Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Opinion: Conservatism has no one to blame but itself...

The Republican candidate for President is at a war of sorts against the Republican Speaker of the House.

Think about that.

The Republican party is in crisis mode with their whirlwind and morally repugnant candidate, Donald Trump driving the GOP train off the rails. Escape routes are nowhere to be found for the party members. Stay loyal to Trump - pay a price. Reject Trump - pay a price. Try to quietly take no stand - pay a price.

Most people wouldn't feel sorry for politicans, political parties, and those that glom onto them for self promotion, and neither do I. Politicans are typically their own worst enemy, so usually they deserve what they get. No tears from me, sorry.

Way back when Trump first made rumblings about seriously running for POTUS this cycle, people laughed it off as just another public relations stunt. As it became evident he was serious this time, they still laughed and called it a joke that shouldn't and needn't be taken seriously. When the Donald would tangle with serious, professional politicians he would quickly be cut down to size. Nothing to worry about, let's all enjoy the good laughs Trump is sure to provide.

No one's laughing now, are they?

I've felt from very, very early on that a candidate like Trump would be well-positioned to take advantage of our current political polarization.

Since the days of Reagan, there's been a steady drip, drip, drip of anti-government, anti-progressive rhetoric in the US. The merging of the conservative movement and the religious right, cable news outlets like Fox News, media outlets like Brietbart and right wing talk radio, etc... all stoked the divisions we have now.

The hard right, which preached the message of we're losing our freedoms, liberty, our country, etc.. staked out a very loud but very tiny sliver of the american electorate as they grew in influence over the last few decades.

As more and more people bought into the notion that all government is bad, the appeal of a true outsider grew and grew. Most weren't viable and faded away during general election campaigns.

This cycle, the far right voices demonized almost everyone, except for their chosen few like Ted Cruz. Enter Donald Trump who isn't a politician, but IS a celebrity and has great name recognition.

He jumped on the bandwagon the far right was preaching and scaring people with. He hijacked their movement and one by one, kicked another conservative, then another and another to the curb until only he and Cruz were left.

Ted Cruz, despite his education and his speaking skills is not well liked, by most people. He comes across like a dick to most people, so he didn't get the support he needed to survive.

By attrition, Trump prevailed as a true outsider who heard people's pain and had no fucks to give about running roughshod over the other GOP candidates.

Basically, IMO, the conservative movement and the religious right, cable news outlets like Fox News, media outlets like Brietbart and right wing talk radio, etc. created the conditions for a wildcard outsider with an appearence of ability to stroll in to american politics and win the nomination. When you lay down with the likes of Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Rudy Guliani, Breitbart, Rush, etc. did you really think you could walk away from that unholy union undiseased?

Put more crassly, if you willfully lie down with pigs in a pigpen, you will surely walk away smelling much like the shit you just embraced. What did you think was going to happen?

The GOP has no one to blame but themelves for the epic ass kicking Mr. Trump is about to receive.

They swore they were going to re-inivent themselves after the '12 relection of President Obama. They did a nice internal study, them tossed it in a drawer and kept going they way they had been.

If there's not a significant, meaningful self-examination of their party, their values and policy positions in the next few months, they deserve their demise.

America will be MORE diverse in the coming decades, not less and the Republican Party's myopic allegience to older Christian white males will come with a high price.

We need a vibrant, contempoary Republican party in the United States. The Democratic party has its own issues and a history of incompetance. A viable 3rd party option would be healthy as well. The dye is cast, and barring something utterly unforseen, Hillary Clinton will be our next President of the United States.

If the Republican leaders and party movers and shakers don't embrace new ideals and shun, publicly shun their rabble-rousers and fear-mongerers, they will move closer to, not further away from national irrelevance.

And it will be well-deserved...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Guns: We're Arguing Over the Wrong Things...

June 12, 2016: 49 dead, 50 wounded, Orlando, FL.
December 2, 2015: 14 dead, 22 wounded,  San Bernardino, CA.
November 29th, 2015: 3 dead, 9 injured, Colorado Springs, CO.
October 1, 2015: 9 dead, 9 injured, Roseburg, OR.
July 16, 2015: 5 dead, 3 wounded, Chattanooga, TN.
June 18th, 2015: 9 dead, Charleston, SC.

You get the idea...

Gun debates are ubiquitous.  We don’t seem to be getting anywhere however.
Some thoughts...

1) If you’re truly fearful that President Obama or Hillary Clinton are going to confiscate all the guns in this country, you can relax. Obama hasn’t taken anyone’s guns away, and Hillary is less liberal than he is on this issue. No matter what you hear from the NRA or talk show hosts like Shawn Hannity or Rush Limbaugh, it’s fear-mongering. You’re being played. Talk shows can be informative and entertaining as hell, but they should never be anyone’s primary source of information about anything. Gun sales are robust, especially after a big event like the shootings in Dallas this past week. (Gun stocks rose over 5% the next day...)

2) Mass shootings are horrific and terribly sad but they make up a very small percentage of gun deaths. According to Center for Disease Control, over 33,000 people died from gun violence in 2013. Of those 33,000 victims, “mass shootings” accounted for just 1.5% of all gun deaths. The vast majority of gun deaths are suicides. Homicides have stayed pretty consistent in the 11,000/yr. range. Suicides using a gun are rising in the US. In 1999, we had roughly 16,500 firearm suicides in the US. In 2013, that number grew to a staggering 21,175 firearm suicides. In Ohio alone, more than 3 Ohioans die by suicide every day. Roughly, 1,100 of our fellow Buckeyes commit suicide and guns are the most common way to end your life for men and the second most common for women.

3) In 1996, Congressmen Jay Dickey from Arkansas who, along with like minded fellow Representatives, didn’t like what the CDC was coming up with in their research in gun violence and its effect on public health. In 1996, Dickey added an amendment onto a House Bill that prohibited the CDC from using any public funds to “...advocate or promote gun control.” The language was vague and researchers didn’t want to risk their careers or other funding to find out how far they could go. Therefore, gun violence research basically ground to a halt.

They weren’t done. The House then voted to strip $2.6M from the CDC’s budget, precisely the amount spent on firearm injury research the year before. Congress also applied the same restrictions on other Federal Agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute for Health.

To quote physician and epidemiologist Arthur Kellerman, “Health researchers are ethically bound to conduct, analyze, and report studies as objectively as possible and communicate the findings in a transparent manner...criticizing research is fair game; suppressing research by targeting its sources of funding is not.

Jay Dickey reversed himself in 2012 after the Aurora, CO theater shootings where 12 people were killed and another 73 were injured. Dickey said “...scientific research should be conducted into preventing firearm injuries and that ways to prevent firearm deaths can be found without encroaching on the rights of legitimate gun owners. The same evidence-based approach that is saving millions of lives from motor-vehicle crashes, as well as from smoking, cancer and HIV/AIDS, can help reduce the toll of deaths and injuries from gun violence.“

4) The NRA in all of its infinite purity contributes heavily to those conservative congressional entities and candidates who can aid them in their policy interests. Those conservatives then toe the line when it comes to blocking or voting down any legislation the NRA finds objectionable. The NRA continues to wail that Obama/Hillary are COMING FOR YOUR GUNS, the 2nd Amendment is UNDER ATTACK, etc... Gun sales/gun stocks are healthy... Congressmen get re-elected, nothing ever changes, life is good for the whores on the Hill and in the executive suites of the NRA.

We should be demanding the removal of the impediments preventing us from studying the gun issue on a Federal level.

What is the NRA afraid of?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Let's Take A Breath on the Wright-Patt Air Force Base Bible Removal…

(This column was published in the Dayton Daily News on April 26th, 2016...)

From the Dayton Daily News  earlier this month…

 "Wright-Patterson Medical Center has removed a Bible from a POW/MIA display after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation lodged a complaint, according to a base spokesperson."

  The social media discussions on this issue I’ve seen are pretty heavily in favor of those who feel the Bible should not have been removed. Many stated their positions on the premise that the United States is a Christian Country and the actions taken by WPAFB were just the latest in a long string of widespread, anti-Christian actions, aimed at spreading the “War on Christians.”

That’s right, the “War on Christians.”


A quick Google search tells me there’s roughly 575 churches in the Dayton area. Nationally, according to the 2010 “Religious Congregation Membership Study” there are roughly 350,000 churches in the United States. That’s seven thousand for each State. That’s 116.4 churches for every county in the country.

That’s a lot of churches.

The vast, vast majority of these churches also receive tax exempt status on their income. Instead of closing down churches and/or arresting those trying to conduct or attend services, the United States government grants them building permits and tax breaks. A rather odd “war strategy.” I don’t believe for a second anyone who plans on attending a church service this weekend in the Dayton area has any real reason to worry about being arrested, forced to confront protesters or face personal injury. You shouldn’t either.

There are Christians actually under attack in the world. Not here in the US, but in places like Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. People trying to practice their faith are being targeted, apprehended and usually sentenced to long prison terms or death. Likewise, missionaries who bravely chose to enter such lands knowing the price tag should they be caught is harsh and severe. Those people can legitimately comment on the war on their faith.

Every time I read someone’s online screed about how they and their like minded “Believers“ are the victims of this imaginary “War on Christians,” I think about those other Christians actually in  danger. It’s not some hyperbole written between sips of a Pumpkin Spice Latte by someone who sits with their feet up in a comfortable booth at Starbucks while they listen to their favorite Pandora mix on their earbuds. “That guy” isn’t under attack.

This thing at Wright-Patt AFB isn’t an attack on religion.

Given that it’s Government property, any inclusion of any one religious text like the Bible, Torah, Koran, etc. in a display like the one at the WPAFB medical clinic is best left out of it. Despite what some folks apparently think, the United States doesn’t have an army of Christian warriors. It is comprised of Americans. Christians, Jews and Muslims. Agnostics and Atheists.  White and Black. Yellow and Brown. Rich and Poor. Educated and uneducated. City kids and country kids. Men and women. Conservatives and Progressives.

Americans, all of them.

I hope, out of respect for those truly facing danger for practicing their faith, the next time someone thinks they’re a victim of religious persecution, they slow down for a second and think about those other people.

“War on Christians?”

It ain’t happening here.

Let’s take a breath.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Local nursing homes need your time, help...

(This column was published in the Dayton Daily News on April 2nd, 2016...)

In the greater Miami Valley, located in Southwest Ohio, there are approximately 250 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities within an hour or so drive from downtown Dayton. Almost every community you can name has at least one. Dayton and Springfield have a lot, but smaller towns like Eaton, New Carlisle, Urbana and Sidney each have at least one of these places for seniors, as well.
For 20 years, I’ve traveled around thie region performing for the folks that call these places home. I often see volunteers helping out the activity professionals who coordinate activities for the residents. These volunteers help out in many different ways. Some bring residents to and from music programs, call bingo, deliver mail, paint nails, read aloud today’s newspaper or serve refreshments.
Some read verses from the Bible, while some sing hymns. A volunteer may visit a person who is lonely, perhaps depressed and craves the comfort of a hand to hold, a face to smile at or arms to be held by. Someone to talk to. Despite the very best efforts of the special people who work as activities professionals (and they are highly dedicated and caring people), the hours can go by awfully slowly for some residents.
After talking with several of my clients, one thing is clear: We need more volunteers in our Dayton-area nursing homes. Carolyn Hoff, Activity Director at Brookhaven Nursing and Rehab in Brookville, OH, says, “The volunteer programs have been on the decline due to the overall aging of our population and also increased longevity. The baby boomers are now caretaking of their parents, children and grandchildren — and at times, their spouse — often on top of maintaining their careers thus they no longer have time to volunteer.”
Families also play an important part with those confined in these facilities, but as Hoff adds, “Often when family visit, the resident speaks to them about personal issues such as wanting to go home, finances and family issues. Whereas when a volunteer stops in, it’s relaxing light topics, comfort, social.”
Volunteers play a unique and valuable role in residents’ lives. The benefit isn’t limited to the recipients. Those who volunteer often find the work to be quite fulfilling and worthwhile.
We are transitioning in the need for care from the Silent Generation, (those 71 years of age or older) to the Baby Boomers, (those between 52 and 70). As boomers (in greater numbers) replace the previous generation, need for these facilities will grow, as will demand for additional health care professionals and other staff to provide care for the residents. Volunteers can play a vital role in this challenge.
April 10-16 is National Volunteer Week in the United States. The need for volunteers, especially in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, has never been greater. The people who reside in these facilities are our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles and our brothers and sisters. They are our teachers, our coaches, our bosses and our co-workers.
They are our friends. Someday, they may very well be us.
Please give some thought to volunteering.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities contact a nursing home or assisted living facility near you for more information or call your local Area Agency on Aging.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why Voting For Trump Makes Sense...(For Now, At Least...)

Come Tuesday, March 15, yours truly will be voting for Donald J. Trump.

Not because I agree with him on his policies. (I don’t.) 

Not because I see leadership qualities in him. (I don’t.) 

Not because I think he can spark the economy, improve our broken healthcare delivery system or fix the Veteran’s Administration’s problems, etc. (I don’t.) 

Certainly not because he shares the same values that I do. (He doesn’t.)

Why will I be voting for him, then?

I’ll vote for Trump because I think his winning the Republican Nomination produces the best chance to force the current Republican Party to seriously reinvent itself. Which would be good for the Country, regardless of a person’s individual political tastes.

When President Obama won reelection in 2012, the Republican National Committee conducted a “GOP Autopsy.” A large project, the RNC’s report came up with many recommendations, including reaching out to minorities, addressing the notion the party doesn’t care about people and attacking corporate welfare.

As a former Republican, I wish I could point to some concrete improvements along these lines, but I can’t. If anything, the far right wing of the GOP has won the argument on what sort of candidates to run. There are no real moderates. Our Governor, John Kasich a clear-cut conservative, is the most reasonable of those remaining, but his path to the nomination is hard to see.

The GOP’s base mocks and attacks our current President, a decent and thoughtful man, while cheering for a con-man because of his bluster. The Republican establishment is doing their best to move voters away from Trump to either Rubio or Cruz. It’s unclear to me how successful they will be.
Trump embraces much of the nonsense the GOP has been selling over the last two decades. Symbolically, he is the Republican Party’s Frankenstein, who has sprung to life and seems intent on destroying the voices and thinking that gave him life. His simple message, and it is simple, is that America isn’t great anymore, but if we elect him, She can be once more. He never really says exactly how this would happen, but the millions who have voted for him so far don’t care. They’re not overly interested in policy. They’ve heard it all before. They don’t want to hear promises, because they’ve been lied to before as well. They want something different this time.

If Trump faces Hillary Clinton in the General, it’s my belief and hope the Democrats will win the Presidency by a large margin and regain seats in the US Senate. In spite of Clinton being a rather dreary candidate herself.

The Republicans have no one to blame but themselves.  Catering to the extreme voices comes at a cost, and the bill needs to be paid. It won’t be easy. Congressmen who compromise are targeted by special interests with deep pockets. They’re afraid to take any stands that would result in them being “primaried” by a more pure conservative challenger-with unlimited cash to spend.  

Maybe at that point, the adults in the GOP will rise up, tell the hard core tea party and right wing talk radio voices to take a back seat and remold the Republican Party in a modern, expansive and intelligent fashion.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

GOP should be careful what they wish for with regard to Supreme Court Nominee

(This column was published in the Dayton Daily News on February 26th, 2016...)

 Within hours of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last Saturday,
Republican leadership and the remaining Republican candidates for President voiced
the opinion that President Barack Obama should not pick the successor to Scalia.

Majority Leader McConnell quickly released a statement that said, “the American
people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.
Therefore this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” Senate
Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley offered, “It’s been standard practice over the last
eighty years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during presidential election
years.” GOP front­runner Donald Trump advised a “delay-­delay-­delay” approach
while fellow candidate Ted Cruz said “we owe it to Scalia and the Nation to ensure
that the next President names his replacement.” Marco Rubio said, “The next
President must nominate a justice who will continue Justice Scalia’s unwavering
belief in the founding principles.”

Replacing a staunch conservative with a progressive on the Court flips the balance
of power from leaning conservative to leaning liberal. On issues from Citizens
United, to labor rights, to abortion, gun control, voter’s rights, etc., there’s no
shortage of impactful cases headed the Court’s way. Considering the age of the
three oldest Justices, multiple vacancies during the next Presidential term would
surprise no one. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 82, Anthony Kennedy is 79 and
Stephen Breyer is 77.
Instead of waiting for a nomination from President Obama, the Republicans
couldn't wait to get on record on how they would refuse to allow this sitting
president to select Justice Scalia's replacement. By merely dragging their feet a bit
and ultimately rejecting the nomination, which is well within their rights and
would’ve been a vastly smarter thing to do, this problem would’ve handled much
more deftly. Having chosen a different path to address this, they look like
hypocritical, spoiled brats at the moment.
Senate Republicans should choose their next steps very carefully. Looking forward,
if the Democrats hold the White House and either President Clinton or President
Sanders is putting forth the nomination, do we think they will be inclined to submit
a less progressive name then President Obama did? I don’t.

If President Trump or Cruz is doing the nominating then the GOP fears become
moot. However, there is nothing currently suggesting either would win in a
comfortable fashion come November. That’s a big risk for the GOP should they
refuse Obama his nominee. What if they lose?
If the GOP’s goal is to block Obama, they can do that. If their goal is to effect the
ideological makeup of the Court as little as possible, they should reconsider their
approach. Obama, a major disappointment to progressives, is unlikely to nominate
a radical. His previous two nominees (Sotomayor and Kagan) are not considered
extreme. If they block him and then lose in November, the new President will
submit their own nominee. By their actions, the GOP may facilitate adding a far
more progressive voice to the Court than Mr. Obama would.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

In the wake of Antonin Scalia's unexpected passing, now what?

Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice
(March 11, 1936 – February 13, 2016)

With the unexpected and sudden passing of Justice Scalia, many questions abound on what happens to his seat during this time of fragmented government and a highly contentious presidential campaign. Arguably, the strongest conservative voice on the court, President Obama will surely nominate someone well to Scalia's left ideologically. Leaders of the Republican party have forcefully expressed their intent to handle things in such a way that the next President will nominate a successor to the fallen Justice. The President and his fellow Democrats feel strongly that the Senate should hold confirmation hearings and consider whoever Obama puts forth.

The politics are intense in this matter, and not without complexity.

With a mostly evenly devided Court, each nomination potentially sways the institution one way or another. Reflecting the Country, a divided court is probably best as opposed to a heavily lopsided one. Swing vote Justices, like Anthony Kennedy of perhaps Chief Justice John Roberts, carry a tremendous amount of power in determining the Court's path. Nominations really matter in times like this, and with 2-3 other Justices getting up in age, there may be more replacements needed over the next few years. Just one of the reasons this Presidential cycle is so important for both parties. The next POTUS may appoint several justices, potentially altering the "split" nature of the Court, the effect of which, would touch many aspects of American life for decades to come.

Everyone can point to their pet campaign issue of the debt, foreign affairs, the economy, entitlements, etc., but one issue that potentially / eventually effects everyone is how the Supreme Court rules on its cases. Citizens United, a challenge to Roe V Wade, the pending Unions case, perhaps a new challenge to the Affordable Care act, etc. Each effects thousands of Americans in unique ways.

What do conservatives want?

Conservatives want two things. First, they want to delay any actions taken that would result in a new Justice being confirmed. They understand that Obama will replace Scalia with a progressive mind, probably moderate, and that the effects of that eventuality would be devestating to the Conservative cause. Secondly, they want to win back the White House next November. Give the current state of disarray in the Republican field, they have to feel their best chance lies in delaying Scalia's replacement at almost any price. President Obama is clearly acting within the Constitutional scope of his powers to nominate a candidate for the Court. Likewise, via the somewhat elusively defind "advise and consent" clause of  Article two, Section two of the Constitution, the Senate can delay the process indefinately. (Not without a cost, of course...)

What do progressives want?

Progressives also want two things. First, they want to move forward deliberately with the nomination process and see Senate Confirmation hearings happen within the next few months, resulting in a confirmed nominee to fill Scalia's seat. Secondly, they too want to win the Presidential Election come November and be positioned to fill another 2-3 seats on the Court. The Democrats fear an uncooperative Senate and then worst of all, losing the election in the Fall. That would be a disaster for both short and long term considerations. President Obama would like nothing more than to see an unexpected Supreme Court appointmentbe the cherry on his last term.

The politics of it all...

So many moving pieces to consider.

If the Senate Conservatives get their way, there won't be any vote, regardless of whom President Obama nominates. It's a kind of shitty way to impede the Court's restroration to full status, but this isn't flag-football, people. The more moderate Republicans still around may warn of the potentially high price their party may pay for such a stunt, but for the most part, no one else in that party is paying attention anymore.

If the nomination process is blocked by the Senate leadership, look for the White House and both Democratic candidates Clinton and Sanders to use this a club to beat the GOP field with regularly. They will tell the country that the Senate is merely holding things up so as to avoid Obama filling another SCOTUS seat. The Conservative base couldn't care less, but what will moderate conservatives and independents think of such a plan? Does it become a campaign issue with traction for indy voters? Dangerous ground here to tread for the GOP.


You've heard the phrase,  "...better the devil you know than the one you don't." While refusing to grant advise and consent to the sitting President and his nominee, what happens if they succeed in blocking Obama short term. Let's assume Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency. Would she put forth candidates more or less progressive than Obama would? I think that after delaying the entire process and beating the mantra "the next POTUS should pick the next Supreme Court Justice" to death, they'd be in a weak position to then obstruct a Clinton nominee.

Speaking of Clinton, while thought to be more of a hawk on military matters than President Obama, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders - Clinton's only competition in the race for the Democratic nomination this cycle - has forced HRC to move to her left. If Clinton wins in November, does she submit a moderate progressive to faciliate bi-partisanship or does she put forth a staunch progressive, to take advantage of her political capital from winning the election? What if Sanders wins? Wouldn't he certainly push for progressives on the bench? Of course he would.

Given that, isn't there an argument to be made that the Senate Republicans shouldn't break any speed records, but given the potential for a worse otucome that what Obama might give them, agree to work with President Obama and give him one more appointment.

It may be the Republican's best chance at a more moderate voice replacing the voice of Justice Scalia...


Here are two very enjoyable reads on this issue from the SCOTUSBLOG, a terrific web source for all things Supreme Court.

The first is an article by Tom Goldstein, Publisher of the SCOTUSBLOG, on who Goldstein thinks is the favorite to be nominated by President Obama.

The second is one by the legendary Lyle Denniston, who has covered the Supreme Court since 1958. Denniston gives us an inside look at the current machinations within the Supreme Court and how Scalia's passing will likely effect the Court's short term future.


Friday, February 12, 2016

I got to ask the Democratic candidates a question (No, they didn't answer it...)

(This column was published in the Dayton Daily News on February 12th, 2016...)

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in a private group discussion of undecided voters sponsored by the PBS Newshour on Facebook. A few dozen of us were encouraged to discuss campaign related issues and submit follow-up questions for the Democratic debate in Milwaukee, WI last night.

Early on I submitted a follow-up question for Bernie Sanders that reads as follows:

(From the transcript)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to the Democratic presidential debate. Before we return to our questions, we have a follow-up question from our Facebook group. And it is to Senator Sanders.
Senator, it comes from Bill Corfield. He is a 55-year-old musician from Troy, Ohio. And he asks: "Are there any areas of government you would like to reduce?"
SANDERS: Hey, I'm in the United States Senate, and anyone who doesn't think that there is an enormous amount of waste and inefficiency and bureaucracy throughout government would be very, very mistaken.
I believe in government, but I believe in efficient government, not wasteful government.
IFILL: How about you, Senator Clinton -- Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Absolutely. And, you know, there are a number of programs that I think are duplicative and redundant and not producing the results that people deserve. There are a lot of training programs and education programs that I think can be streamlined and put into a much better format so that if we do continue them they can be more useful, in public schools, community colleges, and colleges and universities.
I would like to take a hard look at every part of the federal government and really do the kind of analysis that would rebuild some confidence in people that we're taking a hard look about what we have, you know, and what we don't need anymore. And that's what I intend to do.
SANDERS: If I could just answer that, we have also got to take a look at the waste and inefficiencies in the Department of Defense, which is the one major agency of government that has not been able to be audited. And I have the feeling you're going to find a lot of cost overruns there and a lot of waste and duplicative activities.
 My thoughts:
Overall, I'm disappointed. The answers were boilerplate and not very informative. Certainly not inspiring. Sanders responded first and frankly didn't answer the question. Clinton in turn went straight to "...streamlining wasteful programs involving training and education areas", which sounds good on the surface, but had no real specifics. She then wandered into word-salad land when she said, "...programs can be streamlined and put into a much better format so that if we do continue them they can be more useful, in public schools, community colleges and colleges and universities." What on earth does that mean? 

Sanders, realizing that Clinton had rambled longer than he had, then said something rather amazing. "If I could just answer that..." Wait a second. "If I could just answer that?"  Full stop, Bernie. They asked you first. Remember? Whew...

Sanders then brought up waste and inefficiencies in the Defense Department, which is what he should've said in the first place. He didn't stop there as he (not to be outdone by Hillary) proved he too could say the word "duplicative" in regard to his desire to seeing an audit performed on the Department of Defense.

Duplicative is an odd word. It's not the kind of word regular people use very often, but here are the two leading Democratic candidates for President, and they both say it within 15 seconds of each other.

Somewhere, Marco Rubio was laughing...

This was, in my opinion, a softball question, asked in front of a friendly audience and mostly sympathetic viewers. No harm done. If this question gets the same sort of silly non-answers during one of the Presidential Debates, that will be a different story. They will pay a price for not having something more polished to offer up.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Hampshire Primary Winners and Losers...

There wasn't much drama as to who would win the Republican or Democratic primaries last night. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders had both been polling comfortably in first place for a long time and nothing would change that come yesterday. 

With a record setting turn-out, the people of the Granite State helped professional pollsters feel good about themselves once more after a rocky showing in the Iowa Caucuses last week. The final results conformed to the conventional wisdom that Trump and Sanders would win by a wide margin, that Hillary Clinton only had a small likelihood to come within ten percent of Sanders (she finished 22% behind Bernie). Pollsters also predicted a respectable showing from Ohio Governor John Kasich who finished a solid second, four percentage points in front of Iowa GOP winner Ted Cruz and five points ahead of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. 

The winners and losers of the 2016 New Hampshire Primaries...


Donald Trump -  After a bit of a clumsy 2nd place finish in Iowa, the Trump campaign responded with a renewed focus on the importance of a ground game in New Hampshire. While the outcome was never really in doubt, the time between Iowa and the Granite State allowed the campaign to recalibrate its approach slightly, and should serve it well going forward. With a 16 point lead in the South Carolina Primary Real Clear Politics poll, Trump is sitting pretty as the primary season moves South. With the affirmation that the New Hampshire victory provides him, look for even more swagger and bombast going forward. 

John Kasich - Ohio Governor John Kasich, at least for a night, broke out of the cluster of himself, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. New Hampshire was everything to the Kasich campaign, who mostly took a pass on Iowa in favor of touring the state and spreading his message via over one hundred town halls. His efforts were rewarded, as was his unique message and positioning with regard to the other Republicans in the race. Heavy on experience, policy and (for lack of a better word) his belief in  "American togetherness." Kasich is well funded, he has a very good organisation to help him as the primaries head south. Of concern is how well does he play in South Carolina (where he doesn't currently place in the top five of the RCP poll) and beyond. 

Bernie Sanders - Sanders seems to me to be a genuine, sincere and passionate man. He crushed HRC last night with 60% of the votes cast on the Democratic side of the primary. How badly did he defeat her by? CBS News reported that Sanders had captured a stunning 82% of the female vote. That is terrible news for Hillary Clinton. A Sanders win surprised no one and what the future holds for him only time will tell. It's great to win the opening game of the primary season, especially when its in your back yard, no doubt. But we'll quickly see the sheer magnitude of the Clinton campaign with all of its finances and infrastructure as we head to South Carolina and Nevada. Will Sanders be able to get his populist message to resonate enough to make a difference going forward?

Vermin Supreme - When you show up at other people's campaign events with a boot on your head, you're going to get noticed. This novelty candidate wound up with 243 votes, which is more votes than Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore (who is still officially an active candidate), George Pataki, Lindsay Graham and Bobby Jindal. Despite these hijinks, Supreme got far fewer votes this year than he did in the 2012 NH Primary when he got 833 votes. 


Hillary Clinton -  While no one really expected her to win in New Hampshire, this combined with a weak victory last week in Iowa, hardly puts forth a picture of a large, efficient campaign machine that will crush everything in its path. While I fully expect to see that behemoth spring to life over the next few weeks, right now the Clinton campaign doesn't seem to be firing on all cylinders. Her message doesn't have the passion of the Sanders campaign and she never been that good on the campaign trail. She's not a Barack Obama and no where close to her husband, former President Bill Clinton when it comes to hard core campaign skills. The Sanders campaign may have reached its zenith last night, but if the Clinton campaign doesn't step it up a notch and find a way to connect with their voters (the discrepancy in the female vote was shocking) quickly, Bernie Sanders will surely benefit. The sooner HRC dispatches Sanders and can focus on the general campaign, the better for her.

Chris Christie - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made no bones about how important a solid showing in New Hampshire was. And as the polls leading up to yesterday's Republican primary consistently suggested, the primary voters left little doubt as to their feelings. A sixth place finish in the single digits does not bode well for the campaign's future. One wonders if his time would've been better spent taking a different approach in the last debate. While the attacks on Marco Rubio were entertaining, they weren't especially substantive. Christie has headed back to New jersey to "re-assess" his campaign. 

Marco Rubio - After an uplifting 3rd place showing that was basically a tie for 2nd in last week's Iowa Republican caucuses, the thinking was that Rubio was in a good position to carve out a space just behind the front-runner in New Hampshire. To finish in fifth place last night is not what the Florida Senator had in mind. Rubio quickly took the blame for his poor showing, claiming that his poor performance in last week's debate, "I did not do well on Saturday night. That will never happen again." Rubio sits in third place in South Carolina polls and has to be hoping for a better outcome there.

Carly Fiorina/Ben Carson - If we combine their vote total percents, they finish behind Governor Christie, who has the sense to re-assess whether or not his campaign is viable going forward. The token candidates have done their job, attracted some people who might not otherwise have identified with the GOP, but now its time to swear their allegiance to someone else, and step aside. From what I've seen and heard, Fiorina isn't going anywhere for a while. Ben Carson's future plans are less certain. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Iowa Caucus Recap...Winners and Losers....

The winners and losers of the 2016 Iowa Caucus...


Ted Cruz - Cruz jumped out to an early lead and never looked back Tuesday evening. His superior ground game, attention to detail and resilience in the face of a "Trump attack," proved formidable. The impact of this victory remains to be seen going forward, but we know where it's not. (i.e. delegates...) Mr. Cruz walks away with eight delegates toward the GOP nomination, while Messrs. Trump & Rubio each walk away with seven. The real benefit is momentum as New Hampshire comes next on the primary schedule. Cruz won't win New Hampshire as its considered "home field" for Trump, but a top three showing will position him as a serious and stable candidate built for a long, long run as the primary path then heads south to South Carolina, Nevada and the SEC states. Underestimate him at your own peril.

Donald Trump - While he didn't win, this political novice came in second place and likely learned some lessons along the way that will serve him well. Reports that campaign events were understaffed and a disorganised ground game have been surfaced in various media outlets. Trump's chances of winning in Iowa was never great and his ham-handed attempt to connect with evangelicals fell short. Trump also gave the best speech of any I heard last night. Humble, down to earth, less bombast was just the right tone to leave Iowa and head "home" to the Northeast and the New Hampshire primary, where the billionaire will almost certainly celebrate his first primary victory.

Marco Rubio - Rubio sort of snuck up on everyone and finished just behind Trump. While he deserves credit for his performance, his victory speech was a little over-amped for my liking. Someone should have reminded him he came in a strong third in the Iowa Caucus, and that he didn't just win the Presidency. New Hampshire won't be as kind to Rubio and what happens after that is hard to see at this time.

Bernie Sanders - Just a few months ago, Sanders was 30+ points down to the Hillary Clinton "mega-machine" in Iowa. To virtually tie HRC in Iowa is a fantastic start to the Sanders primary performance. He now heads to New Hampshire, where he will almost surely win and win by a large margin. Sanders will have big-time momentum heading into Nevada and South Carolina. Conventional wisdom (for what it's worth) says Sanders then runs into a brick wall as Clinton finds more friendly states coming up on the primary schedule. Not sure how long the "Burn" will last, but it will certainly be interesting to watch.


Hillary Clinton - The presumptive Democratic nominee, for all her name recognition, her cash, her endorsements and her massive organization, couldn't shake off the upstart Bernie Sanders campaign. Yes, she is the technical winner but walks away with one... ONE... more delegate than Sanders does. Long term, she still profiles as the heavy favorite to be the Democratic Nominee, but questions abound in Clinton world. She'll lose in New Hampshire and despite how bright the road after that looks going forward, what effect will the predictable Sanders adoration have in the coming days? Stay tuned.

Ben Carson - It wasn't that long ago when neurosurgeon Ben Carson was the front runner in Iowa. With that positon however comes scrutiny and the good doctor simply hasn't held up well with the attention. The more we've got to know Carson, the less and less he appears to be a remotely serious candidate. Massive staff defections, replacements and bewilderingly snoozy debate performances, here's hoping Ben Carson, while heading to Florida to "change his clothes" reconsiders this hopeless pathetic effort and suspends his campaign and doesn't set foot in New Hampshire. It's time to write another book, Mr. Carson.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Iowa Caucus - Prediction on the Democratic Caucus...

Compared to the Republican race, there is much less to consider for the Democrats. Essentially a two horse race, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are the only serious candidates running for the Democratic nomination.

Hillary Clinton, is the former Secretary of State and Senator from New York and First Lady, is the unquestioned front-runner. On paper, she has it all. Experience. Financing. Congressional endorsements. Name recognition. She also carries with her a stench of varying proportions from the Benghazi affair and most recently, some rather serious questions being asked by serious people (not to mention Federal Agencies) about her inexplicable handling of her emails.

She's been around a long time and everyone seems to know who she is. Some people love her, some loath her but regardless of all the strengths and/or concerns I listed above, she is the presumed Democratic Nominee for President this year. If the FBI comes back with an indictment and the Justice Department elects to press charges, it will quite possibly end her campaign which means three things.

1) She'll have no one to blame but herself for not being pro-active and using a safer, less controversial method to handle her State Department emails.

2) Bernie Sanders supporters will do a happy dance.

3) Vice President Joe Biden's phone will ring and the begging on the other end of the line will commence.

If I were a betting man, I'd say this email thing doesn't produce an indictment and in spite of the stupidity of the whole thing, will slide well to the rear of campaign issues. The GOP will continue to beat it to death, but the Clinton comeback, "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has decided there was nothing illegal about what happened..." will serve her well.

I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. I will support whoever is running against the GOP nominee this November because I'm generally pleased with the last eight years of the Obama Administration and Clinton seems best suited and most inclined to maintain the path we're on. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank put it nicely this week when he contrasted her with the "other" candidate, Bernie Sanders:

Hillary Clinton,  by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony.
And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton.
Bernie Sanders is an interesting guy. A surly career politician in his 70's, Sanders is a self-professed Democratic Socialist who has some very interesting and some very expensive ideas for how to serve his Country should he be elected our next President. Sanders is connecting with younger voters in a way that reminds me of the days of Ron Paul. 
I like his goals for addressing income inequality, raising the minimum wage and implementing universal health care. I like his disinclination of getting the United States involved in another decade long waste of blood and treasure in the Middle East. 
I also think he's the real deal. He's been talking about these issues for 30+ years. He doesn't often "poll test" his answers or interests which I find refreshing. Of all the candidates of either party running for President, I would most like to meet Mr. Sanders someday. He will not be our next President. He will have moved the conversation along a few steps and someday when his visions are reality (which I believe), he will deserve some credit for elevating the conversation. 

What happens in Iowa Monday night?

Looking a three different sources, Real Clear PoliticsNate Silver's website and the Des Moines Register's polling data, I come up with these predictions for the Democratc Caucus Monday night:

1st - Hillary Clinton

2nd - Bernie Sanders

3rd - Martin O'Malley


Iowa Caucus - Prediction on the Republican Caucus...

Monday night, thousands of Iowans will participate in their caucus process and when they're finished, two candidates will walk away as victors. A few other candidates will walk away with top three finishes which will establish them as (at least in their minds) as serious contenders. Several others will finish outside the top three and have to face serious questions about the viability of their campaigns. Finally, a few will finish with such a poor showing and utter lack of support/disinterest from the good people of Iowa that serious consideration will be given with regard to ending their respective campaigns.

The 2016 campaign cycle has been an unconventional one to say the least. Virtually no one expected to see Donald Trump heading into the Iowa caucus as the front-runner. (Other than Trump himself, perhaps.) The billionaire from New York City has thumbed his nose, given the finger crapped on, etc. conventional campaigning to the astonishment, disbelief and dismay of his fellow GOP Presidential wannabees. With no political experience and no Super PACS bankrolling his campaign, Trump has been strutting since he announced his candidacy on June 16.

A steady dose of insults, implications and accusations, some fair some probably not, have added a flair to the process. His supporters love it and call it a fresh approach from a candidate who is beholden to no one and who has a track record of "getting things done." Two attributes which play well across the heartland to the average Joe and Jane voters who are fed up with politicians of all stripes. Sick of the promises that never amount to anything and the limitless pandering from most politicians, Trump is for better or worse, something different.

For decades, Americans have been told that "government is the problem" as President Reagan said thirty five years ago during his first inaugural address on January 20th, 1981.

"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

Trump has called our leaders dumb and stupid,which resonates with a large swath of Americans. People who work hard and see their wages being outpaced by their bills and the cost of living in today's United States. Congress typically has lower job approval ratings than anyone, which pisses people off. Each party complains about the other in their own self righteous way, while getting very little done while taking home comfortable salaries which most Americans can only dream about earning.

Instead of more of the "same old same old" promises and pledges, Trump has sung his own song, with out question. Brash, plain talk is refreshing regardless of its intellectual honesty. Some of what Trump has promised is crazy talk, woefully short on details and impossible to imagine as ever becoming the way of our world. His supporters don't seem to care. All they know is that life is pretty hard for them, the other candidates look and sound much like the last batch of nincompoops from the previous campaigns. For better or worse (and could he really do worse, they wonder?) Trump is the thing clearly NOT like the others and for now at least will reap the benefits of his uniquness.

Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas, has been on a chartered course for POTUS since he came to the Senate just three years ago. (It would have been unheard of for a freshman Senator from anywhere to consider a run for President until recently.) Cruz is an ultra-conservative who will never win any popularity contests amongst his peers. The take on Cruz seems to be yes, he's very smart and yes, he's a self-serving, ego maniacal, jerk. In terms of Iowa's Republican / conservative vote, Cruz appears to be Trump's only serious competiton.

Cruz bills himself as a "true conservative" who says we should not evaluate those "pretending" to be conservatives by their words but by their actions. Fair enough. In terms of formal education, Cruz is quite accomplished with degrees from Princeton and Harvard, not exactly two bastions of conservative thought. (Sure, he could've gone to Liberty University or Hillsdale College for a REAL conservative experience, but he didn't for reasons we can only wonder about.)

Make no mistake, Cruz may be in fact, smarter than the rest of the field this cycle. Unfortunately for him, this isn't a IQ contest, this is an election, which requires a different skill set. What played well in Texas, doesn't neccessarily play well in the rest of the Country. Without Donald Trump in the last debate, Cruz was center stage and took more hits than he gave. One could've anticipated the other Republicans on stage last Thursday night (Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson) would go after Cruz, and as the debate played out, Cruz looked weaker and weaker. His responses on his immigration stance (stilted and double-talk) and his healthcare (borderline incoherent) did not play well.

Cruz has plenty of money and has staked out the "true conservative" positon all to himself and his RW talk radio pals. He'll be around for a longtime and if Trump implodes, Cruz will be in the top tier of candidates. (Assuming nothing comes of this Canadian anchor baby thing...)

What happens in Iowa Monday night?

Looking a three different sources, Real Clear Politics, Nate Silver's website and the Des Moines Register's polling data, I come up with these predictions for the Republican Caucus Monday night:

1st - Donald Trump

2nd - Ted Cruz

3rd - Marco Rubio

4th - Ben Carson

5th - Rand Paul/Jeb Bush