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Civics 101

Political Baseballs Endorses…


mcmullin-for-prez

It’s possible the United States has had worse candidates for President in our history. We’ve certainly had our share of horrible campaigns, and we’ve had our share of horrible Presidents.

But you’ll be hard pressed to come up with a worse combination of candidates and campaigns than 2016 has brought.

The incumbent party nominated a woman with a 40 year history of corruption and scandal. How can anyone be surprised that, true to form, she may well become the first President-elect under indictment in our history? If elected and she manages to avoid prosecution for what certainly looks like egregious violations of the law, Hillary Clinton’s presidency would be kneecapped before she ever takes the oath of office. Nobody trusts her. Nobody can even pretend to believe anything she does or says any longer. As her own campaign staff has said, she has demonstrated terrible instincts and decision making. To call the next four years under her “leadership” a disaster in the making is to be generous – to disasters.

Ordinarily, a candidate that bad and that flawed wouldn’t have a chance in hell of being elected. But the Republicans, in a remarkable display of self-immolation, nominated someone as equally awful. Every character deficiency exhibited by Mrs. Clinton is personified in spades by Donald Trump. Self-dealing? Corrupt? Narcissistic? Check off all those boxes. And just as Hillary “bleachbit” her copy, I’m not even sure Donald has even read the Constitution. But he loves his petty dictators, from Vlad Putin to Deng Xiaoping. As for the rest of us, he’s already he told us what he thinks: “For the most part, you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect.”

I had held out hope for the Libertarian candidacy of Gary Johnson. That was before he started talking and proved that (a) he’s either insane or killed his brain in a fog of hash smoke and (b) he’s actually not a Libertarian. He is, however, obviously just as opportunistic as both of the major party candidates.

So, the top three pretenders for President of the United States are unqualified and unfit for the office they aspire to, and probably belong in prison. What is a patriotic citizen to do this November 8th?

There is an answer. There is one candidate who, despite probably not able to carry more than a couple of states, embodies the strength of character, dedication to Constitutional principles and belief in the greatness of America we’ve found so lacking in the other candidates.

That is why, for 2016, Political Baseballs is proud to endorse Evan McMullin of Utah for President of the United States.

Since he’s only listed in 11 states, odds are you will have to write his name in on your ballot. I encourage you to find out the vagaries regarding write-in candidates in your state and take the effort to write him in. As mentioned, he likely will not win. But casting your vote for Mr. McMullin will not be wasting it, for two reasons.

First, the entire concept of “voting for the lesser evil” is what has left our nation in it’s current state. Far too often, we accept the idea of a binary choice between two poor options. This leaves voters voting not as much for a candidate, as against the opposing candidate. It’s a terrible situation that our current political parties have delivered to the American people, one who’s likely outcome this time will be the worst four years for our republic since the Civil War. By voting for Mr. McMullin, you can actually vote for someone who isn’t corrupt, isn’t beholden to either political party, isn’t bankrolled by all of the usual power players and isn’t responsible to anyone other than his own conscience and the voters. Rather than needing to rinse the stink off from voting for Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton, you can be proud of your vote.

Second, by now even the most partisan among us have to realize something has gone terribly wrong with our political parties if the best candidates they can come up with are the parasites they’ve nominated. If you truly want to send a message that we, the People, have had enough of their nonsense, there is no better way than to vote for a candidate who is inviolate in his beliefs. Even if you do not agree with Mr. McMullin’s conservative viewpoint, you cannot deny his uncompromising defense of his principles. I’ve heard many of you over the last two years, both conservative and liberal, say you want to “blow up the system.” Voting for Mr. McMullin is a shot right into the heart of the unscrupulous parties that have placed power and wealth above the country.

So, when you vote, don’t worry about pulling a lever or punching a hole. Write in the only candidate worthy of your vote: Evan McMullin.

 

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American Exceptionalism


Our current President forever lost my support when in April 2009 he said, ” I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” As James Kirchik wrote later that month in the LA Times,

“If all countries are ‘exceptional,’ then none are, and to claim otherwise robs the word, and the idea of American exceptionalism, of any meaning.”

Mind you, even the very liberal Kirchik was offended at the offhand way in which the new President (and latest liberal icon) had dismissed American exceptionalism as being, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. In fact, the problems that have risen during this Presidency are directly attributable to this President’s inability to identify what American exceptionalism is and why our past reliance on it has always overcome even the most overwhelming obstacles.

So, what is American exceptionalism? The  idea was first expressed by the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville in his book, Democracy in America. In 1835, the United States did not have an economy the rest of the world envied. We had few factories, few railroads, and our merchants were forced to trade in British pounds sterling or gold bullion. Our military was not feared, large, or respected. In fact, the 1835 graduating class from West Point totalled only 56 officers – of whom, 38 quit the Army after their 5 year commitment.

So, if the United States did not have the trappings of power that might lead a European gentleman to presume a national exceptionalism, what did we possess? How could a relatively poor and weak nation so impress this man that he would write a series of books about so seemingly absurd a concept as American exceptionalism?

The answer lies in the very nature of what America is, and what it means to be an American. Unlike any other nation in the history of mankind, the United States of America is unique in our very makeup: we are not of a single ethnicity, we are not defined by natural borders and our history is not rooted in the misty memories of the prehistoric tribes that roamed the rest of the world. Alone among nations of the world, to be American is to pledge fealty not to a man, nor a religion, nor a piece of land, but rather to an ideal: the idea that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights -and that government’s principle duty is to secure those rights for every person.

I hadn’t given much thought about this until our current election. After all, the hew and cry over Mr. Obama’s giving short shrift to the concept of American exceptionalism  had come from both the right and left (although, to be certain, it was more pronounced on the right). So it seemed reasonable that the American people understood what made America an exceptional nation, even if the President didn’t. And I kept thinking that, up until Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton secured their respective party’s nominations.

I’m sad to say that it seems most people today have no idea what American exceptionalism means, or where it comes from. There are those who think it comes from an inherent nativism, forgetting that one of the most crucial aspects of Americanism is that anyone, from anywhere, regardless of wealth or circumstance, can become an American. This concept is emblazoned on the base of the Statue of Liberty. You know, the bit about “Give me your tired, your poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free”? That poem isn’t talking about the economically depressed (although the vast majority of immigrants in our country’s history have been far from wealthy). It’s telling the rest of the world, if you value freedom & liberty above all else, this is the place to come. It’s the message that brought my family here during the Cold War. It’s the message that brought everyone’s family here.

Then there are those who think American exceptionalism is rooted in being the greatest economic power on earth. They either don’t know, or don’t want to believe, that the United States’ period of economic dominance was a short one, lasting about 30 years. And it only came about because alone among the world’s actors, the United States wasn’t physically devastated by the Second World War. It has nothing to do with greater industriousness or intelligence of the American worker. If you don’t believe that, I can point to a whole world of people with as strong a work ethic as you’ll find in America.

Many of our fellow citizens think American exceptionalism is a byproduct of military might. There’s nothing wrong with having a strong military, but that’s hardly exceptional. Comparatively speaking, even at it’s strongest our military was a mere shadow of the Macedonian army under Alexander or the legions that secured the Pax Romana.

Each of those are things that any nation can take pride in, but they are hardly exceptional. Other nations have, at other times, established preeminence in trade and military might. Think of the British Empire of the 19th century, the Romans, the Persians, the Egyptians. But none of those nations could truly lay claim to being something exceptional, which is to say, something that nobody had seen before or since. Something unique.

In addition to our national identity being forged of the ideals of liberty and equality, there is one other thing that makes us exceptional. That is our willingness to be introspective and during that introspection, to demonstrate to the world that we are both strong enough and wise enough to understand that we haven’t perfected our society. After all, it took us 90 years to get from announcing to the world that all men are created equal to codifying that precept, and it took another 100 years after that before those laws began to be enforced. What other nation in history has undertaken such monumental efforts, not closeted but openly? Can you imagine the awe of the common Chinese citizen when they compare Tiananmen’s brutal repression with the March on Washington?

That is liberty. That is freedom. That is the “poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

And that is American exceptionalism. I fervently hope those of you who’ve forgotten it remember, before this nation and her ideals are left to rot in the ash heap of history.


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!


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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.