years under the Ryan budget without any policy riders. That's right, for all their huffing, the Ryan plan has significant annual budget deficits for years to come.

Can Republics really destroy the credit of the United States when their own budget plans will require that the debt ceiling be raised significantly?

In three years, the Republics will have time to elect a Republic Senate and a Republic President. Then they can do whatever they want. In the meantime, raise the debt ceiling without bullying and threats so we can tackle other issues. Like the FY12 budget.

Responsible Chickens

The recent budget debates that threatened to shut down the government have been compared to a game of chicken. An example of this game was depicted in the movie "Rebel Without A Cause". Two young men race to run their cars off a cliff. The object is to see who jumps out of their car first and therefore is a "chicken".

The budget battle wasn't really a game of chicken. The two guys were risking their own lives in those cars. Politicians were risking the American people and economy.

The two guys in the car were willing participants. They may have been pressured into the game, but they could have said they wouldn't play. Republicans and Democrats had to play the game and reach an agreement or the government would have shut down.

The choice was over the stakes and what the other side would agree on. Republicans chose to set the stakes high and then force negotiations to the eleventh hour to see how far they could push Democrats. This wasn't a game of chicken, it was blackmail perpetrated by Republicans.

This wasn't so much a fight over the budget as a test by bullies to see how much Democrats were willing to compromise rather than hurt the country. Democrats jumped first and further. I guess they are the "chickens".

Do Your Job or Quit.

There is a legal battle going on in Illinois over whether health professionals can be forced to provide services that go against their religious or moral beliefs. I think it started with doctors and nurses objecting to being forced to provide abortions.

I can understand that unless you work in the emergency room and then you help anyone that comes through the door. The most recent battle is over two pharmacists who object to dispensing emergency contraceptives. In particular, I think they object to dispensing the morning after pill.

Give me a break. If they succeed, what is next? Doctors and nurses who refuse to treat drug addicts when they overdose because doing so just "enables" them.

Pharmacists who won't fill prescriptions for any contraceptives.

The checkout person who won't ring up condoms because their religion thinks contraceptives are a sin. Or sell lottery tickets. Or beer. Do you think the sales person should lose their job?

I respect people who are willing to honor their convictions when it might otherwise not be in their self-interests. But it is not honorable to abandon people who you have pledged to serve.

A pharmacist that refuses to dispense a legal medication should find another line of work.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

President Obama's Poll Numbers Rise

Tonight on the news I saw a poll asking who you would blame if the government is shut down?

The numbers seemed to be confuse some of the pundits.

Who would voters blame?

Republicans: 37%
Democrats: 20%
President Obama: 20%

So it looks like Democrats would bear the brunt of voter anger, 40% to 37%.

But more than 20% of voters think President Obama is a muslim, not a citizen, a socialist, hates America, etc. Democrats should be happy that the President's numbers are so good. Only 20% would blame him for the shut down!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What Is Important To You?

Republicans hate government. Keep that in mind as you listen to their solutions to problems. The Republican approach to financing government is to cut taxes then figure out what services to cut to live within that new number. How about a different approach?

What if we tried to agree on what is important to us and then figured out the most cost effective way to make it happen?

For example, what if we said that it is a national goal that all senior citizens are able to live out their final years with dignity, access to health care, housing and nutrition? We could then talk about what levels of assistance meet these goals, who qualifies and how we pay or provide this assistance.

Money is the easiest way to transfer value from one person to another, but there are other ways. We might help offset some costs by requiring two years of community service from all young adults. One of the options would be for some these young people to help take care of the elderly. Or build and repair houses. Or cook and deliver food. Or staff a community home. This would decrease taxes and offset the lost revenue with labor.

Anyone might be able to opt of paying taxes to support elderly and instead meet their obligation by working some number of days each year. I'm sure there are other, much better ideas. The point is instead of generating n dollars of revenue and then deciding how we divide that pool of money, why not decide what is important to us and then figure out how to make it happen?

As a country, how about discussing what is important to us?


Look For Alternatives

Republican Elephant doing what comes natural, creating crap.
Mark Halperin was on Hardball with Chris Matthews tonight. He wanted to give Representative Ryan credit for a plan to cut Medicare because if we don't cut it, costs will balloon and bankrupt the country.


Wait a minute. He has bought the Republican line. Medicare may need to be changed, but why isn't the possibility of adding revenue to the system an option? Couldn't there be parts of Medicare that are so valuable we might consider ways to increase funding to save them rather than cut service?


The Republicans only have two ways to solve a problem. Cut services or cut taxes. We probably will have to cut something, but there may be alternatives if we look for them.

Shared Pain

Republican Elephant doing what comes natural, creating crap.
Representative Ryan has released his budget plan.


It cuts -
Social Security
Medicare
Medicaid
Taxes for business
Taxes for the rich


Give him credit. He makes sure everyone takes their share of cuts.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

What would you pay for?

In the current debate over the deficit and budgets, Republics want to take any tax increase off the table. Their current framing is, we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. That is, cut spending; do not raise taxes.


It is clear that Republics and Democrats have a different philosophy about the purpose of government and how to pay it. In general, Republics believe that less government is always better (at least that is what they say, if not always what they do). Government is the problem, not the solution. Republics want to decide how much they are willing to spend on government (which is always less than what we spend today) and then determine how to distribute that money. Preference is always given to the generators of wealth.


In general, Democrats believe that government is about creating a civil society. Democrats would rather first decide what is important to do and then decide how to pay for it (sometimes). Preference is given to the less fortunate. The Democratic position is obviously harder to sell.


While Democrats have certainly authorized new spending without determining how the additional expenditures would be paid for, they managed to live under the PAYGO rules of the 1990's. Had these rules been extended, the budget busting 2003 tax cut, the Medicare prescription program and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might have had to have been paid for instead of just adding to the debt.


The two Bush era tax cuts added significantly to our debt. Let me state again, tax cuts when you are already running a deficit without the same dollar cuts in spending add to the long term debt! Republics constantly berate Democrats about spending more than we have revenue to pay far and passing that debt on to future generations. Fair enough. But cutting taxes without cutting spending has the same affect and is just as destructive. The math is simple. Revenue minus expenses equals surplus or debt. When you are already running a deficit, increasing spending without increasing revenue will increase the debt. Likewise, decreasing revenue without decreasing spending will increase the debt.


Contrary to popular belief, the Republics have actually been winning the deficit/debt debate. "Starve the Beast" has been Republic dogma since Ronald Reagan. This is the policy of always cutting taxes without concomitant cuts in spending in the belief that the eventual fiscal crisis will force drastic decreases in the size of government.


Republics have succeeded. The public believes we have a fiscal crisis generated by too much spending not a problem generated by a weak economy, tax cuts and spending. The discussion is how do we cut taxes, expenditures and the size of the government. Why aren't we also discussing what functions of government are worth paying taxes to support and how do we generate the revenue to pay for them?


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Save My Marriage, Vote For Obama

Recently, to explain his infidelity and the failure of two previous marriages, Newt Gingrich basically said that his patriotism and love for this country caused him to work too hard for his country and not hard enough at maintaining his marriages.


What a novel explanation. What he is basically saying is, I'm so patriotic I was willing to sacrifice my marriages for the good of the country.


If Newt should win the Republican presidential nomination for 2012, do you think the current Mrs. Gingrich will vote for Newt or vote for President Obama and possibly save her marriage?


Chameleon Gingrich

Newt Gingrich has been making conflicting statements about Libya. He was emphatically for a no-fly zone before President Obama decided to support the UN resolution. Once President Obama expressed support for a non-fly zone, Newt was suddenly emphatically against it.


The argument's he uses to defend his flip-flop are tortuous. It is obvious his opinions are purely driven by a simple logic - I don't agree with Obama. A tactic he fully developed years ago when it was - I don't agree with Clinton. He should change his name from Newt to Chameleon. His opinions quickly change to match the current Republican political landscape.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Japan: 50Hz and 60Hz

I heard that Japan has lost 20% of its electrical generating capacity. This would be devastating in any country, but it is even worse in Japan. In the U.S., the electricity in our homes is standardized at 60Hz AC. That is, the polarity of the electricity alternates 60 times every second.

In Japan they use two different systems. In the south/west they use 60Hz. In the north/east (where the failed reactors are located) they use 50Hz. While 60Hz can be converted to 50Hz, Japan has a limited capacity to do this. So surplus energy in the south/west cannot easily be diverted to the north/east.

I've heard predictions that it will be months, possibly years, before full power is restored to Japan. It is sad that such bad public policy will make Japan's disaster even more painful.

There are some lessons to be learned from Japan's disaster that may be very important for the U.S.. There may be some things we should be doing right now to prevent large scale, long term power failures in the United States.

More later.

You didn't know that Japan has such an irrational power system? You aren't listening to National Public Radio! NPR is a national treasure. Don't let politicians damage it.

Why Libya?

I must admit that I wasn't watching the run-up to what seems to be a U.S. led military action against Libya. I think this was partly because the no-fly zone was being pushed by Great Britain and France. The U.S. seemed to be much less interested. China and Russia seemed ready to block any action in the UN. I thought enforcement of a no-fly zone, if it happened, would be led and possibly staffed primarily by other countries. I was surprised when the UN authorized the no fly zone and the U.S. took the lead.

I don't believe it is in the best interests of the U.S. to be participating in such a significant way in Libya. I'm surprised President Obama has allowed us to be drawn in and took the initial lead. I'm disappointed that he hasn't done a better job of explaining why he took these actions and I don't see indications that a successful outcome is likely.

I've always scoffed when opponents of military actions insist about a prediction of how it will end before we start. That's impossible. It is also a political stunt for opponents to insist on some clear statement of exactly why we shouldn't intervene in Bahrain or Syria since we have attacked Libya. Every situation is different.

It would be nice to hear the principles that guided President Obama's decision. I think they've given some: humanitarian support, the Libyan government was threatening mass reprisals against citizens, a chance to get rid of dictator who has caused problems around the world, there was support for action from other governments in the region, there was significant internal dissent and armed resistance, there was military assistance offered by other countries from within the region and outside, international bodies supported intervention and it was militarily feasible with acceptable risks.

I would like to hear, and probably won't, that the analysis for success is high, that there are groups and institutions in Libya ready to form a civil society, that whatever government comes after military success has a reasonable chance to be much better than the current government, that there is a chance for some form of democracy, that human rights and living conditions in the country will eventually improve and that the country will not be destabilizing in the region.

And, why is it in our national interests to remove Khadafi?

I think the President could have done a better job keeping us informed, but the fact is, he has made a decision and he will be responsible for the consequences.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Don't Listen

This morning Fox News Sunday had an interview with Margie Phelps, a member of and attorney for the Westboro Baptist Church. This is the small group that stages those obnoxious demonstrations near the funerals of American service men and women killed in action.

She recently won a Supreme Court case that affirmed the First Amendment rights of the Westboro Baptist Church to express opinions that most people find to be disgusting.

I agree with the Supreme Court, but Ms. Phelps has given us the antidote to her groups hateful speech. She said that the Supreme Court put a megaphone to the mouth of her tiny church. She is wrong. They didn't do that. They only said that governments could not silence them. Her group has a megaphone only if the news media gives them coverage and we listen.

The answer is to not give these people the attention they crave. They are irrational and delusional. Reason is not going to change them and attention only reinforces their delusions. If no one listens, if no one stages counter protests, if we all change the channel when they are given news coverage, then news organizations will stop covering them . This won't mute their hate or cure their ignorance or diminish their delusional view that they speak for God. They just go back to being a nameless group of kooks no one pays any attention to.

The beauty of our system is that our Constitution prevents governments from deciding which speech should be heard and which should be suppressed. It leaves it to people to listen or not listen and make our own decisions.

I've heard what the members of the Westboro Baptist Church believe and totally reject those ideas. From now on I choose not to listen.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

National Security vs Politics

GOP elephant pooping, Elephant ShitSenator Jon Kyle (R, AZ) and Republican Senators have put politics above our national interest by refusing to vote on the New START Treaty with Russia.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, was on ABC's This Week this morning where he was questioned by host Christiane Amanpour. He unequivocally supported the START Treaty. When asked repeated questions about whether this treaty was good for the country and should be passed, he made clear that it was in the best interests of National Security that the START Treaty be passed ASAP. Even in a lame duck session. He emphatically said "ASAP".

When asked if the Republican opposition was based on politics or policy, Admiral Mullen obviously refused to comment. But it was clear from all his other comments that he saw no national security reasons for delaying ratification of the treaty.

Sometimes is hard to tell when Republican obstructionism is principled or political. In this case it is obvious.

WTHWYT - Rep. Allen West

Representative Allen West (FL), recently elected Tea Party Republican, was on Meet The Press this morning. He was commenting about the uproar over the new TSA airport screening procedures which give passengers a choice between a revealing electronic scan or a thorough pat down search. He was complaining about the poor job of marketing for the new TSA rules when he said that the Obama administration should have had a better marketing plan and should have "put out some feelers" to airline passengers.

Really! What The Hell Were You Thinking?

If your marketing plan was to get your face on every late night comedy show, you succeeded.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Repeal tax cuts for rich

GOP elephant pooping
Republicans want to extend all the Bush tax cuts, including the tax cuts for people making over $250,000. This would be $250,000 of taxable income, after deductions, etc.

Their argument is that many of the people affected are small business owners and the extra tax burden would cause them not to grow their businesses.

Let's think about this.

First of all the, these high income people would still get the tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income. Assuming that the current tax rates on income under $250,000 are extended, the higher rate after January 1 would only be on any income over $250,000.

So if I understand the rates correctly, the rate for income over $250,000 will change on January 1, 2011 from 35% to 39.6%.

Let's say you are a small business owner, have $250,000 of taxable income and starting 01/01/2011 you have the opportunity to grow your business and raise your income from $250,000 to $350,000. At the end of the 2011, your tax bill will be $4,600 greater if the Bush tax cuts for the rich are not extended. The federal tax on that $100,000 would be $35,000 if the tax cuts are extended and $39,600 if they are not.

So Republicans think this business person would not grow their business by $100,000 and increase their after tax income by roughly $60,000 because they would have to pay an extra $4,600 a year in federal taxes. That doesn't make sense.

I know that $39,600 in taxes on $100,000 sounds like a lot, but these rates would be the rates that were in effect in 2000. Not exactly a bad year for business.

When the current lower tax rates were passed:
1) They were not paid for. These tax cuts were paid for by increasing the debt. The Chinese and others loaned us the money to cover the increased debt these tax cuts caused. Everybody got a tax cut that would have to be paid for by tax payers in the future when that debt (plus interest) was paid off.

2) The tax cuts were not made permanent when they were initially passed as part of a political ploy. The tax cuts were designed to expire in 2011 because they were so damaging to the debt. Republics used a gimmick based on how the actual cost of the cuts were calculated and reported at that time. Politicians made the total effect of these tax cuts look lower than they would actually be by making them expire in 2011 rather than making them permanent. Secretly they figured politicians in 2010 would be politically forced to extend them.


We can debate whether or not a tax rate of 39.6% on adjusted income over $250,000 is reasonable or excessive, but to argue that this change would hurt job creation is Elephant Shit.


This will be a fight. We need to balance the budget and not extending the tax cuts for income over $250,000 can help us get there. Democrats need to clearly explain why it makes sense that we do not extend the tax cuts for the rich.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Constitutional Scholar

Guy doesn't realize the concept of 'separation of church and state' really is in the Constitution.
Constitutional Scholar.
Click on comic strip to enlarge.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Are Republics Principled Or Just Political?

Elephant poopingSenator McConnell has announced that one of the highest priorities of Republics is to repeal health care. I thought the number one priority was jobs. I guess I just haven't been listening over the last few months.

I've heard several Republics say that they favor complete repeal of the new health care law and then they would pass a series of common sense measures to replace it.

Bull. If they are really interested in making health care better, let's demand that they explain what they are going to replace the new health care law with before they try to repeal the current law.

Everyone agreed that we needed to reform health care. Well, almost everyone. Democrats finally got an imperfect bill passed. We all agree that the current health care law was not the best we can do. We knew this sausage would need some fixing. If Republicans have better ideas, I want to hear them. I really believe they have some ideas that would help. I just want to hear these ideas debated before they try to repeal the whole bill.

What we have is not perfect, but it is better than nothing. It is a starting point that we can modify and build on.

But just in case the Republicans have some ideas they have never told us about, let's hear what they propose to replace the current health bill with. Then we can decide if we agree before we throw out the current bill. Is that unreasonable?

This is a test for Republics. They will soon have control of the House. Republics in the House can propose and vote on any legislation they want.

If Republicans in the House and Senate show us their proposed legislation to reform health care before or when they propose legislation to repeal the Democrats health care plan, I will admit they are acting on their principles.

If Republicans propose legislation to repeal the Democrats health care plan without showing us legislation for how they will reform health care, their actions can rightly be labelled as purely political. This would prove they are more interested in scoring political points than helping people.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

So we lost. Stay the course.

The voters have spoken. They've made it clear they are angry and are more interested in punishing someone rather than understanding the issues.

The president inherited the worst economy in decades and voters blame him and Democrats for not fixing it in 2 years. Do they really believe if it were at all in the president's power or Democrat's power to turn the economy around they wouldn't have done it? Instead, voters decided to give control back to the party that led us into this mess. Remember, Republicans and the Tea Party only got serious about budget deficits when it became a good way to attack the president.

Back in the early days of the last presidential campaign, before the economy tanked, I had a letter published in the local paper explaining to Senator McCain that you can't really cut taxes when you are running a deficit as he promised to do if elected. You can't really cut taxes when you are running a deficit, you are just deferring payment until some time in the future. Your tax reduction plus interest will be paid by someone later. Where were the Tea Partiers back then?

Were voters watching while the Republicans did everything to block the president for the last 2 years? Where were all the great ideas from Republicans to turn the economy around? Republicans didn't have any ideas or at least not any they would make public. By the way, if they had or have any great ideas, why didn't they offer them when they did have power in the first six years of the Bush administration?

Republicans have had no incentive to help make the economy better. If they had worked with Democrat's the past two years to make the economy better and they were successful, would Republicans have made such large gains in this week's election? Not likely.

Republicans have no incentive to help make the economy better over the next two years. They rightly believe that if the economy stays bad for the next two years, President Obama will be a one term president. Pay attention over the next two years. Are Republicans trying to help or just stalling for two more years?

The Republicans goals for the past two years have been to make things look as bad as they could and they lied whenever they needed. Remember death panels? A total lie. And either Republicans knew it was a lie or they are just stupid. Would you really vote for someone that stupid?

Republicans railed against the bail out of banks, automobile companies and the stimulus bill. A large number of voters believed the bail out was Obama's. Of course the bailout was passed under President Bush. People are crying about losing jobs, especially good paying manufacturing jobs. How much worse would the economy be if we had lost the automobile industry? Republicans act like helping the automobile companies was complete folly. Why?

All we hear from Republicans is how worthless the stimulus bill was. Of course economist tell a different story. And most people are unaware that many Republicans actively worked to get stimulus money to their states or districts. They never said it out loud, but there is a paper trail of letters they wrote asking for money and saying how many jobs that money would generate. We are not talking about a few Republicans. We are talking about dozens and dozens. The list is very long. The stimulus bill generated or saved millions of jobs. Republicans have been lying about it for political gain.

Republicans brag that they stopped “cap and trade”. Of course, many of these Republicans were for cap and trade until it became politically advantageous to be against it. We need to address global warming. It is real. The Department of Defense identified global warming as a national security threat years ago.

The Republican goal for the next two years will be to look like they are doing something, but hoping Democrat's will block them so they can get even more power in 2012. Be are smart voter. Pay attention. Whenever either party obstructs or is uncooperative, are they doing it for principle or political gain? Voters want jobs. Let us see who is working to make jobs and help the economy and who is not.

Republicans are saying the the President and Democrats need to heed the election results and cave into all Republican ideas. Do you remember the Republicans acknowledging the election the President and Democrat's won in 2008? Did they cooperate with the new president even a little? Not hardly. Hell, many of them still won't admit he is the president.

President Obama is too smart to think that Republicans will do anything that will make him look better. It is not in their self interests.

Republicans act like the entire country is behind them. But there are millions of people who want the president to stand up for his and our principles. We should stay true to our beliefs. If we lose again in 2012 so be it. I would rather lose defending my principles than lose trying to work with a party that has no incentive to cooperate.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rotten Apple

The salty old man who lives next door and I were talking about a kid down the street who had been causing problems in the neighborhood.

The old guy commented that, knowing what a jerk the kid's dad was, it wouldn't do any good to talk to him.

I wisely noted that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

To which my neighbor replied "or a turd from an asshole."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New York City Mosque II

The debate about building an Islamic center in New York City close to ground zero is really very simple.

You either accept the concepts embodied in the First Amendment or you don't.

The driving force that caused those guys to fly planes into the WTC was intolerance. We are better than that. Or at least we should strive to be.

You don't honor the people killed by intolerance and hatred by being intolerant.

New York City Mosque

Too many people want to memorialize any tragic death. If a drunk driver kills someone, should we ban bars and alcohol within a 1/4 mile of the site?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Incentivize Good Behaviour

Unemployment benefits were extended this week when Democrats finally got enough votes to overcome Republican objections. The Republican's primary objection was that the roughly 30 billion dollars the extension would cost was not paid for. It would just be added to the debt. While that objection is factually correct, I believe their objections were actually based on political rather than balance sheet calculations.

I was particularly intrigued by another objection from some Republicans that extending unemployment benefits actually did more harm than good. They reasoned that many people were unemployed because it was easier and better to just stay home and collect the unemployment benefits. Cutting off the benefits would give these lazy people an incentive to get off the couch and get a job.

As I've said before, Republicans like simple ideas. Remember "Drill, Baby, Drill"? How about "Benefits Enable Indolence" or "Incentivize Work, Not Laziness"? No, too many syllables.

After I thought about this a while I decided maybe they were on to something. Some people probably do prefer unemployment benefits over a pay check.

The economy is still very sluggish. I've heard it said many times that the engine of growth is small business and they are just not creating many new jobs. Only when small business is creating jobs will unemployment come down and the economy really pick up. How do we incentivize small businesses to create new jobs?

Then the other day I heard a pundit say that we need to extend the Bush tax cuts to the very rich because many small business people are in this rich group and we don't want to hurt them. That's when the light bulb went off.

Small business is not creating new jobs because they have gotten lazy. They did very well under the Bush administration. If we don't extend their tax cuts, their income will go down. Just like the lazy unemployed, this decrease in income may be just what small business needs to get them off the couch and incentivize them to start growing their businesses. Small businesses that grow will recoup their lost income and create jobs for the few unemployed who prefer pay checks over unemployment checks. That in turn will fire up the economy.

I'm looking forward to seeing some Republican support for incentivizing small business growth by not extending the Bush tax cuts to the richest Americans. Finally something we can agree on.

Then again, maybe not. If Republicans and I are right and all we need are the right incentives for small businesses, then the economy will fire up and unemployment will go down. With the economy under control, President Obama and Democrats are more likely to get elected. Republicans are not going to like that.

So now we need to figure out an incentive for Republicans to help grow this economy.

Ethnic Profiling vs Comprehensive Reform

Opponents of Arizona's new immigration law (SB1070) say it could lead to racial or ethnic profiling. Supporters say that is nonsense since the law specifically prohibits this.

The law requires that police check the immigration status of people they believe may be in this country illegally, but only during a lawful stop, detention or arrest. Supporters insist that since police can only check immigration status once a person is being questioned for some other offense, there can be no racial or ethnic profiling.

Forty years ago a friend and I were driving across Kansas (or maybe it was Colorado) on our way to the Rockies in my friend's brand new Camaro. In the middle of nowhere about 11PM at night we were pulled over. The officer said our head lights were not properly aimed. The officer asked for my friend's driver's license and the car registration, which we had trouble finding. We were both college students and my friend's mom had just bought the car for him. It was clear we were not going anywhere without showing the registration, which we eventually found buried in the glove compartment.

We were sent on our way after promising to have the head lights checked. Many miles down the road we found a gas station and borrowed some screw drivers to aim the head lights. I'd done this before. We pulled the car up to a wall at the gas station to adjust them. The car was brand new. There was nothing wrong with the lights.

Naive me. It was sometime later that it dawned on me that we were pulled over for some other reason. There was nothing wrong with our headlights. I have no idea why we were pulled over. It wasn't racial profiling, we were both white kids and it was at night. The point is that when the police want to pull you over, they can. This is not a knock against the police. But, when someone tells you that this law can't lead to racial or ethnic profiling because the police must have some other reason for questioning you, you can bet you are not talking to a minority.

I do not object to checking immigration status out of sympathy for illegal immigrants. I object for the people who are here legally, especially citizens, that will be harassed and inconvenienced if this law is implemented the way it seems to be written.

My understanding is that the law allows citizens to challenge police if the citizen believes the police are not checking immigration status when they should. This is a just a way pressure police to make this a priority. It is clear that Arizona legislators are afraid police may not work hard enough to enforce this law. This pressure to identify illegal immigrants may also lead to to profiling.

I would wager that more people are killed by speeding drivers in Arizona than by illegal immigrants. Why not empower citizens to challenge police whenever they seem to ignore someone driving over the speed limit? The answer is that Arizona wants to harass illegal immigrants and they don't really care if legal immigrants or citizens are caught in the middle.

If Arizona is serious about finding illegal immigrants, they should call for a national ID and require everyone to carry their ID at all times. Or better yet, why doesn't the entire Arizona Congressional delegation stand up and call for comprehensive immigration reform?

The answer from Republicans is that the border must be sealed first. We've been talking about sealing the border for years. During both Republican and Democratic administrations. It is not easy to seal the border. It isn't going to happen any time soon, if ever. If there are enough incentives for people to be in this country illegally, they will find a way to get here.

Part of the purpose of comprehensive immigration reform is to decrease the incentives for coming here illegally. We have been trying to seal the borders for years with limited success. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have put money and people into border security. Why not continue to work on the borders at the same time we work to reduce the incentives? Why not work on comprehensive immigration reform now?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Start Preparing For The Worst

We know that we have not been hearing full, honest descriptions of the oil spill in the Gulf or about possible worst case scenarios.

When the drilling rig first collapsed, I wondered why BP didn't send down a big crimper and crush the pipe that was leaking most of the oil. My understanding is that this was at least one of the ways the failed blow out protector was supposed to stop the leak.

It took many weeks, but I finally heard an expert raise this same solution and then explain that the underwater infrastructure might be too fragile. BP may have known or suspected that the blowout protector was so badly damaged by the collapse of the drilling rig that it might not be able to handle the pressure that would build up if the oil escaping from the well were shut off.

Now we hear that the blowout protector is leaning to one side by 10 to 12 degrees. There is some thought that the pipes below the blow out protector are disintegrating from the wear and tear of the last two months. If there is no longer a pipe coming out of the sea floor it will be much harder to collect the oil coming out.

The latest doomsday scenario is that the oil coming up is under so much pressure that the bottom shot, pumping drilling mud and/or cement might not be able to stop the flow. The estimate I heard is that there is only a 1% chance that the bottom kill won't work.

That is the worst case scenario. We can't stop the leak. Oil will be coming out of the ocean floor for years.

Any possibility that the bottom kill won't work means we should be working on other solutions right now.

Could we drill 50 wells into this same area and extract enough oil to lower the pressure and allow a plug in the pipe to hold? Can we drill 50 wells quickly without another disaster?

How about a cap that is three hundred feet by three hundred by three hundred feet feeding into four pipes, each 20 feet in diameter, to bring the oil to the surface where it is pumped into tankers? The sheer weight of this contraption would force the sides deep into the ocean floor helping to keep out sea water that clogs pipes.

Can we pump oxygen down and burn some of the natural gas as it emerges from the well? Maybe the heat would help warm the water and help get the oil to the surface without forming ice crystals.

I know these sound outlandish, but someone should be working on several different solutions now rather than waiting until October to decided we need a plan F.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Hell No We Won't

The Democrats and Republicans have each chosen the slogans they will use to guide their campaigns this fall. It is

"Yes We Can!" versus "Hell No!".

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Health Care Hyperbole vs Voting

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of comments from people who believe that Washington is not listening to the American people. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about a rushed process that didn’t allow people to see the details of the complicated health care proposals, 2,700 pages, back room deals, secret negotiations, trashing of rules and the Constitution.

I’ve been listening to these complaints daily for months. Months! So where was the rush?

I couldn’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent listening to or reading about ideas and comments from both sides of the health care discussion. I think I understand the major parts of this bill. I believe people who don't understand the basics of this bill have no one to blame but themselves. I listened and read a lot so I could understand the issues and arguments. Isn't that what you are supposed to do? Too many people are lazy and want someone else to do their thinking.

I suspect I understand health care reform at least as well as I understand my credit card agreements, my car insurance, the privacy statement from my bank, my health insurance policy, the 30 pages of documents I signed for my home loan or any other number of complicated documents we have to deal with. This is a complicated world. I’m sure I understand the health care bill better than those agreements I am constantly being forced to accept when I use my computer.

Back room deals. Secret negotiations. I think I’ve heard about all of them. I agree the “Cornhusker Kickback” was disgusting, but we all know that. What was secret about it? If it hadn’t been removed in the reconciliation bill, a simple bill next week could remove it. Why didn’t Republicans just write a bill to do that and then dare Democrats not to vote for it? (Answer: That solution is too reasonable. It is not inflammatory enough.)

Health care was passed by a majority in the House and a super majority in the Senate. Democrats correctly used the rules of the Congress to pass the bill. Democrats correctly used the reconciliation rules to make some changes to the health care bill that had just been passed. No rules were trashed.

There may be a debate about whether parts of the bill are unconstitutional. OK, if that is what you think, we have a way to deal with this. The courts.

As to Washington not listening to American, well I’m an American. I and millions of other Americans believe Washington has been listening. Now was the time to start making health care available to all Americans and to start the process to bring some rationality to how health care is provided. The bill that passed is not perfect and not what I would have liked to have, but it is a start. We now need to work to make it better.

I heard a woman on NPR yesterday complaining about the health care bill. She seemed very reasonable until she admitted that she was glad that at least conservatives had the Second Amendment and their guns since they might be needed. I wished someone had asked her how her guns would help resolve her concerns about the health care law.

One thing I know. If you believe that Washington is not listening to you, there is a way to make sure they get the message – vote. Leave the rifle over the fireplace.

My Bad

In a previous blog, after Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts, I suggested President Obama should scale back his plans for health care reform. I want to assure readers, that was the only bad advice I’ve ever given anyone.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Advice For President Obama

Peggy Noonan, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a speech writer for President Reagan, was on Meet The Press this morning. She believes that the reason Scott Brown won last week was the distrust voters have of all institutions, especially government.

That is certainly a symptom of the problem. But why are people so upset with government?

I think there are several reasons.

It is easier to destroy than to build. It is easier criticize than create. It is easier to divide people than to unite them. In the current political environment it is easier and safer to oppose than to compromise. And it is politically safer and more effective to offer specious criticism than to propose alternatives.

People don't get mad and motivated by something they are satisfied with, unless someone threatens to take it away. So the best political strategy is to get voters mad and motivated. Republicans are historically better at this than Democrats.

In general, people have short memories. What have you done for me today?

People crave simplicity.

People want government to leave them alone until they need something. Then they want government to fix it now.

For all these reasons, it is politically expedient to blame the government for all problems.

Thomas O'Neill, Sr., famously said "All politics is local." Today it is "All politics is personal." People are apprehensive about the economy and deficit spending and will punish politicians who do not vigorously share their concerns and their solutions. Except for the people who think abortion is the most important issue. Except for the people who think guns are the most important issue. Except for the people who think Iraq, Afghanistan, health care, terrorism or (fill in the blank) is the most important issue. And more importantly, what good is government if it can't fix it now.

The primary goal of most politicians is to get re-elected or, better yet, get elected to a more powerful position. So politicians, like Ben Nelson of Nebraska, believe it is in their interests to use the power of their offices to buy the support of voters and/or donors. Such abuse of the political system properly disgusts voters. Instead of venting their anger on the offending politician, it is often redirected to a political party, Congress in general, the president or all of the above.

Polls show that people think we are still going in the wrong direction and they blame Democrats and President Obama for not fixing it. Fair enough, they are in office, but it took years to generate the problems that confronted President Obama last year. Why do we expect him to fix them all in a year?

I have some suggestions for President Obama. Learn a lesson from your predecessor. Decide what you think is important and go for it. To hell with what voters think. Show that you have ideas and principles that you will fight for.

Pick a few issues. Pare the concepts down to bumper stickers and work to implement them. No foreign oil. Pre-existing shouldn't mean uninsured. The American economy should make jobs for many not billions for a few. A job for everyone who is willing to work (twenty years ago that would have probably gotten you labelled as a communist, but it may work now).

Global warming and true health care reform are too complicated for voters. Do what you can to move the country forward. Make it better than what you found, but take your own advice and don't make the perfect the enemy of the possible. Only when health care and climate change are true disasters will people really understand and you'll probably be out of office by then.

If that is too cynical, try this. Work to make government more responsive, competent and effective by doing a few important things well and soon. Stay away from any issue that might force voters to think. Restore trust in government. Win in 2012 and use that mandate to do a few big things in your next four years.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Free Speech. Not Priceless.

I was astounded when courts interpreted the Second Amendment while consciously ignoring the reference in the amendment to militias.

I was appalled when Congress passed a law that destroyed habeas corpus.

Now I'm speechless.

Today the Supreme Court some how decide that corporations, that previously had at least some of the same rights as an individual, actually have the constitutionally protected right to free speech.

And when I say I'm speechless, I'm actually speaking for all of us. We are all speechless. Our individual speech will now be drowned out by unlimited speech from corporations.

Politicians generally do not vote their consciences. They vote to please their constituents and their donors. Now corporate donors are no longer limited in the amount they can funnel to a candidate. Sure, we still have to vote, but the political discussion and process can be bought with huge sums of money. That happens all too much today. Starting tomorrow there are no limits on how much a corporation can spend to buy an election. No politician will be able to get elected without lining up huge sums of money from corporations. They will be bought and you and I are too poor to play in this game.

Corporations are not individuals, even though they may have been granted some of the same rights. They are not citizens. They can't be drafted. They can't serve on a jury. They can't vote. They can't marry (think about that). Or can they? Once they can buy elections, there is no limit to what powers they can give themselves. Their power will only be constrained by other large corporations.

We have been trying for decades to prevent individuals or large groups from buying elections and politicians. That is all gone.

You can imagine dire consequences of this ruling. Maybe we are making too much of this. But if we are correct and this is as bad as we think, once the tipping point is reached and corporations really control Congress, we won't be able to change it back.

I think the solution may be to change the law to make it clear that corporations are not people.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Pop-Top Health Care


Health care reform took another step forward last night with the passage of a bill in the House.

I don't know if we will ever get a bill or if it will cost a lot of money or if it will accomplish what I hope needs to be done. I hope it passes, but I don't have a lot of hope. If a bill passes and becomes law, flawed as it will be, at least we will have a framework which future generations can build on. Assuming they have more guts and foresight than current and previous generations.

Personally, I believe a single payer, government run system would be better, but we are not good at legislating big, contentious issues like health care. Isn't that a good reason for government to stay out of health care? Yes, except everyday we live with evidence that the alternative is worse.

I try to listen to lots of different ideas so I was interested in listening to stories about health care systems in other countries. Contrary to what you often hear, I think most people in these countries are satisfied with their health care systems. I heard about one country on NPR (National Public Radio, if you don't listen to it, you should) where you can call and talk to health care professionals day or night, and if your condition warrants it and you can't come in, they will send a doctor to make a house call. Amazing.

In the U.S., I believe we pay about twice as much per person for health care as other countries with government sponsored health care. We do benefit from some of the best health care in the world, if you can afford it.

But two other anecdotes really bother me.

I believe it was the man in charge of health care in Great Britain who said that no one in his country ever goes bankrupt trying to pay for health care. In the U.S., health care bills are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy. He also pointed out the people in Great Britain never have to worry about losing their health care because they lose their job.

In my office we have containers to recycle soda cans. Someone recently added old gallon milk jugs and asked people to tear off the pop-top tabs and put them in the jug to help pay the medical bills for a very ill two year old girl. I heard an official from a foreign country comment on NPR that they were taken aback the first time they saw such an appeal in the U.S.. He was shocked that a parent in the United States of America had to resort to begging to get money to pay for health care for their seriously ill child. That was unheard of in his country.

Think about, some parents in the United States have to beg for health care for their sick children!

The news this morning talked about a few Democratic members of Congress who threatened to stop the health care reform bill unless harsh anti-abortion language was added to the bill. The language was added to gain their votes. Abortion is a serious ethical issue and I understand that people can have strong beliefs on both sides of the issue, but this move really bothers me. Supporters of a woman's choice could take the same stand and refuse to vote for the bill unless the abortion restrictions are removed (the Hyde Amendment would still apply).

I have a question for people who think the current health care system is fine or would rather not have reform if they can't have their personal needs satisfied.

What do you think when you pass the milk jug begging for help for a sick child?