Maybe it’s his Italian and Irish heritage, but anyone a few years from sixty has no right to look as good as Rick Santorum does. Of course, the Oval Office tends to add gray hairs in a hurry to it’s occupants and now that Santorum is officially in the race, we can speculate on how he would deal with the pressures of the top job in the country. And how many gray hairs he will have should he make it to the presidency. But then again, maybe just maybe, Rick Santorum’s faith and values give him an inner strength that shines through. Like Ben Carson, he’s a true social conservative. Unlike Ben Carson, he is an experienced politician with a Senate record.

Which means that all his political missteps and controversies are public knowledge and will be dredged up again on the campaign trail. His success with female voters is a question mark, as his staunch, conservative Catholicism puts him at odds with most liberals and moderates on gender issues. As well as gay issues, and questions of faith and education, as well as his sharp criticism of pornography which has been ridiculed by some and disregarded by many. His choice of home schooling for his children will sit well with evangelicals but may provide an attack point for more moderate rivals. For more moderate rivals to defend themselves from Santorum’s fierce defense of his positions that is. His faith in his own positions almost seems to compel him to seek confrontation in order to see who is with him and who is against him on any given issue. While George W. Bush may have used that phrase, Santorum seems to live by it every single day. As if it wasn’t a choice.

Will Santorum be a viable choice for GOP candidate to the presidency? 2012 was literally a passion play for the man who had been the Republican leader in a very close race up to his withdrawal for reasons intimately tied to his faith and his family. Santorum is back four years and some six weeks after his leaving the race to be with his daughter. To say the GOP field is very different this time around is an understatement. To assume that Rick Santorum will be one more in a crowded field would be a mistake, however. Rick Santorum seems compelled to run for president. As if he had no choice but to do so.

Honest Accounting at FIFA

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Filed Under Latest News on May 26 

God bless the Justice Department for charging fourteen FIFA officials with corruption. That is, with nurturing “a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world.” While baseball, for example, has certainly had it’s share of scandals over the years, they have tended to be fixed with rigorous and thorough responses on the part of the league itself or of the courts. Is baseball as clean as a pitcher’s mound the morning of the first game of the season? No, clearly not. But the capacity, and more importantly, the will to ensure a reasonable sense of order and justice prevails over that pastime so central to life in America. And in other professional sports, even if to a lesser extent, in professional boxing.

Apparently the Zurich-based organization has over $1 billion in cash on hand. A cash ratio that is a touch on the conservative side, given that FIFA has revenues of around $1 billion a year. If you believe their books. If they actually have books that would pass even a modest audit done by say your grandmother, who happens to be a retired bookkeeper. About 15% of that billion dollars is at stake in this indictment, and where those tens of millions of dollars came from and where they went, is something we may actually discover over the process of the FIFA Fourteen’s trial. Professional soccer is awash in corruption and has been for decades if not generations. And FIFA is part of the problem, not the solution. So far President Sepp Blatter has not been charged, but if the Swiss actually cooperate fully with the Justice Department, who knows where this will end?

And the problem is far more than a playing field that is not level. The playing field is soaked with bloody violence from hooligans – especially in South America where the English (Irish to be specific) problem has reached far and wide into the very structures of the clubs and Conmebol – to Asian gamblers cutting the stadium lights after half-time to guarantee a favorable score stays that way, to players throwing games, to corrupt referees everywhere, including Germany’s 2nd division. To vote-buying in FIFA and on and on. While media commentators have delighted in descending on American athletes who have – willingly or unwillingly – ingested banned substances, whether cough medication or steroids, corruption is so profound in soccer that there is a resigned acceptance of the fact in most of the world, including the media. Let us hope that the Justice Department brings some of the clarity and zeal they have brought to baseball to the seething, decadent world of football association football (that would be soccer). It is long past time for an honest accounting at FIFA.

The First Lady, Michelle Obama, gave the commencement speech at Tuskegee University, and the speech centered on race and the obstacles she faced being African American. Tuskegee University is a historically and predominantly African American student body, so she was making an attempt to speak to her listeners.

However, somewhere lost in translation was the final message. She discusses all of the feelings and obstacles she face before becoming the First Lady living in the White House, but never addressed this is how we’ve overcome, corrected injustices, evolved and this can happen to you. The speech just took on a seemingly angry tone about race, the quite frankly is not more fuel we needed added to the critical status of racism in our nation at the moment. It just didn’t seem to connect, and it’s unfortunate. Rather than encouraging and believing in the future and hope of humanity, there was a lack of connecting the dots in that area.

It goes back to the Zimmerman trial when after the verdict President Obama said in his reaction, “Trayvon Martin could have been me.” It’s somewhat of a reverse form of racism because they think they’re relating to African Americans because they’re black. Isn’t that racism? Yet, their lives and circumstances are often very different than most of the people they’re talking to regardless of their race.

The Semantics of Amnesty

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Filed Under Latest News on May 22 

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that DAPA must remain on hold while Texas and 25 other states pursue their appeals of the executive action, or directive, that Obama issued last November. The court agreed with critics and stated that DAPA – Deferred Action for Parents – goes beyond non-enforcement and confers a ” ‘lawful presence’ on a class of unlawfully present aliens.” It is interesting that the Fifth Circuit did not use the term illegal aliens. The difference between an illegal alien and an unlawful alien is one of degrees it seems, and an intentional construction on the part of those inside and outside the administration that is intended to provide a pathway to naturalization. In other words, it is the language of amnesty. Children born in the U.S. to illegals is the bridge, if you will, between illegal and unlawful and lawful; a defining away of the problem by reclassifying those who have spent enough time in the country and who have children born in the country.

Will DAPA eventually collapse under a negative Supreme Court ruling? It will be vital to see how the top court defines the terms illegal and unlawful and lawful. If one wades into the semantics, illegal is something specifically forbidden by law, while unlawful is something not authorized by law. So it is a degree less criminal, if you will, than illegal. But the Fifth Circuit took on the slightly more forgiving term, rather than stubbornly sticking with the term illegal, and found DAPA had gone too far, even if the measure was unlawful rather than illegal.

It is not quibbling to examine the semantics around illegal immigration. The Latino-Hispanic community in the U.S. has long used the term indocumentado as a euphimism for illegal alien. But they mean far more, or less perhaps, than that with the term undocumented or indocumentado. It is a re-definition of what an immigrant who has broken the laws is. It is a defining-away of the immigration laws of the country to justify their breaking of those very laws. While DAPA is not quite as frontal in it’s disregard for America’s borders, it treads the same path, with perhaps an ounce more of stealth. Or at least self-proclaimed pragmatism. But unlike the semantic bravado and pugnaciousness of the term indocumentado, DAPA will have to face the very legal semantics of the courts. The Fifth Circuit has not given much hope to those demanding amnesty. Whether in the Oval Office or across the country. Whether for unlawful aliens. Or for Illegal aliens.

Ruth Marcus – the long time commentator at the Washington Post – graduated from Harvard Law in 1984 and her husband Jon Leibowitz – a policy wonk if there ever was one – graduated from New York University School of Law the same year. Carly Fiorina dropped out of UCLA Law School in the 70’s. So there. Ruth Marcus has been a journalist all her professional life. Carly Fiorina has had an enormously successful and enormously controversial career in business with her tenure-ship at HP already a case study; as much for the wrong as for the right reasons. So there. Ruth is offended by Carly’s candidacy as the former tech executive lacks political experience and skills. Ruth’s husband has worked deep in the bowels of the beltway – especially in the areas of digital regulation and consumer protection. Carly has offended many of her former employees by shaking up HP’s nurturing culture and firing lots of workers and managers. So there. Whether Fiorina was a tough minded visionary or a blundering hatchet woman, or some combination of the two, is still not quite clear. So there.

Unfortunately, one has to pause and remember there is another actor involved, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Whose life could be characterized as having lots of frustrated political ambition. Frustrated because, like Fiorina, the execution never lived up to the ambition. But there is a difference between the two beyond those of the business world and the political world that Hillary entered on the arm of her husband. Fiorina is dying to get out there and defend what she did in the public eye and have people hear her and judge her – over and over again. Hillary wants people to applaud and then leave her alone. And Fiorina is determined to enter the political world, so determined she’s going for the top job. She has true grit you could say. Hillary at times seems like someone who wants to retire into the top job, because she’s put in the years and is due the office.

At times one wonders if the GOP’s understandable attacks on Hillary’s record at State, for example, keep a tired and grumpy candidate alive and still walking. Like a zombie. Or a golem, in the sense of an unfinished human being before God’s eyes. Because we still don’t really know who Hillary is. Carly, on the other hand, is desperate for voters to get to know her and seems more than willing to argue and scrap her way through a singularly competitive filed of GOP candidates. Hillary has trouble putting in public time in a field of one. At some point, it is more than likely that Carly will have to throw in the towel, at least as far as this campaign is concerned. What will Hillary do when she can barely face the press, or anyone else for that matter, anymore?

Positive Train Control is technology that takes the control of a train – a ver large thing that is very hard to stop – out of the hands of train engineers and enforces safety through automatic GPS-run control systems. The sharp turn near Philadelphia station where engineer Brandon Bostian apparently applied emergency brake procedures when he realized he was going at a reported speed of 106 miles per hour rather than the 50 mph limit, did not have PTC technology, needless to say. Eight people riding that train to visit friends or family or on business or some other journey lost their lives and hundreds of others were injured or shaken up. Calls to defund and shut down Amtrack are already being made. But there is a problem beyond the subsidies spent over the past 4 or nearly 5 decades: the behavior of those charged – directly or indirectly – with the safety and security of the passengers aboard the train or any passengers in vehicles near a railroad line for that matter.

Was Bostian text messaging? Was he high on something? Or was he just in that phased-out zombie zone that apparently can sometimes affect truck drivers and train engineers with a long work schedule? Or was he just plain distracted? For no reason at all? One wonders what sort of safety training – and continual training – railway engineers receive? Certainly they must receive this type of training. But PTC technology is an admission that technology is needed to ensure that train engineers comply with safety standards. Like speed limits for example. So as the investigators piece together what happened and calls for Amtrack to be shut down increase, Congress will have to decide whether to ensure that the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 continues to install PTC technology through the NE corridor and indeed most of the US Rail Network by December 15 of this year, as the law stipulates. Or whether passenger railways are a subsidized service for the relatively wealthy and not worth preserving. Within any debate over Amtrack’s future, perhaps they could also dedicate a little time and thought to ensuring, as best as reasonably possible, that engineers operate their trains in a safe and responsible manner.

George Stephanopoulos still looks rather boyish at 56, so perhaps it’s possible not to think of him as middle-aged with a lot of history, especially of the Washington kind. Who could forget him hunched in a chair over to the side of the stage at the Clinton White House’s grumpy, to not say barely-restrained furious, press briefing after the disastrous 94 mid-term elections? And of course, a big reason for the electoral disaster was their Health Care plan, in which Hillary was a prime mover. How did George and Hillary get along? Were the hives he apparently broke out in all Bill’s fault? As they piled the pressure on the earnest little policy wonk? And what exactly is true in Primary Colors? And yes, he’s said he was more like Josh than Rob Lowe’s character in The West Wing. It makes sense to put some distance between himself and the brat-packer. And there’s all that money donated to the Clinton’s foundation. Which is George’s business.

Until he gets to moderate presidential debates. In which Hillary Clinton is the sole – for now – Democrat candidate. When it comes to commentators it’s hard to find true arm’s-length relationships. George Will, Stephanopoulos’ colleague at ABC of course, was part of the debate-gate controversy in 1980 as an advisor to Reagan. But Will’s controversy came after the debate as a commentator in the media. Not as a moderator of the debate itself. So the criticism of Stephanopoulos by Rand Paul – whose father debated under the moderation of Stephanopoulos – is fair game.

But the stage, literally and figuratively, on which this latest controversy on presidential debates is taking place is Big Media itself. And the fact that moderators seem to come from the ranks of journalists rather than academics or judges or other experts. Is this as it should be? That’s a tough one to call, as removing the press – however hostile or biased would be seen as censorship. Certainly by those who felt it damaged their message more than that of others. And they would have a point. De Tocqueville, writing on censorship and the liberty of the press, which he saw as a necessary evil, said the following:

You have been led from the extreme of independence to the extreme of servitude without finding a single tenable position on the way at which you could stop.

Wise words from a brilliant mind, but there’s a problem with De Toqueville’s warning. Very few in today’s world, on either side of the cultural wars, view the mainstream press as truly independent but rather as the voice of one or other vested interest. Given this polarized partisanship, perceived and real, it is truly difficult to find a moderator like Jim Lehrer that is viewed both as knowledgeable and fair. George Stephanopoulos does not really come close, and controversies over his previous role as a moderator attest to that. If he does keep the job, then likely we will see tit for tat tactics with immoderate moderators playing a gotcha game of musical chairs: each having his or her chance to take aim at their favorite targets, sorry candidates. Are we already there? Or can a reasonably neutral voice be found?

Is changing your position on an issue as the facts change a sign of flexibility? Or is it blowing in the wind like a weather vane? Hard not to think of Bob Dylan as Jeb Bush digs in and kicks out just a little at those who supposedly are mere populist panderers. At least according to Jeb in his latest Fox interview. Iraq still looms large with ISIS now ravaging, now retreating, through swaths of Iraq and Syria. Not to mention taunting crazed lone wolves into action in America and Europe. One can argue that a lack of commitment to maintaining a military presence in Iraq by the Obama administration has brought renewed violence to the region. But the question Jeb Bush was asked was: would he still recommend an invasion, given what he knows now? His firm “Yes” seems a bit like renewing an old argument over the 12-year old decision to go in. In spite of the intelligence failures that now seem to be common knowledge.

And that’s where it gets a little uncomfortable for those hoping Jeb Bush shows how presidential he is. To engage in what feels like a justification of his brother’s decision to invade Iraq is not the best way of showing how he will be a new and refreshing change of perspective should he become the next occupant of the Oval Office. It’s not quite Family Feud, but it’s something that belongs in a debate over Geroge W. Bush’s legacy. Not in a campaign that will be decided in 2016 – whether that be the nomination or the actual election. Was it an obvious loaded question laid out before him to see if he would take the bait? Of course it was, but Jeb Bush should have known better than to burden his response with too much history. Stubbornness is not necessarily spine, especially given the fate of post-invasion Iraq. While Jeb Bush has apparently assembled a very experienced group of advisors, it seems he’s indicated he’ll seek his brother’s advice on some matters of foreign policy. Like Hillary will surely seek the advice of Bill. Maybe George W. will tell his younger brother that it’s time to move on and admit the mistakes that were made in Iraq. Will Jeb listen?

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has vindicated Jim Sensenbrenner’s interpretation of the Patriot Act. Specifically Section 215 and essentially the collecting of information demonstrably and directly related to any possible terrorism case or suspect. In other words, the wholesale gathering of meta-data on American’s telephony footprints was shot down. However, the 2nd Circuti Court of Appeals did not rule on the constitutionality of such mega-data gathering by intelligence agencies. Nor, needless to say, did it rule on the constitutionality of the Patriot Act itself.

It must be kept in mind, that that is precisely what the ACLU eventually wants. A SCOTUS ruling that shoots down the Patriot Act and lets people get on with their lives, whether those lives happen to involve planning a dirty bomb explosion in America, for example. Or planning a family vacation with their kids. This decision by the 2nd Circuit, is something less than that, thank God. And let us not forget the ALA – American Library Association – and it’s panic in 2005 over the fact that intelligence agencies might have unfettered access to the records of what books and articles people read in libraries across the land. The Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald denounced this type of thing as “Patriot Act fear mongering.” And she seems to have a point. But the debate over the limits to wiretapping and other forms of eavesdropping is an important one, and one that points to the Supreme Court. There is no doubt the matter of phone surveillance, and other surveillance, will be the meat and bones of new rulings.

Our right to privacy should not be unconditional. Because what any of us do tends to affect others. In some ways, privacy advocates agree with this, because they speak of the consequences to someone’s reputation as a result of an alleged breach of their privacy. But information nets need to be cast wide enough to contain threats before they happen. Did wiretapping go too far? Certainly yes. Let us hope the the Supreme Court, however, when they rule on any eventual appeal of this decision, will write a balanced decision that allows intelligence agencies to collect the information they need, but perhaps not all the information they want.

The two terrorists drove in a gasoline-powered vehicle and used bullets from guns to try and cause death and destruction at a cartoon event in Texas. Old fashioned technologies used by two weaponized fanatics, associated with ISIS it now seems. They did not come descending from space with EMP weapons or fire a nuclear weapon from the upper stratosphere that discharged an electromagnetic pulse which took down America’s grid. But according to Peter Pry, executive director of the EMP Task Force, a bipartisan congressional task force, if the federal government doesn’t pony up 2 billion, America’s grid is completely vulnerable to an EMP attack. And should this theoretical, a terrifying one admittedly, become reality, death and starvation on a scale never seen before is nigh at hand. According to Pry at least.

Did the Soviet Union successfully develop EMP weapons? Do they actually work? Whether the ones developed by whatever branch of the military here, or in some abandoned, collapsing ex-soviet arms center? If one thinks of the untold billions spent by the military on say the stealth bomber, and whether those funds could have been better spent, it behooves a little caution. R&D on weapons and defense systems in general is not just a fact of life; it’s the leading edge of the next generation of civilian technologies. And whole industries, new and fading, depend on that. But a certain amount of oversight, and readily available information to the media and the public, is also necessary.

In other words, how scared should residents of Garland be of an EMP attack from space? By who is never quite clarified and one hopes the military does not start recommending civilians start brushing up on old X-files episodes. Nothing better than silly to dismantle a spending campaign. The people of Garland one suspects, are far more interested in who those two terrorists were. Where they lived in. How long they have been in America, or if they were actually born somewhere in the U.S. And what connections they may have had with ISIS. And who else might be part of their crazed little circle. The residents of Garland also know how to stay safe, how to work with police, and how to use the liberties that they have to ensure a strong and free community. If there is any remote danger of an EMP attack, a reasoned discourse with voters, like those in Garland, seems a good place to start.

Ben Carson says he is not a politician and never wanted to be a politician “because politicians do what is politically expedient and I want to do what´s right.” Now that he’s officially announced, a logical question to ask is: what in the world is Ben Carson doing running for president if he doesn’t want to do what is politically expedient? There are two answers to this. The easy one is: he’s exaggerating like any candidate and trying to present himself as a force of renewal and hope in Washington. The other answer is: because he really means it and he wants to change politics in the beltway in a big way. Over the next months, and perhaps longer, we will find out which answer is closer to the truth when it comes to Ben Carson.

Dr. Carson will now have to show that his complete lack of experience in any sort of political office is not a hindrance to his ability to govern America. That he has the intellect and the passion is a given. That he could actually govern in today’s world is an unknown. That to some voters, his lack of time in any political office is a shining virtue, must also be acknowledged. But he will have to turn his ideas into a doable platform of policies that GOP voters, conservative ones and others in the Republican tent, can say ‘yes, that works for me’. His faith as a Seventh Day Adventist will be brought under the harsh and cynical scrutiny of a post-modern media. One can almost hear a MSNBC reporter asking, “Doctor, do you believe in evolution?” As if a great contradiction, not to say implied hypocrisy, has been revealed by that question. And Dr. Carson will have to respond, once more. That an astonishingly gifted physician – is there a more useful applied science than medicine? – can prosper in part precisely because of his faith, never mind co-exist with it, is a reality for many but certainly not all scientists or physicians. But it is a reality that Ben Carson personifies. How comfortable will voters be with Ben’s faith however? Will the media and rivals try to turn his faith into another Mitt Romney show? Or do Ben Carson’s rock solid conservative credentials mitigate that possibility? At least from his GOP rivals.

It will be up to Ben Carson to explain, he certainly doesn’t have to show, how his faith and his life and his career all nurture each other. How he does it, and how the media and voters react, will help define his campaign. Because his successes are not what interest the public now, as inspiring and marvelous as they are. He has to show his faith in himself as every cheap shot imaginable gets thrown his way. And he will have to rise above them and offer both a clear and an inspiring vision for the country’s future. No small mountain to climb for the good physician. Especially one with no job experience in the ambitious and unforgiving world he has now officially entered.

In his hometown of Detroit, Dr. Ben Carson, officially announced his run for President saying, “I’m Ben Carson and I’m a candidate for president of the United States.” As a doctor, who was the first surgeon to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head, Dr. Carson hasn’t exactly had the most traditionally background entering politics. But that doesn’t mean to count him out just yet.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what could made a successful GOP candidate because the belief and preservation in the Constitution is essential to the GOP, however that can make it difficult to appeal to voters who are looking for a social conservative. Is that Ben Carson?

Carson’s run can be a game changer. As a doctor, his perspective and influence on health care in our broken system could be critical. With 2 terms having an African American president, Carson is looking to extend that time. He previously said, “There are a lot of African Americans who do think for themselves and recognize that the policies that have been in place for decades now that really started with Lyndon Johnson … have not really accomplished very much.”

Carson certainly has the appeal but there are so many variables that are turned into negative representation from lefties and liberal media that it truly is hard to say what will make a successful GOP candidate.

 

 

Rand Paul has been rightly criticized for flip-flops over drones. From his famous filibuster on the Senate floor that forced AG Holder to state that limits will be respected on using drones on American soil against American citizens, he has then shown support for drones a few months after the filibuster. The context was the Boston Marathon bombings and under what circumstances drones would be justified in a domestic situation. He had to offer a non-retraction retraction and now he has stated he supports drones in military situations like the Afghanistan incident that ended with two dead hostages. Rand has taken a lot of flak from his libertarian supporters over this issue and perhaps he should have kept his mouth shut about the issue.

The thing is, it’s very very good that he did not zip it. Because the issue of drones – a very powerful and increasingly cheap and available technology – is one that needs to be discussed, with political zig zags and pratfalls thrown in. It needs to be discussed because with Baltimore burning over a possible case of police abuse of a detained young man who died from injuries apparently suffered while in custody, the issue of armed drones being used by police forces is not some crazed scenario or just a scene from a Jason Bourne film. It is a powerful, invasive technology that must be carefully weighed in terms of costs and benefits before being adopted by law enforcement agencies around the country. And a terrorist attack using home-rigged drones inside America is not a laughable theoretical either. Drones are a weapon above all; that’s how they were designed. How they are used by private citizens can’t just be left up to those private citizens themselves. And how police forces use them does and should make us uncomfortable.

Will drones end up being restricted and then face legal challenges? Ones that even invoke the 2nd amendment? That might be a little far fetched, but an open debate about drones in America is far from a waste of time. Whether in the media, or on the Senate floor. Let Rand Paul drone on. It’s a necessary thing.

Apparently Rand Paul’s senate voting record shows that he actually votes with the GOP on a majority of bills. And that he actually collaborates a fair amount. As well as with current Tea Party rival Ted Cruz. In Nevada, however, it seems the Pauls’ posse – their supporters in the Sliver State – who stormed the halls of local power in 2012, have been ousted in elections held since that date. The buzz is that they don’t work well with other Nevada Republicans and were focused on helping Rand Paul to the exclusion perhaps of other Nevada GOP politicians and activists. That seems to have gone over as well as blowing smoke in a blackjack dealer’s face or spilling your beverage on the felt in Vegas. The question now seems to be whether Rand’s supporters in Nevada will make nice and be more of team players. Do they want to? Isn’t the point of Paul and his libertarian supporters to change – a nice way of saying fire – the GOP establishment in Washington DC who they view as guilty of the same sins as any big government Democrat?

Yes and no. Rand Paul seems to honestly want to reach out and broaden his own tent, but as a libertarian, will he work with those Republicans who clearly aren’t? His senate record shows he consistently votes against government surveillance of Americans and that puts him at odds on occasion with defense hawks. His foreign policy stance in general is a problem for conservatives and his words in New Hampshire on immigration – “the 11 million, I think, are never going home, don’t need to be sent home” – riles them as well. But above all, if Rand Paul is to be a true contender, his supporters will have to show that they can work with other GOP members. Unless Rand and his supporters, in Nevada and elsewhere, are truly not interested in collaboration. In which case Rand starts to look like a better dressed, and cuter, version of Ross Perot.