Thursday, March 22, 2018

Statistics 2018


On a recent trip to India Citizen Hillary Clinton found another reason for her loss in the 2016 Presidential election. To the list that includes Russia, and James Comey, the former director of the FBI, she added White Married Women living in deplorable states that contribute little to the Gross National Product (GNP).

Perhaps forgetting her origins as a white, married woman married to a controlling husband from Arkansas, she believes that these women were influenced to vote for Trump by their husbands, sons, bosses etc. She cannot believe that these married white women could have been reasonable or intelligent enough to make up their own minds.

Clinton’s statement must mirror the feelings of many of her former fans. Her complaint about “deplorables” in the campaign only mirrored Barack Obama’s remark about people clinging unreasonably to their guns and religion in the 2008 campaign.  The idea that anyone opposed to the liberal/progressive agenda must be an ignorant, superstitious redneck has become ingrained in a large segment of American society.

People like Citizen Clinton, former President Obama, and Socialist Democrat Bernie Sanders cannot believe that reason, knowledge, and experience can exist on the other side of the political spectrum. Their more progressive followers cannot even stomach independence or moderation in politics. The way in which they shout down or even ban speakers on college campuses is just a sign that they cannot imagine that these speakers have anything reasonable to say.

To act in such a way means they must ignore certain inconvenient facts or truths. Here are some statistics on current issues culled from articles in the most recent issue of the St. CroixReview, a small independent, mid-western journal of opinion.

Issue 1: Tax cuts.

In 1980, the last fiscal year of the Carter administration, total Federal tax revenues were $517 billion. By 1988 after the implementation of the Reagan tax cuts, total Federal revenues had grown to $909 billion.  The economic growth stimulated by lower tax rates had caused Federal revenues to grow by almost 50% during the Reagan years. Reducing the highest tax rate from 50% to 28% did not cause government revenue to decline.

By 2003, the year in which the so-called Bush tax cuts were passed, total Federal Revenues were $1723 billion. By 2007 Federal tax revenues had grown to about $2568 billion although they did drop in 2008 to $2524 billion at the start of the Great Recession. Once again, economic growth had led to increased Federal tax revenue despite lower tax rates.

The evidence that lower tax rates cause Federal revenue to increase would make you wonder why conservative opponents of big government usually are the ones to favor lower rates, while liberals are the ones who oppose tax cuts. Of course, despite increased revenues federal deficits continued to increase as spending regularly outstripped income.

Issue 2:  Progressivism, Socialism, and Communism

Exhaustive studies in recent years have shown that the death toll in Communist regimes during the past 100 years has been more than imagined. The death toll in the Soviet Union during the Stalin years alone is now estimated at between 60 to 70 Million. The death toll in China under Chairman Mao was also about 60 to 70 Million. These were not war casualties but murders of their own citizens.

Although they pale in comparison with Russian and China, Communist regimes in southeast Asia, like North Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia have also caused the deaths of millions either by famine, imprisonment, or execution. The Communist regime in Cuba, the darling of progressives in this country, is no exception. It is estimated that 100,000 Cubans have died at the hands of the Castro regime; 1000000 have fled the country, and about 500000 have been through the Cuban prison systems.

The numbers are still rising but the total deaths now attributed to Communist regimes in the past 100 years is put at 140 million. Why are these regimes so admired in progressive circles?  The Holocaust with its 6 Million dead is the subject of innumerable books and films. How many films have been made about Russia’s Gulag prison camps, or the millions who died in Mao’s cultural revolution?  Why is the murderous Che Guevara lionized on American college campuses? Even today thousands are fleeing Venezuela where the Communist/Socialist regime is systematically starving its own people.

Given these statistics, is it unreasonable to be suspicious of those who advocate a larger and larger role of government in our lives?

Issue 3: Tariffs.

In 2005 China’s share of global solar cell production was 7%. By 2012 China’s share of global solar panel construction had increased to 61%. During that period 30 American solar panel makers went out of business.  The Wall Street Journal always plumps for free trade but it is not free trade when a country subsidizes its own industries whose products, of often inferior quality,  flood the American market. After all, who cares if a solar panel lasts only five or ten years?


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Chess and Basketball?

I learned to play Chess as a boy but never had much of a chance to play until I retired ten years ago. Since then I have been an avid, if average, player, playing every Wednesday with a group of similar players at our local Senior center. Despite the common perception, I have come to believe that chess is a team sport.

We all have the image of the solitary chess master hovering over the board and lost in thought while contemplating the next move. But to my mind the chess player is the coach and the real players are the pieces on the board. It doesn’t take much experience to realize that if these pieces don’t work together, they will not win.

It is the coach’s job first to get his players into the game. In other words, they must be placed out in the field of play as quickly as possible. In chess it is called development. The major pieces (knights, bishops, rooks) are more powerful than pawns and constitute the starting team. Not only must the coach put them into play quickly, he must place them properly so that they cooperate and defend one another. If they can’t work together, the game is inevitably lost. 

Even the Queen, the most powerful piece on the board, cannot capture the opponent’ s King by herself. She needs the support of at least one other piece to checkmate. Only the opponent’s Queen can confront her power alone, but she can be neutralized and sometimes captured by being double or even tripled teamed by less powerful pieces working together.

Team work is the key to success in most sports. Basketball, with only five players on the court, is no exception. March is the month when the basketball season reaches its apex. The NBA regular season, where most games are little more than exhibitions, is coming to an end. The Pros will soon start to get serious in the playoffs.

Despite the magnitude of the stars in the NBA, it is still a team game. Some think that Cleveland’s LeBron James is the best player to ever play the game, but Cleveland still had to make some trades in mid-season to bolster its chances for a title. The continued success of the Golden State Warriors is due to the way in which they have integrated super-stars Kevin Durant and Steph Curry into their team concept. On the other hand, the New York Knicks struggled through years of mediocrity because they could not induce superstar Carmelo Anthony to embrace the team concept.

The NCAA collegiate championship series has just begun. It is usually called March Madness but insanity might be a better description. All over the country millions of people are filling out their brackets trying not only to predict the eventual champion but also the winner of every game in the 68 team tournament.

Interestingly, the most successful college team in the past decade has been the University of Connecticut’s Women’s team. It is true that the success of the team has enabled UCONN Coach Geno Auriemma to continually recruit all-star high school athletes from all over the country. The team is loaded with talent and their average margin of victory must exceed 30 points per game.

Nevertheless, Auriemma’s stature as a coach has enabled him to get his extremely talented athletes to play together as a team. I just read about a local high school men’s coach who urged his young studs to emulate the way the UCONN women play defense.  In other words, Auriemma has been able to get the UCONN stars to not just think of individual stats but to play defense as well as offense. Recently, one of the UCONN women remarked that Auriemma would find it difficult to coach men because they are so thick-headed when it comes to team play.

Even on the high school level it takes a strong coach to get young men to play together as a team. The natural desire of athletes to show their stuff is magnified these days by pressure to get college scholarships. Also, sports reporters often become star-struck and concentrate all their attention on the high scoring players and their stats.

It has often been said that legendary players like Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were able to bring out the best in their teammates. In doing so, they also won numerous championships. This is true not just in chess and basketball but in business, politics, and practically every aspect of life. It is certainly true in family life where mothers and fathers give themselves to bring out the best in their children.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Korea 2018

On our annual February visit to Alameda, California we attended an informal talk on North Korea by a retired U.S. Army colonel who had spent most of his career in Army intelligence. Although born in San Francisco, the colonel was of Chinese descent, a factor he claimed led to his being stationed in Asia for most of his career.

His talk on Korea was a real eye-opener. For example, he pointed out that there had never been a peace treaty between North and South Korea. The Korean War came to an end in 1954 with an armistice or cease fire agreement that established a border between the two parties along the 38th parallel.  The armistice is still in existence 64 years later but the lack of a peace treaty has created what amounts to two armed camps along the demilitarized zone stretching the entire width of the Korean peninsula.

On one side of the border the North Koreans have placed a huge array of non-nuclear missiles all pointed at the South. Seoul, the capitol of South Korea, is in easy striking distance of these missiles. The colonel pointed out that nuclear weapons could not be used in such close proximity. Still, the 20,000,000 million residents of Seoul could easily be more than decimated within minutes.

On the other hand, South Koreans could put up a devastating response. Its army contains around 600000 men, and its air force is equipped with the latest and most sophisticated fighters and bombers. Unlike North Korea, South Korea has become a modern industrial giant definitely able to take care of itself. Nevertheless, since the armistice the United States has maintained a military presence in South Korea. 

There are approximately 40000 U. S. soldiers and their dependents mainly located in a camp only 40 miles south of Seoul. They are also within striking distance of the North Korean missiles. It would seem to me that the presence of this force is more symbolic than military. American troops are a sign that we will have to retaliate if South Korea is attacked. In effect, the American forces are like hostages guaranteeing American commitment.   

A peace treaty between North and South Korea could go a long way to reducing tension in the peninsula. It is hard to know what form the treaty would take but it seems to me that it should be primarily a matter for Koreans to determine. It would be beneficial for both North and South Korea to recognize the right of each other to exist. I also believe that the treaty should call for the gradual removal of all American troops from the peninsula. This move could go hand in hand with de-nuclearization in the North.

In his talk, the colonel also believed that the treaty could include trade relations between North and South Korea as a basic step in reducing the tremendous military arsenal along the de-militarized zone. The DMZ is a powder keg that if ignited, would not only destroy millions of Koreans but also involve super-powers in a terrible confrontation.

Perhaps the Winter Olympic games recently concluded in the mountains of South Korea can give an impetus to a peace treaty. Practically all of the Olympic athletes were symbols of the best in humanity. It was wonderful to see them compete, as well as to see their smiling, healthy faces when interviewed. The Korean athletes were particularly charming. To me the high point of the games was the South Korean Women’s Curling Squad. It will be hard to forget their spirited performances. It is sad to think that the small, garlic producing village they come from is in easy reach of destructive missiles just above the DMZ.

Curling: Silver Medal Winners

Recent news stories have detailed talks between North Korea and South Korea as well as an apparent willingness on the part of the North Koreans to give up their nuclear arms program in exchange for a reduction in the American military presence. The United States has been involved in Korea since 1950. We have helped the South Koreans to become a wealthy nation independent of their former masters in China and Japan. It is time for us to get out, and leave Korea to the Koreans.