Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 288

Circled Moon

A Halo for the Moon – 23rd January 2016 – Cincinnati, OH

My wife took this picture last Saturday night. We’ve never seen anything like this before – the moon enclosed in a perfect ring – a halo. A little bit of research led me to an explanation. The refraction (bending) and reflection of light by ice crystals in high cirrus clouds create the halo. This article at EarthSky explains – plus it has fabulous images.

An FYI: I saw this in Consumer Reports, and notice a difference. If you feel eye strain from your time on the computer, consider wearing UVEX Skyper glasses (available from Amazon).

We recently watched a fascinating episode about Iran on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown (CNN). The time was very well spent, and you can watch it on Vimeo. The recent release of journalist Jason Rezaian makes this episode even more compelling.

Last weekend we attended the latest Dancing With the Stars touring show. Wow – and they ever talented! Interesting how each dancer transforms their different physique into their own unique expression. Pros at this show were Peta, Sharna, Emma, Lindsay, Val, Keo, Artem, and extras Jenna, Alan, & Brittney – plus last season’s participant Alex Skarlatos. The way their stage set worked was awesome, but I’m bummed that I didn’t get to dance with Sharna.

Colors: The Musical is off to a good start. “Black” offered a long list of available songs – so many that I could have easily added a song in my responses (but my time was limited). Nonetheless, at the time of this writing, Act 1 contains over 30 songs. Well done! Information about Act 2’s theme and date will appear in next week’s OITS – however, the info will first appear on the Hear Ye page.

There will be an Explore this weekend about a person, place, or thing.

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I laugh and shake my head at the contradiction in something I frequently hear from candidates: We must return to the basics of the US Constitution, and then pass a balanced-budget amendment (or a term-limits amendment).

The latest Republican debate is airing at the time of this posting. In advance, there is a lot of buzz about Donald Trump (R-NY) skipping the event. Yawn.

A few weeks ago I stated the importance of the March 1 Republican primaries. With less than a week before the Iowa caucus, I believe the March 15th primaries are key to the Democratic race.

The concept of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg making an independent run for the White House got my attention. Then again, the odds of a perfect storm are remote, so I don’t think it will happen. Besides, a strong third-party candidate could cause the House of Representatives to determine the next US President – and I don’t trust that group!

In case you missed it, Tina Fey’s on the last SNL was awesome! (Watch here)

My normal fact check resources didn’t have information regarding the Democratic Town Hall event in Iowa … but CNN had one.

FactCheck.org (from the Annenberg Public Policy Center) put together a set of statistics gathered during President Obama’s term (20 January 2009 up to 12 January 2016).

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To lead you into your weekly dose of satire, The Onion explains how dating sites match their users.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Disney World opens new Ordeal Kingdom for family meltdowns
Boss wants friendly, relaxed company culture in place by Friday
Lazy, overweight cockroach no longer has segmented abdomen
90% of workplace injuries caused by bare-knuckle boxing
Breaking News: Some bullshit happening somewhere

Interesting Reads
Consumers and health-care shopping
Columnist David Ignatius about battling the Islamic State
The first person diagnosed with autism
A fun 3-minute quiz
Ten greatest military blunders of WW II
(Mainly images) The salt-flats of Bolivia

Time for a 2-fer with an Act 1-leftover of jazz (Diana Krall),  and popular rock (Police) to lead you into the weekend. 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. 286

As a wine enthusiast, this 15-second commercial for Ally Bank makes me laugh. (Not the best sound on this one) – but I don’t know why Ally Bank doesn’t post it on their YouTube channel.

After watching two current movies, I see a strong connection between two unlikely films – The Big Short and Concussion … and I recommend both films.

For those who enjoy a good fireworks display, I enjoyed the New Year’s display from London. Click here for a a fun 11 minutes.

Did you see the preview of the major announcement on the Hear Ye page?

The attacks this week in Istanbul and Jakarta are troubling. Unfortunately, I fear the world is going to be dealing with this problem for more years than we want … no matter what Washington does.

In order to quicken the pace on improving my handbell skills, I started practicing with the second choir at our church this week. Their music is easier, so I can work on my technique and get back to reading music. I see it as a boot camp to sharpen my skills for a few weeks.

There will be an Explore this weekend.

Thank you readers, especially those who don’t follow sports, for tolerating my vent on the previous post.

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The first 10 minutes of the State of the Union (SOTU) was on (while I was blogging) because my wife was watching. The partisanship of the event drives me nuts. I wish all the members in the audience would quietly and respectfully sit and listen from start to finish … but that’s asking a bit too much from our elected officials.

I’m glad President Obama included the partisan gridlock in the SOTU. (I read this portion of the transcript after seeing the news reports.) Although the Republican caucus makes it difficult, I openly wonder about the White House’s role in the obstruction.

For those thinking I only pick on Republicans, below are the fact-checks of President Obama’s State of the Union … here is the speech’s transcript … (and the fact checks) Politifact,  Annenberg Fact Check,  Associated PressWashington Post

As Donald Trump (R-NY) questions Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) citizenship, I say the Democrats should not address this issue now or in the future. Don’t stoop that low! Should the question be answered? Absolutely – but not by those with a political motive. I say the Republican Party should launch the initiative to determine the answer – but I very much doubt that will happen.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) needs votes, so he pouts and declines to participate in the lower-tier debate. Now that makes a lot of sense.

Speaking of Mr. Trump, I listened to much of two of his speeches. I encourage others to do so, but I won’t say why.

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To lead you into The Onion, here is their list of pros and cons regarding helicopter parenting.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Pope Francis Wearing Sweater Vestments He Got For Christmas (I like the picture)
Emotional NRA President honors victims of background checks
Minimalism Overdone
Study Links Binge Eating To Stress, Contentment, Depression, Joy, Boredom, Anger, Relaxation
New Survey Reveals Chicken-Fried Steak Leads Pork-Fried Pork As Nation’s Favorite Meat-Fried Meat

Interesting Reads
For the political junkies, a Republican’s view of the party’s 2016 options
A public-union case at the US Supreme Court
A short primer to understanding Islam (Thanks Jim W)
David Bowie’s life in pictures
Gene editing: the positives and negatives
In his own words: How a gym teacher invented basketball in 1891
Is China scared of ghost films?

Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On a Health Care Restart

President Obama addresses the nation and a joint session of Congress tonight about health care reform. I recently saw a poll showing 25% of Americans want Congress to start over health care legislation. So I ask “Why?” – Just so we can return to the same point of partisanship? So we can retrace Speaker Pelosi’s methodology on legislation? So we can continue to hear partisanship excuses? No thanks.

I have a novel idea – one that would be an innovative approach for Washington. Something that many Americans will appreciate – I said “many” because it is an approach that many partisans will not favor – but this approach could yield a meaningful solution. Instead of restarting the process, I suggest the Being Honest and Truthful approach to this important and complex issue.

Besides doing and saying whatever to make a point and get their way, our politicians (like us in life) misrepresent the facts by generalizing. Generalizations are broad summary-type statements that tend to be vague while appearing to by fact. Once one begins to generalize generalizations, the statement becomes further away from the truth.

Below are examples to support my point; and here are others from me, me again, and numerous statement regarding health care from PoltiFact Check.

Howard Dean (D, DNC)
“All the really great programs in American history, Social Security, were done without Republicans. Medicare was done without Republican support until the last vote where they realized they had to get on board.”
PolitiFact Rating: False, Explanation

Michael Steele (R, RNC)
“The Department of Veterans Affairs has “a manual out there telling our veterans stuff like, ‘Are you really of value to your community?’ You know, encouraging them to commit suicide.”
PolitiFact Rating: Pants on Fire, Explanation

Rush Limbaugh (R, Commentator)
“President Obama . . . wants to mandate circumcision.”
PolitiFact Rating: Pants on Fire, Explanation

Rep. John Boehner (R, OH)
“The health bill’s plan for comparative effectiveness research “would be used by the government to ration care.”
PolitiFact Rating: False, Explanation

President Obama (D)
“If we went back to the obesity rates that existed back in the 1980s, the Medicare system over several years could save as much as a trillion dollars.” PolitiFact Rating: False, Explanation

I recommending reading all the PolitiFact Check statements on health care reform to understand all the misconceptions that representatives from multiple sides are promoting.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center also provides fact-check information with Twenty-six Lies about H.R. 3200, clarification about government-funded abortions, a claim of additional breast cancer deaths,  a party-based claim about abolishing Medicare, big myths about health care, Michael Steele’s ad to seniors, a set of articles, and the FactCheck Wire with the latest updates.

On the Health Care Mess

The majority of Americans, those in the spectrum between the town hall cranks and automatic-accepting Democratic partisans, want accurate, useful information. With this in mind, why is the public confused about health care reform? Why has the discussion of this important issue turned away from meaningful dialogue?

Whether watching town hall meetings, listening to our elected officials, reading editorials, listening to talk show pundits, lobbying groups, special-interest groups, or relying on chain emails and bloggers, the public is receiving a lot of misinformation. Take your pick.

Sara Palin (Republican Activist)
“Seniors and the disabled “will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care.”
PolitiFact Rating – Pants on Fire; PolitiFact Comment – A sci-fi scenario not based on reality; PolitiFact Explanation

President Obama (D)
“I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter.”
PolitiFact Rating – False; PolitiFact Comment – Oh yes he did. PolitiFact Explanation

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)
“The Democrat-backed health care reform plan “will require (Americans) to subsidize abortion with their hard-earned tax dollars.”
PolitiFact Rating – False; PolitiFact Explanation

Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO)
“The Congressional Budget Office most recently came out and analyzed the current (health care) plan and said that it was not only deficit-neutral, but also that over 10 years it would create a $6 billion surplus.”
PolitiFact Rating – False; PolitiFact Explanation

Rep. Dan Lungren, (R-CA)
“President Barack Obama suggested on national TV that the Democratic health care bill ‘will have government decide’ that a healthy, 100-year-old woman in need of a pacemaker “should take a pain pill” instead.
PolitiFact Rating -False; PolitiFact Comment – Rep Lundgren is twisting the president’s words. PolitiFact Explanation

President Obama (D)
“If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
PolitiFact Rating -Half True; PolitiFact Comment – As long as your employer agrees. PolitiFact Explanation

Paul Krugman, Noble Prize Winning Economist
“During the 2005 fight over Social Security, “there were noisy demonstrations — but they were outside the events,” and opponents were “not disruptive — crowds booed lines they didn’t like, but that was about it.” PolitiFact Rating – False; PolitiFact Comment – They were raucous in 2005, inside and out. PolitiFact Explanation

Liberty Council: An organization advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family.
“Page 992 of the health care bill will “establish school-based ‘health’ clinics. Your children will be indoctrinated and your grandchildren may be aborted!”
PolitiFact Rating: Pants on Fire; PolitiFact Comment – Nothing in the bill like that.” PolitiFact Explanation

Investor’s Business Daily Editorial
“The health care reform bill — on Page 16 — outlaws private insurance.”
PolitiFact Rating & Comment: Pants on Fire; Comment- Misreading the legislation, then standing by it. Explanation

Chain E-Mail
“All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free health care services.”
PolitiFact Rating: Pants on Fire;  Explanation