Saturday, November 10, 2018

Post-Election Chaos: Just Another Day in Florida


Late Thursday afternoon, November 8, 2018 current Republican Governor of Florida, candidate for US Senate, and adult space alien baby, Rick Scott filed a lawsuit against Broward County Supervisor of Elections, Brenda Snipes, alleging that she is engaging in acts of fraud on behalf of the Democratic candidates in the election “completed” just two days prior. She is doing this by somehow skewing the numbers such that they continue to run in consistent proportions against Governor Scott and all other Republican candidates.

The fact that the numbers skew heavily against Republicans in a county that routinely runs 70/30 in favor of any random Democrat has them clutching their pearls and suffering from the vapors.

Thursday’s meeting of the county Canvassing Board convened for the single purpose of reviewing and showing the results of the provisional ballots. By Florida Statute, such ballots are cast by anyone who appears at a voting location, who is not then verifiable as registered in the database. They are then given the chance to vote, with that vote immediately sealed for later review in the event that it can be verified at the conclusion of the election.

The meeting was held in a largish room about 50’ x 75’ along the left wall was a series of windows, the other side of which contained the vote counting machines, looking like large office copiers with computer screens attached, being operated by about a dozen or so election employees keeping them running constantly while surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of office boxes, presumably containing counted ballots, as smaller plastic document trays were wheeled in, all containing reams of ballots which were fed into the machines. We were told that these were late-arriving absentee/mail-in ballots, or possibly untabulated early vote ballots as well. Everyone was surprised to see so much left to be counted though some veterans of the Broward ballot wars seemed more disgusted than surprised that such a spectacle was necessary.

The room was cordoned in half on one side with spectators, perhaps 20 representatives of the campaigns, mostly lawyers in suits, about the same number of media reps, not so nattily attired, a few elected officials, and a sprinkling of members of the general public. On the other side was the Canvassing Board, consisting of two county judges, supported by a couple county attorneys, some staff, and joined by Supervisor Snipes.

Early in the day a clarion call had gone out across the interwebs seeking volunteers to assist in calling and locating people who had submitted provisional ballots. These volunteers were needed so that those ballots could be “perfected” via affidavit to bolster the chances of them getting calculated. The sense from these messages was that if enough people chipped in, it would be enough to tilt the balance of the election.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. While no vote should be minimized or made light of, the notion that provisional ballots would be the key to turning the tables on a few typically close Florida statewide elections is utter nonsense. And the notion that hordes of volunteers could help save the day, similar nonsense.

As it happened, the total number of provisional ballots returned to the Supervisor’s office, in the second most populous county in the state, where 700,000 votes were already counted, came to 661.

Of those 661, 205 were immediately identified as erroneously categorized as provisional and instead should have been counted as regular ballots and tabulated as such. But what happened instead stands as a microcosm of everything wrong with Broward, and ultimately, all of Florida’s two decades of torturous elections.

At first, it was announced that those ballots, being as good as any other properly submitted voter ballot, was run through the machines and counted as was appropriate. That announcement resulted in an uproar from one of the representatives of the Rick Scott campaign, attorney William R. Scherer of Fort Lauderdale firm Conrad & Scherer, LLP. With grandiloquent gesticulations he insisted that Supervisor Snipes was breaking the law by counting the ballots before they were examined by the Canvassing Board. He wondered aloud how the Snipes could “unring the bell” now that the ballots had been counted? The short but hesitantly offered answer was that it couldn’t be unrung. The votes counted.

In response, attorney for the Nelson campaign, Todd Falzone of Fort Lauderdale firm Kelley/Uustal explained that the requirement that provisional ballots be examined by the Canvassing Board doesn’t apply to ballots wrongfully put into a provisional ballot envelope. If a poll worker makes a mistake in determining that someone must vote provisionally rather than through the regular voting process, the simple remedy is to run the ballot as correct at the earliest opportunity. There was no bell needing to be unrung. Instead, what counsel for Rick Scott was doing was nothing more than an effort to perform for the cameras while casting a cloud over a result that at the very moment the argument was taking place, was getting closer and closer as more late results came in. In fact, it was just about that time that word began filtering through the crowd that the threshold for the Senate race had been reached to trigger an automatic handcount of all tabulated votes. This Senate race had now become the closest in Florida history. And rather than allow the process to play out, the Governor was doing everything he could to grandstand and simply make up out of whole cloth, insinuations that somehow fake ballots were being allowed to slip through in enormous numbers, regardless of the reality that no such evidence exists to suggest much less prove such allegations.

But the argument appeared to have rattled Supervisor Snipes, who has had multiple problems with her election management throughout her tenure. Snipes herself was originally appointed to the office in 2005 by then governor Jeb Bush following the suspension and removal in disgrace of the previous county Supervisor of Elections, Miriam Oliphant. Whispers in the room also insinuated that part of the rancor held by Mr. Scherer against Dr. Snipes came about because he was instrumental in Snipes’ appointment but is now deeply disappointed in her effectiveness at her job.

After a brief break, the Board reconvened and Dr. Snipes announced that the 205 ballots had NOT been tabulated but had been merely “set aside for now”. Total confusion followed as it was argued again that if they weren’t provisional in character then tabulating is appropriate, while if they were provisional, their envelopes should not have been opened outside of the supervision of the Canvassing Board. To do so would thoroughly invalidate the ballots altogether.

And thus we get to the real problem in Broward County. Brenda Snipes is, by all appearances and by her actions going back over a decade, incompetent in her role as the caretaker of the voting rights of citizens of Broward County. In addition to this relatively small problem of 205 votes, we had, still running just to our left, the ongoing counting of votes which we didn’t know if they were early votes, Election Day votes, mail-in votes, or some combination. She has been completely incapable of providing the public any information on what exactly is going on. She is required by law to do so. She is required by law to have all these votes, except for provisionals and military/overseas votes, fully counted within 30 minutes of the closing of the polls. Yet here we were nearly 2 full days after the election ended and on the cusp of the closest elections this side of Bush v Gore.

But this points up an even larger problem in the state. The Republicans focus all of their negative energy at Broward because it’s the second largest county by population in the state but is far and away the most reliably Democratic county in the state, ringing up totals that are routinely in range of a 70/30 split. At this writing the split is 68/32 favoring the Dems in both races. Regardless of the focus on Broward, it is NOT the only county still counting votes. Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Duval (Jacksonville) are running ballots as well.

If all of the most populous counties are struggling to get their votes counted, this speaks to a more systemic problem. It suggests that someone may be asleep at the wheel at the Florida Secretary of State’s office. It is from there that resources and oversight come. And in the same sense that every county knows well in advance when an election is scheduled and should be prepared accordingly, the Secretary of State should be sure that the big counties have what they need in equipment and staffing to get the job done, and the oversight to assure it’s getting done. Clearly neither are taking place. So as the competency of Brenda Snipes can be called into question, the attention to all citizens’ voting rights should be called into question with Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a two term appointee of, yes, Governor Rick Scott.

The irony is that again, while all of this was taking place, Scott filed a lawsuit against Brenda Snipes that accuses her of fraud in all but name. The suit states that the failure on her part to produce records of votes tabulated and not yet tabulated is causing “irreparable public injury”. The complaint does not say what this injury is, nor does it make any mention of other counties and their similar efforts to produce information or explain why they too have yet to finalize their counts. And it also asks for no remedy beyond any “relief as the Court deems appropriate.”

In other words, really there’s no harm in counting the votes no matter how long it takes. But on the off chance they can get a judge to stop the process, thereby ending any chances that the results as announced could be overturned by actual numbers of votes, the Scott (and by extension DeSantis) campaign will be more than happy to accept it.

Ultimately we are witnessing a Republican attempt to avoid counting all the legitimate votes cast. Rather than acknowledging a concern that maybe they lost fair and square, they prefer to blame the Republican appointed Supervisor of a Democratic county while conveniently ignoring the fact that other Democratic counties are having the exact same problem in a state run almost entirely by gerrymandered-in-place Republicans.

Despite it all, despite the mismanagement and faux outrage, once again, a Florida election heads to a recount. But no worries, in Florida there is plenty of incompetence and corruption to go around for everyone.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Yes, I'm Still Here

Been getting published lately on Buzzflash by truthout.org.

Here's my latest piece, commentary after the first debate between Florida gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum (D) and Ron DeSantis (R). The end of the article lists links to earlier articles.

The Real Swamp Report 4: Gillum Dominates the First Debate

Please enjoy and comment freely.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Can You Smell The Republican Bullshit NOW???

Let's be clear now. The Republicans have spent the past 8 years attacking a healthcare system substantially comprised of an idea that they originally devised in the 90s and enacted in Massachusetts in the early aughts by the guy they ran for President in 2012. The instant that idea was adopted by a Democratic president, for the sole purpose of getting them to at least pretend to engage in the process, they abjectly refused, failing to contribute a single vote towards the crafting and passage of their own idea. Let me repeat that again: they refused to participate in the passage of THEIR OWN IDEA because a Democrat said "OK, let's go with your plan".

Since then they have railed against it in a manner unprecedented in generations, lying repeatedly about what it was or wasn't doing, who it was or wasn't covering, and refusing to acknowledge that anyone is actually benefiting from its existence. Instead, they claimed, they had better ideas to really improve the delivery of healthcare in the US and preserve the free market system -- which by the way has NEVER been an element of the insurance model of healthcare delivery. Any system that refuses to allow negotiations over drug prices and specifically allows collusion among insurers (and unless you can argue against the existence of the McCarran-Ferguson Act you'd best not take issue with that last one) is most assuredly NOT based on any version of market economics that's ever been posed by any academic, Austrian or otherwise.

But the GOP never had to reveal the secret of their healthcare plans because they were never in a position to actually have to pass it. Unfortunately, the mistake of Donald Trump's victory really screwed up their plans to scuttle everything a president Hillary Clinton would have tried to do to shore up the weaknesses of the actual Republican healthcare plan known colloquially as Obamacare. With the mistake of Trump's ascension to office, the Republicans found themselves in the unexpected position of being able to pass almost anything they wanted. All they needed to do was roll out that amazing new plan they've had in mothballs all this time. All Trump had to do was show us the great, best, beautiful plan he said HE had ready to go on day one when they would go ahead and follow through on their longstanding promise to "REPEAL AND REPLACE" Obamacare.

BUT, my friends, we now see that they were and remain, entirely full of shit. All they had this entire time was a really catchy marketing slogan that was easy to say, easy to remember, easy to use as a battering ram, but in reality, utterly empty of any content AT ALL. I mean, not just a work in progress, not something that needed a little tweaking in the moment, no. The marketing got so far ahead of the product that in the end, when it came time to show what they had, it turned out THEY HAD NOTHING! NADA! ZERO! ZILCH! ZIP!!

THEY LIED TO YOU!!!!!! BIGLY!!!

They do this all the time. I mean sure to an extent all politicians do a version of it. It's hard to talk detailed policy to a largely bovine electorate. But it's easy to complain about something you don't have to do and will take no part in when someone else decides to do it. It's a great way to generate fundraising and the support of misguidedly angry masses of, let's face it, yokels. It's a great way to win and keep mid-level elected jobs. Just don't win the White House. In the immortal words of Energy genius Rick Perry, "Oops".

The GOP has nothing. They never had anything. They've been completely full of shit for a really long time now. Not partly. Entirely. But it didn't matter when they didn't expect to ever have to DO anything. In that scenario, just keep your job and enjoy a nice living as a do-nothing good living politician. Leave the doing shit to the dedicated public servants now known as the DEEP STATE and then bitch about them too when just doing your job goes against the fake policies represented by the slogans.

The problem here, unfortunately, is that the alternative isn't really much of an improvement. Let's not forget that in order to do anything to attend to the disaster that is US healthcare delivery, the Democrats had to use a shitty Republican idea. The ideas that have a chance of really working: public option, multiple different versions of single-payer, among others -- were dropped almost immediately because moderates like Max Baucus (D-MT) were little more than toadies for the insurers as much as any Republican.

My point here, though, is that though the Democrats are venal, the Republicans are a whole order of magnitude beyond that. They spit from outrage to outrage claiming they have this or that solution but as we can now see on a daily basis, they have NO SOLUTIONS AT ALL. And when they try to come up with something, they're so intellectually bankrupt and bound by the shallowness of their own slogans -- not their principles, their SLOGANS -- they can't come up with anything better than the horror that was (is?) the Trump/Republican Deathcare plan that conservatively would throw upwards of 20 MILLION people out of the pool of insureds altogether.

The craziest consequence of what may be the end of this charade is that it turns out that despite it all, once again the system seems to have worked. The US system demands that compromise by all is necessary to get anything done. Absolutism is doomed to failure. Unwavering single-mindedness assures that nothing gets done. So what happened here?

Obamacare may not have had any GOP support but keep in mind that it was always the GOP plan in the first place. So whether they like it or not, their hands were and are involved in what we have now. It was a non-negotiated compromise. The effort to repeal and replace, became an absolutist nightmare. And it has failed as a result of lack of compromise.

SONOFABITCH!!!!!!!! Madison wins again.

But until the Republican party, and its millions of semi-mindless supporters realize this most basic of American principles, we are doomed to failure.

And in American government, that's how it's supposed to turn out.
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Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Problem of Trump

The problem of Trump isn't Trump. It's the people in charge of stopping Trump. It should not have come as a shock the the head of the Office of Government Ethics resigned this week suggesting that it is nearly pointless to continue in a job whose directives are entirely ignored by the Trump administration.

As a free and independent billionaire, a guy like Trump is very hard to stop if he doesn't want to be stopped. He has lived his life in a manner that is recognizable from people of his sort. He just happens to be the most extreme and visible example. What I mean is that he is not interested in following any rules, he doesn't care what they are, and for the most part, doesn't even know what they are. He does what he wants, the way he wants, when he wants to. He is nearly unaffected by any attempts to box, control, or reign him in. Additionally, he can afford a battalion of attorneys who are on-call 24/7 to beat back with interminable and expensive litigation, anyone who would be so bold as to try it. It costs Trump no more and no less to have these attorneys on-call for him. He only settles when it leads to bad publicity. See the Trump University settlement for an example.

In the private world, there really isn't any entity that can do much to slow down, much less stop any of Trump's abusively piggish behavior.

In the political world though, it's an entirely different story. It's not money that's at stake here, it's power and authority. The US government is designed precisely to contend with an imbecilic and gold-plated power turd like Trump. Checks and balances is a phrase that has real force under the Constitution. Its purpose is to assure that anyone who holds office in government has to work within the bounds of law, tradition, and propriety in order to accomplish anything and retain their position. Their responsibility is not first to themselves or even their constituents. It is to the Constitution. In order to serve and protect the Constitution, all must place a check upon those who refuse to serve and protect it. And the presumption is that all elected officials are jealous enough of their little piece of the power they wield within this system to assure that they aren't taken advantage of by other elected officials.

Here is where we have the problem. And it's a very specifically located problem. It's simply and entirely a problem of the Republican party. The GOP has control of the Legislative and Executive branches of government and are perilously close to having control over the heart of the judicial branch. But relative to the proper behavior in office of the Executive, the Legislative branch - Congress - is doing nothing. The Republican majority in Congress has boxed themselves in so tightly with their extreme right-wing, that they can't restrain or influence a dangerously incompetent administration because to do so MIGHT mean they would have to work in a bipartisan manner and make compromises with the opposition Democrats.

We have a billionaire in office who says and does and exhibits every wrong aspect of the American character, and does so in full view of the world, while clearly violating any number of laws and requirements of the Constitution at a minimum, through the use of family members to engage in policy without supervision or office, but more importantly, by receiving financial benefit from the office from foreign agents in flagrant violation of the spirit AND letter of the Emoluments Clause. Yet the Republicans in Congress, who are the only ones who can do anything, do nothing. The Constitution that they are obligated to protect and defend goes unprotected and undefended because elected Republicans fail to take any enforcement action.

Laws on the books are meaningless if no action to enforce them occurs when they are violated. They become literally worth less than the paper or parchment on which they are printed. We have seen too often in our history, and much too much in our recent history, the abject failure of those in positions of enforcement of the Constitution to actually do so when necessary. The result has been recognition among the wealthiest and most privileged sectors of our nation to behave in the most abusive and profligate manner that we've seen since the days when humans were bought and sold as property on the open market.

Donald Trump has lived his life daring anyone to stop him from doing what he felt like doing. He hasn't changed a bit since being placed into the highest elective office in the land. No one should have been surprised at that and no one should expect anything less - or more - of him. He's been an actor on the public stage his entire adult life; a known quantity. Those who have the ability to check his excess and abuse should have been ready to do so from day one. We're just about 6 months into this 14 karat gold-plated turd of a man and administration, yet still, nothing is being done to correct his behavior.

The only other chance to right the circumstance we find ourselves in is to finally recognize and admit that we are because WE THE PEOPLE both through acts of commission AND omission put all of those failed elected where they are. And ultimately, it's the only way to fix the problem of Trump. When all else fails, it falls to WE THE PEOPLE, under the Constitution to behave responsibly as citizens at every opportunity, to assure that the United States continues to do better than it has in all the time before.

Right now, it's appearing that many in the rest of the world are starting to move on from an era dominated by American influence and ideals. That will be a world that most Americans have no concept of and probably less ability to contend with personally.

The office of President of the United States is supposed to be bigger than the man who occupies it. It's time for those with the power to do so stop respecting the office so much that they let a small man disrespect it so egregiously. And it's up to WE THE PEOPLE to demand it for the sake of ourselves, our country, our children, and the world.

If we continue to fail in our obligations as citizens we should then admit that we are not worthy of those obligations.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Make Them Blow It Up

If the Republican Party and their leader Donald Trump wants to take over the country entirely, as it appears they've wanted to do for the better part of a decade of utter failure to participate in governing, let them have it. And let the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch be the point at which they do so. And let them, and by them I include all of us, suffer the consequences of ending the American Experiment.

Judge Gorsuch is an  eminently qualified judge and has the credentials and temperament to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. No argument there. But so does Merrick Garland. The argument that a qualified nominee doesn't even deserve the courtesy of a hearing, simply because the presidential primary season is upon us is about the shallowest and arbitrary standards that could be applied to such an important appointment. There is no official start to the primaries and as a practical matter the race for president never ends anymore. Donald Trump has already filed his papers for 2020. Does that mean the race is already officially on? If so, then by the McConnell rule, no hearings should be given to any SCOTUS nominee. The people should be left to decide in 2020.

Well, isn't THAT absurd? Welcome to American politics in 2017.

It's true that the Democrats started all this foolishness with Supreme Court nominees going back to 1987 when they rejected Judge Robert Bork on ideological grounds even though by any measure he was a thoroughly qualified nominee. And then the dems did it again on a cabinet appointment by defeating the nomination of  John Tower as Secretary of Defense because of allegations of drunkenness; an allegation which would have disqualified as much as 75% of all politicians at any given moment.

Since then these nomination fights have been escalated in a tit for tat manner for a payback that seems to have no end. It has escalated on both sides, finally culminating with the humiliation of Judge Merrick Garland following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The problem now is that there is no standard by which to determine when or even whether to consider important appointees and under what circumstances should that appointee be approved.

My opinion has always been that unless a nominee simply isn't qualified for the position (Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education for example, Harriet Miers for Supreme Court) or has egregious character flaws (white supremacist G. Harrold Carswell for SCOTUS by Nixon in 1970), they should be confirmed. Elections have consequences and the Senate has a duty to see that all positions that the President must fill are indeed filled in as expeditious a manner as possible.

But that is no longer the case. Although both sides have plenty of blame for getting us here, it's the GOP that took it to the limit with their shabby treatment of Judge Garland. Accordingly, the Democrats in the Senate must stage a final stand via filibuster thereby refusing to allow a final hearing on Judge Gorsuch.

Gorsuch may very well be the least offensive choice that Trump could have made from the list of judges he put out during the campaign. But it's not relevant. The seat in question was formerly occupied by Antonin Scalia, a Justice who's extreme and questionable jurisprudence has been white-washed because he was such a delightful guy to be around. Whomever Trump would nominate next - since he's a spiteful shit he'd surely follow up with the most odious choice he can find - would really only be replacing like with like. It's just a matter of the nominee's personal conviviality.

The only option the Republicans would have would be to invoke the so-called "nuclear option". Currently, 60 votes are required in the Senate to cut off debate on Supreme Court nominees. It used to be the case with all nominees until several years ago when the Republicans in the minority had so bottled up the process of filling the federal bench, that Harry Reid was left with little option but to change the rule for all except the Supreme Court. The Republicans effectively shut down the process for the Supreme Court while in the majority last year, and now the Democrats should force them to decide if they really want full responsibility for everything that happens in American government or if it's finally time for a return to the usual give and take which has been the hallmark of our politics for over two centuries.

It's a risky move of course, but no more risky than those taken by the GOP for the better part of a decade with great success. Should any Justice from Kennedy and left (Ginsburg and Breyer most significantly) die or retire before the Dems have a chance to retake the Senate in 2018 or the White House in 2020, the court will either dwindle in numbers (if the nuclear option is not invoked) or be heavily populated with the most outrageous possible nominees.

Of course, if McConnell DOES invoke the nuclear option, should the Dems retake the Senate and the White House by 2020, AND the Justices on the left hold on, a liberal era of jurisprudence will rise and fly for generations to come. I say take that chance because the alternative is darkness no matter what.
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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Lying About Danger From Refugees

"Extreme vetting" is utter horseshit. It's merely a method of executing a Muslim ban by degrees when none is warranted or useful. This is especially true as it applies to refugees from Syria seeking to escape from the kinds of people we are supposedly protecting ourselves from. The refugees want the same thing we do. Safety and freedom. The US used to be the shining light of such things. But the Trumpisti are determined to violate everything good about the United States as understood across the world for centuries.
To those who disagree, your fears are unfounded. Your "belief" has no basis in measurable reality. And this reality CAN and HAS been measured. Call it what you want, but the process of vetting which has been in place for over 30 years is pretty damn extreme. Much moreso than anything in Europe. Follow the explanation and links in this article which is from June 2016.
Educate yourself on what it is you're actually ranting about when it means that genuinely endangered people will be consigned to death because you wouldn't extend your hand as an American when they reached out to you for help.

Wrong: Donald Trump says there's 'no system to vet' refugees

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Friday, January 20, 2017

As Darkness Descends, Get Ready For The Dawn

As you'd expect, I watched and commented on the inauguration today with my colleagues from Progressive Blend Radio for our new show Trumpled Underfoot. Trump's speech was a reworked version of his stump program made all the more dark by his false dystopian view of a United States suffering from the ravages of a "carnage" that few would see if they weren't hearing it from their fearful leader. In short, it was a grotesquerie that will eventually receive recognition as among the worst and most negative speeches ever given by anyone to ascend to the highest office in the land.
Here's my takeaway from the day.
My friend, the writer and activist, William Rivers Pitt of truthout.org, was once press secretary for Dennis Kucinich wen he ran for president in 2004. Pitt quoted Kucinich talking to a crowd while campaigning in Iowa, "You are the one you've been waiting for. You've been here all along." He continued to say for himself, "I pity the dawn, for it shall find me pissed. Onward."
I've always thought I was involved and doing what I could to help nudge things in the right direction. I'm now certain that I've been kidding myself all this time.
I am upping my game and contributing more time and action than simply what I do in front of this cybermachine.
I suspect this may be true for a lot of you who are reading this. And if nothing else comes out of what we're about to experience, the notion that we will ALL be upping our game together, no longer waiting for ourselves, to instead BE what we've been waiting for, that dawn better make way. Because we WILL win the day.
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Congress, ALL of Congress Better Sack Up Fast

It's 2:25PM EST, January 12, 2017. 8 days before the official start of the Trump administration. I'm watching C-SPAN3 for what was supposed to be a hearing featuring Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis (ret). The purpose is a pre-hearing in the House in advance of Senate confirmation hearings for his nomination to be Secretary of Defense. The United States military must be managed by a civilian. Civilian management of the military is a bedrock principle of the US and is a substantial reason the US has never seriously worried of military takeovers. Often though, retired military officers have been appointed to the office and for most of the past century a law has been in place that required any former members of the military be retired for a number of years before being eligible for the position. Currently, the retirement period is 7 years. General Mattis has been retired for less than 7 years. Accordingly, Congress has decided to consider a narrowly written law which would carve out a niche for General Mattis to serve now.

Since this is an unprecedented situation, Congress decided they wanted to have a hearing with the General to discuss his civilian experience and how he distinguishes the difference between civilian life and military service. Most importantly House committee wanted to hear General Mattis discuss his understanding and appreciation for why the Constitution mandates civilian management of the military.

For his part, General Mattis, who has testified before Congress in numerous capacities throughout his years of public service, was prepared and looking ahead to testifying. It seems though at the last moment, the Trump transition team and probably Trump himself, had the General stand down and not appear for the hearing. At this writing, there is no explanation for the sudden change.

What we are witnessing is a power play by the Trump admin's to be executive branch. Trump is declaring clearly that he will not be questioned or vetted at all much less in passing by anyone even by right. He is engaging in imperial behavior before taking the oath.

The Congressional committee is in near unanimity in their anger over Trump's meddling. What needs to happen and fast, is that Congress, ALL of it, House and Senate, Republican and Democratic, needs to recognize the threat posed to their constitutional authority by Trump and his handlers. Now, regardless of individual merits, they should reject the bill to waive the 7 year requirement for General James Mattis unless and until he is allowed to testify as requested.

The Congress must follow by rejecting each and every matter in which Trump interferes with their authority and make it clear that Congress is, as always, first among co-equal branches. It's unfortunate that this is where events are going already, and it's of grave concern that Congress has been so absent from engaging its responsibilities for so many years. My confidence that the people sitting in Congress now even KNOW what it means to do their jobs in a serious way is in severe question but if ever they were ready assert their primacy n American government, that time is NOW.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Almost Isn't Good Enough

Long form writing doesn't come easily for me because it's hard to untangle the interconnected thoughts into linear sentences. And I edit myself. And re-edit. Then try to add links. And a little joke here or there. And before you know it, it never gets done and never gets posted. I'm gonna give it a go at keeping it shorter and see how that goes.

We have reached the height of the long Republican Party plan to game the system so carefully set up by the founding fathers of the United States. They feared one thing and believed they had designed the system to avoid the one pitfall.

They fear what they called "factions" and we call political parties. The solution to the problem was to have a nation so large and diverse that no faction to set up and last long enough around enough ideas to keep it together and overrun the rights of the people.

But since the late 1950s, the conservative "movement" has managed to pull it together just large enough in widely dispersed area, and kept it together to confound the system. Successive 10 year cycles to do well in census years allowed constant control of redistricting to lock down state houses and congress for the foreseeable future.

How did they do this? By doing an end around the usual means of information sharing with voters, namely, the media. Back to the 1950s...

William F. Buckley began using TV and magazines to focus the conservative message. No attempt to be "fair and balanced".

Think tanks were formed to promote the ideas put forth in magazines and TV. Politicians were educated in the language of the movement.

Direct mail in the 1970s spearheaded by Richard Viguerie. Go right to the people so they don't have to listen to media elites like Walter Cronkite or Wolf Blitzer tell them what to think about national and world events.

Ally with evangelical religionists so that not only was the message "right", it was "righteous". And with that it became ok to call out people who don't behave right. Redefine what it means to be American just as the term began to include groups besides white Christian men.

Simplify it with incessant repetition for a couple of decades. God, guns, and gays. Masculine, physical strength mythologized by rugged individualists like the John Wayne characters that no one even pays attention to anymore. Vigilante justice taking up where the "system" has failed.

Repeat it over and over and over and over...

Welcome to the world. The Constitution is confounded and all the founders worst nightmares have come to be. Just like they thought it could but hoped it wouldn't.

The US was a good idea while it lasted. We very nearly pulled it off.
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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Why Is THIS The One That Broke the GOP Establishment Against Trump?

Donald Trump has called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. He has called for a ban on all Muslims from entering the country and thrown suspicion upon all of them who are already here including those who are citizens. He attacked a family who lost a son at war for the US. He has a long history of racial discrimination going back to the 1970s and has nearly 0% support from blacks nationally. The litany of horrors that has done and has spilled from his maw goes on and on. Yet it is his 11 year old hot mic pre-interview gibberish with Billy Bush -- where Trump brags about how he attempted to bed a married woman, talks about her as merely a sex object, then continues on to do the same about a woman about to bring him to a soap opera set for a cameo, while explaining that as a "star" he can get away with doing anything to women, including just walking up and grabbing them "by the pussy"-- that finally has his own party in an uproar. This doesn't even touch on his "policies" of kowtowing to Russia, encouraging nuclear proliferation, instigating worldwide trade wars, and further rigging the tax code to favor the filthy rich over middle class Americans.

Since Trump has already defined himself as a caricature of a human circa 1955, why is this interview such a big deal?

People of conservative bent have a tendency to think of the world and politics purely in terms of their own familiarity; the words they want to hear, the people they already know, the ideas that came before them.

All of the other statements that have shaken Democrats, liberals, leftists, and the rest to their bones, make little to no impression on conservatives because to them, such statements are mostly hyperbolic abstractions that don't sound like anything other than code for standing tall and being the best, greatest, amazing, winning country that the US should be but isn't.

This time, this one hits close to home because Trump's base, the GOP base, the common thread between the party and the campaign, has the one thing being taken advantage of in his comments.

White women.

Trump is talking about "doing what he wants" because he's "a star" to white women he comes across. the GOP/Trump base is composed almost exclusively of white men and white women. Trump can indeed get away with talking badly or violently about some abstract "other" especially since most of them are some shade of brown who are far away or at a minimum unfamiliar in their look or daily affairs as he imagines them. But every good Republican is or has personal contact with good old American white women every day, and talking badly about them is not acceptable.

Finally.
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