Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ever Wonder Why We Can't Just Solve Some Of Our Biggest Problems?

You should see how hard it will be
to get a budget done this year
Such as infrastructure, for example.

The United States has close to 63,000 bridges that need to be repaired or replaced. Some estimates place the cost of such repairs and replacements at over $1 trillion. Some experts think it far exceeds that amount.

That number may sound excessively large when viewed in isolation. In truth, it 'only' represents 10% of all bridges in existence in America today which number close to 650,000 bridges across this great land of ours.

Just think about that the next time you cross some long bridge that looks like it was built before the 21st century. Especially in Pennsylvania which has the most deficient bridges in the country. Do you feel 'lucky' passing over the one you are driving on, or not?

Here's some facts to keep in mind as you start to see the US Senate go back into 'regular' order after 6 years of doing very little under Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Senate has already considered 15 amendments to bills in the last week or two alone in January 2015. They considered 15 amendments on the floor of the Senate...during the entire YEAR of 2014 under Harry Reid.

Remember that our federal budget today is just over $4 trillion. We still borrow close to $500 billion per year over and above what we take in in federal tax revenues from all sources. The GDP of America is just $16.9 trillion in 2014.

Spending $1 trillion on infrastructure improvements would represent a significant claim federal government resources. Whether it is spent all in a couple of years or spread out over the next 5-10 years, such spending would crowd out other much-needed and desired investments across the board.

When you also consider that the federal gas tax is providing less and less revenue to the highway trust funds over time due to more and more fuel-efficient cars, either a new funding source has to be found or other programs have to be cut to pay for such a massive amount of spending on new highways, roads and bridges.

If you are an advocate for any of the following issues, you have a stake in how our budget is set up; run and funded:
  1. Education
  2. Environmental Protection
  3. Defense
  4. Tax Cuts
  5. Homeland Security
  6. Science and Tech
  7. Housing
  8. Welfare
  9. 'Free' Community College
  10. Research Funding
Why do we bring this up?

Because the totality of our federal budget and national debt is something that never gets brought up in the press or on talk shows, cable shows or in polite conversation with people with whom you tend to agree.

We are today now paying for the decisions past Congresses and Presidents have made by not having the flexibility and the discretion to make decisions in the national interest no matter how important they are to the future of this country.

In essence, we have 'purchased' a $18 trillion national debt since 2000 and not used any of it to rebuild our national infrastructure which has been done in the past to improve our economic output, the Erie Canal being just one obvious example. Or any other major national investment.

President Obama may really want everyone to have 'free' community college for everyone but that is not going to happen with the GOP controlling both the House and the Senate with him asking for higher taxes to pay for it. They certainly are not going to stop funding homeland security or defense or housing to free up the funds for his proposal either.

The discretionary budget of the United States has fallen roughly 7% relative to GDP over the past 2 decades. Where has that money gone?

To Medicare and Medicaid. Our two largest federally funded health programs have grown massively in absolute dollars per year and in relative share of GDP over the same time period.

We have funded 2 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that totaled at least $1 trillion from 2002 to 2013. The vast majority of that came from deficit-funding through supplemental appropriations bills that occur during the middle of legislative sessions mid-year where they could be passed without having to be included in the annual budget process.

President Bush and the GOP Congress passed the 'temporary' Bush tax cuts that President Obama made permanent in 2013. So both of them now 'own' the tax cuts that so many people decried during President Obama's 1st and 2nd presidential campaigns.

All of these have contributed to add to the $18 trillion national debt we now own lock, stock and barrel. That national debt, and the debt service we will sometime soon owe on it, pretty much make it almost impossible to do anything on even a semi-grand scale to address the big problems we face today in America.

In other words, we have painted ourselves into the proverbial corner. Just as every prudent politician and economist said we would as far back as 1980 when Ronald Reagan started pointing out the dangers of running continuous budget deficits.

As we have pointed out many, many times before, the real danger is not in the absolute amount of the national debt at the current time. We have survived many other explosive periods of national debt at critical times in our national history, mostly during major wartime efforts.

The real skunk in the woodpile will be when interest rates return to their more 'normal' rates of interest, say 5-6%, way up from the 2%+ interest now being paid on the national debt.

When the national debt hits $20 trillion before President Obama leaves office in 2017 perhaps, and when interest rates hits just 5%, the annual interest cost will be $1 trillion. Per year. And growing.

$1 trillion of your taxpayer money going out as 25% of the national federal budget each and every year will dry up every available dollar for the programs you may want to see funded and then some. We need bridges to be rebuilt and, at a very minimum, all of our roads need to be re-paved but that can't be done with such pressing interest costs staring us in the face.

Same with community college tuitions. Or environmental protection. Or any of the programs you may like a lot and think are very important to the country and people.

Just keep some of these thoughts in mind as we start to see action in Washington DC unlike any legislative activity we have seen in the last 6 years.

We hope they work it all out. But it is going to be a tough slog for everyone from President Obama to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to Speaker John Boehner to you the American voter.

There are no easy choices left to make. They are all going to be very hard and very difficult to make.
'



Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today




Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Monday, January 19, 2015

Duke Chapel, The Adhan and Tolerance in 2015

This is the Duke Chapel, Not the Duke Minaret
From the moment it was announced that a weekly Muslim call to prayer was going to be sent out over an amplified sound system from the top of Duke Chapel at Duke University last week, you knew it was going to be controversial.

After all, Duke University used to be Ground Zero for the training of many Methodist ministers in its Divinity School. James Buchanan Duke's own words lay out the reasons why he wanted Duke University to receive the lion's share of the Duke Endowment in the first place:
'I have selected Duke University as one of the principal objects of this trust because I recognize that education, when conducted along sane and practical, as opposed to dogmatic and theoretical, lines, is, next to religion, the greatest civilizing influence.” 

It was, and still is, a pretty amazing display of foresightedness and generosity that has not only paid off many times over in the state of North Carolina in terms of education and medical care and research but also around the globe.

It is also a pretty amazing example of the benefits we all, as a society, enjoy when some people succeed in the business world beyond ours and their wildest dreams. But that is for another time.

The thing that struck us last week when we heard of the proposal to allow the call to Muslim prayer from the top of what was set up originally as a Christian place of worship was how many people were confusing 'tolerance' with 'acceptance' and 'agreement'.

We think it is worth delving into further simply because this confusion permeates not only our religious world today but also our political speech world as well.

'Tolerance' for one another's religious beliefs does not mean I have to agree with another religious belief system. In fact, I can despise it and argue against it as much as I want...as long as I don't take action to harm the other person or deny him/her their right to do the same to my religion.

There are tribes in Africa that worship the dung beetle since it pushes a clod of animal dung around and around and over and under a larger dung pile through tunnels. They worship the dung beetle because it symbolizes the rising and the setting of the sun, which if you think about it, makes some sorta sense.

Who are we to say they can't worship the dung beetle? We had a professor in college who said those same tribe members would ask a Christian why would anyone worship a man who had been crucified on a wooden cross?

Good point.

The point that some people seemed to have missed last week when they came out for the call to Muslim prayer from the top of a Christian Chapel of Worship is this:

'You will never see a call to Christian worship from the top of an Islamic mosque!'

Or from the top of a Jewish synagogue either! And they shouldn't. While all three religions are branches off the same tree stemming from Abraham in the Old Testament, each one has its own unique defining core beliefs that make full acceptance of the tenets of another contradictory to the belief of their own religion.

Each religion has its own unique places of worship; rituals, hymns, prayer meetings and language. Let them all stay separate for worship purposes. There is no need to blend them together like a smoothie in the name of 'tolerance'.

Both Islam and Judaism belief denies the existence of a Messiah named Jesus who declared Himself to be the Son of God and who died and resurrected and went to heaven and sent his Holy Spirit to guide His believers and followers.

Why would they ever allow a Christian minister or an evangelist such as Billy Graham in his hey day to climb to the top of any mosque or synagogue in the world to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ then?

They wouldn't. In many Muslim countries around the world, Christians are actively persecuted for their belief and either killed, forced out of the country or forced to convert to Islam. You don't even want to ask Jews how they have been treated in other lands over the centuries solely because of their religious belief.

If you want to see how 'free' we are to worship freely here in America, go to some of the Islamic countries now under control of the more fundamental leaders and try to talk about Christianity or Judaism in the public square. You may not come back.

Thank God we don't have that same kind of oppression here in America. Or Whoever you want to thank.

Let's compare excerpts from the Adhan, the Muslim Call to Prayer, with something as basic to the Christian faith as the Nicene Creed:

Muslim Adhan:

'I bear witness that there is none worthy of being worshipped except Allah.
I bear witness that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah.'

The Nicene Creed:

'We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
   the only son of God,
   eternally begotten of the Father,
   God from God, Light from Light,
   true God from true God,
   begotten not made,
   of one Being with the Father.'

Does anyone see where the inherent conflict is here?

There might have been a sincere, albeit naive, attempt to bring people of different faiths together with this short-lived effort at Duke University last week. That, we can all agree on, is a good thing.

We can all agree that we should treat our fellow man and woman with respect, love and mercy, yes? As long as those basic tenets of each faith are followed, we should all be able to live in harmony, no?

One of the strongest tenets of the US Bill of Rights has been our right to freely worship, and in context, 'freely associate' with others who share those same beliefs. That also means we are free to 'not' worship with any other faith or in a mosque or temple if we don't want to do so.

It also means we never have to accept those beliefs or worship any God if we so choose. Thomas Jefferson pretty much made that a mandatory factor in American life when he helped get the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom passed in in 1786.*

My father once described what he saw was the basic characteristic of North Carolinians he knew, or at least the ones he grew up with in independent-minded western North Carolina in Asheville during the Depression.

'If you ask them to help you, they will give you the shirt off their back. But if you tell them to give the shirt off their back, they will tell you to (well, you know where they will tell you to go)'

Same thing with people of a different religious belief. You can't 'tell' them or force them to agree with you. You might get them to see something positive in your religion if they see something different such as your kindness or generosity and gentleness of spirit perhaps but you can't force-feed someone else your religious beliefs.

The next time there is a furor over some religious issue in the press or on some college campus or in some city, because there will be, you can count on it, remember this lesson from the Muslim Call to Prayer from the Top of Duke Chapel Incident:

'America's greatest commodity is freedom. Let's try to keep it that way'.

*You should click the link and read it sometime...one of the most important documents in our nation's history that doesn't hardly ever get its due credit)

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today


Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

'Time To Call A Spade A Spade'

Or a 'Radical Islamic Terrorist' a 'Radical Islamic Terrorist'.

It used to be that one could use the 'spade' quote before it became associated with a racial slur towards African-Americans, apparently because it brought in the connotations of being 'as black as the ace of spades' somehow.

The truth of the matter is that the ancient philosopher, and last man to have read literally every single manuscript there was to read in the known world at the time, Erasmus, used the spade quote to mean 'clarity of thinking and saying and doing'.

A spade was nothing more than a shovel, and still is called that in many places around the world.

After being called many different names as chief of staff to a US Congressman and US Senator, most of them 'bad', being called a 'shovel' would have been considered a compliment in any book.

Or an 'ace'. Instead of another 3-letter word.

With that in mind, here is the question of the day to ponder:

'Why in the world is the Obama Administration, and many in the media playing along with him, so afraid to call the thugs who caused the horror that took place in Paris last week and around the world for the past 6 years what they actually are: 'radical Islamic terrorists'?

Press Secretary Josh Earnest almost turned himself into a pretzel of monstrous proportions recently trying to explain why they don't call them 'radical Islamist terrorists' to NPR's Mara Liasson. It just doesn't make any sense.

Several things we should know by now from history:
  • There are always going to be crazy people doing terrible things to other innocent people
  • We have to call things as they are and not try to sugar-coat who they are or what their intentions might be when their actions clearly prove they are not after peace and love and kumbaya with everyone else on earth
  • A tiny fraction, relative to population, of extremely deranged people really want to dominate masses of populations and subject them to degrading pain and suffering and death for some unearthly reason.
They have to be stopped. Before they can do as much damage as the Hitlers and Stalins et.al. have proven can be done before them.

Before Pearl Harbor, isolationists and 'America Firsters' (yes, we have had them many times before Rand and Ron Paul came on the scene) such as aviation hero Charles Lindbergh had such an aversion to antagonizing the imperialist Japanese Emperor Hirohito or the insane megalomaniac Adolf Hitler, they refrained from calling them what they were: 'murderous Japanese and German terrorists and killers'.

These recognized 'leaders' of Japan and Germany were treated by such isolationist ostrich head-in-the-sanders as if they were respectable leaders of any other nation be it England, France or Spain. Appeasers such as Neville 'Peace in Our Times' Chamberlain and virtually every other British leader outside of the realistic Winston Churchill kept kowtowing and paying obeisance to these killers hoping that somehow, some way, Hitler had some smidgen of humanity in the deep recesses of his polluted brain somewhere.

He didn't. Adolf Hitler was a historic testament to the potentiality of the complete brutality of the human species when left unchecked, unchallenged and not utterly defeated and crushed.

The only difference between Hirohito and Hitler and the modern Muslim terrorists is that they were somehow duly-elected or appointed leaders of a nation. These modern Muslim killers are not; they are more like leaders of deadly guerrilla campaigns first used against the Roman Empire by King Mithradates of Pontus whom author Adrienne Mayor points out in her excellent book, 'The Poison King' is considered a hero of the modern Al Qaeda terrorists for his ability to stand up to the Roman Empire in the first century B.C.

'So what are we supposed to do today in 21st century America and around the world to confront these murderers in Paris and around the world?'

For one thing, it would help immensely if the Obama Administration and the news media would call these Islamic murderous terrorists what they are: 'murderous Islamist terrorists'.

That is not so hard to say, now is it? For some reason, the Obama Administration and the news media have assiduously avoided tagging these murderers as 'Islamic' or 'Muslim' terrorists. Why is that?

President Obama's entire Administration for the past 6 years has never tagged these murderous attacks as acts caused by 'Islamic' or 'Muslim' terrorists. It is as if they believe these hundreds of violent and deadly attacks have somehow mysteriously happened purely by random chance and none of the Muslims who have yelled 'Allah Akbar!' while shooting or blowing up innocent citizens around the globe have done it in the name of the Prophet Muhammad or the name of Islam.

They are certainly not motivated by their Christian faith, are they? They are not motivated by their Buddhist faith or Hindu faith or Shinto or Taoist beliefs as far as we have ever heard.

They are not even plainly motivated by sheer insanity. They all may be 'insane'; at least that would be one logical factor that would put some course of reason to these hundreds of attacks.

However, even if they are all 'insane', the one common thread is their consistent proclamations that they are doing what they do in the name of Islam and to protect the Prophet Muhammad.

We need to call them what they really are: 'Radical Muslim terrorists'. It is the only way we can clearly identify the enemy, such as they are, and try to figure out a way to crush them before they ascend to greater power as Hitler did in Germany.

If we haven't learned anything else from history, we should have learned this one crucial fact: mass murderers on a global scale such as Adolf Hitler need to be stopped before they get started.

The 'radical Islamic terrorists' pose the same threat. First to the nations in the Middle East. Second to the world at large.

There is a very small minority of Muslims who have been radicalized by the two wars in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.  They are fundamentally offended by the freedom, democracy and capitalism they see in western nations, especially the United States.

This includes freedom of speech, freedom for women, freedom to worship as you please or not please. You name it in the US Bill of Rights; the radical Muslim terrorists are against it.

You get upset about Christians bringing religious beliefs into American politics? What til you get a load of radical Islam, then...you will learn immediately that there is NO separation of mosque and state. The Mosque of Islam IS The State.

The odd thing is that 'The Great Satan United States' was the primary supplier of war materiel such as Stinger anti-helicopter missiles and reconnaissance that helped free Muslim Afghanistan from Soviet occupation in February, 1989. Go figure.

Today's violence is not a new occurrence of confrontation between 'radical' Islam and 'modern' Christianity. The Judeo-Christian world has been at odds with Islam ever since Abraham sent Ishmael away into the wilderness close to 4000 years ago.

Even the Angel of the Lord was pretty clear about the temperament of Ishmael in Genesis 16:12:
'He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
Apparently, some of Ishmael's genes and temperament have passed their way down through 40 centuries and found their way into these radical Islamists of today.

However, it is fair to say that we in the United States are not 'at war with the overall religion of Islam'. We are not at war and never have been with any nation or people who want to live in peace with themselves and their neighbors regardless of where they live. We have one of the most pluralistic of all nations on earth when it comes to religious diversity and our Constitution guarantees that we can all choose to believe whatever we want to believe faith-wise or not believe at all in anything.

It is fair to say we are 'at war with radicalized terrorists who draw on extreme views of Islam to justify their efforts to kill us'.

Maybe this is a matter that moderate and sentient Muslims around the world will have to solve. Maybe the Western world can not be the ones to solve the problem of 'radical Islam'.

But we have to be the ones to defend our freedoms and safety. No matter what these crazy terrorists believe or why they invoke Islam and the Prophet Muhammad to do it, we have the right to defend ourselves and our freedom to live in safety and peace.

Ronald Reagan pretty much brought that attitude with him to the White House when he was inaugurated on January 20, 1981. The Iranian hostages were released 30 minutes before he was sworn in because they knew he would not stand by and try to flatter the Ayatollah Khomeni into releasing them back to freedom.

Dealing from a position of strength with these radical Islamist terrorists is the reality we have to face today as a nation. Our elected leaders from President Obama to Congress and the Senate have to act realistically to protect us as a republic of freedom-loving people.

Ignoring who they really are has not worked so far, has it?



Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today


Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How Will We Know Who 'Wins' Under President Obama and the GOP Congress?



Well, if anything positive gets done on a bi-partisan basis, that would be a good first step.

We have long been concerned that American politics has been reduced to the ESPN level of 'who won/who lost'. If FSU goes undefeated for 2 whole years but gets whomped in the Sugar Bowl by 39 points (which didn't leave too many fans crying outside of Tallahassee, now did it?), does that mean they are 'terrible' or they got what they wanted 29 times out of 30 games over 2 full years of playing football: a victory?

Politics is not like sports in one crucial manner: You don't have to win the 'final' game each season to be victorious. You don't even really have to win 90% of the time or even 75% of the time to have a 'good year'.

You really only need to prevail 50%+1 of the time on each and every vote in both the House and the Senate and then get the President to agree with you. The calculus on each vote can be different with different votes in both the House and the Senate each time as long as it adds up to 50%+1 and is something the President can sign into law. Otherwise, the road to victory gets harder as Congress will have to find a 2/3rd's majority to override the Presidential veto.

That is the way the Founders set it up. So that is the way we have to play this game in Washington.

We bring this up because now that the Republicans have taken over the Senate by a 54-46 majority (Bernie Sanders is not truly a 'Independent' from Vermont; he is an avowed Socialist and we'll see if Independent Angus King of Maine ever votes with the Republicans on anything) and increased their majority in the House to historic highs not seen since President Truman days, we are probably going to see an avalanche of bills passed by Congress under normal order and sent to President Obama, perhaps even in the first 100 days as we saw under LBJ in 1965.

Will they ALL be vetoed by President Obama? Or will he take a page from Presidents Reagan and Clinton and learn to compromise along the way with the majorities in Congress? That is the key question the entire nation will face in the next 3 months for sure.

If you see the nightly news and cable shows start to report that President Obama is meeting regularly with the Republican leaders of the House and the Senate and his legislative liaison people are stampeding Capitol Hill for round-the-clock negotiations on everything from the budget reconciliation process to tax reform to repatriation of corporate profits overseas to modification of Obamacare, then you can start to let yourself be 'hopeful' that this could be one of the most productive sessions of Congress in the last 2 decades.

However, if you see a defensive posture on the part of President Obama in each and every press conference where he is wielding his veto pen, you can be assured of more of the same old, same old we have seen for the same two decades: lots of screaming and shouting about marginal issues and absolutely no progress on the issues of concern that affect us all, black and white, rich and poor, country and city, north and south and east and west.

What are some of those key issues and how can they be objectively measured?

  1. Balancing the federal budget and reducing the growth of national debt.

    This is such a basic core function of our elective leaders that you would think it would be easy to focus on and solve.

    It isn't. We heard one senior person close to the action comment that one basic test of whether a person could be considered 'eligible' to serve in Congress would be if he/she could read a simple balance sheet and explain what it means. Apparently, not many of them who have served for the past 20 years have any idea of what the federal balance sheet looks like or the income statement or the national debt statement.

    If you see an 'omnibus budget reconciliation' bill advancing through Congress that includes significant tax reform and simplification coupled with entitlement program spending reforms that reduce their rates of growth, that will be 'progress' this year.
  2. Getting More Americans Back To Work In Full-Time Employment

    There are over 2 million fewer Americans working in full-time employment positions today than there were in 2007 before the Great Economic Crash hit us all.

    Our population has grown by more than 16 million in those 7 short years. You can't say that the economy is terrific when so many adults and recent college grads are struggling to find gainful employment in fields where their expertise and interest lie.

    The workforce has not been reduced by that many Boomers officially retiring, although that is a contributing factor. 'Full employment' means everyone who wants to work can find a good job, not that they have left the workforce frustrated by not being able to find a job.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we are just now approaching the same number of employed Americans in the work force, 147 million, in 2014 that existed in 2007 pre-crash. However, we now have over 2 million more Americans employed part-time due to economic reasons who want to find full-time work but can't.

    Millions of jobs have been destroyed in the student loan and secondary mortgage industries, for example, due to the nationalization, in effect, of both under President Obama. Never to return, unless, of course, these financial markets are allowed to return to the private sector.

    Ask members of your extended family, friends, church-goers and colleagues at work if they know of anyone who is working at a part-time job or one below their skills level just to make ends meet. That will give you a pretty good indication of the weakness of the jobs market today.
  3. Reform of Health Care Insurance and Cost Spiral

    Yeah, we know, we know: 'Obamacare was passed so now everything is hunky-dory in the world of health care insurance and costs'.

    Well, if our recent re-evaluation of our individual health care plan is any indication, health care insurance is FAR from being 'fixed' as any advocate of the ACA would try to say.

    We have a high-deductible HSA that basically covers nothing but catastrophic health care costs over a $11,000 annual family deductible. When we asked BCBSNC and 2 other agents if we could do better under the exchanges, all 3 put us on hold for 2 minutes exactly and came back to the line to say this:

    'Stay where you are. If you change your plans, you will get screwed. The next 'best' plan will cost over $1000/month and the deductible will be higher to boot'.

    This is 'health care reform' at its best?

    The best that can be hoped for in health care reform is that the Republicans will chisel away at the ACA with logical, level-headed reforms and present them to the President and dare him to veto each of them singularly in advance of the 2016 presidential election.

    Efforts should be made to get at the heart of the medical cost care explosion rate over the past 30 years. Inflation has been about 160% since 1980. Health care costs have gone up about 480% during the same time period. (College tuitions have exploded by 750% but that is another matter)

    Single-shot bills such as 'allowing everyone to keep their plans if they like them...forever' would be one start. Another would be to repeal the employer mandate that has already been delayed twice by President Obama in order to help the Democrats at the polls in 2014 which didn't work out as planned.

    The Supreme Court is hearing a case, King vs. Burwell, this spring which could further cripple the ACA. The issue at hand is whether federal tax credits can be issued to anyone buying an ACA plan in a state that has not set up its own state-run exchange as outlined in the specific legislation passed by Congress in 2010.

    If the Supreme Court rules against the ACA in this provision, that could effectively knock the props out from underneath the ACA in the 30 states that have not set up exchanges which would effectively strike a crushing blow to the fate of Obamacare perhaps by June of 2015.
We have long-said that perhaps the ideal political matrix is for one party to control the White House and the other Congress. No party can ever get 100% of what they want under this setup, therefore, to get anything they want done, they have to compromise their rear ends off.

2015 could be one of those years. Reagan and the Democratic Congress under Tip O'Neill got a lot done. Bill Clinton and the GOP House under Newt Gingrich and the GOP Senate got a lot of great things done from 1996-2000, namely 4 budget surpluses in case you have forgotten.

It can be done.

(click on the title link of the post to view the video at the top)

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today


Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Thursday, December 18, 2014

'It's Okay to Hate Republicans'

'It Is Okay To Hate Republicans!'
Most people who have read at least one of our musings over the past 5 years (we just passed 1 million pageviews so someone must be reading them and we thank you) know that we love a good, spirited debate as long as A) facts are used; B) verifiable facts are used well; C) ad hominem attacks are not used (because they are childish and show a lack of confidence in their argument) and D) the debate and tone remain civil.

We also like to see 'balance'. No one side is 100% right all the time nor are they wrong 100% of the time. Political advocacy lends itself to amplification of the 'truth' as the speaker sees it; it also lends itself to selective omission of pertinent facts that might contradict those treasured 'truths' as seen through the eyes of a partisan.

We saw something that caught our eye yesterday mainly due to its abject honesty. A University of Michigan professor, Susan J. Douglas, penned an article (see below) titled 'It's Okay To Hate Republicans'

If you have ever been around or in elective politics, those are strong fighting words when it comes down to it. 'I disagree with Republicans' is a polite way to express displeasure with someone's political opinion.

'I hate Republicans' takes it to a different level.

With that in mind, just for balance, we thought we would take the following piece by Ms. Douglas and use her same words against progressive liberal Democrats just to show how stark a piece might sound had it been written by a conservative academic professor on any public university faculty around the nation, substituting only 'Progressive Liberal Democrat' for 'Republican' to see how it reads.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander, correct?

We are pretty sure that such language does not bode well for civil discourse and ultimate compromise on any issue. It is very hard to feel warmly towards your adversary after having been demeaned in public and called bad names, regardless of which side you are on.

Judge for yourself and then reflect on some of your own language lately and see if you are contributing to an atmosphere of hatred and vitriol or to civil discourse and uplifting dialogue.

It is important to do more of the latter and less of the former.

It’s Okay To Hate Republicans

In our era of polarization, one party is guiltier than the other.
BY SUSAN J. DOUGLAS

(Original Version)

I hate Republicans. I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal “personhood.”

This loathing is a relatively recent phenomenon. Back
 in the 1970s, I worked for a Republican, Fred Lippitt, the senate minority leader in Rhode Island, and I loved him. He was a brand of Republican now extinct—a “moderate” who was fiscally conservative but progressive about women’s rights, racial justice and environmental preservation. Had he been closer to my age, I could have contemplated marrying someone like Fred. Today, marrying a Republican is unimaginable to me. And I’m
 not alone. Back in 1960, only 5 
percent of Republicans and 4
 percent of Democrats said they’d
 be “displeased” if their child married someone from the opposite
 party. Today? Forty-nine percent 
of Republicans and 33 percent of
 Democrats would be pissed.

According to a recent study 
by Stanford professor Shanto
 Iyengar and Princeton researcher 
Sean Westwood, such polarization has increased dramatically 
in recent years. What’s noteworthy 
is how entrenched this mutual animus is. It’s fine for me to use the word “hate” when referring to Republicans and for them to use the same word about me, but you would never use the word “hate” when referring to people of color, or women, or gays and lesbians.

And now party identification and hatred shape a whole host of non-political decisions. Iyengar and Westwood asked participants in their study to review the resumés of graduating high school seniors to decide which ones should receive scholarships. Some resumés had cues about party affiliation (say, member of the Young Republicans Club) and some about racial identity (also through extracurricular activities, or via a stereotypical name). Race mattered, but not nearly as much as partisanship. An overwhelming 80 percent of partisans chose the student of their own party. And this held true even if the candidate from the opposite party had better credentials.

How did we come to this pass? Obviously, my tendency is to blame the Republicans more than the Democrats, which may seem biased. But history and psychological research bear me out.

Let’s start with the history. This isn’t like a fight between siblings, where the parent says, “It doesn’t matter who started it.” Yes, it does.

A brief review of Republican rhetoric and strategies since the 1980s shows an escalation of determined vilification (which has been amplified relentlessly on Fox News since 1996). From Spiro Agnew’s attack on intellectuals as an “effete corps of impudent snobs”; to Rush Limbaugh’s hate speech; to the GOP’s endless campaign
to smear the Clintons over Whitewater, then bludgeon Bill over Monica Lewinsky; to the ceaseless denigration of President Obama (“socialist,” “Muslim”), the Republicans have crafted a political identity that rests on a complete repudiation of the idea that the opposing party and its followers have any legitimacy at all.

Why does this work? A series of studies has found that political conservatives tend toward certain psychological characteristics. What are they? Dogmatism, rigidity and intolerance
 of ambiguity; a need to avoid uncertainty; support for authoritarianism; a heightened sense of threat from others; and a personal need for structure. How do these qualities influence political thinking?

According to researchers, the two core dimensions of conservative thought are resistance to change and support for inequality. These, in turn, are core elements of social intolerance. The need for certainty, the need to manage fear of social change, lead to black-and-white thinking and an embrace of stereotypes. Which could certainly lead to a desire to deride those not like you—whether people of color, LGBT people or Democrats. And, especially since the early 1990s, Republican politicians and pundits have been feeding these needs with a single-minded, uncomplicated, good-vs.-evil worldview that vilifies Democrats.

So now we hate them back. And for good reason. Which is too bad. I miss the Fred Lippitts of yore and the civilized discourse and political accomplishments they made possible. And so do millions of totally fed-up Americans.


SUSAN J. DOUGLAS
Susan J. Douglas is a professor of communications at the University of Michigan and an In These Times columnist. Her latest book is Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work is Done (2010)

________________________________________________________________________________
It’s Okay To Hate Progressive Liberal Democrats
In our era of polarization, one party is guiltier than the other.
BY SOJOURNER BALLANCE

I hate progressive liberal Democrats. I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid or any of the legions of other blowhards opposing policies that would create real jobs and economic growth; thwarting real healthcare reform at its roots or championing 'immediate citizenship' for millions of people who blatantly ignored existing law.

This loathing is a relatively recent phenomenon. Back
 in the 1970s, I worked for a Democrat, Henry 'Scoop' Jackson, the US Senate defense hawk from the State of Washington, and I loved him. He was a brand of democrat now extinct—a “moderate” who was fiscally conservative but socially aware and active about women’s rights, racial justice and environmental preservation. Had he been closer to my age, I could have contemplated marrying a version of Scoop Jackson. Today, marrying a progressive liberal Democrat is unimaginable to me. And I’m
 not alone. Back in 1960, only 5 
percent of Republicans and 4
 percent of Democrats said they’d
 be “displeased” if their child married someone from the opposite
 party. Today? Forty-nine percent 
of Republicans and 33 percent of
 Democrats would be pissed.

According to a recent study 
by Stanford professor Shanto
 Iyengar and Princeton researcher 
Sean Westwood, such polarization has increased dramatically 
in recent years. What’s noteworthy 
is how entrenched this mutual animus is. It’s fine for me to use the word “hate” when referring to Progressive Liberal Democrats and for them to use the same word about me, the Tea Party or social conservatives but you would never use the word “hate” when referring to people of color, or women, or gays and lesbians.

And now party identification and hatred shape a whole host of non-political decisions. Iyengar and Westwood asked participants in their study to review the resumés of graduating high school seniors to decide which ones should receive scholarships. Some resumés had cues about party affiliation (say, member of the Young Republicans Club) and some about racial identity (also through extracurricular activities, or via a stereotypical name). Race mattered, but not nearly as much as partisanship. An overwhelming 80 percent of partisans chose the student of their own party. And this held true even if the candidate from the opposite party had better credentials.

How did we come to this pass? Obviously, my tendency is to blame the Progressive Liberal Democrats more than the Republicans, which may seem biased. But history and psychological research bear me out.

Let’s start with the history. This isn’t like a fight between siblings, where the parent says, “It doesn’t matter who started it.” Yes, it does.

A brief review of progressive liberal Democrat rhetoric and strategies since the 1980s shows an escalation of determined vilification (which has been amplified relentlessly on ABC News, NBC news, CBS News and small niche outlets such as MSNBC since 1996). From Harry Reid's relentless attacks on Mitt Romney basically accusing him of sending millions of American job overseas and causing cancer for those who remain; to Chris Matthews/Rachel Maddow/Ed Schulz hate speech; to the Democrats endless campaign 
to smear George W. Bush over the Iraq War when 3000 innocent Americans were slaughtered on 9/1; to the ceaseless denigration of every Republican President since Reagan (“stupid” “right-wing fundamentalist Christian”), the Democrats have crafted a political identity that rests on a complete repudiation of the idea that the opposing party and its followers have any legitimacy at all

Why does this work? A series of studies has found that political liberals tend toward certain psychological characteristics. What are they? Dogmatism, rigidity and intolerance
 of ambiguity; a need to avoid uncertainty; support for authoritarianism; a heightened sense of threat from others; and a personal need for structure. How do these qualities influence political thinking?

According to researchers, the two core dimensions of progressive liberal thought are resistance to following the law and conventional thinking. These, in turn, are core elements of social turmoil. The need for disruption, the need to manage social engineering, lead to black-and-white thinking and an embrace of stereotypes. Which could certainly lead to a desire to deride those not like you—whether people of faith, gun owners or Republicans. And, especially since the early 1990s, progressive liberal Democrat politicians and pundits have been feeding these needs with a single-minded, uncomplicated, good-vs.-evil worldview that vilifies Republicans.

So now we hate them back. And for good reason. Which is too bad. I miss the Scoop Jacksons of yore and the civilized discourse and political accomplishments they made possible. And so do millions of totally fed-up Americans.


SOJOURNER BALLANCE
Professor Ballance is a professor of political science at ASU (Any State University) and a columnist. Her latest book is 'Enlightened Conservatism: It Is Not An Oxymoron' (2010)

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today


Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

'Let's Not Let Facts Get In The Way Of Following The Narrative'

One of the most troubling things about the intersection of politics and the news media is how the news media tells you they are 'fair and balanced' from either side of the political spectrum...when you know darn well they simply are not fair and balanced.

Many times nowadays, there is a sort of  'confirmation bias' in the news media, again on both sides for the most part, where a particular point of view or opinion is posited...and then the story line and the 'facts', such as they are, are cherry-picked to bolster that particular point of view.

One of the most egregious was this quote by the assistant editor of the UVA campus newspaper with regards to the Rolling Stone rape story that has now been brought into question:
'Ultimately, though, from where I sit in Charlottesville, to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake...'
What??? Finding out the truth is less important than pushing your view of what the narrative should be in any issue?

That is what 'real' journalism is s'posed to do, isn't it? Be the ultimate fact-checking function in our democratic republic. Without an open press that is free to dig around and ferret out the truth on any issue, we would have a closed government system that could get away with a lot more than they already have, yes?

Freedom of the press is one of the most important things we have in our American Republic. But the press has to also honor its freedom by doing its job in an honorable, upright manner.

Every. Day. On. Every. Issue.

We are not seeing that sort of dispassionate unbiased reporting on the most recent issue of 'white cop brutality' in Ferguson and New York.

We put 'white cop brutality' deliberately in quotes because that is the prevailing narrative the media and activists such as Al Sharpton want the American people to see 24/7 on cable and evening news every night.

It fits their political agenda and as long as it goes unchallenged or corrected, it becomes accepted as general fact by the public at large.

'Perception is Reality' as GOP grand strategist Lee Atwater used to say. Truer words were never spoken.

Well, what if we were to tell you that not every black victim of a police shooting was shot by a white cop? Would you believe it?

Or that white cops shoot more white guys than they do black guys?

Or that black cops shoot black guys at a higher rate than white cops do?

You simply would not believe it, would you?

Well, those statements above are true as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics published by the US Department of Justice. You know, the same Department of Justice now run by AG Eric Holder who is calling for more investigations into Ferguson and the Eric Garner case in New York.

Let us be clear: We know and believe cops make mistakes. They are humans, not Robocops. They inadvertently kill suspects during the course of their daily dangerous duty regardless of whether the cop is black or white. Some cases are simply hard to take such as the death of Eric Garner in New York over a case of selling illegal, untaxed cigarettes.

Without being on any of these grand juries, it is hard for anyone to know exactly why these 2 grand juries in Ferguson or New York failed to return any indictments on the 2 white cops in question. Both grand juries, by the way, were integrated with white and black jurors.

However, to extrapolate from these 2 cases that there is a massive wave of white vigilante cops going around the nation like Dirty Harry hell-bent on killing black men is a very dangerous leap to make.

It crushes trust in both the black and white communities and damages the hundreds of millions of peaceful interactions that happen every day in America today between whites and blacks and hispanics and every other nationality represented in our diverse culture.

So we did some digging and found these following facts as reported by the US Department of Justice


-Most felons killed by police each year were white (except for 1976 and 1977) (figure 4).


A growing percentage of felons killed by police are white, and a declining percentage are black.

Race of felons killed
1978 50% white 49% black
1988 59% white 39% black
1998 62% white 35% black

The black-officer-kills-black-felon rate is 32 per 100,000 black officers in 1998, which is higher than the white-officer kills-black-felon rate of 14 per 100,000 white officers.
The white-officer-kills-white-felon rate is 28 per 100,000 white officers in 1998, which is higher than the black-officer kills-white-felon rate of 11 per 100,000 black officers.

When a white officer kills a felon, that felon is usually a white (63%); and when a black officer kills a felon, that felon is usually a black (81%).

The majority of black felons killed were by white officers (71%); the majority of white felons killed were by white officers (94%); and the majority of other race felons killed were by white officers (81%).
White-officer-kills-white-felon makes up a growing fraction of all justifiable homicides by police, while white-officer kills-black-felon makes up a declining fraction (figure 11).

Now, as part of trying to be more fair and honest than the mainstream or cable news media today, we will disclose that this study was completed in 2002 based on 1998 data. It was the only official report we could find that broke down the white/black officer shootings of white/black victims in such a manner.

However, we would be stunned and shocked to find that since 2002, these trends had been massively altered to show that 100% of black victims were shot by white cops. No one has shown that to be true in any news show or cable outlet or printed news media despite that being the prevailing meta-narrative underlying every broadcast story about Ferguson or New York or the riots and protests across the country.

We don't think the issue of race is settled in America by any stretch of the imagination. We always hold out hope that Martin Luther King's dream of every person living in peace with everyone else regardless of race will come true before we leave this mortal coil of Earth one day.

But we also believe intelligent civil debate should be based on a cold, hard set of verifiable facts that everyone can look at and see what they think of them and then come up with some arguments and compromises to fix them.

We can't have a situation where every cop is afraid to take action to defend and protect the communities at large. We hailed and praised the NYPD and NY Fire Department public servants for their heroic efforts on 9/11 and now we are chastising all of them for being vigilante renegades?

That just does not compute, does it?

A full and fair examination of all of the facts regarding police/felon shootings is not happening today in the volatile issues of Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City.

We might be having a whole different more positive and productive discussion if we did.


Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today


Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Race, Ferguson, Assault Statistics and Perspective

One of the toughest things to do in America today is to have a 'conversation' about race.

If you are white, you are almost immediately labeled as a 'racist' if you disagree with any of the statements by activists such as Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.

If you are white, you are told that you can not understand what it is like to be an African-American in America today or in the past.

Which is pretty much true. A white person can not ever truly know what it is like to be an African-American in the United States today or in the past.

But everyone can understand what it is like to be an 'American' even if we happen to be from different races and heritages, yes? We all have a shared stake in knowing what the rules of the games are when it comes to being responsible citizens who follow the rule of law since James Madison and Thomas Jefferson wrote often that a representative democracy such as ours depends heavily on every citizen taking personal responsibility for their actions and self-governing on a daily basis or else we will quickly dissolve into anarchy.

We think talking more about any issue is better than not talking about them, truth be told.

We are ok with any discussion about any issue as long as it is based on some cold hard facts and figures from reputable sources rather than solely on pure emotions. Emotional arguments usually lead to more hardened feelings on both sides of the issue but virtually zero progress towards any sort of workable solution in the end.

Based on the round-the-clock news coverage of Ferguson and now the Eric Garner case in New York, we don't need any more hardening of positions on either side or else we will never figure this problem out.

One thing we have tried to do consistently in the previous 574 posts over these past 5 years now is to bring every reader closer to the raw data and original fact pieces put out by various reputable sources with the hopes that we can at least agree on the facts first before starting to fight over them.

Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) used to famously say: 'You have a right to your own opinion. You do NOT have a right to your own set of facts'

Richard John Neuhaus also used to say: 'The will of God is that we not kill each other...over what the will of God is'

Same with the issue of race in America. God grant that we not kill each other in America over what it is going to take to bring peace and justice and harmony among the various races but mostly between black and white Americans.

Just for perspective's sake, anyone who claims that race relations are 'worse' today than they were in 1960 or 1940 or 1920 or 1860 or before.....just doesn't know what they are talking about.

Enormous strides have taken place through the sacrifice of many brave people of all races, including the approximately 250,000 mostly white Union soldiers and citizens who died fighting to save the Union in the Civil War which centered around granting freedom for the slaves in the South.

Things are by no means 'perfect' in America today when it comes to race relations. But they are a lot better than they used to be if you talk to anyone who lived through the early civil rights days of the 60's for example.

All that being said, let's get some basic facts out on the table which might upset the running narrative that producers and editors of the cable and evening news broadcasts seem to want to perpetuate for some reason which appears to be as follows:

'White cops act with deadly malice towards black youth and other blacks in communities all across the nation all the time'

Here's some facts to put some perspective on what we are seeing on the news today around the nation:
  1. We have over 310 million people living in the United States of America.
  2. Our guess is that 99.35% of Americans of all races live in peace each and every single day in America as they try to support themselves and their families and make a better life for all of them.
  3. This is supported by the fact that in any given year, approximately 2 million visits to the emergency rooms are recorded and reported to the proper authorities. (Source: CDC, 2010)
  4. 308 million out of 310 million people every year do not go to the emergency room because of a reported assault or 99.35% of all Americans. (Unreported assaults drive this number higher obviously but they also are not reported in the emergency rooms)
This is not to suggest that we live in a Pollyanna-ish/Rebecca of Donnybrook Farm/Dr. Panglossian world where everyone wears rose-colored glasses and sings kumbaya with every citizen in town at dusk holding hands around the local maple tree in the town square in Whoville.

We don't. Humans never have and never will be devoid of human emotions, sin, demons, psychological disorders that lead to dangerous assaults on other people for whatever reason.

But to suggest we have a police state in America where white cops are running roughshod over black neighborhoods all over the country, as the news media seems to suggest with their round-the-clock news coverage and analysis is quite frankly ridiculous.

It is also very harmful and deleterious to getting at the root causes of the things that are causing unrest in the first place such as poverty; lack of jobs for unskilled workers; failure to complete educations which would alleviate the poverty in the first place; drug abuse; decline of the nuclear family not only in lower-income black communities but across racial lines and a loss of personal responsibility for the common weal and a sense of duty and honor to conduct your life in an exemplary manner for others to follow.

These are the core issues that no single federal program can solve or cure. We have spent trillions of dollars since the beginning of the Great Society in 1965 under LBJ perhaps over $22 trillion when measured in current 2014 inflation-adjusted amounts according to some estimates...and yet the problem of poverty remains.

To further focus the attention on the matter at hand, the incidents of white police brutality against black youth resisting arrest, consider these striking figures and facts from the Bureau of Justice Statistics department in the US Department of Justice in 2011, 'Homicide Trends in the US 1980-2008' *

Most murders were intra-racial. (as opposed to inter-racial or attacks on people of another race)

From 1980 through 2008—
 84% of white victims were killed by other whites 
 93% of black victims were killed by other blacks 

Sorta puts the dagger in the heart of the argument that there is a massive wave of inter-racial warfare going on in America today from both sides. The vast majority of crime is committed within racial boundaries, not outside of them.

People of the same race tend to assault other people of their same race because they usually attack, in order: 1) their spouse; 2) their family; 3) their neighbors and 4) people they know.

Putting cold hard numbers on such tragedies show that 15,000 people died in homicide attacks in 2010 in America. That is a terrible number that is still way too high for any civilized society in the 21st century but to put it into more narrow perspective, that represents .0004838 % of the entire population each year.

Close to half of those homicide deaths were black victims which is way out of proportion to the black share of the roughly 16% of the national population. But they are not being killed disproportionately by white cops or white people. They are being killed by other blacks, people whom they probably know.

By comparison, hardly any assaults are reported as women on other women of any race. All assaults and homicides reported for races other than white or African-American such as for Asians or hispanics amount to about 2.3% of the total each year.

Maybe women and non-white and non-black people are just less hostile than white and black males in America. Who knows?

None of this is intended to minimize the grave issues of any misconduct that may occur in any police department around the nation. Nor is it intended to ignore the very real sense of mistrust many in the African-American community have towards law enforcement or the legal system.

We will say this though based on personal experience: Being a cop in any city or jurisdiction is one of the toughest jobs anyone can have.

We had the chance to intern in the Hennepin County Police Department in Minneapolis, MN during the summer of 1975 for 2 months and we saw things that you never see on any dramatized police or law and order show on television.

One thing that has stuck in our mind ever since was the sign that we saw over the door during a summer internship in 1975 in the Hennepin County Police Department locker room for the cops that was the last thing they saw every day before heading out on patrol.

'Remember: You Have 2 Seconds To Interpret the US Constitution.....and the Supreme Court has 6 months'

That goes for any white cop, black cop, asian cop or hispanic cop on any law enforcement force in the nation. Think about that the next time you see any story about cops and crime in the news. Put yourself in the place of a patrolman or woman who goes out on patrol in the evenings trying to make sure that the community is safe for you to walk in and conduct your business every day.

It is not an easy job. Ask the police and the firefighters who risked their lives on 9/11 or during the Boston Marathon bombing to protect the rest of us why they do it and they will tell you because 'it is the right thing to do'.

The intent of this post is to try to bring some sense of perspective to the overall trends in assaults and homicides in the US today as they are and as they have been reported.  Our hope and prayer is that maybe, just maybe we can then really have an intelligent, civil and coherent discussion about what would have to take place not only in terms of federal, state or local government spending programs but among the various eleemosynary groups and individual acts of mission in these affected communities so that real progress can be made.

It is not going to be easy. Because if just spending more money in the affected areas was the 'Ultimate Solution', we would have solved the problem already. It is a complicated and multi-variegated problem on many levels with no easy way out.

We would like to see nothing less than the eradication of poverty in America and see everyone take the opportunity to take full advantage of the enormous opportunities and freedom this country has to offer anyone who chooses to do so.

Maybe then we would see everyone of all races singing kumbaya around the tree in the town square every night.

Who wouldn't want to hear that?

We won't get there without having a thoughtful, respectful, coherent discussion about race and all the ancillary issues that go with that, though. If the latest round of 'commentary' (sic) on Ferguson is any indication, we are moving away from coming to a common solution on race in America than closer to one.

Sadly.

*This is simply a tremendous in-depth study of assault and homicide facts in America. Read it cover-to-cover and you will know about this subject than almost every single talking and bobble-head you see on cable or network news and probably most elected officials as well

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today


Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Rules Of Golf, Executive Orders and President Obama

'Forget the Rules of Golf!
They are old and decrepit anyway!'
Dan Jenkins got into some hot water recently with his not-so-veiled 'fake' interview with Tiger Woods in Golf Digest.

It is always tough to try to make a point with sports analogies. Something always doesn't line up exactly.

However, President Obama's obsession with playing golf during his presidential terms provides a pretty good backdrop to try to put his executive order on immigration into something more people can understand than the arcane nuances of constitutional law and immigration policy.

The Rules of Golf are sacrosanct to any serious golfer. Violating them is the worst thing you can do.

You know what the ONLY sport there is where the participant is not only required but expected to report infractions on his/herself as opposed to being rewarded for trying to 'get away with bending the rules' to win?'

Right. Golf.

Professional players regularly call 1-or-2 stroke penalties on themselves when the ball imperceptibly moved upon addressing it that even the caddy right next to him/her did not see.

You never see a pro football player tell the ref that he punched a guy in the stomach first which led to the altercation that resulted in the other guy from the other team being tossed out of the game. Or the basketball player who touched the ball last as it was going out of bounds telling the ref: 'My bad. I touched it. Give it to the other team, ref!'

Golf is just 'different' that way. People who love the game love it because it brings out the best of us...when we play by the rules, for better or for worse.

'Constitutional law' is similar to the Rules of Golf. The Founders wrote them with every hope and intention that the elected officials who followed them would: A) Read them first; B) Understand them second and C) Abide by them for the good of the nation.

A United States of America without laws and regular order, proper constitutional procedure is not going to be 'The' United States of America for very long.

Walter Dellinger of the Duke Law School, and a long-time Democrat legal counsel to various Presidents, has written a defense of Obama's executive action that Slate Magazine chose to title 'There's No Legal Basis For The Belief That Obama's Immigration Order is Controversial'.

Written like a true lawyer. Note the word 'legal' before basis. There is a difference between something being 'legal' and 'right' you know. Sadly.

Of course Mr. Dellinger is going to defend a Democrat President in the White House with 'legal' jargon.

What about the question: 'Is there any basis for Obama's immigration order being controversial and at odds with the Constitution and the 'rules of engagement' between Capitol Hill and the White House?'

Of course there is. It is silly to think otherwise. As long as there is an opposition party running the US Senate and Congress, anything any POTUS does will be 'controversial'.

'The President proposes; the Congress disposes' goes the old saying. That is the very shortest way of saying that the Founders wrote the Constitution with the Legislative Branch being Article #1 because they wanted the power of the people to make important public policy decisions such as on immigration to reside in a raucous, fractious group of 435 people in the House and 100 in the Senate rather than rest solely in the power of one man sitting on a gold-plated throne with a crown on his head in the White House.

With that in mind, let's take a trip to down the golf course with President Obama and see how he might 'interpret' the rules of golf which will then give us some insight into how he must be seeing the Constitution with not only this executive order but his entire Presidency:

'You're up, Mr. President! Hit 'em straight!'

'I'll try! We are hitting a mulligan off the first tee, right?'

'Well, that is not in the Rules of Golf but many people do that so I guess that is ok this one time.'

'You know that besides being a constitutional law professor, I was also the coach of the golf team as well at Occidental, Columbia and Yale Law School.'

'I did not know that.'

'Yeah, but just like the Constitution, I think the Rules of Golf were written for a different time and different place with a very heavy emphasis on Anglo-European Caucasian philosophy and privilege.'

'Uhh...I think it was started by a bunch of sheepherders in Scotland who batted some ball stuffed with feathers around with a club stick on an open range for something more fun to do than tending sheep'

'Whatever. I think the Rules of Golf, just like the Constitution, needs to be adjusted for modern times. We can't always be straight-jacketed by what convention in the 18th or 16th century said way back then.'

'Like what, pray tell?'

'For example: sandtraps. Why should anyone ever be penalized for hitting a perfectly good golf shot that just happens to roll off the green into a bunker? I just kick the ball out of the traps whenever I feel like it so I can get a good clean shot to the hole'

'But that is cheating, Mr. President! You can't improve your lie or go anywhere nearer to the hole on any shot!'

'Who says? You may say that and the Rules of Golf say that but I am President of the United States of America and I say that I can move my ball out of the sandtrap if I want to. 

Elections Matter you know.'

'They sure do, Mr. President. You have lost the House and the Senate to the Republicans in the last 3 elections so apparently the American people don't like what you are doing'

'Doesn't matter. I still have my pen and cell phone and I can do executive orders all I want. As a matter of fact, I think I will just sign an executive order right now and allow 5 million people to sneak on all the private and public golf courses tomorrow and play without paying greens fees or even knowing how to play golf in the first place'

'Don't you want to work with the Republicans in Congress, Mr. President?'

'Not if they don't do exactly what I want in the first place as they write legislation. Why bother with them when I am going to veto everything they want to do in the first place? 

'Hey, Mr. President! I notice that you are driving a golf cart. Why don't you just walk and carry your own bag or get a caddy? Doesn't driving a golf cart contribute to global warming and all that?'

'I don't need the exercise, friend! See how skinny and athletic I look? You on the other hand look like you need to take a hike!'

'Hey! You just hit your shot into the creek on the right, Mr. President. That is a 1-shot penalty you know for going into a lateral hazard.'

'I didn't know anything about that. No one ever told me about that before. The first I heard about it was from the news media, just like you did. Josh Earnest will say so.'

'It is in the Rules of Golf, Mr. Golf Coach. Thought you knew the Rules of Golf there, Mr. President!'

'Well, I am just gonna put throw another ball down next to the creek and hit it without penalty, bub! What are you gonna do about it? And how did you get in my foursome anyway?'

'Good question, Mr. President. Good. Question.'



Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today


Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today

Sunday, November 16, 2014

'Ronald Reagan Used Executive Orders to Get Immigration Done in 1986!'

ronaldusmagnus_answer_1_xlarge
Ronald Reagan wasn't a Caesar.
No US President should ever be a Caesar.
NOT!

There is a movement underfoot by the left to try to equate what President Obama is about to do with the stroke of his pen issuing a presidential executive order ('proclamation' is more like it) to allow up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the US without fear of deportation with the executive actions taken by both President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush 41 in the 1980's.

They are as different as apples and oranges. Both are fruit but very different, yes?

This is an important lesson for people who want to know how our constitutional democratic republic should be run as opposed to how some people think it should be run.

First of all, the executive actions taken by both Republican presidents were to mop up some of the cracks in the Simpson (R)-Mazzoli (D) Immigration Act of 1986 that were not adequately dealt with during consideration and passage of the bill in Congress.

Note one thing right off the bat: Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming (yes, that same Alan Simpson who worked with Democrat Erskine Bowles to put together the Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction package) worked in a bipartisan way with Democrat House Member Ron Mazzoli of Kentucky for years to get this bill passed in 1986.

Yes. Bi-par-ti-san. Passed the Democrat House by 238-173. Passed the Republican Senate 63-24. Signed into law by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

You know. 'Just like in the good old days'.

Still, the straw that stirred the drink was the legislation passed by the People's House FIRST, the US Congress and then conferenced and concurred with the Senate in regular order. NOT the executive action by one man in the White House.

That is what kings or czars have done in history. Pass a proclamation...and expect the Roman Senate to concur with it just because the Caesar says so.

That is most definitely not the way our Founders wanted America to be run. If anything, their view of government was to have the executive do what they told him to do through legislation, not the other way around.

The second thing to notice is how Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 worked with Congress to get a bill through that they would not veto...and waste all that time doing something for nothing.

We thought about going through the legislative history since we were up there in 1986 and try to explain why Ronald Reagan's executive actions were nowhere near the sweeping scope of what President Obama is about to proclaim (er, 'issue an executive order') on immigration.

And then we found the following blog post titled 'Just Bunk' which we found to be quite good and better than what we could have come up with.

This guy (no name or contact information given) is clearly in the tank for President Reagan and all things Republican. However, we could not find where any of his facts or stats were incorrect based on our knowledge of how this immigration reform effort worked its way through 'regular order' (again, something many people, especially young people have not seen in the past 6 years since the Senate was under the thumb of Majority Leader Harry Reid who protected his Democrat Senators from voting on almost anything controversial over that time including passing an annual budget) in 1986.

1 thing jumped out at us in the summary of the bill: The clear and common-sense way that members of both parties dealt with the tough issue of incorporating the undocumented immigrants in the US for a number of years in a way that still accounted for the rule of law in a compassionate manner that didn't tear families apart, parents from children and vice versa.

This one paragraph seems to sum up what many people on both sides we have talked with tend to agree upon:
  • '(The Simpson-Mazzoli Act) legalized illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided there continuously with the penalty of a fine, back taxes due, and admission of guilt; candidates were required to prove that they were not guilty of crimes, that they were in the country before January 1, 1982, and that they possessed minimal knowledge about U.S. history, government, and the English language'
We did it then in 1986. Seems to be a template going forward for some sort of immigration 'Grand Bargain' in 2015, yes?

But it won't happen if President Obama tucks his head down and charges into the line and issues his presidential proclamation (executive order) without any regard to the legislative process in Congress.

You want to see gridlock on everything for the next two years? Then watch President Obama sign this executive order.

It will be a mess on Capitol Hill.

NO, RONALD REAGAN DID NOT GRANT AMNESTY. NEITHER DID BUSH.

Propaganda: GOP Hero Ronald Reagan granted amnesty! Republicans are hypocrites! Obama should have the same rights as Reagan! 
Facts:
Democrats are pointing to the Immigration and Control Act of 1986 to draw a comparison to Obama’s intended executive order on immigration, amnesty, purported to affect more than 15 million illegals currently within the United States. Here’s the problem with that comparison:
  • The Immigration and Control Act of 1986 was a law not an executive action.
  • The Immigration and Control Act of 1986 was drafted by Rep Romano L.Mazzoli (D) and Sen Alan K. Simpson (R). In other words, it was a bi-partisan action of the House and Senate.
  • The Immigration and Control Act of 1986 granted Amnesty to illegal immigrants who entered the country before January 1, 1982, but it had harsh “control” mechanisms to make sure America didn’t have to face the illegal immigration problem in the future; said “control” mechanisms being firmly ignored in subsequent Congressional and Executive administrations.
Per Wikipedia:
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), Pub.L. 99–603, 100 Stat. 3445, enacted November 6, 1986, also known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, signed into law by Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986, is an Act of Congress which reformed United States immigration law. The Act[1]
  • required employers to attest to their employees’ immigration status;
  • made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants knowingly;
  • legalized certain seasonal agricultural illegal immigrants, and;
  • legalized illegal immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided there continuously with the penalty of a fine, back taxes due, and admission of guilt; candidates were required to prove that they were not guilty of crimes, that they were in the country before January 1, 1982, and that they possessed minimal knowledge about U.S. history, government, and the English language.
Congress intended the Immigration and Control Act of 1986 to seal the border, stop future illegal immigration, stop future hiring of illegals, and make those here illegally pay penalties for their illegal entry. It insisted these new citizens possess knowledge of American history and speak the English language.
In other words, it insisted illegals become “American”.
Obama, driven by anti-American activists including La Raza, intends to grant amnesty with no conditions to pay penalties or make restitution, no requirement to speak our language or adopt our culture, and with no intent to secure our borders.
And (and it’s a big “And”) – with no legislation.
Reagan did not grant Amnesty. He signed a law passed by Congress.
Obama, in defiance of Congress, is decreeing Amnesty by fiat.
Update:
The initial propaganda (suggesting that Reagan granted Amnesty by executive order) exposed, liberals are now suggesting equivalence between actions Reagan and Bush took to expand the Immigration and Control Act of 1986 and Obama’s forthcoming Amnesty decree. It’s continued deception:
  • The Immigration and Control Act of 1986 gave Amnesty to illegal immigrants who were in the country prior to January 1, 1982. However, the law didn’t address family members who were in the country as of 1986 but not as of 1982. Reagan acknowledged that it would be immoral to deport family members of illegal immigrants who could pass the 1982 test. So, Reagan granted a deferral of deportation for children under 18 who were living in a two-parent household with both parents legalizing, or with a single parent who was legalizing under the new law.
  • President George H. W. Bush recognized that family members over the age of 18, and in the same circumstances as the children above, needed the same protection. He provided it under the “Family Fairness Policy” direction to the INS, which was later codified into law by Congress in 1990 – less than four years after the original law’s passage.
Where is Obama’s Immigration and Control Act of 1986, that “sweeping overhaul” (as Huff-Po describes it) of immigration law that was passed by Congress? He has none. Congress has not passed a law to amend Immigration in over 28 years.
And as Congress has not passed new Immigration Law in 28 years, Obama is not “amending” anything. He’s writing new law on his own. He has no Constitutional authority to write law.
This piece of  liberal propaganda depends on you not recognizing the difference between a President taking action to implement a law that has recently passed and a President taking action to write a LawCongress refuses to pass.
Be smarter than that.

Do You Want Better People to Run for Public Office?
Support the Institute for the Public Trust Today


Visit The Institute for the Public Trust to contribute today