Quote of the Week

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“Acting well or badly requires both thought and character.” – Aristotle, from Nicomachean Ethics

For Aristotle, the essence of happiness comes from a life of virtue, which is defined as man having command over his thoughts and actions in pursuit of command over the rational and passionate functions of the soul and body. Virtue from Aristotle’s vantage point is the intermediate state between some defined excessive of deficient states with boundaries amongst these that can depend on the situation. An example of an intermediate state would be that within the virtue of courage, bravery is the mean virtuous state, cowardice is the deficient state, and rashness is the excessive state. An example of boundary flexibility is that one could be justified in getting greatly angry if someone strikes them or strikes a loved one, while one would present the excessive state of irascibility that gets greatly angry at a child spilling her water.

One suspects a modern day Aristotle would have much to say about the tenor of the current Presidential race regarding brashness, vulgarity, and dishonesty and how our would be statesmen fail to measure up to these intermediate virtues of bravery, prudence, moderation, justice, and many others.

 

 

“Virginia is Horrible; Send Cheese”

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The American imagination of early settlements is often misconstrued as rather glamorous affairs of hearty British subjects seeking freedom and prosperous land ownership coupled with progress and harmony amongst the settlers and the American natives. The picture above representing this mythical view could have come from just about any American school account of the period. I delighted in reading an actual account from rarely discovered writings of one such settler in the Virginian colony in the 1600s that disabuses this notion entirely. As the editor of thee (allow me some Olde English flourishes given the topic, all right?) article states,  “Life in early colonial Virginia was as nasty, brutish, and short as it got for seventeenth-century Englishmen, as shown in the sufferings of Richard Frethorne.”

The life of this young man, who was sent to serve as an indentured servant by his parents in order to pay off family debts, makes paying off student loans look rather easy in comparison. Stealing, starvation, thirst, hard labor, exploitation, loneliness, despair, and constant attacks from natives are the hallmark of the wretched life of the early American settler. It is highly worth the read for lovers of English colonial and American history to get a better appreciation of our highly inauspicious origins.

That Kid Who Always Takes His Ball and Goes Home

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We all had that insufferable friend growing up who by virtue of having better off parents always had the latest sports gear. His ability to bring the shiniest new toy paid for his admission into the after school games. In my home state of Texas, tackle football was pretty much all that was played on such occasions, and this kid would always bring the brand new “official” ball of the NCAA. It was an amazing ball, with dimples that made it easy to grip for an imagined leaping catch in the endzone and laces that made it easy to throw. The rest of the gang couldn’t resist the temptation to let him play and thus get access to the highly coveted ball. Of course, bringing the highly desired game ball meant the kid would call dibs on playing quarterback. Inevitably, his slick and fancy ball was not matched by athletic prowess or toughness, and after a few minutes of a lopsided score and a few hard hits followed by writhing and crying on the ground, the kid would storm off in a tempest with the ball, leaving the rest of us bereft of a game to play and irritated that we let ourselves be duped again.

I am sure that a story painted in such light brings to mind a vivid picture to everyone reading this of that particular kid in their lives. Looking back, we may chuckle at the thought of the many different forms of immaturity that we encountered and that we unfortunately also possessed and displayed on some occasions throughout our childhood. Unfortunately, this type of behavior also manifests itself into our adulthood, it is just revealed in a different manner. The great tragicomedy is that such behavior is rampant in the person of Donald Trump, who recently dropped out of the Fox News debate due to the fact that anchor Megyn Kelly will be a moderator and, paraphrasing his words, she treats him unfairly. The boorish and childish behavior does not end there. Fox News trolled Trump a bit by indicating that Putin and the Ayatollah of Iran would likely fail to treat Trump fairly either. Obviously peeved, Trump’s response his been a childish taunt that the Fox News debate rating will plummet without him on the stage. The rant about ratings are the proverbial ball to take home of this buffoonish narcissist.

One great challenge for the Republican Party is that Trump is more deftly politically calculating than many of us initially gave him credit for. In his real life version of the Presidential Celebrity Apprentice, the followers he has cornered eat this type of thumb in the eye action up. His calculation is to always stay in the media limelight with rash statements and actions. The more rash, the better, and the more entrenched his followers, the forgotten white working class, becomes.  It is only too bad that many Americans are eating this populist schtick up. It is also too bad that other candidates have failed to paint a more optimistic vision of how principled limited government that adheres to free market frameworks is far better than electing an unpredictable billionaire unmoored to any specific ideology. How long, Americans, will you continue to willingly engage in this dangerous reality show? Time is running out.

Downton Abbey’s Dowager versus Big Government

Watching the last episode of Downton Abbey, I found myself applauding the soliloquy of a fictitious character, Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, who made a full-throated defense of limiting the encroachments of big government. I would have posted an original post on the matter, but I have to give credit to Joe Carter from Acton Institute for beating me to the punch in one of his blog posts that I receive daily via email.

For those of you that missed it or don’t watch Downton, this particular plotline is over whether to cede control of the local hospital to a larger government trust under the promise of better efficiencies and more modern equipment. The Dowager stands essentially alone in her defense of local control. No need for me to prattle on. Watch the video and see for yourself the rousing performance.

 

Speaking of PBS, for those looking for another phenomenal drama, look no further than the show Mercy Street that comes on after Downton. The show is two episodes in, so now is a great opportunity to catch up on past shows and get prepared for upcoming shows. Mercy Street provides a welcome diversion away from British dominance on PBS, who benefits vicariously from the masterful production efforts of the BBC. As much as I enjoy the British shows, it is great to see a show set to one of America’s seminal historical moments, The Civil War,  and all of the juxtapositions it offers between loyalty to one’s notion of state and country, family, and traditions, the great harms created by war, and the evils and compromises of the “peculiar institution” of slavery.

I personally am still holding out hope for a Russian themed PBS drama, perhaps set to The Brothers Karamazov or the Fall of the Romanovs and the ushering in of the Bolsheviks, but the American drama is certainly a great addition.

 

 

To achieve better happiness, start thinking about your own death

Talk about the ultimate premortem, I found this article by one of my favorite authors, columnists, and bloggers, Arthur C. Brooks an insightful thought experiment in imagining life as if it is almost over for you. The crux of the article and mental exercise is that there is a great amount of dissonance between the actions that what we as individuals know makes us highly satisfied and the decisions we actually make as it relates to what we spend our time doing. Brooks states:

In fact, most people suffer grave misalignment. In a 2004 article in the journal Science, a team of scholars, including the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, surveyed a group of women to compare how much satisfaction they derived from their daily activities. Among voluntary activities, we might expect that choices would roughly align with satisfaction. Not so. The women reported deriving more satisfaction from prayer, worship and meditation than from watching television. Yet the average respondent spent more than five times as long watching TV as engaging in spiritual activities.

If anything, this study understates the misalignment problem. The American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, in 2014, the average American adult spent four times longer watching television than “socializing and communicating,” and 20 times longer on TV than on “religious and spiritual activities.” The survey did not ask about hours surfing the web, but we can imagine a similar disparity.

Thus, the imperative is for us to stop wasting time and make better decisions with our present moments. Perhaps regular exercises in thinking earnestly about the dreadful prospect of only having a year left to live will provide an aid in helping us make better choices and paradoxically make us happier.

The Enduring Legacy of the Gideons International

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A recent Wall Street Journal article on the Gideons International reminded me of the special reverence and esteem I have always held for the organization. I can vividly recall Gideons showing up year after year at my rough and tumble lower class junior high school, patiently handing out their colorful mini Bibles to students that for the most part were either indifferent, walking past without looking up, or outright mocking. Still, these men would come back the next year to perform this duty. They were not there to preach or pass judgment, they were there with a simple mission to pass on the enduring legacy of handing out one of the oldest printed books known to man, a book that they believed held the most important lessons to the meaning of life.

A few years later, I would gain a better appreciation for the work of the Gideons. I was 17 years old and six days removed from high school graduation. I found myself in an overnight stay in Amarillo, Texas for final steps at the Military Entrance Processing Station prior to departure for basic training for the Army National Guard out in Fort Benning, Georgia. This was my first step in my military and college education journey, the two being inextricably linked in my life given that the military is how I paid for my undergraduate studies at Texas A&M and I spent four years as an Army officer after graduation. All that being said, a 17 year old spending his first true night alone knows nothing of what the future really holds and has a rather potentially toxic mixture of emotions of excitement and trepidation competing for outlets and attention. I recall that after a day spent at the processing station returning to my room to  discover that the man staying in my room, who must have shipped out that day en route to his own basic training for the Navy, had stolen the $100 I had in my bag meant to last me the couple of days in Amarillo. Lonely, broke, disabused of the naive notion that there would be nothing but honor amongst military men, and holed up in a shady motel on the remarkably dirty and seedy Amarillo Boulevard, I spent a bit of time reading the Gideon Bible in the drawer. The reading gave me a great sense of encouragement on my last evening as a free man. I can therefore say that the unglamourous and hidden work of the Gideons provided aid and comfort to me personally. I wonder how many others out there have found some comfort from a Gideon’s Bible in a time of dire need? Traveling on the road can be a remarkable experience for the clarity that it can provide an individual for deep thought and a forced time away from distractions. It is during those times that people can be prone to despair. Thus, the Gideons provide a remarkable service, even if it does not create the same level of fanfare as other forms of global missions.

My youthful crucible was by no means the last time I would have direct exposure to the work of the Gideons. Recently, and almost two decades after my hotel experience,  I had the pleasure of attending a morning Gideons meeting with my Grandfather’s chapter in the small farming community of Plainview, Texas. The event was simple enough: mostly middle-aged and older men meeting to eat breakfast burritos, drink coffee, talk about the weather, rib each other (as men age, I suppose that they never grow out of the boyhood tactics of questioning one another’s intelligence and/or manhood), and to discuss the business and financial matters of the chapter. True to the nature of the group’s mission, this was a group of men gathering to lift up their families, communities, the American nation, and the world up in prayer. Most importantly, this particular chapter was meeting to discuss their plans to provide weekly church service coverage for prisons throughout the surrounding area. Each week, the farmers, doctors, and retirees of this Gideon’s chapter go throughout the surrounding area to provide comfort and succor to those amongst us in most need of love and meaning. My grandfather is one who heads out to a prison on just about a weekly basis, providing an example of the dedication the Gideons have to God’s work that is safely out of the limelight, but directed at those most in need. Whether it is handing out Bibles to school students on the wrong side of town, placing Bibles in hotels, or ministering to locked up and forgotten prisoners, the Gideons do a lot of the work that remains firmly out of the public eye and directed at those most in need of reaching. This makes the Gideon’s hidden work all the more important and worthy of support from Christian communities.

 

The World Turned Upside Down

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These days, I tend to read the rolling ticker tape of depressing global news like a dispassionate automaton. Inputs come in and update the ledger in my mind, and information is then stored away as bland factual data in the back shelves for whatever future use I might find. The world has been in a funk for quite some time. Between the financial crisis, the constant economic travails of the European Union – is Greece going to stay in or are they out? – the resurgence of a revanchist Russia, a defeatist Iranian nuclear deal, and the idealistic dreams of the Arab Spring crashing into a million broken pieces and spawning the rise of ISIS and millions of migrants pouring out across the globe. I could go on, but the long list is not the point of this post. The point is, geopolitics has given us plenty of reason for gloom in the last few years. Our existing leaders seem helpless, prostrate, and often hapless before such events. And yet, despite all of this, recent events and revelations seem to have finally shaken me from my desensitized slumber. Untypically, I find myself with emotions of angst and awe while learning about two world events this week: the Iranian release of American hostages and the bombshell revelation by a UK judge that based upon all of the evidence he had at his disposal, he believes it highly likely that President Putin ordered the murder of a former FSB officer residing in London.

When I first heard the news that five longtime American hostages were being released, I was elated and began to think, despite my long-held severe skepticism, that perhaps the Iranian nuclear deal might be causing a welcoming thaw in relations between America and Iran and that it just might begin to amend their insidious behaviors of the past. Alas, as the details of the hostage release started coming out, joy soon turned to anger at how the Obama administration with John Kerry as its clawless cat’s paw once again displayed shocking feats of feckless foreign policy. In return for obtaining five innocent victims of Iran’s churlish behavior, the U.S. agreed to drop charges against seven Iranians that were accused of flouting sanctions related to the Iranian nuclear program. In addition, Iran is to receive from America $1.7B in an out of court settlement related to a 1970s weapons sale worth $400M in which the Shah of Iran apparently wired the money to America for a weapons transaction but in which the theocratic revolution of Iran disrupted the actual delivery of the weapons. The $1.7B settlement is intended to be principal plus foregone interest on cash. I guess we should be thankful that this administration isn’t actually sending weapons, but the real question is what kind of moral hazards for the future have we set up with such a pusillanimous approach to Iran?

As much as we must celebrate the positive and join in the elation that five innocent people are going home to be reunited with their loved ones, we must also cringe at the pyrrhic price that has been paid. Economists use the term “moral hazard” for something in which short-term expediency and gains creates an incentive to perform dangerous acts in the future.  Hostage taking is what the Iranians do. It is the foundational act of their theocratic regime (for more on this topic, I highly recommend reading Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah).  Thus, we have shown Iran that America will reward them for hostage taking in the future, so we should expect much more of these events to occur. Jumping back to the $1.7B,  the casual observer might be mistaken into thinking that this seems like appropriate justice. Iran paid for something that we never delivered. In addition,  the Obama administration has indicated that the timing of this is coincidental and not connected to the negotiated release of hostages. The counter argument is that one can’t add up the sum of money that could presumably be awarded out of justified lawsuits Americans have or could have pursued against Iran over the past thirty years as a result of highly justified complaints from the 60 Americans held for over 400 days at the outset of the regime, the Americans that have been held hostage in recent times plus those that are still being held (Robert Levinson and Siamak Namazi were not released in the swap), plus Americans that have been harmed or killed due to proxy terrorism funded by Iran, including the 1983 Beirut bombings and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombings. In essence, we have ceded billions of taxpayer dollars in a suit that could easily have been justifiably been dismissed or withheld in light of all other lawsuits or atrocities that Iran has never paid up on. The real challenge is negotiating with a pariah state. How exactly does one negotiate with a nation that funds terrorism abroad, takes hostages as a regular course of action, and which advocates for the annihilation of Israel? The answer is simple: one can’t, unless of course one is willing to make terrible foreign policy decisions that ensure that those same acts will continue to pay off for Iran going forward. Echoing Prime Minister Netanyahu, if Iran wants to be treated as a normal nation, then first make it act as one.

Another event that drew up less of a well of anger and more of awe and wonder was the recent revelation that President Putin most likely ordered the murder of a Russian living abroad in London. The 1950s-esque cloak and dagger saga has been years in the making, as the Litvinenko murder occurred back in 2006. What is new is news emanating from an inquiry in the UK by a British judge in which a decade long gathering and review of evidence makes the connection between the murder and the top of the Russian oligopolistic kleptocracy led by Putin irrefutable. Add this act to the growing list of the growing Russian government menace that spreads its poison both internally and externally: the apartment bombing in Chechnya that brought Putin to power that was later connected to FSB agents as the individuals who actually planted the bombs, the murder of journalists who investigated the Chechnyan bombings, the blatant murder in broad daylight of opposition politicians such as Boris Nemtsov, and the invasion of Ukraine, the critical aid being lent to prop up Bashar Assad in Syria. The depressing fact here is that America’s weakness and retreat from the global space has facilitated Russia’s rise and Cold War II. One can hope that this revelation wakes up Western powers to just who they are dealing with in Putin.

Finally and to add insult to injury, I read this morning a report that the American baseball National League is discussing in earnest a decision to implement the Designated Hitter as early as 2017. I guess the flip side of this is I will no longer have to bemoan my beloved Houston Astros recent move to the American League since both leagues will mirror one another. Still, I will go to my grave believing that baseball should be played on grass, in the open skies of daylight, and the pitcher should hit. The world has indeed been turned upside down this week.

As I wrote this, one bit of optimism peeped in when Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 100 Days, 100 Nights came on my radio. It lifted the spirits after recounting these depressing global events. Give it a listen.

 

Quote of the Week

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There is no need to suppose that human beings differ very much from one another: but it is true that the ones who come out on top are the ones who have been trained in the hardest school.

                                                             -Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Thucydides is quoting from a speech attributed to Spartan King Archidamus II during deliberations amongst Sparta and her allies on whether to break a treaty and go to war against their rival Athens. Archidamus was a lone voice presenting the case for not immediately going to war and rather dedicate efforts to repair the relationship and amend Athenian behavior through diplomatic efforts. The first part of his statement meant that the Athenians were not all that different than Spartans and that he could understand their motivations and that Sparta should endeavor to make peace with them on common understandings of both of their growing power, interests, and needs of their allies. The second part of his statement is critical for understanding his nuanced balance between peace and war, namely that amongst nations the prospect of the latter prosecuted with vigor assures the former. His statesmanlike balance to diplomatic overtures was that he understood quite well that diplomacy does not always resolve issues amicably and that a polity must always prepare diligently for war in order to effectively safeguard peace. Archidamus would go on to argue that war preparedness is its own form of ensuring that diplomacy can function and that adversaries can be dragged to the negotiation table. I think of this as the ancient predecessor of Teddy Roosevelt’s, “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” version of foreign policy.

This quote also serves as an example of how much we can learn from ancient history as well as an example of the remarkable feat achieved by Thucydides in creating a historical narrative that lasted the test of time. The reader of Thucydides comes away fascinated with the similarities in human nature between then and now, a space covered by the passage of almost 3,000 years of time. The technology and fashions may change, but oh how mankind remains ever the same in our passions and lusts for power and notions of security and our penchant for “us versus them” tribalism. Thucydides supplements historical narrative with a fair amount of speeches given by political and military leaders on both sides of the war. Within these speeches are some of the finest forms of philosophy on offer from ancient times, that once again seem remarkable in their modern applicability. Thucydides’ ancient account has lasted the test of time due to his genius in weaving a tapestry of historical military facts about set-piece events and battles together with political science and speeches replete with powerful philosophy. If the reader of this blog post still has little desire to read hundreds of pages of history related to an internecine war that happened thousands of years ago in Greece, I would submit to you to at least read the funeral oration delivered by the Athenian leader Pericles. It is a fine example of the types of dialogue that occurs throughout the account.

The most misused words in the English language

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Inc. Magazine recently released an article on the most misused words as chronicled by a Harvard linguist. I personally enjoy exercises in making sure that my language is correct. Or at least I should say that I find focus on written language to be worth the effort. I am afraid my oral (not verbal!) language will continue to always be a work-in-progress. It appears I will at least have to rethink my use of, “begs the question,” which from this list seems to be my most frequent linguistic sin.

Here are some highlights:

  1. Adverse means “detrimental.” It does not mean “averse” or “disinclined.” Correct: “There were adverse effects.” / “I’m not averse to doing that.”
  2. Appraise means to “ascertain the value of.” It does not mean to “apprise” or to “inform.” Correct: “I appraised the jewels.” / “I apprised him of the situation.”
  3. Beg the question means that a statement assumes the truth of what it should be proving; it does not mean to “raise the question.” Correct: “When I asked the dealer why I should pay more for the German car, he said I would be getting ‘German quality,’ but that just begs the question.”
  4. Bemused means “bewildered.” It does not mean “amused.” Correct: “The unnecessarily complex plot left me bemused.” / “The silly comedy amused me.”
  5. Cliché is a noun, not an adjective. The adjective is clichéd. Correct: “Shakespeare used a lot of clichés.” / “The plot was so clichéd.”
  6. Data is a plural count noun not, standardly speaking, a mass noun. [Note: “Data is rarely used as a plural today, just as candelabraand agenda long ago ceased to be plurals,” Pinker writes. “But I still like it.”] Correct: “This datum supports the theory, but many of the other data refute it.”
  7. Depreciate means to “decrease in value.” It does not mean to “deprecate” or to “disparage.” Correct: “My car has depreciated a lot over the years.” / “She deprecated his efforts.”
  8. Disinterested means “unbiased.” It does not mean “uninterested.” Correct: “The dispute should be resolved by a disinterested judge.” / “Why are you so uninterested in my story?”
  9. Enormity refers to extreme evil. It does not mean “enormousness.” [Note: It is acceptable to use it to mean a deplorable enormousness.] Correct: “The enormity of the terrorist bombing brought bystanders to tears.” / “The enormousness of the homework assignment required several hours of work.”
  10. Hone means to “sharpen.” It does not mean to “home in on” or “to converge upon.” Correct: “She honed her writing skills.” / “We’re homing in on a solution.”
  11. Hung means “suspended.” It does not mean “suspended from the neck until dead.” Correct: “I hung the picture on my wall.” / “The prisoner was hanged.”
  12. Ironic means “uncannily incongruent.” It does not mean “inconvenient” or “unfortunate.” Correct: “It was ironic that I forgot my textbook on human memory.” / “It was unfortunate that I forgot my textbook the night before the quiz.”
  13. Nonplussed means “stunned” or “bewildered.” It does not mean “bored” or “unimpressed.” Correct: “The market crash left the experts nonplussed.” / “His market pitch left the investors unimpressed.”
  14. Parameter refers to a variable. It does not mean “boundary condition” or “limit.” Correct: “The forecast is based on parameters like inflation and interest rates.” / “We need to work within budgetary limits.”
  15. Phenomena is a plural count noun — not a mass noun. Correct: “The phenomenon was intriguing, but it was only one of many phenomena gathered by the telescope.”
  16. Shrunk, sprung, stunk, and sunk are past participles–not words in the past tense. Correct: “I’ve shrunk my shirt.” / “I shrank my shirt.”
  17. Simplistic means “naively or overly simple.” It does not mean “simple” or “pleasingly simple.” Correct: “His simplistic answer suggested he wasn’t familiar with the material.” / “She liked the chair’s simple look.”
  18. Verbal means “in linguistic form.” It does not mean “oral” or “spoken.” Correct: “Visual memories last longer than verbal ones.”
  19. Effect means “influence”; to effect means “to put into effect”; to affect means either “to influence” or “to fake.” Correct: “They had a big effect on my style.” / “The law effected changes at the school.” / “They affected my style.” / “He affected an air of sophistication to impress her parents.”
  20. Lie (intransitive: lies, lay, has lain) means to “recline”; lay(transitive: lays, laid, has laid) means to “set down”; lie(intransitive: lies, lied, has lied) means to “fib.” Correct: “He lies on the couch all day.” / “He lays a book upon the table.” / “He lies about what he does.”

Feeling the Bern

Hidden amidst all of the focus and media hyping up the divisions within the Republican party, is the conveniently forgotten fact that Bernie Sanders in many recent polls is either within a margin of error or outright leading Clinton in the important early primaries of New Hampshire and Iowa. That an avowed socialist that admits to wanting a single-payer tax system and much heftier taxes on the middle class has made it this far says something remarkable about both the general leftward tilt of the Democratic Party and the weaknesses of Hillary Clinton as a candidate. I will say that if there is anything that Sanders has going for him and that I can’t help but find a bit endearing, it is his sincerity and candidness of his beliefs, which is in marked contrast to the constantly calculating, scheming, and ultimately polarizing Clinton, who seems to have missed the moral lessons that many parents constantly teach our kids that if one lies too much, often times one can’t even remember which lies they have told and have a very difficult time keeping the mounting lies going in a straight direction. Should not love of truth and some relation to honesty be a virtue that we at least have the veneer of holding our leaders accountable to?

We don’t get a sense of the Clinton challenges, perhaps due to the general air that Trump continues to suck out of media attention, but more sinisterly, the fact that the Democratic National Committee is doing whatever it can to keep the coronation process moving along according to the schedule. This means lack of competition and coverage, as made evidenced by the Democratic debates that are scheduled alongside NFL playoff games and Downton Abbey – out of sight and out of mind. There will be limits to this approach as it relates to a general election, since the issues will be brought up more forcefully by the Republican nominee and party and will reignite old debates about whether we all want to relive the scandal of the Clinton years and whether Hillary is trustworthy enough to hold such a high job. I can imagine that even if Trump does not win the primary, that he will serve as a useful attack dog going after Clinton from everything to her cattle futures, whitewater, her husband’s sex scandals and rape allegations that she lent a hand to silencing, Benghazi (where she is on record as having told media and family members a different story about the attacks being induced by a YouTube anti-Muslim video while she was busy telling foreign diplomats and her own daughter that it was a plotted act of terrorism), and her deliberate mishandling of classified information over a private server.

Two Wall Street Journal articles, The Democratic Crack-Up and The High Cost of a Bad Reputation published over the weekend by two of my favorite columnists, Kimberly Strassel and Peggy Noonan, respectively, provide a nice summary of the issues surrounding Clinton and the Democratic Party. They lay this issue out far more eloquently, and in Strassel’s case with far more effective biting wit, than I ever could. I should indicate that Noonan also takes aim at the deserved un-likability of Cruz, so those looking for an bipartisan approach to bad reputations will appreciate the Noonan article. What I appreciate about her article is its equal aim at tremendously flawed candidates that ought to make us stop and think before we vote. Strassel, as ever, provides a memorable synopsis in just a few words:

Some of Mrs. Clinton’s struggles are self-imposed. She’s a real-world, political version of Pig-Pen, trailing along her own cloud of scandal dust. Even Democrats who like her don’t trust her. And a lot of voters are weary or unimpressed by the Clinton name. For all the Democratic establishment’s attempts to anoint Mrs. Clinton—to shield her from debates and ignore her liabilities—the rank and file aren’t content to have their nominee dictated.