Monday, October 31, 2016

Presidential campaign has not focused much on important issues

The presidential campaign has not adequately addressed the issues and problems facing the United States, but the next president has a mountain of problems needing attention.

Looking at polls from major news organizations – CBS News/New York Times; ABC News/Washington Post; NBC News/Wall Street Journal – from May through October of this year, the economy/jobs is the leading issue in all polls, followed by the combination of terrorism, national security and immigration. Tam Warner Minton, writing on The Huffington Post blog, suggests that the Supreme Court is the most important of the issues.

All of these issues are important, but two of them – The economy/jobs; and the U.S. Supreme Court – are already affecting the country.

The thing to remember when evaluating the way Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton approach these problems is that one of them loves and lives for big and bigger government, while the other plainly prefers the private sector.

Looking at the economy and job creation, Trump has actually created jobs through his hotels, golf courses and casinos; while Clinton’s decades in the public sector leaves her with no real experience in this important sphere.

Her approach to jobs and the economy will rely on increased regulation, reducing taxes on the middle class and making the rich pay more. The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) analyzed the Clinton plan and said, “As currently presented, the Clinton tax proposals would increase taxes on high-income earners, reduce the exceptions to the corporate income tax, and increase estate taxes, in an effort to raise more revenue and bring greater equity to the current U.S. tax system. According to our NCPA-DCGE model, the plan would generate $615 billion in revenue over 10 years, with most of that increase coming from the federal personal income tax. The cost to the economy would be a net loss of 211,000 jobs by 2026, and a reduction in real GDP of 0.9 percent.”

Clinton has criticized Trump’s tax cutting policy, deriding it as “Trumped-up trickle-down,” a cute phrase, but a horribly ignorant economic reality. The NCPA explains why this idea will out perform Clinton’s: “Rather, insofar as tax cuts raise after-tax profits, they induce taxpayers to expand investment and, in so doing, wages, and jobs. Insofar as they raise after-tax wages, they induce taxpayers to enter the labor force and work longer hours. This is not the result of money “trickling down” from one person to another but of the reduction of disincentives to invest and work that are inherent to any tax code,” and especially one that punishes people with money to invest in job-creating economic activity.

Where the U.S. Supreme Court is concerned, it can cause great harm to the nation if Justices stray from their Constitutional limits, and they often do.

In response to a question in a presidential debate, Clinton said: “If I have the opportunity to make any Supreme Court appointments, I’m going to look broadly and widely for people who represent the diversity of our country, who bring some common-sense, real-world experience.”

This answer displays a shocking lack of understanding of the job of the Supreme Court, and the purpose and meaning of the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s duty and function have nothing to do with ideas of diversity, or the supposed benefits of real-world experience. Its job is essentially to resolve legal disputes, being sure always to uphold the principles of the Constitution.

The Constitution is alive, but it is not a “living document,” the meaning of which would change with the winds of societal preferences. The Founders based the Constitution upon important principles that were intended for the ages. They understood that at some future point there may be a true need for modification, and they created a mechanism for doing so. That mechanism is not simply a majority of Supreme Court Justices wanting to make a change; it is a clear and difficult process, difficult by design to prevent foolish modifications to satisfy some momentary desire.

There are essentially two approaches to how justices interpret the Constitution: conservatism/originalism, which honors and adheres to the actual language and original intent of the Constitution; and liberalism, which is a willingness to interpret the language for some social or political end, which results in making law from the bench instead of in the Congress, as the Constitution requires.

Packing the Court with Justices who do not honor the original meaning of the Constitution in order to achieve some narrow ideological objective is a form of subversion, and Hillary Clinton is married to that goal.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, understands the great wrong of that goal, and has vowed to nominate judicial conservatives/originalists to fill Court vacancies.

The left likes for things to be easy: easy border control and easy citizenship; easy changing of the Constitution; easy to vote through early voting and without a picture ID; and easy to live off of government support, rather than facing the rigors of a job, among them.

Such laxness and failure to uphold traditional standards makes it much easier to turn America to liberalism/socialism through subversive measures than trying to persuade people to accept it. We must resist these efforts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

News media has abandoned honesty and integrity

The news media has been referred to as the “Fourth Estate” for a long time. Thomas Carlyle, in his book "On Heroes and Hero Worship," attributes the origin of the term to Sir Edmund Burke: "Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all." Burke believed the Fourth Estate to be far more important than the other estates because its job was informing the public of what Parliament was up to.

The high regard for the Fourth Estate carried over to the colonies, and when the United States was formed the work of what we now commonly refer to as the news media warranted protections in the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, because its function was viewed as essential to the republic and protected the purveyors of important information from those who might prefer their activities to not receive wide dissemination, and who might use the courts or other means to keep important information from being made public.

Where news media is concerned, the First Amendment provides: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …”

However, while the Constitution can protect the media from those who dislike it by guaranteeing its freedom to tell all it knows, it does not have the ability to enforce integrity, honesty and fairness on the media. Those qualities are expected to be organizational and personal, ingrained in news providers and students of journalism, who should be taught and adopt the ethics of journalism and practice them always.

People in certain positions in our society have the job and the duty to play it straight down the middle, without allowing whatever personal feelings they may have to enter into the performance of their job. Among these are referees and other sports officials; judges in legal proceedings and other adjudicatory activities; and the news media, the people who provide the public with the critical information necessary for people to be able to make informed decisions.

The mechanisms for defending news reporting remain intact, but sadly the same cannot be said for the ethical imperatives of news reporting, as is being demonstrated daily in the national media. The most glaring example of this lack of ethics and integrity is the coverage of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump vs. that of Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton.

One of many examples arose during the final presidential debate. When asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace if he would pledge to accept the results of the election, Trump’s answer was influenced by his oft-stated belief that the election system has many flaws, and he said, “I will look at it at the time.” Clinton slammed him for his answer, saying he is “undermining the pillar of our democracy,” the peaceful transfer of power.

Well, no, he was not. Who can really blame someone for wanting to wait until the election is over before deciding whether is was handled fairly? But Clinton’s position on that issue is much more highly favored by the media than Trump’s, so guess what the major news outlets told the world?

Things like this fire Trump’s claims that the news media are biased against him, and a new Quinnipiac University poll finds agreement among a majority of those polled. Fifty-five percent of likely voters agree the press is biased against Trump.

Earlier this month, Trump said some American soldiers “can't handle” the horrors of war, which causes their PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder). This statement was then distorted to suggest Trump disdains those who suffer PTSD.

This farcical misinterpretation was identified by Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, no great friend of Trump, who said: "The bias that is in the media. What he is saying is that some people, for whatever reason, and we really don’t understand why, suffer from PTSD, and others don’t.”

The news media's reaction to Trump’s PTSD comment appears to be the reaction of someone with an IQ south of 70, but we know that most media types are not stupid: Lack of intelligence is not the problem; media bias is the problem.

The media’s yearlong thinly disguised dislike for Trump has erupted into an open sore, and the collapse and disgracing of a critical component of our society is now inarguable. Attempting to justify this flagrant abandonment of professional ethics, New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg writes, “If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that … That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non-opinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.”

But some reporters, editors and producers regard Trump as so bad that normal standards no longer apply, and journalistic ethics that once were sacrosanct and provided a substantial measure of balance and fairness in news reporting have become obstacles to a media agenda.

One of the worst possible situations is when the source of critical public information abandons neutrality and takes sides. Like widespread corruption in government, widespread corruption in the information system is deadly to liberty.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Evangelicals face a difficult but clear choice on Nov. 8th

Of all of us are struggling with the difficult task of selecting from four candidates for President of the United States, with the two leading candidates having shown themselves to be highly flawed. But perhaps evangelical Christians have the most difficult task.

Since NBC “Today” co-host Billy Bush released the 11 year-old recording of vulgar “locker-room” banter between himself and Donald Trump, and since the recent accusations of Trump making inappropriate sexual advances to several women years ago, Christian’s face the question of how to react to the moral infractions that have been shown, and alleged.

Andy Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today magazine, expressed the general displeasure of evangelical leaders to these things, writing, “Indeed, there is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the ‘earthly nature’ … that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: ‘sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry’ (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date. Idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality are intertwined in individual lives and whole societies.”

Those who have been around for more than a few years remember a similar situation involving President Bill Clinton and then-First Lady, and now presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton from the mid-1990s. In both cases religious folks had plenty to object to on moral grounds.

Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives, not for his immoral conduct, but for lying about it under oath to a federal grand jury. Despite this, Clinton was able to finish his second term as President.

While nearly everyone agrees that such conduct is wrong, not everyone agrees on how important these kinds of things are in terms of whether they should disqualify someone from becoming or remaining President of the United States. It obviously was not considered important enough to remove Bill Clinton from office.

But that was then and this is now, and today Christians and Christian activities are being criticized as never before. A faction of the public wants to ban public Christmas scenes, and to malign religious institutions in general.

Donald Trump’s political enemies think evangelicals must focus on the she-said/he-said of the recent allegations of inappropriate sexual advances on women, and believe that if these allegations are true he should be disqualified from the presidency.

However, many or most evangelical Republican leaders are sticking with Trump, saying that despite his lewd comments there is no other real option for them. They generally say they will not abandon Trump, as quite a few Republicans in Congress have already done.

“It’s not like this is new,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “That’s why I aggressively supported another candidate in the primary, Ted Cruz, who I share values with. But we only have a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump now.” And Franklin Graham conceded that while Trump’s comments on the recording are troubling, they are not sufficient to abandon him, and that the “godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton likewise cannot be defended.”

Evangelicals face criticism for not walking away from Trump and his immoral behavior, but they realize that one of the two flawed candidates will win the election, and they must support the one that has the best plan for the country and the most favorable view of the place of religion in their lives. Trump may fail the first test, but he passes with flying colors on the second one.

American Values President Gary Bauer believes that if Hillary Clinton becomes president, religious schools will be forced to do things that are against their religious principles; she will appoint liberal justices to the Supreme Court; religious displays in the public square will face bans; and Clinton has expressed hostility for Second Amendment rights. Donald Trump takes the appropriate view of these things.

“A Christian who cannot see the difference between a candidate who has sinned and yet promises good policies, and a candidate who has sinned and promises bad policies,” he wrote, “has been failed along the way — either by our educational system, our political leaders or our faith leaders.”

“And, he wrote, “voters should do everything they can to make sure Crooked Hillary never steps foot in the Oval Office!”

Basically, most evangelical leaders seem to offer this rationale: We are not voting to fill a vacancy among the Seven Archangels; we are voting for the President of the United States. They realize that Trump’s views on the Supreme Court, the flawed tax system, the dangerously high National Debt and deficit spending; the severely weakened military; our weakened relations with foreign nations; the stagnant economy and lack of good jobs; the immigration problems; and liberal attacks on guaranteed rights are the most important considerations in who to vote for in this election.

Christian leaders are displeased with Trump’s actions, but recognize that as imperfect as he may be as a human being, he is a vastly better choice for President of the United States for them than Hillary Clinton, who will win the election if more people abandon Trump for morality reasons.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What's really important in this election

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Almost everyone agrees that this is the most unusual election in his or her lifetime. We have two major party candidates with the highest disapproval ratings that anyone can remember. And each candidate’s supporters ignore the negatives and continue to support the candidate.

Democrat Hillary Clinton comes from decades in the political sphere as the wife of a governor, the wife of a president, a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. Republican Donald Trump comes from decades in the private sector as a businessman and entertainment show producer, having first entered political life for the 2015 Republican primary.

Both have a long list of negatives their political enemies hope will disqualify them in the eyes of voters. However, there are important differences between them.

It wasn’t Donald Trump who for personal convenience as Secretary of State flaunted the rules and established procedures, taking the unprecedented step of evading the official secure government email system in favor of a private email server for government business, including classified information, then had the server scrubbed, destroying thousands of messages that were not only government property, but evidence, and then couldn’t provide a credible excuse for any of that.

It wasn’t Donald Trump whose possible-criminal situation caused untold irregularities in the operation of the State Department, the FBI and the Justice Department, including a “chance” meeting on an airport tarmac between the Secretary of State’s husband and the Attorney General of the United States, putting dozens of public servants in the position to destroy their credibility and trustworthiness to save Secretary of State’s backside.

It wasn’t Donald Trump whose vast experience in government in the U.S. Senate and the State Department resulted in neglecting dozens of requests for increased security prior to the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya resulting in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans, and then tried blame a clear terrorist attack on an obscure Internet video, resulting in jailing the video’s producer.

And it wasn’t Donald Trump whose frequent profanity-laced tirades insulted and denigrated Secret Service agents and White House staffers.

But that was a long time ago, and since all of that was a long time ago, it probably isn’t relevant that it also wasn’t Donald Trump who worked for the Congressional committee investigating the Watergate cover-up many years ago, and was fired for lying.

But it was Donald Trump who took some money from his father, invested it in business and created hotels, casinos, golf courses and television shows. Some of his creations didn’t work out, as is not uncommon in the world of business. Luminaries such as Henry Ford, Walt Disney, F.W. Woolworth, Albert Einstein, and Bill Gates also sometimes failed. The best major league hitters fail to get a hit six or seven out of ten times.

It was Donald Trump who claimed business losses of nearly a billion dollars on tax returns many years ago, cancelling an equal amount of income over several years, using provisions in the tax code to reduce taxable income, just as most every American that pays taxes does, through deductions for such things as dependents, mortgage interest and charitable giving.

For taking legal tax deductions Trump has attracted mountains of criticism from his betters, who somehow twist this into meaning he doesn’t care about the country, or the military and dozens of other things. But the hundreds or thousands of people that work in his businesses do pay taxes, and that is significant.

And, yes, it was Donald Trump who managed to anger his primary opponents and many Americans with his petulant personal attacks of those who opposed and challenged him. His far-from-perfect manner leaves much to be desired, and his locker room vulgarity, spoken in private 11 years ago, really got people fired up. But if some rapper had used those same words as lyrics, it’d be #1 on Billboard.

Apparently, it’s a more serious offense to say things that offend someone than to put national interests at risk, to lose $6 billion of State Department funds and generally fail to competently run the agency you’ve been entrusted to run, and make millions giving $250,000 secret-content speeches to Wall Street banks that you publicly criticize. By virtue of merely having been elected a U.S. Senator and appointed as a cabinet secretary, you are thus qualified to be president, even if the best you did in those positions was inconsequential or harmful.

Strangely, people are more offended by Trump’s words than Hillary Clinton’s vicious attacks on her hubby’s numerous sexual victims and conquests, her position on coal mining and the Supreme Court, and her comments supporting open borders, spoken in a private $250,000 speech.

What Trump said that hurt someone’s feelings or shocked their sensibilities is worse to many than that Clinton put personal convenience ahead of national security and failed to protect State Department personnel who were in harms way.

Voters must put their hurt feelings aside, adjust their perspective and focus on the serious issues confronting the next president. They must understand that Clinton’s hubris already put national security at risk, and she will continue Obama’s dangerous, destructive, and unconstitutional policies.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Obama’s new attempt to kill fossil fuels hits legal resistance

After the U.S. Supreme Court stayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) on February 9, pending judicial review, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has begun hearings to resolve the issue. The CPP is the next step by the Obama administration to impose dire restrictions on burning fossil fuels to save the world from supposed climate change from carbon emissions.

The EPA explains the regulation: “On August 3, 2015, President Obama and EPA announced the Clean Power Plan – a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change. Shaped by years of unprecedented outreach and public engagement, the final Clean Power Plan is fair, flexible and designed to strengthen the fast-growing trend toward cleaner and lower-polluting American energy. With strong but achievable standards for power plants, and customized goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, the Clean Power Plan provides national consistency, accountability and a level playing field while reflecting each state’s energy mix. It also shows the world that the United States is committed to leading global efforts to address climate change.”

Twenty-seven states and a group of private companies and trade associations have challenged the CPP, however. The regulation seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the energy industry by over 30 percent and nationalize the country’s electric power grid, according to The Daily Signal. The regulation, which runs to 1,500 pages, gives the federal government authority over how states use their natural resources.

There are significant problems with the CPP. It is another example of what is effectively the executive branch making law, a function plainly reserved for the legislative branch by the U.S. Constitution. However, Congress has frequently abdicated this responsibility, and effectively and unconstitutionally transferred it to the executive branch. The CPP also breaches the 10th Amendment protections of the states against improper encroachment by the federal government, and it was this aspect of the CPP that prompted the Supreme Court to call a timeout, according to The Daily Signal.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is challenging the rule on 10th Amendment grounds in State of West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, said after the court session that the way EPA set its goals is key to the case. The Daily Signal notes that “the Clean Power Plan seeks to reverse what may be natural climate fluctuation at the cost of creating power blackouts, higher energy costs, job losses in the energy sector, and price spikes throughout the nation’s economy, including for necessities such as food and water.”

The Heritage Foundation predicts the following effects of the CPP:
·      An average annual employment shortfall of nearly 300,000 jobs;
·      A peak employment shortfall of more than 1 million jobs;
·      A loss of more than $2.5 trillion (inflation-adjusted) in aggregate GDP; and
·      A total income loss of more than $7,000 (inflation-adjusted) per person.

And for what great and noble end would the EPA impose this misery on the nation?

Heritage cites climatologists Paul Knappenberger and Patrick Michaels, who used the “Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Induced Climate Change” developed with support from the EPA, and estimate that the climate regulations will reduce warming by a meager –0.018 degree Celsius (C) by 2100.

Oral arguments began last Wednesday, and Scientific American magazine reports that both sides in the case thought the EPA arguments had the edge in the nearly seven-hour court session that involved 10 of the Circuit’s 11 judges, rather than just the normal three-judge panel. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland recused himself from the proceedings.

“The most contentious questions focused on a big issue: how the regulation set state-specific carbon levels for power plants,” the magazine noted. “Rather than looking at what individual coal plants could do to limit greenhouse gas emissions, EPA assumed the industry as a whole could accelerate a trend away from coal and toward cleaner natural gas and renewable power.”

The EPA’s arguments predictably did not sit well with the CPP’s challengers. Lawyers representing the 27 states and the private companies allied with them “argued that EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act, moving into Congress’ turf and violating a separation of powers.”

George W. Bush appointee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, said that while curbing greenhouse gas emissions is a “laudable” goal, “global warming isn’t a blank check” for the administration. “I understand the frustration with Congress,” he said, but the rule is “fundamentally transforming an industry.” The executive branch does not have that authority.

The outcome is definitely uncertain, with judges expressing both support and opposition to the CPP. A decision from the D.C. Circuit might not come until early next year, and the Supreme Court’s final action might be delayed until 2018.

The administration’s manic, emotional and weak theory about carbon emissions threatening life as we know it brought forth this question from authors Stephen Moore and Kathleen Hartnett White in their excellent new book, Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy: “How can carbon be a weapon of mass destruction and the basis of all known life” at the same time, they asked?