How much of the GOP establishment – measured by endorsements and fundraising – have switched to Rubio or are about to? Assuming that in a perfect world as viewed by traditional Repbulican stalwarts, Jeb Bush would have been steadily climbing back up in the polls, ready to retake his rightful spot. And given a world with imperfect information – no one really knows what’s going to happen, although sometimes some predictions do turn out to be uncannily accurate – who could have predicted that Jeb would have underperformed in the debates?

Yes, GOP voters and the relevant issues are not what they were a decade ago. But had Jeb showed more skill in the cut and thrust of the debates, he might have been able to hold his own. Or at least not remain at 5%.

So is Rubio now Mr. GOP Endorsements? If the choice – given their political experience – is between Cruz and Rubio, big money does not seem to want to back Ted Cruz. Both have performed well in the debates, but the Texas senator is seen as too divisive. That means Rubio’s advantage in a head-to-head with Hillary is a deciding factor. And his stance on immigration and the hoped for traction with Latino voters is pulling supprt towards Rubio as well.

But guess what? Trump is still leading. Trump’s numbers are not falling and are up slightly from 26% to 28%, according to the latest Fox poll. That’s double Rubio’s numbers. And the only person who really fell a significant amount was Ben Carson, slipping back to 18%. Apparently those stories on West Point did do some damage.

The thing is, if you do break down support among Tea Party voters, Evangelicals, and Conservative Talk Radio listeners, Cruz beats Rubio handily with all 3 groups. Especially with Conservative Talk Radio listeners where Cruz comes in first beating even Trump.

So who are the GOP voters who will propel Rubio into a 2nd place position, ready to finally topple Trump in the final stretch of the nomination battle? At least according to the new Establishment Playbook. It would have to be moderates: the unseen, somewhat-silent-but-sizable minority among GOP voters. Remember Reagan Democrats?

But who do GOP moderates support? Some suggest that they’re with Trump. That his maverick status, the skepticism over his conservative credentials, are what in fact attracts moderates to his candidacy. Even if they’re angry moderates.

Do moderate GOP voters matter? If they do, Rubio may have to win them over from Trump, in order to have any chance of surging ahead of Cruz and leaving Carson to settle in 3rd or 4th spot. That, as they say, is a theoretical at this point.

We’re at war. How many ways does this have to be restated? How many planned and horrifically executed suicidal attacks on democratic societies, on societies around the world, will be needed for Obama to state this simple truth? When will he realize that politically correct appeasement on the grounds of diversity, cultivated within the exclusive confines of Harvard and other academic institutions is counter productive? That it endangers lives, rather than provides the essential security necessary for any state to function.

Terrorist attacks decades ago had clear objectives. A marxist state, for example. ISIL is equally clear: a caliphate whose bloody borders seem to continually expand within the fanatical hate-filled minds of its leaders and followers. A return to a distant past where the only authority is a crazed man. They are hypocrites of course. Their lives have little to do with the world as it existed under the Ottoman Empire centuries ago. But their need for vengeance against a system that requires rationality and personal responsibility, will clutch at any excuse necessary.

Our kingless kingdoms for a liberal with Tony Blair’s clarity. But that type of language that stated the problem with passion and focus in the hours following the attack on 9/11, has been absent from Obama’s administration. It’s like a forbidden zone, where they fear to tread. Just in case they might find themselves agreeing with Senator Graham, or Ted Cruz.

Obama’s response is to label the media as hysterical for its coverage of the events of days past. It makes sense doesn’t it? If one digs – reluctantly – into Freud’s work with the term one finds that hysteria seems to be – for Freud and others – a social disease caused by a poor early childhood environment. Entirely psychological. Rather than a feminine physiological malfunction, a concept which was used as a sickening weapon against women in the early and mid 20th century. Both conceptions of hysteria have done a great deal of damage.

Perfect isn’t it? Just like that screaming student in the quad at Yale, we are all victims of unsafe environments. Why does the media insist that ISIL or ISIS is a grave danger to our free societies? Because we didn’t get enough hugs before kindergarten.

As the brave and dedicated men and women in various security forces in Europe and over here, stay up all night gathering the data, or risk their personal safety, in order to prevent further attacks and track down these crazed terrorists, one does not feel they are too worried about the hugs they got in early childhood.

Mr. President, leave Freud wallowing in the sewers of the unconscious world that he dreamed up. Say it clear. We are at war.

Equivalency is a fetish with the not-so-new left and it’s new adherents or offshoots, like Black Lives Matter. Terrorism, or capitalistic oppression as their forbearers would have said, lives equally at U of Missouri as it does in Paris. At least according to Black Lives Matter.

A symbol of hatred in a dorm washroom is an idiocy and even a danger and one that must be dealt with. It is not, however, equivalent to 139 lives taken by terrorists in a planned attack on the very marrow of Western freedom. And hundreds wounded, and thousands targeted.

Is this a case of Millennials’ propensity for demanding “safe” environments everywhere? It is certainly hysterical to construct such an absurd equivalency. As an American citizen, would an aid worker in Syria for example, who was or had been a BLM member, be afforded any freedoms by IS captors? We are brothers, spare my life! Give me a safe home! Unlikely that such a request be granted by a hooded fanatic full of hatred for the very freedoms that any American, or Westerner, represents to them.

But this is one more detail in long litany of moral relativism. Look at BBC World News. Try to find the word “terrorist” right after the word “attack.” Can’t find it can you? Paris attacks; yes they’ll write that. Is it true that their editorial guidelines prohibit calling an islamic terrorist attack a terrorist attack? The word does appear as: “anti-terrorist,” referring to a police squad for example. A very precise context where it can be permitted apparently.

So they are merely attacks. One side of a two-sided war. Paris deserves it because of the targeted attacks in Syria. We deserve it. We do not have a better form of government, and we are often wrong in the West. We ignorantly blame the lack of tolerance in Muslim societies, betraying our own intolerance.

And Israel, of course, is always to blame aren’t they? If only Israel had never been founded. The Middle East would be stable. This insidious undercurrent bursts into the open often enough, as it did at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. A few short weeks before 9/11.

If human rights are to mean anything, they must be based on agreed principles. The apologetic sloppiness of moral equivalency undermines human rights and the rule of law – law forged in the parliaments of democracies. We don’t even have to accept, though we clearly should, the Christian and Jewish faiths’ central role in providing the philosophical perspectives necessary for the emergence of western democracy. We merely need to start calling islamic terrorism what it is. At the BBC for example.

If the Department of Homeland Security was run by the ACLU, what would it look like? Or more accurately, would it even exist? In an age of radical islamic terrorism, continually morphing into new and ever more violent forms, how do you balance the nation’s security against openness and freedom of movement?

More specifically, how do you show compassion towards Syrian refugees when IS members are almost certainly amongst their huddled masses?

Aside from bringing to bear the best screening possible, and waiting until it’s in place and ready to accept thousands of people, you have to realize this. Many will arrive without documentation, seeing they are fleeing a collapsed state. Who they are. Where they may have been. Who they may have associated with. All of it will be unclear. So, you have to ask whether resettlement in America is the right thing to do. The right thing for America.

If a deadly virus breaks out somewhere abroad, do we rush every possible patient to the best health care centers in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago? Do we encourage the community to help re-settle the possible bearers of a deadly disease in their own communities? Given that the percentage of possible patients who will actually get sick and infect others is very low, why not?

Is it heartless and discriminatory to screen arriving passengers for disease? Of course not. Is it a slippery slope to invoke this type of an analogy, given the history of mid-20th century Europe? Of course it is. But we screen anyway for possible terrorists, as if they were a deadly disease. One of hatred and violence. The comparison is silent, but present.

Are you infected with radical islamic ideology? Are you a potential suicide bomber? Will you attempt to carry out an attack on people going about their daily business? These are the questions in the back of the minds of every member of any security operation – from immigration officials, to spymasters & analysts, to police officers – when they review a case in front of them.

At the very least a pause is in order, rather than raising the ante to 65,000 refugees as Hillary has stated should be done.

The idea of freedom has to be defended by defending those who live free lives, precisely by going about their daily business in places like Manhattan and Dallas. They are the embodiment of freedom. Not the detached floating ideal that must be appeased with bloody sacrifices at its altar of absolute diversity. Holding hands as yet more bombs go off.

As they left the stadium in Paris, knowing that a deadly attack had been unleashed on their city of lights, the French sang La Marseillaise. The very embodiment of virtue and patriotism in the face of the disease of terror and hatred of freedom.

Is this finally it? The moment that Trump’s indestructible campaign really starts skidding? Comparing Carson’s temper to the pathology of a child molester in his Fort Dodge speech was hardly an ex abrupto on The Donald’s part. He has been hammering home, if you will, the point about Carson’s self-confessed temper as a youth in Detroit, in interview after interview.

The poll numbers give the reason why, and it is now up to Trump’s supporters to “process” his latest rants, as one supporter was heard saying as she left the event. While Trump has hardly seen a collapse of support, it has steadily weakened in the last month or two. Will his latest insulting controversy accelerate this slow erosion of his support in the polls?

While Trump’s gruff and obnoxious dismissals of the virtues of Carson might previously have resonated with the skeptic within some GOP voters, this was likely a bridge too far. Except, if you think back to his juvenile idiocy regarding Carly Fiorina and her concise, devastating response at the CNN debate, it was Carly who fell in the polls. Perhaps for other reasons, but the point being that Trump has gotten away with murder – character assassination in fact – on more than one occasion.

The question is who will benefit from Trump’s rants? Will Carson hover like a saint above this mud wrestling? Or will his numbers stay firm but stable, while Cruz and Rubio are the ones who take market share from Trump? Assuming that Trump loses market share as a result of his attack on Carson.

Trump’s insults are not just the nastiness of a tough, blustery billionaire who has to have it his way. They are meant to insert doubts about the credibility of his rivals, like any negative ad campaign. But it’s not with slick multi-million dollar ads. It’s Donald being Donald in an interview or on stage, and just “speaking his mind.” It’s a smart strategy and has been working, at least until recently.

The problem is, when it stops working, voters may turn on the man doing the trash talking. Thing is, they haven’t yet. Some have drifted away, and some never wanted Trump anywhere near the nomination race. But he still has a strong core of supporters. Let’s see how’s he’s doing by Christmas.

It will be Tax Time Tuesday on Fox Business. Here’s what the GOP candidates who will be debating all things economic and fiscal, as well hopefully as personal finances, have said about their tax plans. All courtesy of the

On income taxes it’s Senators Cruz and Paul who battle it out to see who has the lowest flat tax. Cruz actually is proposing a 10% flat rate while Paul favors a 14.5% flat rate but with better deductions and exemptions. Carson’s flat tax is to be between 10% and 15%, but is to be phased in over time, which may mean “we’re working on it folks.”

Rubio and Bush’s plans are structured almost identically – but Bush’s rates are a little more taxpayer friendly. Rubio’s rates, in fact, are not that much lower than what Americans pay right now. Trump has a more flexible version of the other two’s progressive rate structures, with top rates kicking in at much higher income levels.

For capital gains and dividends, Bush and Trump have very similar plans with both promising to eliminate the net investment income surtax. Carson has no details, and Cruz and Paul both propose capital gains and dividend income taxes identical to their flat income tax rates. Fair ‘n square all round, as they might say.

Rubio is the one who stands out here. He would eliminate both the capital gains and dividend income taxes. A bold step towards encouraging investment again in America. Will it fly? Will it cause corporations to start spending their countless billions of cash balances in plant, equipment and people again?

On corporate taxes, Bush and Rubio are in near-lockstep again with Bush favoring slightly lower rates (20% vs. 25%). Again. Carson? No details. Rand and Cruz? The senate former-still-kinda-bros-in-arms have very similar proposals. They both propose a business transfer tax which basically is a value added tax on stuff that actually gets consumed or sold by businesses.

Estate taxes would be eliminated by Jeb Bush, that patriarch! He clearly favors letting families – wealthy and not so wealthy – keep the money. Just like every other GOP candidate. At least among the front runners.

Carly Fiorina is an anomaly here. According to, she has no specific policy plans on any of the taxes mentioned above. It’s time for some convincing from the former CEO. Unless some of the fight has gone out of her. It might be premature to say that, however. Tuesday Tax Time will tell.

Is the dig-up-the-dirt model of campaign journalism no longer working? The attacks on Carson’s credibility by means of stories that quibble with relatively minor details in his past life seem not to be working. At least so far. Some of the attacks have been proven mostly wrong, as in the case of the West Point full scholarship story. Rich Lowry delving into Carson’s years at Yale haven’t caused much of a storm at all, coming on the heels of the other attacks.

But is it too early to come to any conclusion to how voters decide on a candidate’s suitability and credibility? An anonymous campaign staffer – maybe calling from South Florida? – told the media that these stories will eventually lead voters to realize that Ben Carson does not have the experience, consistency, or political chops to be president. And that their anonymous candidate has all of those things in abundance.

As Carson builds his lists of donors – like an online marketing guru deciding how much to spend to garnish leads for his grand launch – he has come a long way in his fundraising. But he has nowhere near the war chest of someone like Jeb Bush. His top asset is not his mind and skills as a surgeon, but rather seems to be his authenticity. His supporters trust him as an outsider and a man of faith. One would assume they believe strongly that he also has the mind to deal with a job like the presidency. And that he will be wise enough to choose his advisors well.

Does Carson have to amp up his debate performances? He has managed to have a precious handful of memorable moments in every debate. But they have not been those nail-the-topic policy ideas. Rather they have tended to display humor and graciousness over the process itself of campaigning. Carson is about social media and direct marketing, not mic-drop sound bites. Is his the new model of a successful campaign? It’s as if Carson’s campaign was designed by millennials, while targeting evangelicals and other conservatives. So very 2015.

To use Michael Lind’s opinions on how to renew conservatism in order to renew conservatism, is a little like asking Benedict Arnold to lead the Continental Army, having reached him before he boarded the British sloop in the Hudson River. But that is unfair to General Arnold who fought many battles on the side of the his native land, before turning against the colonies.

Nonetheless, the long-proclaimed apostate has ideas on what is wrong with legacy conservatism in 2015. Of course, he’s essentially had those ideas for years but they might bear some listening to. Writing in he states that there is a divide between GOP donors who tend to be libertarian and globalists, and GOP voters who tend to be populist, protectionist and nationalist. No kidding.

Having made your money by being good at providing something to America and the rest of the world, you have no desire to bind down the economic body of the nation with an ever-increasing maze of taxes and trade regulations. Even if you have the overhead to play those dense and complex rules to your favor. On the other side, having seen your job outsourced to often inferior and always cheaper foreign labor, you want an administration that keeps value in America on main street and not just in the financial centers, both at home and abroad.

As Ben Domenech wrote 2 years ago, populism today is about limiting the (mostly) federal government’s role in deciding winners and losers – or redistributing opportunity as he put it. But as Michael Lind states, medicare and medicaid are popular with much of America’s paycheck earners. How popular with how many of GOP voters is an interesting question to ask in 2015.

Think of this: Trump does not spend a lot of time detailing his plans for entitlement reform. If he has any. Christie has done his best in the debates and the campaign to do what Trump doesn’t bother to do. Or what Trump knows is not a winning proposition with his voters. And Christie’s numbers show the political expediency of his brave attempts at true reform of entitlements. Should Christie look at Carson’s numbers – considering Carson’s views on health savings accounts – and take heart?

At the corporate end of entitlements, does the Export-Import Bank bother working voters? Or is it’s abolition a quixotic libertarian crusade to use Lind’s wording? If it doesn’t bother voters to any appreciable extent compared to other areas of federal waste, and if medicare and medicaid can only be tweaked slightly, then maybe Trump is the new conservatism, rather than just an opportunistic media mogul. If ex-im is seen as a symbol of much of what’s wrong in the beltway, then Cruz may be the future instead. If people trust Carson enough to follow him down the path of entitlement reform, then a novice politician of faith may hold the future of conservatism.

But some change in what conservatism means seems inevitable, beyond who wins the nomination.

Maybe Rich Lowry is right to shine a light on Rubio’s immigration policy. It makes sense to force the Florida Senator to be clear on what he promises as far as immigration goes. Maybe Rubio will win the GOP nomination. Maybe Jeb Bush will win. Maybe Rich Lowry will be President Bush’s Press Secretary. Maybe he will instead have to decide on what kind of editorial to write in the National Review when Trump wins the nomination.

The future is uncertain to say the least, and immigration needs to be defined as an issue with doable policy proposals. It seems the absolute size of the illegal immigrant population in America dictates a we-can’t-do-that attitude on the part of many analysts and politicians. So what could be done in terms of border security, and more to the point, border enforcement?

While E-verify, entry & exit tracking systems, and prosecution of illegals upon entering the country are concrete steps, they need to be seen as coming from a united front. Not just from the White House and Congress, but from business as well. And that means filtering legal immigration through a points-based skills test that means America gets workers it needs.

Does America need immigrant workers? Toll Brothers says yes indeed. Fast food franchises, hotels, casinos and other recreational industries say yes. Tech says yes because they’re cheaper and we can fire Americans and pay less. If the answer to this question is to be based on evidence, then a light needs to be shined on hiring practices. That’s fairly simple to do and has been suggested repeatedly: significant penalties for hiring illegals, and strict standards for H1-B visa holders.

Will Marco Rubio agree to all that and be judged on his words of promise? The question is: how much does illegal immigration really bother many in the GOP? If it doesn’t, then Rubio can basically promise what he thinks is expedient and get away with it.

In 1967 Donald Trump was still at Wharton finishing up his economics degree. Roger Ailes was a young producer telling Nixon why media – especially television – mattered. Things do come full circle eventually, if imperfectly. Nearly 50 years later, the question is: does the media star and now political star fear the media magnate? Ok, CEO would in fact be more accurate. The magnate is Murdoch of course, but Roger Ailes nearly 50 years later continues to shape the media landscape.

The Sunday get-together of GOP candidates (including Trump and Carson’s teams) declined, it seems, to impose the conditions they are seeking for future debates on Fox News. They will do so, apparently, with other channels. All this because of the nature of the questioning at the last debate, and the genuine anger of the audience at some of the CNBC moderators in Boulder.

There was tough questioning at the Fox debate in Cleveland, but the audience seemed to love it, and never turned on the moderators the way they did in Colorado. Is it Fox’s brand? And their relationship with their viewers? That has to be part of the answer. Maybe it’s also a case that Fox just knows better how to stage a debate.

Trump and Kelly, of course, started a dust-up that continued well after the debate. With cease-fires and then a resumption of hostilities. That hardly seems to be fearful behavior on the the part of the Donald. But regardless, the candidates decided not to try and dictate terms to Fox. Has media become so powerful that the following words no longer apply?

Intending to correct the licentiousness of the press and to restore the use of orderly language, you first try the offender by a jury: but if the jury acquits him, the opinion which was that of a single individual becomes the opinion of the whole country.

De Toqueville’s meditations on freedom of the press in the then young republic of America continue to resonate. Correcting abuses of the press could lead you to the feet of a despot, as he famously wrote. The problem with these wise words is that many nowadays feel media is the despot. Ted Cruz’s laser guided attack on the moderators was something that was dying to be said. Yet the youthful French aristocrat’s warnings still hold true.

So are the GOP candidates attempting to exert an unwarranted amount of influence on the media? Or just trying to restore a small semblance of orderly language? With the only jury being ratings and poll numbers. If Roger Ailes could sit down with De Toqueville in a television studio in 2015, what would advice would he give the best-selling author? Maybe something like: Alex, look at our ratings.

It’s such a warm, feel-good photo of McCarthy and Upton in the halls of their frat house, sorry Congress. Grinning and clutching like two little puppies playing in the back yard. And why not? They got some serious business done – negotiating with Obama himself over entitlements. These – the Social Security Disability Insurance in particular – will undergo “structural” reform and in exchange, there goes the Nation’s Debt Limit floating out the window and over the Potomac.

The structural reform at the SSDI is in place of a 20% reduction, and apparently will “strengthen” the now bankrupt fund that pays out insurance to anyone with a disability – regardless of income. In other words, there is no means testing as far as SSDI goes.

In fact, according to a study by the Cato Institute, disability insurance is handed out to many who would not fit the term “disabled” under any reasonable interpretation. Of course, tightening up the medical requirements – as opposed to the actuarial requirements which do insist you pay in to Social Security for a number of years to qualify – would be taken by opponents of entitlement reform and used to paint any reformer as a Dickensian Scrooge. Throwing people in wheelchairs out onto the sidewalk or stealing their walkers from out under their clutching hands.

It’s literally a nerve issue. And one that must be dealt with by stating clearly that disability insurance is a key support program. You have to say that over and over. And then begin to work up and lay out a plan to make sure the fund for SSDI becomes solvent again.

But political action needs to be seen to be done by voters themselves. Serious work that shows how money will be saved and/or better spent. And two congressmen engaged in horseplay in the halls of Congress just gives the impression of same old, same old. Especially when you consider that the “fixes” to Medicare premiums and deductibles – people paying less – will have to be funded. And the easiest way to do that is to add to the deficit. Again. Just a few more tens of billions this quarter. Or maybe a little more. And we swear, we are now in a perfect position to solve the Nation’s Finances. Especially with a free-floating debt limit drifting through the fall air …. somewhere over the Potomac.

Everyone needs an exit strategy. A way to sell out at the top when your idea, or company, is worth as much as you think you can get. Or when you can’t see a floor and you’re not sure when you’ll start bottoming out. Political brands are trickier because almost everyone has a backup strategy, a plan B and C that usually involves the seat/office they’re already holding. So it’s more like a high-stakes game of musical chairs. But sometimes some people decide to leave the music behind, and exit the game itself, rather than switch between those expensive leather armchairs. So while some – those closer to Jeb Bush for the moment at least – suggest that Rubio should resign his senate seat, the numbers are in fact starting to wear Jeb down.

He complained in South Carolina, mentioning he has “cool” stuff he could be doing. There is no doubt that the former governor could be leading a far more pleasant life, one that has little to do directly with the cut and thrust of a campaign. So the big question is, after Jeb and his family and donors closed the doors and gathered in Houston, who are they going to come out swinging at?

There seems to be two clear targets: Trump and Rubio. And talented commentators are laying out the reasons for both. Those saying he should target his former protégé define the issue as one of who’s the best Anti-Trump? If Rubio is doing a better job at presenting the type of Republican perspective that Jeb’s donors signed up for – Hispanic- friendly and tax-cutting – then will those big money donors keep backing Bush? It seems that Rubio was targeted by some of Jeb’s team at the Houston get-together to try and bump Rubio from Jeb’s “lane.” That seems to have produced some grumbling by some of them, but the fact is that those donors do have to choose between Bush and Rubio. And maybe Fiorina.

But is Trump a more immediate threat? Should Jeb’s team instead use the vaults of cash sitting there to go negative in a big way on the Beast from Manhattan? Or is there a fear that Trump would love that kind of a slugfest – a real mano-a-mano with Jeb? And turn it quickly into a mud-wrestling mania buzzfest? Trump would likely win that street fight. Attacks on him have bounced back to hurt just about every candidate who’s tried it. Should they do it anyway and keep doing it? And hope it finally works? They have the money to.

But do the donors – the establishment – really want that at this point? Some surely do and would do just about anything legal and non-hit man like to neutralize The Donald. But perhaps, the big money is looking at Rubio and thinking they need to switch horses. And Jeb’s team knows it.

Ben Carson is such a good man, with a beautiful mind, but boy does he have to learn about politics in 2015. How a campaign works. How you add subscribers to your cause. How you fundraise online in a world dominated by Social Media like Facebook. He’s just not ready to confront the realities of politics here and now. Is he?

So. Maybe he is. Ben Carson and his team are building a base across Social Media – Facebook in fact – and raise funds and slowly engage their growing base – a thousand or so subscribers at a time. Not fair. Not fair at all. We thought Carson was sort of the Rick Santorum of the nomination race, without the political experience Santorum has. Turns out Ben is more the Steve Jobs – ok that’s a bit much it’s true – of the GOP field. Or the Zuckerberg maybe, although that doesn’t have quite the same soaring tone to it.

Perhaps even more than Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson is redefining what a political campaign to be the Republican Nominee for President means. He doesn’t stare into the camera with affected laser-beam focus. He bends his gaze inward and smiles quietly as a firmly lays out his moral or policy stance and explains why and how he has come to it. And his followers respond to his authenticity with it’s faith and it’s lack of political experience – a quickly diminishing lack of political experience – as he shows that his team is perhaps in charge of the most sustainable strategy among all the GOP candidates. Even Trump himself.

Iowa is still a few months away and things change, but Ben Carson’s rise has been as impressive and unpredicted as Donald Trump’s – or Carly Fiorina’s to a somewhat lesser extent. Is Facebook Carson’s secret weapon? Or is it one more tool in an increasingly functional and impressive toolbox? So who’s building the best foundation? Could that be the doctor with the hammer and the focused crew? Even with that billionaire developer and his showy towers over there in Gotham City? It just could be that Ben´s neighborhood home is the one a majority of GOP voters show up to in the end.

He would have had to be from – or more accurately have his church in – Kazakhstan, wouldn’t he? The archbishop Tomash Peta of that landlocked former Soviet Republic, a nation notorious for being the butt of a feature film length joke by ambush-man Sacha Baron Cohen, has not been humble about expressing his disagreement with Pope Francis over the Holy Father’s vision for the Catholic Church. Apparently he described some of the policy changes in the current Synod – on divorce, communion and homosexuality – as having the scent of infernal smoke.

In fact, what the Polish-born prelate initially said was a direct quote from Pope Paul VI spoken in 1972 when the current archbishop of Kazakhstan was a 21-year old four years short of his ordainment. What the then Holy Father said was, “From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God.” He was of course referring to those taken with the spirit of Vatican II who were eager to rush into existence a brave new world, with a brave new Church. Father Bergoglio himself was presumably in or on his way to Spain at that time, in the final stages of his spiritual training as a Jesuit. And he will understand perfectly the intent and context of the archbishop’s accusations.

Archbishop Peta was careful, if one can use the word, to balance his damnation of his more liberal brethren with a phrase that suggests they have misunderstood the Holy Father’s call for dialogue as a call to action. But he listed his concerns most explicitly and it seems he has helped drive a nail in the coffin of hopes for a more liberal doctrine on divorce and communion and on the acceptance of gays in the Church of Rome.

The Gospel of the marriage and of the family and nothing shall cleave the rock that the church was founded on. At least if Peta and a presumably large contingent of conservative prelates assure that this Synod does nothing too disruptive and dissolves into endless talk and no real meaningful action. Whether Peta has the high moral ground can be debated among Catholics endlessly. He does seem to have the better tactical ground, for now at least. And although he arrived in Kazakhstan several years after the iron curtain came down, as a priest from Poland, the archbishop will know fully the freedom of conscience that is so precious and that Pope Francis praised in Philadelphia. What exactly that conscience entails in 2015, is as they say, a matter of debate.

Will Paul Ryan be the next house speaker? Does he really want the job? Apparently the Ways and Means Chairman is being besieged with requests by “heavyweights” to apply for the role of Speaker of the House. We will assume that these heavyweights are Republicans, but Ryan has garnered admiration from the other side of the aisle in his current job. Will that be a problem for conservative members like the Freedom caucus?

Ryan likes to run so-called education sessions to whittle down the resistance of members to bills like the Trade Promotion Authority, which gives a big win (politically) to Obama’s White House. Will that detailed-oriented focused work be successful should he accept, and win, the Speaker’s job? praised Ryan for moving from “broad strokes budget manifestos to concentrating on doable, discrete policy tweaks.” That means giving Dems tiny victories in order to pursue those broad goals. That means compromising, sometimes on visible hot-button issues that may prove tough to line up support for.

And that brings up immigration and Ryan’s tireless lobbying for the Gang of Eight’s immigration-reform bill. Ryan needs to be really sure he wants the Speaker’s job because he will have a bit of a battle on his hands to get the votes necessary. And more of one to just do his job. Will the Freedom Caucus give him a list of 10 demands? And if they do, will he tell them that he will consider their demands and then remind them that they are a minority in the House; as a lobbyist close to Ryan suggested?

There is no speaker that the House can unite around quickly and unconditionally. If the party heavyweights are seeking that one magic person that qualifies, that seems an unrealistic goal in the fall of 2015. Any speaker will have to deal with divisions in the House GOP that reflect divisions in the party itself. The only thing that matters is how the eventual job-holder deals with those divisions. Discrete doable policy tweaks seem to work well in Ways and Means. There is little that is discrete and not all that much that is doable – at least lately – when you’re Speaker. Can Paul Ryan change that?

Those Big-Money Republican candidates. Just look at them. Jeb Bush, why he raked in 13.4 million dollars in the third quarter, according to recently released numbers. And he had a little over 10 million in the bank. He is rolling in the dough. In fact, he raised 50% of what Hillary raised in the same period. 50%! How about that?

Is it a surprise that Hillary conveyer-belted in (raked just won’t do it) about 28 million dollars during the third quarter? And that she apparently has $32 million on hand? With Wall Street and Hollywood in tow, anything less would be a let-down. And Bernie Sanders? That salt-of-the-earth socialist ran a rather successful fund-raising campaign. $26 million: just about twice what Jeb raked in. If I was setting up a venture capital fund, whose advice should I seek? Jeb or Bernie?

And then there’s Ben Carson. His numbers were just over $20 million, almost in the ball park with the Clinton-Sanders big-money crowd. But there is a difference, and Bernie and Ben do share something in common: small donors spread across a wide base. They say that is a good measure of future sustainability of a campaign. It’s not reliant on big accounts that may and often will switch horses in mid-race. If a church warden in Kansas or an environmentalist in Oregon decide that Ben or Bernie is no longer for them, the campaign can plough on.

But the question now becomes: who exactly is supporting – in greater and greater numbers and money – Bernie and Ben? Carson is continually criticized as being a candidate based on evangelicals, which suggests that if you are faith-based in your values, then you must be part of a politically insignificant minority. Labelling Carson’s supporters as Seventh Day Adventist splinter group members one and all, is a bit much. Maybe future polling will start to shine a light on all those people – in their diversity – who support Ben Carson, for example.

And whether it’s only young ecologists and union members who love Bernie remains to be seen as well. Certainly Sanders and Carson do rely on active bases that have a lot to do with themes like: faith, youth, unions, and environmentalism. But their undeniable sustainability is revealing something far greater.

Hillary was far more polished during the debate, of that there can be no question. Bernie Sanders kept sticking his finger in his ear – one hopes that was to adjust his ear plug – and occasionally pausing and stumbling on words. But his passion was clear and he was unapologetic about who he is: a classic old school left-winger who really does believe in socialism a la Scandinavia. He clearly has little to do with the identity politics and big money donors/Wall Street coalition that is so 2016 and is what Hillary is relying on. He did not rave about gun control but he did rave about the financial system in America and how he feels the very system itself is perverse.

He had a vocal minority of the crowd cheering him on, although he did garner wider applause in response to some of this comments. So did Hillary clean up and leave the Sander’s miracle in the dust? Maybe we should not rush right to that conclusion quite yet. In the hours after the debate guess who garnered far more followers on Twitter than the rest of the Democratic candidates? The feisty independent from Vermont, of course. In fact, he added more followers than the rest of the field combined, and almost 3 times the amount that Hillary added to her Twitter following.

What does this mean? As Sanders seemed to suggest in some of his attacks on Republicans, he’s gunning for the youth vote, to use a turn of phrase that Bernie would perhaps not mind at all. As it happens, the biggest age demographic on Twitter are 18 to 29 year olds, at 37% with 30 to 49 year olds at 25%. 50 and up are a small slice of the Twitter demographic. So, yes, all those added followers are much more likely to be younger.

Will they vote? Will they get Bernie nominated? How much does Twitter matter in a campaign? Those questions will be answered as the campaign rolls on, but it’s interesting to look beyond the polished beltway crowd’s assessment of who won the debate, and wonder if the older guy really is getting his feisty and radical message across to the young. Bernie just might be doing that. Polls will tell that story in a few days. Remember whose numbers soared after her twitter following surged first, right after the debate? Yes, that would have been Carly Fiorina.

Do you check your principles at the door with No Labels? The political group that gathers Democrats, a few Republicans, and Independents, (many, but not all, from a Democratic background), had a get-together in New Hampshire. The speakers included: Trump, Sanders, Kasich, O’Malley, as well as a Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Christ Christie, and Jim Webb. It was all about Problem Solvers with a capital P and a captial S. And the idea makes sense: dysfuntional gridlock in Congress means problems do not get solved.

But is it just House and Senate bickering? Or are the partisan divisions on the hill the reflection of deep divisions across the country on how to solve problems? Or even what is a problem? Can Congress get back to compromise on legislation when significant sectors (if not majorities) of voters deeply disagree vigorously on the solutions themselves?

In other words, what is not checking your principles at the door and what is unecessary bickering in Congress? And who decides that? The Tea Party exists in part because of anger at the consensus solutions provided by Washington. So given that No Labels says they do not expect you to check your principles at the door, they also state that a new silent majority is sick of ideologues on the left and the right. In other words, if you are a conservative, check your principles at the door please. It is less clear if the same thing applies to left-wing advocates like Bernie Sanders who, of course, was a speaker at the Problem Solver confab in New Hampshire.

At the Democrat debates, will the spirit of No Labels cleanse the agenda of attacks on the GOP and on conservatives? Or will Hillary come out swinging at her opponents? With an issue like charter schools, for example, that now pits black parents, who love the idea of giving their kids a good start in a competitive world, against teacher’s unions who are unwilling or vocally opposed to the changes that charter schools imply, be seen as a problem to be solved? And not a place to stake a flag for unions? How will Hillary – who depends on identity politics – solve that one? And how will Bernie Sanders – who has never met a union he doesn’t like – deal with charter schools? And will the question even get asked at the debate? No Labels, please take note(s).

Hillary Clinton is not the Queen of Arkansas, and the Springsteen song – Mary Queen of Arkansas – is a lesser-known, rough little gem from his first album. As Hillary fights for her political life against a surging Bernie Sanders, she’s been forced to “tack left”, in the words of Michael Barone, to try and win back the momentum in the Democrat primary. That means espousing a very liberal view on immigration that goes beyond even Obama’s path to legal status and invokes citizenship for dreamers and perhaps their parents. And to achieve that she’s promising to make Obama’s White House look passive as regards to executive action.

She’s now talking about sticking “more resources, more personnel into the system” in order to “help as many people as possible get different status.” In the U.K. they have subjects of all sorts of status. Each has a different set of rules applying to their particular case under the legal meaning of that word and the ghosts of an empire that spanned the globe. And of course a subject being a subject of the monarchy. One is tempted to start calling dreamers subjects: beneficiaries of the blessings dispensed by royal assent – I beg your pardon; executive action – enabling them to attain their dreams of citizenship without law. That is, without following the laws passed by Congress.

Bruce, in his song, laments to Mary – a Carny of ambiguous gender with a traveling circus – that her “blows for freedom are missing.” It’s a bit of futile fun trying to read too much into the slightly psychedelic word play – it was written at the start of the seventies, but it’s hard to imagine a President Hillary swinging hard for less regulations and more transparency and the rule of law when it comes to immigration. So that sets up – should she win the nomination – an interesting battle over immigration. In the first place, she is far more liberal on immigration than even Sanders himself who seems to be talking to a different constituency. One that does not necessarily want the southern – or any – border opened wide.

And assuming she can win the nomination, does that place her electability at even greater risk in November 2016? Will it mean her electoral votes – if that hypothetical becomes a reality – head south? And cross the border where, in Bruce’s haunting little allegory the protagonist can start his life over again, seeing he’s got “contacts deep in Mexico where the servants have been seen.” Identity politics and process solve any possible contradictions between the two by – in the liberal playbook – having process firmly led by Identity. As a subject, it’s all about who you are. Not what laws you failed to follow.

The FDA gets criticized from both sides of the debate on how tightly to monitor and regulate new drugs as they are tested and brought to market. They are attacked for under-regulating and also for over-regulating. The then Institute of Medicine, (now the National Academy of Medicine), in a 2006 report advocated more regulatory powers for the federal agency. This is hardly surprising from an organization that is part of the United States National Academies, along with the National Academies of Science and Engineerings, as well as the National Research Council. Getting a perfect clinical trial – always an impossibility but always a goal – that contains as little bias as possible is a great way to do research. There’s a problem, however, with this approach. People’s lives may be at stake in clinical trials, and the possibilities of aiding the terminally ill are far more important for some people than getting a perfect sample and an airtight clinical trial.

Politically, as Michael D. Green writes in his book Benedictin and Birth Defects, Congress has never gone after the FDA for not approving a new drug when the agency had doubts about its safety. But they do go after them with countless investigations when a new drug is approved and turns out to have unforeseen hazards or negative side-effects. You approve a new drug and you may very well be investigated. You disapprove of a new drug and it’s not even news.

Until now. The risk-averse behavior of the FDA given the tilted political environment in D.C. is now being eclipsed by another flaw in the agency. It is a centralized one-size-fits-all body in Washington that decides the rules for drugs across America. Could it be that in certain cases, local works better? This is not an easy devolve-back-down strategy because cancer is cancer no matter in what city or state it shows up in a patient. But when it comes to terminal patients willing to try risky new and unapproved drugs to try and help improve their desperate situations, don’t they have a right to try them?

Right to Try legislation has now been passed in dozens of states of all types of political colors. This is a bipartisan issue and one that points to a reformed and flexible FDA in the future. There is another problem however. Litigation. And that is one that Congress – perhaps any Congress – has been and remains unwilling to solve.

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