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The Purple Muse


Welcome to the web site of The Purple Muse.  We offer commentary and opinion on the major issues being debated in our world today.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rights and Regulations - Killing Our Nation

I have been writing thepurplemuse.com for almost ten years.  During this time the most frequently viewed article that I have written is Rights vs Privileges.  I wrote this article in 2006.  It was one of the first contributions I made to the web site.  I doesn't seem to make any difference what other topics I may address.  In the end people gravitate to Rights vs Privileges. 

A couple of weeks ago I was watching CNBC and watched short segment with Phillip K. Howard.  I had never heard of Mr. Howard but he sounded interesting so I decided to purchase his most recent book.  While I was ordering his most recent book on Amazon I decided to buy a couple of other books so I would qualify for free standard shipping and also diversify my reading backlog for the next couple of months.  One of the other books I purchased was The Death of Common Sense - How Law Is Suffocating America, a book originally published in 1994 by Phillip K. Howard.  Mr. Howard added an Afterword in 2011 for the paperback edition of the book I purchased.  Apparently, this book was a New York Times during its original publication.  I had never heard of it, that I remember, until I saw it listed on Amazon. 

The fundamental message of the book is that the bottomless pit of regulations and rights established under federal, state and local law is killing the United States of America.  We have replaced common sense in government with detailed rules and procedures that often times do more harm than good.  Mr. Howard gives many examples of how stupidly we have applied new laws or let old laws that shouldn't apply anymore control current actions. 

As a society we have made following the rules more important than obtaining the best possible overall outcome for our citizens.  In our zeal to protect certain interests we have damaged the interests of others.  We have attempted to replace responsible decision making with hard rules.  We are worse off in many cases as a result.  We can trace the path of this stupidity back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the environmental laws that followed the publication of Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring in 1962.  The problems addressed in the Civil Rights Acts and the early environmental laws and regulations were real.  Our Congress needed to act.  Our nation needed legislation and enforcement.  Our problem is that during the succeeding decades we have added layer upon layer of additional "rights" and regulations.   More and more special interests have gained power over the rest of us by acquiring "rights" through legislation.  Washington DC has evolved into a quagmire of political special interests acquiring and protecting power. 

As I discussed in my article, what many people including Mr. Howard, call "rights" are not "rights", they are privileges.  Privileges can be granted and can be revoked.  In his 2011 Afterword Mr. Howard explains his approach for a new government operating system based on individual responsibility.  Mr. Howard's final paragraph says it all.  "Replacing detailed mandates and entitlements with responsibility to make judgements for the common good will require a battle.  Most special interests and sitting officials will hate it. That's why it must be led by citizens outside of government." 

I could relate some of my own experiences in dealing with the stupidity of government "rights" and regulations but I will skip those for now.  I also laughed when I read some of the examples in the book that weren't much different from some of my own experiences. 

The sad aspect of this book is that the situation Mr. Howard describes and warns his readers about has only gotten much worse in the years following the publication of his book.  All the problems he describes are much worse now than when he originally wrote about them.  Our political class has severely damaged our country.  I am not sure how much more of this kind of damage we can take.  After years of massive federal government deficits and Federal Reserve money printing and low interest rates our GDP is growing at barely one percent per year.  I believe that the accumulated damage of all the rights and regulations legislation over the decades is helping to kill our national economy.  We have gone well over the line between helpful and harmful rules and regulations.  We must stop this process first and then hopefully clean it up to some degree. 

When Mr. Howard wrote this book and even when he wrote the Afterword in 2011 the 2016 Presidential election was a long way out into the future.  Look at the choices we have.  We can vote for Hillary Clinton.  She is a guarantee that the problems described by Mr. Howard will only get worse.  We can vote for Donald Trump.  His early supporters are people that want to break up the Washington political elite and stop and reverse the process described by Mr. Howard.  We really don't know how far Trump will go to stopping this disaster, if he is elected, but at least there is a chance for a positive outcome.  I suggest you read the this book and think about who you want to vote for in the November election. 

As I watch what is happening in the US today I just shake my head.  How can people be so stupid?  How can they not understand the basic concepts outlined in The Death of Common Sense?  In November we will select a new President.  Our general path for the next four years will be defined.  I hope the next four years will not be full of new "rights" and regulations that will put more daggers into the heart of our country.  How much more can we take before it kills us? 


10:49 pm          Comments

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Truth from Fiction
Some time ago I was watching a video by Graham Hancock as he discussed the reasons why he wrote a couple of novels when his global readership well supported his best selling nonfiction work.  He explained that in a novel he could write the story he wanted to write without the rigor required to support a nonfiction work.  He wanted the flexibility to tell the story his way. 
In recent weeks I have been reading best selling author Daniel Silva's series of novels featuring Gabriel Allon, and Israeli art restorer, spy and assassin.  This is another series of books that my wife has been reading for years but I ignored since I was reading nonfiction almost exclusively. Silva's books have been best sellers for a reason.  They are really good.  I was fortunate that my wife had saved the first novel in the series and I decided to try it.  I have now read the first six novels in the order of their publication which began in 2000.  The first six are:
The Kill Artist 
The English Assassin
The Confessor
A Death in Vienna
Prince of Fire
The Messenger 
The entire series now includes sixteen novels.  I plan to read the other ten within the next year or so. 
So what does my Graham Hancock comment got to do with a best selling fiction author's work?  The first six novels include substantial commentary about the Holocaust, much of it extremely graphic.  The escape of Nazi war criminals after WWII and the US government's failure to pursue known war criminals are woven into the plots.  The circumstances surrounding the creation of the state of Israel are included.  The takeover of Palestinian villages and lands by the Israelis during the creation of Israel is addressed.  The hatred of Israel by the Palestinians that were exiled and their supporters is included.  The evolution of Arab terrorist efforts to strike at Israel and its western supporters is woven into the plot lines.  Since I am reading the novels in sequence and one right after the other, the books almost become chapters in a history book in some sense.  While the storyline is fiction, much of the commentary about the continual conflict faced by Jews, beginning in Europe prior to World War II, moving to Palestine/Israel after World War II, and now expanding globally via terrorism, is like reading a modern history book complemented by a news feed.  
I have read that Daniel Silva converted to Judaism as an adult.  Therefore, one would expect that he would support Israel's views of the Middle East conflict in the context of his books.  I believe Silva does a good job of discussing the conflicts from all sides.  But in the end the Jewish people will defend their nation and pursue those that they perceive to be their enemies.  Gabriel Allon is an assassin that kills the enemies of Israel.  I certainly don't expect to see any resolution to the inherent causes of the Middle East conflict in my life time. 
Much of the action in the story-lines takes place in London, Paris, Rome, Washington DC and Israel.  I have had the good fortune of visiting the European cities a number of times for business or pleasure.  I have lived in the Washington DC metro area for decades so it is always interesting to see if authors describe our region accurately in novels. 
I have visited Israel twice on cruise ships in the past five years for a total of five days of touring.  While much of the action in the books takes place in Tel Aviv, a city I did not visit, action also takes place in Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee region (Lake Tiberias) and other locations.  One of the major sites featured in the books is a home on the western hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee toward the east.  In the fall of 2011 I stood on the hills southwest of the Sea of Galilee and looked over the water at the Golan Heights and the Mountains of Jordan.  I looked at Syria between the gap in the mountains a few miles to the east.  The current borders of Lebanon are a few miles to the north of where I was standing.  It was a gorgeous peaceful day when I looked over the Sea of Galilee region.  You would never know this area was one of the most hotly contested, fought over areas of the world in recent decades.  Every time I read a passage in the books that takes place at the Sea of Galilee my mind goes back to my day in the region. 
If you have any interest in novels of this type check out the Gabriel Allon books by Daniel Silva.  They have been best sellers for a reason.  It is amazing how much truth can be found in fiction.  It is time for me to begin reading the seventh book in the series, The Secret Servant

4:15 pm          Comments

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Trump Rally in Ashburn, Virginia
It is pretty rare that I make spur of the moment command decisions to change my plan for the day.  Today was one of those days.  I was watching cable news this morning and saw that Donald Trump was scheduled to speak at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Virginia.  This happens to be a high school that I know very well for various reasons.  I knew that I wouldn't be allowed to see Trump's speech in the high school because I didn't have a ticket.  I also knew that I wouldn't be able to get to the school until well after the scheduled start time of the speech, so I wouldn't be able to see Trump arrive.  I decided to go anyway to see what was going on. 
I was able to park across the street but fairly close to the school.  As I walked toward the front entrance drive, blocked by the local police to auto traffic, I could see the protesters waving their signs to the cars driving by on the street.  I decided to go over and see what the protesters had to say.  I spent the next hour or so engaging in a lively discussion with a couple of dozen protesters and a few Trump supporters wearing their Make America Great Again hats and tee shirts.  The protesters were a very diverse group made up mostly of college age young people with a few older people that are in my age group. 
In this particular group there were many young American Muslims that appear to be convinced that Trump wants to remove them from the country or do something negative to them or their people.  They don't appear to want to understand the nuance of Trump's position on Muslim immigration and rooting out Islamic terrorists.  One young lady didn't care about any issue other than climate change.  She told me she wants to vote for the Green Party candidate since she can't vote for Bernie Sanders.  A well spoken African American lady and young man were concerned that if Trump was elected there would be a race war in the United States.  All of the anti-Trump protesters were against his immigration policy and building a wall on the Southern border.  They discounted his leadership ability as demonstrated by his many business successes.  In their eyes all that counts are some of the problems he experienced in his business career. 
A number of times I tried to get these young people to focus on the national debt, our annual budget deficit, our trade deficit and social security funding issues among other items.  These protesters didn't appear to care about any of these items.  I asked them to take the time to understand the numbers, but none of them seemed interested in learning anything about the US economic and financial picture.  I asked them to understand the relationship between illegal immigration and competition for jobs and consumption of public resources.  These points didn't register with the people I talked to today.  They appear to be locked-on to sound bites from liberal progressive media.  At the same time Trump has created many of his own issues by making statements or tweets without context. 
As people were leaving the school, indicating the speech was over, I walked down the the front entrance to the high school.  Vendors were selling Trump's campaign stuff.  There were local media all about.  There were two satellite trucks in the parking lot.  I watched a group of Trump supporters and a group of Dump Trump supporters each form a line and look at each other without a lot of yelling.  Eventually a large number of police went inside the school and then come out as the Trump entourage vehicles drove out from the rear entrance of the school and left the area.  It was time for me to head home, which I did. 
There was a fair amount of media around the protesters and I may be on the evening news on one of our local stations in a crowd shot.  But nobody from the media talked to me about anything. 
One conclusion I can draw from this limited experience.  The protesters have very little to zero financial stake in the election.  They have nothing to lose.  Their decisions are based on emotional response more than any analysis.  They were no big advocates for Hillary Clinton in the crowd.  They simply didn't want anything to do with Donald Trump.  They can't accept many of things he has said and look at some of the actions he has taken in his business career as hypocritical.  They have no context for most of their views  They haven't lived long enough to have any depth of knowledge.  However,  all the protesters were well mannered.  They advocated strongly for their views without acting inappropriately in any way. 
It was a very interesting couple of hours in the hot sun.  I am glad I changed my plan for today. 
2:52 pm          Comments

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Clinton vs Trump

I have refrained from writing much about the US Presidential election campaign on my blog during the past year or so.  I have refrained from commenting much about Donald Trump's victory over 16 Republican opponents or Hillary Clinton's victory over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race.  I tweeted many times during this period.  Every now and then something related to the presidential campaign got my attention that I felt deserved a tweet or three.  I decided a few weeks ago that I would write a major blog after both conventions were completed.  Since the Democrats finished up their convention last Thursday I have been thinking about the presidential election and how I feel about it.  One of the big differences between this campaign and those of the past is that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are extremely well known by the American people.  It will be hard to find anybody that has never heard of these candidates. Everybody knows something about them. 

Since Trump is not a professional politician there is no reliable source of historical information as to where he stands on political or governing issues.  Trump's magnificent buildings in New York and other cities, his golf courses,  the success of the Apprentice TV show and his ownership of a variety of other businesses are a testament to his successes during his long business career.  The bankruptcy of his casino business, controversy and lawsuit over Trump University and a variety of other issues related to the conduct of his business affairs are testaments to the fact that he doesn't have a perfect track record.  He has built a net worth of somewhere between $3B and $10B starting with some help from his father but the vast majority of his net worth was built through his expertise and management and sales skills.  Trump is the richest man ever to run for President of the United States. 

Clinton's life and career are completely different than Trump's.  While Trump built his net worth by himself with support from his management team (which now includes his three oldest children), it is hard to separate Hillary's success from that of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.  Bill and Hillary have made themselves very wealthy (though not close to Trump's wealth) through book deals, paid speeches and speaking tours and their not well understood financial relationship with the Clinton Foundation.  During the time each of them held public office, their salaries were small in relation to their current wealth.  Early in her career Hillary made money as a lawyer and even made some money trading commodities.  Hillary's life has been built around her goal to obtain as much power as possible to promote her political objectives and to gain wealth in the process.  There is no doubt Bill and Hillary were successful in achieving their goals.  The only question is how many laws they had to stretch or break to achieve their objectives.  The activities of Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation during Hillary's time as Secretary of State are the pinnacle of the Clinton's ability to stretch or break laws or regulations for their own gain. 

Both candidates have personal issues.  Trump has been married three times and has five children combined from his wives.  He has been fodder for the scandal sheets for decades.  But to his, and his wives, credit the kids appear to be very fine individuals with the four oldest children working with him on his campaign.  Trump now has eight grandchildren. 

Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage and Bill's multiple affairs have been fodder for the media for over 20 years.  How they stayed married through Bill's public infidelity is pretty amazing to most of us, but it is their marriage not ours and they have elected to stay together.  Their daughter appears to be a fine woman.  She has been an advocate for her parents for many years.  Bill and Hillary now have two grandchildren. 

Which candidate will be the best choice for our nation going forward?  It depends on what outcome you want.  If you want more of the same from the Obama era, you should back Clinton.  There is no doubt that she will continue to support Obama's policy on most current issues.  Clinton has policy statements on many issues posted on her website and in her speeches.  We know who she listens to for policy advice.  It is easy to guess the pool of people that will included in the senior levels of her administration.  They served under her husband and President Obama.  She has had a liberal progressive bent during her entire adult life, but like her husband is a pragmatic politician.  Her goal will be to maximize policy success pushing to the left. 

Nobody knows how Trump will act as President.  He has no political track record.  We don't really know who he will listen to when making policy decisons.  We don't know who he will choose to serve in his administration.  While he won the Republican nomination he really isn't a Republican at heart.  Trump isn't a Conservative as most people would define it today.  Trump is a mix of liberal, moderate and conservative views on issues and has a huge personal drive and ego.  He has said many things on many issues, some of them contradictory on the surface.  He knows that many of the policies and regulations created by the DC establishment (Republicans and Democrats) over the past decades has created the multitude of problems we face today.  He has some ideas as to what needs to be changed but we don't know exactly what he would do. 

Certain facts apply to both candidates.  The President has limits on his own power.  The President's administration can create policy within existing laws.  The President's administration can create regulations within existing laws.  A new President can reverse or modify the commitments of prior Presidents within existing laws.  The President can issue executive orders in areas where the law is unclear or a situation was not previously clearly defined.  The President can nominate Supreme Court Justices and members of his administration. 

But to do anything really significant the new President will have to work with the new Congress that will be elected at the same time.  How will the Congress change from what we have today?  It is likely that the Democrats will gain strength in the House and Senate and may take back leadership of the Senate.  It is likely that the Republicans will lose strength is both legislative chambers.  Which presidential candidate can work best with the new Congress?  There is no way to possibly know.  it all depends on how the whole situation shakes out.  I can make a case for both candidates in a variety of situations. 

So which Presidential candidate should I vote for on election day?  If you want more of the same as promoted by the Obama administration and a liberal progressive pushing President then you should vote for Clinton.  If you want a President that may attempt to blow up a lot of what is wrong about the DC establishment and create a new direction then you should vote for Trump.  What that new direction may be isn't totally clear. 

Both candidates and all American citizens face uncertain times.  We have a $20T national debt that is increasing a rate of at least $600B per year.  We have a social security system that has a $70B negative annual cash flow and needs to be fixed.  We have a $40B per month trade deficit.  The world order is being challenged by radical Islamic terrorism and attempts by major powers like China and Russia to increase their influence on world affairs.  We have a broken immigration system.  We have slow economic growth, below 2% GDP growth.  We have spreading income inequality.  We need to replace a vacant seat on the Supreme Court with more vacancies likely in the next years.  These are a few of the issues that the next President will have to deal with in addition to the politics of getting anything done. 

Do we want more of the same or do we want to attempt to blow up the political establishment and rebuild our government and its policies and regulations?  From my perspective the establishment has had long enough to address our issues and they have failed.  I want to elect a President that will be fearless.  I want someone that is willing to take on the existing power structure and say no or say we are going in a different direction.  I am willing to gamble that Donald J. Trump will be a great president because he owes nothing to anyone from a political perspective.  Will he make some bad decisions?  Without question he will.  All Presidents make some bad decisions.  Will Trump make more good decisions than bad decisions?  I believe he will.  I believe we will be shocked at how well he can work with a new combination of Republicans and Democrats in our legislature.  I believe Trump will make deals to get aspects of his policy implemented.  He will trade high priority items for lesser priority ones to get things done.  I believe it is worth the gamble to elect Donald J. Trump as the next President of the United States of America. 


10:02 am          Comments

Saturday, July 23, 2016

More Books by Greg Iles

About a month ago I wrote a blog about the books I have read by Greg Iles.  I went book hunting at a used book store I found recently.  I found all the books by Greg Iles that I was hoping to find and read them during the past few weeks.

Mortal Fear

24 Hours

Dead Sleep

Sleep No More

Blood Memory

True Evil

Third Degree 

Each of these books has unique characters and story-lines.  Many of the lead characters are flawed in some way.  At the end of the book some people survive, some don't and life moves on.  Sometimes the lead characters have to put their lives back together after their experiences.  I enjoyed each of the books.  Check them out and determine if they are interesting to you. 


12:25 pm          Comments

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