Sunday, January 31, 2016

One Day More to the Iowa Caucuses

One day more until the Iowa Caucuses.  It will be good to have voters start actually participating in the primary process rather than hype the horse-race based on sketchy scouting reports.

Donald Trump is the presumptive front-runner.  He is always anxious to point to the polls and his huuuge crowds. Trump scored a couple of prominent endorsers, including former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and Jerry Falwell, Jr.  Trump was also aided by left handed compliments from current Governor Terry Branstad (R-IA), who is anxious to bolster ethanol mandates.

Trump eschewed the only Iowa debate supposedly because of a tiff with Fox News and Megyn Kelly.  But Trump’s post-debate excited utterances at how Trump was glad to have missed the pummeling questions may be an admission against interest.  Iowa voters expect to be courted and this cycle have remain undecided until the last minute.  Will the Manhattan mogul’s reticence towards Iowa retail politics hurt him in the caucuses or will it be another one of many things his fanatics will forgive him?

Time will tell if celebrity campaigning draws in many first time caucus goers.  In the 2012 cycle, only 125,000 people parcipated in the GOP Iowa Caucus.  Patrick Murphy, the director of Mamouth University’s Polling Institute, opined: Trump’s victory hinges on having a high number of self-motivated, lone wolf caucus-goers show up Monday night.”.  Add in the factor that many Trump-eteers are non-traditional first time caucus goers who have to be trained, motivated and ripe to turn out in Iowa, not just through social media or at a rally. If 150,000 or more Republicans actually participate (rather than just register) in this year’s Hawkeye Cauci, then it will be a good night for Trump.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) established an excellent ground game in Iowa while making pointed appeals to evangelical voters and Tea Party types (under the banner of being a consistent  Conservative).  Cruz claims to have 12,000 volunteers in Iowa.  Even political operatives who do not support Cruz, such as Alex Castellanos, concede that Cruz has established a formidable social media operation.

Organization is key to driving caucus goers to the polls.  Sometimes campaigns must literally drive their supporters there.  Also having representative to speak at each caucus   To aid in the retail campaigning, they rented college former dormitories and dubbed them “Camp Cruz” to house hundreds of door knocking volunteers. There has been some controversy over an 11th hour targeted voter mailer from the Cruz campaign which was intended to shame people into caucusing. Cruz dismisses such complaints claiming that the mailer was routine and he favored using every tool to get voters out to the Iowa Caucuses 

Rather than pander to Iowa voters, Cruz advocated the elimination of ethanol mandates, and compromised by phasing them out over five years.  But Cruz’ opponents and those supporting the ethanol lobby labeled that a “flip-flop”.

Cruz did score some significant endorsements for Iowans, including Tea Party favorite  Representative Steve King (R-IA 4th), former Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), evangelical leaders Bob van der Plaats, and Tony Perkins, Duck Dynasty Commander Phil Robertson and radio personality Glenn Beck.

Cruz has barnstormed the Hawkeye State.  By the time the caucuses start, Cruz claims that he will have done the full Grassley (referring to Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley) by having events in all 99 Iowa counties.  This type of retail politics was rewarded in 2012, when former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) won a narrow victory against former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA). The Cruz campaign has also outreached to twice the number of likely caucus-goers than Trump.

However, since Cruz rose towards the top of the Iowa polls in mid-December, he has been targeted by Trump over dubious “birther” (and now even “anchor baby”) attacks.  Of late, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been joining the fray to claim that Cruz is running a “disingenuous” campaign.  This has lead some political observers to conclude that Cruz peaked too early.

As the Iowa Caucuses approached, Cruz closed warning crowd of the dangers of voting for Trump and jabbed at Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).  This may evidence a lack of confidence of decisively winning the Iowa Caucuses as planned.  However, weather forecasts project a major snowstorm starting just before the Caucus begin.  While Haweyes are heartier than denizens in the District of Calamity, a lower turnout may be the key to victory for Cruz, as his organization gets dedicated supporters to turn out on a snowy February evening.

Senator Marco Rubio has been coming on strong in Iowa, seemingly from good debate performances and wholesale politics via the airwaves. The Rubio campaign bet on de-emphasizing boots on the ground campaigning.  In fact, Rubio deputy campaign manager Rich Beeson proclaimed:  "The days of having to have 50 field staffers and 25 offices are done. We can have a field office and staff set up in a Starbucks with wireless and get just as much done as we can in a brick-and-mortar office with land lines." Perhaps. But does that compensate for the paucity of events in Iowa?

Rubio’s Super PAC ran half hour informercials on the Saturday night before the Caucuses on 12 TV stations in five media markets.  Will this work or just be noise as one flips channels on a Saturday night?

It would seem that Rubio is positioning himself for the third ticket out of Iowa, as the Caucuses tend to winnow the top tier winners from the campaign chaff. The strategy would be to frame the media story to be the Comeback Kid who comes out of no-where.

Iowa should have been the ideal launchpad for the Presidential aspiration of Dr. Ben Carson, as a Constitutional Conservative to appeal to Tea Partiers and a man of strong faith to appeal to evangelical voters, who make up 45% of Republican caucus goers.  But Dr. Carson’s campaign has precipitously receded since being in the number two chair for the early December GOP debate. For the Iowa Debate, Carson only was allotted six minutes.

The Carson campaign has been bleeding top advisors for the last month in the run up to the Iowa Caucuses. Carson himself has admitted that if he does not do well in Iowa or New Hampshire that he might have to do an agonizing reappraisal.  Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) campaign brags that they have 1,000 libertarian leaning collegiate supporters.  If they turn out to the Caucuses, that might help lift Paul’s campaign from the primary doldrums. But if Dr. Carson were to be edged out of fourth place in Iowa by a surprise surge from Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) or Senator Rand Paul , discernment time might come sooner.

As counter-programming to the Republican Debate which Donald Trump boycotted, he held an event to help veterans and wounded warriors, which raised $6 million for largess via the Donald J. Tump Foundation. Also appearing at the Trump for the Troops event were the two prior winners of the Iowa Caucuses former Sen. Rick Santorum (2012) and former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR). Both claimed that they wanted to support veterans but Santorum was more candid as he had nothing to do after participating in the under-card debate.

[L] Ex Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), [C] Donald Trump {R] Ex. Gov. Mike Huckabee

Cynics see auditions to a prospective Trump Administration thus they seem like vassals for The Donald. Is it telling that Donald Trump will give his post Iowa Caucus “winning” speech in Little Rock, Arkansas.

It will be interesting to see how Big Mo goes after the Iowa Caucuses.  Typically, the top three candidates get a rush of publicity and funding after Iowa.  But Big Mo does not always translate into winning the next contest, as New Hampshire primary voters are contrarian.  In the 2016 cycle, Trump is comfortably in the lead and Governor John Kasich (R-OH) is surging into second in the Granite State.

In this cycle, some campaigns have raised significant campaign contributions so they are unlikely to quickly fold after Iowa.  Former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) seems resigned to garner better showings after Iowa and New Hampshire and Jeb!'s campaign has the money to make it there.  Rubio’s campaign is well funded and can survive not winning in the Caucuses or the First in the Nation primary.  Cruz has been conservative in spending his large campaign coffers and will probably concentrate on South Carolina and the SEC primaries on March 1st.

With all of this attention on the Grand Old Party, it is easy to overlook the Democrats. It is expected that 140,000 Hawkeye Democrats will participate in the Caucus and they skew very white and liberal. It would not be surprising if Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist- VT) won both the Iowa and New Hampshire contests.  Pro arguendo, Sanders momentum combined with the maelstrom of the Clinton Email Scandal, might cause the Democrat establishment to scramble for substitutes instead of the Hillary coronation, akin to 2004 after the Dean scream.

The fun begins in earnest on February 1st.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trolling for Troops

After the falling out between 2016 Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump and the Fox News , (the organizer and broadcaster of the only GOP Iowa Debate),  the mercurial mogul announced that he would boycott the debate and instead attend a fund-raiser for veterans at nearby Drake University.

Since Trump put up a fuss over Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly asking questions, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) proposed a mano-a-mano debate with Trump. Suggested moderators included Mark Levin, Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, or it could be a 60 minute Lincoln Douglas like debate.

In addition, a Cruz Super PAC offered to donate $1.5 million to veterans' causes if the populist politician would show. Trump demurred unless the Republican race was whittled down to just two candidates. Not content with that one-on-one evasion, Trump spokesman Corey Lewindowski said that Trump would agree to debate Cruz once a federal judge declares him eligible to run for President.

 It would seem that Trump is using veterans as props to advance his campaign cause more than raising money for a worthy cause.  But to be fair, the Cruz Super PAC double dare also has the stench of politics over charitable concern.

A couple of also rans in the 2016 Republican Presidential race have expressed interest in showing up to the Trump inspired rally.  Trump was tickled to tweet about how ex Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and ex Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) wanted to share the stage with Trump if it was a charitable fund raiser for veterans.  Santorum said that he had nothing to do after the under-card Republican debate.

It seems dubious that Trump will share the stage with a couple of also rans in a campaign counter-programming event that just has a veneer of charity for veterans.. The Huckster and Little Ricky still haven't heard back from The Donald.

This is not the first time that Trump has trolled to exploit veterans during the campaign. After the spectacular ratings for the first Fox News GOP debate, Trump tried to bully CNN to contribute their huge profits from his appearance on the debate stage by donating the veterans' causes. Although Trump toyed with being a no-show as leverage, he appeared on stage in the end.

In the fall, Trump partnered with Veterans for a Strong America for his big military announcement aboard a battleship which amounted to "We'll build a military that will be huge so no one will want to fight us and Americans will get tired of winning."  Well, Veterans for a Strong America lost their non-profit status and endorsed Trump.

 Per 990 tax filings, The Donald J. Trump Foundation has only donated $57,000 to veterans groups between 2009 and 2013.  Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks insisted: "Mr. Trump has made significant financial and in kind contributions to many Veterans organizations, personally and not through the Donald J. Trump Foundation." However Hicks declined to estimate the charitable contributions towards veterans' causes.

Several veterans groups distanced themselves from any Trump charity event for Veterans in Iowa. Veterans for America founder Paul Rieckhoff chaffed at being used for a publicity stunt.

After the VA scandal and the need of our wounded warriors in the long-war against Islamist extremism, it is praiseworthy to support veterans' policy concerns and share the spotlight. But it is bravo sierra to use them as political pawns or props.

Post Scriptus 01/29/2015  The Trump Veterans Rally was held in a small 175 person auditorium at Drake University, which was a couple of miles away from the GOP Debate site. Contrary to expectations, Mr. Trump did share the stage with a couple of his rivals, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum (who had previously won the Iowa Caucuses in 2008 and 2012 respectively).

The big news from the event was that the rally had raised $5 million overnight, including a $1 million check directly cut from Donald Trump.  This money is supposedly earmarked for 22 veterans organizaitons. But all of the proceeds are funneled through the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The setup seems reminiscent of the Clinton Foundation, in which private entities are encouraged to make charitable contributions funneled through a single entity with the appearance of currying favor later with a politician poised for a powerful position.

Audrey Hepburn on Beauty

Audrey Hepburn on Beauty

Ronald Reagan on the Challenger Disaster

Ronald Reagan on the Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster

Ralph Waldo Emerson on Life

160128a Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

EPA Chief Gina McCarthy on Flint Water

Sad that liberal logic blame shifting goes to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI), even though the City Council made the bonehead decision and it was hidden by the US EPA. 

But we are expected to cede more of our civil liberties to an authority like the US EPA, which displays incompetence and arrogance.

On Sarah's Choice

The already unconventional 2016 Republican Primary process was rocked by a charter flight between Anchorage, Alaska to Des Moines, Iowa for former Governor Sarah Palin’s (R-AK) of Donald J. Trump for President.  Gov. Palin was the maverick Vice Presidential choice of 2008 Republican nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and her anti-establishment Republican conservatism was thought to carry cache with the Tea Party.

One of the beauties of the Tea Party is that it is not a leader driven movement.  It was sparked by a tax day 2009 protest about being Taxed Enough Already.  This movement occurred after Sarah Palin’s ascendency, so the Tea Party was energized by Palin espousing Tea Party policies but she did not necessarily embody the movement.  Even after it was clear that Palin was going to support his opponent in Election 2016, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted thanks to Palin for her prior support.

As a inveterate Tea Party type, I must admit disappointment in Sarah’s choice. Palin have often campaigned on limited government, ending government subsidies for ethanol, and strict adherence to the Constitution.  Yet Palin’s endorsement of Trump validates a candidate who hardly mentions the Constitution, panders for votes in Iowa by increasing ethanol mandates and whose rhetoric has an authoritarian edge.  In short, Palin chose populism over principle.

Since vaulting out of obscurity in Alaska, Sarah Palin has been a populist inspired conservative politician. Her choice to support Trump seems to drop the pretense of conservatism. Trump has cultivated a pugnacious appeal spoiling for a fight, although the objectives may be obscured. In 2008, Palin’s running mate John McCain relished being a maverick who will fight for you.  At the time, many Palin boosters thought that she would be a conservative oriented populist. Palin’s pick impeaches that perspective.

One might wonder what prompted Palin’s choice.  Well, Palin has been out of the limelight for a while.  After Palin left the Alaska Governorship in 2010, she was a political commentator for Fox News from 2011-2015.  When Fox News parted ways with Palin, Palin established the Sarah Palin Channel in 2014 but pulled the plug on the $9.95/month subscription price after a year. Now her video content is available free on Facebook. Palin also hosted Amazing America with Sarah Palin on the Sportman Channel in 2014.  This is a far cry from her GOP kingmaker potential in the early days of the Tea Party. Sarah's choice certainly put her back in the limelight, for now.

Much like Donald Trump, Sarah Palin is good at creating headlines for political junkies, even if both speakers have trouble stringing together sentences in their evocative appeals.  It is also a fair assessment that Trump and Palin either strongly appeal to supporters or loathing from opponents.

Will Sarah's choice help Donald Trump in the Iowa Caucuses?  Trump seems to be relying upon earned media and hype to drive supporters to the Hawkeye Cauci instead of an organized ground game. It is thought that Trump would have to garner a groundswell of new voters to go to the Caucus.  Social Media sports many Trump trolls who trumpet their leader, but it is hard to see support in Iowa itself.  Trump may hope that Palin’s endorsement will put them over the top, but he may end up wondering how that hopey-changey thing worked out for him.

In the end, Palin's endorsement of Trump may be a good thing for the Tea Party. It will clarify if the movement is meant as a populist rage against the GOP Establishment's machine or if it stands for conservative Constitutional principles.  In other election cycles, the latter group would have little choice but to opt for a populist.  But as it stands for the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, Tea Party conservatives  can choose Dr. Ben Carson or Senator Ted Cruz without sacrificing their principles. 

John Kasich's Modern Manichaean Metaphor

John Kasich proclaims himself as Prince of Light and Hope

John Kasich's self assessment on the Hugh Hewitt show sounds like modern Manichaeism. But Kasich has often self righteously pushed a Christian social gospel as he has been on the Presidential hustings. 

Wonder where Kasich stands on Two Corinthians (sic). In addition, wonder how the heavens consider his monicker of Prince of Light and Hope.

Donald Trump on the Tea Party

Donald Trump on the Tea Party

Mary Shelley on Fearlessness

Mary Shelley on Fearlessness
Add caption

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fast and Furious Executive Privilege Denial

The Department of Justice's Fast and Furious program under former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder gunrunning policy towards Mexico has been under judicial and Congressional scrutiny for years.  In fact, the House held Holder in contempt for his stonewalling of Congress on the Fast and Furious matter.

Judicially, the Obama Administration tried to quash the judicial action under a claim of Executive Privilege.  

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson has ruled that the Obama Administration's assertion of Executive Privilege was invalid because the Department of Justice had already released the information to the public in a 2012 Inspector General's Report.

Judge Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee, did leave open the possibility that Executive Privilege could be claimed if material was deemed sensitive on law enforcement techniques, matter of state with Mexico or attorney-client privilege.  

The Obama Administration's new Attorney General Loretta Lynch did not immediately indicate her Department of Justice would appeal or if the stonewalling was sufficient to extinguish the fire behind the Fast and Furious gunrunning in the last year of the Barack Obama Administration.

h/t: Politico

Impeaching the Inevitable

Maybe the Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire are still not ready for Hillary in 2016.

Donald Trump on NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio

Donald Trump on New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio

No wonder GOP 2016  Presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) railed against New York Values at the Republican Debate in Charleston. 

During the exchange between GOP front runners Donald Trump seemed to have won the day with his paean to the heroes of 9/11.  However, reliable Iowa Caucus attendees what Cruz meant by New York Values.  Trump's comments about  New York City Mayor "Comrade" Bill De Blasio (D-NYC) as well as the mogul's 1998 interview with Tim Russert  underline New York Values. 

Scrutinizing who Donald Trump talked up prior to running for President as a Republican gives insight into his political values, the longevity of his beliefs, his judgment  and with whom the billionaire real estate/ television celebrity chooses to curry favor. 

Margaret Thatcher on Society

Margaret Thatcher on Society

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Donald Trump Accepts the Mantle of Anger

Donald Trump at GOP Debate on being angry
At the GOP Debate in Charleston, South Carolina, Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump accepted the mantle of anger.

Perhaps this explains that blindly pugilistic approach of Trump followers during the primary campaign. If only they were angry about principles not just content to an alluvia of ad hominem attacks and self-aggrandizing platitudes. 

LL Cool J on Success

LL Cool J on Being Big

Thursday, January 14, 2016

James Woods on US Navy Detainees in Iran

Fiorina: "Mrs. Clinton, you can not wipe a server with a towel."

The Hillary e-mail scandal continues to be excellent fodder for focused Republican opponents. 

Carly Fiorina delivers another cutting quip against First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-AR NY),

Carly Fiorina on Relationships

Carly Fiorina leads off the South Carolina Undercard GOP Debate with a well crafted zinger. 

Considering Cruz' New York Values Charge

As the first contents in the 2016 Republican Presidential Primaries are less than a month away, the campaign has become hard hitting.  Brash billionaire New York real estate mogul and reality television celebrity Donald J. Trump has been questioning Iowa front-runner Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) as to whether he is a "natural born citizen".

Trump passive aggressively alleged that Democrats and other legal scholars will dispute if Cruz is legally qualified to become President, as Cruz was born in Calgary Alberta Canada to an American mother.  Trump trolls that the definition of "a natural born citizen" is still not settled law, as the Supreme Court has not ruled on it.  Hence, Trump claims that Cruz' status will be in legal limbo which may dissuade voters and draw attention away from the issues.

Senator Cruz had strived to follow Reagan's 11th Commandment of not criticizing other Republicans. In fact, Cruz refused to jump on the bandwagon of disparaging Trump during earlier outrages over illegal immigration and other controversies.  This may be attributed to the hope of eventually gaining the support of Trump supporters.  However,  Trump's attacks have diminished the lead Cruz held for the Iowa Caucus but putting doubt into undecided Hawkeye Republicans' minds.

With this in mind, Senator Cruz tried a new tact by charging that Donald Trump embodied New York values.

When asked to elaborate, Cruz played coy, yet he played up the cozy relationship that Trump had with the Clintons in the liberal high tax land of Wall Street.

This seemed like a prudent,calculated risk as there would be little hope of carrying the Empire State in the general election and it would likely swing to Donald Trump in the Republican primaries, The downside would be offending New York nebbishes like Peter King.

King's verjuice venom towards Cruz is unsurprising, as King denounced the  flying flip budgetary shut down strategy in 2013 as well as King's tendency to lash out against non-establishment Republican.

The kink in this strategy is the fact that Cruz partially financed his 2012 Senate campaign by liquidating the assets from an account accrued through his wife Heidi's employment through Goldman Sachs.  Cruz had burned his conservative credentials by running against Wall Street ad their New York values. While there may be no merit to the association, the name Goldman Sachs will muddy the waters (much like Trump's natural born citizen slime).

The Fox Business debate in North Charleston, South Carolina will be pair Trump and Cruz at center stage.  While the bromance will be over, it will be interesting if the top two candidates will have tete-a-tete attacks over New York values and natural born citizens or if the fireworks from the debate will come from other candidates trying to change the momentum in the race.

WI Nanny State Police Seeks to Ban Badgering High School Cheers

Jay Bilas  on Toughness and Sports Fans

In late December, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association urged state high school administrators to enforce "guidelines" pertaining to sports fans. WIAA Communications Director Todd Clark inveighed against unsporting behavior, particularly in student cheering sections.  To wit, the WIAA wanted to ban chants as: "Fundamentals"; "Air ball"; "You can't do that"; "We can't hear you."; "Overrated"; Scoreboard" and "Season's over".  There is some thought that even the patriotic "USA" chant may be verbotten.  Per the WIAA's guidelines, these cheers could lead to a suspension.

Much to the WIAA's chagrin, these guidelines went viral on social media and were subject to considerable derision and some pointed First Amendment protest.

ESPN Sports Analyst Jay Bilas took to Twitter to mock the well-intentioned Nanny State sportsmanship dictat with reductio ad absurdum zeal. Bilas suggested a replacement tersely cogent cheer for "Air Ball" with the thoroughly polite " "We note your attempt did not reach the rim, but only to alert the clock operator that a reset is unnecessary."

High School students in Ashwaubeon, Wisconsin chose to make a symbolic protest against the WIAA's assault on their free speech rights by putting duct tape over their mouths at a basketball game.

 None of these cheers are even vaguely bawdy, such as the cheer of frustration: "Nuts and bolts--we got screwed".  These nanny state rules (disingenuously veiled as "guidelines") seems to demand sucking the spirit from zombie-like seat warming fans as their teams effectively compete for their participation trophies.

Once the story acquired national attention, the WIAA tried to back down. WIAA Executive Director Dave Anderson tired to quell the media maelstrom by issuing a "Sincere Apology" email which insisted that there were no new directives, no new rules, no new mandates, and no new enforcement expectations. Parsing Anderson's email, the key is phrase is new. Reading between the lines, the chants were just examples of unsportsmanlike behavior that WIAA guidelines prohibit.

The WIAA mandate touched upon Bilas bailiwick for "Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off the Court" (2014). Bilas did recognize that there are ways of unruly fanaticism that crosses the line without over-regulating kids. Bilas recalled while he was playing basketball at Duke in the 1980s, the University President wrote an open letter challenging fans to behave better and be creative without crass cheers. This prompted the Blue Devil student section to react to bad calls with the cheer: "We beg to differ". A more modern approach might be to remind students that they should not do something they would not want put on television lest it go on their permanent records.

This is more than a high school sports story. It  exemplifies the totalitarian instincts political correctness which demands conformity from feckless fans. The WIAA follow-up employs the non-apology apology, denying the directive is anything new. It also shows the micromanaging mien of the Nanny State which nudges people through rules masquerading as "guidelines".  Lastly, it imposes overbearing burdens on people without challenging them to find creative alternatives to encourage more civil cheering.

Don Quixote on Nonsense

Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote on Nonsense