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The Saudis Are Not Our Friends

It’s now official. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia green lit the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018. As if there was ever a doubt that such an event could occur in a Saudi Embassy without his knowledge. And President Biden’s response to this latest, non-surprising information is—nothing!

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From Whence Covid?

I got to know Scott Gottlieb when we were both working on Capitol Hill in 2009. Scott was then a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a prominent think tank. He was also a real practicing hospitalist. He still is at AEI but since 2009 he has served as President Trump’s first FDA Commissioner (2017-2019) and before 2009 he was a government official at both the FDA and CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) which runs those two large government programs. Scott was a frequent witness at congressional hearings during the run up to the Affordable Care Act representing the Republican point of view.

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Government

Both conservatives and liberals have distorted views of government. The conservatives aspire to Ronald Reagan’s view that “government is the problem.” Really? The essential roles for the United States government as laid out in the Preamble to the Constitution suggest otherwise.

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Deregulation

If there is anything that true conservatives and die hard libertarians can agree on, it is that deregulation is a good thing. By deregulation I mean the loosening of government constraints and operating rules on the manner in which individuals and companies conduct their business. Deregulation they say leads to greater creativity as the profit motive kicks in. Don’t worry about personal damage. The market will attend to that.

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PTSD

One thing I realized as I grew older and acquired more maladies was that for all of the studying I did in medical school and all the clinical experience I gained in training, I never really understood what it meant to be sick until I got sick myself.

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The New Old Normal

We have had a glimpse into the future and into the past all at once this week in Texas. For very complex reasons, having to do with the way the state chose to distribute power, the period of extreme cold caused the energy grid to groan and creak (see attached op-ed from Houston Chronicle of February 18). That grid is separate from that of the rest of the nation so there was no help in sight. Texans lost power—millions of them including me and probably you, too.

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Force

First, the Democrats have opted to use the reconciliation process to force through the covid relief package that President Biden has proposed. This has a price tag currently of $1.9 trillion. This is in excess of anything most Republicans can support making it necessary to use the arcane reconciliation process to get around a sure Republican filibuster and the need for 60 Senate votes to invoke cloture by-passing the filibuster.

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Forgetting

It’s the opposite of accountability.

When you forgive someone for doing something wrong, you at least acknowledge that the bad deed occurred. When you forget what someone has done, it’s like it never happened.

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There Is No Defense

I have been avoiding writing about the Trump impeachment trial in the Senate. It seems that it and discussions about it can never get past partisanship. Democrats want to rain holy terror down on Mr. Trump in retaliation for the dreadful fright he and his minions laid on the Congress on January 6.

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J

One letter was all that was needed to know who you were talking about. Emil J Freireich died on February 1 as one of the most distinguished medical oncologists in all of history—and one of the first. In a discipline still demarcated by the lines between doctors who use surgery, radiation or drugs to treat cancer, medical oncology, the use of the drugs, is the newest sub-discipline. It was begun by visionaries at the National Cancer Institute in the mid-1950s. J Freireich was one of those at ground zero.

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Third Parties

In a terse editorial in The New York Times on February 1, Michael Tomasky, the editor of the journal Democracy, does a great job explaining why third parties don’t ever rise to prominence in the United States. It has to do with the winner-take-all form of our House elections. Only one person represents a district and that’s the person who got the most votes in the election. He explains that if there were six parties, two doing well, two doing so-so and two doing badly, eventually the two doing badly will throw in with one of the two doing well because the poor performers get tired of being also-rans. Eventually, the two doing so-so will get tired of their fate as well, that is never winning

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Practice

In 1993, a bomb exploded in the garage below the World Trade Center in New York City. I guess that was practice. On September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda succeeded where it had failed eight years earlier. Bad guys may very well practice until they get it right.

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Reconciliation And The Byrd Rule

OK kids, time for some Senate arcana.

In 1974, a bill was passed and signed into law that enables the Senate to quickly resolve important fiscal and budgetary issues using a process called reconciliation. The Senate Parliamentarian must agree that there are only fiscal matters in the proposed reconciliation bill (see Byrd Rule in second attachment; for example not a proposal for DC statehood) and the Senate can pass the bill with only 50 plus one yea votes.

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Filibuster

Wikipedia has a long etymology of the word that seems to have its origins in a phrase for “pirate,” but now means the act of blocking a bill in the Senate by a single senator.

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One Truth

There has been much written and even more discussed about whether or not Americans of different political stripes are living in two alternate realities. It sometimes seems that way. If Democrats believe Biden won and Republicans such as those who marched on the Capitol think that Trump really won (74% of Republicans think Biden’s win is illegitimate), there are two realities and only one can be right.

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The Parties Split

Lost in the contest for president were the two contests for the heart and soul of the traditional American political parties.

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