Total Pageviews

Friday, March 30, 2012

Improve the Bike & Walk Trail


I've been on the Bike and Walk trail for the past week and I've noticed some changes since the last time I used the facility. We might add walk your dog without poop scoopers to the name. This one lady had two dogs on leashes stretched across the sidewalk. Lucky for me, she looked back and saw I was approaching, so I didn't have to go into panic mode of breaking or dismounting or maybe both.

I'm up to a 30 minute ride which is equivalent to 4.2 miles averaging about 8 miles per hour. That's not exactly tour De France but I'll increase time and distance this weekend.

The traffic on Airline and Stockbauer is unbelievable, so crossing these intersections is always a risk because a lot of vehicles are exceeding the speed limit and don't really care about the signs that warns them that pedestrians might be crossing. I don't have any problem because I won't cross until I don't see any cars at all. A lot of people aren't using the trail but I imagine that will pick up after school lets out. I'm sure the city will come up with new safety regulations when the water park, baseball and soccer fields are complete because that's going to generate new traffic nightmares. The improvised parking lot across from the trail is pretty rough, so rough that the jarring in the back of my pickup knocked the chain off the sprocket. That led me riding to and from the trail but I have to make a sign of the cross every time I get on Airline. How much would it cost to make a bicycle lane? Never mind, I can hear it now" not with my tax dollars you don't."

That's it for now and right now I'm satisfied because I finally put up a blog at VA where everyone one engaged in a civil manner and I did learn something about the stalker law. I also got to see a different perspective of a national incident.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Careful what you wish for


I was caught by surprise because I thought the administration would put more of a fight than they did in their recent health care battle with the conservative Supreme Court. They had over year and to come up with better arguments for the individual mandate or at least a plan B. The way it's going, 2.6 million young people might be taken off their parent’s health care plan along with children with pre- existing conditions.

I know my disappointment may be premature because even thou the oral arguments are over for SCOTUS, they will take an informal count sometime this week to see where they stand. It's obvious by their actions that they have disregarded any argument for the individual mandate but perhaps in today's climate, there isn't one. I understand the argument that you can’t compel anyone to buy anything just because the government tells you to but I also see the importance the mandate plays in the commerce clause because health care is 17% of GDP. The official ruling won't be until June but a White House spokesman said that President Obama will not run against a Supreme Court decision in the fall. He hinted that if elected, the Democrats might do some creative additions if the rest of the Affordable Care Act is left intact. They might use reconciliation where it only takes 51 votes to pass and they might submit a "Medicare for All "which they know is constitutional." The opposition will cry socialism but what's new?

If the Supreme Court strikes down the whole ACT, there will be major problems ahead. Justice Scalia doesn't think that the court or its clerks should read all 2700 pages in order to make a decision on what is constitutional and what's not. The court does not want to seen as being a partisan magic wand for the Republican Party. I think if Justice Kennedy allows a good portion of the law to remain intact, Justice Roberts will join him for a 6 to 3 vote. I heard yesterday, that there's about $900 billion that will have to be distributed back to the insurance companies and other entities, if the ACT is struck down. The states will lose the anticipated Medicaid funding and many laws will have to be rewritten. I'm pretty sure the GOP will want to put the $900 billion on the debt and not think twice about the escalating insurance premiums around the horizon. It's my opinion that the court needs to stick to the law and not make judgments that may impact our economy because that role belongs to Congress.

In the meantime senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said that they don’t have any health care plans, not surprising, and the House of Representatives are only interested in passing Paul Ryan’s budget bill with as many republicans as possible. I was surprised that Bowles- Simpson got only 68 votes in the house; proving once again that you can’t believe anything a politician tells you. Legislators in both parties praised Bowles- Simpson on the talk shows but won’t vote for it when it counts. At least they can’t blame the president anymore for running away from Bowles-Simpson.

There has to be a Saturday Vent blog and it’s in the making.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What can we learn from the death of Trayvon Martin?


There's not a lot I can write that hasn't already been written in leading up to and after the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. This incident happened on February 26th but the wheels of justice are just now beginning to turn.

There's a lot to criticize such as an armed person on a neighborhood watch, the flexibility of a Stand-Your-Ground law, racial profiling, allowing the shooter to go home with his weapon, without a proper inquiry and on and on but this also puts America on trial.

I'll be honest, I don't own a gun but it doesn't bother me at all if it gives my friends and neighbors a peace of mind. It's when they feel they need to have laws to make it easy for them to carry openly at the local PTA or church service that I will disagree. I don't want to hold up Sanford, Florida as an example but the NRA is actively trying to influence legislators to pass Stand-Your -Ground laws in all 50 states. I remember several posters bragging about the type a weapon they possessed and depending on context ,it read like they would blow someone's head off for a $100 bicycle. I don't want to go back to the 19th century where everyone's packing. I don't want to disarm the general public because I agree, and then the criminals and police would be the only ones having guns. There has to be a happy medium because I think most of us don't prepare for a confrontation every time we go out to a restaurant. Last night I was reminded that our gun laws have gone to the extreme in making it much easier to purchase and carry guns, even after the Tucson, Arizona incident because legislators are scared of the NRA.

Several people questioned the Hate Law legislation but this is one case where it took federal intervention before the local and state authorities even thought about taking a second look. It took public outrage before the police chief voluntarily stepped down (wink *wink*)  and the governor appointed a task force but Mr. Zimmerman is still in hiding with his weapon. He should at least be brought into protective custody and his gun confiscated. It's standard procedure for a police officer to be drug tested, weapon confiscated, and put on desk duty until internal affairs clears the officer of any wrongdoing. That's the least you can do when the victim is no longer able to give their side of the story. We would like to think that all shootings are justified the but the facts don't bear that out. The Sanford police could have avoided all this publicity if they would have done the basics and the same goes for the state of Florida.

We give a lot a lip service to freedom and liberty these days but why is a young black person with a hoodie walking down an American street with a container of tea and box of candy considered a suspect? At the very least Mr. Zimmerman called in this person to be question by police officers. I would like to think that I can go to local convenience store at 3:00 in the morning and not be stopped and questioned but I know my expectation of freedom won't be met each and every day. Even if Mr. Zimmerman had probable cause he had a 100 pound advantage over a 17- year old unarmed kid.Should we train our children not to put their hands into their waist bands when confronted?

We can only offer our condolences to the family of Trayvon Martin and hope that the state of Florida gets their act together but don't be surprised if Stand-Your- Ground comes up before the Texas legislature. We should at least hear testimony from those that point out what happens when you put too much power into the hands of nonprofessionals.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Old Man and His Bicycle


I'm constantly being reminded of that old adage “you’re only as old as you feel” but it doesn't always apply. My doctor is always sending me to a specialist to eliminate certain risk factors. For instance, for past six months my blood tests keep coming back with high liver enzymes which prompted my doctor to send me to a another specialist because I disagreed with his recommendation of a CAT scan or a liver biopsy. The specialist recommended losing 20 pounds because he thinks it's a fatty tissue problem because I don't show symptoms of anything else, so now I'm working on losing the 20 pounds.

I've had a bicycle for two years now; it was a 7 speed road cruiser. Two years ago, I would've never use those terms because a bicycle was just a bicycle. I remember the only accessories were a horn, you remember the old black bulb horns. We didn't have any gears and aluminum alloy and disk brakes were unheard of. Bicycles were big and bulky and you adapted.

The road cruiser is not like our old bikes, where we could just spray WD40 on it when it was left out in the rain, and we were go- to- go.. My road cruiser accumulated a lot of moisture, freezing the mobility of the speed cables, so I was left with one gear. I gave the cruise a try on our wide open walk and bike trail and now I realize why those 7 gears are important. Carrying my extra weight is hard on my knees, so shifting to a different gear makes a lot easier on a windy day.

I decided that I needed to buy a new bicycle but I never knew how difficult it would become. I called an old friend who bought a $4000 bicycle when he retired, knowing he would know the basics but there was no way I was going to spend 1/ 10th of he spent. The conversation wasn't that informative because he lost me after a few minutes talking about the light aluminum frames, gear ratios, shimano, crankets, chain rings, shifters, and finally Giro Yen mountain bike gloves. About an hour after hanging up, I looked at everything that I had written down and decided to go to Wal-Mart and Academy but luckily a salesperson never approached me, so I left. I searched a little bit on my iPad until my wife gave me a brilliant idea by saying “Why don't you go to Bill's Bikes." I continued with my research because you just can't say “by golly you’re right" because we have to keep a sense of manhood, for at least a day. The next day I went to Bill's Bikes and the owners as usual were friendly and informative. They sold me a bike that suited my height, and adjusted the seat, so I wouldn't have to stoop over the handlebars. They took their time and explained the basics of the 21 speed bicycle. They let me test ride it before making a few more adjustments and explained their wonderful 90 day plan where they will make other adjustments if needed. It's not always about the price because good service is often overlooked. I've read many reviews where bikes that were shipped to Wal-Mart or Academy were not properly assembled.

On even a lighter side, did anyone see the clip of the mama duck taking her baby ducklings to the White House for a stroll? Mama duck got on top of a curb embankment and squeezed herself onto the White House lawn without her babies. The little ducklings were confused and I assume they were trying to figure out ways to join their mama. There were some tourists behind them hollering for someone to help them. I guess they figured it would trigger an alarm if they did. Then came the heroes of the day, a couple of armed secret service officers picked up baby ducklings put them through the fence to join their mother. The crowd gave the secret service officers a round of applause. I wonder what mama duck was doing at the White House? Perhaps she was protesting the proposed Planned Parenthood cuts...:-)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Complexities of Health Care


I’ve been concerned about the rising cost of Health Care for 10 years or more. One day our company sat us down and told us that our insurance company was merely an underwriter, and that they were paying the actual cost of our health care. Human Resources showed us examples of overcharging and mistakes on some employee's medical charges. They advised us to look over our detail billing and report any discrepancies. It really hit home when it became personal. About a year later, when I was thinking of retiring, Human Resources told us that existing retirees were the biggest drivers of our healthcare costs, and that they were considering increasing the cost of existing and future retiree’s premiums. I don't remember anyone complaining because we understood but lucky for us, they never followed through.

I am not an expert on health care but I am very interested on hearing varying opinions.I even have the entire Act on my iPad and several magazine articles on the subject.

Sunday night CNN's Fareed Zakaia hosted an excellent documentary about how other countries were dealing with their rising cost of health care. Fareed's guest was T.R. Reid, the author of " The Healing of America: a Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Healthcare." Mr. Reid found that government is more efficient at handling healthcare because their overhead is a low 5%, whereas private insurance companies hover around 20 to 25% because of advertising and other costs to satisfy their shareholders. He also said that healthcare is not an ideal product for the free- market because they cannot accurately forecast their costs for the next year. Later in the show, they showed how the free market could work, with conditions.

The fact is, 5% of the people in the United States account for 50% of our healthcare costs, so that information stuck out like a sore thumb. I saw an excellent example how one of the poorest cities in the nation, Camden, New Jersey, took that problem head on. They found out that 30% of the healthcare costs came from one area, so they concentrated on those people and now there are seeing their healthcare costs go down. They found that the average American will go to the doctor or hospital once or twice a year, but these people were averaging about 14 times a year, and one person went 435 times.

Unfortunately, politics wins over economics' in the fight for health care reform. For example, Switzerland had a problem similar to ours where people did not buy insurance and ended in emergency rooms; insurers were screening out people with preexisting conditions and their cost are raising fast. This conservative country barely passed an individual mandate and reformed their system to look like our current Affordable Health Act. Switzerland which has a population of 8 million, healthcare cost is 11% of GDP, and ours is 17% and rising. The country ranks higher than we do on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom. Their healthcare plans are not tied to employers, and their citizens can choose among endless companies and can change every year. The only drawback to that system is these citizens need to be aware of what they are buying.
By several measures, Taiwan has the best health care system in the world. About the time, the Clinton administration was trying to overhaul our healthcare care system. Taiwan sent their experts all over the world to study different plans. Taiwan is a strong free- market economy, but it decided to go with a single private insurer. It's basically a Medicare for all but with one private insurance company. They showed how a “smart card" allowed the insurance companies and government to see that actual cost in real time. Medicare takes about two years to reconcile their invoices with their payments, a reason fraud is prevalent Taiwan spends 7% of its GDP on health care and went from having 41% uninsured to just 8%.By comparison, their clinics stay open 11 hours a day and their doctors sees ~200 a day and gets paid $12 per patient, while their American counterparts get $100 per patient.

The Affordable Health Act is not perfect, but the fact remains we need to stop the rising cost of health care, and we need to insure as many people as possible. Conservatives say that regulations are an impediment in our efforts to compete globally, but they don't mention how companies spend tens of billions of dollars to provide health care to their employees and retirees, while Canada, Germany, Japan, and Great Britain spend next to nothing.

The Democrats lost the message war after they passed the Affordable Health Act, and they are still losing it. I just saw a poll where 52% thought that the Supreme Court had already struck down the individual mandate. The upcoming legal challenges against the individual mandate will be very interesting. Will the five Supreme Court judges appointed by Republican presidents make it partisan, thus angering the Democrats in an election year? Will the Supreme Court to go with the precedent and give broad powers to the “commerce clause" as they have in the past? It will be an interesting case because the Supreme Court might decide to split the issues and leave the Act in place.

I saw a Kaiser Poll yesterday that had 41% for the Affordable Health Act and 40% against and 19% not sure. I would like to know where you stand on the issue. Is it status quo,don’t know enough about the issue,whatever, or repeal the Act and why?

This is what I think. We won’t be able to go with one insurance company because that’s picking winners and losers, and we won’t go with a single- payer universal health care system, where it’s total government because the outcry of socialism will be so load we will all have to wear ear muffs. We won’t institute a system like the Cleveland and Mayo Clinic where the hospital gets a block grant for a procedure and then they divvy that up between the hospital,doctors and other employees.I do know this,we are a hybrid nation,so unless we get a complete domination by a party ,we are either going to have to improve the one we have or take a little from here and a little from there but we will still be saddled with rising costs.

Does the GOP alternative of individual Health Saving Accounts,buying across state lines do the trick? Will you be willing to give up not being turned down for pre existing illnesses or having your children on your policy until age 26?

I'm convinced that  we will never do anything about the high rate of obesity or that we will come to grips that we are a older nation because we are a freedom loving people.  If 30% of the people get all upset because the first lady mentions eating more veggies, I can’t expect for anyone to do anything about contributing factors.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Now is our chance


As new candidates begin to pop up for our districts, I'm very thankful that I just might be voting for someone who's closer to my position than the same old" fiscal conservative" nonsense, I've been hearing for many years. We have finally have some grass root Democrats running, but they need some vetting, so if they say they are fiscal conservatives, you know they're just Republicans in sheep's clothing.

There is a time for fiscal conservatism, but it's not an economic principle conducive to growing our city and state or nation. The time for fiscal conservatism is during boom times, making sure we put some aside for the rainy days, that is sure to come. Fiscal conservatives will cut property taxes in a New York minute because their anti-government and survival of the fittest mindset is just a justification for selflessness. They have the luxury of being against government because the Federal highway system is in place, their kids are in private school, and the public libraries and other services have been paid for. No, we need government but the argument should always be how big and how much, and we shouldn't settle for one just answer, as being a truth certain.

You need to watch out for the anti-government fiscal conservatives because they will only present one side of the ledger. You need to ask those candidates what we got in return for those taxes because fiscal conservatives are just worried about their home-improvement project and not about a "bike and walk trail" that will benefit local citizens. It's always about their checkbook because they think they are the only ones paying taxes. I may not be interested in the arts, but I certainly don't mind if our city allocates a small portion of taxpayer money for those projects because we're all taxpayers. Like any other profit and loss statement, a loss this year doesn't necessarily mean higher taxes in the next year because projects will be paid off, new revenues might be coming and whatnot. As I've said before, fiscal conservatives cannot see beyond a spreadsheet in front of them.

I saw where Jared stated that every dollar that goes to the government does not go to the market. That's a simplistic statement to create a “us vs. them" environment. For the past 30 years, a lot of those dollars went to the top 1%, offshore accounts and surely did not create a trickle-down effect. You cannot find an equilibrium if the ideas come from a single source. You do know that every dollar that goes into a savings account does not go into consumption, keeping inventories on the self and prevents companies from hiring.

It the same way with government jobs, and the solution is not privatizing everything because that's the key ingredient for crony capitalism or worse plutocracy. In the last three years the biggest job cuts have come in the public sector, so now those people are not consuming and are on the public dole. About the only thing conservatives and liberals agree on, is infrastructure repair. The ideologues within the Republican Party of today won’t even allow that. The very idea that every person that goes into government, takes that person out of the free market is ludicrous. Some companies are choosing not to hire but instead making employees do more for less and a lot of government employees get their expertise from the government and then acquire lucrative contracts in the private sector.
The government can create the environment for jobs such as funding NASA and reaping the rewards of discovery, infrastructure projects, grants to entrepreneurs, trade talks, and monitoring unsafe practices and legislating tax reform. The United States of America will never adopt a laissez-faire economy, and so as Bill Clinton famously said, “We can only fix what is bad with America with what is good with America."

In closing remember liberals, Democrats, left-of-center of center voters, and moderates, we have our chance for an alternative, but as they say in politics "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Focus, look what the GOP fiscal conservative governors did in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio; they went after the unions, they cut taxes and public services but gave lucrative tax breaks to corporations. Be fair, check those states out and see how they compare to the rest of the nation. They won't stop there; check those states that overreached on the social issues. A voice is a wonderful thing to have but many times it starts with baby steps like local elections. I'm guilty of being apathetic, but if we get some different candidates, I'll definitely get off my butt. I have no intentions for voting anyone in my precinct’s City Council race because it’s between two "flip of the coin" fiscal conservatives.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I received my Voter Registration Certificate


I received my voter registration certificate yesterday and for the first time I actually read every word that was printed on it. It's pretty much like last year’s except for the disclaimer on the back, and I'll get to that later, and the district numbers for the representatives.

The disclaimer on the back stared with " federal approval of a photo identification law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011, a voter must show one of the following forms of photo identification, and it goes on to list them. One exception stuck out like a sore thumb, no it wasn't the concealed handgun license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety; it was  the one where voters with religious objections to being photographed. How many people are we talking about here? We don't want to disenfranchise those few voters, but we don't seem care about the other 0.5 million voters or so. I can’t remember the last time I pulled out my wallet to show someone my driver’s license as proof of identification.

Despite the blatant lie in today's Tina Dupey's column about 116,000 illegal aliens signing up to vote, voter fraud is not rampant in Texas or anywhere else for that matter. There will always be objections, no matter what the issue but taking proactive steps to prevent voter fraud could have been bipartisan by taking the following steps.

1. Slowly phase in the measure giving everyone a chance to work out the kinks such as affordability, availability and a verification process.
2. Make sure that the goal is to encourage voters not the opposite.
3. Simplify the process and open up more voting places such as the Wal-Marts, the workplace, malls or post office.
4. Extend the hours and then make voting available on Saturdays.
5. We could discuss putting bar codes on the tamper-proof driver's license and allow that information to be tied in with the Social Security database.

I've always been for a National ID card, but my Libertarian friends scream bloody murder about big brothers overreach. They don't mind the Texas ID law, as long as long as we get it in place before this November. It's one of those " if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck.... it's usually a duck." The fact that the Atty. General is looking at this, infuriates the borderline tenthers even more.

I'll be charitable, about half of the registration card is written in Spanish. I wonder how many voters that cannot read a word of English, actually vote? I won't take this into an "English Only" conversation because I think traffic signs written in Spanish and English 200 miles north of the border might save some lives. I think having signs written in many languages in cities like Chicago, and New York are quite helpful. I remember last time I was in Chicago a lot of signs, in some small grocery stores were written in Russian.

I wrote this blog a few days ago, but I'm glad I didn't post on the VA forum because it would have just added to the hostility. I was inspired again when I received my voter-registration card yesterday, and then Tina Dupey's column sealed the deal.I wonder if we will ever mature enough to discuss issues like these ,without people wanting to pour a full gasoline can on top of a small camp fire?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to talk to a liberal


I know I stole the title from the controversial Ann Coulter's book “How to speak to a liberal if you must" I never read the book so that's the only thing I stole from her.

I'm not going to make the mistake of implying that I speak for those who take a left of center position. Recent polls state that only 21% of Americans identify themselves as being liberal. As I've said before, conservatives have always used the word liberal in a pejorative way and it worked. I still remember President George H.W. Bush looking over at his opponent, Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, and saying “He’s a liberal." I think it was from then on, that liberals stayed away from the word. Within the last 10 years the democrats have picked up the label, “progressive” to identify themselves. They even have a progressive caucus. The people left of center still don't use labels as much as conservatives do, to identify themselves. Most conservatives think the conservative label is like a religious bond that is superior to anything out there.In Texas, many like to call themselves Conservative Democrats because they believe in republican fiscal policies but not always with their social ones.   It doesn't matter whether it's a fiscal or social conservative, the word conservative remains supreme in their mind. That’s why they tend to use the word "We “as if they are speaking for a solid majority.Actually only 40% claim that conservative label. According to a book I’m reading “The Reactionary Mind" many libertarians have crossed over and are now calling themselves conservatives because not that many people identify with libertarians.That’s the reason for the GOP’s sudden shift to the extreme right. If Romney wins the election, the party will come back to where it was four years ago.

I'm like an old pooch, I'll answer to anything, just as long as it's a gateway to the issues. There are extremists on both sides but a lot of people on the right think that liberals are the 1960 hippies or the Code Pink, PETA, and the radical environmentalists (tree huggers) but that's the extreme side. Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Dick Durbin are notable liberals. They are judged by their voting patterns. President Obama and Hillary Clinton are considered centrist because they are about compromising to move the agenda.If you think Obama is a liberal, it’s because you one of those conservatives that think the word liberal is a cuss word.Look at his voting record and the things he has placed as his priorities.

Now that you have background, I'm going to describe what some on the left have told me that they want in a discussion. We agreed that we want substantiated facts, as opposed to hearsay, plus we want our questions answered and we will do likewise. I don't think name calling adds any value to a discussion but it doesn't annoy me that much; I’m amused. I want my opponent to come prepared to have a good discussion with points and counterpoints. For example we had a good discussion going about the flags flying at half mast for a celebrity. Sugar Magnolia, posted the code which everyone agreed with. I'd dug a little deeper without dismissing the code and found that since there was no real enforcements, governors often got around the code by using their discretion. That would have been a good discussion until some people came in with name -calling and took the topic in a different direction.

My conservative opponents like to put me in a box and tell me what I think but when I turn the tables on them, they get annoyed. I don't argue with ideologues because it's a losing proposition and a waste of time. I can't hide from my positions of the past, nor do I want to, because it's who I am and I left a record. I can argue the merits of a tax abatement, and joint venture because there are examples where they have worked, I can't argue a philosophy that not based on actual facts. My conservative friends like to tell me that the private sector and charities will take care of poor, if not for the government but they can't give me proof based on 21st century information. We all want smaller government but we disagree on what programs to cut, how much and how fast to cut. The libertarian/ conservatives want a very tiny government but most Americans want a responsible government because they want services. We want public schools, public libraries, trained police officers and firemen, the FDA, EPA and, IRS, CIA, Social Security and Medicare.

This country is smack dab in the middle and extremists from both sides are having trouble getting people to listen to them. The only difference is the extremist on the right actually think  only their views are what’s best for this country. It's amazing how a pundit can tell the republican legislator that the polls are against you and the lawmaker will just ignore them and move on to their talking points. Persistence is something that democrats lack. I use myself as an example; I will not try to convert anyone. “To each their own” is my motto.

There you have it, if the subjects are questionable (most are) bring some evidence to support to support your claim. Tell me something I don’t know and don’t get angry if I disagree because I may have misunderstood the point you were trying to make.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

You can learn a lot watching Bill Maher or not.

caution..he’s a big time potty mouth

I know a lot of people don't like Bill Maher, but I love his show because it's about people letting their hair down and discussing the current topics of today. Last night, he covered all the topics that I wanted to hear about.

Bill Maher was attacked last week by the right and the left relative to the Rush Limbaugh thrashing. Bill answered the posters and others who say something and then qualify it by saying, “it’s just a joke." No it's not. Bill Maher gets a pass because he delivers jokes in front of 3,000 people for a living; what Rush did wasn't a bit humorous. I too believe that if you love "free speech" it means we have to acknowledge a person has a right to say things that may be obnoxious to us.

Bill Maher brought me back down to earth. I've seen the polls, the uptick in the economy, a sensible foreign policy and I see the current Republican field, so I started to get complacent. Bill Maher pointed out that the race will be tight down to the end because the partisans will align with their respective parties, but that independent voter will see two people that are pretty much alike, but one is white and the other black. For the record, Bill Maher said the same thing in 2008 and look what happened.

Last night Bill showed a segment of Alexandra Pelosi's new documentary about Mississippi voters. Mississippi is the poorest state in the union, and also the most conservative and Christian, and they vote accordingly. Alexandra asked several Mississippians as to why they hated the healthcare bill, and almost all said that they didn't like anything government or free. One responder qualified receiving food stamps by saying that he was out of work and deserved it. They bought into that conservative message that" prosperity is almost around the corner" if you just let the corporations keep more of their money. I really don't expect them to know that the father of capitalism, Adam Smith, warned against the concentration of wealth at the very top. Adam Smith was for strong unions or other mechanisms that would lead to a robust consumer base. Several people Alexandra questioned didn't like President Obama because he was a black, a Muslim, not trustworthy, a socialist, not one of them, and he wanted to take their guns away. Several were waiting for the south to rise again.

The panel discussed a new law that the Arizona Republican legislators are voting, which will allow a doctor to lie to their patient, if it convinces her not to have an abortion. Arizona wants to overturn any law that's not Republican enough. I understand that Republican women are not single-issue voters, but I personally think that they need to take a stand and say, “enough is enough" unless they want to be characterized. They need to stand up and be more like Hillary Clinton when she famously said;" I'm not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette." Its true Republican women think that abortion will never affect them, but it's the other female health issues that they should be concerned about such as Texas cutting funding for those clinics providing health services to poor women, if there's a remote chance that the clinic will perform an abortion.

It's one of the best Bill Maher shows that I have ever watched because it covered so many subjects.

Don't forget to watch the premiere of HBO's “Game Change" if you like politics because it's a backdoor look into the 2008 presidential campaign. It features some unflattering moments that Sarah Palin endured.

Completely, off topic but a funny story (now) that I wanted to share. I believe all of us at one time have used jumper cables either to get our dead battery charged enough to start the car or vice versa. The other day my daughter called from Aloe School saying that her battery was dead, so I naturally said I would be there in about 20 minutes. It was a simple job, and I had plenty of experience but not to be. I parked my Prius in front of her Hyundai, popped open my hood and gasped" Where is the battery?" I must have popped open every plastic cover and latches but the closest thing that came to even looking like a battery was the fuse box. It was starting to get dark, so I told my daughter to look through her manual and find the free roadside assistance that came with the price of the car. After several minutes of looking for that telephone number, my wife noticed that it was attached on the windshield. When the tow truck arrived and everything was back to normal, I embarrassingly asked the driver where my batter was. He looked at me and said he didn't know but lucky for us, he was inquisitive. It wasn't on the floorboard of the front and back seat as he suspected, but it was in the trunk enclosed in a plastic covering with latches. It was a cute battery about the size of a router.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Conservatives Hate the Health Care Act


I think that art of debating is knowing your opponent's point of view. It takes background searches of a poster’s comment history, applying the proper context and looking to see if your opponent is steadfast in their opinion and why.

I'm about halfway through a fascinating book called" The Reactionary Mind" by Corey Robin. The book details the conservative mindset from the French Revolution to modern day conservatism. I'm into the meat and potatoes of the book where it describes the middle class conservative as someone who looks down on those below them because they have a fear of becoming one of them. They were much happier in the 1950s when the average white man was superior to those who were born with darker skin. They hate the government because it's an equalizer that has gone too far. That's why they don't object to the rich getting their tax cuts but will go into a frenzy when someone mentions the word "free."It got its start when President Reagan said “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” This is just the tip of the iceberg but it does give a little background.

I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say that the conservatives hate the Affordable Health Care Act, I was glued to the television the weekend healthcare was being passed. I saw the anger and the hate of those who opposed the legislation and I saw conservative lawmakers urging them on by waving the Gadsden Flag which bore the words " Don' Tread on Me." We all saw the town hall meetings where it was common to hear the words “I want my country back." Over half of the people protesting were on some kind of government program but they justified it by convincing themselves that they paid for every bit of their government benefits. For the politicians the act was another entitlement that their opponents could beat them on. The protester saw it as allowing those below them getting something” free” which might eventually make them lose a portion of their entitlements. The middle class conservatives saw it as another "affirmative action" like program that would further erode their benefit package and increase the price of their expensive health care insurance premiums.

The next round of anger came from the recent squabble between the church and the government over the “religious conscience exemption" but it was really about the word “free" in the distribution of contraceptives clause. It puts a dent in the church's argument that they will be paying for something that they morally object to. That's hypocritical on its face because many middle class conservative’s insurance policies cover contraception and they have never protested before. The conservative politicians jumped on this and tried to come up with legislation to allow all employees to opt out paying for something that they morally objected to. The politician's goal is to weaken the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) so it will be easier to repeal. There's not an accounting trick or language that will satisfy the religious entities who are opposed to this portion of the AHCA because they will always use the 6° of Kevin Bacon logic to justify their reasoning. A ruling by the courts will be the only solution.

The conservatives are not stupid, they know they have a fight on their hands because people like the fact that they can keep their older child on their healthcare policy and that their children will no longer be refused for pre existing conditions. They also know that they don't have a viable plan to replace the current one but their constituents don't seem to care. The only plans they have is the unpopular health savings accounts, tort reform, and being able to buy private insurance across state lines. Their best plan will only bring in 3 million new customers. Conservatives do not pay any attention to intangibles. They need to be able to carry a figure over 12 places, see it on a spreadsheet, or be able to actually touch it and feel it before they will believe it. They do not believe in preventative health care or wellness programs. I guess the 48,000 people that die because of a lack of a health insurance are just collateral damage. They don't believe that people that use the emergency room for "free" will add an average of $1000 to their yearly premium.

The bottom line is that we have to reduce the rising cost of health insurance, so we have to admit that we are an aging, obese, and out of shape country where older people are living longer. We all know that insurance companies are not going to tackle any of those problems, so in order for them to stay in business, they will have to raise their premiums.

As we should all know by now the "individual mandate" was originally a conservative idea because it's based on a conservative concept that everyone should pay something. Today it's a rallying cry for government intrusion, when in reality it's not even in force yet. The enforcement won't come until 2014 and the penalty for not having insurance is pretty vague as it is written. It won't be imposed on many but I know "it's the idea" and we will have that battle in the courts.
This is not to say that the American people are happy with the current Affordable Health Care because the USA Today poll, reported that 75 percent of Americans believe the new health-care law's individual mandate is unconstitutional. And if the Court doesn't throw Obama care out, Americans want Congress to do so: Half of voters want the law repealed, compared to 44 percent who want it retained. The conservatives have definitely won the message war but I don't think they can rest on their laurels.

Bottom line if you hate the AHCA; you are a conservative or at least you agree with them. I am not saying that they are right or wrong, I am just describing their mindset.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Corpus Christi getaway


Corpus Christi has always been our quick getaway destination of choice. It's a short trip and much like Victoria, it doesn't have the traffic congestion or the feeling of a large city like Houston or Austin. When we have more or make time, we would rather visit San Antonio, Houston or Austin.

I'm sure Corpus Christi has grown but I haven't seen it, downtown is still empty, and during the non summer season, it's pretty easy to get a four star hotel for a reasonable price. I liked the idea of going out to the beach; having a drink and watching the tide come in. Saturday, we made a decision to finally make a commitment to watch a Corpus Christi Hooks game this summer. It might become habit forming.

On the way back from Corpus Christi my wife ran out things to tell me I guess, because she started listening to her music, so as I was driving home and my mind started drifting. I started thinking of our past vacations and wondered why we always chose a specific destination. I then started wondering why we never visited the landmarks between Victoria and Corpus Christi. I noticed several historical markers as we approached Refugio but I can't remember them now. I wondered who owned those historical homes and why don't I know more about them. I started wondering how I would feel if I ever attend a Refugio Bobcat game. I wondered if I could catch up in all of the fan energy. It's possible because I remember a three game series in Chicago where we felt the Chicago Cub fever. Their fans love their" Cubbies" win or lose and they are very knowledgeable baseball fans.

I think we get complacent because our state has a lot of history and out of the way places where a family could enjoy themselves. We're lucky to be living in Victoria because it is indeed the crossroads where it's merely a 3 hour drive at the most, to a great place to visit. I remember several years ago, (the song will almost date it) an old army buddy called me from North Carolina because he and his family that were taking a Texas vacation. He wanted to see two things; the Alamo and China Grove, the latter because of the song about the city. He was pretty disappointed because I remember him saying that the Alamo was no bigger than the average size beer joint and he must have thought China grove was a metropolis. All in all, the Hemisphere Tower, River Walk, Governor's Palace, great Mexican food, a few margaritas and Tecates more than made up for his brief disappointment. He and his wife said they definitely would come back to Texas but next time, they wanted to see Luckenback, Texas but to my knowledge, they never did experience that disappointment.

I used to think an old timer was crazy when he used to tell us that the best vacations are the ones where you take the back roads. I've had some of those but it wasn't intentional, it was because we got lost. Oh those pre GPS days.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We're constantly playing Whac-A-Mole


I first became acquainted with that phrase when John McCain used to describe our efforts in Iraq that way. Today, it's about the constant social issues that keep coming up and won't go away.

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell had a segment on last night about a gay person being denied Holy Communion at the funeral services of her mother. As always, the priest announced that only church members in a “state of grace would be allowed to receive Holy Communion at the funeral mass for 85 year-old Loretta Johnson. When Loretta Johnson's gay daughter, Barbara Johnson,went up to receive the communion bread and wine, the priest put his hand over the body of Christ and looked up at her and said” I can't give you communion because you live with a woman and in the eyes of the church that is a sin.” The archdiocese of Washington D.C. Stated in their letter of apology; that the priest should've handled the issue privately without inflicting embarrassment on the daughter and those who were there to mourn the deceased. It should've never been made a spectacle.

If it would've ended there, it would not have been a story but doing the eulogy when daughter Barbara Jordan was speaking ,the priest made a spectacle of himself by walking off the altar in full view of the attendees. He later told the funeral director that he had a splitting headache and would not be able to conduct the burial services. I cannot imagine how I would feel if we were headed for the burial services expecting the rituals, which is one of the steps in the grieving process and instead being left with uncertainty. Thankfully, the funeral director was able to find a retired priest who had no qualms about fulfilling his duty.

As I said at the beginning, the Catholic Archdiocese issued a full apology  because the priest did not follow protocol. Father Marcel Guarnizo had to know the consequences of his actions. He took it upon himself to interpret the true intent of church dogma but failed to realize the embarrassment and even more grief he was putting on the family and friends of the deceased.

Today, I'm seeing our legislators enacting abortion laws as if we're having a serious abortion epidemic. Mississippi defeated a “person-hood bill” but that did not deter Alabama from producing one of their own  “person-hood” bill. I can’t remember what state it is (I believe it’s Virginia) where a woman can avoid the intrusive sonogram before she gets an abortion, if she can produce a police report. Can you imagine the thinking that went into making that exception? I remember during the health care squabble, when Senator Jon Kyl(R-AZ) did not think that he should be required to pay premiums to help finance maternity costs, since he has never needed maternity care. Senator Stabenow calmly observed, “I think your mom did.”

It’s not Christianity or religion that’s being put on trial here but it’s on those who interpret the true meaning of such.