Which party controls the Senate?

Prediction 11/8/2016 at 7:12 pm.

Probably shouldn’t make a prediction -but here goes:

There are 46 Democrat senators in the strong and likely categories.

There are 46 Republican senators in the strong and likely categories.

So, we have exactly 8 senators in the tossup categories of which I feel pretty good about 3 will win as Rep and 3 will win as Dem.   Democrats will  win Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and  Nevada and Republicans win in Florida, North Carolina and Missouri.  Rubio is real strong in Florida.  So, that put’s the tally at 49/49.

But, Indiana and New Hampshire are tough to predict.  .But,  I think Indiana goes Republican and NH  goes Democrat,   with a 50/50 split.  So, if Hillary wins, then the Senate might be Democratic controlled.

If Indiana and New Hampshire goes  Republican, then the Republicans will retain control of the Senate.  The experts “lean” towards a Democratic  controlled senate, but I think it will be either  51 Dem to 49 Rep or 50/50.  Boy this is hard to predict!

http://www.270towin.com/content/who-controls-the-senate-in-a-tie/

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/senate-election-forecast.html

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Garland- Just going with the best

Ok- I got it wrong.  I looked over the 3 nominations on Obama’s Supreme Court short list- and thought it would be Sri Srinvassen, because he was young and outstanding in every respect.  Obama liked the oldest on the list- Merrick Garland, who edged out the competition based on years of experience.    Obama just went with the best.  And this is exactly what myriad of court watchers are saying.

The judicial system has a kind of ladder, and it’s tough to get to the top rung of the Chief Justice of the Appellate Court for the DC circuit.   To get there, you have to get the approval of both Republicans and Democrats.  Our system of congressional approval really supports more practical centralist type of judges.

But,  the Republicans have made this their holy war,  against a “liberal” judge, so Obama selected someone,  who in the past was acceptable to many of the Republicans’ top leadership, including John McCain, when he was appointed to the DC Appellate Court.

Garland is regarded by court watchers as a centralist.     Judge Andrew Napolitano who appears regularly on Fox News, stated this is the most conservative nominee the Democrats have put forward in the modern era.   It is also been stated that some Democrats in the Senate, may feel disappointed by Obama’s nomination because he did not nominate someone with more  liberal credentials.

Garland could  side with Chief Justice Roberts or Kennedy on court decisions, both of whom were nominated by Republicans.   He is likely to be a strong defender of 1st (freedom of speech and religion) and 5th amendment (prohibiting unreasonable searches) rights, as was Justice Scalia.

What is totally absurd is the notion, that by refusing to go ahead with a hearing on the nomination, that this allows “the people of the US” to decide on the nomination.  Somehow,  to obstruct the normal process of filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court, through refusing to hold hearings,  has been lauded by conservative republicans, as in consistent with our democratic ideals of our country.

Pragmatism is not a quality you hear often- but it is vital to the functioning of the Supreme Court.  The principle of stare decisis, means justices respect prior decisions as final.   This is why decisions are not overturned when new justices are appointed.

The people of the US can vote on many issues- but not Supreme Court judges.  And thank God for this.  We elect our representatives and leaders to make decisions for us.   The makes us a republic.  On choosing a Supreme Court justice, it should never come down to a popular judge- or we are all in serious trouble.

In fact, it was the late Justice Scalia, who said the public does not have a sufficient understanding of the law, to be able to follow the logic behind their decisions, which must follow the interpretation of laws and prior decisions.  So, the public can not make an inform decision on who would be best for the Supreme Court.  This is why we have a Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

The Congress can reduce the power of the Presidency, by obstructing the normal process of government, but in the end,  it makes government less able to function.  The #1 obstructionist, is Mitch McConnell, the Senator from Kentucky, and Majority Leader of the Senate.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Ya got trouble!

My God,  is there anybody that remembers “The Music Man”- that Musical which at its core, was about a con artist, who starts a school band in a sleepy little town of River City?  Of course, it’s all about swindling money from the residents of the town, and never buying any musical instruments.

It is of course, how our society runs.   We are twice as likely to do something or buy something, if we are both escaping from  what we perceive to be a major problem, and at the same time,  believe a simple solution is just around the corner.  If we accept the problem is threatening our well being- then we are likely to accept any solution.

If you concentrate on the problem, make it as ominous as possible, this starts the fear process.  The “Music Man” main character, is Harold Hill, who sings “Ya got trouble” in a pool hall in River City.   See lyrics at the end.

This is so relevant to today’s political debate.  We’ve got trouble, with a capital T that rhymes with P, and that’s called politicians!   Trump,  Rubio,  Cruz are all jumping on what is wrong with the country, yet the extent of the problems and their solutions are typically likely to fail.   Issues like abortion,  immigration and gun control are hot button issues.

Oh- we’ve got trouble in River City.  Eroding family values!  Drugs everywhere!  Police can’t do their job!   The country has trillions of dollars in debt and we are sinking fast.  North Korea is threatening us with their missiles!  And on top of that, Obama wants to take away your guns and doesn’t respect anything in the Constitution!  I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore! (Peter Finch as Howard Beal , Network (the film), what a performance)

With the Democrats, it’s about the inequality of the wealthy and middle class. Colleges cost too much and people can’t get ahead.   There is suffering everywhere and begging for help.  The rich have all the benefits, pay lower taxes and can make huge donations to candidates. Unfair and unjust.  We’ve got problems with the police, and unnecessary violence.  Oh- it’s River City deja vu!

The Music Man debut in 1957.   There were big crises at the time ,  communism was spreading like some disease, devouring China and extending itself through other poor countries.  It was common to see a picture of the globe, drenched in red paint.  Russia had the bomb, and there was a lot of talk of how Russia was coming “to bury us”  and we better all have fallout shelters.

The secret of how to solve problems, is to reduce them, and work on them piece by piece. But,  of course it is not the way to sell products, or win elections.  Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

Music Man  took a simple pool table, as the source of River City’s problem.

Mothers of River City
Heed that warning before it's too late
Watch for the tell-tale signs of corruption
The minute your son leaves the house
Does he rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee?
Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger?
A dime novel hidden in the corncrib?
Is he starting to memorize jokes
From Cap'n Billy's Whizbang?
Are certain words creeping into his conversation?
Words like... swell?
And... 'so's your old man'? 

Well if so, my friends, ya got trouble
    Oh, we got trouble
Right here in River City
    Right here in River City
With a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P' and that stands for 'pool'
    That stands for pool

We've surely got trouble
    We surely got trouble
Right here in River City
    Right here
Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule?
    Our children's children gonna have trouble

Oho, we got trouble
We're in terrible, terrible trouble
That game with the fifteen numbered balls is the devil's tool
    Devil's tool

Yes, we've got trouble, trouble, trouble
Oh, yes, we got trouble here, we got big, big trouble
With a 'T'
    With a capital 'T'
And that rhymes with 'P'
    That rhymes with 'P'
And that stands for pool
    That stands for pool

My feeling of course, is none of our problems, are as serious as any politician would make it out to be.   Nor are any of the solutions likely to be easy. We have to make progress where we can- which comes usually from compromise.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Who would want to be a SC nominee?

I think everybody has got this issue wrong.  They are either focused on who Obama will nominate or how Congress will make sure, the nominee isn’t confirmed. Nobody is thinking about the poor individual who will certainly either (a) Take a beating during the confirmation hearing, before the committee declares the nominee obviously unacceptable or (b) Prepare for a confirmation hearing that wouldn’t take place.

This is a nomination that is dead on arrival.  So,  I can’t imagine anyone wanting this job.  I mean  if you’re going through hell, there should be some reward at the end.  I don’t see it.

But, it’s not like you can draft someone to be a SC nominee.  “Hey you,  get dressed, you’re going to the confirmation hearings,  and we  have bandages ready and an ambulance on stand-by.”  Response, “You can’t make me go!”

I guess it is nice to be get called by President Obama, and hear, “You’re my man!” for one of the country’s top position.   At least, it used to be an honor.

Of course, we need a highly intelligent and  respected judge, who has served on the  Federal Appeals Court and is a  constitutional expert.   The nominee is likely to have argued cases in front of the Supreme Court.

The candidate will immediately be pillared by all Republican candidates.  “This nominee will continue to destroy the Constitution, just as the liberals have done in the past”, will be the charge leveled against the justice.   The scrutiny of the candidate will go far beyond legal opinions, and  include his family, his acquaintances,  his financial records and anything else that can be dredged up.

On top of that,  any nominee will, if hearings are conducted,  be asked questions about cases pending in the courts, which they can’t answer.   Any nominee will be accused of stonewalling the committee.

I really love the candor of Robert Gates confirmation hearing.  He writes, in his book Duty,

I remember sitting at the witness table listening to this litany of woe and thinking, What the hell am I doing here? I have walked right into the middle of a category-five shitstorm.  I was the first of many, many times I would sit at the witness table thinking something very different from what I was saying.

Robert Gates paid $40,000 to a legal form to fill out financial disclose form.   Even the slightest error could be blown out of proportion by someone who did not want to vote for him.  But, Gates got confirmed.  Obama’s nominee won’t.  It’s going to be pure  theater.

 

So, who does Obama want to feed to the wolves?  Jacqueline Nguyen will be the nominee.  She’s just too perfect!  She was confirmed to be on the ninth  appeals court judge, 91-3.

Jacqueline Nguyen

My second guess, is Sri Srinivasan. Another incredibly smart judge on the DC Court of Appeals.

Sri Srinivasan

Sri has really got a bit stronger credentials- as if this mattered.   If either accept the nomination,  I will still be wondering- why????

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Justice Scalia’s Passing

There was an immediate outpouring of sadness and tributes to his character and accomplishments at Anthony Scalia’s passing.  The New York Times collected many of these along with their analysis of the immediate future of the Supreme Court:

New York Times Article 

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes”

Thanks to the internet, lies travel the world at the speed of light.  Justice Scalia’s passing occurred on the same date as the Republican debate.  Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio announced during an Republican debate, that President Obama would break an  80 year precedent, if he appointed  a Supreme Court justice during an election year.

No precedent exists.    Obama can not appoint justices,  he only nominate them and  the Senate approves them.  The New York Times shows Justice Kennedy was the last justice to be nominated during an election year.  Amy Howe, Editor of Scotusblog agrees- no precedent.

Scotusblog.org

Politifact also confirms this:

Politifact

No president has ever considered leaving it to the next president to select a Supreme Court justice.  Senate confirmation of any justice will be next to impossible, with the politicizing of the approval process.

On top of that, honoring a precedent,  Rubio insisted it would make the selection  more democratic.  Let the people decide.  If there is a justice that would absolutely cringe at this idea, it would be Justice Scalia.  He said numerous times, that because of the intricacies of the court cases,  99% of the population does not understand or appreciate the process.  They only see outcomes.  Decisions are based on laws, the Constitution and prior decisions made by the courts.

But, confirmations in the Senate have become increasingly politicized and both Republicans and Democrats should take blame for this.  Obama could nominate the brightest justice on the planet, and  his selection would never make it to confirmation hearings.   The Senate’s Majority Leader  Mitch McConnell  is establishing a new and dangerous precedent,  making it difficult for a president to carry out his legal obligations under the Constitution.

 

As the big pending  cases (limitations on abortion,  affirmative action case in Texas, Obamacare conflicts with religious freedom burdens, and immigration reform by executive action) are to be decided this term,   Justice Anthony Kennedy will continue to be the swing  vote,  but it will be different.  If he sides with the liberals, it will be a 5-3 victory.  If he sides with conservatives, it will be a 4-4 decision, and the appeals court decision will hold.  The Justices can decide to hold off a decision until their next term, hoping that a new justice will be confirmed by then.

More to come.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Ranking Presidents

There is still one full year left in Obama’s administration.  I’ve heard a lot about how Obama will go down in history as the worst American president. I disagree.

This “worst president in history” stuff  comes from those who listen to television and radio commentators, who make a very good living out of finding fault with Obama on every day of the week.  Conservatives would rank all Republican presidents at the top of the list, and all Democratic presidents at the bottom.  Liberals would do the opposite.

But, let’s face it,   everything that goes wrong in Washington is not the president’s fault. Also, presidents  who sink in popularity polls at least during some part of their term,  are not necessarily ranked poorly by academic scholars.    Case in point is President Truman, whose Gallup approval rating dropped to 27% during the Korean War, yet on balance, is considered one of the best president by  a series of selected scholars or historians:

Wikipedia’s Ranking 

Take a close look at the far right column, with the aggregate ranks, and you will see, some very familiar names as the top ranked presidents-  Lincoln, Roosevelt, Washington, and Jefferson.  And the 5 worst ones are Buchanan, Harding, Pierce, Johnson, and Fillmore. Although, Harrison is ranked as one of the 5 worst presidents, it is clearly unfair as he served only one year before his death.

When there is a truly good or bad president,  then there is a great deal of agreement among historians.   The highest ranked presidents in recent times are Kennedy, Johnson and Reagan.

The top quartile presidents are colored in blue.  The 30 year period from 1933 to 1963, marked a period of only top quartile presidents, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.   So, were these presidents so successful because of the times and mood of the country, or because they were all individually great leaders?   I believe it was a combination of good judgments and in most part, the backing of congress.

No- Obama will not go down as the worst president, nor the best president in the history of the US.  It is likely that a strong positive to his presidency was he made strong efforts to fulfill his campaign promises.  His inabilities to push his programs forward,  in many areas including global warming and immigration reform, were due to the intransigent conservative  Republican faction in Congress.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

Imperial Presidents

Every  US president would like more authority.   When John Kennedy was asked if there were any surprises when he became president, he said he was surprised at how little authority he really had.  We are no longer in the age of Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower, where there was a sense of the president had to, at times, act unilaterally, for the welfare of the country.

Fox News often brings commentators in, to make the accusation that Obama is operating outside the law.  One of the most amazing accusations was that it would be unlawful to strike against Syria, after they used chemical weapons, because only Congress can declare war.  These same Republicans seems to constantly criticize Obama for not bombing Syria, again without Congressional authority.

“Damn if you do, damn if you don’t”  as the old saying goes.  If Obama waits for Congress to act,  nothing will get done.  If he acts through executive orders, he is called an imperial president.   But most of the really famous presidents, where ones that acted outside of congress at times.  The famous Emancipation Proclamation of  President Lincoln, was an executive order.  Pretty incredible.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are controlled by Republicans and seem to be in lockstep against almost every initiative put forward by President.

Historians will quickly remind Americans that the conflicts between the legislature and executive branches have happened with every recent president.   But,  as former Senator Barney Frank pointed out,   a Democratic controlled Senate has a better relation to a Republican president than visa versa.  But, Frank is a Democrat, so beware of the bias.

Congress can be obstructive to the normal business of government in the name of congressional oversight.    Both parties have done this.   The Republicans, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio  refused to approve raising the debt ceiling, and had that measure  been defeated, the US would have been known as the only country which destroyed its credit rating, as an malicious act of partisan politics. This is a case where obstructive tactics went to destructive ones.

But, unfortunately,  there is great incentive for Democrats or Republicans to fight against each other.  No Republican is going to get on Fox News,  and accuse his fellow Republicans of being obstructionists.  Same with Democrats on MSNBC.

President Obama can’t get positions filled in the Department of State, according to Senator Kerry.   Republicans are demanding a nebulous “pound of flesh.”   Expect things to really boil when the next president nominates a Supreme Court justice.

When time is short as in the media, you load up both barrels of the gun and start blasting at the opposition.   But when the smoke clears,  it just seems everyone is a loser, as this is the surest way to make government less effective.

I just wish we had more moderates in both parties and less bias in the media.  I tire  of commentators on Fox, OANN and MSNBC.    Perhaps I yearn for yesterday.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Republican Trent Lott and Democrat Tom Daschle, have recently published a book, entitled Crisis Point, which highlights the way our government is becoming increasingly dysfunctional.   I have not had a chance to read it.

Crisis Point

 

 

 

Solutions to terrorism

No short term solutions.   There is no single action the US can do to defeat ISIL.   Eliminating ISIL or similar groups with the jihadist philosophy is likely impossible, in that it only takes a couple of fanatics to pull off an act of terrorism.   What Obama and the rest are focused on, is helping Iraq and Syria take back their control of cities and cutting off access to resources.  This is what I concluded after listening to President Obama on Sunday, December 6 and Susan Rice on CNN, which aired on the same day.  What began, at least for the US, under George Bush, and continued under Obama, will continue to be a problem for the next president as well.

Susan Rice is President Obama’s National Security Advisor.   The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, CA made this interview very timely.  She was interviewed by Fareed Zacharia, as part of his normal weekly program, CNN-GPS.

The lack of US troops in Syria is being construed as a) a lack of leadership, lacking in resolve,    b) not being in touch with reality, delusional  (Lou Dobbs prefers the latter) or  c)  ignorant of the facts.   The strategy is actually a result of being very informed of the facts, on a daily basis.   McCain has blasted Obama for not sending in large numbers of troops into Syria, saying the US has not plan.  Truth is we don’t have his plan.

Susan  Rice was asked if the Obama administration underestimated the force of ISIL.   She sidestepped the question by responding that  since mid-2014, the Obama administration has been considered ISIL a major threat to both Iraq and Syria, and  steps have been taken to destroy their organization.   But, it’s clear, Obama underestimated the threat.  The infamous “Junior Varsity  comment” occurred in January 2014, shortly after Fallujah fell in Iraq.     This year, ISIL has  shown to be incredibly resourceful and organized  in establishing new bases in other countries.

ISIL 

Rice did not want the interview to focus on  prior mistakes.  The list of mistakes is long and goes back George Bush’s administration.  But, it is not likely in late 2013 and early 2014, there was much the Obama administration could have done.

The question of whether we are winning or losing the war against terrorism, is another one that Susan Rice chose not to directly answer.  There are a number of scorecards.  Since San Bernadino, there is a real gut feel that we’re losing to terrorism.   It particularly hit home, when they were showing the stockpiles of arms and bullets these two terrorists had accumulated.  But, this is not my scorecard.  I see it more as the cities under their control and the growth of the organization world wide.  A major defeat occurred when Boko Haram pledge allegiance to ISIL.

I agree with President Obama, that putting troops in Syria, beyond the small special op’s group, would be counter-productive.   It would be seen as an invasion force by both the Syrian  government and ISIL, and recast the fight against terrorism as a fight against the Muslim world, which we must avoid at all costs.  There are 1.6 billion Muslims in this world,  obviously outnumbering us 5 to 1.   We have far more latitude in Iraq, and may be able to increase are presence there- but it must be a multinational presence.

Susan Rice in her interview, was asked if the world is becoming less stable place to live.  This clearly open the discussion to go beyond ISIL.  She responded to the many initiatives taken by the Obama administration to lower tensions and help solve world problems.  The Ebola epidemic is one success.   The Iran deal is another one- yet it is way to early to know if this succeeds in the end.   The end of a policy of containment of Cuba, is another initiative to lower tensions- and hopefully create a more durable relationship with our neighbor.   A lot of crises which are hardly resolved, including Libya were not discussed.   Conflicts with Russia are a colossal regional  destabilizing threat, and Rice simply stated that the US is looking for common ground.

I was thinking how much opposition the Obama administration has gotten with each of these initiatives.  I remember how much flack Obama got when he sent 3,000 troops to Africa to help with the Ebola crisis in the transport of supplies.   Fox News commentators acted like Obama was insane- saying there will be 3,000 infected troops coming back to the US,  and pretty soon the numbers will be be 3 million or 30 million Americans with Ebola.   Ebola is a case where international cooperation produced incredible success.

Most of the really important efforts will take enormous  international cooperation.  This includes the international climate change accords, likely to come from the Paris summit.   It’s a tough road ahead, to find unity abroad, while there is so much division in the US.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Who definitely not to vote for

Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.  Probably Marco Rubio too.  They are not willing to pass a clean debt ceiling increase, which we need to avoid disaster.  We will see how the rest muddle through the question on Wednesday’s debate on whether to raise the debt ceiling.

We don’t want a president who lacks any government experience or who is so extreme that they would cause great harm to the US credit rating.

Stay tuned,

Dave Lord

Graham Ledger on the debt ceiling

Graham Ledger of OANN (One American News Network)  said that congressmen should look up the word “ceiling”  because if they keep raising it, it isn’t a ceiling.   And I agree that it is a misnomer.   I will call it “Economic self destruct time bomb.”

There’s nothing constructive about the debt ceiling.   It doesn’t limit spending.  It doesn’t limit our debt.  It  empowers the government to pay its bills.  It doesn’t exist in other countries.  It is an anachronism.  It really  should be eliminated because it is being used by minority groups to try to extort from government what they couldn’t do by the democratic process in Congress- like defund Obamacare.

The day after Congress refuses to increase the debt ceiling,  the US debt will be just the same and  be over the debt ceiling limit.  Debt increases when spending exceeds revenue.  The cure to debt is to cut spending or increase revenue, not plunge the country into economic chaos.

If the President continues to pay bills after Nov 3,  he  and the Secretary of the Treasury are in defiance of Congress and subject to impeachment.  If he does not pay the bills, the US is in sovereign default.

What have other President’s done in similar situations?   Nothing, because Congress has always raised the debt ceiling. It used to be automatically attached to spending bills.

“Economic self destruct time bomb” is more appropriate.   It has been at the door of congress since March  together with the instructions to defuse this bomb – pass the clean debt ceiling increase.

Stay tuned,

David Lord