Archive for the ‘republicans’ category

Vetting A Presidential Nominee

November 24, 2015

Watching the Republican Presidential nominating process unfold has been a lesson in fund raising, possessing the “right stuff”, and standing up to public vetting.  The GOP hopefuls list which began at nearly two dozen is slowly dwindling but the serious list (those with a chance) still remains close to 10.

Who will prevail and how long will it take?

Most everyone has been amazed at the success to date of non-politicians Donald Trump and Ben Carson. For a few weeks these two “outsiders” garnered over 50% of the polls. Trump still is hanging in at around 30% while Carson has fallen back to the high teens.

Carson’s recent drop in the polls highlights the amazing aspect of his prior success. Carson has no idea about foreign policy or current events. The Paris attack, ISIS and Syrian refugee issue, when vetted in the public forum, has shown he is not ready for prime time.  He would be a dangerous choice for Vice President since he appears to lack even the remotest background in diplomacy and world events.

Donald Trump is a quite different story. He has offered some of the most outlandish proposals on immigration, 9/11, taxes, and refugees and still is standing tall in the polls.  Trump seems to have offered a segment of voters someone who “says it as it is”, at least in their minds.

Anti-immigration, xenophobia, and gigantic tax cut promises have boosted Trump’s support even though his specific claims or proposals are patently unfounded. But 30% of the maybe 30% card carrying GOP base in a national election is not enough to win. Hmmm.

While Trump and Carson occupy the top positions, gradually Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasick are rising. This trio still are not a numeric challenge to Trump but are making life pretty rough on Jeb Bush and Carli Fiorina. The rest, Chris Christy, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, and Lindsay Graham have absolutely no chance and must be staying in hoping to get a VP nod.

The Primary race has been marked by pledges and promises which cannot reasonably be believed. No candidate is immune to the urge to say things which in hours are shown unfounded or unattainable. With the exception of Donald Trump, each candidate who has put forward some policy position crafted to appeal to the right, has lost a point or two in the polling standings. If things continue on the same path, by February or March, it should be clear that none of the current candidates has enough support to win in the general election even if they can secure the GOP nomination.

There is one unannounced candidate, however, who does poll well and would make a formidable candidate. That person is Mitt Romney.

Recent national polls show Mitt as by far and away the choice of Republican voters and a solid candidate against Hillary Clinton. If Mitt can stay patient, he could get the nomination without having to announce he is “severely conservative” again.

As time passes, the GOP should recognize in an election where less than a third of voters are true GOP believers (same percent holds for Democrats),  that unless the GOP offers a sane, responsible alternative, the mass of independent voters will side with Democrats and again keep the GOP out of the White House.

For my money, Mitt is by far the best choice if there must be a GOP President.

The US Healthcare Disaster

November 5, 2015

The Affordable Care Act sits precariously as the US healthcare delivery scheme. The Act brought the US kicking and screaming into the modern world with a large ethical and moral step forward. Our “exceptional” country was exceptional about healthcare but in a third world way.

Healthcare prior to ACA was marked by the label, “the best health care money could buy” and sported an out of control cost for delivering healthcare.  And best of all, not all Americans got healthcare.

Under pre-ACA conditions, an estimated 50 million Americans were without healthcare coverage. Some chose to skip insurance coverage (saving money) while most simply could not afford coverage or were denied it (pre-existing condition). In an enlightened country, one wonders how that could have been?

The answer lies mainly in two places. Most Americans were (and still are) insulated from healthcare delivery costs. Employers picked up most of the premiums and the average American simply did not see the need to question the healthcare delivery system. The second aspect of pre-ACA was the American Healthcare delivery system was a “for profit” enterprise with generous government support (namely Medicare and Medicaid) and seemed to have no ethical or moral conscience about whether the average person could afford basic coverage.

So what is different with the Affordable Care Act?

ACA strikes at the unfairness of the 50 million uninsured and does set up some strategic changes in how medical costs are generated. The individual mandate has helped prevent many Americans from “gaming” the system, skipping insurance while they are healthy and using Emergency Rooms if they do get ill. ACA also increased requirements for businesses to provide coverage, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage for “pre-existing” or “extreme” illnesses, and “exchanges” were established to make available a wide range of insurance products which could be coupled with subsidies if the individual met certain income measures.

Despite ACA’s attempt at reforming how healthcare is delivered, the Act did not change the “for profit” orientation. So it should not be any surprise that healthcare costs continue to rise at breathtaking rates. Most doctors and hospitals are simply passing on increased costs and dragging their feet on any real structural changes. Drug companies who kept their ability to charge Canadians less for the same drugs as US citizens, have in a growing number of cases, raised the price of life saving drugs to unconscionable levels.

So to celebrate the Affordable Care Act, one must be careful about what one is complimenting. ACA is clearly better than what came before it, but there is a glaring deficiency with what are world class healthcare systems deliver.

So with every Republican Presidential candidate positioning themselves to repeal and replace ACA, what would one think their justification might be and how would they reform it?  Hmmm.

All candidates, in one way or another, say ACA is too costly and we can’t afford it.  A simple repeal means no more exchanges and no more expanded Medicaid services. It also means a return of insurance denying coverage for “pre-existing” conditions and being free to put a cap on benefits in catastrophic illnesses.  With the GOP it will be back to “the best healthcare money can buy”.

This is not world class.

Is Joe Ready?

September 19, 2015

Carefully placed news leaks reported that Vice President Joe Biden is about ready to announce a run for the 2016 Democrat  Presidential nomination. Timing was somewhat vague but the middle to end of October were cited. With this move, at this time, the Democrats are handing the GOP a reprieve from the side show Republicans are offering as a process to pick their standard bearer.

So far the GOP has combined un-presidential name calling and general election un-winnable policies for a sure 2016 loss with any of the current candidates. Joe’s potential move could do something similar for the Democrats.

I would imagine from Biden’s perspective it is now or never. Also it is not unreasonable for Biden to think that Hillary Clinton is damaged from the email controversy and may be beatable by someone more “genuine”. And lastly, Biden may think the Democrat deep pocket donors will switch their allegiance to him. So what’s wrong with this analysis?

First, we have to remember this is Joe Biden. He has a long record of speaking first and thinking later. Just like the problem with selecting the GOP standard bearer, Biden will be fighting for media recognition. The incentive to say memorable things could easily push Joe’s rhetoric over the line.

Second, the main Democrat field consist of Bernie Sanders (left leaning), Hillary Clinton (center sitting), and if Biden runs, someone who might fit in between the two. This will make it difficult to differentiate the candidates based upon policy without disowning the policies of the other candidates. So, what basis would Biden offer for Democrats to choose him?

Third, the Democrat with the best chance of winning the Presidential election will depend upon who the GOP nominates and what form the GOP platform takes. Sporting policies which intrude upon women’s rights, antagonize Hispanics, ignore the growing inequality of wealth, and marginalize the LBGT community, a plain vanilla Democrat should be able to win. If Biden decides he needs to trash Hillary or try to “out-Sanders” Bernie Sanders, he could easily shatter the Democrat vote and end up losing a perfectly winnable election.

If one could use sports analogies, Joe Biden is a dependable relief pitcher or backup quarterback. While it might be possible for Bernie Sanders to get the nomination, he would have no chance in a general election. His views are too left of center. Biden, on the other hand, could campaign close enough to the center to make a serious challenge to any GOP candidate. Were there to be additional and more serious revelations about Hillary, backup Biden could save the day for Democrats.

The question of the day is should Biden wait to be called, enter the race but just register present, or should Biden make an all out run and let the chips fall where they might?

Whose Bluffing Who?

November 7, 2014

President Obama said in an interview that he would put forth new rules covering immigration by year end unless Congress moved to pass comprehensive reform. That’s pretty clear (although the President has said that before). House Speaker John Boehner in a different interview said the President was playing with fire and the President might get burned. Boehner implied that any hope of cooperation would go out the window if the President acted unilaterally. Hmmm.

So, are these two bluffing?

Hmmm. I wonder.

Or is Speaker Boehner using these words “playing with fire” to hide the “I” word? Impeachment would be relatively easy to accomplish with the GOP House majority. Conviction is at least conceivable with a GOP controlled Senate. But would moderate Republicans go along with this? Would any sensible Republican go along with this?

The Democrat calculus may be that since the GOP has no interest in cooperating on any substantive legislation in any case, why not begin doing what will appeal to Democrat voters (at least Hispanics) through executive orders?

The more clever Democrat strategists may also seek to invite dysfunctional GOP behavior so they can say, “see we told you Republicans cannot govern”.

The “congratulations on your victory” mood which President Obama had presented appears very short lived. The 24/7 news media couldn’t be more thrilled with the prospect of venomous sound bites filling hours of mindless TV and radio talk shows.

With so many Republican Senators up for reelection in 2016, a dysfunctional Congress might be well received by Democrats.
Of course, fire often burns both ways…

Don’t Blame The Electorate

November 4, 2014

Today is election day. The mid-term Congressional elections are underway. Pundits are predicting a big Republican win. With a single digit national approval rating, the GOP, never the less, is poised to take control of Congress. How can that be?

One simple reason is that Democrats have given voters no comprehensive reason to vote for them.

Another reason is that Republicans have stopped shooting themselves in their foot.

Most people can hold one issue, and sometimes maybe two, in front of them. With the thanks of the Supreme Court, conservative candidates have dumped buckets of money into divisive issues blaming Democrats for everything but tooth decay. And, Democrats once again have chosen to hunker down and try to sneak through one more election. That Democrat choice will turn out to be both cowardly and shortsighted.

Running from President Obama has denied Democratic candidates with the opportunity to paint a different picture.

  • Why should voters wish to return to a healthcare system in which they can be denied or priced out of healthcare coverage?
  • Why should voters wish to follow a foreign policy where American young men and women are sent off to wars of choice?
  • Why should voters wish to return to policies which lead to massive unemployment and huge deficits?
  • And what’s wrong with Democrats affirming the need to document all workers?
  • What is so strange about Democrats seeking tax reform closing loop holes for the wealthy while at the same time seeking alignment of Union wages and benefits with those of like non-union industry?
  • What is wrong with Democrats offering plans to increase taxes (like to fix crumbling roads and bridges), reducing spending (eliminating unneeded programs), and providing more efficient government services?
  • And what greater promise could Democrats make then to unequivocally assert a clear separation of Church and State and that religious freedom does not include the right to prevent others from living their life freely.

Well, I’m sure it will be a cold day in July before any politician takes on this last proposition. It would, however, put the rest of the issues back on a scientific or fact based basis. Too bad.

The electorate can be rightfully criticized for a lot of things. Mob rule didn’t get its bad name for no reason at all. The electorate, however in its own way, appears ready to send Democrats a clear message. I wonder whether anyone will be listening?

Senate Showdown

November 3, 2014

Tomorrow is voting day. Midterm Congressional election will be held across the Country. If history is any judge, relatively few Americans will show up at the polls. Hmmm.

Several reasons have been offered. For many districts, the only race involves the House of Representatives. In other districts, it might be just the House and maybe the State Governorship. And in a few, there might be the trifecta of all three. What there won’t be in any State is the President’s election. For that voters must wait another two years. For tomorrow, there will be a lot less voter interest, so why not stay home?

Another reason offered is that voters are disillusioned. What? How could that be?

After weeks of mind numbing TV ads which collectively offered less than 1% educational value, how can we blame voters for saying, “enough!” If the negative ads were not enough, Congress’ dismal performance could easily suppress any voter interest. Why vote for this clown or that one when which ever gets elected will renege on what ever he or she promised? Hmmm.

The center piece election this year is for the Senate. Polling results have indicated that Senate control could pass from Democrats to Republicans if current trends continue. A GOP controlled Senate coupled with a GOP controlled House would place the legislative branch in Republican control. Executive, Democrat, legislature, Republican. Sounds like gridlock or the highest form of safety depending upon ones view of Government.

If Republicans do gain control of Congress, it will be with a razor thin majority. Consequently it will be unlikely they could enact legislation which President Obama opposed. His veto should hold.

Republicans, however, might be tempted to pass legislation which they believe would be popular with their base. For example the Ryan budget, privatization of Social Security, tax cuts, increased military spending, reductions in welfare safety net spending, and the center piece, repeal of Obamacare. In many ways Democrats could not hope for something better. This type of legislative record (tried but vetoed) would set up a clear choice in 2016.

The main downside of a Republican controlled Senate would occur if there was a need to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice. The current ideological divide has produced some short sighted and dangerous decisions (corporations are people, unlimited spending is unlimited free speech). It should not be surprising if in the event of the need to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice, President Obama to be unable to get a vote on his choice.

But this is all speculation. Tomorrow will be the vote and the next day, the sun will rise just as it did today. Democrats have hardly distinguished themselves while in control of the Senate. How bad can it get?

What’s Gone Wrong in Canada?

November 2, 2014

The Canadian Government announced a ban on all visitors from the Ebola infected African countries. Not a period of restricted movement or even a quarantine, but an outright ban on entry to Canada. How could an otherwise more than rational Country undertake measure not justified by facts on the ground?

The rational provided, of course, focuses upon protecting Canadian citizens. Suspension of commonsense or fact based reasoning seems justified “to protect Canadian citizens”. Hmmm.

This reasoning is not just a Canadian phenomena. It is politicians’ reasoning and would be expected to happen in the US far more often than Canada. Politicians, however, can be found anywhere.

So why care?

The “protect the citizens” argument is worthy, but at what expense. The primary role of government is protecting its citizens but to what extents is a government justified in providing this protection? We normal hear about surrendering individual privacy rights but those coming from Ebola infected countries are not Canadian citizens and in theory do not have Canadian rights. So what else?

Governments have a duty to demonstrate “fact based” decisions as much as possible. This type of behavior should inspire further confidence in government decisions and encourage the population, in general, to adopt fact based reasoning for themselves. For Governments to shun fact based reasoning is to encourage citizens to respond to fear or to ignore genuine threats.

US Congressional demagogues have demonstrated all too frequently the worst of possible public image. Some members have predicted the invasion of ISIS via the Mexican border. Others now have suggested that travelers infected with Ebola will choose crossing the Mexico-US border as a way to avoid airport detection. What should we expect of the average citizen if their elected leaders think this way?

This Canadian decision may seem in the best interest of Canadian citizens but is quite the opposite. The decision sends the wrong message and in no way guarantees protections from Ebola.

I wonder where the Canadian scientific community was in making this decision?

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.

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?