Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Ambassador Who Came In From the Cold?

More than a few Republicans were sad when Utah Governor Jon Huntsman gave up his job and his presidential ambitions to become Ambassador to China. However, Dan Gerstein of Forbes writes that the public shouldn't write off Huntsman yet:

My bet: Huntsman resigns his post in the summer, frees himself up to campaign for GOP candidates in the fall, then forms an exploratory committee by year's end. He'll start out behind, and he'll have to deal with the baggage of being tied to Obama. But Huntsman, who worked in the Reagan White House and helped lead his family's global chemical company, brings a lot of comparative advantages to the table. He hails from a pivotal electoral region for the GOP; he is far more engaging and genuine than the flat Pawlenty and the flip-flopping Romney; and he can match if not beat Romney on economic policy credibility without his fellow Mormon's corporate-raiding baggage, which will be an issue in the post-bailout era. So expect him to at least be in the (ahem) hunt.

If this becomes true, it would be wonderful for the GOP. Huntsman is definitely a candidate that could appeal to "Whole Foods Republicans" and expand the party's reach.

Will it come true? We shall find out in the coming year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The GOP Health Care Political Theater

The new meme going in conservative circles is to try to repeal whatever health care overhaul passes next year. The 2010 campaign theme coming from GOP pols and activists is to repeal the bill.

I have to admit that it's a clever strategy. Too bad it won't work.

As Dave Weigel notes, even if the GOP wins one or both houses next year, they will still have to face some hurdles- like President Obama:

But as Republicans gravitate towards a repeal message for the 2010 elections, they’re running up against the reality that health care reform would be prohibitively hard to roll back. According to conservative health care analysts, legal analysts, and political strategists, if President Obama signs health care reform into law, Republicans will have extremely limited opportunities to repeal any part of it.

“Anyone who thinks they’ll be able to repeal ObamaCare is kidding themselves,” said Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. “If they want to stop it, they need to stop it now.”

In conversations with TWI, conservatives identified a few hurdles for a hypothetical, repeal-minded GOP Congress. The first is that in their most optimistic scenario, in which Republicans like Barton and Bachmann hold committee chairmanships, Barack Obama will be president, wielding a veto pen, until at least January of 2013. The second hurdle — one that Republicans aren’t considering, but Democrats are — is that once it passes, health care reform will win back public support. And the third hurdle is a provision of the bill that, according to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and other conservatives, may not ever be subject to new legislative oversight. The road ahead for repeal looks so daunting that many conservatives are looking at legal challenges, not GOP wins, as the most promising way to challenge health care reform.

The thing is there will be no attempt to repeal the bill. Why? Because it's pretty hard to repeal a law, let alone one that is basically an entitlement. Have Republicans pushed back Social Security or Medicare? Nope. It might be a bad bill, but it's still a bill that will give more Americans access to health care. The minute this bill becomes law, it becomes a third rail in American politics.

If the GOP wanted to make a real difference, they would have worked with Democrats and make hard bargains to come up with a bill everyone could agree with. But for the most part, they chose to sit this one out.

So, why is the GOP trying to make this a centerpiece of their campaign in 2010? I think the answer is to please the party activists. Stuart Taylor sums this up in a post back in November about the polarization of political parties. Taylor cites Morris Fiorina, the author of Disconnect: The Breakdown of Representation in American Politics who believes that the American public tends to be more moderate than the political elites and activists. As political moderates are driven out of both political parties, politicians focus more on pleasing the base than in offering solutions. Which is why the GOP is pushing this plan and why they have sat out the health care debates. The moderates in the party that would have made the deals have either left the party, retired or lost in recent elections. What's left are those who care more about party purity than they do in legislation.

What we have in the repeal movement is political theater. It's a good show, but in the end all it's just entertainment.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Big Tent Democrats?

I've done more than a few posts on the quest by some in the GOP to want shrink the so-called "Big Tent." Many of us have looked at how the Democrats have been able to welcome both liberals and moderates in the party.

However, two articles from two Democrats show that the Left is having its own problems on trying to reach and keep moderates and also please its base.

On Christmas Eve, former Commerce Secretary William Daley wrote in the Washington Post about trying to keep the Dems open to all viewpoints. He notes that Democratic wins in 2006 and 2008 was because the party reached out beyond its liberal base. It was because of the Big Tent, that Dems started winning in Republican-leaning districts for the first time in a long time. But all is now well in the party of FDR. Daley notes that currently liberals in the party are attacking their Centrist brothers and sisters for not being pure enough.

On the one hand, centrist Democrats are being vilified by left-wing bloggers, pundits and partisan news outlets for not being sufficiently liberal, "true" Democrats. On the other, Republicans are pounding them for their association with a party that seems to be advancing an agenda far to the left of most voters.

The political dangers of this situation could not be clearer.

Witness the losses in New Jersey and Virginia in this year's off-year elections. In those gubernatorial contests, the margin of victory was provided to Republicans by independents -- many of whom had voted for Obama. Just one year later, they had crossed back to the Republicans by 2-to-1 margins.

For Daley, the solution is to realize that what might be the agenda of the liberal base might not be the agenda of all Americans:
All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party's most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans -- and, based on that recognition, to steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan.

For liberals to accept that inescapable reality is not to concede permanent defeat. Rather, let them take it as a sign that they must continue the hard work of slowly and steadily persuading their fellow citizens to embrace their perspective. In the meantime, liberals -- and, indeed, all of us -- should have the humility to recognize that there is no monopoly on good ideas, as well as the long-term perspective to know that intraparty warfare will only relegate the Democrats to minority status, which would be disastrous for the very constituents they seek to represent.

Nonsense, says Robert Creamer, in the Huffington Post. The political organizer sees any attempt to become more "moderate" as nothing more than bowing to the political interests that got us into this mess called the "Great Recession." Creamer believes the nation voted for substantial change is the Democrats must deliver on this change:

"Moderating" our goals is not a recipe for victory. It is a recipe for failure. Last fall, voters overwhelming voted for change, and they knew then -- and still know now -- the kind of change they wanted.

They wanted to end the stranglehold of the private insurance companies that continues to put every American a single illness -- or one layoff -- away from financial catastrophe. They want to take bold, clear action to assure that America is in the forefront of creating the clean energy jobs of the future -- and leave a thriving healthy planet to our children. They wanted to fundamentally change the bull-in-the-china shop foreign policy of the Bush years and re-establish American leadership in the world. Most importantly, they rejected the failed economic policies that allowed the recklessness of huge Wall Street banks to plunge the economy into free fall -- and cost millions their livelihoods. They desperately want leadership that will lay the foundation for long term, bottom-up, widely shared prosperity.

In other words they wanted... and still want... fundamental change.

Why does this all sound so familiar to me?

I think what Daley and Creamer show is that polarization really is taking place within the two parties, leaving those not "pure" enough out in the cold. Both hard core liberals and conservatives feel they have a pulse on what America wants and misinterprets an election win for a mandate for radical change.

But of course, they don't understand the outside because their whole political lives are spent inside a bubble of their own making. Moderates in both parties tend to be the ones that know that all of America isn't Berkley or Alabama. They are the ones that have a foot in reality.

Maybe what could happen is that moderates in both parties get tired of being treated like crap and create one or two political parties that are more in tune with the pulse of America. One can hope.

Links of Note

A Republican Senate candidate in Illinois is spreading rumors that his primary opponent, moderate GOP Congressman Mark Kirk is (gasp!) gay.

Tea Partiers are calling for Republicans to support a full repeal of the Health Care overhaul or face the consequences.

Republican Jim Depeso thinks Copenhagen can give you a job.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

That Ought to Teach Them

The GOP gambled big in not working with the Democrats. Some have hoped the bill passes and then the Democrats will be tossed out of Congress in 2010 because of the health care overhaul. But if anyone thinks this means health care reform would be repealed by the GOP, they've got another thing coming. Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho reports that there is very little chance that the GOP would ever repeal the bill.

Of course they aren't going to repeal the bill. Does anyone really think the GOP would basically end a federal program giving health care to millions? It would be political suicide. Also, for all the talk we Republicans do about waste in goverment and about living within our means, we are really bad about doing it when push comes to shove. It's easy to talk about cutting spending, harder to do it.

But also it is almost impossible to remove a government program once it has been enacted, especially if it is an entitlement program. It's not a cakewalk to reform a program either.

So the GOP took a gamble and lost. One wonders what would have happened if the GOP had been willing to bargain, to support expanded access but to also find ways to control health care costs and to make sure this doesn't blow a hole in the deficit.

But we didn't and we won't. Nice work, guys.

Michelle Bachmann the Welfare Queen

TruthDig has an interesting article on Michelle Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican Representative who seems to never find a moment to talk about the coming "socialist takeover" by the President. But it turns out that Ms. Bachmann is also living off the dole:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Myth of a Center-Right Nation?

Progressive blogger Ed Kilgore thinks the belief that the United States is a "center-right" nation is not as true as some would like to think:
Yes, polls of self-identification on this scale do show a very stable "center-right country" in which conservatives typically outnumber liberals three-to-two or even more. This is how Scott arrives at his fundamental argument that polarized elected officials don't adequately represent the people who elected them, and also how he somehow concludes that the notable shift of Republican opinion to the right in recent years has made the system more, not less representative (that's his major refutation of the Hacker-Pierson contention that the GOP has dragged the political center to the right).

Self-identification measurements are always iffy, as is made most evident by the vast gap between the number of voters who call themselves "independents" and the number who actually behave in an independent manner. But the hoary liberal-moderate-conservative scale is particularly influenced by the unpopularity of the "liberal" term, even among many voters who are "liberal" by the normal standards. This is what conservatives have bought with so many years and so many billions of dollars invested in the demonization of "liberalism," compounded by the very different meanings the term has denoted here and abroad.

The kicker here though is what this belief in a "center-right nation" does to the GOP:

It’s worth noting as well that the “center-right nation” meme has the perverse effect of holding Democrats to a higher standard of “bipartisanship” than Republicans, since “liberals” obviously have to move further to reach the actual political center than “conservatives.” And indeed, that’s pretty much what Scott suggests.

Now, Kilgore is a lefty and this is a blog with a liberal bias, but he does share some truth here. I believe one of the reasons that the Republicans have for the most part held their ground and not cooperated with the Democrats is on the belief that the American people don't want a "government takeover of healthcare." They believe that the public is on their side since this is a "center-right nation." In essence, they believe they don't have to give an inch because most of the nation agrees with them ideologically.

But is that really true? Voters put a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President in office last year. The Democratic President said he was going to reform health care and yet voters voted for him. Also this Democratic President is the first Northern Liberal in the White House in about two generations. If we are such a center-right nation, one would think that President Obama would have had a hard time getting elected.

The danger of believing that we are a center-right country is that it allows Republicans to live in denial. Why do they have to change? Why bother with trying to appeal to independents, or why bother running moderates in Democratic areas? The last two elections should have woken us up and allowed us to make strategic changes, but the belief in the center-right nation allows us to think that 2006 and 2008 are abberations and that sooner or later, America will come back home to the GOP.

But I think there is even a bigger danger: it leaves Republicans thinking they don't have to solve issues like health care reform or the environment, or the economy. Their vision of the right makes these issues irrelevant.

2010 will be an interesting year to find out if this belief in a center-right nation is real or just something a convenient little lie to hold on to during hard times.

What's In a Name?

I've noticed that E.D. Kain has changed the name of his blog over at True/Slant from "American Tory" to "American Times." 

I'm wondering what's up with that.  I don't know the reason behind this name change, but my own guess is Kain's frustration with the current state of conservatism.  Could this mean he is leaving conservatism?

Dunno.  We will find out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowe Will Vote No

There has been a fair amount of talk that the reason Republicans are voting against the health care overhaul is because they either a) don't care about the plight of the uninsured or b) are betting on voters to punish the Democrats in 2010 for this bill.

Of course, there are such people among the GOP in both the House and the Senate.  However, not every Republican is against this bill for cynical reasons.  Some do have honest to goodness objections to the bill.  One such person is Maine's Olympia Snowe.  The New York Times reports today, that she is going to vote against this health care overhaul.  Back in fall, she was the only Republican to vote for the bill in committee.

Her objections are not steeped in rhetoric but in some genuine concerns that she has about the bill and the speed in which it is being passed:

Unlike the barrage of attacks unleashed on the bill by her Republican colleagues, Ms. Snowe’s criticism is particularly devastating for the Democrats. In many ways, Ms. Snowe seems to want to vote for the health care bill even more than some of the reluctant centrists who will provide Democrats with the pivotal votes.

In Ms. Snowe’s view, Democrats are rushing the bill unnecessarily. In a recent interview, she warned that Congress would spend years fixing the bill if it was adopted in her current form. She recalled her days in the Maine state legislature, where legislation titled “errors and inconsistencies” would be needed to correct mistakes – in the Congress such legislation is often referred to as “technical corrections” and she said many such corrections would be need on the health measure.

There are a number of GOP pols that have said that things are being rushed. But of course many of them don't really mean what they are saying. What they want is to block the bill. But Snowe has never been one of those people. She has honestly wanted health care reform and has been willing to cross party lines to support the bill. But unlike what has been the popular charactacher of centrists, she can't in good conscience support the bill. Here is a portion of her formal statement:

Having been fully immersed in this issue for this entire year and as the only Republican to vote for health reform in the Finance Committee, I deeply regret that I cannot support the pending Senate legislation as it currently stands, given my continued concerns with the measure and an artificial and arbitrary deadline of completing the bill before Christmas that is shortchanging the process on this monumental and trans-generational effort.

Only three weeks ago the Senate received a more than 2,000-page bill on one of the most complex issues in our history, and we have since considered fewer than two dozen amendments out of more than 450 filed. A little over 24 hours ago, the Senate received a final, nearly 400-page manager’s amendment that cannot be changed or altered, with more than 500 cross references including to other statutes and will be voted on at 1 a.m. Monday morning. It defies logic that we are now expected to vote on the overall, final package before Christmas with no opportunity to amend it so we can adjourn for a three week recess even as the legislation will not fully go into effect until 2014, four years from now.

I remain convinced we must work toward a responsible, common sense solution to reverse the trend of spiraling health care costs — that will cause one-in-four Americans this year to have either inadequate coverage or none at all, and threatens affordable coverage for millions more Americans in the future. As I pledged to the president in an Oval Office meeting Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t agree more that reform is an imperative, and I will continue my constructive efforts to forge effective, common sense health care reform as the process moves into a House-Senate conference.

I personally don't know where I stand on this bill. Like Snowe, health care reform is important for me. But I worry how cost effective it will be in the long run. I am upset that it doesn't sever health care from our work, a holdover of the post-war era. I worry that it just might bust the budget.

Not every Republican who shares misgivings is against any health care reform. When we are on the cusp of making a big change in American society, some of us want to make sure that it is done right.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Cohesion and Innovation

Jim Manzi writes a go-to article in the winter issue of the conservative wonk magazine National Affairs. He makes a good case for the social problems that we face as a nation and how we can best solve them without losing our economic edge. It's also a good criticism of the Obama plan that doesn't rely on mindless shouts of "socialism!" all the time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

“Whole Foods Republicans”

My latest at Republicans United.“Whole Foods Republicans”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

When 95 Percent is a Failing Grade

With all the talk lately about "purity tests" in the GOP, here's a story about one conservative lawmaker in California who is paying the price for voting his conscience over party.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Good Mitch, Bad Mitch

My latest over at Republicans United.

Good Mitch, Bad Mitch

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Purity Tests and the Moderate Republican

As I've been reading all the blog posts about the so-called "purity test" resolution for future GOP candidates, one question has been going around and around in my brain:

Why do we care?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Things of Heaven...Stuff of Earth

The whole sorry tale of Maurice Clemmons and his life of destruction has led me to think a lot about Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor is getting his share of blame for allowing Clemmons to walk free. Most of the political bloggers that I follow tend to view his road to the presidency as kaput.

Now I don't really like Huckabee's views on various issues. But right now, I feel sorry for man. Because while he made a big mistake in releasing an animal like Clemmons into the public, I think he did it for the right reasons.

What is interesting right now is how some tend think that relying on religious beliefs while in office is somehow dangerous. While one should rely on all aspects of knowledge, to say that a politician must not be informed by their faith is ludicrious. Christianity, and any other religion for that matter, is a worldview that informs all parts of an adherent's life. It is impossible to say that religious views be kept somewhere on the coat rack of life while we live our lives. For any adherent, it is the fabric of life.

Religion informs people's choices on all sorts of matters. Many of my liberal friends who support universal health care do so for religious reasons. Same goes for those who oppose abortion or war. The problem isn't that we have these views, the problem lies in how they are used.

The case of Clemmons poses hard questions because it strikes at the heart of something that both Huckabee and I strongly believe in: redemption. The belief that people can change their ways and live right, to turn away from wrong is at the heart of Christianity. We are taught of a loving God who cared for us even when we did wrong and compels us to live righteous lives. For a Christian, it is not enough that the we believe this, it is something that must be lived out, just as we believe Jesus did when on earth.

When Huckabee pardoned Clemmons, I have to believe he did it because he truly believed Clemmons' sob story of having changed. He wanted to live out his faith and he believed this man had been redeemed.

That's of course, the danger here. We try to live as followers of Christ in an imperfect world. We try to show love and mercy to a fellow human being and he in turn kills four cops who were just trying to get some paperwork done.

So what do we do? Some bloggers say simply that Huckabee should have simply thrown away the key. He should have known better. Once a skunk, always a skunk.

Maybe a future politician will do what many politicians do and ignore their religious beliefs and keep more felons in prison and maybe even execute a few to show the public he/she means business.

The citizen in me says just that: lock 'em up. But the pastor in me, the one who wants to try to live as Jesus did, wonders if doing that is the right thing. The pastor wonders if everyone that asks for mercy is a snake, or if some really are wanting to make a change for the better.

Joe Carter, in his excellent post about Huckabee muses that the governor was naieve. Maybe so, but isn't Christianity at its root somewhat naieve? It preaches love in a world filled with hate. It's hardly a rational faith.

The problem for all Christians, and maybe for everyone who has a faith is knowing when to as the Bible says, be wise as serpents and when to be innocent as doves. When can we allow for heaven to break through on earth, and when to realize that heaven is not here yet.

It's a problem I wish pastors dealt with more. Because while we want to have some heaven here on earth, we live in this world filled with grays. How do we strive to be a loving a forgiving people in a world of Maurice Clemmonses?

What has been frustrating to me is that few if any religious blogs are talking about this issue. I have searched and searched and found none at all. I find that amazing. Maybe we don't want to admit that this is hard issue. But it would be honest.

Mike Huckabee made the moral choice in wanting to give someone a second chance. But in this case, it was not the right choice and four dead police offers are the result.

Charles Johnson's Jaundiced View of the Right

Charles Johnson, who runs the blog known as Little Green Footballs, has written a major post on the blog where he breaks his ties with the Right. He shares 10 reasons for his break with the right:

1. Support for fascists, both in America (see: Pat Buchanan, Robert Stacy McCain, etc.) and in Europe (see: Vlaams Belang, BNP, SIOE, Pat Buchanan, etc.)

2. Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)

3. Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.)

4. Support for anti-science bad craziness (see: creationism, climate change denialism, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, James Inhofe, etc.)

5. Support for homophobic bigotry (see: Sarah Palin, Dobson, the entire religious right, etc.)

6. Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.)

7. Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.)

8. A right-wing blogosphere that is almost universally dominated by raging hate speech (see: Hot Air, Free Republic, Ace of Spades, etc.)

9. Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.)

10. Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source)

Looking at this list, one could conclude that this is the end all and be all of conservatism in the United States. It's definitely what many on the American Left think of Repbublicans. And while I do think there are a lot of problems in the American Right that need to be addressed, I tend to think Johnson, along with many former Republicans, tend to have a jaundiced view of the Right. They look at the most extreme elements of the Right and think that it is sum of the entire movement. James Joyner took a look at Johnson's list and offers his own view which is a lot of nuanced than Johnson's.

It might help that Joyner explains that Johnson was a liberal until 9/11 and then shifted towards the far right. As 9/11 became more and more of a distant memory, he started to see things differently. So, in one case it should not be that surprising that his views changed back to what they might have been pre-9/11.

But his post raises larger questions. As moderate, I know that my brand of conservatism is not as much in fashion. The Right is dominated by the likes of people like Michelle Malkin and news outfits like World Net Daily. But that is hardly all of what makes up the GOP or conservatism. Take for example point 8 that talks about a hate filled right wing blogosphere. The funny thing is, there are a lot of conservative bloggers that are reasonable and well thought out. I like reading Frum Forum, American Scene, Outside the Beltway and the Big Stick. The League of Ordinary Gentlemen is not a conservative blog per se, but has several thoughtful conservative bloggers.

It has always flumoxed me that those who like me, have issues with certain parts of the Right, decide to take the most extreme elements of the movement use a wide paint brush to tar everything and everyone as a nut. But there are good and thoughtful people who take on the task of being a voice of reason amid the craziness.

No doubt, Johnson will be branded as a brave for parting ways with the Right by many on the Left or with those fellow angry former conservatives. But while it might serve to reinforce all the negative views that some on the left have on the right, it does nothing to change the right. Johnson's choice of bailing out at a time when the movement needs thoughtful reformers is not one of bravery, but opportunism.

What the American Right needs now are people who are willing to stand up to the Sarah Palin/Glen Beck crowd within the movement. Leaving the movement helps no one but Charles Johnson.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Is A GOP Litmus Test Becoming a Reality?

My latest at Republicans United.

Is A GOP Litmus Test Becoming a Reality?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Are We Afraid Of?

There are some things that I will never understand. One of those is the uproar among many conservatives about the decision by the Obama Adminstration to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others in New York, mere blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center. You'd think that Eric Holder had just released KSM out into the American public. The reasoning against putting KSM and his ilk on trial makes no sense. It makes me wonder, what are we so afraid of?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

What Does the Lord Require of Republicans?

My latest over at Republicans United.

What Does the Lord Require of Republicans?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Why Gay Marriage IS a Big Deal

Like many gay Americans, I awoke this morning to the news that Maine voted for repealing a law allowing same sex couples to marry. I was saddened by the fact. And like clockwork, a lot of my friends starting saying bad things about the people of Maine and threatening not to spend any money there.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Washington State approved a referendum that allowed domestic partnerships in the Evergreen State.

The win apparent win in Washington (which has seemingly been ignored among gays and our supporters) has started me thinking about how to best allow gays marriage rights. I've vacilated between calling for full marriage equality and calling it a marriage, and asking for something like a marriage ala civil unions. Yesterday's decisions has made me think that it's time to change how we work for marriage rights.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Moderate Republicanism: Is It Worth Fighting For?

Fellow Republicans United blogger, Bill Golden had this to say earlier today about moderate and/or centrist Republicans:
And for moderates — you need to find some principles quick. Being “moderate” or “centrist” is a mode. If you keep standing in the middle of the road whining that no one is stopping to give you a kiss … then you are just going to get your arse run over. Become a liberal, libertarian or conservative or whatever, but get some principles and go with it. Defend them. Live them. Be “moderate” when it comes to time to work out agreement but please stop standing in the middle of the road.

It made me think a lot about the fate of the so-called moderate Republican, a moniker that I have long used to describe myself. I have been long frustrated with my fellow moderates for some the reasons that Bill has argued, specifically, that we tend to stand in the middle of the road whining that no one will give us a kiss. And because we sit there whining about the state of moderates in the party, we ended up getting our asses handed to us again and again.

I know that I might hurt some feelings here, but I am starting to think that a lot of moderates are some of the most feckless, flighty and downright cowardly people. We do not stand up for our convictions. At times, I wonder if we even have convictions. We whine about the dwindling state of the GOP, about how it is being taken over by extremists, but when it comes down to making a difference, we offer no solutions other than pleading for the Republican leadership to love us.

Friday, October 09, 2009

About That Nobel Prize…

My take on Obama's Nobel is up at Republicans United.
About That Nobel Prize…

The War Against Dede

Politico is running a story about how some groups on the hard right are upset at National Republican Committee for supporting New York Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, who is running to fill the seat vacated by John McHugh. They see Scozzafava as a "liberal," a "radical" who happens to have an "R" after her name.

Here are a few exerpts from the article:
At a private Washington luncheon attended by activists last week, frustrations spilled over, and several attendees demanded to know why NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas, who was the featured speaker, was supporting Scozzafava over the more conservative Hoffman.

After Sessions conceded that Scozzafava's record on gay marriage and abortion fell short of where those at the lunch wanted it to be, he sought to defend her record on taxes. At that point, according to two sources who were present, the Texas congressman came under forceful pushback from several conservative leaders who insisted Scozzafava fell far short in that area as well.

"I was flabbergasted that he could come into a meeting of conservatives and be as defiant as he was," said one person who was at the Free Congress Foundation's Paul Weyrich lunch meeting, adding that the Texas congressman "stuck a finger in our eye."

And there's more...
Club for Growth Executive Director David Keating, whose deep-pocketed organization is already flooding New York’s North Country with ads targeting Scozzafava, slammed her as a “flaming liberal” whose politics are to the left of many House Democrats.

“The Republican Party bosses in New York state are not in touch with the Republican primary voting electorate,” said Keating. “She would never win a primary there, if there was one.”

As referenced by Keating, part of the frustration over Scozzafava is the way she claimed the GOP nomination in July — not through the standard primary election process but, rather, on the third vote taken by the 11 Republican county chairmen within the 23rd Congressional District.

Local Republicans tapped Scozzafava as the nominee in July because they believed her centrist views would appeal to a coalition of centrist Republicans, independents and Democrats in a moderate-minded district that Barack Obama won with 52 percent of the vote in 2008. The national party supports her for the same reason: her perceived electability.

This is a case where the wingnuts are...well acting like wingnuts and the national party is acting more pragmatic. The hard right is not concerned about winning as much as they are about being heard, even if it means handing the seat to a Democrat.

As I've said before, if one were to look at Scozzafava's record, one would see that she is not a flaming liberal. But then to those on the hard right, anyone to left of a Ghengis Khan is a commie.

I think that those who believe in a politically diverse party should consider donating to Dede's campaign. Let's not let the crazies torpedo another good Republican.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Why I’m Not a Token

Below is a link to my latest over at Republicans United.

Why I’m Not a Token

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Deficits DO Matter, Continued

James Pethokoukis has a post about how President Obama might just raise taxes by instituting a Value Added Tax or VAT that has been used in European countries. Pethokoukis isn't that crazy about adding a VAT, but would give it some support if some deals were made:

Obama wants a VAT? First, it should be part of broader tax reform, including getting rid of capital gains and corporate taxes. Second, it should accompany an Economic Bill of Rights much like Ronald Reagan used to suggest. Its elements: a) a balanced budget amendment, b) a line-item veto, c) a spending limit such as inflation plus population growth, d) and a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate for any tax increases. (Reagan also wanted a prohibition on wage and price controls. That would likely kill ObamaCare.)

And come to think of it, let’s cut spending and streamline government before cash-strapped, wealth-reduced taxpayers are forced to pony up a penny more, OK?

This is yet another example of how the GOP is not really serious about fiscal policy. I don't want to soak-the-rich-either for many of the same reasons that Pethokoukis does (though I do support letting the Bush tax cuts to expire), but the requirement of a supermajority to pass taxes is just lame.

Why? Well, I'm not an economist, but let's consider a state that DOES have a supermajority rule: California. That state is not the shining example of fiscal stability. Pethokoukis and others on the Right tend to think that if one makes raising taxes harder, then no new government programs (and therefore spending) will come to fore.

However, what Pethokoukis forget is that why it might stymie governments from raising taxes, such a law does nothing to slow spending. As long as the wider public can believe that one can get all the goodies from the government without paying more, then spending will increase. And when spending outpaces revenue, we have a funny little thing called a deficit.

Over the past 8 years, the GOP did not raise taxes, but they spent and spent and spent. There was no ephasis in cutting spending, because as much as people don't want their taxes raised, they do expect the government to cater to their every whim and fancy.

The GOP needs to take part in a "fiscal Lent" where we take stock in our fiscal record and decide to reform. We need to stop with all the silly gimmicks that only fool the people and actually try to find ways to provide good government services efficiently and for little cost.

That's a long way of saying call me when you are serious.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Deficits DO Matter

My latest for Republicans United (formerly the Progressive Republican) is now up. Deficits DO Matter

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why the NEA Affair Matters

neaConor Friedersdorf and Freddie deBoer have had a tit-for-tat over the whole controversy about someone from the National Endowment for the Arts "inappropriate" actions during a conference call last month. The conservative new site Big Government broke the story. Yosi Sargeant, the communications director for the National Endownment for the Arts was part of this conference call and made statements that flirted with the kind of political nonsense that left a nasty taste during the Bush years.

It would be easy to dismiss this story as I believe Freddie did. After all, the allegations came from a partisan website which has an axe to grind. deBoer thinks it's quite rich that conservatives are shocked since they did the same thing very recently:
It does indeed bother me that the ideology responsible for having people sign written pledges declaring their support for President Bush before they see our elected officials speak now complains about this. It does indeed piss me off that a few short years ago, Republicans were routinely doing things like calling for Howard Dean's hanging for criticizing the war in Iraq, and yet now they stand enraged over this meaningless conference call. It does indeed make me angry that the president himself declared that anti-Iraq war argument "gives comfort to our enemies," and yet now I read Conor Friedersdorf calling for national prominence on this nothing of a story. Yes, indeed, it makes me angry that a party and ideology that represented nothing more forcefully or loudly than the notion that dissent was unpatriotic and treasonous, and that supporting the president and his aims were our solemn duties, now turn around and complain about something like this. Yes, that makes me angry.

Of course. all of this did happen. I remember it all and as a Republican, I found it reprehensible. That said, it seems that Freddie is painting to big a brush here, trying to tar and feather anyone that dares to call themselves a conservative. deBoer only has to read some of Conor's past blog posts to know that he is as upset at the current state of conservatism as anyone else. Freddie's condemnation of not just those in the Bush administration or a number of Republicans, but an entire ideology ,is not only simple-minded, it's mean. There are many good conservatives that wanted nothing to do with this behavior. His rant basically condemned us all.

I believe the whole story matters. I don't have anything against the NEA and I'm not looking to bring down the Obama Administration. But it matters because we have an employee of a government agency working in a capacity that was dancing dangerously close to propaganda.

We also have someone who represents an agency that is in the business of giving out money. While there might have not been any intent to influence people, the fact that the communications director of the NEA was on a call with artists where the intent political looks really bad. Seargant should have known better.

If the Obama Administration wants to get artists involved to push their agenda, fine. They can do that through groups like Organizing for America. But leave the NEA out of this. This is a government agency that is supposed to support all Americans, not just the ones that support whoever is in office.

In a response to Freddie, Conor lifts this quote from a commenter:
The NEA is not a tool of (administration) policy, and that’s the scandal here. I realize that this issue isn’t as crucial to some of you young’uns; I remember when the NEA was criticized heavily for funding to Mapplethorpe and “Piss Christ” and the like. Well, for one thing I think most Americans thought that that was “good” censorship. But for another liberals at that time stood for the idea that the NEA is not a policy tool. We fought the idea that conservatives should be interested in gutting it because of the messages of the art it funded, with the belief that the NEA didn’t exist to “message.” The NEA director isn’t supposed to be interested in the messaging of the art: he’s supposed to want to know to whom it’s accessible, if it’s introducing more and more diverse art into a community, if it’s something that can promote arts education, if it’s keeping a classic American form vibrant…

You would tear that up. Conservatives would then be well advised to kill the NEA and NEH and Smithsonian and intellectuals would be deprived of a good argument as to why that’s a bad idea. Now, some of us don’t share the TAS enthusiasm for crapola hipster bands, and the jazz I live on is pretty dependent on organiztions like the NEA, and not really very good for messaging. So I want this bullshit killed, and somebody from the Obama administration fired.

You want to keep kids in school and encourage service and so on with clever art? Use the fucking Ad council. Immediate thought: Jesus, you really do need to read Europe Central or some of Belinsky’s misguided takedowns of non-programmatic art from the late Romantics/early Realists. Those guys thought like you are. Thinking this isn’t a pretty serious deal is failing to realize how much art actually means — which is why we have an NEA.

I was in college when conservatives attacked the NEA in the early 90s for its funding of art that some deemed offensive. It was wrong then for conservatives to try to politicize the NEA then and it's wrong for liberals to try to attempt to do the same thing now.

Let the NEA do what it is good at doing: supporting the arts in America.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why Does Joe Wilson Matter?

When I wrote my earlier post on the President's health care speech, I had some knowledge of what Joe Wilson had done during the speech. But I ignored it. I mean, the real issue here was not about some obscure congressman but about tackling the important issue of health care, right?

Boy was I wrong.

Joe Wilson has become a poster boy of sorts. He has been blamed for taking people's attention off the important health care debate. He has been a hero to some, and a lout to others.

But why does he matter?

I know, I know: it's because he called the President a liar. I agree that it's quite boorish. Republicans have made it a habit lately in acting like children, but then so did the Democrats when they were the "out" party. The thing is, our political culture is filled with people on blogs, talk shows and books claiming that so and so politician is a liar. We seem to revel in calling people fakes; it's a good way to reveal how pure and true we are.

With such incivility everywhere in American culture these days, I don't know why we should get all into a bother because someone was uncivil on the floor of the House; Wilson was just doing what has become normal in our political life these days.

Wilson has been used by various people for various reasons. For Democrats, he is the poster boy of a Republican party gone mad, not to mention a rallying cry to raise more money. For the media, it's another trivial character they can focus on; another example of political entertainment. For Republicans, he's an example of the "common man" standing up to the liberal elites. For Joe Wilson himself, it's a nice way to raise money for his re-election campaign.

Joe Wilson in my view, doesn't matter. We should have not paid attention to him, instead, focusing on how best to solve the issue of health care. But we live in a world where politics and entertainment rules, and so we focus on some unknown representative from South Carolina.

Let's focus on what matters. There is nothing to see here. Move on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Day Brings

I didn't know if I wanted to do another 9/11 remembrance post, simply because everything that has been said about this day has been said. However, as I was listening to some music, I was reminded of someone who posted on Livejournal years ago about listen to the song "The Day Brings" by the group Brad on that day.

I had enjoyed Brad when they first came out in the early 90s with the funky song "20th Century" and loved "The Day Brings" when it was released in 1997.

It seems fitting on this day to share the music video to that song, a song that talks about enjoying life because you never know when it might be taken from you.

So, this song is my way to remember those who died eight years ago, and a reminder to live life.

Try as I might, I could not find a video on YouTube I could embed, so you will just have to go the link. But you will enjoy the song, trust me.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Obama Health Care Speech: One Republican's View

I heard most the President's speech tonight over the radio. Here are some of what I thought were highlights and what I thought.
What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies - because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.

I don't have a problem with this provision. I've long believed that denying someone insurance because of pre-existing conditions, or using the horrible practice of recission should be against the law.
Now, if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. If you lose your job or change your job, you will be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you will be able to get coverage. We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange - a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It's how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we've given ourselves.

For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need. And all insurance companies that want access to this new marketplace will have to abide by the consumer protections I already mentioned. This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right. In the meantime, for those Americans who can't get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it's a good idea now, and we should embrace it.

He makes a nod to the co-op idea and to the idea that market forces should bring prices down. He includes subsidies for those who can't purchase health care and seems to back a catastrophic insurance scheme that was devised by his 2008 opponent, John McCain. Smart move there. All in all, there are things for someone like me to love.
Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I've already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don't like this idea. They argue that these private companies can't fairly compete with the government. And they'd be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won't be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers. It would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.

Hmmm...this I don't get. If we have consumer protections and regulation (good), and we have companies competing and bringing down prices (also good), and we have subsidies to help those who can't afford the premiums (really good), then why do we need a "public option?" It just seems like the answer to a question no one is asking.

That said, I do like that he is looking to make it be funded not by taxes, but by premiums.
Finally, let me discuss an issue that is a great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the public - and that is how we pay for this plan.

Here's what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits - either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for - from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.

Second, we've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system - a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care doesn't make us healthier. That's not my judgment - it's the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.

Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan. Much of the rest would be paid for with revenues from the very same drug and insurance companies that stand to benefit from tens of millions of new customers. This reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money - an idea which has the support of Democratic and Republican experts. And according to these same experts, this modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long-run.

Another hmmm moment. Other than the tax on so-called "Cadillac" plans, I don't see how tackling the old monster of "waste, fraud and abuse" is going to not make this plan a budget buster.

As for his partisan dig at Republicans for leaving a big deficit? Well, it was partisan, but it was also true. Moving on...
Finally, many in this chamber - particularly on the Republican side of the aisle - have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It's a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.

I think this is a worthwhile idea and it throws something to the GOP. Will the Republicans take it? I don't know.

All in all, it was a good speech and he did put some more flesh on the bones of his plan. My problems with it is that he still has not really given a reasonable explaination as to why we need a public option and has not really tackled how to best pay for this plan in a way that won't bust the already busted budget. He also has not taken on the idea of junking the idea of employer-provided insurance, something that doesn't work in this age of employment mobility. My guess is that killing employer provided care would mean taking on labor, one the building blocks of the Democratic coalition.

The question remains if he can get Democrats to agree on this, and if Republicans are willing to step up and work on the plan.

I've said it before, but I think we need health care reform. The question remains if Obama's plan is a plan that will work.

Friday, September 04, 2009

President Obama Goes to School

My latest at the Progressive Republican:

President Obama Goes to School

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

I saw Ted Kennedy once.

It was the summer of 1990 and I was working in DC as a congressional intern for my representative. For some reason, I and several other interns went to the Capitol Rotunda where a ceremony was taking place: the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. As we stood behind a rope, I could see Kennedy walking up and chatting with other Representatives and Senators. I remember being excited at seeing the Senator. Here was a man whose brother was the President, his last name was attached to one the greatest political families in the nation.

When I woke up this morning to the news that Ted Kennedy has succumb to the brain cancer he fought, I felt a deep sense of sadness, even though I disagreed with him. They don't make them like him anymore.

Make no mistake, Kennedy was a staunch liberal and represented the left wing of the Democratic Party. But what was interesting is that even though he had strong opinions and passions, he was able to reach across the isle and work with Republicans to get things done. It seems like he was always working with the likes of Republican Senators like Orin Hatch or John McCain on some bill or another.

Kennedy is the one of the last of a long line of statesman who showed that one can have strong convictions and also cut a deal. That's something that is becoming a lost art these days, as Ronald Brownstein notes in an article about Kennedy's passing. We live in an age where we have convictions, but not much else. Cutting a deal is seen as something akin to treason.

Kennedy, and to some extent, John McCain, reminded us that being an elected official means having to actually govern. Governing means that you have to work with those that might disagree with you and trying to come to some solution that all sides can work with.

Today's political climate is one where we are stuck in a permanent campaign mode. Blogs, special interests groups and talk show hosts do all they can to paint the other side as monsters bent on destroying all that they hold dear.

In doing this, we ignore the issues that really matter; whether that is health care reform, climate change or social security reform. Politics today is all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Kennedy's passing is not just the death of a figure who made an impact in American life; it is slow death of a climate where people, liberals and conservatives were more interested in finding solutions that in being right.

So, I mourn the death of the "Lion." Senator, know that one Republican thinks the world is a lot less brighter with you not in it.

And So It Begins…

My latest at the Progressive Republican about how the hard-right blog, RedState is going after moderate GOP candidate for Congress, Dede Scozzafava.

And So It Begins…

Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Health Care Plans Republicans Should Support

Whenever health care reform is talked about, Republicans respond in an almost Pavlov-style manner. Immediately we start talking about the evils of the Canadian and British healthcare systems and about the loss of American freedoms. Some even go a step further and claim as blogger John Vecchione writes in a recent post, that there is no health care crisis and when nations make universal health care a goal it also makes conservative parties unconservative.

Such claims amount to sticking one's head in the sand and defending a system that really is undefendable. As I have shared in a recent blog posting as well as in the past, the American health care system is broken. That is not some liberal scheme, this is a plain fact. As some conservative bloggers have noted in the past, the current system keeps people tied to jobs they may not want simply to have health insurance benefits. The other problem is that when one loses their job, they also lose their health benefits. People are also faced with rules like pre-exisiting conditions and recission.

Conservatives are not crazy about having a government-run system for many reasons. One big reason is that such systems tend to be unsustainable. For example, Travis Frey noted in a recent blog post that France is faced with a healthcare system that is cracking under the strain on rising costs:
France claims it long ago achieved much of what today's U.S. health-care overhaul is seeking: It covers everyone, and provides what supporters say is high-quality care. But soaring costs are pushing the system into crisis. The result: As Congress fights over whether America should be more like France, the French government is trying to borrow U.S. tactics.

In recent months, France imposed American-style "co-pays" on patients to try to throttle back prescription-drug costs and forced state hospitals to crack down on expenses. "A hospital doesn't need to be money-losing to provide good-quality treatment," President Nicolas Sarkozy thundered in a recent speech to doctors.

And service cuts - such as the closure of a maternity ward near Ms. Cuccarolo's home - are prompting complaints from patients, doctors and nurses that care is being rationed. That concern echos worries among some Americans that the U.S. changes could lead to rationing.

The French system's fragile solvency shows how tough it is to provide universal coverage while controlling costs, the professed twin goals of President Barack Obama's proposed overhaul.

Conservatives rightly point out the problems in health care systems that have a high amount of government control. But the problems is that we stop there. We pretend there is no problem and maybe offer a few sops to change the system.

But the fact is, as more and more people lose their health care or face problems with the insurance that they have, people are looking more and more to Washington to help solve the problem. If Republicans decide to take John Vecchione's advice, we can expect the public will look towards those who are providing solutions, namely the Democrats. The best way to assure that we have single payer is for Republicans to simply ignore the issue and not care.

But the fact is there are two plans that offer some real change without creating a large new governmental program. If the GOP really cared about offering solutions and not just political one-upsmanship, they could really make a difference.

The first plan is the Healthy Americans Act supported by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Bill Bennett, the Republican Senator from Utah. Their plan basically is a grand compromise that achieves universal coverage and fulfills the aims of both Democrats and Republicans: it allows for the universal coverage that Democrats want and it also injects market forces into the system, something that Republicans would like to see.

The other option is modifying the model that is used by the nation of Singapore. The plan basically is basically as follows:

Singapore’s system requires individuals to take responsibility for their own health, and for much of their own spending on medical care. As the Health Ministry puts it, “Patients are expected to co-pay part of their medical expenses and to pay more when they demand a higher level of service. At the same time, government subsidies help to keep basic healthcare affordable.”

The reason the system works so well is that it puts decisions in the hands of patients and doctors rather than of government bureaucrats and insurers. The state’s role is to provide a safety net for the few people unable to save enough to pay their way, to subsidize public hospitals, and to fund preventative health campaigns. (emphasis mine)

Medisave, which covers about 85 percent of all Singaporeans, is a component of a mandatory pension program. Employees typically pay 20 percent of their wages into the Central Provident Fund (CPF), while employers pay 13 percent. (Since 1992, the self-employed have also participated.) At the beginning of 2007, CPF had over $1 billion in surpluses.

In Singapore’s system, the primary role of government is to require people to save in order to meet medical expenses they don’t expect.Medisave accounts can be used to pay directly for hospital expenses incurred by an individual or his immediate family. Limits are in place on the extent of Medisave funds that can be used for daily hospital charges, physicians’ fees, and surgical fees. The idea is to cover fully the bills of most patients in state-subsidized wards of public hospitals. Beyond that, individuals dip into their own pockets or use benefits from insurance plans (see more on this below). Medisave can also be used for expensive outpatient treatments such as chemotherapy, renal dialysis, or HIV drugs.

Medishield, the second part of the program, is a national insurance plan that covers the higher cost of especially serious illness or accident, which in Singapore’s system is described as “catastrophic.” Singaporeans can choose Medishield or several private alternatives, some offered by firms listed on the Singaporean stock exchange. Premiums for the insurance plans, including Medishield, can be paid using Medisave accounts.

Medifund, the third part, was established by the government for the roughly 10 percent of Singaporeans who don’t have the means to pay for their medical needs, despite the government’s subsidy of hospital and outpatient costs. The fund was set up in 1993 with $150 million, with the budget surplus providing additional contributions since then. Only interest income, not capital, may be disbursed.

Finally, there’s Eldershield, an addition to the 3M structure that offers private insurance for disability as a result of old age. It pays a monthly cash allowance to those unable to perform three or more basic activities of daily living.

The Singapore plan is not a plan that would please liberals, but it would please those who think government should have a minimal role in providing a safety net and putting the power in the lap of the consumer.

Of course, there are those who will say that any government intervention is an anathema. Such a view is not only cold hearted, but will not help the GOP in the long run. The average American isn't looking for a womb-to-tomb welfare state, but they do want help. Most Americans might not like the Obama plan, but they still fear losing their health care or getting sick and finding out that their insurance company will not help them.

It's way past time for Republicans to be truly concerned with health care. Let's stop sticking our heads in the sand and offer real practical solutions.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Universal Health Care: One Man’s Story

This is my latest for the Progressive Republican. It originally appeared at New

Universal Health Care: One Man’s Story

Monday, August 17, 2009

Whole Fools

I rarely shop at Whole Foods, which has two locations in the Twin Cities. If I am looking for organic foods, I tend to look for them at the regular grocery store I shop at or go to Trader Joes, which one person described as the "poor man's Whole Foods."

But I might consider shopping at the grocery chain more in the near future because of the insane and asinine boycott going on by some on the Left. Why would people who normaly shop at the organic retailer decide to abstain? Because their CEO wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal denouncing the Obama plan and offering a plan of his own.
I read that oped and thought it was interesting. I didn't agree with everything, but Mackey made some good points and I thought nothing more of the article.

But obviously it did upset some people who expected that Mr. Mackey should support what they support. This is what was written in a guest voice post at the Moderate Voice:
The thing is, when Rupuert Murdoch published an anti-health care security op-ed from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, a few progressive latte drinkers decided they didn’t need to buy their arugula at Whole Foods anymore, and called for a boycott. After all, the big marketing gimmick for Whole Foods is that they’re a socially responsible company which sells food that is actually good for you (even if the products are very over priced)...

Whole Foods has always marketed itself to a fairly educated and financially secure customer base. This is why they can successfully sell healthy (and primarily organic) foods, at a higher cost. The company has also fostered the image that it has an altruistic streak in supporting progressive causes.

With a single op-ed in an uber conservative national newspaper, this wholesome image has been blown to bits. In the course of writing 1,165 words, CEO Mackey has caused more potential damage to the Whole Foods corporate image than an e-coli outbreak in the meat room.

In calling for support of the boycott of Whole Foods, I’m making an educated guess that their average customer is very politically progressive in nature. And that is why, if liberals and progressives quit shopping at Whole Foods, the impact would be quickly apparent to the company’s Board of Directors. By quickly, I mean by this coming Monday morning when the weekend receipts are tallied.

A Facebook group has been set up and has about 10,000 members. Here's the description of that group:

Whole Foods is NOT a company that cares for communities and they have built their brand with the dollars of deceived progressives. No more. My $ will no longer go to support Whole Foods' anti-union, anti-health insurance reform, right-wing activities.

Whole Foods? Right-wing?

I decided to take a look at the activities going on at my local Whole Foods in Minneapolis. They have a program where you save 10 cents on using reusable bags and you can donate that money to a local charity. The Whole Foods Blog has a campaign to have fresh and healthy school lunches as opposed to the processed foods that kids eat. From my cursory glance, this is hardly a right-wing operation.

Radley Balko shares some of what this "right-wing operation" has done:

Let me see if I have the logic correct here: Whole Foods is consistently ranked among the most employee-friendly places to work in the service industry. In fact, Whole Foods treats employees a hell of a lot better than most liberal activist groups do. The company has strict environmental and humane animal treatment standards about how its food is grown and raised. The company buys local. The store near me is hosting a local tasting event for its regional vendors. Last I saw, the company’s lowest wage earners make $13.15 per hour. They also get to vote on what type of health insurance they want. And they all get health insurance. The company is also constantly raising money for various philanthropic causes. When I was there today, they were taking donations for a school lunch program. In short, Whole Foods is everything leftists talk about when they talk about “corporate responsibility.”

And yet lefties want to boycott the company because CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed that suggests alternatives to single payer health care? It wasn’t even a nasty or mean-spirited op-ed. Mackey didn’t spread misinformation about death panels, call anyone names, or use ad hominem attacks. He put forth actual ideas and policy proposals, many of them tested and proven during his own experience running a large company. Is this really the state of debate on the left, now? “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you?”

Blogger Freddie DeBoer thinks all the harping on the right about this (in this case a blog post by Rod Dreher) is hypocritical, but the fact is there is a lot of hypocrisy on both sides. Liberals tut-tut when conservatives try to strong arm those who don't agree with them and ignore their own attitudes towards those who have different ideas.

What is interesting here is how so many who used to support Whole Foods think that the company should basically affirm their views. If they support health care reform with a strong role for government, well, then so must Whole Foods. They also tend to assume that beacuse they are "green" and organic, well then they must be left-leaning just like they themselves are.

The fact of the matter is, one can care about the environment and also be a libertarian. One can be into organic foods and vote Republican. Just because someone buys fair-trade coffee doesn't mean they voted for Obama. It just means they like fair trade coffee.

When I buy ice cream, I tend to get Ben and Jerry's ice cream even though I tend to disagree with them politcally. But I also know they do some good things in the world and they have good ice cream. I don't need my ice cream company to agree with me 100 percent.

The problem here is not that Mackey doesn't support the President's plan. The problem here is assuming that Mackey should mirror the view points of Whole Foods' customers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rage Against the Machine

So, what do I think about all the town protests? Find out in my latest post for the Progressive Republican.

Rage Against the Machine

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Good LIfe

About 15 years ago, I was with friends and the topic of conversation went to the recent death of comedian John Candy. The two friends, started clucking their tougnes and then said in effect that his death was the result of how lived.

Of course, we all remember John Candy, this big bear of man. He wasn't the specimen of fittness that my two friends were. They tended to believe he reaped what he had sowed.

I remember being bothered by their attitudes. There was something a bit pious and mean-spirited in their pleasant condemnation of Candy.

I tend to be someone that tries to live sensibly. I drive a Prius. I tend to buy organic foods, especially milk that is free of hormones and meat that isn't loaded up with antibiotics. If I have a choice between brown and white rice, I go with brown rice all the time. I don't smoke and rarely drink.

I do these thing for various reasons. But I rarely talk to others about them. I just happen to do them for my own benefit.

One thing that has bothered me at times is this belief that we have to tell others how to live their lives for their own sake.

David Frum has an article on his website about conservatives and living the healthy life. There are some good things in this article, but there were also some things that frankly bother me. Part of it is that I feel that there is a sense of health puritanism that makes me feel that no matter how much I try, I will still fall short of the healthy living goal.

Some of his concerns are worthwhile: I too fear about the amount of antibiotics that are used in cows and chickens. I like eating grass-fed beef. (After my trip to Argentina last winter, I don't think I could ever go back to corn-fed beef.)

But what bothers me is when we start to worry about things such obesity, which as Megan McArdle has said tends to be a moral panic.

What bothers me is also how this fear that people start living right leads into some kind of moral scold. We tend to put down those who smoke for instance. I've seen how people who are at heart good people, treated like they were war criminals just because they lit up. We are starting to do the same thing with those who don't follow the same way of living that we do.

Frum is correct that conservatives should not celebrate bad habits, but we shouldn't denounce an occasional steak or cigar either.

In the end, for me what is important is what we are living for. All of this healthy living sometimes comes from a fear; a drive to live a long life and a fear of death.

But the thing is, eating right is not a guarantee that we will live a long life. I am reminded that Linda McCartney, the wife of Paul McCartney was a committed vegetarian who died of cancer before the age of sixty. This weekend, I saw Julie and Julia, which features how Julia Child became a foodie godess. In the movie she smoked and the food she cooked was rich in butter. She lived to be 92.

I'm not saying we should eat what we want or go out and buy a pack of Winstons. I am saying that we can do all the right things and still die early. And in the end, we will die: no gets out of here alive.

What matters more to me is what I am living for. Do I show my partner, my parents, my friends love? Do I enjoy my life? Do stand up against injustice?

In my view, people won't remember that you drank organic milk every day. They will remember what kind of person you were.

So, yeah I will still do all the things I have done, but in the end what matters to me is the quality of my life. I let the quantity work itself out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Moderate Republican's Thoughts on Health Care Reform

Below is my latest blog post on health care reform.
A Moderate Republican's Thoughts on Health Care Reform

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Just for Fun: Shalamar's "A Night to Remember"

I'm following Shay from Booker Rising and occasionally posting some my favorite songs. One song that I am enjoying again is "A Night to Remember" by Shalamar. If some of you remember Jody Watley, she was a member of the group from the late-70s until 1983. This song was a bit R&B hit in the States and big pop hit in the UK in 1982.

Below is the video. It's not the best, but then it was 1982. Enjoy...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Power of No

Christie Todd Whitman and Clive Crook have great articles today taking the GOP to task for not offering real alternative plans on climate change and health care. There is much to agree with and I can basically say to both Whitman and Crook, "hear, hear!"

But as important as I believe it is for the Republicans to put forth some credible ideas on various issues, I am coming to the conclusion that at least at present the GOP will not come up with real solutions on health care or climate change.

It's not because Republicans in Congress do not care about these issues, it's that it is more beneficial to the party to obstruct than it is to find solutions, that it is more important to throw heat than it is light.

I should say off top that such tactics are not limited to Republicans. Democrats have done it in the past and will do it again. In fact what makes it bipartisan is the fact that both parties rely on technology that can enforce people's views and make it hard to offer alternatives or compromise.

For the Republicans, it makes sense to oppose health care reform. Why? Part of the answer lies in how the nature of politics and technology have changed. We highly partisan blogs that scream at people and use shock to gin up the base and drive more readers to their site. We also have organizations, like Club for Growth that can put of out mass email alerts against any representative deemed not conservative enough.

The fact of the matter is, it is a lot easier to talk about "government health care" and fears of "socialism" than it is to get a bunch of representatives in smoke-filled rooms (or non-smoking these days) and hammer out a deal.

Centrists worked well in an age where there was broad consenus on the issues, but differences in how to get the done. But technology has created a world where we can live in a cocoon and get all our views from partisan sites. We no longer agree on the issues like we once did, and woe to the one that tries to forge a compromise.

It would be nice if Republicans offered some real solutions on issues like health care. But that's what a centrist like me wants, not the hard core partisan that will campaing fervently for GOP candidates. What they want to do is obstruct the Obama plan and talk about how bad it is. Which of course, is much more fun. Let's be honest: it's a lot more interesting for many to talk about the evils of health care reform and the trail of dead people left in the wake of socialized medicine, than it is to crank out a plan that might be better than what the President is putting forth. It's not very sexy, and it might mean dealing with those icky Democrats.

Now, I should state, that I don't like the current plan which includes a public option. I do think it is a backdoor way into single-payer care. But I'm less interested in screaming "Socialism!" than I am in finding alternative solutions. Which is why I am supportive of those six Senators from both parties who are cranking away at getting a workable compromise. It's not sexy. It will not make the blood boil. But it might just solve an issue that has been a problem for America for decades.

What can be done to combat the Power of No? I don't know. I don't think it means doing away with blogs, but centrists will have learn how make us of some of the same technology that has been used to divide and find ways to knit us back together. Instead of having blogs where people shout, have blogs that can be forums where we can learn to respectfully disagree and then seek to find a solution that can work for everybody. It might mean building a centrist network that can help support centrist lawmakers as they try to do the people's business.

Will this happen? I don't know. The Power of No is strong, but I have to belive the Power Yes is stronger still.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Keep It In the Closet

During the election last year, we were reminded again and again that Barack Obama was in the vanguard on gay rights, while John McCain was incredibly anti-gay. Nevermind that both candidates had basically the same position on gay marriage: they were against it.

When Obama became President, many liberals and not quite a few Republicans believed that he would advance the cause for gay rights. So far, he hasn't done that much. He has dragged his feet on allowing gays to serve in the military and basically defended gay marriage in terms that make you wonder if we elected the late Jesse Helms to the presidency.

And yet, as James Kirchick writes in Sunday's Washington Post, many liberals still maintain that the President is "secretly" supports them.

This is nothing new. As Kirchick notes, gay Democrats have long maintained that President Bill Clinton supported gay marriage and was forced into signing the Defense of Marriage Act back in 1996 to keep the Republicans from attacking him. Nevermind he then talked about it in radio ads and even counseled John Kerry to not support gay marriage in Kerry's 2004 campaign.

Many liberals tout the passage to work for gay marriage as well as serving in the military as the civil rights issue of our time. On that, I agree. But where I disagee is that while many of liberal friends talk about how this is the new civil rights struggle, in reality this is nothing more than partisan politics dressed up in civil rights garb.

As Dave Andesik notes, if a Democrat was spouting racist talk in public no one would say that such a person secretly supports a certain ethnic or racial group. But yet, when a Democrat opposes gay marriage, he is viewed as a secret supporter, while a Republican who has the identical position is not viewed with such kindness.

If this were truly an issue of human rights, then gay Democrats would demand that their Democratic politicians would support their cause of face the consequences. They would not only castigate Republicans, but their own candidates in the cause of the greater good of gay rights.

Which is why I think that the cause of gay rights will be impeded as long as gay leaders confuse party loyalty with human rights. As long as the gay community sucks up to Democrats that won't support them, we can expect a long hard road towards gay equality.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Omnivore's Delusion?

I've been of two minds when it comes to food. On the one hand, I tend to go for more organic meat and produce when I go shopping. I tend to want to eat meat that was produced humanely.

On the other hand, I tend to get wary of food critics like Michael Pollen who tend to put down anything that reeks of moderenization. I chafe at those who think that organic farming will lead to less foodborn illnesses and the like.

So, this article by a real live farmer tends to play into my doublemindedness. Farmer Blake Hurst makes some good points, such as the fact that most of the people who talk about food and farming are not involved in farming at all and don't understand it. He makes the point that just like we don't expect doctors to use the same instruments that were used a century ago, we should not expect farmers to farm and live like their grandparents. Here is what Hurst has to say about a businessman he encounters on a flight:

He was a businessman, and I’m sure spends his days with spreadsheets,
projections, and marketing studies. He hasn’t used a slide rule in his career
and wouldn’t make projections with tea leaves or soothsayers. He does not blame
witchcraft for a bad quarter, or expect the factory that makes his product to
use steam power instead of electricity, or horses and wagons to deliver his
products instead of trucks and trains. But he expects me to farm like my
grandfather, and not incidentally, I suppose, to live like him as well. He
thinks farmers are too stupid to farm sustainably, too cruel to treat their
animals well, and too careless to worry about their communities, their health,
and their families. I would not presume to criticize his car, or the size of his
house, or the way he runs his business. But he is an expert about me, on the
strength of one book, and is sharing that expertise with captive audiences
every time he gets the chance. Enough, enough, enough.

As I said, he makes some good points that those of us who aren't farmers need to hear. That said, I think he sometimes paints every criticism of "industrial farming" with too wide a brush. Some complaints are legit. For example, I tend to want to buy chicken or beef that was produced humanely. I have a hard time seeing animals penned up in cages and treated less like animals than as a plant. Hurst seems to believe that this is much better than what goes on in nature:

Lynn Niemann was a neighbor of my family’s, a farmer with a vision. He began raising turkeys on a field near his house around 1956. They were, I suppose, what we would now call “free range” turkeys. Turkeys raised in a natural manner, with no roof over their heads, just gamboling around in the pasture, as God surely intended. Free to eat grasshoppers, and grass, and scratch for grubs and worms. And also free to serve as prey for weasels, who kill turkeys by slitting their necks and practicing exsanguination. Weasels were a problem, but not as much a threat as one of our typically violent early summer thunderstorms. It seems that turkeys, at least young ones, are not smart enough to come in out of the rain, and will stand outside in a downpour, with beaks open and eyes skyward, until they drown. One night Niemann lost 4,000 turkeys to drowning, along with his dream, and his farm.

Now, turkeys are raised in large open sheds. Chickens and turkeys raised for meat are not grown in cages. As the critics of "industrial farming" like to point out, the sheds get quite crowded by the time Thanksgiving rolls around and the turkeys are fully grown. And yes, the birds are bedded in sawdust, so the turkeys do walk around in their own waste. Although the turkeys don't seem to mind, this quite clearly disgusts the various authors I've read whom have actually visited a turkey farm. But none of those authors, whose descriptions of the horrors of modern poultry production have a certain sameness, were there when Neimann picked up those 4,000 dead turkeys. Sheds are expensive, and it was easier to raise turkeys in open, inexpensive pastures. But that type of production really was hard on the turkeys. Protected from the weather and predators, today's turkeys may not be aware that they are a part of a morally reprehensible system.

Like most young people in my part of the world, I was a 4-H member. Raising cattle and hogs, showing them at the county fair, and then sending to slaughter those animals that we had spent the summer feeding, washing, and training. We would then tour the packing house, where our friend was hung on a rail, with his loin eye measured and his carcass evaluated. We farm kids got an early start on dulling our moral sensibilities. I'm still proud of my win in the Atchison County Carcass competition of 1969, as it is the only trophy I have ever received. We raised the hogs in a shed, or farrowing (birthing) house. On one side were eight crates of the kind that the good citizens of California have outlawed. On the other were the kind of wooden pens that our critics would have us use, where the sow could turn around, lie down, and presumably act in a natural way. Which included lying down on my 4-H project, killing several piglets, and forcing me to clean up the mess when I did my chores before school. The crates protect the piglets from their mothers. Farmers do not cage their hogs because of sadism, but because dead pigs are a drag on the profit margin, and because being crushed by your mother really is an awful way to go. As is being eaten by your mother, which I've seen sows do to newborn pigs as well.

Again, Hurst makes good points. I'm not a farmer, Hurst is. He knows what goes on in agriculture more than I do. But, does that mean I should not say anything or have any concerns about how one might raise their crops and animals? I agree it makes more sense to have turkeys not drown in the rain, but I do fear at times, that Hurst's views tend to see the cows and pigs as "dumb animals" and nothing more.

My other concern is that it almost seems that Hurst is simply asking people to simply trust him since he is the expert. While one should be wary when someome like Pollen is running around telling people how to grow food, I also feel I should have some healthy skepticism with experts. Just because someone has a more intimate knowledge of something doesn't mean they are automatically correct. Experts can be nothing more than shills for a group, ignoring the red flags.

Read the article. I'd like to hear people's opinions.

Read the article. I am interested in hearing other people's views.