These truths should be self-evident

There is always much to comment on in our wonderful world of imperfection. I thought I would pick a few truths that I believe should be self-evident, but sometimes get lost in the weeds, especially with leaders who try to mask them. In no particular order:

CIA Report on Torture

The CIA is denial mode parading out several former directors and experts who say “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” were legal and gained us a lot of evidence and the Feinstein report is incorrect. I heard one refuse to call EIT what it is – torture. From where I sit, I have been against torture from the outset. The ends do not justify the means. If we do not hold ourselves to a higher standard, then we are just another country.

While the report is not 100% accurate, it is likely directionally correct and more right than wrong. And, a war crimes prosecutor countered the CIA argument saying torture has never been as successful as the FBI rapport building protocols used by law enforcement. Irrespective of the veracity of torture methods, we must be better than this and should not get down in the mud with the worst captors. Note, my friend Barney has two great posts the past few days on the CIA torture fallout. Here is a link to the more recent one: http://mountainperspective.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/fallout-from-the-torture-report/

Putin the Producer

I saw a western educated producer for faux-reality shows on the Russian owned television station being interviewed. Three things he noted I found illuminating. First, while we know the news includes a great amount of propaganda, what I failed to understand is the Russian news has made the Ukraine battles all about fighting America and the west. The producer noted in the US, we speak of it more as a battle in the Ukraine against Russian backed rebels.

Second, he noted that on the various faux-reality shows, the Russian leadership requests that extreme points of view be included on both ends with an intent to make Putin look like he is a moderate, galvanizing influence. His point is if people see what crazy looks like, it makes Putin look more statesmanlike.

Third, the polls that show Putin with favorability ratings give a false impression. He said many who say they like Putin, fear him, not like him. I found this akin to the elections where Saddam Hussein would get 97% of the vote. People dare not publicly come out against him or they may wind up in jail.

US Economy doing pretty well with a positive trend

The economy has returned to better numbers with a month-by-month series of job increases dating back several years. The last two months have shown even better job increases in the right places, some wage growth and good GDP growth. And, the expectation is for 2015 to be an even better year. This is the same time the rest of the world is suffering more.

Republican leadership has noted we should have numbers like we did last month all of the time. What I find interesting is Republicans have a much worse historical track record on GDP, stock market and job growth than under Democrat white houses. And, it is not even close, even when the data is corrected for trends. While the President role gets too much credit and blame for the economy, the data does not support the GOP’s claim that it is the party of job creation and actually reveals the opposite.

Affordable Care Act Healthcare Exchanges are working pretty well

While critics keep hammering away at the complex and imperfect Affordable Care Act, second year enrollment has gone pretty well and the numbers will likely bear it out. More insurance companies are involved to increase competition, the median premium increase is 4% although it varies by market, the CBO reduced its medical inflation projections and a few more states expanded Medicaid.

My focus from the outset is getting people access to care will help people in poverty or near-poverty, which is a huge problem in our country. Also, the access will help the state economies and budgets of rural hospitals who had such high percentages of indigent care. So, if the ACA is done away which runs counter to what 65% of Americans want, it will screw a lot of people in need.

My advice to the GOP, is back off the repeal rhetoric and make the law better. I would also ask that saner heads prevail and pull the lawsuit in front of the Supreme Court. If the use of subsidies in the federal run exchange is over turned, that would be a damn shame. This should be remedied in any bill to improve the law. And, to those states who did not expand Medicaid, please do so, as you are harming significant numbers of people in your states and your economies.

Gas Price reductions are not just supply glut, demand has fallen

This story makes me smile for several reasons. It is helping fuel the US recovery, pun intended, as people have more money to spend on other things. The falling prices are also due to reduced demand as well as over-supply. I recognize that demand for gas is less impacted by price, but the demand has fallen due to more economical driving.

In my view, as the economy improved beginning a few years ago, people starting buying new cars and trucks. What is important to the equation is the newer cars and trucks are required to have better miles per gallon standards. This was very wise move by Presidents Bush and Obama. So, even though a truck buyer bought another truck, if the average mpg improves from 15 to 25 mpg, that added ten miles per gallon has an impact when you consider people bought 750,000 new trucks, e.g. That is not counting the improved mpg for cars. And, the standards are getting better, so hopefully demand will lessen further.

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I recognize that much of the above is based on my opinion, but I have done my best to make sure my opinions have grounding in fact. I welcome viewpoints from others.

 

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18 thoughts on “These truths should be self-evident

  1. Millenials are not interested in driving, owning cars, or even having a license to drive. I see great risks ahead for the fossil fuel industry and the auto industry. Will they be our next bailout beneficiaries?

    • Good point. What is the statistic on non-drivers – 30%? It is more than it was a few years back. On the bailout issue, this is the industry that cries foul when alternative energy is subsidized, but still wants its share of subsidy.

  2. Great blog, BTG. I did note recently that the Republicans are insisting that Obama is “up to something” by improving the economic situation. An insidious plot, no doubt. The problem with falling gas prices is that folks will once again turn to the gas guzzlers, ignoring their impact on global warming. But Barney’s point is interesting: I did not realize that the kids are not buying cars. Around here that is not the case: they all have huge pickups. If its up to them the fossil fuel industry will continue to thrive, believe me.

    • Thanks Hugh. The folks who think he is up to something, are they mainstream Republicans or the more extreme ones as that comment is simply asinine. I heard that too about buying thirstier cars, but surely people have longer memories than that. As for the fewer drivers, this is why better mass transit is key.

      I was thinking that the infrastructure construct of The Hunger Games is not as farfetched as it sounds. Thriving, narcisstic urban centers with depressed rural areas.

    • Studies are showing that millenials are moving back to the urban areas in droves, desiring to live in the core of the cities, near their jobs, and close to urban transportations and activities. Several recent grads in the combined families do not drive, do not own cars, and have taken apartments quite close to their jobs. A close friends son asks what he could possibly need a license for. he lives near BART, has access to the airports in the area, and is not interested in living in the suburbs, having a lawn, a mortgage, or a picket fence. A very interesting perspective.

    • Footnote to original comment: apparently the article about Boehner and his fellows criticizing Obama for getting it right on the economy was tongue in cheek. Too bad. I had hoped they might have a sense of humor at least!

  3. Note to Readers: I was reminded today of a comment I heard a few months ago. It was by the author of the book whose premise is the US overreacted to 9/11 and as a result underreacted to Syria and should have left some troops in Iraq. He said we should have done self-reflection to learn from our mistakes. He noted al Qaeda was about 200 people globally in 2001 and now we have created multiple tens of thousands of terrorists as a result.

    I mention this as some would argue we are safer by torturing folks to get intelligence. I would argue that the prize has not been worth selling ourselves to the devil, but are we safer? Our torture of detainees has likely created several generations of terrorists that hate America. The release of the report is not revealing anything new, as they know already what we have been doing. By torturing, my thesis is we have actually made the US less safe, because of the now larger enemy.

    If we treated people fairly and interrogated them without the torture, my premise is we would be safer as we would be treated the prisoners with more dignity as we would hope others would treat us.

  4. It’s always a pleasure to read your blog, BTG. You are not only well-informed, but so…so…..REASONABLE. Why are voices like yours so rare in the mainstream media?

    • Debra, many thanks. I think the issue on the latter is “conflict sells.” So, the gotcha politics is covered more than the issues. That plus the funding of commercials on the media. Have a great weekend.

      • As my former newspaper friends used to always say, “If it bleeds, it leads.” No conflict, no story.

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