Trump and Tillerson Could Save Our Bacon

If Trump is anything like the deal-maker he claims to be, and if Tillerson can translate the expertise and connections he gained as CEO of a gigantic international corporation into diplomatic skills, we could be spared from a nasty confrontation with a nuclear-armed Russia.

Putin is not a nice man. His incursions into Crimea and Ukraine are inexcusable. But he does have a rationale for his claim of aggressive threats from NATO, and this has served hun well in diverting attention away from the drastic declines in liberty and prosperity in Russia. As this article indicates, the West promised not to expand NATO into Eastern Europe but did so anyway, even threatening to include Ukraine and Georgia, which are geographically Russia’s underbelly. How would we like it if the Soviet Union had proposed including Cuba in the Warsaw Pact?

Trump and Tillerson should make a deal with Putin. It must give Putin incentives to pull out of Ukraine and perhaps Crimea, although the latter was historically Russian and Tatar. It must give him something to brag about to his people.  This in contrast to Obama, who declared Russia to be merely a regional player.  Who could blame all Russians for taking this as an insult? He should have praised Russia as a major international player, capable of great contributions to world peace, while taking quiet steps to keep them from making trouble.

The Baltic states are indefensible. Neutralization has worked well for Finland and it ought to work well for the Baltics and Ukraine. Putin could be given a green light to take over Belarus, a socialist basket case that is ethnically very similar to Russia. He could even be invited to join NATO.  This may not be so crazy given that Russia and the West share Christian roots and a common threat from Islamo-fascists.

Some would bring up Chamberlain’s capitulation to Hitler. Skillful negotiations should be able to avoid that trap. The stakes are high, and right now Trump and Tillerson are our best hope of avoiding a possible catastrophe.

Trump Will Probably Win the Election

What’s that you say? The election is over? In fact, the presidential election will be held on December 19, at which time each state’s chosen electors will meet in their respective state capitals to cast their votes. The results are due in Washington about a week later.

Did you really think you voted for President? In California, you voted for a slate of 55 electors who were appointed by your favorite party. You can find their names online.

The number 55 comes from the number of senators plus representatives. In Maine and one or two other states, each congressional district picks its own elector, and two more are selected at large. Maine’s delegation is split 3/1 for Clinton. That seems like a fair way to go. California, like most other states, is a winner-take-all state. Boo!

Does all this make any difference? I say it ain’t over till it’s over. There have been a few scattered instances of electors jumping ship, most recently Roger McBride, a Republican elector who changed his vote from Republican to Libertarian in 1972. Trump now has 290 electoral votes plus 16 more likely for a total of 306. If 37 of those people could be persuaded to change their votes, Trump would fall below the 270 needed to win. If that put Clinton over 270, she would win. If some of the votes went to Johnson or Sanders or Donald Duck, the election would be thrown into the House where each state would get one vote. Then the fireworks would start!

Why would they change their votes? I wouldn’t put it past the Clintonistas to resort to bribes or threats. A long shot to be sure, but stay tuned!

Trump for president?

I will vote for Gary Johnson knowing full well my vote doesn’t matter, since Hillary has a lock on California. But between Trump and Clinton, whom to root for? Trump is an empty suit with a filthy mouth. Clinton is pure evil, hell-bent on extinguishing what remains of our freedom and prosperity. Fascist dictatorship is her goal, draped in red-white-and-blue bunting. Will someone please write an update of the Sinclair Lewis novel, “It Can’t Happen Here”?

Forced to choose, I’d have to go with Trump. His election would be a much needed kick in the teeth to the Eastern establishment. We would have to hope he would listen to cool-headed advisors once in office. Or maybe get bored and resign.

But as I write, I remind myself that there is precious little any president can do, even Gary Johnson, to alter major trends that have so much momentum. You can recite the list as well as I can: government debt and unfunded liabilities, nuclear proliferation, race and class divisions, climate change hysteria to name a few.

To hell with them all. I’m going outside to enjoy the sunshine while I can.

Art, Photography, and Homophobia

Sometimes the theater of the absurd, current events that is, just gets to be too much and I have to comment. This time the issue is whether photography is an art form, a case arising from a professional photographer’s refusal to cover a lesbian wedding. If photography is art, goes the argument, it’s a form of speech protected by the Constitution and that protection overrides any laws prohibiting discrimination on account of sexual orientation.

This nonsense arises from the notion that some forms of voluntary transactions should enjoy legal protection and others shouldn’t. Transactions that are deemed to be exercises of religion or freedom of speech are protected while it’s OK to suppress others even when they are mutually voluntary. The courts view artistic works forms of speech, and are protected. This protection covers not just engaging in protected activities but also refraining from engaging in them. Thus if photography is art, then refraining from photographing a lesbian wedding is an exercise of free speech, protected by the first amendment.

That’s all well and good as far as it goes, but it leaves courts with the job of drawing lines delimiting religious activity or free speech activity. Example: during Prohibition, Catholics were allowed to use wine as part of their Communion sacrament. But Native Americans who want to use peyote as part of their religious ceremonies have consistently run afoul of the law. What’s the difference? Obviously, Catholics are more numerous and politically powerful than Native Americans. Since there is no objective way of delimiting either religion or art (as presently understood), court decisions about these matters are necessarily political.

Delimiting artistic expression may be even more problematic than with religion. Given that any and all kinds of garbage can be found in “Modern Art” museums, it would seem that almost any activity, spraying graffiti for example, could be construed as artistic expression.

The solution is to recognize the right of free association and its concomitant freedom of dissociation, whether in personal or business affairs. (Though not a part of the First Amendment, these rights might be found in the Ninth Amendment.) There are two qualifications. First, any transaction that infringes on the rights of third parties is illegitimate. As Ayn Rand put it, “any alleged ‘right’ of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.” Second, politicians and bureaucrats must not be allowed to discriminate since they are supposed to represent the entire population. Those qualifications aside, any business person must be free to turn away gays, blacks, Jews, or anybody else, with or without explanation. But woe unto anyone who tries such exclusions in today’s world. They would pay a stiff price in lost business and boycotts. Unless they found a niche market among KKK bigots, such business people would very likely lose most of their customers, including, I hasten to add, this writer.

Some time ago I posted a piece on these pages defending the right of Lester Maddox, a truly obnoxious character, to exclude blacks from his chicken restaurant, which he did in the 1960s in defiance of the Civil Rights Act. Those were different times, and he garnered enough support to get elected Governor of Georgia. That would not happen these days.

Though I got a lot of pushback, I stand by the argument that obnoxious characters like Lester Maddox constitute a vanguard that helps defend the rights of us “normal” folks. If their outrageous but non-aggressive actions are protected, our moderate actions are safe. Nobody has made this case better than Walter Block in his book “Defending the Undefendable.” He trots out and defends one seedy character after another—pimps, prostitutes, you name it—whose actions, while distasteful to almost everyone, violate no one’s rights.

Returning to the photographer in question, it should make no difference whether her refusal is informed by religion or by hatred of gays.  She should be free to turn away customers for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reason.

Incidentally, my friend Michelle Kamhi recently convinced me that photography is not art. I highly recommend her book Who Says That’s Art?, devoted primarily to demolishing modern and post-modern “art” which she calls “anti-art.” I think she’s spot on, but whether you agree or not, you will have to admire the courage and tight reasoning in her book.

A Modest Proposal for Fiscal Reform

Herewith, a modest proposal: abolish all federal taxes and substitute fees for state membership in the Union. $7 billion annually for each representative in Congress plus $7 billion for each Senator would cover current Federal spending. Each state would have to come up with this sum annually, raised in any way they see fit.


  • Smaller states would pay more per capita since they have more Senators per capita. That seems only fair.
  • Where would states get the money? Same places the Feds get it: taxation and borrowing. The states would have to pay close attention to their credit ratings to keep borrowing costs low. That would of course require that they exercise fiscal prudence.
  • States would have to compete among themselves to find revenue sources that minimize the damage done to the private economy.
  • Citizens would have greater influence over their state politicians than they have over the Feds.
  • Crony capitalists, rent-seekers and their ilk would be slowed down by the need to devote more attention to 50 state governments and less to the central government.
  • What about deadbeat states? They would lose their votes in Congress until they paid up.  Conversely, wealthy states might be allowed to purchase extra seats in Congress.
  • Might this scheme encourage secession? Yes! Got a problem with that?
  • Wouldn’t this be a heavy burden on state taxpayers? Decidedly. With about 235,000 households per Congressman, that works out to $30,000 per household per year. But who’s bearing that burden now? Santa Claus?

The Federal debt is a thornier issue. Should it be paid off by the states? A drastic remedy would be to hand over securities to the states for payment as they come due. About $7.5 trillion per year would be required (counting gross debt rather than debt in the hands of the public). This would roughly triple the state taxpayer burden—admittedly a non-starter. Repudiation would be another remedy. Mandatory rollover would be another. No good solutions here.

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

If you’re interested in energy and environmental issues, especially climate change, have a look at this 15-minute appearance by Alex Epstein before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. In a pressure-cooker atmosphere, he argues persuasively for the benefits of fossil fuels and for a sensible approach to climate issues.

I also highly recommend his book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.  He reasons carefully about fossil fuels, alternative energy, and climate change.

Voter Participation: Something Has to Be Done

In California, 70% of eligible voters are registered, and 47% of those turned out in a recent election. Thus about a third of those who could vote do so. These are dismaying numbers.

Dismaying because they are too high.

Why? First, some more dismaying numbers:

When Newsweek recently [2011] asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.

Too many ignorant fools are casting votes. People who believe that minimum wage laws create wealth, free trade destroys wealth, or clergymen should be forced to marry gay couples, to pick just a few examples. We need to bar these ignoramuses from the voting booth.

How? For starters, ditch the 26th amendment to the Constitution and the raise the voting age to at least 30. Get the 20-somethings out of the way; too many still believe in free lunches.

Second, change the 24th amendment to require poll taxes rather than forbid them. There is no justice in forcing non-voters to pay election costs.

Third, institute stiff qualification exams. Voters need know the vice president’s name, understand the Cold War, identify July 4 as Independence Day, and a whole lot more. Informed voters would be mostly immune from pandering demagoguery.

Disenfranchisement will lead to alienation and rebellion, some will say. Perhaps, and this could be alleviated by a phase-in of the changes. But then voting will become a privilege that young people can aspire to, as they might aspire to a corporate management position.

Another objection: my proposal is elitist. Of course it is! If there’s one thing we desperately need in this country, it’s a reversal of the egalitarian sentiments that have poisoned so much public discourse. We need to encourage and acknowledge the best and the brightest. Ignorant fools should not be allowed to operate dangerous machinery or pull levers in voting booths.