Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Best of BeeLine-2015

When you publish over 70 blog posts in a year, some are going to be more popular than others with readers, some are going to be remembered more fondly by the author and some should undoubtedly have never been written in the first place.

Here is a Top 10 List for the Best of BeeLine for 2015. The first 5 were the most popular posts I wrote during the year based on the number of views. The second 5 are those posts that I most enjoyed writing.

If you missed reading these "favorites" the first time around, here's another opportunity to get to "the shortest route to what you need to know" to start 2016 off right.

January 1, 2016 marks the fifth anniversary of BeeLine. In those five years I have written 601 blog posts that have garnered almost 150,000 page views.  All of this from an initial email to about 15 friends. The rest has been done by word of mouth.

If you enjoy BeeLine, please pass a recommendation on to your friends and family. I enjoy writing it but it is a lot easier to sit down, research and write when I know 300 are reading it than 100.

If you want to make sure you don't miss a post, consider putting yourself on the BeeLine email list. You will receive an email the first thing in the morning when I post a new piece. You can sign up in the upper right hand corner on this page. You will receive a follow-up email (from FeedBurner) that you will need to confirm to begin delivery.

Thank you to all my loyal BeeLine readers and Happy New Year to all of you!

The Best of BeeLine-2015

Most Views

Fog. Dog. Cog.

How the U.S. Congress illegally and unlawfully retroactively exempted itself from Obamacare after they wrote and passed into law.

A Cautionary Tale

Greece and Puerto Rico are both nearing bankruptcy but the United States actually has more debt per capita than either one. A cautionary tale, indeed.

No One is Liberal When It's Their Life 

France is governed by liberal socialist progressives. They traditionally have called for open borders and have been reluctant to support defense and military spending. That is no longer the case in the wake of the recent Paris massacre by Muslim radicals. It just proves there are no liberals when it is your life on the line.

Large and Long Chunks Required

How do you know if someone is really smart? The half of one percent of the human race- the very smartest- who have the ability to create real wealth through productivity enhancements that improve livings standards and our way of life. Find out how and why it is important.

Heart and Mind

My take on the GOP Presidential race as of December 1, 2016 and my two favorites for the nomination. My mind favors one candidate. My heart favors another. My heart wins because of the mind one candidate possesses.

My Personal Favorites 

A Retrograde Force

Winston Churchill once said that in Islam "no stronger retrograde force exists in the world." You will see what he means when you look at photos of how life has changed in Iran, Pakistan and Egypt compared to what it was a few decades back. You will see what a retrograde force it really is.

Tattoos Trending Down

Tattoos have become very prevalent over the last 20 years or so.  Find out why I think tattoos will soon start trending down.

Hope for Non-Hotties

How can a non-hottie end up with a hottie? There is a formula you need to be familiar with.

10 Observations About Hillary and Bill's 1040

There is a lot that you can discern about a person's financial life by their tax return. See what I learned after reviewing Hillary and Bill's 2014 federal tax return.

People, Power and Prohibition

What lessons can we learn from the enactment (and later repeal) of the Constitutional Amendment on Prohibition?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Inane Once Again

As we near the end of the year I always like to think back and reflect on what I think were the most inane statements I heard during the year.

I like the word inane. It seems to better convey silly, stupid, senseless, foolish and ridiculous and does it with a bit more class at the same time. I doubt that Donald Trump uses the word very often. He is a little more plain spoken than I am.

Speaking of Trump, when I thought about this topic I googled "most ridiculous statements of 2015" to see what I might have missed during the year compared to some recent inane statements that were fresh in my mind.

Five of the top ten results from that search brought up something that Trump had said. Three of the top ten referenced Ben Carson. One pointed me to "The Republican Presidential Debate's 7 Most Ridiculous Quotes".




It seems to be another example of the media bias we see around us every day. Conservatives, Christians and Celebrity Politicians are favorite targets.

However, where was the media when Al Gore made this statement about the Arctic ice cap in in 2007 when he accepted the Nobel Prize Peace Prize (still trying to figure how he qualified for that prize along with the one for Obama---did either of them do anything?) and again in 2009 at a UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen?

The ice cap is falling off a cliff. It could be completely gone in summer in as little as 7 years from now.
                                               -Al Gore, Nobel Peace Prize Speech, December, 2007
Here is a satellite image of the Arctic taken in July, 2015 (one year after Gore said it could be completely gone). Does it look ice-free?



In fact, this report from CBC News in July of this year indicates that ice conditions in the Arctic Sea for ships this summer were the "worst conditions in 20 years."

How much have you read about this in the "inane" category in the mainstream media?

However, I have two recent statements that I came across over the last couple of weeks that seem to be worthy of some recognition for the most inane of 2015.

The first comes from Hillary Clinton.
"I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better than average job. If a school’s not doing a good job, then you know it may not be good for the kids.”
Let's put that statement in context.

There are a little more than 132,000 K-12 schools in the United States.  About 100,000 are public schools.

That suggests that Hillary would close at least 50,000 schools (those in the bottom half) because they can't do a better than average job.

And where are those "below average" schools?

A disproportionate number are in large, urban school districts.

For example, my home state of Ohio ranks all K-12 schools with a performance index rating based on achievement and test scores. There are 3,311 schools that are ranked. 273 of those schools have earned an "A" grade. Among them is the elementary school my granddaughter will attend in suburban Cincinnati.

52 schools got "F"grades in those rankings. 14 of those are in the city of Cleveland. Is Hillary going to close all the schools in Cleveland, Ohio? By the way, Barack Obama got more than 75% of the vote in the city of Cleveland in 2012. In eight precincts in Cleveland, Mitt Romney did not get one vote!

Ohio also ranks by "Value Added Progress" which some would argue is a fairer measure of school performance as it "uses student achievement data over time to measure the gains in learning students make. It provides a way to measure the effect a school or teacher has on student academic performance over the course of a school year or another period of time". This measure is done by school district rather than by each individual school.

The top 5 Ohio school districts by this measure are all in suburban areas---Solon, Hilliard, Dublin, Olentangy and Upper Arlington---even though arguably they should have better prepared students entering their schools from the start with more stable family situations, less poverty etc.

On the other hand, these city school districts all received "F" ratings indicating that they are failing in "Value Added Progress"--Akron City, Cincinnati City, Cleveland Municipal, Dayton City and Youngstown City among others.

Hillary Clinton's statement is inane in the extreme.

Can you imagine Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin or Ben Carson making such a statement and not be derided and ridiculed for suggesting anything so impractical and impossible? Where do the 27.5 million students who attend "below average" schools go? Is she suggesting a giant busing program from the cities to the suburbs? What about the physical plant? What happens to all the closed schools? How do the "above average" schools expand their physical plant to accommodate new students? Who pays?

At the same time, Hillary has opposed school vouchers and school choice. She also previously supported charter schools but has recently spoken out against them. All of her positions seem to be more consistent with satisfying the teachers' unions than any concern about students in the classroom.

As inane as Hillary's statement, John Kerry's State Department probably out did her.

In the official blog of the U.S. Department of State (appropriately entitled "DipNote"?) that recaps its significant foreign policy accomplishments of 2015, State Department Spokesman John Kirby last week put together his list of items where "our diplomats...have met with with significant success across a range of issues – each of these issues vital in their own way to ensuring the safety, security, and prosperity of the American people".

You might be surprised with this item that was listed as a "significant success" on that list.

"Bringing Peace, Security to Syria".

I know I was.

I thought I missed something.

The last I heard, the New York Times reported that more than 200,000 Syrians have been killed over the last four years in the civil war engulfing that country.

4 million Syrians have fled the country causing a refugee crisis that is impacting all of Europe and looks like it may also engulf the United States. Most of those refugees fled the country in the last six months of 2015.

ISIS controls wide swaths of the country.

To complicate matters, Russia entered the Syrian war this year to attempt to prop up President Assad.

U.S. and Russian planes now criss cross the county with differing bombing targets.

The State Department is bringing peace and security to Syria?

Understanding that Hillary Clinton presided over the State Department until three short years ago and bears significant responsibility for the mess that is Syria today, I think I understand a little better how she defines "below average". In fact, she even referred to Assad in positive terms as a "reformer" at the beginning of the Syrian war.

If the State Department can claim bringing peace and security to Syria as an accomplishment how can any school be considered "below average"?

From Hillary's perspective, we live in Lake Wobegon where all the Democrats are strong, all the liberals are good looking and all progressive ideas are above average.

And all the Republicans are weak, ugly and all their ideas are below average.

After all, when asked during the first Republican debate which enemy that she had made during her political career that she was most proud of, Hillary answered "probably Republicans" in addition to the NRA, health insurance companies, drug companies and the Iranians.

Inane once again.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Secrets of the Secret Service

I just finished reading "The First Family Detail" by Ronald Kessler which provides a behind the scenes look at what our "First Families" are really like when the public is not watching and the cameras are not rolling.




Over the years Kessler has been an investigative reporter for both The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and has developed some impressive sources inside the FBI, Secret Service and CIA.

What surprised me a little in reading this book was the fact that a number of his sources in the book were "on the record" when talking about what they saw and experienced. Of course, this generally was the case with those who were retired and the Presidential families were long out of office. These included Secret Service agents, ushers in the White House and personnel who worked on Air Force One.

There was very little mentioned about President Obama and his family. Generally, the agents like Barack and Michelle because they treat them with respect. They try to stay on schedule and generally do not do things that are going to complicate the lives of the agents. They also think his daughters are respectable and good kids.

On the other hand, Kessler reports through his sources that "agents have been dismayed to overhear Michelle Obama push her husband to be more aggressive in attacking Republicans and to side with blacks in racial controversies." (e.g. Trayvon Martin, Cambridge, MA police, Ferguson).

In listening to their talk in the presidential limousine, "Michelle's agenda goes back to when she said about her husband running for president, "For the first time in my adult life-time, I am really proud of my country,'" a former agent says.

The agents are not so kind to Vice President Joe Biden.

Vice President Joe Biden may seek to project the image of a regular Joe, friend of the workingman, but Secret Service agents know a different Joe. That Joe champions cutting government waste while spending a million dollars on personal trips back and forth to his home in Delaware at taxpayer expense.

Kessler found through Air Force records that in just the first four years of Biden's term the trips between Washington and Wilmington, DE (a distance of about 100 miles) on Air Force Two cost taxpayers $979,680 for fuel and maintenance alone.

Many weekends Biden flies to Wilmington on Friday and then flies back to Washington to play golf with President Obama and then flies back again on Saturday afternoon. The agents just cannot believe the total disregard of taxpayer money that Biden displays.

Biden is personally liked by the agents but he is also infamous for changing his schedule on the spur of the moment which puts enormous strains on the agents. Many of these schedule changes are last minute decisions to return to his personal home in Delaware.  As a result, the Secret Service rents more than 20 condominiums near his home in Delaware so they have contingency arrangements for his security.

Joe Biden is a saint compared to Hillary Clinton. Agents say that being on Hillary's detail is the worst assignment in the Secret Service.

When in public, Hillary smiles and acts graciously. As soon as the cameras are gone, her angry personality, nastiness, and imperiousness becomes evident. 

The book is replete with stories from the agents about Hillary that make it clear that she is not going to get many votes from those on her protective detail.

On the other hand, the agents liked Bill Clinton but he drove them crazy in that he was always late for everything. The agents called it "Clinton Standard Time."

Of course, the agents had a front row seat on Bill's womanizing. It is something he continues today with a woman that he often sees whenever Hillary is out of town that has her own Secret Service code name-Energizer-who is described as an attractive soccer mom who lives near the Clintons in Chappaqua, New York.

Chelsea Clinton got very high marks from the agents.

It's kind of funny, as dysfunctional as the Clintons are, Chelsea is the best, another agent said.

Who are some of the other First Families that the Secret Service respected and liked?

Ronald Reagan (Very nice guy who was always considerate and the same in private as in public)

George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush (Class acts. Extremely thoughtful and considerate)

George W. Bush and Laura Bush (Both very highly thought of. Laura was loved by the agents)

Lady Bird Johnson (Gracious and respectful of the agents. Exact opposite of her husband.)

Who are those that had the agents questioning the wisdom of the American voter?

Lyndon Johnson ("If he hadn't been President, he would have been in an insane asylum.")

Richard Nixon ( "One of the country's strangest Presidents")

Jimmy Carter (A complete phony. Very short and rude most of the time.)

Al Gore (Treated agents with disdain. A complete fake.)

Nancy Reagan (Very cold, aloof and demanding.)

You might have seen in the news that President Obama is leaving tomorrow for Hawaii on vacation for the rest of the year. It is nice that he can spend the holidays with his family in the Aloha State. However, it also means that every Secret Service agent on his detail and all the other people that support the President will be away from their families.

You want to know one the reasons that the Bush's were so well liked by the Secret Service?

They always stayed in Washington through Christmas.

Why?

Because they did not want all the people that would have to travel with them to be away from their own families for Christmas.  They planned their holiday travels after Christmas.  They thought more about others than they did about themselves.

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”—Malcolm S. Forbes.

A good test to consider in evaluating Presidential candidates this year?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Follow the Democrat Money

I my last blog post I looked at where the money is coming from for the Republican Presidential candidates.

Let's now take a look at the Democrats---Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

"Follow the money" has become a catchphrase to describe the money trail that leads to those running (or in political office) their benefactors.

Under the tax law a gift is usually defined as the proceeds of "detached and disinterested generosity". The motivation for gifts are "affection, respect, admiration, charity or like impulses". A true gift is given with no expectation of getting anything back in return.

The reality of political contributions is that there is a usually an inverse relationship between the amount of the contribution to a candidate and the degree to which the donor is "detached and disinterested".  Simply stated, as the dollars contributed increase the motivation for giving starts to tilt more to an interest in influence than affection and admiration for the candidate.

With this as background I thought it would be interesting to look at the 2016 Presidential Campaign Finance reports of the major candidates to give you an idea of the trail of money from donor to candidate. All of this information is from the Federal Election Commission unless otherwise noted.

For simplicity, I am only looking at campaign contributions without including Super PAC contributions for each candidate. Super PAC money is officially outside the control of the candidate and is generally used for advertising. The candidate's campaign committee money is the real lifeblood of the campaign as all staff salaries, travel, consultants, etc. come out of these funds. When this money dries up, the candidate is finished. Witness Scott Walker and Rick Perry.

$269.5 million has been contributed to campaign committees of the candidate of both parties to this point--- $147.3 million to Republicans and $122.2 million to Democrats.

Hillary Clinton has raised $76.1 million compared to $41.2 million for Sanders.  To put that in context, those two have raised more than the top six GOP candidates (Carson, Cruz, Bush, Rubio, Paul, Fiorina) combined!  Aren't we told the Republicans are the party of the rich?

64% of Hillary's contributions are from those who gave $2,000 or more. A mere 2% of Bernie's contributions came from those large contributors.

On the other hand, 82% of Bernie's contributions came from those who gave $200 and under compared to 21% in that group who funded Clinton's campaign coffers.

Almost half of Hillary's money came from New York, California, metro DC (District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland).  There is little question that she is deeply tied in with insiders on Wall Street, K Street and Hollywood Boulevard.

Bernie Sanders has raised more money in California ($2.1m) than in other state. In fact, he has not raised over $1 million in one other state. There are a lot of Socialists in California as if we did not already know that.

There are not as many in North Dakota ($6,508), Delaware ($7,937) or Wyoming ($8,300) apparently.

This gives you a perspective on where Hillary and Bernie have been raising money.






Although Clinton has raised $35 million more than Sanders, at 9/30/15 she had only about $5 million more in cash on hand than he did. Therefore, Bernie has funding to stay around for awhile in this race.

Lawyers are the biggest givers to Hillary's campaign. Of the 20 largest employer groups represented by Hillary's individual contributors, 8 are large law firms. Employees of Harvard, Yale and the University of California also made the top 20 as did Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America.

Retirees are Bernie Sanders' largest group of contributors followed by those in Education. I am sure there are many professors who have been proud to have contributed to the socialist progressive cause. However, employees of Google (now Alphabet, Inc.), Microsoft and Apple are three of the top five employers of Bernie's contributors. The other two? The University of California and Columbia University.

Interestingly, in my home state of Ohio Bernie's largest contributor group was "Unemployed" per a recent article in the Cincinnati Enquirer. I kid you not.

All I can say is that these contributors might not have any work earnings coming in but they are certainly willing to "invest"in their future with Bernie.

If you "Follow the Money" in politics, everything makes sense.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Follow the Money

The most famous line in the 1976 film "All the President's Men" was delivered by Hal Holbrook as he portrayed Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) as the confidential source "Deep Throat" for Washington Post reporters Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) as they attempted to get to the bottom of the Watergate scandal.


Credit: Imdb.com


Of course, that reporting led to the subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon.

This is the relevant dialogue from "All the President's Men with my emphasis added.

Bob Woodward: Hunt's come in from the cold. Supposedly he's got a lawyer with $25,000 in a brown paper bag.
Deep Throat: Follow the money.
Bob Woodward: What do you mean? Where?
Deep Throat: Oh, I can't tell you that.
Bob Woodward: But you could tell me that.
Deep Throat: No, I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know, and I'll confirm. I'll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that's all. Just... follow the money.

"Follow the money" has become a catchphrase to describe the money trail that leads to those running (or in political office) their benefactors.

Under the tax law a gift is usually defined as the proceeds of "detached and disinterested generosity". The motivation for gifts are "affection, respect, admiration, charity or like impulses". A true gift is given with no expectation of getting anything back in return.

The reality of political contributions is that there is a usually an inverse relationship between the amount of the contribution to a candidate and the degree to which the donor is "detached and disinterested".  Simply stated, as the dollars contributed increase the motivation for giving starts to tilt more to an interest in influence than affection and admiration for the candidate.

With this as background I thought it would be interesting to look at the 2016 Presidential Campaign Finance reports of the major candidates to give you an idea of the trail of money from donor to candidate.

For simplicity, I am only looking at campaign contributions without including Super PAC contributions for each candidate. Super PAC money is officially outside the control of the candidate and is generally used for advertising. The candidate's campaign committee money is the real lifeblood of the campaign as all staff salaries, travel, consultants, etc. come out of these funds. When this money dries up, the candidate is finished. Witness Scott Walker and Rick Perry.

In this post I will highlight the money trail for the front runners-Trump, Cruz, Carson, Rubio and Bush-in the Republican party.

I will highlight the Democrat money trail in a my next post.

All of the data (unless otherwise noted) is from the Federal Election Commission website where you can view all campaign finance data

$269.5 million has been contributed to campaign committees of the candidate of both parties to this point--- $147.3 million to Republicans and $122.2 million to Democrats.

These are the campaign contributions to the major GOP candidates.


Interestingly, the non-politician Carson has raised more in political campaign contributions than the politicians.

In addition, despite Donald Trump claiming that he is funding his own campaign, he has only contributed $1.9 million of $5.7 million in total contributions.

This is the percentage breakdown of campaign contributions of $200 or less ("detached generosity") and those $2,000 and over ("interested in influence") for each of the major Republican candidates.


This is where you begin to see the difference between an "establishment" candidate and those considered 'outsiders".

75% of Carson's $31.3 million in contributions has come from donors who contributed $200 or less. That is remarkable.

3/4 of the money donated to Trump has also come in small donations.

56% of what Ted Cruz has raised has also come from small donors.

Contrast that with Jeb Bush who has raised over 82% of his money from big donors. Rubio has raised over half his money similarly.

Where is the money coming from for each candidate? What are the two biggest fundraising states for each GOP candidate?

Carson- Texas $1.4m, California $1.3m
Cruz- Texas $9.2m, California $1.2m
Bush- Florida $4.7m, New York $2.9m
Rubio- Florida $2.3m, California $2.2m
Trump- Texas $.14m, California $.13m

You expect the politicians to use their home state to anchor their contributions. However, Trump and Carson's two biggest contributor states are Texas and California. Simply stated, there is a lot of money in those two states.

These bubble charts are interesting in order to contrast the amount of contributions the candidate has raised in each state. The larger the bubble the more they have raised.

These are the contributions to Ben Carson by state. Notice how widely distributed his financial support is nationally among those many small contributors.




Contrast that with Jeb Bush and his heavy reliance on the Establishment Eastern Seaboard. There is not much of a money trail to Jeb in "flyover country".




This is a chart showing the total number of contributors by candidate.

Both Carson and Cruz have received contributions from twice as many people as Bush and Rubio. Of course, Trump has not actively sought contributions but almost 2,000 individuals wrote him checks on their own initiative.

Source: OpenSecrets.org
Note: The FEC only requires campaigns to disclose names of contributors of $200 or more. Therefore, the number of contributors and demographics above is only for those who contributed at least $200.



It is revealing that there are so few people that actually contribute at least $200 to a political campaign for President. Consider that there were over 20 million votes cast in the various 2012 GOP Presidential Primaries. When you add up all the contributors to the GOP Presidential candidates thus far you get less than 100,000 in total. That means about only 1 out of every 200 voters is investing in the process by supporting them financially in a meaningful way.

The data point I probably found most interesting was the industry that the contributor worked in. Certainly this should tell us something about "attempts to influence" through political campaign dollars.

These are the two biggest industry sources to each candidate and the amounts contributed.

Carson- Retired $4.3m, Health Professionals $.5m
Cruz- Retired $3.1m, Lawyers $.6m
Bush- Retired $3.3m, Securities & Investment $1.9m
Rubio- Retired $2.2m, Real Estate $.7m
Trump- Retired $.3m, Health Professionals $.05

I thought it was pretty incredible that for every Republican candidate above the largest category of contributions came from Retired people. It is not even close with any other industry category.

Of course, the money flowing into the 2016 Presidential campaign has just begun.

Consider the fact that Mitt Romney and the Republicans spent $1.1 billion during the 2012 campaign. Romney spent $336 million in campaign funds that he raised for his campaign, the National Republican Party spent another $386 million on Romney and Outside Super PACs and others chipped in another $419 million.

This is another potential problem for Donald Trump that I don't see anyone speaking about.

A big part of Trump's allure is that he is going to fund his own campaign and will not be beholden to any special interests.

Is he really prepared to spend $1 billion of his own money to get elected?

I don't believe he is. I think he loves his own money too much.

I also question whether he would have anywhere near this kind of liquidity in his portfolio. Is he going to start selling properties to finance his campaign? I don't think so.

He also most assuredly is not going to raise $1 billion through a bunch of $200 contributions.

And if he has to go Wall Street and other special interests to fund his campaign like everyone else, a big part of the attraction of Donald Trump washes away.

"Follow the money".

It tells us a lot.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Trump Fueled by 100% PC Octane

Victor Davis Hanson is one writer and commentator that seems to consistently hit the mark with intelligent and insightful analysis.


Victor Davis Hanson
Credit:National Review


Hanson is a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and is actually a lifetime registered member of the Democrat party (proving my bipartisan bona fides).

That does not mean that Hanson is happy with the state of his party these days.

This is what he said about the state of American politics in an interview in 2012.

The Democratic Party reminds me of the Republicans circa 1965 or so—impotent, shrill, no ideas, conspiratorial, reactive, out-of-touch with most Americans, isolationist, and full of embarrassing spokesmen.

Hanson has an article that came out today in the National Review that is one of the best pieces I have read from anyone this year.

And I read a lot.

It is titled "PC Suppression of Public Concerns Fuels the Trump Phenomenon". I urge you to read the whole thing if you are still wondering about the "Trump Phenomenon."

I gave my take on Trump's unexpected rise in the polls in July in my blog post, "Will Trump be a Trumpet Call to the GOP?"

I believe that it is Trump's straight talk that has been most responsible for his rise in the polls.
There is a substantial part of the electorate that are fed up with Washington, politics as usual, and political correctness. They are tired of our borders being overrun with illegal immigration while nothing is done by either the Republicans or Democrats. They are tired of the United States being the world's policeman and getting spit in the face. They are tired of seeing every trade agreement resulting in job losses for Americans. They are tired of seeing Islamic extremism being called workplace violence or the acts of lost souls. They are tired of lousy laws and terrible treaties being sold as "good as we can get."

However, Hanson does a much better job of describing how political correctness gone wild has fueled the political machine's worst nightmare.

I thought his best line in the piece was this one.

The world that we are told about by our government bears no resemblance to what we see and hear every day.

For those who don't think they have the time to read the entire article, here are a few more highlight quotes.

The more analysts try to figure out Donald Trump’s appeal, the more they sound baffled.
Pundits cite Trump’s verbal sloppiness and ridiculousness as proof that he must soon implode. But Trump sees his daily bombast as an injection of outrage for a constituency now hooked on someone who finally voices their pent-up anger. The more reckless Trump’s doses of scattergun outrageousness, the better the fix for his supporters.

Trump’s vague “make America great again” was the natural bookend to Barack Obama’s even more vacuous “hope and change.” The popularity of such empty slogans reflects a culture in which no one any longer trusts institutions, the media, government, or politicians.
The public no longer respects U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the IRS, the VA, or the GSA. Even the once-hallowed Secret Service has become a near laughingstock of incompetency, corruption, and politicization. Is the purpose of NASA really Muslim outreach, as NASA chief Charles Bolden suggested in 2010?

It may or may not have been wise for the Supreme Court to sanction gay marriage, or for the Pentagon to allow women in the military to join all combat units, or for the president to tacitly end border enforcement.
But these changes were not made by majority legislative decision. And they have come thick and fast without time for the public to digest their consequences. Instead, if a new idea or agenda lacks majority support, then activists can confidently look for a court or bureaucracy to implement change by top-down order.

In short, millions of citizens think the nation is headed for a financial reckoning. They feel threatened by radical Islamic terrorism. They sense that cultural and social stability has disappeared. And they know that expression of these worries can be a thought crime — hounded down by politicians, media, universities, and cultural institutions that do not enjoy broad public support and are not subject to the direct consequences of their own ideologies. 
Amid these crises and the present absence of responsible leadership, if there were not a demagogic Donald Trump ranting and raving on the scene, the country would probably have to invent something like him.

I could not say it better than Victor Davis Hanson.

So I did not even try.

By far, the easiest blog post that I have written this year.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Viva or Hasta La Vista, Venezuela?

Venezuela is holding National Assembly elections today. At stake are all of the 167 seats in its legislative body.

The big question is whether the people of Venezuela will reject the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela which has been in power for the last 17 years.

During that time Venezuela has become an economic basket case under the leadership of socialists Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.

Inflation is rampant. The most basic necessities are not available in stores. A country with the largest oil reserves in the world  (yes, it passed Saudi Arabia on that score in 2012) is running a government deficit of 14% of GDP proving once again that the problem with socialism is that you soon run out of spending other people's money.

Despite the large oil reserves, Venezuela is actually producing 25% less oil than it did when the socialists took power. Even worse, oil exports (critical for the hard currency to buy imported goods for its people) are only 50% of what they were in 1999.

Why?

Economic mismanagement. No protection of private property rights. Massive subsidies for oil locally to keep those Venezuelan voters happy. Therefore, there is less to export and sell.

The price of gasoline for locals? 1.5 cents per gallon. Of course, you can get to the grocery store very cheaply if you can afford a car but it is unlikely anything will be on the shelves when you get there.


Credit: Kyodo/Landv via NPR.org
NPR detailed "The Nightmare of Grocery Shopping in Venezuela" in a recent article.
Empty shelves, like these at a supermarket in Caracas, are a common sight in Venezuela. People can shop only on designated days at government-run stores. They're limited in what they can buy and must undergo fingerprint scanning to prove their identity.
A friend of BeeLine recently emailed this first hand account of what has happened to the cattle and beef industry in Venezuela since the Socialists gained control of the country.



Capitalism Explained In 2015   "You Have 2 Cows"
When I was a kid, I used to proudly wear around a T-shirt explaining different economic systems using ‘two cows’ as a metaphor.
It started off like this:
Socialism: You have two cows. Give one to your neighbor.
Then
Communism: You have two cows. The government takes both and gives you some milk.
And
Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.
I started thinking about this last week when I was in Caracas, because it turns out that Venezuela is a real life example of the two cows metaphor.
It started back in 2001 when the then-President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, introduced a law that called for the redistribution of land.
According to their ‘Bolivarian socialism’ pipedream, it was immoral for any single person or company to own too much land. So the government started confiscating people’s private property.
And any property owner who resisted was imprisoned. It makes for the perfect entry on that T-shirt I used to wear:
Venezuela: You have two cows. The government steals your land and imprisons you.
Needless to say, the law had an enormous impact on the Venezuelan cattle industry.
Cattle obviously require a lot of land; and running a profitable cattle operation often means having thousands of acres or more.
So when the government started seizing people’s lands, beef production in Venezuela collapsed. Duh.
They went from being entirely self-sufficient in terms of beef production in 1998, to, within a few years, becoming the second largest beef importer in the world. 
Unbelievable.
Of course, now they have an even bigger problem.
Venezuela’s currency is in freefall, and foreign reserves are dwindling.
So not only has beef production collapsed, but now the country can no longer afford to import beef either.
Beef imports to Venezuela are down over 80% this year compared with 2014.
And what little beef does enter the country is subject to the government’s severe price controls.
This has caused massive shortages and empty grocery store shelves-- textbook consequences that any high school economics student could predict.
Prosperity isn’t achieved by government price controls, redistribution policies, and bureaucratic regulations.
It’s achieved through freedom. By giving people the opportunity to work hard and take risks. And letting the market determine prices and the allocation of resources.
That’s supposed to be what capitalism is. In fact, that was the last entry on the T-shirt:
Capitalism: You have two cows. Sell one and buy a bull.
Sadly this is no longer the case.

Let's hope the people of Venezuela can take their country back. It will not be easy no matter how the people voted.

If they can, Viva Venezuela!

If they can't, I am afraid it is Hasta la Vista Venezuela.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Enemy Within

The horrific terrorist killings in San Bernardino, California should be sobering for all Americans.

The killing is hard enough to comprehend but it becomes incomprehensible when you consider the shootings were carried out by a young man who:


  • Was a U.S. citizen born in the United States
  • Had an undergraduate college degree
  • Had a good paying government job 
  • Had a Lexus in his garage (until he had to move it out to the street to make room for his bomb making supplies.)


Isn't this what used to be called the "American Dream" for a first generation American?

It is even harder to fathom when you consider that this man (and his wife) abandoned their six-month daughter to commit this calculated carnage.

Why do we keep hearing this is an economic problem?

Or a climate problem?

This is what Socialist  Democratic Presidential Bernie Sanders said the day after the Paris attacks when he was asked if he still believed that the greatest threat to national security was climate change.

"Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism."

Or a 2nd Amendment problem?

This is a problem within Islam.

This is a problem deep within some Muslim mosques.

It has also become America's problem because of the free and open society we have created and cherished from our founding.

Marcus Tullius Cicero said this about Rome (circa 100 B.C).


Credit:BrainyQuotes.com


Our prosperity and luxury are an attraction for people around the world.

However, it is folly to pretend that our culture and values are shared and appreciated from all those who seek renumeration or refuge within our borders

And when our leaders criminally ignore our immigration laws we make matters much, much worse.

We do have much to contend with. 

We cannot reform Radical Islam. However, it is time to end our own folly in not recognizing the failures that have brought us to this point.

As I have said before, history may not repeat but its does rhyme.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Heart and Mind

We are 62 days away from the first votes being cast in Iowa for the Presidential primaries. From the beginning of the process I did not have a preferred GOP candidate. I wanted to keep my powder dry and evaluate the candidates during the course of the campaign before showing any preference.

This is what I wrote when I handicapped the GOP race back in May.

I don't have a personal favorite at this time. There are a lot of candidates I could support. There is not one that I would reject in favor of Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat I can see running.
In fact, I believe that is going to be the first priority in most Republican voters minds when they vote in the primary. Can they beat Hillary (or another Democrat)?
I also wrote about the importance of creating a market position or brand as a key element for each of the candidates.

Running for political office is very similar to positioning a product in the marketplace. The same principles that apply to marketing and branding apply to a Presidential candidate.
Who are your target customers? How do you position yourself against your competitors? What are the principal features of your product? What are your advantages? What are the benefits to your "customers'? What are your key differentiators in the marketplace"?

I observed that there were likely three major brand segments that the candidates would fit in as the campaigns began. Establishment. Evangelical. Non-Traditional. I also predicted that there would also likely only be three candidates standing by the time we got to Super Tuesday on March 1.

This is how I saw those market categories in May.

Establishment
Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, (John Kasich or Rick Snyder if they get in)

Evangelical
Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry

Non-Traditional
Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham

Rubio seems to be the leader in the Establishment segment. This was Jeb Bush's to lose with his enormous money advantage. He has lost it. Rubio has simply outclassed him at every turn. Bush has been particularly damaged when voters have seen Rubio and Bush together on the debate stage.

Carson has been leading in the Evangelical segment but Ted Cruz has done an effective job of working to position himself as attractive to both this segment as well as the Non-Traditional category.

Of course, Donald Trump has redefined the term "Non-Traditional" in this race as well as defying political gravity while doing it. Will he come back to earth? 

At this point, it appears to me that Trump, Rubio, Carson and Cruz are in the best positions to be the finalists for the nomination.

Who do I like at this point based on what I have seen?

Donald Trump

Trump has energized the race. He says things that many voters think but would never say. There is a lot of bluster and some blarney in him as well. He's like the "bad boy" that a lot of girls would like to date. However, will they marry him? His poll numbers look good in the dating phase we are in right now but are GOP voters going to commit to him long-term in the voting booth? That is a commitment I am not ready to make and my bet is that will be true for a majority of GOP voters in the end.

Ben Carson

Carson's easy manner and core values have put him on top of the Evangelical category but I just don't
think he is ready for prime time. It is a big jump from pediatric neurosurgeon to President of the United States. Given time, I have no doubt that Carson could do the job. He has done the best in the debates with his closing statements which he has had time to think about and prepare for. He is not as strong with "off the cuff" answers. I think that comes from his background in medicine where preparation, practice and precision were critical. A great life story but there are better candidates available.

Those two are Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Marco Rubio

If I picking with my mind, Marco Rubio is my guy right now.

I said this about Rubio last May and I have not altered my view.

At this point I believe the best candidate on paper is Marco Rubio.  He has a number of advantages. He is young. He is articulate. He is Hispanic. He is from a very important swing state. He has a good looking family.
His major negative is his ill-considered attempt to broker an immigration reform bill that was in direct conflict with the views of the vast majority of GOP primary voters. However, in a testament to his political skills, he has done a good job of pivoting from that miscue and putting some distance between his views then and now. We will see how that plays once the race really gets going.

Add to this the fact that Rubio (and Cruz) have clearly shown the most substance and style on the debate stages thus far. They, along with Carly Fiorina, have outclassed the rest of the field in the debates thus far.

Ted Cruz

If I am picking with my heart, Ted Cruz is my candidate.

Cruz is undoubtedly the smartest person running for President in either party. Princeton undergrad. Harvard Law. Liberal Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard has said Cruz "is off the charts brilliant" and "of 10,000 students I taught at Harvard over 50 years...he has to qualify as among the brightest of students."

While Barack Obama likes to claim he is a constitutional lawyer and scholar, Cruz really is. He was a Supreme Court law clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist. He was Solicitor General of the State of Texas. He has made oral arguments before the Supreme Court over 40 times.

He was the U.S. Collegiate Debate champion while he was at Princeton. In addition, he has what some refer to as a "audio-graphic" memory where he can recall, almost verbatim, anything he hears. You saw evidence of that in the CNBC debate when he turned against the moderators with a perfect recitation of their "gotcha" questions of the other candidates. There would be no need for a teleprompter with this guy. His debate and listening skills may prove helpful in "negotiating" with leaders like Vladimir Putin.

Cruz is the most consistent, principled conservative I see running who also is a true constitutionalist. I don't think you are going to see a bait and switch down the road as has often happened with GOP candidates. 

Cruz is also in a unique position that he can span two of the brand categories I mentioned above-Evangelical and Non-Traditional. His recent surge in the polls seems to be at the expense of Carson with Evangelical voters. If Trump falters, where does the Non-Traditional voter go? Cruz is well positioned there as well.

Cruz understands that the problems in Washington are not due solely to Democrats. They are due to the very nature of the way Democrats, Republicans and special interests work together to consolidate their power and take power away from the people. He is the one guy who I think would be able to start dismantling this incestuous insiders game that we have in Washington today. That is why he is also probably the most feared candidate among the political elite.

I know there are Republican voters who think Cruz is "too radical" and "too much of an outsider" to get things done. I remember one other candidate who was referred to the same way. Go back to 1979 and see what people were saying about Ronald Reagan. That turned out pretty well in the end.

There are others who also wonder whether Cruz is likeable enough to win the general election. It is true that he is not Marco Rubio. Nor Barack Obama. However, he likely will be running against Hillary Clinton. Is there any question who most people would rather have a beer with?

I just finished reading Cruz's book, "A Time For Truth", so that I would have a better feel for who he is and what he believes. It made me a believer that he has what it takes.

My heart is with Cruz. 

I think a Cruz/Rubio ticket sounds pretty good to me right now.

However, where will the hearts and minds of voters be in 2016? 

That is why we have elections.

Postscript:  If you are interested in more background information on Ted Cruz you might be interested in reading "Why Ted Cruz is the Right Guy at the Right Time" by Sonya Sasser.