Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Democrats Wrong in Opposing Trade Agreement

David Brooks has written an op-ed in the New York Times on 16 June 2015 about the bad judgment Democrats are exercising in voting to impair the President’s ability to coordinate international trade around the Pacific rim. He makes several cogent arguments:

1.  A trade agreement will raise the standard of living of the world’s poor. The economic effect on Mexico, for instance, was much improved by NAFTA; and that was done without much effect on the U.S. economy. The improved situation among Mexican workers has lessened their desire to immigrate to the United States illegally. I would add to Mr. Brooks’ comments that a rising standard of living among the poor of the Pacific Rim countries would allow them to buy more United States imports, and that would, therefore, translate into more income for us.

2.  The trade deal will not hurt the American economy. Eighty-three percent of the nation’s leading economists believe that a trade deal with the Pacific Rim will help our economy. The global poor will benefit the most, but most people in rich countries will benefit, too. Since World War II, reductions in U.S. tariffs have contributed 7.3% to American incomes.

3.  A trade deal will not stifle future innovation. Although some American jobs have been lost by past trade deals, most manufacturing job losses have been caused by technological improvements. Those manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back. The best way forward is to increase the number of high-quality jobs in the service sector. The Pacific trade deal would help. The treaty is not mostly about reducing tariffs on goods. That work has mostly been done. It’s about establishing rules for a postindustrial global economy, rules having to do with intellectual property, investment, antitrust and environmental protection. Service-sector industries like these are where America is strongest, where the opportunities for innovation are the most exciting and where wages are already 20 percent higher than in manufacturing.

4.  The trade deal will not imperil world peace. The Pacific region will either be organized by American rules or Chinese rules. By voting against the trade deal, Democrats went a long way toward guaranteeing that Chinese rules will dominate.

Rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership will hurt economies from the U.S. to Japan to Vietnam. It will send yet another signal that America can no longer be counted on as the world’s leading nation.
The best defense of free trade I have read is a book by William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden. Check it out.

 
 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Comments on my Last Blog Post

On 2 June 2015, I posted a blog advocating a change in the U.S. Constitution mediated by a rapidly growing organization in our country called the “Convention of States.” I did that because I sincerely believe that our Constitution is in grave danger of being usurped by politicians using it falsely to promote their own local and temporal felt needs and the political direction of the Progressive left. My readers can review my views in that blog post by going to http://manringen.blogspot.com (control+click).

It has been drawn to my attention that advocating a change in the Constitution, might be subject to abuse by such a convention; and the Convention might be drawn into a morass of contention by self-interested politicians. Nevertheless, I think that we, the people, should attempt such a change. The reason I think so is that the Constitution has been so manhandled by our leaders, especially in the administration, that it is necessary to modernize and update the features of the Constitution in order to keep it from being entirely ruined by Progressive legislators and executive administrators.

Critics of the Convention of States idea say that the only thing we need is for the leaders of this nation to begin to obey the Constitution in its specific features, its words, and its intention. Very well, I agree with that, of course; but…the problem is that legislators will continue to change the Constitution to their momentary liking. They will continue to “find things” in the Constitution that certainly are not there in the intent or the wording of the document. A perfect example of this is the right to abortion that they found in the Constitution in Roe v. Wade back in 1973. In that case, it was obvious that the word, “abortion,” does not exist in the document; and it is a certainty that the writers of the Constitution would never have used the Constitution to justify such a thing! However, the supreme court justified the law under the broad umbrella of privacy. Almost anything can be justified by claiming a right to privacy.

In proposing changes to our Constitution, it should be noted that the crafters of our Constitution made ample arrangements for modifications to the document in Article V of the Constitution. This article was used to ratify the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights. We are in such a situation now that we need stronger clarification of our rights as citizens as were the people of the late 18th century.

In reference to changing the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson had this to say, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

We Need a Change in our Constitution!

Those of you who read my blog posts know very well that I am distressed at the situation of our country. I am distressed because I see it taking unwise courses in education, foreign affairs, domestic policies, fiscal decisions, etc., etc.

I have been loath to advocate and participate in activities that aim to change the nature of our Constitutional Republic—in other words, I am naturally a conservative; and I want to adhere to systems that have worked well in the past, while continuing to stand for modification of new and potentially constructive change in the society.

Lately, however, I have concluded that our nation needs a more active change in polity and policy in order to maintain the gains we have realized over the years since our Constitution was written in 1787. I fully endorse the principles of our Constitution and the free market economy it has garnered. I admire the freedoms and liberties we have all enjoyed; especially, I have appreciated the freedom to worship the way we see fit. However,…things have gone from bad to worse for us as a culture. The entire world can see the weakness of our system in the bad foreign policy and the fiscal incontinence we have fostered.

For this reason, Nancy and I are endorsing the policies of an organization called the “Convention of States,” an organization attempting to change our Constitution in such a way as to correct the many fallacies that have imbued our way of life. The Convention is a rapidly developing movement in America that is gaining a surprisingly large following. Its aims are as follows:

1)  Balanced budget amendment

2)  A redefinition of the General Welfare Clause (The original view was the federal government could not spend money on any topic within the jurisdiction of the states.)

3)  A redefinition of the Commerce Clause (The original view was that Congress was granted a narrow and exclusive power to regulate shipments across state lines–not all the economic activity of the nation.)

4)  A prohibition of using international treaties and law to govern the domestic law of the United States

5)  A limitation on using Executive Orders and federal regulations to enact laws (since Congress is supposed to be the exclusive agency to enact laws)

6)  Imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court

7)  Placing an upper limit on federal taxation

8)  Requiring the sunset of all existing federal taxes and a super-majority vote to replace them with new, fairer taxes

I do hope that my readers will not think that I have joined the ranks of the radicals of our nation in advocating such changes; but I am becoming desperate when I see so many travesties of basic freedoms and cultural norms all around us. I would ask that each of you who reads this post might take the time to read the web page of the Convention of States just to see the common sense of the changes the Convention advocates.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Middle Eastern Diplomacy? Where is it?

Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, has been offering a reassuring view of the Iranian nuclear deal in the face of some Arab skepticism. “If you can diplomatically and peacefully resolve the nuclear issue in a way that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he told reporters last week, “we believe that will lead to a much more stable region.” Mr. Rhodes also contends that with a deal “there will be no need to see [a] regional arms race.” Does anyone believe this??

Bret Stephens, an editorialist on the Wall Street Journal staff, has written in an op-ed on 4-18-15 that evidence against the truth of this kind of na├»ve belief are the obvious facts of what has happened since President Obama presented his “Framework” for a nuclear peace deal with the Islamic State of Iran on 2 April 2015. The facts are as follows:

April 2: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif immediately accuses the U.S. of “spin” and contradicts Mr. Obama’s key claims regarding the terms of the deal.

April 12: A Swedish think tank reports that Saudi Arabia registered the biggest increase in defense spending in the world.

April 13: Moscow says it will deliver the S-300 air-defense system to Tehran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei later boasts that the U.S. “can’t do a damn thing” militarily against Iran.

April 14: Iran announces agreements with Russia and China to build additional nuclear reactors.

April 17: Iran dispatches an armed convoy of ships, believed to be destined to resupply pro-Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen in contravention of a U.N. arms embargo. The convoy turns back after the U.S. deploys an aircraft carrier to the region to shadow the ships.

April 20: Jason Rezaian, the American-born Washington Post reporter imprisoned in Iran since July, is charged with espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment.”

April 20: The British government informs the U.N. panel monitoring sanctions on Iran that it “is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network” associated with two Iranian companies that are under international sanctions.

April 22: Saudi Arabia resumes airstrikes in Yemen despite administration pressure to maintain a cease fire.

April 28: Iran seizes the 837-foot long Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands flagged cargo ship with 34 sailors aboard, as it transits the Strait of Hormuz along an internationally recognized route. The ship is released a week later after Maersk pays a fine of $163,000.

April 29: Former Saudi Intelligence Minister Turki al Faisal tells a conference in Seoul that the kingdom will match Iran’s nuclear capabilities with its own. “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.” The prince also accuses Mr. Obama of going “behind the backs of the traditional allies to strike the deal.”

May 8: Reuters reports that inspectors have discovered traces of sarin gas at an undeclared military research site near Damascus. The report puts paid to administration boasts that its diplomacy effectively solved the Syrian chemical crisis.

May 11: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman withdraws from the Arab summit meeting with Mr. Obama. The king of Bahrain follows suit, preferring instead to attend a horse show with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

May 13: Reuters reports “the Czech Republic blocked an attempted purchase by Iran this year of a large shipment of sensitive technology usable for nuclear enrichment after false documentation raised suspicions.”

May 14: Iranian patrol boats fire upon a Singapore-flagged oil tanker with machine guns as it transits the Strait of Hormuz. The ship makes it safely to Dubai.

May 17: Citing senior U.S. officials, the Sunday Times reports that “Saudi Arabia has taken the ‘strategic decision’ to acquire ‘off-the-shelf’ atomic weapons from Pakistan.”

Also on May 17, Islamic State fighters in Iraq seize the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. This is after Mr. Obama crowed in February that “our coalition is on the offensive, ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.” Now the Iraqi government will turn to Shiite paramilitaries under Iranian control to try to retake the city, further turning the Baghdad government into an Iranian satrap.

Could any rational person, President Obama or his Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, ever believe, with this kind of hard evidence that the United States is dealing with a nation of good will and benign intentions??

 

 

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Conflicted Interest of Hillary Clinton!

Have you ever wondered how Hillary Clinton could accept donations from foreign governments for her Clinton Foundation while she was the Secretary of State? Did you know that kind of donation is specifically forbidden by the U.S. Constitution?

Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States] shall, without the Consent of Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

While Bill Clinton was president, his own Office of Legal Counsel once explained in an opinion letter, “those who hold offices under the United States must give the government their unclouded judgment and their uncompromised loyalty. .  .  . That judgment might be biased, and that loyalty divided, if they received financial benefits from a foreign government.” http://tws.io/1bQ38Z2

Dr. Larry Joseph Sabato, Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, and director of its Center for Politics has commented: “Do you think this might suggest a conflict of interest?  This is not a SUGGESTION of a conflict of interest—this IS a conflict of interest.” http://bit.ly/1F7OqqE

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What Is the State of Religion in America?

On 4-26-15, two related papers appeared in the Wall Street Journal addressing this question. The first, “Why the Future of Religion Is Bleak, by Daniel Dennett of Tufts University, http://on.wsj.com/1Gx3fB2 and, “The Future of Religion Is Ascendant,” by Emilie M. Townes of Vanderbilt University, http://on.wsj.com/1DCuPL9.

In the first case, i.e., that religion is becoming more insignificant in the lives of people, especially in North America and Europe, Dennett points out that one of the largest group of people in the world are the “nones,” i.e., those who claim to have not religion, at all. One out of six Americans is a “none.” The growth of the “nones” seems underway, as the number of people in this group is becoming larger.

As Dennett sees it, the only thing that will reverse this trend is the onset of some global disaster, such as a global plague, a world war fought over oil or water, the collapse of the internet (and thereby almost all of electronic communication), or some catastrophe that causes widespread misery and fear—the soil in which religion historically thrives.

Professor Dennett believes that religion only thrives in societies where ignorance is the main characteristic and that the more people are educated, the more they will reject religion.

In the second article referenced above, Professor Townes points out that human populations have invariably been characterized by religious beliefs. She observes that as world population increases, so too, will religious belief. However, she writes that we, in the West must not measure the growth of religion by what we see in North America and Western Europe. She mentions that by 2050, 38% of the world’s Christians will live in sub-Sahara Africa—up from 24% in 2010. The world population of Muslims will nearly equal the population number of Christians. Thus, by 2050, the Muslim population will nearly equal the number of Christians.

It is a widely recognized fact that organized religion is on the decline in the West; but that must not be confused with the idea that religion (faith) is going away. People are turning away from organized churches; but they still claim to be “spiritual” people. This is evidenced by the rise of small group worship, the booming market for religious/spiritual books, blogs, music, and paraphernalia.

The social power of religion has diminished as it increasingly shares the public imagination with the natural sciences, economics, political science, and rampant individualism; but that does not mean that people do not seek meaning in their lives from religious viewpoints.

What will endure is the human need to find meaning in our lives, to have something beyond ourselves that calls us to some form of higher moral values. For many, the fulfillment of this need is, and will continue to be, the practice of religion and/or spirituality.

We members of the human race need to recognize that the three apostles of atheism are still health, wealth, and power. Life has much more meaning that these. The Christian faith is the only one that can answer the ultimate questions of true-life meaning.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Waffling Obama—Friend of Enemies, Enemy of Friends

President Obama is proving himself to be completely unreliable as an ally of our friends in the Middle East and a good friend of our enemy, Iran. This “framework,” with its “snap back” on sanctions if Iran reneges on it promises is turning out to be the biggest diplomatic give-away in the record of U.S. foreign relations. President Obama has backpedaled on everything he has promised and demanded, e.g., he faded away on the mythical “red line” against chemical weapons use by the Iraq government. Now he is backpedaling on his promise to gradually phase out sanctions on Iran, even though that was one of his main demands for a deal with Iran. He is even backpedaling on his demand for unrestricted inspections of all nuclear sites in Iran. What’s left to the United States’ advantage?? Nothing. Iran has it all.

Under this deal with the West, Iran now will have a rather unrestricted path to development of an atomic bomb and an effective delivery system! WHAT A DEAL! There will also be no restrictions on Iran’s terror-spreading activities through their support of Hamas and Hezbollah. Their activities in Yemen also will not be restricted. Can we call this process “negotiation?”

This whole process will undoubtedly set off a nuclear race through several countries in the Middle East. I noticed in a recent interview with the Saudi ambassador, he refused to deny that the Saudi’s will work to get their own nuclear weapons.

We should not be surprised at all this, however, Democrats are famous for lousy foreign relations policies. Take for instance, the situation at the end of the Carter administration. At that time, Libya was bombing passenger planes over the Mediterranean. President Carter spent his time wringing hands over the situation and generally dithered around without a single effective move being made to correct the situation. President Reagan came into office, promptly ordered a bombing of a Libyan munitions plant, and the whole situation ended suddenly.

The leaders of Iran speak of the great Satan with white hot rhetoric; they proclaim, “Death to America” and such other statements. Our leaders assure us that that wordage is just meant to whip up enthusiasm and placate their more hostile political supporters. But I wonder…. I think they mean it. Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. Iran bankrolls Hezbollah and Hamas, and it is a mortal enemy of Israel. Iran props up some of the most brutal leaders on the planet, including Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. They have repeatedly lied about their production of enriched uranium and reprocessed plutonium; and they have hidden all the facts they could about their nuclear activities from the International Atomic Energy Agency. They have reneged on their commitment to the Nonproliferation Treaty to which they have been signatories since 1970.

Our leaders in the administration continue to insist on dealing with the Iranians as if they are negotiating in good faith. I think our government should have the courage to believe the Iranians mean exactly what they say and act on that belief appropriately—they hate America and would like to destroy us, just as they despise Israel.