Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 338

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Carefully observers have noticed that my posting has been a bit erratic and my responding to comments has been very slow. This has been primarily due to the time spent working on the situation of an out-of-town aunt. Thanks to all for being patient, understanding, and caring.

Phase 2 (of 3) in preparing an aunt’s house for sale is complete – so 3+ hour trips should not be as numerous as we enter Phase 3. Phase 2 was definitely the most critical and the most time-consuming .. and we proudly check that box!

I’m hoping November will be better for blogging (visiting and posting) than October.

A milestone: I’ve started the process of receiving Social Security and Medicare.

Blink Cincinnati was an unbelievable success. Hopefully several posts in the future.

Readers here know I enjoy posting about murals in Cincinnati – primarily the ones by ArtWorks. Here’s an article from the New York Times about public art. Thanks Raye!

It’s possible that the song below is the hardest handbell piece our choir has ever played. Our one-shot performance is approaching, so time will tell. “Mixed meter” is a musical term for a piece with different time signatures within the piece. This piece (the one we are playing) changes timing over 75 times. Now that plays havoc on my nerves.

Because this weekend marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, two related articles are in this week’s Interesting Reads.

This season of Dancing With the Stars continues to surprise me. Actor Jordan Fisher and musician Lindsey Stirling have been exceptional. Television personality Vanessa Lachey continues to shine. Actor Frankie Muniz, wrestler Nikki Bella, ESPN’s Victoria Arlen are solid, while Property Brother Drew Scott and athlete Terrell Own continue to improve.

Contrary to some partisans, the situation involving scumbag Harvey Weinstein is not a political issue.

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A tip of the cap to Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA for at least trying to develop a bipartisan agreement regarding the Affordable Care Act – even co-sponsored by 24 senators. Another proposal from a bipartisan group on the House side faces similar obstacles: a group representing slightly less than 10% of the House of Representatives.

I have no problem with a Congressional committee investigating the sale of US uranium mines to Russians ONCE – not over and over – not as a dragged-on affair trying to find something that isn’t – not as a political witch hunt.

I liked this question regarding North Korea and nuclear weapons: Would you rather live with North Korea having nuclear weapons or have thousands killed in the name of stopping North Korea from having weapons?

After 9 months in office, President Trump uses the following strengths to lead the country: bolivating, exaggerating, lying, blaming, defecting, distorting, denying, ignoring, fabricating, and dividing. Cheers to this CNN commercial about two popular fruits.

Erick Erickson is definitely a conservative, but I appreciate his words about the way President Trump is reacting to the crisis in Puerto Rico.

But sometimes the President should be Presidential and getting in the mud is not. The people of Puerto Rico are hungry, thirsty, homeless, and fearful. They won’t hear a lot about President Trump’s twitter fight and it won’t matter to him because they cannot participate in the Electoral College. It should matter to all of us though that the President is so willing to get in the mud and fight back when the mayor and everyone else in Puerto Rico need our empathy and compassion. Sometimes the President just does not need to dial-up the jackass and sometimes he does not need to be defended.

Cheers to recent comments by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ) for having the guts to call it like it is. Then again, that’s a meager minority.

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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion provides tips for organizing a protest.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
New evidence reveals Pythagoras wrote dozens of unhinged conspiracy theories about triangles
Romantic gesture too expensive to waste on current girlfriend
Nation demands more slow-motion footage of running basset hounds
Article nauseous from constant scrolling
Self-conscious panda swears it overheard zookeeper refer to it as “Giant”
Historians discover meditation spread from Ancient China by annoying monk who wouldn’t shut up about how it changed his life

Interesting Reads
Martin Luther and Literacy
Robots and ethics: teachable?
Odd pet behaviors
Historical aspects of doughnuts
Martin Luther’s impact
(Photos) British Press Photographer Awards

For your weekend entertainment, hooray for an early contribution from the Fab Four. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

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Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 328

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We have an interesting handbell piece on the docket for this weekend. It’s not easy, so it will be interesting to see if we hit it. Here’s a recording.

Our church purchased a new organ. A side note is that the organ is the first produced by a local (Cincinnati) company. In order to promote their product, the company sponsored a concert featuring a distinguished organist – Christoph Bull from UCLA. Wow … he impressed us – so for those who enjoy organ music, here is one of his videos.

Christians are early in the season of Lent. Interestingly, here’s an article about using digital technology for Lenten reflections.

Here’s a look at the lighter side. Enjoy this almost 2 minute trip with a skier going around town.

This is fun. The Atlantic creates a timeline based on a birthday. Here’s the link so you can try it.

Cincinnati and Xavier are two college basketball programs that are competitive, respectful, and regularly in the tournament. These two schools are separated by 3.5 miles (5.6 k). Interestingly, Northern Kentucky University is only 11 miles (18 km) from the most northern (XU), and they will definitely will have a spot on the brackets to be announced on Sunday. So will Cincinnati, and maybe Xavier.

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When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2009, I saw it as a start with hopes that Congress would work out the problems that would arise. Both parties have greatly failed doing that. Now it appears the same thing will happen, just with the other side of the aisle – meaning Congress remains selfish and clueless.

Comparing the ACA with the proposed replacement is a prime example of how Democrats have a tendency to over-regulate while Republicans under-regulate.

Although many have grumbled at the replacement plan, I haven’t heard the insurance industry issuing angst – which means a reason to question the plan.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is enjoying a ratings boost due to his relentless anti-Trump rants during his monologue. We watch (live or recorded) because he’s good for a laugh.

People who regularly watch the nightly opinion-oriented shows on cable news networks are not only feeding their bias, but are also driving themselves into a frenzy – and neither is good for America.

Former President Obama’s Five Faults of the Week
Above normal temperature this past winter
Not placing a phone tap on Trump Tower phones
North Korea continuing to bomb the sea
My alma mater approaching 50 years without making the NCAA basketball tournament
Wikileaks, WikiPooPoo ,PeePeeLeaks, leaks and leeks

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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion offers the pros and cons for a two-party political system.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
God getting strong urges to bring dinosaurs back
Study finds exposure to violent children causes increased aggression in video game characters
Pope Francis spotted sunbathing nude in St. Peter’s Square
Carhartt introduces rugged work throng (A pic doe those who dare to look)
Lemur fantasizes about ripping face off of next dumbshit who calls it a monkey

Interesting Reads
How smoothies delay hunger
How to eat like a Viking
Fall of the Romanovs
Giving up sugar: Lent and the brain
5 future technologies that got real in 2016
Norba and the Romans
(Gallery) A celebration of photography

Here’s another oldie from Huey Lewis and the News to send you into the weekend. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On Businesses and the ACA

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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.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 252

This week was the fifth year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since then, the White House and its departments did a lousy job educating the public, and Congress has done absolutely nothing to improve the ACA. On the other hand, nothing is something Congress does well. Cheers to Ron Fournier for this National Journal article.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) declared his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. I smiled at the announcement because I continue to say his nomination is exactly what the Republican party needs. Maybe I should endorse him.

During the first three months of their Congressional majority, Republicans have not shown me that they can lead.

Have you ever seen the International Space Station fly overhead? Thanks to Jim in Iowa, here’s a website to determine when that happens in your area.

The leading thought was that college basketball player Lauren Hill wouldn’t see Christmas. Well, she did … and New Years Day … and Valentine’s Day … and St. Patrick’s Day. Although she may be struggling, she is a fighter and her attitude remains positive.

Did you realize I’m mentioned in Lorna’s video?

For the sidebar, I followed Catherine’s suggestion of displaying the blogger’s location with a rollover. See yours if it’s correct, and let me know if you want me to change it. I need help with List of X.

No Saturday Morning Cartoon this weekend, but an edition of the Explore series is ready – thus you can wonder if it will be a person, place, or thing.

Meals: The Musical debuts next week, and I’m side-stepping my normal protocol. Act 1: Meals will feature songs with any of the following words in the title: Meal(s), Breakfast, Lunch, Lunchtime, Brunch, Dinner, Dinnertime, or Supper. More about the debut on the next Monday Morning Entertainment.

To lead you into The Onion, here’s a week in pictures.

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On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion

  • Report: Employees most innovative when brainstorming dramatic quitting scenarios
  • Man filled with gratitude at sight of other customers in nice restaurant wearing jeans
  • Study: Not many Disco songs about daytime
  • New speech recognition software factors in user’s mouth always being full
  • Siblings playing tense game of chicken to decide who takes care of mom
  • Michael Dukakis still drives old tank everywhere

Interesting Reads

Your Weekend Celebrations

  • (Weekend) Crossword Puzzle Days, Listening Weekend
  • (Fri) Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day, Joe Day, Corkscrew Appreciation Day,Celebrate Exchange Day, Viagra Day, Spanish Paella Day, Kite Flying Day, Photography Day, Steam Fire Engine Day, Education & Sharing Day
  • (Sat) Barnum & Bailey Day, Be Mad Day, Virtual Advocacy Day, Weed Appreciation Day, Earth Hour, Black Forest Cake Day, Something on a Stick Day, Hot Tub Day, Eat an Eskimo Pie Day, Children’s Picture Book Day
  • (Sun) Vietnam Veterans Day, Mom & Pop Business Owners Day, Niagara Falls Runs Dry Day, Love Your Children Day, Lemon Chiffon Cake Day, Coca Cola Day

To send you into the weekend, here’s a relatively recent video of a classic from the 1979 album Breakfast in America – enjoy Supertramp’s Take the Long Way Home. 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. 222

On Politics
In his initial campaign, President Obama pledged to get the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan … and he has moved accordingly. Therefore, the stress on the Veterans Administration (VA) should not be a surprise.

On the other side of the coin, as Congressional Republicans aim to politicize the VA situation, let us not forget they are the ones who wouldn’t expand VA funding without cutting other programs to pay for the expansion.

I said this after the 2008 election, and it’s a good time for it again. I wish President Obama would appoint Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to lead the VA … and then overhaul the organization.

Here’s is an interesting article by columnist George Will regarding the 2016 presidential election.

The Affordable Care Act’s “employer mandate” continues to bother me, thus maybe why I found this article interesting.

Although Cincinnati is in Ohio, Kentucky is across the river … which means Cincinnati television stations broadcasts into Kentucky. The senate race between Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) may be the most expensive senate campaign in history (which means the Ohio side of the river will get to see many campaign ads.) According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, most of the campaign money (to date) has come from outside Kentucky: 86% (McConnell), 75% (Grimes).

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Wise oracle proclaims at barbecue that he felt a raindrop
Elderly man hailed as alert
Study: Human ability to cooperate most strongly exhibited when ordering pizza
Woman confusingly tells man she’s not interested in him
Modernized space camp allows kinds to simulate frustration over lack of funding

Interesting Reads
China and its rare-earth elements
Quack medical devices
Pew Research Center about views of evolution
A book review: James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney
Video about bacon’s smell

Two from Bloggers
Dark Side of a Kiss
Who Owns the North Pole

On Potpourri
I got so behind on replying to comments, Wednesday morning I responded to almost 50 overdue comments. Shame on me!

GrailvilleLast weekend we stopped by Local Fest, a festival featuring locally grown and made products by local vendors. It was at Grailville, a retreat and educational center … and amazingly, they have over 300 acres of land. (What a peaceful view in the midst of suburbia.) Their mission statement states, Called by our spiritual values, The Grail envisions a world of peace, justice and renewal of the earth, brought about by women working together as catalysts for change.

Being this is Vol. 222 of this Friday series, I’m reminded of a television show from the early 1970s. Does anyone remember Room 222? Of course, I do because I had a crush on Karen Valentine – click for a video.

No Saturday Classic Cartoon post this weekend, but I may have a Saturday post (if I complete it).

Your weekend celebrations

  • (Fri) Mint Julep Day, My Bucket has a Hole in It Day
  • (Sat) What You Think Upon Grows Day, Macaroon Day, No Tobacco Day
  • (Sun) Heimlich Maneuver Day, Say Something Nice Day, Go Barefoot Day, Oscar the Grouch Day, Global Day of Parents, Children’s Awareness Memorial Day, Stand for Children Day, Cancer Survivors Day, Hazelnut Cake Day, Fisherman’s Memorial Day

To send you into the weekend, here’s The Alan Parsons Project with Games People Play. 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. 215

On Politics
I find it interesting how former Florida Governor. Jeb Bush’s name has been receiving much attention of late as the frontrunner-for-the-moment regarding the Republican presidential candidacy in 2016.

Recent comparisons of President Obama to President Johnson (LBJ) confuses me.

This Pew Research Center poll provides interesting data about feelings regarding the Affordable Care Act. Although many citizens may have concerns about the law, while one party focuses on its repeal, the other party defends it – thus there doesn’t seem to be much interest in Congress to improve it.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Forbes release 2014 list of most-punchable CEOs
Spider invasion leads to Mazda recall
Alcohol unfairly blamed for local man’s impaired judgment
FedEx confirms more than 600,000 people try to mail themselves each year
Landmark Supreme Court decision lets American cram cash directly into politicians’ mouths

This is not from The Onion, but because Friday is Barbershop Quartet Day, here’s a mid-post dash of humor that’s not for the easier offended. As a time saver, start at 50 seconds.

Interesting Reads
Sweden, Finland, Russia, and NATO
Geopolitics of Energy
Brain waves and tango dancers (Thanks Elyse)
Extinct musical instruments
An LA native spent 4 days in Cincinnati and posted about it
The USS Thresher
Trent’s post about bloggers losing followers

On Potpourri
This week we get an old office chair out with the garbage. Once I heard the garbage truck outside, I looked out the window to see if they took the chair. To my surprise, it was in the street, but in front of my neighbor – so I watched … and then discovered that one of the two workers would sit in the chair and hold on to the truck as the other drove to the next building.

This post by Khamillion is very moving. It’s a short read with awesome images, so I encourage you to visit. Thanks to Cayman (@Drinks Well with Others) for directing me there.

For those who enjoy unique architecture, Cathy (@LargeSelf) shared this link featuring images of the expansion at the Denver Art Museum.

If I can get my act together, I’m hoping Life: The Musical returns next week.

Get ready! … The next post marks the return of Saturday Morning Classic Cartoons!

Here are your weekend celebrations

  • (Weekend) Youth Service Days
  • (Fri) Barbershop Quartet Day, Day of Silence, Education & Sharing Day, Louie Louie Day, Pet day, Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Day, Eight-track Tape Day
  • (Sat) Licorice Day, Big Wind Day, Walk on the Walk Side Day, Slow Art Day, Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, Human Space Flight Day, Drop Everything and Read Day, Look Up in the Sky Day
  • (Sun) Scrabble Day, Baby Massage Day, Peach Cobbler Day

Given the celebrations, two classic songs equally qualify as worthy to send you into the weekend. Because both are worthy of high praise, I will put them in chronological order. Enjoy, have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Louie, Louie (The Kingsmen, 1963)

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Walk on the Wild Side (Lou Reed, 1972)

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 214

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On Politics
Cincinnati is in the final six for hosting the 2016 Republican convention. Given Ohio’s swing-state status and the fact that no Republican has never won the White House without winning Ohio, odds are good that the GOP will reward either my city or Cleveland.

Here’s one thing I find in common with the four Congressional leaders (Boehner, Pelosi, McConnell, and Reid). Whenever they have a new conference, I change the channel – which is what I also do with White House spokesperson Jay Carney’s daily briefings.

At the time of the passing the law, I told a friend (and reader here) that the abortion clause in the Affordable Care Act should have been something Democrats gave up. Now, we await word from the US Supreme Court regarding the Hobby Lobby challenge.

This week the US Supreme Court ruled (McCutcheon v. FEC) that money is a form of free speech regarding campaign contributions. I can accept this under two conditions: 1) No tax-exempt status for Political Action Groups, and 2) Identification/disclosure of donors and amounts – thus increasing transparency.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Parents reminisce to children about dating algorithm that brought them together
Lowly mortal opens portal to Hell
Mom leaves sweet little note for sixth grader in ADD prescription bottle
Levi’s factory implicated in cruel treatment of denim cows
Study finds majority of non-shark-related fears completely unjustified
New law requires Richard Gere to personally inform residents when he moves into a new neighborhood

Bonus Onions

Interesting Reads
Reforming political polarization from Brookings Institute (Link to abstract with download)
Columnist Ruth Marcus on a budget item
A view about dealing with Russia
Map animation of Europe between the two World Wars
Learning and pseudoscience

On Potpourri
This past Wednesday was Autism Awareness Day; and April is Autism Awareness Month. Here’s an article about the brains of autistic children.

I wonder this question about Vladimir Putin’s move regarding Crimea and Ukraine: Is he a good chess player or are his actions out of political necessity?

As the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Northwestern University athletes being able to unionize, I wonder if colleges should offer “Sports” as a major.

Erin Andrews, the new Dancing with the Stars co-host, does much better than previous host Brooke Burke-Charvet.

My wife and I celebrated our 37th anniversary this week with a wonderful dinner at Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant.

I moved a few bloggers to my sidebar, and several onto the More Bloggers page. From the sidebar, checkout Claudine, Cindy, Dreamwalker, Hudson, List, Mind Margins, Pauline, and Trent. I hope to move a few more very soon.

Here are your weekend celebrations

  • (Weekend) Mule Days
  • (Fri) Walk to Work Day, Stray Animals Day, Vitamin C Day, Rat Day, Blame Someone Else Day, Chocolate Milk Powder Day, Cordon Bleu Day, Square Root Day
  • (Sat) Deep Dish Pizza Day, Pillow Fight Day, Tangible Karma Day, Every Day is Tag Day, Rubber Eraser Day, Dandelion Day, Caramel Day, and Raisin & Spice Day
  • (Sun) New Beers Eve, Hostess Twinkie Day, Tartan Day, Teflon Day, Caramel Popcorn Day, Free Tomato Day, Sorry Charlie Day

Here’s a classic gold song from the past to send you into the weekend – Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress (The Hollies). Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.