Two obstacles promise to continue

Two prominent Republican politicians in Congress promise to continue their hardheadedness should Hillary Clinton win the White House. Senator and former Presidential candidate Ted Cruz has begun percolating the idea that the Senate should not vote on any new Supreme Court justices. Not to be outdone, Utah Representative and Chair of the House Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz has noted he will hold committee meetings with the purpose to throw dirt at Clinton and find something that will stick.

I don’t know about you, but I think Americans are tired of these kinds of antics. I have noted before that the media has been sloppy on their reporting of why people don’t like Washington lumping all of the reasons together. The majority of Americans want them to work together and get things done. There is a smaller percentage, primarily on the GOP side, that only want it done their way and compromise and collaboration are viewed as curse words.

The big problem here is the latter group is the predominant reason why the anger exists in the first place. Cruz has been a leader of the obstinate Tea Party and extreme right GOP members in the Senate. He single-handedly almost caused the US to default on its debt payments. Try that with VISA and see how far it gets you. And, then he advertises as a candidate that he wants to become President to solve all our problems. Senator Cruz, you are the problem, and if you want to solve it, then please resign.

As for Chaffetz, I have not been too impressed with his efforts. When Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards testified in front of his committee, Chaffetz put up a chart showing their ineffectiveness, saying it came from the Planned Parenthood website. After a whisper from behind her, Richards pointed out that chart was inaccurate and actually came from an anti-Planned Parenthood group website. She proceeded to tell him where it was wrong. It was one of the most effective put downs I have witnessed and showed that Chaffetz had not done his homework.

So, now Chaffetz wants to belabor anti-Clinton committee hearings. This comes on the heels of eight Benghazi hearings which former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice described as witch hunts. Yes, Clinton had some fault, but so did many others and the final report agreed with a nonpartisan report done three months after Benghazi. And, not to be outdone, Cruz does not want to vote on Supreme Court justices at all, violating the mandate under the Constitution. It was bad enough the GOP Senate leaders punted on nominee Merrick Garland, but now this ineffective leader wants to stonewall some more. I guess we should let it whittle done to zero justices.

Excuse my language, but when is this bullshit going to end? It might be helpful to the American people if our Congressional leaders tried something unique like governing. It has gotten so bad, our own military defines Congressional inaction as one of the gravest threats to our national security. Senator Cruz and Congressman Chaffetz, my strong advice to you is to worry less about keeping your job and just do your damn job.

 

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.

Please Remember Rush and Vote


One of my favorite songs by the group Rush is “Free Will.” Within the wonderfully crafted lyrics is the following phrase;

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

This lyric resonates especially in this election season. In an election where our president may be selected from the lesser of two choices, opting not to vote may cause us to end up with the worst choice.

The Republican Party started out with seventeen candidates, but has managed to whittle it down to the two most horrible choices of the lot. It amazes me that Donald Trump can get people to overlook his past and his present and think he can change all of that nature in the future.

Senator Ted Cruz may be the most detested legislator in Congress. He has grandstanded, ridiculed and demeaned others. He almost caused us to default on our debt. One GOP Senator was caught in an unguarded moment and said he would vote for Hillary Clinton before he would vote for Cruz. He later revised that statement saying he never said it.

As for Clinton, she is by far the most qualified candidate in terms of her service as First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State. But, she has had years of fair and unfair scrutiny by the conservative and mainstream media. The dilemma is the fair and unfair parts are clouded together.

So, she carries this extra baggage into the mix. But, she has been vetted more than any other candidate. And, she and Bernie Sanders answer questions better than the other candidates and understands that climate change and water are concerns, economic inequity is an issue and social injustice exists.

Both Trump and Cruz do not speak of climate change as an issue and do not talk of our water problems at all. And, both run counter to their rhetoric with proposed tax plans that would hugely increase the US Debt problem.

So, not voting may leave us with a President who will take us backwards and pick the next few justices on the Supreme Court who could unwind social progress.

Wearing jeans and passing out ball caps doesn’t make you a common man

The two leading candidates for the Republican nomination like to hob knob with the common folk. To show they are one of them, Senator Ted Cruz is wearing jeans and shirt with no tie. Donald Trump likes to wear his ball cap and hand them out as souvenirs. Yet, there is a big snag in their efforts.

Both Cruz and Trump have put forth tax proposals that have significant tax cuts for the wealthy. And, to make matters worse, both tax plans would materially increase the deficit to the extent there are not enough spending cuts to reduce the deficit, per former Republican Senator Alan Simpson.

While the tax cut for the rich is vintage Republican fare, the fact that both proposals increase the deficit run counter to the Tea Party concerns over reducing the deficit and debt. In Cruz’ case, it is especially hypocritical as he personally shut down the government in October 2013 and we would have defaulted on our debt if it were not for ten female senators who told Cruz to get out of the pool. Cruz said he did not care as he wanted to prove a point about the deficit. Yet, his tax plan would materially increase the deficit.

I have often said any Tom, Dick or Harry can get elected saying they will cut taxes. But, we need better stewardship than that. We need to pay down our debt and spending cuts cannot do it alone. That was the conclusion reached by the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan.

One thing is for sure. Neither Cruz or Trump can claim common status by doing exactly what the Republican establishment tends to do – favor the wealthy. That is not quite the revolution their fans are likely hoping for. Plus, being poor stewards with our debt strikes me as salesmanship and not governance.

We need to protect the children of the world (to protect ourselves)

There is one constant across all people, religions, and cultures. We love our children and want to protect them, nurture them and give them opportunity. Yet, we need to do a better job of protecting not just our children, but all children of the world. There are too many strident and zealous people who provide challenges to this goal. And, there is too much corruption among greedy leaders who stand in the way of helping.

Our missionary friend in Nigeria notes in his view the three greatest challenges we have are climate change, global poverty and global corruption. The latter seems out of place, but it is a major cause of disenfranchisement everywhere in the world, even in western countries. It stands in the way of getting resources and help to those in need and lays the groundwork for terrorist groups to find a way in to help. It is only too late, when the people realize the terrorists are far worse than the leaders.

Terrorists are very good at brainwashing adults and children leading them to extreme beliefs. Just as bigotry has to be carefully taught, so does hatred and zeal. It has to be nurtured and the terrorists are good at recruiting innocents and creating new generations of haters and using them as their army. It should not be lost on anyone, that the young impressionable person is strapping a suicide vest on, not the teacher.

Outside of the extreme example above, we tend to avoid thinking about helping our children. We have far too much short-sighted thinking that stands in the way of doing a greater good long term. We have too much corruption in politics that our profit makers get their way at the expense of others. And, the messages can easily be manipulated, so that blame can be assessed. We are too good at blaming others than looking at the real problem.

Here are few real truths that need to be addressed by leaders:

  • The World Economic Forum in their Global Risks report note the two greatest risks over the next ten years are the global water crisis and climate change inaction. Please ask your leader and want-to-be leaders what they intend to do about it. If they deny these issues are a problem, then do not vote for them.
  • The global maltreatment of women, including in western worlds, is an issue as it affects women and girls. Women must be viewed as partners not chattel, as to do otherwise is not only unjust, it is unwise, as women hold up half the sky. If a region does not value women, then it is competing in a world with half of its resources and intellectual capital.
  • To the first point, a major concern is overpopulation, which will heighten the impact of climate change and water. Our earth cannot support its people if we grow like expected and people consume more like western cultures. Plus, increased family size is highly correlated with poverty, so family planning is essential. The religions of the world need to get their arms around this issue and not prevent holistic family planning.
  • The refugee crisis must be addressed by all, including the US and Russia. Xenophobic fear mongering that is espoused by a few politicians does not serve the purpose. It is a resource issue and one country cannot bear the burden. Our Canadian partners are showing the US how to help, but we have decided to let politicians fear monger rather than help more. Russia needs to be part of the solution, instead of looking to gain influence at others’ expense which is Putin’s goal on most anything. Europe cannot do this alone and we need to get Syria more settled or the problem will continue.
  • When regions are in a state of disruption, little education is occurring. Our children are not getting the education they need if they are too consumed with just surviving. The refugee children are an extreme example of this, but when adults are disenfranchised, education suffers everywhere.

I have noted before that treating women better around the world will have an echo effect. It is not only the right thing to do, but economies will grow, we will be tapping more intellectual capital to solve problems and women do not compete like men do in politics, avoiding zero-sum games and seeking collaborations. I remind folks it took ten female senators to avoid the US from defaulting on its debts in October 2013, when Senator Ted Cruz single-handedly shut down the government.

Treating women better will enhance how we look to help our children. Girls are maltreated just like women, sometimes worse as they are sold as property or stolen. So, this echo effect will greatly help our children, through more stable economies and a greater focus on education. People should not lose sight that some of history’s greatest advancements came out of the Middle East. If we leave entire populations in disarray without education, that hurts us all.

 

 

While the Republicans bicker

While the Republican Presidential candidates and leaders bicker, it should be noted that the two Democrat candidates are far more civil and focused more on issues than mudslinging. Whether you agree with Bernie Sanders’ solutions, he is the most consistent candidate in speaking about our real issues in America. He is also offering more specific solutions rather than speaking in platitudes.

And, Hillary Clinton is giving a more pragmatic lens into why her approach is different than Sanders.This is the way it should be. I have heard neither candidate comment on the looks, sweatiness or intelligence level of the other. To me, that is an important distinction. Only John Kasich on the Republican side has had a similar sense of decorum and is speaking consistently about issues. Ironically, he has little chance of winning his party’s nomination as a result.

Yet, while these GOP shenanigans sink to new lows, a few other things are happening.

the 73rd consecutive month of job growth has occurred in the United States;
the unemployment rate remains below 5% at 4.9% per the Bureau of Labor;
the economy continues to be in growth mode, with the 5th longest growth period in our history and the most car and light truck sales ever in the US in 2015;
the business and tourism excitement with renewed relations with Cuba is palpable;
the Affordable Care Act has yielded several positives, but could use some improvements to make it better;
the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau created at the impetus of Elizabeth Warren has been hugely successful for punishing banks and credit card companies and getting compensation in penalties for defrauded and preyed upon consumers; and
Iranians have just voted in a greater number of moderates in their version of parliament.

We have problems in our country with the increased number of folks in poverty and disenfranchisement of urban and rural dwellers, but our country is doing pretty well. This is especially true in contrast to other countries. So, we need to build on these successes, not pretend they are not happening. And, we need to address the social injustice that is going on.

Dueling Banjos

In the early 1970s, Burt Reynolds breakout performance was in a movie called “Deliverance.” A highlight of a very interesting movie was a scene where a young boy and one of the adults on a rafting trip played “Dueling Banjos” in a song of instrumental one-upmanship, the boy with a banjo, the adult with a guitar.

It is with this backdrop, that I summarize dueling lies by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. It should be noted the only truth is they both are lying. The parenthetical comments are the truth).

DT: Unemployment is not 4.9%. It is much higher around 30%. I heard one guy say it was 40% (We would be in a severe depression if that high. 4.9% is the truth per monthly BLS reports).

TC: It would not have been a big deal if we defaulted on our debt in 2013 (Not according to experts and Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund).

DT: We are the most taxed country in the world (Not even close, 27th under one measure and 17th under another out of the top 30 wealthiest countries).

TC: Obamacare has been an utter failure (While not perfect and needing improvements, it has been pretty successful per a number of measures).

DT: 81% of white homicides are committed by black assailants (No, per the FBI it is more like 15% of the time).

TC: Donald Trump has recommended a tax plan that will increase taxes (No, like yours, both would reduce taxes to a degree, that the deficit will be significantly increased beyond the ability for spending cuts to reduce it per Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and a nonpartisan analysis).

DT: Global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs (This may be the dumbest thing said by any candidate topping Ben Carson’s pyramid comment).

TC: I am the best solution to our problems in Washington (My opinion is the only way for Ted Cruz to be part of the solution would be to resign as Senator. He is part of the problem with his obstinance, grandstanding and name-calling).

To be frank, I am unimpressed with either of these candidates. They are both divisive  and not forthcoming with the truth. Trump’s history is one of exploiting others for money and has lapped the field in lying per nonpartisan fact checkers. Plus, he has demonized, mocked and name called several people and groups. Cruz has not only lied several times, accusations of his cheating have merit and he is known for grandstanding and not collaborating with his colleagues.

In my view, the best GOP candidate is John Kasich, but his voice is being drowned out by these two prima donnas. To me, Trump and Cruz’ leading the GOP voter polls is an indictment of the party.

Sequestration and GOP Candidates Defense Gutting Comments

I find it interesting when politicians and leaders try very hard to load blame on someone else. The rule of thumb is take credit for good things, even if you had a little do with it, and lay blame on others when it does not fit your narrative when you or your party did have a hand in it. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s blaming others for the Flint water crisis is a good example. Another is the Republican led Congress blaming the President for the Phoenix Veterans Administration disaster, when the problem has been festering for years and that same Congress just two months before did not pass a $60 Billion plus funding bill to shore up the VA.

On the Presidential circuit, GOP candidates are blaming the President for “gutting” defense, when they seem to forget this unusual word “sequestration.” First off, the military was not gutted and the cuts were based on military leader recommendations given a tighter budget, as a result of the sequestration cuts. But, the Republican led Congress played a huge role in sequestration to cause these cuts to occur, which the Republican Presidential candidates fail to mention.

Back in the summer of 2011, the debt ceiling needed to be increased. Speaker John Boehner and the President worked hard to reach an agreement, but Boehner could not deliver the votes from his strident conservative members. So, they agreed to lift the ceiling, but there had to be a bipartisan committee formed to come up with some plans for budget cuts. If the committee failed to agree, Boehner and Obama set up larger across the board cuts called sequestration that would automatically go into effect.

The two major players felt that if they made the sequestration cuts so onerous, no one would let them happen. Even they underestimated the inability of Congress to do much of anything. The bipartisan committee failed to agree on any actions being split by party lines. So, the cuts went into effect with the military leaders making recommendations based on the reduced budget. Members of Congress had varying degrees of reactions to these recommendations, especially when they realized it meant people in their states and regions being impacted. Yet, they are the ones who set this in motion as they had numerous occasions to stop the sequestration train.

I am not writing this to let the President off the hook for his role. Yet, to assign him the blame alone and overstate the cuts saying they gut the military is a little over the top. I do want people to know that the lack of collaboration and strident views of members of the Republican party in Congress had a huge role in the sequestration. In fact, for most of his tenure as Speaker, Boehner usually got “must-have” legislation using more moderate GOP members to vote with Democrats. In this instance, Boehner did not want to move in that direction to stop the full sequestration cuts on the military spending.

So, when candidates are blaming the President for every so-called bad thing that has happened, you may want to take that with a grain of salt. And, you may want to ask those candidates for a truthful answer on how the economy, stock market, jobs growth and unemployment has all fared under this President.

 

 

The new ten commandments

It may have been beneath the radar screen, but Donald Trump received the endorsement of Jerry Falwell, Jr. after Trump spoke at Liberty University. Falwell said Trump even reminded him of his father. I found that to be a stretch, as whether you agree with the older Falwell’s positions, his faith and sense of decorum does not resemble that of The Donald’s.

Even self-proclaimed evangelical brother Glenn Beck took issue with that endorsement and supported Senator Ted Cruz. Irrespective of the veracity of Beck’s choice, Trump proceeded to denigrate Beck in a less than Godly manner. WWJD in Trump’s mind? Slam Beck of course.

Equally puzzling is that evangelicals reconcile their religion to support Trump. I guess my ten commandments don’t read the way the evangelicals following Trump’s do. I guess they should be boiled down to six and read Thou shalt…

demonize others for being different
– denigrate women as objects
– name call or mock people for their gender, disabilities, war service, obesity
– lie and not care if caught in a lie, as it is only politics
– create an environment where dissent is squelched and tolerate the physical removal of adversaries
– say anything, but cry foul when someone questions you

Maybe the younger Falwell teaches a different version of the ten commandments than I remember. If he looked, Falwell might not be too keen on Trump’s history of exploiting others to make money or suing to evict people from their houses under eminent domain rules as he builds his casinos next door (see below).

My sister is an evangelical, but she from the outset has not liked Trump. His manner and denigration of others are not very Christian-like she has said. It surprises me that other evangelicals are growing accustomed to Trump given his history and conduct. This support seems to be inconsistent with WWJD in my simple view.

Please contrast this behavior and endorsement with the speech made by Senator Bernie Sanders in front of the same Liberty University crowd, which was less welcoming to him. Bernie gave a speech (see below) that moved people as he spoke of the real truths about inequality and social injustice. He spoke of how the words in the religious text matter and we should lift up people who are in need.

To me, the message that Bernie is talking about is a better answer to WWJD? It would also resemble the one that the elder Falwell may be more inclined to give.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/265171/donald-trump-and-eminent-domain-robert-verbruggen

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/09/14/bernie-sanders-liberty-university-speech-annotated/

It is hard for Cruz to be a solution

Saying people are angry with Washington is sloppy reporting and does a disservice to the problem. There is a large group who is angry for the legislators not collaborating enough to get things done. Then, there is a group who is angry that their representatives are not strident enough in their convictions to only get things done their way. Let’s set aside the veracity or lack thereof of those convictions.

The latter group has been tapped into by the two men leading the GOP race. The problem is they are angry at the wrong people. Senator Ted Cruz is one of those leaders of the strident group and advocates that he is the solution. That is difficult for me to fathom, as Ted Cruz is part of the problem.

Cruz is a grandstander who has made an effort to not work with his colleagues at any level. He has ridiculed the leadership, embarrassing them on occasion. As a result, his senate colleagues will not go to bat for him. It should be noted when Senator John McCain’s birth in the US Panama Canal Zone became a minor issue, the Senate passed a bill that said just to make sure, this is not a problem. With the issue over Cruz’ birth in Canada becoming an issue, he should not expect a hall pass from the Senate. That speaks volumes.

And, he personally shut our government down for 16 days. The President had to cancel his attendance at two important international trade meetings, which is a key role for the position of President. If it were not for ten female Senators, the US would have defaulted on some debt, which would have been a horrible move per other countries and the head of the International Monetary Fund. This is as good an example of why Cruz would be such a disaster as President.

Yet, if we get back to what I set aside, Cruz is also part of the problem based on his positions. His bellicose rhetoric about carpet bombing shows his ignorance of the challenges of the Middle East. While not as blatant as Trump he has demonized more than a few groups of people. And, Cruz tends to overlook facts when he criticizes policies. If it is not his way, then it cannot be working.

Most Americans want Congress and the President to get things done. They want collaboration. Cruz just wants the attention. He wants it to be his way or no way. He is not the solution. Ted Cruz is part of the problem.