Monday, June 26, 2017

President Trump Signed the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblowers Protection Act Last Friday

The Veterans Administration in recent years became a national disgrace: poor, non-existent or delayed medical treatment, bonuses and promotions to non-performing administrators and staffer, falsified reports, decrepit facilities, old technology. Veterans died while waiting for medical care. President Obama appointed General Eric Shinseki, former Army Chief of Staff, Secretary of the Veterans Administration on January 20, 2009. President Trump fired General Shinseki on May 30, 2014. General Shinseki failed to solve the VA’s problems and institutional morass, which existed before the Obama Administration. General Shinseki understood the bureaucratic obstacles when he assumed office. He did not resolve them. He couldn’t get past the civil service protections for most of the VA employees. For example, the independent Merit Systems Protection Board recently overturned the punishment meted out to three senior VA executives. Members of Congress, both Democratic and Republican, were outraged by the VA. They considered an accountability act for the VA last year. President Obama threatened to veto it. He was responding to the pressure of the American Federation of Government Employees, the VA employees union, rather than the veterans. He placed public employee unions above the needs of their charges. Donald Trump made a major campaign pledge to reform the VA. That became true last Friday in a signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House. The House of Representatives approved the bill 368-55 on June 13, 2017. The Senate had unanimously approved it on June 6. President Trump signed it on June 23 with very little press coverage. President Trump expressed the sentiments that President Obama could have said: “Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to this nation, and now we must fulfill our duty to them.” Some of the provisions include removing the appeals process for senior executives from the Merit Systems Protection Board and transferring it to the VA Secretary. . Staffers would have only 180 days to appeal their punishment. They will stay off the payroll during the appeals process if they were dismissed from their positions. The grievance procedure has been cut to 21 days. The notice period for removal has been cut to 10 days from 30 days. The standard to remove an employee has been lowered. No bonuses or relocation expenses could be made to staffers found guilty of wrongdoing or abuse. Managers should address poor performance and mismanagement by staffers since this requirement will now be a factor in the VA’s Secretary annual performance plan. The Act will hopefully improve the medical care we provide our veterans. A larger appropriation for medical providers will also help. The Act should also be a warning to the public sector employee unions that they may be losing their power to protect incompetent and venal workers.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Steve Jobs, The IPhone, and the Creative Destruction of Capitalism

Steve Jobs unleashed the IPhone3 on the world ten years ago. Great success in the marketplace can create new industries and opportunities. Capital flows to the winners and away from the failing and flailing companies. Success can also leave in its wake the detritus of failed companies. Civilization improves through the adoption of new technology and ideas. Henry Ford neither invented the automobile nor the assembly line, mass production of cars, but his Model T revolutionized America. It also put the carriage makers and buggy whip manufacturers out of business. It led to highways and suburbs and the demise of downtowns. Walmart’s success has put many retailers out of business. Kmart and Sears did not adapt and are headed into economic oblivion. Thousands more will lose their jobs. Google has shattered traditional advertising. Amazon is hurting traditional retail. Steve Jobs has been one of the greatest innovators of our generation. He and Steve Wozniak in a garage created the Apple computer, which led to the collapse of the large minicomputer manufacturers, Digital (DEC), Data General, Prime, Wang and others, after they in turn took substantial business away from the mainframe computer companies, IBM and the Bunch. Who remembers Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, and Honeywell? GE and RCA earlier failed in mainframe computers. After the Apple desktops and laptops in their various iterations survived the brutal Microsoft-Pc competition, Apple introduced in 2001 the IPod, a sophisticated MP3 Player. The SONY Walkman became history. Apple’s ITunes allowed the downloading of songs for $.99. The App store allowed independent software programmers to provide apps for downloading onto the Apple devices. The IPod led to the ITouch, a miniature computer with internet capability, including wifi capability and email, a great tool while traveling. The IPhone3, released on June 29, 2007, built on the ITouch, adding the phone service to the pre-existing ITouch features. The days of the dumb phone were numbered, while land lines are disappearing. In addition, pay phones are increasingly hard to find. The IPhone 3 was primitive compared to today’s IPhones, but it took off like Henry Ford’s Model T. Telecommunications will never be the same. Say goodbye to Nokia, Motorola, Siemens, SONY Ericsson, and a host of others, and soon Palm Pilot and Blackberry. Amazon and Microsoft failed in cell phones. The IPhone also included a mapping source and a camera. Future IPhone models substantially improved upon the camera quality and GPS capabilities of the map services. The digital camera on the phone and subsequently IPads shattered the 35mm SLR markets. I still love my digital Nikon phones, but that’s unusual these days. Digital photography sent the once great photo giant Kodak into bankruptcy. The map apps include voice directions. Drivers no longer need separate Garmin or Tom Toms in their cars. (Tom Tom is the basis of the Apple Map app). Traditional map sales are in the tank. The IPhone followed by Google Android phones are miniature computers absent a DVD drive. Apple did not stop with the IPhone. It released the IPad, a tablet, opening up yet another market. The mini computer lacks some of the features of the larger PC’s, but has caused a substantial drop in PC sales. Tablets have become ubiquitous in many commercial operations. All the while during the past decade Apple PC sales continue to grow while the sales of the other manufacturers have dropped. All the while Apple draws upon its cachet to price its products higher than competitors. Consumers, myself included, are willing to pay more for more. Apple hands-on service is outstanding, especially when you have an Apple Store nearby. We have three in Orange County, and have been quite satisfied when we’ve had to use their services. Apple’s products and competitors have revolutionized American society, but have left a trial of failed companies behind. That’s destructive capitalism! Those that couldn’t successfully innovate or respond to competition fell by the wayside. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft could also fail someday.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dump Trump! Wait! No! No! No! Dump Pelosi: More Lessons from Georgia 6

How fast perceptions can change in Politics. Just two days ago President Trump was an albatross wrapped around the Republican Party: Russian hacking of the Presidential Election; the Russian Connection; Obstruction of Justice; the constant attacks by late night shows, celebrities, and the media. His polls, already low, were in the tank. Time to impeach or dump the President. The Democrats had high hopes of winning the special election in Georgia 6. They wrapped the President around Karen Hander, the Republican candidate. The Republicans wrapped House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi around Jon Ossoff, as they have in other elections. The Republicans won. Congresswoman Pelosi is toxic in much of the country. Residents of red America don’t like Nancy Pelosi or her San Francisco Values. The young Ossofff was portrayed as Nancy Pelosi’s pupett. A classic republican ad (available on You tube) for Hander had San Francisco “residents” praising their next Congressman, Jon Ossoff, ending with a san Francisco cable car with a big “ad” for Jon Ossoff, next to a peace symbol, and above “San Francisco Congressman.” San Francisco Values don’t play well between the coasts. They also don’t like her. She comes across as arrogant, contemptuous, shrill and snarky. Congresswoman Pelosi has led the Democrats in the House for almost 15 years. She led them to victory and recontrol of the House in 2006. She gleefully pushed through ObamaCare (“We have to pass the Bill to know what’s in it”), and led the House Democrats to defeat in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016, four losses in a row. Yet, she has retained her position as leader of the House Democrats. How? Money. Jesse Unruh, the great California politician, said “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Nancy Pelosi is a consummate fundraiser, raining money on her Democratic colleagues, $568 million. Just as money can’t always but love or an election, it also doesn’t always buy loyalty. Democrats don’t like losing, having controlled Congress for much of the past eight decades. They don’t like losing when they believed they would win, and she played a major role in the loss. The knifes are out with several Congressional Democrats meeting behind closed doors to discuss her future. Her days are numbered. The Democrats thought they had a real chance of winning because Georgia 6 contains a high percent of college educated graduates. They believe that educated Americans prefer Democrats to Republicans. The elitists believe the uneducated, hayseed, gun-clinging “deplorables” support President Trump and Republicans. President Trump barely carried District 6 in 2016. National surveys showed that voters with a college degree voted 52-43% for Clinton in 2016. Roughly 60% of District 6’s registered voters have college degrees. Ergo, 6 would turn blue from red, in their dreams. They forgot the great Speaker Tip O’Neill’s adage “All politics is local.” They ran a national campaign against President Trump for a carpetbagger in a local Congressional District. They continue to misunderstand “Flyover Country.” Even if the highly educated District 6 voters were lukewarm on President Trump, they did not want to go back to Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats. They don’t share the same values. Then we have the Hollywood celebrities. They were out in force in the primary and general election supporting Jon Ossoff. Campaign contributions rained in from Rosie O’Donnell, Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Sean Daniel, Connie Britton, Sam Waterson, Kyra Sedgwick, Samuel L. Jackson (also did radio ads), Jon Cryer, Rhea Perlman, Lynda Carter, Sarah Silverman, George Takai and John Leguizamo. Tweets came from Chelsea Handler, Debra Messing, Mark Ruffalo, Kerry Washington, Billy Baldwin, and others. Alyssa Milano even drove Ossoff voters to the polls in the primary. The American people may watch their movies and TV shows, but they don’t like Hollywood values. Nor do they think Hollywood understands Americans who reside outside the Beverly Hills/Brentwood/Malibu cocoon. 7,218 contributions of $200 or more were recorded from California for the Ossoff Campaign. From March 29 through May 31 almost as much came from the San Francisco Bay Area ($220,532.10) as from all of Georgia ($228,474.44). Only 14% of his roughly $24 million campaign funding came from Georgia residents. Even his contributions were carpetbagged into the District. Voters don’t like incessant robocalls, which are political spam. The Ossoff Campaign engaged in a multitude of robocalls. (Side Bar – Congress has exempted political campaigns from the Do-Not Call List). Academicians also contributed to his campaign with month coming from each of the top 15 highly ranked universities, and public universities, such as Michigan. The Georgia 6 voters resented the external elitists trying to buy their seat. The Democratic “Get Out the Vote” effort encountered an obstacle in attempting to contact many Millennials, who were living in their parent’s homes because they either were unemployed or underemployed. If President Obama had spent more effort in growing the economy rather than in a policy redistribution, they might have homes of their own. One mother, in answering a Democratic call for her son, told her son that if he answered the call or voted for Ossoff, then he would immediately be cast out of the house on his own. The Democrats need a new message. Anti-Trump failed nationally in 2016. It failed locally in 2017.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Georgia 6 Shows Once Again that Money (and Democrats) Don't Always Win Elections

The Hillary Clinton campaign collectively spent $1.4 billion dollars to lose to Donald Trump’s $958 million. These sums include individual PAC campaigns. Money doesn’t always buy love or elections. An unpopular candidate with a poor message, campaigning skills, and strategy can still lose to a better candidate. She did not lose because of Russian hacking, Russian collusion, the FBI, James Comey, sexism, WikiLeaks, fake news, right wing media, mainstream media, Netflix, the Democratic National Committee, Vladimir Putin, voter suppression in Wisconsin, and Macedonia. She lost because she was the wrong candidate at the wrong time. Jon Ossoff lost Georgia 6 because he was the wrong candidate in the wrong district at the wrong time. About 40 years too late. Georgia 6 has been a strong Republican district since Newt Gingrich first won it in 1979. The Democrats have been seeking a special Congressional election to swing a Republican District to the Democrats. It would be a large morale booster to the dispirited Democrats. It would be a momentum builder. It would provide the game plan first to win back the House of Representatives in 2018 and then the Presidency in 2020 on an anti-Trump platform. It would show a way to divide President Trump from his base. Not Trump! Not Trump! Not Trump! That’s the campaign strategy. The media’s hammering President Trump non-stop. The accusations are relentless. Yet the President keeps coming, just like the Energizer Bunny. Ossoff young, 30, a fresh face, telegenic, an earnest campaigner. He grew up in the district, but now lives outside of it with his fiancĂ©, which makes him a carperbagger. Jon Ossoff – the new face of the Democratic Party – earnest, enthusiastic, energetic! A Bernie Sanders acolyte as the Democrats move to the left. He lost 53%-47%, a wider margin than expected. The polls were wrong again. First Kansas. The Republicans won. Second Montana. A pugilistic Republican won. Today, Georgia and South Carolina. Both Republicans won. The Democrats thought, or hoped, that the moderate, highly educated Republicans in Georgia 6 would reject the Republicans. Donald Trump, the presidential candidate, barely carried Georgia 6 in 2016. Many even believed Ossoff would win. They poured money into his campaign. Total estimated expenditures of the two campaigns are between 54 and $60 million, the most expensive Congressional campaign to date. The Ossoff campaign raised $23.6 million compared to $4.5 for the handel campaign. Outside spending by the Democratic Party and PACs added another $7.6 million to his campaign. However, the Republicans poured another $18.2 million into the Handel campaign. Add them up, the Ossoff campaigners spent about $31.2 million and the Handel campaigners $22.7 million. As with the 2016 Presidential Election, money did not decide the election, notwithstanding the Democratic hysteria over Citizens United. The Georgia campaign on the issues was interesting. Ossoff was stridently anti-trump during the primary, but toned it down during the general election. Karen Handel had the support of President Trump, but did not run with him or against him. Her campaign focused on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is still a negative figure in Red America. Other issues were tax reform, ObamaCare, and terrorism. The shooting House Republican Steve Scalise also played a factor in the outcome. The Republicans claim a real victory. The Democrats claim a moral victory. Which do you want in politics?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Memo to Democrats and the Media: President Rump is Implementing His Agenda

Memo to Democrats and the Media: President Trump and the Republicans’ Accomplishments Over the Past Two Weeks The Russian Connection, Obstruction of Justice, Comey, Mueller, and the tragic shooting of the Republicans in Alexandria have sucked the oxygen out of the air. It’s as though nothing else occurred in D.C. this past week. Yet some pundits can’t understand how the President can be so sanguine during this period. He seems unfazed in public despite the relentless academic, media, political, and legal attacks, How can he withstand the massive Trump Derangement attacks, the never ending negative news and blistering media attacks? Why won’t President Trump simply give up and resign? The answer is simple. His Administration, the Republican Congress, and administrative agencies are implementing his campaign promises. One by one, step by step, the Obama Legacy is becoming history. One of the most significant acts was taken by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, June 5 was to end the diversion of federal settlement funds to private liberal, progressive groups favored by the Obama Administration. For example, the settlements with BP and Transocean over the Macano Blowout sent $2.3 billion to organizations, such as the American Lung Association, Ducks Unlimited, and the National Fish and Wildlife Federation. The defendants have been wiling to enter into these “contributions” to NGO’s because they are deductible as charitable contributions whereas government fines are not. These recipients are not victims of the alleged wrongdoing, but they get to benefit from it. The funds not going to the government should go to the victims, not government favored organizations. I have seen an argument that these settlements violate federal law. AG Sessions’ memo prohibits settlement provisions “that directs or provides for a payment or loan to any non-governmental person or entity that is not a party to the dispute.” Another significant step to protect America was done by the State Department. The Obama Administration kept seeing a rigorous processing procedure was used in vetting refugees into the United States. However, it barred the use of a major measure that could uncover some potential terrorists or criminal’ the use of social media. The Trump Administration approved a new questionnaire for visa applicants. It will ask for social media accounts used over the preceding five years and travel history over the previous 15 years. The Obama Administration through the Department of Education went on a Jihad over the past couple of years against for-profit higher education institutions, putting some out of business. The Administration issued rule making it easier for students at these institutions to write off their student loans. These new regulations were due to go into effect July 1. The Trump Department of Education suspended these rules a few days ago. The Department will now restudy and situation and adopt new rules, which will also be directed at reducing the fraudulent practices of which some of the schools were accused. The House approved 368-55 “The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017.” The Senate approved it June 6. The bill will make it easier to fire VA managers and employees for cause. The Senate approved 97-2 on Wednesday a bill that will toughen sanctions against the Russians. Wednesday was a big day. The Department of Labor rescinded a controversial Obama Administration standard defining when companies, such as fast food chains, can be held as a “joint employer” with a franchisee. The Democrats as fellow travelers who previously had no problem with Secretary Clinton’s Russian reset, and President Obama’s statement that he could do more after reelection, now had no problem now acting against Russia, since it is the lynchpin of their delegitimizing of President Trump. (I hate writing sentences this long and convoluted). Just today, in Little Miami, Florida, he rescinded much of the Obama pact with Cuba. A little over two weeks ago on Thursday, June 1 President Obama announced “We’re getting out “of the Paris Accords. Why is President Trump hanging in there against a veritable tsunami? He is succeeding with his agenda.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

It's Time to Tone Down the Rhetoric, Before It's Too Late

James T. Hodgkinson, a left-wing Bernie Sanders volunteer and supporter, and a crazed nutjob with a long rap sheet, shot up a Republican baseball practice this morning. He severely wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Capitol Police Special Agent Crystal Griner, Congressional aide Zach Barth, and lobbyist Matt Mika were also shot. He had previously posted on Face Book “Trump is a traitor. Trump has destroyed our democracy. It’s time to destroy Trump and Company.” He did not think of those thoughts on his own. This year has seen the politics of personal destruction reach a new low, dropping into the sewer of politics. The tone of debate has been deteriorating for years. Let’s not blame it on Democrats or Republicans. Donald Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate this year that said nasty comments about opponents. Hillary Clinton often took the low road while professing to stay on the high road. Politics is a blood sport. Presidential elections can take rhetoric and dirty tricks to unacceptable levels because so much is at stake. This year though did not see the vitriolic end on election day. Instead, it has escalated against President Trump. Illegitimate, impeach, resist, treason have become the watchwords of the leftwing of the Democratic Party. We’ll told to “Resist” and “Fight Back.” Hillary Clinton says she’s setting up a “Resistance” PAC. “Traitor” and “treason” have joined the everyday lexicon. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times have led the mainstream media parade in daily drips of anti-Trump rhetoric, anti-Trump-all the time, 24-7. It’s time to back off, relax, take a deep breath, exhale, It’s time to engage in critical analysis. Reasoned debate is leaving the academy and society. Celebrities have taken low comedy into the swamp. Madonna has thought of blowing up the White House. Kathy Griffin held up a gory decapitated head of Donald Trump. New York’s Shakespeare in the Park is playing Julius Caesar. That’s art. Caesar is assassinated. That’s history. They’ve updated it to modern times; that’s poetic license. The Bard’s plays aren’t copyrighted. Their version of Julius Caesar portrays Donald Trump as Caesar, yellow hair, red tie, and a Slovenian accented wife. That may be protected Free Speech, but it’s outrageous. Progressives, such as the LA Times Michael Hiltzak, have criticized Bank of America and Delta Airlines for withdrawing their financial support of Shakespeare in the Park. He would have been apoplectic if President Obama had received this treatment. Let us not forget the academics, the molders of the minds of our students, promoting intolerance on our campuses. Professor Lars Maischak tweeted President Trump “should hang.” He also wrote that two Republicans should be executed for every deported immigrant. Professor Olga Perez Stable Cox called President Trump “a white supremacist” and the election as an “act of terrorism.” Her colleagues were so pleased with her statements that they voted her faculty member of the year. Professor Ray Michalowski of Northern Arizona called the President “the racist in chief.” Professor Thomas Chung, a professor painting at the University of Alaska Anchorage, displayed a painting with Chris Evans, Captain America, holding up President Trump’s decapitated head, by his hair. The lack of reasoned discourse and freedom of speech on our campuses will test our democracy. Violence did not begin this morning. The past year has witnessed not only threats but also physical violence directed at conservative speakers on our campuses, conduct which far exceeds protected peaceful picketing and demonstrations. Let us remember that protestors were hired during the general election to disrupt Trump rallies. No one statement or act led to this individual act of violence. Collectively they create a tone and atmosphere inciting violence, often by nut jobs. Left wing violence, right wing violence, they’re out there. Don’t feed them red meat. My concern is also based on history. Weimar Germany experienced increasing acts of street violence and riots between the Communists and Nazis before the Nazis came to power. Violence begets more violence. We need to back down from the uncivil discourse.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lessons from the London Election

The pollsters got it wrong again, as in the 2015 British general election, Brexit, the 2017 British general election and the 2016 United States election. The “finely tuned” pollsters have had difficulty since the advent of the cell phone. Polls were traditionally based on polling land lines. The younger generation doesn’t use land lines. The second problem is estimating turnout, not just by overall percentages, but by demographics and age. The third party is measuring late-developing turnout and voting. The past is not always prologue. The second lesson is the role of young voters, the 18-24 voters. They stayed home in the 2016 and Brexit elections, eventhough they opposed Brexit. They showed up this time. Their turnout was up 12% from 2015 to 2017, and they voted roughly 2:1 for Labor. The older voters had voted overwhelmingly for the Conservatives in 2015 and Brexit in 2016. Jeremy Corbyn, Labor’s leader to the left of Senator Bernie Sanders, had a siren call for the young voters: FREE COLLEGE TUITION! Watch the Democrats pick up on free tuition in upcoming elections. President Obama appealed to the young voters in 2012 by offering to cut the interest rate on student loans. They jumped on it, not realizing that what they really needed was jobs. The young voters are globally dissatisfied with their economies. They no longer see the fabled post - World War II America of upper mobility. They don’t see opportunity in the economy. They see “capitalism” as creating no jobs. Indeed, they have been accustomed in democratic socialist countries to look to the government instead of self-reliance. Think of President Obama’s Julia in the 2012 Presidential Election. The young voters have been educated, especially in today’s colleges, that business is greedy and unresponsive to consumers. They are ignorant even of basic economics. The young have not been taught to engage in critical analysis. Consequently, they look to government to solve their problems, for now. The youth vote is not a constant. Third, Prime Minister Theresa May tried to move the Tories to the left in the general election. Conservatives need to understand that they can never outbid the parties of government! The Prime Minister’s campaign also echoed the American presidential election. An energetic candidate who speaks to the needs of the people can defeat a staid, status quo candidate. Theresa May is not Hillary Clinton, but she also ran a lackluster campaign. The conservative Prime Minister could normally have been expected to rally her voters by stressing law and order after the three terrorist attacks in England in three months. She said “Enough is enough.” However, just as Hillary Clinton could not escape her private server and email. Theresa May could not escape her previous six years as Home Secretary, where she cut the country’s police forces by 20,000 officers. In addition, many of the terrorists were known to the authorities, but nothing was done about them. The American people in 2016 and the British people in 2017 voted against the status quo. Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump recognized the will of the people. Mr. Corbyn did not win a majority or plurality, but he was supposed to lose in a landslide. Instead, his Labor Party gained 31 seats while the Tories lost 12 seats, losing a majority in Parliament. Britain and the United States are divided politically. Any party representing the status quo is in danger.