Ok, this is not good and is very troubling in fact. Byron York writing in the Washington Examiner a day or two ago, points out that the Russia Investigation is now a far more dangerous thing for President Trump. Never mind the surprisingly Reagan-like budget the White House has released. Never mind Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia or his visits to Jerusalem and the Vatican. Never mind that Obamacare repeal is sloshing along in some form or other – at least theoretically – in committee rooms somewhere on the Hill. Never mind all that.

President Trump may now possibly be targeted only for obstruction of justice, without there being any underlying collusion or crime, in other words. Special counsel Bob Mueller apparently has been delegated powers by Deputy AG Rosenstein under 28 CFR 600 4(a) which give Special Counsel Mueller to investigate “crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the special counsel’s investigation.” CFR being the Code of Federal Regulations and specifically the part of that code that deals with special counsels. And yes, that would include obstruction of justice and witness intimidation.

Never mind that President Trump may have been merely trying to jawbone himself a little slack. Never mind that the intent may not have been as clear as many are implying. Never mind that it was surely clumsy – to be charitable – of him to do so. Never mind that many of his advisers would have likely advised against that.

Never mind, because if Mueller decides to get medieval on the Russia Investigation’s posterior, then he will do just like Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald did, and look for process crimes, if you will. And jail – or recommend impeachment perhaps in the president’s case – anyone who is judged to have committed them.

Isn’t it fitting? In a world where process is king, and relativism the reigning ideology (read Morrisey’s Facebook post about “violent extremists”); and relativism is one long apology for any terrorist act, especially from islamic terrorists, how could process errors not end up being a capital crime?

You didn’t file your IRA contributions on Form 5498?! You hear the sound of your front door being bashed in? That’s us! The IRS! Yes, we carry guns!

You didn’t provide a safe space you old white male academic for a transgendered, modern dance student? You will be hounded off campus and physically assaulted!

You suggest slowing down the rate of growth of entitlements in your budget plan Mr. President? Murderer!

So yes, it is fitting that an administrative state would find any hint of possible obstruction of justice to be the perfect excuse to lay the groundwork for charges against the president himself. And thus attempt to lay the groundwork for any attempts at impeachment.

And if Special Counsel Mueller doesn’t do precisely that, then he in turn will be attacked mercilessly by the administrative state and it’s allies in the media. Just watch.

So yes, the president is doing the right thing and lawyering up. Because it no longer matters if there ever was any collusion between any members of his campaign team and the Russians. Why? Process is our king and country.

What shall we call them? The Gianforte Tapes? Does that sound just a little Nixonian? For all you public-hearted Democrats like Connecticut’s Jim Himes. Democratic Representative of the people of the good state of Connecticut. Who has helpfully de-escalated a handbags incident in Bozeman between Gianforte and Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs. By saying that all mean-hearted Republicans should have a moment of clarity over the incident. And just hand over, oh say, 25 or 30 seats in the House of Representatives to his party. Right now, in a mass special election. Why wait 18 months for the mid-terms?

Ok. So we have an audio. What will become a notorious audio. A skit on SNL, possibly this weekend? A symbol of a deeply divided nation. Which is the fault of the president of course. And a great excuse to paint the Montana special election as a turning point in Democrats’ fortunes at the congressional, state, and local level.

But what exactly happened in Bozeman?

Did Ben Jacobs walk in on an ongoing interview (with Fox News perhaps? A Fox crew was apparently in the room when the incident occurred)? Was it in fact a scuffle over a phone stuck in Gianforte’s face while the candidate was in the middle of giving or wrapping up another interview? A little guerilla journalism on the part of The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs? Or put another way, a little bit of rudeness and aggression on Jacob’s part?

I suppose we’ll find out, now that Gianfonte has been given a citation for a misdemeanor assault. The world – or at least a whole platoon of Ben Jacobs-like journalists will descend on Bozeman to cover this incident.

So. If you’re a conservative/libertarian speaker who is physically assaulted on campus, the media focuses on the perspective and excuses of the antifa or other radicals who did or provided the environment in which the assault occurred. If you’re a tired and fed up candidate who (wrongly) loses his temper over aggressive tactics by a journalist you deserve jail or a fine, or at least to lose the election. Or even better, to have your special election results – should for example Gianforte still win the election – nullified.

That really will be the question. If Gianforte wins, should his election be nullified? The fact that the question is even being asked about what was a little pushing, grabbing and shoving (called “horrifying” by the DailyKos – give me a break) is merely another escalation in the culture wars that have defined speech in America for nearly a generation now.

Have you heard of Automated Indicator Sharing capability? No? Well, rumors are that the Trump administration is hoping you get to find out a little more about this intel-sharing program run through the Department of Homeland Security. It apparently involves intelligence sharing between several intel actors in the international community. Does it include Russia? That seems to be the question that President Trump would like asked of DHS. Perhaps as a pushback against the leaks that portrayed (rather accurately) the president as unwittingly sharing at least some classified information with top Russian officials.

The way it works is companies provide information on hackers and potential vulnerabilities to DHS who then use the data to run super-duper-real-secret algorithms that analyze the data (which includes IP addresses) and thus create threat profiles that can be acted on before any planned hacks occur.

As a former official (gee what previous administration might have he or she worked for? Bush 43?) stated:

…there’s certain information out there that’s beneficial for everyone to have, like, ‘Hey, this Windows program has a bug.’ When we share cybersecurity information with the Russians, we’re protecting their systems, making sure that no one hijacks their planes and missiles.

Ah. So in that case it’s cool to share, as long as you follow standard protocol. And yes, there is a logic there. You have to compartmentalize information and just give what you need to give. And no more. Fair enough.

But guess what? There is a bug in a certain Windows program that’s been around for awhile. And boy did that little bug have consequences as the world has seen in the last few days. And who first found how to exploit that bug for their own intel gathering purposes? Who else but the NSA!

Welcome to the worm-ridden world of SMB V.1, apparently a rather old bit of Microsoft code that lets users share files and other stuff. And which if you’re not still using Windows XP and have actually allowed Microsoft to update your operating system, is probably not on your laptop or other devices. But many people still love their XP and don’t like downloading every update from Microsoft. So we have a problem.

What problem you say? Well, back around 2013 the NSA found out how vulnerable this bit of code – our SMB V.1 – could be and hijacked it to use to get inside the SWIFT banking system for transferring funds between banks. With a focus on the Middle East. Follow the money as they say. Unfortunately, the Shadow Brokers cyber criminal group released this flaw and other related tools in their notorious data dump a few months ago.

And now we have the logical consequence of this meshing of private hackers and public spy agencies: WannaCry, the ransomeware that shut down Hospitals and Banks and Trains and PC’s on a couple of continents. And that seeks out and exploits that old bit of Microsoft code: SMB V.1; in order to search for and seal with an encrypting key any documents and other valuable files that your infected computer might contain. You get your files back if you deposit BitCoin at an address, with a conveniently located button on the screen that shows up on your infected machine. And it’s not impossible that WannaCry is being run by Russian hackers.

So just one question for the DHS’ Automated Indicator Sharing capability folks. Did you get the IP addresses of the Shadow Brokers or whoever hacked the NSA and dumped all those vital software tools into the public domain? Or of the cyber thugs who launched the ransomeware? And will you help out the public in general with some useful intel? Or is WannaCry just an unfortunate bit of collateral damage in the current landscape of cybersecurity warfare? And the DHS and NSA and whoever else will not be revealing anything that a good Russian hacker can’t steal.

We’re back at the 25th amendment it seems. Thanks to the NYT’s Ross Douthat, who has followed up on fellow, so-called conservative David Brook’s assessment of President Trump as a child, with the only possible solution according to Douthat: remove President Trump from office by using the 25th amendment.

The presidency has become too imperial to be run by someone with the president’s character, according to Douthat. And he has plenty of proof he insists, from those who work in or near the White House. Interesting. Douthat receives a phone call or two, or calls someone in said position and hears them complain about their boss. Something that surely has been happening lately with increasing frequency. From that Douthat assembles a psychological profile, or polishes up Brooks and others caricatures of the president and uses it … as justification for an unprecedented use of a fairly recent amendment. All to remove the duly elected president. Has Douthat had a vacation from New York lately?

In other words, intellectuals despise Trump’s characters, so off with the imperial president’s head. And Douthat is not alone, unfortunately, in this. The hounds from both sides of the aisle are already howling for blood, their appetites wetted by an increasing stream of leaks from the intel community. All that differs are the methods.

An inquiry and then impeachment. Or …

A special prosecutor and then impeachment. Or …

A select committee that lasts until just before the midterms. Then Democrats retake the Senate and then impeachment. Or …

Straight to the 25th after first trying to convince Trump’s own cabinet including the Vice President to declare their boss unfit to govern the country. Which is what the 25th amendment requires. Why unfit? Because maybe, perhaps, he unwittingly and clumsily gave out a few clues to the Russians. Yes, that was not a good move, but the 25th?

Ben Domenech in his newsletter responds to Ross Douthat with a sternly ironic rebuke regarding frothing anti-Trump hysteria in the media. If such an attempt was made, Domenech points out, it would in fact truly be a virtual, political assassination. And one of the very man that heartland voters sick of coastal elites elected to the White House. Done by the elites to keep their grip on power. Why? Because Trump has such questionable character, as “everyone” from Park Slope to Beverly Hills knows. Not including points in between.

As an antidote to this raving, rolling madness (with ex-Director Mueller now appointed as special “counsel” by DOJ’s deputy AG Rod Rosenstein) is a fascinating piece by Joel Kotkin and Michael Lind in New Geography about America’s heartland, or flyover country, or where “those” people live if you’re Ross Douthat. It provides compelling evidence that jobs and yes people are migrating back east or out west towards the Mississippi, if you will. To where companies – many of them manufacturing or industrial as well as the many companies that service or supply the supposedly vanishing manufacturing sector – are providing new jobs. Where taxes are lower and where homes are cheaper. And where it’s a good place to raise your kids.

Could it be that as elites on the coasts are trying to find any non-violent way of removing a president the heartland elected, places like New York and California are losing people and jobs to that very heartland? Is this the final scattered cannon shots from a crumbling Bastille run by a self-important and decadent aristocracy who have no idea that their power may be far less going forward than they could ever imagine? Or at least, that the vanishing and rusting interior of America is actually starting to thrive once again?

It’s hard to predict how President Trump will deal with this growing attempt to oust him. But he should take heart from the vigor and growth displayed by those parts of America that elected him.

What’s in a Name?

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Naming. The final frontier.

Either Marketing has identified a brilliant long-range strategic opening that will revolutionize everything or Sales has won their argument and we’ll be producing a “me-too” fast-tracked defensive response product to counter our biggest competitor’s latest gizmo.

Either way, Industrial Design comes up with some pretty concepts of what it might look like, Engineering designs the actual thing so it will perform the way it needs to, and finally, Mechanical Engineering makes sure it all fits together and the factory can actually manufacture it.

Marketing decides how much it will sell for (based on the material and labor cost and market conditions), Sales gives their forecasts (it would have been more but Marketing priced it a little too high), and Purchasing places the order with the overseas factory, telling them to put a ‘rush’ on it (as if that will really make a difference, as if every single customer they have doesn’t tell them to ‘rush’ everything).

But….somewhere along the way, this gadget has to have a definite, hard-and-fast, unchangeable name. It’s got to be called something. Lots of things need to be molded or printed or created digitally: logo badges, names on the product’s chassis, boxes, user manuals (ok, no one reads them, but still), price lists, web pages, ads….lots of stuff.

A name. We need a name.

How do you name something? How important is the name? Does the name really affect the sales and market acceptance of a product one way or the other? Naming is a difficult thing. People have wildly differing views on the topic, based on their own experiences and their perception of their own expertise.

Product naming falls into a few major categories, so we’ll look at each one. Bear in mind that everyone is a bloody expert on the subject, with ironclad, unimpeachable reasons, examples and logic as to why their thoughts and opinions are beyond any second-guessing whatsoever. Really. There are lots of very smart, insightful people involved in this, and none of them can possibly be wrong. It’s very important to understand that from the get-go. There’s only one certainty: Everyone thinks their own ideas about product naming are correct. Just roll with it.

Here are the naming categories:

Alpha/Numeric

(Audi) A4

(Atlantic) IWTS-30 LCR

(Sony) XBR-49X900E

(Acoustic Research) AR-3

(Honda) CR-V

This is the model number approach. The simple method is to use easily-remembered, short model numbers that can take on an identity of their own. Audi’s A4 is a perfect example. Acoustic Research, the famous stereo speaker company from the 1960’s-70’s, used their own company initials (“AR”) and a short model number.

Audi and AR illustrate two different ways a company can go about creating model numbers: Either in ascending/descending order of price/performance (the Audi A3, A4, A5, A6 etc. go up in price/performance as the model number increases) or in time/sequential order: the AR-1 came out first, followed by the AR-2, AR-3, AR-4, etc. This was not a price or performance order: the AR-4 was the least expensive of them all, followed by the AR-2. If a product is truly excellent and garners great critical acclaim from reviewers and strong word-of-mouth from consumers, then the model numbers take on a life of their own, without even having to mention the company name. If a car aficionado asks what you’re driving and you say, “An A4,” they’ll know what you’re talking about. Ditto the Honda (although this is neither sequential or price ascending): Say, “I have a CR-V and I love it,” and people know exactly what you’re talking about. No mention of “Honda” is necessary.

Then, given the brilliant insight and unquestionable logic and expertise of certain senior business executives one has been privileged enough to work with over lo, these many years, you learn that there are certain so-called “heroic” model numbers that must be reserved for very special products and circumstances: 1, One, 10, 20, 50, 100, 1000. Don’t waste those on ordinary products. At the same token, don’t miss the opportunity to bestow upon your ground-breaking, paradigm-shattering invention the heroic model number it so richly deserves. Who knew?

There’s another category of alpha/numeric model numbers. These are created when the company doesn’t expect the model number itself to be a consumer-facing bit of information. Usually, it’s just a series of numbers and letters that make sense mostly to order-placers and inventory-takers. In these cases, the company’s general category description carries the weight for the consumer, not the actual model number. The Sony XBR-49X900E is a perfect example. It’s a Sony (well-recognized as being a good TV), it’s in the XBR family (Sony’s ‘better’ TVs), but that long number is not intended for the end user. It’s not a marketing device.

In this alpha/numeric model number category, there are often instances where the model number itself is somewhat descriptive of the product. Panasonic, for example, had a series of color televisions some years ago that were very precisely described by their model numbers:

CT-25R stood for Color Television 25-inch, Remote control. The CT-19R and the CT-19 were the 19-inch models and one of them had remote control. Guess which one….

Another major category is the Proper Name category. In this naming convention, the product is given an actual name. Not “John,” but a proper name nonetheless. Like these:

Proper Name

(Honda car) Accord

(Toyota car) Camry

(ION speaker) Block Rocker

(Diamondback mountain bike) Cobra

(Boston Acoustics radio) Receptor

 

Cars seem to go back and forth between Proper Names and Alpha/Numeric model numbers:

Buick LaCrosse

Cadillac Eldorado

Cadillac CT6

Toyota Corolla

Toyota RAV4

Chrysler Pacifica

Chrysler 300C

Mazda Millenia

Mazda CX-9

Honda Civic

Honda CR-H

BMW 330i

Mercedes-Benz C300

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Then there is a naming category that combines a Proper Name with an alpha/numeric number. In these cases, the Proper Name is usually the name for a category of products, and that is the name by which the product is best known.

Excellent examples of this are the iPhone and the Galaxy. The model number denotes the variant, the size, how much memory it may have, screen dimension, etc.

Combination Proper Name-Alpha/Numeric

(Samsung) Galaxy S8+

(Apple) iPhone 7S

MacBook Pro 13-inch

MacBook Pro 15-inch

“I have a Galaxy. I used to have an iPhone but I think the camera’s better on the new Galaxies.”

“Which one? The one with the exploding battery? Ha!”

“No, the new one, with the big screen. What is that—the 8?”

See how that conversation works? They never mention ‘Samsung’ or ‘Apple’ because “Galaxy” and “iPhone” carry the weight of identifying what they’re talking about. The Samsung owner didn’t say “8+,” they just said “8” with ‘the big screen.’ That’s enough.

So those are the general categories that product names fall into. Does the name really make a difference to the success or failure of a product?

No.

Sorry, but the bottom line is no, it doesn’t really matter, howls of violent protest to the contrary notwithstanding.

Here’s a story for you old-timers, you close observers of political history. This is a political truism, but it applies perfectly to product marketing also.

Back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for President, he hired two incredibly insightful people as political strategists and operatives: James Carville and Paul Begala.

Smart cookies, they were. They set up a nerve center that became known as the War Room. Here, Carville and Begala would sift through all the news reports, press releases, headline stories, reports from their field personnel, etc. every day, and then they’d respond immediately to anything that was negative. Clinton’s team would answer even the slightest negative story with full force and quash it before it could get a head of steam.

They were a brilliant, aggressive, proactive political team. They had their eyes and ears open, their finger on the pulse. They knew what was really important to voters and what was just so much noise, to be ignored and swept aside. They identified what the hottest issues were and they had Clinton speak to those issues and not waste time with minor distractions.

Carville came up with one of the most memorable lines in the history of political campaigning:

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

That’s what the voters were most interested in. Did they have a job? If they had one, did they feel secure and did they have a good feeling about their future prospects? Would the economy stay strong and expand? Would their kids get jobs? That was the big issue leading up to the November 1992 election.

Remember, we’d just defeated Saddam Hussein in February 1991 in Desert Storm, the first Gulf War. The U.S. military had performed magnificently and came home in well-deserved glory, to great adulation. But by the summer of 1992—with the country just pulling out of a mild economic recession—the Gulf War 18 months earlier might as well have been 18 years earlier, for all the difference it made in the 1992 Presidential Election.

Carville and Begala recognized this: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Key in on the economy. Speak about that, first, last and in between.

Good lesson. No, great lesson. For people in product marketing, it translates to this:

“It’s the product, stupid.”

The product. That’s what matters. Eventually, everything else will fall by the wayside if the product itself isn’t right: The price, the name, the color, where it’s available, everything—sooner or later—becomes meaningless if the product itself doesn’t do its job.

Let’s look at the Honda Accord and Honda Civic. Fine cars, well-built, competitively priced, great resale value, good fuel economy, peppy, roomy, reliable, nice handling, pretty good-looking. Perennial best sellers, deservedly so.

Would there be any difference whatsoever in their sales performance if the names were switched and the smaller car was the Accord and the larger car was the Civic? Nope, no difference. Know why? It’s the product, stupid. These are great products. They do exactly what great automotive products are supposed to do. They have a great reputation because they’ve earned it.

(By the way, a “product” doesn’t have to be a physical thing: It can be an insurance policy, a vacation package, an investment mutual fund, anything. Those are all products.)

There are some common-sense guidelines for product naming.

  • Make sure the name doesn’t have a double slang meaning that renders it a laughing stock or have some cultural/religious connotation that might be inappropriate to a meaningful portion of your market (like a model 666).
  • If it’s going to sold internationally, make sure the name doesn’t translate or read as something nonsensical or offensive in another language.
  • Make sure it’s not a resurrection of a famous failed product from the past. I doubt Ford will ever come out with another “Edsel,” but they could come out with a new “Thunderbird.”
  • If it’s alpha/numeric and you want people to remember it, keep it short and, well, memorable. BMW’s 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series do that well.

Get over the idea of “heroic” model numbers. There’s no such thing. The product makes the name or number, not the other way around. If you come out with this terrific gizmo that performs great, looks great, is a real value, makes everyone feel great about owning one and it never breaks, then people will remember the name, whether it’s “2” or “Spitfire” or “EPI-100.”

In point of fact, far too many people assign far too much importance to the subject of product naming. Products make their name memorable when they hit their intended market spot-on and score a bulls-eye, not the other way around. No clever product name ever rescued a bad product. Ever.

When someone in your company or organization gets on their high horse and starts pontificating about the vital life-and-death importance of the correct product name, do your best to just listen and smile. You know better. The most valuable thing you can do is don’t let the naming process bog down the development/introduction timeline. Pick a name and move on. Just don’t let any “666’s” get out the door

If there is indeed a very unfortunate ISIS double agent – perhaps in Jordan whose King received a phone call from the White House during the past day or so it is reported – who is being or has been tortured to death because of the latest leak about Trump and the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, then whose fault is it?

Let’s put it this way: is a Washington Post headline story the best way to protect intel sources in the Middle East? Ones that are involved in the islamic terrorist scene in places like Syria, Iraq or perhaps Jordan?

It takes reading through quite a few paragraphs in said WaPo story to get to the following:

Russia and the United States both regard the Islamic State as an enemy and share limited information about terrorist threats. But the two nations have competing agendas in Syria, where Moscow has deployed military assets and personnel to support President Bashar al-Assad.

President Trump broke no law – he is allowed to share any information he deems vital to protecting America’s national security interests. What info did FDR share with Stalin during the later years of WW II for example? So the question is, in departing (perhaps) from standard protocol in these types of meetings did President Trump betray a naivety that undermines America’s crucial relationships in the international intelligence community?

And almost as importantly: what has been gained in terms of America’s national interests by this attempt to humiliate and expose an apparent faux-pax by the president? Or is that (or those) double agent(s) in perhaps Jordan who may be hanging by his fingernails and about to be tortured to death, mere collateral damage in the war between D.C. bureaucrats in the intel community and the Trump administration, or even between the media and Trump himself?

That depends on what your perspective is and what your goals are. Do you want to ensure robust relationships with allied intel communities? Then you deal with this fairly subtly. Yes, that means keeping things off the front page, for example.

Do you want to find any possible means – short of a military coup or an assassination – to end Trump’s presidency ASAP? Then you leak, leak, and leak. And do it with a hysterically righteous sense of purpose, like a Soviet actor in The Battleship Potemkin. Ok, that’s a little exaggerated. Just like the media and Trump. Isn’t it?

Look, if Trump did slip up because of a boast, and if he did so in front a couple of grinning Russian officials, whose minds are meanwhile working like Swiss watches lubricated by the finest Vodka you can buy in the West, then there’s a steep learning curve ahead for the president. (It’s actually a flat learning curve if you put time on the x-axis and knowledge gained on the y-axis but never mind, y’all know what I mean)

This raises an important question: have these sorts of unintentional slip-ups always been an unfortunate part of top-level meetings between officials of rival or even allied countries? And is Trump getting a rougher ride precisely because of the media, bureaucratic, Democrat, and academic campaign to portray him as unfit to be Commander in Chief? Or was this truly a cringe-worthy event? Because of the partisan warfare swirling around the president, that’s a really tough question to answer with any reasonable amount of objectivity.

But in something as key as counter-intelligence sources in the fight against ISIS, it’s a question that must be asked.

There are important reasons why Trump was elected President, that have to do with how the country deals with it’s rural and urban divides. Even as broad labels like rural and urban or coastal and heartland bely enormous diversity within even individual regions in America. These reasons may not matter much longer if President Trump keeps using Twitter the way he has the last few days.

Why fricking set up an institutional process (or at least claim to, to key journalists like Byron York and others) in order to determine that Comey should be fired, if Trump then tweets out contradicting reasons a few days later? Why carefully try to explain the president’s reasons or the administration’s reasons for the dismissal if the president himself both threatens to stop press briefings and to circumvent Spicer and his staff with printed handouts?

It is precisely at key moments like this that the president needs to understand that business practices have to be applied to politics – especially presidential politics – with at least some regard for how Washington works on an institutional level and a cultural level. Yes, you want to drain the swamp. No, you don’t want to pump your basement full with swamp water because you thought you could avoid a mess by draining the growing swamp on the White House lawn that way.

Trump has apparently threatened Comey with possible recordings, slapped down his communications staff, and is still furious at the media coverage, as if he actually expected his firing of Comey at this time to have resulted in a different sort of reaction from a media that is openly and hysterically critical of him. What was he thinking?

And what truly sucks about all this is that there is still no real evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia. Yes, Flynn and Carter Page, and Roger Stone, and Manafort have displayed questionable ethics at best. Yes, the investigation should continue. But no, it’s not a criminal investigation. It’s an open-ended intel investigation. That means spy v spy. That means that much of what might be evidence can be kept from public view due to it’s being classified information. At least in the intel community’s judgement.

Thanks to Trump’s blunders, it now feels like a criminal investigation has been thwarted. It isn’t one and it hasn’t. The investigation will resume, with more intensity and more coverage, and more witnesses – even if they merely rehash the same evidence. President Trump has fanned the flames of the investigation and continues to do so, with the clumsy banning of the press from his meeting with Russian foreign officials. The Russian news agencies published their photos of what had apparently been agreed to as a private event. Great optics guys. And then the president later tweets out the White House photographer’s pics in an angry reaction to the obvious move that Putin pulled on him. Not good.

Again, this is not Watergate, but President Trump is doing his best to behave as if he was Nixon, and as if it was. There needs to be a Congressional committee charged with investigating this – not a special prosecutor please – so that this can be openly investigated – to hell with classified concerns; America needs this right now – and to finally put the issue to rest. If possible. Wherever the investigation does lead. It needs unpartisan – if that’s possible anymore – members. No Schumer. No Schiff. No Sessions. It needs to issue a report.

We also need a credible new FBI Director. Would anyone anywhere who is not a partisan warrior for one side or the other take this job on right now? Condi Rice? Who knows right now. Wait for the next tweet maybe?

The Senate is not just the next pitstop for the TrumpHouseCare healthcare bill, now that it’s cleared the first hurdle. But there also is – among other things – that ongoing Russia investigation that seemed to be the only thing that mattered mere weeks ago. And a few days back. there was a very interesting exchange in the Senate Intelligence Committee between Senator Graham who is no friend of President Trump, and Director Comey. Comey had what seems a frustrating time at the hearing. His voice rose to a whiny, frustrated pitch while he used phrases like “mildly nauseous” to describe his feelings about Hillary’s email scandal and the election last fall.

But the nature of the exchange between Senator Graham and Director Comey involves quite interesting stuff.

As reported by Mollie Hemingway in The Federalist, it seems there is a complaint lodged with the Department of Justice that claims that Fusion GPS, the notorious opp-shop firm that was hired to dig up dirt on Trump, and was paid in part at least by … the Russians?!

The essential point is that Fusion GPS is now alleged to have done work for Russia. And perhaps even that Russia helped pay for and officially contributed to the infamous Steele Dossier with it’s lurid and often or at least sometimes untrue and unchecked claims. Senator Graham phrased the question in a way that focuses on the fact that Russia was an active, immediate and complicit partner in opposition research which may have altered the course of the presidential elections in 2016.

But the next question that arises is … and the FBI? Comey stonewalled Graham and has been reluctant – to say the least – to provide any sort of meaningful information on the apparently ongoing Russia investigation at his agency. But if any of this is at least partially true then we have the following:

The U.S. intel community is a complicit partner with Putin’s regime in spreading kompromat on a candidate in an American presidential election. Kompromat which is of doubtful authenticity in at least several notable instances. What does that say about the intel community?

In other words, if this is true, is this a one-off nasty campaign against President (or candidate) Trump? Or has this type of operation been used by American intel community actors in other elections? Elections in America that is. The intel community’s job is to interfere elsewhere if the conditions warrant it. But doing so at home raises troubling questions.

And the media? Has there been any focus on this as of late? Perhaps an acerbic story or two in the Daily Beast about how the Senate Intelligence Committee has supposedly stalled the probe. But not much else. This should not be a partisan concern. This should be a broad concern. But of course it very much is partisan, and on both sides. But in the end, if Putin is capable of hacking Hillary’s campaign it should hardly be surprising that the ex-KGB officer would play both sides of the aisle, and hack Trump’s campaign. Just in case. Isn’t that what Soviet active measures were all about? Sorry, what they are all about.

FBI active measures? Couldn’t be, could it?

The 2020 Democratic Bench

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

It’s never too early to speculate. The Democrats are fired up for the 2020 Presidential election in a way they haven’t been in years. The pall of Hillary Clinton’s loss to the supremely unqualified, fraudulent shell of a candidate that was and is Donald Trump hangs over the party as a constant reminder of a nightmarish reality, brought about by an unimaginable string of unforced errors, miscalculations and unpreventable random outside events that conspired together to produce the greatest upset in American political history.

Is it hyperbole to say that never in the history of Democratic politics has an election loomed larger and more important than 2020?

There are three 70-something nationally-known potential 2020 Democratic candidates right now, but to any objective observer, they seem stale, predictable and shop worn. It’s unlikely that Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could put together a support coalition across the generational boundaries that would prove strong and vital enough to constitute an actual winning majority. Are any of them a surprise in any way? Do any of them hold even one position on any issue that isn’t already known in advance by everyone? Do any of them inspire the undecideds or strike fear into our international adversaries?

Warren, in particular, may not even live to fight until 2020. Although her national standing is quite high among the hard-core far-Left wing of her party, her personal shortcomings, shrill unlikeability and hypocrisy are becoming increasingly apparent even to her MA base. It’s widely felt that a strong MA Republican Senate candidate, with good funding and a sharp communications strategy, will give Warren a very difficult time indeed in 2018. From her living the lifestyle of a privileged 1%-er while railing against “the rich,” to the embarrassingly shallow understanding of foreign policy she demonstrates whenever she speaks at length on the subject, to her deception of her ethnic background as a “native American” that she used on her application to Harvard, she’s a “target-rich environment,” ripe pickings for a sharply-run opposition campaign. As Republican Charlie Baker’s overwhelming election to the Governorship showed, MA will elect a Republican if the Democrat is deemed personally unworthy, unknowledgeable or out of touch. Warren is arguably all three. As a MA resident, I can see that Warren’s 2018 Senate re-election is far from a sure thing.

So if the 70+ sect is not properly equipped, who is? Where will the Dems turn?

Two names jump out as possibilities: VA Governor Terry McAuliffe and MA Congressman Seth Moulton. There are others, no doubt, and some that no one has even thought of yet. But let’s look at these two for starters.

Terry McAuliffe

Currently the Governor of VA, McAuliffe is a long-time Democratic operative and high-profile figure in the Party. A prolific fundraiser and rabidly partisan but highly effective public speaker, McAuliffe was co-chair of President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, Democratic National Chairman from 2001 to 2005 and chair of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. He won the VA Governorship in 2013 by a close 2-point margin over former VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. As governor, McAuliffe has maintained his high profile, making a dramatic national splash with his declared intention to restore the voting rights via Executive Order of more than 200,000 ex-felons in Virginia—a naked attempt on his part to “stack the VA voting deck” in the Democrats’ favor. His order was overturned, but the very fact that he would even think of doing this is a testament to his aggressive creativity with regard to hardball partisan politics.

McAuliffe’s persona can come across as a bit of a “used car salesman” to those pre-disposed to viewing him negatively, but few Democratic politicians have their base more squarely in their sights. Even more importantly, McAuliffe’s opportunistically-contrived reasonableness (he recently gave Donald Trump a “Gentleman’s C” when asked to grade him so far, in contrast to virtually every other Dem who’d have unhesitatingly said “F”) will get many undecided voters to think, “Hmmmm…not so bad,” which is the key to any hope for victory. He’s a tough cookie who knows the ropes. Republicans should not underestimate him.

Seth Moulton

A 2001 Harvard graduate, Moulton joined the Marine Corps in 2002 and served four combat tours in the Middle East, earning the Medal of Valor and Bronze Star for bravery under fire. He won his Congressional seat in 2014 and takes all the perfectly-Democratic positions on gun control, women’s/LBGTQ rights (yes, including “Q”—perfect), the environment, healthcare, student loans, etc. Perfectly positioned, on every single issue.

As this Boston Globe article shows, there is some talk right now of his candidacy in the next Presidential election. Granted, in 2020 Moulton will only be 42 and assuming re-election to the House in 2018, will have just six years under his belt as a junior elected representative. Nonetheless, his personal résumé is nearly unimpeachable with regards to his military service credentials, his having “saved” a Democratic seat from the failings of a corrupt incumbent and his central-booking rugged good looks. If he’s not the Democratic nominee in 2020, a surefire sign of the Democratic establishment’s opinion of Moulton’s potential as a future high-office candidate will be whether or not he is accorded a prime speaking role at the 2020 Democratic Convention. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were similarly groomed before they achieved main event status.

President Trump is not yet six months into his first term. If three years from now his presidency has been even modestly successful at growing the economy, improving health care, reducing taxes and curtailing illegal immigration, he will prove to be an extremely tough candidate to beat. Although truly hard-core anti-Trump far-Left Democrats will never cede even a micrometer of legitimacy to his presidency, an electorally-significant fraction of the so-called “swing” electorate will have acclimated to his presence and will, in fact, vote on 2020 results rather than a by-then-irrelevant cartoonish cliché from 2016.

However, as interesting as these two potential Democrats may be, absent the next coming of JFK, the Democrats’ chances in 2020 rest more on President Trump’s actual first term performance than the inherent attractiveness of their candidate.

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

It’s human nature: When Person A finally takes the action or adopts the position favored by Person B, the inclination is for Person B to continue to be dissatisfied with Person A and not give them any credit for their move. Person B will very often change the basis on which the original issue was based in an attempt to preserve a legitimate reason to reject Person A’s action.

To Person B, being able to reject Person A and disagree with them is more important than the actual issue itself.

Such is definitely the case with Democrat politicians, activists and the liberal media regarding President Trump. An excellent example of this occurred in early April on the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News when he was speaking to Democratic Congressman (CA) Brad Sherman. Carlson put forth the fact that Trump’s missile attack on Syria was unequivocally damaging to Putin’s ally Assad, thereby proving that President Trump was not “in the pocket” of Putin as so many Democrats have claimed. Carlson challenged Sherman to simply admit that.

Sherman refused, aghast at the prospect of absolving Trump of his biggest “sin”: the Democrats’ contention that he colluded with Russia to sink Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Instead, Sherman was trying desperately to maintain that Trump is still “guilty” of some vague-but-grievous campaign violations, even though Sherman agreed with the missile strike. He was trying to have it both ways.

Another perfect example of trying to have it both ways is when then-candidate Trump named Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager. The entire subject of women’s progress in the professional world, the “wage gap,” the Glass Ceiling, women entering previously male-only fields, etc. is a vital cornerstone of the Democratic platform. Add to that the Democrats gleefully revelling in their leaking of the 12-year-old Trump “grabbing” audiotape and it adds up to a very convenient narrative for them: “Trump disrespects women and his presidency will harm women’s standing in all aspects of American life.”

But then Trump does something that doesn’t comport with his opponents’ preferred depiction of putative misogynist white male Republicans—he names a woman to mastermind his campaign. If a male Democrat had named a female campaign manager, he’d be hailed as a modern stereotype-breaker, a person who courageously breaks with outmoded, stubborn tradition and embraces the enlightened new way, seeks fresh perspectives, knows how to justly recognize the talents and insights that only a gender-balanced team can deliver and so on.

Yet, for Democrats, the negative image of Trump as an old-time womanizer was just too juicy and appealing to let go of. So not only did they not give Trump “credit” for elevating a woman to a well-deserved critical position in his campaign, they employed the all-too-common device of changing the basis on which the original issue was based: they savaged Conway herself, calling into question her intellect and honesty. Since Trump’s election win, Conway has stayed on as a high-level advisor and the Democrats’ and liberal media hysterical criticism of Conway has continued unabated. The profoundly unfavorable attacks directed at Conway wouldn’t be tolerated for even the briefest of seconds if she was a Democrat. But as is always the case, the Democrats try to have things both ways. They criticize Republicans for their supposed refusal to promote women to high positions and when they do promote them, Democrats claim that it “doesn’t count” for some frivolous reason and continue to perpetuate their original criticism.

Another example is Trump’s changing position on NATO. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly called NATO “obsolete,” and criticized other NATO countries for shirking their financial commitments with regard to their own defense spending. This predictably brought forth howls of denunciation from Democrats, who admonished Trump for disparaging “the most successful, longest-lasting alliance in history” (or words to that effect). It’s not that Democrats had any great interest in actually committing U.S. forces to lethal combat should NATO member Estonia be attacked (most Democratic politicians probably couldn’t even find Estonia on a map without the help of Google Earth). Instead, they were just looking for something on which to criticize Trump, to point out his unsuitability for President.

But recently, in light of Russia’s intransigence regarding Syria, Trump has shifted his position and now says that NATO is very important. Do the Democrats who condemned his prior anti-NATO stance now give him credit for changing? Of course not. Democratic politicians and the liberal media call him a flip-flopper, an opportunist, someone who is easily influenced by the latest input he receives.

This illustrates another truism in American politics: When a Democratic politician reverses their position, it’s cast as an attribute, an indication of intellectual growth. Both Hillary and Barack Obama were on record as being against same-sex marriage, but when it became politically-expedient for their positions to shift, they did. The always-supportive liberal media said that their positions “evolved.” Neither Clinton nor Obama did anything as disingenuous and unsophisticated as “flip-flopping.” No, they took in the latest information, made a careful, thoughtful analysis of the new data and they evolved, the same way every higher-order life form does as it adapts to a new environment. It’s always so positive for Democrats.

The Democrats’ strategy is to try to always have things both ways while trying to make certain the Republicans simply don’t have it any way. There are no two ways about it.

 

 

 

 

Warren Henry makes a great point in his recent analysis of America’s infamous media bubble. No, there’s no quotes here around the phrase: media bubble. Because it is what it is. A big bi-coastal bubble. Here’s what Henry said in a newsletter a few days back:

It’s worth noting that for many years, journalism was considered a blue-collar job, one that could be done by ink-stained wretches without the artificial barriers of credentialing. It only became a gentrified, white-collar profession around the time people decided the job was more about being a paid left-leaning activist – “making the world a better place” in the post-Watergate argot.

And since journalism became white-collar, these more-educated, often better-paid, white-collar journalists tend to go where the jobs in their industry are, on the two coasts of course. That’s a broad brush to paint an industry with, but it’s not an inaccurate statement when it comes to major, national coverage. Whatever the specific media might be. Maybe talk radio is a notable exception to the centralizing bi-coastal trend in media. But the trend is there nonetheless. And that means, again according to Warren Henry:

The difference between those with a more globalist or nationalist viewpoint, between those with a conservative viewpoint or progressive viewpoint is both substantive and aesthetic, both economic and cultural.

No kidding. The gap is real. People are self-sorting along the above-mentioned cultural and political divides, almost down to the neighborhood level. And perhaps as or even more importantly, they are self-sorting in terms of media consumption. No, I don’t want to follow MSNBC, or, no I don’t want to watch Fox News. I don’t care what they say anymore. But the division gets even more granular than that. In her already near-viral interview, Samantha Bee a few days ago basically admitted that she and her production crew make her shows for themselves and people like themselves. Is that who Obama was complaining about?

Can this trend be modified? Does the general public – divided into cultural tribes – want it to be modified? Consider the NYT. A fricking cautious column by former Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens on how a modest, healthy skepticism towards any assertion by science – in this case, climate change – is a good thing, drew hysterical and angry denouncements by readers. Stephens didn’t even come close to saying climate change was fake or junk science. Just that science is not religion. It requires evidence and experiments that can be duplicated in controlled environments. Something hard if not impossible to do with climate. But even this modest column drew furious reactions from NYT subscribers and a movement to unsubscribe. Angry “loyalists” tweeted out how the NYT abandoned them. Scientists to the core, every screeching one of them.

And this was due to the NYT’s editorial intent to reflect the reality of America under a Trump presidency. A reality they have been practically negating and heavily criticizing, until this timid attempt at some balance in their pages.

Their colleagues at the New Yorker have gone the other way it would seem. In a smear job by Evan Osnos, they gleefully quote Never Trumpers, and even sucker NewsMax’s Ruddy into giving a quote or two, and then delve into the 25th amendment and how it could possibly be used to impeach President Trump. Including the fact that Trump is somewhat heavy for his height, according to what they think his weight might be. Yes, that’s right. Osnos speculates, among other things like narcissism, on President Trump’s weight while meditating on how to use the 25th amendment to declare him unfit and thus end his presidency.

NYT’s unsubscribed screechers are surely cheering Osnos’ ridiculous hit piece. Is that what a majority of NYT readers really want? In today’s America, it may very well be. And if that is indeed the case, then can there truly be national media anymore? That is, in a political and cultural sense. Economically, if you have the capital necessary to launch or maintain mainstream media platforms, then you’re national. But you are almost certainly not national in any other sense anymore.

Who called who? As attention focuses on Congress and President Trump getting a one week extension on funding signed before midnight on Friday, there was a supposedly very close call with NAFTA this week. President Trump had an executive order ready to be signed that would have withdrawn America from the trade agreement. But then he got on the phone with Mexico’s President and Canada’s Prime Minister and they agreed to work things out.

How close did America come to withdrawing from NAFTA? And, would Congress have to vote on any withdrawal from NAFTA by America? Article 2205 of the agreement states:

A Party may withdraw from this Agreement six months after it provides written notice of withdrawal to the other Parties. If a Party withdraws, the Agreement shall remain in force for the other Parties.

That sounds pretty clearcut, as well as being flexible and pragmatic. And it sure seems to give the president the power to withdraw. Writing in Atlantic however, Matt Ford quotes NAFTA wonk and advisor Jon Johnson as saying the use of the word may, means that a country is not bound to withdraw should, for example, President Trump have actually signed that executive order. And goes further to state that since Congress enacted NAFTA, it must have its say over any attempt by America to withdraw from NAFTA.

Sorry Jon Johnson, but that’s quibbling. Had Trump signed the withdrawal order, he would have put America at the doorstep and on the way out. He didn’t sign however, and it seems to be that the leaders of Canada and Mexico suddenly had an urge to dial up President Trump and see how he was doing.

Well maybe not quite. It was leaked and rumored and spread all over town that an executive order was being drafted and that it was a matter of days before it would get signed. And that seemed to work nicely. Senators spoke up against withdrawal. And suddenly Canada and Mexico were calling, and a deal to work on some sort of a deal to reform the trade agreement was reached.

Was this Pence reining in Bannon and Navarro? With Kushner telling his wife to call her boy pal in Ottawa and get him to call her father so that NAFTA would remain in place, maybe with a few changes? Frantic calls and who knows what the president will do next?

Or, was this a case of a White House that is coming together and figuring out who does what and when in order to achieve President Trump’s agenda?