Posted tagged ‘gop’

Politics Due Process?

August 24, 2016

Abu Zubaydah appeared before a US Government hearing at Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility and asked to be released. Zubaydah has been at Guantanamo since 2006 after first being detained by the US in 2002. Described as a high official in al Qaeda, Zubaydah has never been charged nor has he had a “day in court” in the 14 years since his arrest.

Zubaydah’s Alice in Wonderland experience, of course, is similar to most other Guantanamo detainees. The US has found it easier to detain and lock suspect terrorists up in Guantanamo and near impossible to process the detainees in a legitimately recognized judicial system.

The way into Guantanamo was straight forward, the way out was an unfathomable maze.

Zubaydah’s plight again shines a light upon the narrow thinking right and the wobbly kneed left. At stake is the reputation, if not the future health of America’s judicial system, a tradition of “innocent until proven guilty”. Guantanamo stands with the best of third world countries judicial practices.

Where has the left political world been? Why have they not demanded that Guantanamo detainees be brought to the US and processed under established civil courts?

The standard reply is that the detainees represent the worst of the worst and keeping them out of the US is a step in assuring US citizens’ safety. This answer of course is patently bogus given that the likes of Ted Kaczynski (the uni-bomber) are safely held in Super-Max prisons for years. So, what is the reason?

IMO, the answer lies in domestic politics. George W Bush’s Administration opened this can of worms when it apprehended al Qaeda operatives, tortured them for intelligence reasons, and tossed them into a detention center outside the jurisdiction of US Courts. Later the Administration even paid “bounties” to foreign countries if they turned over “suspicious” individuals to US authorities. These suspicious individuals were shortly transported to Guantanamo.  The Bush “hawks” had never thought the matter through because they were so tough on terrorists and quite frankly, they could do it.

So, where is the politics.

Domestically, the Republican Party had hijacked the “law and order” and “national security” labels for political purposes.  The GOP could not reconsider and allow the public to think Guantanamo was mistake (for fear losing political face).

Democrats, cowardly chose to say “me too” on national security and felt boxed being unable to claim national security and then support closing Guantanamo.

The GOP controlled Congress even went to the extent of denying any funds to close Guantanamo and open already existing but empty super-max facilities in the US. (Talk about digging a hole and pulling the dirt in on top of you.)

At present, in order to release a detainee from Guantanamo, the Secretary of Defense must assure Congress that the detainee represents no further risk to US interests. The argument is no longer about justifying “indefinite detainment”, but about presumed guilt and without any judicial process.

Hmmm. It seems our current lot of political leaders were absent when their law schools taught about “due process”.

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Are The Emails Important?

August 23, 2016

Republicans have made a big deal about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account as well as a private server to conduct official business while she was Secretary of State. Acting “holier than thou”, one Republican politician after another has pronounced Clinton’s action as nefarious to outright treasonous.

“How could Secretary Clinton have been so brash in risking America’s security”, many Republicans have said  in various ways. Other Republicans have suggested the private emails were an attempt by the Clintons to enrich themselves by connecting Clinton Foundation donors with key government officials, including Hillary Clinton herself, for the purpose of fulfilling a “pay to play” arrangement. Hmmm.

As disgusting as these accusation might appear, so what?

There is probably not a single elected member of Congress who has not and will not continue to connect private citizens, especially those who have donated to their campaign, to some other government official. And one can be sure that members of key Congressional Committees are very active in representing key contributors interests in Congressional proceedings. That’s simply how it works.

There are many plausible explanations why Hillary Clinton chose to use a private email server and account. For sure the expectation of privacy ranks high in the list of probable reasons.

Clinton had every reason to expect Conservative groups would try to subpoena her records and go fishing for questionable contacts or judgements which might be used against her in future political campaigns. A private email account was Hillary’s answer.

The important question that lies before American voters is whether to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Are the Emails Important in this context?

Consider this

Has Donald Trump told voters the truth about his actual wealth and personal finances. Does Trump owe money to foreign courses? Would these sources present any conflicts to a Trump Presidency?  Do you believe if Trump did release his tax returns these returns would confirm his claims of charitable donations, amount and sources of income, and amount of wealth? Do you think Trump has paid Federal income taxes? Would Trump’s tax returns represent a positive example for a President?

 

Is Donald Trump too familiar and reliant with making money via bankruptcy law? Has he undertaking business deals where he took a cut “off the top” and then when the projects floundered, did he take advantage of the smaller players (like subcontractors) in the deal? Is this the type of personal behavior one wants in a President?

 

Is Donald Trump knowledgeable in world affairs and foreign leaders? Does Trump have the focus and attention span sufficient to absorb and understand the endless number of position and fact papers his domestic and national security experts would present him? Is Trump a good bet to be Commander in Chief?

These type of questions could go on and on.

American voters might prefer a President who did not have so many self interests and potential conflicts of interest.  Americans would very much prefer to hear a Presidential candidate promise not to enrich themselves or their supporters as a consequence of their Presidency.   I am afraid voters are doomed to be disappointed with the choice of Trump or Clinton.

But wait, some say Trump will surround himself with competent people. The burdens of the Presidency will not drown Trump, we are told. Hmmm. (Do you remember George W Bush’s 8 years?)

Back to the Emails.

IMO, the emails are irrelevant. There is no reason to believe that Donald Trump is more honest, less interested in person aggrandizement, or would be more professional in his approach to being President than Hillary Clinton.

On the contrary, there is every reason to believe Hillary Clinton, compared to past Presidents is as or more intelligent, articulate, and broadly experienced to be President.

All in all I do not think Hillary’s Emails offer any new information.

Year End In Sight

December 29, 2014

As the 31st draws closer, it is always useful to look at the past 12 months. What type of a year has it been?  What has gone well and what would we wish have gone better?  Should we hope for 2015 to be as good or much better than 2014?

If I were President Obama and I were reviewing 2014, this is what I would think.

I would think 2014 was a grind.  I would also think the outcomes were much better than the media was giving me credit for.

If I were a really honest Barack Obama I would be thinking of all the missed opportunities where I could have convinced Americans that the Administration and its policies were making life better for all Americans.

And if I did not cross my fingers and was straight honest, I would admit that I had blinked or hesitated too long at certain points and as a result provided political opponents ample opportunity to frame the public’s perception.

The nice thing about time is that given a sufficient amount, results become clearer and even the cleverest politicians run out of excuses. For 6 years the GOP has said “no” and denounced President Obama’s actions and policies. Their predictions of doom and gloom simply have never come true and instead, the American economy is steadily improved and now is the envy of the world.

Healthcare has improved access for many Americans.  There are signs that the out of control healthcare cost increases have been slowed. The national shame of Americans being denied basic coverage because they earn too little or are sick too much is still with us but the reasons and occasions  are fewer. The GOP claims of job losses and an upcoming “train wreck” were overstated and essential misleading.

Internationally President Obama can be satisfied that he has read the world situations mostly correctly.  He has followed policies (for the most part) that have kept Americans (most but not all) out of war. The President, however, can still improve his international stage speaking skills. He can do a much better job speaking to international nations. Like why lecture other countries about human rights when you can pick up any US newspaper and read about similar transgressions here. Have you consider the human rights aspects of dome strikes, or holding uncharged detainees for over 12 years, or the US domestic incarceration rate and its racial make-up?

But even more important on the international stage is the public versus private dialog. Making foreign country demands for delivery on the US 6 o’clock news is far less effective than sending messages through normal diplomatic channels. And generally speaking, making demands which have not considered correctly how the other country will respond is foolish. Bluffing with domestic politics is problematic but if things go wrong, the consequences are confined to the US. Bluffing internationally is quite a different story.

The President’s inner circle will continue to advise him and as in the past, President Obama will need to decide which set of advice to follow.  With reflection on these successes, he should be able to make good future decisions.

Next year, Cuba, Immigration and the Affordable Healthcare Act will attract much GOP attention. The President needs to resist the urge to slap down the GOP for their regressive ideas and instead defend his decisions with measurable predictions.

Time will again allow a period to assess the President’s policies at this next year or maybe the year after.

From Simply “No” To “What”?

November 20, 2014

President Obama will spell out his intended “executive actions” today in a speech in Las Vegas. Many GOP members, especially those potential 2016 candidates, are frothing at the mouth with statements equating Presidential executive orders as “sticking a figure in Americans’ eyes”. Hmmm.

When many of these same GOP leaders are not redefining Constitutional powers, they are, in addition to immigration, critiquing the President’s Middle East policies. Have you heard? “The President did not act soon enough in Syria and now US options are limited.” Or, how about, “ISIS cannot be eliminated with airstrikes alone”.  Or, “the US should never have left Iraq”.

The GOP has other subject such as creating jobs and growing the economy.  How about, “approving the XL pipeline will create jobs”.  Hmmm.

Let’s think about these positions.

Clearly on any path to reforming the immigration mess will be documenting all those who are here now and ensuring they are paying their taxes.  (If we can’t secure the borders now, why does anyone think we could deport 11 million residents?

Suppose the President recommends tonight such an documentation approach by executive order, could not the GOP controlled Congress pass a more comprehensive bill defining by law which undocumented could be given papers? Could not the GOP controlled Congress pass legislations with appropriate funding (supported by new funding) which would “seal the borders”?

on other issues, could not GOP leaders spell out their recommendations for the Middle East? Could not these leaders defend any accusations that reentering the Gulf States was akin to Vietnam? Could not the GOP explain why America was better suited to solving a centuries old schism between Shiites and Sunnis?

Interestingly, the one issue where the decision is basically immaterial with respect to all the popular arguments, that is building the XL or not.  The XL will neither create new jobs nor will it destroy the environment.

The GOP has chosen a populous, short sighted reasoning to justify their XL position. The GOP’s emphasis upon creating new jobs overlooks what a glutted oil market will do to the booming new jobs in the Dakotas or in many of the other fracking States. A glut of oil has already lowered the price of oil/gasoline and at some point near $70 per barrel, many of the current US oil producers become unprofitable and certainly at that point no wise investor will risk spending more of his money.

The GOP is caught in the transition from the party out of power where just saying no is enough to the party in power where their actions will have consequences. Not much to cheer about yet.

Free Speech

August 1, 2014

Pennsylvania residents are getting a media preview of this fall’s election season and most likely the upcoming 2016 Presidential election. Incumbent candidates will have to run on their record and political advertisement distortions will go down as free speech.

Case in point, the race between Republican Governor Tom Corbett and challenger Tom Wolf. Remember 2010? A nation wide sweep of GOP gubernatorial victories herald in a new age of fiscal responsibility.

In Pennsylvania, Corbett’s first budget reduced funding to Philadelphia schools and triggered a series of school district staff and funding cuts. While the Philadelphia school funding crisis is more than just Governor Corbett, his Harrisburg swagger left a poor taste in many peoples’ mouth.

Adding to this Corbett’s anti-gay stances and his photo ID law aimed at eliminating a problem that did not exist (but would discriminate against some voters), Corbett has built a negative image in a State which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

So what does a candidate, with this type of public approval numbers, do against his opponent?

Amazingly, the Corbett camp has been running ads which recall Wolf’s recommendation for certain tax increases which Wolf made over six years ago.  The recommendations were made as an aid to former Governor Rendell.   This is old news.  Even more to the point, a Governor cannot impose taxes in the first place. Taxes must be passed by the legislature. Innuendo seems ok.

A more recent negative toned Corbett ad claims Tom Wolf moved his company headquarters to Delaware in order to avoid Pennsylvania taxes. Many corporations across the country are incorporated in Delaware for a variety of reasons, but these corporations must still pay taxes where they operate.

The Wolf campaign is fighting back with slick ads which call Governor Corbett on this point. The Wolf ads go on, however, to say that “if elected”, a Governor Wolf would tax the shale oil/gas producers in order to fund education. Again this is something a governor can recommend but cannot implement on his own.

Both campaigns are engaging in misleading (at best) and possibly dishonest (at worst) advertising. Corbett has four years in the books so despite what he says, voters have already an opinion. Wolf, on the other hand, can promise the moon.

The Supreme Court has reminded us that campaign spending is free speech. Hmmm.

“Free speech” appears to be more like a “free lunch”. It sounds great and is very inviting. A wise voter, however, will pause to think about what each party is promising before deciding for whom to vote.

Looking at the incumbent’s record is a must and should not be overlooked… unless the incumbent is a better promiser.

Raise Foot, Aim, Shoot

May 22, 2014

Appealing to ones political base, is just that. This type of rhetoric, tell them what they want to hear, is seductive because the base will normally give back money and votes. But what if the political base in question is on a dead end path?

America finds itself today with two parties appealing to unsustainable “base” demands.

For example, Medicare, Medicaid, and even Social Security are on paths which financially the Country cannot afford… at least as the laws authorizing these programs are currently constructed. Speaking to one base that “we must shrink the size of government (a euphemism for just cutting benefits like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security)” will simply put the cost of these programs someplace else without impacting the need. Or speaking to the other base, “we can’t cut Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits or else we will break our nation’s promise ( an euphemism for there can be no cuts in these programs because I am counting on that group’s votes).  Both speeches are going no wheres.

The mid term elections will provide us with a new round of “base speech appeals”. We will hear speeches for a woman’s right to choose and others against. It is unlikely we will hear any speeches about how we can make abortions rare.

We will hear rousing demands for “sealing the borders” and others calling for immigration reform with a path to citizenship. We will not hear about creative ways to deal with the special situation involving Mexico. If these great workers and family oriented people were able to come and go freely (thus eliminating many undocumented residents), the largest piece of immigration reform could be removed. Instead the US will spend insane amounts of money with no prospects of achieving results.

In some areas, we will hear both sides talk about faith and how it important it is to them personally. It is unlikely we will hear anyone questioning the practice of some parochial schools to require their teachers to promise not to speak or practice such things as living with someone of the same sex or cohabiting with the opposite sex unless married.

Nor will we likely hear anyone speak out that it is incompatible with modern life for a University (Bryan) to demand of its teachers that they must accept and teach that Adam and Eve were magically created by god, and that we are biologically descendant from them (complete rejection of evolution).

There is no need to denounce the old political bases. Rather there is an urgent need to focus upon real problems facing the country, the State, or the locality. Job growth, pot holes, and hungry children are completely independent of religious views.

Healthcare (Medicare and Medicaid, plus any costs associated with the Affordable Care Act) presents a fundamental question for Americans, should every American have access to basic healthcare?

If the answer is no, end of discussion.

If the answer is yes, then the rich discussion of what constitutes “basic” care, what should it cost, and how should it be paid for would make for great election background material.

The GOP’s mouth is watering with the prospect of gaining total control of Congress. In 2012, a similar chance went down in smoke because too many GOP candidates spoke to their “base” and not the total electorate.

Will be see a repeat where the GOP lifts its foot, takes aim, and shoots?

Immigration Reform – Hopeless

May 14, 2014

The President of the US Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, has spoken to the GOP telling them that they can forget about 2016 if they do not pass some form of Immigration Reform. Donohue said simply look at the demographics. Hmmm.

There are many reasons the US should look to reform its immigration policies. A simple one is that the country invites foreigners to attend our Universities and then often requires these people to leave the country, fully educated and trained. Doesn’t that sound wasteful or short sighted?

Immigration Reform actually involves a minimum of three distinct issues.

  • (1) The country needs to liberalize its handling of wealthy, educated would be immigrants in order that this talent be put to work on the US economy.
  • (2) The US needs to maintain compassionate but strictly limited quotas on political and economic refugees.
  • (3) The US needs to recognize the free movement of labor from Mexico and Canada into the US providing reciprocal rules are also in place.

The present estimated 12 million undocumented aliens living in the US has been put forth as the stumbling block. Most of these 12 million are hispanic, and most of them are Mexican. Immigration reform which includes a pathway to citizenship has been seen by the GOP as endorsing line breakers and outright criminal behavior.

Technically the GOP is correct but these 12 million didn’t come here overnight. Immigrants have throughout history presented problems to a wide number of countries. The US has dealt with immigration as well if not better than most other countries. If you don’t believe this statement check the phone book and look at the variety of surnames.

GOP opposition today, however, is based upon short term political calculations. Certain factions of the GOP base cannot accept immigration reform and completely reject the notion of a pathway for current undocumented residents.

The GOP has calculated that it must maintain this base and hope to pick up more voters who chose other issues as their litmus test. Hmmm.

In 2012, the GOP got cross ways with voters over immigration, women’s issues, and gay rights. While many GOP members hold progressive views on these subjects, their voices were drowned out by the vocal anti minority. Donohue is warning that it will happen again unless the GOP gets its act together.

The GOP has unfortunately gotten its thinking all screwed up. It has followed ideological thinking without the support of data or the reality of today’s world.

Drastically cutting government spending during a relatively weak economy is doomed.  This GOP policy fails to take into account that the US economy is part of a global economic world .

Logically, however, how can anyone endorse unbalanced budgets for as long as one can see?

The country really needs the GOP to clean up its act. Without thoughtful approaches to the tough problems facing all countries (such as global warming, population growth, food production, renewable energy sources, etc), the US is destined for second rate status, and a poor life for our children.  Without a thoughtful opposition we should not expect Democrats to lead us any better.