Beyond Tea-Party Somnambulism!

Since the introduction of www.Healthcare.gov, used for enrolling people into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most Americans have been underwhelmed and frustrated with its poor performance. This failure has fueled renewed attacks by the GOP and tea party members who have opposed the ACA it since it’s inception, even after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.

Whether you agree with the underlying legislation or not, let’s get one thing straight: the failure of the technological aspects of the website are not peculiar to the government. Critics charge the federal bureaucracy is incapable of setting up such a highly advanced website. Let’s stop being naive or so ideological that we overlook the fact that even the biggest high-technology companies have had their share of technology snafus, often hiding the damaging effects on the public. This is true even though they were not under the pressures of strict deadlines and reduced budgets faced by the government.

In case you think the private sector is any better at avoiding these high-tech snafus:

1. In 2011, Sony suffered a major security breach of its PlayStation Network on April 19. The company didn’t even disclose it until April 26 and apologized on May 1. In the days leading up to the outage, its network was hacked. Worse, the personal information of some 77 million customers was exposed. A week later, according to Japan’s Nikkei news, another breach involved the theft of 12,700 credit card numbers and data from over 24,000 users. This was the second worst security breach since the TJ Maxx and Heartland attacks.

2. In 2007, the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods chains admitted that its network had been hacked, and personal information for more than 45 million customers had been stolen. Although first detected in December 2006, it later admitted a breach as early as July 2005, a year after a security audit revealed “serious deficiencies” in its network—with over 100 million credit cards compromised.

If you think these are the exceptions…think again. These events are far more common than we may ever know, involving millions of credit cards or other pieces of our so-called ‘secure personal information.’  You can Google “technology errors” and come up with multiple disasters for Apple, Intel, Iomega, Dell, Amazon and Sony, our technology giants.

Computer and network security is big money, from the hacker’s, as well as the security analysts’ perspectives.  My son just received his PhD in computer/network security and is being paid big bucks to help prevent these kinds of problems.

Let’s stop looking to pin the blame on the Obama administration.  These websites are not simple templates; they need lots of excellent programmers and code-writers to get it right.  Even then, as we’ve seen, the end result is not always predictable.  Pitting the private sector against the government sector will end in a futile attempt at finger-pointing.  Perhaps the technologies and abilities needed in the high-tech arena are just as much an art as they are a practice of engineering.  Let’s give the government kudos for its intentions and some time to get it right before trying to show that “all things government related are fallible.”

 

Congressman Andy Harris continues to lie and misrepresent the facts. He says that a majority of Americans don’t want to see the debt-limit raised? A straight-out lie! The highest figures I’ve seen by researching the entire internet on this issue, was 44% opposed…hardly a majority. It was a poll conducted by a Republican (McInturff) AND a Democrat (Hart), so it was not bipartisan.

Votes against ending the government shutdown

Votes against ending the government shutdown

It’s about time that Harris be called out as the easy liar he is…as was editorialized recently by the Cecil Daily Times. Add his lies to the fact that he has opposed any legislation that would help the Eastern Shore, in any way, and we have every reason in the world to look elsewhere for a candidate who will truly represent our District. My vote is with Dr. John LaFerla, a man of integrity and strong desires to see the Eastern Shore move forward, with jobs, infrastructure and balance for our farmers and the environment.

Dr. LaFerla was one of the first on the site of Sandy devastation, calling upon Congress to help fund relief efforts. Where was Harris? Devising his excuses for voting against the Sandy Relief package. John LaFerla offers ways to fix our problems; Harris just adds to the problems and refuses to accept responsibility for his actions. This is why former Congressman, Wayne Gilchrest, has endorsed Dr. LaFerla…and why we all should!

For more information on Dr. John LaFerla, go to www.JohnLaFerla.com

 

Andy, contrary to your rhetoric and misleading representations…you DO NOT represent the people of the 1st District and you do not represent me! You continue to mislead and misrepresent the facts about every issue that is important to the people. As an example, raising the debt ceiling has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with spending, except that it allows the Treasury to pay the ALREADY existing obligations of the United States. Included in that is the $4billion a year you have given to big oil companies…the same oil companies that continue to report BILLIONS of dollars in profit, EACH AND EVERY QUARTER!

Harris votes "NO" on bill to end the GOP shutdown of government.

Harris votes “NO” on bill to end the GOP shutdown of government.

This shutdown, contrary to your continuing rhetoric, occurred because you and your Tea Party cohorts, put ideology above the security of our country and the welfare of our people.

The thinking voters in our District see through your political double-talk and the nonsense you espouse. They will remember how you treated them, and the full faith and credit of the US. You are no better than a seditionist, putting ideology first, no matter what harm it causes. Here is your latest error in judgment:

Oct. 16, 2013 H.R. 2775: Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 – Bill Passes (285 – 144) HARRIS VOTED: NAY

 In true fashion, Andy “Dr No” Harris voted NAY to ending the Federal government shutdown. He voted, along with 143 of his fellow Tea Party seditionists, who wished to see the continuance of the shutdown, along with the loss of $24 billion to the American economy.

Even though it was clear to the majority of Republicans and all Democrats, that the stalemate was hurting Americans, from children and seniors who were cut off from food programs, to the millions of new home buyers, trying to get their FHA/VA-backed mortgages through the gridlock, not to mention the 800,000 Federal workers, kept from their jobs, Harris stood his ground and refused to vote for the best interests of his District and the country.

This is perhaps, the best example yet, of Harris’ inability to separate ideology from what is best for the country and the American people. Whenever he approaches a question that involves his political philosophy, he will always choose that philosophy over the needs of the people and the best interests of the country.

"Get over it" - Andy's attitude toward anyone who disagrees with him and his Club for Growth puppet masters!

“Get over it” – Andy’s attitude toward anyone who disagrees with him and his Club for Growth puppet masters!

He has shown this over and over, from his refusal to support Sandy relief, to his votes against the Violence Against Women Act, the 2013 Farm Bill, the SNAP program, the ACA, care for our Seniors and the Disabled, and his support to shut down the government and to keep it shut down…the list just keeps growing, on and on. He has done nothing to create jobs or fix infrastructure in our District, and continues to be a hypocrite about the security of our country and the welfare of our people!

Thankfully, our President has finally stood up to Harris and his Tea Party’s terrorist threats (remember, the US doesn’t negotiate with terrorists), instead, listening to the majority of voters who elected him…TWICE!  The President has tried, in the past, to negotiate with the GOP in good faith, only to see threats of a default, a shutdown and the sequester turn into a real shutdown and the 11th-hour rescue, by moderate Republicans and all Democrats, of the full faith and credit of the United States.

And what did this $24 billion hit to the American economy (not to mention the loss of international prestige) gain Andy and his fellow seditionists?  NOTHING! ZILCH! NADA! ZERO!  Correct; every single unreasonable, extortionist demand, made by the Tea Party GOP, was denied!  Many reasonable GOP members and voters are now abandoning their hopelessly sinking ship, realizing that there must be an end to “ideology over people and country.”  In so many ways, and on so many levels, this act of sedition, over the past 2 weeks, has brought the GOP closer to irrelevancy than even the candidacy and losing run, of Mitt Romney.  As the old saying goes, “You made your bed…now lie in it!”

 

What Would Sam Say?

About 250 years ago, English poet, essayist, moralist and lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, wrote,

“Patriotism is the last stronghold of scoundrels.”

Samuel Johnson, English Poet, Essayist and Thorn in the Side of Edmund Burke. His birthday was September 18th.

Samuel Johnson, English Poet, Essayist and Thorn in the Side of Edmund Burke. His birthday was September 18th.

Hard words, no doubt, especially for those, even in his day, who were more interested in ideology than substance and pragmatism.  It offended some and struck a chord with many. What did Johnson mean by this outrageous comment?

It seems that Johnson had Edmund Burke in mind when he made this epic statement. Johnson had no love for Burke and considered him and his party manipulative politicians, fitting for this petard.

Johnson believed that Burke’s false patriots appealed, emotionally, to the rabble, with their fruitless petitions and endless charade of ‘doing what is in the best interests of Great Britain.’

It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same, since we, in 2013, are facing the same ‘patriots’, using emotion, fruitless legislative ‘petitions’ and the flag, to appeal to those who give truth and fact little attention.

If Johnson were alive today, I have no doubt that his Edmund Burke would be our John Boehner (or Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, et al) and his “party” would be the right wing of the GOP (read, Tea Party).  He may, in fact, be writing this very column, calling out the current day patriots, as scoundrels (or worse). He would very well be shaking his head at the hue and cry of the Tea Party patriots, who carry the flag as evidence of their love of country, as if no one else cares about the country or its future.

According to Merriam-Webster, a “scoundrel” is defined as, “a person (especially a man) who is cruel or dishonest.” If we concede that many, if not all, politicians are less than straightforward and truthful at some point in their careers, then all we have left is someone who is “cruel.”

How would Johnson define cruel, as it relates to these patriots in 2013?  He, as many of us, would look at the “fruitless legislative petitions” being advanced by them, determining if they can be considered as cruel.  Johnson would not be surprised to find that Obamacare, a program meant to provide health care for 40 million uninsured Americans, has had 40+ “fruitless legislative petitions” thrown at it, in hopes of reversing it.  He would also find petitions to reduce food subsidies to those who are at the bottom rungs of our economic ladder, along with petitions to reduce care for chronically-ill citizens and the disabled, cut

"Patriotism is the last stronghold of scoundrels!"

“Patriotism is the last stronghold of scoundrels!”

funding for education and government services, or reduce regulations to keep our air and water breathable and drinkable.

Cruel?  If we look at the people who will be harmed most by these fruitless legislative petitions: the elderly, children, disabled, students, the poor, hungry and unemployed, how could we answer that simple question with a no?  Whether we use the Golden Rule, introduced over 2000 years ago, or a purely moralistic or humanistic approach, Johnson is no doubt wincing, “The scoundrels have taken over the world!”

Give Obamacare A Chance!

When the naysayers throw out ridiculous assertions about “Obamacare“, they often overlook the facts. One of those “facts” is that when we compare the cost of medical technologies, we find that European countries have a cost that is anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 that in the US, for similar technologies.

According to investment analysts who follow the medical field closely, these reductions in cost are attributed to “socialized medicine.”

Recently, Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. Inc.’s, Jeff Cohen, whose livelihood is based on following the costs and efficacy of medical technologies, stated,

“Pricing for medical technology in European markets and the rest of the world is often one-half to two-thirds the cost of the U.S., because medicine there tends to be socialized.”

What does that mean? As “Obamacare” continues to be adopted and implemented in the US, we should continue to see medical technologies’ costs come down, which, in turn, will expand the use of better treatments and reduce the costs of health insurance, resulting in lower premiums.

As it was with Medicare almost 50 years ago, the opponents of Obamacare” should be looking past the politics and instead, focus on the benefits and advantages, from both the treatment and financial aspects. Medicare has been successful in providing health care for our seniors and disabled…give “Obamacare” a chance, and in 50 years, we’ll be able to say the same!

 

Running a Smart Campaign – Part 1

Also posted on www.rogerbburtphd.com.
Assumption
The first assumption I prefer is that there will not be large amounts of money available. If the big donors step forward, that’s lovely, but I stand in unpopular territory. I believe elections are won with dedicated volunteers and a top notch get-out-the-vote operation, backed with smart messaging.
Smart ground games need not cost huge amounts of money. There are a lot of “ifs” attached to that statement, but it is a conservative (in a good sense) assumption. Why not plan on a guerrilla marketing campaign? Then, if lots of money is raised, there will surely be ways to spend it.
Being a Believer
A  fundamental question we have to ask ourselves is whether we believe in ourselves and our campaign, and do we believe in our candidate? The first question seems absurd, but I have seen people launch campaigns for the oddest of reasons, where it was clear they did not expect to put forth essential effort or they were not facing reality. Of course, it is up to us, who are thinking of supporting a candidate, to decide if we really believe.
If we believe, then we seek a variety of ways to promote and support the candidacy. And that should, in all eventualities, go to something more than sending glossy brochures and buying advertising.
Getting Their Attention
Advertising people will tell you that it takes repeated contact to make a connection with people. That piece of conventional wisdom I buy absolutely. So, then it becomes a matter of how we get their attention;  and that takes thinking and planning.
In general, I also believe that most people don’t want to pay attention to politics. They have jobs, families, friends and a variety of interests. Why would they care about what we have to say, unless it is compelling or we make it compelling?
Standing Out and Making Sense
Standing out takes showing up in a variety of ways, especially when there is a lot of competition for attention. To do that takes careful attention to available alternatives. My special favorite is the one supported by research: A simple piece of literature stuck in the front door. That means a clear simple message for the particular segment of the population behind that door. It should be low cost and use trained volunteers for delivery. Why trained? Because not everyone is comfortable face-to-face, and often, people open the door when we are dropping off our message. Volunteers need to know how to handle it. And, of course, a lot depends upon finding people who are willing to get involved as volunteers.
There can be many parts to this smart, frugal ground game. It takes planning and paying careful attention, particularly as it relates to the location and campaign type.

 

The following is a presentation I made at the Trayvon Martin Vigil, in Salisbury, MD, on 7/13/13. The Vigil was organized locally by April Jackson, and was running concurrently with the nationwide Vigil.

Thank you, April Jackson, for allowing me to say a few words today, at a time when we are all mourning the senseless and unprovoked death of Trayvon Martin, and we cannot understand why there is no punishment for his killer.  I have been a civil rights activist, attorney and community organizer, for over 40 years; yes, I am one of those “old white men” we hear so much about in the news media.  But, I am also “an old white man” who stands in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in the African-American community, who are still the target of outrageous and unjust comments, actions and persecution, even in 2013!

"Get over it!", says Harris.

“Get over it!”, says Harris.

“GET OVER IT!”  The other morning, I was reading The Daily Times, when my jaw dropped, figuratively and literally, as I read these words…the response of our Congressman, Andy Harris, to the Zimmerman verdict.  “Get over it!”

This was something I might have told my son when I was coaching Little League baseball and we lost a game: “Get over it, son; it’s just a game and you did your best, which is all you can do.”

Or, perhaps something the Nazis said, after gassing 8 million Jews, gypsies, blacks, gays, disabled and other “undesirables”…”sich aufrappeln” – German, for Get over it!

As I tried to digest that statement, along with Harris’ use of the word, “political”, in describing why the Justice Dept was considering Federal charges against Zimmerman, I became outraged by his insensitivity and his refusal to acknowledge the emotional pain of millions of Americans.

I, like you, was bewildered by the prosecution’s failure to secure a guilty verdict.  As a retired trial attorney, it was clear to me that Zimmerman failed to follow standard “Neighborhood Watch” protocol, which is to report any suspicious activity to the police, so they can follow up, and then stand down.

Instead, Zimmerman followed his own idea of what a Neighborhood Watch volunteer should do (he was not a member of any official NW group): “identify, target, pursue and confront. When he reported “suspicious activity” of an African-American youth, he was asked whether he was following the youth, to which he answered, “Yes, I am” and was then told, “We don’t need you to do that”;  his response was, “ok”, according to his 911 transcript, and he was told that officers were being dispatched.

Martin - killed, based on "suspicions."

Martin – killed, based on “suspicions.”

Zimmerman - "Not guilty!"

Zimmerman – “Not guilty!”

Zimmerman’s injuries, and Martin’s death, are directly linked to his failure to follow the dispatcher’s directive. Instead, without legal authority, and in the face of obvious danger, he followed, approached, confronted and killed a young man who was not armed (contrary to the prosecutor’s assertion that Martin was “armed with the sidewalk”) and who had committed no crime.

These weren’t the actions of a hero or even a moral person; they were the actions of a bully vigilante, intent on pure retaliation, with impunity, against “those punks who get away with everything.”

Young black men don’t deserve to be profiled, targeted and killed, while walking home, enjoying a bag of Skittles and a bottle of juice or because a vigilante’s preconceived “suspicions” were used to justify his adrenaline rush.

Mr. Harris needs to apologize for his insensitivity; this wasn’t a Little League game! And Trayvon’s family will never ‘Get over it!’

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