Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Cap and trade" vs. "Cap and Frown": Read the Washington Times, too


The Washington Times ran a “strident” editorial “Cap and Frown” on Monday, June 29, called “Cap and frown: global warming bill could cost $6,800 per family”, link here. The editorial quickly shows how easily a gasoline tax would exceed the $175 a year touted by the government and provides a Heritage Foundation estimate of $1870 for the “standard” family of four (sorry, “Dick and Jane” was a family of five as I recall first grade) by 2020, and $6800 by 2035. Of course, the cost of health care is already doing this to “typical” families.

What I see at the Heritage Foundation website is “Waxman-Markey Global Warming Bill: Economic Impact by Congressional District”, by Karen Campbell and David Kreutzer, link here. What I see there is an additional bill of $4609 by 2035.

In any case, the message is clear. “The End of Suburbia” sounds at hand. A lot of people “have to drive” long distances to make a living as things stand now. We have the old glass-houses problem, as the editorial points out, unmetaphorically.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Supreme Court rules against "reverse discrimination" in Connecticut firefighters case


The Supreme Court has decided the case Ricci et al. v. DeSteano et al in a case of “reverse discrimination” regarding promotion of firefighters for New Haven, CT. The Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling 5-4 (Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas) and ruled that the city may not engage in what amounts to discrimination against white and Hispanic applicants who may have scored higher in objective test and performance criteria. The Supreme Court's slip opinion has been posted here (PDF).

Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor had heard the case for the Second Circuit last year and ruled against the non-black firefighters. David Souter, whom she would replace, ruled the same way.

A CNN video analyzes the downstream affects.



There are some famous cases with regard to affirmative action and reverse discrimination in the past. In 1978, Bakke v. Regents of the University of California. Bakke (white) claimed reverse discrimination in medical school admission. The Supreme Court ruled that an educational institution may use race as one among a number of admission factors, but that it may not set aside quotas

The Supreme Court made some important rulings regarding cases in Michigan in 2003.

The Supreme Court decided 5-4 that the University of Michigan Law School can consider race as a factor in admissions. However the Law School did not have numerical points for race, only subjective consideration. This case was Gruter v. Bollinger.

The Supreme Court reversed the point system (for race) in use at the University of Michigan undergraduate admissions program. However, it has allowed less specific means to consider race in undergraduate admissions. This case was Gratz v. Bollinger.

An instructive CNN article about these earlier cases appears here.

Some school systems help struggling teachers with "peer review"


Some Montgomery County, Maryland public schools are experimenting with a “Peer Assistance and Review” program for struggling or less effective teachers, even with the blessing of teachers’ unions. Montgomery County has experienced some dismissals, more than some northern Virginia school districts. Peer review is designed to help teachers, particularly in lower or middle school grades, with classroom management or discipline problems, and with motivating and engaging all students. The story is by Daniel De Vise, appeared on the Front Page of the June 29 Washington Post, and is titled “Throwing a lifeline to struggling teachers: Montgomery program embraces peer review” here.”

The article does not discuss subs (or long term subs) but substitutes, especially short term subs, often have classroom discipline issues. The Arlington VA school district would instruct subs to greet students as they come into the classroom, as a way of establishing contact and control, even though this sounds a bit gratuitous for all circumstances (and often there is no time for this).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Cap and trade" gets traction in House: a new kind of negative fiat money?


The Saturday morning (June 27) New York Times has a front page story by John Broder, “House passes bill (barely, 219-212) to address threat of climate change,” link here.

The basic concept is the well touted cap-and-trade system, which will allow companies (and, conceptually at least, individuals) to trade “pollution allowances” as if they were like gasoline rationing coupons. It makes the footprint masses a kind of negative currency, and takes into a realm of sci-fi economics (probably inspiring to some screenwriters), but a bane to conservatives and libertarians. The allowance limits (and hence reciprocal math) will tighten each year. This plan will provide good drill for calculus students learning integration by partial fractions! No question, this bill will provide college professors material for exam questions.

The average well-to-do family would pay about $200 more a year for energy under the plan by 2020. Low income families would get redistributive rebates. Given the gloomy predictions of ABC’s movie “Earth 2100” that seems like we’re getting off easy.

Bring it on!

Picture: Mt. Storn W. Va. coal-fired power plant, near strip mines, Aug 31, 2004 (my photo).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Supreme Court: School officials must be diligent with discipline and searches


In a case called “Safford Unified School District et al v. Redding” the Supreme Court ruled today that a strip search of a 13 year old girl for suspicion of patent medicines in 2000 had been unconstitutional. In writing perhaps his last opinion, Justice David Souter wrote that such violation of privacy by school officials was justified only when there is clear and imminent danger to other students or staff, a feature not really present in this case. But the school officials. The case occurred in 2000 in the small eastern Arizona town of Safford and was very traumatic for the female teen involved.

The link for the opinion is here.

In a curious elaboration, the six of the justices ruled that there wasn’t a clear enough violation of the Fourth Amendment to hold school officials personally liable.

There is a typical summary story in the Miami Herald for McClatchy newspapers by Michael Doyle here.

For me, having worked as a substitute teacher, the ruling is interesting. I was criticized for not being pro-active enough with discipline when I was a sub in some cases. But the tone of the ruling suggests that school employees should use great care with discipline and be convinced that there is some specificity to the conduct that warrants discipline; just wanting to act like an authority figure for its own sake may not be a good enough reason.

Attribution link for eastern AZ countryside near Tucson (Wikimedia Commons). I visited the area in January 1980.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Questions for the President" lets Obama take on difficult, personal questions on health care, particularly at end of life; also discussion on reform


Tonight, Wednesday June 24, ABC Primetime broadcast “Questions for the President: Prescription for America”, a townhall meeting where President Obama took questions about his health care reform plan. Tim Johnson, Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer hosted. The news story by Jake Trapper and Karen Travers is “EXCLUSIVE: President Obama Defends Right to Choose Best Care: In ABC News Health Care Forum, President Answers Questions About Reform.” The link is here.

The President was asked whether he could objective about excesses in health care procedures if his own family were involved, and he answered with an anecdote about his own grandmother.

The president emphasized that even people who have satisfactory insurance now face possible doubling of their premiums in ten years. The president talked about the proposed availability of an exchange for people who don’t have adequate insurance. Doctors will still be working for themselves, not the government (as in Britain), but reimbursement will change to reflect better outcomes. Hospitals will be encouraged to reduce their readmission rate.

28% of the expense of Medicare is spent in the last year of life. Two examples with opposite viewpoints were presented for this question. There was an example of a pacemaker inserted in a woman successfully at age 99 who has lived so far to 105, when some providers recommended against a pacemaker at that age. The president wanted this question to remain flexibly handled and expressed in the wills of the patients (as with Living Wills) but he also said that a totally private system will often simply stop being able to provide care. He said personally he thought that sometimes palliative care may be the appropriate choice.

Obama has that about two-thirds of health care reform would be paid for by reallocating costs already met by the government.

There was discussion of the “Big Brother” problem with government insurance. Obama said that insurance companies should not be able to exclude people for pre-existing conditions and that policies should be portable. Insurance companies may not be as profitable per person but could still be profitable (for the “Blues” that’s a loaded question). Obama wants to raise money by limiting itemized deductions on the wealthiest filers.

Obama said "this time the stars are aligned" as health insurance companies join in the debate, and he also talked about removing the doughnut hole for prescription drugs in Medicare.

By the way, host Charles Gibson had a well publicized weekend angioplasty in 1999.

The Kansas City Star has a report by Margaret Talev and David Lightman, “In televised special, Obama calls for compromise on health care,: link here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Talking sense on H1N1 and H5N1 threats; "social distancing" may not work well in the U,S.


John M. Barry has an op-ed in the Washington Post today, Tuesday, June 23, “Pandemic Reality Check: What can be done – and what can’t – to protect against H1N1”, link here. This article appears shortly after WHO has officially declared H1N1 an international pandemic (which does not reflect virulence, only prevalence). Barry offers a measured discussion of the prospect for a vaccine, which may or may not be ready by October and which may or may not require more than one dose or be dependent on immune stimulation. We cannot anticipate how effective it would be.

But he also gives a sobering assessment of the containment measures – the “social distancing” – that were put into place in Mexico City. Compliance, he says, was much less universal than first reported. It would be even less so in the United States, where the economic and social consequences of shutdowns would be so dire. ISP’s might not be able to keep up with the demand from telecommuters or might not even be adequately staffed themselves. The same could be true of utility or cable companies.

In fact, the United States has not really had a disruptive social “shutdown” with such personal effects since World War II. It’s true, at one time, swimming pools were closed out of fear of polio, and there was enormous “health” disruption during the 1918 flu pandemic.

During the development of individualistic culture since the 1960s, we’ve tended to adopt the idea that one owns the moral responsibility for one’s own health, even as we engage in all this talk about public health. That was particularly true as a strategy for handling HIV in the gay male population when it erupted in the 1980s; for STD’s, an ideology of “personal responsibility” in a motivated population really will work, whereas that may be less so when we talk about easily transmitted infectious disease. There could be a lot of emphasis on “community values” if a deadly H1N1 or H5N1 epidemic broke out; people who had recovered or been vaccinated would be expected to help care for the sick, as there wouldn’t be enough nurses.

Barry is right about a couple of other things. We really have been careless with our vaccine industry, outsourcing it overseas and letting downstream liability concerns gut it. Congress should fix this (and use it as a warning for what could happen to the Internet). We ought to have developed the ability to make a reliable H1N1 or H5N1 vaccine in a few weeks by now, and we haven’t.

He also pointed out that in one day recently, Egypt announced 25 cases of H5N1 – the largest ever in a single day. That’s a word of warning, and not just in the latest little indie horror movie (like “Quarantine” or “Blindness” last year).

Monday, June 22, 2009

What kind of welfare? It really matters


Robert J. Samuelson starts his Monday morning op-ed (June 22) in The Washington Post, “Welfare in a Bad Way”, by referring to our “individualistic culture.” (Note the link here.) He goes on to compare corporate welfare (the GM model) to government welfare (the bane of the South Bronx whenever I took a train through it back in the 1970s). In fact, when we talk about the corporate welfare state, we wonder if this is more the “welfare state” or the “corporate state” of Charles Reich in his “Greening of America” book in 1970.

Samuelson goes on to outline how we are in deep trouble in both areas, and touches the third rail – entitlements, as over 60% of government spending is now payouts to individuals. He says we must focus on the most vulnerable. Does that mean that social security is no longer paid to those with some means, even though they contributed FICA as if it were an annuity?

Forced redistribution destroys individual dignity, while on the other hand sensible regulation is necessary to manage systemic risk and provide enough stability for growth. Some liberal and Democratic columnists seem to be getting these mixed up. There are other possible redistribution plans that seem scary, such as from the childless to those who have taken on the risk of raising kids (with viewpoints ranging from Elinor Burkett to Phillip Longman).

One observation we have to deal with, however, that socializing the risk of old age and to some extent of childcare may have given a lot of Americans (myself included) a false, unsustainable sense of independence and “freedom”.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Health care: does it pay (the country) for everybody to stay well?


Stanford physician Abraham Verghese has a curious essay in the Weekend Journal (Wall Street Journal) questioning all the sacred cows of reigning in on health care costs.

The essay is called “The Myth of Prevention”, link here. He includes a reproduction of Sir Luke Fildes’s dark painting “The Doctor”, associated with Harry Truman’s 1949 attempt to sell national health insurance. The closest we may have come since then is Nixon. The story subtitle is “a doctor explains why it doesn’t pay to stay well. Decoding what works, what falls short in Obama’s plans to reform health care.”

Well, we have an image of “the doctor” invading into the private spaces and coverings of health people for “prevention”, and Verghese argues against the economics of scale with prevention, as well as counting too much on automated medical records. I disagree with him on the second point, but on the first area he has a point. Prevention means more procedures, and more revenue for doctors. And it probably means longer lives, with more total health care expenditures per person, and maybe a real eldercare responsibilities on a scale unknown to previous generations (including the childless).

There are waiting lists in other countries with more nationalized care. The lists are not as bad as they used to be, but ultimately we have to make decisions about what works and what doesn’t, and even what other family members can support. Other countries have been there already. We need to learn from them.

Maybe Verghese wants us to learn from Barney Frank: "Don't punish the country."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

President Obama introduces "United We Serve" at the same time as massive financial reforms; reiterate call for national service


Today President Obama announced an initiative called “United We Serve” with an aim toward a national day of service on Sept. 11, 2009.



The text of the remarks are on a new site called “serve.gov” with link here. Curiously, the only embeddable copy of the video seemed to live on YouTube itself. There seems to be some emphasis on service from all age groups. The president does tend to look a bit like “Big Brother” with his monolithic, consistent appearance in all of his White House Blog videos (larking back to how political sci-fi looked in cinema back in “1984”); there is a bit of a “do ask do tell” kind of presence in them. Bill Maher says "I don't want my president to be a TV star." It seems like the boundaries between the president, Andy Samberg ("Laser Cats"), Seth Meyers, Ryan Seacrest, and "pop stars" like the Jonas Brothers and even classical pianist entertainers like Tim Andres (and other "rock stars") get smaller all the time. In fact, throw Ben Stein into the mix.

The president’s 20 minute East Room briefing on new measures for financial stability, which will have to get through Congress, is here (no embed option provided).

Picture: From "sci-fi" street painting on Colesville Road, Silver Spring MD, near the AFI Silver Theater (today).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Global Change Research Program offers dire report on domestic climate change effects


The US Global Change Research Program has released a report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (June 16, 2009) on the impact of climate change during this century. There is a prediction that areas like Illinois through Nebraska could wind up with a climate like Texas, and coastal New England could eventually have a climate, especially in winter, like the Southeast. There is a slideshow that attracts interesting comments. The report has regional climate change impact reports, and they are interesting; the Northeast talks about greatly reduced snow in winter. Extreme summer heat waves will be common in the upper Midwest, in areas like Minnesota. I lived in Minneapolis 1997-2003, and the highest temperature there during that period was 102 F at the end of June 2002, the lowest was -23 F in January 1998.

The link for the report is here.

The Boston.com version of the story is here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama's speech to AMA: It's time to get health care (financing) done! (My own history with CABCO, Lewin, BCBS world)


Although President Barack Obama doesn’t directly use Blogger, his approach, apart from his speech today to the American Medical Association in Chicago, for presenting his plan for Health Care Reform seems almost that informal. Staffer Jesse Lee posted the White House explanation for Obama’s Health Care reform plan today here (with a link to the AMA speech) in a posting called “Why Reform, Why Now?”, on what the president calls simply "The Blog". (No, Mr. President, I think mine are "The Blogs!) The White House's idea is almost like that of Blogger: Put it out, encourage people to find it, and get the debate going and keep it sticking this time, not dying as it did for Bill Clinton. The Internet could make all the difference in the world in getting reform through – that is “Internet culture.”

It’s worthy of note that the President spelled out dire consequences for failure to act promptly:

“But let there be no doubt -- the cost of inaction is greater. If we fail to act -- (applause) -- if we fail to act -- and you know this because you see it in your own individual practices -- if we fail to act, premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, the rolls of the uninsured will swell to include millions more Americans -- all of which will affect your practice.

“If we fail to act, one out of every five dollars we earn will be spent on health care within a decade. And in 30 years, it will be about one out of every three -- a trend that will mean lost jobs, lower take-home pay, shuttered businesses, and a lower standard of living for all Americans.

“And if we fail to act, federal spending on Medicaid and Medicare will grow over the coming decades by an amount almost equal to the amount our government currently spends on our nation's defense. It will, in fact, eventually grow larger than what our government spends on anything else today. It's a scenario that will swamp our federal and state budgets, and impose a vicious choice of either unprecedented tax hikes, or overwhelming deficits, or drastic cuts in our federal and state budgets.”

Dr. Tim Johnson, ABC’s Medical Editor and reporter, wrote an analysis of Obama’s speech (“11 Observations on Obama's Health Care Speech: A Closer Look at President Obama's Speech on Health Care Reform”) here.

Obama emphasized the importance of automating medical records (and the clumsy manual system of charts – which a lot of doctors and even specialists cling to really does lead to 30% more tests and costs in my own experience) and prevention. Johnson says “At this point, he ignored the fact that there is no evidence that prevention long term saves money -- e.g., we may get so good at it that everyone lives to 90 and gets Alzheimer's.” That sounds a bit tacky, even offensive. Well, you can live to be 100 or more and not get dementia if you live well enough – look at the “blue zones” presented on Oprah. It does seem that the highly individualistic values that we have don’t work to preserve the brain health of many people, who need socially integrated communities – although maybe “neo-nerds” (like me, or maybe our new president and his wife both) are building up enough brain reserve to protect themselves for decades; we just don’t know yet.

The crowning glory of Obama’s speech was “That is why we need to end the practice of denying coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions. The days of cherry-picking who to cover and who to deny -- those days are over." That led to a huge applause (and not the British polite “clapping”).

We’re left to wonder whether a quasi government non-profit corporation to take care of the uninsured would undermine the health care industry. Well, it wouldn’t in a country like Switzerland. We can set up something like a super Blue Cross Blue Shield plan that takes everybody based on what they can afford, for people who don’t get their own and fall below certain income parameters. No, I don’t like means testing, but among those with means there is no reason why the industry today can’t “compete” for customers. BCBS plans, while technically non-profit, are true commercial businesses with intricate (sometimes labyrinthine) management and alliances -- sometimes they get in bed with for-profit giants like EDS to do their processing, so why not take this a step further and let companies like EDS, Perot Systems (they're separate!) and IBM have at it to automate all the record keeping an processing. (A major health care finance consulting company and player in today’s technical debates on reform, Lewin, has some of its roots in the Blue plans; I worked there in 1988-1989.) Funny thing, too, is that I was on a project in Dallas, a BCBS consortium (called “CABCO”, for Combined A&B Medicare Consortium) , intending to do just this from 1979-1981 and it fell apart in politics. The world wasn’t ready for user-defined processing. This time, we have to get it right. Who knows, I could soon find myself working for “CABCO II”. Perhaps Obama’s speech will turn out to be personally prescient, for me at least.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mountaintop mining may come under scrutiny of Obama Administration


The Washington Post, on June 11, in an article by David A. Fahrenthold, “Mountaintop Mining To Get More Scrutiny: Administration to Announce New Policies,” link here, in the writer's "Green" series. The EPA says that it is not time to say that mountaintop removal will be banned. Strip mining jobs, while fewer, are safer than underground mining jobs. Coal companies are saying that sometimes they do restore mountains to approximate original contour, despite removing over 1000 feet of overburden in some areas. But in most cases, overburden has been left into “Isaiah” valley fills, blocking and polluting streams and water supplies.

Attribution link for Wikimedia commons picture of an Eastern Kentucky coal mine, here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is "fee-for-service" the heart of the problems with health care financing?


Steven Pearlstein, Business Columnist of the Washington Post, has an op-ed on Wednesday, June 10, “Fixing Health Care Starts With the Doctors”. He will have a Q&A on Health Care reform there today at 11 AM EDT, and the link is here.

His point is that doctors get paid for procedures rather than for a successful pattern of care, which is more the experience of European systems. And doctors have an incentive to order unnecessary tests to protect themselves. And a bureaucracy, with care subsidized by government (Medicare) encourages set period of cares and procedures. He sees the payment system to doctors as the heart of the problem, and other proposals like mandatory insurance plans and public entity competition as window dressing.

Sometimes patients may do well with less care. Some people don’t “want to know” and don’t wand every invasive test. Even with some cancers, I often wonder if the cure (chemotherapy) sometimes is worse than the actual disease. Sometimes, I wonder, isn’t less more?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

East Coast of United States May Experience More Sea Level Rise than much of rest of the World


The East Coast of the United States may experience more sea level rise than other parts of the country or even the world, if the Antarctic ice cap slips and a substantial portion melts, according to a story by David A. Fahrenthold in the Washington Post, Monday June 8, p A04, link here.

Sea levels rose about 7 inches during the 20th Century. While sea level rise might average slightly under two feet in the rest of the world, it could be four feet around New York City, enough to increase beach erosion and exposure to many beachfront properties. But it won’t make New York into another New Orleans, although a direct hit by a Category 5 Hurricane might. That’s because of the uneven wobble and position of the mass of water and ice, as explained in the article.

But some scientists make much more dire predicts, for example, or a runaway Venusian greenhouse effect if the methane hydrate in the deep ocean gets released. New York might have to build Thames-like gates as in the ABC Film “Earth 2100”.

Elevation maps would change. Stony Man mountain in Virginia would decrease from 4010 feet to 4008 feet.

Pictures (above): Gibson Island, 10 miles SE of Baltimore, likely to experience sea level rise (very much in Michael Phelps country). Below: Stony Man, Shenandoah, VA

Monday, June 08, 2009

Getting down to using common sense in reforming health insurance


The Washington Post has a concise editorial on health care reform today, Monday, June 8, titled “A Few Symptoms; President Obama's first foray into the details of health-care reform”, link here.

The paper notes that the president insists that reform be paid for, and it sounds like, yes, the president wants to soak the rich.

The Post makes some comments that the pre-tax benefit for recipients of employer-provided health insurance is becoming counterproductive in terms of “the common good” and The Post (not just the Washington Times) objects to the idea of letting the government compete with private insurers.

However, it looks like we really do need to look at how well systems in countries like Switzerland, Germany, and Taiwan work. They are not totally public, and services are provided by the private sector and to some extent insured by them. But there is mandatory, universal coverage, guaranteed issue, and no exclusion for pre-existing conditions. Remember, at least according to a recent PBS documentary, people don’t go bankrupt in those countries because of healthcare. It’s unthinkable, even in the most capitalistic of the system, Switzerland.

These seem to form some of the essential components of getting universal health coverage done. Maybe the government should not be a competitor, but mutual non-profit private insurance companies provide a good model (as in Minnesota, where health insurance seems to work better than in most other places other than those with mandatory insurance). An important component is encouraging preventive care starting in youth. And the “social contract” itself may need a good look, as other postings here have noted.

Picture: Patriot Center, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Friday, June 05, 2009

NYC experiments with 6-figure-salaried teachers


The New York Times, on the front page June 5, reported on an experiment with paying public school teachers six figures at a charter school in Washington Heights in New York City. The story is by Elissa Goodman, is titled “Next Test: Value of $125,000-a-Year Teachers”, link here. A number of teachers from around the country competed for eight positions, and one of the top qualities of a chosen teacher is “engagement factor,” particularly in middle school, as a measure of the ability to make kids forget that they were even at school.

The school is called the Equity Project, and opens to about 120 fifth graders, mostly from low income Hispanic families, chosen by lottery. So the teachers are chosen by application and competition, and the kids are chosen by chance.

Teachers share administrative duties and, as with the case of teachers under Michelle Rhee’s reign in Washington DC, can be subject to dismissal and have less union protection. That’s a far cry from New York City practice of putting bad teachers in a holding pen, paying them to not be in the classroom, as John Stossel has reported before.

Back in the 50s and 60s the NYC schools had a good reputation, and kids dreaded the New York State Regent’s exams. I remember talk of that.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Student tutors in math raise test scores, even in middle school



The Maryland Gazette for College Park has a story by David Hill, “King Middle Math Programs Equals Progress”, link here. At Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School (in Beltsville) there is a Tutor Corps, where middle school kids tutor other kids in math, especially algebra. And it seems to raise test scores, for both the tutors and tutees. I saw this story in a Pot Belly Restaurant just off the University of Maryland campus today.



The Gazette also has a story by Megan King about school employee layoffs in Prince Georges County, MD, and many of the layoffs are in parent liaison positions rather than teachers, link here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Chrysler, and perhaps GM product safety accident plaintiffs may lose out (ABC tonight)


ABC “World News Tonight” is reporting that victims of accidents related to Chrysler product defects will probably not be able to recover damages or sue, as Chrysler comes out of bankruptcy. The show presented a few victims with horrific injuries, and one family is faced with a $500000 a year caregiving bill that it cannot claim. At most, accident victims might claim less than 1% of their costs. The problem seems to have to do with the way bankruptcy courts handle accident liability claims among the creditors. There is a Drudge Retort on the matter here. The ABC link was not yet available as of 7 PM.

Obama said that the “sacrifices” of the bankruptcies will benefit the next generation of workers.

Update: June 7

Indiana Pension Funds have filed a stay with the US Supreme Court to block the sale to Fiat until these product liability issues are resolved. Mark H. Anderson has a story on Wall Street Journal newswires, here. The issue of junior creditors and senior lenders was raised.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tiller's death stirs up debate on anti-abortion fight, and on the rule of law itself


Regarding the George Tiller shooting (by Scott P. Roeder) widely reported in the media, I found this rather strident piece (“George Tiller: A Case Study”) about Dr. Tiller and Kansas law here. I’m reminded of Oliver North’s radio talk shows in the 1990s when he called partial birth abortions “infanticide”. And I found a “Botch Watch” page with a domain name using Dr. Tiller (that might be questionable domain naming practice according to “good faith” rules at ICANN) here. It looks like there are plenty of these “viewpoints” about him on the Web to be found.

For a brief but sane and balanced perspective, we can go to the June 1, 2009 issue of Time for an article by Karen Ball from Kansas City, “Tiller’s Murder: How Will It Impact the Abortion Fight?”, here. The article refers to a graph showing the growth of crisis pregnancy centers – Heart Beat and Care International, in proportion to the number of abortions.

The Huffington Post reports that Randall Terry, founder of “Operation Rescue” says that he is more concerned about President Obama’s reaction than about Tiller’s slaying, link here.

Still, it is increasingly disturbing that emotion-driven (or ideology-driven) lawlessness seems to be growing. If one feels indignant enough, it seems today that moral martyrdom becomes the answer. Dr. Phil could take this up. What are we coming to?

I went to graduate school in Kansas (KU) in the 1960s. It is “conservative”, but not necessarily more so than many other areas.

The Wall Street Journal today (June 3) has a piece by James Kirchick, "The Religious Right Didn't Kill George Tiller: The left tries to smear 'Christianists' as akin to Islamic extremists", link here.

Picture: Kansas state capitol, Topeka, my visit in Aug. 2006

Monday, June 01, 2009

President Obama addresses nation on GM bankruptcy filing this morning


President Obama has addressed the nation and press on the bankruptcy filing early Monday June 1, 2009 by General Motors. He spoke from the Grand Foyer at the White House. The most direct link is here. I did not see an embeddable video there yet.

The President talked about the idea that some sacrifice is needed, and that taxpayers might not recover fully on the investment. He said that the government’s action is generative: to make sure that our children and grand children live in a nation that still manufactures things. He also reassured the nation that the federal government, while it will be a major shareholder for a while, will not involve itself in operational decisions for the restructured company, which will be a professional board from the private sector. He also thanked the governments of Canada and the province of Ontario for their investments, which may be short term (less than ten years).

PBS offers a PDF copy of the bankruptcy filing here. Even giving this link seems to "rub it in".

GM shares, while still traded now, will soon become worthless.

AOL is offering a "what you need to know" (or "GM Bankruptcy 101") column, and advising that comprehensive auto insurance rates will go up because replacement parts could become scare, and off-brand replacement parts (as with body work) will need to be allowed.