Category: National (Page 1 of 17)

Dear Seahawks, Isn’t it Time for That Apology?

It’s ironic that a sport like football that is all about taking things head-on in a physical sense can’t seem to translate that smash-mouth approach to how it approaches moral matters.

Whether in the NFL’s habit of tut-tutting past an endless string of stories about players in legal trouble, or failing to organize around the very basic idea that abusing women will result in swift and sobering punishment, or slipping meekly away from the nova-like moment of leaguewide anthem protests, the amassed megatons of brawn appear weak.

Specifically, directly addressing the understandable offense taken by reasonable people over the protests should be a relatively light lift in whatever units are used for measuring apologies. Nevertheless, the NFL seems content to move on without directly addressing any of it.

The team I’ve loved since the time we both were kids in the mid-1970s, the Seattle Seahawks, seems especially happy to pretend as though the whole thing was a bad dream. Pushing the whole episode down the memory hole is a mistake. True fans have an amazing capacity to carry grudges. There are Hawks fans who continued to despise one-time owner Ken Behring – the man who actually packed up the headquarters in preparation to take the team to Los Angeles – until the day he died.

And ask former Starbucks CEO and Seattle Supersonics owner Howard Schultz whether the city has fully forgiven him for what many feel was an act of betrayal in allowing the team to be sold out and moved to Oklahoma City.

To be sure, the Seahawks have responded in some ways based on the public’s reaction. In Week 5, Seattle Seahawks fans witnessed a pre-game ceremony that didn’t look much different than what was typical prior to Week 4. Players standing. Some locked arms. Some hands over hearts. And at yesterday’s Week 5 match-up against the Los Angeles Rams, even the team’s standout anthem protester, all-pro defensive end Michael Bennett, stood with the team for the first time this year. Hurrah.

There’s just one problem: the leaguewide protest action of three weeks ago was less peaceful speech and more political punch. That blow was felt a broad enough swath of Americans that it shouldn’t be dismissed as the overreaction of right-wing-variety snowflakes. The Seahawks organization was a leader in the effort and neither the team nor the league have stepped up to acknowledge the message they sent, perhaps inadvertently, to fans.

“Look, we put everything back the way it was before. Good! Right?” mewed the league hopefully.

Not so fast. Diehard Seahawks fans who took the slap may deserve something more than an unspoken agreement to not slap them again. If the team wants to win back any respect from those fans, it’s going to have to make some effort to address the slap. Own it, recognize the insult, and let’s move on. We can start by breaching the great divide of perception that persists between protesters and those who see the protests as inextricably aimed at the flag.

At last mention, Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll still contends that he doesn’t believe the protests were a “denigration” of the flag and in the aftermath has defined such acts as a way to “stand against hate and dehumanization and equality for all people.”

The hyper-compartmentalization by Carroll and others to separate the protest from the only other thing happening at that time is still quite stunning. Keeping those blinders strapped on also prevents a rapprochement with alienated Hawks fans. That fan resistance isn’t pouting or intolerance or snowflakery.

Consider that you are attending the wedding of a Catholic friend. At the penultimate moment of the ceremony, you stand, turn your back to the altar, and profess your disapproval of the Church’s position on same-sex marriage. Consider then that you explain to your friend that you weren’t actually being disrespectful of their beliefs, their church or the sanctity of their moment. Consider then that you just lost a friend, perhaps for life, save for one last-ditch act. You do the right thing, suck it up, and make an honest and contrite apology.

Of course, professional sports are not a religion; neither is national pride. The point is that scheduling matters when it comes to how context will be interpreted. Planning a protest to suggest inequality and racism are woven into the American DNA is one thing. Having it coincide with the presentation of said nation’s flag is bound to be seen as intentional. Making it a league statement pits fans who vehemently disagree against the league. It’s fitting that a protest over the freedom to protest has unleashed in some disaffected fans the freedom to choose pumpkin patches, long walks, or reading a book over watching sports, as the decline in ratings appears to show.

So, Seahawks, is it time yet to begin the healing? As one seriously committed lifelong Seahawks fan, I’d like to see something happen. There is only so much entertainment one can squeeze out of a pumpkin patch. I can take a long walk any other day of the week.

Speaking only for myself, I’m not asking for a guarantee that all players will stand for the anthem, because compulsory respect isn’t actually respect at all.

Furthermore, I certainly don’t want players who were initially involved in the anthem protests to be pressured into abandoning whichever cause they were supporting. In fact, the only silver lining to be found here would be an honest opportunity to listen and learn from each other, to challenge preconceptions, get to a common set of facts about the issues at hand, and find some common objectives based on things we can all agree need to change.

Individual actions were not ever really a breaking point issue for me or most other fans. I know that because we were doing okay as recently as four weeks ago. Sure, it was the kind of “doing fine” that involved some tolerance that American football had become ever more soaked in the liquor of liberal politics, but it was easy enough to grind your teeth, roll your eyes and ignore it. And then the individual kneeling metastasized into a leaguewide action.

For the entire NFL to unite in a protest action was markedly different from the isolated player protests. Everything changed the moment it happened. It became a “thing.” To defuse it requires recognizing what it was to many people and some clear, public commitment to make it clear that protests are fine, but not those that coincide with a moment we reserve for respecting the flag. Individual acts of disrespect will still be distasteful, but easy to ignore without the appearance of endorsement by the entire team or the league as a whole.

We’ve given a lot of time, money and emotion to support a team. A simple sign of respect in reciprocity for all of that seems like the least we can ask.

[Ed. This story was corrected to indicate that Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett stood during the singing of the national anthem before the Oct. 8 game against the L.A. Rams.]

[Photo credit: AP]

A Thought Experiment for Proponents of Gun Control: Are You Anti-Gun or Just Scared?

Across America, this week isn’t one where people will wonder why the flags are at half-staff.  All of America is mourning the victims in Las Vegas and praying for their loved ones.

(All Americans except for the pathetic excuse for a former CBS Television attorney Hayley Geftman-Gold who wasn’t “sympathetic [because] country music fans often are Republican gun toters.”  It’s sick coincidence that, if the shooter indeed was a psychopath as at least one former FBI profiler has hypothesized, then he and this woman would share one trait: a chilling lack of empathy.)

We’re in collective shock.  We instinctively grope for answers to create some context that makes any sense at all.  Now is the best time to be brave, set aside your political positions – pro-gun, anti-gun – for just a moment.

If you’re a feeling person, as most Americans are, then the terror unleashed beside the landmark Vegas Strip late Sunday evening, well, it scares you. Frankly, it should scare us. Random violence is Satan’s turn to roll the dice. The number that comes up can easily be ours or that of someone we care about. We should all seek solutions that can minimize the number of times the devil gets his throw.

As we begin to debate policies with the goal of reducing either the number of these events, or the ability for an evildoer to rack up large body counts, or both, it’s actually important to identify what is motivating our policy preferences.  If you lean toward solutions for broader restrictions on gun ownership – maybe even as extreme as getting rid of the Second Amendment all together – are you really anti-gun (e.g., you believe the gun itself is evil and removing it them from society is the answer) or just scared of what guns can do when in an evil hand?  It’s a question that you can sort through even in the current emotion-driven state of debate. It just takes the bravery to honestly confront a thought experiment.

Consider that you are among those people who may have been walking near the Mandalay Bay as the shooting began. You know what’s happening. You can hear the screaming. You know people must be dying. You recognize that you are not in the killing zone; in this constructed reality you know that you are not in danger.

Then, a higher power – God, Yahweh, Allah, or Richard Dawkins and a teleporter machine – blinks you into that unholy space, the 32nd floor corner room.  The same higher power places an assault rifle in your hands and endows you with an immediate Jason Bourne-like understanding of how to use it. The shooter has his back to you and is focused; a kill shot would be assured. What do you do?

If you hold the pure belief that guns are the evil in the room, then you have only one moral option: you do not fire.

On the other hand, if you do choose to fire, that decision informs you about what you really believe: the gun is value-neutral and the shooter is the moral actor.  You accept that the gun is a tool that can be used for a moral purpose to take down the shooter and save lives.

Confronting this has important implications for how we discuss policy.  For those who are concerned by the randomness of these shootings but are brave enough to absolve the gun of a responsibility it doesn’t actually bear, the focus on solutions shifts to address the evil of a would-be shooter. Surely there are laws that can be enacted to address the physical nature of the weapon.  Banning the sale of bump-fire stocks or modifications that allow a weapon to effectively be fired fully automatic seems like a reasonable beginning and ending point.  But when we acknowledge that a person with gun can be a moral good, it becomes much clearer where we need to direct our attention; the utopian fantasy in which getting rid of all guns (or even enacting strict infringements on ownership) would also eliminate the risk of mass violence falls to tatters. Because as long as there’s evil, there will be rampage killings, even when the population has been disarmed.

The scale of evil done with a gun in Las Vegas was grand, but doesn’t negate the value of guns to do relative good in smaller-scale confrontations that take place in living rooms, churches, shopping malls, and elsewhere. Infringing upon the rights of the greater good to address abuses by an evil micro-minority would have unintended consequences that can’t just be ignored.

(Ed. Since initial publication, the headline has been changed for clarity of context.)

[Image credit: UltraONEs]

This Vice News Documentary on Racism Looks Chilling

And it’s time for media to put the same spotlight on all forms of hate.

HBO’s Vice News program will begin airing a documentary tonight (8/16) that promises to take an unflinching look at the white supremacist terror movement. The program will include interviews with white supremacists and footage recorded during the explosive and fateful events of the previous several days in Charlottesville, Va.

HBO has put an extended preview of tonight’s episode on YouTube.  I urge you to watch it, but be warned that it is shocking material that could be considered NSFW and unsuitable for younger children.

This is important and timely journalism from HBO.  It’s very likely that a large number of Americans are unaware that the views espoused by the subject of this piece are anything more than throwaway dialogue for historical fiction.  Those who say that the best way to banish these idea is to apply the Voldemort defense — “don’t speak their name because it gives them more power” — are wrong.  More light.  More shame.  More perspective on how small they are compared to the largeness of those who disagree with them.

Vice should also assign a team to compile a similar unvarnished, unfiltered perspective of groups that the left is now holding up as heroes who are in fact not heroes at all.

A primary role of the press in a free society is to raise an alarm when threat to the greater society surface.  The mainstream national media is doing an excellent job running the siren about the boldness of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. They are, so far, doing a fairly awful job when it comes to sounding the alarm about any hate rising in the left.

In fact, the same righteous charge leveled by nearly every mouth talking on CNN Tuesday at Pres. Donald Trump, that his remarks to the press on that day drew inaccurate and immoral equivalencies between white supremacists and antifa thugs that were warring on the ground in Charlottesville, could also apply to their chorus of outrage.  The president’s equivalency wasn’t just immoral, they cried, it was invalid and false to its core because white supremacists are stand for hate, and antifa is about standing up to hate.  Compounding their flawed logic was a wave of social media posts welcoming antifa into the club of heroes that includes U.S. soldiers who fought and died to defeat fascism in World War II.

(Local coverage in cities like Seattle, Portland, and even Berkeley, where the have been face-to-face with left-wing anarchists and antifa thugs tends to be much less afraid to call a spade a spade, or a nail-studded two-by-four a weapon, as is often the case. Direct experience is a potent ingredient in producing honest journalism.)

The problem is that if we’re going to be a society that really does seek to guard itself against hate, it won’t work for the media to be so exclusionary about what it will allow to be labeled hateful.

Whether hatred coalesces like an oily choking smoke cloud around race-based hate or class-based hate, white supremacy or Marxism, really matters less than the hard truth that each of these hate groups targets for demolition the same common set of core values: freedom, equality and tolerance of different opinions.  These hate groups descend from lines of virulent thought that have stacked up staggering body counts.  The fact that they and other opposing groups on the extreme wings are at war with each other shouldn’t trick us, and especially the wise sages in the media, into being stuck with only one white hat and one black hat to use in talking about them.

For Extremism to Fall, Civility Must Rise

It’s time to revoke the moratorium that intellectuals and political thinkers have imposed on a certain mode of argument. From here on out, we should talk openly about the dangers that extreme political groups pose to democratic societies, even if that means we need to talk about (gulp) the lessons that include the history of Nazi Germany.

I want to say at the outset that, although this should be obvious, the United States is not now Nazi Germany. Despite all attempts by the left to portray the U.S. as a teeming majority racist country, there is no evidence that is true, even with the surge in growth among hate groups in recent years. Similarly, conspiracists on the right who project Nazi-esque totalitarian motives onto liberals and Democrats are unhinged and misguided.

Nor does it seem likely that even in the unlikely event that America descends into extremism it would ever feature horrors on the magnitude inflicted by the 20th century’s ethno-fascist powers; our demographic diversity is a bulwark and a deterrent.

Nevertheless, is should be clear that something is not right in the U.S. body politic. It’s time for a sobering check and to consider the true condition of our political health, even if doing so requires denying ourselves to daydream about what we wish it to be.

Not only because of Charlottesville do we need this examination, but also because of Oak Creek, and Dallas, and Baltimore, and so many other recent moments in which hate boiled over and erupted into uncivil violent rage. Charlottesville was a focal point of white supremacist hate; there will be others. Now is the time to condemn that particular brand of evil, but we can do more than one thing at once. We are, after all, Americans. We fought fascism in two hemispheres; we can identify and defeat it on two poles of the political continuum here at home, too. We only need to be brave enough to face it directly. It’s time to face the reality that the dark forces are conducting their war on the fringes but through the middle of the political landscape. There are real potential concerns if the middle doesn’t take steps to confine corrosive insanity to the edges.

The real danger posed by these extreme groups is not their direct impact—their raw influence is overstated, partly due to tactical shrewdness on their part and partly due to media amplification. Under normal circumstances, the clear majority of people intuitively recognize extremists for who they are and insert proper distance from them and their views. But today’s circumstances are far from normal. The real danger posed by extreme groups is different today than in the past 20 years because it manifests at a time when extremists warring in the streets occurs against the backdrop of hyper-polarized politics in the middle (relatively speaking) of the spectrum.

Political machines making maps to nowhere

There are entire machines inside of mainstream politics working to ensure that people see Democrats or Republicans as sympathetic to one extreme or the other. They are good at what they do.

The political maps generated by millions of social media posts, emails, and other forms of messaging is, to be fair, useful—the groups on the fringes are bad folks—but each side isn’t handing out the same map.

Republicans look across the line to see a movement that runs through Black Lives Matter, Linda Sansour’s Women’s March, and culminates in groups such as Antifa, the Muslim Brotherhood and the BDS movement.

Democrats stare over the barbed wire and see the Tea Party, President Trump hardcore base and the NRA coalescing into the alt-right, white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

When there is blood in the streets between the extremists (as there was in Charlottesville and has increasingly been in clashes around the nation), the political maps come out. Enemies are identified and history tells us that far too often we use the oft-misleading rationale that an enemy of our enemy is our friend to enter uneasy and unhealthy alliances. We recognize how that method of calculation can backfire by reviewing the checkered realpolitik track record in foreign affairs. It is also the domestic political trapdoor through which the German establishment fell in 1933 and all of the world fell through it with them as the Nazis rose to full power.

German politics in the interwar period—the years between World Wars I and II—were chaotic. Here’s a speed course through the history. Conservatives and progressives tugged back and forth over bitter divisions for control of the parliament; Communists and the fledgling National Democratic Socialists (Nazis) fought violently in the streets for control of towns to gain footholds. Communists and Nazis each accreted a small base of power, and in the end, the balance of the German establishment’s concern went to its fear of communism. The more conservative elements reluctantly hopped into bed with the Nazis who promptly fulfilled their end of the bargain. This bit of Joseph Goebbels speaking in 1933 conveys the story well.

(Hat tip to Ben Shapiro for including this clip from a 2005 British-made documentary “Hitler in Colour” on his very fiery podcast today and prompting me to use it here.)

What do we take from this? Only that democracies aren’t invulnerable and a small or divided political center (in terms of dialogue, not beliefs of agenda) can be manipulated to follow its own interests straight to destruction.

It might be comforting to soothe oneself into blissful ignorance by picking up the flag of American exceptionalism and hugging it like a security blanket, believing that the mere existence of the values the nation was founded upon really do have magical prophylactic characteristics to repel viral forces as they emerge. (Constitution! Kills pesky extremism on contact!)

Because we’re immersed in an automated, push-button, retail on-demand world, it may have become very easy to also think of our way of life as self-cleaning. At times pundits promoting confidence in the durability of our system even speak of self-correction to quell fears about how far instability can really take us.

In reality, our system is not self-correcting at all. Our system requires real moral leadership and real will within the public to utilize the tools the system has provided to cause a correction to happen.

In order for that moral leadership to coalesce, it might be best to set aside Pollyannaish talk about how checks and balances and the oh-so-parchmenty substance of the Constitution form an impenetrable defense against threats to real freedom coming from several directions.  In short, it’s time for us to heed Sinclair Lewis’ warning and stop telling ourselves that it can’t happen here.  It—fascism, whether on the right or the left—can gain a foothold anywhere and when even a nation’s “mainstream” political dialogue becomes nothing more than artillery-grade name-calling across a deep and polarized policy divide, the ground becomes a little too fertile for extremism to grow.

We can do things in an effort to ensure that it won’t happen, but waiting for our leaders to adjust their behavior is not one of them. The hard, cold fact is that politicians are more responsive than they are proactive; they react to stimuli. Pat them on the head for a good deed and they do more good deeds. Smack them on the nose… you get the gist. It is necessary for all people, on both sides, to draw the same tough line for themselves and their political friends as they draw for their foes.

We have everything to gain and potentially so much to lose. Other generations have done their part to preserve the nation. If this is the most ours must do—to let each other know that extremism doesn’t have a home in any legitimate political movement—we’ll have drawn the short straw.

Biggest Players Silent on the ‘Day of Action’ for Net Neutrality

Last week I told you about net neutrality and the 2015 government takeover of the internet. The same day I posted, the issue was supposed to be front and center for the left-wing organizers’ “Day of Action” to “save” net neutrality.

Oh, you didn’t notice? Hardly anyone else did, either. Perhaps it’s because few people really care about net neutrality since they never had a problem to begin with. Or maybe they just don’t like the precedent of treating the internet like a public utility and potentially opening it up to endless regulation.

You have to hand it to the social justice warriors; their hearts are usually in the right place. They hear a word like “neutrality” and line right up. But the only thing that isn’t neutral is when big government places its thumb on the scale.

As I wrote last week, there is widespread agreement that users should be able to go wherever they like online without fear of selective discrimination against different websites, internet traffic, or data via Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

But heavy net neutrality restrictions are unnecessary, especially the preposterous public utility rules, and few things are truly as neutral as a free marketplace without government interference.

The interesting thing is the effort was originally backed by big names like Facebook, Airbnb, Spotify, Reddit, and Netflix, among others, sites that the protesters rely on daily, both for their lifestyle choices and their low-risk activism. Then it appears these companies, while supporting the “Day of Action,” kept a relatively low profile. Why?

The fact is that all of them are extremely powerful corporations worth tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars each. Would so many big-time companies really adapt left-wing causes out of the goodness of their hearts and an unshakable sense of justice?  Do they really care about fairness and all the malarkey about mom-and-pop shops?

Of course not; the activists got duped into supporting an objective that fortifies the bottom lines of these companies, the only thing that would compel them to take such bold steps.

Strict net neutrality protects their profitability for a few reasons. First, they are all well positioned now; in fact, near monopolies in their respective online spaces. Permissionless innovation can only loosen their grips, not tighten them. Breakthroughs in technology favor new entrants into the marketplace, unfettered by government, who can usurp the incumbent leaders. That’s why seemingly everyday Facebook simply buys up another new and innovative social media rival rather than compete with them.

Additionally, quasi-monopolies work best when they enjoy biased protections from the government. Overreaching net neutrality essentially protects them and discourages new investors because the utility regulations function similarly to price controls. Think about it: Google doesn’t want to pay more for better broadband just because investors want good returns on their investments.

So it turned out that on Tuesday, July 11th, the day before the Day of Action, Republican House leadership made it clear to Facebook, Google and Amazon that overly aggressive net neutrality activism could make it harder to work together on other policy issues that the companies really care about like privacy rules and legal liability for content on online platforms. So they abandoned, they toned down the resistance and left the millennials to fight the good fight.

As I said last week, the ultimate solution is to settle this issue once and for all by clearly defining the role of the federal government in the internet with a free-market based, legislative solution that locks in basic standards of net neutrality while also promoting continued private-sector investment and innovation. That’s a goal worth marching for.

Conservatives Need to Undo President Obama’s Damage to the Internet

What would you say if I told you that the federal government took an 80-year-old law, originally passed in order to regulate apples, and instead applied it today to oranges—rather than simply draft a new law specifically for oranges?

That’s far beyond the pale even for the feds, right?

Yet in 2015, that is exactly what happened. Let’s rewind to 1934, when Congress passed the Communications Act in order to address the growing network of telephones. Among other things, the law outlined provisions to regulate the Bell System as a “public utility.”

Eight decades later, President Obama and his Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chief, Tom Wheeler, decided that very same law—written years before all but the most rudimentary computers even existed—would work just fine for the federal government to get its hands on the internet.

How ridiculous. It’s not just that this tactic was a regulatory non-sequitur, or that very few people consider the internet to be a public utility in any way, but it was clearly a cynical, abusive end around of Congress well-established constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce. It isn’t hyperbole to say this amounted to an attempted government takeover of the internet.

The Administration’s excuse for these rules at the time was to implement so-called net neutrality principles. But that doesn’t change the fact that the internet has almost nothing in common with traditional public utilities.

Moreover, nearly everyone in the tech industry and public policy circles already agrees on the principles behind net neutrality, the idea that users should be able to go wherever they like online without fear of selective discrimination against different websites, internet traffic, or data via Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Those principles had never been significantly violated in the first two decades of the internet’s existence—so net neutrality was basically a solution to a problem that didn’t exist.

From the 1990s through the 2000s, investors poured billions of dollars in capital into digital services including high-speed network. The Clinton and Bush administrations realized that a hands off approach was best for the internet’s growth.  They didn’t want to interfere with the visionaries and entrepreneurs blazing trails few others could conceive of or act on. Under that light regulatory touch the internet grew our economy, created jobs,  and changed our lives immeasurably.

But in the years since President Obama designated the internet a public utility, investment in broadband networks has declined by 5 percent. What would happen to our economy over the long term if the internet remains a public utility open to government meddling?

There are two ways to undo the damage the Obama administration did.

First, we need conservatives in Washington to stand up and take on the issue of overzealous net neutrality by rolling back Obama Era regulations that are jeopardizing the future of the internet. President Trump’s FCC chairman is doing that now.

But, additionally, Republicans in Congress also need to codify a free-market based, legislative solution that locks in basic standards of net neutrality while also promoting continued private-sector investment and innovation and in so doing prevents further shenanigans by the next Democratic president.

The Democrats’ #1 Political Strategy

If Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell actually believe the things they tweet, they may be the stupidest people around, lacking sufficient intellectual depth to understand any topic at more than a surface level.

And that’s if I’m being nice.

The other possibility is that they’re shameless partisan hacks*, mindlessly spouting off leftist talking points regardless of the truth. In other words, they’re liars.

For example, last Thursday, the Senate voted on whether or not to allow states, at the discretion of their own legislatures, to withhold Title X funds from family planning clinics that provide abortions. Basically, the vote allows states to choose not to use that federal money to fund Planned Parenthood. That’s it. That’s all the vote authorized. Not a single thing else.

Federalism is good, right?

Not according to Murray and Cantwell, who apparently don’t trust states to make the “right” decision. You know, the decision that agrees with them. So they were going on about the Title X vote as though every woman in America has suddenly been cut off from access to any health care whatsoever. Or as Patty Murray says…ZOMG, Women will die and Mike Pence is the devil!

Let me state this as clearly as I can. If Planned Parenthood values providing other kinds of services more than they value providing abortions, they can simply stop doing abortions and reduce the risk of losing Title X funds to zero. But they won’t, which makes it seem as though Planned Parenthood is unnaturally attached to providing a service which makes up, as they claim, only 3% of their business.

If last week’s vote accomplishes nothing other than to allow the states to disburse Title X funds, why, then, are Democrats so determined to mislead the public about it?

I recently wrote, “Democrats…repeat lies until they’re ground into the public consciousness and internalized as truth.” Democrats know that defunding Planned Parenthood is a winning issue for the GOP; therefore they must lie to try to steal the win. That they lie in ways specifically calculated to instill fear in women is particularly contemptible, because it illustrates their misogynistic belief that women are politically naive and easily manipulated. This is the basis for the entire “Republican war on women” story line.

Fear is a powerful motivator. Powerful enough to cause otherwise rational and intelligent women to march for rights they already have. Fearmongering. It’s the Democrats’ #1 strategy and it’s disgusting.


* Patty Murray reveals herself to be a shameless partisan hackMaria Cantwell reveals herself to be a shameless partisan hack

[This post first appeared here on the author's personal blog.]
[Featured image credit: DonkeyHotey, used under Creative Commons license.]

Word Games

Al Franken…what can I say. The words he says here make grammatical sense, but taken as a whole, what he’s saying is nonsensical.

I would love to hear how Franken defines “consensus,” because it must be quite different from how I define it.

In point of fact, Merrick Garland was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit by a vote of 76 to 23, although honesty forces me to note that at least some of the “no” votes were probably motivated by the belief that the 11th seat was unneccessary.

Neil Gorsuch, on the other hand, was unanimously confirmed to the 10th Circuit by a voice vote of 98-0. He was so non-controversial that 12 current senators, including vocal opponents Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray, voted for him. Call me crazy, but that seems very consensus-like to me.

Democrats like to play word games. They change the meaning of words and repeat lies until they’re ground into the public consciousness and internalized as truth. If you don’t believe that, consider that at one point, 52% of Democrats believed Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President.

Gosh, that couldn’t have had anything to do with the constant repetition by Democrat politicians and pundits that the election was “hacked.” Could it?

Word games. Al Franken is playing fast and loose with the meaning of consensus. He wasn’t a senator in 2006 so he won’t be a hypocrite like Patty Murray, but he’s still a shameless partisan hack.

[This post first appeared here on the author's personal blog.]
[Featured image contains illustration of Sen. Franken credit: DonkeyHotey, used under Creative Commons license.]

Where Does Congress’ Allegiance Lay?

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard that the American Health Care Act, otherwise known as ACA-Lite has died a painful death. Good riddance.

In Donald Trump’s eulogy, he said something that caught my attention.

This was an interesting period of time. We learned a lot about loyalty and we learned about the vote getting process.”

Then I saw this on Twitter.

The two things together got me thinking.

One can only speculate what Trump had in mind when he made his remarks, but my guess is that he felt that the House Freedom Caucus had been disloyal to…himself? The party? Hard to know for sure.

Austin Scott’s meaning, however, is very clear and I’m sure his constituents would be interested to learn that he believes Congressmen owe their loyalty to the President.

Congressmen don’t take an oath to support and defend the President. If they did it would just be creepy in the same way it was creepy in 2009 when these celebrities pledged allegiance to Barack Obama.

In fact, congressmen take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. It goes like this:

I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

What I don’t see mentioned there is the President or any political party whatsoever. I propose that a congressman’s primary responsibility is to the Constitution of the United States and that is where his loyalty should be directed.

After that? Oh, there is no “after that.” A congressman should never place loyalty to a party or person, even the President of the United States, above his loyalty to the Constitution. There will be times, hopefully many – even most – times, when the interests of the President and a political party align with adherence to the Constitution. That’s great, but when they don’t the Constitution must come first.

And, yes, I mean a congressman owes his allegiance to the Constitution over his responsibility to his constituents.

So Donald Trump can trash the House Freedom Caucus all he wants…

…But in my view, they are the heroes of this story. They honored the Constitution and honored the promises they made to their constituents. I hope Trump really did learn something about the “vote getting process.” I hope he learned that the President isn’t a CEO and that Congress is in no way obligated to do his bidding.

[This post first appeared here on the author's personal blog.]
[Featured image credit: Adobe Stock]

What’s in a Promise Anyway?

There’s more to replacement than one word can define

Before this week, you had to watch a drag race to witness anything accelerate as fast, careen as recklessly, and burst into flame as catastrophically as did the first Republican effort to replace the Affordable Care Act during Pres. Trump’s term in office.

Clearly, Republican leadership was not ready. Clearly, they felt pressure to fulfill the one promise that had been pounded in ad infinitum to voters in hundreds of congressional districts over four consecutive election cycles.

Promises are funny things, though. The promisor – in this case, the politicians – and the promisee – voters – should have a common understanding of the terms. The absence of mutual understanding often leads to promisees reacting to the promisor’s actions as a breach.

“Behold, promisees! We are repealing! And replacing!” proclaims the promisor, beaming with pride.

“Umm, not so much repealing by our account,” say the promisees. “And that’s not even close to how we envisioned the replacing. I think we’d call that revising, but replacing… not so much.”

“Oh,” says the promisor. “Oops.”

I don’t mean to suggest that agreeing on a complex idea such as health care reform is easy. It’s an unavoidable limitation that in a representative democracy we’re not going to get the fine print on the social contract we’re asked to extend, modify and renew at each election.

Campaign slogans are useful tools for harvesting votes, but worthless when it comes to understanding what specific policies those votes may have supported. Governing, it seems, requires more communication to get it right. It’s critical for elected representatives to check back in with the public prior to diving into the creation of a broad, sweeping policy like the AHCA.

The late Mario Cuomo’s dictum (“You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”) comes to mind. Republicans have campaigned successfully in poetry since 2009. Last year’s devolution into a kind of right-wing beat poetry – MAGA rally chants and random thoughts of no more than 140 characters – resulted in even greater success. Transitioning to a mode of communication that embraced their new role as the governing party was never going to be easy. Decisions by many Republicans not to hold town halls during their mid-winter recess, though understandable, foreclosed opportunities to broaden understanding with constituents about the ACHA and other issues that lay ahead. The chaos generated by liberal action groups shut down the best chance for Republican members and their constituents to sync up on what the repeal and replace promise really did mean.

Not having the public forums was a rational decision where and when those choices were made, but it’s hard not to recognize that it was a choice that may have kept Republicans out of touch.

The same choice will present itself again and Republicans will need to find a way to push through. The use of technology, more meetings with smaller groups of constituents, or partnering with local media to host (and manage) town halls could be crucial ways of keeping communication active and open.

So, with all of that non-communication happening against the helpful backdrop of a daily White House circus show, it was unsurprising that the Quinnipiac poll released Thursday read like a stern note from estranged constituents: “We’re getting the feeling that we’re not on the same page anymore. Is there something you’d like to tell us?”

The poll found Republicans were predictably the most supportive of the now-decommissioned AHCA, though registering less than majority (41%) approval for the proposal. That’s an anemic lack of support from your own base on a keystone issue. Even more concerning, independent voters registered 14% approve/58% disapprove. That’s not anemic; that’s a femoral artery gashed and bleeding out if you’re a Republican in a purplish district. These are the shifting electoral shoals on which an otherwise great campaign can find itself wrecked in suburban districts across the country.

Now, there remains a promise on the table. A non-vote on an unpopular bill does not nullify that fact. Even if Trump does elect to blame Democrats and move on, that isn’t the deal the rest of the Republicans made with their voters.

Nothing should stop Republicans from discussing proposals and slowly building support through prosaic dialogue — not poetic soundbites – with constituents. Persuasion takes time, but I have a feeling that voters are ready to spend the time to get this right.

[Featured image credit: Adobe Stock]

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