Category Archives: Editorials

024 – Sen. Orrin Hatch calls Donald Trump ‘one of the best’ presidents he’s seen in office (An editorial)

It’s been awhile since I last posted an editorial and quite obviously, lots has happened.  Heck, I could have posted my last editorial two days ago and still, lots would have happened since even then.

But this one just is one of those otherworldly, bizarre kinds of comments that just stops you dead in your tracks.  In fact, Hatch said this about a week ago (Nov 29th) and I kind of remember hearing it then but it didn’t really sink in, because you just are inundated by so many other things.  Oh yeah, now that I think of it, something else rather newsworthy happened on that same day – Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI!  I guess one could be forgiven for letting Hatch’s comment pass … at least momentarily.

But for crying out loud, how completely brain-dead do you have to be to say something so completely senseless as that?  Ok, you could be writing for Breitbart, or you could be a member of the Alt-Right, or you could be an avid listener of Alex Jones’ Infowars.  If you are, then I might be forced to understand.  Of course, if you do fall into one of those esteemed categories, that also unequivocally validates my brain-dead theory.

Trump is just getting more and more unhinged, even if I thought that might not even have been possible.  Those comments of his about that not being his voice on the Access Hollywood tapes shows that he is going completely off the rails.

024 - Hatch says Trump is the best President - The tape is very real

Then declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and moving the embassy just shows total disregard for any sort of awareness or common sense.  That one will likely have real, serious and likely immediate consequences.  If that does not result in increased conflict and the loss of human lives, both in the Middle East and in other parts of the world, I would be shocked.

Trump’s lawyers appear to be almost as off the rails as he is, as well.  Dowd’s declaration that Trump cannot obstruct justice, and Sekulow’s claim that there is no law against “collusion” clearly represent a change in strategy from “I did not obstruct justice, and I did not collude with Russia” to “I’m the President, and even if I did those things, screw you!”

024 - Hatch says Trump is the best President - Greetings from Reality

The totally balls-less Republican Congress will never do anything.  Mark my words, if Roy Moore wins that Senate race next week, they won’t even have the balls to kick him out of the Senate.  The only solution is for the Democrats to regain control of the House and Senate next year.  That may not be everyone’s ideal situation, but it is the only way this complete nightmare of a human being, and I use that term as lightly as is humanly possible, will ever be removed from office.

Regaining control of the Senate is even the more important of the two.  Can you imagine the deliciousness of a Supreme Court vacancy occurring after the 2018 elections?  What do you think the chances are that a Democratic Senate would let Trump get hearings and a vote for his next nominee?  Stick that one where the sun never shines, McConnell!

024 - Hatch says Trump is the best President The Lying King

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023 – Holy Mother.  Did you see any of Lou Dobbs’ latest interview with Trump?  (An editorial)

I debated whether to put this in just a Facebook post or to write a brief editorial for my blog, and then just reference the editorial in a Facebook post the way I normally have been doing.  However, since many of my blog followers are not Facebook Friends, I wanted to be sure and share this one with them as well.

Here’s just a wild guess.  Readers of my blog and my Facebook posts are probably not regular watchers of Fox News.  I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb in that assumption.

Dobbs’ entire interview on Fox is other-worldly, from an alternate universe … I am struggling to put it into any kind of frame of reference.

As Stephen Colbert said in last night’s monologue, “Dobbs was pleasuring Trump so vigorously, that Mike Pence told mother to change the channel.”

Here is Stephen Colbert’s complete monologue from Thursday, Oct 26th.  His reaction to Dobbs’ interview is right at the beginning.

 

THAT is what 30-35% of America regularly watches to get their “news”.

When absolutely, without question, the most disgusting person you can think of, hears that interview and then says, “Wow, now THAT was REALLY disgusting”, then I think you get the idea.

When Putin sees that interview, even he will have to say, “We can’t put that on RT.  Not even Russians would believe it!”

 

Here is the wholly indigestible, 45 minute interview that Lou Dobbs did with Trump on Weds night.  Watch it at your own risk, and be particularly wary if you have a full stomach when you do … because it won’t be full for long.

022 – Sorry Gen. Kelly. You just voided your free pass. (An editorial)

I must admit that I am among those who up until now, had considered that since he took over as Trump’s Chief of Staff, General Kelly has at least tried to be “one of the adults in the room”.  He quite obviously has not been able to exercise any personal control over Trump, but most had at least thought that the situation would be a lot worse around Trump if Kelly was not in that position.

In light of Kelly’s news conference from Thursday, and his subsequent failure to apologize for his comments about Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, which included a blatantly incorrect report of what she said back in 2015 at the FBI building dedication, Gen. Kelly has now effectively voided the free pass that he has been given by many, including myself.

He has now also allowed to go unchallenged, Sara Sanders comments at the press conference today (Friday), which falsely claimed that Gen. Kelly was not referring to the Congresswoman’s speech, but was instead referring to her comments afterwards.  That is so classic Trump.  Move the target.  Then instead bring up some unverifiable claim, which I can virtually guarantee will never be verified, much like so many other unsubstantiated claims that have been made by this President.

If this was Trump alone, then to use President Reagan’s immortal words, “There you go again.”  It’s a playbook we know only too well.  But this was not Trump.  It was the supposed “adult in the room”.  Actually, Kelly was initially pretty good in that press conference yesterday.  He came across as empathetic, which he is.  His comments included using virtually the same words that Congresswoman Wilson said that Trump used on the phone with the Gold Star parents.  But when Kelly said that his own son “knew what he was getting into when he joined the one percent”, Kelly said it with true empathy.

Kelly also clearly implied that Trump said those same words to the family “as best that he could”.  Therein lies the rub – “as best that he could”.  When Kelly said those words, he had true empathy.  But when Trump said it, how could he say it with empathy when empathy is something he very likely has never felt for anyone other than himself in his entire life?

Any other human being, much less a President, would have given the Gold Star parents another call and at least told them that he did not intend to offend them, and that he was sorry if he had.  But you knew damn well that would not be the way Trump would deal with it.  Instead, he claimed that the Congresswoman lied about what he said, and since the parents backed the Congresswoman up, he therefore also accused the Gold Star family of lying as well.

Getting back to Kelly’s press conference, if Kelly had left it there, and of course if his boss had not tweeted more garbage later that evening, this situation might have been largely mollified.  But he didn’t.  Kelly went on to now famously call Wilson an “empty barrel” and cited her speech in 2015 as evidence of that.  That claim was proven clearly false by substantial video evidence released today, including the full speech Wilson made back in 2015.

Gen. Kelly’s statement about what Congresswoman Wilson said, and her actual words from the speech (3m34s) …

 

I would never expect Trump to admit the possibility that he was wrong, but I might have expected Kelly to admit his mistake.  But he has not done that either.

There has been much speculation as to how a few of those around the President, namely his generals, would eventually be dragged down into the mud that their boss continues to wallow in.  Well, chalk up another notch in your gun, Trump.  You have reduced a decorated, four-star marine general, and a Gold Star parent, into just another of the many surrogates who lies to cover your ass.

That is not to excuse General Kelly at all.  He must take responsibility for his failure and he can certainly no longer be given any benefit of the doubt simply because of his previous career and his perceived personal integrity.

I am personally very curious to see what Kelly’s next move is, if in fact there will be one.  As one commentator noted, this really started when Trump threw Kelly under the bus by using Kelly’s private acknowledgement to Trump that he had not received a personal call from Obama, as evidence that Trump was justified in his false claims about Obama.

Unless I have really misread Kelly, there is no way that it was his decision on his own to go out there and do that press conference.  But at the very least, he agreed to do it.  Then how could he have made such an egregious error as the completely false accusation against the Congresswoman’s comments back in 2015?  And why on Earth did he even bring that up in the first place, even going so far as to use the “empty barrel” comment?  All of that clearly smacks of Trump.  The fact that it was poorly verified also smacks clearly of Trump.

Just once, I wish someone would finally throw up his or her hands and say “No more of this.  I can’t be a willing part of this any longer.”  If Kelly really has the personal integrity that many have thought he had, then this all has to be tearing him to pieces.  Maybe this will be the last straw.  But even if he resigns over this, I can be almost certain that he will continue to be a good soldier and fall on his sword, rather than call out the President.

Think of what this must be like – to have spent a life in service to your country, and to have risen to one of the highest positions of authority, only to be brought to your knees by someone who is not fit to even shine your shoes.

When will this madness end?

 

Congresswoman Wilson’s full speech at the FBI dedication back in 2015 (9m02s) …

021 – Gerrymandering for dummies! (An editorial, and possibly a tutorial as well.)

A good friend recently reminded me of the importance of this gerrymandering case in Wisconsin that is coming up for adjudication by the Supreme Court.  While I was familiar with the case, I must admit I was not even aware whether it was to be adjudicated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, or by the U.S. Supreme Court.  It is the U.S. Supreme Court that will be deciding this case on appeal and that process began this week.

The case is named Gill v Whitford.  William Whitford is a University of Wisconsin professor and the lead plaintiff in this case.  Beverly Gill is the Wisconsin state elections board chairperson.

I have now done some more research which I would like to share.  I freely admit to being no kind of political scientist or expert on gerrymandering.  However, that may work in my favor in that I may be able to explain the basics of gerrymandering in more layman’s terms, and thereby perhaps make it less mysterious.  That is my hope anyway.

While the term gerrymandering may be familiar to some, it may only be understood in the abstract.  Currently, my guess is that when many hear the term, their immediate reaction may be that it is just Democrats complaining because they do not have a current majority in most state Houses, and also in the U.S. House of Representatives.

First, here’s a bit of likely useless trivia.  Where does the word “gerrymander” come from? 

  • It was coined by a newspaper in Boston way back in 1812. Massachusetts redrew its district lines and their governor at the time was a man by the name of Elbridge Gerry.  One of the districts that was redrawn was said to look something like a salamander.  So, the two were joined by the newspaper and the term gerrymander was first coined.

The practice of gerrymandering has been around since the formation of the first U.S. Congress.  It has been used and abused over the past two centuries to benefit whichever party happened to be in power at the time when districts were mandatorily redrawn every ten years after each new census.

It was Republican gerrymandering back in 2010 that predominantly gave us the district maps we have had for the past seven plus years.  The Republicans dominated the mid-term elections after Obama’s election in 2008 and, after the 2010 census, they were the party which was able to control much of redistricting around the United States.

But gerrymandering is by no means uniquely Republican.  However, what was unique to the last redistricting was the use of sophisticated computer programs that were used to draw very specific lines (but hardly straight ones) that benefited the Republican party to the max, or at least so says the plaintiff in Gill v Whitford.  One can only imagine that those sophisticated programs have grown even more so over the past decade.

When does the next redistricting occur?

Since the next redistricting is coming up after the 2020 census, these upcoming elections are crucial in how those districts will be drawn.  If the Republicans have the great advantage now that is claimed by the Democrats, then it will only get worse unless the Supreme Court throws out the current Wisconsin district lines and makes them redistrict using some sort of more “fair” formula.

Even if the Supreme Court rules in the plaintiff’s favor, which would certainly favor the Democrats, the decisions as to how to enforce “fair” redistricting will be crucial.  Ideally, neither party should be able to draw districts with the sole intent of giving them a completely unfair advantage.

While there are various rules that apply to redistricting, there are basically two big ones.

  1. The population of each district must be as “nearly equal as practicable”.
  2. Each district must be contiguous. All areas within the same district must connect in some way.

Gerrymandering – Before and After

I created the following two slides to visually demonstrate how even if the number of Democratic and Republican voters in a given area is relatively equal, the drawing of district lines can greatly affect the likelihood of a district voting one way or the other.

In this first slide, I have created a pretty basic, rather clean-cut example.  In the four districts on the left, the lines are drawn so that each of the four districts has about the same amount of Democrats and Republicans.  One would expect the elections to be fairly competitive in the four districts as they are drawn on the left.

However, the right shows an example of how that same area can be redrawn, also into four districts, but now where three of the districts will be predominantly Republican while only one will be predominantly Democratic.

 

021 - Gerrymandering before and after

Do you think that is an absurd example?

Let me show you a couple examples of actual, gerrymandered districts in the United States today.

021 - Gerrynmander actual

 

Note how zig-zag and finely drawn those lines are, and particularly how crazy the Illinois district looks.  That district was actually drawn by Democrats in order to create a predominantly Latino district.  Only, in order to get enough population, they had to somehow join two separate, Latino areas – the one on the north being Puerto Rican and the one on the south being Mexican.  They are joined together literally by only a grassy strip on the west that separates two expressways.

These type of finely redrawn lines are most often based upon the use of computer programs which factor in total population, and also know the ethnicity, voting history, income level, education level and addresses for the people living in those areas.  So by putting in the right parameters, the computer program can design lines which effectively segregate very similar potential voters into the same, specific district.  Not pretty, is it – particularly if you happen to be in the party that is being disadvantaged.

In Gill v Whitford, the plaintiff contends that the way the districts are currently drawn in Wisconsin, even in a 50/50 election, Republicans would almost always win at least 60 of the 99 state Assembly districts.  The plaintiff is contending that the way the districts are drawn is negating the value of a person’s vote in those districts.  In 2016, Trump barely won the popular vote in the state of Wisconsin and the amount of Democratic and Republican votes in Wisconsin statewide elections was essentially the same as well.  However, Republicans won 64 of the 99 Assembly districts (64%).  63 of those same districts were also won by Trump.

Arguments have begun

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said during initial arguments on Oct 3rd, that he is wondering aloud that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiff (Wisconsin Democrats), the Democrats will benefit in the upcoming elections and then the Supreme Court will be blamed for favoring the Democrats.

Paul Smith is the lead attorney for the plaintiff.  If I were him, “on the inside”, I’m thinking,

“Justice Roberts, you’re worried about this court being accused of favoring the Democrats?  Give me a damn break.”

But “on the outside”, I would like Attorney Smith to at least say,

“Justice Roberts, is your concern to judge this case based upon the law, and upon what is right or wrong in regard to the U.S. Constitution?  Or is your concern to not make a ruling that may be considered to favor one side or the other?  Also, if I may add, regardless of any individual ruling this court may make, I think you may rest assured that this current court will never  be in danger of being accused of favoring the Democrats.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, appointed to the court by Ronald Reagan in 1987, is a conservative but he is the closest thing that there is to a “swing” vote on the court.  Typically, but not always, he sides with the conservatives on more fiscal issues but sides with the liberals on more social issues.  That is the main reason why there was so much concern by Democrats that he might retire when the Supreme Court recessed at the end of June, and relief when he did not.

In this current court case, early indications may be that Kennedy is siding with the plaintiff against the current gerrymandered assembly districts in Wisconsin.  However, it is very early, and reading those types of tea leaves at this point is always a dangerous proposition.

If Gill v Whitford  is decided in favor of the plaintiff, against the current Wisconsin districts, it is likely that there will be many more challenges to the district maps in other states around America.

My personal hope is that if this case is decided upon in favor of the plaintiff, a system of rules governing redistricting will be created that seeks to ensure that elections are decided upon by voter turnout, and by the differences between the candidates – not by how ridiculously rigged the districts are set up.

Keep an eye on Gill v Whitford.

Update:  10/4/2017

I have been informed by one of my readers that California voters approved back in 2008, a method to address gerrymandering concerns.

Rather than have elected legislators in charge of redrawing the districts, which inherently will be very political, California has created a bipartisan commission which is responsible for doing the redistricting. That commission is made up of an equal number of Democrats, Republicans and non-affiliated members, which have been chosen by lottery from a pool of qualified applicants. Their recommendations for redistricting are then subject to final approval by, once again, a bi-partisan commission of 3 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 3 from neither party.

What a concept, huh?  It’s almost like not allowing legislators to vote on their own pay raises.  Wait, they can do that?  Uh huh.

Here is a brief explanation of Proposition 11 in California …

020 – Oh, what the Hell. Let’s just require that everyone owns an Uzi! (An editorial)

I CERTAINLY don’t mean that either literally or figuratively.

But it is at least a way to try and first, get your attention and second, make a point about an entirely absurd, masochistic situation that just continues, and continues, and continues here in the United States.

Every time something happens, like what just happened in Las Vegas, you can absolutely predict the responses we are certain to hear.  I’m sure that the NRA had their publicity machine in action before the first body got to a Las Vegas hospital.

Republican congressmen have gone back to their cliff notes about gun control to make sure that they are prepared to answer the same questions they have received, and deflected, and obfuscated over, again and again and again.

Democratic congressmen also have gone back to their prepared responses even though they know that nothing will change, and some of them are likely privately glad that it won’t.  (Oh, I know.  How naive of me to even consider that some Democrats may be in the pockets of the NRA as well.  That could not possibly be true.   Yeah, right.)

  • It’s people who kill people, not guns.
  • We have more than enough gun laws on the books already. We just have to enforce them.
  • The bleeding heart liberals are just out to repeal the 2nd Amendment
  • Bringing up gun control every time there is a mass shooting is simply using a tragedy to further the liberal agenda.
  • Now is the time to unite as a country, and not the time for political debate.  (We have already heard that one from the Trump administration.)
  • The Right to Bear Arms is guaranteed by the Constitution. If we give that up, then we give up our freedom.
  • Any further infringement on the right to own a gun is a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to the complete repeal of the 2nd Amendment.
  • Yadda, yadda, yadda, f@#$%ing yadda

Statistics are not going to convince anyone, or at least convince those who need to be convinced.  Statistics alone certainly have had no effect so far.  The gun lobby is as much entrenched in the unrestricted gun ownership dogma as are Trump supporters who will continue to support him regardless of what he says and does, day after day.

I could shoot someone in the middle of the street, and my supporters would still vote for me.”  He could easily have added, “And if I do, I damn well better have the right to own whatever type of weapon I choose to accomplish the shooting.”

I am not a huge fan of all Democrats, and I am anything but some bleeding heart liberal.  But there is no path that I see to the removal of Trump, or to the removal of the threat of the sadistic, self-serving Republican agenda, that does not involve kicking the Republicans out of Congress and replacing them with Democrats – warts and all.  That also includes any possibility of ever enacting any type of common sense controls on – NOT the elimination of – the right to own a gun.

020 - body

Could any type of legislation have stopped what occurred in Las Vegas, or in Newtown, or in Columbine, or in place, after place, after place, after place?  No.

It is way too late to have prevented those from taking place, and it is likely too late to prevent similar things from occurring for many years to come.

But just because we can’t stop the carnage right now, and for our generation, does not mean that there is a real chance that if we take action now, our grandchildren, or perhaps our great grandchildren might, just might, live in a country where this type of thing is incredibly rare … and not simply commonplace and accepted.

Everyone knows what the problem is.  The trick is coming up with a solution, selling that solution to the majority of the American public (most of whom already agree that common sense gun restriction is needed now), and most importantly, steeling the public to the need to once and for all stop fearing and bowing to the gun lobby.

Here are my two suggestions.

  1. First, make it clear that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with repealing the 2nd Amendment.  For those who do believe that repeal is the only answer, they just have to shut the Hell up.
    • If it takes agreeing to some sort of legislation, or making some sort of formal declaration by Democrats that they guarantee that no effort will be taken to repeal the 2nd Amendment, then go ahead and do it.
    • This should NOT be about the 2nd Amendment.
    • Besides, “that hay is already in the barn”, “that train has long since left the station” … insert whatever clichéd metaphor you want. There are so many millions and millions of guns already owned and in circulation, removing them all will never be an achievable solution.
  1. Second, make it equally clear that the single goal is to make the possession, purchase and sale of any weapon of mass destruction a federal crime in the United States.
    • If you guarantee the right to own a gun for personal protection, or for personal recreation, then there is absolutely no legitimate reason whatsoever why the right to own weapons like those used in Las Vegas and elsewhere cannot be eliminated entirely.

This will most certainly not prevent the vast majority of gun deaths.  People will continue to shoot each other because they feel that they have a right to do so.  Hey, it’s what makes us Americans, right?  I demand to have the right to blow your ass away, if I feel like it.

However, what it will eventually do, not this year, nor the next, nor perhaps even for our generation or for the next, but eventually, it will mean that most people will be limited to only being able to kill a few people at a time.  It will also make it incredibly more difficult, and far more expensive, for criminals to use automatic weapons during the commission of crimes, and to use those weapons against law enforcement.

What this would also do would be to take automatic weapons completely out of the gun control discussion.  It has no business being any part of that discussion.  Then let people continue to debate about how to reduce the ridiculous amount of individual gun deaths that occur every day, because that discussion certainly needs to continue.

It’s sad to say that is the best we can hope for, but it IS something that nonetheless can be achieved … and it can start now.  We may not prevent another Las Vegas, or Orlando, or Fort Hood for years to come.   But we can lay the groundwork so that there is a realistic chance that these tragedies become so isolated in the future that, if and when they do occur, the outrage felt will be so real, and so visceral, and most importantly so lasting … not something to just blindly accept as a being part of the American experience, and to then just wait for the inevitable next time to happen.