Debacle in Hawaii reflects many flaws

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By now, everybody under the sun has heard or read about the false alarm Saturday in Hawaii, in which a statewide alert warned every swinging islander and visitor that an inbound ballistic missile was only minutes away from ruining their whole day.

The fake alert terrified Hawaiians. The reasons given for how it happened lacked credibility. And of course, the liberal left jumped on the No Trump bandwagon immediately to point their unsubstantiated fingers at the sitting president, asking Trump why he continues to cultivate an erroneously perceived lack of foreign policy when it comes to rogue nation North Korea.

The more important question is: Why did it take 38 minutes for Hawaiian state authorities to send a second message stating that the alert was an error? There’s a flaw here somewhere.

And how did the fake alert happen in the first place? Hawaiian Gov. David Ige reportedly said the false alarm was “a mistake made during a standard procedure” as a work shift changed, “and an employee pushed the wrong button.”

Seriously? One guy low in the food chain, with no consultation from higher-ups, can push an unsecured button that lights up the whole state in case of an impending  nuclear attack? Might as well say the janitor did it, with his finger, in the pie room. Call it flaw No. 2.

In Washington, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, told CNN that the fake alert in Hawaii shows President Trump’s policy on North Korea is wrong.

“What makes me angry is that yes, this false alarm went out, and we have to fix that in Hawaii,” Gabbard said. “But really, we’ve got to get to the underlying issue here of why are the people of Hawaii and the United States facing a nuclear threat coming from North Korea? And what is this president doing, urgently, to eliminate that threat?”

Gabbard is a military veteran who serves on the U.S. House armed services and foreign affairs committees. As such, she should know better – North Korea doesn’t listen to the United States. The Kim Jong-un regime is beholden to and supported by China, Iran and Russia. 

“I’ve been calling on President Trump to negotiate directly with North Korea,” Gabbard said, “to sit across the table from Kim Jong-un, work out the differences so that we can build a pathway towards [sic] denuclearization to remove this threat.”

Well, it takes two to tango. Trump could offer to sit down until he was blue in the face. But there are no talks possible so long as the chair across the table from him is empty.

Gabbard adds that no preconditions should precede such talks — meaning North Korea should not have to give up its nuclear weapons first. Moreover, she says, Trump should assure Pyongyang that Washington is not pursuing regime change in North Korea.

Can Gabbard be that naïve? Guess so. Guess she never heard of Neville Chamberlain. Perhaps she slept through her world-history classes. . 

And what is President Trump doing to “eliminate the threat”? Plenty. The missile silos in Alaska and on the continental West Coast are armed and ready. Anti-missile defenses in Japan are pointed in the right direction. And the U.S. Navy has a small armada on and under the Sea of Japan and in the Pacific Ocean to deal with the wishes of Kim Jong-un. In other words, Rocket Man ought to be careful what he wishes for.

Meanwhile, the “deplorables” on the political left — yes, Hilary, some of those on your side of the fence are Democratic deplorables — lit up like the Fourth of July.

Keith Boykin of CNN complained that Trump was on a golf course in Florida while the fake alert was unfolding. “Of course he was,” Boykin said facetiously, without referring to any of the times when Trump’s predecessor was on the links driving and putting while seriously dire events occurred elsewhere. But the discerning public, along with the populace in Hawaii, weren’t laughing at Boykin’s fake humor.

Fake actress Jamie Lee Curtis put the cherry on the pudding. In her tweet, she went more ballistic than the fake missile that launched statewide panic in the 50th state. Curtis wrote: “This Hawaii missile scare is on YOU Mr. Trump. The real FEAR that mothers & fathers & children felt is on YOU. It is on YOUR ARROGANCE. HUBRIS. NARCISSISM. RAGE. EGO. IMMATURITY and your UNSTABLE IDIOCY. Shame on your hate filled self. YOU DID THIS!”

Even President Obama would have disagreed, saying at one point: “We did not build this country on our own. We built it together.” His comment came during a speech about small-business entrepreneurs, denying that they built their businesses themselves. Extending the logic, can we not also point the finger at Congress for any holes in the Swiss cheese of foreign policy?

The “No Trump” left just can’t help themselves. What’s next? How about: Let’s blame President Trump for the spate of cold weather that has paralyzed half the nation? Guess Mother Nature is punishing us because Trump pulled the United States out of the planet-wide global warming accord — er, the climate-change accord … er, whatever the atmospheric political movement is being called these days.

Give us a break.

 

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I guess hell just froze over

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Congress this week passed and sent to President Trump a $1.5 trillion overhaul of the U.S. income tax code. The disenchantment expressed by the few was almost laughable.

“My Republican colleagues  … will rue the day they did it. They don’t want to discuss it, they don’t want to have some light shed on it. They don’t want anyone to know what is in it, because it is so, so, bad. And the public knows it.”
— Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate minority leader

The tax plan is “brazen theft” that “betrays the future and betrays the aspirations of our children. It is a vote to install a permanent plutocracy in our nation. In this holy time (the Christmas season), the moral obscenity and unrepentant greed of the GOP tax scam stands out even more clearly. … It is the end of the world. The debate on health care is life/death. This is Armageddon.”
— Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House minority leader

“For years, I have constantly sounded the alarm about the need to cut wasteful spending, balance the budget, and eliminate the massive debt that is bankrupting our nation.  This is not just an economic issue, it’s a national security issue. … I am also concerned that this bill will result in millions of middle class Americans, and thousands of Eastern North Carolinians, paying more in taxes, not less.  It is estimated that 5 percent of taxpayers will pay more tax in 2018, 9 percent in 2025, and 53 percent in 2027.  That is the last thing struggling families need.”
— Sen. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), one of 12 GOP senators who voted no on the tax bill

“Californians need tax relief now more than ever, especially as the tax factory in our State Capitol continues looking for ever-increasing ways to take more of our hard-earned paychecks. Yet, I still fear that even in the revised proposal, many in my area could face higher taxes under this plan.”
— Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who also voted against the tax bill

Sorry, Chuck. If the Republicans didn’t shed any light on the measure, how can you know that it is “so, so bad”? You, my friend, are the public personification of obstructionism. You ought to know better. Moreover, the thinking public doesn’t see the new tax bill as being “bad” legislation. You’ve got to get out more to the nation’s diners and county fairs.

Sorry, Nancy. “Armageddon” is synonymous with the end of the world. Nuclear holocaust fits the bill. The 2017 tax bill does not. Please stop already with the groundless theatrics and the goofy melodrama.

Sorry, Walter. Yes, we need to cut wasteful spending. But remember the instructions on how to eat an elephant – that is, one bite at a time. The tax bill is a good beginning. Waste and fraud will be the next targets in President Trump’s bid to drain the swamp. Moreover, about half of the federal debt is money the U.S. taxpayers owe themselves, making the other half manageable if federal officials can rein in waste and fraud, as well as call in some debt that foreign nations owe the U.S. And you’re whining because 5 percent of taxpayers will pay more taxes next year, while 9 percent will be paying more in 2025? Heck, 5 percent is acceptable. As for the 2025 figure, whose crystal ball were you tapping into – I’d like to get me one. And when the tax modifications expire in 2026, well – that sunset is about eight years from now, and a lot can happen in eight years. Because NOTHING that gets adopted in a sitting Congress is permanent. A new Congress down the road before 2026 can change whatever its members vote to change.

And Darrell, you ought to just zip it. Your state is Giveaway Central. It’s why California has the highest debt-to-income ratio among all 50 states. It’s inconceivable that you would think the rest of the states “owe” California a dime to turn your red ledger into a black one. You and your California colleagues just need to clean up your own back yard.

Actor-director-producer-composer Clint Eastwood likely would tap one of his pithy past quotes to sum up all the grousing about the tax bill this way:

“Extremism is so easy. You’ve got your position, and that’s it. It doesn’t take much thought. And when you go far enough to the right, you meet the same idiots coming around from the left.”

Take it to the bank.

Let’s tackle some REAL problems

As we cruise toward the end of the 2017 day, all of us need to turn our focus away from unsubstantiated he-said-she-said sexual harassment/assault allegations as well as stifling gun control proposals, and more toward changing — as opinion maker Charles Krauthammer might say — things that matter.

Specifically …

(1) A federal bureaucracy continues to buck a conservative president who is trying to do the right things. Too many appointed bureaucrats mistakenly continue to champion outdated, “politically correct” regulations that inadequately address the unbridled insanity cases walking around among us.

(2) The over-prescription of legal drugs as well as the continuing proliferation of illegal substances infecting the lackluster and “easy money” part of our population.

(3) The wanton desire among too many youngsters these days to NOT be educated.

(4) The insensitivity, irresponsibility and blatant greed displayed by a large segment of Corporate America (including the National Football League), and the continuing acceptance of crony capitalism.

(5) The bitter acrimony of politics that seems to have inflamed so many among us to the point that our social fabric has been torn in two and literally defies any resumption of domestic diplomacy, prudence, mutual respect and statesmanship.

(6) A mass media infected by too many at both the management and the hands-on levels who have forgotten how to pursue the truth and how to exercise accuracy and impartiality. They’ve also forgotten the rule of independent, double-source confirmation of what are presented as “facts.”

Two heads are funnier than one

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If you saw this and didn’t at least chuckle, your funny bone is broken: 

The “Drudge Report” headline stated: “World’s first human head transplant is successfully carried out.” Above the headline was a photo of a surgeon wearing green scrubs, holding in his left hand a guy’s severed head.

But immediately below the headline was another photo – a head shot of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis.(It accompanied a headline lower on the page about a Washington political development.)

Inadvertant web design? Coincidence? Probably. But the juxtaposition of the photos would tickle most funny bones.

Today’s winners:

— The U.S. House of Representatives, for passing a tax-reform bill despite all the hullabaloo and melodrama over what tax deductions should be kept and which ones should land on the cutting-room floor. But the battle is far from over. The discordant U.S. Senate has yet to pass a companion bill. And then, there’s a House-Senate conference committee coming after that. And then, the conference committee’s bill needs to go back to both houses for final passage. And THEN, we’ll have to guess whether President Trump will sign the danged thing.

— Brittany Hughes, who nailed the definition of patriotism in a two-minute online video titled “Never Forget 9/11. But we did.” The video is nothing short of inspirational. You can watch it  at:
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15fc5d795c45b232?projector=1

— The world of good music in the wake of the drug-overdose death of 21-year-old New York rapper Lil Peep, who championed drug abuse and who lived by his own lyrics. So, another poor example of a depraved human being elevated to phony stardom bites the dust. In this case, we’re better off without him. 

Today’s losers:

— People in public office such as U.S. Sen. Al Franken who are guilty of sexual harassment. Franken, a onetime comedian who was rarely ever funny, isn’t laughing now. The Minnesota Democrat has ponied up to groping a female TV host and sportscaster.

— “Victims” who falsely accuse others of sexual harassment, especially those “victims” bent on financial or political gain.

— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after lifting a longtime ban on U.S. big-game hunters bringing home elephant “trophies” such as tusks from the African nations of Zimbabwe and Zambia. Adding insult to injury, the agency also has published new guidelines allowing hunters to bring home the heads of lions killed in those two nations, according to The Guardian.

— Police officers everywhere, who continue to be the unfortunate targets of bloodthirsty gunmen. In Baltimore, an unidentified police detective was slain while investigating a homicide in the Harlem Park neighborhood. He was an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore police force, and he had five children. Meanwhile, CBS Denver reported that voters in La Junta, Colorado, have voted to elect a convicted murderer to the local school board. Is everybody out there smoking too much legalized marijuana? 

— The airline industry. The Daily Beast reported that cyber experts at the federal Department of Homeland Security have successfully hacked into the avionics that govern the cockpit controls of a commercial Boeing 757 airliner. The Beast further reported that better cyber security to deter terrorists is built into the latest jetliners coming off the assembly lines. But 90 percent of today’s air fleet is too old to allow upgrades. How distressing and problematic is that, given that there are 3,000 commercial jetliners in the air over the United States at any given time!

— Multiple pilots over Oregon the afternoon of October 25. They witnessed an extraordinary and mysterious aircraft plying the sky. As reported by Tyler Rogoway on the website “The Drive,”  none of the pilots could track the mystery craft on primary radar before it disappeared into thin air. So they’ll never know what it was or where it came from. (Queue the theme from “The Twilight Zone.”)

— U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who continues her shrill and groundless call to impeach President Donald Trump because she believes the chief executive’s actions and rhetoric are harmful to the United States. Predicated on that assertion, Waters needs to take herself out of the political picture.

Surely this isn’t a new (or a bad) idea

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Our political-party way of legislating what’s good for the general populace is outdated.

If and when you accept that premise, it logically follows that the way Congress does business these days also is outdated. The “Democrat” and “Republican” labels are given much higher stature than the label of “federal lawmaker.”

The Democrat-Republican divide appears to be growing wider and more acrimonious in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, where gridlock rules. That divide constitutes a large crack in the foundation of congressional cooperation and statesmanship. And it apparently has put a roadblock in front of all incentive for individual, prudent and independent critical thinking.

Admittedly, the two major political parties will never “come together” – a tired phrase we hear from so many empty barrels these days. But progress might not be so daunting if we just stop seeing everything in blue and red.

What’s the solution?

The first step would be to do away with the party-affiliated caucuses on Capitol Hill. Create an environment so that each U.S. senator and each U.S. representative knows and understands the content in each and every bill that comes out of the hopper on its way to its first subcommittee hearing. That’s why members of Congress have staffs – to research the proposed legislation and present pros and cons to help each respective senator and representative decide which way to vote in committee and on the full floor.

Without the caucus to use as a crutch, perhaps the “party-line vote” language might melt away none too soon in the reporting of congressional action.

“Majority leader” and “minority leader” roles would go the way of the buffalo. Members of Congress might even feel less inclined to allow themselves to be brainwashed by oppressive party leadership.

Of course, there is one drawback to this strategy. If it’s carried out, intriguing TV melodramas such as “House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones” would lose their footing.

Always question your e-mail content

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An e-mail is making its rounds over the name of one Bruce Lindner, who is not further identified. Quite possibly, he is the cornerstone blogger on the Website “The Blue Route,” and his liberal opinions are published in several newspapers, including the Portland Oregonian under “satire/rants.”

The e-mail makes several unattributed and unsubstantiated claims, which exposes them as being suspect in the eyes of discerning readers. The e-mail addresses the proposed Trump tax-cut plan, which is a political hot potato amid other plans bouncing around in Congress these days.

Under the banner “just the facts, ma’am,” Lindner asserts that “some folks” – aka the ultra-rich — will make out like bandits if the Trump proposal is adopted. The top 1 percent and .1 of a percent of taxpayers – those who pay the most dollars in taxes – will pocket 80 cents of every dollar cut from Medicare and Medicaid, he states.

Lindner leaves you cold as to how he arrived at that conclusion, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Under the Trump proposal as it has been outlined in the media, the upper crust will pay taxes at the same rate they’re paying now. They will be the only ones to NOT benefit from the proposed tax cuts.

Then there’s Medicare and Medicaid. Lindner states that under the Trump tax-cut proposal, $473 billion will be cut from Medicare over the next 10 years, while $1 trillion will be cut from Medicaid during the same period. The cuts purportedly will impact the disabled, people with special needs, and 60 percent of older Americans who require nursing-home assistance.

Turns out that’s baloney, too.

Do the math. The combined cuts to Medicare and Medicaid under Trump’s plan — if they are what Lindner says they are — total approximately $100.05 billion each year for the 10-year period. Hold on to that figure for a minute.

For 2014, “The Economist” reported that Medicare and Medicaid fraud that year amounted to $98 billion. (The year 2014 is the most recent year for which these statistics are available. And the dollar amount of fraud likely has grown since then, right along with runaway federal spending.)

So, if the Medicare and Medicaid administrators can cut out the fraud and the waste in their programs — then eliminate the duplicity in their errant payouts to bona fide recipients — none of the legitimate recipients has to suffer anything.

And that list of the 15 poorest states in the U.S. that will suffer the most from the Trump tax-cut plan? It’ll self-destruct faster than the mythical mission-dispensing mechanism in the “Mission Impossible” movies.

Today’s winners and losers

Winners

Vice President Mike Pence, who was in the stadium to attend Sunday’s Indianapolis Colts home game. Pence abruptly walked out with wife Karen after players with the visiting San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the pre-game National Anthem. Pence soon after stated that he and President Donald Trump “will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our National Anthem.”

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who is the first NFL owner to take a stand like Pence on the “take a knee” thing. Jones has declared that any Cowboys players who elect to take a disrespectful knee during the National Anthem will then take a mandatory seat on the bench and not play in the day’s football game.

Federal Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt, who says he will sign a new rule to override the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, effectively ending the war against coal-fired power plants. Pruitt says no federal agency should ever use its authority “to declare war” on any sector of the U.S. economy.

Losers

Northern Michigan University, for offering a bachelor of science degree in medicinal plant chemistry — in other words, a diploma for cultivating marijuana.

Mega-movie producer and tantrum-prone Harvey Weinstein, for allegedly engaging in decades of sexual harassment involving multiple women and hush-money payoffs, according to the New York Times.

Self-traumatized Robert James Kuefler, 60, of suburban Minneapolis, who kept the decomposing remains of his mother and his twin brother in his house for nearly a year after they died of natural causes. Kuefler’s explanation: He loved his mother and his brother so much that he could not man up and bring himself to report either of the two deaths to authorities.

City officials in Los Angeles, who covered up a public statue of Christopher Columbus as they celebrated for the first time something they are calling Indigenous Peoples Day, a blatant slight aimed at the adventurer credited with opening North America’s wilderness to the people of Europe.

No political answer to Las Vegas massacre

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By now, everybody has heard of deranged sniper Stephen Paddock using a tricked-out AR-15 rifle and some of at least 20 other firearms Sunday night to kill 59 people and wound more than 500 others attending a Las Vegas country music concert below him as he mercilessly shot from his 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay hotel casino.

It didn’t take long for the anti-gun politicians to ramp up their rhetoric about adopting stricter firearms and ammunition laws.

But it doesn’t matter if the environment is a free republic or a totalitarian dictatorship, bad things are going to befall good people.

No amount of governmental hand-wringing, lawmaking or interference is going to change that. Go ahead and ease the restrictions on noise suppressors. Go ahead and outlaw bump stocks. In either case, the black market will move in, and there still will be plenty of both available for purchase. (Although the silencer issue baffles many. The gun lobby maintains that silencers protect the shooter’s hearing. But that’s what earmuffs, ear buds and ear plugs are for, right? What’s wrong with those devices?)

Far more good, law-abiding citizens in these United States own guns and use them in a safe manner then there are diabolical gun owners bent on killing other people. Are we going to continue to punish the good folks just because we think one more anti-gun law might protect us from the bad guys? That’s like limiting or permanently grounding all air transportation after the next jetliner goes down.

As Congressman Steve Scalise — himself a victim of gun violence — declared in the wake of Las Vegas, we have plenty of gun laws already on the books. All we have to do is enforce them.

We are the products of our own social evolution. The best thing we can do in the wake of incidents such as what happened in Las Vegas is to champion the “see something, say something” narrative. Surely SOMEbody must have seen Stephen Paddock carrying duffel bags and guitar cases multiple times up to his room. And nobody took notice of the cameras he mounted in the hotel corridor? (I guess it’s possible to overlook something like that, considering how our society by and large has turned into a bunch of sheep who are afraid of their own shadows.)

The next best strategy would be to install body and baggage scanners at all the entrances to casinos everywhere and double-lock all casino service doors (and outfit them with central alarms). But that idea would displease most casino owners, because it would deter business as usual.

So, what’s the answer? Unfortunately, there is no good, effective answer. It’s a jungle out there. When you choose to wade into it, you take your life into your own hands. And you hope that the local police are doing far more than handing out tickets for failure to wear a seat belt.

 

Illegal immigrants, ill-advised expense

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Here’s an idea for cutting the federal feedbag and saving U.S. taxpayers a little dough: stop slopping the troughs of illegal immigrants.

According to the Washington Examiner, more than $135 billion is spent annually supporting illegals and their families. Most of that expense is related to free medical care, public education and bloated law-enforcement costs.

Broken down, state and local governments are shelling out more than $88 billion a year to keep illegals afloat, according to the Examiner. Meanwhile, the feds spend more than $45 billion for the same purpose. The only way to justify such expense is to use the bucks to arrest, fingerprint and then send the illegals back to where they came from.

And don’t tell me those who are here illegally, who are working and who are earning enough to pay income tax – don’t tell me they should be entitled to the federal dole. Illegals pay about $19 billion a year in local, state and federal sales and income taxes, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform. That hardly begins to offset what it costs to support them.

While we’re engaged in effecting palatable federal tax reform, perhaps with our left hands we can simultaneously get serious about immigration reform and drastically reduce or perhaps even eliminate an unjustified government giveaway.

And the Examiner article doesn’t even mention how much of the average illegal immigrant’s income — meager as it might be — goes to help the rest of the family still residing beyond the U.S. borders. Ever go to the post office and stand behind illegals purchasing money orders to be mailed “back home”? Those dollars are doing nothing to support the U.S. economy.

Find the full Examiner report at:

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/record-135-billion-a-year-for-illegal-immigration-average-8075-each-25000-in-ny/article/2635757

Eureka … you reap what you sow

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Many Californians face a big financial hit under the current Republican plan to overhaul the nation’s regressive tax code, because the proposal would eliminate a major break for taxpayers in the land of milk and honey, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Specifically, we’re talking about the federal deduction for state and local taxes allowed to Californians. An analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation has shown those two deductions alone reduced Californians’ federal taxable income by $101 billion in 2014.

The Republican plan endorsed by President Trump would eliminate those tax breaks, which largely benefit taxpayers in states like California that are bastions of  Democratic power, the Times reported.

The reaction was predictable.

“Republicans in Washington have once again zeroed in on California to punish us and make our state the single biggest loser in their reckless tax scheme,” said Senate President pro tem Kevin de León, a Democrat from Los Angeles.

That’s coming from a guy who represents the biggest fiscally irresponsible state in the Union.  A California Policy Center analysis shows that the state and the local governments in California are in debt to the tune of $1.3 trillion. Is it any wonder the proposed tax overhaul stops rewarding a state that can’t even come close to balancing its own budget because it is mired in its own giveaway programs, to which there seems to be no end.

And if the situation comes to bailout, who’s going to underwrite that? The federal government, that’s who. In other words, taxpayers in the other 49 states will wind up footing the bill for California’s recklessness and never-ending spendthrift ways.

So the loss of the two aforementioned tax breaks seems only fair and justified.