Here’s an interesting idea put forth by The Washington Examiner’s Daily on Energy. The wild card in this second round of talks between President Trump and Kim Jung Un is coal. North Korea’s coal exports to China, in other words. Apparently, UN sanctions have worked because China has complied with America’s demand that they stop buying DPRK coal. And of course, Trump has reportedly just recently extended the deadline for the scheduled tariff increases on a wide range of Chinese imports, thereby apparently delaying a damaging trade war as negotiations with Xi’s regime continue. Here’s what Daily on Energy’s John Siciliano and Josh Siegel write:

North Korea’s economy depends on coal exports, but crippling United Nations sanctions have cut back its shipments to China — its largest buyer — to zero.

That means that Trump has the option of a concession related to coal in reaching a deal with North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.

If Kim Jung Un renounces his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, he gets his coal trade back with China, and perhaps some exchange of expertise between the U.S. Energy Department and Pyongyang.

Trump could also look to patch up the country’s ailing electricity grid through this exchange, or facilitate discussions with American engineering and electricity firms to help rebuild its grid.

The Energy Department has been promoting U.S. energy expertise abroad as part of Trump’s energy dominance agenda, while also touting natural gas exports to countries throughout Asia.

As well it seems U.S. exports of coal to China have soared since the crippling sanctions kicked in, so China hasn’t had to go without the fuel for one of its main sources of electricity, coal-fired power plants. That means that places like West Virginia seem to have been eating Kim’s lunch. And now Trump has a carrot to dangle before Kim’s power-hungry eyes. You give up nuclear weapons, you get your coal exports to China back and we might even help you with your electricity grid, although one would suspect the South Koreans have wanted that piece of action for a few decades now.

The other interesting part to this speculation is how China would react to such tactics by America because if South Korea has an interest in any rebuilding of North Korea if a peace treaty is ever signed, one can imagine China’s interest is as great in maintaining North Korea as a client state and a junior member of their silk road scheme.

The odds of this working out are not overwhelming unfortunately, precisely because such a plan’s success depends on people like Kim Jong Un and President Xi, one of whom is a crazed communist autocrat, the other a ruthless communist leader. Trump – as Victor Davis Hanson writes in National Review – was the one whose relentless attacks on China over the past couple of years have actually caused a real China pivot among the foreign policy establishment towards recognizing the dangers of Xi’s regime and its ambitions, even as Trump tries to improvise and keep things on a personal level, often undermining his very own political instincts on the threat China is to America and the West.

Will Trump prove to be the blunt truth-teller on North Korea? Right now, that seems a stretch, because the Kims’ regime has sunk every American and Western ambition of sealing some sort of peace deal or of neutralizing its aggressive and dangerous military projects.

Once again, Trump has the chance to prove his critics and doubters wrong on North Korea. Perhaps a tactic of using coal as a bargaining chip with both China and North Korea could work. There are plenty of reasons why it might not, however. As Democrats turn up the volume on the impeach-Trump show, it would be wise to keep an eye on the meetings in Asia this week.

He sells heroin. He’s a machinist with a vehicle he bought from his deceased father’s insurance policy back in 2012. So, he uses the vehicle – a Land Rover – to drive around and along with whatever else he does with his life, sell heroin in Indiana where he lives.

He makes the mistake of selling smack to some undercover agents and gets busted.

He’s charged and pleads guilty to one count of dealing in a controlled substance and the court metes out the following punishment:

• 1 year of home detention
• 5 years of probation
• Payment of court fees and fines totaling $1,200

The State of Indiana then decided to invoke civil forfeiture and seize his $42,000 Land Rover in order to limit his mobility and curb any attempt at recidivism on the part of the man, who happens to be called Tyson Timbs and is in his late 30’s.

A trial court in Indiana and the state’s court of appeals found the measure “grossly disproportional to the gravity” of the Timbs’ offence of dealing heroin. But apparently the Indiana Supreme Court decided that SCOTUS had never ruled that States are subject to the Constitution’s excessive fines clause. Thereby inviting a challenge on precisely those grounds as they shuffled the case back down to the lower courts.

Indiana’s Supreme Court lost.

The US Supreme Court in an opinion written by the spry Justice Ginsburg ruled that, “Protection against excessive punitive economic sanctions secured by the clause is, to repeat, both ‘fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty’ and ‘deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition.”

Here’s what Justice Ginsburg was referring to. The Eighth Amendment, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Forfeiture by the Crown’s Officers was arguably one of the key issues that drove the 13 Colonies to rebel against George III and declare their sovereign right to live freely under their own duly chosen representative government. This cuts deep into the marrow of America, its history, and its Constitution. As Justice Ginsburg emphasizes, “Our scheme of ordered liberty.”

Is Jeff Sessions cheering this outcome from his recently acquired status of: they that live outside the beltway? Not likely, nope. Because, yes, dealing in heroin is a dangerous, disruptive, destructive activity that ruins lives and kills people, and not just from overdoses.

But how do we handle a guy who deals in smack and works a machinist? What does or should society do about this? How does America, in fact, order her liberty?

Heroin was a rich man’s plaything some 100 odd years ago. Then a musician’s vice some 70 to 60 years ago. Then it was the hard edge of the hippie drug scene. As well a disruptive force in inner cities. And now it’s the curse of rural, Middle America. It has moved from group to group, like a wandering predator, and while it’s having a resurgence it still affects a relatively small percentage of the population but does so in often tragic and even horrifying ways. It is an evil drug by all accounts. And yes, prohibition claimed the same sinfulness on the part of alcohol but treating heroin like a good bourbon or craft beer to be regulated and licensed is still a bit of a stretch for more than a few voters. And rightfully so.

The problem of what to do remains.

But the issue in this case is Civil Asset Forfeiture, whatever morality may be used to justify it. Here’s Reason magazine who generally embrace a variety of libertarian perspectives:

“The increased willingness of federal judges to consider the perverse profit incentives created by asset forfeiture, together with the possibility of a Supreme Court ruling on the issue, raises a real question: Are we seeing the twilight of such programs in the United States?

During the last five years or so, more than half of states have passed some form of asset forfeiture reform, limiting what was once a free-for-all cash grab benefiting law enforcement. In places such as Mississippi the reforms were modest—new annual reporting requirements, for instance. New Mexico and Nebraska, however, now mandate criminal convictions before property is forfeited. Most states have landed somewhere in the middle, adding procedural protections for property owners and rebalancing the burden of proof in forfeiture hearings.

Until recently, a major roadblock to all these reforms was Jeff Sessions. The former U.S. attorney general rolled back Obama-era restrictions and emboldened state and local law enforcement to ramp up seizures—and bypass stricter state laws—by partnering with federal authorities. How much longer that loophole remains open depends on Congress.”

As the Washington Examiner notes, the groups cheering this SCOTUS ruling include:

• The ACLU
• The SPLC which, unusually as of late, seems to have a reasonable and legitimate stance
• The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
• The Koch Brother’s Americans For Prosperity

Reason is right. This ball has been firmly punted into Congress’ lap by SCOTUS. Let’s see if they actually pass some restrictive legislation on asset forfeiture.

Danger Abounds for 2020 Democratic Presidential Contenders

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

Conventional wisdom posits that in the presidential primary season, the contenders focus most of their attention and efforts on the more extreme wing of their party, the thought being that these rabid partisans—be they extreme-left or extreme-right—dominate the primary voting turnout and thus play a decisive role in determining their party’s eventual nominee.

On the Democratic side, the first set of putative nominees (typified by Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro and the presumptive entry of Bernie Sanders) has obviously been influenced by the strain of über-liberal AOC-like thought, as they engage in a race to out-liberal each other, with their proposed Government giveaways reaching new heights. Astonishingly enough, Ocasio-Cortez’ undeservedly-hyped, bereft-of-specifics Green New Deal (along with Sanders’ 2016 tenets) has served as the blueprint for every Democratic contender’s platform. For them, no amount of Government-provided largess is too much or too unrealistic. Indeed, they present the notions of taxpayer-funded healthcare, free tuition, student loan forgiveness, guaranteed employment and income, guaranteed affordable housing, and unrestricted immigration as if they are perfectly normal, to-be-expected obligations of American government.

The liberal media—eager for political-presidential news of any kind and especially stories of the ‘we really, really hate Trump’ variety—is inclined to give these early declarees an unprecedented amount of coverage, since covering them and their hyperbolic anti-Trump rants gives the liberal networks the opportunity to present an almost unlimited amount of over-the-top anti-Trump stories under the guise of legitimate news: “We’re simply covering what Corey Booker said.” That Corey Booker’s opinion of President Trump is in ironclad lockstep agreement with CNN’s editorial stance is merely a happy coincidence.

The risk that all these early announcers face is overexposure and too-soon critical evaluation of their proposals. The danger for these early-announced Democratic contenders is threefold:

  1. Sameness and lack of individual identity and uniqueness. What is the difference between Harris, Warren, Sanders and Booker and their wildly anti-capitalist, pro-Socialist, ‘free everything for everyone” proposals? How is Harriscare different and better than Berniecare or Elizabethcare?
  2. Damaging early policy evaluation. Trump beat Hillary in large part by winning the votes of previously Democratic blue-collar voters in PA, OH, MI, FL and WI. The middle of the Democratic voting bloc doesn’t agree with all the radical positions espoused by this first wave of contenders. The longer these positions are exposed to the harsh sunlight of analysis, the more likely that a greater number of “ordinary” Democratic voters will reject them. Maybe the rabid extreme Progressive primary voters won’t, but the casual rank-and-file Democrat—the “Trump” Democrat—likely will. Polls will sour. Publicity will turn negative. That new shine will lose some of its luster.
  3. For a politician, being in the public eye for too long can be hazardous. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” as the old saying goes. Perhaps Warren’s caustic, screechy voice will wear thin after several months on center stage. Perhaps Bernie’s advanced age will suddenly become frighteningly apparent and unacceptable to Millennial Progressives, and he goes from “cool old guy” to “Who are you kidding, Grandpa?” in the blink of an eye. Perhaps some embarrassing and undeniable blemish from Harris’ or Booker’s past emerges and there’s no explaining it away. The longer the at-bat, the greater the chance of a swinging strike three.

All this leaves an opening for the Second Wave, a slightly more moderate brand of presidential contender. Seth Molton, Joe Biden, Terry McAuliffe, John Hickenlooper or someone else. Possibly more palatable to a wider swath of voters. While they are just as capable of spouting anti-Trump do-goodism, give-stuff-away-free policies as the Early Contenders, they’d have an ability to speak to the Ohio/PA/MI blue-collar Democratic voter that went for Trump in 2016—and make a convincing case—in a way that the pro-Green New Deal Harris, Booker and Warren never could. Can any of the Second Wave do it? While it’s probably easier and more convincing in a general election campaign for a relatively moderate centrist Democrat to spout ultra-left positions than it is for a super-progressive to attempt to convince the middle of the voting populace of their moderate positions, this Second Wave would suffer from being behind the curve in terms of fundraising, name recognition (except for Biden), organization/logistics and they all run the risk of appearing opportunistic and insincere.

Staking out such a far-Left position may help the Democrats in the primaries but may well prove to be a handicap in the general election. Remember, the Democrats have moved much farther Left than the Republicans have moved Right. A very strong case can be made that Republicans have not moved Right at all since 1960, but compared to a 1960 JFK Democrat, today’s Progressives are unrecognizable. Points of fact:

  1. The words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” from Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural speech seem laughable, utterly impossible, by today’s Democratic standards.
  2. Today’s Democrats no longer propose great national scientific or military initiatives like the Moon Landing or closing the Missile Gap, undertaken under a Democratic Administration strictly for the country’s benefit as a whole. In contrast, modern Democrats craft their policy proposals in response to the needs of special interest groups (women, minorities, immigrants, LGTB, etc.), for the purpose of buying that group’s votes with a taxpayer-funded program. As predictable as day turns into night, if there’s a perceived issue affecting a demographic group, the automatic current-day Democratic response is to invent a new Government program to “cure” it and raise taxes to pay for it.
  3. Republican positions of limited taxation, necessary-but-reasonable business and environmental regulations, a strong military, support for law and order, favoring the philosophy of giving all groups equal opportunities vs. trying to artificially fabricate equal outcomes—these are unchanged from 60 years ago. It is the Democrats who’ve moved so far Left they’ve had to change their name to Progressive. Republican governing ideals are essentially unchanged.

Pointing this out infuriates today’s Democrats, but it’s a matter of easily-observable fact, not opinion. The 2020 Democratic GND platform may appeal to effete coastal elitists who live in their unsullied theoretical world, but Joe and Jane registered Democrat factory worker/shelf stocker/middle manager isn’t going to buy into it. If Booker-Harris-Warren don’t float their boat, is Biden too old? McAuliffe too used-car-salesmanish? Molten too opportunistic? Hickenlooper too strange?

The economy is doing very well, and peoples’ kids are getting good jobs and supporting themselves. Stocks are way up vs. the Obama years, recent volatility notwithstanding. Europe has finally been told to ante up for its NATO defense. We’re producing a lot of oil and natural gas and everyone is really happy about it (whether they admit it out loud or not). The liberal media have finally met their match, and again, an awful lot of people like it. It is very easy and defensible to say that President Trump’s “official” approval numbers are understated by 5-10%, at least, by all those liberal-leaning polls with their liberal-leaning methods and overly-liberal sample compositions. Every poll that has President Trump at 45% is likely 55% in the privacy of the voting booth.

That is how and why President Trump beat HRC so handily in 2016 and why the polls were so wrong. Democrats may think that President Trump is easy pickings in 2020 and all they have to do is promise a lot of free stuff and repeat the words “Fair share!” over and over again.

In fact, Democrats are in for one very difficult uphill slog in 2020, and baring some unforeseen random outside factor, they probably will not reach the top.

I’ll do my best not to get too silly dealing with this story because at the end of the day, this involves a rather serious aspect of the behavior of some of those close to the President. Had I been writing a piece for my university paper nearly 40 years ago, the jokes that would have arisen … ok let’s stay on track.

Jeff Bezos is a few years younger than me and with a net worth over a 100 billion times my own. Ok, maybe not quite that little (from my perspective) but close. And he’s in the middle of a scandalous accusation that he himself has levelled against American Media Inc. run by David Pecker in conjunction with owner-founder Roger Altman (although because of changes in the corporate structure it’s hard to tell exactly what the role played by Altman, who has a past in politics and is a hedge-fund owner-manager, currently is).

Bezos claims that in an email from AMI deputy general counsel Jon Fine, the company demanded he agree to claim that the media group’s (National Enquirer is one of many media properties they own) coverage of Bezos’ affair with Lauren Sanchez was not politically motivated. And reportedly in another email sent this past Tuesday by AMI’s chief content officer Dylan Howard, AMI threatened that if he didn’t agree to their demands, they would publish nude or semi-nude and suggestive selfies exchanged between Bezos and Sanchez.

The selfies – thanks to the New York Post’s jumping in face-first into the muck and gleefully reporting on the actual pictures, courtesy of a story by Ruth Brown – have been described in cringe-worthy detail. They are not quite explicit, more like the pictures that sank Anthony Weiner and landed him in jail.

They are also none of our business, except now they are. And Bezos has made the right move here while AMI are left looking like some yesteryear thuggish goons. Bezos is fine with being embarrassed by what appears to be fairly moderate and rather normal by today’s standards sexting between consenting (not to mention middle-aged) adults. The more important point is the disgusting threat of blackmail by AMI.

Look, Bezos’ Washington Post has actively worked to further the cause of impeachment against an elected sitting President. An impeachment that may be and may have been part of a deliberate campaign to prevent Trump from reaching the White House, and to quickly remove him once he got there. But by doing this goon job on Bezos, AMI has done a couple of really frickin’ stupid things:

  • Turned a powerful billionaire with powerful media properties into a martyr-like champion for freedom from harassment and a brave victim of blackmail.
  • Added credence to the theory that AMI has been Trump’s dirty-tricks media operation, even though this has nothing to do with charges of Russian collusion. As a NeverTrump narrative, it is a deadly weapon. In other words, if they did this, what else have they done for Trump? Which will be the narrative coming out of this, to be gladly and widely promoted by most of the media.
  • Thrown a wrench into the Mueller and SDNY probes with unpredictable outcomes should SDNY prosecutors decide to file new charges against AMI for what clearly is an attempt at blackmail. Last December, AMI signed a cooperating agreement with SDNY prosecutors over the investigation into the payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in order to bury their kiss and tell stories. This will either feed conspiracy theories or result in some further action by prosecutors that puts AMI in an even tighter spot in order to pressure them to reveal any possible other dirt they may have on anyone possibly related to President Trump. With the objective of laying charges of campaign finance misdeeds. Maybe on members of the inaugural committee?

So, security consultant De Becker snooped on Pecker’s peeping into Bezos’ affairs. From a moral and cultural perspective, this doesn’t even rise to the level of a second-rate Mexican Soap Opera, but astonishingly, it may have ramifications that impact any future attempt to impeach or at least to thoroughly embarrass President Trump. Pecker and his thuggish lawyers seem to have gotten a great head start on that already.

AMI may end up being the ones who, in fact, do the most damage to Trump after all is done and settled a few years from now.

Idiots.

A few years ago, UK physicist and cancer researcher David Robert Grimes with a smirking mug shot at, where else, The Guardian, sneeringly dismissed the science behind those who are against abortion. He wrote, among other things:

One of the most inflammatory arguments against abortion is rooted in the assertion that the foetus can feel pain, and that termination is therefore a brutal affair. This is extremely unlikely to be true. A foetus in the early stages of development lacks the developed nervous system and brain to feel pain or even be aware of their surroundings. The neuroanatomical apparatus required for pain and sensation is not complete until about 26 weeks into pregnancy. As the upper limit worldwide for termination is 24 weeks, and the vast majority of pregnancies are terminated well before this (most in the first 9 weeks in the UK), the question of foetal pain is a complete red herring. This is reflected in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’s report on foetal pain, which concludes “… existing data suggests that cortical processing and therefore foetal perception of pain cannot occur before 24 weeks of gestation”.

His snarling dismissal of people’s concern for the pain that an unborn child can feel is now irrelevant, however. That line has been crossed, even as it is circumscribed by all the same conditionals and supposed safeguards that were originally used to describe the choice to have an abortion in the early days of Roe v. Wade.

Governor Ralph Northam – the head of the Commonwealth of Virginia and a pediatrician himself – said the following in an interview:

When we talk about third-trimester abortions, these are done with the consent of obviously the mother with the consent of the physicians — more than one physician, by the way.

And then in the radio interview, he said this:

And it’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that is nonviable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mothers.

Which means that a child is an accessory from the moment it’s conceived, according to this worldview. And you can always return the accessory if its quality is not to your liking. It will feel pain, it may even have been delivered and be resting there on the multifunctional hospital bed that its mother is also lying on. If they decide it is deformed or wrong somehow, the baby will quickly be put to death.

Of course, Northam’s staff is already qualifying his comments and giving standard excuse that they were taken out of context. Nonsense. Should Virginia’s and New York State’s laws become the new standard around America and elsewhere, then any child will always be a potentially unwanted entity in the law’s eyes who must be granted permission to live. A fallen little angel guilty of the sin of being alive with a wizened face, awaiting for approval to remain breathing.

But Northam’s comments are not generating much airtime in most of mainstream media. We don’t talk about this, only a few nods to the crazed reactions of those of us who would support those who believe we must try to provide succor and care for the unborn or recently born.

Alongside abortion-on-demand, as euthanasia enters the customs of one country after another descending down from the aged terminally ill to depressed teens, and as pain is either medicated or the pained person eliminated, we move one more step towards a rather dreadful singularity, where human life is only valid if it is both attractive and intelligent. The sick, muddled masses who are judged ignorant and wanting are to be pruned from our society, one by one, under the banner of diversity, choice, and enlightened evolution.

God help us all.