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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Nothing Like One's Reputation

The story is appearing tonight in a host of media outlets:  the Hillary Clinton campaign is accused of "infiltrating" paid staffers from out of state into the Iowa caucuses.  The story identifies the source of the concern as the Sanders' campaign and it gives the reasons for the concern.  It would be the ultimate dirty trick (not to mention illegal) to import paid staffers from other states to come to the caucuses in Iowa to help up the total votes for Hillary.

Here's the problem:  if the story were about any candidate other than Hillary, it would be laughed off, given the sparse evidence of misconduct.  This story, however, is about Hillary Clinton, the candidate who seems incapable of telling the truth and who is the subject of an ongoing major criminal investigation by the FBI.  No one with any sense believes anything she says or does.  For Hillary Clinton, the idea of trying to import paid staffers to pack the caucus sites actually seems plausible. 


Now Even Bernie Agrees

It's been quite a day on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton's email problems.  Hillary has decided to take the position that the email problems are just a ginned up political ploy from Republicans like Benghazi.  Seriously, Hillary is blaming the FBI investigation into her private unsecured (and clearly illegal) email system on Republicans.  Apparently, the death of the US ambassador and three other men in a very poorly secured State Department facility in Benghazi is just a political ploy for Queen Hillary.  So too, Hillary's clear disregard of the applicable laws and her use of an unsecure system that let foreign governments get some of America's most secret information is a ploy too.  Even for Mrs. Clinton, this is an amazing position.  These are clear failures on her part, seemingly criminal failures on her part, but she dismisses them as political ploys by people who are not even involved.  The FBI is president Obama's FBI, not the Republican FBI.  No amount of deflection by Hillary will work this time.

Even Bernie Sanders who famously gave Hillary a pass about her "damn emails" at the first debate, is now having a change of heart.  Here is how CNN reported on Sanders' interview by Jake Tapper today:

Asked Sunday by CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" whether voters should interpret his refusal to engage Clinton on the email issue to mean that Clinton did nothing wrong, Sanders replied with a firm, "No."

"Nope, nope. That is not, I think, a fair assessment. That is, I think, a very serious issue," Sanders said. "There is a legal process taking place, I do not want to politicize that issue. It is not my style."

Sanders is never slow to blame things on Republicans, but he's not doing that here.  Clearly, Sanders understands the importance of Hillary's misconduct regarding the top secret information.  So too, do the American people.  We are watching Hillary Clinton melt down.


Meanwhile, Outside Iowa and Washington..........

For the last week, the attention of the country (okay, of the media) has been on events in Iowa and Washington.  There was all the political items about the town halls, debates and the Iowa caucus.  For some of the media, there was also all the news about the new disclosures of Hillary Clinton's emails and her blatant disregard of the rules to protect national security secrets.  Let's leave that behind for the moment and look at stories that got little coverage during that time.

1.  In Gaza, seven Hamas terrorists were killed when a tunnel they were in collapsed due to heavy rain in the region.  You may recall that during the last confrontation between the Israelis and Hamas, the main goal of the Israelis was to destroy the Hamas tunnel system.  The terrorists used that system to go under the border with Israel and to attack or kidnap Israelis in nearby areas.  By the end of the battles, the Israelis had destroyed essentially all of those tunnels.  Now, Hamas is busy rebuilding them.  After the collapse, Hamas held a big funeral for the "martyrs" who died in the tunnel.  During that funeral, a large crowd gathered.  At one building next to the procession, a great many people crowded onto the roof for a better view.  The roof collapsed and there were casualties among those who fell with it.  It's worth considering this because it makes clear the mindset of the Hamas group.

2.  In New York, the markets rallied to be up for the week after a terrible start to 2016.  In the perverse world of Wall Street, one of the best news items was that the GDP grew during the 4th quarter of 2015 by only 0.7%.  With such anemic growth, the consensus is now that the Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates again for quite some time.  The market soared in celebration.

The reality is that growth at 0.7% is a tragedy for the country.  It means that the output in this country is not rising on a per capita basis.  It means that all those spending programs that the candidates discuss are beyond the means of the USA because we just don't have the money and we aren't going to get it.  Let's put this into proper context.  If the economy grew by three percent more, that would mean that at the end of a year, the USA would have produced nearly half a trillion dollars more of goods and services.  Just think how many jobs that would provide.  Just think how many more middle class families would see their incomes rise.  That difference alone would give the federal government an addition hundred billion dollars in revenues.  The anti-growth policies followed by president Obama and strongly supported by Hillary Clinton, however, keep suppressing the economy.  As a result, the middle class keeps sinking closer to poverty and the country gets further and further into debt.

3.  In Europe, the fight over the "refugees" from the Middle East keeps intensifying.  There have been bizarre events like the sweep of the Stockholm train station.  Most likely you have not heard of this.  Sweden, which opened its arms to the immigrant wave, has been the site of many crimes committed by the new arrivals.  The Swedish government has done its best to keep a lid on the news reports about this.  Nevertheless, it became widely known in Stockholm that the main train station had been "taken over" by a group of immigrants mainly from Morocco who were demanding money from travelers and threatening women in the station.  It is disputed whether or not many of the women were attacked.  Despite an avalanche of complaints, the authorities did nothing.  A few days ago, a group of almost 100 young Swedish men (supposedly soccer hooligans according to the media) swept through the station and ousted all the Moroccans.  Again, the government did nothing.  Is this the Swedish model that Bernie Sanders wants us to follow?

4.  In East Asia, the uncertainty about the Chinese economy continues to grow.  The world saw the latest economic reports from Beijing, but no one believes them anymore.  Is China now in a recession?  Certainly, the Chinese behavior says the could well be so.  The Chinese are no longer buying commodities on the world markets in amounts even half what they purchased just a few years ago.  There is a huge flight of capital out of China as the wealthy Chinese look for safer places to keep their money.  The Chinese have a debt problem that is severe.  No one knows what is coming, but we do know that the Chinese government staked its future on providing economic growth for the country.  If that is no longer being achieved, there could be massive changes within China, and that presents grave danger for the rest of the world. 

There are many more stories like these, but these four provide enough context.  Does it really matter whether or not Megyn Kelly's questions to Trump at the first GOP debate were fair?  Not compared to these problems.  Do we really want to hear Hillary's campaign tell lies about how Bernie Sanders has gone negative because he recites Hillary's record?  It's nonsense.  The world should demand our attention.  There are too many big problems to spend time on silly minutiae.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

More Bad News For Hillary

The Pentagon announced that it will not be taking further action against General David Petraeus.  That's bad news for Hillary Clinton.  Had the Pentagon announced likely action against the General, it would have given president Obama the cover he needed to pardon those high officials who may have mishandled classified information.  You know:  the General and Hillary.  Without any Pentagon action against the General, Obama would have to pardon Hillary alone.  The firestorm would be enormous.  I just can't see Obama taking the heat to help Hillary Clinton.


Will The Campaign Shift on Tuesday?

After the Iowa vote on Monday, will there be a big shift in the presidential race?

Among Democrats, if Hillary loses to Bernie Sanders will there be any mass movement away from the soon to be indicted former secretary of state?  If Hillary loses, will Joe Biden reconsider and jump into the race?  If Hillary loses, will the FBI decide that it needs to act quickly in recommending her indictment once she is no longer the certain candidate of the Democrats?

Among Republicans, it Trump, Cruz and Rubio finish in the top spots way ahead of the others, how many candidates will drop out prior to New Hampshire?  Will Santorum and Huckabee and Paul and any others depart the race immediately, or will they wait for New Hampshire results first?  If Rubio blows past Cruz or Trump to finish second, will that story be so big as to propel him way up in New Hampshire and elsewhere?  If Trump comes in second or third, will he pull out of the race since he is no longer a "winner"?  If Cruz only comes in third, will his campaign crumble due to inability to win on its natural turf?  Will the pre-caucus polls be anywhere close to correct?

Just think what a good thing it would be for America if the Iowa caucus were to deal a heavy blow to the presidential campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Imagine the new slogan in Iowa,  "Make America Sane Again!"


What's The Difference?

The four most populous states in the country are California, Texas, Florida and New York.  What are the key differences among these four states?  Why is New York hardly growing, California growing slowly and Florida and Texas growing quickly?  Is it climate?  New York, after all, is substantially colder than the other three.  Is it other environmental factors?  Texas has mosquitos that sometimes seem the size of small birds.  Is it the people?  Florida has a high percentage of elderly residents; California and Texas are heavily Hispanic, and New York has large immigrant populations from all over the world.  Is it culture?  New York has Broadway and museums that none of the others can match.

The main answer as to why the growth rates of these states are so different is economic.  New York has the highest state and local taxes in the country.  California is in the top four.  Florida is in the lower half of state and local taxes and Texas is one of the five lowest in those taxes.  The real question that needs to be answered is why would people pay close to 60% higher state and local taxes to live in New York when they could live in Texas and avoid those higher taxes.  How many businesses locate in the low tax states rather than in the high tax ones, and how many people move to get jobs from those businesses?  The answer is that thousands upon thousands of people move away from the higher tax states each year.  In New York, for example, the area of the state outside the New York City metro area is in substantial and long term decline.  New York City has the economic engine of Wall Street and the high tech areas which push economic growth despite the high taxes.  The rest of the state gets hit head with the full weight of the high tax rates that destroy the economy.  Wide sections of New York state are being consistently depopulated as folks move away to find more vibrant economic areas. 

So are there better state services in New York than in the other states?  The simple answer is NO.  The roads and bridges are not any better maintained in New York.  In truth, some of the worst maintained highways in the country run through New York.  Is the environment any cleaner in New York than the other states?  Again, the answer is NO.  Are the schools better in New York?  New York City spends more on education per pupil than any other large school district in the country, but the graduates of that system do not perform as well.  The New York fire and police departments do great work, but so do those in Texas and Florida.  So where do all those tax dollars go in New York?  Why does New York need so much more cash from residents than Texas does?

The different results achieved by New York and Texas are worth keeping in mind as you consider the message of Bernie Sanders.  He wants to raise spending and taxes by just under twenty trillion dollars.  How many people and businesses will move their economic activities out of the country to a place of lower taxes?  More important, how many businesses will start their new activities outside the USA to avoid the Bernie-tax? 


Friday, January 29, 2016

Who Will Hillary Attack This Time?

Hillary Clinton and her supporters have a big problem.  The official State Department spokesman confirmed that more than twenty email chains on Clinton's private unsecured email system were not only classified, but were of the most secret classification in the government system.  That means that Hillary had more than twenty conversations back and forth with people by email which covered America's most sensitive and most secret national security information.  It's the rough equivalent of president Obama using an unsecure email system to send the launch codes for America's nuclear missiles.  The level of disregard that Clinton showed for the handling of America's secrets is staggering.  With this disclosure, there is no longer any doubt that there will be indictments coming.  Even president Obama could not ignore this sort of activity for political purposes. 

But until those indictments come, Hillary is still in the middle of her campaign.  Lately, as this information has trickled out, the Clinton machine has been using the old tactics of the 1990 in which the Clinton people attack those handling the investigation as if they were rabid right wing Republicans whose only goal was to destroy the Clintons no matter what the truth of the situation is.  That may have worked against Ken Starr in the Monica Lewinsky days, but it is hard to paint the non-partisan Inspector General of the Intelligence Agencies as a crazy Republican out for blood.  After all, the IG was appointed to his position by president Obama and confirmed with the unanimous support of the Senate Democrats.  Clinton and her people were in the process of trying that, nevertheless.  Now, however, that tactic has to stop.  After all, the information that came from the IG has now been confirmed by Admiral Kirby, the official spokesman for the State Department.  Kirby works directly for the secretary of state, John Kerry.  Even Clinton cannot hope to paint Kerry as a right wing Republican.  Indeed, attacks on Kerry and his spokesman would be correctly seen as direct attacks on Obama himself.

This means that Hillary will have to deal with the actual facts of the investigation.  That is an impossible task for Mrs. Clinton.  The only relevant facts are that (1) she set up her own private email system to use while secretary of state; (2) she got about 1500 emails on that system that contained classified information; (3) about two dozen email chains (which is probably about 60 emails) contained super secret information so highly classified that any secretary of state (even Hillary) would have to recognize the nature of the information; (4) the only way that such information could even get to Hillary's email system is for someone with extremely high security clearance (like Hillary or her direct aides) to cut and past the info into non-secured emails; and (5) Hillary did nothing to secure the secret data once it was on her private unsecured system.

All of this cannot be disputed.  It is all public information.  The time of the Clintons is coming to an end.