Monday, November 28, 2016

The Witch Is Dead!

There’s a scene early in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy’s house drops on top of a wicked witch. And the people of the land, the Munchkins, come out to meet “the young lady who fell from a star.” And they sing, “Ding Dong! The witch is dead! Which old witch? The wicked witch?” And they cheer and celebrate.

And then the other wicked witch shows up. And she’s every bit as bad as the one under the house.

It wasn’t until much later in the movie, when Dorothy accidentally kills the other wicked witch, by throwing water on her in the attempt to put out the fire on her friend the Scarecrow, that the large army of guards let their real allegiance be known. They had been tyrannized by the witch; they hadn’t served her out of love and loyalty. They cheered Dorothy for freeing them.

So, this weekend we’re looking at the somewhat unusual spectacle of people cheering the death of a human being: Fidel Castro. He was 90 years old, so no one ended his life prematurely. But there’s a sense that at last his personal evil has left the earth. Of course, he had a younger brother (Raul, 85), to whom he bestowed his power, so the tyranny can continue. So the story, for Cuba and its people, isn’t over yet.

It’s probably a good time to recount the evil, while people are taking notice—because people tend to overlook evil once it is no longer imminently threatening.

Fidel Castro has been the dictator of Cuba, not just during my adulthood, but essentially through my entire life. He came to power in 1959, in an overthrow of the Batista regime. As President Kennedy pointed out in 1960,

“They [Castro and other revolutionaries] promised individual liberty and free elections. They promised an end to harsh police-state tactics. They promised a better life for a people long oppressed by both economic and political tyranny. But in the two years since that revolution swept Fidel Castro into power, those promises have all been broken.”
Those promises were never intended; they were lies to get people to back them, so they could gain power. And once in power, they would wield it.

Castro’s style of tyranny was based in Marxist-Leninist doctrine. A year into his reign he nationalized all American-led industries (these included oil refineries, factories, and casinos), which led to the end of diplomatic relations with America. Let’s note here that Cuba had the ability to end the embargo at any time, by willingly agreeing to civil rights for its people and denying its intention to spread communism. Castro chose to let his people live in poverty, and then claim it was that evil capitalist America that was doing it to them.

When Obama lifted the embargo in 2015, it was not because Castro had capitulated—even partially. Obama, the “great” negotiator (as in the Iran deal), made sure the US got nothing in exchange for lightening its policies against the neighbor who had threatened us with nuclear missiles in the early 1960s. Maybe that was because Obama could see nothing wrong with Castro’s dictatorship or imposed socialism. We can only speculate, because Obama hasn’t provided any acceptable explanation.

Senator Marco Rubio, whose family escaped from Cuba, is right to hope for a rollback of the Obama concessions.

Obama’s expression of condolence was mild compared to some. Jill Stein, recent Green Party candidate who is insisting on a recount (does she think votes for her were hidden in a few states?) tweeted,

Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!
While the insanity of the sentence causes enough consternation, I’m puzzling over the “Presente!” which means “present,” as in, “I’m here in class, or in line” or maybe means, “I’m with you, and ready to go to battle on your side.” Or maybe she was just referring to him as “presidente” and misspelled it. Either way, her expression, while legal in the US (as dissenting views are not, in Cuba), is highly offensive, and reveals her to be both anti-American and pro-communist tyranny.

Much of today there was talk of Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau lamenting the loss:

Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.
There isn’t any truth in there, other than the length of time. He didn’t serve the Cuban people; he served himself by enslaving the people. In a country where people’s average income (using American money as a standard) is about $20 a month, Castro had amassed for himself a cache of $900 million. He enjoyed a massive estate, on a private island, and simply lied to his people.

There are those who claim he improved the education and healthcare of his people. Photo evidence shows healthcare for regular Cubans to be Third World at best, and filthier than a Gosnell clinic. If you know anyone who would prefer educating their child in Cuba rather than 90 miles north in Florida, I’ll concede that one, but I don’t think I’ll have to.

There are lists of the abuses and crimes against humanity, in particular his own people. Yale history professor Carlos Eire wrote a piece with such a list, called “Farewell to Cuba’s Brutal Big Brother,” with a pretty good list. He ends with this epitaph:

In sum, Fidel Castro was the spitting image of Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel “1984.” So, adiĆ³s, Big Brother, king of all Cuban nightmares. And may your successor, Little Brother, soon slide off the bloody throne bequeathed to him.
A piece by Jeff Powers earlier today included a list from that lists the deaths Castro is responsible for: 

One thing we’re seeing is that support for Castro is limited exclusively to the leftist-progressive-liberal-democrat side. No lover of the Constitution and freedom would praise such a monster.
As Powers summarized in his piece:

Troublingly, the praise and criticism of Castro has mirrored political ideologies. Support is coming from those who lean left. Consider that for a moment. Because someone has an ideological slant similar to yours, you are willing to “overlook” decades of human rights and political abuses and heap praise on someone’s legacy. That is a scary thought, and shows how partisan our politics have become.
In Spherical Model terms, Castro was a deep south tyrannist. Control over people and power to himself were his goals, his ideology, and legacy. Those who praise Castro while claiming they fear and hate President-elect Trump for his authoritarianism are morally depleted. You can’t overlook one tyrant’s crimes and despise another just because he’s not currently in your party.

Those of us who see northern freedom clearly must never ever compromise with those who want to impose tyranny on us.

Senator Ted Cruz, whose father and other family members suffered under Castro’s dictatorship firsthand, recounts the history in a National Review op-ed. And I’m in agreement with him about Cuba going forward:

A dictator is dead. But his dark, repressive legacy will not automatically follow him to the grave. Change can come to Cuba, but only if America learns from history and prevents Fidel’s successor from playing the same old tricks.
Ding dong! The dictator is dead! But there’s still another dictator in place and willing to continue the oppression. And there are people among us in America who glorify tyranny and degrade Constitutional freedom. We must be constantly vigilant.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Living in Thanksgiving

Back in college I listened to a talk by one of the professors—I think it was Susan Easton Black—in which she talked about what we would do if the stars came out only once a decade. We would celebrate. We would have events leading up to it. We’d have special star night practices. We’d all find a great place to view the stars on star night. We would have a sense of wonder; we’d be filled with awe.

We would be grateful for that night with the stars.
But since we get them every night, it takes some effort on our part to see the wonder in them. When we do, we are still filled with awe.

Milky Way and Arches, by photographer
G Brad Lewis, who records moments of awe
every day. From his Facebook page. His work
can be found online at

So I’m looking at what it takes to get that feeling. I know that gratitude is involved—feeling thankful.
Last May when we were in London, there was a challenging day. It was rainy and cold—very cold for us Texans. It was our day to do the Big Bus tour. But because of the weather the traffic was stalled throughout the city. It was often a half hour wait between sites mentioned by the headset tour guide. The only place we had time to get off and tour was St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was well worth it, but we were disappointed, yet again, to run out of time for Westminster (we never did get to do that).

It was the kind of day the I’m prone to get irritable about. Cold, and traffic, and having to change plans as we go along. But, I wasn’t irritable. I kept thinking, “We’re in London! How cool is that!” I just wanted to enjoy every moment we were there, so there was no time, no place in life, for irritability and frustration. That’s something I need to feel more in the regular day-to-day life.

Mental health experts, self-help gurus, and lots of just plain good people can tell you that purposely being grateful is good for your brain and for your health. One common suggestion is a thankfulness journal: you write three (or however many you choose) things to be grateful for at the end of every day. Another approach is to make the list part of your meditation, or prayer. Prayer works for me; I know I’ll get in the thankfulness when I do that.

One of the reasons Thanksgiving Day is a favorite holiday is that we spend time together with loved ones, thinking about what we’re thankful for, and expressing it. We can just enjoy being together, and celebrating that.

If that’s the attitude we keep through the rest of the holiday season, that will make all our celebrations more meaningful and much less stressful and frustrating.

If we can do that through Christmas and the New Year, maybe we can make a habit of it. We could find ourselves Living in Thanksgiving. And that’s just a better life to live.

This video from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reminds us of the value of Thanksgiving Daily, available here (under two minutes). 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Electorally Collegiate

We’re not a democracy. That seems to come as a surprise to some Americans. Democracy is rule—or tyranny—by majority. The axiom is that it’s two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for lunch.

What our founders designed was a constitutional republic. Democratic voting happens in parts of it—to choose our representatives, and directly choose many local leaders. But the federal government is limited, on purpose, so that coercive force, like fire, does the good it’s intended to do but does not go further and burn us free individuals to the ground.

Federal: relating to a type of organization that is made by joining together separate organizations or states
State: a politically unified people occupying a definite territory; a nation
When the thirteen original colonies declared independence from England, they were a loosely joined group of separate states (i.e., nations), a confederation. The document joining them, the Articles of Confederation, was weak and imperfect. That’s why, a few years later, representatives from these separate but confederated states worked out a new Constitution, “in order to form a more perfect union.”

They did not give up being their own sovereign statehoods, but they united with the other states in a stronger union. It’s important to remember that it was states joining together, and not merely a few million unaffiliated individuals suddenly becoming a new single nation. The nature of America is that it is the United States (nations) of America.

One of the major debates in the Constitutional Congress related to insistence, mainly from the large states, that representation should be by population number and, on the other hand, the insistence, mainly from the smaller states, that representation should be by state. What was the incentive for a small state, like Delaware, to join the union if it was simply to be ruled by whatever bigger states, like Virginia, enacted?

The brilliant compromise of the Constitution was to divide the representative branch, the legislature, into two houses: one representing population number—the House--and one representing each state equally—the Senate. Until the 16th Amendment, the two senators from each state were chosen by the state legislatures, rather than by direct election as they are today. The idea was that the House represented the interests of the people from their home district, and the Senate represented the state’s (nations) interests. Even with the change in how senators are elected, they are still supposed to represent their state’s interests while working together on federal issues.

Over time, with inadequate history and civics being taught, too many people think of the states as just provinces.

Province: any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into
America didn’t divide itself into provinces that it called states; states united together to form America. We’re all Americans, but we’re also members of our respective states. You might forget that in some states, but you don’t forget it here in Texas.

Now that we’re clear on what United States are, we can talk with a better understanding about the election—and specifically the Electoral College.
The 2016 Electoral College Map,
image found here

Direct election is what some (many) voters think they’re doing in a presidential election. But they’re not. They’re actually voting for a slate of electors from their state who have promised to vote for a particular candidate. It seems complicated, but its purpose is to preserve both the voice of the people and the voice of each state.

If the popular vote directly elected the president, the campaign would look very different. It would concentrate on areas with the highest populations—big cities mainly, like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas. Add in Florida and DC area. Ignore the rest of the nation, because you can’t garner enough votes in any particular place to sway the election. Flyover country gets flown over.

So, the system allots electors per state based on population (1 per representative in the US House of Representatives) and state (2 senators per state). Each state decides how its electors will be chosen, but most give all the state’s electors to the vote winner in the state.
Without Electoral College illustration
by Ramirez for The Daily Signal

If the vote is decisive in the state, it’s possible not all the votes will be counted. Don’t cry foul. All the cast ballots on election day are counted. All early voting ballots are counted. It used to be that absentee ballots were only counted if the number could sway the election, but since ballot by mail has become more prevalent, those are usually included in the voting day tally. (That’s what showed up in my county’s tally within 24 hours of the polls closing.)

However, there are provisional ballots—paper ballots cast by people who are not showing up as registered but whose registration was turned in on time; those votes will be handled individually, and if they are valid, they will be counted eventually.  Sometimes these have to do with providing proof of residency or some other detail that didn’t happen in time to show up in the books, but the voter has five days in which to provide documentation. But most provisional ballots end up being people who went to the wrong polling place, because they moved and didn’t go to the place where they are still registered, or because they just showed up at the wrong place and don’t have time to go elsewhere. These votes are not valid and will not be counted.

Anyway, the final tally on these votes may not show up in the original tallies, or even official tallies within 24 hours. If they will not change the outcome, there’s a good chance no one will change the count later. In other words, the popular vote count, because it doesn’t matter, isn’t always the count of all valid (and only valid) votes.

There’s also voter fraud to think of. In the last election, the difference was an average of about 10 votes per precinct. I was a poll watcher at a heavily democrat precinct that ended up with 20 extra votes on the machine that weren’t included on the voter list—the handwritten list of each voter that signs the book, used to verify the count. If one party decided to add votes from non-voters at a rate of 10-20 per voting place, they could turn a national election. If there was a corrupt party not being watched in some state, they could purposely add hundreds or thousands of fraudulent votes. As it is, at least they can only affect no higher than the state level.

So the Electoral College is a protection against tyranny of the majority, against tyranny of urban over rural or suburban areas, against large states over small, against populous regions over sparsely populated regions, and against tyranny by voter fraud.

Rarely has the Electoral College chosen a different president than the popular vote. When it has done so, that means the election was close. And in a close election, we ought to be glad the decision was made with the input of all states and all regions, instead of just the most populous cities.

There’s been a fair amount of conversation about the Electoral College the past couple of weeks. It’s a good time to get more educated on the subject.

I suggest this PragerU video:

Then there are these additional brief video explanations:

·         Mark Kaye, "Why the Electoral College Sux!"
·         Larry Arnn interview, and opinion piece he wrote in the Wall Street Journal November 14, “The Electoral College Is Anything but Outdated

And if you’d like to learn a little more in depth, I recommend a book I read about a decade ago that has been updated in 2012: Enlightened Democracy: the Case for the Electoral College, by Tara Ross, the presenter on the PragerU video.

It keeps happening that, when we look at what our founders thought through, they did a remarkable job of working out how to get just the right amount of government, with limits to safeguard our liberties. They deserve something much better than an ageist assumption that they’re outdated. Chances are they thought it through and came up with a brilliant idea.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Not Deplorable, Just Revolting

The loss of Hillary Clinton should not have been a surprise, since she was probably the worst major party candidate in the history of the country, and would be more suited for a cubical cell than an oval office. But there is still a lot of shock about the win of Donald Trump.

I don’t believe there’s any relevant rise in racism or bigotry—no sudden rise in deplorables. In fact, while I think getting two such unlikable candidates is a cultural issue, I don’t think the outcome is mainly cultural. It’s mainly economic. It’s a critical mass of people who have “had it up to here” with the depression we’rein and not calling it that—people revolting against the status quo malaise, who think it’s about time for a change.

The difficulty for me has been understanding why we got Trump as the alternative to economic stagnation, when we had at least half a dozen alternatives who were better on free market economic principles, plus better on cultural and international leadership, with just plain better understanding of the Constitution, which leads to freedom, prosperity, and civilization every time it’s tried.

I came across a little more understanding this week. First, I listened to an Uncommon interview with J. D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy. He talks about the people of Scots-Irish descent, who settled in Appalachia and the Midwest. Even among them there is a divide: Some follow the rules of society, work hard, remain steady, and move into the middle class by sheer fortitude and endurance. Some drink hard, have a hard time holding a job, and live lives of violence and chaos in extended messy families. They used to be able to get by with labor jobs, which were plentiful. Now they are more likely to be unemployed, and waste their lives in drink and drugs, blaming some outside force for their plight.
J. D. Vance, on Uncommon Knowledge

Vance grew up in the chaotic branch, but had ties to the more stable side. Someone rescued him, in his teens, and set him on a path for college (he went in the military, then college, and eventually graduated from Yale Law School). I haven’t read the book yet, but, while it appears fairly damning of this culture he came from, when he speaks about them, it is with a lot of affection, rather than bitterness. He loves his extended family. He’s trying to help increase understanding.

The chaotic ones are angry for the loss of opportunity. But the ones who tried to do everything right, and have been suffering loss of opportunity anyway—they’re really fed up. So when Trump came in and promised them he’d fix that, speaking in the plain language they’re used to, that sure sounded a lot better than more of the same.

The next day I came across a piece called “What So Many People Don’t Get about the US Working Class,” by Joan C. Williams. She reveals a misunderstanding of terminology: working class really means middle class, not poor. The two parties use these terms differently:

When progressives talk about the working class, typically they mean the poor. But the poor, in the bottom 30% of American families, are very different from Americans who are literally in the middle: the middle 50% of families whose median income was $64,000 in 2008. That is the true “middle class,” and they call themselves either “middle class” or “working class.”
“The thing that really gets me is that Democrats try to offer policies (paid sick leave! minimum wage!) that would help the working class,” a friend just wrote me. A few days’ paid leave ain’t gonna support a family. Neither is minimum wage. WWC [white working class] men aren’t interested in working at McDonald’s for $15 per hour instead of $9.50. What they want is what my father-in-law had: steady, stable, full-time jobs that deliver a solid middle-class life to the 75% of Americans who don’t have a college degree. Trump promises that. I doubt he’ll deliver, but at least he understands what they need.
Back in 2012, Mitt Romney, in a private meeting, was asked about his plans for cutting taxes. He was recorded as saying he wasn’t worried about cutting taxes on the rich, who were doing fine, nor for the 47% not paying taxes—how do you cut taxes from zero? He would concentrate on lowering taxes for the middle class.

Romney would have done what the “revolting” middle class is insisting on now—and we would be four years into recovery. Yet he was excoriated for “doing nothing” for the poor (for “working families” was how that was spun). He wouldn’t have done nothing; he would have increased opportunities for all, which wasn’t included in the scope of that particular question. But his answer is still quoted as one of the big mistakes of the campaign, even though it was exactly true and sensible.
So why the acceptance of Trump but not Romney?

Working Class Americans
photo from here

Williams offers some additional information into how that middle-American middle class thinks. The WWC “resents professionals but admires the rich.” They’re angry about college graduates, who get management positions, lack experience about how the job is really done, but nevertheless spend all day telling workers how to do their jobs. It’s the educated upper-middle-class that they have experience with—those are the ones they resent, not the distant unknown rich people. It’s not the success of the rich that the WWC resents; it’s the controlling of their lives. As Williams says,

Why the difference? For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable—just with more money. “The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,” a machine operator told Lamont. Owning one’s own business—that’s the goal. That’s another part of Trump’s appeal.
So, when you have a condescending Harvard-educated black president (prejudiced against them because they aren’t black) ordering them around, controlling their lives—everything from Obamacare to who gets to use whose bathrooms, and whether a source of jobs will be curtailed because of an infinitesimally small possible effect on climate a century hence—and that guy might get followed by a woman who also condescends and insists on doubling down on those very policies, there should be no question about why they would revolt against Hillary Clinton as a candidate.

That segment Vance talked about, the ones who keep their noses clean and go along—they were willing to give Obama a try, when he said he was going to help the working class. Plus he would prove the country was beyond racism, so those accusations would go away. But after eight years, they’re now aware Obama isn’t even trying to help them; he’s trying to help the non-working poor, or the entry-level kid, at their expense. And they’re done with that.

I’ve considered myself middle class—so, yet another way to misunderstand the term, since I’m college educated. In so many ways I find this revolt understandable. I’m also tired of the bad economy. And I’m tired of a smug and condescending administration and their minions in academia and the media insisting that the way I think and live is unacceptable, or even deplorable.

I’m a thinker. I know how to take what the “progressives” say and measure that against principles and sound, reproducible data. So I can say why I believe they’re wrong and their policies won’t work.

I was willing to trust Romney to do what was needed. He’s a better all-around businessman than Trump, has covered more industries, specialized in helping businesses turn around and function better. And he is inarguably ethical, which can’t be said for Trump, whose business in gambling and entertaining was always tied to cronyism, and a trail of lawsuits dog him.

But, for whatever reason, the WWC demographic saw Romney as untrustworthy; he seemed too smooth, too educated—too much like those professionals they’d been pushed around by. I wish he could have connected with them. I’m trying to understand why he didn’t. That air of being college smart instead of street smart might be key. I don't think Romney should have tried to be otherwise; he is what he is. But Trump, while college educated, never sounds like it.

The reality might be that Trump will be a lot more authoritarian, a lot more “progressive,” than Romney would have been. And culturally will be a lot less civilized. (Almost everyone is less civilized than Romney.)

College educated conservatives, as a demographic, I believe are much more likely to be pro-Constitution, pro-principle-based limited government, and pro-traditional family than Trump is. So that’s a division I hope we can heal. But I think the pro-Trump middle-class voter is just as likely to love country, family, and traditional values as I do. They might not know how to articulate how we get freedom, prosperity, and civilization from adhering to our Constitution, but they will appreciate those things when we get them.

So far this week there are reports of Trump reaching out to former foes like Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz. He might be sensible enough to use some Constitutional conservatives and good economic data wonks in his cabinet and administration. That would go a long way toward healing the rough, off-the-cuff brashness that may have won him the election but without help from people like me.

We’ve had presidents with ugly personalities before: LBJ, Andrew Jackson (both democrats). We can survive brash and ugly—if Trump will do the principled things that need doing.

So, again, I’m praying for President-elect Trump and all those who surround him to be wise, and good. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rational and Irrational Fears

Shortly after the 2008 election I wrote a note about my fears, and in 2014 I did a follow-up to see whether those fears had been realized. Many had.

The things I feared had to do with both government overreach and failure. Government’s proper role is to protect life, liberty, and property; stepping being its proper role brings about unintended negative consequences—usually exactly opposite of the claimed goal.

Overreach includes things like Obamacare, over-regulation of industry, and other economic interference that lead to high unemployment, high inflation, and low production—so, significantly less prosperity. And it includes interference with state’s rights—as in education, definition of marriage, and transgender bathrooms and locker rooms. It includes concerns about more liberal Supreme Court justices, who would disregard the meaning of the Constitution and invent laws from the bench. There’s concern about trampling the Bill of Rights: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to keep and bear arms, protection from illegal searches and seizures. All legitimate fears, it turned out.

Then there are government's failures to protect our sovereignty and safety. There’s our porous border, which allows in terrorists, drug traffickers, and human traffickers, in addition to the illegals simply seeking a better life, but who use our social systems, increasing our debt and lowering our standard of living. There is failure to fully support our military, weakening our power in the world and emboldening our enemies. ISIS grew out of the void of strength Obama caused. So, again, those were legitimate fears.

I didn’t anticipate the increase in racism—particularly racism of blacks against non-blacks. An honest history will show that the Obama presidency caused, rather than healed, racial division. And he increased various other forms of tribalism within our country.

So those are legitimate fears. And we had reason to fear ever increasing loss of freedom, prosperity, and civilization if people didn’t use an election to say, “Enough!”

There are also legitimate fears regarding a President Trump. And they are also related to either
The new reality, so at least make sure your
fears about it are rational.
Image found on Facebook, origin unknown
government’s overreach of or failure to perform its proper role of protecting life, liberty, and property.
We might be need to be on guard against too much authoritarianism. We’re glad he plans to do away with all of Obama’s illegal executive orders, but we’re still concerned that he might replace them with his own, rather than limiting lawmaking to the legislative branch.

We might be concerned that he’s still trying to buy positive attention, with things like paid childcare or parental leave, or leaving in place too much of Obamacare.

We might be concerned that his tendency to be thin-skinned will not work well on an international stage. But, seriously, I don’t fear that he will push the button for a nuclear attack on an enemy just because they disparage his personal appearance.

Nor do I think we need to worry about him rounding up those various tribes that voted against him: blacks, Hispanics, women, LGBTQ, or others. While I do think he’s personally immoral in his treatment of women, I don’t think he’s prejudiced against them in the business world, nor against any other tribal interest group based on something other than character—or, if not character, at least capability.

I think there are plenty of flaws in the new president, so there’s no need to invent or exaggerate imagined flaws like racism. I believe those are unjustified fears, fomented by the people who actually do focus on race, ethnicity, gender, or some other tribal characteristic.

Do women need to fear being deprived of birth control? Of course not. But I hope women will learn to see birth control not as a government responsibility, but a personal responsibility. Insisting that government pay for your birth control means you seriously don’t understand the concept of protecting life, liberty, and property.

Do Hispanics need to worry about being rounded up and deported? Of course not. The first priority will be to secure the border. Once that’s done, deporting the harmful aliens (or incarcerating them) will be a priority. And meanwhile we should be improving and streamlining the legal immigration process. Eventually, after all that is done, we can start having a reasonable conversation about how to deal with long-time illegals. But, by all means, if you’re an illegal who’s panicking about a mean President Trump, feel free to self-deport.

If you fear the world is ending because government might not force bakers to go against their religion to service a homosexual “wedding,” or because government might allow you to hear differing opinions on your school campus, or because government might not outlaw all jobs below $15 an hour—maybe you need to take a deep breath. I believe you feel these fears. But I can also see very clearly that they are irrational.

It isn’t rational to set up grief counseling on school campuses to deal with those distraught students who didn’t get their way in an election. If the election had gone the other way, and many of us would have had legitimate fears for the future of our country, it still wouldn’t be rational to set up grief counseling because of the outcome of an election. If you’re not adult enough to face disappointment (like we have faced under Obama this past near decade), then you’re not adult enough to be voting.
If you think it makes sense to go out and riot because your presidential candidate didn’t win, you’re not rational enough to be choosing our president.

The question, then, is: how do we best treat irrationality? That, in part, depends on whether there’s hope for improvement.

When we deal with irrationality in a child, it takes some patience. We don’t take a tantrum personally. We calmly keep the child from hurting himself or others. We might remove him from overstimulating inputs (like a store, or too much media, or too many loud and hyperactive friends). We might give him a time out and say, “You can come join us when you feel better and can handle yourself.” We might check to see whether there’s a physical need, like a good nap or a snack with protein in it.

If it’s a child, sometimes education and experience eventually lead them out of irrationality. That can take time, but it’s pretty effective.

If we’re dealing with grown-ups, it’s a little tougher. We want to be respectful. But, if there is hope for individuals to get over the irrationality, it might take the same cures as for a child: Don’t take it personally. Prevent them from hurting themselves or others. Deal with any actual needs. Guide them away from overstimulating media or friends who stir up their emotions. Give them a time out from attention for a while. And then, when they can handle themselves, let them rejoin civilization.

Maybe at some point they’ll notice that none of their irrational fears are actually happening. And maybe the new reality will be a lot better than that other world they used to live in. Those of us who have faced some pretty nasty rational fears are hoping for a better reality at last.

Friday, November 11, 2016


I spent most of Tuesday in a news blackout. I had planned to work the polls, but I was ill, and things were running smoothly without me at the polling place, so I stayed home. And turned off the news. I didn’t want to know.

After the polls closed, I went to help Mr. Spherical Model, who had served as our Presiding Judge, to drive the ballots to the collection location. I told him I didn’t have any news; I didn’t want to know which way our country was going to slowly be put to death.

But later, he tuned in to the returns on TV, and the first thing of note was Wisconsin going to Trump—and the media seemed shocked. And I thought, that’s where Republican Governor Scott Walker had to face recalls and persecution from labor unions, and he kept winning. And that had activated a lot of Republican support. Plus, Hillary had tried to win the state without bothering to set foot there. So, not really a surprise.

But other surprises continued. And eventually I started paying attention.

I hadn’t realized how much relief I would feel to learn that the media and their polls were wrong, and that we wouldn’t be subjected to a Clinton socialist/corrupt presidency following the eight painful years of an Obama socialist/corrupt presidency. The complete and permanent transformation from our constitutional republic to socialist tyranny wasn’t inevitable after all.

There’s still a Trump presidency to deal with. I’m adjusting to that. But, on the immediate bright side, because the Democrats didn’t win, we still have a Republican Senate and House. And there’s the small but hope-filled possibility that, with a non-antagonistic president, they might actually move toward conservative policies.

In Texas, of course the Republicans remained strong across the state. But here in Harris County, Hillary won. Democrats vote straight ticket, and every county-wide race was lost by Republicans. That includes sheriff, district attorney, tax assessor, and every judge. Every judge. This is tragic. Not only does that mean that every court on the ballot (not all terms ended this election) went to an inexperienced new judge, but to a judge who are philosophically willing to use something other than the Constitution, rule of law, and justice to determine their rulings.

Hopefully this damage will be offset in off-election years, when Republicans pay more attention and are much more likely to vote than are Democrats.

So, things are mixed. But overall, the sun came up sunnier than I expected on Wednesday morning.
My Facebook feed was filled with calls for kindness and uniting, and very few desperate pleas to wake from the nightmare. I guess my friends and I have already mostly self-selected. But I have become aware of the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth around the country.

My daughter-in-law, Mrs. Political Sphere, posted this gentle message:

I know that many of you are disappointed with the outcome of the election. As am I but I would have been disappointed either way. I could not bring myself to vote for Trump or Hillary. That being said I hope Trump is not as bad as I think he is.
This was reposted by a couple of her liberal friends. And I concur.

A brother-in-law was a Trump supporter—all along, even when Ted Cruz was still an option. He’s a businessman, and he reimagined Trump as he would want him to be. He believed all the bombast was a sort of show, over-the-top, to get attention, to get elected. And once elected, he would modify and do what it took to get the country economically back on its feet.
image from here

I never bought that. There’s way too much evidence to lead me to believe that’s not what was going on in Trump’s mind. But now that we are where we are, I would like to believe he’s right.

So far there are hopeful signs.

He released his plan for the first 100 days in office, which he calls his contract with the American voter. I’m not with him on the whole thing, but there are some good essentials in there. Remember that list of five things Cruz promised to do on day 1? It’s not all there, but most of it is.

Thursday there was a panel discussion at The Heritage Foundation, discussing conservatism during a Trump administration. Jonah Goldberg took a question about how large the issue of Supreme Court appointments loomed during this election. His answer went beyond that, and made a point I found useful.

It’s absolutely true that Hillary Clinton was a grave threat to the Constitution, grave threat to the Court…. The opposite is not necessarily true about Donald Trump. His commitment to the Constitution rhetorically has been quite good as a matter of campaigning. But he also said that there were twelve articles to the Constitution, so I don’t know that he is deeply enamored with the text. He also has views on things like eminent domain that a lot of people in this room, I think, are nervous about. He also has views on the First Amendment that I think a lot of people in this room are nervous about or should be nervous about.
And so I think that the question among conservatives and constitutionalists isn’t so much of what’s in Donald Trump’s heart. That remains to be seen.
What really matters is surrounding him, giving him the incentive structure whereby the information flow, the political decision-making process, all point him in the right direction….
The whole purpose of the conservative movement is not just to elect more Republican politicians; it is to move the zeitgeist and the popular understanding of the issues so that it is in politicians’ interests to do the right thing. And I think that is the first task for Donald Trump—for the conservative movement, it is to make sure that the arguments he is hearing and the incentives that he has push him in the right direction. I certainly think that he’s open to it. And he has made promises that commit him to it.
So, we have work to do, but there’s reason to believe we can do it. It will take constant vigilance, and practice at explaining what it is we conserve and why. But, for now, while he gets underway with a Trump presidency, I’m willing to support any efforts to bring us northward into freedom, prosperity, and civilization.

(I might even start capitalizing the title of president, which I have refused to do for president Obama for several years now.)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Longshots and Likely Outcomes

The date that has been looming on our calendars for so very long is upon us. And then life changes. And we don’t know what our country will look like the day after.
Found on Facebook,
credited to 

I don’t know what is going to happen. But I thought it wouldn’t hurt to look at some of the least likely outcomes, and then look at what we can probably expect.

No One Gets 270 Electoral Votes

The 270 number is half of the country’s electoral votes. If the two major candidates are close, and a third candidate gets some electoral votes (wins in at least one state). Then no one automatically gets declared the winner. If this happens, then a weird rule takes over: the US Congress chooses the president.

This isn’t an impossibility. For the first time in half a century, a third candidate might possibly win a state’s electors. The most likely is independent candidate Evan McMullin, who has a chance of winning Utah, where he’s within the margin of error in the latest polls. (He was up by several points in some polls the week the audio came out of Trump from ten years ago claiming he’d sexually assaulted women with impunity.)

A less likely possibility would be Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson winning New Mexico, where he served as governor.

If it came to this standoff, so Congress has the historic opportunity to decide the presidency, what would they do? I think the assumption has to be that they would favor the candidate of their party, which is Republican.

Evan McMullin worked as a policy advisor to Congress. He is known there, particularly by Republicans. McMullin has been a conservative Republican all along, and is only running as an independent for the election—in contrast to Donald Trump, who is running as a Republican only for the election and has never been a conservative. Since the two main candidates are both strongly disliked by a majority of the country, it’s not inconceivable that there would be a sense of relief that we could choose someone else. So it’s not out of the question that Congress could elect McMullin. 

But it’s still unlikely. Pressure from the electorate would sound deafening. Many would fear to do anything except vote for their party’s nominee--unless something even more horrible comes out about Trump, like a sudden sexual assault arrest or some other provable accusation leading to prison.

The Electoral College Rebels

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t directly elect the president. We elect representatives of our state’s votes. This design was to protect the votes of all, rather than to allow large urban centers or particular regions from having all the say. Check out the Prager U video, if you need to review (here and here).

One of the less likely purposes for the electoral college is to address the scenario that the popularly elected president turns out to be unacceptable (new information comes out of criminal activity or moral turpitude). The electors wouldn’t be forced to vote for such a dirtbag; they could change their vote.

During the past week, this started to look like a possible outcome if Hillary got indicted between election day and the electoral college vote on December 19. Over the weekend FBI Director Comey came out again to say he didn’t recommend prosecuting Hillary Clinton for her multiple breaches of national security. In the meantime, a Democrat elector from Washington State has promised not to vote for her, regardless of the popular vote outcome.

Since her known crimes so far have failed to bring even an indictment, despite all the aides pleading the 5th (i.e., admitting wrongdoing), and because the corruption in the entire Department of Justice is led by the current administration, who is ideologically aligned with her, we can’t expect truth and accuracy. The likelihood of more electors stepping up and refusing to vote for this criminal is low, alas.

One of the Main Candidates Becomes President

This is indeed the likely outcome. I’m not sitting on the edge of my seat, anxious to know which of them that will be. My guess is that it will be Hillary Clinton—the most corrupt, most socialist, most unsuitable candidate ever to step into the Oval Office.
Found on Facebook,
credited to Being Libertarian

Here’s one more longshot: those rumors about her ill health turn out to be true, and she becomes incapable of carrying out her duties as president. That would leave us with a vice-president stepping up. Tim Kaine is probably not better in policy, but it would be hard to be as corrupt as she is, so that would be considered a slight improvement. Also, because he would be unelected, Congress might be willing to stand up to him, we could hope.

There is a pair of Daily News Editorials—one laying out the case against Trump, followed by one laying out the case against Hillary

There’s enough accuracy in both that it brings to mind the battle of wits scene from The Princess Bride. Vizzini lists the reasons “I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you,” and then lists the reasons “I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.” Clearly either choice was deadly, as Vizzini shortly learned the hard way.

But, since one of the two choices will be foisted on us, what happens from Wednesday on?

Four years ago, the morning after a disappointing election, which made me feel that America was lost, this scripture came to mind:

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
I’ve been trying to do that since. 

There are—and will be—things that are just wrong, that seem intolerable, things which should not be tolerated. But we cannot live our lives in outrage. We need to live. We can live as best we can, as most of humankind has had to do, without the blessing of the freedom, prosperity, and civilization we know we are missing. Whatever our circumstances, we can still live good lives.
Rising Sun Chair, Independence Hall

My Facebook friend Shawn Rogers wrote this prediction this morning:

My final election prediction: This election will end. The sun will come up on Wednesday, and again on Thursday. The consequences won't be as horrible as the losing side thinks they will be. And the results won't be as fantastic as the winning side thinks they will be. We'll have new political battles to fight. But life will go on. Families will go on. Faith will go on. Joy, hope, and happiness will still be within reach.
I think that we need a hopeful approach, for ourselves, our families, and our communities, even when w have less hope for our country as a whole. We need to live in gratitude, so that we can be guided to do what is best to do with our lives.

A couple of weeks I read an outsider’s perspective I thought was helpful. This is from Dan Hannan, a British conservative MEP:

Each presidential campaign thrives on fear of the other. Trump’s supporters tell us that Clinton’s judicial nominations will fundamentally transform America, tilting the balance toward authoritarianism. Clinton’s supporters retort that Trump is a quasi-fascist.
Both sides misunderstand, or affect to misunderstand, the Constitution. The United States was designed precisely to contain the ambitions of its rulers. Jefferson and Hamilton had seen arbitrary rule first-hand, and were determined to ensure that even the most Caligulan leader could not create an autocracy. We might almost say that they had Trump, or someone very like Trump, in mind when they drew up the rules.
Despite what Pelosi says, it is the Republican nominee who, in the unlikely event of his election, would be likely to face impeachment. There would be scant sympathy for President Trump in either House, and he seems to have as little concern for constitutional propriety as he has for telling the truth. Indeed, the only truly persuasive argument for electing him is the “Vote Trump, Get Pence” line.
What, though, of Clinton? … Is there not a danger that, by unbalancing the Supreme Court, she would transform the United States into an altogether more nannying and dirigiste nation?
Again, the Founders had her number. Barring some truly extraordinary electoral bouleversement, [Hillary] will not have a free hand in her first two years; nor, given the usual pattern of mid-term elections, is that likely to change in the second two years.
American liberty is too deeply rooted to be wrecked by a couple of judges. Take the most commonly voiced concern among conservatives. Suppose that a Clinton-made Supreme Court overturned the Heller verdict—that is, the ruling that interprets the Second Amendment as meaning that an individual can own and carry weapons.
The day after such a reversal would look just like the day before it. No state constitution would be amended. No legislation would be mandated at either federal or state level.
That’s what checks and balances mean: No president, no Supreme Court, has absolute power. The system, you might say, works….
I've never known Americans to be as gloomy about politics as now. And, looking at the two main candidates, I sympathize. But I can't bring myself to share in their pessimism. The United States has lasted for as long as it has, through foreign wars and civil strife, because the Constitution is bigger than any politician….
America [is] the wealthiest and the freest, because its system of government elevates the individual over the collective.
No single president, however demented, can undo the work of two-and-a-half centuries. That’s the true meaning of American exceptionalism.
It may be that he is right. It may be that, even with the most dire predictions, our lives will still go on, for the most part as before, albeit with more weight upon our shoulders as we go about the work of living.

But we can go on living. We’re still in a land of great freedom and prosperity, compared to most of world history. And we must enjoy whatever good we have, so that we know not to let that good be taken.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Diverting Production

I’m finding Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson rich in application for our day. Here’s the beginning of Chapter VI, “Credit Diverts Production”:

Government “encouragement” to business is sometimes as much to be feared as government hostility. This supposed encouragement often takes the form of a direct grant of government credit or a guarantee of private loans.
Hazlitt spends most of this chapter talking about loans to farmers. But we can extrapolate this example to similar good-intentions-with-bad-outcomes that government proposes. I’m thinking about home loans to people whose incomes didn’t qualify, which led to the housing bubble of nearly a decade ago. And it probably applies to government school loans, or any other scheme to make college available (and supposedly affordable, or maybe even free) to everyone. And of course the Affordable Care Act and any other interference in the health care industry.

The overarching principle is that government only gets money from taxpayers, and then government uses money as if they have a right to it, but no responsibility for wasting it.

Whenever government attempts something beyond the proper role of government (protection of life, liberty, and property), it causes unintended consequences—usually exactly opposite to the stated goals of the interference.
So, here is a good chunk of chapter VI, with Hazlitt explaining what happens:

At first glance the case for this type of loan may seem a strong one. Here is a poor family, it will be said, with no means of livelihood. It is cruel and wasteful to put them on relief. Buy a farm for them; set them up in business; make productive and self-respective citizens of them; let them add to the total national product and pay the loan off out of what they produce. Or here is a farmer struggling along with primitive methods of production because he has not the capital to buy himself a tractor. Lend him the money for one; let him increase productivity; he can repay the loan out of the proceeds of his increased crops. In that way you not only enrich him and put him of his fee; you enrich the whole community by that much added output. And the loan, concludes the argument costs the government and the taxpayers less than nothing, because it is “self-liquidating.”
Now as a matter of fact that is what happens every day under the institution of private credit. If a man wishes to buy a farm, had has, let us say, only half or a third as much money as the farm costs, a neighbor or a savings bank will lend him the rest in the form of a mortgage on the farm. If he wishes to buy a tractor, the tractor company itself, or a finance company, will allow him to buy it for one-third of the purchase price with the rest to be paid off in installments out of earnings that the tractor itself will help to provide.
But there is a decisive difference between the loans supplied by private lenders and the loans supplied by a government agency. Each private lender risks his own fund. (A banker, it is true, risks the fund of others that have been entrusted to him; but if money is lost he must either make good out of his own funds or be forced out of business.) When people risk their own funds they are usually careful in their investigations to determine the adequacy of the assets pledged and the business acumen and honesty of the borrower.
If the government operated by the same strict standards, there would be no good argument for its entering the field at all. Why do precisely what private agencies already do? But the government almost invariably operates by different standards. The whole argument for its entering the lending business, in fact, is that it will make loans to people who could not get them from private lenders. This is only another way of saying that the government lenders will take risks with other people’s money (the taxpayers’) that private lenders will not take with their own money. Sometimes, in fact apologists will freely acknowledge that the percentage of losses will be higher on these government loans than on private loans. But they contend that this will be more than offset by the added production brought into existence by the borrowers who pay back, and even by most of the borrowers who do not pay back.
This argument will seem plausible only as long as we concentrate our attention on the particular borrowers whom the government supplies with funds, and overlook the people whom its plan deprives of funds. For what is really being lent is not money, which is merely the medium of exchange, but capital…. What is really being lent, say, is the farm or the tractor itself. Now the number of farms in existence is limited, and so is the production of tractors (assuming, especially, that an economic surplus of tractors is not produced simply at the expense of other things). The farm or tractor that is lent to A cannot be lent to B. The real question is, therefore, whether A or B shall get the farm.
This brings us to the respective merits of A and B, and what each contributes, or is capable of contributing, to production. A, let us say, is the man who would get the farm if the government did not intervene. The local banker or his neighbors know him and know his record. They want to find employment for their funds. They know that he is a good farmer and an honest man who keeps his word. They consider him a good risk. He has already, perhaps, through industry, frugality and foresight, accumulated enough cash to pay a fourth of the price of the farm. They lend him the other three-fourths; and he gets the farm.
There is a strange idea abroad, held by all monetary cranks, that credit is something a banker gives to a man. Credit on the contrary, is something a man already has. He has it, perhaps, because he already has marketable assets of a greater cash value than the loan for which he is asking. Or he has it because his character and past record have earned it. He brings it into the bank with him. That is why the banker makes him the loan. The banker is not giving something for nothing. He feels assured of repayment….
Now it is to A, let us say, who has credit that the banker would make his loan. But the government goes into the lending business in a charitable frame of mind because, as we say, it is worried about B. B cannot get a mortgage or other loans from private lenders because he does not have credit with them. He has no savings; he has no impressive record as a good farmer; he is perhaps at the moment on relief. Why not, say the advocates of government credit, make him a useful and productive member of society by lending hi enough for a farm and a mule or tractor ad setting him up in business?
Perhaps in an individual case it may work out all right. But it is obvious that in general the people selected by these government standards will be poorer risks than the people selected by private standards. More money will be lost by loans to them. There will be a much higher percentage of failures among them. They will be less efficient. More resources will be wasted by them. Yet the recipients of government credit will get their farms and tractors at the expense of those who otherwise would have been the recipients of private credit. Because B has a farm, A will be deprived of a farm. A may be squeezed out either because interest rates have gone up as a result of the government operations, or because farm prices have been forced up as a result of them, or because there is no other farm to be had in his neighborhood. In any case, the net result of government credit has not been to increase the amount of wealth produced by the community but to reduce it, because the available real capital (consisting of actual farms, tractors, etc.) has been placed in the hands of the less efficient borrowers rather than in the hands of the more efficient and trustworthy.[i]
There’s so much in this example: the broken glass theory, the story of Davy Crockett[ii] learning that government shouldn’t be in the business of charity. Hazlitt explains why government shouldn’t be in the business of economic interference at all. There will always be those pesky negative consequences.

On the other hand, trusting the free market, while concentrating our efforts on being better, more compassionate individuals, might just work out those perceived issues.

[i] Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson, 50th Anniversary Edition, Laissez Faire Books, © 1996, pp. 27-31.

[ii] I the retell this story on the Spherical Model website, in the Economic section, under the heading “Free-Enterprise Zone.” [   ] I first heard this Davy Crockett story from Nina Hendee, who tells Texas history stories to school groups at the family restaurant Taste of Texas. I later found the full story: “Not Yours to Give,” originally published in The Life of Colonel David Crockett, by Edward Sylvester Ellis, republished at, © 2002 The Junto Society.