Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this national day of giving thanks I have much to be thankful for.

I am thankful for my family and friends. Your love and support throughout this journey means more to me than you will ever know.

I am thankful for like minded people who share my world view. You have let me know that my words have meaning. Your support allows me the great comfort of knowing that I’m not crazy.

I am thankful for my detractors. You keep me grounded… forever reminding me that while I am always entitled to my own opinion I am never entitled to my own facts. You make me a better writer.

I am thankful for those of you who have made this space part of your daily routine. And I am thankful for those of you who only stop by for an occasional visit. You have given me the most priceless gift any one person can bestow upon another…your time. For that I am eternally grateful.

Last but not least I am thankful for John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and all the politicians, world leaders, talking heads and media darlings that populate the political landscape. Your antics have provided a wealth of material that knows no bounds. Thanks to you “writers’ block” has never been an issue. I am particularly thankful for the politicians and political operatives who dwell in the far reaches of ideological reality. It is my fervent hope that you will continue to prosper in your alternate universe; crafting your world view in a windowless room…talking points scripted in a crack induced haze. For without you this space would not exit.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri...A Glimpse Into The Future

Ferguson, Missouri – As fires burned and shots rang out the president called upon the nation to engage in calm, peaceful protest and substantive discourse. The split screen shot of these simultaneous events was as telling as it was chilling. The “haves, “cool, calm and collected, patiently seeking peaceful dialogue and reasonable solutions to the nation’s inequality. The “have nots,” tired of broken promises, angered by a future that offers nothing but more of the same. Everybody is talking. Nobody is listening.

This is what despair looks like. This is what happens when all sense of hope is swallowed up by hopelessness.

There is a deep, deep divide in this country; a divide that runs not only along racial barriers but socio-economic barriers as well. Those at the top of the pyramid reap more and more of society’s benefits while those at the bottom sink deeper and deeper into despair. Middle class parents once believed that their children would live a better life than they did. Now they pray that their kids can maintain the status quo.

Over the next several weeks and months the media will debate the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. They will dissect every comma, semi-colon and period of the testimony given to the grand jury. The “haves” will argue that justice has been served. The “have nots” will respond with charges of race. The debate is valid; but it misses the bigger point.

Ferguson is not just about race. It is about the ever widening gap of inequality between the “haves” and “have nots.” It is about what happens when the equality gap is so wide that those at the bottom lose all hope of ever reaching the top.

A democracy cannot survive if those at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid have zero prospects for a better future. Violence and anarchy will eventually bring it to its knees. Inequality in this country is growing at an alarming rate. If we fail to find ways to narrow that gap, events such as those occurring today in Ferguson will no longer be a media sensation.

They will become the norm.

Monday, November 24, 2014

"...they went home!"

If you follow the news you know that the congressional response to the president’s executive action on immigration reform contained a level of hyperbolic vitriol that can only be classified as incendiary. Congress was so incensed by the president’s actions it seemed that calls for his impeachment might actually find purchase. Pundits sat on pins and needles eagerly awaiting a congressional body blow response to the president’s offensive tactics.

Congress did respond…but not exactly in the way pundits expected.

Friday night marks the end of the weekly news cycle. The week is over…the Saturday news cycle is slow…no one is really paying close attention to the inner workings of Washington. Friday night is the time when political operatives like to release bad news. It’s the time when they release information that is damaging in some fashion to their cause with the hope that no one will notice. The Friday night information dump is commonly referred to in Washington parlance as: “Put it out with the trash.” It seldom works but they do it anyway.

Last Friday night congress responded to the “constitutional crisis” caused by the president’s actions in a curious way.

First off, buried amidst all the inane press releases and minutia in last Friday night’s news dump was the Republican led Judiciary Committee on Oversight’s final report on the “Benghazi Crisis.” After two years of multiple congressional hearings, hate speech, conspiracy theories, accusations of treason and tens of millions of tax payer dollars, the committee found…


No evidence of a White House cover-up. No evidence of wrong doing on the part of the State Department. No evidence of failure on the part of the military to respond; just the fact that a series of horrific and tragic circumstances resulted in the deaths of four Americans.

The lame duck congress also announced that it would only be in session for eight days over the rest of the year.

That’s it! That was the legislature's follow up to their hair on fire reaction to the president’s executive action on immigration reform. Raise hell and then do...


And then they went home!

Yes, they went home early for the holiday.

If congress was serious about the legalities and seriousness of the president’s executive actions they could have crafted a substantive response.

Instead they went home.

Eighteen months ago the senate passed a bipartisan bill on immigration reform. Passage in the House is all but assured. All Speaker Boehner needs to do is allow a vote in the House to pass the measure and the president’s executive actions would be rendered null and void.

Instead they went home.

The country is at war with ISIS. Congress needs to take up a vote to ratify the president’s actions or demand he bring the troops home.

Instead they went home.

“60 Minutes” just aired a report that 70,000 of our bridges are in such a bad state of repair that they are considered “structurally deficient.” Our airports and shipping ports are in equally bad shape. Everyone on both sides of the aisle agrees that we need to repair and upgrade our infrastructure. They question is where do we get the money. Given that the government will run out of money on December 11 congress could have entered into debate over ways to include an infrastructure bill into the continuing resolution.

Instead they went home.

A continuing resolution to keep the government running must be passed by December 11. Rather than engage in last minute political brinksmanship and threats of government shutdowns that only serve to heap worry on the millions who rely on the government; congress could have voted on the continuing resolution and put the matter to rest.

Instead they went home.

Our education system is failing our children. Our children continue to rank in the middling middle of all other industrialized countries in the areas of reading and math. Congress could have stuck around to discuss ways that we might improve our education system so that our children might better compete on the world stage.

Instead they went home.

Even though our economy is steadily improving the positive result have yet to find their way to the middle class or working poor. Congress could have hung around and had a serious discussion about raising the minimum wage or equal pay for equal work.

Instead they went home.

Our country faces a long list of problems. If congress would put as much effort and energy into governing as they do in crafting hate speech and conspiracy theories we would all be better off.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What Really Happened Last Night?

Last night the president finally made good on his six year promise to reform the country’s broken immigration system. Using his executive powers, the president announced a plan that will protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation; allowing them to legally live and work in this country for a period of three years.

The president, seeking a middle of the road compromise between those who would grant amnesty to all 11.7 undocumented immigrants living in this country and those who would round all of them up for deportation, made it clear that his authority was limited: “This is not granting amnesty or a pathway to citizenship. Only congress can do that.”

The Republican response was of a nature that can only describe as “apoplectic.” So palpable was their rage that many were literally frothing at the mouth. Even some of the most moderate and reasonable conservative political analysts were worked up in lather over the “imperialist” president’s “power grab.” Steve Schmidt, former manager of the Mc Cain Campaign and by all accounts a reasonable voice in all things politic, was furious, stating pointedly that by taking this executive action the president had squandered ANY possibility of ANY legislation getting passed by the incoming congress.

As expected, calls for impeachment, law suits and defunding were plentiful.

There are two old adages in politics: one is that when you are complaining about the process you are losing on the policy. The other is that you can always tell how thoroughly you have defeated your political opponent by the magnitude of their frustration and outrage. The president has backed Republicans into a corner on this issue and the only thing they can do about it is rant.

Somewhere in the recesses of all the cheers and jeers is the truth about what happened last night. Did the president act within his authority or did he violate the constitution in what amounts to an illegal abuse of power? And depending upon the answer to that question; what can the president’s political opponents do in response. Here are the facts.

The president’s actions are not in violation of his powers under the constitution. There is a provision within the immigration law called “deferred action.” This provision grants the executive branch the almost unlimited power to “defer” administrative actions within the law. The president cannot eliminate provisions within the law but he can temporarily defer them if he deems it necessary. The president did not grant amnesty or a pathway to citizenship. He did not violate or rewrite the law. The president has elected to “defer” deportation of certain classes of undocumented immigrants for a period of three years. Every president since Eisenhower has used their executive powers to make changes within the scope of the immigration law. In recent years Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43 all sited deferred action with impunity.

Republicans have a number of options to consider.

They can sue the president. Over the past six years they have threatened to sue the president over a whole host of issues. None of these threats have found their way into the courts. Recently Speaker Boehner threatened to sue the president for delaying the corporate mandate under the ACA. That suit has yet to be filed. The reason that these idle threats have no substance is because Republicans have no standing in these matters. In order to proffer such a complaint they have to prove standing…that they have been in some way injured by the president’s actions. As elected officials they have no standing to make that claim. In order to sue they would have to find someone who was injured by the president’s executive action.

They can refuse to approve the funding mechanisms that allow the president to move forward. The problem here is that most of the funding for immigration policies under Homeland Security comes through fees and fines that do not fall within congressional prevue. The small amount of funding congress CAN withhold will have little if any affect on the president’s plans moving forward.

In a fit of anger they can shut down the government. The last time Republicans tried that approach their approval rating dropped into single digits. Not the way you want to start your term majority party in both houses of congress.

Republicans can refuse to pass any legislation that would further the president’s agenda. Over the past six years they have proven quite adept at this course of action. However the voters have made it clear that they want to see their elected officials get things done. This past November they made their frustrations clear by voting out the party in power. There is every reason to believe that voters will do the same in 2016 if progress is not evident.

They can impeach the president for abuse of power. Here they would have to prove that the president violated the constitution. As stated previously the president is on solid legal ground. He has not violated the current law nor has he created a new law. He has simply deferred a portion of the immigration law for a temporary period.

There is one other option. The president’s executive orders will not go into effect until January 1, 2015. It will be 180 days until the first application under the new orders can be filed. There is ample time for Republicans to act.

During his remarks the president made it quite clear that he is willing to work with congress to provide a permanent solution to our immigration problems. He offered the incoming congress a clear path to accomplishing that goal; an unfettered path that the newly elected Republican majority can follow without delay to overturn his executive orders.

They can pass a bill.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Political Calculus

The president will address the nation tonight where he is expected to announce his plan to implement immigration reform by means of the executive powers granted him under the constitution. The president has on numerous occasions promised to take this action if congress failed to act. Clearly frustrated by the lack of any movement on the Hill toward reform; the president has finally chosen to act alone.

As expected, news of the president’s intentions brought a hair on fire response from the right. Mitch McConnell said that the president’s actions would “poison the well” for any hope of future compromise. Speaker Boehner warned that if the president “continued to play with fire he might find himself getting burned.” Governor Rick Perry, himself a defendant in a suit alleging his abuse of power, announced that the state of Texas would sue the president in like kind. Various members of the conservative caucus responded with threats of impeachment, defunding the president’s agenda and a government shutdown.

Certainly the president and his staff have made the political calculus that in spite of these threats it was in the country’s best interest to move forward at this time. Those who follow politics are probably asking: “Why now?” Perhaps these are some of the considerations bandied about the West Wing.

- Recent polls show that 52% of the people oppose the use of executive action to implement immigration reform. True but 57% of those polled believe that immigration reform is the right thing to do. The president campaigned on this issue and won…twice. After promising for the better part of six years to enact reform, the White House has apparently decided that it could not back down again.

- Republicans say that the president is ignoring the will of the people. Fresh off a resounding victory in the mid-terms they are quick to point out that “elections matter.” The White House no doubt agrees. But while the Republicans were winning local elections in gerrymandered districts the president was winning two general elections for the presidency. The same Republicans who are now proclaiming their recent victory as a mandate are the same ones who scoffed at such talk on the part of Democrats after the president thumped both McCain and Romney in the generals.

- After losing control of both the House and Senate the people expect the president to be more conciliatory and accepting of the Republican agenda. To enact reform would be taking a more combative stance that might appear off putting to voters. For six years the president has been hammered by his base for not being tough enough in fighting for his agenda. This stems from the president’s deep seeded dislike for back room politics. But this president is very competitive. He hates losing. Tired of dealing with the obstructionist tactics of the right the president finally decided to fight for what he believes in.

- Republicans are threatening impeachment, defund the president’s agenda and shut down the government. The White House no doubt welcomes these threats. In fact it would not be beyond the pale to think that the White House is baiting Republicans to act on their rhetoric. Let Republicans follow through on these threats and see how that plays in the eyes of the voters; particularly blacks, Latino and Asian voters in 2016.

- Republicans say that the president should defer this executive action for six months to allow the newly elected Republican congress time to act. One a year ago Speaker Boehner asked the president to give him six months to get his caucus to pass a reform bill. It has been a year and Boehner has yet to deliver. Why should the White House believe that anything will change when the new Republican caucus takes office?

-McConnell says that the president’s executive actions will poison the well for any hope of future compromise. The White House no doubt believes that McConnell’s words are just empty rhetoric. Republicans campaigned on tearing down the president’s agenda not finding a collaborative way to move it forward.

- Republicans vow that if the president follows through with his plans they will sue and take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court. The White House calculates that this is probably true. But in all likelihood the president will be back home in Chicago by the time the Roberts Court rules. And even if the Court rules against him he will have fulfilled his promise to pass reform. Let the Court and the Republicans who brought the suit explain to millions of immigrants how they are being stripped of their freedom and sent home.

The president has made the political calculus that the time to move forward on immigration reform is now. The next few months will tell us if his calculations were correct.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Keystone Debate...Making Decisions In A Vacuum

The Keystone Pipeline is dead…at least for this year.

The Senate failed to pass a bill authorizing construction of the much debated pipeline by a 59-41 vote. All 45 Republicans voted for the measure. But only 14 Democrats were willing to cross party lines in support; leaving the bill one vote short of the 60 needed for passage.

Presumptive Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to bring the measure up for vote again in January when the newly elected Republican majority will assume control of the chamber.

Word from the White House is that the president would veto the bill if it reached his desk.

Over the past several years we have listened to a heated debate over positive and negative aspects of allowing Canada to transport its tar sands crude oil across our country via this pipeline. The most common arguments have centered on growing jobs and the economy versus concerns of environmental and ecological damage. This debate misses a larger point.

Recent geological findings of oil reserves within our borders have determined that the United States has the capability of becoming the world’s largest oil producer by 2025. At the same time we have agreement on both sides of the political aisle that we need to become less dependent on fossil fuels and increase our investment in the development of clean renewable energy sources. Thus far we have done nothing but throw a lot of partisan hot air at this important issue. Our elected officials are voting on energy policy in a politically charged vacuum that could produce costly long term consequences.

We need to develop a long term energy plan. Do we invest heavily in the development of the massive oil and natural gas reserves that that lay beneath our feet? Can we follow this path in way that is safe for the environment? Do we turn away from fossil fuels and invest in the development of renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and nuclear? Or do we co-ordinate our investments between the safe extraction/use of fossil fuels and the development of alternate and perhaps more efficient energy sources?

Today’s vote should have been over whether or not the Keystone Pipeline is a viable component of a long term energy strategy…not a strategy in and of itself.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Keystone +Landrieu = Bad Politics

Last Friday the House passed a bill authorizing the Keystone Pipeline. The Senate is expected to pass its version of the bill on Tuesday. The timing of this sudden push for authorization is representative of all that is wrong with our politics.

For the past six years we have debated the plusses and minuses of allowing Canada to ship its oil across our borders. Proponents of the pipeline argue that the project will create 50,000 jobs and provide an economic boost to the economy. Opponents of the project counter that the pipeline simply allows Canada to ship its oil across our borders, produces only 10,000 temporary jobs, poses an ecological threat to our environment and affords little if any boost to the economy.

For his part, the president has spent the better part of his presidency stalling…awaiting one more economic or environmental study that would bring clarity to the debate. Now, two weeks after the mid-terms it appears that congress is fast tracking the issue to gain passage before the end of the year. Like it or not, the president will be forced to act.

So why the sudden rush to get something done on the Keystone Pipeline?

Mary Landrieu.

Mary Landrieu is the embattled Democratic senator from Louisiana who is in serious danger of losing her seat. She faces a runoff election in January against Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy. Recent polls have Landrieu trailing Cassidy by 16 points.
Earlier this year Landrieu co-sponsored a bill authoring the pipeline. You see the pipeline will bring Canadian crude oil to refineries located on the Gulf coast of Landrieu’s home state; providing local jobs and growing the local economy. Minority Leader Reid, ever the president’s gatekeeper, accommodated the president’s base by refusing to allow Landrieu’s bill to come to a vote.

We now turn the page to post mid-term politics. Democrats will lose control of the senate at year’s end. Landrieu, with her senate seat in serious jeopardy, is desperate to demonstrate to her constituents that she still has the power to make things happen. Reid wants to prevent Republicans from picking up an important 54th senate seat. Suddenly the very same Landrieu bill that Reid rejected earlier in the year will stand for a vote on the senate floor.

This vote has nothing to do with the merits of the pipeline. If not for Democrats cowering to the special interests of rich environmentalists, a debate on the merits could have been held months or even years ago. This vote is about politics. It’s about propping up a vulnerable senator before handing control of the senate over to the Republicans. It’s about a putting job security ahead of the country’s best interests. It’s about all that is wrong with our political system.

If the Keystone Pipeline bill passes it will find its way to the president’s desk for signature.

The president should sign or veto the bill based solely on its merits. Period!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Progress...Or The Return Of The Silly Season?

Since the election there has been a lot of talk on the Hill about “coming together to get things done for the country.” Talk is cheap. Within the next two weeks congress will be forced to deal with two major issues which will go a long way toward determining if the members are willing to back up their campaign rhetoric with productive action.

IMMIGRATION REFORM – The word out of the White House is that the president is prepared to back his promise to go it alone on immigration reform. A formal announcement is expected next week. Details of the plan are still being finalized but rumor is that the president’s executive order could pave the way for amnesty for as many as 5 million illegal immigrants.

As you might expect the Republican response was less than accommodating. Threats ranged from a lawsuit to a government shutdown to impeachment.

Here is what should happen.

The president should issue his executive order and enact whatever immigration reforms he believes he has legal authority to issue under the law. He has campaigned twice on this issue and promised on three separate occasions this year to act alone. If he wants his party to hang on to the minority vote in 2016 he can’t back down on this issue.

Republicans have three viable options. The House can pass the Senate bill that already has BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT. Everybody wins! Republicans really don’t want to pass immigration reform for two reasons: they don’t want to give the president a “legacy win” and don’t want to give illegal immigrants amnesty nor a path to citizenship. What Republicans want is to round up all 11 million illegal immigrants and send them packing. They do however understand that is never going to happen. Their next best option is to pass the senate bill and attach something they want…like lowering the corporate tax rate. Again, a win, win! The last viable option is to sue the president for overstepping his authority, thereby allowing the courts to decide. Absent passing a reform bill, the court system is the best, most reasonable way for Republicans to voice their objection. The court system will take years to work itself out. Reform will ease its way into becoming the law of the land. Not ideal from a Republican point of view. But shutting down the government or impeaching the president is NOT what the people want. Either of these actions will erase all the positive gains Republicans accrued in the last election.

KEYSTONE PIPELINE – It appears that a bill authorizing the Keystone Pipeline is destined to pass through congress with bi-partisan support. The president has made it clear that he does not believe the pipeline will produce anywhere near the jobs nor economic gain that its supporters claim. A straight veto may sit well with the president’s base but it will enrage party moderates who know the pipeline will eventually pass and want something to show for it. The president should veto the bill and send it back with an amendment for something he wants…like an incremental increase in the minimum wage to $10.50 over the next five years. Both parties get something they want. The president should have leveraged this issue long ago. But his disdain for backroom deal making has allowed the controversy fester for six years. Republicans control the legislature. Give them the inevitable but get something for it.

The Republican victory in the mid-terms has backed the president into a corner. He can either come out fighting for what he believes in or sit back and watch his legacy diminish. Early returns indicate that he intends to fight back. Talk is cheap! You have to give a little to get a little.

This is how government is supposed to work.

The question is...will deal making and progress return to the hill?

Or is the silly season back once more?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Well Done Governor Walker!

Newly re-elected Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker is feeling pretty full of himself. And why shouldn’t he? Last weeks’ victory was his third electoral win in four years. After his initial election to the governor’s mansion he blew up the public workers’ union, stripped their benefits down to bare bones, withstood a recall vote and squelched a statewide push to raise the minimum wage. Last week the Governor was rewarded for his efforts with a second term. Walker is so popular among the party movers and shakers that he is considered a serious candidate for a place on the 2016 ticket.

Brimming with confidence from his recent victory, Walker has set his sights on the slackers and misfits in his fair state that can’t seem to take care of themselves. Walker has decided to go after those who dare to apply for welfare and unemployment benefits. He wants to drug test them.

You see Walker believes that most folks who apply for government benefits are losers who game the system and use the money to buy drugs. So Walker has decided to drug test anyone applying for social safety net benefits within his state. Never mind that several other states have implemented the same discriminatory laws only to find that drug use among those applying for benefits is not only statistically non-existent, it pales in comparison to the general population. But Walker is undeterred. After all, says Walker: ‘The people of Wisconsin are entitled to know where their hard earned tax dollars are being spent.”

I agree! In fact I think that Governor Walker’s policy should be expanded to the federal level. Any person applying for or currently receiving government funds should be drug tested. Let’s weed out the slackers!

Let’s start with the 535 members of the newly elected Congress of the United States of America. These folks take home an average of $179,500 in government funds plus some very lucrative benefits and perks. Talk about slackers! I mean is there anyone in this country who is considered “gainfully employed” that works less than our elected leaders in congress? Shouldn’t we make certain that they aren’t sniffing that lucrative compensation package up their nose? After all, aren’t the American people entitled to know where their hard earned tax dollars are being spent?

I was thinking that maybe we should expand the drug testing to include the CEOs and board members of the major corporations and banks that get handed billions in government subsidies each year. Farmers too! After all is paying a guy NOT to grow stuff any different than paying a guy not to work? We certainly don’t want to discriminate! I mean if you are going to test the poor and the struggling middle class shouldn’t you test the rich as well…just to be fair? Be it “handout” or “dole”; “tax credit” or “subsidy” it’s all the same thing, right?

There are those that criticize Walker for “waging war on the poor.” Let’s eliminate that controversy; let’s drug test the “movers and shakers” as well.

Well done, Scott! I’m sure everyone will be more than happy to comply.

Same old...same old!

The lame duck session of congress returns to work this week facing a plethora of unresolved issues. The continuing resolution to fund the government expires on December 11. The defense budget needs to be approved. Certain tax credits for wealthy individuals and businesses expire at years’ end. A host of presidential nominees have yet to be confirmed; including forty five still vacant ambassador posts and the president’s choice for attorney general. Immigration reform is yet unresolved. And then there is the president’s request for an additional $5 billion to send 1500 additional troops into the war with ISIS; a war congress has yet to approve.

You would think with all that on their plate congress would be anxious to start “being about the peoples’ business.”

Not so much!

The first word coming out of congress was that given the limited number of scheduled days in session between now and the end of the year (15) it was unlikely that they would be able to get much accomplished. And given their limited schedule they will too busy to consider confirming any of the president’s nominees. According to congressional leaders it would be inappropriate in any event to consider such weighty measures in a lame duck session. Better to wait until the newly elected congress is sworn in come January.

What we have here is simply more of the same obstructionist policies that Republicans have successfully practiced since 2010…the exact same obstructionist policies that they promised to stop during last weeks’ election. What’s really going on here is that Republicans don’t want to act on anything during the lame duck session. Better to wait until the next congress is sworn in where the newly elected Republican majority stands to gain a better result. Alleging that some of these matters are too important to be debated during a lame duck session is pure nonsense.

On October 10, 1973 Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice President over allegations of tax fraud. Gerald Ford was appointed the new Vice President. When Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974 Ford was elevated to the presidency. His choice for Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller was confirmed by a lame duck session of congress.
On December 19, 1998 a lame duck session of the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton. That same lame duck session accepted the resignation of the Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich and later his replacement Speaker-Elect, Robert Livingston. Livingston’s surprise resignation paved the way for Dennis Hastert to assume the post. He was confirmed by that same lame duck congress. Hastert would go on to become the longest serving Speaker of the House in our country’s history; serving from 1999-2007.

President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch, should be a slam dunk. She has been vetted by congress four times and confirmed by congress four times for previous posts. She was nominated by the president in part because she had already been deemed acceptable by congress. But because obstructing is still more important than governing, her nomination will remain unconfirmed until the new congress is sworn in.

The additional funding for the war on ISIS is another example of Washington nonsense.
Under the War Powers Act the president can authorize the use of military force if he believes that the country’s national security is threatened. However if congress fails to authorize the president’s unilateral action within 60 days the president has 30 days to cease the military operation and bring the troops home. Several members of congress have been openly critical about the president’s strategy against ISIS. But they have refused to go on the record with an up or down vote. The war against ISIS is costing the country $8 million/day. The president wants congress to authorize an additional $5 billion to send 1500 additional troops into the battle. The 90 day period has expired. The war is technically in violation of the constitution. Rather than terminate the military action the president wants to expand it. Yet congress does nothing. And now it appears that they will sit on their hands at least until the new congress takes office because it is “inappropriate for a lame duck session to weigh in on such important matters.”

Congress likes to criticize the president’s actions but the truth is they don’t want to get anywhere near and up or down vote on the issue. Political careers can be inexorably altered by a war vote. Better to sit back and let the president take the heat. It is far easier to criticize than to assume responsibility.
And then there is immigration reform.

The president has said that if congress fails to act on immigration reform by the end of the year he will use his executive authority to enact measures himself. Speaker Boehner has said that such action on the president’s part would “poison the well.” Senator McConnell said any attempt by the president to enact reforms would be “like waving a red flag in front of a bull.” Several Republican lawmakers have been more blunt, stating publically that such executive action would warrant impeachment.

And so goes the first week of the lame duck congress.

How is that new “kumbaya” atmosphere of compromise working?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank You!

I’m not a fan of war!

You might say: “Duh! Who is?

I can point you to a number of distinguished members of congress who believe that the military option is the first and best response to any international conflict.

I disagree.

I believe that the military option should be exercised when and only when all other measures have failed and only in those situations where OUR national security is threatened.

That said I believe in a strong military. I believe that a strong well armed well trained military is the best deterrent to keeping our enemies a bay. Without a strong military I believe that there are those abroad who would be more than willing to come to our shores and end our way of life.

The key to using military force is knowing when and how to use it effectively.
Take the current military action being waged against ISIS. Surprisingly I agree with Rand Paul that the war against ISIS is illegal. The War Powers Act states that if the president believes that our national security is threatened, he can order the military into action for a period of 60 days without getting congressional approval. If congress has not weighed in within 60 days the president has 30 days to end the military action. Yesterday marked the 90th day of conflict against ISIS. Congress has demonstrated little political interest in voting on the issue. Winning elections does not necessarily require one to grow a back bone. This war is in violation of the constitution. The president should stop the conflict and bring the troops home.

Instead the president has announced that he has asked congress to provide funding to send another 1500 troops into Iraq; bringing the number of troops in theater to 3,000. Ostensibly these troops will be used to train and mobilize the Iraqi army to take the fight to ISIS. Does anybody in his right mind believe that 3,000 US military personnel are going to be able to accomplish in short order what 160,000 US military personnel could not in over a decade?

This is a failed strategy that has zero chance of success. These 3,000 “advisors,” hell the entire ISIS operation, is nothing more than a stalling tactic to hold off ISIS and appease our allies until some presently unknown better solution can be discovered. There is no military solution in the Middle East. These troops are risking their lives to be used as pawns in a political game. The fact that congress and the American people are allowing that to happen is unconscionable.

That is why I respect the military. Time and time again they volunteer to put their lives at risk for people they’ve never met in far off lands they never knew existed. Time and again they serve as political pawns, moved them about like inanimate objects by those who dwell in the comfort and safety of our shores. Yet they continue to serve. .

Certainly some volunteer because they like the idea of killing bad guys and blowing things up; others because they see the military as a way out of a seemingly dead end existence. Regardless of their motivation, once engaged they demonstrate a sense of duty, camaraderie and sacrifice not found anywhere else in our society. Regardless of their motivation; the fact that they volunteer knowing full well that they may ultimately give their life for their fellow man has earned them my deepest sense of respect and gratitude. As a writer I sit here today knowing that it is ultimately the sacrifice of those who currently serve and those who served before them that allows me to pen my thoughts without fear of retribution.

So on this day I say thank you to those who serve and those who served before them; who sacrificed their lives so that I may live mine.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Can Compromise Emerge From Dysfunction?

Now that the mid-terms are over our elected leaders must now consider the task of governing. In the aftermath of the Republicans’ resounding victory we have heard politicians on both sides of the aisle echoing the same sentiment: “The American
people have sent us a message. They want us to get things done.”

The question is…will they? Will congress move forward in a bi-partisan manner to do the peoples’ business or will we see more of the partisan obstruction and gridlock that has plagued Washington over the past several years.

If this first week is any indication I’d say we are likely to see more of the latter.

Republicans won this election with one common message: “We are not Obama.” They offered nothing in the way of substance; just the message that all the things that make people anxious are Obama’s fault. Ebola, Benghazi, the IRS, the NSA, the VA, ISIS, Syria, Iran, the botched rollout of the ACA, flat wages etc… all skillfully laid at the president’s feet. They offered nothing in the way of a substantive plan to address these issues. Now, faced with the prospect of actually governing, the lack of a plan moving forward is painfully obvious. There is no plan because there is no consensus within the Republican Party. The biggest hurdle Republicans face is finding consensus within their ranks.

Democrats are not much better. While Republicans were declaring: “We are not Obama” Democrats were responding with “Neither are we.” Instead of sending a strong populace message in support of raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, amnesty for “Dreamers” or any of the other widely successful policies of their party’s leader, they ran away like rats off a sinking ship. Now that the election is lost Democrats are back to supporting their core policy values while blowing off the loss as a simple case of typical low liberal voter turnout for a mid-term election. Democrats find themselves trying to explain to voters why they are back on the Obama bandwagon after having abandoned it in the weeks leading up to the mid-terms.

From where I sit this dysfunction within the parties make governing all but impossible. Recent events on two key issues make this point.

ACA open enrollment begins on November 15th. Today the administration opened up the website to give potential buyers a sneak peak at the plans that are available. Speaker Boehner wants to repeal the ACA and has pledged to makes repeal one of the first orders of business for the newly anointed Republican majority. Presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that any notion of repeal is nonsense. McConnell knows that he doesn’t have the 60 votes he needs to pass repeal in the senate. He also understands that even if he did, a president named Obama is not going to sign bill repealing a law called “Obamacare.” And McConnell understands that the votes aren’t there to overturn a presidential veto. But members of McConnell’s caucus vehemently disagree. Senators Cruz and Mike Lee agree with Boehner that repeal of the law is critical in establishing their newly awarded authority. Cruz has promised no end of obstructionist measures if his demands aren’t met including a government shutdown. McConnell has state flatly that there will not be any government shutdowns. It’s hard to see where any form of “governing” emerges from this internal squabble.

Immigration reform is another topic where there is vehement disagreement between the parties and within the caucuses themselves. Democrats want amnesty and a pathway to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants. They differ on which ones. Republicans understand the need for reform but want no part of amnesty or a path to citizenship. The president has promised to use his executive authority to implement reforms by the end of the year. Over the past year the president has made several similar promises but failed to deliver. Republicans have threatened all sorts of repercussions if the president acts on his own; from defunding any reform measure the president might issue to refusing to confirm his recent appointment to Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. The fact is that all Republicans need to do is pass an immigration bill and send it to the president to sign. Once the bill is signed into law it supersedes any executive order the president may have issued. But Republicans can’t agree among themselves on a bill. While the president procrastinates and Republicans squabble tens of millions of Latino and Asian voters are watching; deciding for themselves which dysfunctional party will best represent their interests in 2016
Republicans are really good at staying on message…but they have no plan. Democrats are sound on the issues that matter to most Americans…but they stink at getting their message across.

Are we to believe that from this dark cloud of dysfunction a beacon of compromise will emerge?

I just don't see it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Equality, Hypocrisy, Nonsense and Failed Promises

EQUAL UNDER THE LAW – I thought I read somewhere that in this country we believe that all men are created equal. Apparently that is not the case in Cincinnati, Ohio where the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reigns supreme. Yesterday the Court upheld gay marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The ruling stands in stark contrast to the vast majority of cases decided in favor of gay marriage since the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act in June of 2013. 32 states recognize gay marriage. In summary, the 6th Circuit ruling states that gays are not permitted to marry, not permitted to adopt and should not be allowed to have their names placed on their partners’ death certificates. Gay marriages performed legally in other states will not be recognized within the 6th district. The ruling in all probability means that the matter will be heard by the Supreme Court sometime next year.

I for one am mystified by the ruling but not totally surprised given the conservative backwater region in which the court resides. Am I mistaken or are gays born in this country not considered American citizens. Are they not required to pay the same taxes as straight folks? Are they not required to abide by the same laws? Then why are they treated as “less than” when it comes to the rights and privileges of marriage? There are millions of examples of gay couples living in healthy relationships and raising children in a warm nurturing environment. Why are they subjected to this type of bigotry?

HYPOCRISY - This ruling by the 6th Circuit Court is just another example of the hypocrisy of conservative ideology. Conservatives want the government to stay out of their lives. Except for the bedroom! When it comes to bedroom issues you’ll find conservatives creeping under the covers with a flashlight.

FAILED POLICIES – During the mid-term campaigns we heard all sorts of nonsense about how “the failed policies of the Obama administration are hurting the economy.” Yesterday the DOW closed at record 17,550 points…the 21st record high this year. Had Democrats given full throated support to their own successful policy initiatives instead of running away from them Tuesday’s ass whipping might have been avoided.

IMMIGRATION – In his post election news conference the president promised that if congress failed to act on immigration reform he will act on his own “by the end of the year.” You may recall that the president had previously promised to use his executive powers to pass immigration reform measures “by the end of the summer.” At summer’s end he promised to act “before the election.” In the days leading up to the mid-terms he promised to act “after the election.” Perhaps if he had kept one of those promises the Latino community would have ventured out to the polls. Instead they stayed home and Mitch McConnell is moving into Harry Reid’s office.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Republicans Roll! But can they govern?

The votes are in! The people have spoken! Boy, have they ever…

Riding a massive wave of repudiation against the president and his policies Republicans took control of the Senate, increased their majority in the House and took ownership of the governor’s mansion in states they never dreamed possible. If this were a Little League game they would have invoked the mercy rule.

Republicans won in red states, blue states and purple states. Needing six seats to gain a majority in the Senate Republicans quickly won seven with Virginia, Louisiana, and Alaska still in play at this writing.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the man who turned obstruction and gridlock into an art form, was rewarded for his efforts with a sixth term and presumably the most powerful post in the Senate chamber.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the man who busted the public worker unions, squashed efforts to raise the minimum wage and lowered taxes for millionaires and billionaires; won his third state election in four years. Two years ago Walker was facing a recall vote. Today he is the hero of the Republican Party and a serious contender for a place on the 2016 ticket.

Maryland, the bluest of the blue states, elected a Republican governor. And in a direct slap at the president, his home state of Illinois did the same.

The talking heads called this a “wave” election. A “tsunami” would be a more appropriate term. For Democrats last night’s results were far worse than the self acclaimed “shellacking” the president bemoaned in 2010. Today he will wake up facing the very real prospect of having to deal with both Boehner and McConnell from a far more weakened position.

So what happened?

The way I see it McConnell and the Republicans gambled that obstructionism would halt the president’s agenda and that the voters would lay at least half the blame for the gridlock on the president. At the same time Republicans understood that while the economy was improving the vast majority of Americans were not feeling it. So Republicans worked hard to attach Democratic candidates to the perceived failed policies of the Obama administration.

Democrats could have promoted any number of successful Obama policies that are popular with the masses. Instead they sought to distance themselves from a president and an agenda that they had publically supported for the past six years. Voters saw through the hypocrisy. Tired of the games and fully believing that Washington is disconnected from their daily lives; voters decided to shake things up by laying their frustration at the feet of the president and his party.

In my estimation this was not a mandate for Republicans but rather a repudiation of the president’s inability to find a way through the gridlock.

Now that the votes are in and Republicans are in control the question remains…can they govern?

In his victory speech Mitch McConnell was more eloquent and conciliatory than I ever believed possible. He graciously complimented his opponent on a well run race saying: “she has earned my respect.” He spoke of compromise saying that he and the president “have an obligation to work together….In the past I have shown willingness to compromise at critical times. I hope the president will give me the opportunity to demonstrate that once again.”

But while McConnell was talking about compromise Senator Cruz was on FOXNEWS singing a different song. When asked if he would support McConnell as Senate Majority Leader he refused to answer the question. When asked what he impact this election would have in the future Cruz said he was looking forward to Republican led hearings on Benghazi, the IRS, the NSA and thorough investigation “on the abuse of power by this lawless administration.”

Cruz, Rubio and Paul all have presidential aspirations. All have very different views of what the Republican Party should look like and stand for going forward. Before McConnell can find any common ground with the president he is going to have to reconcile the differences within his own caucus; a far tougher task than defeating his Democratic opponent.

Republicans should be wary and not get too full of themselves over this resounding victory. The battle ground this time was primarily in conservative leaning red states. Yesterday the electorate was older and whiter. In 2016 the war will be waged in predominantly liberal blue states. The electorate will look far different. If Republicans are to ride this victory to a win in the 2016 general election they are going to have to prove they can get things done. If the internal bickering continues to get in the way of progress the only way Republicans will see the inside of the White House is by invitation.

Last night was a huge night for the Republican Party. Will they make the most of it...or will they squander it? Can they govern...or is political gridlock their only political plank? The electorate will be watching.

The 2016 campaign starts today.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


My parents didn’t vote. Odd for members of a generation that risked everything to protect that right…but true nonetheless. They didn’t vote.

The one time they went to the polls Kennedy beat Nixon. Mom voted for Jack. Dad voted for Dick. I know this because they told me they had cancelled each other out. Jack won by a nose. But what was the point? They cancelled each other out. As time went on they became more and more disillusioned with politics and never went back. What was the point?

What was fascinating to me about that time was the fact that we were even having the discussion. The Greatest Generation, as a general rule, didn’t talk politics. Money, sex, religion and politics were taboo. Yet here they were speaking openly about their political leanings and their frustration with the government. It was a conversation that happened once and was never repeated.

Times are different now. Political differences are the subject of heated debates in bar rooms, bedrooms, union halls and churches. Abortion, contraception, women’s rights, gay rights, equal pay all aired in open forum. So it is almost comical to watch persons who are actually seeking public office refuse to divulge their political predilections on the basis of their constitutional right to privacy.

Alison Lundegran-Grimes is trying to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell is seeking a sixth term in office. In a recent debate she was asked if she would confirm that she had voted for Barak Obama in the last election. She refused...citing her constitutional right to privacy.

Ok, I get that Ms. Lundagran-Grimes did not want to utter the words: “I voted for Barak Obama” for fear that she would find her comment edited by the McConnell camp into a political ad where she is wearing horns and breathing fire while eating children. But there are any number of ways to get around that. For example she might have said:

“I’m not going to give Senator McConnell the opportunity to misrepresent my comments. But I will say this. I voted for the man whose policies kept the economy from plunging into the next Great Depression. I voted for the man whose policies kept the banking industry solvent. I voted for the man whose policies saved the auto industry and 3 million jobs. I voted for the man whose policies turned an economy that was losing 700,000 private sector jobs per month into one that each month produces 220,000 new private sector jobs. I voted for the man whose policies resulted in record corporate profits and skyrocketing numbers on Wall Street. I voted for the man who believes that affordable health care is a right not a privilege; whose policies made affordable health care available for the first time to millions of Americans. I voted for the man who believes in women’s rights, gay rights, increasing the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work. I voted for the man whose policies ended the unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The same man who refused my opponent’s calls to take us to war in Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and the Ukraine. I voted for the man who believes that we should be finding ways that make it easier to vote…not more difficult. I have supported these successful policies. Senator McConnell has opposed each and every one of them. The record speaks for itself.”

The point here is that government does work, elections do matter and every vote counts.

Feel free to exercise your right to privacy.

Just be sure to vote.