Monday, July 27, 2009

Please Mr. President Helpe Me Understand

I begin my remarks with the clear understanding that you are only six months into your administration but as you and Congress move towards your summer vacation I think it is a good time to ask my question.

As way of background, I have four young sons. Young in the sense that last year they were voting in either their first or only second presidential election. All of them took particular interest in following your campaign. Each spoke strongly on why you were the clear better choice for the job of president. They heard your message of hope and change and believed that it meant something. In all honesty, I heard your message and chose the other candidate but you are the President now and we have to deal with the man in office.

So, I ask you Mr. President, with all due respect, why you appear to be working so hard to disappoint my children who thought you would represent hope and change?

Let's review:

First there was the desperate need to pass the Stimulus Package by February 14th or the world would come to an end. You left self proclaimed important matter totally in the hands of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. What we got was not clearly not a stimulus package but pent-up demand for financing all the liberal Democratic ideas with little or no stimulus. In fact as of recently, there has been only tens of billions spent in stimulus with the remaining spread out over the next year and a half. Why the rush? Would not your leadership have turned this into more stimulus earlier when it is needed? Wouldn't this have been a time to engage the Republicans as you promised?

Then came the rush to Cap N Trade. Again, little time for thoughtful debate or public input. Again, you delegated the complex details to the team of Pelosi and Reid. Again, we have what is now being characterized as a poorly thought through plan with little or not thought to the consequences of the legislature.

You have shown that words matter. People listen to you when you speak because you speak well. So, we know that words have meaning to you and how have you used this power. Well, you ended the Global War on Terror ... instead we now have "Overseas Contingency Operations". We have form your OMB Director on February 26th ... "the budget shows the combined cost of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and any other overseas contingency operations that may be necessary". Your assistant secretary of the Air Force told Congress ... "key battlefield monetary incentives has allowed the Air Force to meet the demands of overseas contingency operations even as requirements continue to grow". So, you change the language as if the issues are now different.

You promised to close Gitmo. Again, your bold public promise with no thought to how it would be done and who would pay for it. So far, your friends in Congress have said no. No money and your not moving those people to my district. Your friends in Europe and Asia have also said for all practical purposes no. Oh they might take one or two but you have several hundreds to deal with and no place to send them. Again, promises without thought.

Health Care is of course the latest demonstration that indirect incomplete speeches are your stock in trade. You speak loudly of the need for reform and yet no where do you or your representatives present specifics of any meaningful reform. You promised in your campaign that legislature would have a 48 to 72 hour reading period before being voted on. You promised that important legislature would have meaningful public input. You promised that you would listen to voices that disagreed with you. The House voted on an 1,100 page proposal with only a few hours of advance notice ... no reading time. The CBO did not have time to score the proposal but again Nancy Pelosi wanted to meet your arbitrary deadline so promises be forgotten.

You tell seniors don't worry their Medicare coverage will be okay. The tens of billions in cuts will not effect their coverage. Who will effect? Oh, the doctors who now must see many patients providing small amounts of time and according to you prescribing unnecessary tests will not receive less money per patient and be penalized for prescribing tests. So can you explain in simple terms how this will improve medical care? You belittle the health care industry for unnecessary procedures and inefficient services and what do you offer? Better computer records is your primary answer. Now electronic medical records are nice but the complete answer ... I think not. You go to Cleveland Medical Clinic to tell the world that they are a shining example of how things should be. Yet, they are not a teaching facility like many hospitals. They are a place where doctors are not in practice for themselves but all employees of one big organization. Is this your goal? If so, please state it clearly and do not hide your intentions.

The CBO Director has read through the legislature being proposed. His analysis says it will not reduce costs as you said it would. His analysis says it will not be revenue neutral as you said it would. In fact his analysis says it will increase medical care costs and cost almost $300 Billion more over the next 10 years. Your answer when questioned about this disparity ... "I don't agree with his assessment". You provide no details, no support ... just "I don't agree".

You label those who agree with you as "stakeholders" and those who disagree as "special interests". You claim the Republicans are road blocks, yet you, Pelosi and Reid do not engage them in conversation. Do you have a Richard Nixon enemies list?

Mr. President, you are the President of the entire United States. People voted for you on the belief that you are a smart man who would do things differently. The hope was that you would lead the country into a new, better day. We acknowledge that you started with a terrible economic situation, two wars and a world that really does not like us. What have you given us? You have delegated leadership to highly partisan Congressional officials. You have done as you promised and pushed extremely liberal legislature but that agenda seems to be afraid of meaningful hearings. The process does not allowed time to think through the consequences.

I acknowledge that this presentation does not cover every step you have made and then only domestic issues. Your foreign policy is not so wonderful ... is there a country you have not apologized to except our allies?

When you come back from your vacation Mr. President, will be there be time for thoughtful legislature. We will get time to read proposals? Will there be time for time for intelligent debate? Will you listen to and take into account dissenting opinions? Mr. President will you talk in specifics and not more generalities? You are the President and not the candidate. Mr. President you can not be all things to all people, you need to stand for something. You need to lead and not delegate that leadership. Only a handful of the nation voted for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, more than 50% of the nation voted for you.

Mr. President, I implore you ... do not make my sons sorry they voted for you.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Health Finances

From the Washington Post:
As bills to expand health-care coverage take shape in Congress, criticism has intensified because of their potential costs.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that the proposals fall short of Obama's promise to slow the increase in health-care costs, leading critics to charge that those bills would only add to the nation's large budget deficits.

"That's simply not true," Obama said yesterday.

Reform is expected to cost at least $1 trillion over the next decade, and Obama has pledged to pay for it without adding to the nation's budget deficit.

So, what we have is ... well Obama trying hard to be just like Bush ... promises ... smoke and mirrors on finance ... trust me it will all be better later.

Seems the President wants to count the annual required cut in payments to doctors under the Medicare / Medicaid rules. This savings will make the numbers balance. Problem is that this cut has not only never been done but in fact it more often than not results in a slight increase.

So, the President wants a cut that never takes place to pay for a bill that will come due.

And we wonder why people are becoming disenchanted with "hope and change"?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Balance Is Important

It is important to have balance. One needs to understand that decisions are not made in a vacuum. There are no absolutes but some things are right and some things are wrong. Some things you should yell and scream about, shout from the roof tops that you have identified something as wrong. Before you over react, consider whether what you have observed is worthy of being angry about. You do not have to agree with all of the actions you observe. There should be balance. Some actions might be worthy of comment. Some of them might be so minor as to be allowed to pass in the night without comment.

Choosing which actions you become angry about is in fact a measure of the kind of person you are. The kinds of fights you pick reflect your stature. Do you pick fights over minor things? Well you may be just a person of low level, such a person whose character can not rise above the trivial. On the other hand, is it the major, substantial issue that you attack with all your might, the ones that keep you up at night?

We measure our politicians by this kind of yard stick. What are their issues and how do they attack them? Who do they choose as advisors or close confidents? Are they men and women of stature or yes people who can barely see over the street curb when trying to observe any issue?

When we vote, it is with hope. We vote for one or the other because we hope that the one we are casting our precious vote for will be a person of stature, will be able to see the big picture, understand that leadership is about directing actions toward major goals and picking the important issues. As our leader, he/she should speak out strongly on the important issues and walk softly where the issues are not so clear.

Our President is demonstrating that his choices of what are critical and require loud statements from his bully pulpit may in fact miss the mark on so many levels.

Recent choices:

Iraqi dissidents risk their lives to protest a fixed election. Seventeen people are killed publicly protesting. Put aside that all candidates have to have the stamp of approval of the Supreme Religious Leader, there was still the need to fix the election. Our President first says who cares who wins, then I will not get involved, finally I will give the protesters a big hug.

North Korea sanctioned by the United (toothless) Nations for working on building a nuclear bomb and selling weapons to terrorists. The United Nations authorizes the boarding of North Korean ships at sea to insure that sanctions are being complied with. The USA has a warship in place to stop and search one of those North Korean transports. The President declares we will take a pass. Action might mean we would have to take a stand which might be controversial to the dictator club.

But with these and a substantial domestic economic crisis in progress what does our President choose to make a major issue. He identifies the one single issue that stands in the way of world peace and total happiness for all. The issue … Israeli settlements. If only Israel would stop building settlements, stop building for internal family growth, if only all the settlements would go away then the Palestinians would make peace, the Arab would make peace, everyone would love the United States, the President could win the Nobel Peace Prize and be declared the all time best.

What stands in the way of the President’s number one priority? Who knows?

It seems that the President ignores just the facts. The Palestinians only want a one state solution … and no Israel in that picture. The Arab countries that have made “peace” with Israel have no real form of peace. People do not have any meaningful relationship. Egyptians do not vacation in Israel and vice versa. Jordanians want no part of Israel. There was no peace before there were settlements and their will be no peace if Israel changes its settlement policy.

Unfortunately, the President does not read history.

Could someone send him a history book?

It Is Hard

It is hard, as David Bromberg once wrote. It is hard because it is daily in your face. Pick an issue. It does not change the fact that it is hard. Pick your head up look around, read, listen and it is hard to be positive, hard to look to the future and believe that based upon the current trajectory that tomorrow will better. It is not as if you wake up in the morning, wash your face off and say to that face … so, I guess this will be another day on the path towards the worst of days.

As a reader of science fiction, which so many of you of my readers laugh at, has a major advantage. You scoff, I know you do. You smirk at that old man watching his worthless future world nonsense. The books such silliness, imagine going into that section of Barnes and Noble. Its good that you all like to see things blow up combined with scantily clad females needing cue cards to remember their lines otherwise we hardly see the same movies. TV shows, well there was the X-Files phase, but otherwise chuckle … chuckle.

Anyone ever ask why? Why watch, Buffy or Stargate or Star Trek or now Merlin? Why read about vampires or future histories of mankind thousands of years in the future? Well look at the alternative.

Obama did this or that and moved us closer to becoming a true second class nation. If he apologizes to two more dictators he gets a free set of steak knives for apologizing to a full dozen or more in less than seven months in office. Democratic Congress not seeing a spending bill that did not excite them used to make fun of Bush for his $500 Billion annual deficits, now show him to be a piker with their $1 to $1.5 Trillion dollar deficits for at least the next seven to ten years. Obama moves along the path of selling Israel down the tubes to make nice to Arab dictators. Let’s not forget the Democratic plans to save the environment. The lofty goals have nice deadlines like 2030 or 2050 subject to extensions. Combine those wonderful goals with the penalties to be imposed on any country that is in love with stopping climate change, well they will not be able to do business with America. Those bad companies will have to settle doing business with China and its 1.5 Billion or India and its 1.0 Billion. Maybe they will decide to change their ways to do business with the 300 Million of the USA except by then we will be so bankrupt that we will not have any money to buy much.

Now, it may not be that bad. One can only hope.

So, I read and watch science fiction. Why, because to be classified as science fiction, it must have a positive ending. I long for a positive ending