Friday, July 21, 2017

The question of Trump

The basic question about Trump is whether he conforms, or will conform, or try to conform, or pretend to conform, to the ideal that there is a public interest and there are private interests, and public officials are supposed to put the public interest ahead of their private interests.

After six months, Trump has made it clear that he does not conform, and he will not conform, or try or pretend to conform, to that ideal, and all that ultimately counts is Trump, the Trump name, the Trump persona, Trump power, and Trump glorification.

Trump does not even pretend otherwise.

Then there are the Republican #alsen candidates and the Alabama Republican delegation in Washington DC.

They don't care that Trump does not even pretend to put the "public interest" ahead of Trump.

Here's a test that should convince you about some things.

Say Trump could click his fingers and the Republican health care bill would pass. He would say, "this is a great bill," and, of course, it was passed because of him, and it proves he is a great President and can get things done.

Now say Trump could click his fingers, get Democrats elected in 2018, and get a single payer health care bill enacted in 2019. If Trump could do that, who of you out there thinks he would not do it?

Doing that would just as well allow Trump to say, and he would say, "this is a great law, it was passed because of me, and it proves I am a great President who can get things done."

That's what I think, Republican #alsen candidates. What do you think?

As you think about that, review my below tweets from yesterday, to which you gave no response.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Trump beauty contest

How do you think Roy Moore, Luther Strange and Mo Brooks stack up in the Trump beauty contest?








Saturday, July 15, 2017

Luther Strange and Swamp

Luther Strange's website says,
When Luther Strange was first elected as Alabama's Attorney General, he went to Montgomery as an outsider with one mission: fight corrupt insiders and special interests.

No one in Alabama history has done more to drain the swamp than Luther. He led a public corruption team that had over 25 convictions, including Republican Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, and has always remained committed to holding government at all levels accountable to Alabamians. Luther fought the Obama administration’s overreach all the way to the Supreme Court, defending Alabamians from big government intrusions by career politicians and bureaucrats.

Luther enjoyed many successes in the fight against Montgomery insiders. As senator, he’s ready to help President Donald Trump do the same in Washington.

Mo Brooks and Swamp

My Twitter charges yesterday that Alabamians are getting mealy mouthed palaver from the #alsen candidates about draining the swamp got about zero reaction. I would say the explanation for that is I don't matter and they don't need to react.

Be that as it may, there is more about the Washington Swamp to get into.

The talk about the Swamp is empty unless the #alsen candidates define what they mean by the Swamp.

I go along with Mo Brooks' definition on his website, which says:
President Trump was right when he called Washington, D.C. a swamp. Big-moneyed lobbyists and special interest groups peddle influence with corrupt elected officials. Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have refused to play their nefarious games. As your next Senator, I will fight to “Drain the Swamp” by standing up to the corruption and powerful special interests who bribe, bully, and threaten elected officials into doing their bidding.
To follow up on my suggestion from yesterday, why doesn't Mo Brooks name names? There are 535 members of Congress. Given how adamantly Mo Brooks defines what the Swamp is, surely Mo Brooks should be able to start naming names of who is bigly swampy and who is not.

If Mo Brooks is not willing to name names, he needs to explain why, if he is to be taken seriously about draining the swamp.

Then there is the matter of Donald Trump. With the burgeoning conflicts of interest presented by the Trump business, either that is evidence that Donald Trump is now a major part of the Swamp, or else Mo Brooks needs to explain why he thinks Donald Trump is not contributing bigly to making the Swamp swampier.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Washington swamp

[Edit 7/17: See also Mo Brooks and Swamp.]

Let's get into the Washington Swamp. Let's first let Judge Roy Moore speak.




And let's set out the linked article in full:

Political Anomaly: Judge Roy Moore Looks to Drain Alabama Senate Swamp

President Donald Trump, in all of his unconventional revelry, has inspired a number of politicians to take up the “drain the swamp” mantra. America’s political nightmare has gone on for far too long.

And rightfully so:The acceptable level of corruption in our nation’s governmental atmosphere has exceeded what many of us would have ever envisioned growing up. We once believed in senators and congressmen fighting for the rights of the American people, raging against a machine of political chicanery and malice. Instead of achieving that idealistic utopia, we have been subjected to ever-increasing levels of acceptable mayhem.

In Alabama, however, there is one politician who hopes to break the mold, and his name is Judge Roy Moore.

“Judge Roy Moore has the Republican Establishment in an uproar. His crime is having the audacity to be leading the polls in the race to replace Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who vacated the seat to become attorney general, over Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate, Luther Strange.

“Strange is the perfect McConnell acolyte. Strange is currently the un-elected senator from Alabama. The story of how he wrangled the Senate position is straight out of a Gulf Coast swamp. Strange was Alabama’s attorney general, and the governor at the time was the now-disgraced Robert Bentley.

“Otherwise known as Governor Love, Bentley carried on a love affair with political operative Rebekah Caldwell Mason, some 30 years his junior.

“Moore is best known for fighting unconstitutional orders to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court and the federal orders requiring Alabama to issue marriage licenses to lesbian women, gay men and transgender couples.

“A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a Vietnam War veteran, Moore is known as incorruptible, and that makes him persona non grata among Mitch McConnell’s Senate GOP caucus. Why, Moore has already said he wants to repeal Obamacare, and McConnell has been doing his best to rescue Obamacare all summer.”

What the nation needs now may be an army of Roy Moores.

The American people have long clamored for out-of-the-box politicians the likes of Moore, but the political machine has been thrifty in coughing them up. Between the lobbyists and the entrenched, status quo lawmakers of the nation, there has been little room for legitimate change among our country’s ruling elite. Judge Roy Moore is seeking to change that, and his quest should be applauded by every American, regardless of political allegiance
.

Here is what Luther Strange says on his website:
Fighting Corruption

When Luther Strange was first elected as Alabama's Attorney General, he went to Montgomery as an outsider with one mission: fight corrupt insiders and special interests.

No one in Alabama history has done more to drain the swamp than Luther. He led a public corruption team that had over 25 convictions, including Republican Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, and has always remained committed to holding government at all levels accountable to Alabamians. Luther fought the Obama administration’s overreach all the way to the Supreme Court, defending Alabamians from big government intrusions by career politicians and bureaucrats.

Luther enjoyed many successes in the fight against Montgomery insiders. As senator, he’s ready to help President Donald Trump do the same in Washington.


Here is what Mo Brooks says on his website
Drain the Swamp
FIGHTING WASHINGTON CORRUPTION
President Trump was right when he called Washington, D.C. a swamp. Big-moneyed lobbyists and special interest groups peddle influence with corrupt elected officials. Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have refused to play their nefarious games. As your next Senator, I will fight to “Drain the Swamp” by standing up to the corruption and powerful special interests who bribe, bully, and threaten elected officials into doing their bidding.


Mealy mouthed palaver from #alsen candidates
I think there will be only mealy mouthed palaver about draining the swamp. Here is my evidence and reasons:

First consider how lame the existing Alabama legislative delegation in Washington has been. 

Since November I have been badgering them with the likes of Priority questions for Alabama legislative delegation and Alabama legislative delegation lobbying ban positions. There has been no response, except Rep. Byrne expressed support for term limits.

If the Alabama legislative delegation was serious about draining the swamp, they could report to Alabamians how they think draining the swamp is going. They could make lists of the Senators and Representatives in Congress whom they believe willing to drain the swamp and those not willing to drain the swamp. These things will not happen because they know that draining the swamp will not happen. 

They could speak to Alabamians right now, and tell them draining the swamp is possible, and Alabama voters should take seriously what the #alsen candidates are saying. This is not going to happen because they know that draining the swamp will not happen.

The #alsen candidates could ask the Alabama legislative delegation to tell the Alabama voters to take seriously things about draining the swamp. That too is not going to happen, because no one believes the swamp will be drained.

Here are some tweets from today:



You draw your own conclusions about whether any of the #alsen candidates have any belief that swamp draining will take place. #ALSen candidates are invited to say to the contrary, and I will post what they say here.


Donald Trump is big part of the Swamp
A problem with swamp draining is that it is now fairly clear that Donald Trump doesn't really care about swamp draining and is now the biggest part of the swamp. This section will be expanded. For now, consider the below:




Statements from #alsen candidates about why Donald Trump is not part of Swamp
#ALSen candidates who do not think Donald Trump is a big part of Swamp have been asked to say why. Any statements will be posted below:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Professor Turley

For weeks I have been endeavoring to get a read on the election law prohibition against giving "substantial assistance" to a foreign government making contributions or expenditures to influence elections in the United States, whether Trump's asking Russia to interfere in the election without private meetings between Trump campaign personnel and Russians related to the Russian interference was required, and Department of Justice thinking about the same. I was not able to get a response from persons such as Jonathan Turley, Jeffrey Toobin and Alan Dershowitz. This is detailed at Bob Bauer.

On Tuesday Jonathan Turley published an article in The Hill giving his views on the Don Jr. situation after Don Jr. posted his email chain..
My main takeaway from the article is that there are significant First Amendment considerations in criminalizing the getting and sharing of information.

Yesterday, Jonathan Turley was on Morning Joe. He expressed his view that the greatest legal risk right now was whether persons had been truthful in prior statements to Congress, FBI, etc. Professor Turley repeated his First Amendment concerns about criminalizing the getting and sharing of information.

I continue interested in the Federal election law prohibitions, particularly taking into account First Amendment considerations.

I have read 11 CFR 110.20 - Prohibition on contributions, donations, expenditures, independent expenditures, and disbursements by foreign nationals (52 U.S.C. 30121, 36 U.S.C. 510) and have done a limited read of related regulations.

Professor Turley has come at the prohibitions from the contributions side and what is a "thing of value." It can also be approached from the side of the prohibitions on foreign governments making expenditures in U.S. elections and on persons providing "substantial assistance."

I have not found a definition of "expenditure." I have seen the use of the the term "expenditure" in the definition of independent expenditures that an independent expenditure is an expenditure for a communication "expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party or its agents." 11 CFR 100.16(a).

Honing in on First Amendment considerations, the Federal election law prohibits the Russian government from paying for the airing of campaign commercials on behalf of a candidate, and it does not seem that the Russian government has First Amendment rights which makes that prohibition unconstitutional.

Next consider the broadcaster. On its face, the broadcaster would seem to violate the "substantial assistance" prohibition if it knows the Russian government is paying for the commercials. The question, however, arises whether the broadcaster has First Amendment rights to air the commercials.

To answer this question, consideration might be given to the matter of classified information.  My understanding is there is no First Amendment right protecting someone in the government giving out classified information, and that act can be criminalized. At the same time, the news media is protected by the First Amendment in publishing the information.

Now turn back to the broadcaster which airs the Russian government's campaign commercials. If there is different treatment compared to the classified information situation, and the broadcaster can be prohibited from airing the commercials, there needs to a First Amendment "policy" explanation of the different treatment, presumably connected to different contexts of, in the one case, the Russian government trying to influence a U.S. election, and, in the other case, the matter being exclusively domestic parties involved.

Other situations involving the dissemination of information can be considered. Say a foreign government pays United States citizens to engage in door to door electioneering for a candidate, and the citizens know that it is a foreign government paying them. Further say that the candidate knows this is happening, and encourages the citizens to do what they are doing.

Say the foreign government has done "oppo" research and pays U.S. citizens to disseminate the same via the social media. Say the candidate knows this is happening, and encourages the citizens to do what they are doing.

Say a foreign government is illegally hacking information in the United States for the purpose of using the information to affect an election, and incurs expenses in doing the hacking and in disseminating the information via the social media or in other ways in the United States. Say a candidate knows that is happening and publicly encourages it.

In the above situations, the getting and sharing of information is involved. Professor Turley is right in having significant First Amendment concerns about any of the above situations being criminalized. It would seem, though, that there can be countervailing considerations so that the First Amendment does not insulate all the actions and activities in question, and "substantial assistance" to the foreign government can be prohibited.

If Robert Mueller is considering whether there have been Federal election law violations by Don Jr. and by the Trump campaign beyond just the Don Jr. meeting, it would seem he will need to do a lot of wrestling with Professor Turley's First Amendment considerations.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pressuring #ALSen on health care

[Draft for discussion purpose]

TWEET TO PRESSURE #ALSEN CANDIDATES ON HEALTH CARE 

TO: As many Alabamians as we can tweet to

We who are tweeting to you are Alabamians who are angered by the way Donald Trump and the Republicans are failing to do the right thing for the American people regarding health care.

Meeting the health care needs of the American people is one of the hardest problems the country faces. The costs involved are enormous. The problem grows with stupendous advances in medicine that improve the lives and health of untold tens of millions of Americans, because the advances are also stupendously expensive.

We Alabamians think that for more than 20 years Congress has, in its polarization between Republicans and Democrats, failed to confront the country's health care needs and their costs in a responsible and realistic way and failed to  reach a bipartisan agreement that Congress is able to propose for all Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike, to "buy into" and accept for the country, albeit that there will always be much complaint.

Both Obamacare and the Republican bills fail the test of bipartisan agreement.

We Alabamians wish to demand that all the candidates in the Alabama special election for the United States Senate expressly acknowledge the 20 year failure of Congress to reach bipartisan agreement and demand that the candidates have public discussions about what they believe can be a bipartisan agreement on health care. We Alabamians wish to tell any candidate who does not do the foregoing that we will not vote for that candidate.

We are sending thousands of tweets to Alabamians to ask them to join with us, and send even more thousands of tweets to other Alabamians, in order to express collectively the foregoing demand we Alabamians are making on all the candidates.

To join in with us, please follow Steps One and Two below.

Step One
Click on the link below to send a tweet that says, "Tweet to demand #alsen candidates discuss a bipartisan healthcare agreement. #alsenhealth http://al6thcongdist-ihaveuntiljan13.blogspot.com/2017/07/pressuring-alsen-on-health-care.html"  (After you click the link, you will see a preview of your tweet, and your tweet will not be sent until you click the "Tweet" button in the preview.)
Tweet here


Step Two
Send individual tweets to other Alabamians, which tweets have a link to this webpage. This will be to try to get recipients of tweets to come to this webpage, send their own tweet in Step One, and, after that, join in sending tweets to more Alabamans in this Step Two..The goal here to get a large number of "pyramiding" of tweets going.

A suggested tweet message to send in this Step Two is:
Tweet to demand candidates in AL Senate special election discuss a bipartisan healthcare agreement. http://al6thcongdist-ihaveuntiljan13.blogspot.com/2017/07/pressuring-alsen-on-health-care.html
Then you need to find follower lists of Twitter accounts in your geographic location that have a lot of followers. Below are examples of good Twitter follower lists to use for the Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile areas:
https://twitter.com/ALcomHuntsville/followers
https://twitter.com/GreaterShelby/followers
https://twitter.com/OTMJ_Life/followers
https://twitter.com/HomewoodHigh/followers
https://twitter.com/TrussTribune/followers
https://twitter.com/ALcomMobile/followers
https://twitter.com/MGMAdvertiser/followers

FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS FOR YOUR TWEETING
A. General
This tweeting involves a non-standard use of Twitter, namely, the sending of large numbers of individually directed tweets to followers of other Twitter accounts (not your own followers).
A ground has been staked out with Twitter for this method of tweeting. See letter to Twitter @Support.
The object of this method of tweeting is to get a "pyramiding" of tweets going in Alabama.

B. How to send your tweets efficiently from laptops
In doing your tweeting, you are repetitively sending the same tweet message. This can be done very efficiently, at least on a laptop computer. Get the tweet message on your mouse clipboard, go to the follower list  you are using for your tweeting, start with the first person on the list you want to tweet to, and do this:
1. Right click on person's Twitter name.
2. Choose "open in new tab"
3. Go to the new tab.
4. Click on the "Tweet to" button.
5. Paste the tweet message in the box.
6. Hit the "Tweet" button.
7. Close the tab, which takes you back to the list
8. Go on to next person, and repeat above steps.
You should be able to send 35 to 70 tweets in a half hour. Send as many tweets as you are willing to. Don't worry about any duplication that you think may arise.

C. How to send your tweets efficiently on smartphones
[to be added]

Monday, July 10, 2017

Roy Moore critique

I think it is the job the Alabama news media to critique the positions of the Senate candidates. I don't know if they have or will do so. Please furnish links to same, so I can post them here.

Pending hearing from the Alabama news media, I offer my own critique of Roy Moore's positions. To do this I have copied and pasted below his positions as stated on his website, and my critique (which is largely my own views) is set out in red at various places. Also, additional useful information about Roy Moore's positions is set out in this Alabama Reporter article, which I will refer to as the "Moseley Article".

Judge Roy Moore's Position on National Issues, 2017

[In doing this critique, I will indicate an underlying bias in my views. My bias is I think Congress is broken by hyperpartisan division between the two parties. I think the two parties' establishments, and lobbyists and one sided special interest groups in Washington DC, use the political division for preserving and growing their power and wealth. (I will use the term "iron triangle" to refer to the party establishments, the lobbyists and the one sided special interest groups.) A key for the iron triangle is keeping the citizens divided into perpetually warring Republicans and Democrats, and thereby disable the citizens from acting in a unified way against the iron triangle. The main weapon of the iron triangle is the high costs of elections and their access to funding that the citizens cannot fight (I call it the "money monster" in politics). The money monster needs corralling if the citizens are going to be properly served by their Congress and President.]  

Economy

Lower taxes, smaller government, and less spending will reduce the deficit and enable economic growth and a truly "stimulated" economy. [I believe the Federal debt has gotten out of control. I don't believe it can be gotten under control in the hyper partisan environment of two warring political parties which cannot talk to one another.]
I believe in the reduction of taxes at all levels, and a need to reform the tax system by studying and implementing a "flat tax" or a "fair tax," which is a tax on goods and services purchased instead of a tax on income. [The monstrous tax code services the iron triange for getting campaign contributions and other funding that businesses and others are compelled to contribute to fight for favorable treatment or avoid unfavorable treatment under the tax code. The hyperpartisanship must be ended before a satisfactorily simpler tax code can be achieved. There are arguments for and against a flat tax or a fair tax. Besides simplicity, it is, however, hard to know for sure how much benefit for the economy would be achieved.]
To paraphrase an old saying, the only two things in life that are certain are death and taxes, but the truth is we are being taxed to death while our businesses are failing and our economy continues to suffer. [There are other important factors besides taxes that bear on how businesses and our economy will do in the 21st century.]
We must return American manufacturing to our Country by rescinding unfair "free trade" agreements which have severely damaged our economy through loss of jobs and skill development. The phrase "Made in America" should mean something again. [The complications and uncertainties involved here are enormous, I doubt that there is a sure fire blueprint about what to do, and the United States is going to have to feel its way through the changing economy and changing job markets in a changing world.]
We should cut the deficit and balance the budget using accurate data unlike budget projections used by past administrations. [Congress has failed at prudence for 20 years or more. The iron triangle has undermined prudence.]

Constitution

As a former Judge and Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I know that the Constitution of the United States is the Supreme Law of the Land and all officials, state and federal, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial are bound thereby. All actions of state and federal officials must conform to the Constitution which should only be changed by amendments of the people, not decisions of activist judges. I support impeachment of judges and justices who knowingly and intentionally violate that principle.
Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances, States' Rights, and our Bill of Rights are integral parts of the Constitution which we must observe.

[The process of nominating and approving Supreme Court justices has become over-politicized. End the hyperpartisanship in Congress, and I think there will be more general acceptance of Supreme Court decisions.]

Immigration

We must stop the flow of illegal aliens across both our northern and southern borders. [I agree. Also Congress needs to address and agree on what should be done with the illegal immigrants who are in the country, which it has failed to do because of the iron triangle benefits from hyperpartisanship on immigration.] Open borders are a threat to our national security and to our economy. [I agree the country cannot have open borders.]
We must allow willing states (like Arizona) to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens, and use our own military to protect our border. If a wall is our only option, then we should build it immediately. [The iron triangle prevents reasonable solutions from being agreed to.]

Health Care

We do not need socialized medicine which will ultimately lead to loss of quality and affordability of heath care, as well as a loss of access to the latest medical technology. Obamacare should be completely repealed as soon as possible.
Businesses should receive tax credits for employee health care coverage, and health insurance should be available between the states for competition and quality care.
Churches and charitable organizations should be encouraged to help the needy and poor.

[I am unclear what Roy Moore ultimately wants on health care. In the Article, he says the Federal government should have no role in health care. A little bit contradictory, in the Moseley Article, it is reported Roy Moore questions McCarren-Ferguson, which he says has allowed states to impose undesirable restrictions on health insurance. In all events, I think Roy Moore is way off base in addressing how the country can best endeavor to satisfy the health care needs of its citizens. I have extensively set out my views, which can be accessed starting at Health care and the links there and also at Health care critique. Roy Moore evidences no inclination to engage in intelligent consideration of the immensely difficult issues surrounding health care. I hope that changes.]

Military

As a former military officer, Vietnam veteran, and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, I believe in a strong military defense, and I will be a vocal advocate for the men and women who now serve in the Armed Forces.
More funding should be available to develop a missile defense system and to provide our Navy, Air Force, Army, Marines, and Coast Guard with the most modern technology including weapon systems. [The military is a huge cost for the country. There is probably a ton of waste and pork. I have heard it said that the main division between Republicans and Democrats is over how much should be spent on the military versus use of funds for domestic purposes. If that division exists, I wish for it to be lessened.]
Homosexuality should be against military policy as was the law prior to Bill Clinton. [There are strong changing mores in United States society. I have no idea how much our military power is affected by homosexuality in the military.]
We should not be entangled in foreign wars merely at the whim and caprice of a President. [There have been problems in the exercise of the war powers clause by Congress. I am not sure what to do about this.]

Energy

To gain independence from foreign oil, we need to foster development of our own natural resources involving nuclear, solar, wind, and fossil fuels. Coal mining and oil drilling should be encouraged, subject only to reasonable regulations. [Most Democrats, Republicans and independents have similar interests in wanting the benefits of energy and in wanting to pass on a decent physical world to their descendants. The iron triangle foments hyperpartisan division on the issue and prevents reasonable accommodations that most Americans can find acceptable given the trade offs.]

Education

The federal government should not hamper the educational systems of the states as there is no authority for federal involvement under the Constitution.
Programs like "Common Core" should be eliminated, and the development of educational programs returned to the people under state authority.
Competition between the states and freedom of various educational structures should be available to parents who are charged with the responsibility to teach their children.
Charter schools, vouchers, tax credits, home schooling, Christian schools, and technical training should be encouraged.

[I am in favor of local control over education. Primary education in the United States suffers from numerous sources of impairment, of which teacher unions is one.]

Foreign Affairs

America should serve as a good example to other nations.
We must treat sovereign nations as we would want to be treated and stand with allies to protect and preserve our national security.
Respect for our strength is the best defense. "Walk softly and carry a big stick" is and should be our guide.
We should not be subject to UN control and direction and should not rely on, or support, UN treaties like LOST (Law of the Sea Treaty) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Such treaties only undermine our sovereignty as a nation, as does the very presence of the United Nations on our soil.
We must maintain a strong nuclear defense and not rely on nuclear reduction treaties which leave us vulnerable to foreign powers.

[I try to do an intelligent read of, say, a book like Richard Haas' recent The World in Disarray and see what I can believe the United States should do. The country needs to have a President, a State Department, and a Defense Department, staffed with thousands of experienced and knowledgeable persons in whom the country has trust to try to steer the United States through the 21st century.]

Family

As a husband, father, and grandfather, I know the importance of the future we leave to our posterity.
A strong family based on marriage between one man and one woman is and should remain our only guide and model. I oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, civil unions, and all other threats to the traditional family order.
Federal funding for Planned Parenthood or any form of abortion should be stopped.
We must remain a moral and virtuous people, "One Nation under God." I support freedom of worship and the recognition of that God upon Whom we have always relied in peace and war.

[I don't know how much inspiration can be provided by a United Senator for making Americans moral and virtuous. There are numerous other qualities that I believe are important for a United States Senator to have to serve his constituents well. Someone like Richard Shelby should comment on what he thinks would make for an excellent United States Senator from Alabama. I don't have a basis for an opinion of whether same sex marriages can or cannot provide for an equally strong family as a heterosexual marriage. I would like Roy Moore to explain more why he thinks the United States must outlaw abortion and why he cannot live with others being able to choose to have an abortion .]

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Referendum on Trump

I am advocating that the United States Senate election in Alabama be made a referendum on Donald Trump. See
Alabamians tweeting against Trump.

I have received the below tweet:
I have watched the video. I wish to use the video as a basis for discussion about Trump (pending something else coming to my attention which I think would be a better basis). The video is from February. I will ask David Horowitz whether he has any further views now that Trump has been in office for five months, which views I will post here.

I voted for Trump and then turned against him. My blog entry Trump Censure explains this based on the period of time until March 2017. There has been much more since February, just about all of which has made me more negative about Trump.

In connection with the forum this past Wednesday, I endeavored to pose a question to the candidates about where their level of confidence in Trump as President stood five months into his administration. I am not aware of any of the candidates answering the question. I continue to pose that question to the candidates.

Whether I will succeed in eliciting discussion from the candidates or from Alabama voters remains to be seen. Readers should feel free to post comments below or email me or send me links for inclusion in this discussion.

UPDATE 7/9
I believe Trump is about to be engulfed by the "in plain sight" Russia scandal, which has recently been laid out well by David Corn in his Mother Jones article We Already Know Trump Betrayed America. Trump has done everything he can to try to deflect from the "in plain sight" scandalous conduct of himself and his campaign regarding the Russia intervention and hacking in the election. The Russia cyberwar against the United States extends far beyond the country's democratic processes, including threats to critical infrastructure of the country such as the electrical grid, water systems and the financial system. Trump's scandal has put him in the ridiculous position of pussy footing around with Putin and Putin's denial of Russia interference in the election. Is Putin next going to deny any and all Russia cyberwar against the United States? In short, Trump's "in plain sight" scandal is spilling over and undermining the country's defense against Russia cyberwar against the United States. (See Bob Bauer for related discussion.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Health care critique

This blog entry will endeavor a critique of the health care positions of the Senate candidates. Those positions, per their websites, are set out at Candidates on health care.

It is the job of the Alabama news media to critique the positions of the candidates. I wish to post links here to critiquing that the news media does. Please call my attention to the same so that I can do that.

I have been posting my views about health care, which can be accessed starting at Health care and following the links there.

Pending hearing from the Alabama news media, I will do my own critique here. The critique will be in summary form (in some order of priority of importance in my mind).

FIRST, I contend that any candidate who does not ask, and try to answer, the question of "why does the United States spend so much more on health care than any other country?" should be judged as not meritorious to represent Alabama voters in the United States Senate. (For further discussion here, go to the blog entry Calhoun County.)

SECOND, after the candidates answer the FIRST question, the candidates need to revisit their stated positions on health care and decide whether they want to revise the same or not.

THIRD, after the candidates answer the FIRST question, and revise or do not revise their positions on health care, all of the same need evaluating and critiquing.

FOURTH, the case for the Republican health care bills suffers from great indefiniteness about (i) how much less money will be spent on health care (compared to the present). (ii) how much less health care, including people losing coverage, will result from less money being spent on health care, and (iii) how much savings can be achieved from purported greater efficiency in the delivery of health care. This indefiniteness is such that any predictions about the same could be off by 50% to 90% or more. A couple of particulars are deserving mention.
A. All predictions about the future suffer from uncertainty. If proponents of the Republican bills want to disregard CBO scoring because CBO scoring has been off in the past, they need to put forth their own scoring method and a persuasive argument why such scoring method is superior to the CBO scoring method (and hence CBO ought to change from its method of scoring to the method put forth by the proponents of the Republican bills). If that is not done, the predictions made by the Republicans should be considered more dubious than what the CBO says. 
B. The Republicans thus far are making only bald assertions about savings from greater efficiency in the delivery of health care, and there could be almost zero efficiency savings. Without much more buttressing, such assertions about efficiency should carry almost no weight. Take for example the contention that states can administer Medicaid more efficiently if Medicaid is turned over to the states. A contention like that needs to be backed up, such as by state Medicaid administrators giving detailed descriptions of current waste or inefficiencies and what they could and would do to lessen the same if control was turned over to the states.
C. The most strenuous contention the Republicans make is that their bills will lower premiums and deductibles, particularly as a result of competition in increasing plan choices, including allowing plans to be sold across state lines. No one doubts that it is possible to lower premiums and deductibles for some people, but the Republicans don't face up that, if premiums and deductibles go down for some, they will go up for others. Also, total premiums and deductibles can be lowered if total health care spending is reduced, such as by cutting back on "essential health benefits" or allowing life time caps. Here, the Republicans don't face up to the price of lower premiums and deductibles being less health care services. Basically, the Republicans want to contend they will lower premiums and lower deductibles for a reason not dependent on (i) lowering premiums for some and increasing them for others, or (ii) lessening the total health care that is provided, but from a third element of the effect of competition in free markets. This is a chimera as regards health care through insurance. I have set this out in the blog entry Calhoun County. Rand Paul has said more or less the same thing. See Health care symposium. I contend the Republicans are peddling snake oil here.
FIFTH: Tort reform related to health care, and reduction of drug prices, are ways to reduce health care spending. Candidates need to say whether they advocate tort reform related to health care, and whether they think voters should have any confidence that Congress is capable of passing such tort reform. Reducing drug prices would essentially be by means of governmental control, such as Medicare being allowed to negotiate drug prices. Reducing drug prices will tend to lessen the development of new drugs. Candidates need to state their views one way or the other about reducing drug prices via government control.

Edit 7/6
Questions for candidates at tonight's Christian Citizen Task Force bipartisan U.S. Senate Forum  at The Rock Family Worship Center at 2300 Memorial Pkwy SW in Huntsville, Alabama:

1. Are you aware of how much more the United States spends on health care than any other country? Why does the United States spend so much more on health care than any other country? How critical is it that health care reform endeavor to bring down such greater spending? What do you think health care reform should provide for to bring down such greater spending?

2. Rand Paul says markets and competition do not work for health care provided through insurance. Do you agree with Rand Paul? If you don't agree, explain why you think Rand Paul is wrong.

3. If you favor repealing Obamacare, are you in favor of simply returning to the situation before Obamacare with no new enactment? If you think there should be a new law, should the voters judge their Congress as doing its job properly or as doing its job poorly for the voters if Congress cannot agree on a new law before Obamacare is repealed and creates huge uncertainty for the country? If that is poor performance by Congress, do you think Congress needs to do some soul searching about the explanation for such poor performance and make recommendations to the voters for the improvement of its performance?

4. For Roy Moore: You say you are against socialized medicine. Do you consider Medicare socialized medicine? If so, what would you want done about Medicare?

5. Do you favor reducing drug prices via government control, such as empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices?

Edit 7/14 Terry Lathan
I offer the below tweet interchange with Terry Lathan, the Chairman of ALGOP, as supplementation of the above critique:







Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Candidates on health care

Brandon Moseley, for The Alabama Reporter, has reported that the Christian Citizen Task Force will host a bipartisan U.S. Senate Forum on Thursday, July 6 at The Rock Family Worship Center at 2300 Memorial Pkwy SW in Huntsville, Alabama.
A forum is fine, but the candidates ought to put on their websites everything they want voters to know or hear. Candidates can make videos of themselves stating their views and post those on their websites. There should be online places for voters to comment and ask questions. The Alabama news media should step forward and provide this. The dialogue should be ongoing and open 24/7. Specially qualified or interested parties should be drawn into the discussion.
Ultimately, the Alabama news media should do its job, critique the candidates and their positions, and stretch to purvey the same to Alabama voters.
To try to nudge things, posted below are the candidates statements about health care, copied and pasted from their websites.
Readers are invited to post comments below about the positions of the candidates.

Luther Strange
Repeal and Replace Obamacare
Obamacare is a total failure. Skyrocketing premiums and deductibles have made health care unaffordable and inaccessible. Alabama families have learned that having access to health care insurance is not at all the same as having access to quality health care. 
Luther Strange is already working with fellow conservatives in Congress to shape legislation to help President Trump keep his promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered reform, leading to lowered premiums and increased access.

Mo Brooks
I have voted 50+ times to repeal or defund ObamaCare in whole or in part, and I have cosponsored legislation that replaces ObamaCare with common sense health care solutions that are patient/doctor and free enterprise centered.

Recently in an act of support for President Trump, I voted for the American Health Care Act. While the plan falls short of the full ObamaCare repeal that I called for and believe in, a partial repeal does more good for working American families than no repeal at all.

The ObamaCare status quo is unacceptable, and I look forward to continuing toward a full repeal of the disastrous healthcare law.

Roy Moore
We do not need socialized medicine which will ultimately lead to loss of quality and affordability of heath care, as well as a loss of access to the latest medical technology. Obamacare should be completely repealed as soon as possible.

Businesses should receive tax credits for employee health care coverage, and health insurance should be available between the states for competition and quality care.

Churches and charitable organizations should be encouraged to help the needy and poor.

We do not need socialized medicine which will ultimately lead to loss of quality and affordability of heath care, as well as a loss of access to the latest medical technology. Obamacare should be completely repealed as soon as possible.

Randy Brinson
As a physician, Randy has seen first hand the destructive effects of Obamacare on patients, their families, doctors and hospitals.  He supports the complete repeal of Obamacare and replacing it with common-sense, truly affordable health care reform.  Since that doesn’t appear likely to happen in this Congressional session, Randy will be ready on his first day to introduce legislation that will reign in the bureaucratic overreach of Obamacare, allow market-based insurance plans to be sold across State lines, require Medicaid block grants to States to cover the indigent through competitive bidding, and restore the power to make healthcare decisions to patients and their doctors.
Dom Gentile
Citizens of this state are spending more in premiums, deductibles and out of pocket expenses, and it’s going to get worse.  Blue Cross Blue Shield is currently the defendant in a huge lawsuit (being heard in Birmingham) that alleges Blue Cross affiliates in different states conspired to limit competition in order to charge higher rates to subscribers and offer lower payments to medical providers. Google it and get all the details.  Alabamians have very limited choice for health insurance which leads to higher costs.  Real competition and consumers having the ability to choose among several strong providers will lower cost.  That’s economics 101.
In a press release dated June 5, 2017 I laid out my plan to introduce legislation that allows consumers who reside in a state where one single large insurer has over a 70% market share (Alabama is one of them, as BCBS has over a 90% share) to buy their insurance in the same way that Congress and their staffs do.  Want to hear the good news?  Currently that would allow consumers in Alabama to choose from 112 plan options split up between 4 large insurance companies.
I believe that what’s fair for Congress is fair for their constituents.  Alabama congressmen, congresswomen and senators in Washington are on a different program than you and I are, and that’s wrong.  I told you that I would fight for the regular people of our state, and I meant it.
For details of the plans you would have to choose from, look at www.dchealthlink.com.
Bryan Peeples
Part 1: Tort Reform Medical Act

Tort Reform Medical Act (TRMA) seeks to establish limitations where individuals can be awarded for medical malpractice suits based upon the severity of the suit. TRMA will cap settlements on wrongful cases against hospitals with many insurers refusing to cover hospitals and physicians. This scarcity along with skyrocketing costs is thought to be the result of numerous professional liability claims and lawsuits. In order to control cost TRMA seeks to deter the liability of future accidents. TRMA sets the system currently in place is expensive and inefficient in the compensation of those injured.
According to a 2004 study of medical malpractice costs, "program administration—defense and underwriting costs—accounts for approximately 60 percent of total malpractice costs, and only 50 percent of total malpractice costs are returned to patients. These costs are high even when compared with other tort-based systems, such as automobile litigation or airplane crashes, that determine fault and compensate victims. Moreover, most patients that receive negligent care never receive any compensation. The Harvard Medical Practice Study found that only one malpractice claim was filed for every eight negligent medical injuries." Of the legal changes proposed by tort reformers, this study found that states capping payouts and restricting non-economic damages saw an average decrease of 17.1% in malpractice insurance premiums. However, more recent research provided by the insurance industry to the publication Medical Liability Monitor indicated that medical malpractice insurance rates had declined for four straight years. The decrease was seen in both states that had enacted tort reform and in states that had not, leading actuaries familiar with the data to suggest that patient safety and risk management campaigns had had a more significant effect. Similarly, Klick/Stratman (2005) found that capping economic damages saw an increase in doctors per capita.

Part 2: Health Insurance Reform

With Health Insurance Reform (HIR) must tear down the walls of limitation on the ability of health insurers to sell the services across state lines.  By allowing more competition into the market the cost of health insurance services and premiums will decrease. HIR will repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and allow the insurance companies to set plans to replace those set by ACA within an 18 month time frame. Once the repeal takes place access to purchase ACA plans will be halted and a termination date 18 months from set date ACA plans will expire. 12 months from termination date insurance companies will receive a list of all individuals on ACA plans. Six (6) months before ACA expires individuals and families will receive list of companies plans and rates for services to agree and roll into. ACA expiration date will terminate service associated with program and plans chosen by individuals or families will take affect. HIR will institute regulation preventing insurance companies from denying services to those with preexisting conditions. Preexisting conditions are set by an independent medical community and must maintain the standards set by independent medical counsel. HIR will also set channels for purchase into larger insurance community groups though nonprofit and for profit organizations. Individuals who do not want to purchase insurance coverage have the ability to deny services presented to them.

Part 3: Medical Services Reform

Medical Services Reform Act (MSRA) seeks to set limitations on medical faculties percentage of cost of services to align with the federal inflation rate.  MSRA seeks to regulate the consumer cost against the federal inflation rate to ensure medical services cost are affordable for all citizens. MSRA seeks to regulate all facilities performing medical services treat indigent citizens. MSRA seeks bring cost of Medicaid and Medicare funding in line with inflation rates to prevent over or under funding of services provided by medical facilities.

Part 4: Prescription Drug Reform

Prescription Drug Reform Act (PDRA) seeks to lower the cost of patients on name brand and generic prescription drugs by placing limited regulation on the pharmaceutical industry on terms to bring products to market. PDRA seeks to prevent pharmaceutical companies from advertising to public consumers and limit marketing to physicians exclusively. Currently the patent hold on pharmaceuticals is set at 20 years before expiration. PDRA seeks to decrease patent length from 20 years to five (5) years to bring viable generic pharmaceuticals to market. PDRA seeks to limit the percentage increase insurance carriers can implement on name brand pharmaceuticals when patients choses or needs name brand over generic options. PDRA seeks to prohibit insurance carriers from preventing coverage of cost associated with name brand pharmaceuticals and must cover when option is weighed. PDRA seeks to allow patient to access pharmaceutical products that are FDA approved from Canada and Mexico without prejudice or punitive repercussions when option(s) are available at a lower cost.

I support quality, affordable health care for every American. I realize the complexity of the issue and remain open to innovative solutions. But I am concerned that the political climate is hurting more than helping, especially for folks living in Alabama.
Washington is Hurting Americans by Playing Partisan Politics with Our Healthcare
The plan passed by the Republican House is a cheap political trick – playing partisan politics and leaving 23 million more people without real healthcare options. It was “negotiated” behind closed doors among factions in the Republican Party without the benefit of the advice of experts and stakeholders that deliver healthcare services. Now the Republican-controlled Senate is doing the exact same thing. Congress must operate with more openness and transparency
If we really want to make life better for Americans (and Alabamians) let’s talk about what we keep and what we change in the ACA.
  • I will work to defend Medicare and Medicaid,
  • I will ensure young people can stay on their family plan,
  • I will prevent discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions,
  • I will ensure veterans get the care and benefits they’ve earned.
Congress must continue to take a critical look at healthcare reform, but anything that gets my support must pass four tests:
  • All Americans deserve the right to quality, affordable healthcare.
  • No American should be unable to make ends meet from out-of-control medical bills.
  • Pre-existing conditions should never be a reason to deny care or make care unaffordable.
  • Preventative care should be a foundation of our health care system. It is inefficient and dangerous for Americans to rely on the emergency room to treat preventable illness.
I think these principles are critical to the many plans and options that will unfold. The ACA was not intended to be the final word on healthcare – but the improvements should strive toward universal coverage.
We are all shaped by our own experiences – especially when it comes to the complications of healthcare. As I campaign for the Senate today; my priority is still my family.
My parents are now in need of more substantial care than a few years ago. We are navigating the complex world of multiple specialists, lack of capacity, and skyrocketing costs. My folks were modest, hard-working people. Healthcare costs are eating away their modest savings and we are working with both Medicare and Medicaid to see that they get the care they need. I truly understand firsthand the frustrations many have with our system.
Women’s Health:
I reject the war on Planned Parenthood as another Washington-centered partisan game. I will defend women’s access to contraception and a woman’s right to choose and fight any legislation or executive action that would allow insurance companies to discriminate against women.
Will Boyd
  • Support and introduce legislation that helps fill the healthcare/Medicaid coverage gap that exists for women in Alabama
  • Support a health care program affordable to all
  • Work to lower prescription drug costs in the United States
  • Improve and protect Medicare and Medicaid
  • Promote medical malpractice reform
  • Support establishment of minimum nurse staffing ratios and prohibit “mandated overtime” in order to ensure safe patient care
  • Work to address “mandated overtime” legislation similar to the Hospital Licensing Act for airline pilots, bus drivers and train conductors—ultimately ensuring safety of those traveling by air, road and rail
  • Work with the Offices of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use the bargaining power of 40 million Medicare beneficiaries to negotiate better drug prices while also providing beneficiaries with an option to obtain drug coverage directly from Medicare rather than a private plan
  • Support repeal of the 45 percent “trigger” which creates a fund warning and ultimately requires that cuts be made to Medicare as well as unfairly place the burden of Medicare on working people in lower income brackets
  • Repeal the income test for Medicare Part B premiums as such income testing undermines the principal of social security as seniors have already paid into Medicare based on their payroll taxes and should not be subjected to increasing premiums
  • Protect Social Security’s guaranteed benefits while also promoting individual investment accounts
  • Oppose any efforts to increase the retirement age
  • Support legislation which allows retirement anytime between 62 and full retirement age with early benefits reduced each month before full retirement age as outlined by the Social Security Administration
  • Oppose privatization of Social Security (I believe benefits should continue to be governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 which protects the rights of employment benefit plan recipients and their beneficiaries.)
Michael Hansen
Why do we spend more money than any other advanced economy in the world on health care for mediocre outcomes? It's time to get healthcare off the backs of employers and implement a truly universal health care system that guarantees coverage for everyone as a right of citizenship in a modern, civilized society. Additionally, I trust women and their doctors to make healthcare decisions that are best for them and their families.

Jason Fisher
Every Alabamian deserves access to high-quality healthcare at an affordable price.  We cannot afford to go back to a time when the insurance companies discriminate based on a pre-existing condition or charge unreasonable premiums to a vulnerable population. We must also hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for keeping the price of their drugs to a reasonable level to ensure the public good is never sacrificed in exchange for larger corporate profits.  A healthcare system that leaves large populations uninsured is not just morally reprehensible, it also is fundamentally flawed economic policy.  By improving policy coverage and incentivizing new insurers to enter underserved markets, we can further reduce personal bankruptcies, medical costs and premiums, and provide more effective patient care for better health outcomes.
Corporations and businesses can play a vital role in adjusting health care policy, cost, and outcomes.  Moving beyond the traditional wellness program, tax incentives should be available to business and corporations that invest directly in their employee’s well-being through common-sense strategies, providing health options to the employee at their job.  Employers should be encouraged and rewarded for offering employee benefits that include having on-site fitness centers and programs for employee use, on-site registered childcare to give parents of pre-kindergarten children affordable options and convenience, employer mandated lunch breaks for salaried employees and additional paid flex-time to reduce stress, offering healthy food options in employee cafeterias or break rooms, company-sponsored health education classes that focus on increasing awareness of nutrition and preventative disease, and instituting company policies aimed at avoiding work-related stress and fatigue.
These programs will benefit the employer’s bottom line beyond the tax incentives by reducing employee turnover and lowering health care costs through realizing better health outcomes.  These programs also benefit the employee through reduced stress, better nutrition, and increased time and convenience to exercise.