Musings on Sports, Politics and Life in general

Politics

In Defense of Justin Amash


In case you were off enjoying yourself this past weekend (or dodging tornadoes in Kansas), this tweet from Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) set the political world on fire:

View on Twitter

You can read the full thread on Twitter and I suggest you do just that, rather than listen to the dozens of talking heads that populate the airwaves. They have quickly assumed their usual fighting stances. For the Trumpsters, Amash is a traitor to the cause, giving cover to the most corrupt deep state coup in history. To the Resistance, Amash is a hero, speaking the truth about the most corrupt administration since King George III.

Further down in his thread, Amash hints at this response to his conclusions:

Indeed, when you read the full thread, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to understand why Amash reached the conclusions he did. To his reasoning, Barr is covering for presidential misdeeds out of partisan fervor. Whether those misdeeds are, in fact, “high crimes and misdemeanors” is not the matter for debate. Rather, it is that they reveal a pattern of “otherwise dishonorable conduct.”

Anyone who has paid attention to Justin Amash’s career shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. He has always been the most reluctant of Republicans; a man who hoped to bring the GOP closer to his libertarian inclinations than the conservative bent of the party when he was first elected to Congress. Based on his past, this was the only conclusion Amash could come to that is consistent to his principles.

While I disagree with his conclusion, I have to respect the man for being true to who he is. I heard one of those talking heads say something to the effect of Amash is angling to switch to being a Democrat, as he has a primary challenger and wants to avoid a primary election fight. While nothing in politics would surprise me these days, that would come close. Amash is a small “l” libertarian. While many of his views are not in step with the typical GOP voter, the idea he is more aligned to the party of Big Government is ludicrous.

I would argue that while some find his views on some subjects seem to be political contrivances, they are anything but. It’s just that as a libertarian, his political views are not easy to pigeonhole. In this case, he takes umbrage with the fact that there is a subset of the body politic that deifies President Trump. Amash sees danger with this, in that such fealty to an individual can cause that subset to willingly overlook corrupt practices by a Chief Executive. But such slavish devotion to a sitting President is not an impeachable offense of that President. If it were, then there are at least a dozen past Presidents who were worthy of impeachment, from Obama, through Reagan, Kennedy, FDR and so on, all the way back to Washington. Amash correctly identifies a problem with politics, in that elections are rarely more than popularity contests of personalities. His solution, however, would paralyze our system of government every time the opposition party assumes control of the House of Representatives.

Regardless of how misguided he might be on this issue, I can’t help but wish we had more politicians who were true to their ideals. Yes, it has put Justin Amash outside the political mainstream. But if that is the only offense you can take with him, then he’s doing a better job than 95% of those in the House today.

Advertisements

A Quick Thought On Tariffs


By now, you’re certainly aware President Trump raised the tariffs the US government charges on a wide range of Chinese goods. This came primarily as a result of Chinese recalcitrance in the most recent trade negotiation.

Certainly, you’re familiar with the free trade arguments against tariffs. Generally speaking, these arguments are correct. A tariff raises the cost of those goods for the importing distributor. Those increased coast are then passed on to the consumer. Not only that, but in states that charge sales tax, the increased price that comes from the tariff also results in a higher sales tax. So the net effect is not unlike a VAT, a tax that gets compounded at various stages and eventually adds up to much higher costs for the consumer.

Think of it this way: Maytag imports a $300 washing machine from China. The new 25% tariff increases that COG to $375. Maytag, in order to sustain it’s business, sells it to Lowe’s with a 10% mark-up, so Lowe’s cost for the washing machine is $412.50. Lowe’s the sells it the consumer with the standard 25% markup found on retail hard goods, so it costs you $515 to purchase it. Only that isn’t your final cost. The state charges 6.5% sales tax, so your final purchase price comes to $548.48 – of which $108.48 is taxes.

That’s a $69.23 increase in cost to you, of which $49.23 is in taxes. Or if you prefer, that 25% tariff actually resulted in a 83% increase in the amount of tax you paid on your brand new washing machine.

So, increasing tariffs is obviously increasing the burden to the consumer. It is even a more regressive form of taxation than an ordinary sales tax. Because it is charged at the point of import, there is a downstream effect of cumulative price increases, until the final price for the consumer is artificially increased to the point of near unaffordability. So, there can be no doubt that in a nation that relies on consumer spending for economic growth, increasing tariffs is going to result in a downturn in at least the rate of growth.

So why would we slide back into a mercantilist trade policy, when global prosperity has demonstrated  that reducing trade barriers has lifted everyone’s standard of iving?

According to the President, it is a result of an ever expanding trade deficit with China. Frankly, that is hardly a problem. It is a result of the fact that Chinese workers earn less than their American counterparts, that property and building costs are lower and there are fewer regulatory hurdles to running a factory. Tariffs might reduce the trade deficit slightly, but they won’t send companies fleeing China for the beautiful environs of Akron. It might make a few move to someplace like Vietnam or Indonesia. So what then, do we raise tariffs on imports from those countries, too?

Our real trade problem as regards the People’s Republic of China is not a deficit of goods. Rather, it is their own mercantilist policies that require technology transfers and encourage software piracy. The question becomes, are tariffs the right weapon to deploy to combat those policies?

Probably not. For starters, the basic memory chip devised by the American company Intel is the gold standard in solid state memory, But the Qualcomm copy is nearly as good and about half the price. If you’re unfamiliar with these little pieces of silicon, they can be found in everything from your $9.99 alarm clock to your $65,000 Mercedes. Qualcomm exports those chips to companies all around the world. Trying to target Qualcomm RAM and ROM chips with punitive tariffs would, quite literally, mean raising tariffs on thousands of products coming from all around the world.

Add into that headache that Qualcomm doesn’t just build those chips in China. They also build them here, in a factory in San Diego, as well some 28 other countries. Trying to track where each chip was built, where it was sent, and whether that particular chip was then imported into the US is impossible. And this is just one product from one company.

So, tariffs are an ineffective tool when dealing with China’s policy of enforced technology theft. Are there any other tools at our disposal? Well, there is the WTO, but it has proven effectively useless in handling the problem. There is diplomacy, but gathering enough nations together willing to take on these policies has proven almost impossible. Even the TPP, championed by the Obama administration and thankfully scrapped by the Trump admin, ignored the problem outright.

So what’s left? As much as I hate to say it, it might be simply barring any American technology company from doing any business in China whatsoever. I’m certain that adopting that particular stance would draw howls from not only the tech companies but a host of other interests. Additionally, it’s naive to think China wouldn’t retaliate in some fashion, perhaps by doing something as extreme as charging an export fee on any goods headed to the US.

It would mark one hell of an escalation in what has been, to now, a pretty mild trade war. As much as I hate the idea of imposing such rigid barriers to trade, the reality is that China has for decades been getting away with a very mercantilist approach to technology. It might be time to fight fire with fire.


You’ve Been Banned!


There’s been a slowly stirring undercurrent in the world of social media for some time – the outright banning of some people, or the even more insidious “shadow bans’ others have experienced. This received even more attention last week when Facebook announced it was removing several prominent accounts. The reason those accounts were removed wasn’t for any reason other than the things they posted offended the politically correct zeitgeist.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemoeller

I have nothing in common with Louis Farrakhan, Paul Joseph Watson or Alex Jones. Farrakhan is a virulent anti-semite, Jones a crackpot conspiracy theorist and Watson a social media muckraker. The views of Farrakhan and Jones are abhorrent to me. As for Watson, I doubt the man has ever had an original thought. His principle thought crime seems to be that he amplifies some of the most ridiculous and salacious content to be found on the internet.

But even if you disagree with Farrakhan’s contention that Jews are the root of all evil, with Jones belief that Sandy Hook was a government plot, or with Watson’s desire to monetize the PizzaGate nonsense, you should still be concerned with Silicon Valley’s determination that somehow their opinions are less deserving to be aired than say, Alyssa Milano’s endless screeds about the world ending unless we adopt full-blown SJW socialism. Why? See the quote referenced above.

I doubt there are few beliefs that are more ingrained into our collective soul as the belief in the freedom of speech. Notice I did not say freedom of the press, which today seems to be some pundits preferred alternative to allowing the rabble to speak their minds. The first amendment of our Constitution places freedom of speech ahead of freedom of the press. We’ve accepted (somewhat begrudgingly) that there are some very limited restrictions on that freedom. You can’t run into a crowded theater and yell “Fire” if there isn’t a fire. You can’t knowingly disparage a private citizen in public, seeking to to ruin their lives, without facing potential civil and criminal charges. But that’s about it. Otherwise, our society says if you feel the need to say something, you get to say something.

Throughout our history, our nation has gone to extreme lengths to ensure we can say what we want, when we want. This protection has extended to all forms of speech. Be it Nazi’s marching in Skokie, IL or artists defacing religious symbols, we’ve let speech that offended our collective sensibilities stand. We let these things be, because we understood taking away one man’s (or group’s) freedom of speech is taking it away from all of us.

I fully understand the hesitation in enforcing these standards on the social media giants. I realize they are private companies and under current law, exempt from regulation over what content they carry and to whom they transmit that content. The libertarian in me wishes that this could remain the case.

Early on in American life, the concept of the “soapbox” was created. This was the ability of any person to grab a literal soapbox, head down to the town square, stand atop said soapbox and shout their fool head off about whatever subject prompted them to want to shout their fool head off. We don’t have town squares anymore, at least not in the sense of a public space that we all pass through at least once a day, and maybe stop for a while to chat with friends, do some window shopping, read the news, and so on.

But do you know what we’ve created as the modern equivalent of a public space that we all pass through at least once a day, and maybe stop for a while to chat with friends, do some window shopping, read the news, and so on? Yep. Social media.

From early on in American life, a person with a message they considered important enough to get out into the public sphere could pay a printer to print up a few thousand copies of a pamphlet. If one printer wouldn’t do it, there were others who would. Some of the greatest political treatises of the young country were created in this way. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense may be the famous of these, but right through the late 20th century the political pamphlet was an essential method of getting your views widely distributed. (I still have a copy of one I had researched for an old college paper, entitled “How to Get Rich! Written for Poor Men, and Young Beginners of Life, by their Affectionate Friend Uncle Ben, Who Was Once in Both These Conditions, but is Now in Neither” that was written in 1871).

Today, while that method might still be available, it has neither the immediacy nor reach of social media.

As mentioned, I understand the reluctance of conservatives to change the nature of social media companies to prevent them from censoring content. Were they, in fact, truly content independent information funnels I would agree with that assessment. But anyone who’s observed their censorious actions over the past 36 months has to have realized by now that they are neither independent nor true information pipes. Their political biases show strongly in their actions. Not that I have a problem with political bias in publication. After all, there is a reason I read both the Daily Beast and the Daily Caller: I know before I ever open either site, the stories I read will have a certain political slant. But if the social media platforms we all use only have one political slant, isn’t that a dangerous form of censorship? Is that not unlike our forebears deciding only certain views could be aired from atop that soapbox?

Another of the arguments I’ve heard is that since these are free services, we are not paying customers and therefore have no say over how they run their businesses. This is about as poorly informed an argument as you could make. As has come to light ever since the Cambridge Analytica fiasco was exposed a year ago is that while we may not pay a monthly fee to the social media juggernauts, that is only because they have something far more valuable of ours. They have the ability to sell our information, our likes, our dislikes, our friends, where we’ve traveled, even our entertainment preferences, to the highest bidder. Or to multiple bidders, if they choose. It’s all right there in those EULA’s nobody ever reads before clicking “ok.” I would tell anyone who says they don’t pay a social media company any sort of fee they’re not only wrong – they paid them tens of thousands of dollars before they created their first post. In fact, you could say I pay several publishers (social media) to print and distribute my modern pamphlet (this blog).

Finally, there is the argument that we do not regulate any other media company in such a manner. The Washington Post, for instance, is free to only air virulent anti-Trump opinions. But therein lies the rub: are companies like Facebook and Twitter only media content companies, existing to compete with other media content companies? Or are they more like akin to media distribution companies, which are prohibited from excluding content (with certain narrow exceptions)?

First, let’s examine the real-world business of social media. Yes, there are competitors to Facebook and Twitter. But those two companies account for over 80% of global traffic. After all, the key to being a “social” media company is the social part. The entire business is predicated on being a near monopoly. You go there because your friends, acquaintances and family are there. Sure, I could get together with a couple of friends, raise a few billion dollars and try to start my own social media company. But unless I could compel people to move en masse from Facebook or Twitter to my platform, I would either be out of business (or if I had developed enough “cool” features, swallowed by one of them).

Next, let’s look at their own mission statements. Facebook aims to, “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” What Twitter wants “is to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers.” Remember our Town Square analogy? It looks as though both social media giants are fully on board with that concept, in word if not in deed.

And that, my friends, should be enough to nail this down. By their own mission statements, these are not media creation companies. They are media distribution companies. Therefore, they should be classified as such – and their censorship should end immediately.

The alternative is wonder which of us will be the socialist, the unionist and the Jew to some future philosopher.


The Art of Punching Down


I’ve been desperately hoping the President would get back to doing the things we expect Presidents to do. Negotiating trade deals, trying to work with Congress, yada yada. But Trump, being Trump, has now spent a week in full grievance mode, blasting everyone and everything. It is the type of behavior that anyone with any sense expects from a preschooler – not the President of the United States.

His visit to Ohio yesterday was the last straw. At what was a campaign event hidden inside a rally to celebrate a tank factory, he said this:

It’s worse than it was 19 years ago? 19 years ago, Al-Qaeda was in the middle of prepping for 9-11. 19 years ago, we were enforcing a no-fly zone while Saddam Hussein was gassing his citizens and giving both material and moral support to terrorists. You can take issue with how the war was conducted (I have) and the fact we never figured out what winning looked like (I have), but to definitively say the region is worse off because of the US is unconscionable. To even insinuate that the millions of US servicemen who volunteered and served in that theater made things worse is to trample on every single one of their legacies. For the President of the United States, the commander-in-chief, to make a statement like that is beyond the pale and should never be supported by anyone who considers themself a patriot.

The President’s most recent temper-tantrum began last week, as I mentioned. Among the long list of grievances he aired, this was the one that pretty much grabbed everyone’s attention:

Now here’s the thing: John McCain has been dead and buried for 7 months. Was McCain a saint? No. In fact, the McCain/Trump feud extends to well before Trump took the oath of office – in fact, it dates to the Clinton administration. Like Trump, McCain was a man who had a hard time letting grudges go. However, the man is dead and you triumphed. The persistent, continual attacks on him convey that you are nothing more than a spiteful, miserable little old man.

Of course, Trump is not content with just punching down at dead people. One of his principal aides is Kellyanne Conway, who’s husband is a long-time Democratic operative. Outside of political circles, George Conway isn’t well-known. His comments on the President’s behavior haven’t received much airplay, aside from ten-second blurbs as Kellyanne is interviewed. Still, that doesn’t stop President Trump:

Now, I don’t know what exactly that’s supposed to do other than cause all kinds of trouble in the Conway’s marriage. I’m not sure what the President think it does for him, except get what should have been a “meh” moment off his chest.

There are talking heads pronouncing the President’s mental health in decline. I disagree with that assessment. This is the worst of Trump, the Page Six Trump, the man who has never been able to handle losing very well. And let’s face it, he’s been losing “bigly” since November. His signature issue – the border wall – was soundly rejected by Congress. The GOP abandoned him again on the issue just last week. His grand bargain with North Korea ended in a very public disaster. His promised trade deal with China is not only hanging by a thread, but the Chinese premier told Trump to stay out of it and let Robert Lighthizer handle the negotiations.

Oh, and let’s not forget the number one issue in the districts lost to the GOP as the Democrats resumed control of the House was the President’s demeanor. Now, add in that the Democrats have begun really to put the screws to not only the President but the the President’s business empire, and his rage is predictable.

As has been his lifelong pattern, when pressured, he lashes out at everyone and everything. The raging temper-tantrums (and that’s what they are), once cute when he was Donald Trump, billionaire playboy, are beyond unseemly for the man who holds the most powerful position in the world. They remind us of the 8 year old whose parents never told “no” picking on the kindergartners during recess because the teacher gave him an F on his homework.

Well Mr. President, I’m giving you the same advice I give those petulant 8 year olds. Do your homework and stop punching down.


How Ilhan Omar Exposed the Democrats for What They Are


Ilhan Omar, the virulently anti-Semitic congresswoman from Minnesota, has drawn fire for her outlandish statements. But what she hasn’t done is drawn any condemnation from her own party. Unlike the Republicans, who have publicly rebuked the racist Steve King and removed him from all of his committee assignments, the Democrat leaders in the House have proven their own anti-Semitism by refusing to even so much as chastise the congresswoman. Incredibly, this personification of hate still has a seat on the House Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, giving her an outsized voice on American foreign policy.

But none of that should come as a surprise. So far in 2019, the Democrat party has also come out in favor of infanticide. The governor of New York, the scion of the most powerful Democrat family in the state, has taken to publicly applauding his state’s passage of a law that guarantees infanticide. In response to his public statements, Timothy Cardinal Dolan has said this:

“Any thinking human being that would want a baby, allow a baby, to be aborted right up to the moment of birth…anybody who thinks that a baby who survives a gruesome abortion procedure and that a doctor is no longer required to attempt to save that baby’s life – you don’t have to be a Catholic to abhor those types of things.”

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/gov.-cuomo-justifies-legalizing-abortions-up-to-birth-im-not-here-to-repres

Then there’s the governor of Virginia, who said this:


“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/31/politics/ralph-northam-third-trimester-abortion/index.html

Of course, Ralph Northam has run into other problems as governor of the Old Dominion. He’s also been exposed as being a clueless racist for wearing blackface and then trying to moonwalk during a news conference he called to explain why he’s a racist. Initially, Democrats asked him to resign. A state legislator introduced a resolution to remove him. That all went away and Northam is still governor, and just like Ilhan, has increased his political capital because of his racism.

As sickening as the Democrats turn towards racism, anti-Semitism and infanticide is, that is hardly the end of their radical turn to the hard left. When the party’s darling, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced her “Green New Deal,” it was roundly panned by everyone for what it truly is: full socialism, implemented under the guise of saving the climate. Then something amazing happened: the party’s leading contenders for their presidential nomination in 2020 not only took the GND as a plan but began talking about ways to implement it once they became President. Yes, that’s right: the Democrat’s leaders are openly embracing socialism as the future of a nation founded expressly on freedom.

So, Democrats are now on record as advocating racism, anti-Semitism, infanticide, eugenics and socialism. Maybe it’s time they changed the party logo to something truly representative of their views:

After all, the political party that first used this symbol also stood for the same things.


Jussie Journalism


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Reality Check: Trump Derangement Syndrome


President Donald J. Trump

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

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

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

And you lost your freaking minds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Great Cave In


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Restoring Trust in Our Elections


Vote!

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Implement a national Voter ID system

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

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

Step 2: Get rid of early voting

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

Step 3: Make all national elections a national holiday

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

Step 4: End “ballot harvesting”

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

Step 5: Get rid of electronic voting machines

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

Step 6 : JIT ballot verification

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

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

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

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


What Is A Conservative?


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

What is a conservative, in today’s world?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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