the Good, Bad and Ugly


President Obama had a good week, the nation did not.

The president got his fast track approved for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, then ObamaCare was upheld for a second time by the Supreme Court, and gay marriage was declared to be constitutional throughout the land. Three wins for the White House.

Since the TPP isn’t called a treaty, it doesn’t require Senate approval, so the up-or-down vote by Congress is for show only – Team Obama is cleared to make any agreement they wish – and judged solely on past performance, that will probably turn out to be bad for the nation. For the second time, SCOTUS re-wrote the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to say something that Congress didn’t (and something that the president didn’t sign). In Obergefell v Hodges, the Court held that a gay couple married in Maryland could list one partner as “spouse” on insurance documents in Ohio, where gay marriage was banned.

So we have three wins for Mr Obama in the week – one of which clears the way for the weakest negotiators in American history to bind us to a deal with eleven other nations, the details of which are being kept secret from us; the second of which clearly oversteps the authority of the Supreme Court; and the third of which is a clean decision on equal protection grounds. So, in order: the bad, the ugly and the good.

The problem I have with fast track isn’t with fast track, but with the agreement that follows, which will likely supersede US law (which is unconstitutional) on things like right-to-work, carbon emissions, and immigration, among other things. I look for TPP to start another train of court cases headed for SCOTUS.

The whole ObamaCare morass had been a disaster for democracy from Day-1, and King has blossomed that into an embarrassment for the Court. The majority stated that they ruled so as not to throw the insurance industry into chaos – that’s not their job. A rightful ruling wouldn’t throw the industry into chaos, that would be the Democrats, who wrote, passed and signed bad law. As Chief Justice Roberts has previously claimed, it’s not the job of the Supreme Court to save us from our elected officials – which is exactly what the majority did in King v Burwell. In Obergefell, the Court came down on solid Fourteenth Amendment footing in granting equal protection to gay couples. Having said that, I don’t believe the government belongs in marriage – a creation of religion – in the first place. Civil unions, yes; marriage, no. But in the context of today’s muddled legal atmosphere, the Court made the right decision here.

As I say, a good week for the president, a bad one, net, for the country.

If We Must, We Must


We simply must stop naming things after descendants of Pre-Colombian nomadic bands of Neolithic indigenous peoples. Never mind that the intent was to invoke fierceness, combatant ethos, admiration, and/or proud heritage. It is, apparently, wildly disrespectful to the antecedents of your team’s/weapon system’s/collage’s mascot’s/merit badge’s name.

So, in answering the Biblical question “if the eye gaze upon something offensive, should thee pluck out the offending eye?” with a resounding “Yes!”, the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks, as well as the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, Boeing AH-64 Apache Longbow, Boeing CH-47 Chinook, Bell OH-58 Kiowa, General Dynamics/Raytheon BGM-109 Tomahawk Cruise Missile, Florida State Seminoles, University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, San Diego State Aztecs, University of Utah Utes, and all those Division II and below schools known as Braves, Warriors, Apaches, Choctaws, and so forth (you know who you are), the Boy Scouts of America’s Indian Lore Merit Badge (and the Leather Craft Badge is sorta hostile toward Hindus – actual Indians – doncha think?), should all change their names to “fR?b3Ju*wUse4Ax#” which is not a word, name, object or deity in any known language of any known culture. No one’s offended, not even dyslexics or the blind (since the name is unpronounceable anyway).

And what on Earth do we do with Indianapolis, Indiana?! Illinois (local tribe)? Kentucky (Iroquorian word – pronounced KEN-tah-KEE – meaning “on the prairie”)? The Dakotas (Dakota Sioux)? Oklahoma (Choctaw word meaning “Red man,” which was close enough to “Indian Territory”)? And counties and cities, villages, towns and bergs too numerous to list here?

They aren’t “Indians” or even “AmerIndians”, they are “Native Americans” (for now – these labels change with impressive frequency). But then, so am I – born and raised in America. We need a better name for them – indigenous people maybe, but that doesn’t just roll off the tongue, does it? Oh wait, there is a word for what we’re talking about – members of the original population of a given region – aborigines. Do any teams/weapon systems/college mascots/merit badges/cities/states/counties/villages/towns/bergs have aboriginal-derived names? No? I think we’re in the clear.

Political correctness, like all attempts to label, collect and orchestrate social entities, will result in an evermore-detailed catalogue of people and their associations, such that we will have lost the innovative fuel of natural social evolution – reaction to spontaneous events. That takes a no labels, no pigeon holes, no specially grouped collection of independent actors bound only by their political organization (read: nation). The more we sub-divide away from each other, the less efficient we are at society-wide problem-solving.

The Founders had to balance that with the vastness of their geopolitical space, and the velocity of communication at a distance. Their solution was to defer power to the states – a more manageable scale, which would, in turn, defer power to the lower jurisdictia. A laboratory of the states, each of which was a laboratory of their people. Putting solutions as close as possible to problems.

That same logic doesn’t hold with politically pigeon-holing special interest groups, as you’re homogenizing the members as a condition of inclusion. You don’t get the turbulent atmospherics that drive innovation, you get single-issue rival factions.

I’m just taking the correctness police at their word – if naming things, intent being irrelevant, after aboriginal tribes and their warlords (Codename Geronimo? Really?) is hurtful and wrong, then we must correct all examples of it we can find. Maybe we shouldn’t name them all the same 256-bit encryption password, but if we don’t, somebody’s got a lot of naming to do.

the Absurdity of Identity Politics


If Bruce Jenner can be a woman, why can’t an over-bronzed blue-eyed blonde white woman be black? Or a blue-eyed fair-skinned Elizabeth Warren be Cherokee? Or a president who underpays women on his staff rail on about pay equality? This incomplete list of examples shows, not the reducto ad absurdum, but the actual result of the slicing and dicing of Americans into cubby holes of victims, each of whom can blame everybody else for their plight.

If we can pick and choose to which cubby hole we belong (even a two mansion-owning, chauffer-driven, Secret Service protected, millionaire Hillary Clinton claimed to be a debt-ridden member of the poor), the whole idea is devolving back into un-hyphenated America. If everybody belongs to a special interest group, there are no special interest groups. If everybody is somebody’s victim, than we are all somebody’s villain. We are all victims/oppressors. It’s textbook absurdity.

Maybe Rand Paul should declare himself to be a poverty-riddled bi-sexual Chinese-speaking black woman of Mexican descent.

Aside from the philosophical depravity of dividing Americans against Americans, identity politics, in reality, doesn’t work. In singling out a group to get special treatment from the rest of us, you’ve stigmatized them to the rest of us. The society you’ve told the group that you’re helping them into, resents them for the lowered standards, or mandatory hiring, or whatever special treatment they get. And the group members themselves are told that they can’t make it on their own – that they need the assistance of their political benefactors. In practice, it’s just crass bribery for votes.

We’ve finally reached the point where European whites have become the disadvantaged – the only ones who don’t get freebies from the political class (they’re just paying for everyone else’s). So Bruce Jenner, Elizabeth Warren and Rachel Dolezal are the vanguards of the “pick you oppressor” movement. Bruce Jenner is getting a reality TV show, Elizabeth Warren got a Senate seat, and Rachel Dolezal got a leadership position with the NAACP, all out of being someone they’re not. No need for character, honesty or credibility.

Maybe Hillary is the most apt next president.

Sorting Through the Field


The Republicans have eleven declared presidential candidates, and one that is almost certain to enter the race. As voters in the primaries, each must sort through this field and winnow it down to a reasonable group of realistic choices. Toward that end, I’ve broken the field into four tiers – First Timers; Fringe; Second Tier; and Top Tier.

The First Timers are those who have never held elective office, making the Presidency of the United States their first political campaign, and on a national scale at that. This has only been once in modern times – Dwight Eisenhower – but, of course, he won World War II. A rather high bar. This year’s first timers are Carely Fiorina and Dr Ben Carson, both of whom are distinguished in their previous fields of endeavor.

Ms Fiorina brings her expertise at running a large corporation to bear on some of today’s operational problems. For example, she cannot continence just blindly giving each department a percentage increase over last year’s budget – “that makes no sense,” she says. She believes that Zero-Based Budgeting is the most reasonable approach. Under ZBB, each program must justify the amount of resources it needs, and that amount should be vetted by the department’s inspector general before it’s forwarded to the House and Senate’s Budget Committees.

She believes in equal rights under the law for gay couples, as she did at Hewlett-Packard. She opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and when pregnancy is a health risk to the mother. She agrees that the climate may be warming, but is against economically ruinous knee-jerk programs to “cure” it before we know for a certainty that we’re causing it, and before other major industrial nations do the same.

Having dealt with HP all over the world, she knows many foreign leaders and has visited numerous foreign countries, so she’s quite a novice at foreign policy.

Dr Ben Carson is a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon that brings a soft-spoken rationality to the contest. “I’m not a politician and I don’t want to be a politician,” he famously said in his announcement address. “Politicians,” he said, “do the politically expedient thing … I want to do the right thing.” He brings a charming sensible approach to problem-solving – look at the problem, figure a solution and apply it. In this, he wants to disseminate power out to the states. Get the solution closer to the problem.

He decries our “immoral” national debt, bloated entitlements, and convoluted tax system that has lost all credibility (he is a Flat Tax proponent). Dr Carson’s opposition to gay marriage, abortion and is a creationist. He is pro-Second Amendment.

He’s agnostic on climate change, but says that renewable energy and pollution reduction make sense with or without man-caused generalized warming.

Both of these candidates need to get better to make it to “Long Shot.” In a field this crowed, access to serious money will be hard to sustain for the 17-month grind. Ms Fiorina, with a listed net worth of $58 million, can’t really self-finance, and Dr Carson has even less to start with. Both are very interesting and bring fresh ideas and thinking to this year’s field, and may well influence the trajectory of the primary season, but I don’t look for either to be around by the last primaries (Super Tuesday, March 6 2016).

Fringe candidates are those with a highly specialized (read: limited) constituency. So far, we have, again, two players – Senator Dr Rand Paul (KY) and Senator Ted Cruz (TX).

Dr Paul is convinced that the federal government is too large to be relate to peoples’ concerns, and far too big to react to events in anything close to a timely manner. He would like to entice corporate money back into the US through lower corporate taxes and to use the new revenue to fix roads and bridges. The problem with this, of course, is that money is fungible and once in the treasury will simply be spent as needed. He’s establish “economic freedom zones,” where corporate and personal income taxes would be eliminated, in poor, underdeveloped areas. Dr Paul opposes a federal ban on gay marriage, preferring to allow the states to handle the situation. He also opposes legislation to establish “gay rights,” saying he doesn’t believe in behavior-based rights.

Foreign policy is where Dr Paul is most widely separated from his Republican compatriots. He wants a small military and the cessation of domestic intelligence gathering. He would declare war on ISIS (they hold territory and possess a domestic political infrastructure, claiming to be a state, thereby qualifying as a sovereign entity waging war against American assets and interests overseas). This, of course, would be at odds with his desire for smaller military. His dislike for drones was demonstrated with a 13-hour filibuster in the Senate.

Senator Cruz, like Rand Paul, is a Tea Party favorite, but is more of a classical conservative than Dr Paul, who is libertarian. Senator Cruz is behind a “Repeal Common Core” movement, which places him at far right end of the spectrum on this issue. He sees the problem as the proposal represents but the thin end of the wedge – destined to be continually expanded once in place. Jeb Bush, for example, sees it as a needed stabilization of scholastic standards to bring American students’ scores up to international standards.

Second Tier candidates are those who poll well within certain precincts, but not with broad enough appeal to elevate them into true contention. I put George Pataki, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum in this group. Governor Pataki will never catch up on name recognition with the rest of the field. His appeal is localized to New York, a deeply blue state. Governor Huckabee is hobbled by his close association with being a pastor – not a bad thing, just a put-off for public officials – I’m not sure anyone sees him as being able to stand up to the likes of Vladimir Putin. Rick Perry has to overcome his 2012 performance before he can overcome the rest of the field, although he’s one of two dark horses in the group. Rick Santorum is a good candidate, but is up against too many legitimate heavyweights. I would rank him as the other dark horse in this field, but behind Governor Perry.

Top Tier candidates are those I feel are in honest competition for the nomination. These are Jeb Bush (announcing Monday), Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Lindsey Graham. Governor Bush was expected to take all the air out of room, but hasn’t – his poll numbers have hardly moved since polling began. Some of that can be attributed to the size of the field, but not nearly all of it. He’s just not that exciting. Senator Rubio is the rising star of the field – he’s a gifted public speaker, has a very compelling personal story, has an excellent record as a state legislator, and has been “victim” of two – count ‘em, two – ridiculously petty attacks by the New York Times. It doesn’t get any better than that for a Republican. Governor Walker has an exemplary record – fighting and winning against unions, won four elections in three years in a blue state, exhibits a flawless conservative record. Senator Graham is the long shot in this segment, but is a compelling speaker and demonstrates true conservative values – and is the most pro-defense candidate in the field.

I think this whole mob will sort itself out to a race between Rubio and Walker.

There is a significant number of possibilities[1] still out there who have stated or threatened to run this year, a couple of whom could shake up the race. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has a following, but again, I don’t think it’s broad enough to gain national traction. New Jersey Governor Chris Christy certainly has name recognition, but his in-your-face style – like Ted Cruz’s – I don’t think translates well in a presidential election. Ohio Governor John Kasich is a plain-spoken governor with a great record of leading a swing state on a balanced budget and getting large pluralities in all his elections. He could be a serious contender. And, of course, there’s always Donald Trump, the Harold Stassen of Republican presidential primaries. He could self-finance and out-spend Hillary and Jeb combined, but I’m not sure he’ll actually stay with it long enough to matter. For one thing, he got “The Apprentice” optioned for next year – something he can’t do if he’s running for political office. For another, he would have to put his financials up for FEC review – something he’s been reluctant to do in the past. Even if he gets by those hurdles somehow, I don’t think enough the electorate will take him seriously as a potential POTUS.

Sorry for the length, but it’s a large field. This is how I see it shaping up at this very early stage.

[1] Mark Everson (fmr IRS Commissioner); Jack Fellure (retired engineer); Bobby Jindal (Governor, LA); Donald Trump (developer); Chris Christie (Governor, NJ); John Kasich (Governor, OH); Bob Ehrlich (fmr MD Governor)Jim Gilmore (fmr WV Governor, fmr Chairman RNC); Peter King (US Representative NY).

Give Obama Fast-Track?!


President Obama is negotiating again, this time it’s a trade pact with eleven Asian nations called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that he refuses to let anyone see. I find that problematic. For all his promises about heading the most open and transparent administration is history, he’s the most secretive and divisive president in my memory – and that includes Richard Nixon.

Currently, only members of Congress – and certain cleared staffers with high enough security clearances (and those staffers can only go with a member) – are allowed to go into a secret room in the US Capitol to read the text of ObamaTrade’s TPP component. And they may only read the text – they are forbidden to take notes, they may not take photographs or make copies or recordings, and they must sign a non-disclosure agreement upon leaving[1]. This is ridiculous. I’ve gone through this to view specifications on nuclear weapons that I was involved in manufacturing that required Q-clearance, a security clearance above crypto (which is above top secret). All of this for trade pact? Borderline paranoia.

What’s troubling about this whole circus is that Congress is about to vote on something called Trade-Promotion Authority (TPA) – or more popularly “fast-track.” What this does is confine Congress to a straight up-or-down vote. Under fast-track, Congress transfers its authority to the executive and agrees to give up several of its most basic powers. These concessions include: the power to write legislation, the power to amend legislation, the power to fully consider legislation on the floor, the power to keep debate open until Senate cloture is invoked, and the constitutional requirement that treaties receive a 2/3 vote[2]. And they’re about to green-light this fast-track approach for a pact that is being kept secret by the executive. Curious.

Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL-3) said: “We could wait another 18 months until this administration is out. You look at how they negotiated the release of the Taliban-5; you look at how they negotiated what they’ve done with Cuba; look at how they’ve negotiated what we’ve done with the Iran nuclear deal – I personally don’t want them negotiating anything else[3].”

Which brings me to the question: what are Republicans thinking about?

The unions are against TPP for all the usual reasons (they’re always against free trade). The Republicans are against secret negotiations by this administration for all of Representative Yoho’s reasons. They should take the stance that they cannot vote for any trade agreement that their constituents can’t see, and therefore, they cannot fast-track the issue. The unions are pushing Hillary to come out against TPP. If the Republicans come out against it (for any reason), that will put Ms Clinton in the position of agreeing with Republicans or going against unions (and possibly their Election Day infrastructure). Without seeing the text of the trade pact, we can assume it’s flawed – there are rumors that it contains all sorts of non-trade language about climate change, human rights issues, and bypasses sovereignty with international commission that would supersede US law. Normally, I don’t put much weight in rumors, but these fit right in with past history of this administration.

The Democrats always play electoral politics rather than governing; the Republicans should fight back for the rest of this term. The stakes are too high to cede this ground.

[1] See Matthew Boyle, Sessions to Obama: Why are You Keeping ObamaTrade’s New Global Governance Secret?, in Breitbart News, June 5 2015.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Mike Lillis and Scott Wong, Trade supporters bullish as vote nears, in The Hill, June 7 2015, 0600EDT.