I often wonder how our government survives, let alone efficiently, doing the people’s business. In the engineering world where I spent thirty years of my life there was an old saying “Design By Committee”. All of us engineers knew that the more people you have involved in solving a problem the less likely that you would come up with a good answer. Design by committee is similar to “Too many chefs spoil the pot” in the cooking world.
The above cartoon shows us that this is also true with our current way of doing business in government circles. When you get 535 people involved in just about anything nothing productive can come from it. I think the best thing that congress could do for the USPS is to just cut them loose to make their own decisions. Giving them mandate after mandate and then telling them you don’t like their solutions is, well, stupid.
Not all businesses, especially ones so thoroughly regulated by government can make it on their own. I am very familiar with that since I worked for the world’s largest telephone company before it was de-regulated. I can’t even describe the cultural shock that went through that company when they were set adrift so to speak. I kind of liked the idea of having more reign of what we would be designing but many if not most of the upper management were just fear-stricken.
Let’s take the US off the USPS and see what happens. Their business is a dwindling one so if they are to survive without government subsidies they will need to re-invent themselves. If they fail then there are several other private companies that can come in and meet the shrinking demand while it continues to be there.
Congress just can’t seem to understand they are not very good at innovative thinking. There is just too many people with veto power it seems. When they looked at our ever-expanding healthcare costs they wisely decided to let a smaller, less political, group attack the problem. That group was called Simpson/Bowles after the two leaders. It took them what seemed like an eternity in the private enterprise world to come up with ideas for reigning in healthcare costs. Many of their solutions were pragmatic and would likely help ameliorate the problem. But, as usual congress took the report and then did absolutely nothing with it. The politics of today almost mandated that end result.
If you are new to this blog you might think these are the words of one of those tea party wing nuts but let me tell you that I am by NO MEANS one of that group. Our government has an honor bound duty to do the people’s business. A big part of that is to keep us safe via police, firemen, regulators and such. Another it to keep our infrastructure sound and progressively moving forward. These duties take a massive effort and we elect representatives to accomplish those things. If they are not up to the task then it is “our” duty to remove them from their office and to put someone else in there who might do it better. The solution is not to shut down government because we have chosen so unwisely in the last few decades. I hope the Centrist movement helps us with correcting that.
From my friends at FCNL. This program is entirely for political purposes only. We don’t need such an expensive boondoggle.
I know I am getting burned out on all this constant bickering in the U.S. I watch little or no news on TV now. All the news channels seem to be about inciting a riot among us. My internet news sites which I visit first thing every morning are now for the most part briefly scanned. I am just tired of all this stuff. It may just be time for me to go “Walden” as Thoreau did and drop out for a while. I seem to only be able to see the dark side of life and I just can’t live in that mode very long.
Since the Spring and Summer months are the busiest times away from blogging for me I will likely be limiting my posts to one every other day or so for a while and I will likely stay away from politics, at least for a while. I just need time to get things back in perspective again and get all this fighting off my mind….
Couldn’t have said it better.
A new golden rule BY CHUCK JAFFE, MARKETWATCH
It has long been a rule of thumb that typical investors should have 5-10% of their portfolios in gold. But watching gold’s swoon on Monday had to make you wonder: Really?
Source: Online Trading, ETFs, Mutual Funds, IRAs & Retirement – Fidelity.
Leave it up to the financial gurus to pollute the golden rule with things about money. I really got a kick out of this one. It seems Mr. Jaffe has a very short term memory. Yeah the price of gold dropped significantly on Monday but year over year it is still much higher than it was ten years ago. It is up about 300% while the stock market has gained a whopping 15% over the same period.
But of course Mr. Jaffe makes his fortune convincing you to buy and sell stocks so I certainly understand his motivation for these words.
Staying away from the news feeds today. Too much celebration of the Bush years. I am just not ready for that yet. Too many young lives lost and too many retirement pensions ruined during those years. Maybe when I am old and senile I can look upon them differently…..
I try not to post about the events like the Boston bombing until more of the facts are known but there is one related thing that always bothers me about such events. While I along with most mourn the four lives lost in this tragic event I wonder why we don’t also mourn the 150 or so lives also lost that day and every day to violence around our obsession with guns? I wonder why don’t we also mourn the 3,000 or so lives lost each day to hunger? Were those four lives more precious than the 150 or the 3,000 to our Maker?
Why don’t we mourn all senseless loss of life?? Why can’t the innocent person who was gunned down by a drive-by shooter or killed by a drunk driver be recognized with the same mournful eulogies at the four victims from last week’s bombing.
It is likely we will end up allocating a few billion more dollars to try to prevent the next distraught teenager from setting off another bomb. Most likely those who are suggesting this increased spending will propose getting the funding by cutting social/entitlement programs. How sad is that? Where is our compassion for those thousands who are killed every week in our country because, even though they is totally solvable, we lack the will to prevent them from happening?
Books and newspaper columns talk of an “insurgency of the rational” and of the “sane, pragmatic majority” taking charge. A political action committee founded by New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, plans to spend millions backing moderates and independents in state and federal elections, with a nicely balanced focus on promoting gun control (angering the right) and school reform (which makes teachers’ unions seethe). The Common Sense Coalition, set up by entrepreneurs and fund managers, wants an online “Army of Moderates” to lobby candidates and elected officials. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is said to be poised to launch a group pushing education and immigration reforms, using Republican and Democratic strategists.
The same arguments are cited, repeatedly, to explain why the time is ripe for a centrist insurgency. First, Americans are fed up with both big parties, especially in Congress, a body with an 11% approval rating in one recent poll. Self-styled “independents” account for up to 40% of the electorate by some measures. Finally, great faith is put in the power of technology to help new groups out-organise and out-campaign incumbent party machines, like small furry mammals scampering beneath dinosaur feet….
The White House was the wrong goal, argues “The Centrist Manifesto”, a new book with a different plan to sell. The book’s author, Charles Wheelan, a teacher at Dartmouth College (and former Economist journalist), argues that a Centrist Party should focus on the Senate, aiming to win just four or five seats in moderate states. Thanks to quirks of Senate arithmetic, a handful of centrists could hold the balance of power.
The moderate start-ups [those starting these organizations] tend to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal, keen on free trade and free markets, worried about social mobility and open to immigration. Some talk of curbing campaign spending and involving more ordinary voters in primaries that select candidates.
source: Lexington: Knowing best is not enough | The Economist.
And here I thought I was the only one who was fiscally conservative but socially liberal! This seems like an organization tailor-made for me and I am hoping for some of you. Take a look at the Economist article by clicking the source line above. I love the cartoon! It is exactly how I feel. As a matter of fact the guy on the plow looks kind of nerdy like me. Why can’t saner heads rule in this country and the sooner the better.
I already have my “Centrist Manifesto” loaded on my Kindle so you can expect some words about it soon. This is an organization the I can finally relate to.
I ran across this idea on a blog entitled Jeremiah On America. I imagine it will now be part of my daily reads. Here are a few words from him:
This is all very exciting. Perhaps the most promising development is that fifty-nine members of Congress have joined a bipartisan group called No Labels. We are restraining our optimism. We know how the parties treat collaborators.
“[War] won’t stop till there is as much brains and scientific study put to aid peace as there is to promote war.” – Will Rogers, 1 June 1929
Of course these words were spoken not long after World War I which was inaptly titled the “war to end all wars”. Of course it didn’t accomplish that noble task. President Wilson tried his best to put together the United Nations to insure no more world wars but like these times there was just too much Republican bravado going on to prevent that from happening.
I wonder what the world would be like today if he had managed to assemble a world organization with some teeth to collectively deal with rogue nations such as North Korea or Iran. If that had happened maybe we would have some money to spend on how to aid peace. Sadly we will never know as that was like so many other things a missed opportunity.
Today, on the National Mall, I stood with fellow faith leaders, including clergy from Newtown, to remember lives lost at Sandy Hook elementary school and the 3,364 gun deaths that have happened since.
We stood in front of a field of crosses, Stars of David, and other grave markers, and it broke my heart to think that each one stood for a life ended too soon. It doesn’t have to be this way. Commonsense steps to reduce gun violence are within our reach. Just today the Senate voted to begin the debate. But there is much work to do. Lawmakers need to hear from you.
This is one of the clearest examples of a stark democratic choice: the old politics of guns or the morality of the common good. The clergy are here today for the common good.
The words above are from my weekly email from Jim Wallis of Sojourners. More people are killed on our streets and homes annually than were killed in Vietnam of my generation or of any war since then. I certainly pray that there will be enough of us willing to stand up for the common good in this and many other areas…
No, this post is not about pornography on the internet. Instead it is about all those words we accidentally hit that bring up small screens to get in the way of what we are reading. I admit that I am one of those guys that uses my computer pointer to keep track of where I am on the page. I need to do that as my wife is constantly interrupting me with one emergency or another.
But often times when I move the pointer to just the right space suddenly a another box pops us. I can’t tell you how annoying that is to me. I like to have control of what I do. That is just who I am I guess. I foolishly like to think that I actually control a few things in my life. I have tried to figure a way out of these internet mine fields but haven’t accomplished that to date. After the first few pop-ups I generally keep the pointer out of the text field but at the same level as the line I am reading.
Another thing that bothers me is all the animated things that twirl and spin at the peripheral of my view. I used to get so irritated by that stuff I swore I would never buy anything that uses that advertising technique. Thank heavens, I learned the secret of how to stop the vast majority of those stupid things. The secret is that they use the Adobe Flash Player add-in on most browsers so all I had to do was to eliminate that add-in and the problem goes away.
One thing about that though is that Flash Player is also used to most videos on the web so they won’t play now. Since the vast majority of videos are not captioned that is no big loss to me. But there are occasions when I do want to see a video just for the pictures. To accomplish that I have another browser that is loaded with Flash.
So, now my life is just a little more in my control. If only the other things out of my control were so easily solved.
Starting tomorrow we will finally be on the road again. These last six months seemed longer than most. Cabin fever was really getting me down. I know several of you really enjoy my “On the road reports”. I thought about not doing them this time and instead taking a hiatus from blogging but I realized that I really do enjoy writing the reports. They allow me to sit back and think about how my day was and to record things in a “Travels with Charley” format similar to what John Steinbeck did about fifty years ago.
So my daily posts will be coming out at the end of the day instead of the beginning as it usually does. In one way I am taking a step back from blogging in that I won’t even attempt to do any aside posts in the afternoons as I have in the past.
See you tomorrow evening with the first report of a week-long trip. I will leave it a mystery as to where we are headed this trip for the first post tomorrow. I don’t think anyone could guess where we are going. Since these “on the road” reports are pretty much posted as they are written I hope you will excuse me in advance for the typos and such.
I have been thinking about all the partisanship and our legislative process lately. We seem to be in a gridlocked pattern that is almost impossible to break. Washington is completely out of step with the rest of the country. Poll after pole tells us that we the people want them to get off their butts and do something.
Doing nothing in the U.S. Senate feeds the cynicism in the country which enhances the Republican view that government can’t do anything right. The filibuster is the latest major tool used to accomplish that task. All it takes now it for the representatives of about 10% of the U.S. population to shut down all activity in the legislative branch.
Congress used to work 45 weeks a year in the 1970s. They now are only in session for about 32 weeks. Last year set numerous records as being the least productive senate in our history. Only 2.5% of the bills submitted were even acted upon. When I think about this I get upset. There are so many things that need done. But then again maybe doing nothing is what is right for these times. We need to move both of our political parties back to the center. What it will take to do that is anybody’s guess.
Source: Republicans Win Congress as Democrats Get Most Votes – Bloomberg.
The 2010 elections, in which Republicans won the House majority and gained more than 700 state legislative seats across the nation, gave the party the upper-hand in the process of redistricting, the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional seats. The advantage helped them design safer partisan districts and maintain their House majority in 2012 — even as they lost the presidential race by about 5 million votes. Also nationwide, Democratic House candidates combined to win about 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.
Gerrymandering which is what is described by the article above is something that subverts our democratic process to such a degree to jeopardize our country similarly to what the filibuster has done to the Senate. I know gerrymandering totally takes place at the State level and is endemic of almost all fifty States by the political party in power. Instead of eliminating the Civil Rights bill as the SCOTUS is likely to do they should be enlarging it to cover gerrymandering. But since the Supreme court seems to have a deaf ear, like they do so many other things now, on this issue that is unlikely to happen.
The state has been scarred by some of the deadliest incidents of mass gun violence in recent U.S. history, including the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School and the Aurora movie theater shooting that killed 12 last July. The state’s gun control bills have gained national attention since they were first proposed, drawing the ire of those who oppose any new restrictions on gun purchases or ownership.
“We’re all in shock here,” state Senator Greg Brophy, a Republican, said on Wednesday. “It turns out this guy who everybody thought was a moderate Democrat is actually a gun-control governor.”
“I think the governor will be replaced by someone who has Colorado values instead of New York City values,” Brophy said. “If Republicans are returned to control we will repeal these bills immediately.”
Source: Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper signs landmark gun-control bills – U.S. News.
I am heartened to see some common sense legislation from some of the States. Colorado has certainly been hit with more than their share of violence due to too many guns in our society. Of course no real progress is made without the ranting by those of opposite interests. I just can’t understand why the country is so split on this issue. Are guns really that embedded in our society?
Source: China’s real estate bubble – CBS News.
China has been nothing short of a financial miracle. In just 30 years, this state-controlled economy became the world’s second largest, deftly managed by government policies and decrees.
One sector the authorities concentrated on was real estate and construction. But that may have created the largest housing bubble in human history. If you go to China, it’s easy to see why there’s all the talk of a bubble. We discovered that the most populated nation on earth is building houses, districts and cities with no one in them.
This article got my attention because of two different items. One is how our prosperity did not disappear; it was simplly moved to another continent. The second is that I recently posted the words that started ultra-conservatism in our country. Those words were “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.” from Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural speech. He ushered in the feeling in this country that government serves no purpose and should just get out of the way of the private sector and everything will be alright.
Obviously China has taken the exact opposite track. Their government controls almost everything in that country. To see them go from number twelve to number two in less than thirty years is nothing short of amazing. But of course their prosperity is coming at the expense of the American worker as our corporations continue to move jobs to their country.
Victor said she was “shocked” when she heard what Scalia said about the Voting Rights Act during the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on a key provision of the law last month.
“I thought you must not know what’s happening in this country,” Victor wrote. “After learning more this year from the civil rights group, Advancement Project, I know that just as there were for me, there are barriers to voting for many people – especially people who are black or brown.”
Obama pointed to Victor, who waited in line for hours to vote at a polling place in Miami, as an example of why it was important to fix the nation’s broken election system.
“I was born at a time when women were not allowed to vote in Haiti, nor the United States,” she continued. “After becoming a U.S. citizen, I was so proud to have a voice in this country. That is what inspired me to fight last year. But voting should never require such a fight. We need more make sure that all Americans can have their voices heard – we need the Voting Rights Act. Justice Scalia, the Voting Rights Act is not a racial entitlement. It is an important protection that helps all Americans exercise their right to vote. It was put in place because, sadly, there are people in this country who don’t want everyone to have an equal voice at the ballot box.
Source: Desiline Victor, Obama’s 102-Year-Old Voter, ‘Shocked’ By Scalia’s ‘Racial Entitlement’ Remark.
Victor mentioned in the quote is the 102-year-old voter who stood in line for four hours in order to vote in the last election. She couldn’t understand how Supreme Court Justice Scalia takes such a wrong-headed view of the voting rights act. We all know that Justice Scalia is an ultra-conservative who aligns with the Reagan view of “government being the problem” mantra but surely he sees voting as a fundamental right of all citizens. It should be protected and defended at every turn. With the current attempts by some of the States to stifle the vote the voting rights act should be on the Supreme Courts agenda every year. Not to abolish it but to enforce it.
Dear R J,
The Keystone XL pipeline is a giant straw that spews out some of the dirtiest oil on earth. Christians have advocated tirelessly to stop the pipeline. Despite this opposition, the State Department recently released a report that claims the pipeline is “unlikely to have a substantial impact.” Where did they get their data? The oil and gas industry. 
Tell the State Department to take a second look at the damage the Keystone XL pipeline would do to God’s creation.
Oil from tar sands releases significantly more carbon pollution than any other energy source we import, and the Keystone XL alone would bring 3 to 21 million metric tons of extra pollution per year. 
Join with Christians across the country in calling on the State Department to perform a real assessment of the pipeline’s impact.
Reports by the Environmental Protection Agency  and leading independent climate scientists  have concluded that allowing the Keystone XL project to move forward would contribute to huge increases in carbon emissions. Make sure the State Department knows that the faith community will not be silent while they listen to oil companies and ignore the damage this would cause to God’s creation.
Tim, Alycia, Janelle, and the rest of the Sojourners team
The above is from an e-mail I recently received from my friends at Sojourners about the Keystone pipeline. I must admit that until recently I didn’t know much about this proposal to put another pipeline through the midsection of our country. The more I learn about it the more I understand the adamant opposition to it. For those of us who believe in global warming, and that should be all of us, we should be concerned about this project.
Source: Paul Ryan’s new Medicare plan could be tip of the iceberg (+video) – CSMonitor.com.
A parallel factor is rising income. As a society grows richer, it tends to spend more of its income on health care. Add in demographics (an aging population) and a lack of competition among health-care providers in many markets, and you have a recipe for more people to consume more health-care services at higher prices.
For once I am not going to comment on Mr. Ryan’s seemingly enthusiasm to balance his budget on the backs of the poor while asking for increases in our bloated military budgets and more tax breaks for the rich. That continues to be insane to me but is not the focus of this particular post. Instead this post is about fixing Medicare and Medicaid. The quote above is at the end of this news article but says much about how some view the problem of spending our healthcare dollars.
The quoted argument seems to say that we choose to go to doctors because we can. I don’t know about you but I don’t sit down in the morning and try to decide whether I will go to the mall, the park, or to the doctor that day. I go to the doctor when I am sick or have what I think might be a serious medical problem. I don’t use doctors as a form of entertainment! Yeah, I know about the hypochondriacs out there but I hope they are a very small group.
Of course the quote also deems that the lack of competition is the cause for increasing prices for healthcare. We just don’t have enough McDoctors and McHospitals around yet I guess. Maybe I am naive about all of this but I kind of believe that competition is more of a cause than a solution. When Hospital “A” gets the latest multi-million dollar piece of medical equipment then Hospital “B” has to get it too so they can compete. It doesn’t matter that one machine could provide all the tests needed by the community. It doesn’t matter that hospitals will use the machines where they really aren’t necessary because they have them.
If we really want to get our healthcare costs down we need to do what the rest of the world already knows and that is a single payer regulated system. We spend more than twice as much as everyone else and actually live shorter and less healthy lives. It continues to amaze me how we in the U.S. fail to understand this very basic approach to healthcare.
Source: Will Fractured House Republicans Unite on Budget? – ABC News.
“When you’re looking at a budget, you’ve got a watch the gimmicks,” Ryan warned.
Gimmicks indeed. One of the tools Mr. Ryan proposes to balance his so-called budget plan is the total repeal of Obamacare. Is he the only one to see that as impossible? As usual he wants severe cuts to the safety net while actually increasing military spending. Yes, Mr. Ryan I am “watching the gimmicks”. Like the battles for Social Security eighty years ago the battle for even a limited version of universal healthcare were hard fought. Does he really think we will simply eliminate them so the rich can get a few more tax cuts?
If you are really serious about your concern for deficit spending you can’t ignore the place where most of our discretionary money goes and that is to the military black hole. Gimmicks Indeed…..
In order to balance his budget he assumes that unemployment levels will reach historic all time lows in the coming years. He assumes that seniors will blindly accept the pennies on the dollar vouchers in place of universal healthcare. Gimmicks Indeed…
I realize that these budgets are purely political documents so gimmicks are the primary tool to make them balance. That doesn’t bother me too much. What bothers me is the seemingly heartless approach that Mr. Ryan takes toward balancing his budget proposals. But then again he is just being true to his idol Ayn Rand in that regard.