## Thursday, September 13, 2012

### Weekly Update 9/9-9/15/2012

The 28th annual NEMO triathlon was held on Sunday, September 9.  I was really focusing on this race this year, and really wanting to decrease my time from 2011.  The consensus among racers was that the swim was longer than in years past. Swimming was the only area that I know I improved on from last year.  When I saw my 23:46 time this year compared to my 22:48 time last year, I knew something was wrong.  I had planned to cut at least two minutes off the swim and it didn't happen, even though I felt great in the water.  My final verdict: the swim was longer.

I was shocked that my bike increased from 51:55 in 2011 to 54:12 in 2012 (18 miles).  Again, I felt strong out there on the bike. Perhaps it was windier than last year?  The run once again left something to be desired.  I increased my time of 44:28 in 2011 to 46:01 in 2012.  My total time was 2:03:59 compared to last year's 1:59:11, or 4 minutes and 48 seconds slower.

This was my fourth triathlon of the year and I feel (even though the time doesn't show it) that it was my second best.  It really is time for me to re-evaluate my life.  Why am I doing these triathlons?  I absolutely hate running.  Every time my foot hits the pavement, I think to myself, "This really sucks.  Why am I doing this?  None of this pain is worth it because everyone is passing me.  I'm passing no one.  This blows."  And then my other foot hits the pavement, and I think all of that again.  It repeats until I'm done running.  I'm coming to terms right now with this fact that I've desperately tried to avoid for the last four or five years: I HATE running.

This weekend Erin and I will be heading to Lawrence, KS with friends Gerrit, Kristi, and Rachel.  Erin's 32nd birthday is Saturday, September 15.  It turns out, that Saturday will also be my 13000th day alive.  I stumbled upon this fact messing around with Wolfram Alpha one evening.  We'll be staying with Erin's folks and their four huge dogs that I miss.  TCU will be playing the Kansas Jayhawks at 11am on Saturday morning, so we won't get to sleep in at all with the loud tailgating that will be going on.

Political Thoughts of the Week

Ever since my MSNBC app on my smartphone notified me that four people died at the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, I've been paying close attention.  Most of this is taken from NBC news.

Protests crept out over a video about the prophet Muhammad that was released.  This video was a 14 minute preview to a movie that may not even exist (it hasn't yet been confirmed to exist).  In an effort to curb violence, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt released this statement on Tuesday at 6:17am:

"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

Read that paragraph carefully. Do you see an apology in there anywhere?  If you do, you are an agent of spin. I've just detected you.  I guess that makes me a spin detector.

I would like to make two things absolutely clear before moving on.  (1) This statement was made by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, and not by Obama.  (2) This statement was made almost 6 hours before a breach or a death had occurred.

After a breach had occurred in Cairo, and after a breach had occurred in Benghazi resulting in the death of Chris Stevens and three other Americans, Romney comes out with this political attack:

“I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Let me point out a few things about this statement by Romney.  (1) The White House had not made a response yet, but was about to make one at the same time as this statement.  (2) The response that Romney is referring to happened prior to the attacks.  So, how could they condemn something that hadn't happened yet.  (3) Where in the statement above was there "sympathy" for those that waged the attacks?

At around the same time, the White House released a statement that said "the statement by Embassy Cairo ...does not reflect the views of the United States government."  Obama would later make his own statement about the ordeal.  His statement would not include any kind of response to the Governor Romney's ridiculous, ill-timed, and completely spun political attack.

A response would come from Obama campaign spokesperson Ben LaBolt. He made the statement, “We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack.”

I'm shocked, too, Ben LaBolt.  Governor Romney needed a history lesson from Reagan and Bush. As they were both battling for the Republican ticket in April of 1980, when eight servicemen died trying to save U.S. diplomats on a failed mission to Iran on Carter's watch, this is what they said.

George H.W. Bush: "I unequivocally support the president — no ifs, ands or buts. . . . He made a difficult, courageous decision."

Ronald Reagan: "This is a difficult day for all of us Americans. . . . It is time for us . . . to stand united. It is a day for quiet reflection . . . when words should be few and confined essentially to our prayers."

Governor Romney is out of touch when it comes to foreign policy. He's out of touch with reality. And, I sincerely hope that he's out of reach of the Presidency of the United States.

## Saturday, September 8, 2012

### Weekly Update (9/1-9/7/12)

Several things came to mind this last week that I want to address.  Speaking with a right leaning moderate last weekend on the eve of the Hy-Vee Triathlon, it was opined that Obama is very similar to Jimmy Carter in that he is a really nice guy, but nobody will work with him.  I had to wonder right away why this is a reason to vote against Obama, and not against everyone that refused to work against him.  There are extreme obstructionist Republican politicians that the American people should be concentrating on ousting from their House seat.

Reflecting on the RNC that closed last week with Mitt's acceptance, and seeing a lot of footage of many of the speakers, I noticed a "We built that" or a "We did build that" theme going on. This is in response to the president's remarks at a campaign event in Roanoke, VI.  I will admit that his choice of words at that particular time was not the most eloquent way he could have conveyed his point.  While giving his speech, I think Obama knew that what had just come out of his mouth didn't sound the best, and came right back with something much better.  Here is a transcript of his speech with my emphasis added.

" If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires. "

The bold print above wasn't part of a correction that he made in an interview later after trying to explain what he meant.  This came instantly after.  Yet the entire Republican convention and a lot of their campaign is built on what he spoke three sentences before the one in bold.  To my knowledge, Mitt Romney hasn't yet come out and said anything to take back his "Corporations are people" statement.  Todd Akin only came back from his "legitimate rape" comment to say he meant "forcible rape."  Sorry, Todd, but that really isn't that much better.

Some final thoughts of the week came with the question "Are you better off now then you were four years ago?"  This was a tough question for Democrats to answer at first as it created a little stumbling block.  However, I did like the analogy that Timothy Noah gave in his article for the New Republic: "It’s like asking a firefighter who has just extinguished a fire whether the house is in better shape than when he got there."  If one were to use only the "misery index" that Reagan created for Carter in 1980, then the answer is no.  So, obviously, this index will be what is used by Republicans to answer their resounding, "NO!"

If one actually thinks about (or reads about) what was actually going on at the end of 2008 and compares that to right now, the answer becomes VERY CLEAR.  Nobody wants to go back to a time when we were in collapse.  Paul Brandus gives some great points on why we would not want to go back to four years ago in his piece for The Week.  He says there, "Job growth nearly four years into the Obama presidency is still lousy, mediocre, tepid, weak — pick your derisive adjective. But isn't it better than the bloodletting of 2008 and early 2009?"

I do not believe a complete switching of administrations in the White House is what this country needs right now.  I do not believe Mitt Romney or any administration he builds could do better or more efficient work that the current one.  I do believe that Obama can do better work than he has in his previous four years.  I am a left leaning fiscal moderate.  Since I am a social liberal and absolutely despise social conservatism and wish it would get squashed and die, my choice for president is easy.  I believe in Obama.

## Thursday, September 6, 2012

### Weekly Update (8/25-8/31/12)

My mind has been all over the political spectrum this week.  I got in a conversation with Ralph (the guy from Saturday dinner) at Colton’s Steakhouse Tuesday about Medicare.  Ralph is a die-hard Republican, so the conversation was interesting to say the least.  I’m not sure how it started, but I think it was me that mentioned how I used my office hour that afternoon to learn about Medicare and how both campaigns are spewing out a lot of false and/or misleading information about it.  He was all about regurgitating what his candidate seems to have spread across the nation in attack ads that you have probably seen, and that is that Obama has robbed Medicare of 716 billion to pay for Obamacare (Affordable Care Act).

We read from Politifact that “Obama, nor his health care law, literally cuts a dollar amount from the Medicare program’s budget. Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to try to bring down future health care costs in the program. At the time the law was passed, those reductions amounted to $500 billion over the next 10 years.” If you’d like to learn something that could be even more shocking, you can read about the truth behind Stephanie Cutter’s statement that “Paul Ryan’s budget relies on the same$700 billion in savings from Medicare that Mitt Romney and other Republicans have been attacking Democrats about.”

The extremely long, and well detailed article I read on Medicare was from FactCheck.org.   I wouldn’t expect you to read such a lengthy document, but a few key points include:
·         both sides seek some way to slow the increase in medical costs, improve the efficiency of care, or get seniors to use fewer or less expensive medical procedures
·         both sides, when attacking the other about Medicare through speeches or ads, will almost surely be feeding the American people bull
·         Some actual differences between the two include
o   Obama’s Affordable Care Act calls for an independent board to make recommendations on how Medicare can cut costs. It will be made up of 15 Senate-confirmed presidential appointees, who will be medical professionals, economists, health care experts and consumer representatives.
o   The Romney-Ryan plan leaves the cost-cutting up to Congress.
·         The Congressional Budget Office and the guardians of the hospital trust fund say Obama’s health care law does both extend the life of the trust fund and reduce the deficit, but can’t be also counted as paying for the law’s added spending. That’s a point in Romney’s favor. But Romney says he’d cancel those Medicare savings — or cuts — leaving him open to attack that he’d weaken the fund.

It all will come down to which plan would work better, and this would be a great debate to have between them.  But will we get it?  Probably not.  Any debate will be one side explaining the false attacks that the other side is making leaving the American people stupider than they were before they listened.
________________________________________________________________

Did you listen to Paul Ryan’s speech at the RNC?  Were you able to recognize any of the flat out lies, or any of the completely misleading remarks?  I’ll choose a source from the most conservative news network on TV for this one: Fox News.   Sally tells us how “Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut-down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, when the plant was actually closed under Bush.  He also once again made the \$716 Billion dollar claim about Medicare above, which Ryan himself embraced in his own budget plan.

The better article about Ryan is again on FactCheck.org.  This gives some enlightening information about the Simpson-Bowles Debt commission that Obama set up.  This is where I started to get a little fed up and had to take deep breaths and try and relax.  What would you do as president of the United States if you wanted to reduce the national debt?  When I read about what President Obama did, I would like to think I would have done something similar.  He set up a bipartisan commission of Republicans and Democrats to compromise and figure something out.  This was an 18 member commission that needed 14 supporters to bring the report to a vote in congress.  What COULD have come out of this commission?  We’ll never know, because it only had 11 supporters within the commission.  Who was one of the other seven?  Paul Ryan.

Forgive me for speculating, but the reasoning behind blocking a possible budget that is a compromise between Republicans and Democrats is because the result of the budget will not be seen as the result of a bipartisan commission.  If Ryan or any three of the seven that didn’t support it gave it some support, we could have had a budget in place beginning to reduce the deficit.  But what would that do?  That would give Obama credit for making bipartisan efforts to balance a budget and reduce the deficit, which would make him, heaven forbid, look good.  Republicans can’t have that, since their number one goal (it seems) is to get rid of the guy.

This is behavior that the American public should be appalled by.  I’m appealing to you, and the American public, to vote for Obama for a second term.  My reason is because the Republicans in Congress will no longer have to worry about getting rid of him in 4 years, because he will be gone in 2016.  Knowing that, I would certainly hope that a few Republicans in Congress would finally understand that they might as well get some things done.  I may be too optimistic, however, because you know there will be a few Republicans that will want to taint his record forever.

### Weekly Update (8/18-8/24/12)

The senate race in Missouri made national headlines this week when Todd Akin, who Missouri Republicans had already voted into the House of Representatives, said on a local T.V. program “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  There are many things fundamentally wrong with this statement, which shows the ignorance of many Missourians.  Ezra Klein, a blog writer for the Washington Post, informed us recently that research shows over 30,000 pregnancies result from rape annually.  He also informed us of a 2001 study in which 6.4% of 405 rape victims between ages 12 and 45 became pregnant as a result.  What message do you think Todd Akin is sending to those people?  Their rape was illegitimate?  And, therefore, not a rape at all?

I see that the Romney/Ryan ticket is trying to distance themselves from Todd Akin.  But why?  Looking at Ryan’s record, one could easily verify that Ryan and Akin worked together on several bills, including one which was a personhood act that would make it illegal for women to terminate their pregnancy after being raped by anyone (including a brother, father, uncle, etc.)  This whole fiasco has brought abortion once again to the limelight, so I’ve decided to share my views with you on abortion.

I’ll start with what the president said, which I don’t think I could have said better.  His speech writers (and hence, him, since he decides to go ahead and read the speeches) are phenomenal in my opinion.  “What I think these comments do underscore, is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.”  Right on Mr. President, right on!

I’ve diverged quite a bit from my former views on abortion.  In large part, I think it is because of a HUGE lack of understanding of the opposing view point.  When we classify a viewpoint as Pro-Life, it is almost as if those who are not in that camp are Anti-Life which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Once I came to understand some of the fundamental differences between these two camps of Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, I have found that the camp that cares less about life (in my opinion) is the Pro-Life camp.  On the one hand, you have a living and breathing woman, who has played a role in many people’s lives, has friends, family, and can interact with people in society.  On the other hand, you have a blastocyst, which is hundreds times smaller than one of the pixels in the dot of this i.   This blastocyst hasn’t yet made an impact on anyone’s lives yet, nor has interacted with society at all.  Yet, Pro-Lifers want to give this thing more rights than the woman?  Government has NO PLACE interfering with the private and personal medical decisions of a woman.

Many Pro-Lifers want to argue that God opposes abortion.  Research shows that 50% of all (including the first 2 weeks when people don't know they are pregnant and never know they were) pregnancies end in miscarriage.  Who, may I ask, is the greatest abortionist of all?

I recently read Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  They explored mid-20th century Romania, where all types of abortions were outlawed.  Women that were even thought to be pregnant were forced to have a test, and come to full term.  What they found was very interesting.  Quite a while after this extreme regime was put in place, Romania suffered one of the largest crime rates of any country in the world.  If we look at the U.S., it was found that in the late 80’s, the U.S. saw a huge decrease in violent crime.  When trying to find the cause of this drastic decline, the author’s stumbled upon something.  All of the explanations of an increased police force, new and efficient laws in place, etc., couldn’t even come close to identifying the drastic decline.  It happened 14-16 years earlier, in 1973, with the Roe vs. Wade decision of the Supreme Court.  With the beginning of facilities that offered safe abortions, came the later decrease in violent crime rate across America.  Why?  What kind of life do you think an unwanted child lives?