The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

In yesterday’s post, I described writing a senior high school paper on author Sinclair Lewis.  What I didn’t mention was that in addition to being a fairly prolific novel writer he penned a large number of short stories which were primarily published in magazines.  As part of the preparation for writing my paper, I spent many hours in the main branch of the N. Y. Public Library’s periodicals room reading these.  As I recall I made my way through thirty or so of them.

Although I no longer remember the title of this particular story, there was one that dealt with causality.  It described a man who worked for a company that manufactured munitions.  He forgot to set his alarm clock the night before an important meeting and as a result over slept, catching a later train than usual and so was late for the meeting.  This set off a series of five or six different events which ultimately resulted in a revolution occurring in some unnamed South American country and a military takeover of the same.  The story was unusual for Lewis, almost science fiction-like in content.  But it does speak to the current brouhaha over Russian influence in our recent presidential election.

It would be foolish for any rational person not to believe that hostile foreign nations including Russia, North Korea, China and Iran, to name a few, would not engage in activities which they see to be in their best interest to the detriment of the United States or any other country they believe to be their adversary.  After all, wasn’t that why we so staunchly supported and financed the activities of Radio Free Europe during the cold war with the Soviet Union?  What is remarkable is that there seems to be so much surprise on the part of our elected officials that this happens.

As I recall, during the 2012 Presidential Debates, candidate Romney was asked what he considered to be the greatest threat to the security of the United States.  His almost immediate response was, “Russia.”  In his rebuttal, President Obama ridiculed Romney for his answer. So one of two things is true.  Either Romney was correct and Obama had it wrong.  Or, if Russia did not pose that threat in 2012 but now does, then the failure of U. S. foreign policy under the Obama administration has allowed Russia to become that threat.

Those who are arguing that Russia’s influence affected the outcome of the election must hold to the same simple causality that Lewis describes in his short story.  One thing leads to another to another to an unexpected outcome, as surely as night follows day.  That makes for a good story or perhaps an engaging movie – but it is not how things generally work in this world.

There are several issues in this now wide-raging debate that are not in question.

The first is there was an almost cavalier attitude toward cyber-security on the part of both Hillary Clinton and John Podesta which allowed Russia, if in fact they were the ones who actually hacked their emails, to gain entry into their systems.

The second is that no one has alleged that the emails were in any way massaged or altered before their release.  This, of course, begs the question, should the American electorate not have been allowed to see this material so that they could make a more informed decision on the candidate for whom they would vote?

The third is that everyone agrees that neither Russia nor anyone else were able to alter the actual vote totals as they were recorded precinct by precinct.

The fourth is that everyone agrees that whatever influence the alleged Russian hack had on the election results is unquantifiable – just as it would be naïve to attribute the fall of the former Soviet Union solely on the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe.

It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to hypothesize why the election turned out as it did.  Perhaps there were a lot of Clinton supporters in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan who simply were either too sick or to unmotivated to show up at the polls and cast their ballots.

Or perhaps there were some undecided voters who simply concluded that after years of Clinton controversies, whether or not anything had been proven, there just seemed to be far too much smoke so there may well be a fire burning somewhere.

Or perhaps millions of Republican voters in New York or California either never bothered to register or if they were registered didn’t vote, knowing that their vote would essentially be meaningless.  Perhaps the number of GOP voters who sat it out would have been sufficient for Trump to win not only the Electoral College vote but the popular vote as well.

But let’s talk about my adopted state of Nevada for a moment – one of those “swing states” as political pundits like to call it.  What if something specific happened here which had a far more direct impact on the election than Clinton’s emails or Benghazi or the failure of Obamacare?  What if an employer in this state tacitly suggested to its employees how they should vote in the presidential election?  That employer (and perhaps others) is MGM Resorts International.

MGM is an international corporation headquartered in Las Vegas.  It owns and manages properties in Nevada, several other states and internationally, primarily in Macao, China.  The company employs approximately 50,000 people, 35,000 of those being here in the Silver State.

MGM has a very civic corporate conscience.  It has received a number of awards from several “progressive” organizations for their support for the LGBTQ community and for minority groups, primarily Hispanics, many of whom it employs.  And what would being a good citizen be other than to support the most important right which we have – the right to vote?

During early voting here in Nevada, MGM allowed it’s employees time off from work in order to execute their franchise.  In fact, it provided free buses to local temporary polling stations so their employees could vote more easily.  All that is fine.  But MGM took this one step further.

In order to simplify the voting experience, MGM provided its employees who took advantage of their free transportation a sample ballot to take with them into the voting booth.  The problem was that this “sample ballot” contained the note at the top that “MGM recommends a vote for the following candidates and propositions on the November 8th ballot.”  The names of Hillary Clinton for president and Catherine Cortez Masto for U. S. Senate were checked and highlighted in yellow on the pre-printed form.  As it turns out, Clinton carried Nevada by a margin of  27,202 votes and Masto won the Senate seat by 26,915 votes, obviously fewer votes than the number of MGM employees who received their “suggested ballot.”  I only know this because a friend who is an MGM employee and who supported Trump in the election was infuriated about this and gave me the copy she received from her employer.

It is, of course, a moot point as Clinton lost the election.  But Masto, whose background is sketchy at best, is one of our one hundred senators and a protégé of Harry Reid’s.  With a margin in the Senate as tight as it is, her election may well make a difference.  And while I’m not sure whether MGM broke the law in providing this ballot, I believe it would be fair to suggest that if you were employed by a company that handed you a completed “suggested ballot,” you might feel pressured to vote as indicated.

We can only speculate about either Russia’s or MGM’s motivation in involving themselves in our election.  Perhaps MGM’s management simply was expressing their liberal bent.  Or perhaps they are concerned about their property in Macao and the nature of our relationship with China under a Trump administration.  That the President-Elect took a call from the democratically elected President of Taiwan the day after his election must be giving them fits.

One thing that is certain is that the 2016 election will be a boon to the publishing industry.  I suspect enough will be written about it to fill a presidential library.

It was two weeks before the end of my junior year of high school when the bomb dropped.  There I was, looking forward to my third summer working for E. F. Hutton in their backroom on Broad Street when my English teacher informed our class that he was giving us a summer project which we needed to complete by the first day of our senior year.

Each of us had a week to select an American author who would become the subject of a paper (at least fifty pages long – double spaced).  We would be required to read at least five works by that author as well as a biography of our subject.  I immediately thought of Nathaniel West who suffered an untimely death in an automobile accident and had only written four books, one of which, Miss Lonelyhearts I had already read.  But I hadn’t really enjoyed that experience and was uncertain that I wanted to subject myself to further literary abuse by that author.

After a great deal of mental mulling I settled on Harry Sinclair Lewis – a far more prolific author and an individual with whose works I was familiar only by name – specifically Main Street and Elmer Gantry.  Somewhere I had heard that he was also the subject of some controversy which only piqued my curiosity about what he had to say.  I remembered reading a review of a biography of Lewis that had been written by Mark Schorer a few years earlier – still the definitive work on his life.

My English teacher approved my choice and after school I headed down to my local bookstore to see which of  Lewis’ works were available in paperback.  As good luck would have it, on the close out table was a copy of the Schorer biography.  Three dollars for a nearly thousand page hardback.  As my Jewish classmates would say, “Such a deal.”  I grabbed a copy together with paperback editions of Main Street and Babbitt and asked the owner to hold them for me until the next day when I would return to pay for them, which she gladly agreed to do.  Conducting business with merchants was so much more civilized and pleasant back in the ’60’s.

As there were three days of school remaining, our final exams in the rear view mirror and nothing much to do other than plan on attending the commencement program, I dove into the Schorer biography to gain a few days on the project even before we were on summer vacation.  I decided that having a bit of history on the author might help me appreciate his work more.  I finished the book early the next week – and if there was one quote I took away from it, it was that Lewis had earned the sobriquet, “The most hated man in America.”  As I began reading his novels, I quickly understand why.

Lewis’ writing was succinct, compelling and fatally cynical.  He described life in small American towns and the people who inhabited them.  To him, they were little more than plastic figures engaged in mundane activities in the pursuit of mediocrity.  Having himself come from just such an environment in Sauk Centre, MN it was hard not to feel that Lewis was implying that he had risen from that bourgeois existence and had achieved a higher plane of understanding, a greater appreciation of aesthetics and, of course, a moral superiority.

When he died suddenly of heart failure in Rome in 1951 the literary world took note of his passing.  After all, he had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his 1925 novel, Arrowsmith, an honor that he refused to accept.  One literary critic headlined his column on Lewis’ demise with the acerbic introduction, “Sinclair Lewis Dead – At Last.”

For sixty-five years there have been few who have challenged Lewis’ title of “The most hated man in America.”  But one might argue that there is finally a new contender for the title, that being one Donald J. Trump, the soon to be 45th President of the United States.

Remarkably, President-Elect Trump’s campaign motto, “Make America Great Again” is in direct contrast to Lewis’ view that America, or at least it’s people, have never been great at all, a view heartily endorsed by the many cacophonous, caterwauling Trump critics. These same naysayers also assume a Lewis-like sense of moral superiority perhaps stemming from their profound adherence to atheism, a religion to which Lewis subscribed.  It is they and they alone who have an understanding of true righteousness, appropriate behavior and the correct manner of thinking, speaking and acting.

I wish I were here sixty-five years from now to see whether Trump’s optimistic view of what America can achieve will prevail.  Or whether those who view themselves as victimized members of the mindless mob will have their way.  But perhaps it will not take that long to see which side has the upper hand.

Irrespective of the facts, the word is that Trump’s opponents are already assembling to hold a regalia in which they will transfer the title from Lewis to our next president.  As I don’t have anything sufficiently festive to wear, should I receive an invitation to attend, I guess I will be forced to decline that honor.

PARDON ME

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton.  For more than twenty-five years I’ve thought of her as the potentially most dangerous politician in America.  Nothing has happened in those two and one half decades which has caused me to change my mind on that subject.

On the contrary, White Water, the cattle trading scheme, Vince Foster – well, those are child’s play compared to her irresponsible handling of national security and the corruption attached to the Clinton Foundation which would be revealed if a truly objective investigation were to be conducted.  Of course, we all know that will never happen under the current administration.

Given my view, you might be surprised that I believe that, if President Obama doesn’t beat him to the punch, President-elect Trump should offer a deal to Ms. Clinton which would include a full presidential pardon.  Shocking, you say?  Maybe not so much.

In defending my position, let me first say that I believe Clinton is guilty as sin – in numerous different matters.  Perhaps that is inherently obvious – otherwise why would we even be talking about pardoning her?  Nor do I believe that she has experienced  any great moment of contrition which would warrant absolution in a moral or religious sense.  I think that if she were to review her past deeds, the only remorse that she might be feeling is that she got caught with an insurmountable amount of evidence suggestive of her guilt, too much to spin or lie away this time.

In an election that was heavily weighted in her favor; the benefits that she inherited as a Democrat because of the electoral map; the one-upsmanship afforded her in her primary contest by the DNC; the adulation of her by the media and the opprobrium heaped on her opponent by them; despite all that, she was up-ended by a political outsider and put the much vaunted expectation of our having our first female president on the back burner – at least for now.

Ms. Clinton proved herself to be an anachronism – and “The Times They Are A-Changing.”  Ms. Clinton, the champion of a higher minimum wage lost to Donald Trump, the champion of unlimited opportunity.  Clinton was supported by virtually all the self-styled elites.  Trump was enthusiastically embraced by people who were struggling to pay their mortgage because their jobs had been lost to Mexico.  Clinton espoused a policy of open borders while Trump promised an administration where law and an orderly immigration process would be restored.

So why a pardon for Hillary Clinton?  There are several reasons.

The first is that there really is nothing to gain other than retribution and a warning to others that unlawful behavior will not be tolerated and that nobody is above the law.  That is an important, no, that is the essential foundation of the American experiment and what differentiates us from virtually every other country.  But as you will see if you keep reading, we can make that point in a different way than by appointing a special prosecutor, spending countless hours investigating and arraigning Clinton and then trying and probably convicting her.

The second is that if, and I believe it is, President-elect Trump’s main focus to Make America Great Again, it is best to direct all his and Congress’ attention to getting the ball rolling on doing just that.  Let’s not get distracted by what will undoubtedly be spun as little more than partisan politics – although I believe that is a gross mis-characterization of  Clinton’s actions.

The third has been obvious to anyone who has watched the news on television in the week since the election.  This country is still obviously divided.  President-elect Trump is still being characterized as a “loose cannon,” a misogynist, unstable and hateful.  The presumed basis for the outrage is that he is not a legitimate president-elect as he did not win the popular vote.  If he had won both the popular vote as well as the Electoral College majority vote, I believe you would still have seen these protests.  Pardoning Clinton would go a long way to beginning a healing process, reuniting the nation and defusing the allegations about which these sorely misguided people are purportedly demonstrating.

If President Ronald Reagan was the “Great Communicator,” President-elect Donald J. Trump may well be called the “Great Negotiator.”  And here’s what I would advise him to negotiate with Clinton before giving her a presidential pardon.

First and foremost, Trump should require that in a press conference, she allocute to the real reasons that she chose to maintain an unsecure, private server despite the laws which should have prevented her from doing so.  That she allocute to whether all of the deleted emails were, in fact, personal or whether there were records that were deleted which should be part of the public record.  That she allocute to whether or not any of her decisions as Secretary of State were influenced because of donations to the Clinton Foundation.  Such an honest allocution would carry the same weight as a lengthy legal process and for those who blindly voted for her might give some reason for pause and reflection.

Second, I would ask her and President Clinton to forgo any pensions, Secret Service protection and any other benefits which are currently proffered on former presidents and politicians.  The Clintons have done very well for themselves since they left the White House.  Voluntarily stripping themselves of future benefices will hardly impose a financial hardship on the couple.

In my more Draconian moments, I would like to see Hillary Clinton voluntarily give up her U. S. citizenship and move to a foreign country where she might get a fresh start.  Brazil comes to mind.

By area, Brazil is only moderately smaller than the United States.  It has a multi-racial, multi-cultural population with lots of under served children – and taking care of children is a passion that Clinton maintains has been a focus of hers throughout her life.  Furthermore, it has elected a woman president (currently under indictment) – so if she wanted to revive her political ambitions, what more natural place than Brazil?

Furthermore, it is a welcoming country.  After WWII it took in a significant number of Germans, Japanese and Italians who may or may not have been involved in the Axis war effort.  The Israelis spent a great deal of time in the country ferreting out those who were members of the power structure of the Third Reich. This might be a community with whom Clinton could forge alliances. Whether husband Bill would choose to join her in exile would, of course, be up to the two of them.  Of course, this transplant to South America is more on my wish list than my must have list.

If Brazil doesn’t fill the bill for Clinton, an alternative might be Haiti.  Perhaps if she chose to live in Port au Prince, she might join in the search to find the fifteen million dollars that the Clinton Foundation allegedly gave to assist the earthquake victims there a few years back and which, by all accounts, is still missing.

In my view, this is a reasonable proposal.  But if you have a different view, I hope you’ll accept my apology with a heartfelt, “Pardon me.”

SO, WHO VOTED FOR NIXON?

It was Sunday, November 10, 1968 and earlier that week, Richard Milhaus Nixon had been elected President of the United States, crushing his Democrat opponent, incumbent Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.  I was feeling celebratory and for my postlude at church I played the Toccata from Charles Marie Widor’s Fifth Organ Symphony – an impressive piece which sounds far more difficult than it actually is.  Here is a performance given by James Kennerley, an outstanding young British organist played appropriately on the console at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

 

As an organist, I was used to finishing my final piece, gathering up my music from the music stand and leaving church to find only a small handful of people remaining who had taken the time and had the interest to listen to it.    On this particular Sunday, one of the faithful was a woman who was still praying, tears falling from her eyes.  I knew her.  One of her sons was in my children’s choir.

I walked down the center aisle of the nave, genuflected and joined her on the kneeler on which she was praying.  I turned to her, put my arm around her shoulder and asked her, “Betty, are you all right?”

Betty, through her sobbing, said, “I just don’t understand it.  I voted for Humphrey.  My neighbors all voted for Humphrey.  My relatives all voted for Humphrey.  So, who voted for Nixon?”

Hyde Park in Chicago was a very liberal neighborhood.  And Betty, a white woman who had married a black man in the 1950’s, long before this was either generally accepted not to mention chic, was typical in her mind-set.  She, and many others of my neighbors all exemplified that marvelous statement that William F. Buckley made when he said, “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” 

As a young person, many of my friends and neighbors were surprised to find that I was supporting Nixon in that election.  And they were always willing to debate me with the intent of changing my mind and bringing me over to their side.  They failed in that endeavor – but after the many debates in which I engaged, while I could tell that they had a sense of frustration as I would rebut their arguments, we still remained friends, there was no acrimony on either side and we left with the same feeling of respect for each other that we had before we argued our respective positions.  That sense of open and sincere discussion seems to be something that we’ve lost.  And that’s a tragedy.

I must confess to a little confusion that those who identify as “liberals” are so upset that Donald J. Trump will be the United States’ forty-fifth president.  These are the same people who believe that every child, irrespective of performance, should receive a sticker or a trophy.  These are the people who believe that you shouldn’t keep score because it might fatally impair the psyche of those who come out on the short end of the stick.  Remarkably, now that the game is over and we know the result, they want to change the rules under which the game was played to affect the outcome so that their losing team wins.  That’s the sort of behavior that I’ve observed among two-year olds who are throwing a hissy fit so that they can get their way.  And if we deem that sort of behavior unacceptable in toddlers, how much more should we consider it untenable in people who are actually determining the nation’s future in voting in our elections?

One of the arguments advanced in the recent riots over Trump’s victory and the “Not My President” signs is that Hillary Clinton won (barely) the popular vote and should, therefore, be our next president.  That, of course, begins the debate with the assumption that the Electoral College is antiquated, should have been abolished eons ago and we should disregard the Constitution.

Although there are many valid reasons why I believe we should retain the Electoral College, the fact is that under our current system, it exists.  To put it in the way in which many who are Pro-Abortion explain and support the decision in Roe v. Wade, “It’s the law of the land.”

This argument for a popular vote to determine the outcome of presidential elections further makes an unprovable assumption.  That the popular vote, as recorded, would have been the same popular vote the candidates would have received if it, rather than the Electoral College’s vote, determined the winner.  Both the losing Clinton and successful Trump campaigns developed their strategies based on the rules that governed the election – to secure 270 or more electoral votes.  If our system called for the election of the next president based on the popular vote, both campaigns would have run their campaigns differently, camping out in all the large population states. virtually ignoring the rest of the country.  Incidentally, that is the exact reason that the Founders established the Electoral College – so that small states would have a voice in our elections.

If we were to go back in time and rewrite history, (a favorite exercise of those on the left) we would have to crown different World Series winners by determining the victor as that team which got the most hits during the series rather than the most runs.  We would have different Super Bowl victors if we determined the best performance based on which team gained the most yards rather than put up the most points.

I do understand how shocked those on the left were as the results rolled in on election night.  I myself was startled at the outcome – and had made a sojourn to my local liquor store to buy a very large bottle of my favorite Scotch to drown my sorrow as I awaited the announcement that Hillary Clinton was going to be our next president.

It took me forty-six years of voting before I ever cast a ballot for someone who actually won his race for the House of Representatives.  So I had a lot of sucking up and disappointment in many, many elections.  But I never felt either the urge or need  to go out and express my displeasure by lighting trash cans on fire or vandalizing parked cars. My father had a simple piece of advice for handling the disappointments which he knew would come my way in life.  “Deal with it – and learn from it.”  But I suspect the left’s concern and need to find safe spaces may merely be in its infancy.

Despite the firm predictions that the Dems would regain the Senate and pick up twenty or so seats in the House, (not to mention installing one of their own in the White House), those predictions from such moral and mental geniuses as Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid, did not come to pass.  For the first time in eighty-eight years we now have a Republican president, a Republican controlled House and a Republican dominated Senate.  And that is good for the American people.

Members of both parties have hidden behind the excuse that nothing gets done because of “divided government.”  That excuse no longer is available.  Legislators on both sides of the aisle and President-elect Trump will be judged by what they accomplish – or fail to accomplish.  I’m betting my money that Trump’s rhetoric is not merely a bunch of words – but are born from a sincere and earnest, heartfelt love of this nation and a belief that we can and should be doing better for all our citizens.  We will see.

But if I am correct and if Donald Trump is half as talented and driven as I believe him to be, the liberal left may be in for bigger headaches two years from now.  In the mid-term election, they will be defending twenty-five Senate seats, twelve of which are in deep red states.  If they think their position now is tenuous, they may be looking at a Republican Senate super majority two years hence.  But, as this is America, there is reason for them to be optimistic.

Instead of concocting excuses for their failed results at the ballot boxes across the nation, they can choose to, “Deal with it – and learn from it.”  Whether they do that or not is any body’s guess.  But in the real world, we don’t hand out stickers or trophies to the loser.  Instead, they generally wind up sporting a black eye.

THE LYRE

On a balmy night in July, 64 A.D., the great city of Rome with its magnificent structures began to burn.  The fire lasted two days before it was contained and according to a number of the extant records written at the time, the Emperor Nero ordered the fire and calmly played his lyre as he watched the devastation grow and the fire consumed more of the great city.

There are several theories as to why this happened.  The first is that Nero was insane.  The second that he was quite sane and needed a scapegoat to blame for the decline of the Roman Empire under his and his predecessors’ rule – and he found it in the growing Christian community that he viewed as a threat.

In politics, despite the span of several millennia, it’s apparent that some things really don’t change.

Over the past thirty years, there have been more “fires” associated with Bill and Hillary Clinton than any other politicians in all of  U. S. history. Naturally, the Clintons dismiss these as nothing more than right wing fabricated conspiracies intended to undermine this sordid couple and their personal ambitions.  There is an alternate theory to this explanation.

If ten arsons were set and there was one commonality to all of them – that the same person was present at each blaze – the reasonable assumption would be that person might be the arsonist and his or her connection to these blazes should be investigated.  That’s what any intelligent law enforcement official would do.  And, perhaps, despite years of evasion, the time for that investigation has come to the Clintons.

We will certainly not know the conclusion to the FBI’s re-opening the case into Secretary Clinton’s use of an unsecure server, the contents of most of the emails that were deleted apparently in defiance of and after a Congressional subpoena for all her emails was issued or the “pay for play” allegations that are swirling in an every growing eddy around the Clinton Foundation by the time we cast our ballots on November 8th.  But for those few voters who are still undecided, there is something they might want to consider.

The financial services industry is one of the most highly regulated businesses at both a federal and state level.  Most people who deal either in providing investment advice or in the sale of securities are required to pass the Series 7 examination and to take regularly scheduled continuing education exams to make sure they are current on the latest regulations.

Virtually every training course for the exam begins with the same sentence which the applicant is supposed to consider paramount in her or his career should they pass the exam.  It boils down to the simple sentence, “Know your customer.” Here’s what that means.

As an advisor or broker, a licensee is supposed to put the best interest of the customer first and to tailor any advice specifically to meet the needs of that customer using what is known as “the prudent man rule.”  In other words, would a prudent man make a recommendation for a customer to purchase a specific security after analyzing their financial objectives and particular circumstances.

As an example, a sixty-five year old widow with a two hundred thousand nest egg and whose sole income other than return on investments is Social Security would normally be directed toward an allocation of conservative investments such as blue chip dividend paying stocks and government bonds.  After all, with a life expectancy of nearly twenty years, conservation of principal is critical.

On the other hand, a thirty year old who happens to win twenty million in a lottery payout would most likely be directed into a more aggressive investment strategy which would, in part, include higher risk assets in order to grow the portfolio in the long term to maximize the likelihood of wealth accumulation.  Among those high risk assets might be taking small interests in various “private placement” offerings which, among other things, might include participation in oil and gas drilling ventures.  These sorts of ventures have existed for well over a century.

Now using the prudent man rule, it would be imprudent if the advisor suggested putting the new millionaire’s entire fortune into one or even several of these placements.  After all, despite the improvement in technology, it is possible for a particular oil and gas syndicate to drill five or ten wells and have them all come up dry and for the investors in them to lose their entire investment.  But to advise an investment allocation of perhaps five percent of the lottery winner’s fortune and spread that between ten or twenty exploration ventures would most likely be viewed as conforming to the prudent man rule as the allocation into these risky ventures is small and by spreading the risk over a number of such ventures the investors chance of getting what might be a significant return would increase.  Diversification reduces risk – even in the case of inherently risky ventures.  At least that’s the case on the surface – but let’s add some additional facts to the equation.

First, the advisor most likely will earn a commission by directing investors into the ventures he recommends.  That is in complete conformity with accepted financial services guidelines.  But the question about this recommendation becomes hazier if the syndicates planning on doing the oil and gas exploration happen to be directed by the advisor’s brother-in-law – particularly if the advisor fails to disclose that fact to the investor.  And, of course, it becomes an outright scam and punishable by fines and jail time if the syndicates never plan on actually doing any drilling but are simply reporting back to the investors that they drilled nothing but dry holes and pocketing their money.  Sadly, there are people who are perfectly capable of engaging in just such behavior – hence the need for regulation – and where warranted, prosecution.

I feel confident in saying that Hillary Clinton is familiar with these regulations.  The basis for my statement is based on three historical facts.  The first, Ms. Clinton demonstrated a remarkable understanding of financial markets when she was able to turn a one thousand dollar investment in cattle futures into a one hundred thousand dollar account – a return of 10,000%.   The second, continuing with the narrative of her stellar financial acumen, the Clintons claimed that they were “dead broke” when they left the White House – and yet, starting with nothing, have managed to accumulate well more than one hundred million in wealth.  The third, of course, is that Wall Street clearly understands Ms. Clinton’s unique insights into money and has recognized her talents by paying her $225,000 to share her wisdom with them in each of four separate one hour speeches.

Forgive me if, given the profound understanding that Ms. Clinton has of the way things work, not only in financial markets but political arenas as well, how she mishandled a few small but disturbing aspects of her job as Secretary of State.

The first, of course, is how she felt comfortable having an unsecured server on which she conducted official and personal business in violation of State Department rules;

The second is how a woman of her perspicacity could have confused the “c” in the header of emails she received, meaning “classified:”, with “cookie recipe”.

But the  most disturbing thing to me about candidate Clinton is, how did she come to develop such a misanthropic and disdainful view of people and on what basis has she come to accept her obviously imperious view of the world.

I can see only one posible benefit coming from the election of Hillary Clinton to the presidency of the United States.  She will create a tremendous demand for new jobs for music teachers.  All of us will have to learn to play the lyre as we watch the liar that is Hillary Clinton set America ablaze.

As we come down to the wire and the general election is less than two weeks away, I look at it’s being over with a mixture of gratitude and trepidation.  Gratitude that the endless political ads will have ended – and trepidation as to the outcome.

That we have two flawed candidates (my apologies to Gov. Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein who are essentially irrelevant), from whom we must choose is rather distasteful.  But at least one of those, Donald J. Trump won his nomination fairly and squarely in a field as crowded as the Kentucky Derby and despite an entrenched Republican establishment that actively opposed him.  They lost that battle and are working hard to lose the war because they refuse to recognize a truism uttered by the late Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, “The people has spoke.”

From  a quick read of some of the revelations being supplied by Wikileaks, it’s becoming clear that Hillary Rodham Clinton had some underhanded (and perhaps illegal assistance) in getting where she has gotten.  Nevertheless, she is on the ballot and we Americans have a choice to make.  The decision is effectively a binary one – and I have thrown my support and my vote to Trump for one simple reason which the late humorist, Will Rogers so eloquently expressed:

“I am less concerned about what government can do for me than I am concerned about what government can do to me.”

There are two things we can say about Trump and Clinton with some degree of certainty.  The first is that they are both human (although extreme partisans in either camp might dispute the validity of that statement as it pertains to the opposing candidate).  The second is that they have, during their lifetimes, both switched party affiliations.

Trump claims that in order to do business in his home base of New York City, it was essential that he both register as a Democrat and contribute to various Democratic candidates in order to “grease the wheels” of commerce.  While I don’t know if that was true in NYC, I do know that was a certainty in Chicago where I spent most of my adult life.  Attempting to do business with the City of Chicago as a self-identifying Republican was about as fruitful as a man who had lost both his arms in an accident attempting to engage in a little self-abuse.

Clinton arrived at Wellesley College armed with a copy of  Sen. Barry Goldwater’s book, “The Conscience of a Conservative” and four years later had shed this tome in favor of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”.  With her newly enlightened mindset, naturally Clinton turned her political allegiance away from her Republican foundation and joined the ranks of the militant Democrats – the purported champions of the “little people”.  But is that characterization in fact consistent with the real history of  Democrats?

Dinesh D’Souza took on this subject in his excellent documentary, “Hillary’s America:  The Secret History of the Democratic Party”. The movie is available on-line and I heartily recommend watching it by anyone who has an interest in American politics.  But below you will find my marginally edited recap – together with some additional material that I believe is relevant and important.

In 1838, Democrat president Andrew Jackson implemented his plan to remove the indigenous pre-Columbian Cherokee people from the ancestral lands they occupied east of the Mississippi River, relocating them to what is now the state of Oklahoma.  The Cherokees called this “The Trail of Tears”.  Of the estimated 15,000 men, women and children who began that march, it is estimated that 4,000 perished en route.  Jackson was no friend of “diversity”.

The year was 1861.  In South Carolina, Democrats fired the first shots on the Union garrison at Ft. Sumter beginning the Civil War.  The reason for the salvo and the primary motivation for the Confederate onslaught that took more American lives than any other war in which this nation has been engaged since it’s inception was the preservation of the institution of slavery.

It was the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln who wrote and spoke the words of the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves from their bondage.  It was Democrat John Wilkes Booth, the active agent of a covert conspiracy who fired the fatal shot, killing the president.

In the Reconstruction Era, Democrats founded the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate the newly freed slaves and discourage them from exercising their newly forged freedom.  The tactics that were employed included whippings and lynchings.  Although this original hate group soon died out, it saw two later reincarnations -revived in both cases by people who identified as Democrats.

In 1878, U. S. Senator Aaron A. Sargent introduced a bill that was destined, forty-two years later, to become the 19th Amendment to the Constitution – granting the right to vote to women.  Not one single Democrat in the Senate voted for this legislation and it had to be re-introduced two more times before it met the requirements to be voted out of the Congress and given to the states for ratification.

The year was 1942 and Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the War Department’s Executive Order 9066 which authorized and resulted in the internment of more than 110, 000 Japanese-Americans who were legal residents in the United States.  Of these, more than 20,000 were U. S. citizens.  This complete violation of the Constitutional rights of these individuals was upheld by a majority Democrat dominated Supreme Court.

A significant number of the ads which are being aired in Nevada and, I presume, in most other states, portray Trump as a person who is “unstable” and should “never be trusted with the codes that could launch our nuclear weapons”. Personally, as a child of the cold war, I remember my many nightmares in which, despite our air raid drills at school and the yellow and black signs on our public buildings indicating that they were “bomb shelters,” none of these made me feel secure.  That humanity has both developed and continues to stockpile a sufficient quantity of these weapons effectively to destroy all life on our planet still causes me to shudder.  But what is the actual history of the deployment of nuclear weapons?

The year was 1945 and Germany and Italy had been defeated by the Allies.  The war against the Japanese Empire continued.  Despite the advice of his military advisors, including Dwight D. Eisenhower who would succeed him in the Oval Office and who advocated for a naval blockade of the Japanese islands, Democrat President Harry S. Truman gave the order to drop atomic weapons on Hiroshima and two days later on Nagasaki.  Although there are no exact statistics of the number of people who were liquidated immediately when the bombs fell or who subsequently perished from radiation poisoning, the estimates are that at least 600,000 people died, making these the most devastating two days in human history.

In its historic decision in 1957, the Supreme Court struck down school segergation, a policy that was typical of the discriminatory anti-black laws which Democrats had championed in the South.  In Arkansas, a state in which Hillary Clinton should later become First Lady, the scene was set for confrontation as Democrat Governor Orval Faubus intended to resist the Supreme Court’s ruling.

At Little Rock Central High School, formerly an all white school, nine black students had enrolled for the new school year.  When they arrived at school they were greeted by angry crowds.  President Eisenhower summoned Faubus to the White House to demand that he call in the National Guard to ensure the safety of these students.  Faubus declined to do so, ultimately causing President Eisenhower to call in the 101st Airborne to ensure the students’ safety and to control those who protested the integration of our public schools.

Republican President George W. Bush has been widely excoriated for engaging in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in which more than 7,000 American service people have died.  Part of that criticism comes from the fact that among the dead enemy were additional people, euphemistically called “collateral damage” who were civilians including women and children.  That is tragic – but we should be used to this sort of tragedy as it happens every time violent conflict occurs.

But in contrast, our fourth bloodiest conflict, exceeded in death count only by the Civil War, WWII and WWI, the war in Vietnam, vigorously pursued by Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson, makes these recent sorties look like a nice day at a church picnic.

We lost 58,209 servicemen in Vietnam with an additional 1,643 MIA and presumed dead.  Perhaps the turning point in the mindset of Americans who originally supported this war, came about not only as the numbers of soldier deaths mounted but as the media began reporting on the way in which the war was being pursued, specifically that we were using napalm as a tool to “flush out” the Viet Cong.

Napalm is a gelatinous compound that burns through almost anything in which it comes in contact – including human flesh. This iconic Time Magazine photo of a naked nine year old girl and her friends who had napalm dumped on their village in 1972 might have been the most gripping of any picture taken in Vietnam or perhaps any war.

 

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And there you have it … a somewhat concise history of nearly two hundred years of how Democrats have addressed the questions of race and women and bringing about peace through diplomacy.  It hardly squares with the propaganda about “inclusion” which is one of the central themes of their talking points.  Is there an explanation?

At the beginning of D’Souza’s movie, he speaks with a fellow prisoner in his jail.  (D’Souza was convicted and sentenced for improperly making a ten thousand dollar political contribution to a friend’s campaign).  In light of the information coming out from Wikileaks about monies being moved around to support a failed Democratic candidate for the Virginia Senate – amounting to close to three quarters of a million dollars – whose husband is the number two person in the FBI and had oversight responsibility into the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email illegalities, D’Souza’s offense seems rather like small potatoes.

His fellow inmate was a con artist.  And as though it had been lifted directly from Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” if the truth about his con were uncovered and the facts revealed that his con was a sham, D’Souza asked, “How do you deal with that revelation?”  His answer was, “Lie, lie, and keep on lying.  Never admit to or give up the con.”

Hillary Clinton has lied and lied and lied and has never given up her con.  And that’s precisely why I cast my vote for Donald J. Trump.

HOW MUCH DO TWO POUNDS WEIGH?

Moving into my first apartment was a great thrill for me.  Finally, life in a college dormitory was at a merciful end.  No more waking up at three in the morning because a fellow student was inebriated and decided that it would be fun to pull the fire alarms that appeared in several places on each floor.  Of course, as exciting as this all was, there was a daunting challenge ahead.  Furnishing this new space.

Fortunately, as the organist at the local Roman Catholic church, I had connections.  A number of the parishioners were kind enough to lend or give me some of their old furniture until I could afford to upgrade.  One of these gifts was a double bed frame which came without either box spring or mattress.  So I bought a futon and laid it on the bare frame.  This proved moderately uncomfortable so I soon placed the futon on the floor where it belonged anyway.  But I did make the decision to buy several pillows, slip covers and pillow cases – leaving the purchase of sheets for a later date.

I returned home with my bulky pillow purchase, removed the contents from the large bags in which the store had placed them and began putting the slipcovers on the pillows when I made a discovery.  On both of the standard size pillows there was a tag which had been machine sewed into the welting.  The tag contained information on the content of the pillow, the content of the ticking, the place of manufacture (this was the early 70’s so it naturally said, “Made in the USA”), and then followed an ominous warning which read:  “DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAG UNDER PENALTY OF LAW”.

Reading this warning naturally caused me to wonder what law I would be breaking should I choose to disregard the warning and what was it intended to prevent from happening?  For the life of me, the only logical danger I could see might be that if I were not careful cutting it from the pillow I might accidentally incise into the pillow and expose the duck feathers that were inside.  Well, I decided not to chance bringing about the apocalypse so I slipped the pillow cover over the pillow and then put them into the cases, artfully arranging them on the futon.  Then I stood back and viewed my handiwork, looking forward to a comfortable night’s sleep.

Well, I did get a good night’s sleep that night and for the next several weeks.  But after not too long a while I found that those little tags were getting bunched up from the pressure of my head and were ratting up into annoying little wads.  So I made the major decision to get out my best scissors and eliminate them.  But I took precautions.

I still had not been able to afford window coverings in the living room so I decided that removing the tags there would merely invite government intrusion into my illicit operation.  We were all a little paranoid back then, thinking that the government was spying on us.  Little did we know what the 21st century would bring in that regard.  I retreated to my bedroom, excluded my Irish Setter, Finney from the room as I did not want him to be implicated should this matter ever come to trial.  And I lit a housewarming candle which was dedicated to St. Bonaventure and had been given to me by the parishioner who had donated the somewhat delapidated couch which was the focal (and only) seating in the living room.

I gave the candle a moment for the wick to burn down to the wax and searched my memory to recall what St. Bonaventure was the patron saint of – pardon the grammar. I wasn’t sure which saint was responsible for interceding for those of us who broke laws here on earth – but I was sure that St. Bonaventure would know the correct department to which he would forward my case.

With the skill and adeptness of a brain surgeon, I cut the tag from the first pillow.  I held the wadded up label in my left hand and looked around the room to see if there might suddenly be a water leak or any cracks in the ceiling, caused by my defiance of the regulations prohibiting what I had just done.  I breathed a sigh of relief, quickly grabbed the second pillow and dispatched the other label in the same way.  Still, no signs of structural damage to the apartment and no seismic shaking.

I quickly cut the two labels into a myriad of pieces and flushed them down the toilet in four separate batches over several days so that whoever was in charge of  investigating the removal of labels from pillows would find it difficult to trace this crime back to me.  I also put a portion of the two labels in two separate kitchen garbage bags so that even if the remainder of the labels were retrieved from the sanitation system and pieced back together, a portion of each label would be missing.  I was fairly comfortable that I had covered my tracks and was about to blow out my St. Bonaventure candle when suddenly it hit me.  My fingerprints were all over those two labels.  So I decided to make a novena to St. Bonaventure over the following eight days and I hoped that would save me from arrest.

Well, I ended my novena, much to my relief no one came knocking at my door nor was there any police tape indicating that my apartment was a crime scene.  But it was a full two months after my deed before I began to breathe a complete sigh of relief.  I had gotten away with it.  These days I think of this as my Hillary Clinton moment – but, of course, on a much smaller scale.

Being a curious sort, once my angst had abated, I thought about why this pillow regulation existed in the first place.  That seems like a rational question, don’t you think?  I mean, if there is a rule or a law, it should have some basis in common sense.  When I was in school it was forbidden for us students to run on the stairways.  The faculty explained that doing so could result in a student’s tripping and injuring her or himself. That made sense.  But the only thing that I could see as a result of the “Do Not Remove” tag was that it caused me, and I presume others, to have less than a restful sleep.

It took half a century for me finally to come up with the answer to that question.  These regulations are not intended for the most intelligent of our citizens but for our least bright.  And as sad as that admission may be, I do believe it is the truth.  Had I questioned that hypothesis before, it was completely confirmed by a shopping trip to Target a few days ago.

I had intended to order some Pupperoni for my companion dog, Gracie on the internet.  However, I received a new debit card from my bank and within a week it was already frozen because it had been “compromised.”  So much for the latest and greatest in technology.  As a result, I was low on this favorite treat of hers and I decided to go to Target to replenish our stock until I got my replacement card.  I would bite the bullet and pay a little more than I would have to spend from an internet provider.

Much to my surprise, Target was running a sale on Pupperoni.  The two pound price was reduced from $13.99 to $9.99.  And, by buying two packages, Target was offering a $5.00 gift card on a future purchase.  As I browsed through the numerous flavors that were available I noticed that the product was also offered in a 25 oz. size at the same $9.99 price – except that there was no gift card offer on the smaller size.  I wondered, why would anyone purchase the smaller sized product?  It wasn’t long until I had my answer.

As I was surveying the shelf, a woman I put in her middle thirties came up to the dog treat aisle with a rather full shopping cart.  She walked up to the Pupperoni area and grabbed a 25 oz. bag of the product.  Being the helpful person I try to be, I pointed out that if she purchased two of the two pound product, she would pay the same price as for her smaller package and get the $5.00 gift card as well.  Her response surprised me.

She asked, “How much does two pounds weigh?”

Fortunately, my right knee was paining me fiercely and my long journey through Target to the second to last aisle in the store where dog treats were housed did nothing to ameliorate that.  Otherwise, I would have impishly responded, “Well, it depends.  As you know, feathers weigh less than lead – so it sort of depends.”  But instead, I recovered from the stupidity of the statement to respond, “Two pounds.”

She then followed up with another question which also surprised me, “How many ounces are there in two pounds?”

Forgive me but if you’re over forty years old you probably knew the answer to that question when you were in second or third grade.  Maybe fourth – I’ve forgotten.  Nevertheless, I took a deep breath and answered, “Thirty two.”

Fortunately, mankind is blessed with having five senses, one of which is feeling.  A reasonable person doesn’t even need to know the answer to this shopper’s question.  One could pick up both similarly priced products and determine which is the heavier and therefore the better value.  I felt as though I were on an episode of Watter’s World on the O’Reilly Factor.  You probably know the segment where Jesse Watters interviews people who are so thoughtful that they think that George Hamilton is the president on the one dollar bill.

Despite the pain I was feeling in my knee, I couldn’t leave this alone.  Call it a weakness on my part.  So I followed up with the statement, “You know, you look like the kind of person who is probably voting for the same person as I am for president and that’s the reason I wanted to point out the better value so you could save some money.

This woman responded, “Oh, you’re voting for Hillary too?”

I answered her, “How could you think anything else?”

So she picked up her 25 oz. package of Pupperoni, put it in her cart, and wished me a good day.  I remember shaking my head, picking up my product and leaving the store after I had gone through the self-checkout and getting my gift card.

And so the lesson to be learned here is an old aphorism.

“There’s no fixing dumb.”

“Deus in adjutorium meum intende.”

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