Thursday, May 25, 2017

Montana Special Election Controvesy Makes National News

Greg Gianforte
Welcome to 2017.  A time where it's downright dangerous to be a campaign reporter.

That's exactly what allegedly happened for Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, when he asked Montana Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte a question about the American Health Care Act.  Not only did Gianforte refuse to answer the question, he allegedly body slammed the reporter in front of others breaking Jacobs's glasses.

The hotly-contested Montana Congressional special election race should be a walkover for Gianforte who is up against Rob Quist, a banjo-strumming political newcomer, who has raised a ton of cash.  After Gianforte's alleged conduct in the encounter with Jacobs, many believe a "closer-than-it-should-be" race may have become even tighter.

Let's put all the politics of this aside and let's be fair and give Gianforte's side of the story.  The would-be Congressman, who is running to replace Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, claims it was Jacobs that provoked the incident by shoving his phone in his face and rudely continuing to ask questions when he was initially rebuffed.  He alleges Jacobs grabbed his wrist and somehow that resulted in him being on the floor with a broken pair of glasses.

It makes no sense.

Furthermore, even if it the story did add up, this sort of behavior from a person running for one of the 435 House seats should give folks in Big Sky country pause.  Montana has but just one U.S. House seat.  That's one representative for the 1.03 million people that live there.  Indiana has nine Congressional seats for 6.62 million people.  That comes out to one representative for about 735,555 people.

Gianforte's alleged actions are being supported and even condoned on the far right. They see it as a conservative hero allegedly smacking down that liberal media.  Gianforte has been charged by police in the case after audio of the alleged events surfaced.

For five seconds, even if I believed Gianforte's version of the story, his reaction to Jacobs questions and demeanor in my view are completely uncalled for.  I can't imagine sending someone with the kind of hair trigger that Gianforte appears to have to Washington where it's only going to get worse.

In a larger sense, the lack of respect for reporters and the press is appalling.  I'm not saying that there's never been a time that reporters have gone too far in pursuing a story, and the constant spotlight of always being on guard can't be easy.  The press, however, has to be allowed to do its job, and journalists should be protected from harm. Often, they are not.

We'll know by tomorrow how Montanans voted.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trump Must Fix Trump or Resign

President Donald Trump
When I try to turn away from blogging about national issues, they always seem to pull me back.

Last night, Donald Trump was accused by a Washington Post report of revealing highly classified information to the highest level of Russian government officials during an Oval Office meeting last week.  Again, he's left me speechless.

This is the stuff of novels.  It's the stuff of screenplays.  It's certainly not non-fiction, but, if the WaPost article is true, and there are some in government corroborating it, this is non-fiction.

I literally have no words for this latest shock. As exasperated Rachel Maddow said, "Hyperbole is dead." It's like he's trying to get impeached at this point, and it's now at the expense of our allies, according to the report in the Post.

Of course, the White House has pushed back at the report giving a non-denial denial of the story saying that it's untrue "as reported."  No other information came out of the White House last night as the President's spin-meisters no doubt try to cover the latest smelly mess left by Trump.

It appears that we have elected the most unfit and unaware man to ever serve in the Oval Office.  If those that wanted someone to shake up Washington voted for Trump, it appears that they have elected a guy that may unwittingly bring the whole place down.

For the love of our country, the President of the United States has to get his act together, and it's clear that he's the only one who is going to do it.  He won't listen to anyone or anything and refuses to be and act Presidential.  That all must change.  He has to start listening to those around him.  He has to listen to those that brief him and to those that advise him.  This is not about Donald Trump any more.

This is about America.  If Trump can't get himself under control and under some sort of discipline, he must resign or be impeached and removed from office.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Race for Marion County Sheriff's Seat Well Underway

Sheriff John Layton
Marion County Sheriff John Layton can't run again because he's term-limited.  After two terms and a long career in law enforcement, he'll step aside in January of 2019.  The race to replace Layton is just beginning.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Indiana, Kerry Forestal, is the front runner for the nomination and probably the favorite to take Layton's place.  Forestal was briefly considering a candidacy for the 2010 election cycle, but he was appointed U.S. Marshal by President Barack Obama.  He stayed in that position until 2015 when he returned to the Marion County Sheriff's Office serving as Executive Officer for Layton.  

Mark Brown, who has run twice against Layton for the Sheriff's position, also has maintained an active Facebook page.  I have not seen Mark to ask him if he's running again in 2018 or not, but a third try would not surprise me at all.  Mark's a man of great class, and I've always enjoyed our interactions.

On the Republican side, two GOP candidates are emerging.  Southport Police Chief Tom Vaughn announced his candidacy last week.  The 20-year veteran of law enforcement has a website up along with a Facebook page.  Jim Grimes, who was last seen making a primary challenge against Bob Behning in House District 91, is another experienced candidate in the mix.  Grimes already is out there raising cash in this race.  He seems to be getting support from the mainstream of the GOP.

There's a little less than a year back to the primary, but the Marion County Sheriff's race may be one to keep your eye on as the field grows.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mothers' Day Changes When You Lose Mom

Me and Momma Easter
Today marks my third Mothers' Day without my mother, but I'll never stop celebrating this day.

My mother went to sleep on Christmas in 2015 and died that night.  We got the call around 11:30 pm that she had just passed around 11:15.

I'm not going to take you back down that memory lane.  Believe it or not, it's not that sad for me because seeing my mother's lifeless body in her PJs and under her Tennessee Volunteers blanket (given to her by my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas), I couldn't be all that mad at the world.  That's what she wanted, ultimately, to "get home" to see my father.  She made it for Christmas.

What I want to talk about is the process I went through after Mom died.  Losing my mom was much tougher on me than losing my dad.  While I had periods of spending a lot of time with both, I think most people would call me a "mama's boy" and I'm fine with that.  For me, losing Mom just sucked because I lost my best friend.

For one thing, I called her every night, and, if I didn't call her one or two nights, she'd call me on the third night to find out what was so important going on that I couldn't call her.  She was the one that I would unwind my day with and tell her what happened.  She knew all the big events in my life and what was going on.  If I didn't tell her something, she always had a way of finding out.  So, I adopted a social media and blog policy, if I wouldn't show my mother this posting, then I wouldn't post it.  I still adhere to it today.

So, guess what I do?  I still talk to Mom, and I think she still knows what's going on in my life.  Just because the physical person is gone doesn't mean you have to stop talking to them.  I would highly advise against doing this on a street corner in downtown Indy, but I do still talk to my mother if I need to do so.  When I don't talk to her enough, she crashes my dreams now.

It's been a process, and I still miss her.  Her memories bring more smiles than tears now, but I'll still hear her favorite songs and get a little tear in my eye.  I think that will happen forever.  Anyway, I wanted to write this blog post for those of us without mothers on Mothers' Day.

I urge you to celebrate your mother's memory.  Here's to Marjorie May Miller Easter!  Happy Mothers' Day, Momma.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Trump's Driving My Political Brain Insane.

Future Impeached President Donald Trump
I've been trying to write a few days ahead on this blog so that, like these days, when I get busy I have some posts ready to go.  .

You may have noticed that I've been late to react to the latest Donald Trump news.  Frankly, after James Comey was fired, I didn't quite know what to write.  I still don't.  I'm stunned.  I'm slack-jawed.  I'm nearly speechless, and I'm trying to find out why there are still nearly four in ten people in the United States that back Donald Trump as President.

So, this is a pretty disjointed stream of consciousness mess on the current situation.

To me, it's crystal clear that when you take five or six steps back and look at the big picture that this administration has something to hide, and it's trying it's darnedest to hide it.  The only one who isn't is Donald J. Trump.  

Trump is lumbering through this Presidency like a rhinocerous trapped in a crystal factory.  He's knocking things over and leaving every one else to clean up his mess, but he's the he doesn't care.  

Trump is Robert Stack in Airplane...

Only Trump goes ahead and tries to anticipate what you think he should not do and then does it.  You get the feeling that his team tells him to avoid talking about topic A.  Common sense, political wisdom, and everything else would tell Trump to avoid topic A.  So, he talks about topic A or he makes the exact decision leading to the scenario in topic A.

Russian connection? PSH! Let's have them in the Oval Office and only let their media in! Media asy what?  Trump's saying, "I've got an idea. Let's fire the FBI Director because he's getting too close.  He wants to investigate my people more.  I've also got a fool proof plan to explain it all.  We'll blame it on Hillary Clinton's e-mails so the Democrats will have to agree."

Everyone nervously in the room shakes their head yes because no one would want to defy the President.

I'm trying to make sense of it, but I simply can't. Trump continues to defy logic, sensibility, and good thought at every level.

I mean...when I write it again, it just boggles my mind.  Just days after requesting more juice for his investigation into the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia, Comey was fired by President Trump on the alleged recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Many of us out here in Real-Worldville don’t buy it.

Trump claims he fired Comey over the handling of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail case. Come on, man?  I want to cuss!  After he spent months on the campaign trail stoking the fire of that case, he’s going to fire the man that gave him the wood? Puh-leeze. This President is insane or has an impeachment wish!

He's making me crazy!!  He's even making those on the right crazy too.  He's got them buying into his bull feces.

Here's the bottom line.  If Trump wanted Comey gone, he should have done it as one of his first actions in office. Trump didn’t want Comey gone until it looked like Comey was about to be an enemy...I mean...I think.  I don't know any more.  

Then there's the whole manner in which Comey was fired...which blows my feeble mind even more.

So, Donald Trump pens a letter firing Comey while the Director was in Los Angeles, has it delivered by his personal bodyguard to the FBI Headquarters, and doesn’t bother to pick up the phone to call Comey. Are you kidding me?

In a Gallup Poll, 54 percent believe Trump inappropriately fired Comey. That means 38 percent believe Trump did the right thing in firing Comey, and that coincidentally matches his current job approval rating. These people are....kaj;eiakf;alej;laiedjfaoreifa;ijead;lifiedjc;alwekzj.

Sorry...(deep breath)...

I believe this will all come back to bite Trump right in the behind. I just don’t think he’s good enough at covering his own tracks. Patience is a virtue with this one. I am still nearly certain of this...Donald Trump is on his way to making history. He may be the third President to be impeached, but he may be the first to actually deserve it and be convicted in the Senate.

When he's removed from office, he'll do an interview with Sean Hannity, "No one has been removed from office before...I's the first time, Sean.  It's historic."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

By Electing Macron, French Rebuke Results of Trump, Brexit Elections

French President-Elect Emmanuel Macron
Photo from Twitter
The French people flirted with disaster, but they ultimately selected the best candidate to move Europe and the world economy forward.

Emmanuelle Macron won the French Presidential Election on Sunday over Marine Le Pen.  Outgoing President Francois Hollande did not run for reelection after dismal approval ratings scared him off.  That means that a political centrist will now be in charge of one of the world's most important democracies.

Macron and Le Pen, the candidate of the National Front, a far right political party, had emerged from the field of candidates as the two top vote getters last month.  Early polls showed the race too close to call. Macron became the target of reputation damaging stories in the press, and there was a flurry of last minute interference by the same influences that seem to have possibly at least attempted to interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election.  None of that had an effect.  In fact, Macron trounced Le Pen garnering over 66 percent of the vote.

This was a strong rebuke of the far right forces that have taken hold in several major worldwide countries.  Donald Trump had softly backed (not openly) Le Pen as had several forces that also pushed through the Brexit in Great Britain.  Le Pen wanted to take France out of the European Union, and that would have doomed the EU and thrown the world economy into an uncertain place.  Le Pen also has similar anti-immigrant views as Trump and, despite an effort to cleanse her party's image, Le Pen's National Front Party had leadership, in the past, that denied the Holocaust as well as what many others determined racist and anti-semitic views.

Now Macron has to govern, and politics aside, the French did elect a man with a few things in common with Trump.  Macron has little experience in politics.  This is his first elected position.  Like Congress, the French National Assembly is also a factionalized mess with more factions and parties represented than in Washington.  It's going to be interesting to see how Macron puts together his team as he has to tiptoe a careful line.  Far right folks are already attacking Macron for his acceptance speech that featured the European Union's Anthem "Ode to Joy".  They say he'll be a yes man for the European Union.  Really, he's a bit of an enigma.  He also comes to power at a time when France has been reeling from a wave of violent terrorist attacks including one in the days leading up to the Presidential Election itself.

What's clear is that, for now, France avoided the fate of the United States or Great Britain.  What that means right now and from here is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Pence's Bad Deal Forces State Scramble to Pay for Pet Bicentennial Projects

Pence speaks at Bicentennial Gala
Mike Pence is in Washington, but we’re still paying for his projects in Indiana.

Governor Eric Holcomb signed a budget that includes $5.5 million for Pence pet projects dedicated to Indiana’s now over bicentennial.  Over $53 million in other bicentennial projects remain unfunded with an uncertain future, according to reports.

Holcomb was in a tough position. The projects were done, so someone had to pay. That someone is you and I after Pence left the Hoosier State without a solid funding solution for his projects. The completed work includes the new Bicentennial Plaza on the Westside of the Statehouse and, according to WTHR, upgrades to the state library. Pence initially wanted to lease the state’s cell tower assets to pay for the projects. With no takers, there was nothing in the coffers to pay for the projects.
Had transparency been a part of this equation, I might have backed the projects, but lawmakers were iffy on this plan from the start. Plus, in a state budget that spends $32 billion, the price tag is just 0.0002 percent of the total.

Still, with all the other needs the state had, it seems that the $5.5 million could have been spent elsewhere or come from different sources. $5.5 million could have done a lot elsewhere. 

Instead, it’s tied up paying for Mike Pence’s pet projects while coming out of our pockets instead of maybe more private sources.  I hear the Republicans charged a minimum of $250 and some gave up to $25K a plate to hear Donald Trump, Jr. speak at their spring dinner.  That's hearsay, I admit, but there are probably some local companies that could have easily covered that $5.5 million had they been given the opportunity early in the process.

Call me crazy.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Every Indiana U.S. House Republican Votes for AHCA Opening Door for Democrats

Democrats should be very excited for 2018.

Every Indiana Republican in the United States House voted for the American Health Care Act, and every provision of this unpopular bill is, as Nancy Pelosi said on the floor of the House, "tattooed on (the) forehead," of every member that voted for it.

Even the most staunch supporter of the AHCA admits that he Senate is going to make wholesale changes to the bill, and, if any form of it passes the Senate, that it won't likely even resemble what came out of the House.

That's why those with preexisting conditions and that depend on things like Medicare are so concerned about this bill.  Over 24 million Americans, according to one estimate, will lose insurance on this bill.  It's a disaster, and all seven Indiana Republicans are attached to that disaster at the hip.

Now, some Republicans could run naked down the aisle during the State of the Union and still get reelected in Indiana.  These folks can do pretty much whatever they like, but for people like Jackie Walorski, Susan Brooks, Trey Hollingsworth and Larry Bucshon, this bill might work against them with the right Democrat opposing them.

It's going to be key to get good Democrats to run against each Republican Congressional Representative this year.

I did not mention Todd Rokita in that list of Republicans because if he runs again in District 4, he's likely to be reelected.  Rokita, however, wants a promotion to the other side of Capitol Hill in the Senate, and his vote for the AHCA could work against him as well as defending United Airlines and law enforcement in the Dr. David Dao dragging incident a few weeks back in Chicago.

As you may remember, Dao had a ticket for a seat on an overbooked flight.  When United tried to get some passengers to give up their seats for members of another United flight crew, the passengers refused.  Dao was chosen at random, but he refused to give up his seat.  Authorities were called, and Dao was dragged off the plane unconcious having sustained a variety of facial injuries and a concussion.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz and the airline admitted fault and settled with Dr. Dao, but that wasn't enough for Rokita who made sure to get the following statement on the record.  "I also wanted to say that this is a bit of a two-way street. A grown man, assumedly sane, when approached by law enforcement, on an aircraft, should abide by the requests being made. And I don’t know that that, Mr. Chairman, has been said in this hearing or generally in the conversation. So I wanted to make a record of that, because it deserves to be said,” Roikta said.

Ok, Todd.

One way or another, Republicans have opened the door...maybe even to a primary challenge for themselves.  Now, it's up to Democrats to walk through and take the opportunity.  That's something that our party admittedly has trouble doing sometimes.  See Clinton, Hillary...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

"Shining City" a Little More Dim Tonight

Today is a rotten day in America.

The United States House just threw some 24 million Americans off the bus and left them behind without health insurance and then celebrated with the President on the South Lawn like giddy teenagers.  They did it without truly understanding the bill or without truly understanding a cost.  They did it over the majority of Americans saying do something else.

But that was only one thing that happened today.

In a signing ceremony, President Donald Trump signed a RFRA-like executive order surrounded by religious leaders and next to an adoring Mike Pence who essentially tried this same crap in Indiana.  Thankfully, it seems a little toothless per the ACLU.

As I think about these two events, I get madder and madder and madder.  I feel as if this isn't some attempt at making better policy.  It just feels like it's an attempt to further divide us based on our politics.  It's more about wiping out every vestige of President Obama's eight years in office not because what he did was wrong but just because Republicans think they can.

I am also struck by the great song "America" by Neil Diamond, a somewhat schmaltzy 1980's era song from a largely forgotten film called the Jazz Singer.  The song's lyrics talk about huddling together on boats, planes, and trains to be free in a new country.  It's a dream so many Americans who once called another land home can relate to now as they have begun that new life here.

We used to be that "shining city on the hill" that Ronald Reagan talked about.

Sadly, I can't help but feel that our shine is a little dimmer tonight.  Our way is a little more muddled, and I can't help but shed a little tear for what we have become and for what the rest of the world must think of us.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud to be an American.  I'm very proud, and I understand what it means.  I understand that in other countries that I could be imprisoned for being gay or be thrown in some Gulag-like work camp for opposing the government.  I understand that as an agnostic, I could be persecuted or murdered.  I understand that my status as an American citizen gets me in most countries around the world and that our society has advanced to the point that my water comes from a faucet and my food is plentiful.  I get it.  I'm very blessed to be an American.  I'm very thankful for all those that have died to make my life as free as it is today.

It's that pride and that thankfulness that makes me sad tonight.  I fear that other Americans or other folks may not have that same experience.  Unfortunately, we have a party and a President in power that doesn't seem to care about this,