One week into the 2020s, and it's already looking like this decade is going to be a bitch.
I'll forego the standard crack about how there are already over three billion dead New Year's resolutions. I liken New Year's resolutions to Groundhog Day. I can't believe we still bother with either.
I'm sure a lot of those resolutions were broken, in part, due to the recent back and forth between the United States and Iran. Once again, President Trump shows what a stable genius looks like by not only trying to start a war to distract from his latest impeachment woes, but by then doubling down and publicly threatening to violate the Geneva Convention (otherwise called war crimes). Just when I thought the height of chutzpah was publicly committing impeachable offenses on the south lawn of the White House.
Lost on far too many people is or will be the deafening silence from the Republican Party in yet another "should have been the straw that broke the back" moment. Not that each and every single one of the House or Senate Republicans should not already be ashamed of their petulant crying, yelling, screaming, whining, bitching, and moaning about "the process" in defense of their criminally incompetent leader. You know, that same "process" they were willing to defend to the death when the issue at hand was being lied to about a blowjob.
It is perhaps this, and the sudden, knee-jerk decision to raise the smoking age to 21, that makes this an election season full of intrigue for me. The President who said he'd end the never-ending war is on the precipice of starting another war to keep people's minds off impeachment and try to bolster his reelection bid. And before the even got that far, he told a chunk of the population that while they are young and fit enough to be cannon fodder, just not young and fit enough to make their own minds up about smoking. And this is a guy who knows health. His dad got the best market rate in Manhattan for his son's bone spurs.
Then again, at least the youth of our nation can still watch R-rated movies and buy lottery tickets. For now. Can't wait to see how the youth vote swings this November.
The 2020 presidential election season now in full swing, with primaries or caucuses coming up fast in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, it will be interesting to see how the Democratic Party primary challengers take the latest Trumpian nonsense to the campaign trail as they also prepare for the eventuality that Mitch McConnell is forced to hold an actual Senate trial. None of us are buying into the notion that McConnell is all of a sudden going to find his pair and remember he is a United States Senator, rather than our criminally incompetent President's political wingman.
I would say it would be interesting to see what the Republican Party primary challengers strategy or talking points will be, in light of increasing U.S.-Iranian tension, but honestly, who the hell actually cares about either one? I mean, kudos to Joe Walsh for shouldering a bit of the blame when it came to creating the current overflowing toilet that is our political culture (plus, for full disclosure, we follow each other on Twitter), but Don Quixote had better odds against the windmill. As for Bill Weld, he can go crawl in a hollow log and die. Politically speaking, of course.
While deep down I know we are just going to see a shift in power from one side of the two-party duopoly to the other. In this environment, with the utter degradation of American political process from both sides of the mainstream coin, I yearn for a third-party uprising this year. Across the board. If not even some victory, at least widespread decent showings. Because very simply, if the public-at-large doesn't start gaining some awareness of the slowly tightening choke hold our government has and will continue to inflict on us, then sooner rather than later, your "binary choice" is only going to be between the screwing you're getting and the screwing you're taking.
Another week, another basket full of examples as to why I and many other people will remain mystified to our dying day how so many people turned into rabid idiots overnight and elected worst case scenario Donald Trump to the highest office in the land.
Did anyone, for even the hottest of seconds, actually believe that Donald Trump would own his impending shutdown? If you did, and you are not part of the President’s base- The Walking Derp, then you should probably buy a hat and start attending rallies, because you are most likely infected with a serious case of The Dumbass. From the instant it left his mouth, caught in the current of bullshit and nonsense normally flowing forth, I knew he would pull some fake news/distraction/deflection tactic. Instead, we get classic Trump, the Trump as original as a wet fart. The President of the United States of America has shit his pants and is currently attempting to blame the opposition party for the smell in the room.
For all the talk of the latest ‘adult in the room’ turning in his walking papers, I cannot help but point out a couple of problems with that concept and terminology. Men like Jim Mattis, John Kelly, and Rex Tillerson were adults when they walked into that room. They knew damn good and well that they were leaving long and accomplished careers to go to work for a proven pathological liar, a con man, a racist, a sexual deviant, and a man so wholly unfit for office that it should never even made the pages of the most fevered daydream. That they reached their breaking point, in the cases of Kelly or Mattis, or for be too publicly smarter than the President, in the case of Tillerson, is unimportant. For whatever altruistic reasons they may have had for taking their positions, they do not matter. The only adult in the room that will ever be capable of getting through to our President would first face the challenge of getting Trump to sit still long enough to watch the pocket watch swinging.
With everyone stuck in high gear approaching an election rightfully being called the most critical in a generation, I had the opportunity to sit down with a reporter for my local newspaper, the News and Tribune, regarding my bid for the state House of Representatives. At one point in the interview, I mentioned the toxic political culture we are now deeply entrenched in, not surprising given just this last week alone.
You had, among the highlights, Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania Scott Wagner releasing a campaign video in which he says he is going to stomp his opponent's face with golf spikes. Wagner said he was going to stomp the face of the sitting governor with golf shoes on, and his staff still thought it would be okay to make public. That is not only legitimately stupid, and possibly criminal, but it is so far beyond political malpractice it could quite possibly make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.
You had the hand-wringing on the right from Eric Holder elaborating on Michelle Obama's famous "when they go low, we go high" rally cry. Well, the convenient half of the remarks that certain Fox News hosts used to allow viewers to infer on their own that the former Attorney General is advocating for possible physical violence. This was not only a cheap and predictable tactic on a remark that could honestly have been worded better, but it also mirrored a recent two-week storyline involving cut-off statements and their implications on WWE Smackdown. When life imitates art, that's fine. When life starts imitating pro wrestling, I wonder how long before we see a wild, chair-swinging brawl on the floor of Congress, or how we haven't already.
To round it out, you had comedian Chelsea Handler tweet her second "closeted Lindsay Graham" joke of 2018, as part of a larger joke about the Republicans "taking a day off" on National Coming Out Day. While the joke itself was basically amusing, nothing outside Handler's normal range, one cannot overlook using sexual orientation or preference as a shaming device. Whether or not Lindsay Graham is gay is irrelevant, and does not matter a tiny iota. Handler has faced some criticism for the joke, although she has not addressed it directly in any follow-up tweet.
There have been many calls for a vast improvement in our current state of political discourse. The problem is the voices are too far split between chanting to lock someone up, getting triggered about any number of things, or making mushroom/spray tan/tiny hands jokes. The cacophony that creates drowns out whatever common sense has not been re-purposed as fake news, conspiracy theory, or snowflake behavior. This is why we need the regression back to actual politics instead of R-rated playground foolishness. A recent bill regarding the opioid crisis passed 98-1. Bipartisan (or even tri-partisan) politics is still possible, once some of the people in charge learn a little decorum.
The leadership in both parties currently attempting to represent us in Washington are pouring gasoline on the roof, and while the fire gets bigger, the left and right argue over water versus foam, while the rest of us are standing there wondering when someone is going to do something about the goddamn fire. While there are those on every end of the spectrum that would be perfectly content about just letting it burn down, the problem is the lack of consideration when it comes to who all might wind up being part of the rebuild.
Sometimes, I get asked how hard it is to be a third party guy, especially around election time. The answer, at least over the six campaigns I have waged in the last thirteen years, has not changed all that much since May 2004, when I launched my first bid for public office- pretty damn hard.
Trying to convince people to not only quit choosing the lesser of two evils, but to quit considering there are just those two evils to pick from is hard enough, then there is convincing the media to pay you any kind of attention (and then hoping it is serious attention, at the least), and for a lot of Libertarian/third party/independent candidates, it is the paperwork climb that can leave them on the sidelines come election day. Gathering signatures, weird filing deadlines, the flexibility of county clerks, there are several variables that can come into play.
So how aggravating is it when the powers that be in the political duopoly skirt the rules or flat do whatever they want? Pretty damn aggravating, and not just in that it should be just as aggravating to the voters as it is to the candidates.
It was with all the above in mind as I read about the complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against U.S. Congressmen Luke Messer (R-6th) and Todd Rokita (R-4th) by the American Democracy Legal Fund (ADLF), contending the congressmen are violating federal election law by illegally campaigning for the U.S. Senate.
The complaints center around the race next year to replace U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, a race that both Messer and Rokita have focused a good amount of attention on, despite neither man officially declaring for the race as of yet. The ADLF, in their complaint, contend that Messer and Rokita have each raised far more than the $5,000 allowable before requiring a registration of a campaign, in addition to publicly discussing their respective campaigns.
Messer, specifically, issued a press release that included a list of “Individuals Supporting Messer for United States Senate,” and his deputy campaign manager said “we look forward to welcoming additional members to the team who are committed to supporting Luke Messer for the United States Senate.”
The complaint also alleges that the FEC sent Rokita a letter in March, giving him thirty-five days to either declare he is not a candidate or file a Statement of Candidacy. Neither has happened, but Rokita has continued to not only talk about his candidacy, but fundraise, as well.
The Messer campaign, through a spokesman, predictably said they have no idea what the hell the ADLF is talking about, and have received no notices from the FEC. The response from the Rokita camp is slightly more distressing. Campaign manager Tim Edison stated that “these clowns have been shopping this nonsense for weeks. Todd has made no final decision on running for Senate. He has consistently said he is considering it but is not currently a candidate. People still have freedom of speech in this country and criticizing Donnelly’s record of rubber stamping things like Obama’s failed stimulus, ObamaCare, the Iran deal, taxpayer funded abortion and Obama’s gun grabs don’t make someone a Senate candidate.”
The idea that the Messer campaign doesn’t know what is going on is laughable, to say the least. When you are publicly naming supporters, and thanking people in advance for supporting you, specifically for an office you haven’t declared for yet, then really the only thing left is declaring for the damn office.
As for Rokita, this is shameful and embarrassing behavior from a man that was the Secretary of State, the chief election officer, of Indiana for eight years. I’m not saying there aren’t differences between the election laws of Indiana and the federal government, but if anyone should know the rules, it should damn well be the guy that was in charge of some of those election rules.
If this is “nonsense,” as Tim Edison considers it, then let’s see this letter the FEC sent you. Todd Rokita has freedom of speech, certainly, but apparently that speech has treaded so close to the line of candidacy the FEC wants definitive action from Rokita to define it as free speech versus campaign stumping. Last time I checked, the FEC was split right down the middle, in terms of (mainstream) ideology, so this can’t even be pawned off as a partisan squabble or attempt for payback.
Bottom line, gentlemen. Put up or shut up. You are in, or you are out. There is no halfway point, and it is organizations like the Federal Election Commission that make sure the line isn’t getting scuffed by the tap dancing by men like Luke Messer and Todd Rokita.
To view the complaints:
Complaint against Messer
Complaint against Rokita
Information for this commentary came from Election Complaint filed against Messer, Rokita, by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, on IndyPolitics.org
Like a lot of people in Indiana, I watched with mild curiosity as Gov. Holcomb signed a law into effect in April that legalized CBD (cannabidiol) oil, a non-psychoactive form of cannabis with a low or negligible amount of THC for use in treating epilepsy. This not only ended a seven-year debate on the issue, but also gave Indiana its very first medical marijuana law. My first thought probably matched up with a lot of people in Indiana- “it’s about time!” My second thought had something to do with how much better the outlook for the state was without Mike Pence as Governor, no idea on how much that matched the opinions of the rest of my fellow Hoosiers, but I know I was not alone in that sentiment.
Now, for the predictable part of the process. While the CBD law went into effect on July 1, Hoosiers are still swinging in the wind as to their ability to legally obtain and use the oil. While the bill set up a state registry for Hoosiers to obtain the oil, it’s simply not ready (or even exists) yet. A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Health said the department is still developing the registry, and expects it to be ready in February.
But, of course. If this bill I were writing about was about trying to hinder gas stations and supermarkets from selling alcohol, the bill would complete, even if probably half-assed, and ready to go, come hell or high water. If this was a bill that threw another log on the fire of tax and fee increases we saw in July, we would not be having this conversation. The day our state government isn’t ready to go on a tax or fee increase will be the day Bobby Knight returns to coach Indiana basketball on a volunteer basis.
This boils down to the disingenuous nature of our part-time legislature. I haven’t heard any excuses as to why this process is being delayed, not that I would even seriously take them at face value, but I can only imagine what they are.
“It’s a complicated process.” No, it actually is not. The idea that this bill is being delayed is nothing more than hubris on the part of the state legislature. It creates the impression that our elected officials in Indiana are fighting to the mat to bring CBD oil to the people of Indiana, when it was their apparent inattention to the issue once the bill was signed into law that is the real culprit.
That inattention means very little to the state legislature, however. The mostly negative attention they will receive over not being ready to go on day one will equally mean as little. And as they are sitting around, doing whatever it is they are doing, it is the same situation post-CBD bill as it was before. Patients in need of a legitimate and scientifically proven treatment will have to keep looking to places like Colorado to meet their needs.
And that’s just fine, apparently, with our state legislature. Whatever CBD oil sales they will not be receiving tax revenue from, they’ll just add or increase another tax to make up the difference. And you can rest assured that bill will be ready to go some July 1 in the future.
Saw this on Twitter earlier today, perusing the #WednesdayWisdom hashtag. While I don't disagree with "The Trump Crew" with the sentiment of the picture (click image to go to original tweet), I have to enjoy the irony of people supporting a man who bravely fought through ailments and injuries severe enough to keep him from service but fit enough to play collegiate sports, and whose only personal comparison to the horrors of war was not getting herpes in the 80s. Maybe this is a crucial step of explaining what bravery looks like to our President, cause much like everything else since he took office, the reality is I doubt he freaking knows.
I counted myself among those relatively few people that did not freak out upon the election of Donald Trump as President. I fought the urges every morning to think for a half a second I was in a bad episode of a bad sitcom, waking up in a country with a President Trump. I was perfectly willing to give him the first 100 days, just like I have given every President in my adult life. I let the Trump social media circus, the political equivalent to Juggalos, hoot and holler. I was going to be an adult, and wait to start criticizing when he started inevitably fucking things up. We all then saw how long it took for him to start fucking things up.
So, I made criticisms. There were fair criticisms, some less fair, some lightly profane, some that I would have said tiptoed so precariously close to the edge as to actually make me worry (had our President not seen the line, then dragged his balls over it while spouting conspiracy theories and various insults during the campaign), only to be reminded of the extremely tenuous relationship between Trump, his supporters, and facts and reality.
But that is not to say Trump has been a complete and total disaster. I mean, 99% is still pretty much complete and total disaster-range, but there is still that 1% that can actually be worked with.
The current frontrunner for best example is Trump’s edict that for every new regulation a federal agency proposes, they have to identify “at least two existing regulations to be repealed.” While still a little vague, at face value it is exactly what he says it is- the elimination of more regulations than we create. As one of many who has watched one Trump campaign promise after another crumple and die, screaming in the daylight, there is the apprehension of execution versus a three day tweetstorm explaining whoever else’s fault it was. As one of many who actually want that smaller government we keep talking out, this is a thin ray of sunlight breaking through the rubble.
Unfortunately, however, for every Trump supporter that has no connection with facts or reality, there seems to be one on the left of the spectrum that will equally disconnect from facts or reality as needed based on the mere notion that President Lying Orange Snack Food proposed it.
The facts and reality are simple. It is the extreme and onerous amounts of regulations that do more to strangle the business environment in the United States than the corporate tax rate, or banks not lending, or anything else. It is the added cost to businesses, particularly in manufacturing, that stifle investment, expansion, and hiring.
It is the smaller businesses that bear the brunt of the cost of dealing with regulations, and the fines that can accompany noncompliance. Those costs are what prevents hiring employees and expanding operations, if the business can even get off the ground to begin with. Think I’m kidding? Google up John Stossel on starting a lemonade stand in New York City, and get back with me.
There will be those who will breathlessly argue that a push for deregulation is tantamount to corporate welfare, that the Trump administration is doing nothing more than handing America over to big business. It may be a righteous contention, but it’s a contention that ignores that a good portion of that America will be handed back to small businesses, who have a bigger hand in this country that those automatically against big businesses or smaller government are willing to admit when the numbers aren’t in their favor.
Of course it would be Texas. Who the hell else would it have been? In response to a foster care crisis in the state, including a 2015 federal judge’s ruling that the state’s foster system violated the constitutional rights of the children involved, the Texas legislature has really knuckled down. Gov. Greg Abbott made repairing the system a priority, and the legislature has increased funding while it examines ways to fix the problems.
After being delayed due to other matters, a proposed bill is to make its way through the Texas House this week that will attempt to solve violations to the constitutional rights of children by simply violating the rights of everyone else. You know, to make it fair. Under the proposed bill, parents looking to adopt a child could be rejected by a private or state-funded agency that has a religious objection to the couple being Jewish, Muslim, gay, single, or interfaith.
What is it, I wonder, that enters the heads of legislators, whether local, state, or federal, that greenlights every single idea that enters their heads. Should we as a people worry more about these kind of creeping discrimination bills being manufactured on a more regular basis, or the fact a majority of the populace now seems either so inattentive or apathetic that it simply does not matter that the majority of the legislators being elected have no working knowledge of the Constitutions they swear to uphold upon election?
There should not be anyone who does not see this bill for what it is- an obvious violation of equal protection under the law. There should not be anyone who does not object to allowing any entity accepting state or federal money to make any kind of a decision based on a religious stance. There should not be anyone who does not object to any government entity mandating and providing funding for discrimination. And there should damn well not be anyone who does not object to granting an organization the right to impose their faith or belief systems upon the children in their charge.
Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. Under the bill, foster children could very well be required to comply with any faith-based requirements.
Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), the bill’s author, defends it by insisting the bill is designed to address the state’s foster care crisis by making “reasonable accommodations so everyone can participate in the system,” somewhat disingenuously adding “Everyone is welcome. But you don’t have to think alike to participate.”
You do not have to think alike to participate, but it sure as hell helps, in other words.
In his bill’s defense, Rep. Frank contends that there will be other adoption providers without religious objections made available to those parents who are turned away due to a religious objection. Yes, thank God indeed for the exception to the exception created by a bill to create an artificial sense of freedom.
There may be a constitutional crisis in the Texas foster care system, but creating another constitutional crisis to try and hammer a square agreement into a round hole seems to sum up the political process we have all gotten used to dealing with over the past few decades: address a problem with standard politics, and you’ll wind up with more government and less solution (if any) to the problem at hand.
It is always such a striking moment in time, catching the look on the Emperor’s face when he finally figures out the big deal about his new wardrobe. With the Hindenburg-style crash and burn of President Trump’s healthcare plan on Friday, we got to see the Emperor, in the middle of town square, buck naked and realizing why it’s been so damn chilly the last few weeks.
The guy who ran on the premise of doing whatever the hell he wanted to looked like a teenager getting the car keys taken away when he discovered what everyone with even a spit and whistle of common damn sense had been saying from election night to the inauguration- this is not a do whatever the hell you want job.
Then again, why wouldn’t he have walked into the White House like a bull in a china shop? He ran on the premise of doing whatever the hell he wanted, because he did exactly whatever the hell he wanted to on the campaign trail, and there was outrage with no substance behind it. Whether that’s the fault of the mainstream media, fake news, real news, Russia, Wikileaks, the uneducated voters, the Republican Party, or even The Legion of Doom is debatable, but the bottom line remains the same. The china shop invited the bull in. Don’t look confused at the end of the day, when you are sweeping up the broken stuff and wondering what happened. You invited a bull into a china shop, and it’s too late to break out the bubble wrap.
But the bull found the floor a bit slick coming into Friday. With a bill that was already gasping and wheezing, it was just a matter of time before someone got it over with and stuck the fork in it. So then, there was Trump, suddenly out in the cold and exposed. His son-in-law was so keen on the process he grabbed the skis and bolted for Colorado, and Trump’s policy expertise was overhyped but knocked out early when he was wheeling and dealing the bill around Congress.
And now, coming into Monday, President Trump has three possible pages in his playbook he can turn to. The safe bet is he blames the Democrats for the bill’s failure, he can run a trick play and fool us by ceding some power to the anti-establishment wing that threw policy at him and made him look woefully unprepared while not getting a damn thing he wanted, or he can go full-on Hail Mary and try to build coalitions with the Democrats, you know, the people he’s already blamed for this fiasco turning into a cluster. You can guess which one he’s already run, and for no gain.
And for all the mixed metaphors and various clichés in this commentary, it seems to be a fitting summary of the Trump administration thus far- a naked Emperor trying a ride a bull and play football in a china shop. Too bad the reality will be back around to greet the President every morning when he wakes up. Or as close to reality as he is willing to allow himself to get.
So, this morning, I launched the very first official Blog.Type.Thing. Poll, to measure reaction to President Trump's first joint address to Congress. Judging by a pre-speech poll I conducted yesterday, there was not a lot of optimism heading into the speech (only 15% were positive of the potential tone of the speech), but that seems to have enjoyed a big swing in the first few hours following the President's remarks.
While to me, it mostly seemed like the same boilerplate speech, with the right hearing nothing but good things, the left hearing nothing but unintelligible grunting, and the rest of us left to kick around what was actually said, to the country at-large (at least represented by my wee Twitter sample), their ears perked up and trended to the positive.
There are two ways I am interpreting these numbers- Either 53% Positive (32% outstanding + 21% fair), 47% Negative (15% less than fair + 32% disaster) or Positive (32%), On the Fence (21% fair + 15% less than fair), and Negative (32%). So you can either look at it as Trump finishing positive, or holding a fairly even keel between positive and negative, with just enough people representing the waffle state to allow Trump to remain at the water line.
So, this leads one to wonder if Trump is actually managing to start taking things seriously like approval ratings. Approval, after all, ranks right behind popularity and adoration as the reasons Trump gets out of bed in the morning. Teleprompter or not, he stuck to the script in a way he had been unable to accomplish up until this point.
Whether this is an improbable epiphany remains to be seen. There are still a lot of irons in Trump’s fire, and just because he has managed to go a day without grabbing the hot end doesn’t mean we should hold out hope for a painless road ahead.
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