Voters, you always had the power…

January 30, 2016

It’s become fashionable in the last many presidential election cycles to campaign as “the Washington outsider” and now maybe the political outsider.

But maybe this cycle will really be different. The narrative going around now by those who follow politics is that the electorate is really fed up and that both young people, along with not young people, large numbers of whom who have not bothered to vote in the past, just might turn out this time and in the primary to choose an outsider.

On the one hand, there is Donald Trump, who is running as a Republican, and who has not held political office and who has not been active in politics, except perhaps in handing out donations (or bribes as they often really are; I mean he admits that). On the other hand, they can vote for Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-identified socialist, who caucuses with the Democrats, and who is one of the two leading candidates for the Democratic Party.

Even though Democrats are routinely called socialists by non-Democrats, Sanders admits to the ideology.

Now surprising to me, I heard someone mention today that a large number of prospective Democratic caucus participants identify with the socialist ideology or at least are accepting of it. I have not seen actual polls on this. But apparently Sanders’ message is sinking in with large numbers of people.

But at the same time, Trump, a brash, and crass, foul-mouthed real estate tycoon, and so-called reality TV show entertainer and runner of beauty contests, is appealing not only to Republicans but a portion of the Democratic Party who feel their voices are not heard by the insiders.

Union bosses are concerned that portions of their membership are attracted to Trump.

What I am hearing and reading is that people have finally come to realize that under the current system the voices of the masses are basically ignored in favor of special interests — Wall Street, major corporations, big-money donors.

I know, you’ve heard this all before but nothing changes. Yup, that’s right, but theoretically it could.

If people at large actually followed the issues — and I don’t mean by listening to the one-sided bull crap on right-wing radio, which is geared toward simply pleasing its demographic and sponsors with no objective coverage whatsoever, and if they contacted their elected officials on some regular basis then the clout of the special interests would be lessened.

Look at it this way: if I am elected as a congressman I cannot get much done in one two-year term, so to get re-elected I have to raise money for my campaign. But if the common folk cannot be bothered and if they don’t even have time to pay attention to what I am doing and give me feedback, then the only place I have to turn is to the lobbyists. And if I cross them, I not only forgo money for my re-election campaign, I subject myself to the likelihood of attack ads against me.

What I am saying is the power really can be with the people, but they have to stay in touch even after the election. I mean what happened to all that enthusiasm for candidate and then President Barack Obama and his promised cleanup of Wall Street? I mean maybe he never intended to, but had his supporters kept on him, he just might have had to fulfill that promise. While he did enact a landmark health care bill, the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, it was such a compromise that even its supporters in congress didn’t know what they were going to get or approve. Had there been more public support there might have been a public option or something that looked more like universal health care, something more geared toward the patient and less toward the insurance industry.

Just like the good witch told homesick Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you had the power all along — in Dorothy’s case to go home, in the voters’ case, to take back their government.

p.s.

Probably I should have said something about people becoming more active in political parties at the local level. But that is almost another issue in itself. I know I never have and cannot think of how I would have had the time. But our party system is weak and is outgunned by individual candidates in cahoots with special interests. I think political parties actually can work for the good of the people, but they can be hijacked or bypassed by special interests who count on public apathy and ignorance.

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Seems like Jeb Bush finally got a win, thanks partly to Trump absence…

January 29, 2016

I know it serves no real purpose to just follow the horse race and ignore the issues but all I really can say after the Fox News Republican presidential candidate debate that just ended (Thursday night), is that I would score Jeb Bush as the winner by virtue of sound answers and the fact he did not have the distraction of Donald Trump, who apparently strategically boycotted the event because of his lack of debating prowess — he just says he is great and calls people names.

(The presidential primary season officially gets under way Monday with delegates chosen in the Iowa Caucus.)

I think Trump’s absence resulted in an almost donnybrook at one point with several of the seven candidates on stage trading jabs, accusing each other of inconsistencies, particularly on immigration votes. It seems none of them can figure out how to fix the immigration problem without alienating (pardon the almost pun) some of their constituents or interest groups.

While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie often comes across as abrasive (even to his own constituents at times), he gave a good presentation and was even-tempered but strident.

It was hard for me to see how anyone could be attracted to Ted Cruz. And I never find Marco Rubio impressive.

And while I know the Republicans have to say what they have to say in order to win elections I just don’t buy the line that President Obama is such a terrible person or that he has ruined our country.

I do believe he seems incapable of handling the terror threat or at least is for some strange reason downplaying it, and I don’t see him as particularly strong on foreign policy.

But just what is this supposed catastrophe with Obamacare? If there are problems with the Affordable Care Act (probably misnamed, I admit), it may be more from Republican obstructionism, such as GOP state governors refusing to take part, than anything else. The idea of scrapping it now and putting our whole health care system into turmoil is ludicrous. Improvements can always be made, but we have to have something.

I actually think the GOP propaganda machine has convinced unknowledgeable people (which pretty well describes most of the public on matters of public policy) that Obamacare is a disaster. I’m not seeing the evidence. A lot of problems ascribed to it have their source elsewhere no doubt (even if the line “if you like your current plan you can keep it” was disingenuous).

As I always say, had it been me, I would have preferred we simply provided coverage for those unable to get insurance (expanded Medicare) and left it at that. But you have to admit, a law that excludes you from being turned down because of pre-existing conditions and covers adult children can’t be all bad.

But back to Jeb, I thought he came across as the most palatable alternative to the eventual Democratic nominee (and a pleasant and intelligent and fair-minded person) if that is what you are looking for.

I don’t know his legislative history well as Florida governor as he used to be, but although he campaigns as a conservative, I suspect he tends to be more center right. At one point during the debate he was explaining a compromise he made in some legislation and said he was facing opposition from some circles because a provision was not “conservative enough” (he almost rolled his eyes at this).

Bush faces the obstacle of having had a father and a brother who have already been presidents and the idea people have “Bush fatigue”.

And why is that Dr. Ben Carson even is part of this? He is out of his element. Was he just bored with retirement?

Well last time I picked a debate winner as I recall all the other reports seemed to disagree with me. I have not looked at any since the debate ended. I’ll post this before I do.

(Okay I posted this now, but then took a peek at other reports or columns, well at least one said Jeb had a “good night”.)

It would seem strange if the Republicans lost this election come November what with the fact that it is hard for one party to hold on to the White House after holding it for two terms. Also, with the threat of terror and a president who downplays it, and with the economy seeming as if might be stalling, it is only natural for voters to give the other side a chance once again.

However, times are changing. Younger voters may make a difference or I have read that people who have not been involved before are fed up enough to bother to vote, but it is uncertain for whom they might vote.

Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side might make socialism acceptable or people not steeped in politics might just ignore ideological labels and vote on issues or just vote for a for a change or for a dictator to solve their problems and absolve them of responsibility.

Some pundits are writing about a populist movement both from the political right and left. Historically populism was thought to be a phenomenon of the left.

The “establishment” comes under fire each presidential election and then continues on its merry way.

Outsiders don’t stand much of a chance; remember Jimmy Carter?

 

 


Debate: The media is the message…

January 28, 2016

So it has come to pass. Instead of writing about important public policy issues, the story is about the feud between Fox News (or the Ministry of Right-Wing Propaganda) and presidential candidate Donald Trump.

As much as I hate the term “media” to refer to all who work in the field of journalism — I mean it is a pejorative used to deflect criticism of ideas and actions. You just blame it on “the media” — I have to admit, just as someone wrote decade ago, that the “media is the message”.

I’ll get back to that, but for now I want to say:

I think it would be refreshing to hear the Republican candidates give their views without the distracting presence of Donald Trump, even if they have not given any indication they have any good new ideas and even if all they seem to be able to do is bash President Obama.

It is disheartening that someone so crass, base, conniving (He even admits he just lies and bluffs to make deals — so why does anyone ever work with him?) as Donald Trump could garner so much support (at least indicated by polling and those crazy people who seem not to care about his inconsistencies and his poor manners and his outright dangerous talk. They just want a strong man in power.).

There is some indication of late, I think, that all of that may be falling apart. One theory is that he is skipping the debate to avoid embarrassing questions from Ted Cruz and others on his inconsistencies. He is way ahead in the polls and figures he can stay that way if he dodges that challenge.

(Some think he will attend after all though. Just another publicity stunt.)

But what really disturbs me is how these broadcast personalities and a broadcast network, Fox, have made themselves almost more important than the candidates or other people or issues in the news. Marshall McLuhan wrote back in 1964 that the “medium is the message” not the content or those reported about.

I was first introduced to this while taking a journalism class at a community college. I was preparing to go into that quaint institution called the print media, newspapers. Even then, in 1972, I think it was, my instructor predicted some form of electronic newspaper was just on the horizon and conventional newspapers were on their way out.

Don’t want to get into a discussion on all of that, though. I mean there are a whole bunch of positives about print on the internet (and negatives too), and I love being able to blog. My qualms are with TV and even radio and its so-called journalism which seems to have gone almost entirely to the entertainment side.

Once upon a time the big three TV networks made no money on news but were required by FCC rules to carry it (I think I am correct in that). They also felt it gave them prestige to be presenters of the news. Some of the original broadcast news presenters were old newspaper hands. The story was more important than the personality presenting it. Although I have to admit, even from the get go, there is or was an element of personality in it all, that cannot be helped.

But finally when the networks found they could make money on news, entertainment took over.

I wish that we could have something like C-Span present formal debates, where topics were assigned and men and women faced off against each other, one on one, and presented their arguments and defended them in a formal structure without a TV personality injecting his or her personality into it, just truly moderating.

We could still have news talk shows with all the talking heads. I enjoy those too.

But the message should be the issues and the candidates, not those who are supposed to be reporting on them.

 


Lawless arrested in Oregon, one death…

January 27, 2016

It’s too bad there was one death in the Oregon armed standoff, someone who was on a federal warrant is the report I read, and the exact circumstances not known at the time of this writing, but several of the others of the lawless band who somehow think they do not have to play by the rules as the rest of us were arrested Tuesday in Eastern Oregon.

I have no sympathy with these vigilante/militia types who claim to be demanding constitutional rights — as far as I can see they just want to cause trouble. Why do the people they claim to represent say they want no part of them?

You can read the details in news accounts and I am no expert on it all but I have read accounts and heard an interesting interview with a rancher on the radio who said that while he and many of his fellow ranchers have issues with federal officials over the use of federal lands they prefer to settle things within the confines of the law and peacefully.

More than a year ago, a 20-year dispute between a rancher named Cliven Bundy and federal authorities in Nevada came to a head. For some reason he felt he should not have to pay to graze his cattle on federal land and the feds were rounding up is cattle.

But then the militia (the civilians who might be seen running around in camouflage with guns) showed up and it got to be a bit much even for Bundy.

But then, his son I guess it is, Ammon Bundy and others began an armed protest more recently on the behalf of a couple of other ranchers who ran afoul of the law over federal lands, but they said Bundy and his band did not represent them.

So as far as I can see what we have here is one group of people who may have gripes with the federal government but who believe in law and order, and another group who feel they determine what the law is, and possibly have way too much time on their hands.

The report I read indicated there were no casualties among the peace officers involved. Thank goodness.

Ammon Bundy’s brother Ryan was said to have been injured.

 


Trump may fool the Tea Party…

January 26, 2016

I had a hunch and almost mentioned it but then said to myself: naaaa. But the hunch was that Donald Trump (no one else in politics to write about) was going to change his tune if he won the nomination for GOP presidential candidate, and now I heard that he assured someone that if he wins he will get more serious. I’ll have to check and see what he actually said.

It makes me think of my youngest daughter who as a little girl would say something outrageous or naughty and then say: “I was just kidding”.

Trump’s latest is in a bit of obvious hyperbole he told an audience that he “could shoot somebody and not lose a vote”. (Presumably he would not get the dead man’s vote.)

But the point is, from what I am reading he has masterfully taken the tactic of using his celebrity fame to say outrageous things to get what is called free media. Not only does he get to save money on paid advertising but probably the viral videos and widely reported Tweets and other utterances are more effective in today’s environment anyway.

Whether he would become more serious and whether he could even handle the office remains to be seen. He might like so many before him find that Washington and the whole public sector works by a different set of rules and customs over which he could have little to no control.  And most interesting of all would be if he becomes more mainstream because of his cosmopolitan New York City upbringing.

Wouldn’t that be a laugh at those Tea Partiers who support him (and not all do by a long shot I would not think, but many do I am hearing).

What seems apparent by the discourse I am hearing is that the Republican Party is split more than ever before, maybe not just into two factions but several, that is it is splintered. I think maybe at one time years ago it would be correct to say the GOP had a liberal wing, a broader establishment wing, and especially from 1964 and Barry Goldwater, a conservative wing, the liberal wing gone with Nelson Rockefeller. But that conservative wing, who lost the first round with Goldwater, hit it big with Ronald Reagan. But before Reagan was Richard Nixon, who considered himself conservative, but who cared little for domestic politics. His most notable actions on the domestic side were probably creating the Environmental Protection Agency, something every God-fearing conservative is obligated to hate, and wage and price controls, anathema to conservatives. And on the world stage he opened up relations with Communist China, would you believe?

Those who consider themselves real or true conservatives have had a long-simmering grudge with their own political party (oh, yeah, they were not wild about Eisenhower either), but most have realized the reality is that we have traditionally a two-party system and third parties thus far have not worked.

And it seems to me that even Saint Reagan was not as true to ultra-conservative thought as the ultra-right wing proclaims he was. He was more for supporting the interests of his Orange County, California backers and saying what he had to say to mollify the conservatives further down the economic rung.

But whatever, the man presented himself well, and I think was fairly honest if a bit befuddled at times and apparently suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s sometime into his presidency.

He is still a saint in the conservative movement, but what would Trump do with him today if he were running? Trump would call him out to be the grade B actor he was. He wouldn’t fail to mention that Ronnie once played opposite and was upstaged by a chimpanzee in one of his many grade B movies.

But Trump may defy conventional political ideology if indeed he has any at all. I imagine he is a little right and a little left and a nativist. If he was to get the nomination and take a more serious tone, he might make everyone or enough people forget what he said and did before. If so, look out Hillary or Bernie. If not, order the new White House china Hillary (to replace the plates you tossed at Bill’s head).

Sanders? We will see. I’m still doubtful an admitted socialist will be able to garner enough support for either the primary or the general election.

But then again, if we are seriously considering whether Trump could be elected president, we are talking about a desperate or terribly jaded electorate.


Trump the school yard bully…

January 25, 2016

For a country that seeks out bullies in school yards to punish, having Trump as a nominee is embarrassing.

userJeannie-6650037 2 minutes ago

 

I could build a post out of this comment I just picked up off the web on the MSNBC site, but really I could not express this any better, other than some Trump supporters might say going after school yard bullies is something akin to political correctness which they abhor (and which in and of itself I admit is hard to defend, political correctness that is).

But really the Trump phenomenon is like the school yard bully thing in a way. People are attracted to what they perceive as power and are quite willing to put up with the ill-treatment of others as long as they are not the “others”, or in fact, they rally around the bully to gain his favor so they themselves do not become the next victim.

If you’ve watched the GOP presidential candidate debates you have seen the spectacle of some of the candidates doing just that — they are scared that Trump will turn on them and call them names and embarrass them in front of the millions.

Or, perhaps just as bad, good people stay silent.

It looks as though now much of the so-called Republican establishment, who Trump is supposed to be bucking (or .ucking), is caving into him, seeing is victory inevitable and at least perhaps a safeguard against the liberal extremism of Bernie Sanders (and to a lesser extent Hillary Clinton).

The German elites/industrialists preferred Hitler over the mobs that included communists and threatened their property and way of life. And they thought wrongly that they could control Hitler.

And back to the present and some of the cowering candidates:

They watch the good boy, the good student, Jeb Bush try as he will to stand up to the bully only to be shot down with childish taunts. But words do hurt (the sticks and stones comparison notwithstanding).

Trump does not use reason or evidence to make his points or accusations, he just calls people names or degrades them and denies any charges against himself or ignores facts. And his language is not at all eloquent. His vocabulary seems rather scant for an educated man. I realize he may be trying to connect to the “common man”, but I live in a world of common men, many of whom express themselves much better.

And besides, as for myself, I don’t want a common man or woman for president.

But really, the observation by Jeannie, whoever she might be (I assume she) pretty much says it all.

The Trump phenomenon is indeed strange and scary too.

 

 


Replace the IRS with a sales tax; reward earning and thrift…

January 24, 2016

If  I were president:

THE ECONOMY:

I’d push for an overhaul of the tax system.  I would transform the current IRS into another type of taxing agency. Sorry folks, taxes are a fact of life. But I don’t like the whole concept of income taxes. Penalizing people for making money who generally speaking are thereby not only contributing to their own personal economy but that of the country seems neither right nor practical. I would be more in favor of a national sales tax and possibly a value added tax (but not sure about the latter). The good thing about the sales tax is you get out of paying taxes by being thrifty, and thus making even more or retaining more money for yourself. Also, it would limit government somewhat in that it could not thrive unless the country as a whole was thriving.

IMMIGRATION:

Always a hot topic these days (although much exploited by fear mongers). We need orderly and sound practices. We cannot take in more people than we can accommodate (Europe is facing that problem with its refugee crisis) and we cannot accommodate large numbers of people who might be a drag on social services. And of course we must realize there are security concerns. But unlike a certain presidential candidate whose name I am tired of writing (but will have to again of course) I would not simply ban all Muslims or Hispanics or anyone by race, creed, or color. We just have to acquire as much information as reasonable and necessary on individuals no matter from where they come and act accordingly. It is true we are facing a serious threat from so-called Islamic terrorism (I say so-called because I am not sure how much the terrorists have to do with Islam; I not being up on my Islam), so it is only right and natural that we might give extra scrutiny to those who appear they might be connected with terrorist organizations or have those leanings.

As far as undocumented people already here, they should be subjected to existing laws but in a fair and humane way, and separation of families should be avoided. People who have a history of being productive law-abiding residents should be offered some path to full citizenship. We are a special country. We are the United States of America, beacon of freedom around the world.

RACE RELATIONS:

And we thought all that was over (poor relations that is), gone with the 60s race riots (I know there were race riots before and after that too). But no, sadly racism still exists. But affected races can go a long ways in helping themselves by becoming politically active in their own localities. As president I would encourage that. And of course using federal law I would have no tolerance for a denial of civil rights.

THE SUPREME COURT:

I’d like to think I would delegate the selection of candidates to a balanced committee of liberals and conservatives and middle of the roaders, from the legal community primarily, and then select qualified jurists from that pool. When you try to pick someone based on ideology you can get a surprise when the justice rules differently than you anticipated — the Warren Court anyone? Our current Chief Justice Roberts sometimes (much to the chagrin of the far right). While I realize the truth is that the Supreme Court has become political, it should not be.

(Well actually over time the court finds itself moving with public opinion.)

And one more thing on all that: when someone claims something is “unconstitutional” it is at times like deciding what is allowed under the scriptures of the Holy Bible. It’s a matter of interpretation. In most respects, due to the form and style of language, there is no such thing as “literal interpretation” in either — well maybe there are more things literal in the Constitution, such as the number of senators per state and so on…but a well-regulated militia and an individual right to have a gun? The interstate commerce clause?

NATIONAL DEFENSE:

I’m uncompromising. We need to maintain the strongest military — ground, air, sea — in the world and we need to expand it instead of cut it like we currently are doing. We have no choice. We are the world’s super power and certainly for our own good and for that of the free world we need to stay that way. We need to be prudent on weapons systems and not just be a cash cow for the military industrial complex, however. But we need to improve conditions and pay for our service people.  And anyone who has ever served in combat, National Guard or regular military, deserves top-rate medical care, no charge, courtesy of the grateful tax payers. I’d sign an executive order on that if need be.

We essentially have a mercenary-like force now — professional soldiers — and we need to pay them as professionals and expect professionalism out of them.

I actually think, however, that we need to have some compulsory national service in addition to the all-volunteer military, perhaps with an option of serving in some kind of civilian corps or National Guard, which in time of national emergency could be switched to regular military service. The pay for this would be relatively low, but  the requirement would be for only for perhaps two years.

I also think the military has to have a clear role in natural disasters, such as floods and hurricanes, and snow storms, and wild fires. The spectacle of Katrina in New Orleans when we could not rescue people because our helicopters were tied up in a useless foreign war, along with political and bureaucratic bungling, pointed out that need to me.

FOREIGN POLICY:

We should be good world neighbors to all, regardless of their form of government, unless and until they threaten us. We need to give up the idea of nation building. It is enticing. I mean like anyone else might think, I would hope that once people saw our example of governing (the good parts) and our freedoms they would want to be part of it. But it is not that simple and not necessarily true anyway, as we have found out.

ISIS and ALL TERROR GROUPS:

Face this threat head-on. We simply have to do what we have to do. We have to kill them, or at least their abilities to do us harm before they kill us. Easier said than done, but it must be done.

The president and congress need to get together on this one and then the mission has to be given to the generals and admirals, with the constitutionally-required civilian oversight of course, and our leaders have to have the guts to tell the American people what will be expected of them.

Once told the truth, it might be amazing what people will do to save their own country.

IN CONCLUSION:

I’ve left a lot out, but this was just an off-the-cuff commentary of sorts.

As always, I feel I am neither left nor right in politics, more middle of the road and practical.