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.

 

 

 


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.


Trump is a bad actor but he’s our bad actor his supporters seem to say…

November 17, 2019

If you are a diehard President Trump supporter you either don’t see it or don’t care but it seems rather obvious that he and his gang are running the administration like a mob racket. Your defense is likely — “they all do it” (Republican and Democrat).

I’m reminded of a line in a movie about World War II and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It seems there was a certain corrupt dictator in Central America that the U.S. needed to be on our side. “He’s a son of a bitch (FDR said) but he’s our son of a bitch!”

(That probably holds true for all the corrupt anti-democracy dictators the U.S. has supported and continues to support in some cases even today.)

So both Trump supporters among the electorate and in both houses of the congress seem to feel that way: he’s a son of a bitch but he’s ours.

When I write these things I always take pains to let the reader know that I am not a Trump supporter — never have been, never could be. I don’t like his politics and I don’t like his attitude and his crude and threatening behavior.

But I live out in the real world of American working people, not the upper class, not the non-working class, not the upper middle class, just common everyday folks. Even if I often do not agree with some of the common attitudes I get where they come from. So does Trump, now that I think of it. That is what gets him over. He plays upon ignorance and prejudice.

In saying all that I just said (or wrote) I do not suggest that others before him have not done much the same but usually in a more careful or subtle manner at times (Trump is just a blunt instrument).

So this impeachment thing. The Democrats are going to have to discover, if they have not already and just not released it, waiting for dramatic effect, a true smoking gun that no one can argue with. Something like the Butterfield tapes in the Nixon case that forced President Nixon to resign in order to avoid the further shame of impeachment and conviction.

However, even though there has been a lot of obvious corruption, such as Trump and his children profiting commercially from his presidency, putting their collective fortunes over the needs of the people, it seems more likely that some sacrificial lamb will be, well, sacrificed. Some suggest former New York mayor turned mafia-like actor Rudy Giuliani.

But you know what jumped out at me in the very first day of the impeachment hearings? Glad you asked. The fact that the Cold War, which I had thought ended about 30 years ago with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union and the freeing of Eastern Europe from the chains of communism directed from Moscow, never ended or more precisely got a new birth.

It seems that Vladimir Putin, a former secret police officer with the Soviets and now dictator of Russia, started it up again. Russia is every bit the adversary on the world stage today as it was under its old name — The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. So is China, an adversary (which still is communist), and even more so. It seems that Nixon with his reaching out to China and establishing relations with it awakened a sleeping giant who threatens to overtake the U.S. as leader and top economic power in the world.

But the disturbing thing to me that came out of the hearings is that we (the U.S.) are still in the business of nation building, the same business that has caused us so much woe, that has taken such a deadly toll on us in the past,i.e., Vietnam, Iraq, and even Afghanistan and Syria today.

Vietnam of course was a pure proxy war. Since neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union wanted to fight each other directly because it would mean lobbing nuclear missiles at one another with the quick end result being mutual destruction of each other and most likely the whole of planet earth, we had others fill in. Instead our proxy was South Vietnam and their proxy was North Vietnam. Originally it was just Vietnam but the nation was divided artifically. We propped up dictators (not democracies) in the south and the Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent China, backed up the communist dictator in the north.

And since the south did not seem to have the power or stomach to fight off the north we poured our own military into the war and spilled a tragic amount of American blood only to give up some ten years down the road and let the whole place fall to the communists. It is communist today and a peaceful trading partner with the U.S. So what was the purpose of that war?

We may have wanted an American-style democracy for the south but that would have had to come later, after fending off a communist insurgency in the south supported by the soviets and the North Vietnamese regular army (who backed up the so-called Viet Cong guerilla fighters of the south).

As far as I am concerned the Middle East quagmires we got into had more to do with saving our sources of oil and world trade routes than a desire to fight the forces against democracy. But, yes, we were or are fighting a kind of proxy against Russia.

Whatever. I question how far the U.S. should go in nation building or whether we should even try. It would seem we have our hands full taking care of our own people. Have you noticed the every-growing population of homeless right here at home? Have you noticed our own breakdown of society that manifests itself in mass shootings?

We need to get our own house in order.

But back to the impeachment again: the story being told so far is that Trump bypassed normal diplomatic channels hanging out career foreign service personnel to dry. I don’t think that is unusual — regrettable but not unusual.

Worse than that, though, it seems that Trump and his cronies maligned career personnel, primarily an ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. And worst of all, even as she was testifying before the impeachment committee, Trump tweeted derogatory and false things about her. He also had previously — at least reportedly — made what seemed like threatening statements against her that could have come right out of an organized crime movie script, assuring the leader of Ukraine that she would “go through some bad stuff”. She was removed from her post, told that she had lost the confidence of the president. The president does have the right to choose and un-choose his own ambassadors — bad mouth and threaten them? I don’t think so.

Without going into all the complicated detail in all of this, on the one hand, any number of things Trump has done I think could be impeachable and grounds for throwing him out of office. And that is because they are bad and that his acts do not have to meet any normal legal standard in a court of law to meet the constitutional requirements of “high crimes and misdeameanors”. And that is because those things are not spelled out in the constitution. Impeachment is a political process primarily. Should it be used simply as a tool by an opposing political party? I do not think so. I believe the first impeachment, Andrew Johnson, in the 19th Century, which did not lead to conviction, was partisan. So it happens. Nixon’s almost impeachment that led to his resignation turned out in the end to be bipartisan. Bill Clinton’s impeachment but not conviction was almost totally partisan.

This one against Trump: certainly political but certainly justified at the same time. But being right does not always guaranteee victory. Public pressure would lead to Trump’s ouster.

That will just as likely, or actually more than likely, come a year from now if it is to come, in a vote of the people called the presidential election — notwithstanding that so far elusive smoking gun.

But I have come to believe the impeachment proceedings are a good thing in that they get things out there clearly for all to see.

They are very enlightening. People who actually read and listen to more than just what they want to read and listen to have an opportunity to sort through it all and make up their own minds.

And the Republicans, in general, do not seem yet to know quite how to handle it. They are working through denial at the moment.


Democrats and Republicans need to take stock of themselves…

November 9, 2019

As a baby boomer, interested in current events and politics since almost first grade (really), I had always been taught or led to understand that the Democrats were a political party that basically represened working people, as opposed to the rich or even those who employ others to work. Not that there is anything wrong with being rich and so on (I mean keep in mind the old saying: “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich; I prefer being rich” — or something like that).

That is not to say Democrats themselves had to be poor or just among the working class. President John F. Kennedy was born with the silver spoon in the mouth and his folks set up trust funds for their many children. But he was of Irish descent, and close to the working class and that was his politics. I suppose he was seen as liberal for his time — today he would be considered a moderate I think.

Anyway, after two terms of Republican Ronald Reagan, a saint among some conservatives (probably not conservative enough for those today), along came Democrat Bill Clinton and wife Hillary. He was a moderate during his presidency and she ran for president after becoming quite chummy with the business elites — millions of dollars in speaking fees chummy (while Bill hobnobbed globally with questionable people).

She received more votes, three million more, than Donald Trump, but she lost some of the working class, just enough to deny her a victory in the Electoral College.

That should be a lesson for all Democratic candidates, especially those who want to make it to the White House. Don’t forget working people (yes I know, a lot of folks who work hard are not classified as “working people” but it is just a term understood in context).

Meanwhile, the Republicans have a problem. They have abandoned modedration and have gone full-tilt reactionary. They are against everything in modern enlightened society. People with higher education for some reason gravitate toward the Democrats. The Republicans put a racist in the White House. That does not exactly make people of color gravitate toward them (although some do — and how lonely they must feel). And they cling to flat-earth beliefs (that they cannot really believe), calling our burgeoning climate catasrophy and the science that proves man’s activity is a major cause of it, a hoax because it threatens business as usual and they have no imagination as to how to deal with it and save the traditional economy at the same time.

But we need Republicans as a check against rampant socialism. Socialist or leftists are taking over the Democratic Party, or so it seems, with the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

If you think Trump’s vision of a wall to keep the Mexicans out is bad, what about that wall in Berlin torn down by freedom seeking East Germans 30 years ago? Socialist/communist East Germany of the time had to erect a wall to keep their own people from escaping to the free West.

Both parties would do well to get with the mainsteam of hard-working folks who just want stable employment and a stable economy and freedom to pursue their own goals. They don’t want the state planning of socialism where the government decides what will be produced and when and how you will receive your medical care. But they also don’t want a society in which the government and laws and policies favor only those of the monied elite or oligarchy, even if each and everyone of us would not mind being part of the upper echelon.

Yeah, both parties need to take stock of themselves.