Our Mysterious Dance With China

The United States, and President Trump, are dancing with China.  And what a fascinating dance it is.

We are opposites.  The USA is a democratic republic with a constitution designed to empower citizens, although that concept seems threatened these days.  Still, we remain a beacon of freedom, with a cherished tradition of free trade, private property, elected representative government, and individual rights and responsibilities.

Communist China, on the other hand, operates with a very powerful and complicated central government.  It has an elected legislative branch, the National People’s Congress.  The president and vice-president are the executive branch.  A state council of cabinet heads are appointed, and the powerful People’s Liberation Army wields considerable influence over the direction of the nation.  While the government appears in design to be plebeian, in fact it remains completely authoritarian.

Interestingly, the modern Chinese oligarchy has grasped and accepted the economic reality (a fact lost on many Americans) that individuals who are allowed to own property and risk their own wealth in a free market for personal reward will create economic growth that benefits all.  Communism in its historic form called for everyone to subjugate their individual desires for the benefit of the masses.  That purist form of communism has always failed miserably.

So today China’s government teeters on a fence.  Central command and control is paramount.  But entrepreneurship and the opportunity for individual wealth is now accepted as the pathway to national success.

An interesting case study is the development of the great railway from central China to Tibet.

China has long claimed ownership of Tibet, but the physical remoteness of the mountainous area kept Tibet isolated and fairly independent of Beijing’s reach.  Tibetans had their own language, their own Buddhist customs, and a rural economy that, while viewed as primitive by the civilized world, was fair and functional.  Buddhist monasteries played a major role in education, politics, and the values that drove daily life in Tibet, and the Dalai Lama was the chief authority of the region.  But in the early 2000s China decided to absorb the TAR (Tibetan Autonomous Region) into its growing socio-economic machine.

While Tibet’s geography includes the Himalayan Mountain range, the more foreboding barrier for the Chinese mission was a 710-mile plateau of permafrost between Golmud, in Central China, and Lhasa, the population center of Tibet.  Permafrost is a mixture of soil and frozen water that is so unstable as to make any kind of construction a major challenge.  Highways built on permafrost buckle and heave with the temperature changes.  And China needed more than a highway to subjugate Tibet and take advantage of its vast natural resources and strategic military location (China and India have a longstanding conflict over the Tibetan border and territory).   China needed a railroad to Lhasa.

The logistics of building a railroad over the permafrost plateau had been studied for years, and the enormous engineering challenge was never really answered.  Nonetheless, the Chinese government, as part of its “Go West” plan to industrialize and civilize western and southern China, decided to forge ahead with construction in 2000, with an eye to completion before the Olympics in 2008.

It was an impossible mission.  But against all odds, and at a tremendous human and economic cost, the Chinese government pushed the project through to completion in 2006.

Tibet was changed overnight.  The agrarian Tibetan people saw their temples destroyed, their farms obliterated, and their culture wiped out in a flash.  The TAR was flooded with Han Chinese entrepreneurs who were awarded government contracts and developed the Tibetan countryside into cold, bustling, cinder-block Chinese cities replete with hotels, bars, and multitudes of government office buildings.  The Tibetans lost their homes, land, and farms, and had no opportunities in the rich new job market, ostensibly because they did not speak Chinese and could not follow instructions.  But even Chinese-speaking college-educated Tibetans were frozen out.

Now China is developing copper, iron, oil and natural gas, and many other minerals in the TAR, and Tibet pulses along with the burgeoning state/private economic tsunami that proliferates across China today.  The railroad struggles with permafrost problems, but no worries – problems are dealt with as they occur.  The economy in Tibet bursts at the seams, but most of the investment comes from the central Chinese government.  A middle class continues to emerge, and more Tibetans, like Chinese across the country, are buying new cars.  The rate of economic development in China is astonishing, and now Tibet is part of the show.

This railroad was impossible.  But it was essential to the goals of the Chinese government.  So they did it.  It may not be fair, but they just did it.

Meanwhile, the United States contemplates tariffs against China, in retaliation for abuse of intellectual property and their own tariffs on our goods headed for Chinese consumers.  President Trump is the first free-world leader to stand up against China’s incredible economic willpower.

The United States can no longer look down our noses at nations that do not subscribe to our form of government.  China is kicking butt, although according to historical economic models the heavy infusion of government capital should not be sustainable.  China’s methods are not always fair, human rights are abused, the government is brutally driven in its pursuit of economic growth.  But it is what it its, and we need to understand how to cooperate with this juggernaut nation.  It will take considerable strength to match the economic force of the Chinese.  Our old models of international trade just aren’t relevant any more.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Let’s dance
For fear your grace should fall
Let’s dance
For fear tonight is all
Let’s sway
You could look into my eyes
Let’s sway
Under the moonlight, this serious moonlight

The World Needs the USA to Show Them the Way

The world needs a strong, determined, and righteous (dare I say Christian) United States to show them the way.  That’s not fantasy.  It’s not ego.  It’s just the truth.

Many Americans think the United States is arrogant to even suggest we know the path to peace, prosperity and progress.  They believe we must respect all cultures and tolerate all behavior, even if it makes us flinch.  Who are we to interfere?  The American left says we should “lead from behind”, if at all.

Our universities endorse socialism and communism, never mentioning the hardship and atrocities that history proves will inevitably result.  Our youth march in the streets to the beat of the hard-left drum, oblivious to the millions who have starved and died all over the world in lands where totalitarian despots ruled.  They close their eyes to the human misery, fearful of being called aggressive or intolerant.  Communism, to them, is the fair way, despite the fact that communists do not allow private ownership of property or personal choices.

Meanwhile, some on the far right feel that only dominant military power can maintain peace and order.  In their world-view, only regime-change can bring about progress, and it is counter-productive to dignify despots by meeting and discussing a path forward.  They must be defeated and removed.  Cynics would say the “neo-cons” also view military action as a profit opportunity.

After World War II our less-than-stellar military attempts at freeing the world’s oppressed have left us wary of investing more blood and treasure outside of our borders, and our military physique has atrophied while our adversaries, especially China, muscled up.

As a Christian nation, we know in our hearts that we can’t allow human misery to endure without trying to help.  Appeasing and supporting ruthless despots clearly isn’t going to change their behavior.  Threatening them doesn’t seem to work, either.  Is it hopeless to believe that America can lead the world away from despotism, starvation, and oppression?

President Trump has not given up.  After our nation’s repeated failures to suppress North Korea’s belligerent nuclear intimidation, Trump is meeting Kim Jong Un face-to-face, inviting him to join the civilized world.  The United States promises harsh sanctions and even threatens military engagement for bad behavior, but offers incentives for following the right path.  As the North Korean people get their first glimpse of sunshine, Trump’s approach looks promising.

Vladimir Putin has chafed under the embarrassment of Russia having been relegated to second-class status among the world’s leading nations.  President Trump, recognizing the opportunity to steer Putin’s behavior toward acceptability, chides the G7 leaders about leaving Russia out.  Trump will meet Putin soon, and I expect to see the G8 configuration restored, resulting in a win-win for Russia and the rest of the world.

Shortly after his election, President Trump met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to share concerns and opportunities, and later recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, changing the political landscape in the Middle East.  Suddenly the United States has strategic allies all over the area, ISIS has all but disappeared, and Iran may soon face a popular uprising to displace their despotic regime.

Meanwhile, China watches the United States re-asserting itself as the economic and moral leader of the world.  Trump demands fair treatment in international trade, and he will likely get it.

There can be no misunderstanding – the despots of the world are bad guys, and we must demand human rights for all.  But until we have a relationship, a conversation, an understanding of mutual benefit, life will not get better for the oppressed.

It’s up to the United States, and our president, to show them the way.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I’m swimming in a circle,
I feel I’m going down
There has to be a fool to play my part
Someone thought of healing,
But all I really want to know
Oh won’t you show me the way
I want you show me the way

Trump’s Legacy – Freedom

This week President Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Obama/Kerry nuclear agreement with Iran.

It was, like most Trump foreign-policy speeches, brief, direct and common-sensible, putting America’s security and interests first.  He pulled no punches, calling the original deal “a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States.”

Trump made a concise, compelling case for dumping the agreement.  But he added one potent paragraph at the end of his speech that was even more significant:

Finally, I want to deliver a message to the long-suffering people of Iran: The people of America stand with you. It has now been almost 40 years since this dictatorship seized power and took a proud nation hostage. Most of Iran’s 80 million citizens have sadly never known an Iran that prospered in peace with its neighbors and commanded the admiration of the world. But the future of Iran belongs to its people. They are the rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land and they deserve a nation that does justice to their dreams, honor to their history, and glory to their god.

We now have a president who understands the human value of self-determination that Americans share.  He gets it.  And as his presidency evolves, more people around the world will get it, too.

Despite the “resistance” of his short-sighted adversaries, Trump will make his mark of freedom around the world, without spilling American blood and wasting our hard-earned wealth.  Eventually Iran’s people will overrule their despotic leaders and rejoin the free and modern community of nations.  North Korea will follow suit.  Venezuela will not be far behind, and recent cultural progress in Saudi Arabia holds promise for the defeat of Muslim extremism and the expansion of personal freedoms across the Middle East.

We Americans have often assumed that our success is a direct result of our unique form of government.  No doubt, to this point the design and execution of our democratic republic has been a major contributor to our growth and prosperity.  But the details and nuances of how our government works is secondary to the single, underpinning belief that we hold most dear – above all else we Americans treasure our personal freedoms.

President Trump’s work toward eliminating the nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea is much more than a military exercise.  The people of these nations, and others, may soon realize that our president is helping them gain their freedom.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

You can knock me down and watch me bleed
But you can’t keep no chains on me.
I was born free

Bang Your Head With the Left

My conservative friends and I become more and more baffled every day at the logic-defying behavior and attitudes of our leftist brethren.

Today’s news features Image result for NRA blood on your handsyet another protest march – ostensibly inspired by school kids, but in reality organized, funded and scripted by hard left political organizations, and super-hyped by their allies in the news media.

It is just one more of the many provocations by today’s Democrats we endure day-by-day, hour-by-hour, demanding that we all must do something that doesn’t make any sense. When confronted with one of these absurdly irrational arguments I go through a head-shaking mental check-down.  In this case:

  • How do we responsible, licensed gun owners have “blood on our hands” whenever a criminal perpetrates a crime?
  • Assault is already illegal.  Does adding more laws make it even more illegal?
  • Criminals, by definition, break laws.  Does limiting gun rights for everybody make criminals less likely to break the law?
  • The left seizes every opportunity to protect criminals and to hamstring and disrespect law enforcement.  How can they be surprised when more crimes happen?
  • The students who shoot up their classmates are almost always from fatherless homes.  Why is the left so hell-bent on destroying the nuclear family and lauding single-motherhood?
  • And why aren’t these protester kids in school?  Do their school boards sanction political indoctrination without the participation or consent of parents?  Is this just the tip of the indoctrination iceberg?

I recently had an extended conversation on gun rights and school safety with an anti-gun group called “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America“.  Well, it wasn’t really a conversation – a thinking person’s concept of conversation is that it requires listening as well as speaking.  Leftists never listen.  My logical challenges to their lengthy list of vapid talking points went completely unanswered.

One of the “Moms” told me directly that I should not be trusted to carry a concealed weapon.   She said if a terrorist or mentally ill person came in shooting the place up, she would try to talk him out of hurting anybody.  She absolutely did not want me to protect her with my gun under any circumstances.

My head physically shakes again just remembering it.  You see, I grew up in a world where some truths are just obvious.  If you bang yourself in the head with a rock, it will hurt.  Nothing can convince me otherwise.   But somehow, today’s Democrats have convinced a large number of Americans that a rock on the head is a good thing.

Pick your rock.   Should we invite everybody in the world to come and live here, no questions asked?  Ouch, not good.  Should we encourage our young children to choose the gender they want to be?  Dang, that’s gonna hurt.  Should we categorize and make assumptions about people based on their skin pigmentation?  Ooh, that’s gonna leave a mark.  Should we let anybody vote, any time and anywhere, without even asking for identification?  Oww!

No wonder my head hurts every time I turn on the news.

Tom Balek, Rockin’ On the Right Side

I got the boys to make the noise
Won’t ever let up, hope it annoys you!
Join the pack, fill the crack
Well now you’re here, there’s no way back

Rep. Ralph Norman Defends Gun Rights

I was with Congressman Ralph Norman Friday morning for his “coffee visit” town hall at the Rock Hill Diner.  When we went to the reserved area, a group of women in red t-shirts (Moms Demand Action) planted across from us, intent on dominating the event with their radical anti-gun agenda.  They claimed that they are not anti-2nd amendment, but as the discussion developed, their talking points turned toward hard-left “Resist” statements, i.e. anti-Trump, pro-abortion, anti-gun rights, etc.

Many of their arguments and claims were naive if not childish, often without any factual basis, even just plain false. I was seated next to Ralph and defending gun rights.  While we agreed on some points, we countered other claims and demands with reason and facts, and the activists grew more frustrated and aggressive. They demonstrated little knowledge about firearms, gun law, law enforcement, legislative process, etc. They even tried presenting a fake news item and we proved it was untrue.

At one point I told one of the activists, “I am a concealed carrier, and if a terrorist came in that door shooting the place up, I would defend you.  Doesn’t that give you comfort?” Incredibly, she said NO!  She doesn’t believe I should be allowed to own a gun, and said she would prefer to “talk it out” with the terrorist.  That’s when the congressman was asked by another attendee if he is also a concealed carrier.  Norman reached into his jacket, pulled out his .38, laid it safely on the table, and stated he is a carrier too, and he would defend himself and them.  He said he carries all the time except when he is in Washington, DC and he if anybody comes after him with a gun, he had better be a good shot, because he will be shooting back.  The gun wasn’t exposed more than a minute or two.

Nobody was intimidated.  Nobody was afraid.  Our photo, published in the Rock Hill Herald, shows everybody smiling. Congressman Norman was calm, affable, warm and gentle with these ladies.  We all agreed on some of their points.  But that wasn’t good enough for them. The congressman did upset one of the ladies by admonishing her for the proliferation of F bombs and other profanity all over her group’s web page.  He pointed out that children see Facebook pages too.  It is interesting to note that within hours of the incident the Congressman’s Facebook page was filled with vitriol and profanity, some of it from the very people who we met that morning.  It appears that these messages have since been “scrubbed”.

After their failed attempt to bully the Congressman, the “Moms” ran directly from the diner to the newspaper office, and their embellished story was printed as gospel by the press.  It hit the wires and was instantly viral in the national news media.

Congressman Norman made a statement on his Facebook page, but already the national “Resist” movement had been mobilized, filling his page with expletives, F bombs, and ugly hatred.  Norman asked me to help develop a response, and with some media-savvy friends from DC we worked out a plan which has been fairly well received. You have probably seen his second response .  We have been getting good support from conservative groups around the country.  We set up an interview on Fox and Friends for Monday morning.

This is a pivotal moment for defense of the 2nd Amendment and the NRA.  The “Moms” group is funded by and was sent on this mission by out-of-state money and is, as Norman said, hell-bent on eliminating private gun ownership.  We believe they were also accompanied by, if not directed by, one of Archie Parnell’s officials. They pretended to be concerned about child safety, but when I questioned them they defended the murder of 650,000 American babies per year by abortionists (latest available statistics), so it’s clear this is not about children for them.

The clip on the right is an example of the kind of people we face from the left (apologies for the language).  It takes no small measure of strength and purpose to run for office against today’s brand of Democrats.

Congressman Norman is absolutely on the right side of this battle, and the radical leftists will find that they picked the wrong target for an ambush.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Don’t take your guns to town, son
Leave your guns at home, Bill
Don’t take your guns to town

Don’t Take Your Guns to Town – Johnny Cash



Whenever I get a request for a Johnny Cash tune at one of my weekend gigs, I know they are expecting “Folsum Prison Blues”, the standard Cash bar song.   But I sing this one instead, the story of a good young man who died defending himself and others against a bad guy.

Forget Politics – Think Economics

Politics is too much.  It’s just too big.  So many issues, policies, personalities, feelings, fears, doubts, lies, propaganda.

Everything is hyped and overstated.  The political and cultural divide grows wider and deeper by the day.  In the jumble and tumble of daily politics and market-driven “news” it’s so hard to stay focused on what is real and important.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes for me all of the posturing and gamesmanship gets to be too much – too damned much to digest and bring to any kind of focus or certainty or closure.  Too much grey area and not enough black and white facts. It’s no wonder so many people tune out and continue their lives in blissful disengagement.  I’m not able to do that (you probably aren’t either) and I find myself sometimes needing the “click” of a padlock – the binary knowledge that I know something is right, and imperative, period.

About every ten years or so I come full circle back to what I know in my guts to be true about life, and how we as Americans (and for that matter as human beings on planet Earth)  are wired to make the right choice and do the right thing.   And the path revealed is not political. It always comes back to economics.

To hell with politics.  Every human being on the planet – basket weaver in India, farmer in North Dakota, factory worker in China, soldier in North Korea – has this in common:  we get up every morning and set out to improve the standard of living for ourselves and our families.  Period.

Isn’t this true?  Can you disagree?  We all want a little bit better life for ourselves and the ones we love.  It is a universal truth – a metaphysical fact.  Forget religion.  Forget political party.  Forget culture, education, race, gender, age, nationality.  We all want the same thing.  Better food.  A nicer house.  Less hard labor.  More quality time with our loved ones.

We, the people of the United States of America, have been a beacon of inspiration and righteous success since our nation’s noisy and unconventional birth.  We have improved the standard of living for not only ourselves but also for people all over the world on a quantum scale ever since we became a “thing” in 1776.   We have set the standard.  We are the land of opportunity, the place to be, the bad go-getters and the mean motor-scooters.  We have what it takes.  We know what it’s all about.

Don’t we?  Lately we aren’t so sure.  I mean we did, but do we still?

We Americans have generally credited our political system for our success – our Constitution, our three branches of government with built-in checks and balances, our Bill of Rights, etc.  Great.  It’s all good.  But there’s more to it.

I submit that our American success story is the result of our economic system – free enterprise and free markets, equal opportunity, and minimal government intervention.

Because the truth is:  every human being is ruled by self-interest.

It’s not a bad thing.  We work hard to provide for our families.  We help those in need because we know we may, ourselves, some day need help.  We look for ways to meet the wants and needs of others in the market because that will reward us, as well as them.

Some will say that free markets favor the greedy and unscrupulous.  But America, born a Christian nation, avoided that problem.  We trusted each other.  We were raised to be moral, honest citizens.  We believed in fairness.  Our word was our bond.

As long as America is a Christian nation, and makes decisions based on economic merit, and values honesty, we will be fine.  But we must each shoulder our responsibility.  For every political issue or question we should consider: will this course of action help improve the standard of living for all Americans?  And will it be fair to all Americans?

Anything outside that simple framework just really doesn’t matter.  Try looking at any political issue or question in these terms.  Improved standard of living + fairness/honesty (Christian morality).  The correct path becomes pretty obvious.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I’ve got to get it somewhere
I mean, you never know, maybe
You’re dreaming

Too Much – Dave Matthews Band


The always awesome Dave Mathews Band:  it’s just Too Much!  Especially drummer Carter Beauford.

CHANGE – It’s Not Going to Get Any Easier

“Crabby” warning.

America is in the middle of a BIG CHANGE.

Change is inevitable, and we ultimately have to accept it.  The hard thing, though, is that change is never smooth, gradual and comfortable.  It comes in fits and starts, and is often jarring if not downright scary.  We are in one of those scary times.

Even though we have to accept change, we don’t have to like it.  And there is a lot of stuff going on that I don’t like.

I don’t like the fact that our economy used to be more fairly balanced, but now there is a huge and growing chasm between the “haves” and “have nots”.  It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Unrest and violence are not out of the question.  Why?

America was once a “melting pot” of people from different backgrounds and abilities who all shared common values and felt a part of something bigger than themselves.  Now we have splintered into a balkanized bunch of minorities.  And I will point the finger directly at “progressive” political leadership over the last decade or so.  The “divide and conquer” strategy used by liberals has worked brilliantly.  Democrats have taught everybody to identify with a subgroup and then established victim-hood status for each, promising to save them from everybody else in exchange for votes.

It starts in our schools and colleges, where students from one or more of the victim-groups of poor, non-white or immigrant, non-Christian, gay/trans, single mothers, etc. are vaulted to hero status.  Self-esteem is guaranteed to them all without regard to merit.  Those born in America with white skin are assumed to be bigots and racists, normal heterosexuals are assumed to be narrow-minded homophobes, and hard-working achievers are assumed to have only succeeded at the expense of others.  The “privileged” must sheepishly walk on broken glass in penance and apology to the “victims.”

Worst of all, our education system that once drove students to seek excellence now allows (perhaps encourages) minority students to feed a culture that values being “bad-ass” over being academic.  Schools fail to enforce discipline, tolerate or endorse illicit sex and drugs, and openly assail capitalism, patriotism, family values, and Christian religion.  Graduation rates plummet as growing numbers of kids would rather avoid learning anything to meet the approval of their peers than work for an educational foundation promising a successful future.  Many schools numbly accept poor classroom performance out of fear of being labeled racist.  As a result nobody flunks and standards sink to the lowest common denominator.  Speaking of common, where is the “rigor” we were promised with the roll-out of Common Core?  Employers are frantic at the dearth of trainable graduates.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, but my school is great.”  Everybody says that.  Look at a couple of textbooks.  Sit in on an assembly.  K-12 is scary enough.  College has become a place for children to abscess and rot.

There will always be a few high achievers, and they will have an ever-easier path to the top as more “victims” fall into the abyss of low expectations.  And the Democrats salivate waiting for them at the bottom of the hill with free stuff in one hand and a ballot in the other.  The few at the top will be richly rewarded and the masses at the bottom will fight for crumbs from their government.  The culture war has only just started, and I can’t envision a happy outcome if we don’t shift our direction.

Bitching about change is easy.  Minimizing the damage is hard.  Change doesn’t have to be for the worse.  We just can’t give in to political correctness, laziness and demagoguery.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

Changes – David Bowie