Russian Intrigue…Warranted?

Being a Republican Committee Chair in the midst of Democrat turmoil is a thankless job…at best…and potentially career-threatening if the opposition has anything to say about it.  House Intelligence Committee Chair, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), has gotten embroiled in a potentially devastating situation concerning the Russians and the supposed attempts by them to influence the recent election.  Since we now have President Donald Trump, most of us will conclude, correctly, that the Democrats are behind this kerfluffle.  Of course, since Nunes has not shared any of this newfound intelligence with his fellow committee members, the Democrats are apoplectic fearing that this might somehow destroy their meme of Russian influence in the last election.

The New York Times has published a piece that discusses this situation and that is available even to non-subscribers at least as of this morning.

The story begins, so far as we know, on the evening of March 21st when Nunes received a call that made him head straight to the White House.  A day later Nunes held a press briefing before he met with President Trump to brief him on what he had learned the night before.  You can imagine the enormity of the undies-in-a-bundle uproar from the Democrats.  They enjoy being the producers of intrigue but vehemently dislike being the recipients of that favor from Republicans.  Nunes so far refuses to identify his sources except to identify them as ‘whistle-blowers’ who are trying to expose wrong-doing at great potential harm to themselves.

The press has identified two people it believes to have been the sources for the bombshell information.  Those are Michael Ellis, an attorney working on national security issues and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior intelligence director at the National Security Council.  These people sound, based on titles, to be very capable of being ‘in the know’.

Democrats, not willing to give up their bone of contention and bristling because they’ve so far been excluded from viewing evidence, are frothing at the mouth, figuratively of course.  We know that the Dems will work this in an attempt to turn it to their advantage, and that might well result in tactics that are deplored by most people.

Rep. Nunes has ignored Democrat’s saying he should step aside.  That is to the benefit of the entire country whether or not the Dems can begin to grasp that fact.

Only time and more and more disclosure of information will tell us if there is substance to these allegations.  I suspect that will be proved as we see or hear the information.  I doubt seriously that Nunes would have subjected himself to this kind of Democrat diatribe for the fun of it.  If there has been Russian meddling, we need to know how and when and where that occurred.  If the communications of now President Trump were intercepted, we need to know that as well.  If there is a mole somewhere in Washington, we also need to know who and where in the food chain.

Given the hue and cry, I suspect that Democrats are fearful this is not going to inure to their political benefit and yet they simply are powerless to avoid using it to the maximum capability they can muster.  Never mind the truthfulness or the nature of what seems to have occurred.  Let us throw dung at the whole Trump Administration, and the outcome of the election while we’re at it, and pray that some will somehow stick.

Washington is literally and figuratively a swamp, and some of the resident creatures would like to re-capture this for themselves, and, from outward appearances, they might well fit right in either figuratively or literally.  You can decide for yourself whom might qualify.

What Is Your High School Teaching?

The La Plata High School in La Plata, MD is teaching students about Islam.  Teaching ‘about’ would not be so bad; we all should have an understanding of faiths other than our own, and especially about Islam, since it is proliferating in America as more and more of that faith immigrate to our country.

Todd Starnes of Fox News Opinion is working on this angle and if you want considerably more information and more sources, Google his name with Fox News Opinion.

The La Plata High School case is the subject of a lawsuit filed on behalf of John and Milissa Wood, parents of a teenage daughter who is a student at La Plata High School.  That case was filed by the Thomas More Law Center.  The president of Thomas Moore is quoted as saying that La Plata High School forced the daughter of the Woods to recite the Shahada and to acknowledge Muhammad as her spiritual leader.  The Shahada is the Islamic Creed: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”.

The Law Center maintains that simply reciting the statement is sufficient to convert one to Islam.  The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that students spent one day studying Christianity while they spent two weeks studying Islam.  “During its brief instruction on Christianity, defendants failed to cover any portion of the Bible or other non-Islamic religious texts such as the Ten Commandments”.  “Instead, the class included disparaging remarks about Christianity and the Pope.”

The school also instructed students on jihad “a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty; a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline.”

John Wood, the father, is a Marine veteran, by the way.  He called the school to voice his concern over his daughter’s assignment and was told a day later by the vice principal that she was required to take the class and that she would receive ‘zeros’ on any incomplete assignments even though the assignments might violate the family’s religious beliefs and heritage.

If this were occurring in a school in my community, I’d be very much involved since I have grandkids in that system.  But how would I know unless I spent time trying to gain access to the curriculum and then to the study materials in order to determine my feelings about the subject matter.  That raises the question as to whether or not my intrusion would be welcome.  I might simply be dismissed as a troublemaker with no right to access this material or to comment on the curriculum.

If you are like me, this kind of thing probably wouldn’t have been on our collective radar scope. But, apparently, it should be if this situation is any indication of education-at-large.  Maybe educators, in general, would not undertake this curriculum item, but maybe they would in the interests of preparing the students for the coming increase in numbers of those of this faith.

That is all well and good, BUT the manner in which this ‘education’ is being conducted in this particular situation sounds more like indoctrination than education.  I do not believe that is what we taxpayers expect from the educators of our respective communities.  Ideally, this would not be widespread.  If it is predominately in centers of higher Islamic population that is very understandable.  The Twin Cities’ education institutions ought to be providing this kind of education BUT it ought to be education and not indoctrination.

Political Polarization…

Real Clear Politics has an article today titled The Political Polarization of America.  That article contains the following opening information from a Quinnipiac University poll:

In the latest Quinnipiac University poll, barely 7% of Democrats and an overwhelming 79% of Republicans view Trump favorably – a 72-point gap.  The partisan divide continues when we look at specific traits.  While only 5% of Democrats believe the president is honest, 77% of Republicans do.  While just 8% of Democrats believe he cares about average Americans, 87% of Republicans do.  While 5% of Democrats say he’s level-headed, 66% of Republicans do.

This spotlights the significant divide we have today, probably the greatest divide I have seen in the course of my many years on this earth.

A 60%-40% split used to be significant; that pales by comparison to this split.  The idea that the people who have a professed political identity are split 87% to 8% as to whether or not Trump cares about the average American is absolutely astounding to me.  That moves beyond a simple disagreement about the facts and extends to an emotionally-based hysteria.  There are no facts that can possibly support that divide; it has to be driven by pure emotion powered by fear and/or plain old hatred.

That speaks volumes, ugly volumes, about the state of our America, this melting pot that has welcomed peoples of diverse backgrounds and political opinions since its founding.  It is as if we have drawn a line across America and those of one belief are forbidden from crossing into the land of those with the other belief…except that we all rub elbows with each other day after day.  We work together.  We worship together.  We go to school together.  We bear arms together.

And yet, apparently, we cannot stand the thought that the person next to us might be of the wrong political persuasion…as we, whether in the 8% or 87%, identify just what is the wrong political persuasion.  How do we deal with this divide?  In some instances, discussions of anything political have been banned.  That is true in my church where I should, if I will at all, love my brothers and sisters regardless of their looks, their color, their political beliefs, their favorite sports team, etc.

If we will not try to find a way to soften this impasse, how do we expect to get beyond it?  We must simply be hoping that the passing of time will dull the edges of the disagreement.  Or maybe we think that those of a different persuasion will finally see the light.

As a Wisconsite, I can’t believe there is even an 87% to 8% divide between the Bears and the Packers in our state.  That our current state of politics could fashion an 87% to 8% divide suggests that we have some issues with our issues.  Maybe politics is that one area where there is no reality, only the hyped-up emotional response to good and evil, however it is that we define evil in politics.

We really need to get a grip on reality if we are so polarized over the political debate.  Frankly, while one or the other party is my favorite, I don’t suspect that my non-favorite party is doing all it can to ruin our country.  I don’t get this feeling that I might toss my cookies if I had to associate with the opposition.  I actually know people who voted opposite of the way I did, and we continue to recognize each other, shake hands and even, heaven forbid, enjoy each other’s company.  We don’t talk politics because we know how each other feel about that subject.  But we still talk and we still enjoy the company of the other.

Is this a Trump vs. Clinton thing?  Maybe.  If it is, I have no problem occupying one side of any discussion but I have a significant problem occupying the wrong side as I see it.  Consequently, I tend to avoid those discussions.  If I can’t avoid them, I don’t engage in them and strive to change the subject before I lose my struggle with self trying to avoid the subject.  I know myself well enough that I know I cannot talk politics with anyone opposed to my position since they are deemed to be wrong in my eyes even before the discussion would commence.  But that is only about the subject of political beliefs.  And, I do not brand them as people with whom I cannot associate because I like most of them as individuals.  I also believe they use the same control system that I use because they don’t attempt to open a political discussion with me.

If Quinnipiac University has its stuff straight, I hope none of us from the Badger state participated in the poll.  Maybe this all stems from watching our federal government at work.  I could see such a level of polarization if that were the case, and I share the frustration many must have as the result.  Maybe it comes from a particularly virulent sector of politics.  Frankly, if I were to watch some of the stuff passing for debate, I could retch rather quickly.

Conservatives are, I believe, pretty well-grounded folks, and I don’t know many, if any at all, who would line up like those opinion-staters Quinnipiac University managed to find.  It is good to be conservative.  I don’t know how it is to be liberal so I can’t comment…and hope I’ll never be able to say I’ve had that experience.

I hope those folks that were polled can just chill.  President Trump seems to be doing a good job, so far as our economy seems to be telling us.

The Dealmaker vs. The Dems…

The Dealmaker, Donald Trump, has had significant victories in his private life and hence the title of “Dealmaker” for this blog.  He is obviously now in a role where past victories do not do much, if anything, for his Presidency.  In this new world of politics and politicians, Trump-the- Dealmaker may well have met his match.  At the least, he will need to change some of his thinking and find different approaches in order to gain some successes to hang on his belt (frankly thinking about scalps).

The differences are unique to his new setting, the world of high political intrigue.  Heretofore, he has been in the world of high finance, and dealmaking with business people.  The crux of those deals was usually monetary and devoid of personalities that craved ‘public’ victories, as well.  In this new world as President of the United States on the Republican ticket, Trump is finding that what used to work in the business world is not going to necessarily work as well in his political world.  He’ll get there, but it won’t be easy.

There is first the fact that the two political parties have a long, long history.  Republicans are not necessarily fond of Democrats and vice versa.  Trump and the Speaker of the House have just emerged from the buzz saw world of politics with a loss, or at least a significant setback.  Obviously, the Speaker knows this world, so it must be assumed that the President was driving this deal and neglected some advice I’d be almost certain was provided to him.  He had to learn that his name is not the dominant key here as it might’ve been in the business world.

The Democrats got a “twofer’ in that they were able to assert their power to the new President of the United States of America, and they were able to embarrass the Speaker of the House which hasn’t happened very much, if at all, in the past.  Of course, the Democrats had the benefit of the Freedom Caucus having also decided it would make its ‘creds’ in this same situation.  That combination proved to be too much to overcome just because of the duo that came together with similar thoughts in mind.  The Dems wanted to show this new President just how tough they can be, and the Freedom Caucus had similar ideas.  This might be seen as a marriage made in Hell…and it might hold portent for the future.

The Speaker likely had some idea of what lay in store but, I suspect, felt, or earnestly hoped, that the Freedom Caucus would see the light and come to its senses with the criticality of this vote in mind.  The President likely felt his persona and charisma could carry the vote given that this was his first excursion into the pit of vipers and maybe thinking they’d make nice as the result.

The Democrat leader(s) saw this as his/their opportunity to show his/their party, the media, their constituents, and both the President and the Speaker that they still had power and that they’d use it any time and in any way they felt necessary to salve their ego and to show their party supporters they had made the right choice.  It wasn’t pretty, and Trump and the Speaker felt it.  And, it will have repercussions down the road.  These kinds of things can be set aside, but they are not entirely forgotten, especially in the world of politics.  Sometime, somehow there will be payback.

I suspect this may have some impact on the seating of the new Justice.  It will still happen but there may be a delay in filling that seat as the result of this dust-up.  The Dems have tasted the blood in the water.  They will want to capitalize further on this ‘victory’ through humiliation.  This might assure the use of the Nuclear option by Republicans in order to seat the Justice.

There is the question of what, if anything, this will cause the President to consider.  He is not used to taking this kind of thing.  That may explain the relative silence so far; he might be letting this get a little further in the rear-view mirror before reacting.  He does have other issues with which to occupy himself, after all.

I do expect this will help President Trump in his future dealings in this political world.  He is nothing if not a quick learner.  He’d never been involved in politics and decided the run for President would be his first shot at it.  And, he won.  That is a quick learner.

If the Dems base their future plans on this occurrence, they will likely be disappointed.  This was a ‘one off’ that had some ‘liberal’ N.E. Republicans breaking with the party thus enabling others to do so, as well according to Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-WI).  There will be those kinds of situations from time to time, BUT the perpetrators would be well-advised to be very, very careful with the use of this tool.  It will not work out too well for them if re-used too often.

“Politics makes strange bedfellows” is an old phrase that bears repeating in this instance.  The N.E. Republicans who started the exodus of previously committed members made its mark.  Those Congresspeople will likely not become conservative but they are still Republicans even if liberal Republicans.  The party needs them and may need them more than they need the party.  That can make for dangerous situations politically as was just proven.  There are ‘tools’ that are available to the leadership that might be useful in the next such situation since their likelihood of walking out has been noted.

Ain’t politics great?

 

Behind the ObamaCare Vote…

President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have a behind-the-scenes agreement by and between 28 members of the 36-member Freedom Caucus to blame for the embarrassing need to pull their bill before a vote and to admit defeat on the repeal of ObamaCare at least for now…and maybe forever.

I have blogged about the Freedom Caucus before and not in very generous terms.  This group has support from some of the really conservative organizations in the country, and those groups apparently were only too happy to see this effort thwarted.  That would seem to fly in the face of what a conservative group would be after unless maybe the Trump/Ryan effort was deemed not conservative enough.

The Freedom Caucus 28, as I’ll name them, agreed that not one of them would change their opposition to this bill without the courtesy of discussing that potential change with the other 27 members who had signed on for this effort.  Of course, if one were leaning, the other 27 would lean even more heavily to convince that wayward soul from deviating from their mutual pact unless all agreed to end the pact and vote for the bill.

Reports indicate that the Republicans were 25 votes short of passage so the blame for non-passage can be laid squarely at the feet of the Freedom Caucus 28.  There are some, likely non-fans of Ryan and maybe of Trump, who are gloating over this result.  This could ultimately end Ryan’s Speaker-ship; that will remain to be seen in the next few days or weeks.  This has apparently ended, at least for now, any effort to overturn ObamaCare.  The two leaders of the Freedom Caucus are Rep. Mark Meadows, Chairman, and Rep. Jim Jordan, Vice-Chair.

So, this ugly (my definition) ending was the result of a seven-year effort to overturn ObamaCare, according to the Politico publication.  The group behind the Freedom Caucus is the Club for Growth and Heritage.

President Trump has indicated that he is fully behind the Speaker, but time will tell us if that was heartfelt or simply felt to be politically necessary.  Rep. Ryan (R-WI) has enemies within the ranks of Republicans.  It is impossible to have such a leadership position and not have made enemies if you are effective in that role.  It is not likely that Ryan’s supporters in his Wisconsin district will change their opinion of his suitability for the House.  There has not yet been anything approaching an effective challenge to him from his district; although things such as this can breed a challenge quite quickly.  If someone sees ‘blood in the water’ now that this defeat has occurred, he or she can mount a pretty effective campaign and likely attract the money necessary to run the race.  I’d still put my money on Ryan, but that doesn’t help him since I don’t vote in that district.

This shows us that it is not only the liberals who can muck up a move in Congress.  Conservatives did just fine at that last week.  I will await the longer term impact that this action might have on members of the Freedom Caucus, and certainly on Paul Ryan.

It might also prove to be a turning point for conservatives in this session.  I certainly hope that is not going to be the case BUT stranger things have happened.  We have a U.S. Supreme Court seat to fill.  What if the Freedom Caucus is told by its funding organization that they need to oppose a Supreme Court candidate who is not ‘conservative enough’?  Would these same 28 to 36 see their way to doing the bidding of that organization again because without that organization they’d individually lose a lot of the contributions necessary to be re-elected?  We’d like to think that wouldn’t occur, but then again no one thought this would occur when we all dislike ObamaCare and what it has done and continues to do to health care in this country.

There is a line in the story published by Politico that refers to this group as “ideological purists” and that is probably the best way to describe the group.  The problem with ideological purity is that it means this group will be largely dysfunctional and that it will find it virtually impossible to get anything with its fingerprints on it passed simply because of its ideological purity.

The art of governing, certainly in this Congress, seems to be the art of negotiating to get the best bill possible from the group’s perspective without sinking the ship.  This group grievously miscalculated whether or not it even understands that at this time.  This group may prove to have been the driving force for assuring that Obamacare survives; that would be the complete reversal of what they thought they were doing, but it could well be the outcome.

They each will have to stand for re-election given that House terms are only two years long.  They can rest assured that this debacle will hang over their individual and collective heads for some time to come, as it should.  You can only twist the tiger’s tail a bit before that tiger consumes you.  They might succeed in unseating Rep. Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House.  That, in and of itself would be sufficient reason for unelecting them.  They forget that they have stepped on the President’s foot in a very public and demeaning way.

I’d personally not want to have that albatross hanging around my neck come election time.  So, Freedom Caucus 28, enjoy your time in the spotlight, and maybe you should give thought to registering with a good employment agency.  Time flies.

Things Money Can’t Buy…

This was gleaned from a good friend’s Facebook posting and bears repeating.  Thanks Bruce!

Money can’t buy:

Manners– Think about the times you encounter people with poor manners or no manners at all.  They are either simply ignorant about their behavior or they are well aware and simply don’t care.  I feel bad for them.  The lack of manners often connotes a person you probably aren’t anxious to be around.

Morals – The immoral seem to surround us and many appear to have no comprehension of morality, or they do and plain don’t give a rip.  They are to be pitied.

Respect – The lack of respect for others probably signifies that this person has little or no respect for self, and that is a terrible burden to be carried through this life.

Character – Character is that mysterious aura that many people exude without words or even actions.  You know that you are in the presence of one with character without being able to identify just how you are that certain.

Common Sense – All too uncommon in our world today.  Common sense seems somehow to be less valued today but it is still among the greatest gifts one can possess.

Trust – To trust someone in any situation is a gift we receive from those whose trustworthiness is exuded without words.  To be trusted is among the greatest compliments we can be paid by another.

Patience – Patience is the culmination of our life lessons which we bestow on others who are still learning.

Class – An elusive gift that some possess and it is instantly recognizable simply by their carriage of self.  It is not cockiness nor is it conceit.  It is simply ‘class’.  It cannot be purchased and it cannot be feigned.

Integrity – This is a very special quality of those whom we especially appreciate and with whom we can be honest about anything and everything without fearing repercussion.

Love – The human quality which cannot be imitated, only copied and gifted to those with whom we live, work, and pray.

Faith – This added by the friend from whom I copied the rest of the list.  Our faith in God is the greatest gift we can receive, and our faith in others is among the greatest gifts we humans can convey.

Money isn’t nearly so important as it is oft made out to be.  These are the things that money simply cannot buy, nor would they be worth as much if they could be purchased with simple coin.  Feel free to add to the list…

Is The ‘Game’ Really More Important? Updated.

We are watching one of those games played by politicians, especially at the national level.  It is one of those childish, by my definition, games that seem destined to be part of the national political scene ad infinitum.  The ‘game’ becomes more important than that which the game is supposedly about.

This game is about ObamaCare and the repeal and/or replacement of that program.  The primary players are the President, the Republicans and the really conservative Republicans known as the Freedom Caucus…and the Democrats.  Almost everyone in power in D.C. is involved to one degree or another in this game.  The Dems have a lot at stake if being embarrassed about their ‘middle of the night’ power grab that gave us the fiasco known as ObamaCare is included in this equation.  They delight at the moment because the spotlight that properly shines on this debacle that has their fingerprints all over it has given them a place in the background as the game players do their dance.  It also has given them significant leverage they couldn’t have otherwise found.

The game pits Democrats and Republicans but more importantly for some, it brings President Trump into the mix and this opportunity for Democrats is simply too wonderful to ignore.  It also brings rivalry between House and Senate into the mix since the Senate has always held itself out to be the saner and more adult of these two bodies.  The House is essentially, from their point-of-view, composed of riff-raff that could only get a two-year term while they’re each seated for six-year terms.  The House has 435 members but the vaunted Senate has only 100 members.  No wonder the Senate feels itself to be the superior body.

Every once in a while, we the people seem to be forgotten by one or both bodies and that is especially true when this new arrogant Republican President stands to be humiliated if the game is played just right.  After all, he is ‘all in’ now having taken his swing at the cat, so he is fair game.

This august body of the best of the best we can elect is human.  Each individually, with some exceptions I’ll grant, are pretty decent people.  I’ve met some.  I’ve studied the Bible with one on a couple of occasions.  If we put 535 people into a room, there would certainly be a good statistical probability that there’d be a few who we’d rather weren’t there, but…

Politics is a blood sport no matter how much we try to avoid that realization.  I don’t know when that began to occur nor do I know just how and by whom that term was initiated.  I suspect that goes back centuries in our world.  But there are these times when too many politicians find it too difficult simply to conduct our business when they determine that their political enemies are so vulnerable to being whacked good and hard upside the head.

It is especially in these times that you and I become relatively invisible and are virtually completely forgotten.  I do not include all politicians in this condemnation, but I include too many in leadership to my liking.  I know they’d tell me that they simply have to protect self and party and that, in the end, this all works out for the better.  This is oft equated to the making of sausage which destroys my appetite for sausage for a few days.

So we the electorate again have the opportunity to see what we’ve spawned, or at the least what we’ve facilitated.  These equivalents to a professional wrestling match seem to somehow go away and the bodies return to doing the business of we the people.  We do not often ‘repeal and replace’ the person at election time.  We forget what stunts were perpetrated on us voters, and we presume they have our best interests at heart…and after all, making sausage is not necessarily pretty.

We are watching one of these epic political games being played at the moment, and it is either ugly or beautiful depending on your political persuasion.  But, no matter your political belief, these are the times that try the patience of many of us since we are forgotten as the focus turns from us and our wants and needs to the players and their wants and needs as if those differ.

I cringe, personally, when I see some of the big names in our national political world reduce their stature to that of a two-year-old through a fit of temper (with all due apologies to two-year-olds).  It is at these times that we are exposed to the raw underbelly of our system of governance and that raw underbelly is ugly as the dickens!

Were we there would we be conducting ourselves similarly?  Only we know, or think we know, the answer to that question.  But it is a question worthy of our hushed personal response.

Update:  The ACA bill was pulled before a vote occurred and that obviously was due to the Republican members of the Freedom Caucus.  This is potentially a development that overshadows the rest of this session of Congress.  House Speaker Ryan was not specific as to where the non-voters were to be found, BUT all, other than for the members of the Freedom Caucus, were publicly committed to voting in favor of this bill.

Is it possible that other members of the Republican caucus developed cold feet?  Yes, but that is highly unlikely since they are thought to have made their commitment and would’ve been obligated to stick with their word.  This also, for the moment at least, means that any wavering Senators are off the hook for now.  Will this come back for another vote?  Possibly but that might be asking for further embarrassment of both Speaker Ryan and President Trump.

This is a significant setback for the Republicans and will make Democrats all the more certain they’ll stick with their position.

Beyond the politics, the ObamaCare plans are in trouble with heavy claims experience that will mean premium rate increases or benefit cutbacks or a combination of both.