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It’s Time For Ray’s Awful, Terrible Baseball Predictions (AL Edition)


Yesterday, I published my picks for the National League. While I’m writing this a couple of days in advance, I just want to let all you Cubs, Mets and Phillies fans know to keep the hate mail coming (my crystal ball works for more than baseball). Today, I’m turning my crystal ball to the American League, where I’m sure I’ll upset some other fan base. So let’s begin this on the left coast, shall we?

AL West

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Los Angelos Angels of Anaheim
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Texas Rangers
  5. Oakland Athletics

Look, as much as we may not want to admit it, Houston may be even better than last year and they’re playing in what is arguably baseball’s worst division. It is entirely plausible that not only will the Astros surpass 100 wins, but win the AL West by 20+ games. Yes, the rotation lost Dallas Keuchel, but free agent signee Wade Miley is almost a clone. The bullpen should be better with a full season of Roberto Osuna in place of Ken Giles. As for the offense, losing Marwin Gonzales and Brian McCann will hurt some, but a full season of Tyler White and the addition of Michael Brantley will more than offset those players.

The Angels hopes rest on the fragile arms of their starting rotation, which hasn’t combined for even 90 starts in the last three seasons. But baseball’s consensus best player, center fielder Mike Trout, a top five left fielder in Justin Upton and a much-improved defense, led by our generation’s “Wizard”, shortstop Justin Upton, will keep the Angels around .500 this year.

The Mariners traded away almost their entire team this winter. The rebuild is on. If you live in Seattle, you do have right fielder Mitch Haniger and the latest Japanese phenom, Yusei Kukuchi. Other than that, it’s going to be a long season.

But not as long as it will be in Arlington. The Rangers are still in the midst of a rebuild seemingly designed around strikeouts. Unfortunately, those strikeouts are coming from their young hitters and not their pitchers. Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Rougnod Odor and Elvis Andrus may combine for 500 strikeouts this year. Yes, they’ll hit some moonshots in Texas. But the offense’s propensity for leaving men on, combined with a jello pitching staff of never were’s and never will be’s could well mean a 100 loss season.

Oakland was a feel-good story last year. This year, reality will come crashing back on the green and gold. The A’s are going to try and piece together a starting rotation from a bunch of retreads and castoffs, similar to last year, but last year every roll of the dice worked and they had Sean Manea to head things up. This year, no such luck. It’s also hard to believe closer Blake Treinen will replicate an ERA below 1 again. Yes, they have possibly the two best corner infielders in the league in Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, and Khris Davis will likely hit 40 bombs again. But the rest of the team is pretty meh. Last year’s team shocked the world and won 97 games. This year’s version will shock the world again, but by losing 90+ games.

AL Central

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Cleveland Indians (WC)
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Detroit Tigers

Yes, I’m going out on a limb and picking the Twins to unseat Cleveland in the Central. But I like every move Minnesota made this offseason. They rebuilt their infield, adding Jonathon Schoop, CJ Cron, and Marwin Gonzalez. They added an ageless hitting machine in Nelson Cruz to be their primary DH. The starting rotation features young aces Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson, and perhaps the most quality depth in the junior circuit. The biggest area of concern will be their bullpen, but this is a team with the depth to make a move at the deadline if they need a reliever or two. 90+ wins for this team is a distinct possibility, although in this weak division 85 might get the job done.

No team had a worse winter than the Indians. They went into November needing outfield help and maybe a second baseman. They arrived in March needing outfielders, a second baseman, a starting catcher, a first baseman, and middle relief help. Yes, the 1-2-3-4 punch of Kluber-Bauer-Carrasco-Clevinger in the starting rotation is the best in the league. But outside of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, there really isn’t much on hand. Hall of Fame candidate and manager Terry Francona is going to be hard pressed to keep the Tribe from finishing under .500 this year.

The rest of the division is kind of a toss-up, but I’m going with the White Sox simply because some of their young talent looks ready for the major leagues. Finishing with a winning record is probably beyond their ability, but watching Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Yolmer Sanchez and Adam Engel will at least make the ChiSox exciting to watch.

Kansas City will lead the league in stolen bases. GM Dayton Moore has stockpiled a team full of speedsters, led by possibly the best second baseman in the game, Whit Merrifield. He’ll have plenty of competition for the stolen base crown from teammates Adelberto Mondesi, Billy Hamilton and Brett Phillips, provided that trio can actually get on base.

Detroit is waiting on trading right fielder Nick Castellanos and watching first baseman Miguel Cabrera add to his Hall of Fame resume. Other than that, the Tigers will battle Baltimore for the worst record in the league.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Boston Red Sox (WC)
  3. Toronto Blue Jays (WC)
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

The division last year featured two 100 win teams, in the Yankees and Red Sox. This year, the Yankees set about improving their weaknesses while Boston suffered some big player losses. Those two factors will give the Bronx Bombers a slight edge for the division title this year. New York added starting pitcher James Paxton, re-signed JA Happ to be the fourth starter and brought back CC Sabathia for one final go-round in his Hall of Fame career. An offense that set the major league record with 269 home runs last season has a legitimate shot at topping 300 dingers, with full seasons from Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Gleyber Torres, valuable additions Troy Tulowitzki and Luke Voit, and bounce back years from Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier. But the key to New York’s season will be their bullpen, possibly the most dominant in history with All-Stars Dellin Betances, Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton setting up closer Aroldis Chapman.

Boston returns much of the same team from last year, but is missing two key members of that team’s bullpen: setup man Joe Kelly is now a Dodger and closer Craig Kimbrel is (unbelievably) still a free agent. Boston hopes to fill their spots from within. Otherwise, they’ll continue to a rely on well above starting pitching, paced by Chris Sale and David Price and abundant offense, led by the game’s best right fielder, Mookie Betts and DH JD Martinez. The Red Sox and Yankees will be in a dogfight until the last week of the season, and the possibility of both teams eclipsing 100 wins again remains a real possibility.

The Blue Jays were one of last year’s most disappointing teams, but will be one of this year’s pleasant surprises. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr may start the season at AAA, but by May he’ll be in Toronto, solidifying a deep lineup that includes Lourdes Gurriel at short, All-Star first baseman Justin Smoak, Brandon Drury at second and Randall Grichuk in right field. But the biggest improvement will be in the pitching, with Marcus Stroman reclaiming his spot among the games best, Aaron Sanchez finally over his blister problems and Matt Shoemaker leaving the injures that largely sidelined him the past two years in California. Volatile closer Ken Giles may cost this Jays team a couple of wins, but they should still be good enough to sneak into the second Wild Card slot.

Tampa Bay surprised everyone last year by winning 90 games. They’ll still be decent, but not 90 wins decent. No team relied less on their starters last year than the Rays, as they sprang the concept of the “opener” on the baseball world. Despite that, Ian Snell won the AL Cy Young, turning in one of the best seasons by a starting pitcher in recent memory. Additions Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow will lend support, but Tampa looks primed to use an opener and their deep, if unproven, bullpen two to three times a week. The offense will be anchored by left fielder Tommy Pham and catcher Mike Zunino, while a cast of youngsters (Austin Meadows, Brett Duffy, Yandy Diaz and Willy Adames being the most prominent) tries to acclimate themselves to the major league game.

Baltimore lost 110 games last year. It’s possible this year’s team will be even worse. The most exciting thing will be to see if former All-Star first baseman Chris Davis descent into being the worst player in the major leagues continues. Beyond that, buy a scorecard if you go to an Orioles game, because otherwise you won’t know the players.


It’s Time for Ray’s Awful, Terrible Baseball Predictions


We’re less than a month away from meaningful baseball games beginning and that can only mean one thing. Yes friends, it is time once again for my predictions. Last year, I picked 3 of 6 divisions correctly. But the Braves were a shocker to almost everyone, I didn’t miss on the Brewers by much (I had them in the Wild Card game), and the Red Sox were much better than pretty much anyone expected last Spring. Anyway, here’s this year’s picks, beginning with what should be baseball’s most interesting division.

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. Philadelphia Phillies (WC)
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. New York Mets
  5. Florida Marlins

This division should be a dogfight until the last game of the season, but I’m picking the Nationals for one reason: their pitching staff should be the best in the division, if not all of MLB. Yes, they lost Bryce Harper to the division rival Phillies, but if healthy, Adam Eaton will add more athleticism in right field, while Victor Robles in center will be a contender for Rookie of the Year. There are still plenty of big bats, led by Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, and Juan Soto to make for a top-notch lineup.

The Phillies made multiple significant additions besides Harper. Catcher JT Realmuto and shortstop Jean Segura are a pair of All-Star caliber players obtained in shrewd trades, and veteran free agent Andrew McCutcheon was an equally shrewd signing. They added another proven veteran to their bullpen in David Robertson. In fact, the Phillies could have a really good bullpen, if second-year man Seranthony Dominguez can replicate last season’s success and old pros Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek can stay off the injured list. Combined with what should be one of the league’s best offenses, that will be enough to contend for a Wild Card berth. The one thing holding this team back is their starting rotation, which right now is Aaron Nola, a declining Jake Arrietta and a cast of hundreds.

The Braves added third baseman Josh Donaldson, who will want to prove he has more left in the tank. Added to perennial MVP candidate Freddie Freeman and last year’s Rookie of the Year, left fielder Ronald Acuna and super-utilityman Johann Camargo, Atlanta will be another high scoring team that will only go as far as their pitching can take them. The Braves are relying on a bunch of unproven kids, led by All-Star Mike Foltynewicz. That bodes well for 2020, but not so much for 2019.

The Mets are another team that has made wholesale changes. New GM Brodie van Wagenen brought in the ageless Robinson Cano to play second base, Jed Lowrie to play everywhere, All-Star Wilson Ramos to catch and last year’s best closer in Edwin Diaz. However, age and injuries will once again be the New Yorker’s biggest problem and will end their season by mid-August. Still, the Mets have two intriguing rookies in first basemen Peter Alonso and Dominic Smith. Look for one of them to be traded at the deadline for a nice return.

Finally, the Marlins, whose best player is either Starlin Castro or Neil Walker. Yep, enough said.

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Cincinnati Reds

The Cardinals quietly had one of the better offseasons of any team in baseball. They added first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, which automatically improved their defense and offense. That shifted Matt Carpenter back to third. The offense, led by Goldschmidt, Carpenter, left fielder Marcell Ozuna and shortstop Paul DeJong, will be among the league’s best. The Cards have been done in by bullpen woes the past couple of seasons, but the addition of Andrew Miller will help settle that unit down, and only the Dodgers have a deeper rotation.

Still, St. Louis isn’t going to run away with the division. The defending division champion Brewers return the bulk of their team from last season, including MVP right fielder Christian Yellich and Mike Moustakas trying to make the switch to second base. And like last year, the Milwaukee will try to ride a mix-and-match rotation and dominant bullpen to another division crown. Unlike last year, that rotation instability will leave them just short of both first place and a Wild Card berth.

Pittsburgh remains a team that seemingly will never spend on players. Despite that, they’ll still be in contention when the calendar turns to September, led by a young and excellent rotation, headed by Chris Archer and Jamison Taillon. A middling offense, paced by Cory Dickerson and my candidate for this year’s breakout player, Colin Moran, will score just enough runs to power the Bucs to a winning record and respectable third place finish.

Is there any team with more internal turmoil than the Cubs? While that formula worked for the Yankees of the late 70s, it usually spells doom. So it will be for the North Siders this year. The talent is certainly there to contend, with an offense led by Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. But the rotation is far from settled, with Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood looking to make good on their untradeable contracts, an aging Jon Lester and Jose Quintana wondering if he should have stayed on the South Side. The bullpen may be a strength – or a weakness if last year’s injury woes repeat. Add in the drama around shortstop Addison Russell and manager Joe Maddon’s contract status, and Chicago looks set up for a fourth place finish and their first losing season since 2015.

Cincinnati made a lot of moves this offseason and definitely improved their team. They still have first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Scooter Gennett, and imported outfielders Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig along with pitchers Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, and Tanner Roark. The Reds won’t be dreadful and if they catch a few breaks could even finish above .500. But they are in the wrong division to have dreams of competing.

NL West

  1. Los Angelos Dodgers
  2. Colorado Rockies (WC)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. San Francisco Giants

The Dodgers biggest addition will be the return of young shortstop Cory Seager, who should cement their offense. Free agent center fielder AJ Pollock has some serious injury history, but LA’s habit of mix-and-matching players should keep him rested enough to avoid those. As always, everything in Tinseltown begins and ends with their starting rotation, which goes ten deep with quality options. That rotation is backed by a top-five bullpen, still headlined by Kenley Jansen.

The Rockies may play in a hitter’s paradise, but their team didn’t really take advantage of it last year. This year, with the addition of Daniel Murphy (who will slide from second to first base), the promotion of promising rookie Ryan McMahon and David Dahl getting a full-time slot in right field, that looks to change. Provided young starters Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, and Tyler Anderson continue to give the team quality innings, a 90 win season and Wild Card berth is likely.

Arizona is a team that can’t quite transition to rebuild mode, so long as ace Zack Greinke and his $34 million salary are in the desert. They traded away perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt and slid Jake Lamb over from third to man his spot. They also lost AJ Pollock. In short, the Snake’s offense and defense will be dramatically worse than last season. While getting to .500 will be a struggle for team, this division is so weak that a third place finish is likely.

San Diego has Manny Machado and some of the best young talent in baseball. Those storylines alone will make the Padres one of the more interesting teams to follow, but the Friars are still a couple of years away from contending.

The Giants have Buster Posey, Madison Bumgardner and the memories of championships past. They also have a cold, foggy baseball stadium, which will be a fitting venue for one of baseball’s dreariest teams this year. 100 losses is a distinct possibility for this historic franchise.

Tomorrow, I’ll turn my sights on the American League.


Jussie Journalism


Unless you live under a rock, you know that actor Jussie Smollett is in the center of a firestorm of his own making. To wit: in January, he claimed he was attacked at 2am by two masked men wearing “MAGA” hats, a noose was placed around his neck and he was doused with bleach while they screamed racial and anti-gay epithets at him, finishing with “This MAGA country!”.

Now, anyone with more than two active brain cells immediately noticed some oddities with his story. First, it seemed rather strange that two whack jobs of this type would just be hanging out at 2am on any January night in Chicago, never mind the coldest one in 30 years, looking for a B list actor. It also seemed weird that despite the violence of that attack, the actor’s sandwich remained undisturbed. It was equally odd that he still had that noose around his neck, even while at the hospital. Finally, the attack happened to take place in one of the most liberal neighborhoods in Chicago, an area that favorably compares to Greenwich Village or Haight-Ashbury in terms of gay acceptance, one that is peppered with surveillance cameras – yet, the attackers knew exactly where a camera was turned the wrong way to catch them in the act.

None of what’s written above is in dispute. The possibility that the entire thing was staged was there from the beginning. There were enough red flags in the initial story that nobody should have assumed the actor was not acting. Yet – and this is the most disturbing part of the story – the media jumped to accept it as gospel truth.

Indeed, even at this late date, when the Chicago PD no longer considers Smollett a victim, when a grand jury is being convened, when the “attackers” (a pair of Nigerian brothers) have admitted to being paid by Smollett and rehearsing the “attack”, there are still those in mass media who refuse to admit the entire story is a hoax. Why would these “reporters” still have blinders on regarding the story?

The reason is simple: journalism is no longer about reporting facts and letting the reader decide for themselves the import of a story. It is about advocacy, almost always in favor of the most extreme liberal positions. This change in journalistic standards is what has led to the rise of what we deride as “fake news” but perhaps should actually call “false advocacy.” The merging of the long-standing liberal op-ed sections with the reporting division of a news organization means that Americans no longer get straight news, but a very slanted, often inaccurate, version of the news.

Look, it isn’t like the Smollett story happened in a vacuum. Since the 2016 campaign, there has been a concerted effort by the media to define the typical Trump supporter as a racist, homophobic, misogynist with a propensity of violence towards minorities. The Daily Caller has published a list of reported “hate crimes” that turned out to be hoaxes, so has Hot Air. The only thing that should be surprising at this point is if we go a month without one of these hoaxes being perpetrated on us.

Yet the media continues to push these hoaxes as if they were actual newsworthy events. It’s as if they intentionally want to beclown themselves. 2019 is not even 7 weeks old and already the national media has fallen prey to two massive hoaxes: Smollett, and the Covington Catholic students. In each instance, the national media whipped a frenzy of outrage against the supposed perpetrators and natures of the “crimes,” but then was forced to eat crow when the truth came out. The alleged victims have been thoroughly disgraced, largely because the media attention lavished on them led to a backlash once their complicity in the hoaxes became apparent.

The media loves to lament how Americans no longer trust the news that is being reported. But they fail to recognize how their own actions in creating false narratives around the stories they’re reporting led to that distrust. Their insistence on editorializing, rather than reporting, created a climate in which everything that is reported has to be taken with a grain of salt.

If the media wants to regain the public’s trust, the answer is staring them in the face. Instead of following in the footsteps of Dan Rather and Brian Williams, they need to return to the journalistic practices of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. Instead of Brian Stelter defending the lack of integrity in journalism, they need Brian Stelter to call out the journalistic malpractice that leads to stories like the Smollett hoax being given credibility.

Will they? Probably not anytime soon. The pronouncements of media malfeasance from Lara Logan and Cheryl Atkinsson are so much shouting into the wind at this point, The vast majority of media types are focused on their advocacy to the point that they no longer care about accurate reporting, only ensuring the stories they report fit their preferred narrative.

In the meantime, learn from the Smollett story. Do not believe the media narrative. Dig deeper, find the facts (which means multisourcing every story of interest) and come to your own conclusions – and hold those opinions to yourself until you’re certain all the facts are available.


Reality Check: Trump Derangement Syndrome


President Donald J. Trump

I found the following on Facebook. The original author seems to be lost in the mists of the internet, so sadly I cannot give proper attribution. But while I may not know the person who wrote this, I cannot help but think this is exactly what the leftists that think they run things still fail to comprehend. Read on if you dare. The words may not be mine, but the sentiment certainly is.

“After 2 years no collusion! To all the people who let this election break up families and friends let this sink in I think the last civil conversations we had occurred just days before November 8, 2016. You were supremely confident Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election; you voted for her with glee.

As a lifelong Republican, I bit down hard and cast my vote for Donald Trump. Then the unimaginable happened. He won.

And you lost your freaking minds.

I knew you would take the loss hard—and personally—since all of you were super jacked-up to elect the first woman president. But I did not imagine you would become totally deranged, attacking anyone who voted for Trump or supported his presidency as a racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic Nazi-sympathizer.

The weirdness started on social media late on Election Night, as it became clear Hillary was going to lose. A few of you actually admitted that you were cradling your sleeping children, weeping, wondering what to tell your kindergartner the next morning about Trump’s victory. It continued over the next several days. Some of you seriously expressed fear about modern-day concentration camps. Despite living a privileged lifestyle, you were suddenly a casualty of the white patriarchy. Your daughters were future victims; your sons were predators-in-waiting. You threatened to leave Facebook because you could no longer enjoy the family photos or vacation posts from people who, once friends, became Literal Hitlers to you on November 8 because they voted for Donald Trump.

I admit I was a little hurt at first. The attacks by the media and you against us Trump voters were so personal and so vicious that I did not think it could be sustained. I thought maybe you would regain your sanity after some turkey and egg nog.

But you did not. You got worse. And I went from sad to angry to where I am today: Amused.

As the whole charade you have been suckered into over the last 24 months starts to fall apart—that Trump would not survive his presidency; he would be betrayed by his own staff, family, and/or political party; he would destroy the Republican Party; he would be declared mentally ill and removed from office; he would be handcuffed and dragged out of the White House by Robert Mueller for “colluding” with Russia—let me remind you what complete fools you have made of yourselves! Not to mention how you’ve been fooled by the media, and the Democratic Party.

On November 9, you awoke from a self-induced, eight-year-long political coma to find that White House press secretaries shade the truth and top presidential advisors run political cover for their boss. You were shocked to discover that presidents exaggerate, even lie, on occasion. You became interested for the first time about the travel accommodations, office expenses, and lobbyist pals of administration officials. You started counting how many rounds of golf the president played. You suddenly thought it was fine to disrespected women and mock the first lady now that she wasn’t Michelle Obama.
Once you removed your pussy hat after attending the Women’s March, you made fun of Kellyanne Conway’s hair, Sarah Sanders’ weight, Melania Trump’s shoes, Hope Hicks’ death stare; you helped fuel a rumor started by a bottom-feeding author that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley slept with Donald Trump.
You thought it was A-OK that Betsy DeVos was nearly physically assaulted and routinely heckled. You glorified a woman who was a stripper and who has sex on camera for a paycheck.

You have learned all kinds of new things that those of us who didn’t willfully ignore politics for the past eight years already knew. For example, we already knew that illegal immigrants for years were being deported and families were being separated.

Some of your behavior has been kinda cute. It was endearing to watch you become experts on the Logan Act, the Hatch Act, the Second Amendment, the 25th Amendment, and the Emoluments Clause. You developed a new crush on Mitt Romney after calling him a “sexist” for having “binders full of women.”
You longed for a redux of the presidency of George W. Bush, a man you once wanted imprisoned for war crimes. Ditto for John McCain. You embraced people like Bill Kristol and David Frum without knowing anything about their histories of shotgunning the Iraq War.

Classified emails shared by Hillary Clinton? Who cares! Devin Nunes wanting to declassify crucial information of the public interest? Traitor!

But your newfound admiration and fealty to law enforcement really has been a fascinating transformation. Wasn’t it just last fall that I saw you loudly supporting professional athletes who were protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem? Remember how you fanboyed a mediocre quarterback for wearing socks that depicted cops as pigs?

But now you sound like paid spokesmen for the Fraternal Order of Police. You insist that any legitimate criticism of the misconduct and possible criminality that occurred at the Justice Department and FBI is an “attack on law enforcement.” While you once opposed the Patriot Act because it might have allowed the federal government to spy on terrorists who were using the local library to learn how to make suitcase bombs, you now fully support the unchecked power of a secret court to look into the phone calls, text messages and emails of an American citizen because he volunteered for the Trump campaign for a few months.

Spying on terrorists, circa 2002: Bad. Spying on Carter Page, circa 2017: The highest form of patriotism.

And that white, male patriarchy that you were convinced would strip away basic rights and silence any opposition after Trump won? That fear has apparently been washed away as you hang on every word uttered by white male James Comey, John Brennan, and James Clapper. This triumvirate is exhibit “A” of the old-boy network, and represents how the insularity, arrogance, and cover-your-tracks mentality of the white-male power structure still prevails. Yet, instead of rising up against it, you are buying their books, retweeting their Twitter rants and blasting anyone who dares to question their testicular authority. Your pussy hat must be very sad.

But your daily meltdowns about Trump-Russia election collusion have been the most entertaining to observe. After Robert Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel, you were absolutely convinced it would result in Trump’s arrest and/or impeachment. Some of you insisted that Trump wouldn’t last beyond 2017. You quickly swallowed any chum tossed at you by the Trump-hating media on MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post about who was going down next, or who would flip on the president.

For the past 2 years, I have watched you obsess over a rotating cast of characters: Paul Manafort, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Carter Page, Reince Priebus, Jeff Sessions, Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Sam Nunberg, and Hope Hicks are just a few of the people you thought would turn on Trump or hasten his political demise. But when those fantasies didn’t come true, you turned to Michael Avenatti and Stormy Daniels for hope and inspiration. It will always be your low point.

Well, I think it will be. Each time I believe you’ve hit bottom, you come up with a new baseline. Perhaps defending the unprecedented use of federal power to spy on political foes then lie about it will the next nail in your credibility coffin.

The next several weeks will be tough for you. I think Americans will learn some very hard truths about what happened in the previous administration and how we purposely have been misled by powerful leaders and the news media. I wish I could see you as a victim here, but you are not. I know you chose to support this insurgency blindly, following anything the democrat propaganda agents (media) lies about, with your eyes closed.”


The Great Cave In


Yay! The government shutdown is over. So what was gained by the political games over the past five weeks?

Well, nothing if you’re a fan of the President. Even less if you’re a small government conservative. To wit: the President shut down the government for better than a month in order to secure funding for a wall on the southern border. Then he changed that to steel slats. Then he changed it again to a down payment on steel slats. Finally, he agreed to a continuing resolution in exchange for revisiting the entire thing on February 15. However, the Democrat’s leader has already made clear she will not allow any funding for a wall, or steel slats, or any other sort of border barrier.

In other words, Donald Trump got rolled like a drunk in Hell’s Kitchen.

Now he can try to go around Congress come February 15 and declare an emergency on the border in order to build his wall (or steel slats, or… you get the idea). By midnight on the 16th, the courts will enjoin him from carrying out that order. It will make its way through the court system, eventually winding up before SCOTUS. The likely result? SCOTUS will affirm the lower court order, as there is nothing in the Constitution that allows the President to bypass Congress.

The shame of all this is, the shutdown could have been much more instructive if handled better. The President could have moved to privatize both the ATC and TSA. He could have pushed for funding the IRS and Border Patrol separately. (To their credit, some House Republicans did offer bills to do just those things). He could have activated the Coast Guard into the Navy, thereby funding them. The shutdown could have been used to showcase how little the federal government does that positively affects the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.

But since Trump is, at heart, a big government guy, such a tactic never even occurred to him. Think about it: a Republican president shut down the government because a Democrat-controlled House wouldn’t give him more money. I can’t recall any other time in our history such a thing has happened. He can’t be said to have abandoned the most fundamental policy of conservatism since he never embraced it. But it was that lack of understanding that ultimately led to his defeat.

The question is what Trump does next. The main thing those die-hard Trump supporters believe in is his infallibility in negotiations and his ability to turn losses into wins. However, unlike his failures in the private sector, there is no Deutsche Bank ready to ride in with loans to save his businesses. There is no Carl Icahn showing up with a bailout. There is no Jeffrey Zucker willing to be complicit in an identity makeover. He is on his own, against a foe who’s implacable in her opposition and much better versed at holding a political party together.

This isn’t to say some sort of compromise isn’t available. They can fudge on the wording allowing everyone to declare a victory. The President has already demonstrated that he’s willing to call a bunch of steel slats shoved into the desert sand “a big, powerful wall”, even though nobody with a functioning brain cell thinks it is. But in order to get that, he’ll need to be gracious enough to allow the Democrats to say they aren’t funding a border wall. It’s a trait that is not part of Donald Trump’s character.


Is Nathan Phillips Guilty of Stolen Valor?


So I’m doing some reading on Nathan Phillips, the Indian guy who claims to have been harassed by the teenagers from Coventry High over the weekend and I can’t help but think there is a serious case of stolen valor here. He claims to be a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, but too much of his story doesn’t add up. This is a guy who has been in the news off and on for the past 20 years, but nobody seems to have checked out his background. His first interview, way back in November 2000, listed his age as 45. His most recent interview, from this past weekend, he is 64. That is consistent with someone born in early January 1955. By his own account (again, nobody has seen his DD214), he joined the Marines at age 17, but this was after a period of time working as a lumberjack.

Here’s where his story starts to fall apart. Let’s be generous and say he stepped on the yellow footprints in February 1972, graduating after 13 weeks. Let’s be even more generous and say he did not have leave after basic and reported straight to ITR. So, the earliest he could have been deployed to Vietnam as a 0311 would have been late July or early August 1972.

The last major USMC combat element, III MAF, left Vietnam in April 1971. The last USMC combat unit, 3rd MAB, left in June 1971.
You can see the problem here. Those dates mean either Nathan Phillips was the only combat Marine in Vietnam, he was assigned to the Embassy or he was one of the 60 or so advisors the Marine Corps left with the ARVN forces. The last option is least likely (a boot private without any combat experience isn’t going to advise anyone on tactics). If he were assigned to the embassy, he would likely have clarified this by stating his MOS was an 8151.

Now for where things REALLY get interesting. Phillips also claims to be a Force Recon Marine. In his own words in a Vogue interview in 2018, he actually says “I’m what they call a recon ranger.” Well, knock me over with a feather, but if I had a nickel for every recon ranger I’ve met who never even wore a uniform, I’d be a millionaire. To my knowledge, I’ve never met a Force Recon Marine in the First Civ Div. Do you know why? Because most special forces guys don’t go around advertising their training. They don’t need to.

But let’s suspend all reason and say that Phillips isn’t laying it on thicker than molasses in January. The absolute minimum training time for a Force Recon Marine is 4 months. Let’s also suppose he was selected for Force Recon out of ITR. That puts his earliest arrival in Vietnam as January 1973.

That’s still 4 months after the last US combat unit, the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Brigade left Vietnam in August 1972.
I suppose it’s possible Phillips forgot some dates. It’s possible he can’t recall his MOS. Anything is possible, after all, even though I’ve never met a Marine who can’t remember what his job was, the dates of his service and every time he was deployed (and where).

I hate to call him out as a fraud if he isn’t. But considering he has spent the past few years putting himself in the news and is now muckraking to the point of driving hate mobs towards teenagers, it’s time to put his veracity to the test. If you served with Nathan Phillips, let me know. If he is a Force Recon Marine, I’ll gladly retract every word of this, buy him a beer and thank him for his service. But if he isn’t, he is deserving of every bit of scorn and derision we can heap upon him.

Update: On January 23, the Marine Corps released the following statement:
Nathan Phillips, 64, spent four years in the Marine Corps Reserve and left in 1976 with the rank of private, or E-1. Previously identified as Nathaniel R. Stanard, Phillips never deployed, but served as a refrigerator technician and anti-tank missileman.”


Restoring Trust in Our Elections


Vote!

It seems you can’t pick up a newspaper (ok, I’m being quaint, but some of us do still read newspapers) or turn on your television without hearing about how our elections are under assault. If the Russians aren’t rotting our minds with memes of Hillary Clinton drunkenly gazing at balloons, the Chinese are hacking into our voter rolls. When the Chinese aren’t hacking into voter rolls, the Iranians are hacking the voting machines themselves. When the Iranians aren’t playing centrifuge subterfuge with the voting machines, the North Koreans are actually changing vote totals.

It’s a wonder a beloved TV sitcom character hasn’t been elected to Congress with all this electronic doo-dah. Oh, wait…

Okay, the security of our electronic voting systems are important. I don’t mean to belittle them. But that insecurity highlights a much bigger problem our nation faces: in a representative republic, the integrity of the electoral process cannot be open to interpretation. When it is, then the legitimacy of the election outcomes that select our representatives comes into question. No government without said legitimacy can stand for long.

It seems to me that I’m not the only one thinking the way we vote has become an absolute mess over the last twenty years. You would have thought that after the disaster of the 2000 election, the one in which “Hanging Chad” came to mean something other than executing a yuppie horse thief, we would have gotten our act together. But as the most recent election demonstrated, if anything we got worse at both voting and counting the vote. Of course, much of the coverage centered on our favorite county (Broward) in our favorite state (Florida) for electoral shenanigans. This overlooks that there were nearly four dozen House races that still weren’t called a full week after the election. It overlooks serious charges of vote tampering and fraud in California, New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia, Alaska, North Carolina, and Utah.

Since we didn’t learn from the disaster that was 2000, allow me to propose some simple changes that would be relatively simple to implement that would go a long way to ending the nonsense. Will it end voting irregularities forever? No, of course not. They are a feature of any voting system since man-made systems are imperfectible. But we can do much better than we have to date.

Step 1: Implement a national Voter ID system

Look, forget all the nonsense about poor people, or black people, or Hispanic people, not being able to get a valid state ID. It’s the 21st century, for chrissakes. There is absolutely no reason an adult should not have a valid ID. I challenge you to find me a state where you can buy a beer or pack of cigarettes without a valid ID. If we demand you have a valid ID for something as mundane as getting a cold brew at a restaurant, any argument against having one for something as important as voting is ridiculous on its face. Remember this sob story? The only reason he was prevented from breaking the law was due to Tennessee’s voter ID law.

Yeah, Voter ID laws work exactly as intended. Which may be why the same crowd that is all for open borders and illegal immigrants voting in our elections are so against them.

Step 2: Get rid of early voting

It seems many of the problems we run into with counting the vote (and where some of the greatest opportunities for general screwing with the ballots) comes from the fact that in some jurisdictions, people can actually begin voting up to a month before election day. There are other reasons to get rid of early voting (seriously, who but the most partisan hack is 100% certain of who they’re going to cast their ballot for a month before election day?), but that’s another post for another day. Anyway, the nonsense we witnessed around the country last November, with ballots mysteriously materializing from car trunks and classroom closets, would immediately end simply by getting rid of early voting. I understand voting in the middle of the week is inconvenient for a great many people, but that brings me to my next suggestion, which is…

Step 3: Make all national elections a national holiday

See, now nobody has the excuse they can’t get off work to go vote. Yes, the lines might be long. But if voting becomes a holiday, think about this: how long will it be before the nation’s retailer’s start offering discounts when you present that “I voted” sticker? I bet Friendly’s even starts offering a free scoop of ice cream!

Step 4: End “ballot harvesting”

Look, I don’t know who came up with this piece of insanity. I’m ambivalent about absentee ballots, to begin with (I can’t get around particularly well these days, but I still show up to vote in person), but if your state is going to allow them, shouldn’t the very least expectation be that you put the doggone thing in the mailbox yourself? I don’t know who thought the idea of letting party operatives handle them was a brilliant idea, but they need to be taken out back and put out of their misery the same way we do horses with broken legs. Heck, we’re ten weeks past the election and one district in North Carolina got so fouled up with ballot tampering as a result of this idiocy that they likely need to call a special election. Stories have come from California of voters just signing a blank ballot and handing it over to a party apparatchik. I’m 100% certain no tampering happened in those instances whatsoever, right?

Step 5: Get rid of electronic voting machines

I don’t know if the Russians or Iranians or little green men from Mars are trying to break into the electronic voting systems in use around the US. What I do know is there is enough distrust that those systems can be secured against sophisticated hacks (or even hacks from 300 pound couch potatoes) that we should have already stopped using them.

Step 6 : JIT ballot verification

This is little more technical, but every bit as important as anything else. During the latest Broward “Whose Vote is It Anyway” episode, we were once again treated to election workers trying to decipher illegible ballots. Just because that wasn’t enough fun, then we heard that poll workers could, in the even a ballot was indecipherable, just fill out an alternate one. Just fill out an alternate one? Are you kidding me?

In software engineering, we use “Just-In-Time” testing to validate that our code at least has the correct syntax and spelling to not cause a digital rejection of our work when trying to make it do something. It isn’t that hard to do something similar with a paper ballot. Optical scanners, which have been around for longer than most of you who read this blog, can detect if too many circles on a line (or a row) are filled in, and if they’re filled in correctly – and check this out, they CAN EVEN COUNT THE VOTE IN REAL TIME. If your ballot is illegible, for whatever reason, the poll worker can hand you another blank, destroy the bad one and scan the corrected ballot all before you leave the voting booth! Amazing!

This won’t completely end the questions about voting. Some states will complain vociferously about Congress passing any further restrictions. I can already hear the Chamber of Commerce harping on yet another paid holiday. Democrats will kvetch about Voter ID and the loss of early voting, Republicans about JIT verification. Both will scream bloody murder over ending harvesting.

But these six steps will make our elections more secure and provide for quicker vote tabulation. They address some of the biggest questions the nation has about our elections. It puts what is the most vital process in republic back into the sunlight, restoring the trust that the process isn’t corrupted. In short, it is the first step in injecting some sanity back into our politics.


What Is A Conservative?


There seems to be much confusion these days over political labels. What do these terms even mean any more? What is a centrist? A liberal? A libertarian? A conservatarian? A classical liberal? A neo-liberal? A neocon?

What is a conservative, in today’s world?

To begin answering that question, it is helpful to understand where modern conservative thought in America comes from, and how it evolved. 

There were two dominant themes of conservative thought in the middle of the 20th century. One was what we refer to as Buckley Conservatism. This strain of conservatism emphasized the role of traditions and established hierarchical organizations in promoting social order; preferred limited government, recognized the roles of religion and shared culture in social cohesiveness, distrusted rationalizations and promoted the view that people are, at our core, emotional beings. Buckley conservatives accept that private ownership of property, capitalism and free trade economics are the surest path to economic prosperity for everyone.

The other predominant view of conservatism was Coolidge Conservatism, which traced its roots back to the mid-19th century. This version of conservatism differed from Bucklian conservatism in that it viewed the corporation as the principle driver of both economic and social policy. It eventually merged with Objectivist theory to form the modern Libertarian party.

During the 1970s, a third strain of conservatism arose. We came to call this version of conservative thought neoconservatism, although it might also be called Bush or Kristol Conservatism after the men who exemplified its ideas. This version arose from disaffected liberals, although it hews close to the pre-existing Northeastern Republican thought of the day. Neocons espouse that military adventurism in replacing totalitarian regimes with democratic ones is a laudable use of military power, that government intervention in society to promote social change is not only acceptable but necessary, and a general belief in capitalism, but not free markets (Irving Kristol referred to this as “bourgeois capitalism”). While they agree with their forebears that people are not rational beings, they accept the idea that rationally developed plans, implemented by people who were educated and trained to ignore their emotional impulses, could improve the lives of everyone. This includes a belief that a strong welfare state is a requirement for a modern society.

Buckley conservatives were represented by Barry Goldwater’s quixotic presidential run in 1964 and reached its zenith with the Reagan presidency of the 1980s. But the GOP soon shifted from Buckleyism to Neoconservatism under the leadership of George HW Bush. Interventionist foreign policy and regime change became the order of the day, along with increased taxes and government intrusion into some of the social ramparts, such as local schools and civic organizations.

It is the neoconservative view that most Americans came to associate with being a conservative by the time of Barack Obama’s reelection campaign of 2012. While a great many conservative thinkers, politicians and writers paid lip service to the Bucklian concept of limited government and free markets, they only took that so far as limited taxation on businesses. Beyond that, they still practiced government regulation like a Rockefeller, practiced foreign interventionism like a Bush, and railed for government solutions to social problems like a liberal. Buckley Conservatism seemed an outdated anachronism by this point.

The funny thing about that is neoconservatism was actually the least conservative of the three dominant conservative philosophies that came to be in the 20th century. It owes its existence to liberals who were repulsed by the leftward lurch of mainstream liberal thought during the late 1960s. Neoconservatism shares many views with its liberal roots, although in attenuated form. As Irving Kristol once remarked, “A neoconservative is a liberal who got hit in the face by reality.”

That being said, neoconservatives also adopted Bucklian language in deference to the last truly successful Republican president, in Ronald Reagan. So, we have neoconservatives praising free markets when in reality they haven’t actually practiced free market economics. We have neoconservatives pledging fealty to fiscal responsibility, but refusing to actually do anything about it. We have neoconservatives decrying the welfare state, but refusing to do anything about the two biggest social welfare programs managed by the federal government.

Indeed, it is this aspect of the neoconservative takeover of the Republican party that has led many voters to think of it as nothing more than the flip side of the Democratic party coin. Is it any wonder the average person has no idea what a conservative is?

Into this vacuum stepped one Donald Trump. While almost nobody would consider Trump a died-in-the-wool conservative, he was able to capture the nomination of the Republican party by espousing many conservative views on issues, such as fealty to the letter of the Constitution, lower taxes, less regulation, an end to foreign adventurism, etc. At the same time, he promoted ideas that should have been anathema to any conservative: trade barriers, managed economies and a personal moral code that could be best described as immoral.

Some have described Trump, and his policy goals as a form of right-wing populism. It may well be, but I suspect that Trump has so completely rebranded the moniker of conservative (abetted by a very liberal press that wants nothing more than to permanently discredit conservatism, in all forms) that conservatives will need to re-examine their ideals to see which can be modified, and which of the new ideas can be absorbed, into a 21st century conservatism.

For instance, many conservatives are loathe to accept the idea of nationalism as being a conservative goal. At the same time, one of the core tenets of conservatism – irregardless of the particular flavor of 20th century conservative thought to which one might subscribe – is the notion of a cohesive society, built around a shared history and culture. That is the very essence of nationalism. To some, this smacks of the jingoism and xenophobia associated with the extreme nationalism that punctuated the 1930s. But it need not be. Acceptance of the United States as unique among nations extends back throughout our history, there’s no reason we should deviate from that today. 

The best way to judge whether conservatism, as both a political and societal philosophy, is at all compatible with elements of Trumpism is to see if the general tenets of conservatism are compatible with them. Perhaps no finer mind than that of Russell Kirk laid out those general principles 25 years ago in a terrific essay (you can find it here). So, if we do that comparison, which are – and which are not?

  1.  Human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent. – NO
    • Trumpism doesn’t address human nature at all, nor does it consider it as a guiding principle in any policy decision. Morality is paid lip service, but in practice ignored, both by Trump and most of those in his inner circle.
  2. The conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity. – MAYBE?
    • Trumpism has a dichotic relationship with this idea. On one hand, Trump was elected precisely to upend conventional politics and institutions. On the other, many of his supporters want a return to the customs and conventions they recall from their youth.
  3. Conservatives believe in the principle of prescription. – NO
    • This is one area in which Trump’s liberal roots come shining through. Rather than base his decisions on what worked in the past, he very much is out to completely remake the world order in his own image.
  4. Conservatives are guided by prudence. – NO
    • Not unlike most other politicians of the current era, this principle does not apply to Trump. Every decision he makes is weighed against immediate impact, not the effect on the nation or world five or ten years hence.
  5. Conservatives pay attention to variety. – YES
    • Kirk wrote, “The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law…” This is a principle that is upheld under Trumpism, much to the chagrin of liberals – who are determined to end the inequality of outcomes.
  6. Conservatives understand that humans are not perfect, and cannot be made to be perfect. – NO
    • This is another area in which Trump demonstrates his liberal leanings. By action, he shows he believes himself to be perfected. He believes he can also bring perfection to any number of situations. Such self-confidence is a key part of his appeal, even if it is misguided. 
  7. Freedom and property are closely linked. – NO
    • The Trump administration has fought efforts to end the abysmal practice of civil forfeiture, and followed Trump’s long history of supporting using eminent domain to seize property. That speaks for how strongly this principle is detested by Trumpism.
  8. Conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. – NO
    • Trumpism is all about big, beautiful, federally driven solutions to problems that certainly would be better left to states and localities. Repealing Obamacare would be great, replacing it with another monster federal program not so much. A $1 trillion infrastructure program, with funds doled out by bureaucrats in Washington, will be as much a boondoggle as the “shovel ready jobs” Obama stimulus program.
  9. Government and government officials need restraints on power and human passions. – NO
    • One glance at the headlines or Twitter on any given day tells you all you need to know how Trump (and due to their slavish devotion, most of his supporters) feel about this principle. That Trump came into the Oval Office thinking he had near kingly powers is pretty obvious, and the fact he doesn’t chafes at him probably more than anything else about the job.
  10. Permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society. – NO
    • Kirk meant this in terms of the tension between a normal society’s natural desire towards social progress versus its foundational aspects. As noted previously, Trump is in many ways out to obliterate many of those foundations, without regard to what may replace them. Yet at the same time, his supporters look to return many established norms of prior eras while removing some of the progressive aspects of modern society. 

So based on Kirk’s criteria, Trumpism is not particularly conservative, although there are parts of his agenda that will certainly appeal to conservatives – particularly conservatives who have been able to divorce their societal impulses from their views of governance and morality. Still, we can safely say that most who subscribe to Trumpism are NOT conservatives.

Likewise, we can safely say that those who subscribe to neoconservatism are not conservative, either. The entire philosophy of neoconservatism disagrees with Kirk on points 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10. Think of the headlong rush to impose a Pax Americana by force of arms, to alter the nature of education and force federal intrusion into the same, and so forth. None of those policies nor the reasoning behind them were conservative in nature.

Thus, the confusion for us in determining what conservatism is and who in our country actually is a conservative. Our media, for 30 years – two generations – has conflated “conservative” with Republican. In no small measure, Buckley is responsible for this. He once wrote, “National Review will support the rightwardmost viable candidate.” This led the publication that Buckley founded, over the years, to support all four Bush candidacies, along with the McCain candidacy in 2008 and Romney candidacy in 2012. That sort of cover is precisely what the media (which has been unabashedly liberal for at least 40 years) has needed to paint the neoconservative movement as actually conservative. Likewise, the principle espoused (despite NR’s vociferous objections to Trump during the 2016 election) by Buckley has allowed them to paint Trump as a conservative. 

So the answer to the question “what is a conservative” is the same as it has always been. If the question is, “who is a conservative,” though, and you refer to national leaders and politicians, then there is no obvious answer these days. 


Shut It Down


If the government isn’t going to defend the border, then it isn’t much of a government and has no business being in business.

Shut it down.

If our government refuses to provide for the common defense, it has no business calling itself our government.

Shut it down.

If Congress can spend over $4 trillion a year on things like seeing how fast a shrimp can run on a treadmill, but refuses to fund border defense, defund Congress.

Shut it down.

If our government can find $5 billion to help Iraq secure its border, but refuses to spend $5 billion to secure OUR border, whose government is it?

It isn’t ours.

Shut it down.

And leave it shut down.


A Refugee’s Tale


There’s been a lot talk about refugees in the news the past month. If you listen to your betters on CNN, Central Americans massing at our southern border are refugees.

They’re not. A refugee is someone fleeing their home country because of their religious or political views, or their ethnicity, leave them in imminent danger of death, both from the populace and the government. Solzhenitsyn was a refugee. My mother was a refugee. There may be a legitimate refugee or two tucked into those hundreds now, and soon to be thousands, in Tijuana but the odds are against it.

Those people are not fleeing anything except the fact their home countries are among the most lawless and destitute on the planet. This is despite the fact they have some of the most abundant natural resources on the planet. It makes you wonder about the character of these folks. If they’re not willing to do the heavy lifting needed to bring their governments to account and put forth the effort to create a viable economy in their home countries, why would living here suddenly infuse them with those abilities?

This may come as a shock to you, but even the homeless guy sleeping on a park bench is wealthier than 98% of the world’s population. Stop to ponder that for a moment. Even our most destitute have it better than some 6 billion other human beings. If we accept living somewhere with a bad economic situation as a condition for refugee status, are we to accept responsibility for some 6 billion people? Only the most pie-eyed fool accepts that premise.

It is easy to cite for you people who are true refugees around the world. The Yazidi in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The Uighers in China. The Copts in Egypt. The Rohingya in Myanmar. All are facing actual, government-sponsored extermination for no reason other than their ethnicity and/or religion.

“Never Again,” indeed.

Yesterday we celebrated a holiday dedicated to giving thanks that we live in a country that, no matter what else, is dedicated to the idea that no person should ever be forced by their government to worship in a particular religion, belong to a particular political sect, or face extermination because of their ethnicity. We’ve sometimes fallen a bit short of those ideals, but we never stop striving to perfect them. Beyond all else, those basic freedoms – of religion, of thought, of speech – and the willingness to fight for them are essential to what defines us.

But even if we would rather abandon first principles and ignore the genocides we swore would end after the Holocaust, in order to favor a bunch of folks who have yet to demonstrate any need other than financial want, we should still find and help targeted cases, those people who have become flashpoints in their home countries because their convictions leave them in extreme danger.

Photo of Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi

People like Asia Bibi. If you’re unfamiliar with her, she’s the young woman in Pakistan who’s professed Catholic faith led to her near execution. After the Pakistani government relented under international pressure and released her from death row, she’s had to go into hiding. The typical Pakistani would as soon as kill her by stoning as plunge a knife into her ribs. Her lawyer was forced to flee the country for the same reason. If anyone matches the definition of a refugee, Miss Bibi does.

President Trump could, with the executive powers he has available to him, order DHS to issue Asia Bibi both a travel visa and refugee status. He could demand Pakistan make her available, and order our embassy staff to arrange her safe passage to the US. After all, Pakistan is nominally an ally. Politically, it would be a win, both domestically and internationally.

And it might – just might – force the cable news talking heads to look in the mirror and confront their own hypocrisy.


Out of Left Field…


I haven’t written a baseball post in a while, so I figured it was time to get one out there. Today’s submission is for a trade that would definitely take baseball by surprise, although if you stop to think about it, it shouldn’t. 

So far, the media and fans have been concentrating on the top of the free agent market: Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Patrick Corbin, etc. Or they’re focused on the big-name pitchers that have found themselves on the trade block: Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, James Paxton, and Zack Greinke. It’s understandable. Those are some of the biggest stars in the game and the chance that any of them will change uniforms before Spring Training is bound to get attention.

But the best trades are the ones that make sense for both teams, but still seemingly come from nowhere. Then everyone sits back and says, yeah, why didn’t I think of that. It’s rare that both teams come out of a trade where you’re forced to admit everyone wins. The one I’m about to propose fits that bill.

New York Yankees get Carlos Santana, Philadelphia Phillies get Sonny Gray

Now, here’s why this works out for both teams.

From the Yankees perspective, first base has been a black hole ever since Mark Teixeira retired, and to be honest, Teixeira’s last couple of seasons weren’t why he has an outside shot at the Hall of Fame. Here’s a list of everyone who has started at first over the past two seasons:

  • Chris Carter
  • Greg Bird
  • Chase Headley
  • Garrett Cooper
  • Austin Romine
  • Tyler Austin
  • Matt Holliday
  • Ji-Man Choi
  • Rob Refsnyder
  • Gary Sanchez
  • Neil Walker
  • Luke Voit
  • Brandon Drury

As the saying goes, if you have 13 first basemen, you don’t have any first baseman. I know the Yankees are still saying that Voit is getting first crack at cementing himself as the everyday guy, and that they still think Bird has a high ceiling. But when your goal is surpassing the Red Sox, can you really afford to go into the season with a major question mark at one of the premier offensive positions on any team? Especially given the unsettled nature of the middle infield?

Santana is not a guy who is spectacular. He is, however, as steady a player as they come. You know what to expect from him: somewhere in the neighborhood of a .250 average, 25-25 homers, 80 RBI, 100 walks, an OPS+ of around 110, somewhere around 2.5bWAR. Right now, a steady and slightly better than league average switch-hitting bat sounds pretty good. Add in that Santana has postseason experience, and this begins to look even better.

The Phillies rolled the dice by signing Santana to a 3 year, $60 million contract last offseason and came up snake eyes. It’s not a knock on Santana. He did what he always does. But the fanbase was thinking more Joey Votto for that kind of money. To make matters worse, the signing forced up-and-coming slugger Rhys Hoskins to left field, where he proved to be the league’s worst defensive outfielder. It took at-bats away from young outfielders Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr (particularly from Altherr), setting their development back.

Simply unloading the remaining 2 years and $40 million owed Santana makes this a win for the Phils, who’ve made no secret they want out from that contract. 

Unloading the contract for the much maligned Yankee starter also shores up a need for the Phillies: a reliable starting pitcher. Yes, Gray stunk when he took the bump at Yankee Stadium. But he still managed a 3.17 ERA away from the Bronx. He still has the tools that made him an All-Star in Oakland, but like many before him (Hello Ed Whitson? Carl Pavano?) he could not get past Yankee Stadium. The change of scenery might be all needs to turn his career back around. If not, then the Phils are only on the hook for one more year.

See? Everyone wins this trade!


Is Suburbia Lost to the GOP?


It’s been 10 days since the midterms, and the narrative seems to be centering on a theme: Republicans have lost the suburbs. Certainly, if you just look at the top line data, where it looks as though Democrats managed to flip somewhere around 40 suburban congressional districts, it looks grim for the GOP’s prospects. As they say, results matter and the GOP did pretty badly in the results department.

But when you dig into the reasons why the GOP had such poor results, you might be more surprised to discover that the weakness in the suburbs being panned by any number of talking heads isn’t as terrible as they want you to believe. For starters, let’s examine the overall turnout numbers in those suburbs.

Map of 2018 turnout by county, compiled by the Wall Street Journal

Map of turnout by county, published by the Wall Street Journal

The above turnout “heat map” is pretty simple to read. It compares voter turnout from 2018 to 2016. The closer the number of total votes cast, the darker the shade of blue, the more vote totals came to be the same. Yellows mean there were more votes cast in 2018 than in 2016. So, when you look at this, two things that jump out at you: first, turnout in the Rust Belt and Mid-Atlantic states, along with California, was much lower than in the rest of the country. Second, turnout was exceptional in the Northern Plains, the Desert Southwest, Georgia, and Florida. 

This seems to go against the idea that we’re being spoon fed by the pundits: that Democrats mobilized new midterm voters to turn out, and those new voters chose Democrat representation. It might be a good idea to build a list of seats that actually flipped. Or maybe even a map.

Thankfully, Axios has both. Here is the list of seats that flipped from “red” to “blue”:

  1. Arizona’s 2nd
  2. Iowa’s 1st & 3rd
  3. California’s 10th, 25th, 45th, 48th, 49th
  4. Colorado’s 6th
  5. Florida’s 26th & 27th
  6. Georgia’s 6th
  7. Illinois’ 14th & 6th
  8. Iowa’s 1st & 3rd
  9. Kansas’ 3rd
  10. Maine’s 2nd
  11. Michigan’s 8th & 11th
  12. Minnesota’s 2nd & 3rd. Republicans flipped the 1st & 8th
  13. New Jersey’s 11th,  7th, 2nd & 3rd
  14. New York’s 11th & 19th
  15. New Mexico’s 2nd
  16. Oklahoma’s 5th
  17. Pennsylvania’s 5th, 6th, 7th & 17th. The GOP flipped one blue seat red, the 14th district.
  18. Texas’ 32nd
  19. Virginia’s 2nd,  7th & 10th
  20. Washington’s 8th

Of the 39 seats flipped by Democrats, 28 happened in districts with lower than usual turnout. That hardly indicates that Democrats motivated voters to turn out in droves to crush the Republicans. Rather, it shows that Democrats turned out in comparable numbers to past elections but Republicans stayed home. Is there any way to test this theory?

Turns out we can sample the districts. Since I once lived in New Jersey, I decided to check on the districts that flipped there. I compared the vote totals each candidate received in 2018 against the vote totals for each party’s candidate in 2016. Additionally, my current district is Pennsylvania’s 1st (it used to be PA 8), which even after the State Supreme Court redrew it is largely the same as it was, so I included it. It was the rare Republican hold in the Northeast and seems a good test case of my theory. This is what I came up with:

District                           

NJ 2

NJ 3

NJ 7

NJ 11

PA 1

2016 GOP    Vote

176,338

194,596

185,850

194,299

207,263

2018 GOP    Vote

111,021

147,036

144,802

123,156

168,841

2016 Dem Vote

110,838

127,526

148,088

130,162

173,155

2018 Dem Vote

126,457

150,510

158,892

162,264

160,098

What you see in race after race is that the Democrats didn’t fire up their base to get out to the polls and vote. Their vote totals remained within historical normals, with the exception of NJ 11. The reason three of those four districts flipped is Republican voters stayed home: GOP turnout was down by 20% across those districts. New Jersey 11 is something of an outlier. Democrats ran an exceptionally strong candidate for a seat with a retiring member, whose family has held it in one form or another since the nation was founded. It doesn’t take much to see how voters would opt for a change.

Our test case, PA 1, is directly across the Delaware River from New Jersey’s capital in Trenton. What you see happened there is that while once again, Republican turnout was down about 20%, Democrat turnout was also down and the GOP was able to hold the seat. The reason Democrat turnout was down in this particular district is again likely candidate driven. Scott Wallace was largely viewed as a carpetbagging socialist around here.

Of course, this begs the question: why was the GOP able to turn out voters in other parts of the country, but not in these older suburbs? What was it about their messaging that failed to get their voters off their couches and into a voting booth?

The media narrative is that the Democratic victory was propelled by legions of college educated white women exploding from their suburban homes in a rage against the President on Election Day. However, the media narrative fails to mention that on Election Day 2016, those same college educated white women voted overwhelmingly against the President, too. The media narrative is misleading because it fails to acknowledge that while college educated white women represent a substantial part of the suburban population, they are neither the dominant nor even most representative demographic group. This is hardly surprising, since the media hates acknowledging anything that might disturb their narrative.

While the preferred demographic characterization may be true for the suburbs around NYC or DC, it certainly doesn’t comport with the districts that flipped in 2018. Yes, there are white college educated women in them. But they are still in the minority of residents. Most denizens of these old suburbs are still blue collar workers with families, not unlike my neighborhood. In fact, an easier way to demonstrate this might be to introduce you to some of my neighbors (disclaimer: names changed to keep things civil!)

There are two relatively new, 20 something couple that moved in within the last 18 months. Across the street are John and Kate. John is an accountant, Kate a physician. Nice people, whose politics unsurprisingly run liberal – but the reality of home ownership has made them somewhat less liberal than when they moved in.  Next door to me are Hank and Jen. Hank is an electrician, Jen a LPN still working on her RN. True salt of the earth types, they’re pretty much apolitical.

As for my more established neighbors, there a retired husband and wife across the street. They’re in their 80’s, he is battling Parkinson’s and his wife is doing what she can to care for him and is very involved with her church. There is a widow on my other flank, whose children are constantly trying to get her to move because of her health. Also on this block are a mechanic and his wife, a bartender, an HVAC tech and his wife, who stays home with their children, a cable installer and his wife, a hairdresser and finally, a divorced salesman in the tech industry. This particular block is representative of the town overall. It remains a largely working-class community, with perhaps a third of the residents having at least a bachelor’s degree. Although not represented on my block, roughly 40% of the town’s residents would identify as something other than Caucasian. 

Hardly the picture the media has spent the past few months painting of suburban demographics and life.

So, if we accept that those opposed to the President (on whatever grounds) in these communities continued to turn out, while those who do support him failed to vote, what other factors drove those behaviors? After all, Mr. Trump’s approval and disapproval numbers haven’t moved very much since his election. Nor has the intensity of support or disapproval moved very much since then. If we accept the premise that the primary motivating factor for Democrats was opposition to the President, then why weren’t Trump voters in these older suburbs equally motivated to turn out in support? This is a particularly intriguing question when we see in the parts of the country where they were similarly motivated, Republicans were able to hold their seats and even make gains in the Senate.

Understanding these motivations is the key. Not to belabor the point, but Democrats didn’t offer the working class voters in suburbs anything new. They didn’t offer a governing vision that captured the imaginations of the working class, a slate of programs that motivated them to change their allegiance or convince them that a platform based on “resistance” was attractive. In other words, they didn’t win. Republicans lost, and they lost because they failed to connect.

Where Republicans failed to connect with the suburbanites who didn’t bother to vote is not hard to identify. President Trump (and by extension, the down ballot Republicans in those districts) won by emphasizing the wallet issues that have always motivated these voters. However, rather than campaign on those same issues this term, the GOP playbook was to emphasize the standard, Bushian corporatism while the President played to nativism. It’s likely the nativism played well in many districts, but it doesn’t hit the top 5 concerns of the typical suburban voter. As for corporatism, the suburban voter has as much distrust of that as they do anything the GOP could campaign on.

What the working-class, suburban voter wants to hear about is good jobs at decent wages, decent schools for their kids, secure retirements, lower costs around their health care and daily expenses, and to have a sense their children can live a better life than they. They want secure communities and a secure nation. And yes, most of them believe they’re being overtaxed and under-served by every level of government.

This is the “populist” message that won President Trump the White House, distilled. It is not Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney or any of the Bush brother’s message. It is something that seems separate from conservative orthodoxy, since for the better part of four decades conservative economic orthodoxy has been built around the concept of the trickle down, but in reality the entire purpose of trickle down economics is to deliver populist results. The problem is that mainstream Republicans have a hard time talking to this message, since it sounds remarkably like what was once the Democrat economic message.

Another problem Republicans have with the populist message is understanding that many government programs need to be be reconfigured for the 21st century. Their default position has been to end them for so long they’ve lost sight of  the fact that some actually do some good, and a few tweaks could greatly improve them. By all means, get rid of the ones that are wasteful but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. By the way, targeting actual government waste remains a winning message and one that gets buoyed by saving the programs the public has, in many ways, come to rely on.

We could begin with Social Security, as an example. My preference would be to phase the program out, but the reality is after 83 years, it isn’t going anywhere. While pretty much everyone recognizes the system is either in or nearing a fiscal crisis, nobody seems willing to do much of anything to ensure it will be there in 40 years, when John, Kate, Hank and Jen will be counting on it as a substantial part of their retirement income, much as the retirees in my neighborhood already do and the rest of us in our 40’s and 50’s are planning on it being there as part of ours shortly. The GOP continues to push the idea of replacing the current funding formula with what amounts to a collective 401(k) while increasing the age at which retirees can collect what amounts to reduced benefits. I hate to break it to them, but while this plan makes wonkish sense it is a losing message with suburbanites. 

One Republican who seems to grasp the reality that the GOP’s current economic message is lacking is Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. He has recently been pushing a plan he calls, “Home Economics.” Now the plan itself is more of a broad outline that is very light on specifics, but it does address the concerns of those voters that failed to turn out on Election Day. He emphasizes the ideas of upward mobility, wage growth, family stability and community. I am not saying it is a perfect outline, but it is a start towards recognizing the deficiencies in the current GOP message (also, given his performance in the 2016 primaries, Rubio probably isn’t the best messenger).

While Democrats are cheering their wins this term and congratulating themselves (as in 2008) on capturing “demographic superiority,” they are making the mistake of abandoning the populist economic message. At the same time, while vilifying corporate interests they have become even more reliant on them than the GOP. It is an opportunity where the Republicans, if they are smart and understand where their voters are today, should leap to take advantage. Doing so doesn’t mean abandoning the core values of Buckley conservatism; if anything, it means an actual return to those values. 

They have two years. The question is, will they step up to the plate?


Honoring the Armistice


One hundred years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day on the eleventh month, the world heard something it hadn’t heard in over four years: silence.

It was the Armistice. The War to End All Wars was finally over. The world knew it had changed, but how much so wasn’t readily apparent. Before the year was over, the ancient Hapsburg and Romanov dynasties would be consigned to the scrap heap of history. The lack of strong central government and the economic blight imposed by the Treaty of Versailles would soon be the causes of another, even more terrible war.

But on this day, at this hour, people truly believed that never again would great powers wage war on one another. The carnage of the one just ended was unlike anything ever seen. Millions of men, some bold, most scared, all of them heroic, had breathed their last in the mud and vermin filled trenches of Europe. Millions more were made infirm, the loss of limb, eyes or even lungs a permanent reminder of their service.

But November 11, 1918 seemed to be the end of all that. It harkened of a new era, one of peace, one in which young men of every nationality would never again need to worry about fighting against terrible odds on a battlefield far from their homes.

We haven’t lived up to that ideal over these first hundred years since the first Armistice Day. Maybe I’m being naive, but shouldn’t we rededicate ourselves to that purpose over the next 100?

Because, quite frankly the world doesn’t need any more of these.


RIP, Ian Long


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This is one of the most difficult posts I will have ever written, or ever feel compelled to write. But what I am about to say must not only be heard, but preserved, if only because the topic is of vital importance.

As you’re undoubtedly aware by now, late last night, Ian David Long drove to the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA. For reasons we will probably never know, he arrived with evil intent. He was armed & he was dressed for combat. He began by shooting the doorman with his Glock 21 .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. By the time he was finished, 11 others lay dead,  including Ventura Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Ron Helus. 10 more were wounded.

In the hours since we have come to learn that Ian Long was discharged from active service with the Marine Corps in 2013. He served one contract, like most Marines and servicemembers. He did nothing that particularly distinguished his brief military career, nor did he do anything that detracted from his service. He was simply your average Marine, like most of those who earned an Eagle, Globe & Anchor before and since.

When I first heard the news this morning, I remarked to my wife (this was before we knew who the gunman was) that I had to begrudgingly give the shooter kudos for round efficiency. See, as a Marine I appreciate good shooting – even if done for evil reasons. Good, accurate shooting under pressure is a skill that every Marine must master. There is no earning that EGA without it.

Of course, now we know the shooter is a Marine.

The news has devastated me.

On Saturday, our Corps will celebrate our 243rd birthday. Personally, I will be in South Philadelphia to join a few thousand other Marines in raising a mug and joining in the cake ceremony. Of all the things that join us as Marines, it is these traditions that go back to the very beginnings of the nation that are the most important. Every Marine knows we were born at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia on November 10, 1775. Ordinarily, this time of year is only exceeded in anticipation among Marines by Christmas.

Now, that excitement is tempered by the realization one of our own has gone off the reservation. To make matters worse, as a former Veteran’s Service Officer for the American Legion, I know there was no need for it. This was the most preventable tragedy imaginable.

It didn’t take long for the media to begin with the “crazy veteran” stories. It feeds an all too common narrative among the non-veteran community that veterans are damaged goods, this misperception that veterans are incompatible with civilization. After all, we do have higher rates of mental illness than the civilian population, so we must be ticking time bombs. An incident like last night shouldn’t be a surprise, according to the talking heads. The surprise should be that it doesn’t happen more often.

First, stop with that nonsense. Yes, veterans have seen and done things that 98% of you cannot even begin to imagine. Yes, those things leave an indelible mark on your psyche. They also form the basis for a bond among us that those of you who have never served cannot begin to imagine. But that does not make us monsters lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on you at first opportunity. For the most part, when we take off the uniform, we lead perfectly normal lives. We are bankers, cooks, bartenders, construction foremen, teachers; you’ll find us doing all of the same mundane things you do. The battles we wage with our personal demons are off to the side, leaving you unaffected.

Whatever drove Ian Long to commit his act of premeditated mass murder, to plan it out with the ruthless efficiency of any Marine infantry commander ordering the clearing of a building and execute it with that same efficiency, we will likely never know. The speculation is that he had PTSD. I’m calling bullshit on that media diagnosis right now.

I should know. I am also a veteran with PTSD, like millions of others.

But I also have two other diagnoses, Explosive Personality Disorder, and Survivor’s Guilt, that would be more likely than PTSD to cause someone to do what Long did. PTSD is not the type of mental illness that leads to violence. If anything, left untreated it is more likely to result in suicide than murder. EPD, on the other hand… anyone remember the old  “Hulk” television show? The classic line from that show was David Banner telling the reporter who chased him, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

But we’ll never know because by all accounts he was not receiving any care for any mental issues. This is despite a visit from a clinician in April of last year, someone I’m certain who was well-meaning but likely totally unsuited to diagnosing a veteran. As mentioned above, we’re expert at dealing with our problems privately. Part of that is learning how to hide the outward signs. I survived for nearly 12 years before a fellow vet convinced me to get help. It was the best thing that could have happened for me, although my fight with the VA to get that care could probably fill a novel.

The VA’s version of care for mental illness is a big part of the reason many veterans, even though they know they need help, do not seek it. I abandoned their treatment regimen not long after beginning it since it basically consists of keeping the veteran doped up on handfuls of pills. But by getting into treatment, I met plenty of other vets who were also dealing with their own issues. Working with them, I found my way back to God and an inner peace. Do I struggle at times? Sure. Do I still wake at night to the sights and sounds of helicopters falling into the water? You bet. Do I still find myself getting melancholy? Sure. Do I still think to myself, “I really should just knock this guy’s block off” a little too often? Probably.

But I don’t just haul off and beat the crap out of the deserving. I was able to get the help I needed. Through my work as a VSO, I’ve helped others get the help they needed. As a veteran, I’ve spent midnight hours on the phone with veterans and their loved ones, defusing crisis situations that most civilians are unequipped to handle, no matter how well-intentioned. The shame of this whole thing is that Ian Long did not get the help he needed, for whatever reason. His demons beat on his soul until finally, he snapped. It shouldn’t have happened. There was no need.

The next bit is for every veteran who made be reading. If you are not a veteran, the language that follows may be a bit salty for your tastes. Bear with me – and please share this part with any veterans you know.

You do not have to suffer alone. In fact, that is the worst thing you can do. Trust someone who’s been where you are, who’s been where you were and who wants you to at least get as far as I have, if not further. Here are some basic life skills for veterans to cope with the civilian world. Don’t get me wrong, I have some great civilian friends. But they will never know the things you do (how the hell could they?).

1: Cultivate and maintain close friendships with at least one older and one younger vet. Your elder has been where you are and can help coach you through it. You can do the same for the younger, and benefit from helping another.

2: Do something creative/constructive. Work with wood, steel, words, music, paint, sculpture, food, whatever you can do. Balance the destructive with the creative. I like woodworking. You might prefer painting. Whatever, just git ‘er done.

3: Have a routine and stick to it. When it gets REALLY dark, stick to it even more rigidly. Concentrate on doing the “next thing.” Even if you have to force yourself. 0700: Reveille is reveille. Make yourself get up. 0705: Your rack must be made…make it. 0710: Wash your nasty ass, etc. Sounds basic, but it works. There’s a reason we spent all those years having our sergeants bitch at us every time we were 30 seconds late for formation, after all.

4: Stay alert when you’re out and about. LOOK for neighbors (anyone in your community) who could use a hand, and help them. Even better if you can do it “on the sly,” and let ’em wonder. You’ll feel better about yourself and your community.

5: Have a couple brothers you can call (and vice versa) 24/7 when it’s REALLY bad, and CALL them. (These can, but don’t have to be, covered in #1…just be sure they’re people who will call you on bullshit if necessary.)

6: When you get the blues, when you start missing friends who will never be coming back, when the bombs are going off around you – when the demons begin whispering in your ear – don’t try to lose yourself in a bottle or some other drug. Go back to the first 5 tips instead. Those demons in the bottle are only going to make you angrier, sadder and start talking to your other demons. Next thing you know, they’re going to be making you say “IT’S TIME TO FUCK SOME SHIT UP” and do something stupid. Like, shoot up a bar full of innocent people, for instance.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go mourn. I’ll be mourning those innocents who lost their lives last night.

But I’ll also mourn the loss of Ian David Long, a Marine left alone to fight an impossible nightmare, on this the eve of the Marine Corps birthday. In many ways, he is a victim, too.

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Ian David Long

 


TRW


Tuesday, I patched holes in walls. I replaced some broken and chipped moldings.
I also voted.

Tuesday night, I watched election returns. I was pretty disappointed in the performance of my fellow citizens in Pennsylvania, How could they possibly vote against their best interests and return that many big government types to office? I was pretty happy with my fellow citizens in other places, though. They were smart enough to realize the Andrew Gillum, Stacy Abrams and “Beto” O’Rourke’s of the world can’t possibly deliver all those goodies without crashing the goody cart. When my local US Representative was declared the winner at 11:30 (praise be to God we’re the one district in this state that kept our sanity!) I went to sleep.

Yesterday, I woke, put on the coffee (I’m always up before the missus), helped my nephew get ready for school, ate breakfast, checked the weather (no rain, FINALLY!), didn’t shave…

Look, the point of all this is simply to say that anyone who reads this blog or follows me on social media knows I follow politics intensely. You know I love a good argument on applied governance, on Constitutional principles, on budgets, on policy. I can go on for thousands of words about the finer points of repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments.

But like most Americans, I have a real life outside these digital dots and dashes, with real people that I care about and who care about me. The entire point of my political life is about securing a better life in the United States, not only for myself but more importantly, for them. Politics is simply one aspect of (what I hope, anyway) is a wide and varied real-world life. Among my fellow conservatives, this seems to be our understanding of how the real world works. You work, you raise your family, you hang out with your friends, you dabble in politics and such as needed to let you keep doing the first three.

This is why we are bemused and confused when we see the mobs of left cultists rioting over an election result. Or rioting because there isn’t an election yet. Or just rioting over politics generally.

Elections happen annually. Sometimes, even more frequently if you’re unlucky enough to live somewhere the locals deem it that way. So that means every year you get to go vote. In our system, we vote for people who do the daily voting for us. Sometimes, the person who gets chosen is the person you wanted. Sometimes it isn’t. But the entire idea, our entire society, is built on the idea that everyone accepts that person until their term is over (or they turn out to be so corrupt they get arrested *ahem New Jersey ahem*).

Left cultists don’t seem to get this concept. Maybe it’s because we stopped teaching civics in school. Maybe it’s because, as parents, we were too lenient on Not My Johnny. Maybe it’s because they’re mentally more susceptible to believing fantasies. I was talking with a friend the other day, a pretty astute guy for a Marine, who mentioned he thinks this is all from technology. When I quizzed him as to why, he said the very tools that make interacting easier, are also the tools that make expansive government less necessary than not that long ago, and the left cultists have bought into the idea of the nanny state. I’m not sure, but there’s a kernel of an idea in there.

I’ll have to explore it later. For now, it’s time to put the coffee on and start getting ready for my day. Moving furniture is probably one of my least favorite tasks.
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Political Baseballs Endorses


In case you were not aware, Tuesday is Election Day. These are midterm elections, which while the mass media may ignore, are actually about local politics. So, these endorsements are (unsurprisingly) for our locale, which is Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District, and State District 140. If you’re tuning in from elsewhere, geographically it is described as Lower Bucks County, an area roughly 20 – 30 miles north of Philadelphia along the Delaware River.

For US House of Representatives:

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Brian Fitzpatrick

I am 100% behind the candidacy of current Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and have been all along. Even if I disagreed with his major policy positions (which I do not), he still would have my vote and endorsement based strictly on constituent services. When I first moved to this district, a little under two years ago, I received my medical care via the VA system in New Jersey. For nearly a year, I tried to get my care transferred to the Philadelphia system, without success. But within a week after calling Congressman Fitzpatrick’s office, not only was my care transferred but I was actually seeing my new doctors. I do not know who he called, what strings he pulled or how he cut through that much red tap that quickly, but he did.

On policy, Brian is not quite a doctrinaire conservative, but he does support less regulation, lower taxes, strong border enforcement, and military readiness. A veteran himself, he is also a former FBI interrogator who returned to Iraq to question members of Al-Queda and ISIS, despite threats against both himself and his family. My only quibble with his record is his support of public sector unions, but I guess we can’t all be perfect.

His opponent is Scott Wallace, scion of the Communist Party USA’s First Family. In keeping with his family tradition, he supports cop killers like Mumia Abu-Jamal, personally funded the lawyers for a bunch of terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, bankrolls an organization out of South Africa (where he lived for over 20 years) dedicated to the elimination of nation states and fully supports repealing the 2nd Amendment, along with confiscation of private weapons. That he even has the backing of the local Democrats is evidence of how far off the rails one of our traditional parties has gone.

This one wasn’t even close.

For Governor:

TomWolf

Tom Wolf

I guess proving my non-partisan bona fides, I am supporting Gov. Tom Wolf for a second term as Pennsylvania’s governor. It isn’t so much as that I support his preferred policy prescriptions. After all, like most Democrats, he firmly believes in Big Government. However, he also proved to be a pragmatist during his first term, actually working with the Republican State House to get effective solutions passed, keep the state from crippling debt and while taxes have indeed gone up, the rate has been less than inflation.

His principal opponent is Republican Scott Wagner. Wagner, despite a half-decade as a state legislator, seems to be clueless as to how government functions. Further, while he campaigns in sound bites, he demonstrably lacks any grasp of the actual issues he’s made central to his campaign. For example, he has pledged to eliminate tying school taxes, at either the local or state level, to property taxes. It sounds great, but he has not offered an alternative education funding plan. In 2018, the state’s share of education spending was slightly more than $6 billion. Local contributions statewide were more than double that. While forcing the PSEA to reevaluate their pension plan is a good idea, I doubt you can find more than $18 billion a year from pension savings.

For US Senator:

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Dale Kerns

I am not endorsing either major candidate, incumbent Democrat Bob Casey or Republican Lou Barletta, for this office. I expect that a US Senator will take the office seriously, as individual Senators have the ability to wield tremendous influence over the federal government. Neither man seems to grasp the gravity of the office they seek – they are both the type of unserious person seeking an official capacity I wrote about a few weeks ago.

I met Senator Casey a few months ago at a veteran’s event. He came across as one of those men whose charm is only exceeded by his vacuity. He is badly miscast as a US Senator. It is possible he had an original thought once, but I wouldn’t count on it. His voting record supports this view: whatever position his party’s Senate leader supported is the way he has voted 99% of the time.

Mr. Barletta is currently serving as the 11th District Representative in Congress. He has done nothing to distinguish himself in that position. If this were the man who seemed principled 5 years ago, when he led a minor revolt against the budget proposal over the riders attached, I probably would have endorsed him. But he was chastised and punished by the House leadership over that stance, and he seems to have learned his lesson. Since then, Barletta’s is one vote the GOP whip has never had to worry about.

This year, although he has about as much chance of winning as I do, I am endorsing the Libertarian candidate, Dale Kerns. His platform is pretty much what you would expect from a Libertarian, with the exception of his stance on abortion, which would probably be better described as a Federalist position. If you haven’t had a chance to review his platform yet, I urge you to do so and then pull the lever for him.

For State Senate:

MargueriteQuinn

Marguerite Quinn

I endorse Republican Marguerite Quinn for the office of State Senator from District 10.

In this race, both candidates have a substantial record to evaluate. Mrs. Quinn is in her 6th term representing District 143 in the State House. Her opponent, Democrat Steve Santarsiero, served 4 terms representing District 31 prior to losing his re-election bid in 2016. Comparing their records, what you find is that Mrs. Quinn, despite also running a successful real estate brokerage, has managed to write over 3,000 bills during her tenure. She has focused on reining in government interference in how parents raise their children, welfare reform (including attempting to exclude illegal aliens from eligibility) and smart environmental reforms (for instance, requiring advance notice of proposed LNG pipeline work to neighborhoods). It is an impressive record of achievement, and while not quite as conservative on some policy matters as I might like, she hews close enough (a 90% rating from the NFIB and 74% from the ACU) that I feel comfortable voting for her.

Mr. Santarsiero, during his 8 years in office, wrote about 400 bills, of which only 2  passed. They were both resolutions honoring recently deceased former judges in his district. That hardly qualifies as an effective legislator, and I cannot see how anyone should be rewarded for that level of incompetence. Also, his policy prescriptions often read like something from the Bernie Sanders’ wing of his party. The ACU has given him a score of less than 10%, rating him as “far left.” Conversely, the Democrat Socialists gave him their endorsement.

Again, one of those races that wasn’t hard to decide.

For Pennsylvania State Representative:

Democrat John Galloway is running unopposed for this office. I should have thrown my hat into the ring. 😉

 

 


Birthright Citizenship Redux


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Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment

This morning, news broke that President Trump intends to end “birthright citizenship” for illegal aliens by executive order. It is certainly a bold stroke, and undeniably a blatant political move coming right before the midterm elections next week. But before everyone gets themselves into a lather over the announcement, we need to stop and realize that this is a dance in multiple parts. Specifically, there are questions it raises and we don’t even have the text of the proposed order to begin working with yet. However, we can break the announcement into three distinct parts, just based on the interview the President gave to Axios. The first is, does the President have the authority to make this change to citizenship requirements? Secondly, if the President does have the authority, would such a change to citizenship standards pass Constitutional review? Finally, assuming questions 1 and 2 can be affirmed, how would such a change be implemented?

As to the first question, it is extremely doubtful the President can unilaterally change citizenship standards. There are steps he could include in a concurrent executive order that would have the same effect as changing citizenship standards without actually touching on any of the relevant Constitutional issues a Presidential end run would create (I’ll touch on those when I discuss the third question).

The reason I doubt a President can ignore the wishes of Congress when setting citizenship standards is found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution:

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

I have little doubt the President will attempt some weird workaround. The most likely method will be by declaring that since Congress has failed to act on the question of citizenship in any meaningful way since the passage of  the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 (or as it is commonly referred to, the McCarron-Walter Act, 8 USC Chapter 12), nor has it even attempted to amend the law in 17 years, then he can by means of his powers in the Opinion Clause amend the law on his own. This is a serious misreading of the powers enumerated in Article 2, Section 2, and I cannot see any possible way any court in the country would let this stand.

So, what is to be gained by a move any pre-law student can see is futile? Well, this was one of the President’s campaign planks. What’s more, while I am certain the media will hyperventilate while mentioning “the President’s base” when talking about this, what they won’t tell you is that ending birthright citizenship for illegal aliens has consistently polled around 65% approval. It is a winning issue for him, and this Kafkaesque method of getting people talking about it again will prove that, even if the “Morning Joe” panel begs to disagree.

So, as to the second question, should Congress move on the President’s request to limit birthright citizenship, would it pass Constitutional muster? This is the biggest question that needs to be answered, and you can bet the legal challenges will be flying should such a bill ever get passed. I posted the relevant portion of the Constitution at the top of this post. This is referred to as the Citizenship Clause, or Section 1, of the 14th Amendment, and on first blush, it reads as simply being born in the United States immediately confers citizenship to you. This is actually the furthest thing from the truth, and the key part is the part that states “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” In other words, the authors of the 14th Amendment understood from the outset that not everyone born on US territory should automatically be granted citizenship.

That’s because their principle concern in authoring the 14th Amendment was redressing some of the more pernicious aspects of readmitting former Confederate states into the Union. Among these were citizenship, the right of representation, due process protections, and debts incurred by the former Confederate states to foreign powers (yes, all those questions are addressed in the 14th Amendment). They understood the amendment would cover the issues in broad brush strokes, but that further tweaks over time would be needed. So they included section 5, which states

The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

In fact, it was by this clause that Congress finally granted citizenship to Native Americans in 1924, under the Snyder Act, as well as to residents of most American territories (Puerto Rico by 8 USC 1402, the US Virgin Islands by 8 USC 1406 and Guam by 8 USC 1407). Those last three acts were passed in the 1950’s. Even though those territories had been part of the United States since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, persons born there were not considered US citizens prior to that. We’ll be revisiting this shortly.

Now back to the Citizenship Clause. The authors understood that not everyone born on US soil should automatically be entitled to US citizenship. The phrase “subject to the jurisdiction of” has been hotly debated in Constitutional circles for better than a century. There are plenty of articles arguing the exact meaning “jurisdiction” as it applies to the 14th Amendment, and you’re certainly welcome to do the research for them. However, they break down into two general categories. The first holds that “jurisdiction” refers to allegiance to the United States, and requires the person does not hold allegiance to a foreign power or be in a state of rebellion against the United States. This is backed by the intent of the Citizenship Clause: it was intended to ensure that prior to re-obtaining their citizenship, the former Confederates had renounced their rebellion. The secondary purpose was to override the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision of 1857, which held that former slaves were not citizens of the United States and therefore not entitled to due process protections (also addressed in the Due Process Clause of the amendment).

The second interpretation is the one most commonly held by the media types, that “jurisdiction” refers to being liable to the laws of the United States. Under this explanation, anyone born on US soil is a citizen, unless recognized as a citizen of a foreign power (for instance, the child of an ambassador), since everyone is subject to US law.

You might think this is already settled law, based on the common narrative. Actually, it is anything but. The question has only partly come before the Supreme Court once, in 1898. In US v Wong Kim Ark, the court held that the children of legal immigrants are entitled to birthright citizenship. The precedent of jus soli (or by soil) was affirmed for this purpose, but the principle of jus sanguinis (or by parental right) was not disavowed, either. Further, the idea that sanguinis takes precedence over soli is further affirmed by those acts I mentioned above: the ones that granted citizenship to residents of certain territories. And if you’re ready for your head to explode, there are still two US territories where birthright citizenship is not granted: those born on American Samoa or the Swains Islands are considered US nationals, but not citizens.

What all of this means is there is enough ambiguity to ensure that should Congress act under their Section 5 powers of the 14th Amendment to restrict the establishment of the Citizenship Clause to legally admitted residents, then a Supreme Court case is certain. The outcome isn’t, but given the current court’s alignment, an affirmative decision in the President’s favor is most likely.

Finally, I mentioned that the third question – what can the President do in the meantime – is rather substantial. I’ve already demonstrated the President does not have the authority to rewrite the laws around citizenship on his own. However, he does have the authority to affect how those laws are enforced. There is a multitude of actions he can order that, while not ending birthright citizenship for illegal aliens, would severely curtail their ability to exercise it. This could begin at birth, by requiring the Social Security Administration to have all parents complete a paper form that would include proof of parentage and parental citizenship, with documentation, prior to issuing a social security number to any newborn. It would inconvenience everyone, but you have to imagine the change to the process (it currently takes about ten minutes to get a social security number for a newborn) and document requirements would scare off most illegal parents. He could order that all birth documents be submitted to the National Archives. He could require all parents be fingerprinted and run through the FBI NICS, similar to how we require background checks for purchasing a firearm, prior to a birth certificate being issued.

These are all hypothetical possibilities, of course. But they serve the same purpose. They telegraph in clear terms that the children of illegal aliens are not welcome, and the “anchor baby” concept is effectively over – regardless of what the Supreme Court eventually decides.

 


Fire Up the Hot Stove!


The Boston Red Sox have won the World Series, claiming their 4th championship since 2004. Congratulations to them. But now begins the long winter of baseball’s offseason, and every other team’s jockeying for position to knock them off.

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The Yankees had a good season. Despite a rash of injuries to key players and underperformance from others, they still won 100 games and the wild card. Unfortunately, Boston won 108. So how do you improve what is already a really good team by 9 more wins? That’s the question that Brian Cashman will have to answer over the next 5 months.

It’s no secret where the Yankees need to improve. The principal difference between the top two teams in the AL East (and Houston, who won 103 games in the West) is the starting rotations. Boston and Houston had much better starting pitching than the Yankees all season, and the result showed in the final standings and in the playoffs. What’s more, the Yankees are looking at losing 3 of their starting pitchers to free agency. Boston has 1 and Houston has 2 pitchers set to hit the market.

But the offseason challenges don’t end there. Those 3 pitchers are part of at least 11 players (and possibly 12) who could leave the Bronx for other green pastures. It also doesn’t include the fate of SP Sonny Gray, an ace pitcher who has proven to have Ed Whitson disease. In other words, Cashman & Co. could well be looking at replacing 52% of the roster over the winter, while maintaining relevancy. Now add in injuries to SS Didi Gregorius, an uncertain situation at first base, an overcrowded outfield and perhaps the best free agent class in history, and this has the making of being one of the most entertaining hot stove seasons in a long, long time.

Starting Pitching: Only two starters are guaranteed to return, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. Despite Severino’s well-documented struggles in the second half last season, I believe he will bounce back perfectly fine next year. His issues stem from two sources, I think: first was a hangover effect from the increased workload in 2017 (it isn’t an uncommon occurrence in baseball). The other is that multiple other teams said Sevy has a habit of tipping his pitches. I don’t care what you throw, if the other guy knows what’s coming he can hit it. Tanaka has managed to pitch his entire career with an elbow ligament that threatens to snap apart on every pitch. Will this be the year it finally does? Suffice it to say, the Yankees need at least 5 more quality starting options before breaking camp.

The most intriguing possibility is the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner. The Giants look poised to engage in a total rebuild, and Bumgarner is a quality ace with a proven record of pitching his best when the lights are brightest. If they make him available, the Yankees should go all in on him. Sonny Gray could be the centerpiece of this trade. Even though he demonstrated a severe case of the yips when pitching at Yankee Stadium, he did pitch to a 3.17 ERA and 1.155 WHIP on the road, and his best years came across SF bay in Oakland. Both Bumgarner and Gray are 29 years old, and both remain under team control through 2019. On paper, it’s a good match.

Other trade targets could include Zack Greinke, Tyler Chatwood, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zach Wheeler. As for free agents, everyone expects the Yanks to go hard after Patrick Corbin, an NY kid who had a breakout season in 2018. Also, expect the team to work hard to resign JA Happ, and if that fails, then to turn to beg CC Sabathia to come back. The other top FA options include Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Nathan Eovaldi, and Gio Gonzales. There’s also the possibility Clayton Kershaw opts out of his contract, and Cole Hamels will probably be bought out of his. There is also a bevy of kids in the high minors who can serve as either trade or depth pieces. There will certainly be plenty to choose from, which means none of us should ever be subjected to the “Luis Cessa Experience” again.

Bullpen: The Yankees rode a historic bullpen to those 100 wins last season. The “four closers” (Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zach Britton, and David Robertson) combined for 211 innings, 44 saves, a 1.066 WHIP and 320 strikeouts. Now, Robertson and Britton are both scheduled to hit free agency, and it seems likely that given the dearth of good closers in MLB these days, both will be able to find jobs as the closer for a new team.

Fortunately, quality bullpen arms seem to be the one constant the Yankees farm system churns out. Look for kids like Chance Adams, Tommy Kahnle, Steven Tarpley, JP Feyereisen, Cole Coshow, and  Ben Heller to get a chance to fill in. At the same time, you can expect Chad Green and Jonathan Holder to move up in the pecking order. All in all, this is the one part of the team the Yankee brain trust doesn’t need to think too hard over, nor do they need to worry about allocating lots of money to fix it.

Catching: The Yankees know they’ll be returning the same catchers as in 2018. Gary Sanchez will be the starter, backed up by Austin Romine. The good news is that Romine has rounded out into a quality backup backstop, the kind of guy you can play 85-90 times a year and not get a headache from it.

The bad news is Sanchez was one of the most disappointing players for the Yankees last year. A combination of injuries, bad luck, and attitude contributed to what was easily the young catcher’s worst season. If he can turn it around (and the talent that nearly won him a ROY in a half season is still there), the Yankees have a building block. If not, they have a decision to make. But that looks to be something for next offseason, not this one.

Infield: Perhaps no area of the team will require more attention than the infield. As mentioned, Didi Gregorius injury in the last playoff game will have him sitting until at least September of 2019, leaving a huge hole at shortstop. Miguel Andujar may well win this year’s ROY, but his defense was among the league’s worst at 3B. Gleyber Torres was as good as advertised at second base, but Greg Bird disappeared among more injuries and anemic production and may be facing the end of his road. Luke Voit, former St. Louis castoff, came over and provided a needed boost at first base – but can the Yankees count on him to be the answer? They tried to build Bird’s career from a cameo in 2015 – and three years later we’re still waiting.

Of course, the name on everyone’s list of infielders is Manny Machado. The erstwhile Oriole and Dodger may have played his way out of the Bronx with his postseason antics, though. Nobody argues with the talent, but Manny has demonstrated that he is very much a selfish player. That’s an attitude that simply will not mesh with the Yankee way. One thing this generation of Steinbrenners does not want is a return to the Bronx Zoo days of the 1970’s.

So, what to do? I suggest the Yankees get bold. The other mega free agent available is Bryce Harper. I suggest the Yankees sign Harper, but not for the outfield. To play first. Yes, you heard that right. his left-handed bat will help balance the lineup, his dynamism will add an athletic component that was largely missing last year and while there have been questions about his maturity in the past, his down year last year came largely from him not trying to put up huge numbers but help his decimated team win. Next, I would move Andujar into a 3B/OF role with the idea of him taking the bulk of LF reps by the next All-Star break. Then, I would go after this year’s Swiss Army knife player, Marwin  Gonzalez, primarily to play short, but also to get reps at 3B and as needed elsewhere. Once Gregorius is back, Gonzalez moves permanently to third and Andujar becomes the regular left fielder.

Those moves also free up Bird and/or Voit to become available in a trade for a starting pitcher, where they might have more value to the Yankees. Depth would also be improved, as the Yankees have plenty of well-regarded utility types down on the farm, led by #16 overall prospect Thairo Estrada, along with Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes.

Outfield: What do you do when you have 5 former All-Stars, and a consensus top 50 prospect, for three positions?

That is the dilemma facing the Yankee brass when it comes to the outfield. Suffice it to say none of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, or Giancarlo Stanton are going anywhere. Look for all three to reprise their roles in right field, center field and as the primary DH, respectively.

That leaves at least three (and if the Yanks adopt my Andujar plan, four) players to squeeze into one spot. So how to do this?

First is through attrition but in different ways.

Brett Gardner has patrolled left field for the Yanks since 2008. He is the last of the 2009 champions still on the team, but the Yankees have until Wednesday to decide whether to exercise the buyout or renew the contract for $12.5 million. Here’s the thing: how much do you pay for intangibles, like leadership, hustle, and grit? Because that’s about all Gardy has left in the tank. He still wants to play – and he thinks he still can – but the results are no longer showing up on the field. My guess is we’ve seen the last of Gardner in Pinstripes until a future Old-Timer’s Day.

The other player whose time has passed is Jacoby Ellsbury, the incredibly disappearing and enigmatic center fielder. I realize the Yankees don’t want to admit signing him was a terrible mistake, and I know they don’t want to eat the remaining $47.5 million on his contract. But here’s the thing: the guy can’t stay healthy enough to even take batting practice, he can’t play anywhere but center (and that poorly), can’t throw, can’t steal bases anymore. His contract is a sunk cost. Better to pay him to go away then pay him to take up an even more valuable roster spot, especially now that the team is finally under the salary cap.

That leaves Clint Frazier as the fourth outfielder. The uber-prospect suffered through a dismal season last year, stemming from a concussion suffered near the end of Spring Training. In limited action (54 games) in the minors, Frazier didn’t show too many ill effects, hitting .305 with a .950 OPS. He should be fine in 2019.

So, here’s my projected (wished for?), waaaay-too early Opening Day 2019 roster:

CF: Aaron Hicks
RF: Aaron Judge
1B: Bryce Harper
DH: Giancarlo Stanton
C: Gary Sanchez
3B: Miguel Andujar
SS: Marwin Gonzalez
LF: Clint Frazier
2B: Gleyber Torres
UT: Tyler Wade
UT: Ronald Torreyes
IF: Luke Voit
SP: Luis Severino
SP: Madison Bumgarner
SP: JA Happ
SP: Masahiro Tanaka
SP: Patrick Corbin
CL: Aroldis Chapman
RP: Dellin Betances
RP: Chad Green
RP: Jonathon Holder
RP: Tommy Kahnle
RP: Chance Adams


The Speech America Needs to Hear


Ladies and Gentlemen, My Fellow Americans,

We’ve been along a perilous path for 30 years now. After the end of the first World War, our Nation entered a new period in history. Historians have dubbed it “The American Century.” Five generations of Americans survived the Great Depression, defeated the forces of fascism in the Second World War, created the most prosperous period ever experienced by any nation at any time in history, and held the forces of communism at bay until the final victory at the end of the 1980’s.

Ever since the Berlin Wall crumbled to dust on a cold night in 1989, a winter’s night warmed by the glow of freedom, our nation has been adrift. The fight against communism which had defined our purpose for 45 years was suddenly over, exposing for all our underlying tensions and divisions. That common foe had allowed us to paper over those divisions with a thin veneer of comity. But just as ripping a scab from an old wound will cause an infection to grow unabated, so too the collapse of the Soviet Union has caused the cultural divisions that have always been unique to us to rise anew.

I say these things not to fill with you a longing for the past or fear of the future. I do not believe the end of the American Century means the end of the American Experiment. I believe we have the ability to bind our differences in a more lasting, permanent way; a way that relies not as much on agreeing to disagree as discovering why our disagreements arose in the first place.

Let me highlight just one such example.

Whether we are a banker or truck driver, farmer or doctor, we all know, we all can sense that the modern marvels of technology are changing the nature of work. Whether your fingers are calloused from years of manual labor or manicured for life in an office, we all can see the ways in which we earn our livings have changed. More than that, we know these changes will not end, no matter what we might wish.

This is not the first time our nation has faced such a dramatic change in the very nature of what it means to work. At the dawn of the Industrial Age, we moved, often in fits and starts, from a society of farmers to one of factory labor. Some of the same challenges we faced then, we face today.

One of those challenges was immigration. The new, industrial America needed labor and we found it overseas. Many of us can trace our origins in the United States to the great wave of immigrants that crashed across our shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As much as it might pain us to remember it, those immigrants – Italian, Irish, Poles, Croats, Hungarians, Germans and so forth – were not readily accepted into their new country. So it is today; we are not always welcoming to those who look to make their lives among us from foreign lands. Yet at the same time, much as we funneled those newcomers through inspection 150 years ago, we should reserve the right to do so today.

Likewise, another lesson we can learn from our forebears is also rooted in the Industrial Age. Prior to the need of an educated workforce to run the great machines that powered industry, most children finished school after 5th or 6th grade. Indeed, most high schools were privately funded and beyond the financial reach of those children’s parents. Yet, by the advent of the 1920’s, publicly funded high schools were the norm. By the 1960’s, the vast majority of American citizens were high school graduates and able to earn a solid living at a multitude of trades.

Now, we are told our children need more than a high school education can provide. We see our children graduating from college and working the sorts of jobs we might have expected to start with as a high school graduate a generation ago. But while we acknowledge with our minds that some post-secondary training is required in the new economy, our actions belie our words. We make entry difficult for all but the most affluent. Once our children are ensconced on a university campus, their heads are filled with values and ideas that most of us can barely identify, much less relate to.

I see some heads nodding out there. We know these are the problems. We may disagree on the solutions, but we can agree that these problems will not solve themselves.

Friends, this is a discussion we’ve needed for some time. As in the Festivus celebration of Seinfeld fame, an airing of grievances is good for the soul – but only if it leads to a reconciliation. After a generation of airing our grievances, we should be ready for that reconciliation. Let us resolve, here and now, to lay aside any embitterment we harbor towards our fellow Americans. It doesn’t matter if your forebears arrived on the Mayflower, a slave trader, a tramp steamer from Italy or in the Mariel boatlift. We are united in this simple fact: that as a reward for their trouble in getting to this country, they were met with hardships, ridicule, scorn, derision, and trouble but they persevered, they overcame, they thrived. And they gave this wonderful nation to us.

We understand that America is the sum of what those who came before created and what we create for ourselves and those who follow. We understand that the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness” are not mere ink on dusty old parchment. They define the American creed.

I am a conservative. Some in the audience call themselves liberals. Others may identify as libertarians or greens or some other political ideology. But regardless of politics, we need to agree on what the real problems facing our nation and our society are before we can debate -vigorously and strongly, as is right – what the solutions should be. I mentioned earlier that we seem to be stuck in a funk, a profound disagreement over what the very nature of our problems are and what type of society we are.

For our sakes, the sakes of our progeny and the good of not only the United States but the world, we must make this our mission. We must seek not only to confront but to learn. We must not only listen but understand. Compassion for your fellow American is not weakness. Compassion also does not mean that you throw them to the merciless care of the government. Yes! I said that we must address this cancer, we must excise it, not only for the good of the Nation but for the world.

For the United States is still the greatest nation our planet has ever known. Despite what may seem our torturous present, I truly believe our best days are ahead of us – but only if all 350 million plus of us are willing to do the things that are difficult. As a Nation, we have overcome far greater challenges throughout our history. Solving seemingly intractable problems is in our DNA. Why should our modern difficulties prove any more strenuous?

We have always been the shining light upon which the world gazes when desiring proof that free people can overcome any test, any difficulty that is thrown their way. From the days when our society amazed a French aristocrat named Alexis de Tocqueville until the present day when a Slovakian emigré became our First Lady, we have been both the envy and hope of mankind. Are we so vain, so caught up in our own disagreements as to throw that legacy away? I propose that is not the case. We shall always remain as we have, the guide towards a more prosperous, more peaceful planet.

None of this is to trivialize the import of the disagreements that are currently tearing at the fabric of our society. The reality is that those quarrels are based on competing ideologies. Yet, it is possible to agree on a path forward. Doing so requires every American put aside their preconceived notions. It means actually practicing the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It means putting aside our anger and agreeing to meet once again as Americans first. Not as Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, Black and white and Hispanic and Asian, rich and poor, but as Americans. The divisions we have created amongst ourselves need to be retired now. The tired politics of identity have missed the most important identity of all: that of being an American.

So as I leave you, I want all of you to sit back and contemplate what is important to you. More than that, you need to ask yourself why that is important. And then ask yourself, is that thing more important than your standing in a country that has always been and will always be willing to accept anyone who can shed all other labels save one: American? For if we all make a common goal of simply being Americans, there is nothing we cannot achieve, no task that is insurmountable and no aspiration that cannot be obtained.

Thank you. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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Political Incivility


(AUTHORS NOTE: I originally began writing this post a few days ago, but given the news of the past day, it seemed a good idea to get back to it.)

I know I’m not the only one who has noticed the rather violent rhetoric coming from the liberal/progressive side of the American political spectrum over the last 18 months or so. Anyone paying even a modicum of attention cannot have failed but to notice it. The two video clips at the opening of this post are examples of leaders of that movement making very public statements that not only support the idea of engaging with people politically opposed to you in a violent manner but actively encouraging it. There are no “dog whistles” in these statements.

Hillary Clinton: “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about… We have to get, maybe not cross the line, but get meaner, get tougher.”

Maxine Waters: “If you see anyone from that cabinet, that administration, in a restaurant, in a department store, in a gasoline station – you get out, and you create a crowd. You push back on them and you tell them: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!”

This type of incendiary rhetoric from the American left is nothing new, of course. It has its beginnings in the protest movements of the 1960’s, which in many respects were hijacked by radical elements looking not to reform American society but outright overthrow it. Most of you reading this are familiar with Saul Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals,” the openly subversive book that recommends confrontation with and hostile takeover of American institutions. Professor Alinsky advocated taking what began as an idealistic youth movement looking to proactively redress the egregious, systemic racism of our first 150 years and warp it into a campaign against all societal norms.

In the time between Richard Nixon’s near impeachment in 1974 and George W. Bush’s electoral victory in 2000, we enjoyed a respite from the violent catachism of the Left. Certainly, they were still out there and they still employed the rhetoric, but they were pushed to the fringes. After the abject failure of McGovern, the dismal Carter years, and the national rejection of progressivism that culminated with the Reagan administration, mainstream liberals largely rejected the type of political violence that attended their movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The bombings and assassinations stopped.

But those subversive elements never truly went away, they had just gone to ground. Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” that ended the 20th century gave way to a full-throated progressive in Al Gore, whose narrow defeat seemed to awaken what was once thought a comatose movement. In 2004, the Democrats shifted even further left, nominating the very progressive (and some would say traitor) John Kerry as their standard bearer. His drubbing at the hands of the same George Bush who had vanquished Gore four years earlier unleashed the type of liberal passions that we are now living with. It was the driving force behind the eight years of Alinskyite leadership under Barack Obama.

Understandably, progressives were shocked to discover the mandate to fundamentally transform American society they imagined had been secured a decade earlier wasn’t much of a mandate. After decades of planning their relatively bloodless coup, they awoke on a frosty November morn in 2016 to discover their vision of America had been soundly rejected – again. And as when faced with similar rejection two generations earlier, they broke out the late 1960’s playbook almost immediately.

So, for nearly two years now, American sensibilities have been subject to a daily, at times hourly, onslaught of political violence. Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Waters’ statements aside, we’ve witnessed a progressive attempt to assassinate the Republican Congressional leadership at a softball practice. The Secretary of Defense and Chief of Naval Operations have been mailed ricin. A GOP congressional candidate in California was knifed, another in Wyoming had his campaign office firebombed. Jay Webber, a Republican running for Congress in NJ, has a police detail protecting his 7 children after a series of death threats against them. A teenager wearing a “MAGA” hat was assaulted for the crime of eating a sandwich. By one count, there have been over 550 acts of political violence – not just violent speech, but actual acts of violence – committed by progressives since the election of Donald Trump. By comparison, refusing to serve the Press Secretary or stealing the Senate Majority leader’s doggie bag seems almost trivial.

My point is this. From the days of Lenin and Trotsky, assassinations, arson, and other assorted mayhem have been the hallmark of progressive political argument. it is not a fallback position, so much as a default one. Historically, when progressives, whether they called themselves socialists, communists or fascists talk about fundamentally transforming a society, they speak of themselves as revolutionaries.

There have been very few succesful revolutions that didn’t involve an assumption of violence.

The progressive predeliction for violence is well established. The aim of such political violence is to destabilize normal society, to inspire fear – and ultimately, to provoke normal society into adopting the same tactics. The reason is simple. Once normal society includes daily, hourly political violent carnage, there is no more normal society. At that point, the fundamental transformation can occur without any resistance.

Normal society defeats progressivism by refusing to engage in the cycle of political violence. Normal society wins by continuing to engage in the normal political process: by engaging with ideas, not bombs; words, not knives; votes, not guns. Don’t take this to mean you should leave yourself defenseless or refuse to be vigilant. After all, a dead patriot is only good for worm food. Defend yourself if need be. But let it end there.

Last weekend, we saw a mob attack one of progressivism’s paragons, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. I do not agree with a single position that Mrs. Pelosi espouses. However, chasing her through a hotel and refusing to let her speak is every bit as reprehensible as when progressives do the same to a conservative speaker. I found the actions understandable, but appalling nonetheless. We cannot defend all that we hold important by throwing our values out and engaging the left on their terms. Our goal should be to force them to engage on ours, if for no other reason than their tired ideas have time and again proven bereft of value.

I intentionally have not mentioned today’s (well, yesterday’s, by the time this gets published) spate of attempted bombings until now. I have a good reason for that. As I write this, the motivation behind them remains murky. Nobody has claimed responsibility. No associated manifesto has been published. This leaves several possibilities: a foreign actor, seeking to upset the political applecart. A very poorly executed attack by a right-wing extremist. Or a “false flag” operation by left-wing extemists looking to change the narractive prior to this year’s elections. I’m hoping it is determined to be option 1 or 3. If it is option 2, then this post may already be too late for all of us.


It’s Good To Be Back


I haven’t meant to be away for so long. For those of you who don’t follow me on social media (and while we’re on that topic, why aren’t you?), I experienced yet another flare of my Crohn’s Disease a couple of weeks ago. Or, as the doctors call it, an exacerbation. Whatever you call it, I call it a humdinger of an attack. My ileum (that’s the part of your intestines that connects the large and small intestine together) blew up like a hot air balloon. I wound up totally obstructed, which is a pleasant way to describe a very unpleasant form of constipation. A week at the VA hospital in Philly, and another week of more-or-less R&R at home, has me feeling much more like myself these days. I’m not totally out of the woods just yet and ileostomy remains a very real possibility if this recurs in the next 60 days, so even if you aren’t the praying type – prayers are appreciated!

Now, one of the things that happens when you’re lying in a hospital bed is you get a LOT of time to think. Boy, have I been doing quite a bit of thinking. I have notes and ideas scattered all over my desk. The topics foremost on my mind: the looming midterm elections, the immigrant “caravan,” and the impending baseball offseason. And no, the World Series is not high on my list of worries this year. The only team I hate more than the Dodgers are the Red Sox. This is the first year I find myself hoping nobody wins that thing.

So, beginning tomorrow, prepare to get deluged with posts. Lots and lots of posts.

Happy reading!


To Reduce Gun Violence, We Should…


I was recently asked for my opinion regarding the best way to reduce gun violence in the United States on Quora. I thought I would share my answer here, and see what all of you think.

First, thanks for the A2A. I’m not certain if you’re trolling, or truly interested in hearing the views of an avowed Second Amendment type on this subject, but I’ll treat this as if it’s the latter case.

The problem is not necessarily one of gun violence, per se. The problem is one of perception: the media wants us to think there is an epidemic of gun violence; a sense of murder and mayhem at the hands of deranged individuals toting machine guns through the street.

The reality is much, much different. I grew up in the 1970’s, the era of Fort Apache and Escape From New York. In 1980, when I was getting ready to make my way in the world, the typical American had a 1 in 338 chance of finding themselves involved in a crime with a gun. By 2014 (the most recent year for which FBI statistics are available), that number had dropped to 1 in 422. This is despite the fact that legal gun ownership is at an all-time high.

What is undeniable is that gun crimes in certain cities and states have moved in the opposite trend. For instance, the typical resident of Chicago in 1980 had a 1 in 210 chance of finding themselves at the wrong end of a gun. By 2014, that had increased to 1 in 100. Baltimore has seen a similar rise in gun violence, from 1 in 148 to 1 in 108. So, part of the perception is driven by the fact that while gun crime is down overall, the number of gun crimes in our major cities (which is also where our media is centered) are on the rise.

The other driving factor in the misperception of the degree of gun violence is argeting. While there have always been madmen with a rifle who went on murderous shooting sprees, those of our modern era have chosen spectacular targets that will drive national media coverage for days on end. Schools and churches are not only prominent in our society but emotional by their very nature.

Part of the divide in America over the use of weapons is that so many of those under 45 have almost no exposure to them, except what they see in the movies (which are generally ridiculous depictions) or on the news. Would it surprise you to learn that when I was in school, it was common for students to bring their rifles and pistols to school? Not only that, it was highly encouraged? Gun safety courses were a requirement in those days. This wasn’t all that long ago, either.

So how do we reduce gun violence, and just as importantly, cure the misperception that legal gun possession increases the likelihood of being assaulted with a weapon?

I think the first thing to do is increase exposure to guns so that people understand that a gun is a tool, no different than a hammer or a car. They are no scarier (and actually far less dangerous to you) than that hunk of aluminum and fiberglass in your driveway. I mentioned above that you have a 1 in 422 chance of being involved in a crime committed with a gun. What I failed to mention is that you have a .0045% chance of being murdered by someone with a gun. Conversely, you have a 3.6% of dying this year in a car crash. You are over 800 times more likely to die in your car than by being shot, yet people calling for cars to be banished are generally regarded as crackpots.

As far as actually reducing gun violence, the first thing to realize is that gun violence has steadily declined in all areas except those with strict gun control measures. This sounds counterintuitive to gun control proponents. How can easier access to firearms result in a reduction in gun crime? Yet the proof is in the results: while some states and cities have made it dramatically more difficult to legally possess a gun, those are also the ones that have the greatest spikes in gun crime. A while back, I had done a project that projected the gun violence rate in the nation, presuming the 50 most restrictive cities in the nation followed their country brethren. Based on the numbers alone, the incidence of gun violence would have dropped to 1 in 803!

Now, I’m not silly enough to think removing most restrictions on gun possession alone will suffice to reduce gun violence, especially in our cities. There is a greater propensity for crime in those locations, due to higher rates of impoverishment, population density, and social disorder. Those societal ills peculiar to city life need to be tackled by the cities themselves.

I’m also enough of a student of human nature to realize that you can never get crime rates in general, or gun crime in particular, to zero. It’s a problem that has vexed humanity since our beginning.

 

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.


We Have a Serious Problem


When I saw this tweet the other night, it got the ol’ gears a-turnin’, as my grandfather would say. John Podhoretz was making a point about one particularly one decidedly unserious lawyer promoting a seriously insincere story based on an even more insincere allegation. It’s the kind of nonsense that never would have seen the light of day, other than on some anonymously written blog, not that long ago.

But I contend the problem runs much deeper than a one ambulance chaser engaged in some shameless self promotion. No, the problem is we have a whole bunch of unserious people filling serious positions.

For instance, the entire “Russia collusion” narrative was driven by the campaign staff of a presidential candidate, who contacted a Washington legal firm, who contracted a former spy to write up a salacious “dossier.” And there the story might have ended, except a US senator then was passed this dossier, who took the absurd revelations in the dossier and gave it to the career prosecutors at the Justice Department. Those prosecutors then gave the dossier to the career investigators at the FBI, who used it to gain a “secret warrant” to spy on the other presidential campaign (and after the election, the President of the United States – elect).

So, people in serious positions who got snookered by this bit of legerdemain:

  • Hillary Clinton, Presidential candidate; former Secretary of State, US Senator and First Lady
  • James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence; former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
  • Loretta Lynch, US Attorney General
  • James Comey, FBI Director
  • Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Director of the FBI
  • Peter Strzok, Asst. Director of the FBI for Counter-Intelligence
  • Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General; former US Attorney for Maryland
  • Lisa Page, Federal prosecutor, assigned by the FBI to assist Special Counsel Robert Mueller
  • Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS co-founder; former investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Roll Call
  • Marc Elias, lead elections attorney for Perkins Cole; formerly the lead counsel for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign
  • Rosemary Collyer, current FISA court presiding judge
  • Michael Mosman, FISA court judge who approved the first Carter Page warrant

That’s a dozen very well paid people in positions that at one time were considered some of the most important and prestigious in government, the legal profession, the courts and the media. These were positions that once would have been filled with people who understood how serious those positions were to maintaining the apparatus that is the US government, from both inside and out. Instead of people. Those serious positions would have been held by serious people.

Not any longer. It is the crux of the problem Americans see all around us. Is it any wonder we’ve lost our collective trust in these institutions? We have some very unserious people filling positions that are still vital to the nation. It isn’t confined to those dozen people listed above. It is a plague, infecting every level of government, of business, religious life, media and science. The institutions that I and millions of my fellow Americans were taught to admire and respect as youngsters, have spent the past two decades proving that they are filled with people who do not deserve that respect.

I hate tossing out problems without having solutions ready to propose, but I honestly can’t find any to this problem. I learned early on in my career that the best person for the job understood the nature of it, had the skills to perform it and was trustworthy. Obviously, the more senior the positions become, the skills required change, but the person filling the role should still have the first and third qualities. But as we’re witnessing, there aren’t a whole lot of those people around right now.


Quick Thoughts on Flake’s Flakiness


Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has been reported out of the Judiciary Committee and sent to the full Senate, but of course there was a hitch. Given how everything has gone with this confirmation, how could there not be a hitch?

Senator Jeff Flake (R?-AZ) voted to advance the nomination, but only after some serious arm twisting from Democrats yielded an agreement from Flake that he wouldn’t vote affirmatively on the floor unless the FBI conducted a 7th background check.

There has been speculation that Flake modified his vote out of deference to his good friend, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speculated that Flake might be trying to heal the divide in the country, an effort that Graham doesn’t even think will work. Taking heads have alternately suggested that Flake simply doesn’t know who to believe, despite all the testimony we’ve had and all the evidence of the minority party’s duplicity.

I don’t think any of is what has led Flake to spectacularly demonstrate his infamous lack of conviction. Prior to this morning’s session, there was an incident in which protesters cornered Flake on an elevator and spent 5 minutes yelling and berating him.

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So, as always, if you want Flake to vote your way – just threaten him. He remains the most cowardly man the Senate has seen in a long time.

We are almost finished our descent into mob rule, which is what the Democrat’s ultimate goal has always been. Keep your powder dry and weapons cleaned, my friends.