Archive for the ‘democrats’ category

Obama’s Failed Policies

November 1, 2014

Every Congressional GOP candidate has a set of stock lines.  This year GOP candidates like “I am running to change Washington and turn around President Obama’s failed policies”. Hmmm, I wonder what they really mean?

Iowa Senate candidate, Joni Ernst says it like this, “Are we going to stay on this path that President Obama and Congressman Braley (her opponent) set for us, which is higher unemployment, low participation rates in the workforce, weakened nation security, or do we make a change?”

What is Ms Earnst smoking? The economy is booming (doing well and relatively great compared to the last months of President Bush’s term) and unemployment is continuing to decline? In fact the American economy is the strongest and most respected in the world. And what’s this “participation rate” suppose to mean? Or for that matter, where is the evidence of weakened national security?

Other politicians and plenty of Super Pac ads castigate the President over healthcare and immigration too. The two most popular phrases are “repeal Obamacare” and “secure the boarders”. Most Americans still receive their health insurance through their employer and for the most part, this is unchanged. Why talk to them?

Immigration is even stranger to attack. During President Obama’s term more undocumented aliens have been deported than under any previous President. So many have been deported that Hispanics have toned down their support of President Obama.

National security, what’s that? How could getting bogged down longer in Afghanistan or re-entering Iraq or Syria help our national security? Does anyone remember the “cold war” and how long it lasted? Confronting well armed, ideologically differing nations, without committing American lives is a serious and challenging task.

So, what’s really going on?

Maybe 1% of those criticizing President Obama present valid arguments and deserve thoughtful responses. For the rest, we are hearing political double speak. Say one thing and mean another.

Former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said it well. “47% of voters will not vote republican”, so let’s forget them and get the rest. How?

The GOP strategy is too (1) impede as many Hispanics and African Americans (assumed Democrat voters) as possible from reaching voting booths, and (2) remind everyone else that the real enemies standing in the way of the American dream are “lazy African Americans, selfish Union members, and undocumented workers.

Most Americans have no idea why there are no more jobs available but do recognize that most of the ones they come in contact with pay a very low wage. Who causes that? Why it must be illegal workers.

Healthcare is another example. Union members with Cadillac plans or low co-pays, or African Americans lining up to take free Medicaid are just causing the cost of coverage to increase for everyone else. And by the way, why should African Americans get free coverage when “I” have to pay? Why don’t those poor African Americans go out and get a job (just not mine)?

Raising national security is like using a shot gun. The gun’s discharge sprays widely and can hit many targets. First, increasing the defense budget can bring jobs to many Congressional districts. Paying for these new jobs can come from cutting the social safety net which, of course, means reducing support for immigrants and African Americans. Sending Americans to war, on the other hand, would offer employment for these same poor struggling Americans.

Second, for politicians, wars are good. Wars spread fear and support the notion of “not changing horses in the middle of a riverr”. Conflicts provide fodder for political hyperbola. And the best part, wars are complicated and finding someone in Congress at fault is near impossible.

At the end of the day, there is no good way to assess President Obama’s policies during his term. For sure, all of his policies could be made better. And maybe some ought to be changed or replaced with another approach.

Hearing the charge “Obama’s failed policies”, instead ought to evoke an outcry “AND WHAT EXACTLY WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY”.

The nature of political discussions these days does not seem to lead to that type of question. Unfortunately, political discussion does not encompass how the country can break the poverty cycle, or find a path to health care costs like Europe’s, or carry out foreign policy in the 21st Century.

Picking on the underdogs and spreading fear, which have worked through out American political history still seem the best tactics.

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Kaci Hickox Public Enemy?

October 30, 2014

Kaci Hickox’s restricted travel has now grabbed the front pages and the 7/24 news outlets. The story is perfect for the news media. It requires no intelligence or thought. It simply requires someone to hold an opinion. Is this nurse a public enemy?

Ms Hickox presents a great face for women, and for informed public health. There is no PC with Ms Hickox. She seeks no favors from the public trough and is prepared to stand her ground. Her defense, modern science and recent experience.

Medical experts have said that Ebola is not contagious until the onset of symptoms. Even then, there is a view that during the initial onset, like not feeling well or the first recognition of fever, someone is still not contagious.   It is only when the full presentation of symptoms where bodily fluids (vomit, spit, and diarrhea) come in contact with another unprotected person is there a chance to spread Ebola.

Ms Hickox apparently is confident she will recognize the onset and until then she feels she should be free to move around. Hmmm.

Maine public health officials have asked Ms Hickox to voluntarily isolate herself for 21 days. Ms Hickox has said no thanks. So what might be next?

Most likely the Maine Public Health officials will appeal to a court that Ms Hickox must be forcibly restrained. The Court will decide not on the merits but rather that the Maine Public Health organization has the regulatory power to order restraint. Hmmm.

Next, Ms Hickox side will sue the State of Maine claiming they had instituted controls not justified by the science involved (over stepped their authority). Before long one of two things will occur. Ms Hickox will come down with full blown Ebola, or the 21 days will pass with no occurrence. Maine will in that case offer to drop their charges if Ms Hickox does the same. Hmmm.

The US Ebola scare is a dry run for what might happen if we experience a real influenza outbreak.

There is a clear difference at the extremes between individual civil rights and protection of the population at large. This difference becomes harder to recognize the closer to the center one gets. Common sense and thankfully modern science can resolve this conundrum.

Unfortunately it will require leaders and not run of the mill politicians to sort this out. Even sadder, the country seems to have an excess of politicians and few leaders.

Thanks to Ms Hickox for again making this clear.

21 and Counting

October 22, 2014

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?

What Question Are They Answering?

October 15, 2014

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.

Is It Time For The Bill?

September 22, 2014

Americans for sure, and maybe most other people around the world, have a peculiar characteristic. Americans can get all excited about some issue and show great indignation. How could this or that condition be? Why have we not fixed it already?

This incredulity comes forward when the bill is presented and payment is due immediately. Hmmm.

The uproar about ISIS provides an illustrative example. The barbaric behavior of ISIS has been amplified by many self interested public officials. The news media, always in search of a “good” story, has piled on, telling and retelling the beheading tales whipping the public into a willing majority. “Destroy ISIS!” Hmmm.

To make the sale for US military intervention, our politicians have concocted a plan which presumably does not entail US ground forces. Somehow we are lead to believe that high tech aircraft will suffice. Hmmm. (I guess these planes do not ever develop mechanical problems.)

Under Congressional questioning, however, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsy, told Congress that under certain circumstances he could foresee the need for “troops on the ground” and under those circumstances he would not hesitate to recommend troops to the President. Hmmm.

The White House reiterated, in response, that troops would not be returning to Iraq.

Last week, Army Chief of Staff, Ray Odierno, said he was concerned about the size of the Army and whether it had not already been shrunk too much. He was concerned whether the Army was large enough to anticipate all the global hot spots. Hmmm.

Both of these men, IMO, spoke both the truth and what there were really thinking.

That is not the point. They were opening a can of worms and exposing the “free lunch” American mentality.

Military actions take lives and cost money.

Telling the American people (or worse remaining silent) that fighting ISIS or preparing for other global conflicts won’t involve American military deaths is one issue, but omitting what Americans should be paying in taxes is quite another.

Currently no Congress members want to go on record as favoring military action and paying for it. Rather, Congress members prefer to put the cost on the credit card (national debt) or, cut spending other places to offset the expense. Hmmm.

So, putting ISIS, or even the Ukraine, in perspective, our leaders are implying that seniors or those requiring Medicaid or other welfare safety net benefits need to foot the military bill. Hmmm.

Whether the US should engage in military action in the Middle East or any other global spot is a question beyond my pay level. Justification for military action (read spending), however, must include what it will cost and how it will be paid for.

Americans can make that type of judgement. Whether the public gets it right or wrong, it is how our government is suppose to work.

It Is Tough Being President

September 9, 2014

Bill Clinton and George Bush made it look easy. Easy, that is, of being the chief executive. Always glib, always with a smile, always looking like they knew what was going on. Hmmm.

Looks can be deceiving. “W” did not know much of what was going on and seemed to care less. Bill knew as much as his subordinates knew and still wanted to know more… as long as it did not interfere with his “intern time”.

Each of these former Presidents was very concerned with combining actual real world intelligence with a political calculus. What worldly action would be most beneficial to their party and what outcomes would not.  Both former President’s action were driven by polling results.

Along comes President Obama. He appears far more circumspect than his two predecessors. IMO, President Obama wants more than his predecessors to “do the right thing, long term”.  But it seems a President cannot escape political calculus.

So tonight President Obama will give a prime time speech on what to do about ISIS. Obama claims his speech will help Americans understand this extremist threat in the long term perspective. He may also be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

President Obama’s steady, but patient course lead to the finding of Osama ben Laden. Obama did not boast that he was hot on the trail of ben Laden, nor did he puff up his chest before the mission. But the death of ben Laden translated quickly into Democratic political hay. How could the GOP claim Dems were soft on defense when Obama had found the man?

On the contrary, there is virtually nothing to be gained from mounting any type of “feet on the ground” military campaign  to eliminate ISIS. ISIS is an organization more akin to weeds in a garden. After ISIS is pulled out, others will grow back.

Don’t tell that to politicians. One party will claim the other is soft on security regardless of whether that same party wants to cut government spending. The other party will say in so many words, “no I’m not”. So what then?

With “W”, we saw “being tough on extremists” expression through disproportionate spending of dollars and lives on misdiagnosed sets of problems. We heard politically tinged rhetoric telling Americans they were at risk and it would be patriotic to send their children into war where these young Americans ( always someone else’s children) could get maimed or killed.

President Obama has clearly seen that our fighting men and women come overwhelmingly from lower income segments of our population. The all volunteer military is not the face of all Americans. Obama has tried (with much success) to reduce the number and occasions where Americans could get injured. During the Arab Spring and its aftermath, Obama has kept American military out of harms way.

So fast forward to today. The President will give a speech where he wants to sound tough and confident. He wants, also to keep away from using American ground troops. So what can he say?

No matter what he says, the GOP can (and will) say Obama’s does not understand.  They will add that his proposals do not go far enough. Who can prove either side of this statement?

Consider: ISIS, like al Qaeda, al Shabaab, and boko Haram are political expressions of groups who are not comfortable with income distribution. Their marketing plan, like the Crusades, aims to tip the balance in their favor with the claim that “god (allah) is on my side (regardless of what I do)”.

If President Obama has a chance tonight of not making the current situation politically worse, he must remind Americans that

  • He will authorize full military force when ever there is a direct threat to America.
  • He will not risk the lives of young Americans when there are other means or when America is not directly threatened.

How we will deal with ISIS, like how we dealt with Osama ben Laden, should not be the subject matter of political campaign speeches. End of statement.

Should the President try to explain, as a good professor, “the ins and outs” of coalitions, strategic partners, and the desire for world peace, the political path necessary to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, will be open.