Crush Your Enemies

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There’s a lifelong maxim that states that only the complete destruction of one’s enemies will suffice. Merely winning a particular battle is not enough. If they survive the defeat and can come back to fight another day, then the ultimate victory is not assured. In contrast, the contest still hangs in the balance and the outcome of any one battle may not be the overriding determinate of the final result.

This thought is summed up in the work “The 48 Laws of Power,” a best-selling 1998 book by American author Robert Greene. Law 15 states, “….a feared enemy must be crushed completely. If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out.  More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation. The enemy will recover and seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.

The Democrats and their Liberal Media allies employ this strategy relentlessly, day after day, non-stop. Their total refusal to accept Donald Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election is evident in the non-stop attacks—both policy-based and personally insulting—that they use against the President every single day. There is not a solitary news cycle or issue that the Democrats let pass without criticizing President Trump in their never-ending attempt to undermine his presidency and force him from office.

As a matter of fact, the Democrats and the liberal media exercise the 48 Laws on a continual basis. Whether it’s a conscious decision or simply undertaken automatically, they follow them religiously. The following Laws are definitely recognizable as integral to the Democrats’ playbook:

Law 11: “LEARN TO KEEP PEOPLE DEPENDENT ON YOU.” Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.

Law 12: “USE SELECTIVE HONESTY AND GENEROSITY TO DISARM YOUR VICTIM.” One sincere, honest move will cover dozens of dishonest ones and bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people. Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will.

Law 25: “RE-CREATE YOURSELF.” Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions—your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.

Law 33: “DISCOVER EACH MAN’S THUMBSCREW.” Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. Once found, it’s a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

Law 42: “STRIKE THE SHEPHERD AND THE SHEEP WILL SCATTER.” Self-evident.

The Democrats follow these rules consistently. They never let up, not for even the briefest moment. Neither the Democratic Party nor the liberal media have accepted President Trump as the legitimately elected president for an instant. By refusing to recognize his election victory as valid, they have absolved themselves of any obligation or requirement to accord either Donald Trump or the office of president with the respect and deference that is ordinarily due. In their minds, his “illegitimacy” gives them free reign to bombard him with all manner of public disrespect, to disavow any policy or accomplishment of his as meaningless and to concoct an endless stream of fantastical so-called crimes and transgressions that require immediate investigation, with the thinly-veiled aim of ending his tenure.

First it was Russia, Russia, Russia!, “backed” by the phony-as-a-three-dollar-bill Steele dossier, the bogus Flynn/FBI investigation and the inventing of non-existent crimes out of thin air against Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and others. When that didn’t work after almost three years and the all-Democrat Mueller Report was shown to be baseless, the Democrats moved on to fabricate some sort of Ukrainian phone call delusion to charge President Trump with impeachment-worthy crimes.

The ink was barely dry on his acquittal when the Chinese coronavirus pandemic hit. Before anyone else even recognized it as a threat (NY mayor Bill DeBlasio and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were telling everyone to go out, visit the restaurants, live your life as normal, etc.), President Trump banned flights from China and Europe and closed our borders. While Dr. Fauci, CNN and MSNBC were busy saying that the coronavirus was not likely to become that big a deal, President Trump was way out in front.

But when one party—the Democrats—has the complete backing and cooperation of the mainstream media, the narrative becomes anything they want it to be. Very quickly, the pandemic became President Trump’s fault. He didn’t act fast enough. He didn’t take the proper steps. He let the situation get away from him, to the detriment of the health of the American public. The fact that President Trump closed down the country and established a Coronavirus Task Force while the Democrats were still looking for their next avenue of political attack following their just-failed impeachment fiasco didn’t matter to the liberal media.

The Democrats aren’t concerned with governing the country. They’re concerned with ousting President Trump. Predictably, all of the recent racial unrest triggered by the George Floyd situation is being laid at the feet of the President, as if Donald Trump—not the Democratic-run cities and Democratic-run police departments—caused it. No, the Dems and the liberal media make it seem as if President Trump actually approves of the racial strife on some level. Just as predictably, the President’s recent Law Enforcement Reform initiative is being discounted by the Democrats and the liberal media as being inadequate and too little, too late. Pelosi and Biden have been in office for close to a collective century, but the liberal mainstream media never press them on why they hadn’t addressed this issue before.

In the end, the upcoming election is not about Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden. The 2020 version of Biden is plainly afflicted by severe, paralyzing dementia, but even in his so-called “prime,” he had no particular vision or core convictions. This is an election either for Trump or against Trump. Biden’s presence is irrelevant.

The roughly 43% of the solid for-Trump vote and the approximately 45% of the always-anti-Trump vote are already baked into the election. The election will turn on that casually-attentive, somewhat-persuadable 12%. The Republicans will make their usual mistake of thinking that the merits of the issues–the facts on the ground, like how far back the economy/employment has come by November and whether or not the racial tension has smoothed out a bit—will carry the day.

The Democrats will instinctively operate on the correct presumption that it is their skill at employing the 48 Laws of Power approach to campaigning in addition to the facts on the ground that will win the day. President Trump’s team had better get up to speed quickly on waging effective trench warfare in 2020, or they will find themselves outflanked, out-maneuvered and out-gunned in the most crucial electoral battle of our lifetime.

The Magic of the Merlin

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The SpaceX Demo-2/Dragon spacecraft was successfully launched into space on Saturday May 30, 2020, marking the first-ever collaboration between NASA and a private entity, Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The Falcon 9 booster was comprised of nine SpaceX Merlin rocket engines, which use RP-1 (refined petroleum) and liquid oxygen as propellants to develop the immense thrust necessary for a heavy space-bound launch vehicle.

All the news reports were dutifully filled with superlatives regarding this unprecedented public-private joint venture, and it was indeed a very significant accomplishment. It’s not often that the two normally-opposing spheres of industry come together in such a positive manner. It bodes well for future cooperative ventures, leveraging the best of both approaches.

But, lost in the deservedly congratulatory environment of this auspicious mission was a fascinating piece of trivia: The import and significance of the name “Merlin” as it applied to the Falcon’s engines.

The Merlin engine is well-known in historical aviation circles as the engine that powered the famous British Spitfire fighter plane and gave it such superlative performance. Manufactured by the famed Rolls-Royce company, the Merlin engine (named for a bird of prey, not the mythical wizard) was developed from an earlier Rolls-Royce engine, the Kestrel. (A purchased sample of the Kestrel, in one of history’s all-time great ironies, powered the first prototype of the German Messerschmitt BF-109 fighter plane, the Spitfire’s greatest WWII rival. Operational 109’s were powered by Daimler-Benz engines. Yes, that Benz.) Powering the front-line British fighter planes Hawker Hurricane and the Spitfire, the Merlin soon established a reputation for superb performance, reliability and the ability to sustain considerable battle damage and remain functional. Merlin-powered British fighters fought off German air force attacks in the summer of 1940 (after France had fallen to the Germans), saving Britain from German invasion and buying invaluable time until America entered the war in Europe on Britain’s side.

Once Japan had attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December 1941, Germany and the U.S. declared war on each other virtually simultaneously. The U.S. was now involved in an all-out war on two fronts: The Pacific Theater and the European Theater. In late December 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill came to Washington DC to discuss the overall war strategy with American president Franklin Roosevelt. Here, in what was called “The Arcadia Conference,” it was decided to take a “Germany first” approach to the war. Winning in Europe would take a higher priority than defeating Japan in the Pacific.

Towards that end, the United States moved its strategic bombing 8th Air Force to England. The plan was for American heavy bombers to attack German industrial and production targets and cripple their war fighting capabilities. This proved to be far more difficult in practice than in theory. American B-17 and B-24 long-range bombers, in spite of their heavy defensive armament, proved incapable of adequately defending themselves against intercepting German fighter planes and in 1942 and especially 1943, American bomber losses were so heavy that the entire plan of carrying out daylight precision bombing raids came close to being scrapped altogether.

The problem was that American and British fighter plane escorts lacked the range to accompany the bombers all the way to targets deep inside Germany and back. The Allied fighters would have to turn back partway en route to the target, leaving the bombers to fend for themselves. That’s when the Germans would pounce and exact their grievous toll.

Around this time, a new American fighter plane had been developed, the P-51 Mustang. Its performance with its American Allison engine was mediocre at best, despite the plane’s great potential. Someone came up with the idea of fitting an English Merlin engine—the one that powered the outstanding Spitfire fighter plane—to the Mustang, just as a ‘what if.’

It was a match made in heaven. The Mustang’s advanced aerodynamic design and new “laminar flow” wing gave it terrific flying characteristics. With the smooth, powerful Merlin engine, the Mustang became a world-beater. Even better, because of the Mustang’s advanced design, its fuel efficiency exceeded all other fighter planes and it now had the range to fly and defend the bombers all the way to and from their targets, no matter how deep inside Germany.

But Britain lacked the industrial production capability to make enough Merlins for both its own use and the Americans. So the American Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit began making the Merlin under license for use in American Mustang fighters. Known as the “Packard-Merlin,” the American-built version actually incorporated a series of small but important modifications and improvements over the British version and many people considered the Packard variant to be superior. With the almost unlimited American factory capacity making both Mustang fighters and Packard-Merlin engines, the P-51 turned the air war over Europe from a costly exercise with an uncertain outcome into a smashingly successful endeavor. From the time of its combat debut in Feb 1944 through May 1944, rampaging Mustangs absolutely decimated the German Luftwaffe, clearing the skies of enemy aircraft and paving the way for a successful D-Day land invasion of mainland Europe, free from the threat of German air counterattack.

The British had heroically held off the Germans in 1940 with their Merlin-powered Hurricane and Spitfire fighter planes. Now in 1944, the American 8th Air Force took the offensive fight to Germany, breaking the back of the German air force on the strength of the Merlin-powered P-51 Mustang.

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P-51s of the 375th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force

Today, the SpaceX Falcon ushers in a new era of spaceflight, powered by its Merlin engines.

Is there any unequivocal proof that Elon Musk, the mercurial but undeniably brilliant owner and creative force behind both Tesla electric cars and SpaceX, deliberately chose the name “Merlin” for his rocket’s engines with full knowledge of the historical and performance pedigree of that engine’s brand?

Not that I know of. But Musk has a flare for the dramatic that is second to none. He is one of only a handful of business/industry entrepreneurs whose personal profile and presence transcends the business world and crosses over into popular culture. People like or dislike his companies and products in many cases based on their feelings about Musk as an individual. He’s that well-known and that visible.

The betting here is that Musk knows all about the Merlin engine’s history and its role in securing the world order as it exists today. Merlin is the perfect name—subtle, pithy and very much “inside baseball.”

Left and Right—Again and Always

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There are so many fundamental issues that serve as sharp lines of demarcation between left/Democratic thought and right/Republican thought. It’s been this way for years and those essential differences do indeed mark the boundary between liberal and conservative ideology:

  • Free-market capitalism vs. Government-controlled industries
  • Low taxation/personal freedom vs. confiscatory tax policy with high Government spending
  • Pro life vs. pro abortion
  • Strong military vs. anti-military
  • Desire to crack down on illegal immigration vs. open borders and unrestricted immigration
  • Merit-based admission and promotion vs. racial quotas and belief in social engineering
  • Goal of energy development/independence vs. stance that fossil fuels are inherently bad and harmful
  • Thought that climate variations are natural and not controllable by man vs. unwavering adherence to the doctrine of anthropogenic global warming

There are other issues that define the chasm between left and right as well. And in perfect candor, most average voters are some degree of purple between these red and blue extremes. It’s primarily the politicians and news media that are relatively monolithic in their philosophical beliefs. However, in an effort to whip up public sentiment and set the opposing side in as unflattering and negative a light as possible for purposes of partisan advantage, the left never fails to cast the important issues of the day as a choice between the correct/moral liberal side and the foolish/immoral conservative alternative.

So it is now, once again. The issue du jour is the re-opening of the economy after the country’s lockdown in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. We will leave aside for now the fact that the so-called pandemic never even came close to realizing the worst outcome in this country that many had predicted. The rate of infection and death rate have both been markedly lower than the early-on models predicted. In the country’s three hardest-hit areas—New York City, northern New Jersey and the Boston area—hospital capacity hasn’t even come close to being stretched to the breaking point. The US Navy ship Comfort just left NYC after barely being utilized at all and the field hospital set up in the Javits Center turned out to be totally unnecessary.

In Boston, the 1000-bed field hospital created at the Boston Convention Center was barely 20% utilized at its opening and the usage dropped to less than half of that shortly thereafter, as reported to me first-hand by the senior attending nurse.

The fact of the matter is that the coronavirus turned out to be a deadly disease that primarily affected the elderly (infection rates for those over 80 were many times higher than those even in their 60’s—see attached chart) and people with serious underlying conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. The same can be said for any given year of the seasonal flu. And the country doesn’t shut down for the flu, nor is there any irrational, non-medically-legitimate frenzy over the wearing of facial coverings when driving alone in the car or walking outside in the breezy fresh air and sunshine.

Macintosh HD:Users:stevefeinstein:Desktop:COVID death by age.jpg

The virtually complete shutting down of our economy—questionable as it certainly looks in retrospect—has had its predictably calamitous effect on the economy and our daily social activity. Major industries have been decimated. Entertainment, cultural and sporting events have hit a brick wall. The population has had it now that they realize that so much of it was arbitrary and unwarranted. President Trump said he’ll leave the re-opening of the economy up to the governors of the respective states, as long as they do it with caution and common sense. And so, many states, in the face of declining new cases and the realization that their healthcare capacity is not threatened, have begun to relax their lockdowns and allow the re-emergence of private economic activity.

The subject of re-opening the states’ economies is now somehow deemed controversial, breaking down along party lines. Democrats and the liberal mainstream media criticize the re-openings, cautioning in a condescending manner that Republicans are more interested in re-opening the economy than they are concerned with the public good. High-profile public protests in Michigan and Massachusetts are being portrayed by the liberal media as coming from conservative hard-line Trump supporters, their actions characterized as out of step with the majority of the level-headed public. The battle lines are clearly drawn: Re-opening the economy is a Republican activity, reckless, dangerous, putting money ahead of humanity in classic uncaring conservative fashion. Remaining in lockdown until the landscape is totally safe, with no possible danger of a second wave, is the more compassionate, more sophisticated, more intellectual thing to do. Clearly, that’s the liberal position. (Interesting, isn’t it, that the original goal of the sequester was simply to “flatten the curve.” It was flattened weeks ago. Now the new goal—very conveniently unprovable—is to ensure that no new widespread re-infection resurfaces at any point in the future.)

A few years ago, liberal comedian Bill Maher said it would be worth it to have a recession in order to get rid of President Trump. Now, brought on by the global fear engendered by China unleashing the Wuhan virus on the world—whether intentionally or by their own incompetence—we have a recession. The afterburner-boosted economy, which had been President Trump’s crowning achievement amongst a veritable cornucopia of worthy accomplishments—has now come to a crashing halt, from a source no one could have foreseen, in a manner no one thought possible.

It’s no wonder the Democrats and liberal media see the re-opening of the economy as a bad thing: the Democrats’ electoral fortunes are directly inversely related to the direction of the economy as November draws near. If we’re still languishing in recession, with the airlines, cruise lines, concerts and baseball season still shuttered and people still dependent on Government handouts in order to pay their rent, the Democrats win.

If the economy has regained its footing, has arisen from the mat, beaten the count and is up and punching back, then President Trump’s future looks good.

There is an old French saying that goes, Qui bénéficie?  Roughly translated, it means, “Who benefits from this?” The answer is clear.

Biden Might Actually Win

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

When you think of it, it’s nothing short of incredible that Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party. One might have thought that 2016 would have been Biden’s year (if he was ever going to have a time at bat), since Barack Obama’s two-term presidency had just ended and most vice-presidents who try for the top spot do so immediately following their boss’s departure. But, as is often the case in politics these days, party nominees can result from when the party decides that it’s someone’s “turn.” That was the case the last go-around: The Democrats decided that it was Hillary’s turn, after she dutifully lost to Obama in 2008 so the country could elect its first non-totally-white president. The election in 2016 was supposed to have been Hillary’s—the first woman president.

But it didn’t turn out that way. Hillary was revealed to be perhaps the most unlikeable, condescending, entitled and out-of-touch major party candidate in recent memory. Perhaps ever. Donald Trump tapped into an unfulfilled want in the electorate the way precious few supposedly well-seasoned, veteran politicians ever have: He recognized a widespread desire for a plain talking, honest, America-first leader. People wanted a president focused on real needs—jobs, lower taxes, a drastic reduction in nonsensical, unproductive political correctness, an end to expensive foreign excursions, a desire to expand American energy production and sever the destructive reliance on tenuous overseas oil suppliers and finally, someone who would put a halt to runaway illegal immigration with its tax-draining cost and social disruption.

President Trump spoke about all those things in plain language and punctuated it with his trademark motto, “Make America Great Again.” The liberal mainstream media went absolutely apoplectic, trying vainly to imbue the phrase with racist implications like “Make America White Again,” and other total nonsense. He meant nothing of the sort, of course. He meant exactly what he said. And indeed, the stampeding Trump economy that exploded under his leadership from January 2017 through February 2020 delivered the very best Black and Hispanic unemployment results in our history. The country was flourishing. Everyone was working. The stock market was at an all-time high. And make no mistake—the biggest beneficiaries of the high stock market were the millions and millions of Democratic public union members—the firefighters, the teachers, the state and municipal workers whose cushy life-long pensions and 100’s of accumulated unused sick days waiting to be cashed in were safely funded by the equities markets, without any danger of default or shortfalls. The very people who almost unanimously voted against President Trump and are his most vocal detractors are the ones whose retirements are safe and secure, thanks to his stock market. Consider the irony of that.

But then, without warning, China unleashed the coronavirus. We’ll let others debate whether it was a total accident from a random occurrence at a so-called “wet market” or whether it was a deliberate release of a bio-weapon made in some nefarious Chinese weapons lab or something somewhere in between those two vastly-separated extremes. It actually doesn’t matter.

The completely unforeseen coronavirus event has paralyzed the American economy and brought it to a screeching halt. Tens of millions of Americans are suddenly out of work and no resolution is in sight. When will things return to “normal?” How far and how quickly will things come back? No one knows. The pace, timing and scale of our economic re-opening is pure conjecture.

The virus has, however, completely re-shuffled the 2020 presidential race. It’s no longer a referendum on President Trump’s performance in office, on his handling of traditional issues like job creation, energy production, taxes, foreign relations or judicial appointments.

Instead, it is now a referendum on President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Predictably, the liberal media shifted their former cries of Russia, Russia, Russia! to outbursts of Ventilators, Ventilators, Ventilators! President Trump handled that perfectly and the ventilator issue went away. Now it’s been replaced with Tests, Tests, Tests! Tomorrow it will be something else, possibly Open too soon, Open too soon, Open too soon! or Second wave, Second wave, Second wave! It will always be something and it will always have racial/discriminatory overtones.

Enter Joe Biden. Despite Hillary having lost in 2016 and the Democratic Party seemingly obsessed and totally committed to their identity politics narrative, somehow from an opening field filled with females and non-whites, they ended up with yet another old, straight white guy in Biden, a Washington DC insider, a multiple-time presidential candidate flop, someone with perhaps the most forgettable, inconsequential multi-decade Senatorial career in American political history. That he is certainly too old and well past the point where he’s mentally up to the task doesn’t even need to be mentioned.

Yet, incredibly, Biden might win. The impact of the over-the-top liberal media can’t be discounted. The Jim Acostas, Jonathan Karls and Maggie Habermans of the world do their best every day at the Coronavirus Task Force press briefings to trap the president and make him look bad with relentless ‘gotcha’ questions, despite how infantile and unintellectual it is. They’ve pushed the narrative that President Trump has been slow to respond to the pandemic and the more outlandish hosts on CNN and MSNBC have gone so far as to say that, “President Trump has blood on his hands” and “Americans are dying today because Donald Trump is President.” Utter nonsense, provably false. But the old cliché of, “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes true in some peoples’ minds” is happening once again.

The polls show that Biden is competitive—even leading—in several crucial battleground states at this juncture. Real Clear Politics shows Biden with leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida. Now, there is no question that Trump’s support in polls is and always will be understated by 5-10 points, due to a combination of polling/sampling bias and the reluctance of some Trump voters to admit to poll-takers—even under the shield of anonymity—to supporting President Trump. It is also true that April is a very long way off from November and at this point, the national liberal media has been largely successful in hiding Biden’s egregious mental lapses and unquestioned diminished capacity from the still-inattentive swath of undecided voters.

Yet with all that being said, the fact that old, Caucasian, barely-coherent Joe Biden is actually leading President Trump shows how politically fortunate the Chinese coronavirus has been for the Democrats’ electoral chances in November. Such are the ever-shifting vagaries of presidential politics.

What is it with the Democrats?

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

It is indeed a strange phenomenon: With the country—indeed, the world—embroiled in a health emergency of what could be epic proportions, the Democrats are unquestionably more fixated on bringing about Donald Trump’s political downfall than they are interested in defeating coronavirus threat.

Let’s be clear about this: Democrats are not likely rooting for more people to become deathly sick and die. But they are hoping for the Chinese coronavirus outbreak to recede into insignificance without a scintilla of political credit accruing to President Trump whatsoever. The Democrats want the virus danger to disappear independent of the President’s efforts, not because of them.

At the daily Coronavirus Task Force press briefings, Vice-President Mike Pence, Drs. Anthony Fauci, Debra Birx and FDA head Dr. Stephen Hahn (among others) all give detailed information about the current status of the outbreak, the direction and future tendency of the “curve,” progress on possible vaccines and current treatments. It’s a great briefing, full of up-to-the-minute information, the latest happenings and discoveries and the Administration’s latest medically-approved moves to counter the danger. It is so effective and non-partisan that hyper-anti-Trump sources like CNN and MSNBC have taken to cutting away from coverage, because the daily briefings cast President Trump in a positive, commanding light. CNN and MSNBC refuse to report on anything that reflects positively on the President. The liberal media reporters that are there, like the infamous Jim Acosta of CNN and Jonathan Karl of ABC, simply engage in aggressive, unfounded “gotcha” questioning, relentlessly attempting to make the President and his team look bad.

One of the widely-discussed treatments—one that has shown unequivocally promising results in anecdotal small-scale usage scenarios, is the drug Hydroxychloroquine, a long-standing drug that is an effective treatment for autoimmune diseases such as malaria and lupus. It is thought to be even more effective against the coronavirus when combined with Azithromycin. President Trump has touted its use and has encouraged doctors to administer it on a widespread basis, stating, “What have you got to lose? It’s a safe drug. It’s been around for 50 years. It’s never killed anybody. Let’s try it in conjunction with your doctor’s recommendation. Why not?”

The Washington Post and USA Today immediately pounced on him with headlines like, “Trump Pedals False Hope with Unproven Drug” and accusations that Trump was pushing “snake oil.” Hosts on CNN and MSNBC piled on the President, denouncing his support of giving the drug a chance and accusing him of playing doctor. The nightmare scenario for the Democrats and the liberal media is not that the virus will run out of control. No, their nightmare scenario is that the President will somehow get credit from the American people for providing reassuring, productive leadership and helping end the crisis. For liberals, their hope is that the danger passes, Trump is proven wrong on all counts and that the ultimate solution arises either from a well-known Democratic expert or totally independently of anything either President Trump or his Task Force have proffered.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is a perfect example of these Democrats. Every day, Cuomo puts on a very high-profile public presentation on the status of the New York coronavirus situation. New York, especially New York City, is definitely the nation’s “hot spot” in terms of both the number of coronavirus cases and deaths. Cuomo, in his deliberately overly-dramatic, angry, inappropriately-flamboyant manner, preaches daily about NY’s need for tens of thousands of ventilators, millions of N95 medical-grade masks, thousands of additional hospital beds and the like. Wildly exaggerated demands, designed to be a requirement that no administration could ever completely fill, certainly not in the ridiculous timeframe demanded by Cuomo. It’s all designed to be one big “Ah ha!” against President Trump and the Republicans.

In fact, President Trump has marshaled the nation’s substantial manufacturing resources–partly by his own considerable powers of persuasion and partly by him invoking the Defense Production Act—to concentrate on the production of ventilators and PPE. We’ll be swimming in them all very soon. But any objective observer could plainly see the abject disappointment in Cuomo’s demeanor as he reported that the rate of new hospitalizations in New York had slowed and the state’s need for emergency medical equipment wasn’t going to be quite as great as it looked like it would be two weeks ago. Like all hyper-partisan Democrats, Cuomo was at least as interested in pinning damaging political blame on President Trump as he is interested in ending the suffering of his fellow New Yorkers. He could hardly grunt out the words that the NYC hospitals, did, in fact, have all the medical supplies and equipment they needed.

That the Democrats and the liberal media are demonstrably as interested in scoring political points against President Trump as they are in pulling together in a united effort as in such dire times as these is truly telling. As that brilliant Democratic intellectual Bill Maher said in an unintentionally prescient way a few years ago, “One way to get rid of Trump is a crashing economy…bring on the resession.” Maher’s words speak for Democrats today. The coronavirus has stalled the economy, at least for the moment. For the Democrats, that is good news, especially if enough Government assistance comes forth to keep people’s heads above water. Combine that with an end to the virus that can’t in any way be a result of any Republican idea or policy and you have the ideal Democratic scenario.

That is where we are now: One of our two major political parties (and the 45% of the electorate that blindly supports them, no matter what) is both pleased at the temporary economic slowdown and is openly rooting for the President and his staff to fail at rectifying the current hardships.

What is it with the Democrats?

Weekend at Bernie’s

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

How quickly the political winds can shift. A few weeks ago, all the talk was about the “unstoppable” Bernie Sanders, how this time there would be no Clinton machine working illicitly behind the scenes to rig the nomination process against him, how his minions had coalesced into an actual movement, grabbing onto a growing but underserved segment of the electorate, and how Democratic Party officials would bend over backwards to assure that he would not be “cheated” out of the nomination this time if he legitimately won the requisite delegates. Yes, 2020 was Bernie’s year, the year of socialism, the year America finally fulfilled what Bernie saw as its obligation to reward the underclass while concurrently punishing the upper class.

However, merely forgiving student debt, extending Medicare to all and eliminating national borders wouldn’t be enough. The ultimate satisfaction would only take place if actual financial pain was inflicted upon the wealthy. After years of watching the rich get richer, those saddled with student debt deserved a measure of schadenfreude along with their loan forgiveness. Higher income taxes. A special surtax. A wealth tax—a comeuppance for the crime of merely holding an unforgivable sum of money. It would feel so good knowing that their college loan payoff was directly infringing on the unjust indulgences of the upper crust.

But all of a sudden, potholes spontaneously appeared on the Road to the Nomination. All the so-called “moderates” dropped out and tossed their support and money behind ‘ol Joe Biden, the reasonable one, the non-extremist candidate, the direct link to the greatest Democratic president of all time. Super Tuesday turned into a disaster for Bernie. Biden rose from the dead. Bernie’s magic carriage split an axle and is stuck on the road, awaiting repairs, as ‘ol Joe rides by in slow motion on his donkey, tipping his hat as he goes. The contest for the nomination is very much in doubt and Bernie is looking at Joe’s donkey from behind.

Both Bernie and Joe are older guys. Age has always been a controversial topic when it comes to leadership. How old is too old? When does one’s mental capacity begin to decline? Obviously, it varies greatly from person to person. In politics, party is also a factor. The liberal media openly questioned President Reagan’s mental fitness for office because of his age even before he beat Carter in 1980 (Reagan was nearly 70 when he assumed office). Hillary Clinton would also have been nearly 70 upon entering office in 2017, yet her mental acuity at the same age as Reagan was never even questioned.

There is a world of difference between innocent ‘misspeaks’ or exaggerations and fundamentally losing one’s perception on reality. Trump exaggerates constantly. He goes for the dramatic impact of the moment. He undoubtedly knows he’s exaggerating or winging it, but it doesn’t matter. His overall point is crystal clear and everyone—supporters and detractors alike—knows exactly what he’s getting at. While his critics love to jump on whatever small detail inaccuracies he utters at that particular moment, after 3 ½ years of the Trump Presidency, what writer Salena Zito said during the 2016 campaign is truer now than ever: “Trump’s supporters take him seriously but not literally. His critics take him literally but not seriously.”

It’s different with Biden. His gaffs are far too numerous, far too serious. These are not the bleatings of an opportunistic politician caught up in the emotion of the moment, becoming a little tongue-tied while trying to make a dramatic point. Bernie Sanders may say the U.S. is an evil country, but we know that he’s just being deliberately overly theatrical. His words may be inappropriate, inaccurate and distasteful, but most people aren’t questioning Sanders’ actual mental health. They question his judgment and outlook, yes, but not his mental stability. In his late 70’s, Sanders gives every impression of being one sharp, cantankerous individual who is speaking and acting quite intentionally.

Biden’s behavior is agonizingly, painfully familiar to anyone who has a declining older parent or older friend. We all recognize the mannerisms, the fragile attempts at correction and rationalization and the uncomfortable, wan smiles as they try vainly to mask what is all too obvious: a diminished mental awareness and reduced capacity. You begin telling your mom, “Don’t give your Social Security number to anyone over the phone,” because you realize she is confused so easily. You tell your dad, “I’ll take Thursday off from work and go to the doctor’s with you,” because you know that he won’t understand everything, won’t hear everything, won’t ask the right questions and will likely forget the most important things right after he leaves. Your older parents are ok to still do their own grocery shopping or drive three miles for an early dinner at Cracker Barrell, but they can no longer process multi-faceted, complex information and they can’t make far-reaching, high-level decisions.

What if Joe Biden wins the nomination and then somehow defeats President Trump in November? Can he govern? Can he understand all the incredibly complex national security, defense, economic/financial and diplomatic issues facing him and then craft a coherent vision to move the country forward? Will there be—can there be—a compelling “Biden Doctrine” that confidently positions the United States in an advantageous stance relative to our greatest international, economic and military adversaries?

The thought among many is that a Biden presidency would be a shadow presidency because his lessened intellect and easily confused manner would render him incapable of satisfactorily meeting the demands of the office. The actual power and policy decisions would be generated from behind the scenes.  Unelected operatives and “advisors” would run the show, imposing their brand of governance and philosophy on the country. The 1989 movie “Weekend at Bernie’s” has become something of an icon in modern American popular culture, depicting an attempt to fool the outside world that a deceased insurance executive is still alive. The title of the movie is now a metaphor for any circumstance where a shallow figurehead is posited as an actual leader. The prospect of a Biden presidency is a truly frightening prospect for any level-headed voter. We’ve faced nothing like this before.

The Rise of Democratic Idiocracy

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

As the 2020 campaign season heats up, the candidates are staking out their respective positions along the political continuum, looking to occupy precisely the right slot, the one that will appeal to a winning swath of voters come November.

President Trump has chosen his position: He’s taking the “Make actual day-to-day life better for people by strengthening the job market, reducing taxes, making energy more plentiful and affordable, reducing the negative economic impact and civil disruption caused by rampant illegal immigration, improving our national security by re-building our military and enhancing the country’s balance-of-trade situation by renegotiating failed agreements such as NAFTA” position.

It’s a strong position for him to take. He’s been remarkably successful at accomplishing these goals, to the tangible benefit of working American citizens across every demographic group there is—Men, women, old, young, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Euro/Caucasians, everyone. Despite the liberal mainstream media’s best efforts at constantly berating him and supporting the manic, obsessive attempts by elected Democrats to somehow reverse and nullify President Trump’s 2016 victory over the increasingly-pathetic Hillary Clinton, President Trump continues to make huge progress on a wide front of issues. In the privacy of their own thoughts, far away from the shrill obligatory denunciations they shout with such utter predictability day after day, Democrats must realize that under President Trump’s leadership, things are going very well in the country.

This realization creates a conundrum for Democrats: They must somehow convince an electorate that is working at well-paying jobs and pretty happy with the way things are going with most aspects of their lives that somehow they’re not really happy after all, and things aren’t as good as the reality of their own lives tells them it is.

So the Democrats have done something inventive and unique: They’ve created a new reality. They’ve created an idiocracy. The Pop Culture Dictionary defines idiocracy as “a society run or made up of idiots.” In this new Democratic world, the absurd is now the accepted norm, totally illogical thought becomes completely rational, scientific fact is discarded for the purpose of political expediency and historical fact is a tiresome inconvenience that can be ignored as needed.

Some examples:

Freshman representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is clearly the Thought Leader of the current Democratic Party. Her almost daily pronouncements are laughably detached from any semblance of reality (“We only have 12 years left to correct Global Warming! This is our World War Two!”), yet her philosophies and utterances somehow serve as the guideposts for all the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates. She spouts all the usual clichés: capitalism is bad, America is evil and deeply flawed, only the wealthy are doing well, etc., but the Democratic candidates parrot every single one of them. They may put their own individual twists on them in order to distinguish themselves from one another, but the overriding “America is unfair, it’s racist, and a Republican-run America will ruin the world’s future with its greed unless we stop it” theme is common to all the contenders. Idiocy.

Bernie Sanders

When asked by Norah O’Donnell of CBS —as  friendly a liberal media TV interviewer as there could possibly be—what his universal Government-run health plan would cost, Sanders replied, “I don’t know, no one knows.” She was incredulous (which is kind of incredible in and of itself). He calls himself a “Democratic Socialist,” but is never asked to specifically explain exactly what that means, or what percentage “democratic” and “socialist” things are in his imaginary world. Like the cost of his healthcare plan, Bernie doesn’t know. His plans and thought processes are idiotic.

Joe Biden

Poor Joe. Is he even still in the race? He gives every indication of not knowing exactly what world he’s in from moment to moment. He lurches from so-called “moderate” to “Freebie-Joe” as the exigencies of the moment change. However, there is no question that Joe is trying desperately to find that magical thinnest sliver of unfulfilled need—which simply may not exist—in the minds of those critical swing voters so that he can come to their rescue. He’d have a better chance if he knew what state he was in. The term “idiot” comes to mind, which is perfect for the party that is frantically building an idiocracy as fast as it can.

Michael Bloomberg

Conveniently disavowing the conservative governing principles he embraced to great advantage while serving as Mayor of New York, Bloomberg has tried to fall right in line with current Democratic talking points. But an unexpected audio clip of him enthusiastically defending the effective ‘stop-and frisk’ practice some years ago has given lie to his credibility as a minority-loving candidate in the Democratic mold. His advertising theme is emblematic of the difficulties the Democrats face: ”Mike will get it done.” Get what done? Reduce unemployment, especially in the minority community? Increase wages? Reduce minority poverty and their need for food stamps? Make us energy independent, immune from world-wide oil shocks? To “Get it done,” Mike will have to create a new Bizzaro world, a world where everything is different. In the real world—the one where we all live—President Trump has already gotten it done. Sorry, Mike. See Joe Biden, above.

Nancy Pelosi

She rips up her copy of President Trump’s SOTU speech and it’s ok. Nary a comment of criticism from any Democratic politician or the liberal media. (One can only imagine the horrified outcry had a Paul Ryan done the same to President Obama.) This from a person who says she is Catholic and there is no hate in her heart for the president. For Pelosi and the idiocrats, it’s fine to invoke religion when rationalizing their preferred behavior, but when pinned down about the conflict between their support for abortion and Catholic values, Pelosi and her ilk quickly retreat to that tired argument of supporting established law vs. holding their own private personal opinion. ”Established law” can easily be changed by a vote of conscience, if it mattered to you. Sort of like the way the Jim Crow laws were changed. Got that, Nancy? So in the Democrats’ new reality, their idiocracy of anti-Trump, all the time, since Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats are such disingenuous hypocrites, she is reduced to uttering such nonsense as, “Hip, hip hooray, unemployment is down. What does that mean to me in my life?” That was in 2018 and Pelosi was referring to lagging wage growth. Now, of course, we enjoy very strong wage growth, and the strongest increases are at the lowest end of the wage scale, where Democrats have traditionally mined votes with their giveaway programs. Another issue whisked away from the Democrats and pocketed by President Trump.

President Trump has cut off the political escape routes for any rational election opponent: Minorities are doing better economically than at any time in our history, we’ve reduced carbon emissions more than any country on earth, wages for all are rising and we’re energy-independent. Every aspect of American life is getting better and better. The Democrats have no real openings. So they’re reduced to fabricating an idiocracy where their candidates recite total nonsense and they think we’ll fall for it.

Useful Idiots

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Although originally a term used to describe unwitting communist sympathizers, the term “useful idiot” has come to mean someone who is supposedly on one side of an issue but whose public statements do, in fact, assist the opposing side. They are referred to as useful idiots because their statements support and strengthen the opposition, but such statements do not confer any benefit or credit onto them. They are “useful” to the opposition, but “idiots” if they think there is some personal gain to be had.

In modern-day American politics, such useful idiots exist predominantly in the Republican ranks. There are many such idiots whose statements and votes aid Democratic positions, but do not result in any strengthening of their personal reputation or public perception whatsoever. Such idiots never seem to occur in Democratic ranks, assisting Republicans.  

There are many high-profile Republicans who are famous for their useful idiot status. One of the most recent and notable is Mitt Romney. Romney—the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee—is about as a high-profile Republican as there is. His continual anti-Trump outbursts and holier-than-thou high-minded pronunciations are pounced upon by liberal pundits as “proof” that even many life-long conservative Republicans are opposed to President Trump and recognize his threat to the norms and accepted conventions of our culture. The fact that Romney is actually a very soft conservative who brought Romneycare to MA before Obama even introduced Obamacare to the country is very conveniently ignored by the liberal media. They enjoy nothing more than using a putative “conservative’s” words to criticize President Trump.

When the President announced recently that he was withdrawing American troops from Syria, the ensuing Democratic criticism was immediate and predictable. But when many well-known Republicans like Lindsay Graham and Mitch McConnell joined that chorus, it was surprising. No parallel Democratic public criticism was heard when Barack Obama did something everyone regarded as ill-advised, such as when he allowed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad cross the “red line” without consequences or when he sent Iran 1.7 billion dollars in cash (piled high on pallets, mostly in foreign currency), coincidentally just as four American hostages were being released. No one believed the risible excuse given by the Obama administration that the cash payment was unrelated to the hostage release but was instead a settlement for a totally independent arbitration agreement stemming from 1979.

Consistent with Obama’s many other amazingly weak foreign policy actions, the cash to Iran maneuver was a straight up “cash for hostage” move, in direct contravention to long-standing American policy. Yet no Democrat came out publicly and criticized Obama. No high-profile Democrat said it was a betrayal of our values as a country or that it would grievously weaken our ability to conduct effective action in the future or that the President violated the law or anything of the sort. The public face of the Democrats was consistent and unbroken. No criticism. Nothing even remotely for the opposition to latch onto as “proof” of Obama’s misdoings.  Let’s give the Democrats their credit for knowing how to play effective hardball politics (including how to leverage the already-sympathetic liberal media for maximum benefit): Democrats do not waver. High-profile Democrats never stray from the party line.

But high-profile Republicans stray from conservative orthodoxy all the time, perhaps in some misguided desire to appear “reasonable.” Democrats never reach across the aisle, despite what some of them say during their campaign run-up to the election. Once in D.C, Democrats oppose Republican bills, proposals, policies and Supreme Court nominees with astonishing consistency. About the only time a Democrat will vote for a Republican position is when the matter was going to pass anyway, and the Democratic politician has been “authorized” by their Party leadership to vote the other way in consideration of protecting their electoral viability in their home district. In other words, Democrats vote Republican when it benefits the Democrat in future elections.

This useful idiot seems to exist only in Republican dugouts.  Only Republicans have to confirm their votes over and over again to be sure their members are checking the correct box.  The Senate is currently 53-47 Republican. (Two of the 47 are actually “Independents” who caucus with the Democrats.) Once the House passes Articles of Impeachment—and they will, even if they are reduced to charging President Trump for the crime of putting mayonnaise on a corned beef sandwich—and it goes to trial in the Senate, it will take 2/3 of the Senate to convict him. That means the Democrats will need 20 Republican votes to reach the requisite 67. The fact that pundits and the President himself will actually have to analyze the list of 53 Republican Senators and make sure they have 34 “safe” votes says everything about how many “idiots” there are in the Republican ranks and that the Democrats have none.

It all gets back to the notion of what these squishy Republicans were thinking when their public statements go against their party and their president. Are they thinking that they have such high ethical ideals that they simply have to publicly oppose President Trump?  Are they thinking that by demonstrating such even-handedness on the public stage, even the liberal national media and their home district swing voters will accord them a significant measure of additional credit, thus smoothing their personal path to re-election?

Are they thinking that President Trump is truly focused on changing the incestuous ways of insider lobbying and deal-making by which so many politicians derive personal financial gain, so they need to stop him before their gravy train ends? In politics, self-interest usually rules the day. Democrats already publicly oppose President Trump for all these reasons, but they have the convenient cover of “opposing his policies” when they do so.

Seemingly “disloyal” Republicans very likely fear that President Trump—beholden to no special interests, intent on draining the swamp and not using his elected office for self-enrichment as are the majority of other politicians of both parties—will put an end to their cushy financial ride and self-indulgent D.C lifestyle, their celebrity and personal power and their sure-fire path to a soft, luxurious retirement.

Or perhaps, they haven’t thought it through at all.  They’re just unthinkingly shooting from the hip, without regard for how their remarks will be received.

In which case, they are indeed idiots. Although how “useful” is certainly debatable.

Republicans Are in Danger, Not the Presidency

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Republicans, who are continually naïve and politically inept, have taken to saying recently that the Adam Schiff-led impeachment proceedings are dangerous to the country because they put the very institution of the Presidency at risk. Republicans’ reasoning goes something like this: Impeachment is supposed to be the Congressional remedy if the president commits “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Serious transgressions that put the country at risk: selling military secrets to an adversary for personal financial gain, being party to a premeditated murder or heinous felony, or perhaps some blatantly immoral behavior while in office that distracts the president from adequately discharging his responsibility to the country.

Obviously, according to current Republican thought, nothing like that even remotely applies to President Trump. He is guilty only of defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016 and also perhaps of exhibiting a rough, direct personal/verbal style along the way.

Republicans make two mistakes:

  1. They think that the fundamental/legal illegitimacy of the Democrats’ impeachment charges will eventually lead to them failing or being dropped and
  2. They think that by pursuing an impeachment based on political animus rather than legal solidity, the Democrats are paving the way for any future Congress—regardless of which party is in control—to initiate impeachment action against a future president strictly because of political hatred and jealousy, thus de-stabilizing our political system and putting the very institution of the Executive Office at risk.

The Republicans are wrong on both counts. First of all, the popular (and undeniably accurate) saying around Washington DC is that, “High crimes and misdemeanors are whatever the Congress say they are.” If a majority agrees with the charges, then they go forward. There is no outside legal governing body that authorizes or disallows it. There is no NFL ref who is going to throw a flag and have the play recalled. If a majority of Congress wants it, Congress gets it.

But in order for impeachment charges to have any chance, they must have a stamp of legitimacy from the popular media. If the major media “sanction” the impeachment effort as being at least worthy of investigation, it lives on. If the popular media dismiss such charges as being born strictly from political acrimony and bitterness, it has no legs to stand on and the ordinary casual political participant—upon whom any necessary broad-based popular support will eventually rest—remains uninterested and disengaged.

Democrats enjoy favorable media treatment that Republicans can never hope to duplicate in the current media environment. According to research by the Media Research Center, major media coverage of President Trump has been 90% negative. His positive accomplishments—including a great economy with 50-year low overall unemployment, the lowest-ever Black and Hispanic unemployment, record domestic energy production and near-complete freedom from global energy pricing pressures, a newly-strengthened military, solid job creation and rising wages, getting NATO to step up and pay their share—are continually ignored and suppressed by the liberal media. His so-called “crimes”—imaginary though they are—are brandished about by this same media like fait accomplis, as if they’re well-known, accepted fact.

No such reciprocal situation would ever exist for a Democrat President facing a Republican-majority Congress. These days, if a Republican Congress attempted to bring empty impeachment charges against a sitting Democratic president, the Republicans would be excoriated by the liberal mainstream media, which includes all the highly-influential social media platforms that truly drive public opinion among the critical Millennial and Gen X voting blocs. If the Democratic president happened to be a minority, a woman or a non-heterosexual, then the media would savage the “old, white, straight” Republican Congress to a degree never seen before in the modern media age. The liberal media would take advantage of the opportunity to fire broadsides of bias accusation against the Republican brand, with the intent of inflicting permanent damage to the conservative image. It would be a media feeding frenzy the likes of which American politics has never seen.

Perfect example: Just recently, Democratic Representative Katie Hill resigned after it was discovered she had conducted a bi-sexual 3-way affair with her husband and a female staffer. Yet the liberal media was wholly uninterested, save for a few quotes defending her right to a “private life” and saying that Republicans were trying to use Hill as a distraction from the impeachment investigation. If Hill were a Republican, it would be Mark Foley all over again.

In 2006, Republican Congressman Mark Foley (white, middle-aged) was accused of sending “inappropriate messages” to teenage Congressional pages and forced to resign. The Democrats and the liberal mainstream media pounced on this story, flogging Foley and the Republicans mercilessly with unrelenting public attacks, severely damaging the Republicans’ image and contributing in no small measure to the Democrats re-taking the House in 2006. Hill’s transgressions were far worse than Foley’s. While Foley was merely accused of sending suggestive messages, Hill actually admitted to having engaged in a 3-way affair (coined a “throuple”) with her husband and a female staffer. However, the entire Hill matter faded from the liberal media headlines in astonishingly quick time, with no lasting damage whatsoever to the Democrats.

Another excellent example: Early in 2019, Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was discovered to have worn blackface in a yearbook picture. Yet despite the offensive picture, there was no liberal media outcry for his ouster, and he didn’t step down, in stark contrast to how the situation would have developed and been resolved had Northam been a Republican.

These are ironclad examples of the media double standard that favors the Democrats and hurts Republicans. Republicans are absolutely delusional if they think that in this media environment an impeachment action by them against a Democratic president could possibly be presented as being legitimate.

The Presidency as an institution is not in any danger from the Democrats’ Trump impeachment efforts. It is the Republicans’ continued existence as a meaningful American political party that is in danger, as they face a potentially crushing defeat brought about by the Democrats’ vastly superior use of the liberal media to their advantage, their devastatingly effective use of street-fighting political tactics, and their remarkable ability to remain unified as a party. Meanwhile, the Republicans foolishly, stubbornly adhere to their self-imposed, stiff, restrictive obedience to a Marquis-de-Queensbury approach to a political life-or-death struggle. If the Democrats are successful in overturning the legitimate results of the 2016 election and they force President Trump from office, the Republicans will have only themselves to blame. If the Republicans fail to come together and stop this, they cannot be considered a viable, functioning political party.

Sink the Clinton

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

In early stages of World War II (1939-1945) in Europe, Germany, after invading Poland to its east in 1939, turned its attention westward and conquered the “Low Countries” (Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) on its way to vanquishing France in spring 1940. With almost all of western Continental Europe now under German control, Britain alone stood against Germany.

America had not yet entered the war and wouldn’t until December 1941 when the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The United States was, however, supplying Britain with a very significant amount of both war materials and domestic goods under the “Lend-Lease” program. These goods were sent by ship convoy to England across the Atlantic Ocean. German U-boat submarines extracted a huge toll on this vital shipping lifeline, but even though the losses were high, they were survivable, and these supply lines—critical to Britain’s very existence— persevered.

However, in May 1941, Germany introduced a new element into the North Atlantic equation that threatened to bring disaster to Britain. This element was the new German battleship Bismarck. It was a huge, state-of-the-art warship, equipped with the very latest long-range heavy cannon, new stereoscopic range-finders that promised unprecedented accuracy, then-new ship-based radar, and it boasted an intricate system of armor-plating and honey-combed water-tight compartments that rendered her virtually unsinkable.  If Bismarck broke out into the vast, indefensible shipping lanes of the North Atlantic, it could wreak catastrophic havoc with the war-sustaining convoys coming across the ocean

The very existence of Bismarck hung like a sinister shadow above the Allies’ war effort. In 1941, it was widely believed that this single weapon might determine the very course of the war in Europe. Where the entire Luftwaffe (German air force) had been unable to cripple Britain’s warfighting capability with their aerial assault in the summer of 1940 and bring her to the negotiating table, now—in the spring of 1941—a single warship was threatening to do that very thing. The allies, especially Britain, were horrified. The British rallied around a national cry of, “Sink the Bismarck!”

As the Bismarck and her companion, the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, headed towards the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean through the Denmark Strait, they were intercepted by the British battleships Hood and Prince of Wales. Those two ships were all that stood between Britain’s invaluable but vulnerable shipping lanes and what they thought was national survival. In the next few minutes, perhaps the most famous and consequential surface engagement of all time occurred.  The big ships fired on each other, their 14- and 15-inch guns booming with unimaginable destructive potential. It was the naval equivalent of two fearless, big-punching heavyweight boxers standing toe-to-toe, trading lethal knockout blows.  Something had to give.

Hood—the pride of the British navy—was struck by a perfectly-aimed salvo from Bismarck and exploded violently, breaking in two and sinking with just three survivors out of a crew of more than 1400. Observers on the Prince of Wales were awestruck in disbelief and horror.  One officer is reported to have simply uttered, “Blimey.”

After barely ten minutes of fighting, “The Mighty Hood,” as she was known, was gone. But Prince of Wales, despite suffering significant damage herself from Bismarck’s guns, scored some telling blows of her own, such that Bismarck was forced to disengage and head to home for repair.

She never got there.

Thanks to the Royal Navy’s Herculean effort to track her down and the lucky breaks of war, the British managed to catch up to Bismarck, whose speed and mobility had been impacted by damage she suffered in the engagement with Hood and Prince of Wales. British carrier torpedo planes inflicted further damage and now Bismarck was a sitting duck as the superior British forces closed in on her. Led by the battleships King George V and Rodney, Bismarck was pounded into a non-functional hulk, slipping beneath the surface on May 27, 1941.

In both 2008 and 2016, Hillary Clinton was the modern-day political equivalent to the Bismarck of nearly 70 years ago. Like Bismarck, Clinton was widely-regarded as purpose-built to a deadly end: Highly-capable in the ruthless art of political war, evil-intentioned, single-minded, intent on disrupting civilized society with a full complement of destructive policies and above all, looking to entrench herself as the uncontested holder of power, reigning supreme above all others. Her political presence hung like a malevolent curse over American society. The specter of her being in office, free to run roughshod over our culture and economy with her destructive, corrupt policies was as horrifying to freedom-loving Americans today as the prospect of a Bismarck on the loose was in 1941, raiding the life-giving shipping lanes.

No one had the ability to truly defeat her. It can be very convincingly argued that her loss at the hands of Obama in 2008 was a demographic-based defeat, the result of a never-to-be-duplicated confluence of conditions and circumstances along with an overriding “It’s time” sentiment among the Democratic primary electorate.

She bided her time, the political equivalent of a battleship waiting in port before embarking on its next combat mission. She launched her mission for the 2016 campaign, confident of juicy pickings and easy conquests. Using every unfair advantage and dirty tactic, she enlisted Russian assistance in the form of that totally false “dossier” on Donald Trump, kept a blatantly illegal private e-mail server to hide and control all her illegal communications and activities, got the FBI and Justice Departments to look the other way and leave her alone, and she completely rigged the primary election process to slough off that pesky Bernie Sanders.

She seemed to have every advantage: The unstoppable, battle-hardened political machine, Justice and FBI so totally cowed by her—for reasons we will likely never know—that they gave her free reign, access to unlimited funds, notably from the craftily-hidden but undoubtedly corrupt Clinton Foundation and, of course, the liberal mainstream media relentlessly cheerleading on her behalf.

The Bismarck also seemed to be unbeatable in 1941. Yet its final undoing came at the hands of an embarrassingly obsolete weapon, one that no one could have predicted in advance would play the telling role that it did: The carrier-based Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber. This was a biplane aircraft that looked more like Snoopy’s Sopwith Camel WWI fighter plane than a sleek modern attack aircraft. Wobbling unsteadily towards the Bismarck at barely 100 MPH, the Swordfish flew so slowly that the Bismarck’s modern, sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons could not track their motion slowly enough to get an accurate bead on them and shoot them down. The Swordfish was too slow for the Bismarck to hit them accurately. Amazing.

And like Achilles and his vulnerable heel, so too was the Bismarck critically unprotected: Its rudder, which controlled its steering—was exposed and easy to damage. A Swordfish-launched torpedo struck the Bismarck in the rudder, leaving her impossible to steer. So ended her dash for safety and the British fleet caught her the next day and finished her off.

Hillary Clinton was well-prepared for political battle against any modern Republican opponent. Cruz, Rubio, Jeb Bush, whoever it was would have had the battle of their lifetime against Clinton and her political weapons. She was the Bismarck. It would take the unlikeliest of weapons to defeat her.

Donald Trump was that weapon. He was the Fairey Swordfish that Hillary couldn’t shoot down. Like the Swordfish, Trump may have appeared unsophisticated and easy to dismiss, but he found her weak spots and struck hard, with crippling effectiveness. To extend the analogy, her campaign sank in ignominious defeat.

Germany did build another battleship just like the Bismarck, called the Tirpitz. The Allies watched her like a hawk, wary of her every move. Now, as was the case with the Tirpitz, speculation is running rampant as to whether Hillary may put to sea once again in 2020, looking to engage President Trump in a return match. She and her acolytes still regard the President as easy pickings. “I’d be happy to beat him again,” she bleats.

But the Tirpitz never made a meaningful combat voyage. It spent pretty much its entire career in port. Its biggest contribution to the war was getting its adversaries to wonder what it might do and causing significant resources to be arrayed against it just in case. However, it never actually did anything. British Lancaster bombers finally blasted it into oblivion in November 1944, six months before the war in Europe ended. The betting here is that Hillary is more like the Tirpitz than the Bismarck—dangerous on paper, but unlikely to do anything impressive in real life.

My Dad Was Better Than John Kerry

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Former MA Senator and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is an accurate precursor for today’s 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls. Unbearably self-absorbed and phony, Kerry’s military career of was rife with controversy, surrounded by justifiable doubt regarding the legitimacy of his having been awarded three Purple Heart medals within a very short time span.  For what amounted to surface scratches incurred on three separate occasions, Kerry gleefully accepted the same citation given to real heroes who lost a limb or suffered a disfiguring injury while saving their comrades on the battlefield. Kerry should have sloughed off the very idea of accepting those Purple Hearts for injuries no worse than a shaving cut. He didn’t miss a single day of service due to those injuries. Not a day.

Unfortunately, the military does not distinguish between severity of wounds when awarding the Purple Heart. Regardless of how true or fraudulent Kerry’s Purple Heart claims are, the fact is Kerry’s having accepted the medals devalued and disrespected the serious, life-threatening injuries suffered by real soldiers in actual combat.

Critics claim that Kerry was a conniving, disingenuous shill from Day One, who always had his eye on a future political career. His preening, insufferable anti-military 1971 testimony in front of the Senate, complete with his pretentiously affected pronunciation of “Jen-Gis Con,” is so laughably transparent as to be unbelievable. Yet this dishonest, put-on, all-for-show snake-oil salesman somehow managed to become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2004. He began his acceptance speech by awkwardly saluting and squawking, “Reporting for Duty!” as if anyone in the known universe thought Kerry or any Democrat had the slightest allegiance to anything with any connection to America’s military. Since Jimmy Carter in 1976 and continuing right through today’s 2020 Democratic contenders, Democrats have been virulently anti-military, viewing its funding as robbing them of vote-bribing social program dollars and condescendingly regarding military people—from enlisted personnel all the way to senior command officers— as nothing more than unsophisticated war-mongering oafs, incapable of grasping the finer points of civilized society.

Today’s Democratic Party does not care about the good of the country as a whole, nor does any current Democratic presidential contender care about the military or understand much about its role. The Democrats are simply interested in winning elections and attaining power, not in furthering the best interests of the country. They look at the country as a big collection of special-interest groups, to be singled out as victims whose salvation shall be delivered for “free” by a Democratic-sponsored Government program. Women, blacks, Hispanics, people below the poverty line, LGBTQ, college students, seniors, and minimum-wage workers are all regarded by the Democrats as simply pieces of the electoral puzzle, to be won over with a taxpayer-funded program crafted just for them. Beneficiaries of such programs will vote for the Dems, while well-heeled liberals will assuage their personal guilt and bolster their self-esteem by voting in favor of them.

The military doesn’t fit into this plan. Military funding does not alleviate the suffering of a special-interest group in a vote-winning manner. Foreign policy success does not convince the 25-year-old with $72k outstanding in college loans to vote for you. F-35s may unerringly destroy their targets in hostile airspace but they will never shatter that supposed “glass ceiling.”

The John Kerry Democrats exploit their military service (if they even serve at all) as nothing more than a political checklist, while demeaning and devaluing the very institution they’re using to further their own personal fortunes. It’s quite a contrast to the way the Greatest Generation served their country. Very few, if any, soldiers serving in combat in WWII publicly identified themselves as Democrats or Republicans, as liberals or conservatives. They were simply Americans, united by a common goal, loyal to the country and to each other.

So it was with my dad. He served in the 338th Field Artillery Battalion in Italy. My dad was an FO (forward observer). The FOs would go to the front lines and find a suitable hiding place. There, they’d use their binoculars to observe how and where their cannon fire was landing, and they’d radio corrective instructions back to the battery.

338th Field Artillery Battalion Insignia

Obviously, the Germans hated the FOs, since they were the ones responsible for directing lethal fire down on them. One day, the Germans spotted my dad’s small group, holed up in a small abandoned house on a hill. No one knows for sure what gave their position away—perhaps it was a glint of sunlight reflecting off a binocular lens. But whatever it was, the Germans spotted them and brought their own 88mm guns to bear on the house. The Germans leveled it, with many American casualties. My dad was struck in the head by a falling beam. The survivors managed to get back to base and my dad was sent to the backlines for emergency surgery, which included the placement of a steel plate in his head.

Want to know what my dad’s most urgent request was following surgery? He wanted to know how soon he could rejoin his buddies at “B Battery.” That was not an uncommon request. U.S. soldiers had an extremely strong sense of commitment and devotion to each other and to their mission. Soldiers would routinely lie about their condition, telling the medical staff they were better than they really were, in an effort to get back to the “boys.” After the war, my dad returned home, got a degree in Civil Engineering under the GI Bill, earned a modest, respectable blue-collar salary in the construction industry and raised his family. He never spoke of the war, he never boasted about his bravery under fire, nor did he ever try to leverage his near-death Purple Heart experience for any kind of personal gain. Like millions of other WWII vets, he was simply a quiet, class guy who did his job and expected no special treatment.

John Kerry accepted three Purple Hearts for wounds no worse than falling off a bike and skinning your knee, all with the duplicitous intent of parlaying a blatantly false, inflated record of military “heroism” into a lucrative future political position. Kerry is the prototypical modern Democratic politician who is all about themselves, all about looking for electoral advantage regardless of the truth, all about Party before Country. Whether it’s favorable international trade deals, treaties/agreements between adversarial nations (like the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Accords, the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty, etc.), border security or anything else, President Trump uses just one benchmark to determine whether the U.S. will continue or withdraw from an existing agreement or enter into a new agreement: Will it benefit America?

Today’s Democrats employ Kerry-like reasoning in every move they make, in every vote they take, with every press conference or interview they give: “How will this benefit my personal power ambitions?” If the truth and the country have to suffer in subservience to personal and Party ambition, so be it.

My dad was better than that. Much better.

Conventional Retirement Wisdom is Wrong!

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There’s an awful lot of retirement information and advice floating around out there. If you use a computer during your work day and have a look at any of the popular business websites (like MarketWatch, Forbes, Investor’s Business Daily, CNBC, etc.)  from your laptop, they all have articles on retirement strategies, reports of how many Americans are or aren’t saving enough for retirement, commentaries on the best places to retire, sponsored ads with “retirement savings” calculators showing you how much you need to put away to reach some arbitrary nest-egg savings goal, and so on. It’s dizzying.

For the average private-sector worker who is not independently wealthy, Social Security is a major component of their overall retirement income picture.  Estimates are that Social Security will constitute from 33-50% of the retirement income for most middle-class working Americans. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to make the assumption that Social Security remains solvent for the foreseeable future, for the scope of this discussion. That may be an erroneous assumption, but by all accounts, Social Security, as presently structured and funded, is 100% good through around 2030, so this article concerns retirees within that time horizon.

The issues regarding extending the solvent date of Social Security are a combination of inexorable demographics (the ratio of workers currently funding SS to workers claiming it is around 2 ½:1, compared to a ratio of more than 10:1 in the 1950’s) and political will. Social Security can be made solvent by either raising or removing the income cap to which the tax applies ($132,900 in 2019) or increasing the percentage of the tax itself, or some combination of the two. Politicians will have to come to grips with this soon, regardless of the “third-rail” aspect of the matter.

In the meantime, the facet of Social Security that seems to garner the most attention from financial retirement “experts” is when: when is the best time to take one’s Social Security payment? As most people know, a person may begin to take Social Security at age 62 (early retirement). At some point a few years after that (a sliding scale, depending on the person’s year of birth) there is their full-retirement age (FRA). For Baby Boomers retiring now, their FRA is 66. For every year that the retiree delays claiming SS past age 62, their payment will increase by about 8%/year and continue until age 70. That’s when a retiree’s SS payment will be maximized.

During “early retirement” (age 62-65), the amount of money that a person may earn as regular working wages is limited before those wages are counted against one’s SS payment. For example, from age 62-64, a person may earn $17,600 without any effect on their SS payment. Every two dollars earned above that amount reduces a person’s SS payment by $1.

So, let’s use a typical (but hypothetical) example to illustrate what happens. Let’s say a 62-year-old person—an accountant at a downtown firm—earns $70,000 a year. They’ve had a good career and they’re looking to collect at 62 but they want to keep working. Their Social Security income—based on their personal earning history–will likely be somewhere around $2200/month, or $26,400/year. If they were to continue working at $70,000/year while collecting SS, they would collect nothing. Nothing.

Here’s why:

$70,000 salary – $17,600 Social Security exclusion = $52,400. At the 2:1 reduction, that will eliminate $26,200 of that person’s Social Security payment—virtually all that they were scheduled to receive in the first place.

Therefore, the experts are quick to tell us, if you delay collecting until your FRA, then your payment will increase by nearly 8%/year and your lifetime total income lines will “cross” at around age 78. You’ll collect more over your lifetime if you delay the date at which you start taking Social Security. In addition, there is no earned wage “exclusion” limit at one’s FRA—no matter how much you earn, those earnings will not affect or reduce your Social Security payments.

This is why the conventional wisdom tells us, “Don’t take your Social Security until 66. Even better, don’t take it until 70. You’ll receive much more over your lifetime that way.”

That thinking is wrong. Back-loading one’s Social Security payments—especially starting them as late as age 70—is exactly the wrong approach for the average middle-class working person (the person earning between, say $50-60k/year and around $120k/year).

There is one thing that none of the so-called experts and financial websites ever take into account when recommending a Social Security timetable. Unfortunately, it is the critical thing, the only thing that really matters at all in the final analysis of retirement planning.

When recommending that retirees delay Social Security until 66 or 70 based strictly on the lifetime “numbers,” the experts fail to take into account this all-important consideration: Quality-of-life. It’s an indisputable and inescapable fact that as we age, our health deteriorates and our energy level diminishes. Our motivation to travel, our desire to learn and accomplish new things, our willingness and zest for socializing with others, all of that is far lower at age 75-80+ than it is from 65-70. It makes no sense—none—to optimize one’s retirement income for a time when it is of far less actual value to people. What good is having more money available to travel at 83 when your arthritis is so advanced that you can hardly travel into the kitchen without your walker?

Fortunately, there is an excellent solution. Remember the income exclusion amounts we spoke of earlier? From age 62-64, the income exclusion was only $17,600/year before it began to reduce a person’s SS payments.

But there is a little-known and inexplicably glossed over fact of the Social Security income exclusion and it is this: during the calendar year when a person goes from age 65 to 66 (their full retirement age), that income exclusion amount rises from $17,600 to $46,900! This has absolutely huge implications for SS planning.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that a person turns 66 (their FRA) in July and they earn a nice middle-manager salary of $85,000. Certainly, that’s a common situation that describes millions upon millions of workers. That person could begin taking their Social Security payments a full six months before their FRA while continuing to work and earning their full salary, without any reduction in their SS payments. In July of that year, they turn 66 and there is no income exclusion, so they can work earn and collect SS at the same time or they can retire.

But for the six months prior to their FRA, that person is collecting a very substantial portion of the full-retirement SS payment (age 65 payments are over 92% of the age 66 FRA payment) and they’re earning their full salary as well. That’s the key: by timing one’s SS collection to a $46,900 block of time before your FRA (in this example, six months), you come out well ahead by virtue of this “double-dipping.” Most importantly, it gives the person a truly meaningful, substantial retirement income when they can make the best use of it and need it most—in their mid-late 60’s.

This six months’ worth of “extra” Social Security collection for those six months prior to FRA more than makes up for delaying SS collection until FRA or later.

If this person’s SS payment at age 65 is, say, $2300/month, then for those six months they will have collected $13,800 in “extra” SS payments—while still collecting their full salary. They have that extra money in their pocket at age 65. An 8% increase at age 66 from $2300 to $2484/month is $2208 more per year. It will take that person over six years to make up that difference (13,800/2208 = 6.25 years) had they waited. Instead, they have the extra money when they are most able to make the best use of it and enjoy it: from age 66 to 72. If they continue working past their FRA, they will be even further ahead, since there is no income exclusion at one’s FRA.

Taking into account the Quality of Life consideration, it makes the most sense for a healthy individual to front-load the Social Security component of their retirement plan by taking SS for a $46,900 block of time prior to reaching their FRA in that calendar year. Such a strategy balances the conflicting but highly-desirable objectives of early retirement age vs. maximizing lifetime earnings in the most advantageous manner.

Do the Democrats Have an Issue?

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The poor Democrats: As the Russia Collusion/Mueller Investigation issue disappeared into nothingness like so much skywriting wisping away into the winds, so to did the sure-fire issue with which the Dems thought the White House would automatically be theirs in 2020. The candidate themself was irrelevant, an afterthought. We have it in the bag, the Dems thought. It’s just a matter of to which person we bestow the privilege of the Presidency this time around. Let’s pick a good one: A woman. No, a woman of color. No, a gay. No, an Hispanic. Perhaps an American Indian.

But that slam-dunk Russia issue is gone. Gerry Nadler and Adam Schiff are still flailing about, trying to collect their “undeniable” Russian collusion evidence and convince the rest of the Democratic caucus to initiate impeachment proceedings.

It looks doubtful that that’s going to come to pass. So the “President’s a crook” angle apparently is not going to deliver a greased downhill slide into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the Democrats. It appears—at this juncture, at least—that the Democrats will actually have to come up with a convincing policy platform in order to win the White House. They’ll have to identify substantive issues of actual importance and persuade enough Undecideds that the Democratic Party will improve their lives and make the country safer and more prosperous.

What are their issues? What are the candidates putting forth thus far? Do any of them seem like game-changers, the lynchpin to electoral victory?

One policy they’ve all put forth, in one form or another, is a single-payer Government-run healthcare system, sometimes referred to as Medicare for All. Almost all the Dems propose the elimination of the private insurance industry in favor of a European-styled system. After all, healthcare is a “right,” not a “privilege.”

Ahh, but the devil is in the details—how, in actuality, do we get rid of the insurance industry? What happens to those millions of workers? How do we set up the Federal Healthcare bureaucracy?  How long will that take? Medicare currently covers 80% of the Part B expenses–where will other the 20% come from that is currently funded by private insurance programs? Or will this new Medicare-for-All now cover all 100%? Has that been figured into the cost estimates? No Democratic candidate ever says. They probably haven’t thought it through that far, they probably don’t even know. Getting rid of the private insurance industry is a pipedream, a hollow talking point. It will simply never happen. Never, and the Dems know it.

Free college tuition and forgiveness of student debt is also a popular talking point for many of the Dems. Some candidates want to cancel student debt altogether. There’s never a mention of actual details, however. Debt for private universities or just public ones? Sanders and others say that tuition should be free to public college, but they never specify which debt they’re going to forgive. What about students who’ve recently paid back their loans? Do they get reimbursed? Is there a look-back period, a sliding scale of partial reimbursement? Who will pay the financial institutions the money that they’re owed if the loans are forgiven? No one ever says. That’s because it’s just a talking point, a lie.

Another one is reparations for slavery as punishment for “white privilege.” This one is especially rich with bogusity, even by present-day Democratic standards. How will this be determined? Will everyone’s ethnic background be researched and by whom? Do reparations apply only to those of actual African heritage? What about dark-skinned persons from, say, South America or the Caribbean? Do they qualify? What will happen with people of mixed heritage? Barack Obama and Halle Berry, to use two well-known examples, are progeny of mixed white-black parentage. Would they be qualified for just 50% of the award? If ever there was an intentionally disingenuous, empty-headed policy proposal, this is it.

The Democrats want to rescind the tax cut and they all brag that they’ll do it on their “first day.” As was the case when President George W. Bush cut taxes, the Democrats automatically yell, “Tax cuts for the rich!” whenever there is a tax cut. It’s a risible claim. Ask any middle-class blue-collar worker earning $60,000 a year if they want to give back their $130/month tax cut to the Government. “Sure, I don’t need it, I don’t like getting my monthly gasoline essentially for ‘free.’ You can keep your $130, as long as I have the satisfaction of knowing that Mitt Romney’s taxes are going up too.” It’s not that Joe Average wants Ronmey’s taxes to go up. Mr. Average doesn’t care about Romney, he only cares about himself and his family. Kamala Harris and Joe Biden—and the others—are the ones who will take personal pleasure in raising taxes on the Mitt Romneys of the world.

The list goes on—The Green new Deal, open borders and the decriminalization of illegal entry into the country, free health care for illegal immigrants. LGBTQ issues taken to bizarre extremes, such as males being allowed to unfairly compete as females in sports and men who “identify as women” being allowed in women’s and girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms.

Such is the Democratic platform for 2020. Nothing the Democrats are proposing so far is grounded in even the slimmest notion of feasibility or reality. None of their latest proposals can or will ever happen. They’re all just empty promises of free giveaways, made to ignorant, greedy voters, the “low information” voters. Eliminating the insurance industry, free college tuition, reparations, the Green New Deal, none of those will ever happen, ever. The Democrats are not running on any legitimate policy proposals—nothing about finding and producing new energy, nothing about keeping the country safer, no actual ideas to help grow the economy and raise employment, nothing at all about meeting any international challenges in Iran, the Middle East, Russia or elsewhere.

Instead, now that the “Russia-Russia-Russia!” issue is gone, the Democrats have taken to promising anything, saying anything—no matter how outlandish—in order to win back their voters and defeat President Trump.

Any voter with even half a brain can see right through this. And therein lies the danger for President Trump.

Don’t Fight the Other Guy’s Fight

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There’s an old axiom in boxing that says you’ll never win if you fight the other guy’s fight. If he’s a slick boxer, you should try to pressure him, break his rhythm, force him to get into a punch-for-punch shootout.

Conversely if your opponent is a brawler, you should use fluid side-to-side movement and long, quick jabs to keep him at bay and prevent him from getting close. There’s a more colloquial expression for all of this: “Don’t hook with a hooker.”

Politics is no different. The winning side is the side that is most successful at framing the argument in terms more advantageous to their favored positions, the side that can convincingly present the talking points that play to their strengths while minimizing the amount of time and conversation spent in areas not to their liking. There are clichés that apply: Democrats don’t talk about building up the country’s military strength. Republicans would rather avoid the topic of race-based quota admissions.

Unless there is some immediate, unusual pressing emergency that forces an unwelcome issue to the fore, most of the time the candidate or party spokesperson can side-step it and not be forced into an uncomfortable defensive position.

There are times when talking about a “bad” issue are unavoidable: when cornered by a hostile media reporter during a press conference or interview, when a private citizen (a non-plant) manages to formulate an intelligent, informed question at a town hall, or during a debate when the opponent brings up a topic he/she thinks is going to make the other person look bad by forcing them to talk about what they don’t want to talk about.

What would be really effective would be if that candidate or spokesperson could turn their supposed weakness into a major strength. That would require that the opposition’s position/talking point was thoroughly analyzed, vetted, prodded and poked in advance, behind the scenes. Give it real thought, play Devil’s Advocate with it, defend it, role play with it, learn it backwards and forwards. The absolute worst thing to do is exactly what most politicians do now: merely dismiss it with a derisive wave of the hand, perhaps accompanied by a trite, sarcastic cliché.

For purposes of this discussion, let’s look at one issue. Democrats love this one. They get great mileage out of it. The “mushy middle” of inattentive, low Information voters is persuadable, being particularly susceptible to a message that is phrased simply and casts them—the voter—as a victim. When someone is told they’re a victim and I, your humble Public Servant, will come to your rescue, it can be quite compelling indeed. Elections are often won or lost by the effectiveness of messaging to this bloc.

The issue? Income Inequality. Message: Republican Fat Cats are overpaid. The implication: If the Fat Cats were paid less, that leftover money would somehow magically make its way directly into your pocket. Income Inequality is the source of all your ills. Greedy conservatives are unfairly given the money that should rightfully go to you.

That’s the Dems’ message. “Billionaires are immoral.” They push it hard and often. Republicans, to date, have had no effective counter to it. Nothing short, pithy and memorable. Nothing that is so true and unarguable that it shuts up the Democratic speaker—whether it’s a candidate, a party spokesperson or a liberal media talking head—and puts them into a state of open-mouthed shock, unable to speak.

“Conservative CEOs rake in millions of dollars in pay and stock options, bonuses, profit-sharing, etc., but the rank-and-file earns only $50k/year, 1/50th the CEO’s pay. All Republican policies are aimed at making the CEO even richer. Republicans love Income Inequality.”

The entire notion of “income inequality” is a farce, a non-issue, all-appearance/no-substance. When Republicans attempt to answer it, they’re doomed. They’re playing the Democrats’ game.

Ok, here’s the scenario: Kamala Harris or Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or whomever is the Democratic Flavor of the Month is going on and on about income inequality, how it’s worse than ever, how it hurts the ‘little guy,’ and what they say drips with the implication that if rich conservatives are paid less, then poor derserving liberals and swing voters will somehow get more money.  “How,” precisely, they get that money is never explained, but no matter. The liberal moderator eats it up and throws one softball after another for the Democrat to hit out of the park.

Usually, the poor, communications-challenged Republican is clueless how to respond, and more often than not, follows their Democratic opponent and the liberal moderator down the one-way no-escape rabbit hole. They get humiliated, tagged—again!—with the “Republicans are heartless” label. The cliché is confirmed once more.

Not this time. This time the Republican has something up his/her sleeve. It’s called “Easily-Understood Logic,” that most rare of conservative communications commodities.

“So, Senator Harris, you’re not rich, right? But you live a fairly decent life.; Your family has enough to eat, you pay the electric bill and you generally have no real complaints. Is that a fair characterization?”

She nervously agrees, fearful that something is coming.

“And your next-door neighbor on your street, they’re in roughly the same boat, right? Not outright rich, but no actual complaints. Things are fine. Is that right?”

Again, Harris nervously agrees, knowing that something is coming.

And here it is: “Now, Senator Harris, let’s suppose that tomorrow, your next-door neighbor hits the lottery for $500 million and all of a sudden they’re incredibly rich. Yesterday, Senator Harris, you and your neighbor were in the same financial boat. There was perfect income equality. Today, they’re totally rich and you’re not. Complete income inequality. Tell us, Senator Harris, exactly how does your neighbor’s new-found wealth prevent you and your family from living a perfectly nice life?”

The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t. People’s income and financial status are independent of each other. It’s not a zero-sum game: One person’s income doesn’t go down just because another’s goes up. The economic pie is continually expanding. It’s not finite, where the size of one person’s “slice” directly impacts the size of someone else’s “slice.” GDP in America has more than doubled since 1999. The pie is expanding. There’s more than enough for everyone.

The term “income inequality” needs to be called out by Republicans for what it is: a totally inaccurate, pejorative term invented by liberals, designed to make conservatives look bad to the liberal media and to inattentive, low-information swing voters. The correct term is “income sufficiency.” As long as someone has an income sufficient to provide for their needs, that’s all that matters.

Let your next-door neighbor hit the lottery. Let Tim Cook or Warren Buffet make another few million today. Their income is not what is holding anyone back. There may be other things—structural or not—that cause any given individual to not enjoy income sufficiency, but the financial success of another person isn’t one of them.

Of all the rhetorical scams perpetrated by the Democrats, “income inequality” is among the worst. Republicans need to stop chasing that phony slickster around the ring, swinging and missing at a non-existent opponent.

Not Enough Fraziers

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

A lot of conversation these days is concerned with the degradation of American culture and society. There is a widespread feeling that too many people in this country no longer exhibit the enviable traits of hard work and self-sacrifice as a means to personal advancement, that respect for elders and traditional institutions is diminishing to an alarming degree and that an acknowledgement and appreciation of our country’s history as it pertains to the economic and societal advantages and opportunities that are afforded to the vast majority of the population is vanishing altogether.

A generation-by-generation analysis might shed interesting light on how and why the country seems to be where it is today.

Greatest Generation—this is the World War II generation. For men, many of them were in the armed forces, fighting all over the world. Although the modern conflicts from Vietnam onwards—fought in the television era—have received the most immediate daily coverage, the scale of casualties and the size and scope of the battles in WWII remain unsurpassed. On D-Day June 6th 1944, 2500 American soldiers died on the beaches of Normandy. The Pacific Island campaigns of Iwo Jima and Okinawa cost nearly 120,000 American dead and wounded in battles that lasted a combined total of mere months. As a matter of fact, Americans casualties in the Pacific occurred at the rate of more than 7000 per week, a number that is simply incomprehensible to the current American public, used to double-digit deaths per week during the war in Iraq.

The conditions in WWII were brutal, from the suffocating tropic heat of the Pacific jungles to the incredibly harsh European winters to the scorching heat of the African desert. The medical care/technology was primitive compared to today. Communications with family members at home were virtually non-existent, in stark contrast to the e-mail, texting and Skype that connects today’s soldiers to their domestic life.

For Greatest Generation women, it meant working in factories, suffering through food and supply shortages and rationing while struggling to maintain some semblance of family life and raise their children without their spouse.

The entire country sacrificed for the bigger national good, unquestioningly and unhesitatingly. When the war was over, the men simply came home, reunited with their families and they resumed a normal, unassuming life, raising their children, buying homes and living their lives. They saved the world from tyranny and bought a Ford. They didn’t ask for adulation or attention. They asked for a mortgage. The Greatest Generation, indeed.

Baby Boomers—born between 1946-1964, the children of the Greatest Generation—seem to be split into two distinct halves. A sizable segment espouses their predecessors’ traditional family and religious values and work ethic, while another segment of Baby Boomers is far more materialistic, self-absorbed and status conscious. Many of the Greatest Generation struggled through the Great Depression of 1929-1939 and vowed that “our kids would never suffer like this.” As a result, as they became financially successful following WWII, many of these Greatest parents over-indulged their Boomer children with all manner of material excess, expensive schools and societal privilege. That segment of Baby Boomers has been brought up to regard that level of extravagance to be “normal,” and they’ve passed those distorted values onto their children. The contention here is that the split between the two factions of Boomers is quite stark and definite. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground.

Generation X—a relatively small segment, born from roughly 1965-1980—is somewhat overlooked by demographers and sociologists, but as a group, X-ers appear to exhibit pretty solid values and a strong work ethic. Yes, they grew up as technology transitioned from 1940’s-1980’s wired telephones, snail mail and and over-the-air radio/TV to 1990’s-2000’s cell phones, cable TV and e-mail and thus they have a different expectation of convenience and normalcy compared to Boomers and Greatests, but as a group, X-ers have not called undue negative attention onto themselves. Given that they are the offspring of Boomers—half of whom in my view exhibit truly problematic ideals and conduct—it’s a bit of a mystery why Generation X has largely escaped the severe criticism that falls onto their younger cousins, the Millennial Generation.

Millennials, born from the early 1980’s through the early 2000’s, are criticized with the broad brush of cliché and generalization. But like most clichés and generalizations, these criticisms spring from at least partial truth. Specifically, Millennials are accused of:

  • Being given too much too soon
  • Having an unrealistic sense of entitlement, an inflated, distorted sense of their own self-worth
  • Wanting work and pay advancements way out of proportion to their achievements and qualifications—experience and seniority are not concepts they feel apply to them
  • Technological advancements and conveniences have eliminated their capacity for patience and restraint
  • Having little humility or respect for traditional institutions or the older generations
  • Feeling that the normal rules of waiting one’s turn don’t apply to them

While these are indeed generalizations and there are no doubt some fine young people in that age group, far too many Millennials are the perfect embodiment of these clichés. There are a lot of flashy young hotshots who believe they’re worth the big dollar payday right out of the gate and not enough of the nose-to-the-grindstone, self-effacing types willing to put in the no-excuses hard work in order to get the gold.

In short, the Millennial Generation appears to be woefully short of Joe Fraziers.

Joe Frazier was an American professional boxer in the 1960’s and 70’s. Fighting in the heavyweight division, Frazier was champion from 1970-1973. He’s best remembered for his epic battles with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. His trilogy against Ali is regarded as perhaps the most bitterly-contested rivalry in all of sports, not just boxing. Frazier was small for a heavyweight and usually gave away 10-20 pounds in weight and several inches in height and reach to his opponents. But he made up for it with an amazing fighting spirit and a refuse-to-quit attitude. Yet despite his in-ring ferocity, Frazier was known for his friendly, easy-going nature and his personal generosity.

Regardless of the opponent, whether he won or lost (he won most of the time, but not every time), Frazier’s style and approach was characterized by his incredible toughness, a willingness to take a punch in order to deliver one and a determination and courage under fire that has virtually never been equalled in the annals of boxing.

A bloodied but undaunted Joe Frazier presses the action against Muhammad Ali

The Greatest generation was dominated by Joe Fraziers, people who refused to quit until they reached their goals, regardless of the obstacles in front of them. A sizable portion of Baby Boomers—the ones who built business, legal, entertainment and medical enterprises of the highest order by the dint of their own indomitable will and perseverance—were straight from the Frazier mold. Millennials? Less so, unfortunately.

Modern America—all generations—would benefit greatly by emulating Frazier’s quiet determination, kindness and class and his utter refusal to take a backwards step in the face of adversity.

Maria Butina was a Russian lobbyist. If there was possibly any other believable evidence of any other covert schemes on her part, they would have been leaked all over the media. There hasn’t been. She’s essentially been handed an 18-month sentence for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist. Should Tony Podesta get twice as much for his dealings with the Ukraine and with some of the same people Manafort worked for?

He won’t of course, and in a sick way that should give some small measure of comfort. The fact that her tough sentencing is merely a hypocritical way to somehow justify the Russia collusion narrative. A narrative that should be under ground and not moving but keeps getting yanked up to the surface and shot through with voodoo mojo to keep it wandering through editorial rooms and media sites like a ghost of scandals past.

But one should be careful to hope this is a onetime thing and will disappear when President Trump moves out of the White House, although one doubts that these collusion myths will ever die. But there’s a much more serious and long-lasting consequence to this.

When you set a precedent in an English-common-law-based legal system, it settles in and becomes nearly impossible to uproot with every passing judgement that builds on that precedent. And there most definitely a legal precedent being set here:

A foreign lobbyist in America now has to prove they are not a spy.

Do the two professions meet and mingle in places like D.C? Of course they do. But there seems to be a disturbing lack of evidence of Butina actively engaging in any form of espionage, rather than somewhat naïve attempts at winning friends and influencing people in the city where it is most valued out of anywhere on planet Earth. Here’s what the prosecution said last week when they called for an 18-month sentence, a sentence that Judge Tanya Chutkin upheld this week:

(Butina)was not a spy in the traditional sense of trying to gain access to classified information to send back to her home country. She was not a trained intelligence officer … [but her] actions had the potential to damage the national security of the United States.

These are chilling words. Potentially – if this precedent is upheld and by the sound of Butina’s legal team and her own “confession” in court over how she destroyed her life by not registering as a Russian agent there likely will not be any appeal – then any foreign investigative journalist, any academic, or any businessperson who’s looking to establish connections could be accused of conspiring with someone in their own country and by so doing potentially harm America’s interests.

And the media is happy to go along with the ride because it seems like a juicy morsel in the endless effort to keep the zombie collusion theory going. Here’s the BBC:

Butina began travelling to the US for NRA conventions, apparently armed with a plan called The Diplomacy Project, aimed at setting up unofficial channels aimed at influencing US policy.

In 2015 she attended a Trump campaign event in Las Vegas, asking the presidential candidate about his views on US sanctions in Russia.

In December 2015 she invited NRA officials to Moscow, and they held meetings with “high-level Russian government officials” organised by Mr Torshin.

Alexander Torshin is a former Russian Senator and Deputy Central Bank Governor. Here’s the BBC again:

Mr Torshin was placed under US Treasury sanctions in April, and is being investigated by the FBI over allegations of funnelling money to the NRA to aid the Trump campaign.

Although unnamed in the plea deal, Mr Torshin is clearly the Russian with whom Butina has admitted conspiring.

By this measure Christopher Steele should be on Interpol’s most wanted list with an extradition order and a seat next to Julian Assange on the next Black-Ops overnight flight to Washington from London. Steele isn’t and never will be.

But this petty and nasty warning shot across Russia’s bow will have legal and political consequences for a long time to come. There are better ways to tell Putin and his spies to screw off than to hammer a kid from Siberia who likes guns and the NRA. Even if she could have become a bona-fide Russian agent at some point.

Let’s assume that Andrew Weissmann had a major role in writing up the Mueller Report, seeing he was the special counsel’s head prosecutor by all indications. Consider this elegantly cruel manipulation in broad daylight in the much-commented second volume (should we call the report Kill Trump Volumes 1 & 2?) on the possibility of obstruction of justice charges and whether to arrive at a “binary” conclusion that says either guilty or not guilty:

Fairness concerns counselled against potentially reaching that judgement when no charges can be brought. The ordinary means for an individual to respond to an accusation is through a speedy and public trial, with all the procedural protections that surround a criminal case. An individual who believes that he was wrongly accused can use that process to seek to clear his name. In contrast, a prosecutor’s decision that crimes were committed, but that no charges will be brought, affords no such adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.

And of course, the report then goes on to list President Trump’s unseemly conduct on a number of accusations and then explore a lengthy legal theory about why they couldn’t come to a “binary” decision – yes or no on the charges of obstruction of justice. It does precisely what it says is a character smear with no recourse before a jury of peers or some other impartial adjudicator.

And then it hands off the report to Congress, suggesting between the lines that impeachment is the only logical way out of the legal conundrum that they themselves wove out of dubious cloth. I can imagine Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, (and everyone else who want Trump’s presidency annulled by one or another means), chortling with delight as their aides pointed out the relevant passages.

And at the end they have the gall to say that no one is above the law.

But that’s wrong. President Trump is being treated as if he’s below the law, not above it. If not, he would be entitled to exactly the process that Weismann outlines in the quote above, rather than a political hit job on Trump’s running roughshod over accepted D.C. norms and regulations. Which is basically what volume II is.

From pages 215 to 218 of the report, they list the famous 10 (some say up to 15) incidents of potential obstruction of justice. All of them have been previously leaked in some form or another. Many are unseemly and show that President Trump’s cabinet (which Ben Domenech recently wrote in The Transom was the equivalent to inviting the first 2000 people through the gate at a Bruins game to apply for the various White House jobs – very funny but a little too flippant if a little too real at the same time) actually respected the legal and political processes far more than he did.

Yes, some of it is uncomfortable, especially his orders to former White House Counsel Don McGahn regarding AG Session’s recusal, orders that McGahn refused to carry out through delays and various stonewalling tactics apparently. And here Weissmann’s paradox – a nifty steel trap that is circular in its logic – works beautifully. It goes something like this:

Because accusing the President of obstruction of justice would cripple his administration, we have raised the bar for obstruction to a higher level than we would otherwise and when the SOB is impeached, we’ll hopefully have provided the evidence for criminal charges when he’s no longer in the White House. We’ll give you a break Mr. President and let the whole world know that you’re basically a criminal in so doing.

That is Kafka, pure and straight.

With no way out except precisely the way Trump has been fighting it: in the court of public opinion in social media and in the media in general. Which in part was what got the president in trouble. Had he not tweeted about the investigation there would be a much shorter list of possible obstruction incidents. But had he not tweeted, he wouldn’t have alerted his base and the world in general to what has been essentially a political process from the get-go.

In a speech given at Hillsdale College in May of last year, John Marini advanced a fascinating and disturbing theory that links Watergate directly to the Mueller probe and the function of the special counsel or special prosecutor. Before you start cheering in the hope that it adds another plank in the obstruction narrative that even now is evolving into a conflicts and cover-up narrative, think again. Marini’s speech was about how Watergate was in essence a savage pushback by the administrative state against an electorally popular president (Nixon swept the 72 elections to crush McGovern) who was reportedly planning to reign in government in DC and cut back the sprawling edifice that every president from FDR through LBJ had helped enlarge. Here’s Marini:

I recall being struck at the time of Watergate by the fact that there was a tremendous mobilization of partisan opinion against Nixon, but very little partisan mobilization in Nixon’s defense. The reason for this, in retrospect, is that it is difficult—if not impossible—to mobilize partisan support once the contest is removed from the political arena and placed in the hands of prosecutors, grand juries, and judges. Nixon believed, correctly, that his partisan enemies were trying to destroy him. But even Republicans in Congress came to accept Watergate primarily in legal terms. The most remembered line from a Nixon defender was that of Senator Howard Baker: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Nixon quickly became boxed in; he was limited to making a legal, rather than political, defense of his office.

Trump – instinctively rather than as a reasoned strategy even if he was already in his 20’s and working in real estate when the Watergate scandal played out across America and the world – has refused to make the same mistake as Nixon. He’s fought back politically recognizing and declaring to the world that Mueller has always been a political, rather than a legal process.

History may yet prove him right.

James Hohmann in his Daily 202 published a list of the size of charitable donations that major Democrat primary contenders have given in years past; as a percentage relative to their total income. Something that is possible because they have released their tax returns for the public to see. It’s interesting to read the list on the eve of Maundy Thursday – or Holy Thursday as it is now more commonly called – and reflect on what charity means in 2019.

The answer seems to lie with who’s at the top of the list as the most generous giver to charity: Elizabeth Warren and her husband at 5.5% of their total income. And as we know, Warren favors stringent regulation of the financial industry and higher taxes to pay for elaborate all-consuming social programs. But at least she’s consistent with her dogma.

At the other end of the spectrum is President Trump who maintains his taxes are none of our damn business. Which is a fairly American way of viewing the question of charity, even as America and Americans are by far the most generous givers on the planet towards charitable causes. Unlike many European countries that insist that the state should fill the gap, funded by high taxes of course.

Faith and works.

A long-puzzled-over verse from Paul the Apostle (I’ve already given away my team by naming St. Paul in such a manner) engages in an excruciatingly elegant and complex meditation on faith and works in his letter to the Galatians. Faith and works. Christians have killed and tortured and died over how to interpret those words so it can leave one weary of the endless argument that today still lives on in unexpected ways.

Like when we talk about taxes.

One can argue that the moral righteousness that some statists seem to infuse their fiscal arguments with comes from the argument over how to balance faith and works, with the statists obviously coming down on the side of works.

Government works of course.

So while Warren is surely pleased that her charitable giving (as a percentage) swamps the very frugal and very wealthy Beto O’Rourke (who gave a fraction of a percent of his and his wife’s total income), she’d much rather have her charitable giving nailed down by the IRS with a steeply progressive tax rate codified into law by a Socially Democratic Congress.

And that brings up a further point. The only way for works to be truly acceptable to the progressive woke crowd that have taken over the Democratic Party is for the IRS to raise taxes, and charity be damned. So that’s just one more reason for moderate Catholics to feel they no longer belong as Democrats, aside from the principal reason they feel that way which is the abortion issue.

But interestingly as Michael Warren Davis (who edits the Catholic Herald) writes in the Washington Examiner, Catholics are no longer a voting block the way Evangelicals are:

Catholics are such a diverse group, and we’ve become so thoroughly integrated into mainstream America, that we represent the “average American voter” better than any other denomination. A 2016 Pew poll found that 37% of Catholics are Republican and 44% are Democrats. That’s precisely the mean of all U.S. adults. With apologies to Ohio, Catholics are the most accurate bellwether in presidential politics.

We’ve spent centuries dispelling myths about papal plots to overthrow the government, proving to our Protestant neighbors that we’re average, harmless Americans, and this is what it’s gotten us. There’s not even a “Catholic vote” to speak of — nothing comparable to the coveted evangelical vote, anyway. If there were, 25% of the electorate would go to a party that agrees with Ocasio-Cortez on economic and environmental policy but to former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum on social issues. Instead, at least half of Catholics will continue to vote for Democrats …

Even as abortion on demand becomes a litmus test for party candidates.

As signs of a growing gap between moderate Democrats (who are still arguably a majority of Democrat voters) and the party leadership become evident, one has to ask whether conservative Catholics will continue moving to the GOP to enough of an extent for them to be able to claim the GOP as their home. Or whether in America, Catholics are truly universal and reflect the broad cultural outlines of the country to such an extent that their identity and faith melt into the background.

A similar set of concerns with regard to Jewish Americans was expressed in a recent piece in Tablet written by Adam Garfinkle titled: The Collapse – Is this the end of American Jewry’s Golden Age? In the article, Garfinkle writes:

One of those reasons is that American Jews are rapidly and irreversibly becoming politically homeless. They are losing their “natural” political hearth in the Democratic Party. Partisan political support for Israel has shifted sharply to an increasingly white-populist GOP—a party the vast majority of American Jews will never feel at home in.

One can’t help but conclude that diversity of faith and culture is being driven out of the Democratic Party by hard-left identity politics puritans. It’s long past time for the GOP to truly and generously make room for them, whatever the protestations that they already have been doing so for some time now. It’s just that right now the party of LIncoln is a more populist and nativist party for understandable reasons.

But that may not prevent the GOP from ending up being the more diverse party in a few years time. It just may be possible, as long as you define diversity as something more than politically prescribed identity.

And give faith and works enough space to co-exist.

AOC is the Democrats’ Voice

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Let’s give credit where credit is due: Has there ever been a freshman Congressperson who has made anywhere near as much of a national impact in so short a period of time as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? She’s only been in office for a few months, yet it seems as if she’s in the news every day. Her commentary and progressive vision have certainly taken the Democratic Party by storm and she is the unquestioned de-facto leading speaker for her side. She’s also a media darling—on both sides—because of her fearless, flamboyant, often outrageous statements. She’s definitely newsworthy.

AOC, as she’s amusingly known, has made an astonishingly high number of notable proclamations and policy proposals in rapid succession. No subject is off-limits; there is no area of national importance where she hasn’t weighed in. She has an opinion about everything and is only too eager to share it. Significantly, she obviously feels that her take on the various subjects is important and worthy of serious consideration. Some would say she thinks her opinions should be accepted as gospel-like fact and carried out in their entirety.

Some of her more pointed declarations:

The Green New Deal:

‘The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.’

‘Like, this is the war, this is our World War II.’

 ‘Today is the day that we choose to assert ourselves as a global leader in transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy and charting that path.’

‘I’m the boss, I’m trying. If you’re trying, you’ve got all the power, you’re driving the agenda, you’re doing all this stuff.’

Medicare for all:

‘’The United States should be a nation that allows improved and expanded Medicare for all.

Blocking Amazon’s New York City headquarters:

Anything is possible. Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.’

 Abolishing ICE:

‘An agency like ICE, which repeatedly and systematically violates human rights, does not deserve a dime.’

The most meaningful aspect of AOC’s flamboyant presence on the national stage is not her never-ending stream of continually outlandish opinions on any number of important issues, which is certainly impressive enough. Instead, it’s the supportive, almost giddy coverage afforded to her by an incredibly sympathetic liberal media, as they use her nearly-baseless pontifications to promote their own favored viewpoints, but without having to present AOC’s opinion as their own. They get to present it as “news”—something a high-profile politician said today—and thus attempt to pre-empt any direct criticism of that media outlet taking sides.

Has the rise of the AOC phenomenon caused Nancy Pelosi’s standing as the Democratic Speaker of the House—the supposed official “leader” of the Democratic House majority—to be diminished or threatened? Is there friction or conflict between them? Are AOC’s almost-daily pronunciations causing a rift in the Democratic Party between the new ultra-progressive wing and the older, more-traditional liberal faction?

Probably not.

Unbeknown to her, AOC’s newness and youth are being deftly exploited by Democratic Party veterans. They simply run her extreme radical progressive ideas up the flagpole to gauge public reaction. If her ideas seem too extreme, the Pelois and Hoyers of the world can distance themselves from them and reassure the swing/independent electorate that AOC is full of youthful exuberance and unrealistic ideological enthusiasm, but she doesn’t speak for the heart and soul of the real Democratic Party.

Pelosi will attempt to subtly put forth the notion that her party—the real Democrats—love their country, embrace the capitalistic American Dream where anyone can become a success, and fully support a clean environment with commensurate sensitivity to business and jobs. However, they are more compassionate, inclusive and aware of the needs of individual groups (like women, minorities, LGBTQ, etc.) than those hard-hearted, inflexible, further-right-than-ever Republicans. “Don’t worry—you can still advance your career and live a very nice life; we’re just going to make sure everyone has healthcare, breathes clean air, pays their fair share of taxes and that there’s common-sense diversity in the workplace and in our schools. That’s reasonable enough for you to vote for us, right?” That is Pelosi‘s and her ‘traditional wing’ Democrats’ implied stance. Whether it’s believable or not is another matter, but that’s their line, their distinction from the AOC wing.

But…if a radical idea posed by AOC seems to have legs and takes hold, then the Pelosi faction will be quick to glom onto it and claim it as their own. This way, they can have it both ways: Let AOC put everything out there. If a proposal or stance is so extreme that the mid-line swing voters reject it, then Pelosi will dismiss it as AOC’s naïve inexperience getting the best of her. If an idea from AOC seems to fire the public’s imagination and appears to become mainstream thought, then the traditional Pelosi wing can adopt it as if they were in favor of it all along.

AOC is the perfect trial horse, a no-lose proposition for traditional Democrats who are too cautious to propose liberally-adventurous, ground-breaking ideas of their own. They will willingly let AOC charge into the machine-gun fire of public opinion and take whatever hits come her way, but they will happily go along for the credit ride if any of AOC’s ideas strike a favorable chord.

For seasoned political observers, the most entertaining aspect of this entire scenario is that AOC has absolutely no idea that she’s being used by her own party. That’s how seriously she takes herself.

Among the various Democrat electoral strategies that involve attempts at damaging President Trump with the hope of preventing a win in 2020, we have the tax-return strategy. Now that Mueller has failed to come up with the goods, and given that most people realize that Nadler and company in Congress will be going over the same ground as Mueller with not nearly the same resources (neither financial nor in terms of expert prosecutors) in order to try and score political points, we have the spotlight turning towards Trump’s tax returns.

The language being used, as usual when it comes to the Trump opposition, is both apocalyptical and self-righteous. Here’s Steve Rosenthal at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, as quoted in The Hill:

[The] request tests Mnuchin’s oath of office: whether Mnuchin will faithfully execute the laws of the United States, or whether Mnuchin will bend to the will of the president.

Which also sets up the narrative of Mnuchin the faithful loyalist who’s breaking the rules for evil President Trump. But, Rosenthal’s over-the-top assertions aside, is the Secretary of the Treasury actually breaking any rules by declining to release the president’s tax returns?

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts is reportedly using U.S. Code Section 6103 (f) as a way to try and force the IRS, and therefore Mnuchin (given that the Internal Revenue Agency is part of Treasury), to disclose President Trump’s tax returns from the past few years. Here’s what U.S. Code Section 6103 (which deals with disclosure of tax information by the IRS and which in most cases stringently prohibits it) subsection (f) in part states:

Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.

In closed executive session. How reassuring, right? No problem with leaks from those sessions if it ever actually happens that President Trump’s lawyers accede to Chairman Neal’s written request.

While Section 6103 (f) provides the technical loophole that Democrats have been looking for, is it constitutional to force disclosure of a president’s tax returns?

Let’s start with the fact that income tax was nowhere in the constitution and income taxes didn’t appear until Lincoln needed to finance the Civil War and Congress established a tax in 1861 for that purpose. Then early in the 20th century, more income taxes on corporations followed. However, as David Herzig, a tax expert, outlines in Forbes the presumption was that taxes were public information:

When enacting the country’s first federal income tax to finance the Civil War, in 1861, Congress provided that all returns should be “open for examination.” Likewise, when Congress came up with the first income tax for corporations, in 1909, the law provided the returns “shall constitute public records and be open to inspection as such.”

But, by the 1920’s and 1930’s, the pendulum had shifted to privacy. These rules and norms were memorialized by the 1970s and 1980s in IRC section 6103.

In other words, U.S. Code Section 6103 was enacted by Congress some 30 to 40 years ago to push back against IRS disclosure of private tax information and to provide a wall of privacy. So, what we have is a tension between freedom of information and privacy. Here’s Herzig again:

IRC section 6103, protects taxpayers from forced disclosure and trumps the primary legislation for disclosure, the Freedom of Information Act. FOIA enables the public to inspect rulings and many other IRS documents, files, and memoranda, but it does not encompass “matters [that are] specifically exempted from disclosure by statute,” e.g., IRC section 6103.

Mnuchin is caught in this crossfire between administrative state regulations and Congress which of course enacted those very regulations in the 70’s and 80’s.

President Trump, as a political choice, should have been more amenable to releasing his returns. His refusal seems to reflect his thinking as a businessman rather than as a politician, which is part of why he was elected. But now we have a tactic that Democrats are going to use to hint darkly that Trump must have debts with Russian banks or goodness knows what else and this compromises him.

The problem is changing key norms dealing with taxes because Trump is president. This is something Congress should legislate if they truly believe they should make it law that any nominee for President has a legal obligation to release their tax returns. As Herzig writes:

By amending IRC section 6103 for presidents, vice-presidents or some subset (i.e., party nominees), Congress can rebalance the rules. But approaching legislation in a knee-jerk fashion is problematic. It is no fun to say we should weigh and contemplate such a change, but it is necessary.

Americans value privacy.

Or do they?

In answering that question, it is interesting to note that the two New York legislators who are pushing for a law obliging the release of tax returns for top officials in New York State, have themselves reportedly not yet done so.

If we’re going to return to a presumption that individual tax returns are public information at least for certain offices in government, then the Federal Government (rather than individual states) may be the way to go. But would that mean that private taxpayers are next?

Tax returns as instruments of shaming private citizens and not just politicians in the public square? Think about that as you consider what AOC tweeted:

We didn’t ask you.

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