What happened to Presidential “Favorite Sons”?

There was a time when there was such a thing as "favorite son" candidates. They were politicians who had no chance of winning nation wide but did have a reasonable chance of capturing the convention votes of their own states.  They then could use those votes as bargaining chips on platform planks and/or promised appointments, provided that no candidate won an outright majority in the first convention vote.  I’m surprised politicians no longer attempt that when they have local appeal but insufficient resources for a national campaign.

I think I would like to see a Democratic nominating convention in which the winner was not already decided before the convention began.  The massive protests, brought about by the Vietnam war policies of President Johnson, and divisive high-handed response to them at the 1968 Democratic Convention, prompted the Democratic party to completely overhaul its rules for selecting presidential delegates.  The current rules give much more weight to public opinion and primary contests and less to professional politicians and "king makers." 

Republicans also modified their nominating procedures, but not to the extent the Democrats did.  The Republican Party politicians retained more of the nominating power for themselves than did the Democratic Party. 

Perhaps an unintended consequence of those changes is that Democratic nominee is now often one who appeals most to the Democratic left, but not necessarily to the majority of American voters.  After those changes were adopted past candidates have tended to espouse more liberal policies than the majority of the country was ready to accept.  In the general election campaign nominees often had to hedge on statements they made when seeking the nomination, sometimes coming across as flip-floppers or wishy-washy.   

Returning some of the power to the nominating Convention could lead to greater consideration of the views of the center majority.  A convention that requires more than one vote to select the nominee would make for a more suspenseful and newsworthy convention, drawing greater television coverage, as well as perhaps result in more consideration being given to a nominee whose policies could help unite our still bitterly divided  country.

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Hill Panel Initiates Contempt Charges Against Miers

The July 13, 2007, edition of the Washington Post reported,
"A court battle over President Bush’s broad but largely untested claims of
executive privilege grew more likely yesterday when a House panel took the
first step toward bringing contempt charges against former White House counsel
Harriet E. Miers.”  From what has been
reported so far, it appears to me that the Bush administration has subverted the
principal that the Justice Department is not to be used for political purposes.

Congress, however, as yet does not have the evidence they need to substantiate
that conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt. 
Nevertheless, it seems to me that Bush’s claim of executive privilege is
a strong one, given that the law apparently says that the U.S. Prosecutors
serve at the pleasure of the President, and does not limit the President’s
power to hire and fire them just to the transition period of a new
administration.

On the other hand, Congress could send a bill to the President changing those
Justice Department positions to non-political positions protected by regular
civil service regulations, or otherwise constraining the ability of the
President, and the Attorney General, to remove appointed U.S. Attorneys.  Congress does not need hard evidence of
wrong doing to pass such legislation.

After all, the Constitution did not give Congress the power to hold
investigative hearings for the purpose of uncovering scandal and blame.  Congress’ subpoena power was supposed to be
limited to Congress acquiring the information it needs to pass legislation in
an informed manner.

Remember how unjust we thought the hearings and investigations of the old House
UnAmerican Activities Committee
and Senate
Internal Security Subcommittee
were?  It’s inconsistent to
think that today’s Congress should have criminal investigation powers.

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Navy Takeover of US Military

I don’t see it as a problem, just a curiosity, but in reading the June 9, 2007 Washington Post article, Joint Chiefs Chair Will Bow Out, I noticed that Naval officers are in most of the top Defense Department military positions overseeing the military side of  the Iraq War.  The new Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, replaced Marine Gen. Peter Pace (the Marine Corp, as you know, is officially part of the Navy Department).  In the field the forces are commanded by Army Generals.  (The diplomatic side is handled by the State Department, not the Defense Department, although all generals’ and admirals’ education includes diplomacy.)  Here is the new lineup:

JCS Chairman – Adm. Michael G. Mullen (replacing Marine Gen. Peter Pace)
JCS Vice Chairman – Marine Gen. James Cartwright (replacing Adm. Edmund Giambastiani)
U.S. Central Command Commander – Adm. William J. Fallon
U.S. Central Command Deputy Commander – Vice Admiral David C. Nichols Jr.
White House Staff Adviser to the President (coordinator of the war, new position outside of
              DoD and not in the military structure ) – Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute
U.S. senior coalition commander in Iraq – Army General David H. Petraeus
U.S. field commander in Iraq – Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno

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Paying for Immigration Reform and Border Security

A Way to Pay for Immigration Reform
and Border Security 

In another of my essays I noted that there will likely be no
difference on people (whether terrorists or immigrants) coming into America
illegally whether or not an immigration reform bill eventually passes.  Current problems are less problems with the law than
problems and will enforcing current immigration law and border security.  (I’m deliberately ignoring the issue of
whether or not additional foreign workers need to be admitted to fill vacancies
that companies are having a hard time filling.)  Enforcing immigration law and closing gaping holes in border
security will require much larger budget allocated to those activities.  Where will we get the needed money?

One way is to legalize recreational drugs.  Okay, that seems totally unacceptable for
moral reasons.  But consider these
costs:

·        
Something like 90% (not an accurate number) of
prisoners in our prisons are there for relatively minor drug possession crime,
or for small scale selling drugs.  We
pay for their upkeep (housing, food, prison clothing) and we pay to guard
them.  The large number of drug
convictions has required us to build many more prisons.  How much money would we save if we could
release even ¾ of these prisoners.

·        
There is so much money to be made in wholesale illegal
drug sales that competitors are murdering each other, and unfortunate innocents
who are hit by stray bullets, over sales areas (“turf” wars).  Police resources need to cover
investigations of these homicides, intelligence on drug dealer activities, and
bringing to jail and to court motorists or others found to be in possession of
drugs, as well as in providing testimony for those case that go to trial.

·        
Offices of Prosecutors need resources to plea-bargain
many of these cases and to prosecute the rest in court.  Each case requires several trips to court,
even those in which plea bargains are reached.

·        
Border security has to divert resources from searching
for weapons and explosives to finding drugs. 
They use resources for training dogs and their handlers to detect
illegal drugs.  That is in addition to
training dogs to detect explosives. 
Although the same dog is sometimes used for both purposes, it is my
understanding that they have to know which they are expected to detect when
they go to work sniffing for contraband.     
 

·        
Our foreign policy is skewed by the effort to get
foreign governments to crack down on opium and hemp farmers and coca growers. Drinking alcohol has many of the same moral concerns as
illegal drugs.  That is why America once
prohibited the sale of alcohol.  As in
the situation with drugs, making alcohol illegal did not eliminate its
use.  It just drove it underground and
created opportunities for major criminals. 
Bootleggers smuggled foreign liquor into the US.  Some criminals had their own illegal
stills.  We’ve all seen movies about
Elliot Ness and the resources FBI devoted to catching these criminals.  Nevertheless, illegal alcohol remained so
profitable that there were turf wars over that illegal drug, similar to our
current drug wars.  As we all know,
after this bad experience the Prohibition law was repealed.  

We know that alcohol is a drug and that it has addictive
properties.  Some people can drink and
control their drinking.  Others become
addicted to alcohol.  These people are
alcoholics.  Their bodies are more
sensitive to alcohol than the average person. 
They remain alcoholics even if they are sober, i.e., as you know, if
they imbibe a little they will likely not be able to control themselves and
they will become drunk.  

Some drug use is reportedly similar.  There are some people whose bodies cannot
tolerate drug use.  They become easily
addicted and can’t control themselves. 
Marijuana (pot and hash) is reportedly not addictive.  Unlike alcohol and nicotine, marijuana does
not trigger receptors in the brain that demand more of the substance.  It may be, however, psychologically
addictive.  A person might like the
effect of the drug and want to repeatedly have that effect.  But there are no withdrawal symptoms from
stopping.  “Hard drugs,” including
heroin, are believed to be universally addictive.  If drugs were to be legalized they would still need to be
controlled, particularly hard drugs.  

It seems likely that marijuana cigarettes would be sold in a
manner identical to sale of tobacco cigarettes.  That is, they wouldn’t legally be sold to minors and the
government would collect a tax and the tax seal would need to be on each
pack.  Instead of costing the taxpayer
money to suppress growing, selling, possessing, and using marijuana, it would
become a source of revenue.  (Besides
being less addictive than tobacco, and not having the heart health problems
caused by nicotine, marijuana cigarettes might be less of a cancer risk.)  

Hard drugs would need to be more tightly regulated, possibly
requiring a doctor’s prescription for purchase.  Possibly hard drugs would be dispensed from government public
health centers.  Other options seem
possible.  The price of hard drugs
should be set high enough to cover the cost of dispensing, hopefully with some
left over as a source of revenue for funding other government activities.

Legalizing drugs and regulating them would not necessarily
lead more people to become addicted. 
Under the current laws illegal drugs are still readily available.  What legalizing drugs would accomplish would
be to save the money being spent on the unending drug war that we seem to have
no chance of winning.  It would mean
that we faced up to reality in the same manner as we did in repeal of
prohibition.  It would lead to less
murder and less income for criminal gangs. 
It would mean we didn’t have to pressure foreign governments to curtail
major income sources for their farmers. 
It would lead to less transmission of disease through shared
needles.  It would help addicts manage
their disease. 

We need more revenue if we are serious about controlling our borders.  We don’t want to raise taxes to pay for it.  We can’t afford to continue running up national debt.  So let’s give this idea
some consideration.

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Myths and Mistakes in the CNN June 2007 Presidential Debates

Myths and Mistakes in the CNN June
2007 Presidential Debates 

  • A
    way to lower gas prices is to eliminate subsidies to the oil and gas
    companies.
     How does that get
    us to lower or even to stable prices? 
    I agree that the oil companies are in no need of government
    subsidies, but eliminating an alternate stream of revenue would be an
    incentive for the companies to raise prices to make up for the lost
    subsidies, not to lower them.  

  • The
    proposed immigration reform bill is crucial, to either pass or to
    defeat. 
    A reporter for the
    Washington Times newspaper, whose name I forgot, said on a radio interview
    program that it won’t make any difference whether or not it passes.  How did Shakespeare say it, “full of sound
    and fury signifying nothing”? 
    There is not nearly enough money in the budget to provide
    the security measures the bill would need for it to be implemented
    properly. 

  • The
    Democratic members of Congress didn’t have the 67 votes in the Senate that
    would have been needed to override a veto on a bill ending the war. 
    The Democrats didn’t need to pass a
    bill to end the war.  All they had
    to do was NOT PASS a bill funding its continuation.  They could have sent an open message to
    the President that he had to sign the bill or he would have to get the
    troops out of harms way before the existing funds ran out or HE would be the one guilty of not supporting the troops.. 

  • The
    Republican Party is the party of “life.”
      Yes, it opposes legal abortion, but the GOP has been very
    selective as to which life affirming projects it supports.  For example, is there any doubt that
    legalizing recreational drugs in a controlled and regulated manner would
    eliminate the epidemic of urban deaths attributed to turf battles about
    illegal drugs, as well as save us the huge amounts of money our tax
    dollars used to fight the never-ending war on drugs?  No, but don’t expect any Republicans to
    support such a proposal.  They also
    oppose laws that could reduce the many deaths of family members caused by
    gun accidents or use of a gun in rage during a family argument. 

  • The
    Republican Party must protect the family.
      Again, they don’t protect it against violence due to family
    arguments.  Also, they oppose
    giving children pf gay couples the protection offered children of
    heterosexual families.   

 

 

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Money: the real problem for immigration law

Truths About Immigration 

Money is the key. 
With the current level of funding existing laws will continue to be at
best implemented weakly.  Similarly,
money is not there to implement the proposed new law that everyone is arguing
about.  The main issue for most people
is border security.  We need to control
who and what comes into America to protect against terrorists moving here.  People already in the country who want to
emulate al Qaida will need to be picked up through law enforcement methods,
using authorized wiretaps and surveillance consistent with Constitutional
requirements and other laws.  

Fences and intrusion detection systems can work, but they need
a quick response force to catch illegals before they get lost.  They may need to be able to detect
sophisticated tunnels, as Israel discovered belatedly in their highly fortified
border.  Maintenance problems and
nuisance alarms can plague any exterior intrusion detection system, and
knowledgeable intruders can use them to their advantage.  Illegals can try to go under, over, or
through fences.  They also could go
around them, since the authorized but not built fence will not cover all of our
borders.

Border security also requires an ability to detect falsified
papers at border portals, and to detect weapons and explosives that may be
hidden in ways designed to defeat detection. We need to search more than 1 % of all cargo coming into the country,  whether by air, sea, or road.

Without enforcing the law on employers, either the existing
or new law, the 12 million illegals reportedly already in our country (I’ve
always wondered how they got a count on people who are hiding their illegal
status) will not be motivated to come out of hiding.  If they do come out of hiding, we haven’t the resources to process them.   If they don’t, we don’t have the resources to find them and to imprison or deport all 12 million. 

The new law would require identification cards that can’t be
falsified.  They would include some kind
of biometric devices to ensure that the person using the card is the card’s
rightful owner.  Neither the right wing
nor the left wing of politics is willing to accept requiring everyone in the
U.S. to have biometric national identity cards.  The left considers it a violation of civil liberties.  The right believes it will make it to easy
for a totalitarian government to take away their weapons.  The new immigration law apparently would
require only aliens to carry such cards; citizens, whether native or
naturalized, won’t need them.  So if an
illegal wants to avoid identification as an illegal, he or she can simply claim
to be legal and not show a card.  Cost
arises again.  Who is to pay for 12
million or more electronic biometric encoded identity cards and for devices
to make the biometric measurements?

Immigrants are needed to do the work Americans don’t want to
do.
  Really?  Are there jobs that you can’t find Americans to do if the pay is
high enough?  What seems to really be
the case, if employment statistics and company personal managers are to be
believed, is that unemployment is so low that companies in all sorts of
industries are having a hard time filling positions.  What with all the jobs being shipped overseas and increasing
automation, I have a hard time understanding this, but apparently its true.

 

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Political Briefings at Agencies Disclosed

The April 26, 2007 Washington Post front page article Political Briefings At Agencies Disclosed quotes GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan as asking how GSA projects could be used to help "our candidates." When the briefer, J. Scott Jennings, said that topic should be discussed "off-line," Doan then replied, "Oh, good, at least as long as we are going to follow up."
 
It doesn’t surprise me that political appointees would be concerned about the political fate of the person upon whom their jobs depend.  But the Presidency will go to someone else in 2008, and even a new Republican President will want to make his or her own appointments.  So the interest of political appointees in keeping politicians in office who would continue the current administration’s policy direction may be due to their faith in the direction the President and the Republican Leadership in Congress has steered the country, and a desire to stay the course.  So I guess the faithful would want to return the right Republicans (i.e., the Christian Right) to power in the next election.  With a deep seated religious conviction in the correctness of their leaders’ shared vision (is a vision and a hallucination the same thing?), is it any wonder they are willing to bend the rules (or the law) to help accomplish that? 
 
Throughout the Executive Branch the Bush Administration has repeatedly demonstrated its incompetence in implementing even its own policy, as well as the normal duties of Executive Branch departments and agencies. It seems reasonable to believe that this general incompetence has been due to the quality of President Bush’s political appointments, as well as the resignation of many senior career civil servants who couldn’t abide the political interference. Even the Republican faithful could not tolerate Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.  Based on Ms. Doan’s  artless remarks,  perhaps she is yet another of apparently many top government positions for which Bush made appointments based on loyalty rather than smarts.
 
 
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