<![CDATA[Leslie Hittner - Blog]]>Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:33:08 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Graham-Cassidy is based upon false assumptions and a deceptive narrative]]>Tue, 19 Sep 2017 00:29:58 GMThttp://hittner.net/blog/graham-cassidy-is-based-upon-false-assumptions-and-a-deceptive-narrativeThe Republicans latest attempt to write a healthcare bill is based upon a false narrative. Graham-Cassidy pushes a lot of the responsibilities for administering healthcare down to the states – in the name of allowing more flexibility and reducing the size of government. I disagree with both reasons.

(1)    while the size of the federal government’s role in healthcare may be reduced, the sizes of the 50 state healthcare administration programs will increase – and this increase will include considerable duplication of efforts. Such duplication represents an overall increase in government – and an increase in premiums or taxes to pay for it. The Republican plan does not reduce government spending. It merely deflects it to the states.

(2)    It is not clear to me that states need much individual flexibility in administering their healthcare systems. This so-called flexibility is a political need not a healthcare need. Again, the Republican plan does not increase healthcare flexibility. It merely allows conservative states to reduce it.

It is time for a single payer system in this country. I have discussed the reasons several times before, so will not go into them again. Healthcare is an issue of the commons. We ALL benefit when good healthcare is available. Because we are not changing the healthcare delivery system, a single payer insurance system is NOT socialized healthcare. That is a specious argument.

This is really a big battle against the for-profit insurance industry not the healthcare industry.

Who is YOUR congressman or congresswoman working for?

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<![CDATA[Step aside, Mitch]]>Mon, 31 Jul 2017 20:26:29 GMThttp://hittner.net/blog/step-aside-mitchIt's time for McConnell to step back.

A top Republican congressman just stated that Mitch McConnell has to go. He's right. McConnell has lead Republican obstructionism now for nearly 8 years. At the beginning of Obama's presidency, he announced that his (only?) goal was to ensure that Obama was a one-term president.

And that's what Republicans - especially in the Senate - did. The record is there. McConnell pretends it's not - but it is. Anybody who wishes to, can remember a...nd acknowledge it. Others will not - no matter what I say.

Then, Thursday night - after his healthcare defeat - McConnell accused Democrats of constantly obstructing his efforts to pass a healthcare (actually health care insurance) bill. Let me remind you that outside of the privileged thirteen, NOBODY had even seen the bill until a mere 2 hours before the vote for its passage was held.

Not Republicans. Not Democrats. NOBODY.

The process for passage of this bill was not under "Regular Order." It was not subjected to scrutiny and improvement by healthcare experts, the general public, and even the Senate itself via its committee structure.

This bill was on a railroad train.

Recall that a similar procedure was followed in the House of Representatives. Remember those days when reporters, Democrats, and others were searching through the Halls of Congress looking for the mysterious Republican Healthcare Bill?

YES! THAT SHIT REALLY HAPPENED!

It was not fake news then. It's not fake news now.

HOW CAN ANY ELECTED MEMBER OF CONGRESS BE EXPECTED TO COMMENT INTELLIGENTLY AND TO MAKE COGENT ARGUMENTS - EITHER FOR OR AGAINST - WHEN THEY HAVE NOT SEEN THE BILL?

After nearly a week of "debate" the document was handed out a mere two hours before the expected vote. That anybody outside of the privileged thirteen voted for the bill is a surprise to me. If you see no problem with this, then "liberal Kool aide" is not the problem.

​Koch Koke is.]]>
<![CDATA[Healthcare Insurance]]>Mon, 31 Jul 2017 20:16:59 GMThttp://hittner.net/blog/healthcare-insuranceLet's take a look at healthcare - or more specifically healthcare insurance.
The problem with healthcare in this country is not with the healthcare providers. The problem is with healthcare insurance. I maintain that the competitive healthcare insurance industry drives prices UP not down.

Let me explain.

In reality, the insurance companies are not competing directly for people (customers) who want healthcare. Rather, they are competing for providers. If they can offer a really good provider network, the customers will come to them.

So - how does the insurance industry compete for providers - why by offering them MORE for their services. Insurance companies have created "provider networks." Providers are asked to conform to a particular insurance company's "best practices" and by so doing so, they will be paid a "premium" for their services.

Providers then become a part of a particular insurance company's "network." Of course, they may accept money from any insurance company that offers it, but the big money comes from the insurance companies that they have "partnered" with.

Next, the providers set their rates - and you can bet that those rates will be higher than the best re-imbursement they can expect from an insurance company.

When the insurance reimbursement is less than the charged rate, they providers either bill the customer for the balance or write it off as a loss. So - insurance companies are not competing for customers. They are competing for providers. We are actually involved in two different markets - the insurance market and the provider market. That interaction between two markets drives the cost of healthcare UP not down.

There is another example that is similar - not identical - in our society. Unions. Unions and business play to two different markets. In this case, the providers are the workers and the customers are the companies for which they work. In order to get providers, unions offer higher wages. If two or more unions are competing for the same providers, wages can really spiral upward. For whatever good unions might do, one thing is true - they do not bring down labor costs.

For whatever good health insurance companies might do, they do NOT bring down healthcare costs. That is why a single-payer system working with a private and competitive health provider system is the only way to control and even reduce healthcare costs.

The multiple-payer system of ACA (Obamacare) is it's biggest flaw. The changes being proposed by the Republicans do not repair that flaw. The changes being proposed by the Republicans play into the flaw - and make it worse.

​If only the Republican Party could approach healthcare the same way that they approach employment relations...]]>
<![CDATA[The Equal Rights Amendment – Equality for Women: Who got it first?]]>Mon, 20 Mar 2017 17:02:22 GMThttp://hittner.net/blog/the-equal-rights-amendment-equality-for-women-who-got-it-firstBeginning in 1923, a battle for equality for women to be guaranteed in the Constitution of this great country began. That effort seems to have died in 1982. The failure of the ERA Amendment to the Constitution did leave a mark, however. People in a small country in Africa remembered our fight. They knew that our country had for the time being lost that battle, but as it turns out, they did not.
 
That country is the Muslim country of Tunisia. In 2014 – after a populist uprising – the Islamist dictatorship of Tunisia was overturned and a democratic government was instituted. Part of the new Tunisian Constitution reads as follows:
 
Article 46 Women’s rights 
 
The state commits to protect women’s accrued rights and work to strengthen and develop those rights.
 
The state guarantees the equality of opportunities between women and men to have access to all levels of responsibility in all domains.
 
The state works to attain parity between women and men in elected Assemblies.
 
The state shall take all necessary measures in order to eradicate violence against women.
 
There are similar articles for children and for people with disabilities.
 
Those of you who have stereotyped Islamists as rigid Sharia Law advocates and have posited
falling sky narratives because of Muslims in our country and European countries need to study the recent social transition struggles in Tunisia.
 
They are not finished. Social change is still taking place. But with respect to equal rights for women, this Muslim country beat America to the punch.
 
And not all Muslim countries are the same…


-Les


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<![CDATA[The Republican mandate – more poppycock]]>Fri, 10 Mar 2017 08:16:43 GMThttp://hittner.net/blog/the-republican-mandate-more-poppycock“This is what we promised the voters. We have a mandate to do this.” Thus say the Republican Representatives in the Congress when asked about ACA (Obamacare). For nearly 8 years, they have not been able to improve the ACA. In fact, they never even made an effort to improve this healthcare law.

The ACA is flawed. It needs improvement. If only the Democrats and Republicans had been able to work together on the original bill, it likely would have been much better. But Republicans, working under the mandate of Mitch McConnell, were not about to work with the Democrats. They would rather see a flawed bill become law than to in any way “help” their political opponents. The Republicans put politics in front of governance – and it was governance that they were elected to provide.

Knowing that they literally had free reign, the Democratic Party put together the ACA, and it was indeed flawed. But it worked. Because it worked, some 20 million people who previously were not insured obtained health insurance.

Now the Republicans have an opportunity to fix that law. But they are not going to. Instead, they are going to make the same mistake that Democrats did nearly eight years ago, because knowing that they literally have free reign, the Republican Party is in the process of putting together another national health plan that is also seriously flawed. Instead of fixing ACA, they are bent on replacing it with another failed attempt.

What is wrong with this bill? Well, here are a few notable flaws: (1) The new law all but eliminates coverage for the mentally ill. (2) the new law enforces an insurance mandate by permanently punishing a person with higher premiums if that person drops and then resumes coverage . (3) The new law will rely on tax credits based upon age and health savings accounts (HSAs) to help with the cost of health insurance. A friend of mine said offering HSAs to a poor person is like giving a starving person a cookbook. (4) In 2020, the state administered and federally funded Medicaid programs will be pulled back and poor people will again pay the price.

In the meantime, our members of Congress continue to enjoy the best ever health plan.

ARRP, AMA, and many other organizations have come out in opposition to this new plan. Even the Republicans are split over it.

Will the Republican leadership listen to the concerns of the people?

I doubt it.]]>
<![CDATA[Trump gives a new meaning to "Going Low"]]>Sat, 15 Oct 2016 18:13:15 GMThttp://hittner.net/blog/october-15th-2016The Trump dive is beginning...
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<![CDATA[Would I hire Clinton or Trump.]]>Tue, 02 Aug 2016 12:08:59 GMThttp://hittner.net/blog/would-i-hire-clinton-or-trumpI have been having conversations with friends all over this country about our upcoming election. I know these people. They are very well educated. They are extremely intelligent. And we have a variety of opinions about our current political climate.
 

What appears to me to be a fundamental problem in our current social environment is that obtaining accurate information – and knowing that it is indeed accurate – is virtually impossible. The chaotic result is that social sites such as Facebook and Twitter are literally loaded with falsehoods and lies. Quotes are taken out of context. Arguments are based upon incorrectly applied computerized searches. Quotes are “manufactured” by the same process. Frankly, many of the accusations of lies are based upon “lies” created by the internet users themselves.
And this sort of activity is taking place on both sides of the aisle – mostly by members of the “new” media (Cable channels that use “news” as entertainment, websites, blogs, podcasts, etc.)
I have fallen prey to some of these hoaxes. Perhaps you have as well. Because of the proliferation of falsehoods, whole websites have been created to verify what is being promulgated on the internet. However, people have become so cynical that they even doubt these websites – especially if the truth analysis differs from their own political opinions.
 

I tried to deal with some of the issues surrounding Hillary Clinton in a previous column. But, really, in a more general sense, what are we to do?
 

Then it occurred to me. We are hiring a chief administrator. These next few months are really two very large – and very long – job interviews.
   

So, I could look at our candidates as applicants for a job. I could look at their resumes and portfolios. I could look at their first interviews – the pre-convention processes. Now that they are official candidates, I could view this as their second interview – all the other candidates having been eliminated in the first round.
   

In the places where I have worked, the records check – the verification of portfolios, the calls to listed references – usually came after a single candidate was selected and before the job was offered. That eliminates the need at this stage to consider all the lies and possible lies floating around on the internet.
  

So, for the first part of this “table exercise” I will look only at the resumes/portfolios and the first round of interviews and prepare myself for the final interview process that will take place from now through November.
   

When I select job candidates for an interview, I must weed them out from candidates who are not qualified for the job I am offering.
   

The first thing I must consider is experience: (1) Clinton has a long portfolio of experience in the human services sector. She has worked for and administered both private and public human services (Yes governing is a human service.) programs since before she graduated from college. Her record extends back nearly 50 years. Clinton’s experience within the federal government is extensive. It’s long enough to have made some enemies – not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to administration. My experience is that any good administrator will make some mistakes and will encounter push-back. (2) Trump has no experience in the human services sector – neither as an employee nor an administrator. I cannot say much more. He is not qualified for the job. I don’t understand how he got through the process far enough to even be invited to the first interview – but here he is.
 

So – after this first step, the score is Clinton 1, Trump 0.
 

The second thing I must consider is whether the candidates have provided evidence in their portfolios that they are team players. After all, I am hiring an administrator, not an emperor: (1) Clinton started out in some organizations as a volunteer. She worked in many organizations as a mere employee and eventually as an administrator. She has worked in many committee settings – eventually in the Senate and the Whitehouse Situation Room. She has experience with international negotiations both with countries who are our allies and those who are our enemies. (2) Trump has shown no evidence of having ever been much of a team player. In his first interview, he indicated that he was always the boss. He never seems to have worked his way up through an organization. He always started at the top. His portfolio seems to bear that out as well.
  

So – after this second step, the score is Clinton 2, Trump 0.
 

The third consideration is how the candidates handled their first interview. What in their first interview caused them to be selected for this second and final interview? First, a little background into my thinking. When I was in charter school administration, one of my most qualified Board Chairs sat down with me during a difficult period and said: Les, when you have a good employee that might be a poor teacher, you can send that employee to extra training and staff development activities. When you have a bad employee – even if that employee is a good teacher – you will ALWAYS have a bad employee, because the elements that make a person a good or a bad employee are characteristics of their personalities, not their knowledge or skills. I want to hire a good employee: (1) Clinton’s first interview was respectful. Her portfolio revealed extensive interactions with others that she either worked with or worked for. There were no suspicious gaps in her resume when she was not employed (typical of people who are fired or otherwise discharged for bad behaviors). And finally, her responses to questions were inclusive, showed respect for others, and were genuine. (2) Trump’s first interview was a disaster. There were no indications in his portfolio that his interactions with others that he worked with were anything but confrontational. Although there were no suspicious gaps in his resume, it was simply because he was never an employee. He was always “the boss,” and it showed in the responses to those first interview questions. They were not inclusive, did not show respect for others, and did not appear to be genuine. He was impulsive and explosive.
 

So – after this third step, the score is Clinton 3, Trump 0
 

It’s hard for me to understand why Trump even got the first interview much less survived it.
Oh, well, let’s see what these two candidates have to say in this second and final set of interviews...

-Les



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<![CDATA[Systemic failures]]>Sat, 23 Jul 2016 04:29:27 GMThttp://hittner.net/blog/systemic-failuresDISCLAIMER: I am planning on voting for Hillary Clinton.
  
Having said that, I often find myself asking myself:
  
Why has an essentially Republican committee – after spending millions of dollars on its investigation – failed to come up with any indictable facts about the Benghazi affair?
  
Were all of those Republicans on the dole?
  
Were they bought off by Secretary Clinton?
  
I doubt it.
  
Most likely it is what it is – namely that other than a mix of falsehoods in the various cover stories that were used during the event itself, they could not find fault with Clinton’s actual actions with respect to Benghazi. Perhaps, if there were errors, they were systemic errors and not personal errors for which she could be held accountable?
  
Perhaps the bureaucracy – like a hierarchy that I often criticize – was merely protecting its own reputation.
  
And with respect to the email server I find myself also asking:
  
Why was the FBI reluctant to bring charges against Secretary Clinton for using a private email server?
  
Why was this obvious and clearly stated violation not reason for indictment?
  
For that matter, why were charges never brought against Secretaries Powell and Rice who found themselves in similar situations?
Were these also failures of the system – in this case failures within the Department of State?  I worked within the Department of Defense for 30 years. My work often involved the use and transmission of classified documents. I know how such documents are supposed to be handled. What I didn’t know was whether all departments within the Executive – while bound by the same federal statutes – were responsible for writing their own rules and regulations or whether those rules and regulations were written once – and then distributed to all departments.
  
It turns out that each department implements its own rules and regulations.
  
I recently talked to a member currently a part of the federal government bureaucracy. I asked that person about the conclusions of Director Comey. What I found out was quite interesting.
  
The State Department rules and regulations with respect to the handling of classified information are enforced within the department by members of that bureaucracy. If Secretary Clinton used a private email server, it was because whoever was responsible for information security at the Department of State approved and authorized Clinton’s installation. It was most likely authorized because that was “the way it was done” at the State Department.
  
In my experience with the Department of Defense, there were clear violations of information security that were revealed in the FBI investigation of Secretary Clinton. I would assert that the responsibility for these violations rests with the Department of State itself: (1) The use of private email servers for departmental business was approved – for all three Secretaries of State since email became an important communications tool. (2) emails sent out by members of the Department of State bureaucracy were not routinely vetted for their status as classified information. This meant that they were often not clearly identified as such and probably were not transmitted by secure email.  (3) The Department of State seemingly has not created rules and regulations that effectively protect classified information storage and transmission.
  
This is a systemic failure that has extended over two administrations since the popularization of email – and probably extends even much further back.
  
So – yes – perhaps the bureaucracy – like a hierarchy that I often criticize – was merely protecting its own reputation.
  
Bureaucracies and hierarchies do not hesitate for a minute when it comes to self-preservation. They will freely toss children and adults under the bus when it is necessary to do so.
  
One could say that Secretary Clinton bears some responsibility because she is the chief administrator of the department. And that would be correct. But these large federal bureaucracies run themselves. They have to. A new incoming political appointee simply does not have time to take off to learn and understand all of the departmental rules and regulations. That’s what they depend on the career employees for.
  
Secretary Clinton should not have to pay for the poor administration of information security by those career employees that has extended over several administrations. Those careerists should. If the Republicans in Congress want to do some actual good, they would initiate an investigation into how the entire Department of State handles information security.
  
Therein lies the problem…
  
Now – can we get on with the campaign?
  
-Les

Published in the Winona Daily News on Sunday, July 31, 2016
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<![CDATA[Clinton's response - how to deal with fear]]>Sat, 23 Jul 2016 04:11:29 GMThttp://hittner.net/blog/clintons-response-how-to-deal-with-fearThe fear generating approach taken by Donald Trump leaves Democrats in an uncomfortable position. How do they counter these fears? Since people are responding to Trump emotionally and not rationally, the Democratic response must also include an element of fear – if Hillary Clinton is ever going to be able to compete with Donald Trump.

We will get a glimpse of that Democratic response this week.

I believe that Clinton will have to talk about fear.  But she must limit her fear to a fear of Trump. She will have to focus her campaign on solutions rather than fear – and make only that one exception. Clinton must assert that we should ALL be fearful of Trump. That should be easy for her to do. All she has to do is quote Trump – fairly and accurately. She does not – should not – spin anything Trump says into a yarn. She does not have to. All she needs to do is show us and explain the yarn and the cloth that Trump has already woven.

Trump has thrown a bunch of things into the arena that we should be afraid of. He also said he could fix everything – but offered few solutions.

Clinton must focus on solutions.

I hate to think that people will be coming to the polls this fall and voting only because they are fearful. But based upon the campaign being run by Trump and the entire Republican establishment, that is exactly what may be about to happen.

How much better it would be if we could go to the polls and vote for a person who offers the best solutions to problems, and not just fear.

The Republicans have launched their fear-based campaign. The Democrats and Hillary Clinton will have to respond in kind. Their response, however, will be more difficult because they must talk to three constituencies: (1) long time liberals and those who supported Bernie Sanders who hear the Conventional Democratic message; (2) those members of both the Republican and Democratic parties who are driven by fear – fear generated by Donald Trump and; (3) members of both parties who are concerned about the charges made against her record by Trump (in itself a form of fear mongering).

In the end, Democrats will have to address the issues presented by Trump in ways that diminish the fears of the electorate without diminishing the importance of the issues themselves.

If fear continues to drive our politics, then consider that it’s at times like this that leaders are often granted too much power. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s at times like this that leaders too often believe they have a mandate to go to war.
The Soviet Union broke apart at the end of the twentieth century. That political structure was essentially the last remaining remnant of WWII.

I don’t want to contribute to our current culture of fear – but what does Trump mean when he says he will defeat ISIS, and do it quickly? And how will Clinton counter that statement?

My biggest fear is that if Trump were to win the presidency, we could be looking at the start of WWIII?

Am I the only one?

-Les

Published in the Winona Daily News on July 27, 2016
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<![CDATA[Trump's acceptance speech - a fearful bundle of words]]>Sat, 23 Jul 2016 04:04:32 GMThttp://hittner.net/blog/trumps-acceptance-speech-a-fearful-bundle-of-wordsThe Republican convention is over. I guess it can best be summed up by what Donald Trump said in his acceptance speech, so I will concentrate on that.

Early on, he stated that he would be truthful – and then he began spinning. I learned that Trump is an excellent spinner. In that respect, he is already an experienced politician. What bothers me however, is not that he spins the truth into yarn. It’s not that he weaves the yarn into cloth. What bothers me is the cloth he is weaving.

Trump’s entire speech seemed to be focused upon one thing – fear. Everything he said – even when making reference to positive changes he would make, like bringing jobs back to America – was based upon an underpinning of fear. Fear was the common element running through everything he said. Trump is capitalizing on the fears that many of us have. Will we have enough saved up for RETIREMENT? Will I EVER be able to pay off my college loans? Will I lose my job to an evil foreign country? Did I LOSE my job to an evil foreign country? Will the US be taken over by ISIS? Will illegal immigration DESTROY our culture? Have illegal immigrants STOLEN our jobs? Are all of these OTHERS who are not like you and me made America UNSAFE? I could go on and on, because Trump’s message is one of FEAR. That is the lever he is using to gain support.

FEAR is the easiest way to generate a mob mentality – and during his acceptance speech, Trump once again proved how effective FEAR is at bringing people together. At one point, when Trump was demonizing Hillary Clinton, the convention goers began chanting “Hang Her! Hang Her! Hang Her!” As I watched, I could not help hearing in my mind, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

Is this a civilized response to a social problem? Are we witnessing a resurgence of a KKK-like mentality where “undesirables” are strung up over tree limbs without due process? Proclaiming death to opponents – who have not been convicted of any crime, by the way – has become common language by representatives of the Trump campaign – and now the Republican party itself.

This is not a healthy outcome because unfortunately, the fear lever also opens the furnaces of hell. That fear lever led to the crucifixion of Jesus. That fear lever led to Japanese internment camps in America. That fear lever led to the exporting of Jews from Germany. Eventually, that fear lever led to the deaths of millions of Jews in Europe.  Yes, the fear lever opens the furnaces of hell – and it does this so slowly that the mobs do not see it coming…

And now, less than a century after WWII, that fear lever is already leading conservatives to thoughts of lynching political opponents. That fear lever is already leading people to thoughts of violating the civil rights of citizens who happen to be Muslims. That fear lever is leading people to believing that constructing a wall around America will “make us safe.”  

That fear lever also leads people to look for the one leader who can alleviate their fears. Trump knows this. That’s why he says, “And only I can fix this.” In effect, he is saying that he is the only one who knows how to deal with your fears – fears, incidentally, that HE planted. He’s right. He gave us our fears – and he can take them away.

Frankly, I am fearful of where such a mob mentality might lead America.

Am I the only one?

-Les

Published in the Winona Daily News on July 24, 2016
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