Sunday, January 30, 2011

You learn something new...

Maybe I am just ignorant, but I learned today for the first time that the White House is giving out an increasing number of waivers (733 so far) excusing corporations and even entire states from the first wave of healthcare reform changes. If this is new news to you, look it up. Here's one place to start:
What appears to be happening is that the White House is quitely trying to enforce phase one of healthcare reform without sparking any larger call for repeal. There is undoubtedly an economic motivation behind the waivers as well. For example, Darden Restaurants (parent company of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Smoky Bones) secured a waiver putting off a loss of health coverage for its thousands of employees. While many individuals will not feel the immediate effects of the reform besides being able to add their 25 year olds back on to their health plans, businesses are already facing the costs. Giving the WH the benefit of the doubt, I wonder if there is also a timing issue. Is it that in some situations enforcement may cause massive losses of employer-paid health care coverage without currently providing an affordable\pratical alternative at the moment? From the cynical (realistic?) perspective, this is a handout to those who wield enough influence\campaign cash to buy-out of the costly reform. That wouldn't surprise me because President Obama was fairly transparent with his attitude that his reform would be costly to many people and that they should just suck it up.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pressing the Lines

It was with some consternation last year that many Baltimore residents watched the city council vote to require crisis pregnancy centers to post signs indicating that they would not advise or assist in abortions. The patent violation of the 1st amendment rights of this ordinance was recognized by the U.S. District Court and was struck down this week. It will not be a surprise if the Mayor, who strongly supported this ordinance, appeals. Pro-lifers should be encouraged by the appeal, because it is a law that will not likely hold up. The higher the case goes, the greater precedence will be set against these sort of persecutions.
The ruling may also have a positive impact on efforts in Washington State to prevent a similar anti-pregnancy care center bill from being voted into law. The bill in Washington not only requires a 30 pt. font disclaimer in several languages to be posted prominently, it also appear to broaden the liability of the centers making them more vulnerable to lawsuits.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Urinals and Children's Poetry

The most random and interesting topics come up at the office urinals. This is probably something women would never understand. But on a recent afternoon, a big-shot senior partner at my firm asked the following quite natural bathroom-time question: "Zardowally, do you read poetry to your children?" Needless to say, I was unprepared for this question. But it got me thinking whether poetry does deserve a more prominent place in the rearing and education of our youngsters.

Celebrated children's books today seem to be strictly prose, though many of the classics have a poetic element. I think of "Where the Wild Things Are." There is the Mother Goose stuff, but my kiddos seem genuinely baffled by topics and scenarios that are just too out-of-date. Doctor Seuss is good, if you can handle the weirdness. As a result of the limited poetry to which young children are exposed, their first experience is probably in the school setting where they are required to read and memorize poems without the chance to just enjoy them. I have to believe that young children would love and benefit from a bit more poetry--just as they love to sing and repeat nonsensical phrases they find amusing.

It might also be good for their souls. I think of C.S. Lewis's, "Surprised by Joy," in which he credits the "stabs of joy" he experienced reading poetry as a young boy as a haunting influence that eventually led him to find true and lasting joy in the Christian faith.

I would be curious for Snuggery readers' thoughts and recommendations.

The Great Backpedal

With President Obama's eloquent speech at the Tucson shooting memorial, the country has suddenly put a break to the hysterical witch hunt against political rhetoric on the right and is desperately backpedaling with all sorts of reasonable sounding op-eds and editorial pieces. The moralizing continues in subtle ways (Krugman in the NYT), but the partisan politics-Loughner connection is dead. We've moved on to the state of our public mental health services and gun control. For a review of how it all came to be, see the following article in The New Republic.
Interestingly, the whole blame-the-tea-party anthem began with a particularly partisan Sheriff who took it upon himself to interpret the motives of the massacre without a shred of evidence. Frank leaves this part out. In trying to sound reasonable Frank ( avoids pointing any real fingers for this circus act, but I will.
Did you notice how desperately the media was trying to set up the new conservative majority as obstructionist partisans in the past two weeks? Did you notice how they waxed eloquent about the recent lame-duck session as if it was some sort of paradigm for the future? They are already preparing their "I told you so" speeches for when the new democratically elected Congress actually legislates its campaign platform.
People are both angry and desperate over the tea-party insurgence and what better way than to blame conservatives for the Tucson shootings. The media jumped on this news"story" with complete and utter abandon. When someone pointed out that Sarah Palin had put a bulls eye on Congresswoman Giffords during the last election cycle, it was just too good of a story to be true. It was.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Boys Adrift?

Tim Challies, summarizing, the Leonard Sax book, Boys Adrift. I haven't read the book, but I can only say that this rings so incredibly true, it's hardly worth debating.
"Schools, he says, have begun to focus on academics at too early an age, leaving boys hating education from their earliest days. Programs that focus more on fun and less on academics up to age seven or eight would reap educational dividends. Important also is the distinction between learning as merely collecting facts and learning as experience. Regarding video games he believes that boys today are dedicating far too much time to this form of entertainment. As boys play these games they gain false perceptions of power and inadvertently remove themselves from reality until eventually they prefer the world of video games over the real world. ADHD is vastly over-diagnosed and huge numbers of boys are given medications they simply do not need. These medications have been proven to change the way boys develop and do far more than simply calm down hyperactive children. Endocrine disruptors, and especially artificial estrogens found in plastic bottles and other similar products, are delaying boys' development (while accelerating girls' development) and contributing to many associated problems. And finally, boys are suffering from a distinct lack of good and manly role models, both in their homes and in their communities."