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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Passing laws is not always the best solution to our problems


The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, addresses rights that are secured in the body of the Constitution, but in general, less specific terms. The Bill of Rights came to be because the rights it detailed were considered so important that they should be specifically acknowledged, so that there will be no doubt as to their importance, and to make it crystal clear those rights are guaranteed to the people.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution solidifies the right of the people to own firearms. Today, this is the most controversial of the ten. There is an on-going effort to pass more restrictive gun control laws, and every time a gun is used in a crime the loud protests crank up again.

Emotions or bad reasoning, and sometimes-ill motives, are behind this movement. Somehow, many or most of the anti-gunners blame not the shooter’s evil intent and illegal acts, but the gun. They not only disbelieve, but ridicule the oft-used expression, “a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun,” which gives a strong clue to their actual intention: to rid the country of all guns. Given the laws that already exist that make killing illegal, just like the laws against illegal drug use that are routinely ignored, more gun laws will fail to achieve their goal.

The NRA and its members are the favored boogeymen. These folks are often blamed for the actual gun violence as well as for opposing more stringent gun restrictions, despite the fact that none of them have ever actually been the ones responsible for any of these atrocities.

It is not irrelevant that in the case of the evil cretin who killed and injured some 50 church goers recently, was not an NRA member, but it is important that it was a former NRA instructor that intervened after the attack, shooting and disabling the killer, and likely saving a few lives. A good guy with a gun DID stop a bad guy with a gun.

The real problem that we have is not that the Second Amendment needs to be rewritten, reinterpreted or repealed, but that the impulse to attack, maim and kill be controlled.

Similar problems exist with the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

There are some restrictions on free speech. For example, you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, as the age-old saying goes. And some speech is illegal because it harms individuals. Libel is one: a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation; a written defamation. Slander is another: making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation. And inciting violence is illegal, and so-called “fighting words” may be illegal.

The First Amendment protects most speech, especially unpopular speech. So-called “hate speech” is not illegal, unless it incites violence. Political comments challenging the government or government officials is also protected speech.

And it protects freedom of the press, which is a long-standing and important function of the First Amendment. It is crucial that news media be free to provide important information to the people so that they can be well informed and prepared to make knowledgeable decisions. It is particularly important that the press be free to publish factual information about government and those who serve the people in government, no matter how much they may dislike it.

But that protection presupposes the media will discharge its critical duty honestly, following the principles of accuracy, fair play and impartiality.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, but does it also guarantee that the people and organizations that provide the news will behave themselves? Unfortunately, as does the Second Amendment, it assumes honest and upright behavior, but it cannot guarantee that people will do the right thing.

What about those episodes when media organizations and their employees fail in their duty to the people and instead produce distortions, exaggerations, and errors that are not adequately corrected, as well as sometimes providing outright false information? The First Amendment protects the people who commit these wrongs, unlike those private individuals who commit libel and slander? But there is a reason for that.

Both the First Amendment and the Second Amendment represent our Founders recognition of principles of freedom. We are bound to honor the Constitution, making changes very infrequently, and only in response to a great need that does not weaken the founding principles. Changes must not be made merely to achieve some supposed current need that may fade away in a few years.

We can pass laws against guns to keep them out of the hands of bad guys, and at the same time keep them out of the hands of good guys who won’t kill anyone, but will use them for legal purposes, including self-defense.

And we can pass laws to punish news people who abandon ethical standards, but will also cast a pall on the dissemination of important information, as news folk carefully walk a thin line.

More laws will not correct the character flaws of killers and incompetent news people, so let’s focus on that problem.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The knee-jerk and bandwagon are two things America can do without


Things have really gotten strange lately. Much of this is traceable to reactions to the 2016 election, and a lot of it is a response to things that individuals simply disagree with, but take their dislike to a too-high level.

President Donald Trump’s enemies think their dissatisfaction with him is more important than his work as president.

They rise in Congress to express hopefulness that Trump will be impeached before Christmas for his imagined collusion (collusion, by the way, is not a crime) with Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton. Yet after a year of complaining about it and investigating it, and six months of investigation by a Special Counsel, so far three indictments for alleged crimes that occurred years ago is all that has been found, none of which have much if anything to do with Donald Trump.

Clinton supporters screamed at the sky in observance of the first anniversary of Trump’s election, just like they screamed when Clinton lost the election that she was guaranteed to win and felt she was entitled to, on that dark night of November 8, 2016.

They regard the recent Democrat victories for governor in two blue states as a sign that America now rejects Trump. However, not only was Trump not on the ballot this year, but these two blue states did not vote for him for president last year, so this is an argument without supporting evidence, and they ought to be embarrassed by it.

In every line of work, some practitioners are better at it than others. News journalism has always had some who did not always, or ever, follow ethical standards, but these days, the latter type seems to dominate the field. The Japanese Fish Food Fiasco provides a recent example of either journalistic incompetence or agenda journalism.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Trump were shown standing at the edge of a Koi pond, ready to feed the fish. Abe and Trump use a spoon to sprinkle the food from a box, at first, then Abe dumps the contents of his box in the pond. Having seen his host dump his food, Trump dumps his food, too.

Here are some examples of what passes for news these days:
* New York Magazine: “Trump Under Fire for Improper Fish-Feeding Technique”
* CNN’s headline said, “Trump feeds fish, winds up pouring entire box of food into koi pond,” while showing an edited video of the event.
* A tweet by Justin Sink of Bloomberg said Abe and Trump were “spooning fish food into the pond” when Trump “decided to just dump the whole box in for the fish.”
* “Trump and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe were scheduled to feed koi spoonfuls of food. Until Trump poured his entire box of fish food into the pond,” tweeted CNBC’s Christina Wilkie, who then later deleted the tweet.

If many in the media feel led to falsify something so insignificant as feeding fish to make the president look bad, imagine how they might handle really important news items.

And then there are the numerous allegations of sexual criminal behavior from years ago involving Hollywood personalities and others. What is surprising about this is the eagerness with which these allegations frequently are accepted as truth. Yes, they all may be completely true. Or possibly, some are true and some are not.

Anyone can allege anything against anyone else at any time. An allegation is only an allegation, and in America people are innocent until proved guilty. These allegations may be cases of she-said/he-said, with no evidentiary support. This situation is not made easier when the complaints are years or decades old.

It is under these circumstances that Alabama Republican Roy Moore, candidate for the U.S. Senate, has been accused of unspeakable things from 30+ years ago. They may be true, but they are at this point only allegations. Yet the timing and the over-eager belief of these allegations may doom a candidate before any proof is offered.

People want to remove/destroy statues of Confederates and residents of the south, without knowing anything more about them than that they owned slaves, or perhaps just lived at the wrong time. They also want to do away with the Star Spangled Banner as the National Anthem because the word “slave” appears in the third verse, a verse many or most people have never heard of before.

University of Michigan musicologist Marc Clague, who is board chairman of the Star Spangled Music Foundation, offers this: “The social context of the song comes from the age of slavery, but the song itself isn’t about slavery, and it doesn’t treat whites differently from blacks.”

“The reference to slaves is about the use, and in some sense the manipulation, of black Americans to fight for the British, with the promise of freedom,” he said. “The American forces included African-Americans as well as whites. The term ‘freemen,’ whose heroism is celebrated in the fourth stanza, would have encompassed both.”

Our country is weakened when people react too quickly and without due consideration of things, even horrible things like sexual assault. The atmosphere becomes needlessly controversial and even dangerous. Restraint and thoughtfulness are hereby recommended.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Tax plan provides needed reform and increased economic activity


President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans have a tax plan up for consideration. Tax relief is badly needed, as is a budgetary overhaul that addresses and works to reduce the annual deficits and the insane national debt.

Analysts say that many good things are proposed but, of course, it is not – and cannot be – perfect, or even acceptable, for everyone.

The following three takeaways come from an analysis by the Heritage Foundation:

1. Simplification - The proposed plan would vastly simplify the tax code by eliminating a host of unnecessary and inefficient provisions designed to benefit special interests; would also simplify the process of tax filing by doubling the size of the standard deduction, which would cut in half the number of taxpayers who need to itemize their deductions; collapses seven different tax rates into four and simplifies the tax code.

2. Lower Rates - The proposed plan would drastically lower tax rates for lower-to-moderate-income individuals and families, small businesses, and corporations. The new 20 percent corporate tax rate would help make the U.S. competitive with the rest of the world, and the top 25 percent small business or pass-through tax rate would go a long way toward stimulating entrepreneurship, job creation, and income growth across all income groups in America.

3. Business Taxes - The combination of business tax reforms — including five years’ worth of full expensing, and a modernized international tax system — would provide a huge boost to the U.S. economy and its workers; have the potential to bring trillions of dollars back into the United States and to significantly boost economic output, jobs, and incomes within the U.S.

Heritage notes an area that is popular with liberals, but that is an economic negative: “By maintaining the top marginal tax rate on individuals, however, the plan would fail to achieve optimal economic growth, as it leaves a significant portion of economic activity subject to a 39.6 percent federal tax rate (43.4 percent including the Obamacare surtax).”

In this crazed Congressional atmosphere, the special interests and fact-twisters will interfere with the tax plan’s efforts at reforming the current tax system from the chaotic monster that it has become into a simplified and manageable one. This environment means progress will be slow, but we must take what we can get.

Naturally, those pro and con are putting forth their assessments to rally the troops, and the truth often gets trampled beneath the stomping feet of the partisans.

"The more people find out about it, the less they'll like," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said. "This bill is like a dead fish. The more it's in sunlight, the more it stinks, and that's what's going to happen." Thanks for the graphic description, Senator, and for providing no details.

Not to be outdone, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, "The American people deserve real, bipartisan tax reform that puts the middle class first. This Republican plan doesn't do any of that. In fact, it's a giveaway to corporations and the wealthiest." More blather that slings general concepts, but provides no substance, and is at odds with reality.

The idea of America’s Founders was a limited government, one that didn’t overly intrude on the lives of its citizens, and therefore would ideally be relatively small, relatively inexpensive and quite efficient. Obviously, through the decades our elected officials have been unfaithful to that design.

Over time government has grown in virtually every way that it should not have. The power of the IRS and the bulk and complexity of the tax code are good examples. The U.S. Tax Code consists of 82,000 pages. It contains a long list of taxes, including one that taxes people for the privilege of dying. Change is unarguably needed.

A major criticism is that the Republican plan will add to deficits and the national debt. But this depends upon which scoring analysis you use.

Simply put, static scoring considers that tax cuts reduce tax revenue, and raise the deficit. Dynamic scoring, on the other hand, takes other factors into account, such as the economic boost from tax cuts and reduced regulatory restraints on economic activity.

Tax cuts and regulation reduction are the mother’s milk of economic growth. Businesses respond to them like plants do to sunshine, rain and fertilizer; they grow, producing jobs and raising tax collections.

Tax cuts obviously put more money at play, as people buy more of the things they want and need, and businesses then must increase the available supplies of the things people are buying in greater quantities, and grow to meet the demand.

Everyone benefits from measures that drive economy activity. While it is unlikely that the economic activity produced by the plan will completely erase the deficit created by tax cuts, it will erase some of it, and it produces other benefits that cannot be ignored. And needed spending restraint will make up the difference.

A perfect bill, one that everyone in Congress likes, is virtually impossible. However, this plan is a good start on needed improvement, and it must be viewed for the good it accomplishes rather than for the few less-than-perfect elements it contains.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Should we sanitize America’s history, or not? That is the question

Reacting to the fairly new and growing trend to remove monuments and other reminders of certain famous Americans from the time of the American Revolution when our nation was born, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice appeared on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” one morning last May to take issue with that movement. Newsmax.com reported that she said it is a “bad thing.”

She was asked about her recent book, "Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom," and about how she sees herself as a black woman in today’s United States.

Co-host Brian Kilmeade asked: "When we look at nine of our first 12 presidents as slave owners, should we start taking their statues down, saying we're embarrassed by you?" She answered that, no, we shouldn’t. "I'm a firm believer in keeping your history before you."

"I don't actually want to rename things that were named for slave owners," Rice continued. "I want us to look at the names and recognize what they did and be able to tell our kids what they did and for them to have a sense of their own history. When you start wiping out history, sanitizing history to make you feel better, it's a bad thing." History, properly told, presents the good, the bad and the ugly.

Providing an illuminating lesson about our history she noted that the Constitution originally counted black slaves as "three-fifths of a man," and then gave examples of how America has evolved since. "In 1952, my father had trouble registering to vote in Birmingham, Alabama," she said. "In 2005, I stood in the Ben Franklin room, [named after] one of our founders, and I took an oath of office to that same Constitution and it was administered by a Jewish woman Supreme Court justice. That is the story of America."

"They were the people of their times," Rice said, alluding to the fact that few if any alive at our country’s birth had ever lived at a time, or in a place that slavery was not reality. As bad as that was, it was the way things were.

In fact, Anthony Johnson, a black Angolan who achieved freedom in the early 17th-century Colony of Virginia after serving his term of indenture, became a property owner, and was one of the first slave owners in Virginia.

"I wish [all the Founders] had been like John Adams, who did not believe in slavery,” Rice continued. Another Founder who was not a slavery supporter was Benjamin Franklin, who in 1787 began serving as President of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

“I wish they had been like Alexander Hamilton, who was an immigrant by the way, a child of questionable parentage from the Caribbean. I wish all of them had been like that, Jefferson in particular. There were a lot of contradictions in Jefferson ... we should celebrate the Jeffersons, Washingtons, slave owners. Look where we are now."

America’s path from slavery, to freeing the slaves, to today’s circumstances has been long and often troubled. But today, we see people like Condi Rice who have risen to the heights of our country. America’s history of slavery and the long, difficult struggle to finally end it 150 years ago is also her history, and the history of most black Americans. The list of black Americans who have achieved great things is long, indeed, and includes people in government, such as Barack Obama, Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder, Ben Carson, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and more than 30 current members of Congress elected by their constituents to represent them.

In addition, there are also hundreds of black professional athletes – including those who feel led to take a knee in protest – as well as musicians, actors, entertainers, television personalities, and those in the professions.

Rice also noted that owning slaves was only one part of the lives of the Founders. So many things that these former slave owners did that were positive and contributed so much to our country are overlooked by their critics. Perhaps it’s because they are not aware of these beneficial acts, or maybe they simply believe no positive aspect of their lives is sufficient to overcome their involvement in slavery.

Today, people want to remove monuments recognizing our Founders, and sometimes take illegal, destructive actions against them, all because they owned slaves more than 200 years ago. Nothing else about them matters.

What needs to be done is to not tear down reminders of America’s history of slavery – which at the time existed not just in America, but all over the globe – but instead to learn about and celebrate America’s progress since that time.

Slavery is thousands of years old. Athenians had slaves as long ago as the sixth century BC. And it exists still. According to an article on BBC.com, “there are, shockingly, more people in slavery today than at any time in human history - but campaigners think the world is close to a tipping point and that slavery may be eradicated in the next 30 years.”

Wouldn’t a more productive use of these anti-slavery sentiments be to focus on ending slavery around the world?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Draining the swamp: restoring proper operation to federal agencies


It is a difficult task trying to determine which federal agency has done the most damage to the country and its citizens. A very strong candidate for this dishonor, if not a shoo-in for it, is the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA.

The EPA’s sins run from declaring mud puddles on private property to be under federal control through the Waters of the United States rule to picking winners and losers and deciding to shut down an entire industry based upon a manic fear of CO2, a compound that is essential for animal and plant life.

A good rule for all of us to remember is, “all things in moderation.” If that is a good rule for CO2, as the EPA asserts, it is also a necessary rule for regulations. Too many regulations really gum things up, stunt our economy, punish taxpayers and businesses, create uncertainty, and the EPA may well be the king in that regard, although the IRS is a strong contender.

President Donald Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been charged with corralling that agency, and he sat down with The Heritage Foundation’s Rob Bluey at Heritage’s President’s Club meeting to discuss that process.

First up, the topic of “sue and settle” and how that process amounts to backdoor rulemaking.  An article on Forbes online describes the process as follows: “’Sue and Settle’ practices, sometimes referred to as ‘friendly lawsuits,’ are cozy deals through which far-left radical environmental groups file lawsuits against federal agencies wherein court-ordered ‘consent decrees’ are issued based upon a prearranged settlement agreement they collaboratively craft together in advance behind closed doors.” Read that again, carefully.

“Then, rather than allowing the entire process to play out, the agency being sued settles the lawsuit by agreeing to move forward with the requested action they and the litigants both want.”

Pruitt noted an additional irregularity. “But then here’s the kicker: They (the agency) would pay attorneys fees to the group that sued them.” So the group is effectively making “comfortable” rules and the government pays for their lawyers.

Acknowledging the fraudulent nature and duplicity of this process, Pruitt said, “My job is to enforce the laws as passed by whom? Congress. They give me my authority. That’s the jurisdictional responsibilities that I have, and when litigation is used to regulate … that’s abusive. That’s wrong.”

A bit later Bluey asked about the Waters of the United States rule. “[P]eople all over the country have no idea today where federal jurisdiction begins and ends under that 2015 rule,” Pruitt responded. He was in Salt Lake City with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and an Army Corps of Engineers representative about two months ago when the representative pointed to a thermal drainage ditch and said, “Scott, that is a water of the United States.”

“It’s not going to be anymore,” Pruitt said. “That’s really the challenge here—that you had so much confusion and uncertainty about what waters were in [and] what waters were out.”

Next, Bluey turned to the Clean Power Plan, asking Pruitt where he sees the EPA going with this regulation.

“It’s not the job of the EPA to say to the utility company in any state of the country, you should choose renewables over natural gas or coal,” he answered. “We need fuel diversity in the general electricity. We need more choices, not less.”

And then the common sense answer that has been absent for eight or more years: “No agency at the federal level should use their coercive power to force business utility companies to take those fuel sources away. They should be making it on cost, stability, and I would say resiliency of the grid.”

Hallelujah!

Turning to the day-to-day operation of the agency, Pruitt talked about the advisory bodies that provide input into decisions and policy. “The scientists who make up these bodies, and there are dozens and dozens of these folks, over the years those individuals as they’ve served those capacities, guess what has also happened? They’ve received moneys through grants, and sometimes substantial moneys through grants,” he said.

“I think what’s most important at the agencies,” he continued, “is to have scientific advisers who are objective, independent minded, providing transparent recommendations to me as the administrator and to our office on the decisions that we’re making on the efficacy of rules that we’re passing to address environmental issues.

“If we have individuals that are on those boards that are receiving money from the agency, sometimes going back years and years to the tune of literally tens of millions of dollars, over time,” he said, “that to me causes questions on the independence and the veracity of the transparency of the recommendations that are coming our way.”

This pro-Constitution, commonsense rule of law perspective is one that all heads of federal agencies ought to share, and what the concept of constitutional government demands.

After many years of bureaucratic excesses, frequently spurred by political bias, it is refreshing and it inspires confidence to see Scott Pruitt and other administration officials at last focusing on proper management of the government we pay for, but which has so often gone off the rails into ideological self-service.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Do Republicans realize that this is a pivotal time for America?

 
One thing most of us likely can agree on is that this has been a season of tragedy in the United States, most recently with the California wine country wild fires, and before that the Las Vegas shooting, and the hurricanes. Where disagreement thrives is on how we should respond to them.

During the presidency of Barack Obama our government took a sharp turn to the left, a dramatic increase in the much more gentle leftward drift it has been in for a long time. The election of Donald Trump was in large measure a backlash against Obama’s socialistic ideas, the Democrats’ abandonment of many of the values normal Americans observe, and the prospect of more of the same from Hillary Clinton.

So the voter’s said a loud “No!” to continuing the leftist governance of the Democrats by electing a Republican president and giving the GOP control of both houses of Congress. Unfortunately, what should have been a concentrated effort to start restoring Constitutional government has been put on hold by an obstinate faction of Republicans, some of whom have fallen victim to their own liberal impulses, and others who have let their egos overpower their sense of duty to their constituents, and have given in to hurt feelings in reaction to Donald Trump’s tweeting addiction, which too often gets personal.

If there is good news in this scenario for traditional Americans it is that the Trump presidency is not quite a year old, and there is time for both Trump and many Congressional Republicans to put these personal feelings behind them and get important things done.

But a sense of urgency about the Republican failures is certainly justified. A recent poll shows that a disturbing percentage of millennials would support an openly socialist candidate who follows in the misguided footsteps of Obama and company, precisely the opposite of what our country needs. If their voter participation rate increases, they could add significant support for socialist government, so Republicans had better get busy undoing the socialist initiatives and returning our government to its traditional, constitutional orientation.

Perhaps a lesson in what happens to good people when they are forced to live under the leftist, socialist prescription for governance will help, and there is probably no better example than that of Venezuela.

“As with all socialist systems, present-day Venezuela is marked by vicious poverty and a parasitical yet gilded ruling class,” wrote the President of The Mises Institute, Jeff Deist. In “The Austrian,” the Institute’s bi-monthly periodical, he wrote, “Sold to gullible Westerners as egalitarianism and concern for average people, socialism always makes ordinary citizens far worse off while destroying any hope for upward mobility. It is truly the ideology of the 1 percent.”

Economist and philosopher Ludwig von Mises, after whom the Institute is named, said this about socialism in his treatise “Human Action”: “In a socialist economy it is only the government’s value judgments that count, and the people are deprived of any means of making their own value judgments prevail.”

Raphael A. Acevedo and Luis B. Cirocco are Venezuelans who participated in this year’s Mises University at the Institute as presenters on the subject of socialism’s impact on the lives of their country’s citizens. They wrote an account of Venezuela’s slide from relative freedom to a socialist hellhole for the current issue of “The Austrian.”

A hundred years ago the country began a lucrative period when it entered the international oil race, Acevedo and Cirocco write, and things were pretty good for a while, with not much government control of economic interests. It even overthrew a dictator and became a democracy in 1958.

However, the first democratically elected president, Romulo Betancourt, was a communist-turned-social democrat, and “he started destroying the economic institutions we had by implementing price controls, rent controls and other regulations we hadn’t had before,” they said, and then he created a new constitution hostile to private property.

Betancourt’s successors continued his socialist tendencies, and then in 1998 Hugo Chavez won election, promising to replace the country’s light socialism with more radical socialism. After Chavez’s death in 2013, Nicholas Maduro followed, and introduced a new constitution, which almost totally abolished private property.

“So, socialism is the cause of the Venezuelan misery,” Acevedo and Cirocco write. “Venezuelans are starving, eating garbage, losing weight. Children are malnourished. Anyone in Venezuela would be happy to eat out of America’s trashcans. It would be considered gourmet.”

And their summary of the country’s downfall: “As Venezuelans, our poor understanding of the importance of freedom and free markets has created our current disaster.”

We Americans have lost much of our freedom to government over the decades, and that increased substantially during the tragic Obama years.

Today we find that heavy federal intrusions in the area of healthcare through regulation and Obamacare raise prices and reduce access; the EPA’s regulatory over-reach aimed at killing the coal industry put thousands out of work; abundant welfare programs dampen the normal tendency of people to take care of themselves; the federal government controls much of K-12 education through financial “incentives” and Common Core requirements.

Republicans can and must address and reverse these trends. So get busy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Left jumps the gun discussing gun control after Las Vegas


From his position in the Mandalay Bay Resort 32 floors above the concert venue, the shooter in Las Vegas fired away with what sounded like an automatic weapon.

Authorities initially believed there was a lone shooter in the horrifying murder of 59 people and injuries to roughly 500 others. Since then, some wild and crazy ideas have been offered, as usual, as well as other possibilities that are more reasonable. In short, there is much still to learn.

In addition to why he wanted to kill so many innocent people, other questions need answers. New information has been coming regularly since the attack, and more will certainly be learned. If only the gun control faction would wait for more and better information before cranking up the scare machinery.

Was there just one shooter? Some present during the attack claim there was more than one, and Clark County, Nevada, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo acknowledged that the shooter probably didn’t act alone. One video shows what appears to be gunfire coming from a room on the 4th floor.

Why did the gunman have so many weapons in his suite? After the shooter killed himself police found 23 weapons in the hotel suite, along with intricate calculations about how to do the most damage. Police also found 19 more weapons, lots of ammunition and some explosives in the shooter’s home. Some weapons were reportedly acquired legally.

What was the plan for the fifty pounds of an explosive compound that were found in the shooter’s car at the hotel?

Then there is the question of how he ended up in that particular suite, perfectly suited to his evil, cowardly mission, a few days before the attack. How did he manage to get all those weapons into the suite without arousing suspicion?

Did ISIS have anything to do with this, as it has claimed? Reuters reports the following statement from ISIS: “‘The Las Vegas attack was carried out by a soldier of the Islamic State and he carried it out in response to calls to target states of the coalition,’ the group’s news agency Amaq said in reference to the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group in the Middle East.” Did he convert to Islam recently, as ISIS has claimed?

The suspect is described as a white, retired, multimillionaire real estate investor and reclusive gambler with two homes and his own plane. This is an unusual profile for a mass killer. His actions have dumbfounded authorities.  Why did he target the country music concert, and how could he have accomplished all of that by himself?

Never being ones to let a crisis slip away unused, anti-gun advocates use tragedies like this to scare up support for their mission for more regulations and gun bans. But it really doesn’t help when demands for gun bans and more restrictions are so quickly thrown into the mix, confusing the issue, when so many important questions haven’t been answered.

While the Left works overtime to impose restrictions on the legal ownership of firearms that will punish law abiding citizens, one person who once was pro-gun control has studied gun deaths and found that her ideas were essentially baseless.

Leah Libresco is a statistician and former news writer at FiveThirtyEight, a data journalism site.  “Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me,” she wrote in a column in The Washington Post. “I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.

“Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way,” Libresco said. 

They found that of the 33,000 gun deaths in the U.S., two-thirds of them are suicides and one-fifth come from young men aged 15-34 being killed in homicides, mostly resulting from gang and street violence and domestic violence.

She asked, “Shouldn’t we try to solve the two types of deaths by gun in the U.S. that account for over 85 percent of gun deaths annually?” Her conclusion was that few of the popularly floated gun control policies would address these deaths, which are the greatest problem.

One thing that does make sense is to ban “bump stocks,” devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to operate like fully-automatic weapons, and were found in the shooter’s hotel room. Fully-automatic weapons are virtually illegal, and bump stocks should also be, too.

But perspective is important, too. A Facebook meme says this: “When a sociopath used a truck to murder 85 people and injure 458 others in 2016, it wasn’t a ‘truck problem.’” It concludes: “but when sociopaths use a gun to murder people, why do Democrats always label it a ‘gun problem?’”

An assistant professor at UNLV told her history class when discussing the Las Vegas murders that President Donald Trump’s “rhetorical powers” encourage violence. If that sort of influence is indeed a factor, what about the violence-laden movies that the gun control advocates in Hollywood produce, even as they scream for gun bans?

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Climate change machinery cranks up following recent hurricanes


It’s as predictable as the sun rising in the east: when any notable weather event or series of them occurs, the human-made climate change enthusiasts engage their propaganda machine and bombard us with more dire warnings of impending doom. This seems more important to them than the suffering caused and damage done.

When Hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck the southern and eastern US in close succession recently, they were the first two Category 4 hurricanes to do so in the same year in 166 years of record keeping. Immediately, self-identified weather specialists Leonardo DiCaprio and Pope Francis burst forth with dire warnings of human-caused climate change.

Al Gore, who makes his money these days writing books about imagined weather calamities without the benefit of knowledge of the subject, told the World Economic Forum, “This is an unusual time. Within the last two weeks, we have had two more record-breaking, climate-connected storms.”

“We are departing the familiar bounds of history as we have known it since our civilization began,” he said. “And why? Because today like all days we will put another 110 million tons of man-made heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere, using the sky as an open sewer.”

Creating heat-trapping pollution is one thing Gore does know well. An article in The Daily Signal said this: “According to the report, compiled from public records requests and information from the Nashville Electric Service, Gore’s 20-room, 10,070-square-foot, Colonial-style mansion consumed an average of 19,241 kilowatt-hours per month — more than 21.3 times that of the U.S. household average of 901 kilowatt-hours monthly.”

If global warming/climate change resulting from human activities is really as threatening as Gore preaches, one might expect him to lead the way toward lowering pollution levels, rather than doing the opposite. Gore’s actions and his words send substantially different messages.

Those advocating the idea that the activities of humans harm the environment seem to ignore the bad news for their cause, which is good news for the rest of us: data demonstrates that there has been no real warming for nearly 20 years. That, among other inconvenient truths, is routinely ignored.

Dr. Roy Spencer is a real climate scientist, unlike Gore, DiCaprio and the Pope. His education is in atmospheric sciences, his doctorate is in meteorology, and he works at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Fed up with the pseudo-science flying around these days, he wrote a book challenging the commonly paraded idea that this season’s hurricanes are what climate change looks like. He argues that these storms are neither an aberration nor a result of rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A former senior scientist for NASA, Spencer explains that “There have been many years with multiple Cat 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic, but there is nothing about global warming theory that says more of those will make landfall,” adding that “While the official estimate is that this was the first time two Cat 4 storms hit the U.S., since Florida was virtually unpopulated before 1900, we probably don’t really know.”

Spencer cited data of all major hurricanes to strike Florida since 1900 that show no increase in frequency or intensity as measured by wind speed. Florida’s worst hurricane on record struck on Labor Day, 1935, and is one of only three Category 5 storms on record to make landfall in the U.S.

Datasets from the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” in 2011 show that the global number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes have not increased over the past four decades, and tropical storms and hurricanes from 1999 to 2011 are significantly below the peak strengths. As with the data showing no atmospheric warming since 1998, this data strengthens the idea that the global warming theory is just a lot of hot air.

But why would actual scientists participate in promoting a ruse without a true scientific basis? Because there is a lot of research money for the taking if you support this hoax.

One scientist finally had enough of the dramatic changes in his field.

In October of 2010, Hal Lewis, University of California, Santa Barbara,
sent a message to Curtis G. Callan, Jr., Princeton University, who was at the time president of the American Physical Society.

“When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago,” Lewis wrote, “it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago).”

“How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs,” he said. “For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.”

This is a troubled time for America. It is a time when some scientists and journalists think their personal concerns are more important than the ethics and standards of their professions, or the needs of the country.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Will the special counsel investigation produce anything relevant?


How would you like to have a high-profile job with no firm guidelines for what you have to do, and plenty of money to help you hire as many people as you want to help you do whatever it is you decide to do for as long as you want the job? 

If so, you qualify for a job as a Special Counsel at the United States Department of Justice.

But you'll probably have to wait until former FBI Director Robert Mueller finishes his current run as special counsel, and by the time that happens, you may be ready for retirement.

Ostensibly, this special counsel is investigating possible Russian influence in the 2016 election, something for which no evidence was found during months of research prior to the special counsel’s appointment.

In appointing the special counsel, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said: “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination.” The job of the special counsel, then, is what?

Since no crime was identified needing investigation, Mueller has carte blanche to investigate whomever he wants for whatever he can find to assist him in whatever it is that he has decided to try to prove actually happened.

This is not an attack on Robert Mueller; it is about a process that is often well below the extraordinary standards of an honest, limited and responsive government of the people intended “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” as established by the U.S. Constitution.

Mueller, in fact, was acknowledged as an honorable man and competent attorney when he was appointed. Back in May, conservative columnist Hugh Hewitt wrote this: “In Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has made an excellent choice that will allow Republicans to again concentrate on turning the country around.”

However, Hewitt went on to say, “It’s true that I have opposed a special prosecutor in the past,” and one reason was that “if the allegations of the politicization of the IRS during Barack Obama’s presidency didn’t warrant a special prosecutor, then this one certainly isn’t necessary now.”

Good, ethical guy or not, having accepted the job, Mueller is now under the gun to produce something. Faced with humiliation after hiring 17 Democrat lawyers, spending thousands or millions of dollars on a months-long, open-ended investigation and coming away empty handed is a result no self-respecting special counsel wants on their record.

An article in The Washington Post notes, “Thus, the idea of a special prosecutor makes sense, in theory. In practice, some investigations headed by special prosecutors have rung up huge tabs while producing modest results.”

To wit: Back in 2003, a CIA employee named Valerie Plame was “outed,” meaning her name and association with the CIA became public knowledge. An Office of the Special Counsel investigation ensued, with Patrick Fitzgerald in charge. After the investigation, a George W. Bush administration official, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was charged, tried and convicted of making false statements to the grand jury and federal investigators. And, a New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, spent twelve weeks in jail for protecting the identity of a source from the grand jury.

In summary: a crime was committed, an investigation began, a journalist went to jail for protecting a source, a person was convicted for lying about things unrelated to solving the crime, and no one was found guilty of the crime. Such is what can happen with special counsel investigations.

In the current incarnation, an effort is under way allegedly to find someone associated with President Donald Trump who perhaps did something naughty he/she shouldn’t have done with the Russians during the campaign. Thus far the apparent focus is on Paul Manafort, who managed Donald Trump’s campaign until August of 2016, and who lived in Trump Tower where Trump lived during the campaign.

Manafort was the subject of federal wiretaps before the campaign in 2014, and again in 2016, either during the campaign or perhaps after he had left it. It is fair to ask who else, if anyone, in Trump Tower was wiretapped during the campaign.

When Trump suggested his campaign had been wiretapped, Democrats, liberals and much of the media ridiculed him. Could they have been wrong?

More recently, Mueller and his investigation have come under some criticism, with some characterizing the exercise as a waste of time and a distraction, others calling it a partisan witch-hunt, and one person suggesting a serious crime is being committed.

A retired United States Navy Commander has accused Mueller and other Federal Bureau of Investigation employees of treason for supposedly trying to sabotage President Donald Trump.

Mueller’s team may find an actual election-related crime was committed. Or, more likely, the only wrongs it discovers are unrelated to the Russians or the election, but can serve as leverage to help the special counsel persuade someone to “flip” and provide incriminating information against someone in the Trump campaign.

There are at least 5,000 federal criminal laws, and between10,000 and 300,000 regulations that can be enforced criminally. Odds are that someone from the Trump campaign will have violated one of them.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

230 year-old U.S. Constitution is under attack by the Left


Thirty-nine delegates represented the people of the 13 original states at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When they signed the document on September 17, 1787, the U.S. Constitution was ratified and put into effect.

While the United States is young at just 230 years, the United States Constitution, our country’s supreme law, is by far the longest lasting constitution in human history. And it is responsible for our nation becoming the freest and most prosperous nation ever.

Those two paragraphs contain far more information about our Constitution than a frightening number of American citizens actually know about their founding document.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a poll about the Constitution in 2014, and it revealed how shockingly little people know about even the most basic elements of our government and the Constitution that formed it.

Here are some examples from the poll:
* More than one person in three (37 percent) could not name any of the rights protected by the First Amendment.
* Freedom of speech was identified by 48 percent, but the right to peaceably assemble came in at just 10 percent, freedom of religion at 15 percent, freedom of the press at 14 percent, and the right to petition the government at 3 percent.
* Only one of four (26 percent) could name all three branches of the government. (In 2011, 38 percent could name all three branches.)
* One-third couldn't name any branch of government.
*Asked which party has the most members in the House of Representatives, 38 percent said they knew the Republicans were the majority, but 17 percent responded the Democrats were, and 44 percent reported that they did not know (up from 27 percent who said they did not know in 2011).
*Asked which party controls the Senate, 38 percent correctly said the Democrats, 20 percent said the Republicans, and 42 percent said they did not know (also up from 27 percent who said they did not know in 2011).

Annenberg’s director, Kathleen Hall Jamieson lamented, "Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don't is worrisome."

An Annenberg poll in 2017 would likely produce even worse results. The future of both our freedom and prosperity are in question in our country, largely because our schools and families have failed to teach our young people the fundamentals of America that are essential to creating informed citizens and preserving our republic. And as bad as the picture painted by the Annenberg study is, The Federalist online paints a picture that is much worse.

“U.S. civics education, if it exists at all, is being transformed into a political machine to push left-wing causes, undermine American government, and incite civil unrest,” writes The Federalist’s managing editor, Joy Pullman.

A 525-page report from the National Association of Scholars titled “Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics,” reveals the “New Civics” that uses attractive, bipartisan-sounding words like “civics” and “service learning” to trick Americans into allowing Leftist political machinery to hijack public funds and young minds, Pullmann wrote.

“Poor civics instruction has increased over the past half-century,” she wrote, “likely contributing to the broad decline of American civic life.” She then listed some long-standing and strong social influences we are losing:
* Volunteering has dropped dramatically despite increases in unemployment and free time
* Far fewer Americans participate in social activities and organizations
* Those who join the military are increasingly drawn from a narrowing subset of Americans
* Many adults have scant knowledge of American government and history (but still can vote!)

Anyone over the age of 60 should recognize the high degree of failure of our education system and families to properly educate our youth about the wonders of the United States of America, so that they can actually perform as competent and loyal citizens.

Recent protests adequately show that the demonstrators do not understand the First Amendment. They often don’t have an informed idea of what they are demonstrating against, and many protests are based not on what actually happened at an event, but instead on a perception of it. And, they either don’t understand, or don’t care, that a constitutionally protected protest is neither violent nor destructive.

Karl Marx would be proud of the Left’s efforts and success. We see his words at work: “Take away a nation’s heritage and they are more easily persuaded.”

Quiet subversion, done both deliberately and through ignorance, is at work in many schools and the news media. Once regarded as living its motto “all the news that is fit to print,” The New York Times has abandoned fairness and objectivity, an infection shared by much of the national news media, which now seem to subscribe to the motto, “all the news that fits.”

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as having answered a question about whether the Founders had created a republic or a monarchy with this statement: A republic, if you can keep it.

A large number of the American people have decided that our republic should no longer be kept, and will happily sacrifice its historic and broad successes.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The DACA and DREAMERS: The Good, the bad, and the ugly


The Democrat/liberal crisis of the moment has changed. Since President Donald Trump ordered the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) suspended last week, DACA has totally blown the Russian election collusion (that was fervently hoped for, but didn’t cause Hillary Clinton’s self-destructive campaign to fail) off their rumor sheet and whisper campaign.

And Leftists have retreated to their safe and familiar habits, and are again calling names. Trump is “cruel.” So many Democrats have used that word lately that it must have been directed from party leaders. It is suspected that in response to Trump’s action the Democrat Party issued a talking point: “Say it’s cruel! Say it’s mean! Say it’s heartless! And stick to the message!”

The Left’s beloved DACA program has many failings, beyond being unconstitutional. Former President Barack Obama hated it before he loved it and issued the Executive Order. Twenty-two times he told the world that such a thing was beyond the power of a mere President, and he couldn’t do it because he wasn’t the Emperor of the U.S. Then he did what he couldn’t do, calling it a temporary stopgap measure. "This is temporary. Congress needs to act," he said.

What Is DACA? According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): “On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.”

At first glance DACA may seem like a humanitarian action, designed to give illegal aliens whose parents brought them here as children a temporarily protected, but not lawful, status if they meet “several guidelines.”

What Trump is being called all sorts of names for doing, however, is really so much less than his Leftist critics are accusing him of. He is passing the ball for this immigration matter to where it actually belongs: the Congress. That is one thing Obama actually was right about.

All Trump did was to remove an improper order, and put the matter where it belongs. Sensible people won’t criticize Trump for that. And, Congress has six months to do the appropriate thing for these illegal alien residents. And at least until then, the DACA people are as safe today as they were before Trump’s action.

But the real problem is that, like so many things in the Obama administration, despite there being laws and regulations that are unambiguous, administrative agencies frequently ignored them, and did so without penalty. And, unsurprisingly, it turns out that the DACA implementation was rife with failure and fraud.

A story by Margaret Menge detailing much of these irregularities was published on LifeZette online last week. Quoting Matt O’Brien, an attorney who until last year was a manager in the investigative unit of USCIS, “as many as half of the approximately 800,000 people who now have work permits under DACA may have lied on their applications to get approved.”

Worse, O’Brien said, “these people were almost always approved anyway, because of the attitude of managers in the field and the chief counsel’s office.” He added, “The whole way the program is set up, it just facilitated fraud, and I’m not entirely confident that wasn’t intentional.”

With six months allotted for Congress to act, some believe that there are enough potential votes to create a path to citizenship for these DACA recipients, referred to as DREAMERS, for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. And, they can renew their two-year work permits if they were to expire before March 5, 2018.

But Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, says this would be a mistake. “USCIS never verified anything people put on their DACA applications,” she said, citing an example of how dangerous this might be. A DACA applicant named Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez was granted DACA status, despite USCIS admitting it had not checked this gang member’s application. He went on to murder four people in Charlotte, NC. The government agency merely accepted his application as truthful and accurate, never checking any of it.

She said that under George W. Bush, applications were thoroughly checked. “It’s the type of due diligence that the private sector does routinely,” she said.

O’Brien confirmed the failure of the application process, saying, “I personally witnessed an alarming number of people who had gang affiliations applying for this program,” most of whom, he said, were approved.

Menge’s article concludes by noting that the “approval rate for DACA in the two most recent quarters of fiscal year 2017 was approximately 97 percent, with only 3 percent of applications denied.”

Contrary to the idea that DACA is a humanitarian effort to help children of illegal aliens brought here by their parents, it is just another avenue the Left uses to allow anyone into the country, with no regard for their potential to harm American citizens.