Republicans for Hillary?

Most Republicans have finally concluded that Donald Trump is their nominee. This has divided Republicans into two camps: Those who say they will support Trump (abet reluctantly) if he is nominated and those who (more quietly) will vote for Hillary Clinton if Trump is the Republican candidate.

I found Senator Orin Hatch’s comments particularly interesting, “I think he could be great if he’ll get serious about being president, and I think he will.” The implication, of course, is that Senator Hatch feels that Donald Trump is not serious now. Does he really believe that Donald Trump will undergo a personality change if he is elected president? I doubt that he does. He’s saying what he feels he has to say as a Republican. I think that the clown we see on the campaign trail today is the same clown we would see if we were stupid enough to elect Donal Trump president. I suspect that Senator Hatch feels the same way, even if he won’t say so openly.

Others are more direct in their criticism of Trump. One of my senators from Arizona, Republican Jeff Flake (my other senators is John McCain, of course) was quoted as saying about Trump, “I can’t imagine being forced to take some of those positions that he’s taken.: A ban on Muslims, build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it, you name it.” It sounds as if Senator Flake will be quietly casting his ballot for Hillary Clinton.

The political hypocrite award of the week goes to Indiana Republican Senate candidate Marlin Stutzman. While railing against “wasteful government spending” and “special interests” as a Tea Party candidate, Mr. Stutzman paid his brother-in-law almost $170,000 to manage his campaign finances. The relative is a car salesman (great shades of Jason Wilder!), knows nothing about raising campaign funds, and raised almost none. The whole thing sounds like a ploy to siphon off political contributions for personal use. If you easily directly divert campaign funds for your personal use, give them to a relative under the pretext of paying that relative for campaign work.

“Who is Jason Wilder?” you ask. He is my fictional crooked car dealer turned presidential candidate. Click on the “Running for President” book cover image in the left sidebar for more information. In my novel, Jason Wilder is elected. Let’s hope that Mr. Stutzman is not.

You might also consider writing in Jason Wilder’s name on the election ballot. As his campaign slogan proclaims, he is no worse than the other candidates.

Cigna’s Computer Systems Still Dysfunctional

Almost four months after the US Government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) banned Cigna from advertising its Medicare Advantage plans and from signing up new Medicare beneficiaries, things do not seem to have improved. CMS conducted an audit of Cigna’s operations in October 2015 and “concluded that Cigna substantially failed to comply with CMS requirements regarding Part C [medical coverage] and Part D [drug coverage] organization/coverage determinations, appeals and grievances.” CMS also wrote that “Cigna has had a longstanding history of non-compliance with CMS requirements.” It called Cigna’s “organizational structure…decentralized and fragmented.”

I have seen no sign that this fragmentation has been corrected. I am a Cigna HealthSpring enrollee in Arizona, and dealing with Cigna’s various computer systems is a nightmare. Before, I get into details, I want to stress that I have no complaints about the medical services I have received. I have confidence in my doctors. However, being healthy I have used few services other than routine physical examinations and cataract surgery.

I was in a Cigna pharmacy two days ago to pick up a prescription, and the woman who waited on me asked for a list of my non-prescription drugs. I told her that I take two vitamins and said that they were already in the Cigna computer system. “Yes,” she replied, “but we have no access to the information that is in the doctors’ computers. We have our own system.”

I blogged earlier about the trouble I had getting a Cigna card for 2016. I repeatedly called customer service, and customer service  told me each time that they had entered the information into the computer that would send me a card. No card arrived. Customer service was simply unable to get the computer to do what it was supposed to do. I finally was able to contact someone who was able to bypass the problem and get me a card, months after I should have received it.

I am supposed to be able to access my insurance information on the website my.cigna.com, but when I log in, that system tells me that I have drug coverage only. Not true! I also have Medicare insurance with Cigna. When I click on the button to download my proof of coverage, a document pops up showing my 2015 coverage. There is nothing on the site that indicates that I have Medicare insurance with Cigna for the year 2016, but I do. The MyCigna app on my cell phone will not recognize my login credentials at all.

I am supposed to access my medial records on another Website, followmyhealth.com. That site is also only partially functional. The records that my primary care physician uploads are there. The records from specialists are not. The site is also supposed to display my upcoming appointments. There is a note showing that I have an appointment next Wednesday for a follow-up on the cataract surgery to my second eye. What about the surgery itself? There is no indication on the site that I have outpatient surgery scheduled on Tuesday. If I were to follow my calendar of medical appointments on the Follow My Health calendar, I would be there for my follow up visit, but I would miss the surgery itself.

There are also several other websites, some of which I have been referred to by various people working in customer service. I cannot establish an account on any of them. They simply do not recognize me as a Cigna enrollee.

If you are thinking of signing up for a Cigna Medicare Advantage plan, I do not have to warn you away. The US government will not allow you to make that mistake. The big question is, will Cigna be able to solve its problems by the beginning of the open enrollment period at the end of the year? So far, that does not look very promising. If Cigna does not solve its many problems, will those of us currently covered by a Cigna Medicare Advantage plan be allowed to renew, or will the federal government simply shut down Cigna’s dysfunctional Medicare Advantage plans permanently? No seems to know the answer. I am certainly prepared to switch Medicare Advantage plans next year.

In the meantime, Cigna’s planned merger with Anthem is reported to still be on track. Anthem has had its own problems with its insurance plans. When two dysfunctional companies are permitted to merge with each other, the result is usually dysfunction multiplied. I wish some government agency would have the good sense to step forward and block this merger.

What Happened to the Occupy Movement?

What ever happened to the occupy movement? It seems that just a few month ago it was in the news every day. Then it disappeared, No one mentions it anymore. It was an international movement, remember? Throughout the world, but especially in the United States and Europe, people camped out in public spaces, interfered with public movement, and generally made nuisances of themselves in the name of protesting for the rights of “The 99 percent” and against government policies that favor the richest one percent of the population.

In the USA, perhaps the people who participated in the now-defunct Occupy Movement have metamorphosed into Bernie Sanders supporters. I hope so. I basically agree that government policies in the USA and to a lesser extent in other western countries encourage wealth transfer from people who work for a living to the investment and upper management classes. However, I don’t believe that demonstrations are the best way to bring about change. I think that the real way to motivate social change in democratic countries is through the vote.

I believe I’ve blogged before that there have been large demonstrations in Arizona against laws and propositions that seem to be motivated by anti-Hispanic racism in the state government. Hispanics make up a large portion of Arizona’s population. If all of the Hispanics who are eligible would register to vote and then actually show up at the urns to cast a ballot, they would provide the margin needed to vote the racists out of office. Sadly, Hispanics tend to vote in lower numbers than the population in general and therefore exercise much less political power than their numbers merit.

The protest movement continues in France where it has adopted the name la nuit débout or up all night. Protesters camp out all night, night after night, in public places, notably in the Place de la République in Paris. Of course, the French are famous for their traffic-snarling protests and strikes.

I hope that the Bernie Sanders supporters are not disillusioned with the fact that he will almost certainly not be our next president. He has had a great influence on US politics and will continue to do so. The support for Bernie Sanders made more people aware of the great economic inequalities in our country. The people who supported Bernie Sanders should continue to vote, even if the candidate they support does not always prevail.

PS/ I dropped the price of the Kindle edition of Running for President from $6.99 to $3.99 on Amazon.com today (April 28, 2016). The discount may take some time to work through Amazon’s system. Click on the book’s cover in the left sidebar to go to Amazon’s website. The printed copy is still $10.99 on Amazon and seems to be priced up to twice that much from other booksellers.

Is Ted Cruz a Miserable Son-of-a-Bitch?

Do you think that Ted Cruz is the establishment Republican candidate? Think again. Former House Speaker John Boehner, known for being very outspoken, referred to Ted Cruz yesterday as “Lucifer in the flesh” and then added “I’ve never worked with a more miserable son-of-a-bitch in my life.” John Boehner is anything but subtle.

Boehner may be more outspoken than other Republican politicians, but he is not alone in his views. Most people who know Ted Cruz despise him. The only reason that some establishment Republicans claim to want Cruz as their nominee is because the prospect of a Trump nomination is even more frightening. They’re publicly choosing the lesser of two evils while privately hoping that Hillary Clinton is the next president.

Yesterday Ted Cruz named Carly Fiorina as his running mate. Why she accepted is a mystery. Why does she want to tie herself to a loser? On the other hand, Carly Fiorina showed poor judgement while running Hewlett-Packard into the ground, so there is probably unrealistic to expect that she would acquire good judgement after being kicked out of her previous job. Losers of a feather flock together.

Speaking of Donald Trump, another Republican campaign news item yesterday was that he gave his first “real” speech. Well, at least it was purported to be a real speech, but it fell far short of its advance hype. It had more in common with his normal idiotic rambling than it did with any sort of organized elocution.

Usually, Donald Trump stands at the podium at his campaign rallies and spouts off whatever stupidity pops into his head. However, yesterday he read the speech from a Teleprompter. The speech was supposedly developed with the aid of his new foreign-policy advisers and was billed as giving a thoughtful view of the US relations with other countries. However, when Trump delivered the speech, it showed an appalling lack of knowledge of foreign policy. For example, Donald Trump didn’t name a single European country, although he did mention that our NATO allies should be paying more for their own defense. (He did get that point right.) The speech was rambling, disconnected, devoid of details, and full of falsehoods, just like his normal off-the-cuff remarks.

European leaders are understandably alarmed at the prospect of a Trump presidency with one notable exception. Donald Trump and Russia’s autocratic Vladamir Putin are engaged in mutual admiration. It’s obvious why Vladamir Putin supports Donald Trump. He believes that a weakened and less-influential USA under Trump would increase Russia’s relative influence in the world. Russia would step in to fill the power vacuum created by an erratic Trump presidency. Why Donald Trump kisses up to Vladamir Putin is more of a mystery, but then almost none of Donald Trump’s views make sense.

Before you leave, if you haven’t already, click on the two book cover images in the left sidebar to read a free sample of two of my current books, Running for President and A Senior Citizen Walks the Camino of Santiago de Compostela.

Update: Since I wrote the post his morning (April 28), I’ve heard several newscasts quote Boehner. A regular National Public Radio newscast cleaned up Boehner’s words to have him calling Ted Cruz “a miserable person.” However, an in-depth discussion on the same radio network retained the original language “a miserable son-of-a-bitch.”

You Can no Longer Trust Amazon Reviews

Many people rely on Amazon reviews to guide them in product choices. That used to be a wise practice. It no longer is. Amazon has been inundated with fake reviews hyping some products and criticizing those of competitors. Some people claim that there is a surefire way to spot fake reviews — look for verified purchases, for example. Even that no longer works. Sellers who want to hype their own product or disparage the product of a competitor are often willing to subsidize a purchase in return for a review. This is especially true of Kindle books, most of which cost only a few dollars to buy.

One thing that still works is clicking on the reviewers name to see the person’s reviewing history. If the reviewer only has two or three reviews, especially if all were made on the same day, the reviews are likely fake. On the other hand, if the reviewer has reviewed more books that a person could possibly read in such a short period of time, the reviews are obviously fake. Some reviewers post four or five book reviews a day.

Amazon and Goodreads, which Amazon owns, have been cracking down on fake positive reviews, but neither organization seems to have turned its attention to the many fake negative reviews paid for by competing sellers.

Fake negative book reviews are simpler to spot. If a review complains about every aspect of a book and finds nothing at all good about it, the review has probably been paid for by a competitor, even if the review is labeled “Verified Purchase.” Also, in some cases these hatchet job reviews use similar language and a similar writing style. Although they were posted under various names, they seem to have been written by the same person. Amazon and Goodreads, however, have shown no interest in taking down these obviously fake reviews.

I don’t know what Amazon and Goodreads can do to entirely eliminate fake reviews, but they need to make more of an effort. Tracking  down and eliminating fake  requires a lot of staff time and expense, although customers could help by flagging reviews that appear to be fake. However, until Amazon and Goodreads make for of an effort, you cannot trust the reviews and ratings on these two sites.

Cruz and Kasich, United in Hatred

Politics certainly does make strange bedfellows. The latest news from the Republican side of the presidential race is that John Kasich and Ted Cruz are going to cooperate in an attempt to deny Donald Trump the 1237 delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot. You know that these two guys don’t like each other, but they are united in their hatred of Donald Trump, or at least they were yesterday. It remains to be seen if their common dislike of Trump will prove stronger than the animosity that they feel for each other. The alliance was announced yesterday, and by this morning it was already showing signs of strain.

Under the agreement, Kasich agreed not to campaign in Indiana, and in exchange Ted Cruz promised not to campaign in New Mexico and Oregon. Indiana is a winner-take-all state, so if the candidates can deny Trump a plurality in that state, they will also deny him all of Indiana’s 57 delegates, making it harder for him to win 1237 delegates by convention time.

However, when answering reporters’ questions this morning, Kasich is reported to have said in reference to Indiana residents, “I’ve never told them not to vote for me. They should vote for me.”

I don’t know what Cruz’s reaction to that remark was, but Donald Trump had a field day with it, “Kasich just announced that he wants the people of Indiana to vote for him. Typical politician–can’t make a deal work.”

The view of many traditional Republicans that Cruz may yet save the Republican Party is strange at any rate. His colleagues in the Senate reportedly despise him. Even in his campaign speeches, he comes across as unlikeable. Suddenly many Republican bigwigs are counting on the man they detest to save them from the erratic Donald Trump.

As I have written before, if I had to chose between Trump and Cruz (God forbid), I would pick Trump. Trump is such a loose cannon that it’s hard to tell what he would do as president. Unfortunately, we do know what Cruz would do, and what he would do would not be in the interest of most Americans. He would pander to the rich, increase wealth transfers from the middle class to the very wealthy, and incite both class and racial animosity. As far as foreign policy is concerned, both Cruz and Trump are painfully ignorant. However, Trump seems to have enough intelligence to be teachable. Cruz, in his ignorance, already thinks that he knows all that there is to learn on any subject. I’m surprised that he didn’t claim to know more about brain surgery than Ben Carson.

I am grateful that neither of these two men appears destined to win the general election. Cruz would be a definite disaster for the country, and the unpredictable Trump might be one as well. I’ll take Jason Wilder as my presidential candidate any day. Who is Jason Wilder? Click on the cover image of Running for President in the left sidebar to read a free excerpt from my book about this imaginary presidential candidate.

Who will be Hillary Clinton’s Running Mate

While the eventual nominee in the Republican presidential contest is still in doubt, I think I can say with some certainty that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate. Who will she pick as a running mate? I’m sure she’s given that question much thought, but she’s dropped no hints that I am aware of, which leaves people like me free to engage in uninformed speculation.

The obvious person to eliminate is Bernie Sanders. He certainly deserves the vice presidency. He has had an outsized effect on this campaign both by budging Hillary Clinton to the left and by demonstrating that it’s possible to finance a campaign without kowtowing to the big-money donors who buy political favor. Most of Bernie Sanders’ campaign money has come from a very large number of small donations. Bernie Sanders has also brought many young people into the voting process. Having him on the ticket would make it more likely that these younger voters would turn out in the general election to vote for a Clinton-Sanders ticket.

Nevertheless, I don’t expect Bernie to get the nod, and I’m not sure he would accept if he were offered the job. He’s a very independent old cuss, and I can’t see him playing second fiddle to Hillary. Also, the people who support Sanders are likely to vote for Hillery even without Bernie on the ticket. Who else can they vote for? Trump? Cruz? Not likely!

 While we’re speculating on people from the left, how about Senator Elizabeth Warren? She is a renowned liberal voice, and almost everyone who pays any attention to politics is familiar with her name and her views. Having two women on the ticket might also be an advantage, given that most of the people who bother to vote in this country are female. Her anti-Wall Street attitude would also counterbalance the accusation that Hillary Clinton is too cozy with big-money interests. She would appeal to the same people to whom Senator Sanders appeals.

However, pulling the campaign farther to the left might not be the best political strategy. Liberals are already in the Clinton camp, because voting for Cruz or Trump would violate everything they stand for. The Clinton campaign needs to attract the votes of independents and even moderate Republicans who view a possible Trump or Cruz presidency as a disaster. Having an avowed liberal on the ticket who is perceived to have an anti-business attitude would make a Clinton presidency less attractive to them. In large part, the arguments against Elizabeth Warren are the same as those against Bernie Sanders.

Some Hispanic groups have been lobbying for Julian Castro, who is the current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Without doubt, the Hispanic voters are going to be important in the coming general election. They would be an even more important group if they voted in larger numbers. Perhaps having a Hispanic on the ticket would motivate other Hispanics to turn out at the polls. This could make a difference in Florida, where Cuban-Americans tend to vote Republican, and in Texas, Arizona, and Nevada, where most Hispanics unfortunately tend to not vote at all.

However, after the anti-Hispanic tirades during the Republican primary, few Hispanics will vote for the Republican candidate under any circumstances. The same can be said of African-Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. Perhaps the Democratic candidate can take the support of these groups for granted.

Large numbers of moderate Republicans are going to be unhappy with their party’s nominee this fall. Perhaps Hillary Clinton should pick a more moderate, business friendly co-runner. Given all of the moderates who are still around, the list gets longer, and I would run out of space if I discussed everyone on it. However, my guess is that Hillary Clinton’s running mate will be a business-friendly type and not any of the people I have named above.

Guessing who Trump’s running mate might be is more difficult. Not many potential candidates would want to share a ticket with him. Trump has made enemies out of almost everyone who is qualified for the job. Of course, there is no law that says that a vice-presidential candidate has to be qualified as testified to the fact that John McCain picked the highly unqualified Sarah Palin to run with him.

Who hasn’t Trump turned into an enemy? Well, despite all of the harsh words that Trump had to say about Chris Christie when the latter was still in the race, Governor Christie has been going out of his way to kiss up to Donald Trump since then, even flying in Trump’s plane to Trump campaign rallies. Those large, cushy seats seem to fit Christie’s more than ample hind quarters. Chris Christie is surely expecting something in return for his change of heart. Politicians don’t suddenly admire a person whom they formerly despised unless there is some sort of payoff behind the scenes.

Obviously Chris Christie is smart enough to know that Donald Trump would be a terrible president. Then, why has he endorsed Trump? The only explanation is that the fix is in.

Could Christie’s endorsement have been made in exchange for a fat political post such as a spot on the cabinet or even the vice presidency? Chris Christie may be smart enough to know that Donald Trump would be a terrible president, but he doesn’t seem to know that Trump hasn’t an ice cube’s chance in Hell of getting elected and appointing him to anything.

May Commercial Planes Land in North Carolina

North Carolina’s new law requiring people to use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificates may have some unintended consequences. What is to be done when bathrooms are gender neutral? How do you use the bathroom of the gender on your birth certificate when there is none? Will commercial airplanes with their gender-neutral bathrooms still be allowed to land in North Carolina?

This is written tongue-in-cheek, of course. The law only applies to public restrooms. Private restrooms are exempt. Target, for example, has already announced that it will allow customers to use the bathroom of their gender identity, no matter which gender appears on their birth certificates.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the University of Grenoble in France solved that problem years ago by simply removing the gender-specific signs from all of its restrooms. Anyone can use any bathroom. It’s not a problem for women, because they sit in an enclosed booth when they do their business. I’ll admit that when I began studying at the university, I felt a bit embarrassed by the policy. Sometimes when I was standing at a urinal answering nature’s call, a young woman would walk behind me on her way to one of the enclosed toilets. However, with time, even a set-in-his-ways old fogey like me got used to the situation.

Many public restrooms in France and Spain are gender neutral, and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Even some in the USA are, such as the restrooms in the Cigna facilities where I get my health care. I have never heard anyone complain.

I suppose North Carolina will continue to have airline service, although it has lost a number of sports and entertainment events as public figures protest the state’s backward policies.

Before you go, don’t forget to read the free samples of my two latest books. You can do so by clicking on the book cover images in the left sidebar of this blog.

Will Trump get the 1,237 Delegates to Win the Nomination?

Will Trump have the 1,237 delegates by convention time that are needed to win the Republican presidential nomination? I suspect that he will, but he probably will not win them all in the primaries. If he is somewhat short of the necessary delegates as the convention approaches, he can get them through horse trading. While it is against the rules to pay delegates money for their votes (although that wouldn’t stop some politicians), there is nothing to stop him from trading favors for delegate votes. There are a number of delegates going to the convention who are not bound to vote for a specific candidate even on the first ballot.

At its crudest, Donald Trump could invite some unbound delegates to fly to a weekend retreat in the Bahamas aboard the Trump airplane. A more politically acceptable way of buying votes would be to offer plum jobs to people who control delegates. For example, he could offer John Kaisch or Marco Rubio or even Ted Cruz a prime cabinet position in exchange for instructing their delegates to vote for Trump. I hope that John Kaisch is ethical enough not to sell out in that way, but Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have both demonstrated that they are ethically challenged.

By hook or by crook, I have a feeling that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee and that he will be nominated on the first ballot. If he is not nominated, the convention will go into a free-for-all. Most delegates are free to vote for whomever they want after the first ballot, and even more are released after the second ballot. We really don’t know which candidate most of those delegates would favor if they were free to vote as they wished, but I suspect they would not vote for Trump.

What are Sanders Voters Going to Do?

Although unforeseen events can turn the most probably forecasts into a lie, it seems almost certain that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination as the party’s presidential candidate. It has been reported that 25 percent of Bernie Sanders supporters claim that they would not vote for Hillary Clinton under any condition. I have no idea where this figure came from or how accurate it is, but supposing there are Sanders supporters who will refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election, the question arises: For whom are they going to vote? For Trump? For Cruz? It’s had for me to suppose that anyone who supports Bernie Sanders, the champion of the under classes, would vote for one of these members (Trump) or flunkies (Cruz) of the undeservedly rich and powerful.

I suspect that most of those people will change their minds when they are in the voting booth and vote for Hillary Clinton after all. What other choice will they have? Of course, they could just stay home on election day. Bernie Sanders has a large part of his support among younger people, who tend to vote in small numbers at any rate. I would like to see some figures on how many Sanders supporters are registered to vote. I suspect many of them are not registered and would not be able to vote no matter who was the Democratic nominee.

It’s not only in the United States that political participation has fallen off among the young. I spend a lot of time in Europe and speak four languages, so I am exposed to the political views of Europeans. I regret to report that many young people, especially in the United Kingdom and Germany, seem to have no political views at all. (French youth, on the other hand, tend to be somewhat better informed.)

A democracy depends upon citizen participation. When many young people don’t care who is governing them, the political ideologues tend to gain outsize influence, as is the case in the United States and several Western European countries today. We need intelligent young people to be politically informed and to take an interest in who is governing them to counteract the outsized influence of the poorly informed dogmatic people who vote in large numbers.

By the way, click on one of the book covers in the left sidebar to read a free sample of either of my two newest books.