Category Archives: Politics

Long Before Ted Cruz, Giants Walked Among Us

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I identified as Republican most of my life. However, the Tea Party base now rules the day, and moderates like me are persona non grata. Of late, even John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Tom Coburn are being blasted as not pure enough.

I think of all the remarkable Republicans I’ve admired, or at least respected, over the years. Some were true giants.

Howard Baker.
Mark Hatfield,.
Richard Lugar.
John Danforth.
Orrin Hatch.
Alan Simpson.
Lamar Alexander.
Bob Dole.
Elizabeth Dole.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
Ronald Reagan.
John Ashcroft.
James Baker.
Rudy Guiliani.
Nancy Kassebaum.
William Cohen.
Warren Rudman.
Pete Wilson.
Dan Quayle.
Nelson Rockefeller.
George HW Bush.
Colin Powell.
Barry Goldwater.
Arlen Specter.
Phil Gramm.
Gerald Ford.
Richard Shelby.
Olympia Snowe.
Jack Kemp.
Kay Bailey Hutchison.
John Connolly.
George Romney.
Dwight Eisenhower….

I miss those folks.

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Healthcare Website: Not Ready for Prime Time

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They goofed big-time with the sign-up process at Healthcare.gov. I went through the registration process twice last night, yet still couldn’t log in. I tried both accounts this morning, and still no luck. Says my username or password are wrong, and I KNOW they aren’t. So I created a third account this morning…same thing. I’m rapidly approaching the definition of insanity.

These are not fatal flaws–just technical glitches that can be fixed. But it’s a PR fiasco in getting Obamacare started. I’m sure millions of users are frustrated. And the wait times are unacceptable. Makes me seriously wonder, considering the virulence of the opposition, if some high-tech sabotage is occurring.

My interest is only curiosity. The exchanges are for the minority of people who either don’t have insurance or who buy insurance on their own. Most of us get insurance through our work, and it’s generally better insurance than the exchanges offer. But I did want to compare costs, out of curiosity, and so far I’ve not been able to get that far.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of time. Obamacare coverage doesn’t start until January 1, and people can sign up through March. Hopefully they’ll fix the site to allow for the traffic, which should have been expected and is totally capable of being handled.

Having said that–I’ve been using the Healthcare.gov website for several weeks to do research. It’s well designed, very user friendly, easy to navigate, and clearly written. The sign-up screens are very user-friendly. I’m quite impressed overall. I experienced no problems until October 1, when the sign-up began. They just have some major functionality and bandwidth issues with the enrollment process.

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Washington Weakness

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Several days ago on Morning Joe, Jim VandeHei of Politico made an interesting observation which has stayed with me. He mentioned two dynamics which contribute to our problems in Washington.

First, all of our leaders are weak.

  • President Obama is weak.
  • John Boehner is terribly weak as Speaker, always looking over his shoulder.
  • Nancy Pelosi was a fairly strong Speaker, but now has little influence.
  • In the Senate, Harry Reid radiates wimpishness,.
  • Minority leader Mitch McConnell is running scared of being primaried.

So there are no strong leaders, only weak persons in positions of leadership.

Second, all of these persons dislike each other.

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Slow-down Amidst the Shutdown

The anti-Obamacare folks are having a party pointing out problems with the healthcare.gov website. And they have a point. Never in the history of the internet has excessive traffic caused a brand new website, on its first day, to slow down or crash.

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Let’s Get It Over With

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From the stuck records file…. Every couple months, it seems, some financial deadline arises and we’re faced with a possible government shutdown, with accompanying apocalyptic handwringing. A bunch of Congressman on both sides of the aisle seem interested in doing this, and are fearless of the consequences.

You have some hardline conservatives who kinda campaigned on doing something like this, and would relish going back to their constituents with proven bravado. And you have Democrats who are 95% sure a shutdown would hurt Republicans, and are happy to unspool more rope. So while everyone says they don’t want a shutdown, I suspect a good number of Congressman secretly hope for one.

I think we ought to just do it. Shut the government down, and get it out of their systems.

As a side benefit, it’ll give the pundits endless hours of fun arguing about who “won” the shutdown. “It’s certainly not the American people,” they will all agree, while blaming whichever side they are not.

Then, after having finally played with this toy in their sandbox, maybe our leaders will say, “Okay, that was fun, but once is enough. Now let’s figure out how to responsibly govern this country.”

Although, that’s probably a bridge too far.

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Understanding Obamacare (without the Apocalyptic Naysayers)

You can demonize the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) all you want. But it’s now the law of the land, so we might as well try to understand it. That was the attitude in a recent article published in the AARP magazine, which outlined the benefits (at least to seniors) of Obamacare.

Your insurance may cost a little more under the Affordable Care Act, but it will also be much better and more extensive coverage than what you have now.

I decided to do additional research on the benefits of Obamacare. Most questions can be answered at HealthCare.gov, but there’s a gob of other helpful stuff out on the internet. Here’s what I found.

Starting in 2014, all insurance plans must cover these “essential services”:

  • Emergency services.
  • Hospitalization.
  • Maternity and newborn care.
  • Ambulatory services.
  • Prescription drugs.
  • Lab services.
  • Rehabilitative services and devices.
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services.
  • Preventive and wellness services.
  • Chronic disease management.
  • Pediatric oral and vision care.

The law places much attention on prevention and primary care to help people stay healthy and to manage chronic medical conditions before they become more complex and costly. Too many people, lacking insurance or money, put off getting medical help until things get really bad–and by then, it’s far more costly and difficult to treat. Prevention could drastically reduce the nation’s medical costs.

All plans must cover a range of 50 preventative services, with no co-pay, coinsurance, or deductibles required:

  • Various immunizations.
  • Prostate exams.
  • Free annual physicals for seniors.
  • Screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, colorectal cancer, diabetes, autism, breast and cervical cancer, and a number of other conditions.
  • Prenatal care is classified as a preventive service.

In addition, here are other aspects of Obamacare I found.

  • You have no annual or lifetime limits on how much insurers will pay. This will benefit people who require constant or expensive medical care because of an ongoing health condition (like children with congenital heart defects). This starts in 2014. No longer will people be forced into debt or bankruptcy because their coverage runs out.
  • You can’t be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
  • You can’t be dropped from your plan if you get sick. This already applies to children, and will apply to all adults starting in January 2014.
  • Your insurance company can no longer use an unintentional mistake or minor omission on an application to cancel your coverage. In the past, insurance companies have used such errors as excuses to cancel your coverage, declare your policy invalid from the day it started, and even make you pay back any money they spent for your medical care. However, insurance companies can still cancel your coverage if you deliberately provide false or incomplete information on your application, or if you don’t pay your premiums on time.
  • Health plans must spend at least 80 cents of every dollar on health care rather than on administrative costs (like outlandish bonuses and salaries to CEOs). If they spend too much on overhead, they must issue rebates to consumers each summer.
  • Health plans must let young adults remain as dependents on their parent’s policy until they turn 26, regardless of whether they live at home, attend school, or are married.
  • Starting September 23, 2012, all health plans must use a standardized form to summarize benefits and coverage, including information on co-payments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket limits.
  • Plans in the new Marketplace will be offered by private companies. All must offer a core set of essential health benefits. You’ll be able to compare various plans to your work plan. However, if you choose a Marketplace plan, your employer doesn’t need to make contributions to your premiums. Enrollment begins in October 2013, and Marketplace coverage starts as soon as January 2, 2014.
  • Childbirth and newborn infant care are covered (they are excluded in two-thirds of individual plans).
  • Children under age 19 can get their teeth cleaned twice a year, and receive fillings and medically necessary orthodontia.
  • Children can get an eye exam and one pair of glases or contact lenses every year.
  • There is a cap on annual out-of-pocket medical and drug expenses up to an estimated $6,400 for individuals and $12,800 for families.
  • Emergency room visits don’t require preauthorization. You can’t be charged extra for visiting an ER out of your network.
  • The plan must cover hospitalization, though you may have to pay 20% of the bill if you haven’t reached your out-of-pocket limit.
  • Small businesses with fewer than 50 fulltime employees are not required to offer health insurance and face no penalties.
  • Small businesses with 50 or fewer fulltimers can get insurance through health benefit exchanges — and some of the smallest ones may be eligible for tax credits. Small businesses with low-wage employees may decide against providing health insurance, and instead encourage workers to buy coverage on the exchanges.
  • If your business doesn’t offer insurance, you can go online to Healthcare.gov to find a health plan that works for you and your family. All plans will be listed, with comparisons, in one place.
  • If your workplace insurance plan is very expensive, you can check the online exchanges to see if you can get a more affordable plan.
  • $350 million is being invested to fight medical fraud.
  • No longer will women be charged more for insurance than men (because of reproductive services).
  • Because of the shortage of primary care doctors (the “family physician”), and because the ACA will require more of them, the health law has begun to fund training for more primary care doctors and has increased support for community health centers.
  • As of January 1, 2014, Americans who can afford coverage will be required to purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

Since 2003, the average premium for family coverage rose 80 percent — from $9,068 to $16,351. Without healthcare reform, costs would continue to skyrocket. As a result, fewer and fewer companies would offer health insurance, and an increasing number of low-income people would go without insurance. Whether the ACA is the answer–who knows? But something had to give. Obamacare certainly shows a lot of promise.

A report from the Rand Corp., released in August 2013, showed that fears about people having to pay a lot more under Obamacare are unfounded. The report says that firms employing fewer than 100 workers will pay almost 6 percent less in premiums in 2016. Nationally, the report said, average premiums for equal plans would cost $5,837 with Obamacare and $6,192 without it.

Medicare’s Board of Trustees says the Affordable Care Act will extend their solvency by 12 years, to 2029.

Each year about 40,000 people die prematurely because they lack health coverage. Many hundreds of thousands of people delay needed care and just try to get by. The ACA will put an end to that. Initially, because so many new people will gain coverage, there will probably be an extra large number of doctor visits, surgeries, etc., from people who have put it off. This, I understand, typically happens when a country begins national health care.

This year, medical costs will help bankrupt 650,000 American households — including many who thought they had decent insurance until diagnosed with a serious illness. Such bankruptcies will end (except, I imagine, in states which refuse to participate).

So that’s what I learned.

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The Day the Laughter Died

For many decades to come, every comedian will remember exactly where he was, and what he was doing, when he heard about the loss of BOTH Anthony Wiener and Elliott Spitzer.

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Ted Cruz for President

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So Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz, who is expected to run for President, was born in Canada–absolutely no doubt about it. But since his mom was an American citizen, the argument goes, he’s qualified to be president. Then we have Barack Obama, whose mom was an American citizen, and for whom no evidence exists that he was born anywhere but in the United States. But SOME right wing people–including the same ones who would vote for Ted Cruz–still insist Obama’s unqualified to be president.

About half of Republicans, according to surveys, insist Obama isn’t eligible to be president. They agree that his mother was American, but since (as they believe) Barack wasn’t born in America, he’s not eligible. By their own logic, Ted Cruz isn’t eligible either.

But nobody should expect logic from the Tea Party. It’s fun reading some of the articles on the internet in which Tea Party types try to explain away their own hypocrisy.

Amusingly, birthers seem to be changing their argument. What they REALLY objected to, they now say, has nothing to do with whether or not Obama was born on US soil. Instead, it’s about a massive conspiracy on Obama’s part to alter the facts about his birth, fabricate a birth certificate, etc.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

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There You Go Again with the Nazi Stuff

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It’s a given that pretty much anything the Obama administration does, and every word spoken, will get picked apart by FoxNews. Sometimes the reasoning is laughable. For instance, the mayor of Charlotte, who will soon become Obama’s Secretary of Transportation, issued city proclamations recognizing May 2 as both the National Day of Prayer and, for non-religious folks, as the Day of Reason.

Finding correlations to Nazis is a well-cultivated specialty of FoxNews, and Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America was more than happy to oblige. “You know the Age of Enlightenment and Reason gave way to moral relativism. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust.”

There you go–breaking news from Fox & Friends that the Obama Administration is, indeed, the Fourth Reich. When you think about it, setting aside one day as the Day of Reason is every bit as outrageous as the Holocaust. We should all be outraged.

Amanda Marcotte of Slate.com noted that without reading and writing, there would have been no Mein Kampf. And if Obama goes to an art gallery, he is honoring Hitler’s hobby of painting. I would add that we should outlaw science, since science produced the poison gas that Nazis used to kill Jews. And anyone who, like Hitler, has a mustache or is heterosexual or dates a blonde should also be suspected of being a Hitler lover. You can’t be too careful.

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Over-Rating Our Roots

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Let’s get back to the principles on which our country was founded!

Back in the days when our nation was founded, only white men who owned land could vote. That means rich white men with money controlled the political system, calling all the shots. Okay, that part hasn’t changed.

In our first presidential election in 1788, the only people the Founders decided could vote were…well, they were NOT women, NOT blacks, NOT poor white men, and in many states, NOT Catholics or Jews.

But then we got on a slippery slope away from the principles on which our country was founded.

Over time, some states abandoned the landowning requirement, thus enabling poor white men to vote. Religious restrictions were also lifted, thereby bringing Catholics and Jews to the voting booth.

When the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870, black Americans finally won the right to vote. Fortunately, in order to stick to our founding principles, True Patriots invented poll taxes, literacy laws, and other measures to keep black voters away. But it was only a matter of time before liberal judges undermined these well-intentioned efforts and cleared away any impediments to black men voting.

Four amendments later (19th), we gave women the right to vote. We had slid most of the way down the slope. Now all that remained was to give voting rights to pets, farm animals, and corporations.

When people romanticize the beliefs and practices of our Founding Fathers, and how we need to get back to our roots, I tend to groan. America evolves, mostly in good ways. The Founders got us off to a fabulous start, but they were fallible men locked in a particular period of time with its own peculiar sensibilities. Going back to our roots is, in many ways, going…well, BACKwards.

So thank you, guys, for launching the USS America. But I have no desire to return to the America of 1776. We’ve come a long way, mostly in the right direction. And somehow, I think you’d all agree.

I suspect that the Founders themselves would NOT want to return to those roots.

Besides, they wore wigs and stockings. Who wants to do that?

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