Monthly Archives: September 2014

WE NEED A TOUGHER LAW DEALING WITH TERRORISTS. HERE IS ONE IDEA.

In Oklahoma City, a person recently converted to Muslim cut off the head of a former female co-worker and seriously injured another. It was likely that the murder spree would have continued had not an armed officer of the company shot and wounded the perpetrator.

Was this an act of terrorism or workplace violence?

This is a gray area in our law. The Obama administration has already determined that terrorists, domestic or foreign, should be tried in American criminal courts – with all the rights of citizens.  So far, the Obama administration has determined that the deadly attack on the Ft. Hood  military base was work place violence even though the perpetrator, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, admitted his reason was related to his radical Muslim beliefs.  Five terrorists leaders were summarily, and illegally, released by President Obama, in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an  army deserter.

All this suggests the need for clarity in our law, and I offer this humble example. I will contact members of Congress to see if a law like this can be enacted.

Any individual, American citizen or foreign national, arrested of a crime in the United States, in lands under the protection or authority of the United States, against United States diplomatic facilities in any and all nations, or facilities owned, leased or operated by the United States government in foreign lands, or  against any individual United States citizen anywhere in the world that is directly or indirectly related to international terrorism or international terrorist groups, shall be considered  an international terrorist combatant. 

Any United States citizen charged with a terrorist crime, under this provision, shall be considered to have revoked his or her American citizenship. Such persons, United States citizen or foreign national, shall then be tried and sentenced by military tribunal.

 Any person found guilty, by military tribunal, in the death of an American citizen at the command or terrorists, or as a result of sympathy with terrorist movements, or inspired by terrorism shall be sentenced to death. 

Any person or groups of persons, which commands, encourages, or aids and abets in encouraging, planning, executing, or any person who fails to report to law enforcement the knowledge and plans for acts of terrorism, shall also be determined to have revoked their United States citizenship and be subject to trial by military tribunal.

Why do we need such a law?

We must make sure that the tough talk of politicians has a foundation of certainty. It makes not sense to give foreign terrorists all the rights of American citizens.  It also makes no sense to allow American citizens who engage in acts of violence and terror against the United States to retain their citizenship and their rights.

You will recall the controversy when President Obama properly ordered the execution of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who became a leader in the terrorist war on America.  This issue would have not been controversial at all had we had the legal procedure to strip al-Awlak of his citizenship as an enemy terrorist combatant.

The law would prevent future American presidents from these arbitrary, inexplicable, inconsistent and illogical policy decisions that has made a mockery of swiftness and certainty of American justice.

This would also clarify the situation with Americans joining the fight in the Middle East with terrorist organizations, such as ISIS or Hamas. Once they are discovered to have joined the enemies of American, they no long had citizenship writes.  Their passports would be immediately revoked, and they would no longer have legal ability to return to America.

The implementation of this kind of law would make the long incarcerations impossible. Those currently held there would have been tried and incarcerated, released or dead.  It is unlikely that the five released by presidential edict would have been around to be released.

This law would also thwart terrorist recruitment plans on American soil. It would serve as a discouragement to young Americans to go off for the adventure of war in foreign lands.

It would discourage the leaders of radical mosques in the United States from promoting Jihad.

If you think this law makes sense, I hope you will send it along to your local Senator and Representative in Washington. You can also ask your local newspaper to write editorial in support of such a law.

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The case against campaign finance limitations

Society once believed the earth was flat, that bleeding a sick person was curative and that the sun rotated around the earth. As often as we see the widely held misconceptions of the past, we are blind to their present day existence. Lincoln alluded to this when he said that “widely held misconceptions, whether well or ill founded, have the impact of fact.”

The in-vogue granddaddy misconception of modern politics is that money is the cause of evil, and the cure is to restrict the flow of money to campaigns. Campaign restrictions and government funding of campaigns only serve to diminish our democracy without a scintilla of public benefit.  These notions are so patently false that it is amazing that they are so widely accepted – at least amongst liberals who are institutionally contemptuous of the public’s ability to govern itself.

Campaigns are not too expensive. If left free of excessive regulation, they function well in a free market.  The idea of restricting the flow of dollars as the hard costs (i.e. printing, travel, etc.) increase is illogical.  It means that candidates will have insufficient resources to effectively get their message to the people.  Ironically, those who champion the role of an informed public are often the same do-gooders who obstruct the message with federally imposed limits and bureaucratic red tape.

Under the guise of removing campaign financing from the grasp of special interest groups, we hear endless proposals for government funding. This turns over the control of elections to the most powerful and potentially dangerous special interest of all, unelected unresponsive bureaucracies.  Keep in mind that the major purpose of our ingenious Constitution is to protect the citizens from the excesses of government.

The so-called reform that led to the establishment of the Federal Election Commission is a folly of the first magnitude. That law created yet another overbearing, politicized, expensive,  unnecessary and often abusive bureaucracy.  More seriously, it greatly retarded ballot access to all but the few.  It created a dangerous bias in which the supper rich had the greatest advantage.  It locked the common people out.  And for all that, it has been totally ineffective in stemming elections abuses, and I would contend, it actually exacerbated them.

Contribution reporting requirements, as structured, serve no public good, but are of great benefit to the politicians. Those long lists of $100 contributors registered with government agencies are virtually never reviewed by voters, and have no impact on voting decisions.  Major contributors become known through the media or by the criticism of opponents.  Even then, polls show that the public does not care about the size of a contribution unless it is clearly connected to misconduct of some sort.

A reporting system that required only the listing of mega contributions, indexed to the level of the office, would save taxpayer money and service the purpose better. The paranoid tendency to see every large contribution as a quid pro quo is more the purview of the press than the common sense public.

Past reforms have only sired controversial, complex and corrupt means of financing campaigns outside the involvement of the average citizen. Political action committees, independent expenditure campaigns and soft money vehicles provide loopholes for the special interest, but are beyond the capabilities of the working joe to participate.

However, the public listing is used by politicians to check out who gives to whom. That practice alone chills contributions from individuals who do not want powerful officeholders to know of their private support for a candidate.  Many Chicago business leaders would throw money at the GOP mayoral candidate to promote a healthy two-party system except for the fear of being punished when the list is reviewed by the Democrat Machine boys.  I have had a state senator refuse to meet with a client because the client appeared on an opponents fund raising list.  While most laws prohibit the use of the lists for fundraising purposes by another candidate, it is commonly done.

The most effective campaign finance reform would be to eliminate the need for the ever present complex loopholes and the assault on democratic freedoms by returning to limitless contributions with effective reporting of the larger contributions only. There needs to be no upper limit on the size of a contribution. Rather, publicly report the big ones, and let the public, in its wisdom, decide the electoral importance of any one or combination of contributions.

In short, campaign finance restriction is an elitist concept, and poses a very serious threat to our basic Constitutional right of self governance. It is undemocratic and places more power in the very federal government from which the Founders made every effort to protect us.

Say “no” to union officials on school boards

Virtually everyone agrees that America needs school reform. Most have gone through one faux reform after another without addressing the core problems.

One of the more vexing problems for all school districts is who serves on the school boards. Many school districts are run by union teachers or even union officials.  They are touted based on a misbelief that their experience is of value.  The truth is quite the opposite.

School boards run by teacher union types tend to be the most costly, with too much emphasis on member salary and benefits and too little concern of the “children’s classroom budget.” They tend to vote for unsustainable pension plans.  In many cases, all new money goes to salary and benefits, with nothing for the classroom.  In some cases, unions take more than 100 percent of new money, actually forcing cuts in the “children’s budget.”  This means actual cuts in portions of the budget that impact directly on the classroom.

It makes sense. If you have union supporters on both sides of the contract negotiations, there is no one to represent the classroom needs of the children.  No one to counter excessive contract demands.  No one to represent the interests of the tax paying public.

All too often, when you see a school district with “budget problems,” you will have a board too willing to support the wage, benefit and pension demands of the unions. Quite simply, union members serving on the board represent a clear conflict of interest.  They are a disservice to the children and the taxpayers.

Electing school board members is among our most important civic duty. We should make sure they are free to represent the “children’s classroom budget” and the taxpayer, not only union demands and political relationships.

Here is my view on OBAMA’S WAR SPEECH (as published in the Florida Sun Sentinel on September 18,2014)

Some say that President Obama’s war (or not war) speech was the best speech of his career. It depends if you are judging on rhetoric, substance or credibility.  I grade him a B for rhetoric, D for substance and F for credibility.

The post mortem talking heads on Fox, CNN and MSNBC all agreed on one thing. This was a speech Obama did not wish to ever give.  No president wants to send American service men and women into harms way, but they rise to that necessity with full commitment when circumstances require.  They tend to lead public opinion by laying out the reasons for war.  In the case of Obama, the rationale came from the people, not from the Oval Office.  His decision seemed more motivated by his sense of political necessity than moral obligation. Obama was again leading from behind.

The President’s highest mark is for “rhetoric.” He lived up to his reputation for being an effective orator.  He sounded strong and sincere, even as he uttered nonsense.  As many pundits pointed out, portions of his speech might have been given by George Bush or Ronald Reagan.

His grade average drops a bit with regard to substance.  It again reflected Obama’s talent for style over substance.  He talked a lot about what America is going to do, but very little about how.  He identified the problem, but was short on solution.  What he said he would not do, “boots on the ground,” was more definitive than what he would do – other than the continuation of an airstrike strategy over more geography.

His greatest problem and lowest grade involves his credibility.  He came to the podium as one of the least admired and least trusted presidents in American history.  Six years of popular campaign-style language unsupported by implementation and consistency has put his general credibility in the negative zone.  He did not improve his score with this speech.

He said he wants congress involved, although he did not say in what role – to give constitutional authority, to give only advice, or to merely be rubber stamp audience to his rhetoric.  His call for congressional partnership is provably disingenuous since he has not called on them for action.  For the first time, Congress may authorize military action without an official request from the President.  Again, he is leading from behind.

His limited strategy, based on the use of non-American military on the all essential ground war, was greeted with skepticism by knowledgeable military and political leaders – and by a majority of Americans.

His assistance that there will be no U.S. “boots on the ground” failed to pass the veracity test since he, in the same breath, announced increased troop deployment.  The fact that our fliers will be dropping bombs on enemies who have the weaponry to shoot them down seems to be war by definition.

More than 1600 armed soldiers are “in harm’s way,” regardless of their alleged non-combat duties.  Despite the parsed words of the President, there will be “boot on the ground.”  Our military will be positioned next to local military personal and subject to attack.  The “no boots on the ground” policy will be revoked the minute American soldier are killed on in the air or on the ground.

Obama’s credibility takes is deepest dip in his proposed reliance on regional forces to cover the ground game.  It is absurd in view of what we already know about their fervor, loyalty and capability.  Only months ago, Obama demeaned them as “former farmers, teachers and pharmacists.”

The war on ISIS, and terrorism in general, cannot be won with airstrikes alone.  Even the president knows that.  To date, Obama has not put together a credible allied force on the ground – it seems more and more likely, he never will.  What then.

Obama is obsessed not to make his efforts seem like a redo of Bush’s war.  He ignores the fact that the Bush’s Iraq war started with a much larger and more involved “coalition of the willing,” the support of the United Nations and an affirmative vote from Congress.  All this runs contrary to Obama’s narrative and his belief that he is a far superior and more successful president than Bush.

Using the surgical targeting in Somalia and Yemen as an example of his ISIS policy was inexplicable in view of the fact that terrorism is rampant and growing to both nations.  Obama’s  selective bombing policy is failing Yemen, and marginally successful because the Somali government has been vigorously fighting terrorists before we got involved.

The President further damaged his own credibility by offering two juxtaposed assessments.  At one point, he argued that ISIS and other terrorist groups pose a national security to the nation.  Later he said they did not pose “an immediate threat.”  This flies in the face of all intelligence reports. He claimed to already have the legal authority but would go to Congress.  That promise has already been reversed.

Obama claimed his actions were nothing like Iraq and Afghanistan when it seems to have all the same characteristics.  He anticipates a multiyear military engagement.  Yet, there is a sense that he wishes to fight this war with one hand restrained.  Virtually every military expert and leader has concurred that we cannot defeat and destroy international terrorism without entering Syria and without adequate “boots on the ground.”  If the local security forces are not adequate, will Obama break his pledge or will he conduct a long lingering stalemate until he leaves office?

Obama sadly revealed that his words are always in campaign mode when he shifted from the crisis at hand to a political commercial for his stewardship on domestic issues.  By his words alone, he would like the American public to believe that we are safer today.  He talked about the economy and employment as if we were in the middle of an “Obama boom.”  This shift from the crisis to exaggerated campaign rhetoric diminished the meaning and impact of the entire speech.  It again revealed a President who can only think in partisan and personal political terms.  It was shameless.

As is often the case, Obama’s words suffered a disconnect from both known facts and likely future prospects.  His strong rhetoric may carry the day as we give the President the momentary benefit of doubt, but events and outcomes will provide the longer historic review.  If we can draw from his six-year history, the Obama administration will be doing a lot of shifting and parsing in the coming months as reality challenges his rhetoric.

My view of the State of Illinois THOMPSON CENTER (as published in Crain’s Chicago Business on August 2, 2014)

CHICAGO’S THOMPSON CENTER IS A FITTING TRIBUTE

In a recent column, Greg Hinz wrote about the shameful condition of the Thompson State of Illinois building. It was predestined.

At the time the building was erected, then Crain’s editor Dan Miller asked my opinion. At the time, I gave it off the record since I still had to survive in Chicago.   I had suggested the building was a fitting tribute to Governor Thomson, since it was big, overly expensive for the taxpayers and literally full of hot air.

At that time, the building’s air conditioning systems were inadequate to heat the greenhouse-like structure. The fact that architect Helmut Jahn did not anticipate the problem when facing the slanted glass surfaces to the south was astounding professional incompetence.

I further suggested that the “Stonehenge” pillars surrounding the plaza were an ugly and unnecessary addition, and would one day be removed by people with better taste. And so they have been.

Its featureless walls along Lake, already shielded by the overhead El, gave the streetscape all the felling of an alley behind a warehouse.

However, I did express to Dan my admiration for the white and black sculpture work at the entrance by French artist Jean Dubuffet (no good artists in Illinois?) since it solved the age old problem of public art – pigeon droppings. Since it took on the appearance of an oversized mound of bird poop, who would notice?

The Thompson Center now stands like the portrait of Dorian Gray, as a decaying symbol of the long term impact of generative leadership in Illinois’ – both the corrupt Democrat Machine and the all too cozy relationship of Republicans like “Big Jim” Thompson.

My view of MERIT SELECTION OF JUDGES (as published in the Florida Sun Sentinel on August 1, 2014)

MERIT SELECTION OF JUDGES A BAD IDEA

In a recent Sun Sentinel column, Martin Dyckman called for the merit selection of judges. He criticized what he called “the peculiar American habit of electing state judges.”  He prefers a system whereby an obscure unelected commission would essentially appoint judges, who would then stand for an uncontested “retention” vote every few years.  The closest thing to a retention ballot is the kind of unopposed and undemocratic elections you have in Russia and Iran.

In addition to opposing the election of judges, Dyckman does not want a governor, elected by the people, to appoint judges, claiming that some professional commission would avoid “politicizing” the courts.

In Chicago, where I spent years as a civic reformer, they have exactly the system Dyckman would foist on the people of Florida. The Chicago Democrat Machine is famous for its utterly corrupt judges, and yet they virtually all win retention because judicial ballots are imposingly long and few voters are familiar with specific judges.  There are no opponents to expose bad judges. (If you doubt this, check out “greylord scandal” where 15 judges were convicted).

If the voters do not like the judges a governor appoints, they can elect someone else. At least, they have some influence.  Under Dyckman’s approach, the public would have none.

In a recent case, a Dallas judge ordered 2000 border crossers to be housed in the city. They say it may cost him his reelection.  Regardless of my view on immigrations, if his ruling is so contrary to public opinion, he should be exposed to removal by the public.  This is not a matter of protecting constitutional rights.

Beware of those who want to remove “politics” from politics. It usually means taking away the power from the people in favor of a bureaucratic elite.  Dyckman has the all too typical liberal elitist view that democracy is too important to be left to the will of the people.

My view on SHOOTING DOWN MALAYSIAN AIRLINER (as published in the Washington Times on July 24, 2014)

RUSSIANS SHOOT DOWN CIVILIAN AIRLINER AND OBAMA SHOOTS FOR PAR

When Israel entered Gaza on the day the Malaysian airliner was shot down, millions of Americans dropped what they were doing to follow the news minute by minute. Well, with one notable exception.  President Obama continued with his political fundraising tour.

Aides suggest the President got belated reports in between handshakes and cocktails. But, that’s not good enough.  He needed to take command of the situation.  There were options and plans to consider.  He needed to contact the State Department and the CIA.

Since it was initially obvious who was responsible for shooting down Flight 17, the President should have used his phone to implement a timely response.

Since international law confers primary responsibility for the crash site on the Ukrainian government and Malaysian Airlines, Obama should have proposed that they invite the U.S. and other affected nations to IMMEDIATELY secure the crash site and commence the investigation.

Obama might have called the heads of state of every nation with victims aboard to enlist their support for a combined military team of approximately 20,000 to travel to the Ukraine to preserve the crime zone.

He could have announce to the world, and made it clear to Putin, that this force is not entering the Ukraine to participate in the conflict, but solely as a humanitarian effort to secure the site and begin the investigation under legal authority. Rather than wait for Putin’s predictable objection, Obama should have had the troops airborne as they spoke.

Obama should then have demanded that Putin order the separatists to step down, and declare that any attack on the international team would be considered a hostile action, and that we would deploy whatever means were necessary to protect the investigators.

I believe that neither Putin nor the separatists would have dared attacked the international investigators. We would have secured the crash site for a truly honest investigation.  We would have dealt with the dead in an expeditious and honorable manner.  And, we very likely would have affected a cease fire during the time of the investigation – which could take months.

In the event of an attack on the international team, we would use overwhelming military might to destroy the combat capability of the attackers. In other words, let us do our job peacefully or suffer the consequents.

Instead, from Obama we get all too familiar empty rhetoric, promises no longer believable and ineffective actions.

Here is my view on DEMOCRATS AND SCHOOLS (as published by the Florida Palm Beach Post on April 28, 2014)

SCHOOL REFORM MEANS TAKING CONTROL FROM DEMOCRAT “MACHINES”

Nothing will improve urban education until we (1) deal with brutal facts and (2) have the courage to apply real solutions. No more faux reforms.

We have innumerable examples of quality education in private, parochial and, yes, even public schools. These educations often come at less cost than failed urban schools.  In big cities, we have one failed system after another.

The decade-after-decade failure to provide millions of young minority students with an ability to secure opportunity and employment is immoral, obscene and even criminal. It is destructive to individual lives, and to the public welfare. It is our national shame.

To find the solution, we must recognize that virtually all failed school systems have one thing in common – they are controlled by Democrats. For political reasons, ghetto schools are intentionally operated to maintain a dependent ghetto-ized underclass.  Incompetency, alone, cannot explain these educational failures.

Political benefits come in two forms — votes from dependent uneducated and unemployed ghettos residents and taxpayer funds flowing from union coffers to the Democrat machines. That is why such common sense things as school choice are so forcefully opposed by Democrats and school unions.

More money is not the answer. It is no coincidence that almost all new money goes to wages and benefits, with nothing for the “children’s budget.” In some cases, unions have grabbed more than 100 percent of new money – meaning actual cuts in the “children’s budget.”

If we are to improve education, regain our international leadership, and bring minorities out of perpetual poverty and dependency, we must spread choice systems, prohibit teacher strikes, advance the work day for students and teachers, restore discipline to the classroom, protect teachers from nutty law suits, trim bureaucratic patronage, restore the American exceptionalism curriculum, return authority to the local school districts, fire bad teachers, shut down the Education Department, and stop lowering the bar with stupidities like “social promotions.”

We should not deny minority children quality education by a blind devotion to failed government run schools.

Here is my view on CHICAGO SCHOOLS (as published in the Chicago Tribune on April 10, 2014)

Vallas Has No Credibility Talking About Schools

I am the former executive director of the City Club of Chicago and president of the Public Policy Caucuses, and I was the chief consultant to both the Chicago and Detroit Boards of Educations.  I recently received an email from the Paul Vallas campaign promoting his bid for lt. governor. He refers to his experience as former head of the Chicago Board of Education as a primary credential.  He also echoes the Democrat’s constant call for more money for schools.

The Chicago urban schools are among the worst in the nation. They did not improve under Vallas’ leadership.  Instead of bragging, he should be apologizing, and explain his failure to improve the education of mostly minority students.

In calling for even more funding, despite the desperate financial condition of the state, he perpetrates a long-standing Democrat myth that the only problem in education is lack of funding.

Like all government bureaucracies, the Illinois education system is riddled with excess personnel and enormous waste. Most new dollars flow directly into teacher contract settlements – with nothing for the classroom.  In some cases, settlements absorbed 110 percent of new money – meaning the student budget had to be cut.  In other cases, one time financial fixes left the schools with unattainable out-year salary and benefit deficits.

The very Democrats who have deprived quality education to mostly minority students would have parents and taxpayers believe that the old failed policies of the past will somehow work.

They never will, because the students come last. The structure is designed to reward the unions for their role in underwriting the Democrat Machine.  They oppose giving parents a choice in education because every student sitting in a classroom is money for the unions and the politicians.

Vallas’ campaign claims are as pathetic and dishonest as those of all the Machine politicians who preceded him.

 

Here is my view on CAMPAIGN FINANCE (as published in Crain’s Chicago Business on April 12, 2014

Robert Weissman, of Public Citizen, recently chastised the decision of the Supreme Court to lift the limits on the number and total amount citizens can contribution to political campaigns.

The only fault with the Supreme Court decision is it did not go far enough. It should have eliminated the $2600 cap on individual contribution to federal candidates.

There is a great disparity between how people like Weissman think the system works and how it actually works.

Campaign limits have been a boon to incumbents and those who long for permanent empowerment. It forces federal candidates to spend inordinate amount of time raising money.  A congressional candidate who needs to raise $5 to $10 million every two years is more of a fundraiser than a legislator.

More nefarious, the public lists, which are not of much interest to the general public, are used by officeholders to intimidate potential donors to rivals candidates. When officeholders see a name on the list, they often contact the person to threaten them against further contributions or to demand “equal consideration.”

The only people who access the lists are opponents, the press, and a hand full of political groupies – and they only seek out the largest and most potentially controversial donations to publicize.

In many cases, it is illegal to use the public lists for fundraising purposes, but it is a common practice.

Polls suggest that the public does not care how much a candidate uses of his or her own money, or how much they receive, as long as it is reported and honest.

The notion that such public regulation, or public funding, drives out the special interest is a fallacy. It leaves the government in greater control – and as our Founders well understood, the government is a very dangerous special interest if not restrained.

A truly democratic system is to allow unlimited private contributions with timely reporting – and let the voting public decide how it will influence their vote. Those proffering for more regulation tend to be elitists who distrust the public and the truly democratic process.