I am running for President in 2020 1.

I believe that life begins at conception.  (If it didn’t, then women wouldn’t want abortions.)  Let me state plainly: I would never have an abortion.  OK, I’m a 64 year-old guy, so that’s an easy position to take.  At the same time, I’m not willing to shove my personal opinion down the throat of a fifteen year-old black girl in West Philadelphia, living with her mom and grand-mom in some tumbledown row house, and attending what the City of Brotherly Love is pleased to call the public “schools.”  Moreover, with Prohibition and the War on Drugs having been such great successes, I don’t see how a War on Abortion is any more likely to succeed.  Unless, you know, heart-break and misery across multiple generations is what you really want to produce.  Then go ahead, knock yourself out.

 

The same goes for a War on Guns.  Yes, there are things we can do.  We could strictly regulate the sale and possession of all firearms through the Defense Department.  This is what our friends in Mexico do.  Virtually no one in Mexico is allowed to own a firearm of any sort.  This step would could reduce our gun-death rates to Mexican levels.  Furthermore, many deaths are linked to the drug trade.  We should forbid the use of or trade in drugs.

OK, sounding like the mayor on “The Simpsons.”  More realistically, we could end the War on Drugs and we could try to revise the National Firearms Owners Protection Act.  The former promotes a “war for the corners.”  It also promotes a macho “step to him” code of behavior that leads to violence not directly related to the drug trade.  The National Firearm Owners Protection Act restricts the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to closely regulate federally-licensed gun-dealers.  While the vast majority of such dealers are responsible and honest people dealing in a Constitutionally-protected commodity, a tiny minority facilitate straw purchases and suffer “robbery.”  So, let’s knock-off the stuff about the “gun-show loop-hole” and not allowing father-to-son gun transfers without a background check.

 

We should RICO the Catholic Church.  Pennsylvania’s attorney general recently released a report on the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.  Here’s the thing, the AG got the information for the report by gaining access to Church records and then interviewing a lot of parishoners who had been abused.  Well, this scandal has been running for a while now.  Long ago, the Church could have done what the AG later did without breaking a sweat.  If they wanted to know.  Apparently, they didn’t.  Why not?

I suspect that, at some point back in the day there, the American priesthood became a place for gay Irish men to go and hide.  Fine by me.  They were doing God’s work.  If they go sylphing-off to have sex with other gay men, I don’t care.  However, given the anti-gay stance of both the Church and larger society, it exposed them to a terrible vulnerability.  They could be black-mailed by pedophile colleagues.  Pedophiles appear to be a very small segment of any sexual orientation.[1]  But they may have been just as ruthless and predatory toward their fellow-priests as they were toward their child-victims.

So, treat the Church as a criminal conspiracy.

[1] You ever noticed how few girls from Catholic schools have come forward to say “Sr. Mary Elephant copped a feel on my then-almost-non-existent tit”?

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Migration.

The United States began limiting immigration in 1924.  The United States currently has an estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants living in the country.  The United States admits 950,000-1 million legal immigrants each year.  Both of those realities have become the centers of political contention.  Pro-foreign-life people argue that immigration is vital for America’s society and economy, that the illegals should be granted some kind of legal status (often phrased as a “path to citizenship”), and that the United States has some kind of humanitarian duty to welcome everyone who has been the victim of one of life’s hard knocks.  Pro-it’s-our-choice people argue either that the immigrants are a bunch of undesirables from failed societies who will wreak havoc, or that immigration is good, but we need to pick and choose while recognizing that massive immigration will disrupt American society.  Various combinations of the two views either make the most sense or are a recipe for disaster.[1]

There are about 7.7 billion people in the world.  They live in 195 countries.  Gallup polled people in 152 of those countries.  They report that 15 percent of adults in those countries, an estimated 750 million people, would migrate to another country if they could.  Of that estimated 750 million people, about 158 million people want to move to the United States.[2]  Obviously, the real numbers could be much higher.  For one thing, many adults have children.  For another thing, there are the 43 countries where Gallup did not poll.  One can imagine virtually every single person in North Korea or Syria wanting to bolt.

One distortion in the contemporary debate arises from geography.  The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans bar most foreigners from getting to the United States except by sea (rare) or air travel.  You can’t get on an international flight from most places in the world headed for the United States unless you already have a visa.  That’s not the case for Central America.  People willing to run the risks of traveling the Lawless Roads can end up at the southern border of the United States.  Where political stunts by all sides provide something for cameramen to do.

The 2017 population of the United States has been estimated at 325 million people.  Can we take in 158 million people from foreign cultures—many of them very different in values from that of the United States—without any impact on American society?  If so, at what pace?  A million a year?  Five million a year?  Ten million a year?  All of them at once?  No?  Then the pro-foreign life people accept the idea of immigration restriction.  They just want to set the threshold at some undefined higher level.  And they don’t want to talk about the social, political, and financial costs.

As for the pro-it’s-our-choice people, there are 158 million people who want to come here, but you think there aren’t any among them who would make a vital contribution to America?  Red China wants to take over Taiwan, just like it did Hong Kong.  So, many people from a leading Far East industrial nation are going to want to migrate.  Russia and Iran are going to add Lebanon to the bag, just like Syria.  Lots of Lebanese Christians will want an out.

It’s an important debate.  It would be nice if we had it.

[1] I don’t have a ‘source” for this statement.  It’s just my sense of all the stuff I’ve been reading for years.  While there may NOT have been “good people on both side” in Charlottesville, there are idiots on both side of this debate.  Just hoping that I’m not one of them.  No need to tell me if you think I’m an idiot.  That’s what my sons are for.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 21/28 December 2018, p. 17.

Manafort Destiny 2.

A curious article appeared in the New York Times today.[1]  It seems a little disorganized as would be the case with important, but late-breaking news.  Still, it contains interesting points that whet the appetite for more information.

Robert Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the American presidential election of November 2016.  Mueller’s team of prosecutors charged Paul Manafort, President Trump’s transient campaign manager, with various forms of fraud related to his work as a consultant to pro-Russian candidates in Ukraine through 2014.  Manafort worked out a plea deal with Mueller.  That deal required his full co-operation with the prosecutors.  Now, prosecutors want to break the deal.  They argue that Manafort has lied on multiple occasions.   They want to dump a ton of bricks on him.

To justify throwing the book at Manafort, the prosecutors could have to provide some evidence of exactly how and in what regard he did lie to them.  Failing that, the defense could claim that Manafort did provide truthful information.  Normally, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution.  Hence, the sentencing memorandum may reveal important information from Mueller’s investigation.  This might run beyond Paul Manafort’s actions as far as the president.

First, although he had a plea deal with the prosecutors, Manafort’s lawyers secretly consulted with President Trump’s lawyers about the lines of investigation being pursued by Mueller.  Although such discussions “violated no laws,” Mueller and his team are exercised nonetheless.   Did they have an agreement with Mr. Manafort that he would not consult with the President’s lawyers?  If they did, and if Manafort repeatedly stated that he had held no such talks even as his lawyers met with White House lawyers, then this would be grounds for breaking the plea deal.

Second, Mr. Mueller’s team “accused Mr. Manafort of holding out on them” despite his pledge to assist them in any matter they deemed relevant.  “Holding out” usually means withholding facts.  So far, the statements in the NYT are ambiguous.  According to Rudolph Giuliani, himself a former Federal prosecutor and now a special counsel to President Trump, “He [Robert Mueller] wants Manafort to incriminate Trump.”  Did Manafort deny any collusion?

Third, in one paragraph, the NYT states that President Trump’s “tweets” tried to imply that “he had some inside information.”  As evidence, the NYT story quotes Trump as saying that “the Mueller investigation are a total mess.  They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts.  They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want.”   Does the president have evidence to this effect?  If he does, then what does that say about the state of the Mueller investigation?

Finally, dumping Manafort back in the glue suggests that the federal prosecutors have no use for the testimony he has provided so far with regard to President Trump.  That is, Manafort may have denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russkies.  If this is the area in which he lied, then Mueller must have a bunch of solid evidence from other sources with which to prove that Manafort lied.  What is that source?  What is that evidence?

In any event, when will Robert Mueller report?

[1] Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon Lafraniere, and Maggie Haberman, “Manafort Lawyer Briefs Trump Team on Inquiry,” NYT, 28 November 2018.

The 2018 off term elections.

Some of this is now out-dated, owing to continuing counts of ballots and recounts.

“Analyzing 417 House races that featured at least two candidates on the ballot, the AP determined that Democrats earned more than 51.4 million votes in competitive House races nationwide, or 52 percent, compared to 47.2 million votes cast, or 48 percent, for Republicans.”[1]

NB: Of 98.6 million votes cast, Republicans won about 47.8 percent of the 2016 vote.  Democrats won about 52 percent of the vote.

NB: The Democrats margin of victory was 4.2 million votes.  In the “American presidential election held on November 8, 2016,… Republican Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 2.8 million votes.[2]  NB: So two years of Trump government energized Democrats more than did Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  No surprise.

NB: Will this be enough to win the White House in 2020?  Basically (back of the envelope), it looks like Republicans pulled 74.6 percent of their 2016 turnout, while Democrats pulled 78 percent of their 2016 turnout.  Motivated by the Kavanaugh shenanigans, Republicans turned out much more than one might have expected.  Motivated by Trump-vulsion, Democrats turned out as one might have expected.

“According to the latest data, Democrats won the House popular vote by about seven percentage points in Tuesday night’s midterms.”  [NB: that works out to be something like 53 percent to 46 percent.]  Furthermore, “They picked up 29 Republican-held seats in the House, while losing two of their own incumbents, resulting in a net gain of 27 seats.”[3]

From 1918 to 2016, the president’s party lost an average of 29 seats in midterm elections. In the 20 percent of elections where the president lost the most seats—which Ballotpedia defined as wave elections—his party lost at least 48 seats.”[4]  “In the 2010 midterms, by contrast, Republicans stormed into control of the House with a haul of 63 seats.”

“Each of America’s 50 states elects two senators, regardless of population, and only a third of the country’s Senate seats are voted on each election cycle.”  According to David Golove, a professor at the New York University School of Law, “That’s a radically undemocratic principle, and it gives rise to what we see, which is that the minority populations are going to have a disproportionate impact in the United States. That tends to mean conservatives have a disproportionate influence over the Senate.”

NB: OK, but his argument is with James Madison, not me.  Wear a cup.

The country is divided 52-48 percent.  A purely normal (see above) “blue wave” should not disguise this reality.

Still, if the Democrats have a good candidate[5] and can sustain their “get out the vote” effort, they have a fair chance of re-capturing the White House in 2020.

Of course, we’ll have to take what comes with getting Trump out of the White House.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/09/heres-how-your-state-turned-out-to-vote-in-the-midterm-election.html

[2] Donald Trump: 62,984,828; Hillary Clinton: 65,853,514.

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/08/democrats-republicans-senate-majority-minority-rule

[4] https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Congress_elections,_2018

[5] Aye, there’s the rub.  Could Corey Booker or Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden mount a credible candidacy?  More likely, JMO, Hillary Clinton will “offer to serve” when the midgets flame out.

Sessions Timed Out.

Much attention now focuses on the fate of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.  Many people fear that the acting Attorney General will seek to close down or hamstring the current investigation.  However, there is another possibility.  Rather than restricting the current investigation, the acting AG could instruct Mueller to expand his investigation to include the so-called “Steele dossier” and any links to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Of Two Minds.

In 2016, Donald Trump captured the Republican Party.  However, his own base lies—so goes the conventional wisdom—in the “white working class.”[1]  That class feels that they have been abandoned by their own country and by their traditional party—the Democrats.[2]  Almost half (47 percent) of the voters who approve of President Trump feel estranged from the country.[3]  Now, with President Trump in the White House and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, almost as large a share (44 percent) of those who disapprove of President Trump feel estranged from the country.

Since President Trump’s election, those on the left have “lamented the erosion of values around tolerance and diversity.”  This means, apparently, “a weakening of values around voting rights, abortion rights, [and] L.G.T.B. tolerance.”  This view of the situation is puzzling.  It appears to suggest that what liberals believe is what they think is established orthodoxy for everyone.  What has been emphasized by the election of President Trump is rather that there never existed a national consensus on these matters.

Thus, in 2008 President Obama opposed marriage equality.  In 2012, when a bare majority of Americans had come to favor it, he switched to supporting marriage equality.  That still left a large, but declining, share of Americans who had not evolved their position with the same speed as had the president.[4]

Similarly, there has existed substantial opposition to unrestricted right to abortion.  In 2009, 47 percent of Americans thought abortion should be legal in most cases, but 44 percent thought that it should be illegal in most cases.  Since then, the gap has widened, with 57 percent thinking it should be legal in most cases and 40 percent thinking that it should be illegal in most cases in 2017.  Breaking it down by age cohorts, it looks like legalization is the wave of the future.[5]  People don’t vote their future opinions.  They vote their current opinions.

These examples barely scratch the surface.  There are the issues around the Second Amendment, urban policing, capitalism, immigration, affirmative action, and elite cosmopolitanism versus mainstream nationalism.

In a telling quote, one scholar remarked about Trump’s insistence that many of his supporter remain disdained by the elites that “if you’re already primed to feel that way, getting a sort of regular dose of that rhetoric I think would cause you to continue to believe it.”  That makes sense, but it fails to examine the impact of media, entertainment, and Democratic political tropes on Democratic voters.  They, too, have spent years fostering a culture of grievance.  For example, just before the 2016 election, one poll reported that 48 percent of African-Americans felt estranged from their own country.  That was at the end of eight years of President Obama’s administration and in the midst of Hillary Clintons “Stronger Together” campaign.  It is worth asking if Democratic rhetoric played a role in fueling this sense of alienation.

[1] Emily Badger, “Estranged in America: Both Sides Feel Lost and Left Out,” NYT, 7 October 2018.

[2] The white working class long formed the core of the “New Deal” coalition assembled by Franklin d. Roosevelt and bequeathed to his successors.  They were celebrated as the salt-of-the-earth.  See, for example, Norman Rockwell, “Freedom of Speech” and “Homecoming Marine.”

[3] Which isn’t quite the same as approving Donald Trump they human being.

[4] Probably, that is because they were motivated by bigotry or principle, while he was motivated by expedience.

[5] http://www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/public-opinion-on-abortion/

Talking to Myself 1.

Brett Kavanaugh has just been blind-sided at the last moment before the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on whether to approve his nomination to the United States Supreme Court.  He’s been hit by an accusation of “sexual misconduct” that is alleged to have occurred thirty-five years ago, when he was seventeen.  There is no corroborating evidence so far.  Apparently, sixty-five women who knew Kavanaugh at that time say he never mistreated women to their knowledge.

What to do?  It’s difficult to say because there are several different issues that over-lap in this case.

First, we don’t yet have any proof that this event occurred. It’s just “He said-She said.”

Second, if proven, would such behavior thirty-five years ago, followed by unstained behavior since then, disqualify Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court?  In the current environment, it certainly should disqualify him.  By “current climate” I mean that people (myself included) are finally starting to pull their heads out of their “culus” about an age-old problem.  With any luck, this isn’t just a phase that is going to pass.  It will become the new normal.  Certainly that would be unfair to Kavanaugh, whose alleged action would have occurred under a different morals regime.  Thirty-five years ago was, like, 1983.  (In January 1983, the Washington Redskins beat the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl.  That’s how long ago it happened.)

Third, Diane Feindstein holding onto the letter, then releasing word of it at the last possible moment is pretty slimy.  However, if you think that Senator Feinstein’s actions are wrong, then you must also think that the Republican majority refusing to hold hearings on Merrick Garland was wrong.  They didn’t have to approve Garland.  The Constitution doesn’t say that “The Senate must approve anyone nominated by the President-Emperor.”  Ask poor Harriet Miers.  The appointment of judges at all ranks has become politicized because people have taken to the courts to obtain what they can’t get through the legislative process.  As Mr. Dooley opined, “politics ain’t bean-bag.”

Fourth, what should happen?  Put the clutch down on the Kavanaugh nomination.  Thoroughly investigate the accusation.  Yes, if the Democrats regain the majority in the Senate before the investigation is completed, then Kavanaugh is toast.  He will lose any vote on a purely party-line vote.  It will not matter what the investigation discovers.  It could acquit him and he would still lose.  Even so, that would be better than having someone appointed to the Supreme Court under a cloud, especially this kind of cloud.

Reasoning by analogy, we’re all in the same boat as the Catholic priesthood.  You can’t solve the problem by saying “Sorry” and promising transparency in the future.  (Yes, there’s a certain comic element in Democrats going “zero tolerance!” on this issue, while rejecting it on other issues.  Hypocrisy is central to American public life.)  On the other hand, I’d be opposed to trying to strip Kavanaugh of his current position as an appellate court judge.  (Like I said, hypocrisy is central to American public life.)

Final thing.  Take a moment to recall the Duke lacrosse and Charlottesville frat cases.  Both were examples of liberal lynch mobs.  We can’t tell yet what is true about the Kavanaugh case.  So, everyone should take a deep breath and think about what is best for th republic.  Here endeth the sermon.