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Can the swamp break the President?

There comes a point where reality has to affect desire.

With 90% of the media, the real Russian pawns i.e. the left wing liberals, and members of the President’s own party all directly challenging and obstructing his authority it’s time to ask if he can still be an effective President.

Case in point, the Niger affair, the latest political football.

The military has tens of thousands of troops stationed all over the world. Some of them are directly involved in training the armies or militia of other countries to withstand the threat of terrorists.  That is ostensibly what the four men who died in Niger were doing, under the oversight of AfriCom.

Sometimes, men die on these missions. It’s the unfortunate reality of being a soldier.

So why is the operation in Niger suddenly the focus of a congressional investigation, even before the military investigation is complete?

The military says the servicemen were making a relatively short routine trip to see the village elders, something they had done many times in the past.

As  much as you can believe anything the media says, this mission supposedly stretches back to well before Trump was even a candidate, as part of an effort to stop or slow the spread of Islamic terrorist groups in Africa. The first reports date the advise and assist mission back to 2013.

Yet all of a sudden Congress wants to investigate, with Senator McCain  threatening to subpoena Trump’s aides to compel testimony. Testimony about what, a mission McCain has known about for more than four years?

Then there was the little blurb about bringing in the FBI to investigate the matter, although the Bureau reportedly contends that it can even take the lead in the case.

That’s not necessarily untrue, but under what circumstances?

The authority under which the FBI can investigate matters pertaining to the DoD are contained in this MOU (Memorandum of Understanding).

It’s unclear what specific section is being investigated, although the jurisdictional authority would seem to fall loosely under Section 669 of the Criminal Resource Manual, subsection 3(b) as contained in the MOU.

The Africa mission is not a declared war on anyone, but under the War Powers Resolution Congress still had to be informed of it in advance, and it was.

Supposedly former President Obama did so in February of 2013, and President Trump notified Congress of an increase in troop levels in June of this year.

It’s also pretty common knowledge that PMC’s are employed worldwide to provide additional manpower. The fact that private contractors helped in the search for Sgt. Johnson shouldn’t be a huge shock, much less some sort of indictment.

So what exactly would President Trump’s aides be able to provide that Congress doesn’t already know?

We don’t know. The inference is that there was dereliction of duty, although that would seem to be better prosecuted under the precepts of the Universal Code of Military Justice (UCMJ.)

It’s confusing, but basically, if a person under the auspices of the DoD, including military personnel, commits a crime that would normally be prosecuted under the U.S. Criminal Code and tried in a civilian court, i.e. fraud,  embezzlement, murder, kidnapping, etc. the FBI can take the lead.

If the offense would normally fall under the UCMJ, i.e. desertion, dereliction of duty, etc. the  military justice system would prevail.

What we do know is that there is considerable bad blood between Senator McCain and President Trump stemming from candidate Trump’s penchant for character disparagement and labeling.

In plain English, some people resent his big mouth, and Senator McCain has literally nothing to lose in making the President’s life miserable.

Indeed, it’s not how little the President may have accomplished to date but the fact that he has accomplished anything at all that is amazing, given that everyone from the Federal court system to the White House janitors seem to have it in for him.

There is no doubt the President can be his own worst enemy, even when he is trying hard to do the right thing.

That brings us to the infamous phone call to Sgt. La David Johnson’s wife.

It’s a shame that President Trump didn’t know to avail himself of input from the many grief counselors in both the military and private sectors. Not that CoS Kelly’s advice was wrong, but it was couched in very military language.

Yet, don’t we all do that sometimes?

How many times have we watched the news about the death of a famous climber on Everest, or a race car driver like Dale Earnhardt and said, “Well, at least he died doing what he loved.”

That’s essentially what the President did. However, to a grieving family member that’s cold comfort. The rest of it is nothing more than the same old political attack plan we see every day.

OK, that makes for interesting tabloid style “news,” but it also leaves the country in kind of a bad spot, once again looking at the shiny objects.

Even if it has been steady by jerks, the major campaign promises and ills that Americans wanted cured or at least addressed are miraculously happening.  Whatever else he may have going against him, Trump seems to have upheld his promises honorably, and that’s been enough for his supporters so far.

Maybe that continues to work on some level, and the big items still get solved, in which case the swamp loses, and history may well consider this presidency a qualified success.

If the country continues as it is today, the swamp wins, and no one except the swamp dwellers  wants that to happen.

TGIF- October 20, 2017

Honor wins.

There’s a certain Florida representative who wound up looking pretty damn small Thursday. You know the one…the woman who wears her Halloween costume to work on  many days, wearing a symbol of a culture in which she would last about as long as a snowball in hell. Ah well, to each their own, as they say.

Stand her up against White House Chief of Staff and Marine general (ret.) John Kelly during a televised address to the press Thursday afternoon, and she might not even reach his big toe, hat and all.

If you didn’t watch the whole thing you should. Suffice it to say that anything that can completely  silence a room full of press hyenas for 18 minutes or so  is powerful.

From the sublime to the ridiculous.

Honestly, is anything dumber than a university,  school boards or even a grade school banning costumes or making rules about Halloween costumes?

Well yes, there is, but that would ruin the meme.

Several colleges have already put out lists of what is or isn’t “acceptable attire” , i.e. politically correct costumes, depending on your race.

Perhaps the best idea would simply be to go as a nudist. After all, it’s pretty hard to “culturally misappropriate” your own skin.

Senator Paul still out of sync.

Senator Rand Paul has been all over the airwaves pontificating about how there are very few “real” conservatives in Congress.

Yesterday his amendment to the budget legislation to decrease discretionary spending by 43 billion dollars went down in flames, with the final tally being 95 against and 5 in agreement.

One thing about Senator Paul never changes. He is absolutely convinced of his own righteousness.

That’s not to say that having a revenue-neutral budget is a bad goal.  It isn’t.

It just isn’t very realistic, given all the things that would need to be unwound to make it happen right now.

Things like unlawful, unconstitutional subsidy payment to insurers for instance. Or the money needed to adequately fund the armed forces after years of shortages that are now costing lives both on and off the battlefield.

According to casualty reports 56 people have died in non-combat training accidents this year,  more than have been killed in combat.

The ambush that killed four servicemen in Niger might have been prevented by having drone surveillance, but there weren’t enough drones available to deploy them with the soldiers that day.

Still, and in spite of him, the budget framework passed. You have to wonder what he gains out of constantly being part of the white noise in that background.

Niger and the FBI- Why?

News also broke yesterday that the FBI, which is the national domestic police force, is now being inserted into the after-operation review of the attack that killed four American servicemen in Niger.

Watch this story.

This is not SOP for a military review. The FBI is supposed to police criminal conduct within the borders of the United States. It has no military jurisdiction here or overseas.

Indeed, according to the media (and you have to consider the source), one of the more salient facts of the attack is already known, namely that the meeting with the tribal leaders lasted longer than expected.

That meeting didn’t take place within our borders.

Stay tuned.

Taxes, economics and political gamesmanship.

Should the “rich” get tax relief? BTW, what’s “rich” in today’s hyper-partisan political climate?

That’s yet to be published, but if you define it as only people whose AGI (adjusted gross income) qualifies them for the 39.6% tax bracket, it’s any single person over the limit of $418,400 or any couple over $470,700 AGI. If you take it to mean anyone paying a rate of 33% or more, those figures go down to $191,650 and $233,350 respectively for 2017.

And that doesn’t take into account all the other taxes we are saddled with, including but not limited to state income tax, property tax, local option taxes, etc. etc. Add those in and all of a sudden those people are paying 50% or more of their income to some governmental agency.

Let’s see, that means that the people at the lower edge of the “rich” threshold can spend half the above figures to keep the economy afloat.

And yeah, even that is certainly not peanuts. You can still buy a lot of overpriced lattes for that.

So why should these people get a tax break?

Because they DO keep the economy afloat. These are the people who hire the gardeners, accountants and carpenters, and buy the over-priced technology platforms we call cars today.

These are also the people who pay for all the public assistance programs we have to help the less wealthy among us.

And then there are those businesses that we all depend on for our creature comforts.

The “rich” are also often the people who provide the jobs that the not-rich depend upon to get along.

Unemployment is at or approaching historical lows on a state-by-state basis, even among racial groups like Hispanics.

For more people to go to work or even enter the workforce for the first time, we’ve quickly reached the point where we have to create more jobs.

For all the self-congratulatory chest pounding by the mega-businesses like Amazon and Starbucks  it is still the small businesses that drive job growth.

The people that start or own those businesses often cross over into the so-called land of the rich.

Of course small is in the eye of the beholder (the government calls businesses with up to 500 employees small when awarding contracts) , but typically most of the job creation is done by businesses that employ less than 100 people and eschew the double taxation burden inherent when adopting a standard Chapter C corporate structure.

These are the people who have to declare any income above business expenses as personal income.

Let’s say you are a single person with a home improvement business and a dozen employees.. Your business can currently  write off about 70% of the business expenses against business revenue.

Let’s say that business was good last year. It made a million dollars, and had expenses of $700,000.

According to the tax code that means that $300,000 passed through to you.

You may be forced to put that on paper, but no business in the history of businesses can exist for long if the owners don’t reinvest the profits into the company.

Perhaps our hypothetical owner actually keeps $100,000 as salary.  The remaining $200K NEVER LEFT THE BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT.

That’s the reality of the conundrum most small business owners find themselves in at the end of the year.

On paper you are in the 33% tax bracket. That means that for 2017, you will pay a flat Federal tax of$46,473 plus 33% of any excess over $91,900. In terms of real  personal income, your salary just dropped to about $53,000 BEFORE you pay any of the other income taxes.

That other $200K paper profit usually winds up paying for equipment upgrades or possibly yes,  a couple more employees.

That’s about as simple as Musings can make the reality of owning a small business and being constantly maligned for being greedy capitalists.

Think about that the next time you hear Chuck and Nancy and Elizabeth ragging on the rich.

That’s not to say the mega, mega rich aren’t in a better position to game the system. People like Beyonce or Jeff Bezos or Michael Bloomberg, and yes, even the real estate moguls like Donald Trump  spend a healthy amount of cash to take advantage of every legal loophole.

But lumping everyone who files on over $100K or even $250K into some talking point  stereotype is just another liberal lie.

What is “spurious nationalism?”

A Viet Nam vet who says he is a “generational contemporary” of Senator John McCain’s would like the senator to explain how he defines the concept of America First as  “Half-baked spurious nationalism.”

“Pete” was a draftee, a grunt who served at the same time as McCain. He declined to say what battles he fought in, saying “After this many years, it doesn’t matter, and he fought from the air so we didn’t experience the same things, either before or after he was captured.”

He isn’t attacking McCain.  He says he’s just confused.

You know, I know he’s ill. Even if he wasn’t I wouldn’t question his right to his opinion.

But I’ve got mine too.  What’s wrong with asking “what’s in it for us?” Maybe if we had asked that back in 1965, we wouldn’t have had 58,272 dead or MIA American names etched on black granite. And after all that loss, the damn place went Communist anyway.

Back then I kind of thought that’s why we were in Nam in the first place, so people could speak their mind without fear. You know, spreading democracy and all that stuff.

Instead, now we have half our own country afraid to say anything because someone might throw a rock or a Molotov cocktail at them. So I ask you, what did we gain?

I just don’t understand whether he thinks that being the world’s patsy is what we should be about now, or if he’s just saying that total isolationism isn’t productive. I get that he can’t stand Trump personally, but does that make the concept of America First wrong on its face?”

Pete says that in the end, he voted for Donald Trump, not because he thought he was the best person for the job, but because he was tired of candidates only standing up for people who were saying they hated America and Trump wound up being the only choice.

“As a vet and an American, I nearly puked when I heard Obama out there apologizing for everything we are and saw him bowing to another world leader. I first liked Herman Cain and Rubio, but what’s-her-name was just Obama in a different skin.”

Pete’s not the only one who is confused.

Senator McCain seemed to be weighing in on the side of globalists, people who believe that we can and should be just one big happy family and who reject any sort of national identity as somehow being immoral.

They also point out that because of liberal immigration policies, the U.S. population now has a lot of people who don’t share our traditional values and  who don’t even want to speak our language, with an unknown share of 20% of the population potentially falling into that category.

As Pete says, the Senator is entitled to his opinion, but his words have many people wondering if he equates patriotism and national pride to practicing “spurious nationalism.”  If so, they beg to differ.

Whiplash politics.

Can you be for and against both Mitch McConnell and Steve Bannon at the same time?

That’s a tough sell when you need them both, but the President surely tried in his Rose Garden presser yesterday.

The resulting comments by the President, with McConnell standing at his side, were enough to give political observers whiplash.

Between “Mitch is my friend…”  to  “…that’s Steve being Steve…”  you can only imagine how McConnell felt.

The President has the unenviable task of trying not to lose support from two vastly disparate groups, the Christian conservatives, i.e. the so-called evangelical voters, and the more secular fiscal and policy moderate conservatives.

Bannon has a certain percentage of the Trump base in the palm of his hand. Diss him, and they may go away.

On the other hand, McConnell is held in pretty high regard by a large number of largely go-along to-get-along Senate Republicans and after all, those are the people actually doing the voting on the President’s policies at present.

Come down on McConnell too hard, and you lose crucial Senate votes.

And of course you have the left, which seems to want no United States at all.

Right in the middle of that culture clash sits the President of the United States, perhaps the least likely Solomon of all time.

Maybe this is a battle between good and evil, or maybe it’s simply about choosing between democracy and totalitarianism.

Whatever it is, the President isn’t the only one who needs to find a working balance or choose a side.  He didn’t create this cultural dichotomy.

You don’t need Steve Bannon to prove that 2017’s America is a coarser, meaner, more divided and less principled nation than it was in say, 1957. The proof is on your TV screens and on your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube feeds.

That has been evolving ever since the 1960’s, when it became cool to ignore conventional rules of society. Free love and free pot was the mantra of the day. Perhaps out of a lack of national backbone,  or sheer laziness, the country seemed to tacitly sanction it.

You almost have to have lived through that period to process it’s evolution effectively now.  Not that it matters at this point, because we are where we are, and that’s what needs to be dealt with at present.

Virtually nothing, no matter how gross, salacious or vile seems to be subject to even token moral disapproval and thanks to the internet we can’t seem to escape it.

Unless Russia has been running the longest psy-ops operation in history, that’s on all of us.

Maybe if the country can figure out where and what it wants to be, the rest will sort itself out.

The Bannon effect.

Who elected Steve Bannon to anything? That’s a question being heard a lot, but not from the left.

While watching clips of Steve Bannon’s speech at the Values Voter Summit,  one man observed “Nobody died and made you God bub. My senators have voted with Trump since Day One, so buzz off!”

Mr. Bannon risks running afoul of something he apparently thinks he single-handedly capitalized on during the election…the thinking voter.

Listening to him over the past few months one gets the impression he thinks he alone put Donald Trump in the White House.

Skeptical voters opine that it’s more likely that Trump gave him a stage for his far-right radical views, something they hope the President eschews going forward. They have a point.

Bannon’s scorched earth policy.

With the exception of a comparatively small percentage that openly hold Bannon’s somewhat extreme opinions, there seem to be a lot of people wondering why, if he’s going to primary someone, he doesn’t back credible challengers in Democratic districts.  Many  Democrats are running either unopposed or against poorly funded GOP challengers.

Admittedly, there is an entrenched “establishment” group in the Senate that seems to be just as much “Never Trump” as their Democrat counterparts, but it’s hardly the whole Republican part of the Senate. Furthermore, not all of them are running this time around, including John McCain, one of the far-right’s most visible targets.

Fine. Then campaign against the members of that group who are running, if you must. But declaring war on every Republican except Ted Cruz is likely to result in fewer Republicans in 2019, not more.

Presidential performance exceeding voter expectations?

One thing that many marginal Trump voters worried about before voting last November,  was that Trump was just running to make a big splash but would then forget everything he ever knew about the art of the deal if he won.

Most of those people note that he has often given the members of BOTH parties ample chance to work together to achieve the goals he ran on, before striking out on his own via executive orders.

Although the first few weeks were predictably rocky, the President has since tried to get Democrats to participate, often reminding both sides that THEY are the legislative body.

In his own unique way, he has also chastised recalcitrant Republicans who seem to have forgotten that his agenda, as affirmed by his election, is supposed to be largely the agenda of the people.

That’s not to say that he is or should be immune from criticism. Even some of his staunch supporters find some of his ancillary antics unnecessarily distracting.

What rankles many right-leaning voters is that in the main, the steps he is taking are the reason he was elected. They are on board with the substance of his policy actions, making the actions of the Senate GOP “Nevers” on matters of national importance at least troubling.

Senate efficiency is a problem for voters.

Even defining the “Nevers” is based more on how passionately the voters feel about the issue than the percentage of their senator’s actual support when they vote.

According to one source, even the far right’s favorite whipping boy, John McCain, has supported the President’s position over 83% of the time. Mitch McConnell has voted with the President nearly 96% of the time.

In contrast, only two or three Senate Democrats even approach 50% support, and that is largely on appointments, not policy.

What truly gripes voters is that in nine months, the Senate has reportedly  managed to vote on just 26 non-personnel or non-Cabinet related issues out of what Speaker Ryan says are some 270 House bills sent to the Senate.  If true, that means that most of that number are not even getting voted out of committee. That’s perhaps the voter’s biggest knock against McConnell.

Even more than that, there is a feeling that members are largely voting for themselves, and not for the country.  That was particularly on view when Senator McCain voted against a measure to repeal and replace Obamacare, apparently not on its relative merits, but because it didn’t conform to his vision of proper procedure.

That leads us to Bannon’s best argument.

Voter-imposed term limits.

No one thinks that Congress is ever going to vote for term limits, and the only other lawful way to change the Constitution is through the tedious Article V state-by-state constitutional convention process, which has failed in the past.

Bannon’s argument is that voters need to impose term limits by simply voting for different people. The voters respond by noting there is often no alternative presented.

It is no secret that the national parties and PACs support candidates they approve of and make it difficult for  challengers to mount an effective campaign, and that practice normally benefits the incumbents. That’s where Bannon comes in.

He envisions his role as providing choice to voters by introducing or backing challengers to long-entrenched incumbents.

As far as that part of Bannon’s argument goes, it has a great many supporters.

Where it falls apart is when he proposes only a very specific type of candidate who can win his support, opening both himself and his supporters to the predictable charges of racism and white nationalism from the left while they ignore the equally repulsive black and brown racist nationalists on their own team. It’s circular logic.

By appealing only to people susceptible to continuing the identity politics of the past 10 years, Bannon may have positioned himself as the right’s counterpart to Al Sharpton.

The danger in Bannon’s call for “war.”

Ordinary people are heartily tired of identity politics. Most of them are focused on real problems, like why we throw billions upon billions of dollars at improving inner city schools, while never demanding they deliver improved outcomes for their students.

They aren’t looking for war, they are looking for real alternatives and actions that can get the country back on track.

For a few brief hours last November those ordinary people had a voice and they used it.  That doesn’t mean they bought into the philosophy of the Bannons of the country.

If they disengage, reject the whole polarizing political landscape and just stay home, all that leaves at the polls are the crazies on the fringes.

That leaves us with the same outcome as when two rabid dogs fight. One may win the battle, but all it gained was a few more painful days of life.

Oddly, this outsider President, with all of his own flaws, but still showing a real interest in putting the entire country’s interests ahead of partisan politics, is now looking more like America’s best hope than he did on November 8, 2016.

Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but at least he’s the guy we elected, and that has to count for something.

 

TGIF – October 13, 2017

Another bridge too far?

No one on earth probably has more right to be p.o.’d at the media and washed up entertainers and politicians than President Trump.

When he complains of fake news, it’s true all too often, but the answer isn’t in “looking at” their licenses.

It’s in proving the news is fake, over and over again. The never Trump media has already managed to thoroughly discredit itself so often that most people no longer believe anything it says anyway.

There is one avenue that always, always works when you don’t like a product.  Don’t buy it and if necessary share your negative experiences with others in the form of reviews.

After two years or so of Trump-watching, you generally know when he is serious and when he isn’t.  This came across as simple frustration, because he has to know that any real attempt by the government to censor the media is simply not going to happen.

That’s due to a little thing called the First Amendment. Just because the left wants to gut it doesn’t give anyone the license to do so.

We may all wish the original framers of the Constitution had been able to look ahead to the present day and included a statement about veracity of speech, but they didn’t.

That’s our job. We were supposedly all born with a brain to go with our ears and mouth, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like everyone was in line when the brains were issued.

It’s tedious as hell to have to fact check everything, but that’s the price we pay to live here today.

Trust your people, Mr. President. Give them your side, don’t lie to them, and they’ll take it from there.

Those weird polls

Musings is not a big fan of polls, but it seems that they aren’t going away. Still, you have to wonder not only how slanted they are, but what is in people’s minds when they answer them.

Case in point. Quinnipiac released a poll on October 11, with the headline reading in part “October 11, 2017 – U.S. Voters Feel Good About Economy, But Not Trump.”

Somehow, from the answers to questions on the economy Americans aren’t connecting the improving economy to the President, and that’s strange.

Of course that may be due to a great number of people who view him either through the lens of race or gender issues, or who just don’t think they like him as a person.

Certainly he has a habit of popping off with the first thing that enters his head, and that’s probably not a smart move for anyone, but especially not for the leader of the free world.

Still, an awful lot of people are admitting that they have more money in their pockets since he took office. It would be interesting to sit a few dozen of them down and ask them what, if not Trump and his policies, they think has caused that.

Inclusiveness or PC naiveté?

What’s your take on the Boy Scouts going co-ed?

Most people find it unnecessary, but a certain percentage of both girls and their parents say that the real question should be, does it benefit the kids?

Certainly, with multiple slugs like Harvey Weinstein in the news, one faction thinks it would be good for both sexes to learn to work together respectfully at a younger age.

Some girls say they just want to be able to earn the same badges that boys do (shame on the GSA for not tending to this decades ago), and some seem to be nascent women’s libbers-in-training.

And there is an element out there that truly seems to want to believe there is no difference between the sexes.

Quite frankly, the Boy Scouts have had enough scandals already that to believe this won’t cause trouble is pretty naïve, and might be taking PC way too far.

Unfortunately, girls and boys are different, especially as they enter puberty. It would take a troop leader with the instincts of a cop, eyes in the back of their heads and the patience of Job to make this work.

All in all, this is a social experiment that doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s best interests, unless the two organizations simply merge.

Insurance companies primed to spike Trump’s EO?    

Watch for insurance companies and liberal states to oppose President Trump’s EO on Obamacare reform by refusing to write or accept cross-border individual policies. Also, putting together these consumer coalitions will require some expert guidance to construct workable coalitions (similar to the NFIB) without running afoul of union organizing laws.