Steve Coon Blog

We have returned to the past

caricature-of-steve3 2Freedom of speech and the press was considered so important by the founders of our republic that it was enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution.

It’s worth remembering that this was during an era when the press was particularly partisan. Newspapers were owned by prominent politicians who used their publications as vehicles to disseminate their views and criticize their foes. The press often exercised the latter with little regard to truth.

With the decline of many American newspapers and the rise of alternative news platforms in this digital age,

I believe we have returned to those “wild west days” when opinion often replaced veracity.

Still our predecessors at the time of the American Revolution believed an unfettered press—even with its faults—was worth protecting.   That remains true today.  But news consumers are wise to attend much news and information with healthy skepticism.

Let’s keep the Iowa Caucus as originally intended

caricature-of-steve3 2 The history of the Iowa caucus is a long, colorful, scandal-filled trek similar to much of early America.

The Hawkeye State joined the union in 1846 when Americans attended caucuses and conventions to determine elected officials.

A series of legislative reforms transformed the state’s electoral procedures until 1963 when the Iowa General Assembly decided to elect delegates at the caucuses to county conventions. These conventions, in turn, would choose delegates to the district and finally state conventions—a cumbersome four-step process that has continued through 2020. Many would argue it’s an unnecessary, antiquated mechanism for today’s technologically-oriented and 24-hour-media-deadline culture.

The results of last Monday’s disaster at Iowa’s Democratic Caucuses are testament to the dangers of excessive media attention, candidate expectations and faith in untested technology. It’s no wonder many observers inside and outside of Iowa are calling for an end to the state’s first-in-the-nation status for winnowing the pool of presidential hopefuls.

But the original intent of the caucuses was not to determine whom Iowans considered the most desirable candidates for president. It was simply the first step in the ultimate selection of state delegates to the summer national conventions of both major parties.

If critics prevail and the 2020 Iowa caucus—as currently structured—ends as a much-hyped, influential voice in gauging the popularity of potential presidential wannabes, that is perfectly all right.

But this quaint historical electoral relic should continue as a nice local event for encouraging popular participation where friends and neighbors gather to discuss politics and choose delegates for the county conventions.  Let’s keep this tradition for ourselves.

The presidential candidates and national media can stay away. As the old Iowan saying goes, “Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out.”

 

 

The truth behind the impeachment campaign

caricature-of-steve3 2I’m watching the House debate on C-SPAN.  It is both interesting and irritating.  But certainly historic.

Interesting because of the too-often repeated arguments from both Democrats and Republicans.  Both parties are making certain their comments–all of which we have heard–are stated so they will become part of the Congressional Record for posterity and campaign purposes.  I get that.

Irritating for the same reasons:  We have heard them all before from members of the House Intelligence and House Judiciary Committees.  The only new assertions are from previously unheard voices.  But they, too, are familiar refrains from the same song book.  And this agonizingly slow posturing only delays the inevitable.

Although one certainly can make a case for impeaching the president, it is bogus to hang it on the Ukraine allegations.  Especially since Mr. Trump’s alleged quid pro quo is remarkably similar to the threat former Vice President Joe Biden boasted about in forcing the ouster of a Ukraine prosecutor in exchange for $1-billion in U.S. aide.

Thus we are impeaching a sitting president for an act that is virtually identical to an act by a former vice president who is a leading Democratic presidential candidate.

Many House democrats were pushing for impeachment from day one of their election and subsequent control of the lower chamber in January of this year.

This campaign including the notorious “We’re going to impeach the m….. f…..” promise by newly-elected Michigan Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib

The impeachment effort began months before the March 2019 Robert Mueller report on into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election or the whistleblower Ukraine memo was written on August 12.

Thus we have an instance of a campaign searching for a cause.

The justification for impeachment would have been stronger had the effort begun following the Robert Mueller report that concluded that although the president was not found to have committed crimes, the report said it could not exonerate him either.

The Mueller document was the result of a methodical investigation including numerous interviews, an examination of dozens of documents and lasting more than two years.  It’s curious then why the House chose to embrace the whistleblower memo—-a much weaker claim that is largely secondhand hearsay from someone who concedes he/she wasn’t privy to the Ukraine telephone call.

Both the timeline of these proceedings and the evidence selected certainly give opponents reason to question the legitimacy of the process.

Likewise since the actions of both chambers are a foregone conclusion it seems a waste time.

Historic yes.  But America will be better served by letting Americans decide the president’s fate next November.

Archie Bunker and President Trump: a tale of unintended consequences

caricature-of-steve3 2I enjoy the CBS drama “Madame Secretary.”

But I doubt that the program’s producers recognized the unintended consequences of  portraying the female president as the victim of an unfair, politically motivated, strictly partisan effort by the fictional House to impeach her. I suspect the producers (Hollywood liberals most likely) wanted to make a point about today’s actual impeachment drama in the real House and Senate.  One opposing President Donald Trump.

However, the producers should have reviewed their history of the 1970s comedy “All in the Family” in which the principal character, Archie Bunker, is presented as a bigoted, unthinking, uninformed blue color worker.  Producer Norman Lear wanted to show the falsity of Bunker’s thinking.

However, a 1974 study by researchers Neil Vidmar and Milton Rokeach, suggested that “All in the Family” may, in fact, have reinforced “rather than reduce racial and ethnic prejudice.”

“Madame Secretary” is not as popular as was “All in the Family.” But it’s easy to see how some viewers can come away from this contemporary drama with more sympathy for our current president Donald Trump.

That, as I wrote above, is not what the program’s producer intended.

Too late to the party

caricature-of-steve3 2Many whites believe that most African Americans will vote for a black Democratic Party presidential candidate. That assumption of a black monolithic voting bloc is false. Blacks are like all other Americans when choosing someone to support.

The fact that an aging, white Democrat Joe Biden enjoys strong support among blacks while younger African American candidates Corey Booker and Kamala Harris do not, speaks to that truth. The late entry of former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick—another African American candidate—will not change that equation.

Most Americans—regardless of identity—are focused on traditional bread and butter issues: quality education, good jobs, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods and accessible health care.

The candidate—regardless of race, sex, gender, ethnicity, religion or even age—who talks persuasively and realistically about those issues, most likely will prevail.

Many of us have aspirational dreams, which is why socialist progressives Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have strong appeal among some segments of our society. It explains why Donald Trump defeated a field of well-known, better-qualified Republicans in 2016. He and now Warren and Sanders speak to our emotions instead of our intellects.

But we can hope that this time around most Americans are smarter and more realistic than some of the candidates believe. If true, next year voters will reject the simplistic, pie-in-the-sky promises of the snake oil vendors and instead choose a president who can actually accomplish something.

The possible candidacy former Democratic New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg—also is unlikely to change the current campaign landscape.

Although Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg bring adequate credentials to their campaigns, the question of their timing may be more decisive to their fate than their proposals or appeal to a targeted constituency.

Better late than never may be true in some endeavors.  But it seldom works in a run for the presidency.

 

 

 

What the two Ukraine documents tell us

caricature-of-steve3 2On the morning of Thursday July 25 of this year, President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke by telephone for half an hour (9:03—9:33 am EDT).

Speculation and allegations regarding the content of that conversation apparently prompted a government whistleblower to file an “urgent concern” alleging abuse by President Trump. The informant claims President Trump is using his office to seek interference by a foreign country (Ukraine) in the 2020 presidential election.

Both the whistleblower complaint and the Trump-Zelensky telephone transcript have been released. The combination has prompted the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to launch official impeachment procedures against President Trump.

I have read both documents and here is what I know:

Telephone Call

The transcript of the conversation is a compilation of notes from those assigned to listen to the call, to take notes then share their recollections and impressions. The listeners apparently try to reach a consensus on the official transcript.

There is no indication whether both Trump and Zelensky spoke English or whether there were interpreters present for both leaders. The latter certainly would have necessitated further clarification and deliberation for the final document.

The final transcript is not a verbatim regurgitation and apparently no actual electronic recording exists of the conversation. My sources say this procedure has been standard practice since the 1970s.

President Trump does ask President Zelensky to look into the Crowdstrike matter. This refers to the U.S. cyber security company that investigated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by foreign operatives during the 2016 American presidential campaign. Trump implies that the hackers were in Ukraine and he suggests that U.S. Attorney General William Barr work with Ukraine’s counterpart to investigate.

The Ukraine leader acknowledges his desire for improved relations between the two countries and expresses hopes for a meeting with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Mr. Trump expresses disappointment that Ukraine’s prosecution of alleged corruption involving a U.S. company there was stopped. Trump implies but never specifically mentions that former Vice President Joe Biden applied pressure against the Ukraine prosecutor because Biden’s son, Hunter, sat on the board of directors of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings that was under investigation.

Zelensky pledges that his new government will have a new prosecutor and will look into the company.

Although President Trump says he will have both Attorney General William Barr and Rudy Giuliani work with Zelensky and his government on the investigation, subsequent contacts involving all officials apparently never took place.

Whistleblower Report

The unidentified whistleblower acknowledges that his allegations are hearsay—based solely on secondhand information from sources purportedly privy to the US-Ukraine phone call and related discussions.  He, himself, never heard the conversation.

In other words, these are rumors with no factual foundation.

While it is possible that his sources, who he claims heard the telephone conversation, perceived that there was a specific quid pro quo requested by President Trump, the transcript of that call does not support that.

The whistleblower claims that electronic transcript of the phone call was removed from the usual “customary” computer systems and transferred to another system used for more sensitive content. The implication is that nefarious forces prompted this action.

But he also concedes that although one of his sources labeled this as abuse, the whistleblower himself doesn’t know if similar steps were taken with the other notes on the conversation.

Later he further acknowledges that Mr. Giuliani reportedly traveled to Spain to meet with President Zelensky’s advisers but doesn’t know if the meetings actually occurred.

Conclusion and Prediction

The House of Representatives—based on these two documents—now begins an official impeachment investigation.

In order for this to be an honest attempt to arrive at the truth regarding the allegations, the House must do the following:

1—Identify and invite or subpoena those members of the administration who listened to the telephone conversation and participated in the subsequent exchange of notes and/or conversations that resulted in the final draft.

What information in the notes was excluded and why? Who was satisfied with the final document and who was not? Why?

2—Identify and invite or subpoena those members of the administration who allegedly were privy to the telephone conversation, were not part of the subsequent discussions debating the final draft, but nevertheless expressed concern. What was their concern and why? What steps did those officials take other than share their feelings with the whistleblower?

3—What agenda might these purported sources have that prompted them to express their concerns to the whistleblower? Are they persons who believe that their views on other administration policy decision have been disregarded? Are they former employees or colleagues of President Trump opponents, e.g. democratic representatives, senators or party leaders?  Or do they simply dislike President Trump?

4—Both administration supporters and opponents who have knowledge of these events must be given equal opportunity to state their case.

Only after the House of Representatives has taken every possible fair, honest, balanced, non-partisan steps to seek the truth, can members be of the lower chamber render a judgment that Americans can believe is just.

I hope this is what happens.

But my observations of our contemporary bitter partisan rivalry both in Congress and across our nation give me no confidence that this will be honest, fair or just.

Improving the game of football

caricature-of-steve3 2This has nothing to do with making the sport safer. Football is a contact sport where big, heavy, strong, fast athletes wearing suits of armor collide to stop opposing players.

As long as all those ingredients remain, the contest will remain physically dangerous.

I’m writing about changing some rules to speed up the contest, penalize properly infractions and hold players, coaches and officials accountable.

SCORING

A touchdown would remain 6 points but there would be no Point After Touchdowns (PAT)–either the one or two point variety.  That’s a senseless reward for having done what you were supposed to do anyway–score points.

Field goals would be remain 3points from distances of zero to 40 yard. Then they would be four 4 from 41 to 60 yards. Any field goal more than 61 yards long would be 5 points.

DURATION

All four plays during an offensive series must be completed within two minutes—that’s a 30-second limit for each play.

The officials could not halt plays to permit the entry or exit of either offensive or defensive players. It’s the responsibility of the teams to get players on and off the field quickly—even if one or both teams employ a fast offense.

Official reviews would have to be completed within 60 seconds after viewing the play in question from the same 4 video angles that TV viewers see. Failure to complete the official review on time would automatically reverse the ruling on the field.

No review decisions would await action from arbiters sitting in remote viewing locations.  That’s a waste of time.

Each team would be permitted one challenge per half to a decision made by officials.

The challenging team would be charged with a time out for the challenge—win or lose. Each team would have 3 timeouts per half.

Game delays of more than 2 total hours due to bad weather will force the cancelation of the contest. The two teams will be permitted to play a makeup game at the conclusion of the regular season if both teams agree. If they do not, either team is permitted to schedule a game with another team in order to complete a 12-game season. But the first choice for the makeup game must be offered to the original two schools.

PENALTIES

Players penalized and ejected for any violation would be escorted from the field. They would not be permitted to play in the next game. Any ejected player who makes any physical gesture when leaving the game will not be permitted to play in the next 2 games and his school will be fined $10,000.

The team without the ejected player will be forced to play the remainder of the half minus either one offensive or one defensive player.

Any post-score celebration that results in an unsportsmanlike penalty will cause that team to have 1 point deducted from the score.

OVERTIME

The current college overtime structure works and the professional teams should adopt it too.

CONCLUSION

 Football can be an exciting, entertaining game. But it can be improved.

The suggestions here will do nothing to end the systemic, endemic corruption of college and professional football.  But these changes will at least make the individual games better.