Blog No. 155. Trump and the Democrats (and a brief au revoir)

The deal that Trump suddenly struck with Democratic leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi is at once promising and perilous. It is promising in that it avoided, at least for the time being, the twin disasters of a government default (failure to increase the debt ceiling) and a government shutdown (failure to approve[…]

Blog No. 150. The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it[…]

Blog No. 149 Politics and the Scourge of Opioids: A Primer

There can be little doubt that the nation is in the grip of a serious opioid epidemic. Overdoses have been reported to be the leading cause of death of Americans under the age of 50 and the New York Times further reported that, on the basis of preliminary data, “drug overdose deaths last year likely topped[…]

Special Bulletin: Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty – The New York Times

We were not planning to post anything until our return toward the end of the month. But this morning I ran across a very interesting article in The New York Times that I wanted to share with readers of RINOcracy.com who might not have seen it.
The article describes a report by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institute that combines liberal and conservative thinking to arrive at specific proposals to reduce poverty and inequality. (A link to the full report is included in the article.) Apart from the merits of specific proposals, the report appears to reflect the kind of creative thinking and willingness to compromise that we so badly need.
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Finding Common Political Ground on Poverty

 Supporters of a $15 minimum wage at a gathering in November in Manhattan. A group of liberal and conservative economists produced a plan on alleviating poverty. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Supporters of a $15 minimum wage at a gathering in November in Manhattan. A group of liberal and conservative economists produced a plan on alleviating poverty. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

If you have been paying any attention to America’s paralyzed politics, you are not going to believe this.

[…]

Special Bulletin. The GOP Debate and Paul Ryan’s Debut as Speaker

We found watching the Republican debate to be, on the whole, a dispiriting experience. Part of the problem lay again with the format and the approach of the “moderators.”  We have previously observed that such events are not debates in the usual sense of the word, but are more similar to a joint press conference. The moderators seem intent not so much on moderating, or exploring issues, as attempting to embarrass the candidates or provoke hostility among them.

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Blog No. 49. Ebola in the United States: From Crisis to Calm.

blog 49 EbolaLast week, as the Ebola virus still raged in three countries in Africa, a psychological “Ebola Fever” continued to sweep America. Now a decision by a single judge in a state court in Maine has appeared to break the fever. The decision, by Judge Charles LaVerdiere, was brief but carefully reasoned. It paid due respect to the risk posed by nurse Kaci Hickox: the “potential severe harm posed by this devastating disease.” Nevertheless, the decision lifted her quarantine in favor of the more modest restrictions found in Guidelines issued earlier that week by the Center for Disease Control. The Governor of Maine, Paul LePage, called the decision “unfortunate,” but quickly decided against an appeal.

It is often argued that courts in the United States play too large a role in the shaping and resolution of public issues. With deferential nods to Brown v. Board of Education (which was once controversial but has not been for a long time), critics from both left and right have criticized the courts, and particularly the Supreme Court for overstepping the bounds of the judicial role and “legislating from the bench” in its interpretations of the Constitution. For critics on the right the poster children are Roe v. Wade and the decision of the Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. And the left has been equally offended by decisions of the Court in Citizens United, and in striking down a section of the Voting Rights Act. Fortunately, the decision by Judge LaVerdiere in Mayhew v. Hickox was largely immune to such criticism. Although Nurse Hickox’s constitutional rights lurked in the background, the decision was based solely on the facts and an application of the pertinent Maine statute. Nevertheless, it promises to have a significant impact, extending well beyond the borders of Maine, remarkable for the ruling of a single judge. […]

Special Bulletin. Guns in Washington State

Last week brought news of yet another school shooting, this time from Marysville, Washington. This latest tragic event resulted in five victims, with two killed and three seriously wounded. Because the shooter took his own life, it may appear that there can be little in the way of an immediate and direct response to the[…]

Blog No. 48. Dying in America: Yes, There Is a Better Way

“Most people envision their own death as a peaceful and an ideally rapid transition. But with the exception of accidents or trauma or of a few illnesses that almost invariably result in death weeks or months after diagnosis, death comes at the end of a chronic illness or the frailty accompanying old age. Few people really have the opportunity to know when their death will occur.”

That unsurprising but sobering observation was included in the Preface to a report issued on September 14 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), “Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life.” The IOM is an affiliate of the National Academy of Science and the report was prepared by a nonpartisan committee that included physicians, nurses, insurers, lawyers, and gerontologists. The goal of the report was to offer a road map to providing care at the end of life that is “person-centered, family-oriented, and evidence-based.” To that end, the report proposed sweeping reforms to end of life care, including the nature of care provided, how the government and insurers compensate for medical service, and the focus of medical education. It is a lengthy report, some 507 pages, that reflects the complexity of the issues and the care that went in to the study of them by the IOM committee. It is a document that deserves the attention of the medical community, patients and their families, political leaders, and the public at large. […]

Blog 44. Congress: Slouching Towards November

We will soon post, as promised, Parts II and III of Blog No. 43 with our thoughts on Afghanistan and Ukraine (and perhaps even a few more on ISIS). Meanwhile, however, the recent activities (and inactivities) of Congress seemed to demand some comment before they are entirely forgotten. When Congress skipped town for its August recess (some things, after all, are sacred), it did so in considerable disarray. Most notable, of course, was the failure to address the problems created by the influx of unaccompanied children at our border with Mexico. But there was no shortage of other issues left unattended. An article in The New York Times noted a few:

The immigration system is still in crisis. Companies are renouncing their American citizenship over tax breaks. The Highway Trust Fund is running on empty as the nation’s infrastructure crumbles, and entitlement programs are creaking under the weight of an aging population.

Given its performance, it is not surprising that public opinion of Congress could hardly be worse. While Obama’s numbers are at an all time low, Congress’s are far lower. According to a recent NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll only 14 percent approve of the job Congress is doing – the seventh-straight NBC/WSJ poll dating back to 2011 when this rating has been below 15 percent. In addition, “A whopping 79 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with the U.S. political system, including nearly half who are very dissatisfied. The words of Yeats’s “Second Coming,” written in 1919, seem to resonate once again… “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold….The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” And Congress itself perhaps, is Yeats’s rough beast, slouching not towards Bethlehem but November. […]

Special Bulletin. A Tribute to Jim Brady (1940-2014)

I knew Jim Brady before he was famous. Just forty years ago, we were both working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (where I had sought refuge after concluding that I was no longer comfortable serving in the White House Counsel’s office). Jim held the number two position in Public Affairs and was located across the hall from my office as Deputy General Counsel. […]