Stochastic Terrorism

stochastic terror.jpgSomething changed in 2016. Before that, the vitriol [George Soros] faced was largely confined to the extremist fringes, among white supremacists and nationalists who sought to undermine the very foundations of democracy. But with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, things got worse. A genie was let out of the bottle, which may take generations to put back in.–Alexander Soros

Stochastic terrorism is public demonization of a person or group which may probably incite a violent act, whose specifics are unpredictable.  Public attacks on Democrats (or members of another party), and news media are examples.

Here are some instances:

  • Crooked Hillary
  • Lyin’ Ted
  • Fake News
  • Attacks on Planned Parenthood
  • Failing NY Times
  • Extreme Ithaca Liberal
  • George Soros, lock him up

However, I see a contradiction here–if President Trump or Tom Reed had publicly condemned neo-nazis, which might have led to violence directed at them, would that be an example of stochastic terrorism? Evidently public opinion must decide what demonizes and what appropriately characterizes deviltry.

Posted in Political, Reed's Views, Trump | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty


Can the President withdraw from a treaty? Surprisingly, he can. While treaties must be confirmed by Congress, there is little precedent for Congressional approval for withdrawing, particularly when the treaty provides for this.

This seems inconsistent, but perhaps it is not:

  • Confirmation is needed for the Presidential Cabinet, but the President can fire these officials without approval of Congress.

The “Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty” was negotiated by President Reagan in response to the danger of missile attacks on Europe with no warning and no defense. Nothing has changed since then; the danger remains. As a TV pundit noted, the Russians can violate the existing treaty, but they have been reluctant to do so and would bear responsibility if they did, but with no treaty they can do what they like. The onus is then on us.

Posted in Constitution, Trump, War | Tagged , | 2 Comments

What’s conservative?


Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. — Northwest Ordinance of 1787 inscribed on Angell Hall at the University of Michigan

What’s conservative?

  • Small, ineffective government
  • Support for autocrats: Putin, Kim, MBS
  • Ballooning budget deficits
  • Low taxes for the wealthy
  • Low taxes on inherited wealth
  • Excessive military spending
  • Any danger from climate change is negligible
  • Ignore the “Emoluments clause”
  • Judges presumed to be biased in favor of “conservative views”
  • Judges expected to put corporate interests ahead of human interests
  • Veterans homeless and hungry after their service
  • Healthcare unaffordable for many
  • Seniors with inadequate pensions
  • Attacks on public education
  • Private prisons
  • Border walls
  • Political assassinations
  • others?

If these are conservative, are they what we need and want? Really?

Posted in Constitution, Economics | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Do Cornell conservatives need a moderator?

platitudes“Show up and keep an open mind, and just keep doing it. Because if you give up, that’s what I’m most afraid of,” Reed said. “I see a level of disengagement in America that’s growing, and the cynicism is growing very deep, and that’s when we lose our country, is when people stop engaging. When people stop engaging, that’s the death of democracy.”–Rep. Tom Reed, speaking to Cornell Republicans, reported by Matthew McGowen

It’s not necessarily that my speech or my opinions have been changed or silenced because at the end of the day the University has been for the most part supportive, and a lot of people on campus are willing to listen. They might not change their minds, but they’re at least willing to have a conversation.–Anna Girod ’20.

If you wear Trump merchandise on campus, the social backlash you receive will be well deserved. You’re supporting a racist, sexist scam artist whose policies are idiotic at best and downright evil at worst. The Trump administration is hurting many members of our community, and you better believe it’s personal for them.–Alexander Thomson, in a comment on the article

Matthew McGowen, writing for The Cornell Sun, reports on Tom Reed’s Oct. 9th visit with campus Republicans. McGowen writes:

Conversation centered primarily around the experience of conservative students on college campuses, with Reed offering to be the moderator between the students and Cornell administration.

McGowen’s article raises some questions.

  • Do students want Tom Reed to intervene on their behalf?
  • Do Cornell students fear ridicule as Republicans, conservatives, or as demonstrators flouting Trump paraphernalia?
  • Are Republicans necessarily conservatives and vice versa?
  • Are Republicans a despised minority in Ithaca really, or is this political propaganda?
  • If cynicism is a growing problem, is Tom Reed’s performance in office a cause of that?
  • What issues would Tom Reed raise with Cornell?

Reportedly, “Reed offered some of his political insights and prescriptions for closing the political rift.” (see the quote at the start of this article) As I understand it, Reed would have students:

  • Keep open minds
  • Engage with others

This seems like good, non-controversial advice. Does Tom Reed keep an open mind and engage meaningfully with those he labels “extreme Ithaca liberals?” I think not.

Posted in 2018, Campaigning, Constituents, Education, Reed's Views | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Drug Prices

headacheThis is a policy change whose impact is very uncertain. I’m not certain it will have an impact, and the administration can’t make a clear case it will do so. It’s not obvious to me why they’re [fighting] over this proposal rather than any that will have a greater impact on patients.–Rachel Sachs, a drug pricing policy expert and associate professor of law at Washington University.

Nathaniel-Weixel, writing for The Hill on October 17, 2018 reports:

The Trump administration is ratcheting up its fight with the drug industry, with a new proposal that would force drugmakers to disclose their prices in television advertising.

Related Senate bills, now laws, are documented below. (both bills passed the House on voice votes)

S.2553 – Know the Lowest Price Act of 2019

(Sec. 2) This bill prohibits a prescription drug plan under Medicare or Medicare Advantage from restricting a pharmacy from informing an enrollee of any difference between price, copayment, or coinsurance of a drug under the plan and a lower price of the drug without health-insurance coverage. (Such restrictions are commonly referred to as gag clauses.)

S.2554 – Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act

SEC. 2729. INFORMATION ON PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. “(a) In General.–A group health plan or a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall– “(1) not restrict, directly or indirectly, any pharmacy that dispenses a prescription drug to an enrollee in the plan or coverage from informing (or penalize such pharmacy for informing) an enrollee of any differential between the enrollee’s out-of- pocket cost under the plan or coverage with respect to acquisition of the drug and the amount an individual would pay for acquisition of the drug without using any health plan or health insurance coverage; and “

(2) ensure that any entity that provides pharmacy benefits management services under a contract with any such health plan or health insurance coverage does not, with respect to such plan or coverage, restrict, directly or indirectly, a pharmacy that dispenses a prescription drug from informing (or penalize such pharmacy for informing) an enrollee of any differential between the enrollee’s out-of-pocket cost under the plan or coverage with respect to acquisition of the drug and the amount an individual would pay for acquisition of the drug without using any health plan or health insurance coverage.

(The information on S.2553 is the CRS summary, on S.2554 from the text of the bill)

If the government is compelling companies to speak, that violates the First Amendment. Steven Ubl, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

I find the above a strange claim. The First Amendment provides that government may not abridge the freedom of speech. That this affects a law requiring disclosure of drug prices in TV advertising seems dubious. It is interesting that drug companies, rather than accepting what seem like reasonable requirements, reportedly intend to fight.

Maegan Vazquez of CNN reports:

Some states and municipalities have pharmacy gag order bans, but the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act, sponsored by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins,addresses banning the practice of gag orders on a federal level.

Vazquez continues:

Some pharmaceutical industry experts say that although eliminating the gag clause is step toward consumer transparency, it doesn’t address the issue of lowering actual drug costs, making it unclear how much of a tangible effect the legislation will have.

I find both measures worthwhile, but I see a more serious problem with TV drug advertising–the idea that patients should request prescriptions from doctors for drugs advertised on TV which may not be medically necessary. I haven’t asked a doctor, but I think they must hate being asked if an advertised, proprietary drug is “right for me.”

Posted in Health Care | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Would a larger House be fairer?

reformSteve Vladeck proposes a good government reform–more members in the House. At first glance this idea seemed inconsequential to me; a legislative body with 435 members is large enough already that members may never learn each others names,  but after reading Vladeck’s reasons, I see his point.

Vladeck gives three reasons for a larger House:

  • First, and most obviously, it is difficult — if not impossible — for any one person adequately to represent the interests of three-quarters of a million people.
  • Second, the size of contemporary congressional districts leads to massive over-representation of some states and under-representation of others, since each district must be entirely within the same state, and every state must have at least one representative.
  • Third, and perhaps most importantly, a smaller House undercuts the representativeness of the Electoral College and, with it, presidential elections.

Vladeck’s first reason is weak–a representative can little more effectively represent a half million than three-quarter million in my opinion. The second seems stronger–states with small populations are over represented in House and Senate, so improving this in at least one body could be worthwhile. The third reason is important as Vladeck notes–too often the electoral college vote hasn’t reflected the popular vote, which does weaken the legitimacy of presidential elections.

Vladeck notes that the size of the House is set by law, so no Constitutional Amendment would be needed to change it. However, it is unlikely that a majority in Congress would vote for this reform, if the leadership did bring it to a vote.

Yet another proposal  is to create more states. Vladeck mentions adding Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. This would increase the number of Senators thus weakening the influence of less populated states. There is also the possibility of dividing large, populous states–California for example.

An alternative proposal for reforming presidential elections is the National Popular Vote movement. Unlike Vladeck’s proposal, NPV would be implemented by agreement among the States of the Union. No congressional action would be needed.

Posted in Constituents, Constitution, Political | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

In today’s politics, truth doesn’t matter


Just tell the truth.–Chris Cuomo

Truth will out.–Shakespeare

President Trump, referring to truth, reportedly said: “It doesn’t matter, we won.”

Trump explored this fact with his birther campaign. Repeated claims that Barack Obama wasn’t born a citizen took their toll. That the claim was false, didn’t diminish its effectiveness. Eventually Obama felt it necessary to release his birth certificate which didn’t help much; the damage had been done and the din of false claims continued.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has been dogged with cries of “Pocahontas.” Recently she released DNA evidence of Native American ancestry. Her release of DNA evidence confirms that cries of derision have been effective and will continue.

President Trump repeatedly attacked Hillary Clinton with vague charges of criminality prompting chants of “lock her up.” Facts didn’t matter; had Mrs. Clinton denied she was a criminal, it would have added fuel to the fire. Even though Mrs. Clinton isn’t currently a candidate for any office, the charge still provokes the chant.

The Saudi government’s involvement in murder is plain to see. Will we accept denials and excuses? You may bet on that; there is precedent: Putin’s denial of Russian interference in elections, Trumps inflated claims of agreement with Korea’s Kim.

Tom, like Trump, often smears his opponents with claims that apply as well or better to himself–in NY-23 politics as well as national politics, truth doesn’t matter.

Posted in 2018, Trump | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments