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In Remembrance


September 11, 2001.

There are only a few dates in a person’s life that can be recalled in perfect clarity. Dates where your memories are supercharged by the emotions felt that day, dates that haunt your dreams and whose events can be replayed like an old video.

My wedding day is one such day for me. The other is not nearly so happy: September 11, 2001.

It was my first day off from work in nearly two months, and I rewarded myself by sleeping in that morning. I was sitting at my kitchen table, a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper (yes, back then, a newspaper was not unusual) in front of me when my wife hollered from the living room. “A plane just hit the World Trade Center!” she yelled. “It’s on the TV. Come and see!”

I’m ashamed to admit that my first reaction was that it was a bad accident, but one I had been expecting for years. After all, those two skyscrapers jutted out, almost into the air lanes at the very southern tip of Manhattan. That no pilot had accidentally run into them before I considered a miracle.

I went into the living room, coffee in hand. My wife had the Today show on. They were showing the smoke pouring from the building via a helicopter shot and Matt Lauer was babbling about the WWII bomber that ran into the Empire State Building. I remember thinking that as much as I had dreaded a pilot losing his way and flying into one of those towers, I couldn’t wrap my head around how one had done so on that morning. The weather seemed so perfect, the skies so clear, that it seemed impossible that a pilot couldn’t have seen where the hell he was flying.

Fast forward a bit, and the first reports came in that air traffic controllers had lost contact with the plane before the crash. “Maybe the pilot had a stroke,” I remarked to my wife. It was 9:01 am. I remember the time because I had glanced at the wall clock as I turned to go back into the kitchen. I was hungry and about to root around for some food.

2 minutes later, my wife was screaming, “Another plane just crashed into the South Tower!” It was the moment our world changed. Because at that moment, I knew this wasn’t an accident. It was a planned, coordinated attack on the very heart of our economic might, on symbols of our national strength. Someone had just declared war on the United States.

Do you remember how you felt at the moment you first realized that? I do. I was pissed off. And confused, because like most Americans I had no idea who it might be. I had never heard of Al Queada, and never in a million years would I have guessed a bunch of cave dwelling goat herders could be sophisticated enough to use our own aircraft to attack us.

After that, of course, came the mad scramble. I called my store, told my employees to lock up and head home for the day. Called my DM to tell him what I did and why (like a lot of people, he was already at work and had no idea what was going on yet). And then the phone lines were jammed – nobody could a call through, which just added to my wife’s anxiety. I wasn’t certain if it was another attack or just everyone in the country trying to call one another, but I wasn’t taking chances. We raced to the school to grab our kids, just in case this was a precursor to a larger attack.

Of course, there were two more attacks that morning: flight 77 rammed into the Pentagon, and the heroes of flight 93 averted a major disaster by taking back their plane and crashing it before it reached Washington.

At 9:59, the South Tower collapsed – and like everyone else, I was shocked. One plane brought down a 1000 foot skyscraper? A few minutes later, the North Tower followed it’s sister to its death.

I was numb. I was angry. I was afraid.

And I wanted whoever had done this to be beaten to a bloody pulp, heads ripped from their necks, a pike driven so far up their asses that when it rained they could get a colonic.

When a date is so traumatic, so vivid, that it can be shared by a generation, it is a milestone event, a moment in history that can galvanize and define nations. Such is September 11.

God bless those who lost their lives that day and the men and women who toiled for weeks after to search for survivors and perished as a result.

May God bless the United States.

#NeverForget

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The Insanity of the Butthurt


Last night I came across this tweet from Tom Nichols:

To be fair to Tom, he’s been one of my favorite writers for some time now and I don’t mean to pick on him, per se. But it was this tweet that got me thinking about the group of Never Trumper’s and what I suspect is more than a severe case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

I understand their central complaint: Trump is an uncouth lout who prefers trolling the left to decorum, and even dares to use louder dog whistles than their preferred candidates. I suspect it runs a bit deeper than that, though. The President paints with a broad brush, mostly because a lifetime spent in marketing and promotion has taught him that people react most viscerally to generalizations, not specifics. So when the President decries the corruption that runs rampant within the intel community and Department of Justice, he doesn’t focus on specific people until after he’s carpet bombed the departments. This often leaves the surviving members of that department fearing that their particular institution will be irreparably damaged. Most of the prominent Never Trumper’s have significant attachment to those institutions, could have prevented said carpet bombing by rooting out the corruption before Mr. Trump took office, and instead are complicit in its existence. They may be upstanding people of principle, but they will forever be tainted by giving the wrong people the benefit of the doubt.

The other issue I see consistently raised is that Trump has a unique negotiating style. You could call it, “take it or leave it, but if you leave it, I’ll do my best to nuke the road back.” It is confrontational, in-your-face, undiplomatic – and thus far, effective. After a generation of leaders who have gone the diplomatic route with middling results, this new tact may upset traditional allies and foes alike, but it has already resulted in a renegotiated NAFTA, the potential of a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, increased contributions from the other NATO countries and brought the Chinese and EU to the negotiating table.

On the domestic policy front, that same confrontational style has brought mixed results. The largest tax rewrite in a generation was prodded along by the President, but it comes with an increase in spending that would make most Democratic presidents blush. Full repeal of Obamacare remains a pipe dream, but the courts are largely being remade along constitutionalist lines because of the President’s unflinching resolve to nominate constitutionalists to the bench.

This is what puzzles me regarding the stance Nichols and his ilk are taking. Maybe they don’t understand how far to the left the Democrats are going. Most of us have suspected that “democratic socialism,” with all that entails, has been the aim of the Democratic party base for the past 50 years. If they acknowledge that we are engaged in a fight to prevent those who would push globalism at any cost, government control over every aspect of our lives and the attendant despair and poverty those changes would create from ever gaining power again, then how can they counsel voting for those same people? I’m not saying every Republican is a saint; far from it. But they are far better than the alternative.

I understand being frustrated with a President who, to put it mildly, usually acts like a spoiled 3 year old in a candy store. Many is the day I wish someone would take a hammer and do a Hillary to his phone. The pettiness and unnecessary feuds accomplish little. But at the same time, those same personality traits have laid bare the hypocrisy of the mainstream media for all to see, and forced Americans for the first time in 80 years to question just why their federal government has ballooned to the point that most of us have no idea just what it is doing. He is the first President in two generations to address immigration in terms the American people understand – and largely support.

The tension the Never Trumpers attribute to Donald Trump has existed in the country for far longer than they want to admit. Trump is only the manifestation of those anxieties. If you like, you can call him the right’s ying to the left’s yang of President Obama. Now, would I have preferred another man to fill the ying? Sure. But here’s the thing: only one of the other 16 people who ran for President in 2016 acknowledged that the fundamental divide between left and right is cultural, not strictly policy driven. To this day, the Never Trump faction still doesn’t seem to grasp this fact.

Perhaps one day, a third party will rise up to address not only the cultural differences but also the need for smaller, limited and fiscally responsible governance (my hope is the modern Federalists fill the bill). But until then, I will continue to vote for the Republicans. The reason is simple: as bad as most of them are, they’re still better than the party that wants to destroy both the nation and the fabric that holds us together.

Tom Nichols and his friends need to wake up to that fact, too, before history records them in the same paragraph as Benedict Arnold.


On Moral Character


You could be excused for thinking it’s 2016 again.

After all, we’re litigating the President’s character and moral compass again. That was the central theme of the 2016 general election. I argued against his selection as the Republican nominee on those very grounds, often and vociferously. And you know what? The problem with those arguments was always that the people he ran against are hardly paragons of moral certitude.

Thus it was during the general election. Those arguments that Hillary Clinton tried, casting aspersions on Donald Trump’s character, might have held water – except they were being made by Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t that anyone thought Trump is a man of virtue. His 40+ years in the public spotlight have proven to all but the most blinded that he is anything but virtuous. But if there is one politician alive who is even more corrupt and morally bereft than the Donald, it is the former First Lady.

So, Americans went to the polls, held their noses, and elected Mr. Trump to be the 45th President. Contrary to what professional punditry claims, it wasn’t personality that landed him in the White House. It was the difference in what each party, and candidate, proffered as policy prescriptions for the United States. They chose the more conservative of those two visions. They chose Trump.

As expected, the Democrats have continued to hammer away at character, because they really have no other tools with which to engage in political debate. While there are policies President Trump has pursued that are anathema to doctrinaire conservatives, and he’s been a little squishy on some others, for the most part he has stuck to the conservative script. The adoption of those policies has resulted in an economic boom unlike anything this nation has seen in a generation. Moreover, his judicial appointments (considerable in that they are mostly Constitutionalists and in number) promise to begin stemming the tide of judicial activists that have largely torn the social fabric of the nation.

So long as he continues to deliver a robust economy and solid appointments, Republicans will continue to support him, character be damned. After all, that issue was litigated and determined to be of little importance to the general public.

Now we’ve reached another inflection point. We can be reasonably certain that not only is the President a cad, his choice in women remains…juvenile. We know this because his fixer has all but admitted he directed payments to a pornographic actress and a nude model at then candidate Trump’s instruction.

Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans have seized on this latest revelation as if it proves the President is a mass murderer. Even their attempts at at saying he violated campaign finance laws and therefore deserves immediate impeachment have proven more hyperbole than fact, as even the FEC admits Mr. Trump didn’t endanger our republic any more than candidates Obama, Clinton, McCain, Bush, Kerry, et al. So now, they’re back to pressing the character question, as if it were a question at all.

What all of this hew and cry fails to do is respect the judgement of the voting public. The typical American hears all about yet another President who can keep his pants on around the fairer sex and thinks, “How does this affect me?”. The answer, of course, is it doesn’t. We’ve suffered (if that’s the right word) through philandering presidents more often than we care to remember, and provided they delivered results all was forgiven.

Would I prefer the President were the virtuous sort? Of course I would. But I look at our current crop of politicians and quite frankly, the only one who matches that description is the current Vice President. So, I’ll stick with the current President, thank you very much.


Are You Confused About Democratic Socialism?


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Social democracy … was born of Marxism …[the] other camp called for a gradual transition to socialism — one country, one institution within a country, one system, like a healthcare or school system — one step — at a time. This was what came to be called social democracy.

~Umair Haque, writing for Eudaimonia

 

Many of our friends on the left mean well enough. Understandably, they don’t want children shot in schools. They don’t want to see their neighbors go hungry. They don’t want someone shot simply because their skin tone was wrong. What they don’t understand is that those of us on the right don’t want those things, either.

The difference is in the way we approach what we all agree the problems are. Folks on the right know human nature is what it is, that the only real solution to problems that are moral in nature is for each individual to acknowledge their shortcomings and strive to improve. Those on the left have latched onto a shortcut, a lazier way to attempt a solution, but advocating government step in to restrict any freedoms that might potentially be unsafe. Little do they realize that if they spent half the energy they do on convincing us of their piety on effecting the change in moral attitudes, we all could along much better.

But it is far easier to throw their money (and yours) at the government, in the hope that even if government cannot effect the proper change in attitudes it can at least effect a begrudging change in behavior. The problem is once the boot heel is removed, the natural state of things quickly returns – and government must then reinforce the preferred behavior, almost invariably by force.

I doubt a sweeping preponderance of liberals understand how allowing a pair of humankind’s natural proclivities – sympathy and sloth – to guide their lives is being used by hardcore Marxists to assume power. They refuse to see, or worse, have resigned themselves to what they see as a depressingly required way of survival.

Of course, the goal for the committed left is still for the world to live in a Marxist state of being. By their own admission, the Marxists have just simply changed tactics – from outright, bloody coups to a much more insidious revolution. Unfortunately, too many people allow their sympathies to be manipulated into compliance. They chant, “but the children!” or “racism!” or “income inequality!” or simply knowingly nod their heads at those who do. Then one day, they awaken to find they have no freedom left and no idea how it even went away; if freedom was ever more than an illusion of the past, much less an idea of the effort it takes to win it back. All because they have no idea of the effort required to even protect their freedoms from the rampaging mob.

We thought fighting for the ideals of Locke, Jefferson, Madison, Smith, et al., had ended with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Little did we pay attention to that other branch of Marxist ideology, the “democratic socialist.” Now we stand on the brink once again, but the threat is more insidious. As opposed to the in your face Marxism of the Soviet, this branch is playing a long game. It is not looking to use overt acts of violence to destabilize civilization. Rather, this one uses the very tools of civilization to usurp and overthrow individual freedom, relegating our God-given liberties to a burial ground, potentially for centuries to come.

So, it remains up to us, those of the committed right, the classical liberals, the conservatives – it is our mission to win this battle. Failure cannot be an option, for our failure will mean the abdication of the principles that have guided humanity from wretched feudalism to our current prosperity.


It’s Not “Trump’s Party” & It Never Was


This weekend has brought forth another wave of editorials, essays and TV commentaries lamenting that the Republican Party is now the party of Trump. In the wake of his primary loss, Mark Sanford wrote a piece lamenting the fact that he “wasn’t Trump enough” and that voters wanted someone who is obsequious to the current Commander-in-Chief. George Will, in his usual excessive verbiage, urged Republicans to *gasp* vote for Democrats in this years mid-terms. Why the apostasy? In his eyes, Congressional Republicans have abandoned their principles to get a tax cut.

What these gentlemen, and the other old-guard types seem incapable of fathoming, is that it isn’t allegiance to Trump is not the defining ethos of the modern GOP. What they haven’t come to terms with is for the vast majority of Republicans, their views on issues, and which issues should take precedence, do not match the Bush (read: neocon) value structure at all. Elected Republicans who fail to recognize this and represent their constituents values are being removed from office at the ballot box. The intelligentsia that refuses to accept this change is being asked, often impolitely, to leave.

President Trump is the embodiment of those values, same as Barack Obama or George Bush were the embodiments of their party’s values during their terms of office. Yes, there are aspects of his personality that are grating – but it is those same aspects that are particularly appealing to the Republicans who gave their allegiance for last quarter century to the Bush wing of the party and got very little in return for it. Those erstwhile pundits place the locus of their attention on the President’s personality while ignoring, misunderstanding or worse, belittling the values President Trump epitomizes.

During the nearly 30 years that the Bush family and their values were ascendant within the GOP, they emphasized the “neoconservative” value structure: multinational cooperation in military and economic affairs, acquiescence to multinational corporate interests, loose immigration controls, compromise on societal issues. They thought the Tea Party movement was either a validation of that value structure, a personal repudiation of Barack Obama, or perhaps both. In reality, it was a repudiation of both Barack Obama (and the post-modern liberalism he represented) and the existing GOP power structure. The 2016 election, in which the last champions of neocon ideology were electorally trounced, should have told them their days were over.

There are aspects of this new, much more conservative ideology I am uncomfortable with. I do not support trade tariffs, nor am in agreement with increasing the power of the federal government. The spending increases and failure to address – indeed, ignore – the fiscal crisis is particularly galling to me. But I’m adult enough to admit that certain aspects of Republicanism that I supported in the past – in particular, multinational trade agreements – have turned out to be abject failures for most Americans. It would behoove the most ardent neocons to look around and recognize where they failed, and to start working out the reasons.

Much of the current GOP platform is things to which the Bush wing paid lip service. They never quite understood that for the rank-and-file, the parts of the platform the elites held in disdain are the important parts. The rank-and-file was willing to back the elites play on the idealistic parts of their agenda in return for their work on those things the elites found, to borrow a phrase, “deplorable.”

The professional politicians forgot that politics is less about ideals than results. Something I constantly hear is that politics has become “too transactional.” What they forgot is that our Founding Father’s devised a system of transactional politics. Politicians who fail to deliver the results their constituents want are not reelected. For 30 years, Republicans were waiting for the GOP candidates to deliver. They didn’t. They got fired. As for the rest, they can get with the program. Failing that, they can find a new political home. They stole the GOP in the late 1980’s. Trump’s voters reasserted their control in 2016, and are continuing that purge today.


Spare Ye Not the Children


Caged Kids

No matter how many people claim to be well informed and skeptical of the MSM, this week’s outrage over illegal alien children being separated from illegal alien adult guardians proves the lie to their claims. To hear the MSM (and many of the well-intentioned, but easily led astray sheep) tell it, the Trump administration has engaged in the most despicable act against migrants in recorded history. They first tried this tack a few weeks ago, when a slew of “journalists” shared the above picture on social media. What they failed to mention at the time was that the picture is four years old and depicts the way the Obama administration treated the illegal alien children of illegal alien adults. Say what you want about Trump (he is certainly an immigration hard-liner), at least his administration hasn’t taken to putting children in dog kennels. Caught in their lie, within 48 hours the scurillous dogs were forced to recant. But they only regrouped and freshened their assault.

The other thing they won’t mention is that this has been the policy of every administration dating back to that Bill Clinton. There’s a very good reason for this, and no, it isn’t because anyone thinks the kids are carrying backpack bombs.

It’s because it is what the law requires.

The President and his media critics are both guilty of dissembling here. There is no individual law that requires children caught entering the country illegally be separated from their parents. Rather, it is the result of several individual laws and court precedents that require being detained separately.

The United States is no stranger to crime waves. What made the crime wave of the late 1960’s and 70’s different than prior crime waves was the ages of many of the suspects. The number of juveniles arrested for felonies skyrocketed, straining the resources available for detaining juveniles prior to adjudication of their cases or even bail hearings. At a loss, many jurisdictions began housing these juveniles in adult detention centers, usually (but not always) in a segregated unit. Most Americans were shocked and appalled at the thought and in 1974, Congress amended 18 USC 5035 to require that juveniles not be held with adult prisoners:

The Attorney General shall not cause any juvenile alleged to be delinquent to be detained or confined in any institution in which the juvenile has regular contact with adult persons convicted of a crime or awaiting trial on criminal charges. Insofar as possible, alleged delinquents shall be kept separate from adjudicated delinquents.

So here we have the first stage of the current problem: we’ve had a law on the books for 44 years now that strictly precludes housing children accused of an illegal act with adults accused and/or convicted of an illegal act.

But is entering the country without advance permission from the federal government a crime? I mean, we’ve all heard the mantra “People are not illegal!” Well, actually – yes. 8 USC 1101 defines who is, and is not, permitted to gain entry into the United States. 8 USC 1325 makes it quite clear what the penalties are for entering the country without permission:

Any alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States … shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.

Despite all the liberal caterwauling about gaining illegal entry to the country being a civil offense, this statute is black-letter law defining that act as a criminal offense. Yes, a subsequent section of the statute does allow for the imposition of civil penalties (specifically, a fine of $50 to $250). But the act of entering the United States by persons not permitted entry is an illegal act (hence the term, “illegal alien”) and we have the second piece of the puzzle.

As noted above, juveniles held on suspicion of an illegal act (such as entering the country with out prior authorization) cannot be held in the same facility as adults held on suspicion of illegal acts (such as entering the country without prior authorization). By statute, both the accompanying adult and the child are guilty of the same offense. By statute, the children cannot be held in the same facility as the accompanying adult. By statute, they must be separated.

“But wait!” your liberal friends cry. Can’t we just release the parents and kids on their own recognizance? Or send them back across the border to await an immigration hearing? This is where things get a bit murkier. For starters, Congress decreed in 8 USC 1225 different classes of illegal aliens. The liberal media loves to focus on those whose country of origin is in the Western Hemisphere, but does not share a border with the United States, and is applying for asylum. Conservative media focuses on those from Mexico. Nobody talks about the fact that over half of illegal aliens are from the other half of the planet. Yet, under this statute each is a distinct class of alien – and each has separate procedures for immigration hearings. And this is only a few of the more than a dozen distinct alien classes established in law.

As for those procedures, they are established under 8 USC 1229a. In some cases, a hearing before an immigration judge is required. In others, an asylum officer. In some cases, an ICE or Border Patrol agent can unilaterally decide to deport a detainee.

So, we’ve established summarily deporting illegal aliens is not permissible under US law and that the vast majority of illegal aliens are due some form of immigration hearing. We’ve also determined that the law requires detaining them for said hearing. But why can’t we detain them, issue them bail and send them on their way, hoping they’ll appear for their hearing? A little more history is in order here.

18 USC 3142 is the federal statute regarding bail and pretrial detention. Paragraph (b) defines the classes of person who should be held without bail:

(1) such person—
(A) is, and was at the time the offense was committed, on—
(i) release pending trial for a felony under Federal, State, or local law;
(ii) release pending imposition or execution of sentence, appeal of sentence or conviction, or completion of sentence, for any offense under Federal, State, or local law; or
(iii) probation or parole for any offense under Federal, State, or local law; or
(B) is not a citizen of the United States or lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined in section 101(a)(20) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(20)); or
(2) such person may flee or pose a danger to any other person or the community;

This particular piece of law has been fraught with controversy over the years. It’s application to immigration law is no different. In 1994, Lithuanian immigrant Kestutis Zadvydas (who had been granted residency) was ordered deported for a felony conviction. However, the three other countries where he might have been sent refused to take him (after all, dude was a bad apple) and he wound up languishing in prison with no hope of being released. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that the section of 8 USC 1231 which provided for indefinite detention of legal aliens awaiting deportation was in violation of the Constitutions 5th and 8th Amendments.

It was a controversial decision at the time. It is the basis for what has been termed our “catch and release” policy of granting illegal aliens a bail hearing and never seeing them again. Indeed, within the first three years after the ruling, USCIS was forced to release 134,000 aliens convicted of other crimes. It’s estimated another 56,000 have found a sort of limbo asylum in the US since then, as the Bush administration USCIS determined that even though Zadvydas did not specifically apply to illegal aliens it was better to broadly interpret the ruling.

But that administration did not entirely give up the idea of deporting illegal aliens who, despite not being in the country legally, commenced with committing other crimes. In 2004 USCIS ordered the indefinite detention of Alex Rodriguez, a Mexican national convict. It was this application of law that led the Obama administration in 2013 to implement the policies that led to the above picture. It that application of law that the Trump administration has been dutifully following since assuming office.

The case of Jennings, et al v. Rodriguez, et al was first heard (and defended by the Obama administration) in 2016. The justices deadlocked. It was then re-heard in 2017, this time with the Trump administration defending. In February of this year, the Supreme Court ruled that illegal aliens do not have the right to bail and may, in fact, be detained indefinitely.

Which brings us back to where we started. Anyone entering the country is breaking the law. Our laws demand that children crossing the border be removed from their parents and held separately, and further can make that separation permanent.

We can debate until our faces are blue on the morality and necessity of such laws. Given our history with immigration, we probably will. And given the media’s fascination with conveniently forgetting how 35 years of immigration law and jurisprudence have shaped this situation, I’m pretty certain that the Trump administration will continue to be unfairly browbeaten about it. At least until next week, when another scandal will be created and sensationalized.


Trump’s Vassal State Problem


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A recurring theme among our media betters is a disbelief that President Trump would treat the other members of the G-7 with so much more disdain than he treats Russia, China and North Korea. Their difficulty is because for all of their expertise and hubris, they can’t get past their navel gazing. If they simply opened their eyes and thought about it, the reason for this would be so obvious it would jump up and slap them in the face.

The reason is not that Trump is a bombastic crybaby, nor that he lacks empathy, nor that he misunderstands history. It isn’t that he disregards what are regarded as diplomatic and foreign policy norms. It has nothing to do with his narcissism or love of McDonald’s burgers.

Indeed, he gave us the biggest clue to the one driving theme of his foreign policy in the impromptu news conference prior to the start of the G-7 confab this past weekend. Mr. Trump said, “We have a world to run.” Was he talking about the assembled “world leaders” of the G-7? Or was he alluding to something else?

One of the most interesting things I constantly hear is that President Trump has no grasp of history, no concept of the United States role in shaping world affairs, or the post-WWII international order. I don’t think that’s the case whatsoever. If anything, he has demonstrated a more focused understanding of those things than the talking heads on TV, or the failed diplomats who clutter the airwaves with their talking points. They prattle incessantly about a world order that has never existed anywhere except in their minds. It was the relentless pursuit of this fiction that led to many of the disastrous American foreign policy actions over the last 25 years.

Trump regards the lesser members of the western alliance (what we usually refer to as “first world nations”) as nothing more than vassal states. For those of you who don’t understand the concept (Hi, cast members of Morning Joe!), a vassal state is one that has pledged loyalty to a larger state. It receives a promise of security from external threats and financial assistance, along with a pledge of limiting interference in internal politics. In exchange, the vassal provides some military forces and pays tribute to the dominant partner.

Vassal states have existed for as long as human civilization. The Egyptians and Hittites both had clients in the Middle East even before anyone invented writing. (We know this because the earliest written tablets known to us, from both Egypt and Anatolia, describe those civilizations relationships with everyone from the Ammorites to the Sumerians). And contrary to popular myth, they did not disappear with the end of the First World War.

If you stop to think about the post-WWII order, this is exactly the scenario the world found itself in. There were two dominant states (the USA & USSR), and each had a collection of vassals. For the US, those vassals were the members of NATO, Japan, Australia, and other various small countries. The Soviets had vassal clients in the Warsaw Pact, China, Cuba and most of the Arab world. The occasional squabbles between vassals on opposing sides led to conflagrations that would involve the sponsors (the Arab-Israeli wars of the 1950’s and 60’s, or Vietnam, or the Korean War). Presidents from Truman through Bush 41 might have smiled at their allies, but they never treated them as equals. If they had, Jimmy Carter never would have been able to strong-arm Menachem Begin into the concessions needed for the Camp David Accords. Bush never would have rounded up the international force to launch Desert Storm. And so on, and so forth.

Like it or not, this is the world view that the President has. He sees Russia reasserting its control over her vassals (Ukraine, most prominently). He sees China moving to gain an equal footing as the United States, without any actual vassals (but not for lack of effort). He sees North Korea as a vassal of China, but one that is recalcitrant and one that China refuses to hold tight enough rein on.

Within this framework, he sees the other members of the western post-war coalition as forgetting their rightful place. He won’t treat them as equals because in his world view, they are NOT equals. They are vassals, subservient and reliant on the United States for their very existence. Additionally, he sees the fecklessness of the three administrations immediately prior to his as largely responsible for the sad state of affairs between the US and our “clients.”

In the same vein, he treats Russia and China as equals because in his world view, they are our equals. Each is a dominant nation, like the United States. While the vassals, like bratty children kicking at our shins, complain about unfair treatment, Trump is staying focused on where he believes the real international political struggle begins and ends: the battle between the three superpowers for world supremacy. He sees an opportunity to, at worst, turn North Korea into an independent player (much like Marshall Tito’s Yugoslavia was) or at best, reunify the Korean Peninsula as a client state of the USA.

He may be right in his view of a modern realpolitik. The problem he runs into as that while the client/sponsor relationship was an unacknowledged fact for the late 20th century, the 21st is somewhat different. Yes, the client states are still dependent on the US for their international security. But whereas once their economies were independently reliant on the US, that is no longer the case. The last 25 years has seen the global economy changed from one of many clients subservient to one dominant economy, to a symbiotic economic relationship between nations. What’s more, the tangle of trade agreements and international corporations is such that any disruption anywhere in the flow of goods threatens the economic order of the planet., threatening a conflagration that would make the last two world wars pale by comparison.

This is the conundrum facing the American President. During the height of the Cold War, the US economy accounted for nearly half of all global economic activity. As of last year, we accounted for less than 18%. While we may hold all the cards militarily, we are now trying to draw to an inside straight economically. The notion of returning international trade to one where most economic activities is controlled by US companies is less an economic decision than a militarily strategic one. Heck, the President said as much when he imposed the latest tariffs. In the face of this situation, our nation is faced with two choices. We can attempt to rebuild the original postwar order, or we can remove ourselves from a position of global dominance, recalling and reducing our military strength.

When you look through the prism of vassal state relationships, you can see which option the President has opted for. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, it has been his stated world view for the better part of 40 years now. That nobody in the media seems capable of grasping this is the only surprising thing about it.

 


They Asked For This


PARKLAND-STUDENTS-ON-TIME-MAGAZINE

I’m noticing more than a few folks are demanding we leave the likes of David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and Emma Gonzalez alone. The argument generally goes something like this: they’re just kids who’ve experienced a horrible trauma, and their spewing venom on cable TV and Twitter is just part of the grieving process for them.

I have no doubt that these kids need to grieve. I have no doubt the experience at Parkland on Valentine’s Day was traumatic. I have no doubt their emotions are still all over the place and on edge.

But here’s the thing: they injected themselves into the political fray, and did so in a way that was intended to provoke. Whether or not the idea of banning guns was their own, a thought planted by the liberal environment where they’ve been raised, a line of attack suggested by their media handlers, or a combination of some or all of those factors, the fact remains that they opted to become the face and voice of the far left’s attempt to overturn  a pillar of American society.

They have not attempted to engage in debate. In fact, they’ve run from actual debate to simply spew invective at anyone who doesn’t share their belief that banning firearms will solve the problem of violent assault in this country. They have been challenged, even by their own classmates, to debate the topic on the merits. To offer a cogent argument in defense of their opinion. Yet time and again, they’ve refused and responded instead by offering streams of profanity-laced invective.

These kids are not typical teens. They are drama students, who have learned in class how to evoke emotions in others, and had that craft further honed by their coterie of media handlers. They are members of the 1%, both in income and family status (how else did you think they appeared on TV so fast?). In short, these kids have been raised to believe they are better than the average American; that they are destined to lead the rest of us – whether it be to a better future or off a cliff.

So please, spare me the sanctimony. These kids injected themselves into a full-blown attack on the Second Amendment. They did so willingly, of their own accord and with the full blessing of their elders, who are supposed to have their best interests at heart. Yet, we’ve heard virtually nothing from those elders, except for the elder Mr. Kasky occasionally parroting liberal talking points on Twitter.

Not only have they dived into the political fray, they’ve done so by copying the Hillary Clinton playbook. Rather than looking to engage proactively with the rest of us, they’ve adopted the same condescending attitude that sank Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. They speak of democracy, but they are all about talking down to the little people. Just as Mrs. Clinton saw fit to declare anyone who refused to be brainwashed by her abundant charm as “deplorable,” the Parkland activists have labeled those who support our Constitution as “child killers.” It may win them plaudits from the liberals on MSNBC and CNN. It simply makes everyone else regard them with equal ridicule.

If you want to blame anyone for their being subjected to internecine political battles, blame their parents, their teachers, and the media companies that have put them front and center. Tell them to give the kids time to grieve properly. Tell them to get the kids actual grief counselors, not cable news hosts, to whom they can pour out their emotions and guide them back to sanity.

Until then, as Von Clausewitz observed, “politics is war by other means.” As long as they remain engaged, they are fair game. And that’s how it should be.


Give Me Liberty…


Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” –Benjamin Franklin

This past week, two seemingly unrelated events occurred that brought the 18th century to life in our modern age. Unless you are completely unaware (and if you are, I doubt you would bother to read this), Saturday was the “March for Our Lives,” the highly contrived display of juveniles calling for an end to an essential freedom. But earlier in the week, an Uber autonomous taxi struck and killed a pedestrian. Later reports laid the blame on the pedestrian, but that didn’t stop government from forcing every company testing autonomous driving technology to pull their vehicles off public roads.

What Franklin and the other Founder’s understood is there is a dynamic tension between safety and liberty. The reality is that they cannot perfectly coexist, and so the question is about how to set the dynamic to serve the most good. Think on it for a moment, and you’ll realize the two are polar opposites. Any society that promises absolute safety for it’s citizens offers no liberties, not even within the confines of the home. Conversely, the society that offers unlimited freedom has nothing in the way of societal protections.

What those wise old men created was a system that separated a subset of freedoms from everything else, and referred to them as “essential liberties.” They considered them essential for the simple reason that these freedoms guarantee every other human liberty. Among those considered absolutely necessary are the freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into an individual’s life and incarceration without first being tried by one’s peers, the right to peaceably assemble and address the government’s representatives, the right to worship and the right to defend oneself against the government, by force of arms if necessary. They packaged the essential liberties into the Bill of Rights – something the anti-federalists* demanded in order to secure their votes for ratification of the new Constitution.

What wasn’t mentioned, in the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation or the Declaration of Independence was the idea of a personal safety. Personal safety was generally accepted as an individual responsibility in the new republic.

Generally, but not universally. There have always been those who believe the duty of government is not the assurance of liberty, but dedication to protection from danger. While the nation was founded by, and throughout our history has rewarded risk takers, those who are risk averse have also made their homes among us. As the nation has aged, our society has reached agreement that certain personal liberties could be exchanged for government assurances of a sort of communal safety. Big Brother might not be watching your every move, but he’ll watch enough to make certain that some actions are prevented (or at least punished).

This brings me back to Franklin, Uber and the “#MarchForOurLives.” While Poor Richard might have been bemused at the idea of the government regulating transportation companies to this extent, he would have been willing to go along. After all, transportation is not an essential liberty. The government could ban all mechanized modes of getting about tomorrow as being inherently unsafe (and a glance at NTSB statistics will tell you just how unsafe they remain, despite government’s best attempts at making them safe), but you could still figure out a way to get from point A to B.

However, Ben would have taken umbrage at Saturday’s connived attempt to toss away one of those essential liberties, the right (and to many of the founders, the responsibility** of all citizens) to own firearms. I understand this concept is alien to the children who participated who, with the surety only born from the ignorance of youth, believe any idea older than they is ancient and outdated. It certainly is not alien to the people of Think Progress and the other left wing organizations that organized the protest. Indeed, removing it from the pantheon of essential liberties has been a goal of theirs from the beginning of the progressive movement, because they understand it is that which undergirds the individual’s ability to ensure his ability to exercise any of the others.

Think Progress has the right to assemble, and the even the right to dissemble on the nature of the Constitution. But the children whose unnatural fears they’re preying upon should also take note of the last part of the Franklin quote above. When he said those who desired safety over liberty deserved neither the safety they seek, nor the protections of liberty, he was referring to this other passage he had a part in crafting:

-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

This was the American Declaration of Independence, which stated the case that government does not exist to provide for personal safety, and that the duty of all people when confronted with a government that places benevolent tyranny ahead of individual liberty is to overthrow that government – by force, if necessary. That is the Pandora’s box they are toying with. Beware opening the lid. You won’t like what you find inside.


*For those of you not well versed in US history, the anti-federalists were Americans who opposed the adoption of the Constitution. Indeed, they opposed the idea of any strong government that could bind the individual states into a permanent union. Among their number were such notables as Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams and James Monroe.

**The various Founding Fathers have numerous dissertations on a citizen’s duty to maintain a firearm and remain proficient in its use, but this quote from Thomas Jefferson sums up the prevailing sentiment: “The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”


The Real Problem with the Omnibus


In the wake of the President Trump’s signing the omnibus budget act, I am hearing and seeing a frenzied (indeed, almost apoplectic) reaction from my fellow conservatives. But I want to to stop you now, stop you dead in your tracks, because I am now going to tell you who is most responsible for this thing’s passage.

YOU.

Yes, that’s right. YOU are the reason Congress just spent $1.3 trillion it doesn’t have. YOU are the reason that by the time the next Congress is seated, the federal debt will have swelled to $22 trillion.

By the way, I’m just as guilty of this fiasco as the rest of you.

Why are we responsible for this mess? Because we ignored the most basic tenet of our system of government. We’ve been great at describing our positions to one another. We’re lousy at describing them to anyone who doesn’t share those views. American government is not about just ramming your agenda through. Nothing lasts that way. No, it’s still about winning the marketplace of ideas. Think about it: the founders of this country traded speeches and newspaper editorials until the public eventually chose the vision of the federalists over that of the anti-federalists. That same dynamic still exists, and we’ve been terrible at the art of persuasion.

A big part of that is that while we’re all willing to talk the talk, almost none of us are willing to walk the walk. The last national elections pretty much embodied everything wrong with the conservative movement, and still we haven’t learned that lesson.

Think about it – a guy whose idea of fiscal discipline is going bankrupt and leveraging himself to the hilt managed to convince the nation he’s a fiscal conservative. From what I’ve been seeing throughout the day in my Twitter and Facebook feeds, he managed to convince a sizable number of you of the same. The guy who swore he could deliver the first balanced budget in two generations without touching entitlements (when anyone who can do basic arithmetic knows better) did enough reasonably conservative things over the first year of his Presidency to make you think he could somehow pull off that bit of alchemy.

Therein lies the problem. We are supposedly the people who want less government, which by definition means we want government to do less. But how many of you truly want less government across the board? I constantly hear we want less welfare, but: save the fuel subsidies. Enforce the ethanol mandate. Don’t touch my mortgage deduction. Hey, my job relies on that outdated weapons program!

We have an innate inability to reconcile, even in our own heads, that limiting government means actually taking more responsibility for own fiscal lives. We haven’t been able to realize that before we can ask a liberal to give up their government handout, we have to be willing and ready to give up our government handout.

In this respect, Congress is doing exactly what we want of it. We want our government programs, though we’re loathe to acknowledge they are a form of redistributionist welfare. Of course, liberals also want their government handouts, but the difference is they are not being intellectually dishonest with themselves. They know it’s redistributionist government. So, in order to get something passed, “conservatives” get their favorite programs and liberals get their favorite programs. The net result is that Congress passes a $1,300,000,000,000 spending bill with at least $880,000,000,000 in new debt. And of course, the President who thinks “debt is good” is going to sign it. (Indeed, the only reason he gave for almost vetoing the thing was it didn’t spend even more money).

If you’re truly outraged by this, it’s time to prove it. Call, write, go to town halls – and tell your congressman you’re ready to give up every government dime that floats your way. AND I MEAN EVERY SINGLE ONE. Because until you do, liberals will continue to smirk and call us hypocrites.

The sad thing is, they’ll be right.