The nonsense with delayed action on alleged violations of the Rules of Golf, the Lexi Thompson/Dustin Johnson/Tiger Woods syndrome, must stop.

The problem:  people are looking at the wrong problem.  Everyone complains about the rules, but the real problem lies with the enforcement of the rules.  Example, drawn from watching the live telecast of the women’s tournament last week:  the first time I saw a replay of Ms. Thompson’s re-placement of her ball on the green, I thought, that is a clear violation, she could have been changing the placement in order to avoid having to putt from – or over – a defect in the putting surface, a bump or spike-mark or something.  In other words, she deserved to be penalized.  The rule is a good one, as it is designed to prevent people from giving themselves a more-favorable lie.

So why did she do it?  After watching the replay several more times, I realized that Ms. Thompson’s mistake could have been based on geometry and viewing-angle, not on trying to game the system.  By placing her marker and then lifting and re-placing the ball from aside the marker rather than from behind, she had made it much harder to identify a spot in front of her marker, because from the sideways perspective, you are not placing the ball on a line with anything.  Also, the putt was less than a foot and there were no visible imperfections in the turf.  Probably the violation was innocent, probably she was not even aware she did it.  But all of that is beside the point.  Intention is irrelevant; motive is not a part of the rule, nor should it be.  Tournaments do not leave time for lawyers to cross-examine players.

The problem is not with the Rules of Golf, it is with the enforcement of them.  You can’t wait until the round is over (the Woods situation) or until the back nine of the next round (the Thompson debacle) before making a ruling.  In cases where a player seeks a ruling before hitting a shot, the ruling by the attending rules official should be final, not subject to further review or appeal.  In cases where a fellow competitor, a rules official, a TV viewer, or anyone else claims that there has been a violation regarding a shot already taken, pro golf needs a time-limit and an NFL-style instant replay and booth review . If no one makes such a claim within, say, 5 minutes after the alleged violation occurred, case closed, it is too late for anyone to present a claim.  If someone does present such a claim within the 5 minute period, play halts for the player and the others in his or her group.  The booth review people have, say, another 2 minutes to make a ruling, and unless they rule “guilty” within that time, the case is closed, the player is permanently exonerated.

Why so fast?  Because justice delayed is justice denied.  You cannot require the player, indeed the entire field, to continue play without knowing where everyone stands.  Mistakes will occasionally be made, but it is more important, more fair, to maintain pace of play and keep everyone fully informed than it is to spend a lot of time in pursuit of perfect rulings.  Just like football and other sports.  You cannot get to the end of a game and say, wait, we blew the call, we must either replay the entire 4th quarter or declare that the losing team has become the winning team.

Why the USGA cannot figure this out, is a mystery.  Are they trying to avoid the expense of employing more officials and more technology?  Given the egg on their faces after all of these fiascos, is it good business to continue to dodge the problem?  And by the way, golf should be encouraging TV viewers to present claims, not  alienating viewers by being hostile to their actions.




Republicans should not be shocked if President Trump decides to dump them and work with Democrats on future projects.  Now that the Paul/Cruz/Cotton/Freedom Caucus crowd has determined that RyanCare was not pure enough for them, the president might well decide that his new party is a bunch of losers and that he might do better by building a coalition among blacks and the “ordinary” folks who dragged him across the finish line in PA, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and other bluish states.  Obviously, the ideological, socialist wing of the Democratic Party would never support him, just as the ideological free-market wing of the Republican Party has now disappointed him, but that leaves a big space in the middle, people who don’t give a hoot about Marx or Milton Friedman but are quite concerned about the security and prosperity of the nation.

Irony abounds.  RyanCare was inspired by a free-market vision but became, under the restless pen of Speaker Ryan, a horse built by a committee, an altogether different creature.  Who among us really understood Phase I, which seemed intended to buy support among moderates of either party by providing financial assistance to the needy – but ended up as an indecipherable jigsaw puzzle of progressive-style redistribution?  Who believed that Phases II and III, which were deferred because they supposedly could not qualify for the filibuster-proof “reconciliation” process, would suddenly turn the pricing of healthcare and healthcare-insurance over to a competitive, deregulated, free market? Answer: very few of us.   RyanCare’s heart might have been in the right place, but the plan looked more like a Soviet Five Year Plan than like something that Hayek or Milton Friedman would have liked.

Could it have been otherwise?  Sure – plenty of smart conservatives have articulated elegant, simple, free-market models that could have been understood by the voters.  The common theme of these proposals was that government was to get completely out of the business of controlling the healthcare insurance business and determining which treatments and procedures you are allowed to obtain, from whom, when, and at what price.  Government’s one and only role in healthcare and insurance would be to provide financial assistance to people who needed it in order to pay the market price of healthcare and insurance.  Medicare would merely verify eligibility and collect and disburse money.  Clearly, the transition from the central-planning model (ObamaCare) to the free-market model would have taken time, effort, and money and would have involved special provisions (e.g., grandfathering) to address individual cases of hardship or unfairness, but that would have been a one-off project that would ultimately add enormous value. On the contrary, it appeared that under RyanCare, the government would jump in and manage the transition but that it would never jump back out.

Would a simple, free-market model have been approved by Congress?  The guess here is that it would, as the provisions for transition and for assistance to the needy would have gotten the moderate Republicans on board, and the provisions for deregulation and free-market pricing would have warmed the hearts of Rand Paul, Tom Cotton, and the rest of the purists, and the support of both moderates and purists would have carried the House and put a lot of pressure on a lot of Democrats in the Senate, as the Trump machine flexed its new muscle and made things tough for Democrats up for re-election in red states.  And if it had not worked, the blame would have lain squarely with the Democrats, which the voters would have noticed.  But now we will never know.  The Republicans got too cute and now both the party and the president have taken a huge blow, and only the president appears to have at least one path to recovery, a path that should infuriate Republican voters.


Let me be clear (OK, sorry, that line was plagiarized):  a lie is not a false statement, an inaccurate prediction, or an opinion with which one disagrees.  Here is a typical definition of “lie” (from Wikipedia):  “A lie is a statement that is known to be untrue and is used to mislead.”    Another (from  “an untrue or deceptive statement deliberately used to mislead.”    Note the key words: “known,” “deliberately,” “used to mislead.”  A statement that eventually proves to be false but was believed by the speaker to be true when he uttered it, is not a lie.  For example, the assertion that “Bush lied” about Saddam’s WMDs is not correct, as it has never been demonstrated that Mr. Bush knew, at the time he made the indicated statements, that his statements were false.  His statements might have been false statements, but they were not lies.  If ObamaCare somehow survived and succeeded during the remainder of the Trump administration, Mr. Trump’s prediction of its failure would not be a lie, it would just be a flawed prediction.  When the president states that economic nationalism is preferable to free trade under certain circumstances, that is not a lie, it is just a controversial opinion.

President Trump has issued false statements, bad predictions, and suspect opinions, but few (if any) lies.  On the contrary, he has made a remarkable number of specific promises and has already kept a great many.  It is now clear that he did not lie when he said he would nominate a conservative to the Supreme Court and said he would attempt to limit illegal immigration, to replace and reform ObamaCare, to demand more from our NATO partners, to cut red tape in government, to balance the budget, etc.  In this writer’s lifetime (which covers a lot of presidencies), no other candidate has even come close to matching this president’s record of laying out an extensive and specific set of campaign promises and then, once elected, systematically keeping those promises, acting upon one after another after another with alacrity, vigor, and passion.


The GOP’s healthcare gambit is an elaborate parliamentarian ploy, designed for winning rather than going down in high-principled flames in a Senate filibuster. Phase I is a head fake, a means of exploiting the reconciliation rules that allow you to dodge the filibuster so long as your bill meets the revenue-related standards.  Here is the play:  You go into reconciliation with a filibuster-proof Phase I bill, in which you give the left most of the goodies that are all they really care about (the stuff the conservatives refer to derisively as “entitlements”), and you give the right just enough from their wish-list to make them shut up for a little while and go along with the plan. The Rand Paul contingent makes enough noise (all of it innocent and principled) to make it seem that the left is dodging a bullet, has won a great victory, that the whole thing represents a capitulation by Trump, who turns out to be just another whore – one of the left’s own.  Then, after a few months of the left’s luxuriating in the sense that their achievement was real, you drop the hammer.  Phase II, which Trump has lacked the self-discipline to abstain from delicately telegraphing, is when you get to the heart of the reform, which is to remove all the Obamacare crap that effectively precluded a free market in healthcare and insurance – and to remove the ban on interstate offerings of insurance.  For all we know, the Republicans might even throw in tort reform.  The goal is that by the time we get to Phase II, which requires 60 votes in the Senate, the Democrats will have been sufficiently sated and sedated that the Republicans will have a reasonable chance of stealing the requisite 10 Democrat votes.

Not saying it would work, just that it is the only plan that has a chance of working.


In attempting to reconcile Trumpism with American conservatism, and upon discovering that our new president seems to favor a set of policies that look a lot like those of the party he chose to represent, one inevitably confronts the outlier: trade.  The president seems on board with the Republican mainstream on reducing deficits, lowering tax rates, taking cronyism out of the tax code, reducing government-regulation of the private sector, etc.  But international trade is the great divider:  Trumponomic trade policy appears to represent heresy against the church of Adam Smith.  With his disdain for NAFTA and TPP and his interest in a border-adjusted trade tax, the president gives the impression that he does not appreciate the benefits of free trade.  Why do you suppose that is?

A refresher:  free trade is a sacred Republican cow.  Conservatives think trade wars are the worst thing you can do to an economy short of centrally-planning it.  An irony:  free trade is a key component of globalism, and globalism (open borders and all) is quintessential Obamaism, which is what the president has railed against and the nation voted against. (Note: before jumping to associate nationalism with Nazi or Italian fascism, you should remember that for nearly a century globalism has been associated with Soviet communism and socialism.)   A theory:  the president understands Milton Friedman, he is aware of the Smoot-Hawley debacle, and he gets it that free trade is the rising tide that normally lifts all national boats, but he is not satisfied with the vision of an America that no longer owns the biggest boat.  The president understands the theory of comparative advantage, he knows that displaced steel workers and auto workers might eventually find higher-level/higher-income work instead of wasting their talents on lower-level jobs that could be performed in Asia for lower salaries, and he knows that free trade should enable the average American to continue to buy more and more stuff.  What’s not to like?

The argument here is that the president’s America-First nationalism relates more to culture and patriotism  than to trade, and that the president does not want trade wars, that he generally favors free trade, albeit subject to two major exceptions:  (i) he is not interested in free-trade deals with nations that are dedicated to surpassing us as an industrial and military power through domestic subsidies, theft of intellectual property, dumping, currency manipulation, tariffs, over-regulation of US products and services, and other means of advancing their domestic industries and inhibiting American industries (e.g., China); and (ii) he is not interested in free-trade deals that are too fair, that leave money on the table – either deals with a peer nation that favor that nation, or deals with a weaker nation that fail to exploit that nation’s inferiority. To him, re-doing NAFTA means obtaining concessions from Mexico.

Trump surely understands that it is possible to maintain economic growth despite running trade deficits, that global free trade should increase the world’s aggregate economic growth and prosperity. But he recognizes that economic growth, while enabling Americans to buy more stuff and better healthcare, can still leave us with lots of unemployment and under-employment, as machine continues to replace man – and as America increases its production of replaceable men (and women). It might also leave us with diminished industrial and military power. The imbalance between the employed and the unemployed can be modulated by expanding the levels of direct-welfare (money) and de facto welfare (government jobs), though those actions might be socially unwise.  But the reduction in our industrial and military strength could be a major mistake. The president may well be thinking, what is the point of globalistic free trade if the consequences are an increased level of unemployed or underemployed citizens and a decreased level of national security, in return for our being able to buy more stuff?

Few doubt that the American economy of the future should be built around our world-leadership in information technology, but what if our displaced auto workers and our new college-graduates were not sufficiently educated and trained to enable us to maintain our leadership in IT, either because of the failures of our educational system and our culture or because everything we invent or create is eventually stolen or reverse-engineered by others?  What if one day we woke up and realized that we could not produce a car or an electronic device without outsourcing the production to an unfriendly nation, maybe an uncooperative one?  What if we could not maintain our military superiority because China or Iran or Russia, by legal or illegal means, had become our technological peer?

Free trade might be a good thing in a utopian global-economy, at least for a while, but maybe not so good when we are no longer a benevolent World Number One, no longer able to keep the South China Sea shipping lanes open for the purpose of accommodating that free trade, and there are no other qualified and willing volunteers to take on that responsibility.  America, most of the European Union and NATO, and most of the other alumni of the old British Empire are pretty much all that is left of the “free world,” and we are surrounded by Russia, Turkey, Iran, most of the rest of the Middle East (other than Israel), China, North Korea, etc., most of whom are openly striving to overtake us and perhaps kill us.  Few of these hostile players want to play by Marquess of Queensberry rules, such as free trade, except when they think it suits their purposes.

Joseph Kennedy is reported to have said, “I would be willing to part with half of what I had if I could be sure of keeping, under law and order, the other half.”  In the same spirit, your humble scribe would rather be a prosperous and free American than a super-rich Iranian and would be satisfied, even delighted, to leave some consumer goods on the table in order to have an American government that was willing to engage in a little economic nationalism in order to be able to defend the country against predators determined to dominate us.