The Baffled States of America

I try to be respectful towards the Office of the President.  The next four years will be an endurance test, one unlike any that I’ve ever embarked upon in my time alive.  Let me set the record straight first and foremost.  I have no personal animosity towards President Trump.  None at all.  That said, let’s get started.

First, he’s not a politician.  That’s why many voted for him.  That was the “appeal” that many Americans saw.  He wasn’t an insider in Washington, and he said all the right things in front of the right crowds*.  People seriously thought that he was listening to what they wanted and needed from the head of the Executive Branch of our government and have not been getting for decades.  He’s the one who will fix everything as he claimed that he would do, right?

Well, I can say that I have not been dazzled by his brilliance thus far, even though it’s only been a month.  Actually, not even a full month yet.  It hasn’t been a full four weeks at this point, and we already seem to be witnessing a 2mph train wreck happening during the evening rush hour.

We got warned about this long ago, but we didn’t heed the advice.  Dr. Seuss showed us how to avoid being taken for everything by a con man, a bullshit artist.  Trump is that, and then some.  Look at his history if you don’t want to take my word for it.  He has a record of stiffing businesses out of money on already agreed to contracts.  He’s avoided paying taxes for decades by assuming liability for an absurd amount of debt.  He reminds me of the guy on the street corner taking people for their money playing three card monte.  The problem is that he doesn’t know when to turn the bs off and has no idea of how to not bs people.  If there’s any one job in this country that should not be filled by a bs artist, it’s the job of being president.

We’ve been witness to this through the outright lies and doublespeak coming from people within the administration.  The apparently thin-skinned POTUS has attacked people personally or through spokespeople from everything from the size of the inauguration crowd to the portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live.  This has also been evident from the attacks on the media, the intelligence community, and pretty much everyone around the world except for Russia and Putin.  As things are beginning to show, we’re getting a good education on why he hasn’t attacked Russia or Putin.  The problem with the “breaking news” stuff about Gen. Flynn is that the only thing that’s new about the reporting is that we now have actual names of people with government positions who were communicating with Russia.

There were early reports about Paul Manafort and a server in Trump Towers that was communicating with a server in Russia.  There have also been rumors and such of other people involved with his campaign that had ties to Russia.  The Secretary of State is well-known to have strong business ties to Russia and Putin.  Individually, the rumors and innuendo don’t amount to anything that points to outright malfeasance.  At the same time, you can create an avalanche when you get enough things piled on top of each other.

At this point, there is permanent damage that has been done to the credibility of people in Washington.  It’s not like there was a vast amount of credibility to begin with, but I don’t recall any administration in my lifetime having a beginning like this.  It hasn’t been a full four weeks yet, and there’s enough stuff floating around to do about 8 years worth of Congressional investigations.  I don’t expect to see Republicans do anything at this point, as they’re likely going to try to wait things out.  It appears that Trump tried to wait things out on Flynn, and look at what it got him.

It’s not wise to try to pick a fight with the intelligence community that has taken an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States.  Especially when the intelligence community is full of people who take their oath seriously.  In case people forget, foreign enemies are not the only ones listed in that oath:

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

5 U.S.C. §3331

Those who focus more on the leaks than the information leaked should stop long enough to consider that oath.  If the federal employee thinks the actions rise high enough to be considered as an enemy act, they have a responsibility to take actions to defend the Constitution.  I’m not saying that leaking information is always a good thing to do, but we do have some whistleblower protections for a reason.  It’s dumb to think that you could communicate with foreign adversaries and our intelligence community wouldn’t pick up on those communications.  I also saw that some of our allies also picked up communications on their own, and they have their own concerns about American leadership as a result.

If Hillary Clinton’s email investigation was so important that we had to have a press conference by the FBI about it, why wasn’t the American public told about the communications between Trump’s campaign and Russia?  Remember, Democrats left a classified briefing on Russian hacking and were furious with Director Comey.  Middle, rural America elected trump because he said that he would bring jobs back to their communities.  If they’re farmers, they will have enough manure over the next four years to keep fertilizing crops for generations.  If they’re not farmers, there’s always a need for someone to shovel the bs.  If the first four weeks are any indication, we’re in for record amounts of bs in short order.

Welcome to the Baffled States of America.  This is what some of  you voted for, and this is what we’re all going to get as a result.

*I think it’s entirely possible to say the right things to the right people.  That still doesn’t mean that you’re correct in what you’re saying, or that the people who believe you are also right. 

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Here we go America

Not even two full weeks into the new year, and Congress is already going for the throat.  Figuratively and maybe even literally on down the road.

From Reuters:

Republicans on Wednesday passed a bill in the House of Representatives that touched on nearly every step U.S. agencies take in creating and applying new rules, continuing their blitz to radically reform “abusive” federal regulation of areas from the environment to the workplace.

In a 238-183 vote, the House passed the “Regulatory Accountability Act,” which combined eight bills aimed at changing how the vast government bureaucracy runs. Only five Democrats voted for it.

The legislation would give President-elect Donald Trump tools “to wipe out abusive regulation,” said Bob Goodlatte, the Judiciary Committee chairman who is among the many House leaders calling for lighter regulation and saying the costs to comply with federal rules are too high.

Republicans say there is little accountability for regulations that apply to almost every aspect of American life because they are created by appointed officials and not elected representatives. Federal agencies operate either independently or under the president’s authority.

The crux of their argument, based on that last paragraph above is that there is no accountability for regulations because they’re not created by elected representatives.  If we don’t have enough with the incoming Ego-In-Chief already, now Congressional Republicans feel that things are not kosher unless they write it.  This is the same dysfunctional Congress that probably couldn’t pass legislation to get themselves out of a burning building.  There’s one major flaw in their thinking however.

The Constitution is filled with checks and balances along with separation of powers.  The power to legislate is delegated to Congress, and they’ve been quite adamant about that power with the numerous lawsuits filed against President Obama over his two terms.  That same Constitution also delegates the power to enforce laws to the Executive Branch, the very same branch filled with those appointed officials who are currently responsible for writing out those regulations.

You see, Republicans gripe about regulations to the point where most people don’t have a clue as to what a regulation is.  All we hear is how they cost businesses so much and they’re overburdensome.  We never hear Republicans actually explain how regulations come about and what their purposes are.  For those who don’t already know, here’s a quick rundown.  My apologies to those who already know this.

Legislation begins in Congress as bills.  The bills get voted on by both houses of Congress.  If they pass both houses, those bills then go to the president to either be signed or vetoed.  If the president signs the bill, then it becomes law.  The laws that are passed and signed are then codified and placed into the U.S. Code.  According to the definition at Wikipedia, “The Code of Laws of the United States of America[1] (variously abbreviated to Code of Laws of the United States, United States Code, U.S. Code, or U.S.C.) is the official compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal statutes of the United States.”  The U.S. Code currently consists of 52 titles, and each title is broken down by subject matter.

Now, once that statute is published, the agency(s) responsible for enforcing that law have to come up with a set of rules to enforce the law that Congress passed and the president signed.  Take a wild guess at what those rules are called?  They’re called regulations.  Those regulations, once approved, end up in the Code of Federal Regulations which is often abbreviated as CFR.  The CFR is contained in 50 titles, and just like the U.S. Code, those titles are broken down by subject matter.

I don’t know of a single person who has read the entire U.S. Code or CFR, so there may indeed be unnecessary entries in both compilations.  That said, I don’t think a Congress that has sued the outgoing president for overreach has a leg to stand on when trying to claim they should have more say in regulations.  If you’re that concerned about the costs of regulations, then pay more attention to the legislation that you write.  Instead of allowing ALEC or other outside groups or lobbyists write legislation, go back to doing your own job that you get paid $174,000 a year to do.  It’s not like Congress has passed much legislation in recent years anyway, so there’s not a whole lot of writing to be done.

I don’t see any good intentions behind this.  If Republicans want to deregulate everything, then write legislation to rescind the laws in place and get your president to sign it.  If there’s no law on the books, then the agency(s) don’t need regulations to enforce them.  It’s a win-win situation for Republicans.  I seriously doubt they’ll go that route because that would actually shine the light on what the ultimate goal appears to be, which is to make things easier for their financial backers to make more money.  That’s always the prevailing argument about how businesses are hampered by regulations, so it would make sense that the goal is to get businesses to making more money.

Quit lying to people and just be honest about what your intentions are.  We’ve already seen that many in the voting public don’t give a rat’s ass about what politicians do.  A party has campaigned for years on ending the ACA, and people who voted them into office are now acting surprised that they’re ending the ACA.  Words don’t describe the abject despair I feel when I read story after story about this.  Part of me wants to call people stupid, but I honestly think people are more swayed by personality than what the people are actually saying.  Trump proved that by winning this election after all he’s said.

This year is only beginning, and it’s Year One of our four year journey through Trumpland.  I hope things such as this doesn’t put us back to having flammable rivers and air you can slice with a knife.  I still refuse to be the crier of doom, but the blocks appear to be falling into place for some of the more frightening predictions to have a chance of coming to pass.  God help us all.

Two more days

Just as I figured, there was nothing new in the recently found emails.  Director Comey is likely on his way out after this.  I honestly don’t know how he can salvage his career after this fiasco.  He can thank Rep. Chaffetz for speeding up his retirement.
Without knowing what was in those emails, there was no reason to notify Congress.  He should have known that Republicans wouldn’t be able to remain silent on anything remotely involving Hillary Clinton.  It will be interesting to see what’s said about Comey now.  He’s gone from hero to zero and back or vice versa depending on people’s ideology.  He should have just asked my opinion, and I would have said to remain silent until after November 8th.

 

Once again, another Clinton “scandal” dissolves into a pile of nothingness.  If/When she wins this election, get ready for 4 years of this crap.  We already know what’s coming.  She won’t be able to take a dump in the Oval Office bathroom without it becoming a scandal.

Thank you SCOTUS

What happens when politicians are allowed to draw their own voting district maps.

 

What is, in my opinion, the most important ruling to come from this year’s Supreme Court session has barely registered a blip on the media radar.  Since it involves a rather mundane topic, it doesn’t garner the headlines like the PPACA or same-sex marriage does.  However, the ruling in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, No. 13-1314 can and should have a far-reaching and long-term impact on the political process in America.

This case ruled affirmatively that commissions voted on by the people are constitutional when it comes to drawing up redistricting maps.  Given how politicians are laser-like focused on protecting their own asses and their party’s rule, this is a step towards returning this country to a representative democracy.  What we have now is an absurd joke.  I remember reading a post from Nate Silver’s 538 Blog years ago how we’ve gone from more than 100 competitive House districts in the 1992 election to around 30 twenty years later.  That’s the long-term effect of gerrymandering.

This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see

I’m both surprised and appalled that nobody’s really been celebrating this ruling.  I’m surprised because this topic isn’t as glamorous as health care or same-sex marriage.  There hasn’t been the constant drumbeat in the media over the redistricting process, unlike the two aforementioned issues.  Redistricting is something that’s usually done behind closed doors and out of the public eye, and that has to change if we’re going to return to a government that works for the people instead of against the people.

I’m appalled for the very same reasons.  People should give a damn about how their voting districts are carved up.  They should be concerned when politicians move the maps around to concentrate a particular voting bloc to one district.  It may very well help “your team” this time, but it may be your ox being gored on the next go around.  I personally don’t think any politician should have a “comfortable seat” because that removes the incentive for them to represent ALL voters in their districts.  When a politician sits in a district filled with more of his own voters, he will tend to ignore or neglect those who wouldn’t vote for him anyway.  That’s wrong because whether a person votes for you or not, you are still their elected representative in Washington D.C.

I tip my hat to the SCOTUS on this decision.  I think this will decision will go a long way towards giving people a true voice in D.C. now.  At the same time, I expect this to be swept under the rug as quickly as possible.  If the voters in all states jumped on this bandwagon, it would be an effective countermeasure to the financial arms race going on to elect people beholden to monied partisan interest groups and individuals.  These types of commissions should be the law of the land to give American voters confidence that their elected representatives will better represent the people who elected them as opposed to those who lined their campaign coffers.  The party apparatus will undoubtedly loathe this decision because it takes power from them and gives it to the voters instead.

Expounding a bit on immigration

President Obama can not legally give anyone legal status in the United States.  That has to come by way of Congressional action.  Those of you who believe that whole amnesty thing need to go and read up on immigration law a bit.

The President, by being the head of the Executive Branch, is the point person for the enforcement of law.  What his executive actions can do is direct how a particular law or set of laws is enforced.  He cannot change law either.  So, don’t believe that crap.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, did not legalize any children brought here to the US.  It did not give them a legal pathway to citizenship nor did alter their current legal status.  It only gave them a temporary reprieve for being subject to orders of removal.  They are still subject to grounds of inadmissibility, and they can be removed if the situation warrants removal.

What we need is a Congress that has the balls to be honest with America.  We need a media that has the balls to be honest with America.  We need an America that has the balls to be honest with America.

Obama cannot grant amnesty, and I doubt he intends to do so.  His actions can only direct enforcement of immigration law.  Congress has the power to grant amnesty, and I doubt they will do so.  They can, however, do what’s necessary to settle our immigration issues.  Instead, they’re too damn busy trying to score political points by stirring up the base, pushing ideological lies that do nothing but make people angry.

Obama, for his part, is playing political games as well.  He’s asked Congress numerous times to work on immigration, and they have chosen not to.  By pushing EOs, he’s basically goading them into doing something.  Whether it turns out to be meaningful or strictly political is up to Congress.