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Monthly Archives: March 2016


Are we getting the leaders we deserve?

Matt Bai

National Political Columnist
March 31, 2016
 

If you’re tired of hearing Donald Trump go on about his ratings and polls, if you’re mystified by the Twitter War of the Candidates’ Wives, if you can’t understand why Wolf Blitzer interviews a former contestant on “The Apprentice” as if she were a political authority, then I’ve got a video you really need to watch.

The video I’m showing you here, courtesy of C-Span’s archive, is of a presidential candidate speaking in 1987, at a moment of tectonic upheaval in our politics and media. Chances are pretty good you’ve never seen it, or even heard about it, and there’s a reason for that.

Before I tell the remarkable story of that eight-minute speech, though, let’s put it in the context of our moment.

Recently, a bunch of commentators — among them the president of the United States — seem to have latched on to the idea that the media is culpable in enabling Trump’s antic march to the Republican nomination. In the New York Times, my former colleagues Nicholas Kristof and Jim Rutenberg have both written columns in the past week asking whether we, as an industry, need to be more accountable.

Regular readers of this column know that I wrote early and often on this theme, including a column last December about the destructive “symbiosis” between Trump and the media — a term very much in fashion now.

In fact, not long ago I wrote an entire book on the collision of entertainment and political journalism, called “All the Truth Is Out,” which seems to have accidentally anticipated the Trump phenomenon. I borrowed from the brilliant work of the social critic Neil Postman, whose 1985 book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” feels more relevant today than it probably did then.

But the guy who really predicted all of this was Gary Hart, the protagonist of “All the Truth Is Out.” And man, did he try to sound the alarm.

At this time in 1987, Hart was rather like the Hillary Clinton of his day, only more talented and more visionary; he had been the presumed nominee of the Democratic Party since narrowly losing in 1984, and the Gallup Poll had him beating George H.W. Bush — then the sitting vice president — by double digits. A man of staggering intellect, he was talking even then about the rise of stateless terrorism and the arrival of a high-tech economy.

But his campaign unraveled in the space of five surreal days, during which reporters from the Miami Herald hid outside Hart’s home in order to catch him spending time with a younger woman. Hart found himself undone by the first modern political sex scandal — the inevitable result of myriad forces that were just then reshaping the media, from the echoes of Watergate to the birth of the mobile satellite.

What happened next is interesting and almost entirely forgotten.

Driven from the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Hart repaired to his cabin in the Denver foothills, where he and his family were literally penned in by a fleet of satellite trucks and news choppers. His aides wrote him the kind of withdrawal statement we’ve come to expect from scandalized politicians — contrite, gracious, bland.

Hart couldn’t sleep after reading that speech. It made him want to vomit. He called his close friend Warren Beatty (who would later make the film “Bulworth,” not incidentally) and talked through what he wished he could say instead.

Then, the next morning, Hart drove the canyon road down to Denver, stepped before the national media and calmly delivered one of the most stinging and prescient indictments of an American institution you will ever see.

“In public life, some things may be interesting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re important,” Hart said, decrying a process that he said reduced reporters to hunters and candidates to the hunted.

“And then after all that, ponderous pundits wonder in mock seriousness why some of the best people in this country choose not to run for high office,” Hart went on. “Now I want those talented people who supported me to insist that this system be changed. Too much of it is just a mockery. And if it continues to destroy people’s integrity and honor, then that system will eventually destroy itself.

“Politics in this country, take it from me, is on the verge of becoming another form of athletic competition or sporting match.”

He closed by paraphrasing his idol, Thomas Jefferson: “I tremble for my country when I think we may in fact get the kind of leaders we deserve.”

Whenever I talk about my book to audiences around the country, I close with those lines. Invariably, I look up to find shocked and silent voters nodding their heads, amazed at how eerily that captures our present reality.

So why haven’t you heard anything about this seminal speech? I’ll tell you why. Because within 24 hours of its delivery, despite the polls showing that the public mostly sided with Hart over the reporters, America’s elite media, led by its columnists and editorial boards, rose up in unison to mock and discredit it.

“Instead of saying goodbye with a measure of dignity, respect and introspection,” A.M. Rosenthal, the Times’ former editor, wrote on the paper’s op-ed page, “Gary Hart told us he had decided that Gary Hart was a wonderful man after all and that everybody was responsible for Gary Hart’s political demise except Gary Hart.” (Watch Hart’s speech and decide for yourself if that was the point.)

Hart’s monologue was instantly buried in an avalanche of defensiveness and moral posturing. “It wasn’t just that I was blaming the media,” Hart recalled when we talked this week. “It was that I was a bad guy, and it was good riddance to a bad politician.”

For 29 years after that moment, until I directed him to it this week, even Hart hadn’t watched that video clip. Nor did he bother to continue pressing his case, despite a stream of offers to give speeches or appear on talk shows.

“I was not put on earth to pick a fight with the media and carry it out,” he told me. “I couldn’t repeat the theme of that talk without the headline inevitably saying, ‘Hart attacks the press,’ and I just didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life.

“There was no capacity for thoughtful reflection,” Hart said. “It was all me versus them.”

By the time I got into the business of political journalism in the late 1990s, 24-hour cable news — mindless, sensational, personality-obsessed — was driving the conversation. Then came the Internet, with its frenzied competition for clicks. By 2007, Politico (which does some excellent work, to be fair) was calling itself the ESPN of news, which is pretty much exactly what Hart had prophesied.

And so we systematically created a process perfectly suited to a manipulative, reality-TV performer like Trump (or Sarah Palin before him) — and just as hostile to a guy like John Kasich, who talks about governing as complicated work. We spend half of any given debate talking about poll numbers and strategies, mean tweets and sordid allegations, because the game of politics is so much more alluring than the practice of statecraft.

I asked Hart if, on a week like this one, when battery charges against Trump’s campaign manager were vying for airtime against his war with Ted Cruz over their spouses, he felt vindicated at last.

“No,” he said quickly. “No. No.” After all, he explained, no one (other than me) ever saw the need to revisit what he said all those years ago.

I raise the Hart video this week because if you read this latest flood of self-criticism, some of it from commentators who have worked in our business for decades, you might come away thinking that something transformative has just taken us by surprise. You might get the impression that a tsunami of triviality has suddenly overwhelmed our media, and we barely had time to suck in air and duck our heads.

But don’t let anyone tell you that this is all just about Trump’s suckering us, or about some convergence of recent trends we couldn’t have foreseen. It is, in fact, a generational reckoning — the failure of executives and anchors and reporters-turned-cable-personalities, many of them in our most serious news outlets, who for decades refused to confront the creeping realities of their industry, as surely as a generation of political leaders refused to confront the realities of fiscal and global instability.

Leslie Moonves, the chairman of CBS, did a pretty nice job of encapsulating that failure when he talked about Trump’s campaign this way last month: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

We can say, as Moonves surely would, that we were just responding to market forces beyond our control. We can say that voters, and not us, get to decide what matters and what doesn’t. We can point out that we’ve gone to great lengths to expose the depth of Trump’s ignorance and inconsistency.

What we can’t say is that we weren’t told it would happen.

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       Article from American Prospect
Barack Obama Is Looking Better and Better
Paul Waldman
March 28, 2016
His approval ratings are up. It might have something to do with the
clowns on the other side.

Imagine the pain your average Republican must feel when he opens his
morning paper. His party is not just riven by internal dissent, but
looks like it will nominate a spectacularly unpopular candidate to be
its standard-bearer in 2016, with a campaign that gets more farcical
every day, bringing ignominy upon a party that has suffered so much
already. And now, to add insult to injury, the president he loathes with
such fervor is looking … rather popular with the American public.

Barack Obama’s approval ratings are now above 50 percent in daily Gallup
tracking, and have been for weeks. He’s risen higher in public esteem
than he’s been in three years. Every poll taken in the last month and a
half shows him with a positive approval rating.

You might say that it’s no great achievement to be above 50 percent.
After all, didn’t Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan leave office with
ratings around 65 percent? Indeed they did. But even Clinton’s
presidency occurred in a different era, when party polarization was not
as firm as it is now. These days—and in all likelihood for some time to
come—if a president can stay at 50 percent, he should be counted a
remarkable success.

That polarization runs through everything Americans think, know, and
learn about the president. There’s always been a large gap between how
members of the president’s party view him and how members of the other
party view him, but if you look over the history for which we have
polling data (going back to Eisenhower in the 1950s), you see what has
changed over time. With just a couple of exceptions, those in the
president’s party usually give him around 80 percent approval, give or
take a bit. For instance, Ronald Reagan averaged 83 percent among
Republicans and George H.W. Bush averaged 82 percent, while Bill Clinton
averaged 80 percent among Democrats.

It’s in the opinions of the other party that there has been a
transformation. Presidents used to routinely get 30 or 40 percent
approval from the other party; it would only dip down into the 20s when
things were going really badly. But George W. Bush’s presidency and then
Barack Obama’s have been characterized by levels of disapproval from the
other side we haven’t seen since the depth of the Watergate scandal.
This is one of the signal characteristics of public opinion in our time:
negative partisanship, in which Americans define their political
identity not by their affection for their own party, but by their hatred
for the other guys.

In fact, Obama is the first president since polls existed to have never
gone above 25 percent approval from the other side, not even in the
honeymoon glow of the first days of his presidency. He could defeat
ISIS, make America secure and prosperous, save a baby from a burning
building, then cure cancer and invent a pill that would let you eat all
the ice cream you want without gaining any weight, and no more than a
handful of Republicans would ever say they think he’s doing a good job.

Which means that if his ratings have gone up, it’s because he’s doing
better among everyone who isn’t a Republican. Why is that? There are
multiple reasons, but one factor that always plays a key part in
presidential approval is the strength of the economy, though presidents
get both more credit and more blame for it than they deserve. And today,
even if income growth is lagging much more than we’d like, unemployment
is under 5 percent and there have been 72 consecutive months of job
growth, the longest streak on record. There are plenty of things wrong
with the American economy, but the most visible thing to many people
(apart from gas prices, which are near historic lows) is whether you can
find a job if you need one, and today you can.

And then there’s the biggest political story of the year, the Republican
presidential nomination campaign. Put simply, it’s been an utter
catastrophe for Republicans—and a marked contrast with the guy they’re
all vying to replace. Where Obama is calm and reasonable, the Republican
candidates are shrill and panicky. Where he’s thoughtful and informed,
they’re impulsive and ignorant. Republicans are constantly trying to
argue that Obama is frivolous—he played a round of golf while something
important was happening somewhere!—but you won’t catch him arguing with
his opponents about the size of their hands or attacking their
spouses. You can disagree with Obama on matters of substance, but he’s
nothing like the clowns Republicans are deciding between.

So juxtaposed with the freak show of the Republican primaries, Obama
looks better all the time. And ironically, of all the Republicans who
ran for president this year, only one almost never singled out Obama for
heaps of abuse: Donald Trump. Trump says that our leaders are idiots,
but he includes all kind of people in that criticism. He barely talks
about Obama, unlike the candidates he has vanquished, who regularly
asserted not just that Obama is a terrible president but that he has
intentionally tried to destroy America, a bit of talk-radio lunacy many
of them incorporated into their rhetoric back when it seemed like you
could win the nomination by being the one who says he hates the
president more than anyone else.

Yet none of the Republicans make for a clearer contrast with Obama than
Trump, the buffoonish vulgarian who wouldn’t know class if hit him in
the head with a gold-plated hammer. And while the Republicans talk
endlessly about what a cesspool of misery and despair America is, Obama
looks to be chugging toward the end of his presidency with most
Americans thinking he’s done a pretty good job.


Ten days before Justice Antonin Scalia died, launching the political battle over who would fill his vacancy, Chief Justice John Roberts delivered a speech slamming the Supreme Court nomination process. In remarks at Boston’s New England Law,The New York Times reports that Roberts denounced the politicization of the process that he says is really just meant to ensure that nominees are qualified for the job.

“We don’t work as Democrats or Republicans,” the chief justice said, “and I think it’s a very unfortunate impression the public might get from the confirmation process.”

Roberts pointed out that while nominees back in his day were easily confirmed, the last three justices — Samuel Alito Jr., Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — have all faced split votes from the Senate. “Look at my more recent colleagues, all extremely well qualified for the court and the votes were, I think, strictly on party lines for the last three of them, or close to it, and that doesn’t make any sense,” Roberts said. “That suggests to me that the process is being used for something other than ensuring the qualifications of the nominees.”

President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court last week, despite Republicans’ promises that they will deny any Obama nominee in favor of letting the next president fill the vacancy. It has become clear that the Congress is essentially Racist and disingenuous. Vice President Biden made it clear in a recent speech that the GOP Congress has  taken excerpts from a prior speech to avoid doing the job of vetting a candidate for the Supreme court. For the past 7 years we (voters) have been operating under a dysfunctional Government due to the Political machinations of our Congress. Voters are better than the people we elected to represent us but we seemingly have not considered this. Our Federal lawmakers are no more than 535 people who are taking our money for a job poorly done or not done  at all. If this were a contractor or service, we as consumers would be up in arms so the question is: Why are we not taking these people (Congress) to task  for not doing their job?

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A dewlap is that flap of flesh that hangs down from the chin of many animals as normal part of their anatomy and is sometimes an item that plays into the mating of that animal. In humans that part of the body has no such function as far as I know. This phenomenon is more pronounced in the older and/ or overweight (not necessarily obese). To get to what this is about, the Dewlap is an unnecessary part of the human anatomy so of no threat or issue if it did not exist. We have 535 “Dewlaps” occupying space in Washington and unfortunately we elected them. In humans we wouldn’t ordinarily do anything about a dewlap except diet or sometimes plastic surgery but in the Congress we can vote them out. Election seasons are the only times we pay attention to what these seat fillers say, all other times we hear bits and pieces of what they want us to hear, but never what they are really doing. Many times these unheard issues and actions are the “gotchas”. Invoking what the “American People” want or  need is different from what the “American People” actually want or need but not enough of the American People stand up and tell these users that they are wrong and to stop using us as the reason for not doing their jobs. There is no reason our Affordable Health Care isn’t except for Congress not getting involved in the beginning, there is no reason why we (The American People) have to wait for a replacement Supreme Court Justice. All of the invocations in our names is just more political rhetoric by the “dewlaps” we unfortunately elected. The ability for removal and replacement of Congressional members rests sole on the “American People” and we need to make some changes.

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The current elections and the recent 12 years of Government gamesmanship have been a time of hardship for our country, We have candidates whose purpose appears to be  dividing our country rather than uniting it. The meanness and hate evidenced at these rallies is unsettling at the least and dangerous at most. After watching the excerpts of the physical and verbal assaults, I was reminded of the 60’s when dogs and water hoses were the order of the day. I  have a book of   Lincoln’s quotes and in reading it I found something that does not resonate now but should . This is a quote attributed to Lincoln: “If the people remain right, your public men can never betray you… Cultivate and protect that sentiment ( that the principles of liberty are eternal) and your ambitious leaders will be reduced to the position of servants instead of masters”

We have a neer do well Congress whose sole purpose is to run the country the way they want to run it no matter what we want or need and they (Congress) have persuaded us that they are doing what they do in our interest. I would like to believe that the dissatisfied voters understand what the candidates say is not what they will or can do if elected. We already have a majority of elected  officials who are divisive, disingenuous and often liars all for the sake of their parties not for the people who voted them in and who they so often invoke when they have a media event. These are the same people who have enacted laws that provides them with a cost of living increase without a vote (how many of us knew about this?). The recent issue regarding the Supreme court is another political ploy to side track the working of the Government. We are the victims of this irreverent Congress who we elected to work on our behalf but spend more time working for their party and themselves. We need to stop the train of idiocy created by Congress and demand solutions that benefit us. A letter costs 1/2 of k just a dollar to mail, emails work just as well. When elections are over we need to continue to press Congress for solutions and demand satisfaction.

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Ongoing issues of politics and public ranting’s cover the scope from real truth to outright lies and every nuance in between. We have people who are spending billions to gain an office that pays a pittance in comparison. These funds are used to essentially “buy” votes not by paying voters (even though many of us could use some of it), but by the use of media advertising, space rental and door to door solicitors. All the while the media assault drones on and on, before and after the public debates. The messages while essentially the same they are only different in the small details. Each candidate is basically a disingenuous benefactor by design or in error. Some have great intentions but no means of fulfilling them. Some have the means but have not the judgment, intention or proper advisors to fulfill those intentions. The encircling force in this is the long serving and mostly do nothing Congress. I have stated before and firmly believe that our Government is being controlled by a 535 disingenuous benefactors who have and always contend that they are doing what best for the “American People” yet they never ask us what we think is good for us. What they have done for years is “tell” us what’s good for us in spite of many letters and communications from us actually telling them what we want. We all (the American People) want basically the same thing: good Government that does what is right for all of us, a government that tells as much truth as possible and be willing to admit to mistakes. We all would like to be properly represented according to our regional needs and not on narrowly focused issues selected to garner the most support and votes. We as voters have been bombarded by BULLS**T for years while our elected (we elected them) pimps continue business as usual and ask us to support what they do under the guise of “our best interests”. We need to stop the practice of “sleep voting” and determine our own future by electing new people and be prepared to out them in the next election if they prove ineffectual. The idea of term limits is a great sound bite but that power in the in the hand of the voters. You know -“the American People”!

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Beginning with the election season 2016, we have seen and heard some of the most outrageous statements from the candidates. These range from semi truths to fantasies. In some cases what’s said is outright racist and evil. What is it about the elections that causes people (the candidates and the public) to state and believe what ever is said. I have been poring over the election statements for weeks as I started this post months ago. I have a few conclusions that may or may not be of any consequence to anyone. We are all angry with our government but many for the wrong reasons. Begin with the 535 seat fillers who we have installed in office and kept there out of ineptness, laziness or perhaps fear (of change). Prime example” the leader of the Senate has been essentially a liar, fence jumper and altogether of no real value to his constituents or anyone else. His sole purpose has been to be the Leader of the Senate ( I believe he is totally unqualified to lead a horse to water). His ascension has been because of the lies and misinformative manner of campaigning. His Constituency may be more rural and dependent on the fossil fuel industry but he has treated them like idiots in statements like “Obama is killing the coal industry”, the coal industry has been dying for years due to major user transitioning to cleaner gas. It is also worth looking at the number of miners who are leaving the industry due to attrition and their children going elsewhere. We should note that the mine owners lack of upgrades for safety and having to pay huge fines which are drawn from the miners by way of layoffs and closures. Mr. “Mac” has not addressed these issues in the same way as he has addressed deterring  or stopping any of the Presidents agenda even if it is good for the  country and by extension his constituents. Getting back to the issues: we as voters have all of the government control we need and that control can only be taken away from us by death or incarceration. That control is the vote!. We need to begin that control by voting ineffective leaders out, there is no need to ask for term limits because to have such a law enacted by the same folks we are outraged with is ludicrous and ineffectual. Term limits should always and only be enacted by votes. In order for this to happen each of us needs to ignore 90% of the political rhetoric and pay attention to facts by listening and reading with an eye for the truth. We must remember that these campaigners deal in 1/2 truths and lies on a regular basis, we voters have often not voted for the most truthful person for the wrong reasons. Truth is not a single incident of voting for or against a bill or law in camera but how that person voted overall. If we really want retake our rights over government the path to that is voting poor legislators out and keep in keep in mind that we will make mistakes but we can correct those mistakes in the next election. The current election is so vile that we can only become angry and rally behind the angriest campaigner and that could be a costly mistake in the long run. You must understand that this anger without a merited basis becomes a fallacy in your electoral selection and will haunt you until the next election. Do your homework on your candidates and remember they are people and subject to the same mistakes, the words spoken on the stump are not necessarily factual and many times are written much like the ads on TV, geared to make activate you the way they want.

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This posting from The Huffington Post shows what the cost to keep Guantanamo Camp open and what should be spent on the actual facility to bring it up to standards. Where could this amount be better used? We have several 
“High Security” prisons in the U.S. but due to politrics and fear mongering these facilities and the apparent boon to the communities as far as material resources like jobs, products sold to the facility and traffic from products being brought in has not happened. Maximum security is just that maximum security and would cost a lot less in the United States than off shore. This move would free up military forces now engaged in guarding this facility for other duties. The move would be n money saved and well spent.

WASHINGTON, May 3 (Reuters) – It’s been dubbed the most expensive prison on Earth and President Barack Obama cited the cost this week as one of many reasons to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which burns through some $900,000 per prisoner annually.

The Pentagon estimates it spends about $150 million each year to operate the prison and military court system at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, which was set up 11 years ago to house foreign terrorism suspects. With 166 inmates currently in custody, that amounts to an annual cost of $903,614 per prisoner.

By comparison, super-maximum security prisons in the United States spend about $60,000 to $70,000 at most to house their inmates, analysts say. And the average cost across all federal prisons is about $30,000, they say.

The high cost was just one reason Obama cited when he returned this week to an unfulfilled promise to close the prison and said he would try again. Obama also said that the prison, set up under his Republican predecessor George W. Bush and long the target of criticism by rights groups and foreign governments, is a stain on the reputation of the United States.

“It’s extremely inefficient,” said Ken Gude, chief of staff and vice president at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, who has followed developments at Guantanamo Bay since 2005.

“That … may be what finally gets us to actually close the prison. I mean the costs are astronomical, when you compare them to what it would cost to detain somebody in the United States,” Gude said.

The cost argument could be a potent weapon at a time of running budget battles between Obama and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and of across-the-board federal spending cuts that kicked in, in March. The “sequestration” as it is known, is due to cut some $109 billion in spending up to the end of September and has cut government services small and large.

Just one inmate from Guantanamo, for example, is equivalent to the cost of 12 weeks of White House tours for the public – a treasured tradition that the Secret Service says costs $74,000 a week and that has been axed under sequestration.

A single inmate is also the equivalent of keeping open the control tower at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport for 45 months. That control tower, another victim of cuts, costs $20,000 per month to run.

The $900,000 also matches the funding for nearly seven states to help serve home delivered meals to the elderly. Sequestration has cost Meals on Wheels a median shortfall of $129,497 per state, the organization says.

Or measured in terms of military spending and national security, the cost of four inmates represents the cost of training an Air Force fighter pilot – based on the Department of Defense’s figure of $3.6 million per pilot.

WHY THE HUGE COST?

The huge cost of running the prison and judicial complex stem from its offshore location at a 45-square-mile U.S. Naval Base on the southeastern coast of Cuba. Because ties between the two countries are almost nonexistent, almost everything for the facilities has to be ferried in from outside.

When the military tribunals are in session, everyone from judges and lawyers to observers and media have to fly into Guantanamo on military aircraft. Food, construction materials and other goods are shipped in from outside, experts say.

But despite the high cost of the camp, and despite the fact that Republicans traditionally demand belt-tightening by the federal government, a Republican aide with the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee said there was little point in asking if the price was worth it because “there isn’t an alternative at the moment.”

“No one has any particular affection for Guantanamo Bay, but no one has come up with a practical solution that’s better,” the aide said.

Obama needs to produce a plan for what to do with the detainees at Guantanamo “who are too dangerous to release,” Representative Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an opinion piece in USA Today this week. “Until a better solution is offered, at Guantanamo they must stay,” he wrote.

Among current inmates, nine have been charged with crimes or convicted, 24 are considered eligible for possible prosecution, 86 have been cleared for transfer or release and 47 are considered too dangerous for release but are not facing prosecution.

But until now, worries about security have prevented the idea of transferring some or all of the inmates to the United States from getting much traction.

Obama pledged to close the prison within a year after first taking office in January 2009 but his efforts ran aground, partly because of congressional opposition, from both Republicans and some in his own Democratic Party, to transferring prisoners to the United States.

Inmates started a hunger strike in February that has swelled to some 100 prisoners and has led to force-feeding of 23 of the prisoners. With the camp back under a critical spotlight, Obama told a news conference on Tuesday he would renew efforts to shut it down. He has an array of options, some of which would be more achievable than others.

Gude said it was difficult to figure out how much the United States has spent overall on Guantanamo detention facilities since it began housing prisoners there in 2002 because administrations only recently have been noting the expense in a budget line item.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an estimate but it is certainly more than $1 billion by a comfortable margin, I would say, probably more than $2 billion,” Gude said.

Above the annual operating cost, capital spending on the prison could rise again if the Pentagon receives the funding it says it needs to renovate the place.

General John Kelly, the head of Southern Command, which is responsible for Guantanamo, told a House of Representatives panel in March that he needed some $170 million to improve the facilities for troops stationed at the base as part of detention operations. Kelly said the living conditions were “pretty questionable” and told the panel, “We need to take care of our troops.” (Reporting By David Alexander; Editing by Frances Kerry and Tim Dobbyn)

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Io’s rison Facility

 


Senator Al Franken addressed the Senate’s failure to the country:

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) addressed the new justice vacancy in the Supreme Court on February 24. In opening, Franken told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “swift” action needed to be taken. He offered his “thoughts and prayers” to the family of the late Justice Scalia, adding he did not share Scalia’s views on the U.S. Constitution, nor on the country, and that Scalia had a great sense of conviction and humor. Franken then quickly gets down to the business at hand:

“Let us all remember that each and every senator serving in this body swore an oath to support and defend [the] Constitution,” said Sen. Franken in prepared remarks. “It is our duty to move forward. We must fulfill our constitutional obligation to ensure that the highest court in the land has a full complement of justices.”

Franken reminds the audience that the U.S. Constitution Justice Scalia loved is the same U.S. Constitution that allows the president to nominate a new justice, and with the “Advice and Consent of the Senate,” appoint a judge to the Supreme Court.

The senator notes with disgust that it took less than an hour after news of Scalia’s death hit the public for the GOP to announce they would not take up the business of considering a replacement until after the presidential election. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice.

The only problem with the Majority Leader’s reasoning, Franken adds, is that the American people have spoken. Twice.

He reiterates that President Barack Obama was elected and reelected by a solid majority of the American people who understood his role is to uphold his duties according to the Constitution and that includes appoint a Supreme Court justice should a vacancy occur.

Here’s where it gets good. One of the highlights of this speech was when Franken suggests the GOP apply their own reasoning to the Republican-led Congress.

If we were to truly subscribe to the Majority Leader’s logic and extend it to the legislative branch, it would yield an absurd result. 

  • Senators would become ineffective in the last year of their term.
  • The 28 senators who are now in the midst of their reelection campaigns and the 6 senators who are stepping down should be precluded from casting votes in committee or on the Senate floor.
  • Ten committee chairs and 19 subcommittee chairs should pass the gavel to a colleague who is not currently running for reelection or preparing for retirement.
  • Bill introduction, and indeed the cosponsor ship of bills, should be limited to those senators who are not yet serving in the sixth year of their terms. When a Republican says it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year, Franken says, “I know that’s not true. And I’m not the only one,” mentioning several sources including the indisputable SCOTUS blog, which says, “historical record does not reveal any instances [in over a century] of the Senate failing to confirm a nominee in a presidential election year because of the impending election.” In closing, Senator Franken states the Supreme Court is a central pillar of our democracy. The women and men who sit on that bench make decisions that touch the lives of every single American—regardless of party or political persuasion. Franken urges his colleagues to “reject the impulse to put politics before our sworn duty” to uphold the Constitution. There is a video of Franken’s entire speech.
  • In his speech, Senator Al Franken describes the hypocrisy, negligence, and obstructiveness of Republicans that has taken place the entire seven years President Obama has been in office.
  • Franken tells the committee (and the public) that the day before, every Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the Majority Leader vowing to deny a hearing to the president’s eventual nominee, saying they will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee—until after their next president is sworn in on January 20, 2017. Franken calls their actions an historic dereliction of the Senate’s duty. He brings up that “Chairman Grassley gathered only Republican Committee members in a private meeting where they unilaterally decided, behind closed doors, to refuse consideration of a nominee.” Franken calls the action to refuse a hearing “shameful, and I suspect that the American people share that view.“
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With all of the attention being paid to the Presidential Race not enough of us are paying attention or thinking about the activities of the smaller elections. These smaller or less publicized activities around the country. These  small events are the real things that  shape our Government. The Congress is elected in these small statewide elections. The current Congress is made up of people who were elected and re-elected on a State level. This semi-annual elected return to Washington by the States is the biggest problem. Each of these Representatives uses local issues to stay in office while doing something different on the big stage. It needs to clear to all State voters that their representatives do not and will not represent them as long as their big donors pour money into their campaigns no matter what the candidate says to their faces. For instance Coal is a polluted form of energy which is being phased out by manufacturers and producers but the Coal States representatives use the decimation of Coal as a talking point to be re-elected. This bit of misleading  information is just one part of the bigger lies that people are told by our “representatives” for their own ends, not for the people they purport to represent. The American people that the political pimps are so fond of quoting seemingly have no idea what these guys are actually doing and maybe they (we) don’t) want to know. The key to better Government is better representatives and the use of the vote to change them when it is required but this will only happen when we (voters) look behind the proverbial curtain. It’s the Little Stuff that makes the difference.

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