A Senate Stunner
I’ve seen (at last count) ten gajillion articles trying to decipher AZ Senator Sinema’s decision to register as an independent. I don’t think I read one that gets it right.
I think the vast majority of us are reasonably well-plugged into politics at various levels. Some (ok, maybe more than some) of us have been watching and been part of elections since before the invention of fire, so nothing should surprise us. And yet, everyone seems to be.
Ms. Sinema was always much further left than the typical Democrat on social issues but to the right of even some Republicans on fiscal issues. Further, she’s been a proponent of the traditional rules of the Senate. So while registered as a Democrat and voting with party leadership more than 98% of the time, the former Green Party candidate never really fit into a neat “D” shaped box.
All of this might seem incidental, but for over a year she’s been the target of the leftist base of the Democrats. There are a couple of other Democrats who are also targets, but the biggest difference in her case is Reuben Gallego. Mr. Gallego is a former congressman and very popular in AZ among leftists. He’s already gearing up for a primary run and had an excellent chance of defeating Ms. Sinema, whose approval ratings among AZ Democrats mirrors the President’s overall approval.
In short, if there was a Democrat ready to declare as an independent after Democrats secured a 51st seat, it was Kirsten Sinema.
Now going forward, not much will change in the Senate’s composition. As mentioned previously, she’s voted with near unanimity with Democratic leadership. There’s no reason to suspect that will change now. She is keeping her committee assignments. If anything, Majority Leader Schumer can be expected to throw even more olive branches her way, as her vote will be crucial to many of his priorities (not least of which is keeping one AOC off his heels in NY).
It’s Good Not To Be The Donald
Trumplicans who won:
- JD Vance
Trumplicans who didn’t win:
- Don Bolduc
- Lee Zeldin
- Dr. Oz
- Doug Mastriano
- Dan Cox
- Herschel Walker
- Blake Masters
- Kari Lake
As of 6:30am, Kelly Tschibika and Lisa Murkowski were virtually tied. Adam Laxalt held a slim lead over Catherine Cortez-Mastro.
Also of note, three GOP governors who are not in Trump’s orbit crushed their opponents:
- Brian Kemp
- Greg Abbott
- Ron DeSantis
In-depth analysis to follow, but it looks like the “red wave” crashed on the shoals of Trumpism.
The leader strides to the podium. Behind him is the nation’s oldest government building, recognizable by all. It’s portico is bathed in a dark crimson light, making the brickwork somehow ominous. The normally white columns stand out, like flickering pillars of fire. Members of an elite military unit stand at the ready in the background, their dress uniforms barely distinguishable in the lighting – except for the white caps they wear.
He raises his fists in the air and launches into a twenty minute long rant, decrying his political opposition as enemies of the state. He yells, he screams that they intend to tear down the country. He vows to fight them, to destroy these political opponents. With wild gesticulations punctuating his every word, he exhorts his followers to ensure the voices of the opposition are silenced.
What I’ve just described might sound like a speech delivered by Adolph Hitler. Or Benito Mussolini. Or Fidel Castro. But it isn’t.
This was Joseph R. Biden, 46th President of the United States, evoking the memories of petty tyrants throughout history.
It should scare the bejeezus out of you. This is the same President that in the past month has unleashed the federal police against his political opponents, bypassed Congress to spend a trillion dollars of public money to solidify his support among his most ardent supporters, is desperately trying to “normalize” relations with the world’s greatest terrorist state, and is determined to prolong a European war.
He says he wants to warn us about the rise of fascism in the United States? Too late. It’s arrived in the person of the president.
Did You Earn A Useless Degree? Now You Get A Bailout!
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was, “write as you speak.” This might sound intuitive to you, but for me, it took some serious retraining. You see, I dropped $10 dollar words into everything I wrote. After all, I reasoned, I had spent a lot of money to get the education where I learned those words. Why shouldn’t I use them? What I didn’t understand was that most people don’t want to run for a dictionary every time they opened one of my emails. I had failed to “read the room,” as the saying goes.
The same can be said for the President’s asinine student loan bailout. I understand why he did it. Protestations from the administration aside, Joe Biden’s poll numbers are further underwater than a nuclear submarine awaiting orders. In particular, he is way underwater with what might be the group that put him over the top in 2020: 20-something college graduates. So giving them a cool $20,000 must have looked like a gimme to him.
Look, I get buying votes. It’s a practice as old as the republic
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers it can bribe the public with the public’s money.Alexis de Tocqueville
except in this case, it isn’t Congress, it’s the President.
That brings us to the first problem with this handout. The Constitution makes it pretty plain that any appropriations are supposed to begin in the House of Representatives (Article 1, Section 7). Nowhere does the President have the authority to magically create money to hand out to a select group of people. He’s claiming that an obscure law, meant to provide temporary relief after 9/11, gives him that authority. Most legal beagles are dubious. The lawsuits to come should be entertaining.
Now, as mentioned, the money to pay for this isn’t being reapportioned from some other program. At least, none that anyone knows about. That means this is brand new spending. How much brand-new spending? Nobody’s quite sure. The administration (via the OMB) thinks $260 billion. The CBO thinks it’s more like $500 billion. Just yesterday, Penn-Wharton said this will end up costing you and me $1 trillion. Last week, Democrats were crowing about their “Inflation Reduction Act” (protip: it does no such thing) and the $210 billion in deficit savings it is supposed to bring. Well, with a stroke of his pen, their nominal party leader just played Enola Gay to their Hiroshima.
Then there’s the question of income redistribution. Nobody will ever confuse me as someone in favor of such schemes. But if you’re a fan of such socialist hogwash, let me ask: are you in favor of a reverse Robin Hood scheme in which the government steals from the poor and gives to the rich? That’s exactly what this is: waitresses and truck drivers will be sending part of their paychecks to lawyers and accountants, so they can buy their soy lattes. On what planet is that considered fair or equitable?
I understand how difficult it is the pay off onerous (sorry, $10 word. Buy a dictionary) student debt. My personal debt was over $72,000 and took 18 years to pay off. But that’s the thing. I made my monthly payments, even during the 2001 and 2008 recessions. Once upon a time, that wasn’t anything to talk about. Everyone did it. It was called being an adult. But we have a senile president being led around by the craziest people in Congress. Responsibility is passe.
Restoring Trust in Our Elections
Pulled from the archives. Now that primary season is over and we’re headed for another general election in 2 1/2 months, this seems like a good time to dust this one off.
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 event 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.
We D̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶ Got Him!
As I’m writing this, we’re finding out more about the FBI raid at the Mar-a-Lago resort, the primary residence of former President Trump. I won’t bother rehashing the details from last Monday. Unless you’ve been living on Mars, you’re already aware of them. Heck, odds are that even if you’ve been living on Mars, you’re aware of them.
Of far more import is the reason behind the seizure of the documents. The Department of Justice hasn’t said much of anything. What we know is from the cover page of the warrant and the property list. According to them, they took cases of classified documents, including some marked “Top Secret” and “SCI.” They also grabbed some photo albums and a letter from the Italian Prime Minister.
We also know that they were looking for evidence of espionage.
I don’t want to say that’s a fantastic allegation, but stop to consider what that charge means. It means that a President of the United States is actively working as a spy for an unnamed foreign government.
Ok, forget fantastic. I know the severely TDS impaired types are lapping that up. But we’ve seen this story before, with the dummied up “Russia Russia Russia” idiocy that tied the nation in knots for 3 years. Let’s not forget how many times we heard that the FBI had proof of that conspiracy, only to have it all fall apart.
So, here we are (again). The FBI is trying to tell us that Donald Trump is a foreign agent (again). Their proof? Well, we don’t have any (again) and they won’t tell us their causi belli (again).
All of this is quite laughable, except that the Very Serious People are all nodding their heads like those dashboard bobble-heads in agreement. “We got him NOW!” they’re screaming from the ivory towers.
Except, of course, they don’t have him on anything. Trump’s lawyers are already saying the documents in question were declassified before he left office – and that they notified the DOJ and National Archives of this back in June. Already this latest tempest in a teapot is devolving into what amounts to a bureaucratic snafu, a battle over clerical matters of what paperwork was filed where and with whom.
Of far greater importance is what the raid signifies to everyone to the right politically of Al Gore. I keep hearing from pundits that Merrick Garland is apolitical. I think that’s a massive miscalculation. Garland is every bit as political as any member of Joe Biden’s cabinet. More than likely, he authorized the extremely broad search-and-seizure warrant in hopes of uncovering damning evidence that Trump led the January 6th riots.
It’s a political miscalculation of the highest order. Instead of finding a silver bullet, they let a genie out that may never get back into the bottle. Why? Regardless of what many non-Trump conservatives think about Trump as a man, most just had their suspicions about progressive infiltration of our government confirmed. Instead of permanently putting Donald Trump to pasture, Garland’s faux pas probably handed the GOP nomination in 2024 to him.
You can bet Trump will remind voters of the DOJ’s corruption daily during that campaign, ginning up the GOP turnout. Democrats may well rue August 8, 2022 for a long, long time.
Shitholes, Fucktards & Distractions
I dug this one out of the archives from three years ago. Yes, the specific topic (immigration reform) isn’t currently a hot topic. But the problems I ranted about have only become worse. Read on… if you dare.
Well, THERE’S a headline I never thought I would see, much less write.
Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the past week, you might be confused by this topic. It certainly seems a great number of people who should know better – our politicians, our press and our pundits – are confounded, similarly to how a dog might wonder what his master is up to by having a bone yanked away just as he’s about to take a bite.
So a quick refresher course might be in order, both for those recently arrived from outer space and us more earthbound types.
On January 9, during what became an impromptu, hour-long televised bipartisan meeting on immigration matters in the Cabinet Room, the basic framework for granting amnesty to the roughly 800,000 “Dreamers” seemed agreed to. In exchange for amnesty, Democrats would agree to a $1.8 billion down payment on border security measures, which presumably would go towards further development of the border wall. Hammering out the long overdue overhaul to America’s immigration system would be fast-tracked after the budget was passed.
But in typical Washington fashion, nobody could long stand the positive vibes. Liberals immediately decried the border wall, Trumpkins decried the amnesty. And so…
On January 11, a new “Gang of Six’ (apparently, the old “Gang of Eight” atrophied in the bright sunlight the last time Congress attempted to tackle immigration) struck a deal that they simply had to know was going to be a non-starter with anyone politically left of California. In exchange for amnesty not only for “Dreamers,” but their extended families, granting permanent residency to everyone here under Temporary Protected Status and a couple thousand fewer lottery visas, the government would get $1.8 billion in border security measures.
The White House almost immediately announced their displeasure with essentially granting fully legal status to over 4 million illegal aliens. Which brings us to…
Can you say “verpiss dich?” No? How about “shithole” (or “shithouse,” depending on who’s interpretation of events you choose to believe)?
That evening, during a meeting with the Gang of Six and a few others, the President made his position clear: no more unfettered immigration from shithole (or shithouse) countries, which he loosely defined as being Haiti, El Salvador, and pretty much all of Africa. But not Norway.
And so, for four days now, any discussion of doing the actual work required of this Congress and the Executive branch – little things, like passing spending plans for the federal government and actually passing a realistic immigration plan and doing something about border security and doing something about entitlements and…
You get the picture? Instead of focusing on the real business of governance, we’re distracted by discussions of the President’s racial animus. (For the zillionth time, he isn’t a racist – but he is, as we all are, a prejudiced shithole. Deal with it.) And here’s the part that drives people like me nuts: any substantive discussion regarding immigration is immediately tinged with calls of “racism” by those opposed to anything other than fully open borders. All because the President uttered a rather crass epithet in describing a rather larger segment of the world.
Here’s what should be beyond dispute: there are large swaths of the globe in Africa, Asia, Central and South America that are, in the common vernacular, either outhouses or the holes located at the bottom of an outhouse. There isn’t one sane person who would describe Haiti, Gabon, Rwanda or Chad as a prime tourist destination. Nobody except a Jack Nicholson character would characterize Thailand, Libya, El Salvador or Venezuela as the kind of place where you would want to raise your kids (it’s a great neighborhood, Mr. Nicholson – on a good day, you can get three hours of electricity, the corner market will have toilet paper and the drug gangs will only take half your belongings!).
Here’s what should also be beyond dispute: not everyone from a basket case nation is themselves a basket case. Yes, the predominant population in those places isn’t
(the following statement will be too true for some of you)
what we want as new Americans. After all, if they were their countries wouldn’t be basket case outhouses. But some of those people are the sorts of folks we do want to come here, and those should be the ones we allow in.
****TRIGGER WARNING CANCELLED****
Merit has nothing to do with nation of origin or skin color. Conversely,
****TRIGG… oh, screw it
barring someone from, say, Haiti likewise has nothing to do with skin color, either. But the President’s remarks, which were in response to the asinine idea that the “temporary” in TPS now means the same thing as permanent in non-Washington speak, have been twisted, misconstrued, massaged and rebranded by both sides of the identity politics war into competing clarion calls.
That’s what all the teeth gnashing , thumb sucking and 140 character diatribes of the past four days have left us with. If you happen to agree with the President’s position that maybe, just maybe, a system that right now says if your homeland, which wasn’t in particularly great shape to begin with, get whacked with a hurricane, you get to stay here indefinitely, is off-kilter, you’re branded a racist. If you sort of wandered over the border, or maybe overstayed a tourist visa, a couple of decades ago, no biggie – you get to stay, too (why should our laws apply to you? You meant well)! If you think that a system that says we’re going to have immigration based on a lottery, where winning not only means you get to set up house here, but you can bring your mother, your brother, your great uncle and your second cousin thrice removed while we deny a software engineer residency is just a wee bit out of whack, you’re a racist. If you happen to think the systems in Canada, India, Japan, South Korea, etc, and so forth (all, by the way, “enlightened liberal” democratic societies) might be something we could learn from, you’re obviously a racist. Because those damned Canucks are totally racist, eh?
So, how do we get out of this miasma of non-productivity? I’d suggest the first thing to do would be for both sides to ditch to identity politics and identity politicians, pundits, journalists and all the rest of that diaspora. Al Sharpton, you gotta go. Same for you, Sean Hannity. Because so help me, if I hear one more idiot yell “I’m a proud black man!’ or type in all caps “I’M PROUD TO BE WHITE”, I just might lose it.
Speaking of identity politicians, if I see one more disingenuous congresscritter emerge from a private meeting fuming about language, I might just have to point them to their own past statements (bunch of hypocrites, the lot of ’em). Besides, ever listen to the tapes from the Kennedy, Johnson or Nixon Oval Offices? You would hear language that would make a Parris Island Drill Instructor blush. And Trumplicans don’t get a pass on this, either. Saying the President didn’t utter one epithet because he used a different cuss word is equally disingenuous. It was pure huckstering on both sides, and it had the desired effect. The status quo will remain for at least two more years. Congratulations! Washington has once again succeeded at doing the one thing it’s proven incredibly efficient at: creating new problems while ignoring the existing ones. It’s back to the ramparts, you plebes – fight the good fight and if the country burns in the meantime…well, at least I won reelection.
We Need New Experts
I believe in meritocracy. The concept that the best and brightest among us should be making the important decisions that affect everything and everyone. Certainly, they’ll be wrong on occasion. That’s human nature. But the odds are they’ll be right far more often than not and we’ll all be better off for it.
The nation was founded by experts in political theory. The documents they created, our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, have proven to be guiding lights not only for the United States but the world. And they were smart enough to recognize that their first attempt at a national compact was not working and hammer out something better.
Throughout our history, our reliance on meritocracy has worked well. There have been fits and starts, but the country has inexorably become more just. Our living standards have continuously improved and the opportunities our meritocracy created lured the world’s best to our shores.
Our meritocracy reached its zenith in the Cold War period. Experts in every field of human endeavor made breathtaking creations that made the USA the envy of the world. All of the technological marvels of our time, all of the medical breakthroughs, the 20 year Pax Americana all resulted from the effort of those experts.
But something has happened over the past 25 years. The experts have been wrong far more often than they’ve been right. What’s worse, they’ve been wrong about the Very Important Things, and that’s led to public policies that have diminished the nation as a whole. From failing to recognize the threat of Islamic extremism (and actually funding it!) to WMD in Iraq through “2 weeks to stop the spread,” I’m hard pressed to think of a single thing our current crop of experts got right.
Now our current experts have gone from simply being terribly wrong to being dangerously misguided. They tell us boys can be girls. The coastlines will be underwater – 10 years ago. That experimental medications are safer and more effective than fully tested ones. That people who can only afford to put a side of poor meat at dinner three times a week can spend 2 years of earnings on a car you can’t drive in large swaths of the country.
I’m waiting for the day they tell us the sky is green and grass is orange.
The simple fact is that for a generation, our meritocracy is less a society led by the best and brightest as much it is led by the politically connected. It’s time to put all of them – in government, in academia, in medicine, in science, in engineering, in every field and every occupation – out to pasture.
As of this writing, it’s been about 12 hours since the FBI executed a search warrant at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. It’s notable because it is the first time in history the principle federal law enforcement agency has ever legally searched the primary residence of a former president.
Press reports indicate the search warrant was to identify and locate official records from President Trump’s tenure, including possible national security documents. If the President was in possession of such records, he would be in violation of several laws. Those laws carry significant penalties. Most importantly, one of those laws is the Official Secrets Act. Were the former President convicted under that law, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
There’s no way to look at this without recognizing the political and social implications. President Trump still commands a large and overly devoted following. Additionally, many more Americans may not necessarily support him, but do support the political agenda he represents. If this warrant wasn’t predicated on strong evidence, or the search didn’t yield anything of importance, then he will be vindicated in his claims of a witch hunt. The result will be an absolute decimation of the Democrat Party and complete loss of faith in the government and its institutions.
Which is why I tend to think there must have been significant evidence presented in the affadavit for the warrant. We like to think judges are impartial and free of political considerations. But there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t understand the historic implications of searching a president’s residence. There isn’t a judge anywhere who would not recognize that searching this particular president’s residence has the potential to tear the country apart. Signing that warrant put into motion the potential for political violence on a scale we haven’t seen since the late 1960s and early 1970s.
An indictment is almost certainly forthcoming. The judge who signed the warrant had to have reached the same conclusion. Without that level of evidence, they wouldn’t have taken that risk. That’s the reality of this moment.
Any ensuing trial will be the most closely watched in history. If the evidence isn’t ironclad, a large segment of society will never accept a verdict. If the charge is something spurious (a la convicting Al Capone of tax evasion), the anti-Trump part of society would recognize a pyrrhic victory. Yes, Donald Trump would be convicted of a federal crime and barred from holding office, but the “witch hunt” claims would be bolstered. Instead of removing him from the political scene, it will only make him even more influential.
These are certainly considerations made by the Justice Department. The risks associated with this prosecution are immense and there is virtually no upside unless there is a slam dunk case. For the sake of the country, let’s hope they haven’t miscalculated.
Why I Support Sanctions
I understand the sentiment, behind opposing sanctions on Russia, but refute it on two points:
1. People get the government they choose. Yes, Russian elections are rigged and yes, there are dissident factions inside Russia. But they do not have popular support. By making life difficult, there is a chance that something similar to 1989 will recur and topple Putin.
2. Russia has turned this into a total war. There’s evidence his strategy is reminiscent of the old Soviet doctrine of waging war on civilian populations with the aim of forcing the government to lose legitimacy. So far, it isn’t working – but by doing so, he’s opened his own population to a different version of total war, an economic one.
War is hell, and to win you have to be willing to be inhumane. Think of Sherman’s March to the Sea, or the way the Allies hammered Germany. Ending WWII by nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki certainly wasn’t humane. You worry about winning the peace after you’ve won the war, not before.
The Establishment Learned Nothing
Joe Biden is now officially the 46th President of the United States. Already, the press and official Washington is pretending the last 4 years didn’t happen, except that they intend to extract a pound of flesh for being subjected to it. Instead of asking themselves why it was that 75 million people voted for Donald Trump, they’ve already come to the misguided conclusion that those people don’t matter. Besides, they are probably a bunch of racists and wannabe autocrats anyway, so they suck.
For evidence of this, I point to this opinion piece published yesterday in National Review, authored by Kevin D. Williamson. I’m a long-time subscriber to NR and for the past few years, a member of the NRPlus community. Kevin’s take is not a lone cry in the wilderness. Many of my NRPlus fellows have expressed similar sentiments throughout Trump’s term. The disdain and outright contempt for anyone who dared vote for the “Orange Ape” shown in Kevin’s piece is part and parcel with the disdain and contempt that many of his ilk showed these people before Trump ever took his golden escalator ride.
I’ve often argued that what motivated Trump’s voters wasn’t the man himself. Make no mistake, there are those who would have followed him over a cliff, as we witnessed on January 6. But the vast majority of the 75 million that voted for him on November 3 do not fit into that neat checkbox. Their concerns have more to do with Barack Obama’s “bitter clingers” comments and Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” diatribe than Mr. Trump. We knew The Donald is an imperfect vessel – but he was the only one willing to address those concerns in 2016; he remained one of only a handful of willing to address them in 2020.
So now we have Joe Biden calling for national unity, but immediately marginalizing the bitter clinging, deplorable “chumps” in his Inaugural Address. To highlight the ad hominem attacks against people they don’t understand and wish would just go away, we got KDW calling us “the studio audience from Hee-Haw” and continually referring to us as “Cletus” (FWIW: Cletus is the backwoods living, inbred village idiot from The Simpsons). These were not meant as complimentary terms (I suspect Kevin didn’t, but I enjoyed watching Hee-Haw when I was growing up). In so doing, he forgot that you don’t have to live in Washington to be a coastal elite. However, you can live in Texas and still be a jackass.
Make no mistake, I still enjoy the bulk of KDW’s writing. His arguments in favor of American-style federal republicanism are among the most eloquent written in the past 20 years. But he’s also made it clear that his brand of conservatism (again, a view shared by quite a few others) is better off ignoring the complaints, gripes, and daily life of a wide swath of ordinary Americans. He would rather lose elections and see the last vestiges of classical liberal thought purged from these shores than ever admit that maybe, just maybe, there is something legitimate about the populist uprising within the GOP. Admitting certain policy preferences that somehow became conservative orthodoxy didn’t work out as intended is more painful than seeing them permanently jettisoned by admittedly unconservative democrats, I guess.
But KDW, just in case you stumble across this humble blog, remember this. Conservatism was never about standing athwart history, yelling “STOP.” It was never about tax cuts or being the world’s superpower or any of those other things that seem to have come to define DC conservatism. Conservativism has always been about unleashing the power of the individual so that all of society can improve. Denying that agency to millions of us in order to preserve corrupt and decaying power structures isn’t conservative, nor is it classically liberal. Those original classical liberals put up with denial of agency for only so long before they rose up and smashed the power structures to which they were subjected.
We shouldn’t have to wish for the same.
Is The President Guilty Of Incitement?
As I’m writing this, Congress is once again preparing to introduce an Article (or Articles) of Impeachment against President Donald Trump. Reports suggest the focus of these articles will center on a charge of inciting an insurrection against the government of the United States. That’s an extremely serious charge to bring against anyone, much less a sitting President. It amounts to charging someone with sedition, or attempting to overthrow the federal government.
Let’s get one thing out of the way, before we get into this. The only place where anyone who thinks the events of last Wednesday were justified are on the fringes of society. It was a despicable act by erstwhile citizens of this country, one that has rightly been roundly condemned. Those people who participated in the invasion of the US Capitol are not patriots. They were not rioting. That was an assault on the United States and on the Constitution. The people who engaged and led that attempted insurrection should be tried as terrorists – because terrorism is the use of force in an attempt to frighten a government into conceding its authority.
The question is, is the President one of those who incited those actions? There can be little doubt his rhetoric is inflammatory. It is one of the things his most adoring supporters like about most about him. The President has in the past admitted inflammatory rhetoric is a tool he admires and uses, once writing
I love pitting people against each other. My whole life is based on that. It brings out the best in people and the worst in people.Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal
This long-stated acknowledgement that he strives to create division and inflame passions would preclude any possibility of the President or his lawyers from trying to slough off the incitement charge based on the idea he wasn’t trying to create division or inflame passions among his supporters. Of course he was, we all know he was. I suspect that while nobody ever wants to admit they were manipulated, at the end of the day most of those in that crowd will admit they were. The rest of us understand what he was doing with his rhetoric over the last year, by saying things that amounted to charging that the United States is incapable of running a fair and honest election. But the question remains, does this amount to incitement?
There is a reason Congress has been careful in how it crafted the laws around incitement and the requirements that speech or actions must have before an incitement charge can be prosecuted. We cherish the First Amendment’s protections of political speech, even speech that seeks to offend as its principle aim. We’ve long accepted that restricting speech should only happen under the most extreme circumstances. Incitement – calling on others to cause harm – is one of those few exceptions.
Legally, incitement is defined as,
As used in this chapter, the term “to incite a riot”, or “to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot”, includes, but is not limited to, urging or instigating other persons to riot, but shall not be deemed to mean the mere oral or written (1) advocacy of ideas or (2) expression of belief, not involving advocacy of any act or acts of violence or assertion of the rightness of, or the right to commit, any such act or acts.18 US Code 2102, Paragraph b
What we need to focus on are the speech and conduct that are precluded as incitement. They amount to speech that promotes an idea or belief, unless that speech directly calls for violence. You can examine every statement made by the President relating to the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally prior to the event. While you will find things that may be distasteful and inflammatory, there is no direct call to violence. If you listen to his hour long speech at that rally, while he does call on his supporters to march to the Capitol Building, there is nothing in the speech that directly calls on them to engage in the conduct they did once they got there. You might infer that he wanted them to, but the reason inferences are not allowed as evidence is they are colored by your point-of-view. Additionally, judging an inference requires not your interpretation of the speech involved, but attempting to reconstruct someone else’s interpretation.
If the clearly stated legal bar for determining incitement isn’t enough for you, there is a boatload of case law that upholds this standard. Most important is Brandenburg v. Ohio, in which the Supreme Court held
Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.395 US 444, Per Curiam opinion
Once again, there is nothing in the President’s speech that is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action.”
My personal opinion is that the President’s actions (and more importantly, inactions) after the violence started are reprehensible. Based on those, he would resign – or at least issue a mea culpa – if he had any honor. But based on the law, he is not guilty of “incitement of insurrection.” Once again, Congress has overreached and i̵s̵ ̵p̵r̵e̵p̵a̵r̵i̵n̵g̵ charged the President with a crime they cannot prove. If Congress was serious about attempting another impeachment, they could simply charge him with “Conduct Unbecoming A Federal Officer,” which is certainly a charge that can be proved. But this charge is likely to fail in the Senate for more than political reasons. Legally, it’s a false charge and Senators would more than understand that allowing this to proceed would damage First Amendment rights for all of us.
(note: as I was finishing this up, Congress did introduce a single Article of Impeachment, for “incitement of insurrection”)
The 25th Wha…
Just a quick jot here, as today is a bit on the busy side. I see where the soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader, Charles Schumer of NY, thinks the Vice President should invoke the 25th Amendment. This seems to be a growing chorus after yesterday’s insanity.
This is the sort of lunacy that led to yesterday’s insanity. Yes, the President was too clever by half in his appearances and statements. By insinuating that the only way his supporters can have a voice in government was to tear down the Congress and install him as President-for-life, he shoulders a great deal of the blame for the madness. And yes, there is good reason to wonder if he’s delusional, since he seems to believe the only reason he won’t be President after 12pm on January 20 is some wild, far-flung conspiracy; a true “the world is out get me” type of fantasy often seen in megalomania.
But if you thought yesterday’s shenanigans were beyond the pale, just watch what would happen if the President were forcibly removed from power before January 20. I’ve said for years now that Trump is not a cause, he’s a symptom. Oddly, a lot of people haven’t figured out what he’s a symptom of yet. Here’s a clue: those 75 million votes weren’t all votes for him as much as they were votes for what he represents: a voice. Whether willingly or knowingly, Trump has become the personification of that part of the country which for 30 years has been told by the politicians, the technocrats, and the bureaucrats to shut up and stop worrying because everything is getting better.
Removing the symbol can feel good. Or it can inspire the opposite of repression – a fierce backlash that will make yesterday’s insanity seem absolutely beatific by comparison.
There are better ways the country can insulate itself from a megalomaniacal fool in the Oval Office in these few days left. During Nixon’s last days, his cabinet essentially cut him out of government decisions. The Joint Chiefs chairman and Secretary of Defense went as far as to inform unit commanders to ignore any orders that came from the President. In the meantime, Nixon sat around in his own “the world is out to get me” stupor, killing his liver.
There’s no reason such an approach is a terrible idea now. The man is guaranteed to be ranked alongside Nixon, Buchanan, and Hayes as one of the worst Presidents in our history. Rushing through an impeachment or exercising the 25th Amendment turns Trump into a martyr instead of a historical asterisk.
Don’t give him, or the loony tunes characters who believe he is the Second Coming, that kind of oxygen.
Are You F*!king Kidding Me?
It isn’t often I see something on social media that gets my blood boiling. Over the past 24 hours, though, this has been making the rounds.
This has got my blood boiling.
Folks, if you are calling for the President of the United States to install a military dictatorship, you are not a patriot. You’ve forgotten what the Minutemen were fighting against at Lexington and Concord. You’ve forgotten why those esteemed gentlemen at the Second Continental Congress swore away their fortunes and their very lives, if needed. You’ve forgotten why our fathers and grandfathers stormed the beaches at Normandy, at Anzio, at Tarawa, and at hundreds of other battles throughout our history.
Maybe you’re willing to throw away the idea of a country that exists to defend freedom at the altar of a single, deeply flawed man, but if you are, remember this:
Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.Ronald Reagan
Willingness to live by those words, and die by them, is the mark of a true patriot. If you can’t live by those words, then you need to start doing some deep soul searching, because there is something deeply flawed within you.
…and Now, A Quick Word About The Supreme Court
A few of you – ok, it’s actually quite a few – seem to have bought into the latest line of idiocy.
Which line is that, you ask? The one the “presteejus” legal firm of Trump, Giuliani & Ellis is spouting about “just wait until we try our case at the Supreme Court.” Folks, that’s about as asinine a claim as can be made.
The Supreme Court is not a trial court. It is the highest appellate court in the land. The 9 justices only accept cases where the circuit courts have differing opinions about a law, a law deserves scrutiny to see if it passes Constitutional muster, or if a law was severely abrogated in the circuit courts. It doesn’t hear or depose witnesses that are not already in the case file (it rarely hears witness testimony, ever). It does not search out new evidence.
This is why this bullcaca being spread by those folks is, well, bullcaca. The time to get that evidence in the record was in the original cases. Trump’s lawyers never even attempted to get any of their “evidence” into the record, aside from one case in Michigan. Not in any of the Pennsylvania cases. Not in the Nevada case. The Arizona case was dropped. The Georgia case was dropped. The Wisconsin case was pulled when they realized their evidence was based on faulty data.
In other words, while there’s always a chance the Supreme Court will agree to review one of these cases, it’s more likely it won’t. There’s nothing in any if them that appears to be an egregious, reversible error. It won’t be the Michigan case, which was never appealed. It won’t be the Nevada case, which was narrowly focused on voting laws used in one county and dismissed with prejudice.
The only ones that might gain their interest are two Pennsylvania cases. the first has to do with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowing mailed ballots received up to 3 days after the election, an apparent violation of the state’s statute regarding when ballots are due. That case would be regarding executive authority being wielded by the courts when none is granted. However, that would only affect about 25,000 ballots in a state Trump lost by 84,000 votes, so it wouldn’t be enough to swing the state’s electoral votes. It would be important in asserting the principle of legislative prerogative, but so far nobody has shown any interest in getting this before the federal bench.
The second is the one that has received national attention, the one dismissed for lack of evidence and bad faith claims by the circuit court judge and later upheld by the appellate court. That faces a mighty climb, but Rudy, et al. could argue that they should have been allowed an evidentiary hearing and to amend the redress asked to mailed ballots only. Even if against all odds the Supreme Court decided to hear those arguments and then rule in Team Trump’s favor, it wouldn’t swing those votes. It would only send the case back to the circuit court for the evidentiary hearing and a new ruling.
And now here’s the kicker: all of that would have to happen by December 8. If the Electoral College votes on December 14, you may ask, why do the Electoral Slates need to be decided by December 8? The reason for that harkens back to the election of 1876, when several states sent competing Electoral ballots to Congress, creating a huge mess. So Congress passed the Compromise of 1877, part of which ended Reconstruction in exchange for granting Hayes’ electoral votes recognition in Congress. The other, less famous part requires states to submit their electors no less than 6 days before the Electoral College meets, allowing Congress time to resolve any conflicts before the vote.
*Many people are confused about what Bush v Gore decided. The Supreme Court ruled the Florida recount over, allowing the state legislature to send the Bush electors to the Electoral College, although Congress preferred to send the Gore electors. It affirmed the states’ right to resolve electoral disputes before Congressional intervention.
So that’s what makes all this wailing and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments so unseemly. In one week, the electors will have been chosen. At this late date, you are not going to get the Supreme Court to order a new trial that might cause one slate of electors to be replaced by another when there is no evidence in the trial record – and no evidence in the record, period, as pointed out by two judges – that would support such a move. Team Trump is not stupid, they know this. They’re counting on the fact you don’t know this.
It is one last desperate plea to be seen as going down as fighters, when the reality is they never fought at all. They’ve made noise, they’ve blown apart legitimate concerns about election integrity on the altars of one zany conspiracy theory after another, they’ve filed dozens of lawsuits. But they never made any cogent arguments in any court that any particular state was the subject of a massive conspiracy to defraud the citizens.
In the end, the Supreme Court will see through the charade. It’s a shame that many of you haven’t.
*Joe Biden, to the surprise of nobody who’s been following the vote counts, is now the President-Elect. It isn’t the outcome I wanted, but it is what it is. If we’re true patriots, we wish him well, line up as the loyal opposition and carry on.
*We’re undoubtedly in for a bumpy month while we await state certifications. It seems a foregone conclusion the President will unleash every legal tool available to him to stave off the inevitable. That’s his right, but history is not on his side. The courts (properly) prefer not to be involved in elections, unless there is clear evidence of malfeasance.
*We can only hope when all is said and done, the President concedes. I’m not asking him to be gracious about it, that would be totally out of character. But failure to do so will only validate every tweet, op-ed, and media commentator who has labeled him as a wannabe dictator.
*Finally, those of us who call ourselves conservatives need to ask if the last four years were about fealty to a single man, or loyalty to our founding principles? Because if the last four years for you was about loyalty to a person, then you’ve lost. If it was about loyalty to principles, then you understand that this is just a temporary set back, and a narrow one at that.
We spent four years laughing at “The Resistance,” and with good reason. Watching them parade around in their pink pussy hats, strip naked and howl at the moon, and all of the other idiocy we witnessed. We read with justified derision the same op-ed column for four years, penned by Max Boot and Thomas Friedman and Charles Blow and a hundred others. Only the bylines changed, but the basic template never wavered. We watched incredulously as mobs took to the streets, egged on by the pinheads in network newsrooms.
So why are we emulating them?
Look, I understand being upset with the way the election played out. I’m not happy about it either, but it wasn’t unexpected. Part of the problem with partisanship is it can blind you to the mindset of the opposition. As much as we crave being understood by the liberals, we also fail to recognize the same fault within ourselves. Yes, the nation as a whole is riven with very real polar policy ideas. But the past 8 years have also been marked by a new phenomenon: visceral hatred for the opposition leader. And hatred is a powerful motivater.
Expecting that there wouldn’t be record turnout by liberals eager to vote against Donald Trump – a man who seems to relish hatred, judging from the way he stokes it – was being blind to reality. Make no mistake, there is a LOT of hatred for the man. All of the insanity over the last four years came, in large part, because the President exposed the dark underbelly of the left, and they were driven insane by their hatred of being exposed for what they are and the man who exposed it.
Now here we are doing the exact same thing we said was silliness wrapped up in insanity. The really crazy part of this is the President hasn’t lost his reelection bid. Yes, he has a hard road to get there. But why are we making it easier for the self-admittedly biased media to portray us as crazed lunatics? Why are we in the streets, hurling unsubstantiated charges and otherwise acting like impassioned toddlers who’ve had their Tootsie Pop® taken away?
This election is not over. There are still votes to be counted. We may not like the rules that were established in some states regarding how a ballot could be cast, or when it has to be received by the district polling office. Those are legislative fights to be fought later, not retroactively. We may worry about fraudulent ballots, but there are legal processes that allow those ballots to be challenged. Demanding vote counts be stopped or expanded, depending on current situations, is churlish behavior that reeks of desperation. Let the processes play out – it’s a little hard to pretend you’re the party of law and order if you’re disregarding election laws you don’t like.
Another thing, while we’re talking about fraudulent ballots. Undoubtedly there are some that will be uncovered by legal challenges. But will there be 35,000 in Michigan? 23,000 in Wisconsin? Hundreds of thousands in Pennsylvania and Georgia? That stretches incredulity beyond reasonableness. It would mean that the same scheme to defraud exists en masse across multiple states, with hundreds, if not thousands, of people working feverishly to not only perpetrate the fraud but then remain silent about it. It would be the greatest conspiracy of all time. The odds of successfully carrying it out are even less than that of the Russians stealing the 2016 election.
If we want to be the adults in the room, the people the rest of the country eventually trust to straighten out the mess, we need to act like it. Enough with emulating the worst traits of our political opponents. We’re better than that. It’s time to prove it.
19 Days — theleansubmariner
Freedom of the Press It is a fundamental principle of our Republic to support and encourage a free press. The First Amendment was included to ensure that government was restrained enough to allow for the freedom of expression that comes from a free press. But along with freedom comes responsibility. “Congress shall make no law […]19 Days — theleansubmariner
Not All Police Are Racist Pigs
Welcome to 2020, the Year When Ridiculous Reductionism Reigned.
As our latest example, let’s take a look at the recent example of George Floyd. At this point, while only the most dense among us think his death was in any way justified. There isn’t much doubt that a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, crushed Mr. Floyd to death while three other officers not only looked on, but actively participated. There is no doubt that this is a clear case of murder, and caught on videotape from three different angles, as well.
As mentioned, only the very obtuse are disputing these facts. But another narrative is forming, pushed by far left divisionists in the media. In a fit reminiscent of the days after Ferguson, once again they have taken the widest possible brush imaginable and painted every police officer in the nation as a racist. Of course, that narrative blew up in their face when Michael Brown was revealed to have attacked Officer Darrin Wilson prior to being shot.
But this time, there is no doubt that Derek Chauvin had no earthly reason to kill George Floyd and once again, the “all police are racists” song is playing. This is reductionism at its very worst.
It’s possible race played a role in this tragedy. But (hold on to your hats) it’s also possible it isn’t a factor. We have heard nothing about motive or state of mind. We have no clue why Chauvin did what he did. We only know he did it.
I understand that as a white, middle-aged guy I might not be the best to speak to these facts. But as a white, middle-aged guy who lived for over a decade in an all black neighborhood in a majority black city, I can speak with certainty that the same biases towards the black community you find in the suburbs exists towards white among the residents of the inner city. Undoubtedly, as with any stereotype, there are justified reasons for that.
But what happens is the grifters and race hustlers feed on that stereotype and then feed into it, inflaming tensions and raising passions. They sublimate righteous protest to fear and anger. Next thing we know, a city is in flames.
What those race hustlers understand only too well is that the images of cities put to the torch by black mobs only serves to reinforce the stereotypes they purport to fight. Nothing is accomplished. The community is devastated. The supposed cause (in this case, finding justice for George Floyd’s family) gets lost in the hullabaloo.
Now, here’s the thing: the one outcome that lasts, that becomes reinforced in minority communities, is that the police are racists. Just stop and think about the absurdity of that statement. Are black cops racist towards other blacks, too?
Make no mistake: those hustlers and grifters do not want any sort of reconciliation. They do not want a better understanding of inner city woes by the rest of the nation. They want those residents to feel oppressed. It is only then that they can increase their power, which is what their game is all about. The lives that get destroyed are secondary to that Machiavellian goal.
In any organization, 5% of the employees should not be in that profession. This is about as hard and fast a rule in human resources as exists. The key is to identify those employees and help them move into a career better suited to them. It might be a lateral move. Or it might be a move out the door.
Policing is no different than any other business in this regard. To pretend the 95% of police officers who take pride in their profession and their mission are the same as the 5% who have no business being a police officer is silly. It is encumbent on any department to identify that 5% and address the situation before something as tragic as happened to George Floyd occurs.
In the case of Officer Chauvin, there was enough evidence over his career to demonstrate he never should have been in the Minneapolis Police Department. The “why” he was never removed from his post needs to be investigated as thoroughly as the circumstances of the murder itself. If it’s found race played a part in his motivation, the prosecutor would be negligent in not upgrading the charges to include a hate crime charge.
But such a finding wouldn’t “prove” that all cops are racists. It behooves all of us to remember that.
Our Modern-Day “Kent State” Moment
Today marks 50 years since the “Kent State Massacre.” If you’re unfamiliar with that tragic, fateful event, there are plenty of resources on the web for you to learn about it. The short version is that a group of unarmed protestors were fired on by Ohio National Guard troops, killing four.
What’s amazed me is that this touchstone of American history, an event that has largely shaped much of the succeeding half century, has barely received mention in the national press. I only found a few articles, an example of which is this one in the NY Times – and it was in the opinion section, not the news section. It was not that the National Guard opened fire on their fellow citizens that was so shocking and unsettling. After all, we had witnessed that during the riots of the Summer of 1968. But that was during riots. This was armed soldiers firing on unarmed protestors who had gathered peacefully to protest their government’s invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
I was 6 when Kent State happened, and I can still remember asking my parents why the soldiers shot the people. It’s a question that’s never been sufficiently answered. Not unlike the Boston Massacre two centuries prior, nobody even knows who actually fired the first shot – or has ever conclusively answered if anyone even ordered the shooting to begin. But imagine the nation’s trauma, if a 6 year old who didn’t understand much of the world around him was still able to grasp that soldiers shooting unarmed citizens was a pretty bad thing.
What has really surprised me is the stark hypocrisy in the media as regards Kent State to our modern world. Today, protestors are out in force across the country, in numbers not seen the turbulent times of the late 1960’s. Tens of thousands of our fellow citizens are in the streets, on the beaches, and at the state capitals trying to hold their government to account for what they see as an abridgement of their civil rights. And despite an incidence of government abuse of protest rights during our lifetimes, the media has focused on the fact some of these are coming armed to declare that they aren’t protests at all – they’re a veiled attempt at an armed insurrection.
This is ludicrous and displays the media’s inability to fairly and accurately report current events. Just as in 1970, these governors fear the protests. Just as in 1970, they have good reason to fear the protests. Then, the protests signaled a political upheaval that would cost many of them their jobs and political careers over the next decade. Today, the protests signal yet another political upheaval – one in which the “illiberal conservatives” are proving to be far more liberal than the “liberal” politicians who have led the charge to arbitrarily pursue “temporary safety” at the expense of “essential liberty.”
To expect citizens who protest a government that is stripping them of their civil rights, of the very protections that the Bill of Rights were designed to safeguard, to appear unarmed is to not understand the lessons of Kent State. An unarmed populace that challenges the legitimacy of their government is often, in the eyes of the government, engaging in rebellion. The lesson of Kent State was that when challenging the government, being armed is a requirement – if for no other reason than to defend yourself from the government.
The Founding Fathers understood this, and that is why they required the Second Amendment be included in the Bill of Rights. It’s just a shame the media forgot that lesson.
When Fauci Speaks
I’ve seen a lot of doubting Dr. Anthony Fauci on my social media feeds over the last few days. I mean, A LOT.
Look, I have my differences with Dr. Fauci. As anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook is well aware, I’ve (uselessly) advocated for the Swedish model for battling the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19. I’ve doubted the models, because I thought the models were going to be woefully incapable of predicting anything given the paltry and inaccurate data they were being fed. And guess who else thought the models were going to be terribly, horribly, awfully inaccurate?
Dr. Anthony Fauci. Yep, he’s been quoted more than once as saying that there wasn’t enough data to rely on the models for making policy decisions.
The difference between Dr. Fauci and me is our preferred approach to dealing with the insufficient data. I prefer some caution, but generally keeping life going as normal as possible to minimize the long-term risks to society from an economic collapse. Dr. Fauci prefers to prioritize short-term risk mitigation and letting the economists and sociologists deal with the long-term effects.
That’s it. That’s all it is – a difference of opinion as to which approach is better. History will be the judge as to which approach is better, eventually. After all, we’re still debating which approach was best in combating the original SAR virus a generation ago.
I do not attribute Dr. Fauci’s motivations to anything nefarious. He is not a secret Bilderberger looking to destroy society so that his wealthy buddies can take over everything. He is not a closet Bernie Bro looking to force the government to implement socialism on the down-low. He is not a member of the deep state hoping that the more the administration stumbles, the easier it will be for Joe Biden to sneak into the Oval Office.
He is a very cautious doctor. Nothing more, nothing less, and he’s acting as any very cautious doctor would. You can disagree with him. But assigning some weird conspiracy theory to him isn’t warranted.
I spent the past two weeks worrying aloud that I thought literally slamming the door on the US economic engine was nearsighted, silly and an idiotic move. Sadly, the economic news over the last 72 hours exceeded even my worst projections – along with those of almost every economist. Most figured the US economy would teeter at around 6 or 6.5% unemployment through April, with growth shrinking by about 10% for Q2 after zero growth in Q1. Instead, we now know that we’ve already bled almost 10 million jobs and the unemployment rate has already zoomed to 9.5 or 10%. We also know the economy contracted by about 0.8% in Q1. Along with those (now rosy) projections about how the economy was doing in March, we can also expect the similarly anticipated “V-shaped” recession is about as unattainable as the Ark of the Covenant.
I could sit here and angrily type my frustration that the government decided to shut everything down in the middle of the best economy I had experienced since I was in my mid-20s. (Trust me, I’m tempted!) But as my grandmother loved to say, “There’s no sense crying about the spilled milk. Better to get a mop and clean it up.” So how do we clean up the mess we created?
When I first started writing this yesterday, I planned on including lots of charts and tables, relying on data to drive my points home. But nothing seemed to grab my attention. Then I remembered something when I first started in sales all those decades ago. People rarely make decisions based on data. Oh, we all love to pretend we do. We convince ourselves that we are supremely rational beings. Reality is different: we are emotional creatures first and foremost. When confronted with a decision, even the most clear and concise arguments will get overwhelmed by our strongest emotions: love, hate and fear.
Last week, I wrote “How many people will end up dying from COVID-19 vs. how many people will die from starvation and other diseases of poverty if the economy slips into another massive depression?” That is still the question we should be focused on. People are afraid. They’re afraid of dying. They’re afraid of their parents dying, they’re afraid of their children dying, they’re afraid of their spouses dying. But the narrative spun by both the media and the punditry is that because of COVID-19, the deaths we fear are more immediate. They’ve taken everyone’s fear of death and added the element of immediacy, and then told us the only way to eliminate the immediacy is to wall ourselves off in our homes.
This is as much a political crisis as it is a medical and economic one. As much as the media is distrusted these days (and for good reason), it’s important to note that they are getting their cues from the political class. When the governor of New York is on television daily, declaring he needs tens of thousands of non-existent ventilators or else people are going to start dying in the streets, we sit up and take notice. When the governor of Pennsylvania takes to the airwaves to declare that this is the gravest crisis we have ever faced, people heed his words. When the President of the United States begins a daily briefing by reciting the litany of the dead, we are left with the impression that our lives are about to be snuffed out.
Now, imagine if our political leaders were to go back to the original premise of “which is worse: the deaths that will result from an economic depression plus COVID-19, or just the deaths from COVID-19?” Well, then we still understand the immediate effects of COVID-19, but we’re also asked to consider the long-term effects. Why? Because unless we’re completely irrational our psyche is now forced to realize this is a life-and-death decision no matter which way we decide. People, maybe even people we love, maybe even ourselves, will die. The only question then becomes how to balance the equation so that as few people die as possible.
It’s rare that a moral question can be summed up with an equation, but this one can:
Cnm ⸫ Cm+D
Where C stands for deaths from COVID-19, D for deaths from an economic depression, and m for mediation. What is the relation between those three factors? How do we mitigate the number of deaths in each scenario, and at what point does Cm+D cross to become less than Cnm?
(Sorry. The old data guy couldn’t resist throwing mathematics into the pot.)
We know our current approach is definitely going to result in D, and we also know the human toll of D – in famine, malnutrition, abuse, and exposure – will be dreadful. Here’s what else we’re finding out: countries that shut down even further than the US and then tried to “return to normal” – like China, South Korea and Singapore – have had recurrences of COVID-19 that are even worse than their initial outbreaks. So does that combination mean we’re just screwed? We can’t restart and try to to return to normal without killing more people, and we can’t stay in our current stance without killing more people?
No. Not at all.
The key is we can reopen our businesses, pray they return to solvency and that replacements for those that disappeared come alive quickly, but with a couple of caveats.
- First, we need to understand that normal has changed. Medical science has shown that coronaviruses are, in general, highly mutable: that is, they make up for the fact they are not difficult to destroy by mutating, often quickly, meaning most treatments are not terribly effective. It’s why the “flu shot” is rarely more than 50% effective, and why nobody has yet come up with a cure for the common cold. The mediation efforts we put in place now are likely to remain with us for a long, long time.
- Second, those most at risk from COVID-19 should be isolated from the rest of the population as much as practicable. If you have bad lungs or a compromised immune system, you should stay at home as much as possible. When they fall ill and require hospitalization, they should be moved to separate wards from the remainder of the population.
- Third, the nature of white-collar work should change. I understand many jobs require you to be onsite in order to perform your tasks. Most white-collar work does not. I never understood the resistance to telecommuting; I was doing it 15 years ago and hardly ever “went to the office” for the last 6 years of my career. I think most companies are now realizing that the phobias they had about telecommuting were not well founded and having already put in place the systems that allow remote work, will stick with the model going forward.
- Fourth, the nature of school should change. Just as white-collar workers don’t need to be in a cubicle to do their job, students needn’t be tied to a desk in a building to successfully learn. Yes, there are details that would need to be worked out so far as socialization goes. Yes, it might impose a secondary hardship on families that think both parents need to work. But in an era when school districts across the country are spending billions on trying to maintain crumbling school buildings, buildings often inadequate to meet current needs, continuing with teleschool only makes sense.
Finally, our society needs to accept that some portion of the population will contract the COVID-19 disease each year. It is the nature of the virus. Every time I hear a politician, doctor or commentator talk about “defeating coronavirus,” I cringe. It’s not that eradicating the virus isn’t a worthy goal. It is, however, ridiculous to set that condition as a benchmark for returning to living.
This will probably be the hardest adaptation for our society to make. After all the hype, the shutdowns, and the panic, the idea that this is a new reality – one with yet another dangerous disease – in our midst will be difficult for many to accept. We like to think man is invincible and master of his environment. The idea that nature sometimes refuses to be tamed is a concept that we haven’t truly dealt with for nearly a century.
But if we don’t, we will have destroyed the economy that powers modern civilization. And we will have forgotten that most important of American traits: liberty. A free people do not willingly chain themselves and they are not willingly chained. It’s time we remembered that which makes us strongest and unique, and put those principles into action.
Isn’t that a refreshing scene? There’s nothing quite so calming as a tropical island, with gentle surf caressing a sun swept beach while warm breezes sway the palm fronds in a relaxing rhythm. If you squint carefully, you can almost see the natives roasting a swordfish over a crackling fire and smell the heady aroma of fresh island vegetables.
The island also represents what the medical community wants for America. They want us all to hunker down in our homes in hopes of extinguishing the Wuhan Flu, much as we would be isolated and alone on a South Pacific isle. Numerous government leaders have taken them up on this advice. Sadly, they haven’t given each of us our own tropical paradise. While they aren’t actually calling it an enforced quarantine, the lack of the correct verbiage doesn’t make it any less so. If you think otherwise, try leaving your house after 8pm.
Of course, we’re just starting to deal with the fearmongering that resulted in mass panic, and nearly mass hysteria. The national economy is virtually shut down. The stock market almost collapsed,with losses not seen in nearly a half century. Nobody is certain of the damage done, but estimates range as high as perhaps a 40% reduction in GDP and 30% unemployment, numbers not seen since the Great Depression. Social structures have been irrevocably altered, in ways we cannot begin to understand. The very nature of work has been altered, with more white-collar employees working remotely than ever before. When we do get back to work, to school; when the centers of culture and learning do reopen, we have no idea how the changes that were suddenly thrust upon us will reverberate in the future.
The biggest problem with all of this is that the data about this disease is profoundly unreliable. It has been said there are lies, damned lies and statistics and no common experience drives home that truism more than the current situation. From the beginning, statisticians and epidemiologists were dealing with incomplete (and even falsified) data from China, India, Italy and South Korea. As a result, modeling – which government leaders relied on to predict how deadly the COVID-19 pandemic would be to the general population – has been terribly inaccurate. The noted epidemiologist John Ioannidis recently remarked that “the fatality rate could plausibly lie between one in 100 and one in 2,000 cases.” Mind you, he is merely referring to death rate for those who are infected. Nobody has yet put forward a reliable model for the infection rate, because the data simply doesn’t exist. This is a problem that was anticipated. On March 17, Ioannidis wrote, “we lack reliable evidence on how many people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 or who continue to become infected. Better information is needed to guide decisions and actions of monumental significance and to monitor their impact.“
“But,” you say, “what about the rapid rise in cases in the United States I keep seeing on the evening news?” Ah, a fair question. Consider: since the United States started testing, it took us 17 days to administer the first 100,000 tests. It took another 11 days to administer the next 100,000. It has taken only 5 days to administer the last 320,000 tests. At current rates, the United States will be testing over 1 million people per week by mid-April. As the number of tests administered increases exponentially, the number of confirmed cases will also increase exponentially. The key evidence to look at is whether the number of positive cases is increasing at the same rate as the number of tests – and that answer is a resounding no. While tests have increased at a logarithmic rate, the increase in positive tests has followed a gentler curve, suggesting that the infection and lethality rates are lower than first anticipated.
One other note on testing: we have only been testing people showing symptoms. Yet the positive test rate is only about 15% of those tested for COVID-19. This is because what the media refers to as the “coronavirus” is actually a mutated form of the same virus that causes the common cold, multiple strains of influenza, SARS and MERS. Those are all corona viruses. As a result, the symptoms of COVID-19 fall into the same generalities as those other diseases: cough, fever, fatigue. That only feeds into the panic, especially as those are also symptoms of hay fever – and large swaths of the nation are entering spring allergy season.
For a doctor, the choice facing the nation is an easy one. They are worried about immediacy, and their immediate concern is to keep everyone alive and healthy. So recommending that everyone stay hunkered down in our houses and apartments is an easy choice. But for the rest of us, the choice is far from being simple. The president, and all 50 governors, have to weigh the importance of preserving lives now vs. the effects of leaving the economy in a downward spiral. How many people will end up dying from COVID-19 vs. how many people will die from starvation and other diseases of poverty if the economy slips into another massive depression? We can roughly extrapolate from available data that around 130,000 people will die from this disease. We cannot make even a haphazard guess about what the death toll from an economic depression that last months or even years might be, because while we know one is inevitable on our current course, we don’t know any of the particulars. We can’t. We’re not fortune tellers.
Without solid data, it is an impossible question to answer. Yet we’re all answering it, from the President to loudmouth Joey you normally meet at the corner tavern. The problem is, both of them – and everyone else – doesn’t really know, no matter what they tell you.
Will this virus be bad for the country? It already is. Will a deflated economy be bad for the country? It already is. But making everything worse is fear and panic. We can’t keep ourselves walled off forever, living in fear of everyone who sneezes. The federal government, between emergency fiscal expenditures and monetary expansion from the Federal Reserve, has already expanded national debt by nearly $8 trillion. That’s about 40% of last year’s GDP, and perhaps 65% of this year’s GDP. In short, that is an unsustainable degree of expenditure. We cannot afford to allow fear to panic us into cowardice, and we cannot afford to to allow fear to bankrupt the nation.
FDR once said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” It’s time for the panic to end, and for America to prove that FDR knew what he was talking about.
The Media Is Wrong About Richard Spencer
Over the past few days, mainstream media outlets have had their tongues wagging over the firing of the former Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer. “Oh, NO!” they all cry. “Trump has gone too far this time. How dare he interfere with the good order of the military!”
This is almost a repeat of the lionization of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Army officer who testified that Trump didn’t break any laws but pushed a policy he thoroughly disagreed with. That, to the Lords of Daytime Talk and Morning Joe, is an impeachable offense in and of itself. Why, how dare anyone impugn the opinion of an Army lieutenant colonel!
The media is flabbergasted that rank-and-file military and veterans support the President over these two paragons of military virtue. (Yes, that is a facetious comment, before you ask). The reason is simple and goes to something else the media and their liberal cohort cannot seem to fathom. Every person in the military, regardless of branch or the era in which they served, understands the President is the Commander in Chief. That’s not just an honorary title: his orders are the absolute highest authority. Unless he gives an order that is blatantly illegal, it is the duty of everyone in the military to carry out those orders. Period. No exceptions, no “but why,” no nothing except salute and carry on. If you’re of high enough rank and disagree on a policy basis, then you resign your commission and return to civilian life. If you aren’t of high enough rank, you can voice your disagreement to your superior officer but you still carry out the order.
The media cannot fathom this basic fact. For all their lavish praise on Spencer, the simple fact is he disregarded a direct order from both the Secretary of Defense and the President and was planning on moving ahead to remove a decorated SEAL from their ranks because the government couldn’t successfully court martial him on drummed up charges. It was a fit of pique that led to his decision to ignore the order to stand down, a thought that the President didn’t know what he was doing, an inability to comprehend that the President is, regardless of prior service, the Commander in Chief. For all his blather about how the President not understanding good order within the ranks, the reality is Spencer is the one who ignored the first principle of good order: that no matter how noxious the order may be personally, if it is a legal order from a superior, you obey.
This inability of the media to accept this fact stems from one place – their unwillingness to acknowledge that Donald J. Trump is the rightful President of the United States. Had these same military personnel acted the same way during the previous administration, the same media talkers that profess their undying admiration for Richard Spencer and Alexander Vindman would be demanding they be sent to Ft. Leavenworth for the next 20 years. So don’t be fooled by the media cabal, America. Just as with the Russia hoax and every other nonsense “scandal” that’s come along over the past three years, they are willing to condone all sorts of legally questionable behavior provided it might damage the President.