During the Presidential campaign, the candidates and their surrogates each proclaimed that they would reduce the influence of the big corporations, including the big banks, in DC. This was sometimes referred to as “draining the swamp.” Well, it’s not going to happen and there are, no doubt, good reasons (and bad ones) for that. A lot of people who have worked at big corporations, including the big banks, know how the system works, are quite capable people, and are certainly qualified to serve as government leaders in areas of their expertise.

Now, I am not saying that I agree with any of President-elect Trump’s picks for cabinet positions. What I am objecting to in this post is the use of the metaphor “draining the swamp.”

It is my hope that the Republican and Democratic members of the Senate will, when considering the nominees (who will, of course, be approved) refrain from lowering themselves by using the idiotic “draining the swamp” metaphor. There is no swamp and it will not be drained.

Certainly Hillary Clinton’s picks would have come from the same metaphorical “swamp.” Different choices, different values but the same “swamp.” Even Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Chuck Schumer have friends, supporters and advisers who have spent parts of their careers in the same “swamp.”

Why refer to “draining the swamp” at all? This was and is meaningless populist demagoguery. While it may have won votes in the election, the concept was then and is now both propaganda and total deception.

I hope the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate will go the merits of individual nominees and ignore the epithets and metaphors.

Those of us who are Democrats need to remember some history, succinctly reported in an article in today’s New York Times. From the NYT article:

Democrats have themselves to blame for their weakened position in challenging a nominee. In 2013, the Senate voted largely along party lines to remove the 60-vote threshold on cabinet-level and non-Supreme Court judicial nominees. Mr. Trump’s nominees will now need the support of only 51 senators to be confirmed; Republicans are expected to hold 52 seats next year.

“At the end of the day, we were the ones who changed it to 51,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, who voted for the measure. “I think it’s important to remember how righteous we were.”

Claire McCaskill tells it like it is.


Suppose someone were to say to you: “Donald Trump is a fascist.”  And suppose you were to reply: “A fascist?  Not even close.”  Is there any meaning in this conversation? What if neither of you knew the meaning of “fascism” or “fascist”?  What if you each had a different concept of what these terms mean?

In meaningful conversation, one might expect those conversing to be reasonably precise in their use of language.  That, however, is rarely the case and we must guess what a speaker means based on the context in which he or she is speaking.

I would want to have a clear definition in mind before I accused someone of being a fascist.  I would look up the word in my favorite dictionary, the 1959 College Edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language (The World Publishing Company).  There I would find several definitions of “fascist” including the circular sounding definition “A person who believes in or practices Fascism.”  I would then look up “fascism” and find a more precise sounding definition:

a system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of the opposition (unions, other, especially leftist, parties, minority groups, etc.). the retention of private ownership of the means of production under centralized government control, belligerent nationalism and racism, glorification of war, etc.: first instituted in Italy in 1922.

If I were to look at Wikipedia, I would find two pieces on the subject.  One piece, entitled “Definitions of Fascism” begins: “What constitutes a definition of fascism and fascist governments is a highly disputed subject that has proved complicated and contentious. Historians, political scientists, and other scholars have engaged in long and furious debates concerning the exact nature of fascism and its core tenets.”  This Wikipedia article as it exists today discusses the views of 19 authors on the subject and ends with use of the term as an epithet.

Perhaps no one has better described the different and imprecise meanings given to the word “fascism” than George Orwell in his brief essay “What is Fascism?” Written in 1944, the essay concludes with the following discussion:

It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.

Yet underneath all this mess there does lie a kind of buried meaning. To begin with, it is clear that there are very great differences, some of them easy to point out and not easy to explain away, between the régimes called Fascist and those called democratic. Secondly, if ‘Fascist’ means ‘in sympathy with Hitler’, some of the accusations I have listed above are obviously very much more justified than others. Thirdly, even the people who recklessly fling the word ‘Fascist’ in every direction attach at any rate an emotional significance to it. By ‘Fascism’ they mean, roughly speaking, something cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class. Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.

But Fascism is also a political and economic system. Why, then, cannot we have a clear and generally accepted definition of it? Alas! we shall not get one — not yet, anyway. To say why would take too long, but basically it is because it is impossible to define Fascism satisfactorily without making admissions which neither the Fascists themselves, nor the Conservatives, nor Socialists of any colour, are willing to make. All one can do for the moment is to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword.

I think it wise to keep Orwell’s admonition in mind: that the words “fascist” and “fascism” should be used with “a certain amount of circumspection” and not “degrade[d] to the level of … swearword[s].” When the term “bully” is sufficient to describe someone, why use the word “fascist”?  The answer, I suppose, is that the word “fascist” applies to a bullies and others  who, as Orwell states, support a political and economic system that is “cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class” or, as the dictionary states, support “a system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of the opposition (unions, other, especially leftist, parties, minority groups, etc.). the retention of private ownership of the means of production under centralized government control, belligerent nationalism and racism, glorification of war, etc. ….”

I am not ready to classify President-Elect Trump as a “fascist” despite his obvious displays of so many of the behaviors Orwell attributes to fascists.  As time passes, it appears more and more clear that he supports a political system which meets Orwell’s description “cruel, unscrupulous, arrogant, obscurantist, anti-liberal and anti-working-class” but falls just short of the dictionary definition in that he has not yet fully advocated “rigid one-party dictatorship.”  Even so, with control of all three branches of the United States Government and those of many states falling under the control of the same party, it can be argued that we will drift into fascism unless people of good will step forward soon and say “No, we will not allow some of these policies and actions to stand.”

A friend who voted for Trump recently told me that he would not support Trump on everything and would speak out if Trump crossed certain undefined lines.  I keep wondering when these Trump voters and Republican leaders who say they will oppose Trump when he crosses the line will begin to speak.  Soon?  Or after it is too late?

To read Orwell’s full essay “What is Fascism?” online, go to  For another recent post discussing this issue, see


During the presidential campaign, and during many other campaigns over the years, there have been repeated allegations of election fraud. In recent years, as we have moved from paper ballots to a variety of mechanical and electronic voting machines, these election fraud allegations have included a variety of claims about suspected tampering with voting machines. Claims have been made that the machines have been programmed or hacked to cast votes for voters who did not vote. Claims have been made that machines have changed votes. Claims have been made that machines have not counted votes that were cast. And claims have been made that votes counted by the machines were not accurately reported by election officials. And that’s just the beginning. (Bear in mind that there is a difference between alleging and proving the claims. I state no opinions as to the validity of any of these claims.)

I spoke today with an attorney who is knowledgeable about the subject. I told him I didn’t know much about the subject. (That, of course, had not stopped me earlier from passing on articles refuting Donald Trump’s many pre-election claims that the election was rigged and that if he lost, his defeat would prove it.  My theory was based in part on the assumption that most of the machines and other balloting procedures were in the hands of Republican election administrators such that large scale election fraud against the Republican presidential candidate was highly unlikely. That said, Trump continues to assert that he lost the popular vote due to large scale election fraud in areas he did not win and where the voting was not under the control of Republican election administrators.)

In any event, because I did not know much about various forms of election fraud — the kinds that end up in court battles — I asked for a source of information about the subject.  I was referred to a specific website containing information, some of it technical in nature, discussing election processes and some of the many ways election processes can go wrong. I am passing along the reference to those of you interested in the subject, without commenting on its objectivity, as a starting point for educating yourself should you ever decide to work as an election judge or other election official, work on an election contest, or seek to reform election processes in the communities in which you live.

The organization providing the referenced information is called Black Box Voting. The home page of the Black Box Voting website states: “You may be wondering what the term ‘black box’ means. A ‘black box’ system is non-transparent; its functions are hidden from the public. Elections, of course, should not be black box systems.”

The principal behind this organization has written a Black Box Voting Book that can be downloaded by clicking the “Black Box Voting Book: Free” link at the top of the home page.  You will find a link to that home page at the end of this block.

I repeat that I am not endorsing what the author has to say or suggesting that large scale voting fraud in America is occurring or can occur on any systematic basis. However, where races are tight, those who control election processes and have an incentive to tamper may have the technical ability to do so. And if it is true that outside hackers have the physical ability as well an incentive to break into and jigger the election machinery, they arguably may do the same.

Here are some of the subjects addressed on the website:




—- Records: ALTERED

—- Records: INACCURATE

—- Records: POLL TAPES





























































The home page for the site is:


Let’s say the Republicans, in keeping with numerous campaign promises, repeal the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare”) as one of the first legislative acts after President-elect Trump takes office.  Suppose the Act repealing the ACA says it won’t take affect until the passage of a certain amount of time, e.g., two years.  Suppose that on the date the repealer is passed, there are no complete, viable plans acceptable to insurers, providers, insureds, taxpayers, voters and other key players required to bring US health care and health care coverage up to the levels we should expect of a country with the financial wealth and human resources we have at our disposal.

Does this not sound familiar? Is it not like holding the nation’s promises to pay its debts hostage by refusing to raise debt ceilings until certain other legislative changes are made? Is it not like repeated, strung out threats to shut down the entire government if budget concessions are not made? And is it not like digging a deep, deep hole and jumping into it without the slightest clue how to get out.

Well, there are a few clues we have about what might happen if the ACA were to be so repealed.

Is single payer, universal health care in the cards?  Set aside the question whether it should be.  Unless I’m delusional, it’s just not going to happen in the next two years.  So I will not discuss it further in this post.

So what will happen?  We should be seeing various players – big players – telling Congress what they want, what they need, what they expect, and what they demand. All manner of lobbyists will weigh on to explain what is required in order for enterprises and groups they represent to remain viable as part of a market-based health care system.  Is this bad?  Is this evil?  Is the influence of lobbyists telling Congress what they think is needed a terrible thing?  To my way of thinking, absolutely not.  It is inconceivable to me that Congress, without input from industry players, would ever come up with anything that might come close to meeting our nation’s health care needs.  Lobbying is essential, but “buying” favor with large campaign contributions is not.

On November 11, the New York Times published an article with the headline “Donald Trump Says He May Keep Parts of Obama Health Care Act.”

Well, that was almost a month ago.  Today (December 6), the New York Times reports that “Health Insurers List Demands if Affordable Care Act Is Killed.”

I’m not going to discuss the “demands” listed in the NYT article.  Instead, I will share some comments collected in discussions with various friends.

The first comment came from a healthcare provider who wrote:

I think the first thing that I am going to be all over when the new congressional wrecking ball comes in and Trump begins to blast away with all the “through the looking glass” appointees is healthcare. “OK, what are you going to do if you don’t want the Affordable Health Care plan?” Do the same thing and call it Trump Care? Go back to only insuring 19 year olds on their parents plan; reinstating pre-existing condition exclusions? Make more cuts to Medicare and roll back Medicaid? That is, right now, my Rubicon, but of course, something more outrageous could come up before that–my mind is open to a potential catastrophe that could “trump” that one.

Some passion mixed with fear there.  This was followed by several additional statements of concern from private citizens.

The next comment came from another provider who stated:

I supported the ACA initially as a practicing physician but was always concerned with financing. Now as a result of the implementation private pay insurance deductibles have gone through the roof and Obamacare is cumbersome to work with and docs can’t afford to add the personnel to keep track of it. There is only one insurer as of this Dec 31 left in Texas and it is terrible. The upshot is that patients have insurance but only catastrophic, so yes this needs to be globally re evaluated and no the sky is not going to fall in.

A candid expression that the ACA is not working in Texas coupled with the optimistic view that “the sky is not going to fall in.”

Next came a piece mixing politics and personal experience.

I was with [name omitted] today at his cardiologist’s office and he [the cardiologist, I believe] said the same thing… I’m not saying any program is perfect or even good, but I think it is beneficial to have youngsters insured until 26 and coverage for previous conditions. Who is going to be working on saving the pluses and improving what doesn’t work? According to most doctors I have talked with, their burden is increased, they can’t keep up with paper work and the insurance providers are getting even more wealthy and providing less service. We have to have a safety net for citizens who can’t afford basic health care. We pay the largest part of our incomes not for housing or good, but for healthcare!

That comment from someone I would consider center-left Democrat.

From a friend I would describe as a center-right independent with strong Republican tendencies came this testimonial:

ACA has improved some points in insurance coverage for everyone. More preventative coverage is fully covered for all. Mammograms and colon tests for example. No penalty for preexisting. And college age dependents. In 1986 my dad’s company changed insurance carriers. Both parents had cancer. Bam! No coverage. Not their fault and nothing they could do. They died owing thousands of dollars in medical costs. That can’t happen today. At age 24 my son had cancer. Fortunately he was diagnosed and cancer removed 2 months before his birthday and end of coverage. That can’t happen today. However, my daughter has dealt with ACA coverage and the cost is high both premium and deductible with coverage minimal.

This was followed a testimonial plus editorial by the same friend I consider to be a center-left Democrat.

Your scary stories are personal evidence of the failure of the insurance agencies to deal with its insured fairly. My dad spent the last five years of his life on dialysis. He ran through $1 million worth of insurance and then had to pay three times a week for his dialysis. At the time that was about $12,000 a week. He decided to go to two times a week for dialysis and passed away within a year of the end of his insurance. I am sure he did did not have the will to go on living. My son had a previous condition that was addressed when he was in college. During his post college first job, the problem reappeared. He needed surgery which was not covered because it was a previous condition. He started his professional life thousands of dollars in debt. As DT says, “so unfair.”

She also added: “Being without any healthcare or inadequate health care is a stress no one needs while fighting a serious disease.

The following post was mine, quickly written, as is this blog post. I have edited it lightly.

Just saw the stream of messages. One quick comment. There are two issues that can be decoupled although they are not totally independent. The first is: What should be covered by health care insurance? The second is: What is the fair, equitable, and politically acceptable way to finance the insurance?

Any form of insurance is based on estimates of and assumptions of risk. If the population is made healthier, or lower cost preventative health care replaces expensive acute care treatment of conditions that could have been prevented, total costs decrease. That’s in the long term. But insurance companies, especially start-ups, can’t always deal with the long-term and even experienced, established companies may encounter problems in predicting what will happen short-term.

Many insurance companies setting rates under Obamacare made some seriously incorrect assumptions. They apparently did not realize that healthy people would think themselves invincible and remove themselves from the insurance pool. Further, insurance companies have historically wanted lower risk (“preferred risk”) policy holders. To get the best life insurance, for example, you start when you are young and healthy. One day, you want additional insurance. You are asked to take some medical tests. You learn you have high blood pressure. Good for you.  That insurance company test may have added years to your life. But you will pay more for the additional life insurance if you are able to get.

A series of factors, some of which were inserted into the Obamacare legislation by people who wanted it to fail, have led to the kinds of issues [name deleted] described. Others were built into the legislation by Obamacare proponents to avoid political backlash. As is often the case with ambitious new legislation, the legislation was flawed. Companies believing they could write sound policies base don what they though would happen under the legislation cratered. Plans worked in some states and not others.

Now, why so much paperwork? Four words: waste, fraud, and abuse. Two additional words: cost control.

Why high deductibles and copays? To reduce premiums and provide incentives to insureds not to seek unnecessary health care.

All these things are manageable, if the insurance companies apply sound actuarial principles to reasonable assumptions. The problem has been that the assumptions were made in unstable political and legal conditions and were based on incomplete data. Bad assumptions made some of the companies’ initial Obamacare policies  unsustainable money losers, or so they say.

Where is the safety net for the first tier insurers? Two come to mind: government subsidies and the purchase reinsurance. I am not sure how either have worked under the ACA.  Certainly, the Republican governors who thwarted Medicaid expansion in their states added to the problems, although they may say otherwise.

Anyway, there can be fixes to Obamacare or a replacement that works better. The problem is that we haven’t yet seen reasonable proposals the public can understand.

Public single payer? Great concept but it’s not likely to happen in my lifetime and arguably has serious drawbacks as well as major benefits. I would like to hear from the Democrats what they propose, and it had better not be just to tinker around the edges.

We need a program that works for insureds, providers, insurers, and taxpayers.  ACA – a great step forward.  Republican obstructionism to make Obama look bad – a willful embrace of evil.  (Sorry for this vehemence, but we have to recognize that this is not just a dispute between policy wonks on details.  This was calculated political sabotage arguably in retaliation for the Republicans having been given little input into the drafting and passage of the ACA. (Okay, it was based on the Romney health plan in Massachussetts, but let’s forget that inconvenient truth.)  More some other day.

We will see what Trump and the Republican leadership propose. Maybe some of it will have merit. Right now, however, the burden is squarely on the Democrats because there is little evidence so far that the Republicans will act in good faith to solve any problems other than those experienced by citizens in the higher end of the wealth/income spectrum.

This drew a strong response from one of my left-of-center friends.  He wrote:

Until we, as a nation, grow up and design a uniquely American form of the single-payer model it’s ALL tinkering around the edges. No plan likely to be offered by republicans will help anyone who actually needs the help. I hate to sound so certain and negative but I can only go by what I’ve seen so far. We must take the profit motive out of healthcare. The republicans want themselves and their peers to profit off everything the government does. At what point is the health of everyone in the greater community deemed more important than the interests of insurance company stockholders? The further in the future we place the answer the less future generations will think of us.

This response drew a number of thumbs up whereas my comment drew none and was followed by another comment from the provider who first raised the issue in our discussion.

Health care HAS to become a part of the infrastructure of society. It can not continue to be looked at as something people have to buy. I worked for a behavioral health insurance company for years. I have many stories to tell about how “bean counters” subvert almost any contract to maximize company profits and subject policy holders to unexpected financial catastrophes.
For several years it has been a Medicare regulation that companies can not refuse payment of care at facilities that are not contracted with the insurance company (Medicare replacement policies) if the attending physician does not agree that the care no longer meets medical necessity. However, the company lawyers decided the “work around” there was not to review on these out of network cases at all while the patient was in treatment, and to only review them retrospectively. This resulted in many instances where patients would find themselves facing 50, 60, 100 thousand dollar bills months after discharge when their claims were denied. They had no informed choice as to whether to continue treatment that would not be paid for until it was too late.
For six years I protested this policy and brought statistics to middle and upper management. I pointed out that their slogan of “Making people healthier” was being undermined by this capitulation to their bottom line. I really don’t know how it happened, but one day, over a year ago, they changed the policy back to reviewing as treatment was given. Now, at least, people have that information beforehand. But that, and many other, instances told me unequivocally that insurance is never going to be friendly to people’s health or their financial lives. It will always be the stockholders who are considered first.
It is no wonder that our health care is the most expensive in the world, but the United States is ranked no higher than 16th in being healthy. My counterpart therapists in Germany, for one example, never worry about paper work, “pass through visits,” or taking time for medical necessity review phone calls. Any German gets 52 mental health sessions per year with any licensed therapist, no questions asked. All Germans need to do is say, “I need to talk to a psychotherapist.” It is their right as a German. That is the kind of practice that any liberal democracy needs to embrace if it views itself as a society, and not just a collection of individuals.
So here we have quite a mix of views.
My final comment and current opinion:

I generally agree with the comments but continue to believe that any move to single payer, universal health coverage as an entitlement will not be well-received by Congress – certainly not while the Republicans are held hostage by their most extreme members, without whose votes they would not get elected.

I take no credit for the outstanding input provided to me by the members of our discussion group. Why did they speak out? Here’s one reason provided:

My point is that there has been some positive outcome with ACA that we all have or could benefit from. That includes Medicare coverage also. However, there is lots of room for improvement. I used my personal experiences because they are true factual examples.

Please feel free to comment, if you can figure out how, on this blog or on  Twitter.  My Twitter handle is @wmschur.













A Facebook friend sent his friends a link to an article by Nicholas Loris published in something called “The Daily Signal.”  The article’s headline shouted out: “Climate Data Deniers Are Trying to ‘Bork’ Trump’s EPA Transition Leader.”  The article begins:

President-elect Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition leader, Myron Ebell, is a huge threat to the green gravy train. Now, with billions of crony dollars at stake, the green slander machine is doing all it can to slime him.

Ebell and his followers cite various kinds of “climate data.”  Thus, to parallel “climate change deniers” we now have “climate data deniers.” I won’t discuss either “The Daily Signal” or Nicholas Loris other than to note that Loris is by training an economist.  Now, I have spent a lot of time as an antitrust attorney working with economists, and economics was my primary area of study in college.  I do not believe myself to have the credentials required to pontificate on this subject with the certainty displayed by Ebell and his supporters.

I responded to my friend’s post as follows:

I’m generally distrustful of statistics that are not coupled with the big picture and would not be surprised by any set of statistics purporting to support various positions and serving as a basis for hypotheses about how we got to where we are and where we might be heading. So we now have “climate data deniers” as well as “climate change deniers” – parallel and clever but nothing we haven’t heard already.  And as we all know, there is real science and junk science.

So, here’s my question, and it’s a question for you: “Can you explain to me the thermodynamics underlying changes in atmospheric temperatures measured over land and over bodies of water and changes in the temperature of large bodies of water and the relative amounts of energy that penetrate the earth’s atmosphere and escape from it?”

Here, I am not talking about the selective collection of various statistics about recorded temperatures over various land masses as measured in real time or as hypothesized based on various scientific models used to estimate temperatures before temperatures were recorded by human beings. What I am talking about are the thermodynamic forces in play each and every day.

I note that energy can change forms and can be stored as potential energy in various living things and materials. A tree absorbs sunlight and stores incoming energy. A tree burns and that energy is released. Oceans absorb energy and warm and they release energy and produce weather as they do so.

Weather, we must agree, is not the same as climate. But long term trends in weather patterns coupled with other observed physical phenomena serve as a basis for explanations given by scientists to support their views. An extraordinarily large number of thermodynamic activities are going on here.

Anyway, I cannot pretend to have the ability to sit in final judgment of “climate change deniers” and “climate data deniers.” We can cynically view them all as opportunistic propagandists or we can choose to believe the ones who deliver us the message we want to hear. So you may believe the “climate data deniers” are all feathering their nests to support their personal economic and political agendas and I may believe that the “climate data deniers” are doing the same thing.

How many people have the slightest clue about the thermodynamics underlying what has happened, is happening, and will happen on our planet?

Anyone for a giant meteor?