Thursday, February 02, 2017

Should the Senate Dems Filibuster? How Much and When?

I have done a lot of reading and thinking about the Supreme Court nominee, as well as President Trump's cabinet choices. Dems cannot fight every battle and should not fight every battle. They need to pick principled fights and stick together. They should not only pick fights they can win. There is a time to stand on principle and accept that they will lose at times, but at least they can say that they fought on the right side of history for principled reasons. Then, the Republicans can go it alone on bad choices.

Here are the battles I think they have to fight: 1. They have to filibuster Gorsuch and any nominee that isn't named Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. The Republicans made up a a new rule and denied President Obama the right and his constitutional duty to appoint a Supreme Court judge. Had Garland been given a vote and lost, then I would not hold this position, but Garland is a center-left moderate who is a good man with a strong judicial temperament. If the Republicans want to choose the "nuclear option" to ram Gorsuch through, that is fine, but Dems should fight on the principle that Garland's name was forwarded by the rightful President and he should have been given a vote.

2. Jeff Sessions should not be Attorney General and Dems have to fight his nomination. He has a history of racist views and has shown himself to be against fair voting practices that prevent/suppress minority (primarily African American) voting.

3. Betsy DeVos was clearly unqualified to be Education Secretary. Her confirmation hearing was an utter disaster. She plagiarized answers on her questionnaire, got her facts mixed up, and she was clearly unprepared as she made up crazy stories about grizzly bears attacking schools in Montana (which wasn't true) as a reason to allow guns in schools.

4. Scott Pruitt for EPA is ridiculous. He is a climate change denier, is responsible for allowing fracking in Oklahoma which has resulted in earthquakes, and sued the EPA numerous times as the Attorney General of Oklahoma to allow businesses to skirt environmental regulations. The guy is a joke choice and should not be considered.

These are the fights that the Dems should fight on clear principles. They will be on the right side of history even if they lose.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

Barring some crazy scandal about Gorsuch, which does not seem likely, Gorsuch will be the next Supreme Court Justice. Frankly, President Obama and the Democrats were too passive. When Justice Scalia died almost a year ago, the Republicans in the Senate took the unprecedented step of just saying they would not allow any hearing or vote on President Obama's choice - no matter who it would be. After President Obama nominated Merrick Garland - an eminently qualified moderate judge - the Republican Senate just failed to do its job. Obama and the Democrats should have fought and gone to court if necessary to force the Senate to vote. Republicans could have voted no, but at least they would have been on the record. Democrats just sat back and waited. Their inaction allowed the Republican Senate to win without even trying.

Now Gorsuch will be confirmed. He seems fully qualified and should get a vote - just as Garland should have gotten a vote. Dems can try to filibuster all they want, but it is unlikely that they will be able to hold it together and prevent an up-or-down vote. From all that I have read, Gorsuch is conservative, but he seems like he may also be a pragmatist and consensus builder. Certainly, he does not seem like a conservative firebrand. Make no mistake, Roe v. Wade is closer to being overturned than it has been in years. If Kennedy or any of the liberal Justices retire/die it is likely to be overturned. If that happens, then it is because voters allowed it to happen by electing Trump, and Dems did not fight when they could do something about it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Trumpkins in America

The Trumpkins (Trump supporters) are a fairly large group of Americans. They were joined by Republicans who voted Party and some crossover Dems who hated Hillary. But, because there was this coalition that was able to capture the Electoral College - Hillary got 3 million more votes than Trump - we ended up with an idiot in the White House.

As near as I can tell, Trump wants to look inward and isolate the country from the rest of the world. Build a 50 foot wall (there are 51 foot ladders and ropes), ban travel from some countries (without any planning or implementation procedures to help those who became stranded), start a trade war with Mexico (which makes no sense whatsoever), kill off TPP (which was an ideal containment plan for Chinese power and lifting our influence in the Pacific Rim), etc. But, I guess we will be better friends with Putin and Russia - never mind that they hacked our systems and have committed state sponsored war crimes and assassinations.

It is going to take a while for the Trumpkins to realize how stupid they were to put their faith in Trump, and it will take them even longer to admit they were wrong. Until then, we are just going to have to deal with the daily nonsense that continues to come out of the Trump White House.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

1 Week of Trump and We are in a Completely New World

Trump has issued 15 Executive Orders even though there is a Republican Congress. By comparison, President Obama averaged 35 Orders per year. President Bush offered 42 per year. Trump will have 50 in his first month in office. The two latest EO's created a Muslim ban from 7 countries and changed the President's National Security Council to remove the Director of National Intelligence and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs, and then add Steve Bannon, Trump's political strategist. Bannon is an avowed White Nationalist and has no national security experience whatsoever. So Trump is going to take out the head of all U.S. intelligence and the top military leader, and put in a racist political hack. That should give every American pause. How that strengthens national security is beyond me - obviously it does not.

With the stroke of his pen, Trump put in his Muslim ban. It is unconstitutional and will face many challenges in court. A federal judge has already struck down part of it. Yet, the spineless Republican "leadership" in Congress won't do anything. Democrats are going to introduce legislation tomorrow, but under congressional rules, it will be up to the Republicans to allow debate and votes on the legislation. We'll see what happens.

Whatever you think about the ban, it was implemented without any explanation and it has created worldwide travel confusion. It puts the nation in a bad light and further alienates us from our allies.

Those voters who voted for Trump, he is doing everything he said he would do. Unfortunately, it is going to end up tearing the fabric of American and destroying our economy and our prestige and power in the world.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Trump's Approval Rating

The first week on the job and President Trump's approval rating is at 44.5 percent. Usually a new President enjoys a fairly high rating early in a Presidency, but Trump came to office with historically low numbers. It is likely that the numbers will go down from here as his erratic behavior continues.

Killing TPP which was a boon to China and picking trade fights with Mexico, while cozying up with Russia is likely to make things much worse. The death of TPP and the start of a trade war with Mexico is likely to have a major impact on product and produce prices in America. As the prices at Walmart rise, the Trump base of supporters will realize how foolish it was to elect him and his poll numbers will crater. Look I hope I am wrong, but Trump's utter failure to understand basic national and international economics is stunning. He is going to destroy what is a pretty stable U.S. economy. We'll see.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Republican Congress is Feckless

I knew Mitch McConnell was a hack who cares little for the country and more for power and the GOP. But the weak and complete failure of Paul Ryan to stand up for America has been eye opening. I was no fan of Ryan but I thought he had a little bit of backbone and actually cared for the country. The GOP controls Congress and has a President who is will sign anything they want to do, and the leadership in Congress sits back and let's President Trump issue Executive Orders like they are nothing more than toilet paper. These same Congressional "leaders" complained that Obama was acting imperially with his Executive Orders and yet now that Trump is doing it they just sit back, smile and giggle, and do nothing.

It is as if they are completely powerless. As Executive power continues to grow, Congress cowers further and further into the corner. The new President is demanding money to build his Wall, he continues to claim that millions of illegal votes were cast, he has obvious conflicts-of-interest that is further enriching him through the exercise of his presidential power, he is talking about bringing back torture, etc. All the while Congressional "leaders" from the GOP smile and just go along. Ridiculous.

Monday, January 23, 2017

On Day 3 of Trump's Presidency We Learned of "Alternative Facts"

Facts are facts. They are true statements. Yet, that did not stop Mr. Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer to lie about the inaugural crowd size, claiming it was the largest ever. The Sunday morning talk shows had Trump mouthpieces defending the indefensible. It was so ridiculous that spokeswomen, Kellyanne Conway, argued on Meet The Press (MTP) that Spicer and the administration were providing "alternative facts." Chuck Todd (host of MTP) chuckled and rightly pointed out that alternative facts are falsehoods. Personally, I think he should have been more harsh and called them "lies" but he made his point.

Conway's "alternative facts" and Spicer's foolishness has been mocked all over the world. I saw two pretty funny examples from the sports world this weekend. Steve Kerr jabbed at Spicer by referring to his "alternative fact" of being the greatest player in Orlando Magic history (he played 47 games for the franchise). Even better, during the Caps-Stars game this weekend in Dallas, the Stars' Jumbotron showed a picture of the crowd and reported that the night's attendance was "1.5 million."

It is absolutely bizarre that the new administration would actually waste any possible goodwill and credibility it might have at the beginning of its term trying to defend something that is easily proven wrong and which largely does not matter. It is troubling that we may not be able to trust anything the administration says because they refuse to even try to be accurate.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dog Rescue Story in Pictures

Part of the reason I stopped blogging several years ago was because I was just angry all the time about government (Republican) policies. So I have to make an effort to let some of it go - especially given how terrible Trump is as President Elect, and is going to be as our President

I saw this story about a dog rescue and thought it was great. There are truly wonderful people who make the world a better place. I don't know what kind of owners could do what they did to the poor dog in the story, but there were even better people who rescued it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trump Fatigue - and he isn't even President yet!

Donald Trump has historically low approval numbers. Trump may think that they are "phony" but they are what they are.

I think his Tweet storms, conflicts-of-interest, questionable Cabinet selections, and erratic statements on Russia, NATO, the CIA, John Lewis, Intelligence, Germany, Brexit, etc. are having an effect. The end result is that people are suffering from Trump fatigue and he hasn't even been inaugurated yet. It is hard to see him actually accomplish anything because he is constantly creating and then dealing with brush fires of his own making.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Trump's Twitter Attacks

Trump just does not seem capable of controlling himself. He accused John Brennan, the CIA Director, of leaking the report about the Russian blackmail video that alleges to have compromised Trump. Of course, Mr. Trump offers no proof. He also tweeted out attacks on Congressman John Lewis, saying he was "All Talk" for which he has been widely criticized. Anyone who studies history and looks at what John Lewis did as a civil rights leader in the 1960s and his decades of dedicated and principled public service knows that Trump is showing his ignorance.

At some point, even his Republican supporters will recognize that Trump is unqualified to be President and lacks the judgement to lead this great country. He defends Russia and Putin, while bashing Lewis, Brennan, and NATO. These facts are clear and within months he will lose a significant portion of his Republican support. It will happen.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

President Huckster

It appears that if you donate to Trump, he will market your firm. At least that is what he did for L.L. Bean.

It is wrong on several levels. Our President should not be a paid spokesman for any firm - that is just common sense. The Office of the President should be above that. It is unethical and it places one firm above others and will make it more likely that other firms will donate so they can get an edge on competitors. It is just plain wrong. If Trump followers start to buy L.L. Bean in large numbers, you can bet other firms will consider doing the same thing.

Friday, January 13, 2017

An Unusual Love Story that Moved Me

I came across this story that is better for you to watch than for me to try to explain.

Trump's Bizarre Tweet Storm and the Nonsense of his Sycophants

So Trump was up pre-dawn today tweeting out his regular nonsense. He accused the Intelligence community of leaking the info about the Russians possibly having compromising info on him. As part of his explanation, he cited the Russians who have said they don't have any info. Ridiculous. If there is anything, the Russians aren't going to say they have it. They would hold on to it so they could use it. Attacking U.S. Intelligence Agencies is just stupid. Why the guy can't just shut up is beyond me.

Just as alarming is the fact that he has surrounded himself with sycophants who are just further enabling him. This guy, Jeffrey Lord, basically said that Trump does not have to concern himself with conflicts-of-interest and can be as unethical as he wants because he won the election. Again, ridiculous!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Russian Information that Could Compromise Trump? Wait for Evidence

The Internet is buzzing with "stories" of Trump being compromised because of alleged embarrassing information that Russia has on him. We have to stop and take a breath. It is ridiculous to believe anything on the Net until there is a actual evidence. I think the President Elect is unfit, but will not believe anything like the stuff that is flying around today until there is more evidence and something substantiated. The rumor-mongering is just a continuation of the foolishness that has dogged President Obama and which hung around Hillary Clinton. It diminishes our society and tears at the fabric of our institutions. It polarizes us further and makes us less than our best.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Beauty of Having a Republican House and Senate in the Age of Trump

Watched the President's farewell address tonight and a couple of thoughts passed through my mind. First we have made enormous progress from where we were 8 years ago. Contrary to what Republican leaders keep saying, the facts and reality are indisputable. Second, I was sad that we will now have a President who won't be able to articulate clear thoughts or a focused message without going off the rails and randomly spouting out his running thoughts. Third, I thought about the total control that Republicans will have in Washington. It is this third thought that I have been reflecting on since the election.

For years, the Republican Party's only goal has been to oppose everything Obama. It has riled up their base and given rise to the ultra-right and the Tea Party wing of the GOP. The Republicans have not had to actually govern or do anything because they could always just blame President Obama for threatening to veto their legislation. When President Trump is in office the excuses will all be gone and Republicans will actually have to govern.

If the whole "repeal and replace" effort on Obamacare is any indicator of how they will govern, we can see that we are going to see how poorly they govern. For years, the Republicans have railed against Obamacare and claimed that they had a better way. President Trump says we will have better health care that will be cheaper and that no one will lose their coverage. I cannot think of anyone who wouldn't want that. So let's see the Republicans deliver. Already, there is hand-wringing and delays in Congress about repealing Obamacare. Where is the plan that they have supposedly been working on all these years? It is not going to happen. We may get repeal, but either costs will go up, people will lose coverage, or more likely both.

But, the real beauty of having a Republican Congress is that when the Republican President's possible business ties to Russia and around the world (which would have been seen in his tax returns) become clear conflicts of interest, or possible evidence that Russia has compromising information about the Republican President (let's wait and see), or he just flies off the handle and rages in a 3:00 am Tweet storm against everyday Americans for something he does not agree with (which he has done many times), he will show himself to be unfit for office. To be perfectly honest, I hope that does not happen, but given his history and what to me is clearly irrational behavior at times, I have little doubt that he will show himself to be unfit for office. When this happens - and it may not - it will be the Republican Congress and Republican Attorney General that will have to remove him. There won't be the argument that it is a political/partisan witch hunt, because it will be his own Party that will take him down. We will see if the Republicans can actually follow the Constitution and govern this great country.

Police and Stereotypes

In recent years, there have been many stories about police brutality, racism and misconduct. It has created an unhealthy distrust within society. I came across this story about a police officer who took a few minutes to fix a kid's bike chain and thought we need more stories like this to hit the media.

It is a mistake to take the worst members of a group or organization and assume that all others are just like that person. Just as all parts of society, there are bad apples within police forces across the country. But the overwhelming number of police officers are good people who try to keep us safe. It is wrong to fall back on negative stereotypes whether it is for minorities or police officers. Just treat people the way you want to be treated. Let each individual have the opportunity to show their character and what is in their heart.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Trump's Conflicts of Interest (COI)

The President-Elect has COI issues that all Americans should be concerned about. The fact that the American people never got to see his taxes which would have given us a better sense of his business interests and relationships is concerning, but nothing can be done about that now. Now the focus should be on how to prevent impropriety and security risks because Trump remains closely tied to his business interests that we do know about. The Trump hotels that he owns will now be frequented by foreign travelers/dignitaries who hope to curry favor from President Trump. The Trump hotel in DC has seen an increase in traffic. Will President Trump engage in dealmaking for his business interests?

Perhaps more concerning is that Trump has licensed his name to hotels and real estate properties around the world. These are likely to be targets of protests and future terrorist attacks. If they are attacked, will the U.S. military be called in to exact revenge/bring justice? Imagine if a U.S. soldier dies because a Trump Tower in the Asia gets hit by terrorists and we end up going into a battle. It is easy to see.

I am not hopeful that there will be distance between Trump's business interests and what he perceives as the interests of the American people. He may feel somehow justified that he gave up personal income to become President, so a little dealmaking or a little extra security provided by the U.S. military may be OK in his mind. Who knows? But we are about to find out.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

There is More Good than Bad in the World

It is an interesting time we live in. The media and corporate news is all about ratings and money, so naturally, the focus is on hot button issues. The problem is that we are inundated with bad news all the time. Don't get me wrong, there is racism, sexism, discrimination, poverty, crime, etc., but the fact is that humanity is basically good. Bad stuff is going to happen, but if you take a step back and think about how much good there is in the world, you recognize that the "news" and information that we are bombarded with every day in our various forms of media is truly skewed toward the bad stuff.

Enjoy your life and keep some perspective. I came across the following story about a restaurant that gives people who can't afford a meal free food. Every day, the little kindnesses of people give us hope that all is not lost.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Trump's View of Russia, Assange, and U.S. Intelligence

Look, there is so much I could bash about Trump. He is not actually a Republican or a Democrat. He is an opportunist who barely understands the Constitution from what I can tell. It is sad to me that there are millions of working class Americans who think he is going to be there champion, when his entire professional career has shown him to be just the opposite. His Tweet storms and thin skin will likely be his undoing as President, but we will just have to see.

What I find most disturbing is that we have a President-Elect who greatly benefited from Russian hacking and coordinated efforts to get him to win. By itself, that is OK, but during the campaign he encouraged Russia to hack Clinton's operations to find the missing emails. He now has dismissed the entirety of U.S. Intelligence - the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, Secret Service, NSA, etc - in favor of Putin's denials and Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange's, denials. Julian Assange is living in London at the Ecuadorian Embassy so that he can avoid extradition to Sweden for charges of rape. He has been disavowed and discredited for years by both Democrats and Republicans, and has been considered an enemy of the state in the U.S. and around the world because of his activities stealing private information and putting it on the web.

We will soon have a President who believes Putin and Assange over U.S. Intelligence. That is pretty scary.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Returning to Blog after 3+ Years

I have been off of this blog and pretty much all other blogs for several years. I just found myself so angry and outraged too often and felt it was better to just step away. But, now I am going to try to make another return to blogging. I am going to try to focus on both positive and negative issues that I want to write about. I want to change my tone, as well as the tone of any folks who post on this site. I want to have honest debate.

I may change my mind in a couple of days or weeks, but for now, I am going to give it another go.