Let Us All Meet In The Middle So That We Can Get Our Country At Least 50% Fixed

Let Us All Meet In The Middle So That We Can Get Our Country At Least 50% Fixed

There are many people like Senator Cruz of the great state of Texas who believe in the hard-line conservative ‘Tea Party’ view of “he will not negotiate with the Democrats”! That is a fine view if you live in a totalitarian government but American was not designed to be ruled by a High Priest, Christian, Jewish, Islamic or any other.  Senator Cruz there are some things that both sides of that ‘Isle’ can come to agreements on. Most all people I have talked to throughout my adult travels don’t give a rats-behind which party gets Our Country moving again, just quit your childish bickering and unclog your bowels so it can get out from between your ears. Congress you have recently known the wrath of the public giving you approval ratings in the 10% range because you are guilty of the grid lock that stenches the Isles of Congress today . Yes you, both sides of the ‘isle’ you are the reason our country is screwed up enough to think about electing ‘outsiders’ like Mr. Trump. Congress you have grown the wrath of the public and only you can save yourselves by going to the center on as many issues as your beliefs will tolerate. I am not saying to go against your core beliefs or on moral belief issues like abortion, but it seems that you folks in D.C. think you must fight the other side of the Isle on every blasted issue? Do you know the term ‘poop or get off of the potty’? I am rather sure you know the term ‘lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way’? Congress, the American people are talking to you!

U.S. Presidents And Scumbags

U.S. Presidents And Scumbags

 

In this past week we have heard the term ‘scumbag’ bantered around in the national media quite a bit. First we heard that this term was used in the book that will be being released tomorrow April 17th from the former Director of the FBI, James Comey. In his book Mr. Comey reportedly used this term in describing President Trump. Fittingly Mr. Trump then has repeatedly used this term in targeting Mr. Comey. As if we weren’t already aware of it, Mr. Trump like in his recent post Syrian missile attack tweet where he copied George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” disaster after he illegally invaded Iraq has shown that he is incapable of thinking up his own terms/words, he has to use others words. So, being the word ‘scumbag’ seems to be the word of the moment I thought that I would try to make a list of the biggest scumbag Presidents, at least that I could personally think of. Now, such a list is arbitrary as each one of us may well have a differing opinion on this matter. This list is about people/Presidents, whom I believe were/are the 10 worse scumbags, not simply whom I think were the 10 ‘worse’ overall Presidents.

 

It should be no surprise that 7 of the 10 on my list are men who have been Presidents during my personal lifetime as these would be people that I have known better than the earlier Office Holders. After I give you my list of ‘scumbags’ from ten down to number one I am going to give you another list, one that is my opinion on the Presidents within my personal life time. This list will start from my birth year (1956). This list will simply be my opinion of the worse to the best overall Presidents during this last 62 yrs. Both of these lists are just for fun, it is not as if my opinion matters or means anything more than anyone else’s opinion. Maybe you can just for the fun of it compile your own list to see if maybe we agree on anything concerning our lists. Okay, enough banter, now for the lists.

 

(SCUMBAG PRESIDENTS 10 DOWN TO NUMBER 1)

10) Jerry Ford   1974-1977   38th President

9) Bill Clinton   1993-2001   42nd President

8) James Buchanan  1857-1861   15th President

7) Andrew Johnson  1865-1869   17th President

6) Lyndon Johnson  1963-1969   36th President

5) George W. Bush 2001-2009   43rd President

4) George H.W. Bush  1989-1993  41st President

3) Richard Nixon   1969-1974   37th President

2) Andrew Jackson   1829-1837   7th President

  1. Donald Trump   2017-2019   45th President      (I believe that after the 2018 mid-term election is over and the Democrats have taken over control of both Houses of Congress from the Republicans that then and only then will the Republicans get the guts to vote with the Democrats and impeach Mr. Trump. We shall see what we shall see!)

(Now, this is my list of the Presidents in my life time 1956-2018 of how I personally rank them as far as the best to the worse. Please take a moment to compare them with what you think.) During my lifetime there have now been 12 different Presidents so I am going to rank them from the best (1st) to the worst (12th).

1) Ronald Reagan

2) Dwight Eisenhower

3) John Kennedy

4) Barack Obama

5) Jimmy Carter

6) Bill Clinton

7) Jerry Ford

8) Lyndon Johnson

9) George W. Bush

10) Richard Nixon

11) George H. W. Bush

12) Donald Trump

 

So, there are my two lists for what little they are worth. If nothing else it can be banter for around the water cooler this week. I am a registered Independent voter who has voted for some Democrats and for some Republicans throughout the years. In my lifetime as I said earlier there have been 12 Presidents, 7 have been Republicans and 5 Democrats. What I have noticed from this list I made the 5 Democrats hold mostly all of the ‘middle of the road’ spots.  This means that the top 2 spots went to Republicans and that the bottom 4, the worst 4 are all also Republicans. Just fodder for the thoughts, I hope you all have a good week, stay safe, God bless, Shalom.

 

Watch Out, Ted Cruz. Beto is Coming

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Watch Out, Ted Cruz. Beto is Coming.

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Beto O’Rourke at Natachee’s Supper ’n Punch restaurant in Houston.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

HOUSTON — Count me among the swelling ranks of the infatuated. I, too, have been Beto-struck.

I have seen the alternative to Ted Cruz — Lord knows we need an alternative to Ted Cruz — and he’s a peppy, rangy, toothy progressive with ratios of folksiness to urbanity and irreverence to earnestness that might well have been cooked up in some political laboratory. Could that formula enable Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat, to wrest Cruz’s seat in the Senate from him in November?

By now you’ve probably heard of Beto — seemingly no one calls him by his surname — and that in and of itself is a marvel. When else has a long-shot Senate candidate with no prior celebrity drawn so much coverage? He has been the subject of lengthy profiles in The Times, The Washington Post, Politico, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, which bestowed upon him the mightiest political adjective of them all: “Kennedyesque.”

He even appeared last month on Bill Maher’s HBO show, generating headlines with his response to Maher’s characterization of Cruz.

“Don’t forget,” Maher said, “he’s a giant asshole.”

“That’s true,” Beto concurred.

It was a naughty swerve from his usual niceness, and over lunch in Houston on Thursday, he told me that he regretted it.

“I think I was just moving the conversation along,” Beto said. “Anyhow, I don’t think that Ted Cruz is an asshole.”

“You don’t?” I asked, incredulous.

“I certainly don’t think that publicly,” he answered.

Cruz is a rare and precious gift. He’s so loathed that any passable Democrat with a picayune chance of toppling him was bound to draw more attention and inspire more hope than the political dynamics warranted. While President Trump’s unpopularity endangers his party’s incumbents far and wide and Texas may indeed be getting bluer, the state has been very red for very long. The last time a Democrat won statewide office was 24 years ago.

But Beto is more than passable. Many of his campaign events are mobbed. People line up for selfies and then insist on hugs.

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Beto O’Rourke at a town hall meeting at the University of Houston on Thursday.CreditBryan Schutmaat for The New York Times

He’s raising money like mad. Last week he disclosed that in the first quarter of 2018 he took in $6.7 million, bringing his total haul to $13.2 million, which handily outpaces Cruz and is more than any Texas Democrat running for the Senate ever amassed. All of that cash came from individuals. He has sworn off money from PACs.

“Even the most skeptical person has to acknowledge that there’s something going on here,” Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told me. “But is it something that can overcome the deep hole that any Democratic candidate in this state is in?”

Beto’s answer to those odds is an oddball campaign. This has freed him to be freewheeling. He has no speechwriter, because he never speaks from a fixed script. He has no pollster, because he’s not going by polls.

“No political consultant worth their salt would allow us to go to college campuses, because young people don’t vote,” he told a group of Latino leaders during a meeting on Thursday that I accompanied him to. “That’s why we don’t have a political consultant.”

His next event, in fact, was at the University of Houston.

He was driving himself from stop to stop in a rented red Dodge Caravan. There was a banana and bag of nuts beside him; his two campaign aides — the entirety of his traveling entourage — huddled with their smartphones in the back. “Their highest value in the car is cranking on stuff,” he told me. The steering and navigation could be left to him.

His Facebook followers already know this, because he does Facebook Live streams of much of his day, recounting all manner of tedium. Midday Wednesday he filled in followers on an electricity mishap during a convenience-store bathroom break. “I’m in the stall,” he recalled. “The lights are cut. Pitch black. I just freeze.”

On Thursday night, viewers beheld the action-packed minutes of him refueling the Caravan. “Our purchase came to $44.45,” he narrated. “Your contributions literally go into the gas tank.”

In late January, he did a 24-hour Facebook Live beginning with a run with several hundred supporters at dawn and continuing through a chat with all-night street cleaners. (When he had to shower or such, his wife, Amy, kept viewers engaged.)

I asked him why.

“How do I get your attention?” he answered. “You’ve seen politics before. You’ve seen the well-produced ads where I’m holding my wife’s hand and our kids are running down a hillside. You’re sick of that. How do I honor what’s going on now? Politics are changing dramatically. People are really looking for the most transparent, honest, direct way to connect with one another. And we’re going to find it.”

Beto, 45, lives in El Paso, grew up there and has spent most of his life in Texas, apart from college at Columbia University, where he majored in English. He and Amy have three children, ages 7, 9 and 11. He started a small technology company before he served on the El Paso City Council and then in Congress.

That background has somehow given him enough material that whenever a voter asks him a question — about health care or school safety or the treatment of veterans — he’s able to draw on some personal anecdote. After a town hall meeting on Thursday, two of the attendees whom I interviewed separately used the same adjective to praise him: “Relatable.”

He hits so many right notes that it’s eerie. During campaign swings last summer, when school was out, the family camped out at night in state parks. His two youngest kids learned all the words to George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning” before an event in Amarillo, which they opened with an a cappella rendition.

He’s quick to validate voters’ ill will toward federal lawmakers, and he said, during that town hall, that only 9 percent of Americans approve of Congress. “You know that communism has an approval rating of 10 percent,” he added. “Chlamydia is at 8 percent. So Congress is in the sweet spot. But watch out! The chlamydia lobby is working it hard and they are going to move up and surpass Congress soon.”

But he’s also careful to praise his colleagues in the House. “There’s so much talent in the Democratic caucus,” he told me, “from Joaquin Castro to Cheri Bustos to Joe Kennedy to Hakeem Jeffries.” In that one seemingly off-the-cuff sentence, he managed to include a fellow Texan, a storied dynasty, both genders and multiple regions and races.

He talks about fried catfish one second, James Joyce the next. (The older of his two sons is named Ulysses.) He’s fluent in classic punk rock and contemporary country. He’s fluent in Spanish, too.

He’s clear about his beliefs that health care should be guaranteed, marijuana should be legal, Trump should be impeached and the border wall is ridiculous. That puts him to the left of many Texans. But he’s just as voluble about his exhausting effort to visit every county in Texas, including the most staunchly conservative ones, and about the need for people of all political stripes to be respected.

Beto is more than the anti-Cruz. He’s a political fable, holding out the happy if far-fetched possibility that a candidate’s effervescence matters more than a state’s partisan breakdown and that gumption beats any focus group.

“People are watching,” he told his town hall audience. “If we win this race in the right way, I guarantee you, it is going to change politics in the United States going forward.”

I invite you to follow me on Twitter (@FrankBruni) and join me on Facebook.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page SR3 of the New York edition with the headline: Watch Out, Ted Cruz. Beto is Coming.. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

John Willis Menard, First African-American Elected to Congress

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SMITHSONIAN.COM)

 

The International Vision of John Willis Menard, First African-American Elected to Congress

Although he was denied his seat in the House, Menard continued his political activism with the goal of uniting people across the Western Hemisphere

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/qa1ahPSaDH94x48QAWOyz9cTm4g=/800×600/filters:no_upscale()/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/bc/92/bc923044-3abf-403c-99f3-c0ba0c794e01/john-willis-menard-wr2.jpg

John Willis Menard

The Library of Congress recently digitized this portrait of John Willis Menard, the only known photograph of the African-American trailblazer. (Composite of Library of Congress images)
SMITHSONIAN.COM

In July 1863, months after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a young African-American man from Illinois boarded a small ship in New York City and headed for Belize City, in what was then British Honduras. John Willis Menard, a college-educated political activist born to free parents of French Creole descent, made his Central American journey as a representative of Lincoln’s. His goal: to determine whether British Honduras was a suitable location for previously enslaved Americans to relocate.

Menard’s trip to Central America was undoubtedly an unusual period in his early political career—one that never came to fruition—but it set the stage for decades of internationalism. Wherever he moved and whatever position he held, Menard repeatedly considered African-American liberation in the context of the New World’s dependence on the work of enslaved laborers.

That work, and Menard’s brief foray into the world of legislation, is part of what makes his appearance in a newly digitized photo album so remarkable. The album, acquired by the Library of Congress and Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture last year, features rare portraits of dozens of other abolitionists of the 1860s, including Harriet Tubman and only known photo of Menard (shown above). While those photos offer unique insight into the community of abolitionists fighting for a better future for African-Americans, what they don’t show is the controversy that sometimes surrounded that debate.

Before the American Civil War came to its bloody end, both Lincoln and the growing community of free black Americans were looking ahead to a United States without slavery. There were around 4 million enslaved people in the United States in 1860, comprising 13 percent of the American population. What would happen when all of them were freed?

“A number of African-American leaders saw colonization to Central America, to Mexico, or to Africa as the only viable solution prior to the Civil War,” says historian Paul Ortiz, author of Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920.

For more than a year, President Lincoln had publicly expressed his support for the colonization efforts of emancipated African-Americans. He’d had discussions about colonization with representatives from the government of Liberia, as well as members of the Cabinet. He even espoused his views on colonization to leading members of the African-American community.

“You and we are different races,” Lincoln told a black delegation invited to the White House in August 1862. “Even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race. It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated.”

“Lincoln was relatively devoid of personal prejudice, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t incorporate prejudice into his thinking,” writes Oxford University historian Sebastian Page. After the fall congressional elections of 1863, historians argue that Lincoln “came to appreciate the impracticality, even immorality of expatriating African-Americans who could fight for the Union.”

While some members of the free African-American community initially supported Lincoln’s colonization plan—11,000 moved to Africa between 1816 and 1860—many more were vocal in their opposition. Among the most vehement critics was Frederick Douglass. As historian Eric Foner writes in The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, “Douglass pointed out that blacks had not caused the war; slavery had. The real task of a statesmen was not to patronize blacks by deciding what was ‘best’ for them, but to allow them to be free.”

But Menard could be just as voluble in his defense of the colonization plan. “This is a white nation, white men are the engineers over its varied machinery and destiny,” Menard wrote to Douglass in 1863. “Every dollar spent, every drop of blood shed and every life lost, was a willing sacrifice for the furtherance and perpetuity of a white nationality. Sir, the inherent principle of the white majority of this nation is to refuse forever republican equality to the black minority. A government, then, founded upon heterogeneous masses in North America would prove destructive to the best interest of the white and black races within its limits.”

image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/1d/fa/1dfa2281-8908-4d24-a126-8230fbe62866/african_american_leaders.jpg

African American leaders.jpg

African-American leaders disagreed on the issue of colonization, with some like Menard in favor of it while others, including Frederick Douglass, denounced it. (Library of Congress)

And so Menard traveled to Central America. American companies with business interests in the region made it one possible option for colonization. While there, Menard noted the potential of the landscape for a colony of newly freed African-Americans, but also worried over the absence of housing and proper facilities. Although Menard announced his support for a colony in British Honduras and wrote a favorable report to Lincoln upon returning in the fall of 1863, he worried about lack of support for such a project. As historians Phillip Magness and Sebastian Page write in Colonization After Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement, “Menard, long among the most vocal supporters of Liberian migration [to Africa], conceded that he was torn between resettlement abroad and working to improve the lot of blacks at home.”

Ultimately, the Union victory in the Civil War in 1865 and the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 made the latter option more possible than it ever had been before. In 1865 Menard moved to New Orleans, where he worked among the city’s elite African-Americans to fight for political representation and equal access to education. When James Mann, a white congressman from New Orleans, died five weeks into his term in 1868, Menard successfully ran for the seat and became the first African-American elected to Congress.

Despite Menard winning the clear majority of votes in the election, his opponent, Caleb Hunt, challenged the outcome. In defending the fairness of his victory to the House of Representatives, Menard also became the first African-American to address Congress in 1869. “I have been sent here by the votes of nearly nine thousand electors, [and] I would feel myself recreant to the duty imposed upon me if I did not defend their rights on this floor,” Menard stated. But the Republican-majority House of Representatives refused to seat either Menard or Hunt, citing their inability to verify the votes in the election.

Menard refused to give up on his vision of a democratic future for African-Americans—or forget his early lessons in the importance of building international relationships. In 1871 he moved to Florida with his family, this time taking up his pen to describe the work by immigrants and African-Americans to produce representative democracies at a local level. Menard edited a series of newspapers, and moved from Jacksonville to Key West, where he could participate in an almost utopic community, says Ortiz.

“Menard had a black, internationalist vision of freedom. That’s why he ends up describing Key West with such excitement,” Ortiz says. At the period, the island community was filled with a mixture of working class white people, as well as immigrants from Cuba, the Bahamas and elsewhere in the Caribbean. “Part of his genius was that he understood the freedom of African-Americans in the United States was connected to those freedom struggles in Cuba and Central America.”

Menard wasn’t the only one interested in building a coalition across racial and linguistic lines. During the same period, multiple states passed Alien Declarant Voting laws, allowing new immigrants to register to vote as long as they promised to become naturalized citizens. Menard wrote of political events conducted in both English and Spanish, Ortiz says, adding that Menard was representative of other black leaders who saw politics in a new way—as a system of power that impacted people regardless of national borders.

But for all his work in Florida, and later in Washington, D.C., Menard eventually came up against the system of oppression that Reconstruction-era policies failed to undo. Violent white supremacist groups like the Knights of White Camellia and the White League formed to terrorize African-Americans and prevent them from voting. Deadly attacks occurred across the South, from the Colfax Massacre in New Orleans to the Ocoee Massacre in Florida.

“The tragedy is, we know the end of the story,” Ortiz says of Menard’s attempt to create lasting change for his community and others. “Those movements were defeated. White supremacist politics were premised on everything being a zero-sum game. Economic resources, jobs, the right to even claim that you were an equal person. Reconstruction was beginning to work, and what came after it didn’t work. It’s our tragedy to live with.”

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House bill would write into law promised $38b defense aid for Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

BIPARTISAN BILL TIMED FOR AIPAC’S CONFERENCE OPENING SUNDAY

House bill would write into law decade’s promised $38b defense aid for Israel

Bipartisan draft legislation seeks to prevent any president from reneging on 2016 assistance agreement

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Thursday, July 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Thursday, July 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill timed for AIPAC’s annual conference would codify into law the memorandum of understanding signed in 2016 by Israel and the United States guaranteeing Israel $38 billion in defense assistance over 10 years.

The bill introduced Friday is sponsored by two Middle East policy leaders in the US House of Representatives — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the Middle East subcommittee, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., its ranking Democrat. Their senior positions in their respective House caucuses means the bill has a high chance of passage.

Delegates to the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference starting Sunday will lobby for the bill on Tuesday.

The thinking behind the bill is to prevent any president from reneging on the agreement.

Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (photo credit: AP/Harry Hamburg)

Separately, but also timed for the AIPAC conference, all 100 senators signed a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security to expedite Israel’s full membership in the Global Entry program, which facilitates passage through customs for citizens of member countries. Israel has had limited membership since 2012.

“Israel’s full membership in the Global Entry program would be a win-win-win, as it will provide a more seamless traveling experience for travelers, contribute greatly to our economy and strengthen the bond between these two great democracies,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader in the Senate.

Sens. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and James Inhofe, R-Okla, initiated the letter.

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COMMENTS

The U.S. Military Being In Syria Is An Illegal Act Of War

 

This commentary today is simply my belief’s on the issue of the U.S. still having troops, combat or otherwise within the borders of the sovereign State of Syria. When our mission there was to destroy the illegal Caliphate of ISIS we had a defined reason and mission for being inside the borders of Syria. Since ISIS is now just another run of the mill terror group without a ‘State’ foothold our ‘mission’ there is done. The reason I say that we have no right to be there is because the legitimate government of Syria under its President Mr. Assad has said several times that we are not welcome there and that he wants us out of their country, now.

 

Just because we don’t like the Leader of a country this is not a legal reason for our government leaders to conduct military operations in that country. The last I heard the U.S. is conducting military operations in about 30 countries, why isn’t this enough for the military hawks in our government? As long as the government of these 30 or so countries have asked us in, asked us for help against honest to goodness terrorists, then we have a right to be there, if we so choose to help them. But, in a case like Syria where the government does not want us there and has said that they will attack any of our troops that are on their soil, we have no legal right to be there!

 

What could possibly be the reasoning behind our government keeping troops in Syria? Is our military and our government trying to start a direct war with Syria? Yet a bigger question would be, is our government trying to start not just a direct war with Syria but a proxy war with Iran and with Russia? If this is the case folks there is no doubt that we will end up being in a direct shooting war with Syria, Iran and Russia, is this really what we the people of the U.S.want? I really don’t think so. About the only member of President Trumps Cabinet that I have been backing so far is our Secretary of State Rex Tillerson but about two days ago he made the statement that we (the U.S.) need to be in Syria ‘long term’. I am not such a fan of his now folks.

 

Here in the United States if a country, any country, came inside our borders and started shooting and bombing any of our citizens we would declare War on that country. This would be the case even if our direct neighbors like Canada or Mexico attacked any group of our people whether they be Hispanic, Indian, Oriental, Black or White, we would actively repel them, neighbors or not. Why does our government feel that they have any right to be in Syria without the blessings of the Syrian government? Folks, we don’t have any right to be there, none! I do not like the Leadership of Syria nor the Supreme Leader of Iran nor his flunkies but they are a reality that we have no legal right to depose. It is a shame that we have the relations that we now have with President Putin and Russia and it appears that as long as President Putin is in charge there we will not be able to have the friendship between our Nations that I wish we had. No matter what you or I like or think, by the laws of our Country it is illegal for us to have any troops inside the borders of Syria. Without a Congress approved declaration of War it is also illegal for the U.S. Military to fire any missiles into the sovereign Nation of Syria. We need to get out right now before we blow this up into a World War.

Mitch McConnell’s tax plan slammed tiny Berea College; nevertheless, he persisted

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LEXINGTON KENTUCKY CURRIER JOURNAL)

 

Mitch McConnell’s tax plan slammed tiny Berea College; nevertheless, he persisted | Joseph Gerth

https://uw-media.courier-journal.com/video/embed/108794256?sitelabel=reimagine&platform=desktop&continuousplay=true&placement=uw-smallarticleattophtml5&pagetype=story

In a White House press conference, President Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and other republican leaders celebrated the passage of a new tax plan. USA TODAY

Mitch McConnell is a stickler for rules.

Heck, he’s even a stickler for rules that don’t exist. Like the one about not considering Supreme Court appointments in an election year.

That’s why it seems so, well, so hypocritical of him to write a letter to Courier Journal whining that we shouldn’t blame him for his tax reform bill that will cost Kentucky’s tiny Berea College as much as $1 million dollars a year in additional taxes.

See, McConnell proposed his tax reform bill that was designed to get at some of the money that is being stashed away at liberal universities like Yale and Harvard.

When he learned that the bill would also ensnare Berea, which educates poor mountain students for free, he tried to exempt the college located in Madison County, leaving all other private colleges with large endowments to pay the freight.

Trouble is, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that his effort to carve out Berea violated the rules.

So, surely, McConnell stopped the process and vowed to get it right. Right?

Nope.

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To paraphrase ol’ Addison Mitchell McConnell: He had appeared to violate the rule, He was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless, he persisted.

Yep, he steamed right ahead, despite the fact that he knew his tax bill would mean that Berea will have to cut the number of scholarships it gives to poor students and cut the number of poor students educated, just so McConnell and his millionaire and billionaire buddies get a big tax break.

Oh, you’ll get one too.

It will be smaller. Much smaller.

And there will be tax breaks available to the extremely wealthy that aren’t available to you. And the federal deficit will rise, requiring Congress to slash programs that mean a heck of a lot more to you and your families than to the extremely wealthy.

But hey.

No biggie. Right?

Instead of deciding that the Senate would stop the process, rewrite the bill, fix it, do it right, vote on it early next year, McConnell forged ahead.

Part of that was to give President Donald Trump a victory in his first year as president but part of it was likely to get around the problem of a smaller GOP majority in the Senate when Democrat Doug Jones, of Alabama, is sworn in to replace Republican Luther Strange.

And McConnell is nothing if not consistent when it comes to making sure important legislation is acted upon quickly before there is a midterm change in Senate makeup.

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You remember back in 2010, when he demanded that the Senate deal with Obamacare legislation before Republican Scott Brown was seated to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, don’t you?

Nope?

Oh, yeah. That didn’t happen.

Sorry about that.

OK, so let’s get this straight.

Tax bill hurts Kentucky College. McConnell’s attempted fix violates Senate procedures. He pushes it through anyway because, well, politics.

Now, what to do?

Blame Democrats.

That’s right. And in this case, a Democratic Socialist. Bernie Sanders.

Sure, he’s got a Republican majority in the Senate. Sure, he’s the most powerful man in the Senate. Sure, he’s got a Republican as vice president who would break a tie in the Senate in the case that he lost a couple of votes.

Sure, he used a parliamentary move called “reconciliation” that allowed him to pass  legislation without threat of a filibuster – something that he screamed long and loud about when Democrats used it to pass the Affordable Care Act.

Sure, he voted for it, as did Rep. Andy Barr, the Republican from Lexington who has Berea College in the district. Sure, not a single Democrat in the Senate voted for his tax bill.

But it’s the Democrats’ fault that McConnell’s tax bill is poised to cost Berea College a million dollars a year and force it to cut services to bright kids from the mountains who otherwise won’t have a chance to attend college?

The fact is that McConnell is to blame. He had appeared to violate the rule. He was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless, he persisted.

Joseph Gerth’s column runs on most Sundays and at various times throughout the week. He can be reached at 502-582-4702 or by email at [email protected]nal.com. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/josephg.

Ignoring The Will Of The People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT)

 

The $1.5 trillion tax bill, hailed with glee and relief by Republicans eager to appease donors and desperate for the year’s first major legislative win, is the most unpopular major piece of legislation to pass in decades.

That may sound remarkable, but it’s not the only case where public opinion – exhaustively collected, analyzed and reported by pollsters, interest groups and political parties – appears to have had little impact on a matter of public interest. President Barack Obama’s Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals program to allow certain young immigrants to stay in the country is also overwhelmingly approved of by the electorate. But Congress failed to codify that program as it prepared to wind up for the year. Background checks for gun buyers, too, enjoys widespread public approval, polls consistently show – but that idea, too, never manages to get enough votes for passage.



So what’s the congressional calculation? Do they not trust the polls, or care what Americans think? Lawmakers do indeed care, pollsters and political analysts say. They just care more about what certain people think and want.

“If you polled big donors, you’d find overwhelming support for the tax bill,” says Stan Collender, executive vice president at Qorvis MSLGROUP and a leading expert on the federal budget and taxes. The presumption – “and it’s a little risky, is that money can overcome the anger of the individual voter,” Collender adds. “To them, somehow, $1,000 is worth more than 1,000 votes.”

Polls show that the tax bill, passed on party-line votes, gets abysmally low marks from the public, a majority of whom also believe the package was designed to help the rich at the expense of the middle class. An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll taken shortly before the votes showed just 24 percent of Americans thought it was a good idea. A Monmouth University poll found that half of Americans believe their taxes will actually go up under the package, which provides for a bigger standard deduction, but limits on such popular deductions such as state and local tax payments and mortgage interest.

A CNN poll showed 55 percent opposed (10 points higher than the previous month), with 37 percent thinking they will be worse off.

According to an analysis by George Washington University political science professor Chris Warshaw, that makes the tax bill the second-most hated piece of legislation in the past quarter century-plus, behind only Trumpcare – which didn’t pass. Even the bank bailout of 2008 and the failed Clinton health care plan of 1993 were more popular with voters.

Republicans are already nervous about losing control of the House next year, spooked by off-year elections which had Democrats making inroads in the politically critical suburbs and flipping 33 state legislative seats (compared to just a single blue-to-red flip). But lawmakers are more worried about vocal interest groups and wealthy donors who can cripple their campaigns before they get the chance to make their pitches to voters, experts say.

“It has a lot to do with money,” says Lee Miringoff, director of the nonpartisan Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York, pointing to the “Citizens United” Supreme Court case which allowed corporations and interest groups to spend massive amounts of money to influence elections.

“We see the tremendous impact of the lobby community in the tax bill. Lobbying interests were very much dominant in drafting and creating this approach.” And that means public opinion, so painstakingly quantified by pollsters candidates themselves hire, is often disregarded.

Not all matters should be decided by public polls, political veterans say, noting that congressmen and senators were elected to exercise their informed judgment on issues and balance public needs. If a pollster asked Americans if they thought schools, infrastructure and other public operations should be top-notch, they’d likely say yes. But they also might want to pay lower taxes, making the first goal harder.

But on several major issues in the news, the views of the public at large appear to have no effect on Congress.

For example, Americans overwhelmingly agree that so-called “Dreamers” – young people whose parents brought them into the United States illegally, and who have known no other home than America – should be allowed a way to stay lawfully, either with a path to citizenship or some kind of legal status. A recent poll by the nonpartisan Marist Institute for Public Opinion shows that a combined 81 percent of Americans want this, compared to 15 percent who believe they should be deported. The stay-here-legally side includes 67 percent of Republicans.

The problem, says Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant group America’a Voice, is that lawmakers are divided into three broad groups – the pro-immigrant side, the build-the-wall side, and a group in the middle trying to balance a desire to be compassionate to Dreamers with a wish to maintain border security. While the hardliners against legal status may be in the minority, they are also often the loudest and most likely to punish a candidate for defiance, experts say.

“The path of least resistance inevitably becomes more attractive for people in the middle,” Sharry laments.

Special interest groups across the board have outsized influence because of their financial resources to influence campaigns as well as their ability to rile up their rank-and-file members, analysts say. That explains, they say, how the National Rifle Association has been able to quash any effort to tighten up background checks for gun buyers, despite consistent evidence that the public wants it. A Quinnipiac University poll last summer, for example, showed that 94 percent of Americans endorse background checks for all gun buyers.

The current political environment, too, is to blame, says Tim Malloy of the Quinnipiac poll. “We are so polarized and people are so entrenched – either pro-Trump or anti-Trump. I think it’s grown out of anger. It’s an angry disillusioned country right now,” Malloy says. “People at this point are almost impervious to the issues” themselves.

The public can fight back, and has: in 1988, Congress passed a law to provide catastrophic health coverage to seniors. The cost was shifted to the older Americans, who revolted (including by chasing the car of the then-Ways and Means Committee chairman, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill.). Congress repealed the law the following year.

As for the tax bill, “the Republicans are betting that by the time people realize what a turkey this bill is, it will be somebody else’s problem,” Collender says. And that problem may be dumped onto the tax bill-hating Democrats, should they succeed in wresting control of Congress.

Tags: taxestax codecorporate taxesRepublican Partycampaign financeCongress

Congress Votes To Strengthen Our 2nd Amendment Rights To Protect Our Own Families

(THIS IS AN EMAIL I JUST RECEIVED FROM MY U.S. CONGRESSMAN ANDY BARR THAT I HOPE WILL INTEREST MANY OF THE LAW ABIDING CITIZENS IN OUR COUNTRY WHEN IT COMES TO SELF AND FAMILY PROTECTION SECURITY ISSUES)

 

Home About Services Media Center Contact

Legislative Update

 

Dear Friend,

I am writing to update you on recent legislation the House of Representatives has passed, with my support, to defend the Second Amendment and to promote reciprocity between states in order to allow the legal carry and transport of concealed firearms.  Your communication is a vital part of our legislative process and I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this issue.

As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I feel very passionately that the government must not infringe upon Americans’ constitutional rights by preventing law-abiding citizens from carrying or transporting firearms across state lines.

That is why I felt it was important to vote in favor of H.R. ­­­38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which was endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), 24 State Attorneys General, and the Gun Owners of America (GOA).

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would allow an individual possessing a valid state-issued Concealed Deadly Weapon License (CDWL) the ability to carry in all 50 states (as well as the District of Columbia) as long as he or she obeys all state laws in which the individual resides and travels through.  This legislation would also ensure that valid concealed carry permits issued in one state are valid in any other state that also recognizes its own residents’ right to carry concealed.  If a gun owner is arrested for illegal concealed carry, this legislation puts the burden of proof on the state to prove that the accused did not comply with law.  I am proud to support H.R. 38 and other bills to uphold gun rights, and I will continue to help ensure that Congress does not advance measures that undermine the Second Amendment.

I know that law-abiding, responsible gun owners make essential contributions to public safety and that attacking the Second Amendment – as some in Washington are all too quick to do – is bad policy.  Responsible gun ownership constitutes a vital part of our nation’s heritage and remains essential to the rights of Americans to defend themselves and their families.  This is an important constitutional protection that I will always step forward to defend.

Sincerely,
Andy Barr

Congress Will Vote On Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

House will vote on concealed carry reciprocity bill

Pres. Trump’s complex relationship with guns

Washington (CNN)The House will vote Wednesday on a bill that would let gun owners with permits to carry concealed weapons travel to other states with their concealed firearms.

The bill is a top priority of the National Rifle Association, and since leaving committee it has been combined with an additional measure that is designed to update the federal background check system after holes were exposed by November’s mass shooting at a church in Texas.
The move to merge the two pieces of legislation makes it a difficult vote for Democrats.
Second Amendment advocates maintain that gun owners should not lose their right to bear arms as they travel across state lines, and current laws that vary in different states could mean that licensed owners might unintentionally violate the law. Under the proposed law, gun owners would be required to abide by the local and state regulations in place for concealed weapons.
The part of the legislation that aims to update background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, held bipartisan support when it was being considered by the House Judiciary Committee, after more than 20 people were killed at the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
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The gunman in that shooting was a former member of the Air Force, and had been imprisoned for domestic abuse. This information hadn’t been relayed by the Air Force to the NICS, which should have prevented him from buying the guns he used in the crime.
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