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Friday, September 14, 2018

Revolution's motives

I’m reading some Europeans writing about our Revolutionary War. Their interesting perspectives give me some new insights.  Washington was quite angry about how things shook out for tobacco planters in the 1760s.  The system seemed rigged with British merchants raising prices for the tools he needed, Brit bankers raising interest, regulations that were squelching the tobacco market, and of course, taxes—Stamp Act.  He had also incurred enormous debt trying to make his planting biz work. And a land company he had bought shares in to develop Kentucky was nixed by British government policy to restrict colonists to east of the Appalachians.  The reason is that in the aftermath of the French and Indian War, the British government had huge debt which gave place to a debt crisis.  They had no funds to keep law enforcement in America, so they tried to separate the natives from the colonists by boundary.  And they needed to raise money to administer the colonists, hence the Stamp Act.  Washington was caught in the vise of European problems.

            But does that make you into a revolutionary?  Hardly.  In the aftermath of the Stamp Act, the Brits repealed and replaced with another new tax on staples, the Townsend Acts which really made all the colonists mad.  That was repealed by colonial rioting and the Tea Act passed.  Of course that resulted in the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Then came the “Intolerable Acts” which brought in marshall law to subdue Boston. Washington decided to forget tobacco and began to use his head to diversify his farming, start  breweries, mills, blacksmithing and half a dozen other enterprises that made him a suddenly rich man. 

            Rich men don’t revolt, lest the ensuing chaos cause loss of property.  And so the angry Americans split into two groups, the elites who wanted a negotiated independence or reconciliation, and the poor who hoped for chaos and spoils.  But Washington and many of our founders were of a third mind, that this revolt was about a popular government.  Where did they get this?  The Europeans speculate that it came from Rene Descartes who promoted the individual through reasoning as opposed to “received wisdom” from church and state that people formerly relied on.  And the Whigs of England who espoused parliamentary rule and wanted a constitutional monarchy.  Two problems with these views.  First, Descartes’ logic would argue for a cognitive elite, not popular rule.  Second, the Whigs weren’t so radical.  They just wanted a strong Parliament in England and still expected a King. Somewhere these Americans had come up with Revolution.  Where?

            Washington, born 1732 was 8-10 years old when a religious revival, the Great Awakening, took place.  The Europeans never mention faith in any of their histories of America.  But nearly all our founders were kids, like Washington when the Great Awakening took place.  As the evangelist, George Whitfield traveled up the coast, newspapers recorded the happening.  Everywhere people reacted the same—huge numbers came to faith or renewed their dedication, well-known scoundrels suddenly changed their ways, church attendance tripled all over the colonies in 20 months, even diests and agnostics began to question what was going on. Newspapers, noting the similarity began to write about “the united states” as opposed to the 13 differing states. We are One People.   And in the aftermath of this revival, the Americans began to read John Locke, the radical whose “Two Treatises on Government” had always been considered too wild and crazy by Europeans. For Locke took his Christianity to mean that if God guides you, who am I to stand in the way you conduct your business?  I might be standing in the way of God!  That defines Locke’s “Liberty” and explains his religious tolerance. The Declaration of Independence quotes Locke twice and his principles all over the place.  In this document, the “no taxation without representation” is only one of the 22 causes of abuse by the crown.  The others are all the rights taken away from the English Bill of Rights of 1689 and rights to property, faith choice, and evangelism to the Indians—Locke!

            Only by understanding the faith dimension can we understand the revolt and why it so inflamed Americans.  This is why Wasington, who owned 20,000 acres and dozens of businesses, would risk it all.  Why Patrick Henry stood up in the back of the gallery and yelled, “Is security so sweet or peace so dear that it must be bought with chains and even slavery?  I know not what course others may take but give me Liberty or give me death!” And it can only explain the result.  One by one the rich Virginia planters of the House of Burgesses stood to give Henry a standing ovation.  That two free Afro-Americans rowed Washington over the Delaware.  That the backwoods rednecks of Carolina, who lived by subsistence, would rise up against the British army at King’s Mountain. That women climbed trees at Saratoga and became snipers.  England and Europe thought the war was about taxes.  Americans understood Liberty was far deeper, your very life.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Analyzing how liberals see it

Frank Rich penned this in New Yorker.  It is a superb example of how an articulate media guy can go totally wrong with bad assumptions.  And it tells us howeven the smartest libs see America.

                “The mood in America is arguably as dark as it has ever been in the modern era. The birthrate is at a record low, and the suicide rate is at a 30-year high; mass shootings and opioid overdoses are ubiquitous. In the aftermath of 9/11, the initial shock and horror soon gave way to a semblance of national unity in support of a president whose electoral legitimacy had been bitterly contested only a year earlier. Today’s America is instead marked by fear and despair more akin to what followed the crash of 1929, when unprecedented millions of Americans lost their jobs and homes after the implosion of businesses ranging in scale from big banks to family farms.”  Wow!  Need a beer to cry into?

                “It’s not hard to pinpoint the dawn of this deep gloom: It arrived in September 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers kicked off the Great Recession that proved to be a more lasting existential threat to America than the terrorist attack of seven Septembers earlier... Not just Washington, which failed to prevent the financial catastrophe and has done little to protect us from the next, but also race relations, health care, education, institutional religion, law enforcement, the physical infrastructure, the news media, the bedrock virtues of civility and community. Nearly everything has turned to crap.” Here we spot a lib speaking.  Somehow Big Government was supposed to stop recession—overspeculation is the real culprit in recessions.  Gubmit controls millions of people making bad decisions with their money? Then comes the litany of racism (always first), health care, education, law enforcement (not what a conservative would list) and taking a swipe at ‘institutionalized’ religion.  Because libs often reject Christianity or any other faith, they rationalize that they merely dislike the institution.  But do they pray or read God’s word? Not on your life.

            “That loose civic concept known as the American Dream — initially popularized during the Great Depression by the historian James Truslow Adams in his Epic of America — has been shattered. No longer is lip service paid to the credo, however sentimental, that a vast country, for all its racial and sectarian divides, might somewhere in its DNA have a shared core of values that could pull it out of any mess. Dead and buried as well is the companion assumption that over the long term a rising economic tide would lift all Americans in equal measure. “ Who the dickens is James Truslow Adams you ask? I thought the American Dream was Jefferson, et. al. It was the dream that you could live the life you wanted in this country and own the dream of land, so readily available. It was a bedrock belief intertwined with Liberty.  But of course, the progressives just label it sentimental and all it means to them is to get wealthier.  

                “The Wall Street bandits escaped punishment, as did most of the banking houses where they thrived. Everyone else was stuck with the bill. Millennials, crippled by debt and bereft of Horatio Alger paths out of it, mock the traditional American tenet that each generation will be better off than the one before. At the other end of the actuarial spectrum, boomers have little confidence that they can scrape together the wherewithal needed to negotiate old age. The American workers in the middle have seen their wages remain stagnant as necessities like health care become unaffordable.” Wait.  Obama passed Dodd-Frank which was supposed to not let Wall Street bandits escape punishment.  But then it was just another screw-up which has now been changed.  “actuarial” is poorly used since it refers to insurance risk assessment.  He means “demographic” but the obscure actuarial is designed to “snow job” the reader. Er, wasn’t the Affordable Care Act supposed to make healthcare affordable? Nowhere are prog cures mentioned.  It’s just a bitch narrative.

                “It would be easy to blame the national mood all on Donald J. Trump, but that would be underrating its severity and overrating Trump’s role in creating it (as opposed to exacerbating it). Trump’s genius has been to exploit and weaponize the discontent that has been brewing over decades of globalization and technological upheaval. His diagnosis that the system was “rigged” was not wrong, but his ruse of “fixing” it has been to enrich himself, his family, and his coterie of grifters with the full collaboration of his party’s cynical and avaricious Establishment.” See all the big words? That says, you can’t argue with me.  You’re dumb. And yet, see where Rich’s blind narrative has to take him—that Trump became Prez just to enrich himself. A guy who has $4B has no intent of helping his country get back on  track.

            The article goes on and on and on, eventually describing Obama as heroic in stopping us from worldwide collapse (actually the recession ended in July 2009, just after he took office and before anything was enacted).  And the real reason for “everything turning to crap”?  You.  All you deplorables, you bitter clingers, you smelly Walmart dwellers, were stupid and you bought into capitalism and it only enriched the evil rich.  What is classic about his overview of humanity and politics was that nowhere did he suggest solutions to the original problems he cited.  Racism?  He didn’t suggest intermarriage and adoption and working together in teams.  Those are known solutions.  He didn’t suggest education savings accounts or anything to promote parental choice and teacher freedom to teach.  Nor were increased high-risk pools for healthcare promoted, nor catastrophic-only policies, nor insurance across state lines.  No Nationwide Revival such as the Great Awakening was proposed to solve religious institutions.  Nor were intact families advanced as a way to reduce crime.  What this shows you is that progressive liberalism, democratic socialism just uses problems as an emotional scream with little intent to solve anything—except to restore themselves to power and lord it over us deplorables.   

Monday, June 11, 2018

Studying Kim and Korea

A friend of mine who is Han Chinese explained the East to me years ago and now that I read modern updates on the summit, his words ring truer with each article.  He said this.  Look at the Yellow Sea.  It is entirely encircled by China, Korea and Japan in a small area.  And it was in this area that each country grew from ancient times.  All three different cultures and hold themselves and hold dearly that they are the superior race of the world.  [Hitler!!] China is the big country with many minorities, but dominated by the Han people who look down on the minorities.  Japan differs in language and physically, has a warrior society of great loyalty and is at enmity with the Chinese continurally.  The Koreans are a small country, oft-dominated by the other 2 but have found a niche in being creative and artistic and pugnacious.  They think of the others as dullards.  The Japanese are disciplined and their businesses are always determined to build a better mouse trap—somewhat like the Germans.  The Koreans are like the Hungarians in the middle.  The Chinese who venture overseas are somewhat like Americans in being entrepreneurial.

            Thus Kim Il Sung was a Russian Army volunteer who was installed by the Russians after the War.  They equipped his army heavily and a few years later he tried to take over the democratic South.  Mao intervened to save Kim..  Ever since they look at NK as a buffer state between themselves and the S. Koreans and Japan, backed by USA.  More than anything they want USA to leave.  And they look down on the NK’s as fellow communists but foreigners, like a little step brother.  The Kims and now Kim Jong Un have kept China at arms length as well.  Kim just recently visited China for the first time.  The nukes are part and parcel of Kim showing not just USA but also China and Japan not to mess with him.  China wants him as a satellite in their orbit of control.  So look for Kim to request USA give his country food and business. 

            Yet as this goes on, the NKs do unbelievably pugnacious things.  They have kidnapped about 1500 Japanese and southern Koreans to gain knowledge of the modern world.  Thjey have the world’s 4th largest military on ready for attack or defense.  They sink foreign ships.  Blast off rockets.  They do nuke tests.  They threaten USA with annihiliation.  There are almost 2 million of the population of 25 million in prisons.  If you do something wrong, your entire family goes to prison with you.  Their population is divided into hostile families, loyal families, and apparatchiks.  The hostile families, about 40% of the people, get menial jobs and starve.  Kim himself is sadistic, roams the countryside with an armored vehicle topped by an antiaircraft machine gun which he uses for sport to kill unsuspecting people for purposes of terrorizing the others. His hackers have shut down Sony, several public utilities in small countries, and could possibly do something similar in USA.  So why hasn’t USA done something about Kim?  It would be the death of Seoul and half of S. Korea.    

            Instead of doing the sanctions as they promised, the Chinese have begun trying to be the supplier of Kim and make him a puppet.  They worry about the summit, being cut out ot the loop. They fear that he goes too far in threats that Trump might just declare war and such a war would not only bring destruction to Korea but also much of China and create an NK refugee problem of 10 million. The Japanese worry that Kim would missile them just as a warning. They swore off war two generations ago but now are warming to the notion of developing their own nukes.  If they do, nobody, even USA can stop them.  They have the expertise   China knows this. And USA knows that the time of dithering and diplomacy has to get serious, very serious, now. And so I pay little attention to all the bullspitters commenting on TV.  Half of them know nothing of the situation. Half are just partisan politics people. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Climate change numbers

I try to explain climate arguments leaving out numbers.  But they are the lifeblood of any science so here are a few very interesting measures.  The #1 greenhouse gas isn’t CO2 but H2O vapor.  There is 540 times as much water vapor as CO2 (only .00039 of the atmosphere) in the atmosphere and it is 10 times as effective in greenhouse entrapment.  So why aren’t manmade global warming advocates screaming about irrigation and over-forestation? Methane is an even smaller trace element and accounts for less than 1% of greenhouse warming (water =90%, CO2= 3.5%).  Atmospheric composition is roughly 390 parts per million of CO2 up from 270ppm  in 1600AD before the industrial revolution.  Sometime around the year 2100 CO2 will reach double the pre-industrial revolution output.  (These are all numbers from the andogenitive global warming advocates.)  The global warming models are very complex concerning how air of various temperatures and pressures variously absorbs radiation of varying wavelengths.  So if we double CO2 the average computer model says the rate of reduction of Earth’s cooling will be about 3.7 watts per square meter. This compares to satellite measurements of  total lost to space power of 235-245 watts/ sq. m (inexact).  3.7 watts/sq. m. works out to global warming of about a degree Celsius. But atmospheric convection at high altitudes lowers this to about 0.5 degrees.  James Hansen of NASA, a manmade warming advocate also estimates that there are other factors lowering the 3.7W/m2 to about 0.8 W/m2.  That’s just a fraction of a degree, not nearly enough to create the 2 to 4.5 degree estimates of warming they are predicting.

            So how do the modelers get 2 to 4.5 degree temp increases? They propose that the warming amplifies itself. Some propose an almost runaway warming with even larger than 4.5 degree increases.  But no one knows for sure if a little warming leads to a lot.  It’s a problem of estimating the feedback. 

            One of these feedback effects involves glaciation.  If warming melts glaciers, but increases snowfall atop them, they actually will grow during a warm era. Negative feedback. (There has been a huge discussion of this and conclusion is that the expansion or contraction of glaciers, both occurring around the world, is unknown and probably not related to CO2.) Another folly was the hockey stick graph, which showed flat temps for the last 2000 years but then suddenly rising since 1900.  This counters all the old anecdotal evidence of Europe’s Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warming.  The hockey stick temperature graph was derived from tree ring data that tried to link tree growth with temperature in arid western N. America.  But we know that desert trees care far less about temp than water.  So it was a bad non-causal correlation.  The hockey stick graph is history. 

            Think of clouds.  If we get less clouds, it is reasoned, the sun beats down the earth warms.  But counter-intuitively this isn’t so.  Think of a cooling of the oceans.  The wind blows and cools the oceans like wind blowing across your wet skin.  But this increases the moisture in the atmosphere which makes clouds and rain, which in turn releases the heat into the atmosphere.  So the earth might seem to have a temp regulator in water vapor—cool the ocean and you get warmer atmosphere.  Warm the ocean and you get a cooler atmosphere.  There are other natural effects.  Some may produce positive feedback while oceans and clouds may produce negative feedback. 

            We know a bit about some big ones.  There is a prominent oscillation of current and wind patterns in the northern Pacific called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, PDO.  The negative cycle produces much more cloud cover worldwide.  Sometimes warm air from the south invades Alaska, sometimes polar air.  And the PDO goes back and forth about every 30 years.  [other oscillations in the Atlantic with hundred year cycles]  The PDO brings different cloud cover and factoring this into a model, it almost perfectly fits the temperature data that suggest 0.7 degree increase since about 1900.  This is especially interesting since there was a big temperature run-up before 1940, then an abatement until the mid seventies.  If you accept standard global warming via CO2, you are forced to ask why was there so much temperature increase prior to 1940 when CO2 emissions were slight but just as they really kicked in about 1945, we got cooling for 30 years?  Recently, there has also been research that proves that increasing CO2 increases upper atmosphere clouds that deflect sunlight in the tropic regions.  This is a huge negative feedback that has the research camps now divided into the CO2 only models versus the scientists who argue that we can’t neglect natural forcings and feedbacks.

            Complicating all this is money.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC, is a big benefactor of research money that has kept the CO2 modelers in vogue, while shutting out the natural effects folks.  This is a rare situation in science, akin to the scholastic school of medieval scholars who shut out Kepler and Galileo.  But ultimately science is about truth and not where government money goes.  We’ll just have to see where truth leads. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

What has become of the Republican Party?

This is the title of an article by Economist which has bitched incessantly over Trump as President every since his election.  As one who is a fairly pure conservative, I too was abraded by his early popularity.  Now I see an unusual personality but still a conservative.  Economist sees the R’s as organizing around, not issues, but a personality cult.  But they strangely don’t see the interplay of the bat guano psychotic Democrats who funded a propaganistic dossier, used bureaucratic allies in the FBI to present it as realistic to a judge, got a FISA spying warrant on the Trump campaign.  Then when he unexpectedly won, instead of honorably accepting the result, they demanded impeachment before he ever took office, used the dossier to get Comey rightfully fired, then used the leverage in public opinion to demand a special prosecutor.  And the media seems to constantly harp on innuendos from the investigation to promote some sort of removal of the President. 

            When a bystander observes such shenanigans, he wonders if the press has become a shill for these crazed leftists.  Has the left lost all moral compass and resorted to sneak tricks? Surely politics is a dirty game but does it have to turn into a war?  Thus Trumps inconsistent tweets seem more like that old guy you used to work for who ranted and raved and said startling things, but at the end of the day was quite good at the business he did.  R’s have gotten defensive of the President and his approval ratings have gone up since he was inaugurated. 

             But of course this is exactly what drives the media and the left crazy.  For politicians and media types make their living in smooth, seemingly knowledgeable speak.  I am reminded of my days as a physics instructor grading papers that journalism students had written about a simple experiment.  One of my colleagues said about them, “I wish I had an enormous BULLSHIT stamp that I could grade their observations with.”  Little study, lots of unknowing prose. You doubt this analysis?  Then ask, “WHO predicted Trump’s win of 30 states in 2016?”

            Nonetheless, Economist brings up familiar points.  Trump won’t share his tax returns, has ignored conflict-of-interest rules, has run a business for profit as he was President, and nepotism. But a thoughtful parsing of these problems is that Trump is rich.  He has huge businesses, not just stocks and bonds.  So is such a person outlawed from serving as President?  According to all the Swamp rules he is.  But Trump has basically said, hell no, you won’t make hay out of my tax returns.  They are so complicated that some journalist would easily misrepresent their true meaning. And no, I will not sell the ‘farm’ for a pitance just for the pleasure of serving as President.  Keeping the biz under outside management, does not constitute conflict of interest.  And I continue to rely on sons and daughters for guidance, just as Bill Clinton did his wife.

            The critics see Trump as firing anyone who disagrees with him.  I see him as a public personality who doesn’t like disagreements to become public.  Critics say that anyone who stands in his way are deemed enemies. Well, in fact numerous R’s in Congress have obstructed him and he remains friends.  Hence the critics see him riding roughshod over rules, but upon close examination, these are not constitutional rules but unwritten rules of the Swamp. 

            Yet all this wouldn’t explain the growing popularity of the man.  He gets things done.  That is anathema to the Swamp who just want re-elected and to see the continual growth of their bureaucratic empires.  The bureaucrats of Washington have a slang term for elected officers—the summer help. They are the eternal mandarins.  Elected people come and go.  The Democrats with their love of big government have latched onto this Swamp or Deep State and see no danger whatsoever.  Yet the rest of us do.  Read the 6 planks of Mussolini’s National Socialist Platform and it reads like a checklist of Democrat programs.  Compare his group (Italian: fasci) politics with that of the Democrats and it will give you chills. 

            Still the R’s don’t judge simply by getting things done or some personality cult.  Trump espouses conservative concepts in his own rough way.  He’s not against free trade, just wants fair trade deals, not Smoot Hawley tariffs.  He’s not against globalism, just wants USA to keep its powder dry for those conflicts that really threaten us.  And his reliance on more generals and less state department proves that he wants truly professional advice.   His acceptance of a badly  unbalanced budget was to secure Defense spending which was dangerously inadequate.  The rest of his agenda, the tax reform, the repeal of Obamacare mandates, conservative judges, revamping of wildly damaging EPA and Labor Dept. edicts, shows a guy who is fundamentally conservative. He stopped Obama’s program to kill coal and oil.  His foreign policy trips to Saudi Arabia and Poland promoted American democracy.  His hard lines with ISIS and NK was long, long overdue and perhaps effective.  In other words, there is a lot to like in the guy I once opposed, even worried about at the time of the Republican Convention. And, he has shown a way to appeal to labor union members and others who were dispossessed by Dems.

            So what shall I make of Economist?  They are Europeans who have had a gay time using USA as a duty free zone while loving their own protective tariffs.  Threats against their exporting scheme scares them to death.  They think like Europeans who cannot see the danger in importing Muslim terrorists or larding on the socialism in their own economies.  Maybe they will awaken someday to the threats.  For now they can’t see past Trump’s personality.  So while they accuse R’s of being a personality cult, I see them as an anti-personality cult.  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Taking your place

I dedicate this short story in memory of Lowell Lefebvre and all the discussions on Christianity we had.

She was a single mom with 3 jobs to support 6 kids, not all her own, but depending on her.  And they were living in an old rusty van, homeless now because two of her jobs had suddenly ended.  While she was walking down a tough street near the railroad tracks, a man hollered from a front porch.  “You need a house?” Just on a lark she took the grand tour of a house with no hot water, no air conditioning, but serviceable.  “So how much rent?” He shook his head, “The owner just wants to sell.  $9900.” Now where on earth would she get that kind of money?  “Go talk to this guy,” the man handed her a business card.  “He’s at Big National Bank.”

            That is how she found herself being ushered into a plush office 29 stories up.  The man smiled broadly and shook her hand.  “I need a loan to buy a house,” she blurted, not intending to be so forward.  He nodded.  “About ten thousand dollars.”  He was already on a computer screen looking up her credit.  And the results made him shake his head.  “Umm, you have a credit score of 450.  That’s the worst. Any down payment?”  She dumped her last paycheck on his desk.  $83.  A wry smile crossed his face. “Well,” he cleared his throat, “if you had 40% down, maybe we could work with you.  But your credit is disastrous.  You’d have to have a perfect 840 to qualify for a loan with no down.” “Could you bend the rules?” she asked hopefully.  “No, if we did that, the risk calculations would be skewed and the bank wouldn’t make money.”  She sighed.  “And the bank examiners would notice it. You need to rent,” he declared.  “Yeah, well, nobody will rent to us either.  I have so many kids. And right now we are homeless.”

            She got up to leave but he stopped her.  “There is perhaps one final possibility.  If your 450 credit score could be exchanged with someone having a perfect 840, the loan could be made.  We would just swap your files. That person’s history would be yours and your history would go to that person.”  She startled.  It sounded preposterous.  “Who would do that?” she almost laughed.  “Me,” the banker said. “I would just become your credit score.” She was stunned. “Really? I mean, your credit would be in shambles! You couldn’t buy anything except with cash!”  “Yes, that’s correct.” Then she hesitated, “No, I won’t make you do this, sir.  It would be awful for you!”  He nodded in agreement.  “And what if I typically miss a payment?”  He was ready for that one.  “Come and see me and we’ll make arrangements.  Call me even if things don’t fall apart. Just stay in touch.”  “But people will think we are having an affair or something!  The office will talk!”   He sat down heavily and to her amazement agreed.  “Yes, I intend to take on all your badness and you get my good. It is the only possible solution to the mess you are in.”

            The next few minutes were like a whirl to her, signing papers and watching him exchange their files on his computer.  “But why would you do this?  That’s what I don’t understand,” she finally said.  And at that point he got very, very serious.  “It is who I AM.  My father ran this bank and he did the same thing from time to time.  I picked you out, chose you, had that man find you and show the house.”  She thought about it for a minute.  “So he was—“  “Another person I helped just like you. Will I be hearing from you?”  “Oh, like every day! And sir, if ever I can help, just call on me!”

            And so it is that faith changes us from inside out. Experiencing God’s undeserved kindness makes us want ot know Him more.  Realizing how much it cost our True Friend makes us want to change.  We are justified (JUST IF I’d lived perfectly) before God.  Our life is redirected to His Plan.  The Holy Spirit works within to reprogram us.  And lest we ever forget, He has sealed the contract with His Spirit, Blood, Word, and Baptism. You don’t sign any papers.  Just thank Him.     

Monday, March 12, 2018

Patrick of Ireland

Patrick was 12 years old. One day he and his buddies decided to go swimming instead of going to school.  It was about the year 397, a long time ago. And Patrick lived in Britain.  At that time, the Roman Empire, which had protected everyone, no longer did it very well. What Patrick and his friends didn’t know was that some fierce Irish Celts were waiting to capture them and take them across the ocean to Ireland as slaves.  And so Patrick and friends just disappeared and their parents were heartbroken.  As a slave Patrick had only a gunny sack to wear, hardly anything to eat and he had to watch and herd about a hundred head of cattle in the pastures.  He had to herd the cows, day and night, winter snows, summer heat, rain, come what may, Patrick was out in it.  If he lost calves, he was beaten. What do you do when you are in such an impossible situation?  Patrick began to pray.  He didn’t just pray about what he wanted, but he began to talk to God as if God was his last friend on earth.  He would pray hundreds of times a day telling about all his troubles and just trying to remember the Christian faith he had been taught.  The Irish weren’t Christians.  They worshiped a sun god and thought that spirits were everywhere in plants and rocks and animals. So everything in nature was important to the Irish. Patrick knew he was going to be a slave for the rest of his life. He learned his job and all about the land he now found himself in, a green country of clover (shamrock) pastures and lots of rain.  Patrick had truly become Irish by the end of 10 long years.  He talked to God continually and had dreams.  Finally one night, a dream came with orders to leave. If he was caught he’d be killed!  Yet Patrick, not knowing where he was, just started walking, walking, walking.  It was amazing that no one saw or bothered to stop this runaway slave! Eventually he walked to the seashore.   Patrick saw a merchant ship and went to talk to the sailors, telling them plainly that he was from Breton and wanted to go home.  Sure, said the crafty sailors, thinking they would just sell him again when they got to another place.  So they invited Patrick aboard and set sail first for the coast of Gaul (France), to trade a few things. 

     When they got to Gaul, it was disaster everywhere.  The seaport had been burned to the ground and no longer existed. There were no people or animals.  It was the year 408 AD and the previous winter had been a record cold one.  The Rhine River rarely freezes but it had frozen so solidly that thousands of barbarian Germans could walk across the river.  Over a quarter million Germans swarmed into Gaul. They were fiercer than the even the Irish.  They stole everything they could from the towns, ate the food and killed most of the people.  This is what the surprised sailors now saw.  After finding nothing to eat, the starving sailors taunted Patrick about praying to his Christian God.  Patrick looked them squarely in the eye and said that if they would pray with him, then God would provide for them as He had done so many times before.  So the hungry sailors tried a moment of faith, and in the midst of the prayer, a herd of hogs came running over the hill and down the road straight at the men.  A feast.  Hogs were killed and they held a barbecue. At that point the sailors began to say maybe they should take this slave kid home since he had some sort of power they were scared about.

    Home in Britain, Patrick struggled to catch up in school and didn’t do very well.  He became a priest but wasn’t very good at just holding church on Sunday.  Still he prayed tirelessly and had dreams.  One night an old Irish friend appeared in his dream begging him to come to Ireland again.  If he did that, would they just capture him and make him a slave again?  Despite his fears, Patrick wanted to share the good news about Jesus and all it meant with the Irish.  So he left for Ireland.  He walked right into the head king’s judgment hall and told his story boldly, bravely.  Why didn’t the King of Limerick have him arrested and enslaved?  In a warrior society, bravery, a good storyteller, generosity, and loyalty were the signs of a great fighter.  Here was Patrick coming fearlessly and ardently wanting to give the king the secret to all of life.  Now that’s generous! He told a fascinating story of how God led him to freedom. Now he was here, more loyal to Ireland than to Breton his home.  That was really impressive to the Irish Celts.  Right there and then, the king decided that he wanted to be a Christian like Pat.  Patrick went out with the king’s blessing and traveled to his former owner, who was so astonished by Patrick that it moved him to praise Patrick’s God and ask if he could have such faith.  From one end of Ireland to the other, Patrick traveled preaching the message and converting the Irish.  They asked a lot of questions.  How could there be one God yet 3 persons?  Patrick reached down and pulled up a shamrock leaf.  See, there are three leaves but one shamrock leaf, he told them, and all of the pastures of Ireland tell us this.  How could Mary have been a virgin and yet have given birth?  It was God’s miracle, just like a cow having twins, Patrick said.  But was this God of Christ as important as the old Irish Sun god, whose symbol was a ring? Patrick drew a cross overlapping the ring and told them that God in heaven is both the creator (ring) and the One who sent his Son to die because he loved them so much (cross). Surely, such love is the greatest of all things. Patrick also taught them how to read and farm as well.  And so a strange thing happened.  As the Roman Empire collapsed and barbarians took over, Ireland became more civilized.  By the time Patrick died, the Irish, had built churches and monasteries around the country and were copying not only the Bible but also other old books eagerly.  Much of the classic Roman literature we have today comes from books saved and recopied by the Irish.  Some decided they wanted to be like Patrick and take the gospel message back to the continent and convert those bloodthirsty German barbarians.  Over about 200 years this happened as well. 

            Patrick of Ireland was the first Christian missionary after Paul. The one-time slave brought civilization and salvation to the Celts who in turn saved much of Europe in the Dark Ages. Green, the national color of Ireland, is the color of new life in Jesus Christ, Patrick told them.  That is why we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Free Trade?

Has trade ever been free?  I’m serious.  I farmed the first 26 years of my life and read extensively about Ag tariffs.  Seems that Europeans and Japanese (whose farmers aren’t efficient as Americans—no big tractors and large farms—have a lot of people still on the land, hence many voters) get squeamish about lowering Ag tariffs while we beg for it.  In the end, we charge no taxes and they continued to load taxes on.  That ain’t fair!  Taxes on autos are 2.5% incoming into USA.  They are about 25% on average on US cars going to foreign ports. Trump knows this chicanery well and embedded in his tax on aluminum and steel was the proviso that if any other country would simply adjust tariffs down to equal US (level the playing field) they’d be exempt on exporting to us.  Or bring your plants to this country.  Or lower your trade surplus. Exemptions can be had in a variety of ways.

            But here’s the reality.  The Economist, a European mag, has been seething with Trump-hate long before he was elected.  Why?  Many in this country were pointing out that he is more of a moderate than an arch-conservative. Wuropeans should love this!  But they hated him passionately because he spoke about the trade deficit and unfair trade that he vowed to change.  Scared them spitless.  Importing into Uncle Suckerville with no taxes while protecting your own products in Lower Slobovia is the heart of their game. 

            So will Trump create a trade war and sink our economy?  Not likely since trading partners can still get an exemption by simply playing fair. Mexico and Canada may get exemption simply by making some other adjustments.  But don’t trade wars hurt us?  Time for a personal story.  When I went to college in the 60s, you could ask econ profs what caused the Great Depression.  Why did 12 pitiful years happen here but recession was soon over in Europe/Orient.  You couldn’t get a similar answer from any two profs.  That, for a 19-yr-old, was a red flag that adults didn’t know Jack.  But beginning with the Monetarist School of Economics in the 80s, it was proven that the G.D. largely happened because a normal recession was turned into a long-term depression when USA killed off international trade.  Congress passed the Hawley-Smoot tariff that rocketed tariffs from 17% to 68%.  Fast forward to the 1990s when I was teaching elderhostels for OU.  We had a class on the 20s and 30s.  One day I noted the recent proofs that FDR’s tariff caused, not alleviated, the Depression. The class of 70 and 80-aged people, many of whom thought FDR was God, couldn’t believe it!  Even when I invited a guest lecturer from OSU to talk about the evidence, they refused to believe. 

            The short answer: If we quadruple or even double tariffs on All Goods, we risk economic troubles.  But simply demanding fair trade is a much smaller game. And consider, what if Trump wins? Then USA will come out a big winner.  Those R’s who steadfastly defend Free Trade must be reading a different financial report than the ones Trump and I do.  Or they are just standing up for a theoretical free trade while having approved many trade deals which are anything but. They mean to change nothing.  Since I’ve come to appreciate just how entrenched the Swamp is, I suspect this later.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

About Gerrymandering


The mathematician in me chuckles every time they bring up gerrymandering.  Everybody thinks they know how to spot gerrymandering but they are usually mistaken. They see a district that has a contorted boundary and say, Aha! Gerrymandering!   However, the definition of fair district representation is one that reflects the demography and voter registration of a state as a whole.  Districts must be weighted with voters and demographics.  It’s not just spatial topography.  Consider Illinois, an easy example which has one large metro. The state is 56% Democrat in registration.  How would you construct a perfectly gerrymander-free state map?  Northeast is Chicago where most Dems and blacks reside.  The rest of the state is R and suburban or rural.  If you were to construct entirely rectangular districts with a high density of small rectangular districts in Chicago, you’d still be quite gerrymandered.  There is hardly any black representation in the larger part of the state. (well, okay, East St. Louis but that's just 55,000 people nowadays) Chicago is heavily Democratic. Hence the Chicago districts would vote D but the thin D-population in the other districts would probably make them become R districts. And that results in majority R representation for the state.  You’ve done the thing that gerrymandering has always achieved for the party in power. The opponents are forced into “ghettos” that vote highly their way.  The rest of the districts then distribute the remaining opposition voters into defeatable portions.  So if Illinois is 56% D and has 15 districts but the 6 districts of Chicago contain 75% Ds, the other 9 districts would be 55-45% R’s, and the state delegation would be, counterintuitively, 9 R’s and 6 D’s. 

            The “Fair” thing would be to have districts whose boundaries are like rays that begin in Chicago and extend across the entire state.  Thus an equal proportion of blacks would live in all districts as well as 56% Ds vs. 44% Rs.  But here lies the irony.  Nobody wants this. If blacks have less than 20% representation in all districts, they would find elections difficult and there would likely be very few black representatives—unless like Mia Love of Utah, you are a conservative that gets white votes moreso than even blacks.  That is, there would be no black “safe” districts. Secondly, politicians would hate campaigning simultaneously in Chicago and Cairo. Perfect demographics (that you can solve with a computer) makes for hard politics and pricey advertizing.

            Because D’s tend to gather in small areas of large metros, and engage in identity politics, they will be forever tormented by gerrymandering. But in fact this may have been what the Founders envisioned when their constitution installed the Electoral College and the Senate that would not allow, as Madison called it, “one corner of the country to rule us all”.   

Friday, February 2, 2018

Obama, not Trump, was a narcissist

Stung by criticism of Obama as being narcissic, Democrats have taken to calling Trump the same thing.  But narcissism is an actual psychological syndrome.  And it differs from egotism, a common symptom of politicians.  You have to think big of yourself to run for office because the opposition will be making all sorts of salacious, dire, wrongful allegations about you.  Most people would just say To Heck With It, but a pol drives on, desiring to change or advocate for the better of their country. 

            Narcissism is characterized by grandeur and complete lack of humility, ego that shuts out all others, self-worship that makes enemies of all who disagree, inability to learn from mistakes, and thin-skinned of criticism. When Trump picks up the Marine’s hat that blew off in the wind next to the helicopter, but Obama demanded the Marine hold an umbrella over him in the rain, that shows some humility in Trump but calls to question that in Obama. 

            Grandeur means an individual who dreams of his greatness, above all others in history.  The sun rises and sets on his opinion.  He thinks he is the smartest person in every room.  This was quite true of Obama.  Shortly after he became President, Treas. Sec. Geitner told him, “Your legacy is going to be preventing the second Great Depression.”  Obama replied, “That’s not enough for me.”  His cabinet meetings were few and according to former Secretaries, consisted in him doing virtually all the speaking.  Implication: The rest of you are fools. Listen to me. In Berlin, before he was elected, he gave a speech and said, “I’m the One you have been waiting for, the one the world has been waiting for.”  Narcissism is considered to have been the character of a number of hideous dictators of the 20th century--Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein.  These kind of leaders do autrocities with little remorse because in their minds everything is justified to promote them personally.  Of course, in a lesser individual, the delusion of being Napoleon or Caesar is grounds for institutional mental health. They are often incapable of achievement because, in gradeur, they attempt jobs for which they have not assembled skills, the guy who interviews for CEO who can’t read a treasurer’s report.

            Obama wrote not one but 2 autobiographies by age 40. He hardly showed up in the Illinois House for debates.  He only gave lectures that were My Way Or The Highway. When it came to foreign policy, Obama made all his own decisions, according to John Kerry, because he believed only he  understood the issues. When asked which President he was most like, Obama chose Wilson, a character whom historian Forrest McDonald said considered himself “little short of messianic.”

            Contrast this to Trump who addressed Li and China as equals, who loved throwing out packages to hurricane workers.  Trump has shown ability to make connections with people, has a pragmatic problem-solving skill, and is said by almost everyone that he listens a lot when you come into his office.  This was shown in the Immigration negotiations that were broadcast live TV with Democrat and Republican leaders in the White House. 

            Ego that blames all your problems on those you disagree with, who discards old friends and supporters with little thought is another characteristic.  Obama discarded Oprah, Jesse Jackson, and Jeremiah Wright suddenly. When a major supporter, labor leader came to the White House just days into Obama’s Presidency and asked him to reconsider a certain bill because it was adverse to the union’s members, Obama had him abruptly shown the door. He was never invited back.  This treatment was echoed by many others, including Oprah. Using Valerie Jarrett, a lesser-endowed intellect, and Michelle to be his gatekeepers, Obama locked to door to many supporters. Jarrett eventually locked horns with Rahm Emmanuel, a skilled politician, and Obama lost his legislative majority. They had disagreed over advocacy of Chicago as an Olympic destination and support of Solyndra.  Wealthy Jews complained that they gave Obama great sums of money and never heard from him.

            Contrast this with Trump who argues often with Tillerson and Ryan.  He has kept holdover Democrats in his administration thinking he can win them over, only to discover he couldn’t  (Comey).  He relies on Generals for military advice instead of purging them like Obama did. 

            Solyndra and other eco-companies are good examples of how Obama was so cock-sure of his opinion that he never learned—another common delusion of a narcissist.  When Boehner told him that the economy’s problem was uncertain on taxes, cap and trade and healthcare, Obama slapped his hand on the table, “you’re WRONG!” Boehner said after the meeting, “He’s got so little appreciation of how Congress works.  If you challenge him, he’s furious.  He gives you the death stare.  He has no close relationship with any member of the Senate and certainly not in the House.” Pelosi said his relationship with House Democrats was “frosty.”  Harry Alford, President of the Black Chamber of Commerce said, “we are all happy about the symbolism—America’s first black President.  His view of business is that it should be a few major corporations, totally unionized, working with government.” [the very definition of fascism]

            So for good reason, many would describe Obama as a genuine narcissist.  Trump is like that old loud guy you used to have for a boss.  Big ego, caustic comments, but he sure knew real estate (or banking, or farming, or auto mechanics). 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The danger to Democrats

The politics of negativism works when the people feel bad about their situations.  It worked wonders when FDR lambasted the Hapsburgs and Boubons (meaning the rich) as people saw newsreels of Hoovervilles (shanty towns of poor people) and thought Hoover was clueless.  It worked for Reagan when Carter was stuck in malaise with a deep recession going on. It worked similarly for Obama to get elected.  But decrying during prosperity only makes you look like Eeyore, or worse, an out-of-touch wacko.  And that is the danger for Dems this year.  They refused to applaud low unemployment, veterans, and police working against MS-13 when Trump noted it in SOTU.  And if they don’t change their tune, it will start to work against them in the midterms. 

            Already, the generic ballot advantage to the Democrats has fallen from 13% to 5-7% with the passage of the tax reform.  In some ways R’s are lucky.  When I heard that Obama was going to pass a near trillion dollar infrastructure stimulus in 2009, I thought, “Well, that will provide short-term stimulus and the R’s will look bad.”  But it turned out that Obama had no such intents.  He handed out the money to unions like the federal workers and teachers to guarantee full employment for 4 years. “No such thing as a shovel-ready project,” he later told us sheepishly.  As a result, the US economy didn’t take off like a rocket after the recession, but growth languished, 1.7% after June ’09 while inflation was 2.1%.  The public said, we ain’t getting’ ahead, and elected Trump.  Trump walked into office preaching lowered regulation, tax reform, and security—a sure bet to spur growth.  And he cheer-led the markets to new highs.  Then, by doing a tax reform with simply majority for passage, he has brought about 3% growth.  This isn’t magic.  It’s a time-tested method.  Hence the fall in D-advantage in the generic ballot. 

            The Dems have roused their base with Tweet hatred and a tale of how Trump stole the election by colluding with Russians.  But the story grows anemic and false.  Now Trump gives a generic but truly rousing State of the Union.  He gets away with the less-issues presentation because the D’s have hardly any issues and certainly aren’t talking about them.  They are just full of vitriol.  (Boys and girls, what sound does the kitty make? Me-ow.  What sound does the piggy make? Oink.  What sound does the donkey make?  Ur RACIST!)  With Trump offering compromise on DACA and infrastructure, if Dems won’t talk to him, they run the risk of being perceived as a**holes. Moreover, they drive R’s to emotion, to organize, and to Get Out The Vote against them.  When they won’t stand for the flag or the military, many people will conclude “they ain’t us,” just as Trump’s tweets have led D’s to the same conclusion. If this continues, we may see the generic ballot poll drop to neutral. 

            D’s win when they can pin the racist and unfair label on R’s, when they involve thousands of teachers and union members to campaign in the summer, when they outdo R’s on social media, and when they out-raise in funding.  So far the funding has been dismal for them.  The R’s are learning to do social media.  Private sector unions feel left behind by globalism, and are gradually leaning to Trump and the R’s.  They have lost a lot of the fairness narrative and calling half the population racist, a “basket of deplorable” didn’t work too well for Hillary. Their disdain for Christianity has a certain following, but it works against the evangelical vote.  Finally, the mid-terms will be about issues, both local and national.  Minimum wage might be an issue for the Dems, but with huge layoffs in Seattle and San Fran, this has lost popularity.  When people find out about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, billed as free trade, but secretly containing an unelected court that could dictate US policy about environment, copyrights, and health standards, TPP started to look like the EU and a loss of sovereignty.  Environmental issues have languished with many folks as dire predictions have not come true. So what’s left?  Trying to claim it is Armageddon to let people keep more of their own money via tax reform. 

            Usually mid-terms occur when the party who elected a President sees some of it’s programs turn sour.  People back down from voting for them.  It is also a time when traditionally, fewer young and more elders vote.  The old-timers are in the habit.  The youth have a girlfriend and weekend plans that extend a couple days.  And the seniors vote 60-40 Republican.  Add to this the fact that we see a growing trend of Republicans to hate and refuse to answer polls.  What a lot of people don’t realize is that only about 1 in 3 answers a pollster.  The old way of using telephones was easier for someone to answer.  If they got bored, they just hung up.  Now pollsters must rely on internet polls which cannot guarantee that a robo-device doesn’t vote a million times, knows not what party affiliation.  Or they rely on street polling, where respondents are busy, or don’t like the looks of the pollster, or a dozen other things. 

            All of this paints a very real possibility that if the Dems can’t keep their base steamed up about impeaching Trump, they may not make much gain in November.  We’ll all just have to watch.