Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Oh, What Tangled Webs We Weave…

July 6, 2016

“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges.”

FBI Director James B. Comey

Let the conspiracy theorists begin to weave a new web. FBI Director James B. Comey slapped Hillary Clinton for being “extremely careless” but refrained from urging prosecution. My Facebook feed is full of memes like:


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People are mad. People see a politician getting away with something they are convinced they would be jailed for doing. They are probably not wrong.

The best example is that of Bryan Nishimura, a Navy reservist deployed in Afghanistan who transferred classified files from government computers to his own devices. He was sentenced to two years of probation and a $7,500 fine, and was ordered to surrender his security clearance. He is barred from seeking a future security clearance. We can debate intent and scale, but I see this and Hillary Clinton’s case as somewhat similar. Both removed classified materials from government secure sources.

But I have to cry foul for the General Petraeus and Edward Snowden comparisons I’m seeing. The only similarity is the involvement of classified information. Petraeus gave notebooks containing notes from national security meetings, the identities of covert officers and more classified documents to his mistress/biographer. Mr Snowden copied and leaked numerous secret global surveillance programs run by National Security Agency. Both gave classified information to the media to advance their own purposes.

Hillary Clinton and Bryan Nishimura transferred information to their own devices for their own convenience. So why isn’t the FBI recommending the AG go after Clinton the same way they went after Nishimura? Is the fix in? Do the Clintons’ wield so much power that the Republican FBI director is afraid to go after them?

This is where the conspiracy theorists and I will part company. I believe Comey when he says:

I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation, as there was throughout this investigation. What I can assure the American people is that this investigation was done competently, honestly, and independently. No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear.

I know there were many opinions expressed by people who were not part of the investigation—including people in government—but none of that mattered to us. Opinions are irrelevant, and they were all uninformed by insight into our investigation, because we did the investigation the right way. Only facts matter, and the FBI found them here in an entirely apolitical and professional way.

The evidence was gathered, a timeline created and carelessness and poor decisionmaking by Hillary Clinton was uncovered. Those are the facts as revealed by the FBI’s director. I believe his claim this was apolitical. His recommendation, however was not.

Comey is no fool. He wasn’t looking at bottom of the totem pole government employees like Mr Nishimura for comparative cases. He was looking at former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. Both maintained private email accounts and staffs also handled emails similarly to Mrs Clinton and her staff. If he recommended going after one then he would open a Pandora’s box of prosecution for the others, the beginning of an Armageddon for American politics and we would spend the next few years with special prosecutors, more name calling and more division.  And more nothing getting done in Washington.

Comey’s recommendation was pragmatic. In that light, his assessment that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring the case makes sense. Not conspiracy, just reality.

 

Sources:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/statement-by-fbi-director-james-b.-comey-on-the-investigation-of-secretary-hillary-clintons-use-of-a-personal-e-mail-system

https://www.fbi.gov/sacramento/press-releases/2015/folsom-naval-reservist-is-sentenced-after-pleading-guilty-to-unauthorized-removal-and-retention-of-classified-materials

For those who want to compare Hillary Clinton’s claims versus the FBI’s findings here is a link:

http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/ap-fact-check-hillary-clinton-email-claims-collapse-under-fbi-n604526

 

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Bullies and Bystanders

August 15, 2015

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“And then [Megyn Kelly] hit me with a very, very hard question. That was when I came up with the Rosie O’Donnell statement, which really got a tremendous applause. That was the biggest applause in the evening actually, so it was sort of interesting.”
– Donald Trump on Fox and Friends

As a school teacher I am a mandated reporter of bullying. While watching the Republican debate I felt the need to report the Donald, but the audience response was even more vile.  In bullying seminars and workshops they point out that whatever the bully’s problem is, it can’t be easily be rectified; so the focus is on appealing to the bystanders, the bully’s audience and source of power. They make the bully the center of attention and their presence amplifies the humiliation heaped on the victim. Change the attitude of the bully’s audience and you can stop the bully.

The Donald’s crowd increases with each insult he launches. It’s giddy fun; – after all,  calling everybody a “fat loser” is great stuff to your inner twelve year old. Is this frustration with predictable political correctness? But now those government-sent Mexican drug lord rapists have been called out and anyone who has ever been given a hard time by their wife/girlfriend/mother knows that it was because she was pre-menstrual/menstrual/post-menstrual. Thanks, Donald – It’s not our fault. The Donald even spoke his version of the truth to Fox power and has all the other nattering nabobs of negativism in the news declaring him unelectable making him ‘Merica’s underdog and we love the underdog.

We may love the Donald right into the White House, despite the protestations of the pundits. Despite our fear and distrust of the big buck bankers and cartels, we may be electing one of their co-captains. Many despise the limited experience of the current occupant of the White House yet we may elect someone with NO experience. The more we are told it’s a stunt, he can’t possibly make it past the primaries, he is a plant by the Democrats; the more he gains in the polls.

“I must have heard at least 15 times today that the thing people like about Trump is he says what we are all thinking but can’t bear to say,” said State Rep. Fred Doucette, the co-chairman of Trump’s New Hampshire campaign. “He’s a straight talker. He says what he thinks and thinks what he says and sticks to it and tells the truth.”

There are a lot of things that I think, but don’t say. I learned this by having my mouth washed out with soap by my folks a few times. The Donald’s dad must have been too busy building the inheritance to do the same.  What dad says “…if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her” even if she “has a nice figure”? Seriously? Is this the kind of straight talk we want running the country, our own inappropriate American version of Putin? Maybe the Donald will commission his own macho version of the Russian hit, “A Man Like Putin.” Of course his version would be the best.

This bully knows how to enlist the bystanders and how to turn statements that would cause most politicians to fall into the abyss into a rise in the polls. So here is a test: Who are his victims? A – Civility? B – Sensibility? C – Political discourse based on policy not pompous personality? D – All of the above? (The correct answer is “D – all of the above.”)

So how do we, a civil, sensible electorate who would like to base our vote on policy, appeal to the ever increasing crowd of onlookers ready to snicker at the next left handed compliment or wildly cheer for name-calling? I’m not sure this translates to the national stage, but here is some advice for dealing with school bullies from Stompoutbullying.org:

Whether you know the victim or not, there are things that you as a bystander can safely do to support the victim:
• Don’t laugh 
• Don’t encourage the bully in any way
• Stay at a safe distance and help the target get away
• Don’t become an “audience” for the bully
• Reach out in friendship
• Help the victim in any way you can
• Support the victim in private
• If you notice someone being isolated from others, invite them to join you
• Include the victim in some of your activities
• Tell an adult

As a teacher of History I have always wondered how some of the great villains of past rose to power and popular support. I think I may be living through the answer to that question. I’m going to tell an adult.

Jingle Bells, Something Smells…

January 6, 2014

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It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and The Grapes of Wrath were just on my libturd, Obamanation, communist TV this holiday season. It is part of the left-wing media’s war on Christmas, every Christmas. These movies are brainwashing workers into thinking they deserve a share of the American dream, when in truth, they need to earn it. Business succeeds by crushing the competition and minimizing costs – and wages are one of those pesky costs – so if you want more go out and earn more.

To hear it told by some Foxy commentators, Henry Potter is the real hero of It’s A Wonderful Life and Tom Joad should be thanking the farm-owners and the camp “guards” as job creators in The Grapes of Wrath. And isn’t Scrooge just a rational businessman in a secular world? Why should his workers get time off for their religious celebration when profits can be made? Propaganda they say and maybe they’re right.

Consider this:

It’s A Wonderful Life  – The Bailey Building and Loan was poorly run – a quaint family business with an incompetent relative charged with critical fiduciary responsibilities. Who can blame Potter when opportunity falls at his feet?

The Grapes of Wrath  – The murderer, Tom Joad, whines when his pay is reduced. What he didn’t realize is when 20,000 workers show for 800 fruit picking jobs wages were bound to head south. It’s the law of supply and demand and Joad wants to break that law, too. This criminal should be thankful he has any work. He should quit his bellyaching or get another job, duh!

A Christmas Carol – Poor Scrooge just wants to pay his workers what they earn – no more and no less. If his workers take time off, why should he pay them? His only true concern is his business, not his employees’ personal lives.

And now consider this:

All of the above makes sense – because business is all about maximizing profits and opportunities. That’s the story of business as told by Wall Street players and mega-banks and they are pitching their story hard.

In It’s A Wonderful Life the Bailey Building and Loan’s product to provide the people of Bedford Falls a valued alternative to slumlord Potter’s rents. Good for many, but cut into maximizing Potter’s profits.

In The Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad wants to earn enough to feed his family and for them to be treated fairly. The farm owners are all about the money, workers be damned.

We are also told that small business is the backbone of America; that they are the job creators. Every small business begins with an idea for a product or service and every successful small business has customers who find value in that product or service. Finding those customers and creating enough value is the real action of an entrepreneur, profit is the reward.

Henry Ford understood this. He also understood his workers could be his customers if he paid then enough – a short term loss versus long term gain. That is what the bankers and players don’t understand. That doesn’t feed their quarterly bonus programs.

These are the folks who came up with mortgage-backed securities and made money on both ends of a bad deal – Put your home on the line… no worries…oops, my bad… all the way to the bank.

Charles Dickens’ father was in a debtor prison because he owed the town baker £40. Luckily his mom died and left him enough dough to pay off his daily bread. These prisons and poor houses were the workfare of the day and were created so the poor would pay for themselves by working as a collective and, hopefully, generate enough revenue to reduce the tax burden on those well-off enough to have to pay taxes. When the forced labor didn’t produce enough money then fees were added – room and board fees, ankle-chain removal fees, skull crusher removal fees (seriously). All this was designed to teach the poor a lesson – don’t be poor.

In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Scrooge is asked to make a charitable contribution to help these poor, but he thinks he has done enough. This is how Dickens crafts the exchange:

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Much like Cain, he denies knowledge of his brother’s condition and wonders why he is asked to be his keeper.

Each of these stories pits the good of the many against the good for the few; the 99% versus the 1% and now we are being these stories have it wrong. If the 1% were left alone they would help the rest – honest… with sugar on top.

Does anyone remember the killing of Anna LoPizzo during the Bread and Roses Strike in Lawrence? Or the lynching of union organizer Frank Little? The seventeen workers shot in the back in the Anaconda Road Massacre? The actions of the Pinkertons during the Homestead Steel Strike? The Ludlow Massacre? The Memorial Day Massacre in Chicago? The Bay View Massacre? These were the actions of owners against workers who wanted improved working conditions.

This is not just in our past like the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 146 garment workers who couldn’t escape because exits were blocked or locked in the name of loss prevention. The Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India employed cheap, under-trained workers in a building where safety systems were shut off and maintenance was cut as cost saving measures. This plant exploded in 1984 killing 3787 and exposed a half a million more to toxins whose effects are still to be determined. In 2012, 117 garment workers were killed in a factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh and in 2013, in that same city, the owners of another garment factory building were told it exhibited cracks and was unsafe. The next day they demanded their workers return to work in the morning and the building collapsed crushing 1129 more workers.

This is business as lord and the workers as replaceable serfs. This is not theory. Businesses are run by humans and humans are greedy animals, be they boss or worker. But the boss has the power to act on his greed and the weaker worker can only react.

From the 1916 report for the U.S. Congress by the Commission on Industrial Relations:

Violence is seldom, if ever, spontaneous, but arises from a conviction that fundamental rights are denied and that peaceful methods of adjustment can not be used. The sole exception seems to lie in the situation where, intoxicated with power, the stronger party to the dispute relies upon force to suppress the weaker…

The origin of violence in connection with industrial disputes can usually be traced to the conditions prevailing in the particular industry in times of peace, or to arbitrary action on the part of Governmental officials which infringes on what are conceived to be fundamental rights. Violence and disorder during actual outbreaks usually result from oppressive conditions that have obtained in a particular shop or factory or in a particular industry. Throughout history where a people or a group have been arbitrarily denied rights which they conceived to be theirs, reaction has been inevitable. Violence is a natural form of protest against injustice.

The principal sources of an attitude leading to violence are … arrogance on the part of the stronger party. This may result immediately in violence through the use of force for the suppression of the weaker party… Such physical aggression is seldom used by employees, as they are strategically the weaker party and the results are negative; only under exceptional circumstances can an employer be coerced by the use of force or intimidation…

Many instances of the use of physical force by the agents of employers have … come before the Commission, indicating a relatively wide use, particularly in isolated communities… The instruments of industrial force belong chiefly to the employer, because of his control of the job of the worker. Their use is more common and more effective than any other form of violence at the command of the employer. The most powerful weapon is the power of discharge, which may be used indiscriminately upon mere suspicion, which under certain conditions may be almost as potent, either in use or threat, as the power of life and death. It is the avowed policy of many employers to discharge any man who gives any sign of dissatisfaction on the theory that he may become a trouble maker or agitator…

I am not condemning businesses here nor am I leaving workers blameless. The needs of both must be balanced, but will only happen if both sides have power. Now we have American CEOs making 273 times more than their average employee and their compensation is up 37.4%1 (for some context CEOs made about 20 times the average worker back in the 70s and that is still the norm for Germany). U.S. workers have averaged .9 to 3% increase over the same time period depending on region and job sector yet we are being sold the idea that unions are the problem. Union workers are a scant 11.3%. 2  Can they balance the power of the CEOs?

With the stock markets at an all-time high, bonuses are filling the clutching hands of the Wall Street brokers and the bankers are lining their personal vaults with millions. They tell us government oversight and union bullies have handcuffed American business – they are the real problem with our economy.  They tell us these classic movies that grew from the struggles of the Great Depression have it all wrong. They tell us we need to unleash American business on the world unencumbered and they will pull us all up from our weakened state! Who is telling us this? Let me take a guess…

Somebody once said to get to the bottom of a story follow the money. To paraphrase Shakespeare – Wall Street and the bankers doth protest too much.

Sing it with me people – Jingle bells, something smells, time to join a union…

1 http://www.epi.org/publication/ceo-pay-2012-extraordinarily-high/

2 http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm

Since it’s all about me…

August 14, 2012
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The Market on election day in 2008

Ronald Reagan famously said, “Ask yourself, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” and the pundits say in the privacy of the voting booth people vote their best interest. Am I better off? What’s in my best interest? Let me try to answer this to explain my upcoming vote.

In 2006, my employer decided to move all manufacturing to China and close all its retail locations leaving me – a 14 year employee – unemployed. Prospects for a job in my area of expertise were slim and none. Home entertainment electronics rode the refi bubble and now it had burst. I received a generous severance package that allowed me to return to college to train as a teacher. This is something I had wanted to do very early in life and I took my unemployment as a silver-lining kick in the pants.

Nervously, I took a look at my retirement savings – a 401k that I had split up between three funds – one very conservative bond fund, a blue chip fund (also considered conservative) and a growth fund – and all had lost half to two thirds their value. I won’t be able to do much with that if I don’t get a job right away so we might have to sell the house.

I graduated in May of 2008. Job prospects in teaching are not what they lead you to believe, especially at the end of the school year. Because of state cut backs my licensure did not come through that Spring so I applied for unemployment. Collecting took some pressure off – we didn’t have to sell the house – and I applied for every job I could get to. I started substituting to get my foot in the door, but that still meant no work during the summer and I took up subbing again in the fall. I finally got a job as a long term sub and at the end of the year I still had no job.

With one exception I have never left a job in less than 8 years and now I’m about to do it a number of times. That summer, with my application for unemployment being reconsidered (as a teacher I have summers “off” so I don’t get to collect – yeah, but I don’t have a job and have the paperwork to prove it – I got a check in November – barely enough to cover the credit card shuffle) a stimulus bill was passed and I got my job back. Full time this time, but the stimulus funds ran out so again pink slipped at the end of the year. My third pink slip.

In 2010 I got a job in my home town’s school system so the commute is easy. I’m starting my third year this Fall. We have had lots of cut backs (we will buy NO paper this year – think about that), but I am still employed. My 401k has recovered and then some.

So now I will answer the question – I’m I better off? Hell yeah! Is it all better? Hell no! We still have too many fingers in too many wars. We still have too many people looking for work. We still have much to fix here at home. Would I like it to be faster? Yes! Would I like stronger leadership with a clear vision? Yes. The Romney/Ryan ticket would put me back in the mess I’m just getting out from under now (though because I live in Massachusetts with Romneycare my family never lost health insurance… Thanks, Mitt!) I will take four more years of Obama because, even though he is not the superhero I hoped for, he has at least changed my position from a free fall of uncertainty to landing on a ledge big enough that I can see my way up and out.

So, YES, I am better off than I was four years ago. Having a job, a renewed 401k and a health plan – that’s all in my best interest – has me voting Obama in 2012.

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Discover America

March 22, 2010

Welcome to America, the land of Discovery. This week the Texas Bored of Education discovered Thomas Jefferson really wasn’t very important, Karl Rove discovered a way get fiction in the non-fiction section, and the Democrats discovered they had enough votes for healthcare. No deeming, no reconciliation, none of the “tricks” predicted. In this whirl of March madness I wish I had the over/under on healthcare passing. I’d be whistling a merry tune all the way to the bank (or credit union in my case).

Now, I’m waiting for the start of the “sky is going to fall from the weight of the socialist take-over we just experienced” cry. The dire predictions have been made, that the end is nigh has been proclaimed, and yet, lo and behold, the sun came up again this morning. Today we suddenly know what was in the bill voted on yesterday. There must be a lot of folks enrolled in the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics classes who were up all last night because I’ve been assured that no one had read it. It is not as all encompassing as I, personally, would have liked. But it is a start… (I hear the chorus of my Republican friends – “That’s right – Just a start – toward socialism”)

The most upsetting thing about this bill is that it took so long and the need for it was so badly explained. Where is the great orator I voted for? Even I can explain the need. America is supposed to be #1, right? We are the best at anything we put our collective minds to. Then, if our healthcare is so good, how come we lose in infant mortality, maternal mortality and longevity (for both men and women)? The nations we are bested by all have some form of universal coverage.

Yes, we are better at treating cancer and we are ranked #1 in responsiveness. We should be good at the cancer in part because we declared war on cancer back in 1971. Back then a bill was signed by that other socialist president, Richard Nixon (remember him? He was all cozy with the Chi-coms and declared peace before pulling out of Vietnam making America a loser?). He poured millions of taxpayer dollars into research to discover the causes and develop treatments for cancer. Money I’m glad we spent because it has made us better at treating cancers than the rest of the world. We are #1! That we are responsive to our patients is also good, but Switzerland is #2 and they beat the pants off us in most of the other categories. And they do it for less with a government mandated private insurance coverage.

The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. at #37. We are the ONLY industrialized nation without a national healthcare program. Our babies have less chance of living to a year, their mothers have a greater chance of dying bringing them into the world and, once here, Americans have less time on the planet than those from other countries. How is that great healthcare? If we were so good wouldn’t we have better outcomes like, say living longer? Germany has had some form of universal care since Otto von Bismarck was in charge and they only came close to bankruptcy after trying to pay reparations to the French after WWI. They live longer and also have far fewer abortions than the U.S. Where are the Right to Life folks and why aren’t they behind this?

But today is a new day and we finally discovered something else – that having access to healthcare is a great thing for everyone. Let’s show the rest of the world the right way to do it and make America #1 in serving all its citizens. And for those who like to cite our founding documents, remember that we threw off British rule because that government was not providing for the “common good.” Isn’t it about time our own government did?