Real Politics and Real Life

Posted October 8, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2106 Presidential election, Barack Obama, congress, Democratic Party, Economics, GOP, Hillary Clinton, Politics, Republican Party, Trans Pacific Trade Agreement

President Obama captivated much of the American electorate in 2008. His speeches meshed with the disillusionment many Americans felt over the Bush Presidency and frankly the direction America seemed headed. The reality of Obama’s Presidency, however, has turned out quite differently than his ardent supports had imagined.

President Obama has turned out to be a rather indecisive and ineffective chief executive and a dismal partner for Congress (even when Democratically controlled). President Obama, on the other hand, (IMO) will be seen historically as a bright light bulb compared to his predecessor and Congress. President Obama’s policies on overseas engagement, health care, infrastructure investment, immigration reform, and the emergence of Asia as the most important region for US foreign affairs attention will clearly mark him for greatness.

What about 2016?

The GOP field admittedly continues to be hamstrung with the need to select its candidate through a bazaar primary process which drives all the candidates far to the right in order to win the nomination. Once nominated the GOP standard bearer must navigate back to the middle if they are to have a chance of winning in the general election. A lot of opportunity for promising things which will come back to haunt.

With due respect to the GOP process, the field has yet to reveal anyone with “big” ideas. Republicans might argue that killing Obamacare, shrinking government spending, and awarding huge tax cuts to the wealthy are big ideas.   To be sure this political candy would have profound impact since the GOP has proposed nothing to replace or remedy hardships that their big ideas would entail. In short, the GOP seems focus on finding a “leader” who can take charge, not someone who has a sense of “true north”.

Democrats got a refresher view of what a Hillary Clinton Presidency will be like this week. Hillary announced she was opposed to the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement because it did not protect American jobs enough. Hmmm.

President Bill Clinton was a master at making big decisions once he was sure, from poll numbers, where public opinion lay. Hillary made a very similar decision, albeit her focus was more on her two main nomination rivals, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

Hillary’s position has been characterized as a bow to organized labor and bares no connection with the merits of the agreement. My guess is that should Congress approve the agreement anyways, a President Clinton would in future years boast how well her Administration had managed the deal and what an important policy for creating new American jobs.

Hillary Clinton supporters must begin to recognize that there will be a cost with her election. She will most likely not possess the will to make principled choices like President Obama. What a President Hillary Clinton might experience in her terms is only speculative at this point. A President Clinton should be expected to maintain most entitlements and Social Security, and push for immigration reform, protect women rights, and nominate centrist to left of center Supreme Court nominees. She would waiver on all sorts of other issue taking a course of least resistance.

So it may come down to picking a GOP tough talking, shallow thinking candidate, or a Democrat candidate (most likely Hillary) who has their heart in the right place but will wiggle to the left or the right, to this private interest group or that one.  Hmmm, I guess that is Real Life.

The Voice Of The American People

Posted October 5, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2106 Presidential election, congress, Democratic Party, Jason Cheffetz, Mike McCarthy, Politics, Republican Party, Speaker of the House

In an interview today, Representative Jason Cheffetz said he was running for Speaker of the House because the American people want a leader that will hear their voices and lead the Congress in that direction. Hmmm. I wonder what part of the “American people” Cheffetz was thinking of?

To be fair, Cheffetz made a very competent appearance and seemed far more prepared to be Speaker than either retiring John Boehner or the favored successor, Mike McCarthy. As Cheffetz said the Speaker’s job is just that, to speak for the majority and clearly put forth what the American people want. Hmmm.

I wonder who makes up “the American people” that Cheffetz speaks about. Which ones think the debt is important enough to shut down the Government instead of raising the limit and paying the bills for Government spending already spent? I wonder which Americans he has in mind who want to race into another Middle East conflict sending their sons and daughters? I wonder which Americans he is thinking about who would restrict women’s rights or turn their backs on immigration reform?

It is clearly true that Cheffetz could speak for “SOME” Americans. And it is also true that some Americans do favor shutting down the Government over the debt issue. And some Americans do think their religious preferences around women’s health issues should apply to everyone (religious freedom, I guess). And there is no doubt that some Americans would gladly send other peoples children to Iraq again or any place in the Middle East. So it is clear Cheffetz does speak for at least some Americans.

We should note, however, that the debt issue is a sad surrogate for a Congressional inability. Congress can neither reform entitlements or constrain other government spending, and is totally unwilling to raise the necessary taxes resulting from their unbalanced budget. The Debt is a red herring. The issue is a balanced budget.

Interestingly when the discussion moves to the budget, Cheffetz speaks for even a smaller segment of Americans. Some Americans do not see the value of Social Security, but many more do. Some Americans want to reign in Medicare and Medicaid, but many more recognize the social implications and might support some reform but in no way would they support wholesale gutting of these programs.

Democrats are somewhat shocked to be seeing the majority GOP melting down and showing clearly that as a party they are currently unfit to govern.

Americans’ voice needs to rise up and say, “ENOUGH”. America is a pluralistic country and there are many voices within its boarders. The next Speaker needs to recognize this fact, drop the partisan shenanigans, and conduct votes where all voices are heard.

Who that could be I have not a clue.

The Limits Of Political Speak

Posted October 3, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Barack Obama, guns, mass murders, NRA, Roseburg Oregan

This week, in Roseburg, Oregon, another inexplicable mass murder took place. A gunman carrying 6 of his 13 weapons stormed into the local community college and began shooting. When the shooter was finally “neutralized”, nine people were dead and 10 others wounded. There was no obvious motive. Law enforcement authorities cited “hate” as the killer’s motivation.

What seemed to be overlooked was the shooter motivation might have been simply because “he could do it”.

President Obama spoke from the White House calling again into question America’s gun laws and accepted practices. Pointing out the comparison with all other modern countries, only the US has so many guns in the hands of its citizens and experiences so many gun related deaths. The President wonder why was that?

Gun related killings joins a dubious list of other American firsts. America spends more than any other modern country on healthcare (two times) and receives health outcomes no better or worse than countries like Japan, Canada, UK, or Germany. America also spends more on K-12 education per student and ranks mediocre when compared to other modern countries. American prisons incarcerate more persons per capita than its peers at a huge tax payer costs. And, America spends more on “defense” then the rest of the world combined. Hmmm.

Saying that something is wrong with healthcare, education, criminal justice, and defense spending is an understatement. Yet, politicians dance around these subjects using phrases like “we must do better”. Why is that?

The Supreme Court has ruled that all Americans (with some exceptions) have a Constitutional right to possess fire arms. One can question the Court’s logic, but for starters that decision is the law of the land.

The Court has not ruled that Americans are entitled to own unlimited numbers of weapons nor should they be allowed to own tanks and anti-aircraft weapons. From this light, it seems reasonable that certain limits on gun ownership are within the prerogative of State and local governments. The question is which ones?

The President spoke from his heart following the Oregon killings. Unfortunately, his words were woefully inadequate. He said things that most all legislators already know as do most intelligent Americans. The President did not say what needed to be done.

The tried and true remedy laid out for all the recent mass killings is “stricter background checks”. Political speaks says “we must keep guns out the hands of criminals and those suffering from mental health issues”. So here’s a questions.

Why should anyone possess more than one weapon in the first place?

Sport is a reasonable response. For example, one might want a special gun such as deer rifles, shot guns for large and small game, and pistols for personal protection while in the wilderness. The Oregon killer was legally able to purchase 12 hand guns and one assault weapon. Where is the sport in that?

It is time for the President to say what is necessary. Possessing fire arms is not an unlimited right, gun possession is a special privilege. Accordingly, gun ownership must be accompanied with certain compliance measures by prospective owners.

Here is a proposal.  A gun owner must have a mental health background checks every five years, show proof of secure storage facilities, agree to no “concealed” (on ones body) or “public” carry, transport guns only in secured containers, and when purchasing the second or subsequent gun, show proof of a bond or insurance for unauthorized or illegal use of his/her guns.

The 2nd Amendment famously says “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Common sense should have guided the Supreme Court to emphasizing “regulated” and recognizing “militia” to be an obsolete reference to private armed groups protecting farms and villages (today we have police and a Federal standing army.

Common sense should also tell us that the problem is related to aspects of multiple gun ownership. Authorities estimate that the US possesses over 300 million guns (about one for each resident). Most Americans do not own guns of any type. This means that many others possess many and multiple gun owners are still free to acquire more.

In most major cities, the newspapers recount shootings and gun related murders every day. And, the largest single class of gun related murders is suicide. Guns are American means of choice.

The President needs to say what needs to be done. The number of guns in the US must be reduced. There will be a huge outcry from the NRA and many individuals. There is no other way to reduce senseless mass murders or to reduce the indiscriminate use of guns in one on one shootings until the number of guns is significantly reduced.

No guns, no shootings.

Saying What You Mean

Posted October 1, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2106 Presidential election, catholic church, Democratic Party, GOP, Iraq, kim davis, Mike McCarthy, pope francis, Religion, Republican Party, same sex marriage, Speaker of the House, Syria

There is a familiar expression which goes, “Say what you mean, mean what you say”. Recent Washington events can put some dimensions around this saying. The events were the Pope’s visit, Representative Mike McCarthy’s comments on Benghazi, and the GOP’s perspective on the Russian entry into Syria.

1. The Pope’s visit was a smashing success for Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. The Pope’s use of symbolism to emphasize the importance of humility, tending to the poor, and acceptance of all people was moving. In carefully crafted language the Pope verbally communicated what he tried to symbolize, and, also carefully alluded to catholic dogma which most Americans find less acceptable.

Namely, the Pope gave no room for a greater role for women in the Catholic Church, nor did the Pope offer hope for a more sensible approach to family planning, and the Pope omitted any direct reference for an equal place in life for the GLBT community. The Pope said this by not saying anything to the contrary.

But wait, we now have heard that the Pope met privately with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for contempt for denying marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. In an eerily similar move to transferring a priest accused of child abuse or paying hush money to victims on the basis of them dropping criminal charges, the church once again tried to have it both ways.  The Pope kept speaking about the sanctity of all persons while his conservative handlers orchestrated a private meeting endorsing Davis’ actions.

Clearly child abuse is a human problem and not restricted to the celebrant church officials. Being opposed to birth control or abortion are matters of conscience and these beliefs can be widely held. The Catholic Church stepped out of bounds when it supported the suppression of information on criminal activity (presumably to not tarnish the church’s reputation) and now when it supports illegal actions (Davis refusal to issue licenses) to advance the church’s faith based beliefs.

Meeting openly with Kim Davis is one issue, not meeting with women’s groups or members of GLBT groups sends an equally clear message about the still broken planks in the church’s efforts to represent itself as a modern church.

2. Representative Mike McCarthy has declared his intentions to seek the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Speakers job goes to someone who is a GOP leader and well informed on GOP strategy.  In comments to Fox News, McCarthy committed an unforced error by speaking the truth. When asked to name some accomplishments of the GOP controlled House, McCarthy cited the Benghazi select committee. McCarthy attributed the drop in Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers as a direct consequent of the GOP lead investigation and proof of its accomplishment.

For anyone with a heart beat, the investigation’s purpose has been clear for a long time. For McCarthy to utter this confirmation is amazing (for telling the truth) and completely a political mistake for admitting what was patently obvious. It should be no wonder why public opinion polls of Congress register so low.

3. In the murky Syrian situation, so many Republican politicians and GOP Presidential hopefuls are weighing in on “President Obama’s failed policies”. Each one of these critics decry the President’s policies of limited involvement but also cling to the notion that troops on the ground are not necessary. “The US is not acting, Russia is”, they spout. “Our allies will begin to forsake the US and turn to Russia”, the political rhetoric goes. Hmmm.

There is no question that Syria has become a humanitarian tragedy. But if Iraq has taught anything, it is that American idealism is sorely misplaced as the foundation of a Middle East strategy. There is no Russian idealism and doing what is necessary to keep Assad in power is all that is necessary.  (Like with Afghanistan when Russia invaded and was eventually defeated, Syria is equally a bed Russia will not like to sleep in.)

If the GOP really is interested in ending the Syrian turmoil and defeating ISIS, there must be honesty about what it would take. Nothing less than another Iraq type invasion and occupation with most likely a subsequent redefinition of regional boundaries would be necessary. All of this would need to be supported by a US draft and imposition of war taxes. (I wonder whether Mike McCarthy would admit that too?)

What Should GOP Hopefuls Talk About Next?

Posted September 28, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2106 Presidential election, Democratic Party, False Prophets, john boehner, Politics, Republican Party, Syria

With the GOP Presidential nomination marathon heading into October, still over a year away from the general election, the quandary of what candidates are to talk about is becoming evident. Donald Trump has gotten the pole position by slamming his opponents. Who could be next? Ben Carson has risen to number 2 by speaking sanely (until his remarks on a Muslim President). Sanity, however, seems it can only get one so far.   Carli Florina has jumped into the top group by saying the obvious about Trump.  More of that is old news.   And, Marco Rubio has kept his head above water by appealing to like minded voters with his fresh face and charm.  At some point, Rubio needs to appeal to a broader group.

Jeb Bush appears a bit like a “birthday balloon” slowly loosing its air. He seems to lack spirit (energy) and totally has not found any reason to put forward why he should be nominated. Huckabee is purely an opportunist and after his Kim Davis gambit, he is eyeing a block of Southern States which would make him a contender at the convention. The rest of the crowd at this point are going nowhere even though John Kasick continues to speak like a real Presidential candidate.

So what’s next for these candidates?

Over the weekend, the contenders weighed in on Syria and the recent Russian activity. Each of their speeches took a similar form. “President Obama failed to do this or that, and what he tried to do failed”. As political speech, why not?

John Boehner has the answer. Boehner was speaking about the GOP Tea Party-ers who thwarted almost everything Boehner tried to get done, said “beware of false prophets, they promise more than they can deliver”.

President Obama’s Syrian policies have been handicapped by a nation tired of war and a Congress unwilling to increase tax to pay for a war. The President’s Middle East strategies have been prescient in view of the changing global political realities but ran will into the demagoguery over Isreal. Committing military resources to the Middle East will do nothing to deal with China, Russia, or rogues like North Korea.

The prospects of arming “good” Syrian insurgents and guiding them to eliminate ISIS and ultimate overthrow Basher al Assad is simply delusional and mostly a fools errand. But it does make good political talk.

The country as a whole needs a reminder about false prophets more than once. Some people actual believe that Social Security and Medicare will be changed with a GOP President or accept lock, line, and sinker that Obamacare will be repealed (and replaced). False prophets will promise these actions but will never be able to deliver.

On the other hand, there is a need for a Middle East policy which combats ISIS (or whatever group comes after it). There is a need for ensuring Social Security becomes financially secure. And healthcare (Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare) are woefully deficient compared to other global healthcare models.

In other words there is plenty of room to propose specific measures on the Middle East, entitlements, and healthcare but these policies must be set within a greater context of Domestic and Foreign affairs and most importantly, how the country will fund them.

John Boehner’s “Courageous” Decision?

Posted September 26, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: congress, Democratic Party, house of representatives, john boehner, Politics, Republican Party, tea party

Speaker of the House, John Boehner, announced his resignation as Speaker and also from the House effective the end of October. The announcement surprised Washington and confused the world outside the Beltway. Why did he resign when the fight was still in progress?

Several reasons have already been given and almost certainly more theories will be put forth. From many of the new Tea Party members, the words are “good riddance”. Others say no compromise within the GOP is possible, so a new leader is ok. Still others lament the loss of a realist. But why did he resign?

Opponents had vowed to unseat him as Speaker and after a distinguished career this would have been a sad way to end ones time in office. Others were sure Boehner could survive any challenge and this is what Boehner himself professed. So why did he resign?

In Belgium, whenever the Parliament approves a spending project for the Flemish speaking region (the northern part), there is a equal appropriation which calls for spending in the south (the French part). In many regards this is what Federal Governments are about. How to distribute general taxes (or debt obligations) in a manner which keeps the peace. Most of Boehner’s opponents are fundamentally against government spending and so an incentive of money to their district has much less attraction.

Someday on “60 Minutes” John Boehner may say why he resigned. He may say he was sick and tired dealing with a faction within his own party which preferred legislative action hurtful to the GOP and to the Country (despite their protestations to the opposite). Most likely Boehner resigned in frustration. Everything he had learned about Government did not hold with this crop of Representatives. Boehner simply could not get anything accomplished which he could support. At some point he said I am not waiting until these Tea Party Representatives grow up.

Boehner’s future is nothing we should worry about. If he chooses to work, he can make a fortune as a lobbyist. He could just as easily earn an handsome income as a University President or a senior officer of a Financial institution. With Boehner’s connections and experience, he will not starve.

The question of whether Boehner’s resignation signals a courageous decision is quite another matter. While the GOP, as a whole, has stood for privilege and not the common person for many years, our system requires two healthy and constructive parties. One party’s policies should stand ready to offset the poor consequences of the other. Once in power, however, a party should be allowed to implement its policies and after a period of time, voters should decide to continue or switch to the opposition. This no longer happens in Washington.

Lack of action might seem acceptable except that essential services are being treated the same as controversial ones like abortion. If Boehner resigned because he could not figure out how to bring the House back into responsible functioning, I would say this was a great act of courage. If Boehner just found a way to satisfy his frustration (and maybe disgust), then regardless of how understandable, resignation is not very courageous.

Pope’s Congressional Speech

Posted September 25, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: catholic church, congress, contaception, death penalty, GLBT, homosexuals, pope francis, Religion

Pope Francis gave a wonderfully crafted speech to assembled Congressional members and guests yesterday. The Pope spoke broadly yet delivered targeted messages on individual freedoms and collective responsibility, especially those towards leaving the next generation with a livable planet.

Speaking passionately about the dignity of all men and the importance of family (clearly including women), the Pope was silent on the GLBT community. For sure, his measure of human respect seemed applicable  to all including GLBT.  He just didn’t call them by name. What was missing was recognition that GLBT humans were fully worthy of an unencumbered and respectful place within the Catholic Church. In other words, the Pope neither stated openly nor inferred any change in Catholic dogma which considers the GLBT community as engaging in aberrant behavior.

The Pope also spoke to the sanctity of life. He made a passionate reference urging Congress to those seeking a new home (immigrants) and called for law makers to respect life at all stages of development.

Pro-lifers cheered interpreting the Pope’s comments as an anti-abortion position. The Pope most likely did mean this but also said all countries should end the death penalty which most hard right legislators do not accept.

At the most optimistic perspective, the Pope’s speech was a signal that church dogma would relook at the extremes of “respecting all humans” and the “sanctity of life”.

Homosexuality has been long a taboo within the Catholic Church dogma. “Unnatural” is often used to describe homosexuality and “traditional” family is the code for man-woman family units. With scientific studies showing homosexuality as well as gender assignments being matters of nature and not the result of nurture, it becomes more difficult every day for Catholics to accept Church teaching on homosexuality and for clergy to maintain intellectual honesty claiming something which is quite normal to not be. How can the church preach the need for mankind to respect each other (and not make war or abandon the poor) while at the same time singling out that some are different that the rest?

The Pope also has his work cut out to examine the extremes of “sanctity of life”. At the older end of life, “death with dignity” is a growing preference for many. Church teachings absolutely ban such actions in which someone voluntarily ends ones life.

Someone choosing suicide at age 25 simply because they were despondent seems unwarranted and should not be accepted by society. But what about someone who has lived a full life and is suffering from some terminal disease? Is keeping someone alive when they are heavily medicated and incapable of making any life decisions humane?

The Pope singled out the “death penalty” as a practice society should end. This seems a reasonable wish since the death penalty has never been shown to be a deterrent to crime. But let’s not stop there.  What about war? What about the protection of the civilian, noncombatant population?

The opposite extreme of life is pregnancy, birth, and early life. The church has made clear its positions that sexual intercourse has purpose only in creating life. Accordingly, sex for the pleasure of sex is not recognized by the Church. And should an unwanted pregnancy occur, this pregnancy must be seen through to birth no matter what. Hmmm.

The modern church regrettably has knowledge of contraception and how it can be successfully used in family planning. In the case of an unwanted pregnancy, there also exists safe methods to end the pregnancy and still hold open the option for children later in life.

The “pro-choice” and “pro-life” groups differ mostly around when life begins. Pro-choice advocates emphasize “viability”, that is the fetus can survive if taken from the womb. Pro-life advocates cite “conception” as the beginning of life regardless that there are estimates that more than half of all conceptions are naturally aborted.  This is when an abortion is not an abortion.

More troubling abortions occur when fetuses are genetically damaged or physically deformed. Is it ethical or morally correct to abort these fetuses. The Catholic Church is clear, no way, no how. Hmmm.  Who should care for these poor souls, if they survive birth and the mother is unable?

So the Pope’s homework with respect to sanctity of life and dignity of man demands a relook at contraception and homosexuality. Contraception brings the means of preventing unwanted pregnancies. Homosexuality and gender identity appear now to be based upon nature and no acquired preference. With the modern world more aware of what’s going on around them, these church dogmas which diverts markedly from reality (take what they say on faith), may lead the masses to not hear the Pope’s other important messages.

Pope Francis’s Congressional speech was a message Congress badly needed to hear. While the speech may have fallen upon deaf ears, the message was also appropriate for his clergy and the population at large.

The speech will live on as a great speech should the Pope find a way to address the gapping gaps in logic surrounding contraception and homosexuality.


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