On a Blog Break: Summer 2019

 

Before I embark on my summer blog break, below is an abbreviated edition of Opinions in the Shorts.

The Doobie Brothers concert surprised a few people. With a blog break on the current docket, I do not know who the next concert will feature or when it will occur – but I have some ideas to consider during the blog break.

Unfortunately, on celebration day falls during the blog break. August 28th marks the 11th anniversary of this place – my little corner of the world.

My golf game resembles a yo-yo – but I still enjoy playing.

With August being the final month of summer, that also means September marks the return of handbell choir rehearsals, volunteer ushering at the Playhouse, fall festivals, football season, and more.

Has anyone watched “The Great Hack” on Netflix (about Cambridge Analytica)? If so, what did you think?

Last weekend gave us two mass shootings – including one in Dayton, Ohio (a bit less than an hour drive for me). Interesting how events like that affect you differently when they are closer to home. Events in El Paso and Dayton give Congress more opportunities to do nothing.

The Republican “mental issue” claim as a key cause of gun violence has resurfaced – so I ask an important question to Congressional Republicans: What legislation have you passed in the past five years addressing the mental health problem? I asked my representative. In his response letter, he didn’t answer the question – so the answer is none!

A state representative near me and close to Dayton blamed mass shootings on the following: fatherless families, transgender and homosexual marriages, drag queen advocates, recreational marijuana, violent video games, failed school policies, hatred for our veterans by professional athletes disrespecting our flag and country, Democrats in Congress, disrespect for law enforcement, anti-Trump voters, and last – but not least – the icing on the cake – you guessed it – Obama. Yes – the one who made this statement is an office holder elected by the majority of voters in her district.; which to me is sadder than the one making the statement.

The leader of the Ohio Republican Party asked Candice Keller to resign for the above statement, but (as of this morning) she’s standing by her statement and refusing to resign. “Establishment moderates have never been fans of mine because I ran against their endorsement and won. As the only conservative in this race, I will be taking my (state) Senate campaign to the voters to decide.”

A thought to remember about politics. The party’s goal is to win, therefore finding candidates with the best chance of winning and representing the party. Therefore, the candidate is in an office to represent the best interests of the party. After all, how much time does the office holder (and their organization) spend fundraising for the party and their re-election? The answer is simple – a lot. Therefore, the office holder’s interest in solving issues and representing the non-party flock in their district is (at best) superficial.

As I’ve stated numerous times on these pages, blog breaks are good. How long will this one be? To be honest – I don’t know – but I hope to return in the first 10 days of September – time will tell. Until then, I hope you visit the many good, talented, friendly people I list as A-Team Premium Visitors on the sidebar, plus others on the BlogRoll tab.

By the time I return, summer will be on its last leg – so here’s a classic from years ago to lead me into my blog break. Check out this chops! Keep smiling!

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On an Electoral Reflection

Embed from Getty Images

This idea has festered in my mind long enough, so it’s time to get these thoughts of this true independent’s chest.

For about 5 weeks following the November 2016 election, a good thing happened. We heard a lot about the Electoral College – a system we learned about in school – a system we hear about every 4 years – a system many people know little about – let alone Federalist Paper No. 68 (and I say that with confidence).

Election 2016 was interesting in many ways. It was not only the third time in US history the candidate who won the presidency lost the popular vote, but 2016 marked the highest vote differential of the three (0.8%, 0.5%, 2.8%). What if Mr. Trump won the popular vote by 2.8% but Mrs. Clinton won the Electoral College? Surely the messages would be predictably reversed.

Since the election, we heard some voices declaring that it’s time to amend the Constitution to disband the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote. The losers were the complainers while the winners boosted about the wisdom of the Founding Fathers.

Framing the US Constitution was not a meeting of wise men stroking their beards while contemplating decisions for a document to serve as the foundation of a new country. Discussions were fierce. Egos were bruised. Not every person got their way but, in the end, a collective wisdom prevailed – a wisdom guided by those seeking what would serve the common good for all and for a nation.

Although small states and slave states had issues with the popular vote, the Founding Fathers were skeptical about the voters especially if the popular vote yielded an unwise decision. So, the Founding Fathers wanted a system to act as a check-and-balance on the voters. After all, the Constitution provided of system of checks and balances within the government. The Electoral College was a way to do so other than using state legislatures or the House of Representatives.

In Federalist Paper No. 68, Alexander Hamilton explained the Electoral College was to, “ensure that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” The best analogy I heard was the Electoral College being akin to a judge reviewing a jury’s decision (which they can do).

Was 2016 the time Alexander Hamilton had in mind? Maybe.

Is the Electoral College’s role as a check-and-balance against the people’s vote necessary in the 21st Century? Absolutely, so I unquestionably stand with the wisdom of the Founding Fathers supporting the existence of the Electoral College.

The Founding Fathers envisioned the Electoral College to be composed of people “selected by their fellow citizens from the general masses, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.”

The Founding Fathers also envisioned the members of the Electoral College to do the right thing. To be of independent mind in the face of adversity. To represent a nation, and then fulfill their Constitutional responsibility by doing what is right for the nation.

If it’s not the voters, not the Constitution, not the concept of the Electoral College, is there a problem? If so, where?

The problem obviously lies is the implementation because the Constitution left the selection process to the states, which would be state legislatures that are elected by the people. Although practical on paper, the adopted methods by the states are not the way to implement the desires stated Federalist Paper No. 68. States developed processes based on the political parties – therefore the political parties hijacked the check and balance to have a system that favors them.

Who picks the electors? The political parties.

Who do the political parties select? Loyalists, local party leaders, local officials, donors,etc.

If each party in a state has electors, who has the final vote? In most states, the party of the presidential candidate who won the popular vote in that state become the electors.

Can electors change their mind, thus go against the state’s result? In some states, yes – but in most states, No! Electors who do not follow their prescribed vote may face fines, legal charges, dismissal, and/or replacement.

Are these electors the ones “most likely to possess the information and requisite for such a complicated investigation” and “free from any sinister bias”?

Absolutely not! The electors are party hacks put in place by the party hooligans to follow the party’s self interest – NOT for the people and NOT for a nation as the Federalist Paper clearly explains. The electors are present for the party under the ruse of acting for the nation. The Electoral College is not even remotely close to what the Founding Fathers envisioned for the nation and its people.

The parties are interested in themselves. The parties are interested in adopting their preferences upon the people. The parties only see the world through a biased lens with the settings they prefer. In other words, the parties are not the unbiased, high-minded people who will look out after the best interest of a nation if and when the people make a mistake!

In the farewell address of this nation’s first president, George Washington was correct.

[Political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

George Washington
Saturday, September 17, 1796

Abolition of the Electoral College is not the answer. Giving power the popular vote is not the answer. Reforming the Electoral College process is the answer, but there is a problem because that requires those with power would have to relinquish the power – and we know that’s not going to happen.

On Knowledge and Power

Knowledge: the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association

Knowledge: the range of one’s information or understanding

Knowledge: the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning

Knowledge: the sum of the known – the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind

Power: ability to act or produce an effect

Power: legal or official authority, capacity, or right

Power: possession of control, authority, or influence over others

Power: a controlling group

Mangan’s 14 ways to Acquire Knowledge: Practice, Ask, Desire, Get it From Yourself, Walk Around It, Experiment, Teach, Read, Write, Listen, Observe, Put in Order, Define, Reason

Those with power get it through one or more of the following: Delegated authority, social class, resource currency, association, expertise, persuasion, knowledge, celebrity, force, moral persuasion, groups, traditions, relationships (Wikipedia)

An essence of Power Theory: Those in power want to keep it. Those out of power want to get it.

My point is simple. Politicians aren’t stupid, but their actions are about power – not knowledge. Otherwise, they would work toward solutions for the common good, not party dogma and ideology.

Definitions from Merriam-Webster

On Parties and the Partisans

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.” — George Washington, September 19, 1796, Farewell Address

As we watch the current uproar regarding the event of Benghazi, sadly and shamefully, this is the way Washington works. Regardless who occupies the White House, regardless who controls Congress, our elected officials are primarily about spin – spin to protect an ideology, advancing a political point of view, and setting the course for the next election.  With spin favoring manipulating facts, or even worse, lying, truth and integrity are two of the casualties. With many, if not the majority, of Americans aligning themselves with a preferential political party and relying on biased perspectives, who are the real winners and losers?

The recent IRS news is another example. Congress is jumping into the fray with various committee hearings, which are actually prime opportunities for predictable political grandstanding. Besides taking advantage of diversions to avoid critical issues, the committees probably will not address this key question: Do political groups fit the definition for 501-C4 tax exemption as an organization organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.

The answer: Absolutely, because they act in the welfare of most (if not every) elected official in Washington!

FYI: I wrote the above before reading these two good reads: a column by Ruth Marcus and this commentary from Roll Call.

On Responsibility

Since Arnold Swartzenegger, Anthony Weiner, and pundits on the campaign trail mention responsibility in recent announcements, here is a short bit on this interesting word.

Responsibility: A particular burden of obligation upon one who is responsible (answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management) (American Heritage Dictionary)

Responsibility: The quality or state of being responsible –as a moral, legal, or mental accountability, liable to be called to account as the primary cause (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Our elected officials do not seem to have a handle on neither responsible government nor governing with responsibility. Whether the inability to make a strong, good-for-the-country based decision is due to fright, lack of guts, selfish preservation, or any other inadequate reason, our elected officials are an embarrassment for their lack of responsibility and continual commitment to their party’s supply chain and their re-election. As I have stated before, politicians are first, foremost, and possibly only about their party – thus, is there any surprise at Washington’s continual failure to handle responsibly the key issues of our times?

I recently found two interesting columns focusing on responsibility. The first (from NPR) looks at Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and his recent snafu. In the other column (in USA Today), Jonah Greenburg offers no solutions, but examines the big picture. His last paragraph is loaded.

More and more, it seems as if our politicians want to be the divorced parent who only visits on weekends to do the fun stuff: Give out goodies, go to the movies, enjoy pony rides and ice cream cake, while expecting somebody else to be the tough parent who has to deal with the costs and the consequences. That is a natural human desire, particularly for politicians, a breed of professionals who have an unhealthy need to be liked. The problem is, that’s not what they’re being paid to do.

Swartzenegger and Weiner taint the work and credibility of many politicians. Nonetheless, maybe acting responsibly is expecting too much, especially in light of important topics as debt ceiling, defense, education, government spending, health care, jobs, Medicare, military engagements, revenue enhancement, and Social Security. Since we elect these officials and most seeking re-election most commonly win again, maybe we the people are getting exactly what we deserve.

On Primaries and Political Reality

Each time I hear a politician in an interview defending a candidate because the voters elected him through a legit primary system I want to gag – hence it is time to defend my point.

America has a 2-party system – Each with a very strong infrastructure and deep financial pockets designed for self-preservation. Then, especially at the state and national levels, an agreement between the two creates a new infrastructure for committees. Even if a third-party candidate won a place on Capitol Hill, how much power will they possess?

Each party has a national, state, county, and even local party organization – each with its own executive committee to make decisions such as endorsements. Let’s say person A, because of their desire to serve, decides to enter the race for a particular position – but the executive committee of the local party organization endorsed person B. Any implications?

  • Person B will appear on all sample ballots, but not person A.
  • Person B will appear on all local ads, but not person A.
  • Person B will be able to use “Party-Endorsed Candidate” on their web site and campaign materials, but not person A.
  • Person B will be able to use the party’s emblem on their web site and campaign materials, but not person A.
  • Person B will receive the local party’s work force aid, but not person A.

I think everyone would agree that the odds of winning the election are in person B’s favor, so let’s say they win the primary and eventually take office. Time will pass and the time comes to re-elect the position. Not only does the cycle start again, but person B is now the incumbent, which brings name recognition into play.

Therefore, here’s a twist. What is person B (the incumbent) rankles the local party’s executive committee? Could they loss their endorsement in favor or person C? You betcha!

The late Tip O’Neill’s famous All politics is local quote hits is right on target. Partisan politics starts at the local level. Marching to the party’s drummer starts at the local level. Serving the party’s best interest over the community’s best interest starts at the local level – thus continues at state and national levels as party bosses identify the best soldiers who are electable.

As far as Washington goes, ever wonder way a president has political advisors on staff? Ever wonder why Democrats and Republicans parties have committees to elect senators? Ever wonder the importance of “leadership” PACS headed by members of Congress?

  • Just something to remember as another round of primaries are about to start.
  • Just something to remember when hearing our members of Congress speak.
  • Just something to realize when wishing party moderate working together on common ground.
  • Just something to keep in mind when the president speaks – even when he says “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president; And I believe that.”

There is only minimal (at best) political grace in Washington – the genuine interest of doing what is best for the country. Regardless of who, their words and their actions demonstrate Party First – thus one reason why the public is fed up with Washington (poll) and why more people regard themselves as independents.

By the way, here’s a great article by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal.

On the Widening Divide

History clearly shows that divisions and differences have dominated Washington politics for long than any of us have been alive, so what is going on in Washington is nothing new – but that does not mean it is right.

Political parties, whom themselves are dominated by special interest dollars, have a strong degree of control over the dutifully elected officials. The 2010 primary season for all 435 representatives and a third of the senators will soon be in full swing. Let’s say three candidates are vying for a parties nomination. Watch closely to see if a particular candidate is party-endorsed over the others. That fact says more than we think (and could be a post in itself).

I am sure you have seen TV ads from special interest groups hawking a particular position, but have you ever read a political party’s fund-raising letter? All are for the sake of raising dollars for gaining power, political parties and their special interest cast the opposition as villains while casting fear about America’s demise.

For self-serving purposes, politicians and special interest groups spew twisted half-truths and party rhetoric aimed at benefiting themselves, their party, and the special interests they represent to anyone interested in listening. It is sad that many voters fall prey because of their selective hearing and lack of information.

Listen to the continual beating drum as talk show hosts relentless attack the opposition as if they were satanic powers of evil. Unfortunately, these talking heads appeal to the uninformed that seemingly have an inability to think for themselves.

Although it is not limited to the current health insurance debate, lawmaker behavior serves as an example of adults disguised as middle school students threatening their peers as if club membership is at stake. Then again, others may describe current legislative behavior as a toddler screaming and kicking to get their way, which is probably a favorite lollipop.

Not all that long ago, the Republican and Democratic parties found common ground because overlap existed within the political spectra – yet today that common ground is either absent or minuscule. Today climate is about a party getting what it can when it is in control.

Not only do people who have sold their personal soul for personal gain dominate today’s political climate, these lost souls armed with self-imposed blinders and poor listening skills seem incapable and unwilling to find a solution outside of the political comfort zone.

As for we in the pragmatic center who want to do what is best for the country, we simply watch the continual battle of serving self-interests over America’s interests – Unquestionably, not an example of political grace.

Governance has turned into a sporting event with sides cheer their side and booing the other. No, maybe it is more like an event at the Roman Coliseum as sides watch the warriors against the lions as the hunt for the red meat, then leave with a smug sense of pride.

Instead of focusing on re-election, we need elected officials who are willing to make tough decisions to do what is right. Then again, if they did what was right they probably wouldn’t get re-elected. Maybe we (Americans) are simply getting what we deserve.