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    The Passing of a Great American

    We all mourn the passing of George H.W. Bush, our 41st President.  He served this nation with dignity and honor.  A war hero and the youngest bomber pilot in WWII, he survived a crash, was rescued at sea by a submarine, and went on to be a Congressman, Ambassador to China, Director of the CIA, U.N. Ambassador, Vice President and, finally President of this great country.  It has been written that no one has ever had a better resume for the office than President Bush.

    The jobs he did while serving our nation were stellar. He cleaned up the CIA after it was discovered the agency was spying on Americans.  He fostered growth with China, lessening tensions.  He brought pride and dignity to the U.N. with his staunch support of American ideals.  As President, he led us to the end of the Cold War and the war in Iraq after it invaded Kuwait.  No one has done more for our country.

    He lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton. Many believe Ross Perot’s third party candidacy cost Bush the election.  Others say it was his support of new taxes despite his promise not to raise them.  But he reversed his campaign promise only after reaching a compromise with the Democrat controlled Congress and doing what he knew was right.  He showed the kind of compromise we have not seen in decades.  Ronald Reagan knew how to compromise with Tip O’Neal and Ted Kennedy.  Bill Clinton knew how to compromise with Newt Gingrich.  The late President Bush equally embraced compromise even when it cost him votes.  In each of their presidencies, the country did better.  Where is that spirit of compromise today?

    If there are any politicians in Washington who are sincere in their praise of George H.W. Bush now that he has passed, let’s see if their words have any meaning by the actions they now take to, in Bush’s words, make this a kinder and gentler nation.  My fear is that our leaders on both sides of the aisles and in the White House are incapable of bridging their differences and following the lessons of Reagan, Clinton, and Bush.

    Rest in peace, President Bush.  We already miss you.

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    Let’s Unite America

    When I was a kid I had a friend who always caused trouble for me.  I would tell my mother “It was her idea” as a way of absolving myself of blame and she would say, “If your friend jumped off a bridge would you do it too?”  From an early age, my parents tried to teach me to be accountable for my actions and not to follow someone else on a road that was only going to lead to problems.

    I’m reminded of that story in the fallout of the bomb scare last month.  Prominent figures like the Obamas, Clintons, CNN, Joe Biden, Robert De Niro and others were sent suspicious packages that contained pipe bombs.  Luckily authorities found that the bombs were poorly made with most incapable of exploding. But that does not diminish the threat.  Although no one has been harmed thus far, the incident undoubtedly raises questions about the sender’s ultimate intentions.  One thing everyone “seems” to agree on is that the sender deliberately targeted left-wing public figures, some political and some celebrity Trump critics. This has inspired the blame game and has become another way to potentially weaken the presidency and, by extension, our country.

    The truth of the matter is we shouldn’t be pointing fingers at which party is responsible for such terrible actions. We shouldn’t waste our time blaming the behavior of one specific, perhaps unbalanced person.

    I prefer to ask a very uncomfortable question for some: Could it be that we are collectively responsible?

    I’ve heard what sounds like “It was his idea” from various leaders in this country, which has given rise to everyone acting like nasty kids in a schoolyard.  If Trump’s tone is offensive, then the best way to counteract that is to speak in an opposite, equally offensive manner.  That’s the depth we’ve sunk to in politics and entertainment today.  And at this point, I’m not interested in blaming anyone for starting it.  It simply needs to stop.

    The bomber’s actions are not about politics.  And pointing fingers back and forth is not going to fix anything; it is only going to disappoint citizens even more.  The truth of the matter is that we will continue to disagree politically and that will never end, nor should it. But both parties need to set an example—not react to bad behavior with more bad behavior–and promote peaceful negotiation and consideration for others’ opinions.   Ronald Reagan had reasonable conversations with Tip O’Neil and Ted Kennedy.  Bill Clinton did the same with Newt Gingrich.  These were leaders with polar opposite views yet willing to be civil in their discourse.  One can disagree with their politics, but not their dignity.  Can our current political leaders return to civility?

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    Does Negative Political Ad Campaigning Really Work?

    As we approach Election Day, it’s no secret that political ad campaigns with personal attacks by one candidate against another are running continuously on every television channel.  Lawn signs say things like “Fire” so and so as a way of pushing people toward one side or the other.  Every political ad is nastier than the next, as candidates are desperate to bring down their opponents from any/every angle possible. All of this begs the question of how effective these methods truly are? Are voters responding to these types of ads? Do negative ads have the ability to dissuade someone from voting for a particular candidate?

    Studies have shown that these advertisements are effective in “influencing preferences and voter turnout”, but not “across the board”. I equate these advertisements to commercial product promotions. Viewers watch a commercial for a product, compare it to the competitor, and, unless already fond of a specific brand, will decide whether to buy it. Voters do the same thing when watching different ads for particular candidates. First, they compare the opponent, decide which candidate they deem more fit for the position, and, unless adamantly partisan, decide from there. Sometimes the advertisements work, other times voters are attached to their party’s candidate and are therefore immovable.

    In addition, it’s believed that the more well known a candidate is, the more successful he/she will be. People tend to vote for candidates whose stances are clear, and television is the best place to publicize those views in a vast, quick and efficient manner.  Although there is some benefit in calling attention to yourself in politics by denigrating and defaming someone else, I would rather be elected on a platform of effectiveness and positivity than because I found photos of my opposition with his pants down.  It is my belief that voters are too smart to fall for the lies and deceptions in so many political ads we see today.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear a candidate say what they stood for rather than lie about what an opponent allegedly stands for?  And make no mistake about it.  Politicians on both sides of the aisle lie.  Perhaps they can’t help themselves.  But voters don’t need to be their dupes.  So vote and have the final say.

    Find my source here.

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    Voter Guides and the Upcoming Midterm Elections

    With midterm congressional elections taking place on the 6th, less than a week away, gathering accurate information on the candidates is paramount. While collecting truthful information is important, it is often hard to find. Proposed facts are filtered through the often-partisan lens of multimedia gatekeepers. For example, contrast Fox News to CNN as a means of getting straightforward current events and you’ll understand my point.

    From televised newscasting to shared articles on social media, there is a wealth of options to obtain voter content.  But as the lifeblood of American politics, the voters need to be choosy about where they get voting information. With such an important decision on the horizon, it is prudent to make your vote count. One good tool for disseminating fact-based information about political candidates to make the best choice is a voter guide.

    Voter guides lay out those running for an election by the issues on their respective platforms. There are two types of guides available to the voting public: Official voter guides and unofficial voter guides. “Official” signifies publication by a state office, where “unofficial” refers to partisan guides, or guides published by newspapers and nonprofit organizations (Ballotpedia). These guides might offer a voter questionnaire as a quick and easy survey of your political views used to select a candidate that best reflects those issues on their platform.

    These guides are a great way to get an overview of each election’s candidates. Though voter guides are presented as a non-partisan encyclopedia of politicians, there is still the chance of encountering erroneous content. Such political slants are more common in unofficial guides owned by third-party businesses. This means that a once independent voter guide website can be purchased by an external company with partisan affiliations without notifying its users. The best way to know who provides your election information is to research what ties each voter guide has.

    Midterm election voter turnout typically pales in comparison to that of the presidential election, and the previous midterms had the lowest voter turnout in recorded history (Pew Research Center). The presidential vote is an important one, but midterm elections offer hundreds of seats to the politicians who pass our bills into law and thus greatly affect our everyday lives. Be the difference this midterm election. Raise that statistic and do so by arming yourself with credible information about the candidates of your choosing.

    You can find more information on how to get the most accurate voting data here.

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    Another Milestone Election Day is on the Horizon

    As we enter the midpoint of Trump’s first term, it is important to note the significance of the upcoming midterm elections.  All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election.  Presently, Republicans hold 236 seats, Democrats hold 193 seats, and six seats are vacant.   On the Senate side, 23 Democrats, 8 Republicans, and 2 independents up for reelection.  Depending on where you live, elections for some Governors and state legislators are on the ballots as well.  We also cannot forget elections at the municipal level, like mayors and local officials.

    A major problem during midterm elections is voter turnout is generally very low.  According to a report by the United States Election Project, approximately 40% of registered voters actually participate in midterms.  The same report found that voter turnout varies from state-to-state, but it is still low overall.  In fact, the voter turnout in the United States for all elections is among the lowest in the world.

    My advice is simple and one of the few views shared by both Democrats and Republicans: vote. Register to vote if you haven’t already. Check your own state but, generally, the deadline to register for the midterm elections is October 12th, 2018 and Election Day is November 6th, 2018.  If you are not going to be near your district on voting day, cast your absentee ballot and send it in by mail.  Deadlines for absentee voting vary from state to state, so be sure to check here.  If you’re unsure of where to go to vote, type in the address you used to register to find the nearest polling place.

    Every vote matters. This country prides itself on providing all citizens with the right to vote and exercise their civic duty.  Most other countries in the world do not.  As a democracy, we value the freedom to choose who we want to be put into office so that everyone has a say. Let’s all take advantage of that opportunity and get to the polls on November 6th.

     

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    Evaluate the News and Your Leaders from 360 Degrees

    It comes as no surprise that the news of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegations have taken over newsstands and mainstream media nationwide. From a political perspective, it is very difficult to express any opinion on the matter without offending one side or the other.  Sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious crimes.  In a perfect world, we would never have to address either issue.  However, the world is far from perfect so here we are with today’s headlines.

    Let me be clear that what is happening on Capitol Hill is not about protecting women or holding someone responsible for his actions.

    Sadly, today’s politics and leadership revolve around denigrating and destroying reputations in an effort to show that one side is a lesser alternative than the other is.   Neither Dr. Ford’s nor Judge Kavanaugh’s lives will ever be the same.  Not because of the allegations and defenses, but because Washington has politicized the entire process through a public circus.  No intelligent person can question the allegations by Dr. Ford and the denials by Judge Kavanaugh as sincere.  Nevertheless, if those in Washington are after the truth, they should have started with a private investigation during the confirmation process, not as a last minute revelation.   I see no reason to parade the two of them before the world on live television.

    I imagine from a voter perspective on both sides of the issue, the entire spectacle is disgusting—not only for the issues that are being discussed, but also because it makes the leaders in Washington appear petty and irresponsible to many.  Yet even saying that is controversial since each side of the argument is blindly convinced they are reasonable and the other side is misguided.  Compromise and bipartisan discussions are no longer possible in Washington.  Moreover, let us please not start blaming Republicans or Democrats or the White House or Congress as the cause of today’s partisan polarity.  They are all to blame.

    Sen. Flake says the country is torn apart and there is no longer a reason for Congress to reach across the aisle to find solutions.  He’s right.  Citizens are being provoked to anger, distracting all of us from other important issues—national security and foreign policy; the economy; infrastructure; education.

    Does anyone recall that last week was the U.N. General Assembly where all world leaders came together to discuss how we are all getting along on the planet?  The United States held its position on Iran, but the difference between how Trump talked about North Korea versus last year was a tremendous, positive shift.

    It is very important to understand that there are many things happening in government at any given time. It is our duty as citizens to pay attention, and not let the media and closed-minded politicians on both sides of the aisle spoon-feed us perspectives and opinions that are a product of “spin” that is primarily intended to stir up both sides of an issue for the sake of ratings and votes.

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    Another Terrorist Car Crash in Britain: When Will It Stop?

    Last month, a man deliberately drove his car into the sidewalk into innocent pedestrians walking in front of the U.K. Parliament.  It is not the first terrorist attack to take place near Parliament—in early 2017 a terrorist struck pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and stabbed a police officer before he was killed.  Nor is it the first time terrorists have used vehicles to kill innocent people.  It happened in New York and Nice.  And sooner or later it will be repeated in another city.

    President Donald Trump tweeted after news of the last travesty: “Another terrorist attack in London…These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!”

    While we all wish that President Trump would reduce his predilection to tweet, it is difficult to disagree with him on this statement.  Innocent civilians have been injured and killed at the hands of terrorists time and time again.  Families have lost loved ones.  In my blog post on MS-13, I agreed with President Trump that the gang members are animals—and I agree with him that all terrorists are animals.  Period.  People are fearful, on edge, and likely to take their fear out on innocent Muslims.   All this plays right into the terrorists’ hands.  Yet what we hear from the world’s political leaders is more political rhetoric than solutions.

    I cannot repeat or stress enough that the United States must spend time, energy, and dedication to investigate and stop the terrorist cells that are in our own country.  And we must take aggressive measurements to keep more from entering our country.  If that means a wall, a list of banned countries, or more enhanced immigrant processing, so be it.  We must also educate ourselves as to why—and how—our own citizens are willing to kill fellow countrymen or go overseas to fight for radical terrorist groups.  But we cannot sit by idly debating the issues while we put our citizen in increasing danger.

    We must never give in to the demands of terrorists or allow them control America’s destiny.  Yet our inaction on immigration controls is doing exactly that.  We must stop protecting the guilty at the sake of the innocent.  My question to our politicians is simple:  How many more murders will we witness before you do something to stem the terror?

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    Respect Those Who Truly Sacrificed Everything

    Much is in the news about Nike’s signing of former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.  As anyone who is a political junkie or sports fan knows, Kaepernick was the first football player who chose to kneel instead of stand during the national anthem, doing so in protest over what he believed to be discrimination directly and indirectly sanctioned by U.S. and local governments.  A great debate ensued that Nike has rekindled by signing the ex-player to a lucrative contract to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Nike’s motto, Just Do It.   The new campaign’s tag line is, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

    The reaction has been mixed.  Some applauded Nike’s decision.  Hundreds of other posted videos burning Nike clothing and tweeting objections.

    While I prefer not to further engage in the merits of the debate, there is one thing I’d like to suggest.

    I invite Mr. Kaepernick and Nike to visit the American Cemetery and Memorial in Florence, Italy.  Interned in its 70 acres are 4,399 soldiers who died in WWII fighting in the hills and streets of Italy. The cemetery in Florence is one of 24 foreign cemeteries where American soldiers are buried.  In total, these sacred memorials are the final resting places for more than 130,000 soldiers who died defending our freedoms.  The memorials also honor the souls of more than 100,000 who remain missing in action. These men and women made the ultimate sacrifice so Mr. Kaepernick can remain free to protest about injustices he perceives.  To characterize what he’s done as “sacrificing everything” is an abomination.  For Nike to endorse such hypocrisy through an advertising campaign geared to making profits is an insult to the memories and true sacrifices of the nearly a quarter million soldiers laying under foreign soil.  And while some of the proceeds are being donated to Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights charity, I have not seen any reports that Nike is donating anything in the memory of the dead soldiers.

    So I say this to Mr. Kaepernick and Nike:  Shame on you.  Protest all you like but respect those who, unlike Mr. Kaepernick, truly sacrificed everything.  And all that is required to do so is the simple and time honored gesture of standing for our national anthem.  Is that too much to ask?

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    Why the US Needs to Focus on Infrastructure

    Last month, a bridge collapsed in Genoa, Italy, killing over 20 people and injuring dozens more after a violent and sudden storm went through the region. Although this terrible incident happened in Europe, it gives our federal and state governments more reason to examine on our own infrastructure.  And to do something about it rather than continue to stall progress through partisan politics.

    Much of our federal, state, and local taxes go to repairing roads and building new ones, maintaining bridges, highways, streets, and managing tunnels like the Lincoln Tunnel, which in 2013 saw over 50,000 cars traveling through its system per day.

    According to a 2015 article from The Hill, the United States federal government spent $96 billion on infrastructure. On August 13, 2018 USA Today released an article citing states with the worst infrastructure.  Rhode Island is among the worst, with 24.6% of its roads in poor condition and with 23.3% of its bridges deficient.  Almost a quarter of their bridges and roads are crumbling!  Hawaii comes at number one with the worst infrastructure. An incredible 93.2% of their dams at a high hazard risk.

    Federal and state budgets include almost a hundred billion dollars for infrastructure.  Yet our roads are full of potholes, our dams are at risk, and our bridges are crumbling. What will it take for Rhode Island and Hawaii, as well as virtually every other state, to wake up?  Will our politicians wait for people to die before they act?

    Federal and state governments need to stop the political rhetoric and bleeding our tax dollars.  They need to get to work on making sure Americans and their families can travel safely.  Otherwise it won’t be long until we see something catastrophic happen, and our elected officials will have no one to blame but themselves for the inevitable disasters if nothing is done.

    The lack of progress is reprehensible.   Whatever your politics may be, fixing our crumbling infrastructure should be devoid of political debate.   It is a matter of life or death.

    Sources:

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    Ivanka Trump Disbands Fashion Line in Favor of Public Service

    According to Reuters, “U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump on Tuesday said she was shutting her fashion line to focus on her role as an informal White House adviser, where she is working on advancing working women.”

    Should First Daughter Ivanka Trump be making a complete career move into public service?

    Although the Trump family has received much criticism for their mix of business with politics, this is not the first time that a child of a president pursued, considered, or had a political career.

    Chelsea Clinton, head of the Clinton Foundation, has consistently juggled rumors of her own interest in politics. George W. Bush and Jeb Bush both had successful political careers in the aftermath of father George H. Bush’s presidency.  John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy, was a U.S. Ambassador to Japan for four years. Since President Obama’s daughters spent a large chunk of their childhood in the White House, perhaps they may end up with a political career as well.  In fact, family succession in American politics go all the way back to John Adams, our second president and his son, John Quincy Adams, our sixth president.

    So let’s dispense with the rhetoric that Ms. Trump’s decision is unusual.  It is not.  Rather, it is a logical and natural extension of her experience in the world of politics.

    Children look up to their parents. If the fact that Ivanka Trump’s father is President of the United States encouraged her to pursue a career in public service, then I think that is a move we should applaud.

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