Credit and blame

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is stepping down today. This imperfect person has received a huge amount of blame for the failure to deliver a Brexit deal. Yet, I believe she had an unenviable task of herding the many and varied egos in Parliament who did not focus on getting the job done.

Living in America, we see this first hand, as posturing is more important than doing. Even before the fear-mongering and storytelling that has replaced civil debate, I have been disappointed in the demise in bipartisanship behavior.

Ironically, the last period of significant legislation occurred when GOP Speaker John Boehner ignored the Freedom Caucus and worked with moderate House Democrats to pass bills the Democrat led Senate would pass into law. He did this enough, that he retired before the Freedom Caucus rebellion ousted him.

Now, only handfuls of significant laws are passed as neither major party wants the other side to get a political win. Actually helping people is secondary to the perception of looking good. We have a president who does the same focusing too much on perception. He even controls his messaging taking credit for things he has little to do with and laying off blame on others when he the finger could be pointed at his efforts.

Blowing a problem out of proportion, making it worse by not addressing the real issues, threatening an action that gets push back from all sides and then coming to agreement on efforts that are already underway, is all a show that is harmful to relationships and commerce. People and companies need more stability in their lives, not less. When applecarts are upset, they have to look at other options.

This month, the US economy will be celebrating ten years (120 months) of economic growth. The president has been sure to pat himself on the back for this and he did provide some short term tailwinds with the tax cut and regulations cuts. Yet, he has only been president for going on 29 months. That means, 91 months of this growth were under Obama and the stock market more than doubled under his watch.

To be frank, presidents get too much credit and blame for the economy, providing at best headwinds and tailwinds. The headwinds this president has caused are more long term – debt, tariffs, immigration focus, pulling out of trade deals, etc. The economy is slowing its growth and more slowing is expected to occur. But, a given is this president will lay blame on others as it slows – he started last fall making the nonpartisan Federal Reserve the bogeyman.

Credit and blame. I have often quoted a leadership consultant I know, who said a great leader deflects credit to others; a bad leader accepts credit even when not due. Think about that as you hear or read tweets from leaders.

Could your emails stand up to scrutiny?

As there continues to be a leak of emails from Hillary Clinton’s staffers and previously the Democratic National Convention as supplied by WikiLeaks, it begs the question could your emails stand up to scrutiny? Irrespective of the source of the hack, with the Russians being accused as the perpetrators, we are learning of various internal machinations of a political marketing engine.

These emails are on top of the emails she released to the FBI from her personal servers while Secretary of State. From the folks who have taken the time to go through the emails, they have found them to be monotonous, as most emails are. There is quite a bit of pedestrian stuff. In fact, one reporter who was not a fan of Hillary Clinton’s, said she became one by witnessing how organized she was and how much she devoted to planning.

Yet, with any mountain of emails, there are various things that come out, which range from sales messaging to, in the case, of her state emails, emails she should have noted and handled differently. She has admitted she has made a mistake in using your own servers, and has compounded them by not being transparent from the get go. That is due to an Achilles Heel of hers which is to be close-vested. I am sure a large part is due to being protective, as she has been vilified over time, in part because she is a strong woman.

But, back to my question. Would your emails stand up to scrutiny? If you were shown an old email or several that showed you at your worst, where you sent an email you should not have, would that make you a bad person? I once asked “who told someone years ago that it was OK to do something that turned out later to be unwise?” It turns out I was that someone, but had no recollection whatsoever.

Further, what if we saw the emails of a few more contentious legislators? What would Senator Ted Cruz, who is not known for collaboration, have to say in his emails? What about those of former Speaker John Boehner, who had to herd cats on the majority side to keep things from falling apart in Congress and could only get major things through when he involved enough moderate Republicans with the Democrats? What about Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, the poster children for how Washington cannot get things done?

But, what about those of Presidential candidate Donald Trump or RNC Chairman Reince Priebus? Now, those would have some quite interesting exchanges about the candidates and his campaign tactics. Priebus would have several on “what do we do about what Trump said?” What bothers me about WikiLeaks, is the emails are one-sided. Clinton is far from perfect, but is it fair to pour through her sausage making and not her opponent’s? I find this interesting as he is the one saying the election is rigged.

Just think about this as we see more stories from her emails. I am sure there are more less than flattering emails therein, but maybe we should just set them aside, unless and until we can see others from her opponent. I am open to comments.

Allow me to be politically incorrect

The Republican Party and its Presidential candidate have a mission to strip away political correctness. In his phone messages, Ben Carson would say it is the biggest problem we have in America. Really?

With the freedom afforded me of removing the air cover of political correctness, let me ask a few direct questions.

– Why is it the candidate who says don’t believe the non-partisan fact checkers is the one who has lied more than any other candidate since the measurements began?

– Why is it the candidate who says if he loses it will only be due to voter fraud and a rigged system represents a party whose state leaderships had four Voter ID laws ruled unconstitutional just this month and as well as several gerrymandering cases on the past year?

– Why is it the man who calls his opponent “crooked” has been involved in multiple thousands of lawsuits when he has stiffed contractors, employees and investors, tried to evict people from their homes or made alleged misrepresentations as he did with Trump University?

– Why have we had eight Congressional committees on Benghazi and not one on invading Iraq to find WMDs? The just completed  UK study on the Iraq invasion  found fault with Tony Blair and George W. Bush.

– Why does Trump talk about “extreme, extreme vetting” when it is being reported by the AP that his campaign manager and now Chair, Paul Manafort, may have helped Russia buy influence in the 2012 election through masked funding of a lobbyist and by NBC News that he had involvement with several nefarious pro-Russian investors and people in the Ukraine?

– Why does Trump talk about taking Iraq’s oil when that would be a crime and make us out to be a pariah? Or, waterboarding, which the CIA says was ineffective and won’t do again after the Bush administration hung them out to dry?

-Why are members of Congress who are funded by the fossil fuel industry wanting to see the in-progress results of New York State’s Attorney General investigation into ExxonMobil for their alleged misrepresentation to shareholders and investors about the impact of climate change on its business?

– Why is it the GOP members of a Congress and 19 states have tried to strangle Obamacare through over 50 repeal votes, defunding the risk corridors for insurers to help with initial adverse selection, not expanding Medicaid in 19 states and naysaying it to constituents? It is working pretty well, but needs improvements in particular the risk corridor payments to insurers like Aetna and BCBS.

-Why did former Speaker John Boehner say jobs were mission one in January, 2015, then not pass any jobs bills that year, with the exception of the Keystone Pipeline bill which accounted for 40,000 temporary jobs?

-Why is it reported that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie help settle a back taxes case against a Donald Trump casino for only $5 million when Trump owed $30 million for several years, as reported by the New York Times and others? Now, tell us which system is rigged?

I could go on, but these are questions worth asking. And, hearing the answers.

Year-end Kudos

As we near the end of 2015, let me look back and offer kudos to select folks for their efforts. This is not meant to be a complete list, so please do share your kudos for those I may not have mentioned.

Angela Merkel deserves kudos for being the most effective global leader who sees the key role her country and Europe play in helping the many refugees in need or to share her concerns with Vladimir Putin for his transgressions in the Ukraine.

Pope Francis deserves kudos for taking his wonderful message of outreach to those in need to North and South America and Africa. He also deserves kudos for writing about the very real concerns of climate change and the need to act. He is the most respected leader on the planet.

Francois Hollande deserves huge credit for his handing of the terrorist attack in Paris and keeping France’s ideals and openness alive. He has shown how important it is to continue to live and exercise your freedoms, a lesson lost on too many here in the US.

Justin Trudeau deserves similar credit along these same lines by openly welcoming Syrian refugees into Canada. Seeing families reunited is a joy to see and he emphasized its importance by being there in person.

Barack Obama deserves credit for his continued stewardship of the US economy as evidenced by 70 consecutive months of job growth and decline in unemployment to 5%. Given where other global economies are at this point, he should be commended for providing the necessary tail winds over the past few years. He also deserves kudos for moving the ball forward in the US on addressing climate change.

John Boehner and Paul Ryan deserve kudos for navigating an unwieldy ship in the Republican led Congress to get some key agreements done. Boehner greased the skids for Ryan by getting the framework for the budget and debt ceiling increase passed and Ryan has been able to push through a long overdue transportation bill and education bill. It was good to see some bipartisan success and work accomplished.

Delegates to the Paris Climate Change Conference deserve kudos for accomplishing an agreement that was lacking from the last conference in Copenhagen. While no agreement is perfect, this one seems to have more in its favor than not and will help move the ball forward. The move down the path of renewable energy has passed the tipping point and this agreement with business leader backing will help us address our climate change challenge, but also help speak to our number one problem, a global water crisis.

Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos for the formulation of The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which may be the biggest news out of Paris. This coalition will match government funding to accomplish better technologies and renewable energy solutions to combat climate change. The government funding is supported by the US, France and 18 other countries through a joint effort called Mission Innovation.

Conservatives for Clean Energy is a group that shows the movement to renewable energy is not just a progressive movement. Their efforts show that the need to move more quickly is universal and renewable energy is a viable industry for future jobs. Their existence supports the ClearPath survey results that 75% of conservative voters believe we need to move further down the path of renewable energy.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy deserves kudos for doing what the US Senate failed to do and what terrorism consultants said could help to some degree. He performed an executive order to ban the sale of guns to people on the government no fly watch lists. This common sense change was voted down in the US Senate by party affiliation, including three presidential candidates, who have openly chastised the president for not doing more to combat terror. So, to his credit Malloy made it happen.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and the Families of the Emanuel AME Church of Charleston for the courage, forgiveness, leadership and love in showing how a community can galvanize around a tragedy. Seeing these people of faith forgive the man who killed their nine loved ones was as great a testimony as I have ever witnessed. Haley and Riley deserve kudos for the huge role in bringing the community together and for Haley to deftly use the opportunity to finally bring down the sign of hate represented in the Confederate flag.

Former President Jimmy Carter deserves kudos to showing us all how to handle the news of his mortality with grace and the conviction of faith. Between Carter and the church members of the Emanuel Church in Charleston, we saw two beautiful acts of faith that are lessons for us all, regardless of religion. It should be noted that Carter recently received great news that his cancer is gone after some unique treatments. With his humanitarian efforts, maybe God still has a purpose here for him.

Again, please feel free to share your thoughts on who I may have missed or if you find fault with my choices. Happy Holidays.

A few paraphrased quotes for fun

Politicians, pundits and so-called experts say the darnedest things. And, they tend to forget that they have been recorded. The sad truth is some do not care, as they have “evolved their opinion” or “changed their mind.” Nonetheless, these quotes provide nice vignettes into the absurd world of our leaders and so-called thought leaders. It is a reminder that every thing you see and hear should be taken with a grain of salt.

– In 2008, both current Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said these statements on camera. “Climate change is real and man-influenced and we need to do something about it.”

– Roughly in 2007, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and then current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did a television commercial together. Newt said “I was wrong about global warming. It is a problem and both Nancy and I agree we need to do something about it.”

– In 2014, both Boehner and McConnell said roughly “The science is not clear on climate change.”

– In his 2012 Presidential election run, Gingrich said, “I was wrong to say I was wrong about climate change.”

– Last month, Presidential candidate Rick Santorum in response to a question about Pope Francis’ paper on the Catholic Church’s concern over doing something about climate change, “We need to leave this to the scientists.” The Pope not only is supporting what governing scientific bodies are saying, but he also has a Masters in Chemistry, so technically he has some science qualifications.

– A public relations person who is well-compensated by the fossil fuel industry portrays himself as a scientific expert and argues on the split screen shots with scientists on talk shows. In the documentary movie “Merchants of Doubt,” he made fun of scientists saying they were “boring” and took pride in selling a story of climate change being a hoax. These scientists have spent a life studying the problem, but sometimes find it hard to articulate a complex argument into sound bites. When he was asked by Glenn Beck if he was an independent, unbiased expert, he lied and said he was.

– Former Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who was a climate change skeptic, traveled to Antarctica to see for himself. He came away convinced that the science was real and climate change is the problem as advertised. On the floor of Congress, he made a speech about his findings and that we need to do something about it. He was trounced in the next election by a fossil-fuel backed candidate. He now travels around telling his story as a Republican supporting the need to act on climate change and faces uphill battles everywhere he goes.

Man-influenced climate change is here and is causing problems around the world from Ecuador to Bangladesh to the Cartaret Islands to Miami to the Everglades to Norfolk to Texas to California. The drought areas will become worse and they are. Forest fires will become worse and they are. Sea-level rise will encroach into low-lying areas and it is. Hurricanes will hit shore from an elevated water level and be worse like Hurricane Sandy. And, chemicals in the ground will heat up like a crock pot.

The world can ill-afford a President or politicians to not recognize climate change for the problem it is. Please ask questions of politicians why they believe the way they do and what framed their opinion.

Well I’ll be

On the short ledger which lists collaboration in Washington, our last two Speakers of the House, John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, helped lead a brokered deal to get the “Medicare Doc Fix” passed. After the House overwhelmingly passed the bill, the Senate did as well, and the President signed the bill into law. This has been a sore spot for years requiring Congress to periodically amend how doctors treating Medicare patients would be reimbursed. The link below will delve into a little more detail, but know this significant show of bipartisanship is welcomed by many. This is how Congress used to act before things became too polarized with campaign rhetoric replacing actual facts to govern with.

And, this deal may set a trend at least for the next few days, with a deal that gives Congress the right to bless the deal with Iran on the nuclear talks, but in a way that gives the President the right to negotiate terms with the various partners. The President has said he will sign this bill, if passed. It came out of Committee with a 19-0 vote.

The next action would be the human trafficking bill which had been held up over some abortion language, but apparently the parties are close to an agreement. With that bill passed, Senator Mitch McConnell may allow the long overdue vote to confirm Loretta Lynch as the new Attorney General. She is well-qualified, but has been held up for this vote and since she could not find fault with the President’s immigration executive orders when questioned by the Senate Confirmation Committee (who did confirm her).

So, are the folks in Congress and Washington listening? This a welcome sign, but I won’t count my chickens until they are hatched. May the force (of collaboration) be with them. We need it greatly.

http://www.ibtimes.com/doc-fix-2015-obama-signs-214-billion-medicare-legislation-doubts-remain-1883130

A Clueless Congress blocks progress

While our President remains imperfect, several good things have happened on his watch, some with his impetus and some where he is given more credit than the office of the President is warranted. The economy has largely recovered, but more work is needed to make it be felt more equitably. The Affordable Care Act is actually working reasonably well and most Americans want it improved upon, but not replaced. And, he is at least taking some strides on addressing climate change. He is also showing judicious restraint working with Mideast and other countries to combat terrorists. Yet, we greatly need better governance over the NSA spying and use of drones and he could be more LBJ like in getting things done with Congress.

On the flip side, we have a Congress that is building off two years of being labeled as one of the most ineffective ones in our history. The current Congress has not shown any indication of changing that downward trend in effectiveness. In fact, the Department of Defense has rated our Congress’ lack of governance as a threat to national security. And, the Wall Street Journal has noted how horribly this current Congress has started out, even before the fiasco of last week’s inability to fund Homeland Security beyond one week. We will have more of the same dysfunction this week, plus it will be compounded by bypassing the White House to have a foreign leader come to speak to Congress on Tuesday. This is poor form.

The big tiff over the Homeland Security is around the President’s executive orders to improve our immigration problems. This is mainly due to the ire over the President acting when the House decided to punt after eighteen months of no action. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill that was formulated by one of the GOP presidential candidates, but it was not good enough for the extreme members of that party. And, that is representative of the problem. We must start governing from the middle where the more rational, collaborative heads reside and not placate extremists. That is why they are called extremists as their vision of America is narrow-minded and exclusive.

Until which time the Speaker wises up and starts looking to pass legislation that has a snowball’s chance, he is wasting American’s time and energy. Yes, he will tick off those extremists in his party, but that is OK. He held a vote so that we could have new people vote to repeal Obamacare. Americans have said they do not want that. And, as noted above, it is working reasonably well and that is from a variety of measures. The additional irony it is based on a Republican idea that was advocated by the Tea Party leadership before it was passed (Google Senator Jim DeMint and Romneycare and read until your heart’s content).

I would also suggest we start working off real facts and not someone’s version of the facts dressed up and misused on pseudo-news sources. When we start governing again off the real information and not campaign rhetoric, we stand a better chance of getting to better solutions for our country. Climate change is real and man-influenced; solar energy jobs are growing rapidly along with the decline in solar costs; Obamacare is actually growing in receptivity while the number of uninsured decline and cost increases are dampened; and our infrastructure needs are significant and jobs will come with those investments to improve them.

Congress we need for you to gain a clue. The President, while imperfect, at least has one. Help make what he proposes better and start doing your job. Otherwise, the best jobs plan would be to get rid of all of you blockers under the Capital dome. You deserve the poor ratings you are getting.

Speaker Boehner – you are right, it is not a damn game

I watched Speaker John Boehner speak with righteous indignation at the government shutdown not being a game. You are right, it is not. I agree with you. You have the power as of this moment to call a vote on the Senate bill they sent back to the House. You have enough votes between moderate Republicans, who are tired of the Tea Party hostage taking, to side with the Democrats and get the budget passed. Right now, you have the votes. Make a move.

This budget is based on what you want from a GOP standpoint. It keeps the GOP desired numbers, but is without change to Obamacare funding. The Democrats have already conceded on this point. You have the votes right now, if you call for a vote. Someone wrote a comment into our newspaper this morning. The Senate has voted several times on bills sent over from the house. You should make a move on what the Senate sent back. You have the votes right now.

As an Independent voter and former Republican and Democrat and I don’t care who wins or loses. I do care about people using misinformation. I do care that a small group of people called the Tea Party can hold the GOP and America hostage over something that is largely a Republican idea. The exchanges in particular are a capitalistic, GOP idea that leverages the existing market. I also know the former Senator Jim DeMint, who was the Tea Party leader before resigning his senate seat to become President of the Heritage Foundation, supported Romneycare as last as 2009.

This is of importance, as Obamacare is patterned in many respects after Romneycare. DeMint liked Romneycare so much he wrote a letter to President George W. Bush saying we should do this for our entire country to solve the healthcare problem. He even advocated in interviews how much he liked the mandate as he thought it added personal responsibility. Yet, when Obamacare was passed, he declared in 2010 that both Romneycare and Obamacare were unconstitutional. Only one year before, Romneycare was the best thing since sliced bread.

This is the ultimate flip-flop, as now DeMint, as President of the Heritage Foundation, writes an anti-Obamacare post complete with a hammer and sickle implying Obamacare is communism. Again, I would add the exchanges are about as capitalistic as you can get. If not, why did the healthcare insurer stock prices go up on October 1? Another irony is origination of some of the ideas within Obamacare came from the Heritage Foundation and were adopted by Senator Bob Dole when he ran for President in 1996 as a the Republican nominee.

So, it is not a game Speaker Boehner. You cannot just change opinions like this because the guy in the White House passed your idea. This is important as if you ask Americans if they like the Affordable Care Act, you get more people liking it than when you ask them if they like Obamacare. They are the same thing, which Jimmy Kimmel has now made famous with his video from the other night. When people say Obamacare will be bad for the country, these are the same people who do not know what Obamacare does and are reacting to the name and the PR against it. You may recall when your PR firm told Republicans to always add the modifier of “job-killing” to Obamacare.

It is also not a game that about 50 million Americans do not have healthcare insurance, the worst offender being the state of Texas, home of Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Rick Perry. Texas has more uninsureds than other state. Cruz has been the principal culprit in holding America hostage and has done a disservice to this country. Perry has called Obamacare “criminal.” The Koch Brothers have funded commercials that use last year’s campaign tactics against Obamacare reference Uncle Sam standing between you and your doctor and using a poor woman to reference death panels. I know it is not perfect and is complex. I know Obama has done a poor job of explaining it to Americans. But, I do know the Tea Party, GOP, DeMint and Koch Brothers have pulled out the stops on the misinformation and disinformation calling it criminal, communism, Nazism, etc. Personally, I don’t like being lied to.

I also know politicians don’t know what Obamacare is. My representative still makes statements that I am sure he believes to be true, but are not correct. Either that or he is being Machiavellian. Governor Perry, Obamacare is not perfect, but it is certainly not criminal. However, what is extremely poor stewardship is to have a state where so many suffer and not do anything about it. Some would call that criminal. To me it is a damn shame, especially when entities like the Rand Corporation talk about the positive financial impact to a state to have Obamacare with the Medicaid expansion. So, you are not only not representing all Texans, you are harming the economy in Texas.

So, back to Speaker Boehner, you are right is not a damn game. It frustrates the hell out of me to have the country being held hostage over something that is largely your own idea. Call the vote right now and end this madness. There are so many Republicans that are ticked off at Cruz and the Tea Party, you will see what will happen. Call the vote now. It will pass and we can move onto the debt ceiling crisis.