In a courtroom in Orlando, there has been some surprising news over the last few days, in case you didn’t notice. It has to do with the Pulse Nightclub shooting and the shooter’s – Omar Matteen’s – wife. Noor Salman’s attorney’s were faced with a bombshell dropped by prosecutors just a few days ago.

Omar’s father – Seddique Matteen – was an FBI informant for over a decade, from 2005 to 2016. And the FBI has information that he has sent money to Turkey and Afghanistan. As well the FBI had information in 2012 that Seddique played a part in helping fund or plan terrorist attacks on the Pakistan government, which, however, do not seem to have been carried out. As well, Seddique apparently managed to convince the FBI that his son Omar was not a threat despite being investigated by the FBI in 2013 for his possible ties to Hezbollah and his apparent online statements regarding the deaths of FBI agents.

There’s more.

The FBI considering grooming Omar himself as another confidential informant, alongside his father, around 2013 but decided against the idea. Interestingly former FBI Director James Comey described Omar as a “lone wolf” back in 2016 in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shootings. This now seems to be a deliberate misdirection on the part of Comey at the time.

One has to ask what the father knew of Omar’s possible plans, and if he covered up for his son both before and after the shooting. For now Judge Paul Byron has denied a motion by Noor Salman’s defense lawyers to dismiss the case because of this heretofore undisclosed evidence. According to Judge Byron it has no bearing on Noor Salman’s possible guilt of the charges of aiding and abetting her husband Omar and of engaging in obstruction of justice. There will likely be appeals by Salman’s defense team.

So if Seddique Matteen knew at least something about his son’s plans, are then the deaths of nearly 50 innocent people at the Pulse Nightclub reasonable collateral damage in terms of the information the FBI gleaned from Seddique?

That of course is an obscene question.

Of course those lives are not worth whatever information the father provided the FBI – and one doubts how useful someone like Seddique was in fact. Those 49 lives are precisely what Seddique Matteen’s information should have protected. The FBI and the intel community at large deal with people like Seddique Matteen in order, we hope and pray, to protect American lives. Not to cover up and protect their own bureaucracies. And it sure seems that Seddique as an informant chose to protect his son and not the victims of Orlando.

This needs to be investigated further. From the FBI to any other intel agencies possibly involved to every near and even more distant member of the Matteen clan. The Pulse Nightclub shooting is not what it appeared to be. It was something perhaps far worse.

Speak now, or forever hold your peace. And forever is a short time away when you’re 97 years old. Consider the case of two men who are 3 years (actually a little less) away from turning 100 years old, and what they have felt compelled to speak about recently.

John Paul Stevens is the retired Supreme Court Justice (1975 – 2010) who has written an op-ed in the New York Times calling for the repeal of the 2nd amendment. Here’s a quote from the article, a quote that refers to the SCOTUS case that explicitly enshrined or at least confirmed and supported an individual’s right to bear arms:

In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.

In other words, prior to D.C. v Heller, and especially the period after 1939’s U.S. v. Miller, the Supreme Court’s view of the right to bear arms was essentially a collective right, one that was based on a narrow reading of the 2nd amendment and which placed emphasis on the 2nd’s opening two clauses:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,

Never mind that – as David Harsanyi in the Federalist points out – for the Founders, the threat of disarmament of its citizenry was the real threat. And that overbearing government regulation of individual rights to bear arms is not what that the words well regulated refer to.

After D.C. v. Heller an individual’s right to bear arms became the emphasis and John Paul Stevens – a dissenting vote on that case as he says – wishes to overturn that decision by repealing the 2nd. He says it would be easy, in fact.

Ok, one can assume his mind is still fairly agile but to think that the legislative requirements to repeal an amendment to the constitution – especially the 2nd – would be “easy” seems a stretch to put it politely. Plus the left is furious at Stevens for giving the game away. We lied, we’re gunning for the 2nd!

The other 97-year old is George P. Shultz – Reagan’s long-serving Secretary of State. And he also has a really big plan to deal with climate change: the Carbon Dividend Strategy. Here are its four pillars if you will:

  • A rising carbon tax
  • Carbon dividend payments “to all Americans”
  • Rollback of environmental regulations now that the price of carbon-based fuels and products that use them would have the so-called externalities of their environmental costs included in their price
  • Border adjustments to take into account the carbon content of imports

Easy-peasy just like repealing the 2nd right!?

Senator Tom Cotton for example would love how WalMart would have to pay way more for it’s imports from carbon-luvin’ China and the senator would never engage in legislative moves that stalled any and all attempts at bringing the legislation to a vote on the floor. To mention just one senator. Never mind state governments. And industry associations. What’s the carbon content of Facebook by the way? And do they use any Russian-sourced Gas to power the turbines that create the electricity that keeps FB’s servers that hold all your personal data humming along?

And the federal bureaucracy and Congress of course would eagerly roll back all sorts of environmental regulations now that consumers could make rational decisions based on the adjusted price of the carbon content in any product and service they consume.

And it would be a piece of cake to figure out what the carbon content of every product and service in America and the World actually is. And carbon dividends would never turn into an enormous entitlement that would be perpetually underfunded because Congress keeps diverting the monies from the carbon tax to instead use in their unrolled back regulations and pork barrel spending.

Will these two nonagenarians shift the debate on climate change and gun control? They likely already have, but actually trying to make either of their ideas work may be more of a nightmare than a dream. But speak they must. And speak they did.

It’s Friday and the Trump Tornado’s EF Scale (enhanced Fujita scale if you have to know) has blown through 100 mph and is heading towards 150 mph, indicating considerable damage ahead. At least to certain careers. And possibly much more damage than that, but that assessment will have to wait until November.

It’s literally impossible to keep up, but some of the main events these past 48 hours are:

  • McMaster is out as National Security Adviser and John Bolton is in. Here’s an interesting quote from Naomi Lim’s piece in the Washington Examiner: A White House spokesperson said the timing of McMaster’s exit had been discussed by the pair for some time, and was unrelated to the recent leak of briefing materials for Trump’s phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Russian leader won re-election. So. They’re saying: yeah McMaster leaked but we were going to fire him anyway?
  • Good morning Mr. Speaker! Did you read Trump’s tweet this Friday morning? The one that goes: I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded. That one?
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2018
  • Why did the President threaten a VETO? No DACA legislation (as part of an omnibus bill that would seem to be a tough ask to say the least) and also, almost no money (in D.C. terms one billion dollars is spare change) for the border wall. The latter complaint is much more understandable, but given SCOTUS’ refusal to bypass the 9th Circuit, DACA remains in place until next year likely.
  • Good afternoon Mr. Speaker! Relax, The President signed the bill.
  • John Dowd, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, has resigned and is to be replaced by the recently announced arrival to his team: Slugger Joe DiGenova. It is rumored that Dowd was not a fan of President Trump appearing personally before Mueller’s probe to answer questions. On Thursday the President said that he “would like to” appear before special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
  • Bob Goodlatte, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, has subpoenaed the DOJ to pry more information out of the department regarding the investigation into Hillary’s use of a private server and possible hacking of the former Secretary of State’s emails while she was in charge at State. They are also seeking documentation on possible FISA Court abuses, which would likely indicate the search warrants obtained on Carter Page starting in the fall of 2016.
  • Senate Republicans want to go nuclear on most appointments that are currently being held up in the Senate by Democratic Party opposition. Here’s a look into the detailed, obtuse rules of the upper chamber and how they are played to obtain maximum partisan advantage. Consider this from a story in The Hill: Under current rules, 30 hours must elapse on the floor every time the Senate votes to end dilatory debate and advance a nominee — unless there’s unanimous consent to yield back floor time.This forces GOP leaders to perform triage by making tough choices about what executive branch positions are important enough to deserve floor time, leaving some nominees in limbo for months. When procedural rules are abused by both sides to impede the party in power from executing on their agenda – especially in an area like nominees to key government posts – then maybe a house-cleaning of Senate rules is in order. Good luck with that.
  • The President signed a Presidential Memorandum that opens up the way for tariffs on up to 60 billion worth of China’s imports into America, in retaliation for China’s trade practices which have produced accusations of theft of intellectual property and unfair trade. China has vowed retaliation, but on a much smaller amount of American goods shipped to China. A trade war is not impossible at this point.

President Trump has ripped the complex negotiations between states (and even companies in the case of Qualcomm and Broadcom) out of the hands of the wonks and experts of the administrative state to instead handle them himself – at least in several key high-profile cases. Like trade with China. Or Sunday’s election in Russia which would have in normal times produced carefully worded responses by the President and the Secretary of State. Responses which would have been put together by the wonks and experts that Trump delights in overruling, ignoring, and belittling.

At some point, one would have thought that some sort of balance would have been struck between Trump’s administration and the sprawling administrative state; even one that involves reducing the power of the bureaucrats and handing it back to the Executive and Congress. That balance has yet to be established, and it’s not clear what it would take for President Trump to seek to establish that new balance. We can only observe , wait, and hope.

Meanwhile the new equilibrium under Trump is chaos. Even if solid work gets done behind the chaos. All we see is the chaos. Is that what we want?

A few fact-checks are in order – thanks in large part to the Vox story by Andrew Prokop – when it comes to Cambridge Analytica, the firm that is in the public and parliamentary eye on both sides of the Atlantic:

  • Wunder-kid Christopher Wylie apparently left the firm in 2014, a year before Trump even declared his campaign for the presidency.
  • Did Wylie’s psychological profile-based algorithms really guide Candidate Trump’s team to a shocking victory that no one predicted? Was it Wylie that put together the algorithms? Some doubt that apparently.
  • The parent company – if you will – of Cambridge Analytica is Strategic Communication Laboratories Group or SCL Group, founded in 1993 by Englishman and advertising executive Nigel Oaks. It had (and perhaps still has) a geographically diverse group of clients in places like Thailand and Indonesia, and operated as a fairly straightforward communications shop, building messaging for it’s clients. Questionable ethics, secrecy, and dirty tricks were reputedly a part of it’s operating methods.
  • After 9/11 SCL Group turned to Pysch-Ops to garnish some of the huge amounts of cash that were being offered to try and plan against the next possible terrorist attack.
  • Alexandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic/psychologist at Cambridge University created the thisismydigitallife app and obtained Facebook’s permission to use it to gather data on FB users as well as their friends on FB. He ended up with around 50 million raw profiles after around 270,000 people directly consented to give their data and indirectly (and therefore perhaps unknowingly) consented to allow the app to harvest data on their friends.
  • 30 million of those 50 million raw profiles were able to be cross-checked with other data to produce complete profiles. Facebook supposedly consented to Kogan’s data harvesting on the grounds that Kogan’s project was strictly academic. But there is skepticism about this given that social media make their money by gathering data on their users and then re-selling that data to third parties. Facebook had to have been aware of the huge profit potential provided by Kogan’s app and the data it had harvested.
  • Cambridge Analytica was put together around 2013 with the involvement of Steve Bannon and the Mercers. Kogan’s data base of tens of millions of profiles was to be the jewel in their crown as well as the input data for Christopher Wylie’s algorithms.
  • Here’s the big one: According to employees at Cambridge and staffers of Trump’s campaign, the Trump campaign did NOT even use Cambridge’s 30 million profiles. Rather the campaign team used the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) data set.

Among political consultants and communication shops Cambridge Analytica and by extension SCL Group were seen as big-talking and under-achieving lightweights. With a history of angry and disappointed clients. Including both the Ted Cruz campaign team and the Trump campaign team. And while Facebook is now desperately trying to distance itself from Cambridge Analytica, SCL Group, and the Mercers who provided the money for Cambridge on the advice of Steve Bannon, it seems that as the NYTimes’ Zeynep Tufekci states that all of this drama is an:

all-too natural consequence of Facebook’s business model … by profiling us and then selling our attention to advertisers, political actors, and others.

Alexander Nix the just-fired CEO of Cambridge Analytica may be a blowhard Brit who likes to brag about dirty tricks over drinks with prospective clients. Christopher Wylie may be a genius who has not yet been able to fine-tune his radical and earth-shattering (if we believe him) concepts to the point where they actually work.

But someone else is and someone else will effectively use Pysch-ops to understand what you are thinking and doing and to try and nudge you in a certain direction; if your data is useful to a company, a state, or an intelligence agency. Or some other organization. And that is definitely worth everyone’s attention. Even if Cambridge Analytica turns out to be an empty shell run by hucksters.

How power, even just the promise of it, changes things and divides those who professed unity when power was a more distant goal.

To wit, Democrats are already showing fractures that were at least previously papered over with the linked arms and pink hats of the Great Brave Resistance against the Bad Guy at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. But now that Connor Lamb has shown you can be a very centrist – to not say rather conservative – candidate and win as a Democrat, the party is roiling as it sorts out the spoils of its eagerly anticipated wins in the coming mid-terms.

Let’s leave aside the fact that nearly 8 months is a very long time in politics, especially with this administration, and maybe Democrats won’t retake the House, or especially the Senate. They’re already behaving as if they will, however, and so now Nancy Pelosi is coming under fire. All because a pro-life veteran faced the camera and said he wouldn’t (necessarily one assumes) support her.

So we’re already getting speculation over Nancy Pelosi’s replacement as Speaker of the House come November. Guess who’s name is somehow being thrown around?

Adam Schiff.

Imagine: Speaker Schiff with a Democrat-controlled House. While New York Rep. Joe Crowley is being touted as the steady hand experienced guy to take the baton from Nancy, one feels Schiff is not bothered by the rumors that he’s a candidate, and likely encouraged some vigorous leaking by his aides to ensure those rumors started floating around as soon as it was clear that Lamb would win PA-18.

And more than a few people had plenty to say, (anonymously of course), about Nancy Pelosi. Here’s a few quotes given to or passed on to Axios’ Mike Allen:

  • She used to be retributional. Now she’s more inclusive.
  • She could win the caucus vote [for Speaker] but lose the floor vote.
  • That would give the House to the head of the Republicans.
  • She’s the best vote counter this generation has ever seen. So she’ll know this scenario well in advance, and will figure out a way that will preserve her legacy.

Preserve her legacy? Does that sound like a ringing endorsement?? They’re already chiseling in the epitaph on her political gravestone it would seem.

But it is Nancy Pelosi we’re talking about, who’s also very good at counting the numbers written on the bundled checks that her fundraising skills rake in by the truckful for her party. So she retains a certain amount of agency here. It still is her call, but the whistle is slowly being pulled from her hands.

Will she let go or angrily hang on?

Meanwhile in the upper chamber, Senator Elizabeth Warren is in a standoff with more centrist Democrat Senators over the new banking bill that is being considered. Here’s what she said:

This bill isn’t about the unfinished business of the last financial crisis. This bill is about laying the groundwork for the next one. So I will make a prediction: This bill will pass. And, if the banks kept their way, in the next 10 years or so, there will be another financial crisis.

Senators like Missouri’s Claire McCaskill are of course more than a little frustrated by Warren’s stance on the banking bill. Will the Bernie Sanders tear-down-Wall-Street crowd be the leading voice on this heretofor invisible piece of legislation? Or will Lamb’s centrist yet politely cautious defiance of the identity politics wing prevail, allowing a Democratic Senator facing a tough re-election to vote for a bill without being denounced as a Wall Street Lobbyist?

Power breeds division. On both sides of any aisle. So even if Nancy & Elizabeth have agency in this struggle for the Democratic party’s soul, there’s another group with more than a little agency: voters. If Democrats want to ensure victory, they will have to remind themselves that a voter in Missouri may not have the same concerns as a voter in San Francisco. Are the foaming-mad progressives ready to do that?

Nobody says thea-tuh anymore. Not even people my age. Maybe grandma when she’s making fun of someone or has had a tipple too many.

So I won’t say that David Marcus works in the thea-tuh (as well as being a correspondent for The Federalist and publishing elsewhere, like the NYTimes occasionally.)

I’ll just say he runs a thee-tur company in Brooklyn apparently, and has an interesting take on Pennsylvania’s 18th District Special Election this Tuesday. The one in which Connor Lamb narrowly appears to have beaten Rick Saccone, the GOP’s disappointing candidate.

While the GOP and the media in general are anguishing, or delighting themselves, over the possibility of a Big Blue Wave in the coming mid-term elections, Marcus points out quite reasonably that the Democrat party has to decide what kind of platform they’re going to run on this fall.

  • Hard-left identity politics? Or …
  • Moderate and centrist policies like those held by Connor Lamb?

That would include pro-life positions or at least, in Lamb’s case, a stance that identifies as pro-life while accepting the left’s idea that Planned Parenthood should continue to receive funding from taxpayers. That’s not very pro-life, but it’s a ways to the center from what appears to be Democrat orthodoxy that claims abortions as healthcare. That also includes knowing how to handle an AR-15, something more than a few of us can’t lay claim to, but that Connor Lamb can, and he showed voters that he did on video for his campaign..

So after all the celebrating by progressives and left-leaning media over the victory of a pro-life and not-gun-phobic candidate in Western Pennsylvania, the question then becomes: will candidates like Connor Lamb be the exception to Democrats’ campaign for the mid-terms? Operating at the margins and only praised when they win an election and then shut down by party leaders the rest of the time? Or will the Democrat Party grudgingly accept that in many districts which they want to flip, radical candidates will not do the job?

Right now that question has been pushed to the background amid all the gloating over how supposedly Trumpism only works for Trump and maybe no longer even that. It’s all about how Trump undercuts candidates and has staked his presidency on mistaken candidates in Alabama and now Pennsylvania. Yes, the GOP is being roiled every week by President Trump, but the divisions on the other side are real and do matter. They will matter even more if Democrats take back either or both Houses of Congress.

The Democrats have to decide if they will continue to ignore large swaths of America that they are openly hostile towards under their current progressive leadership. And who Hillary continues to blame for her loss in 2016, to such an extent that many in her party truly and heartily wish she would shut up.

So let the celebrations continue over a district that will be re-drawn and which Connor Lamb will have to contest once again. Who and what the Democrats are is just as much a question as who and what the Republicans are.

Play Ball!

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Here’s a thought and I’d love to hear some responses.

There are about 120,000,000 households in the US. That’s about 2.75 people per household, since the total US population is around 330,000,000 people.

Now, the poverty rate is around 15% or roughly 50,000,000 people living in poverty. I realize that poverty is a relative term, whose meaning changes over time and in comparison to other countries. There is a huge difference between living between “poverty” here and living in poverty in one of the poorest countries in Africa. The meaning and nature of “poverty” can also be said to be quite different in the 1930’s to what it is today.

Nonetheless, let’s not get bogged down in those semantic particulars. Let’s just agree that “poverty” means whatever you understand it to be.

Liberal Democrats are always carping about so-called income inequality, the gap between what the richest and poorest make, or the difference between a CEO’s compensation and that of their average employee. In reality, it’s a non-issue since one person’s income is pretty much totally independent of another’s. Your neighbor’s financial fortunes do not affect yours. If they suddenly hit Powerball, the income inequality between the two of you has abruptly skyrocketed to astronomical proportions, yet, for you, nothing has changed. Your financial ability to provide for your family and pay your bills is totally unaffected by whether your neighbor’s income is equal to yours or 1000 times greater than yours. The economic concept of “income inequality” is a hoax, a straw man, vaporware. It’s merely a liberal pretext to justify higher taxes on the wealthy and create evermore income redistribution policies to buy voting support.

However…what if there was a solution to poverty? Immediate, total, complete, permanent? There is.

Jeff Bezos Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Warren Buffet. They own Amazon and the Washington Post, Microsoft, Apple and Berkshire Hathaway. They have lots of dough—combined, over 500 billion dollars. Bezos’ personal fortune alone is estimated to grow by 2.8 billion dollars/day, an amount normal people can’t actually comprehend.

They could combine to give everyone in the country a few thousand bucks. and they wouldn’t even notice. $76 billion (that’s four thousand bucks to every person in America, young, old, black, white, brown, chartreuse, any/all genders, etc.), to them is ppfffftttt, nothing. That’s 76 billion. They’ve got 500. In a month, they’ll have 75 billion more. In two months, 150 billion more.

In English: It’d be like giving away 76 dollars if you had 500 bucks in your pocket. It’d be like buying dinner for yourself and a friend.

Tomorrow. They could do this tomorrow. They’re generous, caring, feeling, compassionate, concerned, green, altruistic, liberal icons. So they should, right?

Let’s look at households—120 million. 15% are in poverty, so that’s 18 million households living in poverty. How much debt are they in? Let’s look at that realistically. What will it take to get them out of debt, pay off their bills? One thousand each? 5 thou? 10 grand for each household to get the lights back on, buy some decent clothes, fix the ’02 Olds, send Jr. to community college? Just enough to get them out of poverty. Let’s say an average of 10 grand for 18 million households.

That’s 180 billion. They have 500 billion now. In two months, they’ll have 650 billion. Two months after that, they’ll have 800 billion. They can easily afford the 180 and still fly first-class to Marseille for vacation.

The interesting thing is why no Democrat/liberal politicians have called for this. The Dems seem to favor wealth re-distribution to directly help the impoverished. Here is income-redistribution to the nth degree, exactly like the Dems like it. It’s perfect. (I have a sneaking suspicion that Dem politicians only resent Republican fortunes, like those infamous brothers they’re always complaining about. It seems as if Democratic/liberal fortunes get a pass.)

Nonetheless, the Big Four—liberal or not—could make their donation directly to the Treasury, who has all the data, names and addresses of each family living below the poverty line. The Four could make a wire transfer tomorrow. Checks could go out in two weeks. Poverty would be over by the beginning of the baseball season.

Play ball!

 

 

You’re Fired!

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

“You’re fired!” Those are the sweetest two words in the entire language. Those two words make possible everything that’s good in our daily lives: our freedom, our safety, the many modes of transportation at our disposal, the rich abundance of foods we get to choose from, the widely-varied forms of entertainment we enjoy, the incredible array of medical technologies that keep us healthy and the expansive selection of schools that educate us.

“You’re fired.” Those are the lyrics to the Anthem of the Free Market, which is the engine that keeps us safe, healthy, well-fed, entertained and educated. Those are the words that indicate that, in our system, there is personal accountability and responsibility and that there are negative consequences for doing a poor job.

The most obvious and familiar indicator of the free market is the profit potential that exists for success. Whether it’s an innovative new medical device or life-enhancing pharmaceutical, a viable large-scale alternative energy source, or a great new political drama on Netflix, in a market economy, virtually unlimited profits await the inventor or company that delivers a winning product or service, and deservedly so. Driven by hungry competitors looking to wrest their paying customers away, individual entrepreneurs and large corporations alike are motivated to perform at their best in order to stave off their adversaries. The consumer benefits from continually improving products as a result.

The penalty for marketplace failure is financial ruin. If the quality and value of a company’s offerings slip, then the company loses market share or goes out of business altogether. The threat of this degree of disastrous marketplace penalty (going out of business) is an even stronger motivator than the promise of unlimited riches. Being one of many successful entities in one’s realm is perfectly acceptable; there is no absolute requirement that you be no. 1, as long as you’re active and viable. Mazda is a profitable and ongoing company. They don’t have to overtake General Motors to be considered a successful business. But they do have to avoid making the ill-fated product and marketing decisions that sank American Motors and Studebaker. The threat of free-market penalty is what drives them.

The concept of free-market reward/penalty applies perfectly all the way down to the individual worker level. Any individual can be considered to be a small “company”: they have their product attributes, they are in a competitive environment against other “companies” vying for the same “customer,” perhaps a promotion or a new position. When the individual performs well—a TV writer creating a compelling script, an engineer improving the fuel efficiency of an engine or a research scientist synthesizing a new pain reliever without side effects—the company that employs them becomes stronger in their particular market sphere and either maintains or strengthens its financial standing. Employees continue to be employed.  Money continues to be earned. Bills continue to be paid.

It’s the fear of marketplace penalty that keeps many individuals motivated to go a good job. Yes, of course many people do an excellent job because of personal pride and a strong work ethic, or because their innate talent and aptitude enables them to perform their responsibilities well, without undue effort. But for many, the unpleasant prospect of losing one’s earning capacity is a prime motivator of doing a good job.

The aforementioned “unpleasant prospect of losing one’s earning capacity” is far, far more prevalent in the highly-competitive for-profit private sector of a market economy than it is in the Government-employed public sector. The cliché of the uncaring, inattentive DMV worker who shuts their window and puts up a “Closed” sign just as you reach their station at 30 seconds before 5:00 PM exists for one reason and one reason only: for the DMV worker, there is essentially no “marketplace penalty” for barely-acceptable, mediocre work. The quality of their work doesn’t affect the profitability or continued existence of their employer. The Springfield DMV is not in free-market competition with other DMVs and that window clerk’s performance has no real bearing on anything. Since they really can’t be fired for anything other than a gross dereliction of responsibility or some horrendous personal/moral transgression, it’s easy to understand the “I don’t care, it’s 5:00 PM, I’m closed” attitude.

This chart is illustrative of the marked difference in year-on-year price increases between the competitive for-profit private sector and the lessened financial accountability of the Government sector. The categories that show the greatest cost increases are the areas in which Government subsidies play the largest role. When the entities involved know that “free money” in the form of Government payouts are coming their way, costs tend to rise. The competitive aspect of keeping pricing low relative to market competition is not there.

The healthcare/hospital services area is particularly interesting. When Government money—“someone else’s money”—pays for medical services, costs go up dramatically. But when the individual is paying out of their own pocket and free-market rules apply, then the providers engage in fierce competition, improve their quality and lower their costs, in an attempt to woo the customer. Nowhere is this clearer than in the areas of cosmetic surgery and corrective eye surgery. Neither is generally covered by insurance or Medicare; customers must pay with their own free-market discretionary cash. As in every other area of for-profit consumer product development, quality and innovation are way up and costs are down compared to what was available just 20 years ago.

The liberal utopia of Government Run Everything will never work. Individuals must feel as if their own job security is directly related to the caliber of their work. Companies must operate with the knowledge that their continued existence is not assured and that customers are not automatically going to buy their product or service—they must be won over with quality and value. Private sector individuals and companies can be “Fired!” The DMV worker has no such fear, nor are the Meriden Public Schools worried about going out of business in the face of new competition.

While some Government/public sector portion of the economy is necessary, the more we can get the phrase “You’re fired!” into our economy, the better things will be for everyone.

 

 

The Hatch Act of 1939 was signed into legislation by a reluctant FDR as a legislative remedy for a political and partisan problem with FDR’s Works Progress Administration – it’s employees to be precise – in local or state or senate elections. Employees of the WPA were accused of campaigning for FDR’s favorites in campaigns. So the fact that the WPA (it was renamed the Works Projects Administration in the same year the Hatch Act was passed: 1939) was the administration’s public works jewel-in-the-crown (if you take a progressive viewpoint) and employed millions and doled out huge amounts of money and jobs, made it a perfect vehicle for campaigning by the administration.

Now, here’s the fussy point, because we’re talking about whether Kellyanne Conway did or didn’t violate the Hatch Act. If senior FDR (or any) administration officials wanted (or want) to use a specific project as backdrop for a campaign that is not prohibited by the Hatch Act. What is prohibited is lower-level government employees actively campaigning for any given candidate. In other words, federal employees and some state and local employees are the target of the Act’s restrictions, and only on certain political activities.

Senior administration officials who are involved in policy decisions are exempt.

Was Kellyanne Conway targeted because the Office of Special Counsel felt she was just ever-so-slightly low enough on the totem pole that they could stick a charge of a Hatch Act violation on her forehead and see if it could stick? She’s not a Cabinet level official, we can go for her!

Because this is really a symbolic poke in the eye of the President by the OSC. Who decides Kellyanne Conway’s fate according to the Hatch Act?? Uh … the President does. And either an official reprimand by the President or a fine of up to $1,000 are the penalties generally available; if the President sees fit to apply them.

Give me a break.

Who filed the complaints that led to the OPS determination regarding Conway’s two televised interviews on the Roy Moore v Doug Jones Alabama election last December? Why former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub who called her interviews a “slam dunk” violation back then.

Now Democrat politicians like Elijah Cummings are demanding Trump deliver “swift and serious” punishment . Which he won’t. Which Democrats know perfectly well because Conway’s case is at best a borderline fussy finagling interpretation of what in fact does (or doesn’t) constitute a partisan display on the part of a federal employee during an election. It’s part of Conway’s JOB to go on TV and talk about those sorts of things.

Accusing Conway of violating the Hatch Act in a town populated by federal employees leaking classified information in order to disrupt and even sabotage the Trump administration is an ostentatiously blatant exercise in partisan hypocrisy.

So Trump’s rightfully refusing to punish Conway will then be used to talk about the “corruption” in the White House. Even FDR would roll over in his grave.

First it was Scot Peterson, the armed Broward Sheriff’s Deputy, waiting outside the school in Parkland as the gunfire sounded for a period of several minutes, and only calling for back-up rather than going in.

Then, we find out he was also on the radio with the Sheriff’s Office and likely receiving instructions. In other words, Peterson, along with several other Broward Deputies who sheltered behind their vehicles, were likely following orders.

Then we find out that Broward Sheriff Scott Israel had received countless calls and several explicit warnings, and had responded to many house calls, all relating to Nikolas Cruz and his family. But Cruz was never charged and therefore there was no information on Cruz in law enforcement data bases. It’s not just that Miami’s FBI Field Office didn’t act on information. There was No. Criminal. Record. on Cruz. So officially he couldn’t be flagged.

Why in the world did the Broward County Sheriff’s Office refuse to charge Cruz?

Because of a change in policy under the Obama administration that was intended to shut down the “pipeline” from school to prison for young offenders, especially minority offenders. And among the 50 odd counties in America that put this new policy into practice (it was seen as a rollback of zero-tolerance policies) Broward County was a leader in implementing the new policy.

In a revealing and disturbing article in Real Clear Politics, Paul Sperry outlines this change in policy and how it was put into place in Broward County. First of all, you had a key player in the shape of Robert Runcie, Broward School Superintendent. Runcie is a Chicago-born and bred, Harvard-educated and with close ties to Obama and to Obama’s then-education Secretary, Arne Duncan.

Runcie put in place a collaborative agreement with local police that downgraded various misdemeanors and other offenses to incidents that would no longer be reported to police. Sheriff Scott Israel signed that agreement around 2013, and became an enthusiastic supporter of the new discipline guidelines. Expulsions and suspensions plummeted, violence in schools increased, and Runcie obtained millions in grants from his old boss, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education. While Runcie raked in the subsidies and grants, teachers’ lives became far more risky with apparently increased incidents of student violence against teachers.

So, it wasn’t so much a case of negligence in Nikolas Cruz’s disturbing and horrific example. It was a matter of deliberate, progressive government policy being put into action in Broward County.

So while Runcie might have proudly claimed he was giving students a chance and turning back overly strict disciplinary codes that could ruin a student’s life and their chances to get a job, or go to college, or join the military, he and Duncan and Israel were putting in place the blinkers that deliberately overlooked Cruz’s behavior and allowed him to even remain in the school system, rather than in jail or an institution.

A program with good – if misguided – intentions becomes a sweeping social experiment in education and sets the stage for a horrifying tragedy. Should we be shocked and angry? Yes, by all means. Should we truly be surprised? No.

Impatience with due process. Legally, it’s not a crime unless you do something against the law as a result of that impatience. Politically, it’s not really an impeachable offense, unless enough members of both Houses of Congress decide it somehow is.

But it can make for bad politics as in Trump’s latest impatience with due process. Although he has been quoted in a way that does not reference the targeted context – people displaying dangerous behavior and how local law enforcement and the courts should deal with those types of people.

So when President Trump says this:

Take the guns first, go through due process second.

You know the headlines won’t mention that he was talking about people like Nikolas Cruz. But even if that was the context, one wonders how his base will react. Especially gun owners in general. But even more than just the headlines, what Trump’s comment did was give an opening to his critics – like the Washington Post’s James Hohmann – to describe him as the President who tramples due process. And of course heres the main reason why Hohmann riffed on this in his Daily 202:

AG Jeff Sessions.

And the President’s anger at his use of the DOJ’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, to investigate potential abuses of the FISA warrants issued against Carter Page in 2016 and 2017. President Trump is angry that Sessions is using an Obama appointee – Horowitz who apparently is a well-respected official who has worked with both GOP and Democrat administrations – rather than DOJ lawyers to investigate possible FISA abuse by the FBI and by the DOJ itself.

Republican officials and conservative commentators in places like National Review have sided with Sessions, unsurprisingly. And the Attorney General pushed back with this statement:

As long as I am attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and the constitution.

Sessions also said that the Inspector General’s investigation is the appropriate process to be using.

Yes, part of the reason Trump won the election was his promise to poke a finger in the eye of due process and to: Drain. The. Swamp. And unfortunately, government and its various institutions and branches are viewed with suspicion and precious little trust by majorities or significant pluralities of voters, depending on what specific institution we’re talking about.

But if the only way to ensure justice – and President Trump has every right to feel that many in government would love to see him impeached – is through unconstrained partisan behavior at every level of government, then why even have a Department of Justice? Why even have an AG? Why even have an Inspector General? It would all just be sham. And even if it already basically is a partisan sham – a geniune possibility – how do you regain voters’ trust?

It may be too late. Trust is at all time lows. We’re getting worked up about an inspector general who is investigating if the FBI and the DOJ followed due process with Hillary’s server investigation and now with Carter Page’s surveillance warrants courtesy of the FISA courts. We’re investigating the Russia investigations, rather than let them run their course and reveal that there may be no there there.

The government doesn’t trust itself, in other words.

Many Democrats still don’t trust the election results or they no longer believe in the electoral college. Republicans don’t trust key law enforcement and intel officials like James Comey or John Brennan. Gun owners don’t trust liberals’ intents with regard to their legally owned weapons. Progressives/liberals in turn don’t trust guns in any solution to school shootings that doesn’t limit itself to a state monopoly on violence.

And the President doesn’t trust his own AG.

Trump is not an isolated Nixonian figure. Trump is a sign of the times. And due process may end up being nothing more than a sham in the eyes of far too many voters nowadays by the time all these investigations and counter-investigations and investigations of investigations finally conclude. Or slowly swallow their own rattlers like a nest of crazed serpents, gorging on their own flesh.