Tag Archives: Centrists

Blinding With Science

Main DogYesterday’s post on bisphenol-A and Senate Bill 797 (Pavley) drew a healthy reader comment as well as a few offline requests to see links to the research mentioned in the post.  And why not? We should be making policy on facts and science — not emotion. Here is some of the science underlying the worldwide regulatory view that there is no compelling evidence at this time that BPA poses a health and should be banned. But read and draw your own conclusions:

State of California [OEHHA]:   “Following the staff presentation, comments from the public and committee discussion, the DARTIC determined that, based upon current scientific information, bisphenol A has not been clearly shown to cause reproductive toxicity; and therefore the Committee declined to add it to the Proposition 65 chemical list.”

[As an aside, how do the scientists at OEHAA feel about being dismissed at political appointees? They looked at the research trumpeted by Pavley and bill proponents and rejected it. So how come their public employee union — the California Association of Professional Scientists — isn’t standing up to defend them and their work? ]

Health CanadaHealth Significance of the Survey Results – The provisional tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 25 µg/kg body weight/day has been pre-established by Health Canada as a conservatively safe level for BPA presence in food. Based on the average BPA level in canned drinks (0.57 µg/L*), if an adult (60 kg body weight) consumes one canned drink (355 mL) per day, the dietary intake of BPA would be equivalent to 0.2 µg/day which represents 0.0135% of the provisional TDI. Based on the highest BPA level in canned drinks (4.5 µg/L*), an adult (60 kg body weight) would have to consume approximately 940 canned drinks in one day to approach the provisional TDI set by Health Canada.

The results of this survey clearly indicate that exposure to BPA through the consumption of canned drink products would be extremely low. The low levels of BPA found in canned drink products available for sale in Canada confirm Health Canada’s previous assessment conclusion that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population.

European Union: European safety watchdogs reaffirm belief in safety of BPA

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)FSANZ has assessed the risk to infants from exposure to BPA and concurred with the conclusions reached by the US FDA and the EFSA that the levels of exposure are very low and do not pose a significant health risk.

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High-Priced Escorts?

This Bites

Did you hear the one about the convicted murderer, an elderly female prisoner with breast cancer? How many prison guards did it take to provide an escort to her chemotherapy appointment?

In California, the rumored punchline is: FOUR.

A little bird, albeit not a jailbird, dropped this tidbit in the Blue Dog’s dish. Can’t vouch for the veracity of the information, but if true, this has to be a candidate for the  annual “$72,000 Government Toilet Seat Awards.”

We already know the sweet arrangement the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) has going. Sure we need to respect, protect and fairly compensate our prison guards, who no doubt have phenomenally difficult and thankless jobs. But this type of story may hint at why California needs what — 30,000 prison guards and a budget some three times that of a state like Texas? And if true, this quadruple burly escort service for old ladies — even if it would happen to be a mass murderer like Dorothea Puente — would seem obvious overkill. Are these the policies written into contracts from which California cannot escape?

While a card-carrying member of Amnesty International who is all for humane treatment of inmates, the BlueDog is compelled to ask if we’ve taken things too far. Do prisoners receive better healthcare than the working poor or even the middle class? Is their food service of higher quality than the lard and dough we feed our school kids? (A produce company has complained to the BlueDog that inmates are mandated to receive top grade fruits and veggies.)

Perhaps above all else, the moderate faction abhors the imprisonment of common sense and balance. Prison reform is a massively complex matter requiring a lot of legal maneuvering. But there’s a simple way to have your voice heard — either regarding questionable corrections or other agency expenditures: report it to Governor Schwarzenegger’s Waste Watchers Program.

After all, this is your government. And the time is ripe for speaking out.

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Docs’ Eye View of Healthcare Reform

Pay AttentionBefore mowing on a tasty Father’s Day dinner of BBQ spareribs, grilled corn and summer salad, the BlueDog posed the following question to his own father and brother-in-law, Mayo and Cleveland Clinic-trained Central Valley physicians with a combined 103-years of experience in American medicine:

If you could wave a wand and fix the healthcare system in the United States, what would you do?

Here is what they said. Bear in mind, these are fiercely opinionated and incredibly intelligent, ethical doctors who entered medicine as a calling and out of a love for medicine. They are on the far downside of their careers. They have no turf they need to protect.  They aren’t being paid to defend anyone’s position, including the AMA’s. [“Too many doctors nowadays think MD stands for much dough,” my brother-in-law even lamented.]. They just speak bluntly, as doctors often do, about how things should be. It’s about as pure a viewpoint you can get these days. You might be surprised at their views:

(1) The delivery system should be a single payer system -think Medicare for everyone – but run by a quasi-governmental organization such as the Federal Reserve, Tennessee Valley Authority or Base Closure Commission with strong input from respected professionals and medical economists and a minimum number of politicians.

(2) Cost containment is key and depends on properly placed provider incentives for efficiency – that is, (a) budgets negotiated with large physician run, cohesive, integrated multispecialty medical groups with strong leadership and experience in utilization review and quality assessment (there are many now in existence – Mayo’s, Cleveland Clinic, Sutter, Kaiser, etc., most participating in HMOS), (b) avoid physician-owned facilities and (c) negotiate a national drug formulary.

(3) Evidence-based medicine. Define quality using the most recent information from data-based medical studies. Require, as much as possible, that treatments and diagnostic procedures are in line with current standards as determined by professionals.

(4) Systems should be funded by a pay-as-you-go, transparent, fund from visible personal and business taxes, which over time would replace all or most of present private premiums. This should not be funded from general tax revenue. A reasonable administrative cost allowed, perhaps not over 5 percent. Commercial insurance would remain only is a supplemental form, covering deductibles and co-pays as is now allowed in Medicare.

(5) A federal cap on pain-and-suffering awards for malpractice. Experience in several states, including California suggests it lowers malpractice premiums.

When the BlueDog’s father speaks to community groups and seniors, he defines socialized medicine for them and asks if they are in favor of it. No hands are raised. But when he asks how many like Medicare, all hands go up. “This is socialized medicine,” he tells them. “And it basically works.”

So consider the source of these reforms. Two big-brained guys who have committed their lives to medicine and medical economics. No axes to grind. No skin in the game anymore. Just a passionate wish for medicine to be much more than it is today . . . in the richest nation on earth.

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Hating Conditional Outrage Over Hate

dog_snarling

A core moderate value is fair play. We bristle at double standards and identity politics. The PC Thought Police are getting on our nerves, and we wish they’d burn their energy pursuing culprits of an under-appreciated and highly insidious crime: Hypocrisy. Nothing rankles us more than when one person or group conveniently operates two sets of books – one for them, and one for everybody else.

Or, as Sacramento’s civil and measured morning AM radio duo of Armstrong & Getty so beautifully call it: exercising “conditional outrage.”

On this front, we’ve had a lot of fodder the past few weeks both in Sacramento and nationally.

Across the fruited plains, the Blue Dog has noted a surprising number of blanket accusations being tossed around by liberal commentators (especially Paul Krugman) in the New York Times that the conservative media is somehow responsible for the violent murders of a Kansas abortion doctor and a security guard at the National Holocaust Museum.

Really?

The Blue Dog never bought into the liberal media conspiracy, and he’s not buying into this mush-headed attack on conservative pundits either.  These killers are hateful, ignorant whack jobs. Period. If we’re really playing this sophomoric blame game, then we will have to blame liberals for the breakdown of the American family, the welfare state, AIDS, drug abuse and teen pregnancy.

The latter topic, of course, serves as a rather tidy transition to the David Letterman controversy.  The comedian’s foot-in-mouth joke about the promiscuity of Gov. Sarah Palin’s daughter(s) has been fascinating to watch, especially how it raised some interesting challenges to women’s groups, who one imagines weren’t exactly walking precincts for her in November.

While the Blue Dog doesn’t think much of Palin and is a lifelong Letterman fan, personal favorites or what side of the partisan boundary one is on should be irrelevant. The comedic Hoosier deservedly ended up in the crosshairs because he crossed way over. That was obvious. But what wasn’t so self-evident was how strong a backlash he would get. To its credit, the National Organization for Women (NOW) eventually stood up by inducting Letterman into the NOW Hall of Shame.

As an aside, did anyone notice if the City of San Francisco is now moving to become a Letterman Free Zone? Has the California Legislative Women’s Caucus put together a resolution to show their solidarity with the Palins?

Didn’t think so. If the joke had been doled out by a conservative about a Democrat’s gay or transgender child, the outrage meter would have broken the needle compared to what Letterman is getting.

Which helps make the point: Respect and common decency isn’t about right or left or middle. It should transcend all those artificial labels. Situational rules are confusing, hypocritical and ultimately a disservice to serious, legitimate issues.

We may wonder why President Obama gets a free pass on gay marriage, but the former Miss California is held in contempt and is fair game for her views when they basically mirror Obama’s. Shouldn’t she be accorded the same respect as the transgender community, which was on the receiving end of a recent Sacramento shock jock attack?

Although their formats and subject matter differ, why is Letterman merely a comic, but Rush Limbaugh somehow the voice of an entire party – and not simply the bombastic entertainer he really is? And if the N word is as despicable as the Blue Dog was raised to believe (the most offensive word in the English language his parents always told him), then shouldn’t it be so across the board?

Outrage becomes suspect the very moment we start hedging, making exceptions, parsing and partitioning our outrage to fit one given ideology, ethnicity or lifestyle.  It cheapens the respect we all ought to have for one another.

If we can’t figure this out and live by the Golden Rule, then we need to pass a law that says even feeble attempts at humor cannot be considered hate crimes.

If we can’t figure this out as human beings, we need to make every joke or comment about any subject socially acceptable again. Get respectful, or get thicker skin.

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It Could Be Worse

 

A Snooze While there can be no state in the union more dysfunctional than California, we can rest easier and take heart in the goings on in South Carolina, where Governor Mark Sanford is fighting, of all things, federal stimulus funds. You read correctly — he is refusing to accept a $700 million (quaint by our standards, but with a potential to rise to as much as $3 billion ultimately) over the objections of the Columbia statehouse, which says it (not the Governor) have authority over the matter. The squabble is heading to the Palmetto State’s Supreme Court, and it looks like Sanford will get the short end of the stick.

For political observers here it is interesting to note that Sanford is largely seen as posturing for a national run and sees his ideological stand as a way to pander to the hard right. The Governor claims the money will bloat programs and create more government he won’t be able to sustain when federal funds disappear. Glenn McConnell, the Republican president of the state legislature, told Wall Street Journal that : “I believe politically he’s already moved beyond the state of South Carolina.” 

Outside of being hit by a plague of locusts, this is about the only fiasco or brand of gridlock that hasn’t befallen Sacramento. It also reflects on the relative sanity of Governor Schwarzenegger, who has welcomed the aid and sees the federal government as an ally. Just imagine if Tom McClintock were our governor. 

Oh yeah, there is another splinter of inspiration we can pull from our brothers in SC and it’s not drawn from Hootie & the Blowfish. Rather, the state motto: Dum Spiro Spero — “While I breathe, I hope.” . . . Here’s to California’s iron lung.

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No Moderate Is An Island

Pay AttentionSometimes, the Blue Dog would rather have someone else do the barking about the state of Moderate Nation. Some good mind chow in CNN.com’s “No One Represents America’s Center.”

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. . . Open Primary Makes a Baker’s Dozen

dog_withboneA Blue Dog reader with decades of experience inside the Capitol weighed in with another reform measure omitted in the 12 reforms mentioned in the last post. Here is what he says:

 “I think a lot of the reforms you mentioned would be helpful, but the key reform we need is the open primary.  Both of the parties are controlled by special interest groups so it is very difficult to win a partisan primary unless you are owned by them.  At least an open primary gives moderates of both parties a real shot.  It also helps make members from now safe districts a little more responsible since they could face a November election running against a member of their own party.  A little fear and/or respect of the voters would further help the system.”

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Humor Upon the Gallows

dog_withboneThe worse things get, the more we apparently rely on humor to survive. The fallout from yesterday’s vote and sudden momentum pushing California’s  death spiral into oblivion has brought about an unexpectedly large dose of humor from several anonymous CalBlueDog readers. One offered some creative ways to generate revenue. Another  a way to make difficult cuts. Another sent along a photo capturing some of yesterday’s carnage. Yes the sky is falling, but we might as well chuckle before it crashes down on our heads: 

*Revenue from Naming Rights: “The Legislature ought to start selling ad space and naming rights in the Capitol and at the various state agencies to raise money.” Here are some ideas:

– The Cache Creek State Capitol Dome (with Neon Sign instead atop for an extra Billion) . . . The Kaiser-Permanente Department of of Public Health . . .  The Chevron Department of Conservation . . . the Waste Management Integrated Waste Management Board . . . The Pfizer Assembly Committee on Health . . .  The ACLU Assembly Committee on Public Safety . . . The Senate Judiciary Committee brought to you by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association . . . The Toyota Air Resources Board . . . The Sierra Club Senate Committee on Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials . . . The  CTA Assembly Committee of Education . . . The SEIU Senate Labor & Industrial Relations Committee . . . The Disney Assembly Committee on Water, Parks & Wildlife . . . The State Farm Assembly Committee on Insurance . . . the Wells Fargo Senate Committee on Banking, Finance & Insurance . . .  

Budget Cuts from Survivor Alcatraz: Another reader suggests taking all state agency and department heads and putting them on Alcatraz Island, where they must fend for themselves, their departments and make a case for their respective programs. Arnold’s Hollywood friends can produce the episodes pro bono and Californians can tune in to make the hard decisions by voting programs and public servants off the island. We can follow it up with a Series: Survivor: Catalina involving legislators. The state could reap millions in TV broadcast revenue from advertisers; if the program goes nationwide, we get the royalties. 

Eyewitness to Carnage: Finally, this photo came over the transom. 

SS STEINBERG RIP

While the shot unfairly singles out Senator Steinberg, the Blue Dog imagines there are plenty more boats sinking with other names, including a large vessel called the S.S. Capitol.  The Blue Dog thanks his readers, and welcomes more antics as he gears up for more serious fare . . . “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

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Think Small, Californians

Bone They say takers eat well, but givers sleep well. Maybe it’s time we start focusing more on our sleep. 

Given the enormity of the challenges facing California, it is easy to become fatalistic and cynical. The problems are so daunting and our leadership so dysfunctional that it leaves us feeling totally helpless and impotent. Perhaps we should adapt a new personal survival strategy: downsize our expectations of government/others and demand more from ourselves. 

Yeah, its easy to rail on the status quo and bark for reform. The BlueDog will continue to howl, attracting a growing cadre of like-minded California moderates in the process. But for today, let’s focus on pointing the finger at ourselves. What can we do to improve our own little corners of the world? The people we encounter as we go about our lives? How can we assume more personal responsibility for our fellow man?

There are a zillion things we can do that don’t involve giving money or too much of your time:  

* Donate clothes, furniture and appliances to charities. Donations are down and demand is up at local thrifts.

* Spend some time talking to a friend or acquaintance who has lost a job. Ask what you can do to help.

* Be a considerate driver

* Turn off the Blackberry and spend genuine time with your kid.

* Stop cursing. 

* Instead of scorn, indifference or subsidizing an addiction with loose change, look a homeless person in the eye and say hello. Better yet, extend yourself and buy him or her a sandwich.

* Pick up somebody else’s litter or trash.

* And because the BlueDog can’t resist: Maybe we should call for a freeze on all pending legislation for a year. In the meantime, requiring all legislators and their staffs to leave the Capitol so they can apply all their state-paid time to doing something tangible and meaningful in their communities — instead of being marginalized by a process that encourages division, problem-creation, mediocrity and gridlock. One would think that a more gratifying application of public service. 

If we did any one of these things every day, California’s collective soul might lift us out of the morass in some weird, cosmic way. At the very least, we would all sleep a bit better . . . even as California burns itself to the ground.

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Trivial Pursuits & Greed in the Bag

dog_snarling“Give Me Men to Match My Mountains,” begs a caption chiseled into a building across from the State Capitol. It’s a majestic call for leadership from another, less cynical era. Here’s something more apt for today: “Give Me Men & Women to Build Our Mole Hills.” 

From all quarters, the inane seems to be the only arsenal available to our elected officials:  To wit:  Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson, who thinks the critical issue of our time centers on banning plastic bags – a plank in a platform he obviously thinks will catapult him into the state Assembly next year. Way to go Roger, you probably do belong in the Legislature, a place where every day seems disproportionately focused on playing trival pursuit on the malodorous tongue of a frothing, volatile multi-headed leviathan known as the budget crisis, health care crisis, unemployment crisis, homeless crisis, education crisis . . . 

But those matters can wait while our elected officials dicker around with things like Assembly Bill 68 (Brownley), which seeks to impose a 25-cent tax on plastic shopping bags. Proponents trot out “Bag Man” at news conferences where they twist facts like taffy. A preponderance of science and research shows plastic bags to be a non issue. There is even a strong case to be made they actually are better for the environment than paper (note earlier posting here and again full disclosure that the Blue Dog has performed consulting work for firms that produce plastic bags and packaging materials).

Bag Man: A Capitol Policy Maker

Bag Man: A Capitol Policy Maker

The BlueDog- an avid recycler – is old enough to remember when paper bags were evil because they were made by raping our forests. But who the hell cares about  historical perspective? Or  pesky details associated with life cycle analysis, consumer choice, financial impact on shoppers or the Legislature’s abrupt abortion of its nascent plastic bag recycling program? 

This is, after all, California, land of endless opportunity to do something well-meaning, but ultimately amounting to a public policy mole hill. Someone should scratch at beneath the surface in search of motivations. Frustration on the part of our elected officials at their own self-evident impotence in solving what truly matters? A desire to distract us from reality? Control issues? Or is it something less cosmic and more base, like greed?

If you read the fine print of AB 68, you’ll see a provision that allows grocery stores and retailers to keep 5 cents for each bag they tax. Wow. The bag itself probably costs less than a penny. Bag bashers like Dickinson and Brownley claim “19 billion” plastic bags are sold annually. So if we do the math, that’s a $4.75 Billion reach into the pockets of Californians — of that, about a Cool Billion will go to grocery stores and retailers. Can they possibly need that kind of jack to administer the program? In an industry with razor thin profit margins, it’s no wonder their associations are on board with measure. Seems like an incentive to push more bags.

The winners in this game of trivial pursuit certainly aren’t average Californians, who have bigger worries on their minds and loftier expectations of their elected officials. Where is our Sir Edmund Hillary? Where are our fearless, dutiful Sherpas?

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