Monday, January 31, 2011

The Florida Health Care Decision - Not Surprising

“But we will have to pass the bill so that you can find out, uh, what’s in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” Nancy Pelosi on Obamacare

Well, long before we are finding out much about what is in it, a US District Court Judge in Florida is making us question if it is even worth reading.

Today, Judge Roger Vinson, a Republican appointee, ruled the contentious “mandate” provision of the sweeping health care legislation known to folks on the street as Obamacare to be unconstitutional. Is this the end of the battle? No. Vinson is the second of two judges who have ruled in this manner, while two other judges have ruled the clause is constitutional. The issue will make it’s way to the US Supreme Court where it will be heard and decided. It appears to me that the Feds are going to lose on this one. And while I wouldn’t bet my house on it, I would bet my golf clubs. Here’s why.

The short explanation of the “mandate” in question is that it requires people to buy health insurance. The feds have attempted to claim the “Commerce Clause” allows the federal government to have the authority over the states to require this mandate. In order to find in favor of the Feds, the high court will have to agree with the Fed’s argument that whether someone wants to use the health care industry or not, they eventually will - thus, in reality, making everyone a user at some point or another, and therefore subject to the Commerce Clause. This is a greatly abbreviated explanation, but is description enough for this piece.

Even though the Commerce Clause has been stretched beyond recognition by previous courts, this is a step that finally appears to have gone too far. The more liberal judges on the court will tend, as liberals do, to rule according to what they feel is the right thing to do. The more conservative judges will rule, as they usually do, on the letter of the law and how it is written. In other words, should we do what the law says, or do what we feel is just in our opinion? This is probably a four-four split. Anthony Kennedy, the 9th judge on the court and the frequent swing vote, is generally acknowledged to be center-right. Will he go with the conservative members? Maybe. On this issue alone, the odds are somewhat better than even he will do so. But certainly not a given.

There are other issues that are sure to influence the court. Even though the court is supposed to stay removed from public sentiment, it is not totally immune. Undoubtedly the justices know what the polls and the last election indicated - that a majority of Americans are decidedly against the bill. They know a preponderance of states - over half - are involved in the fight to stop it. They also know the bill was pushed through using legal but devious practices. While this knowledge will not guide their vote, it will, subconsciously help them decide in favor of the states should they basically agree with them.

So even though the Republicans in Congress are attempting to defund and/or destroy Obamacare, the courts may solve the problem first. If they do, however, it raises some other issues. Many lawyers who have analyzed the bill say if the mandate in question is found to be unconstitutional, the whole bill is nullified because there is no clause in the bill to the contrary. This is unusual. In fact, such a clause was in the original draft and then removed, which indicates it was removed on purpose. Concurring, Judge Vinson in today’s ruling specifically stated that without the mandate, the whole bill is invalidated. Some others, however, believe it is within the Supreme Court’s power to declare the clause unconstitutional without invalidating the entire piece of legislation.

If the entire bill is not struck down, it will lead to even more interesting discussion and political maneuvering. The Administration and leftist democrats may try to keep the rest of the bill intact, which is financially impossible. However, it will give them more leverage in the eventual re-structuring that will take place.

Anti Obamacare entities aren’t only resting their hopes with the courts. There is also hope Republicans will increase their hold in the Senate to a filibuster-proof 60 members, keeping the House, and winning the presidency in 2012. If this happens, they will have the power to repeal Obamacare in it’s entirety. With 23 Democratically occupied seats up for grabs in 2012 (mostly in more conservative districts) and only 13 Republican seats, the Republicans are poised to make some big gains - probably a majority. But to get 60 seats, they need to win 23 of the 36 seats in the game. That won’t be easy.

Whatever happens with future elections and the courts concerning the existence of Obamacare, one thing is certain - the battle will go on. Republicans are not waiting for the courts or the 2012 elections to act. Indeed, they will be attacking the bill’s parts, and do their best to limit funding of the bill, hoping to slow it down or destroy it piece by piece. And if the bill is ultimately struck down, the pressure will be with Republicans to come up with something to adequately replace it. That will be a daunting task.

If there is one lessen to be learned from this it is that no legislation should be passed without some bi-partisan support. In his presidential campaign Obama stated more than a few times that for legislation to be good and effective, it has to have bi-partisan support. The Democrats’ arrogant and greedy power grab over the health care issue is, ultimately, leading to their demise, and puts the future of Obamacare in question. A few palatable compromises with Republicans, such as meaningful tort reform, increased competition from insurance companies by allowing policies to be sold across state lines and allowing more palatable benefit limits might have produced a bill that would muster enough public and cross-party support to keep the Republicans and the courts from overturning it.

Hnag on, the battle still rages on. And it reminds us of something else:

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The health care bill is yet another example..

Mercer Tyson

Egypt: Be Decisive - Now!

Let’s see, maybe I should, uh, well I don’t know, possibly, .....Don’t want to do the wrong thing here....

Obama doesn’t want to be wrong, so he sits indecisively on the sidelines, ostensibly to see who wins and then try to make friends. Either that or he doesn’t want to anger anyone. The problem with this strategy, of course, is each side is asking for his (our) support. Whichever side “wins” will say we didn’t support them. With that policy, we will probably emerge only slightly damaged if Mubarak retains control. If, however, some other group gains control, we lose big time.

(In fact, one of the front runners, somebody named El-Bareidi, is already saying the US has not supported the “people” to his satisfaction. Not to imply that I support this El-Bareidi guy or not - that is essentially irrelevant to the argument.)

Right now we need to ask and answer two questions;

-Most importantly, who is likely to win; and

-Secondly, who do we want to win.

If we can affect who wins (inexpensively) fine. We decide who we want and do what we have to do. If we can’t affect who wins, then we pick who we think will win, and side with them. Pick the winner. Or in this case, don’t pick the loser.

I will be the first to admit I can’t answer those questions. It appears to me, however, it is easy to pick the loser - Mubarak.

Therefore, this should be Mr. Obama’s statement:

“Mr. Mubarak, it is time you step down. You should either promise to provide fair elections monitored by the international community to elect a successor, or just leave entirely and turn the country over to the military while a new government is formed. We believe the people of Egypt have spoken and indicated their wish to form a new government. We appreciate your assistance in helping to keep Middle East peace, and we will continue to support and aid Egypt if your successor continues with a similar foreign policy. We do not want to push ourselves onto the Egyptian people, and we want them to build their own future. However, if we can assist you or your military in accomplishing the above, we stand by ready to help. The will of the people should always comes first. It is time you honored that.

And to the people of Egypt - we stand with you, and ask that you seek a peaceful, non-violent transition, and form a government that will reflect the diversity of your multitude of cultures and religions. Our thoughts will be with you during these troubled times.”

By the way, you have my permission to use the above statement.

Okay, it’s somewhat wimpy, but here’s the point. Dimes to doughnuts, Mubarak is soon gone. We probably can’t, at this time, pick the winner. But we can sure as heck pick the loser and distance ourselves from him.

What Mr, Obama doesn’t yet understand is that his job, President of the United States, is largely a job of crisis management, not philosophizing and analyzing ad nauseum what is the best move, and coming up with something brilliant like “We encourage both sides to exercise restraint.”

This is not a “win-win,” situation, or even a “win-lose.” It is either a “break even - lose” or a “lose - lose” situation. Making a decision here designates it as the former, not making one encourages the latter.

Mr. Obama, I believe there is no chance for Mubarak to come out on top, thus the award-winning speech above. I don’t, however, have access to the intel you have. That and the fact that I’m not the POTUS means that I can’t make the decision. Therefore, it is up to you to make the decision.

Now make one.

Mercer Tyson

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The State of the Union - A Home Run?

Maybe. But he doesn’t score unless he touches all the bases.

The State of the Union speech sounded good - they always do - but left me unconvinced Obama was ready to work with Republicans in any real way. The country spoke last November and voiced an opinion loud and clear, but Obama failed to listen until the eve of the New Year when the Republicans got him in a head lock he couldn’t get out of; if he didn’t approve the tax extensions for everyone, the taxes would go up for the under $250K crowd as well as the “rich,” and he would get the blame. Republicans could have won everything they wanted, or put all the blame on Obama for a big political victory. But doing so would have wiped out the tax cut extensions which would have been bad for the country, so they capitulated. Obama, on the other hand, capitulated for political purposes. So even though the hard left is furious with him for agreeing to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy as well as the middle class, he came out smelling like a rose.

His approval numbers went up as a result. Some of the tentative middle independents not only think he might have gotten the picture, but seemed to like the fact he was working with Republicans, cooperation they’ve wanted for a long time. Thus the uptick. I’m guessing his State of the Union speech will give him a boost as well - it always does, probably because it is one of the few times large numbers of Americans are watching when the President is in control and usually at his best. And since many of those who watch don’t stay tuned long enough to hear the opposing party’s response, the image is positive. In his speech, Obama sounded a bit like an American, which is unusual for him. He talked about America being exceptional. He talked about America doing “big things.” He acknowledged America was the most dynamic and prosperous country in the world. And he acknowledged that with hard work you can succeed in America (which is a common thing to say if you are a liberal, but liberal policies seem to imply they believe exactly the opposite). I think America liked hearing these things instead of what we usually hear from him; complaints about what is wrong with America, why we are not exceptional, and why we need to apologize to the world.

However, you can’t blame us for being skeptical about his apparent change of attitude. We have seen this Obama before. In his campaign speeches he stated no legislation is good legislation unless it has support from both parties. He shot that promise down immediately. Now he promises cooperation again. Yet when he spoke of Obamacare and said we could work together to fix the bill without need to start over, what it sounded like was “Okay, I’ll go along with some changes, but not the issues that are near and dear to my heart.” Which is most of it. If not, and if he is willing to work together to come up with a good bill, why not start over with bipartisan support as he originally promised? Ha. I don’t need to answer that; you know the answer. He won’t wind up with what he wants. Consider this; if you draw plans for a house and as you get ready to build it you realize there are serious flaws with the floor plan, you redraw it right then. You don’t build it and then redesign it. No one understands the 2,700 page bill fully, and most of what they do understand is ambiguous and open for argument or just plain stupid. Part of this, of course, was because of the shenanigans Pelosi and Reid used to get the bill through when they did not have the support of the American people or the Scott Brown affected Senate. But regardless of the reason, it is a ridiculous piece of legislation that needs to be trashed and redone completely. Amending a bill like this is far more difficult than starting over. But he says he won’t do it.

And, with that attitude, is there a reason Republicans should work with him in a reasonable fashion? What if they said “Okay, we will accept Obamacare, but only if you agree not to cover people who don’t pay?” How do you think that would go over? Like a lead balloon. In effect, Obama said he would consider changes as long as he got what he wanted. He’s compromising like the Iranians - “Let’s talk and then do it my way.”

And through it all we got to hear the same chants that have become extremely unpopular with conservatives and the American public. Let’s invest (don’t say spend!) in clean energy, education, and everything else. Let’s “compete” with China and India. Most clear-thinking Americans realize we need to get our financial house in order first. If we get financially healthy, then we “invest.” Right now the spending is exactly what is destroying our outlook for a bright future. The stimulus bill has failed miserably, and at the same time it guarantees a harder time digging out if and when the economy does improve.

I must confess; I have a hard time figuring this guy out. Is he a true believer? Is he an idealogue? Or is he a political animal? We will probably know by the end of next year. If he is an idealogue, he won’t compromise with Republicans. If, however, he is mostly politically motivated, we may see him compromise and swing to the middle.

So, did he hit a home run with the SOTU? Maybe, but already he missed first base. He needs to go back and touch first before he moves on, or the American people will grab the ball and tag him out.

Mercer Tyson

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Tyson Liberal - Conservative Test

“To err is human. If you make the same mistake twice you are a moron.” Me. Or somebody else - I can’t remember.

With the heated political rhetoric that has been common to modern-day politics, many people just trying to live their lives don’t really know where they stand on the liberal-conservative relative spectrum. Here are ten easy Questions to determine if you are a liberal or a conservative, or somewhere in between. Rate your answer using a 1-10 number scale, where 10 indicates strong agreement, and 0 indicates strong disagreement, with 5 being neutral. (Other political leanings such as libertarian are ignored)

1. Government is the most efficient, honest way to run social and medical programs, utilizing highly motivated, inventive employees that emphasize strict control of projects and efficient use of cost-cutting technologies.

2. All people, no matter how lazy, deserve good quality medical care and food. And Flat-screen TV’s.

3. The rich people in the world should pay for everything for everybody, because, after all, they didn’t do anything to earn their money, and everyone knows the rich wouldn’t even miss the money needed to make all people live in nice houses with good food and medical care. Additionally, businesses and jobs would grow exponentially since everyone would be relatively wealthy. Soon, the rich could keep their money because everyone would be wealthy.

4. Even though programs like Cap and Trade could severely damage our economy and cause us to lose ground in the competitive world marketplace while making only negligible headway in combating greenhouse gases, it is worth the price because we can set a good example for the rest of the world and be proud of ourselves. China and India are sure to clean up their industries as soon as they see us clean up ours.

5. Someone who doesn’t want to pay high taxes is a racist. (In writing out this test, I can’t find anyone who can explain this, but many people seem to think it is true, so I must be missing something.)

6. Someone who doesn’t want to pay high taxes is a hate monger. This is obvious. If you don’t want to give people your money, you must really hate them.

7. Medical malpractice attorneys are honest, dedicated, benevolent people who are deeply concerned with the public’s health care, and will help keep medical care excellent while simultaneously reducing costs as part of Obamacare.

8. Most of the gains in medicine, technology, communications, etc., are due to the work of forward-thinking progressives and diligent government-sponsored programs. Ben Franklin, James Watt, Thomas Edison and Bill Gates were secret government employees.

9. Barbara Streisand is absolutely brilliant, and should be president of the US, with Joy Behar vice president. Or the other way around. Doesn’t matter.

10. It is clear that Al Gore invented the internet, but did not invent global warming.

Now, add up the scores. If you scored between

0 and 10, - you are a true conservative, nothing less than a fine human being, who understands the meaning of survival.

11 and 20, - you are well grounded, with a firm grasp on the obvious.

21 and 30, - you are of reasonable intelligence and common sense, and can handle a difficult job, such as middle-management and jobs requiring technical skills.

31 and 50, - you are capable of handling a job of minimal importance, but should be treated with respect.

51 and 80 - You are clinically alive, but should not be allowed to participate in politics, and should have your pulse checked every few days.

81 and 100 - Wow! Congratulations! Miracles do exist! You are completely delusional. You are, however, a proud liberal/progressive, and are qualified to teach in prestigious colleges and universities, be a news broadcaster with NBC (or have your own opinion show on MSNBC since Keith Olberman is now gone), write a column for the New York Times, or run for president in the Democratic Party.

If you are conflicted, I hope this helped you understand your political leanings.

Mercer Tyson

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Orange Man Cryeth. Is This a Problem?

Will this water down his effectiveness?

We all saw it on Boehner’s 60 Minutes interview. We all saw it as Boehner took the gavel from Nancy Pelosi. Tears.

More significant than the tears, however, is the noise made by the press and pundits about it. Serious comments such as “Is he stable enough to do his job, and heaven forbid, if he became president, how would it look to have a crybaby running the country?” And humorous comments like “Well, that’s how we close the border. We put John Boehner in the middle of the Rio Grande and have him tell stories until the water level rises so high no one can get across!” (I’m waiting for someone to suggest that with global warming and Boehner crying, the water level will rise so only the highest mountains will remain above sea level.) I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live for awhile, but this issue has got to be in their sights.

There have also been non-truths told about Boehner’s tears. Many pundits have suggested he only cries about himself. My recollection is that he cries for soldiers, our children’s futures, and pretty much anything he is emotional about. He is proud of who he is, what he has accomplished, and wants future generations to receive the America he experienced.

Here’s my perspective. Real issue? No. Cosmetic issue? Maybe.

First understand this - as men get older, they get more emotional/sensitive. I can speak from experience here, as I find myself sobbing up for things that would not have elicited anything more than a brief comment years ago. It’s hard to watch a chic flick without grabbing the kleenex a few times, and puffy eyes are much more common than they used to be. But I also laugh more. Increased emotions of all sorts are part of what pushed me to write this blog.

The increasing connection with my feminine side in no way means I can’t stay the course when concentrated attention is required for some difficult or contentious task. When handling a business discussion, the eyes are dry. Cursing maybe, crying no. Boehner’s tears are like mine- they come to the surface in moments of reflection. And no one in his family or who is affiliated with him politically has ever indicated he is weak in any regard.

I was listening to a discussion of this on the Ronn Owens talk show (KGO, San Francisco). One caller told of her grandfather who cried more frequently as he aged when telling reminiscent stories, but was still one of the strongest and most capable men she knew. Owens understood this to some degree, but not the overall point about aging men getting emotional upon reflection. Probably because it hasn’t happened to him yet.

I’m no psychologist, but I suspect women in politics and other positions of power learn to control tears because they know as women they must appear strong, and learn to say caring words without weakness-indicating tears. Men are not used to it. Their heightened emotions catch them by surprise. Does that make sense? I don’t know.

But I do know that men who have been strong all their lives are not all of a sudden weak because they are now more emotional.

Now, the cosmetic part. As much as I like John Boehner (and I like him a lot) I admit I am troubled by the crying, or at least the protrayal of it on television and other video clips. If we could rely on the press and others to be more judicial in their coverage of things political, he would not be shown crying. But as we know, they will be just the opposite. When covering an important event or speech, they will zero in on the crying portion and forget to cover the intended story. (Can you see Katie Couric discussing the meat of an issue if she can show Boehner crying instead?)

This could be a problem with respect to foreign policy. If something happened to Obama and Biden, thus sticking Boehner with the presidency, thinking leaders of other nations would react to what he says and his actions, not his tears. But not all foreign leaders are thinking people, and we especially don’t need to imply weakness to those who are not.

Domestically, however, the tears should be a positive. After all, the problem Republicans have always had is getting some of our citizenry to understand fiscal conservatism (or tough love, whateve you want to call it) is in the public’s interest because Republicans appear to not care about people. Boehner shows he is sensitive and cares when he cries.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the generally liberal press will take an open-minded approach to their coverage of the issue. The press and the Dems like to portray Republicans as heartless people, not realists. Since it is harder to sell that when a guy is awash in tears, the press is taking a different approach. Ironic, but now the press is questioning whether Boehner can be tough enough.

I’m not sure how this will play out. Boehner may learn to control his tears, or the press may leave him alone. I’m also not sure whether the tears bother me or not. For the position of Speaker it’s a positive. For a President and foreign policy, maybe not.

As always, your opinions and thoughts on this are welcome.

Mercer Tyson