October 31, 2012

Mitt Romney: Trick or Treat?

I had an opportunity to sit down tonight with a cuppa and relax after the flurry of activity that is Halloween night. Scrolling through my Twitter feed, I caught a headline:
I admire a smooth liar, and Mitt Romney is among the best.
Wow. Short, sweet, and to the point.  I clicked through, and found Richard Cohen's column from back in April.  Cohen, an opinion columnist for the Washington Post, had written a very calm, very reasoned article which exactly sums up my opinion of Romney.
But where Romney is different is that he is not honest about himself. He could, as he did just recently, stand before the National Rifle Association as if he were, in spirit as well as membership, one of them. In body language, in the blinking of the eyes, in the nonexistent pounding pulse, there was not the tiniest suggestion that here was a man who just as confidently once embodied the anti-gun ethic of Massachusetts, the distant land he once governed.

There you have it. He's not honest about himself.  This is a man with ice water in his veins, who will say whatever he needs to say to satisfy whatever audience he's speaking to, whether it's supporters or reporters, voters or other candidates, in debates and campaign appearances or, one can only assume, in his own living room. 

He is powerful, as illustrated by his accomplishments; humble, as illustrated by the people who come forward and talk about his humility; charitable and devout, as illustrated by his contributions to his church and faith.

At the same time, this successful, humble, charitable man, this devout man seeks and then proudly accepts the endorsement of Donald Trump? He goes off to North Carolina and prays with Billy and Franklin Graham, seeks and obtains their endorsement, the Grahams who for years maintained that Mormonism was a cult, similar to Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others? (Notably, the cult reference was removed from Graham's website after the meeting).

Are either of these acts consistent with the devout, humble, charitable persona of Mitt Romney we are supposed to be voting for? Or are these the acts of the businessman persona of Mitt Romney we're supposed to be voting for?  And can they be so easily separated?

I guess I can understand how people can look at a businessman and think, "that's what we need in the White House, we need someone who can balance the budget to get us out of this mess." But in my mind, the President should be more than a person who believes in whatever the person he's talking to believes in, and should stand for something other than whatever the person he's standing next to stands for. and shouldn't pretend he didn't do the things he did to become successful, or that he'd never do them again, or that others shouldn't have the chance to become successful doing exactly the same thing.

Back to Richard Cohen one last time:
Instead, what his career has given him is the businessman’s concept of self — that what he does is not who he is. This is what enables the slumlord to be a charitable man. This is what enables the corporate raider to endow his university. Business is business. It’s what you do. It is not who you are. Lying isn’t a sin. It’s a business plan.
Don't we deserve better?

October 30, 2012

Twenty nine lives, $355,746

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes bizX, the weekly business section.

In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

This week, twenty-three people were listed with new judgments totaling $284,762 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

This week, three people were listed having satisfied judgments totaling $35,560 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

This week, three people were listed in the bankruptcy section with a hospital, doctor, or other medical provider as the major unsecured creditor, totalling $36,424.

October 28, 2012

Medicare, Small Businesses, & The ACA

Why is it that Republicans treat Medicare so differently than they treat other kinds of health insurance? 

Take Republican Ann Marie Buerkle, who represents my district in Congress.  Buerkle's current ad shows her talking about how she takes Medicare personally, her life in health care, and her 91-year-old mother who "depends on Medicare".  She'll never let anyone change Medicare for her mom and "seniors like her", but wants to "strengthen Medicare" so it's there when her thirteen grandchildren are eligible. 

Admirable, I guess, although she voted for the Ryan budget and the Medicare cuts it contained; she now states that Ryan's plan only included those cuts because they were already part of the Affordable Care Act, even though we know that's not true.  And admirable, I guess, except that Buerkle voted, repeatedly, to repeal the ACA, which included additional coverage for preventative care for Medicare members and helps close the 'donut hole' on prescription drug costs.  It also includes incentives for hospitals to improve care for seniors, as well as other benefits for Medicare and Medicare Advantage members.

I find it hard to imagine how a nurse and a health care attorney can, with a straight face, vow to protect Medicare and also vote, repeatedly, to repeal legislation that gets us closer than ever before to having all Americans covered by some kind of health insurance policy.

Is it because seniors are such a powerful voting bloc, and the uninsured are not? 

One of the biggest reasons House members vote in favor of repealing the ACA is that it hurts small businesses. 

The current Republican thinking is that the requirements and regulations are too onerous, too expensive for these companies,  and the ACA deters them from hiring.  That thinking, of course, ignores the small business tax credits that are included with the ACA. It also forgets that small business owners are also small business employees.  In that regard, The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) researchers found in a study that:
  • 30% of small business owners buy private insurance, typically in the individual market, which is the most expensive
  • 25% of small business owners are uninsured
  • 6% are insured through Medicaid or Medicare.
So, it seems that the people that the Republicans are trying to protect from the ACA could actually benefit from the ACA? Interesting; I haven't heard much about that in reports from the campaign trail, have you?

October 25, 2012

Thank Me for Thanking You

Back in September, I posted about one of our local politicians, who seems to always find a way to make sure he's the center of attention.  I'm not a fan of his generally, but this aspect of his personality drives me nuts. I got a chance to witness it again, up close and personal, the other day. 

My mom, a remarkable woman of 82, has been the chairman of a three day festival in her community for the past 25 or 26 years; the event raises money for all of the community programs that support kids, seniors, and everyone in between.  This year, after much soul-searching (and, I admit, some gentle family pressure), she decided to step down as chair; she'll still be involved - she can't help herself - but she'll no longer be running the show.

One of her favorite things about being in charge of this event is that the local papers always cover it; one of her least favorite things is that the papers need an interview, and they know she's accessible, and so she gets tapped for the interviews every year. One of the stories mentioned that this was her last year as chairman.

Now, this politician has a family connection to my mom's community, and it's also in his district.  He apparently has his staff scan the papers looking for things of interest in the district, and they must have stumbled upon the article featuring my Mom.

He sent her a note, on his impressive letterhead, congratulating her on another successful event; he wished her luck in her future endeavors, and mentioned the nice article. He apparently liked it so much, he had it laminated for her and enclosed it with his note.

Which was a nice gesture, I guess.  As long as you look past the 'Compliments of Sen. John A DeFrancisco' label he stuck on the front of it. 

October 24, 2012

veritable pastiche Headline News

"Trump Trumpets Record Request; It Blows".   Oh wait. that's not nice. 

"Trump Toots Own Horn, Response Muted."  OK, that's a little better. 

"Donald Trump is a Big Fat Idiot." Oh wait, that's Rush Limbaugh, sorry. 

"Trump's Bombshell a Dud." Yes, that works. 

"Trump All Red, Trumped by Gloria. " Sure, why not? 

"Trump Attempts Presidential Bribe; Arrested; Calls Charges Trumped Up".

OK, this is getting silly.  Anyone want to join in?

October 23, 2012

Foreign Policy? Not Between Obama and Romney

Earlier this year, I noticed several similarities (some real, some tongue in cheek) between businessman Mitt Romney and President Obama. Last night, during the foreign policy debate, I think everyone saw what I saw back in July: this is a close race for a reason.
On several issues, Romney agreed with the President's position:
  • on searching out, and taking out, al Qaeda leaders
  • on Syria: expressing confidence in the eventual end of the Assad regime; in not wanting to have our military involved there; on not wanting our weapons to end up in the hands of the wrong people, and on the need to work with partners
  • increased freedom and opportunity for women throughout the Middle East
  • supporting the end of the Mubarak administration in Egypt
  • continuing unwavering support of Israel
  • strong sanctions against Iran, and a declaration that we will not let them get a nuclear bomb
  • the timetable for leaving Afghanistan
  • using drones
In fact, just about the entire debate saw the two expressing very similar positions. If we were to take their positions, strip them of the logos and remove the names, I suspect that half the voters would not be able to say which positions belonged to which candidates, unless it was a statement on China, military spending, or how to grow jobs. Those are about the only thing the two disagree on.

In the end, foreign policy almost always matters less than domestic issues. This election that's probably more true than usual. 

Tomorrow we have Trump and Allred to read about -- and to me, those are really foreign policies.

Eighteen lives, $492,217

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes bizX, the weekly business section.

In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

This week, 14 people were listed with new judgments totaling $466,780 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

This week, four people were listed having satisfied judgments totaling $25,437 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

October 22, 2012

The Final Debate.

Debate 1: Big Bird.

Debate 2: Binders full of Women.

Debate 3: Bayonets and Horses.

The presidential debates are over, and while there's clear consensus that President Obama lost the first one, he was more aggressive in the next two, and I think won them both.  Mitt, he 'did what he had to do' by appearing presidential tonight, according to the talking heads. 

I thought he looked, and sounded, tired.

Polls going into tonight were very close, a dead heat by most accounts.

Do you think anything will change?

October 21, 2012

Sidebar: Answers I Wish I Heard (part 2)

During the debate, when Businessman Romney and President Obama were arguing about drilling for oil and natural gas on federal lands, the first thought that came into my head was that I was woefully unenlightened on this issue.

I did a little research on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website, as they're the folks who handle the leasing and permitting for use of federal lands. Conveniently they have compiled a bunch of oil and gas statistics together, so it's pretty easy to see what's what.

Here are some of the statistics as of November 2011, the last report published:
  • There were 49,173 leases in effect; 22,682 were producing leases.
  • There were 36,463,410 acres of land under lease, with only 12,316,233 considered producing acres
So how do the leases work?  Oil and gas companies lease the land for several years, paying a fee for the lease, with prices ranging as high as a couple million dollars.  There's also a yearly fee, which could be as much as $200,000, and there's a royalty that's paid to the federal government, ranging from 12% - 18% once the wells are drilled and start producing, according to a CNN Money article published last year.

OK - so about 53% of the leases and 66% of the acres are not producing, which means that we're getting the annual fees but we're not getting the royalties on them. And I have to wonder how that's the Obama administration's fault? 

I also have to wonder, how come I'm not getting a check from the Feds for my share of the royalty pool for the leases and acres that are producing?  I mean, these are federal lands, which mean they're supported by my taxes. Not only that, but if I want to use the federal lands I own, such as visiting a national park, I have to pay an admission fee. So that means I'm being double-dipped to enjoy my own land?  Doesn't seem right, does it? And wouldn't a nice royalty check help smooth that over? 

Heck, look at Alaska. They established the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp back in the late 1970's and have been paying residents dividends from the fund since 1980. Their fund is worth over $40 billion dollars now - imagine how big one for the Federal royalties could be? 

Seriously, after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, where over 200 million gallons of oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico (and more is leaking now), I'm not sure I have the stomach for more drilling on my land.

Answers I Wish I Had Heard (part 5)

Another of the questions from last Tuesday's town hall debate on Long Island was the issue of outsourcing. 

Now, outsourcing is not a new concept, and companies do it for different reasons.  In some cases, it's cheaper for companies to pay a vendor or contractor to do specialized work, using specialized equipment, than it is for a company to make the investment in technology, equipment and staff and then keep going the work themselves.  These jobs don't necessarily leave the country; sometimes they don't even leave the neighborhood - they keep other Americans working, which is a good thing.

The other kind of outsourcing - American companies shipping jobs overseas, particularly manufacturing jobs - is the kind of outsourcing that was referred to on Tuesday. Here's Carol's question.
The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?

Businessman Romney had the first crack at this one and noted that we need to make it more attractive for companies to bring those jobs back here. Label China a currency manipulator, lower the tax rate on everyone, kill regulations, kill Obamacare, get people hired (even women), and then sit back and watch the world change.

President Obama talked about lowering the corporate tax rates by closing loopholes, about increasing manufacturing, getting good trade deals and increasing our exports. Then they argued a little bit, and Candy Crowley got tired of them and moved onto the next question. 

Here's what I would have liked to hear.

How many of you right now are wearing any item of clothing made in America? How many of you drive a true American-made car, truck or SUV? How many of you even bother to check the labels on the products you buy to see if they're made here, by American workers?

And here's another question for you: How many of you were outraged that the clothes the Americans wore at the London Olympics were made in China? Remember when leaders in Congress said the Ralph Lauren uniforms should be burned? Remember how steamed everyone was about that, back in July? 

Well, if you are one of the people who fumed at the uniform thing, but don't check labels when you buy clothing, or toys, or electronics, or cars, or appliances, then you're a perfect illustration of our dilemma.

Listen, companies are in business to make money. We want them to make money, all of us do, not only because of the jobs, but because the profits that these companies make help fuel our pensions, our 401(k)s and our Roth IRAs and all of our other investments. They're paying for the e-trade baby in those commercials we all love so much.

So as Americans, we're torn by wanting the success that we get personally from the success that our businesses have, and by our desire to pay the lowest price possible for the products we can find. I mean come on, WalMart is the biggest dog in the pound for a reason, folks.

And while we talk about the loss of manufacturing jobs in America over the past several years, there are a few things to think about.  Yes, it's true that we have lost jobs overseas, but there are other contributing factors. We've lost union manufacturing jobs to non-union plants, particularly in the auto industry, because a non-union plant can pay lower salaries, and offer fewer benefits, than most unions are willing to accept. And these are jobs that are going to other Americans, folks, not just to people in other countries. 

We have also lost manufacturing jobs because we have learned how to be more efficient, how to manufacture the same number of widgets using better technology, better engineering, more efficient plants.  A lot of this we learned from the Japanese, global leaders in manufacturing quality.  When we build things better, and more efficiently, the price goes down. And we also lose jobs, because remember, Americans want the best quality product at the lowest possible price...

So we say to ourselves, sure I could buy that expensive high quality item or I can buy the same thing, same quality, for less. I can buy that Droid phone or i-whatever for the low prices I get today, or I can buy something for two or three times as much, maybe more, if I can find one made in America.  Our wallet is almost always going to win over our neighbor's job. 

So what do we do to fix this?  The government can continue to support educational programs that give us the skills to innovate; we can foster and encourage collaboration between businesses and our educational institutions to train the skills we need to compete (in manufacturing, science, medicine, and technology); we can continue negotiating trade agreements that help us sell our products and keep our businesses and investments profitable, and we have to work with our trading partners - including China - to move us to a level playing field.

We can implement fair tax policies, without a million loopholes. We might lose some accountant jobs in the process, but I think we can put many of them to work investigating fraud and waste in other programs, or we can put them to work coming up with a fair tax code.

To accomplish all of these things, we'll need some real leadership and hard work from the Congress - I mean seriously, setting fire to uniforms is not going to solve the problem, is it? Hand-wringing on the steps of the Captiol is not going to solve the problem, is it?

Businesses should continue striving to make the highest quality product at the best possible price. Americans, if they're truly concerned about the loss of American jobs to other countries, need to buy American products and services.  But we cannot force you to do that, any more than we can force businesses to bring jobs back.

October 20, 2012

Answers I Wish I Had Heard (part 4)

Another question that came up in Tuesday's debate had to do with equality, specifically wage equality. 
Here's Katherine's question:
In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?
The President had an easy answer to this one: he signed the Lily Ledbetter Act, which makes it possible for women to file discrimination suits when they have been unfairly treated in the workplace years after the actual discrimination occurred, on the premise that while it's happening - when the woman is being paid less than her equally qualified male counterpart - she's not likely to know that she's being screwed.
Mitt Romney didn't address the wage equality piece; instead he focused on his hiring of women when he was a governor. He also, famously, made the 'binders full of women' remark, which has overshadowed just about his entire debate performance.  It certainly covered up his comments about his chief of staff, a woman with school-aged children. 

Here's what Mitt said:
Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of the team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.  She said  I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 4 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.  
And he didn't stop there. Nope, he kept going: 
We're going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the new economy I'm going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women.
Yep. Go ahead, read that again. These businesses, they're going to be so anxious to find good help, they're even going to give women a shot. Damn! All us pretty little ladies, we should be practically swooning at the thought.
What I would have liked to hear (other than silence from Mitt), is this:
Hey Jeremy (the 20 year old college student who asked the first question), stand up a second, would you? Can I ask you a question? Is there any reason why one of your classmates, who took the same courses as you, got the same grades as you, you both start working for the ABC company on the same day, in the same position, is there any reason you can think of why you should be paid more than she is, just because you're a man and she's a woman?
And to you, members of the audience -- is there any reason you can think of why a man should make more money than an equally qualified woman, doing the same work? 
Of course there's not. 

It's sad that we're still having to talk about this in 2012, but it's not enough that women have equal opportunity to get jobs, they deserve - everyone deserves - equal pay for equal work. And so, if we find out that a company is not doing this, is not treating their employees equally, there will be consequences under federal statutes. Period.

October 19, 2012

Answers I Wish I Had Heard (part 3)

This one's a no-brainer, for me anyway.  Many of my friends don't agree with me, yet, but I'm still working on them.

Mary asked a question about taxes:
Governor Romney, you have stated that if you're elected president, you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all tax brackets and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions to make up for the loss in revenue. Concerning these various deductions the mortgage deductions, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit and also the... education credits, which are important to me because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important to the middle class?
So, with this one, there was a pretty big outline by Romney of some stuff that doesn't add up according to just about everyone who's looked at the numbers. And of course, he made one of those fateful promises, like promising Jeremy a job:
And I will not - I will not under any circumstances reduce the share that's being paid by the highest income tax payers.  And I will not, under any circumstances increase taxes on the middle class.
He also said that his tax policy is about jobs.  Which is odd, because I thought his jobs policy was about jobs and his tax policy was about taxes. I was wrong:
And for me, this is about jobs. I want to get America's economy going again. Fifty-four percent of America's workers work in businesses that are taxed as individuals. So when you bring those rates down, those small businesses are able to keep more money and hire more people.
The President when it came to his turn, echoed his long-standing position that we need the wealthy to do more in addition to cutting spending. And I think he did a good job of pointing out to Mr Romney that as a businessman he'd not accept his own plan if it were presented to him, which was a good line.
If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, Here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion and then we're going to pay for it, but we can't tell you until maybe after the election how we're going to do it, you wouldn't take such a sketchy deal and neither should the American people, because the math doesn't add up.
So all of that was fun to listen to, and but here's the answer I wish I heard:

I appreciate that some people give to their religious organizations, but I don't believe that should give them a reduction in their income taxes. 

I also appreciate that lots of people support worthy causes - right, left and anywhere in between, but I don't believe that should give them a reduction in their income taxes. 

And I appreciate that some people prefer home ownership as part of their personal American dream, or adopt children, or have lots of medical expenses, or school vouchers, or somehow manage to meet one or more of the other deductions we allow under our tax code, but I don't think that should give them a reduction on their income taxes.

Why? Because deductions based on 'out-go' don't belong in an 'in-come' tax.

Now before you all go crazy, what I'm suggesting is a flat tax on income. Plain and simple.  No special interests get deductions, no special favors for people who manage to fit some convoluted, mysterious sentence in the tax code written by the one other guy who can also claim the same deduction. 

We level the playing field in the following two ways:
  • We develop a fair personal income tax rate, and you pay that percentage on your income - nothing more, nothing less. You know what you owe, plain and simple.
  • We stop taxing businesses as people -- because they ARE NOT people - we tax them as corporations.
  • We also work on the business income tax code, with major simplifications, rate reductions, and elimination of loopholes, so that we don't have huge corporations with mult-billion dollar profits paying $0 in taxes.
With a simplified personal and business tax code, everyone wins, not just homeowners, and sorry Mary, but not just parents like you, with kids in college.  

I'm no longer going to support penalizing people who don't fit the mold, who don't own homes, who don't have kids, who don't spend their income a certain way. Whether you're a person or a business, we're going to tax your income fairly, and you'll have more money to spend on whatever is important to you.

Answers I Wish I Had Heard (part 2)

Here's another audience question from Tuesday's town hall debate, this time on the price of gas, where I believe both candidates missed the boat:
Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?
Here's the answer I wish I had heard:

By a show of hands, who in the audience thinks that the President or the Energy Deparrment has any direct control of the price of gas? 

By a show of hands, who thinks that drilling for oil in our national parks, and off the Atlantic coast, will have any immediate measurable impact on the price of a gallon of gas?

By a show of hands, who thinks that providing additional tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies will lead to lower prices at the pump?
If you raised your hand for any of those three questions, I hate to say it but you don’t understand how gas prices work. To be honest, most of us don't understand this, but here's the truth:  The single biggest contributor to the fluctuating price of gas is speculation, plain and simple. Speculators look at everything -- weather, war, season,  the likelihood that people will be driving, the price of tea in China -  heck, they probably figure in who's going to win the World Series. That's what drives the price you pay at the pump, not policies of my administration or any other. 

And don't forget, if you have a pension or a 401(k) or other investment accounts, you're likely making money off the hugely successful oil industry, which has been raking in record or near-record profits over the past several fiscal quarters.  Do you want me to mess with that?

Look - It’s not federal energy policy that makes gas cost $4.  According to some experts, a change in federal energy policies today would take about a decade to make a difference in the price at the pump.  

Now, we could tinker with the federal portion of the fuel tax – which is just over 18 cents per gallon, higher on diesel.  Of course, if we do that, we have to figure out where to make up that money. And there’s really only two ways to do that – find more revenue somwhere else, or cut spending.  And frankly you've seen what happens when we try to do that.
As president, I could also release some of our strategic oil reserves, but there's a big risk in that, and  it's not one that I want to take. And if I was to do that, what's the threshold? $5 per gallon? $4.50? $2.50? Are we going to agree on that? Is this really a strategic issue for our economy, our country?
What I will do is work towards having that gallon of gas take you farther, help you get more miles per gallon with new fuel standards, so you ultimately would pay less.  What I will work on is opening up drilling for oil and natural gas in a controlled way, so that we can increase our already historically high production and at the same time continue to protect our environment, protect our fishing and recreational industries,our tourism industry - we're talkling hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs here -  our drinking water, and so on.   What I will do is ensure we invest in other forms of energy, so that we have the full plate of options available for your car, your business, your home.  What I will do is strengthen our overall economy.

That’s what that a president, working with Congress, the energy industries, research institutions, universities, environmental groups,  can and should do.  But the President does not and should not control the price of gas.

October 18, 2012

Answers I Wish I Had Heard (part 1)

Sure, Tuesday's debate was good theater.

President Obama and Businessman Romney took off the gloves and got serious with each other.  CNN's Candy Crowley got yelled at for being too partisan, the timekeeper was accused of being too partisan, the audience was criticized for being too partisan...just like in all of the other debates.  Although I have to admit, it's going to be a while before I forget Binders Full of Women. 

But also, much like the other debates, we get questions asked and not answered.  I would love it if either candidate had come up with real answers to the questions that were asked.  Take the education question, for example, from Jeremy:
As a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors, and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?
Now, for the answer I wish I had heard.

Jeremy, what do you want to be when you grow up, when you graduate from college? What’s your major? Because, I have to tell you, the best way to ensure you’ll have a job when you graduate is by positioning yourself well, by aligning yourself and your educational goals with the growth industries of the future. (I'm sure your parents hope you're making the right decision on that too.)
There are a couple of things that we can do to help you, and those coming along behind you. For example, I believe that if we’re going to compete with other countries, particularly in math and science, we need to have a national curriculum.  We can’t let each state teach whatever they want, in some cases very different things, and expect to be able to compete with everyone else in the world.  We need to offer consistency, and consistently strong programs, focusing on the jobs of the future. This is what other countries are doing today, and have been doing for a while. We're behind the curve on this, and we need to change that.

We have to focus on providing an education that will help fill the jobs that employers have now that are going unfilled because our workforce doesn’t have the right skills. We have to provide an education that prepares our graduates for high tech jobs, teaching jobs, science and engineering jobs, work in the energy sector, careers in medicine and medical research – those are the jobs that can thrive in the new economy that we’re building.  And I do include teaching as a 'new economy' job, because without great teachers, we cannot be successful.

I’ll do what I can to make sure we have qualified teachers at every level, so our students are prepared for what comes after high school; I’ll work with businesses and educational institutions to make sure we’re incorporating real-world training and meeting our economic needs, whether it’s for kids in technical schools, two- and four-year colleges, or folks going after advanced degrees.  We've seen this industry/education partnership work before, and we need to foster more of it.
I firmly support making education affordable for families and their kids, through loans and grants, through scholarships and work-study programs – the whole gamut of financing options. And it’s a cooperative effort between families, businesses, foundations, colleges and universities, and yes, taxpayers.
I support the Affordable Care Act, which gives recent college grads the to opportunity to stay on their parents health insurance, if they have it; which makes preventative care more affordable; and which provides a way for more people to get health insurance overall. At least one of those should help make it possible for you to support yourself.
We all have a stake in your future, Jeremy, because you are our future. We'll do what we can to help you be successful in school, and to strengthen the economy so you can find a job when you get out of college.  And while you're in college, we're relying on you to make the most of the opportunity.

October 16, 2012

Twenty three lives, $424,206

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes bizX, the weekly business section.

In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

This week, 18 people were listed with new judgments totaling $353,394 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

This week, four people were listed having satisfied judgments totaling $58,269 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

This week, one person was listed in the bankruptcy section with a hospital, doctor, or other medical provider as the major unsecured creditor, totaling $12,543.

October 14, 2012

Thank you, Nancy Cantor

Syracuse University photo
Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor announced this past Friday that she’ll be leaving SU at the end of her contract, which runs through the 2014 school year. 
Over the next several months, there will likely be countless articles on her tenure, some of them positive and some less so, depending on the perspective of the writer or the scope of the article.  Today, I want to share my one and only interaction with the Chancellor, one that I think speaks volumes about her.
Flash back to late October/early November2010, when  Syracuse was going through a bad stretch of violence, including, ironically, at a rally to stop the violence.
I had done a couple of posts on the violence (here and here), and then on Tuesday November 16th, I was sitting at home thinking about everything that was going on, and I had a hare-brained idea and decided to act on it. 

At 8:38 that night, I wrote an email to Chancellor Cantor and asked for her help.  Here are excerpts from that email:
Our city is currently in the midst of a horrible spate of violence, most of it violence by youth against youth... We had shootings on Halloween, we’ve had a murder caught on tape, we’ve had shots fired at a peaceful ‘stop the violence’ gathering. All of it is disturbing, all of it is frightening, and all of it is disheartening. Our city is better than this.
Police Chief Frank Fowler, Mayor Stephanie Miner, and community leaders such as Mary Nelson are reaching out in every way they can, trying to engage local pastors and local organizations, encouraging them to do what they can...in homes, in workplaces, on buses and shops all over town, people are talking, and thinking, and trying to come up with answers...
An idea that occurred to me was to ask members of the SU community...if they’d be willing to appear in short public service announcements calling for an end to the violence. We know that kids look up to famous people, and around here there aren’t a lot of folks more famous than the SU family, both those currently on the Hill and the alumni that we claim as our own.
Is this outside the realm of possibility? Is this something that could be undertaken by students at Newhouse, in cooperation with folks from Maxwell? Does this type of effort fit in with your vision of Scholarship in Action?
Thanks for listening, and thanks for anything you and the SU community can do to help us.
The next day, I received both an email and a voicemail from Henry Wildhack, then an Associate Athletic Director, who had been asked to contact me about my idea.  After a few phone conversations and email exchanges, there was a script in my hand for review - all within 48 hours of my initial email to Cantor. 

The gist of the message was that kids need to stop and think before they pick up the gun, before they get involved with a gang, before they make a mistake that may leave them “six feet under” or behind bars – and yes, those words and images were included in the end product, which was put together by Roger Springfield’s media team and included coaches and players from the football team and both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The script and resulting video perfectly captured what I had hoped for, and was pretty powerful.

If you attended any games at the Carrier Dome that fall/winter, you may have seen my video on the big screen.  If you watched the news on local television during that time period, you may have seen my video, which ran as a PSA for a period of time on several stations.
I say 'my video' mostly in jest – sure, I had the idea, and planted a seed with Chancellor Cantor.  But she was the one who chose not to ignore the email, who handed it off to the people who could make it happen.  And she did it immediately, when we were still reeling from what was going on, and her team cam through in a big way.

Yes, there’ll be much said about Nancy Cantor and her time here in Syracuse. For her response to my idea back in 2010, I'd like to offer this belated thank you.

October 11, 2012

Dead Fred got a real show in Danville tonight

Photo courtesy of Yahoo News
Centre College in Danville KY was the home for tonight's VP debate, the second time they've hosted this event.  Centre College is probably more known for including a portrait of alum and former Supreme Court Justice Frederick 'Dead Fred' Vinson at all important events; although the real Vinson died in 1953, he hasn't missed a trick since then. 

The portrait was in attendance tonight, and Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan did not disappoint. 

We saw the real Joe Biden - passionate, scrapping, no holds barred emotional reactions to Ryan's comments. I think we also saw the real Paul Ryan -- he's a wonk, he's got a lot of facts and figures memorized, but I think he struggled getting them out. 

I saw it as a Biden win, as did many other folks in the twitterverse and in the wrap ups, but others seemed to focus more on who smiled when, or on body language, rather than on what the two candidates said. I'd like to think we pay more attention to what they say, rather than what they look like -- this isn't Kennedy/Nixon, after all. 

Some pundits believed that since he lived through it, Ryan did what he was supposed to do. Remember, after all, Mitt Romney's comment about Ryan's debate experience; expectations were pretty low:
I don’t know how Paul will take on the debate,” Romney told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Obviously the Vice President has done 15-20 debates in his lifetime—he is an experienced debater—I think this is Paul’s first debate. I may be wrong, he may have done something in high school we don’t know.

Fact-checking seemed to somewhat favor Biden, although for the most part there was at least a portion of truth in most of what was said.  Ryan repeated the Romney line that current Navy strength is lower than at any time since before World War I, which was determined to be a 'pants-on-fire' statement.  I'm sure there'll be more of this tomorrow, as folks review the tape. 

On the key social issue, abortion, Ryan defined their policy:forbidden except for rape, incest and life of the mother -- but also reiterated his belief that life begins at conception, so there's a bit of a 'principles with exceptions' there.  Biden, on the other hand, said his beliefs are his and not to be imposed on everyone else. I appreciate that.

In case you missed it, here's the video - courtesy of YouTube.  Make up your own mind, and remember, the most important thing you have to do in November is vote.

October 10, 2012

What is Dan Maffei afraid of?

Right off the bat, let me say that I'm not a fan of Ann Marie Buerkle. I'm also not really much of a Dan Maffei fan, and here's one more, er four more, reasons why.

Buerkle, to her credit, has offered to meet with both Maffei and Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum in a series of town hall get-togethers, one in each of the four counties in the new NY-24th.  The town halls would have a moderator, audience questions would be thrown into a hat, and the candidates would all have a chance to respond to the question, and to each other's position. 

As a voter, I'm in favor of this approach; it seems like a pretty good deal for me. The candidates go head to head, including Rozum who deserves to be in the mix; they don't know necessarily know all of the questions in advance (there's always a chance that some 'out-there' question will come up), and we get to see them live, rather than in some studio under much more controlled circumstances.

Rozum, to her credit, has agreed to the sessions. She has nothing to lose, really, and has the opportunity to gain some ground on the other two. Buerkle's obviously in; she loves the town hall format.

Maffei's camp, however, has called Buerkle's offer a 'political scheme', stating that she uses the town hall format to lie to us,  and to hide her true Tea Party colors; they think that the two debates that have been scheduled on local TV stations are sufficient.  Heck, that's not even one debate in each county.

Dan, what are you afraid of?  Why aren't you willing to stand on a stage with AMB and Ursula and go toe to toe with them? 

Why aren't you willing to look me in the eye at an open forum with your opponents and tell me why I should vote for you this time? 

October 9, 2012

Eighteen lives, $521,856

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes bizX, the weekly business section.

In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

This week, 14 people were listed with new judgments totaling $425,987 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

This week, three people were listed having satisfied judgments totaling $79,097 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.

This week, one person was listed in the bankruptcy section with a hospital, doctor, or other medical provider as the major unsecured creditor, totaling $16,782.

October 2, 2012

Twenty-nine lives, $511,415

Tuesday is the day my local newspaper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes bizX, the weekly business section.

In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

This week, twenty-seven people were listed with new judgments totaling $489,122 to doctors, hospitals, or other medical providers.

This week, two people were listed as having satisfied judgments totaling $22,293 to doctors, hospitals, or other medical providers.