Dems have the hard road

Author: admin

The national political air is full of 2020 talk these days. For both parties.

Ohio Governor John Kasich seems ready to formalize his run against Trump. Jump in early, suck up media attention but, more importantly, get into the pockets of Republican fat cats. Wise move. To some extent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is doing the same with Dems.

The GOP field to take on Trump will be small. But, Democrats are coming out of the trees to float their names around. And that’s healthy. Shake out all the contenders, give ‘em their head and see who’s left by convention time. Like Republicans, they’re looking for big bucks because 2020 will be the most expensive fray ever. It’s also guaranteed to be the dirtiest race in our long history of presidential elections.

Several factors are concerning about all this. The first is Trump himself. Short of being in the slammer by then, when the Muller report comes out – and it will despite expected Republicans all-out effort to stop it – Trump’s immediate fate will be an open question.

Those disclosures will damage him. Whether it sinks his political future, we don’t know today. But, even if he escapes the crossbar hotel in the short term, he’ll still be damaged goods. We don’t know how the Muller results will play with Trump’s vaunted base. Safe to say, there’ll likely be some erosion.

The second concern is, if Trump’s in the race, which is nearly certain despite investigations and trials, and the Democrats decide on a woman candidate. The rest of us see nothing wrong with that. But, as he’s proven in the past, Trump will attempt to savage her. His previous attacks on Hillary Clinton and Warren guarantee a name-calling, how-she-looks-and-dresses, character assassination tirade. He doesn’t like or respect talented women professionals. Except Stormy.

Based on his previous treatment of women, a campaign based on issues will be completely overshadowed by sexually bigoted vitriol. Which the media will repeat ad nauseam.

A third danger is one I hear too many Democrats and “talking heads” repeating. Dems need “someone who can win.” Forget qualifications. Ignore the lack of experience and other necessary credentials. “We need someone who can win.”

Remember 2016? Trump ran against about the most qualified and experienced woman on the planet. A sure winner, right? And what did we get? A non-experienced, definitely unqualified male. Determining “who can win” in advance of actual voting has repeatedly been proven very difficult. Oh, there’s the occasional nutcase candidate everyone knows will lose. But, that’s rare.

Many of the names Democrats are bandying about at the moment clearly lack the necessary experience and breadth of knowledge we want to see in the White House. On that list, I’d put Harris, O’Rourke, Booker, Castro, Swalwell, Gabbard, Bloomberg and Inslee. Pick one with firsthand experience in foreign affairs, military, international economics and proven diplomatic skills. Good people but in need of a broader knowledge of – and experience in – such things.

The short list of very qualified Democrats, at least to me, has the names Biden and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. Especially Biden whose long history in the Senate not only includes the above requirements, but also professional – and in some instances – personal relationships with many world figures. In his own long tenure, Brown has had various committee posts that have proven invaluable. He’s also a low-key, soft-spoken thinker – good skills in themselves.

I’m not proposing Biden or Brown be presidential candidates; only pointing out the kind of well-rounded background a suitable nominee ought to have. Biden comes with his own negatives including a case of plagiarizing in the ‘70’s which Trump would use as a political club.

The “someone-who-can-win” approach is a dangerous one. All recent presidents have acknowledged it’s not a “learn-on-the-job” situation. And, regardless of previous political background, they’ve also found the actual conditions of being president were much different from what they expected.

!n 2020, Republicans seem stuck with what they have. Democrats face a much harder path. The “who-can-win” argument versus someone with the all-important experience and knowledge necessary in a good president.

Right now it’s all talk and speculation. But, when the bell rings, Democrats had better have the right man. Or woman. Or both.

I was raised in an old line Republican home and voted that way much of my life. Richard Nixon brought an end to that, even before Watergate. Amazing how corruption and outright criminality can change a guy’s voting habits. Permanently.

So, I came late to the ways of the donkey party. Though that happened some 45 years ago, I still don’t understand their near-suicidal politics. From the grassroots up, Democrats are a bitchy, noisy, disorganized and oft-times self-defeating bunch.

While a lot of Dems are tooting their own horns and clinking champagne glasses over their House of Representatives wins, some of the old negative ways are already intruding.

They’ve got a right to celebrate and be a little daffy. For a few days. The November change from minority to majority was an uphill slug against every mean trick Republicans threw at them. Gerrymandering, massive voter disqualifications, lies in advertising about nearly any subject, and fraud on a massive scale. We’ve never seen such political arrogance and deceit in a modern election.

But, that was then and this is now. As the late Cecil Andrus used to say, “It’s a whole lot easier standing outside the circle throwing spears than to be inside that circle trying to catch ‘em.”

Democrats need to settle down and start to govern. Oh, in the first few hours, they passed some “feel good” bills that will die aborning on Mitch McConnell’s office floor. What Dems did was send a message home to voter supporters that they “heard” them and are trying to make good on some campaign promises. “Promises made-promises kept” and all that.

That’s not governing. To govern successfully, you need to carefully examine the political playing field and figure out what the real issues are – the ones that need work first. And the ones you can get passed through the Senate and signed by our out-of-control President. Otherwise, you’re spinning your wheels and acting like Republican lite.

The most important key to accomplishing that is the new Speaker of the House – Ms. Pelosi. No one in that body has more experience, more legislative talent, a better understanding of political clout and how to use it. No one. She’s also the biggest Republican target. The Capitol Hill market for Pelosi lookalike voodoo dolls can’t keep up with the GOP demand.

But, she’s an old warrior. Lots of battle scars from old political battles. She knows how to throw a legislative punch and how to take one while staying on her feet. She’s also got some other deeply experienced old soldiers in key spots to help run the gauntlet. Given her head, House Democrats have got a helluva leadership team.

Still, some in the Dem freshman class are acting like spoiled – and very inexperienced – children. With assistance from our national “show business “media, some are “performing” more like celebrities than legislators. Others thought it would be cute to vote for someone other than Pelosi in the speakership race. Ten of ‘em. A few even posted media notices of their idiocy.

And we’ve got one who wants to play tit-for-tat with her GOP critics by making in-your-face videos like a hooker on a porn site. She’s also publically pouting because her “pie-in-the-sky” legislative wants aren’t going to be the first order of business.

Governing – and doing it right – is hard when the people needed to pull it off do and say things that distract from what the pros are trying to get done. It’s hard enough with a small majority (235-199) if all the troops are in line. When some want to primp and pose for constituents or personal promotion, it’s tougher.

I suspect Nancy Pelosi, with the grace of a good parent, will let the “kids” romp for a couple of weeks. Let ‘em get it out of their systems. Then, there’ll be a tug on the leash. And, if that doesn’t get the desired results, there’ll be a few “woodshed” sessions. Not that the Speaker will always get her way. She knows she has to keep the troops happy and there has to be some horse-trading. Again, Pelosi knows just what to do. And how and when to do it.

I like the noisiness and disorder of Democrats. Lots of people with lots of opinions and varied backgrounds. I also like the multiple ethnicity inclusion and the “everybody-is-somebody” attitude. All good.

But. Just as our military can claim the same attributes during informal times, when it comes to the fight, the chain-of-command and the orders are clear. Line up and follow the leaders. There’s time enough for individualness. When trying to win the battle, well, that’s not the time and Congress is not the place.

The “base”

Author: admin

Here a “base.” There a “base.” Everywhere a “base, base.” (With apologies to Old McDonald.)

Our national media, it seems, can’t do a Trump story about anything he says or does without referring to his “base.” Whatever the action, whatever the latest lie, there’s constant referral to his “base.”

A political base is not news. Roosevelt had one. Truman had one. Lincoln had one. Even George Washington had one. All presidents have a base. It’s not something we need to be reminded of over and over and over again.

Aside from being a meaningless appendage to any news item, it should be remembered Trump’s “base” is a statistical minority of voters. Poll after poll shows that “base” at 35-40 percent. Recent sampling has those numbers slowly dropping. In other words, a minority becoming a more distinct minority. Given that Trump is slowly alienating one segment of the population after another – as predicted – the continual talk about his “base” is going to be even more irrelevant.

Which begs the question: “Why continue to put a focus on something that is both meaningless and unnecessary?”

It can’t automatically be assumed those leaving his “base” of support are becoming Democrats. In fact, the fear is they could be turned-off, non-voters in the 2020 elections. Which would be a loss to all of us.

Democrats would be well-advised to identify those regretting their previous votes for Trump and make an extra effort to gain their support. Not by some pie-in-the sky nonsense currently being espoused by the “new left.” Go back to the “lunch bucket” approach Democrats seem to have forgotten in recent elections. Jobs, health care, education, etc. And not just “talk-the-talk” but seriously “walk-the-walk.”

Though the aforementioned polling shows weaker support for Trump, no other recent sampling I’ve seen indicates more backing for Democrats. It’s likely there won’t be more significant support if the Party doesn’t get back to those basics.

Trump’s been demanding a “wall.” Well, he’s about to get one. The name is Nancy Pelosi. She’s a tougher wall for Trump than any wall an engineer could design for our Southern border. Pelosi is far more qualified for her job than he is for his. She’s been to many a congressional “rodeo” and has more than her share of “belt buckles.”

But, she also has a problem in the new House majority – that “new left.” Before being sworn-in next month, some are “demanding” changes. Skip the seniority system. Create new committees for this and that. Seat some of the new faces up front in the House. Before locating the member bathrooms, some want their “needs” recognized “NOW!”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) has become a media darling even before her term begins. She’s also shown how little she knows – and how little she understands – about being a member of Congress. She’s being made a “celebrity” instead of someone elected to do a well-defined constitutional job.

House members are elected for two-years. Fixed. Celebrity comes and goes. Mostly goes. Once someone new comes along who catches the public attention – and the media spotlight – today’s “celebrity” is yesterday’s news. Forgotten. Ocasio-Cortez is flirting with that at the moment. She needs to read her job description and post it prominently on her office wall. Then follow it!

It can be safely assumed, since her “green committee” idea died aborning, that she and Pelosi have had “the talk.” The new representative’s “base” is in New York City. Pelosi’s “base” is sitting on the new majority side in the House. That’s a “BASE!”

Democrats have a base now with the American voter. From all appearances, a lot of non-Democrats agreed to be members of that base in November. For now. Those folks are watching to see if what badly needs to be done actually gets done. If it does, we’ll likely see a “sweep” in 2020. If not, the majority will again be a minority. Pelosi knows that. In spades.

As for Trump’s “base,” safe betting is it will continue to shrink. Probably not much more. But, some. Whether he finishes his term in office or in prison, that “base” is becoming more irrelevant. Both for him. And, I hope, the national media!
 

Life after death

Author: admin

In the weeks since the November elections, Republicans in several states have reacted to losses at the polls by trying their damndest to cripple their duly elected replacements.

Acting like spoiled children on a playground who’ve lost while playing by the rules, they’ve been changing the rules. In those cases, new GOP laws (those rules) and legal responsibilities of governors, attorneys general, secretaries of state and similar officials now limit the powers of incoming Democrats.

Here, in our desert oasis, we’ve been given a similar “slap-in-the-face” by our – need I say it – Republican governor. He’s resurrected a political loser at the polls by giving her the U.S. Senate seat voters wouldn’t. Another loser “wins.”

Our two candidates to replace Sen. Jeff Flake were both members of the U.S. House. Voters in this “purple” state gave the job to the Democrat. So, the Republican was rejected with two more months in office. Most folks thought that was that.

Aha! But, wait! For defeated, voter-rejected GOP candidates, there’s “life after death.” At least for Martha McSally. Mitch McConnell’s choice for the open Seat of the late John McCain.

Former Senator John Kyl had been keeping the seat warm. But, guess what? A couple of weeks ago, Kyl said he’d quit the end of the this month, ahead of schedule, and before the January swearing in of the next Congress.

So, our Republican governor quickly announced his replacement – Martha McSally – who gets a couple of days seniority over the duly-elected Democrat. Important for choosing office space and other perks.

McSally was the made-to-order candidate for Republicans. An incumbent, of course. Pretty good on her feet when campaigning. Experienced on Capitol Hill. But, more than that, she was the first female USAF fighter pilot to see combat. A fact she kept way out in front in her campaign.

But, to me, the most important “out front” campaign claim was her repeated bald face lie that she had protected- and would continue to protect – our health care insurance, especially for those with pre-existing conditions.

Yes, a lie, if you bothered to check her recorded votes in the House the last two years. More than 50 times, she voted to kill the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare. Always “no.” Always. But, in her campaign ads, especially late in the race, there she was. Her voice. Her picture. She lied about other things as well, which seems to be accepted conduct these days for hungry office-seekers of both parties. But, who’s counting?

It was the “straight-into-the-camera” health insurance lies that were her most blatant. Black and white. Many Republican incumbents did the same this year. Some won with the lie – some didn’t. Those who won while lying did so because a poorly informed – or uninformed – electorate didn’t check and didn’t hold them accountable.

We’re living in a strange “Alice In Wonderland” political world at the moment. Where lies are used in place of truth. Where voters reject your candidacy, but you still win. Where losers in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and elsewhere rewrite laws to cripple the winners. Where South Carolina Republicans want to cancel the 2020 presidential primary so Trump won’t have opposition. Where voter laws are ignored but the “winners” still “win” and the “losers” still “lose.”

I don’t know what’s happened to the Republican Party. No more Nelson Rockefellers, Barry Goldwaters, Bob Doles, Warren Rudmans, Jim McClures, Dwight Eisenhowers, Henry Cabot Lodges.

The “law-and-order” Party now conducts law-breaking operations to stop legal asylum-seekers from entering the country to make their cases. A Republican Congress refuses to exercise its constitutionally required “checks-and-balances” on an out-of-control President who’s operating like a banana republic dictator. It allows trade wars to be started unilaterally; international treaty obligations broken. It conceals scientifically-supported reports. Cuts academic, health and scientific research funding. Denies veteran’s their full benefits. Puts thousands of children in makeshift prisons.

None of that – none – could be assigned to the Republican Party I was raised to respect. It has become a home for congressional cowardice, ruinous policy-making, treacherous behavior in our international conduct, a “home” for racists, anti-Semites and radicals and a threat to the lives of people struggling with health problems beyond their control.

A responsible political party does not do those things. Does not countenance those things. Doesn’t make losers winners.

Oh, wait. There’s Arizona.

Stay in your lane

Author: admin

Though well into the late senior years at our house, we like to think we’re still flexible in adjusting to new ways. We try to accept and adapt. “Change,” they say, “is the only constant.” We like to think we’re open to that.

Well, at four score and two, I’ve “hit the wall.” The politically correct and the do-gooders have lost me. I’ve been wavering for a long time, but, chances are, they’ve lost me permanently.

What finally pushed me over the edge was the decision at an Ohio radio station to stop playing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” That hacked it!

Anyone who can find “sexual innuendo” and “suggestive lyrics” in Ricardo Montalban singing the words to Esther Williams has one of the sicker minds around. And the station “management” that pulled that song from its rotation should be ashamed.

Listen to any contemporary music format – especially Rap – and you’ll hear lyrics of sexual assault, murder, cop killing, rioting, Satanism and on and on. In fact, Rap had its roots in protest and violence. Many of its popular “stars” have been killed in violent ways.

Compare those “lyrics” to recordings of “Baby, It’s Cold…” by Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney or any of the dozens of other artists who’ve crooned those words. Even Lawrence Welk!

We live in a crude world. Much more so in the last few years. Nobody chose it. But, here we are. I’m often amazed at how much vile junk is on Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the “social” media. I try not to use most of the terms or even condone much of it. Still, I admit to passing some of it along as “humor.” Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But, that’s our world today.

Go to any sporting event. Pay a hundred bucks or so and sit in the audience of nearly any show by today’s top performers. Even ride public transportation or just walk down any street. Crude doesn’t even come close to describing what you’ll hear.

We also live in a world where too much attention is paid to a few people – a distinct minority of people – continually trying to push their lifestyles, beliefs, religion and demands on the rest of us. The “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” fiasco is simply the latest and most outrageous example.

Most of the time, the naysayers for almost anything use religion – or “personal discomfort” – as the basis for their objections. Ironic that, at the same time they’re using their beliefs to justify umbrage, the numbers of people attending church these days is in distinct decline.

There’s another anomaly at play with many of these pious folk. While using religious beliefs as justification for trying to control the rest of us, many of these same people are devoted followers of a President whose warped lifestyle, repeated violations of his marriage vows, corrupt business practices and serial lying they accept. Even venerate.

We’re told the first settlers came to this country seeking religious freedom – the right to practice what they believed without interference. A couple hundred years later, those who put our national demands for freedom on paper refused to adopt a national religion. “To each his own,” was the idea.

I grew up in a small Oregon town where a little old woman genuflected to parking meters and believed God spoke to her from fire hydrants. Crazy? Maybe. But no one stopped her or, to my knowledge, ever objected.

Religion, in belief and practice, is – and should be – a private matter. On that issue, we’re a nation founded on the basis of absolute religious freedom. But, it cuts both ways. Accept and believe what you will. But, show me the same courtesy.

There’s a recent catchphrase going around. “Stay in your lane.” It most often means, “you do your thing and I’ll do mine.” Makes a lot of sense. Especially when it comes to religious beliefs and practices as those white-wigged gentlemen wrote many years ago.

The manager of that Ohio radio station – and others who cave to minority voices making ridiculous demands – should use some common sense when making decisions that affect the rest of us. We don’t all “march to the same drummer.”

One more thing. Based on a long life dealing with the public, when it comes to those who opposed Ricardo’s crooning, I’d like to see their Internet browsing history. But, I’ll just stay in my lane. For now.

Other duties as assigned

Author: admin

As a Republic, we’re living in dangerous times. Unlike the past, when wars defined the danger, we’re at war with ourselves. And, it seems at moments, much of the rest of the world.

Divisions, tribalism, racism, anti-Semitism, far right and far left hate mongers, sexism, laws based on lies, ignorance and political self-service being enacted in state-after-state. Our federal judiciary is being filled with wholly unqualified but politically expedient nominees, mass media outlets spewing flat out lies and fictitious “stories” passed off as “news.”

These and more demonstrations of outrageous national conduct are threatening our freedoms, our place in world societies, our relationships with other nations and even with each other. Add in the most repeatedly proven self-dealing serial liar and least qualified president in our long history. All of this portends a future – at least a short-term future – of anger, fear, resentment and great difficulty effectively governing with such dangers.

Fearful? Yes. Dangerous? Yes. Pleasing to our enemies? Yes. All of that and more.

So, we’ve turned to a federal prosecutor. A Marine veteran with a political and judicial histories that are truly outstanding. We’ve given him the task of sorting out the criminals, crimes, lies, double-dealing, treacheries and illegal conduct that have been the sources of much of these dangers. We’ve assigned him and his team the job of rooting out perpetrators and reporting to our Congress and to us his evidence-based findings.

At about the 18 month point of his work, the investigation seems only about at the mid-point. Starting with some low-level actors and a couple dozen Russians, there have already been subpoenas, evidence of criminal activity, confessions and a few prison sentences. Enough evidence proving the digging must continue.

The most recent “crooks de jure” are Roger Stone and several of his sycophants. These hangers-on in the netherworld of the national Republican Party are really the dregs of the political “barrel.” If you look at their backgrounds – one low-level patronage job after another over the years – it’s not hard to see why they find themselves staring into the face of some jail time.

All of them – “without portfolio” – have accomplished or contributed nothing. But, they’ve made a good living trying to associate themselves with people in power. They’ve bragged about their “importance” and their “access” to political folks in high office. Stone, in particular, became a right-wing media “darling” with claims of being a “mover-and-shaker.” His bragging included Wikileaks connections, his links with Russians and his access to “halls of power” in Congress and the White House.

Now, with little evidence they ever accomplished anything of importance, Stone and company have talked – bragged – themselves into the criminal “stew” in the crucible of the Muller investigation. Their years of touting false claims of exaggerated importance may, finally, put them in little rooms where the sunshine is seen only through the bars.

The longer the Muller investigation goes, it appears we may have asked him to do something else – something even more important than just rooting out political criminal activity. “Other duties as assigned” as it were. We seem to have tasked him to clean up the mess – to “cleanse” the system of liars, cheats, double-dealers, self-servers, crooked politicians and the treachery in the White House.

If Muller’s report is published before January, it’ll likely hit the Speaker’s desk with a loud “thud” followed by silence. But, if it comes after that, there will certainly be impeachment action in that same House. Then, the next step would be in the Senate where a trial is required by law.

Would the Senate, where everything is controlled by Republicans, hold that trial? That’s far from certain. Odds at the moment, probably 50-50. Whether action would follow would most likely hinge on who’s identified by Mueller as guilty of wrongdoing, what that wrongdoing was, what damage has been done, what that damage consists of and whether there are a lot of “co-conspirator #1″ citations.

The Roger Stones of the world are just grist left on the mill floor. Their only use in what Muller is doing is to be rungs on the ladder to the next level of proven criminality.

There will be a report. A conclusion. A document of evidence detailing the cancer in our recent political history. It will go to Congress. But, it will also go to us. The affected. We must access it, read it carefully and thoroughly digest the details for ourselves.

Whether Congress will act is still an open question. But, as a society, we must act on the results. We cannot allow that document to be relegated to some musty shelf in the Library of Congress.

We did a little housecleaning in November. Muller’s work could prove a very useful voter’s guide for voters for years to come. And more cleaning.

Why

Author: admin

Here are a couple of questions for you. Name the capitol of Afghanistan. Got it? What’s the answer? Here’s the second. Name two other cities. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Most people can’t name the capitol. Kabul. No one I know can name two other cities. And I’ve asked a few. Herat and Kandahar are a couple. There are many more.

Yet, young Americans have been fighting and dying there for 17 years. Seventeen years! And the vast majority of us couldn’t find the place on a map and know next to nothing about the nation or its people.

We have about 16,000 military there at the moment – down from 100,000 a couple of years ago. Our young people have died there for 17 years. The Pentagon won’t say how many. Thousands and thousands of wounded? Same non-response.

The financial cost to we taxpayers? Well, Randall Shriver is the top guy for the Defense Department in Asia. His numbers? About $5-billion a year for Afghan forces. Another $13-billion every 12 months for the U.S. military. And about $780-million more for “economic aid.” Whatever the hell that is.

When you ring up the total, adding what the military calls “miscellaneous costs,” we shelled out – in just the last year – $45-billion. Give or take a million or two. Put another way, we’ve been spending about $170-million a day!

Why? What are we doing there? To what end? To what goal? What will “peace” look like? The “peace” that seemingly will never come. How many more young Americans will have to die or be permanently scarred before “victory?” How many more trillions of dollars are we willing to throw down that Asian rat hole? This is the longest war our nation has ever fought. Why do we continue?

In recent months, an ambulance bomb killed 95 civilians. Fifty more killed at a wedding. More than 50 clerics have died ina single attack. Hundreds of other terrorist killings. And, at least a dozen American military murdered by Afghans wearing uniforms we gave them, using our rifles we taught them how to shoot. All just this year.

Afghans – who’ve been at war since the first one stood upright many centuries ago – wouldn’t know peace if it suddenly descended on them. They’ve been at war with each other – and one nation or another – since their inception. I can’t think of another country occupied more often by nation-after-invading-nation. And not one – not even one – left the soil of Afghanistan in victory and with honor.
Even our “Commander-In Chief” hasn’t dared venture there in two years in office. Nor, incidentally – to his shame – has he visited any of the other dozens of war zones where our troops are under fire.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is one politician who complains about our seemingly endless involvement in that far-off sinkhole. He notes every couple of years, one U.S. administration after another claims “a corner is being turned” and “the end is in sight.” Then he lists the corruption, government dysfunction and the repeated failures of the Afghan security forces.

The fact of the matter is, Merkley says, U.S. hopes of using military force to compel the Taliban to reach a political settlement are – and have been for years – unrealistic. He notes the Taliban now controls more territory than it did in 2001.

Sen. Rand Paul, also a vocal critic, says “Tens of billions are being thrown down the hatch in Afghanistan” and he calls it “an impossible situation for which there is no hope.”

Other congressional voices mutter and complain. But, as a body, having war-making and war-ending powers, there’s absolutely no action to put an end to the tragic waste. In a heartbeat, Congress could shut off the money spigot. There’s never been a congressional declaration of war for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or any other of the dozens of hot spots where we’re spending lives and treasure.

Congress, alone, we’re told, could end all of it by denying spending. Trump could holler, threaten and lie till he chokes, but he doesn’t control spending. The whole sad, tragic and tremendously costly “war” could be stopped. And, as so many other nations have done, we could get the hell out of there.

Imagine what we could have done for our infrastructure, our public education system, needs of our veterans, our real national defense, repairing our urgent environmental problems, health care, homelessness and so much more with the trillions we’ve wasted in undeclared wars.

Again, no voice has described “victory” in Afghanistan. Not one. Because there is none. There never has been. There never will be.

Here’s another question for you. Would you want your son or daughter on some Afghanistan battlefield?

Why can’t we learn? Why?

Why

Author: admin

Here are a couple of questions for you. Name the capitol of Afghanistan. Got it? What’s the answer? Here’s the second. Name two other cities. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Most people can’t name the capitol. Kabul. No one I know can name two other cities. And I’ve asked a few. Herat and Kandahar are a couple. There are many more.

Yet, young Americans have been fighting and dying there for 17 years. Seventeen years! And the vast majority of us couldn’t find the place on a map and know next to nothing about the nation or its people.

We have about 16,000 military there at the moment – down from 100,000 a couple of years ago. Our young people have died there for 17 years. The Pentagon won’t say how many. Thousands and thousands of wounded? Same non-response.

The financial cost to we taxpayers? Well, Randall Shriver is the top guy for the Defense Department in Asia. His numbers? About $5-billion a year for Afghan forces. Another $13-billion every 12 months for the U.S. military. And about $780-million more for “economic aid.” Whatever the hell that is.

When you ring up the total, adding what the military calls “miscellaneous costs,” we shelled out – in just the last year – $45-billion. Give or take a million or two. Put another way, we’ve been spending about $170-million a day!

Why? What are we doing there? To what end? To what goal? What will “peace” look like? The “peace” that seemingly will never come. How many more young Americans will have to die or be permanently scarred before “victory?” How many more trillions of dollars are we willing to throw down that Asian rat hole? This is the longest war our nation has ever fought. Why do we continue?

In recent months, an ambulance bomb killed 95 civilians. Fifty more killed at a wedding. More than 50 clerics have died ina single attack. Hundreds of other terrorist killings. And, at least a dozen American military murdered by Afghans wearing uniforms we gave them, using our rifles we taught them how to shoot. All just this year.

Afghans – who’ve been at war since the first one stood upright many centuries ago – wouldn’t know peace if it suddenly descended on them. They’ve been at war with each other – and one nation or another – since their inception. I can’t think of another country occupied more often by nation-after-invading-nation. And not one – not even one – left the soil of Afghanistan in victory and with honor.
Even our “Commander-In Chief” hasn’t dared venture there in two years in office. Nor, incidentally – to his shame – has he visited any of the other dozens of war zones where our troops are under fire.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is one politician who complains about our seemingly endless involvement in that far-off sinkhole. He notes every couple of years, one U.S. administration after another claims “a corner is being turned” and “the end is in sight.” Then he lists the corruption, government dysfunction and the repeated failures of the Afghan security forces.

The fact of the matter is, Merkley says, U.S. hopes of using military force to compel the Taliban to reach a political settlement are – and have been for years – unrealistic. He notes the Taliban now controls more territory than it did in 2001.

Sen. Rand Paul, also a vocal critic, says “Tens of billions are being thrown down the hatch in Afghanistan” and he calls it “an impossible situation for which there is no hope.”

Other congressional voices mutter and complain. But, as a body, having war-making and war-ending powers, there’s absolutely no action to put an end to the tragic waste. In a heartbeat, Congress could shut off the money spigot. There’s never been a congressional declaration of war for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or any other of the dozens of hot spots where we’re spending lives and treasure.

Congress, alone, we’re told, could end all of it by denying spending. Trump could holler, threaten and lie till he chokes, but he doesn’t control spending. The whole sad, tragic and tremendously costly “war” could be stopped. And, as so many other nations have done, we could get the hell out of there.

Imagine what we could have done for our infrastructure, our public education system, needs of our veterans, our real national defense, repairing our urgent environmental problems, health care, homelessness and so much more with the trillions we’ve wasted in undeclared wars.

Again, no voice has described “victory” in Afghanistan. Not one. Because there is none. There never has been. There never will be.

Here’s another question for you. Would you want your son or daughter on some Afghanistan battlefield?

Why can’t we learn? Why?

P-I-N it

Author: admin

Our recent national election contained the most outright, in-your-face cheating and lying of any in my lifetime. Just flat-out scandalous and, at times, illegal behavior. We’ll be living with the after effects for a long, long time. But, it may be just the precursor of the next one. And the next. And the next.

In state after state, the Republican Party – or what’s left of it – was the prime ruinous sponsor and leading miscreant. There may have been some Democrats flouting ethics and laws in some places. But, overwhelmingly, Republicans outdid themselves in despicable, lying behavior. Some are still at it.

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in our neighborhood looked straight at the TV camera in her commercials and told of the times she had voted to “protect pre-existing conditions for all Arizonans.” But, her votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, more than 40 of them, were to kill ACA (Obamacare) and some specifically to erase pre-existing conditions. She lost by less than two-percent. Nearly half of all voters apparently believed her.

That’s one case. Across the country, thousands of misleading, false or outright bogus claims and gross behavior. Names like Scott, Kemp, DeSantis, Anderson, Rohrabacher, Hunter, Akin, Kobach, and many more tried every lying trick-in-the-book. Some still are.

Many GOP efforts were to disenfranchise voters – make getting to the polls (especially in Dodge City, Kansas) nearly impossible. Or, legislating Native Americans out of the process. Voting machines with no power cord or were inoperable when installed. Some switching votes electronically. Overseers who were candidates themselves rigging outcomes. (Kemp and Kobach.)

Republican gerrymandering, in some places, meant a Democrat had get more than 60-percent to win. (S. Carolina and Alabama.)

Candidates are who they are. Some qualified. Some not. Some honest. Some not. Too many of the latter – not enough of the former. With the current lack of trust in both national parties, getting better, more qualified people to run is nearly impossible. That’s got to be a priority in 2020.

But, it’s gerrymandering and blocking voters that’s so heinous. Republicans, in many legislatures, used the 2000 census to twist, splice and draw voting districts to their benefit. Now, Democrats say, if they’re in the majority in 2020, they’ll be more honest. I’d like to believe that. But, I don’t. The most accurate description of political power I’ve ever been told was “When they’re in power, they do it to you; when you’re in power, you do it to them.” From an Idaho Democrat.

Several states blocked registered voters – especially Black, Hispanic, Native American – by all sorts of contrived schemes. More than any other factor, that needs to be addressed.

Oregon, in so many instances a leader in creative thinking, has some excellent approaches. One is “motor voter” registration. Register your vehicle and you’re automatically registered to vote. Parties assigned randomly. If you don’t like the assignment, change it. It’ll take several generations to reach 100-percent but, eventually, all Oregonians will be registered voter.

Also, as in Oregon and several other states, voting by mail should be federal law. I realize there are still people who like to go to a polling place. I’m one. I always felt a bit prouder when the little gray-haired lady announced for all to hear, “Barrett Rainey has voted.” But, like so many other things, times have changed. Voting by mail is one of those changes. There are some wrinkles to work out but they’re not insurmountable.

Do away with signatures on ballots. Assign each voter a PIN – personal identification number. Banks worldwide use ‘em. All credit card outfits use ‘em. They know within seconds when one of us hundreds of millions of users buys lunch anywhere in the world. Instead of laboriously checking signature authenticity – which in my case is impossible – check the PIN by high-speed scanner. Cut down or eliminate recounts.

Use a standardized national ballot format. Leave flexibility for states to enter necessary information. But, format all the same. In Florida, a U.S. Senate seat hinges on the way one county laid out its ballot with that race separated from all the others. Exit polling shows some people didn’t see it.

Require all counting to be done electronically. Standardize machines.

There are many more ideas out there. But, the plain fact is, we can’t keep doing things as we are. We can’t do much about political parties or individuals who want to lie, cheat, block and steal. But, no large corporation would run a national business the way we run the most important element of our democracy: voting.

We need our ballots handled accurately and treated with the certainty that our most basic, guaranteed freedom requires. Leaving it to political parties is not the best way to assure that.

Many things must be changed. Updated and streamlined. One of those things seems a natural: “P-I-N it.”

A too-slim majority

Author: admin

We’ve been hearing for a couple of years now that our country is “divided,” “broken,” “fractured,” “splintered” and that current society is “tribal.”

All of those descriptions seem mostly accurate. Signs of strain, fractured will and stress are everywhere.

The most recent evidence is in many of the outcomes of our recent national elections. While some candidates and ballot issues were decided by solid majorities – Idaho’s Governor and Medicaid expansion for example – such one-sided results were rare.

I didn’t look at all national races, but in the 63 I did examine, 57 were decided by less that three-percent – many by tenths of a point. Yes, Democrats picked up the U.S. House. They needed 23 wins. They got 30. In a body of 435, hardly a landslide. If a few don’t follow caucus instructions on whatever the vote is about on any given day, that majority can evaporate. The new majority “whip” is going to be kept busy.

Less than a one point separation is likely to give Florida a Republican governor and, less than two-points, a senator. Same margains in Texas with Cruz over O’Rourke. Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Nevada and more had Senate and House victories by two and three points. Or less. Many state races and ballot issues were squeakers. Arizona is still counting Senate votes. No winner in Alabama Governor yet, either.

“Well, Rainey, a win is still a win,” you say. “What’s the matter with you?”

I see several “matters.”

For one, like Jack Kennedy faced, when one of these squeaker winners walks down the street, that person has to realize nearly one of every two people passing by voted against her/him. So much for a mandate. So much for real constituent support.

Another example. Legislating. If your majority in a congressional or legislative body is around one-percent or so, keeping your “horses” going in the same direction on significant issues is very difficult. Especially issues of conscience. Think Supreme Court candidates, budgeting or abortion rights. Without the heft of a solid majority, such issues are often near-impossible to settle.

There are many folks still saying we must stop speaking ill of each other – must stop the arguing and fighting – must return to a “kinder, gentler time.” Must “come together.” “Love your enemy” and all that.

It seems to me we’ve gone too far down the national road of vitriol, hate and division for any of that to be effective. We’ve got a serial liar president with millions of supporters who say “Sure, he lies, but he says what’s on his mind, he’s not a politician and I like that.” When what’s “on his mind” is constant lying about everything, how do you reach those people?

Another example. During exit polling in Florida, the question CNN put to voters, regardless of party affiliation – or none – was “Which national party do you want controlling Congress?” The answer? Dead even at 49% for each. How do you create effective governance out of that?

Other exit interviews on just about any issue or candidate there were many similar near-tie responses, regardless of what region of the country was involved. If you take nearly any national issue, you’ll find just about a 50-50 split. A few choruses of “Kum-ba-yah” will not heal our coast-to-coast ills.

Seems to me we’re in a situation similar to what Quakers in this country faced during the Civil War. They made gallant efforts to stick to their pacifist culture and stay out of the fighting for a long time. But, eventually, many of them realized they’d lose that culture and all they had if they didn’t take up arms. So, many of them did. They joined up and helped overpower the enemy.
(http://ramwebs.wcupa.edu/jones/his480/reports/civilwar.html)

We’re now faced with significant threats to all our culture. To our peace and tranquility. To our chosen way of life. Even to preserving the Republic.

The sources of those threats are many. Politicians more concerned with continued public-trough employment than concerns constituents face. A political party using lies and terrible tactics – some illegal – to gain or keep control in Congress and many states. Millions of Americans divorced from reality by sick rightwing media and “consultant” forces pounding away in a closed environment of lies and half-truths. Millions of citizen naysayers believing their willful ignorance is as good as your factual reality.

There were way too many razor-thin victories in our last election – far too many candidates elected by hundredths-of-a- point to make real progress. The serious – some terrible – issues we face as a country can’t muster a significant majority to solve. The outcome – and the numbers – prove it.

The time for peaceful solutions seems over. It may take a national force-of-will to form the majority needed to get back on the right path. Force-of-will and a few more elections.

Like those Quakers, we may have to join a fight we really don’t want to.