Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Effective action needed to stop school shootings

Another mass shooting at a Parkland, FL school leaves 17 dead and many injured. A 19 year-old male, a former student of the school with a penchant for trouble, according to comments from people who knew him, and photos of guns and bombs on his cell phone, has confessed to the massacre.

The reactions to this horror are predictable; we’ve seen them before. Rage, disgust, and sadness, of course, but other things, as well.

The media, Democrat politicians and other leftists are all too eager to regurgitate their automatic call for gun control. And this time there is a new, but still predictable, reaction: The left blames this crime on … wait for it … President Donald Trump. After all, what perceived negative thing that has occurred since January 20, 2017 isn’t Trump’s fault, in the minds of these folks?

But, returning to reality, this is not a time for knee-jerks and band wagoneers. These auto-reactions have not provided solutions before, and won’t this time, either. We need better ideas; ideas that will work.

Some factors to consider:

* This school is a “gun-free” zone. Under both Federal and Florida State Law, no parent, teacher, or faculty member could have legally returned fire at this attacker. There was an official school security officer present, but he was not armed, and could only help out by getting between the gunman and his intended targets, and paid the ultimate price for his bravery.

* Authorities, including the FBI, blew this one, not responding to ample warnings about the shooter.

* The anti-gun organization Everytown for Gun Safety in pushing its narrative falsified the number of school shootings in 2018, saying Parkland was the 18th. One of them was in a school parking lot in the middle of the night, and another involved a suicide in the parking lot of a school that closed months before. It does not lessen the severity of this problem to accurately report the number of times it has actually occurred. Just five – still too many – of Everytown’s 18 counted school shootings happened during school hours and resulted in any physical injury. The Washington Post, to its credit, published the accurate information.

* Guns do not kill anyone by themselves; they require human intervention. People could live in rooms filled with guns and ammo and no one would be injured or die except for an accident unless a person had an impulse to hurt or kill someone.

* Persons who willingly kill innocent people either have a mental problem or a morality problem. In a country inhabited by 320 million or so people, if only 1 percent of them have serious mental problems, that means 3,200,000 people walk the streets of our towns and cities, and inhabit rural areas, some waiting on an impulse that will unleash their violence.

Some of the things people suggest as helpful elements have strong positives. “If you see something, say something” sounds like a good practice. And it is, if it is used conscientiously to alert authorities to potentially dangerous individuals. But this can be misused and cause people who do not deserve it to have this on their record for a long time.

Addressing mental illness, which often is cited as a factor in mass killings, and drug addiction ought to be high on the list of actions to be taken.

Schools can install entrance controls operated by school personnel that allow entry only after satisfactory identification has been provided. They can put armed professionals on school campuses, or train and allow school personnel to carry weapons on the job.

The AR-15 is a weapon commonly used in mass shootings, and the 19 year-old Parkland shooter legally acquired one, despite his troubled record of behavior. The Second Amendment is not absolute; some restrictions can be made to keep these weapons out of the hands of people with a criminal past, mental illness or other serious problems.

Much of society’s problems would not have developed, or would be far less frequent and less problematic, had Americans had the good sense to maintain the traditional, positive culture of the 1950s and before, when such violence was virtually unheard of. The collapse of the nuclear family with a mature and responsible father and mother in the home monitoring what their children do and training them in good living practices, morality, and personal responsibility, may be the most significant factor.

You don’t have to be a devoted Jew or Christian to recognize that the Ten Commandments generally provide a good road map for living a good life, and that the lifestyle suggested in the Bible and other religious texts are good guides for a stable society.

We can take steps to begin restoring the traditional American concepts lost over the last half-century, and we should. Among things we should do are: Identify and treat mentally ill and other troubled people; insist on individual responsibility; stop enabling people who are capable of supporting themselves to live off the government; encourage two-parent families; encourage striving for excellence by rewarding it, rather than rewarding mere participation; don’t allow foolish behavior just to protect someone’s feelings. Start being America again.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Duty, honor, country? Government employee misbehavior on the rise

Over the last couple of years we have seen the Internal Revenue Service target conservative organizations seeking 501(c)(3) status, and heap time delays and over-the-top demands for information on them to delay or deny granting that status. We have seen the Department of Education sneakily change Common Core from guidelines to policy.

These things make one wonder whether those working in the American government understand the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and that they are obligated to obey them and honorably serve the American people.

The answer seems to be, “yes,” as long as it suits their purposes.

The current furor over getting permission for the government to spy on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign appears to be a continuation of these questionable, and possibly illegal, activities.

A CNN host has come forth to defend this activity, citing “very real fears” of “something very suspicious” in the campaign. And he justified the surveillance activities with the question, “don’t you want to know” if something illegal was going on?

Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” told Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy in an interview earlier this month that there was a willingness to collude with the Russians that needed to be investigated. He apparently believes that this perceived willingness justified taking away the Fourth Amendment protections against “unreasonable searches and seizures” from some 100 people who were associated with Donald Trump in some way or another, according to the House Intelligence Committee.

Since taking away one citizen’s privacy is a serious matter, and taking privacy from a hundred is substantially more so, there must be a procedure the government must first go through to protect citizens’ rights. And there is. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requires a court ruling to permit such invasions of privacy.

How does this procedure work? Well, here is Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s description, via Politico: “On any given day in Washington, 11 judges — all designated by Chief Justice John Roberts, without congressional advice or consent — convene to hear surveillance applications from the United States government. Behind closed doors and without checks or scrutiny, they balance the threats of espionage and terrorism with Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures.”

And what is the record of performance by the FISA court in protecting Fourth Amendment rights? Blumenthal notes, “the odds are stacked strongly in favor of the federal government. Last year alone, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court … heard nearly 1,800 such applications from the U.S. government; not a single request was denied. In its entire 33-year history, the FISA court has rejected just 11 of 34,000 requests.”

For the non-mathematicians out there, the approval rate of applications to the FISA court is astounding. Only .00032 percent of the applications are not approved.

But then again, these are one-sided proceedings, with only government accusations and evidence allowed. It’s just like hearings before a grand jury, about which it has been famously said that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. It’s like when your favorite sports team wins a game against … no one.

Obviously, it is critically important that the government be allowed to pursue legitimate potential espionage and terrorism threats, but it is equally important to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens.

It may be the case that the government has always acted appropriately. Or, maybe it has fudged its case before the court successfully, on occasion. But the accusation of collusion by the Trump campaign and the resulting court ruling clearly raises serious questions about this process.

The FBI’s “evidence” provided to the FISA court in support of permission to spy on 100 associates of Donald Trump contains the now-infamous and fraudulent Trump dossier. It is a document compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and political opposition research group Fusion GPS on behalf of, and partially funded by, the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign through a third party.

The FISA warrant application failed to disclose to the court exactly who had financed the dossier – a Trump political opponent – information that should have been included in the application.

Defenders of the action against these 100 individuals claim that the dossier was not a primary piece of evidence in the application. Okay, fine. Then, given its scurrilous and fraudulent background, and the at-best questionable behavior of some of the FBI’s upper management, why was it included in the application at all?

Wouldn’t it be helpful – in recognition of the popular concept of the day: transparency – to have access to the FISA application, so that the American people can see what the FISA court saw?

“Created in the wake of Watergate-era revelations about executive-branch spying on domestic dissidents, the FISA court today operates in the shadows without public oversight,” and “the executive branch almost never loses,” Blumenthal wrote.

He believes this broken system must be repaired, and is working on legislation to fix it. It “deprives the entire system of trust and credibility in the eyes of the American people,” he wrote.

Whether Surveillancegate can be reversed and confidence in the system restored only time will tell. But we must try.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

The softening of America is becoming a rampant social ill

America has many problems these days, and some of them are very serious. Among those on the long list are: a serious drug problem, international anxieties, the strong division between the political left and right, and our once stable, but now collapsing cultural environment.

Another troubling thing that doesn’t reach the crisis level of some of the aforementioned is that some individuals take themselves way too seriously, and believe that their personal opinion deserves national attention or perhaps even demands some immediate action. This is the height of self-absorption, egomania, and it is a rampant social ill.

This malady expresses itself in different ways, such as through people whose name is well known within a certain limited area of life – like actors, media personalities, entertainers, athletes – who have allowed themselves to believe their own PR, and think that because they have a group of adoring fans that appreciate their pretty face, latest hit song or film, recent great athletic accomplishment, late night TV show, or whatever, that they are endowed with ultimate wisdom about everything, and are therefore required to share it with the world.

In another scenario, some think so highly of their opinion and beliefs that they isolate themselves from things they don’t agree with, refusing to face opposing ideas and, frequently, dodging reality itself. They insist on being able to avoid contact with things that cause discomfort – a long and confounding list of things – anything that interferes with merrily going on their way through an imaginary world that must submit to their every wish.

For example, if an historic person or event traumatizes some people, like a statue or a memorial to someone or some thing, they then protest to have it removed, disregarding the broader historical value of the offensive thing that is far more important than their feelings of pique.

Sometimes, when faced with someone holding a different opinion they cannot abide, instead of discussing their differences like mature adults, they resort to vilification, hurling slurs and epithets, and name-calling.

Once upon a time the process of growing up in America took a course that did not include this pathology, or even imagine there could be such a thing. When one reached adulthood, the learning process had guided her or him to maturity through good parenting and informal education in the home or formal education in school or, ideally, a combination of the two.

Our system of education begins at a young age and progresses through high school, each successive level presenting material suited to the developing mind. After that, some go out into the world, while others head for vocational/technical training or head for college. College is where more intense subject learning takes place, but it also develops the thinking process and aids in learning to live in the real world where all is not always pleasant or agreeable, and at one time a college education could be counted on to do this.

Obviously, some families and some educational institutions have failed to maintain the tradition of guidance that is necessary to assist young people in maturing properly. The “everybody gets a trophy,” the “no person should ever feel uncomfortable” foolishness and other similar things have had a deleterious effect. This is not about real bullying and other serious problems, but things have deteriorated into a condition where personal offenses that once were laughed off or quickly forgotten now cause major trauma to young people, and some who are not so young.

Some colleges have lost their luster as mind-expanding influences, and instead of aiding the maturing process they have become bastions of protecting the hypersensitive, where instructors are required to issue trigger warnings prior to discussing “troubling” material, and where free speech can only be indulged in and enjoyed in special “free speech zones.”

Where once the idea of free speech was eagerly defended, we now find conservative speakers banned from campuses because their mere presence sends students scurrying for their safe spaces or into sometimes-violent protests, and where liberal/socialist faculty band together to attack their conservative colleagues for disagreeing with the “proper” thinking (political correctness) at the same time they are transferring their ideology onto their students along with subject matter, or perhaps in place of it.

Many of them push an agenda in proper thinking instead of aiding the development of the process of critical thinking, turning students into delicate little creatures who are frightened by the very idea that some people do not agree with them, or become angry in response. The art of civil and intelligent debate has been banned from some of the country’s once-fine institutions where free speech was celebrated. Is an education at one of these wayward institutions actually worth the tens of thousands it costs?

Perhaps the softening of the American mind does not rise to the urgency of the deadly drug problem or the potential for a nuclear attack by some foreign maniac or despot. But if not gotten under control pretty soon, we face the very strong likelihood of living in a country run by these folks, who are incapable of dealing maturely with complex and unfriendly circumstances that life throws at us.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The DACA and Dreamer issue is more complicated than people think

DACA and the “Dreamers” are a serious and important problem.

DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” which refers to the young children of persons who deliberately entered the country illegally years ago. Their kids had no choice in the matter, and because they had no choice but to accompany their parents on their illegal entry, they should be treated differently than other illegal aliens. Therefore, many believe that since they now have no memory of living in another country with a different culture and different language, deportation would be cruel and unfair.

The large group called “Dreamers,” however, is not part of the DACA program, but is made up of illegal aliens who also are looked upon with a high degree of sympathy by many. Some believe that both groups should not be deported, but given amnesty, citizenship, or a path to citizenship. Along with that sentiment is the idea that these are all good, innocent people merely wanting a good life, despite their illegal status.

That is a compassionate view, and America is the most compassionate country on Earth.

But we have to approach solving the DACA/Dreamer situation with our eyes wide open; we must neither assume the worst nor the best about these people, but we must learn as much as possible about each one in determining what to do with them.

How many aliens does the “DACA” program include? Kerwin and Warren’s “Potential Beneficiaries” cites the following: Although 800,000 illegal aliens originally received benefits under the DACA program, that number was down to 690,000 by September 5, 2017, when the Trump Administration was ending DACA. Add to that number those who were originally eligible for the DACA program and the “Dreamers,” and the number approaches 4 million.

Are all of these people just wonderful folks who want nothing more than a good life in America? Let’s look at those in the DACA program. They were required to (1) enroll in school, graduate from high school, obtain a GED certificate, or receive an honorable discharge from the military; (2) have no conviction for a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors; and (3) not pose a threat to national security or public safety, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

How did that work out? Well, Steven Camarota on National Review Online reported that despite the majority being adults, only 49 percent of DACA recipients had attained a high school diploma as required.

What about speaking English, the dominant, if not official, language of the U.S., and an important element in earning a high school diploma and functioning in our society?

A test given to determine the level of English fluency showed that of those making up 80 to 90 percent of DACA recipients, 44 percent who said they spoke English “well” or “very well,” actually scored “below basic,” which is at or near functional illiteracy. These results led the USCIS to conclude, “perhaps 24 percent of the DACA-eligible population fall into the functionally illiterate category, and another 46 percent have only ‘basic’ English ability.” So, two out of three have a language problem.

How about criminal activity? Last February DHS reported that 1,500 DACA beneficiaries had their eligibility terminated due to a criminal conviction, gang affiliation, or a criminal conviction related to gang affiliation, and by August the number had risen to 2,139. That is not a high percentage, but how many other lawbreakers haven’t been discovered, and how many lawbreakers are an acceptable number?

This data signals that the screening process was, to understate the situation, inadequate, and according to Jessica M. Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, apparently, “only a handful of the applicants were ever interviewed, and only rarely was the information on the application ever verified.”

Plainly, quite a large number of DACA aliens haven’t tried very hard to meet the requirements of the program. It is therefore appropriate to wonder if they are really interested in becoming productive citizens of our country.

The Dreamers, who because of their trying to avoid discovery, were not subject to the requirements of DACA, so it is a safe bet that fewer of them speak English fluently, and some of them are most certainly involved in criminal activity.

The DACA and Dreamers situation indicates the abject foolishness of lax border control and monitoring of persons in the country on a visa. Immigration is far too important to be handled as badly as it has been for the last number of years. Had our government followed its own rules, we would most likely have a minor problem instead of this monumental one.

Any DACA beneficiary or illegal alien whose good character and behavior cannot be absolutely verified should not be allowed to remain in the country, and certainly not be put on a path to citizenship.

Immigration is a mechanism to bring in, or allow in, people from other countries that offer positive value to the United States. America has no obligation to accept immigrants at all, but it does have a solemn duty to accept only legal immigrants whose presence will benefit the country and its citizens.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Repairing the damage of regulatory over-reach: so far, so good

Is the fact that overregulation kills economic growth one of the country’s best-kept secrets? Or is it perhaps that the effects of overregulation are not widely understood or discussed. With all that’s been going on – the tax bill, the government shutdown, everything President Donald Trump says, does, wears, tweets or thinks – showing the downside of too many regulations and too much government doesn’t attract nearly as much attentions as it should.

A huge number of Americans don’t understand how over-regulation negatively affects the economy, and quite a few subscribe to the idea that in order to keep greedy businesses in line, more regulation is needed. This condition provides bureaucrats and politicians to hurt the people they exist to serve by putting harmful regulations into effect.

Every regulation businesses have to follow costs them money, increases the cost of products and services to customers, and makes operating a business profitably more difficult. Every dollar spent on non-productive and unnecessary regulatory compliance is a dollar that can’t be used for higher wages, better equipment, expansion and other beneficial things.

Trump pledged to get rid of two existing regulations for every new regulation, which has never been done before. The actual reduction in regulations last year was even better than two for one, and the economy has shown its appreciation through job creation and higher GDP.

Maurice McTigue, Vice President of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, says that in addition to millions of Americans, many of those serving in Congress also don’t understand the economic effects of over-regulation. And he said “the pace of regulatory reform going on today is faster than at any time since the Reagan Administration.”

Research from Mercatus shows that if regulations since 1980 had just been held at that level, the economy would have been 25 percent larger by 2012. But regulations grew to the point that in 2012 the economy was $4 trillion smaller than it would otherwise have been. That works out to the equivalent of 32 million lost U.S. jobs.

If that lost $4 trillion was a country’s economy, it would be the fourth largest economy in the world, McTigue wrote.

One area where reducing regulations has had beneficial effects is in coal country. Last October Fox News reported coal production was down 31.5 percent over the last 10 years, but was up 7.8 percent to that point in 2017.

Politifact noted that Fox had under reported the numbers, using projections rather than actual figures, which show production was actually 12 percent higher than at the same point the year before, and the decline over the last 10 years was closer to 33 percent.

“According to the Energy Information Agency, West Virginia coal production year-to-date is up 20 percent over the same period last year,” West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney wrote last November, and we appear on target to possibly cross the 100 million ton level for the full year.”

“Even so, we remain a long way from the 170 million tons we produced in 2008, before the Obama Administration began its war on coal. And we may never get back to those levels, because most of those 400 coal-fired power generation units Obama shut down with his regulatory assault have been torn down, left to rust or converted to natural gas,” Raney continued.

“The good news is the world never stopped recognizing the value of coal, and 2,200 new coal-fired power plants are scheduled to go online between now and 2040. Many of those plants will look to import their supplies and we plan to be the source of much of that coal.”

“But none of this would be possible without the 2016 election of President Trump,” Raney acknowledged. “He has one-by-one rescinded every anti-coal regulation enacted by the Obama Administration, and he continues to do more. Just recently, his Department of Energy issued a report that said it is vital for the U.S. to preserve its coal fleet for the sake of the stability and reliability of the electric grid.”

In a state as badly damaged by regulatory warfare as any in the nation, West Virginia is dramatic evidence of both the horrors over-regulation causes and the benefits of getting rid of harmful government interference. West Virginia’s unemployment rate has fallen from double digits in late 2016 to 4.4 percent in November.

Think what you will of Donald Trump, but he has been in business for a while, and he has been successful at it. And because of his experience, he knows that a prosperous nation needs successful and thriving businesses to provide needed and wanted goods and services, as well as the jobs that provide people the money they need to purchase those things they need and want, and to live a decent life.

Regulatory reform and improvements to the tax system have already produced positive results in the economy, pushing unemployment to much lower levels than they have been for a while and pushing productivity to respectable levels after many years of unsatisfactory performance.

We should be appropriately pleased with the good things happening in our country today, not overly critical of the person who has allowed them to occur.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Someone needs to save Trump’s critics from destroying themselves

One of the favored attacks on President Donald Trump by his detractors is that he is mentally unstable and emotionally unfit for the office. This perspective has attracted quite a following, and has grown to include fears of doom and catastrophe. And, in order to protect the nation from the eventual horrible fate he will bring about, a few congressional Democrats have taken the unusual step of suggesting the invoking of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.

Surprisingly, some of these detractors are mental health professionals. In a book titled “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” twenty-seven psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health experts – including Yale professor of psychiatry, Dr. Bandy X. Lee – argue that, in Trump’s case, their moral and civic “duty to warn” America supersedes professional neutrality, according to comments about the book on McMillan Publisher’s Website. They then explore Trump’s symptoms and potentially relevant diagnoses to find a complex, if also dangerously mad, man. 

Trying to provide some balance to this bandwagon rolling out-of-control downhill is Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who appeared on “Fox and Friends,” the Fox News Network’s morning show. Dershowitz, a long-time Democrat, termed the speculation about Trump’s mental state as “very dangerous.” "I have railed against the criminalization of political difference," he said.

"The psychiatrist-ization of political difference is much more dangerous,” he said. “It's what they did in Russia, it's what they did in China, it's what they did in apartheid South Africa. If you don't like a candidate, first lock them (sic) up. If you can't lock him up, commit him to a mental hospital.”

Dershowitz provided some badly needed instruction to the detractors, explaining that the 25th Amendment "is designed for when somebody has a stroke or somebody is unconscious, perhaps what happened when President [Woodrow] Wilson was president. He had a serious stroke. It's not designed for differences about a person's emotional makeup."

He also explained to them that since the vice president is the one to actually invoke the 25th Amendment, Vice President Mike Pence likely would not do so, and if he did and the president disputed the matter, which Trump undoubtedly would, then it would have to be supported in a vote by two-thirds of both houses of Congress.

"It would happen only if any president, I'm not talking about a particular one, had a major psychotic break," said Dershowitz. "Look, we once had a secretary of defense, his name is [James] Forrestal, he jumped out of the window of the Walter Reed Center. He thought the communists were coming after him."

No doubt some of the detractors imagine that Trump has similar visions, however, the product of their imagination about his imagination is well short of actionable evidence.

Regarding the armchair, arms-length diagnosis of mental instability by mental health professionals, the American Psychiatric Association has properly condemned it, and publicly admonished those who indulge in it.

"We at the APA call for an end to psychiatrists providing professional opinions in the media about public figures whom they have not examined, whether it be on cable news appearances, books, or in social media," the APA wrote. "Arm-chair psychiatry or the use of psychiatry as a political tool is the misuse of psychiatry and is unacceptable and unethical."

We should expect professionals to embrace the ethical demands of their profession, but alas, we now see that some mental health professionals have joined the parade of people who have abandoned professional ethics for political reasons.

This is not the first time for the mental health profession. Forty-five years ago, in 1973, the Goldwater Rule came was created. “The Goldwater Rule [Section 7.3 in the Principles of Medical Ethics with Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry] ... makes it unethical for a psychiatrist to render a professional opinion to the media about a public figure unless the psychiatrist has examined the person and has proper authorization to provide the statement,” Dr. Saul Levin, the APA’s CEO and medical director, said in a statement. “APA stands behind this rule.”

And to add to the embarrassment of a public rebuke by the APA, the American Medical Association delivered a second scorching dressing-down. "A proper psychiatric evaluation requires more than a review of television appearances, tweets and public comments," the AMA wrote.

"Psychiatrists are medical doctors; evaluating mental illness is no less thorough than diagnosing diabetes or heart disease. The standards in our profession require review of medical and psychiatric history and records and a complete examination of mental status."

It appears more and more as if the worst thing about Donald Trump is his talent for creating enemies. A large number of people in government agencies and Congress, as well as people outside government, dislike him and/or his behavior, and they possess a low regard for their professional standards and ethics. They are ruled by their emotions, and that failure of character allows them to willingly destroy their professional credibility by going after Trump.

The 64-dollar question that now begs an answer is, exactly who really exhibits mental instability, Trump or many of his critics?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Who is more unstable? Trump, or his critics?

After the election Trump’s most ardent critics set sail for sunny and warm climes, armed and ready to criticize his every move. But they boarded the wrong ship and now are headed where the Titanic rests.

Trump, they say, is crass, stupid, dangerous, mentally unfit, etc., and their reactions to him are exercises in petulance, whining, stomping of feet, boohooing, and even releasing real tears in their fits of hellish pique.

Their feel-good, though unfulfilled, dreams of a quick impeachment demonstrate just how irrational their reactions are. Full-on obstruction and subversion may make their over-reactions abate temporarily, but their antics interfere with important national operations, damaging the very nation that they say they are acting to save.  What sensible people do is sit back, shut up, and do an objective analysis of what has happened in the nation since the man the American people elected took office, overlooking the petty objectionable aspects in favor of the positive reality.

Given the disgraceful performance of the mainstream “news” media, most of the good stuff that has occurred suffers from a lack of air (time) and ink, so many or most Americans have been kept in the dark by the “professionals” whose duty it is to keep them well informed.

And the anti-Trump media looks foolish, trying in vain to explain to their audience something that they themselves are incapable of understanding. Donald Trump doesn’t do things in the way they think is essential, so he must be wrong. The idea that “different is not necessarily wrong or bad” is a concept far beyond their narrow understanding of things.

Despite the disbelief and ill wishes, good things are happening with Trump as president.

For example, the number of federal employees has fallen, by as much as 71,000, according to one report, a good start to restoring government to its proper size and function. Many of these employees left because of their dislike of Trump.

Personnel reductions often have negatives attached to them. Large organizations may suffer discord at first, requiring remaining personnel to do more, which is not always eagerly accepted, even when employees didn’t have enough to do to begin with.

Too few people might lead to over-working existing personnel, and/or falling behind on the mission. Having too many people allows for periods for employees to be non-productive, or worse, to do “work” where and/or when there is no real demand for it. In government this condition frequently results in malicious behavior, such as the government badgering people for political reasons because there were too many employees with too much time on their hands.

This was likely the case when IRS employees had so little real and necessary work to do that they had time for misfeasance, targeting and harassing conservative applicants for non-profit status, while approving liberal applicants easily and quickly.

“Of 624 key political positions requiring Senate confirmation, just 240 were confirmed” as of mid-December, The Washington Post reported. The story added that the process was stalled by a slow recruitment and vetting process, and drawn-out Senate confirmation schedules.

However, on the Laura Ingraham radio program in November, Trump explained the businessman’s sensible perspective: “I tell my people, ‘Where you don’t need to fill slots, don’t fill them.’ ”

Called “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” the reactions to Trump as president fall clearly into the realm of madness. While much of the media ignores the positive developments in Trump’s first year, they also have ignored how all the insane predictions from his irrational critics have not occurred.

Predictions such as that the stock market would crash if Trump won; the opposite of which has occurred. Or, that civilization would end, but it still exists and is no worse off, except for the anti-Trump maniacs. Or this one, one that many wish had come true: that celebrities who threatened to leave the U.S. are still here.

The pot calls the kettle black, as his enemies accuse Trump of being crazy. A long and objective look in a mirror might help them. If not that, then a face-to-face evaluation by a licensed (and competent) mental health practitioner might be the answer.

And, the Real Clear Politics average of polling shows that on Inauguration Day 2017, Obamacare’s approval flipped from negative to positive, and has remained there since. And that is just one such issue where support and opposition have flipped since Trump took office.

“The psychology is easy. I don’t like the guy. If he says two plus two is four, I’m going to make it five. That’s human nature,” said Republican Party strategist and pollster Michael McKenna. “The message and the messenger are inextricably linked.”

So, in the confused mind of McKenna, something is only good enough for his support if he likes the person who proposed it, regardless of what the issue is and its intrinsic value to the country. Does this not support the use of the term “unhinged” as applied to many of Trump’s critics?

Trump’s enemies must have enormous egos to believe that their dislike for him is more important than professional ethics and standards, or thoughtful evaluation of issues. So long as this is the standard for Trump’s opposition, the country is in trouble.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Democrats distort tax bill for political purposes

The struggle among Congressional Republicans to design a tax reform bill was an arduous process, with constant opposition and obstruction from Democrats, and more than a little internal discord, as Republicans objected to some features that were contained in the bill and displeased that other features were missing. Now that it has been completed and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been signed into law, whether what Congress produced is good or bad depends upon whom you ask, as is always the case in political matters.

It should surprise no one that liberals/Democrats would not support a bill that lowers tax rates on their hated enemies, the rich and the corporate world, even though it lowered taxes on everyone else or nearly everyone else, too.

These days a perfect bill is virtually impossible, since they most always are hundreds of pages long, and are contain numerous elements, some of which can be guaranteed to evoke opposition. Add to that the idea of transforming the maddeningly complex tax system, and the possibility of a smooth and easy passage quickly disappears.

Predictably, Congressional Democrats are busy using their own special talents to distort the bill to generate public opposition among their constituents.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, was shown on YouTube expelling copious amounts of carbon dioxide on the Senate floor: “[T]his bill doesn't provide middle-class tax relief, it ultimately raises taxes on more than 60 percent of working families in this country,” concerning what might happen years in the future.

She also imagines that Republicans “know that this bill won't raise wages for working people.” Apparently, she hadn’t heard that several large businesses have just raised their lowest employee hourly rate to $15, and others have given $1,000 bonuses. Warren doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

But she was actually right one thing: there was “no input from a single Democrat,” since her party refused to participate.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, even referred to the bill as the “end of the world” and “Armageddon.” No enemy of hyperbole, she also stated on the House floor that it was “an all-out looting of America” and “the worst bill to ever come to the floor of the House.”

She charged with a straight face that the bill “raises taxes on 86 million middle-class households” and “hands a breathtaking 83 percent of its benefits to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.”

Pelosi recently tweeted: “Shamefully, Republicans were cheering against the children as they rob from their future and ransack the middle class to reward the rich #GOPTaxScam.”

She has suddenly gotten religion about spending, but apparently doesn’t remember that while she was Speaker of the House over $5 trillion was added to the national debt.

And Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, blathered, “Under this bill the working class, middle class and upper middle class get skewered while the rich and wealthy corporations make out like bandits. It is just the opposite of what America needs, and Republicans will rue the day they pass this.”

And this fantasy: “Today, the President gave himself an early Christmas present - an estimated $11 million tax cut. Who paid for it? My middle class constituents in New York,” the vast majority of whom will see their taxes lowered.

What happens when their constituents find out that this trio is lying to them?

Offering his two cents worth, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, let loose with this bit of idiocy: “Nearly 13 million Americans are expected to lose their health insurance under the tax bill due to the loss of the individual mandate,” Sanders yammered.

The tax bill removes the mandate to buy health insurance; it does not take away anyone’s insurance. The only people who will lose coverage under the bill are those who decide not to buy it. That is called “freedom,” a concept Sanders and those on the far Left don’t understand.

Any bill of this size and complexity will contain something that nearly everybody can find fault with. In such circumstances the adage “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” is sound advice for all of us. And we need to remember that there is ample time to identify problem areas in the bill and address them.

With that in mind, here is part of a summary from The Heritage Foundation that explains important aspects of the bill: The U.S. tax code is sorely in need of reform. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the most sweeping update to the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years. The bill lowers corporate and individual tax rates for the vast majority of Americans, doubles the standard deduction, expands the child tax credit, and repeals the individual health care mandate.

That last sentence identifies measures that are good for the general economy and for most all Americans. Putting more money in the hands of the people will expand economic activity, thereby increasing demand for goods and services, and creating jobs and improving lives.

Congressional Democrats don’t like the tax bill, because the worst thing for their election hopes is a good Republican economy.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

As 2017 comes to an end, looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good:

We will start 2018 with strong economic performance numbers from 2017. Looking at some key economic factors, we find the following:

The stock market - The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 32 percent since November 2016. On November 30 this year, the Dow closed at over 24,000 points for the first time, and has continued to rise in December, closing at 24,726.65 on December 20. The Dow has achieved dozens of new closing highs in 2017. And for the first time in its 121-year history, the Dow gained 5,000 points in a single year.

Unemployment – Standing at 4.8 percent in January, the U-3 unemployment rate of 4.1 percent on December 1 is at a low not seen in years, and the Federal Reserve is expecting that number to drop below 4 percent in 2018. The more dependable U-6 seasonally adjusted rate has dropped from 9.3 percent in November of 2016 to 8.0 percent last month.

Gross Domestic Product – GDP in the first quarter of 2017 was a paltry 1.2 percent, but grew in the second quarter to 3.1 percent and to 3.2 percent in the third quarter.

Retail Sales - The economic forecasters at the Commerce Department had predicted that November’s retail sales would increase by 0.3 percent, but were embarrassed at the actual increase of 0.8 percent, a miss that amounts to three-quarters of a billion dollars of economic activity.

Tax cuts - The new tax rates passed by Congress will give individuals, families and businesses more money to spend.

Welch & Forbes, LLC in its December “Economic Outlook,” had this to say: “The news on the economy had previously been good, but it just got better. … Consumer confidence is at a 17-year high, unemployment is at a 17-year low and businesses are flush with cash amid improving profits. Banks and other financial companies are doing especially well as they have accounted for two-thirds of the increase in third-quarter U.S. corporate profits.”

The Bad:

North Korea - The North Korean despot and his continued effort at developing nuclear weapons and rockets that can reach the USA and many of its allies raises tensions around the world.

Israel - Formal recognition by the United States of the ages-old reality that Jerusalem is indeed the capital of Israel has been met by objections, and violent demonstrations against the U.S.

Russian interference investigation - The investigation into supposed Russian “collusion” in the election has generated a year of Congressional investigation, and now months of a special counsel investigation that have come up empty. The only charges so far have had nothing to do with the Russians, the reason for a special counsel being appointed, and have already cost millions. This is a harmful distraction to the administration.

These events and activities do not bode well for positive effects on the country.

The Ugly:

Some FBI agents and Department of Justice employees appear to allow political concerns to affect their sworn duty to the American people, apparently believing that their idea of who ought to be president is more important than the decision American citizens made at the polls.

Two FBI agents, Peter Strzok and his mistress Lisa Page, who were assigned to the special counsel’s team investigating Russia, had texted with each other during the 2016 campaign about protecting the country against Trump.

Interestingly, Strzok, had also led the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, and softened language in documents that had accused Hillary Clinton of criminal behavior.

In August of 2016, Strzok referred to an idea that appears to be intended to thwart Trump’s election during a meeting in FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s office. “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” he texted to Page. In the August 15, 2016 text, he said, “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

Earlier that month, on August 6, Page had texted Strzok: “Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace.” He responded, “I can protect our country at many levels.”

And, there are more such texts.

Strzok was demoted or transferred to Human Resources from the special counsel’s investigative team.

Each of us has the right to their opinions, so this may be evidence of criminal intent, or may not be. However, even the most enthusiastic Democrat and/or liberal ought to understand and agree that this is not what the work that employees of the federal government, especially the FBI, are hired for.

There is also the question of whether the fake Trump dossier – the research for which was partly funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, according to The Washington Post - was used to persuade the FISA court to issue wiretapping warrants against certain members of the Trump campaign and/or transition team.

Just how deep does this misbehavior of federal officials go?

All things considered, next year might be a very good one, or not.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Yet another misguided effort to destroy our country’s history

It’s been more than a year since the movement to cleanse America’s past began, as the idea of erasing unpleasant, unpopular aspects of our history is now the way some try to make things better, and includes removing statues and memorials of America’s Founders and notable personalities of the War Between the States.

The reaction to America’s period of slavery is the prime impetus for this mania to destroy history. But as manias often are, this one is ill advised and will do great harm to future generations.

One of the most important of the Founders, Thomas Jefferson, is a target of the movement to cleanse the past by removing statues and other reminders of those days. Jefferson is recognized by the crowd bearing the cleansing equipment for one thing only: he was a slave owner, and therefore unqualified for any attention or actual appreciation.

But like nearly all of them, Jefferson had many positive things to his credit, among them intelligence and wisdom. And his ideas of the value of history are right on the mark and deserve consideration.

Regarding history, Jefferson wrote in “Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14,” in 1781, "History by apprising [citizens] of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views."

Calling it “one of the most racist, pro-slavery, anti-black songs in the American lexicon,” The California NAACP now backs a movement to have Francis Scott Key’s anthem “The Star Spangled Banner” removed as America’s National Anthem. 

This furor arose from three lines in the third verse of Key’s 1814 poem that he wrote about the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. How many could recite any of the other verses, or even knew the song has more than one verse? And if you are looking for “the most racist, pro-slavery, anti-black” song in the country, would three short lines in the third of four verses that hardly anyone knew existed really be the worst, or be worth all this hoo-hah?

At first glance, however, one might believe those three lines in the verse are racist. But, as with many controversies, a first glance is far less than is required.

Here is the text of the third verse, with those lines forming the basis of the objection highlighted in italics:

“And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

However, informs what those lines really meant to the author at the time they were written.
Francis Scott Key describes the British as arrogant and boastful in the lyrics “that band who so vauntingly swore.”
He is venting his anger at the British with the "foul footsteps' pollution" lyrics inferring that the British poisoned the ground on which they walked.
But the poison and corruption had been washed away by the blood of the British.
The lyrics "the hireling" refers to the British use of Mercenaries (German Hessians) in the American War of Independence.
The lyrics "...and slave" is a direct reference to the British practice of Impressment (kidnapping American seamen and forcing them into service on British man-of-war ships). This was an important cause of the War of 1812.
Francis Scott Key then describes the Star Spangled Banner as a symbol of triumph over all adversity.

This is why context is important. Things do not always mean what someone thinks they mean, and by doing just a little research, the true meaning could have been discovered, and this particular tempest in a teapot could have been avoided.

The NAACP misinterpreted these lyrics, and assigned a completely false meaning to them. And therefore, its reaction is not appropriate, and there is no reason to seriously consider removing The Star Spangled Banner as the National Anthem on that basis.

However, even if the premise had been correct and the Anthem did contain racist language, America’s era of slavery, which began in the Colonies, ended a century and a half ago. Further, its lyrics represent a valid and beneficial historical record of a battle in an important event in America’s history.

“But history does matter. It has been said that he who controls the past controls the future,” as David Crabtree wrote in the articleThe Importance of History” on the Gutenberg College Website. “Our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and therefore it dictates what answers we offer for existing problems.”

This is why we must preserve history, and learn from it, rather than destroy it.