Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Amazing Race - Season 21 - Kicks Off In Los Angeles

OK, who doesn't know what an abacus is?

Fresh off its most recent Emmy Award for Best Reality TV, CBS' phenomenally successful "race around the world," The Amazing Race kicked off its twenty-first season in Pasadena, California tonight.  A quick opening challenge put the teams on the plane to Shanghai, China, and the race around the world has begun again.  I have to admit, though, I was disappointed by the opening city, as its becoming tiresome to begin in Los Angeles and then quickly hop over to China.  Granted, last season took off for Argentina as the first stop, and a couple seasons back, they left from Massachusetts.  But, in general, the Amazing Race leaves from LA and heads to Southeast Asia, and the whole thing is becoming cliche.  My family was predicting an East Coast start heading to Europe, and I was calling for a kickoff from Washington, D.C. to honor the presidential election.  Alas, it was not to be, and the teams were quickly out of LAX and on to China.

The teams are as eclectic - and strangely predictable - as always, and I don't see any real favorites yet.  Certainly, the winning team tonight - which was the dating divorced couple - ran a nice first leg.  And the Amazing Race creators have developed a fascinating new twist with a potential million dollar bonus if the first leg winner actually wins the whole race.  Now, the pressure is on this young couple.  And the big news - and bittersweet moment - from the opening is the couple from Crested Butte with the girl who survived debilitating injuries from meninigitis as a young woman.  At the moment that it counted most, the Colorado couple was out front and told a couple teams where to find the final clue - one team made them pay and ran them down for first place.  Certainly, it was hard to watch.  But they didn't have to share the information.  That's just the way the race goes.  Though it was tough to watch double amputee Amy struggle and get passed right before the pit stop.  Angst.

Beyond that, there were certainly some annoying situations for long time race viewers.  For example, you never simply follow a team without first getting your clue, as the Chippendale dancers did.  They lost valuable time by running after a team before they had their final clue.  And, it was tough to see the monster truck driver make the mistake of not reading the clue - and being forced to eat a double dose of the frogs' fallopian tubes.  Retch!  But that's a standard practice for the Amazing Race.  Always read your clue closely.  I mean, really.  Who doesn't know these basic practices.  And I don't care about the intensity of the race and making rash decisions.  If you watch regularly, you know to play the game prudently.  Certainly, the old couple lost after their ill-fated trip to the Bank of China. They even commented how fortunate they were to get that tip - and it cost them the entire race.  Oops.

I have to say that I still lament the loss of Elimination Station on the website last season.  It was one of our favorite parts of the show, and I still would like to see it return.  Regardless, it's nice to see the return of The Amazing Race.  Who's your favorite?

Seoul Sausage Wins The 2012 Great Food Truck Race

The Food Network's Great Food Truck Race of 2012 aired its finale tonight from the coast of Maine, and, as it should have been, the boys from Seoul Sausage reined victorious over the spirited girls from Nonna's Kitchenette.  For the second year in a row, the Great Food Truck Race was won by a trio of Korean guys cooking up American food truck versions of Korean specialties like Korean BBQ and fried kimchi balls.  That's saying something about the culinary tastes of the growing food truck culture - and it says something about the culinary chops of these young men.  This year, the winner was never really in doubt from also the first week.  Though the boys of Seoul Sausage almost always failed to win the truck stop challenges, what really mattered in the end was the ability to consistently put out good food and draw the crowds.  That's the secret of the food truck culture, and these boys should be proud that they have made a career decision which has been validated from coast to coast in seven different cities.

The girls from Nonna's certainly have nothing to be ashamed of, though they are obviously not as polished as the boys from Seoul Sausage.  I'd bet these girls could find some backing and get enough support to make a go of it in food truck culture on their own.  Certainly, it would have been nice to have the initial investment taken care of - a fully furnished food truck and $50K is going to set the Korean lads up well for success.  However, 99.9% of people who establish successful food trucks don't win a contest and have the foundation set up for them.  So, the gals from Jersey should simply take a lesson and understand that they do have what it takes to make it in the food business.  Of course, it's worth noting that they were actually much farther behind Seoul Sausage than Tyler Florence made it seem.  While Tyler says they lost by $103, it was actually a loss by $603.  They won a challenge that gave them a huge financial bonus - and that perk doesn't exist in the business world.  So, even when Tyler said they were within five dollars of each other, it was never really that close from a business world perspective.

Regardless, this turned out to be a satisfying season for the Food Network's Great Food Truck Race.  I'll admit that when the season started, I didn't like they idea of having novices compete for their own food truck.  I wanted to see skilled food trucks duke it out.  However, the concept has grown on me, and I am thrilled that the Food Network is supporting aspiring chefs, instead of already established ones, with this format.  Even the boys from Pop-a-Waffle learned they can compete in the food truck business - and despite my criticism of their food quality and ... appearance, I hope they pursue their dream as well.

Congrats to the boys of Seoul Sausage.  You made your parents proud.  Good luck to Nonna's as well. And hats off to the Food Network for another great show.  Now, some more of Jeff the Sandwich King.  And more on healthy and quality cuisine.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jim McMahon & Concussions & Dementia & NFL Safety

Jim McMahon was the larger-than-life professional athlete of my youth.  The headband-wearing Chicago Bears quarterback was a rock star in shoulder pads, and he defined toughness and cool.  I can still recall the images of him being upended and spun around by blitzing linebackers, and his toughness and attitude endeared him to millions of fans, especially young teen males.  And, so the news of Jim McMahon's early onset dementia and the fading of his shining personality is a bit of sadness that takes away the innocence of football fans.  The curtain has been pulled back, and now we are gaining some insight into the incredibly high price paid by these gladiators of the contemporary age.

A needless price that is too high.

In a series of recent profiles and interview pieces, Jim McMahon and his wife have revealed that he is suffering from dementia at the age of 53.  As one of the hundreds of former NFL players that is currently suing the league for not more effectively warning them of the dangers and working to protect players, McMahon has recently said that given the choice again, he would have never played football.  That is a shocking and sad assertion by one of the league's most colorful personalities.  If anyone lived the dream of the NFL player, it was the crazy, competitive, irreverent, and lively Jim McMahon. He was the Chicago Bears.  He was the Super Bowl Shuffle.  Everyone wanted Jim McMahon on their team - and this was the days before Fantasy Football.

Now, he's a shell of a man.  And it doesn't have to be this way.

The lawsuit by NFL players and the increasingly serious news of concussions and their long-term effects have generated discussion of how the sport of football will proceed.  And, it's filtering all the way down to the Pop Warner and high school leagues.  In fact, some articles report that the number of high school players participating in football is dropping for the first time anyone can remember.  Are parents and kids rethinking the risks of a few weeks of Friday night glory.  I know I am quite glad my son is a baseball and basketball player, as well as a distance runner.  I would not want my son playing the sport - though I must admit the hypocrisy of being a serious fan of the game.  Of course, I am not opposed to changes to increase safety.  And, I am actually a proponent of the most serious  and effective rule changes on the table.  If football wants to make its sport safer ...

Ban the helmet.

It's really that simple.  Football needs to return to its origins and get rid of helmets.  For, it's no surprise to anyone that helmets give a false sense of security.  No one without a helmet is going to being willing to smash his bare head against another body.  That's the beauty of rugby.  And it was the beauty of football in the early days.  By getting rid of helmets, the game will inherently become more athletic and less about brute force.  Additionally, football leagues should move to ban the three-point stance.  By requiring offensive and defensive lineman to begin plays in an upright position, they will be less able to propel themselves forward into head-smashing situations.  Ultimately, this will be good for the game.  More importantly, it will honor and respect the safety of the young men who sacrifice their bodies for our entertainment.

So, in the name of a fading Jim McMahon - and hundreds of other nameless men suffering - ban the helmet.  Ban the helmet and save football.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Conservatism and the Problem for Mitt Romney and the GOP in 2012

Being an unaffiliated independent voter who generally splits between Democrats and Republicans while looking for the most moderate and pragmatic legislators I can find, I have watched the implosion of Mitt Romney's campaign and the resilient nature of President Obama's administration with absolute fascination.  At times like this I look to the moderate voices on conservatism and politics, trying to sift through the white noise of ideology and campaigning.  As I noted recently with the recent national polls - and conservative commentary backlash - on Mitt Romney, I have tried to explain how it's not about Mitt - it's about the message.

Conservatism is struggling to find a voice among the moderate middle voters, even though they naturally and consciously veer to the right.  The problem is well articulated by David Brooks this week in the New York Times with his insightful commentary The Conservative Mind.  Most outspoken Republicans these days will actually miss the allusion in Brooks' title to the seminal work by Russel Kirk, an iconic figure in the annals of American conservatism.  And, that is the problem.  The flippant free-market ranters of the conservative right these days have little in common with the roots of conservatism among people like Kirk and Edmund Burke.  The conservative mind is about believing and supporting the traditional institutions that are the foundation of civilization - as Brooks notes, the conservative wants to preserve a society that functioned as a harmonious ecosystem, in which the different layers were nestled upon each other: individual, family, company, neighborhood, religion, city government and national government.

Conservatism is not about opposing or having contempt for government.  In fact, the conservative knows the integral role government plays in restraining the irrational and primal side of the individual that puts the entire society at risk.  And, granted, the conservative values liberty above most things, and he worries about collectivism and cultures of dependency.  But there is little faith among the conservative for the "unbridled free market," which puts society as at much risk.  The social and financial inequality that results is not good for civilization.  Conservative blogger Rod Dreher (read and alluded to by Brooks) also argues for this pragmatism and cites the Ten Conservative Principles developed and articulated by Russel Kirk.  These are ideas that are worth reviewing - and Dreher's work with The American Conservative should be regular reading for the average Republican.

Certainly, checking in at The American Conservative from time to time is worthwhile - for it is the best explanation the GOP is going to find for Why Romney Is Losing.  I would like to see the GOP shift back to the thinking of people like Kirk and Burke and Disraeli and Brooks and Dreher.  But I don't hold out hope.  Thus, I continue to be stuck by the problem of not being overly thrilled with the Obama Presidency yet being repelled by the Romney Campaign.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Messy Classrooms & Sloppy Professionalism

Some may like us to believe that "A messy desk is a sign of a genius."  The question for the education profession is whether a messy classroom is a reflection on the instruction or the quality of the teacher.  Having taught for many years in several schools, I have seen it all when it comes to classroom design and maintenance.  And, I am always baffled - and rather put off - by the classrooms that reflect the scattered nature of a student's locker or a teenager's bedroom.  In a basic sense of professionalism, there would seem to be no justification for books haphazardly left on the floor or loose papers strewn across the desk, bookshelves, and corners.  Such a disregard for order and decorum seems to imply a casualness that could be perceived by students as less than serious.

Granted, I am a bit OCD in the way I like my classroom and desk.  In fact, years ago a colleague came in to my classroom to chat and paused, looking carefully at my desk.  "You live," she told me, "in a right-angle world."  And, my room is rather neat an orderly, though not lacking in character and some form of decoration.  Though that would seem to create and reflect the kind of order that is necessary for a learning environment.  Students, it seems without doubt, need structure in their lives and classes.  In fact, the classroom and school are sometimes the only order they can count on.  Beyond that idea though, there should be an expectation that teachers rooms are tidy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pop-A-Waffle Exits Great Food Truck Race

In the run-up to the finale of the Food Network's Great Food Truck Race, the three teams of Seoul Sausage, Nonna's Kitchenette, and Pop-A-Waffle rolled into Cleveland for the semi-final challenge.  In a victory for culinary tastes and modest, healthier waist lines, Pop-A-Waffle will not be rolling back out of Cleveland.  The rather schlubby guys from Los Angeles were finally eliminated, despite winning the truck stop challenge and being given three hours to sell food while the other two trucks were shut down.  Thankfully, that did not give them an advantage for their unappealing and certainly far-from-healthy food.

During the entire season of this Great Food Truck Race, I have been disappointed by the mediocre and unappealing food put out by a group of three guys who look so unhealthy I wouldn't buy a paperclip from them.  The entire chicken-n-waffle concept is far too Paula Dean for a show which is hosted by Tyler Florence - and for a network that employs some of the top chefs and high cuisine.  Certainly, none of the contestants are making the healthiest food this season - but the concept of waffles with whipped cream out of a can is just really disappointing.  And the men in the waffle truck need to hit the gym and Weight Watchers for about six months before they decide to start shilling for waffle business again.

Fortunately, the finale for the Great Food Truck Race will be two trucks with people who actually know how to cook, and can serve up some quality cuisine.  The odds-on favorite is clearly Seoul Sausage, who has consistently won week after week with a dependable formula.  These Korean guys know how to run a food truck, and they should be proud.  However, the girls from Nonna's can certainly give them a challenge, and it should be an interesting finale.

As an added bonus to the Sunday night line-up, this episode of the Great Food Truck Race was followed by the premiere of the Food Network's $24 in 24, featuring Jeff Mauro, the Sandwich King.  Jeff is branching out with a new show featuring inexpensive but great food from cities around the country.  I am excited about this show - which premiered in Jeff's hometown of Chicago.  And, I am really hoping this can provide a relief from the endless replays of Guy's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.  Jeff the Sandwich King has Guy-like star power, and hopefully this show takes off and generates some more press - and a better time slot - for Jeff the Sandwich King.

*UPDATE - For info on Season 4 premiering Sunday, August 18, check here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Is It About 47%-ers, or 1%-ers?

How quickly the class warfare discussions have shifted - away from President Obama's plans to tax the super-rich - and on to Mitt Romney's apparently clueless remarks about some ambiguous group that makes up 47% of the electorate, doesn't pay income taxes, feels like a victim, feels entitled to health care and a job and a house, and wasn't going to vote for Mitt Romney anyway.

Governor Romney has made a serious mistake and miscalculation about percentages - and is being painted by even some in his own party as a derisive plutocrat.  There are several ways to parse the 47% that Mitt may be talking about.  For one, roughly 46% of the population identifies as Democrats, or Republicans, with about 38% voting that way all the time.  So, Romney is correct that a certain percentage of people will never vote for him because it's about party and ideology.  Additionally, there is a common notion - from a study by the Brookings Institution - that 46% of Americans don't pay an "federal income tax."  The reasons vary - as some are fixed income seniors and others are working poor who have their burden erased the Earned Income Tax Credit (a tax credit widely supported by many in the GOP, including W. Bush).

The problem for Romney is that he has assumed the 46-47%-ers who won't vote from - and those who don't pay income taxes - are the same group.  And that's far from the truth.  It negates all the Republicans in all the Red States who currently don't pay income taxes and do receive government benefits.  And it confuses the many Democrats who pay plenty in taxes and would never vote for Mitt Romney for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the elite, plutocratic view that leads to making inane statements like Romney has been making.

Monday, September 17, 2012

There is No Health Care in the United States

As I continue to observe people with incredibly poor diets living unhealthy lifestyles with very little attention to exercise, I've concluded that there is very little health care in this country.  People are not taking care of their health - and they are absolutely shameless about it.  Currently, Americans seem to be completely up in arms about the health care crisis - whether that means access or costs.  But there is little talk about the role personal responsibility plays in this area.

Roughly, 80% of health care spending the in United States - that's eight out of every ten health care dollars - goes to treat chronic illnesses that can be completely or predominantly treated with diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.  Hypertension, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, joint problems, back problems, type-2 diabetes and all the associated liver and kidney problems:  these are all  lifestyle diseases.

If Americans would cut out the sodas and unhealthy snacks, walk thirty minutes a day, and weight trained a couple times a week, America's health care costs could be cut dramatically.  Dare I say, we could cut wasteful "health care" spending in half.  Medicare and Medicaid would be in much better shape because we could be consuming far fewer services.  And, this should appeal to people of all status and ideology.  Personal responsibility needs to be part of the health care discussion.  And we all do have an interest (financial) in the eating and exercise habits of others.

As Michael Pollan says,

Eat food.
Mostly vegetables.
Not too much.

And take a walk.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's Not About Mitt Romney - It's the GOP Platform

According to the latest buzz, Mitt Romney is under fire from his own party over the tepid campaign he is waging.  In the view of both Laura Ingram and George Will, if Mitt Romney and the Republicans cannot beat President Obama in the current climate, the party should hang it up and seek a new line of work.  The strategy has run back and forth and all over the place, but the campaign has mostly been about the fact that Mitt Romney is not Obama.  The central idea is to be the anti-Obama, and to rail against the President for everything from health care to taxes to Solyndra to the trading of Tim Tebow. The biggest frustration for the GOP - especially the conservatives on talk radio and television - is that they can't simply fire off the Reagan question - "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" - and call it game, set, and match.

And that disconnect is the heart of the Republican's problem.  It's the platform, people.  The country may not be thrilled with their lives and the current state of the economy and government.  But they aren't thrilled about the alternatives either.

It's not a winning strategy to run as the anti-Obama when the president is actually quite likable and in many ways popular.  The American people may be unhappy with their job situation - but they are just as likely to blame the company that laid them off as they are the White House's economic policies.  In fact, it may be more so, considering many employed people were hired back at worse jobs for less pay even as they saw the corporate sector boasting profits and the stock market come roaring back.  The problem is that the voters don't trust Mitt Romney and the trickle-down ideas, and they associate him with the part of society that is doing well.  Time Magazine reported on the state of malls in America this week, and the surprising news is that the outlook at middle and working class malls is more vacancies, but the malls that serve the top 10% of earners are actually doing well ... even growing.

The American people don't hold President Obama in great contempt.  And they are not thrilled about the idea of Medicare becoming a voucher.  And they don't see why Warren Buffet should pay so little in taxes.  And they don't have lots of dividends and stocks, especially not to the point of moving the money off-shore to avoid taxes.  And they don't believe that abortion should be outlawed in all cases.  And they haven't put English as a national language high on their list of priorities.  And they do have sympathy for undocumented children who simply want to stay in the only home country they've ever known.  And they don't see why the Bush tax cuts for top earners can't expire.  And they are liking the fact that the insurance companies can't drop them or deny them now.  And they appreciated the rebate they got for their health care.  And they like not being misled by credit card companies anymore.

The sad - and strange - thing for the GOP is that if Mitt Romney loses, the Republicans will misread it as the country being even more conservative and opposed to government than it is, and they will seek even more hardline conservatives for 2014 and 2016.  And for a party that desperately needs to move to the center, that will be a huge mistake.

Republicans.  It's your ideas.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

America Is ... a Tad Disgusting

My family and I spent Saturday morning running a 5K for the First America State Bank Fitness Festival, and it was quite simply refreshing and a lot of fun.  Roughly a thousand people in the area of southeast Denver turned out for a 5K run/walk and a one-mile fun run for the little kids.  Many of the local high schools turned out with their cross-country teams and cheerleading squads to promote health and wellness.

To contrast that, we attended youth baseball today for a double-header and I was depressed and quite nauseated to witness the poor health and disgusting eating - and parenting - habits of Americans.  The first thing that struck me was the number of overweight kids who are playing organized sports.  Too many young people are just overweight and out of shape, and it's just so sad.  And, I blame the parents.  For, even before the kids are playing - on a chilly September morning at 8:30 - these kids are being given huge bottles of Gatorade to chug on.  And that is nothing but sugar water and chemical coloring, despite the fact that the kids haven't sweated a drop and wouldn't all day.

Beyond that were ... the snacks.  How about a supermarket bag full of Doritos and Pringles and Cheeze-its and Oreos?  Nothing like a little starch and empty white flour carbs loaded with sugar for a little "energy."  And if that weren't enough, it certainly made sense to top it off between games with a trip to McDonalds.  Really, people?  Has any effort at health and nutrition gone completely out the window?  Are people this completely clueless about fitness?  It's not surprising, considering the size - and shape - of many of the fathers in the stands.  But it is truly sad.  They've just completely given up - and there is literally no shame about how bad they look.

Of course, the question is - why is this my business?

I look at it financially.  There is no doubt that diet and exercise are hugely significant on health and health care spending.  And Medicare and Medicaid spending are busting out with a generation of people raised on sugar and empty white flour carbs.  That expense affects my health care costs as well.  Insurance pools disperse cost and risk.  So for every handful of Doritos going down someone's gullet, I am seeing a rise in my health care costs.  And it is unsustainable.  The great irony is that amidst all this gluttony, people turn their ire toward the "Food Police."  As if that cinnamon roll is so important and part of everyone's Constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness.

Ultimately, I see it from A Teacher's View.  These children are being harmed by the ignorant behavior of their parents, and they will be saddled with a lifetime of weight struggle because parents didn't care enough to be educated about health and wellness.  According to research, only 10% of parents of overweight and obese children seek help in treating the condition.

So, so sad.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hyperink Changes the Study Guide Industry All Over Again

Study guides such as Cliff Notes and Spark Notes and No Fear and Grade Saver have been offering simplified summaries of classic literature and required reading for decades, and they have long been the standard in the genre.  However, their specialties have long been the classics of contemporary high school and college curricula, and most students turn to them for help deciphering Shakespeare's Hamlet or assistance in prepping for the ACT.  There were many books that these standard industry leaders didn't touch - and they were mainly the books that weren't in demand in the classroom.  Yet, there are many books that people would love to read - or say they have read - but they don't have the time.  Hyperink intends to fill that void.

I first happened across Hyperink while searching Amazon for books by Jonah Leher - the recently scandalized writer who published in Wired and the New Yorker before being exposed for academic dishonesty.  While searching his book Imagine, I discovered an offering for a "Quicklet" on Leher's books.  Upon investigation I learned that Hyperink is a company devoted to publishing quick book summaries of popular non-fiction works.  The entire business model is the brainchild of an entrepreneur named Kevin Gao, who first made a name for himself with his self-publishing book on consulting, The Consulting Bible.   Hyperink apparently caught the attention of one of the original venture capitalists behind the HuffPost, Kenneth Lerer, who has bankrolled the company.  The concept is not new, even to the internet, as freelance source such as Associated Content, Demand Media Studios, and eHow have been offering these summaries of popular content for a while now. Perhaps the most successful model on this idea was the inventors of the For Dummies handbooks.  Hyperink has simply repackaged it, again.

And Hyperink is also branching out into other fields of publishing, making it easier for "experts" and aspiring writers to publish books.  For example, Hyperink has a team of writers who will sift through a bloggers entire collection of posts and "craft a book" out of the entries.  They will also market it and sell it - for a 50% of the profits.  It is a reasonable offer, and Hyperink is able to do for many writers what they are unable to do for themselves - gather, organize, and market their content.  They will quickly assemble and publish brief summaries and explanations on unique subjects that people often search the internet for.  Thus, someone may want a quick read on "how to garden" or perhaps a short summary of Malcolm Gladwell's works.  Hyperink seeks to provide the content.

At this point, I am not entirely sure how I feel about the rise of Hyperink - as I have criticized the use of No Fear Shakespeare in the classroom.  At the same time, I can understand people simply wanting a little more information about a great book - more than they can get from Wikipedia or the Amazon reviews.  And, certainly, I can concede that books like The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman or The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell can be, well, a bit long winded.  Thus, this secondary avenue to access to information may not be a bad development.  That said, I am a bit concerned that it veers close to copyright infringement, but it's certainly not plagiarism.  And it's no difference than people asking me about a book that I have read.  As a teacher, I often give "A Teacher's View" of many popular works such as Friedman's books.

In many ways, I am disappointed I didn't think of it first.  It is, in fact, an industry based on the idea of blogs is good business.  Bloggers read a great many articles and then write short summaries of them, including links.  Hyperink has simply market-ized it.  From an educational standpoint, there is a similarity to what Sal Khan of the Khan Academy is doing.  He is simply shortening and simplifying the information people - or students - want to know about and putting it in a digestible form.  So, add Hyperink to the list of one more company that is pumping accessible information - even if it is recycled - into the marketplace, and making a lot of money doing it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Truth about Medicare and "Medi-Scare"

By now the fact checkers have had their way with Paul Ryan's speech and his ... uh ... clever use of the "facts" when it comes to budgets, the economy, and Medicare.   But it's the Medicare comments that have really bothered me.  At one time I was impressed with Paul Ryan's big ideas and willingness to challenge the country on Medicare spending.  While I was leery of the implementation of his voucher program, I was glad he was willing to have the tough conversation.  America's biggest fiscal threat is an aging population, the rapidly increasing retirements of Baby Boomers, and the un-bridled growth in health care costs and spending.

And then he gave an incredibly disingenuous speech.

Paul Ryan walked away from his credibility when he went to Florida and criticized President Obama for making "cuts" in Medicare, even though Ryan's much-touted budget plan makes the entire same cuts - which aren't cuts in benefits but restraints on runaway payments to doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals.  It was quite near hypocrisy - and then he went one step more.  Ryan literally accused the Democrats and President Obama of raiding Medicare while claiming "a Ryan-Romney administration will protect and strengthen Medicare."  Of course, that's simply not true, as Ryan's plan is to replace Medicare with a voucher program.  Replacing the program literally is an end to the program.

The critics have been quite vocal about this - but none has effectively articulated this as Paul Krugman has in his most recent column.  Krugman can be a bit much at times, and I don't always agree with his plans or his ideology and partisanship.  But his analysis of Medicare and Paul Ryan is spot on.  Medicare is pretty non-negotiable in this country because health care costs are unrestrained, and the private industry is not going to insure expensive people like senior citizens.  That's why we created Medicare in the first place.  And too many Republicans are forgetting that.  And too many Americans have crazy thoughts like "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."

Of course, Ryan was not wrong to question Medicare spending.  The plan needs reform, and that should begin with means testing and caps on benefits.  And retirees - and all Americans - need to do everything they can to enter retirement as healthy as possible.  And it really bothers me how poorly Americans take care of themselves and then expect incredibly cheap - to the point of almost free - health care in old age.  But a voucher program for seniors is not going to lower costs - and it's going to leave too many without adequate care.  And that is not good for a country.