Impeachment is serious business. It is not a short term tactical weapon to ensure a process goes more smoothly: in this case that the DOJ complies with House requests to turn over additional documents relating to the FBI and Mueller probes of any possible Trump campaign team collusion with Russia.

So, there’s a divide amongst House Republicans on this issue, and it’s happening in the shadow of the race to succeed Paul Ryan as House Speaker. Jim Jordan has just announced that he’s running and was part of the eleven GOP Members of Congress who tabled the proposal. McCarthy is against the idea. Here’s Steve Scalise – a likely candidate for Speaker – commenting on his support for the House GOP members who have proposed impeaching Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein over DOJ slow-walking of House requests for documents:

It’s more about leverage to let the Justice Department know we’re serious about getting the final information they haven’t sent us. This is another tool to get Justice to comply with our subpoenas and our demands for documents that the American people deserve to get. They need to start complying. Obviously they have given us a number of things but they’ve still held back some of the documents we need to get as part of our oversight.

No Steve, you don’t use impeachment to gain leverage in a process pitting Congress against the Executive in a matter dealing with how swiftly the Department of Justice hands over what you ask for. Yes, the DOJ is clearly delaying – perhaps waiting for a hoped-for Democratic majority in the lower chamber – and doing so for reasons that likely have more to do with covering their tracks rather than national security concerns. That’s troubling. That’s damn annoying. That’s stonewalling. That’s not high crimes and misdemeanors.

Apparently, Mark Meadows was told the same thing by outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan, and Meadows has apparently backed off (it was Freedom Caucus members behind this impeachment proposal), just a little. Here’s Meadows on Thursday afternoon:

I hope we can avoid impeachment and hopefully avoid contempt and get the documents, but certainly both those things are on the table and remain on the table to have more of a contempt process. Both options remain there.

That’s hardly putting your pistol back in the holster, but at least he’s laid his gun down on the table for now. But the threat remains clear.

When you use impeachment for this level of confrontation, it demeans the option and makes it that much more likely that Democrats will be even more eager to use impeachment wherever and whenever they think they can gain any sort of advantage. And that means impeachment so abused will become equivalent to … sorry but it’s hard to resist … saying “You’re fired!”

And precisely because the man who re-built his troubled empire on that phrase is in danger of having a Democrat controlled Congress launch impeachment proceedings based on a flawed and partisan investigation is why Scalise, Jordan, and Meadows should resist threatening it.

But they clearly think that the deadly serious slugfest with Democrats means you grab any bottle handy, break it off to ensure it’s sharp and jagged, and start swinging wildly hoping to slash into any nearby flesh. Like the other side of the aisle.

Unfortunately, the President will likely approve these tactics, even as his own future is unnecessarily threatened by the possibility of an absurd impeachment process that the opposition party is itching to unleash on him. And perhaps so does his base.

So, while Ryan has damped down the impeach-Rosenstein talk, it’s hardly been vanquished. And might even get put into action. Just what we need.

No Such Thing as “Democratic Socialism”

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The new darling of the Democratic Party and the liberal mainstream media is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the bright-eyed, 20-something upstart who upended long-time House member Joe Crowley in a New York state Democratic primary a few weeks ago. In their breathless, frenzied rush to anoint Ocasio-Cortez as the next coming of the Savior of the Nation, liberals across the land have wholeheartedly embraced her call for “Democratic Socialism.”

Ignoring the fact that Bernie Sanders espoused essentially the exact same things in the last presidential campaign but was unceremoniously and dishonestly pushed aside by the Democratic Party in favor of Hillary Clinton, what exactly is this “Democratic Socialism” that seems to have everyone on that side of the fence so atwitter these days?

What Democrats think it is sounds good: Income equality, a fair living wage for everyone, plentiful employment opportunities, quality healthcare coverage for all, affordable college education for all who want it, easy access to affordable, quality housing, and a tax system where the so-called rich pay their “fair share.”

While they’re at it, the Ocasio-Cortez’s of the world would also abolish ICE while ending most immigration restrictions, end what they see as our destructive international interventionism and put a stop to Israel’s wholly unjustified occupation and oppression of Palestine. What these last three have to do with either “Democracy” or “Socialism” is unclear, but there it is anyway.

Implicit in the entire discussion of their prized new order is that everything about the American economy, way of life and culture that is to their liking would remain securely in place, unaffected by the transition to Democratic Socialism. That, of course, is preposterous. The aspects of daily American life that people like and take for granted—plentiful food availability at well-stocked supermarkets, instant access to news, sports and music, the ability to get product information, make purchases and have them delivered the next day, cheap and plentiful fuel availability, an uncountable variety of non-essential consumer goods, from toys to fashion clothing to jewelry to entertainment electronics and their associated services, and millions of other items—are all made possible by the capitalistic/profit-oriented structure of our economic system. If the private business profit incentive is removed, as is the case in a socialist economy, the underlying competitive impetus for providing those goods and services disappears. It’s a zero-sum game: the more “socialism” that is introduced into the economy, the less efficient that economy becomes, because lessened private competition results in fewer choices and a diminishing incentive to increase efficiency or reduce costs.

Proponents of so-called Democratic Socialism never actually explain where the money needed to pay for all the largess will come from. There is a limit to how much simply taxing the rich will produce. Taxes on services and sales transactions would need to be raised to a stifling degree, with a commensurate negative effect on economic activity.

Europe’s supposed nirvana of universal healthcare is, in reality, a boondoggle of smoke and mirrors, where the average person has limited access to what we would consider routine medical care, at a level far lower than the average American could ever imagine. In Italy, for example, patients usually bring their own metal eating utensils and towels with them, since those are often not provided. Toilet paper is often scarce in the hospital as well. For childbirth, expectant mothers usually bring her own topical medicines, sanitary products and newborn diapers. Visitors are not asked to leave by 8:00 PM as is customary in U.S. hospitals. On the contrary, patients are advised to have a visitor stay overnight with them, because nurse staffing levels are far lower, as a matter of normal course. Bedding is not provided for overnight visitors, however.

Patients do have access to doctors and medical care via the national health system, but non-critical conditions and injuries receive lower priority and delayed attention. If a patient desires American-style “on-demand” care, they must simply pay for it out-of-pocket, an option not possible for all but the wealthiest citizens.

I know this first-hand, from an American family member living there for fourteen years and having had three children in Italy. She is fortunate enough to live in a high-income household, well above the European norm. They get around the limitations of EU-styled universal healthcare by being able to pay for any extra care they need. But that access is simply not available to the average Italian, heavily-taxed $8.00/gallon gasoline notwithstanding.

Let’s look at one other fantastical promise of Democratic Socialism: affordable college for anyone who wants it. The government can’t make college “affordable.” When the government artificially corrupts the education marketplace by injecting billions of dollars into the mix in the form of aid, scholarships, stipends and the like, they don’t reduce the ultimate cost of college. They increase it. Secure in the knowledge that a very significant portion of their students get artificially low-rate loans and generous grants/financial aid, the colleges themselves simply raise their tuition, salaries and fees—at a rate far in excess of inflation—confident that the Government will be handing out money to the students so they can pay for a significant portion of their college expenses.

What’s needed in the education marketplace is less government involvement, not more. Government-provided funds distort and obscure the real cost of education. College pricing is higher, not lower, because of government money. Remove the artificial effect of the Government’s likely one-third or more share of the $70,000 cost at Boston University and virtually no one would be able to go there. If Government-subsidized financial assistance was removed from the equation, then colleges would be forced to compete with each other in the open market for their “customers” hard-earned money. College costs would go down and the services and value they offered would go up, as the free market imposed its ruthless, unapologetic competitive lessons on the various college “brands.”

Capitalism is the best answer for raising the standard of living and delivering greater opportunities to more people. The more government is involved—funded by higher and higher taxation—the more 6-month waits we have at VA hospitals, the more $70k tuitions we have at colleges and the more $50 hammers we have being purchased by the Pentagon. Capitalism is far from perfect and not everyone benefits to the same degree—but it’s fundamentally superior to everything else. It’s kind of like what Churchill said about democracy: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

“Democratic Socialism,” as envisioned by its proponents, doesn’t exist. Not in the real world. It’s just another pipe-dream fantasy with which hucksters like Ocasio-Cortez hope to fool unsuspecting, uninformed, entitlement-minded voters. Or worse yet, themselves.

 

When President Trump – and his tariff-hurling, fiery trade advisor Peter Navarro – impose tariffs on allies and adversaries alike, what is their purpose? To dismantle the global trading system and leave America standing strong amidst the rubble? Which drives many in the GOP crazy and desperate to plead in the president’s ear for a change of course. Or is it to secure better bilateral deals in a bare-knuckles sort of bilateralism? Or does Trump give it much thought beyond the reactions he seeks to provoke in others?

In a fascinating article in The National Interest, Milton Ezrati comments on the notion that President Trump is single-handedly taking a sledge hammer to the global trading system. According to Ezrati, a free-trading global system died about 30 years ago.

Fricking French Farmers.

Ok, allow me to elaborate. What Ezrati is talking about is what our global trading system has actually become. Over the last decades, starting in the late 80’s, the world began to move towards Preferential Trade Agreements, or PTA’s. What’s a good example of a PTA?

  • The EU. From the beginning of multilateral trade talks in the late 40’s, Europe, scarred by it’s history and the two World Wars that had ravaged the continent and for which the continent was solely responsible, began to forge an economic community that always had – and still has – political ends. To bind Germany into a framework that will prevent any future Teutonic expansionism and Germanic nationalism that yielded such horrifying results in the mid-twentieth century. In the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, attempts at lowering tariffs continually ran into European – lead by the French – obstructionism. European farmers were to be – and still are – protected from competition at practically all costs. So, while the European Union lowered barriers among European nations in a political attempt to bind distinct nations into a forever peaceful community, it did nothing to forward the cause of global free trade, or lower tariffs for those outside the preferential trading area.
  • Ditto for NAFTA, which lowered tariffs among the 3 nations that compromise the geographical, if not the cultural, North America. NAFTA does not lower trade barriers for Chile or China or Japan or Australia.
  • The defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership and it’s orphaned offspring, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership are also preferential trade agreements.

In other words, the latest global order is a competition, unequal and biased and with rules bent and massaged to accommodate particular interests, between trading blocks. This is not a free trading system. It is a curious hybrid between protectionism and freer-if-not-free trade. When combined with economic theories on optimal currency areas – Should the Mercosur, yet another PTA, have its own currency for example? – you have the basic landscape of the current international economic order.

So, the question becomes: is President Trump working within the PTA framework looking not to change the framework but to bully his way to better deals for America? Or is he looking to smash the PTA order and rebuild a free-trading world on top of the rubble?

Safe to say that that question has yet to be answered, least of all in the President’s mind. His approach is transactional, which would seem to suggest he’s fine with re-ordering but not destroying the Preferential Trade Agreement world order. But at times he seems to want to merely lower tariffs everywhere, which suggests more of a return to a global free-trading system that Kennedy and others tried and failed to build.

I’m not sure I’d actually want to show the President Milton Ezrati’s article in The National Interest. I’d fear he’d decide he’s in love with PTA’s as long as the lion’s share of the preference runs America’s way. Let’s hope instead that Trump keeps scaring political leaders into offering lower tariffs. And that his tactics actually work, unlike the evidence so far with regards to China. A high-tariff PTA global trade system would be the worst of both worlds for an economically isolated America.

Poor Marina Gross, a long-serving translator at the State Department. One wonders in the first place if the latest person to be caught in the well, cross-fire hurricane, had any idea that one day she would be – for a moment at least – such a public figure. One also wonders if Marina Gross is actually an interpreter which apparently is all by itself a very stressful job having to translate on the spot and verbally from one language to another. A translator usually has the time to check and correct what they do. Not so in the case of an interpreter.

Perhaps she is a translator rather than the latter and took copious notes at President Trump’s closed-doors meeting with Putin. And now Democrat Senators want those notes. At least in closed Senate session. Maria, the spy from Moscow, is already fading somewhat only 24 hours after she was indicted. Now Marina has taken her place. Because while Maria Butina might indeed have looked to cultivate relationships in all sorts of ways and perhaps develop back-channels – like many do in Washington’s foreign policy circles – she’s at least several degrees removed from President or then-Candidate Trump. And that might make for a good story, but when you’re gunning for the real bear – the one in the Oval Office – then you need to get a closer shot, right?

Hence a translator’s notes of a closed-door meeting between heads of state. This would set an awful precedent. Is there nothing that Democrats and Trump Resistance people will not poison in order to get any possible evidence that might lead to at least impeachment proceedings in the House, if not a supporting vote in the Senate? The intel community has had its reputation tarnished. Strzok’s appearance before the House Judiciary committee was feisty, obnoxious, deeply partisan and legally irrelevant unless the President himself allows all related documents to be released. Is this how the FBI sees itself and is this how we see them nowadays?

He deserves it, is the response of course.

The objective is – and has perhaps been since Trump was nominated in May of 2016 – impeachment. So, if Senate Democrats can parse the language of whatever was said – this is Trump after all – they will surely find some word salad that can be tossed a little to suggest whatever quid pro quo they wish to construct. And then if the House becomes Democrat-controlled in November, then impeachment hearings can get underway.

Devin Nunes lives, dreams, sweats, and sleeps this reality every day and is trying to get as much information out there as possible as he works against a stone-walling DOJ and FBI. But thanks to President Trump’s bigly blunder in Helsinki, Democrats now have the upper hand in terms of the news cycle. Who cares that the FBI or DOJ did in 2016?? Trump is a traitor!! They proclaim.

No, he’s not. Not at least until some concrete evidence suggests otherwise. Some compromising information that Putin’s men and women might have on him. But so far, nyet. What Trump is, is apparently unwilling to fully and completely and graciously acknowledge that Russia did indeed meddle and that his campaign had nothing to do with it. Without equivocating like he did Tuesday. And that he is the legitimate elected President of America and that he has been (or at least has allowed Congress to be) substantially harder on Russia than Obama ever was.

But he didn’t say that and even his walk-back was equivocal. And now we have a hard-working translator caught up in the storm. Ridiculous, but that’s where we are.

Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist – who’s rather unmoved by this event unlike the overwhelming majority of conservatives – has a rather blunt theory on why Trump can’t say yes to meddling while saying no to collusion. His ego won’t let him. Is Domenech right? Is it that disgustingly simple? Is anything that points away from Trump’s protagonism swatted away by him like an annoying mosquito?

We don’t know. But what we should know is that allowing a meeting between heads of state to be carved up like a bad autopsy in order to look for any evidence of any possible collusion, is the wrong way for Congress to assert its constitutional role regarding foreign policy. Not to mention to possibly endanger the so-beloved national security that Democrats pledge such allegiance to. Leave Maria Gross alone and instead call for a reasonably swift conclusion to Mueller’s probe so that the evidence can be brought out for all to see.

Of course America has interfered or hacked into foreign states’ affairs. It’s part of any major (and quite a few mid-level) power’s portfolio of strategies and tactics. The problem, Mr. President, is when you assign moral equivalence to the acts of Putin’s Kremlin and it’s use of hybrid warfare: a form of aggression that Russia has developed and now uses as it’s predominant way to achieve Russia’s ends. Which tend to be czar Putin’s ends.

It. Is. Not. The. Same. When America tries to influence events. Never mind what screaming radicals in Europe, the Middle East, or Latin America think. Even a case like Chile. Where possible intelligence activity by America helped topple Salvador Allende’s socialist and increasingly authoritarian regime and ushered in Pinochet’s brutal and lengthy dictatorship. Chile is now arguably the most developed nation in Latin America and has joined the OECD with little problems of organized crime and corruption that haunt Mexico for example.

It seems stubborn in a peevish way to deny any Russian interference in the 2016 elections. And the problem seems to be this. There is a conflation between interference and collusion. And yes, those in the media and the Resistance (whether part of the Democratic Party or progressive activists pushing the Democratic party and its base) who deliberately conflate interference with collusion, in order to weaken Trump’s legitimacy, do it to try and somehow scare up a case for impeachment.

One assumes that Mr. President, you understand this tactic and that it infuriates you. But here’s the real problem. When you cheerfully accept Putin’s smirking, thuggish denials and ridiculous offers in front of the world’s media, you only help those who wish to push the collusion narrative. Your denials and complicity in Putin’s lies only help the Resistance Mr. President.

You do get that don’t you?

This is a game. A great game unfortunately in today’s image-driven, post-modern world where the public square has been co-opted by social media. You have managed to play the game in ways nobody expected would work, Mr. President, but the Achille’s heel in your strategy has always been your inability to balance between dismissing the collusion narrative and accepting the reality of interference.

Some people really want to hurt you. It’s true. Some people just dislike you and who you are – like Senator McCain – but his criticism of your performance in Helsinki makes it worth the fact that McCain is unwilling to graciously step aside as a war hero and long serving public servant and relinquish his Senate seat. Doesn’t matter. His words today make it a gift to America that he clings to that seat.

And some people really want to help you. You should lend them an ear on occasion Mr. President. Like Paul Bonicelli’s piece in The Federalist, a measured and yet forceful plea for what might have happened in Helsinki. I quote:

President Trump went into this meeting with plenty of leverage—and the personality and reputation—to effect this outcome. We are incredibly rich, powerful, and highly regarded by much of the world, and feared by the rest. Further, the president carried with him the leverage that Putin is a clear malefactor in the world who threatens his neighbors; meddles in the Middle East to the point of war crimes; murders foreign citizens in their own countries; and bolsters rogue nations like North Korea. His deeds are wicked and his words are lies, and everyone knows it.

None of this is to say that Trump needed to go into this meeting and verbally attack and abuse Putin. Diplomacy at the highest levels calls for restraint of words and tone. But it doesn’t call for one leader to defer to another’s leader’s views on anything. It definitely doesn’t call for a leader to make his domestic political concerns the issue, especially to the degree that he will not publicly support his own cabinet.

But Mr. President, you were at a loss over what to do, or had clearly decided what to do, and that was not to cede an inch to your opponents back home. This is the true poison of the very Russian electoral meddling that you deny: it so dominates your mind that you cannot take the advice of your own cabinet and present a public show of strength which reflects a clear-eyed view of who Putin actually is. And this is because of the Mueller probe.

Mueller needs to wrap up his probe for the sake of America’s unity. And yes, President Trump has stumbled badly in Helsinki, and he needs to realize that and somehow repair the damage he has wrought. Here’s Bonicelli writing in The Federalist again:

I applaud every action President Trump has taken against Putin and his efforts around the world. But action alone is not sufficient to handle Putin. Prestige in global politics matters; perception matters. Putin thrives on the prestige accorded to bullies; by it rogue regimes are emboldened and we and our allies are diminished and discouraged.

Part of President Trump’s job as president is to publicly put the United States on the right side of the issues, as clearly as possible, whenever he can. He can treat Putin as a real partner in our common interests when Putin understands how he can have a good relationship with us, as a more normal nation. But treating him that way before he’s done anything to reform his actions in the world, when he’s actually lying to Trump, only strengthens Putin.

When the president of the United States defers to a liar and a murderer and a source of global conflict, nothing good for the United States can come from it. If this is the kind of relationship the president seeks, he’s seeking the wrong kind of relationship. If bluntness and toughness is called for with allies and has arguably worked for the president, surely it will work against a weak leader of a poor country who desperately needs the U.S. president not to punch him in the nose.

But as well, Mueller needs to wrap his probe up and reveal any incriminating evidence he may have. If those who despise Trump really did kickstart the Russia probe (before it became the Mueller probe in 2017) in order to weaken and perhaps impeach Trump, they should realize the damage they have done to America and her standing on the world stage, never mind the damage to America’s institutions. Yes, the President shares some of the blame here. But this seems a watershed moment. America needs to start thinking about ways to unite. This is too serious for any other way forward. Lets hope people on both sides of the aisle and across the federal government realize this.

This is strange. And possibly a hoax. But worth a further look.

Remember Seth Rich? The DNC staffer who was murdered in what for now is apparently viewed by DC Police as a botched robbery attempt? Although the details surrounding the shooting death are a little strange. But then again, getting shot a couple of hours after midnight in a somewhat shaky neighborhood of a large city does not necessarily require men in black helicopters or gunmen hiding behind grassy knolls. Some violent criminal or crazy could just decide to shoot you. Because. And yes, ‘Vince Foster rerun by conspiracy-mongers’ could certainly be used as a rhetorical battering ram to squash the credibility of anyone who wonders about the staffer’s murder.

There’s the new angle in a story in The Daily Beast by Kevin Poulsen that goes deep into the history of John Mark Dougan, an ex-policeman who used to work in Palm Beach in Florida, until local law enforcement corruption caused him to quit around 2008/2009 and to begin an online campaign against Sheriff Ric Bradshaw that has lasted years and in which the Sheriff’s Office in Palm Beach has counter-punched with its own dirty tricks and smear campaign. It’s curious and ugly, and The Daily Beast goes into interminable detail on the history of the Palm Beach cyber-confrontations between Dougan and Bradshaw.

But deep into his story Poulsen – in a curiously dismissive way – reveals the real shocker. Mark Dougan claims that he was given the DNC hacks on a thumb drive by someone he later realized was none other than Seth Rich. This supposedly happened around February or March of 2016, when Dougan – after an FBI raid on his home and computer – drove to Washington DC from Florida and back again in a single day so the FBI wouldn’t notice he had left his home. And that day is when Dougan claims that he met Rich (who had contacted him earlier in February) outside a high school basketball court and was given a thumb drive. This was after the informant/whistleblower had contacted Dougan, presumably over Dougan’s own fame as a leaker/hacker/whistleblower.

This is because Dougan, in his war with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, had been releasing confidential property records of Florida government employees, especially cops. A sort of mass outing as revenge on what he saw as a corrupt local police force. Thousands of addresses in fact.

Hence the FBI raid in March. Hence Dougan’s desperate drive to Washington DC.

But it gets stranger. After the FBI raid, Dougan decided that if he was arrested for the leaks, he wouldn’t survive jail. Here’s how Poulsen, writing in the Daily Beast, puts it:

Dougan’s cockiness faded after the FBI search. He could easily see being arrested now, and if he was thrown in Palm Beach County Jail he doubted he’d ever make it to trial. He could imagined how it could unfold, a sheriff’s officer holding a hushed conversation with an inmate: “Hey dude, we’ll drop your charges if you kill this guy.”

He began making arrangements for his escape immediately. In early April he borrowed a car from a friend and a wig from his mother Leaving behind his ex-wife and their two children, he started the long drive north to the Canadian border. He was soon at the Toronto airport, boarding one final flight to Moscow.

Why Moscow? He had a Russian girlfriend by then and had been making regular trips to the city for the past few years before this all happened in 2016. Once there, he apparently hooked up for lunch with Pavel Borodin, someone in Yeltsin’s administration who helped Putin in his rise to power in the mid-late 90’s. But then again, if you’re looking to start over and make connections with the powerful in Moscow in the 2010’s, you’re guaranteed to have to meet someone who is close to Putin.

Dougan is a strange, angry, obsessed and flawed character by all appearances. But that does not mean that he is necessarily lying about his supposed meeting with Seth Rich. If he is telling at least part of the truth, he is an important witness in a possible case of a political assassination. Of course, Dougan is a free man (meaning not in jail or indicted) thanks to Putin. This a hall of mirrors, and one has to be careful about anything anyone says.

And Dougan has a book out. As part of his cyber warfare against the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office, he adopted a fake persona – a supposed Russian hacker called BadVolf – that the FBI even believed existed when it raided his home in March of 2016. So naturally Dougan’s book is called BadVolf. You can laugh at him or wonder who the hell he really is.

But this begs further investigation. Let’s see what a little digging might turn up.This is strange. And possibly a hoax. But worth a further look.

Was MAVNI a good idea? MAVNI: Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest. This was a program devised under Bush 43’s presidency as a response to a desperate need for skilled, foreign-language speakers within America’s military ranks, all in order to better conduct the war on terrorism.

In 2002 President Bush signed an executive order with the purpose of expediting naturalization of foreign-born active-duty soldiers. The program became a formal – and perhaps overly ambitious – program with the creation of MAVNI in 2008.

But guess what? Within a year or so of its creation, the Fort Hood shooting happened. Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army Medical Corps psychiatrist, had been increasingly displaying radicalized behavior and he snapped and started shooting on the base, on November 5, 2009. He was American, born in Virginia to Palestinian parents. This tragic and violent incident meant the program was  put on hold until 2012. In other words, the possibilitiy of admitting recruits – however well-educated and well-qualified – into the military suddenly was seen to come with the possibility an urgent danger. And it still is a key determinant of the vetting and screening process that necessarily comes with a program like MAVNI.

Will they turn on America? And will they do it from within the military? Will your farsi-speaking “asset”, for example, turn deadly on you? How to screen for that risk when your recruits come from places where tracking down official data is tricky at the best of times? And yes, those places are often precisely where you find recruits with the language and cultural skills the military needs.

So while the headlines on the MAVI story seems to vary between racist military and idiot military bureaucracy, perhaps we should just consider the fact that the program has ends that are very difficult to reach. You are asking people who are not American citizens to take up the ultimate sacrifice of going into harm’s way to defend a flag they have yet to swear allegiance to – at least not as citizens of America.

Yes, it can seem a wonderfully inspiring story about America’s inclusivity and how it asks for and brings out the best in people, regardless of where they come from or who they happen to be.

But that “who” they happen to be is the tricky part. How do you vet someone who, say, is an engineer born in Afghanistan and who studied in Saudi Arabia and now wants to join the American military? What documentation will be sufficient to give a recruiter reasonable certainty that this person will not be a threat at some future point in time?

Margaret Stock – a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who supposedly helped design MAVNI – has been all over the media defending those recruits who have been reportedly discharged in recent weeks. She is also defending them legally as an immigration lawyer. But even Stock admits that MAVNI became burdened by unnecessary additions.

Before he became head of DHS, Jeh Johnson was general counsel for the Pentagon and in that capacity he decided it would be a good idea to add DACA recipients to MAVNI. Two nice acronyms make a cute fit. Right?

Wrong. Until the military decide that Spanish is indeed a necessary language in the war against terrorism, admitting Hispanics and Latinos to MAVNI was using the wrong program for the wrong purposes. Aside from the fact that America has more than a few legal hispanic speakers who could and in fact do join the military.

So right now, the military is having to reassess how to vet and how to deal with the enormous backlog of cases in MAVNI. That perhaps means some discharges are related to this vetting process. It could also mean that some recruits were deemed inadmissible for other reasons.

But this isn’t a case of idiot bureaucrats. It’s the case of a military overwhelmed by an ambitious and poorly designed program with possibly flawed ends.

In other words, should MAVNI have ever been created? That America should fast track some legal immigrants who serve with honor in the military is obvious. That is it should create a Frankenstein of a program that gums up the process of recruiting – already a delicate balance between vetting and necessity – is a question that needs to be asked.

Not whether the military under Trump is suddenly and supposedly racist.

Maybe it was the $43,000 soundproof booth. Maybe it was the mattress. Maybe it was aides picking up his hotel tabs and reportedly not being refunded for their out-of-pocket expenses. Call it Scott Pruitt’s high-maintenance sense of entitlement.

Which is a shame for those who agree on the changes he made to EPA policy. And a blessing to those who, like Democrat Senator Tom Carper (Delaware), feel that Pruitt’s time at the EPA:

has been marked by blatant rejections of sound science, proposals to undermine our country’s bedrock environmental protections and consistent efforts to personally profit off of public service.

Because he rolled back some of the EPA’s far-reaching regulations, he is considered a villain and a front for lobbyists who were looking for someone to listen to their worries about how the agency’s regulations hurt their ability to do business, or at times, to even be in business at all.

The Clean Power Plan. The Clean Water Rule. These were burdensome statist attempts to force businesses and property owners to behave in specific ways. A more-than-gentle nudge. So, Pruitt’s dismantling of these programs earned him enemies from the get go.

But he did he have to be so spectacularly venal? If there was one Cabinet Secretary who should have remained above the fray, it was Pruitt, seeing he had a target on his back from day one. He unable to be discrete and reasonable in his behavior, as Laura Ingraham stated:

If you want to drain the swamp, you’ve got to have people in it who forgo personal benefits, and don’t send your aides around doing personal errands on the taxpayer dime. Otherwise, you make everybody else look bad.

Yes, and you give a perfect excuse to those environmental activists who despise your policy agenda. They can point out your indiscretions and say: what did you expect? The guy is pro-business! He’s evil!

The President was careful to praise Pruitt’s achievements in terms of regulation rollback while being cautious on his EPA chief’s political future. That’s been decided for now, but it remains to be seen if the next head of the EPA is a more tactful politician who essentially follows the same agenda, or if they succumb to the pressure from progressive environmentalists and start to undo the rollbacks.

Key among those initiatives is Pruitt’s science transparency initiative that proposes shedding more light on the scientific methodology used in areas like global climate change. Environmentalists would love to undo that initiative and return to the good old cataclysmic warnings of impending doom. Watch for them to push for a rollback of the transparency in science initiative. Let’s hope they don’t manage to get the EPA to pullback on that one. Transparency on methodology is an area of reform that Pruitt, despite his scandals, should be applauded for.

Of course, they’re wont’ be much clapping for him as he heads to the door, but he did get a few things right.

We don’t really know who Justice Gorsuch will prove to be. Not truly. We have his track record in the lower courts. We have his careful statements before the Senate. We have a couple of decisions or opinions as a Justice, so far. But to suggest that we know how Gorsuch will rule on any attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade is premature. As is any suggestion on how Trump’s pick to replace Kennedy will rule.

A somewhat different question is: does Senator Susan Collins know – or think she knows – how Gorsuch (and Trump’s soon-to-be-announced pick) may rule? Or is she just giving hints to whoever Trump nominates that they will have to play that cautious footsie with the world’s most exclusive club to allow everyone to get what they want: a soundbite that supports their particular stance, among a range of conflicting stances?

In other words, will this coming confirmation process be a somewhat more rushed version of the usual confirmation kabuki theatre – including ring-kissing and excruciatingly sculpted responses – or will the raging brawl over abortion push and shove its way into the Senate chambers and strip things down to the basic, ugly confrontation between a mother and her unborn child?

What seems to be key in trying to decide what Senator Collins position will be during the hearings, is the concept – apparently dear to America’s legal system – called Stare Decisis or “to stand by things decided.” Also known as the doctrine of precedent. In Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises (yes, those guys) which was about a patent dispute surrounding a Spiderman toy, Marvel’s legal team defined Stare Decisis as follows:

stare decisis promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.

As Cornell’s Legal Information Institute goes on to say:

In practice, the Supreme Court will usually defer to its previous decisions even if the soundness of the decision is in doubt. A benefit of this rigidity is that a court need not continuously reevaluate the legal underpinnings of past decisions and accepted doctrines.

Which basically means: don’t keep pestering us with this issue guys, it’s been settled! For example, in the abortion debate. Even if legal scholars to a noticeable degree feel that Roe v. Wade is based on faulty reasoning as evidenced by Justice Blackmun’s flawed logic, it would take a lot to overturn the decision. And Susan Collins seems to be suggesting that Justice Gorsuch, for example, gives a fair amount of weight to Stare decisis in his opinions and rulings in the past.

The reason for avoiding re-litigating past decisions seems to be an attempt to isolate the Supreme Court, and the Judiciary by extension, from the swirling political environment which throws up these controversial cases. We shall rise above the fray, or sink below the surface and hope everyone has stopped shouting by the time we come up for air again.

Does it work, or do these controversial cases arise because the Supreme Court has – on more than a few occasions in the past – tried to settle a political dispute in the hope that the shouting goes away? Or the shooting. Consider Dred Scott v. Sandford, the 1857 SCOTUS ruling that justified slavery with language worthy of apartheid South Africa, and which helped lead to the Civil War and eventually the 14th amendment. The Taney court (so legal minds tell the rest of us) invoked what is called ‘substantive due process’, where the court protects fundamental rights by placing them out of the reach of the rest of government. In this case, perversely they protected the rights of slaveowners by forbidding Congress from freeing slaves in Federal territories.

Interesting to use Dred Scott v Sandford to talk about Roe v Wade because both sides can (and likely will) claim they are (or more accurately, represent) the victimized heirs of that ruling: women who wish to abort and their so-called abortion rights, and those defending the rights of unborn children.

So, the question becomes: what would it take to overturn the Stare Decisis of over 45 years of Roe v Wade and would a Justice like Gorsuch and would whoever the president nominates over the next week or so, be willing to stare down Stare Decisis and overturn precedent?

Maybe Senator Collins is just covering her rear flank with her round of interviews over the past few days and ensuring that she wins her next election. Maybe she really is an old-fashioned purist who looks only to ability and character and then lets justice run its course. Or maybe she thinks it will be a lot harder to overturn Roe v Wade than either side realize.

And maybe we should all read up a little on Stare Decisis and the judiciary, in preparation for what will be a nasty confirmation battle.