Musings on Sports, Politics and Life in general

Civics 101

Is Trump a Fascist?


Too often, in our poorly educated minds, the words “fascist” and “Adolph Hitler” are transposed. While Uncle Adolph is certainly history’s  most infamous fascist, he was hardly alone. Fascism as a political system has existed for nearly two centuries and been used far too often and by far too many dictators to pretend Hitler was it’s only proponent. He was, in fact, only one of several fascists who rose to power in the early- to mid-twentieth century. Benito Mussolini, Hideki Tojo and Chiang Kai-Shek preceded Hitler to power; Francisco Franco, Antonio Salazar, Juan Peron, Engelbert Dollfuss, Getulio Vargas, Jorge Marees, Ionas Metaxas, and Robey Leibbrandt were all peers. More modern adherents include such luminaries as Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos and Tudor Ionescu.

It is obviously a false equivalency to say they are all acolytes of Adolph Hitler, especially as several of them rose to power as much as a decade before the Reichstag burned. Indeed, Mussolini considered Hitler to be his student. Nor is it correct to say all fascists are natural allies. The Axis powers of World War II were all led by fascist governments, but distrust rather than cooperation was their hallmark. And let’s not forget that despite the aid from Germany and Italy that helped Franco secure power, Franco snubbed all overtures to join them. Franco was busy in an on-again, off-again shooting war with his protege Salazar (one that lasted into the late 1960’s). What this illustrates is the variances within fascism: nazism, clerical fascism, falangism, and so forth.

So, if HItler wasn’t the proto-fascist, who was? Who founded the ideology that dozens of tin-pot dictators have adopted as their own in the past century?

That would be Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), a British philosopher, writer and mathematician. Indeed, if modern students hear of Carlyle at all, it is usually because of his work in mathematics: he is credited with developing the quadratic equation (you know, the joyless algebra equation written as ax2 + bx + c = 0). And while high school freshmen the world over hate him for making their homework harder than they want, their real derision should be directed at his influence on sociology.

Carlyle was a reactionary in his approach to what he viewed as the shortcomings with classical liberalism. Whether the free market economics of Adam Smith, or the idea of natural rights borne out in our Declaration of Independence, Carlyle viewed the advancements made in the 18th Century to be the direct cause of the chaos overtaking Europe in the early 19th. This culminated in his 1840 opus, “On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History”. It is a rather long tome in which he lashes out at the idea of democratic rule and free markets as the antithesis of history’s natural order. He passionately argues that in accepting these ideas, society abandoned the natural roles of the hero as leader, of war as the principle means to glory, of industry being directed towards producing the means of war, and of societal hierarchies (today we would call them “classes” or “castes”).

Carlyle advocated that Great Men are the natural leaders of both government and society and should be elevated as such; if society refused to accept them, then it became their duty to wrest power away from the masses. He had tremendous scorn for free markets and coined the term many use today to describe modern economics, “the dismal science.” It isn’t that Carlyle didn’t believe that business owners shouldn’t be able to keep their profit (after paying the government their “equitable duty”); but rather that anyone in business not producing goods and services that directly benefitted the state should not be in business. A natural hierarchy was emplaced of men, but natural rights were not. The amount of rights a common man could be expected to receive were commensurate with his place in society; those at the top naturally had more rights than those at the bottom. And as for those at the bottom, they were generally an impediment to the advancement of the society. Enslavement or even execution was their only natural right. (Carlyle expounded further on this in “Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question” in 1849).

Further, Carlyle was a proponent of the state as the only viable method by which the Great Man, or Hero, could extend his rule and direct his will. The principle role of the common man within the state was to prepare for war. Treason in thought or deed were the only crimes that truly promoted social disorder; treasonous activities included anything that could subvert the rule of the Great Man and should be eliminated at all costs. And since the state was the engine that made society possible, it was incumbent upon all citizens to ensure that undesirables be kept out, by all means necessary.

In short, Carlyle’s view of national socialism (he coined the term to separate his philosophy from that of his contemporary, Karl Marx) relied on these key points, in order of importance:

  1. A Great Man or Hero; the natural societal leader
  2. A strong, insular state
  3. A hierarchical society, down to and including slavery
  4. Policing of society to ensure adherence to societal norms
  5. Militarism
  6. Directed markets
  7. Denial of Natural Rights

Of course, today we call this fascism, not national socialism. That term we reserve for nazism, which differs from straight fascism in its adoption of some Marxist principles, particularly as relates to property rights and the veneer of popular rule.

So the question is, does Donald Trump embody those 7 principles in his vision? Anyone who’s paid attention to what he’s said – and just as importantly, not said -in not only the past 15 months of campaigning but also the past 40 years of public life, will have already recognized Trump’s themes in Carlyle’s worldview. But for those who need further convincing, let us see how Trump and Carlyle agree.

  • A Great Man should be our natural leader: An entire forest’s worth of paper has been produced detailing Trump’s narcissism and self-aggrandizement, so no need to expound further on that. Suffice it to say anyone willing to proclaim the virtues of every dictator from Benito Mussolini to Deng Xiaoping to his current infatuation with Vladimir Putin sees himself as a man of similar abilities – and traits.
  • The strong, insular state: His motto, “Make America Great Again,” is a paen to this idea. In case you still weren’t sure, remember one of the hallmarks of the strong state is keeping undesirables out. From his proposed Mexican wall to the Muslim ban, a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign is keeping the undesirables out – by all means.
  • Hierarchical society, including slavery: Trump certainly views American society as existing within a strict hierarchy. He launched his campaign by demonizing those of Mexican heritage as “rapists and murderers.” He has been sued by the federal government for housing discrimination, but various state governments for employment discrimination and once by a trade union for refusing to pay immigrant workers. It isn’t overt racism, so much as revelation in his belief that if you aren’t in the correct class, you have fewer rights and if you reside at the bottom, you’re unworthy of much more than crumbs.
  • Police State: At various times, Trump has advocated for expanded police power to ensure the classes remain in their correct position. Undesirables should be rounded up. Agitators should be put down, with force. Indeed, Trump’s idea of “Law and Order” is less about law and a great deal more about order, enforced at the point of a gun.
  • Militarism: “I’d bomb the hell out of them.”  “Keep the oil.”  “The military would not refuse my orders, even if they found them illegal.”  “There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.”  “I’m more militaristic than even George Bush.” Tie all of that in with his expressed desire to spend trillions on rebuilding the military machine to Cold War levels, along with his willingness to economically attack the rest of the world and yeah. Donald Trump is definitely a militarist.
  • Directed Markets: The other prominent cornerstone of Trump’s candidacy is a complete refutation of free trade. It’s also, in addition to a lifelong commitment to the hierarchal society, the one thing you can go back decades (his very first Wall Street Journal interview, in 1980, in fact) and find a consistent view. In fact, Trump hates free markets every bit as much as Carlyle did in his day. After all, as Trump has said, any business that puts profits ahead of Making America Great Again is engaged in treason and should pay a heavy price.
  • Denial of Natural Rights: There are two documents that historians point to as delineating natural rights. One is the French The Rights of Man. The other, fortunately, is enshrined as law in our Constitution; our Bill of Rights. At various points throughout this campaign, Trump has shown contempt for the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th Amendments. He loves the 7th (I can’t think of another politician who’s filed more lawsuits). He likes the 2nd, but only for certain people (here we go back to the hierarchical society again). That Trump thinks natural rights are a figment of some 18th century scholar’s imagination is pretty obvious.

So, is Trump a fascist? Undoubtedly, and as such, he is the antithesis of every idea this country was founded upon and supposedly stands for today. While frightening, it isn’t that he is, or that he has come within a hair’s breadth of the Presidency that worries me. No, what’s truly frightening is that so many of our fellow citizens remain blind to his nature – or worse, not blind but fully supportive of his goals.


Enough is Enough


As Americans, it is not in our nature to demonize a segment of the population based on the actions of a few of their members. That is, of course, unless the actions of the community in general, in response to the reprehensible actions of the few, are equally reprehensible.

We have reached that point as regards the American Muslim community.

Whether by design or ignorance, it has failed to accept responsibility for the fact that it’s members are willingly  conducting acts of violence against the American public writ large. Rather than work with the authorities to identify those members who’ve espoused radical ideologies, they’ve given them sanctuary. Rather than remove leaders whose mosques preach hatred, they’ve continued to fund them, often lavishly. Rather than work to drown out the voices within the Muslim community who’ve preached jihad against the rest of us, those voices are elevated and given prominence.

As a nation, we’ve asked the Muslim community to effectively police itself. After Ft. Hood, after Boston, after San Bernadino, Americans said we want you to work with us. We said we understand there are differences in worship, but so long as you agree on the principles of life and liberty, we’ll work to overcome any prejudices.

Now, we can add Orlando to the list of American tragedies created by a member of the Muslim community. Another young man who had espoused antagonism towards his homeland for years, not hiding his views. Another young man who studied at mosques that reinforced his hatred of the United States. In his case, his imam has been caught on video telling his minions that “homosexuals should be killed to save them from themselves.”

This willful, conscious and intentional separation of the Muslim community from American society by Muslims can no longer be tolerated by the rest of us. We must remove them from our midst. Expel them, imprison them – by whatever means necessary; Muslims have demonstrated they are a cancer on the rest of the American public. They have proven to have loyalties not to the United States, but to Mecca.

Stop to consider if any other group acted towards the rest of us as Muslims have. If Catholics were an insular religion that demanded the extermination of Jews, they would be ostracized and imprisoned. If Baptists preached that anyone who wasn’t Baptist should be killed to save them from themselves, the rest of us would demand the expulsion of Baptists.

Undoubtedly, our political leaders will respond to this latest Muslim atrocity with appeals for calm and requests of Muslims to police themselves. And undoubtedly, those appeals and requests will be ignored and mocked by Muslims. Yet again, as they were after Boston. Our feckless and cowardly “leaders” will be ridiculed in mosques from Newark to Appleton, as they were after San Bernadino.

No more. Enough is enough. It is time to admit what we have been loathe to admit and accept reality. Muslims do not want to be part of the fabric of our nation. Rather, they want to be a nation within the nation and at war with the rest of us. That is unacceptable and intolerable. And for that reason, they must go.


It’s Not Fair!


150709211727-trump-on-obama-birthplace-sot-cooper-ac-00001004-large-169

Ever since getting blown out in Wisconsin, Donald Trump has been hollering about the way we select presidential candidates, calling it unfair, or deriding it as a “rigged system.” Sure enough, the left-of-center pundits and writers who support him, and most of the misguided people who’ve pledged their allegiance to the “Trump Train,” have suddenly decided that a system that’s been around almost as long as the United States is fundamentally flawed. I shouldn’t be surprised. The typical Trumpster also tends to think the US Constitution is terribly flawed and no longer relevant.

The delegate system is based on the same idea that fueled the adoption of our Constitution. That is, the best system of governance is a representative republic, with semi-autonomous states sharing power with a centralized national government. As conceived by the men who gave us our Constitution, the office of President was not to be directly entrusted to the general populace. Rather, they conceived the idea of electors being chosen by the people. The electors would then choose the President. They had two reasons for this, both outlined in Federalist 68. The first is that the general populace can be easily swayed by emotional appeals to our baser instincts. As Alexander Hamilton noted, “Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union.” The second was they understood the vast majority of citizens are not active politically, nor are they as attuned to the issues and policies as their brethren who are politically active. Their decision was that by entrusting the selection of Chief Executive to a  group of people who were politically active, they were ensuring that the gravitas of the position was honored. Yet at the same time, because the electors were selected by the citizenry, the people’s voice would be heard. Hamilton, again: “… the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.”

I realize this conception of how our political system was created will confound most of you. After all, you’ve heard since childhood that the United States is a democracy. Every politician declares it during every speech. Most sadly, we’re taught in school that because we vote, we’re a democracy. Some people are taught that we’re a representative democracy; that our votes go to elect representatives who are supposed to vote the way we want them to. That’s also incorrect! We are a representative republic. We elect representatives. The representatives we elect are then to debate and vote on the issues and policies as best they see fit. The decisions they reach are not bound by any measure to popular will. We then can decide if we approve of those decisions at re-election time. There have been occasions – quite a few, actually – when a representative has defied popular will in the votes they cast. One of the most celebrated books of the 20th century, Profiles in Courage, highlights eight such occasions that profoundly changed the history of our nation.

Our founders were against the idea of political parties, but their creation is a natural outgrowth of politics. It’s only natural that people who share similar views and goals would coalesce into groups working towards implementing those ideas into law and policy. Even in our nascent stages, the republic soon found itself being divided into political parties. The very men who were opposed to the idea of political parties were creating them. As those parties formed, they began to decide on which candidates for office would receive the backing of the party – including candidates for President. Should it be a surprise that they adopted a similar system for choosing their candidates as the one outlined in the Constitution?

Of course not. Many of you seem surprised at the notion that the popular vote doesn’t decide who a party’s nominee for political office. In order to understand why this is, you need to realize that prior to 1972, most states didn’t even have primary elections. Those that did, did not “bind” their delegates to vote for any particular candidate. The delegates, in most cases, were selected at state conventions. In the remainder, delegates were directly chosen during a caucus. In either case, the general public was barred from attending: only members of the party could choose their delegates. And quite often, the national party conventions did not resolve the issue of who the Presidential nominee would be on the first ballot of delegates. It seems to me that the system worked rather well. In the case of the Republicans, the convention chaos resulted in some pretty momentous choices; men who went on to become some of our most consequential Presidents. Lincoln (3rd ballot), Harding (10th), and Eisenhower (2nd) were all the products of contested/brokered conventions. In fact, during the 1952 convention Robert Taft accused Eisenhower of “stealing” delegates that were supposedly his. That led to the adoption of the “Fair Play” rule. In an ironic twist, it is that rule which Trump is using to accuse Cruz and Kasich of “stealing” delegates this year.

The liberalization of the nomination process began in 1972, in the aftermath of the riots at the Chicago and Miami party conventions in 1968. Most states adopted primaries, many opened those primaries up to the general public (no party affiliation required) and states bound the delegates chosen to reflect the popular vote at the convention for at least the first ballot. Only a few states opted to remain with caucuses or conventions selecting their delegates. And only one state does not bind any of their delegates, while several have a mix of bound and unbound delegates. The desired effect, the nominee being chosen by popular affirmation, has been achieved. Indeed, only the 1976 Republican and 1980 Democratic conventions have offered any drama, although in both cases the insurgent candidate was defeated between the end of the primaries and the convention.

Since the liberalization of the nomination process, consider the men nominated by the popular vote: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Dole, George W. Bush, and Romney. Only one of those men could be considered consequential in a positive manner. Only 3 of them have managed to win the Presidency, and two of those left office with the country in far worse shape than when they entered. If we were to change anything as regards candidate selection, I would prefer we return to closed caucuses and conventions without general public input. You may call it “undemocratic,” but the objective is to find the best candidate; to find people who can represent the values of the party and lead the nation. The general public has demonstrated exactly what the founders feared: an incredible ability to choose the very worst people for the most important job in the world.

Consider the roll call of Presidents since 1972 and see if you can actually dispute that. Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama have been elected as President. One was forced from office, another was impeached. Both Bushes left the nation economically in tatters. Carter is best remembered for his failures, while Obama is ending his Presidency with his signature achievement about to go belly up and the nation slipping back towards recession. Only Reagan managed to accomplish anything of note, but even his accomplishments have proven to be short-lived. Even ending the Cold War hasn’t lasted; today we’re faced with a resurgent and belligerent Russia and China.

You might also argue that by returning a system by which party insiders, we would be disenfranchising you. I don’t think so. Remember, the nominee is supposed to represent the party, not the general populace. I know many people who call themselves Republican or Democrat, but the reality is, they only are on election day, and often only on Presidential Election day. The other 1,460 days of the election cycle they do absolutely nothing to support the party. It’s kind of like telling people you’re a member of the cast of your favorite TV show, because you can quote some dialogue and know all the characters. In other words, if you want a say in who a party nominates, it would mean actually getting involved in the political system. Simply voting is a privilege of being a citizen. Performing the actual duties of citizenship – canvassing for candidates, raising funds, perhaps serving in local government, attending party meetings – these are also ways of becoming involved with a party at the local level. Not incidentally, it’s also how you become more acquainted with the political system.

In this year when so many of you seem more interested in blowing up the system, rather than putting in the individual effort to make it “work,” it’s also the best way to change the things about the system you don’t like. And who knows? Maybe, instead of whiners-in-chief, we can actually get back to commanders-in-chief, to Senators who worry more about representing their states than the national party committee and Representatives with more than graft on their minds.


Why 1237 Means Trump’s Political Career is Over


By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Ted Cruz’ primary win in Wisconsin made Donald Trump’s chances of securing the GOP nomination more difficult. Folks, I’m here to let you know: Cruz’ Wisconsin victory means Trump will never see the inside of the Oval Office, unless invited by the President. This is where the dream crashes into reality, and as usually happens in that case, dreams end up in a thousand little pieces.

As you’ve heard ad nauseum by now, in order to secure the nomination on the first ballot at the GOP Convention in July, a candidate needs to have secured the votes of 1,237 delegates. Most states require their delegates to vote as instructed by the popular vote during the first ballot. Most don’t if voting goes to a second ballot, and only two require it on a third. By the time a fourth ballot is required, all delegates are free agents: they can vote for anyone they like.

There are two reasons why Trump will not win the nomination in a floor fight. To put it another way, Trump needs to 1,237 delegate votes on the first ballot, or else he’s toast. The first is that Trump’s lack of campaign organization has prevented him from having a significant presence at the state and county conventions where the delegates are actually chosen. The other is that his main rival may not be loved by the GOP establishment, but he has been a Republican for his entire life. He’s built a strong grass-roots network among other GOP activists, the very people who make up the bulk of the delegate selectees. That combination has led to a large bloc of delegates who, although required to vote Trump on the first ballot, will be voting Cruz on subsequent ballots. We already know Trump will lose the majority of delegates from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. We also know he will lose the entire South Carolina delegation. His inability to organize at the state level has cost him Colorado and North Dakota. Additionally, Cruz’ organizational strength makes it likely he will have a majority on the 112 delegate Rules Committee – and that will allow him to set rules in place that will further complicate Trump’s ability to wage a floor fight.

So, obviously, Trump desperately needs to get to 1237 and preferably more, so that he can withstand any defections from states that do not require their delegations to vote as per the popular vote (think Pennsylvania). While not impossible, the math would require he outperform what he’s done to date. To wit: as of this point, Trump has secured 37% of the GOP vote, and 714 delegates, or 45%. To get to 1237, he needs another 523 of the available 912 delegates, or 57%. All Cruz needs to do is hold Trump under 523 delegates in the remaining contests.

Begin in New York, with 95 delegates available. New York’s rules are relatively simple: for each congressional district won with a majority, the winning candidate receives 3 delegates. For each district won with a plurality, the winning candidate receives two delegates and the second place finisher (provided they receive at least 20% of the vote) receives one. Additionally, there are 14 at-large delegates. If a candidate receives a majority of the vote statewide, he receives all of them. Otherwise, they are allocated according to the popular vote, to all candidates receiving more than 20% of the vote. So, in order to secure all the delegates, Trump will  not only need to win a majority in the state, but also in each of 27 individual districts. He is polling above 50% statewide, but not in every district. Because New York has roughly half of it’s population clustered in New York City, Queens, Kings, Staten Island, Suffolk, Westchester, Bronx and Nassau counties, Trump’s decided advantage there (around 90%, according to some polls) bodes well for the overall percentage. But Cruz will win several upstate counties, and John Kasich may actually hold Trump under 50% in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester. It is more likely that Trump will go to bed on April 19 with about 60 more delegates than he woke up with.

The other sizable contest is in California, another apportioned state. Similar to New York, the state awards 3 delegates for every congressional district won by a candidate. While Trump is polling slightly ahead of Cruz in the Golden State, Cruz has a decided advantage in the Los Angeles area, with it’s 54 delegates, and the Orange County area, with another 18 delegates. Overall, California has 172 delegates available, but it’s unlikely that Trump gets more than  90.

There are several states remaining that are winner take all, but most of these are probably going to end up in Cruz’ column. The only one of these Trump is expected to win is New Jersey, with 51 delegates. Cruz is expected to carry Indiana (57 delegates),  Montana (27) and South Dakota (29).

So, that means Trump will need to garner 313 of the other 481 delegates remaining. New Mexico’s 24 delegates are unbound, so call it 313 of 457. And Pennsylvania has a quirky method of allocating delegates – only 17 are bound, the remaining 54 unbound. So, assuming Trump carries the state with a plurality and receives 12 of the 17 committed delegates, that means he needs to carry 301 of the remaining 386 delegates. Even though the remaining contests are primarily in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, which are areas Trump is expected to do very well in, grabbing 78% of those delegates is a herculean feat. There is absolutely no margin of error, no way more unforced errors such as led up to the Wisconsin primary can roil the headlines.

So what about the oft-threatened independent Trump candidacy? There are unsurmountable obstacles to his mounting one. Indeed, there is a reason Trump entered the race as a Republican, rather than attempting to resurrect the Reform Party or another independent bid. It comes down to money. Trump is not a poor man, but most of his estimated $2.4 billion net worth is not in disposable assets. It’s tied up in major real estate or marketing licenses. Coming up with the estimated $750 million to $1 billion required to mount an independent presidential campaign is no small feat. Indeed, campaign rhetoric aside, Trump hasn’t even been able to afford the primary bid he’s mounted: according to his latest FEC filing, he’s been forced to raise $25 million from outside sources. Further dispelling the notion of a self-financed campaign, Trump’s campaign announced on Tuesday they would be soliciting donors should he prevail at the Convention.

When combined with the organization required to ensure ballot access in all 50 states, an organization he lacks, the opportunity to mount an independent bid has already passed. It’s why the other billionaire who seriously considered entering the race as an independent set March 1 as his drop dead decision day.

So there you have it. The odds of Donald Trump securing the Republican nomination are somewhere between razor thin and none. The odds of him mounting an independent campaign are even less. Donald Trump’s political career effectively ended last Tuesday.

And for that, we can all breath a little easier.


Revisiting the Eligibility Question


About two months ago, I addressed Sen. Ted Cruz’ eligibility to assume the Presidency.Apparently, based on my Twitter feed over the past 18 hours or so, people are still confused. So here’s a quick synopsis, for those of you still insisting that Cruz’ is somehow ineligible.

  1. Article 1, Section 8 clearly defines that all matters relating to citizenship are defined by Congress.
  2. Congress defined natural citizenship in 1952, under 8 US Code 1401.
  3. Under paragraph D of that statute, Senator Cruz is a “natural born citizen.” Further, if you really wanted to say his mother had taken residence in Canada  more than a year prior to his birth, he would still be eligible under paragraph G.

So, sorry birthers. This is Civics 101 stuff, and about as uncomplicated as it gets.


Why I’m #NeverTrump


Many others have already set out their reasons for pledging to never support Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign. It is time to add my voice to theirs; to express my outright horror and dread at the thought of a Trump presidency. There are many reasons why I can not support Trump, but they boil down to this: I will not abandon the principles that led to the creation of this Nation. Our nation, in living by those principles, once gave refuge to my family from the totalitarian states that flourished in Europe in the mid-20th century. In return, I’ve spent my lifetime defending those principles, adopting them as a creed. To abandon them on the altar of Trump would make a mockery of everything I, my family, and the United States has ever stood for.

Reason #1: Donald Trump may not be a fascist, but he sure acts like one
Fascism is a system of government that relies on four things – a cult of personality, managed markets (usually by coercion), identifying national problems as being caused by an “other,” and militarism, both abroad and domestically. Trump hits on all those themes as part of his standard spiel. The cult of personality is obvious, he’s spent 40 years developing it.

The managed markets part of his platform isn’t as obvious. After all, Trump loves to proclaim his affinity for business. But if you listen closely, you begin to see a pattern emerge. If you want to do business in Trump’s America, you have to do it his way – or else. He’s threatened Nabisco, Ford Motors,  Carrier, Apple and Pfizer in just the past week. You might think using governmental power to force companies to do business in ways that are neither profitable nor humane isn’t really socialism. I’m sure many Germans thought the way Hitler coerced everyone from Mercedes to Krupps to only do business the Nazi way was perfectly respectable, too.

Trump launched his campaign last June with a diatribe against the “others.” As with all fascists, he identified a sub-population that isn’t well liked by the majority of the citizenry. A group that is forced to live on the periphery of society. Just as with the Jews and Gypsies of central and eastern Europe, a group that is largely homogenous. Donald Trump chose to demonize illegal aliens. From day one, he has castigated illegal aliens as purveyors of rape, murder and mayhem. Why do we have rampant crime in our cities? Illegal aliens. Why do we have high unemployment? Illegal aliens. Why are illicit drugs flooding our neighborhoods? Illegal aliens. For such  a marginalized and relatively small group, illegal aliens have a tremendous amount of sway over our everyday lives.

Then, after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino last year, Trump had a second group of “others”: muslims. Another marginalized group, living on the periphery of society and not well understood by most Americans (I read once that only 20% of us have ever actually met a muslim). And again, Trump laid many of our national ills at their feet. It’s a repetitive cycle; a simple solution to the world’s most complex and vexing problems.

Now, I am not a fan of illegal immigration or Islamists. but it isn’t difficult to see where Trump’s call for mass deportations lead to a national secret police force and internment camps. It is equally possible to foresee what they might look like:

dachau_coll

Dachau Concentration Camp, Nazi Germany

One of Trump’s standard lines is that he’s “strong.” The United States needs “strength.” We don’t “win” anymore because America’s leadership is “weak.” And how does Trump define strength? He identifies strong governments as like the one in Beijing, using tanks to literally crush protesters. He identifies strong leaders as men like Vladimir Putin, who maintains a reign of terror over not only the Russian people but also those in neighboring countries. In short, he identifies strength as a willingness to use force – if necessary military force – to achieve goals and suppress opposition. That such a man could command the world’s largest military is something that should give everyone pause.

Reason #2: Donald Trump may not be a bigot, but he sure acts like one
Bigotry is nothing new to the United States. Carroll O’Connor and Sherman Helmsley both gained fame by playing bigots on memorable television shows. Donald Trump may be a TV star, but the bigotry he overtly displays isn’t a laughing matter. Like Archie Bunker, Trump has shown bigotry towards almost everyone who isn’t a WASP. Women, blacks, hispanics, asians – all have come under fire and derision. The ugliness almost caught him when he wouldn’t tell David Duke, of KKK fame, to take a hike. A consummate politician, Donald understands his base of support is white bigots – he couldn’t do the right thing, for that simple reason. Besides, the bigotry serves a useful purpose for him: it’s much easier to ostracize minority groups when they’re guilty of nothing more than being a minority group.

In times past, we’ve had bigots occupy the Oval Office, including the guy currently there. We survived them. But odds are the next president will serve two terms (most do) and by 2025, no ethnic group will command a majority of the population. The next President needs to be a president of and for ALL Americans, not just WASPS. If not, the divisions we’re already witnessing will fracture the nation irreparably.

Reason #3: Donald Trump may understand the Constitution, but he doesn’t act like he does
Many of Trump’s proposed solutions run counter to the Constitution. He wants to undo First Amendment protections for the press and protesters. He demands arbitrary control over the nation’s budget, even though that power is reserved for the House of Representatives. Indeed, as much as Barack Obama has run roughshod over the Constitution, he would be a piker compared to what Trump has planned. Trump’s very first act as President would be a lie: swearing to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Reason #4: Donald Trump’s moral code was written Machiavelli
I understand politics is a dirty game. It always has been and always will be. However, one could and should expect that people of conscience would occupy the political world, that their decisions would be informed by a moral code that reflects the best in humanity. Trump’s morality, such as can be discerned from his public stances throughout his life, is best described as one of expediency and instant gratification. If ever there were a perfect representative of the moral faults of the “Me Generation,” Trump is it.

Extended to how Trump would “reign,” his brand of morality would cause all previous generations of Americans to blanche. In matters of the military, he has made it plain he would order the torture of POW’s and mass casualties of enemy non-combatants. Officers who refused to carry out those orders “will be made to pay.” As if that weren’t enough, he wants to turn our military into a mercenary force, available to any nation that wants to wage war, for whatever reason, so long as they can pay the price.

That Donald is corrupt is irrefutable, he gladly admits to it. What’s more, he admits to corrupting public officials. Imagine such a man with his hands on the levers of the executive branch. The damage he can cause is nearly unfathomable when combined with Trump’s greed and insatiable desire for attention, I shudder at the thought of what would happen should he get Presidency.

I realize that for many, taking this stance is unacceptable. They argue that withholding my vote from Trump means I am tacitly supporting the Democrat nominee (and this election, both choices offered by that party are as distasteful as Trump). However, the idea that Trump represents the Republican party is either a joke or the Republican party no longer aspires to make America a “shining city on the hill.” Of course, Trump’s nomination is far from assured. I hope Republicans awake from their slumber and realize the danger their flirtation with a demagogue poses not only to the party, but the nation.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll take a few minutes of your time to watch this video. Almost 70 years ago, we recognized the dangers a man like Donald Trump posed to the national well-being, and the stability of the world. It is almost eerie watching this, as if a newsreel of current events had been transported back to 1947.


What Everyone’s Missing About Apple vs. the FBI


iphone

Well, actually everyone is missing a few things regarding the fight between Apple and the FBI.

First, in case you’re living under a rock, to recap what the fight is over. One of the San Bernardino shooters had an iPhone that was issued to him through his job, a county agency. The FBI would like to look at the data on the phone, as it might contain information valuable to tracing the terrorists movements, finances and communications prior to the attack. This is not an unreasonable thought. It seems as if the FBI crossed all their legal T’s and dotted their Constitutional I’s, even getting a warrant for the search. Unfortunately, the FBI is incapable of getting past the security measures Apple has built into the iPhone’s operating system. So they went back to court and obtained an order that compels Apple to bypass the phone’s security. Apple is refusing, citing privacy concerns.

That’s the 10,000 foot view of the issue. And were it that easy, I don’t think Apple would put up this much a fuss about it. The problem comes about once you drop down and look at the issue up close. And the reason everyone is freaking out, I think, is they don’t understand the technology or how it works. They only know that it works – which, of course, is what makes Apple’s iOS so successful.

That’s the first thing that everyone is missing: nobody actually understands what it is they’re complaining about. For a guy who’s worked in software development and mobile tech, it would be comical if the stakes weren’t so high. Everyone just assumes that Apple can magically give the FBI the phone’s unlock code. It isn’t that easy. The iPhone’s encryption is integral to iOS – the only way to get past the unlock code is to break the encryption within iOS. To comply with the FBI’s request, Apple would have to write a software program that would alter the way iOS functions. In essence, they would have to destroy their own product.

That’s the second thing that everyone is missing: the government’s order would require Apple to blow up their business model. One of the reasons, perhaps the biggest reason, Apple has been so successful is they’ve stuck to a simple proposition for over 20 years. That proposition is that their software and hardware live as an integrated unit. Form and function, together as one. To make that happen, Apple’s products have always worked with proprietary, closed operating systems. The underlying code is not available to the general public. The FBI is asking Apple to do the exact opposite of what they’ve always done. To write code that opens iOS to the public domain; in essence, to allow anyone with minimal code writing ability to alter the way iOS (and thus, the iPhone itself) works. Is that reasonable? Can the government actually require a private firm to fundamentally change the way they do business, create products and market them?

The next thing everyone seems to be missing is that the government has massive signals intelligence infrastructure. It includes the NSA, CIA, DIA, as well as the FBI and 12 other agencies you might not have heard of. A major part of signals intelligence is code-breaking. By demanding Apple break their encryption, the United States Intelligence Community is announcing to the world they are incapable of cracking the code themselves.

The Director of National Intelligence’s counterparts in Beijing, Tehran and Moscow must be laughing themselves silly at the admission.

Now, this might sound ludicrous, but it seems to me that a government that spends $4 trillion every year can come up with $600 to buy an iPhone and have one of their ace code-breakers get past the iOS encryption. If they can’t, then we need to seriously ask why people aren’t being fired.

Finally, the last thing everyone seems to be missing is what having the iOS code broken and in the public domain would mean for privacy and security in the digital age. This isn’t like asking for the key to a locked room. The reality is that most of us have our entire lives on our phones. Everything from sensitive financial data to our Facebook profiles live in the bits and bytes of data stored on them. The government is asking Apple to provide a tool that would allow everyone access to everything stored there. Additionally, if your one of the millions of users who’ve stored things in the cloud, that data would also be available to anyone with a $10 NFC reader and 30 seconds to get close enough to pull it from your phone. The concept of privacy would be moot.

It’s a lot to digest. But what many in the media and government want to portray as relatively simple is anything but.


The Eligibility Question


cruztrumpSo, Ted Cruz has started surging into Donald Trump’s self-declared country, the land of the public opinion poll, and the Donald isn’t happy. As is his wont, the Donald unleashed an ad hominem attack on Senator Cruz. Unlike poor Jeb Bush (weak! low energy!) or Rand Paul, Trump couldn’t  attack Cruz based on any outward attributes. He can’t somehow claim that poor polling should relegate Cruz to being a “loser.” In fact, Trump was forced to admit that Cruz is gaining in the polls – something that galls the GOP’s favorite narcissist to no end.

No, Trump decided to attack Cruz on the only thing he can hope to make stick: that because Cruz wasn’t born in a state, he is ineligible for the Presidency. Never mind that only 3 months ago Trump was saying it was a non-issue. Donald has gone full “birther” before on a political opponent, one whom he once fully supported: Barack Obama. That he’s going down that path again shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Trump (and the other birthers, who this time largely reside in the Democrat Party) are focusing their attention on Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution. The applicable part reads as follows:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

The contention lies in the phrase, “natural born citizen.” What exactly does that mean?

Regardless of Trump’s reason for raising this as an issue, he inadvertently has brought up a question that needs to be answered. The fact that there is any doubt over who is a natural born citizen highlights how the lack of civics education in our schools has left even the most basic knowledge of how our government is designed to work untaught. No wonder we keep electing would-be petty dictators who prefer executive orders to actually working within the Constitutional framework.

People rightly point out that the Constitution does not define who qualifies as a natural born citizen. Not unlike other areas in our founding document, the framers sought to leave grey areas for future Congresses to address, modify and change as time went along. They were pretty prescient, for a bunch of 18th century farmer-philosophers, in recognizing that as the country grew we might well need to change the mechanics of citizenship. This is why they granted Congress, in Article 1, Section 8, the final say over citizenship matters.

So, the question of who is a natural born citizen is not a Constitutional matter. It is a statutory one. Congress has the ability to define who is born  a citizen, and it has the ability to define who is a naturalized citizen. In one important aspect, the Constitution was amended to define anyone born in the United States a citizen, regardless of parentage or circumstance:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Now the entire question of Senator Cruz’ eligibility comes down to this: his mother was an American citizen who birthed Ted in another country; Canada, to be exact. Has Congress ever enacted a statute that defines someone of that circumstance as a citizen?

Well, sorry conspiracy nuts and Trumpsters. Yes, in 1952, the Congress enacted 8 US Code 1401, “Nationals and Citizens of United States at Birth.” It covers the exigencies of Ted Cruz’ birth: his mother was a US citizen, his father a legal alien, both had resided in the United States prior to the birth.

The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:
(a) a person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof;
(b) a person born in the United States to a member of an Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or other aboriginal tribe: Provided, That the granting of citizenship under this subsection shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of such person to tribal or other property;
(c) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents both of whom are citizens of the United States and one of whom has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions, prior to the birth of such person;
(d) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is a citizen of the United States who has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the birth of such person, and the other of whom is a national, but not a citizen of the United States…

Question closed. Ted Cruz is eligible, by statute and under Article 2 of the US Constitution, to be President of the United States.

 


America: Land of the Restricted, Home of the Coward


Now that I have your attention…

You’ll have to excuse me, but it looks to me like the liberal loony bin that’s been in charge of things for the last quarter century has finally blown their last gasket. The saddest part of it is that so many of you out there are buying the idiocy they’re selling.

I’m referring to the argument they’ve put forth that we need to willingly rescind our rights in exchange for the presumption of safety. Never mind that there is no way to be “safe” in a world where there are close to a billion people who want you dead simply because you breathe. I’m not even going to bother shooting that argument full of holes. Anyone who thinks safety can be purchased by compliant subjugation should probably be killed, anyway. They’re already brain dead.

The latest attempt at subverting the Constitution (and, not so incidentally, the very principles the Nation was founded upon) comes in the wake of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, CA. Before the smoke had cleared, the liberal vanguard was literally yelling about restricting gun rights. Never mind the facts – which as the hours wore on, made it increasingly clear it was a terrorist attack – the only thing the left saw was an opportunity to play on the understandable fear and revulsion the attack created. And the drumbeat has only intensified in the days since. Indeed, the quasi-communists in the media and government have hardly acknowledged the fact that it was a pair of Muslim jihadists who shot up that conference room. Instead, we get the President lecturing us about “common sense gun safety laws.” We get the flagship of liberal bias in the media, the NY Times, running their first page 1 editorial in 95 years, demanding that Americans voluntarily ignore the 2nd Amendment.

Perhaps no line in that op-ed better summed up the liberals derision of the idea of inalienable rights than this:

“No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.”

When I read that, I nearly puked. I’m serious. It made me physically ill. No right is unlimited? Rights can – and in the Times’ view, should – be regulated? Excuse me , but WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, over? This is still the United States, right? Is this still the country who fought for independence over the idea that rights are immutable and the entire purpose of government is to ensure they are neither limited nor regulated?

There is nonsense, and then there is dangerous nonsense. This type of misinformation is not only dangerous, but seditious. Don’t think so? Which other rights should be regulated and limited? Of course, we’ve seen other manifestations of this thinking since 9/11. There is the Patriot Act, subverting the 4th and 7th Amendments. We’ve had the Department of Justice arguing before the Supreme Court that 1st Amendment protections of religious practice should be subsumed to the greater good. Likewise, The DoJ has filed arguments against the free exercise of political speech. We’ve had this very President argue that the right to life doesn’t exist – he has the authority to launch drone strikes on unarmed Americans.

Enough is enough. A gun is nothing more than a machine built of metal, wood and plastic. A right is a permanent gift from God. If either of those concepts fill you with enough fear that you’re willing to become a midless drone, then you have no business calling yourself an American. You are nothing more than a lilly-livered communist wannabe and I am asking you – nicely – to get the fuck out of my country. Because quite frankly, if you’re that afraid of inanimate objects, you’re going to be too much of a coward to fight in the war that was thrust upon us. And if you’ve lost sight of the very principles that separate Americans from the rest of humanity, then you’ve lost the privilege of calling yourself an American.

ranch_rifle


Save Us from Ourselves!


The gun grabbers are out in foBen vs Obamarce.

Yes, there was another shooting on a school campus. Yes, the gun used was legally obtained. Yes, it shows that for all the attempts to date to restrict gun ownership, bad guys can still get their hands on firearms.

Rather than admit the folly of their attempts to prevent Americans from owning a weapon, the gun grabbers are doubling down on their attempts to take weapons away. They’re doing this, despite admissions that none of their proposals would have prevented the most recent tragedies. Once again, though, they are making an emotional appeal: “Guns are evil” they cry. “Why do gun owners need these guns?” they ask.

Once again, the left wing is out to deny Americans a God-given, Constitutionally guaranteed right, all in the name of saving us from ourselves. The arguments they’re using are no different than the ones they’ve trotted out to try and deny us the ability to purchase a 32 ounce soda, a juicy prime rib or a McDonald’s Happy Meal. The offending item is bad for you, ergo, it should be banned!

Here’s the thing we seem to have forgotten in liberal land: the government shouldn’t be the instrument that restricts anyone’s right to ownership of anything. The Constitution was written with three goals in mind: First, to ensure the federal government could pay the bills. Second, to provide a way for the states to work out their differences. Finally, and perhaps most important, to ensure the individual liberties that all Americans enjoy. It’s this final point that has been slowly eroded, in the name of “responsible governance”. That’s code for protecting us from ourselves.

Should the Founders come to visit us today, undoubtedly they would be shocked. Shocked by the sheer number of regulations and laws to which we have willingly subjected ourselves. Shocked that the American character is no longer identified by self-reliance and responsibility. They would doubtless be amazed by their descendants willingness to cede rights for which they fought and died to the federal government.

This is the sad state to which we’ve arrived. This latest tragedy is a perfect example. The gunman’s own parents continuously abdicated their responsibility, not only to their son, but to their fellow citizens. Why? Both parents were well aware of their son’s propensity to violence and his mental health issues. Yet, his mother kept those weapons in the house and his father had the temerity to suggest that the government failed – by not having stricter gun laws, by not institutionalizing his son. One has to ask, if the father had been more than a sperm donor, would the son have been so screwed up? If the mother had said, “gee, my son has some serious issues – maybe I should store my weapons elsewhere” would he have had access? But nobody seems to be asking those questions. A little responsibility would go further towards preventing not only this tragedy, but the vast majority of these incidents.

Nope, it’s far easier to say we have to “do something.” We have to take away your guns, because some people are irresponsible. Your rights are abridged because I need a political soundbite, even though I know that even outright confiscation of private weapons won’t stop the madness.


UCC Aftermath: Not Guns, Criminals


Not quite 24 hours ago, America witnessed another maniac venting his anger at unarmed students.

The President would have you believe the cure for this is more restrictions on gun ownership, a bigger police state and further curtailing of Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. I suppose now that his time as would-be king is coming to an end, he feels pressure to enact one more nation changing agenda. Let’s not forget, this is the same guy, who in 2008, declared that Americans are “bitter” and we insist on “clinging” to our guns and religion. Since assuming office, he’s engaged in virtual warfare on the religion front. His attempts to to do so on the guns front have largely been stymied, but Obama is a true believer in never letting a good tragedy go to waste. He attempted to politicize tragedy after Newtown. Yesterday, before the blood had even dried on the pavement and before anyone knew who the shooter or his possible motivation might be, he took to his podium and declared open war on any American who does not believe in the saintliness of government intrusion.

What the President, and the rest of the progressive sycophants, fail to understand is that it is their undermining of American culture that is primarily responsible for these tragedies. The problem isn’t that criminals have guns. The problem is that law-abiding citizens do not have guns, nor are they properly trained in their use. UCC is a “gun-free” zone, meaning that any law-abiding citizen who owns a weapon cannot bring it onto campus. Of course, those with bad intent never worry about bringing along their weapons to further their heinous agendas. Net result: bad guys 22, good guys 0.

Now, let’s stop to consider the alternative. Suppose even one student, teacher, or administrator had been properly armed and trained. Suppose, instead of giving the lone security guard on campus a radio, he had a sidearm. The police response, after the 911 call, took less than 5 minutes. That’s an exceptional response (here in my little corner of liberal land, the police generally take about ten minutes to respond) and I commend the local law enforcement folks for it. However, that’s 5 minutes of shooting that would not have happened, had an armed response been available on campus.

More gun control is not the answer, for two reasons the President and his minions would need to crawl out of the ivory tower to understand. First, the most recent shooting incidents were perpetrated by people who had passed the background checks needed to legally purchase firearms. That means, quite frankly, that the intended purpose of the gun control laws we have (preventing criminals from buying guns) are a complete failure. Of course, the real push isn’t for making guns harder to get, but outlawing them entirely. Which brings us to the second point: you can’t prevent criminals from obtaining weapons by making the legal purchase of said weapons illegal.

I live in one of those states that has ridiculously restrictive laws on gun ownership. Here in the Garden State, to legally purchase a firearm, I not only need to pass the FBI background check, but I’m restricted as to who can sell me said weapon, who can sell me ammunition for said firearm and who I can sell said firearm to should I decide I no longer want it. Obtaining a CCW permit is virtually impossible; even OCW permits are hard to come by. In order to transport my weapon, the state requires me to unload the weapon, place it into a locked box and then put that box in the trunk of my car. I also happen to live in a city that places further restrictions on my weapons: I’m supposed to keep them in a gun safe, unloaded, with the ammunition stored in a separate location. Yet despite all of these restrictions, Newark suffered 4 more shootings last night (fortunately no one died), including a police officer being shot. Last year, 112 people were murdered in Newark; that’s ten times the national average murder rate. Or to put it another way, despite gun laws that all but prohibit gun ownership, you are ten times as likely to be murdered in Newark as you are anywhere else in the country. Know why? Because I can buy a weapon on the same corner I buy my milk, and almost as easily. $150 will get me a 9mm with two loaded, 12 round magazines. For comparison, that same setup would run me around $700 in a gun shop. Who has an easier time buying guns, the criminal or the lawful purchaser?

The problem isn’t guns or gun control – or even gun confiscation (and that is, after all, the final progressive aim). The problem lies in that we cannot know who truly has evil in their heart. No background check will tell us. Nor can you prevent those who intend harm from getting a weapon.

So, if you’re truly outraged by the violence, standing at a podium and railing at law-abiding Americans exercising their rights isn’t the way to do it. Instead, urge every law-abiding American to go purchase a weapon, learn how to use it and learn how to defend themselves. There is one thing I do know: the President has waged war on religion; resulting in an amoral society. And we’re going to see even more of these mass  killings because of it.


Would the Founding Fathers Allow This?


This past weekend, we celebrated the creation of our nation. From the ashes of an oppressive dictatorship consumed with controlling every aspect of our ancestor’s lives, arose a nation dedicated to the idea that people should be free from government intrusion. Just review the Declaration of Independence. The 26 grievances listed by Thomas Jefferson can be summed up in one, general statement: we’re tired of being treated like little kids who need to have our every move and thought monitored.

So, how do  you suppose Jefferson, Franklin and the Adams cousins would view this story? I suspect they would find the entire idea of the executive branch of the government convening a secret court to be ludicrous (after all, that was a specific complaint in the Declaration). I imagine they would then suppose that secret court demanding a publication reveal who it’s readers are, was some flight of fancy. How could such a thing exist in the country they swore their scared honor, treasure and lives to create?

Of course, the government insists such a thing is perfectly reasonable. After all, if not for the secret court, who will issue warrants against the terrorists? And the readers they’re after, of course they’re terrorists. No, not the radicalized Islamist kind of terrorist, but that other kind; the kind the government (and liberal intelligentsia) fears more: the red-blooded American! The one who might wonder what on earth the government is up to and why it’s doing what it does. The person who would have the temerity to demand the government be held accountable for its actions. Yes, that person is now declared a terrorist.

Imagine how dumbfounded the men who signed that piece of parchment 239 years ago would be at these actions of the government they created. After all, the government they sought to overthrow considered them terrorists, as well.

We’ve come full-circle. Perhaps, rather than simply wearing red, white and blue tee-shirts and marveling at fireworks, we should rededicate ourselves to this phrase:

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”


A 21st Century Declaration of Independence


We all know (or at least, should know) the words in the founding document of our great nation. But what do they mean? After all, the phrasing and  terminology in the Declaration of Independence is undoubtedly mid-18th Century. To often today, words like  “endowed” carry a different meaning than when Thomas Jefferson penned them. So here’s a 21st Century Translation. I hope you enjoy!

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America

Throughout history, sometimes one group of people decide enough is enough and are ready to form their own country. When that happens, it’s only fair that the new country explain why it’s taking such a drastic step.

There are some things that are so obvious even a moron should understand them. For instance, everyone is equal in the eyes of God, Who has given us rights that no government can deny; these include such basics as living and breathing, the freedom to think, speak, worship and associate as we please, and the chance to find happiness. People create governments to safeguard these rights, but when that government either stops protecting their God-given rights, or actually works to prohibit their exercise, the people reserve the ability to get rid of it and replace it with a government that is dedicated to maintaining those rights. That’s a dramatic step, of course, and should only be done as a last resort. After all, people have shown tremendous resiliency despite suffering at the hands of unresponsive governments. But things have gotten out of hand. We’re being ruled by a dictator; one who’s been screwing with us for a long time already. It is our duty to get rid of him and his government and put in place one that will look after our safety and security, both now and in the future. Before you judge our actions too harshly, let us prove the ways the British king is ruling by tyranny:

We pass laws for the public good, he refuses to allow either us or his own governors to implement them.
In exchange for actually doing his job (you know, ruling), he demands we give up our right to legislative representation.
When he actually does allow the people’s legislature to meet, it’s only at such oddball times and in such out of the way places as to make getting a quorum impossible.
Because our legislatures dare oppose the king’s usurpation’s of our rights, he keeps closing them down. Then, he refuses to allow a new legislature to be elected – even if that means nobody has any idea who’s in charge.
He’s even gone so far as to actively work to depopulate our States and then refuse to allow new people to settle here.
He’s refused to allow us to set up courts and judges for trying criminals. Instead, he’s put his cronies on the judicial bench and their only concern is whatever he tells them to do.
He’s ballooned the bureaucracy, with the express purpose of harassing us to the point of insanity.
The King has stationed a large standing army among our civilian population, even though we are supposedly at peace. This army is not subject to civilian authority and can even override decisions made by civilian authority. As if that wasn’t enough, his army can take over any citizen’s house for their own use, and he’s given it free reign to murder anyone with impunity. Oh, he claims his murderous soldiers are held to account. But it’s always a sham trial, with a king-appointed judge finding the offending soldier innocent.
He refuses to let us buy or sell any goods beyond our own borders.
He imposes new taxes and raises old ones, without regard to whether we can pay them and without even asking us first.
He seizes dissidents and takes them to Great Britain, to be sentenced in sham trials.
He’s dissolved our local state governments, abolished our laws and instituted absolute rule in our communities.
He’s declared war on us, his own subjects and said we are no longer protected by his absolute power and authority.
He’s plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of our people.
Even now, he is sending huge mercenary armies to kill and maim us, rape our women and act with all the cruelty imagined by man over the centuries, establishing a reign of terror totally unbecoming a civilized ruler.
He’s even forced our citizens to fight in his armies and navies against their families and friends, under pain of death. He’s also sent the merciless Indians to utterly destroy our frontier outposts, killing everyone they come across, be they man, woman, or child, even if disabled.

Even while we’ve been subjected to this level of oppression, we’ve tried to reason with the king. But every time we’ve asked him to put an end to this madness, his response has been to escalate the torture, murder and repression further. A tyrant like this king simply isn’t fit to be anyone’s leader.

We’ve also tried to reach out to the British people. After all, we are supposed to be fellow citizens of the Empire. We’ve tried explaining to them that the actions taken by the king are not in keeping with our shared traditions, or English common law, but they seem to neither care nor consider us brothers. This leaves us no choice but to recognize them as a foreign people, and as with all foreigners, they will be our enemies in war and our friends in peace.

Therefore, this Congress, the duly elected representatives of the People of these former British colonies, with the moral authority given us by God himself, declare that we are no longer colonies. We are free and independent States, as granted by God. We no longer have any allegiance to the British crown, nor do we recognize any political or military authority of Great Britain over our territories or lives. As free and independent states, we reserve the ability to declare wars, levy taxes, create alliances, establish trade and do all those things any independent state can do. So help us God, we swear this Declaration on our honor, understanding that in so doing we may forfeit our lives and our fortunes.


Big Government —Big Stick | A Montpelier View


A traffic post from a fellow blogger, explaining why the theory of government usually diverges from the reality of government. It is a lesson our Founding Fathers understood and tried to incorporate into our Constitution.

I guarantee they never saw the likes of the 16th and 17th Amendments, whose combined effect has been to destroy the idea of limited government they put into action.

http://mrmadison.net/2015/06/22/big-government-big-stick/


An Open Letter to Governor Christie


I penned the following letter to the Honorable Christopher Christie, Governor of the State of New Jersey. I thought all of you might want to read it, as well.

Dear Governor Christie:

I am writing to bring your attention to the case of MGySgt Richard Zahn (retired), USMC. I consider it probable that you are personally unaware of his situation, otherwise I cannot believe you would allow him to be in his current circumstances.

MGySgt Zahn is currently incarcerated at the Bergen County Jail, having been convicted of several weapons offenses. Yet, the conviction and offenses are related to his defending himself from a known member of the Latin Kings street gang while in New Jersey to visit his ailing (since deceased) mother. His weapon was never discharged, and in point of fact, his actions that day led to a de-escalation of what would have otherwise been a tragic and lethal encounter.

MGySgt Zahn has served this nation with distinction for nearly 40 years. In his 26 years as an active duty Marine, he deployed into combat on 5 occassions and earned more commendations than can be listed here. They include two Purple Hearts for combat injuries and a Bronze Star. Since his retirement, MGySgt Zahn worked with Homeland Security, training FBI agents and other LEOs (including our own State Police) in anti-terrorism tactics and techniques. For his efforts and success in this work, he received a personal commendation from Louis Freeh. He has also received personal letters of commendation from the Commandant of the Marine Corps (and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) Gen. James Dunford and Gen. James Mattis, former commander of USCentCom.

Given your strong positions against terrorism and the threats it poses to our nation, I’m certain you are aware that anyone receiving these types of personal commendations cannot be someone of poor character, or someone who is given to making rash and impetuous decisons that would risk public safety. That MGySgt Zahn is sitting behind bars for simply doing as he was trained – and has trained others – to do is a miscarriage of justice. Worse, it’s an affront to every law abiding citizen in the United States. Further, I know as a former prosecutor, once you’ve reviewed his case you’ll be left to wonder why (as have many thousands of citizens around the country) it was ever brought to trial. You might also want to note that his case is beginning to receive national attention. The kind of attention that is not doing our state’s reputation any good.

Do the right and honorable thing, Governor. Pardon MGySgt Zahn and have him released today.

Sincerely,
Raymond Rothfeldt

Once again, if you haven’t signed the petition demanding Chris Christie pardon Rich Zahn, you can find it here. Please do so soon. The more pressure we bring to bear on the Governor, the better. That any man should sit behind bars in these United States simply because he uses a weapon to defend himself is insane. If that person happens to be a true American hero, like Rich Zahn, and we do nothing to defend him, then we shouldn’t be able to look at ourselves in the mirror.


No Right to Self Defense?


Yesterday, I brought you the story of Master Gunnery Sergeant (retired) Richard Zahn and his ridiculous imprisonment, all because an overzealous prosecutor, a soviet-style liberal judge and the New Jersey legislature’s paranoia about guns formed into a perfect storm around his case. Many of you have reached out in support of Rich Zahn, and for that I thank you. But one person sent me this link and my sense of bewilderment and outrage got sparked all over again.

This is a case that has received some notoriety, although I admit I was unaware of it until I opened that link. It concerns Michael Giles, a US Air Force airman who became entangled in a bar brawl – and as a result, is now spending 25 years in a Florida prison for the crime of defending himself. Although there are differences between his story and that of Rich Zahn’s, there are some striking similarities:

  1. Both men are combat veterans and career military.
  2. Both men found themselves in unwanted, potentially lethal situations.
  3. Both men used a licensed firearm to defend themselves.
  4. Both men found themselves victimized twice, first by their attacker and later by misguided anti-gun laws.

Here’s a synopsis of Michael’s story. In 2010, he and some friends went to a bar in the Tampa area. Two rival fraternities were also at that bar and a brawl broke out between them. Michael and his friends left the bar but became separated in the melee, at which point Michael retrieved his weapon from their vehicle. As he turned to look for his friends, he found himself in a crowd of approximately 40 brawling men. Somebody hit him from behind, knocking him to the ground and as they were getting ready to follow-up the assault, Michael fired once, striking him in the leg.

None of this is in dispute. During his trial, even his assailant admitted to an unprovoked attack with intent to do Michael serious bodily harm. It’s a clear cut case of self defense, or at least it should be. Except, he used a firearm – and the prosecutor flat-out said that was the crime. In fact, the prosecutor tried to make the case that because Michael used a firearm to defend himself, he was guilty of attempted murder. I do not know the prosecutor’s motivation in making that charge. Perhaps he thinks all career military types are capable of defeating 40 angry, drunk brawlers with their bare-hands. Maybe he thinks Michael received some sort of specialized training from Chuck Norris. It could be he thought, being in the Air Force, Michael could call in a flight of A-10’s to quell the mini-riot.

But here’s what I do know. Michael Giles used a firearm to defend himself and is now spending 25 years behind bars. Richard Zahn used a firearm to defend himself and is now spending 5 years behind bars. The linkage is unmistakable: if you dare to assert your Second Amendment rights, expect some liberal in the criminal justice system to hammer you like a nail. In wacky liberal land, the only thing worse than a gun is the person who actually uses a gun to defend themselves or others. Better you should be a rotting corpse on a slab, I suppose.

That these two outstanding citizens are facing this nightmare is what the insanity of the left is doing to our country, and it’s time we put an end to it. So what can you do? First, let’s get these guys out of prison. If you haven’t signed Rich Zahn’s petition yet, you can find it here. And you can find Michael Giles’ here. Next, it’s time to get rid of these ridiculous anti-gun laws that turn law-abiding citizens into criminals, simply because they dare to defend themselves. These two cases give us two places to start, New Jersey and Florida. As luck would have it, these also are two states that have governors seeking national prominence and who claim to be staunch conservatives. I say it’s time to put them to the test. Write, call, organize protests at the state house steps. Let’s let Chris Christie and Rick Scott know that the time for talk is over. It’s time to actually do something.

And in the meantime, they can use their executive powers to let two unjustly convicted comabt veterans go home to their families.


What To Do About Obama?


image

Within 16 hours of my writing this, it seems certain the Grand Exalted Emperor of North America, Barack Hussein Obama, will have used his pen-and-phone strategy to effectively legalize some 5 million illegal immigrants. The hand wringing in the countryside is palpable. What do we do with this guy?

I propose the answer is actually simple. Ignore him. Much like the adolescent throwing temper tantrums because he doesn’t get his way, what we’re witnessing today from the Great One is a spoiled brat getting his comeuppance. And as any parent will you, the most effective way to deal with a brat is to ignore him. Don’t punish him. Don’t spank him. Just…ignore him. It is the absolute thing a self-centered, pompous ass cannot stand.

As to ignoring him, that’s far easier than one might think. His party has been relegated to a bunch of political back benchers, unable to advance an agenda and much less devote energy to defending a President many dislike. When he takes to the bully pulpit, his speeches are already met with a cross of derision and disbelief. The rest of the world looks upon Team Obama with, at best, patronizing disregard.

Obama isn’t completely toothless, of course. He can convince the Iranians to go ahead and build nukes, plunging what’s left of Mideast stability down the toilet. He can sic the machinery of government on his domestic enemies – something he’s already done with seeming glee. Worst of all, he can rely on his sycophants in the MSM to provide him with more face time than he deserves.

But still, when even the pols in your party are doing their best to already ignore you in the quest to coronate Hillary, you’re already borderline irrelevant. Oh, and checking back to the beginning: go ahead and announce you won’t deport those 5 million illegals. We already know the reality was you were never going to deport them anyway. The only person you’ve fooled is the guy starting back at you in the mirror.


Liberals Enable an Emperor President


Tuesday was, by normal reckoning, as sound a political defeat of the liberal philosophy as has ever been given by the American people. Everyone recognizes this fact. Everyone, that is, except for the President and a liberal punditry that refuses to accept the obvious. They’ve based their argument on some rather specious logic (of course, liberals exist on specious logic, so no surprise there). The argument is this: these were midterm elections, in which the “right” people didn’t vote, and so there cannot be any sort of political mandate. In the same vein, since the “right” people didn’t show up at the polls, they cannot refute the obvious (and liberal) mandate that was imposed during the last election two years ago.

It is more than hubris that drives this view. It is a distorted world view that simply cannot comprehend the very real fact that Americans do not like socialism, do not like bloated government, do not like high taxes and few services in return. We are not Swedes. I don’t mean to demean Sweden; they’ve opted for a socialist state and are generally happy with their choice. They don’t mind the trade-off of a cradle-to-grave social state for a loss of freedom and economic mobility. It is in line with their national character. But that same model is hugely unpopular in the United States because it is at odds with our national character.

Enter Barack Obama and a very leftist Democratic Party. In 2008 they were swept into power – not because Americans wanted to give socialism a spin, but because the incumbent President had managed to screw things up completely by governing as “socialists-lite.” They expanded government into more facets of life than ever, increased spending by more than the previous three administrations combined and mismanaged crises, both domestic and foreign. The new administration misread the mood of the country and doubled-down on socialism in the most explosive manner possible. In 2010, the American electorate said “ENOUGH.” The President paid lip service to the idea of changing policy, but was quickly back to pushing an ever more expansive role for government. Yet, soon enough the very size of that government became unmanageable – but the republicans nominated a guy who was the epitome of the Republican socialism. The electorate rejected him. (In the liberal argument, the “right” people stayed home from the polls that November). Once again, the very leftist party misread the mood of the Nation and tried overreaching even further. They were perplexed when their prized policy endeavors – increased gun control, increased spending, even higher taxes – were soundly rejected by the people. They were equally confused when their preferred method of engaging foreign adversaries, essentially singing kumbaya and sticking our collective head in the sand, began to yield very undesirable results. Around the world, tin pot dictators and “JV team” terrorists aggressively pushed their agendas, at our expense. Eventually, a third European war in the last century became a very real possibility. And that JV team began chewing up huge chunks of territory in the Middle East, using weapons we had supplied against both us and our lone ally in the region. At home, the bloated bureaucracy created by the President and his cronies in the Senate all but collapsed under it’s own weight, while the financial obligations of a $17 trillion debt kept us in the most tepid post-recession recovery in American history.

So, the voters went to the polls this time around and sent another “ENOUGH” message. Only, once again, the leftist pundits are writing this off because the “wrong” people voted.

Here’s the reality they’ve deluded themselves into thinking doesn’t exist. Presidential election years do turn out a larger chunk of the population – and that larger chunk tends to be the uninformed voter. They do not know what the issues are, and often they don’t even know who they’re voting for. They are only voting for whom a precinct boss told them to vote for, or who some celebrity on TV told them was better. They don’t know the electoral process, probably have never read the Constitution  and  are voting on emotion only. It is the midterm voter who tends to be informed, be engaged in the process and understands the issues at stake. So before the President turns even further leftward, this time resorting to executive overreach to pursue policies the electorate continually rejects, he would do well to shut up, sit down and actually listen to the American people.


The Obama Salute


There is a fair amount of outrage after video surfaced of President Obama saluting the Marine guarding Marine One with a coffee cup.
Sadly, I don’t get outraged by his highness’ failure to properly render a salute any longer. I expect nothing more from the Buffoon in Charge than a classless display of disrespect towards the Nation and the people who’ve sworn an oath to defend her. We’ve had 6 years of watching him improperly salute the flag and our troops, 6 years of his administration denigrating the very concept of service, duty and honor. 6 years of him kow-towing to foreign leaders.

But beyond the symbols of respect toward the United States that Obama and his minions routinely trample, there are the actions they’ve undertaken that demonstrate the sneering derision they have for their country. He’s complained on many occasions about being “constrained” by the Constitution. Then there are the three grievous inactions that are indicative of his attitude towards the people who believe in America.

First, there is the Benghazi debacle. Rather than order aid and assistance to a consulate under siege, Obama ordered the exact opposite. And then went off to play cards and take a nap. In the meantime, 4 honorable Americans were beaten, tortured and murdered. The administration’s attitude can neatly be summed up by Hillary’s response before Congress; “What difference does it  make?”

Second, there’s the case of Marine Sgt. Tamhooressi, held captive in a Mexican prison since this past spring. Not only has the White House failed to get him released, they haven’t even tried. Apparently, appeasing Mexican pride is preferable to a little arm-twisting.

And finally, we’ve got the mess at the VA. Despite years of promises of finally getting the VA to at least act like they care about America’s veterans, what we got was an administration that willfully turned a blind eye to the abuses. It was only when the politics became unmanageable, when the deaths of thousands of American veterans at the hands of the VA made headlines, that they at least made an appearance of honoring our service. Of course, now that the furor has subsided, the VA has merrily returned to killing veterans.

There are literally dozens of other examples. But you get the point. This guy doesn’t see anything wrong with rendering a Starbucks salute, because he doesn’t respect the men and women who’ve selected honor and duty and personal sacrifice. He doesn’t respect them because he can’t understand why anyone thinks the United States of America is worth making that kind of commitment towards. Asking him to respect something he can’t understand is asking too much.


Does America’s Military Protect Our Freedoms?


I recently got into a bit of a Facebook kerfluffle. The reason is, I re-posted the following statement from a fellow veteran:

“This is how I feel when a civilian thanks me for my service and protecting our “freedom”. I do my best not to go high and right as I kindly explain to them “You’re welcome, however no one in the military is protecting your freedom. If they were, they would have cleaned out Washington DC years ago. How many “terrorists” have limited, restricted or taken away your Constitutional rights? The military may at times temporarily provide for your safety and security, but they don’t do shit to protect your freedom… Get my point”

I realize this POV is probably more than a little unsettling to most of you, so allow me to explain why there are quite a few of vets who feel this way.

Let me start at the very beginning. Every person who enlists in any military service is required to take the following oath:

“I,<state your name>, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

The bit about defending the Constitution, and bearing true faith and allegiance to it, would certainly make it seem like the enlistee was fired up about defending our liberties and freedoms. And most are. Yes, during my tour of duty I met plenty of people who initially enlisted for a variety of reasons, and those weren’t always the most altruistic. But it becomes nearly impossible to survive basic training without believing you’re putting yourself through hell for a damned good cause.

But you’ll also notice that the enlistee also swears to take orders from the President and the officers the President appoints over the enlistee. That makes virtually every military order also a political order. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s worked out well for most of our history. After all, there are plenty of republics that devolved into military dictatorship precisely because the military was not under control of the political institutions, or became factionalized under different political elements. The Founders were well aware of the dangers a politically isolated military would pose to a republic, and ensuring the military remained subservient to the political machinery was another genius stroke they had.

But the downside to this arrangement is what we’ve experienced over the past 15 years or so. The military has always been used by US Presidents as a foreign policy political tool (what exactly do you think Teddy Roosevelt was referring to as the “Big Stick”?). Throughout our history, though, most Presidents have used military action to either (a) defend or evacuate American citizens abroad or (b) prosecute actions against declared enemies of the US, which would also make them enemies of the US Constitution. But beginning with the Presidency of George W. Bush, America’s military was tasked with a new role: prosecuting military actions against…well, they still aren’t sure, really.

The ambiguity came after the attacks on September 11, 2001. Prior to that date, terrorists were considered criminals, regardless of where they hailed from. Even those sponsored by foreign governments, such as the group that went around bombing German discos in the mid-80’s. The response was unerring, and consistent: hunt and prosecute the terrorists legally while holding the foreign government militarily responsible. After the 9/11 attacks, Bush made a tenuous argument that the government of Iraq was responsible and invaded. But rather than hunt down the remaining members of Al-Qaeda for legal prosecution, we also invaded Afghanistan, also on the tenuous precept that their lack of a stable government allowed the terrorists to establish a de facto government.

At the same, a series of civil liberty circumventing statutes were passed and signed into law: everything from the Patriot Act and “enhanced interrogations”  to warrantless wiretapping and travel restrictions were enacted. These were political decisions, which have not had political consequences for the enactors. Indeed, President Obama has actually curtailed civil liberties even further and set the table for his successor to all but abolish the Bill of Rights, should he choose.

The military, being under the control of the body politic, has had virtually no choice but to snap to and salute as these abuses take place. Their only alternatives are to either raise concerns about the political situation or mutiny. The first option, historically, has never been met by the public with much sympathy. Not that there haven’t been quite a few courageous officers who’ve tried to question under what authority the President and Congress are deriving their extra-constitutional powers, but these men and women were quietly shown the door. These people understand the military is no longer defending the Constitution, but instead defending the political process that is allowing the Constitution to be shredded bit by bit.

As for a mutiny, that remains highly unlikely. The idea of armed soldiers marching on Capitol Hill and the White House remains unfathomable to not only most Americans but most of the Americans in uniform. Again, it would be bucking nearly 240 years of history and tradition. Of course, the Romans couldn’t imagine a military leader crossing the Rubicon with an armed legion – until they clamored for Julius Caesar to do just that.

I wonder: how close are we to an armored division crossing the Potomac?


Ukraine Is Everyone’s Problem


That might sound like a strange article title from a libertarian. After all, aren’t we supposed to be ultra-isolationist types? Aren’t libertarians not supposed to care what happens anywhere else in the world? While that is ordinarily true, the situation in the Ukraine differs from, say, that of North Korea on a whole bunch of levels. First and foremost, the odds of the US entering a shooting war with the Koreans (or Iran, a host of other nations) is infinitesimally small. Should the Koreans actually be dumb enough to lob a nuke at Anchorage (or Seoul, or Tokyo), they fully understand their half of the Korean Peninsula won’t be suitable for human habitation for another 10,000 years. Let them rattle their sabres and keep Dennis Rodman busy. If they want to become a glass parking lot, I could care less.

What separates the situation in Ukraine from others around the globe is the agent provocateur, Russia. I know what you’re about to say – I can see the eyes rolling over from here. “What does the Russian interest in Ukraine have to do with the US?”; “If it’s Europe’s problem, let Europe handle it”; “The Ukranians can fight their own fights” and my favorite, “Haven’t the Russians been part of the Ukraine for centuries?”

Well, yes – the Russians have used Sevastopol as the home port for the Black Sea fleet since Catherine the Great was “Tsar of all the Russias.” In fact, Sevastopol was the original “Potemkin Village.” It also marked arguably the bloodiest loss for the Russian Empire during the Crimean Way, when after 11 months of siege the city fell to British, French and Turkish troops – but only after the classic Russian “scorched earth” stratagem of burning the city to the ground and scuttling the Black Sea fleet. But the entire argument that the Russians are simply securing a port and region with historic ties to Moscow is as fallow as the Sahara in July. When Ukraine gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, one of the provisions was recognition of the “special status” of both Crimea and Sevastopol. The city is (or was, until Saturday) jointly ruled by both Russia and Ukraine; the region was given semi-autonomous status and under the Ukrainian constitution, allowed to pursue it’s own relations with Moscow. The Russian naval base was leased to Moscow until 2042. In short, Russia had no pressing reason to invade Crimea. Indeed, if anything, the situation after the Orange Revolution in 2004 would have dictated military action more so than the current one.

The middle two arguments and part of the first are debunked by more recent history than the Crimean War. When Ukraine gained independence, there was an immediate problem faced by the entire world: Ukraine inherited an entire Soviet ICBM fleet – and those missiles were armed. Overnight, the world was faced with a new nuclear power – in fact, Ukraine commanded the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. It was larger than the combined nuclear forces of Great Britain, France, China, South Africa and Israel. The answer to resolving the potential nightmare was the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security AssurancesUnder the terms of that treaty, Ukraine agreed to relinquish her nukes in exchange for guarantees of her sovereignty and protection from the other signatories: the United States, Great Britain and Russia. There can be no doubt the Russians have violated the terms of that treaty (as of this writing, 2 regiments have taken up strategic positions with Ukraine and another 3 full divisions are poised to complete the invasion). The question before us is, do we agree to abide by our treaty commitments? Failure to do so demonstrates to every other ally of the United States that we are a feckless, irresponsible partner in world affairs. Already, the fealty of the US is being questioned after our actions (or inactions) during the Obama presidency. Failure to act now will destroy what remains of 75 years worth of credibility built by successive administrations, both Democrat and Republican.

But ultimately, the decision of what our country should do regarding the current situation in Ukraine belongs to We, the People. Just as an outcry against the planned bombing of Syria nearly a year ago persuaded the government to abandon those plans, a similar outcry of support for Ukraine could lead to action. But why should we, as citizens of the United States, care about what Russia does to her neighbors?

To understand that, you need to know a bit about the history of the principle actors on the stage. First and foremost is Vladimir Putin. I think most of my readers are aware of Putin’s ties to the former KGB. But I doubt few understand the type of command Putin has over the Russian government and the thrall he has over Russia’s people. As a politician, Putin is an ultranationalist, appealing to the Russian desire for a return to the type of world dominance once enjoyed by the Soviet Union. As a leader, he has been every bit as ruthless in the political arena as he was during his 16 year stint as a KGB colonel. Indeed, he rose within the infant Russian democracy to take the reins of the FSB, the successor to the KGB – and used the power of that office to “convince” Boris Yeltsin to appoint him Prime Minster in 1999. Only 3 months later, Yeltsin agreed to resign and appoint Putin as acting President. In the 14 years since, Putin has assumed autocratic command of every aspect of Russian political, economic and military life. As to Putin’s intentions on the world stage, he has made it clear his overarching goal is to first expand Russia’s border to encompass the territory of the old Soviet Union. Additionally, he regards any countries that were formerly in the Warsaw Pact as Russian “protectorates,” even should those nations decide to join the EU or NATO.

Part of Putin’s strategy has been to install puppet leaders in several of former Soviet republics. As a strategy, it has proven quite effective – for minimal expense, Russia effectively brought all of the former Soviet Republics back into herself. One place it didn’t happen was Georgia, which led Russia to invade South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008, and occupy those territories ever since. It was the ouster of one puppet,  Viktor Yanukovych (who has since turned up in a dacha outside Moscow), in the latest Ukranian uprising that led to the Russian incursion in Crimea. Yanukovych’s career is a strange one. This marks the second time Ukrainians have deposed him, the first being the Orange Revolution in 2004. It was the chaos among competing democratic factions that allowed Yanukovych to return to power, but it was his insistence on doing the Kremlin’s bidding that ultimately led to his downfall.

Perhaps it’s paranoia speaking, but if so my family’s history justifies a little paranoia. The Russian crackdowns on dissidents and “undesirables” are very reminiscent of two of the most horrible regimes in world history, that of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Putin has, like Stalin, Lenin and Hitler before him, made no secret of his desire to control the world. My family suffered at Dachau and Auschwitz; those that survived suffered near equal indignities at the hands of their Russian “liberators” in Austria. So, yes, I grew up with those horror stories, with the tattoo on my grandmother’s arm and with an innate understanding of the types of atrocities autocratic regimes impose upon the populace. As an American, one of the things I’m proudest of is our commitment to the principle of “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is a principle we abandoned in the 1930’s as Adolph Hitler absorbed country after country in central Europe.

But even if we allow our founding principles to stand aside, there is another compelling reason to actively engage Putin’s Russia now. Our failure to take decisive action from 1933 – 1939 led to the invasion of Poland and World War II. Indeed, although FDR is not one of my favorite Presidents, I do commend him for pushing through the Lend-Lease Act, which allowed Britain to continue the fight once hostilities began – despite strong objections from the “America Firsters” in both parties. We have see any number of tin-pot dictators come and go in the 70 years since that war ended, but this marks the first time that one has seized control of a nation that is actually capable of plunging the world into general war. If Hitler had been confronted in the Ruhr, the Sudetenland or Austria before Poland, that great conflagration would have been avoided (in the case of the Ruhr and Sudetenland) or played out dramatically differently. Instead, we (along with Britain and France) played a geopolitical game of appeasement, believing that “giving” Germany predominately German-speaking territories would sate Hitler’s appetite.

My fear now is we will have forgotten the lessons learned at the expense of over 100 million lives and try to appease Putin. Tin pot dictators always mean what they say – the only question is if they have the ability to make those threats reality. Vladimir Putin has that ability, and this failing to stop him will cost the world far more than 100 million people.


Wait a cotton pickin’ minute


Perhaps because I’ve never believed our nation is a bunch of redistributive idiots at heart, I’ve watched as the country plunged headfirst towards Obamacare with fascination. Maybe because nearly all my adult life is partly defined by my battle with Crohn’s Disease, I pay an inordinate amount of of attention to the Battle for Health Care Reform. Could be because I am even now lying in a hospital bed in the latest go-round with Crohn’s, I’m amazed at the dizzying pace of lies pouring forth from the administration of President Barack Obama over the past four weeks.

What is most sad is that a sizable chunk of the American people are just sitting back and taking it. Despite the evidence of their own eyes from the past four years, they continue to loll about and let the administration get away with the greatest government take-over of American life in history. I’m stupified by the willingness of the American citizenry to just play ostrich when they should at least get to strutting like Foghorn Leghorn.

Then it hit me.

With all the force of a Superstorm, it hit me square in the face. After 40 years of war, debt, moral erosion and political scandal, the American people are tired of dealing with it all – and longing for something they never experienced. The Founding Fathers left us a political and economic system that only works if everyone (or nearly everyone) participates. Most people don’t participate unless they have either a very personal interest in a particular program or they’re corrupt enough to look upon governement service as a way to create individual wealth.

More later. As mentioned, I’m typing this from a hospital bed. In the meantime, am I on the right track? Is the reason most Americans just don’t care because we’ve spent four generations being battered into submission?


Cops vs. Civil Liberties? It shouldn’t be.


With everything that’s been making headlines this week, there certainly isn’t a shortage of things to write about. Heck, it takes me almost three hours each morning just to get through the barrage of news articles that find their way into my email and the topics cover everything from government malfeasance to the hyper-partisan Congressional environment through miscellaneous popular interest items. But there was one headline of which I’m betting the vast majority of you are unaware.

The other night, the city council in New York City voted to effectively end the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” program. They took this action for three reasons, two of which are political (the Council Speaker, once considered a shoo-in in the upcoming Mayoral election, is suddenly trailing human joke Anthony Weiner and the Justice Department is opening a probe on the practice) and one fiscal (the city just lost a lawsuit from the NYCLU). Current mayor, Michael “Mao” Bloomberg has already threatened to veto the new legislation – but in NYC, the Council can override a mayor’s veto and they have the votes to do so.

The stop-and-frisk program is a wonderful example of what happens when what seems like a reasonable idea at one time can later morph into  a heinous overreach of government authority. The roots of the program are found in former Mayor David Dinkins’ “Clean Halls” program. That program aimed to reduce crime in NYC’s infamous public housing projects by giving police expanded to authority to stop anyone found in the buildings or grounds and ask for ID; if the person stopped couldn’t prove they lived there, they were arrested for trespassing and escorted away. It was an admirable effort that worked reasonably well in removing trespassers and also found more than a few fugitives.

It was so successful that Mayor Mike expanded it to all public spaces. That led to the idea that the police could catch even more bad guys and maybe even prevent crimes by allowing the police to not only randomly stop people, but check them for contraband. This was all premised on the idea that the police would have reasonable cause before accosting ordinary folks and searching them.

Has the program actually reduced street crime? The NYPD attest that it has, pointing to the reduction in violent crimes since 2002, when the program began (from about one violent crime per 44 residents) to the present day one per 76. But nationally, there has also been a marked reduction in violent crime during the same period: from one per 320 Americans to one per 480. It’s just a cursory examination of the numbers, but it may be that the national reduction in violence is as much responsible for New York’s drop in crime rate as the stop-and-frisk program.

To further damn the program, the NYPD’s statistics show that the program may have been more trouble than it was worth. It was found during the NYCLU case that the stop-and-frisk policy is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, despite the city’s claim that officers were only allowed to stop people who presented with a reasonable expectation that they were involved in some type of crime. Yet, the city’s own data show that although some 4.4 million stops were made, only 6.26% resulted in an arrest and another 6.25% resulted in a summons issued. Those are pretty pitiful results, especially when compared with the fact that over 28% of the incidents resulted in police using force to effect the stop.

So why put the program in effect in the first place – and why keep it going for more than a decade, when there is no discernible proof that it served it’s intended purpose? The answer to the first part is simple enough; New Yorker’s love their city – but they hate the high crime rate. To turn on the evening news or pick up a copy of the New York Post is to be bombarded with lurid tales of rape, murder, muggings and general mayhem. Although they’ll never admit it, most live in constant fear of being assaulted and with a reason. Those crime statistics still paint a pretty grim picture; a picture of  a city whose crime rate is nearly 6 times worse than the national average. And as I’ve discussed before, where people are afraid, they’re also willing to cede to the government their rights. New Yorkers are especially axiomatic of this “nanny state” mentality. When they feel threatened they demand the government do something, anything, regardless if rights get trampled in the process – because, after all, it’s the other guy’s rights being trampled. It is, in short, the same mentality that allowed dictators like Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin to ruthlessly pursue their bloodthirsty agendas.

As to why it took a class action lawsuit and the threat of federal intervention to bring it to an end, one only has to look at the cottage industries that grew and depend on stop-and-frisk. The mayor, who at one time harbored Presidential aspirations, became synonymous with both this civil rights violation and by crusading against the Second Amendment rights of his subjects (as well as the evils of tobacco, carbonated beverages and trans-fats). He routinely uses the number of weapons seized during the stops-and-frisk as evidence that his anti-gun crusade would work, if only the rest of the country would follow his lead. There is NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, whose career depends on keeping those crime stats dropping and can hardly walk  away from the program he most credits for the decline in violent crime. There are the rank-and-file officers, who after decades of ridicule and abuse by the citizenry, have found themselves for the past 12 years in a position of absolute authority. After all, who’s going to argue with a NYC cop who has the ability to stop you, detain you and search you anytime he wants? There are surely others, as well; like all major operations that are rooted in skirting existing law, corruption certainly follows.

The lesson that I wish New Yorkers (and everyone else) would take away from this episode in their history is this: even trying to exchange their freedoms for their safety was an abysmal failure;  their crime rate is still far higher than people who live elsewhere. It is proof that liberty is not a currency that can purchase safety.


Watch the Senate vote on Immigration Reform


Senate Invokes Cloture on Immigration Bill, Final Vote at 4pm | C-SPAN.