Sunday, November 08, 2009

MN-03 : Paulsen Loud and Silent on who should get H1N1 Vaccine

Erik Paulen (R-MN-03) update his blog on Tuesday, November 3rd, to protest that it was “Entirely Unacceptable” to provide vaccines to Guantanamo Detainees.

By making this a post on his blog, it is a statement of political outrage that many may feel. But the protest must be put in context. Why this emotional knee jerk reaction to GITMO detainees and not to Wall Street bankers ?

Just the previous day, Business Week reported that “Citigroup has been supplied with 1,200 units” plus an additional 12 large employers have received vaccines while 16 more are in the pipeline to get vaccines.

Why does Big Business get vaccines ? Well, companies like Goldman Sachs have onsite health clinics (and have received vaccines already) as part of their employee-provided benefit package. Goldman’s 400 or so managing directors and its top executive officers participate in the bank’s executive medical and dental program as part of their benefits at an annual cost of $40,543 which is substantially above the national average (which is about $13,000 for a family of four).

While we wait for Blogger Paulsen to comment on the BW article, let’s evaluate the knee jerk reaction to the GITMO detainee vaccine situation.
A responsible Congressman should review the situtation carefully, put the situtation in context and consider the ramifications. The current number of detainees in GITMO is approxiamately 215 – a relatively low number. As Blogger Paulsen complains “it is entirely unacceptable to make this vaccine available to detainees”, the key word is “available” … unlike in 2003 when the Bush Administration reaction to a potential flu outbreak when detainees were tackled and shackled so prison camp staff could "forcefully" administer the shots -- today these detainees can refuse the vaccines. Will they ? Maybe, they will decline as many will probably be concerned of being experimented on with some sort of truth serum or other drugs. This leads to other problem, if they detainees die without the US Government providing the “availability” of the vaccine, which could be a cause for outrage and complaints of prisoner negligence.
The other obvious question is : do these detainees possess information that if they died would be detrimental to our intelligence efforts ?
Considering this, the outrage is “Entirely Unacceptable” as it is entirely possible that no vaccines may actually be given to GITMO detainees.

Representative Paulsen may have a better case for his district in getting vaccines, if he was more supportive before. In his blog, he acknowledges “vaccine shortages widespread in Minnesota and throughout the nation” yet fails to acknowledge that he voted against HR 2346 which provided $1.85 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency fund to prepare for an influenza pandemic H1N1 influenza (swine flu) which included $350 million earmarked for state and local government preparation.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Negative Politics Wins, America Loses in NY-23

It must be a wonderful day in New York’s Congressional District 23 … for after months of political television ads , their sets are finally returning to normal programming --- pharmaceutical commercials.

Although it might be easy to have empathy for the good folks of NY-23, Americans should be disappointed that they really rejected their role in representative democracy.
Voters did not show up !
While the final tallies are still being determined, what is known is that with a population of over 600,000 only an estimated 135,000 decided to cast ballots. To put that in perspective, in 2002 – an off-year election, John McHugh ran unopposed but still generated 124,682 votes.

For this special election, which was timed to run with local elections on a normal voting day, maximum media attention was given to this contest. Outside influence was prominent. The Club For Growth's television ad spots numbered 1,597 and in total it generated contributions of $1,022,040 for Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman (roughly about $15 per vote he received).

The National Republican Congressional Committee spent on the Dede Scozzafava campaign, is estimated to be close to a million dollars. That figure may be less if some of some of the anticipated $200,000 and $300,000 for TV ads scheduled to be broadcast in the final days of the campaign, were stopped after she terminated her campaign.

Bill Owens, the Democratic and Working Families candidate, received just about as many votes as McHugh’s previous Democrat challengers in the past three elections (roughly in the mid-60,000s).

As of April 1, voter registration in the district was 43 percent Republican, 31 percent Democrat and just 1 percent Conservative Party.
So, who did not show up and why ?

Clearly negative advertising worked.
Voters can get tired of hearing countless attacks on the candidates. Negative advertising is designed to reduce voter euthisiasm for the opposition in hopes of dissuading those voters from participating. Looking at the 60,000 or so regular Republican voters who did not participate, they opted to reject the Republican/Conservative candidates … but also to reject representative government.

These attack ads have other consequences.
Late in Minnesota’s 2008 US Senate race, Norm Coleman, recognizing the damage caused by negative ads, called a halt to his personal attack ads saying "I want folks to vote for me, and not against the other folks." However the RNC and outside groups keep their ads running. The damage was done … and still paying the price is Senator Al Franken and former Senator Coleman as both candidate’s overall image have been badly damaged. Coleman’s may have been hit harder as 63,203 McCain supporters decided not to vote for him and most likely opted for Dean Barkley.

Politics should not just be about winning elections, but instead be about building the trust of their constituents in their ability to serve our needs.
Negative ads may seem to work … but they don’t foster a better government.
No doubt if you frequent any of the political party websites, you will be requested to donate money. Considering how the parties are ineffectively using these funds and actually destroying representative government, I suggest that you tell them NO to monetary contributions and offer your time instead.

As a footnote, anyone who watches the AMC television series Mad Men are aware that the current time period is the assassination of President Kennedy. The characters were "crying and praying so hard there wasn't room for anyone else to feel anything." It makes you wonder when negative advertising is used so citically to “brand” an opponent, if we as a country can ever feel good about our elected leaders – regardless of the political party.