Thursday, February 27, 2020

My 2020 Primary Recommendations

Early voting ends tomorrow. Primary voting day here in Texas is next Tuesday, which is “Super Tuesday,” voting day along with 13 other states plus American Samoa.

I’ve been procrastinating. Both going ahead and voting and writing about my recommendations. The main reason is that I am sincerely undecided about my state representative race. So I’ve put a deadline on myself to get this out today—giving me one more possible day to early vote.

I’ll walk down the ballot, pretty much skipping the uncontested races. It’s a shorter list than in many previous primaries. We can do this!



While there are other names on the ballot, I only recognize having encountered one in addition to the obvious. Unlike four years ago, now that he has followed through with conservative promises, I’m voting for Donald Trump. And I will campaign as well as I know how against whichever socialist the Democrats put on their ballot.

US Senator

The incumbent senior Texas senator is John Cornyn. I expect him to win. And I will gladly support him against any Democrat. But, in the primary, to get his attention that we actually expect conservative representation, I am voting for Dwayne Stovall. I’ve met him before. His main point is federalism—issues being taken care of at their appropriate level, as local as possible. He’s very Texan. Worth this vote. But you do what you want.

Incidentally, I’m not the only one thinking this way. I have an endorsement matrix put together by my SREC (State Republican Executive Committee) Chair, of various individuals and PACs that have put out their choices. He’s giving Stovall his vote, and two others on the matrix as well.

US Representative

I’m in District 2; my Rep is Dan Crenshaw—because four years ago we—along with our hard work and campaigning for him—got lucky. He has been stellar. He's unchallenged in the primary.

A nearby district is District 7, with three candidates: Wesley Hunt, Cindy Siegel, and Maria Espinoza. I’ve met them all at our local Tea Party meetings. I would give Cindy Siegel my support. She handled the financial report at our county GOP meetings for several years. Before that she was the Mayor of Bellaire, a suburb of Houston, until term-limited out. She has run things. She handles finances well. She’s consistently conservative.

Wesley Hunt looks good on paper. He’s an African-American military veteran, the kind of person you want to be pleased about voting for. However, his voting record shows never having voted in a Republican primary. Maybe we have to forgive him for 2008 (although I’d rather not), but all other primaries? It’s hard to convince me of your dedication to the Constitution without even that minimal record.

Maria Espinoza is impressive enough in person. I like her. A vote for her would also not be wasted.

Railroad Commissioner

Ryan Sutton is the incumbent. He has been excellent. He’s also one of my favorite people to listen to on freedom and the US Constitution. I’ve heard nothing from, and know nothing about, his primary opponent.

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3

The Texas Supreme Court is divided into criminal and non-criminal courts. This is an opening on the criminal side. The two lawyers I turn to for their opinions both said Bert Richardson over Gina Parker. I think I’ll agree with them. As my former assistant DA friend said, Bert Richardson “is the most experienced candidate with no glaring weaknesses that I’m aware of. His opponent has far less relevant experience, and her main appeal seems to be she has the most politically conservative credentials.” Conservative credentials are helpful. But, I’ve got those, and I wouldn’t consider that as qualifying for a state supreme court position. Addendum: he also says that Rick Perry didn’t like a Richardson ruling in which Perry was charge, so he firmly supports Parker instead.

SREC 7 Chair Mark Ramsey's matrix of endorsements


State Representative, District 138

This is the one I’m undecided on. The three candidates on the ballot are Lacey Hull, Claver Kamau-Imani, and Josh Flynn. Lacey contacted me personally early on. I like her. I relate to her. She’s a homeschool mom who has spent time with nonprofits, dealing with legislative details. She’s married to a veteran, who seems to be a good support to her. She lives in the heart of the district, Spring Branch. However, she’s quiet and gentle. She’s basically me, with a lot more youth and energy. She has the endorsement of Governor Abbott, also Tim Lambert of Texas Home School Coalition.

Some good friends (not in my district) whose opinions I trust, are strongly supporting Claver Kamau-Imani. He’s an African-American preacher—his title is Apostle. He also just recently started homeschooling. There’s a lot we agree on. And he makes a good point that he has a unique ability to outreach to communities we Republicans tend not to reach, and we need that in a district that won by only about 42 votes last time. (The retiring Rep. Dwayne Bohac won in my precinct by about 30 votes, which makes me feel like we’re significant.) Claver is a force of nature. There are moments he seems extreme—although if you spend enough time getting a longer answer, he’s not so scary. But there have been times at past district conventions when I simply didn’t agree with him on various issues—none of which I can remember, though. He has the endorsement of Texas Right to Life.

The third candidate is Josh Flynn. I have not heard from him. He didn’t show up at our Tea Party—although he was scheduled for a forum last Saturday that unfortunately got cancelled, not at all his fault. However, there’s an asterisk: he has been ruled ineligible. This is being challenged, and under law he’s still allowed to have his name on the ballot. He has nevertheless been endorsed by more on the matrix than the other two.

Here’s what I understand of the dispute. He had been serving on the Harris County Board of Education as a trustee. Technically it’s a paid position, paying something nominal like $6 a month. Maybe enough to cover parking, or gas. But there’s an emoluments law that says you can’t run for office while serving in a paid position. There’s a footnote about this on the HCGOPcandidate info page: s

* In response to challenge after the filing deadline, Josh Flynn was declared ineligible to run in the primary. Per Texas law, his name remains on the ballot. Unless a final court ruling holds otherwise, he remains ineligible. Votes for this race will be counted in accordance with Texas Election Code Section 172.058.
As it was explained to me, Flynn was required in the HCBOE bylaws to resign but continue in his duties until he had been replaced on the board. But he failed to show up at the final meeting, and as a result the Democrat vice-chair was able to get installed as chair, put another Democrat in as vice-chair, and appoint another Democrat to the vacancy. The result was flipping the board from long-fought-for conservative leadership to a 5-2 Democrat majority. We all want to get rid of that board altogether, but until then, we at least would have liked what we’d voted for.

So, in the absence of his being able to convince me that doesn’t represent how he’ll function, I’ll at least cross him off my list. I’ll either vote for Lacey Hull or Claver Kamau-Imani.

Justice, 1st Court of Appeals District, Place 5

About 92% of cases stop at the Court of Appeals level. So it’s important. There are nine justices, on three-judge panels.

There are four candidates in this race. I am told Terry Adams has the most appellate experience. I met him in January and liked him. The other favored candidate is James Lombardino, who I’ve also met a number of times. He’s older, friendly, quite experienced, will be aged out in about four years, I think he said. He represented that as a plus, because he won’t be trying to run again, so he can easily be impartial. But I’d prefer good experienced justice that can hold onto it for a while. So, I’m going with Terry Adams.

Harris County District Attorney

The incumbent Democrat, Kim Ogg, has been a disastrously bad DA. Whoever can get us out of the mess she has created, I’m in favor of. So I will support whoever is the Republican nominee.

There are three candidates: Mary Nan Huffman, Lori DeAngelo, and Lloyd Wayne Oliver. I’ve met the two female candidates; I don’t recall meeting Oliver. I liked both DeAngelo and Huffman. They were in the same candidate forum and were respectful toward each other. Huffman seems very young, although impressive. I felt more confidence in DeAngelo. My former assistant DA friend prefers DeAngelo for her experience as a prosecutor. He’s also concerned about Huffman’s youth, as well as her being “too cozy” with the police. While it’s a good thing to always support law enforcement, the DA is often required to investigate the police. Can she stand up to them when necessary, is the question. Huffman is getting a lot of the endorsements on the matrix, but DeAngelo gets them from those I know to be conservative. So that gives me confidence in voting for Lori DeAngelo.

Harris County Sheriff

There are three candidates for sheriff: Paul Day, Randy Rush, and Joe Danna. This is one of the more important races on the ballot, but I’ve heard less from these candidates than from sheriff candidates in other years. We have a Democrat sheriff right now, and replacing him would be a good step in the right direction.

I believe I met Paul Day almost a year ago but haven’t heard from him since. Joe Danna came to our January Tea Party candidate forum. I liked him well enough, although my notes show very little about him. My former assistant DA friend voted for Rush. He offers this insight I hadn’t seen elsewhere:

I met him while investigating a case. He’s very experienced. He struck me as a person of strong convictions who would do the right thing regardless of what others thought. His opponent will probably win, but the big knock on him is he got fired for falsifying a legal document saying he had served a subpoena when it was proven conclusively that he had not.
He added that Danna’s experience was with another agency, while Rush served for a long time with the Sheriff’s Office, which is more helpful in getting to work on day one.

The matrix is almost entirely for Danna. Nevertheless, based on this close-up recommendation, I’m giving my vote to Randy Rush.

Harris County School Trustee, Position 5, At Large

I’m going for Fred Flickinger. He seems to have good experience. He’s never run for office before, but he’s handled large budgets in a logistics business, and also has experience running a smaller family-owned business. I don’t know his opponents, Bob Wolfe and Connie Dubroff. I guess it makes a difference for a candidate to come out and meet people.

Harris County School Trustee, Position 7, At Large

The two candidates are Don Sumners and Kay Smith. Sumners gets the endorsement across the matrix. I can’t remember now what position he’s held before, something school related. I have nothing against him and will support him if he wins. Kay Smith has been on the HCBOE before, stepping down in a run for state House rep (which she managed legally, without the disturbance to the board caused by Flynn’s leaving). She’s dedicated to getting rid of this artifact of an old system, which is a way to spend money and control curriculum without spending a dime on actual education of any student. Harris County is the only county with a school board. It’s redundant, and anywhere there’s more government than necessary, that’s dangerous. An at large position covers the whole county, but Kay is very local, and has been very active politically for longer than I’ve lived here. So she gets my vote.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5, Place 1

I’m voting for Russ Ridgway. If memory serves (it might not) I served as a juror in his court a long time ago. If that was him, I very much approved of his work in that case. Anyway, he’s been doing a good job and is well liked. My DA friend has appeared before him and approves of him.

Harris County Republican Chairman

I’m voting to keep Paul Simpson. He’s been easy to work with and seems to me to be tireless in a job that doesn’t pay. And he seems to me to always be fair to the various differing opinions within the party. I know some people are panicky because we lost the countywide races, but I think that was a side-effect of Obama and Beto ground teams, and not actual change. I don’t think it’s because of laziness or ineffective leadership.


These are expressions of opinion on the ballot; they do not automatically become law, but they do become a prominent part of the party platform, if I’m understanding this correctly. Vote yes or no for each. They come as recommendations from the SREC since our last convention.

Proposition 1: Texas should not restrict or prohibit prayer in public schools.

Yes, we should support our First Amendment right, as free Texans.

Proposition 2: Texas should reject restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.

Yes, we should support our Second Amendment right, as free Texans.

Proposition 3: Texas should ban the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying, which allows your tax dollars to be spent on lobbyists who work against the taxpayer.

This is a little more troublesome. In my very large county, I’m very much in favor of this. It was one of our legislative priorities this past session. However, the fallout on small counties is that the one way they have to lobby against unfunded mandates from the state, which can actually bankrupt them, will be taken away. So I am voting No on this for now, while working on refining the concept to exempt smaller counties and jurisdictions.

Proposition 4: Texas should support the construction of a physical barrier and use existing defense-grade surveillance equipment along the entire southern border of Texas.

Yes. It’s a US government responsibility. If we value our sovereignty, we need this.

Proposition 5: Texas parents or legal guardians of public school children under the age of 18 should be the sole decision makers for all their children’s healthcare decisions including, but not limited to, psychological assessment and treatment, contraception, and sex education.

Yes. Of course. But why limit it to parents of public school children? Because that’s where the conflict arises. But we should just say that fit parents have the right to the care and upbringing of their children.

Proposition 6: Texas should ban chemical castration, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and genital mutilation surgery on all minor children for transition purposes, given that Texas children as young as three (3) are being transitioned from their biological sex to the opposite sex.

Yes. Permanent physical alterations to a child should be considered child abuse. If a child reaches adulthood and wants to make those decisions, that is at least their own decision and not the adults whose responsibility it is to care for them.

Proposition 7: Texans should protect and preserve all historical monuments, artifacts, and buildings, such as the Alamo Cenotaph and our beloved Alamo, and should oppose any reimagining of the Alamo site.

There’s a hidden problem with this. I’ve gone over and over the plans for the “Reimagine the Alamo” project. Everything about it is to preserve and protect this historic site. But there are some people who have been coming out against it, it appears to me for political purposes only. They claim they will protect, while the General Land Office is all about tearing down. I don’t know why they’re lying. But moving and restoring the Cenotaph to a better location that will allow better preservation of the Alamo structure and the archaeology there is not “tearing down” either the Cenotaph or the Alamo. Because of that lie, I’m voting No on this proposition, even though of course I am for protecting and preserving all historical monuments, etc.

Proposition 8: Texas election officials should heed the directives of the Office of the Governor to purge illegal voters from the voter rolls and verify that each new registered voter is a US Citizen.

Yes. Of course.

Proposition 9: Bail in Texas should be based only on a person’s danger to society and risk of flight, not that person’s ability to pay.

Wording problem here. There are seven different things to consider, not just danger and flight risk. This would eliminate those other considerations, which are needed. So, No.

Proposition 10: Texas should limit our state legislators’ terms to 12 years.

Yes, I could go for that.

Monday, February 24, 2020

That's Not Freedom

I came across a talk by Sharon Eubank, given in 2014. She has been head of Latter-day Saint Charities since 2011, and since 2017 she has also been serving as a counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency. That is the worldwide women’s organization for our Church—in fact, possibly the largest women’s organization in the world, with about 7.1 million women. (Fun fact: Looking up bio information on her, I learned her dad was the weatherman while I was growing up. I remember him being very enthusiastic about upcoming snowstorms.)

Sharon Eubank
screenshot from here

She says,

There’s one thing that I’m going to personally reject, and that is the mistake of labeling promiscuity as, somehow, freedom.
This talk was given to fellow Latter-day Saints, so there is terminology that can be used in a religious setting that may not often be used elsewhere. She refers to a scripture in the Book of Mormon, following Christ’s visit to the people there. The scripture is 4 Nephi 1:16:

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness. And surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
I’ll take a moment here to define a couple of terms not often used in our time.

Whoredoms: prostitution (sex in exchange for money), or, more simply, fornication of any sort, which means sex outside the commitment of marriage, including adultery.

Lasciviousness: characterized by expressing lust, lewdness, or wantonness, which means sexually loose or unrestrained.

In my religion, any sex outside of marriage—and any lasciviousness, which would include lustful contact of body parts usually kept covered—is a sin. That used to be the general understanding in the Christian world. But in today’s world, these basic definitions are mostly missing.

Back to Sharon Eubank. Considering that scripture verse led her to ask the question, “What would it be like if there were no whoredoms? What would that society be like?” And she came up with a list:

·       Teenage couples don’t get pregnant and have to get married to the wrong person.
·       Lives don’t get warped and stalled by sexual abuse.
·       There’s no fear of rape or violence.
·       There’s great security on the streets.
·       There’s no serial killers.
·       There’s no kidnappings.
·       There’s no market for prostitutes.
·       There’s no sex trade.
·       There’s no sexual slavery.
·       Spouses don’t have affairs and commit adultery.
·       Marriages stay intact, and children aren’t raised in the insecurity and the divided loyalties of divorce.
·       Cities don’t have seedy, creepy neighborhoods that are filled with adult theaters and deviant bookstores.
·       There’s no appetite for porn, and it doesn’t degrade the people who make it, or who watch it, and it doesn’t warp the sexual development of young people and rot the relationship between a husband and a wife.
·       There are no children being raised by a generation of women and painfully wondering where their fathers are.
·       And all of the energy and the money that goes into those activities above is available for something else.
A society that has no whoredoms has all those benefits. She adds, “How is that not more free and not more desirable? For women, for men, for children? How is that not?”

When you look at the ills in society, and you want a serious way to resolve, eliminate, or at least decrease many of them, having human beings make the conscious decision to limit sex to within marriage is nigh unto a magic cure.

Social science data agrees. We’ve known for a long time the formula for economic relief from poverty in the United States:

1.       Don’t have sex before age 20.
2.       Don’t have sex until after marriage.
3.       Stay married.
4.       Obtain at least a high school diploma.
There are more than economic societal goods that come from marriage. A good source is the Witherspoon Institute.  Back in 2006 I got their Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles. In the section “Evidence from the Social Sciences,” it summarizes,

In virtually every known human society, the institution of marriage has served and continues to serve three important public purposes. First, marriage is the institution through which societies seek to organize the bearing and rearing of children; it is particularly important in ensuring that children have the love and support of their father. Second, marriage provides direction, order, and stability to adult sexual unions and to their economic, social, and biological consequences. Third, marriage civilizes men, furnishing them with a sense of purpose, norms, and social status that orient their lives away from vice and toward virtue. Marriage achieves its myriad purposes through both social and biological means that are not easily replicated by the various alternatives to marriage. When marriage is strong, children and adults both tend to flourish; when marriage breaks down, every element of society suffers.
Women particularly are better off when society honors marriage and condemns sex outside of marriage. When you look at the list of societal ills, the reverse of Eubank's list above, you can see that women are more vulnerable to the large majority of them.

What if it could be made clear that the tradeoff to eliminate those societal ills would be chastity before marriage and complete fidelity after marriage? Because, if you’re not willing to make that tradeoff, you’re contributing to those problems.

But people can’t ever live chaste lives, you say? Not true. Scriptures tell us it’s possible. Those people in the Book of Mormon, mentioned above, plus there was an earlier generation, called the people of Ammon, who did it. And, in the Bible, there are the people in the city of Enoch. They all did it completely. Beyond that, every successful civilization in the history of the world has thrived only as long as they honored marriage.

Eubank says,

Yet we live in a world that says it’s not possible; you cannot expect those kinds of things from people. People will not react in those ways. This is just natural; it’s who we are. You can’t make those expectations. And yet our God has said, “I expect these things.”
Meanwhile, I came across a relatively new PragerU video with Lauren Chen, who does a podcast on The Blaze called Pseudo-Intellectual, aimed at millennials.

I’m sharing the 5-minute video in full, below. But I’d like to bring up a few of her points about marriage. She says:

I have no doubt the reason so many women get stuck in dead-end relationships is that it has become taboo—or, to be precise, not politically correct—for a woman to articulate what she really wants.
Which takes me back to marriage, and why women crave it. Here are three reasons:
Protection. Commitment. Love.
Nothing wrong with wanting those things. It is something women have wanted—and great societies have valued—for thousands of years. It is something men still want, too. Little wonder study after study shows that those in good marriages are happier, healthier, even wealthier than those who are not.
She suggests that women would be better off being clear about what they want, and then don’t waste time in a dating relationship that won’t lead to marriage.

While our society has done a lot to convince people that marriage isn’t worthwhile, she says we still all know better:

To someone who tells you that a marriage license is trivial, “just a piece of paper,” here’s a good response: If it’s just a piece of paper, why are you so reluctant to sign it? The answer, of course, is that no one believes that it’s trivial. Everyone knows it’s the most important decision you’ll ever make. So treat it that way.
As Sharon Eubank said, what the world has been calling freedom, isn’t freedom. It’s a recipe for societal ills. Self-control leads to freedom from all those societal ills. Who knew? Oh, yeah—every successful civilization in every millennium—including this one.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Soaring on the Trampoline

Obama's tweet, image found here
Earlier this week, former president Barack Obama celebrated the 11th anniversary of signing of the “Recovery Act,” a piece of legislation that he claims resulted in our current booming economy. And he has rightly been scoffed for it

But it’s a good opportunity to exemplify the trampoline effect, so let’s do that.

The trampoline effect—a term invented by my son Political Sphere—is what happens when there’s interference in the economy. When government reaches in to “help,” it takes the energy out of the natural rebound. It’s like a trampoline, when the jumper is going up and down. After a normal down, the energy pops the jumper back up, at least as high as he’d been before. But if someone reaches in, touches the trampoline and says, “Here, let me help you” while “steadying” the bouncy mat or adding a push that’s out of sync with the jumper, the expected bounce doesn’t happen. Instead there’s kind of a thud, and then tiny bounces leaving the jumper sitting there needing to start over.

The economy is the jumper. There are ups and downs. But natural recoveries follow the downs, so they’re not something that needs fixing, or “help.” Left alone, a down recovers to an up pretty quickly.

When we were all on the trampoline together, "interfering" with each other,
there wasn't a lot of soaring. It was hard enough just to stay upright.
(Yes, the big kid on the trampoline is me.)

Economists might call the trampoline effect an L-shaped recession and recovery. Instead of the expected parabola (a U-shape), the down is followed by a sideways stutter. I’ve written about this here.

An L-shaped recession looks like this, instead of
the mirror-image parabola you'd expect.

In terms of the trampoline, when Obama said we would just have to get used to less growth and high unemployment, because that was the new norm, he was saying, “You’ve got to get used to less bounce in the trampoline; it’s just flatter now and doesn’t go up the way it used to. But imagine how bad it would be if we weren’t doing all the help we’re doing?”

Then Trump comes in and blows that theory away. “Get your hands off, and let’s see this thing fly again.”

One economic indicator is unemployment. This one has the L-shape upside down, since high unemployment is bad and low is good. You can see that the pre-recession low was 4.7 in November 2007. That level wasn’t seen again until November 2016, nine years later later (coincidentally coinciding with the end of the Obama presidency). Even that was somewhat distorted by people leaving the workforce because of chronic unemployment. So, even though there was some steady improvement following a high of 10.0 in October 2009, recovery to the beginning level was still 7 years away. A parabolic recovery (what happens naturally, without interference), should have been an approximate mirror image of the spike, which wouldn't have risen so high and could have recovered around June 2011. Obama's interference added on half a decade of additional pain.

F.R.E.D. unemployment data, found here

It wasn’t a chronic “new economy” to get used to; it was interference taking the energy out of the economy's natural ability to recover. Eventually, businesses and investors had to do what a trampoline jumper does: put some initial energy in again, and get a little going at a time, to try to overcome the interference. And the promise of less interference—lower taxes, less regulation—that accompanied the 2016 election campaign promises followed by policy changes led to economic soaring in the form of unemployment rates not seen in 50 years. And the newer unemployment numbers include hundreds of thousands of people returning to the workforce, which could have made unemployment numbers seem higher.

In other words, in Obama’s L-shaped recovery, unemployment was higher than statistics showed, and under Trump, unemployment is lower than statistics show.

We’ve seen this before. Remember the malaise speech by Jimmy Carter? We just have to get used to high unemployment, high inflation, and low economic growth, because that’s the new normal. But then Reagan came in and cut taxes. And then the economy took off again.

Back in 2011, 32 years after President Carter’s malaise speech, Laura Ingraham put together an audio montage of that speech and Obama’s, to emphasize the repetition. It’s as though they used the same speech writer. 

Why would we resign ourselves to malaise, when we know it’s the interference that’s causing it, and all we need to do is get government out of the way?

What did Obama do to interfere? He grew government, attempted a government takeover of entire sectors of the economy, such as healthcare—and, temporarily, the automotive industry. He raised taxes. He imposed regulations galore. He made planning difficult for businesses, whose plans could be swallowed up in a suddenly imposed new rule change.

He never saw a problem (often government-caused problems) that he didn’t want to "fix" with bigger government.

What did President Trump do to stop the interference? Nowhere near getting government totally out of its overreach habit. But what he has done so far is working:

·         Cut corporate taxes—down from highest rate in the world of 35% to a more middle-range 21%.

·         Cut tax rates for individuals and families (which could, however, expire in 2025).
·         Cut regulations. In his first year, regulatory activity decreased 74%.
o   Dodd-Frank rollbacks affected regional and community banks.
o   EPA regulations that harmed businesses were cut.
o   Departments of Education and Labor are doing some deregulating.

The Trump presidency brought a 74% drop in new regulations its first year.
Chart found here.

·        I saw a quote on Facebook today, along with a question about what we thought of it:

I submit that the government exists to provide for the needs of the people, and when it comes to choice between profits and property rights on the one hand and human welfare on the other, there should be no hesitation whatsoever in saying that we are going to place the human welfare consideration first and let property rights and financial interests fare as best they may.—J. S. Woodsworth
So I responded with the Spherical Model answer:

Government does not exist to provide the needs of the people. The proper role of government is to protect life, liberty, and property. Attempts to do anything else will result in unintended consequences, usually the exact opposite of the stated goal.
If our government would resist interfering to “provide for the needs of the people,” or any other intention beyond its proper role, we’d have a lot more soaring economy, and a lot less thud and malaise.

I’m in favor of soaring.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Great Words from Great Presidents

It’s Presidents’ Day. We spent it with grandkids. Went to a fun little rock shot to satisfy a granddaughter’s new interest in geology, went to the park, did some artwork, and some cooking.

We are living after the manner of happiness[i]—which is something we can still do in this great country.

To mark the holiday here today, I’ll share a few quotes (mostly that I think I haven’t shared before) from some favorite presidents. Just one from George Washington today (shared on Facebook today by Wallbuilders), the rest from Abraham Lincoln.

The world has never had a good definition of liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in need of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.
With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty.— Abraham Lincoln, in his Address at a Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Apr. 18, 1864
Abraham Lincoln

I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day. Lincoln Observed: The Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks, edited by Michael Burlingame (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), p. 210.

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.—Abraham Lincoln

As each man has one mouth to be fed, and one pair of hands to furnish food, it was probably intended that that particular pair of hands should feed that particular mouth.—Abraham Lincoln

Responding to a question about which side God was on during the Civil War: “I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.” Abraham Lincoln’s Stories and Speeches, ed. J. B. McClure, Chicago: Rhodes and McClure Publishing Co., 1896, pp. 185–86.)

This, and this only (will satisfy the South): cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right… Holding, as they do, that slavery is morally right, and socially elevating, they cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right, and a social blessing…Let us be diverted by none of these sophistical contrivances…such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong.—Abraham Lincoln  

If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.—Abraham Lincoln

No oppressed[ii] people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better than a mere change of masters.—Abraham Lincoln, Fragment on the Constitution and Union, January 1, 1861

Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.—Abraham Lincoln, Lyceum Address

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day. Lincoln Observed: The Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks edited by Michael Burlingame (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), p. 210.

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.—Abraham Lincoln

[i] 2 Nephi 5:27 “And it came to pas that we lived after the manner of happiness.”
[ii] The quote as I found it had a comma here, after “oppressed,” and also after “better.”  It doesn’t make sense to include these, so I have omitted them, in hopes of clarifying.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Capital Is the Way Out of Poverty

At the Spherical Model, we define a few terms related to the economy:

definitions from

Wealth isn’t evil; it represents valuable labor. Money isn’t evil; it’s simply a way to make exchanges of labor easier. Price isn’t evil; it represents a willing agreement to exchange labor. And capital isn’t evil; it represents a way to put surplus to good use.

Economists often use simple societies to explain these concepts. On the Spherical Model website, we use Robinson Crusoe on an island, which is how it was taught to me in a basic econ class.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend that I thought would be a good illustration.

My friend is from an African country that is currently in a lot of turmoil because of corrupt and probably incompetent leadership. Economic conditions are serious enough there that missionaries from my Church have been temporarily transferred out of the country. 

My friend has been living here in America for about a decade; her husband, also from her native country, immigrated to the US much earlier and became a citizen. Nevertheless, getting her permanent residency with full work privileges has been difficult.

Add to that, her husband has a record, from something long ago that I do not know the details of, but which interferes with his getting employment here. This has made for a hard life for them. My friend does caregiving that requires a lot of physical labor at relatively low pay. But she is nevertheless one of the most faithful, optimistic people I know.

The question has been whether they should return to their country. Some months ago, nearly a year, her husband decided to return and try to get a job there. He found someone willing to hire him to work at a college, doing work he is qualified for, as soon as funding becomes available. The problem is, the corrupt government is months behind in meeting payroll for government employees. So he waits, living with his mother, who doesn’t have much to spare. And my friend continues to work here, combining resources with their young adult son, who is working and attending community college.

oil palm trees
image from Wikipedia
They would like to reunite, in whichever country God leads them to. But to return to their country, she tells me, she needs capital—not just to get there, but to have a way to make a living there. She knows where to contact people, up in the hills, who harvest palm oil. The oil needs to be extracted from the palms, and she knows how to either do that or hire that to be done. Then she could bottle it and sell it. I think she may have done a business like that when she last lived there, before she got married and moved to the US.

Capital, to her, I'm guessing means no more than a few thousand dollars. But, how to get that is the challenge.

Capital comes from a few main sources:

1.      Savings—which means building up a surplus over and above basic living costs.

2.      Loans—which means someone else has a surplus they are willing to be used with an expectation of a return plus interest.
3.      Investment—similar to a loan in that someone with surplus is willing to have it be used, and they have an expectation of return. But rather than a simple interest rate, there is some other arrangement.
a.      There could be a partnership arrangement—ongoing sharing of duties and profits.
b.      There could be a stock investment arrangement—sharing the profits as long as the money remains invested.

There are probably other ways, but those are typical. People with surplus want their money to not just sit there, but to be put to use in a way that will make more money.

The personal savings route is going to be a long slog for my friend, unless she and her husband can come up with better/additional income sources than they currently have. But she presses on, expecting no one to just give them something they haven’t earned.

The thing about loans is, you need collateral; you need to have a way to pay back the loan in case the expected returns from the business don’t happen. In general, you need to not really need the loan except for convenience.

oil palm fruits on the tree
image from Wikipedia
But there are some investors in very small businesses like what my friend envisions. It’s called micro-capitalism. (I wrote about this here and here.) The examples I’ve read about, however, work with people in their own countries, where they’re connected with people who can advise them and hold them accountable as they work through the challenges of starting a business. Living half a world away from where my friend would set up a business means getting connected to these sources is an additional challenge. Still, capital is what she needs.

There are steps out of abject poverty. And capital—surplus above subsistence that can be used to produce more surplus—is key.

Sometimes there’s an immediate need to give a man a fish. But that is never a long-term solution to his hunger. You teach a man to fish, and he has the skill to take care of himself. But maybe he also needs the means to make or otherwise get hold of a fishing pole or net.
Capital is the source of the fishing pole or net. I has to come either from personal ingenuity, or from using surplus money for materials or outright purchase.

Getting the capital into the hands of those who can use it—that’s a challenge. But capitalism is the natural solution. No other system can compare.

There may be times when we give a fish—to get someone by. That’s charity, when given freely. But it’s not a permanent solution. Even then, charity requires the production of surplus that can be willingly shared. But the step that moves a person into happy self-sufficiency requires their producing something of value themselves.

I think my friend is capable of producing something of value. If I had the surplus, I would consider investing in her. I hope she is eventually able to obtain what she needs somehow—although I’d prefer for her to stay here and find better opportunities than to move across the globe. One thing is certain, though, she’s smart enough to know that capital is the answer. That’s why it hasn’t occurred to her to complain and protest that no one is giving her a handout.

I pray for her. I tell her and she says, “I know. I can feel it. God is so good to me.” Her life looks very tough to me, but she inspires me with her happiness and perseverance.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Let’s Raise a Hand against Socialism

This past Friday a question was asked to the debating Democrat candidates for the presidency. George Stephanopoulos said, “Let me just ask, is anyone else on the stage concerned about having a democratic socialist at the top of the Democratic ticket?” 

No hands were raised. Then Amy Klobuchar briefly raised her hand, but peer pressure pushed her hand back down. Then, when called on, she points out that socialism is divisive. So she doesn’t call herself that, but many of her policies do.

Amy Klobuchar, second from right, raises hand
screenshot from here

So let me translate for you: Whoever the Democrats nominate favors a radical shift to socialism, which is incompatible with our US Constitution. The Democrat Party will support socialism—and are cavalier about a simple majority overthrowing our Constitution.

That means that they do not understand our Constitution.

Last September I mentioned a list of questions I use to reveal whether a candidate understands and supports the Constitution, or has something else—namely, tyranny—in mind. I’m using this list as I work on my choices in local Republican Primary races. I wish Democrats were using this list as well.

Socialism would affect all three spheres: political, economic, and social. But in its simplicity, socialism is the replacement of a free market with a government centrally controlled economy. So I’m going to look at just the economic questions today.

And, while all the Democrat candidates lean socialist, Bernie Sanders, the most openly avowed socialist, claims to have held the same beliefs for many decades, and he has a website proclaiming his plans. So we’ll use him to answer our questions today. Maybe this exercise will help us see whether socialism leads to prosperity or to poverty.

Bernie Sanders during last Friday's debate
AP Photo by Patrick Semansky found here

First question.

What do you believe is the optimum percentage of GNP that should be taken in taxes? And for the sake of discussion, let’s add, for what purposes should these taxes be spent? 

Here’s the short answer from Frank Sammartino,, concerning Bernie Sanders (2016 campaign): 

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proposes significant increases in federal income, payroll, business, and estate taxes, and new excise taxes on financial transactions and carbon. New revenues would pay for universal health care, education, family leave, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and more. TPC estimates the tax proposals would raise $15.3 trillion over the next decade. All income groups would pay some additional tax, but most would come from high-income households, particularly those with the very highest income. His proposals would raise taxes on work, saving, and investment, in some cases to rates well beyond recent historical experience in the US.
I didn’t get an actual answer, other than, no matter who you are, you need to pay more. Upper rates could reach beyond historic—which means confiscatory (at which levels, no one willingly pays, so tax revenue actually goes down). And that money will be spent for non-governmental powers, such as a non-choice healthcare system takeover, federal government controlled education, forcing businesses to pay family leave or avoid hiring parents. Plus, incidentally, paying for infrastructure projects that might qualify as of interstate interest.

I went to Bernie Sanders’ campaign site. It didn’t help getting my specific questions answered. There is, however, an overall sense that, no matter how much government takes, it’s not enough—and we’ll just keep taking from the evil rich until we run out of spending ideas. So, how much should be taken in taxes? Probably upwards of 80% of GDP. 

Next question.

What do you believe is the government’s role in contributing to economic health? For example, if there is a sudden recession (as we were hit with in 2008), how should government react?

Let’s look at those 2008-2009 bailouts. Bernie Sanders was against them before he voted for them. His reasons for originally disapproving (besides their starting under a Bush administration) strike me as convoluted. But there’s a timeline from four years ago following debates against Hillary Clinton. You can see the (not necessarily unbiased) analysis here. It looks to me as if, when he thinks about people being unemployed, maybe he’ll vote for a bailout, but if he thinks in terms of an evil large corporation or industry, he’s against helping them.

What about stimulating the economy? I think he thinks socialism will magically do that, even though it never has, and even though estimates are that his plans would decrease real income for wage-earners who happen to keep their jobs.

If you read the Constitution, however, you learn that government’s only role is safeguarding wealth; i.e., minting money, prosecuting theft and fraud, etc. As we’ve seen the last three years, the more government gets out of the way, the better the country’s economic health.

Next question.

What do you believe is government’s role in the distribution of income discrepancy between the poor and the wealthy?

This is a good question for Bernie Sanders. He has an ad in which people redefine freedom in terms of having all their worries taken away, paid for by magic, or by some enslaved taxpayer—he doesn’t say. No mention of government’s control over their lives when that happens, so that’s pretty disingenuous. But there’s more on his website:

Here’s what he says on "Taxes on Extreme Wealth":

·         Establish an annual tax on the extreme wealth of the top 0.1 percent of U.S. households.

·         Only apply to net worth of over $32 million and anyone who has a net worth of less than $32 million, would not see their taxes go up at all under this plan.
·         Will raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over the next decade and cut the wealth of billionaires in half over 15 years, which would substantially break up the concentration of wealth and power of this small privileged class.
·         Ensure that the wealthy are not able to evade the tax by implementing strong enforcement policies.

Even though he says he’s raising taxes only on those with accumulated wealth over $32 million, elsewhere he admits that everyone, even low-income earners, will pay higher taxes (that’s under his single-payer healthcare plan). So, let me translate. Tax on wealth means confiscation of wealth that taxes have been paid on in previous years.

Dr. Zhivago arrives home
screenshot from here
Remember that scene in Dr. Zhivago when he comes home to find his family mansion has been parceled out to multiple families, and he has been apportioned maybe a single room to use out of his whole house? That is socialism confiscating wealth. Government takes title if it deems you “own” too much. Bernie thinks he should be the one to decide whether you have earned more than you deserve—which goes against the Constitution’s mandate to protect wealth. He plans to steal it.

For a lesson in what this means today, try this PragerU video: “Does Bill Gates Pay His Fair Share?” 

Also, Bernie’s in favor of re-lowering the estate tax to affect estates over $3.5 million. In other words, a small-to-medium-sized business cannot be passed down from one generation to the next, even if the next generation has been working in that business for years to make it successful—because Bernie says that would be unfair.

Again, instead of protecting wealth, he plans to take it and use it as he sees fit, because he thinks that’s more fair than having the person who earned the wealth decide what to do with it.

Next question.

What do you believe should be government’s role in charitable help to the poor and suffering?

Bernie believes some other taxpayer should pay for your healthcare, and that he should be able to decide what healthcare you’re allowed to buy, or what you must buy. And this would be $40 trillion added to the backs of working taxpayers.

He also believes some other taxpayer should be enslaved to work to pay for your education, whether that taxpayer has a college degree or not, because he thinks that’s fair. Plus, spending this $3 trillion will buy him younger voters. (My commentary, but his policy.)

He thinks government should enslave some working taxpayers to put government in the business of real estate, building housing that will be guaranteed at a low rate—because “the projects” have been such nice neighborhoods wherever they’ve already been tried.

He thinks government should enslave some working taxpayers to provide high-speed internet to every citizen, because (based on the history of the communications industry) he doesn’t see how a free market could ever innovate enough to provide those “needs.”

Government isn’t capable of charity. But Bernie feels very charitable with your hard-earned money. And you’re supposed to feel charitable when he demands that money from you.

Did we mention the $1.8 trillion Social Security expansion? Or the $16.3 trillion on a climate plan that will shut down the economy? Or the $30.1 trillion to guarantee every American a job paying $15 an hour plus benefits, working for the government if no one else hires them.  Remember, government doesn't create wealth, only spends it, so that money comes out of enslaved working taxpayers' pockets.

Next question.

What do you believe are the purposes and limits of the commerce clause of the Constitution?

I don’t see an answer to this on his website. He seems to believe the federal government has the right—even the calling—to step in wherever he, the great dictator, has the urge to. Under “Revitalizing Rural America” this includes farmers, foresteers (does he mean foresters?), and ranchers in whichever state they may reside. And he plans to enslave working taxpayers to “reinvest” in rural areas where entrepreneurs have not been willing to invest.

The commerce clause in the Constitution is to make sure commerce can flow state-to-state. To make sure South Carolina wouldn’t embargo against North Carolina goods, for example. That is all that was granted. Anything else is usurping ungranted power.

Next question.

What do you believe is the role of the Federal Reserve, and how/whether it is benefiting the economy?

Bernie is in favor of auditing the Federal Reserve. So am I. But he doesn’t want to limit Federal Reserve power. He just wants to stick it to Wall Street (where most Americans have retirement investments). He plans to use executive orders to adjust ATM fees, and grant banking powers to post offices. While he’s at it, he’ll add a per-transaction tax to “restrict rapid-fire financial speculation.” I think he doesn’t like day traders? He certainly doesn’t like investors using their capital—their surplus wealth—to invest in projects that could produce more wealth.

Whether the Federal Reserve is constitutional or not—that’s irrelevant to him, since he intends to ignore the Constitution anyway.

Should we be afraid to have a socialist at the top of the ticket in a presidential election? Yes. Not because he can’t be defeated—he will be. But because the debate shouldn’t even include throwing out our Constitution. A party that would put forth such a candidate should be denounced as treasonous against our United States.

At least we will be able to clearly see the contrast between those who love freedom, prosperity, and civilization—and the entire other party who love tyranny, poverty, and savagery.