Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trump Popularity Tells Us About the Republican Party

Donald Trump's standing in the polls tells us more about the Republican voters than it does about The Donald, I am afraid.  We all know the bombastic, real estate mogul, reality TV star, politically incorrect politician.  There is no mystery.  After struggling for months to try to figure out his popularity it has occurred to me what we really should be examining are his supporters.  I have come to the conclusion that Trump's popularity reveals the shallow thinking and even ignorance of a sizable percentage of Republicans.

Republicans are generally recognized as conservatives; to the right of the political spectrum.  Trump's life and rhetoric certainly do not represent the traditional conservative positions. So how could he lead in the polls with the "conservative" party?  It's because of this bloc of Republican voters - who may even call themselves conservative - but who are not committed to Republicanism.  That would be defined as fiscally conservative, socially conservative, supporters of a strong defense and a small government, and grounded in the Constitution. Traditional Republicanism was most recently best represented by Ronald Reagan and that is one of the reasons he is most revered among the "base." 

The thing about these principles is that it takes some thinking to arrive at them.  They are not driven by feelings or unthinking "compassion" or class warfare or a dream of Big Government solving all of our problems.  These principles do not cater to winds of populism.  They are indeed principles and they are grounded in our Constitution.

Dr. R.B.A. DiMuccio, a guest commentator for Grove City's Center for Vision and Values, recently wrote about Trump's supporters.  He quotes a YouGov poll that shows only 13% of them describe themselves as very conservative, and 20% describe themselves as liberal or moderate.  Only 30% identify with the Tea Party.  Conclusion: by and large, Trump supporters aren't the traditional conservative Republicans.  I am not saying they are illegitimate.  I am pointing out that this big bloc of Republican voters represent something outside conservatism.

I personally think the Trump supporters are mostly ignorant.  They represent a large swath of America who are unfortunate products of our public schools.  They didn't learn about the Constitution. They don't understand history and America's legacy in bringing liberty and opportunity to the world.  They are the result of a liberal media bias that has worn down and eroded traditional American values.

The Trump voter is mad and not going to take it anymore.  Trump offers a few simple solutions (I'll build a tremendous wall! It will be good!) and plays to the populist fever.  It is as if the Reality TV star has taken his show live on the road.  And the dumbed-down audience hoots and hollers as Trump calls his opponents names.

It is disheartening that this makes up such a large percentage of the active Republican voter today (is it really 40%?).  It used to be - and I have been part of this battle - the conservative base versus the country club Republicans.  Now it appears we have populism versus conservatism.  Where are the country club Republicans? The talk is they have reluctantly thrown in with Trump because they feel they can make deals with him.  And let's face it - they really dislike the hard core conservative.

What to do?  Conservatives must be committed to principles and they must effectively make the case.  Educate, promote, broadcast the truth.  Speak up and stand for liberty and Constitutional principles.  I hope this little blog will be part of that effort.

Monday, December 7, 2015

U.S. Wants Women in Combat

After years of "study" and debate Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered all branches of the military to open all combat jobs to women.  This was not a surprise; many observers told us this was coming.

The announcement removed the final barriers that kept women from serving in certain combat positions, including the most dangerous and elite special forces jobs.  It opens the final 10 percent of military positions to women - a total of 220,000 jobs. It follows a couple of relevant and newsworthy events this year. The first was the celebrated completion of the highly rigorous Ranger school by two women. The second was the reporting of findings by the Marines of a controlled experiment they ran with units made up of men and women.

The Marines found the integrated units were less efficient in operations and in completing their mission than the standard unit of men only.  The Marines had recommended continuing the ban on women in their infantry units due to concerns about the efficiency of these units. Skeptics, including the Secretary of Defense, claimed the experiment was flawed and there was plenty of (anecdotal) evidence and history to show women could fight just as well as men in these units.  There was also the suggestion that the Marines' bias meant their experiment was inevitably going to be self-fulfilling.

Secretary Carter said in his announcement that "at the end of the day this will make us a better and stronger force..."  He also said that we can no longer afford to exclude half the population from high-risk military posts.

I have to ask in what way will the armed forces be better and stronger?  I have to guess he means we will feel better about it.  Perhaps by stronger he means to equate a more diverse or gender balanced force with moral or social strength?  He can't possibly be telling us by having more women in combat units that these units are going to be better and stronger at defeating the enemy.  Can he?  (And isn't defeating the enemy their purpose?)

It is not arguable that women are the weaker sex. I don't mean to offend women and if you are offended, well, you're looking to be offended.  I am just stating a biological, material fact and this is how God created humans.  The average man is much stronger and more capable of killing the enemy than the average woman.  Yeah, I know there are exceptions.  You can find some exceptionally strong and tough women who can "cut it" in the most rigorous training the Army can dish out.  And you can find some weak men who can't pass Army basic training.

However, do we want to set our military standards and the expectations of our fighting forces based on exceptions or do we want to have the toughest and most capable force in the world?

When I trained in Army ROTC in the 1970's and served in the Army in the 1980's we were just beginning to open up some fields for women soldiers.  This included opening up ROTC and West Point to women for officer training.  I trained with and served with men and women of diverse backgrounds and abilities.  There were many accommodations made to allow for women to succeed during our transition to being more "inclusive" in those days.  (For example, and to this day, men and women have different standards to meet in the physical fitness test.  Of course the reason is self-evident: men are stronger and faster, so you can't expect women to meet the men's standards.)

I also served, in my Army Aviation units, with some very capable women.  One could argue that once they strapped on a helicopter they didn't need to be fast and strong, just smart and skilled at maneuvering the machine and navigation, etc.  Probably true, but there was/is always the danger of a hydraulic failure in the controls (which I had the experience with) and had to muscle it down. Or what if you are shot down and need more physicality to evade the enemy or even withstand a capture and what follows.

Unfortunately in today's military environment we have had women pilots and other women soldiers captured by the enemy.  Sadly, their testimonies are that the worst did happen in captivity.  I point this out to bring home what we have created with these inclusive policies.  People, we have women killed in combat and raped as prisoners.  Is this really what we want for our American women so we can claim there is equality?

Yes, men are killed and tortured in war.  It always has been an awful tragedy.  War has famously been described as hell.  Every human being is precious and we wish no human had to endure war.  The simple truth is that men are more suited to the horror of war.  If we must have war for our national security we should want to limit the damage done to our humanity, not expose the fairer sex to hell.

Am I suggesting this bygone, chauvinistic concept: that men should protect women?  Yes I am; without apology.  We should limit women's role in the armed forces because they diminish the effectiveness of our war fighting capability and because it is men's role to protect them.

My fellow Americans, do we not want the most effective fighting force we can have?  Or is political correctness, including a totally misplaced emphasis on equal opportunity by gender for our fighters, more important than our national security?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Will PA GOP Leaders Enable the Addict?

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a budget in June that Governor Wolf vetoed.  Governor Wolf also rejected the GOP attempt at privatizing the state liquor stores and reforming state pensions.  So the Commonwealth has been operating with a "partial government shutdown" due to the budget impasse.  Further, the General Assembly passed an interim budget in September, in part to provide funding for the state's schools which have been squeezed in the budget impasse.  Governor Wolf vetoed it. Wolf is holding out for a collection of new and higher taxes, which according to him would balance the budget and provide needed additional funding for schools.

The House allowed a vote on Governor Wolf's $2.4 billion tax package this past week.  It failed and demonstrated there was no appetite by all of the Republicans and some of the Democrats for the tax increases.

So there has been much hang wringing and pleas for compromise by media and the political class.  Some have suggested the Republicans accept some kind of tax increase - could be Wolf's dream of additional taxes on the oil and gas industry, or a broadening of the sales tax - and that Wolf accept maybe the privatizing of state stores.  Let's give the GOP leadership credit for so far resisting a deal that would raise taxes.

However, GOP leaders are now floating the idea to raise revenue by expanding gambling in Pennsylvania.  The idea is that this would provide at least some of the additional revenue that Governor Wolf wants so badly.  Majority Leader Dave Reed said that a discussion is needed on what other revenues are on the table and "gaming options" should be in the discussion.  The pressure is getting to him.  When the GOP leadership starts talking about increasing revenues to solve the budget impasse they have accepted the Governor's premise that the problem is not enough revenue.  They are now arguing on his terms.

Gambling is seen as easy out.  It has been turned to before.  Gambling's role in financing government continues to grow.  We enacted a state lottery ($1 billion in revenue last year!) to support programs for the elderly.  We then had to keep up with our neighboring states' gambling attractions and support horse racing. So we opened up casino gambling ($1.2 billion in taxes last year!) - funds to go to property tax relief and many other wonderful causes.  Then to keep up with our neighboring states (yes, we heard this before) we had to expand casino gambling to include table games (an additional $96 million last year).  Then we legalized gambling in bars ($554,000 in diminishing returns).

Well, what's next? Well, there is Internet gambling, slot machines at off-track horse race betting parlors, slot machines at airports, and ... use your imagination.  All the revenue, of course, would be needed for the children, the "underfunded" schools, the elderly, the deteriorating bridges, the elderly, the poor, healthcare, job development, and ... use your imagination.

Most importantly, a new gambling based revenue stream would permit the GOP leadership to not have to raise taxes, and to offer new revenue to Governor Wolf and the media demanding a compromise.  It would also allow the leadership to dodge their responsibility to CUT SPENDING.  The General Assembly, with Republican majorities in both houses, needs to remain firm and let Governor Wolf know that if the budget is indeed unbalanced, as he claims, then spending will have to be reduced.

Furthermore, Pennsylvania does not need more state sanctioned gambling.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is addicted to gambling revenue.  It now cannot live without it.  What used to be enough now does not give the high it used to: more gambling; more tax revenue to feed the addict.  The GOP leadership would be enabling this addiction and taking the cowardly way out by solving this budget impasse with gambling revenue.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Trump is an Idiot

Excuse my French, but Donald Trump is an idiot.  I am astounded no politicians or media bigwigs call him out.  How can he continue to lead in the polls when his "policy statements" or answers to questions are simplistic nothingness?

I understand that a certain percentage of Republicans support him because he voices our disgust with the direction of the nation and the lack of leadership in the the party.  I understand his refusal to be politically correct is attractive.  This is not enought to be a serious candidate for President.

I also understand all the media attention.  The mainstream media loves the circus.  Trump attracts viewership as people tune in to see a live catastrophe. Who will he insult next?  What vulgar or embarrassing gaffe will he next utter?  Yet he has no shame and continues to bluster.

He clearly lacks any depth on policy, and where we do know his positions most of them are not conservative.  Come on people.  It is not enough to say things are bad and that other people are stupid (e.g., Rand Paul) and ugly (e.g., Carly Fiorina).  To borrow an old (commercial and) political line: where is the beef?

I give you two examples of his idiocy (for the sake of time...I'm sure you can think of many).  First on immigration.  He, in an around about way, states that our immigration policy is broken.  'Around about' because he expresses the frustration most of have that our borders are insecure and we paradoxically provide more incentives and benefits to illegal immigrants.  He crudely speaks of the caliber of immigrants.  Okay, I can live with the gist of his description of the problem, even if I think he is offensive. 

However, it is his solution that shows his idiocy.  He is going to build a wall.  Yes, most of us agree we should definitely construct some kind of physical barrier to control the illegal immigration.  Even many of the establishment Republicans give lip service to this. But Trump speaks as if this is a new idea and he wants to bring some credibility to the statement by saying, "That's what I do; build walls, And it will be a good wall. And the Mexicans will pay for it!"  (Claps and cheers.)

Uhh, the Mexicans will pay for it?  Why would they do that, Donald?  "Because I will make them, and it will be like no wall you ever saw.  Trump builds walls!" (Cheers and claps).  Really? We're going to accept that drivel from a candidate for President?  And just because you say it will be "good" I'm suppose to say, "well then that settles it? You got my vote."  Does anybody really know what he means by 'good'?  It is so simplistic to be meaningless.

The second example comes from a recent flap when he did not object to unflattering talk about Muslims and the claim that our President was a Muslim. "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims," an unidentified man who spoke at a question-and-answer town hall event in Rochester, New Hampshire on September 17th. "You know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American."  Trump interrupted the man, chuckling, "We need this question..." 

"Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us," the man continued. "That's my question: When can we get rid of them?"

Then comes Trump's idiotic "answer."  "We're going to be looking at a lot of different things.  You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We're going to be looking at that and many other things."  He then moves on to another question.

Now the media and some of his political competitors took him to task for not challenging the man's statement that the country's problem is Muslims, and that President Obama is a Muslim and not an American.  I understand where they are coming from, but a candidate is not required to go about correcting his audience or questioners. And some have also countered that he does not need to defend Obama's faith - Obama can do that.

What gets me is the total lack of a cogent answer.  One of Trump's beauty pageant contestants could come up with a better response.  "A lot of people are saying bad things are happening?"  That is the depth of his thinking on the issue? And his solution: "We're going to be looking at that and many other things."  Good, I'm glad that is settled.

I can't wait until we get past this juvenile phase and begin a serious debate with serious candidates.

Friday, September 4, 2015

County Clerk Jailed for Religious Belief

Well, it was inevitable, wasn't it?  The conflict between the new "right to marry" and freedom of religion has resulted in a County Clerk in Kentucky going to jail.  Kim Davis sits behind bars for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  I am not at all surprised.  I am a little surprised more government officials haven't exercised their religious conscience and refused to be part of redefining marriage.

In an earlier blog I defended businesses (such as a photographer who refused to photograph a gay wedding) who choose not to participate in an activity they believe is an affront to God.  I have said that a baker should be able to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay marriage if gay marriage is against his religious beliefs.  However, the baker would be guilty of discrimination for refusing to sell cookies to a individual who claimed to be a homosexual.  The difference is with the wedding cake he would be complicit in the celebration of the gay marriage.  Selling a cookie does not violate the baker's conscience nor require him to condone homosexuality.

Now we have an elected government official who believes that if she were to issue a marriage license she would be complicit in a wedding that she believes is against God's law.  Is it different than the photographer or baker exercising their freedom of religion?  No, not on the basis of free exercise of religion.  Does the clerk lose her religious liberty because she is a government official?  I don't think so.  Does her oath of office require her to act against her religiously held belief?

I don't think any oath of office requires a government official to act against their sincerely held religious beliefs.  Yes, holding a government office means that you work for the people.  However, "we the people" cannot require our officials to act against their religious beliefs, because we have recognized (in the 1st Amendment) that all people have a right to free exercise of their beliefs.  To require a government official to act against their religious belief violates who we are, according to the Constitution.

Christians facing persecution for their beliefs turn to the story in Acts (5:27- 29) where Peter and the apostles were brought before the authorities for teaching in Jesus' name in violation of the authorities prohibition.  Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men."  Christians have the responsibility NOT to obey authorities when such authorities require Christians to disobey God's explicit commandments.

How about the consequences?  Peter and the apostles were beaten by the authorities and told not to speak about Jesus anymore.  They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor in His name, and they kept on preaching. Most of them eventually were killed for their beliefs.  Christianity spread throughout the world.

When the State enshrines into law a sin God calls an abomination there will be inevitable consequences.  Kim Davis has been sent to jail (supposedly for a week).  I don't think it is right, but she knew there would be consequences.  (Another option she had was to resign her position.  To me that is an acceptable option, but to her conscience, and we must accept it, it was not.) We'll see where this now goes.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Don't Accept the Premise

For the last several weeks the Pennsylvania General Assembly has been in budget crisis mode.  This year is especially entertaining because the new governor is a Democrat and the Republicans hold both houses.  Governor Wolf campaigned on increasing education funding (which he falsely claimed was cut $1 billion by Governor Corbett) and is pushing the legislature to raise taxes to fund it.

Governor Wolf's plan calls for an increase of about $600 million in education funding.  He wants a severance tax on oil and gas producers to pay for education and some other goodies.  Therefore his staff and supporters attack any legislator opposed to increased education funding with "putting frackers before kids." Or they may use the more general attack "not caring about the education of our children."

What are the Republicans to do?  Do they want to stand for the evil frackers against our poor defenseless, uneducated children?  Horrors, no!  So the House has proposed $145 million in new funding for education.

I have been thinking about the premise these past weeks.  I wondered why no one was pushing back or refusing to accept the premise- the premise that we need to increase education funding.  We see this pattern all too often: the Democrats propose a new crisis is upon us and we need to fix it with new programs, higher taxes and increased spending.  The Republicans react to the proposal with some opposition and then offer their own ill-advised program but at a smaller scale.

A few days ago I heard a talk show host share a similar observation.  He asked why we do we accept the liberals' premise?  Why do we publicly debate on their terms?  It confirmed my thoughts about the debate on education funding in Pennsylvania.

What is a sufficient level of funding for education?  Will we ever be satisfied? We spend an average of $14,000 per student in Pennsylvania, one of the highest rates in the country.

Try this premise instead:  $14,000 per student is enough and we should strive to more efficient and effective with that amount.  Let's stop accepting liberals' premises and stand on our own principled beliefs.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

We are Different

A couple of days ago I read an article about the most recent unfairness.  Apparently there is a problem at the National Spelling Bee.  Indian Americans have won the last seven years in a row.  This has led some fringe people to take to social media with racists rants.  I guess, to our shame, we will always have that.

But that isn't the problem I am referring to. Some people are complaining that it just isn't right that Indian Americans should dominate.  It doesn't seem fair that others don't have a fair shot at the Spelling Bee Championship. There are subtle suggestions that the organizers should do something about this unfairness.  There must be a leveling of the field they imply. The organizers are tiptoeing around the issue for fear they will be called racists.

The writer of the article referenced the similar dominance of Kenyans in winning the Boston Marathon.  Year after year, in a huge field of contestants, the Kenyans cross the finish line ahead of other nationalities and races. What to do with this prickly (racial) subject?

First let me say that I believe we are all part of the human race.  I think the notion of races is an unfortunate categorization of beings that are made in the likeness of God.  We are all the same, made in His image (yet we are also the same in that we fall short and are sinners).

However, we are given various and different talents by our Maker.  This does not make us better or worse in value before God. We each have a responsibility to use the talents God gave us.  To some God has given physical beauty, and to some the talent to create beautiful art. To some He has given great intellect.  To some He has given the ability to dunk a basketball or hit a 99 mph fastball.  To some He has given gifts of hospitality or preaching or wisdom or humility.

We humans value these God given talents more or less, and in various times what is valued varies more or less.  Can you believe, for example, the Miami Marlins right fielder has a contract worth about $350 million ... for hitting the fastball a third of the time!? 

Please note that I am not diminishing human effort and hard work from the equation.  It is a very rare successful human being who does not add effort to God given talent.  The God given talent comes first, then we must cultivate it; train ourselves; work at it.  However, no matter how much I train I will not be able to dunk a basketball (God did not make me tall) or win a beauty contest (God did not make me an attractive female).

Is this fair? Wrong question. We must be content with the uniqueness God has created in us.

Back to the Spelling Bee.  I am not a tiny bit concerned that Indian Americans are winning.  Good for those winners. You know that they worked very hard for it.  I am not even concerned if God gave them an extra portion of the ability to memorize word spellings.  Is it possible that Indians as a race or people (I hate to use the construct "race" for the reasons I described above- the Bible uses the term "nations"  -but I will resort to race for sake of discussion ) have more ability for this sort of thing? Is it racist to say so publicly?

Why can't we accept that we ARE different? Even the so-called races may have more or less various talents.  Is it possible that Kenyans run faster because God made them that way?! We could make many more obvious observations (and sure, many exceptions). 

I know, you are thinking that if we accept that God made some peoples (or races) faster or smarter that means that some are slower and dumber as a whole.  So what?  It does not make them better or worse before God who is the Creator and giver of talents.  It should not make them more or less valuable as human beings to me and you.

We're suppose to be all about valuing diversity nowadays.  It is suppose to make us better people, better businesses, better communities.  Why can't we celebrate this diversity in talents?  We can even celebrate differences in races while valuing each human as made in the image of God.