Safe, Legal and Rare a Practical Approach Among the Conflicts of Abortion Rights

Hillary Clinton has said several times that abortion should be safe, legal and rare.

In 2008, she explained that Americans on both sides of the abortion issue should work together to try to reduce the number of abortions to zero, adding that it “should not be in any way diminished as a moral issue,” and portrayed the choice as a wrenching one for “a young woman, her family, her physician and pastor.”

Pro-lifers, of course, jumped all over the statements.

From any angle, the abortion issue becomes so involved, so intense, so complex. Secular arguments create bitter responses from religious groups, especially fundamentalists whose whole existence seems to be the fight against abortion.

Those right-to-lifers bent on stopping the procedure at all costs have gone so far as to kill doctors and threaten those out-patients entering a pro-choice clinic. A new strategy is coming into play, one that is a low-down, no-good ugly course of action that entails what some call a criminal act against privacy laws.

The target of the vicious attacks by the pro-lifers so often is Planned Parenthood. And the latest scheme goes after the women’s health center with stealth and sting.

A deceptive video from a conservative group purports to show a Planned Parenthood official discussing prices for the illegal sale of fetal tissue from abortions. But the full, unedited footage and transcript released recently by the group undermines its sensationalist claims, showing at least three crucial edits that reveal the Planned Parenthood official was instead discussing the reimbursement cost for consensual, legal tissue donations.

The Center for Medical Progress, self-described as a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances founded by pro-life activist David Daleiden in 2013, made the video. The center claimed to have recorded Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood Federal of America’s Senior Director of Medical Services, discussing how the organization “sells the body parts of aborted fetuses.” The nearly 9-minute video and an accompanying press release that claimed the health organization was in violation of federal law regulating the use and sale of fetal tissue.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said the effort by the Center wasn’t intended to discover problems with how her group facilitates fetal tissue donations for medical research, but rather was an attempt to entrap Planned Parenthood doctors. Her comment were broadcast last Sunday during an interview on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos.

Federal law permits fetal tissue to be donated if the women who underwent the abortions give consent and it’s not for profit. Payments discussed in the secretly recorded videos were for reimbursement, not profit, a Planned Parenthood spokesman said.

“This has been a three-year, well-funded effort by the most militant wing of the anti-abortion movement in this country to try to entrap doctors,” Richards said.

She termed the videos highly doctored, adding that they were being used to “impugn and smear the name of Planned Parenthood.”

Clinton said videos were “an attack on women’s right to choose.”

A group of House Democrats has called for investigations into the Center. On the other side, 11 Republican senators sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting an investigation into whether Planned Parenthood had violated a federal law that bans the sale of fetal tissue. But the Justice Department is going to investigate the Center instead. Democrats wrote to Lynch demanding a probe of the group that made the videos, saying the recording was done without Planned Parenthood’s consent.

“This is a new low, even for anti-abortion activists who will stop at nothing in their effort to undermine a woman’s right to choose,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said in a statement. “I believe the Center for Medical Progress may have broken the law in developing and executing this unbelievably elaborate and troubling scheme.”

Lynch said that Justice would “review all of the information and determine what the appropriate steps moving forward would be.”

Daleiden worked for Live Action, a pro-life non-profit organization known for its undercover video sting operations on Planned Parenthood clinics. Daleiden set up the Center for Medical Progress and registered it as a tax-exempt biomedicine charity. It receives advice, consulting and funds from the long-time abortion foe, Operation Rescue.

The CMP’s website initially described the organization as “dedicated to informing and educating both the lay public and the scientific community about the latest advances in regenerative medicine, cell-based therapies, and related disciplines.” Amid questions about the group’s tax exempt status, the site was changed to state its mission as “a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.”

Daleiden set up a fake biomedical research company, called Biomax Procurement Services, and secretly  recorded top Planned Parenthood officials “price haggling” over “baby parts.”

A transcript shows the video jumped nearly eight minutes in the middle of one conversation about money. Dr. Nucatola discussed the cost of the tissue, but timestamps on the footage reveal nearly eight minutes of conversation was removed. The unedited footage revealed that she was discussing reimbursement costs for legal donation process during those missing minutes.  Right after the video jumps forward, she specifically referenced exact “shipping” and other associated costs which could legally be reimbursed, before discussing affiliates’ general “bottom line” attempts to “break even.”

Dr. Nucatola repeatedly referred to “tissue donation” not “sales” during the conversation.

In a July 17 statement, Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of communications, explained that the organization’s clinics “help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research” with “the highest ethical and legal standards.” Ferrero noted that the organization received “no financial benefit” from the arrangement aside from reimbursement of “actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue” — consistent with industry standards.

Ferrero said, ” Similar false accusations have been put forth by opponents of abortion services for decades. These groups have been widely discredited and their claims fall apart on closer examination, just as they do in this case.”

Federal law regarding the use of human fetal tissue does not prohibit the use of donated materials.

The set of standards outlined by the Health And Human Services Independent Review Board guidebook, the industry standard for medical research, explains that payment for fetal tissue may be obtained “for reasonable expenses occasioned by the actual retrieval, storage, preparation, and transportation of the tissues.”

Planned Parenthood is under constant attack by these groups and the victims become those patients seeking help. Many cannot afford regular health care and Planned Parenthood, although under considerable duress, continues to do all it can to provide services, more from general health than performing abortions. Abortions make up only 3 percent of the health services provided, Planned Parenthood reports show. Also, remember this: the Supreme Court ruled abortions are legal.

Just Rambling But Not Necessarily as a Rose

Dental floss may be the most wasteful item you use during your life. You pull out a long string, wrap it around your fingers and then use maybe an inch or so to clean your teeth. … Wasteful, but healthful, huh. You gotta consider the value. … Have you cut down on eating eggs? Like so many other things in the grocery stores, eggs have gone way up in price. … Three African Americans have produced strong leadership for Kansas City — Sly James as mayor, Darryl Forte as police chief and Leo Morton UMKC chancellor. … By far the best carrot cake in the area is at J Alexander’s. … We went shopping for a Lorenzo Cain No. 6 jersey the other day. You talk about sticker shock. How about $119? …  Hillary Clinton has to come out stronger with more progressive statements. Bernie Sanders can’t win a general election because the GOP will smear him with the S-word. … Isn’t Donald Trump a piece of work! … Do you get more cranky when you grow older? … I hope my new putter helps my game. … Hope a recent case of the shanks goes away. … John Kerry has answered every question about the Iran deal and every answer makes sense. Could it be that the neo-con jingoism over-rides sound logic. Does war mean that much to them? Or is it the industrial defense complex pushing all the buttons? … Can you believe the football season is drawing near! Great! … Lots of good high school players on the Kansas City metro scene. … Two to watch are Skylar Thompson, Fort Osage quarterback, and Dawson Downing, Bishop Miege running back. … Back to groceries. I recall hamburger, brisket, round steak and pork ribs being among the cheapest items at the butcher shop. Yikes, not any more. … Whew, $5 a pound for hamburger. … My brother says that if you pay attention, the driver flying past you on the interstate is probably a young woman. … Hey, get on him. He said it. … It’s so sad to see the Kansas City Star continue to slip in quality. … Last weekend, there was nothing in the paper about the Kansas All-Star high school game. … I’m not the only one upset with customer service at various businesses. The foreign out-sourcing is a cause of concern for many people. … The KC Star and Time-Warner head my list of dissatisfaction about providing me with assistance. … More Hillary. If the Republicans continue to bring out accusatory trash about her without providing a comprehensive platform, they will lose again, just as they did against Bill. … Do you wonder why you are bitter, loud and aggressive when you make your points while the other person is providing clarifying, firm and definitive arguments? … I’ll continue to say it: the right-wing crowd isn’t upset about all the hand-wringing in the wake of the budget crunches. They want to squeeze government. They want an ineffective government. They crave a government they can criticize into oblivion. … Remember that the patriarch of the Koch family was a co-founder of the John Birch Society whose mission is to bring about less government. The ultra conservative group’s to-do list includes the abolishment of the income tax. … I have great admiration for volunteers. Not only do they give but they also have to take a lot of guff. Really. Everyone knows how to do their jobs better. … Is it my recliner or is my stretching out causing stiffness in my back? … We decided to gawk at Bass Pro the other day. We went downstairs and strolled among the boats. There was this sparkling body of a Nitro. And then there was this unbelievable price tag of $45,000. Oh sure, the cost included the trailer. Just think, to go fishing at the lake, you need a $45,000 craft. … That’s three times what we paid for our first house — granted, a long time ago. But you gotta agree, that’s a lot of jack. … We used to catch a lot of fish in an old aluminum boat. … Wonder if just the thought of going down to the minors had anything to do with Yordano Ventura pitching so well last Sunday! He may be immature but he sure has tons of talent. … Quite a deal for the Royals, getting Johnny Cueto from Cincy. … But they had to give up three promising left-handers to make the trade. … Wonder if the Royals will push for a long-term contract. … Nah, they’ll wait and see how he does and then peruse the budget and moan about a small market team. … I’m really up this year for the KC Chiefs. They’ve been so bad but maybe this is the season. They finally have some depth. They have talent at the skill positions. The offensive line can mix and match. The defense shored up weak spots. … Okay, you think I’m over-optimistic. … I’m serious. Are you eating as many eggs since they went up in price? … I don’t think I’m seeing this the wrong way. But the Republicans really do appear as if they’re against everything I need to sustain a good life and for everything that helps the rich guy do anything in the world. … Really, I do. From health laws to savings laws, they do things that make it harder for me to do well. … Which brings up a point. Why do so many vote against their own best interests? … Just heard that a new golf driving range charges $20 an hour early and $40 an hour late. Wow! Oh, but they have a good restaurant and the kids have a  free playroom downstairs. … The interesting point. They’re crowded as the dickens. … Rain and heat. Add a splash of humidity. We’re talking uncomfortable here, folks. … Give me heat. Yeah, so much better than the cold. … Small market rationale? Hogwash. With the Royals selling out their games, will we continue to call the franchise a small market endeavor? Just as an estimate, the Royals are taking in $2 million a game just in ticket sales. As a fun projection, that would mean a $160 million take for the regular season — not counting any post-season revenue. … The Royals 2015 payroll is estimated at about $112 million. … We’re not counting concessions, merchandise sales, parking or TV revenue. … Somebody is making a lot of money while poor-mouthing about a small market. … I’ve mused long enough.

Trump’s Loud Campaign Silences Almost All Else

Donald Trump’s bravado as he runs around the country campaigning to become the Republican nominee for President is framed by his ridiculous statements and the piercing barbs by his opponents.

The list of targets in Trump’s diatribes against the growing number of GOP candidates increases by the day. With all his stinging rhetoric, much of the other Republican charges and campaign issues appear as inconsequential mutterings. There’s even an allegation out there that Trump is a phantom candidate planted by the Democrats.

Of course, many believe Trump will fail in his bid with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush battling in the end for the top spot on the ticket.

Walker, who recently announced officially he would run, has said he would make a strong President, able to battle Isis, because he fought the unions in his home state and won. Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO and long-time Walker foe, said of the governor’s declaration to run: “Scott Walker is a national disgrace.” That was it.

For years, Walker has been the preeminent political nemesis to organized labor. As governor, he ushered into law the highly controversial Act 10, which stripped most public-sector workers in the state of their collective bargaining rights, then survived a gritty recall election pushed by unions. Earlier this year, he signed a contentious right-to-work bill into law, further weakening the state’s labor movement.

No wonder Trumka has harsh words for Walker.

The craziness emerges with the words from Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), a Bush supporter. According to the Miami Herald, Curbelo made the phantom candidate charge during an interview with Spanish media. The quote read of Trump: “a phantom candidate recruited by the left to create this entire political circus.”

The newspaper said Curbelo pointed to Trump’s relationship with the Clintons as potential evidence of collusion.

Curbelo was further quoted: “Mr. Trump has a close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. They were at his last wedding. He has contributed to the Clintons’ foundation. He has contributed to Mrs. Clinton’s Senate campaigns. All of this is very suspicious.”

Max Steele, a Democratic spokesman, responded in the story: “The only thing more absurd than Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories is Congressman Carlos Curbelo’s theory that he is some secret Democratic plant.” Democrats called the allegations bizarre.

Oh but Trump is stirring the political pot more vigorously than  a coven blending a witch’s brew.

Many in Trump’s party are not liking it one bit. However, polls show he’s a front-runner with advocates saying that he’s telling it as it is.

An area where the Republicans generally stand united is the comment Trump made that Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, was a hero because he was captured. Trump said he preferred those who weren’t taken prisoner.

Interestingly, those same Republicans had no trouble questioning the military record of another Vietnam War veteran, Secretary of State John Kerry.

Bush was one of them. He tweeted about McCain that “all our veterans — particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.” But Bush didn’t object to such attacks in 2005, when he praised Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that had helped torpedo Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid by running television ads slurring his service record in Vietnam.

“As someone who truly understands the risk of standing up for something, I simply cannot express in words how much I value their willingness to stand up against John Kerry,” Bush wrote in a January 2005 to Colonel George Day, one of the group’s members.

During a 2004 interview with Sean Hannity, Bush also rejected the notion that the attacks were unfair: “In fact, what ought to happen is, there ought to be fact checks. Every ad that goes out ought to be looked at by the press in an objective way, and people can make their own determination whether they’re accurate or not.”

Of course, in 2004, Kerry’s opponent was Jeb’s brother, George W.

Kerry earned several awards for his service in Vietnam, including a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts. Critics charged that Kerry lied about his war wounds, but such allegations were contradicted by official military records.

The effort to tarnish Kerry’s service reached such a feeding frenzy in the weeks before the 2004 election that even the GOP’s 1996 presidential nominee, former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, joined in the fray. In a CNN interview, Dole, a World War II veteran, called into question Kerry’s record: “With three Purple Hearts, he never bled that I know of. And they’re all superficial wounds.” Dole apologized for the remark the next day after a personal call from Kerry.

But the apology came perhaps too little, too late, as then-Texas governor and current presidential candidate, Rick Perry, said in 2004 that Kerry ought to release his military records because “a lot of questions” remained unanswered. Perry has called for Trump to withdraw from the campaign.

At the Republican National Convention in New York, party delegates mocked Kerry by applying bandages on their faces and various other body parts with Purple Hearts drawn on them. The bandages read: “It was just a self-inflicted scratch, but you see I got a Purple Heart for it.”

At the time, leading GOP officials, including the George W. campaign, sought to distance themselves from the bandage mockery. But they resisted disassociating themselves from the Swift Boat ads entirely, arguing instead that Kerry’s anti-war activism after he came home from Vietnam reflected negatively on American troops.

The smears — other allegations will come forward — are such a part of the Republican campaign tools. For now, however, the media attention given Trump is squeezing out other topics with the various talking heads.

Just Go Down the List and GOP Wrong on Each Item

The Republicans continue to make excuses and alibis for George W. Bush’s catastrophic tenure as the nation’s 43rd President.

No amount of sublimating rhetoric will erase the negatives. I received an e-mail the other day with the title: Political Cartoon of the Year. I renamed it: The Hokum Cartoon of the Year.

The cartoon shows Bush scratching his head with various bunkum observations:

  1. Cops are criminals
  2. Criminals are victims
  3. People who don’t work get a free ride
  4. Desecrating our Nation’s flag is acceptable
  5. Being transgender makes you a hero
  6. A sniper is a coward
  7. Obama negotiates with terrorists
  8. We supply guns to drug cartels yet disarm our own citizens
  9. People want to make more money flippin’ burgers than soldiers who are risking their lives
  10. And it’s still my fault (pertaining to Bush)

Yeah, as a matter of fact it is his fault. What a mess he made of the country after receiving a President Clinton legacy of good times.

But let’s go over each of those items.

  1. Well, of course, dirty cops exist. What this probably is alluding to, however, is the inordinate number of policemen who are shooting black people. All sorts of ramifications develop from a charge like this. Do those who propose this observation believe that none of the shootings is racially motivated? Have not some of these shooting cases shown an over-aggressive police force?
  2. This observation no doubt stems from the socio-economic theory that many criminals grow up in a poverty-ridden community without much help. It’s the old charge that society failed these people. Well, no doubt that has happened and we all should look at ways to help people escape that environment. But really, who is saying that criminals are victims? The United states incarcerates more people than any other industrialized country.
  3. Now there’s a good one. I don’t work at a job. I’m on Social Security. Am I getting a free ride? Interesting. I paid into a Social Security fund all my working life. Oh, you mean those getting an unemployment check? You know, don’t you, that they have paid into an insurance fun while they were working? Oh, you mean those who are really on welfare? Yeah, let’s get on them. And do so without knowing all the circumstances. Are they ill? Are they untrained for certain jobs? Are they without family? Yeah, continue to gripe because they might receive a $250 check a month. You try to live on what welfare recipients get.
  4. This is an interesting one. What is desecration? Like those outfits folks wear on July 4 — shirts and shorts sewn together to form the flag? Through the years, protests erupted and flags have burned. Those who do so say they have the freedom of speech to make a statement. Those who push this observation probably are the same ones who honored the flying of the Confederate flag on government grounds.
  5. Now this is a tough one. I don’t care what people do in expressing their sexual preference. Do your thing. The law has been read. But why do the anti-gay people keep saying that homosexuals are ruining the sanctity of marriage? The good looking blonde at the bar with roving ideas or the lothario with ogling eyes may do a lot more damage to the sanctity. Gays certainly aren’t damaging my marriage. Kaitlin? Well, good point. I’ve read enough. Find a new topic. By the way, instead of hero, you should now use the word, heroine, in this case. Not being politically correct, but grammatically correct. right.
  6. This one I really don’t get. If the word out there that a sniper is a coward, it isn’t prevalent and I certainly have heard about it all that much. Is it about a movie? All’s fair in war.
  7. This one is right down my argumentative wheelhouse. What do you want him to do? Yeah, okay, I heard jingoist John McCain’s refrain: Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran — sung to the tune of the Beach Boys. All the countries we deal with are not democratic or all-caring about doing right by people throughout the world. Do we stop negotiating with everyone? If we don’t talk to Iran, will those actions lead to another war with loss of life and property? The observation on this one is just flat stupid.
  8. Are they talking about the Iran-Contra affair? Oh, right, Operation Fast and Furious. You recall that one, right. The stated goal of the operation was to allow gun purchases in order to track the firearms as they were transferred to higher-level traffickers and key figures in Mexican cartels, with the expectation that this would lead to their arrests and the dismantling of the cartels. It didn’t work out well. So, the Republicans continue to harp on a failed endeavor. But take away citizens’ guns! Are they kidding! We have enough guns to supply every single person in the U.S. population of 300 million.
  9. So, are the Republicans chastising the flippers for simply wanting more money? Is that wrong? Hey, pay soldiers more. Go for it. But don’t make the argument on the backs of those who want to get a pay raise. Congress fails the soldiers in many ways. They push support-the-troops slogans but what they’re really doing is advocating for the defense industrial complex to make more money. Flippers don’t get free insurance and education either. Plus, those getting out of the service probably are eligible for GI Rights.
  10. Yes, Bush, you are a man easily blamed.

You put us in a terrible position with your trickle-down, cut-taxes-for-the-rich, supply-side economics. You took the President Clinton legacy of good times and screwed the middle and lower classes while putting the truly affluent into a position to gain more wealth. Your mission was accomplished. And many of us are suffering the consequences.

Maybe a Practical Reason Pushes Legislators to Go Against Colleges

What is all this legislative animus against higher education? Politicians throughout the country, from state legislators to Congress, have taken aim at colleges by cutting aid and forcing tuition hikes.

Kansas stands as a microcosm of what’s happening in almost every state.

Shortly after Republican Sam Brownback won re-election as governor of Kansas, experts forecast that the state would bring in $1 billion less than expected over the next two years. He responded by cutting state agency budgets and proposing the transfer of funds among various state accounts. Then came news of a revenue slump, falling to $15.1 million below estimates. Brownback proposed increasing taxes on liquor and cigarettes, slowed reductions in the income tax and changed the way money was distributed to public schools. Budget headaches continued as receipts fell $47.2 million short of projections. Brownback responded by cutting funding for public schools and higher education by a combined $44.5 million.

Of course, budget shortfalls are the reason for the legislative search for ways to cut budgets. But why all this attention to higher education? The increased tuition fees actually amount to tax substitutes, resulting in an erosion of family budgets. Is there some reason why the legislators continue to go after college funds?

Some believe the law-makers simply don’t like anything that has to do with government. They want to privatize everything, including education. They simply don’t want to fund a student’s way to school. Some analysts think there’s religious motivation, a way to shunt funds to parochial and Christian schools.

There just may be a practical rationale for their public school distrust.

According to a 2011 report by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Kansas ranked behind only Arkansas and Montana in terms of least number of elected legislators who possess four-year college degrees.

Of course, one doesn’t need a college degree to succeed in any number of fields, but if you are making policy decisions regarding higher education, possessing a college degree might make you more knowledgeable and sympathetic. Or it may become a factor of jealousy or one of “who needs a college education?”

Whatever the reasons, costs to receive a college education in Kansas are putting middle class families in a budget crunch.

                                                 University of Kansas             Kansas State University

Cost of attendance in-state                 $22,880                                          $20,424

Cost of attendance out-of-state           $38,163                                          $34,014

Tuition and fees in-state                      $10,448                                          $9,034

Tuition and fees out-of-state                $25,731                                          $22,624

Room and board                                   $7,896                                            $8,060

Books and supplies                               $950                                               $1,100

Other expenses                                     $3,586                                            $2,230

There’s a group in Wichita trying to register as a PAC under the name: It’s Time to Fix Stupid. The article said the group intended to use its website to conduct a “Stupid Tuesday” primary in August to highlight the lowest members of the legislature. They want to target state politicians who have basically embarrassed the state with their stupidity.

Nationally, the 10 priciest private universities charged $49,243 for tuition and fees on average in the 2014-2015 school year. That’s nearly $18,000 more than the average private school price tag, according to data reported to U.S. News by 728 ranked private schools. The 10 least expensive institutions, mostly liberal arts and regional colleges, charged $8,363 on average in tuition and fees in 2014-2015, according to the data.

Columbia University in New York is listed as the highest with tuition and fees costing $51,008. Berea of Lexington, Kentucky, is the cheapest at $870. No Missouri or Kansas schools were listed in either Top Ten.

In most areas, the costs are skyrocketing. In Arizona, for example, costs have increased 77 percent; in Georgia, it’s 75 percent and in Washington state, 70 percent.

A college education seems unaffordable at the worst possible time — when “people are really struggling. Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, wrote in “Trends in College Pricing 2009″ that: “Increases in college tuition at public colleges, particularly in recent years, have really been unacceptable. And there’s no question that that is a much higher percentage of median [family] incomes than it used to be.”

And yet, Baum says, somehow, families are paying for it. “And the reason people are paying for it is because the return to the investment is so high.” No matter what a higher education costs them, most Americans think it will be worth it, she says.

It was a different story 70 years ago, when most Americans thought college was only for the wealthy elite. That changed after World War II with the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill of Rights. The law made college affordable for a group of veterans who never would have thought of going beyond high school.

While states were investing, the federal government was carving out a new role for itself — helping families pay for college. It spawned the National Defense Student Loan program, later called the Federal Perkins Loan program, which did for civilians what the GI Bill had done for veterans — and opened college gates even wider.

Then, with the civil rights movement as the backdrop, the landmark Higher Education Act of 1965 pushed for greater college access for women and minorities.

Americans flocked to campuses with the expectation that the government was going to foot part of the bill, and college did become affordable for many more Americans.

Then Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980. He reversed the trend to help students get into college with a machete attack on higher education support from government. The economy had begun to sour in the early 1970s and money became tight. Reagan picked on education for spending cuts.

Reagan’s efforts against higher education began when he was elected governor of California in 1966 after running a scorched-earth campaign against the University of California. He vowed to “clean up that mess in Berkeley,” warned audiences of “sexual orgies so vile that I cannot describe them to you,” complained that outside agitators were bringing left-wing subversion into the university, and railed against spoiled children of privilege skipping their classes to go to protests. He also ran on an anti-tax platform and promised to put the state’s finances in order by “throw[ing] the bums off welfare.”

Dissent magazine chronicled Reagan’s revolution: “When Reagan assumed office, he immediately set about doing exactly what he had promised. He cut state funding for higher education, laid the foundations for a shift to a tuition-based funding model, and called in the National Guard to crush student protest, which it did with unprecedented severity. But he was only able to do this because he had already successfully shifted the political debate over the meaning and purpose of public higher education in America. The first ‘bums’ he threw off welfare were California university students. Instead of seeing the education of the state’s youth as a patriotic duty and a vital weapon in the Cold War, he cast universities as a problem in and of themselves — both an expensive welfare program and dangerously close to socialism. He even argued for the importance of tuition-based funding by suggesting that if students had to pay, they’d value their education too much to protest.”

When the Great Recession began in 2008, state budgets crumbled under a crippling new fiscal reality and tuition and debt levels began to soar.

As family income fall, borrowing to pay for college has taken off. The drop in public investment in higher education probably has been the single biggest reason for the increase in college costs.

“So it’s not that colleges are spending more money to educate students,” Baum said. “It’s that they have to get that money from someplace to replace their lost state funding — and that’s from tuition and fees from students and families.”

Experts say parents are slowly but surely becoming smarter consumers of higher education and are helping their kids find less-expensive options — like community college — while coming to the realization that a college education never will be the entitlement that many Americans thought it was 30 or 40 years ago.

Thank you Sam Brownback and your political cronies.

 

 

 

Deal With Iran So Much Better Than Neocon Alternatives

So Republicans, for the most part, and Democrats, in part, find fault with the nuclear deal President Obama and five other world powers negotiated with Iran.

What is the alternative? Choose any of them and like a labyrinth in a conservative think tank, if you get to the end, the path leads to indecision and eventually war.

Obama contends that the deal is the best means of assuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.

So many disagree.

Some say the sanctions must continue. If so, what is to keep Iran from continuing to work toward a nuclear weapon?

A big question also in policing Iran is what would the other five world powers do? It appears they like the negotiated deal. The world, as a whole, seems to like it. So, would the United States try to go the sanction route all by itself? Obviously, unilateral sanctions would be difficult to enforce with other countries willing to do business with Iran.

Naysayers point to Israel and fear that country is in danger because Iran can develop missiles with nuclear warheads. Much of the anti thought of the deal has Israel in the middle of the process. But if there is no covenant, and Iran pushes its nuclear project, then would not Israel be in more danger?

Bomb Iran then! Unfortunately, neo-cons and pro war partisans believe that is the real alternative. Bomb them and then what?

Have these jingoists really looked into the ramifications? Really looked into them? Iran, of course, is an Islamic nation; bomb the country and the world of Islam would rise up in hate and retribution. Plus, the strategy of war would mean boots on the ground. As those countries involved in the Iraq War found out, victory does have spoils. The war cost those fighting it in lives and money.

And what did it solve? All it did was change the names. Battles continue. The Mideast remains an enigma of unrest. Ridding the region of Saddam Hussein upset the balance of power as Iran gained influence and strength without Iraq as an impediment.

Iran will remain troublesome no matter the geo-political battles. But keeping the nuclear weapons off the shelf certainly reduces the magnitude of the bravado.

Obama said in a speech supporting the agreement, “The bottom line is this. This nuclear deal meets the national security interests of the United States and our allies. It prevents the most serious threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

This is the thrust of the entire deal.

Critics can say all they want about how this agreement should have had this or that, like leverage to free the four American prisoners in Iran. This is about nuclear weapons. Nothing else. Maybe the deal could provide a foundation for future concessions from Iran, but, for now, remember that this is about nuclear weapons. Again, Iran is hard-core but without nuclear weapons it has less potency.

“We have a historic chance to secure a safer and more secure world, an opportunity that may not come again in our lifetimes,” Obama said in his speech.

Obama logically argued that the alternatives were risks of a regional nuclear arms race that would endanger national security.

Under the deal that was finalized in Vienna, Iran promises to cap and downsize its controversial nuclear program in exchange for sweeping economic sanctions relief. Once the deal is implemented, Iran will have disposed of much of its stockpile of uranium and slashed the number of centrifuges it spins. It will also be bound to inspections by the UN and subject to the reimposition of sanctions if it is discovered that it has reneged on its commitments.

The Republicans in Congress are leading a fight to kill the deal. Yes, Obama could veto a possible resolution of disapproval; however, the action  would be a rebuke for the legislative branch to reject this diplomatic achievement.

“Based on the facts, the majority of Congress should approve this deal,” Obama said, when asked at a press conference about that possibility. “I expect the debate to be robust, and that’s how it should be. This is an important issue.

“I hope we don’t lose sight of the larger picture — the opportunity that this agreement represents.”

Then there’s Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He labeled the agreement as a historic mistake.  In an interview on NBC, he said, “We think this is not only a threat to us. We think this is a threat to you as well. Iran has killed more Americans than anyone other than al Qaeda.”

He reasoned that Iran would get  hundreds of billions of dollars to fuel their terror and military machine. He contends Iran cannot be trusted with any sort of nuclear program.

A leading Republican jingoist in the Senate, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, penned a letter last March urging Iranian leaders to not work with Obama on a deal. Like many others in Congress, as Obama noted, they have not presented viable ideas about how to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Obama has concerns about the agreement. But all must accept the positives and weigh those against the negatives. Proponents would have preferred a longer time frame, more like 20 or 30 years instead of the 10 for the embargo on arms and ballistic missile shipments to Iran. However, Obama noted that there were additional United Nation’s mechanisms to keep Iran in check on this front and framed it as a victory that negotiators were able to get those embargoes extended as far as they did.

“Iran still poses challenges to our interests and our values both in the region and around the world,” Obama said. “So I can say with confidence, but more importantly nuclear experts can say with confidence, that Iran will not be in a position to develop a nuclear bomb. We will have met our No. 1 priority. Now we’ll still have problems with Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, its funding of proxies like Hezbollah that threaten Israel and the region.”

He believes positive conversations with Iran will lead to a new and better relationship, adding it could incentivize “them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative, to operate the way we expect nations of the international community to behave.”

KC Police Chief Talks a Fast Game

Fast-talking Police Chief Darryl Forte could out-con a con. His Gatling Gun manner of speaking belies a soft approach to battling crime. Soft-appearing, yes, but the Kansas City Missouri top cop goes hard after the bad guys — and wins most of the time.

His positive statistical blitz delivered Monday at the 40 Years Ago Column Club luncheon at the Brio certainly shows the bright side on the city’s fight against crime.

Take the homicide rate, for example. In 2014, the city registered 77 killings, the lowest total since 1972. A 23 percent reduction from 2013, the number broke a string of six years with more than 100 killings.

Forte pointed to several reasons for the crime drop, two of the biggest being that the Kansas City department runs relatively free from politicians as overseers and a philosophy of tactically disengaging.

Monday, he began listing the troubles that occurred with crime and protests in places like Baltimore, St. Louis and Cincinnati. Those cities, he said, have politicians telling the police what to do. In looking over KC’s departmental flow chart, the police chief answers to a board of commissioners, not just a political boss.

The second point, his philosophical approach to combating crime, seems to get more traction in any explanation of statistical improvements.

“We want to make sure that officers understand it is OK to tactically disengage,” Forte said. “We take an oath to protect life and property but we don’t want to hurt anybody unnecessarily,”

After the police shooting last summer of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., many law enforcement agencies nationwide are teaching officers how to delay or even prevent shootings by backing away or finding cover until other officers arrive.

Passive approaches used to be considered cowardice, Forte said. Not now. Trainers are encouraging policemen to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to avoid situations where they have to shoot someone who is threatening them.

“This is easier said than done, because oftentimes situations unfold rapidly, leaving officers seconds or less to make decisions,” Forte wrote in a recent blog post that highlighted the new training.

Too often, he said Monday, officers put themselves into a dangerous situation when all they had to do was back off.

Protests? Forte supports a more passive approach in breaking them up. Let ’em march, he said. If they’re laying on the ground and the weather is cold, then let them lay there — they’ll soon get too cold.

He has concern for policemen in the field, facing diverse emotional situations. He pointed out how difficult it was to hold a dying person in your hands and then go to a home where a domestic disturbance endangered a child. As a boss, he tells his personnel that when under stress and duress, they need to take a break — adjust psychologically — before going to the next case.

So, no more macho cop. Well, it doesn’t mean criminals can run amok. No. It’s just that they analyze the situation and react accordingly.

There’s a side effect to this approach, Forte explained. The community is more apt to embrace the police without all the enforcement bravado and aggression. There was a time not long ago that police didn’t go into tough neighborhoods because they felt they weren’t wanted. As the crime rate increased in a particular neighborhood, residents pleaded to get the police back. The cops respond and the residents show a more kindred spirit for law enforcement.

Neighborhood soul also may be involved in cutting down on gang-related outbursts, Forte explained.

The stepping-back approach can lead to almost comical situations. He spoke anecdotally of one incident. A guy was arrested and began beating Forte’s ears with how he was going to get even and do all sorts of mayhem to him. When Forte, the arresting patrolman, ignored the boasts, another cop wanted to put the guy on the ground because of the threatening and denigrating remarks. Nope, Forte shot back. The guy was going to jail and “I’ll be out of here in 30 minutes.”

Maybe this community love has spilled over to help curtail the Saturday Night at the Plaza unrest. Stories abounded about how youthful gangs created disturbances on the Country Club Plaza. Of late, however, those stories have basically stopped.

Forte says there may be another reason in play here, the media. He said television kept showing the same Plaza clips on old violent acts over and over. But, sir, acts of violence did occur. Two 13-year-old girls having a fight, he said mockingly — that’s some huge riot.

What about incidents at the Power & Light District? He answered that anytime that many people were gathered, some criminal acts probably would occur.

Generally, he said Monday, the Kansas City media have reported in a responsible way, unlike in other areas of the country. He felt the media did a poor job in reporting the incidents in Ferguson, Mo., saying that the press made it appear that the town had been burned to the ground.

Then he referred to another incident: “Fox News comes on and says a guy had been shot in the back. A couple of hours later the reporter came back and said the story was wrong. The damage already had been done.”

The media have questioned Forte, even going after him about his annual salary.

He responded in his blog, writing that he talks to young men about making something of themselves. “I share with them that my starting salary on the police department was $20,000 a year, and now my yearly salary is nearly $186,874. Job satisfaction, a desire to serve others as well as a commitment to endure regardless of obstacles placed in your path is more important than financial compensation. Do not get me wrong, financial compensation is needed because I was taught at an early age that if a man does not work, he does not eat!”

He continued, “I will give nothing but my best, as I have during my 29-year career with this great department.”

He said Monday that he eventually had to take a polygraph test after he filled out his application to become a policeman, saying he had never taken a drink or smoked a cigarette. They didn’t believe him. He passed the test.

As with most bosses, he must contend with personnel issues, like getting enough cops on the street. One area digs at him. He gives short shrift to those who continually complain about police work. He tells those people to stop complaining and do something constructive. He explained he spends extra time in the community, simply picking up trash or tending to weeds.

Monday he recalled how a woman tweeted him about seeing a policeman in his patrol car always talking on the telephone; Forte fired back, “Maybe he was trying to answer a stupid phone question.” Wonder if she got the message?

Forte does have a message for all: “Nobody is completely safe; everyone must remain ever vigilant.”

Some Sports Notes to Begin the Week

Not all the money made off horse racing comes at the pay-out window or at the finish line. A lot of it comes from sex.

Well, more specifically, stud service. American Pharaoh may become the all-time hunk. The Triple Crown horse’s owner, Ahmed Zayat, told ESPN that interest in American Pharoah’s breeding has been so great from around the world that Coolmore Ashford Stud, which purchased the majority of the horse’s stallion rights, may charge near-historic prices for a first-year stallion.

Each session could cost more than $200,000.

That would be more than three times the opening stud fee of 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. That horse, whose breeding rights were sold on a reported valuation of $50 million, had an opening stud fee in 2009 of $65,000.

A $200,000 fee also would likely make American Pharaoh the second-most expensive stallion at stud for 2016. Tapit is currently the most expensive at $300,000 per live foal. Only two other horses currently stand for more than $100,000 — War Front ($150,000) and Medaglia d’Oro ($125,000).

Zayat, who owns 100 percent of the horse on the track and an undisclosed sum as a stallion, said he intended on racing the horse three times before the end of 2015 despite the possible risk that the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 could lose at the track, which could lower the intrigue for potential breeding buyers.

Zayat Stables actually owned the parents of American Pharaoh and home-bred the horse, but brought him to the 2013 Fasig-Tipton yearling sale to sell him. When buyers weren’t bidding what he wanted, Zayat bought the horse back for $300,000.

The record for the highest stud fee is believed to be Northern Dancer, which in the 1980s could command $1 million to breed to a single mare. More recently, Storm Cat commanded a fee of $500,000, before the economic downturn in 2009 lowered all prices at the breeding shed.

——

There’s no shortage of stories about Tiger Woods’ history of infidelity. Inquiring minds Phwant to know.

The latest comes from the not-always-right National Enquirer. It involves the ex-wife of a fellow PGA golfer, Jason Dufner.

Woods split earlier this year from skiing superstar Lindsey Vonn amid reports that Woods wasn’t faithful.

The Enquirer said Woods had an on-going relationship with Amanda Boyd, the ex-wife. Sources told the Enquirer: Though Tiger dated Lindsey for years, he had a “thing” for Amanda.

“Amanda is gorgeous, and she’s known as a big flirt with the other players on the PGA tour,” said another insider. “I guess her flirty ways and good looks caught Tiger’s eye.”

During the divorce proceedings, Dufner’s performance on the golf course took a slide.

——

Former Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler died July 8 from complications resulting from Stage 4 colon cancer. He was 69.

A native of Foley, Alabama, Stabler threw for 27,938 yards during his 15-year career in the NFL, compiling a 96-49-1 record as a starting quarterback and a win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI. He played for the Raiders from 1970 to 1979, winning the NFL MVP award in 1974 and earning Pro Bowl honors four times.

“I was head coach of the Raiders the entire time Kenny was there, and he led us to a whole bunch of victories, including one in Super Bowl XI,” former Raiders coach John Madden said in the team release. “I’ve often said, if I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny. Snake was a lot cooler than I was. He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider. When you think about the Raiders you think about Ken Stabler. Kenny loved life. It is a sad day for all Raiders.”

Before being drafted by the Raiders in the second round of the 1968 NFL draft, Stabler played college football at Alabama. Current Bama Coach Nick Saban, who got to know Stabler from golf tournaments and Stabler’s stint as an analyst on Alabama radio broadcasts, said in a prepared statement, “I think anyone who had the chance to get to know Kenny would appreciate the great person he was and the pride he had for the University of Alabama. I have had the chance to be around some of the best to ever play college and pro football, and Kenny may have been one of the greatest competitors to ever play the game.”

I covered some of the Chiefs games when they took on the Raiders during the Stabler era. I read his book, Snake, and reveled at the many stories. I grinned when he told about zipping along on the Gulf of Mexico in fast boats and I laughed out loud when he mentioned sipping a sweet Scotch with Wonderfully Wicked Wanda.

——

Dominant front-seven defenders are almost as rare as franchise quarterbacks, and the market has begun to reflect the talent. Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston has signed a six-year $101 million contract.

The Chiefs looked at his 22-sack performance in 2014, among other stats and intangibles, and wanted him to be ready to play as pre-season practice opens. He’s just 26 years old, so had he hit the free-agent market this year or next, teams would have been lining up around the block to hand him a deal similar to the one he received.

As last season came to a close, Chiefs fans had every right to wonder if they’d seen the last of the  Houston-Tamba Hali pass-rushing tandem. Hali’s contract at the time put Kansas City on the hook for $12 million in 2015, making him an obvious cut candidate, while Houston’s impending franchise-tag dilemma also left his situation uncertain.

Fast-forward six months and the Chiefs’ defense has both players back for at least one more season —Hali previously agreed to take a pay cut so as to stick with Kansas City for 2015. Losing either would have forced KC to seek a replacement in free agency or the draft. The Chiefs selected Dee Ford in the first round of last year’s draft; he hasn’t shown he can fill Hali’s spot.

The Chiefs finished second in points allowed and seventh in total defense last season. The pass rush was instrumental, generating 45 sacks (fifth-best in the NFL). Amond Houston, Hali and nose tackle Dontari Poe, the Chiefs can enter this coming season still confident in their abilities to disrupt opposing quarterbacks. They also hope to get linebacker Derrick Johnson back as healthy as ever after going down in the first game of last season with an Achilles injury.

Maybe a Few Grins as You Head Into the Weekend

Gleaned from my e-mails:

A father buys a lie detector robot that slaps people when they lie.

He decides to test it out at dinner one night.

The father asks his son what he did that day.

The son says, “I did some schoolwork.” The robot slaps the son.

The son says, “Ok, ok. I was at a friend’s house watching movies.”

Dad asks, “What movie did you watch ?”

Son says, “Toy Story.” The robot slaps the son.

Son says, “Ok, ok we were watching porn.”

Dad says, “What? At your age I didn’t even know what porn was.”

The robot slaps the father.

Mom laughs and says, “Well he certainly is your son .”

The robot slaps the mother.

——

An article in the Kentucky Post reported that a woman sued St Luke’s hospital, saying that after her husband had surgery there, he lost all interest in sex.

A hospital spokesman replied the husband was admitted in ophthalmology, adding, “All we did was correct his eyesight.”

——

Bert always wanted a pair of authentic cowboy boots, so, seeing some on sale, he bought them and wore them home.

Walking proudly, he sauntered into the kitchen and said to his wife, “Notice anything different about me?”

Margaret looked him over. “Nope.”

Frustrated, Bert stormed off into the bathroom, undressed and walked back into the kitchen completely naked except for the boots.

Again he asked Margaret, a little louder this time, “Notice anything different NOW?”

Margaret looked up and said in her best deadpan, “Bert, what’s different? It’s hanging down today, it was hanging down yesterday, it’ll be hanging down again tomorrow.”

Furious, Bert yelled, “And do you know why it’s hanging down, Margaret?”

“Nope. Not a clue,” she replied.

“It’s hanging down, because it’s looking at my new boots!”

Without missing a beat Margaret replied, “Shoulda bought a hat, Bert. Shoulda bought a hat.”

——

Signs at beer joints:

  • Free beer, topless bartenders, false advertising.
  • Alcohol and calculus don’t mix so don’t derive.
  • Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
  • Carlsberg by the pint — helping ugly people have sex since 1864.
  • Come in and meet your future ex-wife.

——

Little Bruce and Jenny are only 10 years old but they know they are in love. One day they decide that they want to get married, so Bruce goes to Jenny’s father to ask him for her hand.

Bruce bravely walks up to him and says, “Mr. Smith, me and Jenny are in love and I want to ask you for her hand in marriage.”

Thinking that this was just the cutest thing, Mr. Smith replies,  “Well Bruce, you are only 10…where will you two live?”

Without even taking a moment to think about it, Bruce replies, “In Jenny’s room. It’s bigger than mine and we can both fit there nicely.”

Mr. Smith says with a huge grin, “Okay, then how will you live? You’re not old enough to get a job. You’ll need to support Jenny.”

Bruce instantly replies, “Our allowance. Jenny makes 5 bucks a week  and I make 10 bucks a week. That’s about 60 bucks a month, so that should do us just fine.”

Mr. Smith is impressed because Bruce has put so much thought into this. “Well, Bruce,  it seems like you have everything figured out. I just have one more question. What will you do if the two of you should have little children of your own?”

Bruce shrugs his shoulders and says, “Well, we’ve been lucky so far.”

Mr. Smith no longer thinks the little guy is so cute and adorable.

——

Signs of a smile:

  • Over a gynecologist’s office: Dr. Jones, at your cervix.
  • In a podiatrist office: Time wounds all heels.
  • On a septic tank truck: Yesterday’s meals on wheels.
  • At an optometrist’s office: If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.
  • On a plumber’s truck: We repair what your husband fixed.
  • On another plumber’s truck: Don’t sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.
  • At a tire shop in Milwaukee: Invite us to your next blowout.
  • At a towing company: We don’t charge an arm and a leg. We want tows.
  • On an electrician’s truck: Let us remove your shorts.
  • In a non-smoking area: If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action.
  • On a maternity room door: Push, push, push.
  • At a car dealership: The best way to get back on your feet — miss a car payment.
  • Outside a muffler shop: No appointment necessary. We hear you coming.
  • In a veterinarian’s waiting room: Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!
  • At the electric company. We would be delighted if you send in your payment. However, if you don’t you will be.
  • In a restaurant window: Don’t stand there and be hungry; come on in and get fed up.
  • In the front yard of a funeral home: Drive carefully. We’ll wait.
  • At a propane filling station. Thank heaven for little grills.
  • At a Chicago radiator shop: Best place in town to take a leak.
  • On back of another septic tank truck: Caution — this truck is full of political promises.

——

An axiom for seniors:

Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.

——

And now the closers:

  • A young blonde woman is distraught because she fears her husband is having an affair, so she goes to a gun shop and buys a handgun. The next day she comes home to find her husband in bed with a beautiful redhead. She grabs the gun and holds it to her own head. The husband jumps out of bed, begging and pleading with her not to shoot herself. Hysterically, the blonde responds to the husband, “Shut up, you’re next!”
  • Dyslexic man walks into a bra…
  • A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: “Ugh, that’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen!” The woman walks to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: “‘The driver just insulted me!” The man says: “You go up there and tell him off. Go on, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

Populism Emerges to Fight Rising Media Costs

The irony of it all. We pay so much more now to communicate and we do it so much more poorly than back in the good ol’ days. Oh sure, we’re faster, can do more volume and reach more people. But truly good communication is so lacking.

We used to sit down after dinner and really discuss topics, face-to-face. We used to read newspapers to gain knowledge of local, national and world events. And then we would discuss them with our neighbors and colleagues.

The word of mouth costs so little.

Now, with cell phones, digital news, computers and television we spend oodles of money. Do you realize just how much you’re spending just to communicate? With smart phones, internet access and multi-station TVs, the bills can run $200 and up. And we use to bitch about a $22 Southwestern Bell bill or needing a quarter for a pay phone.

Yes, indeed, we can do so much more with our new devices. I thought Chester Gould was nuts when he had Dick Tracy and Sam Catchem talking to each other on video wrist bands. Now the world of transmission commands your time through so many media.

It’s no surprise that someone would take advantage of communication needs. And are they really taking advantage. So much so that politicians are starting to take notice.

The increased costs have given rise to socialist and populist harangues against the cable-TV companies. When so many people feel the sting of high costs, populism erupts, as it did in the late 1890s among depressed Kansas wheat farmers.

But now middle class folks are upset with the costs of communicating. A call for action. Like populist Huey Long  trodding along a dusty Louisiana road to denounce the rich and banks, senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are using modern means to chastise the cable-TV moguls. They’ll have to go some to out-do the Kingfish but they took a mighty swipe the other day.

Sanders, an independent running for President as a Democrat, and Warren,  a Democrat from Massachusetts, sent a letter last Friday accusing big cable companies of using monopoly powers to muscle consumers into paying higher prices.

In the letter, addressed to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, Sanders and Warren wrote that mega-mergers have left more than 60 percent of Americans with no choice whatsoever when it comes to their cable and Internet providers. This state of things, they wrote, makes it possible for companies to jack up prices without losing customers to competition.

Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also signed the letter.

“As the telecommunications industry becomes increasingly concentrated, this lack of choice has resulted in huge price increases and often poor service for consumers,” the senators wrote. “There are now de facto telecommunications monopolies throughout the United States.”

The letter noted that a new merger between Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications would only exacerbate the problem, saying that recent Time Warner price increases suggest the cable giant is already insulated from normal market pressures. Modem rental charges for Time Warner have jumped 203 percent since they were introduced in 2012, according to the letter.

“Given the lack of incentive for companies to provide better quality service and competitive prices, it is no surprise that individuals rank cable and Internet providers last in customer satisfaction when compared to other companies in other industries,” the senators wrote.

Sanders and his colleagues asked for the FCC to publish a host of cable and broadband pricing data, so consumers could see how much they pay compared to customers in other areas. They asked the FCC to provide average prices for each state and each cable provider, and also asked the agency to publicize the average prices in urban areas compared to those in rural markets.

But getting the Federal Communication Commission to do something is like asking your couch-potato kids to empty the trash. The FCC is an incestuous regulatory bureaucracy that sees personnel cross in the halls from government to government lobbies.

As several media watchdogs have noted, the FCC  has gradually abdicated regulatory oversight of the cable industry, a shift begun under the leadership of an FCC chairman who now works as cable’s top lobbyist. Powell, the former chairman, has urged the government to keep the Internet regulation-free, in spite of calls by Net neutrality supporters for the FCC to reclassify broadband traffic as a public utility.

The present FCC chairman? Well, he’s Thomas Wheeler, appointed by president Obama in 2013. Where did he work? He was a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, with positions including President of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association.

“I don’t like this revolving door,” Franken said in a CNN interview. “I don’t like this revolving door between regulators and Comcast. I thought that was kind of tacky that one of the FCC commissioners, I think just four months after they approved the Comcast/NBC deal, went over to work a high-paying job at Comcast. I just don’t like that.”

A prominent example of the Comcast/FCC revolving door is former FCC commissioner and current Comcast lobbyist, Meredith Baker, whose views tended to side with the industry even before she went to the FCC. She was appointed to her FCC position in July 2009 and stayed there for nearly two years, cutting her four-year term short in June 2011 to move to Comcast as its senior vice president of government affairs.

So you shouldn’t wonder how Comcast won approval in the take-over of Universal. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable TV company, took control of NBC Universal in 2011, making it the first cable company to own a major broadcast network.

ESPN began cutting jobs a couple of years ago, a sign that the hugely profitable sports cable-TV powerhouse was responding to the higher prices it was paying for rights to air games as well as other industry changes.

But don’t cry for the parent company, Walt Disney. Some estimates show ESPN’s annual ad revenues at $4.5 billion with total revenues, including the networks, magazine and website, at more than $11 billion annually. ESPN reportedly is worth more than $50 billion.

The resulting system is one in which every sports contract and every hike in ESPN fees gets passed down to the lovers of antique shows and nature documentaries entirely uninterested in sports. It’s a system that has consumers ponying up for the broadcasts they used to receive for free, since local retransmission fees are the industry’s fastest growing cost. And  it’s a system in which small, fledgling channels will be increasingly frozen out.

In other words, the big will get bigger and charge more for their expensively procured spectacles.

It costs more to say hello so populist movements want to say good-bye to mega-buck media conglomerates.