Friday, July 22, 2016

Man of Character - Ted Cruz

On Wednesday night Ted Cruz addressed the GOP convention in Cleveland. At first I was a bit disappointed as I was hoping for a masterful dismantling of Hillary Clinton on the biggest stage of the campaign. While he hit her, it seemed almost perfunctory. But upon reflection, he did exactly what he should have done in terms of articulating the principals of freedom, limited government and opportunity. Particularly given the fact that Donald Trump is the GOP candidate and those ideas will likely not find much airtime over the next four months.

Of course none of that really mattered. The only thing that mattered to those on the floor, those in the box seats and those in the media was “Will Ted Cruz endorse Donald Trump?” He didn’t. And as a result much of the GOP establishment, erstwhile conservatives and virtually the entire universe of talk radio hosts have proclaimed his political career over. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, we’ll have to wait and see.

But what we won’t have to wait and see is what courage looks like. Ted Cruz went into the lion’s den and came out not only alive, but clearly in possession of his principals. Near the end of the speech, as the boos became so loud and the crowd was (intentionally) stirred into a frenzy, I couldn’t help but picture one of those countless scenes between the two world wars when Winston Churchill stood in the well of Parliament and warned of the coming storm. He was called a war monger. He was called a trouble maker. He was said to be an old fool. And most of that was from people in his own party!

If one has ever seen video of the raucous debates in Parliament, you can imagine what it was like for Churchill to stand there withering the slings and arrows yet continue to speak his piece. So too was it with Ted Cruz. The Trump inspired crowd would very much liked to have tarred and feathered Cruz had they been able to get to him. They did what they could to intimidate the Texas senator, but he continued with his message, suggesting those in the hall and those at home vote their conscience.

And that is perhaps the single most telling part of this entire farce. Ted Cruz was not telling anyone to vote for him or not to vote for Donald Trump. No, Ted Cruz talked about the party, the constitution, liberty, freedom and he suggested delegates and viewers should vote for the person who they thought would uphold their vision of those things. When someone tells you to vote your conscience and you think they’ve insulted your candidate that tells you much more about you and your candidate than it does about the speaker.

Finally there is the pledge. Ted Cruz did indeed make a pledge to support the nominee. He, along with the rest of the contenders vowed to support the nominee. And he meant it. Do you for one moment think that if Marco Rubio or Bobby Jindal or Ben Carson were the nominee he wouldn’t have supported them? No doubt he would have, with bells on. When he made that pledge, he had every intention of fulfilling it.

But here’s the thing. Pledges are not written in stone or blood. Think about it… How many Americans have been divorced? When you marry you promise to “Love, honor and cherish till death do us part.” That’s a pledge… yet somehow almost half of marriages end up in divorce. Does that mean the bride and groom were lying? Absolutely not. They meant it, but things don’t always work out as planned. A pledge is not a golden ticket for the other person to do whatever they want. That pledge does not give a husband carte blanche to sleep with half the women in his office and it doesn’t give the wife the right to abuse the children. The pledge that people make to one another at their wedding assumes a relationship within the normal bounds of acceptable behavior… it’s not an iron clad contract for life that remains in effect regardless of what the other person does.

And so too is it with Ted Cruz and his pledge to support the nominee. Cruz had every intention of supporting the GOP’s nominee when he made it. But then Donald Trump personally attacked both Cruz’s wife and father. Yet Cruz was somehow still supposed to pledge his support. If that’s the case, then one wonders what exactly Trump could have done that would have been sufficient to persuade his supporters that breaking the pledge was warranted? “Stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot people”? What if he had been indicted for fraud associated with Trump University but hadn’t yet been tried? What if it became known that Trump was having an affair? What if he had announced that he was once again pro abortion or wanted to restrict the 2nd Amendment? None of those things happened of course, but which of them, if any might have been a sufficient rupture to allow someone to break their pledge.

For some Americans there are lines in the sand that should not be crossed. Others may have no lines or their lines are fungible. Ted Cruz does have a line and Trump crossed it when he targeted Heidi and Rafael. The fact that Trump has navigated his way through the dysfunctional primary system and come out on top does not make up for the means he pursued to arrive there. Actions, as they say, have consequences, and Donald Trump very much took the low road and lost the endorsement of Ted Cruz as a result. Despite that, Ted Cruz more than fulfilled his promise by taking the stage in Cleveland and talking about Republican values, freedom and the Constitution, then suggesting that voters look to their consciences to vote for the person most likely to defend them. He even explicitly stated that Hillary Clinton would not. That he didn’t kneel and kiss Trump’s ring, and the fact that his refusal has so incised Trump’s team tells you everything you need to know about Donald Trump and his supporters. It is not winning that animates them, it’s obedience. At the end of the day, Donald Trump wants rule the nation and Ted Cruz wants to lead it. The GOP voters have made their choice, now we’ll see how that choice plays itself out on the national stage.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Helter Skelter: Black Lives Matter trying to succeed where Charles Manson failed…

Not in the literal sense. Charles Manson wanted to incite a race war because he thought that after a race war that saw blacks kill all non blacks (Manson and his “family” would survive however…) that he would return to rule them. You can be pretty sure that the Black Lives Matter guys aren’t seeking to start a race war so they can be ruled by a white guy… But they certainly seem to want a race war.

Just as Charles Manson was not connected with reality, the ideas behind the Black Lives Matter movement are equally disconnected to reality. Remember “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!”?

Black Lives Matter peddles the fiction that black men across the country are in mortal danger from police. That is simply a lie. An interesting study was just reported in the New York Times that showed that although black men are approximately 20% more likely to have a physical confrontation with police when compared with white men, they are also approximately 20% LESS likely to be shot by police when compared with white men in similar situations… A few years ago the Washington Post reported similar findings.

What is not a lie however is the fact that the lives of black man are indeed in danger, but that danger comes from other black men… not the police. To put that in crystal clear perspective, according to the CDC, the number one cause of death among black men between the ages of 15 & 34 is homicide. Literally, 43.7% of the young men in that cohort who die each year are murdered! The equivalent rate for white men in the same cohort is 7.3%. And regardless of the lies BLM tells you, most of those thousands of young black men are not being killed by police, they are being killed by other black men.

And it is thousands… In 2014, according to the FBI, 5,209 black men were murdered in the United States, 90% of those by other black men. During that same year 268 black men were killed by the police… that number includes criminals in shootouts with police, those resisting arrest and others threatening citizens. In addition, typically only 10% of those killed by police are unarmed, although unarmed doesn’t mean they weren’t a danger to police or others.  So, as a thought exercise, let's imagine that 50% of the fatal shootings of black men were unjustified.  That would mean that 134 innocent black men were killed by police that year.  At the same time, we know that 5,209 black men were killed, 90% of them by other blacks.  That equates to 4,688 black men killed by other black men.  So... do the math absent the BLM calculator... even assuming that 50% of all police shootings of black men are unjustified - when the real number is likely in the low single digits - black men are still 35 times as likely to be killed by other black men than they are by the police.

There are no doubt instances of innocent black men being killed by bad cops. But that number is literally a tiny fraction of the encounters black men have with cops annually. And that's the problem with the BLM. It's a race pimp movement that focuses massive amounts of attention on a problem that is infinitesimally small when compared to real dangers that black men face... i.e. murder at the hands of other black men, violence perpetrated by other black men, unemployment, lack of positive role models in the home, etc.

BLM makes it out as if America in 2016 is the same as it was in 1950 and maybe not so different than it was in 1870... But that's simply not true. We've probably come 95% of the way in eliminating racial barriers in this country and while more still needs to be done, BLM proffers the fiction that the problem keeping so many black men from succeeding in America is white cops and institutional racism. Neither is true, and to the extent that BLM and Al Sharpton and Barack Obama focus on that they aren't focusing on the real, substantive issues that could give young black men real opportunities to succeed in life like a good education, a good entry level job to learn marketable skills and a nuclear family where a mother and father are able to provide good moral values and teach him to work hard, have respect for others and basically how to grow up to be a successful man.

But those things are hard and there’s no press or money in it while protesting and snarling traffic are easy… and they generate lots of press and big checks from liberal white guys like George Soros. And that’s the key to understanding the BLM movement… It’s fundamentally just another liberal group seeking money and power. Facts don’t matter. Results don’t matter. BLM is little different than the government’s war on poverty. Americans have spent $40 trillion “fighting” poverty and we’re exactly where we were when we started. The program is a failure, but lots of people are making lots of money off it. Same deal with the ethanol boondoggle.

Liberals aren’t in the business of solving problems. They are in the business of getting money for pretending to try and solve problems. Facts and outcomes are simply irrelevant. Success is measured by how much money or TV appearances can be generated, not how many people can actually be helped. And so it is with the Black Lives Matter movement. Create the illusion that black men around the country are being hunted down and killed by an army of rouge racist white cops then step in and take up the position of defender of the innocents… This is pure propaganda for the purpose of gaining attention, money and finally power. So what if the fictional “Hands up! Don’t Shot!” meme set Ferguson, MO aflame? So what if protests ignite a powder keg in Baltimore that results in a sharp uptick in murders – most of the victims being black? So what if black men are so incensed by the BLM fiction that they start shooting cops from New York to Texas to Louisiana? Not really good for anybody, but at least the Black Lives Matter leaders get a lot of cable TV airtime.

It’s maybe no coincidence that race relations today seem to be as bad as they were in the 1960’s when Charles Manson was seeking to start his own race war. On the backdrop of a president who has been making race an issue for eight years we have Black Lives Matter out in the streets trying to incite unrest and acting as the spark for violent protests. When times are difficult and there is much angst among the citizenry there will always be charlatans who try to inflame tempers for their own gain. Charles Manson and the Black Lives Matter movements may have had very different long term goals, but the blood spilled in their names is very much the same. The only difference is that with BLM the amount of blood is much larger, and Charlie was never invited to the White House

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Nation is Calling: Ted Cruz Should Launch a Coup d'├ętat

Ted Cruz has agreed to speak at the GOP convention.

Ted Cruz has maneuvered himself into a speaking spot at the GOP convention.

I’m not sure which of those statements is true. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Ted Cruz is speaking at the convention and will be speaking to much of the nation at the same time. It is an historic opportunity for him and for the nation… and he should not waste it.

The nation is at a precarious point in history. From racial strife to leadership on the world stage to economic stagnation to failing, dysfunctional government to open borders, the US as a functioning nation is in peril. Perhaps not the same peril as Venezuela or Greece – yet – but in peril nonetheless. The federal government continues to take more and more of our money while imposing more and more control over our lives, turning the country into a nation of calcified robots going through the motions of life. Incomes stagnate while working hours increase – for those who choose to or can find work – while the number of those who choose not to or simply stop looking grows. At the top of the income spectrum the rich manipulate Rube Goldberg laws and regulations to grow stratospherically richer and bureaucrats pad their tax payer provided nest eggs. At the bottom the poor get an endless array of subsidies while the middle class watch helplessly as their American dreams slip away in the form of increasing taxes, regulation and diminishing opportunity.

The country is in a desperate place as the economic and individual freedoms that have been the hallmarks of American prosperity and success fade into ancient history. The United States needs someone to stand up and make a full throated defense of American liberty. We need someone to stand up and make a compelling case for small, limited government. We need someone to stand in front of the American people and make a fierce argument for American values of hard work, private property, free markets and the rule of law. But most of all we need someone to stand up and make a passionate case for American Exceptionalism. Next to Thomas Sowell Ted Cruz may be the best man in the country to make those arguments. He should take that stage and leave not a single mind in the audience unconvinced that the United States is indeed the greatest nation in the history of the world. That is what he should do…

But that’s not all. Before that he should launch a coup d'├ętat. Not on the country, but on the GOP. By now everyone knows that Donald Trump has won enough delegates to win the GOP nomination. True. But the fact of the matter is, the Convention Rules Committee meets this week and a coup is actually possible. It only takes the support of 28 of the 112 members to put an issue in front of the convention. In this case, freeing the delegates to vote their consciences rather than as their voters polled. At that point Ted Cruz could unambiguously make his case. That may be a lousy way to run a party and a nominating process, but we wouldn’t be in this position if the GOP establishment had bothered to close primaries to GOP voters rather than letting Democrats pick the nominee. In addition, if Trump was denied, his voters would be livid and would likely stay home or might even vote for Hillary Clinton. So be it. The goal here is not to win the GOP nomination, but to win the White House and attempt to save the country.

This is particularly plausible now that James Comey has done the nation a great service – even if he did it unknowingly. By not indicting Hillary Clinton he has kept her in the race while laying bare all the reasons why she should have actually been indicted. People often mistake a jury’s decision of “Not Guilty” for “Innocent”. While someone may both be judged “Not Guilty” and actually be innocent, in reality those are two separate. OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony were judged “Not Guilty” by juries, but few people believe either of them are innocent of their crimes. The problem was vapid juries and or incompetent prosecutors or both. In either case the number of Americans who would wish to invite said “Not Guilty” persons to live in their guest rooms is likely relatively small.

So too with Hillary Clinton. With the facts laid out by the FBI and focused by the House and Senate committees, it’s obvious to most Americans that Hillary Clinton has little respect for the rule of law, is a lying, scheming manipulative politician who will do and say pretty much anything to get what she wants. Whether it’s Benghazi or her email lies or her apparent fondness for throwing ashtrays in the White House, most Americans do not want to vote for Hillary Clinton. Comey’s attempt to protect her from a jury’s verdict has only made that feeling worse.

The problem for the nation however, is that the GOP is about to nominate someone Americans seem to like even less than Hillary! It’s like your daughter coming home with two prospective dates… Joseph Stalin or Adolph Hitler… how the hell do you pick between them? Imagine if she added a third choice, say… Bernie Madoff! You’d wrap your arms around that guy like he was your best friend… hell, even your family members who lost fortunes might welcome him into their homes too.

But of course Ted Cruz is not Bernie Madoff. He’s an actual, real live conservative who can articulately make a compelling case for small government, for individual freedom and free markets. But more importantly, he is a brilliant debater who would eviscerate Hillary Clinton on the debate stage. He’s a Constitutional scholar who would deftly expose her lies and obfuscation. He is a brilliant wordsmith who could easily and clearly demonstrate to a majority of the American people how much better off the nation would be with him in the White House rather than Hillary Clinton. None of those are things Donald Trump could do.

With a severely damaged Hillary Clinton it’s possible that the incoherent Donald Trump could stumble into the White House, but it’s even more likely he will simply be himself and put her there. With Ted Cruz making the case for voting for freedom there’s no chance that would happen. The nation is begging for a real alternative to Hillary Clinton.  The time is now for Ted Cruz to put to work those skills he forged on the debate team and in front of the US Supreme Court. Everything he’s done has been preparation for saving his country from a disaster… his moment is now. Let’s hope he takes it.

Monday, July 4, 2016

240 Years and Counting... Notes on the Declaration & the Constitution

Two hundred and forty years ago our founding fathers decided to risk their lives and livelihoods to begin a new nation by signing the Declaration of Independence. It was, in the eyes of the British, nothing less than treason… which indeed it was. Although the skirmishes that led to the break had been going on for a decade, when the final break came something extraordinary happened. A new nation was formed based solely on the rights of men. For the first time in human history a nation was founded not on geography or blood or dynasty or even religion. No, the United States was founded on the notion that: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

A nation however, regardless of its ideas, cannot function without a government that is made of something more than statements of what you believe and what you have fought against. In our case, for 13 years the United States largely operated under the Articles of Confederation, which gave the colonies a framework with which to work together to fight the British. Although they allowed the Americans to cooperate sufficiently to defeat the British, once the common enemy was vanquished the document proved to be fatally flawed as it provided for essentially a powerless central government.

It was the failures of the Articles which led to the writing of the Constitution in 1787 and George Washington’s inauguration in 1789.

The difference between the Declaration and the Constitution is extraordinarily important. The former is a declaration of what the colonists did not want, what they were fighting against, and why they believed they had every right to break with the British. It says nothing about governance, citizenship, or how to deal with foreign nations or fellow states. That’s what the Constitution does.

Probably to the surprise of many, the Constitution – including the Bill of Rights – does not grant anyone rights. As explicitly stated in the Declaration, rights are endowed by the creator. The Constitution simply explicitly states which rights the government is prohibited from infringing upon. For example, it doesn’t say “Citizens have Freedom of Speech” or “Citizens have the Right of Their Religion”. No, it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;” The assumption is, going back to the Declaration, that citizens have those unalienable rights, the Constitution simply states that Congress can’t take them away.

Just as the Declaration was groundbreaking, the Constitution was similarly so, only to a greater degree. Not only was the basic premise of the US Constitution that the power of government comes directly from the citizens, but it guaranteed – or at least that was the plan – the rights of citizens by explicitly prohibiting the government from abridging them. (Plus, it was all down on paper to be read by everyone!) The Bill of Rights was not intended to be exhaustive in terms of the rights citizens had. On the contrary. These were simply the most important rights in the pantheon of rights citizens have and those that governments most often seem to tread upon. They wrote the 10th Amendment to make that point crystal clear: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, initially didn’t even want a Bill of Rights because he believed it was redundant. He thought it was obvious that government could do nothing other than what it was explicitly empowered to do in the Constitution’s Articles and therefore there was no need for such a Bill. Sadly, as has been demonstrated by an endless parade of politicians in the 20th and 21st centuries, the limits on government Madison believed was so obvious are indeed not so obvious.

The Constitution was not a perfect document – although the slavery issue was not a fatal cancer as it's made out to be today – but it had in it the mechanism for its own improvement – or diminishment as the 16th and 17th Amendments prove. As such, as the nation grew and evolved it was able to adapt with the times, with everything from the 13th and 14th Amendments giving freedom and rights to slaves to the 22nd Amendment which sought to eliminate the chance of a defacto king. The problem today however is that virtually everyone in Washington, and a significant majority of Americans across the country have forgotten the basic premise of the Constitution, which was to empower the government to do an explicitly limited number of things and leave the people and the states to figure out the rest. Those limited things do not include mandating the purchase of health insurance, guaranteed free Internet access or subsidized housing…

But that is exactly what we have today. Politicians promise the moon and scratch enough backs to get Congress to pay for it. From protecting invented “rights” to abridging actual rights to providing free stuff to seeking to regulate entire industries, in 2016 there is nothing bureaucrats and politicians won’t try and do, regardless of the Constitution. With the Declaration of Independence our Founding Fathers chose to separate themselves from a government that was far less tyrannical than the government Americans face today.  Maybe it's time for another Constitutional Convention... And if that doesn't work, perhaps we should marry our Founder's actions with today’s mores of pretty much anything goes and consider another “right” that is not explicitly discussed in the Constitution: Secession. Somehow I think John Hancock would be happy to sign on.

240 Years and Counting... Some Notes on the Declaration & the Constitution

Two centuries ago our founding fathers decided to risk their lives and livelihoods to begin a new nation by signing the Declaration of Independence. It was, in the eyes of the British, nothing less than treason… which indeed it was. Although the skirmishes that led to the break had been going on for a decade, when the final break came something extraordinary happened. A new nation was formed based solely on the rights of men. For the first time in human history a nation was founded not on geography or blood or dynasty or even religion. No, the United States was founded on the notion that: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

A nation however, regardless of its ideas, cannot function without a government that is made of something more than statements of what you believe and what you have fought against. In our case, for 13 years the United States largely operated under the Articles of Confederation, which gave the colonies a framework with which to work together to fight the British. Although they allowed the Americans to cooperate sufficiently to defeat the British, once the common enemy was vanquished the document proved to be fatally flawed as it provided for essentially a powerless central government.

It was the failures of the Articles which led to the writing of the Constitution in 1787 and George Washington’s inauguration in 1789.

The difference between the Declaration and the Constitution is extraordinarily important. The former is a declaration of what the colonists did not want, what they were fighting against, and why they believed they had every right to break with the British. It says nothing about governance, citizenship, or how to deal with foreign nations or fellow states. That’s what the Constitution does.

Probably to the surprise of many, the Constitution – including the Bill of Rights – does not grant anyone rights. As explicitly stated in the Declaration, rights are endowed by the creator. The Constitution simply explicitly states which rights the government is prohibited from infringing upon. For example, it doesn’t say “Citizens have Freedom of Speech” or “Citizens have the Right of Their Religion”. No, it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;” The assumption is, going back to the Declaration, that citizens have those unalienable rights, the Constitution simply states that Congress can’t take them away.

Just as the Declaration was groundbreaking, the Constitution was similarly so, only to a greater degree. Not only was the basic premise of the US Constitution that the power of government comes directly from the citizens, but it guaranteed – or at least that was the plan – the rights of citizens by explicitly prohibiting the government from abridging them. (Plus, it was all down on paper to be read by everyone!) The Bill of Rights was not intended to be exhaustive in terms of the rights citizens had. On the contrary. These were simply the most important rights in the pantheon of rights citizens have and those that governments most often seem to tread upon. They wrote the 10th Amendment to make that point crystal clear: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, initially didn’t even want a Bill of Rights because he believed it was redundant. He thought it was obvious that government could do nothing other than what it was explicitly empowered to do in the Constitution’s Articles and therefore there was no need for such a Bill. Sadly, as has been demonstrated by an endless parade of politicians in the 20th and 21st centuries, the limits on government Madison believed was so obvious are indeed not so obvious.

The Constitution was not a perfect document – although the slavery issue was not a fatal cancer as it's made out to be today – but it had in it the mechanism for its own improvement – or diminishment as the 16th and 17th Amendments prove. As such, as the nation grew and evolved it was able to adapt with the times, with everything from the 13th and 14th Amendments giving freedom and rights to slaves to the 22nd Amendment which sought to eliminate the chance of a defacto king. The problem today however is that virtually everyone in Washington, and a significant majority of Americans across the country have forgotten the basic premise of the Constitution, which was to empower the government to do an explicitly limited number of things and leave the people and the states to figure out the rest. Those limited things do not include mandating the purchase of health insurance, guaranteed free Internet access or subsidized housing…

But that is exactly what we have today. Politicians promise the moon and scratch enough backs to get Congress to pay for it. From protecting invented “rights” to abridging actual rights to providing free stuff to seeking to regulate entire industries, in 2016 there is nothing bureaucrats and politicians won’t try and do, regardless of the Constitution. With the Declaration of Independence our Founding Fathers chose to separate themselves from a government that was far less tyrannical than the government Americans face today.  Maybe it's time for another Constitutional Convention... And if that doesn't work, perhaps we should marry our Founder's actions with today’s mores of pretty much anything goes and consider another “right” that is not explicitly discussed in the Constitution: Secession. Somehow I think John Hancock would be happy to sign on.