Thursday, December 26, 2019

“Merry Impeachmas!” A celebration of impeachment and Christmas?

That greeting, “Merry Impeachmas,” is a comment from a reporter at The Washington Post, celebrating either the impeachment of the president, or the end of a long day, depending upon whether you believe the Post VP’s explanation.

The impeachment process, so far three months long, is an exercise in futility, desperation, and division. The only good thing about this wasteful exercise is the embarrassing lack of evidence against President Donald Trump.

After the vote last week by the House of Representatives to impeach the president, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., still has not delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate so it can do its part of the process. She didn’t do that, she said, because she is waiting to be sure the process in the Senate is a fair one.

How interesting. Fairness only became of interest to her after the House impeachment hearings broke records for unfairness. Due process — a major element of American jurisprudence where each side has the same rights — was happily shoved into the corner by the majority party. 

Republicans were denied being able to call witnesses, and Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was not the least bit shy about telling witnesses not to answer questions from Republican Committee members.

But even though House Democrats denied due process to President Trump and House Republicans, Pelosi insists on fairness for Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate phase, apparently believing that she controls the Senate, too.

It is appropriate to ask, if Trump is such a bad president, and if he has actually done anything warranting impeachment and removal from office, why wouldn’t Democrats make sure the process is excruciatingly fair and just to preclude claims of bias and discrimination? Because their case is paper thin. Due process was tossed out to make their job easier.

Contrary to Trump’s insistence, the phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky, a major focus of Democrats, was not perfect. But it was not a quid pro quo, nor was it bribery. Zelensky denies being pressured; he did not know the aid was being withheld until after the call; all of the aid was provided, and all but a little of it was provided on time.

The thing that got this case started, the so-called “whistleblower,” was not in on the phone call, and only knew what he/she heard about the call from others: hearsay. Most Democrat witnesses were unable to provide anything other than hearsay, deeply held hopes and wishes, exaggerations and no real or persuasive evidence. This explains why Democrat leaders are so afraid for the whistleblower to testify. 

They don’t admit that, of course. Instead, they say they don’t want him/her to become a target. However, a whistleblower’s identity is not protected; he/she is protected only from workplace retaliation, and is not protected from testifying, or from criminal charges, if appropriate.

Congress approved the foreign aid to Ukraine. However, most people understand the president has the duty to ascertain that the country receiving our money is behaving appropriately. 

Democrats allege that Trump held up aid unless Ukraine did certain things, including looking into possible corruption involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had an extraordinarily odd relationship with a Ukrainian company.

Using the fact that Joe Biden is a potential Trump opponent for the presidency, they assert that Trump wanted to investigate a political rival. However, at the time, Biden was just one of 24 Democrats seeking the nomination, not THE nominee, thus not yet really a political rival. Further, being a political rival does not immunize one from investigation of possible corruption.

Biden admitted — bragged about — withholding aid to Ukraine when he was Vice President unless a Ukrainian prosecutor, who was looking into the company that paid Biden’s son millions to be on its board of directors, was fired. The prosecutor was fired. The video of Biden telling this story has been played frequently, and that this occurred is not in question.

Biden actually issued a real quid pro quo, and bragged about doing so. And, the relationship between the Ukrainian company and the Vice President’s son was a legitimate focus of an investigation of corruption in Ukraine involving Joe and Hunter prior to the 2016 election.

This entire exercise appears to be a hard-feelings effort to undo the legitimate election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Its credibility is further damaged by talk of impeachment back when Trump was still a candidate, and again the day after the election, before he was sworn in.

Texas Democrat Rep. Al Green said, “I’m concerned if we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected.” The fear of losing again in 2020 is not grounds for impeachment. He also said that if Trump wins in 2020, he can be impeached again. And Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, said: “Our next election is at risk … That is why we must act now.”

Leaving aside for the moment the impeachment, things are going pretty well for our country. Even CNN, a ranking anti-Trump network, acknowledged that the US economy has earned its highest ratings in almost two decades. 

Too much success is bad for the Democrats, and demands impeachment.

Friday, December 20, 2019

We should embrace and build on America’s traditional values

Today’s political atmosphere is toxic. It is filled with hard feelings, bad intentions, exaggeration, insults, misunderstandings, and more. People on one side of the political spectrum often automatically write off people on the other side simply because they hold different opinions.

It is difficult to have a calm, rational discussion about the differences, as some are offended or angered with the mere prospect of coming face to face with ideas that are different than their own. In this atmosphere, details get lost in the noise, and the essence of the broad philosophies of each side, which need to be discussed, compared and evaluated, lie there ignored while the battle rages.

Those on the political right, conservatives, hold to a set of principles that should not scare or anger anyone. They are practical concepts to which our country has subscribed for many decades, such as: free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and strong national defense.

Here, stated more broadly, are those conservative principles:

1. The federal government exists to preserve life, liberty and property, and it is instituted to protect the rights of individuals according to natural law. Among these rights are the sanctity of life; the freedom of speech, religion, the press, and assembly; the right to bear arms; the right of individuals to be treated equally and justly under the law; and to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.

2. The federal government’s powers are limited to those named in the Constitution and should be exercised solely to protect the rights of its citizens. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” Powers not delegated to the federal government, nor prohibited by the Constitution, are reserved to the states or to the people.

3. Judges should interpret and apply our laws and the Constitution based on their original meaning, not upon judges’ personal and political predispositions.

4. Individuals and families—not government—make the best decisions regarding their and their children’s health, education, jobs, and welfare.

5. The family is the essential foundation of civil society, and traditional marriage serves as the cornerstone of the family.

6. The federal deficit and debt must not place unreasonable financial burdens on future generations.

7. Tax policies should raise only the minimum revenue necessary to fund constitutionally appropriate functions of government.

8. America’s economy and the prosperity of individual citizens are best served by a system of free enterprise, with special emphasis on economic freedom, private property rights, and the rule of law. This system is best sustained by policies promoting free trade and deregulation, and opposing government interventions in the economy that distort markets and impair innovation.

9. Regulations must not breach constitutional principles of limited government and the separation of powers.

10. America must be a welcoming nation—one that promotes patriotic assimilation and is governed by laws that are fair, humane, and enforced to protect its citizens.

11. Justice requires an efficient, fair, and effective criminal justice system—one that gives defendants adequate due process and requires an appropriate degree of criminal intent to merit punishment.

12. International agreements and international organizations should not infringe on American’s constitutional rights, nor should they diminish American sovereignty.

13. America is strongest when our policies protect our national interests, preserve our alliances of free peoples, vigorously counter threats to our security, and advance prosperity through economic freedom at home and abroad.

14. The best way to ensure peace is through a strong national defense.”

Contrary to the common narrative, conservatives who hold these principles are not racist. They are not xenophobic, or homophobic, or sexist, or white-nationalistic. Those mischaracterizations come from political antagonists who either don’t make the effort to understand conservative principles, and instead react emotionally. Others deliberately twist their meanings in an effort to delegitimize them, hoping to demonize the opposition and generate support for their own rebellious ideas.

Those 14 principles, “True North: The Principles of Conservatism,” were articulated by The Heritage Foundation, and have in their favor ages of proven success. It was upon these steadfast, common sense principles that the United States of America was established, and upon which it became the great nation that it is.

Rather than working to further improve the American system, an opposition force works to tear it down and replace these solid, proven principles with historically unsuccessful and dangerous principles of socialist and communist systems that have failed wherever they have been tried.

Democrat socialists won’t admit that socialism is their goal, saying that they really don’t want full-blown socialism, only certain desirable parts of it.

But socialistic methods are a slippery slope, and once a nation is well down the slope, escape is virtually impossible. For a real life, contemporary example, review the recent history of Venezuela.

During the 1970s, Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America, and one of the most stable democracies in the Americas. Then came the election of President Hugo Ch├ívez, who propagated "socialism for the 21st century," which was about establishing liberty, equality, social justice, and solidarity. 

Today, Venezuela is the third least free economy in the world, ahead of only Cuba and North Korea.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Impeachment effort is falling short of Constitutional standards

Democrats have wanted to impeach President Donald Trump for a long time. Here is some background on the process.

Impeachment allows Congress to remove the President, Vice President or any civil officer of the United States. This is the fourth attempted impeachment of a president in our history. 

The Constitution says the House of Representatives may begin impeachment proceedings when it believes some official has committed treason, bribery, or a high crime or misdemeanor. Treason and bribery are well defined. However, high crimes and misdemeanors are not well defined.

After investigation the House may vote to impeach. If the measure passes, the U.S. Senate holds a trial, and if it convicts the accused, he or she is removed from office and may not hold any such U.S. office in the future. If the Senate does not convict, the impeached official remains in office.

In reality, the House can impeach an official merely by voting to do so, whether or not an impeachable offense has been proved, or even identified. All that is important is whether the vote to impeach passes. Such a situation, however, is not what the Constitution intends. 

Enemies of Donald Trump began calling for his impeachment immediately after he won the 2016 presidential election and before he had even taken the oath of office. Investigations of him and his campaign began in July 2016, when the FBI began investigating Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election, including whether Trump’s campaign was involved in those efforts.

Investigations of one sort or another have been going on ever since. The House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., is now holding hearings on impeachment, following the highly partisan, one-sided episodes in the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Conventional wisdom holds that the House Democrat majority will vote to impeach Trump, but that the Republican controlled Senate will not vote to convict. This means Trump will remain in office, and will run for, and quite possibly win, reelection.

Of the many Trump offenses, real and imagined, the one currently being pursued involves a phone call to Ukrainian President Zelensky. 

During the call, the official transcript shows Trump asking for help in investigating the election irregularities: “I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot, and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine …”

And later, he asks for assistance with potential corruption on the part of former Vice President, Joe Biden. “The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”

Congressionally approved financial aid was put on hold prior to the phone call. Democrats think this indicates a “quid pro quo,” a “this for that” arrangement between Trump and Zelensky.

After the term “quid pro quo” failed to get adequate public interest, the charge was changed to bribery. However, in either case, Zelensky would have to be aware that the aid was on hold pending his assistance. For one to be bribed, one must know what the other party wants, and what it will pay for it.

Zelenskyy has at least twice said he was not aware of the aid being put on hold until long after the phone call. Further, the aid was provided, and the investigation of Biden was never done. Zelensky has also denied being pressured to do anything.

During the hearings, witnesses, many of whom had impressive credentials, testified. Like the infamous whistleblower, most were not on the call. Their testimony consisted of what someone told them about the call, or what they imagined had occurred. Two witnesses who were on the call essentially said they didn’t like the content, or were uncomfortable with it.

House Democrats want you to believe that Trump’s behavior as president is impeachable. 

However, a look a history shows that to be a gross exaggeration.

Examples of actual bad behavior include:

* John Adams and Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, the latter without any congressional approval.

* Andrew Jackson ignored courts and laws and used his power to ethnically cleanse lands that he also sometimes happened to have a financial interest in.

* Teddy Roosevelt threatened American citizens with military intervention.

* Lyndon Johnson asked the FBI and CIA to spy on the Goldwater campaign in 1964, and lied about the Gulf of Tonkin, escalating the Vietnam War. 

None of these presidents faced impeachment.

Lifelong liberal Democrat, Constitutional lawyer and civil libertarian Alan Dershowitz said the following: “There is no case for bribery based on — even if all the allegations against the president were to be proved, which they haven’t been — but even if they were to be proved, it would not constitute the impeachable offense of bribery.”

Democrats, please give it up!

Friday, December 06, 2019

Warnings for America from many years ago are still valid today

In Washington, DC in 2003, there was a conference held on the topic of immigration. The conference was attended by a houseful of great minds, one of whom was college professor, author and presenter Victor Davis Hanson, who had just released his book “Mexifornia.”

Following Hanson’s remarks, former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm warned the crowd of things that will destroy America. 

First, Lamm said, "Turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and bicultural country. History shows that no nation can survive the tension, conflict, and antagonism of two or more competing languages and cultures.”

Second, "Invent 'multiculturalism' and encourage immigrants to maintain their culture. I would make it an article of belief that all cultures are equal.”

Third, "We could make the United States a 'Hispanic Quebec' without much effort. The key is to celebrate diversity rather than unity.”

"Fourth, I would make our fastest growing demographic group the least educated. I would add a second underclass [which would be] unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population.”

"My fifth point for destroying America would be to get big foundations and business to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of 'Victimology.' I would get all minorities to think their lack of success was the fault of the majority. I would start a grievance industry blaming all minority failure on the majority population."

"My sixth plan for America's downfall would include dual citizenship and promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity over unity. I would stress differences rather than similarities. Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other — that is, when they are not killing each other. A diverse, peaceful, or stable society is against most historical precedent. People undervalue the unity! Unity is what it takes to keep a nation together.”

"Next to last, I would place all subjects off limits ~ make it taboo to talk about anything against the cult of 'diversity.' … Words like 'racist' or 'xenophobe' halt discussion and debate."

"Lastly, I would censor Victor Hanson Davis's book “Mexifornia.” His book is dangerous. It exposes the plan to destroy America. If you feel America deserves to be destroyed, don't read that book."

A similar dark prospect was issued by the great radio commentator Paul Harvey four decades earlier. His commentary, “If I Were the Devil,” also dealt with how the United States could be destroyed from within.

Here’s how the devil would do it. “If I were the devil, I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — Thee. So, I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first — I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please. Do as you please.’”

A little later, he continued, “And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting, so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.”

And several years before Harvey’s commentary, George Orwell wrote the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” that had a similar theme.

“Nineteen Eighty-Four” is not specifically about destroying America, but is still relevant to our country. Orwell tells of an omni-present and dictatorial government which even controls people’s thoughts. This story is the origin of terms like “thought police” and “Big Brother.” Three slogans are engraved in the Ministry of Truth building: "War is peace," "Freedom is slavery," and "Ignorance is strength."

All you have to do is look objectively to see how far down Destruction Road America has been driven. Our government has grown far beyond its intended size and scope. If someone who would turn healthcare over to the government and make things “free” is elected president, it will grow even larger, and control our lives even more.

We already see ideas that millions consider unacceptable, and that run counter to our traditions, being shoved down our throats. We see how the conservative ideas that built America are being treated like a plague. Insults like “racist” and “xenophobe” are tossed around frequently, and recklessly.

One political party favors easy immigration, with its fringe element supporting open borders, sanctuary jurisdictions protecting illegal aliens, and granting them an easy citizenship without needed encouragement for immigrants to become true Americans in thought and deed. 

At the same time, college campuses and schools at lower levels are becoming politically correct indoctrination camps. They encourage students to seek safe spaces that protect them from uncomfortable ideas about being an adult in today’s world, and instructors are encouraged to issue trigger warnings when such “troublesome” ideas are on the classroom agenda. And in many, the fundamentals of America’s founding are no longer taught.

The Left wants us to believe that climate change will consume the world in 12 years, if drastic action isn’t taken. But a true threat facing us is losing our country to subversive ideas.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

When egos and political considerations trump honorable service

Have you ever been in a situation where the person in charge of a unit is neither liked or respected by some members? Most likely, you have; such dynamics are not unusual.

Sometimes, some members get together and talk about how the leader is heading in the wrong direction, how her/his ideas are at odds with the previous leader. 

Some of the disaffected have been there for many years, and feel a deep connection to the unit, and like the way things were done in the past. They believe that things will go downhill quickly, unless something is done.

At this point, there are options for the disaffected, but only two of them are honorable. First, they can swallow hard, follow the direction of the leader, and do their job as well as possible. Second, they can turn in their resignation and look elsewhere for a situation that suits their preferences. 

That’s all; nothing else is acceptable. Anything else is subversive.

This scenario can be an issue for any new president of the United States upon taking the oath of office. Federal career employees — bureaucrats, the establishment — have been around for a while and likely served more than one president. They often have their own ideas about who “really” runs the country — them, many believe — and how things should be done.

Depending upon how those bureaucrats and political appointees decide to behave, problems often result. Most of the current federal bureaucracy served during some or all of the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Many of them probably did not like some of what one or more of the presidents under whom they served was doing. 

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump became President of the United States, and the stage was set for what we see happening today. Many government employees have their own ideas about how the country should be run, and some don’t like what Donald Trump is doing.

Trump’s actions have been, shall we say, different, unusual, unconventional, compared to other recent presidents. And, his political philosophy is undoubtedly in conflict with some career bureaucrats and political appointees. Some of them have no doubt made their differences known, directly or indirectly.

It is a president’s option to replace any or all political appointees, and many have done so. The Washington Post reported the following: “The incoming Obama administration has notified all politically-appointed ambassadors that they must vacate their posts as of Jan. 20, the day President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office, a State Department official said.”

The Atlantic reported the day before Trump’s swearing in, however, that his administration would keep more than 50 Obama administration appointees in place temporarily. This was perhaps done due to the slow process of getting new appointees through the confirmation process, and thinking the hold-overs would behave.

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense in George W. Bush’s administration, had a famous rule that is applicable in such situations: “You go to war with the Army you have — not the Army you might wish you have.” 

But egos magically inflate in Washington politics, and inflated egos often lead to problems in the performance of one’s duties when the ego dwarfs the duty to the president and country.

Given the philosophical differences between Trump and his three predecessors, particularly with Obama’s philosophy, the probability of substantial hostility among some career bureaucrats and appointees to Trump’s policies and methods is great. 

There is no scarcity of federal bureaucrats who have trampled on their professional and ethical responsibilities and engaged in activities that work against their boss, the elected President of the United States.

Some older names are FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and their thousands of exchanged emails. James Comey, Director of the FBI from 2013 until his dismissal in May 2017. The as yet unidentified former FBI lawyer accused of altering a document in the application for a FISA warrant. Andrew McCabe, an FBI veteran, former deputy director and former acting director who “lacked candor” in connection with a leak investigation, which means he knowingly provided false information. 

More recently, National Security Council aide Alexander Vindman, State Department diplomats William Taylor Jr. and George Kent, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and former National Security Council staffer Fiona Hill. 

The aforementioned generally worked against this president with some colluding to bring him down, and others testified to what they thought, believed, surmised and hoped for. The key factor in the Herculean effort to find collusion, quid pro quo, bribery, obstruction and whatever else they might come up with is missing in action.

First, they claimed Trump was guilty of a quid pro quo. For there to be a “quid pro quo” — a “this” in return for “that” — with the Ukrainian president, the Ukrainian president would have to be aware of both the “this” and the “that.” When “quid pro quo” didn’t garner the expected interest, the Democrats in the House took a poll and found a preferable term: bribery.

The Ukrainians, however, repeatedly insisted that it didn’t happen: their president was unaware that funds were being withheld. Neither bribery nor the quid pro quo happened.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The quality of U.S. K-12 and college education is on the decline

As recently as 20 years ago, HistoryNet tells us, the United States led the world in high school and college education.  

However, the American education system has lost ground. That is not to say that there are no schools or school systems that are doing well, or that no students are learning. But the U.S. standing among nations of the world has fallen to a frightening degree over the last several years.

“Every American family needs to open The Nation’s Report Card [the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress] this year and think about what it means for their child and for our country’s future,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “The results are, frankly, devastating. This country is in a student achievement crisis, and over the past decade it has continued to worsen, especially for our most vulnerable students.”

Her warning didn’t end there. "Two out of three of our nation’s children aren’t proficient readers. In fact, fourth grade reading declined in 17 states and eighth grade reading declined in 31,” she said. “The gap between the highest and lowest performing students is widening, despite $1 trillion in Federal spending over 40 years designated specifically to help close it.”

The Atlantic magazine reported on a 2001 study by the Brookings Institute which, in fact, showed that international students found their U.S. classes “much easier” than classes in their home country. That number rose from nearly 60 percent of foreign students in 2001 to 66.4 percent in a 2016 study.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) administers an exam every three years. It is considered the gold standard for such data. The most recent available results from the exam, titled the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), is from 2015. PISA measures reading, math and science in 15-year-olds in 72 countries every three years.
** The U.S. ranked 18th in Reading. The top five were: Singapore, Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong, and Japan. 
** The U.S ranked 36th in Math, with the top five being: Singapore, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Macau (China), Japan.
** And we ranked 22nd in Science, with the leaders being: Singapore, Japan, Estonia, Chinese Taipei, Canada.

The U.S. scored just above the average of all nations in reading and science, and below average in math. East Asian and northern European countries tend to dominate the exam.

Among the most advanced countries, the U.S. ranks 38th out of 40 in graduating science majors, according to the 2015 Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard report from the OECD.

And America is way behind China and India in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates, the academic areas our future depends upon to a great degree.

“China had at least 4.7 million recent STEM grads as of 2016; India had 2.6 million as of 2017; the U.S. pulls in at third at 568,000,” according to the World Economic Forum. In terms of graduates per thousand population, the U.S. is about even with India with one grad per 573 people, but far behind China with one grad per 293 people.

Being challenged by China, our leading economic competitor, is a serious problem. Will we have enough future engineers and scientists to protect our lead in high technology fields, or will we be replaced by the Chinese?

Business Insider worries that “While American scientists still publish more papers than their international counterparts, and American companies still register more patents, not nearly enough students are graduating with degrees in STEM fields to keep pace with the rest of the world.”

The reasons for America’s declining educational performance are many and varied. Some are systemic. Some are cultural. Some are political.

The Brookings report also reflected that foreign students also say that American students spend far more time on sports than on academics.

“Nearly two-thirds of foreign-exchange students in the United States view American teenagers as placing a much higher value on athletic success than teens in their home countries do,” Brookings reported. “By comparison, only 5 percent of international students say American teens place a much higher value on success in mathematics than teenagers abroad. Around 65 percent of foreign-exchange students also feel that American teens spend less time on homework than their international peers.”

Standardized testing is a frequent target for blame. By placing so much attention on performance on these tests, it is argued, much class time and other resources that could be put to better use is wasted, and students learn what they need for the test, to the detriment of broader and deeper learning of subject matter.

Another area of criticism is the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Common Core was heralded as “dramatically improving teaching and learning” and, indeed, “transforming education for every child.” It hasn’t. The Hill commented, “Under the suffocating hand of Common Core, true academic achievement is withering.”

The late Joseph Sobran years ago wrote, “In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching remedial English in college.” 

We have replaced so many of the concepts that made us strong for “newer and better ideas,” and now we are paying the price.

Friday, November 08, 2019

“As California goes, so goes the nation.” Is that still true?

Not so long ago, California was “the” place to be. Known as “The Golden State,” it has beautiful topography, with the ocean, cliffs, lakes, mountains and forests, and generally nice, warm weather that lured those from other states to visit, and even to relocate. Many special attractions add to the state’s allure.

The state’s openness to, and propensity for novel ideas on government and other things led to the creation of phrase “As California goes, so goes the nation.”

Today, California is only a dark shadow of its former self. The natural beauty is still there, many of the other attractions remain, but the state has lost much of its charm and allure.

In certain areas it is very expensive to live, and that situation has not been improving of late. AMAC Magazine tells us that “In 1970, Californians spent three times their salary on a home.” That cost/earnings ratio has risen to 10 times salary. 

This and other factors drove a million residents to other states between 2007 and 2016. “The online survey, conducted [in January] by Edelman Intelligence, found that 53 percent of Californians surveyed are considering fleeing, representing a jump over the 49 percent polled a year ago,” as reported by CNBC. 

Taxes add to the discomfort. In some locations the state sales tax is worsened by local sales taxes, and the total tax averages out to 8.54 percent for people in those locations, one of the highest in the country. The 18-cents per-gallon gasoline tax makes things even worse.

The state has become very difficult for middle income earners, who can’t afford to live there comfortably anymore. 

As a result of high taxes and aggressive regulation, businesses now do studies to see if it makes economic sense for them to expand in California, or expand elsewhere, or to totally move from the state.

California’s “sanctuary state” status puts unneeded stress on social welfare programs and public education, both of which are funded by taxes. And, the homeless population is out of control.  

“In 2018, there were 129,972 people on the streets on any given night statewide,” as reported by the Los Angeles Times back in August. “The most recent count conducted in Los Angeles County revealed that there were nearly 59,000 homeless people in 2019, while there were 9,784 homeless people in San Francisco, including in jails, hospitals and rehab centers — a jump of 30 percent from 2017.”

And recently the state has been suffering from the annual wildfire season. Each year hundreds of thousands of acres of land and dozens of buildings are lost to these fires, and the lives of thousands of residents are turned upside-down, and some die. And things are getting worse each year.

Many people place blame on climate change, not only for the worsening degree of the fires each year, but for their origin. Democrat California Gov. Gavin Newsom, his predecessor, Jerry Brown, and many Newsom political allies claim climate change is driving California’s increasingly intense and deadly wildfires.

While natural circumstances contribute to the problem, most of the fires are started not by nature, but by the actions of people, about 84 percent of them, according to Vox.

Such things as a tree limb contacting a power line. Sparks from a trailer wheel rim with no tire on it produced sparks that caused one fire. Another was deliberately set by an arsonist. And so on.

Some sources say that the degree to which climate change contributes to the fire problem is directly related to the intensity of climate change assumptions that drive the state’s energy and environmental policies. 

“For instance, California’s large and heavily regulated public utilities — PG&E, SDG&E, and SCE — prioritize wind and solar power, leaving little for powerline maintenance and upgrades,” Chuck Devore wrote in The Federalist. “Simply put, the utilities are doing exactly what the regulators tell them to do. They make money for their investors on wind and solar; they don’t on powerline maintenance.”

And a 2015 Reason Foundation study noted: “While it is possible that climate change has played a role in increasing the size of fires, the primary cause seems to be forest management practices, which have changed several times over the course of the past 200 years.”

Failure to harvest timber and manage the downed trees that proliferate in wooded areas and fuel the fires has greatly increased the likelihood, and also the intensity of fires. The policies that limit forest management often are decisions by government to protect wildlife.

No one can argue that California does not have many problems, some very serious. But elected representatives have made scant progress, if any, toward solving the worst of them.

It is a fact that the state government and many/most local governments are and have been under Democrat control for a while. With the hard-left leanings of the current potential Democrat nominees for president, a Democrat president could be a real danger to the country, championing higher taxes and regressive policies such as those in The Golden State.

If it is still true that “As California goes, so goes the nation,” America is in deep trouble.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Imposing justice on a terrorist and impeaching the guy who did it

While the nation watches House Democrats conduct secretive impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump, the president was busy planning and approving a successful raid against the world’s leading terrorist.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, the global terrorist organization that is responsible for death, destruction and misery over a broad area for many years, is at long last dead.

The Washington Post did it’s best to downplay the event with this headline: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48.” Apparently shame, at last, won out, and that obit-like headline was later changed to: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48.” Only slightly better.

“He commanded an organization that, at its peak, controlled a territory the size of Britain from which it directed and inspired acts of terror in more than three dozen countries,” The New York Times wrote of the terrorist.

This triumph against terrorism caps an international five-year manhunt involving the intelligence services of several countries.

In a U.S. Special Forces operation with its origins several days ago, al-Baghdadi was located in northwestern Syria. After consulting with military leaders, plans were devised and Trump okayed the raid, choosing the option that provided the highest probability of success. 

The option chosen called for asking al-Baghdadi to surrender, but if necessary to kill him. He refused to surrender, and Special Forces troops stormed his compound, chasing the terrorist leader from it into a dead-end tunnel last Saturday night, where he killed himself and three of his children by detonating a suicide vest. 

U.S. forces collected valuable intelligence information following the raid on al-Baghdadi, and sustained only minor injuries, and no deaths in the operation.

Calling the terrorist leader’s death a "devastating blow" to a terrorist organization that has launched horrific attacks across the world, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that "we're going to watch carefully [ISIS’] next steps. And as a new leader and leaders pop up we'll go after them as well,” on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. He also commented that al-Baghdadi "is not just their leader, it's their founder. He was an inspirational leader in many ways."

Michael Pregent, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute said that there is likely to be a splintering of ISIS into some smaller groups, as the transition to a new leader, or leaders to replace al-Baghdadi transpires.

While acknowledging the obvious success, Congressional Democrat leaders criticized the president for not notifying them in advance, and for notifying Russia, but not them. But there is no requirement to notify Congressional leaders of coming secret military missions, and Russia assisted in the operation. The fewer people who know about a secret mission, the better. And Democrats’ reputation for keeping quiet is not especially good.

Congratulations to the Special Forces, and all involved. It is comforting to see that Trump is doing his job despite the obvious distractions and interference resulting from the years-long impeachment effort.

Speaking of impeachment: ABC News reported “A group of House Republicans stormed a secure hearing room Wednesday, delaying a witness deposition in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.”

What an interesting choice of a verb: they “stormed” a secure hearing room. In this context, “stormed” means a sudden forceful attack by armed troops, such as the storming of the Bastille.

In World War II, roughly 57,000 American soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy. Dressed in military clothing, complete with helmets, ammo belts and weapons, soldiers exited the boats near the shore, fought their way onto the beaches under fire, climbed the cliffs and killed thousands of the enemy. Thousands of American troops also were killed and injured.

That is the picture created by the choice of the verb “stormed,” which the news media used nearly universally. Warrior Republicans in the House of Representatives fought for conquest over the secretive hearing being conducted in the underground SCIF in the Capital building.

Two dozen House Republicans — men dressed in trousers, coats, shirts and ties; women in dresses, or skirts/slacks, blouses and high heels — walked casually down the stairs to the SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), a secure room where the impeachment inquiry is taking place three floors below ground level. They wanted to attend the secretive meeting that only members of the Intelligence Committee are allowed to attend.

They were asked by the Committee staff to give up their cell phones, and did so. All this was done before the unclassified hearing started. Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., hustled the witness out of the SCIF while the warriors were present, and would not return until they were gone.

Had American soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy, dressed and behaving as gently as were the Republican warriors armed with cell phones, we would likely be speaking German today.

We have become familiar with — and numb to — hyperbole, overstatement and embellishment by the mainstream media, as its members commit malpractice in support of Democrat/liberal efforts to unseat a duly elected president. This behavior by the media has reached the point where terming the inarguably mannerly entry by Republicans into the SCIF as “storming” no longer raises eyebrows.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Creeping love for creepy socialism by Americans defies understanding

Those of us who learned about our country in school, and appreciate it for all the wonderful features it provides through a government structure that is unique to America, are confounded by the creeping infatuation among our fellow citizens for creepy socialism. This highly flawed ideology receives great amplification from the many Democrats vying for the nomination to run for the presidency.

Every good salesman or marketer knows that it’s easier to sell something when the potential buyer already likes it, than when the buyer must be convinced of a product’s worth.

This is why those candidates, even those who do not voluntarily wear the label of “socialist,” promote aspects of socialism: to appeal to those voters who are partial to those ideas. And the idea of free health care, a free college education, a good-paying government job or getting money “just because,” appeals to millions of people.

Programs such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All are glaringly socialist. Other programs rely on government control of things that are now available for us to freely choose for ourselves. The U.S. Constitution restricts our government from controlling everything.

Those seduced by the siren song of socialism respond eagerly to the tactic of candidates painting fraudulent pictures that make the good (capitalism) look bad, and the bad (socialism) look good.

Since no form of government is perfect, highlighting and embellishing those elements of our capitalist system with which many find fault, and countering them with the imagined blessings of socialism enables these candidates to seduce voters to support and vote for them.

Every true American should be troubled, and even angered, that so many have been deceived by the poisonous socialist dream, and what that says about our culture.

In America, we elect those who serve in our government, and our Constitution provides ample opportunity for each of us to determine how we live our life. Under socialism, the government decides what people can, cannot and must do.

Often cited as examples of successful socialist nations are the Scandinavian countries. In fact, countries not infrequently self-identify as socialist, but in reality, only embrace some socialist ideas. While Scandinavian countries do often exhibit some socialist ideas, none is truly a socialist nation.

In fact,, and other sources, name only four countries that currently are truly socialist: China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam.

Notable examples of failed attempts at socialism include the United Socialist Soviet Republic (USSR).

Of the USSR, tells us: “After overthrowing the centuries-old Romanov monarchy, Russia emerged from a civil war in 1921 as the newly formed Soviet Union. The world’s first Marxist-Communist state would become one of the biggest and most powerful nations in the world, occupying nearly one-sixth of Earth’s land surface, before its fall and ultimate dissolution in 1991. The United Socialist Soviet Republic, or U.S.S.R., was made up of 15 soviet republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.”

Along the way problems worsened. The Communist Party leaders became rich while average citizens faced starvation by the millions in the 60s and 70s. Communist Party leaders attempted a coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, which failed, but substantially weakened Gorbachev, and strengthened democratic forces. Following his resignation on December 31 of that year, the Soviet Union ceased to exist, after 70 years of misery for its citizens.

Then there is Venezuela, which in 1982 was the richest country per capita in South America. Starting in 1998, Hugo Chavez led the nation, and was followed by Nicolas Maduro. These two men have been hailed by the political left as heroes of “21st-century socialism.” 

Instead of a heroic socialist success, these two men created a downward spiral of the country’s economy and wide-spread suffering of its people. This once strong economy has been destroyed by corruption and its parent, socialism.

The Soviet Union is long gone, but Venezuela’s horrors continue, and worsen. From its days as a strong nation until today, Venezuela has existed under socialism for less than 40 years, and is on the verge of total collapse.

While the USSR and Venezuela lasted only a few decades, the USA has lasted almost 250 years. In fact, no strongly socialist nation has ever thrived for very long. Socialism just does not work.

Although America has embraced socialist ideas more and more through the years, it still has a long way to go before it dies like the USSR and Venezuela.

Foolish, dangerous and unnecessary measures like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and other equally bad ideas like a mandated $15 per hour minimum wage, gun control efforts like mandatory buybacks, confiscations and Red Flag laws, all are steps down that deadly path.

Will the United States of America become the new USSR — the United States of Socialist Repression? If through some horrible misfortune any of the current Democrat hopefuls were to be elected president, it would take a few long strides in that direction. Not one of them campaigns on a platform that does not include socialist measures.

As Mr. Franklin wisely said, we have “A republic, if you can keep it.”