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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

America Is Moving in the Right Direction Under Trump


Whether you think the way the FBI handled the Hillary Clinton email issue was correct or not, or whether the anti-Trump email correspondence between FBI employee lovers was problematic, honest Americans will have to agree that when a Congressional committee with oversight authority of the Department of Justice and the FBI issues proper requests or demands for documents from the DOJ or FBI, and after many months the requests or demands have yet to be fulfilled, something wreaks in the swamp.

And, where a simple request should have caused the fairly quick production of the desired documents, following months of stubborn and illegal refusals to respond, it took the threat of subpoenas and even the threat of impeaching the director and deputy director of the FBI to get them to do their jobs.

Why do federal employees believe they can ignore legal requests, and why did the committees wait so long to initiate the action that finally provided the impetus for the production of desired documents?

Elsewhere, while much of the country entertains and amazes itself with minutiae about Donald Trump, such as whether or not he had an encounter with a prostitute more than a decade ago, or whether he’s going to fire the special counsel or the deputy director of the FBI, or resign the presidency, things are actually going along pretty well in the country.

Not everything is going perfectly, of course, such as the creatures in the swamp that haven’t yet been drained away, and are busying themselves creating constitutional crises, and misbehaving as if there are no rules for how federal employees are supposed to do things. They justify their transescent temper tantrums that result in their abandoning professional ethics and common sense by blaming it all on none other than the president of the United States.

But hidden away from the view of most of the public by an agenda driven national news media, other things are going pretty well, compared with the not-so-distant past.

After a painfully slow recovery from the recession spawned by the financial crisis of 2007, the U-3 unemployment rate finally returned to respectable territory toward the end of 2015. When President Trump took office in January of 2017, the U-3 rate stood at 4.8 percent, and began a steady decline to the current level of 4.1 percent last October. The last time the rate was that low was all the way back in 2000.

Unemployment rates for African-Americans and Hispanics have also fallen over the last year, meaning that the jobs picture has improved across the board. Black unemployment fell to 6.8 percent in December, the lowest ever recorded since the U.S. Labor Department began tracking that rate in 1972.

The U-6 rate, which also reflects those who became discouraged and dropped out of the labor force, has returned from the 17 percent levels of early 2010 to the 8.0 percent level of before the recession.

There are other relevant employment factors, such as the number of Americans on unemployment benefits plunged to the lowest levels since 1974 recently; underscoring the healthy US economy.

And, according to new statistics released by the federal government, just 1.85 million Americans received unemployment assistance in March; levels not seen throughout the country in approximately 44 years.

The Wall Street Journal reported, “Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., decreased by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 233,000 in the week ended April 7, the Labor Department said Thursday. This means claims have now held below 300,000 for 162 consecutive weeks, cementing the longest streak for weekly records dating back to 1967.”

The tax cuts that took effect in February produced not only lower taxes for most American workers, but also produced a secondary benefit for many workers, whose employers provided cash bonuses and/or wage increases. One good example is Wal-Mart, whose pay scales have been criticized by the Left for years. The massive company is now raising its minimum wage by $2 an hour.

And doing away with job-killing and economically harmful regulations has spawned new job production, putting thousands of previously unemployed Americans back on the job. The more positive business climate has caused companies like Sprint, Wal-Mart, Lockeed-Martin, Hyundai Motor Company, General Motors, and Carrier to begin bringing jobs back to America, after moving them out of the country a few years ago.

These improvements are expected to make 3.0 percent GDP growth much more common than it’s been for years.

The U.S. energy picture is also improving. Earlier this month bicmagazine.com reported that the “U.S. has been a net energy importer since 1953, but the AEO2018 (Annual Energy Outlook 2018) reference case projects the U.S. will become a net energy exporter by 2022.” Under slightly different Energy Information Administration scenarios supporting larger growth in oil and natural gas production, this transition occurs even sooner.

While the anti-Trumpers delight in the distractions aimed at damaging the president, while he has been in office some good things have occurred. And more than a little of the good is the result of the plain positive differences between Trump and his socialist predecessor.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Sinclair Broadcast Group controversy


“On local news stations across the United States last month, dozens of anchors gave the same speech to their combined millions of viewers. It included a warning about fake news, a promise to report fairly and accurately and a request that viewers go to the station’s website and comment ‘if you believe our coverage is unfair,’” The New York Times reported last week.

These news anchors work for Sinclair Broadcast Group, based in Hunt Valley, Md., which owns 193 local TV stations, making it the largest owner of TV stations in the U.S. A video produced by Deadspin shows dozens of miniaturized TV screens filling the video screen. In each of the small screens Sinclair anchors are shown all reading the same statement.

The purpose of the video was apparently to create an image of dystopian news control by this owner of local TV stations. The video has created quite a wave of criticism of Sinclair for having all its stations’ news departments present the statement on air.

The idea the critics promote is that this indicates some sinister effort to control news at all Sinclair stations, and some comments allege that many of the anchors were privately opposed to the idea.

However, stations in groups like this routinely show “must-runs” such as this. Must-runs contain content the corporate office requires each station to broadcast, and are not at all uncommon. They also are not the subjects of some specially created special purpose video.

Other criticism includes the references to fake stories and false reporting, suggesting that “right-leaning” Sinclair appears to be parroting President Donald Trump’s criticism of “fake news” in the mainstream media, and that therefore Sinclair news is biased in favor of the Trump agenda.

Trying to find the text of this statement was a bit tricky, but seattlepi.com, which is the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s (SeattlePI) online presence, published the script used by anchors at KOMO-TV in Seattle, WA.

The Website noted, “The KOMO segments feature several different pairs of anchors sticking word-for-word to a Sinclair script they were required to read.” “They're certainly not happy about it,” a KOMO newsroom employee told SeattlePI. “It's certainly a forced thing.”

Here is the statement the anchors presented:

Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces. But we're concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories... stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control “exactly what people think”...This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

At KOMO it's our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand truth is neither politically “left nor right.” Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to KOMOnews.com and clicking on “Content Concerns.” We value your comments. We will respond back to you.

We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual. We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day. Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.

This reads like a mission statement for Sinclair’s news services, presented in a personal manor by station news personnel. It plainly condemns weak, slanted and poorly researched reporting, and vows not to indulge in such poor journalistic practices, but to present factual news and a focus on truth.

Further, it invites viewers to contact the station to report what they see as unfair coverage, and promises to respond to such reports. Many people regard that to be a very strong and good message.

Companies routinely have a mission statement telling the public about the company’s philosophy, so why this it an item of fear for Deadspin and other critics of Sinclair is the big mystery, not the message Sinclair put out.

Deadspin has a story online discussing how employees of local stations disagree with the company’s news policy statement. Why honest news people would object to a statement endorsing honest news reporting is a fair question for these staffers.

It all comes down to a simple problem: Any employee who disagrees with the corporate decision for them to read material on air with which they disagree has two choices: One, they can bite their lip and comply, or two, they can find another employer.

Sinclair’s senior vice president of news, Scott Livingston, responded to the furor, calling the backlash “ironic,” and said the stations “keep our audiences’ trust by staying focused on fact-based reporting and clearly identifying commentary.”

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

The 21st century: We are living in a world turning upside-down


Human beings have been consuming coffee for decades, at least, and perhaps for centuries. But despite the drink’s long and loved history, a story in the newspaper last Friday informed us coffee drinkers that the beverage harbors harmful elements that can cause cancer. Who knew?

Well, according to a legal action begun some eight years ago, everyone and anyone associated with coffee products – such as roasters, distributors, and retailers – should have known that because processing coffee beans releases a carcinogen in miniscule amounts, they should have warned the public.

Interestingly, the plaintiff is not the one with the burden of proof resting on its shoulders. In this case the age-old maxim “innocent until proven guilty” has been turned upside-down, and that duty has been shifted to the defendants by state law.

The judge in the case, in (where else?) California, ruled, “Defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health.” The judge somehow holds the defendants guilty of not proving something that plaintiffs did not allege, and leaves the plaintiffs to celebrate not having to prove their case. Nevertheless, coffee sellers now must label their product with a cancer warning, despite the carcinogen being removed from the “possible carcinogen” list.

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Citing Pennsylvania Act 31, a law addressing child abuse recognition and reporting, a dental office threatened to report a child patient’s mother to social services or law enforcement agencies if she did not schedule appointments for "regular professional cleanings."  This law allows the very people who provide services to report parents to authorities if they do not do business with the providers according to a schedule created by a professional dental association.

Here is yet another age-old saying brought to the fore: the fox guarding the henhouse. Beyond the open invitation for unscrupulous dental offices to act in their own interest rather than in that of their patients, we have potential interference from government when parents’ decisions on dental care differ from that of dentists, who collect fees for those services.

There should be no legal penalty or threat if a parent fails or decides not to follow the schedule, unless real and significant harm to the child results.

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The Trump administration has decided to add a question to the 2020 Census form asking the person filling out the form if she/he is a citizen. And guess who doesn’t like that? Primarily Democrats/liberals.

Counting non-citizens, including illegal aliens, in the census can affect such things as how many congressional districts states may have. Having more non-citizens counted in a state might cause it to have an additional district that it otherwise would not have.

Researchers have found that if citizens-only were counted, Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, which have large immigrant populations, would lose eight congressional seats, collectively.

J. Christian Adams, of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, observed: "Only citizens should be given political power. Our current system leads to noncitizens being allocated political power in legislatures at the expense of citizens." "It's critical that the next redistricting cycle account for the citizen residents of districts so urban centers do not unfairly profit from the political subsidy that higher noncitizen populations provide," he said.

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Rumors about leftist indoctrination by teachers in many colleges across the country are not at all unusual, but it is also present in public schools. Few instances, however, are as obvious as this one.

“For this assignment, you are writing a letter to the lawmakers of the United States. The purpose of this letter is to pressure lawmakers to have stricter gun laws in the United States. Your letter should contain at least five complete sentences. Make sure that you use proper grammatical skills when writing your letter,” read the assignment by a social studies teacher to his students at Hampton Middle School, Hampton, GA.

Well, at least the indoctrinator had the good sense to ask for proper grammar, even if it was as an afterthought. Whether he sent the letters to lawmakers or not, he was way out of bounds assigning students to take a particular position, particularly on a red-hot topic like the gun debate. How could a trained professional be so blind and dumb as to assign his students something so blatantly politically biased?

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With all the hoopla about supposed collusion by Russians in the 2016 presidential election that some believe helped Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, you may have gotten the idea that this was a new wrinkle in U.S. elections. But thanks to a friend and reader of this column, who provided a copy of The Christian Science Monitor from the mid 1940s, we see that isn’t at all the case.

In October of 1945 a front-page story tells of the Russian Congress of Industrial Organizations Political Action Committee openly supporting congressional candidates. Democrat candidates. Unsurprisingly, the Democrats denied the news. A Russian English-language newscast openly denounced Republicans and said their election might be the end of democracy in America. The broadcast was in Russia, but The New York Times printed an account of the broadcast.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

School shootings produce protest march, which produces what, exactly?



An unspeakable tragedy, carried out by a maniac who had given people close to him – as well as health practitioners and law enforcement – ample warning of his deficient mental state, has set loose so many reactions. Some of these reactions are natural and necessary, like grief, sorrow, and anger. Others, not so much.

Certainly, citizens of any age have the right, and should be encouraged to express their beliefs in appropriate ways about issues they feel are important. And hundreds of thousands of school-age kids recently marched to protest gun violence. It is a good thing for America’s future that this many young people have enough interest in an issue to strongly support a solution.

Whether it will accomplish positive results, however, depends upon how successful the protesters are in convincing the nation to accept their solutions, and that depends upon how sensible and potentially effective their solutions are.

Some of the prominent youngsters in this movement are smart, thoughtful and sincere, while others are merely reactionaries, and still others have become fond of the spotlight and the adoration that comes with it. It is difficult to tell which of these groups comprises the majority.

When you examine the solutions favored by the protesters, gun control measures and blaming the National Rifle Association (NRA) lead the list. These two targets appear to be the result of immature and faulty thinking, if thinking occurred at all, or perhaps encouragement from special interest groups. And trumpeting them alienates quite a large portion of the American people right off the bat.

Such gross miscalculations raise the question of just how much these young folks know about their country, its history, and the U.S. Constitution.  To find a real solution, one that does more than make some folks feel good, requires understanding the intricacies of the problem, and addressing them.

The shooter had mental problems, and some had known that for years.
But the failure of those who knew of his problems, and those of law enforcement and the other failures, were not caused by guns or the NRA.

The school, like most schools, was publicly known as a “gun-free zone,” which is an open invitation to someone like the shooter. Further, the school had insufficient security measures, as evidenced by the shooter’s ease of entering the building. And after he got in, there was absolutely no one inside that could confront him.

It seems like common sense that if you want to prevent school shootings, don’t let shooters come in. Beef up security so that only those who should be in the building are allowed in. The NRA would likely support such a measure very enthusiastically.

Sensible measures that address the actual problems – people with mental problems, inadequate security measures at entrances to the school and no armed security in the building – would likely have prevented this attack or ended it sooner.

And these solutions have the added advantage of not challenging areas of the Constitution’s protection of rights, or foolishly trying to pass the blame to an organization of approximately 5 million innocent, law abiding Americans.

Just because hundreds of thousands of teenage students feel strongly enough to protest a problem and lobby for a solution does not mean that their proposed solution should be adopted, or is the best one.

Further, this large protest is not without its share of irony. The marchers, who were protesting in support of gun bans, were protected by … good guys with guns. And at least one of the good guys had an AR-15, the weapon of choice of the shooter, and the target of the protesters, along with the NRA.

So, if protecting protesters with armed security, and protecting some elected officials and some well-known people with armed security makes sense, why not protect defenseless students with armed security at schools?

Too often, possible solutions that pop up quickly are lousy ideas. One such idea might be: If you want to stop school violence quickly, close down schools. That will stop violence immediately. Without gun-free zones that are shooting galleries: no school shootings. You don’t need expensive buildings and fleets of buses to carry kids back and forth. All schools will be online.

Is that a lousy idea?

And, is it a good thing that organizations and individuals with money got behind this movement and helped with organization, transportation and even the armed security personnel?

Who are they? What did they hope to achieve? Do they have an ultimate goal, and what is it?

Columnist Walter Williams has a far better idea of why school shootings occur: “Gun ownership is not our problem. Our problem is a widespread decline in moral values that has nothing to do with guns. That decline includes disrespect for those in authority, disrespect for oneself, little accountability for anti-social behavior, and a scuttling of religious teachings that reinforced moral values.”

No offense to those truly sincere students who want a solution, but Williams has a far more mature and scholarly grasp of the problem and its causes. Starting from his position is far more likely to produce a good solution to this problem.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

McCabe earned being fired, and things are getting more interesting


In late January FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe announced that he was resigning his position effective March 18, after being removed as deputy to Director Christopher Wray after Wray was appointed to the position that was previously held by Jim Comey. McCabe has had a dark cloud hanging over him for a while, and last Friday Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired him before his resignation took effect, denying McCabe his retirement benefits.

Sessions released a statement, saying, "Pursuant to Department Order 1202, and based on the report of the Inspector General [IG], the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility [OPR], and the recommendation of the Department’s senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately."

“McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor including under oath on multiple occasions,” Sessions continued. "The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability. As the OPR proposal stated, 'all FBI employees know that lacking candor under oath results in dismissal and that our integrity is our brand,'" he said.

Reportedly, the IG report was based on statements McCabe made to his own agency that were not true, lies told to the agency of which he was second in command.

In response to his firing, McCabe said, "This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally.” Apparently, McCabe has been studying Hillary Clinton’s technique of blaming everything and everyone in the world for her problems, instead of herself.

McCabe might just continue to follow the Clinton Blame Motif and shift blame to the Russians, to Donald Trump, or even the dreaded Evil Unicorn, as things progress.

The tainting of the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals to which McCabe referred is a too-broad statement to begin with, but it has been clearly shown that people in the upper echelons of the FBI are the ones who have done the tainting, and not to all of the FBI, just the echelons they inhabit.

McCabe has single-handedly ruined his professional career, a man who rose to the number two position at the agency, and who was, as reported by Fox News, on Trump’s short list for the directorship.

Do his comments following his firing add weight to allegations of his anti-Trump behavior as FBI deputy director? Perhaps. Is it also a similar sign that Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) has offered McCabe a job, and if he takes it would extend his federal government service for at least long enough to restore his retirement benefits? Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) is reportedly also interested in hiring McCabe.

The interest of these lawmakers fits into the Republican narrative and criticism of McCabe as being too closely tied to the Democrats. Among the items on the Republican list is that McCabe’s wife received campaign donations for a 2015 Virginia Senate run from Clinton ally and former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, even as the Clinton email probe was underway by the FBI. That should have caused McCabe to recuse himself from the Clinton probe.

McCabe is also a central figure in the matter of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses connected to the Russian collusion probe. He is said to have signed a FISA warrant that targeted former Trump campaign volunteer adviser Carter Page.

McCabe testified before a congressional committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISA court without the Steele dossier information. The Steele dossier was unverified, and financed as opposition research by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

The Hill reported on Saturday, “McCabe is accused of misleading investigators about allegedly giving information to a former Wall Street Journal reporter about the investigation of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton family’s charitable foundation. McCabe asserts in his post-firing statement that he not only had authority to ‘share’ that information to the media, but also did so with the knowledge of ‘the director.’ The FBI director at the time was Jim Comey.”

“I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor,” McCabe said. “As deputy director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter.”

So, McCabe’s comment directly contradicts Comey’s congressional testimony last May. When asked if he had “ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation,” or if he had “ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation,” Comey replied “never” and “no,” respectively.

The upper echelons of the FBI appear to contain an Office of Duplicity staffed by, in addition to McCabe, FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strozk, FBI attorney Lisa Page, and other fellow travelers that allowed politics to trump their integrity.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Critics say Trump’s tariffs will bring on a trade war, but will they?


President Donald Trump continues with his “America First” campaign, announcing a move that is aimed at the tilted playing field on international trade. Critics say Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum coming into the country will usher in a trade war, and it will harm America.

However, the fact is that we are already in a trade war; we have been it for many years; and we are losing it.

Most Americans probably don’t realize that we are in a trade war because, first, they don’t really follow such things, and neither do the major news media. Also, when a situation exists for a long enough time, it becomes “normal.” That is the case with the uneven tariff situation with other nations, and quite a few of them are our allies.

"We cannot have free and open trade if some countries exploit the system at the expense of others,” Trump told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We support free trade, but it needs to be fair and it needs to be reciprocal. Because, in the end, unfair trade undermines us all."

 “We cannot get our product in [to the European Union], Trump said in a TV interview in late January. “It’s very, very tough. And yet they send their product to us - no taxes, very little taxes. It’s very unfair.” Germany was singled out as a particularly guilty nation.

Trump points out how this has created America’s huge trade gap with foreign countries. “In 2017, the U.S. trade gap leaped 12.1 percent to a nine-year high of $566 billion,” as reported by MarketWatch, which attributed the rise  “to high oil prices and also to a strengthening economy. When Americans are more prosperous, they tend to buy more imported goods.”

“The latest statistics released on March 18 [2017] by the BEA [Bureau of Economic Analysis] show that for every dollar that the United States bought from China in 2009, the Chinese government only let its people buy 28 cents of American products,” reports idealtaxes.com. “Although the Chinese economy was growing by 8.7 percent, the Chinese government managed to shrink Chinese imports of American goods and services.”

The report states “China still maintains high duties on some products that compete with sensitive domestic industries. For example, the tariff on large motorcycles is 30 percent. Likewise, most video, digital video, and audio recorders and players still face duties of approximately 30 percent. Raisins face duties of 35 percent.” However, China did cut tariffs on a few minor items last November.

Trump has also criticized China's currency manipulations, which increase costs of American goods and services by 25 to 40 percent.

As The Washington Times reported last December, “India is still using high tariffs and other protectionist measures to keep U.S. manufacturing goods from entering its domestic market.” The result: America has a $32 billion trade deficit with India, the second largest country on Earth. The Times concludes, “It’s a problem that the Trump administration needs to address — and soon.”

Cars and electronics are largely the fuel for Japan’s $69 billion trade advantage, America’s second largest trade deficit, after China’s. All told, eleven nations impose tariffs on America’s Harley-Davidson motorcycles with engines over 800cc: India at 100 percent; China at 60 percent; and Thailand at 30 percent.  And the EU has had steep tariffs on U.S. imports for years.

To all of that, add in that the tariffs Trump wants to impose resulted from an investigation by the Department of Commerce that showed that imports of both steel and aluminum are sufficiently high that they pose a national security threat.

With those listed anti-American tariffs at work against us, what do we do? Do we merely leave things be, and continue to have our economy and Americans’ pocketbooks negatively affected? Or, do we try to fix the situation.

Trump is not one to merely look the other way under such conditions, and has proposed tariffs that at this point exclude only Canada and Mexico. This, of course, has attracted quite a lot of negative reaction.

So many people are obsessed with criticizing everything Trump does or doesn’t do that they repeated fail in these efforts, and then can’t resist advertising their failure. They don’t go the extra little bit. Instead of instantly denigrating and ridiculing Trump, do a little work and see what he is really doing below the surface.

Trump is a negotiator, and that is a major factor in how he does things. He can propose a 50 percent tariff on a country or some products, and then modify his terms if some accommodation is made, or maybe double down if no accommodation is offered. Ultimately, the conclusion of this exercise will usually be more moderate than the initial proposal, and actually will provide positive change for our country. This is the nature of negotiation, and Trump is a professional negotiator.

As for his many critics, why not just wait and see how the situation evolves, instead of jumping at his first words to try and create the most exciting and damaging comment about something that is just getting under way?

Thursday, March 08, 2018

We need some of the things from “the good old days” back again


Some of us seasoned citizens look out across the social landscape and are aghast at what we see. Our relatively stable culture of a few decades ago has certainly changed. And not for the better.

Many people in the U.S. have come to a point where for them reality has degenerated into a matter of “whatever I think it is.” And an associated mentality is that whatever someone or some group of people thinks is important must be treated not only with respect but even acceptance, no matter how silly or irrelevant it seems to others. Kid gloves are the new fashion trend, lest someone’s tender feelings be affected.

Of course, only certain types of things qualify for this special treatment, and other things are automatically disqualified, and by golly, you had best know the difference.

If you are not hip to Political Correctness (PC), you are likely to run afoul of the PC Police, and be labeled any of the fashionable “ists,” like racist, chauvinist, sexist, or one of the “phobes,” like xenophobe, transphobe or homophobe, but not Anglophobe.

For example, it was once considered inarguable that men and women are different. Then came the women’s movement, and after many years of that, a famous magazine of the day published an edition with its groundbreaking discovery that “Men and Women are Different!” emblazoned on the cover.

Our society is plagued with problems that many of us could never have predicted, and have trouble accepting, or even believing. Among these are the younger generation’s penchant for ingesting Tide pods, the idea that the Christmas song “Jingle Bells” or bulletproof glass in certain crime-ridden business areas are somehow racist, or that any word containing the syllable “man” that has been part of the vocabulary for centuries now needs to be changed because it is sexist.

On the subject of sex/gender, in our time it was uncommon or non-existent for someong born with the physical plumbing of a male who thought they should be a female, or vice versa. In those days sex and gender were the same; if you were born a female, you exhibited female characteristics of behavior, and vice versa. While it was true that some females might demonstrate less feminine/more masculine traits than most, and some males might demonstrate less masculine/more feminine traits than most, the differences between one’s biological sex and preferred gender did include people actually trying to switch genders, as is being done today.

These days many people react emotionally, believing those reactions are the solution to many problems. Finding causes through logical analysis has become a foreign concept. The horrific tragedy of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida is a recent case in point.

Many people automatically returned to banning weapons like the one used by the mentally ill shooter used as the solution. Yes, some of those do so out of ideological impulse, but others are unable to see past the knee-jerk reaction of blaming the gun rather than the perp. And it is increasingly the case where mere disagreement with these emotional responses produces insults rather than productive discussion.

Also these same people want to blame an organization for the tragedy, for the same reasons. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and its five or so million law abiding members through some illogical magic have become the reason this young cretin killed 17 students and teachers at his former school.

Some questions for these folks:
Did the NRA fail to follow up on multiple warnings about the shooter’s mental state and criminal activities?
Did it prevent the school from installing security measures that could have kept him out of the buildings?
Did it tell the deputies who were on site not to go in and confront the shooter?
Did it persuade local authorities to stop arresting young wrongdoers and instead send them to counseling so the area’s profile would look better?
Did it whisper in the ear of this mentally ill fool that he should go to the school and kill people?
Was the shooter one of its members?

The answer to each of these questions is, of course, a loud and definite “no!” Further, as time passes, we learn more about what actually happened, and what didn’t happen that should have happened, which should reiterate the wisdom against reacting too strongly, too quickly.

These things demonstrate that America isn’t America anymore. And they outline the problems facing the country. How do we start from this crazy situation and restore the nation to the America that was the most free and stable yet imagined by humans?

Americans have done a lousy job teaching the younger generations the history of America and the traditions that evolved as a result of its creation. Too many of us do not know those traditions, and more than a few do not appreciate them. Consequently they do not honor them. The current culture is one that has few strong, unwavering principles, and those that remain are under attack.

How long can America survive floating aimlessly along, having abandoned the very traditions and values that made it the great nation it once was?

Thursday, March 01, 2018

We have to stop deficit spending and lower the national debt



The national debt virtually doubled in the 8 years of President Barack Obama. From the $10.6 trillion debt when he took office in 2009 that was created by all the presidents before him, until the end of his terms in 2017, the debt grew to nearly $20 trillion. That was, of course, the largest increase under any president in history.

President Donald Trump claimed that in his first month in office he actually saved money, reducing the national debt by $12 billion. That is true, but is a mere pittance compared to the $20 trillion total. It was a baby step in the right direction, but it was also only a moment in time for a number that rises and falls month-to-month.

Campaigning in 2016, Trump promised voters he would balance the budget. His first budget does not accomplish that difficult task, and in fact, the budget for fiscal year 2019 is projected to add another trillion to the existing debt, contrary to his promise to voters.

Trump’s proposed spending plan is a $4.4 trillion monster for fiscal year 2019 that some describe as dangerously unbalanced. He still has some time to balance the budget, but what a great thing it would be if his first budget actually moved decidedly in that direction.

Everyone who manages a business or organization, or a home budget understands the situation: ideally, income exceeds expense. Historically, the federal government achieves surpluses only rarely, and a properly operated government shouldn’t produce large surpluses, or large deficits.

Our gargantuan national debt is the result of gross budgetary malfeasance, and it is at crisis proportions. The nation’s debt now exceeds its GDP, and net interest payments on the debt are estimated to be 6.8 percent of all federal outlays at $276.2 billion this fiscal year. That is enough to pay for all administrative office employees for this year.

A comparison of what the government is doing with what it is allowed to do by the U.S. Constitution needs to happen.

The Preamble to the Constitution lays out its purpose, in broad terms: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

James Madison, one of the Constitution’s creators, certainly can be cited as an expert on the document. “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined,” he wrote in Federalist No. 45, in 1788. “Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

But in direct opposition to this founding principle, phrases such as “promote the general Welfare,” have been expanded well beyond what the Founders intended, and contribute greatly to a government that has grown in size, control and cost beyond all reason.

The federal government has its nose and fingers in far too many areas of our lives. It should not regulate mud puddles or control education. It should not use its power against some legal businesses or organizations to the benefit of others. The federal government owns and controls 640 million acres of America’s land, about 28 percent of its total surface, the majority of it in western states. The list goes on.

Given the degree to which these improper activities have grown and are so much a part of life, it may not be possible to completely eliminate them, but there are certainly areas ripe for reduction.

As designed, the federal government should not require much money from citizens to operate, and the tax cuts that finally made it through Congress have been a boon to taxpayers and businesses. Businesses can expand, replace equipment, hire new workers and/or increase wages, and taxpayers will have more of their earnings at their disposal to buy things they need and want, which will increase spending in the private sector and increase tax collections.

And government positions left unfilled by the administration will provide some reduction in government spending. But even under the best of circumstances, these factors will not make a large dent in the deficit.

According to downsizinggovernment.org, “The federal government employs 2.1 million civilian workers in hundreds of agencies at offices across the nation. The federal workforce imposes a substantial burden on America’s taxpayers. In 2017 wages and benefits for executive branch civilian workers cost $276 billion.” And that does not count the courts, the Congress or postal workers.

Getting federal spending down to the balanced budget level requires drastic cuts in government, and will require closing some unnecessary administrative agencies, and reducing the number of federal workers in the remaining agencies. As Madison reminds us, the powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined, and the rest of the things needed are to remain the responsibility of the state governments.

One of Trump’s favored phrases in the campaign was “draining the swamp.” Getting government under control and reduced to its proper size and function has never been more important than it is today.

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.