Take it to the bank – it is political

When politicians do not follow customary procedures, take it to the bank, the reason is politically motivated. We have procedures, rules and laws to provide guardrails to governance. Senator Mitch McConnell is as political as they come, but so was his predecessor Senator Harry Reid.

Yet, both highly political men pale in comparison to the highly abnormal actions and words of the incumbent president, where seemingly every issue is political. It is a key reason we are exhausted as a nation. The regal-minded president just wears everyone out, even his followers.

When he denigrates the Federal Reserve, media or those who say things he does not like, which is abnormal in tone and magnitude, it is political. When he says there is a deep state out to get him, take it to the bank, he is being political. His worst enemy is the one that stares back at him when he shaves.

Hard working, duty-bound public servants are trying to do their job. When several testified under oath about their concerns of the actions of the president, don’t you think they knew of the risks, heightened even moreso by a vindictive president?

I hear how the impeachment was a hoax, but the House called witnesses and swore them in. I watched these folks and they seemed far more credible than some of the Representatives whose obvious mission was to verbally beat the crap out of the witnesses. Take it to the bank, their tongue-lashing was political. The truth was less important than to crush the credibility of the witnesses.

But, it is not just at the national level or just in our country. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has protestors or opposing candidates thrown in jail. Former British PM Theresa May called for a special election to secure more seats and the British public punished her with the opposite in response to her political move. She held an unnecessary election.

In my state of North Carolina, the former Speaker of the House did not have the votes to pass a budget, so he sent everyone home late that night. But, he told his party members to stay close and held another vote at 1 am with a small quorum. Not only is that political, it is unethical in my view. By the way, that Speaker is now the junior US Senator from NC.

We must have our leaders follow normal processes to protect us from politically motivated actions. We cannot tolerate that from Congress, nor should we tolerate it from the White House. When they behave out of the norm, take it to the bank, it is political.

Win or lose with class

It seems too many of us have lost a sense of fairness in competition. Be it sports or politics, too many of us feel it matters less if the game was fair, as long as my tribe wins. That is unfortunate as we should strive to be like our better angels and win or lose with class.

Whether the sport is a team game or an individual competition, winning means so much more if it is done the right way. Also, if your team gives it a great shot, but falls short, how the loss is handled matters a great deal. As a participant and a fan, I have had my share of heartbreaking losses. I had to learn as a boy to be a better sport, which is a necessary lesson that a coach or parent must impart.

Sports is just a game. For fans, it is entertainment. For participants, it is a way to test yourself and earn a living, if you are very good at it. But, unlike gladiators, no one dies at the end. No one loses a close friend or mother. Yet, people place the utmost importance to their tribe. If their team wins, it elevates them above their routine lives. If their team loses, they feel less about themselves. To be frank, whether my team wins or loses makes me feel one way or the other, but it is about the outcome not my life.

Politics has become the same way, very tribal in nature. My party must win and your party must lose. Doing our business to solve real problems is less relevant than winning. I want real problems solved. I don’t want politicians appeasing funders. But, the more important tribe is the country for which these elected officials represent. That is what matters the most, yet we lose sight of that.

As a player, I have never been a fan of trash talking. It shows poorly on the talker and dishonors fair competition. I feel the same about labeling and name-calling a political opponent. It reveals a lack of character and a poor argument. In politics, it gets in the way of working together. I can assure you as an independent voter and former member of both parties, neither side has all the good ideas, and both have some pretty bad ones. In fact, the good ideas seem to be drowned out by ideas to solve overstated problems. It is essential to work together.

After 9/11, one of the more profound pieces of advice came from a professional basketball announcer named Gerry Vaillancourt. On his talk show after 9/11, the callers discussed what we must do to quickly get back at someone for the four attacks, one which was thwarted. Vaillancourt disagreed. He said we need to be very calm and diligent as we gather our information, taking the necessary time to get it right. Only then, should we act. He said our calmness will be unnerving. I think about his words as they came from an unexpected source and they ring so true. In life and in sport, you should be more wary of the quiet person.

To me, this is in keeping with treating others like you want to be treated. You do your very best to compete with fairness and, win or lose, do so with class. If you cheat or show your hind end, you will be remembered for that as well. And, one thing sports teaches us is how to handle failure. The very best baseball hitters will fail seven times out of ten. Even the best of boxers get knocked down. So, in life, when you do get knocked down, you get back up, dust yourself off and keep going.

Fantasy Headlines in 2018 (or are they?)

The following are fantasy predictions of headlines based on opinions formulated over the last few years and months from actual news stories. Will some of them come true? Who knows, but I tried to come up with a plausible forecast, recognizing I took many liberties to tell a story.

Rex Tilllerson tenders his resignation; Trump names CIA Director Mike Pompeo new State head

Damaging videotapes from “The Apprentice” are released – Blacks, Jews outraged as Trump denies authenticity, threatens lawsuit of producer

Congress, Governors condemn Trump’s racist language in Apprentice tapes

More women come forward to accuse President of sexual assault after release of tapes; Trump says all are lying

Several female GOP Senators and Congress members add their voice asking for an ethics investigation of the President

Trump attacks Collins, Murkowski, Ernst for daring to condemn him

McCain, Corker, Flake and Graham call for  ethics investigation joining growing a number of female legislators

Huckabee-Sanders tenders resignation after being unable to defend President – Sources say she was fired

Congress yields to pressure for ethics investigation of the President. President, Bannon threaten all involved

Mueller indicts Jared Kushner on collusion with Russian agents and not reporting all financial dealings with foreign interests

Trump asks Sessions to have Mueller fired, Rosenstein and Sessions refuse to do so

Trump fires Sessions, appoints Chris Christie

Christie fires Rosenstein, Senate leadership assumes Mueller investigation

Mueller indicts Trump, Jr. for lying to the FBI, Senior says he is not involved throwing son under the bus

Trump tweets reveal a totally unhinged President causing alarm to supporters

Trump’s approval rating falls beneath 30% as base shows concern and support wanes

Senate leadership pushes Trump to consider resigning – he refuses calling them cowards

Trump is indicted for obstruction of justice and collusion with Russians

Congress begins the impeachment process, Ryan and McConnell again encourage Trump’s resignation

Putin turns on Trump saying he should consider resigning

Kelly, McMaster and Mattis threaten resignation en masse unless Trump resigns

Ivanna begs father to resign to save himself, brother and husband, Trump refuses

Donald J. Trump resigns as 45th President, Pence to be sworn in

Trump base cries foul, violent protests break out. Bannon, Hannity rage

Pence names Senator Joni Ernst as Vice President in surprise move

Plea deal is revealed. Trump, Kushner, Trump, Jr. won’t face trial if Trump resigned

Pence, McConnell and Ryan ask for calm as global leaders look forward to working with Pence

Vindictive Trump appears on Hannity accusing everyone of a witch hunt and unfair treatment

Mueller arrests Trump for violating plea deal after Hannity appearance

Recalcitrant Trump is released, goes into seclusion

Democrats retake majority in House. GOP keep slim majority lead in Senate.

 

Isn’t he CUTE – my four favorite Trump lies

Since my memory is so poor and the lies told by Donald Trump in this campaign season so prevalent, I resorted to the use of an acronym CUTE to remind me of my four favorite Trump lies. These are not necessarily his best ones and with a track record at year-end 2015 of telling the truth only 24% of the time, there are too many to choose from.

I mention these as people will tell me that they are for Trump because he tells the truth or says what we want to say. As for the latter, I would grow concerned if you really wanted to say some of the bigoted and xenophobic stuff he babbles on about. As for the truth, based on his history and campaign statements, I would not equate what The Donald says with the truth. So, if the opportunity presents itself at a future cocktail party, remember the 24% figure first. But, if you need a few fun examples, here are four CUTE Trumpisms which are not truthful.

C = Crime: To inflame a crowd, The Donald said 81% of white homicides are committed by black assailants. Actually, the percentage is more the opposite as the FBI notes that it is only 15%. I think this exemplifies Trump at his worst as it is intended to enrage a strident fan base and blame a group of people. There is a reason so many white hate groups, like the KKK and Nazi party, endorse The Donald.

U = Unemployment: The Donald said the current unemployment rate of 4.9% is not correct. He heard it was more like 30% and one report said 42%. This number is published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is 4.9%. When you look at underemployment, it is higher, but nowhere near 30% or 42%. It should be noted if unemployment were that high, we would be in a severe depression.

T = Taxes: He has said this numerous times including the New Hampshire debates, where no one corrected him. The Donald said we are the most taxed country in the world. Not even close.  Per one measure ratioing taxes to GDP, we are 27th out of the top 30 wealthiest nations. Using a measure of taxes per capita, we are 17th. In fact, per the Paris based Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, we are well below the average taxes per GDP rate for their 33 surveyed countries.

E = Environment: His most colorful lie may be the most ludicrous thing said by any candidate, including some of Ben Carson’s inane statements. The Donald said global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs. Really? I guess those 97% of scientists, 195 countries, and every major science organization who follows these issues, are all wet. I guess since Trump said it, we don’t have to worry about it. Rather than quote facts, let me ask if it is a hoax, why is Exxon-Mobil being sued by the New York State Attorney General for misrepresenting to investors and shareholder the impact of climate change on their business? Why does Duke Energy factor climate change impact on their water reservoir evaporation loss models?

The sidebar story is there is a reason some of the GOP candidates are reluctant to call Trump out on these untruths. The reason is they are an extreme or even mainstream version of the narrative the GOP wants Americans to hear. The last statement on global warming is ludicrous, but not too different from other candidates who deny climate change. John Kasich is a lone wolf in this slate of GOP candidates who notes the real concern of man-influenced climate change. No one corrected Trump on the most taxed country in the world comment, as that is what the GOP wants Americans to believe. The other two fall into the category, as well.

As I have said  before, our world is complex. It is hard enough to govern when we use factual information. What we don’t need is people advocating stuff that either they know is a lie to gain votes or don’t know which is equally bad. Given his track record of making stuff up, my money is on the former. And, that is no way to govern.

Good governance is needed to protect us from cheating

In our country, it is OK that people disagree. It is OK for legislators to disagree and hold opinions that I do not find appropriate. That is a greatness of our government construct. What I find far less appealing is when legislators cut corners on parliamentary procedures or do not do the right thing when a conflict of interest appears to gain advantage. This short changes the process and makes us less as a result. This is cheating, no matter how you slice it. I will not be speaking about the greater level of cheating and that is following the preferences of wealthy donors and lobbyists. Nor will I address gerrymandering, which puts in office legislators with strident views and insulates them in future elections. Both of these would require their own posts.

Three times in the past year, I have read about or seen a replay of voice votes being conducted by Committee Chairs in the North Carolina General Assembly and US Congress. Voice votes are when the Chair says all in favor say “yes” and all against say “no.” These votes are usually held when they know the outcome will be unanimous or near unanimous. Yet, on these three occasions the Chair, who was in favor of the action, took such a vote on a contentious matter which would have a close vote.

In two of the cases, it was clear the “no’s” won and several folks in the same political party as the Chair said so, but the Chair was predisposed and heard “yes.” When others cried foul, their complaints were not heeded. In the third vote in an US Congressional Committee, the vote followed a very well done impassioned speech trying to give farmers the right to voice their concerns without repercussion against the industry. The industry won in a voice vote, a vote that sounded fairly close and should have warranted a roll call vote. It should be noted that the two votes noted above in NC favored a long-standing industry position.

To further illustrate, we had a former Speaker of the House in NC who led two unsavory votes. On the first, when a legislator realized she had voted wrong, she approached the Speaker to change her vote. Her request was denied and the vote the Speaker favored passed by one. On the second, the Speaker had a tough budget vote. When it passed midnight, he sent everyone home, but told his party to stay close by. He then recalled legislators to the chamber and had a quorum, but many “no” voters were already headed home to their districts and could not return. The budget passed.*

Not to be outdone, we had a former state legislator, who is on record to have participated in two votes where he had a known conflict of interest. He actually had a financial interest in the decision. He did not recuse himself which would have been the ethical thing to do. This is not restricted to NC, where I have seen footage of a Texas legislator who was voting to protect pay-day lenders, while being a marketing person for a pay-day lender. He was admonished on the floor, but that did not stop him from casting his vote.

I recognize fully we have huge problems with money in politics, voter restrictive laws and gerrymandered districts. The money means that the legislator has to win for their funders. The voter restrictive laws and gerrymandering make it easier for them to win an office and stay there. Yet, the money should not permit blatant cheating like the above examples. In each case I mentioned, an industry who had funded a legislator – fossil fuel industry, poultry processing industry, real estate developer industry and pay-day lending industry – each had sway over this politician or the politician had a personal conflict of interest in a vote.

I want to tie these things together, as when you see legislators cheat with parliamentary procedures, it is far worse than Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” cheating with deflated footballs. Brady cheated and is being punished after the fact and his saying that everyone does it is a child’s answer. The greater crimes are noted above.  It is people who have been funded to make votes happen in the favor of the funders. So, we should not say “boys will be boys,” and say everyone does it. We should ask pointedly, why did you cheat like that and who benefits the most? The act of cheating should give you pause about the veracity of the cheater’s position.

* It should be noted we had a previous NC Speaker who accepted a bribe and a previous Governor who got caught up in a real estate boondoggle. So, we have some more tangible cheating issues, but the focus on this post is parliamentary process being short changed to curry favor.