Donald Trump: Caroline, You’re Fired

Those who aspired to be The Apprentice, but had their hopes dashed by Caroline Kepcher, might receive a bit of satisfaction from the news that Donald Trump has fired Caroline:

“She became a prima donna,” said one insider. “Being on ‘The Apprentice’ went to her head. She was no longer focused on business. She was giving speeches for $25,000 and doing endorsements.

Another complaint is that “Carolyn took it very seriously. She thought she was a freaking movie star.” In other words, after being turned into a television star, she was fired for acting like one. There’s only enough room for Donald Trump’s ego.

Caroline is being replaced by daughter Ivanka, while George has been replace by son Donald, Jr. Presumably those two have spent a life time learning how to defer to Donald’s ego.

The Economist on Civil Liberties Post 9/11

The Economist shows the difference between honorable conservatives internationally and the authoritarians who dominate the Republican Party here. They examine the effects of terrorism on civil liberties and find that Liberty has been the first victim of the war fought in its name:

Since 2001 many countries have pushed through repressive laws in the name of the war on terror—but few as eagerly as America and Britain. America first rushed through the Patriot Act. The authorities’ powers to snoop on American citizens were vastly increased. Agents armed with a court warrant could now eavesdrop on private telephone calls, read e-mails, pry into library records, bank statements, medical records and suchlike without needing to show “reasonable suspicion”. At the same time, in an apparent breach of the law, George Bush secretly authorised his own warrantless domestic surveillance programme. He was, he said, acting in his constitutional capacity as wartime commander-in-chief.

Hundreds of foreigners, most of them Muslims, were rounded up after September 11th and held without charge, sometimes for months. Tens of thousands more were called in for questioning and finger-printing. Not a single terrorist was found. Then came the creation of a detainment camp in an American naval base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, which Mr Bush argued was beyond the reach of the American courts. There hundreds more suspected terrorists, captured abroad, were interned in a legal limbo, without charge, without access to lawyers or conventional courts, and without prospect of release in a never-ending war. Others have experienced “extraordinary rendition”, that is, they have been spirited away by the CIA for harsh interrogation in secret prisons in third countries where even the International Red Cross has no access.

America has been lambasted for its record on human rights since September 11th. So has Britain. It has introduced a slew of draconian anti-terrorist measures over the past five years, and is planning more. The mere “glorification” or “indirect incitement” of terrorism is now a crime. Suspected terrorists can be held for up to 28 days without charge—longer than in any other democratic country—a period the government now wants to double. (In America suspected terrorists whom Mr Bush deems to be “enemy combatants” may be held “for the duration of hostilities”.) Those unable to be tried in court (usually for want of evidence) may now be subjected to “control orders”, ranging from electronic tagging to little short of house arrest, imposed on the simple say-so of the home secretary for indefinitely renewable periods of 12 months.

Upcoming Book Reports Anti-Semitic Comments From Bush

Anti-Semitic comments from George Bush will receive new publicity in an upcoming book according to Raw Story. Bush told the Houston Post in 1993 that only those who “accept Jesus Christ” go to Heaven, but this story is one of many on Bush which the media has played down. Raw Story reports receiving an advanced copy of The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power in which Bush’s views are more explicit. Raw Story reports Bush said:

“You know what I’m gonna tell those Jews when I get to Israel, don’t you Herman?” a then Governor George W. Bush allegedly asked a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman.

When the journalist, Ken Herman, replied that he did not know, Bush reportedly delivered the punch line: “I’m telling ’em they’re all going to hell.”

The Republicans have been attempting to increase support among Jewish voters but have had limited success.

Republicans Again Trying To Use Fear For Politcal Gain

The Washington Post reports that Republcans are “planning to turn the floors of the House and Senate into battlegrounds over which political party can best protect the country from terrorists and other security threats.” This means ignoring domestic issues.

Republicans think that they can score more political points by once again playing up fear of terrorism. This leaves many avenues of response open to Democrats. They might note that, with the exception of Richard Nixon, previous Presidents in recent memory have avoided such fear mongering. We went through World War II and the cold war with with most Presidents attempting to minimize rather than maximize fear. When he took office during the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt tried to calm the nation by saying that the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself” in his first inaugural address.

Republicans have repeatedly chosen to play politics rather than solve problems ever since they took office. If Republicans want to spend the next two months avoiding domestic issues, Democrats should highlight all the problems they have ignored, failed to respond to, or made worse. If they want to talk about terrorism and tie Iraq into the debate, Democrats can also point to an upcoming report discussed by Newsweek:

Bush administration policymakers and their congressional backers may get some unwelcome news from a new analysis on Iraq that the office of intelligence czar John Negroponte will soon produce. In late July, leading Senate Democrats asked Negroponte to come up with a new Iraq National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, a secret study that is supposed to reflect the views of all 16 U.S. intel agencies. The most recent Iraq NIE, produced two years ago, was generally pessimistic about the future of the country. In a letter to Negroponte, the Senate Dems asked for U.S. analysts’ best assessment on a sheaf of awkward issues, including: Is Iraq in a civil war or close to it? How effective are new Iraqi security forces? Is the Iraqi government stable?

Krugman Half Right on Health Care Today

Paul Krugman discusses government versus private health care but unfortunately chooses the wrong types of health care to compare. He uses the V.A. as an example of a good government program as compared to the private HMO’s in the Medicare Advantage plan. As someone who has seen the effects of these programs first hand, as opposed to by measures such as customer satisfaction or articles written as part of political debate, I would say that both programs have serious problems.Krugman would have had a stronger argument if he had compared the government Medicare program to Medicare HMO’s.

Health care programs are judged based on criteria which a large system with a good computer system, like the VA, can game much more easily than smaller groups. Krugman is likely right that improvements have been made, but I see far too many examples of poor care provided to use the VA as an example of quality care provided by the government. Others also see this, and using the VA as an example like this undermines the arguments of those who use it as a favorable example. The Medicare program, in which the government is single payer but private physicians provide the care would be a far better model than the VA.

Krugman is more accurate in his assessment of Medicare HMO’s:

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is pursuing a failed idea from the 1990’s: channeling Medicare recipients into private H.M.O.’s. The theory was that H.M.O.’s, by bringing private-sector efficiency and the magic of the marketplace to health care, would be able to do what the V.A. has achieved in practice: provide better care at lower cost.

But the theory was wrong. Years of experience show that H.M.O.’s actually have substantially higher costs per patient than conventional Medicare, because they add an expensive extra layer of bureaucracy and also spend heavily on marketing. H.M.O.’s for Medicare recipients prospered for a while by selectively covering relatively healthy older Americans, but when the government began paying less for those likely to have low medical costs, many H.M.O.’s dropped out of the Medicare market.

In 2003, however, the Bush administration pushed through the Medicare Advantage program, which offers heavy subsidies to H.M.O.’s. According to the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, Medicare Advantage plans cost the government 11 percent more per person than traditional Medicare. Oh, and mortality rates in these plans are 40 percent higher than those of elderly veterans covered by the V.A. But thanks to the subsidy, membership in Medicare Advantage plans is surging.

On one side, then, the administration and its allies in Congress oppose expanding the best health care system in America, even though that expansion would save taxpayer dollars, because they’re afraid that allowing a successful government program to expand would undermine their antigovernment crusade and displease powerful business lobbies.

On the other side, ideology and fealty to interest groups make them willing to waste billions subsidizing private H.M.O.’s.

Remember that contrast the next time you hear some conservative going on about excessive spending on entitlements, and declaring that we need to cut back on Medicare and Medicaid benefits.