Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The people’s will is at risk from election fraud and carelessness

When the topic of election fraud comes up, a lot of people say there is not much of that, except for the Russians.

The problem is that there is a good bit of evidence for domestic election irregularities, and little or none for the Russians having had a real effect in 2016.

Two recent inconvenient items remind us just how real election fraud really is.

The first is especially inconvenient for Democrats, as a college student working as a staffer for Harrisonburg Votes, described as being affiliated with the Democrat Party in Harrisonburg, Va., gets jail time. 

James Madison University student Andrew J. Spieles will spend 100 days in jail for knowingly turning in false Virginia voter registration forms during the 2016 election containing the names of dead people and other faulty information.

And, a woman in the country legally, but a non-citizen, has been sentenced to eight years in prison and fined $5,000 for voting illegally five times over a period of years. Rosa Maria Ortega of Grand Prairie, Texas, was sentenced earlier this year for the 2nd-degree felony.

Ortega had applied to vote in Tarrant County, but acknowledged she was not a citizen, and was turned down because she was not a citizen. Despite being told she was not eligible to vote in the United States, five months later, she applied again, claiming to be a citizen.

She did not vote in Tarrant County, but did vote in Dallas County, authorities say.

Four employees of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) were arrested earlier this month in a scheme to produce false identification documents enabling illegal immigrants to vote in Boston. In addition to the employees of the RMV, people selling illegal documents were also arrested for selling Puerto Rico licenses and official state ID cards to illegal aliens.

According to the Department of Justice website in Massachusetts, the document dealer sold Puerto Rican birth certificates and U.S. Social Security cards to the document vendor for $900 who then sold the stolen identities for over $2,000 to clients seeking false identities in Massachusetts.

This fraud was only discovered when Massachusetts State Police received an anonymous letter telling them what was going on in the RMV.

In October of last year The Washington Times published a list of states where regularities have been found:
** Colorado discovered that dead people voted in elections in several different years.
** Illegals were found voting in Virginia, but were only discovered after they self-reported.
** In Pennsylvania 700 voters might have voted twice in recent elections, and 43,000 others potentially had duplicate registrations in Pennsylvania or in Pennsylvania and another state.
** The secretary of state’s office in Pennsylvania mailed about 2.5 million voter registration postcards to people who are not registered voters, but are licensed drivers.
** At least 86 non-citizens have been registered voters in Philadelphia since 2013.
** Allegations of voter fraud in Tarrant County, Texas, prompted a state investigation. Of concern are mail-in ballots, which allow for people to vote from their homes without any ID or verification of identity. And then they found so-called “vote-harvesting” where political operatives fill out and return other people’s ballots, without their consent.
** An Indiana voter fraud investigation grows to 56 counties where police believe there could be hundreds of fraudulent voter registration records with different combinations of made up names and addresses with people’s real information.
** Three people are under investigation in Oklahoma for voting twice in the presidential primary. All three submitted absentee ballots before showing up to their polling place on March 1 and voted again in person.
** Underage voters were found voting in Wisconsin’s presidential primary. This involves six under-age students that voted, and the election workers didn’t even check their birthdays on their IDs.

All of these examples are evidence of both dishonesty and incompetence, or at least carelessness.

So, there is no question that there is election fraud in the United States, but how serious a problem is it?

In a free country founded on following the will of the people, voting is of paramount importance. Without a clean and honest election system, the will of the people may be subverted.

It’s time we get serious about protecting elections from illegal voters and others who work to weaken its security, or who fail to do their jobs competently.

We are reminded frequently that voting is a right and it should be easy to vote. But voting is a solemn duty that must be properly supervised and operated.

One of the best ways to discourage voter fraud is requiring a photo ID obtained by proving eligibility to vote. A long list of everyday activities requires a photo ID, like buying liquor and cigarettes, but not voting. Many people oppose this helpful, common sense mechanism for one of the most important things people do.

They complain that somehow helping to assure only eligible voters can vote disenfranchises some people. But there are steps that correct that problem, and they are already in effect in many states.

Requiring a photo ID to vote is a necessary change, along with steps to help eligible voters register.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Mueller’s charge: A search for justice, or a fishing excursion?

Back in May, the Department of Justice announced that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had appointed a special counsel “to oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters.”

Rosenstein said he had “determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” adding that his decision “is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. ... What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

Rosenstein chose former Department of Justice official and former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III, a man roundly praised by Democrats and Republicans alike. Supportive comments included that he has impeccable credentials, and the knowledge and ability to do the right thing.

However, over recent months some inconvenient truths have arisen.

A special counsel’s or special prosecutor’s job is to investigate known crimes. As Rosenstein said, no actual crime has been identified. Therefore, the Russian involvement in the election that has commanded the attention of the media and Democrats for more than a year is not a criminal case. It is a counter-intelligence case, which does not require a special counsel.

As Mueller began recruiting his team of lawyers to assist in the investigation, it was noted that some of the early ones were donors to Democrat candidates. And to date, as reported by The Washington Post, of the 14 names confirmed by the special counsel’s office, seven of them have “donated a total of $60,787.77 to [Hillary] Clinton and other party candidates.”

William Barr, Attorney General in the George H.W. Bush administration, told the Post, "In my view, prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party." Can this investigation be objective?

The order creating the special counsel ostensibly is for investigating Russian election involvement. However, it effectively has no limits. Having found nothing pursuable in the Russian intrigue, which was the reason for appointing a special counsel, Mueller has moved on to other topics. He is now looking into matters involving Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. If/when that one runs its course, another empty space awaits, like President Donald Trump’s business dealings years ago.

It is not unlike bringing a construction company executive to an empty field without a plan to follow, and saying, “build something.” There is no definite end to this process, unless someone somewhere can be indicted, or be persuaded to confess to something.

Critics say that Mueller’s job, and that of prosecutors generally, is to find a crime, and then to find a perpetrator, and it apparently is of little importance what the crime is, or who is responsible for it. Remember the investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton in the Whitewater matter? It ended up being the Monica Lewinski matter. The two were barely related, if at all.

Prosecutors are known for “flipping” witnesses, pressuring them with prosecution for something – anything – to persuade them to tattle on someone – anyone – in order to avoid prosecution. A prosecutor’s job is, after all, to prosecute. No indictment in this matter indicates a failed investigation. Who wants that on their record?

Recently, Mueller impaneled a grand jury, and some think see that as an indication that Mueller is hot on the trail of criminal activity. And that is certainly a distinct possibility. However, another argument says grand juries are routine tools in such investigations, and assist in subpoenaing witnesses and aiding the investigation. Time will tell.

Be that as it may, conservative talk show host Mark Levin, who is a lawyer and president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, has a more threatening scenario. Calling it a “coup,” he said “Let me tell you what's going on here: they want to drag Donald Jr. in front of a grand jury and everybody else who was in that meeting – all eight of them – and see if they can find any contradictions in their testimony." Since there was no crime involved, Levin said the purpose is to “see if they can get somebody on a 'lie.' Perjury."

And now some suggest that Mueller is in breach of the rules and should resign.

The Daily Caller reported that Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ, said, “Robert Mueller is in ‘clear violation’ of federal law prohibiting a special counsel from having a conflict of interest and therefore must immediately resign as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.”

Franks, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Mueller’s reported friendship with former FBI director James Comey, who first worked under Mueller, leaked information to the press to encourage the appointment of a special counsel. That presents a clear conflict of interest, defined by federal law as: “a personal relationship with any person substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution.”

At best we have a bunch of Republicans being investigated by a bunch of Democrats. What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Wouldn’t it be great if we would buy “Made in America” again?”

Part of President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mission is to reinvigorate U.S. manufacturing, and like nearly everything Trump says or does, that idea produced much criticism. A lot of that is the automatic Trump-hater response, but some resulted from reasoned thought and philosophical differences.

National Review roving correspondent Kevin D. Williamson discussed this in an essay titled “Made in America: Not Important in the 21st Century,” where he offers examples of products assembled in America that actually contain some or perhaps most parts made in other countries. The question is: do these products really deserve the “Made in America” label?

Calling Trump’s encouragement for us to buy products “Made in America” to support our manufacturers “a good slogan … [but] bad and incoherent policy,”’s Nick Gillespie went on to note that using more expensive American labor would increase the price of our products, and protectionist measures to exclude foreign-made materials from our markets runs counter both to the personal freedom the USA provides us, as well as the concept of free trade.

America is a “post-industrial nation,” Gillespie noted, and “the fact is that manufacturing jobs as a percentage of the work force peaked in 1943 and has declined ever since.”

He then urged pursuing policies that create new jobs, new opportunities and new wealth through “lower government spending, flatter and less distorting taxes, and less regulation.”

Opposition to Trump’s idea also includes the Chamber of Commerce and major players in the energy sector. As the Commerce Department worked to meet a late July deadline to present a plan to the president requiring oil and gas pipelines to be made with American-made steel, Trump’s allies in the energy sector warned that this might play havoc with his goal of energy dominance.

Gillespie is correct about the low percentage of manufacturing jobs. This decline occurred over many years, largely through natural progression, but as Gillespie hinted, external factors have also contributed. They had a significant negative effect that increased the decline, and removing those influences can provide some relief to manufacturing job losses.

Whereas technological advancement reduces the need for human work, natural progress in foreign countries is also a factor. In poor nations, people gladly work for pennies or quarters a day. While it may seem cruel to some of us to pay people so little for their efforts, those pennies or quarters are what enable them to achieve a better life in the less developed economy of their country.

If those workers can produce things that cost a fraction of what they cost if made by American workers, even after shipping them across the waters, businesses will go for the less expensive product in order to both enhance their economic situation, and to keep the price of their products lower.

But we often do things that increase our costs compared with other countries. High taxes and over-regulation on businesses, both of which put pressure on American companies to reduce costs to remain competitive, help push manufacturing jobs overseas.

The coal-mining sector is a good example of the effect of external factors. While natural gas usage was increasing and coal use was naturally trending down, Obama’s war on coal sped up that process through anti-coal regulations. That forced a dramatic decrease in coal use, wreaking havoc and harm much greater than if natural economic processes had been allowed to work.

Like coal mining, other manufacturing jobs are affected by the negative factors of over-regulation and high taxes. As Gillespie suggested, flatter and less distorting taxes, and less regulation would help make American steel and other products more competitive.

Other factors will also help to make American products more competitive, and provide a boost to U.S. manufacturing, such as a border-adjustment tax. The purpose of this tax is not to generate tax revenue to offset tax cuts, but to create jobs by evening out the playing field.

The U.S. is one of the few countries that does not tax imported goods and reward those exported to other countries, explains Newt Gingrich in his new book “Understanding Trump.” Taxing goods coming into the country, as other countries do to American goods, makes domestic goods more competitive, and helps create jobs and higher wages.

Gingrich also said that this “incentivizes businesses that want to sell in the United States as well as in other countries to move here, because it allows them to avoid the import tax.”

And lower the 35 percent corporate tax rate to something near that of nations to which American businesses have moved jobs. This will encourage those companies to bring back some, perhaps a lot, of the $2.5 trillion that they hold offshore to avoid the high U.S. corporate tax.

American manufacturing cannot return to 1943 levels, of course, but we have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot with anti-business policies. We need to reduce corporate tax rates, impose a border-adjustment tax, and roll back harmful regulations to free up American manufacturers.

This will enable the creation of thousands of new jobs, increase productivity levels and bring in new tax revenue. It will make it easier and smarter to buy products “Made in America.”

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Illegal border crossings are down, but immigration issues remain

Immigration is the movement of people into a destination country of which they are not natives, or where they do not possess citizenship, in order to settle or reside there, especially as permanent residents or naturalized citizens.

Immigrating to the US is not a right; it is a privilege.

Most folks do not leave their home open to anyone with the desire to enter and live in them. They want to be sure that those they allow into their home do not want to harm them, or damage or steal their belongings.

Likewise, we must not leave the national borders open so that just anyone can come in. We have to make a determined effort to be sure that those who are allowed to legally enter America share our values, or agree to adopt them. They need to get a job and support themselves and their families, and to become true Americans.

The sloppy enforcement of our immigration laws and philosophy in recent years has produced a body of illegal aliens totaling around 11 million, according to some reports. The term “undocumented immigrants” is not appropriate for these people: Immigrants enter the country legally; these people entered the country illegally, or came in legally and over-stayed their visas.

As a result, the good people who come here for the best reasons, but are not here legally, have been overshadowed by the wicked deeds the many bad ones have committed. It’s time for that to change.

Seeing this problem clearly, unlike the previous resident of the White House, President Donald Trump campaigned on tougher enforcement of our borders and other measures to reduce or eliminate illegal entry into the U.S.

Since Trump was sworn in, good things have already started happening relative to illegal border crossings.

As reported in the Washington Examiner, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas D. Homan, said that since Trump entered office, “illegal border crossings have crashed by almost 70 percent, ‘an historic low,’ arrests inside the country have jumped 40 percent and that demands for illegal criminals in local jails has skyrocketed 80 percent.”

"You can like President Trump, not like him, like his policies, not like his policies, but one thing no one can argue with is the effect they've had," Homan said. He is a 30-year immigration agency veteran, and the former chief of ICE enforcement.

Echoing that sentiment, National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd said on C-SPAN that the reduction in the number of illegal border crossers between the U.S. and Mexico is “nothing short of miraculous,” putting the reduction at 53 percent of the same period last year, all before construction of Trump’s vaunted border wall has even begun.

Judd told Fox News, “There’s a vibe, there’s an energy in the Border Patrol that’s never been there before in 20 years that I’ve been in the patrol.”

Complicating the illegal alien problem is the movement by more than 300 cities and counties to protect illegals in “sanctuary” jurisdictions. Homan said that ICE will hire 10,000 new agents and crack down on these sanctuaries. “In the America I grew up in, cities didn’t shield people who violated the law,” he noted.

While denying that ICE is being pressured to meet quotas, Homan said that ICE will focus on targeting fugitives, criminals, threats to national security, and illegals who had previously been deported and came back into the United States.

In a move that runs counter to Trump’s “America First” initiative and efforts to provide jobs for Americans, the Department of Homeland Security earlier this month increased by 15,000 the number of H-2B visas for low-wage, seasonal workers for the remainder of this fiscal year on the basis that many businesses will not be able to find enough American workers this summer.

Defenders of such policies contend that Americans will not work these jobs because they are unpleasant or because they don’t pay enough; therefore foreign workers are the best solution. However, the Center for Immigration Studies found that the average hourly pay for an H-2B visa holder last year was $12.31, roughly 70 percent above the federal minimum wage.

You would think a lot of minimum wage American workers would take that increase in pay, as well as a lot of unemployed Americans who could get back into the labor force, even if temporarily. A Maine resort town, faced with a shortage of H-2B workers, solved their problem by hiring … Americans!

Our immigration problem would not have grown to its current crisis level had past administrations strictly enforced national immigration laws. As a result, millions of people are here illegally. The bad ones are now targets of government, but what do we do with those who are generally good people, except for their method of coming to America?

Some truly just want a better life and are living a generally good, clean life. What is the best way to deal with these “Dreamers?” There is a great sentiment for providing a strict and complex path to citizenship, and deporting millions of them is virtually impossible.

Perhaps a suitable compromise can be found.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Is it desperation, OCD, or is there actually some “there” there?

Who dares to deny that the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the Trump presidency is the most unusual political phenomenon in recent memory?

There is a lot of true craziness among the anti-Trump crowd. They criticize him for virtually everything, or nothing. Like the non-story involving Poland’s First Lady, who set the anti-Trump world ablaze when, after her husband and Trump shook hands, she had the audacity to shake the hand of Mrs. Trump before greeting the president. Oh, the horror! And daughter Ivanka sat in for him briefly at the G-20 meeting wearing a pink dress with – gasp – bows on it!

Perhaps the best evidence of compulsive obsession and the Left losing its grip on reality was Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Cal., who wanted to impeach Trump before he was even sworn in.

Other evidence of the high degree of obsession comes from a survey by the drug and alcohol rehabilitation group Detox, which found that “Over 73 percent of Democrats would give up drinking for the rest of their lives if it led to the impeachment of President Donald Trump...” Teetotaling would be good for those Democrats, as well as the country, however the survey did not provide a mechanism for assuring allegiance to the pledge.

It is quite likely that many people who desire impeachment don’t understand what it is or how it works. Impeachment is a political remedy; it deals with breaches of public trust, or injuries done immediately to the society itself, by certain government officials, but not criminal activity.

The grounds for impeachment require the significant likelihood that "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" (crimes by public officials against the government), have been committed, according to Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. It is not the appropriate solution for those dissatisfied with the results of an election, or the most fervent wish to be rid of a president some don’t like.

Impeachment does not remove a president from office. It is the first step in a two-step process; bringing formal charges against him or her, much like a grand jury indictment. Remember, Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998, but went on to serve out his term as president because he was not convicted in step two, the trial by the U.S. Senate, requiring the affirmative vote by at least two-thirds of its members.

The only other successful impeachment of a president was Andrew Johnson, who was acquitted by the Senate in 1868. Richard Nixon likely would have been impeached and convicted over the Watergate affair a few decades back, but avoided impeachment by resigning from office.

The record for presidential impeachment shows it is a difficult process without much success, as deliberately designed by the Founders.

Failures don’t impede Democrats in their efforts at futile goals, however. Obsession and compulsion are tough masters to defeat. Perhaps their real goal is just stirring up negative opinion among their faithful followers to interfere with the president’s agenda.

“If they had a good case based on real information, I think they would mention it by now and put their cards on the table,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative government watchdog group. He is also a former Pennsylvania state prosecutor and former counsel for the board of directors at the Legal Services Corporation. Talking with The Daily Signal, he added, “They don’t have high crimes and misdemeanors. They don’t have low crimes and misdemeanors.”

Despite any compelling evidence, or even evidence that isn’t compelling, those on the Left who have rallied to the idea include:, Democracy for America, and other progressive or “resistance” groups, and a group of Congressional Democrats who either don’t understand the issues or the process, or just seek recognition.

This list includes the aforementioned Rep. Waters, along with Texas Rep. Al Green, California Rep. Jackie Speier, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maine Sen. Angus King, Texas Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal. And, let us not forget Virginia’s own Sen. Tim Kaine, who actually mentioned “treason.”

After admitting nothing has yet been proved, Kaine said, “We’re now beyond obstruction of justice, in terms of what’s being investigated. This is moving into perjury, false statements, and even potentially treason.”

California Rep. Brad Sherman actually has introduced articles of impeachment, although the House Democrat leadership hasn’t fallen in line with that move. The effort is almost certain to fail because only one Democrat, Al Green, has signed on to it, and based on known facts, it won’t go anywhere in a Republican-controlled Congress.

At some point, however, Democrats must chill down the rhetoric. Emotion and desire, however fervent and crushing they may be, must be put aside, an objective look at the actual case must be undertaken, and then they need get back to performing the national service for which they were elected. Fixing Obamacare and filling hundreds of government positions, for example, are important issues.

Obstruction of the nation’s business and deliberate clouding of the national narrative are harmful to the country.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Do Republicans really vote against their constituents’ interests?

It is not news – not even fake news – that the political Right and the political Left do not see things the same way; they are different, just as men and women are. The Left frequently sees things as problems that the Right does not regard as problems, and vice versa. And even when the two sides agree that something is a problem, they have different ways of addressing it. The gulf between the two factions is wider today than ever before.

The idea that Republican voters sometimes/often vote against their own interests is a Democrat talking point, and was the subject of a New York Times podcast that was discussed in a National Review online article by senior writer David French recently. The podcast host, Times managing editor Michael Barbaro, interviewed domestic-affairs correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who cited the situation in the state of Kentucky, one of the states that suffered mightily when the War on Coal put enough people out of work to run Kentucky’s coal jobs to their lowest level in 118 years.

The out-of-work miners, forced onto Medicaid by the War on Coal, benefited greatly from Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, Stolberg said, “yet, its Republican senators are leading the charge for Obamacare repeal, including for Medicaid reform. How can that be?”

The answer to that question comes from the different ways of looking at the world and at life from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Which of the following sets of ideas do you most closely observe?
1. The nuclear family is an antique idea, traditional ideas of morality and culture are holding us back, sexual autonomy is a virtue, and we just can’t get by without government “help.”
2. First, we graduate from high school, get a job to sustain ourselves, get married, and then have children and raise a family.

If you chose 1, you likely lean toward the political Left; if you chose 2, you likely lean toward the political Right. These different views of how to live our lives define why Republicans vote against what seem to be their interests.

“Now, between the two parties, which one has centered its appeal around married parents with kids and which party has doubled down on single moms,” French asks? “Even worse, the Democrats’ far-left base has intentionally attacked the nuclear family as archaic and patriarchal. It has celebrated sexual autonomy as a cardinal virtue. Then, when faced with the fractured families that result, it says, ‘Here, let the government help,’” he writes.

How does this relate to Kentucky’s Republican Senators? They are voting on their ideas of what makes America great, and according to French, those interests “depend on the complex interplay between our faith, our families, and our communities.” It’s all about core values.

New York Times columnist David Brooks traces these values back to American frontier towns, where life was “fragile, perilous, lonely and remorseless,” where a “single slip could produce disaster,” and as a result the frontier folk learned to practice “self-restraint, temperance, self-control and strictness of conscience.”

Those values are at the heart of the American experience of carving a powerful and free republic out of a wilderness, a nation that has as a result led the world for decades. They reflect the Biblical values brought here and cultivated during America’s first turbulent and troubled decades, and which formed the basis of the government created following the “Colexit” of the Colonies from Mother England’s repressive grasp.

Republicans, or at least those who are true conservatives, honor the ideals of freedom, personal responsibility, self-reliance, and limited government, and to a less-than-perfect degree – but a far-greater degree than those who call themselves liberals, progressives, or socialists – try to live by these values.

Kentucky’s Republican Senators dislike the government’s solution to the problem that the government itself created when it over-regulated nearly everything, and so they see a vote against maintaining this absurdity as a virtuous one. They prefer a system freeing Americans to make their own decisions about healthcare and health insurance without the one-size-fits-nobody concept that the Democrats created that we commonly call Obamacare.

Their vote seemingly punishes those they should most want to help: their constituents and supporters. But the bigger picture shows instead the desire to free their constituents from the damaging big government policies that put them on the government dole. The want to create an environment where they can find another job that can sustain them above the poverty line, and off of Medicaid.

Republicans want to do away with this Democrat-created problem. Their fundamental goal is to free Americans from this horrible, failed big government mechanism. Its aim was to ultimately create a single-payer, totally government-controlled healthcare system that would mirror the British system. You know the one: it recently took control of decisions on seriously ill infant Charlie Gard’s care away from his parents, and effectively ordered the Charlie’s death.

That case demonstrates precisely how government-run healthcare can, and likely will, degenerate into a system where government makes decisions about who lives and dies. And that explains why Republicans seem to vote against their constituents’ interests.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Getting it right in the battle against opioid overdose deaths

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia – in that order – lead the nation in prescriptions for narcotic painkillers. Nationwide, there were close to 60,000 deaths in 2016 from drug overdoses.

How is this possible, when narcotics are strictly controlled? A popular target for blame for this problem is the pharmaceutical industry, which is often the focus of criticism. “We would not have a drug problem if manufacturers weren’t trying so hard to sell them,” the reasoning, such as it is, goes.

But making and selling drugs is what drug manufacturers do: they spend millions or billions of dollars over a decade and often longer to find the right formula to create a product that will help people suffering from a medical condition. They work to get the product through lengthy clinical trials and the stringent FDA approval process. Then, they must sell enough of that product during the patent protection period to recoup the costs of its development so the company can invest that money in another product’s development.

Also understand that drug companies do not provide addictive drugs to individuals, neither the legal users, nor the illegal users. They provide them to distributors, or directly to pharmacies, and unless someone steals them or distributes them improperly, they will contribute not one bit to a drug problem.

Far too many prescription drugs do get to users through “pill mills,” and some physicians who don’t have sufficient information about the effects of some drugs as they need may, as a result, over-prescribe them. And, obviously, these problems must be addressed.

However, a recent Daily Signal article tells us that the painkiller abuse problem is not primarily caused by prescription drug abuse and misuse, although the news we hear might convince many of us that drug companies are at fault.

The article, written by former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Bill Bennett, who is also a former U.S. Secretary of Education, and Robert L. DuPont, MD, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, explains that of the 60,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2016 from drug overdoses, 33,000 of them were opioid related.

And, they add that our news media mistakenly focus more attention on prescription drugs, instead of the illegal ones. Is that because Big Pharma is an easy and popular target?

Bennett and DuPont, in fact, say, “nearly 70 percent of our nation’s opioid deaths do not come via prescription abuse.” “The main problem today, and the growth for tomorrow,” they say, “is illegal opioids such as heroin, illegal fentanyl, and a hundred other synthetics, not legal drugs used illegally or in ways not as prescribed.”

They cite data from the Obama administration’s press office in 2015 saying that there were 33,091 opioid overdose deaths, 12,990 of which were from heroin. Another 9,580 were from synthetic opioids, mostly illegal fentanyl.

They propose a two-phased attack on the problem. First, fight harder against illegal drugs coming into the U.S. through better border enforcement to stop the drug traffic from and through Mexico, as well as working to have Mexico eliminate its poppy crops; have stricter monitoring of international mail services; and crack down on cartel activity, both here in the U.S. and at their source.

The second phase acknowledges that most money directed at the problem goes to “treatment, recovery, and urgent overdose reversal,” which they say is certainly important, but it is not enough. “We need to improve engagement in treatment, reduce dropout, and address the far too common outcome of relapse with sustained recovery—meaning no use of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs,” by recovering addicts.

“But the main unaddressed nature of the opioid crisis,” Bennett and DuPont say, “is focus and energy on prevention.” This includes serious efforts to educate the public about what is in their medicine cabinets and how to keep those drugs out of the hands of those for whom they aren’t prescribed, and to educate the public about the dangerous nature of the drugs sold on the street. It is critical to also work to counteract the youthful use of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs, where they say 90 percent of addictions begin.

Citing the rising death toll from illegal drugs, which they note is much greater than the crack cocaine problem in the 80s, the authors call for more effective action by political leaders, parents, the entertainment industry and health care professionals.

Looking back to the late 1970s and 1980s Bennett and DuPont recount how the nation conquered the serious drug problems of that time. “The nation rolled up its sleeves, went to work, talked about it, taught about it, and reversed it—and by 1992 we had cut drug use in half, and even more in some age groups.”

This problem is entirely preventable, and certainly can be dramatically reduced. “In sum, let us commence a strategy to stop the problems of abuse before they start,” they wrote. “It will take a nationwide effort, from the president’s bully pulpit down to local community messaging.”

Certainly, focusing on the real problem will produce positive results.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Camille Paglia gives an objective and very balanced interview

In today’s sharply divided political atmosphere, where a huge and widening gulf exists between the right and the left, it is both surprising and refreshing when someone identified with the left renders ideas that are objective and balanced. Such an occasion occurred earlier this month when Jonathan V. Last published an interview on he had conducted by email with left-leaning feminist, author and college professor Camille Paglia.

While characterizing herself as a libertarian she confesses that she is a registered Democrat, but not always a supporter of Democrats, noting about the 2000 presidential election she voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader because “I detest the arrogant, corrupt superstructure of the Democrat Party, with which I remain stubbornly registered.”

Beginning the interview with a statement of her political affiliations, Paglia noted that she voted for Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2016 primary and for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the general election. She now has her eye on newly elected Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Cal., hoping to vote for her in the next presidential primary.

The Paglia-Last interview focused on three topics: the election and early presidency of Donald Trump, Islamic/Islamist terrorism, and feminism vs. transgenderism.

Like millions of others, she did not take Trump’s candidacy seriously, but attributes his win to “the startling incompetence and mediocrity of his GOP opponents.”

She was no more kind to some Democrats, noting that, Hillary Clinton, “with her supercilious, Marie Antoinette-style entitlement, was a disastrously wrong candidate for 2016 and that she secured the nomination only through overt chicanery by the Democratic National Committee…” And, “Despite his history of embarrassing gaffes, the affable, plain-spoken Joe Biden, in my view, could … have defeated Trump, but he was blocked from running at literally the last moment by President Barack Obama, for reasons that the major media refused to explore.”

While criticizing the Trump Administration’s handling of the temporary ban of travelers from predominantly Muslim countries tied to terrorism on the one hand, she then defended the administration, saying, “I fail to see the ‘chaos’ in the White House that the mainstream media (as well as conservative Never Trumpers) keep harping on—or rather, I see no more chaos than was abundantly present during the first six months of both the Clinton and Obama administrations.” She also noted that Trump was “going about his business” while the media was “consumed with their preposterous Russian fantasies…”

A 1950s-60s liberal, she contrasted the exalted civil liberties, individualism, and dissident thought and speech of that time with what she termed the “grotesquely mechanistic and authoritarian” nature of liberalism today. “It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates,” she said.

Turning to how today’s liberals regard terrorism, she explained, “The contortions to which so many liberals resort to avoid connecting bombings, massacres, persecutions, and cultural vandalism to Islamic jihadism is remarkable, given their usual animosity to religion, above all Christianity.” Paglia also suggested that some liberals have a racial perspective and therefore “Islam remains beyond criticism because it is largely a religion of non-whites whose two holy cities occupy territory once oppressed by Western imperialism.”

She criticizes liberals “paternalistic condescension” toward Islam, which she said is done from a distance, without really engaging in its “intricate mixed messages, which can inspire toward good or spur acts of devastating impact…”

When Jonathan Last posited an expected showdown in the U.S. between feminism and transgenderism that has not developed, Paglia responded that this occurs more publicly in the United Kingdom than in the U.S. She cited two instances where public programs featuring opponents of transgenderism as a legitimate concept drew spirited protests from activists.

Both programs eventually went forward against the same sort of opposition that conservative speakers experience on American college campuses. In the U.S, transgenderism is one of many things that are off limits for public discussion, and such programs would likely have produced riotous behavior.

She called attention to American liberals’ interesting contradictory views of science. When it comes to their acceptance of climate change theory, science is just fine, although Paglia described it as “a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence.” Where transgenderism is concerned, however, liberals “flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender.”

“The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible,” Paglia stated. “Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one's birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.”

Paglia takes a common sense stand on the treatment of transgender folks, seeking to protect them from harassment and abuse that may be aimed at them just because they are “nonconformist or eccentric.” But she said that whether the rest of us must identify a transgender person as a man or a woman based solely on that person’s “subjective feeling” does not fly: “it is our choice alone,” she concluded.

Such a logical and objective approach to controversial subjects is rare from left-leaning folk, but is certainly refreshing and productive. Let us hope for an outbreak of this sort of thinking that reaches epidemic proportions.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

America now being challenged by a crisis of integrity

 Integrity is defined as adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. As a society we have moral values, professional ethics and other rules that we are expected to uphold at all times and under all circumstances. When we adhere to professional ethics, the rules of life, and the body of laws, we have a desirable society that is principled, and functions smoothly and efficiently.

In today’s America, evidence of lost integrity is all around us: millions of out-of-wedlock children, people who are not needy collecting welfare benefits, frivolous or questionable lawsuits, and a long list of crimes.

And in the political realm we witness inflammatory language, protests shutting down protected free speech, media taking sides, mob violence and other outrages that have grown to epidemic proportions. These activities are strong evidence of the abandonment of basic human integrity as well as professional integrity.

An immediate danger to the nation and its people is the insanity that has evolved since the election of Donald Trump as president. Lots of people – Republicans, Democrats and the politically unaffiliated – show signs of hysteria. Many are dedicated to bringing Trump down, and seem to be devoted to a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” philosophy, giving little thought to the repercussions this ill-advised path may likely produce.

Trump’s enemies say that he lit the fuse, and he undoubtedly contributed to the current atmosphere. But just because you dislike or hate Trump and his policies, does not entitle you to lie, cheat, commit acts of violence, and behave in a manner that subverts America. If you didn’t support Trump in the election there is only one sensible and honorable path for you to take: Get over it. And remember that you are an American and he legitimately is America’s president.

Three areas are very dangerous for integrity failure: News journalism, the federal judiciary and government bureaucracies.

Last week The New York Times published an editorial stating as fact that when a gunman shot Arizona Democrat Rep. Gabby Giffords in 2011, he was reacting to a political map created by Sarah Palin showing areas that were “targeted” in the coming election. That was untrue, discredited years ago, and The Times corrected its humiliating blunder. But doesn’t journalistic integrity demand that such known details be found before publication? Clearly, integrity sometimes takes a holiday at The Times.

It is very common these days for a news organization to attribute information to an “anonymous” or “unnamed” source. Sometimes, of course, a legitimate source needs the protection of anonymity. But the downside is that this tool can be overused, can be used to cover a non-credible source, or even used when there is no source at all. Add to this the tendency to exaggerate, and even create false stories, and the information upon which we all rely becomes unreliable.

If you’ve ever worked with an attorney you probably noticed how detailed legal language is, so that the exact intent of a document is clear. Yet, we find judges today who abandon the plain language of an Executive Order in favor of what they imagine was in the mind of its author in ruling in favor of a challenge to the Order. It looks as if political desire replaced judicial integrity.

And what about administrative agency employees who abandon their duty to their country, the American people they are paid to serve, and their ultimate boss, to play politics, leaking sensitive information, and even classified information in a cheap and disgusting ploy to damage a duly elected president?

Those who foolishly undermine national security because of their emotional inability to adapt to reality may someday wonder what exactly their behavior has done to their once free and wonderful country.

A lot of political hay can be made in such an atmosphere, and the beneficiaries of this are some elected public servants as well as appointed bureaucrats. Such behavior is the stuff of third-world hellholes, and the abandonment of professional and personal integrity moves America ever closer to becoming one of those.

On the one hand anti-Trumpers denigrate and belittle Trump, and on the other hand they raise him to a high level, one so great that they use it to justify abandoning near-sacred elements of their professions and common decency. It is Trump’s fault, they assert, that they indulged in behavior that is dangerous and often illegal.

Commentator Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News recently, “When you say ‘unless we stop Donald Trump, the republic will not survive,’ then that justifies anything. That’s the language, the ideology, the rationale of terrorists...” And, it produces behavior that will destroy the republic.

We cannot and must not excuse criminal behavior, like the shooting at a Republican Congressional baseball game practice earlier this month, or even the mob violence of late, as the result of foolish and inflammatory language. But it does not help diffuse the raw craving of those who consider resorting to violence when politicians speak rashly, the news media takes a partisan position, the judiciary abandons plain language in favor of political expediency, and other examples of acting outside the narrow path dictated by integrity and moral character.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Making government operate more like a business: a really smart idea

One good thing about President Donald Trump is his businessman’s approach to government. He understands that like a business, a nation cannot survive endless deficit spending and an ever-growing national debt.

To the horror of those on the left of our political system he proposes significant, but not massive, cuts to government spending. And while the cuts are not excessive, the idea still cranked up the wild imaginations and scaremongering mechanisms of Congressional Democrats and other liberals who think money grows on trees and that the national debt is a number that really isn’t important.

Trump understands what so many on the left do not: much of government spending is wasted, fraudulent and abused, and therefore unnecessary and foolish. Actually, it’s not that the left doesn’t understand this, it’s that they couldn’t care less, because they benefit at the ballot box from lax programs that waste your money, and therefore eschew fiscal responsibility, in favor of positive elections results.

Human nature plays a role here: people often will take advantage of what is available to them free of charge. As evidence, consider the recent results from Alabama.

The Daily Signal reported that when “The Heart of Dixie” this year began requiring food stamp recipients to work, look for work, or get approved job training to get food stamps, 13 counties saw participants drop by 85 percent over a four-month period from 5,538 able-bodied adults without dependents to 831 such recipients.

“Statewide, a total of 13,663 able-bodied adults without children or other dependents were enrolled in the food stamp program before the change [was] implemented Jan. 1, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources,” the news site reported. “As of May 1, that statewide number had dropped to 7,483, the agency said.”

Clearly, Alabama was going well beyond the goal of helping those who really need it, and Alabamans were availing themselves of Uncle Sugar’s federal assistance in a welfare program that was not being operated in a sensible manner.

Other states have had this same experience. In 2013 and 2014 Kansas and Maine implemented work requirements and reduced the number of able-bodied adults on food stamps, and last year Georgia followed suit.

And when Maine imposed work requirements on food stamp recipients in December of 2014 officials reported that the number of able-bodied adults without dependents declined from 13,332 to just 2,678 over a three-month period. Maine officials concluded that many food stamp recipients would do without the benefit rather than perform a minimum of six hours per week of community service, or other aspects of the work requirements.

These results prompted Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation who specializes in poverty and welfare programs, to project that, “If the federal government establishes and enforces similar work requirements nationwide, total food stamp enrollment would plummet in a few years, possibly saving taxpayers $10 billion per year or as much as $100 billion over the next decade,” The Daily Signal reported.

Not all of that money is federal money, of course, but about 90 percent of it is. And keeping the federal portion of those dollars in the nation’s treasury certainly is a positive thing. It’s even better when you understand that those truly needing help are not part of the reductions, and that other federal programs also suffer these same problems.

It is widely acknowledged that Americans are the most compassionate people in the world, and they certainly have no objection to helping their fellow citizens in need. Even so, they do not want their hard-earned tax dollars being wasted on people who can earn their own way. Sound business practices prohibit such sloppiness; they are business killers.

Of course, with all of these people no longer getting food stamps, having available jobs for them is important, and that feeds right into Trump’s goal of bringing back jobs and creating an environment for new job production to flourish.

Trump managed to get pledges from several companies that said they would invest in America, bringing back or creating new jobs. And good things are also happening because of his effort to remove job-killing regulations.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace recently, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, “We’ve had almost 50,000 jobs created in the mining and coal sector alone. In fact, in the month of May, almost 7,000 jobs,” Pruitt told Wallace.

Naysayers will note that this number really isn’t that significant, but the important reality is that it is a step in the right direction, and a dramatic shift in direction from the dangerous, job-killing policies of the Obama administration.

Coal industry and related jobs killed by Obama are coming back following the removal of the foolish regulations that killed them. No one expects that coal will reach its former economic glory, but a lot of people put out of work by merciless regulations will be productive again.

Obama and others on the left think they know best and will try to control every aspect of our lives to achieve their vision. But that isn’t what America is all about. Thank goodness that Trump understands that.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Journalists Creed: Another tradition fallen by the wayside

Several years ago on a trip to Washington, DC, my wife and I visited the National Press Club for lunch and a tour of the Club. Among the many things that impressed me there was a bronze plaque on a wall, The Journalists Creed, which the Press Club has had on display since 1958.

The Creed is the product of Walter Williams, not the excellent columnist of today, but an older gentleman who is credited with starting the world’s first school of journalism in 1908 at the University of Missouri. In 1914 Williams created the Creed, as “a declaration and personal affirmation of the principles, values and standards of journalists throughout the world,” according to the Fourth Estate organization. It regards journalism as an ethical public trust that requires accuracy and fairness.

Since Williams created the Creed, and even since the Press Club’s acknowledgement of it in ’58, huge changes in the way news is distributed have taken place. Now in addition to newspapers, periodicals, radio and television we have the Internet and social media.

These days absolutely anyone can appear to be a legitimate news source on the Internet. Many or most of these sources may have good intentions, but lack the background or discipline to do it correctly. They are unaware of, or ignore the Creed.

These days even some who know the importance of the ethics with which news journalism should be practiced don’t always stick to the straight and narrow. Being first is often more important than being correct. “Click bait,” sensational headlines designed to increase the number of visitors to Web sites, are common.

In addition to new media technologies are also new media genres, such as the speculative media: Trying to be first, a hint of something often spurs frantic action to get out there before anyone else through online or on-air media. For example, when President Donald Trump reached back for Malania’s hand while exiting a plane on their recent trip abroad, and she sort of flipped her hand away, the media reported that there might be trouble in their marriage.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who is catholic, was not among those who met the Pope on the trip, so the media reported that his being excluded might signal that Spicer was on his way out as spokesman.

Neither of these were true.

The assumption media: When Trump mentioned being “wiretapped,” it was “assumed” that he meant wiretapping and only wiretapping, not the newer, more modern methods of surveillance, apparently widely used in the Obama administration.

The agenda media: We saw very little reporting on the positive aspects of Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican and NATO, but there was plenty on the “troubles” in Trump’s administration.

And then there’s Kathy Griffin, the self-described “D-list comedian,” who worked very hard to create a disgusting, low-class image of her holding a bloody likeness of the decapitated head of the President of the United States ISIS-like, by its hair.

Criticized for this repulsive display of what today passes for humor by nearly everyone, she finally issued an apology, except not apologizing to her target, Trump and his family. Shortly thereafter, the firestorm of anger and disgust she stirred up created for her a moment of brilliant insight: The negative reaction to her gross attempt at humor, and her resulting misery is actually Trump’s fault.

And guess which one gets too much coverage? Poor deranged Kathy’s campaign about her hurt feelings at the hands of her imaginarily beheaded enemy.

Wesley Pruden, Editor Emeritus of The Washington Times, is a man trained in and who worked in journalism when standards were more broadly expected of practitioners. He characterized a Bloomberg News reporter’s G7 coverage like this: “Just what a ‘bromance’ is [between France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau], beyond the not-so-clever wordplay, sounds like too much information, something you ought not to want to know about. It’s no doubt overheated reporting by a reporter who never had an editor to teach him the rewards of restraint.

“But romance was clearly in the air, not between the leaders of France and Canada, but by reporters nurtured not on the rough edges of politics and discipline of newspapers, but by too much time spent watching soap operas.”

Another old pro, Gerald Seib of The Wall Street Journal, said this about today’s practice of the profession: “When journalists drop objectivity to become part of the shout-fest, and when grass-roots activists move beyond making voices heard to voicing threats against those with whom they disagree, they are adding to the problem.”

These examples of journalistic malpractice and comments about news coverage from two old timers show how far news reporting has strayed early in the 21st century.

Combined with a general public largely unconcerned with studying current events America has a true problem. So many consumers of news get their “news” from their friends on social media, and accept as true those communications that fit their preconceptions. They just don’t look beneath the surface for fact.

With all these factors, the public is largely under-informed, or misinformed, a circumstance both dangerous and foolish.