If we need that wall prove it; neither congress nor administration officials should be paid during shut down…

January 8, 2019

So President Trump is going before the American people on television this evening to address the ongoing stalemate over his insistence on building a wall on the Mexican border (or maybe stronger, steel fencing?) and the government shutdown that is beginning to affect a wide array of government services and commerce.

What we need here and I doubt we will get are some serious facts and figures about the need for this costly barrier — he wants at least $5 billion. Hey it’s a government project. If it goes through it will surly cost way more.

Using legitimate information is not one of Trump’s strong suits. He just makes thing up on the fly.

My personal opinion is that it would likely be a waste of money. We have more trouble protecting ourselves from the danger within — mass shootings, robberies, murders, just plain violence — than we face from the slipping over the border of those looking for work and the inevitable lawbreakers and even terrorists within their ranks. And much of the illegal entry I read is by way of airports, and many non-citizens just overstay visas.

(Nearly the whole U.S./Mexico border is currently fenced, with some breaks where there are natural barriers.)

But if there is a true emergency and if the wall as is proposed is a good idea then the president ought to be able to make his case with facts and figures (documented) to prove it all.

I find it strange that congressional leaders and the administration have not been able to work out some type of compromise where they both can claim to have won the debate and move on.

We will see what we will see this evening.

The law or laws that allow or force a government shutdown need to be changed — I’m not talking about the Constitution itself. Congress has the constitutional duty and power to draw up a yearly budget and the president can approve it with his signature or veto it and send it back to the congress or just let it go into effect without his approval.

But law allows the congress and president to get around agreement by passing continuing resolutions to fund the government. That way neither side has to stick to a budget. So really the whole idea of a budget becomes meaningless. The sky is the limit. Think of how much wasteful spending could be prevented or how many of those endless and costly overseas military adventures be avoided if our government had to live within a budget. If there were a true emergency of course extra money would be appropriated, by way of a budget amendment I guess. But at least it would be part of a budget rather than something hidden in the arcane language of government budgeting and continuing resolutions, where it is made to look as if one amount spent, while it was far more.

Trump is toying with the idea of declaring a national emergency which he claims would give him the power unilaterally to build his wall. I’ve read some articles explaining that. Seems like he might squeak that by because the courts are reluctant to question executive judgment and the definition of “emergency” in the law is fuzzy.

Anyway, no one likes to stick to a budget (except wise and prudent people) I suppose. But I think it shows how irresponsible those who handle the people’s money are. They ought to have to stick to a budget and live with it. They’d make better decisions if they did.

The way to solve the yearly impasse would be to pass a law that said if the government is shut down no one gets paid, not the workers, not the lawmakers, not the president, not any officials, not anyone in the government.

Just withholding pay from congress would do it I am sure.

I think you will find that people who put themselves up to represent the interests of the public look out for number one first (and maybe that is as it should be).

I have a real life analogy or example: back in 1963 I was preparing to enter high school. I attended a school board meeting with my father who was a newspaper reporter. The issue before the board was whether to continue using the old multi-story main building of the school. It had some safety issues, old wiring and other things that were failing (I don’t recall details). The wise and prudent (sorry for that phrase again) and fiscally conservative board members judged that the old building was good for another year or so or more. But before they took their vote their attorney advised them that should something bad happen, should some injury occur, they, each individual board member, by law, could be held personally liable. They voted against using the old building.

Not an easy decision for sure. As I recall the board members faced a recall move by the local taxpayers’ association.

But the old building burned down before classes got under way for the fall session in a fire of mysterious origins.

We were in double sessions for the first two years while new classrooms were being constructed.

I’m not sure how useful that preceding anecdote was, I just wanted to make use of it.

 

 

 

 

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Trump: he’s crude but he’s useful; we can control him, they thought…

January 7, 2019

I began reading a piece about how Donald Trump being born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth has somehow managed to hoodwink hard-working blue collar types (who are not all blue collar, just types) that he is one of them or that he understands and cares about them.

Didn’t read too far into it. Just another hand wringing piece from an I assume intelligent and well-informed writer hoping that if folks just saw the light they would be able to see past Trump’s false and ever-changing messages.

The writer (and even I) might as well give it up. Trump enablers don’t care. It’s not that most anyone believes Trump, it’s just that they don’t put much faith in the political class or the intelligentsia. They voted for Trump as a stick in the eye to all the pomposity and duplicity and even incompetence of those in charge.

They don’t care for the niceties and the political correctness and the compromises. They just want something done.

Our jobs are being shipped overseas or across the southern border. Do something. Illegal aliens are taking our jobs. Do something. We are being taxed to death (even after death by the inheritance or estate taxes; never mind on the federal level it only applies to multi-millionaires). They’re trying to remove Christianity from our public life (freedom of religion means freedom to be a Christian and pressure others to follow). Do something. We are being cheated in world trade. Do something. And make those judges follow the Constitution (of course if it were that simple we wouldn’t need judges to figure it out).

And then on the other side last presidential election we had a candidate who was so high up in the clouds she had the poor judgment to proclaim that she was going to “put coal miners out of business”. She claims she was quoted out of context. But even though few of us are coal miners and even though most of us realize the ecological destruction coal mining creates and the pollution the burning of it makes and that alternatives have been developed, the very idea that one would campaign on putting a class of people out of work is a sign of how out of touch the political class can be at times. Kind of like those perhaps well-meaning but clueless guidance counselors who have lived a life insulated from the common man.

But Trump is some strange form of charlatan who is in so many ways incompetent but at the same time may stumble upon something right, although he is clumsy in implementation.

He does outrageous things. But he does them, while others talk.

Trump also has been a useful tool to the conservative movement and to some in the business sector. They got him to lower taxes on them and rein in all those pesky environmental rules and some of those labor protections that screw up their profit margins.

And the evangelicals rallied around Trump, even though he violates the commandments, because he promised to pack the courts with judges who would side with them on social issues — they made a deal with the devil.

I’m sure the civilized and educated set who supported him thought that they could put up with his crudeness and that in the end that they could control him.

Yeah, that’s what they thought about Hitler.

 

 

 

 

 


Trump presidency may survive with improving economy as its lifesaver…

January 6, 2019

The mantra that Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign used just might hold the key for President Trump’s viability.

It’s the economy stupid.

A better-than-expected jobs report has at least temporarily rescued the stock market, although the market is a gambling den that does not always represent the economic health of the nation. I mean there are people who make big money with the wild gyrations, betting on a fall or a sudden rise, and it is day to day, hour to hour, and even done by computers. Over the past week or so in particular, the market was signaling trouble ahead for the economy,

But even with as much havoc as Trump creates, if the economy continues on a high note a lot of people are going to let it all ride.

On the other hand with the Trump-induced international trade war, uncertainty on the world scene, made ever so much so by Trump himself, who seems to have no clear strategy on foreign affairs, and the effects of the current government shut down on government workers and the general citizenry and business and the legal cloud over the president’s head as a result of the Mueller investigation, Trump could be in trouble. Some of the new freshmen Democratic congress people are hungry for impeachment. I’m sure they could find adequate grounds, but it would seem conviction in the Republican-controlled Senate is impossible. It would take a real smoking gun Nixon style.

But I think the best strategy right now by the Democrats would be to work toward good government and work around the president or despite him. They are a lot more likely to get support from the electorate by helping people than by going directly after Trump.

Trump may finally do himself in and save them the trouble.

And now Mitt Romney is back in town as a freshman U.S. Senator. I don’t know how good of a president Romney would make but he seems middle of the road and that always has an appeal to me. He could bring the Republican Party back from its dangerous journey into fascism where anyone who does not toe the line of age-old but outdated traditions or customs, such as sexism and discrimination and religious intolerance, is considered un-American and labeled as the enemy.

There is of course the danger within the Democratic Party that it might come under the control of actual avowed socialists. The strange thing is that even though socialism and fascism are supposed to be ideological polar opposites there is a history of both of them mimicking each other with authoritarian governments where freedom and independent thought are forbidden.

Right now the totally Trump-caused government shutdown threatens the well-being of perhaps a lot more Americans than who realize it. Trump said he would do it, and he did, and was willing to take ownership of it (which in Trump style he has and has not at the same time) and now has doubled down on it by threatening to hold out for months or years until he gets his $5 billion for a border wall. At the same time he plays some silly mind game by blaming the Democrats for the shutdown. One could argue I suppose that the fault is equally divided by Republicans and Democrats but Trump is the one who refuses to sign a bill to fund the government unless he totally gets his way.

At present the shutdown is mainly affecting government workers and contact employees, but some of the needy as well who depend upon government assistance programs. But if the shutdown were to drag on I’m sure the effects would be felt deep into the economy. Once people realize the threat it poses they may well sour on Trump, after all, he only has to sign a funding bill.

The wall is not really a need, as much as it is a symbol. Statistics I have read don’t seem to indicate any kind of invasion of illegal border crossers or terrorists from the south, and we in fact already have most of the border fenced off, with natural physical barriers on the rest of the length of it (nothing, not even a wall, is impenetrable). The wall is more of a symbol against certain people of certain races and a symbolic device to incite bigotry among the white race in order to garner votes. After all Trump did win the presidency via that method along with the apathy among those who would have normally made sure to vote against him.

On the other hand, since it is our policy to have strong barriers on the Mexican border an argument could be made that the Democrats should compromise by at least offering a lesser amount of funding.

It might be best to get the wall issue behind them and move on and do something useful for the populace as a whole.

p.s.

The president is threatening to declare a national emergency which he claims would give him the power to build the wall without congressional approval. Seems dubious on legal grounds. I’m sure that would not stop Trump from trying it. It would be challenged in the courts. But the court system too is threatened by the shutdown. How interesting. Sometimes it seems we are in a march to dictatorship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sales puffery disguised as objective news accounts has a long history and is bigger than ever…

January 5, 2019

If news stories are always slanted and full of lies and no one trusts them then tell me why advertisers and the publications after their money spend so much time and effort into disguising their one-sided, non-objective puff pieces as news stories in both print and electronic media?

Maybe because of the faith that there are still enough people out there who are simple-minded enough that they carry that notion in their heads that (and I know you have heard people say this): “they couldn’t print (or say) that if it wasn’t true.” And also because even people savvy enough can be fooled by something dressed up sufficiently to appear legitimate, at least at first glance. And in this day and age how many of us feel we have time to give it all a second glance?

I used to be in the newspaper business, or that is to say I was a newspaper reporter, and I hasten to add, on relatively small publications. And I mention that because you see on most of those publications I worked for (not all), much to the shock and dismay of the budding journalist, the newsroom was seen as so much dead weight, a drag on profits. Nevermind the product being assembled each day was supposed to be a newspaper, a vehicle that carried necessary and/or interesting information for the general public, presented in reports usually referred to in the business as “stories” or often by the public at large as “articles”. For those of us who had taken any journalism classes and even for those who had not but who were interested in the so-called profession of journalism, the guiding principle was that these stories, particularly those aside from so-called feature articles, although even those too for the most part, were to be straight forward, impartial accounts of issues of the day and discussion by various people on them (and back in the day, the journalist he or herself was not supposed to be part of the story but only an observer).

But alas, the money collected in paid subscriptions or in street sales did not make a profit, it was only hoped it would pay for the cost of producing the newspaper. And obviously radio and television broadcast out free to the masses did not bring news outlets money. It is the paid advertisements, be they displayed in print, or presented as TV commercials or radio “spots” (radio talk for paid advertisements) that bring in the dollars, the profits.

But somehow even the most gullible can sense when they are just being sold. So advertisers have forever tried to disguise their promotions as objective fact. The old papers were rife with “testimonials” to Dr. Feelgoods’s elixir, complete with photos of satisfied consumers. The authenticity of such I imagined was never questioned — and yes you can print things that are not true — although it is possible to get sued by the federal trade commission in modern times, but not a forgone conclusion.

On some of the newspapers I worked on they would run advertisements dressed up in their type format as regular news stories, usually with smal print identifying them as “advertisements”. This was not an everyday occasion but it was done.

And then there is the regular column, such as on financial advice, that was actually nothing more than a paid advertisement promoting some investment scheme or schemes promoted by the person who purchased the ad, an insurance salesman or so-called financial advisor. I think one publication I worked on did not bother to label it as a paid advertisement, although it was pretty obvious I suppose (still seems unethical to me).

And in broadcasting it used to be common for personalities to break into a commercial with nothing more than a change of inflexion of the voice possibly, if that. But it seemed harmless. I mean we knew that talk of how to make a Jello pudding or a Pillsbury baking recipe was not objective news.

Paul Harvey, the late news commentator who had his own show, was a master at mixing paid commercials with news. And he would not often let on that he was in fact just doing the work of a paid sponsor, but most anyone knew. And I have to admit it seemed harmless.

But what I question these days is the proliferation in major and I would say trusted publications, such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, of stories presented as objective reports but labeled as “paid content”. Fair enough that they label them, but then why are they mixed in with the news? There has to be some reason whoever writes them is willing to pay for them. Could it be they don’t  want to have any objective information in them that could work against their own interests but be in the interest of you and me who had to pay for whatever we might buy?

If I am in the market for a new car, sure I am willing to look at paid advertisements to get a general idea of what might appeal to me, but  if I am prudent I want, well as good old Paul Harvey would have said: “the rest of the story”. It may have a starter that tends to start on its own in the garage and set my car on fire — weird problems like that have occurred and have been reported in objective consumer reports. Something tells me the auto company having a history of a problem like that is not going to bother to mention that in something that it is paying for in order to promote its product. I mean even I would not do that. I would hope I could correct the problem and hope that savvy consumers would trust that I was taking care of it.

And of course today with the internet and social media we have gone far beyond the fake testimonial or paid advertisement masquerading as a news story, we have out-and-out fake news. I’m talking propaganda masquerading as legitimate news, not news stories that fail to flatter our president and which he automatically categorizes as fake news. These fake news articles I assume are generated by everyone from those simply trying to sell a product to politicians and interest groups pushing a policy to foreign governments trying to interfere with our democracy and weaken us and thereby gain leverage on us or destroy us.

But what brought all this to mind was that this morning I began surfing the web and was suckered into what seemed an interesting story accompanied by a screen shot or maybe an actual video from CNN, a legitimate news source, at least as much as Fox, or I would think more so. But I began to realize that it was nothing more than an advertisement for some pill or something that would make me smarter — as smart as Ben Carson. No thanks.

In some ways we may have been better off when we had identifiable paper newspapers, even with their ads. It was a little easier to separate the wheat from the chaff.

p.s.

I did not mention the most phony of all and my biggest pain in the ass when trying to find a talk program on radio on the weekends (and this would go for TV too I would suppose) — “infomercials”. They are of course paid promotions disguised as objective information, you know, the kind where the pros and cons and facts are sorted out. The infomericals usually just try to debunk current scientific research in favor of some wonder drug or product that will cure all. They ofen claim your own doctors are withholding infomation from you. Why? I don’t know. I will admit that the medical communituy itself is sometimes compromised by being in bed with some pill pushers — at least I have read that — but somehow I don’t automatically go for the big conspiracy theory. Anyway, why am I to take for gospel something someone who is trying to push a product says? I’m not quite as bad (or good) as my mom was — she tended not to believe anyone on anything, but maybe I should be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Even Romney in his criticism of Trump seeks to shield himself from the vaunted base…

January 2, 2019

In the headlines today as the new year 2019 gets under way Mitt Romney is back, and with a scathing op-ed piece on President Trump. Romney charges that Trump has not managed to conduct himself in a presidential manner befitting the leader of the free world, to whom the whole world looks for guidance (well except for those who don’t care for freedom).

Romney, previously governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate, is beginning a term as a U.S. Senator representing Utah. He said he will support Trump in issues he agrees with and not in those he does not.

It is fair to note that Romney strongly opposed Trump before his election but then meekly fell in line — one does have to think of future political office possibilities. He even tried out for the secretary of state position.

But back to the here and now.

In his op-ed printed in the Washington Post, dated Jan 1, 2019, Romney pointed to Trump’s firing of respected and able cabinet members.

Among Romney’s exact words: “…his conduct over the past two years…is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

But I notice that in his criticism he falls back on the obligatory narrative of all good Republicans and others who can’t bring themselves to be full-on Trump opponents either for fear of the vaunted Trump base or resentment of the intellectual class, that narrative being that Trump has championed a lot of good causes but he’s just a little embarrassingly rude and crass in the process.

Well first of all I am not sure what some of these good things are. But then again they may well exist. It did seem over the first two years of his presidency economic activity had been picking up and unemployment levels were going down. This could be from actual legislation, such as the new tax law pushed through by Trump, or from a feeling among investors that the federal government under Trump would be more business friendly. It could also be from pent-up demand. Everything goes in cycles. Right now, though, the financial press reports on turmoil and volatility in the markets brought on over uncertainty caused by the Trump-instigated world trade war and the fear of an imminent recession.

While I am not worried about being fair to Trump, I will be anyway. The economy goes up and down in cycles, always has, always will, no matter who is president. George W. Bush was our first president to hold a Masters in Business Administration degree and left office with the economy in a shambles and a federal government bailout of banks who brought the economy down with their shady loans. Barrack Obama, whom it was said of that he knew nothing of business but rather just neighborhood organizing in the black ghettos of Chicago, assumed the presidency and the economy slowly but surly was revived. But I would neither blame Bush for the fall nor credit Obama with the rise (at least not to a great extent). All we lay people need to know about economics in a free market society is that it is always cyclical.

But to me the whole point is not whether the Trump administration has resulted in some positive policies it is rather that Trump is both an embarrassment and a danger for the United States. His rude and crude behavior puts a stain on the nation’s reputation world wide. Some third-world countries are reportedly looking to China for leadership. His constant childish name calling, much of it in mindless tweets sent out in the middle of the night, sends a chill out all over the world to those who would want to look up to the U.S. as a beacon of hope and justice and fairness and good will to all. Instead Trump speaks of “shit hole” nations (yes his word).

Whatever good may have resulted from the actions of Trump and his administration could have and should have been done without the bad parts which can far offset any good in the long run.

And now that I think about it, some of the most dangerous actions by Trump have been in his continuing assault on environmental regulations. The assumption that all environmental regulations are unnecessary and that the science community is involved in some kind of subversive plot to bring us all under stringent government control is nonsense and dangerous nonsense at that. Of course we need a check on over and unnecessary regulation but it should be based on scientific fact, not political pressure from lobbyists representing commercial interests who only look at immediate financial gain and not the long-term well-being of our planet and the health of all.

Trump’s foreign policy is a mess. He seems far friendlier to the Russians than our long-time allies in the free world. And the thought that someone so irrational as Trump has his finger on the nuclear button that could wipe us all out in a flash is something so scary that one almost just has to put it out of mind. But we should not.

The speculation is that while Romney is bold enough to attack Trump, he like so many others will back down — can’t agitate that base.

My advice to Romney: be yourself, follow your instincts as an educated man with some intellectual discipline (he speaks fluent French — that takes some discipline) and stay away from wearing blue jeans to pander to the base like you did on the campaign trail — better to wear clothing appropriate for the job. I mean I am a truck driver (these days). I would not wear a suit and tie to my job. That base will respect you or if not, maybe their respect is not worth it.

p.s.

And let’s not forget all the apparent lawlessness among those whom Trump associates with and indications that Trump is strangely influenced by the Russians and Saudis. And Trump refuses to release his tax returns while other presidents have felt obligated to do so, and he and his family, who are also involved in his administration, openly profit from their positions in the government.


And on a note of English usage, I spell under way as a two-word expression but nowadays it seems to almost always be one word, underway. In my journalism days the style book said it was supposed to be under way, except when used like in an underway flotilla. Never was called upon to write about such a flotilla.