Monday, July 31, 2017

The Risktakers

So there I was on Friday listening to Apollo astronauts Walt Cunningham and Jim Lovell--along with Mission Control Director Gene Krantz--talk about the effort it took to get to the Moon.  When I asked them if we are now at the point in space exploration they thought we would be 50 years ago when the Apollo program began, they all agreed that we are not.  And they also agreed that the reason we have not been to Mars or have a permanent colony on the Moon yet is that we as Americans don't want to take risks anymore.

We used to be the country known for taking risks.  We were founded by a bunch of farmers, tradesmen and lawyers that risked fighting the mightiest army and navy on the planet at the time for our independence.  We risked permanent division of our country to end slavery and determine the powers of the Federal Government.  And we are still the only country to send men to the Moon.

So much of what was accomplished in the Apollo program was done right at the edge of acceptable risk.  There were a few unmanned flights to test rockets and components--but those were minimal, and men put their lives on the line to see if everything worked the way the scientists and engineers thought it would.  When the Lunar Module wasn't ready for Apollo 8 to test in Earth orbit, the mission was completely changed to send the Command Module to orbit the Moon instead.  NASA didn't send an unmanned capsule out there first to make sure timing for firing the rockets to enter lunar orbit--and to get back out of it--were correct.  They sent three men up there to figure it out--Lovell, Frank Borman and William Anders.

And Apollo 11 was not preceded by seven or eight test launches to put unmanned LEM's on the lunar surface until we could "figure out how to do it".  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were sent out there with plenty of simulator training--which came in handy when the computers missed their targeted landing area and Armstrong had to navigate past a field of boulders to avoid a crash landing.

If we were trying to run the Apollo program today, we would likely still be on the ground.  We would demand that the engineers make the rocket engines foolproof--and to test them thousands of times.  There would have been dozens of unmanned missions to test maneuverability, docking and burn times so that everything would be "perfect" before any man would go into space.  And the entire process would be bogged down by endless debate over whether the cost and the risk are commensurate to good that would come out of it.

So it's a good thing that the Greatest Generation were the ones who decided to go to the Moon, because if it was up to the current generation of Americans, our fear of any kind of risk would have us cowering in the corner.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Crash Course

The next time you are out and about, check out how many vehicles you see with some sort of collision damage.  One of those vehicles right now belongs to my wife, who collided last week with a young woman that decided not to check for cross traffic along a street where she had a yield sign--and my wife had the right of way.  After that crash, I started taking a look at other cars on the road and I notice a lot of crumpled side panels and cracked or missing bumpers.

I used to think that those social media posts ranking "Wisconsin drivers among the worst in the country" were just clickbait--because anytime I saw someone going 95-miles an hour on I-41 or passing an entire line of cars in a no passing zone on the way up north, they had an Illinois license plate.  And I thought that just cutting someone off because you wanted into their lane without even signaling was just an East Coast thing.  But just a week of very close observation of our local driving habits shows that we suck just as bad as our metropolitan counterparts.

We had some construction in front of the Radio Ranch here on South Washburn this week that closed the right-hand lane.  Despite signs warning of the closure well down the block, I've seen at least three instances of drivers in that lane swerving feet in front of the cones and forcing vehicles in the left lane to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision.  What has made it particularly dangerous is that you have people gunning it out of Walmart less than a hundred feet from the construction zone.

And speaking of parking lots, I saw the Cart Guy at Festival have to jump out of the way of a driver that was backing out of a parking spot without looking behind them to see if it was safe to go.  I've also noticed that we have become less courteous of allowing people to walk to and from stores in those crosswalk areas--choosing instead to gun it through before they can set foot into the painted area.  This is especially true at the southside Pick n Save--where drivers give you dirty looks as they nearly run you over.

We drivers aren't necessarily all to blame for the increase in crashes.  The increase of speed limits on all interstates and expressways are giving aging drivers less time to react to unexpected situations.  And the instance of placing roundabouts at every intersection just encourages more confusion and collisions.  My wife's crash was due to Oshkosh's widespread use of yield signs on side streets--rather than stop signs that force someone to at least take a look in both directions before crossing.  And carmakers are colluding to distract us even more behind the wheel with internet connection on dashboard screens and providing false security with backup cameras, lane deviation warnings and self-breaking systems that some people think will avoid crashes all by themselves.

And if you think I'm just over-stating how bad things have been out there this summer, call up one of the auto body shops in town and ask how long it would take to get a repair done.  My wife found six to eight weeks--because those guys can't keep up with all of the bad driving.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Let Them Smoke Pot!

For all the concern that Democrats claim to have for the plight of the poor and downtrodden in this state, they sure have a funny way of trying to "solve" their core constituency's problems.  Take for instance the push to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Wisconsin.

In a state that is struggling to fill skilled jobs because so many went through the education system without learning the skills necessary for today's workforce, employers are also running into the problem of qualified applicants that can't pass a simple drug test.  How then does encouraging people to use one of the drugs employers don't want their workers to be using going to help the unemployed (or underemployed) find and retain jobs?

We hear often from Democrats that the poor don't have enough money for the basics: food, medicine, transportation, child care--and that Government programs need to be set up to provide all of those.  But is the legalized marijuana going to be free?  Based on the number of dealers getting busted, business in the illegal drug trade is booming here in Wisconsin--so plenty of that money low-income families never seem to have is going into the pockets of those dealers.  Or are you going to make an argument that legalization will "help lower the cost" of pot?

And let's not forget the heady numbers supporters of legal weed like to toss around for taxes the state could collect at marijuana dispensaries.  Who is paying that tax?  The One Percent?  Evil corporations?  No.  It will be the low and middle income drug users that Democrats already say are paying "more than their fair share".

If you are going to say "Jonathan, the poor don't use drugs in any higher rates that the middle class and the rich", I would direct you to a Politifact check on a comment from Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Milwaukee who tried to shoot down Governor Scott Walker's drug testing for welfare recipients by saying the "poor people are less likely to use drugs because they can't afford them".  Politifact gave that a "false" rating--as numerous studies find higher drug usage rates as incomes decline.

It almost makes you think that Democrats want to keep people unemployable and broke.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Trap is Sprung

Despite all of the machinations in Washington, the Affordable Care Act continues to work exactly the way its designers and supporters wanted it to.  Premiums continue to rise.  Insurers are refusing to take part in the exchanges.  Medical inflation remains above the regular rate of inflation and the constant fear of "losing access to healthcare" continues to hang over everyone's heads.  And now, President Trump and Congressional Republicans have fallen into the final booby trap designed to kill them as well.

As I have mentioned here before, the ACA was NEVER intended to make health care more affordable.  It is not designed to improve the current health insurance system.  The Affordable Care Act is solely in place to DESTROY the current health insurance system in order to set the stage for its creators' and supporters' ultimate goal: single-payer, Federal health care.  It's structure of requiring insurance companies to cover all conditions, to allow people to buy insurance after they get sick and to prevent anyone with a higher risk for illness to pay a higher premium is obviously untenable in the long term.

We can debate whether the Republican majorities in Congress and President Trump were sent to Washington to "repeal and replace" the ACA.  But their continued failure to do so not only guarantees the fate of healthcare in this country--but also that of the GOP as well.

President Trump--whom you will notice never actually developed his own healthcare plan and instead just chose to criticize the plans developed in Congress--thinks that he is some political genius with his "We are going to let ObamaCare fail--and we will not own it" strategy.  But his plan plays directly into the hands of Democrats--whom voters are not going to "blame" for the collapse of private insurance in this country.  Instead, those that want the Government to take over health care will be joined by the angry Trumpkins whose guy didn't get his way and fiscal Conservatives that realize those who promised to rescue us from the ACA trap don't have the backbone to take the steps necessary and Republicans will first lose control of Congress and then the White House.

And once that happens, the door to socialized medicine is wide open.  What's more, the carnage inflicted by the Affordable Care Act operating exactly as it was designed will have those same voters begging for the Government "to do something"--which will be "Medicare For All" as Bernie Sanders yelled at his millennial supporters last year.  So the greatest expansion of Government power in US history will take place--and the people will cheer as they lose more of their independence.  Meanwhile, Republicans are left with yet another "political rail" that they will never be able to touch again.

The trap was set nine years ago, and this week the GOP and the President walked right into it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Prisoners of the System

You can't help but feel bad for the students and parents at Washington Middle School in Green Bay that really are committed to getting a good education there.  Thanks to the dramatic testimony from a former teacher at the school earlier this summer, the dire situation those kids and faculty members face at Washington was exposed to the rest of the community--and they too can now demand action from District officials to improve the situation.

But imagine the frustration that those parents and kids must feel when the District and the School Board decide to take actions that in no way, shape of form will address the problems or their root causes.  Last night, an assistant superintendent was more than proud to announce that the district is working on "new expectation guidelines for students" and that it will conduct their "culture and climate survey" more often.

I know that if I was a trouble-making kid looking to disrupt the education process or to intimidate my classmates and teachers I would be quaking in my boots at the prospect of a survey being done more often.  And revisions to a behavior expectation policy that I ignored before would certainly get me to stay on the straight and narrow from now on.  When those concerned parents who are begging for improvements went to that meeting last night they were probably expecting to hear words like "increased in-school suspension" or "immediate expulsion" as the tactics that would be used to restore order at Washington.

The reason actual disciplinary actions will not be recommend nor taken by the Green Bay School District can be summed up in one buzzword: Optics.  Cracking down on those terrorizing Washington Middle School could make the School District look bad--well at least in the eyes of those promoting the agenda of "social justice".

The one issue that everyone on all sides have danced around very carefully in the Washington Middle School controversy is that it has the highest percentage of minority students in the district.  That means that if disciplinary action falls along those percentages, it will appear that the Green Bay School District is punishing student of color more often than white students.  And presenting each case individually and laying out the facts in each case will not counter the blanket accusations that "institutional racism" exists in Green Bay schools.

And so those who can, use the state's open enrollment law to pull their kids from the Green Bay School District to attend classes in the surrounding districts--to the tune of a loss of more than 15-hundred students last year.  That means the "bad actors" make up a larger percentage of the remaining student body--further skewing the numbers when it comes to disciplinary action.  And those who can't "escape" via open enrollment remain prisoners of the system.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Inter-racial Racism

In today's episode of "Trying to Understand How Liberals Think", we examine the curious reaction to the new movie The Big Sick.  In the film, comedian Kumail Nanjiani--who is of Pakistani descent--meets a Caucasian woman and falls in love.  The story centers around Nanjiani's character trying to hide his white girlfriend from his parents--who are trying to arrange a marriage for him with a woman of Pakistani descent.  That is followed by the usual "culture shock" humor and eventual acceptance--because as we have been told many times "you should be allowed to love whomever you want".

One would think that a movie garnering rave reviews and some box office success starring a Pakistani-descent lead actor and portraying societal acceptance of such inter-racial relationships would be considered a "success" in Hollywood--which consistently pays only lip-service to minorities (especially when it comes to things like the Oscars or the Emmys).  But as several on-line articles claim the movie is actually racist.

The problem--according to those on the Left--is that Nanjiami's character falls in love with a white woman--which perpetuates something known as "white love"--or the belief that winning the favor of Caucasian women somehow "embodies an acceptance into American culture."  Men of Asian descent lust after white women not because of who they are--but what they represent--"a gateway to power in our culture".   Furthermore, there is criticism that the Pakistani women recruited by his parents that the main character rejects are all caricatures of the simple, subservient females of the native culture. 

Apparently, to meet the "expectations" of liberals, The Big Sick should have featured a Pakistani-American man that meets a Pakistani-American woman that is successful in business, independent, that has rejected the "patriarchal standards of Pakistani culture" and whom he treats as an equal.  His parents immediately accept her for who she is--and not what their background believes she should be.  All of his friends--especially those that are white men--respect her from the first time they meet her.  And then they go on to marry and have kids that they do not force any cultural expectations or gender norms upon.

There probably wouldn't be any comedy and hardly any entertainment value in that story--but at least everyone would leave the theater feeling really good about themselves.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Banking Some Goodwill

I hope the Oshkosh Corporation tosses out a lot of candy during their parade on Saturday--and that every child that wants to ride on one of the big trucks gets a chance during their open house--because the company may need all the goodwill it can get for a battle coming up in the future.  As City Councilmember Steve Herman told us this week, there is "plenty of buildable space" at the site of Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course--and by all accounts, Oshkosh Corp wants that land for a new world headquarters.

You can't really blame Oshkosh for eyeing that site--as it has the perfect combination of riverfront acreage and easy access to Interstate 41.  The corporate leaders likely have a bit of "headquarters envy" if you will.  Take a look at what smaller companies like Thrivent Financial and Plexus have in our area.  Thrivent has lagoons and walking trails and multiple parking lots on their site--which everyone driving by on I-41 can see.

Plexus just moved into a beautiful new building that consolidated all of their corporate divisions along the Fox River in downtown Neenah--where their employees can walk along the water or dine at neat little restaurants just a few blocks away.  Plus, the city is building them a parking ramp next door.  Compare that to Oshkosh's current corporate headquarters--which you could easily drive by without even noticing on Oregon Street--with it's funky "five corners" intersection confusing visitors looking for the parking lot. 

Now imagine replacing that set up with a gleaming new tower that you couldn't possibly miss along I-41 alongside the river, with the big old trees already on the site and the WIOUWASH Trail leading over the causeway right next door.  Wally at Robbins says he already has a new bar/restaurant ready to go into that building--and somebody looking to build a hotel next door--all of which could easily serve Oshkosh Corp employees and visitors.

The company will likely find a Common Council amenable to a potential sale.  I doubt Councillors Palmeri, Krause (no relation) and Panske are going to vote to preserve a playing ground for such an elitist, racist and misogynistic sport like golf.  And the pressure on the remaining Councilmembers to retain the headquarters of the largest employer in town will be great.  It's bad enough that the most well-known Oshkosh-related company--B'Gosh--has nothing to do with the city anymore.

So smile and congratulate the folks at the Oshkosh Corporation on their milestone anniversary this weekend--because things are not going to be so friendly in the near future.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Early Bird Special

I don't go to that many of them every year, but I would have to say that last night's Waterfest concert at the Leach Amphitheater in Oshkosh was the best one ever.  I don't say that because Huey Lewis and the News is one of my favorite groups and that they played all of their hits in fine form.  I don't say that because the rain stayed away--and it was the warm and muggy weather conditions that I love.  I say it was the best Waterfest show ever because it was done at 9:15 pm.  With the possibility of severe weather looming, organizers shortened up the sets for the opening acts and started Huey at 7:45pm.

Admittedly, I'm a bit different than your usual live music fan.  I'm on the job at 3:00 AM on weekdays--and I usually have something going on very early on weekends--while most everyone else is still sound asleep.  But is there really a good reason to hold so many events so late at night?

The average Waterfest show runs until 10:30 or so--with headliners not hitting the stage until around 9:00.  You add on the half hour it takes to get out of the Leach and back to your car--and the time to drive home on the crowded, one-way downtown streets and there is little chance of getting to bed before 11:30.  Last night, I was sleeping before ten.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people that stopped going to Country USA is that the headliners don't get on until 11:00 every night.  And with the traffic nightmare getting out of Ford Festival Park afterwards, it usually turns into an all-night affair.  Who needs that hassle, even if you don't have to be to work until 9:00 the next morning?

Whenever you hear about a new study that finds Americans don't get enough sleep, remember that we do that to ourselves.  Nights haven't become any shorter since the advent of time--we just insist on scheduling everything as late as possible. 

And it's not just concerts.  Sports is another late night offender.  Playoff games in all leagues and the college ranks start at 8:00 Central Time--9:00 on the East Coast--and go until around midnight.  There's no reason to start that late other than to make sure the entire game takes place during "prime time hours" in all time zones.  I'm sure the players themselves would be just fine with a 6:00 kickoff or tipoff.

So if I could make a suggestion to Mike Dempsey and the rest of the crew at Waterfest: Consider more "Early Bird Specials" and let us enjoy our beer and our music--while still getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Already Out of Touch

I sure hope newly-declared gubernatorial candidate Andy Gronik didn't clear his schedule this morning to talk with radio and TV stations across the state about his candidacy--because it won't be happening.  Seconds after Gronik announced his intentions to seek the Democratic nomination in 2018 via an email press release, Governor Scott Walker sent out a fundraising email to his donor list claiming Gronik is "out of touch"--and that was literally the case on Tuesday.

That's because the contact person listed for Gronik's campaign was not answering her phone--all day.  We tried calling the number from the Newsroom 12 times between noon and 6pm.  Every time it rang ten times.  Then a recorded message told us that the person with that number had not set up a voice mail account--so we couldn't even leave a message.  Email was a dead end as well, as the announcement came from one of those "press@" addresses that doesn't actually go back to a real, live person--but just serves to send out scheduled emails. 

Unfortunately, this is not that uncommon in our field nowadays.  We receive plenty of press releases via email with contact people and numbers--only to find out that "they are on vacation this week and won't be back until next Monday--and they are really the ones you need to talk to".  I usually picture these PR folks sitting on a beach somewhere or at an airport terminal typing out these press releases--and sending them to us before flipping their laptop closed and going back to sipping on a mai tai or boarding their plane.  Obviously, they are using the programs that can schedule when you send an email--even if you are not on your computer at the time.

But it still begs the question: Why "alert the media" if there is no possible way for us to get ahold of you to talk about what you thought was so important in the first place? 

It's actually a bit of "old school print mentality" mixed with "new school PR techniques".  Back in the day when newspapers drove the media cycle, you could provide them with a printed "quote" and they would use it word for word like they actually talked to you.  PR folks are still comfortable with that--as it doesn't open anyone up for follow up questioning that might require getting away from talking points.  The modern touch is to send out a high definition video--or an "edgy" selfie--that we are supposed to use for "electronic media purposes".

It turns out that Andy Gronik did an "exclusive interview" with the Associated Press yesterday--that the rest of us are supposed to use for our stories.  I'm just surprised they were able to get in touch with him.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Filling the Void

A recurring theme in the wake of the G-20 summit in Germany last week is that the US is "surrendering its leadership position in the world--and risking isolation".  A number of foreign news services aired footage of President Trump wandering around the summit halls with no one wanting to come talk to him or stand with him for pictures.  European leaders took veiled shots at us, inferring that somehow they were going to "step into the void and take the lead on important issues facing the planet".

There is a certain irony to all of this concern and consternation about the US breaking away from the direction that some of its allies want to go.  For decades those same countries have complained about having to operate in the shadow of the United States.  Liberals in those nations have long decried their leaders playing second fiddle to Presidents who set the "global agenda".  Nobody every accused Helmut Kohl or Francois Mitterand of "putting the world on the brink of nuclear war"--it was always Ronald Reagan who was "blamed" for that.

While they may talk about taking the lead, European and Asian leaders really don't want that responsibility.  Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Theresa May, Justin Trudeau and all of their Socialist predecessors built very comfortable lives standing underneath the American umbrella.  And they know that if they actually did try to "set the direction for the world" that it will result in the giant disasters that preceded the "American Century". 

Merkel and Macron know that they have no chance to contain Russia.  Thanks the military commitment of the US, Germany and France have dedicated their resources to single-payer, national health care systems--which aren't going to intimidate Vladimir Putin in the slightest.  The rest of Europe has no intention of taking on militant Islam or quelling the fighting in the countries that are leading to the mass exodus of refugees to the Continent--because they are too preoccupied with free daycare and "basic incomes" to commit anything more to humanitarian disasters elsewhere.  Japan has no ability to keep North Korea in check.  And we don't have time here to go into the medical and technological advancements that US companies develop in our free market system--unencumbered by the types of regulation and government involvement seen in the rest of the world.

So, to the "rest of the world" we should say if you don't want to continue to enjoy the protection and aid of the United States--because you don't agree with the politics or the guy running the show--go off on your own with neither the resources or the might to survive.  Don't worry, because we will still be here--ready to bail you out for the fourth time in the last 100 years.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Is It Time To Believe?

Having a five and a half game lead in the National League Central--and winning two of three from the New York Yankees in what has usually been a house of horrors for the team--is it time to believe the Milwaukee Brewers could actually make the playoffs this year?

The ragamuffin assemblage of twenty-somethings and castoffs from other teams is the most interest story in baseball this year.  The slightly-better-than average April start didn't really get too many people excited.  The bullpen meltdowns of May threatened to undermine morale--but the plucky Brewers kept finding ways to win the next game.  The usual June Swoon failed to materialize--as the Brewers actually expanded their lead in the division during the month.  And now they head into the All Star Break winning eight of their last ten.

Brewers fans have reason to not go jumping on the bandwagon just yet.  In 2014 the Crew led the NL Central by more than ten games in the first half of the season--then completely fell apart, finishing third. missing the playoffs and barely finishing the year above .500.  And that was a veteran team with a healthy Ryan Braun and starters that could go more than five innings without wearing down.

But the 2014 team didn't have a Cubs team that was sleepwalking through a post-World Series championship.  And the Cardinals that year weren't as old and injury-plagued as they are now.  Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are weaker this year as well--so it's entirely possible that the 2017 Crew is the best of a bad lot--and could hold on to win this thing.

I'm not ready to order playoff tickets just yet.  Friday night's game at Yankee Stadium where the Brewers committed five errors in just four innings shows that they are still weak in the fundamentals of the game.  And the 9th inning bullpen implosion of Saturday afternoon reveals a weakness that gets compounded as the games really start to mean something in September and October.

Regardless of how the rest of the season plays out, Craig Counsell has definitely clinched the National League Manager of the Year award.  And General Manager David Stearns deserves NL Executive of the Year for finding such free agent gems as Travis Shaw (who is a definite All-Star snub) and Stephen Vogt--both of whom couldn't hit a lick until they got to the Brewers.

Of course, an unexpected Brewers pennant chase will become secondary in importance to Wisconsin sports fans as of July 27th.  That's the date the Packers open training camp.  From that point on, video of Aaron Rodgers standing around with a red jersey on will replace Brewers highlights at the start of the sportscasts--and discussion of what "over-achieving" white guy might make the roster will dominate sports talk radio.  Hopefully the first place Brewers enjoyed their brief time in the Wisconsin sports spotlight.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Song Remains the Same

Last month I poked fun at Country USA for its "Bro Country" heavy lineup that featured song after song about drinkin', partyin' and drivin' pickup trucks.  Now comes Lifest, where the range of musical topics is even more narrow--like just one subject over and over and over again.  Perusing the catalogs of some of this week's headliners like Newsboys (which are actually from Australia--not really the first country you think of when it comes to devout Christianity--and who have a front man with the last name of Frankenstein) and Michael W Smith you find compositions only about God and Jesus.

I understand that these musicians believe their talents are gifts from on high and that they are obligated to use them to glorify their creator and testify to their own personal salvation.  But don't they want to glorify a really cool car or testify to how their ex-girlfriend was evil incarnate just once or twice an album?  I imagine them in the studio saying "OK guys, we just finished that song about how much we love Jesus--now lets cut one about how much Jesus loves us!!"  How as an artist do you keep finding different ways to say the same thing time after time?

Take for example my favorite Beatles album, Revolver.  It opens with a track about the oppressive income tax rates in Britain.  That is followed by songs about the death of a lonely woman, taking a nap, love, love again, an animated underwater child's fantasy, what it's like to be dead, what's it's like to be falling in love, a diss on your ex, the process of breaking up, prescription drug abuse, doubts about love, desire for a new love and the unknown nature of the future.  You listen to that album and you've have pretty much covered the entire gamut of human emotion and experience--in just 38-minutes.

Even some of the greatest musicians of all time have fallen into the trap of religious themes.  Bob Dylan had his "born again phase" in the late 1970's and early '80's when people wondered if he was done writing great music.  Van Morrison insisted that re-issues of his classic song "Brown Eyed Girl" replace the line "Making love in the green grass" with "Running and a-jumping, hey-hey" because it clashed with his renewed religious beliefs (which he has since moved away from again).  Even the former Beatle George Harrison changed the lyrics to his Fab Four songs during concerts to express his love for God--instead of what was likely Patti Boyd back in the day--which didn't sit real well with the audiences.

So if your are heading to Lifest, enjoy the different kinds of music--but keep in mind the words of the decidedly non-religious Led Zeppelin: The song remains the same.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The New Americans

The host on one of our early morning shows asked yesterday "What does it mean to be an American?"  It's a bit of a crutch to throw out a generalized question like that.  A better one would have been what are the differences between an "Old American" and a "New American"?

I'm an Old American.  I enjoy the right to say what I believe in--even if someone else may disagree or take offense.  I enjoy the right to practice (or not practice) the religion of my choice--and am safe from having the government tell me what my beliefs should be.  I enjoy the freedom to publish what I want as news content--even if it is highly critical of the government or opponents of the government.  And if I want to, I can peacefully protest decisions of my government--so long as I don't disrupt its function or deny others their right to free expression.

The New Americans are quite different from us Old Americans.  The New Americans believe that only speech that does not offend or challenge their way of thinking should be allowed in any format.  They believe that the government should dictate the way to practice one's religion (unless it is a relatively new religion practiced by just a few).  New Americans want the government to decide which media outlets present the proper facts and to shut down publication of all other forms of content so that people don't have to decide what they consider to be "the truth".  And New Americans believe that government operations they do not agree with should be blocked--by pre-emptive legal action, by force or by destruction of public property.

New Americans also have a very different definition of "Independence".  They believe people should be dependent on the government for their health care, for their transportation, for their child care, for their means of communication, for all aspects of their education and for their income in retirement.

But most importantly, New Americans really don't want to be Americans anyway.  They see the entire history of the country as a constant "failure".  That the governing document is so fundamentally flawed that it should be ignored in nearly all instances (save for the Equal Protection Clause--which often benefits their efforts) or that it should be interpreted through whatever social mores are popular this decade.  New Americans want to be more European than anything else.  They want to embrace the policies of the nations that the Old Americans fought to escape the control of--and then fought almost 200-years later to provide the opportunity to experience American-style freedom when totalitarian governments took over again.

So what does it mean to be American?  A lot less freedom and indepdence than it used to.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The 25th Amendment

Getting nowhere in proving treason through campaign connections to Russia, the latest attempt to remove President Donald Trump from office is a movement to invoke the 25th Amendment.  Because the Constitution as it is written really isn't taught in public schools anymore, you probably didn't know that the 25th codifies the procedure for replacing the President in case of incapacitation or death.  Until 1967, there was no official procedure to pass on power from the President to the Vice President.

The provision that those on the left want to invoke in the case of President Trump is Section 4--which allows the Vice President or the Cabinet to inform the Congress that the President is unable to discharge his duties anymore--and that the Vice President should be granted his powers.  However, if the President notifies Congress that he is in fact able to discharge his duties--he remains in power.  But if the Veep or the Cabinet comes back within four days to say "no, this guy is not fit to hold the office", Congress must immediately convene and vote on who should be President within 21-days.  If they vote the President out, the Vice President moves up.  If they vote to keep the President--or take no action in three week--he stays.

Obviously, the 25th Amendment was drafted to deal with situations where Presidents become physically incapacitated due to assassination attempts or medical emergencies.  There was real concern after Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in his second term (and his wife effectively ran the White House) and with Franklin Roosevelt's deteriorating health during his fourth term.  That was compounded by the chaos in the hours after John Kennedy was shot (and Lyndon Johnson could have been too) that precipitated drafting of the 25th to clean up the succession process.

I don't think that Congress at the time thought it would be used to claim that the President is a crazy man that needs to be removed from office.  Imagine what it would be like if Mike Pence or the Cabinet did alert Congress that President Trump is unable to discharge his duties.  Trump would certainly fire back notice that he is more than fit to lead--and then would unleash a barrage of Twitter posts attacking Pence and said Cabinet members as being the "real crazy people".

If Pence came back with a second notice, you would have Congress forced to hold hearings into the mental fitness of President Trump.  Employers across the country would be best off to just close all businesses if that happens--because that will be must see TV all day, every day.  Psychiatrists, psycholgists and sociologist would all be called to testify--nearly all of them just guessing as to the President's mental state--as he would allow just one doctor to conduct a test that will guaranteed find him to be sane.  And then to have open debate on the mental state of the President on the House floor?  You can bet we will be pre-empting all regular programming for that as well.

But in the end, unless Trump were to rise from his chair and imitate Doctor Strangelove at the end of Stanley Kubrick's classic movie and be unable to control his "Nazi arm", Congress will not vote to invoke the 25th Amendment--guaranteeing us at least another three years of the most bizarre period in US political history.