Indiana Democratic Primary Preview: Candidate Forum 04/16/14 (Part One)

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Note Salad: February 9, 2014

Other People's Words

” A program that does everything that is technically possible has been done. It harms trust. In the end, there will be less, not more, security.” German chancellor Angela Merkel, 01/29/14

“New rule: when you're invited to the president's state of the union address, wear your good bandana.” Bill Maher (re: Duck Dynasty on Capitol Hill)

“These Olympics are geopolitically interesting. Those are not words you want to hear attached to the Olympics.” Ian Bremmer

“…I am a 28-year-old single mother. I have two children. I work two part-time jobs…I make too little money to qualify for any kind of subsidy through the Affordable Care Act and I make too much money to qualify for Medicaid in my state. And unfortunately, because my governor, who's wonderful, decided not to expand the Medicaid in my state, I'm completely, completely at the mercy of any kind of charity…” A caller from Louisiana to WBUR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook, exemplifying the human tragedy that is the coverage gap in states which did not accept the federal Medicaid expansion (Hello, Indiana.)

“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they're helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it; let us take that discussion all across America.” Mike Huckabee, thankfully just a tv person and not actually relevant

“'Network' is used so frequently these days that whenever I hear the word, I immediately suspect it might be covering up a poorly-formed concept rather than revealing something original or actually useful.” Joel Rosenthal (substitute any buzzword or label of your choice for 'network')

“For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life…” George Eliot, Middlemarch

By the Numbers

25 Percent of Americans self-identifying as Republicans in 2013. 31 percent identified themselves as Democrats; 42 percent were Independent. In 2005, all three groups were at 33 percent. (Gallup; USAToday)

35 Percent less crashes which occur when traditional crossroads are replaced with traffic circles (roundabouts). There are 90 percent less traffic fatalities at intersections with traffic circles than with conventional intersections. (U.S. Department of Transportation; CNN; Fareed Zakaria GPS)

40 Percent of Americans nearing retirement age who have no savings. (Federal Reserve; USAToday)

59 Percent of Americans who spend their entire paycheck or more each month. (FINRA; USAToday)

59 Percent of Americans who said their U.S. congressional district representatives should be re-elected in 2012. In January of this year, only 46 percent of Americans say their representative should remain in office. (Gallup; USAToday)

Too Simple, Mr. Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer's recent article “Health-care myths that we live by” (Indianapolis Star, 02/08/14) included two myths which I've recently heard bandied about by those who think the Affordable Care Act will bring down the entire country (not the point, actually, of this article by Krauthammer). However, Krauthammer did, like many who use the same talking points (and, what, is there some “fact sheet” circulating on the internet with these over-simplified, short-term arguments? Is that why they're so dead-common?), rely on two short-term health care results to draw two wrong-headed conclusions based on oversimplification. (1) Emergency room use. One of the arguments in favor of the ACA has always been that insuring people will result in less uncompensated emergency room visits. Krauthammer (and friends!) point to a recently very-well publicized study from Oregon which shows that when the uninsured were put on Medicaid, ER visits increased by 40 percent. What Krauthammer (and friends!) misses here is that it takes time to cut down the ER visits. For starters, the newly-covered have health issues they've delayed caring for. For many of them, the Emergency Room is the only doctor they know. So, with their coverage, they head to the only medical option they've ever known they could go to. Voilà, short term increase in (compensated!) ER patronage. But, this is key: as a greater push toward educating the newly insured occurs, people will understand that doctors, clinics, and other providers are out there for them to go to for most of their health needs. It takes time and education to get everyone on the same page with the whole concept of “emergency rooms are for emergencies” thing. Assuming that everyone already knows that is too simple. Assuming that a short-term increase means all over the country, people are going to be exclusively going to ERs for standard and preventative care, and that they always will is too simple. It's almost certainly wrong. (And, anyway, cutting short ERs is not the total point. Paying for care for more people is the point. Bending the cost curve down is the point, but it's secondary to caring for more people.) (2) Medicaid's effect on health. Citing another Oregon study, Krauthammer says Medicaid did not provide any significant improvements in physical health outcomes in the first two years for new Medicaid members. So this had a two-year timeframe. But, like the ER thing, the missing component here is public awareness and education. The study cited shows here a need for information. Health outcomes don't improve magically once people receive insurance of any kind. They do improve (over time) when people use the coverage they have. Listening to the conversations people are having (anecdotally, to be sure) shows that many people are really flummoxed by “premiums” versus “deductibles,” let alone “co-pays” and “networks.” It doesn't take a lot of overheard conversations, let alone studies, to demonstrate that health care is confusing for a lot of Americans. And particularly those who've never had insurance of any kind. It's highly probable that a public information campaign is going to be needed, not just to help people understand the mysterious world of insurance and funding but also the proper care and feeding of their new insurance policies. We need to help people understand that the cards need to be used for check-ups at doctor's offices, for physicals and screenings, and for managing minor but chronic conditions so general health and welfare improves. Of course having a Medicaid card didn't improve health outcomes. Without widespread awareness within the newly insured community about how to use it, where to go, who to see, and what to do, the card's meaningless. And so's any argument based on just having Medicaid or insurance. The study shows the need for education more than it points to lack of efficacy inherent to the health care system.

But, in the words of Charles Krauthammer, “This is not to indict, but simply to advocate for caution grounded in humility.”

Disclaimer and Sources: Use of quotes is not intended and should not be construed to demonstrate endorsement or agreement with persons or ideas quoted. All errors are my own. Please correct me if I've screwed something up. Sources include the Indianapolis Star, Gannett Publications, the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, PBS NewsHour, CNN/Fareed Zakaria GPS, WBUR/On Point with Tom Ashbrook, NPR, HBO/Real Time with Bill Maher.

Groundhog Day (Damn Shadow)

Groundhog Day
This morning, the rodent has seen his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. Had the groundhog peeped his head above ground in Indianapolis this morning, he would not have seen his shadow, yet I think this imaginary Hoosier groundhog would break with tradition and say, shadow or no shadow, more winter this way comes.
Shadows and varmints not withstanding, I'm going to continue scanning the horizon, seeking signs of Spring.
Happy Groundhog Day.
Image: Art gallery postcard found abandoned on a café table in Amsterdam, 2004. Artist unknown (I saved the image, but alas, have lost the postcard).
 

 

Note Salad: January 19, 2013

Quotes

“All sorts of people who should know better believe almost anything for a few hours.” Professor Peter Hennessy

“I just don't see how people that close to [Chris Christie] could have felt comfortable enough to do this if they thought their boss wasn't of this mind-set.” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

“Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice, and need.” Voltaire

…”Republicans have historically liked to talk about growth, Democrats have focused on inequality, but there's an issue that could unite the two political parties, namely, opportunity and mobility. And if we spend the next 12 months or the next three years arguing about the restoration of opportunity and social mobility in this country, we will have spent those three years well.” Bill Galston

“Look, 40 percent of job growth last year happened in sectors that traditionally pay low wages: retail, fast food, healthcare, education, et cetera…It's important to improve skill levels, to increase the share of high to medium skill jobs that pay good wages but, at the end of the day, the people who care for our aging parents, the people who care for our children, the people who clean our offices; those jobs are necessary to our economy and they're here to stay…[We're going to have to] figure out how to improve the quality of those jobs…” Melissa Boteach, who listed raising the minimum wage and providing paid sick and personal leave as two ways to improve job quality.

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope…Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.” Lyndon B. Johnson, 01/08/1964

“If you haven't thought until your brain hurts then you haven't tried hard enough.” Elon Musk

Numbers

17 Number, in dollars, of the Return on Investment (ROI) from every $1 invested in pre-K education. (David Williams, citing the 40-year-long Perry Pre-School Study; PBS NewsHour)

27.5 The percentage of the Indianapolis metropolitan population which is black. 13.5% of officers of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) are black. In 1994, that percentage was 18.5%. (Indianapolis Star)

40 The percentage of tree cover recommended by forest experts for energy conservation, the environment, and quality of life. The Indianapolis metropolitan area currently has 23% tree cover. (Indianapolis Monthly)

50 Percent of global spending on healthcare which is spent by the U.S. (World Bank; PBS NewsHour)

242 Dollars. The average weekly benefit amount for unemployment insurance compensation in Indiana. This is the seventh-lowest among the states. (Indianapolis Star; USA Today; the White House)

25,400 Number of Indiana residents who face the loss of federal extended unemployment benefits in the first half of 2014. 19,200 Hoosiers lost those benefits on 12/28/2013. (Indianapolis Star)

70,000 Estimated number of people who become one of the long-term unemployed every week. It is estimated that 4 million Americans have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks. 37% of the unemployed population have been unemployed for six months or longer. (National Employment Law Project; KCRW; NPR)

18 Million Number by which boys under 15 outnumber girls under age 15 in China right now. The gender imbalance is predicted to mean as many as 30 million men of marriageable age in China may be unable to find spouses by 2020. India faces a similar gender imbalance. (Time; CNN)

27 Million Number of pounds of toxic discharges released into the waterways of Indiana in 2012. (Indianapolis Monthly)

Notes

Still Watching: Contract, Temporary, and Part-Time Employment Trends

According to the Indianapolis Star and Careerbuilder.com, 42% of employers report they intend to hire temporary or contract workers this coming year (40% in 2013). Only 43% of these employers say they will transition some of these temporary workers into full-time permanent status. 17% of employers report they will be hiring part-time positions in 2014 (14% in 2013). It's worth remembering in the context of discussions of raising the minimum wage that many earning a minimum wage use the number of $15/hour because they are seldom given a 40-hour work week. (I've been watching these issues for awhile: “Underemployment in the New Economy: Full-time Problems, Part-time Work, and No Solutions“)

Potentially Great Policy Idea from Indiana state senator Greg Walker (R-Columbus)

The senator is supporting the creation of a state-run retirement program, managed by the state treasurer's office, similar to a 401(k) for people who don't have access to one through their employer (maybe like contract, temp, and PT workers?), allowing these people also to put aside additional funds for their long-term needs as they age. Although many banks offer retirement plans, a state-run option might enable many more people to save because they wouldn't be priced out of the beginning step (many banks require an initial investment of $500). If Walker's idea allows minimum contributions which are affordable and so long as Walker's state retirement program is used to supplement and not to argue for the supplanting of the federal Social Security program, then this could be a really useful program. It's certainly an idea worth watching. (State Representative Woody Burton, what do you think?)

Sources and Disclaimer: As usual, the use of quotations, numbers, and opinions do not necessarily reflect agreement with or endorsement of ideas or persons cited. All errors, transcription or otherwise, are my own. Please let me know if corrections are needed. Sources for this batch of notes include but are not limited to: The Daily Journal (Johnson County, IN), Indianapolis Star/Gannett, American Public Media, National Public Radio, The Diane Rehm Show (WAMU), On Point with Tom Ashbrook (WBUR), To the Point (KCRW), PBS NewsHour, and CNN/Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Chicks on the Right Tweeted Me. But they included a smiley, so it’s okay.

Chicks on Right Tweet to Michelle Railey

Open Letter to the Indianapolis Star, Gannett, and the Chicks on the Right

Dear Editorial Board of the Indianapolis Star:

cc: Gannett Publications

There have been a couple of times I’ve been strongly tempted to write a letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star. One of those times was after the first article by the Opinion contributors, Chicks on the Right, Amy Jo Clark (Daisy) and Miriam Weaver (Mockarena). I was offended by the language, the level of enmity in the tone, and was disappointed in the subject matter. But I didn’t blog about it, didn’t express my offense on social media, and didn’t write a letter to the Star. I didn’t want to magnify the attention that the article was already generating; didn’t want to perpetuate the hateful language and broad brush denouncements; didn’t want to encourage further articles which reclaim feminism by viciously attacking, yep, women. Not to mention that @IndyStar‘s twitter feed stated that they had received record response to the initial foray by the Chicks on the Right.

So, my household continued to subscribe to the Star. I continued to read it, even the articles by the Chicks on the Right, because I thought, in the main, it is a good thing to have some local political voices in the mix with the nationally syndicated ones; because I think it’s a good thing to read positions which differ sometimes from my own. Because I was hoping that these new, happily local columnists would eventually say something relevant, interesting, informative, substantive, or at least entertaining. And I thought that certainly it wouldn’t be fair to judge the Chicks on the Right by one column, especially one that I thought just had to be their worst written moment. If nothing else, I thought, the professional editors at the Indianapolis Star will eventually request that their columnists select different topics or add some modifiers (“some liberals” instead of “the liberals”); will eventually remind the Chicks that writing for the newspaper is a little different from being on their radio show or writing for their personal blog.

Besides, loving newspapers as I do, I could understand the need to spice up the Opinion section with provocative, contentious, and even controversial voices: more attention generates more website clicks which generate survival.

But then, on Friday, January 10th, the Star published the latest column by the Chicks on the Right, “Host didn’t deserve Romney’s forgiveness,” which used the mistake of an MSNBC host, her apology to Mitt Romney, and Romney’s erroneous public generosity to one who had apologized to him and his family to illustrate how liberals are “low-information voters” “waging war against conservatives” by “calling us racists, homophobes, sexists, classists, ageists—” and yes, (all) liberals are calling all conservatives these things because “that’s pretty much the liberal narrative.”

Y’know, here’s where some editing would have been really great: if a writer is going to use a current event to prove an all-encompassing argument (“the liberals,” “these people,” the implicit “all”), then maybe the writer should choose something stronger or wider in scope than a weekend-cable-talk show host and someone who is not in office, running for office, or otherwise currently highly influential. Or, if the scope is going to be grand (“waging war,” “agenda,” “messaging”) and national, then the writers need to be asked to use the Harris-Perry/Romney thing as one of at least three supporting instances or to limit the column to only the Harris-Perry/Romney thing.

Or, modifiers again: “some liberals,” “some pundits,” “liberals in the media.”

It seems to me that the editors here could have suggested that if dirty politics and messaging is a complaint, perhaps the suggestion that Romney not forgive and politics should get dirtier from the conservative side isn’t the best way to make that point and that the point most certainly isn’t assisted by an attack on someone’s appearance (Harris-Perry’s earrings) or any kind of personal attack at all. An editor here could have also pointed out that if part of the idea the writers are expressing is that liberals paint conservatives with a broad and negative brush, it doesn’t work well, logically, for the writers to then paint “the liberals” (“these people”) as if they are one, cohesive, “low-information,” nasty, war-waging unit.

The editors of the Indianapolis Star could have pointed out to their columnists that they have written variations of this same article before (conservatives good/liberals bad/politics nasty) and it would be best if they expanded their topic base because the opinion pages are shrinking but valuable real estate and many, many journalists right now have no newspapers for their columns to appear in, let alone for countless variations on the same theme.

But at the very, very least, there are two things I would have expected the Indianapolis Star to do here: to not permit white writers to post any kind of inane insult to any part of a minority’s physical appearance and to never, ever permit the publication of references to a feminine hygiene product unless it’s contextually appropriate. Ever. And definitely not to do it twice in the same article.

For the Chicks on the Right, if politics are dirty, then maybe part of that is because we aren’t demanding it to be otherwise. And maybe it’s because our response is to crawl into the dirt. I don’t know. I’m not a columnist for a newspaper serving the 13th largest city in the country. Write something better, bigger, more important than messaging (instead of the how of the message, try tackling the what or why of the message). Leave the rest of it for your radio show and your blog. But not the paper.

For the Indianapolis Star and Gannett: do your job. I want newspapers to survive. I believe in the importance and value of a relatively local Fourth Estate. But there are ways to survive (exercise your editorial authority; be selective with your content) and there are ways that, if necessary to create revenue, just aren’t worth surviving for: namely, articles like this one which illustrate lack of judgment and include unnecessary crassness.

Your readers deserve better.

Best regards,

Michelle Railey, Greenwood, Indiana

Update 01/13/14: Regarding the earrings: Melissa Harris-Perry did make use of tampons as prop earrings in July of 2013 while she was discussing the events occurring in Texas regarding reproductive rights and the actions of police officers and protesters. In my point of view, this actually makes the editorial decisions of the Indianapolis Star even more inexplicably poor. When the editors were reviewing the article by Clark and Weaver pre-publication, why did they not insist that the authors either provide the context for their comments or remove the reference altogether? Without the context, the comments were incredibly distracting and offensive. Even with the context, the earring thing was neither necessary nor central to the arguments of Clark and Weaver, so what was the point of having the references there at all? Again, the column is an OpEd in a newspaper, not a blog post for a highly-dedicated and “in-the-know” self-selected group of conservatives (the Indianapolis Star is not Breitbart.com and it shouldn’t be; neither should it be a likewise self-selected and self-identified liberal outlet). The Indianapolis Star, in not carefully curating their content, did a disservice to its readers, its columnists, and itself. Additionally, this does not change the “all conservatives”/”all liberals” issue. The repeated columns and statements of this type which have appeared as both language by and topics for the Chicks on the Right are neither accurate nor particularly productive. So I think the Indianapolis Star, its editorial board, and its columnists should be more critical when they consider what they’re publishing. As readers and members of the community, maybe all of us (newspapers, writers, readers, people, self included) could benefit if we would be a little less reactive, a little more generous in our responses, and more clear and careful with our language.

The Liminal Times Post Dispatch Herald Tribune (Mega Edition)

Quotes from the News (and Other) plus By the Numbers. All of which are straddling the space between the old year of 2013 and the new year of 2014.

Quotes “R” Us

“So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society.” Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #1

“In a democracy, dissent is as essential as the air we breathe.” Robert Frost

“There’s no better investment for a country than to pour milk into babies.” Winston Churchill (speaking across the years and across the pond to a Congress which has cut both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and ended extended unemployment benefits)

“Embrace the suck.” Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), urging the House to pass the recent budget proposal

“But the problem for the White House is that every change [in health care and health insurance] that people don’t like will now be blamed on the law, even those that would have happened anyway. Meanwhile, those parts of the law that are working as planned or even better — kids staying on their parents’ policies till they are 26, lower rehospitalization rates, the fact that vastly more people are getting insurance than losing it — get lost in the noise.” Nancy Gibbs

“It depends on where you are in the country as to whether [your] state not only set up a [health insurance] exchange but also whether the insurance commissioner [of the state] used the authority that’s in the [ACA] to negotiate rates with insurers, as well as how competitive the insurance market is in your state overall. So if your state is one in which one particular insurer has most of the market,…where the commissioner did not take on the authority to negotiate rates very actively with the insurance company,…and the state did not have its own exchange and make a concerted effort to pull more insurers into the exchange— if you’re in one of those states, you will be paying higher premiums, on balance, than states that decided to take an opposite tack.” Susan Dentzer (Indiana is one of those states.)

“I think we have to ask ourselves some hard questions inside the White House.” Barack Obama

“One of the great diplomats of China, enormously experienced, described North Korea like this: he said ‘North Korea is like a can of dog food.’ We were a little shocked when we heard that. He said ‘If you leave it on the shelf unopened, it can last forever. But as soon as you open it, it will spoil rapidly.’” Kurt Campbell

“I think a ground war in Iran with American boots on the ground would be a horrible thing and I think that people like to toss around the fact we have to stop [Iran] in some way from getting this nuclear capability. I don’t think it’s inevitable but I think if you have to hit Iran, you don’t put boots on the ground; you do it with tactical nuclear devices and you set them back a decade.” U.S. House Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA 50)

By the Numbers

6 Senate seats Republicans need to win in the midterm elections this year in order to win a majority in the Senate. (USA Today; Gannett)

12 Democratic Governorships up for grabs in 2014. The Republicans are seeking to defend 22 governorships this year. (USA Today; Gannett)

17 Seats in the U.S. House needed by the Democrats in order to win a majority and the Speakership. (USA Today; Gannett)

17 Percent of U.S. government positions held by women. In Sweden, that number is 45%; In the U.K. it is 22%. In Japan, it is only 11%. (Time)

52 laws passed by the U.S. Congress in 2013, a new record for “least accomplished” in the post-WWII era. In 1995, the previous “winning year,” the number was 88.

507 Years. Age of a mollusk, killed when researchers were learning how old it was. (Time)

1,700 Dollars spent in 2013 on scented candles for the official residence of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Time)

2,256 Square miles of Amazonian rain forest lost to deforestation between August of 2012 and July 2013. (Time)

4,800 Estimated number of people in Indianapolis who experienced homelessness in 2013. (Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention; Indianapolis Monthly)

43,585 In U.S. dollars, the national median household income in the U.S. Liberia’s is $781. Luxembourg’s is $52,493. The global median is $9,733. (Time; Gallup. Numbers reflect information collected between 2006-2012)

 

Note: Use of quotes does not necessarily imply agreement or endorsement of ideas or persons quoted. Sources for quotes include NPR; PBS; Time; USA Today; and the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, among others. All errors, transcription or factual, are my own. Please let me know if corrections are needed.

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