There is always much to comment on in our wonderful world of imperfection. I thought I would pick a few truths that I believe should be self-evident, but sometimes get lost in the weeds, especially with leaders who try to mask them. In no particular order:
CIA Report on Torture
The CIA is denial mode parading out several former directors and experts who say “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” were legal and gained us a lot of evidence and the Feinstein report is incorrect. I heard one refuse to call EIT what it is – torture. From where I sit, I have been against torture from the outset. The ends do not justify the means. If we do not hold ourselves to a higher standard, then we are just another country.
While the report is not 100% accurate, it is likely directionally correct and more right than wrong. And, a war crimes prosecutor countered the CIA argument saying torture has never been as successful as the FBI rapport building protocols used by law enforcement. Irrespective of the veracity of torture methods, we must be better than this and should not get down in the mud with the worst captors. Note, my friend Barney has two great posts the past few days on the CIA torture fallout. Here is a link to the more recent one: http://mountainperspective.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/fallout-from-the-torture-report/
Putin the Producer
I saw a western educated producer for faux-reality shows on the Russian owned television station being interviewed. Three things he noted I found illuminating. First, while we know the news includes a great amount of propaganda, what I failed to understand is the Russian news has made the Ukraine battles all about fighting America and the west. The producer noted in the US, we speak of it more as a battle in the Ukraine against Russian backed rebels.
Second, he noted that on the various faux-reality shows, the Russian leadership requests that extreme points of view be included on both ends with an intent to make Putin look like he is a moderate, galvanizing influence. His point is if people see what crazy looks like, it makes Putin look more statesmanlike.
Third, the polls that show Putin with favorability ratings give a false impression. He said many who say they like Putin, fear him, not like him. I found this akin to the elections where Saddam Hussein would get 97% of the vote. People dare not publicly come out against him or they may wind up in jail.
US Economy doing pretty well with a positive trend
The economy has returned to better numbers with a month-by-month series of job increases dating back several years. The last two months have shown even better job increases in the right places, some wage growth and good GDP growth. And, the expectation is for 2015 to be an even better year. This is the same time the rest of the world is suffering more.
Republican leadership has noted we should have numbers like we did last month all of the time. What I find interesting is Republicans have a much worse historical track record on GDP, stock market and job growth than under Democrat white houses. And, it is not even close, even when the data is corrected for trends. While the President role gets too much credit and blame for the economy, the data does not support the GOP’s claim that it is the party of job creation and actually reveals the opposite.
Affordable Care Act Healthcare Exchanges are working pretty well
While critics keep hammering away at the complex and imperfect Affordable Care Act, second year enrollment has gone pretty well and the numbers will likely bear it out. More insurance companies are involved to increase competition, the median premium increase is 4% although it varies by market, the CBO reduced its medical inflation projections and a few more states expanded Medicaid.
My focus from the outset is getting people access to care will help people in poverty or near-poverty, which is a huge problem in our country. Also, the access will help the state economies and budgets of rural hospitals who had such high percentages of indigent care. So, if the ACA is done away which runs counter to what 65% of Americans want, it will screw a lot of people in need.
My advice to the GOP, is back off the repeal rhetoric and make the law better. I would also ask that saner heads prevail and pull the lawsuit in front of the Supreme Court. If the use of subsidies in the federal run exchange is over turned, that would be a damn shame. This should be remedied in any bill to improve the law. And, to those states who did not expand Medicaid, please do so, as you are harming significant numbers of people in your states and your economies.
Gas Price reductions are not just supply glut, demand has fallen
This story makes me smile for several reasons. It is helping fuel the US recovery, pun intended, as people have more money to spend on other things. The falling prices are also due to reduced demand as well as over-supply. I recognize that demand for gas is less impacted by price, but the demand has fallen due to more economical driving.
In my view, as the economy improved beginning a few years ago, people starting buying new cars and trucks. What is important to the equation is the newer cars and trucks are required to have better miles per gallon standards. This was very wise move by Presidents Bush and Obama. So, even though a truck buyer bought another truck, if the average mpg improves from 15 to 25 mpg, that added ten miles per gallon has an impact when you consider people bought 750,000 new trucks, e.g. That is not counting the improved mpg for cars. And, the standards are getting better, so hopefully demand will lessen further.
I recognize that much of the above is based on my opinion, but I have done my best to make sure my opinions have grounding in fact. I welcome viewpoints from others.