Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A little election in Germany with big meaning

A little election in Germany with big meaning
Saarland Germany election results:
all left parties down, all right wing parties up.
Saarland is a small Land along the French border.
The next Saarland Landtag (something like a state assembly) probably will be a continuation of the current Christian Democrat - Social Democrat coalition. 
This is probably a good indication on how the national vote will go and what this means is that Merkel will probably be reelected, possibly with a larger vote and probably with the same national coalition with the Social Democrats as junior partner.  This is the status quo in Saarland and what Germany has for a government coalition nationally. 
The loss on the left hit the alternative left more than the Social Democrats.
Greens, Left Party and Social Democrats all went down a few votes.  The Social Democrats have the same amount of seats and about 30% of the popular vote.  The Left Party lost two seats and went down from 16 to 13 percent of votes cast. 
With  a combined 43% of the vote the Left Party and the Social Democrats are in no condition to form a government after much speculation that they would form a “Red-Red” government, or maybe a Red-Red-Green” majority.
For both “red” parties the loss was severe. 
The Social Democrats were supposed to be on an upswing with a dynamic woman candidate for Saarland leader and Martin Schulz, the new national Chancellor candidate and party leader. Both were considered to be offering new enthusiasm and leadership, and to go down half a percent in Saarland has to be seen as them both failing. 
The Left Party was also supposed to be on an upswing providing dynamic leadership on the left away from the establishment Social Democrats, akin to the new Labor leadership in the UK, Podemos in Spain and something of a kindred spirit to our own Bernie Sanders. 
Instead of picking up votes, the Left Party dropped three percent and that is despite the historic and legendary leadership of Oskar Lafontaine who helped found the Left Party after splitting away from the Social Democrats having been their former national leader and the former head of the government of Saarland.  This may be the end of Lafontaine’s decades long career and will be a major hit on the Left Party credibility nationally, especially as an alternative to the far right. 
In the case of the Greens, a one percent drop was enough to go under the 5% needed to have proportional seats, so they will not be represented with their current 4%. 
The Pirate Party basically disappeared having had 7% in the last Landtag.  Their vote this time was less than 1% and they too will not be in the new assembly.  I’m counting the Pirate Party as something of a protest, popular group, which is debatable, but it is important that this protest seems to be over. 
The move to the right was split into three parts:
1 status quo 2 extreme right 3 moderate right
Merkel’s Christian Democrats jumped up five points to just over 40% vote share. 
Further to the right, the “Alliance for Germany” qualifies for proportional representation with 6% of the ballots on the first time that they run at this Land level.  They have had other success at the local level along the same lines, including in Merkel’s home Land in the former East Germany.  This is the group most akin to the US Tea Party, the National Front with Le Pen in France or the UKIP who pushed for the Brexit. 
We should expect the German extreme right to become part of the next national Bundestag, which is a proportionally representative house akin to our House of Representatives with the major exception that they choose the head of government, the Chancellor, who is currently Angela Merkel. 
And Merkel will NEVER form a government together with the anti-foreign, ultra nationalist Alliance for Germany.  German history will not allow for that.  She will not allow for that having a sense of history and a personal commitment to civil rights after growing up under the East German Stasi police state. 
The Free Democrats (sometimes translated as the “Liberals”) did not qualify for seats with only 3% of the vote, but that is two percent more than last time.  They are the older, more traditional “other” center right party in Germany and have served in many coalition governments locally and federally, most often with the Christian Democrats. 
The Free Democrats would be Merkel’s preference for a coalition government, but they are not meeting the 5% benchmark needed to win seats and in Saarland they will have nothing to offer in their next legislature. 
That puts the Social Christians back in bed with their friends and rivals the Social Democrats with neither of them having anywhere else to go or anyone else that they can form a government with. 
These are all small changes in the vote patterns, especially when compared to France or Spain, but they are clearly a small shift towards a center right who is currently in power and by all indications will continue to stay in power. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Public health should guide us talking about health insurance.

Are we talking about the people’s health anywhere inside all this noise about health insurance? 
Seems all we really hear about is the money with snipes about how unfair it is for …
well different folk have different ideas of unfair.
I am not even sure we talk that much about the actual health care. 
This market based fiasco we have does not deserve the name “health care system” because we don’t have one.  We have a financial sector of medical businesses. 
Talk about a health care system might start with something like making sure we have good places to be born and to die.  In my mind both would be something like a garden with space for the families of those involved.  A health care system would include a local health clinic system.  Somewhere local where you can get your vaccines, do your checkups, be told to exercise more and eat healthier, get stitches in or out or have something looked at in case it is something worse.  Somewhere spacious, accessible, welcoming and accommodating like a library. 
How about first level health care somewhere where you talk to a neighbor who knows your name?
That would be a start for health care that we mostly have not yet made.
The first step towards becoming a healthy people is to be clear that we are not in good shape now.
Taking a look at the leading causes of death in our country, the top lists in most categories are dominated by our ability (and probably willingness) to harm ourselves and others.  We do a lot of unsafe things in our cars, in our homes and in our habits.  We seem to be good at eating poorly, driving unsafely, killing ourselves and others, neglecting our bodies and staying overweight and unfit.  The list of what kills us is very similar to the list of woes for the living. 
I would like to move this item up from the bottom and least discussed part of our health debates. 
Above health care.
Above health insurance.
Focusing on a vision of a healthier nation with our mix of peoples, we can come to a vision on how to provide it and finally how to pay for it. 
It is everyone’s job to take care of everyone else. 
A healthy society takes care of its own. 
We may not know why we are such a violent people, but we know that we are, and in many cases we know what to do about it.  We know how to intervene.  We know how to show compassion.  We know how to practice contrition, remorse, compassion and restitution. 
From road rage to domestic abuse, there are a whole number of aggressive, angry behaviors we have come to consider normal and shrug off.  When the nation to the north of us only has a tenth of our violent crime problems and the one to the south of us has to have a major drug war to inch past us in murder statistics we should not be so self-confidant.  We should be embarrassed. 
Ours is the house in the neighborhood with the scandalous fights in the night. 
We can deal with the food and exercise problems too.  There is no mystery here.  There is precedent in how we knocked down cigarette consumption where we educated the public, set a new social tone of acceptability and shut down tobacco’s massive advertising machine. Fast food needs to be next. 
What would it take to send all of our kids to schools where they were in a calm, supportive environment that welcomed them all and provided for them all?  It would take more resources.  It would especially require more people and money in the schools that are the least calm, supportive, welcoming and able to provide for each and every child. 
There are many places where vicious circles of unhealthiness can be broken and the schools are one of the best of them. 
All of this has been said so many times that it is hard not to say it with examples and contrasts at every point, as part of our never ending harsh lecturing that we arrogantly call the “health care debate”. 
Our public health, like many of our public schools, are a disappointment and a cause for humility. 
In all of our communities we have all kinds of people working hard on getting us to take better care of ourselves and each other in every way imaginable.
There is no doubt that the ethics, will and knowledge for a healthy country is here already.
The dominant trend in our society is going the other way towards short sighted sociopathic unwillingness to help others and to accommodate our differences. 
There are a lot of complicated reasons why this is the dominating group and why we don’t practice the solidarity needed for a healthy population, with an appropriate health care system paid for in some fair and reliable way. 
Most of those reasons have to do with money.