Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 269

Candidate #16 in my governor, John Kasich (R-OH). No candidate profile for Governor Kasich yet, but candidate #17 is rumored to be on the horizon.

Given so many candidates seeking the Republican nomination, I believe all the candidates should get ample debate time – thus I favor at least one format that hasn’t been suggested – in groups of four – such as Group 1) Bush, Paul, Graham, Perry – Group 2) Trump, Carson, Christie, Pitaki – Group 3) Rubio, Huckabee, Jindal, Fiorina – Group 4) Walker, Cruz, Santorum, Kasich

This editorial headline from the Des Moines Register made me smile: Trump should pull the plug on his bloviating side-show. See for yourself.

If and when The Bloviator withdraws from the race, I predict he will do so in grand style – such as, El Chapo has threatened his family.

Cheers to GOP candidates Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rick Perry (R-TX) for aggressively bashing The Bloviator – but jeers to Marco Rubio (R-FL) for equating Trump’s behavior to a “classless” President Obama. Sorry Senator Rubio, but your classless comment registered a severe black mark against you that will be difficult to erase by this independent.

David Ignatius (Washington Post) is one of the most respected columnists specializing in foreign policy. Here’s one of his columns about the Iranian Nuclear Pact.

Cheers to the US and Cuba reopening their respective embassies. Now I await Congress to screw it up.

The video below is a commercial for a website for people who rent lodging. To me, this is a thought-provoking message. Plus their message about kindness in the notes on YouTube is worth reading. (To read, click here)

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of meet and spend time with two bloggers who have visited here: Ginger Snaap & El Guapo (along with TMWGITU). We had a fabulous time, but the pleasure was all mine. My meeting bloggers count leaped to three.

The blogging series continues to be a success, but only one more to go. On a side note, the last one (Posting & Frequency) was a post without fanfare – number 1700, which means this post is #1702.

Only one act remains in Meals: The Musical … and preliminary information is on the Hear Ye page.

The Explore series continues on Saturday featuring a wonderful video about a person, place, or thing.

To lead you into The Onion, they offer these tips for getting cheaper airfare.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Toddler unsettled by whatever possessed her to bite friend’s face
Lesser piece of paper used to test pen’s viability
Man sadly realizes his one bedroom apartment large enough to host party with all his friends
Leonardo DiCaprio agrees to donate “It Factor” to science
Four hours scrolling through Facebook before bed referred to as “winding down”

Interesting Reads
10 things you didn’t know about the first moon landing
Pew Research Center study about Americans, politics, and science issues
Chimney climbing
Mosquito’s technique of finding something to bite 
Hot summer around the world (Photo gallery)

For many of us in the northern hemisphere, here’s a song for a hot summer night. For my friends below the equator, summer is on the way. Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 266

Last week I wrote this: Numerous southern families support flying the Confederate Battle Flag because they have ancestors who fought under that flag. OK … so why isn’t the Nazi flag flown at the cemeteries for World War II German soldiers? I know that Nazi analogies are often in poor taste, my statement was by no means equating the Nazis to anything in the US Civil War. Flags are symbols, and my intention focused on the flags. I apologize to anyone offended by the question.

Statues of Confederate soldiers in public places are getting scrutinized and even defaced. To me, that’s absolutely absurd. Here’s an interesting Washington Post article about Confederate symbols.

Burning African-American churches? Hey South Carolina – you have a problem!

The recent court rulings offered more examples of Republicans proclaiming a return to the Constitution except when they want to change it. Meaning, the recent rulings have also provided many the opportunity to demonstrate that smart people can say and do stupid things – especially when pandering for votes.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (aka The Truth Teller) may be the King of Hyperbole. As the US Supreme Court went against his views twice in a short span, Cruz stated, Today is some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history. Meanwhile, he describes (in his book) fact-checking as yellow journalism. Here’s an article from USA Today.

Speaking of Texas, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the top law-enforcement official in the state, is encouraging clerks, magistrates, and other officials who object same-sex marriage to not issue the marriage license.

The New York Times did this outstanding 13-minute video about the story that led to the US Supreme Court ruling. (Thanks Lame)

Given some conservatives are squawking about Chief Justice Roberts, this read is about Roberts’ consistency.

In my opinion, and time will tell, the recent ruling says nothing or even implies that churches are required to perform a marriage ceremony involving LGBT. Some have, some will, and some won’t.

Gov. Chris Christie became the 14th Republican seeking the presidency. (I foresee at least 2 more.) He’s a good example of it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Yep – the importance of speaking with conviction can cause others to not notice what is said. No profile from The Onion … Yet!

President Obama announced the intent for Cuba and the USA to open respective embassies. The next step is up to Congress – Oh boy! Given the 2016 election, this could be interesting.

The economic situation in Greece is troubling, yet complex. The heart aches for the Greek people.

Congratulations Missy Copeland on her accomplishment … and cheers to the American Ballet Theater for the historic decision.

I enjoy Enya’s music. I stumbled across this pleasing video to one of her songs. For other Enya fans, enjoy The Memory of Trees (which is good waltz music).

Desserts is the theme for Act 7 of Meals: The Musical. One note of caution: Because they had their own act, beware of using “fruits” or any fruit as they had their own act. (EX) Blueberry Hill is not acceptable because the dessert is not identified; but Blueberry Pie or Blueberry Ice Cream would be acceptable. Curtain time is this Wednesday, 7:30 pm (Eastern US)

For those who will post the entire story on their blog (with their ending), the revised story (without an ending) is on the Challenge page to copy. The Dance Challenge date Sunday, July 12th, 9:30 pm (Eastern US). … Feel free to promote the challenge!

This is a holiday weekend in the US, so no Saturday post from me. Happy Fourth of July, America.

To lead you into The Onion, here’s their mass extinctions timetable.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Boss’s clout evaporates after he’s seen in shorts at company picnic
Study: U.S. wastes 2 million hours annually figuring out where tape roll begins
Man commits to new TV show just hours after getting out of 7-season series
Family enters crisis talks after discovering restaurant has 45-minute wait
Only predictor of happy marriage is if husband won wife big stuffed animal at amusement park

Interesting Reads
Slavery, states rights, civil rights, and a flag
A year as a nudist
How the turtle got its shell
Endangered places is America
Mushrooms and weight reduction
Yes, photos of a crow landing on an eagle

To send you into the weekend, here’s a touch of Motown from years gone by, Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 262

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) loves to imply that the NSA gathering meta phone data is unconstitutional. Two points: 1) Only courts declare constitutionality (not senators, interest groups, or citizens) and 2) the panel of judges ruled the collection was illegal based on the limits of the law because the law didn’t authorize the NSA collection – so, the court did not rule the data collection unconstitutional. (ACLU vs. Clapper). Yes, another example of a politician pandering for votes with incorrect and misleading information that people believe.

For the record, I have no problem with the NSA gathering meta phone data (including mine) if it would have been in the original law. In the end, a rare bipartisan agreement got something done to replace the old Patriot Act with the USA Freedom Act, which clarifies the data collection.

Bush (FL), Jindal, (LA), Christie (NJ), Walker (WS), Kasich (OH), Huckabee (AR), and Pataki (NY) are current or former state governors and have either announced or are expected to announce their candidacy to seek the Republican presidential nomination. All but Bush and Kasich denounce the Common Core education standards. Three interesting points:

  1. Most previously supported the Common Core standards before they were against it
  2. Federal intrusion/overreach is a common reason
  3. These standards were not developed by the Feds, but were driven by governors and state leaders (and the majority of states are controlled by Republicans) … and now you know.

After hearing the news about the recent Biden family news, I was wondering which Republican would make a stupid comment. Congratulations to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). I maintain he planned it, practiced it, and purposely said it to a base that will laugh, and then it backfired. After all, politicians do that all the time. To be fair, at least he apologized. But come on, he or none of his advisers thought of the situation?

Given the wide swath of current and potential Republican candidates and the dilemma that causes around the debates, I say put them in groups of 4-5. After all, should the people get a fair chance to see all of them? Besides, this field has much more to offer than the 2012 group.

ESPN is giving their Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlyn Jenner, not Lauren Hill.

I applaud Jennifer Lopez’s support for the Children’s Miracle Network. In the commercial below, I find something quite odd near the end when she says, Put your money where the miracles are (while raising her hand.) Watch below, but seeing the still is enough. What do you think?

If you were given the Stupid Test, would you rather pass it or fail it? Why?

Even though I didn’t expect much this season, following my Cincinnati Reds has been painful.

For those who need a touch on the retired Monday Morning Entertainment, this one from Weird Al Yankovic cracks me up. Thanks Cayman!

Earlier this week I realized that with the post about June was my 12th in the series, (whereas I thought it was my 10th). Therefore, I doubt they will continue, so maybe I’ll move on to saluting the days of the week.

It’s time for a drink as Meals: The Musical returns next week, so all song titles must include a nonalcoholic drink in the song title. (Hmmmm … Any idea about what Act 7’s theme?) One caution: Make sure no alcohol is also in the title. (EX: Rum & Coke is not acceptable) Curtain time will be Wednesday, 9:30 pm (Eastern US).

I updated the Schedule page to reflect the latest changes, which include weekdays Monday/Tuesday and Wednesday/Thursday.

The Explore series continues this weekend.

This week gave us two new presidential candidates, thus The Onion provides their profiles: former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Former governor and senator Lincoln Chafee (D-RI) and Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) also declared, but no profile yet. Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) will announce on June 15th.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Heartless monster walks out of local small business without buying anything
Parents worried children old enough to remember family vacation
Man at party comes crawling back to conversation he thought he could do better than
Pigeon that flew into subway going to need all his wits to get out of this one
Nation’s single men announce plan to change bedsheets by 2019
College allowing students individual commencement speakers to make ceremony acceptable for all

Interesting Reads
France honoring the Resistance heroes
Human migration
Genetics, breeding, and cows
Suspected spy pigeon
Death penalty in the US
A look at war from an insightful veteran and blogger who visits here 

To to send you into the weekend, a toast to June being Accordion Month – not with a polka, but actually a good version of a Lady Gaga hit for the ballroom floor. Which ballroom dance can you picture? Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On Businesses and the ACA

I appreciate the basic premises of the Affordable Care Act: the mandate for individual coverage and an insurance company inability to deny coverage to individuals with a pre-existing condition. Therefore, I look for these two points in any amendment or replacement.

There’s no question about the following:

  • Rising cost of health care insurance to all – including companies and individuals
  • Given a global economy, the company’s expense burden of healthcare insurance for employees is a burden many non-US competitors may not incur
  • The ACA requires employers (based on the number of employees) to provide healthcare insurance to employees
  • Over the past 10+ years, US employees have accepted an increasing cost burden of healthcare insurance

To me, the ACA’s employer mandate is an example of an unnecessary mandate and government overreach. Then again, given the Democratic majority that passed this law, I see it as another example of Democrats trying to do too much.

I offer a suggestion, and one that employees won’t like – but businesses would love. The Republicans won’t like it either because they couldn’t accept the two key points that I stated at the beginning. It’s also doubtful that Democrats would embrace the idea because it would amend what they created and they are less likely to pass the burden to individuals. In other words, it’s time to look outside the box.

Note: For the sake of this post, employees refers to full-time employees, which I define as those working 35 hours per week or more.

  1. Congress passes legislation to remove the employer mandate, thus companies have no obligation to provide healthcare insurance to employees.
  2. Therefore, given the ACA’s individual mandate, it is each individual’s responsibility to get healthcare insurance.
  3. In collective bargaining situations, the union and employer may negotiate coverage. If so, the burden of the negotiated coverage on the company and the employee is only with the employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) (which is existing labor law).
  4. Outside of theCBA, employers would be
    1. under no obligation to provide healthcare insurance or Health Saving Account (HSA) benefits
    2. If the company provides any benefit of healthcare insurance or HSA to any employee, all employees not covered by the CBA receive the same package without exception. (That is, if the CEO gets something special, the same goes to all employees.)
    3. If the company decides to provide a fixed amount to all employees to go toward the cost of the employee’s healthcare benefits, that’s OK as long as the amount is the same for all.
  5. If a person chooses not to purchase healthcare insurance, they are fined at a price that is higher than the cost of insurance.
  6. Determining how to fund a tax credit for individual purchases would be a noble cause.

Yes, this would level the playing field for US companies in the global marketplace – and smart companies would boost salaries. On the other hand, the action amplifies another problem – the people of the US would be carrying a burden that other citizens in primary markets throughout the world don’t have – thus, a dilemma remains.

On a Congressional Budget

The 114th US Congress (435 Representatives and 100 Senators) is now in session. With Republicans controlling both chambers, it will be interesting to see how their relationship with a Democratic president unfolds.

Republicans love to champion a decrease in spending – of course, they do so while protecting their sacred cows and attacking the Democratic sacred cows. To me, one way the Republicans can legitimize decreased spending and promote their smaller government mantra (plus gain favor with the public) is by significant decreasing funding of their own operation – the budget for operating Congress. (I know, fat chance of that.)

For those that don’t know, the cost of operating Congress is about $1.7 billion per year. In the chart below, I examine salaries, staffing, and office expenses for each office and the Congressional committees.

Note: For the ease of understanding and calculations, I rounded figures

Note: For the ease of understanding and calculations, I rounded figures

The savings represent over $54,000,000. On the other hand, it’s only 3% of the Congressional operating budget. Nonetheless, it’s a start, which means there is more room to cut even more.

Hey Congress, when you are done looking at yourself, reforming the procurement process can deliver mega-savings – but I know, you won’t do that either. OK – back to your sacred cows.

On the U.S. Situation

I imagine most Americans are tired of the news about Congress and its antics regarding shutdown and sequester. I also imagine the rest of the world is a bit annoyed as well. Therefore, it’s time to do some basic informing.

The Facts
1) According to the US Constitution, Congress (not the President/Executive Branch) is responsible for fiscal matters, including the budget. Because of the balance of powers in the Constitution, the President can sign or veto the budget bill passed by Congress.

2) According to the US Constitution, the government can operate at a debt, which it has been since the mid 1970s. This is something that many (if not most or even all) state and municipal constitutions do not allow. For the record, the biggest holder of US debt is the US Government itself – not China.

3) Debt and deficit are different, but related. The negative differential in one fiscal year between income and spending is the deficit, while the debt is the cumulative total of annual deficits.

4) Sequester was not a presidential mandate. As part of the Congress-passed, president-signed Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress agreed to form a Super Committee that would produce legislation to reduce the deficit by a fixed amount over ten years. Failure to reach an agreement would initiate pre-determined, automatic cuts known as sequestration.

5) The Super Committee failed in their task, and Congress continues to pass (and president signs) short-term legislation to delay sequestration and raising the debt ceiling – thus choosing to kick the can down the road rather than addressing the issue.

6) The debt ceiling allows government to pay for the bills for goods and services that the government has already authorized to spend. Because the government would still have income, failing to raise the debt ceiling forces the government to prioritize payments (as long as money exists to pay).

Commentary
Although polls have the darkest clouds hanging over Republicans, favorable ratings are not brightly shining on Democrats and President Obama. In the end, US lawmakers are skirting their responsibility of governing for the citizens in favor of the selfishness of their party and themselves. Members will evade, distort, deceive, intentionally misinform, and even lie to get their way. Each party targets certain budgetary items and protects others. Each party has its members firmly in line with a party-first mantra.

The Founding Fathers designed a system with differences from our European forefathers and one involving a separation of powers to prevent one-party domination. Although the majority rules in government, governing involves the majority giving something to the minority as part of the final deal – and that same minority willing to take what they can get.

Currently, this is unquestionably not happening. Partisan lawmakers believe all answers lie within their philosophy while the other party has nothing to offer. Creative problem solving that looks outside of both boxes has no chance.

I fret a future election cycle when one party controls the White House and both sides of Capitol Hill because the stage is set for a strong overreach that forces the party’s values upon all. Given the current climate, the question isn’t if, but when.

Flashbacks: On Politics

Sports and politics are the main topics when I started this blog. As the sidebar shows, I broadened my posting interest since the early days – however, politics as maintained a presence. Enjoy, visit as many as you want, and I hope you comment on the post you visited.