Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Michelle and the White House

On a few occasions including her address to the Democratic national Convention, Michelle Obama has talked about waking up every day in a house built by slaves. While various fact-checkers have rated this true, there are some facts they keep ignoring.

Research showed that the workforce that build the Capitol building was part-slave therefore the same proportions must hold for the White House. This is a bit of a stretch since the White House was quite a bit smaller and built as a house rather than a capitol.

Claims that slaves quarried the stone for the White House seem to be the strongest. Possibly slaves also worked under the direction of master stone carvers in building the structure.

What it usually skipped is that the current building is *not* the original White House. It has been rebuilt twice. The first time was after the British burned it during the War of 1812. It was reduced to a mere shell. None of the fact-checks I've seen talk about that rebuild.

More important is the rebuild that happened under President Truman. The original building had deteriorated by then and was in danger of collapse. Truman had the entire building gutted. The facade was saved but everything else was replaced with a modern steel-girder building. The White House was also enlarged significantly with wings and underground offices.

It would be much more accurate for Michelle to say that every day she wakes up in a house that has a facade built by slaves. But that doesn't have much ring to it.

Something she never mentions and might never have occurred to her - when she wakes up in a house built by slaves, she's sharing a bed with the descendant of slave-owners. Barack's white mother's family owned slaves. This came out in 2008 but was quickly forgotten after Oprah said that she'd be honored if Obama's ancestors had owned her ancestors.

The President's dark skin comes from his father who was from Africa where slavery is still practiced.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Obama supporters - now you know how we felt

Eight years ago Obama was treated a the savior of America. There were calls for him to suspend Congress and "just fix things". Over the last 7 1/2 years Obama has expanded the use of executive orders to unprecedented levels. Each time, he was applauded.

Enter Trump and the left is going crazy insisting that this is how fascism comes to America and that his acceptance speech was that of a strongman.

The truth is that the American system of government with its checks and balances and multiple levels resists a strong leader who tries to take personal power.

Also, as it turned out, Obama lacks the energy to try to subvert the American government.

Trump shows signs of having even less energy. By all indications, his campaign is still a vanity project and he has little interest in actually running the country. He's the salesman who loses interest in the deal after he makes the sale.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Black Lies Matter

Last week five police officers were killed and eight other people shot by a black man who wanted to kill white people, especially cops.

After that shocking incident, I hoped that the Black Lives Matter organizers would back off and reevaluate. I was disappointed but not really surprised instead they doubled down on their protests. There is no hint that their rhetoric incited the police shooting and others before this one.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is built on lies and violence.

The movement got its start with the death of Travon Martin. The original story was that Martin was targeted by a large, white guy because he was wearing a hoodie. The white guy, George Zimmerman, could easily have overpowered Martin but instead shot him then got off by using the Stand Your Ground defense. The main pictures we saw of Martin was of him as a skinny 14 year old. NBC even edited the 911 tapes to make Zimmerman seem racist.

Instead, it turned out that Zimmerman was a short, pudgy Hispanic and Martin was a hair under six feet. Martin was out in the first place on a drug run - he got two cigars to make bunts (cigars stuffed with pot) and watermellon drink and skittles to mix with cough syrup to make "purple thang". It appears that Martin realized that he was being followed and decided to teach Zimmerman a lesson by beating his head against the ground. In fear for his life, Zimmerman shot Martin. Zimmerman was described by people who knew him as someone who didn't care about race.

The original prosecutor determined that it was self-defense and had to be replaced before charges were filed. Zimmerman was found not guilty and a Justice Department probe found that Zimmerman had not violated Martin's civil rights. Despite all this the BLM protestors maintain that Martin was murdered because of his race and the picture of him at 14 is still the most common one shown on news shows.

Then there is Erin Garner who died while struggling with the police. While it is true that one officer had Garner in a choke hold at the time, Garner died from a heart attack.

The big one is Michael Brown. The original story was that Brown was a gentle, college-bound giant who was hassled by the police for jay-walking and was shot in the back while he had his hands up, trying to surrender. "Hands up, don't shoot" became a battle cry, even being done on the floor of Congress by members of the House of Representatives.

This was a huge lie. Brown was stopped by a policeman because he had just robbed a cigar store. Brown attacked the cop, trying to get his gun. Failing that, Brown started to run then changed his mind and charged the cop who shot him. He never had his hands up and never tried to surrender and he was shot in the chest.

No one apologized for the Hand Up theatrics. BLM protestors still talk about Brown as being murdered.

BLM members have claimed that police are the biggest threat to black men. Actually, the biggest threat to black men is other black men. While it is true that a disproportionate number of black men are killed by police, it is also true that a disproportionate number of black men are invoivled in violent crime and in the same proportion.

While Black Lives Matters hasn't made outright calls for violence, neither has it made an effort to distance itself from these calls. Some marches have included such calls as: "What do we want? More dead cops. When do we want it? Now."

While I place direct blame on BLM for the Dallas shootings, 3rd wave feminists get a share, too. They believe in identity politics where your gender and race is more important than who you are individually. Therefore, all whites are responsible for the actions of white police officers and all police officers are equally guilty.



Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Because...

When FBI director James Comey announced that no reasonable prosecutor would bring charges against Hillary Clinton for egregious use of a private server for official business, he truncated his statement. We can only guess what the rest was going to be. Here are my contributions:

No reasonable prosecutor would file charges because:

  • It would mean a Trump presidency.
  • It would upset the highly partisan Obama administration.
  • It would incur the wrath of the Clintons, a family known for personal destruction.
  • It would start a nation-wide shit-storm.
  • It would be the end of that prosecutor's career.
  • All of the above.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Trump's Problems

A few weeks ago I wrote about the problems that Hillary Clinton faces in trying to win the presidency. Against nearly any other Republican, the election would be an uphill fight for Clinton. Donald Trump however has his own, unique problems.

First of all, he's an of-again, on-again Republican. He supported Carter and Mondale over Reagan. He was very vocal about not supporting George W. Bush, preferring Gore, Kerry and Obama. There's every reason to believe that he'd be supporting Hillary over the Republican nominee if it wasn't Trump himself.

He's not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination. Republicans have been against trade barriers since they caused the Great Depression. Trump is for them. On some issues, especially trade, Trump is to Hillary's left. The same is true for national defense. Trump is an isolationist, at odds with conservatives who are normally push for a strong national defense. As a Reagan Republican, it's galling to me that Hillary Clinton comes closer to the things that Reagan stood for than Trump.

Trump has no relevant experience. We suffered through 8 years of Obama thinking that he could substitute bumming around the world as a youth for actual world policy experience. We're likely to have a repeat of that with Trump.

Trump isn't really that good a businessman. Yes, he's made a lot of money - for himself. He's left a lot of wreckage in his wake. In investment after investment, Trump is the only person to come out ahead. We need a president who is looking out for the American people, not himself.

Trump has made a lot of promises he can't keep. The Wall is a big one. It won't be built. He's even said that it's just an applause line. So, where does that leave us if Trump doesn't mean his most famous promise?

Trump's vulgarity repulses a lot of voters. He seems shocked and offended by normal bodily functions of women. He stereotypes Mexicans and Muslims. He makes fun of people of the handicapped. All of this adds up and gives him the highest negatives of any candidate, ever.

Trump spent the primary alienating the Republican establishment but he needs them to be elected. So far there is little to suggest that he has made up with them.

Trump doesn't act like he's running to win. This is a big one. He ran his primary campaign on the cheap, relying on public polls instead of hiring his own pollster, and skipping many other standard expenses. He ran like a dilettante who was running a vanity campaign and didn't expect to get very far. Now that he is the presumptive nominee, he needs a national organization with joint fundraising with the Republican party. He hasn't even begun to assemble that. Pro-Hillary groups have been airing anti-Trump and pro-Hillary ads in swing states like Ohio for weeks. Trump has yet to make a significant media buy - or raise enough money to make one.

It is still possible that Trump could tap into a well-spring of resentment against the status quo or that Hillary could be indicted. Both of those are outside Trump's control.

Of the things he can control - fundraising, message, making up with former rivals and converting them into surrogates - Trump is way behind. He appears to be going through the motions reinforcing the impression that it's a vanity candidacy for him and he has no real desire to be president.

That's no way to win an election.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tragedy and Politics in Orlando

The first news reports from Orlando called the mass shooting in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando called it the worst terrorist attack on America since 9/11. By the time President Obama made his remarks, the story had changed to the biggest mass shooting in American history. Despite calling 9-1-1 twice to profess his allegiance to ISIS and other Islamic organizations, that aspect of the massacre has been almost totally lost, buried under various agendas. This highlights one of the most shameful aspects of politics in America.

The two most commonly heard demands are that AR-15 style guns should be outlawed and that people on the terrorist watch list should be prohibited from buying guns. In short order the AR-15 was proclaimed the weapon of choice of terrorists, based on four shootings. This ignores the fact that the Sandy Hook shooter didn't choose his gun, he stole the gun his mother used for target shooting. The Aurora shooter had a tactical shotgun and a Glock as well as an AR-15-style rifle.

Keep in mind that Omar Mateen, the shooter, also carried a Glock handgun and no figures have been released about how many people were shot with which weapon, how many shots were fired, how many times he reloaded or other relevant data. He also carried something that may have been a bomb.

There is an important message by all of the attention devoted to so-called Assault Weapons*. These weapons were tools used by someone bent on murdering multiple people. If he had been unable to obtain an "assault weapon" then he would have used some other type of gun. That might have reduced the number of dead and injured but it certainly would not have stopped him. By focusing on "assault weapons" the message is that stopping this type of assault isn't really important. It's enough to reduce the number of dead and injured by an unknown amount. This is nothing but political posturing.

The reality is that rifles are seldom used in crimes. More people are killed by knives than all types of rifles combined. There are 20-30 million AR-15s alone. Target shooters love them because of the low recoil and because they are easily customized. Most crimes are done with handguns, not rifles. This is common sense. It's much harder to conceal a rifle. This is also true of mass shootings. By some measures, there have been hundreds of mass shootings since Sandy Hook but only four were mentioned when "proving" that this is the weapon of choice.

The watch list is even more posturing. It's true that Mateen was on the FBI list at one point but he was investigated and removed. He was not on the list at the time he bought his guns. As far as we know (the list is secret so we can't be sure) no mass murderer to date has been on a watch list when he bought his weapon. Congress should be investigating that rather than pushing meaningless legislation. they should be exploring ways to identify self-radicalized people.

The tragedy is being used other ways to advance various agendas. Many people have used it to condemn the Right for being anti-gay as if being against gay marriage is equivalent to wanting gays dead. A lawyer for the ALCU with a Muslim family insisted that right-wing Christians are to blame.

The left has been overly delicate about Islam. Islamic countries have no toleration for gays. Several Muslim countries will imprison or execute gays but any criticism is dismissed as hate speech. That is part of why the left is so quick to bury mentions of Mateen's religious motivations. That includes President Obama who has problems reconciling the Islam he remembers from his childhood with today's savage killers. That's part of Trump's appeal and refusing to acknowledge Islam's part in the tragedy only helps him.

* There is no official definition, the term generally describes semi-automatic guns that resemble military ones.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Hillary's Problems

Hillary Clinton will certainly become the Democratic candidate for President and is still the favorite to win but she has far more obstacles than expected.

First there's history. The White House normally changes parties every 8 years. People are usually tiring of the sitting president and his attempted successor is usually seen as a shadow or the President. That makes for a hard sell. George H. W. Bush was the only successor to score a decisive win. Hillary wasn't even vice-president. She was only Secretary of State for one term.

Bill Clinton has emerged as a bigger liability than an asset. As a campaigner he's touchy about his own record and doesn't stick to the script but that's minor. It's his history as president that's the problem.

In 2008, Hillary had a great campaign message - elect me and I'll turn back the Bush years and bring back the Clinton years. That's no longer valid. Bill took office 24 years ago and left office16 years ago. He's ancient history and any attempt to bring back the Clinton years is seen as rolling back the Obama years as well as the Bush years.

The Democratic Party has changed considerably since Bill left office. A short list of Bill's major accomplishments includes NAFTA, Welfare Reform and his Crime Bill. Bernie is running against all of those. Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act are also from Bill's years and despised by current Democrats.

Then there's Bill's record against women. By today's standards, he sexually assaulted several women and may have outright raped two. He was impeached for lying about a relationship with an intern. While Hillary cannot be blamed for Bill's actions, she can be blamed for her own complicity. She took the lead in covering these up and lead a campaign of personal destruction against any women who came forward. It's hard to see someone as a champion of women's rights when she acted like this.

Hillary can be her own worst enemy. She lacks Bill's warmth. Her campaign prefers small, controlled events to the huge rallies that Bernie and Trump hold. That's because she comes across as shrill and unlikable at large rallies.

She has few actual credentials. In 1988, CBS ran a series on George H. W. Bush entitled "Tracks" that implied that he had held a lot of positions but left few track. The same is true for Hillary. Her time as First Lady was billed as a co-presidency but her only actual assignment, health care reform, died on the vine. She was considered a Senate leader but only because everyone knew that she was using it as a spring-board to the Presidency. She accomplished very little in her 8 years. This was also true of her 4 years as Secretary of State.

Few people trust Hillary and with good reason.She has a long history of questionable activities. Most people have forgotten her commodities trading when she made $100,000 in one day then quit. Whitewater began as an investigation to see if Bill used his authority as Governor of Arkansas to try to save his investment in a real estate deal. The White House travel office was fired and replaced with Clinton campaign staffers, reportedly at Hillary's insistence. The White house Lincoln Bedroom was turned into a bed and breakfast for major donors. The Clinton Foundation has been described as the Clinton's personal slush fund with the possibility that large donations were made to it with the expectation of favors from the State Department. Hillary's $200,000+ speeches to Wall Street were probably more about gaining the favor of a future president than hearing her financian advice.

Expect Trump to dig up all of this.

Finally, Hillary is trying to sell herself as a candidate of change when she represents the status quo better than any politician alive. Both Bernie and Trump are attracting huge support by claiming that the system is rigged against regular people. Their details differ but both promise to change international agreements to benefit average Americans. Hillary will never be able to convince people that she is as much an agent of change as these loose cannons. Her only real option is to run as a stabilizing influence.