From CNN to FoxNews. From the New York Times to BBC World. Putin is everywhere. Yeltsin, no stranger to the world press, would have killed for this sort of publicity. And Gorbachev was on the front pages – if not the web pages; it was the late 80’s and early 90’s after all – usually for all the wrong reasons, from Putin’s perspective at least. Negotiating arms deals and presiding over the collapse of the Soviet Union, for example.

But this sort of thing – expelling spies – used to happen all the time. The differences between now and the Soviet-era spy expulsions seem to be twofold. First, the numbers of spies were usually far less than the football team’s worth of expulsions that Obama’s administration has enacted. And, more importantly, the rules of the game are unknown at this point. We don’t know how this will play out, because one fears that Putin will react in unpredictable ways, because he is not playing quite the same game as the Soviets used to.

And of course, we don’t know how Trump will react to the sanctions imposed by Obama in the final weeks of his presidency. Trump would like the Russian hacking of the elections to quietly fade away, but Obama has clearly been determined not to let that happen. What was an intelligence matter, and primarily a domestic and partisan electoral matter – seeing that the DNC and Hillary’s campaign chief were the main victims of the hacks – is now an international incident. For some the sanctions are too little too late. For others they are too loud and too public.

Jim Woolsey ex CIA, for example, on FoxNews complained that Obama should have retaliated quietly and forcefully – essentially keeping the matter an intelligence matter. He also complained that the United States of America did not send public condolences to Russia after the crash of it’s Tupolev airliner last week carrying the Red Army Choir on a mission to Syria. Which seems a little fussy and formal for 21st century politics. As if Woolsey really would like a return to the Soviet American spy game of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Right now that does not seem possible. This is a new game that Putin is defining, and America’s President-Elect will have to get up to speed very quickly on possible tactical and strategic responses available to the White House. Because a Russian reaction to Obama’s expulsions is coming, likely within a fairly short time frame. And it may not be tit-for-tat. This is just getting started. Putin is ruthless and unapologetic with his tactics, as the last 16 years of his running Russia prove. And this cyber/spy war will run both hot and cold, often at the same time. Time for a regular intel briefing, Mr. President-Elect. You have no choice now.

Of course Trump and Obama have had nice phone calls. Obama is the master needler: gracious in private, but in public his eyes glowing with a subtle malice, as his voice, oh-so-reasonable, explains to his uncomprehending students/media/opponents why they shouldn’t be enraged by his acts. Remember this past summer, when he strolled through the courtyard of the White House with an earnestly confused Bernie Sanders who had just had his rebellion diffused by Obama, and still didn’t quite realize it? The smile on Obama’s face as he tried hard not to smirk?

Trump has to realize this, and surely does. Obama, gracious in private; disruptive, antagonistic and resentful in his public acts, is doing everything he can to hold on to the illusion that the changes he wrought by executive order can somehow be maintained in place by the right bureaucratic fiddling with the rules. You can’t change this. There’s no precedent, and no Supreme Court Challenge. It’ll take you years. Ha ha. Ha ha.

So yes, this transition is getting ugly and it has nothing to do with Trump’s brisk assembling of talented men and women for his cabinet. The contrast in style between the incoming administration and the outgoing one is as striking as the likely contrast with the substance of the incoming administration. Obama rules by fiat but lets others do the dirty work. Like Secretary Kerry who leaves behind a disastrous legacy, one that has Obama’s fingerprints all over it. If not his overt presence in these waning days.

Trump, on the other hand, seeks experience and pragmatism and does not shy away from possible controversy but rather takes a certain pleasure in diving head first into any controversy. And doing battle with it in a very public fashion. And usually winning. At least, so far.

What the President-Elect hopefully realizes is that the obnoxious Democrat resistance – call it an unwillingness to accept that Hillary and Obama’s party lost – will not start on January 20th. It has already started. In the White House in the latter half of November. Obama is leading the Democrat resistance. He just happens to be doing it from the White House. And one suspects he will continue to lead it on January 21st.

We lost a duke in January. Thin, white, and filled with energy and creation right down to his last days in New York City. We now lose a princess in December. Too warm to be truly caustic with her wit, too witty to be truly tragic in her struggles with her demons, and a fame that not even a Hollywood childhood could have prepared her for.

I wish I could say I was a Star Wars fan. I walked out on Star Wars in the summer of 1977, mostly because a few beers consumed prior to the screening presented me and my bladder with a choice: return from the washrooms to the theatre or walk from said washrooms, through the lobby, and outside to the sidewalk. I chose the latter, perhaps the worst choice of my life, unimpressed by the dialogue in the opening minutes.

Had I stayed and learned to love the characters and their action-hero dialogue, and the epic saga that would unfold film after film, I may have awakened my inner nerd. I would have switched from economics to computer science. In fact, a fellow camp counsellor from that very summer of 1977 would later that year, or sometime in 1978, rave about how her computer science professor had changed her life. Apparently showing her something “amazing” that computers could do. This was 1978, no smirking please.

I would have graduated – surely near the bottom of my class – around 1980. With my degree in computer science and several back-to-back viewings of The Empire Strikes Back lodged in my brain, I would have joined the world of software, in an age when a Merkle Tree would have been a well kept secret to all but the initiated. Ok, it still sort of is. And just as the PC was making it’s appearance on the desks of offices and homes across America and the world. A few years of frustrating work would have followed, and then sometime in the mid-80’s, after yet another viewing of Return of the Jedi, someone would have said: you have to go to Seattle. Or Silicon Valley. Where? Never mind.

By the time the prequel trilogy graced the waiting world in May, 1999, I would have had something to salve my despair at selling my stock options in 1996, rather than early 1999.

But no. I walked out of the original Star Wars in the last days of the summer of 77. And laid my inner nerd to rest. There would be no Seattle. Now or ever. But that great saga that George Lucas unleashed on a world that got what he was trying to do with film, right from that opening night in 1977, would arc it’s glorious storyline over decades, and would give the world Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, as well as Mark Hamill and the rest of the talented cast. Even if I still prefer Star Trek, in all its iterations.

It’s hard to say what additional contributions Carrie Fisher still had saved up to give to the rest of us, but they would have been substantial and amusing. But God’s Will has a way of having the last say. It’s been a long year. It’s been quite a year, and I’m showing my age. Happy New Year.

Still stunned by Hillary’s loss of the 2016 election due to evil, archaic constructs like the Electoral College? Still in need of a safe space to spit and rage at all those bigoted fools who don’t agree with your hard-left, progressive vision of America?

Take heart! Thou hast a lifeline to grab hold of and lift ye up in this time of sorrow!

The Resistance is here! Hear ye! Hear ye!

From the downtrodden tenements of Columbia Heights, far from the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial (actually just a few miles away if you want to get picky about it), where resistance fighters gathered in the deepening gloom of late November to craft their rebellious pamphlet – Indivisible – and inspire and instruct fellow SJW’s/Former Congressional Aides/Big money donors, on how to disrupt and provoke any public act anywhere in the USA that might have the slightest tangential relationship to the incoming administration.

To the bowels of the White House itself where noble wonkacrats under Good King Obama in his reign’s final days are enacting as much executive orders as is humanly possible to throw tripwires across Trump’s path.

To the you-can’t-call-that-winter December coastlines of California where upstart rebels like Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, and yes-he’s-still-alive Jerry Brown, link arms with Hollywood and Silicon Valley where oppressed souls rise from their knees to defy the new leader.

The resistance is here. In all it’s super-PAC, hundreds of millions of dollars raised, and wastefully spent, glory. And Ezra Levin is it’s poet laureate. Or Che Guevara? No no. Saul Alinsky. Jonathan Rauch maybe?

There will be no honeymoon for Trump’s administration. The SJW’s, progressives, and wealthy liberals will make sure of that. And they will have much of the media more than willing to help them spin their noble tales of obstruction and harassment.

Poor Donald Trump?

Uh, no. One imagines he will relish the confrontations. The question is: how will he use these coming scream-fests and protests, and legislative roadblocks, that will follow his Presidency’s every footstep? Because it seems unlikely that you can run an administration AND a never-ending campaign all at the same time. No one can do that without taking energy and focus away from the business of running the nation. But Trump is the kind of person who could just be capable of attempting such an endeavour.

That’s a big big risk to take on. And if Matthew Continetti is right, and Trump embodies the return of the street-corner conservative, (a demotic rather than ideological conservative, as he puts it), the President-Elect should be wary of using up too much political capital responding to the endless provocations that the so-called resistance will throw at his feet. Like red meat to a hungry predator. The pragmatic Trump is going to have to keep the Tweeting Trump in balance, and run the country.

Unless, somehow, Trump uses these provocations to build up his political capital with his supporters. And bulldoze his agenda right through the middle of the resistance. He can’t get away with that. Can he?? We’re not all THAT sick of progressives’ rants. Are we??

Thank goodness for German authorities. Having quickly stated that the crazed truck driver and his accomplice(s?) had engaged in an act of terrorism, the dork at BBC World covering the tragedy could safely quote them. Rather than actually state the obvious all by his lonesome, and say that by all accounts this was yet another act of terrorism on European soil.

Even the White House got in on the act. At least National Security Council spokesman Ned Price did, condemning “what appears to have been a terrorist attack on a Christmas Market in Berlin.” Will President Obama use similar language? If he does, it will surely be contained by qualifiers that scrupulously avoid using terms like radical islamic terrorism. Because if the culprits did not train in Syria or Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East – though they may well have – then of course how could it be radical islamic terrorism?

It’s about the psychology of those poor misunderstood lone miscreants. Who, if they only had proper counseling and plenty of safe spaces, wouldn’t do things like slaughter innocent civilians precisely because they are innocent civilians, living in Western Europe. And more importantly, as the intelligence establishment has wisely pointed out, we don’t want to dwell too much on the radical islamic aspects of these attackers, because that would only encourage more of them. Which is a strategy that has obviously worked out well in places like Nice, and Berlin, and Paris. And Orlando.

And in Ankara in a horrifying and surreal scene that almost looked like a crazed parody of the film I Shot Andy Warhol, a young Turkish riot policeman repeatedly shot the Russian Ambassador at a gallery where an exhibition of photography was taking place. He screamed the phrase Allahu akbar, and ranted about Russia’s role in Syria, especially Aleppo, as he was filmed by the many cameras already present, before being taken down by his colleagues in the Turkish police forces.

The scene seemed reminiscent somehow of Sarajevo, in a horrifying way. The Sarajevo of June, 1914 that is. Even as Aleppo is starting to resemble Srebrenica and its massacre of Bosnian men and children in July of 1995. While both Turkish and Russian spokespeople immediately did their best to emphasize the recently improving relations between their nations, the Syrian Civil War has been a proxy war between Russia and Turkey, as much as it has also involved Iran and America. Russia and Turkey intend to proceed with a multilateral meeting on Syria, regardless of the shooting. And Putin knows his history, even if his perspective is a dangerously wounded one that grieves for the lost Soviet Empire, itself founded after the military failures of Czarist Russia’s role in WW I. With ironic echoes of ISIL and Al Qaida’s laments over the loss of the Ottoman Empire. A loss precipitated by, if not entirely caused by, that very shooting in Sarajevo over 100 years ago.

What will Aleppo symbolize in 10 years? In 20 years? In 100 years? For Trump, it means an impossible choice between a well-armed adversary and a fanatical enemy sworn to the death. He would be wise to avoid Obama’s do-next-to-nothing red-lines policy. But any choice Trump makes will have costs. In blood and treasure. And even if there emerge choices which do not mean either cozying up to Putin, or soft-balling ISIL, or appeasing Iran, those are the risks Trump will face when he begins dealing with Aleppo.

They’re stuffing your mailboxes
Your inbox’s filled to the brim
The phone won’t stop ringing
Till they get ya to give in
They’re threatening, begging, and pleading with you
All them Liberals lining up
In a Hollywood vi-de-o
But you ain’t no civil servant
The Party Picked you
So do your darn job
Or your Secretary’ll fire you

Ok. I’m not Bob Dylan. But it’s a valid question: who or what are America’s Electors? And while Martin Sheen and Larry Lessig surely have answers that dovetail nicely with their little fake rebellion inducing spasms (what is Lessig doing in Iceland by the way? Mining Bitcoin??), there is an actual, proven, system is place. And that system is based on each individual state. And each state writes the detailed rules and runs the show. It’s not Washington D.C.’s show. It’s not Hollywood’s show. It’s not Harvard’s (or George Mason’s) show.

It starts with the party machinery in each state and their selection of a slate of electors. And the buck, or the electoral vote, stops with the Secretary of State. In each State. Not in Foggy Bottom or anywhere else in D.C. Of course, the tiny rump of faithless electors and their enablers in academia and the media are now trying to shift the power away from local government and local party machinery to the courts. The initial results of their lawsuits have not been encouraging, thankfully.

Imagine if Hillary had won the election. Now, imagine that the Clinton Foundation has ties to Russia, that result in possible favoritism in a huge mining deal, involving uranium. Oh. Right. Imagine that Chris Suprun and a few others decide not to vote for Hillary (of course you would have to assume that Hillary wins the vote in Texas) due to her family’s dark connections to Russian business interests, and who knows what else? Hmmm. Martin Sheen? Larry Lessig? Where would be thy sting?

The Electoral College is not made of neutral, dispassionate arbiters of the swarming, unwashed masses of voters. It is partisan and run by the political parties. And it is structured in such a way as to deliberately give flyover country a say in who is President of America. And it works. And it will work, once again, on December 19.

Your face is lit by the glow of a laptop screen. The lines of code reflect across your glasses as the camera zooms in even closer, and your pupils narrow to two shining points of light. The tense preoccupation in your face morphs into astonished surprise, and then into hard-edged satisfaction, as you type code furiously, triumphantly thwarting your nemesis. Who is located somewhere on the steppes of Russia.

Uh, no. The Russia hack was more like a comedy of errors. All too human. All too avoidable, as what will surely be an oft-quoted NYT story, reveals. Really dumb stuff done by DNC staff, for example. Not to imply that really dumb stuff wasn’t perhaps done by some of the staff at the RNC. We just don’t have those details as of now. And not to mention all the really dumb stuff most of us do on our devices most every day. We just don’t happen to work at the DNC.

The first dumb thing was not believe that an FBI agent who called the DNC warning them that their servers were likely compromised, was who he claimed to be. And not having a protocol in place to determine credible warnings from hoaxes. Especially ones that get you to click a button and re-type a new password, handing the cryptographic key to your email account to the hackers. Who happened to be Russian. Which is what a phishing email got Podesta, and/or his staff, to do. An aide to Podesta has stated that he meant to type illegitimate rather than legitimate when he forwarded the phishing email to his boss. Right. This all started to happen back in 2015, or perhaps earlier, which gave the hackers months to gather emails and then pass them on to Wikileaks presumably.

To help us understand this story, the NYT also has a helpful photograph of the actual filing cabinet that was broken into in the Watergate burglary, next to a few slick little servers on a table. Like a museum presentation on break-ins in political campaigns. Woodward did in fact say, in late 2015, that the Hillary email server scandal reminded him of Watergate. Though one doubts he meant it in this way. But now we have the latest narrative presented to us by the NYT, suggesting that the Putin is in fact, G. Gordon Liddy. And that would make Trump … Nixon. Not Hillary as Nixon, but rather Trump.

Perfect! Rather than being about Hillary Clinton’s private server and the misrepresentations she made to Congress, we now have Trump somehow connected to the Russian hack. The benefactor must be guilty, right? If only of benefiting. The fact that showing intention is almost impossible does not matter. Or even more importantly, showing that the Russian hack was what actually made voters in Michigan, say, angry at Obamacare and Hillary’s lack of empathy, switch their votes, is truly impossible and clearly wrong, does not matter either. Trump is Nixon is the latest counter-assault by Democrats still in angry denial. In fact, according to Carl Bernstein, Trump is worse than Nixon. Never mind Trump has not yet spent one hour as President of America. He’s worse, because Carl says so.

So never mind cool movie scenes of white hat and black hat hackers engaged in brilliant tactics and counter-strategies. Sloppy security, on the most basic level, led to the DNC hacks. And sloppy – some would say illegal, use of private servers by Hillary, started this whole never-ending saga.

What had been a running subplot throughout the campaign is now front and center. It’s all about Russia. Russia’s relationship with the President-Elect. More specifically Putin’s relationship with Trump. And with Rex Tillerson, Trump’s surprise nominee for Secretary of State. It’s all about the Russian hack and how Trump opponents have now pinned their last desperate hopes on using the hack to convince electors to vote against the President-Elect on December 19.

It’s also about European allies – some a little more neutral in their allegiance to America than others – worrying about Russia’s aggressive moves in Eastern Europe and whether a the low-scale warfare between Russian and the Ukraine will flare up into all out combat. With dangerous consequences for Europe and NATO. Of course, Europe runs on Russian gas, so perhaps they will be somewhat cautious in their questioning of Rex Tillerson as Trump’s choice for State.

In other words, Tillerson’s nomination hearings will almost certainly become a hearing on Russia and it’s relationship to the new administration. Already GOP Senators McCain, Graham, and Rubio have expressed concerns about both the Russian hack and over Tillerson as nominee for State. And 52 – 3 = 49. Democrats are preparing all out warfare on the Russia theme, and will do everything they can to undermine Trump. During the transition, and during the nomination hearings.

Oddly perhaps, this puts the responsibility for managing this emerging conflict back on Putin himself and his regime in Moscow. Will he pull back on the constant low-scale attacks and bombardments in the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine and on Cimea’s northern border? Will he merely pause long enough to provide just enough talking points in Washington to allow Tillerson’s nomination to survive what will be a tough hearing in Congress? But that’s assuming a whole host of objectives that Putin’s regime may or may not have. We honestly don’t know at this point exactly what those objectives are.

And as a backdrop to this, we of course have the intelligence community accusing Moscow of targeting their hacks at Hillary’s campaign in order to get Trump elected. A tough one to prove – how do you prove intention on the part of operatives in, or associated with, the Kremlin? And what information are American intelligence operatives willing to release to prove their point? And not damage Washington’s intelligence infrastructure – especially it’s cyber capabilities?

Because Democrats seem unwilling to accept that they lost the election on key issues, and on Hillary’s flaws as a candidate, they are now willing to sow disunity at a very crucial time in America’s electoral process – the transition. It is clear that many in government – from the CIA to the EPA – are Hillary supporters, and Obama fans. Tillerson’s nomination process may bring much of that latent hostility to the surface. Democrats will certainly do all they can to ensure this is the case. But at some point, they will have to come clean on whether they are defending America against Russia, or their own party against a President-Elect that beat them fair and square.

John Glenn would have likely been quietly resting in his condo in downtown Columbus, OH, when Abdul Arzak Ali Artan drove his Honda Civic into a crowd outside the Department of Materials Science and Engineering building on OSU’s sprawling campus, about 10 days ago. It’s hard to know whether he learned of the attack and what he might have thought, but it is a cruel irony that one of America’s greatest would be resting in well-deserved retirement so near to what was clearly an ISIL-inspired attack.

But don’t tell those students and faculty – including a professor from England who was struck by the vehicle and yet refused to consider it terrorism – at OSU who seem to view Artan as a poor, misguided, misunderstood refugee who had no other option than to express his rage at the lack of safe spaces for Muslims on campus and in America. And don’t tell those Black Lives Matter activists who have labeled the takedown of Artan by a police officer, who happened to be white and was fortunately nearby, as a racist attack.

This is what identity politics gets you when it is faced with islamic radical terrorism. A desperate need to look everywhere and anywhere for a reason – a deterministic structure that is, of course, oppressive in all sorts of micro ways – other than to look the clearly stated intentions of a radicalized lone wolf.

So no, we don’t know what John Glenn thoughts were as he rested in his condominium and perhaps the news reached him or he found out watching his television. Him having suffered a stroke a few years ago, makes it hard to say. But rather, let’s remember John Glenn’s famed “Gold Star Mothers” speech that he gave in the 70’s, in response to criticisms by his Democratic primary opponent, regarding his lack of experience in dealing with a payroll, as they ran for the nomination for Senator. Here’s what John Glenn said:

… look those men with mangled bodies in the eyes and tell them they didn’t hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job.

That moral clarity – backed up by a military and space career that only an actor like Ed Harris could hope to come close to faithfully portraying – is needed as OSU comes to terms with the attack on it’s students and staff and on America itself, perpetrated by Artan on November 28.

Senator Glenn died surrounded by family and friends at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center. He left his name and a legacy of inspiration through the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. America owes much to Senator Glenn. Ohio, perhaps more. OSU, in turn, should remember the values that drove a real hero like John Glenn, as they pay tribute to his astonishing life. And keep those values in mind as they reflect on the attack on November 28. An attack aimed at those very values that John Glenn embraced and lived to the fullest.

Mark Weston has a running grudge against the Electoral College, and is willing to do just about anything to dismantle it. But what he really has grudge against, is the fact that large swaths of America are conservative, not progressive. And what really bothers him, enough to write a book or two on the subject, is that it’s been Democratic presidential candidates who have lost elections in the last 16 years while winning more of the popular vote. He even rails against the constitution itself for having put in place a system that gives representation to the states through the electoral college.

Would he have done the same had Al Gore lost the popular vote but won the electoral college in 2000? Or Hillary in 2016?

So Weston, writing in Time magazine, suggests a new tactic that Democrat voters should use, the next time a GOP candidate takes the electoral college while failing to win the popular vote: a tax rebellion.

Weston suggests setting up an escrow account in a Canadian or British bank (this is not fiction folks – he really wrote this) where angry Democrat voters can send their federal taxes (state and local taxes should continue to be faithfully paid in Weston’s tax war on the GOP). Once true democracy is restored, by that he means using the popular vote to determine the president of America, then all those trillions can be remitted back to the IRS. In fact, merely the threat of doing this would push Congress and the Executive to reform the constitution, in Weston’s view.

Ok. So this is a taunting little pamphlet more than anything else. But he might just mean it, seeing he seems genuinely determined to do what he can to eliminate the electoral college. But this is not a tax rebellion properly speaking. A tax rebellion – like the Whiskey Rebellion in the early 1790’s – is a rebellion against a specific tax or against the tax system in general. Proposition 13 in California in 1978 was an angry pushback against rapidly escalating property taxes, for example.

What Mark Weston is proposing is to use the withholding of federal taxes to force the federal government to alter the constitution in a fundamental way. This is not a tax rebellion, this is blackmailing your way to radical constitutional reform. And if such an extreme idea (maybe he’ll say he was only joking, like the tech exec who threatened to assassinate Trump in a series of tweets) gains traction, it sets a dangerous precedent. Because it is more analogous to the Southern States’ secession in the years and months leading up to the Civil War, than a tax revolt. The tax part is just a way to gain leverage.

This is the man who claims to be speaking on behalf of a “moderate nation”, against the “second-place presidency” that a “hard-right” GOP imposes on America? What will his next idea be when the Great Tax Withholding Plan fails? Actual secession by the Northeast and West Coast? How about: “we lost, fair and square. Now let’s think about where we went wrong.”

Taiwan – in the eyes of the foreign policy and diplomatic community – is a grenade with a pin in it. That pin, in their view, is the One China Policy. Not to be confused with the One China Principle. And don’t confuse the Republic of China – ROC to the in-crowd – with the People’s Republic of China. Or RPC. No prizes for guessing right on which one is Taiwan, and which one is China.

So to keep the pin firmly in place – and to continue selling billions and billions and billions and billions of raw materials to China; Australia, for example, does not recognize the ROC. Yes it gets a little hot in Alice Sprins in January, but all that wide open territory is just asking for prosperous Chinese citizens, tired of spending their billions and trillions of yuan in their overcrowded homeland, to come on down under. In huge numbers. Say like in Vancouver. And Australia – who actually control their borders with a points-based immigration system – want to avoid that. So they make sure they do not, ever, ever, make the communist leadership of the PRC mad.

America, one hopes, has a little more leverage to play with, and are not quite as ostrich-like in dealing with the communist giant of East Asia. But the One China Policy has been the sacred status quo in diplomatic circles for close to 40 years now. And while military support does flow to Taiwan – that would be the ROC – as a rule the One China policy and One China principle are firmly held to.

Until a brief phone call between Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, and President-Elect Trump. Suddenly, with all the discretion of a provocative tweet, Trump has put the One China Policy under a shade of doubt. How dare he? Reunification is a given! And by reunification we mean, Beijing taking over control of Taiwan. The debate in the foreign policy and diplomatic communities is merely how to get there. Not whether China should ever get to Taipei.

China and Taiwan have endured a relationship surprisingly similar to North and South Korea. Each claims to be the sole ruler of China – although lately Taiwan has mostly ceded that claim and merely claimed the right to be the ruler of itself. The division is a reflection of the post-revolution status in 1949 in China, where Chiang Kai-shek’s defeated forces and supporters retreated to Taiwan. In large numbers, overwhelming the native Taiwanese.

In other words, there are divisions within Taiwan as well. And these divisions are what are bringing some of the recent tensions to the surface, as a growing independence movement in Taiwan is calling to break all links with China. But all this history and balkanization of local Taiwanese politics and how it affects relations across the Strait of Formosa ignores a simple fact: Taiwan is a democracy. China is a communist dictatorship. Trump reminded the world of that. Diplomats may raise their eyebrows in horror. But Trump merely stated the obvious. Whether this is the opening move in a shift in American strategy – and it seems that more than a little planning did go into that phone call – remains to be seen.

George Will makes a good point in a National Review article on infrastructure spending. The money needs to be spent precisely in those areas where the regional economy is doing well. You get far more multiplier effects – hard not to sound Keynesian when talking infrastructure spending – when you upgrade bridges, ports, airports, and roads precisely in those areas where they are straining to keep up with the traffic. Boom town areas. Not areas where there is little economic activity. Where tax and regulatory reform might be better at attracting investment and jobs.

Will also makes this point: aside from being intelligent about where to spend the money – always hard to do when each member of Congress wants as much spending as possible in their district, regardless of whether the local economy really needs it – that the regulatory process in 21st century America is an overwhelming burden. You’d think with improvements in construction technology that it would be far quicker to build things in today’s world than 70 or 80 years ago. Forget about it. The regulatory process is endless and an army of stakeholders is waiting to derail, or delay, or detour, any major project that comes under consideration and reaches the active planning stage.

In other words, what Washington needs is to drain the stakeholder swamp, and then you can build that dam a heck of a lot quicker. Just in case it does rain in the future and the swamp fills up again. This will take someone with both a tough disposition and an ability to work with Congress. Elaine Chao – you have, not a battle on your hands, but rather a multi-year war, with just about every entrenched interest in America lining up to stop you or to change your course. Yes, a little pillow talk with your husband, who happens to be the Senate Majority Leader, will help – and surely has helped in years past and years present – but you will be in the spotlight like never before.

She just might be up for the challenge, but it may be best to keep expectations cautiously optimistic at best. If Elaine Chao can reform the approval process for large projects – in as much as a Cabinet Secretary can influence local rules, aside from whatever changes she can push for at the federal level – that would be a major step forward. Because until the burden of a crushing regulatory process is lifted, no project will ever truly be shovel-ready in America.