Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"A Republic, if you can keep it." Donald Trump and the Tyranny of the Mob...

For the last eight years I’ve been shaking my head, simply bewildered that so many Americans could be so insane as to vote for Barack Obama for president. Not surprisingly, once Obama was ensconced in the White House things played out pretty much as predicted with virtually every month bringing new news of a faltering economy, a shrinking workforce and more government waste, intervention and tyranny. In 2012, after Fast and Furious, the IRS Tea Party scandal, Obamacare and, most of all, Benghazi, I was sure that Americans would rise up and throw out the anti American Obama and vote for the less than conservative, but exponentially superior Mittens Romney. Alas, the population spoke, and they doubled down on the fascist living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

I was certain that year that if only a real conservative who could eloquently articulate the basic tenants of small government and fiscal responsibility had run he would have won by a landslide. After all, wasn’t it obvious that Barack Obama was the worst president in American history and the Democrats were rapidly devolving into open Socialism? But as we know, there was no such conservative running and Milquetoast Mitt was shellacked.

Now, in 2016 we find ourselves in an utterly different situation. We have a rock solid conservative running for the White House. Who can and does eloquently articulate the ideas behind our founding principles of limited government, individual liberty as well as the fundamental idea of American Exceptionalism. Yet, somehow he’s losing the GOP nomination fight… to a guy who’s a big government crony capitalist who has spent most of his life supporting Democrats and their liberal policies. Essentially he’s losing to a vapid populist whose idea of debating is throwing insults and lies around like confetti rather than providing substantive positions on practically any issue.

The next couple of weeks will tell the story, but the fact that we are at this point says a lot about the United States and the American people. That half the population are voting for an avowed socialist or a socialist in liberal clothing is sad. That one third of the remainder are actively supporting a populist candidate with little understanding of the issues at stake never mind the concepts of limited government, free markets and individual freedom upon which this country was founded, is disheartening.

The United States is not a democracy and never has been. We are a republic with a separation of powers and limited government that are unique in the history of government. It was that limited government and the companion individual liberties upon which the government is not to tread that created more prosperity for more people around the world than any government, state or entity in all of human history. Today all of that is in peril as almost 2/3 of the population are seemingly prepared to travel down a path of dismantling the limitations on government our Founding Fathers put in place.

After eight years under a president who decried the Constitution as a “Charter of negative liberties” the next president will have a choice. Either bring the progressive attack on the Constitution and freedom to a halt or pick up where Obama leaves off and continue down that path. Unfortunately, three of the four remaining candidates – John Kasich doesn’t count as a real candidate – are more than happy to jettison the Constitution and pander to the masses. Whether it’s Germany or Argentina or Venezuela, such populist movements rarely turn out well.

Populist movements share one underlying characteristic… they seek to harness the anger of the mob. Once the shackles of constitutional limits are thrown off, there is little to restrain government or the people other than the character of the leaders, and often that’s simply not enough. As Maximilien Robespierre learned, the consequences of doing so can be, shall we say, unforeseen… and unfortunate.

Today we see just such a mob mentality in the GOP race, and it starts at the top. Donald Trump claims the will of the people is being thwarted whenever he loses. He suggests the rules are tilted against him and therefore should be ignored. He’s even suggested that if he doesn’t walk away with the nomination despite not reaching 1,237, there will be riots. His followers have taken to preemptively threatening delegates to the convention if they don’t support him. Even his cheerleader Rush Limbaugh has suggested that if the Donald isn’t given the nomination his supporters will go nuclear. None of that bodes well for the future. If the threat of mob violence and anarchy are enough to do away with the rules when Trump has nothing but a vocal minority of GOP voters on his side, what chance do Constitutional restraints on government have when he is in charge of the entire government infrastructure?

The American people have twice put in office a man with a demonstrated antagonism towards the Constitution and he has spent the last eight years trampling on it. Once that bell has been rung, it’s hard to unring, and history has shown that the siren call of power is hard to resist, even for those without Donald Trump’s HUUUUGE ego. There are four candidates for president remaining. Three of them will pick up where Barack Obama leaves off and continue the progressive march towards the fall of the Republic because they see government as nothing more than an instrument for imposing their ideas on the population. And then there is Ted Cruz, who would turn back virtually everything Barack Obama has done because he understands the value of a strong Constitution, a limited government and a free people.

Emerging from Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin was asked by a woman what kind of government we had. Franklin replied “A Republic, if you can keep it.” One can’t help but wonder if Americans are willing to vote to keep their republic and the rule of law or are instead going to finally pass the torch to the tyranny of the mob, also known as democracy.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bankruptcy and Colorado: The rules only count for Donald Trump when they work to his advantage...

Despite what you may have heard or read, Donald Trump has never filed for bankruptcy. His companies have, four times, but Donald Trump never has.  The purpose of corporations is for investors to put a limited amount of capital at risk in exchange for the opportunity to earn money in any one of a myriad of legal ways. Investor use the corporate structure to ensure that if their bets go south, the most they can lose is the capital they invested in the first place.

Corporate bankruptcy laws can give a company an opportunity to restructure its business in a more favorable environment than it would have if it simply continued on whatever path that got it in trouble in the first place… it can give them breathing room. At the same time bankruptcy laws give creditors a legal framework through which they can exercise claims on said company’s assets. At the end of the day, corporate law, particularly as it relates to companies with millions or billions of dollars, can be complex, esoteric, bewildering, yet nonetheless be an effective tool.

It was by understanding the nuances of bankruptcy law that Donald Trump was able to navigate his way through treacherous waters for decades and seemingly emerge each time with a larger fortune than he had when he started. He used the threats of potential bankruptcy (or imminent domain action) to further his interests. He also mastered labor law, tax law and learned to orchestrate the media like a maestro. After all is said and done, the result is that four decades after a $1 million loan from his father – and $10s of millions of dollars in tax benefits from friendly politicians – Donald Trump sits on a fortune that is worth $10 billion – by his own account. That’s the equivalent of taking a $100 loan and growing it into $1,000,000. Not bad. One has to be pretty smart to accomplish something like that, because, whatever you think of the tactics, his fortune is the result of four decades of hard work, not betting it all on some lottery or dropping it into some Atlantic City slot machine.

So it is that backdrop that makes Trump’s current pleas ring so hollow. This morning he was on Fox News complaining that the Colorado delegate selection process was unfair. Had the rules been changed in March and he had no time to react, that might have been a logical argument. But the rules weren’t changed in March. They were changed in August. So it appears that with his $10 billion fortune and eight months to work with, Donald Trump was not able to field a team in Colorado who could have worked within the known system to garner delegates for him. Somehow he could figure out how to play the game in Michigan where he and John Kasich shut Ted Cruz out, but he couldn’t figure out how to do so in Colorado. So somehow there must be some cheating going on. Trump and his team waste no opportunity to suggest that Ted Cruz is somehow using “Gestapo tactics” by understanding the rules and using them to his advantage.

The irony is, that is exactly what Donald Trump has been doing his entire life… using the rules of the game… bankruptcy law, imminent domain, tax law, labor law etc. to win at business and accumulate a vast fortune in the process. But somehow, today, because he throws his towel into a ring where he’s unfamiliar with the rules and unwilling to spend the money necessary to understand them and succeed with them, the game is rigged. Trump claims that this is not how our democracy is supposed to work. That demonstrates in one sentence why Donald Trump should not sit in the White House. The United States is not a democracy and never has been. It is a republic, ruled by the rule of law, not the rule of man or of the mob or of the majority. If he ever bothered to read the Constitution he’d see that it’s all right there.

So, it’s not much of a surprise that we wake up this morning to hear more whining from Donald Trump. He’s very much a spoiled child. Given daddy’s fortune and connections Donald grew up not having to worry about what others said or wanted – at least as it relates to business and his public persona – and used that perch to learn the rules of a game that would serve him well for decades.

The funny thing is, Trump says he wants to change the system and Make America Great Again… he decries the fact that he’s an outsider and can’t within the GOP system. But of course he’s not an outsider. He’s been a crony capitalist his entire life.

The truth is, if Donald Trump really wanted to save the country, if he really wanted to be an outsider who upset the established apple cart, he would have run for president as a third party candidate from the beginning rather than throwing in with the GOP. Two thirds of Americans feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. If that was not a setup for a third party success then there never will be one. Half the Democrats hate Hillary Clinton. Half of the Republicans (and probably 95% of conservatives) hate the GOP establishment. Does one not think that in this environment, had Trump been willing to spend even 10% of his $10 billion fortune, that he could have almost walked into the White House?

But he didn’t run as a 3rd party candidate, instead he joined the GOP and tried to win the nomination in an established system that he didn’t understand. And now we’re supposed feel sorry that he’s feeling cheated? Either he didn’t have the courage to pursue his stated goal of taming Washington from without or he was not smart enough to recognize what it would take to win from within the GOP. Either way, he’s lost. If he wins the GOP nomination he will lose to Hillary – or Bernie if she’s indicted. If he tries to run as a 3rd party candidate now, after everything that has gone on in the primaries, the only thing he’ll accomplish is putting another Democrat in the White House. But of course that may have been his plan all along.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

War is Hell: Ted Cruz, Dresden and Monitoring Muslim Neighborhoods...

I saw a segment last week of Ted Cruz on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Kimmel asked Cruz about his proposal to monitor Muslim neighborhoods.

Cruz answered, and then, not surprisingly, Kimmel asked whether or not monitoring those neighborhoods would just create more terrorists. In the end Kimmel stated that they would have to agree to disagree.

While theoretically it is possible that monitoring Muslim neighborhoods could, possibly, maybe, create terrorists from erstwhile peaceful Muslims, in the less theoretical real world Islamist terrorists are killing people and they’re often living in unmonitored Muslim neighborhoods. Indeed, Europe is chock full of no go zones where there is no monitoring whatsoever… and not surprisingly those areas are full of jihadis. And while it is certainly the case that many of those jihadis are streaming in over Europe’s wide open borders, many of them are home grown. One doesn’t have to look far to see that an insanely high portion of Muslims in Europe support terror as a mechanism to fight the West.

And so it goes that the left never seems to change, using wildly unlikely hypothetical problems to argue against policies that are targeting real actual problems. We see the same whether it’s the potential for “discrimination” associated with requiring photo ID’s to vote or the potential for “abuse” if union rules were changed to allow schools to fire teachers based on merit vs. tenure or the potential for global warming to annihilate mankind unless we abandon capitalism and free markets.

Unfortunately for Kimmel and much of the left, the real world requires that real problems be solved with real solutions rather than theoretical musings. The problem of Islamic terrorism exists today, has existed for decades and somehow the left thinks if we only hold hands with these misguided young men and sing Kumbaya they will suddenly throw down their bombs and guns and knives and matches and embrace us as brothers. But that is simply not going to happen. Indeed, Europe has spent the last 40 years opening their doors to Muslims and providing them with a panoply of benefits. The Europeans don’t require them to convert to Christianity – a religion which fewer and fewer Europeans themselves embrace – they don’t require them to live by European mores – polygamy, although often officially verboten is often overlooked – and increasingly Muslims have their own court systems to impose Sharia law. In other words, for decades Europeans have been allowing migrants from failed Muslim countries to move to Europe and import with them the failed cultures that drove them to escape in the first place…

Yet still a significant number of Muslims in Europe – and in some places a majority – reject the basic tenants of western culture: freedom, democracy and tolerance, and what’s worse, many have taken up arms against the very cultures that welcomed and often sustained them.

If Jimmy Kimmel and the rest of the left were right, Europe should have no problem with Islamic terror. Sure, they might have more crime due to sputtering economies driven by high taxes and socialist economic policies, but a stickup on a street corner or robbing a bank is different than blowing up a train or cutting Theo Van Gogh’s throat…

The solution to terror is not to bury our heads in the sand and passively wait for Muslim communities to turn in potential terrorists. History shows that is simply not going to happen. The way to stop terrorists is to hunt them down and arrest them or kill them in their tracks. Cruz said, when he talked about monitoring Muslim neighborhoods, he was talking about what the FBI did to break the back of the Mafia in the 1970's, 80's & 90’s or what police departments are doing across the country to fight gangs: Monitor, infiltrate and break the organization from within and without. So somehow it’s OK for the FBI to use these tactics on the Mafia operating in Italian neighborhoods around New York and New Jersey, or gangs in LA and Miami but it’s not OK to use them on Islamists hiding in plain sight in Muslim communities in Minneapolis and other cities around the country?

You can see Kimmel’s tactic regularly during debates and other venues when GOP candidates are asked if they approve of taking out terrorists when innocent women and children may be killed. Such questions ignore the realities of war. One need look no farther than WWII to see that, although regrettable, innocent civilians often die in war. Look up the history of Dresden or Hamburg or Tokyo during the war and see that the numbers of civilians killed during war can be in the tens of thousands. Should the Allies have let the war go on longer in order to minimize civilian casualties? How many more American soldiers or French farmers or Jews or Chinese would have died had the war dragged on for two more years? Civilian casualties may be regrettable, but war is rarely a clean, soldier to soldier battle. That’s particularly true when Islamist terrorists hide in hospitals, mosques, schools and attack civilians in restaurants, churches and transportation hubs.

War is as they say, Hell.  It's a dirty, bloody, regrettable endeavor, but once engaged it should be fought to win, not simply fought not to lose, or not to offend the bad guys or their relatives or supporters. Monitoring neighborhoods where Muslim terrorists seek to hide is not the same as putting Muslims in internment camps, nor is it the same as prohibiting the practice of their religion. It’s simply dealing with the reality that there are terrorists among us who want nothing more than to kill as many civilians as they can in as many ways as they can, and they are doing so while hiding in plain sight. (You can’t get any more in plain sight than Maj. Nidal Hassan…) It is time to stop worrying about political correctness and hypothetical problems and hurt feelings when it comes to protecting the country from Islamic terror. If political correctness imposes Muslim no-go zones here in America as they have done across Europe then Islamist terrorists will have a field day and we should expect a rapid increase in the number of Americans killed and maimed in malls and restaurants, airports and malls. Ted Cruz cares more about protecting the American people – including honest, hardworking Muslims – than he does about hurting feelings of people who might be so off balance that they can be swayed to terror simply by a cop in their neighborhood or the FBI questioning of their Imam. That’s a good thing… and the country will be better for it when he’s president.