Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Facebook Thead Responding to My Dental Board Posts

 This is the fourth post on this blog referencing my dispute with the State over my refusal to submit to fingerprinting and a Criminal Background Check.  Feel free to review the previous three posts if you want more detail.

I posted an update on my dispute with the Division of Professional Regulation on my Facebook Page.  That led to a fairly active discussion.  Many expressed support. Some felt the law is reasonable and that I should comply.

If you're interested in seeing what other people think, you can click this link.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bad Law is Not a Victimless Crime: My Recent Podcast

This is the third blog post in the past few days where I am providing some background and some context for my dispute with the Division of Professional Regulation and the Delaware Board of Dentistry and Dental Hygiene over my refusal to comply with the mandate for fingerprinting and a criminal background check.  My son Will and I spent an hour or so last Saturday 17 December discussing the dispute and describing the proceedings of my recent hearing before the Board on 15 December.  You can click this link to hear a podcast of that discussion.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Statement Read at Board Meeting 15 December 2016

Thank you for this opportunity to address the Board.

 I have refused to comply with the recently instituted criminal background check requirement for continued dental licensure. I've given a comprehensive explanation of my position in a letter that I submitted to the Board at my Rule To Show Cause Hearing in October. I'll spare the Board a reading of that letter at this time. Considering the consequences of your findings on my future career, I can only hope you have taken the time to read it.   [Note:  The Board apparently never received this letter from the Chief Hearing Officer Mr. Akin, and never read the letter.  You can read the letter in the previous blog post.]

The short version of my position is this: The law is unjust because it flies in the face of a fundamental principle of justice: Innocent until proven guilty. This law essentially presumes every Delaware healthcare provider is guilty until they prove otherwise. And not satisfied with simply conducting the background check as is often done for such mundane a purpose as renting an apartment, this law demands I actively participate in the State's supplanting of my rights by submitting to fingerprinting by law enforcement. This has traditionally been a practice reserved for criminals.

The Chief Hearing Officer, Mr Akin, sent this Board a letter dated 21 October 2016.  [Note:  The letter that I refer to here is not my letter to the Board, but a letter written by Mr Akin, the Chief Hearing Officer, that was a review of my Rule to Show Cause Hearing on 4 October, and included his recommendations to the Board for disciplinary actions against me]  In that letter Mr. Akin advises you that my arguments are not relevant to this Board. My objections should be addressed to the legislature, not to you. Mr Akin suggests that the Deputy Attorney General present at this meeting will agree with him. Your job isn't to weigh what is just. Your job is to simply follow the law. They assert that you have no choice in the matter. I don't agree. If you have no choice in the matter, why is this Board being consulted in the first place? Why aren't the findings of the Chief Hearing Officer the final determinant of action here? Unless your purpose is nothing more than to rubber stamp the findings of the Hearing Officer, I will presume that this Board does, in fact, have the capacity to exercise its own discretion and judgment.

 If you read my letter, or Mr. Akin's summary of my letter, you know that I view my refusal to comply as an act of civil disobedience. If you have no sympathy for my position, then I presume you will follow Mr Akin's recommendation in some fashion. But if you believe that my position has merit; if you would prefer to serve the interests of justice instead of practicing blind obedience to flawed legislation, then I request that you reject the recommendations of the Chief Hearing Officer and the Deputy Attorney General and simply take no action against me.

This Board is, in essence, a jury. You've been presented with a series of arguments, and you are asked to make a decision that will determine whether I may continue to practice dentistry, or have that privilege suspended. Like it or not, you're my jury, and I want to make you aware that juries have a distinguished past history of rejecting bad law to ensure that justice is served. For instance, prior to the Civil War, juries often refused to convict those assisting runaway slaves for violations of the Fugitive Slave Act. Principle was more important than bad law. Or consider the case of a whistle blower who discloses information revealing the fraudulent business practices of his employer. Said employer could sue that whistle blower for violating non disclosure agreements. A principled jury could find the whistle blower not liable despite his guilt in order to see justice done rather than practice blind obedience to the law. This courageous behavior has a name. It is called Jury Nullification.

Jury Nullification is a jury's knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself, or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury's sense of justice, morality, or fairness.  Jury verdicts of acquittal are unassailable even where the verdict is inconsistent with the weight of the evidence and instruction of the law.

You have an opportunity to perform a similar exercise in good judgment. You can find in favor of fairness and morality rather than in support of a misguided and over reaching bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is telling you that you must punish me because it is the law. I am appealing to you to choose justice over law and allow me to continue to earn my living and serve the public in a profession to which I have devoted the past almost forty years of my life.

Thank you. That concludes my statement.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Letter Submitted to the Delaware Board of Dentistry at My Rule to Show Cause Hearing 4 October 2016





Executive Summary 

The mandatory Criminal Background Check program (CBC) is an unnecessary burden on the profession and an infringement on our rights. I feel obligated to resist as an act of civil disobedience. 

The CBC program resulted as a misguided response from the legislature in response to the Bradley case, but Bradley had no criminal background prior to being apprehended, and would have passed a CBC. 

CBC repudiates a basic tenet of American justice: innocent until proven guilty—the burden of proof lies with the accuser, not the accused. 

Lack of efficacy of the program: large cost in time and Division of Professional Regulation (DPR) resources for little or no return. How many criminal histories not previously disclosed to the DPR were uncovered? 

The meager results of this program does not justify the erosion of civil liberties. 

Poor selection of target groups, for instance: the practice of dentistry and dental hygiene takes place in open rooms, with no doors, no privacy, team treatment, and no disrobing. Children are more at risk unsupervised in the park than in the dental office. 

The DPR has the authority to sanction me, but does not have the right. It also has the discretion to permit me to continue to practice until my next licensee renewal. 

In Mar 2016, the DPR renewed my license until May 2018 despite my being out of compliance at the time. My application affirmation acknowledged my awareness of Title 24, not my compliance. At no time did I misrepresent my status. 

 I will soon turn 64 years of age, and I am approaching retirement. I am requesting I be permitted to continue practicing until my next license expiration in May 2018 at which time I will not request a renewal unless I am prepared to complete the CBC. 


Letter to the Division of Professional Regulation and the State of Delaware Board of Dentistry and Dental Hygiene 



Thank you for the opportunity to address this hearing board. I intend to use this letter to fully explain my position in regards to my noncompliance with the law mandating a criminal background check. I do not intend to comply, and I will explain why. 

My initial reaction to your first letter back in 2015 was the same as that of many of my colleagues. It was one of anger and frustration. It seemed there was to be no end to the ever increasing burdens and costs, both reasonable and unreasonable, imposed upon the conscientious healthcare providers of this state by a forever thriving state bureaucracy. 

Some of these burdens are reasonable and necessary such as the years spent in training and residency. Board examinations are reasonable as they ensure that only qualified professionals receive a license to practice. Still, they are costly and logistically challenging. Follow that up with a lifetime of continuing education, the daily regulatory burdens such as infection control requirements, OSHA, HIPAA, and radiation safety. There are business related burdens: malpractice protection, dealing with insurance companies, staff hiring, firing, and training, and finally, provisions for healthcare, pensions, and unemployment insurance for staff. Healthcare providers also pay certain professional taxes that are unique to our occupations. One might include renewal fees for drug licenses in this category and indeed the renewal fees for the dental license itself. 

Some of the burdens carried by healthcare professionals are unreasonable ones. I seem to remember a time several years ago where every 6-12 months for a period of about two years, the state mandated a new and evolving prescription form. Cost burden, logistics burden, and much of it wasted. And now, the state insists on a criminal background check. One more burden added to an already very long list of burdens, some reasonable, some arguably unreasonable. 

Dentistry is a very rewarding profession. It's rewarding in both job satisfaction, and standard of living. But it comes with a significant number of burdens. I gladly accept the burdens associated with providing high quality, safe dental care to my patients, but I chafe at those that are wasteful and malicious. 

Let me tell you a little bit about my background. I graduated from UCLA School of Dentistry in 1979, and completed a one year General Practice Residency the following year at David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in California. I spent a career in the Air Force and retired in January, 2001 with 21.5 years of service. Along the way I completed the two-year General Dentistry Residency at Keesler Medical Center (Keesler Air Force Base) in Biloxi Mississippi. I am Board Certified by the Federal Services Board of General Dentistry. Nine of my twenty one plus years in the Air Force were spent overseas in the United Kingdom. My final assignment was here at Dover Air Force Base, where I chose to remain after retirement. 

Since retiring from the Air Force, I have worked part time here in Dover. From 2001 until 2007, I worked two days a week as a contract dentist for the Division of Public Health at the James W. Williams State Service Center in Dover. I treated Medicaid eligible children, and left that position when they hired a full time dentist for that clinic. I declined reassignment to another clinic in Newcastle Delaware due to the commute. After leaving that contract position, I began working two days a week for Dr. Robert Webster DDS as an associate doing general dentistry. I've been there from 2007 until the present. Concurrent with those two positions, I have worked one day a week since 2001 in the office of Dr Bruce Lauder DDS operating a walk-in emergency dental clinic. I see few scheduled patients, but offer timely emergency dental service on a first come, first served basis to patients with pain, swelling, and other dental emergencies such as broken teeth. This practice consists largely of operative dentistry and exodontia. Many of these patients have no regular dentist or cannot get a timely appointment with their regular provider. This type of practice is unique in Delaware to my knowledge, and I receive frequent referrals from many local area dentists. 

I will be sixty four years old in January of next year. I have reduced my work schedule to three half days per week at the practices of Dr Webster and Dr Lauder. While I clearly have one foot out the door of my dental career in anticipation of full-time retirement, I would rather not end that career just yet if I have a choice in the matter. I had tentatively planned a likely retirement sometime before my license would come up for its next renewal in May 2018. I did not seek out this present confrontation with the state, and I would have much preferred to be left alone to complete my career at a time of my own choosing. Unfortunately, circumstances have changed now, and the outcome of this hearing may end up determining my future plans. 

I'm a libertarian. That is my politics, as well as my philosophy of life. Politically it means I want a smaller, less intrusive state. In particular, we seek to jealously safeguard civil liberties. I view my noncompliance with this mandatory criminal background check as an act of civil disobedience.

 “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Dr. King knew the power of civil disobedience as a peaceful means of opposing discriminatory laws in the south. Libertarians admire Dr. King for his principled positions. Actions like lunch counter sit-ins and protests against unjust laws are part of America's DNA. 

Too many Americans these days seem to have a benign view of government. The founders felt otherwise. They recognized government for what it was. Force. 

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.“ --George Washington 

Years later, during the red scare of the 1950's CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow succinctly characterized the relationship between citizens and their government. 

"A nation of sheep, begets a government of wolves"

Anyone who believes his duty as an American is to blindly obey his government is a subject/slave, not a citizen. Suffice it to say, I believe this mandatory criminal background check law is unjust, overreaching, and an infringement of my rights and the rights of every Delaware healthcare professional. I feel I have a duty to refuse it. 

 In the United States, we have a legal system which is based upon certain standards. One standard applies here above all others. It's so important that we have a Latin equivalent to demonstrate what high regard we have for the principle it expresses. 

 Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat 

Translation: The burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies. 

We're talking about the presumption of innocence. This principle of presumption of innocence isn't just a cornerstone of the American legal system, it is a universal tenet of human rights. It is incorporated in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Article 11. 

This law mandating a criminal background check essentially implies that every health care professional in Delaware is presumed guilty unless and until they can prove their innocence. This is our legal system turned upside down. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? That is the appropriate standard in every criminal trial conducted in this country. Now I realize that this is a hearing, and not a criminal trial, but seeing as how it is the existence or absence of a criminal background that is in question here, and that the outcome of this hearing could be to strip me of my right to earn a living in my chosen profession, I believe I have the right and a duty to demand that any burden of proof be shifted back to the state where it rightfully belongs. The very existence of this law equates to an accusation against me that I am a criminal. I am not a criminal. If your position is that this law is just and enforceable, and that I may be presumed a criminal then I insist that the burden is on you to openly accuse me, name my accuser, and present your evidence. This law presumes it can arbitrarily transform the state's burden to prove into my burden to refute. I refuse to accept the validity of this law to shift the responsibility in that fashion. That is the fundamental basis for my refusal to comply with this law. 

We all know the motivation for enacting this law. In 2010-2011, Earl Bradley, a Lewes pediatrician, was indicted on 529 charges of molesting, raping, and exploiting 127 child patients. For over two years, the story was headline news, not just in Delaware, but across the country. Bradley was ultimately found guilty on all charges and was sentenced to 14 consecutive terms of life plus 165 years in prison without parole on June 26, 2011. 

Delaware politicians, in a well intentioned but, in my opinion, misguided attempt to address these horrendous crimes and prevent future occurrences, introduced legislation (SB 98) in June of 2013. The bill mandated criminal background checks, not just for dentists, but for hygienists, podiatrists, chiropractors, physicians, occupational therapists, optometrists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, speech pathologists, audiologists and hearing aid dispensers. Hearing aid dispensers? Seriously?? It was passed by the legislature and ultimately signed by the governor in June, 2014. 

Marx once said: 

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” 

It was Groucho Marx who said that by the way, not Karl Marx. And how right he was. This legislation misinterpreted every lesson the Bradley case had to teach us. 

The system clearly failed these children. But where did the failure occur? There had been numerous allegations against Bradley for years beginning as far back as 1994 when Thomas Jefferson University Hospital investigated a patient’s complaint of sexual misconduct. There was a second allegation in 1995, but the hospital could not verify the claims. Bradley abruptly left the state and moved to Delaware. For 15 years, Bradley continued to commit these atrocities. How did he escape justice for so long? Who dropped the ball? The state medical society in Delaware had another opportunity to stop him in 2004, but they failed. Bradley’s sister Lynda Barnes, who had served as an office manager at his medical office, had alerted them that parents had complained to her about inappropriate touching by Bradley. Allegations were made again in 2005. Police records show that a nurse reported that he videotaped kids playing and other doctors reported complaints about long and unnecessary vaginal exams. When police in Milford, Delaware sought a warrant to arrest him for inappropriately touching a child patient, the Attorney General’s office concluded at the time that there was insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution. 

There are plenty of people who failed to try, and some who tried but failed to stop Earl Bradley. That's a tragedy. Clearly our first instinct is to strengthen the system against a repeat occurrence of this terrible victimization of children. We currently have laws on the books that create a duty to report for healthcare providers and staff if they suspect abuse. I don't know when those laws came into effect. I believe it was fairly recently, and it may even have been in response to the Bradley case. Those requirements are totally appropriate. If more people had suspected Bradley, more may have reported those suspicions earlier, and he might have been stopped sooner. 

 I believe the most effective solution to arise out of these events was the increased public awareness that resulted from the flood of publicity. No misguided state policy initiative can come close to accomplishing what the heightened public awareness of this problem has accomplished. It's sad that honest and caring healthcare providers should be subjected to an unwarranted level of suspicion, but if parents were just a bit more likely to believe an unusual story from their child as a result of the Bradley affair, or a little more likely to insist on being present in the exam room for their child's care, then that would be a positive result. It seems to me there is nothing the state could do that would have a more positive impact on the problem than the benefits derived from increased parent awareness. 

But instead, what we got from the state was a law that mandates criminal background checks. Was it not obvious to those legislators that this law did nothing to address the actual problem? Earl Bradley had no criminal record prior to his arrest. He could have submitted his fingerprints and completed his background check with flying colors and gone on to abuse more children totally unrestrained by the state. 

It's also worth noting that the program might even be redundant, though I can't be quite sure of this based on the information I was able to gather online. Your notification letter promises that an adverse finding in this hearing will result in a report being made to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB and it's predecessor the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB) have been collecting adverse information on healthcare practitioners since before I started practicing dentistry. I don't know the exact nature of all the information collected or how the breadth of information collected may have expanded over the years, but at least based on an infographic that I found on the NPDB website, they currently collect what they refer to as Judgment or Conviction Reports (JOCRs). According to the infographic, these include Healthcare Related Civil Judgments or Criminal Convictions Taken in a Federal or State Court. I concede that you would be better equipped to know the exact nature of the data collected than I would. This is your business after all. Nevertheless, I'd be curious to know if the background check information might not be redundant for members of healthcare professions who are already monitored by the NPDB. Did the legislature pass a feel good measure that infringed on practitioner rights while offering little or no benefit to public safety purely based on the optics of maximum voter appeal? Regardless of the nature of this data collection, I feel healthcare practitioners are being unfairly deprived of their presumption of innocence by this new law. 

The background check is bad enough, but think about this: the government feels it can freely include the Orwellian twist of adding a fingerprinting requirement without concern for it being challenged. When did fingerprinting become standard operating procedure for anybody but criminals? Ask your mothers and fathers and your grandparents if they've ever been fingerprinted. You won't need to go back too many generations before you get an answer like, “No, I've never been fingerprinted. That's only for criminals.” Is America so complacent now that the government can institute mandatory fingerprinting and no one even bats an eyelash? Is it so incorporated into our concept of normal that we don't see how perverted it is? We're raising the first generation of Americans who accepts that that's just the way it is. I was fingerprinted in the military, but I thought they had a pretty good reason. “If we recover your grotesquely mangled body from a combat scenario, we want to be able to identify your hideously disfigured remains.” I can't say what perverse purposes the government might be putting that database to at present, but at the time, I thought it made pretty good sense. But now, in a civilian environment? No way! Politicians, however, always feel compelled to do something. They need to demonstrate a response to every problem even if it is the wrong response. Even if it is a bad response. They need to generate heat even if they generate no light in the process. Appearances are what matters, and that's how we got this law. 

 How in the world did they select the categories of providers to whom this law would apply? I already expressed my incredulity that hearing aid dispensers were somehow under suspicion. Physical therapists I can maybe understand. Their job is to therapeutically “touch” people. But it's usually (always?) in an open room setting with other patients and therapists present. Why would anyone worry about the possible nefarious opportunities that might be afforded to a physical therapist in the course of performing their normal duties? 

 And why are dentists and hygienists on the list? For as long as I can remember, dentists and hygienists have always worked in open rooms with no doors and no privacy. And if you'll forgive my gender stereotyping, most hygienists and a significant number of dentists for that matter, are women. Women, God bless them, and for whatever reason, don't commit sexual offenses against children. Furthermore, for every single function I perform as a dentist I have a dental assistant in the room with me. And there's a 99% chance she's female too. It is also true that under no circumstances would I be in a professional position to ask my patients to disrobe. For absolutely everything I do as a dentist, the patient should expect to remain fully clothed. To suggest otherwise to a patient would be a pretty clear sign that something was amiss. 

And while we're on the subject, it's interesting to note who does not need to pass a criminal background check. Legislators and government officials, that's who. I know. I ran for Governor in 2012 so I'm clearly no stranger to futile efforts in support of principles. (1.0% of the vote. Go Libertarians!!) No background check for me back then. So somehow we're all under suspicion, and must prove our innocence, but apparently politicians' behavior is beyond reproach? And for what it's worth, if I'd won in 2012, I'd have vetoed this bill. 

Our children are more at risk unsupervised in the park than they will ever be visiting their local dental office. If passing a law would reduce the likelihood of another awful episode like the Bradley affair ever happening again, I'd be all for it. But while there were lots of people who failed those children, none of the healthcare professionals in Delaware who are not Earl Bradley are among them. 

I have reviewed the Professional Regulation Section of the state's online Public Meeting Calendar. There appears to have been scores, or perhaps hundreds, of Rule to Show Cause hearings scheduled for the various professions listed in SB 98. Apparently I am not the only one who has shown some reluctance to comply with this law. Judging by the numbers of lined through names, it is obvious to me that most of these refuseniks eventually succumbed to the leverage that you hold over them, namely that they either submit to the will of the state or they risk no longer being allowed to earn a living in their chosen professions. This entire affair makes me very sad for America. I weep for my country. 

I recently had a series of email exchanges with Mr. Akin, the Chief Hearing Officer. His responses were cordial and quite helpful in explaining the nature of the Rule to Show Cause hearing that had been scheduled for me. But I was less satisfied with the reply I received to my request for metrics on the response from Delaware's regulated providers to the Criminal Background Check (CBC) program. Surely the Division of Professional Regulation (DPR) monitors such things. I would very much like to know what efficacy this program has demonstrated. There are several statistics that would be of particular interest to me if I was evaluating this program: How many healthcare professionals in Delaware were impacted by this new law? With all the professions named in SB 98, the number of mandated CBCs must register in the thousands. Most importantly, I'd like to know how many CBCs have revealed a criminal background that was not previously disclosed to the (DPR), if not for all professions, at least for Dentistry and Dental Hygiene. I would think you should be able to summon that number up from memory without even referring to the statistics. I suspect that the number of CBCs that have revealed any disqualifying information is zero. My impression is that the DPR and the various professional boards have devoted an extraordinary amount of time and resources for very little, if any, benefit. If I am mistaken about that, I wish you would please advise me of that fact. 

I would hope that I have convinced you that the requirement for a criminal background check is at best, an unnecessary burden, and at its worse, an insulting accusation and a waste of resources. It repudiates my right to be presumed innocent. Furthermore, it fails to even address the actual problem it set out to solve. But it's the law, you might reply. Jim Crow in the south was the law. Apartheid was the law. Some people believe that we live in a democracy, but technically, we live in a republic. A republic is a form of government that practices democratic principles, but places certain rights beyond the reach of a majority vote. Rights such as free speech, freedom of religion, and due process for matters of enforcement of the law. Pure democracy is when your rights can be denied by the vote of the majority otherwise known as mob rule. Justice is when principles of individual human rights supersede the will of the mob. Citizens have a duty to oppose bad laws, even to the point of civil disobedience. It's the American way. 

 “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in adapting the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” --George Bernard Shaw 

I hope you will show me some forbearance. I have read Title 24 Chapter 11 of the Delaware Code. I even think I was able to understand 80-90% of it. I know what your disciplinary options are as relates to this case. But as near as I can tell, you have some discretion in this matter. I saw nothing in the text of Title 24 that compels you to act against me despite the fact that I have not complied with the law. The notification letter you sent me for my Rule to Show Cause hearing speaks of a possible revoking of my license. Am I mistaken, or do you not have the option to decide that despite my noncompliance, neither justice nor the interests of the residents of Delaware would be served by taking such an action? My preferred outcome, which should come as no surprise to anyone, is you read my letter, weigh your options, and decide to show some leniency. 

In March of 2016, the Division of Professional Regulation approved my license renewal through May of 2018, even though I had not been in compliance for almost two months. I don't know what the legal implications of that are; perhaps none. It was probably nothing more than the poorly coordinated workings of a cumbersome bureaucracy. I would like to stress that at no time did I misrepresent my status to the DPR. I was a bit surprised that the affirmation required on the application asked only that I confirm my awareness of the provisions of Title 24, not my compliance. To be honest, I fully expected to be refused a license renewal at that time. Nevertheless, I would be more than grateful if I were allowed to continue to practice until my next license renewal period beginning May 2018. As I mentioned earlier, I am almost sixty four years old now. Even if the decision was left up to me, I don't intend to practice too much longer, perhaps another year or two. If you were to refrain from taking action against my license, I would agree not to request a renewal of my license in 2018 unless I decided to comply with the requirement for the mandatory background check. 

 I realize that I am in no position to set terms for you, and I'm not so naive as to believe anybody owes me anything. But I don't wish to short change myself either by not directly asking for what I want. I would not have bothered to contest this matter if I didn't have a preferred outcome in mind. If your decision is to revoke my license, then so be it. For months now, I have made it clear to family, friends and colleagues that I felt strongly enough about this to stand my ground. One fellow dentist couldn't understand why I would take such a position. I couldn't explain it to her adequately at the time. Maybe I'll send her a copy of this letter. I've second guessed myself a lot. I've wondered if I'm making too big a deal out of this. In some sense, I've painted myself into a corner. The only justification there could possibly be for me to change my mind now would be cowardice. I feel there's no turning back. 


 Is it really so difficult to believe that an individual like me at this late stage in my career, would balk at the prospect of yet one more hoop to jump through? A hoop which essentially says that after practicing dentistry for 37 years, now we want to you to prove you're not a criminal. I'm reminded of a book I read years ago. It was either a Tom Clancy or a John le Carre novel. I don't even remember now. There's a character nobly standing up to torture by the Russians for some sort of information. He resists for weeks, and then one day, as his jailer is walking him back to his cell, the jailer stops in a corridor and pushes the prisoner to the ground and proceeds to pee on him. Despite all he has endured up until that moment in resisting the brutality of his captors, that one final display of total control, of contempt on the part of his captors, finally breaks him. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. That's a bit like the way I feel. I feel like I'm being pissed on. I've been a productive member of society my entire life. I've been hitched up and pulling the wagon. Doing good work; paying my taxes etc. But sometimes I feel like the state treats me as if I am nothing more than a resource to be mined. Maybe I should take off the harness and just get in the wagon. There is a novel called Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand which means a lot to me. It is the story of a dystopian society in which government grows more and more powerful and constantly increases the burdens it places upon the most productive members of society with the justification that it is for the public good. Eventually as the burdens increase to intolerable levels, those producers start to disappear one by one. They have decided to go on strike. The book is the story of the rapid decline of civilization as its most productive people decide they'd rather go on strike than to continue to produce while being disrespected by the very civilization they helped create. Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957. Ayn Rand could see the future that awaited us. I'm not just referring to background checks. 

 I am much luckier than most of my colleagues. They're younger, they own active practices, and they have huge responsibilities to their families, their staffs and their patients. Many of them have significant debt as well. They don't have the luxury of acting on their conscience. I do. Sometime soon after the 4th of October, I will either still be a dentist or I will not. We all have to retire sometime. 

Thank you for your consideration of this matter. 

 Jess McVay

Monday, December 12, 2016

Cui Bono?

Cui bono?

For whose benefit?

Seeing lots of memes this morning ridiculing the CIA finding that the Russians hacked computer systems and provided information to promote the election of Donald Trump (or maybe to damage the more likely election of president Clinton). These memes are ridiculing the finding as if it is silly and not credible.

I don't know if it is fact, but it is certainly credible. The CIA hasn't released details to the public in order, they claim, to protect methods etc. Apparently some in Congress have seen more details. Even if the CIA findings are correct, that doesn't mean that Trump was involved, or that Trump might not have won anyway.

Trump vigorously denies it happened even to the point of dredging up reminders of the intelligence community's errors about WMD in the run up to the Iraq War. Trump sycophants claim it's an attempt to delegitimize president Trump. No doubt some Trump haters will latch onto that and try to press that narrative.

This is the first major example that I can think of post election of Trump telling a Big Lie, and Trump loyalists accepting it without question. There were lots of Big Lies before the election. Not only are Trump supporters accepting it, they're going to war with anyone who suggests it could be a valid concern. First example, but probably not the last. This reminds me why I didn't vote for Trump, and why we should be concerned about his leadership.

Don't believe it was the Russians? Fine. Want proof instead of empty accusations? Good idea. But claim it is not a credible finding? Denial. Use ridicule instead of reason to support your opinion? Inexcusable.

Congressional Democrats, the president, and some Republicans want an investigation into computer hacking with the purpose of influencing elections. That may be for show. A political exercise. A lengthy Congressional investigation might not tell us any more than the intelligence community already claims to know. And the findings won't be regarded through any less of a partisan lens than they are now. But to deny that the Russians attempting to influence our elections is even possible is a stupid response and dangerous to our democracy. Ironically, the CIA itself has a reputation all over the world for doing just that in other counties, even in Russia.

Trump claimed we'd see a different President Trump from Candidate Trump. I don't believe that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It's Not a Lottery, It's an Election

Have you noticed that the presidential candidates spend a lot more time of late talking about winning in polls than they do about issues? Do they think we vote based on who's going to win? I believe that's exactly what they think, and they may be right. The experts know they can surge turnout or stifle it if they can manipulate perceptions about winning or losing. So voters go to the polls as if the goal is to vote for the winner instead of to vote for the candidate who best represents their views. It's as if they vote like they're playing the lottery where the only goal is to guess the winning numbers.

I'm voting for the Libertarian Gary Johnson this year, because he best represents my values. It doesn't matter to me that I know he's going to lose. I think that the two major party candidates this year are the worst two choices I've seen in my lifetime. If you like them, you should vote for them. If you feel as I do, you should not. If you continue to vote for candidates who don't represent your values, the major parties will continue to serve up candidates who don't represent your values. They'll market them as the lesser of two evils and convince you that a vote for an alternative candidate is somehow really a vote for the dumpster fire you dislike marginally more than their dumpster fire.

Don't like Johnson? Green Party candidate Jill Stein is on the Delaware ballot. If you're up for a little more effort, Evan McMullin the independent from Utah is a registered write-in candidate. Registered means that if you go to the trouble of writing in his name, it will actually get counted. Or you can skip the presidential line when you vote. That's a principled choice as well. Withholding your vote is as meaningful as casting it. The wasted vote is the one you cast for the candidate who doesn't represent your values.

John Quincy Adams wrote,

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Trump is Going Down, and He's Taking You All With Him

It has just occurred to me that for the first time since I joined the Libertarian Party in 2010, my political cause is not the most forlorn, tilting at windmills cause in the country.

This year, we have the Trump supporters who are so in denial about the impact of last Friday's video release that they are willing to go down with the ship that is the Donald J. Trump campaign. Not only that, but they're willing, and in some cases eager, to watch Donald destroy Republicans' chances of holding the Senate as well. That, of course, means the Supreme Court will also go swirling down the plughole.

Now I even hear some Democrats starting to whisper about the prospects that the House might be in play, especially with Trump's recent complaints about a betrayal by Paul Ryan and other Republicans. Trump supporters have decided they're OK with simply burning down their party if they can't have Donald in the White House. I suspect they will wake up on the morning of November 9th to discover that their own house has burned down with the rest of the neighborhood. Donald will feel vindicated by that result. To quote a line from The Game of Thrones, "He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes."

Meanwhile, Libertarians are expected to see our best year ever in terms of vote totals, and voter awareness. Just as the Republican party of Lincoln was born in the ashes of the failed Whig Party in the middle of the 19th century, the Libertarian Party today is poised to rise from the ashes of another faltering party that lost touch with its constituents.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

#Let Gary Debate

Have you seen the news release from the League of Women Voters?

 League Refuses to "Help Perpetrate a Fraud" 

The second paragraph sums it up best: 

 "It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions," Neuman said. "The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public." 

Haven't seen this release?  I'm not surprised.  It's from October 3rd, 1988.  League President Nancy Neuman was responding to a sixteen page document submitted by the Bush and Dukakis campaigns representing their agreed upon conditions for participating in the next debate.  The League was informed the conditions were non negotiable.  The League said no, and never again sponsored a presidential debate. The last debate that year was sponsored by the newly formed Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), whose co-chairmen were, coincidentally, the then chairmen of the Republican and Democratic National Committees.  The original Republican co chair is still there, though he is now a former RNC chairman. The new Democratic co chair is a former Bill Clinton press secretary. That odor you smell is what the CPD likes to refer to as non partisanship. Their purpose is to present the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in the most favorable light, while excluding independent candidates by any means necessary. Their mission statement isn't worded quite that way, but that's the general idea.  

Twenty eight years later, not much has changed.   Last week the commission announced that it had sent debate invitations to the Republican and Democratic candidates for president and vice president.  The Libertarian candidates, Gary Johnson and Bill Weld were excluded.  This despite the Libertarian Party being the third largest party in the United States.  Despite them being on the ballot in all fifty states.  Despite their consistently polling around 10% in national polls and in the high teens in many individual state polls.  Despite the fact that, six former governors, numerous editorial boards and 62% of regular Americans wanted them in the debates.  And most importantly, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are arguably the least appealing and most polarizing choices for president this country has ever known.

A large plurality of Americans would chew off their right foot to escape voting for one of these two candidates.  (The polling on this might have asked a somewhat subtler question, but you get my point.)  

The most recent Pew Research data puts the percentage of voters identifying as independent at 39% and growing, exceeding the numbers of both Republicans and Democrats.  The Republicans will be represented on the debate stage.  The Democrats will be represented on the debate stage.  Who will be representing those independents?  Nobody.  If there was ever a year for the Commission on Presidential Debates to offer more choices, this is it.  Thanks CPD.  Thanks for nothing!  It's time to bring back integrity and fairness to the debate process.  It's time to bring back the League of Women Voters. #LetGaryDebate.

Monday, September 19, 2016

It's Talk Like a Pirate Day

"When robbery is done in open daylight by sanction of the law, as it is done today, then any act of honor or restitution has to be hidden underground." -
Ragnar Danneskjold   (From Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand)

Now that's how you talk like a pirate!

Bill Weld Missed an Opportunity

Carl Bernstein

Bill Weld

In a response to some desperate speculation by Carl Bernstein that Bill Weld was preparing to withdraw as Gary Johnson's VP candidate, Governer Weld responded in a press release:

 "I strongly believe that our Libertarian ticket of two former two-term Governors, fiscally responsible and socially inclusive, is the best bet for America in this year’s election. Gary Johnson and I will campaign with all our strength to make that case to the American people from now until November 8th. Under no circumstances will our energies be diverted from our goal of winning the election and serving our country."

I think the Johnson/Weld campaign missed a great PR opportunity with this one. They should have taken a page out of Donald Trump's book. On Friday, Trump invited journalists to his new hotel in DC to honor Medal of Honor winners who were supporting him. The media had an understanding that Trump would be making a statement renouncing his birther position. Lots of media showed up, and apparently many networks carried the entire event live. Trump waited for the last two minutes of the event, made his thirty second declarative statement that the president was born in the United States, and walked away from the podium. The media got suckered into a half hour or so of free live airtime for Trump, and Trump captured the whole weekend news cycle. And to add insult to injury, he got to plug his new hotel.

Bill Weld should have announced to the media that he was calling a press conference to make a significant announcement in response to the speculation that he would be dropping out of the race. He should have further announced that Governor Johnson would NOT be present. Staff should be evasive, or act perplexed when asked by journalists the substance of the remarks. They should even sound a little worried or depressed when responding to questions. Maybe they could even stage the event outside of the DNC headquarters in Washington or Hillary headquarters in New York City, but that might a step too far.

Weld should show up, and then take a page out of James Comey's book. Remember, FBI director Comey spoke for twenty minutes about the results of the FBI's email investigation of Hillary Clinton and all the things Hillary had done wrong. It was covered live by the media and thousands of people like me listened attentively to every word to try to tease out the ultimate decision. Just as we were all convinced that the speech would end with Comey announcing his recommendation to prosecute, Comey does an about face Emily Litella like "Never Mind" moment and announces no charges will be recommended.

Weld should have done the same thing. He could have spent thirty minutes teaching America about everything Libertarianism has to offer. Every two minutes or so, he could change topics and lament the difficulties of running third party, how the Debate Commission rules obstruct access to the public, etc., etc. He could even pepper the speech with some fond memory of Hillary from the Watergate investigation days. (He knew her back then, and has expressed some admiration for her youthful enthusiasm or some such nonsense) Then back to why it's wonderful to be a libertarian, and what a libertarian administration could accomplish. Then back to the dark side again. How Trump would be a dark stain on American politics forever and ever Amen. The tone and structure of the speech should make it clear that he is giving up on a dream and is about to announce he's quitting.

He should then conclude with a review of the speculation that he was preparing to withdraw from the race. And just as everyone is anticipating that he is about to announce he's out, he changes up the whole thing. No way he's quitting. Most wonderful opportunity of his life. Win or lose, the proudest moment of his political career. Gary Johnson is the most honest, sincere, and transformative politician he has ever worked with. Carl Bernstein must the one taking too many tokes. Where could he possibly have come up with such an outrageous notion that Weld would quit? And where does he get off speaking so arrogantly and dismissively about Gary Johnson and all Libertarians? Is Bernstein actively shilling for the Hillary campaign? Are they really that desperate and conniving?
And this could have all happened on live TV. For days folks would be talking about Libertarians. Some might recognize the subtle deception in the set up for the event, but millions would be celebrating how those wily Libertarians, those Davids in a sea of Goliaths, had punked the media. Beat them at their own game. Used them as a tool to spread the message instead of an obstacle to access. And millions might just learn who the Libertarians are, and that they have another choice. A better choice.

I could write that speech. I would LOVE to write that speech. Maybe it's not too late. Governor Weld, are you listening? Message me. Let's talk.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

So, Our Dog Died Yesterday

So, our dog died yesterday. Our faithful companion Khaki left us Monday morning. This started out as a short piece for me to collect my thoughts and emotions on the event, but before I knew it, I realized I was writing a eulogy for a dog! I've seen Facebook posts in the past from friends who've lost pets, and you can tell by the posts and the replies to those posts, that my grief is a sentiment that is felt by millions of animal lovers every day. So feel free to read this as a eulogy to your absent pet. I hope it makes you smile in fond remembrance of a furry friend that you still hold dear. 


There is nothing on this earth purer or more beautiful than the soul of a dog. 


I have my favorite breeds, of course, but even the ones I can't imagine ever choosing for myself have that special something that makes them a dog. I often remind myself that no matter how plain, how ridiculous looking or how yappy someone else's dog may be, deep inside that little beast is still the soul of a dog, so of course they are loved. We love our dogs. We can't help ourselves. We call them dumb animals, but that's not true. Well sometimes it is, but often, that just adds to their charm. Each one has a complex personality known only to those who have loved them for years and taken the time to appreciate all there is inside. And often, we've watched that personality evolve as they have grown up in our families, just as if they were our children. Except to their credit, dogs hold on to that childlike innocence throughout their entire lifetime. If only our real children were so generous, but I guess they compensate for that by giving us grandchildren. That innocence and purity of soul gives dogs a kind of superpower. You can often learn a lot about people by how they feel about dogs. And finally of course, dogs have their secret weapon. They offer us unconditional love. Where else do they sell that? I recall the meme, “I'm trying to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am.” 


So what has become of our darling boy Khaki? I don't believe in God, but I believe in heaven. I am not a Believer, but I believe Khaki has gone to heaven to join our other dog Bailey. Bailey was already part of our family when Khaki joined us 15 years ago, and she's been gone for some time now. I believe they are in heaven together now because that is what I choose to believe. It gives me comfort to believe that, so I have simply decided to believe it. I'll tell the girls at work he's in heaven. I'll tell the 4 year old and the 6 year old that occasionally visit that he is in heaven. I'll tell my wife who is a Believer and my son who is not, that Khaki is in heaven. I don't strictly Believe this explanation, but I do joyously embrace it as my image of heaven. Heaven, for me, is not a place in the sky where God lives. Heaven, for me is a place in my memory where all the people I have ever loved live. They live there with all the dogs I have ever loved. Oh, and I almost forgot Kittyman. Turns out there's one cat in heaven. Bailey and Khaki will just have to deal with it. 


When we knew Khaki's time was short on this earth, we called Erin in Boston. Khaki was more her dog than anyone else's. She was in middle school when we got him, and she was the one who chose him at the shelter. Erin decided to come home. That might surprise some of you. Others, not so much. As we drove home from the airport yesterday, Erin was picturing Khaki's heaven as she saw it. Bailey will rush to greet him and show him all the cool stuff in heaven. “There's fences to jump, and muddy water we can play in again, and the best news is you never have to get a bath afterwards. Oh, and all the gluten you can eat without the skin rash!” 


 Whenever Erin comes home to visit, we have a tradition in the McVay household. Erin coined a term for it. She calls it Margarita Fiesta. We typically spend an hour or so on the evening of her arrival sitting down over margaritas, guacamole and chips to catch up on each others' news. Inevitably, a chip would fall on the floor, to Khaki's delighted surprise. At first it was an accident, but as time went on, it became part of the tradition. We had our Margarita Fiesta last night, and last night we spent the time exchanging Khaki stories. How his ears made him look a lot like Yoda. How Erin would always call him Sweet Boy, while I would call him “Little Boy”, and Mary Pat would call him “Big Boy, and how for some reason, those last two names never evoked any sort of cognitive dissonance on our part. I thought of how bad his breath could be at times, but how wonderful his fur always smelled to me. How if ever Erin would wrestle or rough house on the floor with anyone whether dog or human, Khaki would come to her rescue but oddly enough always express his concern by nipping at her, and not her faux adversary. How Khaki was the family lifeguard. Be careful splashing too vigorously in the pool or Khaki would jump in and rush to your rescue in a frenzied dog paddle, claws first. Discerning swimmers quickly learned to straight arm their approaching rescuer and gently redirect him toward the pool steps. Trust me. No one was ever grateful for a rescue by the Khakster. And true to the Margarita Fiesta tradition, thanks to Erin's “clumsiness”, a chip hit the floor last night for the little boy. So Khaki, I hope you appreciate this. You didn't just get a eulogy, you got a wake too. 


Khaki was spared a final a trip to the vet. And if you've ever been in that situation, you know that this means that we were spared a final trip to the vet as well. We had planned one for yesterday after Erin's arrival, but circumstances intervened. I'm glad they did. When you have an older pet, at first you want to put off as long as possible that day when they are no longer there to greet you at the door. But paradoxically, after a while, you stop praying it will never happen and start praying that it will happen soon, while life is good, and before they begin to suffer. Khaki got lucky, and so did we. 


 In the end Khaki died as Erin and I were driving home from the airport. A bit sad for us, but a sadness outweighed by the circumstances of his death. Khaki died at home lying by the side of our bed where he often slept. Mary Pat was with him, petting him and telling him what a good boy he was. Khaki has been deaf as a post for several years now, but we think his eyesight remained pretty good. I'm convinced that even if he couldn't hear the words “Good Boy”, he'd heard and seen them spoken so often in the past that he could probably lip read them. Good Boy and a loving touch were the last things Khaki experienced in his life with us. I hope I am so lucky when my time comes. I'd said my goodbye the night before. I lay beside him for an hour or so just petting him. At one point I kissed the top of his head and smelled his fur. I touched the tip of my nose to his, and, ever so briefly, he licked the tip of my nose. I will choose to let those be my last memories of my little boy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I've Got a Question for Bill Kristol


Bill Kristol posted a somewhat cryptic Tweet this weekend. 

He is hinting at an impressive independent candidate with a strong team and a real chance.  I first saw this tweet while Will and I were doing the radio show last Sunday, and I misinterpreted it to be a reference to Gary Johnson's having just won the Libertarian nomination a few hours earlier. Of course, that was wrong.  As Will pointed out, Bill Kristol is a strong Neoconservative, and he will certainly not find Johnson appealing. I've seen no follow-up from Kristol in the two days since the tweet.  People have speculated that the candidate could be Mitt Romney, but I doubt it.  Mostly, folks are just confused by what Kristol could possibly have in mind. Most of the speculation has centered around the impossible nature of a last minute independent bid.  The filing deadline for Texas has already passed, and other states' deadlines will soon pass as well.  And even then, getting on the ballot in many of these states requires a lengthy, exhausting, and expensive effort in collecting signatures.

But maybe Bill Kristol has been reading our stuff.  For a few months now, some of us Libertarians have been fantasizing about a somewhat whimsical campaign  strategy.  Mind you, this is not the Johnson campaign strategy, just the bizarre hallucinations of a few crazy Libertarians with too much time on their hands.  The plan is described in the following scenario:  Gary Johnson concentrates his efforts in a small number of states with the focus being to win at least one small state, or a state where Electoral College electors are allocated proportionally.  Nebraska and Maine allocate one vote to each Congressional District, and the remaining two votes to the overall statewide winner.  The rest of the states are winner take all.  We then hope that Trump and Hillary fight to a draw or near draw where they each fail to win a majority of the electoral votes.  There are 538 Electoral College votes.  One for each member of the House and Senate (535) plus 3 more for the District of Columbia.  Total of 538.  You need a majority to win the presidency, that is 50% plus one.  That's 270 votes.  One possible result could look like this: 

Clinton    269
Trump     268
Johnson   1

Total        538

That throws the race to the House of Representatives.  The 12th Amendment mandates that the House choose from among the top three Electoral College vote getters.  In our Libertarian fantasy, the newly elected, and presumably still Republican House of Representatives, led by Paul Ryan (no Trump fan he) makes the following calculation:
  1. We're never going to vote for Hillary. 
  2. We despise Trump almost as much and have been praying for a means by which to jettison him.  
  3. We'll vote for Johnson, a former two term Republican governor, and suffer the shitstorm that ensues.
Trump voters will be furious, as will Clinton supporters who got even more votes.  House Republicans may lack the courage to make this choice, but it's a possibility.  I did, after all, acknowledge that the plan was a fantasy.  The plan would be a little easier if Hillary actually leads Trump by a small margin.  That could provide some cover for a Republican House in their defense against an angry Republican electorate. After all, if they just awarded the presidency to the winner of the plurality, they'd have to give it to Hillary. 

So what if Kristol is pondering the same strategy?  Find a candidate.  Marry him or her up with enough #Never Trump donors to run a credible, but geographically and strategically limited campaign, and concentrate all efforts in states and Congressional Districts where they think they have a fighting chance of winning.  The more Electoral College votes the candidate wins, the better the chance that both Trump and Hillary fail to achieve the magic 270, but under ideal circumstances, all it takes is one electoral vote for the "spoiler".  Some will argue that this independent strategy has never worked in the past.  Even Ross Perot with 19% of the popular vote got no Electoral College votes.  That's true, but Perot was running a nationwide campaign against relatively popular mainstream candidates.  Kristol's candidate will be opposing the most polarizing and despicable human beings in the western hemisphere, and all efforts will be focused like a laser beam on areas of the country where success is most likely.

So where do you focus your resources if you want the easiest wins of the most Electoral College votes?  And where, if you lose the state, you don't accidentally alter the establishment expectations of Trump vs Clinton wins to the point that you tip one or the other to an Electoral College majority where they might otherwise have fallen short?  First, maybe focus on Nebraska and Maine where you might eke out one or more of the proportionally allocated votes.  More on that later.  You might also focus on swing states with the easiest ballot access and the largest numbers of independent voters, especially the states where Trump and Hillary both lost their respective primaries by the largest margins.  Or maybe you flood the zone in small states where you can get the biggest Electoral College bang for the smallest number of limited campaign bucks.  I'm sure that a decent team of election professionals and maybe a computer algorithm or two could come with a potentially winning strategy based on those principles.

And who's the candidate?  Here's a list of criteria that would make the most sense in diminishing order of relevance:

Neoconservative leanings or at least not totally hostile to Neoconservative views or else Kristol would not be the prime mover here.  

Obviously none of this years failed Republican candidates need apply

Someone of substance or the effort would be doomed from the start.
Pro life.   Not critical, but, there are no candidates currently in the race who are pro life.  Pro lifers are motivated, and they vote.  Trump says he is pro life, but he's a liar, and most of the pro life folks know it.  Kristol would have to pick a real superman to pass up a pro life candidate here.

Moderate Republican, moderate Democrat or independent.   Not polarizing and equally appealing to disaffected Republicans and Democrats.    

Not currently in the political arena.  That will help insulate this candidate from the inevitable accusations of spoiler.  If they are currently in politics, this could be a career ending enterprise if it fails.  They will need to be willing to take a bullet for their country if the effort is unsuccessful.

Favorite son of a state or district that offers best odds for a win.

Here is my current short list based on a limited imagination and my imperfect knowledge of the players from whom I believe Kristol would choose.

Robert Gates
David Petraeus
James Mattis
Ben Sasse
Absolutely top of the list is Robert Gates.  He is a remarkable man, with reasonable name recognition amongst those not living under a rock for the past decade.  His character is beyond reproach as far as I know.  His 'straight out of the movies' resume includes Eagle Scout, and current President of the Boy Scouts of America, university president, and of course, an incredible executive resume as Director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense.  He has bi-partison appeal, having served faithfully under presidents of both parties.  He is truly the Dwight David Eisenhower of the 21st century.  And, oh by the way, he served directly with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, so he will be somewhat insulated from attacks from them, and if it becomes necessary, he probably knows where some bodies are buried. I've seen him on the talk shows.  He interviews well, coming across as serious, sincere, capable, and trustworthy.  I believe he is enough of a patriot to take on this task despite its unconventional nature and the risks involved.  The country is after all in great peril.

David Petraeus has many of the same attributes as Gates, so I felt compelled to include him.  He obviously has some major drawbacks which limit his appeal stemming from the extramarital affair and subsequent criminal charges for not safeguarding secret documents.  Apart from the obvious character implications of the affair, the mishandling of secret information charge would somewhat insulate Hillary from her own email troubles, so Petraeus is not as appealing an option as Gates.  Still, there are many who would overlook his negatives if he was the candidate.

James Mattis is on the list only because Kristol had floated the name several weeks ago.  He lacks the name recognition of the others, and frankly, I think the nickname "Mad Dog" is in and of itself a bit too polarizing.  Still, he's on my list.

Finally, on my short list is Ben Sasse. Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska is the outlier.  He doesn't have the name recognition or the resume/gravitas of the others, and he may not be willing to stake his political career on such a risky move.  But he has exhibited the character to defy the Republican Party and proclaim he will not support Trump.  He also hails from Nebraska, one of the states where all you need to do to win an Electoral College vote is come in on top in one of the three Congressional Districts. The downside is, Nebraska is a red state where Trump won the Republican primary with 61% of the vote and won every county in doing it.  Still, a favorite son candidate like Sasse might best Trump if he was on the ballot.  Sasse's chances are slim, that's why he's the last one on my list.

Of course, the strategy is still a long shot.  Can such a candidate even win a single electoral vote?  Can he win enough electoral votes and in the right places to deny both Trump and Clinton the 270 majority in the Electoral College that would make the entire effort worthwhile?  Could you rely on the politically spineless House of Representatives to do the right thing if the strategy succeeded?  What if Clinton gets indicted, drops out, and is replaced with Joe Biden?  Does the strategy still work, or does it now hand the election to Biden?  So many places where the strategy could fail.  But the United States is in serious trouble.  A choice between Trump or Hillary puts this country in serious jeopardy.  Even for Libertarians who are supporting Gary Johnson, the most likely outcome this cycle is a Trump or Clinton win with a consolation prize of a larger and invigorated Libertarian Party.  A man like Robert Gates has a better chance of making this fantasy strategy work than does Gary Johnson.  And if Robert Gates could pull it off, that still leaves open the prospect of a stronger Libertarian Party as well.

OK.  That's my dream put to (digital) pen and paper.  Bill Kristol:  The next move is yours.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Crude Oil in Storage is Rapidly Approaching Full Capacity. So Why is the Price Rising?

Something funny is happening with the price of crude oil. Supply is increasing, demand is decreasing, storage capacity is running out, and yet the price is going up.  Up  from $32.84 a barrel on February 26 to $36.33 a week later on March 4.  That's a rise of 10.63% in one week.  Up almost another 5% today. If you are interested in this topic, listen to about 10 minutes of this Macro Voices podcast starting about 41 minutes. Then come back and read on.  If you have the time, the entire podcast is worth a listen as are the other offerings on their website.  It seems that speculators anticipating a rising price have been able to drive the price up based on their will to see it rise.  And foreign oil ministers have cooperated with press releases hinting at impending production cuts or freezes.  The key to the potential collapse of this house of cards may be the rapidly approaching limit on crude oil storage capacity.

For background, let's review some basics of crude oil storage in the US (Crude Inventories and Storage Capacities)
The following graphic describes how crude is stored, where it's stored, and how much capacity exists.  Ignore the actual storage numbers.  They're from Feb 2015 and are out of date.  Just look at capacity.  That hasn't changed much.

  graph of U.S. crude oil storage capacity, as explained in the article text

PADD is an acronym for Petroleum Administration for Defense District.  The country is divided into PADD districts labeled 1-5.  The map above shows the boundaries of the various PADDs and the graph shows the capacity of each. 
As I mentioned, that data too is a bit dated, but close. 

 The narrative on the webpage defines the terminology such as the difference between working capacity and shell capacity, so check out the actual page to read that and get a fuller understanding.  This diagram below is down at the bottom of the page, and it clarifies the terminology even better.

Inline image 3

For current stats on capacity, check this webpage.  As of this writing, November 2015 is the most recently published data on capacity.  March 2016 data will be published at the end of May.  

Here are the current stats on available storage courtesy of the US government Energy Information Administration.  

 Current working capacity is just over 500 million barrels.   Shell capacity about 100 million barrels more.  That extra 100 million barrels is referred to as contingency space, so I'm not sure when or even if that ever comes into play.  And BTW, these capacities are separate from what's known as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  That capacity is a further 700 million barrels or so and it it practically maxed out now.

The following 2 charts are representations of current stocks of crude oil relative to overall capacity, and they are more current than the chart at the top of the page.  The first chart is stocks vs capacity for only PADD 3 (Gulf Coast) and Cushing, Oklahoma (part of PADD 2).  Cushing is listed separately because it is important to oil markets as the point of delivery for the WTI futures contract for crude. WTI futures contracts for delivery at Cushing are what determines the price of crude.  Cushing and PADD 3 together make up almost 70% of US commercial storage.  Notice we are currently at 84% capacity for these sites, and Cushing alone is at 89%.

Inline image 2 The next graph shows current stock vs a 5yr range.  Notice that 1)  stocks are way above normal, and 2) crude inventories currently stand in excess of 500 million barrels, which is approaching full capacity.
Inline image 1

Finally, here is an excerpt from the most recent EIA weekly report on crude stocks as of this writing. 
(Click here for most recent report)

The third line is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve which is at capacity, not changing and thus irrelevant.  The relevant line is line 2:  Commercial (Excluding SPR).    The value is 518 million barrels which is a 10.4 million barrel build (2%) from the previous week. 

Summary:  All time high in crude in storage.  Still increasing at significant rate.  Rapidly approaching full capacity.  Now is when the 10 minute part of the podcast comes into play.  Price will only loosely obey supply/demand rules as long as storage is adequate.  Speculation and rumors of production cuts/freezes can have significant influence.  But when storage runs out, price can plummet as that represents suddenly reduced demand.(N0 0ne demands crude if they're not using it and now they can't even store it).

So why in the face of this did oil go up 10% last week alone and a further 5.7% today? 

Looks to me like rude should be headed a lot lower in the future.