Monday, November 3, 2014

The Historical Impact of the 2014 Mid-term Elections, or Lack of it

Every election is important and the media over-uses the term "historic" for most of them, but just how important is THIS mid-term election?  What will change on November 5th, 2014?  C2 says, "not much".  Sure, it's an exercise of freedom and responsibility by good citizens to give notice to our elected officials on where we'd like the country to go, and in spite of all the cynicism, scandal and money that corrupts the system, we can only change this by being involved, engaged and using our votes. Your vote may not be the most important, but if you don't use it, it will be the least important.

Why does C2 have such a cynical view, that this election will likely not move the needle for either party in terms of power, and more importantly, the ability to implement policies in the interest of the country?  Here are our reasons, Constant Reader:

First, due to the gerrymandering of House districts since 2010 90% of the seats in the "People's Chamber" are safe.  This means that the most liberal and conservative of members have no reason to modify their stances on any issue because their districts are so ideologically, ethnically and religiously homogeneous.  As long as they stick to the script, they are fine - no need to moderate their views to the national interest - they may lose their jobs!  We leave changing the House to the inevitable march of time and the generational and migrational trends we have spoke so often about.

The real battle for influence is the Senate, as everyone who can read or watch TV knows by now. Bottom line: even if the GOP wins the Senate the victory will be Pyrrhic as they well know.  Time has run out.  They should have captured the Senate in 2010 and 2012 if not for Tea Party candidates that were so out of touch with modern American culture that C2 wonders if the GOP hadn't invented a time machine back to the 1948, where communists were around every corner, contraceptive devices were illegal, and women and ethnic minorities "knew their place".  Redefining rape for the sake of harsher regulations on abortion was the last straw for this site. It was the effort to legalize forced vaginal probings for sonograms that temporarily moved C2 from a left-of-center blog to a full-on liberal rant, outraged at the notion of state-sponsored rape - and act of coercion by those wanting a theocracy rather than a republic.

We give credit to establishment Republicans for taking control of their party, first by finally passing a budget last year, and then following through to defeat every Tea Party candidate for Senate during the primaries.  This ensured that the most target-rich environment the GOP will have for the next six years had solid candidates who focused on the problems with Barack Obama's second term, instead of crackpot discussions on "legitimate rape" or whether a woman's body could conceive during a "legitimate rape".  

Democrats could not count on gifts like that this year, and their own candidates received more scrutiny, looking desperate in many Red States - turning out to be political cowards by running away from the leader of the party - but accepting the money he raised from them just the same and looking exactly like the caricature politicians we despise.  They don't understand that mid-terms are not about moderate politics - independents just don't vote in mid-terms unless their is an over-riding issues like the Iraq War or Obamacare.  

However, if Democrats maintain control of the Senate, C2 actually thinks it will be a waste of two more years, as all the people who have given us a state political gridlock will still be in power.  And if the GOP wins, well, "the people who have given us a state political gridlock will still be in power".  The only thing that may happen, in a politically interesting and positive sense, will be a recognition by the GOP establishment that they have a small window of two years that will show the American people, and younger folks and minorities who will control the next election in 2016 that they can rule responsibly.  

This means passing a budget on time with NO government shutdowns, and most importantly, passage of major legislation addressing a long-standing issue with the president that benefits the country as a whole.  C2 thinks there are two pieces of meaningful legislation that can be worked on with a president looking to salvage his legacy: tax reform (even if it's only corporate tax reform) and immigration.  Passing another bill to end Obamacare will just look silly and more of the same - making those 20-some GOP-held senate seats in 2016 even more threatened because they lay in Democratic territory - yep - two years, Republicans. Use the power or lose the power in very quick fashion.  Look like statesmen and women rather than politicians and you may even give your 2016 standard-bearer a chance against the near-coronation of Hillary Clinton.  Another hearing on Benghazi or the IRS will be tempting too - but ending the state of limbo for 12 million people, and their legalized families, just may be earn you some street cred with Latinos as well.  We are not optimistic, but hopeful.  

Finally, there are 36 gubernatorial races tomorrow as well.  Only Wisconsin and Florida really matter: the former will make or break the presidential aspirations of Governor Walker; the latter will tilt Florida even more to the left and validate those trends I spoke about if Former Governor Crist wins.  If Governor Scott keeps the keys to the governor's mansion, the GOP will retain a significant power base for 2016.  Neither candidate is what the people deserve, however.  

I'd like to talk about Michigan and Governor Snyder, but he makes me too angry.  We approved of the Detroit bankruptcy and for the most part the future looks good for my former home, but his under-handed dealings concerning non-government unions and teachers unions, as well as the vote on Tesla just make us ill.  

All that said, and in truth, C2 has been waiting for 2016 since December of 2012 having predicted much of the last two years, sadly.  Go and vote today, Constant Reader.  Get the best you can out of your leaders despite everything.  We'll take baby steps if we must.

Remember these people as well when you vote, or when you don't,
because elections do have consequences.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola and Good Government

The Ebola scare is yet another example of the lax attitude by the government toward any concern by the average American.  Sure, there is little likelihood the  Joe Citizen will contract the deadly virus, but we like our government to assure us we'll be OK, and they must - must - look competent and in charge.  Competence doesn't mean telling American just what we what we want to hear either.  It means making sure we know the truth of the thing and that Common Sense rules.

Fear, fear and more fear - you little
@@#$@!  We'll get you, you virus!
The actions by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in dealing with the first victim of Ebola in the United States, and communicating the realities of the virus and our ability to fight it within our borders to us, did not meet the high level of competence we expect from public officials.  After a string of government-related scandals and media hype over the past few years, it's become a tiring and distracting circumstance   Numerous mistakes were made:

1) not sending expert personnel to Dallas immediately to ensure proper care of Mr. Duncan - however, the local authorities should have requested help and readily accepted the notion they were out of their depth.  Both the hospital and the CDC should have considered moving the patient to one of the five regional CDC hospitals that have both the experienced personnel and technology to care for such a patient.  Sending Mr. Duncan home after he had told ER personnel he was from Liberia borderlines on the reckless or even negligent;

2) assuming and blaming the first American to contract the disease within our borders, a nurse treating the now-deceased Thomas Duncan, for not following protocol before looking at the protocol itself.  It is a knee-jerk bureaucratic response to blame the individual rather than admit a systemic or procedural problem;

3) not communicating those protocols (now in question themselves) to local hospitals in a forceful and meaningful way - a lengthy email is not enough - this may have more to do with budget constraints than competence.  Remember those austerity cuts to the budget over the past few years? Budget decisions have real-life ramifications - the next time your member of Congress rails about cutting the budget to reduce the deficit ask them what items they plan to cut - and arbitrary across-the-board cutting is not a way to do it either;
A dose of Common Sense =
a pound of cure

4) telling the second nurse it was OK to travel - although the individual is partly to blame on this (we know our bodies and she of all people should have taken an extra dose of caution whether she knew the other nurse was sick or not); remember Mr. Duncan (God, rest his soul) didn't think he was sick either even though he was directly in contact with someone who was ill in Liberia. 

Here at C2 we don't go for calling on department heads to quit every time their is a misstep.  It was a first time experience to deal with a victim of the virus who, should have taken a dose of caution and stayed in Liberia until he was sure he wasn't sick, but individuals have different levels of both experience and education - that's why we employ experts to help all of us.  We envision this kind of situation in an episode of a television dram, but nobody thinks it will actually happen until it does. 

Not fired, just moved to treating the flu -
which will kill more people this year than
That's why C2 doesn't go for firing officials as a knee-jerk reaction.  The way we evaluate these officials is how they respond to being wrong - do they acknowledge the wrong and work to be better, like CDC Director Tom Frieden did do, or act like former Secret Service Director Julia Pierson before members of Congress - confrontational, defensive and dismissive?  This should be our base criteria before we get the torches and march to city hall.

So where to do we go from here?  Well there have been a number of good decisions made in the last couple days, moving both of the patients from Dallas to CDC regional centers being the best move of all.  Texas Health Presbyterian was obviously not prepared for the situation and was slow to get up to speed and now, one would expect, is overwhelmed with the idea of any more Ebola victims. 

At a different level, there is confirmation that an additional four thousand reserves from the 101st Airborne to compliment the three hundred already deployed West Africa.  During the congressional hearings yesterday we were glad to hear they would be using the protocols developed by Doctors Without Borders, who have yet to lose a single healthcare worker to Ebola in the midst of thousands of cases. 

Other proposals such as a travel ban and appointing an Ebola Czar to handle the issue are more controversial and political in our opinion.  A travel ban would not be perfect and in fact may worsen the situation by driving victims of the virus (and they are victims rather than some sort of enemy to be defended from), underground and away from acknowledging to officials they may be sick.  As well, it creates problems and complicates getting help to the countries affected in the form of economic and humanitarian assistance.

Confirming a Surgeon General would be
a better idea.  Klain is a political manager
and Ebola is now a political issue.
Probably a good choice.
A Czar is a curious idea in that we are missing a Surgeon General that oversees the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, and other related agencies in the first place.  C2 would like to ask why the Senate hasn't even voted on the White Houses' nominee a year after his nomination.  A Surgeon General would have been the face of this issue rather than Director Frieden, who would have been free to do is J-O-B rather than fielding questions from a media that is out of control on every issue these days.  Let's vote on the Surgeon General, first, then see if need yet another un-elected official to oversea a temporary problem.

Please note that throughout this post C2 has never used the word "crisis".  Crisis is well over-used these days.  We have an education crisis, a healthcare crisis, a drug crisis, a crisis of confidence - it goes on and on.  Websters dictionary defines crisis this way: a critical event or point of decision where, if not handled appropriately or in a timely manner may lead to a catastrophe or disaster.  We don't see an imminent disaster in the offing here in the United States but Africa is a different question - there is a crisis there, and the next time we see a Facebook posting about cutting aid to foreign countries we need to think about ISIS and our need for allies in the region to fight them over there, and as well, to fight Ebola...over there.

Finally, today is twenty-three days after Mr. Duncan was known to have the disease.   Where is the good news that the people who were quarantined due to having contact with him have no more worry of contracting the disease?  Where is the reporting of good news?  C2 is thinking of creating it's own news service that will responsibly report not only on what creates concerns, but also news that alleviates those concerns - or a resolution of those concerns.  By the way, remember Kobani?  I encourage the Constant Reader to Google the international news concerning Kobani and remember that the last news reports we heard in the United States were of it's impending fall to ISIS.  

Thank you for your precious time.  If you like what you read - share it.  If not, I'll try harder next time.