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Sunday, August 20, 2017

So Why Did Debbie Do It?

A Pakistani-American IT staffer for congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, his wife and two others have been indicted by the federal government for bank fraud and a whole host of other charges.  These people were part of a group of Pakistani American guys who worked on the computer systems for a bunch of Democrats in congress.  As such, they had access to confidential and perhaps classified information.  About six months ago, the congressmen were warned that the FBI suspected that the computer guys were allegedly taking information from the computer systems and selling it to foreign intelligence agencies, most particularly the ISI (Pakistani intelligence).  All of the congressmen fired the IT workers in question except for Debbie Wasserman Schultz who kept them on the payroll until they were arrested this past week.  The charges do not include espionage, although there is talk in media stories that this may get added later.

So why did Debbie keep them on the payroll.  Why did she continue to give them access to her computer systems?  It's an interesting question.  The most common answer is that she did not want to fire them because they are Muslim and she did not want to look Islamophobic.  That's actually the "official" story that comes from Wasserman Schultz's office.  It's a total indictment of the congressman.  This is not a situation in which there was no reason to fire the guys.  The FBI said that it suspected wrongdoing by them.  How can a member of congress just let such a person have continuing access to Capitol Hill computer systems?  The explanation is the rough equivalent of someone saying that she got mugged by members of a gang of Muslim men but she didn't report it because she didn't want to look Islamophobic.

Another explanation that I have seen hinted at in the media is that Wasserman Schultz was allegedly romantically involved with the guy she kept on her payroll.  I don't believe that.  There is no evidence to support such a conclusion other than the non-firing itself.

I really can't understand any reason why Wasserman Schultz would keep the guy on the payroll.  It merits an investigation by Congress.

Re-threats

Last week Kim Jung Un of North Korea pulled back from his threats to send missiles to Guam.  Today, he issued new threats of war.  This time Kim is "upset" over the joint US-South Korean military exercises scheduled for this week.  Kim says that he will destroy the US and South Korea with his missiles and nukes given the provocation.  Those aren't his exact words, but who cares.  It is the meaning of his threat.  Truthfully, the whole thing is getting old fast.  There's a rhythm to the NK dance.  First, the South Koreans or the USA does something of a military nature.  It need not be anything different than events that have taken place for decades -- like this week's annual joint military exercises.  Next, the NK's announce that the whole thing is a dangerous provocation showing that the USA and South Korea are moving towards war.  Then Kim announces that North Korea will not tolerate this act but will smash the "aggressors" with the overwhelming military might of the NK state.  The normal fourth step is that the USA or South Korea announces that the event will go ahead as scheduled.  That brings us to the traditional fifth step:  nothing else happens.

The problem with this dance is that we don't always get each of the five steps that are expected.  In the past, we have seen North Korea shell South Korean troops on an off shore island.  We've seen the North Korean forces sink a South Korean patrol vessel.  Usually, whatever the NKs do is targeted at the troops of the South, not at US forces.  Most likely, the NKs understand that a direct attack on Americans might provoke a full scale American response, and they don't want that.  Now that the NKs have nuclear weapons, however, they may change their viewpoint.

One thing is certain:  Kim and his cronies are a danger to the peace of the world.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Some Good News

Missouri state senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal has been warned by the state's Lt. governor that she had better resign her seat by the next session of the legislature or she would be expelled.  Chappelle-Nadal is the idiot who called for the assassination of president Trump.  She has now been condemned by every major Republican in Missouri and by almost all the Democrats as well.  For example, senator McCaskill of Missouri has called upon Chappelle-Nadal to resign.

The state senator has said that she will not resign.  Hopefully, the senators will expel her from the chamber at their next session.  There's no place in the government for someone who calls for the death of the President.

Just Another Day In Boston

Today brought a big gathering in Boston to protest against a supposed Nazi rally.  There was a slight problem with the gathering, however, since no Nazis showed up.  No KKK members showed up either.  In fact, the only thugs who were there came as members of Antifa.  These winners threw bottles, rocks and balloons filled with urine at the Boston police who were charged with keeping order.  In other words, it was just another day in Boston.  There was no far right extremist activity; there really never is.  There were thousands who came out to be part of a liberal rally; again nothing new there.  Some far left thugs decided to attack police; that too is nothing unusual.

It's good that the Boston day has been mostly peaceful.  Principal credit for the peace goes to the Boston police department.  In Charlottesville, the local cops did nothing as fighting started and then escalated into a full skirmish.  In Boston, a show of force by police kept everyone (even the crazies from Antifa) calm and away from the shows of violence that blew up in Virginia.

How Badly Has President Trump Been Hurt by Charlottesville?

After a week of non-stop Trump-bashing by the mainstream media, Democrats and even some Republicans, we need to consider what effect this has had on his standing with the public.  Josh Kraushaar addresses this issue in a report in National Journal.  The key finding is that in polling done by Gallup and Quinnipiac (which consistently produce results worse for Trump than other pollsters), President Trump's job approval numbers have risen by 5 points following Charlottesville from where they were before all this happened.  He still has low numbers in both polls, but an increase of 5 points is a significant move.  On top of those results, other polls show that the public strongly agrees with the position that statues of civil war heroes of the South should not be removed.

Think about that.  President Trump said that the Antifa thugs in Charlottesville who charged the Nazi and KKK thugs were also to blame for what happened.  Trump didn't give Antifa a pass for breaking the law and assaulting the Nazis even if the Nazis and KKK were a vile group of scum.  The media and the political elites thought this position was immoral.  Political tumbleweeds like Mitt Romney condemned the President for example.  Still, Trump's position that bad people doing bad things are evil even if they are doing the bad things to other bad people, seems to have resonated with the American people. 

We will have to see how this all plays out.  Right now we have many "elites" virtue signaling by expressing disdain for Trump.  I wonder how many of those elites will find out later that common sense condemnation of all violence is the majority position of the American people.

More Important Than A Statue

In light of recent events, the focus of the media has been on whether or not America ought to tear down statues of Civil War era figures or others who were on the side of the Confederacy.  It's important, however, to keep an eye on something that is much more important for average Americans than ideological purity battles about events of 160 years ago.

That item is the accelerating growth rate of the economy.  During the first quarter of 2017, the economy grew at a rate of about 1.2% according to the latest government figures.  That quarter was the last fully Obama quarter.  While President Trump took office one-third of the way through that quarter, no president can change the trajectory of the economy in just two months, so Obama gets full credit for the quarter's results.  The second quarter of 2017 grew at a 2.8% rate according to the latest government figures.  President Trump gets more credit for that although he cannot lay total claim to the doubling of the growth rate for two reasons.  First, for the last few years, the first quarter has underperformed while the second quarter has over performed.  Something in the government's methodology for measuring economic growth has distorted the results for these two quarters each year, and 2017 may be no different.  Second, even after two months in office, it is difficult for a president to make a major change in the direction of the economy.  By the end of the second quarter, however, it is much more the Trump economy than the Obama economy.  That brings us to the third quarter of 2017 which is only a little more than half over.  The Atlanta Fed has a projection of economic growth for the quarter which is currently showing just under 4% growth rate.  The Atlanta Fed projection has been the most accurate tool for predicting the growth rate in recent years, so it's prediction of a rather high rate of growth is significant.  Sure, the prediction could change as we near the end of the quarter.  And, of course, the Atlanta Fed prediction could be wrong.  Nevertheless, it's been many years since we've seen a projection of growth this high for the US economy. 

It's important to remember that a whole slew of the economic "experts" have told us that 2% growth was the new normal and that we would need to get used to it.  These experts deride President Trump's goal of 3% growth as a pipedream; it just cannot happen -- or so they told us.  If we grow faster than 3% and if that growth continues, these "experts" will be shown to be totally wrong.  And remember, by growing and extra 1%, the economy adds about 180 billion dollars of activity each year.  Just think how many new jobs that produces.  Consider how much in additional government revenue that brings in.  Remember how much that added prosperity reduces the need for food stamps and other federal welfare payments.  Finally, consider how much faster the economy will grow once the corporate tax rates and structures are reconfigures to promote growth and investment rather than to retard it like now.

 

Do We Erase History?

The anti-statue anti-monument frenzy has reached a point of true craziness.  Since Charlottesville, a whole raft of cities, towns and states have decided to get rid of all manner of historical markers.  It doesn't matter why a statue is in a particular place, it just has to go according to the liberal frenzy.  For example, in a hall of fame in New York City, the busts of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were ordered removed by governor Cuomo despite the fact that placing those busts in that hall was done originally as a symbol of the healing of the nation after the Civil War.  Are we just erasing history now?

The point is that historical events cannot simply be erased.  Even if the events were terrible, they just cannot be erased.

Think about it.  Should we bury any mention of the Nazis?  It's hard to think of a worse group of people in modern times.  Still, if we erase them from history, future generations may not understand the full evil of what they did.  The Nazi philosophy captured millions in Europe 80 years ago.  It might exert that same appeal in a few decades if people are uneducated to its full horror.

What about Roman ruins.  The Romans had slaves everywhere.  Each time they captured a new region, they made most of the inhabitants into slaves.  Should we ask the Italian government to tear down the ruins in Rome so as to erase the memory of these slave holders?

What about the Egyptian pyramids.  Every year Jews celebrate Passover to commemorate their escape from slavery in Egypt.  Nevertheless, we know that slaves built the pyramids.  Do they have to come down?

There is no doubt that things change, social views change.  When that happens, the nature of monuments changes too.  But it's not just social views that change; people change too.  One thing that ought not change, however, is history.  History is not meant to be altered every time society's outlook transforms.  We need to know what actually happened rather than attempt to airbrush the unappealing parts away.  If George Washington owned slaves, that's part of his story.  It does not erase his enormous contribution to the founding of this country.  There is a history of America that actually happened.  It has proud moments and moments that are shameful.  We need to remember all those moments.  There's a famous quote that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.  It's something that needs to be kept in mind.

Right now, there are too many things to do about the current situation in the USA and the world to waste time fighting over monuments and statues.  We cannot erase history and we ought not try to do so.