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A Country in Chaos

31 Aug

This has been a tumultuous month for our country to say the least.  Towards the middle of the month we had a clash between Neo Nazi’s and the Antifa.  It ended with a Neo Nazi running members of the Antifa over, injuring many and killing one.  In the last week a Hurricane has devastated Southeastern Texas.  We as a country survive these problems but we are missing something important; a leader who is there to comfort a stricken nation.

Racists and Neo Nazis are nothing new in our country but they have new energy under our current president.  President Trump has had several chances to condemn these hate groups, and he has whiffed almost every time.  The President seems to think it is more important to keep his base intact than to represent all Americans.  Recent presidents before him would not have made the same tone-deaf statements that our President did.

Despite what some Trump supporters think we are moving past the era of the KKK and Neo Nazis.  That’s one of the reasons Confederate Statues are coming down.  The country is moving towards a more diverse one.  Anyone who is against that can move on or move out.  Fareed Zakaria summed this up several years ago when he said, “You can’t love America in theory, but hate it in fact.”

There will always be some resistance on our country being multicultural.  The best thing we can do is fight racists every step of the way.  We saw that in Charlottesville were peaceful protesters were run over by a Neo Nazi.  What happened in Charlottesville was tragic.  The Presidents responses to the terror attacks in Charlottesville did nothing to comfort what happened there.  The violence that happened at the rally are only at the feet of those who bring hate into our country.

The Republicans that are left defending Trump are either doing so in the hope that he will help them pass their agenda, or were with Trump before he became president.  If you are selling your soul to get your agenda passed you don’t belong in our government.  Most of the honorable Republicans have either completely distanced themselves from Trump, or they are no longer Republicans.

Before I end this blog post I want to say something about the ongoing effects of Hurricane Harvey.  Donate to help victims of the storm or donate your time if to help those in need.  We have many disagreements as a country, but we need to be united in our support of rebuilding areas affected by the storm.  I am also urging members of congress to support a relief bill.


The Roosevelts

31 May

I recently finished the Ken Burns documentary about the Roosevelt’s.  It goes into detail about the family that forever changed and shaped our country.  Some of them overcame obstacles from their health to become stronger.  Eleanor Roosevelt overcame a tough childhood to become a central figure in the country and one of the most active first ladies in our countries history.  The Roosevelt’s with their wealth could have stayed in the shadows and lived a private life but they choose to live a life of purpose.

He overcame asthma as a kid and became a fan of the outdoors.  It was through his work with nature that he learned to relate to the rest of the country.  He became president after William McKinley was assassinated.  Although Teddy Roosevelt came for much, he sought to give to those who had few.  He was responsible for child labor laws, helped end a coal miners’ strike and did more to protect the environment than almost any other president.

Teddy Roosevelt would be considered a liberal Democrat today by most standards.  Although he was liberal domestically he was very much a hawk on international issues.  He was the youngest person to become president but he still chose to end his career in public service earlier than he had to.  After getting elected president to a full term, he announced that he would not run for re-election.  His decision ultimately led to a split within his party which also led his cousin towards the path of the presidency.

The 1912 presidential election was a race between Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt.  The split within the Republican Party lead to Woodrow Wilson getting elected president.  Franklin D. Roosevelt served in the new administration as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  Shortly after Woodrow Wilson left the White House, FDR contracted polio.  Like his relative Teddy, Franklin had to overcome health problems to become a public figure.  In many ways FDR’s polio strengthened him and helped him become the leader we know him as today.

FDR was elected president in 1932 in a landslide.  Although FDR never faced a competitive presidential election, he faced greater challenges in his presidency than anyone except Abraham Lincoln.  The economy was in a tailspin before FDR took office.  He acted swiftly by signing much of his New Deal legislation into law.  When our nation’s economy was struggling we did massive infrastructure building.  We built skyscrapers and the interstate highway system was conceived of.  Some of the jobs were temporary but it put Americans back to work and lifted the country’s spirits.

While the economy was still recovering a new threat was growing overseas.  Japan and Germany were invading surrounding territories.  Many Americans were not ready to go to war partly because the threat seemed to evade us.  That changed when the U.S. cut off fuel supplies from Japan in response to Japan’s aggression towards its neighbors.  Public opinion was unchanged until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  The United States declared war on Japan and Germany declared war on us.  The war united the country and finally ended the Great Depression.  Unfortunately, FDR didn’t live to see the end of the war.

During her husband’s administration Eleanor became one of the most active and important first ladies.  After FDR’s death she became one of the most important people in the Democratic Party.  In many ways she was a better person than her husband.  She continued championing Progressive causes until her death in 1962.  Eleanor Roosevelt overcame a troubled childhood and became a giant in American politics.

More Dysfunction in Congress, John Boehner Resigns

30 Sep

Last week we learned that House Speaker John Boehner would resign from congress at the end of the month.  This is historic considering that it is rare that a sitting House Speaker resigns partway through their term.  Although his resignation came as somewhat of a surprise, it was known that he was facing a rebellion in the House of Representatives among his own party.  I have never been crazy about Boehner.  I didn’t like he how used extremists in his party to get back the House of Representatives, and I wasn’t surprised that they turned on him.

John Boehner became Speaker of the House almost 5 years ago.  I knew he would have trouble with the Tea Party that helped give the Republicans the majority in the House of Representatives.  It didn’t take more than several months for things to go wrong.  In April the government narrowly avoided a shutdown.  Several months later in July, we nearly defaulted on our debt which caused damage to the stock market.  At the time it was reported that Speaker Boehner wanted to compromise with President Obama.  Unfortunately the Tea Party refused to let Speaker Boehner accept a combination of tax increases in spending cuts as part of a deficit deal.  As a result we got the Sequester.

I honestly believe that Speaker Boehner wanted to compromise while getting some of what Conservatives want.  Instead he has constantly had to do political stunts to keep his speakership. (i.e. suing President Obama, shutdowns, etc.)  As a result we have had a shutdown, and we nearly defaulted on our debt twice.  I understand why Boehner has had enough but I wish he stood up to the crazies in his party sooner.

The latest shutdown was avoided today before the midnight deadline.  Boehner’s resignation will end his career in politics but it has succeeded in averting a shutdown.  This near-shutdown was caused by Republicans trying to defund Planned Parenthood over a doctored video.  Getting rid of Planned Parenthood would be dangerous for women in this country.

Planned Parenthood provides medical services to many women across the country.  It is misguided to go after them because a tiny fraction of what they do are abortions.  It is also misguided to cause a shutdown over Planned Parenthood because we already have the Hyde amendment which prevents public funding for abortions.  It sickens me that the extreme parts of the Republican Party are willing to deny women health services so that they can score political points.

The Republicans are trying to show the people of this great country that they are standing up for what they believe in.  I have no doubt that they are passionate about being pro-life.  Shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood shows me that most of the Republicans in government aren’t interested in governing they are interested in damaging the government unless they get everything they want.  If that is their intent, then they have no business in congress or anywhere else in our government.

Jon Stewart’s Impact

31 Aug

Jon Stewart retired several weeks ago.  Usually I don’t talk about comedians on this blog, but I will for this post.  He did a lot for comedy, but he did just as much if not more for the news.  Jon Stewart turned a show about some news, into a show in which top authors, politicians, and actors wanted to appear.  He helped make the show more informative then most news networks.  His cultural impact can’t be understated.

I started watching the Daily Show regularly in late 2006 when I was in college.  The main reason I watched it was because it was funny and informative.  One of the other reasons I watched it was because of the field pieces.  It amazes me that even after The Daily Show became well-known they still were able to do field pieces where a person would agree to be interviewed knowing that they would look like fools.

The thing I will miss the most about him hosting the show is the way he would go toe to toe with people who considered themselves experts in their field, and he would match them.  One of the most famous instances was when he was on CNN’s Crossfire.  The hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson had him on the show to talk about his new book.  Tucker Carlson asked Stewart why he didn’t challenge Senator Kerry (who was running for president that year) more.  Jon Stewart countered by telling them that they haven’t been doing their job.  Crossfire was cancelled several months later.  (See the clip below)

Jon Stewart pointed out what was and still is wrong with our news media.  Campaigns and politicians boil things down to talking points as oppose to dealing with actual issues.  Part of the reason Donald Trump is leading the Republican primary for president is because he is a shiny object and the media likes to pay attention to shiny objects.  A shiny object is more interesting than what the media should be covering which are credentials and policy plans.  I actually find it sad that a show that is supposed to be comedy does a better job covering the news and challenging people then an actual news program.

Jon Stewart may be done hosting The Daily Show, but he has left his mark and has left people like him to pick up the torch.  Trevor Noah will be succeeding him as host of the Daily Show but John Oliver has in essence already taken Jon Stewart’s place on HBO. He mixes humor with social justice and challenges what is wrong with the system.  Many of Jon Stewart’s other correspondents have gone onto bigger things.  Stephen Colbert will be the new host of The Late Show.  The Daily Show also launched the careers of Steve Carell, Rob Corddry, Samantha Bee, and Jason Jones.  What will Trevor Noah’s legacy be?  We will have to wait and see.

  1. Jon Stewart on Crossfire

Supreme Court’s Historic Decisions

30 Jun

In the past week the Supreme Court has made landmark decisions.  They decided cases involving Gay Marriage, the Fair Housing Act, Affordable Care Act, and redistricting among other cases.  There have long been disagreements with decisions the court has made from both sides.  I have been disappointed with several decisions the court has made but I would never deny that they have a place in our democracy.

The Supreme Court had little power up until the case Marbury vs. Madison in 1803.  There are few that remember who the first Supreme Court Justice was, but there are many who can name the person who made it as powerful as it is today.  Justice John Marshall was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Thomas Jefferson.  It is thought that one of the reasons Jefferson appointed John Marshal was to get him out of the way by giving him a weak job.  If that was Jefferson’s plan it backfired because Justice Marshall made the court as powerful as it is today.

William Marbury was appointed Justice of Peace by outgoing President John Adams. * Marbury was one of the appointees who was not confirmed by congress.  The new Secretary of State James Madison refused to appoint Marbury to the position he was promised.  Marbury sued, trying to force the new Administration to appoint him.  Chief Justice John Marshal ruled that although the new administration was wrong not to appoint Marbury a position he was promised, the Supreme Court could not force the new administration to appoint him.  This case created legal precedent for Judicial Review.

In recent years, in particular, the Supreme Court has been used as a political punching bag.  The term judicial activist has been thrown out to describe a decision that someone disagrees with.  I don’t agree with everything the court has done but I don’t deny that it is an important part of our government.  The Supreme Court has made many important decisions on Civil Rights, rights for accused, and redistricting rules to name a few.

The Republicans have made some stupid comments after the court ruled to uphold the Affordable Care Act and expand gay marriage in all 50 states. I think that the reactions from the GOP over last week’s Supreme Court decisions are absurd.  Some have suggested that we defund or simply ignore the Supreme Court.  Obviously that can not be done. The makeup of the Supreme Court changes only when one of the current members resigns or dies. At that time, the President nominates someone to take that place and the senate must approve or disapprove of the nomination. The new nominee is then sworn in and takes a seat on the court. Decisions made by the court are made by all nine of the members. Their ruling becomes the law of the land until it is challenged by a lawsuit.  The Court has reversed itself on several decisions over the years in this manner.

The court’s decision had been building for some time.  (They allow gay marriage in states that already had it.)  Progress for gay rights have been slow over the years.  Ten years ago things were completely different.  One state recognized same-sex marriage, and almost every state that held a referendum voted to ban gay marriage.  I worked to fight the 2006 amendment to ban gay marriage in Wisconsin.  While the Democrats gained control of the state senate and congress, the amendment still passed.  I didn’t think that things would change so quickly in less than 10 years.

The other Supreme Court decision that made headlines this week was that they again upheld the Affordable Care Act, specifically the subsidies.  This was important because of how many people already have health care through the subsidies.  I was surprised by the decision because the court in recent years has voted mostly among party lines (when they were appointed.)  With this decision it means that it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will strike down the law if another case comes to them in the future.  I hope that this settles the matter of the Health Care Law once and for all.

* David F. Forte, Marbury’s Travail: Federalist Politics and William Marbury’s Appointment as Justice of the Peace, Catholic University Law Review, p. 402 Vol 45:349

Chaos in Baltimore

30 Apr

Recent weeks have brought riots in Baltimore, an earthquake in Nepal, and more chaos in the Middle East.  The country’s attention has been mainly on what is happening in Baltimore.  Riots broke out this past week after an African-American man died of injuries he sustained while being arrested.  The city has had protests, non-violent and violent.  I condemn rioting in any form but we must realize why people are upset, rather than just criticize.

In recent years, several high profile cases of police misconduct or brutality have happened around the country.  These aren’t the first instances of police brutality, just the ones that have been getting the most publicity.  That brings us to Baltimore, where things have erupted into all-out chaos.  I don’t think riots in Baltimore are only about race.  An article from the Washington Post points out the problems in Baltimore. (What you really need to know about Baltimore, from a reporter who’s lived there for over 30 years)

The article points out income-inequality among the poor parts of Baltimore compared to the rest of the city.  It also shows the tension between rich and poor areas in Baltimore.  As I said before, there isn’t one single reason why the rioting broke out but the article outlined some key reasons.  I also think that (as is mentioned in the article) that the conduct of the police has caused problems.  In the wake of the riots, recent news reports have stated that that Baltimore police have had to pay settlements because of police brutality.

Everything that I mentioned is a recipe for disaster by itself but together are extremely violate.  The issues in Baltimore will not be fixed overnight, or even in a few months.  The riots will likely subside soon, but the problems will remain.  There needs to be something done about the police force and to fix the economic problems in the city.  Baltimore has a long way to go but there path to resurgence is by no means impossible.

The attitude of the police needs to be addressed as well as the economic problems in the city.Baltimore has a long way to go, but it is within the realm of possibility that changes can be made.

  1. “What you really need to know about Baltimore, from a reporter who’s lived there for over 30 years”

2015 Blog Intro

30 Jan

One crazy year in politics ends and another begins.  This year will bring new battles for immigration, health care and more.  I don’t think anything substantial will get done this year but one can always hope.  By March, we will know some of the 2016 contenders and get a glimpse into their platform.  The only area where I think significant things will happen will be in foreign policy.  Keep an eye on Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as their votes this year will be an indicator on what they will run in 2016.

President Obama’s executive order on immigration has put the GOP in a tricky situation.  While the Republicans are mad at the president for his executive order, they can’t do much to undo it.  It also puts the GOP at risk of losing another presidential election unless they change their stance on immigration reform, which I don’t see happening.  Senator Marco Rubio is especially in a bind because he is now in a position where he has to criticize President Obama’s executive order while praising key elements of it.

The Affordable Care Act will also be center stage again when The Supreme Court reviews another key part of the law.  If the law survives another Supreme Court decision and a Democrat is elected president in 2016 The Affordable Care Act will likely remain law of the land for a long time.  If more people are covered under the law, then it will be harder for Republicans to attack it during a presidential campaign.  The Republican primary however will be a competition on who hates the Health Care law the most.

The Keystone XL pipeline is being debated right now, as it has been for several years.  It has passed both the House and the Senate but won’t survive President Obama’s veto.  It will likely be another issue debated in the next election.  The biggest issues in the next election will probably be the economy and income inequality.  Some GOP 2016 hopefuls are already talking about income inequality.  Above all this year be on the lookout for different candidates announcing who will be running for president next year.