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When a Doctor Became Sick

First Published: May 11, 2017
Minor correction: May 11, 2017
Shortlink: http://wp.me/piQ2P-eY

I can’t get this incident out of my head. Maybe writing about it will free me. Thirty or so years ago, I saw a Dermatologist who was recovering from a major heart attack. He made a point of telling me how shocked and displeased he was that being treated for an illness like that was so expensive. That’s the bare memory. Here are some thoughts and comments.

I can’t remember exactly when this was; I think it must have been in the early 1980s. Ronald Reagan was probably the president. Obamacare wasn’t even a dream and neither was the failed Clinton health care plan, known officially as the Health Security Act and unofficially nicknamed “Hillarycare”. If you encountered a major illness in those days, there were several options. You could have been virtuous  enough to have accumulated enough money to pay the bill. You could be an older person, as I am now, and rely on Medicare. You could have been prudent enough to have employment which provided a solid health care policy, as was my situation then. (Insurance did not actually guarantee coverage because many policies, especially those purchased privately by individuals, precluded payment for “prior conditions”.) You could, after having depleted whatever resources you had, apply for public assistance. You could go bankrupt after running up a big bill. You could consider dying.

Recently, after a lot of debate and maneuvering, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act or AHCA, intended to “repeal and replace” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or ACA, often referred to as failed Obamacare. In 2009, before Obamacare became law, I wrote in a blog post that 50 million people were said to lack health insurance. Various numbers have been cited for the number who gained coverage under Obamacare, but I never saw one as high as 50 million. It has been claimed that 20 million would lose coverage if the ACHA in its present form becomes law. It is difficult to be sure exactly what the effect of this law would be. (Who knew health care is so complicated?) The bill now moves to the Senate. Some folks believe the Senate should and will act quickly to pass the bill as sent over by the House; some do not; quite a few Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, say the Senate will perform its own deliberations, wait for some numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, and produce its own bill, necessitating a process to reconcile the House and Senate versions. Douglas Turner, one of my favored columnists suggests this will take until July. Meanwhile, insurance companies are presently required to submit their ACA based plans and rates for 2018 by early June. Maybe that deadline will change. It’s possible that, as a result of the delay and confusion, many insurance companies will bail out, driving a stake through the heart of the already flailing Obamacare.

There is currently and has been a lot of discussion and debate about all this. How good is the AHCA? How bad is the ACA?

As I’ve already noted, it’s difficult to say with certainty, but it does appear that the AHCA, as passed by the House,  does save money and make conservatives happy by restricting benefits.

Many opponents of Obamacare say that it just costs too much money and is responsible for the massive increases we’ve been seeing in health care costs. (It is well established that we spend more and receive less than most so-called “advanced” countries. President Trump is reported to have recently told the Australian  Prime Minister the Aussie plan, single payer and government managed, is better than ours. He did also say that our system will soon be greatly improved.) I am not going to claim that the ACA is not responsible for any increase in costs. I do claim that it is not the only factor.  A recent People’s Pharmacy Column claims that a powerful drug lobby is responsible for costs as high as $750,000.00 per year for some so-called “orphan drugs”. Drug and medical pricing is clearly an area where the workings of the market do not match the supply and demand laws explained in economics textbooks. Elisabeth Rosenthal’s recent book, An American Sickness, casts a lot of blame on unethical and even dishonest practices by doctors and hospitals.

When I asked a conservative Facebook friend and debating partner to provide some backing for his claim that Obamacare has increased medical costs, he sent me links to a couple pages. An article on the US Chamber of Commerce site states that “Obamacare’s Devastating Medical Device Tax Killed 28,000 Jobs”.  “The tax went into effect in 2013 but was suspended in December 2015.” The chart accompanying the article indicates that the number of Medtech jobs did indeed drop in 2014 and picked up a bit in 2015. It does not show numbers for 2016. I did a little searching and found nothing. The article does not claim this caused an increase in medical expenditures. An article in Forbes states, “The ‘Cadillac Tax’ Will Drive Healthcare Costs Higher For The Middle Class.” Here are a couple quotes. “This excise tax was intended to encourage employers to eliminate overly rich healthcare benefits that could lead to excessive, inappropriate utilization of healthcare services and unnecessary healthcare spending. In addition, the revenue from the tax was to serve as a funding source for a portion of the ACA’s insurance subsidies.” “Instead of impacting unnecessary care, the Cadillac tax as currently structured will increase hardship for a growing number of Americans with severe and chronic illnesses. And its salutatory impact on healthcare spending will be minimal at best.” It appears the tax does create additional expenses for some individuals, but the article doesn’t show or claim it increases our overall health care costs. Then they go on to address the shocking increase in the costs of medications. They do not claim the ACA has caused this; they do criticize it for failing to control these outrageous costs.  Neither of these has convinced me that Obama and Obamacare are responsible for the cost increases we’ve seen in recent years.

It can be claimed that by providing more people with more access to health care, the ACA has increased the demand for medical services and supplies with the result that costs have gone up. The counter claim would be that when people see a doctor sooner, they obtain preventative care sooner and don’t end up in expensive emergency rooms and hospitals. I have yet to see any solid numbers about this. If anyone has them, please share them with me.

I’d like to be able to provide a detailed and accurate analysis of this, but I’ve yet to figure out how to do a thorough job of research. (I repeat myself. Who knew health care is so complicated?) It remains disturbing to hear people say that we who consider our country one of the best and richest cannot afford to provide all of the populace with solid health care.

Many conservatives oppose universal health care and government involvement on philosophical and moral grounds. Some say that providing health care should and must be a function of the private sector, not of the government. I can agree that the government should only be involved in things that cannot be done efficiently and effectively by the private sector. I’ve already noted that supply and demand don’t seem to work well in providing health care. It makes perfect business sense for an insurance company to charge extra or deny coverage for preexisting conditions. It also makes perfect business sense for a pharmaceutical company to charge as much as the market will bear.  Show me a way to provide affordable health care for everyone without government intervention and I’m all for it.

Others decry affording “handouts” to those who have not been prudent and hard working enough to be able to take care of themselves.  Handouts? Well. While I’m not a big practitioner of many of the details of religions, I am a great fan of Christianity as professed by Pope Francis. In the encyclical, Laudato Si, he essentially says that since we are all connected, we should take better care of each other and our common home. I want to make a point of adding something here. In accord with Catholic teaching on social justice, he mentions two principles: the first is that all people deserve the opportunity to express their human dignity by earning a decent living; the second is that those who, for whatever reason, have become unable to help themselves must be helped. (In a recent Ted talk, Francis referred to the story of the Good Samaritan.)

Part of the problem is that we keep framing this as a discussion about providing insurance when we should be talking about providing health care. At this point, I think I’ve rambled on long enough. If you are still with me, thanks for listening.

©Charlie Wertz May 2017

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After the Inauguration – week 4 1/2 – the beat goes on

First Published: February 22, 2017

Minor edit: February 26, 2017

I’m a little slow getting this one out; life intervened. This time, my approach will be different from that of the three previous blog entries: Week One, Week Two, and Week Three. Even though the volume of new events has slowed down some, I’ve given up on the foolish notion that I can keep up with everything that has happened since the inauguration; I’ll continue to say I have to admire President Trump’s energy and stamina. In this post I’m addressing some major things that have happened recently and offering some of my thoughts about what’s going on. If you are interested (and for my own future reference), here is Politico’s report on the first twenty-eight days. Politico is probably not among the most friendly to Trump, but they do seem to have made an attempt to be balanced and the list appears to be fairly complete. Wow! It’s a long list. Regarding my thoughts, try to realize that while most probably label me as a liberal, I am closer to the center than many people realize. I know people who would almost say no Republican ever has or ever will come up with anything good; I also know people who would say no Democrat ever has or ever will come up with anything good; I’m sure I am not like that; while I probably do lean to the left, I’ve been trying to give Trump a chance; he is, after all, the president and likely will be the president for four or eight more years.

Here’s an example of the kind of thing that can get me beat up from both sides. I know from experience that managers of corporations often ignore details and tend to behave like lemmings. I also know they tend to focus on short term results that boost the company’s stock and make them look good. One result of this has been a rush to move work offshore whether or not it makes sense while overlooking details regarding logistics, cultural differences, and so on. Therefore, I believe the “America First!” jawboning, does some good by causing some managers to think twice about following the herd. At the same time, I realize it will be very difficult and disruptive to untangle some of the complex manufacturing relationships we’ve gotten ourselves into. I also believe some foreign trade is beneficial and in today’s world we can’t cut ourselves off from everyone else. There was a time years ago when the oceans protected us and made fortress America workable; modern transportation and communication have eliminated these as natural barriers.  So, while there is some sense to things the president has said, some of it is just plain unworkable. Additionally, we are being told over and over again that jobs have been stolen by other countries. They haven’t all been stolen; many have just plain evaporated. Since 2010 or so, United States manufacturing output has increased by 20% while manufacturing employment has increased by 5%; this is largely the result of automation; this is a world wide phenomenon; it’s not just happening in the United States. If any new jobs have resulted from automation, they are very different from the ones that have vanished; the folks who have been hurt will not fill the new jobs without heavy duty reeducation. It’s a cruel hoax to tell them we’re going to fix everything by beating up managers and locking out foreign competition.

Here is another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot. One of several ways the United States is divided is over how Trump is doing as president. I think it’s safe to say that those who like him think he is doing fine while those who don’t like him think he’s doing a poor job. The exact numbers vary over time and depend on whose poll you choose to believe. Here is a long read about polling from Nate Silver, a guy who is considered an expert on this. If you don’t care to plow through the whole thing, just realize there are a lots of ins and outs to the polling business and they all affect the outcome. You can’t just pick the poll that gives the results you like. Since there very definitely is error in any polling process I’m going to interpret the results I’ve seen as saying the result is somewhere around fifty-fifty. Significant Trump events this past week have been a press conference and a rally. (He seems to have begun running for reelection in 2020>) I haven’t watched any of the videos of the rally; I did watch the entire press conference on February 16 (video here). Commentaries I’ve seen suggest that folks who get their news directly from President Trump, from social media, and from talk radio tend to think things are going great and ask why the so-called main media are so critical, while those who rely on newspapers and network news feel things are not going well.

Trump fans and the president himself remain extremely critical of the media. He recently tweeted, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing , , , , ) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” When I look at the news: I examine the tone of the whole publication including what they do and do not report; I look at the style of the particular piece – whether it appears to be factual reporting or an attack; then, I decide what credibility to afford it and how to interpret it. The press, in general, often does not separate opinion from reporting very well and right now tends to go into a feeding frenzy when it sees something that can make Trump look bad. Do you think his attacks give them a warm feeling about him? On the other hand, I think the major publications do a reasonable job of reporting what has happened and people who ignore it do not know what is happening. The Trump fans either don’t realize or don’t care that he, himself has a tendency to be fast and loose with the truth. I think sometimes he is just careless and other times he intends to mislead.

In the recent news conference, and in a recent tweet, Trump said, “Don’t believe the main stream (fake news) media.The White House is running VERY WELL. I inherited a MESS and am in the process of fixing it.” Does anyone remember what a mess Obama inherited from Bush? We were close to a true depression. While we might well lament that things haven’t improved more, here is a link to 10 charts reflecting economic changes under Obama; they include job growth, unemployment, economic growth, median household income, the stock market, use of food stamps, US manufacturing, home prices, gas prices, and government debt. If you accept that the first year or two of the Obama administration suffered from a carry over from the mess that began during the Bush administration, you will see that with the exception of the level of national debt things have improved; Obama did pass on a better economy than he received. Also during the recent press conference, Trump stated his electoral college victory was the greatest ever; this was incorrect. The litany can go on and on; these are just samples. It’s true that most politicians stretch the truth, but what we’ve been seeing is extreme.

This next business is more difficult to sort out; it may be two-sided. During the recent campaign rally, Trump made a reference to an event that had occurred in Sweden the night before; as best as anyone can tell, there had been no event. When called on this he then cited a Fox story about crime in Sweden and tweeted, “Give the public a break – The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!“.  I’ve now looked at a Glenn Beck video regarding crime and rape in Sweden along with a variety of discussions in the media and I’ve scoured a number of web sites for Swedish crime statistics. The problem is that most of the data is always behind the times; statistics are readily available through 2015 but not for 2016. These do not seem to show a significant uptick in crime, including rape. I did find some preliminary data for 2016: here and here. The official version being in Swedish, I have to accept the Local’s report. We see that “reported” crimes decreased from 2014 to 2015, then increased in 2016. The result is that the 2016 numbers look higher when compared to 2015 but not when compared to 2014. Where does all this leave us? I think the jury may still be out. Sweden is a small country; they have taken in a proportionally large number of refugees; it’s hard to believe there have been no problems. Glenn Beck, in my opinion, is on the extreme right and has an ax to grind. It’s puzzling that the press has had so little to say about this and a bit disturbing that they seem to accept the older statistics without comment or question. You draw your own conclusions. For now, I’ll go with the idea that there are problems but nowhere near as many as some folks would like me to believe.

You are probably getting the impression that Trump is not my favorite president. I have to admit this is true. My primary reason is probably his manner and the way he refers to his opponents and enemies. For some time now, he’s been referring to Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas. I can appreciate why he and most Republican politicians probably hate her, but the idea that this is intended as an insult to her is itself insulting and demeaning to Native Americans. She should wear this intended insult as a badge of honor. The mockery of disabled reporter Serge F. Kovaleski — who has a congenital joint condition called arthrogryposis that limits flexibility in his arms – was bad. Trump subsequently said he wasn’t mocking, was actually doing an impression of Kovaleski “groveling. This is another place where I could go on and on; I’ll let it drop for now.

Let’s switch gears and give Trump a compliment here. His style of speaking is very effective. He uses simple and clear statements. He is excellent at repeating for emphasis. Other politicians and leaders would do well to emulate him.

Michael Flynn’s resignation was one of the big events of the past week. The exact details are unclear. Well, they vary according to who you care to believe. It seems well accepted that he was asked to resign by Trump. Trump says this is because his behavior in deceiving the Vice President was unacceptable. It also appears likely that Mr. Flynn did have multiple conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak, before and after Mr. Trump’s November victory. (My source is the allegedly deceitful New York Times.) It has been claimed but has not been authenticated that Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador before he had official status; this, if true, was illegal. Trump, while complaining about the information having been leaked, also said it was false. We may never know for sure. Excuse me for not being willing to accept Trump’s word on this.

We have been expecting the next salvo in Trump’s war with the courts and immigrants plus refugees plus visitors from several predominantly Muslim immigrants in the form of one or more better crafted executive orders to appear. On February 21, DHS issued two memos calling for more aggressive action on deportation of illegal immigrants. With the exception of the so-called dreamers exempted by the DACA act, immigration officials now have much more authority to deport illegals and are encouraged to do so. The memos are lengthy and detailed, If you care to, you can read them here and here; I haven’t done this yet. The commentaries that are floating around in various media indicate they do most, if not all, of the things Trump said he would do. Some things, like building the wall, and hiring many many ICE agents will require cooperation from Congress. The emphasis is on deporting illegals who have been charged with crimes. Millions may be affected. There are likely to be impacts on the economy. Will US citizens rush to fill the jobs the immigrants have “stolen”? Will there be more automation of farm work? Will there be disruptions? Will prices go up? Eventually, we’ll know.

One or more actions regarding refugees and folks from those predominantly Muslim countries seem imminent. It’s expected this will be another shot at the same things that are in the previous orders; we’ll see. I’ll probably be writing about this next time. As an aside, we do have a lot of refugees and immigrants in Western New York State. They have mostly settled in the city of Buffalo. While handling many students who are not native English speakers is a problem for the schools, we have not heard of the sort of problems said to exist in Sweden. The violence that has been reported was mostly cases of locals preying on the newcomers. Immigrants have been rehabilitating neighborhoods and houses that had been going down hill.

A lot more has happened since my last blog post, but I’m going to take it easy on you and me. I am hoping that things will soon have slow down a little and I’ll be able to produce more coherent discussions. Adios until then.

©Charlie Wertz February 2017

After the Inauguration – Week 3 (I can’t keep up!)

First published: February 11, 2017.
Very light edit: February 13, 2017.

Last week, I posted After the Inauguration – Week Two. The title for today says a lot. I honestly can’t keep up with everything that’s been happening; I continue to admire POTUS’ energy and stamina; this post may be more readable because I will do more summarizing and whack you with less detail; I will also offer some humble opinions. I hope that at some future date I will be able to look back at these blog posts and think about how we got to wherever we happen to end up. I am still pressed for time and am not organizing and editing as well as I would like to. Those who know me are aware I definitely tend to lean towards the liberal side. This and the economics major I pursued years ago lead me to question a number of Mr. Trump’s policies, but I am at the same time trying very hard to – as my very conservative friend, Dave, asks me to – give Trump a chance. As much as I, like most people, don’t like to be wrong, I will be very pleased if it turns out that I am wrong right now and the next several years work out well.

Let;s begin by noting a speech Marco Rubio recently gave on the Senate floor. Essentially, as the Washington Post reported, he very forcefully made a plea for civility in the Senate, and warned that if civilized debate dies in the Senate, it will die in the broader society too; he also noted how important this is stating, “I don’t know of a civilization in the history of the world that’s been able to solve its problems when half the people in a country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country.” I, too, have been lamenting the deterioration of the quality of discourse in nearly every venue.

This week’s readings from the Roman Catholic 3 year cycle included Matthew 5:17-37.  The sentences that really strike me are, “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.” That’s pretty strong, isn’t it? How many “so-called” Christians are listening.

Meanwhile, our president seems to be at war with the courts, the press, roughly half of Congress, and anyone who disagrees with or criticizes him.

During the past week, words like this have been going around: Donald Trump ‘surprised he cannot run the US government like his businesses’, aides reveal. If it is at all accurate, this isn’t really a big surprise; many business people who move on into government have this experience. We’ve seen it close at hand here in Erie County, NY and also in the small town of Chaffee, NY. Follow the link if you’d like to read more; I will add one quote. “But, Mr Ruddy added, ‘I think if he’s demonstrated anything in his life, he is a very fast learner and adapts very quickly. The man is not to be underestimated.’” I hope our president will begin to realize that he should be leading us to come together and attacks on his perceived enemies may not be the way to do it.

Another article, from BusinessInsider, Inside Trump’s hectic, but lonely, first weeks in the White House, says that, right now, he has an odd sort of life in the White House without his family. Here’s one interesting quote from this one. “Calls often come in to Trump’s personal cellphone, which he fought staff and his security team to keep. Rather than hold lengthy conversations on the unsecured line, Trump often calls people back on other lines, sometimes going through the White House switchboard.” There has been some controversy over the use of the personal cell phone. It is said that all of the infamous Tweets come from it. If there is more fuss about this, could it conceivably become as big as the famous email controversy?

He is being criticized for lack of attention to detail. In business it’s a commonly accepted truism that reports intended for top management must be short and sweet. Anyone who exists at the top of a large enterprise could not possibly absorb all the details and would go crazy in the attempt. The obvious answer is for the person in charge to rely on trusted and talented subordinates. The jury isn’t in yet on whether or not he can do this well.

Another big story for the week has been his Executive Order temporarily restricting entry to the US by refugees and people from several predominately Muslim countries. There are numerous cases regarding this working their way through the courts; in the best known of these, a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order citing the need for deeper study and an appeals court has denied the governments suit for relief of this order.

Trump’s tweeted response was, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” He had previously tweeted, “If the U.S. does not win this case as it so obviously should, we can never have the security and safety to which we are entitled. Politics!”, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” and several other things. (There is some disagreement as to how the new SCOTUS appointment sees all this.  This will probably come up during his Senate hearings.) It is said the government is now considering its next steps; they include appealing to the short-handed Supreme Court and issuing a new order.

One of the government’s arguments is that POTUS is privy to intelligence unavailable to others and should not be questioned or hampered by the courts. I wonder if it could have been possible to take the court into some sort of closed executive session, swear the judges to secrecy on pain of prosecution for treason, and tell them more – crazy idea, I suppose. There is a big and serious question here regarding how powerful the president is and whether of not the courts (or Congress) can limit his actions; our three branch system is intended to provide checks and balances. If this would get to the Supreme Court and if the court would tie 4 -4 owing to the famous empty seat, this issue will not be resolved and we’ll be seeing more things like this. Finally, in my opinion, this order – and I assume it was written by someone other that Mr. Trump – could have been thought out more and written better. It could also have been presented and marketed better; the details of what probably seemed like a no-brainer to POTUS have turned out to be devilish indeed. (Ah well, what do I know?)

Here is what I have previously posted to Facebook regarding the refugee problem. “I don’t really claim to know a great answer to this. I do know that masses of people are on the move; many of these folks are hard working, decent, and solid citizens who have had their lives uprooted by evil. It is very difficult for any country to absorb a mass of folks from a very different culture. It’s ridiculous to think we could go into places like Syria and set up effective safe zones. It’s unjust to do nothing. What’s the answer? The only thing I can think of is that we should be working with whatever friends we have left to do something to help them. Is that another crazy, impractical idea?”

The wall and the whole illegal immigrant question also received more attention. One pair of tweets. “I am reading that the great border WALL will cost more than the government originally thought, but I have not gotten involved in the….” “…design or negotiations yet. When I do, just like with the F-35 FighterJet or the Air Force One Program, price will come WAY DOWN!” Details. Details.

I remain skeptical of the wall. I also know people involved in agriculture and other businesses in the Southwest  rely heavily on illegals to get their work done. It is said we Americans will not work for the low wages they receive. I suspect we will see more automation and higher prices. A recent interview with the Mayor of Yuma, Arizona, just popped up on my Facebook feed. He seems to be saying the wall near Yuma has helped. He also seems to be saying we need better processes for allowing Mexicans to enter and work in the United States. I wonder how it’s going to work out.

During the past week, there have been reports of actions by the immigration authorities: arresting and deporting illegals. In one case a woman who has been here for 20 years and was guilty of using a false Social Security number to gain employment has been separated from her husband and children and returned to Mexico. Yes, she was here illegally. Yes, she committed a crime. But, wow! Let’s see, 20 years ago – if Bill Clinton had done a better job, she either would not have been here or would have had a better defined status. Maybe we can blame George W or Obama for doing such a poor job. I expect we will be hearing about more of this sort of thing.

There have been squabbles worth mentioning about Trump’s relationships with Enrique Peña Nieto, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, and others. Our future does depend on how these things come out. I also haven’t dealt with many other things that have happened. At the same time, this post is getting much too long.

Adios until next time.

© 2017 Charlie Wertz

 

After the Inauguration – Week Two

First Published: February 5, 2017.

A lot of momentous things are happening.

In last week’s post, After the Inauguration, I made a somewhat futile attempt to keep up with the first week of Donald J. Trump’s presidency. You may care to look at it if you haven’t already done so. There was just so much I couldn’t do it justice. The second week has been, if anything , busier; I’m finding it impossible to keep up. I have noted elsewhere that I definitely have to admire Trump’s energy and stamina. This week, I’ll settle for noting and commenting a little on things that strike me as important. Be forewarned that the following relatively superficial review is long and somewhat mind numbing; it is also, once again, not as carefully crafted or organized as I would like; maybe things will slow to a stampede soon and I’ll find time to reflect more carefully and even revisit some of this.  While I’m really doing this to help myself think, I’ve decided to put it all where the world could look at it if the world cared to.

The final section of this post consists of a very long listing of Executive Actions and Memoranda.  I am preceding this with some opinions and other things. I’d actually be surprised if very many folks plow through the entire business, but you should at least scan the list to get an idea of the magnitude of what has been going on.

The big news of the moment has to do with the EXECUTIVE ORDER: PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES. Overnight, an appeals court denied the Department of Justice’s request to restore the Trump administration’s immigration order. You can read more from Reuters if you care to. I’m sure there will be more news about this breaking very soon.

[Of course I have some comments. Where do I start? It might be appropriate to note that today, February 5, 2017, the first reading for the Roman Catholic Mass was Isaiah 58:7-10 regarding sheltering the homeless and feeding the hungry. This was scheduled a long time ago; it was not a response to current events. Right now masses of people are on the move. Many decent, hard working, and respectable people have had their lives torn apart. There are surely some bad apples in the crowd. Protecting ourselves is like finding needles in haystacks; what we’ve tried to do with this order is wall off the entire haystacks while we try to figure out what to do. In the process, we’ve angered a lot of the world along with roughly half of the US population and possibly turned many potential allies into enemies. It is very difficult to be sure what we should be doing, but perhaps the President could have sought and heeded better advice before acting.]

As a part of this drama, we see POTUS firing the holdover Attorney General, Sally Yates, for refusing to enforce the Immigration order. [It is interesting to note that, during her confirmation hearings, her presumptive replacement, Senator Jeff Sessions questioned whether or not she would stand up to a President – Barack Obama at that time – who asked her to do something she deemed improper. That was then; this is now.]

Today, a statement from Speaker Ryan regarding the first regulation repeal going to President Trump’s desk popped up in my Twitter feed. This repeals the Department of the Interiors Stream Protection Rule. This rule requires coal companies to monitor and, if necessary, remediate pollution of streams caused by mining activities. [The argument is that this rule reduces employment by putting an unnecessary burden on coal mining companies. Does this regulation go too far? I don’t know. Is it a good idea to keep on top of what mining activities do to the environment? Knowing a little history, I’m sure it is. Maybe the bill should reduce the burden, but it probably should not just repeal the rule.] This is touted as just the beginning of the elimination of “unnecessary” and “restrictive” regulations.

[Near Buffalo, NY, there’s a place named Lackawanna that was once the home to a large Bethlehem Steel works employing thousands. I can remember looking towards Lackawanna from a spot in the hills to the southwest and seeing nothing but a massive red cloud. I can also remember a couple times when I considered applying for a job there. Once, I parked my car, started towards the employment office, looked around, took a deep breath, and decided I’d look elsewhere. Many people came up with health problems as a result of living or working in Lackawanna. Now, the air pollution is gone and so are the jobs. Reuse of the land now requires removal of toxic waste. Could there be a way to keep jobs and eliminate pollution at the same time? That’s surely a topic worthy of a lot of thought.]

We will be hearing a lot more about the nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.  Yesterday, Vice President Pence Tweeted, “This SCOTUS seat doesn’t belong to any party, ideology, or interest group. It belongs to the American people–and Americans deserve a vote.”  [This is true now, but it wasn’t true last year when Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland. Gorsuch does appear well qualified; so did Garland. In both cases, one might question alignment on the liberal/conservative scale. One is a Hatfield; the other is a McCoy. I’ll save that discussion for another time. I suppose that, right now, the Democrats should be better people than the Republicans were last year and progress should not be impeded; they can certainly vote against him, but I’ll say they should not impede a vote.]

I don’t know if I want to publish this one because I can’t be absolutely sure it’s true, but what the heck. There is a story popping up in a lot of places that POTUS does his Tweeting from an insecure phone. The linked NPR article explores some of the ins and outs of this. [Wouldn’t it be wild if this would turn out to NOT be fake news. So far, the White House has declined to comment.]

Speaking of declining to comment, here is a link to cjr page claiming Trump is the least transparent President in recent history. How do you feel about this?

Well, that’s more than enough for now. On to the Executive Actions and Memoranda.

In two weeks, President Trump has signed numerous Executive Actions. Some of these are very detailed and written in a highly legalistic manner; you have to read carefully to understand what they really accomplish; I am condensing as much as I can. [I’m relying on BusinessInsider and Whitehouse.gov for a lot of this information. I’m not doing very much commenting on these right now; I see listing them as comment enough.]

Presidential Executive Order on Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System cites these core principles:

(a) empower Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace, save for retirement, and build individual wealth;

(b) prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts;

(c) foster economic growth and vibrant financial markets through more rigorous regulatory impact analysis that addresses systemic risk and market failures, such as moral hazard and information asymmetry;

(d) enable American companies to be competitive with foreign firms in domestic and foreign markets;

(e) advance American interests in international financial regulatory negotiations and meetings;

(g) restore public accountability within Federal financial regulatory agencies and rationalize the Federal financial regulatory framework.

It directs the Secretary of the Treasury to, “consult with the heads of the member agencies of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and report to the President within 120 days of the date of this order (and periodically thereafter) on the extent to which existing laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and recordkeeping requirements, and other Government policies promote the Core Principles and what actions have been taken, and are currently being taken, to promote and support the Core Principles. That report, and all subsequent reports, shall identify any laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and recordkeeping requirements, and other Government policies that inhibit Federal regulation of the United States financial system in a manner consistent with the Core Principles.”

The common interpretation of this order is that it is a precursor to rolling back Dodd Frank and other laws and regulations deemed excessive by the financial industry.

Presidential Memorandum on Fiduciary Duty Rule directs the Secretary of Labor to review a rule which directs the Secretary of Labor to review a rule intended to require financial advisers to act in retirees’ best interests as opposed to their own interests and rescind it if it conflicts with the core principles.

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims February as American Heart Month

Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs requires any new regulation to be accompanied by the identification of two existing regulations to be eliminated and tells the heads of all agencies that the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, to be finalized this year shall be no greater than zero.

Executive Order: ETHICS COMMITMENTS BY EXECUTIVE BRANCH APPOINTEES, referred to by some as drain the swamp: prohibits executive branch employees from lobbying the agency to which they have been appointed  for 5 years after the termination of employment as an appointee; prohibits appointees from engaging in lobbying activities with respect to any covered executive branch official or non-career Senior Executive Service appointee for the remainder of the Administration; prohibits appointees from engaging in certain activities on behalf of any foreign government or foreign political party at any time in the future; prohibits accepting gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations; prohibits participating in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to a former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts; and for those who have been registered lobbyists, prohibits participation for a period of 2 years after the date of appointment in any particular matter on which they lobbied within the 2 years before the date of their appointments or participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls.

Presidential Memorandum [regarding] Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council adds Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as a regular attendee, and directs the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence to attend only when necessary.

Presidential Memorandum [regarding] Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria directs Development of a new plan to defeat ISIS (the Plan) shall commence immediately with a preliminary draft of the Plan to be completed within 30 days.

EXECUTIVE ORDER: PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES. [This one is the biggie that has cause a lot of discussion, protest and hubbub. It remains the subject of numerous court cases. ] If I understand this correctly, it bans admission of Syrian nationals until the president determines it has become safe to admit them; prohibits entry of aliens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days; halves the number of refugees to be admitted in 2017; and does several other things that I find very difficult to interpret.

Presidential Memorandum on Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces directs the Secretary of Defense to conduct a readiness review of the US military and Ballistic Missile Defense System, and submit his recommendations.

National School Choice Week 2017 Proclamation declares January 22 through January 28 as National School Choice week and calls for expanding school choice and providing more educational opportunities for every American family. It mentions traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, private or religious schools, and homeschooling. [Some folks suggest this is a precursor to weakening public schools.]

Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements is the build the wall order. It’s long and controversial. It calls for a start towards building the wall, deportation of illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, and expansion of facilities, personnel, and actions for securing the Mexican border. [If you’d like a big headache, read the order itself.]

Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States calls for deportation of illegal aliens convicted of crimes and calls for denying federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, places that interfere with the preceding.

Executive Order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High Priority Infrastructure Projects calls for “fast-tracking” environmental reviews of “high priority” infrastructure projects.

  • Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of American Pipelines,
  • Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline,
  • Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline

These memoranda authorize two controversial pipeline projects and call for all materials used to be American made.

Presidential Memorandum Streamlining Permitting and Reducing Regulatory Burdens for Domestic Manufacturing directs executive departments and agencies (agencies) to support the expansion of manufacturing in the United States through expedited reviews of and approvals for proposals to construct or expand manufacturing facilities and through reductions in regulatory burdens affecting domestic manufacturing and calls on the Secretary of Commerce to submit a report to the President setting forth a plan to streamline Federal permitting processes for domestic manufacturing and to reduce regulatory burdens affecting domestic manufacturers; .

Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Mexico City Policy essentially reverses an Obama order and in doing so limits the use of government money for promoting or assisting abortion in other countries.

Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Hiring Freeze freezes hiring for the executive branch.

Presidential Memorandum Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement directs the United States Trade Representative  to withdraw the United States as a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to permanently withdraw the United States from TPP negotiations, and to begin pursuing, wherever possible, bilateral trade negotiations to promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages.

Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies (agencies) with authorities and responsibilities under the Act to exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, written by Reince Priebus, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, directs agency heads not to send new regulations to the Office of the Federal Register until the administration has leaders in place to approve them.

©2017 Charlie Wertz

After the Inauguration

First publication date: January 28, 2017

We’ve had an election and an inauguration; Donald J Trump is now POTUS; some folks are very pleased; some folks are very concerned. Struggling to make sense of it all, I am beginning some notes about things that have happened since January 20, 2017. I’ve decided to maintain this list here so the world will be able to see it if it wants to; it consists of quick summaries, sometimes with brief comments; these are going to be short and a bit disorganized; in the interest of time, this particular blog entry is not as well crafted or organized as I might like; I have done some fact checking, but I could have done more; my opinions are italicized; additionally, we’re dealing with some complex issues here – issues that can’t be completely covered by sound bites or tweets. Things are happening so quickly and furiously, I can’t produce a complete list. In fact, I have to admire POTUS’ energy and stamina; I cannot keep up with everything that’s happening. This listing includes some things I like as well as many things I don’t like.

EXECUTIVE ORDERS:

Start building the wall between the US and Mexico. (POTUS says Mexico will pay for it. Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, says they will not. On 1/26, Press Secretary Spicer reports a 20% tax on imports from Mexico will pay for it – more correctly, he says this is being considered. Kellyanne Conway says it is one possibility. A meeting between Trump and Peña Nieto has been called off; there is some question whether Peña Nieto cancelled unilaterally or Trump participated in the decision.   Opinion: The wall is not likely to be very effective. The tax would really be paid by American consumers. The result may be fewer imports from Mexico. Again, the likely result is that American consumers will pay more. Possibly this is a bargaining move.)

Posted on Facebook by Donald J. Trump on 1/27/17

Joint Statement on U.S. – Mexico Relations

The United States President Donald J. Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto spoke by phone this morning for an hour. The call was mutually arranged by their teams.

The two had a productive and constructive call regarding the bilateral relationship between the two countries, the current trade deficit the United States has with Mexico, the importance of the friendship between the two nations, and the need for the two nations to work together to stop drug cartels, drug trafficking and illegal guns and arms sales.

With respect to payment for the border wall, both presidents recognize their clear and very public differences of positions on this issue but have agreed to work these differences out as part of a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship.

Both presidents have instructed their teams to continue the dialogue to strengthen this important strategic and economic relationship in a constructive way.Strip grant dollars from sanctuary cities.

There is a report that Carlos Slim, the famous Mexican multi-billionaire, has offered to help Mexico negotiate with us regarding the wall and NAFTA. The suggestion is that he is also a “master negotiator”. He is also said to be far richer than POTUS.

End catch and release.

Reinstate immigration enforcement partnership.

Revive the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. (A joke seen on the Internet: “the ‘America First’ president just gave the green light to a Canadian company to build a pipeline across American soil that transports Canadian oil to sell to China”. )

Reinstate the Mexico City Policy.

Institute a federal hiring freeze.

Ease the burdens of Obamacare by using discretion in enforcing some provisions.

Temporarily halt the admission of anyone from seven Muslim countries, cut the number of refugees to be admitted  in 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000, and toughen the security screening that refugees face. Give preference to Christians if and when admission resumes. (Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank is said to have stated that of the 3.25 million refugees admitted since 1975, 20 became terrorists, resulting in the deaths of 3 Americans. (https://www.cato.org/blog/terrorism-risk-asylum-seekers-refugees-minnesota-new-york-new-jersey-terrorist-attacks) Interestingly, the countries that gave us the 9/11 attackers are not on the banned list. It is safe to say a lot of the world and possibly half of the US population have reacted very negatively to this. I consider the action extreme and likely to be ineffective. There is a currently a big flap about people caught in transit when the order was issued. )

He is also calling for a plan to institute biometric checks (fingerprints and retinal scans) at all entry points to the US. Opponents say this will be a very big expense and will create havoc at border crossings. (I tend to agree with the critics.)

OTHER ITEMS:

Initiate investigation of voter fraud. (POTUS says he would have won the popular vote had there been none. Subsequently Kellyanne Conway suggests it will be a review of voter rolls for dead people and those registered in more than one state. It has been reported that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law is registered to vote in two states; the Washington Post says this makes four family members. If they did not actually vote more than once, it isn’t really fraud.)

There are reports that some federal employees are now not permitted to publish papers, talk to the media, tweet, and so on. (Is this temporary and normal during a transition or is it the beginning of serious suppression of information that should flow freely? This is particularly a question regarding climate science.)

There is some suggestion EPA employees are particularly under attack. Many of the presidential appointees have attacked the EPA in the past. POTUS has claimed human caused climate change to be a hoax – a hoax promulgated by the Chinese.

America First.

Out of the TPP. (It is likely China will be very happy to become the new leader in world trade.)

POTUS tweeted he will send the feds to Chicago if they can’t get the murder rate under control.

Preparing an order to limit participation in the UN.

During a joint press briefing, Theresa May said that POTUS said he supports NATO. He did not argue. (He has, in the past been very critical of NATO.)

Suggesting we will create safe areas for refugees in Syria. (Is this practical? What military action will be required. Russia has already said it will be a bad thing for us to do.)

Reviewing and revising NAFTA.

Insisting more people attended the inauguration. Kellyanne Conway says POTUS has alternate facts; Sean Spicer says he firmly believes it. (The whole issue of “alternate facts” seems to have turned George Orwell’s 1984 into a best seller.)

Cut off federal funds to sanctuary cities.

Steve Bannon has been quoted saying the press should keep quiet and listen. Bothe Bannon and POTUS have stated the press is the enemy. (I do think the press should do a better job of separating opinion from the reporting of facts. At the same time, they should not be attacked for reporting verified facts. An unfettered press is essential to an effective democracy.)

There is rumor of a draft order that would end the ban on black sites. The White House strongly denies this.

According to the Washington Post  these are
President Trump’s first seven days of false claims, inaccurate statements and exaggerations. You can follow this link to see WaPo’s discussion of each item. (I consider some of them very valid and some of them to be a bit exaggerated.)

  1. “I remember hearing [when I was young] from one of my instructors, ‘The United States has never lost a war.’ And then, after that, it’s like we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore.”
  2. “I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.”
  3. “I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, million and a half people. … The rest of the 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument, was packed.”
  4. “We have the all-time record in the history of Time Magazine. … I’ve been on it for 15 times this year.”
  5. “Had a great meeting at CIA Headquarters yesterday, packed house, paid great respect to Wall, long standing ovations, amazing people. WIN!”
  6. “Wow, television ratings just out: 31 million people watched the Inauguration, 11 million more than the very good ratings from 4 years ago!”
  7. “I’m a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment.”
  8. “We think we can cut regulations by 75 percent. Maybe more.”
  9. “Between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused me to lose the popular vote.”
  10. “This is on the Keystone pipeline. … A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs. Great construction jobs.”
  11. “I just signed two executive orders that will save thousands of lives, millions of jobs, and billions and billions of dollars.”
  12. “Before we go any further, I want to recognize the ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and Border Patrol officers in this room today and to honor their service and not just because they unanimously endorsed me for president.”
  13. “We ended up winning by a massive amount, 306. I needed 270. We got 306.”
  14. “Then he’s groveling again. You know I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they want to write something that you want to hear but not necessarily millions of people want to hear or have to hear.”
  15. “Of those [allegedly illegal] votes cast, none of ’em come to me. None of ’em come to me. They would all be for the other side. … They all voted for Hillary.”
  16. “They say I had the biggest crowd in the history of inaugural speeches. … We had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.”
  17. “When President Obama was there two weeks ago making a speech, very nice speech. Two people were shot and killed during his speech.”
  18. “We should’ve taken the oil. And if we took the oil you wouldn’t have ISIS. And we would have had wealth.”
  19. “We have spent as of one month ago $6 trillion in the Middle East.”
  20. “You had millions of people that now aren’t insured anymore.”
  21. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said Obamacare “is no longer affordable” and Bill Clinton said “Obamacare is crazy.”
  22. “NAFTA has been a terrible deal, a total disaster for the United States from its inception, costing us as much as $60 billion a year with Mexico alone in trade deficits.”
  23. “We want to get our people off of welfare and back to work. So important. It’s out of control. It’s out of control.”
  24. “We want to get our people off of welfare and back to work. So important. It’s out of control. It’s out of control.”“Here in Philadelphia, the murder rate has been steady — I mean just terribly increasing.”

During a press briefing with Theresa May, POTUS said that while he believes waterboarding and other forms of “enhanced interrogation” are effective, he has given responsibility to Secretary Mattis who does not. POTUS has tweeted to the effect that he wants his appointees to have their own opinions.

Several ranking State Department officials have resigned. (link. Do we really know why?)

There are reports of a recording made during a closed door meting of House Republicans. The gist of it is that they are beginning to recognize the magnitude and difficulty of replacing Obamacare and they are concerned about the political cost of a failed or flawed implementation. (There is a lot of discussion around and there are a variety of opinions about the ACA, repealing it, replacing it and so on. I personally cannot understand how we, while claiming to be the richest and the best, cannot provide adequate health care for all at a reasonable cost. Tying insurance to employment s guaranteed to be unfair. Some of the European countries appear to have much better arrangements than we do. I’m waiting impatiently to see what they come up with.)

There’s been a lot of discussion about the appointees; I haven’t had time to digest a lot of details. Some of them appear to be talented competent people. Some of them also appear to have, in the past, publicly opposed some of the things they are supposed to now manage. I call it a mixed bag.

Steve Bannon is appointed to the national Security Council while removing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (If you like Bannon’s very conservative views, you will like this.)

Trump also signed an executive order Saturday banning administration officials who leave government from lobbying those federal agencies for five years, fulfilling a campaign pledge. Former President Barack Obama had signed his own executive order barring political appointees from lobbying former coworkers for two years. Trump’s order also includes a lifetime ban on administration officials working on behalf of a foreign government or political party.

His third directive signed Saturday was a memorandum giving military leaders 30 days to construct and present a report outlining the U.S. strategy for defeating ISIS.

© Charlie Wertz, January 2017

 

Database Seminar Announcement – 7/20/16

I want to update you about some exciting changes happening in our Database Meetup group. First, Oliver Kennedy and I are stepping in to help me with some of the tasks associated with managing the group.

Survey

 

We have created a 2016 Survey which asks about what you’d like to see in the group over the next year. We’d also appreciate knowing your preference for meeting night. (There are a couple people who are interested in the group but cannot do Thursday nights, but we don’t want to make a change that will lose anyone.) This survey will be available through the first week of August, but the sooner we get your feedback the better. Please fill it out if you are at all interested.

 

Communication Changes

 

While most things will stay the same, including our affiliation with Buffalo Lab, we’ve been looking for opportunities to change the communication paths so that all of our organizers have the ability to reach all of you, and nobody is left out of important communications (such as weather cancellations). To that end we have created the @BuffaloData twitter account and the @BuffaloData Google group. Once most of the existing group has made this transition we will announce the discontinuation of emails (you will still receive the meetup.com notices). For weather notices we recommend you follow the Twitter account specifically since the forum posts are easy to overlook.
When there are important announcements we will post to both of these locations to ensure we reach the widest possible audience. The @BuffaloData Google Group is also meant to be a discussion forum. We encourage you to bring your questions and knowledge to the group; as well as any suggestions for things we could try in the future. We will send you an invite from this group in a couple days; we hope you’ll be willing to join us.

 

September Meetup

 

Buffalo will be home to the CodeDaze.io conference on September 15th-16th. This provides a unique opportunity for both us and conference attendees, so we have scheduled the September meetup for Wednesday, September 14th starting at 6:30PM. The talk will be given by Glenn Gordon and will revolve around Internet of Things, Application Development for Web Delivery and Microsoft SQL Server Optimization.
There will be a social with food and drink before and after the talk. This meetup will take place at the Offices of Stark & Wayne a short drive from UB Amherst at 10 John James Audubon Pkwy (shares a building with National Fire Adjustment Company, Inc.)
If you have any questions or concerns please just let us know.

Trying to Make Sense of the News – 5/24/16

I had made a resolution to blog regularly in order to limber up my thinking and my writing. That was good for two days; then, life intruded and I fell behind. This blog entry will easily be as disjointed as the daily news; it is clearly a casual blog.

My morning newspaper continues to be a source of never ending wonderment; the daily “blow by blow” reports on this circus called a presidential election campaign is another.

On page 1 of the Buffalo News for May 11, 2016, an article by Mary Jordan from the Washington Post begins with a discussion of highly chauvinistic and sexist radio discussions between Donald Trump and Howard Stern.

Example: “You could have gotten her, right?” Stern asked Trump on-air shortly after Princess Diana’s death in 1997. “You could have nailed her.” “I think I could have,” Trump said.

The article goes on to say that between 1990 and 2005, Trump was cultivating an image of being a Manhattan playboy with so many women that he barely had time to sleep, but these days he is marketing himself in a different way for a different purpose and wants to play down some of the earlier images and statements.

Another article from the New York Times, by Jonathon Martin and Alexander Burns, reprinted in the Buffalo news on May 22, states that many of the usual wealthy Republican donors remain deeply resistant to Mr. Trump and are so far holding back on making contributions.

For example:

Michael K. Vlock, a Connecticut investor who has given nearly $5 million to Republicans at the federal level since 2014, said he considers Trump a dangerous person.

“He’s an ignorant. amoral, dishonest and manipulative, misogynistic, philandering, hyper-litigious, isolationist, protectionist blowhard,” Vlock said.

In another article, Trip Gabriel of the NY Times observes that both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are stressing the negatives about each other. I don’t have a reference handy, but I’ve read several places that the Donald has been criticizing Hilary for enabling her husband’s sexual misadventures; unless the stories about Trump’s past adventures and relationships are totally fabricated, this seems to be a clear case of a man who lives in a glass house throwing stones.

Is it any wonder that these two are much more strongly disliked than any other candidates of the last 10 presidential election cycles. See http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-distaste-for-both-trump-and-clinton-is-record-breaking/ for some details complete with charts and diagrams.

Another day, I read that Trump says he has a mandate to be provocative; he is sure successful at this, isn’t he?

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic has for some time been labeling the Donald as a master hypnotist and persuader: predicting months ago that he had a very good chance to nail the Republican nomination and continuing to predict that there is also a good chance we will have a President Trump. Adams always hastens to add that he does not agree with or support Mr.Trump. I an in sync with him on both points.

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders seem to be resonating with many Americans who are disturbed with the current state of affairs, sick of  politicians who seem to be bought and sold daily, concerned about the future, and looking for an alternative. Trump makes broad promises backed up with little detail; Sanders provides more details, but many seem questionable and impractical; either will need the manipulative skills of Lyndon Johnson or PT Barnum to get his programs through Congress; the Democratic leaders seem as upset with Bernie as the Republicans are with the Donald.

Then there’s Hilary Clinton. I readily admit, I’ve never particularly liked the Clintons. I was turned off when Bill and Al Gore made their acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in 1992 (I think) and have never looked back. Now, I do have to note that the GDP and debt numbers from the Clinton years don’t look all that bad; they are probably better than those for either of his successors; maybe we’ll explore this more carefully another time.

For right now, suffice to say that I don’t see Hillary as our savior. I do think that she is likely to cause less trouble than Donald or Bernie. We do have to hope she isn’t indicted before or after the election. Meanwhile, Trump will be in court over Trump University in November, and you have to wonder why he won’t release his tax returns.

Where do we get our presidential candidates from, anyway? Think about recent history: Romney, McCain, Kerry, Bush, the second, Gore, Dukakis, Reagan, Clinton, … What’s a poor confused voter like me to do? Once in the past, I voted for Ralph Nader; another time, I dragged the lever over without selecting a candidate; this time I feel I have to vote, but I find it very tough to make a choice.

© Charlie Wertz, January 2016