Archive for the ‘Rand Paul’ category

Section 215, What’s The Issue?

June 1, 2015

Last night the Senate burned the midnight oil (so to speak) in trying to pass an extension to the Patriot Act. It is amazing how something could be so Constitutionally wrong and yet seem necessary in the times we live in. Why is there such a problem?

Forgetting Presidential year politics, the trouble in passing a modified Patriot Act stems from the NSA/FBI/CIA’s prerogative to collect telephone records and then search them with a court order later. Why the objections?

Why should not the FBI search telephone records, detect that suspect A has contacted numbers known to be terrorists, get a court order and then confirm the terrorist connection?

The opposition to section 215 boils down (IMO) to whether you can trust the Government or not. Hmmm.

The Constitution’s 4th Amendment protects American against “unreasonable search and seizure”. The NSA had no “constitutional” right to collect meta data of all calls made in the US.  You might ask, if the NSA confined its searches to finding terrorists and “preventing” terrorist acts, how can that not be in the public’s best interest?

The underlying fear is that the NSA would yield the meta data to the FBI, CIA, the Treasury Department (taxes), or any other Government Department wanting to know if anyone was breaking laws or regulations. This practice is often called “fishing” and has been generally disallowed in courts as evidence. With a court order, searching meta data for a specific suspect, could identify many others also who might also have violated some law or regulation. This could lead to the possibility of many being charged as guilty until they could prove themselves innocent. Does this sound like a third world country?

Interestingly, Americans have already ceded the power to collect meta data to the phone companies. Google and most other on-line retailers already possess means to track our movements in real time. Privacy seems now to exist only for those with no phone or credit card. Hmmm.

I guess we should ask how many terrorists or terrorist plots have been uncovered?  Hmmm.  None.  Hmmm.

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Rant Paul ?

April 8, 2015

Senator Rand Paul announced his campaign for the GOP Presidential nomination yesterday. Surprisingly Paul wants to take the government back… from special interests. He wants to get the government out of every crook and cranny of our lives, what ever that means. And he wants a US stronger than any other country so it can lead world affairs without question. Hmmm.

His announcement was given to unbridled cheers… from faithful followers. I don’t think there were Ted Cruz supporters present. And what sensible politician would choose to make such an announcement to an unknown group of voters?

Paul has never the less an appealing message on the surface. His libertarian anchored views would make one expect domestic policies where government keeps out of implementing religion driven laws and enables the individual greater freedom to make decision which only impact themselves. One would also expect a Paul Presidency to carefully review all government spending, somewhat like zero based budgeting, and confirming that each program was still necessary and working as designed.
More worrisome was his rants about US military might. His message was that the US should remain the overwhelmingly strongest country (no problem so far) but Paul wants the US to freely exercise this power around the world. Two problems emerge.

First, Paul is silent on how to pay for this military might. Unless he favors new taxes, the augmented US military would have to get its funding from cutting other government programs or borrowings. Hmmm. I wonder which butter programs Paul would cut to pay for more guns?

Second, Libertarians are generally committed to keeping out of foreign entanglements unless these external forces pose a direct threat to our national interests. Paul’s words yesterday omitted this type of qualifier.

These two observations should be no surprise. Paul is entering the GOP primary game. In order to win the nomination, Paul will have to follow the path Mitt Romney took and pander to groups which do not reflect his real beliefs. Such is the world we live in.

Paul becomes the second announced GOP candidate, along side Senator Ted Cruz. While Paul and Cruz are just the first two to announce, they will be more candidates soon.

Before that time, and with the paucity of real information about each candidate’s likely platform, Paul’s libertarian views trump Cruz’s bible thumping antics.

Mapping The Political Beast

March 28, 2015

In today’s US political world, we find most animals with descriptive labels such as “right wing” or “conservative”, and “liberal” or “progressive”. The first group are found on the “Republican” side while the other on the “Democrat” side. This description envisions a line where at one end is the ultra conservative and the other end hosts the ultra liberal.

Why then is it so difficult for Democrats to understand Republicans?

Some say differing views on religion get in the way.  Others cite a fear any organized government and therefore seek explicit limits on the government’s reach. Still others question the role of fact and science and prefer to rely on some “expert” who sees life as they do.

There are also those who do not trust the common person with governmental responsibilities. Rather, this group feels that only those insulated from the everyday need to scratch out a living or possess sufficient education can make the unbiased decisions involved in government. And of course there is the opposite group that fears government by the few and firmly believe the long term is in the safest hands if those hands are the common man’s.

It is with this in mind that I recall writings which transpose the typical political map, conservatism running through a supposed neutral position called “moderate” to the opposite directions labeled 
liberal or progressive into an x/y system. On the x axis would be conservatism and liberalism at the extremes. On the y-axis would be authoritarianism and libertarianism. Hmmm.

Authoritarian politicians can be either conservative or liberal. What would be similar would be their belief that Government could and should impose authority.  For example, authoritarians tend to be dogmatic and would tend to be favorable to policies expressed by religions.

The libertarian pole is quite interesting. Libertarians have a strongly developed view that certain matters are outside the purvey of government. These issues stem from a personal view of personal freedom and reject someone else imposing their views on others.   Libertarians typically believe that an individual can do anything unless expressly ruled out by law (while authoritarians believe just the opposite).

Conservatives see the world as inherently difficult to govern. As a consequence, governance should remain fixed and not bounce around due to changes in the external environment. For example, economic boom or bust, scientific brake throughs or failures, and bountiful harvests or famines should not cause changes in basic governance. Any changes to basic governance must be made in small steps and under strict control. Why? Because the people can’t be trusted to perform change properly and will use the opportunity to shift the governance processes to favor them. Hmmm.

Liberals see things quite the opposite.  Liberals feel government must change (evolve) with the times. Libertarian liberals see Constitutions as living documents which can be interpreted differently given the needs of the times. Libertarian liberals believe in the good intentions of the common person. Authoritarian liberals believe in their own good intentions but believe the common person needs the authoritarian liberal to set the direction and strategy because the common person is not capable.  Conservative libertarians feel more comfortable staying close to the Constitution as originally intended.   Hmmm.

When thinking about the political map, we must expect to find politicians at all points of the x/y map and at varying distances from the x and y axes. Our political discourse, however, tends to plot everyone along the x-axis. Senator so and so is a staunch conservative (far out on the x-axis, while Senator blah blah is an arch liberal  (far to the left of the mid-point).

Why is the concept of x/y plot useful?

Think about 4 leading GOP Presidential hopefuls, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker.  How would you classify (plot) each of them and despite what they say, what policies would expect them to support?  This should be a useful exercise since their speeches will be crafted by skilled speech writers determined to mask any non-productive tendencies.

To Vaccinate Or Not – The Story Of Gotcha

February 3, 2015

This past week, Governor Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul fell prey to the sensational aspects of a free press. Both GOP Presidential hopefuls were asked whether Americans should be required to be vaccinated or left to decide for themselves. Mindful of the upcoming primaries, both who know better about public health, waffled giving the nod to individual rights. The press had a field day.

Christie and Paul invite these questions unintentionally when they agree to interviews which they hope will raise the public awareness of them. Never the less, there should be some judgement applied to the message the major news agencies are sending when they jump on a sound bite.

Rand Paul is a medically trained eye doctor and must know the relationship of vaccinations and public health. Governor Christie must also understand the public health inferences since he was quick to impose mandatory quarantines for returning Ebola healthcare workers. Being a politician, however, is practicing the art of speaking to the audience and telling them what they want to hear. In interviews, the audience is not always specified.

Individual rights and religious rights are frequently used to justify the reason someone refuses vaccination. Sometimes these positions have been coupled with so called scientific data.   In a recent controversy involving vaccine preservatives, the “scientific facts” were subsequently debunked. Still many insist it is their right to refuse vaccination. Hmmm.

From an individual rights perspective, Paul and Christie have a valid point that public policy should include the views of those who reject vaccination. From a public health perspective, however, it becomes much more complicated. Vaccination has been overwhelmingly shown to protect the public so mandating vaccination should be accepted… for most Americans. There will be, unfortunately,  individual cases where some people cannot tolerate vaccines.  There must be a way out for these people, I would think.

End of story? No.

If someone refuses or is unable to take public policy approved vaccinations, they still bear a responsibility to not hurt others. The whole point of mass vaccination is the protection of everyone, not just the person vaccinated.

The “ambush interview” type of questions that Rand and Christie fielded are a disservice to public health. Just as with the Ebola scare, public officials suddenly get confused on the role of public health and individual rights. Common sense goes out the window and in its place flows the “prepared talking point”.

If the purpose of these interviewers’ questions was to embarrass Paul and Chrisite, then they scored their points. If the purpose was to get an informed opinion about a serious public health issue, they missed the mark.

GOP, Bi-Polar?

January 14, 2015

Governor Chris Christie thrilled his supporters yesterday with a rousing “State of the State” speech in Trenton, NJ. Christie’s speech was presidential in tone and like all good politicians, took credit for things that stretch the line of credibility. But the new Christie, many pounds lighter than two years ago, did look and sound like a serious candidate.

Christie took credit for shrinking New Jersey unemployment from over 10% to 6.4%. He did not pause to say the overall US economy improved by even more, or that the high unemployment which he inherited had resulted from the near depression conditions which prevailed following GOP President George W Bush’s term.

Governor Christie also took credit for reducing the rate of real estate property tax increase. Christie pointed to his Administration’s policies of cutting State spending rather than raising taxes. Christie omitted mention that he also stopped property tax rebates which had moderated the increase amount previously experienced. Hmmm.

Christie’s speech no doubt sent Republican strategists running for their Tums bottle. Despite skirting real truth, Christie presented a persuasive example that he should be taken seriously. Hmmm.

So what about Jeb and Mitt… and maybe Scott?

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul were taking shots at both Bush and Romney, emphasizing the need for “fresh ideas”. Rick Santorum observed that both Cruz and Paul were “bomb throwers”, and that Marco Rubio lacked sufficient experience to be even a bomb thrower.

Not to be out done, Mike Huckabee gratuitously evaluated Barack and Michelle Obama’s parenting skills (as if that makes any difference) playing right to his bible thumping supporters. Romney and Bush said little except to the people who count… the big money interests. Their message, don’t count me out.

Hillary’s decision to delay her announcement is paying dividends already. The “right wing of the right oriented Republican Party” must make its case for relevance by impugning the “left side of the right oriented Republican Party” instead of beating up on Hillary. Oh what fun.

There is still a long time before the primary and Presidential election seasons. Jeb Bush’s tactic to try and steal the nomination by declaring (actually acting as if he had declared), just as in sail boat racing, is being quickly covered by other potential candidates. Their rhetoric is a hoot.

A martian visitor might rightly draw the conclusion that the GOP is lives within a large conservative bubble and is bipolar. Winning the 2016 election will require the GOP to field a candidate who can appeal to more than this conservative bubble. At this point potential GOP candidates, who step into the center of America’s political spectrum, do so at the own peril.