Monthly Archives: June 2012

Health Care Ads: Return of the Death Panels?

I guess today or next week the Supremes are going to have to opine on Obama’s health care plan. And ready or not, many Americans — and American businesses – have already decided they don’t like the plan, especially the individual mandate that would require everyone to get insurance. Credit effective advertising in large part for this. When the pols first started heading down this road, I figured it would be a slam dunk.

Here’s from the NYT, “Distaste for Health Care Law Reflects Spending on Ads“:

Erika Losse is precisely the kind of person President Obama’s signature health care law is intended to help. She has no health insurance. She relies on her mother to buy her a yearly checkup as a Christmas gift, and she pays out of her own pocket for the rest of her medical care, including $1,250 for a recent ultrasound.

But Ms. Losse, 33, a part-time worker at a bagel shop, is no fan of the law, which will require millions of uninsured Americans like herself to get health coverage by 2014. Never mind that Ms. Losse, who makes less than $35,000 a year, would probably qualify for subsidized insurance under the law.

“I’m positive I can’t afford it,” she said.

A Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the health care law is expected any day now, but even if the Obama administration wins in the nation’s highest court, most evidence suggests it has lost miserably in the court of public opinion. National polls have consistently found the health care law has far more enemies than friends, including a recent New York Times/CBS News poll that found more than two-thirds of Americans hope the court will overturn some or all of it.

“The Democrats have done a very poor job of selling the program,” said Gary Schiff, 65, a retired teacher and businessman here. “All you hear about it now is the Republicans saying what’s wrong with it: that it’s socialism, that it’s going to bankrupt the country. I’ll give them credit; they’re great at framing the debate.”

That success may stem in large part from more than $200 million in advertising spending by an array of conservative groups, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($27 million) to Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS ($18 million), which includes the billionaire Sheldon Adelson among its donors, and the American Action Network ($9 million), founded by Fred V. Malek, an investor and prominent Republican fund-raiser.

In all, about $235 million has been spent on ads attacking the law since its passage in March 2010, according to a recent survey by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. Only $69 million has been spent on advertising supporting it. Just $700,000 of that comes from the Obama campaign, and none of its ads mentioning the law are currently being broadcast, said Elizabeth Wilner, vice president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group. “It explains, in a nutshell, why polling shows attitudes about the law to be at best mixed,” she said.

On the other side, the 60 Plus Association, a conservative lobbying group for older Americans, has targeted Democratic senators up for re-election with about $10 million in ads warning that under the law, “unaccountable bureaucrats” will be able to “ration care.”

Say what: “ration care”? I’m about to enter Medicare — which is greatly appreciated even though it seems a little like something socialists would love — and the last thing I want to hear about is “ration care.” I have every intention of going before a death panel at age 100 and arguing for triple hip replacement.

Oops. Sorry. I lost the thread.

Anyway, when Obama came along with his notions of hope and change, I figured that a national health care program — similar in concept to Medicare and Medicaid — would be in the offing for most everyone.

Guess not.

Regardless of what the Supremes say.

 

That’s A Clown Question, Bro

I spent the better part of 20 years being the primary spokesman for a large company, BFGoodrich. During that time, I had the opportunity to work with some exceptional journalists who were knowledgeable, ethical and fair. And I had the misfortune to work with some who couldn’t find their asses with both hands in the dark.

Every time I received a call from someone in that latter group I had to strap on the blood pressure cuff and bite my tongue. Nothing to be gained by stating the obvious: You’re an asshat. But it did cross my mind.

So I read with interest the retort of Washington Nationals outfield Bryce Harper to a question posed by a scribbler in Toronto. Here’s the backstory, from Yahoo sports:

Bryce Harper‘s comebacks look ready for the big leagues, too.

The 19-year-old Washington Nationals outfielder quipped ”That’s a clown question, bro” to a Toronto TV reporter who asked if he planned to take advantage of Canada’s lower drinking age after belting a long home run in a win over the Blue Jays.

For a brief time, the highest trending topic on Twitter was Harper’s response: ”That’s a clown question, bro.” The outfielder’s name was also among the site’s most popular subjects.

Sweet. Wonder if Harper has ever taken any formal training courses in news media relations? Probably no need.

Anyway, what got me thinking about this was a story that made its way out of the Rose Garden last week when Prez O was essentially heckled by a reporter as he was announcing a change in immigration policy. Here’s from the NYT:

As Mr. Obama was making a statement from the Rose Garden about a new immigration policy on Friday afternoon, a reporter from The Daily Caller, a conservative news Web site, repeatedly raised his voice and tried to interrupt. The reporter, Neil Munro, tried to ask whether the policy — intended to help young illegal immigrants get work — was good for legal American workers.

“Excuse me, sir,” Mr. Obama said when Mr. Munro initially spoke up. He put his hand in the air and raised a finger, as if to say “wait.”

“It’s not time for questions, sir,” Mr. Obama continued. “Not while I’m speaking.”

A few minutes later, Mr. Obama referenced the incident by saying, “And the answer to your question, sir, and the next time I’d prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question, is this is the right thing to do for the American people.”

Mr. Munro then apparently interrupted again.

“I didn’t ask for an argument, I’m answering your question,” Mr. Obama said.

OK. One of the failings of journalism these days is that the mainstream media — especially those reporters based inside the power alleys of DC and New York — are more lapdogs for those in power than watchdogs for the public. So by all means, ask some tough questions.

But hey. Let’s have a little civility. The President reading a statement in the Rose Garden is not the same as when the British Prime Minister stands in the well at the House of Commons. Sheesh.

But the Prez could have shut Munro up and won the 24/7 news cycle just by replying:

“That’s a clown question, bro.”

Staying North of the Border

Thankfully Obama’s view on at least one part of immigration policy evolved before the debacle at a Mexican restaurant in Copley Saturday night.

Although if the Homeland Defenders see this photo, I guess deportation for me may still be an option.

Adios, amigos.

 

Exercise: Is Less More?

OK. I finished my five-mile run early this am. I generally do this five days a week. And it takes me about an hour each day from start to finish. Am I exercising too much for my own good?

Maybe.

I’ve been doing this now for more than 30 years. And like most nonprofessional runners, I started one day long ago by huffing and puffing trying to make my way around the block. Then a year or so later I found myself crossing the finish line at the Columbus Marathon.

The theory was always to push as much as possible. Add miles and time spent on the concrete or treadmill progressively. And I have the log books to prove it.

But an article in the NYT — “Phys Ed: Moderation as the Exercise Sweet Spot” — advances the idea that when it comes to the health benefits you get from exercise, moderation is key. And less might just be more.

For people who exercise but fret that they really should be working out more, new studies may be soothing. The amount of exercise needed to improve health and longevity, this new science shows, is modest, and more is not necessarily better.

That is the message of the newest and perhaps most compelling of the studies, which was presented on Saturday at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco. For it, researchers at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and other institutions combed through the health records of 52,656 American adults who’d undergone physicals between 1971 and 2002 as part of the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. Each participant completed physical testing and activity questionnaires and returned for at least one follow-up visit.

The researchers found that about 27 percent of the participants reported regularly running, although in wildly varying amounts and paces.

The scientists then checked death reports.

Over the course of the study, 2,984 of the participants died. But the incidence was much lower among the group that ran. Those participants had, on average, a 19 percent lower risk of dying from any cause than non-runners.

Notably, in closely parsing the participants’ self-reported activities, the researchers found that running in moderation provided the most benefits. Those who ran 1 to 20 miles per week at an average pace of about 10 or 11 minutes per mile — in other words, jogging — reduced their risk of dying during the study more effectively than those who didn’t run, those (admittedly few) who ran more than 20 miles a week, and those who typically ran at a pace swifter than seven miles an hour.

“These data certainly support the idea that more running is not needed to produce extra health and mortality benefits,” said Dr. Carl J. Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans and an author of the study. “If anything,” he continued, “it appears that less running is associated with the best protection from mortality risk. More is not better, and actually, more could be worse.”

Oh, mama. Something else to fret about.

Regardless, any amount of walking, running, swimming, biking and so on seems to me to go in the plus column.

And if more people exercised even moderately instead of regularly downing a keg of Coke and a trailer full of popcorn at the movies, we might all be better off.

PC Cop Alert: Justin Bieber or God Bless the USA?

OK. The Prez opined Friday that the private sector is doing fine. So with the economy now back on track [note: LOL], I can stop fretting about the millions who are unemployed, have given up looking for a job, or who are under-employed. Actually, that frees up a lot of time and mental storage space.

So I’ll fret about political correctness. And I’ll admit that I am warming to the notion that not everyone should be required to sit through an Xmas program in a public school. Less sympathetic these days to those who want to ban students from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

But some of this PC crap is really ridiculous. Here’s an example, “Controversial principal yanks patriotic song from kindergarten graduation“:

Greta Hawkins, the principal of the Edna Cohen School in Brooklyn, New York, told students they could not sing the Lee Greenwood classic, “God Bless the USA,” at their moving-up ceremony, the New York Post reported late Saturday.

According to Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti, Hawkins found the lyrics “too grown up” for 5-year-olds.  While the patriotic song has been banned, the Post notes that “Justin Bieber’s flirty song about teen romance, ‘Baby,’ was deemed a fine selection for the show.”

“Hawkins,” the Post notes, “had no problem with 5-year-olds singing lines such as, ‘Are we an item? Girl, quit playing.’”

Scaperotti said the Department supports Hawkins’ decision.

“The lyrics are not age-appropriate,” she told the Post.

Hawkins’ decision to ban the patriotic song has sparked controversy at a school the Post says is “filled with proud immigrants.”

According to the Post:

Five classes spent months learning the patriotic song, which skyrocketed in popularity after the 9/11 attacks and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

It was to be the rousing finale of their musical show at the June 20 commencement. The kids, dressed up for their big day, would wave tiny American flags — which, as the lyrics proclaim, “still stand for freedom.”

Hawkins interrupted a rehearsal and ordered the CD shut off.  She then told teachers to drop the song.

“We don’t want to offend other cultures,” she reportedly said.

Staff and parents were stunned at her edict.

“A lot of people fought to move to America to live freely, so that song should be sung with a whole lot of pride,” Luz Lozada said.  Her son, Daniel, is a kindergartener at the school.

Wow. “A lot of people fought to move to America to live freely…”

Bet even Justin Bieber couldn’t argue with that.

By the way, Fox News was all over this while I was chasing the treadmill belt early this a.m. Expect some major league soul-searching on the part of New York school officials today.

Social Networking Sites: Worth the Risk?

I know I’m starting to lose it in my dotage. But I’m starting to fret that the greatest threat to our personal privacy and freedom — and our economy and national security — is the ability of some nation, criminal organization or terrorist group to unleash a Lisbeth Salander who can hack away at our computer systems and turn the Internet and our lives into mush.

What happens when everyone’s checking account flashes zero? Just a thought.

And I guess I’m not the only one yelling fire in a crowded movie theater about this. Here’s from the NYT, “Expert Issues A Cyberwar Warning“:

MOSCOW — When Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of Europe’s largest antivirus company, discovered the Flame virus that is afflicting computers in Iran and the Middle East, he recognized it as a technologically sophisticated virus that only a government could create.

He also recognized that the virus, which he compares to the Stuxnet virus built by programmers employed by the United States and Israel, adds weight to his warnings of the grave dangers posed by governments that manufacture and release viruses on the Internet.

“Cyberweapons are the most dangerous innovation of this century,” he told a gathering of technology company executives, called the CeBIT conference, last month in Sydney, Australia. While the United States and Israel are using the weapons to slow the nuclear bomb-making abilities of Iran, they could also be used to disrupt power grids and financial systems or even wreak havoc with military defenses.

Computer security companies have for years used their discovery of a new virus or worm to call attention to themselves and win more business from companies seeking computer protection. Mr. Kaspersky, a Russian computer security expert, and his company, Kaspersky Lab, are no different in that regard. But he is also using his company’s integral role in exposing or decrypting three computer viruses apparently intended to slow or halt Iran’s nuclear program to argue for an international treaty banning computer warfare.

A growing array of nations and other entities are using online weapons, he says, because they are “thousands of times cheaper” than conventional armaments.

Uh, gulp.

So is this a case where we should just follow the advice of the great American philosopher Bobby McFerrin who opined: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy“?

Probably not.

Here’s an excerpt from a NYT op-ed by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, “Asleep at the Laptop“:

THE alarm bells sound regularly: cybergeddon; the next Pearl Harbor; one of the greatest existential threats facing the United States. With increasing frequency, these are the grave terms officials invoke about the menace of cybercrime — and they’re not understating the threat.

Some cybercrime is aimed directly at our national security, imperiling our infrastructure, government secrets and public safety. But as the recent wave of attacks by the hacker collective Anonymous demonstrates, it also targets private industry, threatening the security of our markets, our exchanges, our bank accounts, our trade secrets and our personal privacy.

With all the attention paid to the so-called fiscal cliff approaching at year’s end, it is equally important to ask whether collective inaction has us simultaneously barreling toward a cybercliff of equal or greater height.

As the United States attorney in Manhattan, I have come to worry about few things as much as the gathering cyberthreat. Law enforcement is racing to respond, filling its ranks and fortifying its defenses against cyber-malefactors. Businesses should worry, too. But my experience suggests that they are not doing nearly enough to protect themselves, their customers and their shareholders.

Recently I met two executives from major companies who did not even know whom in law enforcement to contact in the event of a hack or intrusion. A few weeks ago, after a speech I gave about cybercrime, a board member of a significant Internet-based company took me aside and admitted, with some horror, that his company’s board had not spent a single minute discussing cybersecurity.

Hmm. Why Worry, Be Happy.

Well, I started thinking about this yesterday when I received a slew of emails from LinkedIn telling me to change my password. Oh boy. A nap-interrupting wild goose chase. And I don’t use LinkedIn for anything — but amazingly, I joined several years ago disclosing a password (which I can’t remember now) and most likely other personal information.

Here’s the reason, from PCWorld, for the sudden interest in my LinkedIn account:

LinkedIn Wednesday confirmed that at least some passwords compromised in a major security breach correspond to LinkedIn accounts.

Vicente Silveira, Director at LinkedIn, confirmed the hack on the company’s blog Wednesday afternoon and outlined steps that LinkedIn is taking to deal with the situation. He wrote that those with compromised passwords will notice that their LinkedIn account password is no longer valid.

Silveira added that owners of compromised accounts will receive an email from LinkedIn with instructions on how to reset their passwords. These owners then will get a second email from LinkedIn customer support that explains the situation at greater length.

Silveira also apologized to those affected, saying LinkedIn takes the security of members very seriously.

The fact is that these sites apparently can’t protect our personal information or privacy. So I’m going to try to figure out a way to delete as much personal information as possible. Not worth the risk.

And since I’m sure that won’t be easy, in the meantime, I’m sitting here singing along with Bob Marley and hoping that Ohio enacts a medical marijuana law to cover illnesses and neuroses associated with blogging.

 

 

Running and Life Lessons

OK. I’ll admit it. I didn’t know that today is celebrated as National Running Day. And it didn’t appear that the Talking Heads on CNN and Fox News had much interest in heralding the day. As I chased the treadmill belt this early a.m., I couldn’t escape the chatter about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker surviving (CNN’s view of the world) or winning a great victory (Fox News) in the state’s recall election yesterday. [Big waste of time and money. IMO]

I should have run outside, hitting the concrete on what really was another glorious morning here in NE Ohio.

And then I could have concentrated on a story that teaches some valuable lessons way beyond the political intrigue and posturing in Wisconsin, Inside the Beltway and elsewhere these days.

At a track meet in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday one runner stopped and helped another make it to the finish line. Here’s from The Daily Mail:

A high school runner competing in the 3200-metre race is receiving national attention, not for winning or a feat of athleticism, but for an extraordinary act of kindness after she helped a struggling competitor finish the race.

Meghan Vogel, a 17-year-old junior at West Liberty Salem High School in western Ohio, is now being praised for her sportsmanship, and has had to deal with an overwhelming response to the now-famous photograph.

She said she appreciates the accolades but said today that she is a bit overwhelmed by the praise that has been pouring in since Saturday’s track meet in Columbus.

The 17-year-old was in last place in the 3,200-meter run as she caught up to Arlington High School sophomore Arden McMath, whose body was giving out.Instead of zipping past Ms McMath to avoid the last-place finish, Ms Vogel draped the runner’s arm around her shoulders, half-dragging and half-carrying her about 30 metres to the finish line.

Wow. In an era when pro football teams are trying to figure out how to most effectively maim opponents–and when our elected leaders are interested primarily only in their own reelection–stopping to help someone seems almost quaint.

Wonder what made Megan do it?

“It’s an honour and very humbling,” Ms Vogel told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from her West Liberty home. ‘I just thought I was doing the right thing, and I think others would have done the same.’

Not a bad life lesson.