Saturday, November 26, 2016

On the Bright Side, the Trump Presidency will help my knowledge of Civics

Everyone has an abundance of life experience prior to gaining any elected office. This leads to the creation of regulations of what you can and cannot do while in that office. At any level it is important that the elected official act in the best interests of his/her constituents while functioning in that position. Each level of government, and even more specifically each office often has its own set of regulations and guidelines to make certain that the elected officials knows what he or she is allowed to do. 

I can tell you from experience that there are very strict obligations at the very lowest level of government, and that even the appearance of impropriety in this regard can lead to significant concern, and then trouble for those involved. Unfortunately, our society seems to make a joke of the idea that all politicians are corrupt, in my experience nothing could be farther from the truth. There are however, significant opportunities to act in a corrupt manner.

When someone is tasked with managing the budget, or the resources of a community, they need to be steadfast in those dealings. When managing someone else’s money, transparency in private business, and in the public’s business is of the utmost importance. In some cases this is a very hard lesson for new politicians to understand. One of the very first things some small towns do is put new officials through an orientation, so that these rules can be explained.

There are two different concerns that I feel might be a concern with President-Elect Trump. The first and the one being reported on most by the media is the ‘Emoluments Clause’. This is in reference to Article I section IX, clause VIII, and a possible violation of this clause. Now I will admit that I did not know the exact definition of the word ‘emolument’, I know most of you use the word all the time, but I do not so I went ahead and looked it up. Emolument means: “ the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites”. (Merriam-Webster)

Now this basically states, as I understand it that the President can not be bribed. From my perspective, that only takes care of half of the problem. The President-Elect has a myriad of business holding through out the world. This was one of the reasons some people felt that he should be elected to the office in the first place.

However, these same interests might be getting in the way. In some countries there is an expectation of bribery in business dealings. In response to this the US government passed the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. This Act does not allow American companies to bribe foreign officials to garner business.  (Hamilton, 1981)  So not only can the President not take a bribe, but he/she can not be seen as offering a bribe either, if it just so happens that he has private business concerns.

President Trump is on record as saying that the law is ‘horrible’ and that countries such as Mexico and China that allow bribes, should be the watchdogs for this sort of behavior. (Silverstein, 2015) There are rumors that President-Elect Trump spoke to elected officials in both Great Britain, and in South America about various personal business dealings. Can we be sure that there was no offer of special political favors if the private concerns were properly addressed?

Is this making ‘America Great Again’ fulfilling our national destiny as a ‘Shining City on a Hill’, showing our ‘Exceptionality’, or is this just about creating a business advantage and making us even with countries that have no labor protections or expectations of transparency?

Hamilton, M. (1981, May 22nd). Hill Told Bribe Law Suspension Would Boost Worldwide Pact. Washington Post .
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Emolument. Retrieved from
Silverstein, E. (2015, August). Donald Trump has called the FCPA a 'horrible' law. Inside Counsel .

Monday, November 21, 2016

If 2008 was 'Hope and Change', 2016 was 'Fear and Loathing'.

It has been quite a while but here goes nothing.... I've been out of the blogging business for quite some time, but a part of me decided today that I should pick it back up. I've been a news junkie for a good bit of my adult life, but have limited myself to roughly 1 hour of news a day since the election. Compare that to roughly 4-6 hours a day, on average, for the last few years. The day after the election I watched 6 episodes of 'SpongeBob Squareparents' in a row. My daughter hasn't watched that show in years, and oh by the way I hate it. Hated it then, and still hate it. I'm very conflicted about this election. In the last two weeks, I've watched 'Sanford and Son', 'Good Times', and even 'Petticoat Junction'. In an attempt to harken back to a time when the country was more unified I decided to watch some 'All in the Family'. I mean the early '70s just had Vietnam and Watergate, heck those were nothing, they were unified singing 'Kumbayah' just ask anyone under 30. I just started watching the news again, not much mind you but some, a few family members have suggested to give the President Elect a chance. This person who has spent the last 18 months or so making fun of the election process, disregarding any level of decorum, and bullying anyone who disagrees, has also shown a remarkable disinterest in learning about the job, he is about to take on. Anyone reading this can get that sort of evaluation anywhere, I do not need to go into the weeds about that. As I write this I guess, I'm not willing to take a wait and see approach, the immediate future is quite bleak. The long term effects are most likely going to be felt as it regards the Judiciary. Not only is there one immediate openinng, but Anthony Kennedy is 80, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83, and Stephen Breyer is 78. That is potentially four Supreme Court nominations, something that could fundamentally affect our every day lives for many years past either 2020, or 2024. I very like will follow up on that issue in the near future. Honestly though, I find one reaction truly intriguing. Steve Bannon, the chief strategist for the President-Elect has suggested that they would be able to create a ruling coalition for the next 50 years.This is funny. They lost the popular vote, by over a million votes and are preparing for a coalition that will stand for 50 years. Curious. The Republicans won the areas of the country they always win, the rural and some suburban areas, of just about every state. It just so happens that they were able to energize those voters more than the Democrats energized the base that normally comes out for them. Now the Democrats are trying to figure out how to get back into power. The sad thing is one of the leading candidates, the one I happen to like the most, Rep. Keith Ellison, suggested they just didn't properly engage their constituency. This might be true, but it is not a long term answer for the party. Personally, I think the long term demographic and geographic trends will favor the Democrats, but they should be a bit more proactive. Just because the urban and coastal areas are getting more populous, and the rural areas are inherently becoming less populous means thar the Democrats should keep doing what they are doing. We have serious problems in this country both at the individual, and the macro levels. Both parties have serious concerns to confront in the next few cycles: Income inequality is a real problem, not only for those people on the plains of Texas, but also in the apartment complexes of South Florida. Rather than ignoring the farmer or rancher in Wyoming, listen and take to heart their concerns. Farmers and Ranchers are often strong proponents of the E.P.A., because not only do they rely on nature for their livelihood, they likely grew up enjoying it. Rather than ignoring those of us in urban areas because you know how we are going to vote, fashion part of your platform that is inclusive of the people you think should give you a chance. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats respected all of the voters. Note to Republicans this is not an equal distribution... David Duke and Alex Jones are truly despicable creatures. Their followers are as well. However, the President-Elect should spend more time focusing on how to fix the big problems of this country, and less time worrying about people that are exercising their First Amendment Rights. Calling women 'pigs', and denigrating the disabled, and some of his other actions I would find reprehensible in elementary aged kids. The people who are being displaced by lack of opportunity and/or education need to be respected and listened to. Contrary to some on the left, just because you are a welder in Hattiesburg, doesn't mean you can or should be ignored. Contrary to some on the right, just because I am quite educated does not mean I don't work hard for a living. In closing, I've spent years focused on process and the institutions of government. I abhor the idea of any sort of voting restrictions, and challenged in any way I could, attempts to disenfranchize voters. I complained about Republican attempts to strip the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I called legislators who voted on Bills related to Voter IDs, and other voting issues. I now urge the Democratic candidates to focus on putting forward solutions to problems not only in the urban areas, but also in the upper Midwest, the South and even in the Great Plains. Destroying the Constitutional Institutution of the Electoral College is not the answer, ideas that respect all of us, and address the needs and concerns of all of us is the way to go. Donald J. Trump has done nothing in his choices of rhetoric, or his staffing decisions have done nothing but scare the hell out of me. I pray to G-D I'm wrong, unfortunately I don't expect that to be the case.