No bias here

From The Kansas City Star newspaper: New labor laws in Kansas and Missouri bolster the boss

The lead-off:

The balance of power between businesses and their workers shifted in Kansas and Missouri this year — in favor of the boss.

So, what are these laws? From the article:

Employees fired for being late for work without good cause will be barred from unemployment benefits if they are warned first and if the employee is notified of the employer’s attendance requirements. The new law no longer requires the warning to be in writing.

Laid-off workers can no longer collect a severance payment and unemployment simultaneously. An employee receiving a six-month severance, for instance, has to wait six months to draw unemployment.

The length of unemployment benefits could be shortened. Currently, the unemployed in Kansas can draw benefits for 26 weeks. Starting in 2014, a person will qualify for a maximum of 26 weeks of unemployment if the jobless rate is 6 percent or greater. Eligibility will drop to 20 weeks and then to 16 weeks as unemployment falls.

Guidelines have been changed for assessing workplace injuries, a move that labor supporters say will lead to reduced benefits for injured workers.

Those new laws and others that ban Wyandotte County from requiring union-scale wages on public jobs and require drug tests for unemployment benefits, critics say, add up to a bad year for labor.


A similar controversy over unemployment erupted this year in Missouri when lawmakers passed legislation making it harder for employees fired for misconduct to qualify for unemployment.

The first thing I noticed is that most of these didn’t seem to do anything to the boss. Most seem to set more restrictions on collecting unemployment.

Here are my recommended edits to the headline and lead-off: New labor laws in Kansas and Missouri bolster the boss taxpayers


The balance of power between businesses taxpayers and their workers and people collecting unemployment shifted in Kansas and Missouri this year — in favor of the boss taxpayers.

I’m amazed that the reporter found critics to these laws. Why should taxpayers reward people for misconduct on the job and drug use? Seems like we have better use of our dollars than that.

Trying Too Hard

Kansas City Star sports columnist Jason Whitlock started a new venture today, writing columns about politics.  His first piece, Beck, Palin adopt tactics of Jackson, Sharpton was a swing and miss.

Whitlock has made a couple forays into political writing in the past and I was impressed.  I thought he demonstrated clear-thinking and open-mindedness.

But, equating Beck and Palin with Jackson and Sharpton is an epic fail that lacks any basis in fact or reason.

To make his case, Whitlock fabricated straw men (i.e. false) representations of Beck, Palin and Limbaugh and tried to connect those with actual tactics of Jackson and Sharpton.

Example of Palin’s straw man:

Gal Sharpton (Sarah Palin) travels the country stoking the fears of white Americans telling them their country has been stolen by a mixed-race president.

It seems like it would be easy enough to produce at least one example to back up this accusation.  None are provided.

Compared with Sharpton’s actual incident:

We’re witnessing a disproportionate backlash from Sharpton’s unrepentant Tawana Brawley hoax…

It would be refreshing to see Whitlock take a calm approach to address what Palin, Beck and Limbaugh actual positions, rather than creating and attacking the false positions.

Whitlock writes:

Backed by major media outlets and choosing demagoguery over reason, Beck, Palin, Limbaugh and their imitators are growing in influence and seemingly pushing for anarchy by baiting racial distrusts…

Another accusation without facts.  And, it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Choosing demagoguery over reason? Pushing for anarchy?  Baiting racism?  Utter nonsense.   This demonstrates that Whitlock hasn’t done a minute of research to substantiate his viewpoint.  His editors should have pointed this out immediately.

I guess Whitlock isn’t interested in the truth.  From this absurd column, his interest appears to lie in the same place as those he accuses – making money.

Good luck with that.  I may give him a couple more chances based on the quality of his previous work, but if he just wants to put his spin on the same fiction that bounces around the airwaves, it’s not worth my time.

Rep. Todd Tiahrt on the Tea Party

Here’s a letter to the editor published today in the Kansas City Star from Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas.

Across the nation patriotic Americans are making their voices heard by protesting the largess of a federal government intoxicated with raising our taxes, spending our money and controlling more of our lives. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and liberal members of the media have spent more time ridiculing the tea party movement than listening to it.

Instead of lecturing citizens for engaging in the political process, Washington leaders should be signing up for lessons to start learning why people from every walk of life are so angry about what is happening to our country.

Americans are outraged — and rightfully so. The liberal spend-and-control agenda of the Obama administration is dangerous and threatens to undermine many of our freedoms. I hope the tea party movement is just getting warmed up, because we desperately need an end to the “change” agenda being forced on us by the president.

We must continue making our voices heard and fighting against the establishment of a more intrusive bureaucracy. Then we need to do the necessary work of undoing the mess created in Washington and start building our economy from the ground up, not the government down.

Emphasis is mine.

Article on health care

I found today’s front-page article, Health bill promising for mom-and-pop employees, at the Kansas City Star to be an excellent example of the state of poor journalism and poor critical thinking skills in this country.

The story features workers at YJ’s, “the artsy downtown snack bar” who do not have health insurance, while showing how health care reform can help them out.

…the crew at YJ’s, and 32 million other Americans, would shift from uninsured to covered.  This group of 10 people, in fact looks to come out well ahead under the proposal.

The requirement that employers offer health insurance would apply to bigger operations, those with more than 50 workers — not to YJ’s owner David Ford. Rather, the government would help underwrite his costs. Uninsured now, Ford said he might sign up a senior portion of his staff for health care if the overhaul passes.

It struck me as odd that even the older owner of this place is uninsured.  Scott Cannon, the reporter who wrote this story, doesn’t explicitly explain why.  Though later in the article he does explain that Ford trades artwork for medical care.

A nice addition to the story would have been to ask Ford why he doesn’t choose to purchase health insurance.  If it’s because of the expense, Cannon could have done some basic research on or called a health insurance broker to see how much health insurance now would cost Ford and see if it could fit into this budget.

Later in the article, Cannon details the story of one of the workers, 32 year old Liam Morrisroe.  A few years ago, an uninsured Morrisroe racked up $15,000 in medical bill (later bargained down to $10,000) for treating a kidney stone.  Cannon reports that $10,000 of the original total was for “an emergency room doctor.”

It is not apparent in the story whether Cannon fact checked to confirm Morrisroe’s claims.  I’ve been to the emergency room four times over the last 15 years.   Those visits costs ranged from $800 – $2,000 each.  Not cheap, but not $10,000.  The $10,000 seems high to me.  Cannon could have called the hospital where Morrisroe was treated and, with Morrisroe’s permission, been given the line item breakdown for his bill.

Morrisroe concludes, “If I had to do it over, I would have just toughed it out with the pain of the kidney stone.”

Does Morrisroe consider other options, like finding a doctor or alternative treatment center, like the CVS Pharmacy Minute Clinic?  I have learned to call my doctor when something is wrong to get his advice on whether to go to the emergency room or to see him.  My doctor charges less than $100 per visit.

Had Morrisroe made a call to a doctor or to a nurse help line, they may have been able to advise him on a less expensive course of treatment.  This would have been a great service for the reader and Morrisroe had Cannon explored and compared these options.

But, after all that, I credit Cannon for including this paragraph.  Morrisroe is skeptical of the current proposed reform bill:

He said he was worried that the plan in Congress was pushed through too quickly. Sure, the push for health care reform has been going on for decades. But he saw the pending changes as too substantial to be done atop a health care infrastructure in need of more careful reworking.

But, the reason I think Cannon included it was because of the last sentence, “He would have preferred that President Barack Obama stretch the process into a second presidential term to make sure things are done right.”  An editorial, I’m guessing, Cannon agrees with.

As I read Morrisroe’s story and the paragraph above I wondered two things.  First, I wondered if Morrisroe considered that he shouldn’t wait for the President to fix things for him and that he should take responsibility for that himself?  Second, I wondered if he’s ever recognized that working a counter at a snack bar is something you do when you’re 18 to 24 years old and at some point you might need to think about that next thing.

Maybe Cannon thought the same thing, because he seems to answer my second question by next featuring 29 year-old Pete Liebert.   Liebert “said he felt keenly that being uninsured left him financially vulnerable.”

What does he do for health care now?

“Nothing,” Leibert laughed.

He has not had insurance for at least 10 years, when his parents’ policy covered him. Leibert recalled getting care perhaps once since then, when he burned his hand at work. Ford covered the emergency room bill, and the best that Leibert could recall, he paid out of his own pocket for follow-up care.

The thought of getting a job that has insurance crosses his mind occasionally, but passes quickly. He likes his job and the family-like atmosphere of the YJ’s bunch.

“Here I’m happy. I get coffee. I get a meal on my shift. I like the people,” Leibert said. “I’d rather be happy than have some other things.”

Pete made his trade-off and seems happy about it, for now.  He’d rather be happy than have some other things. We may not agree with his decision, but it’s his decision.  He may not be happy when he needs medical treatment and has to pay for it, but that’s part of the trial-and-error in which we all live our lives.  That experience would give him the signal that working at a snack bar is not a viable long-term gig.  Though, that message didn’t seem to be received by his co-worker Morrisroe.  But, we’ve all been there.  I’ve certainly made costly mistakes and I’ve tried to learn from them.  Those care called consequences.  Consequences help us figure things out.

Ruby Hanson, a three year employee of YJ’s, does “mostly without health care.”

“I’d like to see a doctor. I’d like to get a better idea of how my body works and how I’m doing,” Hanson said. “I don’t even remember the last time I saw a dentist. I’d like to know my blood type.”

She said she hoped that her consumption of raw garlic and drinking the teas she made for herself would fortify her health. She is somewhat dubious of drugs anyway.

While she was encouraged by the possibility that reform could mean coverage for her, a government mandate that people purchase insurance rubbed as wrongly “telling people what they have to do.”

Yet her life would be made easier. An emergency room visit about six months ago left her with a $700 bill that she doesn’t know how to pay. It is nearly a month’s wages.

“The way things are now,” she said, “it’s hard.”

I agree with Ruby’s thinking in terms of “telling people what they have to do.”  I do recommend that she spend about an hour calling around to doctor’s offices and getting prices on an office visit for a check-up.  CVS Pharmacy offers a Minute Clinic at a reasonable price.  Occasionally there are free health seminars that can do blood work so she can get an idea of her health status.  There are inexpensive options out there to help her avoid relying on the emergency room for her medical treatment.

I found the story lacking because the only two medical care options explored for this group are the emergency room and government health care and doesn’t ask common sense questions.  Have you considered any other treatment options?  Have you called a doctor’s office to get a price for visit?  Did you know about the CVS Minute Clinic?  Have you looked into the price of catastrophic insurance?  Have you considered that working at a snack bar, which sounds like a marginal business at best (since the story reveals the owner doesn’t make much), is not a viable long-term gig?

Nanny State – Kansas

Kansas lawmakers are considering a soda tax to raise tax revenues.

This is wrong on a few levels.

Thomas Jefferson sums up the first level with this quote:  “A government big enough to supply everything you need, is big enough to take everything you have.”

From the article:  “Obesity-related illnesses in Kansas cost Medicaid and Medicare $281 million every year.”   I digress: obesity-related illness in Kansas costs Medicaid and Medicare nothing.  It costs taxpayers.  Medicaid and Medicare are nothing more than a pass-through for taxpayer funds.

This is how the nanny state, or the big government Jefferson describes, works.  It’s intrusive rationale goes like this: If “we” supply your health care, then “we” have the right to raise your taxes on the things we think increase “our” costs.

Where will it stop?

The second level why this is wrong is because the reason Kansas is thinking about this tax is because it is running a deficit.  Like many governments, it increased spending too much in the good times and now, with the economy in a downturn, it needs to plug holes in the budget.   We’re tightening our belts.  Government needs to do the same thing.   Hypocrisy.

The third level is that this is a perfect illustration of how meddling government causes unintended consequences and then tries to fix those consequences with more intrusions.  Those intrusions costs more consequences.  If they left things alone, things would work out.

People don’t pay the direct costs of increased medical care caused by their irresponsible eating habits because much of health care spending has been pushed to third parties – government and insurance companies.

Further, government doesn’t allow insurance companies to charge premiums based on key health risk factors.  Home and auto insurers can.  Higher auto insurance rates for risky driving keeps us more prudent into our driving habits.  We take responsibility because we don’t want to face higher insurance rates.

So, through government we’ve managed to remove some of the natural signals that tell people to stay health and, shocker, people aren’t taking care of themselves.

So, now we try to push the cost back onto them in the form of a soda tax.  Soon it could be a Snicker’s tax, a motorcycle tax, a driving your car more the 25 miles to work tax.  New York is already going after salt intake.

Thomas Jefferson knew how this would play out 200 years ago.

McClanahan in the Kansas City Star

McClanahan’s column, DC calliope wheezes along — to no good end,  in Sunday’s Kansas City Star is worth a read.  He makes several good points.

Here McClanahan wonders about sidewalk repair paid for by stimulus dollars:

But sidewalks? It’s a bit deflating. Then you think: The government went into debt, to fix sidewalks in Kansas City? And when did fixing our sidewalks become a federal responsibility?

Another good point:

As long as I have followed politics and the markets, I can’t remember a time when people speculated openly about a possible debt default by the U.S. government. Yet that’s what’s going on.

And, I think he’s right about this:

More voters are fed up with politicians who casually spray our money everywhere and whose only approach to national problems is more regulation, ballooning entitlements, higher taxes and more debt.

Well said.

The only critique of the column I’d offer is that McClanahan wrote the Bush II ended with a deficit that totaled 1.2% of GDP, but he didn’t include what the Federal government deficit will be under Obama.

Some Meterologists Doubt Global Warm

I sent this e-mail this morning to Rick Montgomery, reporter at the Kansas City Star.

I enjoyed your article in the Star today, Climate change splits forecasters. I was disappointed that only a passing mention was made of the Climategate e-mails in your story. If people knew more of the facts around that, they may think the meteorologists featured in your article are onto something.

I would like to respond to two quotes you used in the article.  First, you included this quote from Keith Seitter of American Meteorological Society: “meteorologists tend to underestimate how much work the climate scientists do and care they take.”

What purpose does this serve in the article?  It’s one man’s unsubstantiated opinion and it says nothing about the actual accuracy of the work output from climate scientists. I believe it was inserted to cast suspicion on meteorologists opinions of climatology, but a careful reader should recognized it as irrelevant to the story.  I also wonder if Seitter’s opinion applies to the group of meteorologists who accept global warming or only to those who are skeptical.  That would have been a good follow-up question.

Second, you quoted Kris Wilson, a University of Texas researcher, as saying, “The models used for predicting weather are inherently volatile. The climate models are not like that. They’re inherently stable.”

I’m not sure what purpose this statement served.  I suspect that a reader not experienced with mathematical modeling may think that means that weather models are less accurate than climate models.  I also suspect Wilson did not intend to convey this meaning.  I believe he was stating a fact and that statement was used inappropriately.  If he did intend this statement to convey the comparative accuracy of the weather and climate models, then it is an inaccurate and irresponsible statement from a researcher.  A reader with math modeling experience would correctly interpret the statement as unrelated to your article.

The words volatile and stable say nothing about the accuracy of either type of model.  Wilson’s statement is like saying that the speed of your vehicle goes up and down more often when driving around town and varies less while driving on the highway.  While this is a true statement, it doesn’t there’s anything better or worse with either type of driving, just as Wilson’s statement doesn’t say that there’s anything better or worse with weather or climate modeling.

If you are thinking about ideas for future articles, I would recommend reporting on the Climategate e-mails and presenting the global warming science that is so “widely accepted” to let people judge for themselves.  Hopefully, the world is learning that scientists are people too and they are not immune to political motivations or to being wrong.