Monday, August 31, 2015

Thinner Blue Line

Tragedy hit close to home this past weekend. At about 8:30 Friday evening, in northwest Houston, at a Chevron station on the corner of Telge (pronounced Tell-ghee) and West Road, Deputy Darren Goforth was just getting back to his patrol car after filling the tank, when a man came up behind him, shot him three times in the head, and then, after the officer fell, shot him multiple more times, for a total of 15 shots.
Memorial at Pump 8 at the Chevron
where Deputy Darren Goforth was killed

The attacker was described by witnesses and seen on security video as a dark-complexioned man with short hair, about 5’ 10” to 6’ tall, wearing a white T-shirt and red shorts, and driving a red or maroon Ford extended cab pickup. Suspect Shannon J. Miles was apprehended a few hours later.

There was no previous connection between the officer and the suspect. We don’t know very much about motive yet. It may turn out to be mental illness. But the execution style killing appears to be a matter of police hatred, a sentiment that has been fomented nationally over the past year especially.

Last summer there was Ferguson, MO, where a black man, Michael Brown, shortly after robbing a convenience store, attacked a police officer and was killed—and the media blamed the police for racial targeting, even after the (mostly black) witnesses and the mixed grand jury all exonerated the officer. Protestors rioted, destroying businesses and property in a savage display, reprising the violence a year later on the anniversary.

Then there was Baltimore, this past April, following the death in custody of Freddie Gray, of neck injuries. The police were unable to adequately explain the injuries. Police seemed puzzled. It may be that there had been a previous injury, and that Gray attempted to injure himself in transit to blame police for violence. It may be, as assumed by rioters, that police brutality was involved, but the evidence is scarce. Nevertheless, if such a violation occurred, police have ways to deal with the singular violators. Rioters jump to the conclusion that all police target blacks, attack them with impunity, and cover up for one another.

It is a choice to believe that against the evidence. And that belief can lead to no good.

In early August black Muslim race-baiter Louis Farrakhan called for 10,000 “volunteers” to step forward and kill white people in retaliation for perceived oppression. This past Tuesday a radio show out of Texas, with a name too vile to mention, called for lynching and killing of white people. Craig’s List has allowed adssoliciting the killing of police officers. The Black Lives Matter movement has been holding (extraordinarily small) demonstrations across the country over the past several months, shutting down even very liberal speakers (presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders) who won’t go along with. Their theme is that the police target blacks, and therefore the police should not be trusted. If you even try to say that all lives matter, including black lives, you are shut down.

We don’t know yet whether Officer Goforth’s killer was responding to one of these calls to violence. But there is reason to believe so. Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said this in a news conference: “This rhetoric is out of control. We’ve heard that ‘black lives matter,’ ‘all lives matter’; well cops lives matter too. Why don’t we just drop the qualifier and say ‘lives matter.’”

A Black Lives Matter leader, Deray McKesson, responded negatively toward Sheriff Hickman’s statement, saying it was “unfortunate that Sheriff Hickman has chosen to politicize this tragedy and to attribute the officer’s death to a movement that seeks to end violence (Houston Chronicle Sunday, August 30, pp A1 and A17). If #BlackLivesMatter is against violence toward everyone, they ought to be clearer about that. They appear to the casual observer to be simply racist and anti-civilization.

Harris County DA Devon Anderson said on Saturday, “What happened last night is an assault on the very fabric of society. It is not anything that we can tolerate. It is time to come forward and support law enforcement and condemn this atrocious act. We need to bring this killer to justice.” She added this morning, after the arraignment of Miles, “This crime is not going to divide us; this will unite us.”

The perpetrator was tracked down, fairly easily because of the truck, which was found at Miles’s home about a mile from the shooting site. The gun officers found in his possession was a match. The security footage shows the entire attack, with enough clear imagery to show Miles as the likely perpetrator. He has a decade-long history of criminal history. He has not, at this writing, filed a plea, but he is expected to plead not guilty.

This has been a painful week for law enforcement. Thursday, August 20, Detention Officer Tronoski ones was killed on the job. Monday, August 24, Sergeant Peggy Vassalo of the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department in Missouri was killed. Also on Monday, August 24, Senior Trooper Steven Vincent of the Louisiana State Police was killed on the job. Wednesday, August 26, Officer Henry Nelson of the Sunset Police Department of Louisiana was killed on the job. On Friday, August 28, in addition to Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth in Houston, Trooper James M. Bava of the Missouri State Hwy Patrol was killed on the job. Also Friday, Trooper Chad H. Wolf of the Michigan State Police was killed on the job.

Mourning all of these officers this week.
Image found on Facebook, credited to RetainYourFreedom

The president was silent on all of these tragic losses.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott stated on Saturday, “An egregious murder like this is an attack on all law enforcement and has no place in a civilized society.” He called for flags to be placed at half-staff in mourning.

In our part of town, where we have quite a high level of civilization, this kind of violence is shocking. For perspective, the last time a Harris County deputy was shot in the line of duty was May 2001. Harris County encompasses the four million people of Houston and beyond.

Our part of town, the northwest, is beyond city boundaries and not quite to Cypress. The attack took place about 5-6 miles from our house, not far from our church building. We travel that road frequently. It’s in a very middle class area, with some nearby areas probably considered upper middle class. 

Houston as a whole is ethnically diverse. Diversity in the middle class is pretty much racism free, as far as I can ascertain. Nor is this an area with a high crime rate. There’s generally a good relationship between community and police. In other words, no tensions here that would lead anyone to expect this kind of police-hatred-induced murder.

As many as 1,000 gather at the site Saturday evening
Image found on Facebook, KHOU 11 News

People responded as you would expect civilized people to do. They came together in a spontaneous memorial ceremony at the site of the killing, leaving mementos and making donations to the family. As many as a thousand people came gathered, in peaceful prayerful tribute. No thought of violence, or even anger. All races together, because that's how we live in our neighborhoods.

There’s a great deal of sympathy and support for the officer’s family; he leaves behind a wife and two children. At age 47, Goforth had been with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for ten years. He was well liked and honored as good tempered, kind, and everything you’d want a good police office to be in the community.

The night shift met for roll call Saturday evening at the site of the memorial. That group includes a friend who attends church with us. This group photo shows the kind of ethnic diversity we have here. It’s just unthinkable that such a group would be targeting a specific race for unfair treatment.
The night shift, meeting for roll call
where they had lost their brother
Image found on Facebook, attributed to
Gina M. Williams

In the Civilization of Spherical Model, we talk about what civilization looks like it includes this:

People generally self-restrain before they infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. Where there are questions about those limits, laws are in place to help clarify boundaries of civilized behavior. When someone willingly infringes on the rights or safety of another, the law functions to protect that victim as well as society from further uncivilized behavior from the offender.

Our officials here seem to understand their role, as the thin blue line. And they trust the community to support them in their work. The community here also seems to understand the civilizing role the police play. So what we have is a tragedy we will remember. But if someone wanted to trigger racial violence, they’re failing here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Economic Principles for Volatile Times

Monday we woke up to a sharp 1000-point decline in the stock market, which recovered to down only 500 by the end of the day. But still startling. What caused it? And what does it mean for the future?

Monday's stock market drop, chart from here.

It has something to do with China’s economy, but also a lot to do with American economic policy.

China’s growth has concerned world markets over the past quarter century. But growth—real growth—has to be related to actual creation of wealth. Wealth represents the accumulation of the results of labor. If it doesn’t represent real wealth, but is an illusion caused by printing money, manipulating money supply, then it’s bound to lead to an eventual comeuppance. That has been coming for a while.

Here’s a summary, by Greg Lewis at American Thinker, of what’s been going on there:

The Chinese economy, fueled by state-funded credit and money-printing, has enabled the size of the Chinese stock market to rise to dangerously overblown levels more than 50 times higher than they were only two decades ago….
China’s extraordinary stock bubble has been enabled by some of the most perverse practices ever perpetrated on this planet. Among other things, in order to prevent shareholders from selling their stocks to avoid the losses that it’s clear are inevitable, Chinese authorities have threatened to send police and paddy wagons around to arrest citizens who dare to sell off their investments.
Since the turn of the century, China has been on a state-credit-funded manufacturing spree that has caused the demand for commodities to spike to levels never before seen….
What does China have to show for it? Hundreds of ghost cities, filled with enormous skyscrapers, housing projects, and sports stadiums, along with superhighways to nowhere. They now stand virtually unoccupied and unused…. The problem is that what China has built will produce no lasting return to sustain its economy, and the resulting bust will also cause severe contractions in commodity prices and U.S. and global suppliers’ earnings.
China’s 10 percent annual growth rate over the past three decades is turning out to be nothing less than one of the great frauds in global economic history. …
China is an example on a large scale of the failure of central planning, the failure of tyranny to lead to prosperity.

What is worrisome is how closely our formerly free economy has been following the Chinese model. Lewis adds this:

When you couple China’s unimaginably large and corrupt fiat economy with the fact that the United States has been following the Chinese model on a smaller scale since the crash of 2008, you have the makings of financial disaster. Indeed, in the name of bailing out the big banks involved in the 2008 financial meltdown, our own ignorant Keynesian economics poobahs have engaged in the same fiat currency printing as the Chinese. In addition, in maintaining interest rates at or near zero percent for the past half decade plus, the Fed has stolen upwards of $1 trillion in interest people should have collected on their savings over that time. In the wake of the current turmoil, the Fed is once again backing off raising interest rates.
I don’t know if the blip that happened this week portends huge disaster in the near term or not. But we do know that economic principles are about as inexorable as gravity. Anything government does that interferes with a free economy will increase the pain to come.

Back in 1988, Murray Rothbard wrote a piece refuting the contemporary economists about the causes and cures of the 1987 stock market crash. The Mises Institute shared that piece again this week. Rothbard lists nine myths about that crash and what should have been done—and shows why they’re myths, and what is the truth. The assumptions of the mostly Keynesian (liberal, progressive, central planning) economists was that fine tuning control over money supply, inflation, trade, taxes, and government spending would make things right. They just had to stumble upon the right mix of policy. But here’s the summary point:

The important point about a recession is for the government not to interfere, not to inflate, not to regulate, and to allow the recession to work its curative way as quickly as possible. Interfering with the recession, either by inflating or regulating, can only prolong the recession and make it worse, as in the 1930s. And yet the pundits, the economists of all schools, the politicians of both parties, rush heedless into the agreed-upon policies of: Inflate, and Regulate.
That is the main point of books like Meltdown, by Thomas Woods, which examines the 2008 crash, and The Forgotten Man, by Amity Shlaes, which examines the Great Depression of the 1930s. In addition, the “forgotten depression” of 1921 shows us by contrast what happens when government refrains from interfering. In that stock market crash, President Warren G. Harding refrained from interfering, and let the market correct itself, which happened within a few months. Calvin Coolidge continued the non-interference policies through the 1920s. And it wasn’t that naturally growing successful market that led to the 1929 crash: that was government interference. That crash was actually caused by federal easy money policy (exaggeratedly low interest rates). And the crash didn’t cause the Great Depression. The stock market was well on its way to correcting itself in a quarter year—until the Fed interfered with suddenly tight money. And then Hoover, followed by Roosevelt, tinkered with the market one way after another, keeping the market from returning to prosperity for more than a decade.

In 2012, economist John B. Taylor gave the Manhattan Institute’s Eighth Annual Hayek lecture, “The Policy Is the Problem.” In that lecture he does two things: he defines economic freedom, and then lists the known principles.

What I mean [by economic freedom] is the situation where individuals, families decide what to buy, what to produce—they decide where they will work, they decide how they're going to help other people. But they do this within a framework. It's kind of the American vision, if you like. And that framework involves five things: 1) predictable policy, 2) rule of law, 3) a reliance on markets, which generates 4) good incentives, and 5) a limited role of government.
What we’re looking at this week, and forward, is the result of the Obama experiment in interference. Policy has been unpredictable—changing, added regulations, applied according to crony capitalism rather than predictable law. Markets have been viewed as a measure of unfairness—success means some unfairness to the bottom, rather than entrepreneurial energy. Regulations have been discouraging and the opposite of good incentives. And monetary policy has continued extraordinarily ow interest rates, leaving nowhere to go when a correction is needed.

Capital—literal as well as social respect from other countries—built up over the first couple of centuries has been spent in this socialist experiment under Obama. The market has no chance of returning to growth and prosperity until the interference stops.

As for Monday’s stock market drop, correction depends on whether this government tries to do something about it. They’re already doing enough harm. Could they do more? There seems to be no limit to the bad policies they will try.

The 2008 drop could have corrected quickly with restraint from government. The current Great Recession (sometimes referred to as the historically slowest recovery) is lasting because of government policy. So we’re already down. But I’m sure they could manage to cause us to drop from the current plateau to an even lower one.

Drops naturally correct; it’s a parabola. They naturally bounce back up if allowed to correct. But then there's the trampoline effect—if they interfere, they keep the bounce back up from happening.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Trump's Agenda

Guest post by Political Sphere

Buck Sexton, a Blaze radio personality, recently held a # TeamBuckPoll to gain an understanding of how his listeners viewed Trump. He offered 5 options: (a) I would vote for Trump, no question; (b) Thinking about it, we will see; (c) Not my guy, but happy he is in the race; (d) He is a clown, I wish he would go away; or (e) I have my own take on this. The rough results were that somewhere between 35-40% of his listeners answered c, with the remainder split about equally between all of the other answers.

My answer is e. The reality is that Trump is worse than a clown, and it is dangerous to continue to have him in the race, either the primary or the general election.

Everyone needs to ask why Trump would run. Trump touts the slogan that he is running to “make America great again.”  Trump explained himself, in the first Republican debate claiming he is able to get whatever he wants by making campaign donations. For example, he required the Clintons to attend his daughter’s wedding. So Trump would be much more able to “make America great again” if he would cease to run. If Trump were to remain outside of the White House, he could continue to “buy and sell politicians,” giving him significantly greater power over the direction of the country.

But he must have some motivation for running. My speculation is that the Tea Party-style candidates, such as Ted Cruz and Scott Walker and Rand Paul, refuse to do his bidding. Instead they stick to their values, regardless of how much money is given to their campaign. The only way to stop them, then, would be to ensure that the Tea Party vote is neutralized. Only then would he be able to continue to conduct business as usual, “buying and selling politicians.”

The “straight talk” and “anti-pc” rhetoric are the reasons so many good people do seem to like him, or at least appreciate the fact that he is in the race. Instead, all I see is a caricature of a Tea Party conservative, an SNL skit version of us. I see an elite New York progressive making fun of my beliefs by contorting them.

It’s an act. A few examples:

At his presidential announcement, Trump stated “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best, … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us[sic]. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Most of the illegal immigrants I have met are generally good people. We do not enforce the border laws; thus, just like the speed limit, it is consistently ignored even by good people. Yes, there are plenty of bad people with lots of problems also coming over, and we do need to enforce our borders in order to keep this country’s culture great. However, Trump goes to the extreme, setting up the discussion on the immigration problem as an us v. them thing.

More recently,Trump discussed the situation in Iraq. Trump’s solution boils down to “We take over the oil, which we should have done in the first place.” This assumes that the Iraq war really is and always was a “war for oil,” just as liberal progressives have always believed. Yes, ISIS has managed to take some of the oil fields in Iraq, but the vast majority of Iraqi oil remains out of the reach of ISIS, in the southeast of Iraq, closer to Basra, and in the Kurdish controlled area in the northeast of Iraq.

Finally, at the debate, Trump was unable to explain why and when he became a Republican, a conservative. Trump was willing to say that he went to the Republican convention in 1988. But that was after the improvement during the previous eight years under Reagan, when only the most die hard blue dog Democrats were willing to remain in the Democratic Party and back Dukakis. So, while he was nominally a Republican briefly, Trump left the Republican Party in 1999, considering a run as the candidate for the Reform Party, with positions trending more toward the political left, but ultimately switching to the Democrat Party. Trump did not switch back until 2011, in time to consider a presidential bid as a Republican at that time. It seems that he is merely an opportunist, not a conservative.

A Picture of the house Trump sought to take through
eminent domain. Picture from The Daily Mail.
Trump’s progressivism is further borne out by the one issue he remains consistent on: eminent domain. Trump has repeatedly used eminent domain to develop his own projects. The article I link to describes how Trump used eminent domain in Atlantic City to try evicting an elderly woman from her home of 30 years, just so he could have a new parking lot for limousines. It also describes how Trump tried to take a storefront, that Russian immigrants had just purchased for $500,000 to start a pawn shop, for a fraction of its value: $174,000. When Kelo v. New London, 545 US 469 (2005) was decided, Trump did not denounce it, like many on both the right and left. Instead Trump explained that he believed it was not only a legally correct decision, but that it was good that the government could take property from some private owners to transfer to well connected developers. This is the crony capitalism that the Tea Party denounces, backed by the candidate currently leading in the polls.

Even if I am wrong, and Trump is completely honest in his beliefs and has truly become a conservative, I personally would still much rather have most of the other candidates, who can not only spout off the political positions that we conservatives want to hear, but can even communicate the rationale behind those positions and the flaws in the progressive position.

I am not convinced that Trump can present logical reasoning that will ensure that he will make the correct decision regardless of what issues plague this country after the election is over. I could not vote for him if he were the candidate in the general election and do not believe he benefits the party in any way by being in the race.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ignominious Ends

There are stories in literature, and in scriptures, of people who make the Faustian deal[i], some bargain with the devil that will allow them to have power, or success, or whatever their evil heart desires. It’s never a good deal. The person’s soul is in the devil’s control. They’re no longer free. But that everlasting end isn’t always obvious in the short length of the story. 
Faust, painting by Jean Paul Laurens

These stories tend to end in a couple of different ways. One looks successful in the world view. The person gets power, control over others. Often they die at the hand of a would-be successor, or in battle. But they appear to get what they want for this lifetime, so they don’t face the bad rot-in-Hell stuff until after death.

The other we might call the ignominious end. The great fall. You know, “pride cometh before the fall,” or “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” These tend to make for better literature. Shakespeare used them to good effect. Macbeth could be one. Maybe King Lear. The wicked king in Hamlet.

In the Book of Mormon there are stories recounting a number of such bad guys. Sherem (Jacob 7:2-4), Nehor (Alma 1:2-16), Korihor (Alma 30:6-60). Each of them “preached many things which were flattering unto the people” for power and personal gain. Each of them died shamefully, and ignominiously.

And then we’re told, “And thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell” (Alma 30:60).

So I’m looking at the current news. And I’m wondering what version of the story Hillary Clinton is going to experience. So far, her staying power through scandal is unmatched in American history. Maybe in world history. She’s not accomplished. She’s had opportunities mainly linked to her personable-but-corrupt husband, rather than her own accomplishments. Unresolved scandals have followed them both since their Arkansas days.

Her election to the Senate from New York, a state she hadn’t lived in, seems unlikely without a Faustian bargain. Granted, she didn’t get the nomination in 2008 when she ran for president—but, then, she was up against another person who was playing out his own Faustian bargain. So she bided her time, nominally as Secretary of State, for which she was magnificently underqualified, and continued right up through the revelation of international donations to their foundation in exchange for government favors, still without rotting in jail. And now she runs for president again, and seems to be having the nomination handed to her, with minimal events, minimal speaking engagements, and an absolute minimum of press conferences with questions.

Sometimes the Faustian deal allows the lost soul to be given eloquence of speech, or charisma—something that attracts the followers. She seems utterly lacking in normal attractive qualities. And yet she gets the power she wants, along with the blissful ignorance a dictator would want from a propagandistic press (which she nevertheless complains about as a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

Yet this latest scandal, about her cavalier approach to state top secret communications may be the final one. It brings up other scandals—namely, the Benghazi attack: what she was doing that night, why she refused to provide further security when it was requested months earlier, why she failed to send rescue during the attack, and why she blamed an obscure video as the cause. And then she refused to reveal her communications during that period of time.

That’s where the email problem comes in.

She set it up to have control over her communications, to keep any possible (and inevitable) Congressional subpoena from being able to see what she was doing. She thinks she has a right to do whatever she wants, without having her reasons or actions questioned. And the best way to accomplish that was to break the law, risking national security by allowing classified documents on a personal server, rather than kept safe on the Department of State facilities. Risking the certainty that such a server would be found and hacked by enemies, and even friends, around the world. All because she didn’t want to answer to the laws or the American people.

What she did is a crime. Various others have been punished for much smaller versions of what she’s done. General Petraeus was prosecuted (and persecuted) for showing his notebook to his biographer—who had top secret military clearance. Because it wasn’t kept in a locked up environment.
There are some obvious things to think through about Hillary’s email server.

1.      She knew what laws she was breaking, because she sent memos to all State Department personnel concerning their communications and the safeguarding and retaining of information.

2.      She hired someone to create the server; it was on purpose, with forethought and purpose, and direction not to tell anyone.

3.      She used that server for correspondence with the president and his staff, with her staff, and with the DOJ and staff. They knew about the illegal server.

4.      She hired someone to wipe the server, to professionally erase any traces of communications (and State Department documentation for history) that she wanted to hide.

5.      Apparently the hirelings who built and supported the server, a mom-and-pop organization out of Colorado called Platte River Networks (which must have taken some connections to find because of their obscurity and distance) and the hirelings who wiped the server must not have been the same, because the back-up server provided by the Colorado people fortunately contains a duplicate of all Hillary’s yoga schedules, wedding plans, and top secret stuff (yet another place top-secret documents shouldn’t have been).

6.      The limited number of emails she provided, claiming there were absolutely zero classified documents among them, showed two in the first random sample of forty or so, and many more as the search through them continued. These included various ultra-classified highest level secret documents.

So it’s unbelievable that she could come out with the claims she made Tuesday. This happened when Fox News senior White House correspondent Ed Henry asked her, “Did you try to wipe—so there would be no email, no personal no official—wipe the whole thing?”

Clinton: Well, my personal emails are my personal business. Right? So I, so we went through a painstaking process and turned over 55,000 pages of anything we thought could be work related. Under the law, that decision is made by the official. I was the official. I made those decisions. And as I just said, over 1200 of the emails have already been deemed not work related. Now, all I can tell you is, in retrospect, if I’d used a government account, and I had said, you know, “Let’s release everything. Let’s let everybody in America see what I did for four years,” we would have the same arguments. So, that’s all I could say.
Henry: But did you try to wipe the whole server?”
Clinton: I, I uh, I don’t…you know, I have no idea. That’s why we turned it over.”
Henry: You were the official in charge. Did you wipe the server?
Clinton: What, with like a cloth or something?
Henry: No. You know how it works digitally. Did you try to wipe the whole server?
Clinton: I don’t know how it works digitally at all. I do not have any…
Henry: Did you not try? Did you not try to wipe it?
Clinton: Ed, I know you want to make a point, and I can just repeat what I have said. In order to…in order to be as cooperative as possible, we have turned over the server. They can do whatever they want to with the server to figure out what’s there or what’s not there. That’s for the, you know, the people investigating it to try to figure out. But we turned over everything that was work related. Every single thing. Personal stuff we did not. I had no obligation to do so and did not.
First of all, if she had obeyed the law and used a government server, we would not be dealing with her personal emails for her to sort through post-subpoena while Congress is waiting. Those would have already been separate, instead of mixed with official business. If she had used the government server, she could have collected the emails for the pertinent time period (during Benghazi, for one round of questioning) with a few clicks.

Second, if she had not obfuscated, stonewalled, and been contemptuous toward Congress for these years since being asked (that Benghazi quote, when she said, “What difference now, does it make…” was in January 2013), then maybe there would have been some trust about her separating out some personal emails. But we absolutely DO NOT trust her to turn over the important stuff. We assume that’s because the emails are incriminating. That’s why it will be valuable to have the backup duplicate server—which she must have known had been located by the time she answered these questions. 

And third, she is beyond ridiculous claiming she wonders if wiping a server with a cloth is the way to remove data. She’s the official; she made the decision; she hired the special team to come and triple-wipe the server to remove any possibility of anything being read on it, before she “cooperated” by turning it over to investigators.

So, except for those willing to lie for her in the face of glaring facts, it is obvious what she has done.
The next question is, will she skate, like she has with every other scandal? Or is there an alternate, ignominious ending in store?

I’m wondering about the ignominy of it, because of that backup server, in Colorado. Kept in a bathroom closet.

Found at

As Rush Limbaugh said Tuesday, the jokes just keep writing themselves. Here are a few of the least scatalogical:

“Now, we already knew, ladies and gentlemen, that Hillary had flushed most of her emails”  
“Code name for her server wipe: Tidy Bowl.”
“Now that her server’s been found in a bathroom, when Hillary says she’s getting to the bottom of this, it takes on a whole new meaning.”
“The American people won’t take this standing up or sitting down.”
“Her campaign’s now officially circling the drain.”
Our little think tank added this rewording of her press conference: when asked whether she had tried to wipe her server, she answers, “What, like with toilet paper or something?”

This may very well be the beginning of the end in which “the devil does not support [her], but doth speedily drag [her] down to hell” for a special, ignominious end to her story.

[i] Faust is the main character in a German tale by Goethe, in which he makes a deal with the devil, giving his soul in exchange for worldly success. See Wikipedia for summary. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Spherical Model Video

The Spherical Model is three-dimensional, so it makes sense to be able to see it, rather than just read about it. But, here at the world’s smallest think tank, there is just me, and no budget. So my plans for a video have been on the back burner for several years.

But recently I got a new computer, a video editor, and a bit of tutoring from daughter Social Sphere’s husband who was visiting. Starting with raw video I did on a point-and-shoot camera in 2012, and a couple of week’s work (with a sharp learning curve for me), today we bring the Spherical Model into visual reality!

Monday, August 10, 2015

First Impressions

We are still nearly fifteen months out from the presidential election. But we’re only half a year out from the primaries. Four years ago the debates started in May, and there were far too many (twenty). So let’s consider the process less painful this time.

There are people who look at the political process as a sporting event. It’s a contest in popularity and strategy, rather than a civic duty to find and support the best leadership our United States of America can find. I don’t enjoy the game. I understand what’s at stake.

I don’t believe the election can solve all of America’s problems, particularly those caused since the election of 2008. But I am aware that solutions will be prevented if we don’t get someone in who boldly goes where no one has gone—since probably Calvin Coolidge, with some reprieve during Reagan. We need someone who understands and loves the Constitution, and believes in the principles that lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization.

That’s why I have my favorites already, as well as a list of “I cannot vote for that person.”

GOP Candidates at last Monday's forum
There was a pre-debate last Monday, a short interview format, with eleven of the candidates. There are so many candidates this time, it’s helpful to get an introduction. For the record, here’s the list (in alphabetical order). Only ten were allowed to participate in the official first debate on Thursday; I’ve listed the amount of speaking time each got in that debate, and we’ll talk about that later.

·         Jeb Bush                      8:48
·         Ben Carson                  6:46
·         Chris Christie               6:24
·         Ted Cruz                      6:46
·         Carly Fiorina
·         Jim Gilmore
·         Lindsey Graham
·         Mike Huckabee             6:42
·         Bobby Jindal
·         John Kasich                 6:52
·         George Pataki
·         Rand Paul                      5:28
·         Rick Perry
·         Marco Rubio                6:49
·         Rick Santorum
·         Donald Trump             11:14
·         Scott Walker                5:45

The additional seven participated in a pre-debate second-tier debate. Normally you’d look at the second tier as having no chance. However, the lowest polling 2-3 who made the prime-time debate were practically arbitrary, so doing well in the pre-debate could change the lineup for next time.

Second-tier pre-debate

That is particularly true for Carly Fiorina, who shone in the pre-debate, and who capitalized on that with a good interview following the regular debate. (She was also on fire in Monday’ forum.) And it could also boost Rick Perry, who did well, as those of us familiar with him expect.

So, about the time in the debate. I was watching with son Political Sphere and his wife, and working around getting kids to bed and read to, and other life essentials. In the comings and goings, I was annoyed that we kept hearing from Donald Trump, and it seemed like a half hour or more since we’d heard from Ted Cruz. Supposedly, each candidate was to get the same number of minutes. That wasn’t what we were seeing.

So I wasn’t surprised to hear afterward that there was indeed a disparity. But the clock wasn’t just unfair to Cruz. Trump got about 4 ½ minutes longer than Cruz, but he got far more than anyone. The closest was Jeb Bush, who got 2 ½ minutes less than Trump. Everyone else got 4 ½ minutes less or beyond. Rand Paul was slighted by almost 6 minutes; Trump doubled his time.

Speaking times at the first GOP debate

But time on stage didn’t exactly equate with advantage.

We’ve waited a long time to have non-liberal media run the GOP debates. We didn’t expect softball questions; we wanted valuable information. Maybe we got that in spite of some of the questions. But, particularly with Trump, the questions worked to reveal who these people are.

Trump showed himself to be brash, bullying, self-approving, arrogant. Sure, he’s smart—at least in business. He has said frequently enough that he has bought and paid for politicians (that’s an explanation for why he had donated to the Clintons and others).

He was asked directly when he became a Republican. I was interested in that, because when he declared his candidacy—that was when I became aware that he thought of himself as a Republican. He has previously stated support for single-payer healthcare. He used to favor abortion. Suddenly he’s supposed to have all the beliefs of the conservatives? He didn’t answer the turning-point question. We don’t know how he voted in the last several presidential elections, or primaries (or if he even voted in primaries).

He could have capitalized on such an answer, but he didn’t. In fact, he’s spent the days following the debate complaining about Fox News, and about Megyn Kelly in particular, as ganging up on him with all the wrong questions. If he can’t come up with a clear answer to a Fox News question, how is he going to handle the various alphabet liberal news outlets, who will control the message during the post-primary?

News to Trump supporters (if such exist among actual primary-voting Republicans): Trump said nothing at the debate that he hadn’t been saying all along. He has brought attention to the porous border, using brash and crass soundbites. With more clarity and specifics, most of the other candidates have been as strong on border security. Unlike most of the others, Trump fails to mention the Constitution, even to refer to it as a guide. His guide is his gut, which he trusts implicitly.

We are still experiencing the disaster of a president who ignores the Constitution and goes by whatever his gut tells him to do—and accuses any dissenters of hatred, bigotry, bitter clinging, and stupidity. We don’t need another arrogant narcissist in the White House.

I have assumed, up to this point, that Trump is only in the news because he has bought the coverage, and happens to be good at self-promotion. Whatever the polls say, I have not met a single Republican who supports him. I’ve heard a few supporters call in on radio, but I haven’t met any. Not one.

This is Texas, where we have alternatives. Rick Perry was an excellent governor, and deserves more consideration that the news is giving him. If he were the candidate, I would gladly support him. But he’s not my favorite.

Because we have Ted Cruz.

Cruz used his time well in the debate. In fact, for every minute he was given, he probably went up a point in the polls—while for every minute Trump got, he dropped a point or two in polls (depending on where you look; we still don’t have a poll of likely GOP primary voters).

Cruz was given the question about what God is telling him to do. It was intended to be a loaded question. Yes, he appeals to religious conservatives. He’s the son of a preacher, and strongly religious. He lives it. But the question was aimed at making him claim that God talks to him personally—which is intended to make him, or any religious candidate, look delusional. But he handled it brilliantly. God speaks through the scriptures, and he reads God’s word every day. Then he told the story of life turnaround of his father, who had been a drunkard who left Cruz and his mother. But when he found the gospel of Christ, he turned his life around, went back to his family, and turned his life over to God. It’s a vivid and inarguable example of the positives that belief in God can do.

Then he used his final comments to list, very directly, whathe will do the first day in office:

If I’m elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama.
The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into these videos and to prosecute Planned Parenthood for any criminal violations.
The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice and the IRS to stop persecuting religious liberty.
And I then intend to cancel the Iran deal and, finally, move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
I will keep my word. My father fled Cuba, and I will fight to defend liberty because my family knows what it’s like to lose it.
In case you missed the connection, that’s what God tells him to do. That happens to coincide with what God tells me ought to be done. As a beginning.

Sometimes Rand Paul gets away with being the Constitutional expert. But Cruz had the Constitution memorized as a teen; he spoke on it possibly hundreds of times. He has defended the Constitution before the Supreme Court a number of times—all successful.

Those who claim Donald Trump is their guy because he’s bold enough to speak the truth—they haven’t been listening carefully. Trump has been playing political games for decades, buying influence. He’s good with PR; he’s good at getting attention. But he’s saying what will get coverage, not how we will get back to the Constitution. Trump is the most political being in the field, and happens to embody the caricature the media and liberals have of Republicans. Real Republicans are nothing like him.

But if you want a bold truth speaker—Ted Cruz will appeal to you. I assert that those who know Cruz and are for him would not vote for Trump as their candidate. But those who have so far been attracted to Trump  for “truth speaking” will find Cruz a much better example of what they’re looking for.

Seventeen candidates is too many. Just a few observations.

Like I said, I cannot foresee any scenario in which I would vote for Trump. I voted against Obama in 2008 by holding my nose and voting for McCain. But the country is so far gone now, I would not bother to cast a presidential vote if it were between Clinton (or any other socialist Democrat) and Trump.

Nor do I foresee any way I would vote for Jeb Bush. I thought he was a decent governor of Florida. There was a time that I thought he might be the true conservative among the Bushes. But his support of Common Core lost me. He tries to back off now, but he skirts the issue. Nor does he stand strong on border security and obeying and sustaining the laws. It’s not that nuanced an issue. As Cruz says: legal immigration good; illegal immigration bad.

I also will not vote for Mike Huckabee. He is a good speaker, and often messages the conservative viewpoint well. But I do not believe he is a man of integrity. I hold him personally responsible for gifting us with McCain in 2008 (his shenanigans led to the movement from Romney leading in West Virginia caucus to McCain winning the state’s primary, which was a turning point in the campaign).

And Huckabee has attacked my religion (Romney’s religion) in an underhanded way, implying that we believe Christ and Satan were good buddies and playmates prior to life here on earth. What we believe is that we were all spirit children of Heavenly Father before we were born here on the earth. It’s not that strange a belief (William Wordsworth and John Milton describe similar beliefs). But he twisted it to make Mormonism seem weird, particularly to his evangelical listeners. And it was reticence to accept a Mormon as a good Christian person that led to lack of support of Romney again in 2012. Romney was and is a man of integrity; I do not believe Huckabee is.

The claim following 2012 was that Romney was too moderate, but in fact he was then and always has been more conservative than Huckabee and most of the rest of the field. The only thing Romney lacked was the boldness of speech and continual reference to the Constitution that we are getting from Cruz.

There are a few candidates I would like to see get more attention. Governor Bobby Jindal is one. The turnaround in Louisiana—from corrupt and poverty-stricken liberal-led backwater, to successful thriving state—is nothing short of miraculous. It is a microcosm of the change we need to see at the national level. He doesn’t get attention because he is low-key and soft-spoken, pretty much the opposite of Trump. Or Obama. Following a shooting in Louisiana recently, he immediately flew to meet the family and offer condolences in person. Without media fanfare. I believe he is a good man and an excellent leader who should be more highly considered.

Carly Fiorina is impressive. I was looking at her when she ran for Senate in California. She didn’t succeed, and my memory is tickling that there were things I disagreed with her on. But whatever that may have been, she’s not saying those things now. I would favor her as a VP pick.

I’m still looking at Scott Walker. He’s young enough, however, that maybe this isn’t his time, and he’s doing good work where he is.

I’ve been wary of Marco Rubio since a false step on immigration a year or so ago. However, if he can be repaired on that issue, he is otherwise reasonable, smart, and reliable. His voice is worth hearing in the race.

I enjoy hearing Chris Christie talk. He’s entertaining. There’s more good about him than people have claimed, since his buddying up with Obama during his state’s disaster. But he’s not reliably conservative and Constitution loving. So, keep him working on New Jersey.

Ben Carson is an interesting man, and a calm voice of reason. But he doesn’t understand the Constitution well enough, or understand the workings of government well enough, to trust with the leadership of the country under these dire circumstances.

I have no idea why several are running. Lindsey Graham has virtually no support, and is not a good example of a conservative. It is a mystery to me why John Kasich is in the race—in the upper ten. Do we want a moderate governor of a liberal state—who does not have the stellar business record, or the Olympics, or the perfect family priorities of the more conservative Romney? That would go better than 2012?

I used to like Rick Santorum. But he hasn’t succeeded in leadership in more than a decade. And he showed himself to be negative in the last go-round. A good man, but I don’t think he’s right for the presidency.

I’m unaware of Jim Gilmore, except that he’s the former Governor of Virginia. George Pataki may be familiar to New Yorkers, but he does not speak to me here in Texas.

So, let’s hear a lot more from Cruz. And give more voice to Jindal, Perry, Fiorina, Walker, and Rubio. And let’s ignore any media that tries to cram Trump or Bush down our throats. And very soon, the wannabees who shouldn’t be in the race ought to bow out.