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Just another thought-filled Monday…

Happy Monday all!  Random thoughts from the weekend:

Politics:

  • It appears that President Obama may have gotten a 5-7 point bounce out of his convention.  According to several polls (great graphic here), Obama’s bounce has sustained, even despite a weaker than expected jobs report on Friday.  We won’t know the full bounce for a few more days, because most of these polls include some percentage of interviews conducted before key convention moments.  So, there is still the potential for a larger bounce, perhaps as many as 10 points.
  • For months we’ve been hearing that this election is a “base election.”  In other words, given that most people have already made up their mind, turnout will be the key to winning.  That’s why you saw the Democrats hit social issues so hard in Charlotte – they are trying to fire up their base and get key constituents out to the polls.  And therein lies the advantage for the President.   The New York Times calculated that, if everyone who is registered to vote shows up at the polls, Obama has a 90%+ chance of winning based on party registration etc…This blog has a great breakdown of how that figure was identified and what it all means.  If you are interested in party registration over time, check this out.
  • The debates are going to be more important this year, than I can ever remember them being.   Between now and election day, Romney and Obama will debate 3 times and Biden will square off against Ryan once.  In an election where both sides are willing to say anything (true or not) and the challengers have steadfastly refused to provide specifics about their economic plan, it will be super interesting to see how much the moderators or candidates push for information and call people on their lies.  Who can say the things that will motivate and excite their base, while not turning off the few undecideds or the ones who could still be swayed?  That, ultimately, will decide this election.

Sports:

Football is back and I could not be more excited!  All you need to know is that, at the Red Sox game on Saturday night (another loss), the fans started chanting “Go Pats” in the 7th Inning.  And I was among them!  After a great first weekend, here are my winners and losers:

Winners:

  • New York Jets

I don’t think you can understand how painful it was for me to type that.  Look, their top two QBs (Sanchez and Tebow) didn’t score a single TD in the preseason (see below).  And they were facing the Buffalo Bills, who sport a revamped, and very expensive defense) in Week 1.  Many, including me, were convinced it would be an embarrassing display by Ryan’s boys, but were we ever wrong.  How they managed to put up 48 points is beyond me.  This was more shocking than Brady Anderson’s random 50 homers in 1996.  Which reminds me, someone check the Jets’ offensive coordinator for steroids!

  • Peyton Manning

In the you’ve gotta see it to believe it category, I give you Peyton Manning.  After not playing in a game for 600+ days, Manning returned to the field and, against a pretty good defense, led his team to a comeback win.  Seeing him in Bronco orange was defintely strange, but the result was not.  He’s still got it, folks, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AFC.

  • Replacement Officials

Look, they weren’t perfect, but they survived and this ragtag bunch of retirees, teachers and insurance salesmen got some difficult calls right.  Although they did their best by giving Seattle an extra timeout at the end of the Seahawks-Cardinals game, they didn’t change the outcome of any game and that, my friends, is a win.  Of course, regardless of how long this strike lasts, they also made history by counting in their numbers the first woman to ever officiate a NFL game.  Congratulations to Shannon Eastin and I hope you blaze the trail for more gender equality in the sport.  Way to go!

Losers

  • Preseason footbal

It means nothing, as the Jets showed, and 4 games is way too many.  It looks like the NFL may, finally be making the change.  Week 1 showed just how meaningless those games really are.

  • Rookie QBs

It’s a tough jump from college to the pros, no question about it.  All the rookie QBs starting this weekend, with the exception of RGIII looked way over matched and out-of-place.  Weeden, Luck, Wilson and Tannehill all may be great NFL players but, on week 1, they looked very mortal.

  • New Orleans Saints

After quite the offseason, I thought the Saints would come out firing on all cylinders.  Us against the World would be their motto and, especially playing at home, they would steamroll over any opponent unlucky enough to be on the other side.  That didn’t happen.  They looked flat for the first half of the game and, to me, didn’t seem like there was any motivation or desire to beat the odds.  They tried to recover in the 2nd half, but it was too little too late.  Let’s see which team shows up next week.

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Cheating and Congress. A match made in a smokey back room

Before we get to the story we should have all seen coming, I hope everyone had a lovely Labor Day Weekend.   Thanks go the Unions of this country for making that happen!  And, of course, for weekends in general!

Last Spring 279 students took a final exam in one particular course at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.   Nearly half are now under investigation for collaborating with their classmates, plagiarizing answers and other forms of academic dishonesty.   Some of the accused students have already graduated, while others remain enrolled at the University.   The investigation is expected to be a challenging one, given that students claim their behavior was allowed throughout the whole semester and was not explicitly prohibited on the final exam.  The Boston Globe quoted an unnamed student who said ““I was just someone who shared notes, and now I’m implicated in this…Everyone in this class had shared notes. You’d expect similar answers.”  Clearly, from everything currently being reported, there was a pretty significant gray area and the students in the class used that to their advantage.   Cheating or not, the actions of these students should not surprise us and, in fact, should be a lesson for us all.

In responding to the cheating allegations, Harvard education professor Howard Gardner commented that he sees this as evidence of “the regular thinning of ethical muscles in our country.”  Agreed.  However, he goes on to say that “If for 20 years you’ve been studying young people, this isn’t surprising…In many ways they’re lovable and inspiring, but they cut corners the way you would jaywalk. . . . This is a textbook example of people doing what they think they can get away with rather than what they should be doing.”  I don’t disagree with Gardner on that larger point, but I think he is missing the forest through the trees.  I’m in no way excusing what the students did (if in fact it was against the rules), but I am saying that these students were simply following the example of our leaders and “role models” – most of whom happily reside in Gardner’s generation.  Beyond the belittling of Generation Y (lovable?), Gardner is falling to the same trap that we’ve seen far too many times and, in fact, mimics the response of these students.  When in doubt, blame someone else.

There is a personality theory (don’t click away!) called Locus of Control.  Briefly, it was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954 and, essentially, explores how much people believe they can control events that impact them.  Got it?  So, individuals with a high locus of control believe that things happen (or didn’t happen) because of what they did or what they contributed.  Individuals with a low locus of control believe that external factors have a greater impact on their success or failure.  I believe that Gardner, and many of our leaders today, have an extremely low locus of control and that is perpetuating the erosion of morality and personal ethical responsibility.

But that’s only part of the problem.  Over the past 4 years (and really beyond), these students have seen that gray area exploitation is rarely punished and often celebrated.  Doping in sports, playing fast and loose with facts in politics, fake reality TV on the networks – deception is the name of the game.   The lesson these students could have learned while watching CNN is that, if you can find a way to cheat, go ahead and do it.  Just don’t get caught.  And, if you do, blame whomever caught you or make up a story rather than taking responsibility.   Is it any wonder that these students would just follow the lead of the people they see every night on the evening news?

If these students did cheat and are now lying about it, they should be punished.  But I hope, in the final analysis, we hold our leaders and famous people to the same standards of honesty and integrity.   I hope that we don’t stand for a candidate blatantly lying in a speech or advertisement.  I hope we don’t make excuses for a previously beloved athlete who has betrayed our admiration.  I hope we don’t let party, team or geographic loyalty get in the way of demanding honesty.  It’s going to take all of us to reverse “the regular thinning of ethical muscles in our country” that Gardner bemoans because, you see, it’s not just one generation at fault.  The responsibility lies with all of us and that, to me, is the most important takeaway from the Harvard cheating scandal of 2012.

Oh yeah, the class in question.  Introduction to Congress.  How depressingly appropriate!

 

Healthcare is getting closer…

After months and months of endless debate, the House appears poised to vote in favor of the most important piece of social legislation in this country in many years.  This is not a perfect bill, but it is a bill that will make a positive difference in lives of the American people and will reduce the national deficit at the same time. 

Here are three key provisions that make this bill well worth supporting.

1. There will be a mandate to have coverage, subsidies if you can’t afford coverage, and a requirement that insurance companies must cover those with pre-existing conditions at the same rate others are charged.  – Many opponents to this bill had insisted that it was irresponsible to pass this bill all at once and that a piecemeal approach would be smarter.  However, these three provisions are linked and, for any of them to be effective in both expanding coverage and controlling costs, all must be enacted at once. 

2. Insurance companies can not rescind coverage when someone gets sick – Should be a no-brainer, but this is an all-too common practice in today’s marketplace.  Imagine paying your premiums for years but, just at the moment when you need your coverage, your insurance company tells you that they have decided to no longer cover you.  Well, this bill will prevent that from happenning.

3. Clinical Trials must be covered – This is something that hasn’t gotten much coverage, but it near and dear to my heart.  Clincial Trials are an essential tool to assess new treatment options and medical advances but, in today’s world, many insurance companies won’t cover them (another example of profits before patients).  Requiring them to be covered will make it much easier for investigators to reach enrollment goals and get real answers on best to diagnose and treat patients.

I wholeheartedly support this bill and am thrilled that we are one step closer to ensuring that patients come before profits and medical care will finally be a basic right.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Click here to read a statement from Rep. Brian Baird (a former medical professional) who voted no on the original house bill but will be voting yes today.

Link for 9/10/09

I give you multiple links today, all related to the President’s speech last night on healthcare.

Letter from Ted Kennedy to Barack Obama

The full speech that President Obama gave last night

GOP Response from Charles Boustany

The heckle heard ’round the world

Overall, I thought it was a really good speech with strong and specific messages.  Of course Obama had the lofty rhetoric he is so good at (and how powerful to invoke Kennedy at the end) but, listening to him, you also got a clear sense of what direction he believes reform should take.  Finding common ground means making compromises and I applaud the President for making that effort (not just on the malpractice issue – which I am skeptical of – but also on the emergency fund to bridge the gap before reforms can be enacted – a McCain idea – and an individual mandate to have coverage – a Clinton idea.)  He seems dedicated to making this the best possible bill and I appreciate those efforts. 

From Congressman Boustany’s really strong and thoughtful response it is clear there is a lot we can agree on, but that there are some big differences.  I am heartened that Dr. Boustany highlighted some areas that are really important and indicated his support for them.  To quote the Congressman on some areas of agreement, “One, all individuals should have access to coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions.  Two, individuals, small businesses and other groups should be able to join together to get health insurance at lower prices, the same way large businesses and labor unions do. Three, we can provide assistance to those who still cannot access a doctor. And, four, insurers should be able to offer incentives for wellness care and prevention”   In his response, he also commented that it is important for the plan to be affordable.   He used that point to illustrate a difference that he has with the President, but I don’t see it that way.  The President, in giving us his specifics, also explained how it would be paid for (without increasing the deficit) and offered to make spending cuts if projected savings are not realized.   No “fact-checking” site I have seen disputes that he can pay for this without adding to the burden we are passing along to the next generation.  But, even if it did, I’m comfortable increasing the national debt to ensure people can live full and healthier lives.  Doesn’t seem like a bad use of money to me.  However, just so that is not taken out of context, I believe the President when he says that it won’t.

However, agreement on these issues only gets us so far and there are still some significant differences, especially centered around the so-called public option.  I was disturbed to hear Congressman Boustany repeat the oft-heard line about resisting reform now and starting over.  He should know better than most that sometimes waiting is not the best choice.  If there is a dying patient, you don’t wait weeks to perform the life-saving operation.  In many cases, the longer you wait to provide care, the less likely your chances for success.  Opponents of reform have succeeded for YEARS pushing the work off to the next congress, to the next president, to the next generation.  Well, we are at a critical point now and pushing it off again could well cost people their lives or force them to choose between paying for medicine or food.  Losing their home or losing their loved one.  That I am not comfortable with.

To that point, to the progressives in Congress who are so wed to the idea of a Public Option, I think we need to hear the President when he says that that option is a “means to an end” and there are other ways of getting there.  It is really important, over the coming weeks, all of you listen seriously to other proposals and actually consider them.  Maybe co-ops are a better choice?  Maybe something else is? We know what the end goal is – quality and affordable healthcare for all – and I submit to you that the Public Option is only one way of getting there.  There are others and it behooves all of us for those to be given a fair chance and not rejected out of hand.

To my Democratic friends who would prefer to look at Dr. Boustany’s medical record or criticize him for trying to become a lord or further the “birther” movement, please stop.  Let’s focus on ideas and not try to discredit someone through name-calling.   As a final point, there are many issues still to debate and figure out.  Here’s hoping we do it with the civility Dr. Boustany showed and not the immaturity we have seen at town halls and, thanks to Congressman Wilson, in the halls of Congress.