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?!?!?!

2019/12/04

Two claims from the President

President:
“The Democrats have gone crazy… they have to be careful because when the shoe’s on the other foot and someday hopefully in the very long distant future, you’ll have a Democrat [sic] president, you’ll have a Republican House and they’ll do the same thing because somebody picked an orange out of the refrigerator and you don’t like it.”
So, the Democrats should be aware that something like Bill Clinton's 1998 impeachment could happen. The Republican Party could undertake a completely partisan impeachment for trivial reasons. Hmm. Okay. Got it.

Why the President doesn't want any of his people testifying at the impeachment hearings:
“I would like them to testify but these are very unfair hearings,” the president insisted. “For the hearings, we don’t get a lawyer, we don’t get any witnesses. We want [Joe] Biden, we want the son, Hunter. Where’s Hunter? We want the son. We want Schiff. We want to interview these people.”
So he'd prefer a lot of distractions as opposed to serious witnesses who would shed light on his actions. Why is this? Unfortunately, starting with President Nixon, but really accelerating with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, the Republican Party has become hyper-partisan. We saw this extreme partisanship during the presidency of Barack Obama, with the Senate Minority, then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, sacrificing national well-being, goals and priorities for purely partisan gains.
The Republican Party under McConnell never showed why the ACA/Obamacre was a bad thing or how it could be improved upon, it just dug in its heels and opposed it, period! During the President's impeachment hearings, we have not seen any members of the President's party crossing the aisle to condemn Trump's actions, even though Democrats have made a very clear case that the crimes he has been charged with are very real, have been amply proven and are very deeply serious.


2019/11/13

Response to President's accusations

[Copied and pasted from President's Twitter feed today, 13Nov2019]

“Nancy Pelosi cares more about power than she does about principle. She did not want to go down this road. She realizes this is a huge loser for Democrats.(1) The Founders envisioned the worst people being in politics, yet they couldn’t envision this. You have these people taking... 
...the most powerful tool the legislative branch has, Impeachment, & they’ve turned it into a political cudgel, which is not at all what the Founders intended.(3) When you hear Schiff use all these words like quid pro quo, it is because they can’t specify that Donald Trump broke.. 
....any laws or did anything wrong, and they have to move away from quid pro quo because there was no quid, and there was no quo. Ukraine got it’s money(4) (3 weeks early),(5) and there was no investigation.” (6)

(1) The first sentence contradicts the next two. If Speaker Pelosi cared abut power and if she realizes that impeachment "is a huge loser for Democrats" then that makes zero sense.

(2) Turning impeachment "into a political cudgel" means Democrats are trying to use the threat of impeachment to push the President into doing something he otherwise wouldn't do. Nothing of the kind is happening. As near as I can tell, at worst, Democrats simply want the President out of office, which is precisely what impeachment was for!

(3) Democrats use terms like quid pro quo because that term describes precisely what the President did. Congress had allocated money for Ukraine's defense against Russia. Trump was holding up the aid and he suggested that the money could be released if Ukraine did him a "favor" and provided his re-election campaign with something he could portray as dirt on Joe Biden. It is illegal for the president to interfere with a properly-allocated grant like that. Yes, Trump did do something wrong!

(4) "Ukraine got it’s money"
Yes, they got their money without having first delivered on the bribery that the President extorted out of them, but that had nothing to do with anything the President wanted or planned for or desired.

(5) "(3 weeks early)"? More like several months late! Nothing happened to free up the money until after the whistleblower pointed out that the President was withholding the money that Congress had appropriated.

(6) "there was no investigation.” Eh? Not sure what the President could possibly mean by that as the investigation started with the whistleblower putting out an urgent complaint.

If your only source on information on the impeachment is the President, you're going to end up badly misinformed and confused.

2019/08/27

Medal of Freedom for Art Laffer

In April 2017, when debate on the tax bill that was signed in December of that year began, an economist wrote about the 43-year history of the Laffer Curve (It was first presented to Donald Rumsfeld in 1974). It has never lived up to its hype! 
From 2012 to 2017, Governor Brownback of Kansas tried mightily to institute the Laffer Curve in Kansas. It was an utter and absolute failure
In March of this year, Republicans tried to go back to the way taxes were under Brownback. The new Democratic Governor Laura Kelly held fast and refused to return to the failed past.
In December 2018, the tax cut was clearly a failure at doing anything but making the wealthy wealthier.
So it's difficult to know why Laffer is being awarded a Medal of Freedom by the President unless this is a "gaslighting" sort of thing.

2019/06/22

Special Olympics and Trump Administration


Yeah, it's pretty difficult to cut a small program like Special Olympics and to then turn around and say you have a heart just like everyone else. 

And keep in mind that while Special Olympics costs $18 million a year, DeVos's around-the-clock security detail cost $7.54 million last year and will be $7.7 million this year.

"DeVos defends plan to eliminate Special Olympics funding"
Two statements that caught my eye:
“Given our current budget realities..."
What "realities" might those be? Oooh yeaaah! The massive tax cut that's pretty much the sole legislative accomplishment of Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell and President Trump.
 
DeVos replied that she thinks the group is “awesome” but should be supported by philanthropy.

That's a defensible idea, but how about some sort of transition? How about a planned move from being government supported to being self-sustaining? I know, I know, that would require, y'know, work and effort and something more than just lounging around on your yacht.

Education Secretary DeVos gets overruled on funding the Special Olympics. She then desperately pretends to be okay with that. "I am pleased and grateful the President and I see eye-to-eye on this issue..." Neither one explains how the issue arose in the first place or why her initial decision was overruled.

The White House, Not DeVos, Wanted to Slash Special Olympics Budget
I had heard the first part of this statement, but not the second. The second makes no sense unless one “accepts the premise that the White House, not DeVos, ordered the cut in the first place.
After Trump reinstated the funds, DeVos issued a statement saying she was “pleased and grateful the President and I see eye-to-eye on this issue.” She then adds“This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.”

2019/06/18

Dealing with Fake News

"Baby boomers share nearly 7 times as many 'fake news' articles on Facebook as adults under 30, new study finds"

Wow! That's pretty sad. Here's my mini-solution to verifying information.

I've had people tell me to check all the sources on a regular basis. Good advice, but too general for me.

I'm currently composing a piece on our march to support Venezuela. Venezuela has a serious problem with its economy. The left-leaning Guardian said that the former president Hugo Chavez imposed price controls on basic food items like flour and that Venezuelan bakers had no economic incentive to produce flour because they couldn't sell flour products at a profit.

I said to myself "Did Venezuela subsidize the production of flour or did they simply slap price controls on it?" I ran a search on "venezuela flour" and checked the right-wing Libertarian website Mises and the more middle-of-the-road NPR. Neither of them mentioned subsidies. NPR provided a good quote from a baker in Caracas where he said something to the effect of "I'd love to produce the more nutritious bread, but I gotta pay workers, gotta pay rent, etc., so I need to produce brownies and cookies that I can sell at a higher price."

So I looked at a good variety of sources and concluded that Venezuela is shooting itself in the foot by imposing price controls without subsidizing the production of basic goods. I search, but in a more organized fashion than to just randomly reading what everybody says about everything.