2020/04/04

Travel and immigration standards

Based on an article in TPM, I looked up the original statement on the newest travel ban (1 February 2020). One of the claims: 
President Trump’s security and travel proclamations have immeasurably improved our national security, substantially raised the global standard for information-sharing, and dramatically strengthened the integrity of the United States’ immigration system.
There's an old American saying: "Don't fix what isn't broken." Let's look at the statement: "raised the global standard" Okay. But from WHAT? Appears to me the "global standard" was raised from a standard that was already satisfactory
How many terrorists were we getting on a yearly basis from "Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, and Nigeria"? Heck, how many terrorists had we ever gotten from any of these countries? How many did we ever get from "Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia"? Wouldn't we be far more likely to be shutting the door from people trying to escape from these countries?
Of course, there was the typical Trump Administration cluster$%#@ of failing to communicate: "...the additions appeared to take some foreign officials by surprise." Because Trump's people never thought to work out anything quietly. 
Update: And yes, despite the date of the new foreign travel ban, this ban had nothing to do with the COVID-19 coronavirus. , 

2020/03/24

Arguments to move quickly on impeachment

People have been suggesting that Congress is moving too quickly to impeach the President and that we need to slow down and allow the courts to force the Trump Administration to expose still more information. The piece at Reader Supported News makes a strong, but I think flawed, case for waiting.
This piece is behind a paywall, but the summary of the points is
1. "The evidence is already overwhelming."
2. Democrats are trying to "maintain the initiative with the President." That means moving quickly so he can't catch up.
3. The House can keep on gathering evidence right up until the Senate trial begins. That's likely to be well into January, perhaps even into February.
4. Acting as though the evidence is overwhelming is the best way to convince the public that the evidence is overwhelming. The best way to demonstrate that is to move forward quickly.

2020/03/22

A comparison of the two remaining Democrats

Biden's March 11th speech after winning Super Tuesday.
Sanders' speech, same day.

I went back and compared the two March 11th speeches of Biden and of Senator Sanders. Biden spoke in more general terms, Sanders talked of a laundry list of specific goals.

I found Biden's speech to be much more focused on what he could actually get done as president. Biden was focused on general subjects he would tackle with the idea that specific agendas would have to wait until he was actually in office and actually making decisions on the issues of the day.

Senator Sanders spoke of really big subjects that would take lots and lots of work to accomplish. Getting to Medicare for All, for instance,  would be a really heavy lift. Each one of the subjects Bernie mentioned would take really large amounts of discussion and consultation and working out of details. Doing all of it is way beyond the capability of anyone. If he had the record of getting big bills done, that'd be one thing, but he doesn't.

[Sanders] turned down chats with South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, because why work to win the black vote? “His politics are not my politics,” Sanders said. “There’s no way in god’s Earth he was going to be endorsing me," because the only people worth talking to were the ones endorsing him.

Refusing to even try to broaden your appeal is not a winning strategy! Ain't no way Sanders is going to get any of his big-ticket items through without talking to everybody!

Sure, it's useful to have Sanders acting as a gadfly to the Democratic Party, pushing the party to the left. But let's not let enthusiasm for a romantic figure blind us to the top priority of the moment, making sure that Donald Trump is a one-term President!

2020/03/09

Moderate vs Progressive Democrats

Very broadly, I agree that if a Democrat tries to run as a "Republican-lite," they'll lose. I like the approach of Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), who was elected in a red state fluke election but has conducted himself as a real Democrat rather than by trying to please conservatives.

In the piece Seven Centrist Defeats, I was only around and paying attention from Mondale on, so I'll start with him. He had a good idea in promising to raise taxes. That sent the Reagan campaign into a tizzy. But Mondale had nothing to follow it up with. He had no ideas beyond that. There were no great, burning issues at the time when a challenger was trying to unseat an incumbent. That would have been a challenge at the best of times.

Yes, Dukakis tried to run as a "Reagan-lite" candidate and not as a Democrat. Plus which, he was up against a dirty trickster ("Willie Horton"). As the elder George Bush was so close to Reagan, he was essentially running as an incumbent.

I don't think anyone really doubted that Kerry would have been better on Iraq despite Kerry's stupid statement, but the Swift Boat Veterans really did him in. To their shame, the media allowed the group to dominate news coverage for the critical month of August, after which Kerry had permanently lost the veteran vote. And yes, again, by putting on the "I'm just as right-wing as the Republican incumbent is," that reduced progressive enthusiasm.

Vladimir Putin weakened Clinton and kept the contest close, plus which the Republican Party simply wasn't going to vote for a Democrat and even less for a woman. Clinton was ahead by a small, but steady margin right up until James Comey's last-minute intervention.

I completely support the Green New Deal and think much of the platform of Senator Sanders is very good. There's not much daylight between us on policy.

But very importantly, moderate Democrats did far better in their races in 2018 than progressive Democrats did. The popularity of AOC and The Squad has obscured this.
Moderate Democratic candidates were the big winners of swing congressional districts in the 2018 midterm elections, flipping most of the 28 key House districts from Republicans’ control and winning key gubernatorial races, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Illinois. Democrats’ net gain in the House was 26 seats.

2020/02/03

To impeach or not

I read this piece

Yes, Trump Is Guilty, But Impeachment Is A Mistake

and scribbled out a few thoughts on it in response. 

1. This will probably achieve nothing.
Agree in that the Senate will probably follow the lead of the 1868 and 1998 impeachments. House will convict, but the 2019 Senate will most likely not remove the President from office.

2. We’re in the middle of an election campaign.
No, we're still over a year out from the 2020 Election Day. Speaker Pelosi is determined to get this done by Thanksgiving.

3. This is not what the country wants to talk about.
As Speaker Pelosi has put it, the President has forced her hand. The law-breaking here is just too severe to do anything less than impeach.

4. Democrats are playing Trump’s game.
No, the White House is in a state of frantic hysteria. This happened because the President has gotten away with so much for so long that he thought himself to be invincible. The word here is "hubris."

Nope. Full speed ahead.

2019/12/30

I read a Fox News article

Disgraced former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich looks back at the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 and remarks on the differences between then and now.

Some observations about that:

1. Both the President and Congress were highly productive in 1998. This is true. According to the Clerk of the House, there were 547 roll call votes in 1998, but there were 701 roll call votes in 2019. So yes, the Congress of 1998 was busy, but the Congress of 2019 was busier.

2. Many Democrats voted to impeach Clinton. Again, this is true. The Republican Party is much more cohesive and united today then Democrats  were back then. As a blogger has pointed out though, the case that Republicans have made that the President is innocent of the charges against him is awfully threadbare. "And at that point, the president and his party said the impeachment process was unfair because … well, just because."

3.
Now, we are watching the culmination of Pelosi’s two-and-a-half-year impeachment effort – in which the Democrats failed to find anything close to a crime.
Couple of quibbles: Pelosi herself has not been conducting all of the various investigations of the President and Congress did find specific statutes that he violated. There's a reason the Constitution includes the vague term "high Crimes and Misdemeanors." But certainly the President has been investigated for pretty much his entire term.  Gee, I wonder why that is:
Democrats have also charged Trump with obstruction of Congress based on his stonewalling of the House’s impeachment inquiry. The White House has refused to provide documents to congressional investigators and has instructed top advisers and government officials to defy subpoenas and refuse to testify.
It's not like people have examined the evidence and have decided that the President is innocent, it's that We The People have been spending this whole time trying to uncover the evidence.

2019/12/07

More presidential overreach - Puerto Rico

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on why the Trump Administration felt free to refuse to spend money that Congress had appropriated for the purpose of arming Ukraine: 

“We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney said, adding “Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

Well, now it seems that there's yet another Congressional priority that the Trump Administration just doesn't feel like spending money on, Puerto Rico's hurricane damage. Ben Carson, the Secretary for HUD, is the one who's doing the actual withholding of money. His reason is allegedly that Puerto Rico is incapable of managing that money without turning it to corrupt purposes. The people from HUD made it clear to Congress that they had no statutory authority to withhold funds. They just arbitrarily and unilaterally decided to do that.

The blogger cites the case of the $31k dining room table that Secretary Carson wanted for his office and asks, quite reasonably I think, what on earth makes Carson qualified to supervise any other office to spend money in a responsible manner? Why does any Cabinet Secretary need a dining room set to begin with? If he or she wants to entertain lobbyists, citizens, friends or relatives, they have restaurants in the area they can do that at. In 2018, Carson had around $180 million in personal assets. He's perfectly capable of buying his own dining room set and moving it into his office at HUD if he likes. If not, for eating in the office, the regular government supply office can supply perfectly adequate tables.

Again, the Trump Administration is playing fast and loose with the spending of money. If the president can spend or not spend money however he pleases, the separation of powers, the ability of Congress to control spending, becomes meaningless.

BTW, my favorite example of Carson and how he administers HUD is still the "Oreo" incident. He confused the term REO (Real Estate Owned) with the cookie. What the hell is wrong with someone who had been in office for over two years and still didn't know basic terms?!?!?!