Archive for the ‘2008 Election’ category

The Business OF Politics

July 6, 2015

The Washington Post reported that Ted Cruz raised $10 million in the second quarter and a total of $14.2 million since announcing his candidacy. In addition, his super PACs have raised an additional $37 million. That’s a lot of money (and he’s not done yet) for someone who has about zero chance of gaining the GOP Presidential nomination.

So $25.2 million that Cruz directly controls and another $37 million “uncoordinated” (my foot it is uncoordinated) is over $60 million to flow through a lot of hands. Hmmm.

Could a creative person divert 10-20% through selective business entities that provide services to the candidate? Or even better, what if these campaign funds purchased services from a business that in turn purchased services from etc until the money made it to Cruz or a family member?

Hold on, I am not accusing Ted Cruz of any illegalities, I am simply asking what if?

Most likely, only the crassest and least sophisticated politician directly syphons off money from their super PACs or direct campaign funds. The experienced politicians, I would prefer to think, would instead steer the money towards purchasing necessary services from those who would later throw business, influence, or favors back to the candidate (who presumably would be back in civilian life). Hmmm.

With 16 GOP and 5 Democrat candidates, it is not hard to imagine a cottage industry flourishing around Presidential, Congressional, and Governor races. Billions will be thrown at the 2016 Presidential race alone. And among friends what’s a few hundred million?

One must wonder why the Supreme Court chose to throw out campaign donation limits? Was it a clever plot to trap unsuspecting and greedy politicians? Or, was it a conspiracy of sorts to throw temporary advantage to conservatives who were suspected of having more money to distort public opinions? Hmmm.

Think about it.  Free speech being equated to corporations and unlimited spending seems far removed from the average voter. How could “Joe Average” compete with the Koch Brothers in mounting a civil debate over public policy? Hmmm.

It almost seems that candidates garnering some of the political donations for themselves is the lesser of the real problems created by Citizens United.

The Law Of Diminishing Returns

October 17, 2014

The American education system has been criticized for many shortcomings. None could be any more important that the short shrift of the Law of Diminishing Returns. Said crudely, if a little is good, a lot more must be much better. Hmmm.

How many times have we heard our political leaders recommend a solution for a problem for which there were no symptoms? Remember the voter photo ID laws or the increased regulatory controls for abortion clinics? Both of these situations could not be described as a defect where the recommended solution could be applied and its impact measured for efficacy. (In these cases, of course, the recommended solutions were for a totally different problem than advertised, voter discrimination and eliminating abortions.

America is now facing a situation where logic and scientific ignorance may lead to severe danger from unexpected consequences. Ebola is coming. What should America do?

Thanks to TV news coverage, Americans have seen the failure of a major Dallas hospital while PR spokespersons have valiantly tried to shift the responsibility somewheres else. The Dallas hospital is a large facility which apparently makes money and attracts a lot of affluent people. The hospital had structured itself to deal with a array of normal illnesses at a profit. Life was good.

Then along came Thomas Eric Duncan and life changed. The PR people knew what to do. Show confidence and keep everyone calm. Unfortunately Mr Duncan succumbed to Ebola, and even worse, apparently his care infected two other healthcare workers. Thankfully, the CDC transferred both patients to other more specialized facilities and saved the Dallas hospital from further embarrassment.

So where does the law of diminishing returns come it?

Check out the Congressional hearings. For Congress members, the possibility that some day we may look back and say we could have done more is something that’s not going to happen on their watch. If science says exposed individuals should be isolated for 21 days, then lets increase that number “to be sure”. If someone enters the country and had originally departed from one of the Ebola infected African countries, lets put those people in quarantine. And while we are at it, lets include a wide range of African countries just to be sure.
But what if the person who departed, say Liberia, in January and has been living in Paris flies to JFK (New York)?   Lets quarantine that person too. Why?

We want NO cases that could have been prevented.

Hmmm.

The law of diminishing returns tells us that getting to zero (NO cases), will cost exorbitant amounts of money and still may not be possible. Does this mean do nothing?

Quite the opposite. What we need is for Congress members to ask the scientific community and agencies like the CDC how they can help, not what outcomes they want. If political leaders insist upon trying to play the role of “boss”, they are in way over their heads and good things are not likely in the outcomes.

Serious members of Congress as well as similar White House members must recognize that Ebola is a test run for what might happen if the US suffered a germ warfare attack. The public cannot be expected to understand the specifics or what to do to avoid or prevent the spread of illness. The role of government is make sure the best people are in charge and then to provide whatever support they may need.

Somehow I am not confident the current Congressional crowd is up to that challenge.

Should It Be Frankman or Colen?

December 21, 2008

The Senate race in Minnesota pitting Al Franken against incumbent Norm Coleman is still unsettled and is beginning to smell a little like two month old fish, and getting smellier with newly discovered, or newly lost, or newly reconsidered “rejected” ballot.  At last count, Franken was now leading but the pundits hold out hope for Coleman with the next round of reviews.  No matter who comes out on top at the bitter end, is this justice?

In any election of this size, there must be some error in the vote.  Hopefully the error is random and not the result of purposeful actions.  But the Senate seat is for 6 years and ironically, Minnesota’s Senate vote counts just as much as New York or any other state.  How can the Minnesota winner claim to represent the will of the majority?

Actually the Minnesota situation is even worse.  Both Franken and Coleman each received approximately 42% of the vote.  The remaining 15% went to a third party candidate, Dean Barkley.  With all the huffing and puffing going on, someone ought to consider that neither candidate will receive a majority, no matter how often or how long they recount these votes.  We need a run-off election.

I use the term “we” even though the representation is for Minnesotans.  “We” is important because once in the Senate, the ultimate winner will have a chance to heavily impact legislation that has national importance.  Harry Reid should signal that neither candidate will be seated and a recount is needed now.

Will We Miss What Might Have Been?

November 4, 2008

In 2004, I held my nose and voted for John Kerry.  I was so possessed with disgust for George W Bush, that I voted for someone I would not follow even to K-Mart.  Over his Senate career, Kerry had just become a “shirt”.

Today I will proudly vote for Barack Obama and in truth, would have voted proudly for Hillary Clinton if she had won the nomination.  But I can not help but wonder what I will miss because John McCain is not the next President.

1. John McCain is a man of courage, but does not deserve to be President simply on the basis of the hateful and divisive campaign he ran.  His only defense might be that it could have easily have been worse.

2. John McCain is loyal but does not deserve to be President because he backed (for reasons he will need to explain) George W Bush too often and voted for Bush/Cheney policies some 90+% of the time.  The mess we have today comes from those policies.

3. John McCain does deserve to be President based upon his distinguished career and any comparison to the qualifications of George W Bush.  This is true praise and also damning by comparison.  The country deserves better.

4. John McCain is in his “option years” and will be much less susceptable to the arm twisting and thoughts of a second term than others.  This is a good thing.

5. John McCain stood tall on the subjects of Guantanamo, the Geneva Convention, and torture, and if for nothing more deserves a shot at being President.  While those are very important, they are not sufficient to out weigh the negatives.

6. John McCain likes Joe Lieberman and with McCain’s defeat, we will not have to stomach Lieberman as a cabinet member.

I could go on and list the positives for new Budweiser advertisements, or next years Halloween costumes that boast a mask of Cindy McCain.  A McCain Presidency would be very good for Saturday Night Live.  Oh, that reminds me, I will miss have Sarah Palin and the “Dude” spouse in the White House and on our televisions.  (Not)

Adding it all up, and considering the mighty road ahead, Barack Obama will make me forget what might have been.

Truth and Consequences

November 3, 2008

There will be “truth and consequences” with a Barack Obama victory tomorrow.  The great effort to spread fear and distrust by the McCain campaign will, of course, quickly be shown to have been false.  At the same time, “things will be different” as claimed by the Obama campaign, will initially be largely in name only.  Obama’s campaign promises will require time to come to fruition.   Does that sound cynical or realistic?

There are two reasons for these predictions.  First, things are really a mess on all fronts, domestic and foreign policy wise.  The Republicans and George W Bush have driven the ship of state so far onto the rocks that it will take quite some time to put it back safely at sea.  Secondly, a candidate can not raise the better part of a billion dollars to run for an office paying $400,000 and not be beholding to a lot of people who together hold a wide range of special interests. 

There are so many really complex and tough problems facing a President Obama that it is hard to know where to begin.  Our economic problems are have elements of greed, criminality, and incompetence, all sitting on top of a work engine that is out of gas.  Our national budget is a joke before considering that every Obama pledge to make things better will cost more than we are spending now.  Where will he get the money?  (Maybe $ 120 billion a year from Iraq and $ 200 billion a year from the overall defense budget could be a good start.)  Tax cuts for 95% is also a mistake.  All Americans need a hand in this recovery and it is difficult to sell progressive taxes if taxes only go up for the rich.

Healthcare and social security are two other cost holes that should be viewed as essentials.  Today, too many Americans look only to their own situation and if it is ok, look away from the 40 million or more who do not have adequate coverage.  Social security is more than just a “pension”.  It is a promise about dignity that has been made by the Unitied States of America and we have no right to interfer.  Both of these will cost a tremendous amount and should be looked at in terms of original intent and realities of today.  The next two years should be devoted to open and full discussions with an eye to inacting legislation in 2011.

A President Obama is well suited for this challenge.  His rhetoric and even handed approach can unit American opinion (or at least a working majority).  A united America may go a long way to get people to behave as they should, especially when they see a President and the Government acting responsibly.

  • Balanced budget begets prudent risk taking in the non-governmental sector
  • Sound foreign policies begets reduced need for military force and interventions
  • Support for education (especially science and math) begets individual innovation and productive work
  • Championing “America for all people” begets a consensus on healthcare and social security

Saturday Night Why ?

November 2, 2008

Can you image what things would be like today if John McCain had won the Republican Presidential nomination in 2000 and had gone on to defeat Al Gore by a reasonable margin?  Would 9/11 ever have taken place while in real life the Government slept?  With no 9/11, would a President McCain have picked a fight with Iraq and descended into a dark and dishonorable chapter in our Country’s history? 

Watching Saturday Night Live last evening and seeing John McCain, the man who would be President, make jokes about his campaign, I was struck by several thoughts

  • Was this appearance John’s “hail Mary pass”?
  • Was McCain trying to make his recent under the belt charges against Barack Obama fade from voters’ minds by projecting humble persona?
  • Was this the real John McCain who would rather joke around and shoot from the hip?

In the weeks ahead these questions may get answers if McCain should lose.  His campaign will be analyzed and pundits will tell us where the train went off the tracks (or how it never got on the tracks).  If McCain should pull out a victory, his Saturday Night Live appearance will be numbered among his brilliant tactical moves. 

A much different question and one with undertones of sadness and lost opportunity, is would George W Bush be the nominee in 2008 following a McCain 8 years, and would George be invited onto Saturday Night Live?  If we didn’t know what we know now about Bush, would we welcome him into our homes via SNL and consider voting for him?  It is really scary to think that the answer is maybe.  So, maybe that is the answer to Saturday Night Why.

Distrust or Disgust

November 1, 2008

With 72 hours before the 2008 Presidential election polls open, clear thinking Republican voters are faced with a difficult choice.  Do they vote for a Party whose performance they disgust, or switch parties and vote for a party they distrust?

Oh, if the choice was only that easy.  Distrust or disgust lends themselves to fact based and logical discussions.  George W Bush has been a shameful Republican in the traditional sense.  He played world policeman by invading and occupying Iraq.  He presided over a string of 7 unbalanced budgets and doubled the national debt by a whopping $5 trillion (now totaling over $ 10 trillion).  And, following 8 years of inept regulatory stewardship, we are looking at a widespread economic meltdown that has lead a Republican government to nationalize much of the banking system (something that smells like socialism, not republicanism).  A classical Republican can only show disgust for this type of performance and could not in good conscience vote for 4 more years of this.

But distrust of the Democratic Party runs deep.  You do not find Republicans living in great numbers in the inner cities.  Therefore they are relatively insensitive to problems affecting the poor and those living in cities.  Democrats, on the other hand, have represented these groups and has over the years championed legislation that took money from the rural (read Republicans) areas and funneled it into the cities.  Why won’t that happen again?  Can a decent Republican trust a President Obama?

By November 5, we should know the answer to that question.  The last two election were essentially “ties”, and were decided by the Republicans getting just a few more votes.  This election could tilt the other way and if Obama wins by “just a few votes”, he will have a deminished mandate in leading the necessary task of restoring America to economic growth and sensible Government administration.  There is a chance, however, that many Republicans will see things as they are, and realize that America is far sicker than just what is ailing the inner cities.  Opportunity for millions of Americans, all across this land, is looking poorly.  The prospect that the next generation will enjoy less than their parents is a growing concern.  I think it is time for the Republican voters to overcome their “distrust” and vote for change and Barack Obama.

Neoconservatives and Right Wingers Win!

October 31, 2008

The most probable outcome is that Barack Obama will win the general election on Tuesday and, secretly all the neoconservatives and right wing nut cases will celebrate behind closed doors.  An Obama victory, which is what the Country badly needs, will usher in 4 years where these “chicken hawk” warriors can solicite funds and rant against Obama and his Administration, with no way to prove they are right or wrong. 

As things stand today, the failed George W Bush Administration provides ample evidence that the recommendations of these groups were a disaster.  As a result, there is nothing for these organizations to say in order to raise funds.  The evidence of failure and incompetence is too apparent to fool even some of the most obtuse “righties”.  With Obama as President, however, this right wing symphony can strike up the band and tell everyone how green the grass could be and that you had better lock your doors because your neighbor might support gay rights or might even be an anti-Christian. 

At a time when this type of thinking should be fully discredited and a productive and pragmatic opposition Party should stand up from the Republican ashes to challenge the Democrats and Obama, we are destined instead for a repeat of these sick divisive tirades.  So on Tuesday there will be something for than Democrats and Independents to cheer about.  2012 will be only 4 years away.

State Religion?

October 30, 2008

In almost any discussion with someone who holds there is a god or that there religious tradition is the most correct or at least correct, the discussion will invariably end with “I just believe it, it is a matter of faith”.  At that point the discussion is over since by definition, the person’s views could be logical from that simple assumption.

In yesterday’s New York Times, there was a short report of a Somalian woman who was raped and then sentence by Islamic authorities to death by stoning for adultary.  The 23 year old woman was burried up to her neck and then stoned to death in a soccer field.  Anyone for seconding “God is great”?

Maybe you have to have been there to really understand the social situation and then, the righteousness of this decision might become clearer.  I think to most of us this type of social behavior is abhorrent and totally out of bounds with civilized living.  But why?  Allah was speaking through his earthly servants and ruled this to be the punishment, and it should trump any secular law.

As inappropriate as this situation seems, and as prudent as adopting a complete separation of religion and state would seem proper in Somalia, faith (read unsupported by fact) based actions are not limited to the Islamic part of the world.  Another much longer article in yesterday’s NYT, reported that New York Cardinal Egan had chastised Fordham University, previously known as a free thinking institution of higher learning, for a transgression that makes you scratch your head.  Fordham had decided to award Supreme Court Justicee Stephan Breyer the Fordham-Stein Ethics award for 2008.   

You might wonder how could we have a secular Supreme Court Justice who was not ethical but that was not the basis of Cardinal Egan’s condemnation.  He was damning Breyer not for ethics but for Breyer’s support of a woman’s right to choose.  Cardinal Egan, of course, has every right to not attend any ceremony, and has a qualified right to support denying woman their rights.  These rights, however, should be his personal views, and not rule his public life.  The Catholic Church and Cardinal Egan benefit from tax exemptions and that is money that all Americans have relinquished.  We can not look poorly upon a Somali cleric denying a young woman her rights and then applaud Cardinal Egan for trying to deny an American woman her rights.

Hail Mary?

October 29, 2008

There is one week to go before Americans decide if we will have 4 more years of the same, or whether we will set a new course.  Most all indications are that it will be Barack Obama as the next President but with 6 days left, is it time for a Hail Mary pass?

The first answer would likely be, “hell yes!”  The more thoughtful answer might be, “tell me more about where you plan to throw that pass”.   The McCain team has already thrown some pretty awful and “un-straight talk” bombs Obama’s way without much success.  Each of their charges resonated with the McCain faithful but did little for the Independents and the Democratic mainstream.  What could McCain say now that (1) would make a difference, and (2) he would not regret later?

The overwhelming problem McCain is carrying is that he is too closely identified with George W Bush and the failed policies of the last 8 years.  Americans have had a rather positive view of McCain, and with all things equal, I believe, would prefer to take a chance with him rather than with Obama.  The problems facing America is not “Washington” as McCain would have us believe.  The route of our problems today are failed policies and the “lost opportunity cost” associated with selling out sound Government management for electoral gains in 2002, 2004 and attempted gains in 2006.  Think about

  • abrogating the Kyoto Protocol
  • killing the ABM treaty and funding big time the anti-missile development effort
  • the unnecessary invasion and occupation of Iraq
  • the demeaning attack on undocumented workers
  • the divisive rhetoric towards gays and lesbians
  • the Terri Schaivo shameful intervention
  • the support of teaching Intelligent Design in science class. 

None of these actions helped prevent the current economic melt down, nor did they advance the greatness of America in any way.  The chickens are standing at the door ready to come on in and roost.

I would think that by this weekend, McCain will throw his “hail mary” with the hopes that it will have an impact and there will be too little time to correct any mistruths.  My further guess is that whatever the “hail mary” might be, it will not change the vote outcome.  The most likely lasting result will be a more divided Country where logic and facts will count much less than faith, ideology and ignorance. 

Bringing the Country back together will be just another huge task for President Obama to tackle in his quest for change.   From what I have seen, I think Obama can lead from day one.