RACIAL INSENSITIVITY VERSUS RACIAL HYPERSENSITIVITY

October 9, 2017

A big story making is making the rounds that is telling about the state of our society: Dove’s apology for a “racially insensitive” ad about their product.

For those of you who haven’t seen it (it’s been removed but being shown as the centerpiece of reportage on the debacle), a black woman with a dark brown shirt (with a small bottle of Dove in the lower right corner) is shown morphing, as she removes the shirt, into a white woman with a pale tan shirt, and the effect is repeated with a third woman with dark hair and a medium complexion wearing a mid-range colored shirt. Honestly, after seeing the ad, I had to go back and recheck it online to see what all the hoopla was. So, clearly, I’m racially insensitive.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

If I were racially sensitive, I’d have recognized (as I did after doing some Internet research) that there is a history of racist ads in the past with cartoons depicting black people being “washed” white with soap. In that context, I might be inclined to view this modern incarnation as more of the same.

If I were racially sensitive, I’d assume there was a conspiracy among the Dove ad committee that commissioned and approved the piece to run the risk of alienating a large swath of their consumers, both black, white and anything in-between, because of deeply ingrained racism.

When you view the world through racially sensitive lenses, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, for many, impugning racial insensitivity is tantamount to calling out bigotry. But perhaps “racial insensitivity,” for most people, is a product of the true goal: color-blindness. If you have a non-bigoted, racially insensitive person, and set this as the baseline, might that not redefine the racially sensitive person as “hypersensitive”? And does this hypersensitivity (or lack of insensitivity) unmask covert bigotry in the person crying foul? Something to think about.

Like most of us, I understand the inherent evil of racial prejudice and bigotry, but I think I’ll stick with my “insensitivity.” I understand why the makers of Dove had to go belly-up—it was the right corporate decision. But I’m not selling anything.

And when it comes to the idea that I have to look for hidden racial bias in everything, I’m not buying, either.

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TO KNEEL OR NOT TO KNEEL

September 25, 2017

When you get away from the emotion, the current hoopla surrounding the mass kneeling in the NFL during the national anthem is both simple and complex.

The story, as most everyone knows, began with the Colin Kaepernick’s one-knee “salute” during the pre-game playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, purportedly in protest of social injustice by law enforcement against the black community. Since then he’s become radioactive from a business standpoint and remains a free agent. Things simmered until the president’s recent commentary that kneelers should be fired, sparking a more broad-based exercise of the right to kneel (approximately 1-in-8 players per the media). It’s not entirely clear that the new kneelers are protesting the “racist nature” of the country; many analysts feel that the ascendant motivation at this time is support of their colleagues’ right to free speech and defiance of the president.

Both sides have cogent arguments: The kneelers supporting the First Amendment, the anti-kneelers asserting that disrespecting the anthem, the flag, and the country casts aspersions on first responders and the military, and that both the manner of the protest and the venue are inappropriate.

The business leaders in the NFL don’t have the right to abridge the First Amendment, but they do have the right and responsibility to establish dress codes and rules of behavior to protect their company and brand names. In this case, to date, beyond adopting a hands-off posture on Kaepernick, they have not done so. Corporations are not ideological and have one nerve ending: money. We can expect them to sit tight and watch the bottom line.

The talking heads will take a view according to their respective ideologies. On the Today Show this morning, while host Savannah Guthrie paid lip service to the complexity of the issue, their on-line survey regarding the question of the audience’s perception of the kneelers presented the choices, “It’s their right” and “It’s disrespectful,” omitting “All of the above.” One wonders if this option even crossed their minds.

There is only one arbiter of this newest manifestation of our increasing national ideological divide: The American people. They will decide to purchase the NFL product in its current incarnation, or walk.

You get to decide.

SMOKE AND MIRRORS: THE HEALTHCARE ACT VANISHING GAME

August 7, 2017

The American public is frustrated. Congress has its lowest approval rating ever. And they just can’t seem to pass a healthcare bill. The only surprise is that anyone’s surprised, and even that should come as no surprise. Let us gaze upon the elephant(s) in the room:

First, almost everyone hates the do-nothing Congress but continues to elect the same career politicians over and over again, pointing the finger at “the other guy.”

Second, everyone wants healthcare reform unless it involves rescinding expanded benefits that the prior legislation meted out.

Third, everyone wants laws that require emergency rooms to provide urgent care irrespective insurance or ability to pay (that’s what a compassionate society does, right?) but no one wants a mandate to purchase health insurance.

Beginning to see a pattern?

Congress can’t fix a system that needs a major overhaul in both the way we think and the way we conduct business until we accept the fact that we need to overhaul the way we think and conduct business. A politician’s lifeblood is votes. Everyone accepts the need for increasing efficiencies and trimming waste and fraud in healthcare, and many embrace increasing competition in the insurance marketplace. Some are convinced a single-payer system is the answer (see below). But it will not be enough. The burgeoning ranks of the elderly infirm with fewer workers to pay for their care doom any of the current plans to failure. For any clear-thinking healthcare worker the trajectory of premiums for Obamacare was inevitable from the day of its conception. Gravity says you go down, and the laws of economics say, “You don’t get sumthin’ for nuthin’, as much as wishful thinking tries to obscure this truth. With bunsiness as usual, the many hidden taxes in Obamacare were insufficient to sustain the mandate of covering all pre-existing conditions and extending insurance for “minors” until age 26, on top of providing mandated non-essential care. And it’s only going to get worse.

What’s the answer? Health care rationing, otherwise called “death panels” by those that want to quash any reasonable discussion of the topic.

We’ve always had covert rationing (shhh!). Anyone who thinks a homeless street person gets the same level of care as a movie star or professional ballplayer (or Congressperson, for that matter) is living in a fantasy world. That being said, the excesses in the U.S. system are more enormous at all levels of care than most people realize. I will illustrate with a single example: At a recent meeting I attended there was a discussion about the suitability of placing an artificial valve in a patient that had a critical narrowing of the exit valve of the heart, otherwise known as aortic (valve) stenosis, which kills someone within 1-3 years of onset of symptoms. Until a few years ago, the only treatment was an open heart operation, but innovative minds developed a procedure to place a valve inside the old, calcified valve via an artery without surgery, known as transcatherer aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. This particular patient was in her late 60s to early 70s, had advanced alcohol-related liver disease (but was no longer drinking), and had begun to show signs of reduced blood clotting and fluid accumulation in the belly known as ascites related to her diseased liver. Although her life expectancy from the liver disease cannot be precisely predicted from the information I have, it is not unreasonable to postulate 3-5 years. Her aortic valve disease would probably kill her within 1-2. She was deemed a high risk surgical candidate so is being triaged to TAVR. It is more difficult to find the average cost of the procedure doing an Internet search than a cost-effectiveness figure ($50,000 is considered the benchmark for qualitylife-years gained, or QALY, originally based on hemodialysis figures), but $52,200 ± $28,200 is the estimate I found, representing a purported net loss for the institution (as opposed to surgical valve replacment which supports a net gain). Assuming that this patient has no complications (likely, but certainly not guaranteed), you will reduce her short term risk and improve short term quality of life significantly. However, you now have a patient with another terminal illness (end-stage liver disease) at even higher bleeding risk due to the aggressive antiplatelet drugs needed to prevent valve clots, who will likely live longer to be in and out of the hospital in her final years to palliate her progressive liver disease. (Of course, it is possible that the medications could shorten her life, as liver patients are prone to bleeding for many reasons.) Now extrapolate this example across the country and across different illnesses and medical specialties, and you’ll begin to get a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

So, are these doctors greedy, incompetent, or stupid? Absolutely not. A terminally ill patient with advanced cancer and low life expectancy would never come up for discussion. However, that large (and growing) senior population with serious chronic illnesses we’ve become so proficient at eking every last ounce of life from is a much more difficult decision for doctors. Often, they feel that societal issues should not come between the physician and the patient, and everyone is loathe to place the responsibility for these tough decisions in the hands of the government. The upshot of all this is that we’ve abdicated the responsibility to address this overtly. And no wonder: Opening oneself to the criticism of being an uncaring bean-counter is no more appealing to a physician or layperson than to a politician seeking reelection.

So what can we do?

We can set up committees made up of doctors, clergy, citizens, social workers, economists, and yes, politicians to examine clinical scenarios and/or actual patient cases and determine suitability and feasibility of a particular high-cost interventions, adding into the equation societal and fiscal constraints. (There are those that believe a single-payer system will solve the system’s ills, perhaps by overtly or covertly addressing this; I’m skeptical, but the debate is beyond the scope of this rant). This independent committee approach unburdens the caregiver of the responsibility for factoring in issues extraneous to the patient. However, this concept will not be well received. Consider the outrage engendered by recent British government intervention in its decision to prevent a high risk procedure on an infant afflicted with a congenital ailment. Although in this case I agree with the critics, as it was reported that the funding was obtained by the family from private sources, there are other high-profile examples of widespread censure of attempts to limit life-giving care in patients with poor prognosis (i.e. Karen Ann Quinlan and Terri Schiavo, to name a couple).

So what will we do?

All indications are that we will continue to posture, discuss repealing and replacing or modifying Obamacare, and either do it or not. For me, it doesn’t matter. Without fundamental changes that I believe the American people, at this time, are unwilling to accept, the downward economic medical spiral will persist. The forecast is for increasing debt paralleling that of the greater economy (of which healthcare comprises 18%). Like a junkie needing greater and greater cash infusions, it will need to hit bottom before it changes.

I know this is a pretty grim, some might say pessimistic, prediction. And there is always the chance that the exponential advance of technology may save us by completely changing the face of medicine. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of time.

The truth is, elephants in a small room make quite a mess.

COMEY, COMEY, COMEY…THE SYMPTOMS OF A PSYCHOTIC AMERICA

May 17, 2017

If you’ve been trying to find out what’s going on in the world—you’re out of luck. You see, the media is preoccupied. In case you haven’t heard (and if not, you’d better stop binge drinking)…James Comey was fired.

There may be other important events occurring in this world of over 7 billion people, but none of them can hold a candle to this, the most significant of the present time—if the incessant media coverage is any indication. I thought perhaps it was just me agitating over the endless, redundant reportage and analysis of the firing of the FBI director by President Trump, an admittedly newsworthy but hardly earth-shattering event; but a recent poll documented that about a third of those asked had no opinion on the story. I don’t think the politicos and the journalists are in that camp.

I suppose it’s no surprise in an increasingly polarized political/ideological environment that this sort of psychosis will play out. The left, particularly Trump haters, believe or fervently want to believe that the president is in cahoots with Russia as this is the quickest and easiest route to impeachment, so spinning the firing as an attempt by Trump to smother the investigation is very attractive. The obvious about-face (you may recall a chorus of demands for Comey’s departure rang out after the Hillary email debacle) would be comical if it weren’t so disturbing. There were no complaints about Russia’s nefarious actions prior to Trump’s unexpected rally and win, as raising concerns of a tainted election would have been counterproductive to the anticipated Hillary rout.

In an Unraveling that precedes a Crisis, this type of behavior does serve a useful purpose: It plays nicely into the denial necessary to maintain the present degree of unstable equanimity. By avoiding the red-lining economic, cultural and societal issues that are being systemically neglected in the setting of a chaotic international scene, side issues provide cover for the fact that these failures have no simple solutions and may have progressed beyond the ability to reverse. Furthermore, many of the governing elite, media, and citizenry avoid it by not seeing it at all. The mindset, or the hope, is that “things are always like this, go up and down, and will eventually turn around.” This is actually true. However, a study of history reveals that these 80-100 year cycles “turn around” after a period of costly, deadly collapse and reset amidst a collective gasp of incredulity by the populace. And a positive final outcome is not preordained.

I used to see myself as a doomsayer. It’s true that the cries for a reversal of our present intransigence, for fiscal and personal responsibility and smaller government are more strident but are lost in an echo chamber of indoctrination for social justice and entitlement. Now I reserve my optimism for the post-Crisis reset: I still believe that there may be enough idealism left in America to rebuild the ethos that underpinned the foundation of this, the greatest experiment in human history.

I just wish the cure didn’t require electroconvulsive shock therapy.

Apocalypse in the Wings—Hint: It’s Not Zombies, Part 2

April 17, 2017

Two rants ago I promised to return to the subject of the dangers of artificial intelligence. I made the assertion, likely outrageous to some (and dissonant with my inclinations as a technophile), that the threat it will pose is much more proximate than global warming. Years ago, based on the changes in technology we’d seen up until that point in time, I extrapolated what seemed to be its inevitable evolution born of the exponential advancement in both computer hardware and software. Prior treatments of runaway technology in word and cinema are legion, and the act of purveying it as entertainment, just like natural disaster and post-apocalyptic visions, frighten and desensitize us to them at the same time. It’s a “Whoa—what if …? Nah!” reaction. The sad truth is, zombies excluded, the scenarios all have terrifying plausibility and are so overwhelming that it’s easier and more palatable to shrug and say, “Good thing it’s not for real.” Unfortunately, while EMPs asteroid collisions, and global pandemics are rare and far between, wars and malevolent AI are neither. The former we’re familiar with because, large or small, they impact every generation. As our martial technologies progress they become more deadly, but they are the devil we know. Untethered artificial intelligence is something we write about, but have yet to experience, because we’re approaching a nexus never before seen, what Ray Kurzweil calls the Singularity. In his book by the same name, written 12 years ago, he painstakingly outlines the multiple technological changes advancing geometrically that will converge in the not-too-distant future that will provide unimaginable benefits in terms of our health, energy availability, longevity, and much more (you can listen to him here). Artificial intelligence will augment human intelligence a thousand, or perhaps a million-fold. He sees it not as a competing force, but a symbiosis between the human and artificial, one that will be realized when we reach the point of Singularity some time in the 2040s. The 20-20 hindsight of the last 12 years perhaps exposes his timeline as a bit aggressive but more on point than my prior estimates. I, like others, even the experts, suffer from the same shortcoming of thinking linearly, not geometrically, in assessing change. But the truth is that, as Mr. Kurzweil documents, we are on the knee-bend of the technological growth curve, where everything before appears to have progressed linearly, and will soon take off like a Saturn rocket. If you closely examine the last ten years, this is already becoming evident, with powerful computers in every pocket, incredible advances in voice recognition, and medical advances on the brink of a major paradigm shift, to name a few.

So this is a good thing, right? Yes, and no. With the unfathomable good comes an equally disturbing downside. Look at the bellwether of the Internet to see this more clearly: The old “World Wide Web” changed our lives forever in big ways and small. Information-gathering, interacting, and commerce are instantaneous and global. With it comes the thieves, the scammers, and the predators. With each new threat comes another solution, the good a half-step ahead of the bad. We talk about the risks of cyberattacks on the financial sector and the infrastructure, but thus far have managed to limit these to skirmishes rather than world war, at increasing cost and with the recognition of increasing risk with every passing year.

Now let’s move the above reality into the arena of AI. As computers continue to grow in computational power at an accelerating rate and the software that controls them follows suit, program complexity also soars. Programming languages layer one on another, increasing the ease of use and also the automation of programming functions. In the near future programs will write and improve programs. This is not conjecture, but inevitability. At some point, and I argue this is withing a few decades, the intellect and speed will be so far beyond human reach, that only machine intelligence will be able to write and debug code. Along with this, genetic manipulation, bio- and nanotechnology, and robotics will improve in a parallel fashion, becoming faster and more nimble in executing the changes in their own evolution. Recognizing the risk, of course there will be multiple layers of safeguards. Past history has shown, however, that there will always be bad people hijacking the technology for their own foul purposes, and again we will witness the war between good and evil. Unfortunately, the risks and the stakes in this new war will be unlike anything the human race has previously encountered. When the atomic bomb was introduced, we entered an era where, for the first time, mass destruction became possible. To date, we’ve been able to narrowly avert this catastrophe. With malevolent, runaway code combined with high-tech machines we may not be in a position to decide.

The promise and risk of the next few decades is enormous and unprecedented. May God give us the wisdom to prevail.

***

Shameless plug alert: Just released my second novel, The Nidus, on Amazon as a Kindle ebook which pertains to this topic. It highlights near-future events as they might happen. I know that it’s by no means the first treatment of this subject, only the first to get it right (yes, I am privy to future events, the stock market, unfortunately, excluded).

Trump’s Moral Confusion

February 8, 2017

I’ve delayed my promised wrap-up of the dangers inherent in artificial intelligence till my next rant to explore a topical failure in human intelligence, or at least human values.

 

At a gathering this past week I had a conversation with an acquaintance who appeared to share many of my world views. However, when the subject of Israel and the Middle East came up, we had a spirited discussion about equating loss of innocent lives during military action versus the intentional targeting of non-combatants (an argument I’ve heard before). To me, this was an otherwise reasonable man attempting to assert equivalence between collateral damage and terrorism.

 

Which brings me to President Trump. This past week he took a brief break from tweeting to sit down for an interview with Bill O’Reilly. During that dialog, he was asked if he respected President Putin, and while he acknowledged it remained to be seen if they would get along, he maintained that he respected the Russian leader. When reminded by Mr. O’Reilly that the man was a “killer,” Trump replied, “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”

 

It behooves all of us, especially our president, to get our heads above the moral fog that seems to have enveloped us over the past few decades. No, we are not perfect; as a nation of human beings we never can be. And we should strive to be better. But even with our mistakes and missteps we’ve come the closest to assuring human rights and dignity of any system devised in the history of mankind. The principles upon which this country is based (and which, paradoxically, seem to foster this moral confusion), have created the most powerful meritocracy the world has ever known. If we lose sight of this, and focus more on our shortcomings than on our successes, as our enemies hope, we will become progressively immobilized as a people by the toxic cloud of moral confusion.

 

The slogan of Trump’s campaign has been “America First.” If he continues down this road he can join ex-President Obama on the second “Blame America First” tour.

Apocalypse in the Wings—Hint: It’s Not Zombies

January 23, 2017

The turns of history predict we’re approaching a Crisis in the next 5-15 years. There are many candidates proposed. If you were to watch popular television, it’s gluttonous zombies. If you’re PC, it’s global warming, repackaged as climate change. If you’re a historian, war and/or economic collapse rate high on your list. If your leanings are more to the celestial, it’s that pesky rogue asteroid or a well-aimed electromagnetic pulse (EMP) flaring from the sun. They’re all plausible speculations (well, maybe not the perambulating re-vivified carcasses), but let’s examine them in the light of reason.

War and economic collapse certainly occupy the 1 and 2 slots, in either order. The Middle East is a hotbed, we’re doing our best to fight, in as limited a fashion as possible, the neo-Nazi neo-Caliphate, and we’re printing money and borrowing cash as breathlessly as we can to keep up with our insatiable urge to create a more utopian society and bolster a standard of living we always seem to be just one or two paces behind (if only ancient Rome had had the Federal Reserve!).

If these weren’t enough, we’ve got the specter of global cooling to deal with (oops!; that was the 1970s). There is evidence that we’ve had progressive warming of the planet, AKA climate change. Some of my more expert acquaintances on the subject tell me that longer term evidence on past climate patterns does not jive with the short term temperature records used to define the trend. Other analyses suggest that many scientists who support the concept of global warming don’t necessarily feel the evidence supports the level of short-term risk trumpeted in the media. But the mainstream warns that such views are tantamount to denying the Holocaust. Accepting as fact that we’re into a long term warming trend, and the cause an increase in atmospheric CO2, the second proclaimed non-controversy is that mankind is the culprit. Assuming this too as fact, we must deal with (or ignore, which is safer in this political climate, pun intended) the issue that some experts have calculated that if we were to impose all the carbon restrictions the world has proposed in recent edicts, it would have a miniscule effect on the trend, but a major impact on the world economy. So, in my cataclysmic conjecture, that brings us back to economic collapse. No matter where the truth lies, we can all agree that reducing carbon emissions and levels of associated pollution isn’t a bad idea. The solutions, I believe, will come not from arbitrarily imposed carbon restrictions but from technology, which I expect to be the source of abundant, reduced-carbon and carbon-free energy much sooner than people think. Unfortunately, as I will point out, this technology boon or boom comes at the cost of one of our greatest threats. So, for your edification and convenience, I provide the true and incontrovertible risk assessment for the next Apocalypse (drum roll, please):

  • 1/2. War (including cyber warfare and man-made EMP attacks)
  • 1/2. Economic collapse.
  • 3. Artificial intelligence.
  • 4. EMP from the sun.
  • 5. Climate change (of the hot variety)
  • 6. Asteroid collision.
  • 7. The Walking Dead.

AI as number 3, you ask? Too much scifi in my entertainment diet, right? Scoff if you will. It’s true that science fiction has given about the same emphasis to numbers 3 and 7, trivializing  and desensitizing us to the former. That has been a tragic mistake. Because number 3 is very real, and coming at us like a freight train (or, more apropos, a hurtling asteroid).

I strongly recommend viewing Sam Harris’s brief but excellent TED talk on the subject here, then rejoin me at your leisure (if we’re all still here) for additional thoughts on the matter.

POST ELECTION BLAH-BLAH

November 14, 2016

I breathed a sigh of relief the morning after with confirmation that Trump had, indeed, achieved the seemingly impossible and threaded the needle to greater than 270 electoral votes. Like the majority of conservative voters, I was not a Trump supporter; but I was not a “never-Trumper,” either.

I believed, and still do, that people who truly liked either candidate are uninformed, immoral, or amoral. Of course, I disagreed with the progressive left on who posed the greater danger to our country. They allowed themselves to believe the propaganda that Donald Trump was worse than a coarse, sometimes juvenile candidate and mischaracterized him as bigoted and unstable. They falsely proclaimed reprehensible actions (Hillory’s) as less consequential than inexcusable words (Donald’s). The demonstrations/riots that followed the election serve to illustrate that belief, although it remains unclear what proportion of his detractors share this level of angst (there are talking heads that proclaim these demonstrations are not spontaneous, but bought and paid for, like those at the pre-election Trump rallies).

In the past, winning an election has been declared a “mandate,” and this election is no exception. Now, I support the concept of the electoral college and the rationale for our founders crafting a republic rather than a democracy (yes, we are the former, not the latter). But the success of our country moving forward hinges on our net values. It is not lost on me that small majority of the popular vote went to Hillary. This is the result of decades of government growth, expansion of the welfare state (handouts), and liberal education that fails to educate our children on the reasons an electoral college and a Senate exist (I recently laughed as a liberal senator was quoted as decrying the existence of the electoral college, the same concept that was responsible for giving her a job). Because both candidates were so flawed, it is difficult to determine to what extent this muddies the waters in terms of the electorate’s core beliefs.

At this point, is it in the realm of possibility that changing course, if this occurs, will reverse the steady decline (I recognize the left does not see a steady decline)? I don’t know. Already the cries for “unity” and “compromise” that have derailed previous attempts to move to the right ring out. You cannot unify mutually exclusive, disparate beliefs, only compromise on how quickly and to what extent you get there. While I strongly believe a constitutionally conservative Supreme Court will benefit the country in the years ahead over a liberal progressive one, unless we get a handle on our spending and debt and calm the turbulent international waters, a peaceful, evolutionary healing will be impossible. Historical cycles indicate we’re approaching a Crisis, and there may be no way to stop it, only overcome it.

And it will extract a great cost.

ELECTORAL PSYCHOSIS: OR THE HILLARUMP-TRILLARY SYNDROME

May 25, 2016

I came across an op-ed piece in our local newspaper recently by Eliot Cohen. His commentary boiled down to a call for a third-party candidate. He termed Hillary Clinton “easily the lesser evil” and posited that a third-party candidate would send her a message to “govern from the center.”

A bit later in the week I had a brief political sidebar with a patient (this seems to arise more often these days), and he expressed disgust with the current polarization and voiced a similar wish for more cooperation and a move to the center.

Now, I’ve been persistently perplexed by the rise to the top of two deeply flawed candidates who share at least one thing in common: They have the highest unfavorable ratings of the pack. So what would possess the American public to ostensibly rally around their least favored candidates? The call for a move to the center gelled a theory I’d been harboring.

But first, getting back to the patient, I inquired if he were $100,000 in debt, would he reduce his spending to neutral, “governing from the center,” as it were, or would he tighten his belt in an effort to climb the uphill road to fiscal recovery?

For decades now progressive Democrats and Republicans have doubled down on unprecedented “grow and spend” policies that have become so entrenched that much of the electorate cannot imagine a viable alternative. Many have adopted a similar personal fiscal policy, planning little for the future while enjoying the moment. The lines for $5 and $6 dollar Starbucks’ beverages grow even while we hear of increasing joblessness and a shrinking economy. The illusion of the status quo is buttressed by a growing welfare state supported by unprecedented borrowing, printing, and their associated campaign promises.

But the odd bird of an election we’re witnessing reflects an unease that’s starting to ripple across a growing segment of the country: a realization that things are not working. For many, the solution has taken the shape of a call for an outsider; someone who will do something—anything—differently. For some this “savior” takes the form of a blustering, fist-shaking, non-politician who talks a lot about “winning,” with populist catch-phrases in search of elusive policies and substance. For others, it’s the siren call of wealth redistribution, the indomitable phoenix of socialism and its comrade “social justice,” once again rising from the ashes even as the world watches its demise again…and again. And yet others crave a return to the only normal they can fathom after decades of intransigence, just a few more years of comforting printing and spending, and things will eventually work themselves out. This, even if the promises come from someone they don’t really trust…and who might be indicted. Finally, a growing but stunted group made an aborted attempt to place a voice that spoke to the only solution that makes sense: Shrinking government, reducing spending, stopping crony capitalism, and growing the private sector economy. But this messenger was tainted ideologically. Those on the left are conditioned to see this this viewpoint as espoused by narrow-minded bigots who love only corporate fat cats, and many in the center were put off by exhortations weighed down by right-to-life and other perceived religious undertones.

When faced with the knowledge that something must be done and the one obvious solution you’ve been told is evil, cognitive dissonance occurs, and the paradox creates…the Hillarump-Trillary Syndrome. Side effects include mini-riots at campaign stops and spending an inordinate amount of media time distracting oneself with the pros and cons of a minute fraction of the public’s right to choose which bathrooms they may enter.

A third party candidate? Americans have always been an exceptionally innovative people. Given time, I’m certain we can come up with a someone we like even less.

BOSS TRUMP

December 14, 2015

We have a new Teflon Don. The resilience of John Gotti may be responsible for the coining of the nickname, but the old mob boss is now a whisper in history to the shout that’s known as Donald Trump. And arguably, Trump is the more deadly.

 

Few people, myself included, anticipated the staying power of the new Teflon Don. I’d assumed that his refreshing bluntness (read: bah, humbug to political correctness), his financial independence immunizing him to the demands of special interests, and his outsider status burnished by an astute business knowledge often lacking in career politicians, would fuel an ascent that would, however, fizzle in weeks to months–just as Republican candidate after candidate rose and fell in succession during the prior presidential election. A barrage of self-launched anti-Trump missiles would inevitably bring the campaign crashing back to Earth. Well, like so many others, I was wrong.

 

His most recent missile, supporting a moratorium on all Muslims entering the U.S. has, if anything, increased his poll numbers. My assumption that 75% of the conservative and right-of-center independents were just biding their time, waiting for another candidate to gain enough traction, may still be correct, but may now be only 70%–and falling.

 

I hate political correctness. I hate arrogant Washington insiders with about as much understanding of economics as Stalin. I hate the ineffective prosecuting of the terrorist threat and ineffectual protection of our borders. But I never thought anger would so cloud the sensorium of the electorate as to believe that a man with bull-in-a-china-shop diplomacy skills should serve as the international face of the U.S. And I don’t care if he gets Mexico to pay for the wall (although that would be a nice perk). But the true danger is making him the face of the Republican Party.

 

Now, I consider myself a conservative but only grudgingly associate with the GOP, which more often than not is as embarrassing as the Democrat Party. However, we remain a two-party system and the only alternative is Hillary. Trump’s antics give fuel to the specious arguments that conservatives are all racist, bigoted shills for the wealthy. While Trump will have no impact on the entrenched beliefs of the far left, my fear is that he’ll dramatically influence the undecided independents and the low-information crowd that arguably decide the election to move to Hillary’s camp, and cause many conservatives to stay home on election day. And this would spell disaster for our country and possibly set back conservatism for decades. No wonder the liberal media can’t get enough of him (they gave him more coverage this past week than the San Bernadino terrorist attack).

 

I still think it likely that Trump will implode, but I’m becoming less certain of that outcome with each passing week.

 

After all, he is the Teflon Don.