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Monday, June 2, 2014

21st Century Political Realities

Recently I have been reading a number of books on advances in technology as applied to politics in America. These books include The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Joe Trippi, Collision 2012 by Dan Balz, and The Victory Lab by Sasha Issenberg. The Trippi book is about the 2004 campaign of Vermont Governor Howard Dean. It is a pre Facebook era look at how the Dean organization utilized the internet to create a bottom up campaign that nearly toppled the candidates of the Democratic establishment. It is an early look at the power of the Internet to not only connect candidates to supporters, but also connect supporters to candidates in a way that has heretofore been impossible to imagine. The real message of the Trippi book is that the Internet enhances the power of the grassroots to affect the outcome of a national campaign, especially an insurgent campaign such as that of Howard Dean. This is how Joe Trippi describes the power of the Internet…
“What we’re really in now is the empowerment age. If information is power, then this new technology—which is the first to evenly distribute information—is really distributing power.”

“I believe what we do with that power will determine the course of this country. I believe that the Internet is the last hope for democracy. I believe that American will use it in the next decade to bring about a total transformation of politics, business, education and entertainment.”
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was published in 2004. Joe Trippi could not envision all the advances that have taken place after that date, but his vision of the near future may well have been on the mark. Between the aborted Howard Dean campaign of 2004, and the successful campaign of Barack Obama in 2008, and again in 2012, dramatic changes in technology and the approach to politics, especially on the left, have taken place.

Collision 2012, subtitled Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America, provides an overview of the 2012 race for President of the United States. The wakeup call for the Democrats was the 2010 off year election. This is how Dan Balz reports it…
“[The Democratic] party had absorbed the worst midterm election defeat in more than half a century. Democrats lost sixty-three seats in the House, the biggest midterm loss by a party since 1938.”

“In the states, the wreckage was even greater as the conservative tidal wave swept aside years of Democratic advances. Republicans captured a majority of the governorships, and Democrats were lucky not to have lost more. Republicans picked up nearly seven hundred state legislative seats and now controlled legislatures in twenty-six states. In twenty-one states, Republicans held both the governor’s mansion and the legislature.”
Facing such a massive and overwhelming rejection by the voters, the Democrats and the Obama Administration were reeling. It was in the face of this loss that the Obama political machine geared up for a tough race in 2012. The reality, however, was that Obama’s race for the White House in 2012 actually began the day Obama took office on January 20, 2009. But, according to Balz, as technologically savvy as the 2008 Obama campaign was, the plan was to completely reboot it and update it for 2012 …
“In one of their first conversations about the reelection, [Jim] Messina said he told the president that the reason they could not rerun 2008 was because so much had changed in just two years. Technology had leapfrogged forward with new devices, new platforms, and vastly more opportunities to exploit social media.”
Balz continues…
"Messina and his colleagues were investing enormous amounts of time, money, and creative energy in the development of what resembled a high-tech political start-up whose main purpose was to put more people on the streets in 2012, armed with more information about the voters they were contacting, than any campaign had ever attempted.”

“…Organizing for America…began investing millions of dollars and countless hours on technology and analytics that would eventually migrate to the election campaign.”

“The campaign hired software engineers and data experts and number crunchers and digital designers and video producers by the score—hundreds of them—who filled back sections of the vast open room resembling a brokerage house trading floor or a tech start-up that occupied the sixth floor of One Prudential Plaza overlooking Millennium Park in Chicago.”

“No campaign had ever invested so heavily in technology and analytics, and no campaign had ever had such stated ambitions.”
The investment in technology was a tremendous leap of faith by the Obama team that the old politics of spending millions on television were the past, and that the future was technology that allowed you to know who was likely to vote for your candidate, and that provided a software platform for reaching out to these donors in a personal, powerful way.

The goal…
“…was to build a program that would allow everyone—campaign staffers in Chicago, state directors, and their staff in the battlegrounds, field organizers, volunteers going door to door or volunteers at home—to communicate simply and seamlessly.”

“That brought about the creation of the Dashboard, which Messina later said was the hardest thing the campaign did but which became the central online organizing vehicle.”
Supported by hundreds of millions of dollars raised through fund raising, the Obama machine overcame overwhelming odds to win the White House again in 2012.

With that background, I went on to read The Victory Lab by Sasha Issenberg. In my view, this is the most insightful look at using technology and psychology to win elections in the 21st century. This book provides in-depth information on the advances in using technology and on baseline tested physiological approaches to winning over voters and getting them to the polls by both political parties.


In the Prologue Issenberg writes…
“The revolutionaries are taking a politics distended by television’s long reach and restoring it to a human scale—even delivering, at times, a perfectly disarming touch of intimacy.”
Indeed, and perhaps ironically, that is exactly what the use of technology, and baseline testing of messages is enabling campaigns to do in the 21st century. Instead of ads aimed at masses of people through television, cutting edge campaigns endeavor to spend their funds reaching the voter directly and individually. They gather public data on voters, and match that with information gained from personal contacts with prospective voters to reach individuals with messages tailored expressly to them. Not surprisingly, head-to-head tests of contacts with prospective voters via mail, telephone, and in person made it clear that in this impersonal age, the personal one-on-one contact is the most powerful.

Politicos had known for years that the more personal the contact the more powerful and persuasive it was. As Republican guru Blaise Hazelwood put it…
“Knowing where a voter lives, how old they are, what gender they are, and all those things are very important. But nothing is as important as understanding what they really care about…”
In 2003, Republican consultant Alexander Gage created a PowerPoint focused on a campaign tool he called “microtargeting.” This is, apparently, the first time that particular term was used, but it has now become the standard description of the way campaigns can identify voters by their personal preferences and choices. It bypasses the traditional precinct approach in favor of an individual target approach. As it was refined and made more precise, microtargeting was used to not only raise the Republican voter turnout in heavily Republican areas, but also increase that turnout in traditional Democrat strongholds. It is a tool that helps candidates win close races.

According to Issenberg…
“A Washington Post analysis of the $2.2 billion spent on the presidential campaign [2004]—split almost evenly between efforts on behalf of Bush and Kerry—concluded that Bush’s $3.25 million contract with Gage’s firm TargetPoint was among the best money spent that year.”
At that point the Democrats were behind the Republicans in terms of targeting and turnout. But, that was soon to change.
“In April 2006, [Laura] Quinn and former Clinton White House adviser Harold Ickes [formed] a new company, Catalist, that would serve what they described as a data ‘utility’for Democratic campaigns and liberal causes.”
Catalist was to be a for-profit company, but that was not to be its primary purpose. It was to be cause driven, not bottom line driven. To get it underway Ickes needed $5 million in seed money, the first $1 million of which came from the multi-billionaire financier, George Soros. The idea of Catalist was to create a vast database comprised of hard data gathered by a myriad of groups on the left and then make that data available to liberal candidates and causes across the country. At the time the Issenberg book was written, Catalist was maintaining “…one-half of a petabyte of data, the equivalent of one thousand hard drives.”

About the same time, in parallel with the development of Catalist, AFL political operative Mike Podhorzer set up the Analyst Group that was an outgrowth of a long term project to baseline test messaging used in political campaigns. Podhorzer hired Todd Rogers, who is described by Issenberg as…
“…a psychologist who graduated from Harvard Business School after performing research that examined whether the way individuals managed their Netflix queues could illuminate how they felt about a carbon tax to fight global warming.”
After taking the job as executive director of the Analyst Group, Rogers wrote…
“Some people have described what we are trying to do as ‘Moneyball for progressive politics.’”
Moneyball is a direct reference to the approach taken by Billy Bean, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, using analytics to find bargain priced players who could outperform their market value when placed into the right situation.

Rogers was enamored by the work of…
“…psychologist Robert Cialdini, an expert in the way that consumers were simply unable to make rational choices…”

“Cialdini documented how consumers followed bad cues or were drawn to faulty assumptions, and the ways marketers could exploit them. Eventually he turned his powers toward promoting good behavior with cynical mind games. It was Cialdini, for instance, who documented the success of hotels that encouraged guests to reuse their towels by informing them how many guests also did so, rather than by highlighting how disappointingly low recycling rates were or the general importance of environmental concerns.”

“Cialdini had found repeatedly that what he described as injunctive norms (‘you should not litter’) were far less effective at changing behavior than descriptive norms (‘few people litter’).
The Issenberg book also discusses the use of shame as a means of increasing voter turn-out. Essentially, by making a voter aware that voting (not who you vote for) is public information, and advising that voter of his own voting record and that of his neighbors, voter participation increased significantly.

Utilizing advanced technology and applying proven psychological techniques, the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns committed huge resources to finding their voters and turning them out on election day. For example, the 2008 Obama campaign knew that the normal turnout of Democrat voters for the Iowa Caucuses was 125,000. They knew that if that number of Caucus goers turned out again, they would lose to Hillary. Therefore, they set a goal of 180,000 Iowa Caucus goers. They knew that if they reached that amount, they would win. The final count of Democrat Caucus participants in 2008 was 239,000 and Obama won easily.

The advance of technology and the use of baseline measured psychological tests are not the only things that have significantly altered the political landscape in the United States in the 21st century. The fact is, the United States of 2014 contains an electorate that is vastly different than that of a few years ago.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan won a landslide re-election victory, winning 49 states. In doing so, Reagan won the white vote by 20 points. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost the election to incumbent President Barack Obama, receiving just 47.2% of the total popular vote. Yet, in 2012, Mitt Romney carried the white vote by 20 points, the exact same margin with which Ronald Reagan won a 49 state landslide victory in 1984.

Ronald Reagan received less than 10% of the black vote in that election; similarly, in 2008, John McCain won 4% of the African American vote, and in 2012, Mitt Romney won 6% of the black vote. McCain also won 31% of the Hispanic vote and in 2012, Mitt Romney won 27% of the Latino vote.

In other words, the demographics of the United States have changed dramatically since Ronald Reagan ran for president. No longer can a Republican candidate for president succeed by simply winning the white vote by 20 points.

In fact, we are fast approaching the reality that no white Republican candidate for President can win. Unless and until a Republican candidate for president can significantly increase his or her share of the African American and Hispanic vote, the United States is headed for a permanent Democratic control of the United States government.

The Republican brand is so tarnished with African Americans that any white candidate for president is immediately distrusted. He or she will have no chance of expanding the black vote even though the Republican Party is the Party of Abraham Lincoln. As recently as 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower received 39% of the black vote, but the relentless charges of racism by the news media and Democrats have so damaged the Republican brand, it is impossible for a white candidate for president to make inroads into this portion of the electorate.

Simply running another candidate like McCain or Romney in 2016 will result in the Republicans losing the White House again. It doesn’t make any difference if the last name is Paul or Bush or Christie, the outcome is foregone. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

But, there is an alternative. Herman Cain proved that a black Republican can succeed with black voters and with Hispanic voters. When he ran for president in 2012, his internal polling showed that he was winning more than 40% of the African American vote. And, this was running against a black Democrat incumbent, Barack Obama! There is no doubt that the total black vote would have declined under attack by the news media and the Democrats, but it would not have shrunk below 17%.

What is the significance of 17%? It is a magic number for the Republicans. If the Republican candidate for president receives at least 17% of the African American vote in the swing states, those states that hold the key to a presidential election victory, no Democrat candidate for president can win. Even Hillary Clinton cannot win. And, there is more good news. When Herman Cain was running for president, his polls showed that he was not only receiving more than 40% of the black vote, he was also receiving more than 60% of the Hispanic vote! Why?

As you can imagine, the Cain campaign team was perplexed. How could Herman Cain draw huge support from both the African American and the Hispanic community running against America’s first black president, Barack Obama? It didn’t seem to make any sense. What they concluded was that poor African Americans and poor Latinos saw in Herman Cain a man who had experienced their lot in life—being born into poverty. They believed that he understood their plight, and more important, he understood how to escape poverty and experience economic success. In short, both African Americans and Hispanics identified with Herman Cain.

If the GOP wants to win the White House and save America, it must do something different in 2016. The establishment is afraid of taking chances. That is not surprising. That’s why it is the establishment. All organizations eventually get to the point where they are risk averse. They don’t want to do anything out of the ordinary, they want to preserve the status quo. But, such a strategy is the most risky of all. It inevitably leads to ruin and the disintegration of the organization.

Ronald Reagan was not a part of the Republican establishment. Yes, he was governor of the largest state in the nation, but he had the attitude and the philosophy of an outsider. The Republican establishment of the time did not want someone as conservative as Reagan as their nominee. They were sure it would lead to defeat, even though their most recent candidate, Jerry Ford, a sitting president had been defeated soundly.

Today the leading lights in the Republican Party favor a moderate Republican like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, or even Mitt Romney (again!). However, as the data shows, that is the certain path to defeat in 2016. In fact, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and all the rest have the deck stacked against them as well. They can’t describe a sure path to victory in 2016, because there isn’t one.

It’s not your father’s political landscape. The electorate has changed dramatically and it’s not ever going to be the same again.

If the GOP wants to win the White House in 2016, they need to run someone like Ben Carson. Yes, Ben Carson has never before held public office, but is being president harder than brain surgery? Ronald Reagan was dismissed as just a B-grade actor when he ran for governor of California. And, as you may recall, at that time California was, according to GDP, the seventh largest government in the world!

It’s simply a myth that anyone outside of Washington who has not previously held public office can’t handle the job of president. It has been said that Ronald Reagan could have run the government from a closet because his principles were aligned with the Founders and he understood the proper role of government and of the president.

The Founder’s goal was repeated many times. They wanted successful men to serve in public office, not as a career, but as a sacrifice in service to their fellow citizens. The Founders called such men “citizen statesmen” and they believed they were the most qualified to serve in the highest roles of government, including as president.

The last thing we need today as our next president is another Washington, D.C., insider. Let’s be honest, the Republicans and the Democrats are both to blame for the current mess this nation is in. When the GOP last controlled both houses of Congress and a Republican sat in the White House, spending was out of control. There was nothing conservative about the way they spent the hard earned dollars of American citizens, their coziness with special interests, and their love of earmarks.

If the Republicans really want to win and want to challenge the Democrats on their home turf, they should not only choose Ben Carson as their nominee for president in 2016, they ought to choose as his running mate someone like New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. This would put the Democrats on the defensive, trying to protect the African American vote, the Latino vote, and the female vote. It would not only be a gutsy move, it would be a politically smart move that would be a thrust at the jugular of the Democratic Party. And, in electing Carson and Martinez, we would be electing a slate dedicated to the United States Constitution and committed to the values of America’s Founders.

If the GOP would be bold enough to nominate such a daring and sure-to-win ticket, it would be the Democratic Party that would be set back for 30 years. And, because Ben Carson is such an articulate candidate who can, like Ronald Reagan before him, explain complex issues in simple terms, it is likely that he would not only win the election, but do so in a landslide.

After all, while businessman Herman Cain was widely respected in the black and Latino circles, it is not an exaggeration to say that Dr. Benjamin Carson is revered in these communities. Every black child has been told the story of Ben Carson, a man born into dire poverty in one of the worst areas of Detroit. You may have missed it, but virtually all African Americans have watched the full length movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Gifted Hands. This is the movie that tells the life story of Ben Carson and how he became the first physician in the history of the world to lead a team of surgeons that successfully separated twins conjoined at the head. Up until that point in time, many neurosurgeons had tried to separate twins conjoined at the head, but in each and every case, one twin died. Dr. Ben Carson is an icon in the African American community. And, you can expect men like Bill Cosby, and many other African American leaders, to rally to his cause. It will pose great difficulty for any African American to vote against the first descendent of slaves who is running for President of the United States.

Remember, if Ben Carson wins just 17% of the black vote in the swing states, no Democrat candidate for president, even Hillary Clinton, can win the White House! He is the candidate that the Democrats fear the most. A Ben Carson victory would leave the Democratic Party in shambles. Its base would be permanently damaged and Ben Carson’s success as president would cast great doubt on the trustworthiness of the Democrats by African Americans and Hispanics for decades.

After all, there is no political gain in Democrats lifting the poor out of poverty. They are the party of Woodrow Wilson, a racist who, as a 12 year old living in Atlanta, cheered for a victory of the Confederacy. Wilson, with the help of his mentor, Richard T. Ely, engineered the re-segregation of the South and the institution of Jim Crow. If the poor blacks, whites, and Latinos climb the ladder of success, they will no longer be dependent on government, and they will not be susceptible to manipulation by the Democratic Party.

A Republican Party that is unwilling to nominate a sure winner like Dr. Benjamin Carson is an organization that is doomed to failure. Ultimately, sooner than we might expect, it will lead to the establishment of a permanent Democratic majority. What would that look like? Just look at Detroit. That is the America of the future if conservatives do not take back the government, rein it in, repeal Obamacare, support traditional values, and re-establish the United States as the pinnacle nation in the world.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Fraud and Free Speech

In 1972 I was a newly hired copywriter, working for Potomac Arts, Ltd., a direct mail fund raising agency. I was enthusiastic, passionate, and more than a little bit naïve. In addition to writing fund appeals for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, I wrote most or all of the copy for their newsletter. In writing about an organization that had attacked the right to keep and bear arms, I said that what they claimed to be doing was fraudulent. In my naiveté, I did not realize that the word “fraud or fraudulent” has legal connotations. In this narrow definition, it means that you are accusing someone of financial misuse of funds. In other words, you are accusing them of a crime.

More recently and more practically, the word fraud has taken on a broader meaning. It has been used to say that something is phony or bogus. Its definition is not limited to the strict idea that someone has financially misused funds. When you call a hoax a fraud, you are not saying that the person perpetuating the hoax has committed financial fraud. You are saying that what they are promoting cannot stand the test of objectivity and honesty.

Happily, my youthful enthusiasm for engaging in polemics did not land me in jail, nor did the agency I worked for end up in court. It did, however, require the agency to spend some dollars with an attorney to extricate themselves from the matter. I was appropriately embarrassed by causing my employer to spend funds unnecessarily. And, I learned a lesson. In matters of the law, when attorneys are involved, there are no winners. Legal expenses make everyone a loser.

It is because of my experience with the use of the word fraud that I have been following, with some interest, the lawsuit of Penn State University professor, Michael Mann against National Review, Mark Steyn, Rand Simberg, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. To the left, Michael Mann, is a sort of global warming guru. However, Mann got his rear stuck in a crack after e-mails he exchanged with Professor Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) became public. Ultimately, Professor Jones admitted to the manipulation of data to give an outcome that he sought. And, according to the London Times, the disgraced climatologist barely escaped prosecution for violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) when he refused to comply with requests for data concerning claims by Jones and other scientists that man-made emissions were causing global warming.

Jones had been in close e-mail contact with Michael Mann, and when the e-mails of the CRU were hacked and then released to the public, it became obvious that neither Jones nor Mann were enthusiastic about making the data or the methods used to reach their conclusions available to other climate scientists with whom they disagreed. In fact, they discussed all sorts of ways of obfuscating, delaying, and otherwise ignoring requests for information. Jones even went so far as to insist that Mann destroy the e-mails he had sent to him.

Michael Mann’s response to the e-mails exposing his effort to deny access to methods and data used to create his “hockey stick” graph is similar to the White House response to the latest Benghazi e-mail implicating the Obama Administration in a cover up of the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi. The Administration discounts the e-mail as meaningless. Similarly, Professor Mann brushed off the damning e-mails between himself, Professor Jones, and others as being unimportant. In both cases, we are expected to disbelieve our lying eyes.

Nevertheless, the scheming, conniving, and maneuvering of Mann and others to discredit their critics has certainly tarnished their image as objective scientists. The bottom line with Mann and others is that the climate debate is over. This same tack has been taken by the Los Angeles Times, which now refuses to print any letters to the editor from those who challenge the scientific veracity of man caused global warming. Now, I have a degree in engineering, and for several years I worked as an environmental control engineer with the Gulf Oil Corporation. I have, of course, long since retired my slide rule for a career in fund raising. Nevertheless, the idea that man caused global warming or climate change is settled science is nuts.

Real science is about free and open inquiry. The idea that the earth was flat was settled science for the people of the ancient world, but that didn’t make it right. You can’t take a vote to decide what is right or wrong in science. At one point in time, a majority of those interested in science might have voted that the earth was flat, but that did not make the earth flat.

Science is about empirical studies of facts, using the scientific method. What is the scientific method? It is simply this…
  • Observation/Research
  • Hypothesis
  • Prediction
  • Experimentation
  • Conclusion
The simple fact is that global warming cannot be verified by the scientific method. Observation and research are incomplete. Experimentation is untrustworthy because the mathematical models are predicated on unreliable data, and because they cannot take into account all possible variables. Conclusions are impossible due to a lack of objective results gained from experimentation.

Further complicating the situation is the intrusion of politics into the scientific sphere. When you are the recipient of federal grants designed to further a belief in global warming, you are no longer an objective, scientific observer. You have become a political hack.

True scientists welcome critics who challenge their work, thus forcing them to defend their thesis and their testing results. This is the way the scientific community works. However, when someone attempts to deny their critic’s access to their methods and to the data gathering procedures, they go outside the realm of reliable science. At that point they have become advocates and political scientists, not true scientists.

I said earlier that I gained some knowledge of what can be said and what cannot be said in a fund raising letter as a result of the use of the word fraud in a 1972 newsletter. Well, I must not have totally learned that lesson because in the 1980s, a letter written by Eberle Associates, and sent out by a client, described Madalyn Murray O’Hare as an “angel of Satan.” This description caused, in part, 9 years of legal entanglement. Not only was I sued by Mrs. O’Hare, but I was also sued by her attorney on a similar matter. It all came for naught, but only after legal expenses exceeded more than $500,000. Fortunately, mine were covered by insurance, but nevertheless, it was a colossal waste of time and money. It turned out that Mrs. O’Hare had described herself as a “demon directed damsel.” A description I found rather odd, considering the fact that she said she was an atheist, and logically therefore did not believe in either demons or in Satan.

This is relevant to the current lawsuit by Michael Mann against National Review, Mark Steyn, et. al. because the good professor has generously used the term fraud and fraudulent to describe those with whom he disagrees. Apparently what’s sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander in the land of Mann. According to National Review, when Mann was interviewed by Mother Jones magazine he said, “…it will soon be evident that many of the claims made by the contrarians [i.e. skeptics of the global warming hypothesis] were fraudulent.” And, in his book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, Mann hoped that “those who have funded or otherwise participated in the fraudulent denial of climate change” will be held “accountable.” He sounds rather mean spirited and mean to me.

But, of course, as my local radio commentator Chris Plante likes to say, “If it weren’t for double standards, liberals would have no standards at all.” Indeed. Mann can dish it out, but he clearly can’t take it. What really caused the current legal ruckus was an article published by Rand Simberg on the blog of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and then quoted in part in a National Review blog by Mark Steyn. Mr. Simberg wrote, “Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and the planet.” Ouch! Apparently, this really set off the good professor. And, in fairness, no one wants to be compared with a child molester. It may have been a poor choice in wording, but it is free speech. But, with Michael Mann and those on the left, free speech is only reserved for those on the left. They really don’t believe in free speech. It’s their way, or the highway.

While Steyn disclaimed the Simberg quote, he wrote in the NR blog, “Michael Mann was the man behind the fraudulent climate-change ‘hockey stick’ graph, the very ringmaster of the tree ring circus.” (Tree ring refers to Mann’s reliance on dubious “proxy” data to gauge historical temperatures.) It is, of course, because of the use of the word fraudulent that the legal case was filed by Professor Mann.

Mann’s case is going nowhere, and it is likely that he and his attorney know that. The apparent purpose of the lawsuit (filed in the District of Columbia) is to further intimidate those who disagree with Mann and other global warming clingers from challenging them. Unfortunately, the Mann case should have been thrown out in the beginning, but because he successfully found a liberal judge, it is going forward, with justice as the casualty.

We may not yet live in an authoritarian state, but it appears that those like Mann wish we did, so that they do not have to defend their cockamamie ideas in the court of public opinion.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter


This Sunday the entire world will celebrate Easter.  Easter, of course, commemorates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  Even in the most anti-Christian nations in the world, the followers of Jesus will commemorate with great joy Jesus’ return from the dead after three days in the grave.  Easter is not just another holiday, a time to celebrate spring, or to enjoy the new clothing fashions, it is a celebration of the most important event in the history of the world, Jesus’ triumph over death.  And, it is celebrated with such universal and exuberant joy because His victory over the grave guarantees to those that trust in Him that they will leave this world to live forever with God in total joy and happiness forever.

As the Bible puts it in Colossians 1:18b, “He is the beginning, the first to come back to life so that he would have first place in everything.”  In other words, Jesus’ triumphal return to life is our guarantee that we too shall live again in perfect bliss and harmony.

And, according to the Bible, what do we have to do to be saved?  When the jailer realized that Paul and Silas were servants of God after an angel came and released them from prison, he asked, “What must I do to be saved?  Paul and Silas responded, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your family will be saved."

The truth is that we all know that we are imperfect.  We are flawed.  We do things we regret.  We say things we should not say.  And, we think things that are downright evil.  Those things we do, say and think make us sinners. 

So the conundrum is, how do imperfect, sinful men and women enter into a perfect heaven?  If God just lets us into his heaven covered with sin, then heaven is no longer perfect.  It is full of people who are still sinners.

That’s why God created a plan and then inspired men to write down this plan in His book, called the Bible.  From the Book of Genesis, all the way through Revelation, the last book of the Bible, God reveals his plan of salvation. It’s right there in the Bible, almost on every page.It’s clear, it’s consistent, and it is miraculous.

Our Father in heaven sent His one and only son, Jesus, to take the sins of the entire world on Him so that those who trust in Him would not have to suffer the consequences of their sin.  It was the greatest act of love in history.  Jesus bore our sins so that we do not have to.   

Now, when we believe, God sees our sins no more.  He sees us as cleansed, washed clean by the blood of Jesus. What an irony, washed clean by blood.But, that is exactly what God did through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Those in the Old Testament who lived before Jesus came looked forward anxiously to His coming.  They were encouraged by the oral recitation of the promise that God gave Adam and Eve after their sin forced them to leave the Garden of Eden.  And, then, throughout the entire Old Testament, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets described in minute detail the suffering and death of Jesus that was to come so that those who follow Him might be saved.  Those who lived before Jesus and trusted in the Messiah to come were saved through faith.

Those who trusted in Jesus after he came are also saved by faith.  As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Eternal salvation is a free gift.You don’t contribute a thing.

All God asks is that you recognize your sins and confess Jesus as your savior.

That, my friends is the true and full meaning of the celebration of Easter.  It’s the reason that Christians around the globe are so joyful and excited on Easter.  It’s the reason that Christians sing with such joy the hymn, I know that my Redeemer Lives!

Kathi and I and our entire family wish you a joyous Easter celebration.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

If you follow politics at all, you are aware of the fact that in 2008 and 2012 the Obama team followed a game plan that was quite different than anything that had been done before in a race for the White House. I'm not referring to the shenanigans and outright voter fraud committed by groups like ACORN. I'm referring to the sophisticated, high tech organization that was created on Obama's behalf.  It was an amazing operation that identified virtually every prospective Obama voter and then turned them out on Election Day.  In fact, it did much more than that.  It enabled a new level of efficiency in the way voters were contacted, and it identified voters better than they had ever before been targeted. There is little doubt that this approach made the difference between victory and defeat, especially in the 2012 race. This new approach to campaigning is rightly attributed to Joe Trippi, the man who ran the first bottom up, internet campaign for president on behalf of Governor Howard Dean in 2004.  The story of this groundbreaking effort is told in Trippi’s well written book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

While Barack Obama won in 2012, he was the first president in the modern era to get re-elected with fewer votes than he received the first time.  In 2012, he won an electoral landslide, 332 to 206, however, Obama won just 51.1% of the popular vote.  The point is that the shift of just a very few votes per state or even per precinct could have thrown the election to Romney.

Collision 2012 is the book written by Washington Post writer Dan Balz. The full name of the book is Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America.  It explains why the Obama campaign was light years ahead of Romney and the Republicans in 2012.The following excerpts from this book are quite revealing...
"As the Republican candidates were gearing up and then battling one another through the summer and fall of 2011, the Obama team was investing enormous amounts of time, money and creative energy in what resembled a high-tech political start-up whose main purpose was to put more people on the streets, armed with more information about the voters they were contacting, than any campaign had ever attempted." 
"No campaign had ever invested so heavily in technology and analytics, and no campaign had ever had such stated ambitions."
"The next goal was to create a program that would allow everyone — campaign staffers in Chicago, state directors and their staff in the battlegrounds, field organizers, volunteers going door to door and volunteers at home — to communicate simply and seamlessly.  The Obama team wanted something that allowed the field organizers in the Des Moines or Columbus or Fairfax offices to have access to all the campaign’s information about the voters for whom they were responsible.  They wanted volunteer leaders to have online access as well."
"From modeling and testing, the campaign refined voter outreach. Virtually every e-mail it sent included a test of some sort — the subject line, the appeal, the message — designed to maximize contributions, volunteer hours and eventually turnout on Election Day.  The campaign would break out 18 smaller groups from e-mail lists, create 18 versions of an e-mail, and then watch the response rate for an hour and go with the winner — or take a combination of subject line and message from different e-mails and turn them into the finished product.  Big corporations had used such testing for years, but political campaigns had not." 
And, this is the most important lesson... 
“The gap between the Obama and Romney operations crystallized in the key battleground state of Ohio in the closing weeks of the general election campaign.  Members of Obama’s team had been on the ground in Ohio for years.  They knew the state intimately.  Obama had at least 130 offices there, plus 500 or so staging areas for volunteers.  He had almost 700 staffers on the Ohio payroll alone.  Thousands of volunteers contacted voters."
In stark contrast, the Romney team had only been on the ground in Ohio for a few months with a limited staff, few offices, and without access to the sophisticated technology that the Obama team was using.  Romney never really had a chance. The software platform that the Obama team created was used for communications up and down the organization, for fund raising, and especially for voter targeting.  Moreover, the Obama re-election effort began just a few weeks after Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

That is not to say that the Obama for President campaign of 2008 was not a sophisticated campaign built on technology, volunteers and lots and lots of money.  In 2008 the Obama campaign raised approximately $750 million, compared to $238 million for John McCain.  This enabled the Obama campaign to outspend the McCain campaign 4 to 1 in Florida, 3 to 1 in Virginia, 2 to 1 in New Hampshire, and 3 to 1 in North Carolina. But, it wasn’t just the spending advantage that made the difference, it was how effectively the money was spent that was also crucial to Obama’s success.

While the 2008 Obama campaign was the most technologically sophisticated presidential race ever conducted in American politics, it could not hold a candle to the technology that went into the 2012 race.  In fact, here is how Balz describes the dawn of the 2012 presidential race...
"From the moment Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009, and every day thereafter, his team was always at work preparing for the coming campaign. Everyone said Obama’s 2008 operation had rewritten the book on organizing, and in some ways that was accurate. But 2008 was just a beginning, a small first step toward what Obama's team envisioned when they began planning the reelection campaign. In one of their first conversations about the reelection, Messina [2012 re-election campaign chairman, Jim Messina] said he told the president that the reason they could not rerun 2008 was because so much had changed in just two years. Technology had leapfrogged forward, with new devices, net platforms, and vastly more opportunities to exploit social media."
As previously noted, the bottom-up campaign strategy that the Obama team used successfully in 2008, and then again in 2012, had its genesis in 2004 with the Dean for America campaign (Vermont Governor Howard Dean's campaign for president) run by Joe Trippi. The Dean campaign that failed to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2004 was the prototype for the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2014.

The Dean campaign is significant for a number of reasons.  Although the internet and social media were in their infancy, Trippi has always had a strong interest in technology (he began his studies at San Jose State University in Aeronautical Engineering). This interest in technology and the internet made Trippi the right person in the right place at the right time. And, as it turns out, so was his candidate, Governor Howard Dean.

The essence of this new approach to campaigning is not about the technology itself, but rather the use of technology that enabled a little known governor from Vermont to crash the national scene. Even with this technology Howard Dean would not have gained the traction he did had he not been an outlier, an anti-establishment candidate.  Dean ran as an insurgent. He was able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as sign on hundreds of thousands of volunteers because he opposed the war (which most of his opposition had voted for it).  His success also stemmed from the technology utilized by Joe Trippi to empower his grassroots supporters.

Trippi's book is exceptionally well written, but my one criticism is that Trippi writes the book as if all history of presidential campaigning coincides with his coming of age politically in the 1960s and 70s. To hear Trippi tell it, there had never before has been such a grassroots, bottom up campaign for president and that it was only possible in 2004 thanks to the internet.

That's just not true. I suspect that there have been lots of bottom up campaigns in the history of our nation.  But, like Trippi, my knowledge is primarily limited to my own experience in politics. And, even before Dean and before Obama, there have been a number of political campaigns for president that originated at the grassroots and that were grassroots driven. The advent of the Internet and social media simply make it possible to do this faster and more thoroughly than ever before.

The Goldwater for President campaign of 1964 and the McGovern for President campaign of 1972 were both bottom up, grassroots campaigns.  Each of these campaigns has much in common with the Dean campaign of 2004 and the Obama campaign of 2008. Of course, the main difference is that Obama won, while Goldwater, McGovern and Dean lost.  Nevertheless, there is much similarity between these races.

In 1964 Barry Goldwater was a United States Senator, but he was clearly not a member of the Republican establishment. He was not a Republican insider any more than George McGovern was a Democratic insider, or Howard Dean was a Democratic insider. The Republican establishment hated Goldwater, much as McGovern and Dean were disliked by the Democratic establishment. Yet, all three of these men had vast followings for their principled positions on important issues.

Goldwater had written a book, Conscience of a Conservative, that sold more than 10 million copies. It was a bold and reasoned treatise arguing for a roll back in big government, and a hard line against Communism. That book (penned by L. Brent Bozell, a brother-in-law of William F. Buckley, Jr.), and the bold conservative positions taken by this previously little know senator from the lightly populated state of Arizona ignited a revolution at the grassroots.

As a personal anecdote I recall a gathering of our family at Christmas 1962. My older brothers were already out on their own and established in their careers. My oldest brother, Allen, was living in Los Angeles, and my brother Bob, and his wife, Kay, were living in Seattle. I was in my second year in college. We celebrated Christmas in Seattle, and when we arrived, each brother had a gift for the other two brothers. That gift was a Goldwater for President bumper strip. Without any coordination whatsoever, we had all become ardent Goldwater fans.

Prior to the Goldwater campaign the Republican National Committee had just 25,000 big donors and the liberal eastern wing of the Republican Party ran the show.  They picked the nominees for President and some of their leaders, like Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, were as liberal as the most liberal Democrat Senators.  The Republican Party was in the firm grip of the moderate (read liberal) Republicans and they had no intention of letting go of it.

Let go of it they did, but not without a fight. Barry Goldwater was a reluctant candidate, especially after his friend, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, a Marxist follower of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. But, Goldwater, and his book, symbolized growing unrest across the nation with expanding government, reduced individual freedom, and weakness in the face of Communist aggression around the globe. In the end, as my brother Bob put it, he found himself leading a conservative movement that he never fully comprehended.  However, while Goldwater lost the election in dramatic fashion, conservatives were triumphant. They had taken over the Republican Party from top to bottom. It was a true political revolution that made possible the triumph of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

In fact, Ronald Reagan, who prior to 1964 was known only as a Hollywood actor, played an instrumental role in the Goldwater campaign.  Similar to making a video on YouTube today, Ronald Reagan gave a made for television speech that, when broadcast, went viral, to use today’s terms. It was funded entirely in California, outside of the official campaign apparatus. The speech was entitled A Time for Choosing and it was a classic. I had an opportunity to view it again about ten days ago, and I can report that even in black and white, this is still a powerful speech.

Like a video on YouTube that goes viral, A Time for Choosing went viral.  All across the nation activists obtained copies of the speech, and then showed it to local audiences.  They also raised funds to pay for it to be broadcast over their local television station.  Almost overnight, A Time for Choosing became the Goldwater campaign. Millions of dollars in small gifts poured in to pay for repeated airings of the Reagan movie. And indeed, without this movie, Ronald Reagan would have never been elected Governor of California, or President of the United States. It was a speech that changed the course of history.

Prior to the Goldwater campaign the Republican National Committee had just 25,000 donors.  By the end of the Goldwater campaign there were more than 500,000 donors to the Goldwater campaign.  The funding base and the power base of the Republican Party was forever altered. But those 500,000 donors were not the extent of the grassroots effort on behalf of Goldwater.  It was through bottom up grassroots campaigning that the insurgent Goldwater effort topped the Republican establishment choice for President, Nelson Rockefeller in the California primary. Tens of thousands of conservative activists walked precincts, rounding up every possible vote in that key primary. The race was initially called by Walter Cronkite on CBS for Rockefeller. But by the early morning, the tide shifted and Barry Goldwater won the California primary in a squeaker. Winning California was tantamount to winning the Republican nomination for president.  And, shortly thereafter, in San Francisco, Goldwater became the Republican nominee for President.

In those days before the advent of the Federal Election Commission and their myriad of election restrictions, individuals all across the nation spontaneously started Goldwater fund raising efforts and waged a campaign for Senator Goldwater with little support or interference from the national organization. Among the dozen or more such groups, I recall Gold for Goldwater, a group that raised and spent several million dollars on behalf of Goldwater.

Joe Trippi hails the freedom of the Internet, and its ability to communicate up and down and side to side as revolutionary. Indeed it was. Similarly, prior to the advent of the Federal Election Commission, average citizens had the freedom to campaign for and raise funds for their favorite candidate without government regulation or interference. A lack of restrictions energized the entire political process and encouraged those at the grassroots to set up independent organizations for campaigning.  The truth is that the advent of the FEC was not brought about by any true demand or need for protection of the average citizen.  Rather it was created by the establishment, both Republicans and Democrats, to protect those in power.  Instead of protecting citizens, it diminished the power and opportunity of the grassroots to participate in the political process.

That is why the current ruling establishment would like nothing better than to regulate the Internet in the "public interest." And, of course, by public interest they are referring to the interest of the ruling class, the Republican and Democrat establishment.

In 1972 Senator George McGovern took over the Democratic Party.  McGovern had been a prairie radical his entire adult life.  In 1948 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.  If you recall, it was at that convention that southern Democrats split off from the Democratic Party and formed the Dixiecrat Party whose nominee was Strom Thurmond.  Harry Truman was eventually nominated at the 1948 convention.  It was after Truman won a squeaker of an election over Thomas Dewey that the Democratic Party first proposed a version of socialized medicine. 

But, what is noteworthy, is that President Harry Truman was not liberal enough for George McGovern. When Truman was nominated in 1948, George McGovern left the Democratic Party and supported Norman Thomas, the Socialist Party candidate for president. But, by 1972 the prairie radicals in the Democratic Party, led by George McGovern, had come of age. McGovern won the nomination only to lose in a landslide to Richard Nixon. However, had McGovern not won the nomination in 1972 and taken over control of the Democratic Party it would not have been possible for Barack Obama to be elected president in 2008.

Prior to the nomination of George McGovern the Democratic Party was controlled by party bosses like Jim Farley, who relied on funding by the unions and from a limited number of wealthy individuals. However, after McGovern was nominated, direct mail whiz Morris Dees altered the funding base of the Democratic Party forever. Dees generated some 700,000 donors to the George McGovern campaign, thus undercutting the strength of the previous Democratic establishment.  And, while McGovern was spurned by every union in America except the National Education Association, his nomination was the turning point for the radicalization of American unions.  Of course, there had been union radicals before, like Harry Bridges of the Longshoreman's Union, but by and large AFL-CIO leaders like George Meany were anti-communist and pro capitalism.  Today that has all changed.  The Democratic Party and the Unions are in total control of Marxist radicals.  None of this could have happened without the nomination of George McGovern whose campaign, like the Goldwater campaign before it, was from the grassroots up.

What do Goldwater, McGovern and Dean all have in common?  They are men who were disliked by the establishment, who took positions contrary to the political establishment, and whose message tapped into a large grassroots audience.

None of this is to diminish the importance of what Joe Trippi accomplished in 2004 or his creativity and ingenuity in using the internet to empower the grassroots organization that was the backbone of the Howard Dean campaign.  It is truly an amazing story.  The Dean Campaign was a high wire effort that Trippi likens to jumping off a fifteen story building and counting on the grassroots supporters to catch you.

And, Trippi correctly identifies the strength of an internet based campaign as its ability to be driven from the bottom up.  He agrees that television revolutionized the campaigning process, but like all mediums before it, it pushed out information to the voters that the campaign thought the grassroots should receive. In contrast, the internet is a two way street that allows the grassroots to tell the campaign what they want, instead of the campaign telling the grassroots what they should do.

And, the internet, especially social media like Facebook and Twitter, allow a campaign to gather public data on its volunteers and donors, thus enabling the campaign to reach them on issues they feel strongly about.  More than that, the internet empowers individuals to take the initiative in a campaign, driving themes, and effectively running their own campaign effort on the local level. It means that campaigns must trust their volunteers and have confidence in them.  The campaign must not think that they have all the good ideas. Trippi likens it to placing power in the hands of the folks at the grassroots to drive the train and take it to the right destination.

The bottom line is this…the computer age, the internet age, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. have created new avenues of communication and coordination.  They have empowered the grassroots activist.  However, I do not believe these are tools that will work well for establishment candidates in either major political party.  These tools work best for outsiders who have bucked the establishment and seek to lead a revolution.  They work best for those who can energize the grassroots through issues and ideas.

To effectively win on the national level today a candidate needs to be leading a charge that has a specifically defined objective that is popular at the grassroots level.  It takes four things to win on the national level today…
  1. A powerful software platform that can identify and categorize prospective voters and donors
  2. A strong grassroots organization built upon the software platform that is created
  3. Early money that will help build the software platform, and
  4. Sufficient time to raise the funds, build the software platform, and utilize the platform to organize and raise more funds
A presidential campaign that waits until a few month before the first presidential primary to raise funds, create a software platform, and then build an effective organization is destined to fail. This is not your father’s political landscape. This is a new era.

Some prospective Republican candidates for 2016 have already lost the nomination and they don't know it.  Other candidates or their surrogate SuperPAC have already raised early money, utilized technology, and are building a grassroots base.  These are the candidates to watch.  However, unless they are outside the establishment with a popular call to arms, they too will fail in their quest to win their party's nomination and after that the general election.

A big donor base that can be accessed quickly in a fast moving delegate selection process is not a luxury, it is a necessity.  Only those candidates who are making preparations now and who have legions of volunteers and supporters will have a chance of winning in 2016.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Nothing Ever Changes

Those on the left never learn anything from history. On September 30, 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement with Adolph Hitler, Chancellor of NAZI (National Socialist Party) Germany ceding an area in Czechoslovakia they designated the Sudetenland. Czechoslovakia was not a party to the negotiations. After betraying Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain flew back to London, and in triumph he proclaimed "My good friends this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time."

What Chamberlain really achieved, however, through his betrayal and appeasement, was the foundation for the worst war in the history of the world, World War II. Appeasement and excusing territorial expansion through the use of military force, always leads to war. And, if it does not lead to war, it leads to slavery.

The argument made by Hitler for annexing the so-called Sudetenland was that the majority of the population was German. In similar fashion, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently argued that the majority of the population located in Crimea were Russians and therefore should be a part of Russia.

Several years earlier, Putin had engineered the election of a pro-Russian Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych. This was after the previous Ukrainian President, Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned. While it has not been confirmed, it appears that President Yushchenko was poisoned by the Russians. Since Putin is the former head of the KGB under the old Soviet Union, it is not inconceivable that he personally orchestrated the poisoning of Yushchenko.

The election of Yanukovych led to great protests as the new, pro-Russian President, began to tie Ukraine more closely to Russia, instead of to NATO and Western Europe as the people desired. The Ukrainian people have not forgotten the intentional starvation of more than 20 million Ukrainians by Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin. Finally, Yanukovych was driven from office. When that happened, Putin realized that his grip over Ukraine was slipping away.

Vladimir Putin took stock of the resolve of the West, especially the President of the United States, Barack Obama. After seeing Obama’s unwillingness to take action in Syria, his timidity in dealing with Iran, and his soft approach to North Korea, Putin acted decisively.

Using the same pretext as Hitler used to invade Poland in 1939, Putin launched an invasion of the Crimean region of Ukraine. Facing little or no resistance, Russia annexed Crimea quickly, thus initiating the beginning the reconstitution of the old Soviet Union. Crimea provides Putin with important military ports on the Black Sea and other economic advantages.

As I write this, Russian troops are massed on the border of what remains of Ukraine. It is not hard to imagine what is coming. I suspect it will play out similar to what happened in Poland just prior to World War II.

On September 1, 1939, just one week after Germany signed a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union, Germany attacked Poland from the West. Then on September 17, of the same year, the Soviet Union attacked Poland from the East. By October 6, Poland was defeated, and Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin had divided up Poland, with each taking roughly half.

The laughable pretext for the invasion of Poland by NAZI Germany was that Poland had actually attacked Germany. When visiting Poland a couple of year ago, my wife, Kathi, and I took a guided tour of Gdansk. The tour was led by a young man who grew up in Soviet controlled Poland. His parents and his grandfather were ardent fans of Ronald Reagan, and this young man gave total credit to President Reagan and Pope John Paul for the defeat of the Soviet Union. And, even though his family had suffered much from the time Poland was captured by Hitler and Stalin, he had maintained his sense of humor. He shared this quip with us, “We Poles say that it is God’s little joke that he located Poland between Germany and Russia.”
 
After Putin annexed Crimea, there was much huffing and puffing by the White House. Secretary of State, John Kerry, intoned something to the effect that this is totally inappropriate in the 21st Century. Like Obama, Kerry talks like a college professor who lives in an alternate world. They talk about what should be, not what is. For quite some time President Obama said that he refused to recognize Russia’s occupation of Crimea, whatever that means.

It was the Obama administration, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that announced that they had pushed the “reset button” in relations with Russia. You see, in the eyes of liberals like Obama, Clinton, and Kerry, it is the United States that has been the number one cause of problems in the world. All throughout the Cold War, liberals wrote articles and gave speeches drawing a moral equivalence between the United States and the Soviet Union. In their eyes, the United States was no less responsible for tensions between the two superpowers than was the Soviet Union. If only America would be more understanding and more conciliatory, we could solve our problems, they said.

Liberals were totally opposed to the arms buildup under President Ronald Reagan. They said that it only increased tensions with the Soviet Union. They even opposed defensive missiles on the grounds that to install such missiles was an act of aggression that would encourage a nuclear attack by the Soviets. In his second term, Ronald Reagan met with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavík, Iceland to negotiate an arms treaty. Gorbachev insisted that Reagan abandon his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) which the American left derisively called “Star Wars.” When Ronald Reagan refused to do so, Gorbachev refused to sign the arms reduction treaty. The news media, the Democratic Party, and leftists of all shades were outraged that Reagan would not abandon the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and sign the treaty. They said that Reagan failed at Reykjavík, that he missed a wonderful opportunity to reduce the chance of war. They could not have been more wrong. Reagan knew that having the upper hand was the only way to bring down the Soviet Union and free the people held captive by that ruthless police state. The Soviet Union was, as Ronald Reagan said, “an evil empire.” It was a description that the left hated and derided.

Mikhail Gorbachev later wrote that it was when Ronald Reagan refused to abandon SDI that he knew that the end of the Soviet Union was inevitable. While the American left believes in peace through weakness, the real path to peace is through strength, as Ronald Reagan understood.

During his second term in office, George Bush signed an agreement with Poland agreeing to install an anti-missile defense in that nation. One headline blared, “Will Bush ignite another Cold War with Russia by placing missiles in Poland?”

But, when Barack Obama took office he scrapped that agreement and refused to install the missile defense system in Poland because Russia opposed it. It was part and parcel of his hitting the reset button with Russia. It was the beginning of his efforts to appease Russia and encourage the bear to be friendly. Today, Eastern Europe is reaping the whirlwind of Obama’s reset of relations with Russia. Obama’s goal is to reduce American power, and he has gone far in accomplishing that goal.

And yet, we are still the only superpower in the world, but this Administration is embarrassed that we are. They refuse to project our power to discourage tyrants like Putin. The United States has the power to economically cripple Russia by signing an agreement to sell natural gas to Western Europe and opening up federal lands to fracking. Today, Germany, France, et. al. are held captive by the natural gas and oil they depend on from Russia. By simply eliminating this threat, we free up Western Europe to join us in financially crippling Russia.

But, we should not presume that economic austerity alone will deter Russia from taking all of Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and the other nations that were enslaved by the old Soviet Union. After all, the old Soviet dictators were satisfied as long as they remained in power to have their citizens live in economic misery. Why should we think that Putin is any different? Now is the time to reinstate of our agreement with Poland to install missiles in that nation and any other nation that seeks to deter Russian aggression. In addition, we should agree to sell advanced military weaponry to Ukraine and all other friendly nations in Eastern Europe.

Like everyone else in the United States I am weary of war. However, I do not believe it is necessary to go to war to deter Russian aggression. By signing mutual defense treaties, enlarging NATO, providing arms, and using every means at our disposal to economically cripple Russia, we have the opportunity to not only stop Russian aggression, but also encourage the downfall of Putin in Russia. The Russian people have no desire to fall under the grip of Putin the dictator. He is corrupt, dangerous, and evil.

In fact, it is the misunderstanding of human nature that is at the heart of all the miscalculations and misguided policies of the left. Liberals have told me that they believe they are an elite group and that they have achieved an ethical plane that is above the common man. They don’t believe that man is by nature evil as the Bible teaches. They believe that they have risen above that description and that they can lead others to a higher ethical level if only given the chance. That’s where the term progressive comes from—meaning progress to a higher ethical level. It was this false belief that led our first progressive President, Woodrow Wilson, to re-segregate the South because, in his view, African Americans had not yet reached the necessary ethical plane to work, go to school, and live alongside white Americans. And, it is this misunderstanding of human nature that results in all sorts of mischief by liberal politicians. If people would just act like they should, we could create a nearly utopian society, they say.

But, alas human nature is corrupt and will always be so. It was this understanding by our Founders that led them to create checks and balances in our government, keeping any one man or group of men from having too much power. Sadly, liberals don’t live in in the real world, they live in their own mythical world. Because of this, they have led our nation into war, they have created monstrous schemes that reduce individual freedom, they have ensnared the poor in permanent poverty, and they have rejected traditional moral values. Liberals and their policies are dangerous. Nothing ever changes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Obamacare by Any Other Name…

The great liberal political scheme to make more Americans dependent upon government for their well-being, the so-called Affordable Care Act, has turned out to be the disaster its original opponents said it would be.  President Obama once proclaimed that he was rather fond of the nickname given to the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare.  But, alas, that pleasure has turned into chagrin.  After the disastrous roll out of the latest liberal scheme to have the government take charge of your personal health care, the name Obamacare has disappeared from the lips of the President and all those who supported it.  This, of course, includes the compliant whores of the national news media who have abandoned any sense of objectivity in favor of becoming Obama’s top cheerleaders.  Obamacare is no more; long live the Affordable Care Act they proclaim.  With apologies to William Shakespeare, Obamacare by any other name still smells like a pile of moose dung.

George Orwell was prescient.  The liberal answer to solve the problems of something that doesn’t work is to simply change the name.  But, simply reverting to the official name, the Affordable Care Act, is like putting lipstick on a pig.  A pig is still a pig, no matter how much lipstick it wears.

The failure of Obamacare has little to do with a bad website that is neither secure, nor workable.  It has nothing to do with the fact that the President lied when he said, "If you like your health insurance, you can keep it, period!"  The problem is not that some of the so-called health navigators are former and future criminals.  Neither is the problem the high cost, the low quality, or the death panels (yes, it turns out that Sarah Palin was right and the New York Times was wrong, there are death panels).  Nor is the trouble with Obamacare the fact that you will not be able to keep your doctor, or that there will be a shortage of hospital beds, and medical practitioners.  It's not even the fact that Obamacare and other socialist schemes are outside of the Constitutional purview of Congress, and the President. 

All those problems associated with Obamacare are just symptoms of the underlying cause of the failure of all socialist schemes.  It is an actuarial fact that both Social Security and Medicare are financially insolvent.  In fact, the official name of what we call Social Security is the Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Program. In other words, it was sold to the American people as an insurance program.  Now, as you may know, insurance companies are heavily regulated by the federal government.  One very important requirement the feds place on insurance companies is that they maintain sufficient reserves to cover all future claims.  If an insurance company does not maintain such reserves, it is not only closed down, its officers and directors end up behind bars.  They go to federal prison.

But, while the federal government imposes these safeguards on insurance companies, there are no similar safeguards imposed on members of Congress.  To put it quite bluntly, Social Security, like all socialist fantasies, is a Ponzi scheme.  Actually, that’s unfair to Ponzi and even to Bernie Madoff.  Both Ponzi and Madoff were pikers compared to the politicians who created and continue to promote and maintain Social Security, Medicare, and now, Obamacare.

Instead of sending the socialist bamboozlers off to prison, we continue to elect them each year.  And, they pride themselves for their compassion, their caring, and for their concern for others.  While some of their followers actually believe in these bad ideas, most of today's politicians are far beyond that.  They know they don't work, they know these schemes are failures, but for them, the goal is not to create workable programs, but to gain power over others.  It is not without justification that politics is often referred to as the second oldest profession in the world.

Why is it that all socialist schemes are financially unsustainable?  Why won't they ever work?  Why, when you compare them with free market solutions to a myriad of problems, do government programs not only fail, but get progressively worse as the years go by?  And, why, in stark contrast, do solutions to problems provided by the private sector, i.e. free market capitalism, continue to get better and better as time goes by?

For example, televisions that were invented by private entrepreneurs have continued to become better and less costly as the years have gone by.  Telephones and automobiles have continued to get better and better.  Charles Edison, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates revolutionized the world.  They did so because they were visionaries who worked hard and took risk that greatly improved the lives of American citizens. 

In contrast, the US Postal Service (and all bureaus, divisions and departments of government) continue to decline in efficiency and performance.  And, while the cost of televisions and other technology continues to decline as quality improves, the price of mail delivery continues to rise while the reliability of delivery declines.

Why is it that government services are always poor and inferior while free market capitalism always works?  Whether it is medical care, retirement benefits, or mail delivery, government always comes out in a distant second place.  The choice is really between freedom and government.  The free, competitive marketplace demands that businesses focus on the needs and desires of consumers.  Government has no such focus.  The goal of those in government is to perpetuate themselves in power.

Are the people in government worse and more easily corruptible than those outside of government?  No, they are all mortals, cut from the same cloth.  They are the same flawed individuals, but the outcome is totally different.  Why?

The answer is simple.  It is easy to permanently corrupt the political process, but it is extremely difficult to corrupt the free market process.  Think about it.  When Social Security first passed, it was relatively sound financially.  In fact, it remained so for a number of years.  Yet, the ultimate trajectory was absolutely predictable.

It turns out that the political process is relatively easy to corrupt.  Politicians, no matter the party, always have one primary goal in mind—to get re-elected or to move up the political ladder to a higher political office.  By the early 1900s, politicians realized that they could perpetuate themselves in power by raising taxes and then doling out goods and services to political groups who, in return, support them for re-election.  Never mind the fact that there was absolutely no authority in the U.S. Constitution to support such a process.  Once they got over that hurdle, the gold rush was on! 

A good example of this process exists at the state level.  With the advent of unionization of state government employees (another brilliant idea courtesy of California Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown), political corruption was raised to a new level.  It works like this.  Let’s say I work for the State of California.  By law, I am required to join a union in order to hold a state government job.  The union boss in charge of my union approaches state legislators and demands higher pay and platinum retirement benefits.  In return, he or she agrees to donate heavily to the re-election of those legislators who support such compensation and benefits.  That's corruption, pure and simple.  And, it's legal.

At the national level the political game works like this.  The Democratic Party identifies a voting bloc that it can capture by giving them some benefit, such as Social Security, Medicare or Obamacare.  Once that voting bloc becomes dependent on that benefit, the Democrats can count on getting their votes each election day.  It is bribery, and the irony is that the people have been bribed with their own money!

Unlike the constraints imposed on businesses in the free marketplace, there is no objective, fair mechanism to set compensation or benefits for government workers.  Neither is there any incentive to make the system work better or more efficiently.  And, lacking any incentive or job insecurity, the system continues to erode and decline as the years pass. 

It's all there, sitting right in front of us.  I’ve had jobs in government (City of St. Joseph and the U.S. Army) and in the free market.  The contrast is shocking.  There is incredible inefficiency and disorganization in government, including the Department of Defense.  In contrast, a business competing in the free market must work hard, and scramble to stay competitive.  Entrepreneurship is a high wire act, focused on serving your customers better than your competition, knowing that failure to do so means closing your doors.  It's a struggle that never ceases.  But, liberals just don't get it.

In fact, a liberal would argue that the allocation of goods and services based on success in the free market is neither fair, nor just.  They tell successful businessmen and women that they are just lucky in the lottery of life.  The fact that a successful person works long hours, takes great risks, and has educated himself or herself to the level needed for success is immaterial.  After all, a liberal would argue, successful people were born with advantages of intellect, risk taking, capital, or drive that others do not have.  In short, liberals conclude that business people achieve success strictly by luck.  As President Obama said, "You didn’t build that."

I know, it's a strange, almost weird argument that is out of touch with reality, but it is the only argument liberals have.  In short, liberals believe the world is unjust and imperfect.  Duh!  Early on I tried my best to disabuse my children of the idea that the world was just and fair.  It’s not, and it never will be, and if a few control the lives of many, the more unjust and unfair it will be. 

The idea that the individual decisions in regard to health care, retirement, transportation, communications, and more are best decided by a few powerful politicians and bureaucrats will work better than the individual decisions of millions of Americans is pure nonsense.  Socialism has a very consistent track record.  Never once has it worked anywhere.

Liberals seem to be mad at God (that is, if they believe in God) because He didn’t create every man and woman equal in circumstances, talents and ability.  God, for whatever reasons of His own, did not create all men and women equal.  I wanted to play baseball and throw an 85 mile per hour curve ball, but I was not blessed with the God given ability to develop such skills.  There are no two human beings alike.  We are all unique and different.  We are only the same in the eyes of God who blesses us as He chooses with the talents He desires.

So, that while men and women who work in freedom (the free market) are all subject to the same potential corruption and failures of those who work for government, they simply do not have as many opportunities to defraud the public as do public officials and bureaucrats.  The marketplace is simply too demanding.  In the free market, Social Security would have gone out of business as soon as its cash reserves were insufficient to cover future claims.  Its officers and directors would have gone to jail.  Yet, it continues to go forward with no financial reserves, using the funds that come in each year to cover the outflow to those long retired.

Medicare is, like Social Security, financially insolvent.  One wonders why, if both Social Security and Medicare are bankrupt, we would pass yet another failed socialist scheme.  But, politicians are not subject to the same constraints and countervailing pressures of the free market.  They don’t care about success, they just care about getting re-elected, and about gaining more power.

In the marketplace, a businessman or woman has to compete to gain success.  They have to be innovative, efficient and hard working in order to survive.  They can't print money to cover their stupidity and mistakes.  Entrepreneurs always walk along the edge of a financial cliff.  No matter how successful they are, they are never far away from failure and bankruptcy.  If they don't operate efficiently and offer goods and services at the right price, they go out of business.  If they offer shoddy goods or services, they also go out of business.  Freedom is very demanding.

Freedom demands that workers work hard.  It demands that business owners deliver superior products and services.  It demands self-reliance and self-responsibility, by worker and employer alike.  Freedom creates a permanent state of uncertainty, yet in reality, freedom is our only security.  All security offered by the government is illusory.  The government can only give to you what it first takes from you, with a big slice taken out for the politicians and the bureaucrats.

Social Security is really no security at all.  Medicare does not provide security.  And, Obamacare will not provide security.  None of these government schemes are sustainable.  They are simply liberal fantasies designed to delude and seduce voters into supporting candidates who seek power and denigrate individual freedom.

It turns out that our only real security lies with God.  It's the same security the Pilgrims relied upon.  It's the security that the signers of the Declaration of Independence relied upon.  It's the security that the Founders relied upon.

But, freedom is fragile.  If you strip away freedom's foundation—faith in God—it cannot long survive.  When faith dies, compassion dies, self responsibility dies, and nations become ripe for tyranny.  Hope never rests with government or with men, it always depends on God. 

Could it be that Obamacare is the high water mark of the ill conceived ideology that has festered in America since the turn of the previous century?  Like Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, historians may look back upon the Obama presidency as a similar futile episode that threatened our land.  And, Lord willing, Obamacare may turn out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, and steered our nation back toward the Constitutional republic designed by our forefathers.  May God continue to bless the United States of America.