28 December 2015

Eulogy for Meadowlark Lemon-- Athlete; Entertainer; Evangelist

Meadowlark Lemon on Athletes

Basketball legend Meadowlark Lemon died at age 83 in Scottdale, Arizona on December 27, 2015.  Lemon was the court jester of the Harlem Globetrotters for 22 seasons before venturing off to play for the Bucketeers, then later with the Shooting Stars and in 1988 starting "Meadowlark Lemon's All Stars".  In 1994, Lemon played 50 games for the Harlem Globetrotters while still playing for his own touring team.

In Meadowlark Lemon's prime, he played 325 games a year. After missing one game in Germany after a bad meal of goulash in 1955,  Lemon played  7,500 consecutive games for the Harlem Globetrotters, which was the equivalent of 92 NBA seasons. But Lemon was known for more than his perfect attendance on the courts.
Wilt Chamberlain played with Meadowlark Lemon for the 1958-59 season on the Harlem Globetrotters.  Wilt Chamberlain lauded Lemom shortly before his Wilt's death in 1999:  “Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I've ever seen.  People would say it would be Dr. J or even [Michael] Jordan. For me it would be Meadowlark Lemon.”  Lemon could make unbelievable behind the back half-court baskets and was known for his long range hook shot. 

Supplementing his superior skill set at basketball fundamentals, Meadowlark Lemon was a showman.  He enthusiastically embraced being the "Clown Prince" of basketball, by doing a regular shtick of throwing a bucket-full of confetti and pulling down the pants of referees.  Meadowlark Lemon was inducted into both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Clown Hall of Fame. 

Aside from being an athlete and an entertainer, Meadowlark Lemon had a spiritual side.  Lemon became an ordained minister in 1986 and a Doctor of Divinity in 1988 from Vision International University.  Along with his second wife Dr. Cynthia Lemon, he founded  Meadowlark Lemon Ministries with a mission "Changing lives to change the world" by   leveraging his books, media, evangelical outreach along with Camp Meadowlark basketball camp as inspiration to stay focused and finish strong message aimed at keep kids away from the path of substance abuse. 

Meadowlark Lemon Ministries has a special outreach to youths in detention facilities and prisons.  Meadowlark's message to these troubled souls is that you are not alone, you are uniquely special, God has great plans for you and you are forgiven. 

Through his excellence on the courts and comedy, Meadowlark Lemon could entertain and elevate his fans.  Parlaying his successes on the court to his ministry, Meadowlark Lemon helped elevate himself and others to a higher level. Rest In Peace Clown Prince of Basketball. 

02 December 2015

Sean Penn Projects Climate Cult Shame

Sean Penn on Climate Change Deniers

Sean Penn is a progressive activist actor who of late has been championing the cause of Climate Change.   Penn's pontifications about cult-like thinking that he associates with those who oppose the campaign to combat anthropogenic climate change calls for some consideration.

Firstly, Penn referred to Fox Network Thinking.  Oh, really? (Not O'Reilly).  This may be news to Sean but the sensibilities and dispositions vary between various channels, even those owned by News Corp.  The Fox broadcast network, which Penn cited, will be launching a series next year called "Lucifer".  That is not a show to which most viewers of the Fox News Channel (FNC) would cotton.   It would be fair to characterize the Fox Business Channel as being more libertarian leaning, whereas Fox News Channel has shifted from a right center news organization in 2012 to more of an establishment Republican (ala Karl Rove) oriented network with some patches of Populism (namely O'Reilly and to some extent Sean Hannity). Factor that (sic).

Penn seems to think that anyone who disputes Climate Change consensus does not care about quality of life in any sense.  Obviously, Penn is oblivious to the Skeptical Environmentalist, Bjorn Lomborg who buys into man-made climate change, but believes that it is more effective to solve other world health issues, like clean water and malaria.

It is hard to claim that the Société de Calcul Mathématique has been brainwashed by "Fox network thinking." But Penn seems to know better. 

So many Climate Change activists rely on the myth that man-made CO2 Driven Climate Change is settled science.  When they are challenged, such eco-activists flail and invoke 97% scientific consensus, as was infamously implied by Sierra Club President Aaron Mair's embarrassing episode before the Senate Environment Committee.  At the Paris Climate Change Summit, President Barack Obama claimed that consensus was 99.5% of scientists.  These figures seem as fungible as the East Anglia hockey stick model which drove Climate Change science in 2010. 

Considering the Alinsky-like tarnishing of targets by painting them as Fox network cultists, fascistically condemning anyone who does not tow the party line and zealously refusing to engage in scientific exchanges makes inquiring minds wonder if Penn is projecting his cult charges. Wonder what really is in Penn's cocktail cup.  Hey Kool-Aid!

[C] Sean Penn as Spicoli and [R] Ray Walston as Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

16 November 2015

Friday the 13th Paris Attacks -- What Are the Chances?

Friday November 13th was a busy night in the City of Lights.  Paris was hosting a friendly soccer match between the French and the German national teams in which French President Francois Hollande attended at the Stade de France. Former American Vice President Al Gore was conducting  "Live Earth", a marathon 24 hour webcast concert to raise consciences about Climate Change at the foot of the Eiffel Tower featuring luminaries like Duran Duran.  The Eagles of Death Metal, a southern California rock band was playing the storied Bataclan music hall. And the bars and cafes in the 11th arrondissement were packed with revelers.

But Paris was rocked with a half dozen coordinated bombings and shootings.  A terrorist tried to come late to the soccer match in Saint Denny but was turned away by security, hence he blew himself up outside of the Stade de France.  Several minutes later, his comrades in arms exploded their suicide vests nearby.  This was a probable assassination attempt against President Hollande with the intent to kill more from the potential of 80,000 spectators.

Five minutes after the bombings at the soccer match, gunmen with submachine guns began shooting people in the sidewalk cafes and bars in the 10th and 11th arrondissements.  

But where the most carnage occurred was at the Bataclan Music Hall in which several terrorists took hundreds hostage, killing at least 80 with many more critically injured. These barbarians deliberately shot spectators in wheel chairs one by one.  If there was any doubt as to the motivation of these savages, they shouted Allahu Akbar( ("God is Great" the war chant of jihadists)  and "Free Syria" as they reloaded and continued their atrocities.

The world sought to show solidarity through gatherings of remembrance and sympathetic light displays. Yet some protested these humanistic expressions as the same consciousness does not occur when lives are lost by Palestinians or in Africa.  Black Lives Matter activists reached out to social media to proclaim "F#ck Pray for Paris".  And after some progressive politicians like socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made pro forma expressions of sympathy, they still maintain that Climate Change is more of a threat to the world today than radical Islamist terrorism. 

Hence it is ironic to consider the irony that Duran Duran kicked off the "24 Hours of Reality" with "What Are the Chances?" to pressure the Climate Change Summit which is scheduled to be held in Paris at the beginning of December.  The ponderous lyrics muse about our place in the world.  Yet idealists perseverate on the theory of anthropogenic global warming over a 100 years yet ignore the danger which is right down the boulevard. 

So, what are the chances Of seeing an uptick of violence from forces creating chaos and tyranny? ~Quite likely.  But what of solidarity against barbarism? The foundation exists amongst those who love liberty and the value of individuals. Alas, it is unknown how those noble sentiments will hold up during the Storm.

30 October 2015

Jeb! Campaign Blueprint-- Phileas Fogg or Baron Munchausen?

Jeb Bush’s Campaign staff shared with US News a 112 page internal campaign blueprint that exposed the the nitty gritty details of an establishment $130 million primary campaign.  After studying the Jeb! Q3 Campaign Briefing, it is hard not to hear the candidate speak and not think of the strategerie (sic) behind it. Yet the opposition intelligence contained in the blue book used to buttress its analysis also lends insight on the possible perceived primary pathways to victory for much of the Republican field

Jeb’s campaign is banking on surviving the February GOP contests. Afterwards it would leverage its fundraising prowess (both hard money and Super PACs) via advertising, endorsements, strategic Hispanic outreach for success in many contests. The Jeb! campaign is comfortable selling an idea of inevitability that Jeb is the only one electable against Hillary Clinton for a Game of Thrones dynastic grudge match.

It was telling that the Jeb! campaign advisers used a literary conceit to explore their long term primary strategy. After the early primaries, the Jeb! campaign used the codename Phileas Fogg, from Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, to liken the frenetic March strategy to compete for 1,428 delegates in 22 state contests.

The character Phileas Fogg was a wealthy gentleman living in solitude but in a meticulous manner who takes up an impossible bet at the Reform Club. Around the World in Eighty Days chronicled those adventures. Kind of curious parallels when applied to a campaign of a son of a wealthy dynastic political family who had been away from politics for years but plots to come back with a well crafted plan.  Hmm.

While the internal memo did have several graphics which grappled with the Donald Trump phenomenon (particularly on the “W” association that he kept us safe), it seemed as if Jeb strategists perceived their main rival as being Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).  The Jeb! campaign is prepared to shill the line that “Rubio is a risky bet” and playing up political parallels with the career of Barack Obama. Hence the Jeb attendance attack on Rubio during the third GOP Presidential debate.

The fundraising bar graphs showed that Bush inspired organizations (like the Right to Rise PAC) being prepared to outspend Rubio inspired organizations (like the Conservative Solutions PAC) for Future Ad Buys in Iowa and New Hampshire.  The Jeb! Campaign also was going to do a strong ad buy in South Carolina.

To extrapolate some strategy from the blueprint, Jeb is prepared to spend big in Iowa on the airwaves.  While they have a paid staff of 7 which includes a Hispanic outreach team, one senses that they are not trying to win as much as not being winnowed out.  The heavy ad buys in New Hampshire indicate this is where they would like their first win. However, winning the Granite State would be challenging as Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) is putting everything in New Hampshire. This would also seem like fertile campaign territory for Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.  The proposed heavy ad buys in South Carolina would rely upon “Big Mo” from New Hampshire into parlayed success in the Palmetto State.

The curious aspect of this internal analysis is its ambiguity for the SEC primary. If Jeb is able to neutralize Rubio, he would have the inside track on Florida’s winner take all 99 delegates. Jeb’s appeal has promise in some of the bigger states, presuming that the field of 15 candidates is mostly cleared.

The shortcomings of Jeb’s strategy are manifold.  They seem to think endorsements are of utmost importance. In fact, their answer to foreign policy challenges is look at how many decorated general support Jeb.  The Jeb strategists look kindly upon “the Bush brand” which seems counter to Bush fatigue and anti-dynastic ebbs in this election cycle.  The Jeb strategists believe that pointing to Bush’s educational accomplishments as Governor nearly a decade ago is a selling point without addressing complaints about Jeb’s association (promotion and profiting) from Common Core.

From a meta standpoint, Jeb’s campaign revolves around big money, which is necessary for the saturation advertising for the Bush brand prior to the February contests. Well, events like disastrous debate appearance can stop the flow of funds.  And because of the staffing and need to do early ads, their burn rate is about 90%.  It may make it hard to grease the skids when crunch time comes.  This might explain the  course correction of slashing campaign costs and shaking up the campaign as Jeb languishes in low poll numbers nationally and in key early contest states.

Moreover, the internal analysis is ambiguous on their Phileas Fogg strategy for March.  It’s great that there are a boatload of delegates available in March, but how exactly does one compete in twelve simultaneous contests on SEC Tuesday (March 1) for 612 delegates distributed proportionally.  Surely the answer is with advertising dollars and “The Big Mo”. But GOP rule 40 this cycle require “winning” at least eight contests for a candidates name to be placed in nomination. Unless Big Mo is an avalanche, this might be a big problem for Jeb.

This is a crowded GOP primary field. Several candidates look like they have staying power based on big bank accounts which have not been burnt through (e.g. Trump, Cruz).  It is an outsider’s election with Dr Ben Carson and Donald Trump in the lead, but a Jeb conceit that they will fade away and Rubio is the big challenge. The briefing focuses at winning delegates but not necessarily contests.  This could be a fatal mistake as GOP primary rules require winning at least six contests for a name to get put into nomination.  If the February primaries are divided by several contenders, there may neither be “the Big Mo” nor the establishment (electable) and outsider left as the last men standing. That scenario moots the blueprints findings.

This cynical political junkie is wondering if the Phileas Fogg blueprint would be better substituted by the Adventures of Baron Munchusen. It may be less of a frenetic but methodical slog as envisioned by the internal analysis and more of like on of the Munchausen movie tagline “Remarkable. Unbelievable. Impossible. And true.”

h/t: US News

27 October 2015

What Makes for a Good Speaker?

After four and a half years as Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH 8th) announced his resignation. Boehner allegedly wanted to resign after the 112th Congress but his handpicked heir, seven term incumbent  former Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA 7th), but he was ignominously upset by Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA 7th) in the Republican Primary. So  Boehner blustered that he wanted to resign after the pinnacle of his career in hosting Pope Francis to speak before a joint session of Congress.  Of course, this “Zip-a-Dee Doo Dah” excuse conveniently ignores the looming Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC 11th) Motion to Vacate the Chair, which the Speaker would either lose or have to win with Democrat votes. Boehner gave a month for his resignation to take effect in late October, 2015.

It is a good thing that Speaker Boehner gave a month to let things shake it.  Everything was arranged for Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 23rd prior 22nd) to assume the big chair. But then McCarthy opened his big mouth during a friendly interview with Sean Hannity in which inartful articulation about Hillary Clinton blew two years of non-partisan investigation by House Select Benghazi Committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC 4th).

McCarthy’s gaffe enlarged a gulf between the House Republican establishment and the Freedom Caucus, which was reluctant to back a Cocktail Party candidate.   The Freedom Caucus had been poised to support Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL 8th), who is less conservative then the Freedom Caucus but open to rules reform.  However, before the Republican Caucus secretly voted on their choice, McCarthy suddenly resigned and the vote never took place.

In the aftermath of this announcement, there was pressure to draft House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI 1st) from divergent voices like Trey Gowdy and Mitt Romeny. But Ryan   was leery about leading what some might characterize as a den of vipers to spend lots of his time fundraising away from family.  Ryan took a week to decide his druthers.  Ryan announced that he would run if his candidacy would unite the party and under certain conditions (such as reducing his extra congressional travel).

Paul Ryan was hailed as a conservative when he was chosen to be former Governor Mitt Romney’s (R-MA) running mate in 2012, yet was run down by some radicalized conservatives for his stance reformist inclinations on immigration.  As Ryan readied himself to possibly assume the Speakership, he tapped  David Hoppe, a veteran conservative who now works at the Heritage Foundation to be his  chief of staff. Yet even this move was characterized by discontented populists as “picking a Washington lobbyist”.  Moreover, some said that the Freedom Caucus would be sell outs if they backed Paul Ryan for speaker. But a super majority (but not 80%) of the Freedom Caucus expressed willingness to support Ryan for Speaker so the Wisconsin Congressman put his name forward for consideration.

Keeping these recent events in mind, it would be wise to discern what makes for a good Speaker. Some would claim, res ipsa loquitur, that the person must be able to speak.  Thus, Kevin McCarthy’s disjointed utterances should have disqualified him. There is no doubt that the Hannity snafu killed McCarthy’s bid to be Speaker.  But it was not because he was not articulate in his utterances.  Former Democrat House Speaker and now Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12th prior 5th and 8th) was not a skilled speaker but was on message and ruled her caucus with an iron fist (and is aided by a sympathetic mainstream media).  Looking back into recent history, Rep. Denny Hastert was not chosen to be the chief spokesman for Republicans or the House.  Neither was Rep. Tom Foley (D-WA 5th).

On the other hand, Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA 6th), Rep. Jim Wright (D-TX 12th) and Rep. Tip O’Neil (D-MA 8th) were able media front men while being Speaker.  So being clean, well spoken and  articulate, to borrow a compliment from Vice President Joe Biden, can augment the Speaker’s role but is not quintessential.

A second trait often associated with the House Speakership is as a fundraiser.  This would have been a task that Rep. Kevin McCarthy would have excelled at, lest the Benghazi bungle.  Boehner seems to have done well at raising funds, particularly for those who would support establishment leadership.  But this party role is something which Rep. Paul Ryan did not relish.  Obviously, it is ancillary to the job of being Speaker of the House and constitutionally the second in the line of succession to the Presidency.

A third quality associated with being Speaker is setting priorities.  Newt Gingrich was legionary for nationalizing the 1994 cycle and voting on the Contract with America in the first 100 days of the 104th Congress. Nancy Pelosi rallied her caucus in supporting legislation which impeded the waning George W. Bush administration in the 110th Congress and facilitated President Barack Obama’s agenda in the 111th Congress.

While current Speaker John Boehner has done some things to quell conservatives in the GOP caucus, like eventually launching the Benghazi Select Committee, suing about Obamacare and recently establishing a select committee to study Planned Parenthood abuses, his style tended to be top down and accommodating the powers that be in the White House. For instance, the lawsuit on Obamacare is window dressing with little chance of success (as it is a political issue that courts will eschew).  Congress voted many times to repeal Obamacare, but it was not really attached to budgets or fought for doggedly in conference committees.

Boehner also reneged on understandings which irked the base and conservatives.  For instance, Boehner repeatedly broke the Hastert Rule (bills must receive a majority of the majority to be put on the floor).  This meant that legislation passed with Democrat votes. Boehner would also jam down bills, like a continuing resolution or other lengthy legislation without giving members (and the public) three days to read it before voting.  So, to echo Nancy Pelosi on Obamacare, “We have to vote on the bill before we know what is in it.”.  Not a wise way to run a railroad.

Many rank-and-file conservatives wanted one of their own to be Speaker.  So social media pushed Trey Gowdy or Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH 4th).  This is under the assumption that a true Conservative would dominate the GOP caucus and get things done.

 Freedom Caucus Raul Labrador Jim Jordan
[L] Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH 4th) [R] Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID 1st) [photo: BD Matt]

Well, the popular press has branded the Freedom Caucus as being ultra-right wingers bent on their own way.  But at the October Conservation with Conservatives presser, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID 1st) struck a much more restrained set of expectations.  The Freedom Caucus realized that with unity of around 38 votes they had a certain amount of power, to deny a candidate the requisite 218 votes, but they could not successfully back one of their own as Speaker.

It may seem strange that a Republican member generally considered an up and coming Conservative like Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT 3rd) only got lukewarm support in his bid for Speaker, as the Freedom Caucus was initially poised to back Rep. Daniel Webster, who had a 57% Liberty rating.  Rather than have a conservative warrior in the big chair, they wanted someone who would hear their voice.

What really bothered members of the Freedom Caucus was process issues.  They were tired of being shut out in the Committee process, not being able to advance their own legislation or  offer amendments during mark-ups. Ironically, this was not always because their amendments might lose, but that they could carry the day and ruin the pre-baked cake that House leadership had concocted with their counterparts in the Senate or across Pennsylvania Avenue.

Webster promised to have a bottom up leadership process and that influenced the Freedom Caucus.  While Ryan issued some daring demands (like get rid of the Motion to Vacate the Chair), he seems to have mollified the Freedom Caucus.  Scuttlebutt is that Ryan promised to not raise immigration reform until there is a new President. Politico reported that the Freedom Caucus and Ryan agreed in principle on most items and the Freedom Caucus would have some “buy in” on legislation, but his candidacy was still “take it or leave it”.  That was still good enough for 70% of the House Freedom Caucus.

This meeting of the minds did not win over all anti-establishment Republicans.  Rush Limbaugh posulated that to donor class got what they wanted in Paul Ryan.  Glenn Beck accused the Freedom Caucus of being sell-outs. But Beck wanted the House to look outside of its chambers to find a leader, by endorsing Senator Ben Sasse's (R-NB) modest proposal to draft AEI President Arthur Brooks.  In addition, Mark Levin railed at Ryan for never meeting a bailout he did not like.

Ryan may not be the essential man for Speaker but one wonders what Conservative critics want. Who would they choose and why?  If no one is likely to win, would firebrands be OK with Speaker Boehner remaining in place?  This is why discerning what makes a good Speaker matters to understand what candidate to support and appreciating the consequences of the choice.

Representative Ryan tends to be a conservative but has some bagging regarding bailouts and lingering concerns about immigration.  If he becomes Speaker, he may not be out of the rubber chicken circuit as much fundraising. But Ryan will probably be more of a media friendly face of the House and can articulate the Republican message.  Ryan’s reluctance to leave the Ways and Means Committee is because he wanted to radically reform our tax code from the burdensome stack of bureaucratic regulations.  It remains to be seen if this reformist impetus can be instituted while in the Speaker’s chair.

The Republican House Caucus will vote in secret on October 28th. If Ryan is a clear winner, then a formal floor vote should follow on October 29th as Boehner steps down.  But if the votes are not they, all hell will break loose and the House will need to discern what makes for an acceptable choice for Speaker. When Gingrich resigned in 1998, Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA 1st) was poised to be Head of the House, but some kinks came up in that ascension, which brought about Speaker Denny Hastert.

23 October 2015

Psephology and Plotting Paths to Primary Victory

When chatting with a friend who is not a political junkie, I questioned if Carly Fiorina’s strong Republican Debate performances can translate into strong showings in Iowa.  My friend questioned the value of the Iowa Caucuses, considering that televangelist Pat Robertson won. With the Iowa Caucuses just a 100 days away, it is worth considering the importance of the early contest and assessing paths to primary victory. 

This dialogue prompted me to review all Republican and Democrat Presidential Primary campaigns since 1976. The assertion that Pat Robertson won is an understandable misconception. He actually placed in second in 2000, thus proving that a campaign need not win in Iowa, but being in the top tier is important to survive the winnowing out.  In the case of Senator Fred Harris (D-OK) in 1976, a fourth place finish with 9.89% support had Harris proclaim that he was "winnowed in” the race. Iowa many not pick a winner, but it typically does thin the field out.

Favorite son candidates sometimes can do well in Iowa just because of their connection or proximity to the Hawkeye State.  Arguably, this was Rep. Dick Gephardt’s (D-MO 3rd) strategy in 1988.  Some thought that such connections would have similarly helped former Congresswoman  Michele Bachmann (R-MN 6th) or ex Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), but this pathway to success proved futile.  There was some speculation that in the 2016 cycle that Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) would have greatly aided by his native Iowan ties and being a next door neighbor, but that was not enough in the 2016 election cycle. 

Iowa and New Hampshire are important because they test a can test a candidates endurance, organization and strategy.  Because voters in the early primary states take their participation seriously, they expect to have lots of one-on-one encounters with hopefuls (retail politics). Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) won Iowa in 2012 on a shoestring budget because of a grassroots effort to have town halls in all 99 counties. 

What makes  the “Haweye Cauci” unique is the fact that Iowa voters take their participation seriously and expect to be courted by aspiring politicians.  Then there is the challenge of getting voters to show up at the Caucuses.  Not only must they be motivated to spend several hours on a snowy Iowa evening to play politics, but they must represent their candidate.  There are not private ballot boxes for Caucuses so Caucus goers must argue and advocate for their candidate. Thus a “silent majority” who acts according to their principles in the sanctity of the ballot box will not do.  They must go before their neighbors and plead their candidates’ cases.

Iowa Howard Dean campaigner 2004
But retail politics needs to be done right to accommodate for Iowa Stubborn.  In 2004, former Governor Howard Dean (D-VT) was the presumptive favorite as he had a large stash of cash from internet fundraising and could mobilize an army of college students to knock on doors. Well, Hawkeyes did not cotton to brigades of out of state whipper-snappers in bright red  ski hats prodding people to the caucuses.  Thus Dean was in a battle for third place.  To rally the troops after the Caucus results were announced, he did the infamous Howard Dean scream, which was the beginning of the end for him.

The Iowa contest may only sport 30 delegates split amongst the candidates, but doing well gives what 1980 GOP candidate (and later President)  George Herbert Walker Bush called “The Big Mo”.  Good publicity from being win place or show in Iowa can help for the next contest in New Hampshire. 

But where “the Big Mo”  really matters is in the “Invisible Primary” for donor dollars.  When primary voters start selecting candidates (as Iowans do not vote), traditionally financial supporters either open the floodgates or cut off the flow of funds.  People like to bet on winners and may jump on the bandwagon to curry favor with underdogs who outperform expectations. Some may claim that the “Invisible Primary” ends before selection process begins, because money in the bank allows for prudent allocation of resources. But sometimes candidates on the brink of financial collapse, like Senator John McCain in 2008 or Senator Rick Santorum’s shoestring start  in 2012, needed the infusion of finances and publicity after doing well (or significantly beating expectations) in Iowa.

Doing well in the donor primary makes a difference in expanding organization and financing media buys several weeks down the road to effectively compete in a series of contests held on the same day, like the SEC primaries (March 1st) or in a populous and diverse state in which wholesale politics is essential, like Florida (March 15th) 

In 2016, the GOP has rules that primaries before March 15th may have proportional distribution of delegates, after that time it is winner take all.  Party rules this cycle also require candidates to win six contests. Candidates need to find their pathway to victory.  

Some Republican candidates choose not to put as much emphasis on Iowa as it is not a reliable predictor of success and the agrarian and evangelical midwestern voters may not suit certain campaigns. The eastern and western edges of Iowa seem to vote for more urban and moderate candidates in GOP primaries while the center of the state can be characterized as quite evangelical and values voters. Santorum squeaked out a victory in 2012 with a campaign appealing to value voters and retail politics. Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) beat Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) 30%-27% by winning with “very conservative” voters, many of whom were evangelical value voters.

The importance of Iowa was demonstrated by the quick reversal of a social media faux pas by Donald Trump.  The brash businessman has earned a reputation of raring for a fight and never backing down. While Mr. Trump has been top of the Republican polls for the last 100 days, but a recent poll showed that he dropped in second place in the Hawkeye State behind another outsider candidate Dr. Ben Carson.  Trump's Twitter account, which he had leveraged for publicity to personally comment during the Democrat debate, forwarded a snarky dismissal of the poll, denegrating Iowans.  

Within a couple of hours, the Trump campaign deleted the tweet and expressed the regret for a young intern for the gaffe.  OK. so much for spoiling for a fight and never backing down as well as the aura of authenticity. But it goes to show the importance of not offending Hawkeyes and alienating the charm of Iowa Stubborn. 

If not Iowa, Republican candidates have to rely on doing well in New Hampshire, the first primary state.  The Granite State had a long reputation for picking Republican winners, with a couple of notable recent exception. Typically, New Hampshire voters are contrarian rejecting Iowa’s lead. Candidates sometimes camp out there to do tons of town hall meetings to maximize retail politics.   Senator John McCain (R-AZ) used it as his breakout moment in 2008. Conventional wisdom is that if you don’t do well in Iowa or New Hampshire, it is wise to hang it up.

A few contemporary candidates have sought to eschew the Iowa Caucuses and the First Primary in New Hampshire, much at their peril.  In 2008, Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NYC) calculated that he would win the Sunshine State due to the number of transplanted New Yorkers. So he essentially skpped Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina and Nevada. To his chagrin, Giuliani only garnered 14.7% of the vote.  On top of that, any delegates won were cut in half since the Florida primary was held too early for Republican rules. 

In 2012, Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT)  iconoclastically set up his campaign HQ in Orlando thinking that Florida would lead to victory.  But Huntsman came in third in New Hampshire and dropped out by Florida.

The 2016 GOP Primary cycle features a crowded field and seems strongly influenced by debate performances.  After the second debate at the Reagan Library, businesswoman Carly Fiorina catapulted up to third place in the national polls.  All of that is well and good, but political pundits need to consider what is her plausible path to victory? At this late stage in the campaign, can an unknown candidate build an organization for effective retail politics in the caucuses or does someone like Fiorina hope that Granite State contrarianism carries the day?  Would publicity from an early primary win be enough to build a successful campaign for the SEC primaries or is the hope to be the last acceptable alternative to a frontrunner or establishment candidate?

Frontrunners in the summer before a Presidential campaign year typically do not get the nomination, otherwise there might have been a President Dean (2004), President Gephardt (2008) or President Giuliani (2008). Hardball questions often hinder early frontrunners.  The trick is to peak and the right time and not get in too late.  In the 1980 cycle, then former Governor Ronald Reagan only announced his candidacy in November 1979 and had to rush to organize for Iowa.  But back then a late entry was feasible.  In the summer of 2007, Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) announced in late for the 2008 primaries and had trouble getting traction and fundraising.  In 2011, Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) joined the 2012 GOP primaries after the Ames Straw Poll, but was hindered by the late start and a monumentally bad debate performance. 

In the 2016 cycle, it has been postulated that Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is wisely waiting in the background to pounce when the primaries start.  Cruz was the first to announce with a strong religious liberty stance that would appeal to evangelical voters.  Cruz is accused by Republican Party elites for pushing for show votes on principled policies (e.g. really repealing Obamacare, Iran Nuke Deal, defunding Planned Parenthood) which underline his “outsider” bona fides while still serving in the District of Calamity.  Cruz has a strong campaign war chest.  All signs point to strong organization in early contests and the SEC primaries.  Cruz is also competing in very small contests (like Guam and Puerto Rico) which are essential to winning enough contests to be considered for nomination.  Cruz is a skilled debater who has made good use of the limited time he has been given in debates and he has not made enemies with his opponents. Yet at the beginning of autumn 2015, Cruz is placing 5th out of 15 with 8% support in polls. 

Cruz’s path to victory would need to do well in Iowa (especially with very conservative and evangelical voters), be competitive in New Hampshire, rebound in conservative South Carolina and then be successful in the bulk of SEC primaries (including his home state of Texas) on March 1st.  This slow and steady success strategy does not have the sizzle of Trump or the establishment imprimatur for former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL), but is solid strategy that has a pathway to victory.  Whether or not this works remains to be seen. 

Looking at the GOP primaries methodically may not be as much fun as hobnobbing about the horse race with always changing polls, but it understands the primary process and gives benchmarks for successful strategy rather than a blind bandwagon approach to campaigns. 

20 October 2015

On The Cruz Effect and the Capitol Hill Cocktail Party

Senator Tom Coburn on The Cruz Effect

Former Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) was recently interviewed on Sirius-XM radio by Pete Dominick in which he disparaged "The Cruz Effect".  Coburn chaffed at lawmakers being put in a position to make desperate stands about legislative items which he believes have no chance of overcoming a veto. This was not the first time in which Coburn raised this reluctance to futilely fight. Coburn said similar things to Joe Scarborough on MSNBC's Morning Joe in 2013.

Senator Coburn was a 20 year veteran of the Senate and had developed a reputation for being "Dr. No" for his conservative intransigence.  Yet before retiring to tend to his Colon Cancer after the 2014 election cycle, Senator Coburn exhibited an animus against Tea Party types, with Huffington Post headlines bragging of a Coburn Smack Down of the Tea Party. Coburn was quick to condem Senator Cruz's shut down tactic on Obamacare. Some Tea Party constituents wondered if he was a Charlatan, Traitor or Patriot for his go along to get along Senatorial approach  gun control.

Although he is no longer in the Senate, Senator Coburn is pushing a Cocktail Party approach to things. In Oklahoma, it is not hard to sound conservative and promise to repeal Obamacare, protect the second amendment or now even to defund Planned Parenthood.  But where the rubber meets the road in legislating in the District of Calamity, intentions and ardor matter.

When speaking to Scarborough about Obamacare in 2013, Senator Coburn rightly points out that Republicans did not have 67 votes to overcome an expected Presidential veto from Barack Obama. Right. So when has either party had vetoproof supermajorities in the Senate? Not in nearly half a century.  In the 89th Congress (1965-67), Democrats held 68 seats in the Senate and 295 House seats. During the New Deal, Democrats had veto proof majorities in the 74th and 75th Congresses (1935-39).  During Reconstruction after the Civil War, there were veto proof majorities for Republicans in the 39th, 40th, 41st and 43rd Congresses.

So having an assured veto proof majority is a rarity in American polity. Nowadays, the benchmark seems to be reaching Cloture (now set at 60 votes in the Senate).  After the election of Barack Obama and the eventual seating of Senator Al Franken (D-MN), Democrats had Cloture proof majority until Senator Scott Brown, the elected replacement for Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) was seated (replacing interim Senator Paul Kirk (D-MA)).

So it is fanciful for a Republican to think that their measures will have veto-proof (or Cloture proof) majorities by party votes alone through regular legislative procedures. But does that mean not doing anything because you are unsure if it will be enacted?

The reason why the comments of a former Republican Senator matter is that it epitomizes the conflict on Capitol Hill for the next Speaker and is a reason why outsider Republican Presidential candidates like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) are leading in the polls.

What has been called the Surrender Caucus is only happy to fight for bills which they are certain will be enacted.  Sure, you can campaign conservatively for the "rubes" back home, but politicians who are comfortably ensconced in the District of Calamity Cocktail Party won't spend any political capital for causes in which victory is uncertain.  Hence they surrender without a real fight.

For example, with the recent effort to defund Planned Parenthood, there were attempts to attach a rider onto a Continuing Resolution to divert funding for womens' health from the embattled abortionists to community health centers. The Byrd Rule for budget bills only required 51 votes for passage (avoiding a Cloture Vote). But President Obama promised to veto the CR and Republican Leadership feared that it might be blamed for a government shut down.  So they surrendered without a fight and Senate Majority "Leader" Mitch McConnell jammed down a clean CR through December 11th. This was not a one-off but was indicative of a pattern, which Tea Party renegades like Cruz have exposed for the shame that it is.

It might have been messy, but having must pass legislation like the Highway Bill, a Continuing Resolution or a real Congressional Budget with liberally unappealing riders might have forced the hand of President Obama to shut the government down.  If the Republicans had a better communication strategy, they might not automatically be blamed for shutting the government down when it was an Executive Branch veto which did the dirty deed.  As the branches sought to craft a resolution, concessions might be extracted.  So in the case of Obamacare (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act), a nigglesome provision like the employer mandate could be up for grabs, which eventually would kill the clunky and unpopular system.  But that involves some guts to take a political risk and then be ready to fight hard in the media and on Capitol Hill.But it's so much easier to, echoing Mr. Coburn: "Dingity, we tried but we just didn't have the votes to do it. Too bad (but we'll still rail against it for the next election).

The House Republican Caucus is set to nominate another candidate for Speaker.  Despite the entreaties of Speaker John Boehner that he is retiring after the crowing achievement of his Congressional career of having Pope Francis speak before a Joint Session of Congress, the reality is that he was set to resign because he would lose a Vacate the Chair vote.  Boehner could not win the necessary votes in the GOP Caucus because the Freedom Caucus both wants a leader who will fight but will also vote on their legislation rather than dictate what will be voted on (and will will or will pointedly lose and be a campaign issue).

After the talking heads shows this weekend, there is speculation that House Ways and Means Chairman Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI 1st) is reconsidering running for Speaker but he does not want  any strings attached to achieve the big chair.  Ryan's record on immigration issues does not jibe with conservatives and not allowing stands for legislation not certain to pass goes against the grain of the Freedom Caucus.

In the larger Presidential Primary picture, many insiders wonder why political novices like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina lead in the polls.  Perhaps they are not seem corrupted by the system and are talking a good game about fighting the power.

Senator Coburn's cautionary comments about legislating are true enough, but they reveal that establishment Republicans don't really want to fight. Some Tea Party elected officials have not sold out to the Establishment. This explains why Leaders are anxious to primary rebellious Tea Party types and bad mouth others.  Since Republicans have not had a Veto Proof majority since 1875, is it their role to be Democrat lite, only proposing what can get passed and signed by a Democrat President?  What about the years when there were Republican Majorities in both Chambers of Congress and Republican President?  It does not seem like things were much different then.

Pundits have noted that Congress has a similar favorability rating to the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea with communist dictator Kim-Il-ung. This might explain why disaffected voters might welcome a congressional Cruz missile in the form of fighting for principles and causes.  This will be put to the test during the Republican primaries.  But political junkies might get early indications how this "fight to fight" will succeed  in the Speaker's Race.

23 September 2015

Discerning Obama's Passive Aggressive Hospitality Towards Pope Francis

Mike Huckabee on Obama White House Manners

President Barack Obama received Pope Francis on the South Lawn of the White House and greeted his Holiness with praise for Catholic social justice in action.  Unfortunately, the President did not display gracious hospitality when choreographing the 15,000 person guest list.

Among the guests for this visit by the Holy See to the Peoples'  House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the Obama Administration seemed to take delight in inviting an A list of American Catholic dissidents, including the first openly homosexual Episcopal Bishop Vichy "Gene" Robinson (who is now a fellow with the Democrat oriented Center for American Progress), Sister Simone Campbell who was a leader in  the "Nuns on the Bus" political advocacy, and Mateo Williamson (the ex co-head of the Dignity USA transgender caucus) made famous by the "Owning Our Faith" documentary 

Pope Francis believes in the Ignatian notion of encounter and dialogue but prominently announcing these guests seemed to just stick a finger in the guests' eye.  Vatican officials pushed back against these provocative invitations.  The concern was having the Holy Father pushed into pictures with such Catholic teaching dissenters to cause controversy or imply acceptance. 

When Pope Francis landed at Joint Base Andrews and was greeted by President Obama and family, there was an unscheduled twenty meeting between the Holy Father and the President. It is unknown what was discussed.  However, the pontiff did not greet any civilians gathered on the White House South Lawn.

Republican Presidential hopeful former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) used folky analogies to convey the classlessness of the Obama Administration's invitations. Reverend Franklin Graham also questioned "sinful" the Obama White House's tactics for the Papal visit.

There is a cognitive dissonance between the kind words which America's Chief Executive spoke and his uncultured special guest list. During his White House speech, Pope Francis spoke warmly about combating climate change and helping the maginalized in American society, including immigrants.  But Mr. Obama's passive aggressive attitude towards Pope Francis diminishes any alliance on social justice issues to try to score cheap political points with the LGBTQQ? activists. 

At least the protocol person at the White House did better with State gifts than in the past.  When President Obama visited the United Kingdom at the start of the Obama Administration, the White House gave Queen Elizabeth a MP3 player full of Obama speeches and the sight impaired Prime Minister a collection of Region 1 DVDs of American films. When Mr. Obama visited the Vatican last year,  he gave the Vicar of Christ a box of seeds.  

For Pope Francis' visit to the White House, the Vatican was given a one of a kind statue of an ascending dove which incorporates the armature from the Statue of Liberty and is on a pedestal carved from reclaimed wood from the White House.  That gift was thoughtful, symbolic and precious.  The White House also presented a 206 year of key from St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton. That might get filed along with 1920s American Catholic bingo records in the Vatican archives.  In exchange, the Holy Father gave Mr. Obama a bronze bas relief plaque for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which was the main reason that Pope Francis traveled to America for the first time.

Post Scriptus-- The Pope arrived late for his appointment at the White House.  It is easy to assume this was just do to the Holy Father giving quality time to the students standing near the Nunciature. However, a more cynical take may be that such a delay conveniently caused a South Lawn receiving line photo-op to be cut from the itinerary.  One wonders why the White House made such a big deal about the special guests, yet there was no receiving line nor photo ops with the crowd. 

18 September 2015

Trepidations About a Troll Party Takeover

It is interesting to attempt to understand Trump’s fanatical support.  I assumed that it mainly consisted of disgruntled Tea Party types who are disgruntled with the “Surrender Caucus” which currently rules Between-the-Beltways.  After the Second GOP Debate, however, social media Trump-etteers give a different impressions– unprincipled, uninformed, obnoxious and ultimately alienating.  In other words, tending to be troll-like.

One abrasiive interlocutor touted former one term Congressman Col.  Allen West (R-FL 22nd)  as being the right choice for Trump’s VP, She dismissed the possibility of having the former Florida Congressman as a replacement Speaker of the House if Boehner loses the Vacate the Chair vote for an unusual reason.  Not the unlikely novelty of electing a Speaker who no longer is a member of the House. But this Trump true believer tweeted: “The Speaker is just a vote counter spot and [Allen West is] more valuable than that.”  Hmm.  That was a novel, if not naive, understanding of American government.

So I chimed in noting that the Majority Whip is the House Republican vote-counter whereas the Speaker sets the agenda, acts as the face of the House and is third in line for the Presidency.  The social media shrew sarcastically claimed that she didn’t need to be schooled. Really? Yet I did not want to inherently alienate an anti-establishment Republican, I replied: “If you knew then you would not have asserted that House Speaker is just a vote counter. Sorry” Even this attempt at an olive branch gave umbrage yet this troll still wanted to blurt out more bile and incorrect assumptions on how the lower chamber works. My viewpoint was denigrated because I was too DC.  It seems that a handle like CalamityDC is too subtle of a  protest to business as usual in the District of Calamity (sic) for that Trump-eteer.

 Her cyber comrades in arms claimed to block me because “You can’t fix stupid.”  What a way to win friends and influence people! My heart certainly does not break for being blocked by a Trump-eteer troll. But I have to wonder what is the objective of these online activists?  I was not even questioning the merits of their desired nominee. I interjected with obective process information, yet Trump-eteers took it as an attack and made me the campaign equivalent of Scientology’s Suppressive Person (SP).  Guess that coalitions or even winning more Republicans is unnecessary to their bewitched beliefs.

Another close encounter of the social media kind was with a guy whose handle is “No More RINO Excuses”, but he was juxtaposing Donald Trump to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).  This struck me as strange that a libertarian Republican like Dr. Paul was labeled a Republican in name only. Fleshing out the dispute, the Trump-eteer disliked Dr. Paul’s disengagement from foreign military entanglements.  But the poster asserted that Mr. Trump would have a robust military.  I asked to be educated how this would be done, as Mr. Trump has only pronounced platitudes in his two debate performances and his so called major Foreign Policy speech (which only lasted for ten minutes) aboard the U.S..S. Iowa.

The Trump-eteer inquired if I watched the debate. Of course I had but I noted that it should be easy for him to tick off the specifics. Naturally, the Donald had not done so other than cite the slogans “Winning”, “Make America Great Again” and “I build the best military that I won’t even have to use it.”  When pressed for specifics, the Trump defender claimed that no candidate offers specifics at this time.  I observed that Carly Fiorina was quite specific about battalions and troops at the Reagan Library debate.  And I’ve even heard Dr. Ben Carson talk about replacing the Ohio class submarines.  What made me prick up my ears was how the flustered Trump-eteer suggested that I ask “The Donald” myself as I would be happier with his answers. Sure. This is a social media activist posting numerous pieces to support his candidate and thinks that a skeptical questioner is going to get the equivalent of “face time” with the candidate.

I saw another active social media commentator who sent hundreds of anti-Fiorina messages, accusing her of proliferating nuclear materials to the Persian Gulf.  When others asked what was his sourcing, the standard answer was a stonewall:  “Do your own homework”.  OK. Pugnatious, smearing and ambiguous.  Masochistically, I read a day’s worth of his reposts and messages to confirm who was his candidate.  Unsurprisingly, the diatribes started soon after the Reagan Library debate, pointing to an internet poll which purported that Trump beat Fiorina big league, so to speak. Similar internet polls claimed that in 2008 and 2012 that ex Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX 22nd) won huge victories after his debates.

Perhaps these are three isolated examples, but these  experience underscores Rich Wilson’s warning about not allowing the Republicans to be co-opted by Trump’s Troll. Like their leader, Trump-eteers love to point to the polls which have the billionaire with a Huuuge lead.  They don’t appreciate being challenged on the cross tabs.  Aside from discerning if it is a national poll (which means nothing more than name recognition) or a state poll.  Then there is sample size, party affiliation, percentage of undecided voters,  being registered or a likely voter etc... As silly season (the summer before Presidential primary season) ends, celebrity status driving name recognition wanes and voters get serious about their support for candidates to the Oval Office.

These exchanges relish the fight and refuse to give in, despite not having the fact on their side. That seems jesuitical. These internet exchanges do not seem based on constitutional principles. Nay, one gets the impression that details do not matter or ignorance on the interworkings of our Constitutional Republic. These cyber shock troops will brook no dissent nor take no prisoners. Such agitated activists would probably support having Charlie Sheen as Trump's as Vice President because of "Winning".  This is not out of the realm of possibility as the star of Anger Management is willing to be Trump's VP.

During an interview by Glenn Beck, social media expert John Cardillo analyzed the fervent support of Trump-eteers.  Cardillo opined that they were not Tea Party supporters but were part of 4-7% of Republican supporters with an identity crisis.  They are tired of losing and turn their anger towards the Republic Establishment without having defined goals or base principles.

 It is easy to liken this to rivid men of action during times of trouble in Western Europe in the aftermath of The Great War.  A charismatic leader who confidently promises to make the trains run on time can utilize such unquestioning foot soldiers as well as dispense of them when it becomes too inconvenient. Beck tends to think that the world is going into a very rough patch and that the polity has been framed in a top down/bottom up/inside out paradigm which creates chaos.  That is when the masses cry out for a strong man to make all the tumult go away, and perhaps making our Constitutional Republic go away in the process.

While politics is a favorite contact sport in the District of Calamity (sic), it must be admitted that poltics is not a beanbag sport. Prolonged primary campaigns involve endurance, strategy, building support, formulating and articulating proposed policy, persuading voters and getting out the vote. It can get rough and tumble in the primary trenches but in the end, it is hoped that the party can come out unified and offer an appealing vision which wins over Independents and undecided voters and becomes victorious. But the vacuity and vituperativeness which seems to characterize Troll Party elements calls those political precepts into question. In that case, is “Winning” just an empty boast like drinking tiger’s blood?

The current Republican field has a baker’s dozen of serious candidates that have anti-establishment animus would appeal to Tea Party Sympathies (Carson, Cruz, Walker, Paul, Jindal).  Thus the Tea Party vote is currently fragmented.  Winnowing of the primary field field may allow a coalescing around a couple of strong candidates who espouse Tea Party values. But  if the Troll Party overwhelms the Grand Old Party, it may be impossible to bridge the political chasms which divide Ameicans as the path will be blocked by untamed trolls. That may well be a bridge too far for principled constitutional conservatives.

h/t: Daily Beast 

14 September 2015

The Star Spangled Banner-- Sing It America!

Gen. Jerry Boykin on the National Anthem

Last year was the bicentennary of the penning of Francis Scott Key's of the Star Spangled Banner. Our National Anthem is based on a poem "The Defense of Fort McHenry" about the bombardment of Baltimore by the British during the War of 1812.  The British had just burned Washington, DC  and their forces were heading North to beat "rebel" American forces in Baltimore.  What stood in the way of British military dominance was Fort McHenry, which blocked warships from entering Baltimore harbor.

The British bombarded Fort McHenry for 27 hours.  Key was aboard a Royal Navy warship negotiating the release of a prison.  During the aerial siege, the American lawyer was taunted that soon the Stars and Stripes would be replaced by the Union Jack.  On the dawn of September 14, 1812 when Francis Scott Key saw the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry, he was inspired to write: 'Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?".

Shelli Jones Manuel 
Shelli Manuel, an accomplished musician and vocalist, was inspired to educate people about the Star Spangled Banner when she interviewed Baltimoreans about the National Anthem in the city of the song's birth, yet 80% of the adults and none of the youths knew any of the verse.  No wonder people chuckle nervously at scene in The Naked Gun (1988) when Detective Frank Drebin stumbled along when singing the Star Spangled Banner at a ballgame.

There have also been movements to replace the Star Spangled Banner as the National Anthem with the Woody Guthrie folk song "This Land Is Your Land" (1940).  Guthrie's ditty was written in reaction to his repulsion to hearing Kate Smith sing  Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" (1918) on the radio, as he thought that the lyrics were unrealistic and complacent. Guthrie tinkered with the tune to occasionally include overtly political verses which showed communist sympathies. It may be a fun song to sing around a campfire but does it really depict universal American values?

Pit Bull singing Nuestro Himno (2006)
In 2006, there was a push by a bunch of Latino pop stars like Pit Bull and  to make "Nuestro Himno" a de-facto hip-hop Hispanic National Anthem. Clearly, a Spanish version of a National Anthem takes away from the unity of one song brings a nation. This was foisted on the public in the midst of the 2006 push for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  What a way to Balkanize the country! 

But there is also the trickiness of translation.  The first stanza of "Nuestro Himno" was fairly accurately rendered, although references to bombs and rockets were referred to as "fierce combat" so as not to sound too militaristic.  However, the second stanza seems to totally rewrite Key's lyrics, expressing "we are equal, we are brothers."  An alternate version of "Nuestro Himno" including rapping in English exhorting: "Let's not start a war With all these hard workers They can't help where they were born."  Did they channel Woody Guthrie with some Latino flair? Fortunately, Nuestro Himno got mixed reviews and seems to have faded into the sunset. 

Miley Cyrus at 2015 VMA
In 2014, Miley Cyrus backed a "We the People" petition to President Obama to change the National Anthem from the Star Spangled Banner to "Party in the USA". Of course that publicity stunt should have been taken as seriously as Miley Cyrus would be by a Music Conservatory.  Still, the petition only fell 90,000 votes short of being addressed by the White House. Shelli Manuel and the Veterans of Foreign War also muted this mutiny of our National Anthem.

Why is it that there are multiple moves to replace the Star Spangled Banner as America's National Anthem?  Obviously, education is a key component for the anthematic cognitive dissonance. Our educational system seems to stress social history in lieu of patriotic concentrations.  Moreover, students are conditioned to consider the United States a warmonger, misinterpreting the "bombs and rockets" as aggression rather than standing in self-defense.

Another aspect which people wonder "What the Hail?" about our National Anthem is the tune.  Key was a lawyer and poet, not a composer. Hence he borrowed the already established tune "The Anacreontic Song" (To Anacreon in Heaven). Unfortunately, that was a popular English tavern tune which was used as a sobriety test-- members could be refused another round if sang off key or flubbed the lyrics.   Key ought not be chagrined at borrowing popular melodies, as that is what Guthrie did for "This Land Is Your Land" too.

There has been some consternation about stylized instrumental arrangements of the Star Spangled Banner, like Jimi Hendrix guitar solo rendition at Woodstock (1969) or Jose Feliciano's soulful arrangement at Tiger Stadium during the 1968 World Series.  

Tastes can differ but so long as the musician does not make a mockery of the National Anthem like Rosanne Barr did in 1990, we can tolerate it so long as the lyrics are not butchered or altered.

To combat this ignorance and indolence about the Star Spangled Banner, Shelli Manuel took a multi-faceted approach.  After singing at a subdued 2014 bicentennary celebration for the Star Spangled Banner in Baltimore, Shelli Manuel sprang into action.  Manuel organized Sing It America to educate the public about our National Anthem.  The group convinced the United States Senate to honor and give thanks to the Star Spangled Banner  to have a year long celebration of the Star Spangled Banner. Moreover, Senate Resolution. 550 (2014) expresses the Senate sentiment that all the current verses of the Star Spangled Banner remain the National Anthem in perpetuity, including the "Forgotten Prayer Verse"

But aside from symbolic Senate votes, Sing It America launched a comprehensive educational program to help students learn about the Star Spangled Banner.  

In the Bicentennial year, the National Symphony Orchestra premiered a new symphonic arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner at "A Capitol Fourth". But Shelli Manuel wanted to demonstrate that the Star Spangled Banner can be performed well in a variety of arrangements and settings.  So Sing It America arranged a Marathon 24 hour celebration of the Star Spangled Banner on the 201st anniversary from 5am to 5am on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Dozens of groups will sing the National Anthem every hour on the hour.

This dedication to the Star Spangled Banner shows that the National Anthem is not just a pro-forma tradition before sporting events.  The Sing It America Marathon and educational efforts invite Americans to deeply enter into the meaning of the Star Spangled Banner and see the lyrics of our National Anthem as a credo reflecting our freedom, our history, acknowledgement of Divine Providence, and self defense.