Month: August 2018

Should We Watch Wile E. Coyote Go Off the Cliff?


For generations, one of the great joys in life has been watching Roadrunner cartoons, during which the Roadrunner always manages to find a way to trick Wile E. Coyote into running off a massive cliff. Sadly, it seems as though in the bizarre cartoon political world we now live in, the Roadrunner has become the U.S. government, and “We the People” have become Wile E. Coyote.

It turns out when you’re the Coyote, running off the cliff isn’t nearly as funny or entertaining.

In 2018, Ben Bernanke, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, stated that fiscal stimulus “is going to hit the economy in a big way this year and next, and then in 2020, Wile E. Coyote is going to go off the cliff.” Bernanke was referring to the return of trillion-dollar deficits added on top of the $21 trillion national debt that the federal government has already accumulated.

What most elected officials refuse to admit is that we have a structural deficit that is not sustainable. The expectation is that in the next recession the federal government will bail out financial institutions, corporations, and state and local governments, as it did during the recent financial crisis. Yet what Bernanke and most economists are saying is that even the most prudent monetary policies are being undermined by deficit spending. As debt continues to accumulate, we are watching the federal government slowly go over a fiscal cliff — and without a safety net. 

The debt crisis is a relatively recent phenomenon in the United States. For two centuries, elected officials adhered to what economists refer to as the “old time religion” of balanced budgets at the local, state, and national levels. Under the old model, yes, the government might incur deficits and accumulate debt in periods of war, but in peacetime, it was expected politicians would balance the budget and use surplus revenue to pay down the debt.

This “old religion” was practiced well into the post-World War II period. During World War II, debt increased to levels exceeding our national income. However, in the following three decades that ratio was reduced below 40 percent. In those days, the United States’ economic growth rates averaged about 3 percent per year, which allowed the government to pursue a countercyclical economic policy without accumulating unsustainable levels of debt in the long run. 

Unfortunately, the U.S. government seems to have abandoned the vestiges of the “old time fiscal religion.” In other words, deficits don’t matter anymore, at least according to elected officials. With the exception of a few years in the 1990s, the government has consistently incurred massive deficits and accumulated a mindboggling national debt. Over the next decade, the debt held by the public is projected to again exceed national income, and continue to increase to more than 150 percent of national income over the next three decades    

In recent years, higher levels of debt have been accompanied by stagnant economic growth. As debt levels have soared, the fiscal room to pursue countercyclical fiscal policy has disappeared. The United States recently experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and it is now exposed to even greater economic instability.

To understand why the government has abandoned the “old time fiscal religion” of balanced budgets, it is important to understand the sources of deficit spending and debt accumulation over the past half-century. Unlike much of U.S. history, the cause of our recent deficits is not related closely to military spending. In fact, even during the Cold War, defense spending was not the primary source of deficits and debt. Defense spending as a share of the total federal budget declined over most of the period, and in recent years has reached an all-time low.

The major source of deficits and debt over the past half-century has been income transfers. Since the Great Society programs were enacted during the 1960s, income transfers have continuously increased as a share of the total federal budget. Mandatory expenditures for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid now exceed the entire amount spent on discretionary programs. Over the next three decades, these mandatory expenditures are projected to engulf more than two-thirds of the federal budget.

These troubling trends in debt-financed spending helps to explain why the country continues to pursue unsustainable fiscal policies. Throughout most of our history, there was a consensus supporting the “old time religion” of balanced budgets. Citizens understood that during wartime the federal government could not finance military spending by raising taxes. Elected officials incurred debt to finance military spending, knowing all the while that in peacetime spending would be reduced. Citizens expected elected officials to balance the budget in the near term and pay down debt in the long term. 

The growth in income transfers over the past half-century has replaced commonsense fiscal policies. As spending for mandatory entitlement programs has displaced spending for other federal programs, including defense spending, political parties have become increasingly polarized. The Republican Party fights to restore defense expenditures, while the Democratic Party defends expenditures for domestic programs and entitlements. Game theorists describe this as a negative sum game in which the political parties are trapped in a prisoner’s dilemma. The failure to reach consensus on the budget leaves the government trapped with suboptimal fiscal policies.  

However, we don’t need to watch Wile E. Coyote go over the cliff this time around. Other countries have shown that with effective fiscal rules in place, the government can balance the budget and reduce debt to sustainable levels. In our research, we propose similar fiscal rules for the U.S. government. Stabilizing the debt-to-GDP ratio at current levels is not a sufficient condition for a sustainable fiscal policy. In the long term, the goal of this simple approach to fiscal policy must be to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio to historic levels, i.e. less than 50 percent. At these lower levels of debt, the country can restore higher rates of economic growth and also provide fiscal space to pursue countercyclical economic policies. At that point, the fiscal rules would create the conditions necessary for a cyclically balanced budget, with surplus revenue in periods of economic expansion offsetting deficits in periods of recession. Fiscal rules can restore this “old time religion” of balanced budgets.

John Merrifield (think@heartland.org) is professor of economics at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Barry Poulson is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Colorado-Boulder. They are the authors of Restoring America’s Fiscal Constitution’ New York, Lexington Books, 2017.

For generations, one of the great joys in life has been watching Roadrunner cartoons, during which the Roadrunner always manages to find a way to trick Wile E. Coyote into running off a massive cliff. Sadly, it seems as though in the bizarre cartoon political world we now live in, the Roadrunner has become the U.S. government, and “We the People” have become Wile E. Coyote.

It turns out when you’re the Coyote, running off the cliff isn’t nearly as funny or entertaining.

In 2018, Ben Bernanke, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, stated that fiscal stimulus “is going to hit the economy in a big way this year and next, and then in 2020, Wile E. Coyote is going to go off the cliff.” Bernanke was referring to the return of trillion-dollar deficits added on top of the $21 trillion national debt that the federal government has already accumulated.

What most elected officials refuse to admit is that we have a structural deficit that is not sustainable. The expectation is that in the next recession the federal government will bail out financial institutions, corporations, and state and local governments, as it did during the recent financial crisis. Yet what Bernanke and most economists are saying is that even the most prudent monetary policies are being undermined by deficit spending. As debt continues to accumulate, we are watching the federal government slowly go over a fiscal cliff — and without a safety net. 

The debt crisis is a relatively recent phenomenon in the United States. For two centuries, elected officials adhered to what economists refer to as the “old time religion” of balanced budgets at the local, state, and national levels. Under the old model, yes, the government might incur deficits and accumulate debt in periods of war, but in peacetime, it was expected politicians would balance the budget and use surplus revenue to pay down the debt.

This “old religion” was practiced well into the post-World War II period. During World War II, debt increased to levels exceeding our national income. However, in the following three decades that ratio was reduced below 40 percent. In those days, the United States’ economic growth rates averaged about 3 percent per year, which allowed the government to pursue a countercyclical economic policy without accumulating unsustainable levels of debt in the long run. 

Unfortunately, the U.S. government seems to have abandoned the vestiges of the “old time fiscal religion.” In other words, deficits don’t matter anymore, at least according to elected officials. With the exception of a few years in the 1990s, the government has consistently incurred massive deficits and accumulated a mindboggling national debt. Over the next decade, the debt held by the public is projected to again exceed national income, and continue to increase to more than 150 percent of national income over the next three decades    

In recent years, higher levels of debt have been accompanied by stagnant economic growth. As debt levels have soared, the fiscal room to pursue countercyclical fiscal policy has disappeared. The United States recently experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and it is now exposed to even greater economic instability.

To understand why the government has abandoned the “old time fiscal religion” of balanced budgets, it is important to understand the sources of deficit spending and debt accumulation over the past half-century. Unlike much of U.S. history, the cause of our recent deficits is not related closely to military spending. In fact, even during the Cold War, defense spending was not the primary source of deficits and debt. Defense spending as a share of the total federal budget declined over most of the period, and in recent years has reached an all-time low.

The major source of deficits and debt over the past half-century has been income transfers. Since the Great Society programs were enacted during the 1960s, income transfers have continuously increased as a share of the total federal budget. Mandatory expenditures for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid now exceed the entire amount spent on discretionary programs. Over the next three decades, these mandatory expenditures are projected to engulf more than two-thirds of the federal budget.

These troubling trends in debt-financed spending helps to explain why the country continues to pursue unsustainable fiscal policies. Throughout most of our history, there was a consensus supporting the “old time religion” of balanced budgets. Citizens understood that during wartime the federal government could not finance military spending by raising taxes. Elected officials incurred debt to finance military spending, knowing all the while that in peacetime spending would be reduced. Citizens expected elected officials to balance the budget in the near term and pay down debt in the long term. 

The growth in income transfers over the past half-century has replaced commonsense fiscal policies. As spending for mandatory entitlement programs has displaced spending for other federal programs, including defense spending, political parties have become increasingly polarized. The Republican Party fights to restore defense expenditures, while the Democratic Party defends expenditures for domestic programs and entitlements. Game theorists describe this as a negative sum game in which the political parties are trapped in a prisoner’s dilemma. The failure to reach consensus on the budget leaves the government trapped with suboptimal fiscal policies.  

However, we don’t need to watch Wile E. Coyote go over the cliff this time around. Other countries have shown that with effective fiscal rules in place, the government can balance the budget and reduce debt to sustainable levels. In our research, we propose similar fiscal rules for the U.S. government. Stabilizing the debt-to-GDP ratio at current levels is not a sufficient condition for a sustainable fiscal policy. In the long term, the goal of this simple approach to fiscal policy must be to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio to historic levels, i.e. less than 50 percent. At these lower levels of debt, the country can restore higher rates of economic growth and also provide fiscal space to pursue countercyclical economic policies. At that point, the fiscal rules would create the conditions necessary for a cyclically balanced budget, with surplus revenue in periods of economic expansion offsetting deficits in periods of recession. Fiscal rules can restore this “old time religion” of balanced budgets.

John Merrifield (think@heartland.org) is professor of economics at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Barry Poulson is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Colorado-Boulder. They are the authors of Restoring America’s Fiscal Constitution’ New York, Lexington Books, 2017.



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A Teacher's Lament, Then and Now


In his 1962 essay titled “A Dog in Brooklyn, a Girl in Detroit: A Life among the Humanities,” from The Age of Happy Problems, Herbert Gold recounts how “neither glory nor pleasure nor power, and certainly not wisdom, provided the goal of [the] students” he attempted to instruct.

Attempting to teach a college-level humanities course, Gold “could classify [his] students in three general groups, intelligent, mediocre, and stupid, allowing for the confusions of three general factors – background, capacity, and interest.”

Reminiscing about his attempt to motivate young people, Gold admits that he “often failed at inspiring [his] students to do the assigned reading.  Many of them had part-time jobs in the automobile industry or its annexes.”  Thus, the plaintive “I couldn’t read the book this week, I have to work” reverberated in the classroom with “its implied reproach for a scholar’s leisure.”  Continuing to describe the paradoxes of teaching in a university, Gold finds little common ground between himself and his students.

When he attempted to explain Seurat’s “La Grande Jatte” and the “importance of … pointillism to students who only wanted to see life clear and true, see it comfortably,” he encountered students who asserted that “this kind of painting hurt [their] eyes.”  In addition, students clamored that “there was too much reading for one course – ‘piling it on.  This isn’t the only course we take.'”  

Then, in the middle of his essay, Gold details how, in front of the school building, a skidding truck sideswiped a taxi, and the cab “was smashed like a cruller.”  From the door of his cab, the driver emerged, stumbling holding his head.  There was blood on his head and hands.  He was in confusion and in shock – “[d]rivers turned their heads upon him … but did not get involved.” 

Gold ran out to lead the cab-driver into the building and told a student to call for an ambulance.  Before the ambulance arrived, the police were there – but they did not seem to be alarmed by the injuries of the cabbie.  Instead, they wanted to see his driver’s license and then his chauffeur’s license.  They were not concerned with Gold’s anxiety for the bleeding man.  They had “their business” to attend to – i.e., going through the cab-driver’s pockets looking for possible weapons.

Meanwhile, the students were getting restless, and the ambulance had not yet arrived.  So Gold gave one of his students a dime to make the call again.  By now the cab driver was fading away.  Finally, a “puffing ambulance intern rushed into the room.”

And then, the dénouement – against the backdrop of a winter storm, a bleeding cab-driver, self-important police officers doing their jobs, and a classroom of indifferent students, Gold has to face off with one of his students who, enraged, cries out in the middle of all this that “[she doesn’t] think [she] deserved a D on that quiz.  ‘I answered all the questions.  I can’t get my credit for Philo of Ed without I get a B off you.'” 

The improbable juxtaposition of this was just too much for Gold.

I must have looked at her with pure stupidity on my face.  There is a Haitian proverb: stupidity won’t kill you, but it’ll make you sweat a lot.  She took the opportunity to make me sweat, took my silence for guilt, took my open-mouthed gaze for weakness.

And then she said “If I was a white girl, you’d grade me easier.”

Guilt, a hundred years, a thousand years of it; pity for the disaster of ignorance and fear, pity for ambition rising out of ignorance[.]  I looked at her with mixed feelings.  


She was talking and I was yelling in a whisper about the sick man.  She was blaming me for all her troubles, all the troubles she had seen, and I was blaming her for not seeing what lay before her.

The next day Gold tried to explain to this student that there were two questions at issue: “her exam grade and her choice of occasion to dispute it.”  He tried to explain to this female student “why putting the two events together had disturbed” him.

To no avail.

As a teacher, Gold realized that he caught his students too late “and only at the top of their heads, at the raw point of pride and ambition, and [he] had not enough love and pressure as a teacher to open the way through their intentions to the common humanity which remains locked within.”

As another school year begins anew, the eternal quest to give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to young people remains elusive.

We “must find a way to teach better and to learn.”  The need is greater than ever.

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.

In his 1962 essay titled “A Dog in Brooklyn, a Girl in Detroit: A Life among the Humanities,” from The Age of Happy Problems, Herbert Gold recounts how “neither glory nor pleasure nor power, and certainly not wisdom, provided the goal of [the] students” he attempted to instruct.

Attempting to teach a college-level humanities course, Gold “could classify [his] students in three general groups, intelligent, mediocre, and stupid, allowing for the confusions of three general factors – background, capacity, and interest.”

Reminiscing about his attempt to motivate young people, Gold admits that he “often failed at inspiring [his] students to do the assigned reading.  Many of them had part-time jobs in the automobile industry or its annexes.”  Thus, the plaintive “I couldn’t read the book this week, I have to work” reverberated in the classroom with “its implied reproach for a scholar’s leisure.”  Continuing to describe the paradoxes of teaching in a university, Gold finds little common ground between himself and his students.

When he attempted to explain Seurat’s “La Grande Jatte” and the “importance of … pointillism to students who only wanted to see life clear and true, see it comfortably,” he encountered students who asserted that “this kind of painting hurt [their] eyes.”  In addition, students clamored that “there was too much reading for one course – ‘piling it on.  This isn’t the only course we take.'”  

Then, in the middle of his essay, Gold details how, in front of the school building, a skidding truck sideswiped a taxi, and the cab “was smashed like a cruller.”  From the door of his cab, the driver emerged, stumbling holding his head.  There was blood on his head and hands.  He was in confusion and in shock – “[d]rivers turned their heads upon him … but did not get involved.” 

Gold ran out to lead the cab-driver into the building and told a student to call for an ambulance.  Before the ambulance arrived, the police were there – but they did not seem to be alarmed by the injuries of the cabbie.  Instead, they wanted to see his driver’s license and then his chauffeur’s license.  They were not concerned with Gold’s anxiety for the bleeding man.  They had “their business” to attend to – i.e., going through the cab-driver’s pockets looking for possible weapons.

Meanwhile, the students were getting restless, and the ambulance had not yet arrived.  So Gold gave one of his students a dime to make the call again.  By now the cab driver was fading away.  Finally, a “puffing ambulance intern rushed into the room.”

And then, the dénouement – against the backdrop of a winter storm, a bleeding cab-driver, self-important police officers doing their jobs, and a classroom of indifferent students, Gold has to face off with one of his students who, enraged, cries out in the middle of all this that “[she doesn’t] think [she] deserved a D on that quiz.  ‘I answered all the questions.  I can’t get my credit for Philo of Ed without I get a B off you.'” 

The improbable juxtaposition of this was just too much for Gold.

I must have looked at her with pure stupidity on my face.  There is a Haitian proverb: stupidity won’t kill you, but it’ll make you sweat a lot.  She took the opportunity to make me sweat, took my silence for guilt, took my open-mouthed gaze for weakness.

And then she said “If I was a white girl, you’d grade me easier.”

Guilt, a hundred years, a thousand years of it; pity for the disaster of ignorance and fear, pity for ambition rising out of ignorance[.]  I looked at her with mixed feelings.  


She was talking and I was yelling in a whisper about the sick man.  She was blaming me for all her troubles, all the troubles she had seen, and I was blaming her for not seeing what lay before her.

The next day Gold tried to explain to this student that there were two questions at issue: “her exam grade and her choice of occasion to dispute it.”  He tried to explain to this female student “why putting the two events together had disturbed” him.

To no avail.

As a teacher, Gold realized that he caught his students too late “and only at the top of their heads, at the raw point of pride and ambition, and [he] had not enough love and pressure as a teacher to open the way through their intentions to the common humanity which remains locked within.”

As another school year begins anew, the eternal quest to give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to young people remains elusive.

We “must find a way to teach better and to learn.”  The need is greater than ever.

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.



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Let the Bad Times Roll


Conservatives did not go around praying for a market crash during the Obama years, but a lot of liberal commentators seem to be doing just that today.  The August issue of Fortune (a member of the liberal Time, Inc. group of publications) has red ink splattered across its cover proclaiming, “The End Is Near.”

Interesting timing, just three months from the November election.  Inside, there was MSNBC’s Chris Matthews arguing that Wall Street has “fallen out of love with Trump.”  The thesis of Matthews’s piece is that the president has done everything wrong and nothing right.  He has enacted tariffs, lowered taxes and regulations, spurred growth, and put Americans back to work.  Bad?  Yes, bad for Wall Street.

Not to be outdone, a longer piece by Fortune editor Geoff Colvin purports to demonstrate, in nine pages of small print with eight detailed graphs, that the bull market of the last nine years is ending and that the reason is partly, or largely, Trump.  It should be obvious that this bull market, like every other, will end at some point.  It is not so obvious that it will end soon, though it may.  To me, it is not obvious that it is “Trump’s fault.”  Indeed, the fact that it has not ended is “Trump’s fault.”

Yes, the economy is heating up, typical of late-stage bull markets.  As Colvin admits, “the timing of the business cycle is never easy to predict.”  But somehow Colvin suggests that a great economy is bad news, and, again, it’s “Trump’s fault.”  So Trump has created millions of jobs and raised wages significantly for the first time since the Bush years, which has driven the market to new highs – but that’s a bad thing.  Huh?

Then there’s the familiar matter of the yield curve.  It’s true that inversion, when short-term rates rise above long-term rates, has always preceded recession, but, as Colvin again admits, we’re not there yet.  In fact, since 1980, current levels of tightening have never signaled a recession.  We would have to tighten further for the “always” to be true, and even then, tightening normally occurs months if not years before the recession begins.

This time is different, says Fortune.  Trump is waging a trade war and an immigrant-hostile policy (really? I thought he favored legal immigration) and causing oil prices to rise.  (Haven’t his policies expanded American oil production to record levels?  Doesn’t that lower what prices would otherwise have been?)

What’s obvious is that Trump’s policies are driving growth and that growth may continue for years.  That, by the way, is the prediction of the World Bank, which Fortune fails to cite.  According to the World Bank Global Forecast, global economic growth will reach 3.1% in 2018 and “ease slightly in 2019-2020.”  The End Is Near?

The liberal elite hate Trump’s notion that America’s best days are still ahead.  They would have you believe that the days of 3% growth ended in 1970, and nothing can bring them back, especially Donald Trump.  The “new normal,” as they used to say in the slow-growth Obama era, is 2%.  America is not what it used to be, and nothing can change that, even Trump’s tax cuts and increased military spending, whose economic effect “could be ‘as small as zero.'”  When the stimulus no longer works, “you run out of gas…or crash.”

The left has been throwing that word around a lot lately.  A “crash” ahead, just ahead of this year’s congressional elections or the presidential election in 2020.  Oh, how wonderful, even though it would harm nearly every American.  What counts is restoring the left’s control over ordinary Americans, taking away their rights, destroying their liberty.

Bad times ahead.  The end is near.  Take the federal deficit and the high debt load of corporations.  Admittedly, both are excessive, but the way out is growth, not socialism.

And the low unemployment rate.  Yes, for the left, low unemployment, which would seem to be good, is actually bad.  Anything to deny Trump a victory.

Fortune pulls out all the usual suspects to bolster its case of doom and gloom.  There’s Ben Bernanke, Robert Schiller, Jeremy Grantham, and Robert Gordon, a Northwestern University economist.  (According to Schiller, “[i]t’s kind of like we’re in 1928 at the moment.”)  The problem with this lineup of all-star economists, as Colvin admits, is that economists as a class have been wrong every time since 1970 if not forever – wrong predicting the beginning of recessions and wrong predicting the end.  So why quote them, especially those who may not exactly be Trump fans, in the article?

This is not to say that Fortune is wrong.  Eventually, a bear market will occur, probably sooner rather than later.  We just don’t know when.  The current bull market, if it continues, will soon be the longest in history, and this in itself is reason to be cautious.  Bull markets end with a 20-percent-plus correction.  This bull market will end, probably before the end of Trump’s second term.  The problem is that too many liberal economists seem to be wishing it will end sooner.

Wishing for a bear market and an economic recession that puts millions of Americans out of work does not seem like a good thing to me.  To wish for a recession, war, or cataclysm of some kind just to get Trump out of office is a callous and cynical thing to do, but it’s now standard practice on the left.  Why not hope for the best, instead, and then judge the president on his merits?

The reason is that getting rid of Trump and what he stands for – the restoration of democracy in America – is now the overriding goal of the left.  Anything that will bring Trump down, from Stormy Daniels to global war, is good news to the left, even if millions suffer or millions die.  That is how far they have gone in the interest of restoring the authoritarian power of the Deep State.  That is how much they despise the deplorables.

It goes way beyond Fortune magazine.  Every liberal venue, from CNN to the Huffington Post, is stocked with arguments as to why the end is near, and they seem to be licking their chops over it.

The media are bad, but Democrat politicians are worse.  Within seconds of any positive news on the economy, Cheerless Chuck is out with reasons why it’s not true or won’t last.  Hillary Clinton (still on her worldwide “bash Trump” tour), wacky Nancy, fibbing Pocahontas, and Red Alexandria – the message is the same.  Trump is ignorant, incompetent, racist, sexist, and a bully – how could you expect anything he does to work?

The truth is that wishing for your opponent to fail, albeit at terrible harm to the American people, won’t contribute anything to the possibility of its happening.  The market is driven by forces so complex that no one, not even Warren Buffett, has been able to predict its movements.  But predicting a crash, a terrorist attack, or another calamity is not just impossible; it is despicable.

Have we gone so far that the left would now sacrifice the lives of millions just to regain political power?  I fear that we have.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination and In a Time of Disorder.

The left is hoping for bad times, and soon.

If not this fall, then before the 2020 presidential election.  They would rather see harm done to America than see Trump succeed.  A market crash, a war in Asia or the Middle East, another terrorist attack – it doesn’t matter.  Just something to deny conservatives a victory.  That’s how warped the left has become.

Conservatives did not go around praying for a market crash during the Obama years, but a lot of liberal commentators seem to be doing just that today.  The August issue of Fortune (a member of the liberal Time, Inc. group of publications) has red ink splattered across its cover proclaiming, “The End Is Near.”

Interesting timing, just three months from the November election.  Inside, there was MSNBC’s Chris Matthews arguing that Wall Street has “fallen out of love with Trump.”  The thesis of Matthews’s piece is that the president has done everything wrong and nothing right.  He has enacted tariffs, lowered taxes and regulations, spurred growth, and put Americans back to work.  Bad?  Yes, bad for Wall Street.

Not to be outdone, a longer piece by Fortune editor Geoff Colvin purports to demonstrate, in nine pages of small print with eight detailed graphs, that the bull market of the last nine years is ending and that the reason is partly, or largely, Trump.  It should be obvious that this bull market, like every other, will end at some point.  It is not so obvious that it will end soon, though it may.  To me, it is not obvious that it is “Trump’s fault.”  Indeed, the fact that it has not ended is “Trump’s fault.”

Yes, the economy is heating up, typical of late-stage bull markets.  As Colvin admits, “the timing of the business cycle is never easy to predict.”  But somehow Colvin suggests that a great economy is bad news, and, again, it’s “Trump’s fault.”  So Trump has created millions of jobs and raised wages significantly for the first time since the Bush years, which has driven the market to new highs – but that’s a bad thing.  Huh?

Then there’s the familiar matter of the yield curve.  It’s true that inversion, when short-term rates rise above long-term rates, has always preceded recession, but, as Colvin again admits, we’re not there yet.  In fact, since 1980, current levels of tightening have never signaled a recession.  We would have to tighten further for the “always” to be true, and even then, tightening normally occurs months if not years before the recession begins.

This time is different, says Fortune.  Trump is waging a trade war and an immigrant-hostile policy (really? I thought he favored legal immigration) and causing oil prices to rise.  (Haven’t his policies expanded American oil production to record levels?  Doesn’t that lower what prices would otherwise have been?)

What’s obvious is that Trump’s policies are driving growth and that growth may continue for years.  That, by the way, is the prediction of the World Bank, which Fortune fails to cite.  According to the World Bank Global Forecast, global economic growth will reach 3.1% in 2018 and “ease slightly in 2019-2020.”  The End Is Near?

The liberal elite hate Trump’s notion that America’s best days are still ahead.  They would have you believe that the days of 3% growth ended in 1970, and nothing can bring them back, especially Donald Trump.  The “new normal,” as they used to say in the slow-growth Obama era, is 2%.  America is not what it used to be, and nothing can change that, even Trump’s tax cuts and increased military spending, whose economic effect “could be ‘as small as zero.'”  When the stimulus no longer works, “you run out of gas…or crash.”

The left has been throwing that word around a lot lately.  A “crash” ahead, just ahead of this year’s congressional elections or the presidential election in 2020.  Oh, how wonderful, even though it would harm nearly every American.  What counts is restoring the left’s control over ordinary Americans, taking away their rights, destroying their liberty.

Bad times ahead.  The end is near.  Take the federal deficit and the high debt load of corporations.  Admittedly, both are excessive, but the way out is growth, not socialism.

And the low unemployment rate.  Yes, for the left, low unemployment, which would seem to be good, is actually bad.  Anything to deny Trump a victory.

Fortune pulls out all the usual suspects to bolster its case of doom and gloom.  There’s Ben Bernanke, Robert Schiller, Jeremy Grantham, and Robert Gordon, a Northwestern University economist.  (According to Schiller, “[i]t’s kind of like we’re in 1928 at the moment.”)  The problem with this lineup of all-star economists, as Colvin admits, is that economists as a class have been wrong every time since 1970 if not forever – wrong predicting the beginning of recessions and wrong predicting the end.  So why quote them, especially those who may not exactly be Trump fans, in the article?

This is not to say that Fortune is wrong.  Eventually, a bear market will occur, probably sooner rather than later.  We just don’t know when.  The current bull market, if it continues, will soon be the longest in history, and this in itself is reason to be cautious.  Bull markets end with a 20-percent-plus correction.  This bull market will end, probably before the end of Trump’s second term.  The problem is that too many liberal economists seem to be wishing it will end sooner.

Wishing for a bear market and an economic recession that puts millions of Americans out of work does not seem like a good thing to me.  To wish for a recession, war, or cataclysm of some kind just to get Trump out of office is a callous and cynical thing to do, but it’s now standard practice on the left.  Why not hope for the best, instead, and then judge the president on his merits?

The reason is that getting rid of Trump and what he stands for – the restoration of democracy in America – is now the overriding goal of the left.  Anything that will bring Trump down, from Stormy Daniels to global war, is good news to the left, even if millions suffer or millions die.  That is how far they have gone in the interest of restoring the authoritarian power of the Deep State.  That is how much they despise the deplorables.

It goes way beyond Fortune magazine.  Every liberal venue, from CNN to the Huffington Post, is stocked with arguments as to why the end is near, and they seem to be licking their chops over it.

The media are bad, but Democrat politicians are worse.  Within seconds of any positive news on the economy, Cheerless Chuck is out with reasons why it’s not true or won’t last.  Hillary Clinton (still on her worldwide “bash Trump” tour), wacky Nancy, fibbing Pocahontas, and Red Alexandria – the message is the same.  Trump is ignorant, incompetent, racist, sexist, and a bully – how could you expect anything he does to work?

The truth is that wishing for your opponent to fail, albeit at terrible harm to the American people, won’t contribute anything to the possibility of its happening.  The market is driven by forces so complex that no one, not even Warren Buffett, has been able to predict its movements.  But predicting a crash, a terrorist attack, or another calamity is not just impossible; it is despicable.

Have we gone so far that the left would now sacrifice the lives of millions just to regain political power?  I fear that we have.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination and In a Time of Disorder.



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Brennan, the Spooks, and Russian Collusion


The FBI is being held accountable for its role in spy operations against the Trump campaign. John Brennan’s CIA should be held accountable as well.

An editorial by Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal on June 29, 2018 recommends an investigation of the CIA’s involvement in the 2016 election, and I agree. The WSJ’s Kimberley Strassel has commented on CIA involvement as well, as did Rudy Giuliani on August 13th. 

If press reports are accurate, American spy operations targeted the Trump campaign by luring Trump associates such as George Papadopoulos to meetings in Britain. There are two key factors at work here.

The first factor is the location.  The CIA is in charge of American government spy ops that occur in foreign countries, not the FBI. While an American tourist can fly to Britain to see the changing of the guard and be in front of Buckingham Palace within 24 hours, an American FBI agent can do nothing in Britain without intricate CIA approvals and supervision. If the CIA were not involved, they’d be raising hell with the FBI for doing business on their turf. Turf is everything in bureaucracy. CIA involvement is certain.

The second factor — I do not know the people named and am basing this on press reports — is that these ops bear the distinctive signature of being run by bureaucrats at CIA Headquarters, not by professionals in CIA field stations.

Headquarters’ spy recruitments are weak. Our full-time government employees, such as CIA officers and FBI agents, are expected to recruit part-time spies called agents, assets, sources, informants, and access agents. (Some folks don’t like the use of the word “spy,” but in fact everyone involved is a spy. I was a spy.)  With 17 redundant spy agencies and tens of thousands of idle employees in the Washington D.C. area, there’s a natural tendency to recruit American citizens to help spy on Americans. Such operations provide employees with opportunities to look busy and get promoted while living in the comfort of Washington. 

Recruitments of sources are important to the CIA, but if you try to recruit a terrorist in Syria, you might get a bullet in the head. North Korea and Iran are far away, out of sight and out of mind. Why not recruit an American college professor instead? Assign him a secret code name and he comes to look like a real spy. Most Americans are happy to help out, so there’s no fear of embarrassing rejection. 

There’s only one thing easier for Headquarters employees than recruiting an American college professor, and that is recruiting an American college professor who has already been recruited by other U.S. spy agencies. This appears to have been the case in these operations.

“Hey, this isn’t a secret source, this is just old Bill Jones!” is the kind of statement heard at CIA Headquarters when someone realizes that a secret asset is not a brave source deep within a rogue state, but is instead an American college professor, an old colleague, or the family member of a CIA employee. 

In espionage, you’ve got to recruit directly. If you need intelligence on Iran, you’ve got to go out and find an Iranian. It’s like courtship. You’ve got to get out and find your potential spouse and you must do it yourself. When I first saw the woman who would become my wife, I approached her immediately and directly. A simpering Headquarters bureaucrat would have thought, “I must find someone who can sidle up to her and assess her and then provide me with information that I can use to develop a relationship.”

We’ve spent billions training our officers and then they live in Washington and recruit American college professors to do their work.

The question is:  If these Headquarters-run operations are so lightweight, why did John Brennan’s CIA choose this kind of operation to target Trump? 

The answer is that they already knew there was no collusion, so they didn’t need a surgical, focused, silent CIA field operation.  

They wanted the noise and the hum of activity, the smoke, rumors, leaks, and innuendo of a Headquarters-run operation.  And they were right. Their plan worked. All this noise, combined with the fraudulent Steele Dossier, led to relentless media attacks on Trump, an unlimited budget for Mueller and his team, and even to ongoing demands that Trump kowtow to the intel agencies. 

The deep state left a sloppy trail behind. They must have figured Hillary would win and so it wouldn’t matter. There’s much more going on here than CIA spies merely sidling up to Trump associates for brief conversations and handing them some money. Big meetings about these operations meant people like Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe from the FBI piled into cars to head over to the CIA. Once there, they sat around the Nirvana of bureaucracy, a big conference room table. (McCabe spent $70,000 of your money to buy his own table.) Each agency and office would have been at the table. Each senior person brings along a herd of minions. The senior people talk while the minions sit there like potted plants. These potted plants will be willing to talk to investigators. 

CIA employees document their activity exhaustively in records that are sent to lots of other offices to keep everyone informed. These documents are cross-referenced, so if a deep stater tries to delete them, it will be obvious. A Horowitz-style investigation will find a treasure trove of information plus a trail of accountings that will show wasteful spending and possibly fraud. Headquarters-run ops are expensive extravaganzas. 

Democrats seem to understand that these ops are easy to unravel. Their only defense is to scream that details must be kept secret to protect national security. Yet they are the ones who did the leaking of identities of people involved, which is a felony.

Mueller and his 13 angry Democrats are missing out on all the fun. Their investigation of the President has been frustrating. Had Mueller focused instead on threats from our own intelligence agencies, he’d have been able to indict and jail his prey at will. 

We must hold John Brennan and his bureaucrats accountable.  At the same time, we must strengthen our intelligence capabilities by cancelling phony operations and redirecting our officers to service overseas.    

Ishmael Jones is the pen name of a former CIA case officer. He is the author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture

The FBI is being held accountable for its role in spy operations against the Trump campaign. John Brennan’s CIA should be held accountable as well.

An editorial by Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal on June 29, 2018 recommends an investigation of the CIA’s involvement in the 2016 election, and I agree. The WSJ’s Kimberley Strassel has commented on CIA involvement as well, as did Rudy Giuliani on August 13th. 

If press reports are accurate, American spy operations targeted the Trump campaign by luring Trump associates such as George Papadopoulos to meetings in Britain. There are two key factors at work here.

The first factor is the location.  The CIA is in charge of American government spy ops that occur in foreign countries, not the FBI. While an American tourist can fly to Britain to see the changing of the guard and be in front of Buckingham Palace within 24 hours, an American FBI agent can do nothing in Britain without intricate CIA approvals and supervision. If the CIA were not involved, they’d be raising hell with the FBI for doing business on their turf. Turf is everything in bureaucracy. CIA involvement is certain.

The second factor — I do not know the people named and am basing this on press reports — is that these ops bear the distinctive signature of being run by bureaucrats at CIA Headquarters, not by professionals in CIA field stations.

Headquarters’ spy recruitments are weak. Our full-time government employees, such as CIA officers and FBI agents, are expected to recruit part-time spies called agents, assets, sources, informants, and access agents. (Some folks don’t like the use of the word “spy,” but in fact everyone involved is a spy. I was a spy.)  With 17 redundant spy agencies and tens of thousands of idle employees in the Washington D.C. area, there’s a natural tendency to recruit American citizens to help spy on Americans. Such operations provide employees with opportunities to look busy and get promoted while living in the comfort of Washington. 

Recruitments of sources are important to the CIA, but if you try to recruit a terrorist in Syria, you might get a bullet in the head. North Korea and Iran are far away, out of sight and out of mind. Why not recruit an American college professor instead? Assign him a secret code name and he comes to look like a real spy. Most Americans are happy to help out, so there’s no fear of embarrassing rejection. 

There’s only one thing easier for Headquarters employees than recruiting an American college professor, and that is recruiting an American college professor who has already been recruited by other U.S. spy agencies. This appears to have been the case in these operations.

“Hey, this isn’t a secret source, this is just old Bill Jones!” is the kind of statement heard at CIA Headquarters when someone realizes that a secret asset is not a brave source deep within a rogue state, but is instead an American college professor, an old colleague, or the family member of a CIA employee. 

In espionage, you’ve got to recruit directly. If you need intelligence on Iran, you’ve got to go out and find an Iranian. It’s like courtship. You’ve got to get out and find your potential spouse and you must do it yourself. When I first saw the woman who would become my wife, I approached her immediately and directly. A simpering Headquarters bureaucrat would have thought, “I must find someone who can sidle up to her and assess her and then provide me with information that I can use to develop a relationship.”

We’ve spent billions training our officers and then they live in Washington and recruit American college professors to do their work.

The question is:  If these Headquarters-run operations are so lightweight, why did John Brennan’s CIA choose this kind of operation to target Trump? 

The answer is that they already knew there was no collusion, so they didn’t need a surgical, focused, silent CIA field operation.  

They wanted the noise and the hum of activity, the smoke, rumors, leaks, and innuendo of a Headquarters-run operation.  And they were right. Their plan worked. All this noise, combined with the fraudulent Steele Dossier, led to relentless media attacks on Trump, an unlimited budget for Mueller and his team, and even to ongoing demands that Trump kowtow to the intel agencies. 

The deep state left a sloppy trail behind. They must have figured Hillary would win and so it wouldn’t matter. There’s much more going on here than CIA spies merely sidling up to Trump associates for brief conversations and handing them some money. Big meetings about these operations meant people like Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe from the FBI piled into cars to head over to the CIA. Once there, they sat around the Nirvana of bureaucracy, a big conference room table. (McCabe spent $70,000 of your money to buy his own table.) Each agency and office would have been at the table. Each senior person brings along a herd of minions. The senior people talk while the minions sit there like potted plants. These potted plants will be willing to talk to investigators. 

CIA employees document their activity exhaustively in records that are sent to lots of other offices to keep everyone informed. These documents are cross-referenced, so if a deep stater tries to delete them, it will be obvious. A Horowitz-style investigation will find a treasure trove of information plus a trail of accountings that will show wasteful spending and possibly fraud. Headquarters-run ops are expensive extravaganzas. 

Democrats seem to understand that these ops are easy to unravel. Their only defense is to scream that details must be kept secret to protect national security. Yet they are the ones who did the leaking of identities of people involved, which is a felony.

Mueller and his 13 angry Democrats are missing out on all the fun. Their investigation of the President has been frustrating. Had Mueller focused instead on threats from our own intelligence agencies, he’d have been able to indict and jail his prey at will. 

We must hold John Brennan and his bureaucrats accountable.  At the same time, we must strengthen our intelligence capabilities by cancelling phony operations and redirecting our officers to service overseas.    

Ishmael Jones is the pen name of a former CIA case officer. He is the author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture



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A Haunting in Ferguson


Four years ago, the trendy city of Ferguson, Mo. — an up-and-coming gentrified community in north St. Louis county — went up in flames after a very large black man assaulted a police officer, grabbed for his gun, and was shot to death. George Soros-linked groups spent $33 million dollars shipping rioters into the community to loot and pillage. A grand jury was convened to assess whether Officer Darren Wilson should be charged with a crime in the killing, and this after a DoJ investigation found no substantial evidence to charge Wilson. The grand jury announced they were not going to indict Wilson, and St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough announced he was closing the case.

But that was then.

In the Tuesday primary election McCullough lost to a black Ferguson city councilman named Wesley Bell who is clearly interested in reintroducing charges in this case. While Bell is being a bit coy about the matter — he has yet to be elected in the general election although he is running unopposed — it seems likely he will take a page from his hyperpartisan counterpart in the city of St. Louis (who brought bogus criminal charges against Governor Eric Greitens, forcing him to resign from office) and will bring new charges against Wilson.

According to KSDK Channel Five News: 

“5 On Your Side took that question to Saint Louis University Law professor John Amman. He said if a prosecutor wants to go for a murder charge there is no statute of limitations for that crime.


And, since the grand jury that originally investigated the case never charged Wilson there is no danger of double jeopardy.


 So, we can verify that a prosecutor could still charge Wilson. But what are the chances?


“It would be difficult to do I would think after four years, after one grand jury looked at it and the federal government decided not to do anything,” said Ammann referencing the Department of Justice under President Obama that investigated Brown’s death and declined to prosecute Wilson.


“Our community has felt that there’s something else that could be done in trying Darren Wilson,” said Bishop Derrick Robinson with Kingdom Destiny Fellowship, who emerged as a leader of the protest movement after Brown’s death.


Robinson said many do not feel justice was served by the grand jury that investigated Wilson.


Asked how he would respond if Bell took another look at the case and still no charges were filed he said, “We’re going to hope that he’s going to find some charges on Mr. Wilson.”

Notice how this “Bishop,” a supposed man of God, doesn’t care about the truth here, but is rather more interested in “social justice” even though all evidence points to Officer Wilson’s innocence and Mike Brown’s guilt. It does not matter; the races of the individuals involved is all Bishop Robinson seems to care about.

They are never going to let this go.

In fact, they just recently appealed to Missouri’s governor-by-default Mike Parsons to reopen the case. They would never try to pressure Eric Greitens in a matter like this; they knew Greitens, for all his faults, wouldn’t cave to political pressure. But having forced Greitens out, they believe they can put the screws to Parsons, a mild-mannered, and possibly weak man from rural Missouri with little experience dealing with race hustlers.

It was part of why they were so desperate to get rid of Greitens. The labor unions, too, and I rather doubt the vote would have gone so against Right to Work had the GOP in Missouri rallied around their governor. But they surrendered and are now paying the price.

Meanwhile, Lezley McSpadden, mother of the “gentle giant” Brown, the woman who along with her husband exhorted rioters to “burn this bitch down” (meaning Ferguson)  after the verdict was reached in the grand jury deliberations, is running for city council in Ferguson. 

I wonder how much of George Soros’ money is flowing into that campaign?

From the article:

“McSpadden pointed out three platforms that she plans to focus on upon election after telling the crowd she is speaking a successful campaign election into existence. They include: community policing, economic equality and access to quality healthcare.


“This is very important to me – and I know a lot of people wonder what makes me qualified,” McSpadden said. “Because I watched my son lay in that very spot where those trails of bears are – that makeshift memorial — for four and a half hours… four and a half hours. They disrespected an entire community, disregarded us. And when I’m elected, they will learn to respect us.”

I didn’t know city councils had anything to do with health care or economic equality.

McSpadden (who got into a fist fight during the protests with Brown’s grandmother over the sale of merchandise) is being duplicitous here; Brown lay in the streets because a crowd had formed making it unsafe to remove his body — at least without hurting or killing somebody else. The meat wagon arrived and police had to tell them to leave. She forgets this little detail, as she forgets Brown was just leaving from beating and robbing a local store clerk.

But no doubt the black community and especially black Democrats — who were enraged when Steve Stenger (a white man) beat the black and corrupt Charlie Dooley in the last primary to become St. Louis County Executive and wanted to show their power by burning Ferguson down — will support this paragon of civic virtue to the fullest. (Dooley was strangely silent on the troubles in Ferguson.) Many prominent black Democrats were regular fixtures in the Ferguson protests.

I wonder when Al Sharpton will show up to campaign for her.

Tim is a life-long resident of St. Louis who grew up very near Ferguson. His website is www.tbirdnow.mee.nu.

Four years ago, the trendy city of Ferguson, Mo. — an up-and-coming gentrified community in north St. Louis county — went up in flames after a very large black man assaulted a police officer, grabbed for his gun, and was shot to death. George Soros-linked groups spent $33 million dollars shipping rioters into the community to loot and pillage. A grand jury was convened to assess whether Officer Darren Wilson should be charged with a crime in the killing, and this after a DoJ investigation found no substantial evidence to charge Wilson. The grand jury announced they were not going to indict Wilson, and St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough announced he was closing the case.

But that was then.

In the Tuesday primary election McCullough lost to a black Ferguson city councilman named Wesley Bell who is clearly interested in reintroducing charges in this case. While Bell is being a bit coy about the matter — he has yet to be elected in the general election although he is running unopposed — it seems likely he will take a page from his hyperpartisan counterpart in the city of St. Louis (who brought bogus criminal charges against Governor Eric Greitens, forcing him to resign from office) and will bring new charges against Wilson.

According to KSDK Channel Five News: 

“5 On Your Side took that question to Saint Louis University Law professor John Amman. He said if a prosecutor wants to go for a murder charge there is no statute of limitations for that crime.


And, since the grand jury that originally investigated the case never charged Wilson there is no danger of double jeopardy.


 So, we can verify that a prosecutor could still charge Wilson. But what are the chances?


“It would be difficult to do I would think after four years, after one grand jury looked at it and the federal government decided not to do anything,” said Ammann referencing the Department of Justice under President Obama that investigated Brown’s death and declined to prosecute Wilson.


“Our community has felt that there’s something else that could be done in trying Darren Wilson,” said Bishop Derrick Robinson with Kingdom Destiny Fellowship, who emerged as a leader of the protest movement after Brown’s death.


Robinson said many do not feel justice was served by the grand jury that investigated Wilson.


Asked how he would respond if Bell took another look at the case and still no charges were filed he said, “We’re going to hope that he’s going to find some charges on Mr. Wilson.”

Notice how this “Bishop,” a supposed man of God, doesn’t care about the truth here, but is rather more interested in “social justice” even though all evidence points to Officer Wilson’s innocence and Mike Brown’s guilt. It does not matter; the races of the individuals involved is all Bishop Robinson seems to care about.

They are never going to let this go.

In fact, they just recently appealed to Missouri’s governor-by-default Mike Parsons to reopen the case. They would never try to pressure Eric Greitens in a matter like this; they knew Greitens, for all his faults, wouldn’t cave to political pressure. But having forced Greitens out, they believe they can put the screws to Parsons, a mild-mannered, and possibly weak man from rural Missouri with little experience dealing with race hustlers.

It was part of why they were so desperate to get rid of Greitens. The labor unions, too, and I rather doubt the vote would have gone so against Right to Work had the GOP in Missouri rallied around their governor. But they surrendered and are now paying the price.

Meanwhile, Lezley McSpadden, mother of the “gentle giant” Brown, the woman who along with her husband exhorted rioters to “burn this bitch down” (meaning Ferguson)  after the verdict was reached in the grand jury deliberations, is running for city council in Ferguson. 

I wonder how much of George Soros’ money is flowing into that campaign?

From the article:

“McSpadden pointed out three platforms that she plans to focus on upon election after telling the crowd she is speaking a successful campaign election into existence. They include: community policing, economic equality and access to quality healthcare.


“This is very important to me – and I know a lot of people wonder what makes me qualified,” McSpadden said. “Because I watched my son lay in that very spot where those trails of bears are – that makeshift memorial — for four and a half hours… four and a half hours. They disrespected an entire community, disregarded us. And when I’m elected, they will learn to respect us.”

I didn’t know city councils had anything to do with health care or economic equality.

McSpadden (who got into a fist fight during the protests with Brown’s grandmother over the sale of merchandise) is being duplicitous here; Brown lay in the streets because a crowd had formed making it unsafe to remove his body — at least without hurting or killing somebody else. The meat wagon arrived and police had to tell them to leave. She forgets this little detail, as she forgets Brown was just leaving from beating and robbing a local store clerk.

But no doubt the black community and especially black Democrats — who were enraged when Steve Stenger (a white man) beat the black and corrupt Charlie Dooley in the last primary to become St. Louis County Executive and wanted to show their power by burning Ferguson down — will support this paragon of civic virtue to the fullest. (Dooley was strangely silent on the troubles in Ferguson.) Many prominent black Democrats were regular fixtures in the Ferguson protests.

I wonder when Al Sharpton will show up to campaign for her.

Tim is a life-long resident of St. Louis who grew up very near Ferguson. His website is www.tbirdnow.mee.nu.



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Social Security and Fiscal Doomsday


2035.  That’s the optimistic date for Social Security’s impending doom, after which Social Security is expected to provide only 75-80% of expected benefits to retirees.  For the record, I turn 67 (full retirement age, for me) in 2047, so I, like many Americans, have been skeptical about the program for some time.

But perhaps it’s pertinent to note that when I began following this looming doomsday in earnest, it was projected at 2038.  It’s been creeping forward, with some estimates placing it as early as 2034.

But there’s an interesting thing that happens when people think about Social Security, just as that same interesting thing happens when people imagine the impending doom of municipal and state pension liabilities that are now crippling governments across the country with a roughly $5 trillion hole nationally.  Somehow, Americans think, the money is there if governments are capable of properly managing the inflows from workers, capitalizing upon the underlying investments, and just delivering the outflows to beneficiaries.

Each and every of those assumptions are wrong.

Let’s begin with municipal pensions. 

The inflows from workers in a city, for example, have a direct correlation to tax revenue raised by the populace.  This can vary wildly from decade to decade, city to city, as populations move for new opportunities due to business or governmental policy changes over time, but the municipal pension obligations do not typically change from the baseline optimistic assumptions employed by politicians and union representatives in setting them long ago.

For example, Detroit, once an American city gleaming upon the hill of unionized employment, has, since the 1960s, seen its “population decline by 60%.”

“Rather than reduce the size of government as its population shrank,” Alison Acosta Fraser and Rachel Grezler observe at Heritage, “Detroit sought higher levels of government spending. City leaders, following in the footsteps of automakers, acquiesced to the unions by increasing employee benefits, especially future pensions and retiree health care.”

Now apply this at a larger scale, to a state like California.  “By 2024,” writes Adam Ashton at the Sacramento Bee in an article, the likes of which are becoming increasingly commonplace, “cities anticipate that they will spend an average of 15.8% of their general funds on pensions, up from an average of 8.3% today.” 

This near-doubling of expected expenditures is exacerbated by reductions in returns in the investment forecast of the underlying pension funds.  In the past, you see, pension funds have enjoyed actuarial assumptions based upon more optimistic returns on the funds’ fixed positions, i.e., bond holdings.  Rates of return on those investments have fallen sharply over the past decades, and there is little to suggest a return to “normalcy” in the bond market, so actuaries have rightfully downgraded expected returns.

All of this is to say that, on top of lower interest returns on fixed investments, local and state pension funds are exposed to what retirement planners call the risk of a “sequence-of-returns” risk

If there is a market downturn, and particularly, a long-standing market downturn like we saw in the tech crash of 2000, being forced to liquidate investments to pay obligations will deplete the funds faster than if the funds were able to hold those investments as a typical investor would. 

The average American investor might understand this, in principle.  For example, if you had an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) in 2008, it may have lost 30% or more due to the market crash of the Great Recession.  The government requires that, if you are over the age of 70-and-a-half, that you must begin liquidating money from your tax-sheltered accounts in order for the government to collect the revenue from your doing so.  Congress declared, uniquely in the scope of United States’ tax history, that in 2009 those Americans were not required to take their “required minimum distribution” in that year, thereby not forcing retirees to sell their investments at a dramatic loss, because doing so might be detrimental to the longevity of their retirement accounts.

Pension funds do not have that luxury.  They must liquidate the investments to pay ongoing obligations.

That alone causes myriad problems.  Social Security, however, is a horse of a different color.

Social Security has no underlying investments, as local and state pension funds do.  The “trust fund” for the Social Security Administration simply does not exist. 

The misunderstanding of this principle has led to the fallacies which you’ve undoubtedly heard, or may even believe.  Perhaps you believe, for example, that the Social Security trust fund has been “raided” by politicians over the years.  In truth, Social Security has run at a surplus until 2010, and the Social Security Administration has taken more in revenue than has been necessary to pay its obligations year-to-year until that time.  Excess revenue had, up to that point, only one place to go, by law — to the federal government, and with that money, the federal government issued bonds back to the Social Security Administration with the promise of the repayment of the principal and interest.

What did the federal government do with that excess capital over the years?  They spent it.  It’s now part of the $20+ trillion debt that the federal government owns.

Now, here’s the really important part.

When you hear about the “reserves” of the Social Security trust funds that are meant to keep Social Security afloat until 2035, they’re talking about the repayment of this money by the federal government, and the interest involved.  But the money was never “invested.”  It was given to the government to spend.  And spend that money, the government did.

So, the “reserves” for Social Security now represent nothing more than red on the ledger for the federal government.  To pay for the growing deficit in Social Security revenues versus obligations, the government must take on more debt.

Heritage provides a chart showing the level of these new expenditures relative to government spending:

This is a key component of increasing government spending.  Demographics have hammered the Social Security Administration the same way that they’ve hammered pensions across the country.  The back end of the Baby-Boomer generation is massive.  They will be retiring in even greater numbers in the coming years, further straining these shortsighted redistributive systems to an extent not seen before.

I do not claim to have the political answers to solve the problems that socialistic policies set in place long before I was born.  But I would suggest that addressing the question of entitlement spending, this massive Damocles’ blade hanging above our collective heads, would, at least, be prudent.

Yet no one is clamoring to do so, you’ll notice.

It’s not easy for politicians to encroach the touchstones of socialism which have been embedded in our nation.  I get that.  But if we cannot make practical changes to modestly maintain those foolhardy programs’ sustainability, with working and collecting voters in consideration, we run the risk of running headlong into a million-mile-thick brick wall which may make the American experiment little more than a memory.

William Sullivan can be followed at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Image courtesy the Heritage Foundation.

2035.  That’s the optimistic date for Social Security’s impending doom, after which Social Security is expected to provide only 75-80% of expected benefits to retirees.  For the record, I turn 67 (full retirement age, for me) in 2047, so I, like many Americans, have been skeptical about the program for some time.

But perhaps it’s pertinent to note that when I began following this looming doomsday in earnest, it was projected at 2038.  It’s been creeping forward, with some estimates placing it as early as 2034.

But there’s an interesting thing that happens when people think about Social Security, just as that same interesting thing happens when people imagine the impending doom of municipal and state pension liabilities that are now crippling governments across the country with a roughly $5 trillion hole nationally.  Somehow, Americans think, the money is there if governments are capable of properly managing the inflows from workers, capitalizing upon the underlying investments, and just delivering the outflows to beneficiaries.

Each and every of those assumptions are wrong.

Let’s begin with municipal pensions. 

The inflows from workers in a city, for example, have a direct correlation to tax revenue raised by the populace.  This can vary wildly from decade to decade, city to city, as populations move for new opportunities due to business or governmental policy changes over time, but the municipal pension obligations do not typically change from the baseline optimistic assumptions employed by politicians and union representatives in setting them long ago.

For example, Detroit, once an American city gleaming upon the hill of unionized employment, has, since the 1960s, seen its “population decline by 60%.”

“Rather than reduce the size of government as its population shrank,” Alison Acosta Fraser and Rachel Grezler observe at Heritage, “Detroit sought higher levels of government spending. City leaders, following in the footsteps of automakers, acquiesced to the unions by increasing employee benefits, especially future pensions and retiree health care.”

Now apply this at a larger scale, to a state like California.  “By 2024,” writes Adam Ashton at the Sacramento Bee in an article, the likes of which are becoming increasingly commonplace, “cities anticipate that they will spend an average of 15.8% of their general funds on pensions, up from an average of 8.3% today.” 

This near-doubling of expected expenditures is exacerbated by reductions in returns in the investment forecast of the underlying pension funds.  In the past, you see, pension funds have enjoyed actuarial assumptions based upon more optimistic returns on the funds’ fixed positions, i.e., bond holdings.  Rates of return on those investments have fallen sharply over the past decades, and there is little to suggest a return to “normalcy” in the bond market, so actuaries have rightfully downgraded expected returns.

All of this is to say that, on top of lower interest returns on fixed investments, local and state pension funds are exposed to what retirement planners call the risk of a “sequence-of-returns” risk

If there is a market downturn, and particularly, a long-standing market downturn like we saw in the tech crash of 2000, being forced to liquidate investments to pay obligations will deplete the funds faster than if the funds were able to hold those investments as a typical investor would. 

The average American investor might understand this, in principle.  For example, if you had an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) in 2008, it may have lost 30% or more due to the market crash of the Great Recession.  The government requires that, if you are over the age of 70-and-a-half, that you must begin liquidating money from your tax-sheltered accounts in order for the government to collect the revenue from your doing so.  Congress declared, uniquely in the scope of United States’ tax history, that in 2009 those Americans were not required to take their “required minimum distribution” in that year, thereby not forcing retirees to sell their investments at a dramatic loss, because doing so might be detrimental to the longevity of their retirement accounts.

Pension funds do not have that luxury.  They must liquidate the investments to pay ongoing obligations.

That alone causes myriad problems.  Social Security, however, is a horse of a different color.

Social Security has no underlying investments, as local and state pension funds do.  The “trust fund” for the Social Security Administration simply does not exist. 

The misunderstanding of this principle has led to the fallacies which you’ve undoubtedly heard, or may even believe.  Perhaps you believe, for example, that the Social Security trust fund has been “raided” by politicians over the years.  In truth, Social Security has run at a surplus until 2010, and the Social Security Administration has taken more in revenue than has been necessary to pay its obligations year-to-year until that time.  Excess revenue had, up to that point, only one place to go, by law — to the federal government, and with that money, the federal government issued bonds back to the Social Security Administration with the promise of the repayment of the principal and interest.

What did the federal government do with that excess capital over the years?  They spent it.  It’s now part of the $20+ trillion debt that the federal government owns.

Now, here’s the really important part.

When you hear about the “reserves” of the Social Security trust funds that are meant to keep Social Security afloat until 2035, they’re talking about the repayment of this money by the federal government, and the interest involved.  But the money was never “invested.”  It was given to the government to spend.  And spend that money, the government did.

So, the “reserves” for Social Security now represent nothing more than red on the ledger for the federal government.  To pay for the growing deficit in Social Security revenues versus obligations, the government must take on more debt.

Heritage provides a chart showing the level of these new expenditures relative to government spending:

This is a key component of increasing government spending.  Demographics have hammered the Social Security Administration the same way that they’ve hammered pensions across the country.  The back end of the Baby-Boomer generation is massive.  They will be retiring in even greater numbers in the coming years, further straining these shortsighted redistributive systems to an extent not seen before.

I do not claim to have the political answers to solve the problems that socialistic policies set in place long before I was born.  But I would suggest that addressing the question of entitlement spending, this massive Damocles’ blade hanging above our collective heads, would, at least, be prudent.

Yet no one is clamoring to do so, you’ll notice.

It’s not easy for politicians to encroach the touchstones of socialism which have been embedded in our nation.  I get that.  But if we cannot make practical changes to modestly maintain those foolhardy programs’ sustainability, with working and collecting voters in consideration, we run the risk of running headlong into a million-mile-thick brick wall which may make the American experiment little more than a memory.

William Sullivan can be followed at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Image courtesy the Heritage Foundation.



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Where Is the Ace in the Presidential Deck of Cards?


Considering the nature of the muster of political figures now on the scene aspiring to be president of the United States, one may conclude they’re either too gray or too grassy green.  The pickings are poor, and the crop is lean.  How many have appropriate qualifications for the position?  This is not self-evident, since the necessary and desirable qualifications are debatable, partly relevant to changing times, the issues confronting the nation, and the suitable relevant character of the aspirant.

All can agree that honesty is essential for potential candidates, who should be rejected if they “make their faces vizards to their hearts disguising what they are.”  The latter individuals may have dangerous ambition that “lurks under the specious masks of zeal for the rights of the people.”  At the same time, care should be taken that those who advocate the truth are in fact influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. 

A particular problem in the game of U.S. presidential politics, as in poker, is that, as the song says, you’ve gotta have that slippery hazardous commodity, you’ve gotta have the cards.  For candidates, the right card must be found to be successful.  For the electorate, the task is to shuffle up the cards, eliminate the joker, and find the ace.  The decision on the right card depends on priority given to experience, talent, character, style, desirable principles, and ability to implement them.

The Founding Fathers tried to help to some extent.  The Declaration of Independence calls for prudence in the act of making change.  With that, in the present political climate, should go civility, recognition that unanimity in the nation does not exist, that competing “factions” are inevitable, and that compromise of principle and policy is often essential. 

One Founder, Alexander Hamilton, is much admired on Broadway in the hip-hop musical bearing his name.  He should be equally admired for his paper, No. 68 of the Federalist Papers, written on March 14, 1788, on the mode of electing the president of the U.S.  The particular electoral process he suggested is inappropriate and would not be acceptable today, but it was important for him because it afforded a moral certainty that the office of president would go to a person “endowed in an eminent degree” with the requisite qualifications.  This would not be a person with talents for low intrigue and the “little arts of popularity,” but one pre-eminent for ability and virtue, and with the aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.

James Madison, Hamilton’s colleague in writing the Federalist Papers in support of the proposed Constitution, though not listing the talents needed for president, warned in Federalist 55 that in politics, “passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.”  A presidential candidate must ensure that passion and emotions do not overpower and distort political and moral judgments.  Passion and prejudice rarely if ever favor the discovery of truth.

The U.S. Constitution itself does not provide any list of qualities for the president position, but Article II contains the key statement that “[t]he executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”  Executive ability is therefore crucial.  So are qualities of character and ability: integrity; honesty; leadership skill; ability to understand problems, national and international; ability to decide, communicate, negotiate, and persuade Congress; and capacity to take care that laws are faithfully executed.

Presently, the number of those who are considering or have proposed themselves to be president are likely to fill Madison Square Garden in New York to capacity.  Before surveying some of them, it should be pointed out that none of them is a felon, or charged as such.  None appears to have had a ten-minute talk with a Russian lawyer in a public space or entered into any form of collusion.  All of them know the way to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and speak English when they arrive. 

First, there is the covey of present senators, members of Congress, past and present governors of states, mayors, and former public office-holders, all different in age, sex, background, and experience.  All appear to believe that their present or past public position is insufficient for full display of their political talents and believe that elevation to the presidency would be appropriate recognition of their ability and wisdom.  Among Democrats who are conspicuous or back in the limelight are Joe Biden at 75, Andrew Cuomo at 59, Elizabeth Warren at 67, Bernie Sanders at 75, Corey Booker at 49, Kamala Harris at 52, Eric Garcetti at 47, Martin O’Malley at 54, Lincoln Chafee at 65, and Julián Castro at 43.

 Success in business, a positive achievement, is seen as a logical stepping stone and preparation for the highest public office.  Prominent are Michael Bloomberg, who was also mayor of New York, now 76, and is spending heavily, at least $80 million, on 2018 midterm elections; Howard Schultz at 65, formerly head of Starbucks and owner of the Seattle Supersonics; Mark Cuban at 60, formerly owner of the Dallas Mavericks and TV networks; Mark Zuckerberg at 32, belatedly learning what Facebook does, and Tom Steyer at 61, hedge fund manager.

There’s no business like politics show business.  Superstars are on the horizon: Oprah Winfrey at 64, media star and probably richest African-American; Kanye West at 41, successful rapper; Beyoncé at 36, pop star who said she’s not sure she’s ready yet for the presidency; Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson at 46, actor and former wrestler; and a novelist, Marianne Williamson at 66, New Age author, spiritual teacher, who informs us of the spiritual journey from suffering to enlightenment, and a person who would get the “yoga” vote.

And now the enticing Michael Avenatti, the 47-year-old brash, aggressive lawyer class-action litigator with high-profile cases against large companies and individuals.  In a curious unfitting image, he boasts that he has had 18 years of fighting on behalf of Davids and Goliaths.  He did take part in cases involving important organizations like the NFL, Fortune 100 companies, the Dallas Cowboys, and celebrities like film star Jim Carrey and Paris Hilton.  Nevertheless, his 15 minutes of national fame result from his function as lawyer of “adult” actress Stormy Daniels in her dispute with Donald Trump regarding a nondisclosure agreement about an alleged sex encounter in the 2000s.

A gift for titillation is not among the expected characteristics of presidential candidates.  Nevertheless, Avenatti found the right road to Iowa to “listen to the people [apparently clothed] and learn about the issues,” other than sex, that are facing the citizens there.  Other than listen, he did speak to the Democratic Wing Ding fundraiser in Des Moines.  Avenatti is also a professional racecar driver, a participant in over 30 races.  He has engaged with similar drive, speed, and aggression against Donald Trump, even verbally assaulting him with the Italian exclamation “basta.”

That exclamation, “enough ” in English, might properly apply to the large, somewhat bizarre list of applicants for the presidency.  Alexander Hamilton wrote of the need for a president of ability and virtue who has the esteem and confidence of the whole country, a vigorous executive capable of protecting the country, able to control a steady administration of the laws, and a securer of liberty against assaults of ambition, faction, and anarchy.  We know there are jokers in the present pack of cards for the presidency.  Where is an ace?

Considering the nature of the muster of political figures now on the scene aspiring to be president of the United States, one may conclude they’re either too gray or too grassy green.  The pickings are poor, and the crop is lean.  How many have appropriate qualifications for the position?  This is not self-evident, since the necessary and desirable qualifications are debatable, partly relevant to changing times, the issues confronting the nation, and the suitable relevant character of the aspirant.

All can agree that honesty is essential for potential candidates, who should be rejected if they “make their faces vizards to their hearts disguising what they are.”  The latter individuals may have dangerous ambition that “lurks under the specious masks of zeal for the rights of the people.”  At the same time, care should be taken that those who advocate the truth are in fact influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. 

A particular problem in the game of U.S. presidential politics, as in poker, is that, as the song says, you’ve gotta have that slippery hazardous commodity, you’ve gotta have the cards.  For candidates, the right card must be found to be successful.  For the electorate, the task is to shuffle up the cards, eliminate the joker, and find the ace.  The decision on the right card depends on priority given to experience, talent, character, style, desirable principles, and ability to implement them.

The Founding Fathers tried to help to some extent.  The Declaration of Independence calls for prudence in the act of making change.  With that, in the present political climate, should go civility, recognition that unanimity in the nation does not exist, that competing “factions” are inevitable, and that compromise of principle and policy is often essential. 

One Founder, Alexander Hamilton, is much admired on Broadway in the hip-hop musical bearing his name.  He should be equally admired for his paper, No. 68 of the Federalist Papers, written on March 14, 1788, on the mode of electing the president of the U.S.  The particular electoral process he suggested is inappropriate and would not be acceptable today, but it was important for him because it afforded a moral certainty that the office of president would go to a person “endowed in an eminent degree” with the requisite qualifications.  This would not be a person with talents for low intrigue and the “little arts of popularity,” but one pre-eminent for ability and virtue, and with the aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.

James Madison, Hamilton’s colleague in writing the Federalist Papers in support of the proposed Constitution, though not listing the talents needed for president, warned in Federalist 55 that in politics, “passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.”  A presidential candidate must ensure that passion and emotions do not overpower and distort political and moral judgments.  Passion and prejudice rarely if ever favor the discovery of truth.

The U.S. Constitution itself does not provide any list of qualities for the president position, but Article II contains the key statement that “[t]he executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”  Executive ability is therefore crucial.  So are qualities of character and ability: integrity; honesty; leadership skill; ability to understand problems, national and international; ability to decide, communicate, negotiate, and persuade Congress; and capacity to take care that laws are faithfully executed.

Presently, the number of those who are considering or have proposed themselves to be president are likely to fill Madison Square Garden in New York to capacity.  Before surveying some of them, it should be pointed out that none of them is a felon, or charged as such.  None appears to have had a ten-minute talk with a Russian lawyer in a public space or entered into any form of collusion.  All of them know the way to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and speak English when they arrive. 

First, there is the covey of present senators, members of Congress, past and present governors of states, mayors, and former public office-holders, all different in age, sex, background, and experience.  All appear to believe that their present or past public position is insufficient for full display of their political talents and believe that elevation to the presidency would be appropriate recognition of their ability and wisdom.  Among Democrats who are conspicuous or back in the limelight are Joe Biden at 75, Andrew Cuomo at 59, Elizabeth Warren at 67, Bernie Sanders at 75, Corey Booker at 49, Kamala Harris at 52, Eric Garcetti at 47, Martin O’Malley at 54, Lincoln Chafee at 65, and Julián Castro at 43.

 Success in business, a positive achievement, is seen as a logical stepping stone and preparation for the highest public office.  Prominent are Michael Bloomberg, who was also mayor of New York, now 76, and is spending heavily, at least $80 million, on 2018 midterm elections; Howard Schultz at 65, formerly head of Starbucks and owner of the Seattle Supersonics; Mark Cuban at 60, formerly owner of the Dallas Mavericks and TV networks; Mark Zuckerberg at 32, belatedly learning what Facebook does, and Tom Steyer at 61, hedge fund manager.

There’s no business like politics show business.  Superstars are on the horizon: Oprah Winfrey at 64, media star and probably richest African-American; Kanye West at 41, successful rapper; Beyoncé at 36, pop star who said she’s not sure she’s ready yet for the presidency; Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson at 46, actor and former wrestler; and a novelist, Marianne Williamson at 66, New Age author, spiritual teacher, who informs us of the spiritual journey from suffering to enlightenment, and a person who would get the “yoga” vote.

And now the enticing Michael Avenatti, the 47-year-old brash, aggressive lawyer class-action litigator with high-profile cases against large companies and individuals.  In a curious unfitting image, he boasts that he has had 18 years of fighting on behalf of Davids and Goliaths.  He did take part in cases involving important organizations like the NFL, Fortune 100 companies, the Dallas Cowboys, and celebrities like film star Jim Carrey and Paris Hilton.  Nevertheless, his 15 minutes of national fame result from his function as lawyer of “adult” actress Stormy Daniels in her dispute with Donald Trump regarding a nondisclosure agreement about an alleged sex encounter in the 2000s.

A gift for titillation is not among the expected characteristics of presidential candidates.  Nevertheless, Avenatti found the right road to Iowa to “listen to the people [apparently clothed] and learn about the issues,” other than sex, that are facing the citizens there.  Other than listen, he did speak to the Democratic Wing Ding fundraiser in Des Moines.  Avenatti is also a professional racecar driver, a participant in over 30 races.  He has engaged with similar drive, speed, and aggression against Donald Trump, even verbally assaulting him with the Italian exclamation “basta.”

That exclamation, “enough ” in English, might properly apply to the large, somewhat bizarre list of applicants for the presidency.  Alexander Hamilton wrote of the need for a president of ability and virtue who has the esteem and confidence of the whole country, a vigorous executive capable of protecting the country, able to control a steady administration of the laws, and a securer of liberty against assaults of ambition, faction, and anarchy.  We know there are jokers in the present pack of cards for the presidency.  Where is an ace?



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Trump Haters Meet the Sorcerer’s Apprentice


Hollywood’s Walk of Fame started in the late 1950s to honor accomplished members of the entertainment industry.  On average, they add two new stars each month.  As Hollywood is a bastion of political correctness and virtue-signaling, it was inevitable that the city would find itself butting heads with President Trump.

Trump has a star on the Walk of Fame, which has been vandalized several times over the past few weeks.  The West Hollywood city council, rather than banning plastic straws, voted unanimously to remove Trump’s star from the famous walk.

Fortunately, it’s an empty gesture, much like when Boulder, Colorado declared itself a nuclear-free zone – as if, during a real war, China or Russia would take great care to steer nuclear missiles to Denver or Fort Collins rather than to Boulder.

West Hollywood has no jurisdiction over the Walk of Fame, as it has been run by the Chamber of Commerce since 1962, which has been “[r]esisting public pressure to remove stars for disgraced honorees such as Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey, saying that a star is part of ‘the historic fabric’ of the site.”

It’s nice to see that Hollywood has its priorities in order.  The president, standing up for America, trying to secure its borders and keep America safe, is somehow evil, but the truly evil #MeToo predators continue to be honored by the Hollywood elites.

In response to continued vandalism of Trump’s Walk of Fame star, a funny thing happened.  A few days ago, multiple Trump stars began appearing on the walk, placed on blank squares.  An anonymous street artist and his allies are sending a message to the Hollywood hypocrites: “Rip up the president’s Walk of Fame star or try to have it removed – like you’re the mayor of West Hollywood or something – and 30 more will pop up.”

This reminded me of a time long ago, when Hollywood made good and decent movies, designed to entertain, rather than push some sociopolitical agenda.  Walt Disney was part of this golden age of Hollywood.  One of his early movies was Fantasia, a 1940 film, which set short animated pieces to famous classical music scores.

One of the more famous segments was “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” featuring Mickey Mouse.  Mickey, as the apprentice, is tasked with the chore of fetching buckets of water.  To spare himself the labor, he casts a spell so a broom can fetch the water for him.  Mickey falls asleep while the broom toils away, flooding the sorcerer’s chambers.

Unable to break the spell, Mickey chops the broom into pieces.  But each splinter comes to life as a new broom, fetching more water, worsening the flooding, until the sorcerer returns to break the spell.  You can watch the scene here.

Mickey Mouse’s adventure is playing out with Trump’s Hollywood star.  Trump-haters, using a pickaxe, rather than Mickey’s axe, destroyed Trump’s star, only to have it multiply.  Bigly.

This is a common theme of the Trump presidency.  Attempts to destroy him seem only to leave him stronger.  Beginning before he was even elected, the “Access Hollywood” tape was Trump’s October surprise, sure to derail his campaign.  What happened?  Trump happened, and he was elected.

The Deep State conspired to pave the way for Hillary Clinton by exonerating her of crimes committed and instead indicting Trump for crimes not committed, crippling his presidency with a special counsel investigating everything except what he was charged with investigating, casting doubt over the legitimacy of Trump’s election and presidency.

Despite efforts of the Clinton-Obama Deep State cabal to take an axe to President Trump, all they have done is create greater support for him.  Splinters of Mickey Mouse’s broom are rising up in myriad ways in support of the president.

Black support for President Trump has doubled since last year.  This is a core Democrat constituency, and such an electoral shift spells doom for Democrat electoral prospects.

The left cries “Trump is a racist” non-stop on cable news shows, taking an axe to the Trump broom.  Yet the splinters come to life in the form of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, pop culture icons and Instagram celebrities, joining the Trump train – not to mention Diamond and Silk, Candace Owens, and others.

The ultimate splinters from the axed Fantasia broom are the Q phenomenon.  This is an as of yet unidentified group of presumed military intelligence insiders with White House access.  Some call it a cult, despite the absence of a leader.  Others call it LARPing or basically a joke, yet Q messages display an uncanny knack for predicting future events in a timely and accurate fashion.

Make of it what you want, but Q represents thousands or millions of splinters of Mickey’s axed broom, individuals doing their own research based on “Q drops,” nuggets of open-sourced information that can be investigated, verified, and disseminated.  Most of this is done anonymously, away from prying eyes or interference of the Deep State actors Q is exposing.

Last are the media, with their relentless attacks on President Trump, over 90 percent negative coverage.  They give little, if any, credit for Trump’s accomplishments, especially on the economy and jobs, instead calling him a racist, a traitor, a Russian spy, or just an ignorant rube.

Each swipe of the media axe at the president creates more disdain for and distrust of the media, and more sympathy and support of the president.  Splinters of the chopped broom are the Americans who mock big media at rallies and on social media.

From the Hollywood star to Q to the media, efforts of the left and other assorted Trump-haters simply chop the broom into splinters, creating more support, the opposite of the intended goal.  Mickey Mouse set forces in motion that took on a life of their own, with unintended and unforeseen consequences far beyond his original goal.

Trump-haters are beginning to experience much the same.  Oblivious to what they have set into motion, they will be ill prepared for the consequences.  For the rest of us, pass the popcorn as the show is just beginning.  

Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer.  Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Hollywood’s Walk of Fame started in the late 1950s to honor accomplished members of the entertainment industry.  On average, they add two new stars each month.  As Hollywood is a bastion of political correctness and virtue-signaling, it was inevitable that the city would find itself butting heads with President Trump.

Trump has a star on the Walk of Fame, which has been vandalized several times over the past few weeks.  The West Hollywood city council, rather than banning plastic straws, voted unanimously to remove Trump’s star from the famous walk.

Fortunately, it’s an empty gesture, much like when Boulder, Colorado declared itself a nuclear-free zone – as if, during a real war, China or Russia would take great care to steer nuclear missiles to Denver or Fort Collins rather than to Boulder.

West Hollywood has no jurisdiction over the Walk of Fame, as it has been run by the Chamber of Commerce since 1962, which has been “[r]esisting public pressure to remove stars for disgraced honorees such as Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey, saying that a star is part of ‘the historic fabric’ of the site.”

It’s nice to see that Hollywood has its priorities in order.  The president, standing up for America, trying to secure its borders and keep America safe, is somehow evil, but the truly evil #MeToo predators continue to be honored by the Hollywood elites.

In response to continued vandalism of Trump’s Walk of Fame star, a funny thing happened.  A few days ago, multiple Trump stars began appearing on the walk, placed on blank squares.  An anonymous street artist and his allies are sending a message to the Hollywood hypocrites: “Rip up the president’s Walk of Fame star or try to have it removed – like you’re the mayor of West Hollywood or something – and 30 more will pop up.”

This reminded me of a time long ago, when Hollywood made good and decent movies, designed to entertain, rather than push some sociopolitical agenda.  Walt Disney was part of this golden age of Hollywood.  One of his early movies was Fantasia, a 1940 film, which set short animated pieces to famous classical music scores.

One of the more famous segments was “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” featuring Mickey Mouse.  Mickey, as the apprentice, is tasked with the chore of fetching buckets of water.  To spare himself the labor, he casts a spell so a broom can fetch the water for him.  Mickey falls asleep while the broom toils away, flooding the sorcerer’s chambers.

Unable to break the spell, Mickey chops the broom into pieces.  But each splinter comes to life as a new broom, fetching more water, worsening the flooding, until the sorcerer returns to break the spell.  You can watch the scene here.

Mickey Mouse’s adventure is playing out with Trump’s Hollywood star.  Trump-haters, using a pickaxe, rather than Mickey’s axe, destroyed Trump’s star, only to have it multiply.  Bigly.

This is a common theme of the Trump presidency.  Attempts to destroy him seem only to leave him stronger.  Beginning before he was even elected, the “Access Hollywood” tape was Trump’s October surprise, sure to derail his campaign.  What happened?  Trump happened, and he was elected.

The Deep State conspired to pave the way for Hillary Clinton by exonerating her of crimes committed and instead indicting Trump for crimes not committed, crippling his presidency with a special counsel investigating everything except what he was charged with investigating, casting doubt over the legitimacy of Trump’s election and presidency.

Despite efforts of the Clinton-Obama Deep State cabal to take an axe to President Trump, all they have done is create greater support for him.  Splinters of Mickey Mouse’s broom are rising up in myriad ways in support of the president.

Black support for President Trump has doubled since last year.  This is a core Democrat constituency, and such an electoral shift spells doom for Democrat electoral prospects.

The left cries “Trump is a racist” non-stop on cable news shows, taking an axe to the Trump broom.  Yet the splinters come to life in the form of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, pop culture icons and Instagram celebrities, joining the Trump train – not to mention Diamond and Silk, Candace Owens, and others.

The ultimate splinters from the axed Fantasia broom are the Q phenomenon.  This is an as of yet unidentified group of presumed military intelligence insiders with White House access.  Some call it a cult, despite the absence of a leader.  Others call it LARPing or basically a joke, yet Q messages display an uncanny knack for predicting future events in a timely and accurate fashion.

Make of it what you want, but Q represents thousands or millions of splinters of Mickey’s axed broom, individuals doing their own research based on “Q drops,” nuggets of open-sourced information that can be investigated, verified, and disseminated.  Most of this is done anonymously, away from prying eyes or interference of the Deep State actors Q is exposing.

Last are the media, with their relentless attacks on President Trump, over 90 percent negative coverage.  They give little, if any, credit for Trump’s accomplishments, especially on the economy and jobs, instead calling him a racist, a traitor, a Russian spy, or just an ignorant rube.

Each swipe of the media axe at the president creates more disdain for and distrust of the media, and more sympathy and support of the president.  Splinters of the chopped broom are the Americans who mock big media at rallies and on social media.

From the Hollywood star to Q to the media, efforts of the left and other assorted Trump-haters simply chop the broom into splinters, creating more support, the opposite of the intended goal.  Mickey Mouse set forces in motion that took on a life of their own, with unintended and unforeseen consequences far beyond his original goal.

Trump-haters are beginning to experience much the same.  Oblivious to what they have set into motion, they will be ill prepared for the consequences.  For the rest of us, pass the popcorn as the show is just beginning.  

Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer.  Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn, and Twitter.



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What Privileges Do Men Get from 'Male Privilege'?


Other than perhaps “white privilege,” nothing merits more derision than so-called “male privilege.”  Yet is “privilege” really the word to describe men in the West – at least those outside the top 10 percent – these days?

Feminists have gone about making checklists of such privileges, some accurate, some exaggerated.  For example, “I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are,” which is certainly true.  But others have made such lists for women, again some true and some exaggerated.  Obvious examples would include not having to sign up for the Selective Service, disproportionate amounts of money spent on breast cancer research as compared to prostate cancer research, and things like not being presumed to be a pedophile if you’re taking pictures of your kids at the beach.

There’s simply no objective way to compare such privileges.  Instead, feminists tend to look at who is in charge and, lo and behold, it’s usually men.  Any advantages women have are due to “benevolent sexism,” which doesn’t count because women hold little or no political power and thereby never chose to have such benefits.

Aside from the fact, at least in democracies, that most voters are women and I’ve never heard a politician say anything directly about men’s issues, this argument still fails.  Few individuals of either sex hold any political power.  Men and women are not collective beings, and the average man and woman have equal power to change society – virtually none.  Any “benevolent” or “malevolent” sexism we face is simply the hand we were dealt. 

Indeed, even if you take for granted what feminists say, it doesn’t imply that men have privilege.  Even if you grant that men have all the power and have used it to oppress women and, furthermore, that this dreaded patriarchy has infected men with “toxic masculinity,” it’s still not enough.  Sure, it’s not hard to find examples of male avarice.  After all, men make up 75 percent of those convicted for any crime, 90 percent of those convicted for violent crimes, and virtually all mass shooters.  But those things are beside the point.

Even if you additionally argued that virtually all domestic violence is committed by men (which is false), or almost all child abuse is committed by men (which is false), or the wage gap between men and women is completely due to discrimination (which is false), or if women were in charge, there would be no war (which is false), you are still arguing about the wrong question.  If you went so far as to blame men for every societal wrong, it still wouldn’t imply privilege – only culpability.

The correct question is, “What are the fruits of this so-called male privilege?”  Well, on the one side, you have some definite positives:

From this list, it would seem men have all the power and a sizeable amount of privilege.  But on the other hand, you find this:

Would you consider it a privilege to join a club with the second list’s outcomes?

One could argue that men are still privileged but simply do all these bad things to themselves (or each other).  But that’s quite the assumption, given that all of men’s positive outcomes are assumed to be because of discrimination.  After all, does a male CEO become a CEO simply by pulling out some male privilege?  It seems that if men do something bad, they have “toxic masculinity.”  But if men do something good, (say, win the majority of Nobel Prizes), then they’re “oppressive.”  And even if men just do nothing, well, then, they’re deadbeats or something like that.

Women are not to blame for men’s dismal outcomes.  But it seems odd simply to blame men for, say, women being underrepresented in Congress or the STEM fields.  If men and women are different, we should expect different outcomes even absent discrimination.  If they’re not, then how exactly can being among the group with the outcomes listed above be thought of as a “privilege”?

If I were to boil down all the advantages and disadvantages that men and women respectively have, men’s greatest privilege is probably that of perceived competence.  This doesn’t apply to everything; for example, it doesn’t apply to childcare.  But more often than not, a man will be considered more competent as a leader, doer, or thinker than an equivalent woman.

Women’s greatest privilege is being considered more worthy of empathy.  Namely, people care more about women’s well-being than men.  Feminists themselves implicitly recognize this (when not exploiting it) by discussing how harmful it is for men to be told to “man up” and “real men don’t cry” and the like.  Men are expected to take care of themselves.  Women can more easily ask for help.

This has now been scientifically proven.  A recent spate of five studies found “consistent support for our hypothesis that third parties more easily typecast women than men as victims of harm, and that this categorization results in greater concern for women’s than men’s suffering.”  Men and women alike were more likely to sacrifice men than women in the runaway trolley car experiment (which asks if you would switch the track of a runaway trolley car so it would kill one person instead of simply letting it kill two or more).  And Alice Eagly and Antonio Mladinic coined the “Women Are Wonderful Effect” after looking at a myriad of studies showing that people tend to think more highly of and care more about women.

So, if we already generally care more about women than men, what positive effects can be expected by such ideas as “male privilege”?  After all, who puts much effort into empathizing with those who are toxic and those who are privileged?

Other than perhaps “white privilege,” nothing merits more derision than so-called “male privilege.”  Yet is “privilege” really the word to describe men in the West – at least those outside the top 10 percent – these days?

Feminists have gone about making checklists of such privileges, some accurate, some exaggerated.  For example, “I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are,” which is certainly true.  But others have made such lists for women, again some true and some exaggerated.  Obvious examples would include not having to sign up for the Selective Service, disproportionate amounts of money spent on breast cancer research as compared to prostate cancer research, and things like not being presumed to be a pedophile if you’re taking pictures of your kids at the beach.

There’s simply no objective way to compare such privileges.  Instead, feminists tend to look at who is in charge and, lo and behold, it’s usually men.  Any advantages women have are due to “benevolent sexism,” which doesn’t count because women hold little or no political power and thereby never chose to have such benefits.

Aside from the fact, at least in democracies, that most voters are women and I’ve never heard a politician say anything directly about men’s issues, this argument still fails.  Few individuals of either sex hold any political power.  Men and women are not collective beings, and the average man and woman have equal power to change society – virtually none.  Any “benevolent” or “malevolent” sexism we face is simply the hand we were dealt. 

Indeed, even if you take for granted what feminists say, it doesn’t imply that men have privilege.  Even if you grant that men have all the power and have used it to oppress women and, furthermore, that this dreaded patriarchy has infected men with “toxic masculinity,” it’s still not enough.  Sure, it’s not hard to find examples of male avarice.  After all, men make up 75 percent of those convicted for any crime, 90 percent of those convicted for violent crimes, and virtually all mass shooters.  But those things are beside the point.

Even if you additionally argued that virtually all domestic violence is committed by men (which is false), or almost all child abuse is committed by men (which is false), or the wage gap between men and women is completely due to discrimination (which is false), or if women were in charge, there would be no war (which is false), you are still arguing about the wrong question.  If you went so far as to blame men for every societal wrong, it still wouldn’t imply privilege – only culpability.

The correct question is, “What are the fruits of this so-called male privilege?”  Well, on the one side, you have some definite positives:

From this list, it would seem men have all the power and a sizeable amount of privilege.  But on the other hand, you find this:

Would you consider it a privilege to join a club with the second list’s outcomes?

One could argue that men are still privileged but simply do all these bad things to themselves (or each other).  But that’s quite the assumption, given that all of men’s positive outcomes are assumed to be because of discrimination.  After all, does a male CEO become a CEO simply by pulling out some male privilege?  It seems that if men do something bad, they have “toxic masculinity.”  But if men do something good, (say, win the majority of Nobel Prizes), then they’re “oppressive.”  And even if men just do nothing, well, then, they’re deadbeats or something like that.

Women are not to blame for men’s dismal outcomes.  But it seems odd simply to blame men for, say, women being underrepresented in Congress or the STEM fields.  If men and women are different, we should expect different outcomes even absent discrimination.  If they’re not, then how exactly can being among the group with the outcomes listed above be thought of as a “privilege”?

If I were to boil down all the advantages and disadvantages that men and women respectively have, men’s greatest privilege is probably that of perceived competence.  This doesn’t apply to everything; for example, it doesn’t apply to childcare.  But more often than not, a man will be considered more competent as a leader, doer, or thinker than an equivalent woman.

Women’s greatest privilege is being considered more worthy of empathy.  Namely, people care more about women’s well-being than men.  Feminists themselves implicitly recognize this (when not exploiting it) by discussing how harmful it is for men to be told to “man up” and “real men don’t cry” and the like.  Men are expected to take care of themselves.  Women can more easily ask for help.

This has now been scientifically proven.  A recent spate of five studies found “consistent support for our hypothesis that third parties more easily typecast women than men as victims of harm, and that this categorization results in greater concern for women’s than men’s suffering.”  Men and women alike were more likely to sacrifice men than women in the runaway trolley car experiment (which asks if you would switch the track of a runaway trolley car so it would kill one person instead of simply letting it kill two or more).  And Alice Eagly and Antonio Mladinic coined the “Women Are Wonderful Effect” after looking at a myriad of studies showing that people tend to think more highly of and care more about women.

So, if we already generally care more about women than men, what positive effects can be expected by such ideas as “male privilege”?  After all, who puts much effort into empathizing with those who are toxic and those who are privileged?



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The Martyrs of Otranto: Lessons from Christian Victims of Jihad


A little remembered event that occurred 538 years ago today – the ritual decapitation of 800 Christians who refused Islam – sheds much light on modern questions concerning the ongoing conflict between Islam and the West.

Context: Though primarily remembered for sacking Constantinople in 1453, because Ottoman sultan Mehmed II was only twenty-one years old then, he still had many good decades of jihading before him.  He continued expanding into the Balkans, and, in his bid to feed his horses on the altar of Saint Peter’s basilica – Muslim prophecies held that “we will conquer Constantinople before we conquer Rome” – he invaded Italy and captured Otranto in 1480.  More than half of its twenty-two thousand inhabitants were massacred, five thousand led away in chains.

To demonstrate his magnanimity, Mehmed offered freedom and security to 800 chained Christian captives.  All they had to do was embrace Islam.  Instead, they unanimously chose to act on the words of one of their numbers: “My brothers, we have fought to save our city; now it is time to battle for our souls!”

Outraged that his invitation was spurned, on August 14, on a hilltop (subsequently named “Martyr’s Hill”), Mehmed ordered the ritual decapitation of these 800 unfortunates.  Their archbishop was slowly sawed in half to jeers and triumphant cries of “Allah akbar!”  (The skulls and bones of some of these defiant Christians were preserved and can still be seen in the Cathedral of Otranto.)

Now consider what this event says about current realities.

First, whenever Islamic individuals or organizations engage in violence against non-Muslims – and cite Islam as the reason for their behavior – we are instantly told the exact opposite: that they are mere criminals and psychopaths, that their actions have “nothing to do with the reality of Islam,” to quote John McCain.

Yet it was not just run-of-the-mill “Muslims” who committed atrocities atop Martyr’s Hill, but the official leader of Sunni Islam – the sultan himself, who always had a pack of Muslim ulema – clerics, scholars, and muftis – to guide and confirm his decisions vis-à-vis infidels (including massacring those who reject Islam).

Nor was Otranto an aberration.  As documented in my new book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, Islam’s official leaders and spokesmen – from sultans and caliphs to ulema and sheikhs – have always spoken and acted just like the Islamic State (or rather vice versa).

Also interesting to reflect on is how even then, over half a millennium ago, Western nations preferred to engage in denial and wishful thinking over coming to grips with reality or aiding their beleaguered coreligionists.  Soon after the Otranto massacre, Pope Sixtus IV chided an indifferent West accordingly:

Let them not think that they are protected against invasion, those who are at a distance from the theatre of war!  They, too, will bow the neck beneath the yoke, and be mowed down by the sword, unless they come forward to meet the invader.  The Turks have sworn the extinction of Christianity.  A truce to sophistries!  It is the moment not to talk, but to act and fight!

Such laments were not uncommon; nearly a century later, in 1565, as a massive Islamic armament was sailing over to besiege the tiny island of Malta, Pope Pius IV complained that the king of Spain “has withdrawn into the woods and France, England and Scotland [are] ruled by women and boys.”

Finally, and not unlike today, whereas the mass of Western people were ignorant of Islam’s doings, a minority were always keenly aware, including from a historical perspective.  Consider Sebastian Brant (b. 1457)’s “Ship of Fools,” a satirical poem on the gradual nature of Islam’s advances against a “sleeping” Christendom:

Our faith was strong in the Orient

It ruled in all of Asia in Moorish lands and Africa

But now [and since the seventh century] for us these lands are gone…

We perish sleeping one and all

The wolf has come into the stall

And steals the Holy Church’s sheep

The while the shepherd lies asleep

Four sisters of our Church you find

They’re of the patriarchic kind

Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch

But they’ve been forfeited and sacked

And soon the head [Rome] will be attacked.

As the poem’s continuity suggests, learned Europeans saw the Ottoman scourge as the latest in a continuum of Islamic terror, for whereas the Arabs were “the first troops of locusts” that appeared “about the year 630,” to quote a contemporary English clergyman, “the Turks, a brood of vipers, [are] worse than their parent … the Saracens, their mother.”

The same observations of continuity can be made about the Islamic State and every other jihadi organization.

Editor’s note: A portion of this article is excerpted from the author’s new book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.  All quotes are sourced there.

A little remembered event that occurred 538 years ago today – the ritual decapitation of 800 Christians who refused Islam – sheds much light on modern questions concerning the ongoing conflict between Islam and the West.

Context: Though primarily remembered for sacking Constantinople in 1453, because Ottoman sultan Mehmed II was only twenty-one years old then, he still had many good decades of jihading before him.  He continued expanding into the Balkans, and, in his bid to feed his horses on the altar of Saint Peter’s basilica – Muslim prophecies held that “we will conquer Constantinople before we conquer Rome” – he invaded Italy and captured Otranto in 1480.  More than half of its twenty-two thousand inhabitants were massacred, five thousand led away in chains.

To demonstrate his magnanimity, Mehmed offered freedom and security to 800 chained Christian captives.  All they had to do was embrace Islam.  Instead, they unanimously chose to act on the words of one of their numbers: “My brothers, we have fought to save our city; now it is time to battle for our souls!”

Outraged that his invitation was spurned, on August 14, on a hilltop (subsequently named “Martyr’s Hill”), Mehmed ordered the ritual decapitation of these 800 unfortunates.  Their archbishop was slowly sawed in half to jeers and triumphant cries of “Allah akbar!”  (The skulls and bones of some of these defiant Christians were preserved and can still be seen in the Cathedral of Otranto.)

Now consider what this event says about current realities.

First, whenever Islamic individuals or organizations engage in violence against non-Muslims – and cite Islam as the reason for their behavior – we are instantly told the exact opposite: that they are mere criminals and psychopaths, that their actions have “nothing to do with the reality of Islam,” to quote John McCain.

Yet it was not just run-of-the-mill “Muslims” who committed atrocities atop Martyr’s Hill, but the official leader of Sunni Islam – the sultan himself, who always had a pack of Muslim ulema – clerics, scholars, and muftis – to guide and confirm his decisions vis-à-vis infidels (including massacring those who reject Islam).

Nor was Otranto an aberration.  As documented in my new book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, Islam’s official leaders and spokesmen – from sultans and caliphs to ulema and sheikhs – have always spoken and acted just like the Islamic State (or rather vice versa).

Also interesting to reflect on is how even then, over half a millennium ago, Western nations preferred to engage in denial and wishful thinking over coming to grips with reality or aiding their beleaguered coreligionists.  Soon after the Otranto massacre, Pope Sixtus IV chided an indifferent West accordingly:

Let them not think that they are protected against invasion, those who are at a distance from the theatre of war!  They, too, will bow the neck beneath the yoke, and be mowed down by the sword, unless they come forward to meet the invader.  The Turks have sworn the extinction of Christianity.  A truce to sophistries!  It is the moment not to talk, but to act and fight!

Such laments were not uncommon; nearly a century later, in 1565, as a massive Islamic armament was sailing over to besiege the tiny island of Malta, Pope Pius IV complained that the king of Spain “has withdrawn into the woods and France, England and Scotland [are] ruled by women and boys.”

Finally, and not unlike today, whereas the mass of Western people were ignorant of Islam’s doings, a minority were always keenly aware, including from a historical perspective.  Consider Sebastian Brant (b. 1457)’s “Ship of Fools,” a satirical poem on the gradual nature of Islam’s advances against a “sleeping” Christendom:

Our faith was strong in the Orient

It ruled in all of Asia in Moorish lands and Africa

But now [and since the seventh century] for us these lands are gone…

We perish sleeping one and all

The wolf has come into the stall

And steals the Holy Church’s sheep

The while the shepherd lies asleep

Four sisters of our Church you find

They’re of the patriarchic kind

Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch

But they’ve been forfeited and sacked

And soon the head [Rome] will be attacked.

As the poem’s continuity suggests, learned Europeans saw the Ottoman scourge as the latest in a continuum of Islamic terror, for whereas the Arabs were “the first troops of locusts” that appeared “about the year 630,” to quote a contemporary English clergyman, “the Turks, a brood of vipers, [are] worse than their parent … the Saracens, their mother.”

The same observations of continuity can be made about the Islamic State and every other jihadi organization.

Editor’s note: A portion of this article is excerpted from the author’s new book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.  All quotes are sourced there.



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