Obama’s Transparency – It’s Not Clear to Me

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I have finally figured it out….

I have finally figured out just what President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid mean by “transparency”.  Mrs. Pelosi has said repeatedly that this is the most open and transparent Congress to date.   How can she claim transparency when there are closed-door sessions where deals are cut with special interest groups and bribes for legislators?   I’ll tell you what Ms. Pelosi means.  She looks right into the eyes of the media and says, “We’re going to do this, and it’s going to be done this way, by this time, and we won’t accept any change or compromise.”   That’s pretty clear.

Harry Reid has his own version of transparency.  His transparency is that he tells people what the Senate is going to do (that’s the transparent part), then in closed-door sessions he buys a vote or two that will put his plan over, and then ultimately proclaims the success he predicted.   Come on, who cannot see what’s really happening when senators exchange their votes for millions of dollars for their states?  When Senators Nelson and Landrieu took Reid’s bribes for their healthcare votes and support, it was well publicized on conservative talk shows on radio and TV, and through conservative blogs on the web.  It became really transparent to Americans at that point that what was going on in Washington was “politics as usual” – or maybe on politics on steroids!   The audacity of the Democrats was that they believed that they can get away with such underhanded dealings  — even out in the open — because, after all, they had control in the White House, Senate, and the House of Representatives.  Who was going to stop them?   Seriously, who can expect real transparency when deals are negotiated behind closed doors, especially when only those of like-minds are invited inside and those holding opposing views are banned from participation in the sessions?   

Obama’s lack of his promised transparency has cost him in the polls, and yet he still spouts the same old rhetoric from his campaigning days, still tossing the blame for  everything on Bush, still holding closed door meetings with special interest groups and congressional leaders, and still has his czars and others with far-left political views in policy-making positions who are not confirmed by Congress or elected by voters.  Is that transparency?  Not in my book.  When Obama campaigned on transparency, the people took him at his word… And why was that?  Because that would truly be the  promised change and hope for a new way for  Washington to operate.  Who wouldn’t vote for that?  Only it hasn’t happened – and it won’t under THIS administration, for sure!

We were forewarned by deeds rather than words.  Obama certainly didn’t display any transparency during the campaign…. not about his collegiate career, college applications and transcripts; not by producing his actual birth certificate, not by explaining how he traveled about the globe as an unemployed individual of non-existent means, and other things – things that could be easily produced and would end the suspicions and speculations once and for all, assuming he really wanted to be transparent!   

How can Obama proclaim his administration is transparent when there are special considerations for individuals and certain groups, and when what should be public information is hidden from the public?  Again, what about the campaign promise of transparency, of the CSPAN-televised negotiations on healthcare reform which never materialized?  In fact, Obama has laughingly shrugged that one off as a “just one of those many campaign promises politicians make” – and as everyone knows ALL campaign promises can’t be kept, right?   At this point, it’s pretty obvious that we will never see the kind of transparency we had hoped for from this Administration or from Congress.  Rather, the type of transparency now being promoted is the transparency of some of our national secrets under the guise criminally trying enemy combatants in our federal courts – the kind of transparency that can cost us our national safety – or de-classifying important documents and publicizing interrogation techniques used on terrorists.  Just who is that transparency for?

As I’ve pointed out previously, Democrats say there is (by their own definitions) transparency in our government.  I have noticed, though, there are some differences in the “applied definition” of transparency between the Legislative and Executive branches.  The Obama White House tends toward (unintended) transparency where the various members of Obama’s staff inadvertently reveal things simply because the players can’t keep their stories in synch – or their mouths shut.  The Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House do their “dirty” dealings behind closed doors, usually with a group of like-minded persons, and try to come up with a more palatable way of force-feeding their “transparency” to the voters.   (Occasionally, politicians seeking the limelight will spill some beans though.   I happen to be thankful that at least this kind of transparency has occurred because it has made for a wiser American public.)  

Perhaps the differences between the White House and Congress “transparency successes” are because the Legislative branch happens to have had a lot more experience with “covert transparency” than the intellectuals and academics who are presently making up the Executive Branch and staff.  Congress is full of professional politicians.  The White House is amateurish on governing in this way, having their strength in organizing groups.  However, because of the closer scrutiny by those on the right, and even independents, who have their eyes and ears open,  both branches have come up short on executing their types of transparency. 

For instance, remember the healthcare bill and the people who went to townhall meetings to express their opposition to HR 3200 and make their concerns known?  When it came time to literally push through controversial legislation on healthcare that apparently was in direct opposition to the wishes of the majority of the American voters (you’ll recall the uproar of the summer and fall townhall meetings!), Pelosi and Reid showed a surprising lack of understanding of the tenor of the public’s sentiment and their grasp of what the bill actually contained.  But they made no bones about what they were going to do …. that’s their transparency!  They had dismissed the fact that the voters were becoming more educated on the issues and beginning to become active in the process by using their freedom of speech to contact their legislators and following the examples of other grass roots organizations to come together.   The conservative and independent voters have educated themselves on the issues as well as having gained a better understanding of  “the game” of politics.  While these newbies to politics began paying close attention to the activities of their legislators, they are also began to groom their own to rise up to replace those entrenched and out-of-touch members of Congress.   

The legislators dismissed the American people and the subsequent polling that resulted from the discontent.  However, with the strong showing in NYC 23 and with Scott Brown’s senate seat win, there is a transparent national “routing out” of those who do backroom deals or who refuse to listen to their constituents.   One only has to read the handmade placards at the rallies and look at the polls to see this is true.  Concerned Americans are being transparent in their plans to unseat those who are not listening to the people who sent them to Washington.   The people are outraged that their own legislators don’t read the bills they are voting on, or even know what was in them.  Yet the legislators will still push for a bill’s passage while the people are aggressively telling them no!  The people  have had enough.   

The biggest mistake made by the Democrats, which  will cost them dearly in the mid-term elections is that they wouldn’t consider that the emotion which was demonstrated in the townhall meetings was genuine, and that it would still rage strong or be as widespread this long.  The people, who had placed their hope in the promises of transparency and openness and of a different Washington than previous administrations, were transparent when they expressed their concern all summer and fall.  They had grown tired of Washington’s favors and bribery, and they were expressing strong opposition to the Democrats’ type of “transparency”, yet they got more of the same.

Unfortunately for the Democrats,  the polls now reflect a sharp downturn for long-time incumbents who are up for relection in 2010.   (Just as a reminder, it’s not just Democrats who will find the going rough.  Some Republicans should watch themselves as well.)  Recently, public backlash has prompted several prominent, long-term, entrenched Democrats to”called it quits” rather than run for re-election and face certain defeat, and why?  Perhaps they’ve seen the “handwriting on the wall”.  Or, as Rep. Snyder (D- AR) said, “I want to spend time more with my family”.  Perhaps they’ve come to realize that there really IS a grassroots movement —  NOT the “astroturf”, as Nancy Pelosi called it — that has taken hold and spread all across this nation and it will affect real change in our government and restore hope to American citizens.  

When people band together in groups called “tea parties” and have an announced agenda of becoming politically savvy and involved for the purpose of routing out the politicians who don’t really care about preserving the principles upon which this country was founded, but rather make a political career for themselves, I call this a type of transparency, too.  Don’t you? 

The Scott Brown win has the Democrats scrambling to “embrace” the other side of the aisle, but they’re still missing the transparency issue.  They want the Republican “participation” but they don’t want to hear Republican input!  What they all should be doing is listening to the people!  We’ll see what happens over these next few months until the next election.   At this point, though, what the Democrats are doing is  pretty clear and transparent to me – more political games, not more transparency!


Obama’s School Speech Is “Required” Curriculum?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Want to get my blood boiling?  Just tell me I am required to sit and listen to something I don’t want to or that I object to – even more so, if you tell my that I have to subject my child to something I don’t want to have them subjected to!

It is appalling that Florida’s Broward County Public Schools, one of the largest school districts in the nation, located in one of the most liberal counties in Florida, is requiring all BCPS children to be in attendance to listen to the President’s school address or the students will be punished!  That is outrageous; it’s ludicrous, and if there was a stronger word that I could think of, I’d use it.  It’s using strong-arm tactics; it’s coercion. That’s a strong accusation, but how else can you view it? 

Broward County parents should have the right to say what their children should or should not listen to especially if it may be something that is in direct opposition to the belief system under which they are raising their children. 

The US Secretary of Education has said the President’s speech is voluntary.  But the Superintendent of BCPS has decided to force their students to be in attendance for the speech.  Rather than offering an alternative educational experience for children during the time the speech is being presented for those whose parents have objections, the superintendent threatens to punish the students who are not in attendance.  In my opinion, this is a simplistic representation (though an isolated case) of how if you don’t do what the government dictates, you will be punished through whatever means they can use.  (Schools are an arm of the government, you know, and they control education in the US.)  In this instance, it is a blatant attempt of the BCPS to control an outcome, to usurp parental authority by threatening the children with punishment. 

President Obama’s speech hasn’t actually occurred yet, of course, so I can’t say exactly what is in it.  If the reports hold true, it’s about trying to create more volunteerism, cleaning up the environment, saving energy, becoming more neighborly.  I believe they took out the part where the students were to “help President Obama” under pressure from the public.  And, oh yeah, at the last I believe they more strongly promoted the staying in school and getting a good education part.  So, in my opinion, if Obama keeps himself out of the speech, the “how can you help the President Obama” part, then as I understand what will be covered, the uproar should subside.  But as responsible parents, we should be teaching our children to want to be good citizens anyway — regardless of who is in office, not because of who is in office

However, in regards to this article, the content of President Obama’s School Speech is not what is at issue.  What is at issue is the concept of forcing students, especially students of very impressionable ages, to view a presentation which may contain objectionable content.  This issue is similar to requiring children to participate in the pledge of allegiance to the flag.  Children are not required to participate in classrooms where this is practiced.  So, it begs the question why they should they be forced to participate in the President’s school speech and any activities that come from the suggested curriculum if the parents disagree. 

Obviously, children should never be forced to participate in something that is in opposition to their parent’s personal beliefs or face punishment — or endure any reprisal. I must, therefore, side with the parents that believe they should have the say as to what their children participate in whether at school or elsewhere in the community.  But more importantly, a parent should have the right to temporarily remove their child from the classroom if they so choose without the child receiving punishment.  In fact, many do for various reasons with the understanding that the child will make up any class work that they miss or do some other project that is acceptable. 

It would have been much wiser and made much more sense if the Broward County Public Schools had devised an alternative to sitting through the speech to accomplish similar educational goals, if the students were allowed to have some other educational activity, possibly a discussion on how to be a better citizen, how to conserve energy, how to volunteer, etc., or some kind of program that inspires them to think about these subjects, to share ideas, and perhaps even have the students create their own action plans for implementing some of their own ideas.  That makes a lot more sense than alienating parents and punishing children, doesn’t it?

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(Side note:  Everything seems to come back to the hot topic of healthcare these days.  So, would the philosophy of punishment for non-compliance hold true if you don’t buy into the government-sponsored insurance coverage?  If you don’t accept the government’s plan?  You betcha.  It’s in the HR 3200!)

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(Author’s addition:  The Superintendent of Broward County Schools in a televised interview stated that the Obama School Speech was a part of their permanent required curriculum.  When pressed on how that was possible when it was a recently announced thing.  He didn’t budge.  When asked about the students whose parents opted to keep them home, his reply repeatedly was they did not allow for opting out of required curriculum.  When asked what would happen to the students, how they would be punished, his response was that their absence would be treated as any absence.  For those who had an excused absence, make-up work would be given, implying that an unexcused absence would have the regular consequences of any unexcused absence.

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(Another note:  I took the time to read the pre-released Obama School Speech the evening before it was presented.  It appeared that the offending portions had been removed.  To me, it seemed to be a good speech and would serve as encouragement to some students.  I did not have the opportunity to view the teaching aids or study guides that were sent to go along with the presentation.  I think if there was anything offensive, you’d probably find it in there, or perhaps you would find it in any political bias of the teachers and administrators.)


Speed-Read HR3200

Friday, August 28, 2009

I read a good portion of HR3200. I’m an relatively intelligent individual so I understood the words, but not the meanings of most of the words in the way that they were put together. I think that was the intent. It is entirely too complex and intentionally vague. Further, it continually referred back to other legislation that I didn’t have on hand to read. (I wonder how long the bill would have been if those sections had been inserted rather than referred to! SHEESH!)

Conservatives, such as myself, are more than appalled that anyone would vote on any legislation that they had not read for themselves. Actually, it’s the most asinine thing that a legislator can do. I would be willing to bet that the only sections of this bill or the other iterations of it that these people in the House and Senate are familiar with is the portion that pertains to their particular interests.

When called to account, some of our representatives and senators have said that they had someone else read the bill. Well, I guess that’s alright, but I’ll bet they didn’t understand it either. Lawyers are even having a hard time understanding it. I actually heard a legislator say that they had speed readers read the bill. Take a look at this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwOZNS3WhyY

I’ve taken a speed reading course. There’s no way that a significant depth of understanding of the content can be gleaned from reading a bill in this manner prior to voting.

So… if this is the way the speed readers read the bill, then there’s no wonder when asked at the townhall meetings the representatives and senators couldn’t say what was actually in the bill or what wasn’t. In fact, almost without exception, the townhallers had a better understanding than the legislators and could quote section and page numbers in most cases.

As the bill was mentioned, the senators said there was no bill… true, enough because there hasn’t be one come together in the senate. But that was a “play dumb” strategy that hasn’t proven to bode well for them, because the Senate bill will be based primarily upon the HR3200, unless they completely start from scratch. When questioned on specifics of the HR3200 bill, House members were often clueless… or chose politician-speak (many words that talk around an issue without addressing it), or completely dismissed the question and moved on. It was pretty clear who had cared enough to even glance at the HR3200 bill.

Now as for the legislators actually reading the bill, if speed reading is to be the way these absurdly lengthy and highly incoherent bills are going to be handled for the legislators, I’d like to suggest a comprehension test be given to the speed readers that are on the payrolls of these elected officials. And if they don’t understand 90% or better of the content and can’t explain it on a junior high school level to the legislator (and that is probably over-rating the intellect of some of them!) , then the legislator should be not be allowed to cast a vote on it. Of course, my preference would be that the legislators would be considerate enough of their constituents to actually read what’s in it… not just for the benefit of their states, but to protect their states from portions that might actually be detrimental to their state’s interests.

But really! Who in Washington, DC cares about those folks back at home? Really!


Astroturf Movement? I Would Hope So.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yeah. Astroturf is a term I can embrace as one of those who would be counted among those townhallers who are shouting their discontent with the proposed healthcare reform as outlined in HR 3200 and the runaway spending by the Obama Administration. And here’s why.

What happens to grass roots? They produce blades of grass. Someone comes along and cuts them back over and over. They get bruised and weakened when trampled on. They die back during the winter. Astroturf, on the other hand, lasts and lasts and lasts. It doesn’t get cut back. It doesn’t get bruised when trampled on. It stays strong and effective all year long, year after year.

So, yeah. I’m an astroturfer… and I hope that all those who have attended the townhall meetings to voice their opinions will also embrace the descriptor of astroturf and let that be a reminder to the liberals that we are here to stay!

Go “green” – be an astroturfer!


Hey, Here’s Some Ideas on Medical Care!

Friday, August 14, 2009

A couple weeks ago, I was watching a panel of med students on TV discussing the Obamacare issues. They were asked questions by the moderator about their studies and fields they were pursuing. Interestingly they had genuine concerns about how it was going to affect them when they begin their careers and practices. Incidentally, one female student identified herself as a recipient of “full-ride” financial assistance from the government to specifically to study family medicine. Others on the panel were going into fields like oncology, research, etc.

This prompted me to begin thinking. I’m no expert by any means on this extremely complex topic, so I know I’m speaking way out of my knowledge base, but perhaps there’s some sense to be found in my thoughts.

First of all, we have to…. let me restate that…. we have to get tort reform into the final bill.

Second, Obama is a “gung-ho” proponent of volunteerism and community involvement. Take that and combine it with the government incentive for medical students to study and pursue careers in family medicine this way. Let’s say that Obamacare required that these medical students who were “on the dole” for their family medicine education to link up with hospitals where they would work off their education indebtedness as a hospital’s in-house family practice and take the hospital’s emergency room’s off-the-street cases which aren’t true emergencies. These hospitals could be given a tax credit for establishing and running these family practices to offset expenses.

The hospitals would pay these young family practice doctors a salary, of course, but I would imagine that it would be far less than the expense of utilizing the entire emergency staff and facilities for simple sutures and runny-nose and coughs type cases, and so. (Clearly, there are many implications that I’m not taking into consideration here, such as overall cost to run the emergency room or to develop a side family practice business.)

And then let’s take it a little farther to benefit the entire community. Let’s make the hospital emergency rooms real emergency rooms or trauma centers. Again, it seems to me that the newly minted trauma centers should make a lot more money without having the uninsured using their facilities for minor maladies – perhaps even more than enough to offset the cost of these new family practitioners. Of course, I’m not a hospital administrator, so I can’t determine that; but logically, it sounds feasible. (And in my own defense, I think this is as thought-through as much of the HR3200 has been.)

I can’t help but feel that this makes a whole lot more sense than trying to insure illegals or dismantling an entire healthcare system that for millions upon millions is working. In fact, it seems that this type of plan I have started describing here would be a whole lot easier to oversee than that which has been outlined in the HR32oo healthcare bill. It certainly wouldn’t take all the bureaucracy that is outlined in this bill to implement because it could be overseen at the local level primarily with a “dotted line” to DHS in Washington.

If we took this healthcare thing and implemented it a step at a time rather trying to implement it as a whole, by the time Obama leaves office, we could have an excellent health program that benefits every American citizen. And, it certainly would also keep the government involvement out of private doctor-patient relationships.

Again, we need to stop frivolous and irrational lawsuits against doctors. This would bring down cost of malpractice insurance for the doctors and they could pass on the savings to the patients who would have more to buy insurance with.

High drug prices have also driven up the patients’ insurance costs. So, Step Two is to get all drug costs under control. Again, by eliminating frivolous law suits against drug companies, costs can be dramatically reduced and should be passed on to the consumer. Research for drug companies is expensive, for sure. But what I am opposed to is their very lengthy patents. My opinion on this is not just for a research cost recovery that these patents are so long. I believe these drug companies charge extremely high prices for many, many years on these patented medicines to drive up their company’s profits unfairly.

I’ve also struggled with pharmaceutical advertising to the public, primarily because I think I’m among the few who actually read the fine print at the bottom of the TV screen, or listen to the fast talker at the end of the commercial describing the horrific side effects that are scarier than the diseases! I think it might be best if they spent their advertising dollars to educate the physicians and prescribers on the new drugs so they’re up to speed on the latest medicines and let the medical professionals who know their patients and who could benefit from the newer drugs make the appropriate recommendation to the patients.

With drug prices so high, those people without drug coverage or who have high deductibles and/or co-pays will opt to not pay for these drugs. What they need is alternatives to the high-priced namebrands to be made available much sooner. If they don’t want to relinquish the patent completely because they would lose all the profit in those final years of the patent life, why can’t the drug companies do generic production at the same time and when they reach the “breakeven point” take advantage of both tiers of the market. At the end of the patent years, they could continue their own generic production or sell off that portion of the business.

So, drug cost is the second thing that needs to be addressed.

Third thing, is insurance coverage, I don’t think that there should be such a difference in premiums cost between those in a large group of people and an individual seeking coverage. Once you get the cost of doctors’ care and drugs within reason, you could have levels of insurance coverage that can be made available to everyone at affordable cost. I think group insurance was probably used as an incentive to get big businesses on board to sell more policies at one time. However, businesses have been cutting way back on these kind of benefits once used to lure people into employment because of the pressure on their own bottom lines.

I’m saying that all people should be able to pay a reasonable price for basic insurance coverage for basic medical needs. Our car insurance policies and most life insurance policies aren’t tied to employment. So, if the cost of doctors’ care, and drugs costs come into a more sensible balance with actual costs, then perhaps insurance coverage should be “untied” to employment and group policy price structuring, meaning those who are employed or unemployed have the same access to the same coverage at the same rates.

Medical costs must come down… and they can if some of the steps discussed previously are implemented. Insurance companies could still offer their “cadillac” version for those who can afford it and who want it. They could also offer a mid-level option to the general masses. If offered through employers, the patient pays a percentage and the employer pays a percentage according to their agreements. (I believe that this is where most policy holders fall anyway.) And finally, they could offer a restructured catastrophic care coverage that would help keep people from being totally devastated. So, if healthcare costs are brought down because of changes in litigation laws, patent laws, and advertising costs, then more people who wouldn’t have previously had insurance will more likely be able to afford insurance or pay for basic healthcare.

I don’t personally know anyone who has not been able to get any health insurance coverage because of a previous or existing condition. I’m sure there are plenty. Regardless of any previous conditions, basic wellness checkups and preventative care should be covered regardless because illnesses caught early are less expensive to treat. A person who has had a devastating illness with no recurrence or symptoms within five years should be able to once again have full coverage. Pre-existing conditions should not be an automatic uninsurability either.

I don’t know anyone with a pre-existing condition and I haven’t studied up on this issue, but surely there is a way to offset the costs of care for the individual. These people have other medical care needs that may not have any correlation to their particular pre-existing condition. They still need wellness care coverage and general medical care that they could be covered on. There could have a disclaimer paragraph inserted into “special situation” policies for those with pre-existing conditions which is much easier to do than it is to write a whole new healthcare bill! In order to cover everyone, it makes sense to me that with the absence of frivolous lawsuits, without exorbitant profit-making, insurance companies should be able issue policies that everyone could afford. And just how few words that would take…. not 1000+ pages!