Living in the Loopholes

Loopholes Oregon Center for Public Policy

We are living in the loopholes. We exploit loopholes in our documents and in our laws. We exploit privacy laws and consumer protection laws. We create a safeguard against one scam or sneaky work-around and a new way to skirt that safeguard is instantly dreamed up. It does speak volumes for our creativity but not so much about our character. Perhaps since opportunities to climb the economic and social ladder have gotten scarce exploring the frontiers of the art of the con are the only places left for self-expression and achieving a sort of trashy success. More and more of us don’t seem to worry about where our money comes from these days because we don’t have that luxury.

There have always been con artists, probably since time began and traders wandered to distant tribal groups to barter their wares for food and whatever passed for payment. Early traders may have been welcomed and fussed over for their news of other people and their exotic goods from distant geographical locations. Still I bet some traders had a reputation for being more honest than others.

Although people in towns all over the world cheated each other in business deals, property deals, and every other way imaginable, the gypsies were often shunned for their disregard for laws and boundaries and were even rumored to have kidnapped children. Perhaps they were just too blatant about their insistence on an alternate lifestyle unlike that of most people who were beginning to settle in one location (a city, a town). It is difficult for people who at least pretend to live a rule-based life to incorporate those who are seemingly lawless. But sneaky lawless behavior is often tolerated.

The fewer opportunities there are to earn a substantial wage the more likely people are to look for loopholes. So as soon as we got our “do not call” lists people came up with the robocall. Making robocalls seems like a terrible way to earn a living wage and offers, I suspect, little social stability. But judging by the fact that I almost never bother to answer my phone anymore the “business” is thriving. And the “do not call” fix does not work for robocalls. Phone companies say they are working on a new fix but robocalls must be a difficult thing to stop because that has not happened so far.

We seem to be living in an age when finding loopholes compares to mining for gold. I would say that it is because we have a con man for a President, but it predates 45. The Republican Party, the Conservatives, and wealthy donors have been mining loopholes in our Constitution and our laws for some time now and the prize is money, of course, but the bigger prize has been power and finding ways to hold on to that power.

Obstruction is not forbidden in our laws although it sort of undermines the whole idea of governance so it mines a loophole. Republicans have used this tactic time and time again here at the beginning of the 21stcentury to great effect. When a former Chief Executive of our nation had to resort to governing in limited fashion by Executive Action because of obstruction, the Republicans just bided their time until they took over the executive office and then overturned all the previous Executive Actions, which do not have the longevity of actual laws. When faced with public resistance to their occupation of our halls of government they resorted to issuing their own Executive Actions.

There are American people trying to “turn” state governments red in order to compile a magic number of states who will vote for calling a new Constitutional Convention. These people are not in the government, although they certainly have allies in the government. They are wealthy people, corporate people who do not want to stop using the fossil fuels that funnel wealth around the globe and that have so successfully fueled their businesses. They understand fossil fuel. Solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, electricity, and all alternative energies reek to them of what they disparage as the “new world order”, at a time when all these rich old people are trying to make the “new world order” the same as the “old world order.” These new energies seem wimpy to them compared to oil and gas and even nukes. It is true that we probably cannot power the world as we know it with only the alternative energies so far available. But changes on earth (melting ice caps, more extreme weather) tell us that we must find a way to wean ourselves from using fossil fuels. What new laws do you think they would like to make at their new Constitutional Convention?

More loopholes. We are learning that impeachment has no teeth and certainly can’t be used when one party controls our entire government. We are learning that there is really no case of a President who is bad enough to invoke the 25thAmendment. Even the Emoluments Clause, although it makes a rule prohibiting Presidents from making money from their powerful position, is not enforceable because, apparently, a sitting President can neither be subpoenaed nor indicted. We have laws against nepotism – unenforceable. Unfortunately we have no laws against Tweeting.

When the Republicans, or anyone, operate in the loopholes of our laws our laws lose their force and we find ourselves in that place everyone keeps talking about, a Constitutional Crisis. Sounds bad doesn’t it. Well it is. Because it means our democracy/republic as we know it could fail. It doesn’t mean our Constitution gets a bad grade; it means it no longer has any power as an instrument of American governance. Of course there is always that promise of that Constitutional Convention our oligarchs are trying to convene. Not exactly the idealistic base one would hope for when forming a new government to equal our old one. I think we can say goodbye to “we the people” if this is our eventual fate.

It is the newest trend in Europe for a man, so far it is always a man, to get himself elected in a democratic election and then to find loopholes in either the country’s laws or in the resolve of the people. Certain patterns seem to work to turn democratic nations into autocracies. Finding ways to intimidate a free press, at first verbally and then with arrests and perhaps even mysterious deaths is part of the authoritarian playbook. Dismantling legislative bodies or filling them with toadies is also in there. And turning the judicial system into a body that merely rubber stamps executive policy. Then you create new language, a linguistic loophole and you call your dictatorship an “illiberal democracy.” You exploit some fear that you have magnified in your people’s minds, you find a loophole through their usually principled ideals, and that’s how you hold onto power.

Living in the loopholes is an insidious way to live our lives. It leads to dark underground places that undermine the worth of individuals and of a culture as a whole. It makes us lawless and disrespectful. How can you respect anyone who lets her/himself be conned by anyone as despicable as you. It leads to loss of freedom and fear. It makes everyone suspect. Who is honest, who is cheating? Who is stealing away your personal power and/or your personal property, and invading your privacy? Who is aiming to turn you from an autonomous actor into someone who must obey or hide in the shadows? We can’t hope to plug every loophole. Plug one, another opens. The only way to fight the trend towards exploiting loopholes is to call it out and make it shameful. Living in the loopholes could take away our democracy/republic and land us in an autocracy. It could happen here. It could happen now. It only starts with a robocall.

Survey – Immigration/Migration

child detention centers thedailybeast.com

On September 12, 2018 the New York Times gave us the newest figures on migrant children who are being detained in the U. S. Many of us were shocked to learn that the number is now 12,800 and that our government does not plan to reunite these children with their parents who may have been deported. Many of these children also arrived here unaccompanied by their parents. Here’s how the NYT’s article begins. Please follow the link if you want more details.

“Even though hundreds of children separated from their families after crossing the border have been released under court order, the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded — a significant counternarrative to the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce the number of undocumented families coming to the United States.

Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017.

The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests. Some of those who work in the migrant shelter network say the bottleneck is straining both the children and the system that cares for them.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/migrant-children-detention.html

Once again the two parties have adopted different words to refer to these children with Republicans calling them immigrants and Democrats calling them migrants. Please take the following survey and see the directions that follow it.

survey 2 Newcastle West Cham of Comm

Survey  (Circle your choice)

Yes.         No        I like the Trump approach to immigration

Yes.         No.      I think we should build a wall

Yes          No.       I think we should accept zero immigrants across our southern border

Yes.          No.      I think these children should be kept here and placed in foster care after every effort is made to reunite them with their parents or relatives

Yes.          No.   I want these children sent out of the country

Yes            No.   I approve of the Trump’s plan to spend $20 millions taken from the foreign assistance budget to pay Mexico for plane and bus fare to send 17,000 immigrants to Mexico

Yes.           No   These children are migrating because of fear about their fate at home and should be allowed access to due process to determine if they qualify for asylum

Yes.          No.  Assign more judges to expedite the cases of these children.

Yes.          No.  Hold demonstrations across America to bring pressure on the administration to adopt a more humane approach

Yes.          No.  Appoint a committee of citizens to examine approaches to immigration/migration that others have suggested (perhaps a Move On initiative)

Yes.          No   Open the US southern border for a year and study what happens. Allow people to move freely back and forth across the border.

Yes.          No.  Close the border between Mexico and America down completely except for designated entry zones until a plan is in place that works.

Yes.          No.   Enforce the southern border laws with towers and a shoot-to-kill order.

Yes.          No    Migrants/immigrants may come in but cannot collect welfare, food stamps, or have access to free health care.

Yes.         No.   Respect the Flores ruling and do not keep children in detention longer than 20 days.

 

Offer your own suggestions for dealing with migration/immigration at our southern border:

 

Highlight the survey and copy it to a Word document. Print it out. Fill it in. Send to Migration/Immigration Survey, PO Box. 3876, Syracuse, NY 13220

Drawing: (To join in the drawing you must include your mail address. It will only be used if you are the winner. Otherwise it will be discarded after the drawing.

IMG_0803

When we have received 50 surveys we will pick a winner, we will email the winner to get a mailing address and we will send you either the Armchair Observer mug or the Cheap Seats mug. You may specify which one you would like. If there is no email address we will assume you do not want to take part in the drawing although we will still count your survey as one of the 50.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search, thedailybeast.com, Newcastle West Chamber of Commerce

 

 

Another Typical Week in Trump’s Version of America

hurricane-florences-ABC News

Second Week of September, 2018

While we all have been engrossed by an approaching hurricane with all its unknown variables such as, where it will come ashore, what will the winds be like, and how much rain will fall, we have also been listening to our President play the Revising Recent History Game in what is just a typical week in Trump’s version of America.

Although we all watched the aftermath of two hurricanes slamming Puerto Rico, despite the fact that we all saw the footage of the devastation, Trump denies the most recent facts about how many died. Even though we decried the painfully botched recovery and we knew that the actual death toll had to be greater than the 16-17 deaths that were officially reported, our President, Donald Trump expects that we will deny our own senses, our own logical deductions, and allow him to insist that the scientific analysis that tells us the number of deaths was more like 3,000 is wrong.

No matter how you repackage the facts, Donald, Mr. 45, there are videos, there are witnesses. You could change every story printed on the matter, but you cannot erase what we saw with our own eyes. What we abhor the most is that you try to deny what is clearly a matter of record and that some Americans let you get away with it.

What will happen after this slow-moving Hurricane Florence finally blows itself out perhaps somewhere over the northern Atlantic? We’re on the mainland not an island (although that island was not very far away) so I expect the recovery will follow the usual pattern. FEMA will do its always somehow controversial thing. People from all over the US will pitch in to help. The convoys of utility trucks will wend their way backwards along the path of the hurricane. Some will bemoan the fact that they evacuated unnecessarily and will vow that next time they will stay put and a large swath of America will eventually be cleaned up and restored to something like pre-hurricane status. Deaths will be mourned and the living will go on.

Then we will try to figure out what to do about the newly exposed information that 12,800 immigrant children without parents are still being detained in the United States of America. Their parents have been found guilty of crimes and our government has decided not to place these children with foster families or with relatives already in America. What does our current administration have planned for these children?

This is the newest old plan according to the Daily Intelligencer, writing on September 13, 2018:

“In recent weeks President Trump has been threatening to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t give him more U.S. taxpayer money to build his border wall. In the meantime, his administration plans to take $20 million that Congress allocated for foreign assistance, and use it to pay Mexico for plane and bus fare to deport as many as 17,000 people in the country illegally.”

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/09/us-pay-mexico-deportations.html

If you don’t like this source the same information appears in several other sources.

Our guts are already tangled by so many reports of weather gone slightly mad, of the inexplicable lies of America’s President to cover up his very odd behavior towards Puerto Rico, this new data about the numbers of immigrant children still being detained in America, and the hurried agenda of Mitch McConnell to pack the courts before the blue wave that could hopefully come in November (which we did not discuss but I will offer you a link)

Mitch McConnell plans to keep Senate open through October, against tradition to keep the confirmation-of-judges assembly line ticking along and to keep Dem Senators from going home to campaign.

https://www.salon.com/2018/09/13/mcconnell-breaks-senate-tradition-to-obstruct-democratic-campaigns-hes-resorted-to-cheap-tactics/

that you might have missed another, far smaller story, an enticing little mystery with huge possibilities for the conspiracy mill.

A solar observatory in New Mexico is evacuated for a week and the FBI is investigating. No one will say why.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/a-solar-observatory-in-new-mexico-is-evacuated-for-a-week-and-the-fbi-is-investigating-no-one-will-say-why/2018/09/14/ea006a96-b78b-11e8-a2c5-3187f427e253_story.html

If we were under attack from outer space or had contact with aliens would we band together? Or would we have factions of those who wanted to try diplomacy, and those who wanted to blow them out of the galaxy, and those who were in denial and kept claiming it was all a plot by those libtards to oust real Americans from power? Well the article claims that no aliens are involved in this mystery so we will not get to see if any of my alternative predictions pan out. But it does make us wonder what really is going on in New Mexico. And it will probably prove easier to resolve than any of the other big issues we consider each and every day in the administration of 45. Whew, which one of these crazy weeks will finally end either our democracy or this administration?

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, ABC News

 

 

 

 

 

 

Survey: Economies, Governments, and Societies

survey_Mansfield Citizen Online

I don’t know about you but these times, for me, seem to turn my thoughts to the issues of economies and governments.

Economies, Governments and Societies:

Is an economy and a government enough to make a society, or are there other necessary components?    Circle one: Enough  More needed

Does Capitalism only work when it is unfettered by regulations?   Yes   No

Does a laissez-faire approach to Capitalism offer the best economic returns?  Yes  No

What happens to the economy when the government deliberately tries to create a free market climate or a tax structure that subsidizes private enterprise?__________________________________________

Are societies mostly about economics?  Yes  No

Can societies that distribute wealth somewhat equally survive?   Yes   No

How much social support should be part of a government, of a society?   Circle one:  As necessary   Minimal   None

Does having a class of very poor people unsupported by any kind of social safety net tend to weigh a culture down, or does this have little effect? Weighs culture down     Unavoidable      Little effect

Is Democratic Socialism a way to a more equitable distribution of  wealth?  Yes    No

Are there successful socialistic countries around the globe?  Follow the link then answer      Yes     No

How much socialism do we already have in our government?  Too Much   Not nearly enough      Just about right Comment_____________________________

Would it be useful (help delay the demise of our democracy) to alter the democratic socialism/capitalism ratio in our culture?     Yes       No

Financial Inequality in Societies

When economies get too unequal what happens? Will the distribution eventually right itself?     Yes      No Comment_________________________

Will a nation surrender to authoritarianism to hold onto wealth at the top?  Likely       Not likely

Will there be a revolution?       Likely       Not likely

Do you agree that Democrats and Republicans seem to be at odds right now about what is of key importance to American success?     Yes       No

Small Government v Bigger Government

It seems that Republicans want to sideline the Federal government and let the states take the lead (this has been a refrain on the right for almost the entire life of our democracy/republic). It also seems that Republicans feel that economics is the essential factor in a culture. They want the government to back away from economic rules and regulations and controls over what are intended to be private enterprises.  〇I agree that the Republicans want this

〇I do not agree

Republicans do not want social safety net supports to be handled by our Federal government. The Constitution gives the Federal government powers over the military and foreign relations. All other rights, Republicans say are reserved to the states and we have strayed from that separation of powers. If Social Security and Medicare money were not taken from American paychecks those programs would already be gone. They may soon be gone anyway, or privatized.      〇I agree with this separation of powers.  〇I do not agree

Republicans have a Constitutional point, but we need to also ask if we are to refer only to our original documents or also to the body of law and tradition which subsequent generations have added? Are these laws and rules part of our documents now or should they all be stripped away until we get back to a kind of minimalism.     〇Go with original documents        〇Go with Constitution and body of law

Does minimalism apply when the population of our nation has exploded since the days of our founders?       Yes        No

Proportions of Capitalism, Socialism and Libertarianism

Our American economy has always been a sort of amalgamation of capitalism, socialism and even libertarianism, but with capitalism in the lead. Do we want to revise this and have socialism lead, or libertarianism?  〇  Capitalism lead     〇Socialism lead.      〇Libertarianism lead  Comment_______________________________

Is the socialism we are talking about only about how much social support to give to American citizens as workers and dependents, or are we talking about government ownership of industry (beyond health care, senior support, disability support, help to the poor, help to farmers, supports for workers)?   〇Only Social Support          〇Full out Socialism

Should our government own utilities?  Circle one:    Yes        No

Should they continue to have a say in energy decisions, and decisions about clean water?   Yes       No

What are the repercussions if the government gives up all control over these matters? Comment_________________________________________________________

Pollution and Climate Change

Which brings us to environmental pollution and climate change. What happens to the environment in a laissez-faire system where businesses can dispose of their waste streams as they please, use any kind of energy they please, discharge as much smoke as they wish without mitigating chemicals harmful to humans; where businesses can force government to allow them to take over land that is set aside as public land?  Circle one:    Much harm   Some harm    No harm

Will this kind of freedom make a better America?     Yes         No. Why_________________________________________

Will it make a better world?     Yes     No

Why_______________________________________

Will it make America tons of money?  Yes    No

Why__________________________________________

Who will pocket that money?    Circle one:       All         Some         Few

Haven’t we already been here?   Yes   No

It seems that we would be better served by thinking these issues through together as opposed to retreating to ideological camps.  Agree   Disagree. Why_______________________________________

The past is over; it is the future that is at stake.      Agree       Disagree

Who Will Perform Menial Jobs and Immigration

Then we have the issue of who the workers will be. If everyone is equal where do you get an underclass to do menial jobs.?

Explain____________________________________________________________________________________

We used to have waves of immigrants who would do whatever works was necessary to survive. They were happy to have work and the freedom to climb the economic and then the social ladder. But when our newest immigrant groups tended to be nonwhite, as in the case of many South Americans and almost all Africans, and when they tended to be from religious traditions that were neither Christian nor Jewish, some Americans objected to having them here at all.   〇I agree with this.    〇I do not agree with this

They did not want to lift them up by opening our social safety net to immigrants, both to those here through proper channels and those here without permission.   〇I agree with this.     〇I disagree with this

How much of this can be blamed on fewer dollars for the 99%?  Circle one: A lot   A little    None

Now we have to consider who will do the jobs that require physical labor? Who?____________________________________________

Who will serve the wealthy? Who?___________________________________________

Are people being encouraged to forego an education to make sure there is an underclass to serve richer Americans?   Yes   No

If we only want highly educated and/or trained individuals from European nations to immigrate to America how does that help us fill jobs that pay less. Even though some people do not agree with paying unskilled workers more, without influxes of new workers will hourly wages eventually have to rise?   Yes   No

Will robots be ready to fill the gaps?       Yes            No

How does a robot pick tomatoes? I guess it could happen.

How much does it hurt our nation to treat migrants and refugees badly?        A lot   A little    None

Is it another trap that can weigh down a nation?   Yes       No

How much does it affect the way we are viewed around the world?  Circle one:    A lot    A little    None

Does it make us appear strong or just inhumane and fearful?

Strong.      Inhumane and fearful.     Something else__________________

Right now it puts us in the company of other authoritarian nations.

I agree.   I disagree

Do we really want to be a nation that puts anyone who comes to our shores asking for asylum in jail (detention)?          Yes.         No

Will putting children in jail (detention) even with their parents turn out to be a positive approach?      It will work           It won’t work

It is easy to believe that with a some cooperative brainstorming by people in the field we could produce a better plan than the one we are seeing now.        I agree.    I disagree       Why________________________

Do we really want to continue to believe that skin color has any relevance whatsoever in terms of talents or intelligence or value as a human being?   Circle one:        Yes it does.     No it doesn’t

Human Nature and Government

One more consideration – are humans so flawed that they cannot create a balanced society (government and economy) that is difficult for people with bad impulses to destroy?    〇We are too self-destructive   〇We would need too many rules.  〇We could do it or at least try

Is it wrong to make laws to curb our worst behaviors, our exploitative behaviors?     Yes      No   Comment___________________________

Will lassez-faire capitalism always be easily skewed by human tendencies towards selfishness, entitlement, and greed?       Yes       No

True of all government types?    Yes     No

So much of our current political divide swings between the ways people answer these questions. We are called upon in this election and the ones in the near future to make these choices. I believe it is clear what you get if you vote for Republicans and what you get if you vote for Democrats. I only wish we could have informative conversations about these matters that did not send us back to our separate corners. Even if we can’t solve these weighty issues by November we need to vote.

Photo Credit:  Mansfield Citizen Online

If you want to participate – Print out the survey, fill it in, and mail it to

Survey

PO Box. 3876

Syracuse, NY 13220

 

Economies, Governments and Societies

economies Profolus

I don’t know about you but these times, for me, seem to turn my thoughts to the issues of economies and governments. Is an economy and a government enough to make a society, or are there other necessary components?Does Capitalism only work when it is unfettered by regulations? Does a laissez-faire approach to Capitalism offer the best economic returns? What happens to the economy when the government deliberately tries to create a free market climate or a tax structure that subsidizes private enterprise?

Are societies mostly about economics? Can societies that distribute wealth somewhat equally survive? How much social support should be part of a government, of a society? Does having a class of very poor people unsupported by any kind of social safety net tend to weigh a culture down, or does this have little effect?

Is Democratic Socialism a way to a more equitable distribution of  wealth? Are there successful socialistic countriesaround the globe? How much socialism do we already have in our government? Would it be useful (help delay the demise of our democracy) to alter the democratic socialism/capitalism ratio in our culture?

When economies get too unequal what happens? Will the distribution eventually right itself? Will a nation surrender to authoritarianism to hold onto wealth at the top? Will there be a revolution? Do you agree that Democrats and Republicans seem to be at odds right now about what is of key importance to American success?

It seems that Republicans want to sideline the Federal government and let the states take the lead (this has been a refrain on the right for almost the entire life of our democracy/republic). It also seems that Republicans feel that economics is the essential factor in a culture. They want the government to back away from economic rules and regulations and controls over what are intended to be private enterprises.

society Understanding Society

Republicans do not want social safety net supports to be handled by our Federal government. The Constitution gives the Federal government powers over the military and foreign relations. All other rights, Republicans say are reserved to the states and we have strayed from that separation of powers. If Social Security and Medicare money were not taken from American paychecks those programs would already be gone. They may soon be gone anyway, or privatized.

Republicans have a Constitutional point, but we need to also ask if we are to refer only to our original documents or also to the body of law and tradition which subsequent generations have added? Are these laws and rules part of our documents now or should they all be stripped away until we get back to a kind of minimalism. Does minimalism apply when the population of our nation has exploded since the days of our founders?

Our American economy has always been a sort of amalgamation of capitalism, socialism and even libertarianism, but with capitalism in the lead. Do we want to revise this and have socialism lead, or libertarianism? Is the socialism we are talking about only about how much social support to give to American citizens as workers and dependents, or are we talking about government ownership of industry (beyond health care, senior support, disability support, help to the poor, help to farmers, supports for workers)?

Should our government own utilities? Should they continue to have a say in energy decisions, and decisions about clean water? What are the repercussions if the government gives up all control over these matters? Which brings us to environmental pollution and climate change. What happens to the environment in a laissez-faire system where businesses can dispose of their waste streams as they please, use any kind of energy they please, discharge as much smoke as they wish without mitigating chemicals harmful to humans; where businesses can force government to allow them to take over land that is set aside as public land?

Coal Fossil Fuel Power Plant Smokestacks Emit Carbon Dioxide Pollution

Will this kind of freedom make a better America? Will it make a better world? Will it make America tons of money? Who will pocket that money? Haven’t we already been here? It seems that we would be better served by thinking these issues through together as opposed to retreating to ideological camps. The past is over; it is the future that is at stake.

 

robots BBC

Then we have the issue of who the workers will be. If everyone is equal where do you get an underclass to do menial jobs.? We used to have waves of immigrants who would do whatever works was necessary to survive. They were happy to have work and the freedom to climb the economic and then the social ladder. But when our newest immigrant groups tended to be nonwhite, as in the case of many South Americans and almost all Africans, and when they tended to be from religious traditions that were neither Christian nor Jewish, some Americans objected to having them here at all. They did not want to lift them up by opening our social safety net to immigrants, both to those here through proper channels and those here without permission. How much of this can be blamed on fewer dollars for the 99%?

Now we have to consider who will do the jobs that require physical labor? Who will serve the wealthy? Are people being encouraged to forego an education to make sure there is an underclass to serve richer Americans? If we only want highly educated and/or trained individuals from European nations to immigrate to America how does that help us fill jobs that pay less. Even though some people do not agree with paying unskilled workers more, without influxes of new workers will hourly wages eventually have to rise? Will robots be ready to fill the gaps? How does a robot clean a public restroom? I guess it could happen.

immigration detention UPI.com

How much does it hurt our nation to treat migrants and refugees badly? Is it another trap that can weigh down a nation? How much does it affect the way we are viewed around the world? Does it make us appear strong or just inhumane and fearful? Right now it puts us in the company of other authoritarian nations.

Do we really want to be a nation that puts anyone who comes to our shores asking for asylum in jail (detention)? Will putting children in jail (detention) even with their parents turn out to be a positive approach? It is easy to believe that with a some cooperative brainstorming by people in the field we could produce a better plan than the one we are seeing now. Do we really want to continue to believe that skin color has any relevance whatsoever in terms of talents or intelligence or value as a human being?

society Digital Synosis

One more consideration – are humans so flawed that they cannot create a balanced society (government and economy) that is difficult for people with bad impulses to destroy? Is it wrong to make laws to curb our worst behaviors, our exploitative behaviors? Will lassez-faire capitalism always be easily skewed by human tendencies towards selfishness, entitlement, and greed?

So much of our current political divide swings between the ways people answer these questions. We are called upon in this election and the ones in the near future to make these choices. I believe it is clear what you get if you vote for Republicans and what you get if you vote for Democrats. I only wish we could have informative conversations about these matters that did not send us back to our separate corners. Even if we can’t solve these weighty issues by November we need to vote.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Profulus, Understanding Society, Fortune, UPI.com, BBC, Digital Synosis

Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings Reveal Republican Rot

kavanaugh hearing NBC news

Clearly the thing that is emerging from the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing is a snapshot of Republican rot. My biggest problem with the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh is the unseemly rush to get him on the court. The Republicans govern this way now. They will skirt the rules and the traditional procedures every time, on any issue to get their way. Republicans have taken the new mantra, delivered initially by Obama, that “elections have consequences” to extremes which allows them to ignore the losing party completely, to be rude to the members of that party and to ignore the citizens who belong to and try to back up that party. The party that lost, the Democrats, happens to actually be the majority party.  So the minority party, the GOP, which knows its days may be numbered because they cheated during the 2016 election, and because they are still cheating now, would do anything to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court before the midterms. Once affirmed they know that even if the pendulum of government swings to the left the Court will stay majority Conservative making it difficult for anyone to count on the stability of legislation that Conservatives oppose. Then even if they lose they win.

The Republicans have allowed a Kavanaugh lawyer to block documents, 102,000 documents from when Kavanaugh worked in the Bush administration. Usually document selection is done by the National Archives, but in this case that body was not consulted. Although there is some precedent for declaring documents committee confidential, this time many documents with this classification do not appear to be confidential at all. Two Democratic Senators have published confidential documents to the public, an offense that could be punishable by losing their seat in Congress. We will see what will happen as a result of this gesture of disapproval about how the document process has unfolded.

Senator Grassley, heading the confirmation hearing, makes a statement attesting to all that Kavanaugh is not biased. Eureka! No need for this hearing at all if you put your faith in Mr. Grassley. Orrin Hatch attests to the sterling character of The Federalist Society, trying to argue that this Conservative body is not biased. No one believes him except other Republicans. Republicans are railroading this guy on greased rails right into the Court despite the evidence that our President is most likely seen as incompetent even by his own staff. This man, if confirmed, will always be tainted by the skewed processes of a majority that has proven willing to shut out the minority party (which is only the minority party in Congress).

Not only have Republicans allowed a whole swath of Kavanaugh’s career to be withheld, but because many of the released documents are marked as Committee Confidential, information contained therein cannot be used in public hearings, so we the people will not be privy to this information.

We do know the story of the time that Brett Kavanaugh played with the life of a young woman as if she were a mouse in the clutches of a cat. She was an undocumented minor who wanted a legal abortion, but Kavanaugh tried to time the matter out. He did not refuse her outright but kept adding caveats that were time- consuming to fulfill and kept bringing her closer to the 20 week limit on her abortion window.

Finally, as she was here without documents he declared that she had to be assigned to a legal guardian and discuss the matter with them. At this point she had only 3 weeks left on her abortion clock. It takes a longtime to find an appropriate legal guardian for an undocumented minor. His ruling was finally overturned and she got her, by now, very public abortion.

Right now, as I write this, Lindsay Graham is asking Kavanaugh if there is anything in the Constitution that says a judge cannot try to time out an abortion to protect the unborn. He says that it would have been constitutionally correct to string this woman along until the infant reached viability. Talk about contorting the law. Kavanaugh did not take a stand on this highly unconstitutional line of reasoning, which uses a technicality to squirm around the law of the land, a very familiar strategy for these Republicans.

All in all this hearing shows us what a great waste of time these hearing have become, and what a great waste of taxpayer dollars. This hearing is even less revealing than usual. Precedent says that Supreme Court nominees cannot make informal rulings on hypotheticals, or on current issues in contemporary news stories. Usually all Senators can do is ask questions based on the documents released to them. This is why Democrats are so avid to get the documents that were withheld using procedures that are not at all the usual way such a piece of business is done. Clearly we are able to see that Kavanaugh has considerable patience and does not reveal emotion (if he has any). He has a good poker face and he is certainly very comfortable talking to the committee members and the public. He is a Catholic who will maintain the 6 Catholic – 3 Jewish Justices that pertained before Kennedy’s retirement. To my mind Catholics are like Evangelicals on the court, but without the political baggage.

Although the Democrats probably do not have the votes to stop this appointment now that only 50 votes are required, another sore point that Democrats bear some responsibility for, this seat will always be tainted by the overbearing behavior of the Republicans in this matter: the rush to confirm before a midterm election, by the presence of an amoral, possibly criminal, and certainly unstable member of their own party in the Presidency, and by the fact that their very position as the majority party in Congress was most likely accomplished only through massive chicanery. Perhaps the only legacy of our erratic 45 will be the way we will sum up such situations from now on. Sad.

 

 

 

 

Merrick Garland, Merrick Garland, Merrick Garland, Checks and Balances

mcconnellmerrickobama -CNN.com

Merrick Garland and checks and balances are great reasons to resist the appointment of Bret Kavanaugh to our Supreme Court through the 115thCongress. The GOP, in today’s hearings, kept repeating “regular order”, as if they have not long ago forgotten the meaning of the phrase except to rein in the opposition. They repeated “regular order” although they have spent the past ten years trashing regular order with their obstruction, with their voter suppression, with their blocking of Obama court appointments, and by blocking the appointment of the well-qualified and nonpartisan Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. There were 60 attempts to overturn the ACA and there were government shutdowns.

The nerve of the GOP acting all proper, empowered, and fake-judgmental towards Democrats who have very few ways to get their point (and the point of most of we the people) across.

Senators, do not do this. Do not put this man on the Supreme Court of our nation at this time.

I listened to the speeches swing back and forth, left to right, all day. The Democrats were calm and kind and well-reasoned. They needed access to the documents they had already requested (denied by the executive branch), they needed time to read the documents dumped on them (with malice) last night just before today’s hearing. They pleaded with the Republicans to not place an ideologue on the Court when our democracy is under attack by one or more foreign powers and our President might soon be under indictment, when a midterm election is so near.

The Republicans sneered. They said that they made it through all the 42,000 documents. It only required losing a night’s sleep. (No one, Democrat or Republican looked like they had lost a night’s sleep.) They have no intention of supplying documents from when Kavanaugh was in the White House.

The speakers from the GOP accuse the Democrats of flaunting the laws of the land. They posture, they verbally strut, they bubble over with righteous indignation.

We the people can see that the GOP refuses to check the President who is, in our estimation, out of control. We know that if Kavanaugh joins the court our President will not only lack checks, he will have a strong supporter on the court – approved by the very right wing Federalist Society. Trump will have a fringe right-winger who believes you cannot indict a sitting President.

checks and balances - Imgur

This could be the way our democracy dies. Checks and balances were the gifts our forefathers gave to we the people and we have undervalued these gifts. We should all protest the appointment of Bret Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. We should do it because of Merrick Garland (who was not even allowed a hearing) and because without checks and balances there is nothing to stop our democracy from becoming a dictatorship.

Thank you Kamala Harris. Thank you Amy Klobuchar. Thank you Cory Booker. Thank you protestors who let your bodies be dragged out of the hall. Thank you to all the Dems and shame on you Lindsay Graham for your ridiculously emotional harangue. John McCain would not be with you on this.

https://qz.com/1378639/kavanaugh-confirmation-hearings-our-democracy-is-on-trial/

https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/sen-lindsey-graham-judge-kavanaugh-were-going-get-good-man-confirmed

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/09/04/watch_live_judge_brett_kavanaugh_supreme_court_confirmation_hearing_day_one.html

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – CNN.com, Imgur