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
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.