Monday, September 30, 2013

Post No. 188b: BREAKING NEWS: Possible Government Shutdown is Taking Its Toll on Obama

Prior to making some possible progress on the foreign relations front in connection with Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, and the warming of relations with Iran, many Washington insiders suggested that the President stood to have destroyed the only arguable success during his presidency, namely his signature health care legislation.

Many welcomed the Tea Party-led threat to shut down the federal government, and argued that it was a repudiation of the President’s efforts to transform our nation into a socialist state during a period of global economic stagnation, brought on solely by his Administration’s economic policies.

According to anonymous sources, despite the prospects for success in Syria and Iran, the President is showing the strain of the Obamacare fight, and that he has resorted to cruising various D.C. bars.

According to Tim Teetotaler, at The Speakeasy in DuPont Circle, this was not the first time that the President visited his bar late at night. Confirming rumors, he said the President is typically accompanied by a female ostrich. The bartender went on to relate his first encounter with the President.

On that occasion, the President said, "I'll have a beer; in fact the same brand of beer that was sent to the White House for the Harvard Professor – Cambridge Cop Beer Summit a couple of years ago.” The bartender then turned to the ostrich, and asked, "What about you?"

"I'll have a beer too," said the ostrich, while the Secret Service detail surveyed the room, concerned about what observers might think about the President hanging out with a bird not native to America, and other than the American Bald Eagle.

The bartender claims that he served the pair and the tab was $6.40. The President turned to his trusted military aide carrying the “Nuclear Football,” and said, “Willy, reach into the side pocket of the satchel and pull out whatever money is there.”

Pursuant to the President’s instructions, the aide retrieved all of the money, which amounted to exactly $6.40.

The bartender claims that he next saw the President and the ostrich on the night when US forces successfully located and eliminated Osama bin Laden. The President ordered Champagne this time - a glass of 2010 Armand de Brignac.

The ostrich said she would have the same. After they completed their drinks, the bill amounted to $47.83. The President once again turned to Willy, asked to him to reach into the side pocket of the satchel, and pull out all the money. Willy, according to the bartender, pulled out exactly $47.83.

After the bin Laden mission, this became a regular, nightly routine, and whenever the bartender saw the two approaching, he simply asked, "The usual?" On each occasion, Willy took care of the tab by simply reaching into the pocket. Even when the price of the Champagne increased, the aide still pulled out the exact amount needed, even though he was not informed of the increase.

According to Teetotaler, last night following a week of back and forth between the House and the Senate, a despondent President came in, and ordered Sauza Blue Reposado.

"Same for me," said the ostrich, with a subdued tone and a Southern drawl.

"That will be $29.20," said the bartender.

Once again the aide pulled out the exact change.

The bartender thought that since the President’s guard might be down, it might be a good time to address his curiosity about the President having just enough money in the pocket to match the amount of the bill.

"Excuse me, Mr. President, but may I ask perhaps an impertinent question?” “Sure,” replied the President.

“How does your aide manage to always come up with the exact change for your bill out of the side pocket of that satchel, every single time?"

“First of all, let it be clear that although the taxpayers pick up the tab for my drinks, they do not pay for the ostrich’s. But to get to the crux of your question, several years ago I was cleaning the attic with Michelle and the girls, and found an old Middle Eastern lamp. When I rubbed it, a Genie appeared and offered me four wishes, three of which I made in a family, group setting.”

“My first wish was that I be elected President when the nation was in a perilous state, so that I could prove how effective a smart guy could really be as President.”

“My second wish was that I be re-elected for a second term.

"That's fantastic!" said the bartender. "It’s clear why they call you 'The Anointed One.'”

“Not so fast my friend. My third wish was that I locate and eliminate Osama bid Laden during my first term.”

The bartender said, “Sir, obviously you are on a roll. But you’ve been more than generous in sharing with me things which are obviously personal in nature; consequently I would not dare ask about the fourth wish, which you did not share with your family.”

“But there's one thing I still don't understand. What's with the ostrich?"

According to the bartender, the President replied "I was afraid that you would ask that. For my fourth wish, I had to decide between ensuring that Obamacare passed and was ultimately funded, or a chick with long legs."

The bartender commiserating with the President, and in an effort to change the subject said, “I'm sure that your health care initiative will ultimately be funded. You need not resort to drowning yourself with this very potent tequila.”

“That’s the least of my concerns," the President responded. “I’m getting smashed because I can’t figure out how to explain the ostrich to Michelle, and Bill Clinton has been absolutely no help at all.”

© 2011 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense (Well sorta, some of this is in the public domain).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Post No. 188a: A Country Has to Know Its Limitations

In one of our earliest posts back in 2008, we examined some of the issues which might potentially arise should the federal government become further involved in the healthcare of its citizens. Since then, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed. Now that it is scheduled to take effect, it is back in the news for a variety of reasons. Although some of the original proposals in 2008 did not make their way into the legislation, we thought it worthwhile to revisit some of the points we made at that time.

© 2008 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

On November 30, 2008, shortly after Sen. Obama’s election, we asked our readers whether any governmental entity should have the responsibility to provide healthcare for its citizens.

We invited our readers to provide their views on the subject, prior to our putting forth an argument as to why no government entity should have that responsibility, except perhaps in the case of veterans, or those injured during the course of service for the nation. (Since that time, we have also considered the inclusion of children below a certain age, since they have very little role in making decisions about their health until they are much closer to adulthood.)

It led to a very lively and stimulating exchange. Even a cursory examination of the comments in connection with Post No. 68d reveals the diversity and passion of opinion regarding this subject.

Is it really the government's responsibility to ensure the good health of, and the provision of health care facilities and treatment to, its citizens? Why do so many citizens feel that it is something which the government, at some level, should provide? Is there a reasonable expectation on the part of the taxpayers that health care is a "service" due them by virtue of their current level of tax contribution?

What responsibility should be placed on the citizens themselves to make the "best efforts" to maintain their health, and utilize the very latest in scientific knowledge about health risks, particularly nutrition, and the detrimental consequences associated with certain behaviors? Should citizens be required to show that they engaged, or failed to engage, in certain behaviors, prior to being extended heath care benefits by the government?

We indicated that we would generate some thoughts after entertaining those of others. Here are five arguments which can be advanced to support the notion that we should not have a national healthcare system, or perhaps that America is not yet ready to have such a system.

1. All relationships are about expectations. An argument can be made that the American public has an unreasonable expectation about what it takes to manage and operate a large organization and its accompanying bureaucracy. Most interestingly, those who have never run a large organization seem to think that they have all the answers. The criticism of the various executives, associated with the Big Three American Automakers, suggests to us that we as a nation do not fully comprehend the complexities and difficulties associated with management of a large organization in an everchanging, global environment. We are apparently “qualified” to criticize others who do not achieve the results that we expect.

2. In contemplating a national healthcare system, it appears that most proponents suggest that it provide benefits to all of our nation’s citizens, namely 300 million people. We do not have the capability to manage anything involving 300 million people. We don’t do it with respect to the other “essentials” of civilized life, food, housing, clothing, or education, which are arguably more simplistic in nature, and which at least have components around which we can wrap our arms. What makes us think that we can do it with respect to arguably the most complex of issues, namely human health? To borrow a phrase from Dirty Harry, “A country has to know its limitations.”

3. We do not have anyone, or any board or committee for that matter, with the capabilities, sophistication, and experience to manage a 300 million recipient organization. Furthermore, as noted earlier, as an organization grows in size, its sense of “reality” changes to ensure the advancement of its interests and its continued survival. We’re setting ourselves up for failure and unnecessary criticism.

4. Any system delivering services to 300 million people will undoubtedly parcel out its services in unfair and inequitable ways during the course of the execution of its policies. It’s not like an engine with simple, mechanical, moving parts. Humans do not function in accordance with the rules of physics. They’re emotional, and they have minds of their own. No one has yet discovered how to manage emotion. At least in the military, they understand what needs to be done to craft humans into fungible, interchangeable units, for management purposes, and even they have difficulties.

5. What makes us think that we can devise a system to provide benefits or services to recipients who essentially do whatever they want or desire to do, from a health perspective, and then have an expectation that the system should address the negative ramifications flowing therefrom? It doesn’t make sense. What makes us believe that we can “herd cats,” each with their own goals, motivations, and selfish interests, and deliver some nebulous, unspecified level of service resulting in what we refer to as “good health?” As a general proposition, Americans are not “sufficiently motivated” to maintain a state of good health. We don’t want it badly enough. The only proven way to get humans to adhere to a policy or approach is to force/ prod them, or have them buy into it voluntarily.

Although some ambitious and very thoughtful suggestions were put forth in your comments, no one, who responded to our challenge about reforming the health care system, really explained how they planned to address the uncertainties and complexities associated with the human side of the equation, and each individual’s responsibility to the system.

As a practical matter, it can’t be done in America, at least not under our current political philosophy. Any attempt in that regard will be regarded as socialist, or even worse, communist, in nature. As we all saw during the most recent election, we can’t have that.

This is a country built on social Darwinism or survival of the fittest. If you happen to be one of the fittest and you survive, kudos to you. If you are one of the not so fit, we leave it you to fend on your own, perhaps with the gratuitous assistance of non-profits, the religious community, and the kindness of others. Many in our country feel that if we assist the not so fit, or guarantee certain things to the masses, we play into their weaknesses and thus become enabling agents.

This is neither a culture nor governance model which has as its goal the equal treatment of its citizens or the equality of the services or opportunities available to them. It is a culture that simply guarantees that each individual citizen has a chance to pursue whatever they might so desire. That has nothing to do with results.

We don’t guarantee results in America.

Simply put, a national healthcare system does not fit within our governance model, nor does it fit within our cultural philosophy. This is not to suggest that it should not, just that it does not. It’s just that it would require a significant paradigm shift in our way of thinking about our role as citizens.

Don’t you think?

© 2008 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Post No. 188: Why Everyone Seems to be So Disappointed in Our President

© 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

“It does not matter who my Father was; it matters who I remember he was.”
- Anne Sexton

The above Sexton quote appeared while navigating a Borders Book Store, along with an overwhelming desire to chat about “zeitgeist,” which Wikipedia defines as the “spirit of the age,” or the “spirit of the time.”

Last week was a difficult week for the former United States of America. We were confronted with a daunting, complex issue revolving around how we should respond to Syria’s purported use of chemical weapons. We had difficulty figuring out who are, and to some extent remembering who we were.

To compound the problem, many suggested that the Obama administration appeared confused, and lacked the ability to articulate a coordinated plan or vision, or even some real, concrete, identifiable interests to be served by our potential military foray.

But, in our humble view, as with many things in life, this is bigger than the man who occupies the office of the President. This is more about who we are as a people at this stage in our national evolution, how we view our past, and how we view our future.

It’s about zeitgeist.

What we really fear, truth be told, is that we might not be the nation that we thought we were. Long gone are the days of the concrete and tangible, and John Wayne kicking some real ass. Even a 12 year old knows that Iron Man rules through the magic of Hollywood computer graphics and animation technology.

We realize more and more that many things are not what they seem and that to some extent we have always lived in the land of illusion.

However, with rapidly advancing technological changes, the lens through which we view the world is more fluid and capable of capturing a far bigger picture, totally apart from the real-time information stream. Our open and obvious (yet behind the scenes) transfer of our economic might to a larger communist force, our collective response to 9/11, and The Great Recession have us feeling like we are spinning out of control.

We here at the Institute didn’t want this man to be President. In our view, he was the wrong man for the wrong times. However our position was not based on anything which had to do with the man himself, but rather everything about who we are.

Some months back we generated a post, Why We’re So Anxious in America, Debate the Role of Government, and Ministers Suggest that God’s Pissed. The reality is that this is a culmination of 35+ years of excess and not taking responsibility for our actions, as we outlined in Pigs Get Fat; Hogs Get Slaughtered.

During difficult and uncertain times, people have a tendency to long for an earlier day when things were seemingly clearer and far more simplistic. And along with that comes a tendency to blame someone for our current state of affairs, and who better to blame than the current President.

Most of us can't balance our checkbooks, maintain good relations with our spouse, or manage our children, and yet we're so cock-sure about how to run this nation.

If we are going to solve problems going forward, we need to snap out of this coma, and face some realities, including one that looms large, to wit: the use of old methods to address today’s issues in a constantly changing environment won’t work. (Been There; Done That) We need innovation, forward thinking; not a reversion to the past.

Many are looking for a savior, to provide some illusion of stability. But no one man (or woman) can fill those shoes or adequately address that emotional and spiritual need.

The simplest, most effective way to address insecurities and uncertainties? Create jobs here at home.

So many of us, despite showing up some place every day, aren’t sure whether we have a real job anymore. Totally apart from what jobs can do for one’s sense of security and ability to provide for one’s family, it does wonders for self-esteem, both personally and collectively. Additionally, according to the Physicians' Desk Reference, it is the most effective drug to administer intravenously to combat paranoia.

On one level, we all need to take personal, collective responsibility for how we got here, including electing people who have their personal, selfish interests ahead of our collective interests.

The following appears in the signature of one of our friends of the Institute: "It is neither the strongest, nor the most intelligent, of the species that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change."

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense Should be a Way of Life"™