Category Archives: Broken Politics

Harry Truman

The following is reported to be from a radio broadcast by Harry Truman on October 13, 1948 from St. Paul, MN. Seems like republicans haven’t changed much in the intervening 70 years. Compliments of SmokeSpotter on the WaPo comments.

“Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke.
They stand four-square for the American home—but not for housing.
They are strong for labor—but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights.
They favor minimum wage—the smaller the minimum wage the better.
They endorse educational opportunity for all—but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools.
They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine—for people who can afford them …
They think American standard of living is a fine thing—so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people.
And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”

Are We Up To It?

Originally posted on October 15, 2020

My research has on occasion taken me to sites that I wouldn’t ordinarily visit – sites that contain information that is mindbogglingly wrong, even stupidly wrong. And I read speeches by mostly politicians who are presumably intelligent adults and find them insultingly dimwitted. So I’ve started asking myself: “Do we Americans as a group have the discipline, knowledge and intelligence needed to maintain a civil liberal democracy?”

I’ve started asking that question of friends and acquaintances, who generally happen to be adults at least 50 years old. A typical answer is that it certainly is a good question, and almost nobody is certain that we do. A surprising number indicated that 20 years ago they certainly would have answered affirmatively, but now…

This uncertainty is present regardless of political leanings. A fair number of the answers came from new Americans who emigrated from regions that have seen the results of failed governments and even war.

We can expand the question from just Americans to human beings in general, asking about our ongoing survival in anything besides a Darwinian world. I get the same sort of answers, given the environmental degradation we’ve all witnessed over our lifetimes. Many of us remember the conditions in any number of industrial settings that was largely fixed by the EPA (passed by Nixon – can you imagine a Republican doing something so “socialist” now?) and moving our industry overseas. In spite of any local improvements the worldwide situation has deteriorated. Climate change, biodiversity, plastics, population, rising consumption – all these trends are in the process of making our world less hospitable.

Fact Finding

Originally posted on October 20, 2020

As part of doing the research for my various postings I end up rooting around in areas of the web that I normally wouldn’t visit. It should no longer surprise me how much misinformation is out there, including downright lies, but it does. I do rely on a number of sites that I think are reliable, but I try to check alternative sources to see if somehow I can ferret out the truth. Below are my “trusted” sources.

  • AP Fact Check. This is updated almost daily, has no pay wall, just ads. Really good and reliable, although I would like more references.
  • Washington Post Fact Checker. Behind a paywall. Assigns “pinocchios” and even “lifetime pinocchios”. Does longer analyses of untruthful statements.
  • Snopes. Accepts memberships, otherwise free.
  • Annenberg Public Policy Center. No paywall, accepts donations. Longer articles, deeper analysis.

Another list is one of my go-to sources, ones that I trust sort of. A Trump supporter could argue that these are left-wing fake news sources. My reply is that they are a great deal more truthful than, say, Fox or Breitbart.

  • New York Times. Paywall. All the news that’s fit to print.
  • The Atlantic. Paywall. Long, thoughtful articles.
  • Real Clear Politics. No paywall. A collection of articles from other sources, both left and right. Also polling data. Most of their internal writers are from the right.
  • Lots of other mainstream outlets, like the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, other local papers. Not television too much – they are too sensational and brief for my purposes.

Chaos at the V.A.

David Shulkin was, until recently, the secretary of the Veterans Administration.  He was a former hospital administrator and just about everyone thought he was doing a good job in difficult circumstances.  Everybody would include the veterans, the congress, the veteran organizations and so on.  Early on, even Trump praised his efforts to get bi-partisan support for changes at the VA.

In spite of these successes, Shulkin wasn’t as keen on privatizing the VA as Trump and some of his close supporters.  After all, the budget of the VA is now approaching $200 B and that’s a lot of money going to government facilities that could be going to private interests.

So on March 27 Shulkin was fired by a Trump tweet, and replaced by Ronny Jackson, the White House physician.  Never mind that Jackson has little management experience of any kind, let alone health care experience.  Apparently Trump liked Jackson’s glowing report of Trump’s health and that’s good enough.

Shulkin lost no time and wrote an editorial in the NYT about how privatizing the VA would be a really bad idea.  Since then other details have emerged about this affair.  The White House tried to say that Shulkin resigned.  He says that’s nonsense – he was fired by tweet.

Regardless of how one feels about privatizing the VA, this was a really crappy way of handling it.  Shulkin says he even talked to Trump that morning and nothing was said about the firing that occurred later that day.  And Trump didn’t even have the balls to do it in person or even by phone.

Probably Trump is calculating that if Jackson is corrupt enough to give him such a glowing physical (in spite of some problems) then he will also be corrupt enough to support Trump’s desire to privatize the VA.  Jackson has to be confirmed by the Senate and there’s little doubt he will be.

Chaos at the PPO

The PPO (Presidential Personnel Office) is responsible for finding and vetting the several thousand politically-appointed positions in the executive branch.  A recent article in the Washington Post investigated the workings of this little-known but critical office and their findings are truly depressing.  It’s a long article but well worth your time if you want to get an accurate picture of just how incompetently this administration is.

Regardless of ones political leanings or loyalties there has to be some amount of organization competence – even draining the swamp and/or destroying the deep state requires one to be able to manage things.  WaPo probably wouldn’t have even bothered assigning two reporters to see what has been going on at the PPO except for the slowness of all these jobs being filled, and often filled by less-than-stellar candidates.  The problems at the PPO almost all stem from Trump’s poor management style.  Chris Christie was working on the transition and had assembled a list of candidates for some 300 jobs.  Trump abruptly fired him, Christie says, because Christie opposed hiring Mike Flynn.  Looks like Trump made two really poor decisions at one time.

Can you imagine the outcry (and investigations) if Clinton ran things this badly?

Supreme Court Must Always Be Republican?

Several days ago retired Supreme Court justice Stevens (a Republican, by the way) wrote a NYT editorial about repealing the 2nd amendment.  It didn’t take long for Trump to respond with a tweet, the last part of which was: “We need more Republicans in 2018 and must ALWAYS hold the Supreme Court!”  Republicans presently account for something like 40% of the population.  Should that 40% have the ability to interpret the Constitution to suit themselves, ignoring the wishes of the other 60%?  Assuming that Trump means what he tweets (always questionable) it seems apparent that he would be willing to use the courts and the law to enforce his view of what the U.S. should look like.

Most of us probably think that the law and the courts that enforce that law ought to be politically neutral.  Of course there are different legal and constitutional philosophies guiding different judges, but becoming partisan is almost certainly more dangerous.  One mark of any authoritarian government is its efforts to control the judiciary, as any number of historical recountings will confirm.

This attitude shows no respect for the Constitution.  None.


The Curious Case of Mr. Broidy

Trump just seems to attract supporters who have had legal or ethical issues.  An example would be Elliott Broidy, a businessman who supported Trump in the election and then used that connection to further his own business pursuits.

The New York Times has a long and illuminating article on his activities and is well worth the read.  As an example here’s one paragraph:

“The documents reveal that Mr. Broidy, a vice chairman of the finance committee for Mr. Trump’s inauguration, arranged invitations to parties celebrating the event for foreign leaders with whom Circinus [Broidy’s company] worked to sign contracts that could have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Mr. Broidy in some cases presented the invitations in a manner that suggested they were linked to their countries’ willingness to do business with Circinus.”

Given how blatant these activities  it seems that Broidy thought that this was going to be acceptable procedure under the Trump administration.  Why would he think that?

The Trans Ban

Recently Trump has issued a ban on transgenders serving in the military, with some leeway granted to the Pentagon.  When a new regulation is created normally it is intended to fix some problem.  So what is the problem this is fixing?

There are somewhere about 2,000 to 10,000 transgender troops now serving, out of a total active duty population of about 1.5 million.  There have been no reports of problems caused by these several thousand troops, and several studies (including the Rand study in 2016, which has been criticized by Mattis) have found no problems.

On the downside it creates significant problems for those who are transgender but still are patriotic enough to want to serve in the military.  More importantly it creates a significant management headache for those who must enforce it.  On the upside – ????

So why is Trump doing it? The most charitable answer is that he is creating a distraction along with sending a signal to his base that he will fight for the right-wing Christian sense of morality.  Pretty much a repeat of the fictional transgender bathroom issue. A darker answer is that Trump enjoys causing distress for others.

Chaos About the Spending Bill

In a mad dash to prevent another government shutdown, or yet another continuing resolution, the congress passed a spending bill – emphasis on the word “spending” – some $1.3 T.  Yes, that’s a “T” as in Trillion.

You would have thought that a competent president would have been working with congress on such a bill, but apparently he didn’t.  The Republicans there knew they needed to pass something, so it looks like they just gathered up everyone’s ideas, except Trump’s wall, and quickly put together a 2,000+ page bill that likely no one had read by the time it was passed.  Of course he tried to blame the Democrats, ignoring the fact that Republicans control all the branches of government.

So the bill gets to Trump’s desk and all of a sudden he’s thinking of vetoing it.  After a day of chaos he finally signs.

This is incompetence on a massive scale.

Dreamers – the Republicans Are With You?

Recently Trump tweeted  “I can tell you this, and I say this to DACA recipients that the Republicans are with you. They want to get your situation taken care of. The Democrats fought us. They just fought every single inch of the way. They did not want DACA in this bill.”

This one indication that Trump is either stunningly dishonest or has memory issues.  He seems to have forgotten that he, and he alone, created the problem in the first place by undoing Obama’s program.  Democrats have always been willing to have a separate discussion and standalone bill on DACA, but Republicans (namely Trump himself), want to tie it to The Wall and other immigration measures.

As Ms. Sanders said the next day: “He [Trump] embraced — only if you look at what the President’s definition of a clean DACA bill is.”  And his definition of “clean” is quite a bit different from, well, anybody’s.  It would include DACA, the wall, chain migration and the lottery.

And the Republican congress repeats this terribly dishonest account.