Crush Your Enemies

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There’s a lifelong maxim that states that only the complete destruction of one’s enemies will suffice. Merely winning a particular battle is not enough. If they survive the defeat and can come back to fight another day, then the ultimate victory is not assured. In contrast, the contest still hangs in the balance and the outcome of any one battle may not be the overriding determinate of the final result.

This thought is summed up in the work “The 48 Laws of Power,” a best-selling 1998 book by American author Robert Greene. Law 15 states, “….a feared enemy must be crushed completely. If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out.  More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation. The enemy will recover and seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.

The Democrats and their Liberal Media allies employ this strategy relentlessly, day after day, non-stop. Their total refusal to accept Donald Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election is evident in the non-stop attacks—both policy-based and personally insulting—that they use against the President every single day. There is not a solitary news cycle or issue that the Democrats let pass without criticizing President Trump in their never-ending attempt to undermine his presidency and force him from office.

As a matter of fact, the Democrats and the liberal media exercise the 48 Laws on a continual basis. Whether it’s a conscious decision or simply undertaken automatically, they follow them religiously. The following Laws are definitely recognizable as integral to the Democrats’ playbook:

Law 11: “LEARN TO KEEP PEOPLE DEPENDENT ON YOU.” Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.

Law 12: “USE SELECTIVE HONESTY AND GENEROSITY TO DISARM YOUR VICTIM.” One sincere, honest move will cover dozens of dishonest ones and bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people. Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will.

Law 25: “RE-CREATE YOURSELF.” Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions—your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.

Law 33: “DISCOVER EACH MAN’S THUMBSCREW.” Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. Once found, it’s a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

Law 42: “STRIKE THE SHEPHERD AND THE SHEEP WILL SCATTER.” Self-evident.

The Democrats follow these rules consistently. They never let up, not for even the briefest moment. Neither the Democratic Party nor the liberal media have accepted President Trump as the legitimately elected president for an instant. By refusing to recognize his election victory as valid, they have absolved themselves of any obligation or requirement to accord either Donald Trump or the office of president with the respect and deference that is ordinarily due. In their minds, his “illegitimacy” gives them free reign to bombard him with all manner of public disrespect, to disavow any policy or accomplishment of his as meaningless and to concoct an endless stream of fantastical so-called crimes and transgressions that require immediate investigation, with the thinly-veiled aim of ending his tenure.

First it was Russia, Russia, Russia!, “backed” by the phony-as-a-three-dollar-bill Steele dossier, the bogus Flynn/FBI investigation and the inventing of non-existent crimes out of thin air against Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and others. When that didn’t work after almost three years and the all-Democrat Mueller Report was shown to be baseless, the Democrats moved on to fabricate some sort of Ukrainian phone call delusion to charge President Trump with impeachment-worthy crimes.

The ink was barely dry on his acquittal when the Chinese coronavirus pandemic hit. Before anyone else even recognized it as a threat (NY mayor Bill DeBlasio and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were telling everyone to go out, visit the restaurants, live your life as normal, etc.), President Trump banned flights from China and Europe and closed our borders. While Dr. Fauci, CNN and MSNBC were busy saying that the coronavirus was not likely to become that big a deal, President Trump was way out in front.

But when one party—the Democrats—has the complete backing and cooperation of the mainstream media, the narrative becomes anything they want it to be. Very quickly, the pandemic became President Trump’s fault. He didn’t act fast enough. He didn’t take the proper steps. He let the situation get away from him, to the detriment of the health of the American public. The fact that President Trump closed down the country and established a Coronavirus Task Force while the Democrats were still looking for their next avenue of political attack following their just-failed impeachment fiasco didn’t matter to the liberal media.

The Democrats aren’t concerned with governing the country. They’re concerned with ousting President Trump. Predictably, all of the recent racial unrest triggered by the George Floyd situation is being laid at the feet of the President, as if Donald Trump—not the Democratic-run cities and Democratic-run police departments—caused it. No, the Dems and the liberal media make it seem as if President Trump actually approves of the racial strife on some level. Just as predictably, the President’s recent Law Enforcement Reform initiative is being discounted by the Democrats and the liberal media as being inadequate and too little, too late. Pelosi and Biden have been in office for close to a collective century, but the liberal mainstream media never press them on why they hadn’t addressed this issue before.

In the end, the upcoming election is not about Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden. The 2020 version of Biden is plainly afflicted by severe, paralyzing dementia, but even in his so-called “prime,” he had no particular vision or core convictions. This is an election either for Trump or against Trump. Biden’s presence is irrelevant.

The roughly 43% of the solid for-Trump vote and the approximately 45% of the always-anti-Trump vote are already baked into the election. The election will turn on that casually-attentive, somewhat-persuadable 12%. The Republicans will make their usual mistake of thinking that the merits of the issues–the facts on the ground, like how far back the economy/employment has come by November and whether or not the racial tension has smoothed out a bit—will carry the day.

The Democrats will instinctively operate on the correct presumption that it is their skill at employing the 48 Laws of Power approach to campaigning in addition to the facts on the ground that will win the day. President Trump’s team had better get up to speed quickly on waging effective trench warfare in 2020, or they will find themselves outflanked, out-maneuvered and out-gunned in the most crucial electoral battle of our lifetime.

The Magic of the Merlin

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The SpaceX Demo-2/Dragon spacecraft was successfully launched into space on Saturday May 30, 2020, marking the first-ever collaboration between NASA and a private entity, Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The Falcon 9 booster was comprised of nine SpaceX Merlin rocket engines, which use RP-1 (refined petroleum) and liquid oxygen as propellants to develop the immense thrust necessary for a heavy space-bound launch vehicle.

All the news reports were dutifully filled with superlatives regarding this unprecedented public-private joint venture, and it was indeed a very significant accomplishment. It’s not often that the two normally-opposing spheres of industry come together in such a positive manner. It bodes well for future cooperative ventures, leveraging the best of both approaches.

But, lost in the deservedly congratulatory environment of this auspicious mission was a fascinating piece of trivia: The import and significance of the name “Merlin” as it applied to the Falcon’s engines.

The Merlin engine is well-known in historical aviation circles as the engine that powered the famous British Spitfire fighter plane and gave it such superlative performance. Manufactured by the famed Rolls-Royce company, the Merlin engine (named for a bird of prey, not the mythical wizard) was developed from an earlier Rolls-Royce engine, the Kestrel. (A purchased sample of the Kestrel, in one of history’s all-time great ironies, powered the first prototype of the German Messerschmitt BF-109 fighter plane, the Spitfire’s greatest WWII rival. Operational 109’s were powered by Daimler-Benz engines. Yes, that Benz.) Powering the front-line British fighter planes Hawker Hurricane and the Spitfire, the Merlin soon established a reputation for superb performance, reliability and the ability to sustain considerable battle damage and remain functional. Merlin-powered British fighters fought off German air force attacks in the summer of 1940 (after France had fallen to the Germans), saving Britain from German invasion and buying invaluable time until America entered the war in Europe on Britain’s side.

Once Japan had attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December 1941, Germany and the U.S. declared war on each other virtually simultaneously. The U.S. was now involved in an all-out war on two fronts: The Pacific Theater and the European Theater. In late December 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill came to Washington DC to discuss the overall war strategy with American president Franklin Roosevelt. Here, in what was called “The Arcadia Conference,” it was decided to take a “Germany first” approach to the war. Winning in Europe would take a higher priority than defeating Japan in the Pacific.

Towards that end, the United States moved its strategic bombing 8th Air Force to England. The plan was for American heavy bombers to attack German industrial and production targets and cripple their war fighting capabilities. This proved to be far more difficult in practice than in theory. American B-17 and B-24 long-range bombers, in spite of their heavy defensive armament, proved incapable of adequately defending themselves against intercepting German fighter planes and in 1942 and especially 1943, American bomber losses were so heavy that the entire plan of carrying out daylight precision bombing raids came close to being scrapped altogether.

The problem was that American and British fighter plane escorts lacked the range to accompany the bombers all the way to targets deep inside Germany and back. The Allied fighters would have to turn back partway en route to the target, leaving the bombers to fend for themselves. That’s when the Germans would pounce and exact their grievous toll.

Around this time, a new American fighter plane had been developed, the P-51 Mustang. Its performance with its American Allison engine was mediocre at best, despite the plane’s great potential. Someone came up with the idea of fitting an English Merlin engine—the one that powered the outstanding Spitfire fighter plane—to the Mustang, just as a ‘what if.’

It was a match made in heaven. The Mustang’s advanced aerodynamic design and new “laminar flow” wing gave it terrific flying characteristics. With the smooth, powerful Merlin engine, the Mustang became a world-beater. Even better, because of the Mustang’s advanced design, its fuel efficiency exceeded all other fighter planes and it now had the range to fly and defend the bombers all the way to and from their targets, no matter how deep inside Germany.

But Britain lacked the industrial production capability to make enough Merlins for both its own use and the Americans. So the American Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit began making the Merlin under license for use in American Mustang fighters. Known as the “Packard-Merlin,” the American-built version actually incorporated a series of small but important modifications and improvements over the British version and many people considered the Packard variant to be superior. With the almost unlimited American factory capacity making both Mustang fighters and Packard-Merlin engines, the P-51 turned the air war over Europe from a costly exercise with an uncertain outcome into a smashingly successful endeavor. From the time of its combat debut in Feb 1944 through May 1944, rampaging Mustangs absolutely decimated the German Luftwaffe, clearing the skies of enemy aircraft and paving the way for a successful D-Day land invasion of mainland Europe, free from the threat of German air counterattack.

The British had heroically held off the Germans in 1940 with their Merlin-powered Hurricane and Spitfire fighter planes. Now in 1944, the American 8th Air Force took the offensive fight to Germany, breaking the back of the German air force on the strength of the Merlin-powered P-51 Mustang.

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P-51s of the 375th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force

Today, the SpaceX Falcon ushers in a new era of spaceflight, powered by its Merlin engines.

Is there any unequivocal proof that Elon Musk, the mercurial but undeniably brilliant owner and creative force behind both Tesla electric cars and SpaceX, deliberately chose the name “Merlin” for his rocket’s engines with full knowledge of the historical and performance pedigree of that engine’s brand?

Not that I know of. But Musk has a flare for the dramatic that is second to none. He is one of only a handful of business/industry entrepreneurs whose personal profile and presence transcends the business world and crosses over into popular culture. People like or dislike his companies and products in many cases based on their feelings about Musk as an individual. He’s that well-known and that visible.

The betting here is that Musk knows all about the Merlin engine’s history and its role in securing the world order as it exists today. Merlin is the perfect name—subtle, pithy and very much “inside baseball.”