Let’s Discuss Walls

“The Great Wall of China, built 2,000 years ago, is 13,000 miles long, folks. … And they didn’t have … tractors, they didn’t have cranes, they didn’t have excavation equipment.” – Donald J. Trump

When the question arises, as it often does, “Was the Great Wall of China a success or failure?” one may answer one way or another, but undoubtedly any response to such an inquiry would have to contain something along the lines of “it’s complicated.” You’d have to compare Qin walls with Ming walls, you’d have to weigh the cost, in material dollars and human life, against the effectiveness of the Wall(s) in meeting its objectives, you’d have to consider variables such as strength of armies defending the wall at any given time, you’d have to take into account that when invaders evaded the wall they were still slowed on their path to potential conquest, and so on and so forth. It’s complicated, really complicated. Of course, it was all for naught when Ming general Wu Sangui just opened the gates for the invading Manchus, but alas, that’s not what this post is about.

See I have mixed feelings about the Trump wall, but, like many other things, regressive liberals have pushed the conversation to a point where I have to defend it. It’s not so much that there shouldn’t be a debate about the wall, it’s just that arguments against it have been simplified into: “wall, bad, no wall, good.”

Shouldn’t the conversation really surround the question “is the wall a good idea?” That’s the question I ask myself. It’s a legitimate question. Will the wall really stifle the cartels? Will the wall stop drugs from coming into the country? Will the wall have a national security application in the distant future (possible migrant crises?), Can the wall be built cost/time efficiently? If we believe the answers to those questions are “mostly yes,” then the wall is worth a try. After all, we’ve failed to secure our border for the three or four decades that border security has been a national issue.

And yet, if you support the wall today you are a hateful bigot according to leftists. This is despite the fact that ten years ago a wall was not seen as such a radical idea, despite that there is almost 700 miles of fence and wall along our southern border already, and despite the fact that Hillary Clinton once supported a border barrier and stated that she is “adamantly against illegal immigrants.”

Leftist rhetoric pertaining to the wall is derived from one thing: leftism… obviously, it has nothing to do with a rational debate about the wall. Few wall opponents stop to consider what they are arguing against. Though, many on the right don’t ask the critical questions about it that they should be asking either before shouting, “BUILD IT!”

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Why the Wall?

Let’s talk about the wall.

This article is written to accompany a fantastic article just written by my friend and colleague, Ben Sweetwood, which masterfully sifts through the hysteria over President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. Here at Griffwood Post, we constantly seek to challenge the prevailing narrative of the day. We live by an important motto: if everyone seems to be in agreement about something, be skeptical.

Everyone, and I mean everyone seems to have a problem with President Trump’s idea of building a wall along the border shared between the United States and Mexico. This includes those who are left, right, libertarian, and everyone else in between. Some of the consternation has produced perfectly valid criticisms of the idea that should not be overlooked. But I write to contend that the idea to build the wall actually has its merits.

Those on the right, and those who abhor government spending, criticize the wall for its cost and complexity. The wall will indeed be expensive—and the proposed methodology of taxing a portion of the U.S.-Mexican trade deficit does eventually pass the cost of the wall on to the consumer. However, in context, the tax does have implicit benefits to the American consumer beyond the wall. The trade deficit exists because the U.S. exports to Mexico about $60 billion dollars in goods less than it imports from Mexico. However, the entirety of the U.S.’s annual imports from Mexico total around $300 billion. Now, 20 percent of $300 billion is enough to pay for three walls at Trump’s price-point of around $20 billion per year. So the cost, in context, is not outlandish. This is not to mention the benefit of protecting and encouraging American industries that directly compete with Mexican products. And if there is any American president who can spur the behemoth of the federal government to actually build something on time and under budget, it’s going to be Donald J. Trump.

But $20 billion is still $20 billion. That’s a costly project.

Another valid criticism is the complexity of building the wall. The Cato Institute has done a great job of illustrating just how complicated the process will be. Building a wall along this 2,000 mile stretch of the American southwest means overcoming geographical challenges, replacing existing walls and fences, equipping the wall with proper surveillance equipment and, of course, maintaining it. This is not to mention the inevitably long amount of time it will take the federal government to argue the hundreds if not thousands of eminent domain cases that will be necessary to gather the lands needed for the construction of the wall (much of the land abutting the U.S.-Mexican border is privately owned.) The wall may not be feasibly possible in Trump’s term.

But just because something is complex doesn’t mean it’s impossible[1]. We got to the moon, we can build a big wall.

And, yes, I’ve heard the argument that many if not most illegal immigrants come into the country by airplane, on lawful visas, and extend their stay indefinitely. Obviously, a comprehensive immigration reform package would need to address that. But the cartels, the drug runners, and criminals fleeing Latin America are not buying group ticket packages on commercial airliners. They’re the ones taking advantage of the porous border, and they’re certainly the ones we want to stop first.

I give criticisms from the left credence as well, but they are becoming a bit too ‘one-sized fits all’ to have retained their bite. I also abhor identity-politics and think the hysteria around Donald Trump is contributing to a dangerous narrowing of political discourse.

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The Immigration Ban Examined

I want to talk about the immigration ban.

However, in doing so, I don’t plan on spending any time on the question, “Is Trump Hitler?” He signed an order temporarily shutting down immigration from certain countries in order to improve the vetting process for said immigrants and thus, make sure Americans are safe. Anyone who doesn’t think the president of the U.S. is well within his right to do that is being hysterical. Furthermore, just because  we pride ourselves on being a country of immigrants does not mean that anyone and everyone should be able to come in at anytime or else we are hateful. That has never been the case. That’s not to say that parts of the Executive Order’s design shouldn’t be critiqued.

But let’s backtrack for a second.

In 2011, after two Iraqi immigrants in Kentucky were revealed to be Al-Qaeda (in Iraq) connected terrorists, President Obama ordered the records of 58,000 Iraqi immigrants to be reexamined and instituted a stricter vetting process for Iraqi refugees. The more thorough vetting process seemed to delay visas to Iraqi refugees. Although there was no official order to delay visas, we can infer that it was the result of the new process by looking at the numbers of Iraqi refugees entering the U.S. by year: 18,251 in 2010, 6,339 in 2011 and 16,369 in 2012. As you can see, visas to Iraqis were slowed dramatically in 2011. Thus, President Obama, determining there to be a potential threat from the refugees, instituted a stricter vetting process, and in doing so slowed the influx of Iraqis. President Trump determined a similar threat, but decided to delay visas completely to seven risk countries President Trump’s action was much more aggressive and wider in scope. Nonetheless, and as much as the media wants to deny it, these are very similar behaviors: both seek to improve the vetting process for refugees from Muslim-majority countries due to fears of terrorism.

But I digress, let’s discuss the Executive Order entitled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”
So the Order does a few things, let’s approach the important aspects one-by-one.
1. Bans entry to the US for people born in seven countries for 90 days: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen
So, this provision, as explained in the Order, is based on 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12) (or H.R. 158) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, signed into law by President Obama in December of 2015. This all has to do with the Visa Waiver Program which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa. Given the threat of Islamic terrorists infiltrating the country through the program, Congress passed the above mentioned law in order to restrict the Visa Waiver program. The law prohibited people who traveled to Iraq or Syria (or dual citizens of Iraq and Syria) on or after March 1st, 2011 from participating in the program (“Not present in Iraq, Syria, or any other country or area of concern.”)  The law also invested power in the Secretary of Homeland Security (Jeh Johnson) to add countries to this list at his discretion. Thus, within the next couple of months Sudan, Iran, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia were also added to the restricted list.
So whereas the Obama administration didn’t ban nationals from these countries from coming to the U.S. they did force them to get visas, and more importantly, pinpoint them for a stricter vetting process, due to worries about Islamic terrorism.
As for countries left out of the Order, I agree it’s bothersome. But, there’s two obvious reasons countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan were left out. First, we need them as allies in the region and secondly, they have secure centralized governments that we can rely on for refugee screening….supposedly. I say supposedly because I doubt the diligence with which these countries actually provide us with information on their own people, especially given the attacks we’ve seen around the world from their citizens, but better some countries on the list than none. Afghanistan is really the worst omission given the terrorist groups situated there and it’s lack of power relative to these other countries. Nonetheless, the list was produced by the Obama administration and for reasons that perhaps are better off remaining secret, Afghanistan was excluded.

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Looking Back at Trump’s Victory

I have no reason to gloat. President-elect Trump now has to follow through on his message to better this country and the world. In his victory speech he extended a hand to those who opposed him and he promised to address the problems in our inner cities. This is a good start.

While the hysteria that has plagued this election has persisted on social media, with many Hillary supporters declaring the onset of the apocalypse, I have to say, I have also seen quite a few Hillary supporters and Never-Trumpers make statements about uniting and working together. Credit to those people. Hillary supporters should know, they are not my enemy, and I admit to there being plenty of stupidity on both sides this election.

However, now the divisive, hyperbolic, defamatory rhetoric needs to stop.

Americans voted against the far left. They were tired of being called racist and sexist simply for holding opinions contrary to what democrats believe. They were tired of having their words policed while real problems are ignored. They were tied of regressive groups that disseminate untruths and neglect actual victims of suffering. They were tired of an overwhelmingly leftist mainstream media that looks down on them and presents them as stupid and uninformed. The American people also rejected the establishment politicians who have perpetuated the same wasteful, gluttonous, corrupt system that has plagued our country for decades. They rejected convention and they voted for change.

What Trump did is miraculous. He was an outsider who came in with no political experience and won the GOP nomination for president. He then went on to take out the Clinton machine, all the while contending with fierce opposition from the left and from his own political party, and with an entire mainstream news media telling the country he couldn’t win. Trump did what few believed he could do, and what neither John McCain or Mitt Romney could do: he beat the Democrat to win the presidency.

In the end, Hillary lost because like President Obama in 2008, Trump became a symbol, a symbol representing the fight against PC culture, against corruption, and against the demonization of America and Western Culture. And whether fair or not, Hillary became a symbol of the opposite.

America has spoken: Donald Trump is to lead us. You can now choose to be part of the solution or the problem. I hope most people choose the former.

-Ben Sweetwood

Griffwood Post Endorses Donald Trump for President

America needs a revitalization of its confidence and its resolve. For eight years, President Obama has introduced domestic legislation that relies on government-centered solutions, and a foreign policy that sows resentment around the world through hesitancy to act and broken promises.

Hillary Clinton promises more of the same and worse. A Clinton Presidency means America continues to decline both on the world stage and in the minds of the American people.

Abroad, the world has always looked to America to do the right thing. Syrians are caught in the middle of a bloody civil war, many residents of the Middle East live under brutal regimes, and anxious world observers of the rise of China and Russia are looking for reassurance that the world won’t devolve into global chaos. Thousands in the bloody path of the Islamic State desperately seek a lifeline. There is no hope for these victims under a Clinton presidency. As Secretary of State, Clinton demonstrated a severe lack of judgment in her support of the Iran deal, the shifting Syrian red-line on chemical warfare, and the disastrous intervention in Libya. Obama spent eight years doing as little as possible on the world stage, and Clinton supported him. Clinton also demonstrated a willingness to lie to the American people when she told the world a video spurred on the attacks in Benghazi. Clinton’s time as Secretary of State was only a preview of the Clinton foreign policy doctrine, which we at Griffwood are terming ‘The Nero Doctrine’. A Clinton administration would mean a world that continues to burn.

At home, our economy suffers under the weight of an expensive, burdensome government. At her rallies and within her policy proposals, Clinton only offers government as a solution to the country’s economic concerns.

Trump recognizes the power of the free market and innovation to build society and empower individuals.

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Noncompliance of the Condorcet Criterion: Does Plurality Voting Justify a Contested Convention?

In the current election, spectators have often wondered why someone like Trump, who has a 64% negative rating by likely voters according to the latest WSJ/NBC poll, has been dominating the primary season so far. For political scientists the answer is simple: plurality voting is not Condorcet compliant. In political science, a Condorcet method, is one in which a candidate that wins in a 1v1 matchup with each of the other candidates wins overall. If such a candidate exists, that person is called the Condorcet winner. Furthermore, a Condorcet loser is a candidate who loses to each opposing candidate in a 1v1 matchup, and the Condorcet criterion says that if such a candidate exists, he cannot win. If these criterion are satisfied, then the voting system is what is known as Condorcet consistent. Trump is a Condorcet loser because he loses to every other candidate in a head-to-head matchup. The question thus arises, do the flaws of plurality voting justify losing candidates remaining in the race past their point of feasible victory, in pursuit of a contested convention? First, I digress.

 

Condorcet winners and losers are very simple concepts in their most basic sense but are really difficult to apply to the United States system. The Condorcet criterion is an extension on majority rule and is compliant in majoritarian voting systems. In terms of this election the Condorcet loser violates the majority loser criterion because a majority of voters prefers every candidate one-on-one to Trump but Trump still wins. This is a great example of noncompliance of plurality voting to the Condorcet method. Here it doesn’t work because of the plurality. Trump can beat the lot when the entire field of candidates exists (by a margin of about 14 points).

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Statistical Outlook: Can the GOP Candidates Really Beat Hillary?

(In the graph above, anything below zero means Hillary loses)

All the GOP candidates say that they beat Hillary in the polls. This is true and untrue. It’s true because each has at least one major poll that has them beating Hillary in the general election, it’s untrue because they disregard average margin of error, which is based on sample size. The only one who REALLY has a legitimate claim is Marco Rubio, who even only slightly exceeds the average margin of error. My point is this: it’s a virtual tie across the board  right now between any GOP candidate and Hillary. As a note, there is almost no polling data on a Kasich v. Clinton general election, so he’s discluded from this. Let’s run it down:

 

Trump vs. Hillary:

 

Trump beats Hillary in one of the last six major polls. In all, the average of the polls gives Hillary a +6.3 lead. The average margin of error is 3.13, For a percentage interval of +3.17 – +9.43 for Hillary. Trump fares worse than the other GOP candidates, and yet in terms of electoral history, this too is a virtual tie.

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Off Target: The Senate’s Report on Torture Failed Americans

There are many problems with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA Enhanced Interrogations (EITs). Many of these problems have been duly noted in various periodicals over the past several months or so. These problems being, but not limited to, the lack of bipartisan effort to flesh out the truth behind EITs, the lack of investigative measures taken by the committee, most notably not interviewing key CIA leaders, and many other problematic issues.

As many have come forward with their concerns, from former intelligence officials, to political leaders, to pundits, all seem to miss the main problem with the report; that it focuses on the wrong question: Were EITs an effective and a useful means of obtaining information? Not only does the committee’s report fail to objectively dissect this question, it grossly frames the debate away from the real question the public should consider: Do EITs uphold moral, legal, and ethical standards as a means to an end? This SHOULD be the main question when parsing this subject. Why is the public allowing itself to be distracted by a subordinate question that misframes the debate, and why are certain leaders instigating partisan smoke and mirror tactics when considering the topic of EITs from a legal and ethical perspective?

The main reason is because humans struggle to weigh certain lives against others, (at least societies that tend to uphold moral and ethical standards do). If given the decision to save 10 lives in exchange for one, humans will most always struggle to decide on the best course of action when confronted with such a conundrum. Senate leaders do not want to tackle such ethical dilemmas, because they view it as a political loser, and would rather mislead and frame the debate in a manner that is convulted clouded in false reporting absent of the facts members of the IC would prefer to put forward professionaly and responsibly.

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8 Interpreted Quotes from the State of the Union Address

President Obama delivered the annual State of the Union Address last Tuesday, and as one might expect of any SOTU: it was rife with hyperbolized claims of accomplishments, and subtle jabs at the opposition party, one witty line of which, reminded the Chamber of his campaign victories and seems to have sufficiently satisfied his base aside from the rest of his speech.

However, he also made some vague references to the state of political and social discourse during his Presidency and seemed to blame his critics for their ‘rashness’ and ‘cynicism’, while touting his policies, many of which backfired on him, as the wise way to move forward. The following is my humble attempt to dissect some of his statements in the hope of providing a clearer picture about what was said:

1. “The shadow of crisis has past…”

What he means here is that he is, again, brushing the numerous crises that have plagued his administration, under the rug without providing the American people with answers: Solyndra, Benghazi, the VA, Fast and Furious, inaction on Syria and ISIL, subpoenaing journalists, Healthcare.Gov, GSA, IRS, and so on and so on… He has ‘turned the page’ without letting people read it.

2. “Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?”

Here, Obama proclaims that we will be hesitant to act, which will allow evil to spread without America in the way, because it’s not our job to deal with it. It took the USA months to act on ISIL while thousands were raped, tortured, and murdered. It’s not reactionary to want a swift response to ISIL, it’s the decent thing to do. It doesn’t take a deep analysis to figure out that they are the bad guy. However, it takes immeasurable levels of moral equivocation not to act against them when we can.

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Devious Sexism

In President Obama’s final press conference of they year, he only took questions from female reporters. Sexism will never go away until this kind of political hackery goes away. If the President really wanted to treat women equally, he would promote the content of their questions, and not the fact that they are women. What he did says, “It only matters that women were called on, not what they have to say.” He made a political move here to draw women into his favor, but this is condescending; women are not single-issue voters, who can only vote based on gender and are not interested in the political issues that men are interested in. This is backwards thinking from the President.

Obama Only Calls on Female Reporters