Beware of Straw Men

My morning paper brought another column hammering Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Just another in the constant drumbeat of media criticism of the Floridian. Anytime I look at my Smartnews app, there is at least one and usually several negative DeSantis articles. Froma Harrop’s ad hominem attack today was especially fact-free.To her, Gov. DeSantis is only a grunting “new Donald Trump.” “DeSantis, sadly, was born without a sense of humor.” In short, she found no redeeming features in the DeSantis makeup.

It got me thinking that the Governor is a regular feature on the right of center media but rarely seen left of center. This difference allows the left to paint an unflattering portrait. “Almost every picture of him shows a scowling face with mouth open. There is no charm to smooth over the meanness,” claims Harrop:

Picturing DeSantis

Yet, while accessible to Floridians and many on the right, Desantis makes little effort to court the mainstream media. This absence leaves those receiving news from these outlets with an almost grotesque view of him. Is this a fatal oversight for someone with the highest aspirations or a clever strategy?

Consider Ukrainian President Zelensky. Before the war, Russia and others pictured the President as a corrupt, lightweight ex-comedian. This characterization was echoed in the U.S. by the far-right and libertarians. A whiner always asking for arms for a military Russia could overrun in a day.

Under Zelensky, the Ukrainian military evolved into a solid war machine, able to effectively use the arms it had. The army and the President trusted each other to do the job. Many NATO members contributed to training and sending weapons to Ukraine after the 2014 Russian invasion. The Russian-backed separatists in the east fought to a standstill. 

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Who Do You Trust?

The recent Week magazine pointed out Chris Wallace, the former host of Fox News Sunday, left because “I just no longer felt comfortable with the programming at Fox.” It cited a Tucker Carlson documentary pointing to the possibility January 6th fracas had “false flag” aspects.

Carlson pointed to the alleged FBI’s heavy involvement in a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan and questioned whether a strong FBI presence was also present in the Capitol invasion. To Wallace, this theory is indefensible.

The Week characterized Wallace as a “down-the-middle anchor.” He illuminates the press’s contribution to our national divide. If Wallace is considered the middle, I thought it might explain why the bulk of the media is on the left. A median position rather than the average. If you’re genuinely balanced, you are open to various news sources. Chris Wallace appears to have avoided even his employer, Fox News, as a fount of news.

The Michigan case raised the possibility of entrapment. Fox had reported extensively on how the defense leaned heavily on the fact a key player was, in fact, a paid FBI informant. Fox and others said the FBI also had informants in the January 6 crowd. This information was in various court filings. Was Tucker Carlson wrong to question the FBI’s role given the Michigan case? 

Wallace seems unaware of this line of reasoning. Could this be a result of his relying on other news outlets? The left-leaning press mostly ignored the entrapment defense in the Michigan case. 

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Opportunity Knocks

Having more information leads to better decisions. Being exposed to more ideas expand our choices. We all know this, so why do people cut themselves from data and ideas? When leaders do this, bad things can happen. We are now living the results of leaders acting with limited knowledge.

Presidents Putin and Biden are reluctant to allow diverse ideas and data in their inner circles. The consequences are all too evident in the current Ukraine War. Dictators almost always suffer from the absence of contrary views. If someone presents the correct information or course of action, they can be in prison or dead. These possible outcomes hardly encourage wide-ranging discussions.

Did anyone give Putin an accurate picture of the Russian military? Was it able to carry out the grand invasion plan? After the first two days, it was evident the answer was no. Somebody had to be aware of the military’s failings, but it never got through to Putin. The word is Putin is furious at his Generals, but would he have listened if they leveled with him? Would they even survive?

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Give Joe An Alarm Clock

“For god’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” cried President Biden at the end of his speech in Warsaw on his four-day trip to Europe. Biden was finally committing to doing whatever it took to separate Putin from power in Russia. A Putin defeat in Ukraine was a path to change. Coupled with his labeling Putin a butcher and a war criminal, it was a clear call for regime change in Russia.

As Biden’s strong words circled the globe, the administration told us the President didn’t mean regime change. “I think the President, the White House made the point last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else,” Secretary of State Blinken said. Of course, this doesn’t sound anything like what the President actually said.

Much of the press claimed Biden echoed Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” Berlin speech. Reagan meant what he said and stood by it. Regime change joined with Biden telling the 82nd Airborne what they’ll witness when they’re in Ukraine. Add we will respond in kind to the Russian use of chemical weapons to the gaffs needing to be walked back on his European trip. At least, Biden claimed s “moral outrage.”

Biden finds Russia’s behavior in Ukraine appalling, but Russia is presently negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran for us. The agreement benefits Putin with enriched uranium and orders for two atomic plants. Is Putin a pariah or a trusted negotiating partner? 

Biden promised Europe natural gas to replace its dependence on Russian supplies on the trip. His administration has done everything to diminish our oil and gas production. Export gas terminals and pipelines languish without permits. Where is the extra gas to come from?

A little-reported topic of discussion is a potential of a world food shortage due to the war. Ukraine and Russia are significant exporters of wheat, corn, barley, and sunflower oil.


Due to tight supplies, energy and food prices rose before the war. Now the problems can only worsen. Increasing supply has to be prioritized immediately to avoid out-of-control inflation and starvation.

Using more fertilizer can increase crop yields, but it’s mostly made from fossil fuels. There have been calls for a “project warp speed” for oil and gas production. U.S. production trails our pre-covid levels. Favorable government policies can increase both near and long-term output.

Millions of barrels of non-OPEC oil and gas equivalent entering the market in the future can change the actions of those with excess capacities, such as Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. If supplies continue tight, it pays them to hold back production to get the most for each barrel. If new output seems likely to replace their sales, it pays to sell at today’s high prices before losing market share and revenue. Future expectations influence current prices and actions. That’s why we have futures markets for almost everything.

Another way to replace lost food commodities is simply to plant more acreage. Every acre sowed increases supply. In both Europe and the U.S., we have taken considerable land out of production.

The reasons for this range from supporting prices to environmental concerns. The U.S. can provide leadership to encourage or shame Europe to follow. 

Sadly, indifference or outright rejection has met the need to increase supply. The administration is still warring on fossil fuels, and no one has even mentioned planting more acreage. Has anyone seen Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack, instituting a land unretirement program? It’s already spring. Many crops are sowed now or shortly.

All of this came to the fore in just the past week. Incompetence is revealed at an ever-increasing pace. Starting in January, I’ve presented evidence of the Biden administration’s inadequacies. If something can be mishandled, they’ll find a way. Getting up in the morning, you fear what else they screwed up.

If we can see an administration giving James Buchanan’s a run for the money as the worst presidency ever, the whole world also sees it. Yet, there is no recognition by those in charge of mistakes that have been and continue to be made. The same faces that told us how well they were handling Afghanistan, the border, covid, and inflation are still communicating to an increasing unbelieving public both here and abroad.

When other administrations had difficulty, they changed the personnel or direction. This administration does neither. Instead, it proclaims they’re doing great. A defeat in the midterms may finally bring change, but it may be too late. Ukrainians are dying, masses are crossing our southern border, and inflation is raging. Can’t anybody wake Joe up?

Preventing A Stain On All Of Us

As I predicted, we have a ringside seat to horror. The slaughter of noncombatants and the destruction of centuries-old cities are happening before our eyes. The war is a test of Ukrainian and Russian character, but it is also an assessment of ours. If we have a claim to humanity, we have to do everything to save civilians. Are we doing all we can to prevent another holocaust? 

Along with many on the right and the left, the administration fears that if we do more, it will escalate to World War III, and it could go nuclear. Even as others believe Russia already started World War III, there are still actions we can take without raising the ante.

The idea of mercy flights akin to the Berlin airlift organized and run by humanitarian organizations delivering life-saving food and medicine to noncombatants in beleaguered areas is on the table. Flying well-marked planes on routes known to all combatants could save untold lives and relieve some war sufferings. In a war where one side is now mainly targeting civilians, can people with any conscience refrain from action? 

We have to approach “nonaligned nations” for planes, volunteers, and goods. First, solicit China due to its size and capabilities. While China supports Russia’s territorial claims, do they embrace Putin’s methods?

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