Great America From Down Under

Posted February 18, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Uncategorized, Politics, Barack Obama, Religion, Republican Party, Democratic Party, GOP, foreign policy, Donald Trump, financial industry, George W Bush

I am traveling presently in Australia. The experience has been both stimulating and at the same time therapeutic. There is hope that rational political views can dominate a society.

Thankfully Australian television news offers only snippets of American political drama yo remind me of the opposite. Regretfully Australian international news reports, augmented with internet news, has allowed me to experience the perverse contrast between a sane political system and the pseudo-“Make America Great Again” crowd.

Australia may not be a great power, or great in all things. But in terms of government civility and general hospitality of its population, it offers American visitors a breath of fresh air. To be sure, for xenophobes, religious zealots, and anti-gays, Australia is far less attractive than the Trump/GOP Sponsored America.

The big Australian political debate is whether the country’s energy goal should be 30% renewable or 50%. Cannabis, women and gay rights, and voting requirements are all settled issues. Australia does struggle with integrating diversity into its society but the government’s public face is four square behind respect for all groups.

Conversely, the US public face which most of the world saw as wise and prudent (and maybe a little too timid) under President Obama is flabbergasted over who this person Trump is, and what in the world he is really about.

IMO, all the signs of a George W Bush Administration are present. Trump/GOP combo will with one hand emasculate regulatory and public service departments, and with the other cut and dice Americans by vilifying the media, demonizing certain religions and creating a false fear around Mexico and Mexicans.  The call is clear to take sides.

What does the future look like?

Most likely unforeseen events (like Katrina, Iraq, or the mortgage scandal)  will bring the Trump/GOP regime to its knees. Whether it is hubris or just plain incompetence, Trump et al will reap the consequences of a short sighted, mean spirited populous agenda.

The Infield Cutters

Posted February 10, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Democratic Party, GOP, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

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There is a type of person who earns the title “infield cutter”. Imagine a foot race where the objective is to run around an oval track from the starting line to the finish line. The “infield cutter” starts the race normally, but part way through, the “infield cutter” does just that. The runner leaves the oval track and runs across the infield emerging on the other side, much closer to the finish line. The “infield cutter” then races to the finish line claiming victory.

To the “infield cutter”, the victory is both earned and deserved. To most others, the “infield cutter” is a cheat or a fraud.

President Donald Trump’s campaign and early days as President have been marked with frequent and outrageous examples where the term “infield cutter” seems appropriate. The infamous travel ban is a case in point. Had the Trump White House have taken time, considered the nature of each of the 7 failed States, an executive order could have been crafted that increased the level of vetting to “extreme” while still accommodating current green card and visa holders AND his order would have been seen as a legitimate use of executive power.

Instead, the Trump Administration pushed ahead conflating presidential powers and sound sensible reasoning. Today, the Administration continues to argue the President has the power to issue a ban despite the Constitutions various requirements for no religious test and due process.

Infield cutter have a giant blind spots. Rules do not apply to them and when they cross the finish line, they think “the ends justify the means”. An even bigger blind spot is the infield cutter do not recognize that the rules are now changed for everyone else too.   In the future, it will be much harder for the infield cutter to pull off the same type of win.

With someone like Donald Trump who has consistently claimed facts unsupported by factual evidence, a dangerous precedent will be establish if courts simply accept his “trust me, I am exercising my Presidential powers”.

Trump, more than anyone else in recent history needs to be forced to play by established rules. Trump regularly discredits the media, has spoken against science (and facts), has identified minorities for special treatment, and is speaking louder and louder about law and order. All of these actions were followed by the Nazis.

Hmmm.

The Betsy DeVos Message

Posted February 8, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Democratic Party, Donald Trump, GOP, Healthcare, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

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Vice President Mike Pense cast the tie breaking confirmation vote clearing the way for billionaire Betsy DeVos to become Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education. Did the first time in history tie breaking vote by the Vice President send a message? And if so, what was it?

Without a doubt Vice President Pence’s vote signal that the greater Republican team won the Presidency and Congressional control and the new sheriff is going to have his way.

What else could the Vice President’s action signaled?

Any previous nominee who had engendered so much criticism and faced the prospect of not even receiving unanimous Senate republican support would have withdrawn their name to minimize the embarrassment to her party. But not Betsy DeVos.

Ms DeVos is an extremely wealthy evangelical zealot. Not only does she hold religious views, she is wealthy enough to force them on others by the strength of her wallet. DeVos’ career has coupled frequent generous donations to politicians and a well financed advocacy for charter schools and education vouchers. DeVos, herself, is not an educator. She is a advocate.

So what is wrong with an advocate having a turn as Education Secretary? Aren’t the real controls of public schools held by the States and local school districts?

The Secretary of Education has very little statutory authority. The position’s power lies in recommendations and promises (or denial) of Federal dollars to induce States and School Districts to follow her recommendations. Simply being an advocate is not IMO a good enough reason to deny Ms DeVos the cabinet post. Being a religious zealot is, unless there is some way Ms DeVos could and would recuse herself on education matters involving religion.

That’s not going to happen, largely because that was the main purpose of nominating DeVos in the first place… a polite thank you to evangelicals and conservative Catholics.

So again, what was the DeVos confirmation message?

How’s this for the message. “The Republican Party is prepared to support legislation which advantages certain distinct groups of supporters regardless of the impact upon everyone else”.

Remember that message and watch what will emerge as the “replace” component of “repeal and replace”. You can go the bank right now that Republican healthcare legislation will cover fewer Americans, provide less coverage, and offer the wealthiest significant tax savings.

Unlike healthcare, Federal Education Policy is far less likely to produce profoundly adverse impact upon American students’ educational experience in the next four years. States and local districts play too significant a role and Federal money which might sway local districts is still small compared to districts’ total budget.

The Trump/DeVoss Education Policy will attempt to reward supporters, be neutral to most Americans, and not surprisingly, ignore the needs of the most vulnerable. Remember that when one third of the Senators come up for election in 2018.

The Art Of Speaking Past The Issue

Posted February 6, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Democratic Party, Donald Trump, GOP, Republican Party, Uncategorized

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Republican leaders have, somewhat embarrassingly, joined President Trump in denouncing the Federal Court stay of his travel ban against 7 majority Muslim countries.  One can almost hear these GOP leaders saying “here we go again”.

Clearly the President has the authority to deny entry to America based upon national security considerations. And for sure there are precedents. Do you remember how the country was made safe when Yusuf Islam was denied entry by the Bush Administration? There is just no telling how much damage Cat Stevens could have done if he had not been denied entry after the 9/11 attacks.

The Bush Administration’s actions which limited “free speech” contribution from the English singer was condemned by many but not contested as unlawful. The President, wisely or not, was acting as he thought best for the national security.

The Trump Administration claims it is acting similarly, for national security. In a holier than thou tone, Administration officials stress the chief executive has vast authority over the borders. These spokespersons emphasize that the ban in temporary and within the traditional Presidential powers. Hmmm.

Maybe but maybe not.

The Constitution’s first Amendment precludes the use of a religious test as the basis of excluding any foreign visitor or immigrant. But wait, Trump’s people say this ban is about “terrorists”. And what religion do terrorists in these countries have?

As I recall, Donald Trump, the candidate, made a point of emphasizing “radical Islamic terrorists”. How can one minute someone be a terrorist (radical Islamic terrorists) and not the next minute also be a Muslim?

In addition to this paper thin rouge claiming terrorist were not a religious test, the ban blew right by another principle, “due process”. All the people coming from these 7 countries had US approved visas. What process was used to determine the visas were defective?

The ban is patently a “Trump Whistle” designed to prove at least two points. First, Trump supporters can count on him to fulfill his campaign promises (as dubious as some may be). Second, as chief executive, Trump will not be restrained by past practices, political norms, or Constitutional constraints without a fight.

Once again, the public must keep both eyes on the President. It is inconceivable that the bogus justifications for the ban are in and of themselves important.

What is not inconceivable is that the ban can serve to prove “Trump can do it” and “now you see it, now you don’t” on some other issue the Administration will try to slip by the public’s attention.

Foreign Travelers Ban

Posted February 3, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Democratic Party, Donald Trump, foreign policy, GOP, Healthcare, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

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President Trump issued a ban for residents of seven Muslim majority countries from traveling to the US for the next 90 days. Oh, do I feel safer already.

Our President not satisfied with that level of reduced angst ruled out any refugees (from anyplace) coming into the country for the next 120 days too. The blood pressure of millions of Americans just went down with that news.

These announcements, certified “Trump Whistles”, are thinly coded messages to a class of Trump supporters who (take your pick), disapprove of Muslims, don’t like any foreigners, or can’t handle risk assessment (and if less is better, than zero must be best of all).

Congressional Republicans who have spoken in the past about our broken borders justified these new restrictions as a time out to reassess. The GOP leaders claimed foreign visitors come into America and over stay their visas, and according to these elected leaders, the US does not know where these foreigners are. So the Republican leaders reason that stopping foreign travelers with valid visas is a good idea… for a while. Hmmm.

Have you ever heard of a “false sense of security”? This most recent Trump Whistle offers a security blanket to some and a “I told you so” for others. But by any measure, the foreign travelers did not represent any special risk. These travelers were all visa cleared and those seeking asylum represented a fraction of the world’s refugees. And, in terms of Americans who lose their lives each day, foreign traveler terrorists do not make the list.

Of course, it is a dangerous world we live in and reducing current precautions would not be wise. On the other hand, if the government cannot act like an adult, basing decisions on facts (if not science), where will the rest of the population look to see model behavior?  Why should Americans believe anything the Trump Administration says?

It is entirely possible that President Trump’s motives for issuing these travel bans include his “Trump Whistle” shouts to certain supporter groups, and as a clever diversionary action to keep Americans from focusing to long or too deeply on other action President Trump wants to slip by.

“So much in so short a time” has marked the President’s first 10 days. Do you recognize all discussion of President Trump’s conflicts of interest have ceased? Hmmm.

Do you recognize that the Wall between US and Mexico, blowing up NAFTA, canceling the TPP, and now the new economic sanctions on Iran all represent campaign rhetoric but show almost no connection to job creation? Hmmm.

Do you recognize that the “replace” portion of “repeal and replace” has dropped off the radar screen?  Hmmm.

Supreme Decision

Posted February 1, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: ACA, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Donald Trump, gay marriage, gay rights, GOP, Politics, Religion, religious freedom, Republican Party, Supreme Court, Uncategorized

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With the nomination of Federal Appeals Court Judge, Neil Gorsuch, a difficult decision lies in front of Democrat Senators. Do they oppose his confirmation at all costs or do they object but in the end allow him to be confirmed? And more to the point, why in either case?

Judge Gorsuch claims to be someone who interprets the Constitution as the framers intended and reads laws in the context of how they were created, not how they would impact the future. Judge Gorsuch as been described as “Scalia-esq” without the bombastic-ness Antonin Scalia employed. So does Judge Gorsuch deserve a hearing?

It should be very understandable if Democrats chose a “tit for tat” response reflecting Mitch McConnell’s decision to not even give hearings to Merritt Garland. On this basis alone, a logical refusal to confirm could be based.

Over time, however, political sentiment shifts back and forth from conservative to progressive and back. It should therefore not be overlooked that in the future as the recent past, progressives have been nominated. (Judge Garland’s treatment, unfortunately, hurts this argument).  Never the less, a complete stonewall of Gorsuch would only serve to dignify McConnell’s dysfunctional behavior.

Assuming there is a hearing, what questions should be asked? And what type of answers will indicate Judge Gorsuch is not “out of the mainstream”?

Judge Gorsuch calls himself an “originalist” in the Antonin Scalia mold.  Questions around social issues and religious rights represent places where (IMO) “originalists” are the furtherest out on the limb and may be seen as out of the mainstream.

For example, supporting the Little Sisters of the Poor’s or Hobby’s decision not to provide all of Obamacare’s benefits to women for religious reasons runs dead smack into the 14th Amendment (equal protection). The Affordable Care Act required no one to use any birth control method, ACA simply made it available to any woman who so chose. Does Judge Gorsuch believe exercising religious liberty can over ride the 14th Amendment?

Another social issue involves individual gay rights such as employment discrimination and same sex marriage. Does freedom of religion allow someone with “deeply held religious beliefs” to fire or refuse to hire someone, or to withhold services to a customer on the basis of sexual orientation?

And of course, does any government have the right to interfere with a women’s choices on her reproductive health, and by extension, does a person with deeply held religious views or any religious institution have standing in denying any women such rights?

Judge Gorsuch’s beliefs in other areas such as tort, tax, and corporate law, while important, are less relevant since the Judge’s opinions are well known to be the conservative side.

It is instead the social issues which are dividing the country and are not to be found in thoughts of our founding fathers.

A simple principle might be, “believe what you want, live personally your beliefs, do not require others to follow your beliefs”.

Trump Whistles

Posted January 30, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Democratic Party, Donald Trump, foreign policy, GOP, muslims, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

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A familiar technique amongst hate mongers, and frequently employed in communications is what’s called “dog whistle” language. The term refers to  a high pitched whistle sound which dogs can hear but whose frequency is too high for humans. The dog whistle sound is conditioned into the dog’s behavior so when the whistle is sounded, the dog performs as trained.

We may no be seeing the advent of the “Trump Whistle”. Over the weekend, the Trump Administration issued two executive orders which seemed analogous to dog whistle statements. First, the 3 month ban on US entry from any non-citizen coming from one of nine countries and the second was a statement marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The three month ban was sited as a defense against terrorism even though all previous Muslim terrorists came from other countries and there were no recent incidents prompting this type of response.

The Holocaust statement omitted any mention of the 6 million Jews who died during this period. The statement instead talked about all the people who perished as if the Holocaust happened and some Jewish people just happened to get caught up in a bigger problem. Hmmm.

Many individuals, organizations, and news media pundits have reacted to these two orders calling into question whether they are valid. Some argue that Country X should not be on the list, or this type of traveler should not be covered. The Holocaust statement has been denounced as insensitive and out of step with past precedents.

Hmmm, so what, that’s not the point.

Any thinking person knows that since 9/11, there have been no deaths or destruction caused by non-US persons within our borders. While that does not preclude a potential future terrorist event, there is scant evidence that current security measures are insufficient. And why the US Government which is planning to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would omit connecting the Holocaust to Jewish people is unfathomable, unless…

The Trump Whistle is a communication device intended to send a message to certain groups of Americans on one hand, and on the other hand to distract the bulk of Americans, as if they didn’t hear the real message.

Some conservative Christians are only too delighted to see the heathen Muslims called out as different and of course somehow lesser humans. And Holocaust deniers were glad to see President Trump remembered their dislike for Jews.

So while mainstream America was shocked at the two unnecessary executive orders, there is a group of Trump supporters who smiled and said, that’s our man in the White House.