Archive for February, 2016

Political destruction

Author: admin

I was sitting in a barbershop the other day as the barber worked on a guy – both facing away from me while they watched the flatulent Donald on Faux Neus.

During one of his repeated oft-repeated lies, I said something like “The guy just can’t stick with the truth about anything.”

The fella in the chair, still facing the other way, asked “What’s the matter? You don’t like Trump?’‘

“I believe he’s the most serious threat our modern political system has had to deal with, “ I replied. “A very dangerous person.”

The guy got up quickly, turned to face me and half-yelled, “Donald Trump is one of the great heroes of our time. He’s the only one out there who gives a damn about us veterans!”

“Trump is a veteran,” I asked?

“Damned right,” the guy said as he walked the 20 feet between us to get right in my face.

“When and where,” I asked?

The guy stopped, fumed, said nothing, then got back in the chair. Later, as he was leaving he said to all, “Trump’s a vet. And I’m a vet. And I’m going to knock on every door in this county to get him elected.”

I asked Barber Don to change the channel. He did.

Trump is no veteran. He was kicked out of three high schools so his father sent him to a military academy. That – and multiple deferments during the Viet Nam war – are as close as he ever came to vet-dom.

I use this slice of small town, seaside life, to help illustrate what’s coming which is this: I believe Donald Trump has done irreparable damage to our system of presidential elections. We will never look at the process in the same way again. And we may never elect a president the same way again. Trump – outright lies, false claims, obscenities and all – has infected millions of people like the guy in the barbershop. He’s making a mockery of a centuries old system of selecting a president – a commander-in-chief – and convinced millions of people his lies are truth and truth is anything his “followers” believe it to be. Or, they don’t care.

Complicit in this political destruction, I believe, is the National Republican Party. By standing idly by as 24 mostly unqualified and untalented people put themselves before the country to run for president, the GOP failed to advance and fully support someone – or several someones – who had the necessary skills to become president. Preibus and the other GOP moolah’s stayed out of the fray, vastly underestimated Trump and abrogated any responsibility for assuring the party had viable and qualified candidates.

Democrats have little to crow about, either. The closest Bernie Sanders – with his avowed but universally misunderstood Socialist label – is likely to get to the White House is to join someone’s protest picket line on Constitution Avenue in 2017. Secretary Clinton – qualified without doubt – comes to her candidacy carrying so much baggage she needs a dozen personal porters. Baggage Trump – or any other eventual GOP nominee – will use to beat her bloody and undercut her candidacy daily.

There’s even more blame for an intransigent Congress led by people who long ago lost sight of their own small roles in our Republic or how to conduct themselves and the affairs of this nation to benefit the people who put them there. They, too, helped create a Trump.

The far right has no corner on uninformed – dare we say ignorant – voters by the millions. The liberal contingent to left of the Democrat center has been producing it’s own falsity and peddling some ill-founded claims.

The plain truth is a huge block of Americans – maybe more than half – knows little more about the candidates of either party than they see on TV or hear in conversation with equally uninformed friends. Evidence of lack of basic knowledge of our government is everywhere – from high school campuses to retirement homes. Breeding ground for “Trumps.”

Try it yourself. Ask people around you: when (to the nearest 10 yeas) was “In God We Trust” added to our money – when (to the nearest 10 years) were the words “under God” added to our Pledge of Allegiance – how many justices on the U.S. Supreme Court – what’s the capitol city of Alabama, New Hampshire, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, Tennessee – what did the slogan “54-40 or fight” mean – find Afghanistan on a world map – how many voting members are there in the U.S. Congress?

I don’t know if P.T. Barnum really said “never underestimate the ignorance of the public” as the story goes. But he made a damned big impact doing just that! So is Trump.

Voters – especially this year – are awash in political lies, deliberate misinformation, half-truths and false claims. Both national political parties have contributed greatly by not producing fully vetted – and qualified – candidates. So have several generations of public and higher education by not making extensive knowledge of citizenship required learning from first grade through grad schools. Across the board, citizens of this country know a lot less of their government than those of other nations. Proof of that is not hard to find.

But it’s Trump who creates the most fear for our national future at the moment. Like a 9-point earthquake under a glass factory, he’s shaking and breaking the foundation of rules, traditions, protocols and requirements for an orderly political process to select the head of government for this nation and begin transition to a new administration.
His complicit handmaiden is the national media. The pursuit of ratings points – read advertising dollars – has made whores of CNN, MSNBC and the always unreliable Fox News. Trump’s candidacy is being treated like the “second coming” as networks follow his travels with cameras at the ready and breathless anchors worshiping his over-the-top pronouncements whether they contain a grain of truth or are pure B.S..

National print media has been only slightly less worshipful. Some efforts have been made to separate Trump’s wheat from Trump’s chaff but not nearly enough. Hate radio has daily relayed lie after false claim after mindless personal attack – convincing loyal followers that Trump – and Cruz to a lesser degree – will “make American great again.”

At the moment, though he’s totally unfit and completely unqualified, it’s hard to see how Trump can be denied the Republican nomination. It’s about a lock. Counting delegate noses, it’s nearly impossible to see anyone but Clinton coming out of the Democrat convention. If that’s the ticket in September, bookies in Vegas will likely put their money on Trump. In some spots, they already are.

Donald Trump is a danger to our national security that the founding fathers never saw coming. A former national security chief is already openly describing how the U.S. military might have to disobey and oppose a future President Trump.

He’s heavily damaged a political process. It’s equally possible he could damage an entire nation before it’s over.

You hear a lot of talk these days of the need for a “constitutional convention” to take up this-that-or-the-other subject. Often, this is followed by some sort of simplistic statement that such action would be “no big deal” and “the longer we put it off the harder it will be.”

Well, as in most chatter dealing with changing our founding documents, it would be a much bigger deal to get done than most folks think. For two reasons. It’s never been done and no one can agree for what purpose. A single subject? Or many? How many? If once called, would it ever end?

Yes, Article V of our Constitution says either Congress can do it or the states can if two-thirds of them agree on the need. What’s at odds is that single subject unknown – or many. And that’s the stickler.

There are two schools of legal thought. First, many scholars argue for the wide-open convention. Suppose you wanted to amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget be set by Congress each session. Just that. Only that. Whether called for that purpose by Congress or two-thirds of the states, these legal eagles say delegates could go off on any subject and the whole thing could devolve into a real mess. Suddenly, there are abortion rights, women’s health, immigration or campaign spending and hundreds of delegates pulling in every direction.

The other thinking is all in attendance would be requied to stick to the one subject stated in “the call.” Problem is, once the gavel sounds to get things going, who enforces the one issue agenda? Under what authority? There’s been no test resulting in a black-and-white rule, either.

The last federal convention was in 1787 when Congress set up this whole idea. Founding fathers had required all 13 states agree on a single issue. Good thought. Impossible to achieve. Delegates argued over lots of ways to fix things but finally settled on Congress convening a convention unilaterally or at the behest of two-thirds of the states. Period.

But the issue of scope for such gatherings was never put to bed. Suppose two-thirds want a convention. That meets the legal requirement. But what if, in those requests, there’s more than one subject? Two-thirds agree on the need for the convention but not on what business is to be done. Does Congress act or wait until 34 states settle on a single subject?

Other legal voices think the two-thirds threshold is fine but subject matter would have to be confined to a single topic. Good theory. Never tested.

Fact is, an Article V convention requested by the states has never been called for these very reasons. The current Constitution says Congress “shall” call them when the required number of states petition, but it does not say for what purpose or how many purposes.

There have been two fairly recent efforts to use the Constitution’s “Necessary and Proper” clause to deal with the issue. Twice in the 1970’s, the Senate unanimously approved the idea. Both times, it died in the House. How little times have changed.

So, the subject of convening a Constitutional Convention is a lot murkier than most folks believe. And the thought of a “runaway convention” with dozens of subjects, hundreds of delegates and thousands of votes terrifies the best constitutional lawyers. Not to mention a few nervous politicians.

Further, if such a free-wheeling event did end, whatever actions were taken would have to be ratified by two-thirds of the states. Any bets on that?

All 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been done by Congress. States have held their own conventions to deal with their own documents more than 600 times with relatively little fuss.

So, if you’re worried about the 1st, 2nd, 4th or 15th or any other amendment to the federal Constitution being changed while you sleep, forget it. Only in your dreams.

Experience counts

Author: admin

The national political circus – already disappointing and embarrassing – has moved to South Carolina. For reasons far beyond understanding, that’s the home of the dirtiest, most lie-filled, underhanded, just plain contemptible campaigning in the entire country. Disappointment and embarrassment readings are being raised – or deeply lowered – to a whole new level. Both national parties are to blame. Neither seems able to rise above the South Carolina political garbage. Or, willing to.

But, even before entering the fray in the Palmetto State, the entire campaign has been soiled from the get-go. It’s gone on so long we’ve long-ago lost our revulsion at some of the tactics and wild claims, surrendering to the oft-repeated words, “Well, that’s just how it is.”

One of the most repeated statements swirling in this flotsam is we’re “angry.” We’re “mad” government seems unresponsive to our national needs. We’re “out-of-patience” with politicians who seem responsive only to the rich – who won’t work on our concerns like infrastructure, jobs, climate change, immigration, clean water, ending spending on useless wars and seriously addressing gun problems killing our kids. We’re nationally pissed and don’t mind shouting it at the top of our lungs.

I can accept all that – can definitely participate in such discussions with my own loud, angry voice. “Mad as Hell,” the man said. Me, too!

But what makes absolutely no sense is the accompanying demand that the next president and the next congress be people with absolutely no political backgrounds – no prior service in elective politics – no understanding of how to work the levers of government or how to make the attached machinery work the way it must – work the way we want it to. Primary election results, so far, seem to be saying just that. If any candidate is sullied with requisite experience to be effective, that person has been soundly rejected. Right, Jeb? Right, Chris? Right, Martin?

Suppose a doctor concluded your physical exam by saying, “You have a serious, life-threatening medical condition.” What would be your reaction? Tell the doctor he/she was wrong? Insist on having a plumber review the paperwork? Submit to a new physical exam conducted by a shoe salesman? Or, given the seriousness of the situation, would you seek a second opinion by a medical specialist familiar with your problem? Put me down in that last category.

Suppose you wanted to fly to the other side of the country. Would you absolutely insist the pilot be someone who’d never flown before? Would you ask a municipal worker, afraid of heights, to fly the plane? Would you select “Hope-This-Works” airline over, say, Delta? Or, would you want someone in the cockpit with a bit of grey hair and a few thousand hours as “pilot-in-command?” You know which one I’d want.

Why has the demand for lack of experience been written into political job descriptions for candidates? Why are political aspirants suddenly being subjected to tests eliminating expertise? Would these same people swap plumbers for physicians – shoe salesmen for seasoned pilots? Me thinks not.

While the fault in this loud demand for a commander-in-chief with no previous qualifications lies mostly with the ignorant voices, it also goes beyond that. To me, the blame sits squarely with the major national political parties – both of ‘em. They’ve failed to recruit, groom and put forward legitimate candidates acceptable to a wide range of voters. Especially at the presidential and congressional levels.

The dugout bench in both their ballparks seem woefully slim. There are no second, third or fourth tiers of qualified and experienced “candidates-in-waiting.” Statehouses – normally the “farm clubs” for political newcomers – apparently are not being searched for men and women effective at their jobs. State legislatures and county courthouses apparently haven’t been closely examined to find new voices closest to the people. If they have, I’m not seeing the names or hearing new, impressive voices.

After the 2008 and 2012 elections, Republican professionals paid big bucks for outside advice on how to become more relevant, more responsive to a fast-changing electorate. They paid the bucks, gave the findings some lip service and promptly seemed to have dropped the whole thing in the round file. Democrats, with less fanfare, had retreats and outside examinations for the same purpose. Again, whatever was discussed was ignored.

More than anything else, the failure of both parties to regain some sort of relevance has produced the Trumps, Cruzes, Carsons, a retreaded Clinton and a qualified but unheard of O’Malley.

Big money – big, BIG money – has replaced the roles previously occupied by national political parties. Trump’s willingness to spend whatever it takes, the Koch’s with their ALEC and hundreds of millions to spend, Adelson’s casino-backed billions funding empty suits and hollow voices – these are the driving forces of our national political affairs. Not experiencd political professionals.

Both parties need rebuilding. Both need new and better leadership at the staff and professional levels. Both need to retake control from the moneyed class and keep it.

There’s one shared reason why Reagan, Johnson, Dole, Ford, Kennedy, Roosevelt, Truman, Humphries, Hatfield, Hatfield, Church, Goldwater, Dirksen, Foley, Rockefeller and other national political icons were successful. While each came to the job with different perspectives, they all came with experience. Years and years of it.

It’s not just meaningless – and too often mindless – words pouring out of supremely unqualified candidates we need to ignore. It’s this “angry” demand for political inexperience. Look what it’s produced so far.

“Debates” in quotes

Author: admin

Against the informed advice of smarter, saner people, I’ve tried – yes, really tried – to watch the presidential “debates” this year. Even though there’s only been one real “debate,” I’ve tried to watch all of what the national media passes off as “debates.”

I put the word “debate” in quotes here because all but one really weren’t actual debates. They were shows – displays of unchecked egos – flights of brainless fancy – unfounded charges – verbal putdowns – lies and damned lies. In terms of issues, they lacked reality-based discussion of the problems this nation faces and avoided mention of a number of subjects voters need to know more about from the candidate’s perspective. Nada. Zero. Zip.

The only real debate thus far has been the Sanders-Clinton match-up on MSNBC – and not because they were Democrats. Simply put, it was because the candidates were allowed to go back and forth directly and the two moderators stayed out of most of the discussions. There was actually a 28 minute period when no one spoke a word except the candidates – something I’ve never seen before.

There are two reasons why Republicans have shown so badly. First, there have been too damned many of them. When you have six-eight-10 or whatever behind matching podiums, there’s no real opportunity for meaningful face-to-face action or moderator followup. People just fling a bunch of unchallenged statements or charges without being cross-examined for accuracy or truth. Throw it against the nearest wall and see what sticks.

The other reason is that GOP candidates – all of ‘em – deliberately avoided subjects on which they could be challenged. If you wanted to see how each felt about global warming, it never came up. In any meeting. Not once. If you wanted realistic in-depth discussion of whether we should continue or change our approach to middle east issues, it didn’t happen. Not once. Lots of irresponsible gibberish about nukes, carpet bombing, unwarranted attacks on the current administration and empty threats made by voices with no serious knowledge of what they were talking about.

Maybe there’s a third reason for the failure of GOP “debates” to have any real substance. That’s the candidates themselves. With one or possibly two exceptions, the rest didn’t deserve a place on any of those stages because they had nothing serious to say. The one talking about “carpet bombing” couldn’t accurately describe it in a media interview the next day.

In a way, I envy the people of New Hampshire for making candidates show up for small town hall gatherings – one-on-one. I learned more about Bush, Christie and the rest by watching some of these back-and-forth sessions with real voters. Hard to hide who you really are when it’s just you and 50-60 people sitting around in a circle listening to every word. A lot more information – and better information – than the televised “debates.” As a result, by the end of this week, there’ll be fewer Republican candidates.

The recent GOP “star” has been Rubio, though his stock took a real plunge Saturday. Pleasant enough fellow. Good speaker. Pleasant appearance. But he’s undisciplined and, at the moment, an untruthful voice for his party.

An example. Last week, President Obama visited a mosque in Baltimore. Among his remarks describing this country, he said “An attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths. We have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias and (which) targets people because of a religion.” Word for positive word.

Rubio’s reaction? “Always pitting people against each other. Look at today. He gave a speech at a mosque. It’s this constant pitting people against each other that I can’t stand.” Word for lying word.

It’s this kind of uncalled for B.S. that’s marked the Republican “debates” and has made them far less useful than they were intended to be. I don’t care which party or what candidate positions are on anything as long as they can clearly state those positions without a lot of carping and flinging too-often false charges about the sitting administration, each other or anyone else. Just make your case as clearly as possible, avoid useless and false rhetoric, stick with the truth and let us know who you really are and what you really think. It’s just that simple.

Some advice for Republicans left in the count. If you’d like to know how that’s done – what a real debate can be – how much more effective you may be – dig up a tape of the Sanders-Clinton match-up. You may not like what you hear and their answers might not be your answers. But count the number of subjects addressed, the depth of understanding each participant was allowed to display and the amount of real information produced for voters in the same 120 minutes as your last “debate.”

Candidates should not be up on that stage for their own gratification. They’re up there to make give important information to voters – you and me – about subject knowledge, goals if elected, direction of the country and improving our national quality of life. So far, one of those debates has done that. The rest are still “debates” in quotes. Spectacles we can do without.

The rightward march

Author: admin

Never – no, not ever – not once – I mean EVER – have you read anywhere in these continuous musings a defense for Faux Noise! Fox News for the newer readers. No, not ever. But, in the following verbiage, it may happen.

The continuing embarrassment that is the Republican presidential “contest” fills our airwaves, print and living rooms with the utterances and actions of the most unqualified bunch of applicants ever assembled. Even my pick of the litter – Kasich, the only marginally acceptable voice – is so flawed, with a hair-trigger temper and the habit of stretching his resume that he is only borderline acceptable. The rest continue to slip-slide on an always moving base of lies, false claims and skating to woo voters.

Watching these political lemmings offers little information. Polls are all over the place. The media chases Trump like he’s the “Hunny Pot” Pooh Bear seeks to find. He draws massive amounts of undeserved attention for conducting the most hateful campaign for president since George Wallace.

Every four years, Idaho traditionally produces a guy named Harley Brown in gubernatorial races. Even he makes sense sometimes. Oregon has nut case Art Robinson, perennially running for something – anything. Nationally, we have Trump continuing his deplorable “campaign” without regard for facts, with no position on any issue confronting this nation and offering no proof he can conduct the office he seeks with anything closely resembling what’s required. Each boast – each lie – each affront to public decency – is met with higher poll numbers and even more adoring fans.

In this surreal and obnoxious campaign, we’re now told voices are being raised – mostly by Trumpeteers – that their basic source of information has deserted them. Yep. They’re angry at Faux Noise. Imagine. The mother’s milk of disinformation has soured for them. The “reasoning” – if reasoning there be – is that Faux is no longer “conservative” enough and has sold ‘em out. “Faux,” they say, “has moved left.” Just another “liberal voice” crying in the political wilderness our national electoral system has become.

Now – wait for it – here it comes. That “defense” of Faux I never thought I’d make.

Rather than “Faux” moving leftward from being the usual unreliable source of factual information it is, it seems to me those doing the complaining have moved further to the right. They’ve followed Trump into new and more unexplored factless ground – ever closer to the edge of their square earth.

What these folk best represent is that minority portion of America with strong, uninformed, rock-hard beliefs which will accept no new information if it represents anything different from what’s already there. Even facts. These folk are not new. But, the Trumpster espouses new lies and baseless B.S. and they accept his new “facts.” They do so because he reinforces their already mythical thinking and dives deeper into the perceived conspiracy they believe has come to reflect any politics but theirs.

Watching Hannity, O’Reilly and the rest in recent days – with teeth tightly clenched – I find no movement away from the usual bile they’re noted for. Same hatred for all things not to the extreme, still espousing the same phony “conservatism,” still playing fast and loose with the truth. No, Faux seems to be still plowing that same old furrow of tainted “news” it always has.

Trump represents just about everything wrong with the country’s political landscape. That’s bad enough. But he’s also pushing the envelope of disinformation further than any major candidate in recent history. Doing so, he’s become the lightening rod of the uninformed, misinformed and disinformed. He’s hardened a base of millions willing to acknowledge his lies and deceits but still cast their votes for a guy whose feet are clay clear up to his coiffed hair. They’ll recognize his obvious faults while, at the same time, treating him as some sort of political messiah.

As the various states start their nominating activities, Trump sits comfortably atop all the polling. All the other wannabees straggle behind. Huckabee, Santorum, Fiorina and a few others will soon be eliminated. For most of us, they’ll disappear. They’ve hustled a few billionaires and gullible supporters for dollars to keep their “campaigns” active so they’ll be able to demand – and get – fatter fees on the right wing chicken dinner circuit. They’ll all write some unnecessary books and demand higher publishing fees because of their faux celebrity status. They’ll up the price on their videos. The same con Gingrich raised to a fine art.

But Trump will remain. His name will continue to show up on primary ballots and in nominating caucuses. The most unqualified, most inexperienced, most contemptible of the lot will still be with us. Those one or two others who may have some minimum qualifications, may have the experience and may legitimately have a reason to run, will be buried in a sea of angry voters. Trump – at least for the foreseeable future – will remain.

Anger is the poorest possible reason for supporting someone. Anger clouds. Anger distorts. Anger subverts reason. Anger hides truth.

No. Faux Noise hasn’t moved away from the crowd of the clueless. It’s still selling the same spoiled vegetables at the same old stand on the same old corner. It’s the clueless who’ve moved. It’s Trump who’s done the moving. To the anger of the rest of us.