Sunday, July 26, 2015


Words we need.

Something that makes you vomit is an emetic or a nauseant.  A thing that makes you pee more is a diuretic.  A drug or food that makes you poop is a laxative.  We need a word to describe something so disgusting that it makes stuff come out of all orifices at the same time.


Several things I learned on
1)    One aspect of the male privilege I routinely benefit from is that when I have an emotional reaction, no one ascribes it to my menstrual cycle.
2)    “Breast-policing” is the sense ingrained in us by the patriarchy that those girls need to strapped in at all times.  I learned this from an article by a trans-man (formerly a female) who never had his tiny but noticeable breasts removed.  As a guy, he now likes to walk around without a shirt on, but sometimes people look at him funny.
3)    If you are a Trans-something, the “something” is the thing you are turning into, not the thing you were born.  Caitlyn Jenner is a trans-woman.
4)    A “non-binary” gender is anything that is NOT a standard-brand heterosexual male or a standard-brand heterosexual female.


Though pieces of the Big Bang Theory have been toyed with for centuries, Edwin Hubble is usually given credit for pulling it together as a unified doctrine in 1929.  It was instantly embraced by many theologians as proof of the existence of God since it posited a moment of creation, a big bang, and necessarily implied a Creator.  (Since then, some skeptical physicists and cosmologists have suggested ways in which the Big Bang might be compatible with a Godless universe, but that doesn’t concern us here.)

But there is another piece to the argument.  The Big Bang itself is not often questioned as a “historical” event.  Because of all the evidence the universe is expanding, even atheists acknowledge it.  And if you accept that the Big Bang is the beginning of the universe as we know it, you must also accept that it constitutes what is called a “singular point.”  The nature of the Big Bang is such that it is impossible to detect evidence of anything prior to the Big Bang.  One can speculate, of course.  One can suggest that the Big Bang is simply one of an endless series of expansions and contractions, but this can never be anything but pure speculation.  Since the Big Bang is a “singular point,” there can never be any real knowledge of what came before.

Suppose there is an omniscient God who knows humans will develop their brains and will eventually question the meaning of their existence, but He wants their knowledge of Him to be always a matter for faith---a God who, if he speaks to men at all, does so very rarely, to Abraham or Moses, for example, and in ways that are easily dismissed as myth.

Wouldn’t such a God create a singular point of natural history through which it is impossible to see?  That’s the Big Bang.  There is no evidence of anything that happened before it and there never will be, no matter how intelligent we become or how much we learn about the universe. There must be something before the Big Bang; otherwise, where would the material for the explosion come from?  But because the event itself walls off our knowledge of what’s back there, we can never learn, or reason our way, to the ultimate truth.  If God wants us to approach Him only through faith, and not because we KNOW He exists, wouldn’t He make that ultimate knowledge impossible to attain?


As Hillary becomes less popular every time she appears in public, it is clear there is considerable dissatisfaction with her as a candidate.  Then there’s 1) Bernie Sanders, the 78-year-old socialist (and non-Democrat) who is starting to outpoll her, 2) Lincoln Chafee, whose is basing his campaign on a crusade to bring the metric system to America, 3) Martin O’Malley, who recently apologized for saying “All lives matter,” and 3) Jim Webb, an interesting and accomplished person whose spot on the political spectrum is somewhere between Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, and who will never be nominated by the national Democratic Party.

Hard to believe, but the 2016 race for the Democratic nomination seems to be setting up nicely for Joe Biden.


If your home is burglarized in Philadelphia (and probably elsewhere as well), the odds on the police catching your criminal are slim.  However, if a gun is one of the items lifted, the police will come to your house and do a thorough investigation--- taking photographs, dusting for fingerprints, and reconstructing the thief’s movements.  As a friend of mine pointed out after my recent unpleasant brush with crime in the big city, this is a good reason to own a gun.


A heartbreaking scene I see frequently at Target is a parent pushing one or more little children around the store while talking incessantly on a cellphone.  Sometimes, the kids are trying to break through by talking to the parent.  Sometimes they are screaming.  It doesn’t matter.  Nothing the kids do will pull Mom or Dad away from their phone.  For me, the saddest scene is when the kids sit silently in the cart, having given up even trying to communicate.  When I saw this the other day (for the millionth time), it made me think of the Amish attitude toward telephones.

A lot of people think the Amish are anti-technology, and that is the reason they don’t drive cars or hook in to the electrical grid or have a phone in the house.  Actually, they are not opposed to technology at all.  What they are is pro-family.  When some new device, or power source, becomes available, the elders meet and decide whether it can be adopted without threat to family and community.  That is the only question for the Amish.

And that’s the problem with phones.  For decades they were banned entirely because their use would discourage neighbors and family members from visiting each other.  Also, the idea of someone chatting with a friend on the phone while ignoring his or her family was just appalling. Today the ban is not absolute, and you will sometimes see a little shack, at some distance to an Amish house, with a phone line going into it.  It’s far enough away to be very inconvenient, especially in the winter, but it is available for emergency out-going calls or for business calls to the “English” world.  Some Amish businessmen even have cell phones, but they don’t take them home from the workshop at night, and they don’t play Angry Birds on them.

And they don’t talk on them while they are in the grocery store with their kids.


Thursday, July 23, 2015


It’s July of 2015, there are sixteen of them, and it doesn’t seem likely there will be any more---not serious contenders, anyway.  So it’s time to review the field and tell you who has a prayer, who doesn’t, and why.  Some of them can be dismissed with a sentence or two; others require a bit more analysis.

In alphabetic order:

Jeb Bush.  The guy with the most campaign cash, most organization and most endorsements by standard-brand Republican organizations.  Obviously, the guy who gets the nod from the bloated corpse (but the rich bloated corpse) of the mainstream Republican Party can get the nomination.  I mean, Bob Dole got the nomination, didn’t he?  Republicans can win in 2016, and it would be sad for many of us if Jeb Bush got the nomination because he is peculiarly ill-suited to beat Hillary.  Just as Mitt Romney was the one guy who couldn’t beat Obama in 2012 (because, with Romneycare on his resume, he couldn’t attack Obamacare), Bush is the one guy who can’t beat the dreadful Hillary.  He’s the only guy who can’t challenge her as a “legacy” candidate.

Also, there are those of us who think no mainstream Republican candidate will ever be elected again, that George W. was the last. The brand is broken, in other words.  I may be mistaken about that, of course, but Jeb is not the guy who will prove me wrong.

Ben Carson.  A truly brilliant man and a decent, God-fearing patriot with the values we need our next President to have.  He has no chance to become president, however, and not simply because he has no experience in politics.

There is a reason doctors don’t get elected to office very often and a reason we’ve never had a president with a medical degree.  They are not really democrats, and not really suited to a democratic form of government.  It’s not how they think, it’s not how they are trained, and it’s not how they behave.  Over the years, I have had a number of chats with doctors on politics or morals or philosophy, and the thing that often strikes me is how genuinely surprised they are that someone would disagree with them.  They’re not accustomed to it.  It doesn’t occur to them that there could be a valid objection to their point of view, at least not one from a non-physician.  I vividly recall one such conversation on the topic of abortion with a doctor who insisted that his medical expertise trumped any sort of moral issue I might raise.  Abortion was proper until the moment of birth and that’s all there was to it.

You can see hints of this attitude in Ben Carson.  He gets his back up instantly when he asked questions he doesn’t expect, and he refuses to answer them.

Chris Christie.   See Jeb Bush.  There is only room for one anointed mainstream Republican, and he isn’t it.  He is hoping Jeb will falter and all the juice and money will flow over to him, but even if Bush is rejected by the electorate, Christie wouldn’t be the choice.  Chris Christie is a regional phenomenon, and the further he gets from New Jersey, the more people say, “Wha…????”

Even as a vice-presidential candidate, he brings nothing to the party since he certainly can’t put New Jersey into the Republican column.  It’s hard to see why he is running and soon, he won’t be.       

Ted Cruz.   Just as Jeb Bush is the mainstream candidate, Cruz is the real conservative (as opposed to the candidates who are currently trying to sound like conservatives in order to curry favor with what they perceive as “the base”).  Cruz won’t go to Iowa and say ethanol subsidies are groovy, like Scott Walker did, and he will never support an increased minimum wage law, like Santorum does.  The attention and money he has attracted indicates that if 2016 is the year for a conservative, Ted Cruz will be the guy.

Carly Fiorina.   Girlfriend!  What the heck are you doing here?  Fiorina is one of the few I would actually vote for, and in a head-to-head debate, she would make Hillary cry like a little girl.  Unfortunately, we won’t have a chance to see that.

She is not out of the question as a vice-presidential pick, however, and that is why she is still running.

Lindsey Graham.  Another liberal lined up behind Bush, with no chance of breaking through.  As a sideshow, his status as a (presumed) closeted gay senator brings an oddly antiquated aura to his candidacy.  It’s also a bit creepy the way leftists (e.g., Jon Stewart) mock Graham for being gay---I thought that was supposed to be a good thing in 2015.

(Note: in Queer Studies departments across the academic world, the theory that Abraham Lincoln was gay seems to be losing its adherents.  James Buchanan, however, is widely viewed as “our first gay President.”)

Mike Huckabee.  In addition to the Good Old Boy Republicans and the Conservative Republicans, there are also the Evangelicals, and Huckabee may be at the top of that list.  In an election cycle where the issues are the moribund economy, the dangerous world Obama has left us, and the trashing of our rule of law, guys like Huckabee seem very much like voices from yesterday.

Bobby Jindal.  In horseracing, the horse with the best early speed can sometimes burst away from the pack and hang on to win wire to wire, so one of the worst bets at the track is the horse with the second-best early speed.  Being the second-best conservative candidate in a Republican primary puts you in a similar position.

John Kasich.  In Ohio, he embraced Obamacare and vastly expanded Medicaid, explaining that it would get him into heaven.  As a liberal behind Bush, he has little chance of getting the nomination, but he is given a good shot at being chosen as Bush’s running mate.  The idea is that if Bush can win his home state of Florida and Kasich can win Ohio, the Republican ticket is certain to win the general election.

Yep, that’s how they think.  Nothing about persuading the electorate, nothing about the country itself, nothing about the Constitution, nothing about the jihad and the slaughter of innocents, but if we can snag those 47 electoral votes, WE’RE A FREAKIN’ LOCK!!!!

George Pataki.    Why Pataki?  I don’t know.  He’s almost 70 years old and he always wanted to run for president, so now he is.  Blue state moderate Republicans have virtually no shot at the presidency, but, for some reason, that doesn’t stop them from running.  Sometimes they even get nominated.  Right, Mr. Romney?  Pataki cannot even make the VP argument, like Kasich can, since Hillary will NOT lose New York.  In fact, the Democrats could nominate a gorilla for president, and the gorilla would win New York.

Rand Paul.   Shortly after he announced, he was criticized for being short-tempered and prickly with a female reporter, and the theory advanced by the Left was that he didn’t like women.  But that’s not it.  Like Ben Carson, Rand is a doctor, which means that he’s right and you’re wrong.  He’s going to be prickly and short-tempered with anyone who pushes back at him.  Doctors just aren’t suited to democracy.

There’s another reason Rand can’t win, however, and that is the precarious state of the world.  Since Obama took office, the world has become so much more dangerous that even isolationist libertarian types recognize that certain butts will have to be kicked, and soon, in order to assert American power and values.  Somebody will have to tell Putin he can’t have the Baltics.  Somebody will have to tell ISIS that enslaving women and setting people on fire must stop.  Somebody will have to tell Iran they can’t have the bomb.  Rand Paul is not the guy to do that sort of hard work.  He is not the right man for the moment, and that is why his campaign is languishing.

Rick Perry.  About 10% of the stuff Donald Trump says is accurate and pithy and funny and true, and his observation about Rick Perry’s glasses is one of them.  Trump said that Perry now wears glasses so that people will think he’s smart.  Bingo.  Not only is he correct, but Rick Perry in glasses (black, thick-rimmed serious-looking things), looks exactly like a guy who is only wearing glasses because he is desperately trying to look smart.

Perry’s brain-freeze in the 2012 debate will never be forgotten.

Marco Rubio.  He’s way Hispanic and Latino and he sometimes says conservative things and the mainstream Republicans don’t want to trash him because they think he might be important someday, but I don’t see how his base voter differs markedly from Jeb Bush’s base voter.  He’s a Gang of Eight guy and he’s pro-amnesty just like Bush is, and he will shade his views in one way for a certain group of voters and then shade them another way for the next group.  If Jeb Bush is rejected by Republican primary voters (and he may be), Rubio steps into his shoes.  Otherwise, there is no path to the Presidential nomination for him.

(Note: Since both Bush and Rubio are from Florida, Rubio cannot be chosen as Bush’s Vice President.  If he were, under the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, their ticket could not be awarded the electoral votes from Florida.)

Rick Santorum.  See Huckabee.  It’s over, Rick.

Donald Trump.  He’s not a conservative, he’s not a Republican, and he’s not running for President.  Other than that, his chances to win the Republican primary are terrific.

When I say he’s not running for President, I mean just that.  He is doing nothing to qualify his campaign in the various states in which he has to run and he is doing nothing to organize his followers.  All Trump is doing here is polishing up his “brand,” which is something he now does more-or-less instinctively.  This “campaign” so far has cost him little, and will make him a more valuable commercial and reality-TV commodity.  He’s WAY bigger than Honey Boo Boo now.  Plus, he’s a blowhard and he likes attention, so now that he has caught some lightning in a bottle with his immigration issue, he will keep pounding it until it stops working.  And it will.

The idea that he is going to mount a third-party campaign using his own money is even more ridiculous.  Guys like Donald Trump do not go to the bank to make withdrawals, they go to make deposits.  He may be a jerk and an egomaniac, but he never loses sight of the bottom line.  He would never be so foolish as to throw hundreds of millions of his own dollars at a quixotic quest that cannot succeed.

Scott Walker.  We may not have saved the actual best for last (alphabetically), but he’s a different sort of candidate, and hard to categorize, and that makes him a threat to win.  Bush, Cruz, Rubio and Walker are the only ones with a realistic chance.

Normally, one would view Scott Walker as just another Chamber-of-Commerce, good- ol’-boy type of Republican, and slot him in somewhere south of Bush.  He has a history (that is now being discreetly hushed up) of supporting amnesty and a “path to citizenship.”  Also, there’s the new-found love of ethanol now that he’s campaigning in Iowa.  So he panders.  He’ll say what he has to.  He has a lot in common with Jeb, and Christie, and Romney.  These are not exactly evil men, but they represent the past, and none of them will ever be elected President.  I certainly won’t vote for one, and I won’t vote for Walker either.

Walker, however, is different.  Though we cannot know what he believes, and we can’t believe what he says, he apparently believes in something. And he can fight.  He beat the public sector unions in Wisconsin though every major union in the country threw millions into the battle to defeat him.  Then they tried to recall him, and that didn’t work.  Then they spent more millions to prevent him from being re-elected, and failed again.  And all this happened in Wisconsin, a place that has not chosen a Republican for President since Reagan in 1984.

Scott Walker cannot be counted out of any race he enters, including this one.


Sunday, July 12, 2015


Donald Trump has gotten a lot of attention in the Republican presidential race with his recent comments about America’s broken immigration system, the quality of the individuals streaming across our southern border, criminal behavior of illegals, the need for a fence, and so on.  Republican voters like to hear this sort of thing because it’s the truth, because the situation threatens our security, because it costs a lot of money, and for a dozen other reasons.  It helps Trump immeasurably that other big-name Republican candidates (e.g., Walker, Rubio, Christie, Bush, Graham) denounce him and remain focused on a “path to citizenship” for those “living in the shadows.”  Many of us are familiar with those living in the shadows, and we can’t understand why these people, who mostly scramble to make a living and get their kids educated, are viewed as a “problem.”  It seems to us that the ones who emerge from the shadows to deal drugs, shoot people, commit drunken vehicular homicide, rape young women, and abuse our welfare system are the actual problem.

As I have noted before in these pages, there are ten or twenty other immigration issues more pressing than the creation of a path to citizenship for those living in the shadows.  Why should we worry about them?  First of all, many of them are not seeking anything other than money to send back to relatives in Mexico; they don’t want to live here or become citizens or legal residents.  The others, those who would like to stay, have chosen to come here knowing they may never get legal status, and as long as they are not killing people or committing crimes or doing other dreadful things, why are they worth our time?  Some manage to make a living and some will even succeed economically.  Some will learn English and become integrated into American life.  Most will root for the Dodgers.  They will grow old and eventually go the way of all flesh.  Their kids, the ones they bring here or create here, will be real Americans.  They will be just fine.

It’s not an ideal picture, having millions of illegals here, and it’s worth securing the border so there aren’t millions more of them tomorrow, but what else are we to do?  The Christies and Bushes and Rubios and Obamas scream that WE CAN’T ROUND THEM UP AND DEPORT THEM as if the only alternatives are 1) to round them up or 2) make them citizens.  But neither one of those options makes much sense, does it?  Why can’t we ignore them?  The ones who do crimes should get sent home.  The ones who can’t support themselves will go home voluntarily.  We can live with the rest.

Most Americans know this.  They know that the incessant cry for a “path to citizenship” from both Republicans and Democrats is just pandering by politicians who see that illegals already have significant political power, and will probably have even more, and soon.  Many illegals already vote, and at the level of local politics, their views must be taken into account on issues like policing, education and welfare policies.  So when Obama or Rubio or Pelosi or Bush tell us how noble these illegals are, they’re not really talking to us, they’re talking to the illegals or to their supporters at La Raza or Univision or any of the (growing) Latino political groups.

Trump, however, is talking to us.  Immigrant crime and the refusal to enforce our laws is a real issue, it concerns the continued existence of the republic, and none of the other candidates have been addressing it at all.  That’s why he’s broken through.  It’s why everyone is talking about him.  The lefties at CNN and NBC and the NYT and all the other media sinkholes think it’s just terrible, so they won’t shut up about him.  And though most of the Republicans don’t like what is happening, they are being forced to talk about the issue too.  On balance, this is a positive development for the Republican candidates.  Before, all they were was a bunch of guys wandering around Iowa and New Hampshire like the zombies on the Walking Dead, waiting for Rick or Daryl or Glenn to show up and lop off their coconut with a meat cleaver.  Now there is something to talk about, something that matters to people, and they actually have to talk about it.

One would like to think that, in our political process, Republican candidates would eventually be forced to discuss the assault on America from the radical Left (of which the trashing of our immigration law is only one aspect), but there is no obvious mechanism by which this is destined to occur.  The leftwing media won’t do it, the candidates themselves won’t do it, and the TV “debates” hosted by people like Candy Crowley wouldn’t normally touch an issue like this with a ten-foot hot poker.  (“Show of hands---who believes the Earth was created six thousand years ago?”)  Reince Priebus, the anointed commissar of mainstream Republicanism, yesterday begged Trump to put a sock in it.  The only market for this kind of serious talk is the American people; the political class and the media hate it.

There is simply no stomach for these kind of hard truths among those who hold the keys to the media or among most Republican candidates.  Keep in mind that the last two Republican candidates for President, McCain and Romney, managed to run 18-month campaigns costing hundreds of millions of dollars without ever engaging Obama on his plans to “fundamentally transform” (translation---“destroy”) the American republic.  Mainstream Republicans consider the discussion of these issues to be distasteful, impolite and, because Obama is black, racist.

So Trump, in that sense, is doing a good thing.  The problem with him, however---well, there are actually a lot of problems ranging from his many contributions to Democratic politicians (including his good friend Hillary), to his admiration for a single-payer health-care system, to his warm embrace of post-Kelo eminent domain law to force people out of real estate he personally covets.  Even if you admire Donald Trump personally (and I confess I can’t understand why you would), you cannot regard him as a political conservative or as someone to be trusted.

But the real problem is that he is pandering as well, and he won’t get away with it.  For one thing, sooner or later, someone will remember that Trump lambasted Romney for his “self-deportation” remark, and expressed his opinion that there has to be a---drumroll---“path to citizenship” for the 20 or 30 million illegals.  Donald doesn’t talk about his 2012 run for President very much, and he certainly doesn’t mention that.

Worse, however, is the other prong of his new-found policy prescription for those danged furriners.  Protectionism.  Mercantilism.  Tariffs.  Whatever you wish to call it, Trump is every bit as dedicated to this bit of demagoguery as Lou Dobbs, Nancy Pelosi, Pat Buchanan or Elizabeth Warren.  He recently proposed a 25% tax on all Chinese imports.  He has described NAFTA as a disaster.  He wants a 35% tariff on Ford vehicles manufactured in Mexico and shipped to the US.

There is one reason, and only one reason, to advocate such a policy, and that is to attract support from that small slice of the electorate who 1) are truly xenophobes, 2) are unaware that this particular school of economic thinking was thoroughly discredited by Adam Smith, David Ricardo and many others (as well as the common experience of Western European countries) about two hundred years ago, and 3) are easily manipulated.  The theory that one can detect criminal tendencies in an individual by studying the bumps on a person’s head remained intellectually respectable almost a hundred years after mercantilist theories became something that no serious economist would entertain.

That’s the reason why you never see a real economist from a university arguing against protectionism on CNN.  It would be like someone with a Ph.D. in astronomy agreeing to debate the shape of the planet with Rufus Moonbeam, First Exalted Potentate of the Flat Earth Society of East Rutherford, NJ.  Actual scientists don’t bother with flat-earthers, and professors of economics don’t bother with trade protectionists.

Donald Trump may be a boor, but he’s not a moron.  He (and everyone else who claims they want to “protect American jobs”) knows there is no fixed number of jobs. They know that a voluntary transaction between a businessman in Iowa and one in Shanghai must benefit both of them or it would not happen.  They know free trade benefits everyone.  They (and all of us) have known this for 200 years.  And when Trump or Warren or Lou Dobbs or Obama says otherwise, they are not misinformed, they are lying.

Protectionism is a tempting ploy for a politician because there’s always an audience for it.  In addition to the voters who don’t like the danged furriners and never will, there are always people whose lives have been recently disrupted by economic change.  When the only manufacturing plant in your town closes and your personal situation gets ugly, it’s not easy to see the larger picture.  That’s when you become fodder for those who think you’re an idiot but want your vote.

The problem with this strategy is that there are only so many people in this angry demographic at any one time.  Trump is now pulling what percentage of the Republican vote?  14%?  16%?  That’s a lot in a field of fourteen announced candidates with several more yet to jump in, but the 14% or 16% is his limit.  When Walker or Bush or Cruz starts climbing and the weaker candidates start dropping out, Trump will still be sitting where he is.  Then even his most fanatical supporters will start deserting him because they will come to understand he cannot win.

Enjoy Donald while you can.  Also, we can thank him for kick-starting discussion of a meaningful political issue in America.  Just don’t expect him to be around when the leaves start falling.