Category Archives: US Government

Governing the USA in 2017

Anyone governing the USA needs to take into account the fractured nature of the major parties. They are more like coalitions now than they have been in the past. To pass legislation in such circumstances, rather than make it into one big bill, break it out into many smaller bills and get a different consensus on each.

As they stand, the Republicans are not able to govern on their own, due to the internal breach in the party. They must find ways to include Democrats on each vote, or they risk filibusters in the Senate, or a broken House Republican Caucus that can’t send anything up to the Senate.

Who Watches the Watchers?

Trump intends to hire thousands more Border Guards. Ostensibly, that can be a good thing. More jobs in distressed areas, things like that. But there’s a cloud for that silver lining: whenever the US Government has a mass hiring program, standards for hiring are lowered. Background checks and polygraph tests are skipped and we wind up hiring some bad hombres that later make headlines for use of excessive force, diverting evidence for their personal use, or, worst of all, be involved as inside men for organized criminal activities.

We’ve already got a big problem with cartel moles in the US Border Patrol. Hiring people to go to remote places like Presidio, Texas, where the nearest grocery store is about 90 minutes away, increases the chance that someone way out there, alone in the dark, will fall victim to a bullet or a bribe.

Some Congresspeople have said we could skip background checks by hiring former veterans, but that’s not such a cheerful idea when one realizes that already we have issues with former veterans getting hired by cartels to penetrate organizations that skip background checks for veterans.

So what good is a wall that’s manned by people that are paid to look the other way and to turn off the cameras when criminals want to cross it? At that point, it’s no longer a wall, no matter how high it may rise. It’s just a particularly nasty speedbump.

To say that we’ll deal with that via more stringent controls is dangerously naive. We’ve already got endemic corruption along the border that our current stringent controls were supposed to deal with. And shouldn’t the stringent controls be applied at the time of hire, not afterward? Remember, in this scenario, we got people to work in desolate regions of the US border precisely because we lowered standards. No lowered standards, no people to watch the wall, which potentially saves the cartels some money that would have otherwise been spent on bribes or ammo.

I’m not presenting a bleeding-heart, think of the children reason to not have a border wall because other people have put forward those stories and, frankly, folks most in favor of the wall don’t care for such stories. But I know that they do care about security and fiscal conservatism. To spend billions on a wall that produces a false sense of security is a massive fault against both such standards. That money can be better not spent and thereby not increase the deficit. Or, if the border is in dire need of reinforcement, then it is imperative to use funds to strengthen, not weaken, the Coast Guard, increase controls at the border and for heaven’s sake, repair relations with Mexico, which is only fighting the War on Drugs – La Guerra Contra Narcotrafico – as a favor to a nation it considers to be its friend. If Mexico is not our friend, then it does nothing to stop the flow of criminal activity and those trucks roll north, past bribed guards who see nothing, nothing at all.

And before you suggest something like legalizing heroin to take away those profits from criminals, ask yourself, “If I was a criminal and couldn’t make money smuggling heroin, what else could I profit from smuggling into the USA?” That’s the thing that will fill the trucks instead of what you just legalized.

In my view, the solution along the border has more to do with improving the way we handle immigration and drug addiction. These are tough problems and saying that building a wall will solve them is only a fool’s escape from realities. Building that wall is a form of giving up, like saying, “There’s a wall and, therefore, no problem.” But, as I’ve illustrated above, this border thing is so complicated that the wall soon becomes part of the problem.

So, who exactly pays the ultimate price of this wall?

Rob Peter’s Coast Guard to Pay for Paul’s Wall

Yes, I know Trump said he’d get Mexico to pay for “The Wall.” I’ll believe that when the Treasury of Mexico cuts the check. In the meantime, Trump’s people are proposing moving some budgets around to pay for that big, useless wall. One such proposal is to cut the Coast Guard budget by 14%. Link: The Independent

The Coast Guard is our floating wall, some of the most involved people in the security of America’s borders. In fact, quite a lot of the USA borders a major body of water. And if there’s a big wall and a closed border crossing at Brownsville, then that smuggler of drugs and/or people is going to load everything and everybody on a boat and sail it past an overworked, understaffed Coast Guard. That’s just stupid, cutting the Coast Guard budget to pay for a wall that will block the places where most of the illegal traffic isn’t going.

Remember my example? I stipulated that the border crossing was actually closed. That’s not likely to happen. It’s those border crossings where most of the trucks roll across with their loads, legitimate and otherwise. If one wants to stop the otherwise stuff, then there has to be better searching and control on those crossings. Next up is the sea traffic, which is where our Coast Guard comes in.

Face it, some of the easiest ways to move bulk goods involve trucks and boats, not mule trains crossing the Sonoran Desert or the Sierra Madres. If I was in charge of blocking illicit traffic, I’d put money into searching trucks and boats and kick a few bucks more towards intercepting small aircraft. A wall? Please. That’s totally useless. I don’t care who you voted for or what human rights are or are not violated by a wall. A wall is stupid, especially if, in order to get it, we practically invite everyone to travel by sea instead of land.

25.75 Days

As I write this, President Trump is now 25.75 days into his administration. In that time, there has been a major court challenge to one of his executive orders, an ethics violation by his chief of staff, massive acrimony between his press secretary and the White House press corps, a resignation of his National Security Advisor, and a number of security breaches as unvetted civilians mingled with the Japanese Prime Minister’s state visit to the USA. Normally, stuff like this takes much longer to develop and unfold in an administration, but this is the worst presidential honeymoon I can imagine.

Democratic resolve to resist everything Trump is doing and his acrimonious relationship with GOP insiders aside, there’s another force that seems to be working to undermine President Trump: the intelligence community.

We’ve had presidents and advisors with questionable, shady dealings in the past that didn’t get anyone canned because the intel community in the USA was either involved or favorable to those dealings. But when Nixon passed over Hoover’s #2 at the FBI to head that agency when Hoover died, that man became Deep Throat and he brought down a president. It didn’t have to be Watergate, that just happened to be a topical scandal that presented itself. There were a number of other crooked things that Nixon’s administration was involved with: if Watergate hadn’t happened, one of those would have sufficed.

But it wasn’t just Nixon that went down. It was a large part of his top staff that fell from grace, even including his vice president. He had crossed the FBI, and he paid a dear price.

It’s now 2017, and Trump is finding out what happens when one angers the CIA in one’s presidential campaign. It’s not just that he insulted the agency. Trump campaigned against much of what the CIA is involved in and placed himself as an enemy to the agency. In return, they let him set himself up for a fall.

If the CIA were loyal to Trump, they could have let him know it was best to steer clear of a National Security Advisor with questionable contacts with Russia. Instead, they let Trump go with his choice and then, in just under 25.75 days, they provided enough evidence to torpedo the guy. Who else have they let slip through, only to destroy later?

Trump represents more than just a personal threat to the intel community. Because his populist, nativist movement is hostile to the CIA, they can’t just take down Trump and be done with it. Before they destroy the man, they have to destroy is ideas. As Trump’s staff have their failures made known, watch for the national media to educate one and all of the folly of their ways. Watch for stern, disapproving lectures from GOP senators that are close to the intel community – McCain and Graham come to mind – about the sad things that Trump and his associates are involved in.

The opposition he faces in the Democratic party will have its own day of humiliation, should they dare to support Sanders or anyone like him again. Clinton was undone by the FBI and it seems to me that Trump’s undoing is a quid pro quo agreement with the CIA, who finds him as odious to their ends as Clinton was to the FBI’s.

Immigration Bans

Mr. Trump has begun to carry out his campaign threats to ban all Muslim immigration to the USA. In a limited move based mostly upon states being identified as being highly conducive to the development of terrorists by previous administrations, including the Obama administration, Trump issued an executive order that basically revoked visas of persons currently in transit from those nations: Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, and Iran.

Unlike other travel bans, which were phased in and allowed people in transit to complete their journeys, this ban cut travelers off at the knees. Although they were not singled out in the executive order as being Muslims, that is the de facto reality of the order. Given the context of Trump’s overt campaign statements and covert winks and nudges towards white supremacist groups during his campaign, one has to interpret this as only the beginning of his plans, not as a complete implementation of such.

While the logistics and diplomatic gyrations that would result from banning travel from NATO ally Turkey or the strategically important Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have yet to be realized, there is yet another disturbing element in Trump’s executive order, and it is one that speaks of fascism.

When courts ruled for a stay in the implementation of the executive order, there were persons in DHS that continued to implement it in defiance of the courts.

Let me repeat that in another way: when the judicial branch exercised one of its checks on the power of the executive, the executive chose to ignore the rule of law, which is most certainly a form of tyranny.

The greatest alarm should not be in the President calling for such an order, but for the persons that were determined to continue implementing it in spite of such implementation being illegal. These people do not support the Constitution or the laws of the United States of America, but the ideology of fascism and the doctrine that might makes right. Both are contrary to the spirit of America and certainly the latter is contrary to the law itself.

We live by laws in the United States and when we have disputes, we are to dispose of them via legal means. The courts can give a hearing on the executive order and, based upon the courts’ rulings, implement or withhold it as appropriate. Anything less than that is despotism, and we cannot have that.

While Trump was within his rights as President to issue an executive order, it was also the right of federal judges to rule on the constitutionality of such executive orders. It is NOT within the rights of DHS personnel to continue enforcing the executive order after the courts ruled for a stay on its enforcement.

A Quick Note…

A quick note to all the Republican partisans complaining about possible voter fraud: where were you in 2000 and 2004? Chickens come home to roost in politics. Remember how the GOP leaders said that Diebold voting machines being made by a strong GOP backer wasn’t an issue? Remember how the GOP leaders said that the claims of black voters being incorrectly identified as felons was overstated? Remember when a few Florida ballot boxes turned up with plenty of Republican votes, sometimes more than were registered in the precinct? Chickens coming home to roost.

Sure, this election is on track to be pretty much handed to Clinton, maybe even in a big way – Texas might go purple, if not blue. A lot of that is Trump’s fault, plain and simple. He’s highly offensive to a majority of Americans, more so than Clinton. But if the Democrats do anything shady or even illegal to slant the results in their favor, don’t come crying to me about it. The way 2000 and 2004 played out basically condoned mild to moderate voter fraud from the top on down.

I’m an independent voter that has been hugely disappointed with both major parties since the 1990s, and it sickens me how they have allowed the political process to be increasingly criminalized and the politicians to be telemarketers selling their votes to the biggest donors. I’ll agree that Clinton’s campaign has been doing some awfully sleazy things, but to any Republican – you have met the enemy, and she is y’all.

America’s Awful Nightmare

Watching the debate last night, I was chilled when I heard Trump say that if he was president, Clinton would be in jail. Trump has set off a number of fascist alarms, and this was his newest one. But to make such threats openly and then to have them resonate with a significant population of Americans is what bothers me the most.

While I do believe that Clinton escaped prosecution because of her position and influence, as have a large number of other rich and powerful Americans, I do not believe that making naked threats about jailing political opponents is the right way of dealing with that issue. I’ve spoken out against the quiet jailing of political prisoners in the USA, but this is a new one. For a major political party’s candidate to call for the pitchforks and torches to go after his opponent is an appeal to mob rule. That is most certainly not the American way.

I don’t care how big a threat one may think Clinton is, America will survive. It always has. We made it through the constitutional end-runs of Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton I, Bush II, and Obama, we can survive a Clinton II. At least all those people gave lip service to the ideals of the Constitution. Trump does not. He makes open appeals to white supremacists and fascists and he does not apologize for them. I truly hope that he loses, but that does not solve the problem of his supporters.

There are people who support Trump precisely because of his sexism, racism, and fascism. There are people who support Trump precisely because of his strong-man views and the hope that he may very well sweep aside the constitutional framework of our government and change the USA into something more on the lines of what Mussolini wanted in Italy or Vargas in Brazil or Peron in Argentina. If Trump fades from view, these people will seek out another flashy personality with no love of any truth that stands in his path to power. They will seek out that man and put him forward, and they will recruit.

And this is what concerns me about a Clinton presidency: that it will do little to still the currents that are drawing Americans towards fascism. FDR was able to offer an alternative to extremism with his New Deal. LBJ and Reagan also offered up big ideas in big packages and gave presidential turns that appealed to a wide range of Americans. Clinton I was the last of the big-tent presidents. Starting with Bush II, we have had presidents that have ruled without reaching out to the opposition, and that is a bad precedent for a president.

The resulting legislative gridlock and rule by executive order plays into the hands of fascists. If they like an executive order, it shows to them the promise of a more powerful leader. If they do not like an executive order, they howl murderously about how they have no more rights – but they will gleefully toss all those rights aside to get someone in office that will put their opponents in their places, no matter what. A Clinton II presidency will only make the fascists look for a more presentable proponent of their ideas. What we need is another FDR, LBJ, or even a Reagan to bring all of America back together to the negotiating table. Failing to do that will only strengthen the ranks of the fascists.

The Math of the US Senate

For all the bombast of presidential candidate supporters, they fail to admit that, unless one of the major parties has fewer than 41 senators, it’ll be a cold, cold day before there’s a new Supreme Court justice. There’s no compromise there, and given that a party with 41 or more senators can just say “filibuster” to kill a bill, halt a nomination, or spoil some other plan of the majority party.

It doesn’t matter which party has the majority in the Senate. That party needs a supermajority to get anything done. I have to admit this, as well. I’d like to see what happens if a Libertarian is in the White House, maybe he could open up negotiations… but he’d only be able to get his way if the Senate agrees. Same for either major party candidate, and they have the burden of having the other major party making it its sworn duty to oppose all the way, unless a major bank needs a bill passed. Then they all come together.

Maybe that’s what I can use to defuse effusive supporters of any candidate: without that Senate, he or she will have to rule by executive order. Obama wanted stuff done, and had to resort to executive orders. So did Bush the Second. So will the next president, if he or she wants stuff done. It’s all due to the math of the Senate.

Minitruth to Clinton’s Rescue

1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual… all the same, the news headlines trumpeting that Clinton was the presumptive Democrat Party nominee like so many Buzzfeed links was a disgusting sight to see. There are some major primaries today, primaries that Clinton could lose, and this kind of news is the kind of propaganda that can sway some voters to “vote with the winner,” even though she’s not actually the winner. The reporting was completely orchestrated. There’s a Ministry of Truth out there, maybe part of the government, maybe not, and it’s working on behalf of Clinton.

To me, the “why” is clear: there are strong forces that fear the prospect of a president that would reset the rules they’ve so carefully constructed to favor themselves. Trump has a strong chance of upsetting a number of apple carts, Sanders would definitely upset even more of them. Clinton? Well, those $250,000 speech fees from Goldman Sachs don’t tell no lies: she’s the choice of the status quo. At a time when America desperately needs a safety valve to release a great deal of anger, frustration, and potential violence, Clinton represents keeping a lid on all that explosive pressure.

There were times when the USA was about to blow apart in its past. In 1860, it actually did when a no-compromise Lincoln got elected. But in 1900 and 1932, the nation was about to face tremendous upheavals if something wasn’t done to make it possible for average working families to get by. Socialism and even Communism loomed large as possible solutions for America’s problems, but Roosevelts in both those elections were elected on trust-busting and New Deal platforms that they largely carried out. Leftist agitation subsided with those victories, and the far right was placated enough to not launch a coup.

But this time around? We really should have had our reset in 2001. Instead, we got a Bush and the status quo. We were promised a reset in 2008, but Obama delivered more of the same. Clinton in 2016 is not going to be good for most Americans, but her backers are too blind to history to see that their best chances for survival lie in letting go of the throttle a bit and allowing things to get back to where they were 50-60 years ago.

What happens if they don’t let up? Simple. Other countries have shown the pattern. Either the peasants with nothing to lose rise up and put their mansions to the torch while they rend the rich limb from limb, or the authoritarian government put in place to keep the peasant uprising from happening turns on the rich and uses their profits for “the good of the state.” Democracy doesn’t survive in a world where the media blatantly lines up to lie on behalf of a candidate, not for long.

About Those School Bathrooms…

My thoughts on the school bathroom issue… it shouldn’t be an issue. Kids know which bathroom they need to use, particularly at a high school age. When we take time to understand one another, there’s no need for a law, one way or another. But if we’re going to have a law – and I speak directly to the conservatives here – one that respects property rights and individual freedoms is the law to support. We must support nondiscrimination in housing, employment, and access to government-owned facilities.

As for restaurants, bars, gas stations, and other small venues, most of those are one person per bathroom affairs, regardless of gender. They are essentially private, so it makes as no difference who goes into which one, unless there’s a line.

A few years ago, this wasn’t a federal, state, or local decision. It was a personal decision. It should remain that way and the law should protect that personal decision.