Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Real Problem with the "Shithole" Controversy

Watching the continued news coverage about the President Trump calling Haiti, El Salvador and African countries "shitholes" I find that a lot of commentators are, sometimes conveniently, missing the point of what is so disturbing about the President's vulgar reference.  His labeling of certain countries as "shitholes," by itself, would only be a diplomatic gaffe.  There are certain things a President shouldn't say out loud such as comments denigrating countries with which the United States has to deal.  A President employing common sense, which this President apparently does not have, would not have chosen such a vulgar label in describing those countries.

The real problem though was that his "shithole" comment wasn't really about the countries so labeled, but rather about the people who live in those countries.  President Trump was saying that the value of people is defined by the country from which they originate.  If people are from a "shithole", then they are less worthy of becoming American.

Such an ignorant comment by the President ignores the American history of immigration and the American experience.  Pretty much everyone who lives in this country had ancestors who came from "shitholes."  That fact did not define who our ancestors were.  Rather, it is because of the hunger for a better life that immigrants fled their "shithole" lives in their shithole countries to come to America.  Armed with ambition and the dream of a better life, most became great citizens who contributed so much to this country.    Trump's comment is a yet another assault on American values, in particular, the ideal emblazoned on the Statute of Liberty:
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
And, no, I don't for a second believe the President's late assertion that he never made the "shithole" statement.  First, given the President's penchant for constantly lying, he starts with zero credibility when compared to that of Senator Durbin and Graham.  Then you have the fact is the White House went 12 hours before there was a denial that the statement was made.  During that 12 hour stretch, President Trump gleefully was contacting conservative friends thinking the statement would play really well with the base.  

It was only when there was major criticism from pretty much everyone that the President reversed course and denied making  the statement.  That's when Senators Cotton and Perdue chimed in with their "can't recall" statements.  When the blowback didn't dissipate and, in fact, intensified, Senators Cotton and Perdue's memory suddenly evolved, so that they were now able to recall that the President didn't say "shithole."  Several others in the room, including Republicans, did not back up the President's denial, except for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nelson who during a congressional hearing yesterday claimed she only heard the President use "tough language."  Please.  Cotton, Perdue and Nelson should be ashamed of themselves.  It is so disgusting how so many in my party are willing to throw away their reputations and integrity to lie for a President who has no loyalty but to himself.

This country deserves better.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Conservative Radio Hosts Demonstrate What Is Wrong With My Republican Party

Friday morning I was driving around town and had the opportunity to listen to a few minutes of the "Chicks on the Right" program on WIBC.   For those of you unfamiliar with the program, I would describe it as two Valley Girls (Millennials, consult your online dictionary) suddenly stumbling upon conservative politics in their middle age and being granted a radio program to express their views.  That's what you're missing.  No, definitely not a fan.  However, to the credit of"Mock" and "Daisy," the radio hosts did express grave reservations about Donald Trump during the primaries and were some of the last conservatives to board the Trump train.

On this particular program, the topic of Michael Wolff's new book "Fire and Fury" came up.  The hosts proceeded to tell listeners that the allegations in Wolff's book ring true and reflect the concerns they had expressed about him when he was pursing the nomination.  Then they proceeded to say that the book made them even more supportive of the President.

Let's recap.  Mock and Daisy hold the position the mere fact that a book is written making claims they long believe are true - that the Donald Trump is unfit to be President, namely that he is ignorant, won't read even one page summaries of issues, has the temperament of a 6 year old child, constantly lies, doesn't have the attention span to sit through many meetings, and may have declining mental faculties - makes them more supportive of the President.  Seriously?

Sadly, many Trumpers hold the same position as Mock and Daisy. They know Donald Trump is not fit for office, yet they support the President enthusiastically because no one makes liberals madder than Donald Trump.  The welfare of the country, our safety and security, as well as survival of American democratic institutions, take a backseat to party tribalism.

Donald Trump isn't the problem with my party, but rather a symptom of the problem.  The problem is those in the GOP who put their blind angry and hatred of the other side ahead of doing what is in the best interests of the United States of America.  My Republican Party needs to be better than that.

Monday, January 8, 2018

New Scientific Study Indicates Oceans Have Only Warmed 0.1 Degrees Celsius in Past 50 Years

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography published a new study in the January 4, 2018 issue of Nature which casts doubts on the anthropogenic global warming doomsday scenario that sharply rising ocean temperatures doom the planet.  In a summary, the Institution summarizes its the new technique for measuring ocean temperature and the findings in the study:
There is a new way to measure the average temperature of the ocean thanks to researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. In an article published in the Jan. 4, 2018, issue of the journal Nature, geoscientist Jeff Severinghaus and colleagues at Scripps Oceanography and institutions in Switzerland and Japan detailed their ground-breaking approach. 
Determining changes in the average temperature of the entire world’s ocean has proven
NASA has been a leader in sounding the alarm about rising sea levels
to be a nearly impossible task due to the distribution of different water masses. Each layer of water can have drastically different temperatures, so determining the average over the entirety of the ocean’s surface and depths presents a challenge. 
Severinghaus and colleagues were able to bypass these obstacles by determining the value indirectly. Instead of measuring water temperature, they determined the ratio of noble gases in the atmosphere, which are in direct relation to the ocean’s temperature. 
“This method is a radically new way to measure change in total ocean heat,” said Severinghaus. “It takes advantage of the fact that the atmosphere is well-mixed, so a single measurement anywhere in the world can give you the answer.”   
In the study, the scientists measured values of the noble gases argon, krypton, and xenon in air bubbles captured inside ice in Antarctica. As the oceans warm, krypton and xenon are released into the atmosphere in known quantities. The ratio of these gases in the atmosphere therefore allows for the calculation of average global ocean temperature. 
Measurements were taken from ice samples collected during the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide coring project, of which Severinghaus is a leader. Over the course of six field seasons in Antarctica, a drill removed ice in cylindrical samples 2.7 meters (just under 9 feet) in length. The final sample was taken at a depth of 3,405 meters (over 11,000 feet) in 2011. This record spans nearly 100,000 years and the age of the layers can be determined to within 50 years. Earth’s atmosphere mixes on a scale of weeks to months, so a measurement of these air bubbles gives what is essentially a global average. For this study, scientists focused on samples 8,000 to 22,000 years old, and collected data in increments averaging 250 years in resolution. 
New insights into the glaciation cycles that occurred on Earth long before humans began affecting the temperature of the atmosphere and oceans are now possible using the technique of measuring noble gas quantities. The study determined that the average global ocean temperature at the peak of the most recent ice age was 0.9 ºC (33.6 ºF). The modern ocean’s average temperature is 3.5 ºC (38.3 ºF). The incremental measurements between these data points provide an understanding of the global climate never before possible. 
“The reason this study is so exciting is that previous methods of reconstructing ocean heat content have very large age uncertainties, [which] smooths out the more subtle features of the record,” said co-author Sarah Shackleton, a graduate student in the Severinghaus lab at Scripps. “Because WAIS Divide is so well dated, this is the first time that we've been able to see these subtle features in the record of the deglaciation. This helps us better understand the processes that control changes in ocean heat content.” 
This paper is the result of fifteen years of work for Severinghaus, along with graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in his lab. Discussions with another professor at Scripps, atmospheric scientist Ralph Keeling, brought about the idea. Keeling studies the argon levels in the atmosphere to get a similar record of ocean heat going back a few decades. However, air bubbles trapped in ice don’t preserve argon levels accurately. Severinghaus discovered that xenon and krypton are well preserved in ice cores, which provides the temperature information that can then be used by scientists studying many other aspects of the earth’s oceans and atmosphere over hundreds of thousands of years.
...
“Our precision is about 0.2 ºC (0.4 ºF) now, and the warming of the past 50 years is only about 0.1 ºC,” [Severinghaus] said, adding that advanced equipment can provide more precise measurements, allowing scientists to use this technique to track the current warming trend in the world’s oceans.
Alarmists have claimed that the ocean's temperature is rising .12º Celsius for each of the past five decades, or .6ºC total.  TThe fact that it has risen only 1º  over 50 years (and even that number is well within the margin of error so the oceans may have actually cooled) should cause the alarmists to rethink their "consensus."  Of course it won't because anthropogenic global warming climate change has always about the corruption of the scientific process to pursue a liberal environmental agenda.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Eight Predictions for 2018

A few days late, but here are my predictions for 2018:

1.  Stock Market:  The stock market will end 2018 lower than it began in 2017.  Even though the drop is actually the result of a long overdue market correction, Democrats will seize on the declineas proof the GOP tax cut in December of 2017 failed.

2.  Unemployment and Economic Growth:  Having reached "full employment" in 2017, the unemployment rate will begin to rise again in 2018.  Meanwhile, the increase in GDP will stall before the end of the year, opening the possibility of the country going into recession in 2019.   While both economic factors will be more the result of the natural cycles of the economy rather than the result of economic policy, Democrats will use the souring economy as political fodder in the 2018 election.

3.  National Politics:  Democrats will win the U.S. House picking up 40+ seats, while reaching a 50-50 split in the U.S. Senate.  The number one issue in the 2018 elections will not be healthcare or taxes.  It will be impeachment.

4.  Indiana Politics:  Sen. Joe Donnelly will easily win re-election. Indiana Republicans will feel the effects of a national Blue Tidal wave as the Democrats narrowly win three statewide offices, Secretary of State, Treasurer and Auditor, while picking up 10 seats in the Indiana House.  Indiana Republicans will lose a congressional seat as well.  The (Indiana) story of the 2018 elections will be highly-educated voters in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis turning sharply against the GOP brand, and the concerns that trend will continue and threaten GOP domination in the state.

5.  Russia:  Mueller's investigation will continue to net several indictments and plea deals in early 2018.  When criminal charges reach the Trump family (think Jared Kushner), the pardons will start flying.  Talk of a constitutional crisis will ensue.  All hell will break loose. Mueller will ultimately be fired by Trump.  Mueller's activities will conclude with a report to Congress that the Trump campaign actively solicited and accepted help from the Russians during the 2018 campaign and that Trump and others attempted to obstruct justice into the investigation of those activities.  The document will also highlight that Trump's company is deeply in debt to Russian lenders and has for years laundered money for Russian oligarchs.  Democrats House members will sound the alarm for impeachment which Republican House members will ignore while continuing to attack the credibility of Mueller, the FBI and the Department of Justice.  The election of 2018 will be a referendum on impeachment.

6.  Supreme Court:  Justice Anthony Kennedy will announce his retirement upon the appointment of his replacement.  In addition, another justice, likely a liberal, will leave the court because of serious health problems or death.  The confirmation of two replacement justices will stall in the Senate.  2018 will end with 8 justices, including a reluctant Kennedy, on the court.

7.  Global Warming:  This month it will be announced that 2017 was one of the warmest years on record.  Americans, suffering through one of the worst cold snaps in years, will shrug their collective shoulders.  Meanwhile, there will be a push-back, with more and more scientists questioning the "consensus"  regarding the amount of anthropocentric global warming taking place and the supposed dangers a warmer climate represents to mankind.

8.  Technology:  A few American cities will follow Europe's lead and begin trying out driver-less buses.  The year will end with driver-less cars being in development by all major auto manufacturers.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Picking Seven Winners and Losers for 2017

Presenting seven winners and losers for 2017.

Winners

1.  American Investor:  The economy went from doing well in 2016 to doing even better in 2017, with the stock market soaring.   Workers with 401Ks and other investors did incredibly well.

2.  Women:  This year ushered in a new awareness for sexual harassment in the workplace.  Women are signing up to run for office in record numbers.

3.  Democratic Party:  Republicans began the year winning several special elections for Congressional seats, but ominously the margins were much more narrow than should have been given the ruby red nature of the districts.  In November, Democrats won a sweeping victory in Virginia that not only included the Governor and other statewide offices, but also scores of state assembly districts, a victory that has taken that body from a Republican super-majority to on the verge of a 50-50 tie.  Then came the shocker in December.  Republicans lost the special election to fill the United States Senate originally vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

4.  Corporations:  Corporations did extremely well under the GOP tax bill.  Contrary to the assumption of Democrats, not all corporate-type entities are large monoliths, overflowing in stockpiled cash.

5.  The Mainstream Media:  Despite getting lambasted by the President and his allies (or actually probably because of), TV networks like CNN and MSNBC, and news publications like the Washington Post and New York Times are enjoying better ratings and rising profits.

6.  Tom Brady & The Patriots:  Brady rallied his team to win the Super Bowl in early 2017 and the 40 year old quarterback appears poised to take his team back to the big game again in 2018.  As a Colts and Peyton Manning fan, I hate to admit their success, but it is impossible to deny.

7.  Major League Baseball: Ratings were up as a strong regular season was capped by a highly competitive and exciting post-season.  MLB is poised to gain fans as NFL declines in popularity.  That is if the baseball Gods do not blow it by continuing to do stupid things like having Playoff and World Series games run past midnight, when young and old fans of the game have long since gone to bed.

Losers

1.  Political Civility:  Name calling, "alternative facts," and lying has become accepted as part of political discourse.  It is not clear how our Republic will survive if the truth no longer matters.

2.  Steve Bannon:  He lost his job at the White House, then his candidate for U.S. Senate, Roy Moore, went down to spectacular defeat in December.   By the end of the year, President Trump was seen cozying up to Senate Major Leader Mitch McConnell, Bannon's arch-nemesis.  Bannon's expressed desire to primary "establishment" Republicans, with the support of President Trump, appears to be on shaky ground..

3.  GOP-Controlled Congress:  It wasn't before the end of the year that Republicans in Congress got around to passing a major piece of legislation.  Now entering 2018, the GOP majority in the House appears to be in great peril and the Democrats have a shot of winning the Senate, despite a map skewed heavily in favor of Republican challenges to red state Democrats.

4. American Democratic Institutions:  Institutions that Americans have taken for granted,  things like a free press, the rule of law, and an independent, non-politicized FBI, are under full scale assault by President Trump and his GOP allies in the House.

5.  Michael Flynn & Paul Manafort:  Flynn started the year as national security adviser.  He ended the year as a convicted felon. Paul Manafort was indicted for money laundering (seriously what took so long?) and other charges and faces spending the rest of life in prison if he doesn't cut a Flynn-like sweetheart deal to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.

6.  America's Youth:  We adults just added nearly $1.5 trillion to the deficit you will have to pay back during your lifetime.  You're welcome.

7.  Apple:   The I-Phone 10s are not selling and Apple was caught causing older I-Phones to slow down.  It appears the shine is wearing off the apple.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Pro-Trump Media Shields Conservatives From Truth About Coming Electoral Disaster

If you want to find out what has led the Republican Party to the electoral cliff it faces in 2018, you have to look no further than the so-called conservative media which has abandoned any attempt at objectivity to spout pro-Trump alternative facts.  On Trump TV, aka Fox News, the President had a tremendously successful first year and the Republican Party is heading to a tremendous victory in next year's mid-term elections.   Back in the real world, neither assertion is remotely true.  

The sign that an alcoholic finally turns the corner on his malady is a confession that he has a problem.  But if family members and friends continue to assure the alcoholic things are fine, that he should even drink more to celebrate his success, the destructive behavior of the alcoholic will lead to even bigger
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich
problems down the road.  

That is precisely where we Republicans are.  We are being told by conservative news outlets, people like Fox News, Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Laura Ingram, that everything is just hunky dory, no reason for alarm.  As a result, we Republicans delay the hard work of rebuilding the party and continue down a losing path that makes my party's fate much worse.  We conservatives need to be told the truth about what awaits the party when we chose to tie conservative ideas to Trumpism.  Unfortunately, Trump TV, like its namesake, has no interest in the truth.

Today's example of a so-called conservative media type hurting the conservative cause is former Speaker and Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich who, contrary to every political analyst on the planet, claims that what is coming in 2018 is an enormous Republican wave.  Here is a bit of the article he penned:  
The great political surprise of 2018 will be the size of the Republican victory.
After members of the elite media have spent two years savaging President Trump, lying about Republican legislation, and reassuring themselves that Republican defeat was inevitable, the size of the GOP victory in 2018 will be an enormous shock. 
.... 
As I listened to the end of the year "analysts," I was struck by how little they know, how little they have questioned their own mistakes, and how mutually reinforcing their false information has been.
These are not analysts. These are liberal propagandists. Much of what they assert is just plain wrong. Fake news is, sadly, an accurate term. And the topic about which they have been the most fake is the GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
...
The entire premise of Gingrich's article is that the "elite" media is misrepresenting the tax bill and the President's other accomplishments and when the public finds out about those and see the economy growing, the GOP will win in a landslide!  (I've resolved to use exclamation marks more often in 2017 because all great writers do so.  By the way, that was sarcasm!) 

Gingrich and company act like it is new that reporters lean to the left (more than 80% of journalists regularly vote for Democratic Presidential candidates) and that liberal bias inevitably leaks over into coverage. We conservatives have known that for about 60 years.  That does not mean conservatives should attack the American institution of a free press.  It means conservatives learn to play the game, use the media's other multitude of biases (bias for action, bias for conflict, for example) to earn favorable coverage.  Ronald Reagan, aka The Great Communicator, understood this.  Trump does not not.    Trump and his minions have instead chosen to whine about negative coverage and attack the legitimacy of our most important democratic institution - a free press.

But, I digress.  Gingrich's piece simply assumes that the word about the great tax bill will get out to the people despite the liberal media, apparently by political ads pushed by Republicans and conservative groups.  There is no evidence to support this whatsoever.    

Here is the fact that people like Trump and his minions on Trump TV ignore.  What has traditionally driven polling numbers is the economy.  Yet, despite the economy is already growing at a brisk pace and the stock market is soaring to new heights, Trump as a record low favorability rating and the GOP trails by double figures on the congressional generic ballot.   

What does that tell you?  It tells you that the performance of the economy is irrelevant to bailing out the GOP.   The Trump brand of politics, with its hate and divisiveness, is toxic to the Republican Party.  Many of those of us who opposed Trump knew he would for at least a generation stain conservative ideas, leading to a liberal resurgence.  That is what is about to hit the Republican Party in 2018.  Trump's win in 2016 will come at a terrible, terrible cost, especially for Republicans who choose to shed their integrity to warmly embrace the Trump brand of politics.  Conservatives can retreat to TrumpTV to hear people like Gingrich spin alternative facts, but that will not change the truth of what awaits the Republicans in 2018.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Some Republicans Finally See Political Cliff in Alabama Results

Some Republicans, myself included, warned about the disaster that would await the GOP if the party nominated  Donald Trump, a man we said was completely unfit to be elected President.  And while we naysayers have been proven spectacularly right about Trump's ignorance and lack of basic competence for the position he holds, it is the President's foul and intemperate personality which has turned out to be the the most damaging to the GOP brand.   Trump is turning my Republican Party into the party of assholes and the public doesn't like to vote for assholes.    The number of people identifying Republicans has dropped 5% since Trump's inauguration.  But that number is not nearly as bad as some of those that came out of the Alabama Senate special election won by Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore, a candidate who embodies Trumpism and who was enthusiastically supported by the President.


Chris Cizilla of CNN breaks down  points to eight different sets of stats from the Republican's loss in heavily GOP Alabama, numbers that should trouble any Republican concerned about the future of the Party.  They are summarized as follows.

1.  Moore won only among older voters
--Moore won voters over 65 by 19%.  Among voters 18-64 he lost by 8%.    Those older voters which support Trump/Moore style politicians are dying off and being replaced by younger voters who don't like the Trump brand of politics.
 
2. Women with children voted by Jones.  
--Women with children vote for Jones 65-32, while Jones won women without children by a closer 55-45 margin.  In the past, it is women without children that the GOP has struggled with while the party pretty much breaks even with married children.  

3.  Moderates voted for Jones
--Self-identified moderates voted for Jones 74-25.  This is the same state that has shown up in Trump's post-election poll numbers.  The independents that propelled him over the top seem to have long ago jumped off the Trump train.

4.  Trump's approval rate in Alabama plummeted
--Trump won Alabama by 28 points.  But among Tuesday's voters, Trump's approval rate was 48% while his disapproval rate was 48%.  Moore wasn't just unpopular among Alabama's special election voters, so too was the President.

5,.  More Alabama voters said Jones shared their values than Moore
--While everyone expected that Moore would win with Alabama "values voters," Jones won them 48-46.

6.  Alabama Voters View the Democrats more favorably than the Republican Party
--in the last several election cycles, including 2016, Alabama has been one of the most Republican states in the country.  Yet on Tuesday those Alabama voters told pollsters they approved of the Democratic Party more than the GOP by 47-43.

7.  Republicans strength is increasingly confined to rural areas.
--In cities of 50,000 or more, Jones won by an outstanding 71%.  Traditionally, Republicans made back up ground in highly populated suburbs.   But Moore only beat Jones 51-47 in Alabama suburbs.  Moore did win the rural areas of Alabama 62-36, but being rural those areas have much less vote.

8.  Black Voters Are Turning Out
--In 2012, 28% of the voters in Alabama were black.  That was a record high, not surprisingly since the first African-American President was running for re-election.  Yet that record was broken on Tuesday when black voters made up 29% of the Alabama electorate.  That so many African-Americans would turn out for a special election is astonishing.  Oh, and they voted 96-4 for Jones.

Many Republicans, including me, have warned about the political cliff the Trump train is heading toward. You'd have to be blind not to see that cliff in the Alabama election results.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Indiana Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate Has Long History of Being a Democrat

The Indianapolis Star reports:

INDIANAPOLIS — A wealthy Indiana Senate candidate who bills himself in television ads as a conservative Republican voted for more than a decade as a Democrat in the state's primary elections, according to public documents obtained by the Associated Press.
Records from the Dubois County Clerk's office, where candidate Mike Braun is registered to vote, show the 63-year-old consistently cast Democratic ballots until 2012.
That could spell trouble for Braun, a businessman and former state lawmaker who elbowed his way into the competitive GOP Senate primary by investing more than $800,000 of his own money. In recent years, such races have been Republican purity competitions; next May's election determining who will face Democrat Joe Donnelly in the fall appears to be no exception.
Supposedly Braun only voted in the Democratic Party because he wanted to play a role in which candidate that party nominated. This cross-over strategy that is sometimes employed in counties where there is one party control and whichever candidate that party nominated would be the one elected.  Even if this were a valid reason for choosing not to participate in the Republican Primary (it is not), the fact remains that southern Indiana, including Jasper where Braun is from, hasn't been solid Democratic territory for at least 20 years.  Braun voted Democrat up until 2012.

While Braun's voting history should preclude his nomination as a Republican, the fact is another GOP candidate did not join the party until 2011 and he, Donald Trump, was elected President.  Of course, that hasn't exactly turned out well for Republicans.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Councilor Jeff Miller May Not (Willingly) Leave the Indianapolis Council After All

Last week came the shocking news of the filing of child molestation charges against Republican Indianapolis City-County Councilor Jeff Miller who represents a center township-downtown district that includes IUPUI, the Zoo area and Fountain Square.  According to the charging affidavits, Miller liked to give 10 year old children massages at his home.  It is unclear how far his hands went on those massages.  Nonetheless, it is not a good idea to give 10 year old children, especially ones to whom you are not related, massages.

Indianapolis Councilor Jeff Miller
Miller did not help himself by talking to investigators and saying he would confirm anything the children said he had done to them.  Of course in these types of cases, it is easy to coach children to say certain things (ask the defendants in the McMartin case) which is why investigators need to strictly adhere to certain protocol so false allegations are not manufactured.  A good defense attorney knows this is a fertile area upon which to mount a defense.  Miller's stated intention to endorse anything the children said happened may have given that away.

One thing that is concerning about the charging affidavit is the inclusion of purely salacious comments about Miller's personal habits which have nothing to do with the charges, but which appear more at publicly humiliating the councilor.  One can only surmise that the inclusion of this evidence was to humiliate Miller into pleading guilty and resigning his highly-competitive seat.  It is just not an ethical thing to do.  I should point out that Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry is a Democrat who campaigned for Miller's opponent.  In the past, Prosecutor Curry has shown questionable ethics on how he he resolved the Omnisource criminal investigation and his use (and expansion) of civil forfeiture.  Curry has ran roughshod over civil liberties in this county.  Yet local Democrats don't seem to care because he has a "D" on his jersey.  Miller's attorney is very right to ask for the appointment of a special prosecutor to try his case.

Let me be clear.  I am no fan of Jeff Miller.  He is the worst kind of Republican.  During the term of Greg Ballard, Miller supported every one of the Mayor's proposed 40 plus tax and fee increases has well as every corporate welfare scheme the Ballard people could cook up.  There is nothing remotely "Republican" or "conservative" about Jeff Miller.  He is a big taxing, big spending liberal.

But you have to ask yourself why would Miller resign now?  He gets nothing out of it. The bargaining chip of his resignation from the council (which would likely be part of a plea deal) is thrown away while getting nothing in return.

And looking at the climate in today's Republican Party, one has to wonder if giving non-sexual massages to 10 year old children (assuming Miller is accurately describing those massages) is a disqualifier for the GOP.  On the infamous Access Hollywood video, Donald Trump gloated that his fame allowed him to sexually assault women.  Then some dozen women stepped forward to confirm in detail how Trump had done to them exactly what he described in the video.  Yet Trump went on to became President.  Then you have the case of Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore who,  in the light best to him, dated 16 and 17 year old children as a 30 year old man, an action which while technically legal, still makes him the worst sort of creep.   In the worst light, one of those children was actually 14 years old and thus under the age of consent in Alabama (16).  As an adult, she now accuses Moore of actions that would make him a child molester.    As a side note, some mistakenly call those allegations pedophilia.  Actually pedophilia is a party type of child molestation that involves children who have not yet started puberty.  A 14 year old is outside that window.  Still molestation.  Just not pedophilia.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that the Democrats have their own share of sexual predators.  At the top of the list is former President Bill Clinton.  There isn't a dime's bit of difference between Clinton and Trump when it comes to their treatment of women.

My guess is Miller will still resign. But my guess is his defense attorney told him not to give away that bargaining chip until the criminal charges against him are resolved.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Does Hamilton County (Indiana) Present an Opportunity for Democrats in 2018?

Last Tuesday featured a shifting electorate in which heavily populated suburbanites turned out in droves to cast ballots for Republicans Democrats.  Even though Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie did extremely well in the Trump rural counties (so much for the theory that Gillespie's problem was that he wasn't Trump enough) he got utterly destroyed by high turnout in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.  Those highly-educated, wealthy, mostly white voters were casting votes for Democrat Ralph Northam.  Previously, Republicans did fairly well with that constituency.  But in the Trump era, those suburbanites suddenly are pulling the Democratic lever.

The 2017 GOP debacle wasn't confined to Virginia.  (In that state commonwealth, the scores of losses in the Virginia House of Delegates were actually much more noteworthy than the Governor's race.)  In other suburban areas that were once Republican bastions, Democrats were suddenly winning.  The message in many of those districts were simple:  Show up on November 7th to vote against Donald Trump.  That message drove an astonishing level of anti-Trump turnout, propelling Democrats to win in areas they have not been competitive in for decades, if ever.

Indianapolis, with over 900,000 residents, is the 13th biggest city in the United States. But
Indianapolis, unlike other smaller cities, does not have a large metro population.  You drive out of Marion County and you will in just a few miles be in farm country.

Discussion of Indianapolis's suburbs typically focuses on the so-called "doughnut" counties, i.e. those counties which touch upon Marion County, which county encompasses all the City of Indianapolis.   Despite some growing suburban cities such a Greenwood and Avon, doughnut counties like Morgan, Hancock, Shelby and Hendricks are still dominated by rural areas within those counties.  But there is one notable exception.  Hamilton County.  That county just north of Indianapolis features Carmel, Fishers and Westfield, three booming population centers that contribute to make it the fourth largest county at 316,373 people, more than 1/3 the size of the population of Marion County-Indianapolis.

Could Hamilton County Democrats run a "Vote against Trump" campaign in 2018 and be successful?  Long a student of Indiana politics, I have to be skeptical.  While Hamilton County's GOP numbers have slipped a bit, it remains a source of a large GOP margin in most state-wide elections.

But here's the thing.  Donald Trump is not popular in Hamilton County.  In 2016, he received only 56.8% of the vote in the county.  And that was with his opponent being Hillary Clinton, the most unpopular candidate the Democrats have ever nominated.  How many of that 56.8% of Trump voters dislike the New York businessman, but voted for him solely because of who he is running against?  If Hamilton County Democrats successfully ran a 2017 style Trump-referendum campaign in conjunction with a slate of candidates, could they defeat the once dominant, Trump-tainted Hamilton County GOP?

Of course, that scenario contains a big "if."  Associating a candidate with an unpopular national political figure is always a challenge, especially when you're talking about local races.  But the Trump brand of toxic politics might make the President an exception.

Probably the biggest obstacle for Hamilton County Democrats is that they have not had much time to build a team that is ready to take the field in the event that the GOP in that county stumbles.  In 2016, Hamilton County Democrats finally found candidates for county-wide office.  In 2014, the election comparable to 2018, Hamilton County Democrats did not field a single candidate for county-wide office, conceding such races as Prosecutor, Sheriff and Clerk to the Republicans.

Does Hamilton County present an opportunity for Democrats in 2018?  Yes, but it's a long, long shot. But that's better than no shot, which is exactly what Hamilton County Democrats had before Trump won the Presidency.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Trump Brand Proves Toxic to GOP Candidates in 2017 Elections

When the history of the early part of this century is written, historians will point to November 8, 2016 as the turning point for the Democratic and Republican Parties.  Casual observers look at the election results that day and conclude they mean the Republican Party, led by President Trump, was in its ascendancy, having soundly vanquished its Democratic foe giving the GOP control of all three branches of government.  But a more analytical approach might conclude that seeds of a coming Republican disaster were sown in the those 2016 election results.

President Trump and his supporters like to claim the President resoundingly won the 2016 election as
the American public enthusiastically bought the Trump brand.  Of course, students of history know Trump's victory was far from overwhelming.  Trump's win in the Electoral College was the 9th closest in American history and he lost the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.

Trump did not win the 2016 election because of his brand.  He won in spite of his brand.  People were willing to overlook his hate-mongering, divisive politics because they hated Hillary Clinton more.  They wanted a change and Donald Trump was the only game in town when it came to fulfilling that desire.  Any other Republican would have trounced Hillary Clinton badly.

But despite Trump's and his supporters constant attempts to revive her, Hillary Clinton is gone.  The Trump brand stands alone and it is a toxic brand of politics that poisons everyone associated with it.

I dipped my political feet into the water in 1980 when the conservative movement came of age.  That year I attended seminars and other meetings in which conservative ideas were discussed. There was no talk then of harboring contempt for liberals and others who didn't share our views. They were merely viewed as people to be persuaded.  We conservatives sure did not hate people because of their race or religion.   In fact, we expressly rejected the ideology of the white supremacists (now called the "alt right") as not being consistent with the freedom and opportunity represented by our brand of conservatism, a brand that resulted in the (real) landslide election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

I knew during the late hours of November 8, 2016 that we conservatives and Republicans had lost an historic election.  Those results meant that for the next 20 years or more, the conservative movement of my youth and the party I had chosen to join, would be tarnished with the Trump brand.  I knew from that day forward, we Republicans would lose a lot of elections and, for decades to come, the liberal ideology would prevail.

Prior to last night, there were a number of special elections in the U.S. House. Trump supporters gleefully pointed to the success of the Republican candidates in all those races of proof of the popularity of the Trump GOP brand.  It was a ridiculous suggestion.  All those races were run in heavily Republican districts that the GOP candidates had won by large double digits in 2016.  Yet, in every one of those heavily Republican districts, the Democratic candidates in 2017 ran competitively, losing by only a few points.

Last night, even the most fervent Trump supporters, if they wanted to look, could see the electoral cliff their "Trump Train" is heading for.  It was not just the surprising margin of victory of the Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam.  (Trump tweeted this morning that Republican candidate Ed Gillespie is at fault for his loss to Northam because Gillespie did not act Trump enough.  Of course, nothing is ever Donald Trump's fault.)  n Virginia, Republicans went from having a super-majority in the House of Delegates to possibly losing control of the chamber. And it was not just Virginia.  All across the country, Democrats were winning in areas they had not won for decades  In one county in Pennsylvania, the Democrats for the first time since the 1700s won a county-wide office.  They didn't just win one county-wide office; Democrats swept all four of those offices in that county.

From top to bottom, Democratic candidates employed the strategy of tying GOP candidates to Donald Trump.  And those Republicans, tethered to Trump, sank to the bottom of the political river.

Now the media talking heads are spreading the conclusion that "Trumpism without Trump" doesn't work.  Nonsense. Trumpism with Trump doesn't work either .   The independents and some Democrats who supported Trump over Hillary Clinton a year ago are long gone.  They are not coming back, unless of course the Democrats would be so stupid as to nominate Hillary Clinton again.   I can almost rule that out.  Almost.

But 2020 is not the election on the horizon.  The 2018 mid-term elections featuring 435 U.S. House  and 33 Senate seats are next in line.  While many point to the fact that gerrymandering protects the Republican majority in the House, there is an ugly truth about the process that is rarely discussed.  In a gerrymander, the goal is to create a large number of close but safe seats for the majority while conceding by a large margin fewer seats to the minority party.  Typical margins of majority districts in a gerrymander might be 60-40, while minority districts run 20-80.  The problem with gerrymandering is that when the rare large wave election happens, the political dam bursts and the flooding takes out more majority party incumbents than it would if they were drawn with larger margins than 60-40.

Certainly the Republican party will lose seats in the U.S. House in 2018.  (Unlike other analysts, I don't think it matters one bit what legislation Congress passes.)  Losses are inevitable.  The question is how many.  I am fairly confident that gerrymandering won't prevent the Republicans from losing the majority in the House.  The U.S. Senate is another story because the Republicans are protecting so few seats in swing states while several Democratic Senators face re-election from districts Trump won in 2018.  Still, after last night, I think the Trump brand is so toxic that the Democrats do have an realistic, albeit still a long-shot, chance of winning control of the Senate.

Donald Trump is not the savior of the Republican Party.  He is GOP cancer and the sooner he is gone the sooner my party, and the conservative ideas it stands for, can start the long process of recovering.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Tolling of Indiana Interstates Moves Forward with Study

Unlike some of my fellow conservatives, I did not loudly protest the substantial increase in Indiana's gas tax this Spring.  Instead I was more worried about the tolling authority the legislature gave the Governor in the bill, a provision which got little publicity.   But when the issue came up, our Republican members of the legislature assured us that any tolls were way down the road and, besides, they are only a last resort type of thing.  Not to worry.  Besides we have a Republican Governor.  What could go wrong?

Indiana legislators had barely left town when Governor Holcomb's Department of Transportation began putting the wheels in motion to toll Indiana
Governor Eric Holcomb
interstates.  The Associated Press reports on the first step, a study which gleefully announces how much more Indiana can soak Hoosier drivers:

Indiana could see between $39 billion and $53 billion in toll revenue from 2021 to 2050, according to study of a proposed statewide tolling program. 
The feasibility study conducted by the state Department of Transportation estimated how much money would be generated from tolls on six interstates: 64, 65, 69, 70, 74 and 94, The Journal Gazette reported . Potential toll rates ranged from 4 cents per mile for automobiles to 19 cents per mile for heavy trucks. 
... 
An estimated 9 percent to 22 percent of drivers would choose to travel on local roads instead of paying the tolls, the report said.
A law approved this year requires the Department of Transportation to perform feasibility studies and seek approval from the Federal Highway Administration for charging tolls on the interstate routes. Lawmakers also raised the state gas tax by 10 cents to raise funds for road maintenance.
Proponents of tolls argue they are just a user fee, that only the people using the roads are paying.  I would point out the gas tax already is a user fee.  Those who are driving on the roads are the ones directly paying the gas taxes.  Nonetheless, I have never supported the notion that user fees should be the only mechanism for funding roads.  Everyone benefits from good roads,whether they are actually driving on them.
Tolls will hit working class Hoosiers particularly hard.  If the Republican super majority gives us a record gas tax increase and toll roads it is time to reconsider whether we should re-elect those tax and spend Republicans.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Hillary Clinton's Campaign Funding of Dossier Raises Possibility of Campaign Law Violations

The news broke yesterday that the infamous Steele Dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton for President campaign.  This was after the dossier was originally funded by Republicans wanting to ammunition against Donald Trump.

It should be no surprise whatsoever that the dossier was funded as a result of opposition research funded by Trump opponents.  Anyone who works in politics knows that virtually all negative information about candidates comes to light via opposition research.  But what caused the Hillary funding revelation to be a much bigger issue than it otherwise would have been is that the attorney for
Hillary Clinton campaign spent nearly a year denying the campaign's funding of the dossier only to have to admit it happened as part of lawsuit.  Like so many things Hillary Clinton-related, the instinct to cover-up and lie makes a mountain out of a molehill.

President Trump immediately trumpeted the latest Hillary news as confirmation of his claim that the dossier was a complete fabrication.  Of course, that is utter nonsense.  The revelation of the funding source for the dossier does not prove the facts contained therein to be false.  In fact, a great deal of the information in the dossier have already been confirmed.  North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee has confirmed as such as well as independent reporting on the subject.  Investigators from Burr's committee are meeting with former British Intelligence Office Christopher Steele who assembled the information in the dossier.  Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has already met with Steele. 

But the revelation of the funding source points to possible legal jeopardy by the Hillary Clinton campaign, in particular a campaign finance violation for reporting expenditures of a campaign in such a way as to shield the recipient and nature of dossier funding.  

Concealing contributions and expenditures is an increasing problem with Indiana political campaigns. Years ago, I wrote about red flags I saw when I reviewed the campaign finance report for the political action committee supporting the Wishard Hospital referendum.  One would think there would have been hundreds of contributions. There were six.  Three individuals gave the Wishard PAC $50 or less and one lobbyist gave $1,000.  Then there were two 501(c)(3) non-profit corporations (which unlike other types of political campaigns, can give legally to referendum campaigns), that gave $1.5 million.  All the doctors and other highly paid medical professionals who should have been interested in the issue did not appear to be giving at all to the cause.  What may well have been going on is that those medical professionals and other interested parties were instead giving their money to the two non-profits who were then giving the money to the Wishard PAC.  Using the non-profits as a conduit would have had the effect of laundering campaign contributions, i.e. turning non-deductible political contributions into deductible charitable donations.  At least until the day the IRS figures out the scheme.

On the contribution side, more relevant to our discussion here, my recollection is that there were only a tiny handful of recipient of Wishard PAC expenditures.  This included almost all of the money raised by the PAC going to a public relations firm.  There was no documentation as far as how that money was spent...only that it was paid to a public relations firm.  Thus, what was actually purchased with the Wishard contributions was effectively concealed by the practice.

Obviously the Clinton Campaign expenditures for the dossier was effectively concealed from the public by using an intermediary, apparently the campaign's law firm.  Apparently, the money was paid from the campaign to the law firm and then the law firm turned around and paid Christopher Steele.  Not only does that practice conceal the real purpose of the expenditure, the law firm can also make a claim (albeit bogus) of "attorney-client" privilege to provide additional protection from having the dossier funding exposed.

It is time for the Federal Elections Commission and state elections commissions to crack down on the use of intermediaries to conceal contributions and expenditures.  A good place to start is holding responsible those in the Hillary Clinton campaign who were responsible for the concealment of the dossier funding.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Support for President Trump in Hoosier State Plummets

The Indianapolis Star reports:

President Donald Trump's approval rating is upside down in Indiana, according to a new poll.
Just 41 percent approve of the job Trump is doing as president, compared to 45 percent who disapprove, according to the results of the Old National Bank/Ball State University 2017 Hoosier Survey.
The negative approval rating suggests a significant decline in support for Trump since he won the home state of his vice president, Mike Pence, by a margin of 19 percentage points nearly a year ago.
“These survey results add to the evidence that the president’s approval has slipped a great deal since January,” said Chad Kinsella, a political science professor at the Bowen Center for Public Affairs, which conducts the annual survey.
Other recent polling by Morning Consult showed Trump's approval rating in Indiana fell from plus 22 percentage points in January to plus 5 in September. 
This poll follows a Morning Consult poll which shows Trump's net approval rating dropping from 22% to 5% from January to September.  This 17% drop nearly mirrors a 19% national drop in the same poll.

While Trump enjoys a steady, albeit unspectacular support of 77% of Hoosiers in the Ball State poll, the real fall off is with non-Republican voters.  As the Morning Consult poll shows, any support Trump had among Democrats during his election is long gone and independent voters have also turned sharply against him.

Trump supporters have long forgotten that Trump did not even win the popular vote, and barely eked out an Electoral College win, against the weakest candidate the Democratic Party has ever nominated.  Trump's 35% base only got him half way around the track.  It was the anti-Hillary Clinton voters who put him over the finish line.  Unless the Democrats are dumb enough to nominate Hillary again, any chance President Trump has of getting re-elected are slim and none.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Indiana Considering Following Up Large Gas Tax Increase With Tolls

In the highway bill last year passed by the Indiana legislature this Spring, the focus was on the substantial increase in the gas tax which supporters urged was needed to fund road improvements.  Unfortunately what didn't get sufficient publicity at the time was another provision of the bill that gives the Governor unfettered power to establish tolls on Indiana interstates.  On the few occasions the tolling provision was discussed, it was emphasized that it was merely a funding option for some governor well into the future.

That future didn't take long to get here.  The Indianapolis Star reports that there is already talk of tolling Indiana interstates, including possibly I-465.

The state hasn't decided yet whether it wants to put tolls on its interstates, but if Indiana does, it will look first at the most congested routes where tolls could help pay for needed improvements such as extra lanes.
The state is seeking a firm to study tolling on specific legs of I-65, I-70 and I-94, according to a request for proposal issued by the Indiana Department of Transportation. The department also wants to take a closer look at I-465, not ruling out tolls for commuters in the Indianapolis area. 
"No decisions have been made on whether to do tolling at all, let alone on a given route," said Scott Manning, strategic communications director for INDOT. "We're calling those (routes) out because we know there are significant needs there we'd want to address."
A feasibility study is underway, Manning said, that will answer the big question of whether additional tolling makes sense for the state. If it does, Manning said, the strategic plan INDOT is advertising for now would start to look at how the state could implement tolls.
Although most polls should tolls are unpopular, they do have supporters.  Typically toll supporters like to point out that tolls are pure "user fees."  It is not an argument I find persuasive.  Everyone benefits from good roads, so I don't see the need to fund road with "fees" paid only by those who traverse on roads.  Nonetheless, the gas tax is already a user fee. 

A few years ago I drove a car from New York to Florida.  I recall it cost me about $20 to drive from Long Island to New Jersey, not counting the bridges. Crossing one bridge into Staten Island cost me $17.  

While toll proponents will gush at that sort of revenue, what tolls do is cause people to change their driving behavior.  People opt to travel on secondary roads rather than pay tolls.  These secondary roads are often in rural areas.  These residents have to deal with increased traffic in their neighborhoods, which also leads to declining property values.  People don't like to live on busy roads.

Hopefully Indiana officials will shelve this really bad idea.

Friday, October 20, 2017

On Clash With Gold Star Family, the Media (Correctly) Refuse to Give President Trump the Benefit of the Doubt

Yesterday afternoon, Chief of Staff John Kelly gave a moving press conference that was no doubt intended to quell the controversy over President Donald Trump's phone call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, a serviceman slain during an operation in Niger.  During the phone call it was claimed that Trump came across as unsympathetic and used the phrase "he knew what he was getting into."

Kelly blasted Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson for listening in on the call, which was made
John Kelly, Chief of Staff
over a speaker, and "politicizing" what happened reporting what was allegedly said to the media.   It should be noted that Rep. Wilson's account was confirmed by other family members present during the call.

I don't fault Rep. Wilson, a long time family friend, for listening in on the phone call as she no doubt was asked to do so by family members.  Hence the use of the speaker.  I do, however, agree with Kelly that Rep. Wilson no doubt politicized the phone call, using it to take a shot at the President.

However, the reason Wilson was in that position to attack the President on the issue is 100% the fault of the President.  Trump is well-known for having attacking Gold Star parents, the Khans, after the Democratic convention.  He has also demonstrated a marked inability to empathize with people suffering through difficult circumstances. In that regard, witness Trump's callous attitude toward Puerto Ricans following the hurricane that hit that island a month ago.

General Kelly approaches the issue with enormous credibility.  In addition to having to make tough phone calls to family members of those killed in action, Kelly lost his own son in combat.  Thus, he is a Gold Star parent himself.  During the press statement, Kelly suggests that Trump's supposed uncaring attitude toward the Johnson family might have been simply a misunderstanding, the product of inartful communication by an inarticulate President.  Given Trump's only passing familiarity with the English language, Kelly's suggestion that there was simply miscommunication is quite believable.

The problem is that President Trump was the one who first politicized the issue. When asked at a press conference about the four soldiers killed in Africa, a fact Trump never had addressed publicly or privately, the President responded defensively and inaccurately, claiming that his predecessors often did not call or write the families of fallen soldiers.  Thus, Trump politicized the matter long before Rep. Frederica Wilson appeared on the scene.

Trump supporters argue that that the President should be given the benefit of the doubt regarding the words uttered during these difficult Gold Star family phone calls.  Because the media refuses to do that, Trump supporters point to that as yet more example of media bias against this particular President.

Balderdash.  The reason Donald Trump isn't given the benefit of doubt, why the media is skeptical of his version of what happened during the Johnson call is not believed, is because the President has spent the first eight months of his Presidency telling one lie after another.  Trump is like the shepherd boy in  "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."  In that story, the boy falsely claimed wolves were present so many times that villagers did not believe him when a wolf actually did arrive to attack his sheep.  That legendary Aesop fable ends with the line uttered by a villager to the boy:  "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth."  

That is a lesson that the President should try to learn.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fox News Poll Shows Alabama Senate Race a Dead Heat

A new poll commissioned by Fox News shows the special election Senate race between Republican Ray Moore and Democrat Doug Jones to be a deadheat, at 42-42.  Two other recent polls have shown Moore's lead to be in the single digits at 6 and 8 points, both within the margin of error of those polls.

Roy Moore
Moore and Jones are fighting for the former Senate seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which was held temporarily by former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. When this seat was last on the ballot in 2014, Sessions won with over 97% of the vote when the Democrats didn't even bother to field a Senate candidate in ruby red Alabama.   Two years later, Republican Richard Shelby won re-election to his Alabama Senate seat with 64% of the vote while, in the presidential race, Trump won 62% of thevote in Alabama, besting Hillary Clinton by 28 points.

Unfortunately for Jones, the surprising closeness of this race is a double edged sword.  While it means more money for his campaign, it also means more publicity on Jones' more unpopular positions on such issues as abortion and guns.  While Moore has been tarnished by the recent revelation that the former Alabama Chief Justice successfully fought against repeal of a (no-longer enforced) segregation clause in the state Constitution, Jones' being pro-choice and against gun rights may prove worse offenses to Alabama voters.   Further, close polls mean the race becomes nationalized and that is not good for Jones.  He does not want to have to defend Democratic leaders and coastal liberals Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.  If Jones could convince Alabama voters he is a moderate to conservative Democrat, then he could pull off an upset.  Unfortunately for Jones though, he is not a moderate to conservative Democrat.  He is liberal, i.e. progressive, Democrat trying to win in very conservative Democrat.

Breitbart's Steve Bannon enthusiastically supported Moore in his primary win against Strange.  He is exactly the type of bomb-throwing candidate that Bannon wants running all over the country, challenging "establishment" Republicans in primaries.  If Moore loses in Alabama, or if he only wins narrowly, that should send shock waves through the GOP about the dangerous approach Bannon is taking.  The Moore-types can win primaries, but can they win general election, especially if they are not in heavily-Republican states?  Doubtful.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Pence Chief of Staff Urges that Anti-Trump Republicans be Purged from GOP

This story made it under the radar this week.  Politico reports:
Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff railed against congressional leaders in closed-door remarks to wealthy donors and called for a “purge” if GOP lawmakers don’t quickly rally behind President Donald Trump’s agenda.

In remarks at a Republican National Committee event at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington
Nick Ayers
on Tuesday morning, Nick Ayers also warned that Republicans are “on track to get shellacked” in next year’s midterm elections if GOP lawmakers don’t pass Trump’s legislative priorities.
But Ayers reserved his harshest criticism for congressional leaders and members who have not offered full-throated support for the president.
“Just imagine the possibilities of what can happen if our entire party unifies behind him? If — and this sounds crass — we can purge the handful of people who continue to work to defeat him,” Ayers said, according to an audio recording of the remarks obtained by POLITICO.
...
“I’m not speaking on behalf of the president or vice president when I say this,” Ayers responded. “But if I were you, I would not only stop donating, I would form a coalition of all the other major donors, and just say two things. We’re definitely not giving to you, No. 1. And No. 2, if you don’t have this done by Dec. 31, we’re going out, we’re recruiting opponents, we’re maxing out to their campaigns, and we’re funding super PACs to defeat all of you.”
...
The comments also offer a stark departure in tone from Pence’s team, with the vice president having often served the role of soothing tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill. The remarks reveal both a deep frustration within the White House with congressional leadership and a political tactic of placing the onus on Congress to advance the agenda on health care, tax reform and other legislative priorities that have failed to gain momentum.

...
Ayers warned that the Republican Party is on track for a repeat of the massive electoral backlash that came after President Barack Obama was elected and the GOP took control of Congress and statehouses across the country. 
“Not because anything that the president or the vice president has done or hasn’t done, but we’re on track to get shellacked next year,” Ayers said....
Spare me, Nick Ayers.  When it comes to the Trumpers, the President is never at fault.  In fact, we have a President who has been floundering since his inauguration. Trump has not learned the first thing about the job he is supposed to be doing and has spent most of his time tweeting insults to try to settle personal scores than providing real leadership for the country.  On his signature "repeal and replace" of Obamacare, Trump knew nothing about the details of the bill, undercut Republicans at every opportunity, and failed to use his office to advocate for the GOP legislation.

As far as not supporting the Trump agenda, exactly what is that agenda?  After two years of campaigning and being President, Trump's tax plan consists of one page of bullet points.  Like most issues, Trump was all over the map on health care, including at times sounding like Bernie Sanders, promising universal health care paid for by "the government."   After eight months, Trump's agenda seems to be nothing more than a demand for personal loyalty and praise for his being a great leader....while being anything but a great leader.   Fortunately, many Republicans, both in and out of Congress, refuse to part with their integrity and independence to kiss President Trump's ring.

Some prominent Republicans like George Will and Joe Scarborough chose to leave the Republican Party because of President Trump.  While I understand their motivation, I think it is misguided.  My parents were conservative Democrats.  Becoming politically active in the early 1980s, I chose to become a Republican because I believe that party, with its conservative, limited government agenda, more closely matched my political views.  Starting with Reagan in November 1980, my Republican Party over the next 35 years enjoyed a number of successes punctuated by occasional failure.  Did we in the GOP fall show of our policy goals?   Quite often.  But does that mean we Republicans should hand the reigns of power to the Democrats and give up on those goals completely?  Of course not.   And it sure does not mean conceding the GOP brand to redesign by a life-long New York liberal.

Nick Ayers was born in 1981.  I cast my first ever vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.  That vote was also cast more than three decades before Trump began pretending he was a Republican just 6 years ago.

My Republican Party is about lower taxes, limited government, being pro life and supporting traditional values.  It is not about Trump and his ilk hating people because of their skin color, ethnicity or religion.  It is about standing up for the Constitution and the ideals contained in that document.  When our President denounces American traditions and values, things like freedom of press, religion or speech, that is not my Republican Party.

Trumpism is not about a political philosophy, and certainly not about being a conservative.  It is about a cult of personality.   Donald Trump could announce tomorrow that he is going to support the Pelosi-Schumer liberal agenda across the board, and the vast majority of Trumpers would convince themselves that "Mr. Trump" is doing the right thing, indeed something brilliant.  After all, to most Trumpers the particular political agenda the President is pursuing is not important. What is important is blind adoration for all things Trump says or does.  Just praise "Mr. Trump" and drink the Kool-Aid.

Even if it were worthy of support, the Trump GOP brand is doomed to failure.  Trump's success depends on winning the support of a strong majority of white people.   Yet, the collective skin hue of the country is steadily getting darker.  Millennials, who overwhelmingly oppose Trump, will be a much bigger part of the electorate in 2020 than 2016.  Any Republican candidate chaining himself to the Trump brand, will find that the President to be an anchor instead of a sail.

Ayers seems to be calling for a Republican civil war. Great. Bring it on.  I, like many other Republicans, want my party back.  And we will get it back.  Make no mistake about it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

With Plea to Fire NFL Players, Trump and (Some) Conservatives Join Liberals in Attacking Free Speech

One of the most revolting political developments of the past decade or so is the effort by liberals to silence the speech of conservatives.  Many times these efforts involve liberal students exerting tremendous pressure on  college administrators to dis-invite right-wing speakers or, failing that, shouting down those speakers so their conservative views cannot be publicly aired.  This assault by liberals on conservative speech was documented in the excellent book "The Silencing:  How the Left is Killing Free Speech" written by Kirsten Parker, a Democrat who worked in the Clinton administration.

I have also written on the subject:

Monday, August 28, 2017, Berkeley Mayor Wants to Cancel Conservative Free Speech Rally Because of Possible Violence by Left-Wing Groups


Thursday, April 27, 2017, Liberals Show Contempt for Free Speech in Silencing Ann Coulter


The point Parker made so eloquently in her book is that the American tradition of free speech should protect all speech, including those views set forth by conservative speakers, and that liberals need to condemn attempts to silence views on the right.  After all, some day it might be conservatives who are trying to silence the speech of liberals.

That day came on Friday.

At a rally for Alabama Senator Luther Strange facing a special election for the seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump condemned NFL players who refused to stand for the national anthem and said that the owners should fire them.   He reiterated that view in subsequent tweets.  

I find the players actions at best misguided and at worst deplorable. The protest is supposed to be about raising the issue of racism.  But the protest does not do that at all.  Instead the protesting players are slapping the face of all those who have fought and died so that we can have the freedoms we Americans enjoy, including the freedom those players have to earn millions of dollars playing a game one day a week.  Those players might have as well gone up and spit on the flag and what it represents.  

But it is exactly because of what that flag stands for that we should respect and allow the protests to continue.  The flag stands for the freedom to express one's views, especially those that are political, i.e are about a matter of public concern.

Now I am well aware that the Free Speech Clause does not apply to private businesses, such as the NFL.  And, yes, the team owners can almost certainly legally fire the players for their objectionable speech.  But just because the action would be legal, does not mean it is right.  Free speech is not just part of a constitutional amendment.  It is an essential characteristic of American society and a bedrock principle of our political system.  If people are constantly threatened with their jobs if they dare express their views publicly then robust political debate is silenced and we all suffer as a result.

Sadly, we have a President who has long declared open hostility to the American tradition of free speech.   Candidate Trump attacked American free speech during the campaign., even suggesting that the requirement of "actual malice" for libel actions be done away with.  Trump warmly praised dictators who violently put down public protests and kill journalists who write negative stories about those dictators. He is the first President since John Adams who has argued that Americans actually have too much free speech.   Even before entering the world of politics, Trump was well-known for suing (or threatening to sue) anyone who had the temerity to speak ill of him publicly.

Unfortunately, too many of my Republican friends have tossed aside their conservative principles to back the President's over-the-top assertion that these NFL players should be fired by their employers. In doing so, they are eschewing Constitutional principles and embracing the liberal tactics of suppressing unpopular free speech, i.e. speech liberals do not like  If those tactics are wrong for liberals, they are also wrong when done by conservatives.  

The answer to unpopular speech is not to silence that speech, but to counter it with other speech.  By all means let's roundly condemn those players who insult the grand principles for which our great country stands. But, as one of those principles is the right to speak out on matters of public concern, let's stop short of demanding that speech be silenced by firing the speakers.   For conservatives to do otherwise makes them no better than the liberals.