Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 260

Generally avoiding questions by Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is an interesting strategy. I wonder if it will cost her votes in the long run. Then again, there is plenty of time.

At least three more Republicans could very soon be joining the fray of seeking the nomination: Sen.Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and former Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) … and more are on the way. It also appears former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md) will be announcing on the Democratic side.

Fox News and CNN recently announced their selection criteria for the early Republican presidential debates. Although CNN has a Segment B for additional candidates, I would like to see a debate with the top 5 candidates being excluded.

Politico is a popular and reputable online news source about US politics. They recently expanded into Europe at politico.eu.

Speaking of Politico, here’s a gallery for political junkies about political guests with David Letterman.

This is interesting: A conservative economist and member of the Reagan White House explains how he believes Fox News hurts Republicans. For those wanting to know more, click here.

Here’s an excellent report by CNN about surveillance over the South China Sea.

Speaking of China, I want to know if one can read this blog in mainland China. Do you have any connections that can answer my burning question?

Attention bacon lovers. US bacon prices are 25% lower than a year ago.

It’s Memorial Day weekend – a 3-day weekend – the official start of summer vacation season- the Indianapolis 500 – parades, ceremonies, 21-gun salutes, pools open, picnics, outdoor activities, and more.

I thought the Dancing With the Stars Finals show was very entertaining … and Sharna Burgess was on every week. Cheers to Season 20!

Meals: The Musical returns next week, so I’ll announce the theme on the next Monday Morning Entertainment.

There will be a Saturday post as the Explore series resumes.

To lead you into this week’s headlines from The Onion, here’s their pros and cons about raising the minimum wage.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Anthropologists discover Ancient Greek Super PAC that helped shape first democracy
One year old still waiting for father’s first words
God realizes he forgot to put souls in humans
Child visits Ellis Island to see where grandparents once toured
McDonald’s reintroduces Hamburgler as attractive suburban dad

Interesting Reads
Cyber-archaeology saving relics
Islam and feminism
Photo gallery honoring BB King
Trains: driven by drivers or engineers
Columnist Roger Cohen’s thoughts about living in Italy
Smartphones and personal medicine

Your Weekend Celebrations
(Weekend) Mudbug Madness Days, Polka Weekend, Old-Time Player-Piano Days

(Fri) Toothpaste Tube Day, Buy a Musical Instrument Day, Don’t Fry Day, Vanilla Pudding Day, Canadian Immigrants Day, Harvey Milk Day, Heat Awareness Day, Biological Diversity Day, Maritime Day, Goth Day, Title Track Day, Wig Out Day, Maritime Day

(Sat) Lucky Penny Day, Jazz Day, Polka Day, Pickle Day, Crohn’s & Colitis Day, Turtle Day, Heritage Breeds Day, Taffy Day, Day to End Obstetric Fistula

(Sun) Scavenger Hunt Day, Escargot Day, Judgment in Paris Day, Brothers Day, Tiara Day, Mary Had A Little Lamb Day

The start of a 3-day weekend in a USA is a good reason for a 2-fer to send you into the weekend .. one from 1981 and one from today (which happens to be a Cincinnati band) … and both are timely. Which did you watch? 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.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 257

This past Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard a case regarding gay marriage. The case not only involves a Cincinnatian, but I also got to know him while working on a project about 8 years ago. Here’s a short series from the SCOTUS Blog about the case. (Part 1 and Part 2) … plus an article from the Cincinnati Enquirer about Jim in Washington for the Court.

Welcome to another edition of It’s Time for Truth with Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Here’s the explanation from PolitiFact.

CruzSenPresidents

A very large, diverse local high school was going to have a Covergirl Challenge, a day when female students would voluntarily wear a hijab for a day as a diversity event. Some parents complained, and the principal reconsidered, thus cancelling the event. A student wrote this in her editorial published in the Cincinnati Enquirer. (The full text)

Some complaints from parents were that the event would make them or their kids uncomfortable. Getting rid of prejudice isn’t going to be comfortable. It’s going to be very uncomfortable and awkward and unfamiliar for people who are innately biased.

Cheers to Jeb Bush (R-FL) for going against the Republican flow regarding citizenship. Jeers to Rep. Steve King (R-IA) for wanting to change the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution to accommodate his view.

Strength to the rescue workers in Nepal and comfort to those who lost friends and family.

The Blogging Blues post was well received. Like a fool, I thought it may be Freshly Pressed. Oh well. To me, the comments made by the regulars here were even better, which could turn into another post. Many thanks … and in blues post, I mentioned not worrying about stats … and during that post this blog surpassed a quarter of a million views. :D Thanks to all!

Attention Costco customers: Check the ice cream section to see if they have Cincinnati’s finest – Graeter’s (past post explains). I know it selling in my state for half the price as in grocery stores, so if you find it, tell me where (because I’m curious).

Act 3 of Meals: The Musical delivered a bountiful collection of sides including broccoli, butterbeans, cornbread, collard greens, eggplant, potatoes, vegetables,  quiche,  tomatoes, onion,  spaghetti, bread, butter, nuts, pork & beans, yams, and all topped with frim fram sauce … plus, (and to my surprise, a song with side dish in the title. The producer was pleased with only buzzer.

Because we’re beginning a new month, no Saturday Morning Cartoons or Explore this weekend, – so the next post features May. Meanwhile, Happy May Day.

To lead you into it’s headlines, The Onion offers important tips for going green.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Baby has sinking feeling he left home without oversized multicolor plastic keys
Delusional man turning off laptop as if he’s done with it for the night
Ex-con hanging out with hallucinating voices that got him in trouble in the first place
Pharmaceutical rep assures doctor he personally tries every drug he promotes
Man proud of food he ordered

Interesting Reads
The Sultana: The anniversary of a shipping tragedy greater than the Titanic
Congressional effectiveness from the Bipartisan Policy Center
Responding to the Doolittle Raiders
A slideshow of the best British political insults
World Happiest Report (an article) (the report)
Shakespeare, women, and love
(Photo gallery) Animals for the Washington Post

Your Weekend Celebrations
(Weekend) Dandelion Days, Toad Suck Daze
(Fri) Tuba Day, No Pants Day, Mother Goose Day, Bubba Day, Batman Day, Loyalty Day, Chocolate Parfait Day, Law Day, Space Day, Lei Day, Save the Rhino Day, May Day, Amtrak Day, Global Love Day, Purebred Dog Day, New Homeowners Day, School Principals Day, Silver Star Day, Stepmothers Day, Mariachi Day

(Sat) Homebrew Day, Beer Pong Day, Play Your Ukulele Day, Naked Gardening Day, Baby Day, Brothers & Sisters Day, Bombshells Day, Truffles Day, Life Insurance Day, Scrapbook Day, Rule of Order Day, Free Comic Book Day, Join Hands Day, Bladder Cancer Awareness Day, Mayday for Mutts Day

(Sun) World Laughter Day, Two Different Colored Shoes Day, Lumpy Rug Day, Garden Meditation Day Hug Your Cat Day, Baby-Lost Mothers Day, Lemonade Day, Blessing of the Bikes Day (Motorcycles), Special-abled Pets Day, Raspberry Popover & Tart Day, Infertility Survival Day, Paranormal Day, Public Radio Day, Press Freedom Day, Chocolate Custard Day, Kite Day

The Association opened Act 3 with Broccoli, so two of their hits should also send you into the weekend. There are two hits, so take your pick, including both. 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. 255

Two new candidates for 2016 race for US President are officially in the race: Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Although neither is unexpected, it will be interesting to see if Mrs. Clinton implodes and if Mr. Rubio becomes the second choice of most Republicans.

Here’s an interesting closing by Aaron David Miller (Woodrow Wilson International Institute for Scholars) in this Op-Ed at CNN about Hillary Clinton.

Clinton’s biggest challenge on the campaign trail and in office should she win is whether she can develop a foreign policy vision and an effective approach to the world that strikes a better balance between the risk-readiness of George W. Bush and the risk-aversion of Barack Obama. And given the cruel and unforgiving nature of the world America now inhabits, this will be no easy task.

I appreciated Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus’ take about the situation involving President Obama, Republicans, and Iran.

Last Friday morning I added the news about the passing of Lauren Hill. I was surprised how the positive message and stories continued. Here’s one of the early tributes.

After Lauren Hill played her first game, I wrote about some of the other positive aspects of that game, which included the role of Hiram College and its players. The mere fact that their team made the 4-hour trip to Cincinnati for the memorial service says a lot about how they were impacted.

This week included anniversaries of the Lincoln assassination and the Titanic disaster. I included an article about each in the Interesting Reads.

Act 2 of Meals: The Musical featuring fruit was a big hit. Choices were numerous as my prep list included apples, apricots, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, casabas, cherries, elderberries, grapes, grapefruit, kiwis, lemons, limes, mangoes, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, raisins, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines, and watermelon .. then toss in grapevines. Well done!

No Saturday Morning Cartoons this weekend, but Saturday will bring a new Explore post.

Here’s an interesting trivia question to ponder. Hopefully, I will remember to give the answer on Monday. Category is US Geography. Person X is standing in State Y. No matter if Person X travels directly north, south, east, or west, the next state encountered will always be State Z. Where (what state) is Person X standing, and is the next state?

To lead you into it’s headlines, The Onion introduces us to the latest presidential candidate.

This Week’s Headlines from The Onion

  • Report: Only 40% of celebrities marrying their stalkers
  • Teacher arranged desks in giant circle
  • Fast food drive-thru just cow carcass and bucket for money
  • New evidence suggests Middle East conflict predates all human civilization
  • Obama fantasizes about ordering drone strike against self on last day of presidency
  • US encouraging Cuba to shift toward Democratic system of corruption

Interesting Reads

Your Weekend Celebrations

  • (Weekend) Youth Services Days
  • (Fri) Blah! Blah! Blah! Day, Day of Silence, Malbec Day, Nothing Like a Dame Day, Bat Appreciation Day, Ellis Island Family History Day, Ford Mustang Day, Haiku Poetry Day, Cheeseball Day, Sherlock Hemlock Day, Daffy Duck Day, Petunia Pig Day
  • (Sat) Jugglers Day, Animal Crackers Day, Adult Autism Day, Columnists Day, Golf Day, Pet Owners Independence Day, Amateur Radio Day, Husband Appreciation Day, Original Yankee Stadium Day, Auctioneers Day, Poem in Your Pocket Day, Paul Revere Day, Laundromat Day, Record Store Day
  • (Sun) Hanging Out Day, Amaretto Day, Bicycle Day, Garlic Day, Humorous Day, Oklahoma City Bombing Commemoration Day

To send you into the weekend, here are two big hits by big starts eligible for Act 2. Well … at least until I add them. 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. 254

Breaking News: (Friday, 7:15 AM edit) Sadness in Cincinnati as Lauren Hill has passed away, but she leaves a powerful example of perseverance  and a strong message of hope.

Given the Republican uproar over the deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program, I say that if President Obama negotiated the Republican preferences, the Republicans would disagree with the outcome.

A Federal grand jury has  charged Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) with bribery. Someone in Washington involved in a bribery scheme? Say it ain’t so, Joe! No way! To clear his name, he needs to get in front of one of the two great oxymorons – the Senate Ethics Committee.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican nomination for President. Although he is interesting, and given his history of comments, I await the debate Sen. Paul has with himself. I chuckle at the contradiction of “returning to the Constitution” followed by calls to amend it.

In support of presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) It’s time for truth, here’s his scorecard on his statements rated by PolitiFacts.

From PolitFacts.com

From PolitFacts.com

Although the majority of Christians celebrated Easter last weekend, Happy Easter (this weekend) to my Christian Orthodox friends.

Sharna Burgess is one of my favorite pros on Dancing with the Stars … but I don’t like her current hair color.

Congratulations to Duke University for representing ABK as college basketball champions. (ABK stands for Anyone but Kentucky.) This means that I was happy that the University of Kentucky didn’t win the tournament, but their loss to Wisconsin didn’t pass my 3-prong test for my happiness.

Fortunately, I wasn’t drinking or eating anything (thus no spew) when I heard former Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig say, “The job of the Commissioner is to protect the integrity of the sport.” At least not being in the job hasn’t stopped him from making an ass of himself.

Act 2 of Meals: The Musical should take to the stage next week, so I will announce the theme on the next Monday Morning Entertainment.

Saturday Morning Cartoons returns with the next post!

To lead you into The Onion, here is their introduction to Rand Paul.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Narcissist convinced total strangers would want his organs
New app lets you work for your company even while you sleep
Geologists unearth fully intact rock
Conversational lamprey slowly draining life from dinner party
Sea World responds to California drought by draining animal tanks halfway

Interesting Reads
Anti-Obamacare Republican governors taking Obamacare grant money
American Pie: Obsessing its lyrics 
Gluteus and the Maximus (Sounds quite Shakespearean)
Everybody can sing?
Start baseball season with an article about Ty Cobb
Sex by the Numbers

Your Weekend Celebrations

  • (Weekend) National Pie Championships
  • (Fri) Audubon Day, Cinnamon Crescent Day, Farm Animals Day, Safety Pin Day, Siblings Day, ASPCA Day, Encourage a Young Writer Day, Golfers Day
  • (Sat) Eight Track Tape Day, Barbershop Quartet Day, Louie Louie Day, Baby Massage Day, Pet Day, Teach Children to Save Day, Chinese Fondue Day, Parkinson’s Disease Day, Table Top Day, Submarine Day, Slow Art Day, Education and Sharing Day
  • (Sun) Licorice Day (I love black licorice), Drop Everything and Read Day, Big Wind Day, Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, Look Up at the Sky Day, Reach as High as You Can Day, Day for Street Children, Day of Human Spaceflight, End Child Sexual Abuse Day

Given the celebrations, there should be any doubt what song will send 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. 251

The kerfuffle about vaccinations has raised the ire of many. Here is a collection of worthwhile posts to help clarify various aspects of an issue I mentioned last week.

A note to Gov. Scott Walker (R-WS) and all presidential aspirants in both parties. When one seeks or considers seeking the highest office in the land, all questions are on the table … so ducking them isn’t a good idea. At least learn to give an answer that doesn’t answer the question – after all, that’s what candidates do well.

I learned to tune out Jay Carney when he was the White House Press Secretary (well, actually change the channel) but, at least I can listen to his replacement, Josh Earnest. Interestingly, when Carney is contributing on CNN, I still tune him out!

In a recent hearing, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) accused Veteran Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald of glossing over the extraordinary problems confronted by your department among others things. Cheers to Mr. McDonald for his replies

  • “I’m highly offended by your comments, Mr. Coffman.”
  • “I’ve run a large company (Procter & Gamble) sir, what have you done?”
  • “I’ve been here six months. You’ve been here longer than I have. If there’s a problem in Denver, I think you own it more than I do.”

Life: The Musical is officially over, and Epilogue was a smashing finale. Thanks again to all participants, and as I’ve said many times, I’m the lucky one because I listen to all entries. Who knows, maybe someday I will list the collection of songs. Meanwhile, the next musical won’t be until mid-to-late March.

A tip of the hat to Dale for a valiant effort in catching up on Life: The Musical. At the time of this posting, he is approaching completion of all acts within 24 hours … and I listened to each entry … although she did receive the buzzer once (obviously from over confidence).

Interestingly, this is post #1600. After 6+ years of hosting over 52,000 comments,  plus who knows how many visits and comments elsewhere, I proudly say I only need the fingers on one hand to count the bloggers who truly irritated me. Thus my point – blogging is just like life because so much is about who one chooses to hang around.

No Saturday Morning Cartoon this weekend, but, I am working on the next one. After last week’s delightful trip to the Gobi Desert, wonder what person, place, or thing will be next … hmmmmm ….

To lead you into The Onion, here’s a graphic showing the results of their opinion poll about government requiring vaccinations.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Literary study finds all modern narratives derived from classic Alien vs. Predator conflict
Area woman not good enough artist to justify eccentricities
Scientists working to harness energy produced by intense fracking debates
Astronomers discover new planet that makes Earth look like S#-t
Health experts recommend standing up at desk, leaving office, and never coming back

Interesting Reads
American Ideas: a brief history
Baltic Dry: Not what I thought it meant
Doodles from Darwin’s children (Thursday was Darwin Day)
Columnist David Ignatius on acting like a superpower
Columnist David Brooks scandals and forgiveness
US-Cuba relations and Netflix

Your Weekend Celebrations

  • (Weekend) Great Backyard Bird Count, American International Toy Fair
  • (Fri) Blame Someone Else Day, Get a Different Name Day, Desperation Day, Employee Legal Awareness Day, Madly in Love with Me Day, Radio Day, Tortellini Day, International Condom Day
  • (Sat) Ferris Wheel Day, Quirky Alone Day, Pet Theft Awareness Day, Library Lovers Day, Have a Heart Day, Cream-filled Chocolate Day, National Condom Day, Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day, League of Women Voters Day, Women’s Heart Day, Race Relations Day, Singles Appreciation Day, Donor Day, Telephone Day, Organ Donor Day, Marriage Day, Whale Day, Read to Your Child Day, Valentine’s Day
  • (Sun) Gum Drop Day, Hippo Day, Remember the Maine Day, Susan B Anthony Day, Clifford the Red Dog Day, Angelman Syndrome Day

Since hearing this classic song early in the week, it’s been crawling around in my head – so, it seems to be right for sending you into the weekend. Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

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.