Do the Democrats Have an Issue?

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The poor Democrats: As the Russia Collusion/Mueller Investigation issue disappeared into nothingness like so much skywriting wisping away into the winds, so to did the sure-fire issue with which the Dems thought the White House would automatically be theirs in 2020. The candidate themself was irrelevant, an afterthought. We have it in the bag, the Dems thought. It’s just a matter of to which person we bestow the privilege of the Presidency this time around. Let’s pick a good one: A woman. No, a woman of color. No, a gay. No, an Hispanic. Perhaps an American Indian.

But that slam-dunk Russia issue is gone. Gerry Nadler and Adam Schiff are still flailing about, trying to collect their “undeniable” Russian collusion evidence and convince the rest of the Democratic caucus to initiate impeachment proceedings.

It looks doubtful that that’s going to come to pass. So the “President’s a crook” angle apparently is not going to deliver a greased downhill slide into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the Democrats. It appears—at this juncture, at least—that the Democrats will actually have to come up with a convincing policy platform in order to win the White House. They’ll have to identify substantive issues of actual importance and persuade enough Undecideds that the Democratic Party will improve their lives and make the country safer and more prosperous.

What are their issues? What are the candidates putting forth thus far? Do any of them seem like game-changers, the lynchpin to electoral victory?

One policy they’ve all put forth, in one form or another, is a single-payer Government-run healthcare system, sometimes referred to as Medicare for All. Almost all the Dems propose the elimination of the private insurance industry in favor of a European-styled system. After all, healthcare is a “right,” not a “privilege.”

Ahh, but the devil is in the details—how, in actuality, do we get rid of the insurance industry? What happens to those millions of workers? How do we set up the Federal Healthcare bureaucracy?  How long will that take? Medicare currently covers 80% of the Part B expenses–where will other the 20% come from that is currently funded by private insurance programs? Or will this new Medicare-for-All now cover all 100%? Has that been figured into the cost estimates? No Democratic candidate ever says. They probably haven’t thought it through that far, they probably don’t even know. Getting rid of the private insurance industry is a pipedream, a hollow talking point. It will simply never happen. Never, and the Dems know it.

Free college tuition and forgiveness of student debt is also a popular talking point for many of the Dems. Some candidates want to cancel student debt altogether. There’s never a mention of actual details, however. Debt for private universities or just public ones? Sanders and others say that tuition should be free to public college, but they never specify which debt they’re going to forgive. What about students who’ve recently paid back their loans? Do they get reimbursed? Is there a look-back period, a sliding scale of partial reimbursement? Who will pay the financial institutions the money that they’re owed if the loans are forgiven? No one ever says. That’s because it’s just a talking point, a lie.

Another one is reparations for slavery as punishment for “white privilege.” This one is especially rich with bogusity, even by present-day Democratic standards. How will this be determined? Will everyone’s ethnic background be researched and by whom? Do reparations apply only to those of actual African heritage? What about dark-skinned persons from, say, South America or the Caribbean? Do they qualify? What will happen with people of mixed heritage? Barack Obama and Halle Berry, to use two well-known examples, are progeny of mixed white-black parentage. Would they be qualified for just 50% of the award? If ever there was an intentionally disingenuous, empty-headed policy proposal, this is it.

The Democrats want to rescind the tax cut and they all brag that they’ll do it on their “first day.” As was the case when President George W. Bush cut taxes, the Democrats automatically yell, “Tax cuts for the rich!” whenever there is a tax cut. It’s a risible claim. Ask any middle-class blue-collar worker earning $60,000 a year if they want to give back their $130/month tax cut to the Government. “Sure, I don’t need it, I don’t like getting my monthly gasoline essentially for ‘free.’ You can keep your $130, as long as I have the satisfaction of knowing that Mitt Romney’s taxes are going up too.” It’s not that Joe Average wants Ronmey’s taxes to go up. Mr. Average doesn’t care about Romney, he only cares about himself and his family. Kamala Harris and Joe Biden—and the others—are the ones who will take personal pleasure in raising taxes on the Mitt Romneys of the world.

The list goes on—The Green new Deal, open borders and the decriminalization of illegal entry into the country, free health care for illegal immigrants. LGBTQ issues taken to bizarre extremes, such as males being allowed to unfairly compete as females in sports and men who “identify as women” being allowed in women’s and girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms.

Such is the Democratic platform for 2020. Nothing the Democrats are proposing so far is grounded in even the slimmest notion of feasibility or reality. None of their latest proposals can or will ever happen. They’re all just empty promises of free giveaways, made to ignorant, greedy voters, the “low information” voters. Eliminating the insurance industry, free college tuition, reparations, the Green New Deal, none of those will ever happen, ever. The Democrats are not running on any legitimate policy proposals—nothing about finding and producing new energy, nothing about keeping the country safer, no actual ideas to help grow the economy and raise employment, nothing at all about meeting any international challenges in Iran, the Middle East, Russia or elsewhere.

Instead, now that the “Russia-Russia-Russia!” issue is gone, the Democrats have taken to promising anything, saying anything—no matter how outlandish—in order to win back their voters and defeat President Trump.

Any voter with even half a brain can see right through this. And therein lies the danger for President Trump.

Don’t Fight the Other Guy’s Fight

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There’s an old axiom in boxing that says you’ll never win if you fight the other guy’s fight. If he’s a slick boxer, you should try to pressure him, break his rhythm, force him to get into a punch-for-punch shootout.

Conversely if your opponent is a brawler, you should use fluid side-to-side movement and long, quick jabs to keep him at bay and prevent him from getting close. There’s a more colloquial expression for all of this: “Don’t hook with a hooker.”

Politics is no different. The winning side is the side that is most successful at framing the argument in terms more advantageous to their favored positions, the side that can convincingly present the talking points that play to their strengths while minimizing the amount of time and conversation spent in areas not to their liking. There are clichés that apply: Democrats don’t talk about building up the country’s military strength. Republicans would rather avoid the topic of race-based quota admissions.

Unless there is some immediate, unusual pressing emergency that forces an unwelcome issue to the fore, most of the time the candidate or party spokesperson can side-step it and not be forced into an uncomfortable defensive position.

There are times when talking about a “bad” issue are unavoidable: when cornered by a hostile media reporter during a press conference or interview, when a private citizen (a non-plant) manages to formulate an intelligent, informed question at a town hall, or during a debate when the opponent brings up a topic he/she thinks is going to make the other person look bad by forcing them to talk about what they don’t want to talk about.

What would be really effective would be if that candidate or spokesperson could turn their supposed weakness into a major strength. That would require that the opposition’s position/talking point was thoroughly analyzed, vetted, prodded and poked in advance, behind the scenes. Give it real thought, play Devil’s Advocate with it, defend it, role play with it, learn it backwards and forwards. The absolute worst thing to do is exactly what most politicians do now: merely dismiss it with a derisive wave of the hand, perhaps accompanied by a trite, sarcastic cliché.

For purposes of this discussion, let’s look at one issue. Democrats love this one. They get great mileage out of it. The “mushy middle” of inattentive, low Information voters is persuadable, being particularly susceptible to a message that is phrased simply and casts them—the voter—as a victim. When someone is told they’re a victim and I, your humble Public Servant, will come to your rescue, it can be quite compelling indeed. Elections are often won or lost by the effectiveness of messaging to this bloc.

The issue? Income Inequality. Message: Republican Fat Cats are overpaid. The implication: If the Fat Cats were paid less, that leftover money would somehow magically make its way directly into your pocket. Income Inequality is the source of all your ills. Greedy conservatives are unfairly given the money that should rightfully go to you.

That’s the Dems’ message. “Billionaires are immoral.” They push it hard and often. Republicans, to date, have had no effective counter to it. Nothing short, pithy and memorable. Nothing that is so true and unarguable that it shuts up the Democratic speaker—whether it’s a candidate, a party spokesperson or a liberal media talking head—and puts them into a state of open-mouthed shock, unable to speak.

“Conservative CEOs rake in millions of dollars in pay and stock options, bonuses, profit-sharing, etc., but the rank-and-file earns only $50k/year, 1/50th the CEO’s pay. All Republican policies are aimed at making the CEO even richer. Republicans love Income Inequality.”

The entire notion of “income inequality” is a farce, a non-issue, all-appearance/no-substance. When Republicans attempt to answer it, they’re doomed. They’re playing the Democrats’ game.

Ok, here’s the scenario: Kamala Harris or Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or whomever is the Democratic Flavor of the Month is going on and on about income inequality, how it’s worse than ever, how it hurts the ‘little guy,’ and what they say drips with the implication that if rich conservatives are paid less, then poor derserving liberals and swing voters will somehow get more money.  “How,” precisely, they get that money is never explained, but no matter. The liberal moderator eats it up and throws one softball after another for the Democrat to hit out of the park.

Usually, the poor, communications-challenged Republican is clueless how to respond, and more often than not, follows their Democratic opponent and the liberal moderator down the one-way no-escape rabbit hole. They get humiliated, tagged—again!—with the “Republicans are heartless” label. The cliché is confirmed once more.

Not this time. This time the Republican has something up his/her sleeve. It’s called “Easily-Understood Logic,” that most rare of conservative communications commodities.

“So, Senator Harris, you’re not rich, right? But you live a fairly decent life.; Your family has enough to eat, you pay the electric bill and you generally have no real complaints. Is that a fair characterization?”

She nervously agrees, fearful that something is coming.

“And your next-door neighbor on your street, they’re in roughly the same boat, right? Not outright rich, but no actual complaints. Things are fine. Is that right?”

Again, Harris nervously agrees, knowing that something is coming.

And here it is: “Now, Senator Harris, let’s suppose that tomorrow, your next-door neighbor hits the lottery for $500 million and all of a sudden they’re incredibly rich. Yesterday, Senator Harris, you and your neighbor were in the same financial boat. There was perfect income equality. Today, they’re totally rich and you’re not. Complete income inequality. Tell us, Senator Harris, exactly how does your neighbor’s new-found wealth prevent you and your family from living a perfectly nice life?”

The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t. People’s income and financial status are independent of each other. It’s not a zero-sum game: One person’s income doesn’t go down just because another’s goes up. The economic pie is continually expanding. It’s not finite, where the size of one person’s “slice” directly impacts the size of someone else’s “slice.” GDP in America has more than doubled since 1999. The pie is expanding. There’s more than enough for everyone.

The term “income inequality” needs to be called out by Republicans for what it is: a totally inaccurate, pejorative term invented by liberals, designed to make conservatives look bad to the liberal media and to inattentive, low-information swing voters. The correct term is “income sufficiency.” As long as someone has an income sufficient to provide for their needs, that’s all that matters.

Let your next-door neighbor hit the lottery. Let Tim Cook or Warren Buffet make another few million today. Their income is not what is holding anyone back. There may be other things—structural or not—that cause any given individual to not enjoy income sufficiency, but the financial success of another person isn’t one of them.

Of all the rhetorical scams perpetrated by the Democrats, “income inequality” is among the worst. Republicans need to stop chasing that phony slickster around the ring, swinging and missing at a non-existent opponent.

Not Enough Fraziers

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

A lot of conversation these days is concerned with the degradation of American culture and society. There is a widespread feeling that too many people in this country no longer exhibit the enviable traits of hard work and self-sacrifice as a means to personal advancement, that respect for elders and traditional institutions is diminishing to an alarming degree and that an acknowledgement and appreciation of our country’s history as it pertains to the economic and societal advantages and opportunities that are afforded to the vast majority of the population is vanishing altogether.

A generation-by-generation analysis might shed interesting light on how and why the country seems to be where it is today.

Greatest Generation—this is the World War II generation. For men, many of them were in the armed forces, fighting all over the world. Although the modern conflicts from Vietnam onwards—fought in the television era—have received the most immediate daily coverage, the scale of casualties and the size and scope of the battles in WWII remain unsurpassed. On D-Day June 6th 1944, 2500 American soldiers died on the beaches of Normandy. The Pacific Island campaigns of Iwo Jima and Okinawa cost nearly 120,000 American dead and wounded in battles that lasted a combined total of mere months. As a matter of fact, Americans casualties in the Pacific occurred at the rate of more than 7000 per week, a number that is simply incomprehensible to the current American public, used to double-digit deaths per week during the war in Iraq.

The conditions in WWII were brutal, from the suffocating tropic heat of the Pacific jungles to the incredibly harsh European winters to the scorching heat of the African desert. The medical care/technology was primitive compared to today. Communications with family members at home were virtually non-existent, in stark contrast to the e-mail, texting and Skype that connects today’s soldiers to their domestic life.

For Greatest Generation women, it meant working in factories, suffering through food and supply shortages and rationing while struggling to maintain some semblance of family life and raise their children without their spouse.

The entire country sacrificed for the bigger national good, unquestioningly and unhesitatingly. When the war was over, the men simply came home, reunited with their families and they resumed a normal, unassuming life, raising their children, buying homes and living their lives. They saved the world from tyranny and bought a Ford. They didn’t ask for adulation or attention. They asked for a mortgage. The Greatest Generation, indeed.

Baby Boomers—born between 1946-1964, the children of the Greatest Generation—seem to be split into two distinct halves. A sizable segment espouses their predecessors’ traditional family and religious values and work ethic, while another segment of Baby Boomers is far more materialistic, self-absorbed and status conscious. Many of the Greatest Generation struggled through the Great Depression of 1929-1939 and vowed that “our kids would never suffer like this.” As a result, as they became financially successful following WWII, many of these Greatest parents over-indulged their Boomer children with all manner of material excess, expensive schools and societal privilege. That segment of Baby Boomers has been brought up to regard that level of extravagance to be “normal,” and they’ve passed those distorted values onto their children. The contention here is that the split between the two factions of Boomers is quite stark and definite. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground.

Generation X—a relatively small segment, born from roughly 1965-1980—is somewhat overlooked by demographers and sociologists, but as a group, X-ers appear to exhibit pretty solid values and a strong work ethic. Yes, they grew up as technology transitioned from 1940’s-1980’s wired telephones, snail mail and and over-the-air radio/TV to 1990’s-2000’s cell phones, cable TV and e-mail and thus they have a different expectation of convenience and normalcy compared to Boomers and Greatests, but as a group, X-ers have not called undue negative attention onto themselves. Given that they are the offspring of Boomers—half of whom in my view exhibit truly problematic ideals and conduct—it’s a bit of a mystery why Generation X has largely escaped the severe criticism that falls onto their younger cousins, the Millennial Generation.

Millennials, born from the early 1980’s through the early 2000’s, are criticized with the broad brush of cliché and generalization. But like most clichés and generalizations, these criticisms spring from at least partial truth. Specifically, Millennials are accused of:

  • Being given too much too soon
  • Having an unrealistic sense of entitlement, an inflated, distorted sense of their own self-worth
  • Wanting work and pay advancements way out of proportion to their achievements and qualifications—experience and seniority are not concepts they feel apply to them
  • Technological advancements and conveniences have eliminated their capacity for patience and restraint
  • Having little humility or respect for traditional institutions or the older generations
  • Feeling that the normal rules of waiting one’s turn don’t apply to them

While these are indeed generalizations and there are no doubt some fine young people in that age group, far too many Millennials are the perfect embodiment of these clichés. There are a lot of flashy young hotshots who believe they’re worth the big dollar payday right out of the gate and not enough of the nose-to-the-grindstone, self-effacing types willing to put in the no-excuses hard work in order to get the gold.

In short, the Millennial Generation appears to be woefully short of Joe Fraziers.

Joe Frazier was an American professional boxer in the 1960’s and 70’s. Fighting in the heavyweight division, Frazier was champion from 1970-1973. He’s best remembered for his epic battles with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. His trilogy against Ali is regarded as perhaps the most bitterly-contested rivalry in all of sports, not just boxing. Frazier was small for a heavyweight and usually gave away 10-20 pounds in weight and several inches in height and reach to his opponents. But he made up for it with an amazing fighting spirit and a refuse-to-quit attitude. Yet despite his in-ring ferocity, Frazier was known for his friendly, easy-going nature and his personal generosity.

Regardless of the opponent, whether he won or lost (he won most of the time, but not every time), Frazier’s style and approach was characterized by his incredible toughness, a willingness to take a punch in order to deliver one and a determination and courage under fire that has virtually never been equalled in the annals of boxing.

A bloodied but undaunted Joe Frazier presses the action against Muhammad Ali

The Greatest generation was dominated by Joe Fraziers, people who refused to quit until they reached their goals, regardless of the obstacles in front of them. A sizable portion of Baby Boomers—the ones who built business, legal, entertainment and medical enterprises of the highest order by the dint of their own indomitable will and perseverance—were straight from the Frazier mold. Millennials? Less so, unfortunately.

Modern America—all generations—would benefit greatly by emulating Frazier’s quiet determination, kindness and class and his utter refusal to take a backwards step in the face of adversity.

AOC is the Democrats’ Voice

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Let’s give credit where credit is due: Has there ever been a freshman Congressperson who has made anywhere near as much of a national impact in so short a period of time as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? She’s only been in office for a few months, yet it seems as if she’s in the news every day. Her commentary and progressive vision have certainly taken the Democratic Party by storm and she is the unquestioned de-facto leading speaker for her side. She’s also a media darling—on both sides—because of her fearless, flamboyant, often outrageous statements. She’s definitely newsworthy.

AOC, as she’s amusingly known, has made an astonishingly high number of notable proclamations and policy proposals in rapid succession. No subject is off-limits; there is no area of national importance where she hasn’t weighed in. She has an opinion about everything and is only too eager to share it. Significantly, she obviously feels that her take on the various subjects is important and worthy of serious consideration. Some would say she thinks her opinions should be accepted as gospel-like fact and carried out in their entirety.

Some of her more pointed declarations:

The Green New Deal:

‘The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.’

‘Like, this is the war, this is our World War II.’

 ‘Today is the day that we choose to assert ourselves as a global leader in transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy and charting that path.’

‘I’m the boss, I’m trying. If you’re trying, you’ve got all the power, you’re driving the agenda, you’re doing all this stuff.’

Medicare for all:

‘’The United States should be a nation that allows improved and expanded Medicare for all.

Blocking Amazon’s New York City headquarters:

Anything is possible. Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.’

 Abolishing ICE:

‘An agency like ICE, which repeatedly and systematically violates human rights, does not deserve a dime.’

The most meaningful aspect of AOC’s flamboyant presence on the national stage is not her never-ending stream of continually outlandish opinions on any number of important issues, which is certainly impressive enough. Instead, it’s the supportive, almost giddy coverage afforded to her by an incredibly sympathetic liberal media, as they use her nearly-baseless pontifications to promote their own favored viewpoints, but without having to present AOC’s opinion as their own. They get to present it as “news”—something a high-profile politician said today—and thus attempt to pre-empt any direct criticism of that media outlet taking sides.

Has the rise of the AOC phenomenon caused Nancy Pelosi’s standing as the Democratic Speaker of the House—the supposed official “leader” of the Democratic House majority—to be diminished or threatened? Is there friction or conflict between them? Are AOC’s almost-daily pronunciations causing a rift in the Democratic Party between the new ultra-progressive wing and the older, more-traditional liberal faction?

Probably not.

Unbeknown to her, AOC’s newness and youth are being deftly exploited by Democratic Party veterans. They simply run her extreme radical progressive ideas up the flagpole to gauge public reaction. If her ideas seem too extreme, the Pelois and Hoyers of the world can distance themselves from them and reassure the swing/independent electorate that AOC is full of youthful exuberance and unrealistic ideological enthusiasm, but she doesn’t speak for the heart and soul of the real Democratic Party.

Pelosi will attempt to subtly put forth the notion that her party—the real Democrats—love their country, embrace the capitalistic American Dream where anyone can become a success, and fully support a clean environment with commensurate sensitivity to business and jobs. However, they are more compassionate, inclusive and aware of the needs of individual groups (like women, minorities, LGBTQ, etc.) than those hard-hearted, inflexible, further-right-than-ever Republicans. “Don’t worry—you can still advance your career and live a very nice life; we’re just going to make sure everyone has healthcare, breathes clean air, pays their fair share of taxes and that there’s common-sense diversity in the workplace and in our schools. That’s reasonable enough for you to vote for us, right?” That is Pelosi‘s and her ‘traditional wing’ Democrats’ implied stance. Whether it’s believable or not is another matter, but that’s their line, their distinction from the AOC wing.

But…if a radical idea posed by AOC seems to have legs and takes hold, then the Pelosi faction will be quick to glom onto it and claim it as their own. This way, they can have it both ways: Let AOC put everything out there. If a proposal or stance is so extreme that the mid-line swing voters reject it, then Pelosi will dismiss it as AOC’s naïve inexperience getting the best of her. If an idea from AOC seems to fire the public’s imagination and appears to become mainstream thought, then the traditional Pelosi wing can adopt it as if they were in favor of it all along.

AOC is the perfect trial horse, a no-lose proposition for traditional Democrats who are too cautious to propose liberally-adventurous, ground-breaking ideas of their own. They will willingly let AOC charge into the machine-gun fire of public opinion and take whatever hits come her way, but they will happily go along for the credit ride if any of AOC’s ideas strike a favorable chord.

For seasoned political observers, the most entertaining aspect of this entire scenario is that AOC has absolutely no idea that she’s being used by her own party. That’s how seriously she takes herself.

It’s Not About the Money

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There are probably few endeavors where human nature, psychology and communication strategy play as critical a role as politics. Whether or not a politician knows how to play the media (including the relative effectiveness of the various media vehicles), understands how their audience will react to their communication, is at ease with the subtleties and complexities of massaging and customizing a well-crafted message, all of these are central to determining if a given politician will be successful at being well-received and covered favorably.

Like him or hate him, President Trump has proven to be extremely adept at doing the one thing that all politicians hope to do: get his message out in a clear and unfettered manner, so that his audience knows exactly how he stands on a given issue or policy. He Tweets his messages daily directly to his audience, circumventing the distorting filter of the hopelessly biased liberal media, leaving them to comment and criticize him after the fact, once President Trump has already made his stance clearly and definitively known.

Another thing that President Trump does in marked contrast to virtually every major national politician who has preceded him in the last several decades is that he actually says what he means. He doesn’t couch his comments in trick phrases, codespeak and slippery euphemisms.

The Democrats are absolute masters of trick phrases, codespeak and slippery euphemisms. Being attuned to satisfying so many special-interest groups, the Dems have perfected the art of communicating in a deceptive manner, designed to deliver the message that their targeted audience wants to hear, whether or not the Democratic politician actually means it. That “targeted audience” might be a desired voting bloc (women, minorities, LGBTQ, immigrants, Millennials, etc.) or it could be a media outlet from whom that politician is hoping for favorable coverage (CNN, MSNBC, NYTimes, WaPo, Facebook, etc.). Either way, Democratic language is invariably intentionally-crafted and pre-planned to yield maximum positive political benefit.

Let’s look at some of these Democratic phrases—

“It’s not a partisan issue.”

When you hear this one, your antennae should spring to attention. This means one thing and one thing only: It is a partisan issue and the Republicans are wrong. It’s a cover phrase that then gives the Democratic talker free reign to criticize Republicans for any and all reasons under the sun while maintaining the appearance of ‘balance’ and non-partisanship.

“We can all agree on this.”

This is code for, ‘If you don’t agree with the Democratic position on this issue, you’re a prejudiced, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-LGBTQ self-absorbed ignorant religious conservative zealot concerned only with your fat-cat donors.’

“It’s not about the money.”

It’s precisely about the money.

“We want a fair and open process.”

Translation: ‘We’re pretty sure this investigation is going to go our way and show the Republicans to be at fault for some grievous, Constitutional-level crime so please don’t interfere with it in any way, no matter how blatantly corrupt and unfair the investigation process is.’

“I don’t think we should go down that path [Trump impeachment].”

What this actually means is, ‘I’m praying—like our entire Party is—that we’ll uncover a raft of undeniable, unequivocal crimes so heinous that we won’t even have to go through the bother of initiating the impeachment process in the first place. Instead, we’ll go straight to resignation, ideally being led out of office in handcuffs.’

You have a right to be believed. We’re with you.”

This really means than even the slightest whiff of questionable behavior on the part of a Republican male towards a woman should be assumed to be the Crime of the Century but blatantly worse, seemingly inexcusable acts by a Democratic male are to be forgiven or ignored, because ‘we need to understand the context.’

“It’s a manufactured crisis.”

This is a good one. Whenever Republicans bring up a legitimate issue, Democrats dismiss its importance, especially if they (the Democrats) do not want to address it or have no solution for it. The border wall is the latest example of that. National security, drugs and violent illegal immigrants pouring in through a porous border certainly comprise a real issue, but the Dems—looking to cultivate votes—do not want to address the problem. They also want to deny President Trump a political “win,” by depriving him of the opportunity to say he fulfilled his campaign promise and built the wall.

An ancillary benefit to the Dems of claiming this is a “manufactured crisis” is that it deflects attention away from their own manufactured crises (like the Mueller investigation, which has been exposed as nothing more than an empty distraction fabricated by petulant, detached-from-reality Democratic partisans emotionally incapable of accepting the stark finality of the 2016 election) and enables them to play offense and keep the political pressure on Republicans.

This is the language of today’s Democratic politicians. Their liberal media allies eat this up and cut them all the slack they need, never drilling down past the surface clichés or holding them to account in any meaningful way. 

In all candor, some Republican politicians employ the same type of slick codespeak, but they do not enjoy anywhere near the same degree of political cover from the popular media as do the Dems. Therefore, it’s not as effective when a Republican does it. 

Refreshingly, President Trump Says What He Means

However, unlike the Democrats, President Trump does not speak in slippery euphemisms. He says what he means:

“I will build a wall to keep out the drugs and violent criminals.”

“Europe is a mess—weak economy, weak military.”

“We’re going to have great trade deals for this country, unlike what we’ve had in the past.”

“The days of China ripping us off are over.”

“A country without borders is not a country.”

“When you look at your 401k, it’s a beautiful thing.”

People may disagree with the actual substance of his comments. People may dislike the style in which his comments are delivered.

But President Trump communicates in a manner unlike any politician before him: Direct. Unequivocal. Unambiguous. That, we really all can agree on.

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.

The Court’s One-Way Drift

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Brett Kavanaugh is still waiting to be appointed to the Supreme Court after perhaps the most contentious, histrionic, uncontrolled Senate hearings ever held for a Supreme Court nominee. Arguably not since Robert Bork’s Senate confirmation hearings in 1987 has a nominee faced questioning as politically-charged as this. The questioning was routinely interrupted by outside hecklers and protesters, often so disruptive that the proceedings had to stop momentarily. That some of these protesters were rumored to be paid Democratic political plants—unproven but certainly plausible given the rancorous state of our political discourse and the critically-pivotal nature of this appointment in the Democrats’ eyes—demonstrates the extreme lengths Kavanaugh’s opponents were willing to go to in order to thwart his confirmation to the Court.

Wannabe 2020 Democratic Presidential hopefuls like Senator Kamala Harris of CA and Senator Corey Booker of NJ assumed the starring adversarial roles and between them, managed to raise political grandstanding to new heights of ambitious, ego-fueled absurdity. It’s doubtful that we’ll ever see an exhibition that even comes close to matching Booker’s risibly inane “I am Spartacus” statement in our lifetime. Very doubtful.

Then Senator Diane Feinstein produced the 11th-hour, 59th-minute “letter,” the vague, inexact, bereft-of-specific-detail ace-in-the-hole penned by one Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleging some unspecified sexual impropriety committed by Kavanaugh against her during their high school days, some 30-odd years ago. Time? Location? Witnesses? Actual details? Real evidence? Please. Unnecessary luxuries in the must-automatically-believe #metoo era. Charges by a Democratic pro-abortion activist against a conservative middle-aged white male are more than enough, thank you, and no further discussion will be allowed. Even by Teddy Kennedy’s lofty behavioral standards in the 1987 Robert Bork confirmation hearings, Feinstein’s last-minute maneuver ranks as one of the most incredible political stunts of all time. Hats off.

The ironic aspect of all the hoopla surrounding Kavanaugh’s appointment is that the issue that Democrats care about the most—abortion (more than free college, the environment, gender rights/identity, Government handout programs/socialized medicine, diversity, open borders, the glass ceiling, or any other)—is not in danger of being “outlawed” by the Supreme Court. In the highly unlikely event that a direct ruling on Roe vs. Wade should even come before the Court, the Supreme Court will not “make abortion illegal” regardless of how it rules. if the Supreme Court ever overturned it, Roe v Wade would simply revert to the states. Realistically, the chances of a significant number of states (or even any of them) banning abortion outright are essentially zero. All this crazed protest by progressives about Kavanaugh’s position on an issue that even he has referred to as “settled law” betrays the astonishingly ignorant, disingenuous nature of the Democrats’ position with regard to any Supreme nominee by a Republican president.

But in any event the Democrats probably needn’t worry, if history from the past 30-40 years is any indication. For whatever reason, supposedly conservative-leaning Supreme Court justices have consistently shown a marked tendency to become more and more liberal the longer they’re on the Court. The opposite is not true—liberal justices rarely, if ever, vote in a conspicuously conservative direction on contentious issues. Like the Democratic Party as a whole, liberal justices are quite good at holding their ranks. Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotamoyor, Elena Kagen—none of them breaks liberal ranks on the high-profile Left vs. Right rulings. None of them is considered a “swing” vote. Ever. To the Left, the concepts of “open mindedness,” “tolerance” and “intellectual curiosity” only apply when a conservative justice agrees with the liberal stance, because it never happens the other way around. There is no mystery, no question as to how the liberal contingent is going to vote, every single time.

The same is not true of the so-called “conservative” justices. While Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch are seemingly reliable conservatives, the “swing vote” is always an erstwhile conservative. Sandra Day O’Connor was an uncertain vote before every big case. She was appointed by President Reagan in 1981 and thought to be a definite conservative-leaning judge prior to her appointment. David Souter, named by President Bush I in 1990, definitely ended up being a huge disappointment to conservatives. He regularly strayed from conservative orthodoxy in his voting record and sided with the Court’s liberal faction more often than not. Anthony Kennedy—the judge named in wake of Robert Bork’s arbitrarily politically-charged rejection—came to be known as the “swing vote”—a term not even in existence before him. Kennedy earned the lasting ire of conservatives because in many cases he wrote that the precedent of foreign law could and should be taken into account when deciding American legal issues. Traditionalists were outraged, feeling that the U.S. Constitution and American case law history should be the basis for making domestic legal rulings, and what France did or didn’t do 50 years ago should have no bearing.

However, there is no question that both the biggest surprise and biggest conservative disappointment in recent times came from none other than Bush II appointee Chief Justice John Roberts, in his stunning deciding vote to uphold the legitimacy of Obamacare in 2012, when he sided with the liberal justices to retain the individual mandate. His reasoning was that the penalty for non-compliance amounted to a tax and that “the Constitution permits such a tax.” Therefore, according to Roberts, it met the rules of accepted Constitutionality. Conservatives were certain that the ACA’s individual mandate clause would be shot down by the Supreme Court, starting a death spiral that would spell the end to the controversial measure.

But to everyone’s amazement, Roberts upheld the law with his deciding and hotly-debated vote, sending shudders of despair through conservative ranks, not only over the specifics of Obamacare’s survival but also for conservatives’ realization that Roberts was not going to be the dependable Right vote that they thought he’d be.

Kennedy, O’Connor, Souter and Roberts—all were justices initially thought to be conservative, but whose actual Supreme Court careers ended up being largely moderate-to-liberal. The Supreme “drift” is always in the conservative-to-liberal direction. Kavanaugh, whose practical, grounded opinion history and easy-going persona suggest that he was never an extreme Scalia-type conservative to begin with, seems primed for that same leftward drift.

The outcome of Kavanaugh’s confirmation has not been determined as of this writing. But having already scored their transparent-but-predictable grandstanding points and Republican brand-damaging objectives, one can assume that behind closed doors out of the public’s eye, Senators Feinstein, Harris, Booker and the entire liberal mainstream media machine are actually breathing pretty easy these days. Rejection = outright Democratic victory. Confirmation = likely long-term Democratic victory.

 

 

 

 

Could the Me 262 Have Turned the War in Germany’s Favor?

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The outcome of World War II still has a tremendous impact on the political and economic relationships in effect throughout the world. The events that occurred nearly 80 years ago resonate with a profound relevance that persists even to this day.

In the European Theater of World War II (September 1939-May 1945), the British and American allies mounted an intense aerial bombing campaign against German military and industrial targets beginning in the latter stages of 1942. The scope and intensity of the Allied campaign really picked up steam in 1943, as the Americans and British both ramped up their bomber production into high gear. The British concentrated on a night wide-area “carpet bombing” strategy, while the Americans (aided by their use of the precision Norden bomb sight) conducted a daylight campaign intended to be more exacting and surgical in nature. Churchill was moved to say, “We shall bomb those b*st*rds around the clock! We shall never let them sleep!”

The daylight campaign held the most danger for the attackers of the two strategies by far, since no fighter escort aircraft existed in 1943 with the range necessary to accompany and protect the American B-24 and B-17 bombers from German interceptor aircraft all the way to and from their targets deep inside Germany. Unprotected and in plain daylight view of German fighters, American bombers took a tremendous beating during this time frame. A prime example was the October 14, 1943 raid on the Schweinfurt ball bearings factory, which came to be known as Black Thursday. German fighter planes extracted the astonishing toll of sixty 4-engined B-17’s shot down out of the attacking force of 291 bombers. Each American plane carried a crew of ten, so the loss of life was quite significant. Dozens more American bombers were damaged and never flew again after limping their way home to England.

During this time period, American P-47 Thunderbolt and British Spitfire fighter planes only had the range to escort the bombers partway to target and again on their last leg home. The Germans simply waited for the Allied fighters to turn for home and then they pounced on the unprotected bombers.

But in early 1944, the Americans introduced a new version of their P-51 Mustang fighter with an American-built version of the famous British Merlin engine. The new model (the P-51B or C, depending on where it was built) had incredibly high performance—even better than the famous German Me 109 and FW 190 fighters—and most importantly, it now had the range to accompany and protect the bombers all the way to and from the most distant targets in Germany. So from 1944 onwards, the air war in the skies above Europe were characterized by furious fighter-to-fighter dogfights, as German fighter planes tried to break through American fighter escort cover and get to the American bombers.

The Americans held tremendous numerical and logistical advantages in this contest. First of all, there was a huge and unending supply of well-trained American pilots to fill their ranks. Germany, by contrast, had been at war for two full years longer than America and had a smaller population pool upon which to draw for pilots. Furthermore, Germany itself was under constant attack—unlike the United States—and was also involved in a resources-killing front in the East against the Russians.

This all added up to a European air war of frightening attrition, where losses on both sides were high. It was a situation that spelled eventual, inescapable doom for the Germans, since their supply of experienced, well-trained pilots dwindled precipitously in the face of unending months of costly air combat against the Americans.

Because of the pressure of constant attacks, by 1944 the Germans could hardly afford to interrupt their fighter production lines in order to switch over to new, improved types and they could barely afford the time to adequately train new pilots. Therefore, the older Me 109 fighter (a veteran of the Spanish Civil War in the mid-1930’s!) continued to be built in huge numbers (1944 was actually the peak of German fighter production) and soldiered on long after it had passed its peak effectiveness. Meanwhile, new fighters never made it to front-line service in numbers meaningful enough to make an impact.

But…what if a truly superior German fighter had been available in significant quantity in the 1943 and early 1944 timeframe, before German industry was under such stress from Allied bombing and before the ranks of experienced German pilots became decimated by years of unending combat? Would that have altered the course of the air war over Europe? Such a scenario was, in fact, within the Germans’ grasp.

That aircraft was the Messerschmitt Me 262. Widely recognized as the world’s first operational jet fighter, the Me 262 was a twin-engined, single-seat interceptor possessing extremely high performance—over 540 mph. To put its performance into context, in the 1943-44 time period (when the 262 was essentially ready for active deployment), the fastest conventional piston-engined Allied fighters of the day (the British Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX and American P-47B Thunderbolt) had top speeds of barely higher than 400 mph. Even the new Merlin-engined Mustang of 1944 was only a little faster, at around 430 mph. That extreme margin of ascendancy over an adversary is rarely achieved during wartime and would have given the Germans an incredible edge over the Allies.

Interestingly, the 262’s toughest opponent proved to be the rancorous bureaucratic infighting at the highest levels of German command. Incensed at the Allies’ bombing attacks on Germany and furious over the generally negative turn of the war’s direction against Germany, Hitler wanted the 262—designed to be a fast, high-altitude interceptor, optimized for the role of bomber destroyer—to be converted into a fast, low-altitude ground attack aircraft, to strike targets in England. Although theoretically it could have been reasonably successful performing that task, the 262 did not have the load-carrying capacity to be a truly impactful bomber and pressing it into such a role just squandered most of its aerial performance premium.

So intense was the controversy inside Germany over the 262’s mission, that at one point, Hitler absolutely forbade any mention of the 262 as a fighter!

Bomber versions of the 262 were made and pressed into service. Developmental issues with the then-new jet engines affected production, so the absolute number of aircraft completed was limited. Bombing success with the 262 was disappointing and the damage inflicted by their use as a bomber was negligible.

However, the scale and damage of the Allies’ bombing attacks continued to rise and countering these attacks soon became the overriding concern of the German war effort in the West. By the time the decision to allow the 262’s use as an interceptor was made in 1945, Germany was already suffering from severe material and fuel shortages. Franz Stigler, a 262 pilot, recounts in the book A Higher Call by Adam Makos that in 1945, that the metal used in 262 production was so poor (quality raw materials were simply too difficult to obtain by that point in sufficient quantity) that the pilots had to exercise undue care so as not to over-stress the 262’s engines or else they’d self-destruct. Excessive ground maintenance was also required just to keep them flying. If Germany had made final development, mass production and deployment of the Me 262 a priority in late 1943—certainly well within their capabilities—then neither situation would have existed since they would have been manufactured with better materials.

Had large-scale 262 production commenced in late 1943, the front-line German interceptor units would have been equipped with the new jets in time to counter the Americans’ introduction of the P-51B into its long-range escort role.

Once the P-51B was active, the intense fighter-vs. fighter combat that took place between the German Me 109’s and FW 190’s and the American fighters would have been largely avoided by the Germans. The 262’s great speed and new tactics they devised would have enabled the Germans to avoid much fighter vs. fighter combat and their aircraft losses—and most importantly, pilot losses—would have been dramatically lessened. American bomber losses would have been far higher, especially since the bombers’ defensive machine gun turrets had difficulty accurately tracking the 262’s great speed and getting a bead on them for firing.

The resulting lower German losses of both planes and pilots would have had a negative ripple effect for the Allies in all aspects of the war. The destructive impact on German industrial and equipment production by the Allied bombing campaign would not have been as effective as it was. Since the Allies would not have had complete air superiority, the D-Day land invasion of mainland Europe would likely have been postponed well past the actual June 6, 1944 date. If the Me 262 was the main interceptor in the West, then greater quantities of the FW 190—a far better piston-engined fighter than the Me 109—could have been sent to the Eastern front for the fight against Russia. With a higher number of better, more experienced German pilots available on all fronts, the Germans would have put up far tougher resistance and for the Allies, achieving final victory would have been costlier and taken longer.

In the end, America’s far higher industrial production capability and fuel supply, unhindered by enemy bombing attacks, would have prevailed, regardless of the performance of any one aircraft on either side. America would eventually have simply overwhelmed Germany with the with sheer numbers of armaments it delivered to the battlefield. But the Germans’ misdirected production and deployment decisions concerning this one aircraft, the Messerschmitt Me-262, can quite plausibly be said to have profoundly affected both the duration and cost of World War II—the results of which still define the majority of international relationships and boundaries that exist in the world today.

Sources

Famous Fighters of the Second World War, Green, William, Doubleday, 1960

Hitler’s Luftwaffe, Gunston, Bill, Crescent, 1977

A Higher Call, Makos, Adam, Berkley, 2012

The First and the Last, Galland, Adolph, Metheun, 1955

Airwar, Jablonski, Edward, Doubleday, 1971

 

 

The Trump Economy and Buyer Psychology

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

There was one thing most voters agreed on before the 2016 presidential election and that was that Donald Trump was a good businessman and would likely do a good job handling the economy. After eight years of halting, lackluster economic growth under the heavy Government hand of President Obama, Trump’s supporters hoped that The Donald would be able to unshackle the economy and inject real growth back into the country’s business environs.

He has done so. The facts are irrefutable:

Stocks are markedly higher than at the end of Obama’s tenure. The Dow is over 26k now (mid-Aug 2018) compared to 19.8k when Obama left office and the more broadly-based S&P 500 is over 2800 now compared to 2270 when Obama left office.

Unemployment is down to 3.9%, the lowest in decades.

Job creation under Trump is robust, with over 3.5 million new jobs since Jan 2017, according to the BLS.

Economic growth The GDP rose at a 4.1% annual pace in Q2 2018, compared to a tepid 2.14% average GDP growth in the 2010-2016 recovery years under Obama.

The question is, of course, why, and how much is this president—or any president—really responsible for the economy’s performance, good or bad?

Rabid, resentful liberal partisans—still reeling in utter shock and disbelief over Hillary’s ignominious defeat, and eager to downplay any Trump success—are only too quick to point out that they feel Obama handed Trump an altogether better economic hand than the one President Bush gave to Obama, so President Trump had a “head start” over Obama. With the country’s banking system supposedly teetering on the brink of total collapse in the waning Bush years (according to liberal revisionists), it is Obama who deserves the credit for stabilizing a potentially calamitous situation and bringing order and sanity back to American economic markets. In liberal chronicles, any further growth in the ensuing Trump years is the result of Obama’s measured, steady hand on the financial tiller as he masterfully guided the fragile American economic boat around the rocky shoals, as it were, and avoided any additional damage.

Nice story. Blatantly untrue, however, despite the popular narrative put forth by the liberal mainstream media and repeated endlessly by accuracy-challenged Democratic politicians. The banking crisis was brought about largely by Democratic-sponsored, PC-driven lowered lending standards, which led to the creation of mortgage loans to borrowers patently unqualified to receive them. It was a financial time bomb waiting to go off. It finally did, and when it happened, the brilliant, heroic efforts of Sheila Baer (head of the FDIC under President Bush) ensured that not a single bank failed, maintaining confidence in the system and preventing an out-of-control run on the banks. In fact, President Bush put in place all the solutions to the crisis—including TARP—and the system was already recovering by time Obama took office several months later.

Much to the total chagrin of rabid, resentful conservative partisans, however, Obama does deserve some credit. His calm, reassuring demeanor did indeed deliver a settling effect to deeply worried world markets.  And while his “Stimulus” was little more than political showmanship of essentially no tangible positive economic value, it did demonstrate that the American administration was engaged and willing to take action.  Sometimes, appearances can be as meaningful and comforting as actual substance. The world breathed a sigh of relief: The President was hands-on. Things would get better.

And they did. Unfortunately, they didn’t get that much better. Once past the immediate danger of the Great Recession, the Obama recovery was the weakest economic recovery after a recession in over 50 years. The weak recovery was indeed Obama’s fault, as he took the opportunity presented by a desperate economic situation to impose his onerous, punishing ideological thumbprint on what he saw as the unfair aspects of our free-market system.

Under the banner of the undefinable but haughty-sounding phrase of “social justice,” Obama targeted businesses with a raft of thicket-like, punitive regulations, increased their taxes and generally made it far more difficult for private businesses—large and small—to make a substantial profit. Make no mistake, the unspoken, never-admitted-to but unquestioned target of his actions was private business, owned and run, in Obama’s mind, mostly by conservative Republicans, whose ill-gotten profits never filtered down to the “deserving”—his voting base. Obama would change that.

For example, he weaponized the EPA by empowering them to impose new emissions regulations so intentionally, unrealistically strict that targeted companies would be virtually forced out of business. Another action was his ACA Obamacare, which weighed down companies with virtually untenable financial requirements and new taxes for providing mandatory healthcare coverage for their employees. These are just two of the most visible of an uninterrupted 8-year string of anti-business actions on his part. The net result of Obama’s web of politically-motivated anti-business taxes and regulations was an incredibly weak economic recovery, one that averaged only about 2% annual GDP growth from 2010-2016.

The real culprit of Obama’s actions was, of course, the creation of tremendous uncertainty. Companies simply didn’t know what new punishment, regulation or tax awaited them around the bend. One anti-business action after another was flung at them by the Obama administration; companies were shell-shocked into inaction. They dared not make a risky move in terms of aggressive expansion or major capital investment for fear of yet another social justice landmine being tossed in their path.

Whether it’s an individual, the head of a household or the CEO of a billion-dollar company, when the outlook is uncertain and likely negative, it’s human nature to play things conservatively, close-to-the-vest and take no chances. People spend the bare minimum, just enough to get by. Families cut back: No new car or extravagant vacation this year. Not until things improve. Companies don’t expand and they don’t hire beyond what’s absolutely necessary. They go into cost-cutting survival mode, hoping to merely ride out the storm and keep their heads above water.

That is precisely the negative atmosphere that Trump has removed and that’s why things are so much better. Buyer psychology is buyer psychology, regardless of scale. “Buyers”—individual consumers, heads of households, hiring agents, corporate purchasing managers, expansion-minded CEOs—all feel immeasurably more confident and certain about the economic landscape now, under president Trump, than they did under Obama. People don’t feel that they’re going to be blindsided or have the figurative rug pulled out from underneath them. This administration has earned the confidence of the business community by rolling back punitive regulations and lowering taxes in a common-sense fashion and it shows in the employment gains across all demographic groups, the markets’ performance and the GDP growth, which is averaging above 3% and poised to go higher, something that eluded the anti-business Obama administration.

President Trump deserves direct, unequivocal credit for the current economic turnaround. His removal of unneeded, punishing regulations and his tax-cutting measures have sent an unmistakable signal to buyers of all stripes and sizes that the country’s business conditions really are better and it’s safe to come out now. President Trump understands “buyer psychology” the way few, if any, past presidents have. This is a prime example of presidential leadership, coming from a skilled, experienced businessperson and exercised to the good of all Americans.

 

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.

 

Your Ship Has Just Come In

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Why is it that a country’s most famous ships seem to take on a personality of their own, as if they are living, breathing entities like movie stars, athletes or entertainers? There’s no question that this is true. Everyone, no matter what their age, demographic group or generational category, can name ships that are noteworthy to them. They may be military naval vessels, they may be private/commercial yachts or boats, but everyone has their favorites.

There have been a lot of famous ships through the years, from a lot of countries. For this discussion, we’re going to limit it to American vessels.  (That means no Titanic, no Bismarck, no Yamato, no Queen Elizabeth. Sorry.) In no particular order, here are some that come to mind:

Maine

A late-1890’s battleship, the Maine was assigned to protect American interests in Cuba during its war of independence from Spain. Three weeks after its arrival in Havana, the Maine was wracked by a tremendous explosion on the night of February 15, 1898 and quickly sank, claiming the life of 260 of its crew of 374. No definitive cause for the explosion was ever determined, but the initial theory of an external mine has been generally discounted in favor of an accidental internal fire that subsequently ignited the ships armament magazines.

The sinking itself and the hyperbolic press coverage of the event was the cause of considerable American political bellicosity towards Spain, serving as a major catalyst of the Spanish-American war later in 1898. The sinking gave rise to the famous saying, “Remember the Maine!”

Constitution

Perhaps the most acclaimed U.S. Navy warship of all time, the U.S.S. Constitution was a 44-gun 3-masted frigate, used by the American Navy in the War of 1812 against Britain. She is best known for her dramatic victories in several one-on-one confrontations with major British warships. In one of these battles (against the British Frigate HMS Guerriere), cannon fire from the enemy ship supposedly bounced harmlessly off the thick, sturdy oak sides of the Constitution’s hull, causing its crew members to exclaim, “The hull must be made of iron!” Hence, perhaps the most famous nickname in all of naval history—“Old Ironsides”—was born.

Arizona

A Pennsylvania-class battleship completed and commissioned in 1916, the Arizona was larger and more powerful than the Nevada-class ships that preceded her. Even though Arizona was fully active two years before WWI ended in 1918, it saw no action in that war, serving mostly in training duties. After WWI, the Arizona played a prominent role in diplomatic service, showing off American sea power in missions around the world. A major modernization took place between 1931 and 1941, which included more powerful engines and some rudimentary anti-aircraft gunnery.  The lack of effective anti-aircraft defense—common to all warships in the late 1930’s/early 1940’s, not just Arizona—would prove disastrous during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

In Japan’s December 7th, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, several Japanese warplanes broke through the American defensive airspace around Arizona and scored numerous bomb hits on the ship. One of these penetrated the forward deck and exploded below in the ship’s magazine, causing a massive, catastrophic explosion that tore the ship in two. Arizona sank quickly, with the loss of 1177 U.S sailors, the largest single source of the more than 2300 U.S. personnel lost in the attack. A permanent memorial was built in Pearl Harbor over the sunken remains of the ship. Amazingly, the Arizona itself still leaks two quarts of oil a day into the harbors waters.

Missouri

Entering service with the US Navy in the latter stages of WWII in 1944, the Missouri was the most advanced battleship to see service with the Navy. Compared to the Arizona, the Missouri was an entirely different caliber of ship—far larger, faster and with incomparably more advanced weaponry. It represented the most modern thinking in battleship design. Despite its impressive battle record in the closing stages of the war, the Missouri is probably best known for being the site of the official signing ceremony of Japan’s surrender to the United States on September 2, 1945, bringing the hostilities of WWII to an official close.

After participating in combat operations during the Korean conflict from 1950-1953, Missouri was decommissioned in 1955, the battleship having been supplanted by the aircraft carrier and nuclear submarine as the primary offensive weapons of the Navy.

However, in the late 1980’s Missouri was modernized and re-commissioned and took active part in shore bombardments during the 1991 Gulf War, firing several hundred rounds of 16-in shells. The ship was finally decommissioned for good in 1992, after an active combat career spanning nearly a half-century.

Missouri was also featured prominently in two high-profile movies: 1992’s Under Siege with Steven Seagal and the 2012 science fiction thriller Battleship. Known by the nicknames Mighty Mo and Big Mo, the Missouri is unquestionably one the most famous American ships ever.

Nautilus

The name “Nautilus” has graced at least two famous ships. One was the fictitious submarine in Jules Verne’s 1870 novel “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” in which the book’s main character, Captain Nemo, leads the submarine Nautilus on a series of scientific adventures and battles against giant sea creatures. The book quite accurately describes and depicts the modern submarine, decades before such vessels became a reality.

Although the submarine played a major role in both WWI and WWII, the basic technology of submarines was largely unchanged from 1914-to the early 1950’s: small ships with narrow hulls, diesel engines for running on the surface and electric engines with rechargeable power supplies for limited-time operation when fully submerged. Not only were the electric engines severely restricted in their below-surface operating time, the breathable air inside the submarine was also a limiting factor in the submarine’s underwater effectiveness. Unless those limitations could be overcome, the submarine’s potential impact would always be limited to a certain level.

In 1954, those limitations were shattered forever with the advent of the U.S.S Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine. Free of needing oxygen or petroleum-based fuel for its propulsion, the Nautilus could spend a nearly unlimited amount of time fully submerged, and power from the nuclear reactor drove on-board air- and water-purification systems as well. For the first time, submarines could roam the oceans at will, virtually undetected, for almost unlimited periods of time. As Jules Verne’s Nautilus ushered in a new era of thinking about undersea vessels, so the U.S.S. Nautilus changed forever the importance and impact the submarine had on the balance of world power.

Enterprise

Although many U.S. Navy ships have carried the name Enterprise, the one we’re talking about here is the WWII aircraft carrier. Completed and commissioned before America entered the war in 1941, Enterprise participated in every major Pacific action and earned more battle stars—20—than any other U.S. ship. Probably her most famous action occurred during the pivotal Battle of Midway, in which her aircraft were directly responsible for the sinking of three Japanese carriers. Known by the nickname “The Big E,” she was also called “The Gray Ghost,” since the Japanese mistakenly thought they’d sunk her on several occasions, only to find out the hard way that she was still very much alive.

Tough, versatile and resilient, the Big E’s impressive accomplishments epitomized America’s successful carrier-oriented naval strategy in the Pacific in WWII.

There have been other notable ships named Enterprise: 1961 saw the debut of the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, named Enterprise as a fitting tribute to the famed battle veteran of WWII. And there is the well-known fictional Starship Enterprise of Star Trek fame. But it is the WWII aircraft carrier Enterprise for whom the spot on this list is most deservedly held.

Whether real or imagined, military or commercial, large or small, famous ships through the years hold an unshakable place in our collective consciousness, evoking a fascinating mixture of pride, respect and amusement.

Some North Korean Summit Advice for President Trump

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The long-anticipated, on-again/off-again/on-again summit with North Korea is fast approaching, this coming Tuesday, June 12th, in Singapore. Here, President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea will sit down and see if they can actually come to some agreement regarding the nuclear weapons status of the North. Past administrations, from Clinton to Bush to Obama have utterly failed to halt—or even slow—the North’s efforts at developing nuclear weapons. The prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of an unpredictable, unstable regime like Kim Jong-un’s will radically change the balance of power in the Pacific Rim and it has worldwide implications, since cash-strapped North Korea is likely to sell their nuclear technology to rogue nations across the globe.

Past efforts at curbing other nations’ nuclear ambitions have proven vexing indeed. Pakistan and India have them, Iran is very close (mostly because of the amateurish and insincere efforts of the Obama administration) and Israel has them. Saudi Arabia is thought to have the technical wherewithal, should they begin development, as does Japan. Since 1945, keeping global nuclear ambitions under control is indeed like a genie that is frustratingly reluctant to stay in his bottle.

Current-day Democrats have consistently shown little real interest in international or national security issues, except as those issues impact and affect their political fortunes. The Pelosi’s, Waters and Schumers of the world are not really concerned about North Korea’s or Iran’s nuclear ambitions or illegal immigration, unless they can somehow leverage those issues into making Republicans look bad and thus bolster their own electoral fortunes.

So it is now with Kim Jong-un and the Singapore summit. All of a sudden, Senate Democrats—after complete silence on the matter—have issued a “checklist” of requirements and demands for President Trump to accomplish at the summit. It’s such a transparent political ploy: Fabricate arbitrary, difficult-to-achieve, difficult-to-verify “goals,” and then when (in their view, in the immediate aftermath of the summit) their “goals” haven’t been met, issue a very public “Aha! He failed!” statement.

The Democrats issuing a checklist for the North Korean summit is laughable–like the Democrats actually care about national security, N. Korea or anything along those lines at all. With each succeeding Democratic administration since Kennedy in 1960—LBJ, Carter, Clinton, Obama—the Democratic Party has oriented more and more of its policy objectives towards domestic issues, with an ever-increasing emphasis on pure electoral success, abject media manipulation and demonizing their political opposition. Considering the Obama administration’s near-total shunning of international considerations—from abandoning American personnel at Benghazi to declaring the war on terrorism is “over,” to allowing Russia to simply annex part of the Ukraine without penalty to failing to keep Assad accountable for stepping over the ‘red line,’ to undercutting Israel at every turn to gifting $150 billion to Iran while allowing them to keep their nuclear program—modern-day Democrats have summarily rejected national security/foreign policy issues in favor of concentrating on domestic identity politics: Identify a special interest “victim” group (blacks, women, LGBT, Hispanics, environmentalists, etc.), then craft a tax-funded Government policy to solve their problem (in other words, buy their votes), all the while enlisting the liberal mainstream media to do their bidding for them. That is the modus operandi of today’s Democratic Party.

Now, all of a sudden, we’re to believe that Chuck Schumer and his cohorts suddenly have a deep and abiding interest in the national security interests of the United States and its foreign policy strategy? This is so transparent it’s even obvious to the most casual observers: The Democrats simply want to set a political “Gotcha!” trap for President Trump, while keeping themselves perfectly inoculated from any judgment or accountability themselves. So they produce a highly-publicized, serious-sounding letter. Quite clever on their part.

Here’s what President Trump should do: He should take Senator Schumer along with him to the summit. He should very publicly state that he appreciates Schumer’s obvious expertise and deep, thoughtful analysis of the situation and he’d welcome his invaluable assistance in the negotiations.

It’s a win-win for Trump: If Schumer is there and the negotiations fail to achieve any meaningful results, Schumer doesn’t get to criticize from afar, unaccountable, since he was there and part of the process. Part of whatever blame is assigned will be his and the Democrats’.

If the summit is a smashing success, then Trump gets to thank Schumer for his help, he gets to say that America has achieved a great thing for global peace and stability by coming together, Republicans and Democrats, and showing the world what can be accomplished when “We reach across the aisle in pursuit of goals bigger than small-time partisan politics.”

Regardless of the outcome, if Schumer is there, Trump wins.

There would be few things in life more priceless than the expression on Chuck Schumer’s face as he boards the plane for Singapore.

 

 

 

 

The Liberal Media Cause the Left’s Incivility towards Conservatives

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Among all the political/cultural double standards that liberals and Leftists get away with, none is greater than the incredible incivility and disrespect they continually show for conservative politicians, celebrities and traditional institutions with whom they disagree. Liberal behavior towards conservatives is so outlandish that it borders on the absurd, yet they are almost never seriously called to account for it or pay a truly lasting penalty for it. If the liberal media cover the offending action at all—which they often don’t—it is done more in a “See? You can’t accuse us of not covering it, now don’t ask us again” fashion than in a serious attempt to hold the offender fully accountable on the public stage.

Michelle Wolf’s recent attack on Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House Correspondents Dinner is a prime example. In a truly vile, shocking, tasteless display, Wolf demeaned Sanders’ appearance and professional competence in an incredibly mean-spirited way. This wasn’t good-natured roasting—it was intended to embarrass and hurt Sanders, to humiliate her in public. There was a little bit of obligatory “tut-tutting” afterwards from the liberal media, but also at least as much rationalization and defending of Wolf. Point is, conservatives simply don’t do this to liberals, nor would the mainstream media let them off the hook if they did.

However, let a conservative make even the slightest cultural misstep or utter the most innocuous of unartful phrases and the liberal media and Leftist punditry pounce with unrestricted vengeance, determined to extract the maximum penalty from the guilty party. There are no explanations allowed, no extenuating circumstances to consider, no context to be evaluated. A misstatement from a conservative is considered to be intentional by the liberal media and immediate, unarguable, permanent guilt is assigned.

A few years ago MSNBC host Martin Bashir made an unbelievably disgusting remark about Sarah Palin, yet suffered no immediate consequences for it. He half-heartedly “apologized” for the remark a day or so later, fully expecting the matter to be done and forgotten. Only when the uproar from conservatives continued did NBC finally fire Bashir. But they certainly had no intention of doing so until faced with the public outcry. Bashir obviously felt fully confident and shielded enough to make the remark in the first place and then felt perfectly comfortable that he’d get away with it. It’s impossible to even contemplate the liberal media hysteria that would ensue if a Fox News host had said the same about Michelle Obama or (apples to apples) Geraldine Ferraro.

When examining the “What if a conservative did/said this about a liberal?” comparison, it’s all too obvious that conservatives are quickly and unconditionally branded as racists, homophobes, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, misogynist, intolerant, unsophisticated and simplistic for saying things that liberals get away with completely.

Can anyone seriously doubt that if some marginal, 3rd-tier actress like Kathy Griffin had held a picture of the severed head of Barack Obama, that that person would not immediately be shunned and held in utter, unsparing contempt by the national media? Yet only after the conservative grass-roots backlash began against Griffin did the major liberal media follow suit, reluctantly, in the days following. CNN took the minimum obligatory action and removed Griffin from hosting an upcoming New Year’s program. Yet within the year, she was back on The View, proudly proclaiming to the delight of the show’s liberal hosts, “I rescind my apology! I take it back!” followed by a classless two-word expletive, the kind never, ever said in public by a high-profile conservative about a liberal president. But not only did she say it, everyone cheered, and no corner criticized her for it.

What is to be made of all this? That there are double standards of decorum and acceptable public discourse for conservatives and liberals is well-known and easy to document. To wit:

  • Global Warming sceptics are not merely wrong, they “should be jailed.”
  • Conservative politicians like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnel don’t just hold the wrong views, they are “demons” according to public statements by prominent Democrat Maxine Waters.
  • Conservative guest speakers like Ann Coulter and Ben Shapiro are routinely threatened with violence for even daring to show up for their scheduled talk.
  • A NY Times reporter says people who support traditional marriage are unworthy of respect and deserve incivility.
  • A professor from Michigan publishes an op-ed entitled, “It’s OK to Hate Republicans.”

Really? Disagreement isn’t enough—they should be treated badly, hated, even jailed? Don’t debate the issue with facts, throw them in jail if they disagree with you. The national liberal media ignore nearly all of these occurrences. One can only imagine their reaction had a conservative professor published an article titled, “Why Everyone Should Hate Progressives.”

The real take-away is that this kind of intolerant, one-sided, unintellectual hate speech perpetrated by liberals—where arguments are based on empty sentiment rather than a serious, sober discussion of facts—has been legitimized by the national liberal media to such a degree that today’s younger generations have taken the cue that it is acceptable for crass, dismissive emotionalism to replace rational, patient conversation. Today’s media consumers—whether that media is experienced on-line, watched, listened to or read on paper—are being taught in no uncertain terms that it is permissible to attempt to assassinate the character of those with whom you disagree, rather than to engage them in reflective, substantive debate.

Unfortunately, the spillover from this is being felt in all corners of public interactions, from the instantaneous rudeness between customers and service providers, to the lack of respect for traditional institutions, and perhaps most unfortunately, the rapid wearing away of the veneer of courtesy that had always been shown to older Americans by younger Americans.

And it’s predominantly one-sided: Conservatives are not calling Democratic politicians “demons,” they are not physically attacking liberal guest speakers on college campuses, they are not holding photos of the bloody severed heads of their political opposition and they are not suggesting on high-profile news programs that liberal politicians be forced to ingest excrement. The liberal media give this anti-conservative behavior a pass, almost every time. When the liberal media do criticize, it’s in the most minimal obligatory manner, as little as they can get away with. And people take notice, especially younger people. The media are teaching them what is socially-acceptable behavior by the nature and tone of their coverage. They are teaching them the wrong lessons.

Remember that cliché, the “Coarsening of our Culture”? Sure, it’s no mystery. Today’s liberal media have sanctioned it.

Ford Doesn’t Have a Better Idea

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Remember many years ago when Ford’s marketing tagline was, “Ford: We Have a Better Idea.”? Well, Ford Motor Company—the second-largest automotive company in America—just made a stunning announcement the other day: They announced that a tall hatchback version of the compact Focus and the iconic muscle car Mustang will be the only two cars it offers for sale in the North American market in the future. It will drop its slow-selling sedans like the Fusion and Taurus and concentrate primarily on the lucrative pickup and SUV categories. The Ford F-Series pickup trucks have been the country’s best-selling vehicles for decades. Ford will also be bringing back a new version of the mid-sized Ranger pickup.

Is this a brilliant, ahead-of-the-curve move that will leave its competitors flat-footed and unable to respond or is it a reactionary knee-jerk response based on today’s transitory conditions?

The automotive market has undergone a fundamental transformation in recent years as SUVs have supplanted the traditional passenger sedan as the vehicle of choice in almost every demographic buying group. SUVs alone now garner more than 40% of the vehicle market, compared to the near total dominance of the traditional passenger car only a few decades before. The buyers’ perception of the SUV’s greater passenger/parcel-carrying versatility coupled with the much-improved fuel economy of the newer compact SUVs has rendered the traditional sedan obsolete in many people’s eyes. Add to that the near-universal availability of AWD on virtually every SUV and their undeniably higher, more commanding driver’s position and it’s easy to see their growing appeal.

Ford’s decision to curtail its participation in the sedan sector mirrors that of Chrysler. Chrysler ended production of its mainstream but slow-selling compact Dodge Dart and mid-sized Chrysler 200 in 2016, concentrating instead on growing its ever-popular Jeep brand and launching its new, cutting-edge Pacifica minivan to universal critical acclaim.

Even stalwart passenger car brands like Honda are not immune to the shifting tastes and buying preferences of the newest generation of automotive customers. The excellent all-new 2018 Honda Accord—a mainstay of Honda’s line-up and arguably the cornerstone of the Honda brand—is languishing on dealers’ lots, missing sales projections, as prospective buyers pass it over in favor of Honda’s expanded line-up of SUVs such as the best-selling CR-V, the new-for-2017 compact HR-V and the recently re-styled Pilot.

One interesting unintended consequence of the shift from the popularity of passenger cars to SUVs is that SUVs (as well as pickup trucks and minivans) are considered “light trucks” for purposes of CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) calculations. As of 2010, the minimum average passenger fuel economy had to be 27.5 MPG weighted average in a given brand’s sales mix. For every gas-guzzling 18 mpg luxo-sedan a carmaker sold, they had to offset that with the sale of a 36 mpg gas-sipping carette in order to achieve the 27.5 mpg average.

But light trucks are held to a far lower fuel economy standard. In 2010, it was only 23.5 mpg. And with the lower-economy light truck category grabbing an ever-larger share of sales, the actual total combined average economy of all new vehicles sold is lower because a higher portion of those sales are low-mileage trucks instead of higher-mileage cars. The Government’s attempt to legislate higher fuel economy (for the ecological good of lower CO2 emissions and less need for environmentally-intrusive oil exploration and extraction) has run afoul of the real-world laws of consumerism and market choice. If they have the freedom to do so, people will buy the product or service that best suits their needs, which is not necessarily the one that Governmental central planners had in mind.

Ford may well find that it’s new “less-car” line-up decision is premature and ill-advised. The oil/gasoline market is subject to chaotic variances and disparate influences. While relatively linear factors such as long-range market-based supply/demand trends and improving exploration/extraction technology can be thought of as somewhat predictable, there is no way to foresee or prepare for a market-changing event such as extreme Mid-East geo/political unrest or a cataclysmic weather event that interrupts supply. A quick look back at the history of retail gasoline pricing in the U.S just in the past few decades will show repeated wild swings from well under $2.00/gallon to over $4.00/gallon, back and forth several times. Just when it seems as if pricing will never be low again, the bottom drops out. Just when consumers start feeling over-confident that high gasoline pricing is behind them forever, it shoots back towards $4.00.

Given the very long lead-time for designing and producing an all-new car, Ford is certainly taking quite a gamble by announcing the elimination of their high-mpg sedans in favor of lower-mpg SUVs, should the gasoline market reverse into high-price territory.  And it seems to be doing just that: The improving world economy has spurred the demand for oil and the price of crude oil (and hence gasoline pricing) has shot up dramatically in the last twelve months.

The takeaway is this: Under the old rules, where the purchase of individual cars and trucks comprised a huge segment of the U.S economy and those cars and trucks were powered by oil-based fuels, large and small vehicles would fall into and out of favor, depending on the arbitrary whims of the world’s oil markets. During times of $1.75/gallon gasoline, the bigger the SUV, the better. When gas is $3.85/gallon, the Civics of the world sell for $5000 above sticker.

But we’re not playing under the old rules anymore. As ride-sharing, “calling an Uber” and self-driving cars (available for hire as needed on a per-trip basis) continue to become more prevalent, individual car ownership will decline and lose its position as a visible, conspicuous symbol of a person’s economic standing. This shift in consumer spending will have a major impact on the economy. People will not desire to own the car that transports them from Point A to Point B any more than they would want to own the train they ride on from Boston to NYC. Not being tied into permanent ownership, people will simply hire what they need at that particular time: a mid-sized SUV to pick up Johnny and the team from Little League practice; an elegant quiet luxury sedan when two couples are going out to a nice restaurant on Saturday night.

The other rule that Ford is ignoring is that oil-based fuels will not likely be the predominant personal transportation fuel for much longer. If Ford thinks that because current gasoline pricing is moderate then consumers will show a strong preference for SUVs over sedans, they’re already betting on the wrong horse, given oil’s upward direction.

A gutsier—but actually more defensible—move would be for Ford to have announced that they were discontinuing their gasoline-powered sedans in favor of a new lineup of hybrid and electric SUVs and pickups, with available optional self-driving capability. Although Ford has made vague statements about making a “full commitment” to alternative propulsion vehicles, they’ve given essentially no specifics or timetable.

I’ve been wrong before, but it seems to me that Ford is charting their course with faulty maps. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Ford’s maps are actually fine—they just need people who can read them properly.

 

 

 

Ted Kennedy: The Lyin’ of the Senate

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The 2018 movie “Chappaquiddick” recounts the July 1969 incident in which then-Senator Ted Kennedy drove off a narrow bride on Chappaquiddick Island late at night, plunging into shallow water of Poucha Pond, killing his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne, a young campaign staffer.  The movie details Kennedy’s subsequent actions, his delay in reporting the occurrence to local officials and his meticulously-planned televised mea culpa that rescued his tottering political career. With Kennedy’s name and story being thrust back into the spotlight by this film, it’s an opportune time to re-examine his long role on the national scene.

Theodore (Ted) Kennedy—the fourth and youngest son of Joe Kennedy Sr.—was arguably the most influential player of the entire Kennedy political clan. Although he never made it to the presidency, his impact on American culture, politics and society was far-reaching and has fundamentally altered this country’s direction in many ways. None of them good, unfortunately.

Here are some of the highlights of his long and storied career in the Senate:

1965 Immigration and Nationality Act

Other than abortion, probably no domestic issue flames the emotions and draws such sharp lines of political division as does the subject of immigration. The issues are well-known and it’s not necessary to recount them all here.  Suffice to say, once the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 became law, there was a fundamental shift in the ease and number of non-Northern European immigrants coming into the United States. In practical terms, the Act allowed the number—both legal and illegal— of Latino immigrants into the United States to increase precipitously.

Although Kennedy wasn’t an official author of the bill (it was known as the Cellar-Hart Act, named for NY Representative Emanuel Celler and Michigan Senator Philip Hart), he lent the full weight of his family name and personal political capital to supporting its passage. In the Senate only three years at the time (he was elected in November 1962 in a special election to fill the MA Senate seat vacated by President John F. Kennedy in 1960), his vociferous, passionate support of the Act was the first really major public policy success of his Senate career.

He championed this Act because he likely thought it would redound for decades to the profound benefit of the Democratic party. Many contend that Kennedy’s support was based strictly on demographic/political issues, because he knew (or was told) that opening up immigration to more Hispanics and Asians would swell Democratic voting coffers for generations to come. His critics would be quick to add that Kennedy was an upper-crust racist hypocrite who would never personally associate with the people the Immigration and Nationality Act was ostensibly designed to help.

It’s nearly impossible to divine the intents and motives of someone since deceased, more than a half-century after the fact. But regardless of Kennedy’s real objective, he played a pivotal role in helping pass the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which arguably altered the political and cultural course of this country as much or more than any other single piece of legislation has since.

1969 Chappaquiddick

As touched upon above, in July 1969 (over the moon landing weekend of July 18-20), Kennedy left a family party late at night and drove with young campaign staffer Mary Jo Kopechne to catch the Edgartown Ferry back to Martha’s Vineyard. Confused and tired, possibly from a few drinks at the party (although no one has ever claimed he was inebriated), Kennedy took a wrong turn and drove his car off a narrow bridge. Kennedy was unhurt, but Kopechne died in the accident.

The aftermath of the occurrence stands as Kennedy’s lasting contribution to the moral aspect of American politics and culture. His narcissistic, self-absorbed devotion to his own political fortunes, demonstrated by his leaving the scene of the accident and his stunning subsequent reluctance to immediately report it and take full responsibility, provided a veritable “how to” blueprint for unscrupulous individuals from that point forward as to how trusted people could evade accountability and blame. Trying to get the police report withheld so the NY Times and other major media outlets would focus instead on the historic first moon landing happening that same weekend, the behind-the-scenes scheming of the best way to orchestrate an effective career-saving televised explanation/apology that would cast Kennedy more as a sympathetic victim of circumstance than perpetrator, are both concrete indications that Kennedy’s only real concern was professional self-preservation.

There is no illusion here that Kennedy was the first politician or powerful businessperson to try to get away with some egregious immoral blunder. However, his was perhaps the biggest, most public misstep by a major public figure up to that point in the television age of instantaneous media coverage. What happened with Kennedy was known worldwide in real time. The world learned and took the lesson that he essentially got away with it just as quickly, being granted absolution by the sympathetic media and the Kennedy-infatuated MA electorate alike.

In addition, the entire incident revealed beyond any doubt that there are indeed two levels of justice in this country: One for the average person and another for the favored and well-connected. Both lessons—how to evade responsibility and the fact that the well-connected will not be fully held to account—are permanent stains on the fabric of American culture and decency. If this incident was a dinner party, then Senator Ted Kennedy—with the famous family name revered by the liberal media and thus granted slack that no Republican could ever hope for—knocked over the wine glass onto the white carpet, never apologized to the host, and tried to blame the whole thing on the person sitting next to him—and then expected to be invited back next week.

The Rejection of Robert Bork, 1987

Robert Bork, a highly-respected scholar and judge, was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987 by President Reagan. Being more conservative than the retiring Justice Lewis Powell that he’d be replacing, Democrats were determined to block Bork’s appointment and prevent the Court from tilting in a conservative direction.

The day that Bork was nominated, Kennedy made perhaps the most famous and influential speech of his entire career, a wildly histrionic speech in which he excoriated Bork, attacking his character with vitriolic falsehoods, gratuitous lies and totally fabricated innuendo:

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.

This was an astonishing speech coming from a supposed highly-respected leader of the country. The reality was, of course, that Bork was eminently qualified; he simply wasn’t in philosophical lockstep with the Democratic Party.

Kennedy’s performance during the Bork episode can plausibly be thought of as the beginning of the modern-day liberal media bias era as we know it today. His comments and behavior were blatantly and intentionally inaccurate, intended to shape public perception. The news outlets—overwhelmingly populated by liberal correspondents and writers—never questioned Kennedy’s statements or assertions of Bork’s unfitness. They never questioned his motives or inquired about his sources. Instead, they played his incendiary comments over and over, unchallenged, unquestioned, as if it was news, not opinion.

Stunned into non-action, the Republicans never did mount any kind of counter to Kennedy’s baseless attack. In 1987, there were no media/legal watchdog groups like today’s Media Research Center or Judicial Watch to get an opposing viewpoint out into the public space. Fox News was still ten years away. The Big Three television networks dominated the media landscape and their liberal slant pervaded virtually all the news coverage. Ted Kennedy, with a floor Senate speech born out of unabashed partisanship, personal animus and the brazen, apparent desire for self-aggrandizement, cleverly and knowingly leveraged a liberal media he knew would never challenge him and single-handedly engineered a major structural change to the country’s highest court system that would have repercussions decades into the future.

As President, John F. Kennedy didn’t have the chance to make a truly lasting mark on the American landscape. His greatest contributions were as much visual and aesthetic as they were policy: the notion of Camelot, the romance and adventurism of having begun the successful Space Program, the dramatic success of squirming out of the immediacy of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Similarly, Robert Kennedy—the “smartest” Kennedy—never got the chance to really establish his influence on the country, being cut down by an assassin’s bullet during the 1968 Democratic primary campaign, a campaign he seemed likely to win.

But Ted Kennedy, despite lacking his older brothers’ charisma, not being their intellectual equal and seemingly struggling his entire life for the approval of his father Joseph Kennedy Sr., the unapologetically ruthless head of the Kennedy political machine, has made a more lasting impact on American politics, society and culture than any of his brothers. Ted’s actions have left a permanent negative mark on America in terms of demographics, voting, morality and law.

Kennedy’s revisionist-history sycophants have coined the term the “Lion of the Senate” to describe his 47 years of supposedly unselfish, meritorious, crucial work on behalf of the American people. With a minor spelling adjustment, it’s an apt term indeed.

 

 

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.

 

 

Can’t Anyone Take a Joke?

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

We have two adult daughters. Both are married with children of their own. One of them lives overseas in Italy (don’t ask, it’s a long story, but it gives us a great place to visit), the other lives 10 minutes away in the same upper-middle-class suburban town as my wife and me, in the eastern part of the country. One of our local daughter’s neighbors is a broadcaster for a sports radio talk show. He and his wife are perfectly nice, normal people. Their young daughter plays with our daughter’s 6-year-old several times a week. They are remarkably unremarkable, regular in every sense.

A few days ago, he made an on-air a quip in which he mimicked the stereotypical speaking style of a foreign ethnic group. It was a joke, the kind of thing every one of us has done a thousand times, in reference to any one of a dozen or two well-known ethnic/national groups.

Well, apparently in this highly-charged, everyone’s a victim, incredibly thin-skinned and humorless environment in which we all now live, it wasn’t a joke. It was a heinous personal crime, betraying a shocking lack of sensitivity and cultural awareness on the part of the “joke” teller, injurious to the self-image of the target group to an irreversible degree. The morally-indignant brigade struck with Blitzkrieg-like (I probably can’t say that, either) suddenness and fury: No less than three very high-profile sponsors immediately—and very publicly—announced that they were pulling their advertising from the station. The station, trying desperately to get in front of what could be a PR disaster, instantly issued a public apology on all fronts—on-air, on social media and on its web site. And of course, they wasted no time announcing that the offending on-air host was suspended at once without pay, pending further investigation—with the implication that a firing might be imminent.

This relatively recent development of widespread social/professional victimhood coincides very closely with the rise in identity politics, particularly as practiced by liberal politicians and supported by the liberal media. Liberals seem to orient their political strategy and activity around the notion of identifying special interest groups based on age, ethnicity, gender and gender-orientation, religion, socio-economic class and education. Liberal politicians then convince the group in question that they’ve been victimized (either by society at large or by conservatives in particular) and so the liberal politician proposes a specific program to cure their ill and garner their vote. Humor has no place in the liberal paradigm. There is no innocent humor; there are only intentional, degrading insults, designed to maliciously hinder or prevent the group in question from advancing to their deserved standing in our culture.

Really? Every joke is meant to harm someone and prevent them from progressing?

I work in the music industry, in the marketing department of a very large company that owns and manufactures several very well-known brands of electronic musical instruments and keyboards, DJ gear, recording equipment and musical composition computer software. It’s a “hip” company—everyone is into music and we have frequent contact and interactions with today’s biggest recording artists and DJs (arranging endorsement deals, loaner equipment, etc.). As the senior marketing person (both in age and tenure), I supervise the marketing department. Our department is so diverse, the generals of the Politically Correct Army should pin medals on us. You name the gender, ethnicity/race, age group and sexual orientation, and we have them.

Connected by our love of music, our common professional drive for marketing/sales success in a highly competitive industry and our shared familiarity and interest in the gear itself, we all get along great. Pick your favorite cliché and it fits: a well-oiled machine, a winning team, an engine firing on all cylinders, whatever. They all apply.

About a year ago, I began telling a quick joke at the end of the day once or twice a week, to send people off with a smile. I have that public-speaking “performance knack,” and it’s really become something of a deeply-entrenched tradition now. People come from all over the building, not just marketing. Everyone waits for it. “Joke today?” “Do we get one today?”

Most of the jokes are squeaky-clean and decidedly un-ethnic. Not all of them, however. There are a lot of Jewish jokes, a never-ending stream of Yo Momma jokes and the occasional good-natured (never distasteful or nasty) off-color joke. When a joke is going to stray off the straight-and-narrow path, I preface it with a humorous disclaimer:

“This joke may be construed as being ever-so-slightly off-color or ethnically-insensitive in nature. If anyone here feels that such a joke contributes to a hostile work environment or hearing it would be at all unwelcome, I invite you to avail yourselves of this opportunity to vacate the area. I will take it as explicit approval anyone who chooses to stay.”

People wait for the disclaimer itself, it’s so dry and tongue-in-cheek. But I do say it, and it’s “on the record,” so to speak. By the way, everyone always stays. Everyone, always.

Then the joke follows. Our 34-year-old female marketing coordinator is the most disappointed of all when the joke that day isn’t going to be off-color. No one laughs harder than our African-American brand managers when I put on my exaggerated Black affectation and do a rapid-fire string of “Yo Mammas.” (I’m a middle-aged white Jewish guy, so it is particularly funny, I can assure you.)

People are people. We can all tell when we’re being seriously disrespected and when it’s just a routine situation. My feeling is that we’re united by things like humor, personal/emotional connections to other people, shared interests, and professional drive far, far more than we’re separated by any differences in ethnicity, age or gender/orientation.

It was a joke on that radio station. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Let’s get more jokes into our everyday lives, and let’s take the transparently-calculated over-sensitivity to well-intentioned jokes out of politics and the media. No joking.

 

 

Please Don’t Blame the Liberal

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Why is it that liberal politicians and liberal causes always seem to escape severe criticism and close scrutiny while their conservative counterparts are continually fighting off one allegation after another, no matter how fanciful and misleading those allegations might be? The standards to begin an investigation into rumored conservative wrongdoing appear to be essentially non-existent, while the requirement for serious media attention into liberal misdeeds must be something more ironclad than a non-Photoshopped image of a person standing over a body holding the dripping knife.

Some recent examples:

Uranium One

Hillary Clinton’s Uranium One mess seems pretty significant, doesn’t it? Supposedly, she facilitated the sale of some 20% of American uranium and mining rights (through a Canadian intermediary) to a Russian firm in exchange for three million dollars to be paid to the Clinton Foundation. If true, it looks to be a clear case of “pay-to-play” influence peddling, done while Hillary was still Secretary of State.

The United States imports more than 90% of its uranium, so it’s a rare commodity already. We produce very little ourselves. Why we would sell off such a significant portion of the material used to make nuclear bombs and nuclear reactors to our most dangerous worldwide strategic adversary defies even the smallest semblance of logic.

The details of the development of the entire transaction were provided in minute detail to three Congressional committees by an FBI informant who had followed the Russian and American players for several years. His account of what happened certainly has passed the threshold needed to take a closer look into the matter. The subject is deadly serious to our national security, as opposed to its being merely political rooting points. The details provided by the FBI informant are credible enough to take seriously. The American players involved are very high profile. It merits “investigation,” no? Investigation. Not pre-judgment, but certainly investigation.

Me too

Another pet liberal cause is the “Me Too” initiative, where women who’ve been subjected to past gender-related pressures and improper treatment have been encouraged to come forward with their stories under the #metoo hashtag, naming names and exposing these past offenses for all their inglorious unseemliness. That this long-term objectionable behavior is now coming to light is a very good thing. Gender-based oppression and discrimination has absolutely no place in civilized society and many of the actions that have been reported are far past “shameful.” They are intolerable and inexcusable.

However, as is often the case, liberal politicians and the liberal mainstream media pick and choose who to vilify and who to let off the hook. When California Democratic assemblywoman Christina Garcia—a central figure in the Me Too movement—was cited as accosting a male staffer, it went largely unreported. The liberal #metoo narrative is all about male mistreatment of women, not about inappropriate sexual pressures in general.

Bette Midler-Rand Paul Tweet

During the recent budget negotiation, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul objected to the budget proposal, threatening to derail the bi-partisan agreement and trigger another interminable Government shutdown. In the short time that the agreement was in question, entertainer Bette Midler (is she actually Joy Behar? Has anyone ever seen them in the same room at the same time?) tweeted, “Where is Rand Paul’s neighbor when we need him?”, a reference to the recent attack on Rand Paul by his neighbor. Apparently, Midler thinks Paul should have been attacked for opposing the budget agreement. A conservative never could’ve gotten away with “joking” about violence being committed against a liberal. But violence against a conservative? Don’t blame the liberal. The joke is sloughed off and quickly forgotten.

Liberals do and say things all day long that a conservative could never do, and the liberal mainstream media follows suit, ascribing crime-of-the-century seriousness to any conservative transgression—real or imagined—while poo-pooing away liberal missteps with only the slightest acknowledgement. Most liberal transgressions are covered by the liberal media in a bare-minimum fashion: Just enough so CNN or ABC can claim to have done their journalistic duty, while stopping far short of actually doing any damage or raising the issue’s visibility to the point where the casually-attentive news consumer might notice.

The preceding few examples are just the tip of the iceberg of conservative “crime” and liberal “innocence.” A concerted effort will easily identify dozens and dozens of additional examples. The issues will change tomorrow, and the examples of “never blame the liberal” will change accordingly. Yet one thing remains constant: Conservative politicians and causes are criticized and harangued to a far greater degree than liberal politicians and causes.

However, this is not an article on the fact that that happens. Instead, the real question is, of course, why? That the mainstream media is liberally-biased is a matter of record, well-known and not in question. Most of the editors and news managers are products of college journalism programs from ultra-liberal schools like Columbia or Harvard or Northwestern or Boston University, so the stream of liberal mainstream media gatekeepers is constant. That’s widely-accepted and it’s not going to change any time soon.

Is there a more fundamental reason why conservatives continually allow themselves to be made into punching bags for liberal politicians and liberal media bias? Keeping the boxing references, in boxing, effective, skilled aggression usually contributes to a winning effort. “Effective aggression” does not mean wild swinging, but rather an organized attack, where one boxer’s approach keys in on the other’s weaknesses and shortcomings. As the boxing cliché goes, “Don’t get beaten to the punch.” Strike first and strike effectively.

Liberals are quite good at this. They continually look for openings, for political weaknesses, then they strike and exploit those weaknesses, and whether or not the thrust of the liberals’ attack has anything to do with an important policy issue or not is immaterial. In contrast, conservatives unfailingly make the mistake of thinking that the merits of the issue at hand will carry the day and persuade the voters.

Here is a possible reason why liberals avoid blame and constantly have conservatives on the defensive. This explanation will no doubt be met with howls of protest by liberals, either because they disagree or recognize its utter truth and are too embarrassed to admit it:

Liberals look at everything in political terms. Everything is a political contest, a political situation, a public perception confrontation to be won or lost. Everything. Liberals orient all their activities and communications around that premise. An excellent example—absolute proof, really—is the way that liberals view the voters and how they craft their election strategy. Liberals look at the electorate as nothing more than a collection of sub-groups of special interests. If they can identify and satisfy the desires of those individual groups, then they win the election.

Liberal politicians don’t see a unified country with common interests; rather they see Blacks, Hispanics, immigrants (illegal and legal alike), gays, transgenders, women, Jews, environmentalists/Warmers, millennial college students, seniors, unionized workers and teachers, the pro-choicers, and welfare/food stamp recipients. Liberals endeavor to craft specific policies and entitlements for each group (funded mostly by taxing the underserving “rich”) and thus win those groups’ votes with Government-funded programs that benefit them directly.

Conservatives don’t think in such callous political terms. They tend not to promise specific groups an explicit “reward” for voting for them (there are a few exceptions, like the gun lobby, but very few). The basic conservative approach is to create policies that help the country as a whole. Theirs is the “rising tide lifts all boats” philosophy. A less-restrictive regulatory business climate that leads to more hiring helps everyone—black/white, male/female, straight/gay—but it doesn’t have the immediacy of being able to address group ‘x’ and say, “I’ve created this program just for you.”

Liberals think in definitive political terms: win the public perception battle right there and then, the one that’s happening that day. Master the 24-hour news cycle. Dominate that day’s headlines, the trending stories. Investigate your opponents, whether there’s evidence to justify an investigation or not. Make damning allegations, whether they’re accurate or not. Perpetuate negative stereotypes against the opposition party, in order to keep your special-interest groups loyal. Never concede even the slightest sliver of credit to the other side. Always cast everything they do as being hurtful to your constituency. Always remain blameless. If anything goes wrong, it’s the conservatives’ fault. Blame them.

Liberals do this as naturally as breathing. They’ve been conditioned and trained by 75 years of post-WWII pandering to special interests in the mass-media age as to how to win those perception battles. They win most of them. Conservatives—they of the ill-conceived, hopelessly naïve ‘the voters will see the merits of the issue’ bent—are clueless as to how to fight the liberals’ fight. Conservatives are always beaten to the punch, always late to answer the bell.

Generally, the only time a conservative wins a post-WWII presidential election is when the liberal is either patently unlikeable or such a buffoon that even liberal shenanigans can’t improve their image. However, even in defeat, it’s not the liberal’s fault. Their excuses are put forth repeatedly and forcefully, and enough of the electorate, the punditry and the media buy into it such that the liberals’ record of never being at fault continues virtually unblemished.

 

The “Real” Russia Collusion: Oil

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Russian collusion is indeed a major issue threatening the well-being of our country. It’s just not the Russia collusion that’s been bandied about in the news for over a year. No, it’s Russia colluding with OPEC to intentionally raise world crude oil pricing. That is a real threat to our economy and living standard, unlike that other, totally imaginary Russia collusion.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, crude oil prices have been on an upward tear for the better part of the last two years. From a low in the high-20’s/barrel range in February of 2016, WTI (West Texas Intermediate) closed at $65.45 on Friday Feb 2nd. Goldman Sachs goes so far as to say that North Sea Brent crude oil (the other benchmark oil besides WTI) will likely top $80 within six months.

WTI generally runs about 5% lower, so look for WTI to be around $76/bbl by the summer of 2018.

Before we look at why this is happening, it’s a good idea for a quick refresher on the four main drivers of crude oil/retail gasoline pricing. Why is oil and gasoline rising? What’s happened?  First, let’s dispense with any simplistic “the oil companies are conspiring to raise prices” nonsense.  That’s not what’s happening. Oil is a commodity, traded on the world market like any other commodity, such as gold, copper, natural gas, diamonds, etc. Oil is subject to market forces like every other commodity is.

There are four main factors that influence the price of crude oil-retail gasoline on the world market:

  1. World supply/demand
  2. Exploration/extraction activity and technology
  3. Refining/delivery capacity
  4. Geopolitical influences (Iran, North Korea, terrorism, etc.)

(There’s also a 5th factor: currency value, or the “exchange rate,” since oil is traded in dollars. However, this is normally a peripheral factor that only shades oil pricing a little bit one way or the other.)

Today’s situation is primarily one of tightening supply coupled with greater demand as the worldwide economy, led by the U.S., continues to improve. See #1 above. When the world was awash with over-abundant oil in 2015-6, with loaded tankers sitting by the dozens offshore, unable to unload their cargo for lack of empty storage facilities, it seemed as if low-priced crude oil and $1.899/gallon gasoline was a permanent fixture on the US economic landscape. Never again would we be beholden to the arbitrary whims and evil manipulations of greedy, anti-American, anti-Semitic Arab oil sheiks.

The over-supply of oil was primarily because of the shale oil boom (fracking) in the U.S. With newly-developed exploration and extraction techniques, America was finally able to tap the previously unreachable mother lode of crude oil trapped in the huge shale rock deposits in the western and southern parts of the continental U.S. With a huge influx of additional oil being delivered to the world market, supply exceeded demand and world pricing plummeted.

At first, OPEC was unsure how to respond. Initially, Saudi Arabia actually increased their oil production in an effort to lower world pricing even more and drive the U.S. shale producers out of business (since shale oil has a far higher cost of production than Saudi oil, which is easy to extract).

That didn’t work. Shale extraction technology got better and better and the Saudis were never able to force pricing down far enough to permanently hurt the American frackers.

So, they resorted to the tried-and-true economic dictum of supply and demand. Led by the Saudis, OPEC instituted strict oil production quotas to limit the amount of oil that they would supply to the market. Restricting supply would re-balance the market and bring world oil demand and supply back into equilibrium, thus raising prices as market forces began to have their normal effect.

However, Saudi Arabia is only one of the top three oil producers in the world. Although the combined oil output of the 14 OPEC member countries is certainly significant (over 40%), the other two top three countries are the U.S. and Russia, each of whose oil output is roughly equal to that of Saudi Arabia (OPEC’s largest member). The Saudis convinced Russia to voluntarily join them in their production quota. With all of OPEC now joined by another top-three producer—Russia—the world’s oil supply has come down considerably, much faster than anticipated. Pricing is on pace to more than triple from its 2016 low and the impact on our economy and spending sentiment will be significant.

Note that the recent rise in pricing has essentially nothing to do with reason #4—terrorism and geo-political tension. As of right now, there are no hostilities with North Kores to rattle the world commodity markets, Israel is not at war with anyone and since the institution of the Iranian nuclear deal a few years ago, Iran is once again supplying oil to the world market without any problem. So the terrorism front is quiet right now.

The rise in price is all pretty much #1—supply and demand, with supply being restricted by the OPEC-Russia agreement. That fact points out the truth that even though total US oil production exceeds 10m bpd, the U.S. alone can’t determine the ultimate price of oil on the world market. We can be an influential factor—larger now, to be sure, than 20 years ago before the shale boom—but the U.S. can’t control oil pricing by itself.

Nor does the potential of future alternative fuels have much influence on today’s pricing. Some industry observers have opined that EVs (electric vehicles) will reduce worldwide oil demand by the equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s entire current oil production by 2040. But that, in reality, is just a random individual guess and such statements have no actual impact on today’s pricing.

Applying the rough approximate numerical multiplier of 4x to WTI crude to get U.S retail gasoline pricing, that means that U.S retail gasoline will be above the psychologically-important $3.00 mark (4 x 76 = $3.04) by this summer. People see the price of gasoline on the corner gas station every day as they leave the house. It’s like a daily “scoreboard” telling them whether they’re winning or losing their personal economic game. When Joe/Jane middle-class sees $2.27, they feel like they’re winning, like they can spend a little more somewhere else, like things are going in the right direction.

When they see gasoline rise very quickly, seemingly for no good reason, to $3.04—especially after a prolonged period well under $2.20—it’s a very negative sign. Maybe things are getting worse and I haven’t been paying attention. Maybe I should play things safe for a while, keep things close to the vest. Let’s cut down on dinners out and tell Johnny, sorry, no new sneakers just yet. Yeah, I know my brother Bill finally got a job again after two years, but let’s not get too carried away.

Rising oil pricing impacts everything at retail, in the construction and agriculture sectors and in manufacturing, because everything is delivered from the factory to the seller and from the seller to the end user by a transportation device that uses an oil-derived fuel. Milk, sushi, iPhones, lumber and fertilizer are all made and delivered with the assistance of oil-based products. Rising oil pricing also negatively impacts business and domestic heating and utility pricing. It’s like a tax that takes billions and billions of dollars out of the economy, wrecks the exuberant business outlook and shreds consumer confidence. Rapidly-rising oil pricing is a five-run uprising in the 9th inning of a game you were leading 8-1 after eight innings. Now you’ll just be happy to hang on for the win.

Consumer and business sentiment is central to the spending that drives our economy, the very backbone that supports it. Anything that puts a damper on that sentiment will drag down spending and hence drag down economic growth along with it.

Russian “collusion” is indeed a big threat to our country’s well-being: It’s the collusion between OPEC and Russia to restrict the world’s oil supply and drive up pricing. It’s working and the tangible, undeniable, clear-as-day proof is posted in big numbers on every street corner. Maybe the media should pay some attention to that.