Remembering Those Who Fought in Normandy by David Montgomery

 

Esther and I spent last week visiting the beaches and battlefields of Normandy where Allied forces landed on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  Several in our group of 30 travelled here for the same reasons, to see where their fathers landed and fought to liberate Europe. For all of the sons and daughters, the trip was an emotional one: realizing the dangers their fathers faced and the continuous combat they experienced month after month, and wishing that they had known sooner what heroes their fathers were.  None of the fathers talked to their children about these experiences, they bore and suffered with their memories and feelings in silence.

Esther’s father, Pfc Raymond Stednitz, did write a memoir of his life, and from that and our own research we were able to reconstruct some of what happened after he landed on Omaha Beach with the 29th Division as part of the D-Day invasion.  Born in Hoboken, NJ, Esther’s father worked two jobs after school to support his single mother and older brother. He became a carpenter and at 21 years old was working as a shipfitter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard when war was declared. He never expected to go to war when he joined the New Jersey National Guard in 1940, but when his unit was mobilized in 1941, he refused the deferment he was offered by the Commandant of the Navy Yard, writing later that “I decided to spend the next year with the guys I knew.”   

Though her father was from New Jersey, on arriving in England he was assigned to the 175th Infantry, a Maryland National Guard regiment known as the 5th Maryland before World War II.  Soldiers of the 5th Maryland served with distinction on both sides in the Civil War, inspiring the blue and gray shoulder patch of the 29th Division.  Esther’s father may well have served with soldiers whose children read the Spy.

Esther’s father was assigned as a machine gunner to Company D, the heavy weapons company of the 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry.  From Omaha Beach they first liberated Isigny and then advanced through the infamous hedgerows of Normandy toward their objective of Saint Lo, and we followed their path.

Driving down the lanes of Normandy revealed the dangers Esther’s father and his fellow soldiers faced.  The road and fields were still bordered by high banks topped by thick hedges, all of which could conceal a waiting German ambush.  Their progress was measured by the number of hedges they survived to cross in a day.

We stopped in the tiny village of Villiers Fossard to visit a monument commemorating a celebrated battle in which Esther’s father fought.  The monument was erected by veterans of the 29th Division from Baltimore, to honor the soldiers of the 175th who defended Hill 108, thereafter known as Purple Heart Hill, in a twelve-hour engagement on June 18, 1944.

The 1st Battalion, in which Esther’s father served, was leading the 29th Division’s advance on St Lo.  The monument told their story: “At 8:30 AM June 18, the enemy initiated a severe artillery bombardment followed by a strong counterattack against the 1st Battalion.  Heavily outnumbered, [they] stalwartly held their ground. Nearly surrounded, running low on ammunition, and out of communication with its supporting artillery unit, … the Battalion held on for more than twelve hours of combat at point blank range….  By dusk, the 1st Battalion had suffered more than 200 casualties, but had yielded not a foot of ground.”

Along with his fellow defenders of Purple Heart Hill, Pfc Stednitz received a Presidential Unit Citation and the French Croix de Guerre with silver gilt star, and possibly one of his two Purple Hearts. Esther reflected that “until we pieced this story together, nobody in my family knew what my father did.  I didn’t know that his pride in my becoming a Lieutenant in the Navy Nurse Corps was recognition from a real hero. I wish I could tell him how I feel today.”

The 175th Infantry Monument

Pfc Stednitz then fought his way past Paris, through Belgium north of the Battle of the Bulge, and joined in the race through Germany to prevent Russia from occupying Germany west of the Elbe.  He served from the declaration of war to its end in Europe. His first child was born just before he shipped out to England, and was two by the time he saw his father again.

Esther remembers her father as a man who took care of his family with the same self-sacrifice he showed in refusing a deferment to stay with his National Guard buddies when they were called up.  “He didn’t have an easy life, but every morning he made breakfast for us, he took us to school, girl scouts and all our other activities. We complained about our frequent trips to New York for parades, museums and especially the planetarium, but he made sure we had a good life no matter what it cost him.”

Lynne Richardson also came to see where her father fought.  She and her husband also pieced his story together from Army records.  He was 2nd Lt. James Melancon, and he commanded the 3rd Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in Normandy.  Coming from a family of 13 children in St James, LA, he was accepted at LSU and joined the ROTC. His study of agricultural economics was interrupted early in the war, when all the ROTC cadets at LSU were sent to Officer Candidate School on Fort Benning, GA.  The 4th Division arrived in England on January 26, 1944, on their way to France.

Lt Melancon landed with the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Infantry, leading the assault on Utah Beach.  They moved out rapidly to the west to secure the harbor of Cherbourg. After fighting their way to Cherbourg, they turned south and joined up with Patton’s Third Army to break out from the Normandy Coast and start pushing German forces back out of France.

 

German Gun Emplacement Overlooking the Beach

Still in the hedgerows on August 7, the 2nd Battalion was heading toward the German counterattack at Mortain.   Company F was assigned to clear the road toward the German Panzer divisions, and Lt Melancon’s platoon led the advance down the road with the rest spread out in the fields. They were stopped by a minefield which they knew to be defended by retreating German units.  Nevertheless, he was ordered to send a squad to determine what enemy weapons were covering the minefield.

Lt Melancon insisted on joining the squad, and not far down the road they were attacked by German machine gun fire, tanks and mortars.  Most of the squad were killed or wounded, and the casualties lay in the road until the next morning. When the road was finally cleared by a tank battalion, Lynne’s father was found seriously wounded.

That was the end of the war for Lynne’s father.   He spent months in hospital in England, and was awarded the Silver Star for his leadership, courage and disregard for his own safety.  After the war he returned to LSU to finish his degree.

Lynne told me that “Dad suffered greatly from survivor guilt, and always questioned why he came home when so many others didn’t. To some questions, there are just no good answers.  I just know that my mother and 5 siblings are grateful for his life and what he taught us.”

The father of another of our companions, Bruce Blackford, was a farmer in Loveland, CO when he was drafted.  He was assigned to the 104th Infantry Division (known as the Timberwolves) and rose to the rank of First Sergeant before landing near Cherbourg on September 7.

On November 16, the 104th was pushing toward Germany under heavy resistance. His unit had nearly reached Cologne, and was fighting in Eschweiler on November 21 when First Sergeant Blackford was hit by mortar fire.  He was transported to a hospital in England, with his war over. Like the others, Bruce’s father did not want to talk about the war. Bruce commented that he always honored his father for what he did and wanted to learn more about his service. “But seeing what the soldiers in the first wave encountered and overcame on the beaches of Normandy, I am in awe of them.”

Some members of our group remembered other relatives who landed at D-Day.  One had an uncle who was a medical doctor from New York. He enlisted in 1943 at the age of 39.  He survived, but we saw memorials of other doctors who were killed during the Battle of Normandy while treating wounded soldiers.

In the course of the trip we saw the wide stretches of sand at Omaha and Utah Beaches that our fathers crossed through obstacles and heavy fire, the German gun emplacements they had to destroy, the cliffs and steep slopes up which they fought, and in Point-du-Hoc the craters that were left to show how fierce the battle was.  We drove through the hedgerows where Pfc Stednitz and Lt Melancon advanced, and could see how completely they hid the German troops waiting in ambush.

How Far It Was Across Omaha Beach

We also spent time at the many monuments dotted along the Normandy Coast.  Point du Hoc honored the Rangers who scaled the cliffs to silence German guns enfilading Utah and Omaha Beach, one monument at Omaha Beach honored the 1st and 29th Divisions th

at led the way, another honored all the green National Guard units that landed in Normandy, and on to Gold, Sword and Juno Beaches where British and Commonwealth divisions landed.

We visited the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial above Omaha Beach toward the end of our time in Normandy.  Esther, Lynne and our senior officer present, Joe Sychterz, laid a wreath at the memorial, remembering and honoring their fathers who survived as well as the 31,744 allied soldiers who died in the battle of Normandy.

Everyone I saw had tears in their eyes during the wreath-laying ceremony.  The tears were for the 9,387 soldiers who lay in the graves in Colleville-sur-Mer and the 1,557 whose bodies were never found.  They were also tears of gratitude that their fathers and family members had come home to them. Lynne summed up her feelings as “Even more gratitude that Dad had survived.  Even more sadness for all those who did not.”

Wreath Laying at the American Cemetery in Normandy

Throughout our visit, we were continually impressed and touched by how France has honored the men who died.  Normandy itself paid a high price for the liberation of Europe, with two-thirds as many civilians killed as Allied soldiers and airmen.  Almost no buildings built before 1944 were standing in the cities of Normandy that we visited. Caen, Saint Lo, Le Havre and other cities were leveled by Allied bombers in the weeks prior to D-Day, to slow German reinforcements and supplies from reaching Normandy, and what remained was destroyed in the protracted battles to drive out the Germans.  Showing their solidarity in suffering, the Normans erected a memorial to those who died on 9-11 at a 12th century church in Bayeux that we visited shortly after September 11.

Our final stop was at the World War II museum in Caen. It was an intense reminder of what the fighting was about.  The Nazi atrocities documented there made it clear what our fathers accomplished and why France has continued to remember them.  The pictures of 11,000 Jewish children rounded up and sent to their deaths by the French collaboration government were particularly horrifying.  We learned in Paris that all but one of the leaders of that government were executed after the war.

The photos and records of fighting in the museum provided graphic documentation of the price our fathers paid.  As Esther put it, “My one regret is that I did not ask him, ‘Dad, what was it like?” I see him now with a different set of eyes, and wish I had known what to ask to hear his story.  We will all be changed forever by what we learned here.”

Lt Melancon, Pfc Stednitz and Pvt Blackford did not come from privileged backgrounds.  Yet they did not portray themselves as victims or give in to resentment at being asked to serve.  Certainly they groused and complained like soldiers throughout history. Nevertheless, they stepped forward willingly, then returned hurt emotionally and physically to take their place as breadwinners for their families, treasuring the country they fought for and respecting its flag.

We also reflected that we and our children, nieces and nephews belong to the last generations who knew those men.  Before very long there will be few children of the men who landed in Normandy still alive. The average age of our group was around 70, and after we are gone only the memorials and stories will remain to remind our descendants of what was accomplished here, by very ordinary men who went willingly when called and carried our flag into a foreign land to liberate it from evil.  

Our group spanned the political spectrum, but those differences were submerged in our common feelings about our experiences.  All of us felt some kind of obligation to be here, to follow fathers’ steps, as the culmination of years of study of D-Day, to honor fellow men-at-arms, or to understand what happened. We believed it was an honor and privilege to see these scenes. Even though we started out strangers, each felt the others pain and sorrow, be it for the loss of fathers who came home but never spoke of their pain or for those who still lay in France.  We came to see for ourselves the beaches and fields of Normandy, and we also experienced a time of unity that transcended political parties.

I believe all of us who visited Normandy want to keep on telling this story so that it may not be forgotten and that our country may honor and try to emulate the virtues shown there.

 

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Here We Go Again by David Montgomery

As my wife and I prepare to visit the beach in Normandy where her father landed on D-Day and the battlefields where he fought, we see growing threats from within to the democracy he gave up so much to defend.  Refusals to accept outcomes of elections, physical attacks on dissenting speakers on campuses, ostracism of supporters of unpopular politicians, and disruption of legislative processes all give evidence of a rising wave of totalitarianism that would substitute force for democratic order.  

Demonstrations at the confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanagh are the current examples of the left’s renewed commitment to violent eradication of contrary points of view that has been its strategy since the French Revolution.  Rather than tolerating and giving time and space for questioning and debate of Judge Kavanagh’s legal philosophy, the crazed demonstrators and their abettors in the Democratic Party revert to noise and physical obstruction.

That preference for power over thought, to coerce rather than convince, created the monstrosity in Europe that my father-in-law fought to destroy there and protect us from here.  That was the sad heritage of the French Revolution, but not the heritage we enjoy from the American Revolution.

There is no sugar-coating the fact that we have also had periods of conflict, with violent struggles between employers and unions, slave and free states, and even veterans and politicians.  Some of these were fueled by odious ideologies that in principle substituted violence for peaceful persuasion and democratic processes, but those ideologies never came close to winning here as they did in Europe.  Except for the Civil War even armed conflict was confined to specific locations.

From the days leading up to the American Revolution through the Federalist debates and the adoption of our current Constitution, American leaders relied on argument, debate and ultimately the ballot box to resolve our disagreements.  The Revolutionary War was not driven by a cabal of dissidents willing to impose their ideology by force, but a last resort to resist the actions of a distant ruler. The disagreements between agricultural and manufacturing interests, northern and southern states, city and frontier, and above all advocates of strong central government and loose confederation, were played out in newspapers, broadsheets, arguments in taverns and public meetings, and the writings of literate leaders.

The intellectual foundations of the French Revolution were more romantic and less cerebral.  It broke out in popular uprisings against a weakening king and aristocracy. But civil discourse and persuasion through reasoned arguments were rapidly discarded as ways to decide how to reconstitute society.  Despite the worship of Reason that replaced Catholicism as the official religion of revolutionary France, one faction after another took power by force and executed en masse those who might disagree. Reason was replaced by Terror, as it has been in one country after another in every part of the world except ours.

If we look at France in 1789, Russia in 1917, Germany in 1933, and Spain in 1936 we see the same pattern.  Each had relatively new, moderate governments with mediocre leaders that aspired to democratic processes – the National Assembly, the Duma, the Weimar Republic, the Republic.  Each was overthrown by a small but well-organized group that was not able to win elections but could apply concentrated violence to take power.

That is why it is terrible to see American elections and legislative debates limited to slogans and shouting down of opposing points of view.  Our leaders from both sides bear a great deal of guilt in this regard. They have substituted talking points and one-liners for explanations of the reasons for their positions that respect the intellect of the electorate.  The big three networks and establishment newspapers encourage this behavior by ignoring any politician who does try to take more than one sentence to explain his or her position. For a voter to find reasoned arguments that respect data and try for truth rather than persuasion requires both expertise and willingness to work hard to find reliable sources.  This weakens our tradition of reasoned debate and democratic processes and strengthens those who prefer force to reason.

Protestors disrupting Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination are not even trying to convince anyone of the reasonableness of their opposition – their goal is to create disruption until they get their way.  They are just the latest example of the tactics of those who boycotted President Trump’s inauguration, the celebrities who advocate his assassination, Antifa in its violent suppression of free speech, the attacks on police rationalized by Black Lives Matter, and on and on. The American left is taking these tactics straight from the playbook of its totalitarian predecessors in France, Russia, Germany, Spain and failed states and dictatorships throughout the world.

The Democratic senators who are now using the disruption of his confirmation hearings to create further delays in a vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination are thereby endorsing and encouraging the demonstrators.  If they had any respect for the democratic process and legislative debate, they would agree to a date certain for a vote on the nomination. That would both declare their allegiance to civil discourse and make the efforts of the demonstrators futile.  But instead they encourage every form of disruption in their extra-legal efforts to prevent a vote they must fear losing.

My father-in-law never claimed any credit for preserving our freedoms or rescuing Europe from the tyranny that its unwillingness to defend democratic processes brought into being.   That is just what he and his generation did. My wife and I go back and forth between being grateful that he did not live to see the current debacle and wishing that we could hear what he has to say about it.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

EPA Gets It Right on Carbon Dioxide from Power Plants by David Montgomery

The new proposed rule for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants is an important milestone in correcting the regulatory overreach of the Obama Administration. This proposal would replace Obama’s excessively costly and legally questionable Clean Power Plan with an approach that stays within the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA)’s legal authority and provides maximum flexibility to state regulators.

The Obama-era Clean Power Plan was stayed by the Supreme Court because of concern that it went beyond the authority granted to EPA by the Clean Air Act. EPA claimed it was using its authority to regulate types of air pollution not specifically mentioned in the Clean Air Act that it determines are a danger to health and welfare. EPA had previously found that carbon dioxide from electric generators did so due to its effect on global warming, opening the door to regulate those emissions.

What EPA failed to do was stay within the authority it was granted by the Clean Air Act to regulate this type of pollution. That authority is limited to issuing guidance for the kinds of emission control technologies that states should consider in setting emission standards that electric generators must meet.

In every other case when this authority was used, it was clearly understood that states were only to consider emission controls that could be applied “inside the fence” of the generating units in deciding what it was reasonable to require.

In this case, EPA told states to base standards on new and unproven emission control technologies, knowing full well that the result would be standards that could not be met with controls applied “inside the fence.”

EPA did this in order to force electric generators to pay for emission reductions by others, in order to get greater emission reductions than the generators could achieve themselves. That is what the Supreme Court saw as a potential step too far.

In writing its regulations, the Obama EPA largely ignored another problem: the modifications that it envisioned for coal-fired power-plants would also trigger something called “new source review.” Logically, the law applies much more stringent standards to new power-plants, which can be designed to meet them from the ground up, than it does to existing power-plants that can only be retrofitted. But this creates something of a loophole, to do what we do on the Eastern Shore to avoid critical area restrictions on new construction: replace everything that is now there piece by piece until you have something brand new.

Unfortunately, EPA defined a “new source” much too broadly. Just about anything that would make a generating unit more efficient – which means using less fuel and therefore having less emissions per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated – was ruled to make it a “new source.” This meant that the well-intentioned effort to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions could subject the owner to fines, litigation and requirements to make far more extensive and prohibitively costly improvements.

For that reason among others, it was predicted that Obama’s Clean Power Plan would cause many coal-fired power-plants to be retired, drive electricity rates up, and potentially threaten reliability of some coal-dependent systems. These effects, especially if the courts knocked out the ability of generators to buy emission reductions from others, could have added up to electricity rate increases of 10% in some regions and overall economic losses as high as $70 billion annually. This according to studies by the Energy Information Administration and my former colleagues at NERA Economic Consulting.

All these problems would be fixed by the new rule. It declares that improvements in the efficiency of a coal-fired power-plant – known as “heat rate improvement (HRI)” measures – are the best system of emission reduction. This is consistent with EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. It cleans up the guidance given to states and EPA to make clear that they are not to use this authority to force generators to pay others to reduce their emissions. And it revises the New Source Review program to make sure that such measures do not make the unit a new source.

The Regulatory Impact Analysis that accompanies the regulation, like the RIA that accompanied the revised fuel economy standards I wrote about two weeks ago, explains the emission reductions and cost reductions the new rule would achieve. EPA’s estimate is that by replacing Obama’s Clean Power Plan with its heat rate improvement standards and reforming new source review it will reduce compliance costs by substantially more than it reduces climate benefits, thus coming out with a net positive economic benefit compared to the Obama rule.

In looking at how the new rule reduces compliance costs it is important to keep in mind how little even the Obama Clean Power Plan did to slow global warming.
Straightforward calculations using EPA’s own figures for emission reductions and official forecasts of future greenhouse gas emissions and temperature increase show that the Clean Power Plan would slow increases in global average temperature by less than one one-hundredth of a degree (0.01°) Celsius by 2050.

In fact, Obama’s EPA did not even try to justify its rule based on climate benefits. Instead, the only way it could find benefits greater than costs was by claiming that shutting down coal-fired power-plants would also reduce particulate matter (PM) and ozone pollution – two forms of pollution that are already covered by National Ambient Air Quality Standards that EPA must set at levels that eliminate risks to human health.

Think about that.

Obama’s EPA claimed that regulating carbon dioxide would produce health benefits. Then it admitted it could not find measurable health benefits from doing something about global warming. Instead, it added in health benefits from reducing other pollutants that it is already required to bring down to levels no longer harmful. That is purest chicanery. Since EPA is already required to clean up PM and ozone to the point that they do no damage, introducing some unrelated regulations that happen to reduce those emissions doesn’t mean a thing. You had to do it anyway.

Once you eliminate the double-counted benefits of pollution already being controlled under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, even Obama’s EPA could not find an economic justification for its rule. EPA’s new rule implicitly recognizes that you cannot justify climate regulations based on health effects and knocks out a major share of the costs that the Obama rules would have imposed. Good job.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Wasted Outrage by David Montgomery

One topic that has in recent months received far more attention than it deserves is 3D printing of plastic guns.  They are pretty much worthless, so that both the libertarian posturing of their makers and the frightened howls of the hoplophobes are plain silly.  

Throw into the mix the fact that a settlement was reached under the Trump administration allowing publication of computer code for programming a 3D printer to make an all-plastic gun, and the pot boils over.  Not only are reporters and editorialists having hysterics, but judges all over and the Attorney General of Maryland are wasting their time and our money fighting this settlement.

Here is the issue.  The Obama State Department warned a blogger that if he published instructions for using a 3D printer to make a plastic gun he would be in violation of one of its alphabet soup regulations – the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.  That was the first bit of silliness – using regulations intended to prevent publication of designs for advanced weapon systems to stop someone from posting computer code that could have been written by anyone with a course or two in 3D printing at a community college and a working knowledge of real firearms.  That raised legitimate fears that the State Department would classify such common activities as posting a copy of the manual for use and maintenance of a firearm to be a violation of ITAR.

The blogger – who has been described as a libertarian activist – sued the State Department for violating his First Amendment rights. In June the State Department agreed to a settlement that would have allowed him to publish the computer code on August 1.  While all this was happening, a plan developed in the Obama Administration to move export controls on commercially available small arms from State to Commerce was being implemented. And Commerce has made it clear that once something has been been published on the internet, it is no longer subject to export controls.  All in all, a sensible approach which would remove any restrictions on publishing instructions on 3D printing of plastic guns.

On the First and Second Amendment side, this plan makes the issue of prior restraint on dissemination of information about 3D printing of firearms moot.  In fact, even before the August 1 deadline, instructions similar to those that the State Department had tried to stop reportedly appeared on other websites. There was nothing left for either side to fight about.  The Bill of Rights was protected, and the cat was out of the bag in any event.

But that is not how the media and the anti-gun lobby see it.  Since the settlement with the State Department happened in the Trump Administration, it became another cause célèbre for Trump-bashing.

The fear mongers moved immediately to hyperbole and accusations:

Senator Markey of Massachusetts: “Donald Trump will be totally responsible for every downloadable, plastic AR-15 (gun) that will be roaming the streets of our country if he does not act today,”

Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut: “blood is going to be on his [Trump’s] hands.”

As usual, a Federal judge from the West Coast listened to all this and decided that President was again doing “irreparable harm” and issued an injunction to stop the publication of the 3D instructions.

Ironically, the “downloadable gun” that is causing all the fuss is at best a curiosity, a waste of money to make, and far more dangerous to the shooter than anyone it might be pointed at.  The plastics used by home-style 3D printers are far from strong enough to contain the energy of even a wimpy cartridge. A 3D printed all-plastic gun is no more dangerous than a large firework, which is what experts expect most of them to become sooner or later.  A successful product might last for a shot or two, but most are likely to explode in the hands of the idiot who decided to build one.

If the result works and really is “undetectable,” the maker is already in trouble.  The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 made it illegal to “manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive” any firearm that cannot be detected in a TSA scan.  As a result, the design at issue included a firing pin and enough other metal to trigger a metal detector.

Even a tinkerer who wants to make his own off-the-books firearm has a less expensive way to make a superior product.  It is perfectly legal to purchase an unfinished frame for a pistol or even an AR-type rifle because the ATF does not consider it to be a “firearm” until some additional holes and hollows are drilled so that the parts that make it shoot can be installed.  The “80% complete receivers” as they are called are widely available online for under $100, as are the jigs and instructions needed to place the holes and hollows accurately. For the rest a few drills and end mills, a drill press or even a hand drill do the job.

Besides, why would any bad guy go to the trouble and expense to roll his own when far superior stolen guns are bought and sold on the streets of Washington and Baltimore every day?

So the NRA and President Trump (and I) agree with the ban on undetectable guns.  Nobody in his right mind who intends to use a firearm for any of its legal or illegal purposes wants or needs an all-plastic gun.  Even a nut bent on mass murder would discover that a single-shot self-destroying firearm is not very useful.

On top of that, keeping plans for 3D guns off the Internet is literally closing the barn door too late.  The offending bit of computer code is far from the secret of the atomic bomb. Not only are there cheaper ways to obtain a more effective weapon, the code itself is hardly a mystery or scientific breakthrough.  The necessary components of a firearm are few and well known and courses in programming 3D printers are widely available. The result may or may not work, but the opportunity is there for anyone who wishes to tinker innocently or to waste time and money.

I found this topic worth writing about for three reasons.  It is about guns, which is a good enough reason for me all by itself.  Even better, the out of sight reactions are good for a few laughs. But there is a serious point, about how easily people are now gulled into hysteria and outrage when the target is made out to be our President.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Another Victory for Regulatory Reform: Fuel Economy Standards by David Montgomery

On August 2, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) announced revised fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks to be applied in model years 2021 – 2026. The revised standards would replace standards set by the same two agencies in 2012, well before the revolution in oil drilling technology that has moved the U.S. to the top of the list of oil producing countries and caused gasoline prices to fall dramatically.  

The law that authorized setting the 2012 standards also provided for a mid-term review, so that changes that might occur in the eight years between the publication and effective dates of the original rules could be taken into account.  The result of the review, announced on August 2, is that standards will be frozen at 2020 levels through 2025.

To clear up a potential misunderstanding, DOT sets fuel economy standards and EPA sets greenhouse gas emission standards.  But since the two are in practice two ways of measuring exactly the same thing, the two agencies have agreed to harmonize and publish their regulations in a single rule-making.

The proposed standards are good news for car buyers, U.S. industry and the economy.  They are good news for new car buyers because they will slow the rate of increase in new car prices and allow buyers greater freedom to choose among gasoline consumption, performance and amenities.  

They will also make new cars safer.

The proposed standards are good for U.S. industry because they will avoid the shrinkage of new car sales that these adverse consumer impacts would cause.  

They are good for the economy because on balance the reduction in traffic fatalities, moderation of regulatory distortions to consumer and manufacturer decisions, and lower new car costs more than offset higher gasoline expenditures and modest increases in emissions.

All these points are made and supported logically and quantitatively by an exceptional Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis (PRIA) that was released at the same time as the new standards.   It incorporates sound reasoning, transparent assumptions and sophisticated economic analysis. It addresses issues such as unintentional consequences and hidden costs that were glossed over in prior rule-makings, and it corrects arbitrary and indefensible decisions such as those affecting the value assigned to greenhouse gas reductions.

The fuel economy standards set by the Obama Administration have been particularly contentious, though the flaws in the entire regulatory system have been pointed out (by me among others) from its very inception.

There is strong evidence that federal standards did little or nothing to increase overall fuel economy once oil prices increased rapidly from the late 1970s onward.  These oil price increases made it in the interest of consumers to choose at least as much fuel economy improvement as the standards dictated.

That is not to say that prior fuel economy standards did not distort the market or impose costs.  The original law mandating the standards created several arbitrary classes of vehicles with different standards: imported versus domestic, passenger car vs light truck, and light vs medium truck being the most important.  This led to a seismic change in the automobile market when sport utility vehicles and mini-vans classified as trucks but functioning as passenger cars were introduced to take advantage of the less-stringent standard for trucks.  In addition, the original rules did not allow manufacturers to trade allowances, so that competitive impacts were exaggerated and total costs to buyers increased.

Passage of the dreadful Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and President Bush’s even more unfortunate opening of the door to EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions set up the opportunity for the Obama Administration to impose standards for fuel economy substantially different from market demand.  Binding standards also create a number of distortions in consumer behavior: switching to smaller and lighter weight vehicles that increase accident severity, increasing smog-producing emissions by driving more because fuel cost per mile is lower, and keeping older gas guzzlers on the road because of increases in new car prices.

It is very gratifying to see that EPA and DOT have recognized all these issues, and have attempted to work within the imperfect regulatory framework dictated by Congress to minimize regulatory distortions and maximize safety.

The original standards would have progressively required greater and greater improvements in fuel economy from 2020 to 2025.  There are three very good reasons why these standards needed to be changed.

Since 2012, the world oil market has been turned upside down by the fracking revolution in the United States, which turned the charts for future gasoline prices from sharp upward trends to flat forecasts.   In January U.S. oil production exceeded 10 million barrels per day for the first time since 1970, and put the U.S. third in the world in total production. This dramatic change completely undercuts the belief that fuel economy standards are necessary to protect consumers from rising prices that they did not foresee when they purchased new cars.  It also substantially reduces concerns about oil price shocks, as confirmed in an independent, scholarly study done by Resources for the Future last year.

Second, more careful analysis laid out in the PRIA reveals that technological opportunities for further improvements in fuel economy are limited, so that manufacturers are likely to have to resort to reducing the weight of even the smallest and most efficient vehicles to achieve sufficient gains.  This then increases the risk of fatalities in traffic accidents, so that continuing to tighten standards would be likely to lead to more traffic deaths.

Finally, the PRIA finds that the expectations of technology improvements that were relied on to set the original standards have turned out to be overly-optimistic.  The study discusses exhaustively how the technology assumptions justifying the old standards turned out to be incorrect. In some cases, it was because the writers of the Obama rule did not realize how extensively some technologies were already in use, and so double-counted the benefits. In others, they anticipated adoption of new technologies which did not appear or which encountered such strong consumer resistance that they were pulled back.  More generally, many technologies can be used to improve fuel economy, or performance, or allow more amenities to be added. Manufacturers have followed consumer preferences by supplying a mix of all three. As the RIA perceptively states, sacrificing such amenities or performance to achieve tighter standards is a hidden consumer cost.

How the RIA values damages from greenhouse gas emissions is also important. The Obama Administration justified tightening fuel economy standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by estimating the total global damages that would be avoided.  Despite telling criticisms of the analysis done to estimate the social cost of carbon dioxide emissions, the PRIA made only the abundantly sensible change to include only damages estimated for the United States. That, it turns out, makes a significant difference in the comparison of costs incurred in the U.S. to the benefits included in the analysis.  

Putting all this together, the PRIA rolls out 1500 pages of documentation of its calculations of costs and benefits and concludes that the alternative chosen – freezing the standards at 2020 levels – provides greater social benefits, greater consumer satisfaction, and lower fatalities than any of the more stringent alternatives.

Despite the quality of the analysis and sensibility of the new standards, the debate will not be settled soon.  Some economists have become convinced through behavioral studies that consumers consistently make mistakes in buying new cars, and later regret not buying cars with better fuel economy.  Whether this particular form of buyers’ remorse constitutes a market failure that justifies the nanny state telling consumers what to do is another question.

A more challenging problem is that California now sets its own fuel economy standards that are adopted by 17 other states, and the standards set in the Obama Administration were chosen to match those increasingly ambitious state standards.  The new proposal would, if nothing were done about the state standards, create one standard for 32 states and another for 18. Some manufacturers, led by GM, are adamant that there must be a single 50-state standard, and the 18 states have already announced their intention to look for a judge to overturn the new standards.  

There is a simple solution to GM’s problem, because California must receive a waiver from EPA to set its own standards.  The criterion is that California’s standards must protect public health and welfare at least as strictly as federal law, and their standards must be necessary “to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions.”  Waivers to allow California to solve its unique smog problem made sense.

But greenhouse gas emission standards – which are the same as fuel economy standards – are not the same.  Greenhouse gas emissions originating from cars sold in California are dispersed globally and have only a negligible effect, if any, on California. Since GHG emissions are global in their effect, none of the geographic and demographic conditions that give California an extraordinary problem with smog apply to greenhouse gases.  That makes the waiver that allows California to set its own fuel economy standards a mistake in the first place, and the logical next step for the Administration should be to rescind the waiver.

That, in addition to the perennial disagreements about the need for any fuel economy standards, would make things very interesting.  Stay tuned.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

 

Trump, Trade, and Negotiating Style by David Montgomery

aluminum

Very nearly all economists favor free trade, and most have been disturbed by the tariffs that President Trump instituted and proposed to escalate. Even though most recognize that many countries — in particular China – do not practice free trade, it is feared that President Trump’s actions could lead to retaliation that would further increase trade barriers and harm all of us.

Thus far, the President has only imposed tariffs applicable to all countries on aluminum and steel, and Canada, Mexico and the European Union retaliated with tariffs on an equal value of U.S. goods. (South Korea, Australia, Brazil and Argentina were permanently exempted) He imposed additional tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods, with the stated purpose of retaliation for theft of intellectual property. China retaliated with equal tariffs on a large number of U.S. goods, and the U.S. further retaliated with a proposal for tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

The motivation for the administration’s current trade policy remains something of a puzzle. At times, President Trump’s statements sound like old fashioned populist protectionism, an affliction that has broken out at intervals throughout American history. At the other pole, his advisors suggest that it is an historic effort to move the entire world toward a much freer system of trade. Most of the time, the President appears to trying to get the upper hand by threatening tariffs in bilateral negotiations covering a much wider range of issues. Sometimes it appears that an amicable agreement is forthcoming, then the pendulum swings to threats of even tougher measures.

Complicating all this is that President Trump does not approach problems in a linear fashion, but seems to favor a chaotic approach using many tactics on several different fronts at the same time. Therefore, he may not have any interest in the predictable outcome of some action, but rather sees it as creating an opportunity to make a gain in an entirely different direction. Rather like the play on which the Eagles defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

In order to get a handle on both motivations and likely outcomes, it is useful to distinguish between Europe and China. In the case of Europe, threats of tariffs are fraught and difficult to see succeeding. In the case of China, tariffs could produce some short-term economic disruption, but China is a huge offender in the global trade system and would almost certainly come out the loser in a trade war with the United States.

President Trump has challenged European leaders on many fronts, including trade, currencies, defense, and purchases of Russian natural gas.

President Trump’s trade advisor Lawrence Kudlow has justified tariffs on our allies as an effort to move the entire world toward a system of freer trade. Nor is there any question that European governments subsidize and protect favored industries and impose taxes and tariffs on imports from the U.S. that we do not reciprocate. But it will be very difficult to convince Europe to abandon its statist approach to industrial policy and its territorial approach to taxation.

Those policies are deeply ingrained in European politics. From French farmers to the Europe-wide Airbus industry, the subsidies that Trump wants to change are as deeply engrained as our ethanol subsidies. The VAT system that eliminates taxes on exports and taxes all imports is equally embedded in EU tax policy. Perhaps recognizing this, President Trump responded differently to European retaliatory measures than he did to Chinese, taking no action when the EU put them in place.

Since there are many other issues in play in U.S – European relations, President Trump’s actions may well be intended to change Europe’s position in national security areas or in economic policy toward China rather European trade policy per se.

European countries are not living up to their pledges on defense spending or equitably sharing the burden of defending Europe against Russia. Most past administrations pressured Europe to pay its share and Trump’s efforts are no different, except possibly in how hard he is willing to push.

To make matters worse, by building a pipeline to get more Russian natural gas,  Europeans make themselves vulnerable to economic blackmail and strengthen Russia relative to the rest of the West – including us.

In addition, European countries have not yet made up their minds about whether to respect renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran. Should European financial institutions provide credit to entities trading with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions, it would be within the power of the President to block access of those European financial institutions to the worlds most important financial market – ours. Though not directly related, his rattling the sabers of tariffs could be seen as a signal that he would not back away from that showdown.

Turning to China, the fact to keep in mind is that we import four times as much from China as they import from us.

Dumping – or selling exports for less than they cost to produce – and currency manipulation are often cited as unfair trade policies of the Chinese government that sustain this surplus. However, our issues with China actually have relatively little to do with China’s surplus in merchandise trade with the U.S. The most important issue is probably China’s widespread theft of intellectual property, unpunished if not sanctioned by the Communist Party.

China also blocks U.S. investment in China in a variety of ways, some explicit like regulations on where and how foreign companies may invest and some informal, including the lack of protection for minority investors under Chinese “law.” Chinese courts remain almost feudal in their favoritism toward native Chines parties to lawsuits, especially those related geographically or demographically to the court.

These practices harm companies from all technologically advanced countries that deal with China.

Outside trade and investment per se, China’s foreign policy is directly opposed to U.S. interests. Its patronage of North Korea is the only reason the Kim regime still exists. China’s efforts to expand its influence and territory in the South China Sea now threaten all maritime trade and world peace.

Unfortunately for China, the very trade surplus that Chinese policies have created means that we could do a great more harm to China in a tariff war than they could do to us. China’s economy is in general more vulnerable to an economic shock than ours, and the financial sector that invested in the industries whose exports would be cut off by tariffs is particularly fragile. Inducing changes in those areas is also clearly part of the Trump strategy.

For a while, after announcing the first round of tariffs, President Trump appeared to be developing good personal relations with Chairman Xi and some help with North Korea. But ultimately China’s reaction to the recent imposition of tariffs was hostile. China retaliated with its own tariffs and cancelled purchases of soybeans. President Trump then raised the stakes, proposing tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods. On Saturday he moved the number up to the full $500 billion of Chinese exports to the U.S. He is counting on having the deeper pockets in this poker game.

It might not be a risk I would take, but it is not unreasonable for President Trump to use his advantage in a bilateral trade war to exert pressure on Chinese trade and foreign policy in this way. If his actions toward Europe, including proffered exemptions from tariffs, induce those allies to join with the U.S. in putting trade pressure on China, his hand would be strengthened even more.

If tariffs soften Europeans up on issues other than China, that would likewise be all to the good. Serious economic and political risks would only appear if the current rather minor tiff with Europe over aluminum and steel is escalated. That seems unlikely right now, but extending tariffs to automobiles and other goods could start a trade war we would both lose.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Automated Vehicles Could Eliminate the Need for Another Bay Bridge by David Montgomery

Signs announcing opposition to a third span over the Chesapeake Bay are already popping up in Queen Anne and Kent County.   Governor Hogan initiated a study of the need, possible location, and potential cost of a new span in 2016, and consultations with potentially affected communities began earlier this year.

There is no question that the Bay Bridge is subject to time-wasting congestion during our evening commutes back to the Eastern Shore and on summer weekends when vacationers head to the beaches.  The number of vehicles trying to cross the bridge is projected to increase by over 30% by 2040, ultimately turning congestion into gridlock.

Relieving that current and projected future congestion is the reason given for building an additional span over the Bay.  But more construction may not be necessary if automated vehicles take over the market as other projections suggest.

I have been working with an organization known as SAFE (Securing America’s Future Energy) on a study of the potential costs and benefits of automated vehicles for the past year.  It was released on June 13. These are some highlights.

New cars already incorporate many new technologies that automate driving tasks:  adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, collision avoidance, and self-parking to name a few.  Many experts and auto companies foresee rapid improvement in these fledgling technologies, to the point that vehicles could drive themselves with little or no need for driver intervention.  Google and Uber are already ordering and testing such vehicles (as news of a recent pedestrian fatality caused by faulty programming of hazard detection and response logic made everyone aware).

In our study, SAFE projected that with favorable technology advances and market conditions, over 90% of passenger miles traveled by 2040 could be in fully automated vehicles.  The capabilities of those vehicles would make it possible to move all the projected traffic over the Bay Bridge in 2040 with zero congestion and no new construction.

Some preliminary projections from the Maryland Department of Transportations set the context.  The Bay Bridge now carries more than 70,000 vehicles a day. MDOT expects that to grow to 92,000 by 2040.  The average traffic volume during weekends in the summer is forecasted to grow to 125,900 vehicles per day by 2040, a 31 percent increase from 2013.

A December 2004 Transportation Needs Report from MDOT analyzed hourly congestion levels, which are what really matter. With the level of traffic projected for 2040, about 5,750 vehicles per hour would attempt to cross the bridge during the weekend peak period of 2 – 5 PM.  Peak weekday traffic going eastbound would be over 4000 vehicles per hour between 4 and 5 PM.

MDOT estimates that when fewer than 2000 vehicles per hour are crossing in the three westbound lanes there is no congestion and when 2000 vehicles per hour are crossing eastbound there will be only occasional slowdowns.

When more than 3000 vehicles per hour attempt to cross in either direction, traffic breaks down and stop and go traffic is the rule.  With that constraint, the levels of traffic projected for 2040 would be catastrophic.

An MDOT study guessed that a new span could cost up to $6.85 billion, and would require other road network upgrades.  With the time required for planning, debating and construction, it is unlikely that would do anything for congestion for at least a decade or possibly longer.

 

Vehicle automation that we are likely to see could make that new span unnecessary by the time the money is spent.

There are three major ways in which vehicle automation can reduce or eliminate congestion.   The technologies that are required include detection of surrounding vehicles and communication of traffic conditions together with automatic control of speed, braking and lane changing.  These automated capabilities would

  1. Allow vehicles to travel safely with much smaller distances between vehicles
  2. Eliminate the accordion effects created by lane changing and human reaction times for braking and accelerating
  3. Prevent accidents that are the major cause of congestion not caused by inadequate capacity.

Just the first of these benefits, shorter headway, would dramatically increase bridge capacity.

With anything over 2000 vehicles per hour now causing some form of congestion, and potential peak traffic of 5750 per hour during weekends in 2040, the capacity of the bridge would have to be nearly tripled to avoid weekday and weekend congestion.   The worst forms of congestion now appear when traffic exceeds 3000 vehicles per hour, and just to avoid those conditions capacity would have to be doubled.

Building an additional bridge with the same one-way capacity as the current bridge would provide just barely enough additional capacity to accommodate weekday rush hour traffic without congestion, and would still put weekend traffic into stop and go conditions much of the time.

In contrast, cutting the distance between vehicles in half at highway speeds would double the number of vehicles that could cross the bridge with no congestion.  An automated vehicle will be much faster than a human being in braking to avoid a rear-end collision, and communication between vehicles will give it advance warning of traffic conditions far beyond line of sight.  

It is straightforward algebra to determine that if the bridge can handle 2000 vehicles per hour with current distances maintained between vehicles, it could handle 4000 vehicles per hour with half that spacing and 6000 vehicles per hour with one-third the spacing.  From my calculations, the current capacity of the 2-lane eastbound bridge translates into about a 3-second distance between vehicles when traffic is flowing smoothly. If the faster reaction times and ability to observe distant changes in traffic flow characteristic of AVs reduced that to a 1-second distance, the needed tripling of bridge capacity would be achieved.

Thus if AV technology and the share of AVs in the total vehicle fleet progresses to the point that headways can be cut to one-third of the current prevailing distance, there would be no need for a new bridge.  All the needed additional capacity would be provided at no extra cost by the automated vehicle fleet.

What does that imply as a prudent course of action now?  

First, the advancement of AV technology and introduction of automated vehicles should be monitored carefully to determine how introduction of AVs is changing capacity requirements.  For example, traffic studies have found that even if as few as 10% of the vehicles crossing the bridge have automated capabilities, they can smooth out traffic flow.

Second, traffic systems on the bridge should be updated to take advantage of automated capabilities as soon as they appear – for example, creating reserved lanes for vehicles with collision avoidance and automatic cruise control systems once there are enough to utilize such lanes fully.  

Third, traffic management measures like congestion-varying tolls could be used to spread out traffic on the existing bridge, until enough AVs are on the road to increase its peak capacity.  These have been proven on Virginia freeways and would work even better if automated vehicles obtained real time information on tolls.

With this combination of incremental improvements in capacity as AVs become more prevalent and the ultimate increase in capacity from a fully automated fleet, the disruption and expense of a third span over the Chesapeake might be avoided completely.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy. He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America, David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Enough Is Enough by David Montgomery

It is becoming increasingly difficult to be a civil and temperate political columnist when the liberal media reach new low after new low in deranged attacks on the President and his family. If the inability of left-wing bigots to express themselves without four-letter words and personal insults were not enough, the double standard applied by their bosses and sycophants is beyond belief.

Roseanne Barr was terminated immediately when she characterized Obama’s crony Valerie Jarrett as progeny of the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes. I still can’t figure out how a terrorist organization and old movie can have children, and I suspect that an explanation of the joke might have been more appropriate than her abject apologies. But she never had a chance, her bosses found it sufficiently offensive to cancel a wildly popular show that just happened to be the only one on television featuring pro-Trump (or anti-anti-Trump) humor.

Samantha Bee, on the other hand, got a free pass from her bosses and congratulations from self-proclaimed feminists and the Hollywood left for calling the President’s daughter a “feckless c…”. No doubt about Bee’s intentions to use a demeaning sexist term, the crudest she could have chosen, and broadcast it on her show. Her additional, less quoted, comment that Ivanka should put on something “low and tight” to stimulate her father was even more cringe-worthy. Yet her network’s only reaction is to congratulate her for apologizing. Bee and her bosses are apparently too dumb to remember how their heads exploded when a recording of Donald Trump using a much tamer word surfaced.

Nor was there any outrage in the media about Bill Maher’s use of simian comparisons, when he asked if Trump was “part orangutan.” They have no shame in their double standard, and they all know which side they are on.

We are well beyond the point that any sane person could claim these crude and personal attacks are tit-for-tat responses to something that Candidate Trump said during the campaign. Saying, as he did recently, that Maxine Waters should take an IQ test may not be the best way of pointing out how dumb her positions and statements are, but it is a far cry from sexist personal attacks on a President’s daughter.

True, most of the obscene language in attacks on the President or his supporters comes from talentless celebrities – Bee, Kathie Griffin, Chelsea Handler – whose only claim to distinction is their gross behavior and language. So no one expects them to make intelligent comments. But their choice of targets has clear political motivation and support from their employers.

These avatars of the left are not just doing their shtick of substituting obscenity for creative uses of language in humor. Samantha Bee launched into her sexist attack on Ivanka Trump in a monologue on immigration policy. Since there was little else of substance in that monologue, even when she was addressing immigration, the tactic is clear. Don’t try to engage on issues, just attack the person. It is so much easier to get a professional shock artist to call people names than to construct a logical sentence about the policy itself.

The problem is not just so-called comedians whose vocabulary does not get beyond four letter words. Stephen Colbert mostly watches his language, but he, too, substitutes personal attacks, condescension and demeaning jokes for substance. These comics and late night hosts have become instruments of psychological manipulation and social pressure to make their viewers feel that any defense of President Trump’s policies is deviant and antisocial.

I would rather have a root canal without anesthesia than watch any of them, but reports of the rest of Bee’s show reveal deeper problems. It was an emotional attack on Trump for doing exactly the same thing that Obama did. Her inexcusable attack on Ivanka for displaying a happy picture of herself with her son was to make the point that parents who cross the border illegally are being separated from their children. But that was also the law and the practice in the Obama Administration. None of these liberal icons attacked Michelle and Barack for enjoying the company of their daughters while illegal entrants were being separated. The double standard at work.

It is pointless for conservatives to push for the firing of Bee or Maher. It won’t happen and they, however despicable, would quickly be replaced with voices no better. Their job security does reveal the attitude of news and social media, corporations, film companies, networks and foundations controlled by “progressive” executives and billionaires toward the rest of us. Asking them to “play nice” and setting a good example in conservative commentary is pointless when their support of incivility is a purposeful strategy.

But we are left with a puzzle. Is the left so consumed with hatred of President Trump that it cannot even distinguish his policies from those of his predecessor? Or is it purposely drumming up hatred of the President and his supporters in order to marginalize all those who oppose the future that the far left and its media cheerleaders want for this country?

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy. He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America, David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Why Do Christians Put Up With Trump? By W. David Montgomery

“How can practicing Christians support a President as immoral as Donald Trump?” The question has become a popular one in certain literary circles, and more important to me it is one that serious friends ask me.

The answer to the question seems quite simple:

Donald Trump offered the hope of making right what was going horribly wrong in our country. Alternative candidates stood for policies that would make things worse, and were beset with deep character flaws of their own.

Candidate Trump was unabashedly pro-life and willing to defend religious freedom. He stood for a stronger national defense after 8 years of appeasement and neglect. He understood and stated clearly that Western Civilization is under attack from Islamic militants. He supported Israel unreservedly and was willing to lead from the front. He saw how excessive taxation and regulation combined to give us the worst recovery from a recession on record.

His brash style was not only attractive to those alienated from mainstream politics, but also provided a deeper resonance that he understood their feelings of being left behind economically, of increasing government intrusion into their lives, of schools that taught children things that parents did not believe and put them at risk to sexual deviants, and of being ridiculed by celebrities, media and his opponent.

I hold that Trump was wrong to promote the myth that immigration and imports kill jobs and hurt Americans, and I have already written enough on that. We can try to convince him on those topics over time.

Turning from policies to words and personal behavior, his denunciations of Hispanics, tasteless remarks about women and sex, and marital infidelities were also negatives for many of us who voted for him. On the other hand, we support his efforts to scrutinize entrants from countries that breed terrorists as prudent policies not evidence of some personal bias against Moslems.

Allegations about Trump’s lack of truthfulness have been rampant but remain unproven. His obvious willingness to exaggerate facts and numbers in support of his own opinions contrasted to Hilary’s memorization of the most minor detail and skill at devious answers, and for that reason was probably as much a successful tactic as a character defect. “It was a feature, not a bug” to quote Microsoft.

Commentators differ on whether this is a reasonable point of view or evidence that conservative Catholics and evangelicals have become homophobic, xenophobic and otherwise deplorable. My conscience is clear in supporting Trump for these reasons.
There are enough positives and negatives in my own assessment that this result was not pre-ordained. Despite efforts to caricature him, President Trump presents a complex picture of sound and unsound policies and personal virtues and vices.

Some might claim that I am myself co-operating with evil by concluding that President Trump’s actions as President on balance advance the common good and violate no moral laws. That is not how my moral education sees it. For this I take guidance from Pacem in Terris by Pope Saint John XXIII, who discussed at length how in this world most leaders do not share the moral framework to which we as Christians adhere. That makes it necessary to work for as much good as possible in public affairs, recognizing that we must as Christians settle for less than perfection and work with the moral infirmities and motivations of those in power. While at all times trying to change their moral framework.

Of primary importance, President Trump’s policies are consistent with moral laws regarding the taking of innocent life, sex and marriage, and freedom of conscience, no matter how his personal life may differ.

His policies on the economy, foreign policy, immigration and healthcare do not directly run up against moral absolutes, and are matters of prudential judgment of how best to accomplish what moral law prescribes.

Applying the tests of adherence to moral laws and practical effect, I conclude that President Trump’s policies contain no grave moral errors, do some practical harm and achieve a great deal of practical good. Far better than I could have expected of anyone else.

But the question about supporting the President, once all this is out in the open, reverts to his personal, allegedly immoral behavior. Put this way, the question suggests that Christians are hypocritical in supporting someone who blatantly violates their moral prescriptions. A writer in the National Review put it that “Christians had good reasons to vote for Trump but that does not mean they had to join his tribe” and goes on to express dismay at religious leaders appearing with, praying with, and complimenting the President.

It is not that Christians are indifferent to sexual immorality. As one theologian put it recently, “The premise of the Sexual Revolution is antisocial, and its effects are socially destructive, as every pope since Leo XIII has shown, including Francis.” This includes sex in any form outside of marriage, pornography, and the entire LGBTQ agenda.

There is no question that we believe that the acts of which Trump is accused are gravely immoral. Ironically, those who are most preoccupied with President’ Trump’s alleged sexual immorality have for the most part been vocal supporters of the sexual revolution and demanded freedom for consenting partners to engage in any kind of genital activity they enjoy. The question is what our faith and moral compass require us to do about it.

Those who question how “conservative Christians” can support Donald Trump seem on the most part to be working with a caricature of Christian moral thought. Many of those who raise the question are Social Justice Warriors who themselves call Trump supporters “vile human beings” and condemn every utterance that might contain a micro-aggression or expression of hostility or condescension to some “marginalized group.” unless they are directed at someone who voted for Trump. They seem to expect Christians to behave in a similar way, by judging, denouncing and ostracizing any public figure who violates the Sixth Commandment.

That is an ignorant and biased picture of Christian morality and even more offensive than their hypocrisy about sexual license. There are at least three admonitions that prevent us from condemning others as sinners. They also apply to other personal vices that do not have consequences of public concern.

First, “judge not that you be not judged.” In the parable of the adulterous woman, Christ shamed their accusers with the challenge “he among you is guiltless, should cast the first stone.” The point is that we firmly believe that many matters are between a man, his spouse, his priest and his Maker, and that we should mind our own business unless directly affected.

Second, “God’s ways are not the ways of men.” David had Bathsheba, yet is still honored as the greatest of the Kings of Israel and the ancestor of Our Incarnate Lord. Trump never sent one of his future wives husbands out to certain death in battle so that he could marry her. More broadly, God does not necessarily select saints to carry out his plan for the good of his people – as the sexual infidelities of honored Presidents like Kennedy, Eisenhower, and FDR and leaders like Martin Luther King attest.

Third, the whole point is that “We are all sinners.” I am far from perfect, and I cannot expect more of anyone else. Some are more virtuous than others, but that rarely seems to include successful politicians. One of the most infuriating misconceptions is that Christians see themselves as perfect and judge the morals of everyone they encounter. No doubt some do, but they violate the explicit command of the Head of our church. We know that President Trump has not been accused of anything we have not been tempted to do.

So lets get over the hypocrisy bit. Church attendance is not virtue signaling.
We do not go to services to show off how perfect we are, we go because we are sinners seeking to do better. More precisely, since Jesus walked the earth we have been enjoined to do the latter and not the former.

Thus I feel no moral obligation to condemn or defend the President for carnal sins.

I am instead convinced that we who voted for Trump did so for valid and urgent reasons, that as President he has done a remarkable job in delivering what we hoped for, and that our concerns and Trump’s policies are consistent with Christian morality and social ethics.

His personal failings, and likewise mine, will be judged by a Higher Authority than even The Atlantic magazine.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Lessons for the DNC from Richard Nixon by David Montgomery

 

Richard Nixon could teach today’s Democrats a lesson in putting the country ahead of partisan gain.

The Democratic Party on Friday, April 20 filed a multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit against Trump campaign officials, the Russian government and WikiLeaks alleging a widespread conspiracy to tilt the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor.

“The conspiracy constituted an act of previously unimaginable treachery: the campaign of the presidential nominee of a major party in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the Presidency,” the suit states.

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” said DNC Chairman Tom Perez in a statement, calling the alleged collusion “an act of unprecedented treachery.

Not all Democrats agreed. US congresswoman Jackie Speier of San Francisco, who has a law degree, told CNN that “I think this sidebar lawsuit is not in the interest of the American people.” But the DNC does not care.

How anyone could be so willing to destabilize our constitutional system is impossible for me to understand. Even their obvious affliction with Trump Derangement Syndrome and alliances with the radicals that have taken over the Women’s March and BLM is insufficient to explain why a political organization that pretends to care about the future of the country would try so hard to provoke a constitutional crisis. Than again, this might be no more than an effort to start a digging expedition under the guise of “discovery” for anything that could be used in their “get rid of Trump at any cost” campaign.

The partisan myopia afflicting current politics makes it worthwhile repeating how Vice President Richard Nixon dealt with the apparent fraud that handed the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy. The 1960 election turned out to be one of the closest elections in this nation’s history. Nixon always believed that election was stolen – another word for rigged – by ballot stuffing in Cook County and in Texas.

There was a lot of evidence he was right. Earl Mazo, a Washington reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, investigated claims of voter fraud in the 1960 election. He was quoted as saying: There was a cemetery where the names on the tombstones were registered and voted. I remember a house. It was completely gutted. There was nobody there. But there were 56 votes for [John F.] Kennedy in that house. He then went to Lyndon Johnson’s Texas, where he found similar circumstances.

Roger Stone tells the story more dramatically: “Mayor Daley himself gave away the game on election eve when he said, ‘With the Democratic organization and the help of a few close friends,’ the Democrats would prevail on election day. There is sufficient evidence that the ‘few close friends’ mentioned include Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana… The evidence of voter fraud in Texas, where the Kennedy-Johnson ticket carried the state by a scant 50,000 votes was as widespread and odious as that of the daily machine in Chicago.”

The New York Herald Tribune started publishing Mazo’s articles when still-Vice President Nixon intervened and told Mazo that “Our country cannot afford the agony of a constitutional crisis” in the midst of the Cold War. Rather than follow a course that would polarize and weaken the nation, Nixon chose to leave the White House for a time.

A recent article congratulates Nixon for his patriotic act. Ironically, this article was written before election day as a warning to Donald Trump of the bad things that would happen if he were to contest the results as rigged.

“Despite the razor-thin margin, Nixon publicly conceded defeat very early the morning after the election, shortly before Kennedy declared victory. Nixon did not encourage Republicans to regard the country as locked in a permanent civil war, or to treat the incoming president as a usurper. [How different from the Never-Trumpers and impeachment nuts]

To the contrary, on January 6, 1961, he discharged his responsibility as president of the Senate and presided over the congressional tally of the electoral college vote. ‘In our campaigns,’ he told the joint session of Congress, ‘no matter how hard they may be, no matter how close the election may turn out to be, those who lose accept the verdict and support those who win.’ Nixon noted that he was the first vice president since 1860 to declare his opponent the winner (outgoing Vice President John C. Breckenridge performed the same task for Abraham Lincoln). It was a ‘striking example of the stability of our constitutional system.”

For the good of the country, Nixon decided to accept the verdict and move on.

And that’s the difference. The threat to our democracy is not the thought, the idea or the charge that an election was stolen or rigged or unfair. It has happened. The threat to our democracy is the refusal to accept the verdict of the election.

Nixon was advised in 1960 to contest the election. He decided not to do so for the good of the country. The DNC could learn a great deal from a politician they loathe, but who showed more character and love of country than any of them are demonstrating today.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.