Musings on Sports, Politics and Life in general

Politics

Bye Bye, Steve Bannon


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It’s official: Steve Bannon was fired from his role as the President’s Chief Strategist earlier today.

But before anyone starts thinking this signals that the administration will now pivot to the center, you need to stop and think about something. Bannon wasn’t much of a strategist. Rather, he was the guy who came aboard the Trump Train after last year’s Republican National Convention to help streamline and polish Donald Trump’s existing “America First” positions into something more palatable to the general electorate. In terms of strategy, he proved (at best) to be a man playing checkers on the “swamp” chessboard. Otherwise, the President would have actual legislative victories he could point to as wins – and not be where he is, almost 8 months in. Which is to say, his efforts to remake Obamacare into Trumpcare defeated, with no movement on the other big campaign promises, either: the border wall still without funding (and Mexico thumbing their noses at us), no movement on tax reform or infrastructure legislation, and efforts to renegotiate our trade deals actually going backwards.

However, this is the second major administration official in two weeks to cross the new Chief of Staff, Gen. John Kelly, and find themselves being sacked as a result. If nothing else, I’m certain other acolytes who may have thoughts of taking similar approaches – of operating the way they did for the campaign and the first 6 1/2 months of this Presidency – are having misgivings now. Kelly has made his imprimatur on the administration. Whether or not the President can abide Kelly’s style and handling remains an unresolved issue, but it’s apparent that Kelly is running the White House as he sees fit. For now, anyway.

Trump will, of course, continue to be Trump. He will continue to push his agenda, focusing on the culture wars that originally earned him electoral support. His economic agenda is actually pretty much straight from the Republican playbook (tax reform, job growth, etc) and he will find congressional support for that, regardless of whatever else he does.

As for Bannon, expect him to return to his previous vocation, agitating for a nationalist agenda. Near term, I foresee him excoriating lawmakers over the border wall funding (given the proximity of budgeting and the debt ceiling on the calendar), and making Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan’s lives miserable. Longer term, he’ll look to undermine the forces in the West Wing that undermined him from the outside. Expect to see all kinds of hit pieces on Kelly and National Security Advisor HR McMaster, along with Jared and Ivanka Kushner. I also suspect “normal” conservatives, such as Rick Perry, Betsy DeVos, and Ben Carson, could find themselves with banner headlines on Breitbart or the National Enquirer. As for the President’s economic team, Gary Cohn, Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin were part of the “establishment” long before the term became fashionable. Only a fool would think Bannon doesn’t have something special up his sleeve for them.

Removing Bannon won’t end the chaos surrounding the administration. If anything, the noise is about to get louder and more ferocious (although it will almost be funny to watch the NY Times and CNN suddenly forced into defending people like Perry and Mnuchin). Strap in, it’s going to be an even bumpier ride.


What Is An American?


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One of the unique things about being a citizen of the United States is that unlike other nationalities, we often have these discussions about what being an American actually entails. We’ve been engaged in just such a discussion for the past four or five years now, and many people have landed on many different definitions.

Are we defined by our borders, the territory we control as a nation? Are we defined by our ethnicity or ethnicities? By our economic circumstances, both as individuals and as a nation? For many, these definitions, or a combination of these definitions, is what defines “Americanism.” These may be aspects of American life, but they are not what defines us as a people. As we saw this past weekend in Virginia, clinging to those notions is more divisive than unifying. They cannot define a nation as diverse as ours, one where wealthy and poor from every ethnicity on the planet call home.

Likewise, political leaders who foster these views cannot be unifying. They can only divide the nation along religious, ethnic and class lines. Both our last President and our current one have willingly used the imagery and language of grievance, attempting to force the nation as a whole to view the world through the distorted lenses of one subset of Americans or another.

The reality is the United States is not confined by our borders, defined by our economic clout or existent by our military power. You might have heard the United States identified as an ideal, and that is what our nation is. The glue that binds us are not the temporary trappings of wealth and power. The power that has allowed our nation to grow, to prosper, despite welcoming every ethnicity, every religion, and every race on the Earth was given to us by the men who created this country:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I think that for many of us, these words have lost their meaning. After all, we’ve all heard them countless times. I can scarcely think of anyone who can’t recite them word for word.

Yet, we cannot deny the power they hold. It is those words, more than anything else, that drew our ancestors to this country. Those words are the birthright of every American and it is those words that are our unifying force.

One of the things I like to do, when faced with a passage whose meaning is difficult to comprehend, is to reword it in a way that is easier to understand. Bear with me as I do so here.

We: Who were the Founders referring to by “we?” The document this passage is taken from – the Declaration of Independence – was an open letter to the King of England and Houses of Parliament, on the behalf of the citizens of the new nation they were creating. “We” is nothing less than every American citizen.

hold these truths: to hold a belief is to accept it without question; a truth is an incontestable fact.

to be self-evident: something that needs no outside proof of its existence.

that all men are created equal: everyone, everywhere is no different than anyone else – and we are born into this condition. Whether you have the privileges and wealth of a Wall Street billionaire or are left scrounging for subsistence in the Somali sun, every person that will ever see this world is the same.

that they are endowed by their Creator: While the majority of the Founders believed in the Christian god, it’s important to note that not all of them did. George Washington and John Adams were deists, as were notable non-signatories of the Declaration, including Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen. It should also be noted that New York and New Jersey already had sizable Jewish populations by the middle of the 18th century (indeed, Dutch Jews were among the first settlers in New Amsterdam and Newark). Even among the devout Christians, there were religious differences – Charles Carroll of Maryland was a practicing Catholic, for instance. But the one thing all of them agreed on was a belief in a higher power, or Creator.

with certain unalienable: something which can neither be granted nor taken away by human authority.

Rights: Jefferson, John Adams and Franklin all were well versed in the philosophy of John Locke. While Locke’s ideas regarding natural rights were already well-established in philosophical circles by the mid-18th century, the Founders were doing something truly revolutionary here: they were claiming that by our existence, human beings have entitlements that no government can interfere with.

What follows is a listing of what those entitlements are.

that among these are: Whoops! make that a partial listing. Jefferson is saying there are other, unspecified rights, and he’s selected only the ones pertinent to why the Colonists are creating a new nation.

Life: Yes, you have a right to live. Sounds almost silly, until you watch this.

Liberty: for the 18th century thinker, Liberty was well defined by David Hume – “By liberty, then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will; this is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may.” I’ve read many other definitions of liberty, but this one – despite it’s age – still seems the best.

pursuit of Happiness: While nobody can guarantee that you will find peace and joy in the world, you’re entitled to try and find whatever it is that lets you achieve it.

One 36 word sentence carries quite a bit of import, I would say. If we were to reword the entire thing, it would come out something like this:

American citizens agree that the following is a statement of fact:
All people are born the same, and the Creator that grants us our existence does, by that existence, grant us certain privileges and entitlements that no person, government or entity can take away. Some of these entitlements are our lives, our freedom of movement and thought, and our attempt to derive peace and joy from our existence.

It isn’t as flowery or memorable as the original, I know. But this statement is what separates America from every other nation. It is what defines us a people, and as a country. America has not always lived up to the ideals laid out in this statement, but it is the fact we continue to strive towards it – rather than abandon it – that has characterized our place in history.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said he dreamed of the day when his children wouldn’t be judged by their ethnicity, but by who they were as people. It was Dr. King’s way of restating our guiding principle, the American principle of natural rights. We haven’t gotten there yet, as the events in Charlottesville showed. Call me a sap, a sentimental fool or a man blinded by his beliefs, but I still think the vast majority of the people who call the United States home believe in our founding principle, but are being led astray by fear of an unknown and rapidly changing future.

Thank you for your time today, and may God bless America.

 

*The video I linked to above can also be watched here. You’ll need about 20 minutes to watch the whole thing. It’s painful and at times angering, but I suggest you do.

 


Korean Konflagration


In case you haven’t noticed, North Korea has been doing a lot of saber rattling over the past few weeks. If you listen to only the talking heads on television, you could easily believe the world stands on the brink of nuclear war. You would believe that Kim Jong Un is certifiably crazy, and is engaged in showing the USA (and President Trump, in particular) that he doesn’t have tiny hands.

Relax, everyone.

Whatever else Kim might be, a crazed megalomaniac looking to annihilate Guam for the sake of a show of force is not it. He was literally bred to lead his country. Like his father and grandfather, he is dictator for life, assuming the reins only after the death of his predecessor. In olden days, we would have called him the third king of the Kim dynasty. Like monarchs of previous centuries, after assuming the throne he engaged in a purge of anyone who might challenge his power: family members, military leaders and others. To the modern mind, those moves seem outdated, bizarre, surreal; the actions of a madman.

Put in the proper context, they are anything but the actions of an insane megalomaniac. They are the actions of a cold, calculating monarch entrusted not only with leading his nation, but ensuring that the dynasty continues unabated. And if you judge Kim by that standard, then the current situation becomes much easier to understand.

North Korea is a small, isolated country of limited resources and not much material wealth. As it’s leader, Kim has certain responsibilities and like the monarchs of ages past, one of the most important is ensuring his subjects are fed. World history is replete with examples of monarchs who failed in that respect and the results have never been particularly good for them or their families. King Louis XVI lost not only his empire, but his head in the French Revolution. Czar Nicholas II was forced to watch his family’s executions before finally losing his life during the Russian Revolution. Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to flee to the Netherlands when even his army turned against him.

Rest assured, Kim is well aware of all those historical precedents and has no intention of joining their ranks.

His current situation is dire. As mentioned above, his nation is isolated and materially poor. Historically, ensuring the North Korean people are fed is difficult enough – and this year, they’ve suffered their worst drought since at least 2001. Kim knows unless he can secure an imported food source, and the means to pay for it, he faces a winter of mass starvation, a discontented populace and internal unrest. Even if the people are unable to overcome generations of indoctrination and rise up against the regime, there still exists the very real possibility of the army deposing him.

So, what stands in Kim’s way of securing enough food to keep his nation fed? As it has been for the past 67 years, the United States and South Korea.

What Kim wants is to enter into direct negotiations with the both countries, with three ultimate objectives: 1, getting the current sanctions against North Korea lifted; 2, getting grain from the US and 3, obtaining a security guarantee. To that end, he has reverted to a standard North Korean negotiating tactic, threatening to tear up the 64 year old armistice and resuming hostilities.

After all, threats of open warfare worked for both his father and grandfather. It works for one reason: nobody wants to see a shooting war on the Korean peninsula again, particularly South Korea. During the 1950-53 war, the US suffered nearly 60,000 deaths – but South Korea lost over a half million people. (Nobody is certain how many North Koreans died, but most estimates put the number just shy of a million). The capital city, Seoul, was conquered and recaptured on 4 separate occasions. Fast forward to today: Seoul is home to over 10 million people (with another 15 million living in its suburbs) and sits only 35 miles from the border. It is within easy striking distance of conventional artillery, to say nothing of aircraft and rockets. Should the Korean War get “hot” again, it’s generally accepted that South Korea would suffer over a million civilian casualties on just the first day.

This is why ratcheting up the rhetoric always worked in the past. Even if the US is reluctant to grant anything to the North, pressure from the South (who desperately wants to avoid reopening hostilities) has led to begrudging acquiescence.

The calculated gamble Kim is making now is based on that history. The reason he’s amped up the rhetoric even more than in the past is he knows that unlike previous administrations, the current US leadership is unlikely to be swayed only by the pleas from what is currently a scandal-plagued South Korean government. By threatening a US territory, he is hoping to force Washington to the negotiating  table.

It’s not that Kim actually wants a war with the US, He knows that in such an event, he wouldn’t last long. During the 1950-53 conflict, it took the combined power of China and the Soviet Union to stave off total defeat for North Korea. Of course, the wild card in all this is President Trump. He is unconventional, for certain. But what Kim has certainly factored into his consideration is that, thus far, the Trump administration has not deviated all that much from the past 25 years of US foreign policy, despite all the bluster.

Of course, the possibility of open conflict remains if Kim thinks he has no way out of the box he’s created – or if Trump decides that enough is enough and preemptively strikes. But I still don’t think that either will happen. I suspect that even as we bustle about our daily lives, backchannels are being opened and the first tentative steps towards negotiation are under way.


Sorry, Jim…


…but you are not guaranteed a job. You are not entitled to a job, and nobody owes you a job.

It’s almost funny. It is downright comical to watch fellow “conservatives” try to shame Alphabet into rehiring James Damore. Over the years, the sentiment annunciated at the beginning of this post was supposedly a bedrock principle. But, as with so many other supposedly conservative principles, the past 18 months has revealed that they were just talking points for many “conservatives.”

Look, here’s the deal. When you sign an employment contract (and I don’t care if you’re sweeping streets or writing code for one of the world’s largest companies), you agree to abide by your employers code of conduct. You can talk about liberty, and freedom, and all of those other things – but if you agree to work for someone, you are voluntarily agreeing to put curbs on those things.

My first “professional” job was as a QA engineer for Panasonic, more years ago than I care to remember. There was an official dress code: men were to wear a dark suit, white shirt and tie. At the time I accepted the job offer, I owned one suit. It was a very fashionable suit for the 1980’s, but it definitely wasn’t “dark” (think Miami Vice). So guess what I did? I went out and bought 3 navy blue suits and 5 white dress shirts. I wanted the job and understood that I needed to adhere to that dress code, even if it didn’t match my personal style.

I understand Mr. Damore has a problem with Alphabet’s diversity policy. I guess at this point, the entire world knows he does. I’ve disagreed with various company policies at some of the places I’ve worked, as well. There are three things that are perfectly acceptable, that you can do in that situation. You can keep quiet and soldier on. You can take your concerns through proper channels, generally by directing those concerns to a supervisor or the company HR department. Or you can quit and look for a different job.

I read the memo that landed James Damore in hot water. It is a well thought out, backed with research studies, cogent argument against Alphabet’s diversity policy. It is not a screed, as some liberal organizations declared it. Had he distributed it on Facebook, or as a private blog post, or any of the other ways a ten page article can be distributed, he probably would have avoided being fired (unless he represented himself as a Google employee). At that point, he is speaking as a private citizen and probably doing the public a great service. Given the recent hullabaloo around affirmative action and gender equality, we need more solid, fact based opinions from the proponents on both sides of the issue.

But he didn’t do those things. Instead, he typed it up as an internal memo and distributed it within Alphabet. That action, and that action alone, was grounds for termination. That he was making a political statement compounded the problem and forced management’s hand.

Let the Saga of James Damore be a cautionary tale to the Social Justice Warriors of the left and the Culture Warriors of the right. Unless you’re working as a political operative, don’t bring your politics into the workplace.

After all, you aren’t entitled to a job, either.


Collusion Confusion


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Unless you’re living under a rock (and frankly, I can’t blame you if that’s where you’ve moved), then you’ve probably heard more about collusion than you ever imagined possible. Loretta Lynch colluded with Hillary and Bill. James Comey colluded with Barry, or Trump, or maybe both. And of course, the real biggie: the President of the United States colluded with the Russian government.

People, stop already. You’re throwing around the word “collusion” in place of the words you should be using to describe the things you’re actually trying to describe. Collusion is, by it’s very definition, a secretive quid pro quo arrangement whose aims are so nefarious the very history of the world would be changed. By it’s very definition, it goes beyond corruption as we normally think of it. Bribery, extortion, conspiracy – those all pale in comparison. Yet, in almost every case I keep hearing cited by the MSM, the right- and the left-wing alternatives, nothing actually rises to the level of collusion.

The reason I’m bringing this up is simple. After being unable to win any national election not featuring Barack Obama for a decade, the Democratic Party and their media shills have come to realize that a platform based on sowing division and silly “social justice” issues isn’t working. But lacking an alternative, they have seized on an issue that would be a sure-fire winner, if it were true: the President of the United States is a traitor. Make no mistake about it. That is what they are claiming every time you hear a Democrat politician talk about collusion. Every time Rachel Maddow spins a Glenn Beck-ist conspiracy theory tying the President’s youngest son’s hamster to the FSB, she’s claiming the President is a traitor. Every time Chuck Todd writes (as he did this morning) “The bombshell New York Times report from Sunday afternoon might not be the smoking gun in the Trump-Russia 2016 story, but it sure looks close to one,” he’s claiming the President is a traitor.

This is the worst kind of politics, in which innuendo is claimed as fact in order to hurl the most serious of all charges at a political opponent. Anyone who regularly follows this blog, or my social media feeds, already knows I am not a fan of the President. I think he is a dishonest, self-dealing, narcissistic, unprincipled human being of such poor character he should never be anywhere near public service. But it’s one thing to find a person’s character lacking and quite another to think them a traitor. It’s fine to disagree with someone on policy choices. It is quite another to say those policy choices are treasonous.

None of this is to say that I don’t think the Russians did their level best to interfere in the election on the President’s behalf. Of course they did. Vladimir Putin is as trustworthy as a desert scorpion and has been part of Russian attempts at destabilizing the US government since 1976. But a big part of the reason the FSB and SVR were as successful as they were in 2016 was because the Democrats ran Hillary Clinton, who staffed her campaign team with Clinton loyalists from the 1990’s. Their candidate was the only person in America whose character was even more questionable than that of Donald J. Trump.

Indeed, if the President weren’t such a blatant narcissist, this story would have been put to bed long before he even took the oath of office. All he would have had to say last fall was, “Sure the Russians interfered. But their interference amounted to reminding the American people why they hated the Clintons” and the whole story would have been over. But that deep-seated character defect does not allow him to acknowledge that anyone else might have had a hand in his victory. So be it.

I am certain the rest of the summer will be consumed by this nothingburger of a story, to the detriment of the major policy decisions we need to grapple with before October. That’s a shame. But if you claim to be part of the #resistance, than you are just as guilty. You’ve moved from principled opposition to a flat-out attempt to remove a duly elected President.

Now THAT’S treason.


Stop Using the Clinton Defense


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If there’s one thing the latest political kerfluffle has revealed, it is the lengths which some Trumpkins will go to defend the indefensible.

I’m not talking about the morons who either don’t care about, or don’t understand, the national security implications of divulging allied deep-cover intelligence operations to the Russians. I’m not referring to the people who think a President trying to derail investigations into his associates is just peachy. Those people will never be happy living in anything less than a dictatorship, and there is no hope for them.

The people I am directing these comments to are the ones who know the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is engaging in (at best) immoral and irregular activities or (at worst) about to plunge the nation into a crisis that will make the Watergate era look like the days of wine and roses. Instead of admitting their guy has character flaws that are manifesting themselves daily, they attempt to justify it with statements like:

“When is Hillary getting locked up?”

“What about the tarmac?”

“Seth Rich! Seth Rich!”

Yes, there is a Trump Derangement Syndrome on the left. That is indisputable, unless you suffer from it (in which case, I know a good psychiatrist). But it also shows there is still a Clinton Derangement Syndrome running rampant through the right. Just like those with TDS can’t self-identify their problem, the same seems to be the case with CDS on the right.

If you are one of those people, I have a news flash for you: SHE LOST.

The result of that loss is a fate far worse than jail for someone who’s entire way of life was built on running a political machine. The machine was taken away. The money, the swag, the hobnobbing, the ability to influence others – all gone. The Clinton’s find themselves in political purgatory, which is a fitting place for them.

Now, here’s the thing: trying to excuse Donald Trump’s excesses by complaining about the Clinton’s only does one thing, in the end. It says to rational people that you think what the Clinton’s did would be just fine, if only they had put an elephant on their family crest instead of a donkey. You undercut your own arguments by suggesting that what was fine for one was terrible for the other.

Here’s your reality check. If the Clinton’s actions (attempting to influence investigations into political corruption, stealing public funds, etc, etc) are reprehensible, what makes those same actions by the Trump’s any less reprehensible? There is an old adage: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

You would be well served to remember that.

 


President Trump, Russophile?


The dominant political news of the week was the dismissal of Lt. Michael Flynn (ret.), President Trump’s first National Security Advisor. His abrupt departure brought back a few issues that should have been answered during the fall campaign, but weren’t. In a multi-part series, I’ll be examining the following:
1. Were the leaks that led to Flynn’s ouster justified? Are leaks ever justified?
2. Is the President’s Russophilia damaging to his Presidency and the nation writ large?
3. Should career civil servants place greater emphasis on conscience or policy?

It’s been a nagging question for something like 18 months now: what is the relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin? The questions first arose during the campaign, when Trump seemed to be sending public love notes to Putin. The questions reappeared after President Trump, rather than accept that Putin is a diabolical dictator, preferred to argue that the US government operates in the same nefarious manner as the Russian. And they roared into prominence this week, with the revelations about former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s tête-à-tête with the Russian ambassador and the leaks about the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Russian SVR.

The President’s conduct towards Russia and Vladimir Putin certainly engender some questions.

1. Why is Trump so reluctant to condemn Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular?
I’ve given this some thought, and I have a sort of good news/bad news idea about the subject. The good news: I do not think President Trump is being blackmailed by, or in any other way criminally beholden to the Russian Federation. Do I think he has business interests there? It would be ludicrous to think a man who once held a beauty pageant in Moscow and has at least minority interests in resort properties around the world doesn’t have some sort of similar arrangements in Russia. Do I think those holdings are substantial enough that the Russian government could leverage them to their advantage? No. Not even someone as vain as Donald Trump would be willingly complicit in treason over a few hotel rooms. If he is, then we’ve plumbed new depths of depravity.

I suspect the reason is simpler, but far more disturbing. Based on public statements going back nearly 30 years, I believe our President wants to be Vladimir Putin. He admires and respects the way Putin handles things, with an autocratic iron fist wrapped in a cement glove. Killing political opponents? Perfectly fine (remember, Trump once praised the Chinese for running down dissenters with tanks). Invading foreign countries and plundering them? It’s cool – just keep the oil. Operating above, below and in conflict with established law? From abusing eminent domain in the 1980’s to his “so-called judges” remarks in the last few weeks, Trump has consistently demonstrated that he thinks laws apply to everyone BUT him. Even Stephen Miller’s outburst last Sunday (“the President’s authority will not be questioned!”) demonstrates a very totalitarian view of government, the kind of government prevented by our Constitution. That he’s constrained by the Constitution and its provisions against executive overreach galls Trump (and, sadly, his supporters) to no end. Putin has no such constraints and when he did, he was able to just ignore them until the Russian constitution was changed.

2. Why was his campaign in “constant” contact with Russian officials?
This is, of course, still unproven. However, the fact is that there is an investigation into the likelihood of contact between the SVR and the Make America Great Again campaign, and that it’s been partially leaked, suggest there’s more than just smoke to this question. As for why it would have occurred, see the above conclusion that Donald J. Trump stars in “Crazy about Vladdy.” The one thing that nobody seems to recall is that Vladimir Putin actually won a democratic election in 2000, on a platform eerily similar to the one Donald Trump ran on in 2016. If the person you venerate over all others might be in a position to offer advice and encouragement, any of us would seek their counsel.

3. Why didn’t Trump tell Vice President Pence that former national security adviser Mike Flynn wasn’t being honest about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador?
3a. Why wasn’t Flynn fired the second Trump learned he was deceiving the vice president? 

Once again, if the President is attempting to model his administration on that of his favorite Russian dictator, neither of these questions is difficult to answer. In fact, they both have the same answer: Flynn was ordered to lie to Pence by Trump. As to why Trump would have Pence lied to, there are two reasons. The first is that Trump was certainly aware that having Flynn reach out to the Russian ambassador regarding the latest Obama sanctions was a clear violation of the Logan Act. He also knows that despite decades in public office, nobody has ever accused Mike Pence of malfeasance or corruption. He knew then that Pence’s reaction would, at best, be another tepid endorsement of the President’s orders and Flynn’s duplicity in carrying them out.

The  other thing  to remember on this point is that part of Vlad’s governing style, and one that has thus far proven true of Trump’s, is a dedication to the idea of equal but rival teams in open competition. Pence is the de facto leader of the ‘establishment’ group. Flynn was very much part of the ‘apocalyptic’  group. In effect, Trump was already pitting those two groups against each other before he even took office. That he waited nearly 72 hours before firing Flynn after the first revelations about that phone call, and Flynn’s duplicity towards Pence, looks for all the world like Trump was waiting to see if there would be any blow-back on Pence. After all, Trump is also aware that of all the people in his administration, the two most admired on Capitol Hill are Mike Pence and James Mattis. Pence, being his Constitutionally appointed successor should he be unable to complete his term, therefore presents a clear and pressing danger. The fact that unlike Obama with Joe Biden, or George HW Bush with Dan Qualyle, his VP is considered one of the few sane members of his inner circle poses the threat, essentially giving cover to Democrats  if they decide to implement clause 4 of the 25th Amendment.

The larger question that needs to be answered is: does the President’s infatuation with Russian style politics and deep admiration of authoritarianism endanger the nation? So far, the answer is not in any lasting way. The Constitution was written by men who were intimately familiar with being ruled by a tyrant and designed to ensure that no one person could unilaterally impose his will on the government. As they intended, the structures they built have soundly defeated Trump’s every move to emulate his idol’s governing style, much to his chagrin. The separation of powers works.

That is not to say Trump cannot inflict serious damage, at least on the United States and the western democracies strategic position. But dealing a fatal blow to the Constitution does appear to be beyond his scope.

There are other questions, but we don’t have enough information to speculate on the answers. For instance, who in the campaign was speaking to the Russians? Are they now in the administration? Were any of those people responsible for the leaks to the Washington Post that started this ball of wax? The President could, of course, put an end to all this by issuing a statement that answers those questions.

But then again, we know Trump isn’t about to do that. He’ll continue his current method of dealing with this crisis, attacking the press for asking the questions and attacking the leaks themselves. Because, after all, that’s what Vladimir would do.


Leaks vs. Whistleblowers


The dominant political news of the week was the dismissal of Lt. Michael Flynn (ret.), President Trump’s first National Security Advisor. His abrupt departure brought back a few issues that should have been answered during the fall campaign, but weren’t. In a multi-part series, I’ll be examining the following:
1. Were the leaks that led to Flynn’s ouster justified? Are leaks ever justified?
2. Is the President’s Russophilia damaging to his Presidency and the nation writ large?
3. Should career civil servants place greater emphasis on conscience or policy?

One of the more interesting results of the Flynn Fiasco is the President’s relentless damning of the news articles that forced his hand and the leaks that made those news articles possible. While part of the attacks are typical hubris that nobody, except the Trumpers, takes seriously (sorry, the stories weren’t “fake news”), as with all good propaganda there is an element of truth to them. We’re all aware that Trump takes criticism about as well as a child. Those stories weren’t the opinion-filled pieces that Trump has been able to dismiss as terrible journalism. They are hard-hitting, factual articles that were made possible by the type of inside information that isn’t ever supposed to see newsprint.

In short, the President is rightly incensed about the leaks which have plagued his administration from Day 1. Regardless of the fact that we know Trump values personal loyalty above all other traits, leaks of this sort can constitute a national security threat.Take away that Trump feels personally slighted by what he perceives as an internal attack from the “deep state,” and we’re still left with the reality that someone (or several someone’s) within the National Security Council staff went and blabbed to the Washington Post about Flynn’s violations of the Logan Act, and to the New York Times and CNN about the Trump presidential campaign’s contacts with the Russian intel services as far back as 2015.

Americans have always had a love/hate relationship with government leaks. We celebrate Mark Felt, the leaker later famously revealed as “Deep Throat,” whose information exposed the corruption and malfeasance of the Nixon administration. We vilify Bradley Manning, whose leaking apparently drove him/her/it to finally lose whatever grasp on reality him/her/it ever had. Then there are figures like Edward Snowden, about whom we are ambivalent: the leaks were damaging and showed illegal government activity, but we can’t quite make up our mind whether he’s a whistleblower, a pawn or a traitor.

Now add in that often, our government will purposely leak information. Whether it’s Scooter Libby giving David Ignatius “deep background” about Iraqi WMD, or James Jones’ leaking Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Afghan plan, the previous two administrations have used strategically timed leaks from the National Security Council to advance their agenda. That’s not inconsequential; the last 16 years have seen increasingly aggressive actions against leakers.

So the question before us is this: when is a leaker a whistleblower? Felt was undoubtedly a whistleblower, Manning a leaker.

The answer seems to be more one of public opinion than anything else. Had the nation simply shrugged off the Constitutional breaches of Richard Nixon as “Nixon being Nixon” and “politics as usual,” Jeffrey Zeifman would have been tasked with hounding Woodward and Bernstein to reveal their source. If we had publicly decided that Wikileak’s publication of Manning’s data dump revealed a pattern of illegal conduct by US forces, he might not be trying to get the taxpayers to pay for having his genitals whacked off. As for Mr. Snowden, he will probably find himself in permanent exile – while the NSA spying certainly violated the 4th Amendment, that Constitutional protection isn’t terribly popular at the moment.

Another factor is whether the government wants to pursue charges against the leaker. An example of such a situation is Scott Davis, the man responsible for exposing the Department of Veteran’s Affairs allowing veterans to die before ever seeing a doctor. He leaked internal documents showing VA was well aware of the problem but not doing anything to address it, a clear violation of 18 USC 793, 794. Yet, even the notoriously anti-leak Obama administration passed on filing charges against Davis. This was despite the  fact that few leaks embarrassed the former President quite as badly as the revelation that even as he was sending American servicemen into  harm’s way, he was turning a blind eye to their care upon their return.

And so, in this way, we’ll be able to eventually determine which of these leaks merit whistleblower status. That Gen. Flynn broke the law is beyond doubt; that he demonstrated woefully poor discretion likewise. (Seriously, a career spook who didn’t know a phone call to the Russian ambassador was being recorded by both the NSA and the Russian FSB? That’s…terrible). The level of demonstrated incompetence alone should have resulted in his dismissal, much less the willful lying to the Vice President.  Similarly, if the ties between the Russian intel service and the Trump campaign are proven, then those leakers will likely rise in American lore to match that of Deep Throat. If it results in nothing more than innuendo, the President will be fully justified in rooting out and charging the people responsible.

 


The Phone Call


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It’s late one evening. Behind the bar at Andy’s Cafe in Cincinnati, a spray tanned older gentleman laughs quietly with his guests when the phone rings.

“Andy’s, where the beer is cold and the music is hot,” he answers.

“Hey, John! It’s Paul – Paul Ryan, remember me? Well, I’m sure glad I caught you. I need some advice.”

“Well, you know I left that life behind, Paul. Breaking up bar fights is easier on a 67 year old body than those squabbles on Capitol Hill.”

“I know, I know. But look, I’m in a real pickle here. Was kind of hoping to bounce some ideas off you and see what you think.”

“Are you recording this? Is this some sort of practical joke? You know, like when y’all ran that celebrity real estate developer for President. Man, that was a doozy!”

“No, no, this is serious. And yeah, glad you liked that one. But there’s something you may not have heard about, yet.”

“Really? Shoot.”

“That guy is now the President of the United States. And I don’t mean the United States of Benetton. And he’s part of the reason I need your help.”

“You mean, you idiots ran the only man in America who uses more spray tan than me and lies more than Nancy? Wasn’t that script for ‘Trading Places 2’ rejected by Hollywood?”

You can hear the pause before Ryan responds, “Maybe it was. But he and that gawd-awful combover are  in charge now.”

“Oh, you are truly and greatly screwed. Like Big Green Weenie screwed. No, better yet…”

“John, this is serious. Everyone thinks he’s a Russian spy or something, and DC is so busy not tripping over one another over they haven’t noticed the Chinese star-and-sickle tattoo he got the other day.”

“Right, serious. Speakering of which, you haven’t introduced that tooth repair kit I invented yet, have you? Give me a couple a days Head Start.”

“How droll.”

“I know, hahahahahahaha! ”

“So, do you have any advice for me?”

“Retire. Buy a bar in Wisconsin. You can get royally drunk and nobody gives a shit.”

“No, look, this is serious. Do you know what he asked me to do this morning? He asked me to draw up legislation selling Alaska back to the Russians!”

“Well, he is a real estate developer. I imagine he got a good price.”

“Mitch is beside himself over this. Jeb Hensarling wants to know if he can get something similar from Spain for California. This whole thing is going off the rails.”

“You guys are  the ones who nominated him. If I remember right, you had a chance to turn him away at the convention. You gotta deal with him now.” The old bartender belches loudly. “Damn, that was a GOOD one! Did you hear that, Paulie boy? Rattled the doors with that one, I did!”

Ryan sighs, loudly. “That’s history. What do I do now?”

“I told you. Retire. Buy a bar. Get drunk.”

“You can’t be serious!”

“Sure I am. I did and look at me now. I’m hanging out with my friends, only using spray tan once or twice a week and I’ve only cried once in the last year. Best move I ever made was coming back to this bar.”

“Thanks, John. You’ve been a real help.”

“Glad I could be, Paul. And next time you’re in Cincinnati, the beer is on me.”


Liberals STILL Don’t Get It


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A little over a week ago, I posted my thoughts on why the election turned out the way it did. As I wrote,

When you’ve already been painted as a racist misogynist homophobe, a dolt incapable of anything other than collecting welfare and shooting heroin, you’re not going to worry too much about voting for a guy who actually is a racist misogynist – after all, it’s not like you have anything left to lose.

Since then, I’ve seen some postings on various blogs (like these, here and here) that show a few liberals have figured this out. But far too many have taken the wrong lessons from the election, or no lesson at all. The recent kerfluffle over the the way the cast of Hamilton has reacted is one example. The Democrat party’s seeming determination to shift even further left is another. And finally, there is the unending grief I and other conservatives are receiving from the on-line liberal tribe, as well my liberal friends. None of them seem capable of recognizing, much less understanding, what happened in this election.

So here’s a quick synopsis for you.

  1. Donald Trump did not win this election, so much as Hillary Clinton lost this election. This is an important point to remember.
  2. This was not an election about issues. Equally important to remember. This was not about emails, Benghazi, immigration, or “identity politics”. In the end, none of that mattered. The great swath of undecideds didn’t break for Trump because they agreed with his plans, or because of Hillary’s probable corruption. They didn’t abandon Hillary because she’s a woman, or out of racism.
  3. This was an election about attitudes and respect. This is the point that liberals are getting especially hung up about. If the election was about respect, how could the least respectful candidate since George Wallace win? It’s because they ignore the first half of that statement: attitudes. For a generation, the great swath of middle America has endured an attitude from the genteel class that says their values and lifestyle are worthless. This was the year when they finally told the genteel class to go to hell.

In short, for 30 years the vast middle of America was told by cultured elite that they need to respect everyone, but no one need respect them. They were called “bitter clingers” and “deplorable” and “trailer park trash.” Their values, which also happen to be the ageless values of hard work, loyalty, family, church and patriotism, were derided as passe.

Now, as I’ve said, I’ve found very few who lean left who seem able to grasp this simple concept. It might be the heavy indoctrination that turns one into a liberal precludes them from recognizing that heaping scorn on half of the country is not going to endear you to the masses. Instead, I see comments like these:

A significant reason Hillary lost this election was because men (mostly white) came out in unprecedented numbers to remind us – violently & vehemently – that a woman is not welcome at the table.

 

If you voted for Trump, you might not be a racist, but you support one

 

The only difference between a Trump voter and a Nasi (sic) is the Nazi has a brain

 

I’m not saying Trump’s people are idiots, but they can’t spell cat if you spot them the C and A.

And those are the mild ones. The left is intent on casting Trump’s voters as racists, woman haters, gay haters, idiots – in other words, as “deplorable.” When I’ve mentioned that no, most of Trump’s voters are telling you eggheads they’re tired of having their values trashed and lives stepped on, I get replies amounting to, “Who cares? They voted for Trump.”

If I were purely partisan, I wouldn’t much care. As long as the left maintains this tone deafness about America, their electoral chances remain concentrated in the cities. They will never regain any strength in the Congress, and they will continue to lose elections at the local and national level. One of the most shocking results of this election is that Democrats only won 57 counties this year. 57 out of nearly 3200. Now THAT’s deplorable!

But I am not a pure partisan. I am an American, and while we on the right understand the left’s POV (we haven’t been given a choice, really – it’s crammed down our throats), if the left doesn’t understand ours, the country will remain hopelessly divided. Regardless of which side of the political divide you find yourself, I think we all agree that would be a horrible, no good, very bad result.

 


2016 Proves the Electoral College Works


Clinton supporters are claiming that since Hllary won the popular vote, it proves the Electoral College is a dysfunctional anachronism that impedes modern democracy. They don’t seem to understand, or care, that statements like those only prove the reasons for the Electoral College in the 1780’s remain with us today.

First and foremost, the Founding Fathers had deep, abiding distrust of unfettered democracy. James Madison wrote in Federalist 10

A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

This understanding that direct democracy is an unwieldy form of government, certain to end in direct violence of neighbor versus neighbor, is what drove the Founders to establish the United States as a representative republic. They strove, at every level of the federal government they were creating, to isolate the democratic forum to the smallest, most localized unit possible. Indeed, one of the striking aspects of American governance is the interplay between the states and the federal government they devised.

A large part of the reason for establishing that interplay between state and federal government was the Founder’s understanding that, even in the earliest days of the nation, there were stark differences between the various states and regions, and competing interests between heavily populated areas and sparsely populated ones. In establishing a federal government that was an equal partner of the states as regards most matters, they allowed local control over local issues, while allowing for an overarching national policy that might be in direct contravention to what a state preferred. Factionalism, which they understood was an unremarkable and inevitable feature of human society, could thus be controlled. No single faction could become so omnipresent as to impose its will on the rest of the nation.

This theory of government extends through to the idea of the Electoral College. Most of us are familiar with the idea of the Electoral College as stated by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 68:

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

But very few of us have given much thought to this part of the same essay:

The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.

Here we see expressed the idea, once again, of deference to state preference, even when contemplating a federal election. Yes, the election of a President would occur in all the states simultaneously, but it was not a singular electoral event. Rather, it was to be the continuation of state elections. To ensure that each state was not pressured by outside influences, each states electors are to meet in that state and vote. They are not to travel to the seat of national government. The method of their meeting and deliberation is left to the states to decide.

So how does the 2016 general election demonstrate that these ideas are still needed today? Consider this: Mrs. Clinton will assuredly wind up with more raw votes, if tabulated nationally, than Mr. Trump. But, that is due to her extreme support on the Pacific Coast. Her share of the popular vote in California, Oregon and Washington is around 65%. Of the roughly 61 million votes she received, nearly 9.5 million of them came from those three states versus only 4.3 million for Mr. Trump. To look at in reverse, in every other region of the nation, Mr. Trump outpolled Mrs Clinton by some 5 million votes and had the far higher share of the total, with nearly 53% of the votes cast.

If we were to do as Mrs. Clinton’s supporters ask, and amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College, we would be saying that only 3 of our states were electing the President. The other 47, despite a preference for the opposing candidate, would be shunned.

But the hidden beauty of the Electoral College is in ensuring that every state and every region receives import upon the selection of the President in proportion to its size and influence in the federal government. So yes, Mrs. Clinton is assured the 74 electoral votes from those states. All she needed was another 196 (or 38% of the remaining) electoral votes to win the Presidency. But Mr. Trump, by virtue of his running a broader campaign that appealed to more voters across a wider swath of the nation, gained more electors in the other states. He outpolled Mrs. Clinton in the deep south, the midwest, the plains states, the mountain west and battled her to a near draw in the northeast.

I understand its a bitter pill for her supporters to admit that Mrs. Clinton’s message did not have the type of broad appeal that resonated across the nation. But one again, the Electoral College is ensuring the candidate with the broadest support will assume the Presidency on January 20.


What Goes Around…


I’m a person with a slightly bent sense of humor. I realize it, most of my friends have learned to live with it, my wife tolerates it and my kids (fortunately) didn’t inherit it. I find Monty Python hilarious, roar with laughter throughout The Rocky Horror Picture Show, still guffaw at Peter Seller’s portrayal of Inspector Clouseau, and laugh for hours with The Three Stooges. I love watching Wile E. Coyote fall off cliffs, Bugs Bunny put one over on Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam always puts a smile on my face.

I mention this, because despite the arduous training in the sublimely ridiculous that the many hours of such entertainment brought about, I’ve never seen anything as nonsensical as the current state of the American left wing. Setting your cities on fire because your candidate lost is like a lost scene from Dr StrangeloveIndeed, the only person on the left I’ve come across in the last 4 days with any sense of why we have President-elect Trump is this guy here:

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But even he only half understands it. Yes, Hillary Rodham Clinton was probably the worst possible candidate the Democrats could have stood for President. As awful a candidate as Trump was, Hillary proved to be even more awful. Approximately 6.3 million fewer votes were cast this election versus 2012. The Democrat nominee garnered only 91% of the votes President Obama did just four years ago. So, while Trump was holding on to 98% of the Republican vote won by Mitt Romney, Hillary couldn’t generate anywhere near the enthusiasm from Democrats. And why would they be? Hillary is easily the most corrupt, least trustworthy and most befouled politician of the last quarter-century. And Democrats voted their displeasure, with 5.4 million fewer of them voting for her.

Ok, so Hillary is obnoxious, condescending and reeks of corruption. How is it that her opponent, a man so vile and disgusting that his sanity has been questioned, could hold on to such a large percentage of the vote from 4 years ago? That story begins with TARP and ends with the “basket of deplorables.” In the 8 years in between those events, the non-urban American has been vilified, denigrated, insulted and belittled. We were told  we’re “bitter clingers” for believing in the God of Abraham and Isaac, and owning firearms. We were told we’re homophobes for not wanting our pastors to be forced into performing gay marriages, our bakers forced into baking cakes for gay weddings or our florists and caterers forced into serving those events. We were told we’re misogynists for not wanting nuns to be forced to pay for abortions. We’re denounced as racists for not supporting #BlackLivesMatter, when all we see in that “movement” is a bunch of ill-informed youth intent on hate and destruction. We’ve been told we have to believe in global warming – except when that theory blew up in the face of evidence, we were told that it was just another way of saying “man-made climate change.”

We’ve been told we have no rights, except the ones our benevolent government decides we have, that we’re too stupid to read the words in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. In the meantime, we’re also told those very documents that founded our nation are now irrelevant because they’re old and don’t reflect modern times. At the same time, we’re ordered to buy a government approved product from a government market because somehow, that’s not an abrogation of our rights as a free people? Maybe the left is trying to be funny or something, because usually if something works you don’t try like hell to break it.

We’ve been virtually ordered to send our kids to college, even though the local electrician’s union is hiring apprentices at $25/hour and my kid happens to enjoy working with his hands, so they can be brainwashed into spouting the same nonsense. And how do we know this is vitally important? Well, it must be. After all, we’re also told our sons become rapists and our daughters will be gang raped the moment they step onto campus at Whatsamatta U. If the only hope our kids have of a future is to willingly live and study in that cesspool, then it must be awfully important, right?

(Ah, yes. Whatsamatta U, where if you’re lucky your child will graduate with a degree in French History, $100,000 of debt and no prospects for a job, other than working as a part-time barista at the local coffee bar.)

But nobody dare say anything about how nonsensical all of that is, because then you’re violating some precious snowflake’s safe space. Unless that safe space is the bathroom, where we’re told the plumbing God gave you doesn’t count and so we have to let grown men use the same facilities as our mothers, wives and daughters. It makes sense, really – how else can we ensure the rape culture has a steady supply of victims? Besides, we’ve been told, that’s progress!

Oh, and because of man-made climate change, all you people who made a living mining coal or pumping oil from the ground, or building pipelines or driving trucks to move it around; yeah, well, here’s one final, mighty FUCK YOU, SORRY NOT, your jobs have to go. Grab a mop, sonny boy – the local Chuck E. Cheese needs someone to clean up behind the kiddies.

So after 8 long years of hearing this nonsense, of course people voted for Trump. When you’ve already been painted as a racist misogynist homophobe, a dolt incapable of anything other than collecting welfare and shooting heroin, you’re not going to worry too much about voting for a guy who actually is a racist misogynist – after all, it’s not like you have anything left to lose. Yes, Donald Trump can’t figure out which policies he supports and doesn’t support. In the end, that doesn’t matter. We’ve grown accustomed to politicians making extravagant promises they never intend to keep and position papers that would take an hour to read, and could be summarized as “I have no frigging idea what I’m talking about.” No, what mattered isn’t that Trump is a lout or that he doesn’t even seem to care about policy.

What mattered was that at the end of the day, after being insulted for 8 years, there was finally a candidate willing to insult the Powers That Be back. To give as well as he got, to take it from the gutter to the sewer if need be. Every “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” and “Crooked Hillary” was music to the ears of the disenfranchised. Every 3am tweet calling someone a lying SOB, every pronouncement at a campaign rally against his enemies only showed he was willing to fight. So what if he’s a New York billionaire? The other billionaires never liked him – and they never liked him because he never stopped being the brash kid from Queens.

So, go ahead and burn down your cities. Enjoy the bonfires in Portland, the smashed windows in LA, the blocked roads in New York. Throw your hissy fits and keep complaining about “whitelash” or whatever idiotic, progressive bullshit name you want to give it. It’s nothing more than the vast middle of America saying, “Enough, already!”.

And if you’re willing to leave your safe space and actually engage in something other than name calling, I’m the guy over here sipping a cold one and laughing at your idiocy. Hell, I might even slip on a Make America Great Again cap so I’m easier to find.


Support the Orange President


donald-trump-trademarked-a-ronald-reagan-slogan-and-would-like-to-stop-other-republicans-from-using-itAs I’m writing this, Hillary Clinton needs a miracle of biblical proportions to prevent Donald from winning the Presidency. Odds are, I’ll win the Powerball lottery before she does.

I’ve made no secret that I do not think Mr. Trump will prove to be a good President. I’ve been #NeverTrump since he announced his candidacy because I’ve felt a  government led by him will be a disaster. As person dedicated to small government, Trump’s big government tendencies are an affront to my sensibilities. So are his attitudes on race, gender and immigration. And his love of authoritarianism and total ignorance of our Constitution remain deeply troubling, and dangerous, flaws. All of this led me to vote today for Evan McMullin.

Regardless, the man has won the Presidency. It was a herculean effort that required defeating the best political machine ever created. Now, it is my duty to support this man as President.

Support does not mean blind obedience. Support does mean pointing out those occasions when his conduct is unbecoming of his office. Support also means going to loggerheads when I believe he is advocating policies that will harm our nation. In short, support does not require anyone vacillate on their principles. Rather, it means defending those principles to the fullest while allowing Mr. Trump to govern in his way.

Indeed, it is by being supportive that we can mitigate any damage President Trump causes best. Given his history, this is likely to happen often. We must be prepared.

And it is our duty, as United States citizens to so. But for now, I’m off to bed.


Political Baseballs Endorses…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Today Is Why You Should Never Vote Early


early-votingQuick question: are you one of the 15 million or so people who cast their vote for President already? You know, two weeks or more BEFORE election day?

If you are, how foolish did you feel when you woke up this morning?

I’m asking because I’ve never understood what motivates people to vote weeks before Election Day. In fact, I’ve never really understood the needless, mindless drive among our public officials to keep “expanding” early voting. Other than the most die-hard partisan, who’s going to vote for straight party ticket, you have absolutely no business saying you’ve heard all you need to hear and learned all you need to learn a month or so before your vote is actually counted. And you k now what? If you’re that die-hard of a partisan, you shouldn’t be voting. Yes, I said it: if you’re so partisan that issues, candidates and positions don’t matter, YOU SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO VOTE. You’re the biggest reason the country is in the mess it’s in. But more on that later.

If there’s one thing recent history has shown us, it’s utter foolishness to pretend nothing new happens at this stage. Four years ago, two major events impacted the race over the last two weeks. First came the tape of Mitt Romney decrying the “47 percent.” A few days after that came Superstorm Sandy and “The Hug.” Romney and Obama went from a flat-footed tie to the President winning reelection by a better than 5% margin in the popular vote. Now this year we have the sudden reemergence of “Email Gate,” but with the added twist of “Weiner Gate” for good measure. Overnight, the WaPo/ABC tracking poll shed 10 points off Clinton’s supposedly insurmountable lead. I mean literally, overnight.

So, now there are 15+ million ballots cast, without those voters knowing as much as they know now. How many of them want to change their votes? How many of them are slapping their foreheads and wishing they had waited a couple of weeks to mark their ballots?

Look, I understand showing up at the polls on election day is kind of a bother. Hardly anyone gets the day off. The lines can be long. The poll workers are usually clueless (just for fun, ask one how to vote for Evan McMullin and watch their expression go to sheer terror). When they have coffee, it’s as cold and dreary as the weather. In short, most of the time, voting on election day isn’t fun, easy or simple. But being in charge of something as important as the greatest nation to ever grace this humble planet isn’t ever easy or simple, and it’s rarely fun.

Voting is supposed to be serious business. It isn’t about fun, about wearing your colorful campaign buttons and outrageous hats and showing up to the polls in a big, happy group singing songs about your favored candidate. If you want to do those things, more power to you (personally, I’m a big fan of buttons). But you’re supposed to have studied the issues, contemplated the candidates, done a bit of introspection and decided which person running for which office best matches your personal views on the issues that are most important to you. After all, you are not deciding who would make the best pasta on the next episode of “Master Chef.” You are helping to decide the people who will be taking care of this republic of ours.

I get that everyone has the right to vote. Everyone also has the right to bear arms (regardless of what some of the more liberal among us think), but that doesn’t mean everyone should bear arms. If you can’t handle being a responsible weapons owner, you shouldn’t exercise that right until you figure it out. Voting is like that, only with 100 times more responsibility. After all, being an irresponsible gun owner might get a few people killed. Being an irresponsible voter might get the entire country killed.

We seem to innately understand the dangers of irresponsible gun ownership, by placing restrictions on who can and can’t own weapons. The wisdom that went into those regulations is a another topic for another day. But heaven forbid we discuss putting reasonable regulations (a familiar phrase, eh?) in place to limit the damage from irresponsible voting. You’ll be decried as an undemocratic racist out to deny people their rights! No, instead as a society we’re hell-bent on encouraging ever more irresponsible voters to cast their uninformed ballots, as early and easily as possible.

Of course, then everyone complains about how terrible government is and horrible the people are entrusted with governance. It seems nobody is happy that we get a Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the major party presidential nominees. Everyone complains about the clueless boobs that make up the majority of our congressmen and senators. Yet, still we insist that everyone, regardless of how uninformed and unserious they may be, get out and vote. And nobody draws the correlation between the boobs voting and the boobs being elected. Instead, we just keep making it easier and easier for the boobs to get out and vote for the boobs who wind up in office.

Sorry for ranting a bit, but I just find the whole situation ludicrous. Talk about beating our heads on a brick wall and expecting a different outcome! Except we’ve been at for 60 years now, and have run face first into that wall so often we’ve blinded ourselves to the sheer lunacy of it.

 

 


Reality Check


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This was the BEST the GOP could do?

Good Morning! In just 16 short days, our long national nightmare, almost two years in the making, will be over.

And when we wake up on November 9, Hillary Clinton will be the President-Elect of the United States of America.

I don’t say this with any glee, but more a sense of resignation. While many will blame Donald Trump or the GOP establishment for an outcome that seemed impossible 24 months ago, they worked hand in glove to bring it about. The political bosses, in a series of unnerving and politically driven moves, made three crucial decisions that paved the way for Trump to sap the energy out of the conservative wing.

First, they insisted on open primaries – a system that allowed anyone, regardless of primary affiliation, to decide the Republican nominee. It’s akin to the membership of the American Legion allowing Code Pink to select their chairman. It’s Ford letting GM pick their board. It’s insanity, is what it turned out to be. Yes, almost 32 million people voted in this year’s Republican primaries – but less than 69% of them were registered as Republicans prior to this year. Nearly 1/3 of the “Republican” electorate wasn’t Republican.

Second, they let anyone and everyone run for the GOP nomination. As a result, what should have been the strongest field of conservative candidates in a generation became diluted to the point of irrelevancy. Centrist champions? There was Bush, and Kasich, and Fiorina, and… you get the point. The same for conservatives, for the religious right, for the libertarian wing, for the neocons, and on and on and on. When the starting gun sounded, there were 22 people announced as running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. The RNC, for reasons known only to Reince Priebus, treated them all as if they were equal of stature, of seriousness and ability to win. Overconfident? Drunk? Who knows? But when you insist that Rick Santorum be given as much gravitas as Jeb Bush, what you get is Donald Trump. Because it became nothing more than a popularity contest, and not a contest of ideas, this primary season naturally wound up favoring the reality TV star who’s spent 40 years crafting a popular image.

Third are the convoluted rules about delegate apportionment. The front-loading of “winner take all” state primaries meant that despite no candidate gaining 50% of the vote in any of the first 15 primaries, Trump had an overwhelming delegate lead. He eventually won the nomination with support of only 38% of the vote. If you really want to get into the weeds on this point, Donald J. Trump won the Republican nomination with only around 8.5 million Republican votes – the rest of his margin came from those non-Republicans the RNC allowed to vote in their primaries. When you wrap your head around that fact, you realize that he’s actually done a pretty good job of parlaying today’s polarized partisans into his roughly 2/3 support among Republican voters in the general electorate.

And so here we are, 16 days from President-Elect Clinton and the Republican Party has nobody to blame but themselves. It isn’t that Hillary Clinton became a better candidate as this election season wore on. If anything, the questions regarding her use of a private email setup for official business, the general shadiness of the Clinton Foundation and still unanswered questions about her role in the Benghazi disaster should have sunk her campaign. But the RNC threw in with the only politician in America more disliked and distrusted than Mrs. Clinton. Those of us who have been #NeverTrump since the beginning warned the rest of the party that Trump would be easy pickings for the Clinton political machine. That we’ve been proven correct doesn’t do us any good, unless the party recognizes the mistakes it’s made and works to rectify them.

At this point, that Donald J. Trump is going to lose, and lose badly, is not in question. (Well, not in question, except among his most vitriolic supporters, the ones who have forgone reason in the quixotic quest to “blow it up”). The only question is how badly the worst GOP nominee in  over 100 years is going to harm the Republican brand. The Presidency is gone. The Senate is most likely gone, as well. Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin are dead people walking. That means the Democrats only need to pick off two more seats to gain control, and they’re likely to grab at least three others (Indiana, Illinois and Colorado), as well as hang on to the retiring Harry Reid’s seat in Nevada. Should Trump continue his freefall, his coattails could well spell doom for the GOP held seats in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida, too.

For all the talk about how Hillary Clinton needs to be stopped, if for no other reason than to prevent her ramming through thoroughly liberal Supreme Court justices, the RNC has shot itself in the foot. It hitched a ride with Trump and is likely to lose the only vehicle available for forcing at least a compromise on that front. And yes, it is a serious threat to the very nature of the Constitution. In the last debate, Mrs. Clinton avowed her preference for justices who will do many, many unconstitutional things from the bench. Side with the people? What? The entire reason the court exists in the form the founders created was so that they could deliver unpopular opinions without fear of recrimination. This is not to say it is a perfect system or that the court hasn’t a history of overstepping its bounds (Dred Scott, anyone?). But I cannot recall a President, at any time, essentially telling the American public that the court should ignore the Constitution when ruling on the Constitutionality of a statute. Also, Mrs. Clinton’s propensity for feint-and-maneuver was on display during her Heller answer. I had to go back and re-read the case just to be certain, but the case never referenced murderous toddlers. It was wholly about whether a jurisdiction (in this case, the District of Columbia) could ban an entire class of firearm (handguns).

Again, a real conservative would have pounced all over that particular gaffe. But the RNC’s Golden Man-Child, who until last year was a proud contributor to Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun crusade, couldn’t even muster one of his trademark “WRONG” outbursts.

This is the reality that Priebus and his ilk have foisted upon the nation. We will have at least four years of a Hillary Clinton presidency. At least the first two of them will include her party controlling the Senate. There is a very real possibility that the Trumpster doesn’t go quietly in the night, continues to rail against the Republican party and conservative movement, giving Hillary the latter half of her term with full control of Congress and the Supreme Court.

There’s also another reality that Mrs. Clinton’s party and the national media are already attempting to ignore. In no way, despite the severe drubbing Republicans are facing, should anyone assume this indicates any sort of mandate for leftist policies. Yes, Trump is likely to lose by well over 150 electoral votes. Yes, for the first time in generations, Texas, Georgia, Utah and Arizona are toss-ups. But that is not an acceptance of the socialist dreams co-opted by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Rather, it is a repudiation of all things Trump and Trumpism. The Clinton machine would do well to remember Hillary will begin her tenure with the lowest approval ratings of any President in history. If her goal truly  is to unify the nation, she’ll need to find areas of agreement between the GOP House and Democrat Senate. I have my doubts, as Clintonism is about partisanship first, country second. I fully expect her to attempt to ram through her personal goals of HillaryCare, tax increases and gun control measures in her first 100 days – and a nation more antagonized and polarized than even now.

That’s reality, folks. And you can thank the spineless idiots in the RNC and their equally hopeless candidate for making it so.


The Debate from Hell: Whiners & Losers


 

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Fight!

If you’re a masochist, or just needed a good excuse to drink heavily, you sat through all 90 minutes of last night’s “Presidential Debate.” If you managed that and still retained your sanity, congratulations! You’re better off than either of the two candidates.

Ok, so who won? Who lost? Did anyone have an aneurysm on stage and put us out of our misery?

Winners:

  • Donald Trump – look, somebody had to win this shit storm. I suppose the winner is the guy who threw the most shit. Unfortunately for Donald, he came on stage last needing to do two things. First, he had to stop the hemorrhaging his campaign endured over the weekend. Second, he needed to convince people he’s something more than an angry old man. He may have succeeded on the first – the next couple of days will tell us. But he definitely failed on the second.
  • Breitbart TV – Stephen Bannon & Roger Ailes dream of an alt-right TV network survives! Expect a launch date of January 20, 2017.
  • Liquor distributors – The real slogan of this campaign should be, “Make America Drunk Again”.

Losers:

  • The truth – Look, we know all politicians lie. We’re surprised when one doesn’t fib. But last night might have set a record for lies per second.
  • The audience – Imagine you’re invited to ask the candidates a question. You sit, waiting, and you never get a chance to actually ask it. Or even worse, you do get a chance to ask it – but both candidates and both moderators just ignore it. Yeah, it was like that. It was EXACTLY like that.
  • Mike Pence – after doing his all to save his running mate’s hide and killing any future in politics he had, Trump threw the Indiana governor under the bus. Not only that, he backed up and ran him over again. The poor guy is going to be a punch line in jokes for years to come.
  • Duels – It seems that in the same year the play Hamilton is playing to rave reviews (btw, deservedly so), we could revive the same method the title character and his main political rival used to settle their differences. Could you imagine the TV ratings? Maybe it’ll be the first live event broadcast by Breitbart TV.
  • Children – if you have kids, this entire election is a good reason to ban them from watching television. Last night encapsulated it.
  • Bill Clinton – if you haven’t seen this, it’s all you need to know about Bill’s night…
    bill

Oh, Another Debate? *yawn*


In case you missed it, the two Veep candidates debated last night. I’m going to be perfectly honest here; I doubted either would say anything interesting. So I spent my TV time split between the AL Wild Card game and a Hogan’s Heroes rerun. The game was certainly more exciting and I suspect the old sitcom more believable than anything Messers Pence and Kaine said.

Judging by the overnight reviews, Mr. Pence was the decisive winner. When even hard left outlets (NY Times, Huffington Post) declare the Republican the winner, you know it wasn’t a good performance for Team Clinton. Particularly if forced to cede a victory to Mike Pence, whom liberal publications think of as Ted Cruz with a better smile.

Apparently, Mr.Kaine was a cross between an incoherent Clinton sycophant and a killer clown, while Mr. Pence remained calm and rational. Or, Mr. Kaine did his best Donald Trump impersonation while Mr. Pence reminded the GOP that they could have nominated someone other than an insane troglodyte. Alas, the GOP has hitched their wagons to Team Trump, and the result is a political campaign where the number two choice is better than the standard bearer.

Anyway, these Veep debates never have a major impact on the election. Given that nothing newsworthy came out of this one and neither man melted down, I doubt the 2016 version will, either. I mean, if Dan Quayle getting spanked didn’t effect an election, these really are a waste of time. 

Oh, and how about those crazy Canucks? And here I thought Red Sox fans were unhinged.


Is Trump a Fascist?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I’ve Stopped Feeling the Johnson


I’ve made no secret of my support for Gary Johnson since the GOP convention. He seemed the only sane choice left, and really, the only candidate with a legitimate chance of winning who was even qualified to assume the Presidency.

Hillary Clinton is terribly corrupt, incapable of following the law and eager to toss out the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution.

Donald Trump is terribly corrupt, abuses the law and unaware of the Constitution.

Both  the major party candidates are inveterate liars and lifelong con artists. They are not presidential material.

Gary Johnson is a two-term governor, who worked with a democratic state legislature to actually reduce the burden government placed on his state’s citizens. While I don’t agree with all of his positions, he has consistently held them for two decades. Prior to elective office, he built a major construction company from scratch, a personal exemplification of the American Dream. He is that rarest of breeds, the honest politician. He seemed to be the only candidate running who is qualified to be President.

And then came this morning.

In an appearance on the Morning Joe television program, Johnson showed he’s just as unqualified as the other two. Panelist Mike Barnicle asked him what he would do about Aleppo. Johnson replied by asking, “What is Aleppo?”.

Now, if you asked, “What is Aleppo?”, I could give you a pass. But Gary Johnson is not some schmuck walking the street. He is asking the American people to give him the most powerful office in the world. It is not beyond the pale to expect him to know at least the basics of foreign affairs.

I appreciate the honesty in admitting he didn’t know about one of the world’s major hotspots. But the lack of basic knowledge is disqualifying.

And for those of us trying to find someone we can support this November, it is also disheartening.

 


Trump Wants Blood


On a day when the world should have been talking about Hillary Clinton’s cavorting  with Taliban sympathizers, or discussing the emails that disclose how closely her State Department employees were rushing about doing Clinton Foundation business, Donald Trump managed to deflect attention away from her yet again.

At a campaign rally in North Carolina, he said this:

“Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day.”
I agree with the first part of that statement – Hillary Clinton is not a fan of the Second Amendment. She will undoubtedly use every corrupt, dastardly trick in the book to get around it. She will also do the same to the First Amendment and the Ninth. Her views are in the mainstream of the Democratic party, and the debate over them is a political debate. But by calling for an out-and-out violent solution to end the debate, Trump has relegated what should be a spirited debate about the role of government and the meaning of the Constitution to nothing more than a grade school playground fight.
What’s that? You don’t think Trump is calling for a violent end to the debate? That he isn’t, at the very least, asking someone to shoot a Presidential candidate because of their political views? Or even worse, advocating an armed uprising to overthrow the government?
You’re of the same mind as other Trump apologists, who are trying to slough this off as just another geritol moment. Ready to take the Paul Ryan approach and call it a bad joke. Ready to take the Katrina Pierson route and say Trump was only saying assassination could be, but shouldn’t be, the answer.
None of that makes any more sense than Trump belated explanation, that he was urging people to band together to defend the Second Amendment at the ballot box. Why? Because his very words tell the lie to that.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do”: only way she gets to pick judges is if she’s elected.
“Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is”: You’ll have to take it upon yourselves to prevent the President from picking judges.
And the coup de grace – “That will be a horrible day”. Yes, a Presidential assassination is always a horrible day.
Make no mistake about his intentions with that statement. This is the same guy who last week was saying that “it will be a bloodbath. The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in.”
So, to summarize, he wants his supporters to turn the nation into a bloodbath, including assassinating the President-elect, should he lose. That isn’t just frightening, it’s criminal. It is not the mindset of a man ready to defend the Constitution of the United States. It isn’t the mindset of a man ready to defend the people of the United States. But it is the mindset of a would-be dictator.

Evil is Still… Evil


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Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson. The only non-evil candidate.

There are people supporting Donald Trump’s candidacy who honestly and fervently believe he is the savior the country needs. It’s seemingly a small slice of the country, somewhere between 15-20% of the country. Polling has consistently shown this for about six months now. This post is not directed at those people.

I’m speaking to the roughly 60% of the country who feel that Hillary Clinton is such a terrible, awful, horrendous candidate that she should never see the inside of the White House again. I feel the same. Her legacy of corruption, belief that the only wrong with government is that it’s not big enough and terrible judgement when given authority, should be enough to disqualify her from public office. But what really scares ordinary Americans about the potential of an HRC presidency is the blatant disregard for Constitutional principles and the way people around her keep dying. Envisioning her as the modern Nero, adding to her bank accounts while the country burns, isn’t a stretch.

Of those who think this way, about half of you are prepared to vote for a candidate who is equally unfit for office. A man who openly advocates violence against his detractors, who uses bigotry and classism as cover for his own corruption. The same man who has abandoned friends for political expediency while embracing those who mean the country harm.

The excuse, and that’s all it is, to those who think this way is that you’re voting for the lesser of two evils. That is not only illogical, it’s repugnant. It’s akin to voting for Baal instead of Satan, because while Baal might destroy the world, you know Satan will.

People, evil is still evil. If you’re voting for candidate A instead of candidate B because one is a murderer while the other is only a rapist, then you are still voting for a person of low moral character who has a disregard for society. You are voting for evil and condemning the country to ruin.

There is a better way, a candidate C. Perhaps you don’t agree with all of his positions. Maybe you find some of the things he advocates to be an affront to your sensibilities. But his character is not impugned, nor his patriotism. He isn’t holding rallies to talk about using violence in furtherance of political goals, and he doesn’t have a team of lifetime sycophants trying to cover up the daily revelations of corruption.

Candidate C is Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. By voting for him, you won’t feel like you need to take a decontamination bath 24/7 for the next 4 years. Take a closer look, #NeverHillary voters. I think you’ll like what you see.


In 2018, the Yankees Will Win the World Series


So, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have pretty much been given their walking papers and the youth movement has begun. Here are some names to remember, if you’re one of those fans who never paid much attention to the minor league system. These players will probably be in Pinstripes in 2017 (and maybe before this season is over):

Aaron Judge: an outfielder whose power has been compared to Giancarlo Stanton. Remember those moon shots Stanton hit during the Home Run Derby? Check out this Judge blast –

Clint Frazier: another outfielder, he was the lynchpin of the Andrew Miller trade. He’s been compared to Mike Trout in terms of raw ability. Except with more power.

Gary Sanchez: Not only the catcher of the future, but it looks like he’s the catcher of the present. Since his call-up on August 3, he’s hitting .333 with an .813 OPS.

Tyler Austin: The slugging outfielder/first baseman was nearly derailed by injuries in 2014 & 2015, but has recovered in a big way this year, with a .321 average, 17 homers and 76 RBI.

Greg Bird: The first baseman with a sweet left handed swing hurt his should this spring and has spent the year rehabbing. But as an emergency replacement for Teixeira towards the end of last year, the then 22 year old hit .261/11/31 in 46 games.

Bryan Mitchell: The right handed pitcher with the overpowering fastball had made the big club in Spring Training, before a freak broken big toe cost him his season. Still, look for him and Luis Severino to provide major innings in the starting rotation in 2017.

Luis Cessa/Chad Green: the young righties have made a few appearances for the Yankees as part of the “Scranton Shuttle” this season. The return for last year’s Justin Wilson trade, the former Mets and Tiger’s farmhands are both probable swingmen, joining Adam Warren in giving Joe Girardi plenty of options (and potential innings) out of the Yankee middle relief corps.

And in 2018, these kids will probably be ready to see big-league action:

Dustin Fowler: A speedster in the Brett Gardner mold, the outfielder has hit .287 with 8 homers and 20 steals at AA this year.

Billy McKinney: Yet another speedy outfielder, the left handed McKinney was part of the Aroldis Chapman trade.

Ian Clarkin: the former first round pick has recovered from a lost 2015 and become an even better pitcher. The young lefty, once compared to Ron Guidry, now has 3 off speed pitches to compliment his 97mph fastball.

Justus Sheffield: The left hander is another of the players who came back in the Andrew Miller deal.

Ben Heller: the righty reliever with a 99mph fastball was another player in the Miller trade. He has a shot to see action out of the Yankee bullpen next year, if he gets better command of the strike zone. Even so, in his first AAA action this year, he’s posted a 1.60 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP in 28 innings.

Kyle Higashioka: the catcher slugged his way from AA into a AAA promotion, and hasn’t stopped hitting yet. In 17 games at Scranton, the late-blooming Higashioka has hit .359 with 6 homers.

There’s even more talent waiting in the low minors. Kids like Jorge Mateo, Gleyber Torres, Blake Rutherford, James Kaprellian, Miguel Andujar and Kyle Holder are all considered among the 100 best minor league prospects. (Indeed, the Yankees almost have an embarrassment of riches at shortstop and catcher).

And don’t forget, the Yankees are reducing their payroll by almost $70 million by Opening Day in 2018- and that’s before current veterans (see: Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Chase Headley) find themselves on the trade block. You know who hits free agency in 2018? Manny Machado. Bryce Harper. Josh Donaldson. Matt Harvey. Clayton Kershaw. Jose Fernandez. AJ Pollock. Andrew Miller.

To think the Yankees won’t open the checkbook and grab a few of those perennial all-stars and fill in the blanks before Opening Day 2018 is ludicrous. Combine, say, Machado, Harper and Harvey with the upcoming crop of Baby Bombers and that’s why I’m predicting it now:

The New York Yankees will win the World Series in 2018.

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Not only that, it’s going to be the start of another dynasty.


The Conventions Are Over. Let the Race Begin.


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Both major parties have now concluded their national conventions. Traditionally, this is when most Americans actually begin paying attention to politics. This marks the point when what may have been a cursory delving into the upcoming election gels into a closer examination of the candidates, their positions and their histories among the general population. Everything up to this point has been debated, argued and bandied about by only the most politically active people in the country.

As a data point, consider this. In the primary elections, approximately 57.6 million people voted. That was less than 29% of eligible voters. If turnout rates simply match those of 2012, when 58% of eligible voters cast a ballot, that would mean another 57.6 million people voting. If turnout is closer to the 63% from 2008, it would mean an additional 67.5 million voters. And if turnout is the same as the last time primary participation reached as high as this year, in 1960? In 1960, 31% of eligible voters cast a primary ballot* and 67% one in the general election. An equivalent turnout this year would mean an additional 75.4 million votes cast in November.

What all of those numbers mean is this: at best, only half of the people who are going to vote this November have actually paid enough attention to this point to have participated in the electoral process. Each candidate has been able to play their base, solidify their standing  and not worry too much about attracting the votes of the rest of the country. But with the close of the conventions, that changes.

What we do have is a clearer idea of what each party intends as it’s core message for the fall campaign. For the Republicans, the message is the country is hopelessly fouled up, and only Donald Trump can save us from ourselves. The Democrats message is that things aren’t really that bad and we need the experienced hand of Hillary Clinton at the nation’s tiller.

But this year also features an electoral monkey wrench unheard of in prior contests. Both nominees are almost universally disliked, distrusted and flat-out repulsive to most of the electorate. How that plays out, in terms of messaging and voter turnout this fall, remains to be seen. It also presents third party candidates an opening unseen since Teddy Roosevelt ran as a Bull Moose over a century ago. Indeed, it is completely possible that a third party candidate could garner Electoral College votes for the first time since 1912.

The only thing certain about this year’s election is that these factors will create a race unique to our time. Prior models will almost certainly prove worthless to pundits and political scientists alike. The only relatively sure thing about this year is, it will be fascinating to watch and take part in the process.

 

*Note: The primary system was much different in 1960, as there were only 14 Democratic and 13 Republican primary contests held.