Thursday, June 8, 2017

Comey Testifies

I watched the hearing on CSPAN-3 because I didn’t want to hear the opinion from any of the typical talking head commentators.  The hoi polloi that call into CSPAN don’t count. :-)

Director Comey did a very credible job today.  He came across as an honest man doing his best to be transparent, with one exception. 

The only Senator that came after him, somewhat surprisingly, was John McCain.  The senator that Trumpies love to hate did the best job of making Comey look duplicitous.  His line of questioning was about the Clinton email investigation that Comey announced had come to an end last July.  His point, that Comey either didn’t understand or was pretending not to understand, was why was the Trump campaign was still under investigation regarding connections to Russia while the door was closed to any criminal charges against the Clinton campaign.

The answer is pretty obvious.  The Clinton campaign was the victim of Russian espionage so it would be logical to assume that they were not involved in a conspiracy with the Russians to hack themselves.  This line of questioning I find below the standards of John McCain.  But, he’s a political animal who is trying to raise his political capital with Trump supporters.  This was a good way to do it and not involve himself in the core issue of whether Trump engaged in obstruction of justice. 

The most revelatory thing to come out of this was when Comey admitted to having leaked unclassified notes of his Oval Office conversation with Trump to a friend, Dan Richman at Columbia University who subsequently released it to the New York Times.  It’s important to note that Mr. Comey was a private citizen at this point in time having been fired on May 9.

Speaker Ryan in a news conference today did his best to excuse the President choice of words as frustration with Mr. Comey and his ignorance of Washington and its protocols.  True,  but it's been 150 odd days. The president needs to start listening to people and stop self-destructive behavior.  Not tweeting today was a good start.

President Trump has an opportunity to actually do some good for this country.  It’s true that our allies have been taking advantage of us when it comes to defense.  It’s impressive that China has done more to rein in North Korea since Trump has become president, not nearly enough, but it’s a start. 

The trip to the meet with Islamic, Jewish and Christian leaders in an attempt to stop ISIS and Iranian terror campaigns is laudatory.  He, perhaps inadvertently, indirectly pointed to the true root cause of all the terrorism in the world; religion.  But perhaps more about this in a future essay.

President Trump was elected in part because of his business acumen.  Real Estate is a rough and tumble business.  Even more so in New York.  Being a bully and a bit nefarious in business was how he got things done.  I forget in how many hundreds of lawsuits as either defendant or plaintiff he's been involved.  That approach doesn't work in modern U.S. politics.  When all you know is how to negotiate it's like a guy who only has a hammer.  Everything looks like a nail.

Mack Kasowitz, the president’s lawyer just released a statement focusing on the leak that Mr. Comey admitted to doing after he was terminated.  Mr. Kasowitz says that Comey authorized the leak of classified information.  I listed to everyone word of this hearing.  And I’ll listen to it again.  But I don’t think that’s true.  The only leak to which Comey admitted was the notes from his Oval Office meeting.  Mr. Kasowitz is not correct in his assertion that classified information was leaked by Mr. Comey.  However, If what Comey did admit to was illegal, he just made it easy for Special Counsel Mueller’s to indict him.  We’ll see.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

We need to stop Donald Trump

Seeing the title, many of you will not even read this sentence.  You are convinced that Donald Trump is the answer to our political woes.  He’s not.  He’s a manifestation of the problem.  People have historically turned to charismatic, authoritarian figures when times are challenging, when their culture seems unrecognizable.   One need only look to the 20th Century for validation.  And that last statement is not made lightly. 

Mr. Trump has little respect for the Constitution.

The most recent anti-freedom position of Mr. Trump is a desire to usurp the First Amendment with promises to change the libel laws in order to attack his critics.   Mr. Trump said, “We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”  And recently he attacked a prominent family in Chicago for donating to a Super Pac critical of Mr. Trump with “They better be careful, they have a lot to hide.”  Perhaps he will use an Obama favorite and have the IRS go after them.

And speaking of the IRS, there’s no reason tax returns can’t be released while under audit.  He’s said he’s been audited 12 years in a row and also said for the last 2-3 years.  Ok, which one is it?  And if 12 years ago, release the one from 13 years ago, we don’t mind.

He doesn’t think the 14th Amendment is Constitutional and because it would “take too long” to amend  he would use his potential presidency to "find out whether or not anchor babies are citizens."  Not sure what he means but I’m sure I don’t want to find out.

So what to do?  For my Democratic friends, vote for Hillary.  Yea, I can’t believe I said that either.  Were we in normal times I’d be encouraging you to vote for Bernie.  But these are not normal times.  We all have a stake in the Donald not becoming the President.

My Republican friends should vote for either Rubio or Cruz, whom ever is in the lead in their particular SEC Primary state.  I’m going to vote for Rubio on Tuesday.  There’s no point in wasting a vote on Kasich.

It’s hard to imagine what a Trump presidency would be like but in the words of John Podhoretz, “a disaster” seems a succinct summary.  

As a Libertarian, Trump may be the best thing that's ever happened to our party.  His election would probably improve its prospects, especially if the Republican Party self-destructs.  But love of country comes before love of party.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

GOP Debate 13 February 2016

The Donald is particularly angry this evening.  I've never heard a Democrat say it better, "George Bush lied about Iraq, there were no weapons of mass destruction and he knew it".  But then Donald used to be a Democrat and for all I know may still be one.

Regarding Strassel question to The Donald on Social Security.  Waste fraud and abuse will NOT save Social Security Donald.  Your answer was nonsense.

Just a note about the passing of Scalia.  I'm not a Republican but I'd prefer a Republican President to a Democratic President.  The Donald may win against Bernie because a majority in this country would not elect an avowed socialist.  However, even a damaged Hillary would beat The Donald.  He's not eloquent.  He's a populist aka a demigod.  The only complete sentence he ever says is "I'm going to make America great again." Impressive.

John Kaisch is the voice of reason or at least not shouting and actually completes a sentence...sometimes two, three in a row.  Quite impressive.  He's actually likeable...probably a good attribute to beating Hillary the Likable.  Everyone know how likable she is....Not so much.

Not sure why Ben Carson is still on the stage.  Hillary or Bernie would eat him alive in a one on one debate.

Major Garrett is nailing The Donald.  The deal maker....aka crony capitalist. So, he's going to put in tariffs, this is economic madness and counter-productive.  It's also something Democrats and Unions promote. See the first paragraph.

The Donald.  "I feel I am a conservative."  A complete sentence to be sure but in the passive voice and not the active "I'm a conservative".

Thank you very much. 2 minutes later. "You are the single biggest liar."  "He's a nasty guy."  The Donald is the nastiest guy on that stage.

Well, at least there's direct exchange between the candidates.  John has totally lost control of this debate.

The decorum of this debate is abysmal...why?  The Donald, of course.  But he's in the lead, that cannot be denied.  He's broken every rule of politics I know and is succeeding.  I'm not sure if that's a reflection of his brillance or the desperation of the American people.  I think the latter.  The man is a chameleon who's hero is P.T. Barnum

Kasich closing statement was excellent.

Carson  so so

Bush better than Carson but not as good as Kasich.

Rubio, passionate but tried to cover too many points and went over his time.

Cruz: makes good points about The Donald.  appealed to the religious of S.C.

The Donald:  Same old same old stump phrases.  And to bring up our $19T in debt when the policies he promotes will increase it another $10T is just amazing.  Why do people trust this guy??

Kasich didn't have near as much time as the others but seems to have made the most of the time he had and just came across as a reasonable guy.  But then, the people who vote in primaries are typically not the most reasonable of the electorate.

All in all this debate provides a good reason to vote Libertarian...go Gary Johson!!  Go who??

Friday, October 24, 2014

John Joseph Murphy Jr.

To the family he was known as JJ or just Jay. He was my brother-in-law, and I loved him very much.

I don’t know how many of you know the name Christopher Hitchens. For a significant part of his life he wrote for “Vanity Fair”. Both he and Jay were blessed to know early in their lives what it was they would be doing. And it would involve a life of words and stories and journalism.

In response to a question about his lifestyle, Christopher responded, “I always knew that there's a risk in the bohemian lifestyle and I decided to take it because whether it’s an illusion or not, I don't think it is, it helped my concentration, it stopped me being bored, stopped other people being boring, to some extent, it would keep me awake, it would make me want the evening to go on longer, to prolong the conversation, to enhance the moment. If I was asked, would I do it again, the answer is probably yes, I'd have quit earlier, possibly, hoping to get away with the whole thing.” Christopher was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at the age of 61 and died in December of 2011 at the age of 62.

I bring up this parallel to Christopher because I admired both of them and Jay long before I ever heard of “the Hitch”. Describing Jay as bohemian is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but he had some of its characteristics, the most important? Take life as it comes and live in the moment. Another is being a rebel.

I read a book by Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist who wrote about Albert Einstein. He noted that Einstein was bohemian in that he rebelled against the establishment in physics. You see, his theory of relativity upended the prevailing theory established 200 years before by Sir Isaac Newton. Jay pushed against the norm and questioned the status quo. Jay was a skeptic and a cynic, traits I love in a human being. But, under those admirable qualities he was also, I think, an optimist. So he wasn’t perfect. :-)

As Chris Kelly noted in his piece on Jay in the Oct. 23 Scranton Times Jay was a fan of Bob Dylan. Most rebels are. One day we were riding around Scranton probably going to or coming from a golf match, this was 20 or 30 years ago and a Dylan song came on the radio, “Positively 4th Street”. The only thing “positive” about this song are the first three syllables in the title. So, he says to me,” listen to the ending of this song, it's just great” and he laughed that great laugh of his. So we listened carefully, the song ends like this.

"I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment, I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time, you could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is to see you"

You have to love someone who finds humor in that.  Jay, I miss you already.  BTW, If you’re sentient, give a brotha a holla.

Monday, September 2, 2013

President Obama and Syria

You know you’re in trouble when your only ally is the French.  It’s hard to know where to start with this fiasco of a foreign policy.  But let’s start at the beginning; open mouth, insert foot, close mouth.  About a year ago the president drew a red line regarding the use of chemical weapons.  And now Assad has called his bluff. 

There’s no doubt that Assad ordered this chemical attack, and ordered it for a reason.  He’s not stupid.  Only a trained military could have executed this attack the way it was done; early in the morning when winds are down and the temperature cool to keep the gas from moving too much.  The rebels don’t have the weapons or the training to do this.  And the goal has been achieved; he’s scared ALL the people and the opposition who don’t have the means to protect them-selves.  He’s truly diabolical.
But the actions of the president the last couple of weeks have been incredible if not bizarre.  After promising action he does nothing.  He then transmits our intentions in detail so Assad can take corrective actions to ameliorate the potential impact.  Our foremost ally, Britain, has demurred (although I don’t know why, what were they going to do?  Applaud?).  And now he’s taken a page from their playbook and ostensibly our own Constitution (he alternately refers to and ignores this document when it’s to his advantage) to ask Congress for approval.  Why, because deep down he really doesn’t want to do it and doesn’t want to take the blame?  No, I think not.  He just doesn’t want to do this alone.  Not even the Sunni Arabs want to support yet another American military adventure in the Middle East, even when it’s to their collective advantage. 

So how will this vote go?  In Congress there are the far left Democrats and the nascent libertarian Republican movement that are both fiercely anti-war.  Add to that the mainstream Republicans who will vote against ANY legislation that helps this president and I think that means this will be a very close vote.  And my anecdotal guess is the vote will be to NOT support military action.  Also, this vote will NOT be along party lines and ironically could actually be a good thing for Congress.  Perhaps this vote will be the first plank in a bridge to bi-partisanship….OK, forget I just said that….silly me.  Bi-partisanship is highly overrated anyway.

A no vote would be a good thing.  It will not be taken well by the rebels in Syria but there are many factions in that movement that have Al Qaeda and/or Islamist sympathies.  I’m not too excited about seeing another radical Islamist state in the Middle East.  But then Assad is aligned with Russia and Iran, a radical Islamist state so perhaps it matters not who controls Syria.  And if it matters not which side runs Syria, what’s the point, American prestige?  What prestige?  Iraq is not much better than before our invasion and I’ll bet you my next paycheck that the Taliban is running Afghanistan in 5 years.  We’ll surely kill some civilians with this attack and America will be blamed for killing more Muslims.  If we do nothing we can only be accused of allowing deaths to occur which, while bad, is not as bad as ACTUALLY killing people.

Our enemies are killing each other.  What’s not to like?  Pull up a chair, pop some popcorn.  Put your feet up.
Larry Summers for Fed Chair?  Not no but Hell no.  In an interview when he was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and in front of then Senator Tom Daschle, he admitted to not understanding Reserve Accounting.  OK, that's only a technical matter and simply ignorance which can be rectified.  He is a creature of Wall Street and as such will not support the proper banking regulatory regimen required in a Fiat money based monetary system.  That's the reason he should not be Fed Chair.

Janet Yellen, while a liberal Democrat at least understands Reserve Accounting.  She served as an economist at the Federal Reserve early in her career.  She would not have to go back to school to learn how the mechanics of the Federal Reserve.  She would also provide some continuity which the markets would probably find reassuring and favors proper bank regulation.

Which brings me to my favorite, Shelia Bair.  Ms. Bair headed up the FDIC during the Great Recession and was the voice of calm and reason during a difficult time.  She also would be in favor of significant banking regulations and has no ties to Wall Street.  Here's a paragraph from her Wikipedia page.

Prior to her appointment at the FDIC, Bair was the Dean's Professor of Financial Regulatory Policy for the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a post she had held since 2002.  She also served as Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury (2001-2002), Senior Vice President for Government Relations of the New York Stock Exchange (1991 to 1995), and Research Director, Deputy Counsel and Counsel to Kansas Republican Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (1981-1988).  While an academic, Bair also served on the FDIC's Advisory Committee on Banking Policy.  Bair also pursued a seat in the U.S. Congress (she lost to 1990 Republican nomination in the 5th Kansas district by 760 votes to Dick Nichols).

Bair began her career in the General Counselo's office of the former U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.  Ms. Bair left the FDIC on July 8 2011, when her five-year term expired.  She became as senor advisor to The Pew Charitable Trusts in August 2011.  She is chair of the Systemic Risk Council, a voluntee effort formed by the CFA Institute and the Pew Chartible Trusts to monitor and comment on regulation.

Unfortunately, this is an appointment by the President, end of story....

Monday, December 31, 2012

Obama - Over the Cliff We Should Go?

How else to explain his bizarre "news conference".  News conference?  At a news conference the press asks questions.  This was more like a campaign event...something this president is pretty good at as long as He has his prompter, which He didn't have today.  It's not a campaign event.  I mean he's not running for office; But more on that later.  Why would He, as delicate negotiations were being concluded, mock and chide the Republicans?  There are a few goals, not necessarily mutually exclusive, He may be attempting to accomplish:

1. He was trying to sabotage the talks.  This is the most obvious one.  If so, this is not about doing what's right for the country.  This is about taking advantage of His strong political position to further damage the Republican Party.  Krauthammer says this is short-term oriented but I think not.  Going over the cliff and being able to put the blame on the Republicans will come in handy in a couple of years....say November of 2014.  The country could be forced into another recession for which the Republicans would be blamed which could go a long way to getting Democratic control of the House and extending their control of the Senate.  At which point He'll have two years to implement his far left agenda.  Hey, at that point maybe He could get the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution repealed?

2. There was some trouble in the Democratic ranks and Joe Biden needed some help.  So the President came before the people to give us an update on the progress and managed to buck up his side by assuring them that this was just the beginning of the tax increases.  He promised there would be more to offset the sequestration cuts and help offset or reduce the cuts needed from Medicare and/or Social Security.

3.  The news conference with no questions also made life more difficult for Senate Minority Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner as it revealed to their rank and file that more tax increases were coming.  But with the Republicans reeling from the election loss and the multiple self-inflicted wounds leading up to today what else can they do?  Vote down the legislation and lead the country over the fiscal cliff?  See part 1 above.

Finally, I don't use pejoratives when discussing the President of the United States so I'm not going say that this guy is a real jerk.  I will also refrain from calling Him an arrogant asshole.  But I will say that as long as I've followed politics I've never seen a president act in as unprofessional manner as this guy.  He is, without doubt, the most duplicitous and rude president of my lifetime.  But unlike Bill Clinton, He is faithful to His wife.  And that is a good thing.