Biden needs to come clean on appearance of corruption, otherwise it’s Trump vs Trump light…

December 7, 2019

JFK, the first Catholic president of the U.S., as a candidate made a special address to voters to assure them if elected president he would not be taking orders from the Pope in Rome. Barack Obama had to disavow comments by a black preacher whose church he attended. The minister had disparaged the USA with an obscenity.

Before Obama, Bill Clinton appeared with his wife to at least tacitly admit to the bimbo eruptions but to assure everyone he was trying to do better (well we see how that turned out, but he did win two terms of the presidency and survived his impeachment to boot).

I think Joe Biden needs to have a heart-to-heart talk with the American people about the controversy over his son Hunter Biden working for that Ukranian energy company Burisma and getting all the big bucks when he (Hunter) knew nothing of the business and the fact the elder Biden even bragged that as vice president he pressured the Ukranian government to fire a prosecutor in connection with the investigation of that company or its chief. It’s kind of a complicated story and it may well be that there was nothing untoward save for the appearance. But I think the onus is on Biden the candidate for president to explain in detail. You can’t on the one hand be ready to impeach the president of the United States over a closely related matter but not come clean yourself. I mean Trump claims he himself did nothing wrong as if that alone absolves him. But Biden is essentially doing the same thing.

If Biden can just come clean with all that, go through the details, then he could let it go — that is no need for further explanation. But he faced a heckler at a campaign rally the other day and blew his cool when the man charged him with being corrupt over the whole thing. Some say he just stood his ground (thus even proving he could go up against Trump in a debate). No, he called the man a “damn liar”. Maybe the man was but unfortunately Biden ended up acting like Trump. We don’t need that.

How Biden gets to be the lead candidate among the Democrats is almost as much a mystery to me as how Trump took over the Republican Party. But Biden still seems to be on the trajectory to win the Democratic nomination. I’d hate to see the final contest being Trump vs Trump light.


Kamala Harris makes wise decision to drop out of presidential race, her time could be later…

December 3, 2019

I think that Democratic U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California made a wise, albeit painful I am sure, decision announcing today (12-3-9) that she is dropping out of the presidential race. She is still a senator and has demonstrated in that position her skills as a former prosecutor, as when she grilled now Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. Prosecutorial skill can come in handy both in digging out the truth and in making a case before the public.

Harris is young enough (55) to go fight another day — she can run for president if she chooses in the future when she has more of a record behind her. She is still in her first six-year term in the senate.

Her weakness this time around seemed to be you did not quite know where she was on some key the issues, such as health care. Did she not say she was for totally eliminating private insurance only to walk that back a little? She was all over the place on other things as well. She has walked a tightrope in her career. As a prosecutor and a woman of color she was attuned to the plight of minorities who find themselves disproportionately incarcerated. But she was also attune to the fact she was put there to dispense justice for all the people and to fight crime. Being able to see more than one side of an issue in and of it self is not a weakness. It’s a strength. But sometimes you have to decide.

I look forward to seeing how she does as a senator moving forward and if she compiles a record of leadership good enough to take another shot at the presidency.

 

 

 


Is Trump just a cruder version of the same old same old?

December 3, 2019

I saw the headlines: Republicans rate Trump above Lincoln. At first startling. But then I had to realize that for one thing this was just from a poll of which I have no idea how the question or questions were asked or the size of the sampling, and I don’t know much about the science of polling anyway.

Another thing, most people alive today know little to nothing about what things were really like in Lincoln’s day or really much about him. Unless we major in history, what we know is that from grade school on we were taught mostly that he was the guy who wore the funny stovepipe hat and freed the slaves, serving as president during the U.S. Civil War (called the “War Between the States”, in the South).

And even if you have read up on Abraham Lincoln, all that was then, a long time ago, in a world we would not understand in today’s terms.

Moreover, it seems the public mood has solidified on Trump — you’re either fer him or agin him. Facts do not matter (well especially on the Republican side but perhaps even on the other side to a degree — I know after what I have seen of Trump so far it would be impossible for me to support him).

Oh, I do know from hearing people talk that many don’t approve of all the things Trump does, especially his crude behavior, but somehow they see him as better than the alternative. Don’t ask me why.

Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that seeks to explain the allure of Trump among the masses. He speaks of “populist patriots” who reject the establishment of both the Democrats and the Republicans. I actually understand to a degree what he writes and maybe even agree with some of it and yet it leaves me somewhat baffled too. I don’t consider myself much different than say your average Trump enthusiast (except maybe I have paid a tad bit more attention to history and current events through the years). Trump does nothing for me, well except make me uneasy and concerned for our democracy and standing in the world.

(Jindal himself was an opponent of Trump and a critic of Trump’s narcissistic and crude behavior, but perhaps as a Republican political realist has come to support him. )

Trump did face a flawed candidate on the other side in 2016. Poor Hillary Clinton could not seem to relate in a sincere way to common people. And her line about putting coal miners out of business (out of context maybe; also she admitted to poor phrasing) used in the very areas where coal is an important part of the economy and where she eventually lost in the Electoral College voting, put the nails in the coffin for the Democrats (yes, even though she got 3 million more votes among the electorate). She was seen as someone more interested in grabbing millions of dollars in speaking fees from corporate entities. And then, unfortunately, when she acted tough, due to our sexist culture, she was seen as “pushy”, where a man (say Trump) would be seen as resolute, powerful, something we want in a leader

Geez! that makes it tough for women candidates. I mean I kind of like Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, but she seems so mousy at times, even if she did brave snowflakes in her presidential campaign announcement. She needs to be more strident — but then she runs the risk of being called a bit.., well you know. And you know who I have found to be the toughest on women who want to be tough? Other women. But I, a man, just have to say: “you go girl”.

And this impeachment of Trump thing. Just heard a political observer say the same thing I have concluded, that the Democrats are going to have to come up with something better than what they have to sway public opinion. It’s not that Trump has not done wrong, but it seems his acts have not done anything to move the needle on the frozen positions of each side of the debate, with the division clearly along party lines.

Let’s look at what the Democrats have zeroed in on for the impeachment: evidence, from Trump’s own statements even, indicates that the president tried to pressure the president of a foreign nation, Ukraine, to investigate Joe Biden, former vice president of the United States and opposing candidate to Trump, and to make a public announcement as such, in order to get military aid already authorized by congress but frozen by the Trump administration. So the charge is that Trump was trying to get a foreign power to intervene in a U.S. election — something that would seem clearly illegal.

But the aid was released without the investigation or announcement of — conveniently after Trump found out others were on to him. He has claimed he only was asking a favor and there was actually no quid pro quo demanded. I should add that simply not going forward with what seemed like blackmail or extortion or bribery is not a defense in that there is such a thing as “attempted crime” which is illegal.

However, all of this gets confusing in that most or all of what might have been said is recorded only in notes or memory and startlingly in an eavesdropped cell phone call from the president. He said, she said, they said, whatever.

Even so, there is enough evidence to make it plain that Trump wanted the Ukrainian president to publicly announce that he was investigating Biden and his son in connection with his son’s receiving what is reported to be millions of dollars for sitting on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm, whose chief was known to be corrupt, when he had no experience in the field but of course had a direct connection with the man who was the vice president at the time — his daddy.

Perhaps asking a foreign power to help the U.S. investigate wrongdoing involving American citizens is not in and of itself wrong but probably such a matter would properly be handled through the Justice Department — and the factor that the subject or one of the subjects of the investigation is a political opponent adds a troubling wrinkle to the whole thing. No sane person can question what Trump was trying to do — dig up dirt on a political opponent, using his powers as president.

But let’s see. A president of the United States involved in crime in connection with dealings with a foreign nation — how about murder? Although it was not completely new to me, I just read an account about how President John F. Kennedy sanctioned the coup against the then leader of South Vietnam that resulted in the murder of that leader and his brother. It seems a bit murky as to whether JFK realized such a coup would result in the murders, but he incriminates himself in a taped dictation as giving the go-ahead for the coup.

(This was in 1963. Ironically only a few weeks later, JFK was himself assassinated.)

I only bring this up to show that presidents, ranked as good or bad or in between, do bad stuff.

Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus (basically the right of arrested persons to appear before a judge) during the Civil War. There is some question as to whether that was legal on his part. No connection but he was of course assassinated. Oh, and no connection, but coincidentally his vice president and successor was impeached (but not convicted and removed from office).

But anyway, getting back to the central poin, if there is any, Trump is more likely to be removed from office by election of the people (well via the Electoral College) than impeachment. But the impeachment process is valuable to the extent it brings out facts/information that gives the electorate more to work with in making a decisions.

But just like the old adage that you can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it applies here: you can present the voters the facts but you can’t make them believe it all or even care.


More interested in hearing directly from the candidates; let’s stop being world policemen and nation builders…

December 1, 2019

The so-called Democratic presidential candidate debates don’t do it for me. Too many candidates and the moderators to me play too big a part in it. I’ve never felt news people should be part of the story — facilitators in telling or relaying the story yes, but deciders of who gets asked what or who gets to talk in a debate no. I don’t mean to put the blame on the messengers, though. It is an unwieldy mess having so many candidates. We were probably better off when the political parties pretty much chose the candidates on their own in the smoke-filled rooms rather than the direct primary system.

What I am trying to do now is look up the candidates on the computer and watch interviews with them. Of course there the interviewer, the journalist, does play an integral and necessary role, as long as he or she asks good questions that are neither statements in and of themselves nor partisan softballs pitched to the candidate.

Eventually I would like to see the leading contenders go one on one with their opponents. You see flashes of that in the 20 or so free-for-alls. But a prolonged debate, between just two people, with either participant having to state his or her case and back it up with evidence and face rebuttal would be better — with the moderators simply being moderators.

But we have what we have.

It seems the choosing of the candidate over these past decades has slipped from the grasp of the political parties to every man or woman for themselves, forcing candidates more than ever to chase after money and to fall into the grip of the big donors. Some of the candidates supposedly are only accepting smaller individual donations — I have not kept track (I should consider that, though).

I’m looking for a good middle of the road candidate, however, I also realize that even one who leans to the left (or right for that matter) will be tempered by the reality of the makeup of congress. So I could, say, vote for an Elizabeth Warren, who is seen as too left (although I am not sure that really fits her politics). I just saw part of an interview with her and her ideas about breaking up big tech are the same as the old Teddy Roosevelt trust busting moves (and of course TR was a progressive Republican (an extinct breed now I guess). Enforcing fair rules on the markets to even the playing field is not really so leftist. And Medicare for all has been around as an idea for a long time, but under various names, such as “socialized medicine”. It is not as sinister as it sounds. The intent is to supply the populace with healthcare on a more equitable basis. I personally cling to the idea that expanding Medicare or Medicaid to those who could not otherwise afford private insurance or qualify for government-funded coverage is probably the most practical approach in the U.S. Obamacare probably just needs to be improved (not dismantled or chipped away at). But I am open to ideas.

I am also receptive to foreign policy proposals that bring us back to better relations with our traditional allies and that at the same time rid us of the obligation of being international policemen and nation builders. It’s time that the people of the world fight their own fights against dictators and against religious zealots or those who hide behind the shield of uncompromising religious creeds in order to subjugate others.

We are in a quandary in Afghanistan for sure. Afer some 15 years there we seem forced fo negotiate with the Taliban (that hurts). If they take over again I feel a deep sense of sadness because women there will face subjugation, violence, and death — they will be once again by law second-class citizens (if they are not already). But the number-one job of Americans is to protect ourselves. The free world can lead by example. As an example of that, peoples of Russia and Eastern Europe broke the chains of communism after finding out the West had it so much better. Eventually those in the Middle East will turn against their religious and so-called religious dictators. We only serve to confuse things by going over there and inadvertently killing innocent people along with the not innocents.

I am not on President Trump’s side but I think he has a point about a deep state wanting to perpetuate the Cold War strategies (do U.S. and world-wide arms dealers have anything to do with this? You think?). Unfortunately he is on the wrong side in so many other things, such as the notion that starting trade wars is beneficial and his denial of climate change and its threat to the world. Moreover, he is wrong in character. An ignorant bully is not something or someone we want representing the United States. I realize that some people will say he cannot be ignorant since he is so rich. Makes no sense. People get rich in various ways — the old fashioned way, inheritance an example — including dishonest means. Maybe clever applies to Trump. I don’t think clever and smart are exactly the same, depending upon what our definition of smart is. Or maybe he is a smart but dishonest person. And he is rumored to not be as rich as he claims, one reason he is so protective of his tax returns.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. It is called the presidential election of 2020.

p.s.

I actually began this with the intention of saying something about Pete Buttigieg, the gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana who has received quite a boost in the polls recently. He certainly seems articulate and seems to have a reasoned middle of the road approach. Can he surmount the homosexual thing — in today’s ever-more progressive climate perhaps. I admit to having my own personal discomfort with the idea of having a homosexual leader and the prospect of having him share the White House with his mate of the same sex. There, I have said it. Could I vote for him over Trump? Of course.


I’m a political junkie but not for Holiday gatherings…

November 28, 2019

Note: I originally posted this yesterday (Thanksgiving) but realized what I say holds true for the whole Holiday Season, at least in my opinion (which is always subject to change), so I reworded it a little accordingly.


I hope it’s not too late, like you already ate or destroyed your thanksgiving dinner which ended in a knock down drag out fight over politics.

But although this goes against my grain, my advice is not to discuss politics at family gatherings during this so-called festive season unless that is just your custom and you are really into it and all of you can give and take and are objective in your views — not likely.

Strangely, even though the immediate family I grew up in was politically aware I do not recall political discussions at Thanksgiving dinner when we had relatives over. It was always the custom that Thanksgiving was at our house and Easter at someone else’s, usually one of two uncles. Christmas was always just us. New Years too. Maybe there was some political discussion that I just do not recall. I mean when we were kids (I’m 70 for reference) we played and did not bother the grownups for the most part. And we usually were outside playing in the yard rather than stuck to games or whatever on our phones or tablets — being as we had no cell phones or tablets then.

But anyway, I see no good to come of discussing politics during holiday gatherings if you see there might be some hot disagreements. Yes, I do think good citizens ought to be up on their politics and not afraid to discuss them with family and friends and neighbors, but on proper occasions — except I do not know what those occasions might be. Maybe if you are politically involved locally, you might have discussion groups. Maybe if you belong to a service club, except aren’t those just connected business people and insurance agents?

My problem with discussing politics is that quite frankly I know what I am talking about. I don’t have the answers to all of our thorny problems but I know what I am talking about. I have kept informed since I was in grade school. And I don’t just throw up my hands and say “they are all scoundrels” as most conservatives (or people who not really understanding the whole thing identify as such) do when it is proved to them that their guy was lying. I don’t think liberals or moderates (I put myself in the latter) use this device to deflect a criticism of their side. I’ve always heard it from conservatives or ill informed people.

And what is the use of talking to ill informed people who don’t really want to know the truth? You are not going to convince them.

It’s frustrating to listen to ill informed people talk of political or public policy issues. I was talking to just such a person the other day. He thought that California was trying to downgrade environmental standards and that President Trump was trying to strengthen them. Just the opposite of course. When I informed him of this, no reaction. I told him, you stick to sports, of which you seem to be an authority, and I’ll stick to politics.

The saving grace with people like this is that most of them don’t vote.

On the other hand some do. That is scary. But what are you going to do? We can’t require public issue awareness tests for voting. I mean it would be nice, but those who would conduct them would manipulate them in order that those who do not have the right political philosophy would flunk.

As we know, Trump got into the White House not by gaining the most votes but by getting enough electoral votes in areas (states) where he apparently had some people who were frustrated with the status quo and wanted to shake things up. They did and he did. Not so much for the better.

But that is not the point here. I’m just saying stay away from politics if you want a happy meal. A good device is to engage people in subjects they like (even if you do not) and think they are experts at. People love to talk about things they feel comfortable with. And then you can tell them your own non-political stuff.

Yeah, there is a time and place for politics. I don’t think it is at most family gatherings.

Just don’t ask me about politics. Get me going and I might not shut up.


Impeachers may be barking up the wrong tree; it’s the shady business dealings…

November 20, 2019

After hearing much of (not all of) Tuesday’s (11-19-19) impeachment hearing it seems to me the Democrats would do better to go after Trump and his associates (and family) for essentially using the power of the Trump presidency to make business deals or commerical profit. It seems apparent the cast of characters Trump has surrounded himself with are more out for the buck than the interest of the American people.

We all may not know the facts in all of this but there sure seems to be a lot of smoke and where there is smoke there is often fire.

Yes, it does seem improper for the president of the United States to ask or otherwise pressure a foreign leader to criminally investigate a political rival, namely Joe Biden, but since neither Trump nor his supporters care much for true statements they can explain that away by using the old Clinton ploy of it depends upon what the meaning of is is or in this case what the meaning of favor is, as in can you do me a favor before we give you that military assistance. Just make a public statement that you are investigating my opponent. And then there is the escape route of well the assistance came through without the investigation, as if an attempted crime is not a crime.

Trump did not demand he just mentioned. And is it not right to investigate corruption? Corruption that just happens to conveniently implicate a political opponent? Well there are proper law enforcement channels to go through.

And I still cannot understand why there is a not a tape of the call or calls they keep talking about between the president and the leader of Ukraine. I mean they have summaries sometimes erroneously called transcripts that have been made public, so how could it hurt to hear the real words?

But I think the impeachers are missing the mark if they are not actively investigating those business deals.

Trump is making a mockery out of our government by simply running it as his own business enterprise and refusing to disclose his financial dealings and tax returns and not putting his business assets in some type of blind trust as his predecessors have.

The president’s foreign policy actions should be under scrutiny and so should his witness tamperings via his twitter feed. But follow the money, that is where he is vulnerable and that is what needs to see the light of day.

 

 

 


The media takes sides in the impeachment story, how did it get that way?

November 19, 2019

A day off from my real job and I had time to watch a little of the impeachment hearing as it got under way. I was doing this on my laptop. I was also scanning the news sites.

So, ok, we all know that Fox News is in the president’s corner. It is not and never has been a source of objective reporting.

Trouble is, it does not seem that CNN nor the New York Times are anymore (assuming they had been in the past). Maybe they are partially objective, if that can be possible.

And maybe it is like this: the mainstream press or media — everyone uses the term media it seems, maybe since the printing press has become like horses in the automobile age — for so long did appear to slant slightly progressive or left on most issues. I always assume if that is true it is because most writers are products of liberal education (liberal in a non-political context). They are exposed to a multitude of ideas and history and see things through a wider lens. But it got so bad in the 60s and into the 70s that the forces of conservatism decided to create their own form of mainstream press or media. There were two main draws to this: for conservative politicians it would be good for elections. For business people it was a way to capture a hungry market. And it worked.

Is there something in between, something more objective or even totally objective? If you know let me know, please.

There is public television and radio, PBS and NPR. Those two tend to present more balanced reporting and more lengthy reporting and certainly cover a wider subject area. I think there is a leftward slant at times. And that is because of the natural slant that comes from people who are educated and the fact that when you don’t have the profit motive you don’t have to protect the interests of those who want to retain the status quo. And you tend to look out for the interests of people in general rather than just the status quo.

All of that is not to say that conservative writers or press or media are uneducated, it is to say that conservatives just block out their wider knowledge in favor of the status quo. And conservative policies are not bad or not all bad just because they are conservative or status quo or old. But something that just favors one class or race is bad policy generally.

A middle ground is attractive. I’d like to see it in both politics and reporting.

As far as public policy, the middle is important. One reason is that when we try to accommodate a class that has been shortchanged in the past we run the risk of simply changing the discrimination from one onto the other.

The enemy of objectivity in journalism is profit. News outlets today have stiff competition and seemed forced to appeal to a demographic.

In my relatively short career in small-time journalism the rule supposedly was that the business side of a newspaper was separated from the journalistic side in order that there be no conflict in reporting the truth. For the most part that seemed to be true — not always. But that was in a different day and age.

The public broadcasting of today to my knowledge depends upon individual and corporate donations and seems free of pressure from its sponsors. How they manage all that I don’t know. Apparently there is a market (albeit a non-profit one) for the truth and/or more complete information, thankfully.

With all the old-time print newspapers biting the dust there had been some talk of government subsidies. That would be a bad idea. Government-controlled media is what dictatorships use.

All this time I have spent writing this I could have been listening to more of the impeachment hearing but now I need to get some other chores done and take advantage of my day off. But I will catch up on all the news as I can. It would be nice if I could depend upon one objective source.

Well I can watch the PBS Newshour tonight.

p.s.

There is always one more thought: this mixing of opinion and straight news reporting that began with electronic media has infected print journalism (I include on the web when I write print) as well. And really it is difficult to present a full report on something without delving into speculation and opinion. The truth is often quite elusive. There are no easy answers.