Category Archives: Politics

Corruption Close to Home

State and Local Government Buildings (clockwise from top right: MA Statehouse, Gorham NH Townhall, NY City Hall, NJ Statehouse)

Most of our discussions with others about politics center on what is going on at the National level.  What goes on at that level is certainly a source of valid concerns.  But there are problems at the lower levels as well.  I once heard someone say “If you think there is corruption in Congress, you would be shocked to find out what is going on in the State Legislature”.  I agree wholeheartedly with this statement.

Most political positions in the United States are at the State and Local level.  The vast majority of these positions are part time, with very little monetary compensation in return for the time and effort it takes to run for office and then work in that office if elected.  On the other hand, the power and authority invested in these “part time” and “volunteer” positions, is quite extensive.  They have the power to tax, the power to spend, and the power to regulate.  All of this makes for VERY fertile ground on which corruption can spread.

Most of the corruption at the State and Local levels involves Real Estate.  This is due to the power of elected officials from the Legislature to Town Councils to drastically effect the value of land and property.

There seem to be two common forms of Real Estate corruption.  The first is to buy land that is zoned for one purpose (say “light industrial”), and then get those in local power to rezone it (say to “multi-family housing”).  The zoning of land, meaning what the owner is allowed to build on it, has a dramatic influence on the value of that property.   In this example, I could potentially buy a “light industrial” lot for say $500K, get it rezoned so that I could build an apartment complex on it (rezoned to “multi-family housing” ), and suddenly the lot could be worth $2 Million. I don’t even have to build the apartment complex; I could just sell the land to someone else who wants to do that.  In doing so, I just made $1.5 Million.  All I had to do was convince some politician friend to make the zoning change.  And what do you think influences this low level politician to do that?  All too often the answer is simply “corruption”.

The other common form of Real Estate corruption is to buy land out in the boondocks, where there is little to no infrastructure (few roads, few utilities, no sewers).  Then use tax funds whose expenditure you are responsible for to build improvements and provide infrastructure out to that land.  The land is now worth a lot more, as it now has attributes and access it did not have before.  In this case, I could buy some land out in the countryside for say $100K.  Then I use my “influence” with the town council to have streets and sewer lines expanded out to my property.  Then I sell it for $250K, more than doubling the value of my investment.  Again, the mechanism for raising the property value is “corruption”.

There are plenty of other ways for corruption to take place at the State and Local level.  Anything that involves tax rates, revenue expenditure, and of course, regulation, can easily also involve corruption.  Those that want a specific expenditure or a specific regulation change too often are involved in “influencing” what they want by finding a way to corrupt the officials involved.

What to Do

First off, it is just as important to be involved in local politics as national politics.  At a bare minimum, we need to know who are local officials are and what they are doing.  We need to scrutinize the changes they make, and ascertain their motives.  We need to work to quickly get rid of anyone trying to personally enrich themselves (and/or their friends) at the expense of the rest of us.

We need to make it that the time/effort spent in public service is worthwhile.  I think that everyone should be properly compensated for work, and work in government should not be an exception.  A decent salary today for someone in management is around $100K per year.  This is roughly $50 an hour.  When salaries or compensation are below this level, good people don’t want to do it.  Unfortunately, the people that will do it have found other ways to get money.

A Worrisome Change

Turkish President Recep Erdogan

With only a couple of exceptions, I am not too worried about any kind of major war or disruption coming out of the Middle East.  The militaries of the vast majority of these countries are of extremely low quality, and, unless we make the mistake again of attempting to occupy one of them long term, there is little they can do to hurt us.

The big exception is Turkey.  They have large and competent combat forces.  They have a long and distinguished military tradition.  They have proven themselves throughout the last century as determined fighters, as in Korea or on Gallipoli.

Turkey was once the pre-eminent Islamic power.  The last Caliphate, the political, military and religious leadership of Islam was based in the Turkish Ottoman Empire, with Istanbul as its capitol.  The Ottoman Empire was destroyed by World War One.  Things got so bad for the Turks in the aftermath, that the Greek Army landed in Asia and tried to take over the western half of Turkey.

The Turkish hero of Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal, was able to drive the Greeks out of Turkey.  He established modern Turkey and took the name “Ataturk”.  He recognized that Turkey was backwards compared to the rest of Europe, and that Islam was the reason.  Due to his enormous prestige, he was able to turn Turkey into a secular country.

Ataturk greatly curbed the power and influence of Islam in Turkey.  He ended the Caliphate.  He made it illegal to wear beards and forbade forcing women to wear burkas or even headscarves.  Islamic headgear was banned.  He introduced democracy.  He literally changed the mainstream culture in Turkey.  He did this to modernize the country and bring it out of the middle ages.

Turkey is now changing.  While secular families tend to only have a couple of children, highly religious Islamic families tend to have a LOT more.  As a result, what had been a minority within Turkey grew to have significant political clout.  They now have as much or more political power at the ballot box than those wishing to see Ataturk’s secular Turkey continue.

Recep Erdogan is the Turkish President.  He initially espoused Islamic views in politics and was severely punished.  Since then he has attempted to mask these views.  Yet he is steadily consolidating power, arresting journalists, and dismissing military officers of differing political views.  He views a return to Ottoman glory as an objective.

Should, or rather I should say when, Erdogan takes dictatorial control of Turkey, it will mean abandoning Ataturks secular reforms.  Turkey would once again become an Islamic state.  An Islamic state with a powerful and competent military that could actually threaten a now mostly disarmed Europe and the weak in the Middle East.  This would be disastrous and a far greater threat than current terrorism.

What to Do

Our political leaders need to recognize Erdogan for what he is and what he is doing.  He should have no support and no aid.  We should stop support of his military and put limitations on Turkey’s participation in NATO.

We should encourage and support opposition to Erdogan and his party.  We should do more to arm and otherwise support the Kurds.

Even with all of the above, it may be too late.  Turkey may decide, democratically, to abandon its recent history as a stable secular state, and revert to its past as a powerful Islamic state.

The Bad Loser

Hillary Clinton

The sad reason that the United States has Donald Trump as its president is that American voters were presented with what they viewed as an even worse alternative when they went to the polls in 2016.  The choices were the two worst presented to American voters in living memory.  I have already discussed Trump and some of his issues, many of which we continue to have to deal with.  As we do so, we have to remember what the alternative was.

Personally, I think that most people voted not for Trump, but AGAINST his opponent, Hillary Clinton.  As flawed as Trump is, Hillary was viewed as even worse, and rightly so.  So let’s briefly review what she had done that was so bad.

Since her earliest days on the public stage, Hillary Clinton has been accused of political corruption.  This is the process of taking money from “donors” or “supporters” in order to influence political decisions.  The most flagrant example of this is still going on.  After Bill Clinton’s presidency ended in 2001, he set up the “Clinton Foundation”.  This foundation has to date taken in over $2 Billion in “donations”.  Much of this was taken in while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State under President Obama, or while she was running for President herself (and had a very good chance of winning).

Most of the “donors” wanted particular contracts or other government decisions made in their favor.  As Secretary of State or potentially as President, she had or would have immense power to influence such decisions.  On top of this, the “Foundation” can pay its employees anything it wants to.  Heads of similar “charities” commonly pay their executives a million or so dollars a year.

Hillary purports herself to be a champion of women.  Yet she defended her sexual predator husband against multiple charges of rape and sexual assault.  She denigrated and attacked the accusers at every turn.  You cannot say that you are a “champion of women” and then treat a slew of them with legitimate claims differently.  And you certainly can’t defend and justify a long term, multiple account sexual predator because it benefits your political career.

Then there was the email mess.  Hillary certainly had her communication system set up outside of the government’s security systems.  This enabled foreign entities to uncover secret information that was her duty as the most senior cabinet official to protect.  This is in fact criminal.  The motive behind doing this appears to be that she didn’t want communication uncovered that may have been related to Foundation donor deals.  When this might have happened anyway, all of the communication was mysteriously deleted and permanently erased.

Hillary never has, and probably never will, admit to any failures or poor judgment.  To her party’s great dismay, she continues to stay in the limelight, blaming others for her electoral loss.

What to Do

Recognize that both Parties have put forward candidates of lower and lower quality over the years.  Both are failing to find and promote individuals for high office that we need.  As a result, we have a leadership beholden to cronies, influence peddlers, and outright crooks.

We desperately need to wipe the slate clean.  We need to find honest people with a history of service to others who are willing to make the difficult decisions that are needed and will be needed.

This means that each of us MUST become informed, and we MUST become more involved in our political processes.  Those with self serving motives have been in power for far too long.

The Red Russian Herring

Russian President Putin and US President Trump

The 2016 Unites States President Election saw new levels of political vindictiveness.  Along with it came high levels of intrigue, corruption, hatred and distortions.  Personally, I was appalled at the choice presented to voters by the candidates of the two main political parties.  Both of them, in my opinion, are reprehensible individuals who have repeatedly engaged in dishonorable if not completely illegal behavior, and neither should have been seen fit to hold the highest elected office of the land.  More on that at a later time.

What I want to get into here is the way the election of Donald Trump was handled by some of his opponents.  They have attacked the very VALIDITY of the election.  They are saying that Trump somehow colluded with the Russians, and this is how he won the election.  They are in fact saying, “Trump wasn’t validly elected President”.

There is no evidence, none, that a single vote was changed by “outside forces”.  This means that American voted for Trump over Clinton.  Trump’s opponents know this.  So they have to move from accusations of vote tampering to accusing Trump of using Russians to somehow “influence” the American electorate.

The current “evidence” of this happening is that Russian “internet trolls” were directed to post false and misleading information on Facebook and other internet media platforms.  I do not doubt that Russians did this.  Trump’s accusers also say that Trump was somehow getting other assistance, money and influence that allowed him to somehow “trick” people into voting for him.

Americans have ALWAYS been subjected to huge choruses of people telling them this or that or the other thing, and the VAST majority know that they have to wade through the smoke to find the truth.  Even children know the internet is mostly wild and outrageous claims.  But to say that somehow, this time, the Russians were successful in tricking a large number of people is a far, far stretch of the imagination.  I find it to be an unbelievable Red Herring.  Trump did somehow get enough people to vote for him to VALIDLY win the presidential election of 2016.

Trump’s detractors try to assign motive to the purported Russian interference by further stating that Putin somehow controls Trump due to owing his high office to Russian influence.  To date I have only seen evidence of Trump doing things contrary to Russian wishes.  This includes involvement in Syria (which I personally don’t agree with, yet it is the opposite of what Russia wants), restrictions on Putin’s oligarch cronies, installing missile defenses in Poland, selling anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, expelling Russian diplomats and so on.

On the other hand, under Obama (and much if this was while Hillary Clinton was his Secretary of State), the US pulled plans for missile defenses in Poland, had no restrictions on robber baron oligarchs and their dirty money, would not sell even defensive weapons to Ukraine, and even allowed Russia to directly intervene in Syria.  We all even saw Obama tell Medvedev (Putin’s protégé) that he would have more “flexibility” to acquiesce to Russian desires, once he was re-elected.

What to Do

We may not like that Trump is our president.  I certainly don’t.  But I do acknowledge that he won the 2016 election by valid means.  People voted in the Republican Primaries for him to be the Republican candidate, and then people voted for him so that he won the election in November.

People can detract from this somewhat by saying that he didn’t win 50% of the popular vote, but our system is set up this way, and I believe for wise purposes.  Everyone going into a presidential election knows the intricacies of this system, and if Hillary could complain about anything it would be her staff not sending her to Wisconsin or more frequently to Pennsylvania and Michigan.

It is OK to not like the American President or his actions.  But to say the Russians put him there is both ludicrous and dangerous.  Saying this makes Trump more apt to do things contrary to Putin’s wishes in order to prove that Putin doesn’t pull his strings.  And this will just make the world a MUCH more dangerous place.


The Unites States was built by immigration.  Almost everyone in the country is the descendant of an immigrant who came to the United States after it achieved independence.  For much of its history, the United States was open to immigrants.  There had been attempts to limit immigration in the past, but this is now a major political issue for the country today.

There is a major difference between the mass immigration in the past and the immigration taking place today.  In the past, let’s say from 1880-1920, a major period of historical immigration, if you came to America, you had to take care of yourself.  There were some ethnic based aide societies, but basically, your personal situation as an immigrant was up to you.  You had to quickly find work and find ways to integrate into society.  Many were unable to do this and returned home.  In fact, about a THIRD of the immigrants in this period returned to their country of origin.

Today, if you come to the United States, the government does a lot to help you out.  And it is costing the country a fortune to do this.  Many say that immigrants pay taxes and are contributing to the country.  This is true.  Estimates are that immigrants pay about $19 Billion in taxes a year.  But Federal and State governments pay a total of $115 Billion in aid and support for immigrants (figures from the “Federation for American Immigration Reform” website.  Note that I deducted the $20 Billion spent on Border and Customs enforcement that would have to be spent anyway).  The net result is that we pay just a bit under $100 Billion a year to support immigrants.  The United States is, and always has been, the land of opportunity.  We should continue to welcome those who want to come here, work hard, and get ahead.  The key word is “opportunity”.  It is NOT a guarantee that the country will take care of you, and your family, as long as you are here.

“Opportunity” also means that those that come must do their best to make changes to be best able to take advantage of them.  This means things like learning English, a willingness to work at whatever job is available, and getting education and skills to be even better positioned for future opportunities.  We do a BIG disservice to those we try to help by accommodating their foreign languages in schools and government.  If you don’t speak English in the United States, you will forever have extremely poor economic opportunities.

The language isn’t the only adjustment immigrants may need to make.  They also have to accept American culture.  This doesn’t mean changing the food they eat or the holidays they celebrate.  But it does mean accepting the critical cultural norms of freedoms of speech, thought, and religion, as well as avoiding criminality and corruption.

Immigrants who are willing to work for themselves want to join mainstream America should always be welcomed with open arms.  There is plenty of room, and we all collectively benefit from the increase in economic activity.  On the other hand, those who come here looking for a handout or who are unwilling to adopt to American freedoms, or, worse yet, are here with criminal intent, need to be sent back.

What to Do

Building a Wall isn’t going to fix America’s immigration problem.  It might be helpful in some high traffic areas for illegal crossings, but more than half of the illegal immigrants in the United States get here on visas that they then overstay.  Unfortunately, the only real way to identify and then deport illegal immigrants is to have national identity cards/papers.

Businesses and other employers of illegal immigrants should face SEVERE penalties.  Illegals who have entered multiple times should have stronger penalties than just another deportation.

We need to reduce services and government aid to immigrants, especially the illegal ones.  Services like hospital emergency rooms are expensive to everyone, and those with no proper claim to these should not be able to use them.  Welfare and housing assistance should be reserved for those who were actually invited in (such as legitimate war refugees vetted prior to entry).

On the other hand, we do need to have a viable immigration system.  We do want people to come here who want to work hard and build better lives for themselves and their children.  That’s exactly why our own ancestors came here.  We do need a system of work permits or a guest worker program.  Those that prove themselves would then be able to earn the right to stay.  Others with desirable skills, such as medical professionals, engineers and so on, should be able to apply to come.  And those who are criminals need to be punished and then removed.

Failures in Liberalism

Clockwise from Upper Left: The Clintons, FDR, Obama, LBJ

In the preceding post, I described how I felt the Republican Party had failed America.  In this post, I will describe how the Democratic Party has done the same.  They too have done almost irreparable damage to our country, economy and security.  They just did it from a different “perspective”.

The Democrats purport to be the party of progress, the party that will take care of the “common person”, and the ones that will eliminate want and punish greed.  Yet, their methods of taking care of the poor and sick have hurt everyone, including those they say they are working to help.

The Democrats most massive failure is in social programs.  Now it is good to want to help the poor, sick and needy.  The problem is HOW the Democrats have gone about doing this.  They do not set up programs for people to help themselves.  Instead they have set up programs where everyone else is FORCED to provide for others.

The first massive social program was Social Security.  This was set up to help poor older people who had no one to take care of them.  But instead of creating savings programs through which people would fund their own retirement, they took from others and gave to people who had put nothing in.  They created a massive Ponzi scheme for the elderly which will eventually bankrupt everyone (let alone leaving the elderly to starve when the program collapses).

Next up was the War on Poverty.  This was a massive effort to provide for the poor.  It was supposed to lift them out of poverty.  They funded this effort through massive government borrowing.  It has had little effect, as the same percentage of people in the country are below the poverty line as when these efforts started decades ago.  But now, thanks to the massive borrowing, governments at every level are now saddled with debt they cannot ever repay.

Both efforts also had very toxic unintended consequences.  Social Security destroyed the extended family in the United States, as everyone now expects the government to take care of their elderly.  The War on Poverty both destroyed the incentives to work (you can now be idle and get enough to survive), and the families of the poor, as men have deserted them, knowing the government will feed and house them.

The Democrats believe that government is or can be the solution to any problem.  They use the government’s almost unlimited ability to borrow money to pay for whatever program is needed to fix the issue.  This is literally destroying democracy, as voters now vote for whoever promises them the most money.  It creates massively expensive bureaucracies, and of course causes government debt to go through the stratosphere.

They also are complicit in destroying what little of democracy is left by using the courts to bypass the voters.  Democratic judicial appointees feel that since they know better than the voters, they can create laws without debate or elections.

And then there is the problem of the Double Standard.  I don’t exactly know where this comes from, but it certainly exists.  The Liberals have a strict standard of conduct that everyone else is supposed to adhere to.  But they have a very different standard for their friends.  It seems that you are in trouble for what you do if you are their enemy.  But espouse their views (better yet, get elected because of those views), and you can actually get away with the most abhorrent behavior.  Think the Clintons.

What to Do

It is a good thing to want to help the poor, the sick and the elderly.  We should all be engaged in trying to help others.  It is the right thing to do.  We have a basic human responsibility to help others.

The problem with the Democrats is HOW they are trying to do this.  Their misguided efforts have bankrupted our cities, states and nation.  Their programs have had horrible unintended consequences.  They have destroyed incentives to work.  They have seriously damaged or outright destroyed the family structures of those they were supposed to be helping.  They have created massive bureaucracies and regulation that are strangling economic activity.

We need to find ways to help others without this kind of damage.  There does need to be a safety net.  But it needs to not enable the abandonment of families and responsibility, while enabling drug use, idleness and a mentality of entitlement.  A new social solution MUST be found.  One based on personal responsibility and action.

Failures in Conservatism

President Reagan, VP Bush and 1981 Cabinet

I believe that BOTH political parties have failed the country.  Both have done things that have resulted in almost irreparable damage to the country, the economy, and our safety and security.  In this article, I will touch on the main ways the Republican Party has failed.

The Republicans purport to be the party of conservative values.  Yet they have failed to maintain those values by the policies they have actually followed.  Allow me to elaborate on the most fundamental and egregious examples.

In the area of economics, they have failed in two major ways.  The first happened quite a while ago, during the Reagan presidency.  Republicans used to be the party that stopped out of control government spending.  This ended in the Reagan era.  Reagan wanted to seriously expand the military to meet the ongoing threat of the Soviet Union.  I didn’t have a problem with this.  The problem was that Reagan also wanted to slash taxes at the same time.  The result was increased government spending while increasing the deficit.  This didn’t seem to matter at the time.  But it opened the flood gates to ballooning deficits.  As a result, the government debt has grown from much less than a Trillion dollars during Reagan’s time, to close to Twenty Trillion right now.  And this is now so much that it can never be repaid.  And we can thank a large part of this monstrous debt to Republicans who threw away their prior aversion to government debt.

The second way the Republicans failed us is in preventing Capitalism from actually working.  Capitalism is a great way to foster entrepreneurship and create individual incentives to produce more.  But to work, Capitalism must allow for failure.  When individuals and enterprises fail, for whatever reason, they must deal with the consequences.  This frequently means bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy must happen to clear bad debts, and to provide incentives to those who loan money to manage risks properly (or risk losing their money).  The Republicans utterly failed in the 2008 crisis.  The bailouts and governmental financial intervention (TARP) stopped the “safety valves” of Capitalism from working, and as a result, the pressures from expanding extreme financial risk have been continuing to build ever since.  As a result, the next financial crisis will be immensely worse than what happened a decade ago.  And this time the government WON’T be able to handle the damage.

The Republicans have failed to protect us.  In fact, they have made things much worse in the international arena.  It used to be that Republicans were against involvement in Foreign Wars and military entanglements.  Now, we are involved in more situations than I can count.  This started with our response to terrorism, but it really began with helping what we thought were “like minded” rebels in Afghanistan.  It mushroomed with the unbelievably naive idea of trying to turn Iraq into a democracy, where we wasted our strength and threw away Trillions in national treasure.

The internal “fracturing” of the Republican party led to its current control by both extremists and special interests.  This is a root cause of the rise of the current president, who was able to pander to the extremists while enlisting the aid of any special interest that would support him.

So now we have a supposedly conservative Party with control of Congress and the Presidency that is interventionist, profligate spenders with no real interest in true Capitalism, who are doing nothing to rectify the mistakes of the past, nor preparing our country for the financial and military disasters that are looming in front of us.

What to Do

Understand how the Republican party has changed since the 1950’s.  It went from fiscally conservative and militarily non-interventionist to the opposite of both.  It has failed its core constituency as it has become more dependent on special interest groups, and more in tune with extremist elements.

The Tea Party activists tried to intervene and save the party.  They failed.  In large measure by promoting extremist candidates that cannot win November elections.

A true right of center party is sorely needed.  It can only come from a combination of grass roots people volunteering their time, and by true patriots putting some serious fortunes at the disposal of these volunteers.  I believe such a combination is possible, and it will be needed to extricate us from the calamites the Republicans and Democrats have created for us all.

The Tax Reform Obstacle

Almost everyone says that they want the Tax System in the United States fixed.  It is true that we don’t like doing all of the convoluted paperwork.  But the problem is that we don’t really want it fixed if it means that our favorite “tricks” disappear.  And by “tricks” I mean the methods that we personally use to lower our own taxes.

A lot is said about how Special Interest groups wield too much power.  They use their money to get special tax breaks and other privileges for their groups that are not available to the rest of us.  This is certainly true, and a massive problem.  But we as individuals do the same thing.  And by not being willing to let go, collectively, of the tax breaks that we get, we doom ourselves to never seeing true tax reform.

The home mortgage deduction is a good case in point.  We get to pay less in taxes when we pay interest on our home mortgage.  If we aren’t paying down a mortgage, we don’t get this deduction.  So people who either own their home debt free, but even more so, those that cannot afford a home, are paying MORE on their taxes as a result.  This means that the less wealthy are SUBSIDIZING the home purchases of the more affluent.  Of course, this tax deduction is defended by the Realtors (a special interest group), who want this deduction to stay, so that people have more incentive to buy a home.  But because we, collectively, don’t want this tax deduction to go away, it doesn’t.

No one is willing to give up the deductions that they have become used to.  Another is the deduction for state and local income taxes.  This deduction is currently under attack by the currently proposed tax reforms.  What this deduction does is force people in States/cities with lower local taxes to pay MORE on Federal taxes to subsidize the outrageous tax rates in the big cities and left leaning states.  Again, those getting a deduction are subsidized by those that don’t get it.

It applies to having large families as well.  Those with more children get to pay less in taxes thanks to the standard deductions given for dependents.  After all, it does cost a lot of money to have more children.  But why should others have to pay more to support the life and family choices of others.

One of the ways that the current complex tax code is rationalized is that those in power say they can use it to influence certain behaviors.  The behaviors that they say they want.  They might say, for example, they want incentives for people to own homes.  But then there are huge tax breaks for growing corn or sugar.  WHY?  Frankly, it’s not about incentivizing behavior, it is literally a way to buy votes, using money (subsidies) that come from you and I.

What to Do

The only way to get to true and lasting tax reform is with a Flat Tax.  Under such a system, there are no deductions, for anybody for anything or any purpose.  You are taxed on your gain, your profit, your “increase”.  This way, the ability of Special Interest Groups is severely curtailed.  This way, congress members and presidential candidates could not use our money to buy votes.

Frankly, a Flat Tax is the way God himself does it, according to the Bible.  He says to pay tithing, which is 10% of your gain.  Nowhere in the description of tithing does it say you get to pay less because you own a home or you have more kids.

If we want a better system, we have to acknowledge our own part in the mess.  We have to be willing to give up the few deductions that we have in order to get a better system.  And in the end we would ALL be better off.

The Lesser of Two Evils

The 2016 Presidential Election presented American voters with what were probably the two worst choices for President in the history of the Republic.  Both were and are reprehensible individuals with massive egos.  As a result, most people voted for what they viewed as the least corrupt and least reprehensible, with more voting for change than for continuity of existing policies and practices.

Clinton is as corrupt as all get out.  And it is obvious to anyone who can read.  While Secretary of State under President Obama, she gave preferential treatment (and as Sec. of State she wielded enormous power in granting trade and business concessions) to companies and individuals who paid her husband exorbitant speaking fees, or who donated money to her family “foundation”.  Her personal character is in question for how she dealt with those accusing her husband of sexual harassment and even rape.  Her personal life seems to be one of doing anything and saying anything to gain and maintain power, which she egotistically believes she is entitled to.

Trump is different only really in the particulars.  He is a real estate magnate from New York City.  He borrowed billions for projects and then enriched himself in a shell game that left the banks holding the bag when the loans came due.  He then converted over to selling his name and persona.  His method of success is not to create, but to enrich himself at the expense of others.  Personally, he is a thin skinned bully who says the most outrageously egotistical things.  On top of this are his misogynistic statements that are an affront to any female.

Given these choices, people voted for what they viewed as the lesser of two evils.  Trump represented change and a willingness to put America’s interests first.  He was supposed to dismantle many of the Obama policies and programs, appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court, do something to stem the tide of illegal immigration, and, of course, lower taxes.  I still have no idea what Clinton represented other than “it’s a Woman’s turn” and “She deserves it”.

America gets the leaders it deserves as a nation, .  Our collective lack of political interest and involvement left us with these two completely avoidable choices.  Both candidates had to go through the primary process of their respective parties.  People actually voted for both Clinton and Trump to make it to the “finals”.  And this is both a condemnation of us as a nation, and of the two party system we currently use.

What to Do

The only way NOT to get choices like these is to become politically active.  This starts with educating yourself on the issues, and investigating alternatives regarding the options to solve our problems.  Being involved in the nomination and primary processes is a good next step, as this is where the “finalists” are chosen.

I believe that both the Republican and Democratic Parties are hopelessly controlled by special interest groups and extremists.  I see no way of correcting these corrupt and self serving institutions.  There needs to be other major, national parties.  Ones that are not controlled by extremists, and ones that are willing to tackle the serious problems we have.

When things really go bad, and they soon will, we cannot trust either the Democrats or Republicans to fix the problems, as they and their self-serving leaders have created them in the first place.

The Republic

The founders of the United States were very knowledgeable people who understood history.  As they rebelled against a monarchy, they had no desire to replace it with a dictatorship, as they understood that this was merely another form of absolute rule.  And it was extremely rare that an absolute ruler would be a fair and honest person putting the needs of the people first.  So instead, they looked at the history of Rome and Greece to come up with a viable alternative.

So the United States was founded as a democratic Republic.  Under such a system, rulers are not determined by birth.  Instead, people vote to elect representatives who in turn act as their agents in making important decisions regarding the governance of the country.  The ideal was that people would seek out and support wise and selfless individuals who would do what was best for the country.

The founders were afraid of what had, in their understanding, been the greatest dangers to democracies and Republics in the past.  These threats were populism, demagoguery, and corruption.  This is why they opted to design a system of government that would protect the country from these things.  This is why the United States is not a pure democracy, but rather a Republic.

Looking back over time, the founding fathers saw too many instances of people appealing to the masses by “telling them what they wanted to hear”, using their support to gain power, and then using that power to either enrich themselves or to try and grab even more power.  The founding fathers were terrified of the “golden tongued” populist and the demagogue.

To protect the country they set up a government of three branches, including a set of “checks and balances” to keep too much power out of the hands of anyone.  But underlying this was the principle that the people were represented by the wise and honorable.  In fact, Senators, the members of the senior body of congress, were not elected directly by the population; instead, they were elected by State legislatures.  So originally, Senators were the representatives chosen by other representatives.  The hope was that this would further insure that the wise and honorable, rather than populists and demagogues would be making important government decisions.

The constitution was changed in 1913 to have the population directly elect Senators.  Only a few at the time, such as revered Elihu Root, opposed this change.  Since this change happened so long ago, few understand the long term effects of the change.  But consider this.  Today, 32 state legislators are Republican controlled.  Another 6 are split between Republican and Democrat control.  If half of the split controlled states, plus all the Republican controlled legislatures sent Republican Senators to congress, there would be 70 Republican Senators.  Obamacare never would have happened in the first place.  In addition, 70 is more than two thirds, and would allow for things such as the removal of Federal and Supreme Court Judges who are modifying the laws of the country without ANY input from the electorate.

What To Do

Study and learn more about the constitution.  Not just what the document says, but WHY it was set up the way it was.  The Constitution was written by one of the noblest bodies of wise and honorable people ever to assemble.  Almost every revolution in history was subverted by a Populist or Demagogue (think of the French or Russian revolutions).  But NOT in the United States, because of our Constitution and those that upheld it.

The Constitution is the bedrock of the United States.  It is not a “living, breathing” document that is changed by the whims of the times.  Recognize that the Constitution has been attacked in the past.  And it is in increasing danger as its principles are “modified” to suit the needs of those who wish to rule by dictate.  Commit yourself, as part of an educated electorate, to defend the Constitution and its principles.

The Fat Man and Little Boy

Kim Jong-Un, North Korean Dictator

The first (and last) two atomic weapons actually used in war were named “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”.  It is deeply ironic that the person now bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war is both a Fat Man and a Little Boy.  Of course I am speaking of Kim Jong-Un, third hereditary dictator of North Korea.

North Korea has had nuclear weapons since about 2003, and proved it with a detonation in 2006.  They developed missiles with longer and longer range, and are at the threshold of having both a nuclear weapon and the means of attacking the United States with it.  The current situation is the result of the unresolved nature of the Korean war of 1950-53, our leadership’s lack of courage in dealing with outright acts of war, and the overall failure of dealing with nuclear escalation.

North Korea has always been a puppet of Russia and China.  It acted on Stalin’s orders to invade South Korea in 1950.  When that failed and North Korea was almost completely occupied, China attacked US and UN Forces.  The US decided to limit the war with China to just the area of Korea, and the war was fought to a negotiated stalemate not long after, leaving North Korea with roughly its original territory.

During and since the Korean War, our leaders failed to deal with outright acts of war by Russia (previously the Soviet Union), China and North Korea in the Korean peninsula.  The world generally recognizes “Acts of War” to include the following:

  1. Making a declaration of war upon another State.
  2. Invading the territory of another State (an Embassy is part of a State’s territory).
  3. Attack on the territory, vessels or aircraft of another State.
  4. Naval blockade of the coasts or ports of another State.
  5. Supporting armed bands in invading or attacking another State and/or refusing to deprive such bands of aid or protection.
  6. Using State means (or supported bands) in assassinating the leaders or citizens of another State.

Stalin broke rule #5, directing and supporting North Korea in invading South Korea.  China broke rule #3 by attacking US and UN forces operating in North Korea.  China then invaded South Korea itself, breaking rule #2.  General MacArthur pointed out all of this along with the warning that failing to crush an aggressor has significant and serious long term consequences.  Can you image what would have happened if Hitler had just been expelled from Poland in 1939 and was forced to just confine himself to Germany?  That’s basically what we did with China and Korea in the 1950s because we didn’t want to deal with another war so soon after World War Two.

Since then, we and our ally South Korea have failed to deal with subsequent acts of war by North Korea.  These included North Korea attacking the USS Pueblo and seizing its crew in 1968, North Korea shelling South Korean towns, North Korean commando attacks into South Korea, and, most recently, the North Koreans sinking a South Korean warship.  Failing to deal with an aggressor only emboldens them.

Although used by Russia and China as a way of sticking their finger in the West’s eye, North Korea was never given nuclear weapons by its sponsors.  North Korea therefore built its own.  In the late 1980’s it constructed nuclear facilities and by 1992 it was working on weapons.  At this time it still didn’t have nukes, but it soon would.  Then was the best chance to end this by attacking the nuclear sites.  At the time North Korea could have only responded with conventional weapons.  More importantly, the Soviet Union had just collapsed and China still had a relatively obsolete military.  We were too afraid of North Korean shelling of Seoul in response.  As a result, North Korea now has nukes, and we have to worry about North Korea nuking a major city like Seoul in response.  This was the predictable result of allowing North Korea to have nuclear weapons.  Now the North Koreans are well on their way to having long range missiles that can reach the continental United States.

The Kim dynasty’s objective in building such weapons is self preservation.  They want to retain complete control over their little kingdom.  They will use nuclear weapons as deterrence against our taking action in response to their next act of war, and to blackmail us into providing them with money and food to keep themselves in power.  In this endeavor, they receive support and assistance from both China and Russia. For example, the North Koreans aren’t building those huge missile transport trucks you see in the news. The Chinese and Russians give them those, among other things.

The big problem is that like a lot of family businesses, the North Koreans are now in Generation 3.  The first generation builds the business.  The second generation keeps it up and running.  But the third generation typically has no experience with building or running the business in difficult times, and typically make huge mistakes that result in bankruptcy.

Our problem is that the Fat Man/Little Boy doesn’t really know what he is doing.  He is going to make a big mistake.  And because we have let this go on so long, by both allowing the situation to become astronomically worse, and emboldening the continual aggressor, his mistake is going to lead to something far worse than the Korean war of 1950.  Far, far worse.

What to Do

There is little that you or I can do about this situation other than prepare for the potential effects on our lives and families.

As a nation, we have to deal with Acts of War.  We should have dealt with them in the past, but we didn’t.  Each time we fail to do so it will just get worse, meaning that what we will have to endure to fix the problem gets worse.  I would prefer that not to be a nuclear detonation in the United States, or anywhere else people live for that matter.

Party Failure

Every year things seem to get worse and worse on the political stage.  The last US Presidential election saw two incredibly flawed candidates put forward by each of the two major political parties.  Congress is no better.  Neither side seems to be helping the country.  The point is that both parties have failed in a way that affects all of us.

The Democrats have failed in their attempts to save the poor.  The war on poverty was started in the early 1960’s.  Since then it has cost the country over $20 Trillion.  There is just a high a percentage of poor as when it started.  Along the way, this well intentioned idea destroyed the family structure of the people it intended to help.

The Republicans failed to keep the nation’s finances under control.  A hundred years ago they actually ran on the principle of “sound money”, which meant they were opposed to inflation.  Nixon made the decision to formally declare that our currency is backed by nothing but good faith.  He also put wage and price controls in place that put inflation at the time on steroids.  But Reagan’s embrace of deficit budgets put us on a road to previously unimaginable government spending.  The deficit in Reagan’s time was about $800 Billion, now we are nearing $20 Trillion.

The Democrats are failing in their attempts to provide medical care to all.  Medicare and Medicaid were initially pretty small programs.  They now dwarf the rest of the government’s budget and will only continue to mushroom.  The “Affordable Care Act”, also known as “Obamacare” has caused medical and insurance costs to continue to skyrocket, while destroying previously existing systems.  Current funding levels are so unsustainable, on the steep end of a parabolic curve, that a train wreck in our medical care system is imminent.

Republicans have their own share of blame in the medical arena.  Bush Jr. paid for the votes of the elderly by dramatically expanding Medicare through the recent prescription drug benefit.  Needless to say this dramatically increased Medicare spending.  Nowadays, Republicans are failing to come up with viable alternatives to “Obamacare” as they squabble amongst themselves.

The Republicans failed to keep us out of foreign wars.  Once upon a time, that was their specialty.  Recently, they led the charge in the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan.  After years of struggle costing trillions of dollars and the LIVES of tens of thousands of our brave Servicemen and Servicewomen, we have basically handed Iraq over to Iran’s control, while Afghanistan is an unending mess.

Neither party is actually doing anything to deal with the two looming disasters facing us.  We are facing a financial mess that will make the Great Depression look like the good old days.  We are facing so many problems due to failures in Foreign Policy war is almost inevitable, and when it comes, it will make World War Two look like a picnic by comparison.

What to Do

At this point, I have no illusions that either party can fix itself.  People within both have tried to take the power away from the entrenched power brokers, and both have failed.  The “Tea Party” did little to change the Republicans, and those backing Bernie Sanders found that they were unable to move the Democrats away from Hillary Clinton.

This doesn’t mean we should “throw in the towel”.  What it means is that, more than ever, we need to educate ourselves about the issues and what the potential solutions are.  We need to learn about the pro’s and con’s of each of those potential solutions.  We need to look for people who will actually move into the political arena as a “public service” and sacrifice, NOT those who are looking just to serve and promote themselves.

And though it hasn’t worked well in the recent past, we have to look at creating new parties.  Parties that will deal with the actual problems.  The Republicans started as a new party in 1854.  Within six years they had Lincoln as a leader and got him into the White House.  He saved the country.  And since something like this has happened before, it can certainly happen again.

The Politician’s Economy

A lot of people think that a politician’s primary function is to create jobs.  People regularly say that the economy is their main concern, and if they feel it is broken, they want their elected officials to fix it.  And many expect the politicians to do that by creating jobs.

The problem is that while politicians can easily create government bureaucracy jobs, they have difficulty creating jobs in the private sector.  This is because the government cannot create such jobs, only businesses can.

Politicians can make the government give money to businesses to create jobs.  They do this by guaranteeing loans, providing grants and subsidies in addition to their favorite tool of tax breaks.  The problem is that the tax money involved in these methods is unbelievably inefficient.  In the famous case of Solyndra, a government sponsored builder of Solar Panels, the government spent about $10 Million (of our tax dollars) per created job.  And those jobs lasted only a couple of years.  It would actually have been better all around to just give those employees a couple of million apiece outright.  We would have saved tax money and they would be set for life.

To grade a politician such as the President by job creation is to mistakenly give them credit or blame.  Bill Clinton is widely credited with creating millions of jobs.  When he was President the economy boomed.  It boomed primarily due to innovations like computers ( along with word processing and spreadsheets) and cell phones while gas prices were falling.  Clinton didn’t invent computers or come up with Microsoft Office.  He didn’t create flip phones or even cause the Middle East to pump too much oil.  He just happened to be President during an opportune time.

The government is actually a brake on the economy.  A brake doesn’t cause a vehicle to move or accelerate.  But, when applied, it slows it down or stops it.  So the only real action a politician can take is to reduce the brake pressure on the economy.

More than almost anything else, businesses want predictability.  They want to know what their tax rates will be in the future.  They want to know what the regulatory conditions will be.  This is because they want to plan for the future.  If they fell they can’t, they become risk averse and hold off doing things.  Like expanding capacity and hiring workers.

Brakes are still important.  We use them to keep moving vehicles from going out of control.  Some regulations are necessary.  We don’t want to go back to the polluted environment of the 1970’s.  We don’t want monopolies and insider deals.  But we all certainly want the economy to move forward quickly and rapidly.  It’s just that politicians aren’t going to accelerate its progress; they can only minimize how much they slow it down.

What to Do

Don’t fall for politicians telling you they are going to create jobs.  Don’t fall for them telling you they are going to save jobs.  By the way, when they try to do this, they only stave off the inevitable for a few months or years at a huge price.

Instead, tell them to create an environment where entrepreneurs can create new businesses.  Tell them to provide existing businesses with a stable environment so they can plan for the future, where they can anticipate the government’s restrictions on them both now and in the future.

Tell the politicians not to stand on the brake while the economy is trying to move forward.  Tell them only to use the brakes when prudent and necessary.


Arguably the greatest brake on a society’s progress is Corruption.  This is nothing new.  Corruption has been with us since the beginning.  There are many different forms of Corruption, but it is generally about abusing power for your own benefit.  The Corrupt ruler or politician does a favor (often of the illegal variety) for someone, in return for something else.

The most common form of Corruption is to take money from those who want the favors.  People give money to the powerful so that they can make more money themselves.  Bribes can be direct payments, like bundles of cash, but this is rather “old school”.  Most bribery now is done much more “indirectly”.  It might be through multiple bank accounts to various third parties, so the trail is difficult to trace.  It could be done through donations to political campaigns, or investments in dummy corporations.  There are almost innumerable methods today, but the basic model is payment for the misuse of authority.

Another form of Corruption, almost as widespread, is to gain the power and authority to do the favors for yourself (or your friends and family).  Plenty use their positions in government or business to enrich themselves unscrupulously at the expense of others.  There may not be any bribery, but the effect on society is the same, as the rules are bent or broken to provide an unearned advantage.

The more Corruption in a country, the worse the conditions, economically, and in terms of personal liberty.  Corruption is a huge tax on everyone and every business.  And yet this tax doesn’t go to the government for the common good.  It goes into the pockets of criminals, for that is what the corrupt are.  Fortunately for those of us living in the United States, bribery is not as prevalent as it is in many other parts of the world, but Corruption is still a major problem.

Politicians regularly take money (usually in the form of campaign contributions) from businesses in return for writing laws favorable to those businesses.  This is corruption.  It is taking a bribe in return for a “favor”.  The laws might be barriers that prevent open and equal competition.  They might be laws that provide special grants or reduce or eliminate taxes on certain products.  The laws don’t even have to be for businesses, they could be for certain professions.  There are plenty of laws, for example, that are advantageous to lawyers at the expense of everyone else.

Politicians in the US also regularly use their positions to enrich themselves through the manipulation of laws, regulations, and ordinances.  I once heard it said that while the Corruption at the national level is most regularly reported on, Corruption is much worse at the state and local level.  Look at your own state house and city/county governments.  Notice how many are involved in Real Estate in their careers.  Why do you think this is?  It’s because many of them are using their positions of power to increase the value of their holdings in ways that others cannot.  The altruistic politician, the one who is sacrificing his or her time solely for the benefit of others, is the exception, not the rule.

What To Do

We all need to spend more time looking at our politicians.  We can’t vote for someone based on their looks or on their advertising.  We have to investigate what they have done in the past, and try to anticipate what they might do in the future.  Read about candidates, what they have done, and what their positions are.  Then try to educate others around you about what you have learned.  This will influence more than one vote.

We need to remove individuals from power who are Corrupt.  We need to question the wisdom of voting for the incumbent and allowing them to retain power if they have abused it.  We should continually be seeking out good alternatives to replace those that have failed the public trust.

We need to purge our political and economic systems that of anything that creates an uneven playing field.  All should have the same advantages.  There should never condone a system where there is one set of rules for those with power and influence and another set for those who have little or none.

The Fundamental Difference

Conservative vs Liberal

Here are two words, pick the one that appeals to you most: Justice or Mercy.  This is a basic question from the exceptional Meyers Briggs personality test.  I’ve used the results of this test to help people understand how they may think quite differently from their work colleges.  But it can just as easily be used to show some of the fundamental differences in viewpoint between Conservatives and Liberals.

In case you were wondering, Conservatives are usually more attracted to the word “Justice”.  From the conservative viewpoint, they want everyone treated the same under the law.  They believe in a system of rewards and punishment, that if you put forth the effort, you should enjoy the rewards, but if you cheat or steal, you should suffer consequences.

Similarly, Liberals are usually more attracted to the word “Mercy”.  From the liberal viewpoint, people should be taken care of if they need help.  They believe that compassion should be the main concern in dealing with others.

The political conflict between the two sides comes from how they each believe Government should operate.  The Liberal believes that Governments exist to help people, to ease their suffering and help them with their problems.  The Conservative believes that Governments should get out of people’s way, and should limit itself to fairness in administering the laws needed to maintain order and security.

The classical views they have of each other is that the Conservative believes the Liberal wants to tax everyone to pay to take care of everybody else, while the Liberal believes that Conservatives are heartless greedy people who care about no-one but themselves.

The ideas of “Justice” and “Mercy” seem to be in conflict.  But they are both valid viewpoints.  Fairness and Equanimity require Justice.  Compassion and Kindness require Mercy.  It is a good thing to want to help other people. Likewise, it is a good thing to strive for rewards based on your efforts.

The real problems come when one side wants to “override” or “cancel out” the other in the operation of Government.  When self-centeredness and greed are taken to extremes, many are left in desperate circumstances they cannot escape on their own.  When taking care of people is taken to extremes, you have to confiscate things from others to do so.  Both extremes lead to very bad outcomes.

What to Do

We need to listen to the viewpoints of each side.  We need to understand why people want to do what they want to do.

The discussions should then be about the HOW of accomplishing things.  The HOW should be done by attempting to provide for both Justice and Mercy.