Have Americans Lost Control of Their Government?


The current state of our government and, in particular, the chasm that exists between Republicans and Democrats, seems like a child’s food fight rather that an ongoing adult conversation. Each side is doing what is called, “right fighting.” That is, each side is so convinced that it is right that the art of compromise seems to have gone out the window. An old cliché says that a fish stinks from its head down. Our government right now is exemplifying that more than ever.

Our government was via the Constitution set up with three branches, none of which was supposed to have more power than the other. But our present Congress is so fearful of doing the next right thing, and its job, has abdicated in favor of the Executive Branch. Article 2 of our Constitutes delineates the powers granted the President. What amazes me the most is that Article 2 section 3 clearly states that the President “. . . from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient . . . “ The framers of the Constitution left many parts of it vague as they judged that with the passage of time necessary changes to the Constitution or different interpretations of It would be necessary. But it is my opinion the Article 2 Section 3 is rather clear in its intention; that being that changes to law and policy may be suggested by the President and that Congress would then act upon them. The Constitution is also repeatedly clear that a 2/3rds vote should be the standard for passing any legislation.

Over the years, however, Congress has made changes to what is necessary for certain measures and that being a simple majority favor the law.

Most recently, President Trump made the unilateral decision to scale back some remote (Utah) national monuments at the behest of industry. He has also charged his Interior Secretary to find other locations to which he can to the same. The idea of National Parks and National Monuments was the idea of President Theodore Roosevelt when he created Arcadia National Park and Yosemite National Park. “The Antiquities Act is the first law to establish that archeological sites on public lands are important public resources. It obligates federal agencies that manage the public lands to preserve for present and future generations the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of the archaeological and historic sites and structures on these lands. It also authorizes the President to protect landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as National Monuments.” (Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/legal/american-antiquities-act-of-1906.htm). The law is quite specific in saying that the President is obligated to preserve “objects of historic and scientific interest. Pres. Trump has chosen to ignore this law and turn over these precious lands to commercial interests, destroying artifacts that favor the public interest and the scientific community.

The Constitution, and all its framers in their writings, made very clear that the first job of the Federal Government is to act in the best interest of the people. But for decades now our Congresses and Presidents have only too frequently done the bidding of powerful interests and PACs. It would be only too easy to show how the Republicans Party over the past 6 years or so has worked mostly in a self-serving manner. But that would less than truthful. The fact remains that the Democrats are equally responsible in bending to the will of powerful and well-monied interests instead of the people. The Democrats have not had control of Congress for many years now and the Republicans have been able to run rough-shod over them by passing bills that make a simple majority vote the rule of Congress. No Democrat has been able to find the inner fortitude to challenge such bills in front of the US Supreme Judicial court.

Time-and-again the Republican Congress has passed bills which are clearly unpopular with the people of the United States. The most visible action at present has been their persistent attempts to gut and eliminate the Affordable Care Act. Their most recent move has been to tied changes to the ACA to the government funding bill now in Congress. Such actions are referred to “rider bills.” It is the blatant attempt to circumvent the proper way to have a bill passed, a “clean bill.” That refers to a bill which has no riders and is voted up or down on its own merits.

Both parties in Congress are not doing the “right thing” but rather doing the most self-serving thing. That has never more true when Senator Mitch McConnell declared that he would not allow then President Obama to seat a new Supreme Court justice when Justice Scalia unexpectedly died two years ago. Not only was that self-serving but it went entirely against the spirit of our Constitution and the manner in which all justices have been confirmed since 1789. Such actions must stop. This means that U.S. Citizens, regardless of political favor, must make Congress accountable for its actions.

A majority of U.S. citizens of both parties has said they do not trust congress to do the right thing. There is an easy solution to that; stop re-electing your representatives and senators.

There is an old saying, “nothing changes if nothing changes.”

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The Evil That Is Donald Trump


Every four years we have an election for the office of President of the United States. For over 150 years we have had one Republican, one Democrat and always someone from other smaller parties. Some of those from smaller parties made people extremely uneasy because their world view seemed so skewed from the norm. But we never feared the American Communist Party or the American Fascist Party would be able to win even a single state let alone the presidency itself. This year’s election cycle, however, has changed all that with the rise of Donald Trump.

That Trump’s ego is so large is of no surprise to anyone. But he has shown us sides of himself which should scare all Americans. He is absolutely a misogynist, xenophobic and a racist. We can live with his arrogance but his blatant lack of fairness and decency is so totally lacking it is almost incomprehensible how he is leading the Republican party in delegates and is likely to get the Republican nomination in spite of the best efforts of the Republican National Committee to derail him.

But this brings into focus a much larger and more ominous question, what does this say about the millions upon millions of Americans who have voted for him thus far? It is impossible they have missed those parts of Trump’s campaign that most of us find offensive. We have always thought of ourselves as Americans as being ultimately fair in all things. But Trump’s campaign has moved that into doubt.

What’s next? Next I think will be the Republican leadership running a candidate, likely Kasich of Ohio. It will split the conservative ticket and likely guarantee the Democrats a November victory. Why would they do this? To maintain as much of a good image as is possible. And to maintain control of Congress. Were Trump to be elected, he would likely so polarize Americans that moderate Republicans would likely migrate towards Democrat politicians.

But American urgently needs to do a gut check in the form of a personal inventory. Just how racist are we? And are we so xenophobic that the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty just that, words?

Although Trump has brought out the worst in us, I still believe that the vast majority of Americans are better than he is, that they are good and decent people who are neither racist nor xenophobic. While Americans may struggle to understand Islam, most bear it no ill will towards those of that faith and certainly do not want to exclude them from entering the U.S. I think it highly unlikely that Trump can be elected but when this election is over, Americans have their work cut out for them.

In our Declaration of Independence, it is stated in very exacting terms what our new country cannot tolerate and what we have to expect of ourselves. If we are to continue to be the leader of the free world, then we have to clarify our intentions towards that world. We must redouble our efforts in the areas of human rights, basic human needs, and fairness. We must make positions such as those expressed by Donald Trump to be unacceptable under any circumstance. We must hold ourselves to the highest of standards, set the bar extremely high, and we must make it more than just a little bit uncomfortable for those who would do otherwise.

America is greater and better than Donald Trump. Every few generations his ilk shows its ugly face and America has found a way to overcome them. I suspect such will be the case this time as well.

 

Put Politics Aside: We Need a New Supreme Court Justice


In Webster’s Dictionary few words are defined by a single word. Balderdash is just such a word. Webster’s uses the word “nonsense” as the descriptor! Ergo, my dictum of the political circus that has been going on can be described quite aptly by the word balderdash!

Yesterday, the Honorable Mr. Antonin Scalia died. Although I was not a fan, as much as anyone can be a fan of a Supreme Court Justice, Mr. Scalia suffered no fools and never minced his words. Even in the midst of disagreement to the extreme, I always respect anyone who can define their starting place and never vary from that. Thus was Mr. Scalia. From the outset of his career on our nation’s highest bench, he described himself as an “originalist” where the constitution is concerned. He remained faithful to that definition oft times to the scorn of his supporters. Originalism means applying the ideas of those who wrote the constitution to legal decisions. He quite openly stated that the framers never considered homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion and a myriad of other issues when they wrote the document. He believed that making a decision which revised the constitution without the use of the Amendment procedure was simply wrong. Hence his stand of opposition of Roe v. Wade.

I have just spent too much time describing a man I can admire, even though I bitterly disagree with ideologically, why? Because of where we go from here, who will be the next justice.

I decided well over a month ago that the Democrat candidate for president will be Hillary Clinton with Bernie Sanders as her running mate. The Republics I feel are likely to nominate John Kasich as their presidential candidate. Kasich will have the unenviable job of choosing a running mate from a party so splintered it has become an amorphous rendering of its past glory. I suspect Ted Cruz will emerge for ethnic identification and to assuage the far right, a.k.a. Tea Party.

Scalia was not dead two hours when Sen. Mitch McConnell announced President Obama would not be allowed to have a nominee take Scalia’s place. What! He is hoping that his party will retake the White House. He can effectively bottle up any nominee procedurally in the Senate so the candidate’s name never comes up for a vote. I cannot help but believe the Mr. Scalia would have reprimanded McConnell for such chicanery.

The 114th Congress, now in session, is far from the most contentious. That dubious honor is owned by the 37th and 38th Congresses. Those are the sessions held during President Lincoln’s tenure and were well known not just for their theatrics, long and boisterous arguments but also for physical altercations. There were “war democrats” and “peace democrats,” “war republicans” and “peace republicans.” There was also the “Constitutional party.” It amazed many that these congresses were able to get anything done.

Is that where we are at today? The Republicans hold 56% of all House seats and 55% of all senate seats, Bernie Sanders and Angus King declaring themselves Independent. That means neither is veto proof but that the Republicans have enough power to slow down if not totally stop any and all Democrat initiatives, which they have shown a propensity for doing these past 4 years.

The prime purpose of each senator and representative is to champion the desires of those he supports. But you would not know that by the rhetoric coming out of Washington. A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans favor abortion 80% to 20%. That is an overwhelming majority and yet to hear Washington politicians speak one would think the American populace is evenly divided if not slightly tilted towards against abortion.   The American public wants abortion and it is the responsibility of the elected officials not only to respect that view but push aside attempts to countermand that.

On other issues it is tighter but still a message is being sent. On the issue of tighter gun controls, Gallup polls show 55% want stricter gun control while only 33% want the laws left as they are. Sixty percent of Americans favor gay marriage, but disapprove of the Affordable Care Act 50-44%. That last poll cautions, however, that the ACA, or Obamacare, shows 57% of all Americans were unaffected by the law. The caution here is that the ACA has more importance, more impact and a much more positive view by younger and ethnic Americans than by older Americans.

I would ask only that each U.S. Representative vote according to: 1. The desires of their district, 2. The desires of their state, 3. The desires of all Americans, and 4. Their conscience. I fear that Republicans as a whole put number 4 as their first priority and that Democrats put number 2 as their first. Neither is correct considering the mandate of the voter is always to do his desire.

I doubt most Americans can give a reason for why we even have a Supreme Judicial Court but that notwithstanding, they would likely want a vacancy filled reasonably quickly. That’s just how most Americans want most things done.

A New American Polical Party: The Moderate Party


 

This country has been a two party nation since Thomas Jefferson ran for president.   He called himself a Democratic Republican in opposition to the Federalists and John Adams in particular who he ran against. Since then we have always had two major political parties. Since 1858 it has been Democrats and Republicans. Prior to the present day Republicans there was the Whig party.

I am personally tired of the self-serving rhetoric coming out of both parties. Each party has its own fringe although the Republicans seem a bit splintered. The Tea Party of today is just a reincarnation of the Moral Majority of 20 years ago. The wrapping is different but the message is the same; they will settle for nothing less than a Christian nation.

I am hereby inaugurating the Moderate Party. It is my belief that such a party will actually represent the general views of well over 50% of the people of this nation at any given moment. We will take what we believe to be the best of both parties and embrace them. We will as political aspirants sign a pledge to never take a single penny from any PAC. We will listen to those PACs but we will never compromise ourselves by taking money from them to support our election.

Today’s Moderate Party will neither embrace the socialist views of Sen. Bernie Sanders nor the Xenophobic racist views of Donald Trump.   We will not make campaign promises of going to war in any part of this world as a solution to regional or world problems. We will look for ways to reduce the tax burden on the middle class. We will end federal subsidies to otherwise profitable corporation. We will tighten the tax laws to close all loopholes available only to the rich or to large corporations.   We will impose a minimum tax rate on all persons and corporations that realize a certain level of income after reasonable expenses have been accounted for. We will vigorously support the second amendment while putting into place gun laws which afford the general public a reasonable feeling that all guns are being sold only to those who have photo IDs showing themselves as legitimate buyers and they will not be kept from buying any gun they desire to include assault weapons. We will also require all gun dealers to be federally licensed and be required to complete a simple background check on all customers. They will be required to keep extremely accurate records of all gun sales.

At the start we will neither support nor withhold support for abortion or the death penalty. The position of each will be decided by a caucus of representatives of all 50 states and 4 territories.

We will look for ways to reduce the size of our government without eliminating existing services. For example, all parts of the Department of Homeland Security can be folded into the Department of Defense. And where it is necessary for such jobs as airport security come into play, those jobs will be held by the military police of the Army, Navy, and Air Force however their will wear a non-traditional military uniform. These men and women will be entirely made up of reservists and national guardsmen. The Veterans Administration will be transferred to the Department of Defense and all veterans with an honorable military discharge will be able to avail themselves of the medical services on any military installation. Veterans educational programs will become an extension of civilian oriented military training.

We will re-write the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) so that access to it and what it offers will be close to what Americans who are part of group plans can expect. We will also require all insurance companies offer health benefits under this act or be sanctioned.

normal67

What you see above is what is referred to as a standard bell curve. The way to read it is simple. Look at the straight line at the bottom. The -3 to +3 represents an entire population, of anything, but in this case I am using it for American citizens. The points between -0.5 and +0.5 are where you will find the position most Americans on any given subject. I believe that we can actually extend this between -1 and +1. The slope of the curve represents how strongly people feel in one direction or another about any particular subject. It is my belief that the 68% represented by these two points is where you can find most Americans and their willingness to work together. The remaining 16% on each side are those so deeply entrenched in an idea that you would be hard pressed to get them to change.

This bell curve is extremely important right now because it is my belief that the beleaguered Republican Party is being ruled by the 16% on their side of the curve. To be certain, many of Bernie Sanders’ ideas lie well within the 16% of the Democrat side and are simply not palatable to the other 84% of Americans, regardless of how hard he pushes.

I believe 68% of Americans are not interested in any particular groups religious beliefs, gun beliefs, money making beliefs or philosophical beliefs. They hold and want recognized their reasonable and moderate view of the world, the United States, and the town the live in to be respected. This is something that is not now happening.

I only wish I had the resources available to start such a party because I would. As a registered Democrat I embrace certain Republican views and find that among my Republican friends, we generally agree on most things. This, to me, epitomizes what the Moderate Party represents.

Just Who Is the “Average American”


Sadly, biased political love to use the term “what Americans want” when in truth, it is really only what their more liberal or more conservative side wants.  I do think, however, it is safe to say that what Americans want is for their government to run much more smoothly than it has in recent memory.

Right now American like to think that the Congress that has been in session is particularly polarized and incapable of compromise.  And that may be true but it is certainly nothing new.  When Thomas Jefferson was elected, a Democrat-Republican, the Federalist party thought that it spelled the end of the republic for certain.  Jefferson was viewed as a radical left-winger who cared little for the safety of America.  He did, in fact, do his level best to reduce the military to near insignificance.

But the most polarized Congress ever was probably that which existed during Abraham Lincoln’s years as president.  Not only were the Republicans and Democrats at each other’s throats constantly, but within each of those party there existed groups known as “war Republicans,” “Peace Republicans,” “War Democrats,” and “Peace Democrats” who factionalized their own parties.  Each contented it knew what the American people wanted and what was best for the country.  Part of Lincoln’s greatness was his ability to bring these warring parties together.  To that end he took Andrew Johnson, a Tennessee Democrat, as his running mate for his second term.  He jettisoned Hannibal Hamlin, his first term vice-president, a rather popular Republican, taking the southerner Johnson knowing that once the war was won he would need a southerner to bring the formerly warring parties back together.  That was not the only time there was a split-ticket in the White House, but it was the last time.

In 1908 the Republican party took the more cerebral William Howard Taft over the feisty Theodore Roosevelt as Republican party power brokers viewed TR’s populist tendencies as being too radical for the “Grand Old Party.”  Roosevelt was seen as a friend to labor, had worked diligently to break up monopolies, and was responsible for the starting of the national park system and other populist ideas of the day.  After his defeat to Woodrow Wilson 1912, Taft confided that he was quite relieved from the burden of such leadership.  Years later he was appointed to the US Supreme Court, a job that he was made to do, and ended his career as its Chief Justice and is generally recognized as one of the best ever in that role.  His genius was in Constitutional  interpretation, and not in Constitutional administration as is required of the president.

The point of this, so far, is that the partisan party politics we are seeing today is nothing new, and certain not the worst this country has ever experienced.  The strength of the republic is in its ability to be greater than any single person.

Political pundits love to clamor over who are Democrats and who are Republicans.  But statistics tells us that such definition is foolish at best.  The following diagram is what is known as a standard statistical curve.  It means that when you take a mixed population of anything, in this case the people of the United States, you can present that population with a high degree of accuracy using this diagram.

curve

Look at this diagram as being read from left to right.  Think of it in terms of the left being the political left and the right as being the political right.  If you look at just the blue portion under the curve you will see 34.1% extending from the center to the right and left.  In statistics it is mathematically provable that any population will find 68.2% of whatever you are counting, in this case voting Americans.  This is also known as the first standard deviation.  The next 13.6%, or the 2nd standard deviation, in our example refers to the more liberal or more conservative members of either party, leaving the last 2.15% as the most liberal or conservative.  The mathematics behind these numbers allow for no more than a 1% to 2% error, a very small number.  But what it ultimately means, and most importantly, is that 68.2% of the voting public has close to the same opinion on any given target.

The problem we here in America have is that those political operatives who live in the 2nd or 3rd standard deviation, tend to do a lot of yelling and attention garnering with the claim that they are speaking for most Americans.  But in truth they are speaking for, at most, 25% of Americans.  These people have the sad tendency of being ideologues whose ability to moderate their view is rather limited.  They have the tendency to be heavy-handed and take a “my way or the highway” view on every issue.

I think I am like most Americans.  I am as likely to take a liberal view on any particular issue as I am to take a conservative view on it.  I am a person of strong convictions but I know that in the interest of the greater good there are times when, without abandoning my convictions, I must compromise to find the middle ground where we can all agree.  For example, even as a registered Democrat, I am extremely pro-military and I am not in favor of any military spending cuts as is now being proposed.  That is a rather conservative view I believe.  But to achieve a reasonable end I recognize I will have to give a little.  Another day is in the offing when everything will be in play once again and I can once again fight for what I believe in.

Personally, I view the majority of our congress as being moderates.  Sadly, however, I see them being far too heavily influenced by the more conservative or liberal members of their own party.  They seem to have forgotten the mandate placed upon them by their own constituency, and this is to do the will of the people who put them in office, not the will of the power brokers.

 

Understanding Socialism


The Republican Party likes to demonize certain Democrat ideas of being socialist, the idea being a direct correlation between socialism and communism.  While socialism is certainly a hallmark of communism, it existed in certain forms long before communism.

In 17th Century Massachusetts the town of Dedham was founded as a utopian community.  In those days Dedham extend from what is now South Boston all the way to Plymouth.  Today’s Dedham is a smallish town not far from Boston.  The next utopian idea happen at what was called Brook Farm near Boston.  It too was a utopian/socialist attempt that failed.  But these were not isolated attempts.  Other attempts in states like New York happened throughout the 18th and 19th Century.  All, of course, failed, but none was ever condemned as they were mostly economic endeavours.

Socialism got its greatest traction in 19th century Europe.  It came as a result of the old feudal systems still in place in much of Eastern Europe, and to a lesser extent because of Western European monarchies and their tendencies towards excesses of self-enrichment.  It is no coincidence that Word War I put an end not just to the Russian monarchy but also the Italian, German, Prussian, Polish, Austrian, and numerous others.  The cost of waging war is so great that the armed populace that monarchies sent to the battlefields turned on their own governments.  The Czar was replaced by the Soviet, the Kaiser by a Chancellor, and so forth.  The people, impoverished by these monarchies, demanded a redistribution of wealth and the leaders of the various revolutions were only too willing to oblige, and in doing so, gain wide-spread support for their particular cause.

In the first half of the 20th century, socialist groups were not necessarily liberal or left-wing.  The formal name of the ultra-right wing Nazi party of Germany was the National Socialists.

The United States in the first 20 years of the 20th century had a number of socialist mayors, congressmen, and other elected officials.  And if you lived in the United States in 1936, 1937, and 1938, and understood the evil that Hitler was visiting on his people, you supported the German Communist party as it was the only opposition to Hitler at the time within Germany.  They were throughout World War 2 the underground in Germany.  Similarly, it was French Communists who were a large part of that underground.  All that, of course, changed when the war was over.

Socialism has existed in some form in most countries since World War 2.  By definition, socialism is any government-owned or administered production and distribution of goods.  By that definition socialism does not exist in the United States in any form, and is constitutionally prohibited from existing.   But as soon as you expand that definition to include services the waters become muddy.  Health care is by definition a service.  But so too is airport administration.  That means most U.S. airports are run, in a socialist manner, at some level of government.  Does that mean we should turn of administration of O’Hare Airport in Chicago to private enterprise?  I would hope not, and I doubt any Republican will ever support such a measure even if it does mean they must compromise on their definition of socialism.

If Republicans are truly anti-socialist, as many claim, they are going to have to turn over to private corporations all seaports, AMTRAK, the Tennessee Valley Authority, all state-run liquor stores, all state lotteries, all draw-bridge operations, all transportation authorities, all port authorities, all air traffic control, all public hospitals, and many other operations.  If you think about it, any and all of these functions could be run by privately owned corporations.  The only question is, in the desire to eliminate any possible socialist type government operations, are you willing to give up these?

If, for example, our airports were turned over to corporate America, I for one would stop flying.  I simply do not trust private enterprise to act in my best interests.  And therein lies the central concept of why we entrust certain parts of our existence to the government.  We quite simply have more trust in the government looking after our best interests than we do corporate America.  And to this end, health care, which corporate America has so totally failed to include all Americans, needs to have government participation at a greater level than previously experienced.  Here, in Massachusetts, the Mitt Romney inspired required health care coverage has been a huge success in spite of its critics.  If anything, corporate America has benefitted from the Massachusetts experience in health care.

The bottom line is this; when corporate America has not given a service through lack of desire, has abdicated responsibility for whatever reason, or has refused to offer essential services to all Americans, we expect our government to step in and either provide the service, such as most forms of surface transportation, or make a provision whereby corporate America is compelled to make their service available at a reasonable rate to all Americans, and this is the case of health care.

Most Republicans want to bring an end to AMTRAK and turn its operations over to corporate America.  I am guessing they have not bothered to read much history, because it was corporate America that begged out of the passenger rail industry in 1971, with but four exceptions, the Southern Railroad, the Boston & Maine Railroad, the Rock Island Railroad, and the Rio Grande Railroad.  All except the B&M gave in to government take over within a few years.  It is difficult to imagine that so much has changed, even in the densely populated northeast, that any private corporation on its own can turn a profit in the passenger rail business.  But do you want to imagine a US that does not have it?

Republicans are not being the least bit truthful about any government enterprise that they call “socialist.”  It is not socialism they fear, it is their loss of leverage at the corporate level they fear.  What will happen to corporate America if the government requires fairness, openness, and equal access?  The Reagan deregulation made certain that corporate America not be responsible to anyone but its board of directors as witness the blatant abuse of power and privilege during the Wall Street meltdown.  They will never admit to this being true but rest assured, it is!  But rest assured, socialism, even as it exists in democracies such as Canada and England, is not being suggested by anyone in the Democrat Party, or anyone else for that matter.  It is simply a Republican ploy to make undesireable something that will actually serve the good of all.

Who Is the Real Mitt Romney?


Romney’s election committee was quick to distance their candidate from remarks made by Indiana US Senate candidate Richard Mourdock vis-a-vis rape and abortion.  Mourdock said such thing reflect “God’s will” and he opposes abortion even in such circumstances.  The Romney campaign quickly said that Mourdock’s views do not necessarily reflect his own.  There is just one problem with that statement, in this case they do.

You rightfully ask how I can possibly know that.   It is really quite simple.  Mitt Romney is a devout and practicing Mormon.  Mormons are a very conservative sect as religions go, and are known for that.  Mormons are known, and take pride in, their extremely conservative views, particularly those regarding abortion.  There is nothing wrong with such beliefs, and I am not trying to suggest there is, but for Romney to say he does not share Mourdock’s views is very disingenuous.

Mitt Romney is probably the most conservative candidate since Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, and even more so than either of them.  There is nothing wrong with being so conservative, of course, but I am more than a little surprised that the Obama campaign has failed to even suggest it.  Maybe they are afraid as coming across wrong in pointing out how conservative the average Mormon is.  But it is true, and what is wrong with telling the truth?