Watching President Trump host a national day of prayer at the White House—immediately after Nancy Pelosi spewed impeachment talk at her press conference—reminds me of a favorite story about my late friend, Oral Roberts.
President Roberts was, of course, the biggest fan of the Oral Roberts University basketball team, for which my then Tulsa radio station, KTRT, created a network to distribute the broadcasts which we originated. But ORU was an independent at the time and had to hire referees from the Big Ten, Missouri Valley and other conferences. Sometimes, they didn’t get the best refs.
One of the features at an ORU home game was an invocation, usually given by a student in the divinity school. As students are wont to do, the invocations began getting longer and longer until they began to irritate President Roberts. The kids were spending time blessing everything in the building…the hardwood, the rims, the band etc.
One night, prior to a fairly big game, President Roberts caught me in the hallway of the Mabee Center and asked if we cut away during the invocation and the National Anthem. The answer was an emphatic no, we did not because I always found that carrying a message to God and to our nation is also good business and was unashamed then and now. (That is our policy even today.)
He smiled and said, “good, tonight will be interesting.”
At the appointed time, public address announcer Doc Blevins waited for the lights to go down and said something like, ladies and gentlemen, giving tonight’s invocation is the founder, President and Chancellor of Oral Roberts University…Oral Roberts!
The spotlight went on, President Roberts strode to the center of the court, put a microphone to his mouth and said, “Heavenly Father, please bless the referees’ eyesight. Amen” And walked off the court.
Then, he came over to our table, sat down next to me, smiled and asked, “How did I do?”
He later told me that he never prayed for a win. That God doesn’t determine wins and losses. He just gives you the talent to win. Winning is up to you.
But things which stood in the way of winning—poor officiating, as an example—were fair game.
To a great extent, that’s where President Trump finds himself today.
He is a very talented individual who won the Presidency against all odds. God gave him that talent. Think of the Democrat controlled House as a mediocre referee who has a decided vendetta against a very non-establishment, independent public official.
The House is trying to use every opportunity to make a call against the President.
As usual, when officiating gets in the way of the game, there are no immediate winners and almost everybody involved loses.
Frankly, the House Democrats are just like the refs who screwed the Vegas Golden Knights in the last game of round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And the results are most likely the same in the long term because it is the fans (the voters in this analogy) that get to make the ultimate decision. In sports, the decision shows up in attendance and TV ratings over the long term. Think Colin Kaepernick and the NFL.
Do you really think that the Democrats, running on investigating the President, will be successful?
So far, they are not only out of control on investigations but on the positions being staked out by the 20-some candidates who think they have what it takes to become President.
You can’t beat a horse without an equally talented horse—unless some state employee gets involved (think last week’s Kentucky Derby) and we’ve already been through that in the past two years.
I guess it all gets down to Oral Roberts’ position that you never pray for a win.
That’s what the Democrats are doing because the only reason any of them can give to get elected is that they are not Donald Trump. Americans are not that stupid.
“Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” - Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
“Mueller? Mueller? Mueller?” Just when I thought Robert Mueller had earned his day off. Anyway, a few weeks ago when his report was released, I almost thought we wouldn’t hear from Mueller again. But now Congress wants unredacted report and wants Mueller to testify because Mueller sent a letter claiming that Barr misrepresented his report. President Trump said, “It should be up to the AG if Mueller testifies,” but then AG Barr said to Congress, “I don’t care if Mueller testifies, ” but then Barr didn’t show up for his second day of testimony, and now Congress wants to hold AG Barr in contempt. But then, the President changed his mind saying Mueller shouldn’t testify. So, now, of course, Mueller will testify before Congress. But then … President Trump invoked Executive Privilege to prevent Congress from seeing the unredacted Mueller report, which will probably delay Mueller's testifying.
How naïve of me to assume this was over and done.
Anyway, I tried to read the entire Mueller report. But I’m only one guy, and it clocks in at 450 pages, and I have other work to get done. I got through about a third of it and mostly skimmed the rest, stopping to fully read a page or two that seemed important or to focus on some of the redacted bits to see if I could figure out what it was redacted (usually - no). Now, I know that “skimming” is not an exact science, but I suspect I’ve read much more of the full report than the vast majority of folks. And so, I tackle the following issues with a reasonable amount of knowledge.
A couple things I noticed. It’s very clear that Mueller found large amounts of evidence outlining Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. Like, a jaw dropping amount of evidence! The other thing I noticed is that there is also, a jaw dropping amount of evidence - linking Trump staffers, advisors and family members to meetings and information swaps with the Russians.
BUT, as clearly stated in the opening statement summarizing the report, Mueller says, “... the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” And the reason Mueller states this is because there was no long term agreement between the Russians and the Trump campaign. That’s it. There was no “long term” agreement. Not, “The Russians and the Trump campaign never met up.” Because the report says they did. Only that there was no, “long term agreement,” to fit the legal definition of collusion.
Did the Russians sabotage the election in favor of Trump? The report says “yes.” Did the Trump Campaign meet with the Russians to get said stolen information? The report says “yes.” It’s just that there was no “long term coordination,” for it to be legally considered collusion. The Russians, realizing that a Trump White House would be much more sympathetic to their cause, committed cyber terrorism against the US, then stole a bunch of documents from the DNC, then gave the stolen information to the Trump Campaign in hopes to help Trump win, and then went on to commit huge amounts of additional interference from outright misinformation campaigns on social media to fraud. The Mueller report literally says there is huge amounts of evidence supporting all those claims, it’s just that there was no long term agreement between the two parties for it to legally constitute collusion.
Wow. That, um - forgive me for saying this but … that does NOT sound like “total exoneration.”
The next thing I noticed is that - not much of the report is redacted. The redacted parts come sometimes in giant black chunks, and sometimes in lots of little snippets. All in all, I would say, of the 450 pages there are about 20 total redacted pages. And certainly not in a row, they are scattered all over. Of course, our two political parties see those 20 pages in a completely different light.
Republicans, “We see the majority of the report and we understand the spirit of what is being said, and so no one has to read the redacted twenty pages - because it won’t change anything. Also, the report clearly says “No collusion. Total exoneration,” so any additional investigation is a waste of time.”
Democrats, “We see the majority of the report and we understand the spirit of what is being said but too much information can be hidden behind twenty redacted pages that might shed more light into an investigation that clearly states Russia sabotaged the 16’ Presidential Election. Also, the report does not say, “total exoneration,” in fact it says the opposite of “no exoneration,” so we would like more information.”
Hrmmmm. Well, they can’t both be right! You know? One side is clearly in the wrong here. Alas, we all know the day and age we live in. Our side is always right. No common ground attempted. The other side is always wrong. Ad nauseam.
Republicans like to think they are one hundred percent altruistic, perfectly just and always correct, while simultaneously believing that Democrats are devil worshiping, lying, “libtards,” who are one hundred percent wrong, one hundred percent of the time.
Democrats like to think they are one hundred percent altruistic, perfectly just and always correct, while simultaneously believing that Republicans are faux-Christian, lying, “deplorables,” who are one hundred percent wrong, one hundred percent of the time.
Common sense and reason appears to have gone the way of the dodo.
Well, allow me to apply some common sense and reason to this new Mueller … happening. Let Congress read the unredacted report and allow Mueller to testify, because there is no reasonable explanation for blocking Congress from the full report. Members of Congress have security clearance on all matters of national security up to and including investigations that look into - if a hostile foreign power sabotaged a Presidential Election - which the report universally found Russia to have done! That sounds like National Security to me. Which Congress has clearance for. Therefor, common sense and reason suggest Congress should receive the full report.
And now Trump is invoking Executive Privilege to prevent Congress from receiving the full report. Which, if you are not exactly familiar with Executive Privilege, from Wikipedia:
“Executive privilege is the power of the President of the United States and other members of the executive branch of the United States Government to resist certain subpoenas and other interventions by the legislative and judicial branches of government in pursuit of information or personnel relating to the executive.”
Fair enough. That is the right of the President (and members of the executive branch) and it’s an important protection. In fact, many modern day Presidents have invoked Executive Privilege, some have done it much more than once, including - Nixon (a few times), Reagan, Bush, Clinton (several times), Bush Jr. (several times), Obama and now Trump.
Of course, it should also be noted that Congress can breach EP but must sue in federal court. It’s happened before, and in two notable cases, Nixon and Clinton, the President lost. Nixon invoked EP to avoid Watergate, Clinton invoked EP to avoid the Lewinsky scandal. Congress sued and won in court. The rest, as they say - is history.
So, this is really nothing new. The cover ups. The investigation. The lying. The testifying. The “I don’t recalls.” The invoking of Executive Privilege. The lawsuit. So people should really stop their fake outrage because we’ve seen this happen over and over.
These new shenanigans are nothing new but will add to the cost of the investigation and the amount of time we have to hear about it. Apparently, the overall cost of the Mueller investigation, so far, is a bit more than $16 million. Maybe that sounds like a lot to you, maybe it doesn’t. For context, the 9/11 Commission was funded with a $15 million budget. I’m sure you folks remember the 9/11 Commission. If not, it was an investigation into how and why the largest terrorist attack on the US occurred, and what can be done to prevent future attacks. Which, is the exact definition of “a matter of National Security.” (I just scanned over the 9/11 report and did not notice a single redacted item, which, I know, is NOT exactly the same thing we have going on today with Mueller report, but was still something I thought was interesting).
Now we have a new report, that is literally looking into a matter of National Security, investigating if a hostile foreign power sabotaged the 16’ Presidential Election. One would think, when applying common sense and reason to this dilemma - the Mueller Report is an important investigation into the National Security of the country.
And if you feel annoyed that the Mueller report cost more than the 9/11 Commission, allow me to remind you that the Clinton Impeachment cost taxpayers more than both investigations combined. To break it down:
Clinton Impeachment - “Did the President lie to Congress while under oath, about weather or not he cheated on his wife?” Cost to taxpayers: $70 million dollars (adjusted for inflation that’s $105 million today).
9/11 Commission: “An investigation into the largest terrorist attack on US soil and, as a matter of National Security, a report on how we can be better equipped to thwart future terrorist attacks.” Cost to taxpayers: $15 million dollars (adjusted for inflation that’s $22.5 million, today)
Mueller Report: “As a matter of National Security, an investigation into if a hostile foreign power sabotaged the 16’ Presidential Election?” Cost to taxpayers: $16 million dollars (but could go up).
If you honestly can’t see which of the above is not like the others, well - then you can’t. But common sense and reason should tell you that two of them are matters of National Security, and one of them is total BS that wasted a lot of taxpayer money.
Republicans used to be the security party, the military party. Even President Obama had a Republican Secretary of Defense. Speaking of Obama, we all know the truth of this next statement, if a two year Special Prosecutor investigation uncovered Russian interference in 2012’s Obama vs. Romney election that involved stolen information from the RNC in a way that handed Obama the win - Republican heads would have exploded from rage induced aneurysms!
I bet then, with that ridiculous Russian/Obama scenario, Republicans would have been very interested in security and in preserving election integrity.
Now … meh, not so much.
Editor's note: Mueller investigators are coming forward to say that the report is far more damaging to the President than the AG (Barr) has let on. Which, is probably true. And that's why Congress should be able to read it.
Former special investigator Robert Mueller turned in his several hundred page report on Friday morning. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it - the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere in the 16' Presidential election. No one outside of the Attorney General (and maybe his office) has seen the full report and so far, only a four page summary has been sent to Congress. The only thing we “know” is from the four page summary, which quotes Mueller’s report as saying, “The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US Presidential Election.”
Well, that’s kind of hard to misinterpret, you know? It sounds like the report is exonerating the President of all guilt. Right? And it might - for collusion. But the report also says, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Argh to prosecutor double speak!
As someone who once worked on a lot of legal depositions, I know prosecution speech when I hear it. It sounds as if Mueller is saying, “I don’t think that President Trump and team colluded with the Russians” but he’s also saying, “but Trump still might be guilty of obstruction of justice, I just didn’t find enough evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt in court to a jury.”
Prosecutors all over the world struggle with that exact issue. They might honestly believe a suspect is guilty of a crime and the suspect in fact - might actually be guilty. But a prosecutor’s belief in the suspect’s guilt - doesn’t prove anything. A prosecutor needs evidence, and then they have to spend taxpayer money in order to prosecute in a court of law.
What the report does NOT say is that President Trump and team are innocent of all crimes. What the report does NOT say is that the Russians did not interfer in the 2016 Presidential election.
Of course, conservatives are lining up to say the President is innocent of everything and the Mueller report proves it. And Democrats are lining up to say, “Well, maybe - but we need to read the full report because something is fishy here!” And, I do agree at the very least, Congress should receive the full report. I mean, you could convince me that the press and/or regular folks don’t NEED to see the full report (we might want to see it, though). I mean, there are plenty of state or federal secrets and/or sensitive materials that are probably buried within the Mueller Report and I would be okay if the DOJ was like, “No, the general public will not see the full report.”
But Congress? Um, what possible justification could you use to claim that Congress shouldn’t be able to see the full report? The entire legislative branch should be able to read the full report! Congress practically runs the country or at the very least, allows the country to function. They already have top secret clearance so there is no reason the report should be withheld from them. Also, they legislate laws and the report clearly has evidence of Russian interference in the 16’ election, which they might need to legislate laws to protect the U.S. elections from future interference. Withholding the full report from Congress is, frankly, a little suspicious. So give the full report to Congress.
Not that anyone asks me. =)
It sounded like it came out of a movie plot. In the early morning hours, federal agents stormed a home to make an arrest. They had to be after some major drug lord or a sought-after terrorist. There were 29 agents all wearing military gear and carrying weapons. High powered assault rifles were involved. Seventeen SUVs and two armored vehicles surrounded the home with lights flashing and sirens blaring. It must be a really dangerous dude.
In a nearby canal, amphibious watercraft charged the home filled with more federal agents. A helicopter hovered in the sky with long range weapons focused on the home. As agents approached the house with battering rams, they demanded that the accused immediately open the door and surrender. The attack on Osama Bid Laden had fewer Navy Seals involved then the number of agents who were sent to arrest this dangerous villain. Was this the seizure of an anti-government leader in Venezuela? Had El Chapo escaped from prison and his capture was about to take place? Had the feds found Bin Laden’s successor? CNN had been tipped off and broadcast the whole attack live. What was going on?
lt was none of these, but merely a longtime Trump friend Roger Stone. He was being arrested for making false statements to a congressional committee. And he was treated like a terrorist? Stone is an American citizen and has lived in south Florida for a number of years. He does not have a current passport. He has known about this investigation for months, and his lawyers said he would be glad to self-surrender if he were charged with a crime. If Stone had documents to hide or destroy, he would have had plenty of time in the months preceding his arrest. He has never been accused of any crimes and has no violent history.
After his arrest, the judge let Stone out on his personal signature without having to put up any property or money. It was obvious that Stone was no threat and should have been allowed to appear on his own. So what gives? Have we been turned into a jackboot democracy?
Here was Stone’s response. “They could simply have called my lawyers and I would have turned my myself in. I’m 66 years old. I don’t own a firearm. I have no previous criminal record. My passport has expired. The special counsel’s office is well aware of the fact that I’m represented. I was frog-marched out the front door barefooted and shackled. It’s an attempt to poison the jury pool. These are Gestapo tactics.”
Some in the press speculated that the special prosecutor and the FBI were sending a message. They sure were. It’s a message of terror, and fear that no citizen can trust their government. It’s a message that your government is not above using police state tactics, and that the justice system responds, not based on evidence, but based on threats. When thugs come into intimidate, it sends a message that you may not be living in a democracy anymore but a banana republic. It sends a message that no, you are no longer considered innocent until proven guilty in a system that operates in such a dictatorial fashion.
The story gets worse. Stone’s indictment accuses him of making false statements to the House Intelligence Committee, but the testimony is classified so Stone is prohibited from seeing what he supposedly lied about. How is he supposed to defend himself if he cannot even read what he supposedly said? What has happened to the supposed constitutional guarantee of being able to confront your accuser and challenging their evidence?
It matters not whether you are a liberal or a staunch conservative, this is not how justice is supposed to operate in America. Many Americans will feel that if it is not happening to them then why should they care. But unfortunately, what happened to Roger Stone could happen to anyone. Are we not a better country than this?
Peace and Justice
There will be a temporary deal to open parts of the government for a few weeks, mainly for critical issues. Of course, there will be no wall. Which is fine. Walls are medieval and not terribly effective, but whatever. There will be; however, additional money to increase the current level of fencing and assist with said fence repair costs (about $1 billion). There will also be some back pay available to specific workers (but as far as I can tell - as of yet, it’s unnamed as to which workers will receive back pay and which will not). And, I guess, finally there will be a State of the Union.
And it’s this last point that makes me go, “Hrmmmmm.” (Just like in the old Arsenio days). A few days ago when the President announced he won’t have a State of the Union until after the shutdown ends. BUT it is also clear that Nancy Pelosi kind of .. uninvited him from delivering the State of the Union in the House chambers.
And then, Trump agreed to delay with this Tweet:
“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative — I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a “great” State of the Union Address in the near future!”
Okay. This immediately made me wonder, “Wait. Is it actually her prerogative?” I mean, obviously, she does not, nor did she ever say she was denying the President to have a State of the Union - she is denying him use of House Chambers. Um, okay. But aside from that - so what? Can Nancy Pelosi deny him use of House chambers? Can the Speaker, actually do that? I’m honestly not sure. I read over lots of online sources today from CNN, to the NYT and Fox News and all of them keep mentioning “according to House Rules,” but none of them linked to any House Rules.
And then I found the House Rules. And now I know why no one linked to them, because it’s a nightmare 50+ pages of tightly fonted legalese. Ugh. It’s bloody painful to read. And confusing. Anyway. Let me dive into it.
First, let’s check the Constitution and see what it says about a “State of the Union:”
“The President shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.”
The key phrase seems to be my emphasized, “convene both Houses, or either of them.” Convene, as you may or may not know means, “come or bring together for a meeting or activity; assemble. Summon. Order.” In other words, the President may “summon/order” either or both houses to a State of the Union.
Now, the reason that the State of the Union is in the House chamber is because, well - it’s large. And fitting. And so now we ask the question - can a Speaker of the House prevent a President from delivering a State of the Union in House chambers?
As far as I’ve been able to determine the answer is very clearly - no. But the Speaker DOES have a lot of power over what can and can not happen on the floor of House chambers. You see, not just anyone can walk onto the House floor and have a speaking role. That privilege is restricted to the usual suspects one would assume - current members of Congress, House staffers, invited VIPs, dignitaries, ambassadors, delegates, etc. and, of course, the President / Vice President. Former members of Congress and former Presidents may also enter the House chamber and deliver speeches, if invited.
So, the Speaker can’t prevent an acting President from entering House chambers BUT according to House Rules, and as much as I understand the 50 pages of legalese I just waded through, a Speaker is, in fact, in charge of several key House chamber factors including (but not limited to):
“Use and Admittance. 1. The Hall of the House shall be used only for the legislative business of the House and for caucus and conference meetings of its Members, except when the House agrees to take part in any ceremonies to be observed therein.”
Okay, fair enough. So, it’s possible the Speaker can just decide to not agree to take part in the State of the Union, and if the Speaker decides this, congress will not attend. And if congress does not attend, then the chamber is technically not “in session,” and can not be used.
Does this supersede the Constitution’s statement that the President may “convene both houses?” Maybe. Maybe not. I guess it’s all debatable, but even if the President could order congress into session for the State of the Union, I did find a couple of picky (perhaps juvenile) things a Speaker could do to make the State of the Union, (if held in House chambers) a disaster. For example, according to House Rules:
“BROADCASTING THE HOUSE. 1. The Speaker shall administer, direct, and control a system for closed circuit viewing of floor proceedings of the House in the offices of all Members, Delegates, the Resident Commissioner, and committees and in such other places in the Capitol and the House Office Buildings as the Speaker considers appropriate. Such system may include other communications functions as the Speaker considers appropriate. Any such communications shall be subject to rules and regulations issued by the Speaker.
This all means the Speaker of the House could order all close circuit cameras turned off so the speech wouldn’t be broadcast to anyone in the building. AND the Speaker could order that no cameras or press would be allowed onto the floor (although, I believe that currently only C-SPAN is allowed on the House floor). So, sure, the President could still deliver the State of the Union, but the Speaker could make sure that no one ever heard it or recorded it. In fact, it sounds as if the Speaker could, literally, order the lights shut off. So the President would have to deliver the speech in the dark, to no one. And this all may be juvenile tactics but “juvenile tactics” seem to be the ways and means of politics in the last several years.
Anyway, I’ll leave it up to you to further dig through the House Rules for more information because that is some sucky reading, let me tell you (and I’m done with it).
Finally, and again, I am not suggesting that House Rules should always supersede the Constitution. I am only suggesting there does appear to be clear reasons why a Speaker of the House can make a State of the Union, at best - difficult, assuming the President decides to address the nation in House chambers.
A Speaker of the House, obviously, can not stop the President from delivering the address elsewhere, or to Congress or directly to CNN or Fox News or, in the probably case of our current President - on Twitter.
Imagine that. A SOTU address. On Twitter.
With Democrats winning a majority of seats in the United States’ House of Representatives and Republicans retaining a majority in the Senate, a Republican-controlled Congress with an approval rating of just 21 percent entering the 2018 Midterm Elections will be split when new members of Congress are sworn in on January 3. Here are some of the bipartisan issues a split Congress could address, in order of likelihood.
It would be negligent not to acknowledge that Democrats now have the votes to impeach President Donald Trump. House Democrats already introduced five articles of impeachment in November 2017 and could again. Now that Trump has forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Matthew Whitaker, the man who on CNN floated the very idea of replacing Sessions with a temporary Attorney General who could cut funding to Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential involvement with Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election.
Sessions wasn’t well-liked by Democrats, but he did recuse himself from the Mueller investigation to the chagrin of Trump. A day after the 2018 Midterm Election, as to not adversely affect election results, Trump convinced Sessions to resign, but instead of promoting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to whom Mueller currently reports, Trump installed Whitaker, a Trump loyalist.
If Whitaker acts on the idea he floated on CNN, expect House Democrats to respond by filing articles of impeachment, eventually voting on those articles, and forcing Senate Republicans to decide between protecting their own political careers or that of their party’s President. Removing him would take two-thirds of all Senators.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich writes that Democrats would need to retain Doug Jones’s seat in Alabama, defeat both Susan Collins in Maine and Cory Gardner in Colorado, and pick up a seat in a red state. The best bets would be in Arizona, where Jon Kyl is not seeking reelection, and in Iowa, where Democrats flipped two House districts and came within 40,025 votes of installing a Democratic Governor. Of course, if Democrats win the Presidential Election, they’d need to win one fewer Senate seat for a majority, as the Vice President would break a tie.
The issue upon which both Congressional Democrats and Republicans can most likely agree is the nation’s need of vast infrastructure updates. U.S. infrastructure was given a D+ grade by the American Society of Structural Engineers in its latest Infrastructure Report Card, and despite efforts to address this, America hasn’t come close to making up for the estimated $2 trillion in needs over 10 years.
New House Committee Leader for Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio, appears to be willing to work with the President to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, and subways, and perhaps expand access to high-speed internet. A blueprint for doing so has already been provided by Senate Democrats, requiring an estimated investment of $1.6 trillion.
DeFazio has suggested raising the gas tax in line with inflation to pay for some of the updates. With gas prices at their lowest in six months despite sanctions limiting Iran’s oil exports, addressing America’s crumbling infrastructure could be a means to comfortably introduce new members of Congress to Washington politics, bridge the widening gap between the parties, and deliver a win for both parties, their constituents, and the President, who promised “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history.” If Democrats and Republicans are actually going to do what they said they will after the elections and work together, infrastructure investment is probably the best place to start.
One issue for which House Democrats could get enough support from Senate Republicans is a middle class tax cut that was mostly absent from the corporate tax cut Congressional Republicans passed. At the very least, House Democrats could use their newly won majority in the underchamber of Congress to force Republicans to vote on a middle class tax cut and show where Republicans really stand and whom they really represent when it comes to taxes.
Regardless, there are probably five votes Democrats could get from Senate Republicans on a middle class tax cut if it doesn’t also include an increase in taxes for the richest Americans and corporations. Any legislation passed by House Democrats will almost certainly include a tax hike on the richest Americans and corporations, however, so the Senate will have to draft legislation agreeable to Senate Republicans and appeasing House Democrats.
Ending federal prohibition of marijuana does not require Congress, but it does require a U.S. Attorney General willing to initiate the process of executive reclassification. With Trump convincing Sessions to resign, the best opportunity for him to boost his approval ratings going into the 2020 Presidential Election might be by appointing an Attorney General willing to initiate this process so Trump can take all the credit for being the President who legalized weed...or at least tried.
Trump doesn’t seem to be considering his Attorney General appointment as an opportunity to improve his approval ratings via cannabis reform. Neither Chris Christie and Pam Bondi have expressed interest in ending marijuana prohibition, but Alexander Acosta as Labor Secretary urged employers to take a “step back” on drug testing so cannabis users could fill the many open employment opportunities.
Still, executive reclassification requires the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which consults the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This is where Trump’s self-proclaimed business acumen might have to reveal itself, because the DEA affirmed its hard stance against reclassifying cannabis in 2016, it seized $20.5 million dollars in assets through its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program in 2017. But it did loosen restrictions on cannabis with regards to research.
There was yet another mass shooting resulting in the deaths of 12 people in Thousand Oaks, California, this time by a war veteran whose very actions seemed motivated by Congress’s lack of action in response to gun violence in America. In a Facebook post prior to the attack, the mass shooter wrote “"I hope people call me insane... (laughing emojis).. wouldn't that just be a big ball of irony? Yeah.. I'm insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is 'hopes and prayers'.. or 'keep you in my thoughts'... every time... and wonder why these keep happening.”
Democrats elected gun control candidates throughout the nation, and with a majority in the House, can finally pass gun control legislation that would force a vote on gun control legislation by Republicans in the Senate, 20 of whom are up for reelection in 2020, and perhaps more pending results of runoffs and recounts.
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There is new hope that states with adult-use and medical marijuana laws on the books and states considering legalization or decriminalization will finally be able to stop worrying about the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) commandeering their police officers and sheriff’s deputies to enforce federal marijuana prohibition. A bipartisan group of United States’ Senators and Representatives introduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Entrusting States (STATES) Act on Thursday. It’s intent is to allow states to determine what marijuana laws are right for them.
Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced the bill in the Senate. Republican David Joyce of Ohio and Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon are co-sponsors of the bill they introduced in the House of Representatives. Upon introduction of the bill, its creators emphasized that their legislation would not make marijuana legal throughout the country – as if the name of the bill and its acronym weren’t revealing enough.
The bill’s bipartisan group of writers wants everyone to know the STATES Act is a states’ rights bill and not a legalize marijuana bill for obvious reasons – the biggest being that legislation ending federal marijuana prohibition would never pass Congress let alone get the support of Donald Trump, who said he’ll “probably” back the bill. But any legislation even misrepresented as a marijuana legalization bill would do lasting damage to the cannabis movement that has seen economies, government budgets, infrastructure and education improve while crime, opioid overdoses, suicides and healthcare costs decrease in states with adult-use or medical marijuana laws.
With the STATES Act, it will be nigh impossible for Conservatives to justify their opposition of the bill by calling it an endorsement of drug use. Politicians representing states that border states with adult-use or medical marijuana laws could claim the bill would only stretch their law enforcement and judicial budgets even thinner, but they couldn’t misrepresent the legislation to their constituents as an attempt to legalize marijuana. They could even request additional federal funding to address the increased law enforcement and judicial workload they anticipate, but they couldn’t vote “no” with the excuse of “I’m not about to legalize marijuana.” I mean, they could say that in their defense, but not without subjecting themselves to ridicule.
Another reason the bipartisan crafters of the STATES Act are making cannabis a states’ rights issue is because it appeals to a majority of the public. A Gallup poll conducted in June 2016 found that 55 percent of Americans prefer government power to be concentrated at the state level instead of the federal level, and Republicans are are four times as likely to support state power.
Giving more power to the states appeals to Republicans, Libertarians and even some Democrats. Hell, I’m a Socialist, and I support small government because I know Socialism, like all forms of governing, works most effectively and efficiently in people’s behalf when the number of people it governs is small and when that population is concentrated in a governable geographic area. Why? The answer was provided by the late Alan Thicke back in 1978: “Now, the world don't move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be right for some.”
Those are, of course, the opening lyrics to the “Diff’rent Strokes” theme song, and a more true statement could not be uttered let alone sung. The United States is a vast country that spans the spectrum of both geography and demography, which makes it difficult to govern. Americans experience such differing circumstances that what might be right for you, may not be right for some. Hell, in my home state of Montana you can drive eight hours and never leave the state, but the geography and the people change immensely. What works in the West probably won’t work in the East and vice versa. Marijuana legalization might be right for Californians, but it may not be right for Nebraskans. The STATES Act would allow states to choose what cannabis laws work best for their residents.
This isn’t the first time a bipartisan bill has been introduced to strengthen states’ rights to adopt and enforce marijuana laws as they see fit. I was on Capitol Hill as a student lobbyist for Students for Sensible Drug Policy five years ago when H.R. 1523, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, was before the 113th Congress. It too sought to allow states to decide the legality of adult-use and medical marijuana by altering the Controlled Substances Act to exclude persons acting in compliance with state marijuana laws.
We felt way back then that this would be our path to ending federal marijuana prohibition, and while we weren’t going to get federal legalization, it was a compromise we were willing to make to appeal to Conservatives and get the legislation passed. I left the reception held after our lobby day filled with hope after hearing Democratic Congressman from Colorado Jared Polis and famed Conservative Grover Norquist agreeing that cannabis was an issue for states to decide by and for their respective residents.
According to Congress.gov, that bill is still before Congress, lost and forgotten by the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations since April 30, 2013. It has 28 cosponsors in the House, six of which are Republicans. The House version of the STATES Act already has 14 cosponsors in the House plus the two Representatives who assisted in drafting the bill. Eight are Republicans, so the new bipartisan bill is already appealing to more Conservatives than H.R. 1523.
This bipartisan group has high hopes for the STATES Act given what’s occurred since H.R. 1523 was introduced. The STATES Act does what H.R. 1523 would have. It amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude persons acting in compliance with state and tribal marijuana laws. But it doesn’t eliminate all federal oversight. Distribution of cannabis at transportation facilities and rest stops would remain federally illegal and enforced. The STATES Act does a lot more than allow states to determine their own marijuana laws, though. It also addresses some of the issues that have resulted from states legalizing adult-use or medical marijuana, which should appeal to both sides of the aisle.
Back in 2011, I wrote that cannabis would be America’s best cash crop ever – even bigger than tobacco. Marijuana consumption has already far surpassed my expectations upon its legalization for adult- and medical-use, but industrial hemp is what’s going to make cannabis America’s best cash crop ever. It grows like a weed if you’ll forgive the pun, and can be used for virtually anything. It’s a stronger fiber than cotton and can be used to make textiles that last longer so our clothes don’t fall apart in the wash. It will make stronger rope, hopefully saving mountain and rock climbers’ lives, and cowboys, cowgirls and sailors headaches. Hemp seeds are also rich in fatty acids, protein, fiber and other important nutrients. Hemp can even be used as fuel, which ExxonMobil will no doubt exploit given its investment into biofuels. All that algae research ended up being nothing more than a good PR campaign because hemp is a much less intensive biofuel to produce than algae. You can even build a house out of something called hempcrete, and cannabis can also relieve your pain without getting you high. That’s right, cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has been proven to have pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without the psychoactive effects of THC. So cannabis can clothe you, feed you, shelter you, transport you and your things, relieve your pain, and even save your life while creating jobs and improving our environment by oxygenating the air. Along with solar and wind energy industries, industrial hemp will be one of the biggest contributors to the health of America’s economy and environment for years to come.
The STATES Act would make cannabis transactions legal, allowing cannabis providers to take methods of payment besides cash and store that money in a bank. Cannabis providers have had a justifiable fear of depositing their profits in federal banks subject to federal law. The federal government could seize those assets like they seize vehicles used to traffic drugs. No criminal charges need to be brought against the cannabis providers for them to lose their money either, as asset forfeiture is a civil action, not criminal.
Since its legalization in Colorado, many cannabis providers have hired motorcycle couriers to pickup and deliver literal saddlebags of money to be deposited in a safe somewhere. One California dispensary owner reportedly delivers $40,000 in cash in the trunk of his car every month simply to pay his taxes. The STATES Act would make those trips a thing of the past and likely result in fewer instances of theft.
So is 2018 finally the year federal marijuana prohibition ends? Some people think so, but ultra-Conservatives could get in the way, just as they did on a cannabis bill for veterans just last week. The STATES Act probably won’t have many supporters from the religious right, which will be its biggest obstacle to overcome. But now more than ever before, Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle are going to be more willing to consider the end of federal marijuana prohibition given what we’ve all learned from the experimentation spearheaded by states. Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia could all adopt medical marijuana laws this year, and if that doesn’t surprise you consider where we were five years ago, when Maryland relaxing criminal penalties for seriously ill people using marijuana was considered a win for cannabis advocates.
Your Senators and Representatives are not experts on cannabis and need you to inform them on the issue, so here’s a guide on how to do so most effectively. You’ll want to appeal to the humanity in them. Politicians are not cold robots. When they hear a story about someone using cannabis to treat their chronic back pain that otherwise would keep them bedridden, they can probably relate to that. They especially want to know if cannabis helped you kick your opioid addiction. They have friends and family struggling with the same problems with which the rest of us struggle, so speak or write from the heart. The facts will only bore them to the point they tune you out.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Herb Talk, Cannabis A to Z
Just because Republicans relied on Russian interference to win the 2016 Presidential election doesn’t mean they’ve exhausted their means of winning elections. As of March 4, the federal government hadn’t spent a dime of the $120 million allotted to fight foreign election interference, according to The Hill. And according to The Nation, the Republican-majority Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act to provide 868 fewer places to vote, most in areas with strong minority populations. The United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has even stifled voter registration efforts of minorities. But Republicans put all their eggs in winning the Presidency basket because it would allow them to use the 2020 census to their advantage.
Brookings Institution demographer William Frey projects that whites will become the minority in the under-18 age group in 2020 and that the white share of the population will fall under 60 percent for the first time. So if Republicans can’t convince minorities to support them, they have to do what they can to preserve the illusion that their base is not dwindling.
The census is more than just a means of determining America’s population and demographics. It determines the number of Congressional representatives and electoral votes states receive, how $675 billion in federal funding is allocated to states and cities annually for schools, public housing, roads and health care, and how states will redraw local and federal voting districts.
For instance, if the 2020 census is conducted fairly, Election Data Services expects Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Alabama to lose one Congressional seat each. Those nine Congressional seats would most likely be redistributed to Texas, receiving three, Florida, receiving two, and Oregon, Colorado, Arizona and North Carolina all receiving one.
But minority populations tend to be undercounted and white populations overcounted during the census. According to Mother Jones, the 2010 census overcounted white residents by nearly one percent and failed to count 1.5 million people of color. This leads to minority populations being under-represented in Congress and under-served by federal funding. And the Trump Administration plans to rig the census like never before.
The census is not a count of Americans, but a count of people residing in America. It is a count of American-born citizens and illegal immigrants alike. And while federal law prohibits the census bureau from sharing data with anyone, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, most illegal immigrants don’t know that and are naturally afraid of completing the census. They are probably more aware that the Secret Service used census data to round up Japanese Americans and send them to internment camps during World War II, or that failure to answer a census question could result in a fine of up to $100. Immigrants should know that skipping the question won’t likely result in a fine, and your census response will be counted whether you answer the citizenship question or not. Instead, some immigrants actually up and move upon being interviewed, and Census Bureau data shows that undocumented immigrants are “hard to count.”
The state of California has the most to lose if a citizenship question is added to the census, which Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross has already announced will be the case for the first time since 1950, citing the aforementioned Voting Rights Act as a reason for the addition. California and 13 other states are suing the federal government over the citizenship question in fear of losing federal funds and representation because of their large, foreign-born populations. According to Mother Jones, “California’s finance office estimates the state will lose $1,900 annually for each uncounted resident in 2020.”
Worst yet for California is that 20 percent of its residents live in hard-to-count areas, “where more than a quarter of all households failed to mail back their 2010 census forms, including a third of Latinos and African Americans.” California has 10 of the 50 counties in the country with the lowest census response rates -- home to 8.4 million people -- a population larger than that of 38 states, so you can see why the state is suing over the census citizenship question.
Just like the Environmental Protection Agency, Republicans have cut funding for the Census Bureau to basically make it dysfunctional. Back in 2012, despite objections by the Obama Administration, Congress told the Census Bureau to spend less money on the 2020 census than it had in 2010. This is after the Census Bureau failed to count 1.5 million minority residents of the United States.
With Donald Trump taking office, Congress cut the bureau’s budget another 10 percent and gave it no additional funding for 2018 -- a time the bureau generally receives a major budget boost to prepare for the census. Now the Census Bureau has half as many regional centers and field offices as it did in 2010, and the 2020 census will be conducted with 300,000 enumerators -- 200,000 fewer than in 2010.
At the same time 10 years ago, there were 120 Census Bureau employees; there are currently 40. And the $340 million promotional ad campaign for the 2010 census will likely go towards working out the kinks of the new technology replacing the boots on the ground.
The result of less funding is an investment in technology instead of people. For the first time, the U.S. census survey will be made available online in 2020. Instead of carrying clipboards, census enumerators will carry tablets, and regardless of the vulnerability of the 2020 census data to foreign interference and hacking, people will be missed, even with the increased availability an online survey provides. That is, if the software works. If the online census rollout is anything like the Healthcare.gov rollout, the 2020 census could be a complete disaster.
Planning and testing for the 2020 census has also taken a big hit by budget limitations. Field tests in Puerto Rico and on Native American reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington were cancelled last year, and two of three rehearsals planned for this April were also cancelled.
While traditional paper surveys will be mailed to 20 percent of American households that have poor internet access, “36 percent of African Americans and 30 percent of Hispanics have neither a computer nor broadband internet at home, and a Pew Research Center survey published last year found that more than a third of Americans making less than $30,000 a year lack smartphones,” according to Mother Jones. So people will be missed by the Census Bureau, and the people most likely to be missed are minorities.
You can help make sure the 2020 census is accurate by, first, filling out the census form. Whether you’re a legal resident of the United States, a foreign visitor with a temporary work visa, or an illegal immigrant, you should complete the 2020 census survey.
You can also make sure your neighbors complete the census by making them aware of the importance of the census, and that your community’s Congressional representation and federal funding depends on it. You can assure your foreign-born neighbors that census data won’t be shared with ICE or any other agency, and that skipping the citizenship question won’t disqualify your census response. You can also organize a series of census survey days at your local library so those without internet access or a home address can complete the 2020 census.
You don’t have to be a hired enumerator for the Census Bureau to make sure the 2020 census is accurate, but if you’re interested in serving as a census enumerator, follow this link. If you speak a second language, that would make you an ideal candidate in states with high immigrant populations.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show
With agents of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement raiding 7-Elevens across the country intent on deporting illegal immigrants and punishing the companies that employ them, immigration reform is taking center stage this week in Washington, D.C.
Democrats have long hoped to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants temporarily allowed in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which allows children brought to America by family members illegally to remain in the country temporarily and acquire work visas. As of this writing, a federal injunction has blocked the Trump Administration from rescinding the work permits of these undocumented immigrants. But that's not a permanent solution.
A bipartisan group of Senators has come to an agreement on an immigration deal, but Donald Trump has not offered his support of the bill. The bill reportedly includes a path for DACA recipients to become citizens and changes to the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies while also providing a border security funding package.
Whatever the bipartisan deal looks like now, it’s going change drastically as negotiations take place to please the President become passable in the Senate and the House of Representatives. So what can we expect from the immigration negotiations?
Trump was asked if he would support a DACA bill that did not include money for the border wall he has proposed in a news conference, Wednesday at the White House. “No, no, no,” was his answer.
Trump won’t approve immigration legislation if it doesn’t approve funding for a border wall. It was his biggest campaign promise -- and that Mexico would pay for it. Mexico isn’t paying for it, and Senate Democrats won’t likely allow tax dollars to be spent on a border wall. But there’s still Ted Cruz’s bill to make El Chapo (Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán Loera) and profits secured from other drug lords to pay for the wall.
The Department of Homeland Security estimated in February 2017 that Trump’s border wall would cost roughly $21.6 billion. U.S. authorities are seeking the forfeiture of roughly $14 billion in profits from illicit drug trafficking by El Chapo.
U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions gave Republicans leverage in negotiations by ending protections for states with legal marijuana, so Republicans could very well demand funding for a border wall in exchange for protections of medical and recreational marijuana providers and users.
That doesn’t mean Trump will be able to fund his border wall exclusively with taxpayer dollars, though. Congressional Democrats are already frustrated by a tax plan that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says will add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade. Even if Trump’s tax plan will raise America’s gross-domestic product by .5 percent annually, it still increases the federal deficit by $1.252 trillion. And now Congressional Republicans have their sights set on cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.
Congressional Democrats will have to find some solace in fulfilling the dreams of Dreamers currently residing in America under DACA, because immigrants residing in the country under the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies will be deported en masse.
The ICE raids of 7-Elevens throughout the country are just the beginning. Refugees residing in America with Temporary Protected Status will likely have their statuses terminated and be forced to return to their home countries, which aren’t likely ready to receive them. Most of these refugees escaped natural disasters or war. It was announced Monday that nearly 200,000 TPS migrants from El Salvador must leave the country, and there are another 125,000 TPS migrants residing in American who could be next.
To give you a sense of who these TPS migrants are, 81 to 88 percent of them are employed, which is a considerably higher rate than the 63 percent of American-born citizens who are employed. They do work many Americans wouldn’t do if the jobs were available to them -- 51,700 work construction, 32,400 in food service, 15,800 are landscapers, 10,000 more take care of your kids in daycares and 9,200 work in grocery stores. Almost a third of all TPS migrants are paying mortgages, too.
Trump will chalk these deportations up as jobs created for Americans, but it won’t necessarily result in a strengthened U.S. economy. The Center for American Progress estimates "a policy of mass deportation would immediately reduce the nation's GDP by 1.4 percent, and ultimately by 2.6 percent, and reduce cumulative GDP over 10 years by $4.7 trillion."
Agriculture and construction industries are expected to be the industries hardest hit by mass deportations, so housing shortages will worsen as will agriculture exports due to a lack of a sufficient labor force. Americans aren’t suddenly going to flock to farms and ranches in search of jobs vacated by immigrants.
It’s also estimated that illegal immigrants and their employers pay between $7 and $12 billion into Social Security, which would further devastate the program if Congressional Republicans indeed cut funding for it.
So what we can expect from the immigration reform negotiations is: 1) some sort of border wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border, 2) possible marijuana protections for states with legal and medical marijuana legislation in effect, 3) more deportations, and 4) a worse U.S. economy.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Free Talk Live