This zero-sum discourse needs to stop

What does zero-sum discourse mean? It means framing topics in terms of who wins and who loses. I fault politicians, pundits and reporters for this mindset. This mindset preceded the current White House incumbent, but he views most everything through a very short-term transactional lens. Did I win?

The dilemma in discussing who wins and loses on actions, speeches or tweets is it takes the focus away from the issues. Does this decision help or hurt the people, environment or region?

I heard a news discussion on whether the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal helps or hurts Trump’s image? That is the wrong question among many better questions. Does it make the US safer? Does it make the world safer? Are we harming our relationships with our allies? Are we making a fact based decision as other leaders are questioning the veracity of this decision? And, so on.

Whether it is healthcare, debt, taxes, environment, financial protection, etc., I do not care who wins or loses politically. When people care too much about winning or losing, I can tell you who gets screwed – it is the people they represent.

Americans want Congress to address healthcare, with the majority saying to fix Obamacare. Instead, the President and leaders in Congress have sabotaged it over the past three years making premiums even higher. They want to see it politically fail while screwing American people.

I am tired of the lack of collaboration. I am tired of the abuse of factual information. And, I am tired of this zero-sum discourse. To be frank, our leaders need to stop trying to keep their job and start doing their job.

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Senate Judiciary Committee moves Mueller Protection Bill forward

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed 14 to 7 the bipartisan bill to give Robert Mueller a fair hearing should he be fired by the President. I admire their political courage to protect the rule of law. I give special kudos to Senators Tillis, Graham, Coons and Booker for pushing this bill forward and Senator Grassley, the Commitee chair for his role.

Their efforts deserve a full hearing and vote on the Senate floor, yet Senator McConnell is refusing to let this happen. I encourage you to support such a vote and call upon your Senators and Senator McConnell to bring it to the floor. The American people are owed such a vote.

As an Independent and former Republican voter, I feel it is extremely important to let Mueller and team finish their work. I also find it highly offensive that legislators, including the President, are trying to mask the pursuit of truth by denigrating honorable and hard working law enforcement professionals. As GOP Congressman Trey Gowdy said, if the President is innocent, it would help his cause if he started acting like it.

Mueller is a man of integrity and has served our country as a Marine and as leader of the FBI. The only negative I have read about him from reliable sources is he can be gruff. Since he comes across as a no nonsense kind of person, that lone criticisms fits. A gruff man of integrity reminds me of my grandfather.

I have made multiple calls and sent emails to several Senators and my Congressman. I have applauded the political courage of those involved. Standing up to your own party is difficult, but it is even harder with an untruthful, tempestuous and vindictive man such as the President. We, the people, are owed the truth.

Letter from Senator Thom Tillis regarding Mueller

I received the following letter in response to my calling and writing Republican Senator Thom Tillis to compliment him on his bipartisan  legislation to make sure Robert Mueller is given a fair hearing if he is fired. The letter speaks for itself.

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Thank you for taking the time to contact me about S. 2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act. I appreciate hearing from you.

I believe in the rule of law, regardless of who occupies the White House or which party leads the Justice Department. That is why in August I introduced a bill to create a judicial-review process to prevent the removal of a special counsel without good cause.

Over the past several months, Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) and I have been working with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who introduced a similar bill, to reconcile the differences between the two proposals. On April 11, 2018, we introduced the compromise, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act.

Last May, when the Justice Department named former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel, virtually all lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — praised the choice. Mueller has had a distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, and he has a well-earned reputation for impartiality. I have confidence that he will follow the facts, wherever they may lead. I also have confidence that he is leading the investigation without bias toward either side of the political spectrum.

Letting his investigation run its course is in the best interest of the country, and it is the only option to ensure that the American people have trust in the process. This is critically important because it means when the investigation concludes, our country can move forward together. Our bill will help ensure that happens.

I have received a good deal of criticism from my own party for introducing special-counsel legislation, with the common refrain being that it is harmful to President Trump. It isn’t, for two main reasons.

First, if the president actually removes the special counsel without good cause, it would likely result in swift, bipartisan backlash and shake the country’s faith in the integrity of our legal system. Talking heads and pundits on television encouraging the president to make such a drastic and counterproductive move most certainly do not have his best interests at heart. The result would not be good for the American people, my own party or the president.

Second, the constant headlines and rumors that President Trump is considering or has considered removing Mueller — “fake news” or not — are a distraction from the president’s agenda and successful policy initiatives. While the president is understandably frustrated with the investigation, I don’t believe he would ultimately remove Mueller, and the White House and the president’s legal team have indicated that he does not intend to do so. This bill becoming law would remove that narrative from the conversation.

Political grandstanding requires no courage — independence and compromise do. The focus needs to be on achieving a legislative outcome, not a talking point. There are members of my conference who want to get to “yes,” and can get there, especially because the bill will be subject to an amendment process in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the bill can be improved. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle who support the bill for the right reasons and want a result will be working hand-in-hand to build consensus and get us closer to 60 votes.

The Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act is about protecting the rule of law and producing an outcome that is good for our country. It’s not about producing an outcome for one political party.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. Please do not hesitate to contact me again about other important issues.

Sincerely,

Thom Tillis
U.S. Senator

Sorry Meatloaf, two out of three IS bad

One of the most popular songs from a singer named Meatloaf off his stellar first album is called “Two out of three ain’t bad.” If you are not familiar with his work, the album is called “Bat out of Hell” and it is end to end one of the finest rock albums ever produced.

But, with due respect to Meatloaf and Jim Steinman, who wrote the songs, in the case of the man sitting in the White House, two out of three is bad. You see, that ratio equates to 67% when rounded and it is two percentage points less than 69%. And, the latter represents the measured rate of mostly false, false and pant-on-fire false statements made by the President of the United States (per Polifacts).

Saying this more frankly, the President is on record as lying more than two out of three times. Think about that – for every three statements, two are not true. And, that is bad.

Being President is all about character. When a person lies like this, it is hard to fathom that person having character. If you layer in his demeaning and denigration of others along with his self-professed sexual assaults, he does not represent what makes America great. In fact, he embodies the worst traits in us. That is sad.

Other leaders do not trust him both within and outside the United States. Why would they? When he makes one of his impulsive decisions that makes his staff scramble, he often makes an untrue statement to support it. He did this with the new tax law, the defunding of an ACA subsidy that helped people in poverty, and  the DACA is dead statement he made his weekend.

The truth matters. Character matters. We need them to matter to the President.

Fifty years ago, a low moment in American history

The year of 1968 was filled with major events, both good and bad. One of the lowest moments in American history occurred this week in April fifty years ago. Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated by a man whose name I will not mention as I don’t feel killers like these deserve the notoriety.

King was in Memphis advocating for striking sanitation workers looking for a pay raise. During a speech while there, he spoke of helping people get to the Promised Land, a favorite metaphor. But, in this instance, he noted he may not be there with them when they get there. With 20/20 hindsight, this added phrase seems surreal.

King won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping America achieve the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He later would provide impetus for LBJ to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act and celebrate as LBJ helped pass Medicare and Medicaid in his war on poverty. King and far too many earned these changes with blood, sweat and tears. And, too many paid with their lives.

King was and remains a hero to many. The white Americans who would go on to vote for Alabama Governor George Wallace in the Presidential election later that year failed to see the heroic nature of King’s non-violent movement. King took a key page from Gandhi’s nonviolent protests in South Africa and India. King’s approach was key to achieving what the protestors did. And, it helps Americans of all colors.

Unfortunately, King’s murder unleashed an anger in inner cities. One major city that did not have riots was in Indianapolis as Robert F. Kennedy shared his admiration for King as well as his pain in losing his brother while campaigning there. RFK would not be alive in two months after his own assassination during this tumultuous year, but his reverence for King was notable.

Let’s remember the life of Martin Luther King. America is better for it. We should never forget that even though a minority of bigoted and hateful voices seem empowered to do so.

Take ten – the most and least trusted news sources

The University of Missouri Reynolds Journalism Institute conducted a survey of over 8,700 people last year. The mission was to determine the most trusted and least trusted news sources.

Per a link to the survey from an article in Marketwatch.com, “the questionnaire asked respondents to name three news brands they typically trust and three they don’t. Kearney (the survey leader) took a look at brands that came up at least 10 times and compared how often they were mentioned as trusted versus mentioned as not trusted. These lists show the relationship between positive and negative mentions. The responses were opened ended, and some answers aren’t actual news brands.

Mentioned as trusted:

The Economist
Public television
Reuters
BBC
NPR
PBS
The Guardian
The Wall Street Journal
Los Angeles Times
The Dallas Morning News

Mentioned as not trusted:

Occupy Democrats
BuzzFeed
Breitbart
Social media
Trump
Infowars
Yahoo
Internet
Huffington Post
The Blaze”

I found these results quite interesting for several reasons. The obvious is an individual who is listed as one of the least trusted sources of news. He would be the one telling everyone to trust only him and other news is “fake news” when it is disagreeable to him. Also, the appearance of Breitbart and Infowars on the least trusted list is telling, as well as Occupy Democrats whose name sounds biased.

On the positive side, the names on the most trusted list are very deserving in my view. Personally, through a combination of trial and error and recommendation, I frequently use five of the top ten sources – Reuters, BBC, NPR, PBS Newshour and The Guardian. I have read occasional articles by The Economist, but need to check them out more. A blogging friend, who passed away a few years ago, suggested I check out Reuters and The Guardian. I remember him well for that.

If you are getting your news from one of the least trusted ten, please stop. I would suggest you give a few of the sources from the top ten most trusted a view. Using multiple good sources helps me learn new things and gain perspective.

With the person mentioned in the bottom ten also occupying the White House, it is important we get our news from good sources and not him. He is deserving of his position on the bottom list with a 69% “mostly false or worse” frequency per Politifacts. It is important to us and a key to our democracy. Who prescribes such – only our founding fathers.

Why Comrade Trump Why?

I am puzzled. For some reason, the President of the United States has made decisions that benefitted Russia. Why?

The decisions range from failing to condemn Russia once incontrovertible evidence was presented that showed they meddled and still are meddling with our democracy to failing to do anything about the continuing meddling to failing to sanction Russia as recommended by Congress with at least 98% votes in each Chamber. And, there are other examples, such as not including Russia in a list of countries on trading sanctions with North Korea. Why?

The possible reasons might include: significant long term financial ties to members of the Russian oligarchy, desire for future investment for his business, admiration for a dictatorial leader posing as a democratically elected official, unwitting and now embarassing participation in Russia’s meddling in our election, unwillingness to admit such as it would damage the veracity of his election, collusion with Russian meddlers or being a compromised asset of Russia.

Unfortunately, various combinations of the above reasons could be true. To be brutally frank, the financial ties and admiration of Putin are givens. I also think his ego is having a hard time with the fact he may have been aided in his win. What the Special Prosecutor will determine is whether he was just an unwitting participant, involved in collusion or a compromised asset. Given where he gets information, at a minimum he was and is an unwitting participant. The meddlers noted how delighted they were (and are) when the candidate parrots their words.

Given the above and his (and others’) fluctuating storytelling and obstruction efforts, I find it hard to believe Comrade Trump is not more culpable. I truly hope this is not the case, but we will have to see what transpires.