Stop trying to keep your job and start doing your job

I am brain-dead today, but fortunately our friend Keith is not and his thoughts here are well worth sharing. It often seems that while we dutifully pay our taxes, part of which goes to pay our elected representatives, we are not being represented. The politicos seem far more intent on keeping their power and enhancing their wealth than on doing their duty to We the People. Thank you, Keith, for putting this in perspective for us … now if only we can get the people in Congress to listen!

musingsofanoldfart

Too many legislators and elected incumbents focus on trying to keep their job rather than doing their job. As a result, things do not get done, as every issue becomes a wedge issue rather than one that needs to be solved. I have grown long past weary on this lack of leadership and stewardship.

In my career, I have consulted on and actually been a part of several mergers between organizations, both for-profit and non-profit entities. Effective mergers require due diligence, planning and diplomacy. It should not surprise people, but the majority of mergers fail to be as accretive to the cumulative value of the two separate entities as first envisioned. Some actually are dilutive to that combined value – in other words, they fail.

One of the reasons is people involved tend to focus on keeping their jobs or getting good money to leave. They get overly protective of…

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Thoughts On President Biden’s Speech

Tonight, I watched President Biden’s address to the joint session of Congress and to the people of the United States.  I was impressed with the President, thought he made good points, saw that he was trying to acknowledge the differences between the two sides of the aisle, while urging them to work together, to find some common ground, to compromise.  He was both professional and passionate, gave hope in saying he believed we could find ways to come together as a nation.

I was not impressed by Mitch McConnell, who sat stone-faced and did not once stand or applaud the President, nor was I impressed by Ted Cruz, who was caught on camera sleeping.  I suspect Ted wasn’t actually sleeping but was putting on an act, as he so loves to do.

President Biden has a lot of good ideas, things that need to happen to help the people of this nation move into the 21st century, such as expanded healthcare, voting rights, education, gun laws, clean energy, reducing income inequality and more. But it seems to me, both from what I’ve heard and what I saw on the faces of congressional republicans during Biden’s speech, that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of any of his policies passing through Congress.

It should be noted that the majority of people in both parties in this country support most of what Biden is trying to do, however the people they have elected to sit in Congress, to represent them, do not, in fact, represent them but rather represent their own interests.  Take voting rights, for one example …

While it is true that the Republican Party has snowed over half their base into believing that there was widescale voter fraud in the 2020 election, the majority of people know the truth, that in fact there was no voter fraud other than a few isolated cases that would not have changed the outcome.  We do not want the right to vote taken away from anybody.  If any single eligible voter is denied the right to vote, is disenfranchised by restrictive measures such as ID laws, closed polling places, lack of postal vote, lack of sufficient ballot boxes, then this nation can no longer claim to operate under democratic principles.  The very notion that Republicans are attempting to make voting damn near impossible for the elderly, students, Black and Hispanic people, and the poor is an abomination.  Simple passage of the two voting rights bills sitting in the Senate today could nullify all the attempts by Republicans in the states to disenfranchise half of this nation.  But, at this juncture, those bills are destined to fail, for the Republicans plan to vote as a bloc to block them.

Gun laws?  DOA, for again, Republicans will vote as a bloc and the United States will continue to see blood literally running in the streets.  I once thought, foolishly it seems, that the people we elected would work in our best interest, but this no longer seems to be the case.  The majority of people in this nation would support stronger background checks, abolishing ‘ghost gun’ kits, and banning assault weapons, but … nearly every Republican senator in Congress has an ‘A’ rating with the NRA.  They have taken money from the NRA, and in return have promised to vote against any form of gun legislation that comes to the floor.  They have turned this nation into a killing field.  And We the People have let them.

I appreciate President Biden’s optimism … I really do.  I have the utmost respect for him, his ideas, and his efforts.  However, unfortunately I do not share that optimism today.  There is a “us vs them” mentality in this country, and even when people realize that their elected official is acting against their best interest, they will re-elect him/her because they refuse to vote for the other party.  If Mitch McConnell stood up and said, “Look, people, I don’t give a damn if you starve to death, or if you get shot by your neighbor,” the people of Kentucky would still re-elect him!

Bipartisanship???  What’s that?  It’s been a decade or more since I’ve seen any genuine effort on the part of Republicans in Congress to compromise, to talk, to find middle ground.  They are the party of “NO”.  Can Joe Biden change this?  Hmmmm … he may be able to make inroads, with a bit of help from the Democrats and from the more moderate Republicans, but I don’t have much confidence that we will see any true efforts to ‘reach across the aisle’ as long as there are assholes like Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Lauren Boebert, Mitch McConnell, that Greene woman, and others whose goal in life is to obstruct and destroy.

On a scale of 1-10, I give President Biden a 10 for his speech tonight.  I hope he can do even a fourth of what he hopes to accomplish, and I sincerely hope that this nation can put aside partisan politics long enough to help people, to save lives, and to preserve this nation.  I hope they all prove me wrong when I say I think the divide is so great at this point that there can be no healing of this country.

A Day Late And A Dollar Short

Getting legislation passed in both chambers of Congress is and has always been a game of give-and-take, compromise, meeting halfway.  Neither Democrats nor Republicans will get everything they hoped for in a given bill, but it is to be hoped that the hammering out process leads to something positive for the nation and for We the People.

For months, Congress has made half-hearted attempts to come to terms on a new stimulus bill that would help people and small businesses survive the winter of this pandemic.  Yes, I did say half-hearted, for the two sides have been miles apart and no concerted effort was made that I can see to come together, to put aside their own petty grievances and do their jobs.  To an extent, that was the fault of Donald Trump, who insisted he would sign no stimulus bill that didn’t guarantee immunity from liability for companies who failed to take proper precautions to protect their employees during the pandemic.  I’m sure there were other hurdles and stumbling-blocks, but this was the one that stuck in my craw.  WHY should businesses be allowed to put their employees in danger and be held harmless when one or more employees contract the coronavirus because there was no company-wide mask mandate, or staff was not kept adequately distant from one another?

So, the democrats gave in on the employer liability immunity issue and progress was made.  One barrier after another was somehow knocked down and eventually it looked like a deal would be struck.  The Republicans, however, had one demand from which they absolutely refused to budge.  It’s referred to as the “three-martini tax deduction” and what it does is allows business executives a full 100% tax write-off for the cost of business lunches, including alcoholic beverages, tips, etc.  Until now, the limit has been a 50% deduction.

Initially, the bill did not include stimulus payments to individuals, but thankfully Senator Bernie Sanders stood his ground and demanded a $1,200 payment to each person earning under $75,000 per annum.  Through compromise, it was chiseled down to $600.  The country thanks you, Senator Sanders!  Would that others had his cojones.

Negotiations continued and ultimately Democratic leaders agreed to the provision in exchange for Republicans agreeing to expand tax credits for low-income families and the working poor.  Yes, folks, this is how these things work, but seriously … more than 3,000 people in this country are dying of the coronavirus every damn day, 20 million are out of work, lines at food banks stretch for miles, millions are in danger of losing their homes, and the bill to provide minimal assistance might well have failed if Democrats hadn’t agreed that the taxpayers … those of us who actually PAY taxes … should foot the bill for some billionaire executive to take another billionaire executive out to lunch and drink the finest vodka in the place?  This is the very definition of the word ‘unconscionable’, and it is obvious, if it weren’t already, that the Republicans in Congress do not give a damn about the people of this nation unless we have millions of dollars.

At any rate, after the Democrats caving on some things, the bill has now been passed by both House and Senate and is on its way to the desk of Donald Trump for his signature.  The effect for the average person is to be a $600 stimulus check, similar to the one earlier this year, but only half the amount, $300 enhanced unemployment benefits for 11 weeks, extension of eviction protection until January 31st, some rental assistance, and a 15% increase in food stamp benefits.  All indications are that Trump will sign the bill, but at this stage of the game, given his blatant lack of concern for We the People, nothing would surprise me.

I am reminded of that old Schoolhouse Rock video …

Fool On The Hill — Mitch McConnell

The date was 23 October 2010 — nearly two years into President Barack Obama’s first term and two weeks before the first midterm elections of his presidency. Speaking to the National Journal, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a now-infamous statement: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”  A statement that congressional republicans intended to do everything in their power to thwart President Obama could not have been any clearer.  But, listen to what McConnell had to say on Fox News earlier this week …

“Will Dems work with us, or simply put partisan politics ahead of the country?”

Say WHAT???

Here is McConnell’s OpEd, enhanced by Filosofa’s snarky comments in blue:

Sen Mitch McConnell (R-KY) There are worse pictures of him.Last Tuesday I was proud to see that the American people voted keep Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate. But we also learned that, come January, the Republican Senate majority will be dealing with a House of Representatives under Democratic control. What goes around, comes around, Mitchie.

Needless to say, the past two years of unified Republican government will be remembered as a period of historic productivity.  Define productivity???  You haven’t done a damn thing worthwhile!

Both houses of Congress have taken swift action to right-size a bloated federal regulatory state. The Senate has shattered records in confirming the president’s well-qualified judicial nominees, including two outstanding jurists to serve on the Supreme Court.  Um… Mitchie … ever hear of a little thing called “climate change”?  Those regulations were in place in an attempt to save our earth.  And one of your “outstanding” jurists is a sexual predator!

And together, we passed the first comprehensive reform of the nation’s tax code in a generation. Already, Americans’ paychecks are growing, consumer confidence is high and unemployment has reached a near 50-year low.  Have you looked at the federal debt/deficit estimates lately?  And do you realize that your damn tax reform robbed from the poor and gave to the rich?  Rather a reverse Robin Hood!

After this prolific run, I was not surprised to be asked over the past week about just how much the American people can expect from the next Congress under divided leadership. What can we realistically accomplish?  Restoration of sanity and accountability is my hope.

I have good news: reports of the death of bipartisanship in Washington have been wildly exaggerated. In fact, some of the most significant accomplishments of this Congress have been delivered with overwhelmingly bipartisan support.  Eh?  Such as?  Name one, please?

Under bipartisan committee leadership, we took major steps toward restoring regular order to our appropriations process. The Senate passed more funding measures before the beginning of this fiscal year than at any point in the last two decades.  Funding for what?  Certainly not to help the poor, the homeless, the ill.  Nothing that I can see that benefits the people in any practical manner.

The measures included the largest year-on-year increase in defense funding in 15 years, which put an end to the Obama-era atrophy of our armed forcesGeez, Mitchie … the U.S. already had the largest military budget in the western world!  How is that “atrophy of the armed forces”???  Ever hear the term ‘guns or butter’?  We. Don’t. Need. More. F***ing. Military. Toys.  Get it?  We need help for the poor, we need healthcare!

Working closely with counterparts in the House, we found common ground on rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure. In fact, America’s Water Infrastructure Act – designed to improve interstate commerce, water quality and flood safety – passed the Senate by a vote of 99-1.  Let me just pop over to Flint, Michigan and see how much help you’ve given them …

And in August, the Senate voted unanimously to expand Americans’ opportunities to receive technical and career-focused education.  Meanwhile, you’ve done nothing to improve our public schools, and have made a college education damn near out of reach for the average citizen!  There is much, MUCH more to education than technical and job training …

We’ve passed 22 pieces of legislation produced by the bipartisan work of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. From improving the efficiency of Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities to enhancing access to post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits, each of these pieces of legislation was designed to help America keep its promises to returning heroes and their families.  Not what I’m hearing from the vets.  Have you talked to anybody from AMVETS lately?  I have.

And last month, the Senate passed a landmark package of targeted resources to combat the opioid epidemic. The legislation was produced by five bipartisan committees and included direct input from 72 different senators.  Whoopee.  Meanwhile, those of us who need medications such as insulin to stay alive, cannot afford them. 

Of course, these are just a few highlights of a Congress that has conducted as much serious, cooperative work as any in recent history.  Hah! Let me ask Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi if that’s true …

So make no mistake. The Senate has proven its ability to reach bipartisan solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing our nation.  I think you mistake the meaning of “bipartisan”.  I’ve seen naught but infighting and chaos in the 115th Congress.

And looking ahead to the coming year, there will be no shortage of opportunities to continue this impressive record of cooperation across the aisle and across the Capitol.  Opportunities, yes.  But will you put aside your love of all things Trump and join the democrats in holding him accountable?  Will you put the 99% ahead of the 1% just for once?  Will you act with the interests of the nation in mind?

What we can make of those opportunities will depend on our Democratic colleagues. Will they choose to go it alone and simply make political points? Or will they choose to work together and actually make a difference?  Look in the mirror and ask that question, Mitchie.

Last week, the American people made it abundantly clear that they prefer that Congress focus on making a difference.  Is this a new concept to you?

That message may have been lost on a few House Democrats, who have made clear their preference for investigations over policy results. After years of rhetoric, it’s hardly news that some are more interested in fanning the flames of division than reaching across the aisle.  Not ‘fanning the flames of division’, Mitchie … it’s called ‘accountability’.  Look it up in the dictionary.

But however Democrats interpret the latest message from voters, Senate Republicans will continue our commitment to delivering results.  Continue???  When did you start?

We’ll keep working to lift the burden on American job creators and small businesses. We’ll stay focused on helping communities across the country seize new opportunities and realize greater prosperity. We’ll seek new ways to make life easier for working families.  “Lift the burden”???  WTF???  The burden is on the poor and middle-class, not the big corporations whose so-called ‘burdens’ you seek to ‘lift’.

Most importantly, in the face of whichever tactics the far left chooses to employ next, we’ll continue to stand for the rule of law. We’ll continue to confirm more well-qualified nominees to serve on our nation’s courts.  Rule of law?  Where is that, Mitchie?  Where was rule of law when Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath?  Where was rule of law when you and your cohorts refused to ban assault weapons because you are in the pocket of the NRA?  Where, indeed, is rule of law in Trumpdom?

This is what the Senate’s Republican majority was elected to do. And we’ll continue to get it done.  Bull. You’ll keep right on licking the boots of the fool in the White House.

It is obvious to me that McConnell was doing damage control, making it clear to the Fox viewers, which likely includes Trump’s & McConnell’s followers, that whatever goes wrong in the next two years will be the fault of those mean ol’ democrats.  Mitch McConnell has been in Washington far too long … time for him to retire!

Two Men of Principles — Barack Obama and John McCain

Very rarely do I post anything over 1,200 words, and typically I try to stay around the 800-word mark.  I tried to find parts of this eulogy to cut out, to shorten it, but in the end, every word seemed relevant.  And so, in it’s entirety, this is the poignant eulogy given earlier today by President Barack Obama for Senator John McCain:

To John’s beloved family, Mrs. McCain, to Cindy and the McCain children, President and Mrs. Bush, President and Secretary Clinton, Vice President and Mrs. Biden, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, Vice President Gore, and as John would say, my friends. We come to celebrate an extraordinary man. A statesman, a patriot who embodied so much that is best in America.

President Bush and I are among the fortunate few who competed against John at the highest levels of politics. He made us better presidents just as he made the senate better, just as he makes this country better.

For someone like John to ask you while he is still alive to stand and speak of him when he is gone is a precious and singular honor. Now, when John called me with that request earlier this year, I’ll admit sadness and also a certain surprise. After our conversation ended, I realized how well it captured some of John’s essential qualities.

To start with, John liked being unpredictable, even a little contrarian. He had no interest in conforming to some prepackaged version of what a senator should be and he didn’t want a memorial that was going to be prepackaged either. It also showed John’s disdain for self pity. He had been to hell and back and yet somehow never lost his energy or his optimism or his zest for life. So cancer did not scare him. And he would maintain that buoyant spirit to the very end, too stubborn to sit still, as ever, fiercely devoted to his friends and most of all to his family. It showed his irreverence, his sense of humor, a little bit of a mischievous streak. what better way to get a last laugh than make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience? And most of all it showed a largeness of spirit. An ability to see past differences in search of common ground.

And in fact on the surface, John and i could not have been more different. We’re of different generations. I came from a broken home and never knew my father. John was the stein of one of America’s most distinguished military families. I have a reputation for keeping cool, John not so much. We were standard bearers of different American political traditions and throughout my presidency John never hesitated to tell me when he thought I was screwing up, which by his calculation was about once a day. But for all our differences, for all of the times we sparred, I never tried to hide, and I think John came to understand the long-standing admiration that I had for him.

By his own account John was a rebellious young man. In his case, what’s faster way to distinguish yourself when you’re the son and grandson of admirals than to mutiny. Eventually, though, he concluded that the only way to really make his mark on the world is to commit to something bigger than yourself. For John, that meant answering the highest of callings, serving his country in a time of war.

Others this week and this morning have spoken to the depths of his torment and the depths of his courage there in the cells of Hanoi when day after day, year after year that youthful iron was tempered into steel. And it brings to mind something that Hemingway wrote, a book that Meghan referred to, his favorite book. “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.”

In captivity John learned in ways that few of us ever will the meaning of those words, how each moment, each day, each choice is a test. And John McCain passed that test again and again and again. And that’s why when John spoke of virtues like service and valor they weren’t just words to him, it was a truth that he had lived and for which he was prepared to die. And it forced even the most cynical to consider what were we doing for our country? What might we risk everything for?

Much has been said this week about what a maverick John was. In fact, John was a pretty conservative guy. Trust me, I was on the receiving end of some of those votes. But he did understand that some principles transcend politics. Some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values.

John cared about the institutions of self government, our constitution, our bill of rights, rule of law. Separation of powers. Even the arcane rules and procedures of the senate. He knew that in a nation as big and boisterous and diverse as ours, those institutions, those rules, those norms are what bind us together. Give shape and order to our common life. Even when we disagree. Especially when we disagree.

John believed in honest argument and hearing our views. He understood that if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy, our democracy will not work. That’s why he was willing to buck his own party at times. occasionally work across the aisle on campaign finance reform and immigration reform. That’s why he championed a free and independent press as vital to our democratic debate. And the fact it earned him good coverage didn’t hurt either.

John understood as JFK understood, as Ronald Reagan understood that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our blood line, not on what we look like, what our last names are, not based on where our parents or grandparents came from or how recently they arrived, but on adherence to a common creed that all of us are created equal. Endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

It has been mentioned today, seen footage this week, John pushing back against supporters that challenged my patriotism during the 2008 campaign. I was grateful but I wasn’t surprised. As Joe Lieberman said, that was John’s instinct. I never saw John treat anyone differently because of their race or religion or gender. That in those moments that have been referred to during the campaign he saw himself as defending America’s character, not just mine. He considered it the imperative of every citizen that loves this country to treat all people fairly.

And finally while John and I disagreed on all kinds of foreign policy issues, we stood together on America’s role as the one nation, believing that with great power and great blessings comes great responsibility. That burden is borne most heavily by our men and women in uniform. Service members like Doug, Jimmy, Jack who followed their father’s footsteps, as well as families that serve alongside our troops. But John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others with our adherence to a set of universal values. Like rule of law and human rights and insistence on the god-given dignity of every human being.

Of course John was the first to tell us he was not perfect. Like all of us that go into public service, he did have an ego. Like all of us there was no doubt some votes he cast, some compromises he struck, some decisions he made that he wished he could have back.

It is no secret, it has been mentioned that he had a temper, and when it flared up, it was a force of nature, a wonder to behold. His jaw grinding, his face reddening, his eyes boring a hole right through you. Not that I ever experienced it firsthand, mind you. But to know john was to know that as quick as his passions might flare, he was just as quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. He knew more than most his own flaws, his blind spots, and he knew how to laugh at himself. And that self awareness made him all the more compelling.

We didn’t advertise it, but every so often over the course of my presidency John would come over to the White House and we’d just sit and talk in the oval office, just the two of us. We would talk about policy and we’d talk about family and we’d talk about the state of our politics. And our disagreements didn’t go away during these private conversations. Those were real and they were often deep. but we enjoyed the time we shared away from the bright lights and we laughed with each other and we learned from each other and we never doubted the other man’s sincerity or the other patriotism or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team.

For all of our differences, we shared a fidelity to the ideals for which generations of Americans have marched and fought and sacrificed and given their lives. We considered our political battles a privilege, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those ideals at home and do our best to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible. and citizenship as an obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.

More than once during his career John drew comparisons to Teddy Roosevelt. I am sure it has been noted that Roosevelt’s men in the arena seems tailored to John. most of you know it. Roosevelt speaks of those who strive, who dare to do great things, who sometimes win and sometimes come up short but always relish a good fight. A contrast to those cold, timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. Isn’t that the spirit we celebrate this week? That striving to be better, to do better, worthy of the great inheritance that our founders bestowed. So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty. Trafficking in bombastic manufactured outrage, it’s politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.

Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. but what will happen in all the other days that will ever come can depend on what you do today. What better way to honor John McCain’s life of service than as best we can follow his example to prove that the willingness to get in the arena and fight for this country is not reserved for the few, it is open to all of us, and in fact it is demanded of all of us as citizens of this great republic. That’s perhaps how we honor him best, by recognizing that there are some things bigger than party or ambition or money or fame or power, that the things that are worth risking everything for, principles that are eternal, truths that are abiding. At his best, John showed us what that means. For that, we are all deeply in his debt.

May God bless John McCain. May God bless this country he served so well.