Archive for the ‘GOP’ category

Conor Lamb and Consequences

March 14, 2018

Yesterday, in the Pennsylvania 18th District, Conor Lamb prevailed over Republican Rick Saccone in an election of dubious consequences. The 18th District has in recent years been a relatively safe Republican seat due largely to the disaffected large union population and generous gerrymandering.  President Trump carried this district by 20 points as an example.

So, what was so bad about Saccone or what was so good about Lamb?

Interviews with Trump voters in the 18th and several other districts across the country have revealed that many Trump voters are souring on the President as a person but overwhelmingly like the President because “Trump  gets things done”. Hmmm.

This comment suggests that these voters were disgusted with other politicians claiming they would change this or that, and in the end do nothing.

So, let’s look at some of President Trump’s successes. Lamb did not reject the President’s actions but asked 18th District voters what consequences might follow,.

For example,  Republicans gloated about tax cuts. Lamb asked, what government programs, important to the 18th District, might not happen or might need to be cut back when the Federal Government realizes it has too little money.  How about badly needed investment in roads, bridges, and ports?

Lamb did not say tax cuts are unfair or a bad idea because they grossly benefit the already wealthy (which they do). Rather Lamb framed the Trump action in terms where the consequences would be real to his district’s voters. Lower taxes would also put pressure upon Medicare, Medicaid, and social security Lamb said. Infrastructure projects would be slowed along with the new jobs that would be associated with development.

The key to Lamb’s approach was treating respectively potential voters, many of whom had voted for President Trump. He did not slam Trump as a person but kept the focus upon the President’s policies and what the consequences would likely be.

Even with healthcare, Lamb refrained from advocating universal healthcare but instead spoke of the right of all sick Americans to receive healthcare they could afford. Read more of Conor Lamb’s policies.  Hmmm.

Lamb’s intangibles came through as honesty and bias for action. Lamb appears clean-cut, honest, and hard working. In this contest, that was enough.


Questions About Guns

February 26, 2018

The big question this week is how long will the news media keep reporting on the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting and in particular whether any changes to gun laws will follow. Here are three questions and some observations.

The Second Amendment speaks to the “right to bear arms” but does not refer to what type of arms. Were the founding fathers speaking of single action, ball and cartridge muskets, or did they perceive the coming of bullets and the civil war lever action repeater rifles?

The Supreme Court construed the 2nd Amendment as the right of any citizen to possess a gun for personal protection in the home. The Supreme Court noted that Congress and States legislatures could pass reasonable controls clarifying what type of guns, and where beyond the home, guns could be used. The Court also stated that reasonable controls could also include suspending a citizens right to a fire arm if due process was served.

Question #1: Fully automative guns, both hand and long guns, are illegal to possess, why is it accepted that a military style AR-15 (and other similar brands) are ok?

Leading politicians, Governors, Representatives, and Senators (not to mention the President) are all citing the need to study this latest incident carefully. Most all these politicians sigh and confess that it is difficult to see what could have been done to have avoided the Parkland shootings. These pro-gun politicians allow that tougher background checks, while good, would not have prevented Nikolas Cruz from acquiring legally his AR-15, extra clips and unnecessarily large amount of ammunition (because the FBI did not act upon tips called in by concerned citizens).

Question #2: What is the logic that allows Cruz (age 19) to legally buy an AR-15 when Cruz could not by a hand gun nor buy beer?

Probably the most often heard statement when a pro-gun politicians is asked about simply banning assault weapons is that most AR-15 owners are law abiding citizens and why should they have to surrender their 2nd Amendment rights? These politicians then follow with they support stronger background checks as long as the Federal checks do not inconvenience those lawfully seeking a weapon.

If you listen carefully, pro-gun supporters might accept some toughening of background checks (but not national gun registration list), accept the idea of mental health screening (but no government capability to link gun ownership to some future mental health condition), and at the end of the day, believe guns in the hands of good people is the best defense to guns in the hands of bad people (more guns is the answer to Parkland).

Does this sound disingenuous?

Question #3: If the conclusion to this open discussion does not include further restrictions on availability of guns (e.g. assault weapon ban, restriction on clip size, age and training criteria before guns could be owned), why should we not expect another “Parkland” or “Las Vegas” type mass shooting again soon?

When our politicians discuss publicly guns and gun control, they present a disquieting image which screams their words are insincere.  Some try the “wise man” approach (our society is very complex and the restrictions being suggested will not eliminate gun violence and seem very unfair to law abiding citizens), while others dismiss the subject as inevitable (guns don’t kill, people kill).

Comment: How can our youth not become further disenchanted with government and our elected leaders?

European Socialism

February 25, 2018

Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association CEO, spoke this week at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee). At a time when concern and sensitivity for the parents and friends of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was called for, LaPierre showed little sympathy and instead stuck to the heart and intent of his (probably) already written speech.

For LaPierre, the mass shootings were cut and dry. The school was simply too soft a target.

LaPierre had come to CPAC to bury Caesar, not praise him, and in the process make clear that all Democrats were really destructive socialist who wanted nothing less than European Socialism to spread through out America… the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Capitalism and our Constitutional rights were what LaPierre proclaimed as the basis of making America the greatest country on earth. The implication, of course, is that Democrats (and by extension) anyone who is not a far right conservative, was set on ending America’s exceptionalism.

I wonder what LaPierre and his speech writers are thinking?

  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees are unaware of European Countries since Europe is so far away?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees do not know that European Countries offer their residents universal healthcare which delivers superior healthcare to all residents at one half the cost which Americans pay?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees do not recognize the income inequality is greater in the US than in Europe?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees think Europeans are envious of American roads, education, and how Americans deal with their elderly?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees believe America is the safest country in the world?

La Pierre and his NRA staff have done a masterful job of framing the second Amendment as analogous to breathing fresh air. The logical extension, however, of La Pierre’s argument is for all Americans to openly carry weapons and in any dispute, for any reason, to “stand your ground” and use deadly force if necessary. This is apparently the NRA’s vision of the American Dream.

CPAC is not a monolithic organization as it relates to guns.

  • CPAC has members who do not know which end of a gun shoots bullets.
  • CPAC members/attendees do see lower taxes as good without concern for the consequences such as necessary cuts in social programs aimed at less fortunate Americans.
  • Some CPAC members see religious rights (that is the right to express their deeply held religious views) as a means to discriminate against fellow Americans in what they see as a legal way.
  • Other CPAC members seek weak or no regulations allowing oil and gas exploration freely without regard to consequences.
  • In short, CPAC represents a group of single issue Americans whose America protects those aspects which they believe is best for themselves and consequences be damned.

Unfettered capitalism is a two headed beast. One head which acts as an engine and propels the economy forward, is not only good but necessary. The other head, which is greedy, destructive, and without conscience, is dangerous and demands wise limitations on ability to run free.

A wise CPAC would seek a balance between the old wild west and the modern 21st century in which we live. A wise CPAC would realize that Wayne LaPierre and the NRA have gone off the reservation and should be viewed with a dim opinion.


Will The Chicken Hawks Return?

February 15, 2018

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, has been testifying this past week before Congressional Committees. One news report quoted Coats as saying the US was running out of time to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. Coats indicated that soon only military force would remain a viable option. WHAT ???

George W Bush is still alive and so is the chief chicken hawk, Dick Chaney. The memory of their fiasco telling Americans that when the US invaded Iraq our soldiers would be welcomed by Iraqis throwing flower petals at their feet as they marched by. To be sure some Iraqis threw objects at American soldiers feet but flower petals were not the objects.

The Iraq invasion and occupation remains one, if not the, greatest foreign policy failure whose consequences Americans will be visiting for years to come. The invasion opened a pandora’s box (to the surprise of Cheney and Bush) and unleashed sectarian violence through out the region. Instead of intimidating the Iranians, events embolden them to drive even harder developing nuclear weapons.

On the domestic front, Americas recognized once more that older men send younger men off to war, promise the soldiers full support and then proceed to forget about military members including those wounded and maimed when they return home.

North Korea is a two-bit country which may in fact develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver the weapons to US soil. North Korea will join a list of 8 other nations also capable of deploying the “bomb”. Does Coats think China and Russia will stand by an allow the US to “take out” North Korea or any of the others preemptively?

The conservative right may feel bold and think giving North Korea a “bloody nose” in some type of preemptive move is a wise tactic. Regrettably, these “black-white” thinkers can not recognize today’s world contours. Instead they project American military strength around the world as if military strength was unique and more appropriate than diplomacy. Current generation conservatives appear more comfortable making short term decisions and in the process frittering away America’s moral and strategic leadership.

Strategic patience was the term President Obama used to encompass a comprehensive strategy for combatting North Korea and other uncooperative States. Strategic Patience foresees bad behavior by small countries as a nuisance, not an imminent threat.  And, in any comprehensive policy, President Obama’s Administration tried to engage other powers including Russia and China in attempts to find global solutions for nuisance countries.

In contrast, the Bush/Cheney era was driven by “neo-conservatives” who relied upon rattling the saber rather then undertaking the more nuanced hard work of diplomacy. Sending other people’s children to war against smaller countries was the hallmark of these “chicken hawks”. Shooting first, thinking (about the consequences) later defined these misguided leaders.

Under President Obama, foreign policy was forged with a heavy emphasis on assessing the world as it was and as it was trending. Sending our soldiers into war became a last resort.

I wonder whether Coats testimony has accidentally revealed the emergence of a new generation of chicken hawks?


Unfit From Any Angle

February 11, 2018

The current crowd that comprises the Republican Party’s Congressional members are unfit to govern. So tell me something that I didn’t know already. Hmmm.

Throughout the Obama years, Republican leaders postured time and again about Obama Administrations incompetence. Republicans pointed to the slow growing US economy, the size of Federal Deficits, and the ruinous impact the Affordable Care Act was having upon jobs were rallying calls. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Republican message never the less kept reinforcing the dooms day outlook.

From the day former President Obama took office, while the US economy was steadily slipping into the dangerous territory between recession and depression, the Obama Administration pushed for a balanced approach between Keynesian economic stimulation and “doing the right thing” legislation.

The 2008 economic decline bottomed out and the Affordable Care Act came into law providing healthcare for millions more. General Motors was saved from itself, consumer protection measures were put in place, and human rights enforcement became the Justice Department’s focus.

The Economy grew around 2-2.5%, unemployment steadily decreased, while America’s GDP growth lead the pack of developed countries. In foreign policy, the Obama Administration proposed that the Middle East policies should not cloud or block America’s view that an emerging super power China must be dealt with. Also, Iran and North Korea both were subject to diplomatic efforts aimed at controlling those countries’ nuclear programs while also recognizing the limits of military force. And, climate realities were met straight on with the US announcing it would join the Paris Climate Agreement in hopes of a global effort to confront global warming.

During President Trump’s first year, the past 8 years have been “denied”. The President has appointed, and the Republican controlled Congress has confirmed, Cabinet Secretaries who were either unqualified or were avowed opponents of each Department’s goals. Turning the Asylum over to the inmates would summarize the executive branch.

Important trade alliances were cast aside and the “what does this mean” slogan America First was substituted. America First is sure fired, naive call which is certain to result in less international cooperation. But the best was yet to come.

The Congress tried it best to repeal and replace Obamacare only to find that strong grass roots support for the Affordable Care Act existed and a repeal threaten the electoral viability of Republican Congress Members. Disappointed but not deterred, the Congress moved on to “tax reform” which in short order emerged as “tax cuts”.

The rush for tax cuts was strange since most business people would ask what would be the spending plan against which levying taxes could logically be set. Republican leaders and spokespersons, however, tried to frame the tax cuts as a means to grow the economy faster and magically paying for themselves.

The tax cuts passed with Republican votes and America woke up to the news that these tax cuts would add another $1.5 trillion to the deficit. Republicans then touted the GDP growth rate as already accelerating, (a near impossibility due to any recent cause and effect).

Republicans claimed that economic growth was now 3% and heading north. Republicans did not say that other modern countries were also experiencing economic growth and relatively speaking, the US was growing no faster than its major trading partners.

Even worse was the recognition that when the US economy heats up, the risk of inflation increases too. So the perfect storm is forming.

Inflation is around the corner, unemployment is near bottom (so where are the workers going to come from to man the heated economy), Republicans’ anal Mexican policies are severely restricting much needed labor, and after 10 years of expansion, sooner or later a real contraction must take over.

But there is more.

This week Democrats and Republicans compromised, not on prudent budget cuts, but instead on fiscally irresponsible, unpaid government spending. This compromise resulted from a basic inability to set national priorities and in order for one group (like Defense spenders) to get their funding, they had to go allow with Democrat favored domestic policies.

Americans will have the GOP to thank for

  • expensive healthcare
  • rising inflation
  • no tools left to stimulate the economy (taxes have already been cut and interest rates are still low) when inevitably the economy slows and slips into a recession.
  • Trading partners will take care of themselves first (as instructed) taking away a consumer of our goods and services.
  • Federal Debt interest rate costs will begin to choke out other spending.
  • A darkening view of the utility (not mention the honesty) of elected officials will occur to more Americans.
  • The American Dream and the necessary “can do” spirit will be stunted.

In real life, most Americans do not have the experience or the time to understand what their Republican elected leaders have put in play.  America First sounds good, and who is not in favor of lower taxes.  For unexplained reason, for profit insurance companies standing between Americans and their doctors sounds better than Government (as in all other modern healthcare systems around the world).

There are many reasons Republican Congress Members are unfit.  Most likely the corrosive effect of money is at the root.  Wealthy individuals have organized and fueled ideologues to frame issues and mold public opinion.  Money speaks, lots of money speaks louder.

The Republican Party has found ballot box success parroting these wealth back conservative think tanks.  Americans are about to find out from real experience, Republicans are unfit to govern.


Warning Signs

February 3, 2018

For most of 2017, the media, and through the media, America was focused upon a dysfunctional President. Imagine a chief executive “tweeting” Presidential thoughts and feelings as if the social medium was a proper channel for conveying thoughtful, strategic, or purposeful thinking.

All the while, right before our eyes, a Republican controlled Congress was demonstrating to Americans how not to govern and how not to have the long term interest of Americans in view. A deliberative body became fully under the influence of “populist” fever.

Critical subjects such as

  • Immigration – where are workers going to come from when American population growth is below one (.7%)
  • Infrastructure maintenance – how will the US repair or improve the roads, bridges, and ports that link Americans together and deliver goods and services which fuel the economy.
  • Military spending – when the US already spends almost as much as all other nations combined and yet finds itself in times of new security threats (such as cyber warfare and nuclear proliferation) searching for more funding.
  • Healthcare – what is Congress’ answer for finding a fair, quality driven, and affordable health care delivery policy in a world where the US spends twice as much per capita compared to other modern countries and the US still does not ensure coverage to all its residents.
  • Human rights – how can Congress speak to the Constitution’s First Amendment recognizing religious rights without also condoning discrimination.
  • Income inequality – in a capitalist system, how can the natural consequence, where the rich become richer, be harassed to meet the financial needs of States and the Federal Government.

This list contains serious problems and opportunities for which there are no slam-dunk answers. Does the Republican lead Congress believe the answer will just come, or are they content to live well themselves and pass the strategic issues onto someone else?

In 2017, Americans witnessed a government which gave little evidence of wanting to fix anything.  Instead Congress tried to deliver less healthcare than what was already a second rate system among like countries at a cost twice as much.

Americans also saw a Congress pass “tax cuts” without addressing any of the needs for infrastructure or defense spending. And, as for the other knotty problems, Congress invested no time to thoughtful study. This lack of willingness to engage tough problems, other than from a populist slogan perspective, may be the most significant of the problems facing the country.

These are huge warning signs that American elected officials are AWOL, even though many have time to appear on talk shows.   The fruits of their labor make it clear.

What are the odds that this view is mistaken, hmmm,  between zero and zilch.


Regaining The Center, Again

January 24, 2018

The Trump Presidency along with the 115th Congress have given renewed meaning to “Regaining The Center”. Beginning with the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch, an extreme conservative jurist, to the failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, to the “trickle down” theory tax cuts, and now to the food fight over immigration, Republicans have pushed the center point of American ship of State and it is now listing dangerously to the right. Will the mid-terms in November provide urgently needed relief?

In any healthy democracy, everyone should recognize that there is not just one way to do things. Most initiatives have a certain momentum and often produces results beyond the stated goal. Over reach, unintended impact, and sometimes simply not achieving the promised results justify a course correction. Variations around some center point, should be expected, if not sought.

In this regard, Democrat Administration followed by a Republican one should be seen as a positive rather than a negative just as the inevitable, a Democrat Administration will replace the Republican one. Unfortunately, extreme conservative or progressive views have little regard or appreciation of the center’s value. For these ideologues, politics is a zero sum game and their personal roles are to drive our country as far to their ideological extreme as possible.

This one dimensional view of politics, Democrat versus Republican or Progressive versus Conservative, however, fails to capture another dimension. Specially, the political world can also be viewed along an axis with poles called authoritarian and anarchist.  There are way points called strict law and order at the authoritarian side, and libertarianism along the anarchy path. Family values, religious themes lie on the authoritarian axis side while women’s and human rights (LGBT included) lie in the libertarian direction.

So, how do these propositions relate to “Regaining The Center”?

The “Center” is safer, like a safe harbor.

What is meant by safer is that the probability of damaging or irrevocably changing the character of the Country is much less. The American democracy experiment is premised upon a healthy dynamic between Federal and States rights. The founding fathers feared both the authoritarian leader (my way or the highway) and the rabble of the common man (short term gains without regard to the future).

The King-like leader or the self interest needs of common, uneducated men.

A strong Federal Government with three equal branches, our founders thought, should provide broad protection and security while individual States should provided a fertile base for individual growth and entrepreneurship. Hmmm.

As the public discussion strays from the center, greater room is provided for public discussion to be hijacked towards extremes such as theocracy, dictatorship, class division in one direction to full libertarianism (anything goes), masses driven wealth redistribution, incompetence through constant change in other direction.

The risks the current Trump and Republican Administration present is the likelihood that their underlying ideological proclivities are fundamentally about wealth accumulation and retention.


Their zero sum thinking drives their policies to, by necessity, taking from the poor/average person and shifting wealth to those already wealthy.


Their tactics utilize “smoke” such as immigration fears, foreign trade competition, and “us/them” labeling some Americans as preferred and others as unworthy to blind voters’ eyes from what is really taking place.

Only by “Regaining The Center” can we hope to provide room for data based, respectful discussions over which policies, laws, and regulations can raise all boats, not just those of the privileged.