Sunday, April 21, 2019

Junk science and junk scientists


The older I get the clearer certain things become. One of them is the way people on the Left of the political spectrum react to perceived threats to their world view as contrasted from those on the Right. My hypothesis is a simple one and I can explain it with an analogy. If the Left sees that a door has been left open and the lights are on in their room of secret papers they will assume that someone has broken in and has rifled through them. They presume it was one of us, a card-carrying member of the evil Right. Their instinct is to call the authorities and demand an immediate investigation and then tell them that they know who committed the crime and demand that they be brought in for questioning. Their counterparts on the Right will just assume that somebody left the lights on, reach in and turn them off. In point of fact neither one is right in their assessment of the situation and their actions. But those seem to be the only two choices that guide our entire political intercourse these days.


We can turn to scientists for some illumination and clarification. No respectable man or woman of science would ever dream of going to the National Science Foundation with a multi-million dollar grant proposal that was either based on a hunch or a suspicion. Were they to do so their grant application would be relegated to the 'circular file' without a second look. Scientists work with certain theories to be sure, but they usually test them out in small-scale experiments to guide them along certain paths that use the process of elimination, among others. Not so with idealogues or zealots. They use their ideologies, whether proven or not and their zeal to move Heaven and Earth - and voters - their way.

Said another way, they are like personal injury lawyers, always looking for a small detail to prove a larger point and never losing sight of the fact that their job is to prove the other guy wrong by using any and all means possible in their case.

And they have no qualms about using the lengthy and costly appeals process to bankrupt the other side as well. Liberals are like that, too. And we on the Right often forget, that for them it's not the truth they seek; it's only the truth that benefits them that matters. The newly-released Mueller Report is a perfect example. The Left will not accept that after two years of costly investigations that no collusion was found to be committed by the President or his campaign staff with respect to the Russians. Instead, they will not give up on their suspicions that something was left on the table, that the truth is not the truth. They are simply proving that they are a bunch of practicing junk scientists using flawed hypotheses. They are not in search of something that will help propel all of us forward towards a common goal, but rather one that will serve their narrow interests. We are all in trouble if we adopt or accept their methods. I have no doubt that the Left will continue along this path. It is in their political DNA and not something that will change until or unless they have an epiphany of conscience or are shocked into accepting the folly of their ways by some cataclysmic event. One thing I do know for certain; one of those two things had better happen soon or we will all suffer, and that's the unvarnished, irrefutable and non-partisan truth.


Stephan Helgesen is a former career U.S. diplomat who lived and worked in thirty different countries, specializing in export promotion. He is now a political analyst and strategist and author of nine books and over 1,000 articles on politics, the economy and social trends. He can be reached at: stephan@stephanhelgesen.com

Down on your knees


It's time. I want you to fall to your knees and beg me, the rest of America AND the President of the United States for forgiveness. Your actions during the last two years have been despicable and worthy of our scorn and public humiliation. You know who you are. You could be any one of the 65 million people who voted for a person who really should be the subject of investigation. You are most certainly, former intelligence agency officials like John Brennan and James Clapper. You are Congressmen and women like Eric Swalwell, Adam Schiff, Al Green and Maxine Waters who have accused the President of committing high crimes like treason.

You are CNN, MSNBC, and the three major TV networks and your co-conspirator hatchet men and women that waged a vicious vendetta against the President all because they hated him and disagreed with his politics. You should be ashamed of yourselves. And so should the anti-Trump newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times (among others) that gleefully wrapped this false accusation garbage up like some sort of rotting carp between their pages. Add to that, the Left-wing political pundits that happily wrote columns and appeared on television denouncing the President as some sort of Russian collaborator. They deserve to be publicly flogged in the pages of their own papers and on the screens they abused. As I said, you are all despicable, and it is you that should bear the 'Scarlet Letter' of 'L' for liar and have it imprinted on the crawler on the bottom of the TV screen and at the top of your columns so that all know you are nothing but a flock of partisan vultures.

You and your ilk of rabid, like-minded Trump-haters have forced our country to endure a totally unnecessary, painful and costly exercise. You have thrown $25 million of our money down a rat hole while you spewed your venom out through the airwaves. History will record your names as being part of a political lynch mob like Joe McCarthy's, all designed to bring down a President you just didn't like. Your narcissism and self-interest know no bounds. Your actions have been fascist and your hatred is approaching psychotic proportions.

You care nothing about the America that 62 million Americans voted to resuscitate in 2016. You are only concerned about protecting your Progressive/Liberal pipe dreams in which human nature and common sense are replaced by the tooth fairy and exaggerated idealism. Your disdain of our laws and total disregard for the sovereignty of our borders are reprehensible. When you look the other way and allow vicious crimes like drug running, child smuggling and prostitution to flourish because you won't admit that fences and borders make better neighbors, you are thumbing your nose at our Constitution and are dismissing the sacrifice of millions of lives that have been offered up to protect it well over two centuries.   

I have no sympathy for you, and I can guarantee that your brand of fair play will never replace that we've worked to protect over the years. You are an aberration, an anomaly and are not 'the people' that are mentioned in the preamble to our Constitution. You are the colonialist British that kept 18th century Americans subjugated by force and by fear. Your America will never take the place of the America we have become through many trials and tribulations. While you may have delivered our system a body blow, you most certainly have not destroyed our resolve and our faith in the true promise of our country. Make no mistake, we will fight you and call attention to your duplicity - every time we see it rear its ugly head. Now it is your turn to be on the defensive. We'll see how you like it.

Stephan Helgesen is a former career U.S. diplomat who lived and worked in thirty different countries, specializing in export promotion. He is now a political analyst and strategist and author of nine books and over 1,000 articles on politics, the economy and social trends. He can be reached at: stephan@stephanhelgesen.com

Ashes to ashes


Everything we make and all the things we revere will one day end up as ashes. That's the truth as much as we would like it to be false. That goes for churches and other places of worship as well. Yesterday, one of the great wonders of the religious world caught fire and nearly burned to the ground taking with it priceless works of art, proving once again that that which man makes, nature eventually takes.

It took nearly two centuries to build Notre Dame Cathedral and only a few hours to see it turned to blackened rubble.  For millions of Frenchmen and Catholics the world over, the demise of Notre Dame was like losing a family heirloom, something that reminded us of our personal history. Those things are impossible to replace. Just ask victims of floods and earthquakes who lose all their possessions. They are forced to re-build and re-make their lives or live in a state of permanent loss. Fortunately, most choose the former, using their memories as their foundation to create a path forward.

Each of the world's peoples and cultures has their own way of dealing with loss and with the inevitable grief that follows. We have ours and the French have theirs, but there are similarities. When the twin towers of New York City were destroyed, we vowed to rebuild them, and in the time capsule of those new structures was an implied dare to anyone who would attack us again. "Do so at your own peril." The loss of a religious symbol like the Cathedral of Notre Dame is different. The forensic investigation that will follow will most certainly rule out terrorism and point to human error as the cause. That will help salve the conscience of the French and give them some closure...as it should.

This brings us to the question of what to do next. Should the French rebuild one of the symbols of their culture or let it rest in peace? When Christ said, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," I think he was referring to the establishment of something far greater than a building, something that would transcend the centuries. He was speaking of faith, not bricks and mortar. That presents a problem for those who would repair the nine centuries-old cathedral. Should they take Christ literally or figuratively? Should they be beholden to history and re-construct Notre Dame with new-age building materials or accept that everything in this life has an expiration date and instead, re-purpose the edifice? While there isn't one right answer to this question, it must be the French that find it.

To re-build Notre Dame could cost a billion Euros. That's real money in anybody's language. To give it a decent burial by salvaging what can be salvaged and leveling the skeleton that stands would cost considerably less. The money that would have been allocated to rebuilding it could be spent on constructing a living monument to the pursuit of peaceful coexistence in the form of an institution whose raison d'ĂȘtre would be devoted to learning, cooperation and mindfulness. On its site could rise up a museum dedicated to Notre Dame's history and of the Catholic religion in France...and the rest of the money could be donated to charitable organizations in that country to help the poor of all religions and faiths. A gift of that kind would do more than insure the legacy of Notre Dame for centuries to come, it would honor He who inspired its construction in the first place. Give those things to Caesar that are Caesar's and to God those things that are His. Faith and inspiration do not dwell in buildings; they live within our hearts and souls.

Stephan Helgesen is a former career U.S. diplomat who lived and worked in thirty different countries, specializing in export promotion. He is now a political analyst and strategist and author of nine books and over 1,000 articles on politics, the economy and social trends. He can be reached at: stephan@stephanhelgesen.com



Don't stop thinking about tomorrow


William Jefferson Clinton rolled out his campaign for President with a song about tomorrow. Barack Obama's was "We take care of our own." Donald Trump wanted to "Make America Great Again" with a rousing patriotic melody. Maybe it's time we in New Mexico had our own song to rally New Mexicans around our state and to help heal the political divide. I'm thinking maybe Weird Al Yankovic could pen one for us or possibly Bob Dylan if he's not too busy polishing his Emmys. Too bad Frankie Laine is dead. He could have set our state's song to the tune of Rawhide. El Paso had Marty Robbins and his song that made that city famous.

I think I would prefer Robbins as our state's balladeer. His 'Ballad of New Mexico's Greatness' could go something like this... "Out in the Land of Enchantment we love so, there lived some folks that have fed at our trough. Tall were their words of promising greatness, that no one could doubt that their hearts were true blue, New Mexico True. And then, the dawn over Santa Fe rose, showing the emptiness there. Emptiness there. With hands over hearts they vowed to uplift us, but all that they lifted was coins from our vest."

You get the picture. I'm no songwriter, but I am a concerned citizen that loves this state, and I'm frankly fed up with New Mexico's leaders' belief in bigger government as the solutions to all our problems. We continue to romanticize our past and convince ourselves that we are almost there. Just a few hundred more laws and we're sure to reverse our course and be all that we can be, but we seem to have forgotten our own state motto, crescit eundo - 'it grows as it goes' and that goes for the rise of government dominance over the citizenry. New laws won't right-size education, eliminate crime, erase poverty and realize the dreams of our early settlers who came here looking for a little laissez faire. Now it's time for us who love New Mexico to face some hard facts.

We're number 49 out of 50 states in education. We have the second highest poverty rate in the nation. Our unemployment rate is the fourth worst in the country. And on crime we're the most dangerous state in the Union. We're overly dependent on 'Uncle Sugar' (the highest dependency state in the USA). We're at the bottom half of the pack (30th) when it comes to the quality of our healthcare, and on competiveness we're 43rd out of 50 states. Don't believe me? Look it up. I did. It's time we woke up from our New Mexico True self-induced PR.

We have been basking in parochialism and patronism for generations. We keep electing re-cycled politicians who are intent on...being elected to new, higher offices without finishing the work already on their desks. Our state sport is running for office. It's exasperating for those of us that subscribe to Einstein's warning: that we shouldn't keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

There are sound reasons we're at the bottom of the good lists and at the top of the bad ones. One of them is, that as a state, we still haven't figured out what we want to be when we grow up. Do we want to be a high-tech Mecca, a major tourism destination, a 'government town' with a hefty Federal footprint? We're deeply politically and ideologically split, and we are demographically divided as well (look at the recent gun law legislation where 26 out of 33 counties' sheriffs said that they won't enforce what they feel is unconstitutional and unenforceable legislation). We spend too much time on trying to celebrate diversity while ignoring the value of unity of purpose and bipartisanship. We also have a mighty big inferiority complex when it comes to our neighbors.

Instead of analyzing what is powering the growth of states like Texas, Utah and Arizona, we prefer to remain - again - New Mexico True - whatever that is. We're losing our bright young people to those states because we won't take off our blinders and confront our problems. We can't attract foreign direct investment because our tax structure is onerous, because our crime rate is off the charts and we protect social promotion in our schools and don't teach our children how to write and read, properly. The recently-concluded legislative session passed well over 200 new bills many of which will put us on a path of Democratic Party re-construction - a makeover if you will.
We are bound to see more of the same during the next four years as the cards are stacked against those of us who revere the 'old New Mexico' where a person could find peace in their own little corner of the state, free from government interference. A state song and a few hundred new laws every year is not going to solve our problems. We need a major attitude adjustment.

Stephan Helgesen is a former career U.S. diplomat who lived and worked in thirty different countries, specializing in export promotion. He is now a political analyst and strategist and author of nine books and over 1,000 articles on politics, the economy and social trends. He can be reached at: stephan@stephanhelgesen.com



  

Oh to be a Senator

I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised that when a U.S. Senator decides to step down there are plenty of people looking to fill the soon-to-be-vacated seat - well before the 'body' is even cold. I wonder why that is? Could it be because of the seat's perceived value or its real value? I don't know for sure, but I suspect that it has something to do with the longer term of service (six years versus the lowly Congressional Representative's two years) and the smaller size of the Senate (100 members versus 435 in the House). If you're a Congressional Representative, you are in constant campaign mode. From the moment you're elected you're busy raising money for your next campaign a year later. In point of fact, you really don't have a heck of a lot of time to legislate because you're constantly pressing somebody's flesh, trying to get into his checkbook for a donation.

Then there's the snob factor. 'Senator' sounds a lot better than 'Representative' ('representative' is something I shout into my phone when I get an automated voice instead of a real person when calling my mobilephone carrier). Senator  also has that nifty Roman/Greek ring to it, too. Harkens back to those days of white flowing tunics, an abundance of free wine, and plenty of free time to take the baths. Here in New Mexico, we just had one of those announcements from a standing Senator. His name is Tom Udall and he's been doing the Senator thing for nine years now (and yes, he was a Representative before ascending the golden stairway to Senatordom). The Udall family is the closest thing we Anglos have to a political dynasty here in New Mexico. In fact, the Udalls have been leaving their tracks in four states: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon for about a hundred years. One Udall or another has been supping at Government's table for four generations.

As political dynasties go theirs is rather benign (compared to the Kennedys, for example). There have been Udalls as Mayors (Nick in Phoenix, Arizona), Cabinet Secretaries (Stewart as Sec. of the Interior), Representatives ( Morris or 'Mo' from Arizona and Tom from New Mexico) and Senators (Mark from Colorado and Tom from New Mexico). Apart from being Udalls, they are all, of course, Democrats. When Tom Udall announced he was stepping down from his job, I fully expected there would be a deluge of candidates for his seat. So far, only one Dem has thrown his bolo into the ring: Ben Lujan (of the Lujan political dynasty in New Mexico). Ben L.'s daddy was Speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives for 37 years - yes, I said 37 years.

Ben L. has been in Congress for nine years and easily won re-election to his seat in 2018. It's not his fault, it's what political dynasty members do - they win election after election because no one dares challenge them. That's why there is no real challenger to Lujan for Udall's seat...yet. No one of the New Mexico Democratic Party faithful wants to upset the political apple cart and 'rob' the heir apparent from his claim to the title that all believe should be his. The climb to the mountaintop should not be impeded for a Lujan just as it wasn't for a Udall. The Democratic 'ladder' in New Mexico is more like a stepstool, and it is reserved for those who are already standing on it, ergo Lujan (this time). Even with a strong Republican opponent, he is a shoe-in. Why? Because New Mexico doesn't elect candidates; it anoints them on the basis of identity politics. And it rewards those who stay in their ideological 'lanes.' Lujan has played his political cards well. He has sponsored politically expedient legislation and has carved out an powerful niche for himself as the Hispanic consigliere to the Speaker.

What would he gain from being Senator? Answer: a higher stepstool from which he could reach for the Oval Office (every Senator really wants to be President) and freedom from the hassle of perennial fundraising, not to mention a smaller playground, less competition AND that grand title, 'Senator.' The question then becomes, "Who will succeed him? Not to worry, there are plenty of Democrats in CD3 who would be more than satisfied to be called, Congressman or Congresswoman and take their place as 'Senators-in-waiting' even if they are the first in their own political dynasty.

Stephan Helgesen is a former career U.S. diplomat who lived and worked in thirty different countries, specializing in export promotion. He is now a political analyst and strategist and author of nine books and over 1,000 articles on politics, the economy and social trends. He can be reached at: stephan@stephanhelgesen.com