Quaker Candidate Forum 5/18/16

On Wednesday May 19 the Quakers had a Candidate Forum at their church.  Candidates attending were Tom Horne, Dave Wilson, Joe Pakootas and Krystol McGee.  It was a nice facility with plenty of room for the approximately 40 people attending.

We each got a 7 minute opening statement then it was open to questions from the floor.  This was the best Candidate Forum I have been to because there was time to develop your arguments.

The Quakers had sent us a letter with 9 good questions that they said they planned to ask us.  They were good questions and I spent 5 or 6 hours studying and answering the questions.   The time consuming part was that I did not agree with the premise of most of the questions.  I wanted to sequence my answer in a way to refute the premise then answer the question in a manner that did not alienate the audience with the first words out of my mouth.

I hate to let labor and thought go to waste so below are the questions we expected and the answers I would have given had the questions been asked.  These questions were not asked but I was able to steer a couple answers in the direction of the replies below.


Questions for Candidates for Washington’s Fifth Congressional District from the Quakers

Question 1 Setup.    Since 2001 Congress has provided neither checks nor balances to the president’s war powers. Both Bush and Obama administrations have invoked the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, AUMF, to justify military interventions, indefinite detention, and lethal drone attacks that spread terror in communities around the world. U.S. Special Forces are actively engaged in more than 100 countries yet, in the majority of these cases, Congress has not voted on or approved these uses of lethal force.

Question: Are you prepared to join the effort to repeal this law and have Congress take back its authority over where and how the U.S. goes to war?

  • The start point of this question should be The 1973 War Powers Act.  It requires the President notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without a Congressional AUMF or declaration of war.
  • The 2001 AUMF was authorized 3 days after 9/11 for attacking Al Qaeda, its affiliates and it’s sponsors. It was a recognition by President Bush and Congress that the effort against  Al Qaeda was going to take more than 60 days.  President Bush then took us to war in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and the failed state that supported it.
  • Seeking the 2001 AUMF was an effort by the Bush administration to abide by the spirit and letter of the War Powers act of 1973.
  • A year later President Bush requested a separate authorization to use Military force in Iraq. The authorizing bill was approved in the house and Senate.  Among those voting for it were Clinton, Kerry, Reid, Cantwell.  So President Bush did not use the 2001 AUMF to attack Iraq.  I don’t believe Bush abused the 2001 AUMF.
  • President Obama has never asked for any authorization beyond the 2001 AUMF for our actions in Lybia, Syria and for the reentry into Iraq where we now have 4,000 troops engaged in non combat combat.  I agree that these engagements stretched the intent of the 2001 AUMF.

I am not concerned about repealing the 2001 AUMF.  Al Qaeda and it’s affiliates are still out there.  However I would like to have a President who respected the intent of the 1973 War Powers Act and brought the question of each engagement to Congress for specific authorization, like Bush did.  Failing that, I would like a Congress and Press to hold the President’s feet to the fire when he abuses the 1973 War Powers Act.

Question 2 setup.  President Obama is proposing to spend a trillion dollars to modernize and add a thousand nuclear cruise missiles to our current arsenal. Plans to develop new cruise missiles reflect outdated Cold-War thinking that looks to deter threats from other global powers through the promise of quick and deadly retaliation. Over the past decade the U.S. has reduced our nuclear arsenal to fewer than 5,000 warheads. Instead of continuing the elimination of such weapons, current political discussions revolve around “improving” them, at enormous cost.

Question: Do you support former Defense Secretary William Perry’s call to cancel plans for developing a new nuclear cruise missile?

  • History is not over, so war is not over.
  • The nuclear genie will not be put back in the bottle. We will be very lucky to avoid massive proliferation in the Middle East and Asia due to our effective withdrawal from those regions which leads the countries that were once confident of our protection to have doubts.  As a result of these doubts and the aggressive posture of Iran, China and Russia we should expect countries to develop their own Nuclear deterrent.
  • Our nuclear deterrent capability must be maintained. Congress should provide sufficient oversight  to insure that the capability is maintained in a cost efficient manner and be a credible weapon.  This is not cheap.  I read the Wasington Post article detailing Perry’s objections to the new cruise missile.  It is a subject worth consideration at length with inputs from other credible experts on the subject.  I would like to see the case for the new missiles put forward in a similar level of detail before I made up my mind on this one.

Question 3 setup.  The military is often the face of U.S. foreign policy, yet violent extremism is on the rise; in 2013 alone, the U.S. State Department reports that extremist attacks increased by 43 percent. Groups such as ISIS cannot be bombed out of existence. Violence thrives in conditions of poverty, oppression, corruption, and scarcity of resources, which military action can’t effectively address. As of January 2016, for the first time in nearly a decade, Iran doesn’t have enough fuel to build a nuclear bomb. Under the agreement, Iran is subject to the most intrusive nuclear inspection regime ever negotiated. This agreement was possible because the U.S. and Iran talked through their disagreements using tools of peace rather than threats and violence.  After 30 years of threats and confrontation that had the U.S. on the brink of war with Iran several times, diplomacy with Iran has made the world safer. The U.S. needs to build on this diplomatic success in the Middle East.

Question: As a member of Congress will you support U.S. diplomatic engagement and make a priority of putting funding for diplomacy and development at the center of our foreign policy if elected?

  • The motivator behind ISIS is not poverty, oppression and the rest, it is a religious ideology, Salafi Islam, or it’s brother Wahabi Islam, the State Religion of Saudi Arabia.  This problem has broken out into terrorism over wide swaths of the world due to the Saudi Religious establishment funding Wahabi evangelical efforts all over the world.  They have spent well over $100 Billion funding Mosques and madrasas all over the world since about 1980.  This investment is now paying it’s dividend in blood.
  • The Saudi’s started feeding and riding this Tiger in 1980 to maintain their power in Saudi Arabia.  Their piety and authority was questioned by an armed bunch of militant Islamists that took over the Grand Mosque in Mecca.  After retaking the mosque and chopping off the heads of he survivors, they made a Faustian bargain with the Wahhabi religious leadership and the world is now paying for it.  They vastly increased their funding and gave them control over education and social life in the Kingdom, in return for Wahhabi support for the legitimacy of the Saud Royal family.
  • ISIS is a loose bunch with 30,000 to 40,000 fighters and no logistics tail.  They can’t manufacture spare parts or weapons or ammunition or grow food.  They are living off the population of areas they control.  Until recently, for over 2 years, they have been selling oil, transported via a fleet of tanker trucks over long distances of open country, under our President’s timid nose.  Their funding can be cut off and they can be starved out of existence but the Obama Administration does not have the guts to do it.  They would have to commit serious ground forces and reengage in Iraq to actually get the job done.  They will just kick the can down the road to the next President.
  • The Iran nuclear deal is a bad deal. In the first place, their government has not even signed the deal yet.  The inspection regime is not rigorous as stated.  It was constantly dumbed down over the course of the negotiations.  The sanctions cannot be reimposed quickly, there is no “snap back” and even if they could, Iran will already have the benefit of $100 Billion in unfrozen assets.  The Iranian long range missile program continues unaffected.  There is no point in a long range IRBM or ICBM without a nuclear warhead.  If the Iranians fully comply with the agreement, in ten years Iran will be able to quickly build nuclear weapons, their infrastructure will be in place.
  • Pollyanna type diplomacy, as practiced by the Obama administration, with no credible threat of military action is counter productive.
  • Obviously Diplomacy based on recognition of reality is important and should be at the core of our foreign policy effort.

Question 4 Setup.  Prison population in the United States has grown 500 percent in the last 30 years, mostly because of changes in state and federal sentencing laws, rather than increases in crimes. This system of mass incarceration is expensive, unfair and unjust. Having 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world prisoners. The prison system consumes nearly a fourth of the Department of Justice’s entire budget for which taxpayers are footing the bill. The burden of the sentences themselves fall most heavily on people of color and communities suffering from the loss of too many of their members.

Question: Do you support legislation to reform sentencing laws and reduce the number of people in Federal prisons?

  • I support reducing the sentences for non violent drug offenses.

Question 5 Setup.  Droughts, wild fires, rising sea levels, and weather extremes, all effects of climate change, are becoming common place. Support for addressing this issue crosses party lines with bipartisan calls for dialogue and action on essential policy solutions —  such as reducing carbon emissions, promoting conservation and use of renewable energy.

Question: If elected will  you work to support bi-partisan solutions to climate change?

  • There are two separate problems that have been linked together – pollution and Climate Change.
  • I believe that air, land and water pollution is a problem and I will be actively engaged in efforts to reduce pollution because it kills people directly and sets us up for long term reductions in food production.  However, the EPA is way out of line, overstepping the intent of Congress when the EPA was created.  The EPA and the laws that created it need a review and re authorization.  The rules created by the EPA, that have the force of law, should be immediately reviewed by congress.
  • In recorded history there have been several climate eras of generally warm periods and generally colder periods. We need to keep this in mind for proper perspective on our era. 
    • Roman Warm Period, about 650 years ending in 400 AD
    • A 500 year colder period, with crop failures and famine corresponding to the Dark Ages, ending about 900 AD
    • The Mideval warm period, 300 years ending about 1250
    • The Little Ice age, 500 years ending about 1850
    • Our era, since 1850, about 3 modern lifetimes, 165 years of gradual warming.
  • Bi-Partisan solutions to climate change? Like Solyndra, $500 Million Tax Payer dollars down the drain, that lined crony pockets.  These “solutions” are largely boondoggles.  WHY?
    • You cannot store electricity on a utility scale except in the few places suitable for pumped hydro storage.
    • Until we can store electricity on a utility scale, Renewable energy systems are boondoggles with a lot of crony’s making a lot of money. They would not exist without subsidies and mandates.
    • Wind and solar have not allowed shutting down the first generator plant, because there has to be a source of electricity at night and when the wind is not blowing.  Power plants have been shut down due to the expense of compliance with new EPA emissions requirements.  This has removed needed redundancy in our power supply system, to the point that we are in danger of widespread blackouts if a few power plants are down for maintenance and a couple have simultaneous failures.
    • Fossil fuel fired generating plants backing up wind and solar must be in a hot running back up mode ready, to pick up the load in a matter of a minute or two. In hot running back up mode they are not operating at optimal efficiency, so they are wasting some fuel energy.

Question 6 Setup.  There’s wide agreement that our immigration system is broken, but the agreement ends there. A comprehensive approach to immigration reform would keep families together, end mandatory detentions, ensure legal representation for asylum-seekers, provide a path for legalization and create an equitable and practical solution for the millions of immigrants in the U.S. without documentation.

Question: Do you support comprehensive reform of our immigration system that would treat those touched by this system with respect and dignity?

  • I want everybody to be treated with respect and dignity.
  • Importing the world’s poor is not going to solve world poverty, indeed we provide a safety valve preventing needed revolutions. It is easier to come here than to stay in a crap hole country and fight to make it decent.
  • We are a nation of laws. That is what makes this a place people flee to.  Our immigration laws have not been enforced for over 20 years.  That is not an accident it is a dishonest policy of both parties.  The only law you can always count on is the law of Supply and Demand.  Big Donors know that.  Our labor markets are flooded with millions of desperate illegals and now nearly a million tech workers here on H1B visas that are effectively indentured to the employer that sponsored the visa.  This holds down wages for the benefit of the big donors.  Our wages have stagnated in real terms for a generation, at least partly due to this over supply of labor.
  • I support vigorous enforcement of existing immigration laws. Making new laws to not enforce is a waste of time.
  • I am OK with deporting large numbers of people. Priority on deportation would be illegal alien criminals, illegal aliens on social welfare programs, illegal aliens making no effort to assimilate.
  • People come here for jobs and access to our social safety network. Use all administrative means to detect illegal aliens on payrolls and on social program rolls and remove them.  Fine employers heavily.

Question 7 Setup.  Congressional efforts to regulate campaign spending were struck down in recent court rulings. The U.S. campaign finance system now allows corporations and wealthy individuals to have undue influence on decisions that should be decided democratically. This has detrimental effects on ordinary citizens’ faith in our democratic system.

Question: If elected will you work to preserve the critical democratic value of equal participation in elections?

  • This question is prompted by the January 2010 Supreme Court decision on a case called Citizens United.  In the case, the conservative non-profit organization Citizens United wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts within 30 days of a primary election.  A lower court held that this violated the McCain – Feingold Campaign reform act.  On appeal the Supreme Court found for Citizens United and said they should have been able to buy the airtime to advertise the film on the basis that McCain Feingold restricted free speech.  The Supreme Court struck down all provisions of McCain Feingold that prohibited corporations (including nonprofit corporations) and unions from making independent expenditures and “electioneering communications”.
  • Prohibiting corporations from spending money on elections, essentially to buy time and space in media to make their argument, sounds good at first glance.  A closer look reveals that some corporations would be exempt.  How are you going to prevent media corporations, FOX News, or MSNBC from broadcasting their views?  We have freedom of the press.   Who is going to decide what the news media can say?  Nobody said freedom was easy or always seems fair.  Corporations should all be treated the same.  If you can’t restrict the speech of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp or Pinch Sulzberger’s New York Times Company, how can you restrict the speech of the Koch brother’s Koch Industries?  Citizens United was a good decision confirming free speech rights and equal treatment for all.

Question 8 Setup.  Since the reforms of the Clinton Administration in 1996 the number of families living in deep poverty has doubled. Between 1979 and 2007, the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent — while the average income of the top 1 percent grew more than 200 percent.  Access to programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), SNAP (food stamps), child nutrition  programs, and housing assistance are essential to preventing hunger and homelessness. Children whose families receive help from these programs do better in school, are more likely to go to college, and enjoy higher earnings as adults.

Question: Are you committed to seeing that federal assistance programs are adequately funded and that tax and budget decisions promote economic mobility and opportunity, rather than exacerbating current trends of stagnating wages and growing pockets of deep poverty?

  • Assistance programs are concentrating on the wrong end of this problem. People need good jobs.  We need economic growth to make those jobs available.  I will concentrate on measures to improve economic growth.  Lower the corporate tax rate and eliminate almost all loopholes, so that companies like GE pay taxes rather than the wages of a battalion of lawyers.  Our Congressional district’s economy could be greatly improved by reigning in the EPA to revitalize mining and logging, the engines that originally built this region.
  • Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science.
    • First, graduate from high school.
    • Second, get married before you have children, and stay married.
    • Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage.
    • Finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior. 
  • Most People become poor and stay poor in this country due to bad decisions. Our social safety net makes it possible for people to exist still making bad decisions.
  • I would concentrate on programs to get people out of poverty, not maintain them in poverty.  Tough love comes to mind.