Days of Change

Autobiographical Memory

September 11, 2019
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In the first year of this blog, I volunteered to blog about one of the victims of the September 11th attacks. He was James Gregory Smith, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee who was trapped in the WTC when it fell. Since the days after the attacks, the country has chosen to tell stories. We tell stories of the people who died, the people dying from exposure to Ground Zero and our own stories of where we were.

There’s a coping strategy for people who experienced trauma and have flashbacks because of it. They are asked to recount the experience in detail, retell it, then listen to the recording of them telling the story. The intent is to stop pushing down the painful event so that it eventually works its way out of the subconscious. Instead, the person needs to confront it and explore it enough that the memories don’t surprise them.

Aside from reminding others or explaining to younger people about the importance of September 11, re-telling also allows us to cope with the experience. For most memories, the strong feelings and excitement of a good or bad experience aren’t re-felt, they are re-told. We are left with the story to tell and perhaps some pictures to go with it. 9/11 is a group experience shared by most adults in 2001 and all our stories weave a fabric of what that day was.

In reality, most September 11 stories extend out for days afterward. After noon on Tuesday, the towers had fallen and America was in a holding pattern. Eventually, the last survivor was found, the wreckage was cleared and the next attack was much smaller and unsuccessful. Years later, Osama bin Laden was killed and his organization was scattered.

That’s my story about the stories.

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Why Russia Matters

August 8, 2019
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I very much doubt that a bunch of Russian hookers peed on Donald Trump to create a compromising video tape. In turn, that makes me suspicious of the Steele Dossier and not inclined to believe in the validity of the FISA warrants almost entirely based on that Dossier alone.

What I want to write about is Maria Valeryevna Butina. Under the guise of trying to influence and learn about the NRA, her spying for Russia has damaged the organization. The recent armed attacks this weekend may spur the president to sign “red flag” legislation and the NRA may have little power to stop him.

Gun ownership and Second Amendment rights have had a complicated relationship over the years. In the past, the NRA had tried to frame gun ownership as a right to engage in sports and recreation and the necessary protection of home and property. More recently, gun rights have been described as the ability to stop government endorsed thugs from taking away the other 20-odd rights of citizens. This also sets up the idea of citizens preparing for a war with the State. Twenty years ago, they were right-wing White Separatists. Now they’re White Supremacists.

The problem now is that Donald Trump is more interested in economic principles of conservatism than social ones. He doesn’t use guns and has not historically been a proponent of gun rights. A law where someone with an ax to grind can have you put on a list where your guns are confiscated creates a society where gun ownership is more like a privilege than a right. Luckily, a federal lawsuit can overturn that if the Supreme Court is so inclined. In a state like New York, gun ownership is becoming more of a burden than a responsibility.

The NRA may have been the ones compromised. With a Trump supporting Republican base and a declining population of gun owners, the NRA’s political turmoil and Russian sex scandal make them less than formidable. Instead of being a hero among men, Trump could be history’s greatest blunder by chipping away at the right to keep the guns you own.

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Escalator Redux

June 18, 2019
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Now that Donald Trump can’t spend as much time at Trump Tower, he’s holding a rally in Orlando to kick off the campaign for Term #2. We know the game plan for Republicans and Democrats in 2020 already. While Democrats expect they can beat Trump next year, they made a similar mistake in 2016. This brings me to my favorite psychological aspects of elections: fear.

Using fear to win elections depends on your campaign instilling fear of losing in your own side. As with most things involving Trump, he let his enemies do most of the work. Prognosticators were united in the 70%+ chance of Clinton winning the 2016 election. That kind of narrative made Republicans scared and Democrats lazy.

The 2016 playbook won’t do much in 2020. Trump will hold rallies. Polls will show him behind (they already do). For the sake of democracy, the good news is that polls are not deterministic. Their margins of error can make them useless and the people like Nate Silver who “interpret” them ignored the margins enough to be completely wrong. However, if Democrats are filled with fear over the next 18 months and Republicans are not, will that tip the scales to a Trump loss?

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CPAC – Alinsky Edition

March 3, 2019
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A thought occurred to me this week. Donald Trump has been president for two years and one month.

Nearly every week of the Trump administration has been filled with news. This week there was the Kim Jong Un meeting in Vietnam, the testimony of Michael Cohen and Trump’s speech at CPAC. Of course, none of these events changed anyone’s life in any way, but it was something to watch.

I will write about CPAC because it’s still going on and while the effect is minimal, what it represents is not. Three years ago, Donald Trump pulled out of CPAC after the organization suggested his speaking time would be limited and he would have to answer audience questions. Plus, there was talk of a walkout during the speech. This year was different. Trump spoke extemporaneously for two hours to near universal approval and walked off without any questions. I can only imagine what next year will be like when he is effectively the only Republican nominee for 2020.

The Resurgent, which is essentially what happened to writers who didn’t worship Trump enough, has made small steps towards accepting Trump as not horrible. In that regard, Editor Erick Erickson has taken to criticizing The Bulwark. The Bulwark is the true home of anti-Trump and they will take down any Republican too supportive of Donald Trump as long as it has an outside chance of hurting Trump in the process. In any case, Erickson pointed out that The Bulwark seems to have inflated its staff with writers like Molly Jong-Fast (no relation to Kim). Jong-Fast is a liberal and reporting on CPAC for The Bulwark.

So, what does this have to do with Alinsky? Well, Saul Alinsky came up a decade ago in relation to Barack Obama. Alinsky’s “Rules for radicals” stressed making your opponent argue from your frame of reference, enforcing their rules of debate on them but not yourself and attacking their arguments by attacking them personally. This is more or less how David “Bald Hitler” Axelrod won elections for Obama. It’s also pretty much a way of life for Donald Trump.

What has happened over the last decade or two is that everyone sees themselves as the radical. The Democrats are fighting the man in power. Trump is fighting “the deep state” which includes Republicans. The conservatives and other Republicans who hate Trump are fighting the other groups. The Bulwark is bringing in a liberal to cover conservatives because CPAC is a joke to them now that they are in the Trump camp.

Alinsky wanted to break down government to create socialism. What is everyone else fighting for after they win the fight?


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Never Ever

February 12, 2019
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Does polarization work?

This is something difficult to test and not likely to be proven. What we know is that the Trump campaign made efforts to prove him to be in line with conservative ideas and he did little to move to the center in the general campaign. Still, he was a pig in a poke. His support was always softest among party-line Republicans. That’s okay, because they have nowhere to go.

The Never Trump contingent wasn’t a movement. In fact, it shrank almost immediately. The Republican Party treated Trump the same way the media did during the primaries. They took advantage of his entertainment value in the primaries and couldn’t rein him in during the general election. Never Trump either formed as a subset of the conservative punditry, broke away and left the GOP, or grudgingly came to support Trump (usually with some amount of crow).

Adding to that bitter conversion are hilarious articles like this one in Esquire. For the left, every Republican has been the worst president / human being in history. If Trump really were the worst ever, it would be hard to tell without a somewhat objective source. The left would never accept Never Trump as an ally, because that would mean President Pence. President Pence, due to his religious nature, would then become the worst Republican president in history.

Liberals are winning the battle for now. Democrats control the House and states have gone further to the left. New York can basically start any financial investigations they want against Trump now. They’re also overplaying their hand, trying to take away guns and end as many pregnancies as possible. This will hurt their election chances in 2020. If they lose 2020, the Republicans win the Census. That may be Trump’s longest legacy after all this. It could also mean that polarization works… for the GOP.

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Welcome to Libertarian Government

January 13, 2019
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Early in the Trump Administration, I mentioned that people wanted someone to “un-govern” the country. Over the last couple of years, this is what has happened. While the cabinet and key positions have seen about average churn, the Democrats are slowing down confirmations and federal workers are quitting at a higher rate. Fewer people are working for the federal government and the country hasn’t blown up.

The government shutdown is adding a new level. We are now in the longest dark period in budgeting for the government. Many workers are starting to miss a paycheck and other transfer services are not providing funds. Unfortunately, the resolution to such shutdowns is to eventually provide back pay, then pay overtime to catch up. Non-essential does not mean unnecessary.

In a bit of irony, the border wall shows the libertarian free market at work. Border crossers can make better money in the US and therefore make the arduous journey to get here. Democrats tacitly support this because they are a source of votes for them. In reality, $5 Billion worth of wall is about 70 miles, which will mostly serve to redirect border crossings, rather than eliminate them. Democrats are putting up a legislative wall for about 0.02% of the federal budget.

The end of this fight is a matter of democracy and marketing. For Trump, the lack of wall funding or real construction is the tipping point for the support needed to get him reelected. It took Ann Coulter over 3 years to sour on Trump because of missed opportunities. Rush Limbaugh is right behind her. Even Sean Hannity has said that at least 1/3 of the remaining open border must be walled off to secure Trump’s reelection.

For Republicans, it is a more complicated issue. Right now, there are just about enough donors and voters to prevent 20 Senators to break ranks and pass a veto-proof budget. As time wears on the pressure to do something will increase for them, probably faster than for the Democrats. People who need their paychecks and government benefits tend to dislike Trump, so they are also willing to give Democrats a pass. This is good for them because the more vocal progressive faction barely cares about electability and would rather Democrats passed more government programs, even if they were voted out in 2020 because of it.

There is no stalemate. It is more of a wearing down until one side has to give up. Either is the wall (funding) or nothing. There is little interest in a compromise because it has the potential to make factions on both sides angry. Someone is going to take a hit on this.

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Statement of Principles

January 2, 2019
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The Washington Examiner proposed the question “What does it mean to be a conservative in the Age of Trump?” I would suggest that what it means to be a conservative has never been fully settled and changes with each White House, even each Congress. Most likely, this is a roundabout way of asking “Is Trump a conservative?” or “Is the Trump Administration good for conservatism?”

First off, I’d say that many Trump supporters are conservatives in the same way Trump is. They are old fashioned, seeking to return to actions and behaviors that worked in the past. This goes against peripheral conservative ideas like libertarian economics or neoconservatism. For example, cutting taxes is a core conservative principle since the Reagan era. Fighting Communism is an even older principle, but the neoconservative idea of fighting terrorism though regime change is much newer.

Halting illegal immigration has been a Republican platform issue for decades, but it competes with the libertarian idea that illegal immigrants are here because America is great and their drive to come here is a benefit. In reality, Americans have always been against amnesty and illegal immigration and the Republican Party has often been slow to respond.

Conservatism has been defined by the total of all leading conservatives. If you believe that those conservatives have either been excessively critical of Trump or more likely to change their stance based on Trump’s words and deeds, then conservatism itself has changed in the Age of Trump. Of course, Trump is now a leading conservative by virtue of his position. We won’t know for some time how conservatism changes again after the Trump Era is over.


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Moral Combat

December 9, 2018
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The largest factor in the 1992 contest was the strangely viable candidacy of Ross Perot. He ran like a deficit hawk Republican and took far more votes from Bush than Clinton. For his part, Bill Clinton never reached 50% of the popular vote, even in 1996. The other problem for Bush was a challenge from the right by political gadfly Pat Buchanan. at the 1992 convention, Buchanan declared culture war.

The term “loser” has been used so much by Donald Trump (before and after his presidency) that the term mostly means “people I don’t like today.” Some of that has spilled over to the memorials of George H.W. Bush, who was one of the few modern presidents to lose a reelection bid. Another was Jimmy Carter, who is months away from being the oldest living president in history.

Winning a battle isn’t as important as being in the fight. That’s what wins the war. Of the many factors in the 1992 elections, the idea that George Bush wasn’t engaged in domestic issues, especially cultural conservatism, might have lost him vital support that year. In 2000, George W. Bush spoke frequently about his faith, so much that liberals tried to use it against him. While Bush didn’t fight a war against Islam, he did battle against the belief of too many Islamic theocrats that they could defeat America.

We all know the story of John McCain. He felt he needed to run a campaign that did not go after his opponent, to the point of chastising people at his own rallies. Even Sarah Palin was not inclined to talk to cultural conservatism during the 2008 campaign.

The Trump era is about the fight. Although he talks little about it, he often uses executive actions to show his support. At rallies, he talks more about demographics than morality, which is a more comfortable place for someone with a morally gray lifestyle. Ultimately, it may be more about the fight than the fighter. Hopefully, the cause itself is not lost.

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Math Wins

November 7, 2018
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As a student of math, I probably shouldn’t describe the kind of popular wisdom used to predict elections as “math,” but there are at least some trends that held in the 2018 midterms.

  • The popular vote is important. In 2016, Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote by winning enough states with just enough of a plurality. His margin of victory in the three closest states, was 1.5% or less. The House is made up of 435 districts that also have popular votes, and more Democrats won those.
  • The Senate was a long shot, at best. The Democrats had a good year in 2006, turning both Houses and flipping a lot of seats by campaigning against Bush. In 2012, they had Obama’s coattails to hold most of their seats.
  • It takes a lot more money to affect the outcome. On the Senate front, Democrats spent a lot of money to flip Republican Senate seats. They had plenty of money to do it. This has led some to believe one benefit of high profile Senate races was to convince Trump to spend more time campaigning for people like Ted Cruz so that Democrats could win the House.
  • Know your audience. Some Democrats were able to say they would back Trump on some issues to have a chance of getting elected. Most of them lost, but Republicans had it worse. If they didn’t support Trump agenda, candidates were subjected to friendly fire. This also affected the House races.
  • Fundamental transformation is a wish, not a reality. History tells us Trump will win in 2020. Conventional wisdom suspects Trump will be tired of losing, blame everyone else and refuse to run again, especially if he polls badly. The default makeup of the Congress is a lot like 2012, where Democrats run the House and Republicans run the Senate. There’s this thing that’s a little like gridlock called “working together.” It’s not always effective, but it doesn’t get undone quickly in the next administration.

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Passion Play

October 6, 2018
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I lost some of my indifference over the last two weeks. Even if I don’t think Donald Trump was the best candidate out of the 17 Republicans who ran in 2016, I think he’s done a good job in the nearly 2 years he’s been on the job. One thing he does excel at is the reason I remain a Republican, opposing stupid crap the Left does that keeps most people from becoming Democrats. If Trump holds the House in November, he’ll be more successful than Obama in every way.

When someone fights with you, the response is going to be either fight or take flight. When something as important as a SCOTUS nomination is at stake, fighting is really the only option. Because the Supreme Court decides if something is “Constitutional,” they can essentially block or allow any law that can’t be amended by 67 Senators and 38 states. An originalist Justice should avoid that kind of decision altogether because they go by the text of the Constitution and not some nebulous “intent.”

The Kavanaugh nomination was filled with stalls and delays. First, Democrats wanted millions of documents that would have to be reviewed before release just to slow down the process. Then there were the “settled law” questions about abortion and questions about Executive authority. In reality, all but two Democrats were automatic no votes and were just trying to stop Kavanaugh in anticipation of some kind of “blue wave” in November.

While the Christine Ford allegation was a surprise for most last month, Dianne Feinstein knew about it almost since the announcement of Kavanaugh as the appointee. Revealing it then might have ended the process, but would have allowed a new judge to be nominated before the midterms. Somehow, information that was mostly known by her Senate office leaked out the week the original vote was scheduled.

Every time Ford was asked for something, her “legal team” of Democrat lackeys delayed providing it. In fact, the only thing the Senate got was her testimony, the day before Sen. Grassely was going to stop asking and call a vote. When a couple of holdout Republicans requested another FBI investigation, Ford’s lawyers continued to block giving any documents until there was an interview. The “interview” was already provided to the Senate.

Ultimately, the delays kept Kavanaugh out of a week of work at the Supreme Court, but revealed the ultimate plan for the Left. They wanted more time and more delays. They wanted to investigate the meaning of “boof.” The probably wanted to record interviews of everyone Kavanaugh ever met. They wanted Kavanaugh to be set aside entirely, because the mere accusation of impropriety should keep one off the Supreme Court, unlike the Senate or the White House, where such allegations were actually proven with evidence.

This was the big mistake of the Left. People lukewarm on Trump found themselves very passionate about a weird circus where a woman gave conflicting testimony and yet was 100% certain of it. Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins, two Senators low on the Trump fan hit parade, became stars this week because they found the assault the Democrats were trying to force on the process of government.

Despite all the hats out there, I’m not sure if we can Make America Great Again with the way politics and culture are now. What I do know is that whatever Donald Trump is doing out there, he should keep doing it.

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