The Politics of Presidential Visits to Disaster Areas

On September 10, 1965, Louisiana Senator Russell Long called President Lyndon Johnson following the devastation of Hurricane Betsy.  Since then political parties, pundits, candidates and the American people have used disasters for political opportunity.  Senator Long told the newly elected Johnson that having lost Louisiana to Goldwater, he could solidify that state for the Democrats just by showing up and telling the people he cared.  You would win next time “even if they ran Eisenhower” said a persuasive Senator Long.  LBJ was on Air Force One within hours, touring New Orleans.

Every disaster inherently involves politics – a governor, two U.S. Senators, at least one U.S. Congressman, and one President.  It is that latter’s “bully pulpit” that everyone covets.  Get a President to your disaster and his coattails might extend to you. 

This week President Obama will visit Louisiana, but only after completing his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.  Republicans and conservatives (and probably some Democrats, privately) have excoriated him for not visiting.  But we should draw a fine line between a President and his entourage visiting a disaster site, and a President acknowledging the plight of disaster victims who are looking anywhere for solace, assistance and support.

My old boss President George W. Bush was lambasted by the media and the Democrats for failing to land in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August, 2005.  Even I criticized his decision to make a “fly-over” that resulted in the now-infamous White House photograph of President Bush eyeing the New Orleans devastation from the comfort of Air Force One. 

I had made every effort to persuade him to land in Baton Rouge, 78 miles from the epicenter of the media’s focus on Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  Baton Rouge was perfect for three reasons.  It was away from the on-going response effort in New Orleans and would not disrupt the mini-air traffic control system we had in place for the multitude of helicopters and rescue boats triaging victims.  It would also allow the President to use that bully pulpit of the Presidency to tell all the victims, first responders, nonprofits and the nation, that the President was aware of the disaster.  The response in Louisiana was muddled at that point due to the lack of a unified command structure in Louisiana.  His presence might have reversed that problem. 

But most importantly, having the President walk down the steps of Air Force One to a podium covered by the Seal of the President of the United States would have been his opportunity to get something done I was unable to do – get the attention of every cabinet secretary that Hurricane Katrina was a priority of the President and to give his FEMA Director every asset or resource he requested.

But in the Louisiana floods, the mechanisms of government, the private sector, citizens and nonprofits were working together as they should.  Louisiana didn’t need the President to step to that podium as I did.  Even the governor of Louisiana initially asked President Obama to put off his visit until the response phase of the disaster had passed.

So President Obama dispatched his Secretary of Homeland Security and FEMA Director to Louisiana – as he should have.  But that wasn’t enough to stop the politics, pundits and others from screeching at every opportunity about comparisons between Bush/Katrina and Obama/Louisiana.

Those comparisons are wrong and conservatives and Republicans only further the politicization of disasters by clamoring for their moment of retribution for Obama’s refusal to come off the golf course.  So let’s make a fine distinction between coming off the golf course and a President making a visit to a disaster zone. 

In every disaster I handled for the Bush Administration, the White House always sought my advice about when and where to visit a disaster.  They knew that during the response phase of a disaster a Presidential visit would disrupt that response – the purpose of which is to save lives and prevent further damage to property.  The presence of the President takes valuable resources away from that response because of the massive logistics inherent to any visit by a President – an advance team, Secret Service requirements, first responders taken away from their duties.  In the response phase of a disaster the last disruption you want is a Presidential visit.

So President Obama was right to not visit Louisiana while lives were being saved. 

Does that mean his actions during the initial response phase of the Louisiana flooding was proper?  Or politically smart?  Absolutely not. 

He should have at least walked away from the golf course, put on a suit or a jacket, and stepped to a microphone behind the Seal of the President of the United States and told the people of Louisiana that he was monitoring the situation, had dispatched his Secretary of Homeland Security and FEMA Director, and that any federal resources needed by the state were being made available through his Presidential Disaster Declaration. 

He could have told them and the public that he would visit as soon as it could be done without disrupting the coordinated response of federal, state and local officials.  (He could have also mentioned the 80,000 people in San Bernardino County, CA, whose lives had also been disrupted by wildfires at the same time as the Louisiana flooding.)

That simple gesture would have de-politicized the situation while acknowledging the fate of those suffering in Louisiana.  It would have taken the politics off the table.

So for those always clamoring for a political advantage in a disaster, perhaps they should stop and think about what a Presidential visit will cost in terms of resources taken away from responding to a disaster.  Senator Long told LBJ that if he just came to Louisiana and talked about the levees that Hale Boggs and he had had built, that those levees probably saved 5000 lives, LBJ would be a hero.  He went.  And he was a hero. 

Politics is a noble profession.  And disasters will always involve politics despite what the professional emergency managers tell you.  But the public needs to know that Presidents as “Comforters in Chief” have a time and a place to fulfill that role. 

It is not while people are being rescued and lives saved.

Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

240 years after it's adoption, the Declaration of Independence is worth the time taken out of your holiday schedule to simply read these simple truths, and think of the applicability of the words today.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THE THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

WHEN, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's GOD entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that Governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyranny only.

HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining, in the mean Time, exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.

HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the Consent of our Legislatures.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule into these Colonies:

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection, and waging War against us.

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with Circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

HE has constrained our Fellow-Citizens, taken Captive on the high Seas, to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes, and Conditions.

IN every Stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every Act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

NOR have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them, from Time to Time, of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our Connexions and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the Rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connexion between them and the State of Great-Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of Right do. And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour.

John Hancock. 
GEORGIA, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, Geo. Walton. 
NORTH-CAROLINA, Wm. Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn. 
SOUTH-CAROLINA, Edward Rutledge, Thos Heyward, junr. Thomas Lynch, junr. Arthur Middleton. 
MARYLAND, Samuel Chase, Wm. Paca, Thos. Stone, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton. 
VIRGINIA, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Ths. Jefferson, Benja. Harrison, Thos. Nelson, jr. Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton. 
PENNSYLVANIA, Robt. Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benja. Franklin, John Morton, Geo. Clymer, Jas. Smith, Geo. Taylor, James Wilson, Geo. Ross. 
DELAWARE, Caesar Rodney, Geo. Read. 
NEW-YORK, Wm. Floyd, Phil. Livingston, Frank Lewis, Lewis Morris. 
NEW-JERSEY, Richd. Stockton, Jno. Witherspoon, Fras. Hopkinson, John Hart, Abra. Clark. 
NEW-HAMPSHIRE, Josiah Bartlett, Wm. Whipple, Matthew Thornton. 
MASSACHUSETTS-BAY, Saml. Adams, John Adams, Robt. Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry. 
RHODE-ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE, &c. Step. Hopkins, William Ellery. 
CONNECTICUT, Roger Sherman, Saml. Huntington, Wm. Williams, Oliver Wolcott.

Power of Individual Liberty - How The West Got Rich

A regular theme on my radio program is the power of individual liberty to further economic freedom, which in turn, furthers individual liberty.  The two go hand-in-hand.  The great idea of the United States was the sovereignty of the individual.  It started with the Declaration of Independence 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. 

This embodiment of individual liberty, coupled with a free market, has resulted in The Great Enrichment described by Deirdre N. McCloskey in a recent Wall Street Journal essay entitled How the West (and the Rest) Got RichIn the essay she says something that I have repeatedly asked my listeners to do - go the supermarket or a shopping mall and simply revel in the abundance.  

This abundance is seen in the raw figures of income.  An American earns, on average, $130 a day, which puts the United States in the highest rank of the league table.  China sits at $20 a day and India at $10.  Is there a correlation, even causation between those staggering figures and American-style freedom and liberty?

Absolutely.

As she points out, liberated people are ingenious.  Slaves, serfs, subordinated women, people frozen in a hierarchy of lords or bureaucrats are not.  Liberty, coupled with equality before the law and equality of social dignity, made people "bold to pursue betterments on their own account.  As Adam Smith stated, "allowing every man to pursue his own interest his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice."

Amen.

How is this liberty of individualism seen today?  In one of the more stupendously ignorant articles regarding Venezuelan socialism, Salon magazine published a story about socialist Hugo Chavez' stunning socialist experiment success.  

Today, that so-called socialism experiment in Venezuela has gone the route of all other socialism experiments - abject failure.  

How do we continue this marvelous expansion of economic, social and political freedom?  By reining in bureaucrats.  By cutting back on unnecessary and costly legislation.  By continually asking ourselves, are we willing to fight for and live in liberty, or are we going to succumb to the quiet, seductive call of abdicating individual liberty and freedom to the comfort of government nannyism?  

Share Dr. McCloskey's article with everyone you know, especially those clamoring for more and more government intervention into our individual lives.  

Pope Francis, Islam & The Great Commission

I am a Protestant, not a Catholic.  Christianity, however, is Christianity.

In an interview yesterday with the French magazine La Croix, Francis minimized the difference between Islam and Christianity, arguing that the religions share a concept of subjugation.

Today, I don't think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.

Yes, I suppose it is possible to interpret the Great Commission in such a manner that mimics Islam's rule of subjugation, but it is a stretch so great as to make the comparison asinine.

Muslims are told to fight unbelievers until they are either dead, converted to Islam, or in a permanent state of subjugation under Muslim domination. Allowing people of other faiths to live and worship independently of Islamic rule is not an option.

The Quran is clear:

Quran (8:38-39) - “Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease (from disbelief) their past will be forgiven... And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world ]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.” Translation from the Noble Quran

Quran (9:29) - "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." Suras 9 and 5 are the last "revelations" that Muhammad narrated - hence abrogating what came before, including the oft-quoted verse 2:256 -"There is no compulsion in religion...".

Quran (9:5) "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them..." Prayer and charity are among the Five Pillars of Islam, as salat and zakat. (See below). The Quran thus sanctions violence as a means of coercing religion.

Quran (9:11) - (Continued from above) "But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion"In conjunction with the preceding passage, this confirms that Muhammad is speaking of conversion to Islam. Quran (9:56-57) - "And they swear by Allah that they are most surely of you, and they are not of you, but they are a people who are afraid (of you). If they could find a refuge or cave or a place to enter into, they would certainly have turned thereto, running away in all haste." This refers to people living with the Muslim tribe who may not be true believers, but must pretend to be in order to survive. They have no safe refuge to escape the Muslims. If Islam were a religion of peace, then why the fear?

Quran (2:193) - "And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion be only for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrong-doers." The key phrase here is to fight until "religion be only for Allah." 

Qur'an (3:83) - "Are they seeking a religion other than Allah's, when every soul in the heavens and the earth has submitted to Him, willingly orby compulsion?" But didn't the earlier verse (2:256) state that there is "no compulsion in religion"? This contradiction is resolved by abrogation - where the later verse supersedes the earlier one. 

I hardly believe that Christ admonished the Disciples to forcibly convert mankind to Christianity, forbidding belief in any other religion.  The Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20 is clear to me:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus did not command the Disciples to create a political system.  Jesus commanded the Disciples to spread the Gospel, to teach humanity the Word of God, not subjugate them to Christianity, or to create a governmental system.

Christians don't engage in "conquest." Christians engage in teaching, love and persuasion.  

Seems to me, with all due respect to my Catholic friends, that Pope Francis is trying just a little too hard to be politically correct.

At least I haven't seen Christians post-New Testament beheading infidels.  

Dr. Ben Carson - "I Don't Condone Lying"

Ben Carson looking foolish again:

When asked about Donald Trump‘s alleged former habit of calling journalists to praise himself under an assumed name, campaign surrogate Ben Carson told CNN’s New Day that he does not condone falsehoods of any kind.

Carson told host Chris Cuomo that it was a long time ago. “All of us have probably done things 25 or 30 years ago that we’ve forgotten about or that we wish we hadn’t done, or we have changed from that in a very significant way.”

“Right, there are much more important issues,” agreed Cuomo. “But if you lied about it… see, you’re ignoring the lying part, that’s why I’m asking about it.”

“I never condone prevarication in any circumstances,” Carson responded. “So that will be a consistent feature.”

Nobody claims Trump is telling the truth about this “John Miller” character when he denies it was him. Of course it was him. Everybody knows it was him. The best they can do is say “all politicians lie” or “there are bigger issues” or “Hillary is a liar.”

Or, as his top advisor, Paul Manafort told CNN, he doesn't know anything about anything:

 

Why doesn't Jake Tapper, or any other reporter, just say "I think you're lying about this"?

Hillary Clinton is also a giant liar. To take one example of many: when she tells you she ran across the tarmac to avoid sniper fire, and the video shows her strolling around, greeting teenaged children, and looking as relaxed as possible . . . she’s lying. Honest people will admit that, and call it what it is: absurd and even pathological.

Yes, virtually all politicians lie at times. You might even be able to find me an example of Mike Lee lying, although I rather doubt it. But we’re on the cusp of electing one of the most dishonest human beings in recorded history — whichever one of these big government Democrats we pick.

This election is going to be a rapid descent into the toilet.  

Trump Goes After Jeff Bezos of Amazon On Hannity

Fox News started the day with the startling news (I am shocked, shocked, I say, to learn that there  is gambling going on in this casino!) the Washington Post had assigned 20 reporters to cover Donald Trump's campaign.  I have said from the beginning of Trump's candidacy the mainstream media would dig and dig deep for any dirt on Trump.

Tonight Oliver Darcy tweeted that Donald Trump had said on Sean Hannity's show that Jeff Bezos' ownership of Amazon raises tax issues, complaining that he (Trump) is getting lots of phone calls from the Washington Post.

Here is Darcy's tweet:

The language Trump uses implies he believes Amazon is receiving favorable tax treatment that must be unfair, unlawful, or something.  But the implication is clear - he doesn't like the press "investigating" him and he links that dislike to a private company's taxes.

Barack Obama notoriously used the IRS to attack conservative organizations.  There is little, if any, doubt in my mind that Donald Trump would act just as badly as Donald Trump if he gets his hands on the reins of power.  

You wonder why I think Trump is a dangerous demagogue?  Read the transcript.  It should be clear.  

Colorado Legislature - Picking Winners & Losers In The Wine & Liquor Industry

One of the reasons I am a staunch advocate of limited government is the seemingly endless quest of elected officials to pick winners and losers in almost every aspect of our economic life.  The Colorado legislature, both Democrats and Republicans, are grossly negligent of this illness.  Their current target - sales of liquor in grocery stores.  

A bill to allow limited sales of alcohol in grocery stores passed the Colorado Legislature today  — despite representatives from grocers Safeway and King Soopers confirming they have no plans to pull their more expansive ballot initiative, even if Senate Bill 197 is signed into law.

SB 197 would allow grocers who now can get only one full alcohol-sales license per chain to acquire 19 more over the next 20 years, after which time they can get as many licenses as they want.

To acquire the extra licenses, they must buy out the licenses of two liquor stores near them — or all of the liquor licenses within a 1,500-square-foot radius if there are more than two in that area.

Conservative Republicans - and liberal Democrats - are behind this stupidity.  They actually believe that it is good legislation to force grocery stores to buy out their competitors if they want to sell beer, wine and hard liquor.

A lot of idiocracy in government irritates me, but perhaps nothing more than the self-indulgent, arrogant, holier-than-thou attitude of elected officials who think it is in the purview of government to decide who wins and loses in the marketplace.

I understand why the two major grocery chains in Colorado want to put the issue to the voters, but this is an issue that should not go before the voters.   Government should get out of the business of licensing the retail sale of liquor.  They should certainly get out of the business of restricting new entry into the liquor marketplace by requiring new entrants to buy out their competitors.

I understand that if liquor sales were opened to grocery stores that some small liquor stores might go out of business.  That is the nature of a free market.  Opening the market up would force smaller stores to compete by becoming more niche-oriented; or offering a higher quality selection.  And, some stores would simply go out of business.  

But that should be decided in the marketplace, now the state house.

 

2016 Election & The Hamilton Rule

American politics has always been nasty.  It's a full frontal contact sport and that's fine by me.  In the 2016 election I am faced with the prospect of a Republican nominee that is not conservative, has no discernible core principles, and has a character that makes Bill Clinton seem like Mother Theresa.

The prospects of a Hillary Clinton or a Donald Trump presidency should make us focus like a laser beam on the down-ballot.  Those are the congressional races in the House and the Senate that conservatives, libertarians and members of the "freedom caucus" must win in order to ensure a proper check on an executive branch likely to be headed by someone who will inexorably grow the government and it's intrusiveness into our lives.

That is why my focus, at this stage of the election cycle, is to focus on how I can help ensure the election of small government, principled, conservatives and libertarians to the House and Senate. The Presidential election will be what it will be, and I can't see in my crystal ball any way that either of those candidates will represent my conservative principles.

Which leads me to offer something for you to consider if you find yourself in the predicament I think many conservatives find themselves in this election cycle - with a nominee that is (a) likely to lose, (b) likely to drag down the down-ballot and lose the House and Senate; and, (c) is abhorrent to everything we have fought for in the conservative movement.  

That is the Hamilton Rule.

Although both Alexander Hamilton and John Adams were Federalists, the former despised the latter.  It was vicious.  In Washington & Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged Americaauthor Stephen Knott wrote:

Hamilton despised John Adams and his coterie among his own party to the point where he was willing to lose the election of 1800. 

If we must have an enemy at the head of government,” Hamilton said in exasperation, “let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible.

That rule may be very applicable to this election cycle.  I'm not saying that I will vote for Hillary Clinton.  I just cannot see myself putting a check mark next to her electors on my ballot.  But it does mean that I will do everything I can to see that we have a legislative branch that can oppose the damage that will be inflicted on this nation by either Clinton or Trump.  

I reserve the (irrational?) hope that Trump will evolve into a conservative nominee who convinces me that he and his appointees will work hard to reduce the size of government, decrease regulation, lower taxes, reform entitlements, strengthen our national defense, and grow the economy.  

But then I also keep wishing I would lose 10 more pounds.  

Maybe the Hamilton Rule is something to at least consider this election cycle.  I'll be thinking about it.  

Uber & Lyft Attacked By Bureaucrats in Austin

I first used Uber a couple of years ago in Los Angeles, a city where I would normally rent a car.  But my meeting was near LAX and decided instead to give Uber a try.  I've been hooked ever since.  It's fast, convenient, efficient, and cost-effective.  It saves time renting and returning a car at the airport.  I am an Uber evangelical.

You would assume that a city priding itself for its progressivism would embrace the free-market, individual, entrepreneurial aspect of Uber (and Lyft, which I have never used). Well, you would assume incorrectly.

Austin’s regulatory regime drives Uber and Lyft out of town. 

“With the failure of Proposition 1, Austin’s innovation-friendly reputation has taken a hit. The city’s decision to saddle ridesharing apps with an extensive list of petty, burdensome, and unnecessary regulations is driving Uber and Lyft out of town, effective Monday… The city council imposed a raft of ridesharing regulations in December 2015, including a fingerprinting requirement for drivers, “trade dress” for all rideshare vehicles, prohibitions on where drivers can pick up and drop off passengers, and a voluminous and invasive data reporting scheme.
The community reacted swiftly against the new ordinance and in just three weeks over 65,000 petition signatures were submitted – three times the required amount — in support of a more innovation friendly substitute ordinance. Rather than adopt the less burdensome substitute ordinance, the city council forced the Saturday May 7 special election vote on Proposition 1. 
After the votes were tabulated, the organized heavy regulators held a party. “It is so great that we are all celebrating together tonight,” said anti-Proposition 1 spokeswoman Laura Morrison, as the crowd whooped and hollered. Morrison dismissed Proposition 1 supporters as “special interests.” “Austin made Uber an example to the nation,” gloated David Butts, a powerful political consultant and a key force in the campaign against Proposition 1.”

Something happens to normal human beings when they are elected to public office.  Instead of asking themselves whether their actions advance freedom and liberty, they instead focus on the mantra of public safety, whether there is a public safety issue or not.  "If it will save one life" becomes their guiding principle, not "does this advance choice, economic freedom, individual liberty?"

Bureaucrats in Austin are stifling innovation, which seems incredibly ironic for a city that maintains it is the Silicon Valley of Texas.  

Next time you're in need of cheap, efficient, safe transportation, resist the government-licensed monopoly of taxi service, or the taxpayer subsidized mass transit, and give your hard-earned money to an Uber driver.

Trump Panders To Hispanics on Cinco De Mayo

I always found it absurd to claim to have "black" friends or "Hispanic" friends or any other ethnicity as friends in order to prove that you're not racist.  Donald Trump has taken that adage to a new, absurd level on Cinco de Mayo.

At first I thought this was a parody account and had to double check to make certain it wasn't.  It isn't.  It's really Donald Trump, eating a "taco bowl" and proclaiming that therefore "I love Hispanics."

Somehow I doubt the pandering condescension that drips from this cheesy Donald Trump Cinco de Mayo tweet will do much to turn around his 80% unfavorability with Hispanics.

I can't wait until Black History Month or any other ethnic holiday or moment.  Imagine the possibilities.  

And if you don't get how bad this is, take it to any public relations person and ask them if they'd recommend such a stunt.  

For the sake of the nation, someone take away Donald Trump's iPhone or whatever he's using to tweet.  

White House Correspondents Dinner And The N-Word

I attended a White House Correspondent's Dinner one time as a guest of the Wall Street Journal.  I sat next to a dour Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Beyond that, I don't remember much about it except that it was boring, long, and tedious. 

Last Saturday night I was home alone with the dogs (while Tamara luxuriously enjoyed a Mexican vacation with our daughter) and a snowstorm outside.  I found myself watching the 2016 White House Correspondents Dinner on C-SPAN.  Yes, I know that's pathetic.

But I was glued to the television.

It was a reminder of why I couldn't remember much about that time I attended.

There was the red carpet, as a mishmash of celebrities, politicians, and groupies preened before the photographers.  There was all of the self-congratulatory commentary of the media.  There was the President, playing comedian.  There was the comedian, Larry Wilmore.

The Presidential Seal was on the podium.

And as the putative comedian ended his non-comedic monologue, he turned to the President of the United States and said:

Yo, Barry, you did it, my nigga. . .

I don't care if Barack Obama is black, white, brown, green or red.  He is the President of the United States of America. 

We are told the "n-word" is an unacceptable, inappropriate, bigoted racial slur.  Actually I suppose those adjectives to describe a racial slur are redundant.  It is a racial slur. Period.

The Washington Examiner reports the President was "OK" with Wilmore's use of the word:

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he had talked to Obama about Wilmore's use of the word and said the president told him "he appreciated the spirit of Mr. Wilmore's expression Saturday night."

"I'm confident that Mr. Wilmore used the word by design. He was seeking to be provocative," Earnest said. "Any reading of his comments made clear that he was not using the president as a butt of a joke."

More spin by the White House.  It is immaterial whether Obama was the butt of a joke or not.  Referring to the President using the pejorative "n-word" is unacceptable and sets back race relations. 

I do not like Barack Obama or his policies.  But I dislike even more a comedian using the "n-word" to describe the President, whether the President deems it acceptable or not.

The White House Correspondents Association should apologize to the people of the United States.  Larry Wilmore should apologize to the President regardless of whether the President's Press Secretary says the President wasn't offended.

I was.

Wikipedia - A Metaphor For Revolutionaries Clamoring for Authoritarianism?

The website IFL has a great story about Wikipedia that serves as a great metaphor for what usually happens in those revolutions so coveted by socialists, Marxists and Communists.  In those revolutions (for example, the Cuban revolution) the revolutionaries tell the people they're going to deliver them to the promised land - freedom, economic "justice" and the usual bromides offered by the deceitful.  Citing a new study in the open-access journal Future Internet, the online community of Wikipedia has become an “oligarchy,” where a select few elite editors hold all of the power and influence – no different to the systems of governments and corporations it was trying to get away from.

Wikipedia, not known for its accuracy, is a great example of how "revolutions" eventually devolve into the revolutionaries holding onto power to the detriment of the people the revolution was going liberate.  The one exception to this rule is the American revolution and the reasons for our revolution being an exception is a topic for another day.

According to one of the authors:

Speaking to Gizmodo, one of the lead authors, Simon DeDeo said: “You start with a decentralized democratic system, but over time you get the emergence of a leadership class with privileged access to information and social networks.”

He added, “Their interests begin to diverge from the rest of the group. They no longer have the same needs and goals. So not only do they come to gain the most power within the system, but they may use it in ways that conflict with the needs of everybody else.”

The researchers said their findings suggests that Wikipedia has fallen to the “Iron Law of Oligarchy.” This piece of political theory was developed in 1911 by Robert Michels to describe the idea that power will eventually and inevitably become concentrated among a select few individuals in every organization, regardless of how equal and democratic they start off.

When asked why this research was important, DeDeo explained, “We need to understand how these systems work if we’re going to understand how the economy of the future will run. They don’t have laws, they have traditions and norms” 

This "Iron Law of Oligarchy" accounts for much of the anger in the American electorate toward the ruling class.  But the lesson we should learn is this - you can be angry, but be careful how you direct that anger.  Clamoring for an authoritarian figure to disrupt the status quo is simply falling prey to proclivities of revolutions to eventually imprison the people in tyranny.

Authoritarian nationalism is moving through America, just as it moved through Wikipedia.  

And you see how well that worked out for Wikipedia.

No Boots On The Ground In Syria? Maybe Yes. Maybe No.

President Obama said on at least sixteen different occasions there would be "no boots on the ground" in Syria.  

But truth no longer matters in an upside down, inside out world where words no longer have any meaning.  

Then, Matt Lee, intrepid reporter for the Associated Press, dared ask whether the emperor had any clothes.  The answer?  Of course! Never mind what we said before!

So one of my loyal listeners, on "old Marine" as he calls himself, came up with the perfect meme for this insanity.

Trump In 2005: I Won't Do Anything To Take Care Of My Kids - Except Pay For Them

One reason I believe Donald Trump will lose massively to Hillary Clinton (if she is the Democrat nominee) is this report from Buzzfeed about how he wouldn't help take care of his own children, except to pay the bills.  All Hillary has to do to win the "mom vote" is bring this up.

“Do you actually change diapers?” host Anthony Cumia asked Donald Trump on the Opie and Anthony show in November of 2005.

The then 59-year-old businessman, whose wife Melania was pregnant with his fifth child and her first, responded bluntly: “No, I don’t do that.”

There’s a lot of women out there that demand that the husband act like the wife and you know there’s a lot of husbands that listen to that,” Trump added. “So you know, they go for it.”

It goes deeper than that. He did nothing to take care of the kids, except provide the money:

“I mean, I won’t do anything to take care of them. I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids. It’s not like I’m gonna be walking the kids down Central Park,” Trump said in the interview. He repeated the same sentiment to Stern two years laters, saying, “Melania is a wonderful mother. She takes care of the baby and I pay all of the costs.

Trump’s five children — Ivanka, Eric, Donald, Tiffany, and Barron — have been a highly visible part of his presidential bid and have all publicly praised their father as a parent.

You gotta say nice things if you want to stay in the will.

But Trump himself has described himself as hands off, and, in the same 2005 interview with Howard Stern, expressed disdain for his ex-wife Marla Maples for suggesting he walk their daughter, Tiffany, down the street.

“Well, Marla used to say, ‘I can’t believe you’re not walking Tiffany down the street,’ you know in a carriage,” Trump said. “Right, I’m gonna be walking down Fifth Avenue with a baby in a carriage. It just didn’t work.”

In 2006, Trump said men who change diapers and care for the child are acting “like the wife,” saying he wouldn’t have kids with a woman who wanted him to do this. You can listen to that interview on the Opie & Anthony show here

I don't care how any one person raises their children so long as they're not abusive.  But what I do care about is winning the next Presidential election.  And if Hillary Rodham Clinton is the Democrat nominee, a lot of women are going to hear these words and pull the lever for her and not for the guy who couldn't be bothered to change a diaper or take his children for a walk.

Mark my words.  Or better yet, listen to FiveThirtyEight's take on the women vote in 2016. 

Colorado Legislature's Primary Proposal Is Hogwash

Once again the Colorado legislature is proving what nincompoops they can be.  After all the hoopla over the caucus system they are proposing a presidential primary.  I am not opposed to a presidential primary.

What I am opposed to is a presidential primary that makes it easy for Democrats and unaffiliated (or for that matter, Republicans) to easily change their party registration in order to vote in a primary.  I particularly do not like the idea of making it easy for unaffiliated voters to sit on the fence as unaffiliated voters for most of their political life and then, bam, register to vote in a Republican (or Democrat) primary.

People who register unaffiliated are doing so to make a symbolic statement.  They generally don't believe there is an ounce of difference between the two parties; or, they have commitment issues and are unwilling to actually take a position.  Kinda' like warm spit.  Yuck.

The Denver Post is reporting tonight:

Republicans and Democrats will announce a plan for a Colorado presidential primary Thursday that would allow the state's unaffiliated voters to participate.

More than one-third of Colorado voters — the largest bloc — are not affiliated with a party. The legislative proposal would allow them to choose which party's primary they would wish to participate in.

Thirty days after the primary the registration would expire, said Rep. Dominick Moreno, a Democrat from Commerce City, one of the authors of the bill.

Why should unaffiliated voters - fence sitters - be allowed to swing by a primary, vote, and then swing right back out of a political party?  

The Colorado legislature is known for a lot of stupid things - ineffective gun laws that infringe the right to keep and bear arms, prohibition of sale of wine and alcohol in grocery stores, an email retention system that insures non-transparency of government affairs.  So I'm not surprised by this, but will push to have only closed primaries for the Democrat and Republican parties.  

$1,000 Tax On Firearms - A Direct Attack On The Second Amendment

A $1,000 per gun tax should serve as a “role model” for states, according to the governor of the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, which imposed the $1,000 gun tax earlier this month. An idea first endorsed by Hillary Clinton in 1993, steep gun taxes have now taken hold in Cook County, Ill. the city of Seattle, and now a U.S. territory.

At what point does a tax on firearms go from a legitimate taxing power to a direct attack on the Second Amendment?  The $1,000 per gun tax does that.  

The power of Congress to tax is generally beyond constitutional review.  In a famous line from a famous case over 200 years old, Chief Justice John Marshall declared that [t]he only security against the abuse of [taxation] is found in the structure of the government itself."  In other words, if the electorate is dissatisfied with a tax then the people should elect representatives to repeal that tax.  

Thomas Cooley wrote over 100 years ago that "the power to impose taxes is one so unlimited in force and so searching in extent, that the courts scarcely venture to declare that it is subject to any restrictions whatever, except such as rest in the discretion of the authority which exercises it.

But without getting into the minutiae of the legal arguments, some scholars and some cases have also delved into the theory that taxation can amount to an unlawful taking under the Fifth Amendment.  I'd like to argue that a $1,000 tax on a firearm is an unlawful taking of property without due process and just compensation, except that I haven't purchased the firearm because I can't afford the $1,000 tax on top of the price of the firearm itself.

Which leads me to this argument.

What if a $1,000 tax on a firearm is a limitation, if not an outright prohibition, on the individual right to keep and bear arms?  If an individual could legitimately show that a $1,000 tax effectively prohibits that individual from exercising his right to keep and bear arms, could the tax be held unconstitutional on the grounds that it prohibits the exercise of that right?

While all of this is interesting legal theory to a lawyer, it should nonetheless cause non-lawyers to perk up and pay attention to a subtle movement taking place around the country - taxing firearms in an attempt to limit the purchase of firearms.

The threat of such a tax serving as a role model for other politicians to impose is not an idle one. Consider the following:

Seattle Gun and Ammunition Tax: On Jan. 1, 2016, Seattle’s $25 per gun tax took effect, as did a two cent to five cent tax per round of ammunition. The new taxes have already forced at least one major gun dealer to leave the city.

Cook County, Ill. Gun and Ammunition Tax: On June 1, 2016, Cook County’s new ammunition tax takes effect, at a rate of one cent to five cents per round of ammunition. The ammo tax comes on top of the existing gun tax regime of $25 per gun.

Hillary Clinton’s 25% Gun Tax Endorsement: In passionate testimony to the Senate Finance Committee in 1993, Hillary Clinton gave her strong personal endorsement to a new national 25% sales tax on guns and endorsed a steep increase in the gun dealer fee, to $2,500. "I am speaking personally, but I feel very strongly about that,” said Clinton at the conclusion of her endorsement.

A $1,000 tax on firearms is simply the latest attempt by the leftist in the United States to limit, if not outright destroy, your natural, God-given right of self-defense.  It is, simply, an attempt to limit and ultimately destroy the Second Amendment.  

Happy Tax Day. Why No Rebellion?

The worst part of the tax code - and that's hard to accomplish considering the entirety of the tax code - is automatic withholding of income taxes.  It creates a cognitive dissonance between people's innate distrust of government and the realization of just how badly they're being fleeced by that government.

Without automatic withholding people would have to come up with the amount of taxes they owe at once - and realizing just how large that amount is - would start paying attention to how those hard-earned dollars are spent.

But as Milton Friedman told us, Congress has no incentive to change things.  They live off the complexity and are able to hide behind the automatic withholding.  Their waste is prolific but they know no one will hold them accountable.  Republicans and Democrats alike are responsible for this travesty.

So until a candidate like Ted Cruz is elected President and he uses that Presidential bully pulpit to put pressure on Congress, expect to continue to pay more and more.

Just another reason I despise Congress.

Liberty Lost At The School Pick Up Location

Tamara and I have on occasion taken our grandchildren to school or picked them up.  On every occasion that I can recall we have walked from their home to the school and vice-versa.  I've always looked at the line of cars waiting to pick up or drop of their children and thought how grateful I was that I could just walk over to the school and avoid the congestion of all those soccer mom vans waiting for their kids.

Apparently in a Houston suburban school district what I have done here in Colorado could result in trespassing charges.

Not much to add to this story except this:  what was law enforcement thinking wasting limited resources threatening a parent with trespassing charges for walking onto school grounds to pick up their kids?  You heard right - in the Magnolia school district you apparently can't walk onto the school grounds to retrieve or drop off your kids.

Watch the video here.

Give someone a little power, and they almost invariably abuse that power.  So much for schools serving parents and children.  

A Nation Divided – Why It’s Difficult For ANY Republican To Become President

The Washington Post recently published an article based on a Cook Political Report outlining the history of the past six elections.  Some of those facts are worth re-visiting because they’re sobering – and depressing.

19 states have gone for Democrats in each of the last six elections.  Those 19 states account for a total of 242 electoral votes.  Remember, a candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the Presidency.  Unless something drastic happens, Democrats are historically 89% of the way to winning the Presidency just based on historical trends.

Republicans have 13 states that have voted for the Republican nominee for president in every election since 1992.  Those 13 account for 102 electoral votes.  Looking at that trend, Republicans are only 37% of the way to winning the Presidency based on the trend.

The numbers don’t add up to 100% because the Democratic trend line is for every election over the past six years and the Republican trend line is for every Presidential election since 1992. 

My gut tells me the United States is still center-right conservative.  The polls, however, show I’m wrong.  Gallup polled last year showing 31% say they are socially liberal, 31% socially conservative.  This is the first time conservatives have not outnumbered liberals although

conservatives maintain edge on economic issues. 

If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee I believe Republicans will lose in an epic rout that affects the down ballot, too.  Trump will drag the Republican brand and lose significantly to Hillary in the general election.  History, however, is on Trump’s side, with no party winning a third term for decades with the exception of George H.W. Bush following Ronald Reagan’s second term.  But I’m not convinced history will repeat that anomaly this year.

Trump’s problem is that he is not a genuine conservative, with a set of core, guiding principles of limited government, lower taxes, constitutionalism.  His core principle is, as he admits, “deal-making.”  His inability to present a stark contrast between himself and Hillary will lead to a Republican defeat.

Ted Cruz, however, is a principled conservative, anti-establishment Republican who told the voters of Texas what he would do if elected, and then actually proceeded to fill those promises.  He will contrast starkly with Hillary Clinton’s establishment soul and her poor communications and relatable characteristics.

If you want to do your own analysis of the electoral votes – and the likelihood of either party winning – go play at the website, 270ToWin. But be prepared to be depressed.