Berkeley Has Not Lived Up To Its Promise To Protect Free Speech

In the 1964-1965 academic year Berkeley was the leading educational institution in America striving to protect the right of free speech. The student protest was lead by Mario Savio.

“In protests unprecedented in scope, students insisted that the university administration lift the ban of on-campus political activities and acknowledge students’ right to free speech and academic freedom.” What a wonderful moment it was for our Constitution.

This compares to the violent protests by Berkeley students and non-student interlopers against conservative messengers such as Ann Coulter. To quote her, “ I’m so sorry Berkeley canceled my speech. I’m so sorry YAF (Young Americans For Freedom) acquiesced in the cancellation.”

Coulter intended to speak to students in the face of Berkeley’s request to postpone it to a time when most students would be studying for exams. She ultimately decided not to speak uninvited because of the violence that was threatened by those who are not so concerned about free speech. This group believes free speech does not protect those with opinions that are different than theirs.

Unfortunately the liberal thugs encouraged conservative thugs determined to support Coulter at Berkeley. The result of such a confrontation could have been disastrous.

The home of free speech was unable to host a conservative perspective on campus. Free speech has taken a step backwards as has the reputation of Berkeley. The school backed down when confronted by a violent attack on a right that the institution was famous for protecting at all costs.

As a reminder the First Amendment of the Constitution declares, “Congress shall make no law . . . [that] prohibit[s] [or] abridge[s] the freedom of speech . . .” You will note that this amendment does not exclude protest by any groups even if their positions are anathema to Americans or America. The right is not selective and is available to all Americans.

 

The Odds Against Trump’s Tax Reform

In the coming months the Trump administration will attempt to reform the tax code. This reform is severely overdue. In recent years no president has been able to make changes to simplify the code because it is so controversial and will impact virtually every American. Exacerbating the debate are the outright lies, distortions and spin that will be spewed upon Americans. This essay is an attempt to simplify what will likely occur during the Spring and Summer months. Hold onto your hat. It’s going to be a very rough ride.

The objectives of the Trump tax agenda are: elevate economic activity, increase employment and reduce corporate and individual taxes.

Greater economic activity will benefit all Americans. It will result in new jobs and reduce underemployment. Moreover the quality and remuneration of such jobs will improve, and more hard-core and hopelessly unemployed will be able to find work.

Most Americans are expected to benefit by a reduction in their tax bill to some extent. The reality that liberals don’t seem to appreciate is that people who pay the lion’s share of personal taxes will axiomatically be the greatest beneficiaries of tax relief.

The potential risk of tax relief is that the economy doesn’t improve sufficiently to defray the reduction in federal taxes. Most economists project greater economic activity from lower taxes because it will spur consumer spending for goods and services and hopefully inspire more capital investment by corporations. Higher taxes on increased purchasing coupled with more payroll taxes should replenish lower tax receipts to some extent.

This theory is not really “trickle down economics” a pejorative term used to demonize tax reform by liberals. More activity and less unemployment will surely increase tax receipts.

So when the naysayers try to convince you that a reduction of business taxes will increase the national deficit by billions over the next decade, they almost always don’t mentionå greater tax receipts resulting from new jobs and increasing sales of goods and services.

The battle relating to tax reduction will be furious. Every special interest group will be fighting for a greater share of tax benefits. Because tax reductions will likely be possible only with corresponding decreases in other areas to mitigate a rise in the national deficit, the federal government will likely look to eliminate special interest tax deductions from a number of places. The likely ones could include deductions for mortgage interest and taxes, interest rates affiliated with debt incurred by individuals and corporation, charitable contributions and even for depreciation of plant and equipment. The response from the lobbying groups concerned with these issues will be monumental.

So you can see the negotiation of tax reform will be a complex and hard fought war. Given that certain entitlements and welfare plans may also be cut to offset the tax reductions, we should expect a huge blow back from other groups and their liberal supporters in Congress.

 

Four Reasons Why Trump Will Not Be A Great President

Donald Trump has quite a few things working against him in his mission to be a great president. At this point in his tenure most polls are uncovering scores of reasons why Trump is more likely to be a flop. Most importantly his administration has had very few victories and hasn’t been able to keep any of the promises made during the presidential campaign. This essay will explore four huge issues facing the administration

 

Personality– Trump is not a likeable person. He doesn’t relate to other people. Historically he hired minions to do his bidding but he made all the decisions himself depending more upon family advisors than anyone else.

Other presidents like JFK, Reagan and even Obama were loved by large groups of Americans. Being loved doesn’t necessarily correlate to being a great president (consider Obama), but it is not productive when an image of a president evokes outright disdain.

What is it about Trump that causes so many to abhor him? It’s really personal. Hillary Clinton supporters complained that every aspect of her appearance was judged by America, which detracted from her being able to show off her political acumen. The press often commented about her frumpy pantsuits, hair and less than extraordinary oratory skills (compared to Obama and her husband).

Many of us, including the press, Hollywood celebrities, late night hosts and every American that despises him, has mocked Trump’s physical appearance. Alec Baldwin, who is making a career out of viciously jabbing at Trump on SNL, covers a lot of territory including his comb over hairdo, his facial expressions and his weight.

Some of Trump’s ardent supporters continue to applaud the president’s aggressive ‘tude and his in your face demeanor. But way more than half the country (based on recent polls) hates these traits. Trump has turned people off with his critical and not so subtle speeches, and his Twitter lambastes are universally panned. When you are always attacking, you have to expect retaliation.

 

Politics– Trump managed to get elected just a few months ago, a truly amazing feat in the opinion of most. He gets an A+ for doing so as a neophyte. By contrast Hillary Clinton spent her whole life in government and politics and was beaten soundly by both Obama and Obama, who both came from nowhere to claim the biggest political prize.

But Trump’s ability to garner increased support since the election has been minimal. He and his Republican colleagues won control of both the Executive and Legislative branches of the government. And since then his nominee for the SCOTUS vacancy has been confirmed restoring the conservative tilt of the Court. So why the hell has Trump failed so miserably legislatively?

The answer is crystal clear. He was double-crossed by his own party. Sanctimonious conservatives got off by making it impossible for him to repeal and replace Obamacare. The same people were raging about the crappy law ramrodded down the throats of Americans by the previous president that is still in effect. When the conservative dingbats had the chance to finally ditch the law they committed political treason and refused to vote for the president’s plan. Many Republicans hope that these outliers lose their seats in the midterm elections in 2018.

Exacerbating the political problem is that Democrats abetted by the liberal press are pulling out all the stoppers to ensure that Trump fails. Isn’t it unpatriotic to want a president to implode? Yes. Is it legitimate to fight against policies that you disagree with? Of course. Should you do and say things that are disrespectful to the presidency and are bad for America? Absolutely not. Opposition is healthy, but vitriol is not. And please, get your facts straight.

Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are leading the charge against the Trump administration while the New York Times and all of the other left-wing media outlets are complicit. They are doing a disservice to our country by putting politics ahead of America.

 

Foreign Affairs– All the craziness involving Syria, Iran, Russia, China, North Korea, Mexico, ISIS, other terrorists and many world leaders might all work out. Perhaps America has become a marshmallow being abused regularly by the global community. Maybe we need someone like Trump to restore some dignity and respect.

There has been some progress. The airstrike on Syria and improved communication with China could have long-term positive implications. But we will have to wait and see. Suffice it to say that strong leadership by the U.S. will be very important to the world moving forward.

 

The Liberal Revolution– The writer is a product of the 60s. I recognize and appreciate protest that is good for the country, and conversely can sense when it is destructive.

Free speech is now on the table. The definition of this constitutional issue is that every person has a right to speak his or her mind on any topic they wish. The audience doesn’t have to agree but it shouldn’t respond violently to even the most offensive among us.

Berkeley was at the epicenter of free speech in the 60s. Free speech was protected by a group of brave students at that time. Today the same college is the epicenter of dissent that will effectively impair free speech in this country.

As mentioned earlier you can’t be for free speech only when it supports your position. All significant sides should be heard. The violent protests against Ann Coulter and others are anti-free speech and appalling to those who actually understand the importance of this right.

People like the ones encouraging violence at Berkeley are the same people that hate Trump the most. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. The actions of this group have been over the edge and should be tempered. There’s an obvious way to fight against a leader you disagree with- vote for someone else in the next election. In the meantime encourage you government representatives to oppose this person.

 

Trump is going to have a tough road ahead. His ability to prove he is great is questionable. But this may be because he is not been given a chance to prove his mettle.

Trump versus: North Korea, Iran, Syria, Russia, ISIS, Democrats, the Press, etc.

Nobody expected Donald Trump to win the Mr. Collegiality Award while serving as president of the United States. But from the title of this essay, you will note that he has an incredible number of determined opponents. It’s not easy to battle so many diverse groups at the same time, especially when some of them are terrorists, possess weapons of mass destruction and/or can make life miserable for America.

Trump made some points several days ago when he launched missiles at a Syrian airfield that stocked chemical weapons. The strike was carefully planned, vetted and executed. It seemed to have the right impact on the murderous Bashar al-Assad, Putin and other people and groups that us.

But a few Trump activities are giving Americans agita. Some of them are not because of missteps, but because Trump is Trump and millions hate him here at home and globally no matter what he does.

The health care debacle is at the top of the list. Most would say Trump could have handled the situation more diplomatically, but I’m not so sure. The real reason why Trump failed is because members of his own party double-crossed him. For years these political hacks have been bitching about Obamacare and why it needs to be repealed. When the opportunity arose to do exactly that, a flock of conservative representatives refused to back the initiative because it didn’t go far enough to the right. To make matters worse a group of moderates were attempting to water down the Trump proposal at the same time.

During the glory days of government in the 70s and 80s sitting presidents would solicit the help of the opposition party to offset lost votes in their own party. Health care was the perfect battle to do so today. Democrats should have supported the Republican moderates to push through a new law. But in today’s toxic environment, Schumer and Pelosi would never support Trump under any circumstances even if they would benefit America. The idiocy of this liberal attitude is really detrimental to our country.

Politically it was an opportunity to drop Obamacare in Trump’s lap and force him to deal with it. If it failed the Republicans would own the resultant aborted mess. But Democratic egos and a dearth of common sense prevented this from happening, so Democrats still own Obamacare, which is is imploding every day.

A second problematic event is the case of the misdirected aircraft carrier group. Is it going to the coast of No. Korea to intimidate Kim Jong-un, or is going south to play in military games?

What are the implications of the seemingly confused carrier group? The No. Koreans think Trump doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing, as do the So. Koreans. The Japanese are acting like they know what’s happening, but they refuse to talk about it. Terrorists think that Trump is crazier than they are. Russia and China don’t know what to think. Most Americans are sprinkled in all of the above.

This is not the way to conduct a proactive military response to threats from dangerous states. Too many of the players possess nuclear weapons, so extreme caution and deliberate actions are the way to proceed.

The new president is making more people around the world feel more at ease each passing day. It’s time for more diplomacy and planning before bold moves anywhere in the world. It’s also mandatory that Trump post some substantive gains while affecting his agenda. Health care and tax reform are the keys to him regaining support in the country.

Airline Travel Is Like A Punch In The Face

Deservingly so, everyone is piling on airline misbehavior these days. Last week a doctor was dragged off a United Airlines plane when he refused to give up his seat on an overbooked flight. It was a media sensation.

Most would agree airline travel is critical to our lives. Millions of people travel by air each year to vacation, see relatives and do business, and they all depend upon affordable, reliable and safe airline service.

The other side of the coin is that airlines are businesses owned by stockholders that want to see their investments increase in value. Every service that airlines provide costs money. So there is a balancing act that airline executives must contend with when they decide how much legroom we have, how many flight attendants will serve us and whether we get anything to eat.

Most current problems emanated from the moment that the airline business converted from a regulated to an unregulated industry. In 1978 the Airline Deregulation Act removed the U.S. Federal Government from control over the airline industry. Prior to this time all airlines were treated like public utilities and all routes, fares and schedules were controlled by a governmental agency. Essentially fares were established to ensure a compensatory rate of return to airlines. In other words they were virtually assured of making a profit.

Some of us remember the days when taking a flight was an enjoyable experience. The flight attendants were cordial and seemed to enjoy their jobs. And they actually had substantive things to do in flight. Of course the primary role of attendants was and still is to ensure our safety. But in the old days they wanted to make us feel comfortable with good service. Today ringing a call button or asking for another drink is a capital offense.

In the 70s most airports in major cities were relatively new and pleasant places to visit before a flight. Airline personnel were very accommodating and anxious to help and ensure that you used the airline again in the future.

Regulation changed everything. The airlines wanted to shed federal oversight because they believed they could increase their profits in a more competitive environment. And the government, as expected, was buffaloed into thinking that the cost of flying would decrease because of greater competition.

A few years after deregulation, reality set in. Aviation fuel costs spiked during the oil embargo in the late 70s. Capital costs for new aircraft skyrocketed with the demand for planes by new airlines. And concern with air and noise pollution necessitated new equipment purchases in an unfavorable financing environment.

The result was that several airlines were forced to declare bankruptcy or merge with other airlines looking for economies of scale. Amenities on new aircraft were cut to save money. Unprofitable routes to remote locations were abandoned. And security costs began to take a toll on both airlines and airports.

Regulation, unbeknownst to the airlines, was a great gift. The stock prices of these companies would never soar, but regulation would always provide a dependable return just like utilities.

Today all bets are off. The airports are uncomfortable places because of growth in the number of travelers, inadequate facilities and terrible ingress and egress into airports. Unfortunately employees of the airlines and the airport always seem to  be unhappy reflecting the stress of this business on them every day of the week. Most of these issues are greatly impacted by the desire of airlines to increase profits.

If profits are the prime motivation for airlines, the obvious thing airlines can do is to maximize the number of seats on each plane. The implication of this is to make customers feel squeezed in and uncomfortable. The more seats filled on a plane, the more money the airline rake in.

Maximizing load factors (percentage of seats filled) occurs when fewer planes are servicing a specific route. Keep in mind empty seats on planes are lost forever. Overbooking helps decrease the number of empty seats on planes because there inevitably are travelers who cancel reservations. Decreasing service results in less schedule flexibility and higher prices, as demand for seats is greater than the supply of seats.

Declining service on planes is a consequence of fewer flight attendants, no meals or snacks in economy class, inedible meals in upper classes and fees for every conceivable aspect of flying. They include baggage fees, snack fees, cancellation fees, flight change fees, etc.

One of the worst decisions by airlines was to charge for checked baggage. The result is far greater carry on activity and delays. Perhaps this was instituted to decrease the number of baggage handlers.

Generally speaking the 9/11 attacks made airplane travel even more irksome. An entire cottage industry of TSA employees came into being. The training, performance and attitude of these people are appalling and have resulted in countless delays and confrontations. The security benefits of the TSA force are frequently questioned. Are they really stopping terrorists and making us safer?

Getting back to the United Airline situation, there is fault on every count. The passenger should not have resorted to a sit-in encouraging the airline to drag him off the plane. Most people would have bitched loudly and sought retribution with the airlines after the fact or spoken with their attorneys. Nevertheless the treatment of this passenger is going to cost United a pretty penny. And it might result in the end of overbooking.

The response by United management was truly sub par. The CEO was ill prepared to speak to the press. His response should have been an apology, firing of all the United personnel who perpetuated the situation and a comment that United’s customers are its most important asset, which they are.

Syria And No. Korean Threats Are More Pressing Than U.S. Domestic Issues

Every day the world is becoming more dangerous. Terrorism inspired by ISIS and maniacal leaders of failed states have become clear and present threats to America and all free and democratic countries across the globe.

The Trump administration is attempting to deal with those that wish us harm. It’s going to be a mammoth project. Americans are dependent upon the president and his advisors to make sound decisions. It’s time that the mainstream political parties cooperate with the administration, and for Trump and his aides to set aside petty distractions for the greater good.

Specifically trouble is brewing in Syria and North Korea. Russia and Iran continue to support the madman Bashar al-Assad, and China has not yet taken appropriate action against the whacko Kim Jong-un.

Unlike the ongoing squabbles in Congress relating to health care, taxes and immigration, activities in the aforementioned countries involve truly deadly issues such as genocide, chemical weapons, nuclear threats and global terrorism

In Syria, with a nod from Russia, Assad has once again used chemical weapons against those that oppose him in his own country. A few years ago Russia brokered a deal in which Syria promised to never use WMDs and to give up their weapons. Assad violated the agreement and the U.S. launched missiles that destroyed some of Syria’s weapons last week.

As expected the Russians were mortified that the U.S. would attack a sovereign nation. The global community has censured Syria, and the U.S. is saying Russia approved the strike by Assad. Iran also supports Syria further proving to the world that its objectives in the Middle East are anything but noble.

The potential outcomes of all this aggressive action and rhetoric will result in the death of more innocent people, an extended ISIS struggle and a new Cold War between the U.S. and Russian. Military assets are already being maneuvered around the Middle East.

North Korea is a situation that has gone much further than anyone would have expected. The mentally unstable leader of the country is developing nuclear bombs along with missile systems to deliver them to South Korea, Japan and the possibly the U.S. The country has boasted that it has submarines that can launch nuclear missiles, which would make the country able to strike targets throughout the world.

The good news is that after parading its weapons in a holiday celebrating the birth of its first leader, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, another missile test failed. It is possible that the assessments of No. Korea’s capabilities are being overestimated. But, we are talking about nuclear weapons.

The irony of this episode is that China has stood by and allowed Kim to create a great crisis. China abuts No. Korea. It would not be difficult for Kim to redirect missiles at China, it’s main ally, in a fit of rage.

Trump has respectfully asked China to stifle its No. Korean neighbor. The actions of China are being influenced by the specter of a unified Korea controlled by South Korean leadership, a strong ally of the U.S. It should be noted that China is the principal trading partner of both Koreas.

The Korean saga began after World War II when the Soviet Union and China refused to allow a unified Korea. This resulted in the Korean War in which North and South battled, with the U.S. and Russia and China supporting the South and North, respectively. Technically the war still is underway.

Any further intimidation may lead to a preemptive strike by the U.S., especially with the growing threat by No. Korea to launch against their southern neighbors, Japan and the U.S.

The worldwide political situation has become inflamed by the actions of two-bit thugs in Syria and No. Korea. U.S. politicians must stop stressing about nickel and dime issues relating our domestic problems and refocus on keeping the world out of a nuclear imbroglio.

 

 

 

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

A very dear friend of mine passed away last week after battling a deadly disease for over two decades. The funeral confirmed what everyone already knew, the deceased was a terrific person with a great family. He was an entrepreneur and an icon in his industry. For years he advised many of the greatest rock talents enabling them to achieve gigantic financial success.

Here’s a news flash. Every one of us must face our mortality at some point. The process can be extremely disruptive, or it can be relatively peaceful depending upon circumstances during the final hours and how well the interested parties are prepared. The luckiest among us will fall asleep and die quietly. But death is never really easy for the survivors.

Funerals, eulogies and memorials celebrate the lives of those who have departed. Although some given specific instructions about their services before they die, dead people don’t really care about these postmortem gatherings. They won’t know how many people attended, or whether nice things were said.

Organized events after one dies are for the survivors. The grieving family is surrounded by caring relatives, friends and acquaintances that offer their condolences and promise to help in any way they can. Showering sympathy on the survivors makes them feel loved.

Many funeral speeches laud the dearly departed. In almost every case achievements and contributions to society are exaggerated just a bit (not in the case of my friend, however). Often times reminiscing elicits tears from the attendees. And humor is part of some eulogies. Funny moments are recalled and appreciated by the audience because they ease the tension that invariably accompanies death.

I’ve been thinking about what attendees at funerals muse about while the deceased person’s life is being scrutinized? Are they feeling empathy for the surviving spouse and the children? Do they worry about the loved ones being able to recover from their loss?

Or, are they thanking God that they were not being subjected to the pain affiliated with the passing of a relative or friend? Are they saying to themselves, “I really loved that guy and I’m so sorry that he died? But, I hope I never have a stroke or contract a horrible disease that debilitates me.” These feelings are commonplace and perfectly normal.

Humans have been dying since the beginning of time, an obvious factoid. In 75-100 years most of the people on earth at this moment will be gone. If you are 60 years old only 18% of your life remains if you live until you’re 85.

When people die it’s because something killed them. They had cancer, suffered a heart attack, were in a car accident, etc. When they’re elderly and die from no obvious ailment, it’s called dying of old age, a catchall phrase. All of us hope that our passing is relatively peaceful and not an emotional or financial tsunami that overwhelms our families.

My friend was a very good friend, a mentor, a mensch, a great person, a fabulous family man, someone that cared about education and a kind person. I’ve been grieving deeply, but it’s time to move on.

To: JR

 

 

NY Times Says Syrian Weapons Deal Is Haunting Obama

With the inauguration of President Trump I mistakenly believed that the incompetence of the Obama administration would cease to plague the country. Not true. More and more of the former president’s actions and hyperbole regarding the Middle East are proving to be false.

At the top of the list is the totally naïve deal struck with Syria’s madman Bashar al-Assad. After Assad sashayed across Obama’s “line in the sand,” Obama and John Kerry signed a deal brokered by the Russians to avoid military conflict. It stipulated that Syria, once again, promised to not gas on its own people and give up all chemical weapons. Neither promise has been kept.

The most obvious mistake by Obama was to rely upon the word of the counter parties, Assad and Putin. They’re both liars and murderers that have no respect for human life. How could the former president believe this was going to end well?

Trump did what Obama should have done several years ago before Russia and Iran became firmly entrenched in Syria- launch missiles at Syria’s chemical stockpiles and the airfield that serves as a delivery point for said weapons of mass destruction

Now that Russia has gone all in with Assad, this action, although substantive, will have little effect on ending hostilities in Syria where hundreds of thousands have been brutally murdered and millions driven from their homes.

The next obvious crisis will occur when it is determined that Iran is cheating on the nuclear deal it signed with the U.S. Once again the stupidity of believing one can negotiate with a group of bold-faced liars committed to the destruction of Israel and the degradation of American influence in the region, is difficult to fathom. You don’t need a doctoral degree in international relations to know that this deal is going to be yet another Obama disaster that’ll require Trump’s attention.

The result of these missteps is already escalating tensions with Russia, Iran, Syria and China. The latter will soon be under pressure to temper the ambitions of the North Korean maniac fearing a preemptive military strike by the U.S. forces.

Even the liberal press is beginning to recognize the damage done by Obama. See NY Times article entitled “Deal on Syria’s Chemical Weapons Comes Back to Haunt Obama.”

Obama’s true place in history is beginning to take shape. His foreign policies were an unmitigated disaster.

The Senate Filibuster Is Anti-Democratic

The nomination and confirmation process of Judge Neil Gorsuch has encouraged much conversation about the relevance of the filibuster in the Senate. Simply described the filibuster rule affords the minority the power to object to proposals by the majority essentially forcing the latter to muster 60 votes to gain approval for key positions in government and for laws.

In 2013 Harry Reid, the Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate, initiated a change in the rules of the body regarding the confirmation of cabinet appointments and judges (this action did not apply to SCOTUS nominees). At the time Republicans were filibustering many nominations by President Obama forcing Democrats to find 60 votes for confirmation. Many appointments were delayed or abandoned. Reid and his Democratic colleagues voted to change confirmation votes to a simple majority for the aforementioned positions.

Senate Democrats now in the minority filibustered the Gorsuch confirmation vote so the candidate needs 60 votes to gain confirmation. This time, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader, orchestrated a change in the confirmation process relating to SCOTUS nominees to a simple majority.

The Senate is in an uproar as both sides are accusing the other of radically changing Senate traditions. Republicans are saying that Democrats refused to confirm a qualified candidate so they had no choice but to change the confirmation rule. Democrats have been excoriating Gorsuch as a person too radical and close to President Trump to be qualified for the highest court in the land. They indicate that the new rule for a simple majority is a severe move unbecoming of the Senate that will put any cooperation between the competing sides in great jeopardy. Of course the last part of the Democratic stance is total nonsense given the current dysfunctional relationship in the Senate between Republicans and Democrats.

The question is whether the filibuster will now be eliminated in the Senate’s legislative process. In other words will new laws only require a simple majority? Will the minority in the Senate lose the power to stymie new legislation that they deem unacceptable with 41 votes? The answer is nobody knows. Most senators believe the legislative filibuster is sacrosanct, for the time being.

A strong case can be made that the filibuster is anti-democratic, and that it gives the minority power that it doesn’t deserve. After all, voters elect senators with a simple majority. Why should the losers have power that abrogates the simple majority?

The argument for filibuster is that the minority party can block “extreme legislation and unqualified nominees”. It is a way for the opposition to prevent this from occurring. Unfortunately each senator defines “extreme” differently.

The real issues are twofold. For one, some positions the Senate must confirm are lifetime appointments, not elected positions. These include many judgeships and SCOTUS justices. If we institute term limits for these positions the filibuster becomes less significant.

The second problem relates to the definition of our democracy. Does it require winning 60% of the vote in an election? Of course it doesn’t. The filibuster flies in the face of our democratic traditions. Virtually every arm of our governmental system enables those with a majority to rule. Why does the Senate buck this precedent?

For years comity ruled the Senate. Differences, unlike in the rough and tumble House of Representatives, were settled with compromise, in a gentlemanly manner. Today partisanship is rampant making compromise impossible. This in turn makes the Congress incapable of doing its job. Budgets are seldom approved and every cabinet and judgeship confirmation is a three ring circus where politicians bloviate, and insult nominees and each other.

I vote against filibusters. The majority, not the supermajority, should rule. I vote for term limits for the president, Congress and all justices. That way a mistake can be rectified before the individual passes away. I vote for a government that can do its business.

Obama Official May Have Illegally Spied On Americans

The Obama administration is history, yet another scandal has come to light. The latest subterfuge involves unmasking and leaking American names that were identified in foreign surveillance actions by the intelligence services. Not surprisingly the liberal press has been slow in picking up this story. We can only wonder about the level of outrage that would have been expressed if the scandal involved Republicans.

Donna Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor, routinely received surveillance information about foreign officials. This activity is legal with proper clearances. However in many situations Americans were unmasked, referring to the identification of names that are redacted in transcripts of conversations. For instance if a corporate CEO has a telephone conversation with a foreign national and the intelligence community has reason to tap the discussion, the transcript could become available to the president’s National Security Advisor (NSA).

However identities of Americans that are parties to said conversation are redacted and kept confidential unless permission is obtained to do otherwise. Apparently, the NSA can request the actual names of redacted parties in these transcripts. The rationale for this is not clear, as you will soon understand. This is known as unmasking.

Under no circumstances may unmasked names be revealed to the public through communication with the press or in leaks that are so common in Washington. In fact it is a felony to violate this confidentiality.

What is intriguing is that the NSA and staff is not an investigative group. They are aides to the president and not part of the intelligence community. In fact the NSA uses information gathered by intelligence operatives to advise the president about impending security danger and is not authorized to discuss these issues with the public.

So it is a mystery why Donna Rice would be unmasking individuals in confidential transcripts unless she had a political motivation to do so. This could have been an attempt to spy on the Trump administration before his inauguration. If Rice revealed names to outsiders, it would be a felony.

It is still unclear whom Rice unmasked and what she did with the information that was discovered. But perhaps General Michael Flynn, the short-lived NSA for Trump, was targeted by Rice, unmasked and leaked to the press.

In an early TV interview Rice denied involvement in any inappropriate activity that led to public disclosures about Americans. More recently she changed her story and indicated that unmasking happened regularly. Her latest description of her actions was not totally consistent with her previous comments.

It appears that Rice and others in the Obama administration were snooping on Americans. The ramifications of this are huge. Theoretically Obama and his people could have investigated any business leader or private individual who had a confidential conversation with a foreigner. To what end you may ask? This is the $64,000 question.

Rice is now going to be investigated about whom she unmasked, why she needed information and with whom she discussed the unmasked person’s comments.

It should be pointed out that Rice was the Obama official who twisted the truth about the motivations of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. embassy in Benghazi where four Americans, including the Libyan ambassador were murdered.