A New Can Of Worms
24 June 2004
A Frank Exchange of Views

I love this!

Look, there are rules to awarding contracts. I'm not for bad language in the hallowed halls of Congress (seriously, I'm not) Not even the President can tell a contracting officer what they can do. And contracting I know guard their perogatives jeasously. Democrats in Congress know the rules and know they are followed but they continue to push the Cheney-Halliburton contract issue.

They are knowingly lying and the press refuses to call them on it. Finally, the VP is standing up to the bullies.

They'll Be Fist Fights Before This Is Over

Jill Stanek rips into a GOP tolerant of petty corruption but apparently nothing else:

"I love the newfound righteousness and "throw smelly elephants from the train" mentality of ILGOP Party leaders, led by that sterling example of morality, Gay Pride Parade marcher Topinka, whose own Treasurer's office is currently under an ongoing federal grand jury investigation.

That is only an allegation, you say? Touche', and of course.

McGlynn is a typical ILGOPer who knows only self-serving loyalty. The June 6, 2003, State Journal-Register stated: "And Steve McGlynn of Belleville, who is also among leaders of the state central committee, said accusations of impropriety in Topinka's office would be 'totally inconsistent' with his experience dealing with her and her employees."

I do think it would wise for some members of the "ancien regime" to be careful about their moral outrage on this one.

I have a lot of respect and admiration for Jill. She's effective and has a big following around the country. Legislation regulating abortion that has gone nowhere in Illinois has been made federal law because of her. She was on stage, for example, when President Bush signed the born alive infant protection legislation.

Jack Ryan met with conservative leaders and answered questions on Wed. They came out in support of him. It's the party regular folks who are skittish. I don't believe this part of the right-left divide. This has more to do with Illinois' individualistic culture. No one wants to stick their neck out for anyone else because of what it might do to them. Nationally, the party faithful rally around their guy. But in Illinois we lead from behind.

Meanwhile both Senators Santorum (staunch conservative) and Allen (future President?) are out there voicing support for Ryan.

23 June 2004
LaHood Rebuked

Defenseof Ryan is coming from Washington, not Illinois. That's telling:

"Congressman LaHood is out of line," said Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, adding that this is an allegation in a messy custody case." He called the media "outrageous" for making more out of the case than, he said, it warrants.

Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), who is retiring after one term and holds the seat Ryan is seeking, accused LaHood of attacking members of his own party to gain publicity. "

LaHood didn't have a response.

A lot of people are blaming factionalism in the IL GOP for this kind of statement -- and admittedly I'm sure that plays a part of it with LaHood. Fitzgerald cited the abortion issue as the cause for the split. However, I think a bigger factor may be panic. All politicians run scared, but in Illinois like a lot of other things, we just seem to do it more intensely. Cooler heads need to prevail. All of this can be explained by the fact these were allegations in a Hollywood child custody battle among to wealthy people whom I'm sure had top notch represenation. I would also note that none of this was ever cited for reasons surrounding the divorce. If it wasn't raised then, why was it raised in the child custody hearing.

It should be noted that Jerri Ryan is the one who admitted to doing something wrong (adultry) and he was able to get joint custody of the child. It should also be noted that she has since been very supportive of her ex-husband in this matter. That speaks volumes if you are willing to listen. Both of these people made some mistakes in their marriage, and it seems both realize that. State politicians need to cool their jets and let this one drop.

Finally, the voice in this dispute that counts is the NRSCC (the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee) not JBT's or anyone in the state party. The NRSCC is the primary funding source for Senate candidates. The state party may have influence, but if the NRSCC pulls its financial and campaign resource support, then it is over for Ryan. The press is talking to state officials because they can get to them, not because they are the primary players in this little saga.

For any political scientists out there, think of Joseph Schlesinger's "Political Parties and the Winning of Office." A couple of chapters deal with the evolution of our party system in the 20th Century. Centrfugal is the term used. The GOP and Dems are really made up of state parties, national parties and the respective congressional campaign committees. While they may trade funds and the like, each in many respects is an institution of its own.

LaHood, that sounds French, doesn't it?
Health Savings Accounts in Practice

The Wall Street Journal (link requires subscription) has a great story on Whole Foods' (which we call Whole Paycheck in Chicago because of their prices) experiment with health savings accounts:

"The initial results at Whole Foods have been dramatic. Last year, overall medical-claim costs fell 13% from the year before and hospital admissions per 1,000 employees fell 22%, according to Whole Foods' figures. The company estimates that it spent about the same amount per employee on health insurance in 2003, including deposits into the new employee accounts, as it did under its old plan in 2002. Nationally, health-insurance premiums for a family of four went up an average of 13.9% during that same period, according to a Kaiser/Health Research & Educational Trust survey.

Whole Foods believes it is in even better shape than those figures suggest. It argues that the $14 million that workers had left over in their savings accounts at the end of 2003 will act as a future damper on its costs, as employees with ever-larger account balances put less pressure on the company to sweeten their benefits packages.

Because many employees don't have to pay any premium with the new insurance, about 95% of eligible workers are enrolled, up from about 65% who participated in Whole Foods' health-insurance programs in 2002. Under the old benefits plan, many employees opted out of the health-insurance program, preferring to take more vacation days instead.

There are tradeoffs with the new plan. In order to pay for it, employees had to decide what other benefits to cut. Some people lost vacation days, and the 401(k) match is lower than it used to be. Bonuses to mark employee anniversaries and celebrate new babies no longer exist. The plans also shift some of the burden of fighting health-care costs to the employees from their employers."

What is interesting about Whole Foods is that, because their health insurance costs reached a crisis point, only allows HSA's. They don't give consumers choices. This means that if you have a chronic condition you get the short end of the stick.

With that said Whole Foods will offer policymakers some empirical evidence on HSA's, and so far it looks good on the savings front. But, it will also lend credence to the fact that consumers need a plethora of choices for their healthcare so they can pick the plan best for them. For me an HSA makes incredible sense, but I'm not sure if would for my sister and her family (she's always sick).

There is no universal answer to the healthcare. There is no one size plan that will generate the perfect system. Putting a lot of people in charge of their own health care dollars, however will work. That fact doesn't threaten Medicare or Medicaid, it only threatens those who believe that they know what is best for all of us -- that they be in control of our lives.
Does Anyone Give Damn about these Torture Stories

First, the military culture has long regarded torture as unproductive. The reason is that if you torture someone long enough they will tell you anything to get you to stop.

The Chicago Tribune runs a story today that says that Rumsfeld approved of a memo that said prisoners can be poked -- something we do to services members in POW training -- to using dogs, forced shavings and other intimidation techniques.

Second, these are annoying -- I hate being poked -- but they don't rise to the level of torture. We have films of what Saddam Hussein did to people -- castrations, amputations and the like -- and that does rise to the level of torture.

I'm all for human rights groups keeping tabs on the US, they keep individuals honest as well as kind of act as a canary in the coal mine. But, the handwringing going on by the likes of Sen. Durbin is about politics. And you know what, outside of hard core Bush haters, I don't think anyone cares.
Another Big Win for Free Trade

In the South Carolina Primary Cong. Jim DeMint defeated former governor Mike Beasley. Beaseely was running a protectionist campaign in the republican primary.

Bush-Cheney carried the state with 58% of the vote. The Democrats are counting on Bush's unpopularity (never a good sign) and the facts that their candidate is moderate and John Kerry won't be allowed into the state. Actually, they didn't say the latter but that is what they, I'm sure, are thinking.
22 June 2004
Drug Studies on National Review Online

In all the hoopla surrounding the news that, Yes, even republicans have sex with their wives I forgot to mention this great piece by Michael Fumento on prescription drug prices.

He does a good job of taking part Families USA and AARP's recent "drug studies."

The only point that I would make is that prescription drugs aren't commodities. This tiny but important fact is often overlooked in the prescription drug wars. Because each of one of us are unique, different drugs work differently on us. It could be in terms of doses or even treatments of ailments. Something that can be substituted rather easily for is one defition of a commodity. Or maybe one product is pretty much the same as another might be clearer. That is definately not the case with drugs.

Immediate Reactons to the Ryan Records

All those lawyers in California and this is it?

The allegations kind of fall flat for me. Ryan is alleged to have taken HIS wife to some swingers clubs only to figure out it was a bad idea upon going in. Gee, we have a struggling couple trying to bring a little pizzazz back into THEIR relationship and the man does something stupid....and the Trib calls it a bombshell.

Newsflash: Men do stupid things in relationships everyday.

Perhaps that's what the headline could have read: "Man Does Something Stupid in Relationship" Or perhaps, "Husband Confuses Sex with Romance" or my personal favorite: "Wife Accuses Man of being Insensitive."

I can also understand why he wouldn't want his son to know about this and it is none of our business.

This will probably cost him some votes among the holier than thou chapters in the GOP, but I think this one "bombshell" out of more than 100 documents released is not enough to sink a campaign. This is up there with Obama's admitted illicit drug use.

Eric Zorn, meanwhile tries to take it to another level by accusing Ryan of being self serving:

"I can't blame him for wanting to keep those sorts of allegations under wraps. They're very personal, they may reflect only a minor and brief dalliance in the "Eyes Wide Shut" world; or simply a nasty invention during the custody wrangle. He refused during a Monday news conference to deny them directly.

But I can and do blame him for this grotesque and ongoing attempt to hide his own alleged peccadilloes behind his little boy.

His invocation to me of his son's health problems and his incessant references Monday night to his son's need to be sheltered from these unpleasant allegations is an obscene misuse of his status as a father.

"The first job of a dad, of any parent is to protect your children," he told reporters Monday. He referred several times to that interest as his "highest priority.

But he said it in the context of trying to protect his political future."

I just don't see how you separate serving his political interests on this one and protecting his son are mutually exclusive. Unless you can read his mind, you just cannot know.

I mean... let me get this straight. He can protect his son or Ryan can protect his political future, but he can't protect both at the same time. Because if he does anything that protects his political future, and I'm sure that something do with Jack Ryan being republican, he is seen as ignoble in Zorn's world. Yet, to protect his son, Ryan opens himself up to the self serving attack. In the twisted world of journalists doing anything for your own interests -- enlightened or not -- is seen as immoral.

Think of it like the Clinton Administration's view of the use of military force. It's okay to spill blood and go to war if it isn't in US interests. Or maybe on Bill Monica, it's okay to lie about sex to save your own hide because you raised taxes. It's all about motives, none of it can be about actions...


The Sun-Times reports on a poll asking respondents to compare the Clinton and Reagan legacies. Whaddya' know... It was a slam dunk:

"Most Americans say Ronald Reagan, who died this month, will be remembered as a better president than Bill Clinton, who is trying to improve his image with a new autobiography, according to a poll.

Seven in 10 say history will judge Reagan superior, based on the survey conducted one week after the Republican's state funeral."

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