21 and Counting

Posted October 22, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: congress, contagions, democrats, Ebola, Healthcare, Politics, republicans

Just as quickly as it arrived, Ebola has left the front page. The bulk of the Dallas Hospital healthcare workers as well as those who had community contact with Thomas Eric Duncan have cleared the 21 day isolation period and are free to move around. It seems clearer now that the two infected nurses got Ebola through lapses in the protocol used to protect them. Success, a triumph for medical knowledge and common sense.

Of course there could be more healthcare workers infected from new cases just as it is possible for Ebola could be transmitted from exposed or infected overseas travelers. But other than a complete and total quarantine of the US (no boats, planes or vehicular traffic) there can be no 100% precaution that Ebola could not again enter the US.

The anti diminishing returns argument that the US needs to screen and detain all African travelers entering the US will still be made. These advocates are in fact in search of different objectives than healthcare.  We need to drown out these “sky is falling” voices.

There is a far larger issue hidden in plain sight with this Ebola outbreak. What about a real pandemic, like SARS or bird flu or any other contagion? What if Iran or al Qaeda or whomever decided to use health as the means to attain their goals?
We have been there once with germ warfare. Fortunately, the world did not employ these agents but these are different times. Beheading someone and showing it proudly on the internet does not seem to me far away from turning a biological agent loose in London or New York.

The limited experience in Dallas ought to inform everyone that hospitals that are set up to make money treating common illnesses and injuries will most likely not have prioritized how to handle contagions very high in their sights.  Protocols will be suspect as will be the necessary protective equipment.

The spin doctors, however, can create the necessary PR to keep an outbreak appear under control. The actual health care safety net has too many holes if we judge Dallas’ response.

There is certainly a limit to what medical science can do. There are no cures for some diseases. The question is what should the healthcare industry and government health officials do to contain any outbreak until the disease runs its course with minimum impact on the general population?

The Questions Not Asked

Posted October 20, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: affordable care act, Barack Obama, congress, Democratic Party, GOP, Healthcare, Republican Party, senate

As the midterm elections approach, the prospects for Senate Democrats looks shaky at best. There are a variety of reasons that pundits are offering but President Obama seems to be everyone’s top choice. In an uncertain world when the top guy does not evoke a sense of command, its very difficult to cast your vote in support of his party.

Difficult but not impossible if voters took the time to think their choice through.

With control of both branches of Congress,

  • Do you think Republicans will again attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act? What would Republicans do with respect to restoring the right of insurance companies to cancel policy holders’ policies or to deny insurance to anyone due to a pre-existing condition? Do you think the GOP cares?
  • Do you think Republicans will require businesses to provide insurance coverage for their workers? And what will Republicans do if many companies decide to opt out of coverage? Will they leave it to the free market?
  • And what about Medicare Part D “donut hole”? Will Republicans restore the “donut hole” and expect senior citizens to pay for the difference?
  • Will a Republican controlled Congress pass tax reform which benefits the wealthiest Americans? Or, will Republicans opt just to pass tax cuts (which will benefit the wealthiest)? And in either case, where will Republicans find spending offsets?

These are questions not being asked. Each could have a thoughtful answer but the chances are that Republicans have none. If they do have answers, then there is still time to hear them.
Voters will do well to consider the consequences of a Republican Congress. With just the house, the GOP has voted to repeal ACA over 40 times and has passed spending plans which incorporate large tax cuts for the wealthiest. Hmmm.

Potentially an even greater pitfall would be the “consent” needed for Presidential nominations… like the possibility of a Supreme Court opening. With a GOP Senate, here comes another Alito.

They Not What They Do

Posted October 19, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: birth cantrol, homosexuals, pope francis, Religion, roman catholic church, synod

The final draft report of the assembly of Roman Catholic Bishops pretty much says it all. If anyone thought that Pope Francis had initiated a melting of a dead ended catholic orthodoxy, take a deep breath and look again. The big freeze is still in place.

The modern world has moved in most matters to a different place than the Roman Catholic Church. Church teachings on family planning, birth control, premarital sex, divorce, remarriage, and open inclusion of homosexuals in everyday life are glaringly out of step.  The real world is moving one direction while the church seems to be trying to swim the other way.  Hmmm.

While the Catholic Church still has many admirable practices such as tending to the sick and poor, its all male hierarchy continues to act in a mean spirited, unkind, and fundamentally uniformed manner. In the US, church leaders do not hesitate to enter the public square and use their tax exempt status to influence legislation favorable to their positions. Hmmm.

Catholic women have pretty much broken the code. Most catholic women practice birth control and family planning and simply say nothing. The local parishes can accept this providing these women do not speak out. Similarly, divorced catholics who wish to remarry understand that a proper donation to the church will produce an annulment and the potential to remarry openly. It is homosexuals who are the bane of these Bishops.

Church teaching have long reduced homosexuals to a class somewhat like the Hindu “untouchables”. This position has worked well since many homosexuals have external mannerism which call attention to their difference with the straight community. Picking upon homosexuals, in a sick way, seems to made church leaders feel more morally correct and consequently more powerful. Hmmm.

As most people with a heart beat today recognize, gays or lesbians, especially those with effeminate or manly characteristics, cannot mask their creativity or ability to contribute to society. And, as even a greater surprise, as more homosexuals “have come out”, most people are shocked to realize how many Americans are homosexual. Most Americans have noticed, but not those who are Roman Catholic clergy.

The final draft report can be seen as a business plan. The church may think it is making a statement on dogma but in fact it is segmenting the church attending market. Conservative Catholic leaders believe that the Sunday collection baskets will do best if lay members still can “sin” in everyday life. With a little “sin”, there is a ready made need for a church who can grant “forgiveness”. Sort of job security.

As part of their business plan, conservative church leaders do not care if homosexuals remain.

It is possible,although not totally clear at this point, that church leaders may instead think Catholic homosexuals will follow Catholic women examples. Live their lives as they wish, contribute to the church, and seek forgiveness often (and of course with a few coins to the local priest).

It is also possible that these older men leaders are simply not as smart or wise as the Sisters Religious.

The “Every Man” But Not The “Crisis Man”

Posted October 18, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, Ebola, leadership, management, Politics

First, apologies to women. The title, written the “every man” could also be written the “every woman” too.

The term “every man” is meant to refer to someone who can do everything, sort of the go to person. So this person could certainly be a woman.

“Every Men” have become extremely popular in recent times. They are the person picked to lead (or at least represent) an organization,especially those which undergo extensive public scrutiny. The “everyman” protects the “board” or the “CEO” or in some case, the President of the US from embarrassment and distraction when something goes astray in the organization in question. Hmmm.

The “every man” can offer lucid testimony before Congress. He is relaxed and smooth with the press. Within government meetings, the “every man” is everyone’s ally and no ones enemy. The “every man” is just great to have around.

This apparently ideal situation often comes to an abrupt and sudden end. Crises demand a much different approach. Crises are fact driven and a few hurt feelings should be expected as normal operating conditions. Crises, as the name implies, are here and now events which only get worse unless corrective measures are taken. Hmmm.

The New York Times today reported that the President is seething over the number of times aids assured him that Ebola preparations were in place, only to find out they were not as advertised. Hmmm.

  • The “every man” assumes the best in others. The “crisis man” assumes the worst (or at least the high probability of human failure).
  • The “every man” expects subordinates to work harder and to be more vigilant simply because they should. The “crisis man” expects subordinates will assume the best when there is no proof.  Therefore the “crisis man” demands evidence.

Catching our breaths, we should recognize there should be no rational fear, in spite of performance to day, whether the US medical system can control Ebola. There should, however, have been a healthy amount of skepticism that the US medical system was ready in the early stages of confronting Ebola. Pandemics are not broken legs or hip replacements.

People do not walk around with signs on their chests proclaiming themselves as the “every man” or the “crisis man”. The leader must find them.

A great virtue of any leader is the ability to spot the every man and the crisis man. It is even a greater skill to know when to use each. (Crises are not normally obvious on day 1)

While President Obama has IMO performed credibly and at times heroically during his Presidency, his choice of subordinates has tended to be of the “every man” variety. Let’s hope that the next President can build upon President Obama’s high principles with a better knack of picking subordinates for the necessary task at hand.

The Law Of Diminishing Returns

Posted October 17, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2008 Election, Africa, congress, Ebola, germ warfare, Healthcare

The American education system has been criticized for many shortcomings. None could be any more important that the short shrift of the Law of Diminishing Returns. Said crudely, if a little is good, a lot more must be much better. Hmmm.

How many times have we heard our political leaders recommend a solution for a problem for which there were no symptoms? Remember the voter photo ID laws or the increased regulatory controls for abortion clinics? Both of these situations could not be described as a defect where the recommended solution could be applied and its impact measured for efficacy. (In these cases, of course, the recommended solutions were for a totally different problem than advertised, voter discrimination and eliminating abortions.

America is now facing a situation where logic and scientific ignorance may lead to severe danger from unexpected consequences. Ebola is coming. What should America do?

Thanks to TV news coverage, Americans have seen the failure of a major Dallas hospital while PR spokespersons have valiantly tried to shift the responsibility somewheres else. The Dallas hospital is a large facility which apparently makes money and attracts a lot of affluent people. The hospital had structured itself to deal with a array of normal illnesses at a profit. Life was good.

Then along came Thomas Eric Duncan and life changed. The PR people knew what to do. Show confidence and keep everyone calm. Unfortunately Mr Duncan succumbed to Ebola, and even worse, apparently his care infected two other healthcare workers. Thankfully, the CDC transferred both patients to other more specialized facilities and saved the Dallas hospital from further embarrassment.

So where does the law of diminishing returns come it?

Check out the Congressional hearings. For Congress members, the possibility that some day we may look back and say we could have done more is something that’s not going to happen on their watch. If science says exposed individuals should be isolated for 21 days, then lets increase that number “to be sure”. If someone enters the country and had originally departed from one of the Ebola infected African countries, lets put those people in quarantine. And while we are at it, lets include a wide range of African countries just to be sure.
But what if the person who departed, say Liberia, in January and has been living in Paris flies to JFK (New York)?   Lets quarantine that person too. Why?

We want NO cases that could have been prevented.


The law of diminishing returns tells us that getting to zero (NO cases), will cost exorbitant amounts of money and still may not be possible. Does this mean do nothing?

Quite the opposite. What we need is for Congress members to ask the scientific community and agencies like the CDC how they can help, not what outcomes they want. If political leaders insist upon trying to play the role of “boss”, they are in way over their heads and good things are not likely in the outcomes.

Serious members of Congress as well as similar White House members must recognize that Ebola is a test run for what might happen if the US suffered a germ warfare attack. The public cannot be expected to understand the specifics or what to do to avoid or prevent the spread of illness. The role of government is make sure the best people are in charge and then to provide whatever support they may need.

Somehow I am not confident the current Congressional crowd is up to that challenge.

What Question Are They Answering?

Posted October 15, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, democrats, Iraq, isis, John McCain, Politics, republicans

Some people just can’t get past a lost opportunity they dearly wanted. Nothing could be more true than John McCain’s views on his own destiny to have been President. McCain cannot contain himself and spits out criticism of President Obama incessantly.  Is he a sore loser or just a little too old?

It is certainly possible that McCain is a little too old and a sore loser. He is, for sure, myopic and is showing why the Country made the better choice in 2008 when they elected Barack Obama and not John McCain. McCain cannot determine the right questions when it comes to foreign affairs.   McCain is answering the wrong question when he continually argues for “boots on the ground”.

Think back to the height of the Iraq War and McCain justifying the “surge”. “If we don’t defeat the insurgents (al Qaeda), they will follow us home”, McCain chanted. When the Iraqis balked at extending US presence in Iraq, McCain complained that the President should pressure Malaki to accept continued US presence. Why? Because al Qaeda would follow our departing troops home.

Now the effort to degrade and destroy ISIS is all wrong according to McCain. The President’s plan must be totally rethought McCain says. McCain’s tone suggests the President cannot find the front door unless the Secret Service guides him there. Hmmm.

While McCain believes the President is mistaken, it is in fact, McCain who is sadly mistaken. There is no short term plan that can eliminate terrorist threats from the likes of ISIS or al Qaeda. Once a single terrorist cell is destroyed, another will pop up to take its place. Sending in US boots to fight ISIS will only accomplish the early deaths of many Americans.

The question President Obama is actually addressing when he called for air strikes and a coalition of the willing (including Middle East countries) is finding a path to bring modernity to the Middle East. Unless Middle East players can reestablish order and put the radical religious leaders under lock and key, there is no hope of breaking the cycle of senseless sectarian violence.

Think again about the utter absurdity of Sunnis killing Shiites (and vice versa) simply because one thinks his brand of Islam is superior to the other. Utter absurdity.

President Obama’s plan has said to the Middle East countries, the root of this problem is within your religion and is in your back yards. The US will help but you must put your shoulder to the wheel too.

That is why President Obama is President and John McCain is not.

What’s Sam Harris About?

Posted October 14, 2014 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Hobby Lobby, isis, islam, muslims, Religion, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris

Sam Harris is build as one of America’s leading atheist. He, like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, argue eloquently about the internal illogic of religious traditions. The “God Illusion” and “God Is Not Great” are two popular books by Dawkins and Hitchen. Now, Harris is in print again with “Waking Up, A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion”.

As a consequence, Harris is on tour making radio and television talk shows appearances.

One of the “hooks” Harris is using to gain attention is a thoughtful position on Islam and in particular, the extremists that are making headlines. Harris makes a convincing point that the extremism the world sees in al Qaeda and ISIS (and many other similar groups) as well as mainstream groups like Muslim Brotherhood or the leading clerics in Iran, Pakistan, and even Indonesia, is baked into Islam through the Koran.

Harris points to the high percent of UK muslims who endorsed punishment for the Danish cartoonist who depicted Allah unfavorably as a sign of wide spread misdirection.  Harris lays the blame on the Koran and those who preach it.

Harris has two points.

First, Islam is far more dangerous as a religious tradition than what we see from ISIS. Psychopaths can be found in any religion but extremist groups like ISIS are predominated with socially unstable people. The greater risk associated with the rest of Islam is the belief in Islam is the only true religion and the systematic subjugation of women and homosexuals. (Hmmm, I think I have heard similar views with Christians in America.)

Second, whatever worldly peacefulness one claims to find by devote Islamic following can be found with other meditative means.

Harris is a main stream progressive so to hear him speak like Archie Bunker about Muslims catches one by surprise. Harris’s arguments, however, are filled with data and references.

One may not buy all of Harris’ argument.  Never the less, one is, minimally, compelled to see the wisdom of separating church and State.

I wonders how our Supreme Court could allow any religious group to claim a “right” which in effect denies someone else a service they might otherwise have been entitled.

Et tu Hobby Lobby.


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