Saturday, December 30, 2017

A New Year’s Resolution for Republican Evangelicals?

It’s time for the Evangelical community to do the country a favor; turn on Donald Trump. 
You got what you wanted out of his election; a supreme court justice, federal district judges, reduced regulations and a tax cut (my personal favorite).  Do the rest of us a favor, relieve the country of this daily nightmare.

Polls show that 80% of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump.  Does any devout evangelical think that Trump believes what they believe theologically or has behaved in his entire life or will behave for the next three years in a manner consistent with Christian values?  It was a tough decision for many, if not most of you.  But in the end, you decided that his narcissistic personality, questionable morals, and bad manners should be ignored for the good of the country.  And to prevent the Clintons from becoming President, but I repeat myself.

The Clinton’s, while not as obnoxious as Donald Trump on a personal level, have only a passing interest in truth.  But that is beside the point.  In your minds, this election boiled down to one thing, the Supreme Court.  The first response I get when I ask about Donald Trump’s accomplishments is the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.  Many anti-Trumpers will quickly say credit for that is misplaced, that it should go to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel for refusing to conduct hearings on the replacement of Justice Antonin Scalia until after the election.  While there’s some merit to this point, it was the only thing he could do.  The effort required the election of a Republican for it to mean anything.  If the Clintons had been elected, the 5-4 conservative majority would have become a 4-5 minority and over the next three years perhaps even 3-6.  So, I get it.

The election of Donald Trump has kept the Supreme Court majority in the more “originalist” interpretation camp.  And with the rumored retirement of Justice Kennedy, that majority may well be extended.  But, we don’t need Donald Trump in office another three years to replace Justice Kennedy.  Mike Pence if perfectly capable of doing that.

Congratulate yourselves for saving the republic.  But, why not save the republic TWICE?  With the Clinton’s we would have had a Diarchy or sorts.  Trump would never share power with his wife or anyone for that matter.  You may have noticed, he seems to admire dictators (Putin, Xi Jinping) and it’s obvious he would like to be one.  But, thankfully, we have a constitution fully capable of preventing him from achieving that goal.  It won’t and hasn’t kept him from debasing confidence in the institutions of our republic, however.  The record is clear; he has little respect for the rule of law or the processes and norms of governing we’ve established over the last 250 years.  Drain the swamp?  OK, it needs some draining, but let’s not throw the baby out with the swamp water.  

In your heart of hearts, I suspect many of you don’t feel great about this situation.  That’s because your support of Trump has come at the cost of hypocrisy.  Far be it from me to preach, but hypocrisy is a sin. I don’t have to tell YOU what happened to Ananias and Sapphira.  They stood accused of deceiving the apostles about their level of spirituality and commitment to the church by holding back a portion of money from the sale of land.  I’m not sure how to compare that to this situation.  Is self-deception a sin?  How about putting politics before God?  Or perhaps presuming to know the Will of God?  I’ve seen posts on facebook where believers say Trump is anointed by God and was therefore elected to save the United States.  No one can refute what you believe, but if you believe this, you belong to very small minority.  And if you’re wrong….??

So, where’s the harm in his leaving office early?  Mike Pence, a man you all are proud to call a fellow traveler would become president.  The Republican Party might even retain the House and Senate when independent swing voters turn out in November of 2018 out of sheer gratitude. 

Think about it.  You can take credit for putting Trump IN the Oval Office AND for REMOVING him.  It’s a twofer.  The only constituency that can save us from him is you.  Only the abandonment of him by you might convince him to resign.  It would be, a MIRACLE.  And we’ll love you for it.  OK, some of us will.  I will.

p.s.  Here’s a link to some advice from Billy Graham about mixing religion and politics.  Advice Franklin doesn’t seem to be taking.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Donald Trump's Stock Market

There's no denying the melt-up of the stock market since Trumps election. The S&P is up 21% from Oct. 2016 to Oct. 2017. Impressive. And these are the generous numbers. When I look at the 1 YR performance as of today, the return is 17.17%.

During the Obama Administration the S&P averaged a 14.88% return per year. There were two years where the S&P was in single digits and they were low single digits. I have difficulty believing Trump will exceed that average but only time will tell.

A factor that will impact how well the stock market performs in the future is tax reform, which is actually just a tax cut, that if history is to be believed, will increase the national debt and which will put downward pressure on GDP. The promise of tax reform and a general bias of the Republican Party for business interests is a contributing factor in the stock market rise, along with continued low, perhaps even negative real interest rates.

The Kennedy tax cut reduced marginal rates that were at 90%. The 1981 Reagan tax cut reduced them from 70% to 50%. I think the top tax rate is now 39%. The economic law of diminishing returns probably applies to tax cuts as well, which is why I think we need radical reform and not just another tax cut. This one will have a small initial positive impact but will quickly fizzle out leaving us with at least $1.5T in additional debt.

I'm not a big fan of giving presidents credit or blame for the actions of the economy. Presidents can and do have a responsibility to help set economic goals. But it would be nice if they have some basic understanding of economics. President Trump said the following in an interview with Sean Hannity last month.

“You know the last eight years, they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country. So they borrowed more than $10 trillion, right? And yet, we picked up 5.2 trillion just in the stock market,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in an interview on Tuesday. “Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months, in terms of value. So you could say, in one sense, we’re really increasing values. And maybe in a sense we’re reducing debt. But we’re very honored by it. And we’re very, very happy with what’s happening on Wall Street.” Parsing Trump comments can be difficult under the best syntax. But the implication here seems to be that $5.2T in equity gains reduces government debt? I don't think any further comment is necessary.

This didn't get a lot of play in the MSM and I haven't seen a clarification. I guess this one just fell off the table.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Want to know a bit more about Antifa?

CSPAN's Washington Journal had a segment on Antifa this morning. Mark Bray was the guest. He is publishing "The Anti-Fascist Handbook" in a couple of weeks. Mr. Bray is a "long-time activist and historian and was also involved in Occupy Wall Street." He is a Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth College. He does not belong to Antifa but is obviously sympathetic to its mission.

He decided that a book that explains Antifa in the modern day was necessary since Anti-Fascist activism goes back 100 years.

He defines the violence that happens as "collective self-defense" against "some of the most deadly people in our society," and that "we need to be ready to do that (defend ourselves)." He does add that Antifa believes in "preemptive self-defense". BTW, Nation States also endorse this idea. Israel used it in 1967 as I recall and perhaps also in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. But then states have a monopoly right on the use violence. If you don't like that notion, you too may be a candidate for one of the anarchist philosophies.

Another interesting factoid from the program is that Antifa is not one organization but people with a common desire to defend society against Fascists. He noted later that Antifa consists primarily of Anarchists (which explains why there is no formal organization), Communists and Socialists. My reaction is there's no lack of violence in those three political philosophies. An Anarchist assassinated Grand Duke Ferdinand, starting WWI, Communists are responsible for untold Millions upon Millions murdered and Socialism, well, we have a great contemporary example in Maduro of Venezuela.

Now, Mr. Bray apparently differentiates between Communism and Stalinism. He is anti-Stalin, that's cool, but Stalin came out of Communism, not Classical Liberalism. I'll note here that he did admit that Antifa is not only anti-fascist but also anti extreme right-wing or perhaps Alt Right would be the better descriptor. But I'm happy to say he specifically excluded  Right-wing Libertarianism. So, Libertarians can relax, you're safe. Until you're not.

I'm going to buy the book. Why you ask? Because if nobody buys it no one will know what it says. 

Here's the link,

Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook
In the wake of tragic events in Charlottesville, VA, and Donald Trump's initial refusal to denounce the white nationalists behind it all, the "antifa" opposition movement is suddenly appearing everywhere. But what is it, precisely? And where did it come…

Monday, August 14, 2017

Removing Robert E. Lee Statues Denies Educational Opportunities

As the events of Saturday unfolded I wanted to know "why Charlottesville?" I learned about of the underlying fight to remove the Robert E Lee statue. The fight is currently in court according to the New York Times.
So, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of being allied with people I absolutely abhor. Richard Spencer, David Duke and their followers came to Charlottesville with the intent to do violence, Jason Kesslers, the organizer's protestations notwithstanding. He won an injunction in Federal Court "to peaceably assemble and speak ... free of intimidation." They came prepared for violence as did the anti-protester protesters.
I am also an anti-Trump person. Although I do find glimmers of hope in some of his positions, THIS ISN'T ONE OF THEM. I agree with many that he engaged in race-baiting campaign tactics and appeared to be continuing the practice with his tepid response to the violence. So, with that said, I hope you'll read the following. I don't recall discussing any of this personal history with anyone except my wife and immediate family but in light of the position I'm taking, I feel compelled to share it.
Removing Robert E. Lee Statues Denies Educational Opportunities
The left traditionally promotes education and free speech.
Removing Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park denies both.
In order to explain this, I need to tell you a very personal story. It’s the only way I know to establish the premise for my point.
I was born in 1951 in New Orleans and raised in the small city of Houma, Louisiana about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans. This is Cajun country and it is therefore predominately Catholic. So, there was no KKK in South Louisiana. I left in 1969 so I can’t speak to what may have happened in the 70’s but I don’t recall hearing about a single Klan Rally there. But don’t think for a moment there was no racism. My extended family was racist to some degree, but not violently so. My mother was a moderating voice. But, I too was racist.
I joined the Navy before I graduated high school and left for boot camp in July of 1969. I never moved back. While stationed at the Naval Air Station near Memphis, TN I attended a mandatory race relations seminar. Like the rest of the nation, there was much racial tension in the NAVY. The facilitator was a pretty redhead 3rd Class Petty Officer named Jan Murphy, from Scranton, PA. A year later she became my wife and remains so today.
I grew up with Jim Crow. I remember black and white water fountains on the courthouse grounds. I remember that while there were three movie theatres in town, the blacks had only one available to them. And the balcony was the only place they could sit. They had a separate entrance to that balcony. We lived in a racist society.
After completing the race relations seminar we were encouraged to do some reflection. I became a self-hating southerner. I was happy that being from South Louisiana, I didn’t have a stereotypical southern accent, thanks to our French-Canadian heritage. I didn’t deny my Southern origins when asked but I didn’t go out of my way to show any pride, because there was none. People generally thought I was from New Jersey and I didn’t disabuse them of the notion unless directly asked. This went on for many years.
We were living in Va. Beach, Va. when I was discharged from the Navy and we lived there for 22 years before moving to Atlanta. While there I was re-introduced to Robert E. Lee, who was a Virginian. I read quite a bit about Lee in an attempt to find some redeeming value to the Southern Cause. It’s hard to make an argument in support of the South’s decision to leave the Union except that, in hindsight, it was necessary to begin the process of reversing our Constitution’s “Original Sin”, slavery. Lee was the consummate Southern Gentleman with a strict code of honor. It made his decision to fight for the South a very difficult one. It was the wrong decision on many levels. But loyalty to one’s State was very strong because the Union initially consisted of sovereign states. That sovereignty has diminished substantially since then, in large part due to the War between the States.
He was also a very religious man. He was a minor slave owner and had progressive views on slavery for the times. He was confident that eventually slavery would dissipate. He believed in an activist God who moved events in His own good time. How he didn’t make the connection between the coming war and slavery, I don’t understand. But, he didn’t have the benefit of hindsight. After his defeat at Gettysburg he began to believe that he was on the wrong side of God’s plan. He lost his best general Stonewall Jackson before Gettysburg on May 10, 1863 and J.E.B. Stuart nine months afterward on May 12, 1864. The loss of these two generals also reinforced this evolving realization. And the war ended with his surrender. He could have prolonged it but I suspect he was following a higher power at that point.
After the war there was an oft cited incident at St. Paul’s Church in Richmond. A well-dressed black man was in attendance for Sunday service. It was communion Sunday. When the priest called for the congregants to come forward to receive, this black man came forward and knelt at the communion rail. The congregation was stunned not knowing what to do. Robert E. Lee too was in attendance and knew what to do. He came forward and knelt at the rail “not too far” from the black congregant. The remaining attendees came forward for communion.
Every time I remember this story, I get a tad emotional. There are those who disparage Lee’s motives with this gesture and they may be right. I never assume that I have perfect knowledge and history is inexact. But from what I know of Lee the man, I believe he did it to help bring people together.
That white supremacists take Lee as their own should not be a surprise. But there are many normal, non-racist, enlightened Southerners and I expect Northerners who respect Lee. Therefore, the left does the country no favor by calling for the removal of Lee’s statue from Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, VIRGINIA and elsewhere. As I wrote to a friend yesterday, the symbolism of Robert E. Lee in a renamed Emancipation Park is an opportunity to learn and teach. I’ll support the removal of a General Bedford Forrest statue, who was an active member of the KKK, and any other officer or official of the Confederacy who were not contrite after the war.
The events in Charlottesville on Saturday August 12 are a stain on the country. There can be no doubt that those white supremacists and neo nazis’ came there looking for a fight. That we gave them one is our mistake.
In 1977, neo nazis’ petitioned to march in Skokie, Illinois after being denied a permit in Chicago. They petitioned in Skokie because it was predominately Jewish, including about 5000 Holocaust survivors. That ploy got them noticed, which was the intent. After losing a suit brought by the ACLU, Skokie built a Holocaust Museum to educate the public. Having won, the nazi’ ended up doing their march in Chicago as originally planned.
“As Justice Louis Brandeis once explained, the Framers of our First Amendment knew “that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones.””
Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park is an opportunity to “remedy evils counsels” with “good ones”
Sunday morning marked the official opening of the Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois. This striking new institution is dedicated t...

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Hopefully we can all agree on the following facts, I doubt it, but we have to start somewhere.

1.       Kim Jung Un is rational.  He may be weird but he’s rational.  Why?

2.       Kim Jung Un’s primary goal is his own survival and the survival of his regime.
a.       He will therefore not initiate hostilities because the response would be the end of him and his regime.

3.       Negotiation is not an option.  We’ve been down this road 4 or 8 times depending on who you believe and it’s obvious that all have failed based on where we find ourselves today.
a.        Clinton built light-water nuclear plants to replace their fission plants  to help them meet their energy needs and
b.       George Bush didn’t like the idea of continuing to give aid when they determined that North Korea was cheating on its commitments.  So we stopped and Korea continued and perhaps accelerated their nuclear weapons program.
Shortly after January 20, Trump got the Xi’s nose out of joint by taking a call from the President of Taiwan.  I thought this was great.  While I don’t like Trump’s personality, I thought the one positive aspect of it would be in dealing with foreign leaders, ok, with the possible exception of Putin who he can’t seem to bring himself to criticize.  He doesn’t seem to have a problem insulting our allies.  But I digress, no need to go down that rat hole.

For the last 40 years we’ve been diplomatic with a regime that has been anything but diplomatic.  They are rude, insulting, bellicose, liars, cheaters and untrustworthy.  These are Donald’s kind of people, you know, kinda like the New York real estate business and associated thugs.

To recap, North Korea isn’t going to strike first no matter what President Trump says, IMHO.  Let’s see if Donald’s approach works.  If it does, we will all be eating a lot of crow.  If not,  many of us will die.  What’s new? This is what governments have been best at for 4000 years.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Trouble with Reality

Ever wonder why you stick so firmly to your worldview? Why you are loath to change your mind? "The Trouble with Reality..." is a very short book that can provide some insight.
This book illuminates why "reality" is different for each of us. Now, I'll warn my pro Trump friends that this is written by a woman who in her own bubble of New York City was, with her friends, trying to understand the shock to their reality brought by Trump's election.
While this is written from an anti-Trump point of view, how we perceive reality applies to every human being, regardless of his or her politics.
Every week on the National Public Radio show On the Media, the award-winning journalist Brooke Gladstone analyzes the media and how it shapes our perceptions…

Trump versus Sessions

Well, everything you need to know about Donald Trump can be surmised by looking at the timeline of his relationship with Jeff Sessions.
Jeff Sessions was the FIRST Senator to back Donald Trump. Shortly thereafter he was named Chairman of the National Security Advisory Committee for the campaign. He was one of precious few people to defend him after the 2005 tape was revealed in October where Trump discussed groping women.
Mr. Sessions was picked by Trump to be AG November 18, 2016 saying "Sessions “is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great attorney general and U.S. attorney in the state of Alabama.,” Trump said in a statement. ”Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”
Jeff Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General on February 9, 2017. On March 1 there's concern that he may have "lied" to Al Franken during the confirmation hearings. On March 2 after conferring with senior Justice Department officials he decides to recuse himself. It only takes the appearance of a conflict or problem to prompt a recusal.  
The president says Sessions should have told him he was going to recuse himself because he would have picked someone else. When? Back in November of 2016? In January before the Inauguration? This is ridiculous. If Trump was concerned he should have asked him what would prompt a recusal,  There was an opportunity for Trump to change is mind.  Mr. Sessions was asked about this at his confirmation hearing.  He said he would confer with Justice Department experts on this and do whatever they suggested.  If Donald had been paying attention he could have pulled his nomination right then and there
The grave sin that Sessions has committed is not being available to do Trumps bidding regarding this Russian Investigation. Trump wanted a myrmidon at Justice. He doesn't have one now.
And to add insult to injury, instead of discussing his problems in private with Mr. Sessions, he's engaging in serial public humiliation. This is leadership? He should be praising the man for his rectitude. But then, that would only come from someone with integrity or at minimum simple human decency.
Loyalty with Trump is a one-way street, exactly what you would expect from a narcissist.