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Political Baseballs Endorses


In case you were not aware, Tuesday is Election Day. These are midterm elections, which while the mass media may ignore, are actually about local politics. So, these endorsements are (unsurprisingly) for our locale, which is Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District, and State District 140. If you’re tuning in from elsewhere, geographically it is described as Lower Bucks County, an area roughly 20 – 30 miles north of Philadelphia along the Delaware River.

For US House of Representatives:

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Brian Fitzpatrick

I am 100% behind the candidacy of current Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and have been all along. Even if I disagreed with his major policy positions (which I do not), he still would have my vote and endorsement based strictly on constituent services. When I first moved to this district, a little under two years ago, I received my medical care via the VA system in New Jersey. For nearly a year, I tried to get my care transferred to the Philadelphia system, without success. But within a week after calling Congressman Fitzpatrick’s office, not only was my care transferred but I was actually seeing my new doctors. I do not know who he called, what strings he pulled or how he cut through that much red tap that quickly, but he did.

On policy, Brian is not quite a doctrinaire conservative, but he does support less regulation, lower taxes, strong border enforcement, and military readiness. A veteran himself, he is also a former FBI interrogator who returned to Iraq to question members of Al-Queda and ISIS, despite threats against both himself and his family. My only quibble with his record is his support of public sector unions, but I guess we can’t all be perfect.

His opponent is Scott Wallace, scion of the Communist Party USA’s First Family. In keeping with his family tradition, he supports cop killers like Mumia Abu-Jamal, personally funded the lawyers for a bunch of terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, bankrolls an organization out of South Africa (where he lived for over 20 years) dedicated to the elimination of nation states and fully supports repealing the 2nd Amendment, along with confiscation of private weapons. That he even has the backing of the local Democrats is evidence of how far off the rails one of our traditional parties has gone.

This one wasn’t even close.

For Governor:

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Tom Wolf

I guess proving my non-partisan bona fides, I am supporting Gov. Tom Wolf for a second term as Pennsylvania’s governor. It isn’t so much as that I support his preferred policy prescriptions. After all, like most Democrats, he firmly believes in Big Government. However, he also proved to be a pragmatist during his first term, actually working with the Republican State House to get effective solutions passed, keep the state from crippling debt and while taxes have indeed gone up, the rate has been less than inflation.

His principal opponent is Republican Scott Wagner. Wagner, despite a half-decade as a state legislator, seems to be clueless as to how government functions. Further, while he campaigns in sound bites, he demonstrably lacks any grasp of the actual issues he’s made central to his campaign. For example, he has pledged to eliminate tying school taxes, at either the local or state level, to property taxes. It sounds great, but he has not offered an alternative education funding plan. In 2018, the state’s share of education spending was slightly more than $6 billion. Local contributions statewide were more than double that. While forcing the PSEA to reevaluate their pension plan is a good idea, I doubt you can find more than $18 billion a year from pension savings.

For US Senator:

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Dale Kerns

I am not endorsing either major candidate, incumbent Democrat Bob Casey or Republican Lou Barletta, for this office. I expect that a US Senator will take the office seriously, as individual Senators have the ability to wield tremendous influence over the federal government. Neither man seems to grasp the gravity of the office they seek – they are both the type of unserious person seeking an official capacity I wrote about a few weeks ago.

I met Senator Casey a few months ago at a veteran’s event. He came across as one of those men whose charm is only exceeded by his vacuity. He is badly miscast as a US Senator. It is possible he had an original thought once, but I wouldn’t count on it. His voting record supports this view: whatever position his party’s Senate leader supported is the way he has voted 99% of the time.

Mr. Barletta is currently serving as the 11th District Representative in Congress. He has done nothing to distinguish himself in that position. If this were the man who seemed principled 5 years ago, when he led a minor revolt against the budget proposal over the riders attached, I probably would have endorsed him. But he was chastised and punished by the House leadership over that stance, and he seems to have learned his lesson. Since then, Barletta’s is one vote the GOP whip has never had to worry about.

This year, although he has about as much chance of winning as I do, I am endorsing the Libertarian candidate, Dale Kerns. His platform is pretty much what you would expect from a Libertarian, with the exception of his stance on abortion, which would probably be better described as a Federalist position. If you haven’t had a chance to review his platform yet, I urge you to do so and then pull the lever for him.

For State Senate:

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Marguerite Quinn

I endorse Republican Marguerite Quinn for the office of State Senator from District 10.

In this race, both candidates have a substantial record to evaluate. Mrs. Quinn is in her 6th term representing District 143 in the State House. Her opponent, Democrat Steve Santarsiero, served 4 terms representing District 31 prior to losing his re-election bid in 2016. Comparing their records, what you find is that Mrs. Quinn, despite also running a successful real estate brokerage, has managed to write over 3,000 bills during her tenure. She has focused on reining in government interference in how parents raise their children, welfare reform (including attempting to exclude illegal aliens from eligibility) and smart environmental reforms (for instance, requiring advance notice of proposed LNG pipeline work to neighborhoods). It is an impressive record of achievement, and while not quite as conservative on some policy matters as I might like, she hews close enough (a 90% rating from the NFIB and 74% from the ACU) that I feel comfortable voting for her.

Mr. Santarsiero, during his 8 years in office, wrote about 400 bills, of which only 2  passed. They were both resolutions honoring recently deceased former judges in his district. That hardly qualifies as an effective legislator, and I cannot see how anyone should be rewarded for that level of incompetence. Also, his policy prescriptions often read like something from the Bernie Sanders’ wing of his party. The ACU has given him a score of less than 10%, rating him as “far left.” Conversely, the Democrat Socialists gave him their endorsement.

Again, one of those races that wasn’t hard to decide.

For Pennsylvania State Representative:

Democrat John Galloway is running unopposed for this office. I should have thrown my hat into the ring. 😉

 

 

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Birthright Citizenship Redux


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Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment

This morning, news broke that President Trump intends to end “birthright citizenship” for illegal aliens by executive order. It is certainly a bold stroke, and undeniably a blatant political move coming right before the midterm elections next week. But before everyone gets themselves into a lather over the announcement, we need to stop and realize that this is a dance in multiple parts. Specifically, there are questions it raises and we don’t even have the text of the proposed order to begin working with yet. However, we can break the announcement into three distinct parts, just based on the interview the President gave to Axios. The first is, does the President have the authority to make this change to citizenship requirements? Secondly, if the President does have the authority, would such a change to citizenship standards pass Constitutional review? Finally, assuming questions 1 and 2 can be affirmed, how would such a change be implemented?

As to the first question, it is extremely doubtful the President can unilaterally change citizenship standards. There are steps he could include in a concurrent executive order that would have the same effect as changing citizenship standards without actually touching on any of the relevant Constitutional issues a Presidential end run would create (I’ll touch on those when I discuss the third question).

The reason I doubt a President can ignore the wishes of Congress when setting citizenship standards is found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution:

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

I have little doubt the President will attempt some weird workaround. The most likely method will be by declaring that since Congress has failed to act on the question of citizenship in any meaningful way since the passage of  the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952 (or as it is commonly referred to, the McCarron-Walter Act, 8 USC Chapter 12), nor has it even attempted to amend the law in 17 years, then he can by means of his powers in the Opinion Clause amend the law on his own. This is a serious misreading of the powers enumerated in Article 2, Section 2, and I cannot see any possible way any court in the country would let this stand.

So, what is to be gained by a move any pre-law student can see is futile? Well, this was one of the President’s campaign planks. What’s more, while I am certain the media will hyperventilate while mentioning “the President’s base” when talking about this, what they won’t tell you is that ending birthright citizenship for illegal aliens has consistently polled around 65% approval. It is a winning issue for him, and this Kafkaesque method of getting people talking about it again will prove that, even if the “Morning Joe” panel begs to disagree.

So, as to the second question, should Congress move on the President’s request to limit birthright citizenship, would it pass Constitutional muster? This is the biggest question that needs to be answered, and you can bet the legal challenges will be flying should such a bill ever get passed. I posted the relevant portion of the Constitution at the top of this post. This is referred to as the Citizenship Clause, or Section 1, of the 14th Amendment, and on first blush, it reads as simply being born in the United States immediately confers citizenship to you. This is actually the furthest thing from the truth, and the key part is the part that states “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” In other words, the authors of the 14th Amendment understood from the outset that not everyone born on US territory should automatically be granted citizenship.

That’s because their principle concern in authoring the 14th Amendment was redressing some of the more pernicious aspects of readmitting former Confederate states into the Union. Among these were citizenship, the right of representation, due process protections, and debts incurred by the former Confederate states to foreign powers (yes, all those questions are addressed in the 14th Amendment). They understood the amendment would cover the issues in broad brush strokes, but that further tweaks over time would be needed. So they included section 5, which states

The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

In fact, it was by this clause that Congress finally granted citizenship to Native Americans in 1924, under the Snyder Act, as well as to residents of most American territories (Puerto Rico by 8 USC 1402, the US Virgin Islands by 8 USC 1406 and Guam by 8 USC 1407). Those last three acts were passed in the 1950’s. Even though those territories had been part of the United States since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, persons born there were not considered US citizens prior to that. We’ll be revisiting this shortly.

Now back to the Citizenship Clause. The authors understood that not everyone born on US soil should automatically be entitled to US citizenship. The phrase “subject to the jurisdiction of” has been hotly debated in Constitutional circles for better than a century. There are plenty of articles arguing the exact meaning “jurisdiction” as it applies to the 14th Amendment, and you’re certainly welcome to do the research for them. However, they break down into two general categories. The first holds that “jurisdiction” refers to allegiance to the United States, and requires the person does not hold allegiance to a foreign power or be in a state of rebellion against the United States. This is backed by the intent of the Citizenship Clause: it was intended to ensure that prior to re-obtaining their citizenship, the former Confederates had renounced their rebellion. The secondary purpose was to override the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision of 1857, which held that former slaves were not citizens of the United States and therefore not entitled to due process protections (also addressed in the Due Process Clause of the amendment).

The second interpretation is the one most commonly held by the media types, that “jurisdiction” refers to being liable to the laws of the United States. Under this explanation, anyone born on US soil is a citizen, unless recognized as a citizen of a foreign power (for instance, the child of an ambassador), since everyone is subject to US law.

You might think this is already settled law, based on the common narrative. Actually, it is anything but. The question has only partly come before the Supreme Court once, in 1898. In US v Wong Kim Ark, the court held that the children of legal immigrants are entitled to birthright citizenship. The precedent of jus soli (or by soil) was affirmed for this purpose, but the principle of jus sanguinis (or by parental right) was not disavowed, either. Further, the idea that sanguinis takes precedence over soli is further affirmed by those acts I mentioned above: the ones that granted citizenship to residents of certain territories. And if you’re ready for your head to explode, there are still two US territories where birthright citizenship is not granted: those born on American Samoa or the Swains Islands are considered US nationals, but not citizens.

What all of this means is there is enough ambiguity to ensure that should Congress act under their Section 5 powers of the 14th Amendment to restrict the establishment of the Citizenship Clause to legally admitted residents, then a Supreme Court case is certain. The outcome isn’t, but given the current court’s alignment, an affirmative decision in the President’s favor is most likely.

Finally, I mentioned that the third question – what can the President do in the meantime – is rather substantial. I’ve already demonstrated the President does not have the authority to rewrite the laws around citizenship on his own. However, he does have the authority to affect how those laws are enforced. There is a multitude of actions he can order that, while not ending birthright citizenship for illegal aliens, would severely curtail their ability to exercise it. This could begin at birth, by requiring the Social Security Administration to have all parents complete a paper form that would include proof of parentage and parental citizenship, with documentation, prior to issuing a social security number to any newborn. It would inconvenience everyone, but you have to imagine the change to the process (it currently takes about ten minutes to get a social security number for a newborn) and document requirements would scare off most illegal parents. He could order that all birth documents be submitted to the National Archives. He could require all parents be fingerprinted and run through the FBI NICS, similar to how we require background checks for purchasing a firearm, prior to a birth certificate being issued.

These are all hypothetical possibilities, of course. But they serve the same purpose. They telegraph in clear terms that the children of illegal aliens are not welcome, and the “anchor baby” concept is effectively over – regardless of what the Supreme Court eventually decides.

 

Fire Up the Hot Stove!


The Boston Red Sox have won the World Series, claiming their 4th championship since 2004. Congratulations to them. But now begins the long winter of baseball’s offseason, and every other team’s jockeying for position to knock them off.

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The Yankees had a good season. Despite a rash of injuries to key players and underperformance from others, they still won 100 games and the wild card. Unfortunately, Boston won 108. So how do you improve what is already a really good team by 9 more wins? That’s the question that Brian Cashman will have to answer over the next 5 months.

It’s no secret where the Yankees need to improve. The principal difference between the top two teams in the AL East (and Houston, who won 103 games in the West) is the starting rotations. Boston and Houston had much better starting pitching than the Yankees all season, and the result showed in the final standings and in the playoffs. What’s more, the Yankees are looking at losing 3 of their starting pitchers to free agency. Boston has 1 and Houston has 2 pitchers set to hit the market.

But the offseason challenges don’t end there. Those 3 pitchers are part of at least 11 players (and possibly 12) who could leave the Bronx for other green pastures. It also doesn’t include the fate of SP Sonny Gray, an ace pitcher who has proven to have Ed Whitson disease. In other words, Cashman & Co. could well be looking at replacing 52% of the roster over the winter, while maintaining relevancy. Now add in injuries to SS Didi Gregorius, an uncertain situation at first base, an overcrowded outfield and perhaps the best free agent class in history, and this has the making of being one of the most entertaining hot stove seasons in a long, long time.

Starting Pitching: Only two starters are guaranteed to return, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. Despite Severino’s well-documented struggles in the second half last season, I believe he will bounce back perfectly fine next year. His issues stem from two sources, I think: first was a hangover effect from the increased workload in 2017 (it isn’t an uncommon occurrence in baseball). The other is that multiple other teams said Sevy has a habit of tipping his pitches. I don’t care what you throw, if the other guy knows what’s coming he can hit it. Tanaka has managed to pitch his entire career with an elbow ligament that threatens to snap apart on every pitch. Will this be the year it finally does? Suffice it to say, the Yankees need at least 5 more quality starting options before breaking camp.

The most intriguing possibility is the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner. The Giants look poised to engage in a total rebuild, and Bumgarner is a quality ace with a proven record of pitching his best when the lights are brightest. If they make him available, the Yankees should go all in on him. Sonny Gray could be the centerpiece of this trade. Even though he demonstrated a severe case of the yips when pitching at Yankee Stadium, he did pitch to a 3.17 ERA and 1.155 WHIP on the road, and his best years came across SF bay in Oakland. Both Bumgarner and Gray are 29 years old, and both remain under team control through 2019. On paper, it’s a good match.

Other trade targets could include Zack Greinke, Tyler Chatwood, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zach Wheeler. As for free agents, everyone expects the Yanks to go hard after Patrick Corbin, an NY kid who had a breakout season in 2018. Also, expect the team to work hard to resign JA Happ, and if that fails, then to turn to beg CC Sabathia to come back. The other top FA options include Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Nathan Eovaldi, and Gio Gonzales. There’s also the possibility Clayton Kershaw opts out of his contract, and Cole Hamels will probably be bought out of his. There is also a bevy of kids in the high minors who can serve as either trade or depth pieces. There will certainly be plenty to choose from, which means none of us should ever be subjected to the “Luis Cessa Experience” again.

Bullpen: The Yankees rode a historic bullpen to those 100 wins last season. The “four closers” (Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zach Britton, and David Robertson) combined for 211 innings, 44 saves, a 1.066 WHIP and 320 strikeouts. Now, Robertson and Britton are both scheduled to hit free agency, and it seems likely that given the dearth of good closers in MLB these days, both will be able to find jobs as the closer for a new team.

Fortunately, quality bullpen arms seem to be the one constant the Yankees farm system churns out. Look for kids like Chance Adams, Tommy Kahnle, Steven Tarpley, JP Feyereisen, Cole Coshow, and  Ben Heller to get a chance to fill in. At the same time, you can expect Chad Green and Jonathan Holder to move up in the pecking order. All in all, this is the one part of the team the Yankee brain trust doesn’t need to think too hard over, nor do they need to worry about allocating lots of money to fix it.

Catching: The Yankees know they’ll be returning the same catchers as in 2018. Gary Sanchez will be the starter, backed up by Austin Romine. The good news is that Romine has rounded out into a quality backup backstop, the kind of guy you can play 85-90 times a year and not get a headache from it.

The bad news is Sanchez was one of the most disappointing players for the Yankees last year. A combination of injuries, bad luck, and attitude contributed to what was easily the young catcher’s worst season. If he can turn it around (and the talent that nearly won him a ROY in a half season is still there), the Yankees have a building block. If not, they have a decision to make. But that looks to be something for next offseason, not this one.

Infield: Perhaps no area of the team will require more attention than the infield. As mentioned, Didi Gregorius injury in the last playoff game will have him sitting until at least September of 2019, leaving a huge hole at shortstop. Miguel Andujar may well win this year’s ROY, but his defense was among the league’s worst at 3B. Gleyber Torres was as good as advertised at second base, but Greg Bird disappeared among more injuries and anemic production and may be facing the end of his road. Luke Voit, former St. Louis castoff, came over and provided a needed boost at first base – but can the Yankees count on him to be the answer? They tried to build Bird’s career from a cameo in 2015 – and three years later we’re still waiting.

Of course, the name on everyone’s list of infielders is Manny Machado. The erstwhile Oriole and Dodger may have played his way out of the Bronx with his postseason antics, though. Nobody argues with the talent, but Manny has demonstrated that he is very much a selfish player. That’s an attitude that simply will not mesh with the Yankee way. One thing this generation of Steinbrenners does not want is a return to the Bronx Zoo days of the 1970’s.

So, what to do? I suggest the Yankees get bold. The other mega free agent available is Bryce Harper. I suggest the Yankees sign Harper, but not for the outfield. To play first. Yes, you heard that right. his left-handed bat will help balance the lineup, his dynamism will add an athletic component that was largely missing last year and while there have been questions about his maturity in the past, his down year last year came largely from him not trying to put up huge numbers but help his decimated team win. Next, I would move Andujar into a 3B/OF role with the idea of him taking the bulk of LF reps by the next All-Star break. Then, I would go after this year’s Swiss Army knife player, Marwin  Gonzalez, primarily to play short, but also to get reps at 3B and as needed elsewhere. Once Gregorius is back, Gonzalez moves permanently to third and Andujar becomes the regular left fielder.

Those moves also free up Bird and/or Voit to become available in a trade for a starting pitcher, where they might have more value to the Yankees. Depth would also be improved, as the Yankees have plenty of well-regarded utility types down on the farm, led by #16 overall prospect Thairo Estrada, along with Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes.

Outfield: What do you do when you have 5 former All-Stars, and a consensus top 50 prospect, for three positions?

That is the dilemma facing the Yankee brass when it comes to the outfield. Suffice it to say none of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, or Giancarlo Stanton are going anywhere. Look for all three to reprise their roles in right field, center field and as the primary DH, respectively.

That leaves at least three (and if the Yanks adopt my Andujar plan, four) players to squeeze into one spot. So how to do this?

First is through attrition but in different ways.

Brett Gardner has patrolled left field for the Yanks since 2008. He is the last of the 2009 champions still on the team, but the Yankees have until Wednesday to decide whether to exercise the buyout or renew the contract for $12.5 million. Here’s the thing: how much do you pay for intangibles, like leadership, hustle, and grit? Because that’s about all Gardy has left in the tank. He still wants to play – and he thinks he still can – but the results are no longer showing up on the field. My guess is we’ve seen the last of Gardner in Pinstripes until a future Old-Timer’s Day.

The other player whose time has passed is Jacoby Ellsbury, the incredibly disappearing and enigmatic center fielder. I realize the Yankees don’t want to admit signing him was a terrible mistake, and I know they don’t want to eat the remaining $47.5 million on his contract. But here’s the thing: the guy can’t stay healthy enough to even take batting practice, he can’t play anywhere but center (and that poorly), can’t throw, can’t steal bases anymore. His contract is a sunk cost. Better to pay him to go away then pay him to take up an even more valuable roster spot, especially now that the team is finally under the salary cap.

That leaves Clint Frazier as the fourth outfielder. The uber-prospect suffered through a dismal season last year, stemming from a concussion suffered near the end of Spring Training. In limited action (54 games) in the minors, Frazier didn’t show too many ill effects, hitting .305 with a .950 OPS. He should be fine in 2019.

So, here’s my projected (wished for?), waaaay-too early Opening Day 2019 roster:

CF: Aaron Hicks
RF: Aaron Judge
1B: Bryce Harper
DH: Giancarlo Stanton
C: Gary Sanchez
3B: Miguel Andujar
SS: Marwin Gonzalez
LF: Clint Frazier
2B: Gleyber Torres
UT: Tyler Wade
UT: Ronald Torreyes
IF: Luke Voit
SP: Luis Severino
SP: Madison Bumgarner
SP: JA Happ
SP: Masahiro Tanaka
SP: Patrick Corbin
CL: Aroldis Chapman
RP: Dellin Betances
RP: Chad Green
RP: Jonathon Holder
RP: Tommy Kahnle
RP: Chance Adams

The Speech America Needs to Hear


Ladies and Gentlemen, My Fellow Americans,

We’ve been along a perilous path for 30 years now. After the end of the first World War, our Nation entered a new period in history. Historians have dubbed it “The American Century.” Five generations of Americans survived the Great Depression, defeated the forces of fascism in the Second World War, created the most prosperous period ever experienced by any nation at any time in history, and held the forces of communism at bay until the final victory at the end of the 1980’s.

Ever since the Berlin Wall crumbled to dust on a cold night in 1989, a winter’s night warmed by the glow of freedom, our nation has been adrift. The fight against communism which had defined our purpose for 45 years was suddenly over, exposing for all our underlying tensions and divisions. That common foe had allowed us to paper over those divisions with a thin veneer of comity. But just as ripping a scab from an old wound will cause an infection to grow unabated, so too the collapse of the Soviet Union has caused the cultural divisions that have always been unique to us to rise anew.

I say these things not to fill with you a longing for the past or fear of the future. I do not believe the end of the American Century means the end of the American Experiment. I believe we have the ability to bind our differences in a more lasting, permanent way; a way that relies not as much on agreeing to disagree as discovering why our disagreements arose in the first place.

Let me highlight just one such example.

Whether we are a banker or truck driver, farmer or doctor, we all know, we all can sense that the modern marvels of technology are changing the nature of work. Whether your fingers are calloused from years of manual labor or manicured for life in an office, we all can see the ways in which we earn our livings have changed. More than that, we know these changes will not end, no matter what we might wish.

This is not the first time our nation has faced such a dramatic change in the very nature of what it means to work. At the dawn of the Industrial Age, we moved, often in fits and starts, from a society of farmers to one of factory labor. Some of the same challenges we faced then, we face today.

One of those challenges was immigration. The new, industrial America needed labor and we found it overseas. Many of us can trace our origins in the United States to the great wave of immigrants that crashed across our shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As much as it might pain us to remember it, those immigrants – Italian, Irish, Poles, Croats, Hungarians, Germans and so forth – were not readily accepted into their new country. So it is today; we are not always welcoming to those who look to make their lives among us from foreign lands. Yet at the same time, much as we funneled those newcomers through inspection 150 years ago, we should reserve the right to do so today.

Likewise, another lesson we can learn from our forebears is also rooted in the Industrial Age. Prior to the need of an educated workforce to run the great machines that powered industry, most children finished school after 5th or 6th grade. Indeed, most high schools were privately funded and beyond the financial reach of those children’s parents. Yet, by the advent of the 1920’s, publicly funded high schools were the norm. By the 1960’s, the vast majority of American citizens were high school graduates and able to earn a solid living at a multitude of trades.

Now, we are told our children need more than a high school education can provide. We see our children graduating from college and working the sorts of jobs we might have expected to start with as a high school graduate a generation ago. But while we acknowledge with our minds that some post-secondary training is required in the new economy, our actions belie our words. We make entry difficult for all but the most affluent. Once our children are ensconced on a university campus, their heads are filled with values and ideas that most of us can barely identify, much less relate to.

I see some heads nodding out there. We know these are the problems. We may disagree on the solutions, but we can agree that these problems will not solve themselves.

Friends, this is a discussion we’ve needed for some time. As in the Festivus celebration of Seinfeld fame, an airing of grievances is good for the soul – but only if it leads to a reconciliation. After a generation of airing our grievances, we should be ready for that reconciliation. Let us resolve, here and now, to lay aside any embitterment we harbor towards our fellow Americans. It doesn’t matter if your forebears arrived on the Mayflower, a slave trader, a tramp steamer from Italy or in the Mariel boatlift. We are united in this simple fact: that as a reward for their trouble in getting to this country, they were met with hardships, ridicule, scorn, derision, and trouble but they persevered, they overcame, they thrived. And they gave this wonderful nation to us.

We understand that America is the sum of what those who came before created and what we create for ourselves and those who follow. We understand that the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness” are not mere ink on dusty old parchment. They define the American creed.

I am a conservative. Some in the audience call themselves liberals. Others may identify as libertarians or greens or some other political ideology. But regardless of politics, we need to agree on what the real problems facing our nation and our society are before we can debate -vigorously and strongly, as is right – what the solutions should be. I mentioned earlier that we seem to be stuck in a funk, a profound disagreement over what the very nature of our problems are and what type of society we are.

For our sakes, the sakes of our progeny and the good of not only the United States but the world, we must make this our mission. We must seek not only to confront but to learn. We must not only listen but understand. Compassion for your fellow American is not weakness. Compassion also does not mean that you throw them to the merciless care of the government. Yes! I said that we must address this cancer, we must excise it, not only for the good of the Nation but for the world.

For the United States is still the greatest nation our planet has ever known. Despite what may seem our torturous present, I truly believe our best days are ahead of us – but only if all 350 million plus of us are willing to do the things that are difficult. As a Nation, we have overcome far greater challenges throughout our history. Solving seemingly intractable problems is in our DNA. Why should our modern difficulties prove any more strenuous?

We have always been the shining light upon which the world gazes when desiring proof that free people can overcome any test, any difficulty that is thrown their way. From the days when our society amazed a French aristocrat named Alexis de Tocqueville until the present day when a Slovakian emigré became our First Lady, we have been both the envy and hope of mankind. Are we so vain, so caught up in our own disagreements as to throw that legacy away? I propose that is not the case. We shall always remain as we have, the guide towards a more prosperous, more peaceful planet.

None of this is to trivialize the import of the disagreements that are currently tearing at the fabric of our society. The reality is that those quarrels are based on competing ideologies. Yet, it is possible to agree on a path forward. Doing so requires every American put aside their preconceived notions. It means actually practicing the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It means putting aside our anger and agreeing to meet once again as Americans first. Not as Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, Black and white and Hispanic and Asian, rich and poor, but as Americans. The divisions we have created amongst ourselves need to be retired now. The tired politics of identity have missed the most important identity of all: that of being an American.

So as I leave you, I want all of you to sit back and contemplate what is important to you. More than that, you need to ask yourself why that is important. And then ask yourself, is that thing more important than your standing in a country that has always been and will always be willing to accept anyone who can shed all other labels save one: American? For if we all make a common goal of simply being Americans, there is nothing we cannot achieve, no task that is insurmountable and no aspiration that cannot be obtained.

Thank you. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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Political Incivility


(AUTHORS NOTE: I originally began writing this post a few days ago, but given the news of the past day, it seemed a good idea to get back to it.)

I know I’m not the only one who has noticed the rather violent rhetoric coming from the liberal/progressive side of the American political spectrum over the last 18 months or so. Anyone paying even a modicum of attention cannot have failed but to notice it. The two video clips at the opening of this post are examples of leaders of that movement making very public statements that not only support the idea of engaging with people politically opposed to you in a violent manner but actively encouraging it. There are no “dog whistles” in these statements.

Hillary Clinton: “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about… We have to get, maybe not cross the line, but get meaner, get tougher.”

Maxine Waters: “If you see anyone from that cabinet, that administration, in a restaurant, in a department store, in a gasoline station – you get out, and you create a crowd. You push back on them and you tell them: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!”

This type of incendiary rhetoric from the American left is nothing new, of course. It has its beginnings in the protest movements of the 1960’s, which in many respects were hijacked by radical elements looking not to reform American society but outright overthrow it. Most of you reading this are familiar with Saul Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals,” the openly subversive book that recommends confrontation with and hostile takeover of American institutions. Professor Alinsky advocated taking what began as an idealistic youth movement looking to proactively redress the egregious, systemic racism of our first 150 years and warp it into a campaign against all societal norms.

In the time between Richard Nixon’s near impeachment in 1974 and George W. Bush’s electoral victory in 2000, we enjoyed a respite from the violent catachism of the Left. Certainly, they were still out there and they still employed the rhetoric, but they were pushed to the fringes. After the abject failure of McGovern, the dismal Carter years, and the national rejection of progressivism that culminated with the Reagan administration, mainstream liberals largely rejected the type of political violence that attended their movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The bombings and assassinations stopped.

But those subversive elements never truly went away, they had just gone to ground. Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” that ended the 20th century gave way to a full-throated progressive in Al Gore, whose narrow defeat seemed to awaken what was once thought a comatose movement. In 2004, the Democrats shifted even further left, nominating the very progressive (and some would say traitor) John Kerry as their standard bearer. His drubbing at the hands of the same George Bush who had vanquished Gore four years earlier unleashed the type of liberal passions that we are now living with. It was the driving force behind the eight years of Alinskyite leadership under Barack Obama.

Understandably, progressives were shocked to discover the mandate to fundamentally transform American society they imagined had been secured a decade earlier wasn’t much of a mandate. After decades of planning their relatively bloodless coup, they awoke on a frosty November morn in 2016 to discover their vision of America had been soundly rejected – again. And as when faced with similar rejection two generations earlier, they broke out the late 1960’s playbook almost immediately.

So, for nearly two years now, American sensibilities have been subject to a daily, at times hourly, onslaught of political violence. Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Waters’ statements aside, we’ve witnessed a progressive attempt to assassinate the Republican Congressional leadership at a softball practice. The Secretary of Defense and Chief of Naval Operations have been mailed ricin. A GOP congressional candidate in California was knifed, another in Wyoming had his campaign office firebombed. Jay Webber, a Republican running for Congress in NJ, has a police detail protecting his 7 children after a series of death threats against them. A teenager wearing a “MAGA” hat was assaulted for the crime of eating a sandwich. By one count, there have been over 550 acts of political violence – not just violent speech, but actual acts of violence – committed by progressives since the election of Donald Trump. By comparison, refusing to serve the Press Secretary or stealing the Senate Majority leader’s doggie bag seems almost trivial.

My point is this. From the days of Lenin and Trotsky, assassinations, arson, and other assorted mayhem have been the hallmark of progressive political argument. it is not a fallback position, so much as a default one. Historically, when progressives, whether they called themselves socialists, communists or fascists talk about fundamentally transforming a society, they speak of themselves as revolutionaries.

There have been very few succesful revolutions that didn’t involve an assumption of violence.

The progressive predeliction for violence is well established. The aim of such political violence is to destabilize normal society, to inspire fear – and ultimately, to provoke normal society into adopting the same tactics. The reason is simple. Once normal society includes daily, hourly political violent carnage, there is no more normal society. At that point, the fundamental transformation can occur without any resistance.

Normal society defeats progressivism by refusing to engage in the cycle of political violence. Normal society wins by continuing to engage in the normal political process: by engaging with ideas, not bombs; words, not knives; votes, not guns. Don’t take this to mean you should leave yourself defenseless or refuse to be vigilant. After all, a dead patriot is only good for worm food. Defend yourself if need be. But let it end there.

Last weekend, we saw a mob attack one of progressivism’s paragons, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. I do not agree with a single position that Mrs. Pelosi espouses. However, chasing her through a hotel and refusing to let her speak is every bit as reprehensible as when progressives do the same to a conservative speaker. I found the actions understandable, but appalling nonetheless. We cannot defend all that we hold important by throwing our values out and engaging the left on their terms. Our goal should be to force them to engage on ours, if for no other reason than their tired ideas have time and again proven bereft of value.

I intentionally have not mentioned today’s (well, yesterday’s, by the time this gets published) spate of attempted bombings until now. I have a good reason for that. As I write this, the motivation behind them remains murky. Nobody has claimed responsibility. No associated manifesto has been published. This leaves several possibilities: a foreign actor, seeking to upset the political applecart. A very poorly executed attack by a right-wing extremist. Or a “false flag” operation by left-wing extemists looking to change the narractive prior to this year’s elections. I’m hoping it is determined to be option 1 or 3. If it is option 2, then this post may already be too late for all of us.

It’s Good To Be Back


I haven’t meant to be away for so long. For those of you who don’t follow me on social media (and while we’re on that topic, why aren’t you?), I experienced yet another flare of my Crohn’s Disease a couple of weeks ago. Or, as the doctors call it, an exacerbation. Whatever you call it, I call it a humdinger of an attack. My ileum (that’s the part of your intestines that connects the large and small intestine together) blew up like a hot air balloon. I wound up totally obstructed, which is a pleasant way to describe a very unpleasant form of constipation. A week at the VA hospital in Philly, and another week of more-or-less R&R at home, has me feeling much more like myself these days. I’m not totally out of the woods just yet and ileostomy remains a very real possibility if this recurs in the next 60 days, so even if you aren’t the praying type – prayers are appreciated!

Now, one of the things that happens when you’re lying in a hospital bed is you get a LOT of time to think. Boy, have I been doing quite a bit of thinking. I have notes and ideas scattered all over my desk. The topics foremost on my mind: the looming midterm elections, the immigrant “caravan,” and the impending baseball offseason. And no, the World Series is not high on my list of worries this year. The only team I hate more than the Dodgers are the Red Sox. This is the first year I find myself hoping nobody wins that thing.

So, beginning tomorrow, prepare to get deluged with posts. Lots and lots of posts.

Happy reading!

To Reduce Gun Violence, We Should…


I was recently asked for my opinion regarding the best way to reduce gun violence in the United States on Quora. I thought I would share my answer here, and see what all of you think.

First, thanks for the A2A. I’m not certain if you’re trolling, or truly interested in hearing the views of an avowed Second Amendment type on this subject, but I’ll treat this as if it’s the latter case.

The problem is not necessarily one of gun violence, per se. The problem is one of perception: the media wants us to think there is an epidemic of gun violence; a sense of murder and mayhem at the hands of deranged individuals toting machine guns through the street.

The reality is much, much different. I grew up in the 1970’s, the era of Fort Apache and Escape From New York. In 1980, when I was getting ready to make my way in the world, the typical American had a 1 in 338 chance of finding themselves involved in a crime with a gun. By 2014 (the most recent year for which FBI statistics are available), that number had dropped to 1 in 422. This is despite the fact that legal gun ownership is at an all-time high.

What is undeniable is that gun crimes in certain cities and states have moved in the opposite trend. For instance, the typical resident of Chicago in 1980 had a 1 in 210 chance of finding themselves at the wrong end of a gun. By 2014, that had increased to 1 in 100. Baltimore has seen a similar rise in gun violence, from 1 in 148 to 1 in 108. So, part of the perception is driven by the fact that while gun crime is down overall, the number of gun crimes in our major cities (which is also where our media is centered) are on the rise.

The other driving factor in the misperception of the degree of gun violence is argeting. While there have always been madmen with a rifle who went on murderous shooting sprees, those of our modern era have chosen spectacular targets that will drive national media coverage for days on end. Schools and churches are not only prominent in our society but emotional by their very nature.

Part of the divide in America over the use of weapons is that so many of those under 45 have almost no exposure to them, except what they see in the movies (which are generally ridiculous depictions) or on the news. Would it surprise you to learn that when I was in school, it was common for students to bring their rifles and pistols to school? Not only that, it was highly encouraged? Gun safety courses were a requirement in those days. This wasn’t all that long ago, either.

So how do we reduce gun violence, and just as importantly, cure the misperception that legal gun possession increases the likelihood of being assaulted with a weapon?

I think the first thing to do is increase exposure to guns so that people understand that a gun is a tool, no different than a hammer or a car. They are no scarier (and actually far less dangerous to you) than that hunk of aluminum and fiberglass in your driveway. I mentioned above that you have a 1 in 422 chance of being involved in a crime committed with a gun. What I failed to mention is that you have a .0045% chance of being murdered by someone with a gun. Conversely, you have a 3.6% of dying this year in a car crash. You are over 800 times more likely to die in your car than by being shot, yet people calling for cars to be banished are generally regarded as crackpots.

As far as actually reducing gun violence, the first thing to realize is that gun violence has steadily declined in all areas except those with strict gun control measures. This sounds counterintuitive to gun control proponents. How can easier access to firearms result in a reduction in gun crime? Yet the proof is in the results: while some states and cities have made it dramatically more difficult to legally possess a gun, those are also the ones that have the greatest spikes in gun crime. A while back, I had done a project that projected the gun violence rate in the nation, presuming the 50 most restrictive cities in the nation followed their country brethren. Based on the numbers alone, the incidence of gun violence would have dropped to 1 in 803!

Now, I’m not silly enough to think removing most restrictions on gun possession alone will suffice to reduce gun violence, especially in our cities. There is a greater propensity for crime in those locations, due to higher rates of impoverishment, population density, and social disorder. Those societal ills peculiar to city life need to be tackled by the cities themselves.

I’m also enough of a student of human nature to realize that you can never get crime rates in general, or gun crime in particular, to zero. It’s a problem that has vexed humanity since our beginning.

 

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

We Have a Serious Problem


When I saw this tweet the other night, it got the ol’ gears a-turnin’, as my grandfather would say. John Podhoretz was making a point about one particularly one decidedly unserious lawyer promoting a seriously insincere story based on an even more insincere allegation. It’s the kind of nonsense that never would have seen the light of day, other than on some anonymously written blog, not that long ago.

But I contend the problem runs much deeper than a one ambulance chaser engaged in some shameless self promotion. No, the problem is we have a whole bunch of unserious people filling serious positions.

For instance, the entire “Russia collusion” narrative was driven by the campaign staff of a presidential candidate, who contacted a Washington legal firm, who contracted a former spy to write up a salacious “dossier.” And there the story might have ended, except a US senator then was passed this dossier, who took the absurd revelations in the dossier and gave it to the career prosecutors at the Justice Department. Those prosecutors then gave the dossier to the career investigators at the FBI, who used it to gain a “secret warrant” to spy on the other presidential campaign (and after the election, the President of the United States – elect).

So, people in serious positions who got snookered by this bit of legerdemain:

  • Hillary Clinton, Presidential candidate; former Secretary of State, US Senator and First Lady
  • James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence; former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
  • Loretta Lynch, US Attorney General
  • James Comey, FBI Director
  • Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Director of the FBI
  • Peter Strzok, Asst. Director of the FBI for Counter-Intelligence
  • Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General; former US Attorney for Maryland
  • Lisa Page, Federal prosecutor, assigned by the FBI to assist Special Counsel Robert Mueller
  • Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS co-founder; former investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Roll Call
  • Marc Elias, lead elections attorney for Perkins Cole; formerly the lead counsel for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign
  • Rosemary Collyer, current FISA court presiding judge
  • Michael Mosman, FISA court judge who approved the first Carter Page warrant

That’s a dozen very well paid people in positions that at one time were considered some of the most important and prestigious in government, the legal profession, the courts and the media. These were positions that once would have been filled with people who understood how serious those positions were to maintaining the apparatus that is the US government, from both inside and out. Instead of people. Those serious positions would have been held by serious people.

Not any longer. It is the crux of the problem Americans see all around us. Is it any wonder we’ve lost our collective trust in these institutions? We have some very unserious people filling positions that are still vital to the nation. It isn’t confined to those dozen people listed above. It is a plague, infecting every level of government, of business, religious life, media and science. The institutions that I and millions of my fellow Americans were taught to admire and respect as youngsters, have spent the past two decades proving that they are filled with people who do not deserve that respect.

I hate tossing out problems without having solutions ready to propose, but I honestly can’t find any to this problem. I learned early on in my career that the best person for the job understood the nature of it, had the skills to perform it and was trustworthy. Obviously, the more senior the positions become, the skills required change, but the person filling the role should still have the first and third qualities. But as we’re witnessing, there aren’t a whole lot of those people around right now.

Quick Thoughts on Flake’s Flakiness


Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has been reported out of the Judiciary Committee and sent to the full Senate, but of course there was a hitch. Given how everything has gone with this confirmation, how could there not be a hitch?

Senator Jeff Flake (R?-AZ) voted to advance the nomination, but only after some serious arm twisting from Democrats yielded an agreement from Flake that he wouldn’t vote affirmatively on the floor unless the FBI conducted a 7th background check.

There has been speculation that Flake modified his vote out of deference to his good friend, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speculated that Flake might be trying to heal the divide in the country, an effort that Graham doesn’t even think will work. Taking heads have alternately suggested that Flake simply doesn’t know who to believe, despite all the testimony we’ve had and all the evidence of the minority party’s duplicity.

I don’t think any of is what has led Flake to spectacularly demonstrate his infamous lack of conviction. Prior to this morning’s session, there was an incident in which protesters cornered Flake on an elevator and spent 5 minutes yelling and berating him.

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So, as always, if you want Flake to vote your way – just threaten him. He remains the most cowardly man the Senate has seen in a long time.

We are almost finished our descent into mob rule, which is what the Democrat’s ultimate goal has always been. Keep your powder dry and weapons cleaned, my friends.

The Dems Tried to Make Brett Kavanaugh Their Handmaid. He Wasn’t Having Any Of It.


images (1)The bible of “third wave feminism” is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Written in 1986, it is a dystopian novel in which societal collapse stemming from climate change, pollution and low birth rates has brought about a technologically enforced ĂŒber-puritanism. Women are now slaves, and anyone who dares cross the regime is summarily executed, often on trumped up charges.

As a fan of dystopian fiction, I first read the novel in the early 90s. Personally, I don’t think the novel is particularly good. I found the story to be disjointed and not particularly engrossing. It’s entirely possible the author was hoping to evince a negative emotional response to her narrative. It wouldn’t surprise me; evoking negative emotional responses (loathing, fear, anxiety) is a hallmark of the progressive movement. Certainly, the entire circus around Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been based on those emotions. The Democrats have whipped up the notion that Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court will mean the end of civil rights. This, despite the fact that his record as a jurist is in opposition to that supposition.

But this wasn’t what made me think of that story when watching yesterday’s testimony. No, it was one particular scene in the book. A member of the elite is found to secretly be supporting the ideal of liberty and fairness. The regime drums up a false charge, a charge rooted in the puritanical mores of the dominant society (yep, sexual assault). There is a sham trial. At the climactic moment of the scene, the crowd is whipped into a frenzy and turned loose upon the poor guy. He is literally torn to pieces in their anger and blood lust.

How is that any different than what we watched yesterday?

Do I think Dr. Blasey-Ford is sympathetic? Yes. Do  I think she’s credible? No. Her testimony was only clear on one point: she honestly, absolutely believes that Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when both were in their teens. Despite that, she cannot even recall when that happened (not even a year, much less a month or a day). She does not know where it happened. She does not know how she got to where it happened (even though any of the possible locations are about a 20 minute drive from her childhood home) or how she got home afterwards. She does not know how long she was at the party where she alleges the attempted rape happened.

As if that weren’t enough, her testimony changed rapidly once being questioned by an admittedly compassionate and empathetic prosecutor. She didn’t run down the stairs; she walked calmly out of the house. She only told her husband, before she they were married. She only told her husband, but after they were married. She only told her husband while in couple’s therapy over how many doors she wanted on their McMansion. She only told Rep. Anna Eshoo. No, wait – she only told Anna Eshoo’s staff and a reporter from the Washington Post. No, she told, Eshoo, her therapist, Diane Feinstein, a reporter from the Washington Post, and a friend at lunch, another friend at another time that she can’t quite recall, some more friends on the beach. She’s afraid of flying. No, she isn’t afraid of flying; she flies for work and family events all the time. Ok, she’s afraid of flying, except when she’s flying for a vacation to French Polynesia.

Dr. Ford has more memory lapses than a blackout drunk, which leads me to believe that the neurotransmitters in her hippocampus are defective. Or maybe she is a blackout drunk. Either that, or she remembers everything possible in a traumatic experience, but the other people she names as being at the party – including her lifelong friend, Leland Keyser – are lying when they say it never happened.

So how do I explain why she honestly believes Judge Kavanaugh tried to rape her? I’m not a medical expert, but we know memory transference is a real thing. By her own testimony, she was something of a social outcast in high school and the group she most wanted to be a part of was the circle that included a youthful Brett Kavanaugh. Perhaps an assault did happen, but she’s substituted the people who scorned her into the roles of the truly guilty.

Regardless of her credibility, however, is the process by which this entire episode has been handled by the Democrats. Among the more shocking things that came out during yesterday’s testimony is this. When Judge Kavanaugh met with Senator Feinstein on August 20th, she was not only aware of the allegations against him, but was actively working with Blasey-Ford on her future testimony through legal counsel. The entire idea that she didn’t leak the “anonymous” letter and that this wasn’t a manufactured crisis was blown apart with that fact.

Who can blame Brett Kavanaugh for lashing out at the Democrats during his testimony? He knows he is innocent of these allegations – and the even more ridiculous and spurious allegations that have followed. His credibility attacked, his family denigrated, his honor and reputation sullied? How would you expect him to react? Especially when Democratic Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Chris Coons, Diane Feinstein, Richard Blumethal and Dick Durbin announced they wouldn’t vote for him, even before the confirmation hearings began. Booker went so far as to call Kavanaugh “evil.” Think about that, for a moment.

Given all that, Kavanaugh’s confrontational manner wasn’t only justified, it was muted. I would  not have blamed him had he gone on a Lindsey Graham-esque tirade.

Democrats are reacting as they always do, given the circumstances, with outbursts of rage and indignation. They don’t like it, and like an emotionally overwrought child, they are throwing temper tantrums. They were certain that weaponizing criminal allegations against an upstanding citizen whose political views are at odds with theirs would result in the mob turning against him. Well, indications are their mob is ready to do to Judge Kavanaugh what happened to the poor guy in Atwood’s book: literally tear him limb from limb.

They attempted to turn Brett Kavanaugh into their Handmaid. He refused. After years of treating Republicans as their Handmaids, the GOP has finally risen up and declared, “Enough!”

The saddest, and most ironic, thing about this entire episode is that by weaponizing the #MeToo movement, Democrats have neutered it. By supposedly advocating for the rights of abuse victims, they have done the opposite. By lending credibility to incredible allegations, they have cast the pall of suspicion over all allegations of sexual victimization. By calling Dr. Ford’s allegations “credible,” despite an independent prosecutor saying there wasn’t enough evidence to even file charges, they have sullied not only the reputation of Judge Kavanaugh but those of every woman who’s been assaulted.

By playing politics with people’s lives, Democrats have shown themselves to be the cold, heartless would-be rulers who would turn all of us into their handmaids.

The Senate should confirm Brett Kavanaugh. We should reward them by voting for every Republican on the ballot come November 6th. We should tell the Democrats, with the same vigor and fire as Kavanaugh and Graham, that we will no longer be your handmaids.