Saturday, January 15, 2005

Who gets to play God, doctors, bureaucrats, or the market?

The fight over healthcare and how it’s paid for in the near future will make Social Security reform look like a girl scout meeting. There are very tough questions and tradeoffs that every country will have to face, how do we help people while still not having economically stifling taxes or halting medical advances?

Tennessee has just pulled the plug on TennCare after 10 years; TennCare replaced Medicaid as the state's health insurance program for poor and uninsured Tennesseans. When the decision was made to scale down the program it was consuming 25% of the states budget.

For the U.S. as a whole healthcare costs have already reached 15 percent of annual national income and could exceed 30 percent by the middle of this century and other industrialized nations are not far behind. An aging population is part of the story but as healthcare technology continues to improve holding down costs will only get more difficult. Enactment of Medicare and Medicaid provided a direct subsidy for medical care. The cost grew much more rapidly than originally estimated as the cost of all handouts invariably do (sorry to call it handout but...). In all bureaucratic systems an increase in expenditure will be matched by fall in production. Spending data for 29 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries show medical spending has gone up both in inflation-adjusted dollars per person and as a fraction of national income. From 1960 to 1997 in 13 OECD countries spending more than doubled as a fraction of gross domestic product. The smallest increase was 67 percent, the largest, 378 percent. In 1997, 16 of the 29 OECD countries spent between 7 percent and 9 percent of gross domestic product on medical care. The United States spent 14 percent, the highest, Germany was second at 11 percent, and Turkey was the lowest at 4 percent. But if health costs creep up to 25 percent of national income, as they did in Tennessee, things get ugly. Americans would see their tax bills more than double, while European taxes could reach 75%.

To hold down costs, one-payer government systems, such as the Canadian and British systems have an advantage over our mixed 3rd party pay plans. As the direct purchaser of all or nearly all medical services, they are in a monopoly position in hiring physicians and can hold down their costs, so that physicians earn much less in those countries than in the United States. They can ration care at the cost of long waiting lists and much dissatisfaction. I do have some personal experience here; I spent 4 years living on the Canadian border and noticed lots of Canadians coming to the U.S. for procedures that put them on LONG waiting lists in Canada. A study recently released by the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, B.C., compared industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that strive to provide universal health-care access. Among those countries, Canada spends most on its system while ranking among the lowest in such indicators as access to physicians, quality of medical equipment and key health outcomes. One of the major reasons for this discrepancy is that, unlike other countries in the study that outperformed Canada such as Sweden, Japan, Australia and France Canada outlaws most private health care. If the government says it provides a medical service, it's illegal for a Canadian citizen to pay for and get the service privately. Is it any wonder why the American left loves the Canadian system? Part of the problem in the U.S. is healthcare costs rise from the lack of checks and balances that more centralized systems provide. For example, Americans are several times more likely to receive heart bypass surgery than Canadians, where the procedure is rationed for extreme cases. To try to keep spending down, the government continues to limit the number and variety of covered services. According to another Fraser Institute survey, “on average a patient must wait in line 17.7 weeks for hospital treatment". In 1999, Dr. Richard F. Davies described how delays affected Ontario heart patients scheduled for coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. In a single year, just for this one operation, 71 Ontario patients died before surgery, "121 were removed from the list permanently because they had become medically unfit for surgery" and 44 left the province to have their CABG surgery elsewhere, often in the U.S. In other words, 192 people either died or were too sick to have surgery before they worked their way to the front of the waiting line. Ontario has a population of about 12 million that’s only 4 percent of the U. S. population. Imagine the lawsuits if this happened in the U.S.

You can tell I’m no fan of socialized medicine but it’s not just me. The AMA has had a long-standing policy opposing a single-payer system. AMA President Donald Palmisano said that while a solution is "desperately needed" to cover the nation's more than 40 million uninsured; a single-payer system is not the way to go. "A single payer system would result in rationing of care, increased bureaucracy and stifling of innovation," says Dr. Palmisano. "It would demoralize doctors and patients."

If all countries squeezed profits in the health sector the way Europe and Canada do, there would be much less global innovation in medical technology. Today, the whole world benefits from advances in health technology that are driven largely by the allure of the profitable U.S. market. If the United States joins other nations in having more socialized medicine, the current pace of technology improvements might grind to a halt. Even as the status quo persists, I wonder how content Europeans and Canadians will remain as their healthcare needs become more expensive and diverse. There are already signs of growing dissatisfaction with the quality of all but the most basic services. With public healthcare systems fraying at the edges, many countries outside the United States increasingly face the need to allow a greater play of market forces.

InstaParrot pushing Right-Wing racism

Why is this graph so troubling?

Why is it a problem if the Muslim population of Europe is growing? That's like being in the United States in 1890 and griping about all those gosh-darn Italians and Slovaks coming into the country.

My ancestors missed the Mayflower by about 200 years, but it doesn't make me any less American.

The problem isn't an influx of people into a country, or the rise of an ethnic class, it's how you treat them. This is going to sound terribly racist myself - but how can you condemn this trend in Europe and applaud Spanish-speaking anything (television, politicians, radio) in the United States?

I have a friend and co-worker from India. He isn't a citizen yet, but he's working toward it. He and his wife are just like my best friends from Pennsylvania - late-20s, two little boys, working hard, saving a little, paying off a home, worried about how they're going to pay college tuition...

These people were raised on the other side of the globe, they aren't Christians, but soon they'll be Americans, and no different than Americans born and raised here. Why doesn't the same hold true for French or Spanish muslims? Why does this represent such a threat?

Isn't possible that they just want to make a living and raise their kids too?

There's no doubt that he's reviled, but is he loved?

A question:

There is no doubt that the liberals and the left revile George W. Bush, but among his supporters on the right, is he loved or is just merely tolerated?

For instance, Bill Clinton was absolutely despised by conservatives, and while there is a certain nostalgia on the left for the presidency of Clinton when juxtaposed with the current administration, it's hard to say if he was truly "loved" by Democrats. In time of crisis, even a Democrat like myself would be hard-pressed to say, "I wish we had Bill Clinton's leadership on this."

There is a cult of personality with Clinton and he may be one of the most skillful politicians in history, but as a President, he was merely competent in my opinion (while, of course, I consider the current president incompetent, even by conservative standards)

I think time alone allows presidents to be loved by all, independent of ideology - Lincoln was more divisive than any other president while in office, but today he is universally loved. World War II secured President Roosevelt a special place of honor among all Americans, even those that hate the "New Deal." The assassination of Kennedy deifies him, and most recently, Ronald Reagan has emerged as potential figure in this tradition.

Will George W. Bush achieve this level of acclaim? Will his opponents begrudingly concede a benefit to this country? It's too early to tell; however, as a marker for guidance, the defining moment of the Bush presidency is lacking in sounds and images of the person - 9/11.

On Sept. 11, 2001 - the President is conspicuously absent. The heroic faces of the day are NYC firemen and the Mayor of New York, Rudy Guiliani. There is no "day of infamy", there is no "touch the face of God" in a time of national tragedy, there is no sustaining image like Dealey Plaza - the most common media images that link George W. Bush to the events of Sept. 11 are in a Florida classroom. (This isn't a value judgment like Michael Moore made - this is just a statement of fact about the first image of the President on 9/11)

Without an anchor for liberals to latch onto, even in the face of ideological conflict, in the short term, it is unlikely that George W Bush can achieve universal appeal, based on the events of the first term. Of course, long term policies could help/harm the legacy in a generation, but in an age of media, the President has so far left little that inspires or moves people.

[Sidenote: Policywise, I'm not a big fan of Ronald Reagan, but there are some media bites of his that just give me chills - Challenger, the Mondale debate on age, "Are you better off than you were 4 years ago", and the farewell letter before the Alzheimer's set in. Wow.]

To return to the question: in the present, is the President loved on the right? Some would argue that John McCain is the most popular public figure in America - what about the President? Is he loved, or just merely tolerated?

If you are a conservative, or a Bush supporter, please comment on this. I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

Friday, January 14, 2005

NC still without an Agriculture Commissioner - Complements of E-Voting

From the Raleigh News and Observer:

The people responsible for finding a fair way to end the race for state agriculture commissioner are taking heat for their own illegal vote.

For the second time in less than a month, a Superior Court judge has told the State Board of Elections that its proposed resolution of the agriculture race won't fly. In late December, the board ordered a new statewide election, with its three Democratic members in favor.

The problem is, the law says the board needed four votes.


The board has been hung up on how to determine the winner in the race between Republican Steve Troxler and Democratic incumbent Britt Cobb. A faulty touch-screen voting machine in Republican-leaning Carteret County dropped more than 4,400 votes, putting in doubt who would have won the contest. Troxler is ahead by fewer than 2,300 votes in the statewide tally.

Agriculture Commissioner - who cares? I'll tell you who cares. According to the NC Dept. of Agriculture:

North Carolina's agriculture industry, including food, fiber and forestry, contributes $59.1 billion annually to the state's economy, and accounts for 21.5 percent of the state's income, and employs over 18 percent of the work force.

Once again, thank you electronic voting. Great stuff. Looking forward to using in a Presidential election, when all the votes for Iowa end up lost.

Damn you, technology!

It's not just home field - it's history.

Despite the legendary Joe Namath and Super Bowl III, the Jets history pales in comparison to one of the most successful NFL franchises in the last thirty years. While there is an admitted lack of championships, the playoff appearances and regular season performances leading to post-season participation stands with the elite of all sports.

The ghosts of the Steel Curtain will be summoned to a place that has only known post-season disappointment. Until the Steelers win a Super Bowl in their new home, Three Rivers can never be put to rest. It starts tomorrow.

28 hours till kickoff...Here we go, Steelers, Here we go...

You can pick your dictators and you can pick your friends

I was appalled to see one of England's royals, Harry or Moe or whatever his name is wearing a Nazi uniform complete with a swastika armband. Now if he had Che Guevara, Mao, CCCP, or Stalin (Stalin T-shirts sell in Berlin) on a t-shirt that would be acceptable. He might receive praise from academics and be hailed for his progressive views.

Sins of the Father

I am also in the Dowd/Friedman/Zakaria camp as an apologist for Bush the Elder, but my positive opinion of him was greatly shaped by David Halberstam's War in a Time of Peace

Anyhow, from
The New Republic:

"Dubyanomics are high stakes, dangerous, and--if you put yourself in the right frame of mind--vaguely thrilling... Perhaps things will work out in the end, and we'll all be surprised and rich, or else they'll fail disastrously, and Republicans will be cast into political exile. There's a lot to be said for either of these outcomes."

Of course, there is the third option I fear most. They'll fail disasterously but the Bush administration will figure out some way to blame it on Democrats.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Breath Easy Wilmington - No More Hurricanes in North Carolina

Oops...not those hurricanes...


"Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. reportedly says there will be no hockey this season, and arenas could remain dark next year, too.

'My gut feeling is that this season is gone,' Karmanos told the Toronto Sun.

Karmanos also said that without cost certainty, the owners could also cancel the 2005-06 season."

N.H.L. - R.I.P.

Thank you to the Cities of Raleigh and Durham, Wake County, and the State of North Carolina, for building the RBC Center. Money well spent.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Fun with Books

Complements of Get Stewed:

"But, as he points out, the rate at which associations have been formed has been higher in recent years (which have been mainly prosperous and stable)."

From "The Logic of Collective Action" by Mancur Olson


1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

Now I actually need to get back to reading it.

Yankee Madmen: Fabricated Crises - A Retort

I am talking about a campaign to misinform the public to create a sense of urgency and fear on a situation sponsored and advocated by the President of the United States.

With regards to global warming, I will acknowledge that there is dispute, but this dispute has been bi-partisan. George H.W. Bush is the U.S. signatory on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. There is a dispute about the "crisis" of Social Security; however, as I pointed out earlier, the President has ignored the advice of his appointed Social Security Trustee.

It is possible to excuse the Iraq-WMD "crisis" on bad information from the President's advisors, but a guy on his own team, the private citizen most closely tied to Social Security, has contradicted statements indicating "crisis" and "overhaul" necessary to correct problems.

Social Security reform has nothing to do with a "crisis" - this is a misinformation campaign designed to divert debate from the real issue. This is an ideological debate about personal freedom in retirement savings - a valid topic for national debate, but one that will get pushed aside with a campaign of FUD.

This is just like Iraq - the issue at hand - "In the interest of national security, should the United States engage in an war of conquest and occupation that was not directly provoked in order to establish an Islamic democracy in the Middle East?" A valid topic of national debate - instead we get, "The smoking gun will be the mushroom cloud."

I'll give the President credit - he puts forth bold ideas; however, his election was NOT implicit permission to execute all of them. These manufactured crises are a way to avoid debate on his ideas, and it's not the way democracy should work - feedback loops to elected officials don't occur every 2, 4, or 6 years - they occur everyday.

Issues are proposed, citizens inform themselves, write to Congress, join and form interest groups, lobby, take collective action - direct representative democracy how to behave. That's how it's supposed to work.

By the way:

Alar never involved any part of the U.S. government. Under pressure exerted primarily by the National Resource Defense Council, Uniroyal withdrew Alar from the market. It was not then, nor is it today, banned for use by the FDA, EPA, or USDA.

One final thing:

As I said here, I don't care if John Kerry makes stuff up, or Bill Clinton did, or what the NRDC or any other organization or person does.

Shame on them - It was wrong and they shouldn't have done it

Because they did, it is not an excuse or justification for the President of the United States to act in the same fashion. I expect more from the President than to be engaged in a race to see who can be less of a jackass. How about not being one at all? Is that too much to ask?

Fabricated Crises

Remember Alar? A chemical used to ripen apples that was said to cause cancer. It's in the scare tactic fall of fame . It had it all, Congressional hearings, Hollywood celebrities, and the story was broke by CBS news. Of course it all turned out to be phony.

How about this one?
Our toxic food supply?
"Twenty percent of the entire U.S. food supply is contaminated with toxins from pesticide residue. A recent study has shown the average American is exposed to such substances 68 times each day and some commonly consumed foods were found to contain five different chemicals"
I found dozens of sites making claims that our life spans are significantly reduced by our food supply (the safest and cheapest in the world).

"The U.S. military will be reinstating the draft"
A candidate for president used this line several times without a shred of proof.

Global Warming
I went back to a paper I wrote in for my senior seminar in Environmental Science in 1993 titled Global Climate Change and its Effect on Costal Ecosystems. I noticed my own paper stated we would be underwater by 2005, I'm exaggerating but it really was a "we're all doomed" type of paper. Social Security reformers would kill for these people's PR machine.

The scare tactic over silicone breast implants put a company out of business.

This list could go on and on - U.S. ends search for WMD in Iraq


"U.S. inspectors have ended their search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in recent weeks, a U.S. intelligence official told CNN...

Charles A. Duelfer, who headed the Iraq Survey Group's search for WMD in Iraq, has returned to Iraq and is working on his final report, the official said.

In October, Duelfer released a preliminary report finding that in March 2003 -- the United States invaded Iraq on March 19 of that year -- Saddam did not have any WMD stockpiles and had not started any program to produce them.

The Iraq Survey Group report said that Iraq's WMD program was essentially destroyed in 1991 and Saddam ended the country's nuclear program after the 1991 Gulf War."

From President George W. Bush on March 17, 2003:

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

Almost two years later, and still no WMD.

"The latest fatality [as of Tuesday] brings the number of American troops to die in Iraq to 1,361. Most have been killed in a guerrilla campaign that followed the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

President of Fabricated Crises (

Harold Meyerson backs up my assertion that mainstream media as political party is far from dead:

"With crisis concoction as its central task -- think of how many administration officials issued dire warnings of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein or, now, by Social Security's impending bankruptcy -- this presidency, more than any I can think of, has relied on the classic tools of propaganda. Indeed, it's almost impossible to imagine the Bush presidency absent the Fox News Network and right-wing talk radio. "

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.


"HOWARD FINEMAN ANNOUNCES THE DEATH of the mainstream-media-as-political-party, an entity that he says came into being when Walter Cronkite announced against the Vietnam War and ended this year when it turned out that nobody trusted them anymore: 'It's hard to know now who, if anyone, in the 'media' has any credibility.

Fineman says that "Blogger Nation" has arisen. One example of that is Stefan Sharkansky... More evidence, if it were needed, that Fineman is right."

I don't know, watching Fox News Channel, I would say big media as political party is alive and well, at least on the Republican side.

This election didn't signal "the death of the mainstream-media-as-political-party" - not even close. It's the first time that traditional media outlets (ABC News, NY Times, etc...), lost in an attempt to discredit a person or policy and turn public opinion in their favor. If anything, this election shows the power of national media as political party in the form of Fox News and the Republican party.

All this talk about "new media" reminds me of the collapse of "brick-and-mortar" of the late 90s. The truth is, established media outlets have co-opted these forms of media for their own use, to further their message. For instance, Sean Hannity, a FOX News commentator, does talk radio, where he talks about blog stories (of course, only the ones that support his and his employers ideology).

This is the same thing "brick-and-mortar" retail did to online - they established an online presence to augment their physical operation, and today, there's no more "" or "", but there sure is "" and "".

Fox established itself as a major player in the traditional media, dealt a loss to the left, but the media as political party continues. Traditional media outlets need to change their approach to incorporate elements of new media to further their agenda.

The closest example is NBC - traditional NBC news with Brian Williams, Meet the Press, blog links on, Imus simulcast on MSNBC, with regular guest like Joe Biden, Howard Fineman, etc...if they could only incorporate some talk element into (and it's just a question of time if Air America takes off), they'll be in the same position as Fox in a year or two.

A vertically integrated media outlet pushing a political agenda with tools of traditional and new media.

The media as political party is far from dead - it's just getting into the 21st century.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

At distant bars, Steeler Nation comes together

My local Steelers bar was profiled in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"RALEIGH, N.C. -- The license plates throughout the parking lot of Sammy's Tap & Grill depict the Wright Brothers' original plane in this 'First in Flight' state, but the most important transportation for the people inside is 'The Bus.'...

It's another typical autumn Sunday in the boundless Steeler Nation, and 100 or so transplants to the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle are in Sammy's to watch the Steelers and Browns on satellite TV. During a tumbling run across the goal line by No. 36, two hundred arms reach high like referees, in sync with their roar."

We were there that day, and we'll be back this weekend.

The Iceberg Cometh

Say what you want about Krugman as a critic of foreign or domestic social policy, but when it comes to economics, he speaks from a well-informed position:

"We already have a large budget deficit, the result of President Bush's insistence on cutting taxes while waging a war. And it will get worse: a rise in spending on entitlements - mainly because of Medicare, but with a smaller contribution from Medicaid and, in a minor supporting role, Social Security - looks set to sharply increase the deficit after 2010.

Add borrowing for privatization to the mix, and the budget deficit might well exceed 8 percent of G.D.P. at some time during the next decade. That's a deficit that would make Carlos Menem's Argentina look like a model of responsibility. It would be sure to cause a collapse of investor confidence, sending the dollar through the floor, interest rates through the roof and the economy into a tailspin.

And when investors started fleeing because they believed that America had turned into a banana republic, they wouldn't be reassured by claims that someday, in the distant future, privatization would do great things for the budget. Just ask the Argentines: their version of Social Security privatization was also supposed to save money in the long run, but all it did was move forward the date of their crisis.

A responsible administration would reverse course on tax cuts and the botched 2003 Medicare drug bill, both of which pose much greater threats to the government's solvency than the modest financial shortfall of the Social Security system. But Mr. Bush has declared his tax cuts inviolable, and he says that his drug bill will actually save money. (The Medicare trustees say it will cost $8 trillion.)

There's an iceberg in front of us, all right. And Mr. Bush wants us to steam right into it, full speed ahead."

If you don't want to listen to Krugman, how about John Palmer, former Dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Dr. Palmer is a professor of economics and public administration, and he had this to say in 2000:

"The Social Security shortfall is not a crisis but an inevitability...Fixing the long-term problems will cause pain, but we don’t have to re-engineer the whole system to do it. If we make small changes now, they will compound over decades, solving the problem before a crisis occurs.

This is essentially a math problem, which is now prompting policy questions,” Palmer says. “The ratio of people paying into the system versus the number drawing benefits is changing. This is neither a crisis nor a values shift. It’s just a mathematical trend. However, in the search for solutions, values questions are emerging.”

Dr. Palmer is on the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees. If you think he has an axe to grind, he comes from the non-partisan Urban Institute, a policy thinktank that counts many former Reagan officials among its ranks. Dr. Palmer was appointed as a public trustee by President Clinton and retained by President Bush.

How about Timothy Sneeding, Professor of Public Policy and Dr. Palmer's colleague at Syracuse:

"Congress and the President are going to have to say they are going to either raise taxes or cut benefits, or both."

How does President Bush's proposal address these issues? It neither raises taxes or cuts benefits. In other words, it does nothing.

If there's one person in the country that understands Social Security, it's John Palmer. When you're reading some policy paper from the Cato Institute, listening to a talk radio host, or reviewing the work of an legal academic, keep that in mind. Everybody's a policy analyst today, and for some reason, more than most, legal scholars seem to think the study of the law has now made them gurus of economics, public policy, public management, organizational theory, political science, and sociology. (L-Hack, do you concur?) Palmer is an economist and a social scientist that worked with two different ideological administrations - he's about as non-partisan, and on target, as it's going to get.

When will we learn?

Report: U.S. lost 1.5M jobs to China from 1989-2003 - Jan. 11, 2005:

"The United States lost nearly 1.5 million jobs between 1989 and 2003 because of increased trade with China, according to a report released Tuesday by a government watchdog committee.

The study estimates that imports from China displaced 1.659 million jobs between 1989 and 2003, while exports to that country generated only 199,000 additional U.S. jobs.

'The assumptions we built our trade relationship with China on have proved to be a house of cards,' Scott said in a statement. 'Everyone knew we would lose jobs in labor-intensive industries like textiles and apparel, but we thought we could hold our own in the capital-intensive, high-tech arena.'

The report puts a large portion of the blame for the growing U.S. trade deficit with China on that country's 'refusal to revalue its exchange rate.'"

War in Iraq...War on "Terror"...Social Security Privatization...When will we open our eyes to what's really important.

I watched "Biography" on Sam Walton and rise of Wal-Mart. Sears and K-Mart never saw him coming, until it was too late. It's eerily familiar.

More thoughts on CBS

I was listening to Chris Matthews talking about the CBS Memo report this morning on Don Imus. He brought up a couple good points I hadn't considered. Most notably, the connection between Lockhart/Mapes/Burkett may not have been politically motivated, but the "deal with the devil" Mary Mapes had to make to get the memos from Bill Burkett.

I have another question: how much of this stems from a Dan Rather bias against the Bush family? Critics argue a bias against conservatives, and the evidence supports that somewhat, but Rather's attacks against the Bush family seem much more vigorous than against run-of-the-mill Republicans.

Rather obviously held Richard Nixon in contempt, but who didn't? Don't forget, institutionally, CBS News turned on Johnson, a Democrat, in opposition to the Vietnam War. I think it's fair to say there was bias against Vietnam, compounded by other actions of the Nixon administration. I'm having trouble finding Rather's record on Gerald Ford. has some quotes critical of Ronald Reagan, but nothing stands out like the personal attacks on George H.W. Bush.

Does Dan Rather have an axe to grind with the Bush family in particular? Is there something in his Houston history that drove him to this - a family member or friend he perceives as wronged by the Bush political or business dealings in Texas?

If you believe "the personal is political", then Rather is politically motivated, but in this scenario, it's only "political" because that's the chosen vocation of the Bush family, and it's only liberal bias because the Bushes are Republicans.

I'm not trying to be a Dan Rather apologist, but instead, trying to form a model for understanding behavior outside of an ideologically motivated conspiracy. I really don't like the presidency of George Bush, but even if put in a position to damage him, I find it hard to believe I'd fabricate evidence to bring it about, just based on my political beliefs.

However, if I had been personally wronged by someone, whether it be a political family like the Bushes, or just a wealthy, powerful industrial/commercial family like the Waltons, I'd probably go at them guns blazing, and maybe even make up some stuff.

Monday, January 10, 2005

CBS News - What's Politics Got To Do With It

A struggling business, directed by people with a quirky personality trait, are presented with an opportunity to crush their competition with the gold standard of achievement in their field. It's a questionable prospect, but the business opportunity is unparalled. They err on the side of poor judgment, and in the end, the questionable nature of the opportunity presents disaster.

This is my story of CBS News and Bush National Guard Memos.

Imagine you're a national journalist that covers political figures. For the most part, your subjects are very concerned about the image you present of them. To insure good coverage, they stroke your ego. It's been like this since you worked for a local TV station in East Somewhere, North Carolina - the mayor and county manager used to feed you stories on their enemies, helping their careers and yours. You've always had access, and as you advanced your career, all kinds of powerful people wanted your attention and most of all, your approval.

For the last eight years, the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, loved people like you in the media. He wanted to be loved by everyone and the image you presented of him would make his legacy, so he coddled you and your professional friends and colleagues in Manhattan.

Along comes this interloper from Texas. He sounds like a redneck hick, but he's from one of the most powerful families in the country. He doesn't need your approval - he doesn't want your approval. He has all the money he needs to get his message out, and the media can't help him. He doesn't stroke you like the President does - who does this redneck think he is? He's got that creepy guy from Wyoming controlling all the media access - you hardly have any access anymore. He's marginalized you.

We'll teach this redneck - so we tell the world about his DUI arrest right before his upcoming election. This is like "COPS" - drunken hick from Texas - he'll never make it in the White House now. These guys will learn - they're nothing without you. Then...

He becomes President of the United States. Only a couple years ago, the President and all "his people" were at your beck and call. Today, you're on the outside looking in, and they dictate the agenda to you. He's wildly unpopular by Presidential standards, but he doesn't seem to care. For every person you know in Manhattan and Washington that hates his guts, there's some redneck in Wichita that loves this guy.

Four years, no access, no stroking, and you're angry. Besides that, your news organization is losing relevance. It was bad enough to be the third horse in a three-horse race, but with newcomers from cable and the pressure of the Internet, you're slipping fast. There's one way to get back on top - you must bring down someone in power. Look at what "The Pentagon Papers" did for the Times, Watergate for the Post; if we could just bring someone down, we'd get back on top.

Along comes your opportunity - the best opportuntity - POTUS - and look who it is? That interloper hick from Texas. This is unbelievable - a chance to put the news department back on top and crush that little rich boy in the White House like a bug. There's some questions about the veracity of these memos, but so what? Once we catch the scoop, people will be so caught up in the media spectacle, no one will question it.

You and your team put together a story for air on a national news program and you sit back and wait. In 50 days, that interloper will be gone, and you'll be mentioned in the upper echelon of journalistic history. Suddenly it all goes wrong, terribly wrong...

Is it really about politics, or is it personal and professional?

I don't believe we "know" it is about politics.

The New Blue Federalists - The case for liberal federalism.

This article in Slate is one of L-Hack's favorite ideas:

"States and local governments can be laboratories for democracy, where innovative and controversial policies can be tried out on a small scale before being applied more comprehensively."

He's been talking about this months...

Why the Atlanta/St. Louis Game is so tough to pick

No, it's not the Rams' coach - look at this from the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City, UT:

"I hate to rain on the Michael Vick parade, but here goes. Vick is a media/Madison Avenue creation and a vastly overrated quarterback. He ranks 21st in the league in pass efficiency (up five places from two weeks earlier). He threw 14 TD passes and 12 interceptions in 15 games. Those who finished ahead of him in passer rating include Billy Volek, Byron Leftwich, Aaron Brooks and Tim Rattay.

Of the league's top 25 passers, only Jeff Garcia, Rattay and Kurt Warner threw for fewer yards and TDs than Vick, and they all missed significant playing time. Despite all this, Vick made the Pro Bowl team and was given a $100 million contract. He might be a great quarterback someday, but he's got a long way to go. He's a great athlete but not a great quarterback. He's a halfback with a strong arm. From now on, can we let athletes play a few years before they are accorded superstar status?"

Ouch...this guy probably doesn't have an axe to grind either - it's not Salt Lake City has a football team. The other stat pointed out by Peter King today - Atlanta's total for/against points is 340/337.

I'm in the camp with this guy, but in Vick's defense, he doesn't have the caliber of receivers that Peyton Manning or Ben Rothlisberger have available, or the single suburb receiver available to Culpepper or McNabb.

Vick's problem - inconsistency - many commentators will say games can be single-handedly won by Michael Vick. Absolutely, but the supporting cast isn't strong enough to win games without Vick. Does he have to be in top form every week to win? No, but against the best teams he'll have to perform at his peak. Which Michael Vick shows up against St. Louis this week?

[Disclaimer: As a Pitt alumnus, I really don't like Virginia Tech football, so I may have some bias; however, I have come around to Donovan McNabb & Mark Bulger despite the many beatings they laid on the Panthers while I was an undergraduate.]

Judge Dred

I was thinking about the upcoming fight over Bush's judicial nominees during the 2nd term and realized that Democratic judges have done more to elect Republican presidents than the USSR or UBL.

Starting with the 1857 Dred Scott Decision, the Republicans used the decision to forward their claim that activist judges were deciding national affairs for the benefit of a particular region. When the court placed slavery beyond the reach of Congress and seemed to attack one of the basic cores of the Republican Party, the limitation of slavery, the RP became stronger. Prior to Dred Scott, many would have said, the United States Constitution tolerated slavery but did not protect it. After the decision, there was no denying that the Constitution did indeed protect it.
Republican Newspaper editorial's in 1857 attest to their unhappiness with the court.

We cannot speak for the Republican party; but we feel free to say that it will spurn this decision and, when its day of triumph comes, and come it will, sweep into oblivion the base, reckless and unjust Judges who have prostituted their high offices to purposes so vile. -
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gazette 03/07/1857

Unworthy of the Bench from which it was delivered, unworthy even of the previous reputation of the jurist who delivered it, unworthy of the American people, and of the nineteenth century, it will be a blot upon our National character abroad, and a long-remembered shame at home. - Albany, New York, Evening Journal 03/10/1857

While Democrats supported the courts decision.

Mr. Lincoln goes for a warfare upon the Supreme Court of the United States, because of their judicial decision in the Dred Scott case. I yield obedience to the decisions in that court--to the final determination of the highest judicial tribunal known to our constitution. Stephen Douglas in 1858:

Democratic and Republican newspapers were full of similar editorials on the Scott case. The Democratic party fractured and allowed Lincoln to win with 39% in a 3 man presidential race.

The same arguments can be made for the protection of abortion, I'll spare you the newspaper quotes as were all aware of the abortion debate. The 1973 roe v wade decision created opposition from those who viewed the Court's decision as straying too far from the text and history of the Constitution, as well as from people motivated by sincere religious and moral beliefs. The opposition to the court's desicion has helped the RP win 5 of the last 7 presidential elections. The Democratic Party faced pressure to take a uniform pro-choice stand in support of Roe v. Wade. Can there be any doubt that pro-lifers make up a large portion of the RP and they would be a minority party without them, both Reagan and Bush have to at LEAST give lip service to them. Unfortunately for the RP the abolition of abortion would likely hurt them, the voter mobilization created by the fight helps the Republicans immensely so long as their ultimate goal remains unfulfilled. If Roe get overturned the Dems could rally much like the RP in 1857.

Finally the Massachusetts supreme court ruling on gay marriage. Again you could probably cut and paste and the same points, Democratic (or liberal) judges passing down a decision that rallies the opposition. I actually don't believe this one had much effect but it certainly did not hurt Bush in 2004 and it fits with my crackpot theory.
I think my overall point is that Republican presidents should nominate liberal judges to secure electoral victories and then limit the power of the courts.

Is there enough closet space? How are the local schools?

From CNN:
" The company that owns Biosphere 2 Center, 3.1 glass-enclosed acres designed to simulate the Earth's environment, has put the site up for sale."

L-Hack, with 3.1 acres, how many rental units could you subdivide that into?

CNN: CBS ousts 4 over Bush Guard story - Jan 10, 2005

"The network fired Mary Mapes, producer of the report. Senior Vice President Betsy West and Josh Howard, executive producer of '60 Minutes Wednesday' and his top deputy, Mary Murphy, were asked to resign."

Very good, if you don't do your job, you get fired.

The panel, which was led by former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi, added that -- despite accusations of political bias against CBS -- "[the panel] cannot conclude that a political agenda at '60 Minutes Wednesday' drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content."

As much as I know some of you believe political motivation, as evidenced by this:

I have a feeling those of us in the right wing blogosphere will dismiss the Report because it declines to make explicit that which we “know” regarding CBS’ motives and the documents authenticity...

I can't see a reason why to reject Richard Thornburgh's opinion. He's a life-long Republican, but he's an attorney first, and if the evidence isn't there, it isn't there.

BTW - I've read a hilarious conspiracy theory in the comments of a post at Little Green Footballs [currently inaccessible] about how Thornburgh is one the "Laureates" of the University of Pittsburgh, an "elite" society of graduates that links him to CBS executives through some convoluted process.

I'm a University of Pittsburgh graduate, and I can tell you this firsthand. The "Laureates" is some recent fundraising promotion. Secondly - this is the University of Pittsburgh, not Yale, or Harvard, or Skull and Bones or some other old institution with a long tradition of dead rich white men. When you think "Trilateral Commission", "Prescott Bush - Nazi Banker", or any of the other nut-job conspiracy theories, the University of Pittsburgh doesn't exactly come to mind.

This is an institution that almost went bankrupt in the 1970s. This is not an academic breeding ground for a secret society of liberal powerbrokers.

Is there really a "bias" in the news, or just in the commentary?

This stems from a reader comment:

Does Fox News counter liberal bias in the news, or in the commentary? I don't watch a whole lot of TV in the day, but I'd imagine Fox is a lot like CNN Headline News - basically the same ten to twelve stories circulated every half-hour. (I think MSNBC is like this too)

"Snowstorm in the Midwest', 'Destruction in Indonesia', 'Jets and Colts Advance', '5 killed in Iraq car bombing', 'Scientists have discovered..."

At night, the commentators and opinion shows are definitely conservative in analysis, especially in their choice of guests. Bill O'Reilly was described in USA Today as the "lightning rod" for bias critics, but O'Reilly isn't on the "news" end of Fox, he's on the commentary side.

Undeniably, there's bias on Fox at night, but it's no different than Chris Matthews' cult of Kennedy/Johnson civil-rights, Peace Corps liberalism combined with some Rooseveltesque pro-labour sentiment.

There are people that make the argument, "the liberal media isn't reporting all the good things coming out of Iraq." The Raleigh News and Observer doesn't report all the good things the democratic Meeker administration does for Raleigh, but they sure love to report on the Downtown convention center project, a often-criticized initiative of the current mayor. Does this mean that the N & O is a conservative paper?

No. Not at all. It's a question of "what is news", and I don't think liberal/conservative attitudes share in the definition of "news". The expression goes, "if it bleeds, it leads." It doesn't matter if something good happens in Iraq, if someone gets killed, violence = ratings, and that's going to be the lead story. Same thing with criticism - people love to gripe, and the news loves to put a complainer on TV so people can relate. Newt Gingrich was a constant complainer, and he got national attention WITHOUT Fox News, just because he was good entertainment: he always had something critical to say.

Commentary is biased, and before Fox News, guys like Sean Hannity would never be on TV, and networks like MSNBC would never offer time to a Joe Scarborough.

News isn't biased, at least not on political ideology. It's skewed in favor of sex, violence, and conflict. If you can bring one or more of these elements to the table, you're going to get coverage on CNN and Fox.

Is there something I'm missing?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Dare to Dream

From today's NY Times:

"Jonathan Klein, president of CNN, announced last week that he was canceling 'Crossfire' and steering CNN back toward actual news.

Maybe this could be the start of something big. We have lived through a generation now in which television news operations grew more and more dependent on 'talking heads' shows because they are inexpensive. Since conversation is not normally high-octane viewing, producers tried to raise the interest level by encouraging the guests to start yelling at one another. The Fox News network swept the decks when it combined the snarling heads with right-wing commentary. Soon, the all-news airwaves were awash with primal screams. People tuning in to hear how the election was going might very well have imagined they had clicked onto a pregame show for professional wrestling."

Is it possible that as a society we have to come to emulate these "talking head" shows in our own political discourse? The chant of "flip-flop" at the RNC, is that really appropriate for what Andrew Jackson called the "great contest." (On balance, I'm sure the Dems did something as offensive, I just can't remember what it was offhand.)

If we're lucky, we'll see the end of the "primal scream" on TV soon, a precursor to the end of the "primal scream" of contemporary political discourse.

1-4 : Not Too Good - Picks for Next Week

With the Vikings about to close out the win at Lambeau, I finished 1-4 for the weekend. Not too good, but that's why I have a day job. One game right - the Indy/Denver matchup.

Without further ado, my picks for next week:


Indianapolis at New England

After watching the Colts hang 49 on the Broncos, my initial response was pick Indy over the Pats easily...but then I called my grandfather, an ex-football coach.

-"That's some quarterback, huh?", talking about Peyton Manning, which is about the highest form of complement I think he pays to players.

I asked him if the Colts were that good, or the Denver defense was that bad.

-"They didn't play much defense out there today." In other words, the Denver defense sucks.

It's going to be a tough one - best QB in the game against the best coach. One for th ages.

Winner: New England

NY Jets at Pittsburgh

I've said many times before - without the penalties, the Jets would have beat the Steelers in the regular season. They got a boneheaded penalty last night that almost cost them the game against San Diego. They're going to have to play perfectly against the Steelers to win, and they don't have the discipline to get it done. Interesting sidenote: this is the first time Pittsburgh and the Jets have ever met in the playoffs.

Winner: Pittsburgh


St. Louis at Atlanta

My buddy, a reformed Dallas fan that now follows the Steelers, called me after the Rams/Seahawks to discuss it. Unlike him, who grew up watching the NFC, I never watch the NFC. I grew up in an AFC town, and I've always watched AFC games closely but I take a passing interest in the NFC. I can't figure out this St. Louis team - are they winning in spite of their coach? If Bill Walsh was their coach, would they be the greatest team ever? With all the upsets from this week, I think next week should fall closer to expectations.


Minnesota at Philly

Just because I think the games will fall closer to expectations, I'm not ruling out the possibility of a single upset - and this is the game where it will happen. Philly let down in the last week of the season, and I don't think they can win without T.O. Minnesota looked pretty good tonight in an impressive road win, despite how flat they looked on the road last week in the District.

Winner: Minnesota

One more note: I've called Parris Glendenning a scumbag for his collusion with Art Modell to bring football to Baltimore at taxpayers' expense, and Dr. Z shares the sentiment for Art Modell, without the use of the word "scumbag."

"From Julie of Baltimore: "Art Modell belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame and you know it."

- No I don't. He was a money guy who helped rich owners get richer. That ain't enough, in my book.

Rock on, Dr. Z. Besides, I don't think Art Modell could safely return to the State of Ohio for induction.

Colts wreck the Broncos - Bring on the Jets

Like I said, too much offense for Denver to handle.
Peyton Manning - 457 yards - did Denver even bring a defense to Indy?

Question: Mike Shanahan, the "genius", hasn't won a playoff game without John Elway. How much of a "genius" is he?

You don't live in the country you want, you live in the country you have...

InstaPundit links to a post discussing a recent report on women's conditions in post-war Iraq.

While he chooses to highlight the desires of Iraqi women, and their optimism for the future, the present reality is summed up by:

"At the grassroots, the general lack of security is also demanding a high toll. Though low-income women benefited most from the informal economy such as street commerce, the spasms of violence have driven women out of their jobs and into their homes. Fear of violence, abduction and rape have emptied the streets of women and caused disruptions to education as children are also increasingly kept at home. Growing numbers of women are also leaving the country.

What are we doing to remedy the situation?

A few months after the declaration of the end of the war, coalition forces distributed flyers announcing that food rations would be increased and listing additional food items that would be included. Those explicit promises were not met. The Household Survey reflects that 95% of women surveyed indicating that there was no increase to the food basket compared to previous years.

Not keeping our promises.

It's great that women are optimistic about the future of Iraq. I don't point this out because I want this to fail - the sooner it's fixed, the sooner it's over. The point is, it's going to take more than desire. It's been a year and these people expected more, were promised more, and aren't getting it. This isn't going win or maintain popular support for American efforts in Iraq.

I wish I knew the solution - more troops, more money, both...neither, but this survey isn't an indication of success. Women probably wanted more secure rights under Saddam Hussein too - the overthrow didn't affect that. The optimism is change affected by America, but how long can that keep up in the face of reality?

Do you know any Republicans?

With the Colts laying the slaughter to the Broncos right now, I think I'm done watching football until the Minn - GB game I've been looking forward to.

Do you know any Republicans?

L-Hack asked me this the other night, after we got trounced at Pub Trivia. I hate to use the "one of my best friends is Republican" line, but that's actually true.

I think the actual question was, "Do you have any friends that voted for George Bush?" Thinking on it over the last few days, quite a few friends did. L-Hack - you know them too.

Thinking back to when I lived in Maryland, I was once a registered Republican. In 2000, I registered as a Republican so I could vote in the primary to pick between George Bush and John McCain. Although I moved in May of 2002, I fully intended to vote for Robert Ehrlich as Governor of Maryland in the General Election, had I stayed through November.

Parris Glendening was a corrupt scumbag. He threw public money at Art Modell to draw the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, he spent public money on an airplane for junkets, he extracted early pension payments from Prince George's County, MD, and he tried to use his influence to position himself at the Chancellor of the USM in his final days as governor. To top this all off, he had an affair with his Deputy Chief of Staff.

(Note: I don't care about the affair, I care about the public financing of his mistress)

He was a modern-day Willie Stark; everyday his excesses were reported in the Baltimore Sun, no one had the courage to speak out against him, and I increasingly sided with people on the other side of the aisle. One thing was for sure, I was not going to vote for a Glendenning crony like Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

If John McCain had won the Republican nomination, I would have voted for him instead of Al Gore. I would have voted for Erhlich in 2002, I probably would have voted for McCain again in 2004. In 1994, I voted for Tom Ridge for Governor of Pennsylvania.

If I had stayed in Maryland, and John McCain had been in the Republican nominee in 2000, in every gubernatorial election in a decade, I would have voted for a Republican (I didn't vote in 1998). In 50% of the presidential elections in the same period, I would have voted Republican.

In other words, had those two events occurred -

I would be a Republican.

In fact, this was the first year I have ever voted for a Democrat for Governor, and it was a tough decision. I almost voted for Patrick Ballantine. I have; however; consistently voted for Democrats for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and almost all state and local elections since I have been able to vote, on the exception of Arlen Specter in 1992.

Where's Ray Lewis?

They were just talking about NFL Defensive MVP candidates on CBS, and Shannon Sharpe asked, "Where's Ray Lewis?"

Owings Mills, MD, working on the golf game, or whatever he does in the off-season.

This year, Lewis wasn't even the best defensive player on his team (Ed Reed), his division (James Farrior), let alone the AFC.

He's a great player, but this was a stellar year for AFC defense, and it's only getting better with rookies like Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams.

Intelligent design: Is it just creationism lite?

From today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"The flap over "intelligent design," the latest terminology behind the old theory that the universe and its organisms developed at the discretion of a supernatural creator, continues to unfold in York County's Dover Area School District, where school directors want teachers to talk about the theory in a ninth-grade biology course.

The school board wants its science teachers to mention intelligent design as a possible alternative to evolution, and to note that evolution, as Charles Darwin posited, is a controversial and incomplete theory.

A group of parents sued the district last year, saying intelligent design amounts to a religious belief and ought not be included in high school biology courses."

Most of my friends grew up or live in York County, PA, and two of them have children, so this was a hot topic of discussion over the holidays. ID finds support among my friends that attended Catholic school, but the secularists (like myself), tended to concur with this opinion:

"But Elsberry, the biologist, said the current debate is a manufactured one, and doesn't exist among biologists, geneticists or anyone else in the "mainstream" scientific community.

The problem is, what they want taught as a controversy is not a scientific controversy. It's a socio-political controversy. It belongs in a civics class."

If we're not going to teach the history and philosophy of science in Chemistry and Biology classes, Civics (or history) is the proper place for discussions of creationism.

I go back and forth on the issue of stove-piping in education. Sometimes I think there's more of a need to mix history and philosophy with science, certainly with literature, but I also think there's a need to focus on basic skills and topics at the secondary school level. Put another way, there's enough basic biology that needs to be taught that can't be bumped by discussions of the development of evolutionary theory.

Forget Terrorism - The Enemy is in Eastern Asia

Jim Hoagland in today's Washington Post:

"China's pursuit of economic advantage above all else also underlines the distracted, fragmented nature of the policies followed by the United States and Russia as they are bled by the costs of fighting nasty insurgencies that place intense strains on their national budgets and force structures...

These presidents seem not to want to hear about problems that their decisions on war and other pressing matters (e.g., Yukos Oil) create. When Washington and Moscow simultaneously toss Economics 101 out the window, a feeling that the global economony is umanageable becomes inevitable. "

The greatest danger to the United States isn't terrorism - it's economic competition. In the long-term, while we're off all over the globe and running up the deficit, China gets stronger and stronger. What are we trying to save - a nation of Wal-Marts and low wage jobs? The country that stands to benefit most from a free Iraq is China - they now have a new market for their goods, and it's all courtesy of the United States. Of course, they loaned us the money to open the market for them...

There is a way out. The country that develops the alternative energy source to oil will rule the world. Once that nation is free from the Middle East (and don't kind yourself about ANWR), they can pursue their own political and economic agenda while benefitting from the sale of the technology to the rest of the world.

This is a matter of strategic importance, with immeasurable positive externalities. We can't wait for the "market" to address this, because China and India won't. This is like the Cold War Space Race or the Manhattan Project - our government needs to throw massive resources at private companies and universities to develop practical alternative energy solutions. This is an infrastructure investment that if successful, while enable American global dominance for at least another century.

Imagine a world where America didn't need to worry about oil. We'd have the freedom to pursue an agenda of Middle Eastern peace and democracy, and if it doesn't take, to quote from the Godfather:

"They're animals anyway; so let them lose their souls."

"Clinton Did It" - SO WHAT?

Byron York from the National Review is on Meet the Press, talking about the Armstrong Williams issue. He cited a MediaLink quote in the NY Times, that "the Clinton administration did a lot more of this."

This is ridiculous, but it seems to be a common retort of the Right. It's evidenced in this nonsense from VodkaPundit. In this critique of Paul Krugman's article, he basically addresses every criticism of the right by citing a Democrat or liberal that did the same thing.

Even if the current administration does something less than the Clinton administration - if it was wrong then, it's still wrong now. Hey, Scott Pederson only killed two people, but Richard Ramirez was found guilty of 13 counts of murder - so what's the big deal?

(OK, that's a straw man - but you get the idea)

Does the Bush administration get more criticism? Sure - but when Bill Clinton was President, we weren't engaged in global war and the economy was fantastic. Not saying it's bad now - but that Tech Boom was once in a lifetime. It's easy to confuse correlation with causation, but quite frankly, Bill Clinton could have sacrificed puppies in the White House and no one would have cared as long as the 401K returns stayed high.

At least I'm in good company

Every SI football guru and I went 0-2 today. The Jets/Chargers game was pretty thrilling.

I don't often agree with Madden, but I have to question SD's decision to run Tomlinson three times prior to kicking the fieldgoal in overtime. They gained nothing by it, and they moved the spot to the right hashmark. They'd have been better off keeping it in the center of the field. It's tougher to make a kick from the hash closer to the uprights.

I guess it's a fair outcome, since this game should have never been in overtime if not for the boneheaded personal foul at the end of the 4th quarter.

This is setting up my worst-case scenario. The Jets would have beaten Pittsburgh in the regular-season, if not for all the penalties they received. They have the talent to beat Pittsburgh, but I'm not sure they have the discipline. Penalties almost lost the game for them tonight - they won't be able to give up field position on stupid penalties against the Steelers and expect to win.

Of course, a Jets/Steelers matchup is predicated on a Colts victory tomorrow. Everyone expects Indy to roll the Broncos tomorrow, but based on today, nothing is given.

L-Hack, your team lives to fight another day.