A Bit Dry But Worthwhile…

Regular Order is a phrase that is not terribly well understood and that is also a bit on the dry side, but it is very important that we have an understanding as we begin to watch our Congress tackle the tough subjects.  Peter Hanson of the Brookings Institute has published a piece titled “Restoring regular order in congressional appropriations”, in case you would like to study it in detail.  The Executive Summary follows:

“The annual appropriations process is in a state of collapse.  A primary symptom is the decline of “regular order”, the budget procedure for debating and passing individual appropriations bills in each chamber.  Today this procedure has been replaced by the passage of huge “omnibus” packages at the end of the session, with little scrutiny and opportunity for amendment.

While both chambers have some responsibility for the breakdown in this key part of federal budgeting, the Senate’s rules and procedures shoulder most of the blame.

It’s time to restore regular order.  To do this the Senate would need to take several important steps, including:

  • Reform the filibuster rule by allowing a simple majority of Senators to end debate on all matters related to appropriations bills.
  • Utilize concurrent consideration of appropriations bills.  This would allow the Senate to move on appropriations bills without waiting for the House to finish action and would permit greater time for Senate scrutiny.
  • Restore limited earmarking.  Despite the arguments for eliminating earmarking, doing so has had the unintended effect of making it harder to pass appropriations.  A limited restoration of earmarks could help achieve agreement yet maintain a curb on wasteful spending.
  • Reduce transparency.  While open government is broadly supported, for many lawmakers the intense scrutiny of their votes makes them reticent to vote for any compromise.  Members might be more inclined to cast tough votes on appropriations if only final tallies, not individual votes, were reported.

We elect people to serve us in Congress.  We expect to be able to keep track of their positions and their votes while they are serving us to be sure we’re getting what we thought we’d voted for.  The appropriations process is probably the key to every Congress.  Who gets what, how is it to be spent, and whom among the two bodies voted yes and who voted no.

Not many of us voters take the time, maybe because we don’t have it to take, to closely follow the workings of the Congress.  A very few of us even take the time to attend the local meetings held by our elected Representatives and Senators while they are back in their districts and states.

The use of ‘omnibus’ bills takes away much of our opportunity to exact responsibility when the omnibus tool is invoked to secure passage.  There are so many relatively smaller things tucked into these omnibus packages that there is a significant opportunity for each member to remain relatively obscure so far as his or her voting record.  They can always lay claim to the fact they had to do what they did to get the good parts of the omnibus package for their constituents.

Hanson makes his statement that it is time to “take serious steps” to restore regular order, and he presents a very cogent argument in support of his statement.  Without the use of regular order, we effectively lose our ability to police every vote taken by those whom we sent to Washington, D.C.

I participate in a local government body.  Our debates are televised and the public is invited to attend any of the meetings.  Individual votes are taken on every item being debated and who voted for and against is duly noted.  I am forced to think about each vote since I do not have the opportunity to hide behind some kind “omnibus” package.  I am also in the community every day, not off in a never-never land where my vote might be forgotten by the time I return to my home.

Peter Hanson is absolutely correct.  Regular order needs to be restored and made the order of the day for both the Senate and the House.  We need to be able to discern quickly who voted how and why they say they did so.  The opportunity to hide inside the pack with convenient excuses for our behavior is an invitation to abuse the power vested by us in our elected officials.  It works very well at the local level and at the state level for the most part.  It needs to be made part of the national elected bodies so we know what happens and why it happened and by whose hand it happened.  Only then can we demand and exact responsibility for votes cast.

On a lighter note:  Ernie Kovacs is quoted as saying:

“Television is a medium, so called because it is neither rare nor well-done.”

Fake News & More…

First, where did Friday the 13th come from?  If Wikipedia can be trusted (and today it is very difficult to know who or what to trust as we’ll see later), this is the story:

“The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, ‘originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion’ in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.”

# # # # #

The whole “Fake News” thing is maddening, confusing, disruptive, deceiving, and no doubt leading many to wrong conclusions, both those who believe there is ‘fake news’ and those who decry the notion of ‘fake news’.  Those who relish the content of the latest thing to be labeled ‘fake news’ think there is only real news which is based on fact.

We have become very trusting, maybe overly trusting, of all that finds its way into print or what we believe to be trustworthy media of all types.  We have potentially made ourselves very susceptible to whatever is defined as ‘fake news’ by believing that whatever we use for the purpose of gathering facts is the real deal.

There is a place, I believe, for healthy skepticism of any and all media pieces.  Healthy skepticism would consist of one relying on multiple sources to attempt to reach a reasonable conclusion as to the reliability of what it was that we consumed.  BUT, that would take time and too many of us have too little time available to permit the kind of research necessary to determine the truth about a story.

We have become very susceptible to the twisting of details or to the slant given to certain things we read or watch or listen to through the course of a day, a week, a month or a year because we have forgotten to be even a bit skeptical.

I have been reading a wide cross section of pieces intentionally for the past several months to try to find one or more that I believe to be reliable and least likely to twist the facts to make them something other than what they are.  There are several that I thought would be even-handed but found them not to be.  The information provided by Time, for example, is quite decidedly tilted in the liberal direction as I see things.  CNN is in that same sphere.  USA Today leans in that direction and its recent acquisition of my local newspaper shows in that publication more now than it did prior to its sale.  The Weekly Standard bills itself as conservative and is true to its word.  I continue to look at these sources BUT I see them through a prism that I wouldn’t have used before the experiment.

‘Fact-checking’ has become all the rage, but we have to be careful of what we accept from those pieces as truth.  They can easily be twisted by those who are charged with finding “the facts” in the manner in which those “facts” are portrayed.  The personal persuasion of the fact checker(s) is easily transferred to the finished product.  We need to be our own “fact-checkers”.

I am a skeptic and I intentionally seek out different versions of the same news item as I work to see the reality of the particular subject.  I have the time and the desire to do so where many, or even most, I suspect, do not.  This move to the left-of-center has been slow and pervasive but it has been happening.  How many of us do not see that this has occurred?  How many of us have been glued to the same source(s) for most, if not all, of the news we consume?

The recent ‘revelation’ of a supposed dalliance by our President-Elect’s attorney in a foreign country is a case-in-point.  The story was salacious and therefore found its way into many different streams of information.  After a couple of days of this repetition, it was believed to be fact by a lot of people.  Trump even had to call his attorney to task and found, by looking at his travel documents that he had not been where and when he was supposedly involved in this dalliance.

If those, who would have us confused by ‘fake news’ so as to believe it is real, have their way, we will be in a world of perpetual disbelief and that will make us very susceptible to believing anything we’re fed if that has always been our primary source of information.  If it is printed in a newspaper it must be true.  If it is aired on national television, it must be true.  If it is believed and passed on by our best friend, it must be true.

Unfortunately, this will become even more widespread with the swearing in of Donald Trump, and you will, if you watch carefully, see it in the left-leaning media even as that media preaches it is fair and even and without bias.

By the way, I make no claim other than to be a conservative male.

A Breath of Fresh Air…

Certainly, there will be things coming in the first term of President Trump that will not be quite so pleasant, but the press conference yesterday where the CNN ‘jerk’ got his lunch handed to him ranks way up on my chart of appropriate actions by an incoming President.

Trump’s persona permits this type of personal action with an obnoxious reporter; not only CNN got the message yesterday, but all the reporters who may ever sit in a press conference with him learned a real lesson:  don’t try to holler and bully your way into the limelight thinking you’ll best the new President.  He doesn’t take lightly to this kind of brash, egotistical behavior; he has enough of that in his own background so as to be an authority on the subject.  And, just so you know, make sure of the story before you leap on the latest ‘scandal’ dreamed up by your brothers and sisters in the media.  Do the work we expect of ‘journalists’.

The incoming ‘Big Dog’ marked his territory yesterday and he did it in front of the world.  Will this always work to his and our benefit?  Probably not always, but it does set a tone and a very refreshing tone at that.  This is a human being who has his quirks like all the rest of us.  He is not that aloof ‘leader’ such as the person we are about to bid adieu.  President-Elect Trump is as human as you or me.  He probably gets pimples on his face every once in a while.

The contrast in styles is marked by bright lines, one of which was crossed by the CNN reporter yesterday.  Not just reporters everywhere took this message to heart.  Leaders all across our world also saw and took note; both friendly as well as not-so-friendly leaders took note.  This is not that genteel world where one doesn’t say ____ without having his or her mouth figuratively washed out with soap.  The United States has been starting from behind for the past eight years given its titular leader.

Will this new more abrupt style always be beneficial?  Probably not, but that is likely when the other side of President-Elect Trump will be seen.  Trump uses the brash persona when it suits and he uses the very well-polished persona when that is called for given circumstances.

Those who under-estimate this man will pay a price.  He is a deal-maker and that requires prescience and capability.  I expect that we will see facets of Trump that we’ve not seen before, as is usually the case with each person we elect to this high office.  We have seen facets in the current President many of us, especially those who voted for him…twice…, didn’t expect to encounter.  Were there an independent rating authority for Presidents, such as history provides us retrospectively, we’d fare far better in our process of selection.  We did not do so very well, if we’re but willing to confront reality, in electing and re-electing the current President.  We the people will continue to pay a price for that detour through the Obama fairytale land.  We, ideally, will learn that bright, shiny objects are not the best solution to such grave problems.

Those who attack President-Elect Trump for a supposed lack of leadership experience are very, very forgetful.  They are the ones who gave us two terms of Obama.  By contrast, Donald Trump has been a leader for years albeit in the business world but that world is at least as vicious and deceiving as is world politics.  The difference between the back-bench, never voted anything but present, State of Illinois Senator who assumed the office, and this world-savvy business person who has ridden herd over a significant business operation and done so successfully is stupifying.  It was, frankly, unfair of those who voted for Obama the first time to do that based on the displayed qualifications.

The phrase is getting a bit of use, I know, but this is an example of voting based upon feelings rather than voting based on facts.  There were no facts to establish what we’d get with Barack Obama since there were none to be had.  This was a community organizer so he had liberal creds.  He was going to be the next savior of the country; it had been pre-ordained.  Our country has suffered for eight years as the result.

Now, we have so-called ‘journalists’ who seem to feel (not think) that they have been called to prove Trump does not deserve the office of President of the United States of America.  They naively believe they are the only ones properly educated and qualified to make such decisions and they obviously have to save us from ourselves given how stupid we seem to be.

The press, the mainstream media, has a significant period of readjustment ahead of it.  This isn’t the world of the past eight years.  This is the brave new world in which President Trump will hold sway, no matter what the ‘press’ may think should’ve been the case.  Given the very visible and decided lackings of the mainstream media, I, for one, am very happy that soon-to-be President Trump will be given the responsibility for their re-education.  He began those lessons yesterday.

It may be a bit painful on both sides of the aisle, but it will happen.  President Trump will not be backed into corners as those are defined by the media.  That CNN was the first media organization to feel the wrath was quite fitting.  Every other media organization needs to take note and their representatives need to conduct themselves accordingly.  If you take sides and find yourself on the wrong side, you pay a price.  You deal with the facts as those exist; you do not have the responsibility nor the authority to re-frame the future to suit your individual or corporate identity.  If you cannot be civil, do not expect civility in return.

A Pebble in America’s Shoe…

Have you ever had one of those tiny pebbles in your shoe and been unable to get to it for a period of time?  That is what we’ve just learned we’ll be experiencing from the soon-to-be-former President of the United States.  He is going to be maintaining an office in…dah-dah-dah-dat-ta-dah…Washington, D.C.

This is the first time I can recall a former President deciding to hang out in the District of Columbia.  I know their two daughters are going to school there, etc., etc., etc.  But this is simply a bit too much.  You and I both know exactly why the soon-to-be-former President has decided to stay in D.C.  He wants to have a ‘bully pulpit’ where the action is and where there is a preponderance of news media types.

He wants to be able to stay real close to the Democrats in Congress.  He wants to be readily available to anyone who visits the District of Columbia.  He wants to be sought out so he has an excuse for breaking the silence a former President has virtually always maintained in the past.  This is a massively egotistical move on Obama’s part and you’ll see no critique of it by the media.  He will set up what he thinks of as an alternative White House.

We are going to be treated, however, to nearly daily critiques of what the real President is doing or not doing and those critiques will be coming from the immediate former President, either directly or indirectly.  We know the press loves Barack Obama, and we know he loves the media’s attention.  A veritable marriage made in hell, from my point-of-view, has been deftly unfolded before our eyes by none other than the soon-to-be former President Barack Obama.  Will there be a critical media reaction?  Not likely.  They can likely hardly believe their great break, this wonderful gift from the outgoing President.

So, it didn’t take very long to determine what the opposition is up to, did it?  Did that happen as the result of the ‘success’ of the various attempts to lay out “fake news”?  Or was this simply destined to occur given the media distrust/hatred of our new President Donald Trump?

The Trump press conference in D.C. has just ended, and I suspect the media has a new understanding of where its members stand and what they will be expected to do or not to do.  President Trump is going to take no garbage from anyone, especially if they have a ‘press card’, and he is going to play by his rules and not the media’s rules.  There have to be heads spinning in the District of Columbia since that press conference has just ended as this is being written.

There is definitely a new President in town, and he is going to truck no media garbage.  Pity the media member who does not print the truth.  Pity the media member who leaks something told to him or her under embargo to be released later.  There is a new ‘sheriff’ in town.

There is the added benefit that the rest of the world is now able to see the new President under fire and to decide if anyone in that world wants to take any chances with the new President of the United States and with his appointees.  New boundaries have been established and they were very firmly laid out to the press today.  The vacillation of the past eight years is over.  The press will be held to account for what it does or doesn’t print or to otherwise release to the consuming public.

Back to the pebble in our country’s shoe, the soon-to-be former President of the United States, Barack Obama.  He should have been able to see how the new world of Washington, D.C. is going to look.  If he chooses to participate through back doors made available to him by the press or friends, he runs the risk of being called out by the sitting President, as should be the case if he is interfering or insinuating or otherwise acting badly.  I’d not want to test that, but that is up to soon-to-be former-President Barack Obama.

What a breath of fresh air!  Probably not for the press but certainly for us citizens.  So far as the press is concerned, it has earned much of the ire it was exposed to this morning.  If it does not take this to heart, it is very likely to be exposed to more of this same treatment.  All this President asks is that he be given the benefit of the doubt if there is any doubt and that he be treated fairly.  The first demonstration of that just ended.

Now we step back to see just how the media will respond to this dressing down.  For their sake, I hope they are able to suck it up and treat President Trump fairly.  This is not a lightweight such as they’ve dealt with too often in the past.

Welcome, President Trump!

They Just Can’t Help Themselves

I read an editorial in my morning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel penned by Doyle McManus, a Washington-based columnist for the Los Angeles Times (which appears to have been around for two days already if the Internet is telling me the truth).  Maybe we have the USA Today organization, the new owners of the Journal Sentinel, to thank for old writings passed off to we Midwest neanderthals as fresh material.  More to the point, we no doubt have the Internet to thank for making ink-on-paper news more and more irrelevant.  I am in the second month of having only my web version newspaper and I still miss the soiled fingers when I finish my reading, but I’ll get over that in another year or two…maybe.

Mr. McManus lets us all in on a ‘secret’:  Trump supposedly doesn’t know how to go about running a big operation like the Oval office.  “Trump is further behind on taking control of the bureaucracy than any president in recent history.”  Methinks Mr. McManus might’ve forgotten that President Barack Obama had no experience running anything when he walked into the Oval office.  I might have missed it, but there aren’t such warning articles that come to mind from eight years ago when Obama took on this gig.  Might we see a personal liberal belief system getting in the way of journalism?

McManus might have also overlooked the businesses Trump has run for years.  He might have missed the level of success achieved by Mr. Trump.  He might have missed the experienced team that Mr. Trump has assembled to help him in his Presidency.  Another sentence portends disaster:  “Yet there are signs of trouble, and veterans of past administrations from both parties have warned that chaos almost surely lies ahead.”  Unattributed bull—-  does not make a news article; it, instead, makes for an almost certainly liberal take on what this person hopes will be the stuff he’ll write about in the coming term.

People have been underestimating President-Elect Donald Trump since he declared his intent to run for the office to which he is about to ascend.  They all have egg on their faces or worse.  Some have had the stuffing kicked out of them in the polling booths all across America.  We were given two basic choices and we made our collective decision.  We did not choose Hillary Clinton.  I do not recall seeing the McManus name on the ballot I was handed.  I do not recall seeing ‘unnamed sources’ on the ballot I was handed, nor did anyone else in this country.  We had a clear choice and we made our decision.

I may have some ‘crow’ on a future dining menu, but that will only be known after we’ve had the time to make judgments based upon fact, rather than jumping to conclusions based on fancy before the facts have ever been displayed.  Democrats refused to take the challenge of Donald Trump seriously and we see what that earned them.

So much of what we are provided as news is rife with the authors’ opinions more so than being based upon fact or even solid evidence.  I have plenty of facts with which to develop lines of thought so far as our departing President.  This man has done more damage to our country than any other President I can recall.  Whether it was done intentionally or simply was accidental based upon a belief system that was faulty I do not know for certain.  I can see and feel the results, however.

Finally, I do not try to pass off my opinion as fact;  I am a blogger, not a newsman.  There are, unfortunately, too many people who are too gullible and who get swept up based on feelings [there’s that liberal vs. conservative thing again] rather than fact, and who are misled, whether or not intentionally, by what all too often passes for news.  Our mainstream media outlets are too often liberal and people who are not necessarily liberal take what they read or hear for granted without any critical thought given to what has been portrayed as fact.

If you are in doubt, it probably is safer to presume a media outlet to be liberal rather than conservative.  The numbers support that conclusion.  There is a reason for cable organizations to have so decimated over-the-air broadcast organizations in viewership polls.  The typical networks were (and still are) simply degrees of liberal with the least liberal being thought of as conservative simply by comparison.  The success of Fox News is an indicator of just how hungry we conservatives were for a conservative news source, even though Fox News has its liberal leanings occasionally.

It is easier today to be a political and cultural conservative than ever before, and yet it still takes some work and some discernment.  There are still the proverbial ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ even today and we can be sucked into what seems a conservative thought group without realizing that we might’ve strayed.  If our conservative belief system is advanced enough, we can discern, but if we are still on our journey we may need to reach out to learn the thoughts of others on certain topics or certain ‘news’ outlets.

 

Expectations Of Our Departing President

President Barack Obama has given the signals that he will be anything but courteous and quiet in President-Elect Trump’s time in office during the first term.  To the contrary, every indication is that former President Barack Obama will be as involved and snarky as he can possibly be albeit possibly through his personal emissaries.

This is not a particularly silent departure nor can one reasonably expect that Obama will remain out of the news during the coming first term of President Trump.  He has his D.C. home well established and the kids are still enrolled in schools in the District.  He has not been particularly gracious in his actions toward the incoming officeholder.  He is a naturally condescending man and that is worn plainly whenever he is near Mr. Trump.

The former Presidents Bush have set the example for former Presidents.  One sees virtually none of that grace in President Barack Obama, nor would one expect to see that.  Grace toward others is not part of the Obama make-up, and both his actions and lack-of-actions convey that quite distinctly.

I don’t expect that we’ll have to apply any psychic salve to the wounds of President Trump; he seems quite impervious to such actions as can be expected from the former President.  In fact, I expect that the incoming President might actually invite the former President to be quiet and to permit him to run the office as he sees fit.  That would not be surprising coming from Trump…and it would be welcomed from this quarter.

The Dems have made their plans and laid their traps.  They will take delight in making Trump look silly if that is possible.  This is not a particularly nice group of people.  Politics at this level is not a particularly gentlemanly or lady-like activity.  We will be treated to that kind of behavior during the coming hearings for Trump appointees.  These are adults who have already made names for themselves elsewhere, and none strike me as particularly shy, although they do appear to be ladies and gentlemen; they have been in the spotlight before.

We see how Vladimir Putin has continued to be kept in the news by the media and by the Democrats.  The ‘hacking’ issue is very old news but continues to be drug along in this or that story.  The question of just how effective the hacking was has not really been explored, maybe for good reason.  I continue to marvel at the hackee’s password having been “password”.  Might be that a three-year-old computer whiz thought of that and did the hacking.

We can expect that the media, virtually united in its despising of Trump, will continue to play dirty at every opportunity.  Do not be surprised to see then-President Trump exclude certain media people from briefings if that does continue.  He will be different from every other President who has occupied that office.  Us supporters might be forced to cringe once-in-a-while, but he will be fine and he’ll do a great job for us.  By comparison, this will be a wonderful breath of fresh air.

The United States is about to take on a different appearance to the rest of the world.  I, for one, am welcoming of that given the point to which we’ve sunk in the world’s opinion.  This whole “Putin” thing is a contrivance by our press, but that is fine.  We can survive their shenanigans and might even benefit from that.  Our press corps, with some exceptions, has become a bunch of cry-babies pouting if they don’t get what they think they deserve from the incoming President.

I expect that then-President Trump will continue to have the support of we Americans who’ll see a different presidency from that of the past eight years.  I know I might be thought the fool, but I see a very Reaganesque President in our near future.  I believe this President will be ‘no nonsense’ and will say it like it ought to be said.  I think his ‘gaffes’, his actual gaffes and not those contrived by the press, will be few and far between.  Some might even be well-planned for effect.

Our current President has been too smooth by half, and the whole world knew it.   That has cost him (and therefore us) in terms of impact on other world leaders. The Putins of this world were able to play Obama like the proverbial fiddle…and he didn’t realize he was being played.  It has been very dangerous to have a President that full of self and that easily manipulated by other leaders in the world.  It has also been very embarrassing to have a President who would treat another leader, as this one treated Netanyahu.  It became the real mark of President Obama, not just here but also around the world, and that did us no favors.

A new day is dawning…and none too soon!

 

Is This Really Necessary?

“Calif. funds inmate sex reassignment

Sacramento, Calif. — A 57-year-old convicted killer has become the first U.S. inmate to receive state-funded sex reassignment surgery.

Shiloh Heavenly Quine has been living as a woman in a California men’s prison. The surgery had been scheduled for Thursday, and her attorneys told The Associated Press on Friday that it was performed.

California prison officials agreed in 2015 to pay for the surgery for Quine, who is serving a life sentence for murder, kidnapping, and robbery.”

# # # # #

[This clipping from my morning newspaper, no it isn’t taken from The Onion although that is where it should’ve been found, says a lot about the state of our country, and about where we appear to be headed, and about the Associated Press (AP) from where this was received.]

We appear to have lost our moral bearings, our sensibilities, our very ability to make reasoned decisions.  We have become caricatures of our former selves.

Sex change surgery for a prison inmate sentenced to life for murder, kidnapping, and robbery at the expense of taxpayers, not to mention the victim, is now to be condoned and, apparently, even celebrated or so the Associated Press and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel seem to think by including this information for me today.

If this weren’t so ridiculous on its face, it might be laughable.  But this apparently is deemed news worthy of reporting by any number of people along the line that made this available to me this morning.  What have we become?  Treating this as ground-breaking news is simply preposterous.

All ranting aside, okay almost all ranting aside, this is simply a very sad statement about what some obviously believe is right and proper.  There had to be numerous hands that touched this decision-making process.  There had to be someone with the authority to kill this ludicrous attempt by a convicted murderer, no less, with a simple “are you kidding me” comment and a firm NO.  The layers of government, especially in California, tell us that there is not just one person responsible for this miscarriage of justice, other than possibly a judge who permitted this to occur.  How many levels of command were involved?

We have, fortunately, come a long way from the prison farms in the deep South, but this is more than a bridge too far.  I am not at all sure this was what was envisioned by those who championed more humane treatment of prisoners.  This is simply a system that has gone too far in trying to avoid condemnation.  If this were some kind of treatment to mitigate physical pain, that would be more understandable.  This is simply someone’s definition of what has become the right of prisoners in that state.  People who criminally take the life of another lose their rights to all kinds of things.  I would suggest that loss of rights would quite easily extend to a sex change operation to help them feel better about self.

I cannot fathom that s/he would get that kind of blessing from me were I making that decision.  I wonder what the ultimate decision-maker in the California system would have to say about this decision if we were given the right to raise that question?  Of course, it might’ve been a committee voting in the blind to save the person from any recrimination for his or her actions in this decision-making process, and of course a righteous judge somewhere.

Just when we dare think we’ve seen it all, there comes another not-so-subtle reminder that we have not seen it all.