Archives for category: American Politics

Today, at long last, the Affordable Care Act, dubbed ObamaCare, opens for enrollment, making health insurance available to millions of uninsured Americans. Of course, ObamaCare is not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction, and it certainly will alleviate the financial fear associated with a serious and unexpected illness. (In the USA, medical bills are the biggest cause of bankruptcies.)

In addition, under the mandates of ObamaCare, insurance companies will no longer be able to exclude people from coverage based on even the most minor pre-existing conditions or cancel coverage for those who have been diagnosed with serious and expensive illnesses. Moreover, people denied needed treatment by their insurance companies will now have a guaranteed appeals process. 

In their push to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act, conservative Republicans have cast ObamaCare in near apocalyptic terms. There won’t be death panels, seniors won’t lose benefits, and the economy won’t collapse. All this fear-mongering, initiated by people who should know better, is just politics, plain and simple.

Today, at long last, the Affordable Care Act, dubbed ObamaCare, opens for enrollment, making health insurance available to millions of uninsured Americans. Of course, ObamaCare is not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction, and it certainly will alleviate the financial fear associated with a serious and unexpected illness. (In the USA, medical bills are the biggest cause of bankruptcies.)

In addition, under the mandates of ObamaCare, insurance companies will no longer be able to exclude people from coverage based on even the most minor pre-existing conditions or cancel coverage for those who have been diagnosed with serious and expensive illnesses. Moreover, people denied needed treatment by their insurance companies will now have a guaranteed appeals process. 

In their push to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act, conservative Republicans have cast ObamaCare in near apocalyptic terms. There won’t be death panels, seniors won’t lose benefits, and the economy won’t collapse. All this fear-mongering, initiated by people who should know better, is just politics, plain and simple.

Moment of Joy
Despite the controversy surrounding next week’s New Yorker cover, I love it! Inappropriate? Promoting a gay agenda? Trivializing an important moment in civil rights history? Nope. It’s just a sweet symbol for gay marriage and love.

Discrimination still exists and most states still forbid same-sex marriage, but the train has left the station and there’s no going back. Homophobia is losing steam, and this week’s Supreme Court decisions mark a giant step toward equality for all Americans.

I’ve tried to avoid news about the recent Connecticut school shootings. I’ve heard it all before and nothing ever changes. It’s a tragic commentary on the state of our country. Today, as I was waiting for a haircut, I overheard an unsettling conversation between two men discussing the fine points of ammunition. (They sounded to be hunters.)

According to them, the school shootings have resulted in ammo becoming hard to get. There’s been a run on the stuff as people stockpile it in fear of future government restrictions! One fellow boasted that he had 50,000 rounds stored in his house in case of an emergency, and the other guy offered to buy 10,000 rounds right then and there. His offer was politely refused.

They both spoke in hushed tones, and lamented that the government would likely impose stricter limits on the sale of ammunition and perhaps impose higher taxes on it! One mentioned a friend in New Hampshire who had over 500 guns and rifles, and the problems he was facing. Perhaps, this kind of paranoia and veneration for weapons is the reason political action is so difficult, and why I expect nothing to change. 

I’ve tried to avoid news about the recent Connecticut school shootings. I’ve heard it all before and nothing ever changes. It’s a tragic commentary on the state of our country. Today, as I was waiting for a haircut, I overheard an unsettling conversation between two men discussing the fine points of ammunition. (They sounded to be hunters.)

According to them, the school shootings have resulted in ammo becoming hard to get. There’s been a run on the stuff as people stockpile it in fear of future government restrictions! One fellow boasted that he had 50,000 rounds stored in his house in case of an emergency, and the other guy offered to buy 10,000 rounds right then and there. His offer was politely refused.

They both spoke in hushed tones, and lamented that the government would likely impose stricter limits on the sale of ammunition and perhaps impose higher taxes on it! One mentioned a friend in New Hampshire who had over 500 guns and rifles, and the problems he was facing. Perhaps, this kind of paranoia and veneration for weapons is the reason political action is so difficult, and why I expect nothing to change. 

I recently wrote about the dangers of mixing science and politics. Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote a similar article a few days ago. I’m glad to see that great minds think alike.

I recently wrote about the dangers of mixing science and politics. Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote a similar article a few days ago. I’m glad to see that great minds think alike.

In his first interview since the election, Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan told reporters that he was “surprised” at the outcome. Mr. Ryan believed that the Republicans would win and win big. Was he delusional?

The polls consistently showed President Obama leading in both the national vote and swing states. Polling is a sophisticated science relying on algorithms, voting patterns, and carefully selected random sample sizes. Moreover, modern polling techniques evaluate sample bias, margin of error, and expected voter turnout. At its best, polling is precise, unbiased, and scientific. 

Yet, Mr. Ryan and many of his Republican cronies felt confident because they had their own information. Specifically, news (propaganda) from GOP friendly sources: Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and the Republican fronted pollster Rasmussen Reports. In short, Mr. Ryan and the Republicans began to believe their own spin.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ryan’s alternate reality is a symptom of two larger problems: 

1. The polarization of the news. On both sides of the political spectrum, people interested in politics increasingly view news through the prism of the a partisan media that dominate cable news, talk radio, and the blogosphere. Before cable and the Internet, most people got their news through national media that sought to appeal to audiences spanning the partisan divide. Today, we watch news to reinforces our political beliefs, and not for information; and

2. The politicization of science. Politicians are increasingly preaching their own version of science to push a political agenda. For example, Republicans discount global warming as politically motivated, evolution as merely a “theory,” and unfriendly polling data as another indication of liberal bias. Some Republicans have even stated that pregnancy cannot occur with a “legitimate” rape, and pregnancy resulting from rape is something “God intended.” Science is becoming a tool for political debate. 

Luckily, Mr. Ryan lost the election, and the Republicans suffered a setback. The real election surprise wasn’t the Republican defeat, but rather Republican overconfidence and bravado.

In his first interview since the election, Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan told reporters that he was “surprised” at the outcome. Mr. Ryan believed that the Republicans would win and win big. Was he delusional?

The polls consistently showed President Obama leading in both the national vote and swing states. Polling is a sophisticated science relying on algorithms, voting patterns, and carefully selected random sample sizes. Moreover, modern polling techniques evaluate sample bias, margin of error, and expected voter turnout. At its best, polling is precise, unbiased, and scientific. 

Yet, Mr. Ryan and many of his Republican cronies felt confident because they had their own information. Specifically, news (propaganda) from GOP friendly sources: Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and the Republican fronted pollster Rasmussen Reports. In short, Mr. Ryan and the Republicans began to believe their own spin.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ryan’s alternate reality is a symptom of two larger problems: 

1. The polarization of the news. On both sides of the political spectrum, people interested in politics increasingly view news through the prism of the a partisan media that dominate cable news, talk radio, and the blogosphere. Before cable and the Internet, most people got their news through national media that sought to appeal to audiences spanning the partisan divide. Today, we watch news to reinforces our political beliefs, and not for information; and

2. The politicization of science. Politicians are increasingly preaching their own version of science to push a political agenda. For example, Republicans discount global warming as politically motivated, evolution as merely a “theory,” and unfriendly polling data as another indication of liberal bias. Some Republicans have even stated that pregnancy cannot occur with a “legitimate” rape, and pregnancy resulting from rape is something “God intended.” Science is becoming a tool for political debate. 

Luckily, Mr. Ryan lost the election, and the Republicans suffered a setback. The real election surprise wasn’t the Republican defeat, but rather Republican overconfidence and bravado.

I wonder how the election of 2012 would have played out if Mr. Romney had campaigned on his real beliefs rather than the extreme Republican Party positions he spouted during the election (anti-immigrant, anti-choice, anti-healthcare reform, anti-marriage equality).

Of course, no one really knows what Mr. Romney’s stood for. His positions changed routinely. For example, as Governor, he enacted a health care plan extremely similar to ObamaCare, a plan he later denounced. As the founder of Bain Capital, Mr. Romney placed profits over the welfare of his employees. As a family man, he jokingly discussed his dog being tied to the hood of the car during a vacation. And finally, as a candidate, he disparaged 47 percent of Americans as on the dole

One assumes Mr. Romney is a principled man; yet, in his quest for the White House, Mr. Romney let ambition rather than his true beliefs guide him. 

President Obama is not blameless. As a State Senator, Mr. Obama endorsed same sex marriage. However, as a Presidential candidate in 2008 and as the President, his position changed or “evolved,” as he put it. He did what was politically advantageous. Later, when public opinion polls showed a majority of Americans approving gay marriage, President Obama heartily endorsed the idea. Instead of being an advocate for change, President Obama lead from behind. 

Politics is a dirty business, and it’s the rare politician that places core values above politically expediency. I can think of only a handful: George Washington, Harry Truman, Barry Goldwater, Nelson Mandela, and Jimmy Carter.