The Missing Weapon at Dunkirk

 

©2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

Although most people under 40 are astonishingly unknowledgeable about it, a great worldwide armed conflict known as World War II took place from 1939-1945 in the European and Pacific regions. It is relevant and important to know and understand because the outcome of World War II put into place the political, economic and geographical conditions and relationships that make the world what it is today. An understanding of the ramifications of WWII is central to comprehending how today’s world came to be. People under 40—heck, even under 60—would do themselves a huge favor if they learned some history and saw how that history affected today’s world.

The 1939 war in Europe was caused mostly by the consequences of the unresolved complications and volatile conditions that persisted following the end of World War I in 1918. World War I took place from 1914-1918 and was a struggle for the control of Europe, primarily between the Germans on one side against the French and British (aided by America after 1917) on the other side. Germany remained particularly unstable in the years after the end of the Great War (as WWI came to be known) and in retrospect, many historians feel that another war in Europe was inevitable.

The inevitability of another European war after 1918 became reality on September 1st, 1939 when Germany turned eastward and attacked Poland. Having built up its military forces in direct contravention to WWI treaties, Germany overwhelmed Poland in a matter of a few short weeks, using their newly-developed Blitzkrieg tactics. Unlike the ponderous, static, slow-motion trench warfare that dominated World War I, Germany saw the potential of combining fast-moving armored forces with close-support air power (dive bombers and fast low-altitude bombers) to deliver a decisive, overpowering blow to their enemy’s critical targets in the very early stages of the action. (Germany’s Blitzkrieg tactics were so successful that the term has now become part of the popular lexicon, meaning any quick, overwhelming action, whether in sports or business or some other endeavor.)

Following a relatively uneventful 1939-1940 winter (a time period that came to be known as the “Phony War”), German resumed its hostilities against Europe in the spring of 1940, turning its attention westward. German forces blasted through the “Low Countries” of Holland and Belgium and swung around to invade France from a point behind its main defensive eastern border with Germany. Following World War I, France fortified their eastern border with Germany with a massive wall of concrete and armament called the Maginot Line in an effort to prevent any future invasion by Germany. But Germany attacked Holland and Belgium to the north and west of Germany, through the supposedly impenetrably dense Ardennes forest and they swung into France from behind the Maginot Line. France’s expensive, full-proof defense against German aggression proved to be a worthless folly.

As German forces poured into France, the French military was disoriented, confused and demoralized. Despite having numerical superiority over Germany in planes and equipment, the French utterly failed to mount an effective defense of their homeland. Desperate and panicked, France pleaded with Britain to send men and materiél to their aid.

The British did so, in the form of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), consisting of several hundred thousand troops along with tanks and aircraft. It was a wasted effort, as the British could not buttress the listless and disorganized French forces against the brilliantly-trained, highly-motivated German army. Germany’s blitzkrieg tactics decimated the allied formations, inflicting severe losses and taking great swaths of French territory.

Sometimes, what might seem to be a small decision at the time can have huge long-range consequences, with repercussions that last decades into the future, even to the point of altering the course of history. Such was the case in the battle for France in May of 1940. British Air Marshal Lord Hugh Dowding made the decision to not send any of Britain’s valuable Spitfire fighter aircraft to France for the fight against the Germans. The Spitfire was generally regarded as the best fighter plane in the world at the time (narrowly edging out Germany’s BF-109 and Japan’s Mitsubishi Zero-Sen). Dowding correctly recognized that Britain would soon be in a one-on-one fight for survival against Germany and any hope Britain had of fighting off the German air force (the Luftwaffe) rested squarely on the shoulders of their small contingent of Spitfires.

As I wrote in 2008:

The British proved themselves prescient when they sent only second-line Hurricane fighters to fight against the Germans in France. In spite of vehement French protests, Air Marshal Lord Dowding (head of Britain’s Fighter Command) refused to allow any of Britain’s valuable front-line Spitfire fighter planes to be “wasted” in what he knew would be a losing effort in France. Better to husband them for England’s solitary fight to come against the Germans after France’s capitulation.

By the end of May, the German forces had cornered the remnants of the allied armies into a small, vulnerable pocket in Dunkirk, near the coast of France.  It appeared that the European war would soon be over, as the German army was poised to finish the job. Exactly what happened next is the subject of some controversy, but the lessons for military planners reverberate as clearly today as they did then, some 68 [77] years ago.

Rather than sending in their armored, tank-equipped Panzer divisions to destroy the virtually defenseless allied forces, the Germans held them back. Instead, the finishing task was given to Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe. Military historians have posited that perhaps Germany’s armored Panzer divisions were stretched too thin and had outrun their supply lines, and thus needed time for rest and recuperation. Another popular theory has it that the head of the Luftwaffe—Hermann Göring—was envious of the glory that his Army counterparts were getting from their numerous overwhelming victories, and he wanted to prove that his air force was worthy of similar accolades.

But regardless of the reason, the German air force was given the responsibility, and it failed. That decision remains one of the greatest military blunders of all time. The Luftwaffe flew sortie after sortie, attacking the Allied armies, but couldn’t finish the job. Instead, the British organized an amazing sea-borne rescue effort and sent hundreds of ships and boats of all kinds across the Channel to rescue the beleaguered soldiers. Everything from Royal Navy transport ships to private fishing boats participated in the effort. The RAF flew cover and fought off the German air attacks. Although their losses were high and virtually all their equipment was left on the beaches of Dunkirk, almost 400,000 Allied soldiers were rescued, and survived to fight another day.

The Spitfire was the missing weapon in the fall of France. If the British had sent Spitfires to France and wasted those invaluable, irreplaceable front-line fighter planes and pilots in the weeks prior to Dunkirk in a hopelessly futile effort to save France from the German onslaught, then surely the German Luftwaffe would have succeeded in destroying the Allied armies on the beaches of Dunkirk. Absent the Spitfire, there were no British fighter planes that could defeat the BF-109 in head-to-head combat. British Hawker Hurricane and Bolton Paul Defiant fighters had already proven themselves outclassed by the 109 and suffered sharp losses in direct combat. In the likely event of significant Spitfire losses in the battle for France (even if just mostly from normal high-stress military service attrition and accidents), the Germans would have ruled the skies over Dunkirk and their bombers—unhindered by numerically-significant Spitfire opposition—would have exacted a decisive, fatal toll on both the trapped Allied soldiers on the beach and the beleaguered British ships and boats that were trying to help.

But that was not the case. There were enough (barely enough!) Spitfires to keep the German air force at bay in the skies over Dunkirk. Lord Dowding’s decision to withhold Britain’s priceless Spitfires from the losing, pointless exercise in France was unquestionably one of the most important, consequential decisions in military history. Few history books even mention it and neither does the otherwise-excellent current movie Dunkirk, but the “no Spitfires sent to France” decision ranks as one of the very most important military judgments of all time.

A clear indication of the Spitfire’s unmatched excellence came from an unlikely source, none other than General Adolf Galland, high-ranking German ace, who became head of all of Germany’s fighter forces later in the war. When asked by Hermann Göring (Reichsmarschall of the Luftwaffe) what he needed to be more successful in battle, Galland famously replied, “I should like a staffel [squadron] of Spitfires for my gruppe!

At the very end of the movie Dunkirk, there is a dedication screen that reads, “Dedicated to all the individuals whose lives have been impacted by the events at Dunkirk.” It’s an intentionally subtle and brilliant statement by producer Christopher Nolan, since everyone in the world since 1940 has been “impacted” by the events that took place there. Had the Germans won the war in Europe—and they were within a hairsbreadth of doing that at Dunkirk—the world would be a drastically different place today. Everyone’s lives would have been impacted. But Britain’s heroic Royal Air Force—led by those courageous pilots flying their Spitfires—didn’t let that happen.

 

 

Trump’s Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement a Huge Non-Event

 

©2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement has been cited by his critics as proof of his callous ignorance of critical environmental concerns in favor of his big-business colleagues and partisan donors, and by implication, further proof of his generalized unsuitability to be President.

The multi-national Paris Agreement is largely based two assumptions:

  1. Mankind will continue to rely on and overuse fossil fuels as the predominant energy source for transportation and heating, thus perpetuating the problem of anthropogenic Global Warming.
  2. The Paris Agreement is central to civilization’s ability to stop and reverse climate change before it reaches an irreversible “tipping point.”

Both assumptions are demonstrably false; therefore, the entire basis for the Paris Agreement is, at best, embarrassingly naïve and, at worst, an outright fraud.

Fossil fuels (oil, gasoline and natural gas) are currently the primary energy sources for heating and transportation, but our reliance on them for these purposes is already declining precipitously, independent of any international climate “agreement.” Use of alternative non-fossil fuels has increased dramatically from less than 5% before 1990 to over 13% in 2014 and may well increase somewhat in the future as their technology improves and their cost declines. However, so-called renewables are a dead end energy solution, whether their use is increasing or not. There is a practical upper limit as to what actual portion of the world’s total energy use renewables can provide, agreed upon by most objective energy analysts as being far less than a majority—or even a significant—percentage of the total. Absent their Government subsidies, it’s questionable if renewables would even be a factor at all.

Far more important to the current energy picture in terms of reducing CO2-emitting fuels is the use of fracking (led by the United States) and the resultant mother lode of natural gas that’s been unlocked and has replaced “dirty” coal. CO2 emissions in the United States are already down to early 1990’s levels, primarily because of the increased natural gas supply made possible by fracking. The potential for natural gas to replace coal, and therefore reduce CO2 emissions, is even greater worldwide, since fracking has only just begun outside the United States.

There is a great desire among most people to choose a “green” energy source when it is close in price to a polluting fuel and an even stronger desire among 1st-world economies to be free of the shackles and whims of politically-unstable OPEC-influenced world oil pricing. The Paris Agreement is not needed to increase non-fossil fuel demand nor is its presence the reason for the already-growing use of alternative fuels. These developments are taking place now, with or without Paris. The Agreement is a non-factor.

The Paris Agreement itself is not a binding, enforceable international “treaty” of any kind. There are no penalties for non-compliance. The Agreement is strictly for show, a way for the major Western economies to make themselves feel good about leading by example and showing recalcitrant CO2 offenders like China and India that they too should take voluntary steps to reduce their environmentally-damaging emissions. For American politicians, the Agreement is a way to show their targeted environmental supporters that the Government is actively, tangibly doing something to combat climate change. The vote-influencing effect of the Agreement is probably its most substantive outcome.

However, the Paris Agreement itself does nothing to actually reduce global warming. In words spoken on December 9, 2015 by our direct representative, the estimable then-Secretary of State John Kerry,

… The fact is that even if every American citizen biked to work, carpooled to school, used only solar panels to power their homes, if we each planted a dozen trees, if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions, guess what – that still wouldn’t be enough to offset the carbon pollution coming from the rest of the world.

If all the industrial nations went down to zero emissions –- remember what I just said, all the industrial emissions went down to zero emissions -– it wouldn’t be enough, not when more than 65% of the world’s carbon pollution comes from the developing world.

The second assumption of the Paris Agreement—that the earth will soon reach an irreversible, disastrous tipping point if dramatic action to halt anthropogenic warming emissions is not taken immediately— is similarly flawed. To begin with, there is no scientific proof of that, nor is any “proof” possible. The notion of a tipping point is merely a totally unsubstantiated talking point that has entered the climate dialog in remarkable coincidence to the non-fulfilment of past years’ predictions of warming-induced calamity and devastation. Shorelines have not crept miles inland, wiping out cities, ports and civilization along the way. Manhattan is still not under water. Pestilence and disease are not on the rise. If the undefined notion of a “tipping point” is valid, it would appear that we we’re not even close to reaching it yet.

It would likely require a geologically-significant time frame for a tipping point to occur—probably on the order of several centuries. As the capabilities of low- and non-carbon-based energy sources increase and their cost continues to decline, it’s quite reasonable to predict that within a very short time—50 to 100 years—the portion of energy that the world derives from low- and non-CO2-emitting sources will be large enough to make the entire emissions-caused-warming issue moot. Recent studies suggest that battery pricing is declining more rapidly than previously thought, such that electric vehicles will dominate auto sales as soon as 2040, displacing an amount of oil usage equal to Saudi Arabia’s entire output. That will cause a paradigm shift in both the CO2 emissions and geo-political components like nothing before ever has. And Paris has nothing to do with it.

Therefore, President Trump was entirely correct to see the valueless proposition of the Paris Agreement to the United States. The Agreement calls upon developed countries to come to the financial aid of less developed nations in order to assist them in curbing their carbon emissions, but the Agreement itself has no emissions enforcement mechanisms and full compliance—a very iffy proposition at best—won’t make a dent in worldwide warming anyway. It’s a disingenuous sham, designed only to make a favorable visual impression on those who don’t pay close attention and it wilfully ignores the legitimately-questionable scientific basis for the entire warming argument, the rapid technologically- and market-driven advancement of alternative energy, and the very short geological time frame before which the entire anthropogenic emissions-caused climate change issue becomes totally irrelevant.

Good riddance.

 

 

 

 

I’m Wrong, You’re Wrong

©2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

The Democrats have a good thing going. It’s unclear exactly how they arranged it or why it is that no one has really noticed it before and called them out on it. But they are very clever and they deserve full credit for pulling it off. It’s just another piece of evidence that when it comes to hardball politics/media manipulation, there is only one team even playing the game, much less a contest of any sort being waged.

Their gambit? The Democrats have constructed a reality whereby they get to blame Republicans outright for any transgression they commit—real or contrived—whether it be some verbal or policy slight against a favored special-interest group, a tax advantage they give to their “wealthy donor” electoral base, an unfair reduction in rights and privileges to the deserving just for the fun of being mean-spirited, environmentally-damaging political decisions made out of ignorance or uncaring short-sightedness, or a disruptive, counter-productive introduction of religion and morals into the public discussion in a blatant, hypocritical violation of the doctrine of ‘separation of church and state.’

The Democrats actually go further than simply tying such actions to Republican politicians. In fact, they routinely tie calamitous events to Republicans in general, office holders and supporters alike, and blame Republicans for intentionally creating the circumstances that enabled the event to transpire in the first place. A perfect recent example of this was a few years ago when Sarah Palin—a favorite Democratic fall girl—produced a “map” identifying targeted Democratic Congressional seats, with a crosshair graphic on the seat. Democrats howled that Palin was advocating actual gun violence against those Democratic officeholders and claimed that her actions specifically contributed to gunman Jared Loughner’s actions when he shot AZ congresswoman Gabby Giffords along with several other people. That was ludicrous, since Loughner’s mental illness was well-documented and had nothing to do with Palin’s strategic electoral map. In fact, there’s not any evidence that Loughner even knew who Sarah Palin was.

Yet when it serves their PR purposes, Democratic politicians—secure in their confidence that the liberal media will back their play every step of the way—feel free to conflate long-understood clichés and figures of speech with the literal meaning of that phrase when the literal meaning serves their political agenda. “In the crosshairs,” of course, is just an ages-old colloquialism for a matter to which one is turning one’s full attention and effort. You have to be a truly special kind of partisan to think you could convince others otherwise. But to the Democrats’ everlasting credit, they continually put it out there, knowing that the charge on Page One is seen by everyone, but the correction on page 12 four days later goes by virtually unnoticed.

Conversely, when a Democratic politician or a Democratic supporter is unavoidably trapped into acknowledging some inexcusable misconduct, abdication of responsibility, obvious lie, or insulting, insensitive speech, the typical Democratic response (assuming that a liberal media-backed outright denial of reality is not an option) involves some grudging admission of a temporary lapse in their usually impeccable judgement, followed by the inevitable dragging of Republicans along to share their guilt.

Here are some quintessential Democratic responses to flagrant Democratic misstatements and actions:

  • Both sides need to tone down the rhetoric.
  • There is plenty of blame to go around on both sides.
  • This situation requires immediate, focused bi-partisan attention.
  • Both sides are guilty of overreaction.
  • Both sides need to focus on what’s important and turn down the vitriol.

These kinds of Democratic proclamations are all-to-familiar to anyone paying any semblance of attention to the news. The recent revelation that President Obama knew months before the 2016 election that Russia was attempting to influence the U.S, election but that the Obama administration actively and intentionally decided against taking any action to thwart Russian interference has been greeted by the liberal media with bare-minimal (if any) coverage. When one Democratic lawmaker (Adam Schiff of CA) said, “I think the [Obama] administration needed to call out Russia earlier, needed to act to deter and punish Russia earlier, and that was a very serious mistake,” he was very quick to add, “I have to contest what President Trump is saying, because for Donald Trump who openly egged on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and celebrated every release of stolen documents—to criticize Obama is now a bit like someone knowingly receiving stolen property blaming the police for not stopping the theft.”

Perfectly scripted, right from the Democratic playbook: If you have to acknowledge an error on your side and there’s no possibility of denial, then bring the Republicans along for the ride on the Blame Train and imply that they’re at least as much at fault, even if you have to contort the facts in order to do so.

Schiff’s statement of Trump having “openly egged on the Russians” during the election campaign is an outright falsehood. As we said, “Charge on Page One. Correction to follow four days later—maybe—on page 12.” That’s no small semantic error: Trump may have cheered on Julian Assange’s announcements of more damaging DNC e-mails to come, but he didn’t know, nor did anyone else at the time, that the Russians may have been behind them (It’s still in question, an unsettled matter.) Replacing Assange with the Russians is willfully disingenuous on Schiff’s part. Skillful also, knowing he won’t be called out on it in a major public forum.

Another current example is CBS Evening News’ correspondent Scott Pelley’s astonishing utterance that the shooting of Republican congressman Steve Scalise by Bernie Sanders supporter James Hodgkinson may have been “to some degree self-inflicted.” In the Democrats’ world, no bad action can possibly be completely the fault of a Democratic politician or avowed Democratic supporter, lest that action cast the Democrats or their positions in a bad light. On the contrary, when a Democrat acts badly, it must be at least partially the Republicans’ fault, as this example proves once again.

It’s a good system that the Democrats have worked out for themselves: When they’re right, they take all the credit. When they’re wrong, they only get half—maybe less—of the blame. We’d all like to live in that world.

 

 

 

Just Get Someone

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

The November 2016 election of Donald Trump has so incensed the liberal mainstream media and the Democratic establishment that they’ve become virtually unhinged emotionally in their zeal to delegitimize and torpedo his presidency. Far from “coming together as one country after a hard-fought election campaign,” the Democrats and their liberal media collaborators have embarked on a non-stop, all-out crusade to destroy the Trump administration, thereby somehow reversing and overturning last November’s election result. That is their objective, make no mistake: Disqualify, reverse and oust.

The Democrats’ disqualification vehicle of choice is some vague, unspecified illegal connection that the Trump people had with Russian operatives before the election that enabled the Russians to manipulate the American voting process in a targeted manner to alter the vote, away from Hillary Clinton, and give it to Donald Trump.

There are a lot of words and phrases being tossed around by hysterical, sanctimonious, hyperventilating sources, saying things like, “Trump colluded with Russia to influence our election!” “The Russians hacked our voting process!” “Clinton’s insider information was revealed by the Russians to Trump’s benefit!”

Beyond these breathless, screeching headlines, there aren’t any real specifics of any kind. When the question is asked to define “influence,” or “hacked,” or “colluded,” the answers that come back are mostly along the lines of, “Well, you know! They did! Trump lied! Our democracy is at stake!” But exactly what was done, the actual methodology, where, the specific people involved, how many votes were altered, how many counties were illegally shifted from Clinton to Trump, how those counties added up to state wins for Trump instead of Clinton, none of that information is forthcoming. After seven months of non-stop Democratic investigation, none of those details are forthcoming.

Absent any tangible, verifiable proof of Trump-caused election manipulation, we’ve now entered the next, highly-predictable phase: The Get Someone phase. The Democrats already “got” Michael Flynn, since Trump fired him early on for not being forthcoming about some foreign contacts and financial arrangements. The President fired him. He was criticized for it by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment. If he hadn’t fired him, he’d have been criticized for it by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment.

But Flynn wasn’t high enough; he wasn’t a big enough scalp to satisfy the anti-Trump fervor. Besides, President Trump fired him; he didn’t defend him and try to keep him on. It’d be oh-so-much better if we could force the resignation of a truly high-level Administration official that the Administration is actively defending. The bigger the scalp an opposition party can claim, the more embarrassment and damage they can show the world they’ve inflicted on their enemies. When the embarrassment and damage reaches a critical tipping point, the media talk about it non-stop, night and day, and the issue manages to pierce through the fog of indifference that surrounds most casually-attentive, non-partisan-engaged swing voters.

Here, the Democrats have a huge advantage. The sources from which those aforementioned “casually-attentive, non-partisan-engaged swing voters” get their news and form their opinions are overwhelmingly liberally-biased. Whether late night like Colbert or Kimmel, Comedy Central’s Daily Show, the network morning shows like GMA and Today that people watch while dressing or having a quick breakfast, and of course, CNN and the NY Times, these are all Democratic-sympathetic sources. The common default mode among them all is Positive Democrat, anti-Trump. Operating under the reasonable 40-20-40 rule that says 40% will always vote Dem no matter what and 40% will always vote Repub no matter what, the fact that the 20% swing segment gets their impressions and forms their opinions from overwhelmingly liberal sources means that there is a very high likelihood that the majority of the 20%-ers will swing Dem once the liberal media start harping on something “important” day after day after day.

The Democrats’ goal with non-stop hearings, investigations, panels and Special Counsels is to break through from being unidentifiable background white noise to being something important and significant that will become the overriding issue on peoples’ minds every day.

If the Democrats can get someone of high standing, anyone, and force that individual to resign or be fired in disgrace—casting a huge negative pall on Trump’s presidency—then the Democrats will consider themselves successful. That’s the end-game here.

Although Republicans may try to run some offense of their own in reverse (for instance, trying to subpoena former Obama administration officials over their role in supposed questionable activities or unethical behavior), history shows us that Republicans are astonishingly bad at playing hardball partisan games of this sort. When they do manage to get a witness before a Congressional panel, they never seem to have prepared the questioning strategy needed for unequivocal success. Instead they meander around with peripheral questions, grandstand for personal gain, or—incredibly—they fail to hold together as a party and some “flexible, high-minded” Republicans actually undercut their own party’s efforts in order to try to seem “reasonable” to the general public. That never works, of course. The liberal media never give any Republicans credit for being “reasonable;” all that happens is that those misguided Republicans sabotage their own party’s chances for success.

For the Democrats, the goal is get someone. Anyone. Call for endless panels, hearings and investigations. Hold press conferences. Show off for the cameras. Ignite the passions of the hosts at CNN and MSNBC. Provide humorous fodder for the Daily Show, Saturday Night Live and Stephen Colbert at the Republicans’ expense. Try to make Trump and his administration look like buffoonish lying thieves and use the overwhelmingly liberal media to influence the 20%-undecideds.

Getting someone of significance—holding a scalp up high for all to see (metaphorically, of course)—accomplishes that goal.

Made out of Mettle?

By

Filed Under General on Jun 8 

Made out of Mettle?

© 2017, Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

I don’t know if it’s a male-female thing or not. Probably somewhat—I’d venture an off-the-cuff guess and say that nearly every guy thinks about this from time to time, but probably far fewer women give this any thought at all. Some do, no question, but less than half, I’d say.

Now that my totally subjective, unfounded impressions are out of the way, let’s get down to the subject at hand. The thought that has continually crossed my mind from my late teens right through today is this: How would I fare in a life-or-death combat situation? Combat, where my own life depended on my own actions. Combat, where I could choose to put myself in danger in service to a greater good or play it safe, save myself, but come up short with regard to a good situational outcome.

Note that I’m not talking about a deadly situation that involves protecting loved ones or a circumstance where self-preservation or self-defense is at play. In those cases, the survival-protective instinct takes over and most people will automatically do what they need to do to ensure the continued existence of their family or themselves.

The combat-type situation I’m talking about is very different. This situation requires action on your part that puts you in potential life-threatening danger in order to complete a task for the benefit of others. Military combat, fire fighting, police work—these are the situations I’m referring to. These are the life tests that many people think about but may never know the answer to for sure. On some deep level, it matters, but for some, it’s easier to simply repress the question since the likelihood of a situational test presenting itself is almost nonexistent and if the person has even the slightest reason to doubt themselves, they’ll simply choose not to think about it.

I had the opportunity recently to meet Chris “Tanto” Paranto, a U.S Ranger and Blackwater Security operative who defended the American Embassy in Libya on September 11, 2012 against a horde of attacking terrorists. The attack resulted in the deaths of American Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, but the unbelievably courageous, heroic actions of Paranto, along with the few other American defenders, kept the attackers at bay long enough for twenty other Americans to escape to safety.

This is not a political article. The circumstances that led to the terrorists’ attack, whether or not any American military assistance could have arrived in time, whether any after-action reports were politically-motivated or not, none of that is germane to this discussion. Enough has already been said on those topics.

However, as Paranto spoke to us, I was struck by his commitment to the task at hand, the responsibility he felt to aid others in a larger cause beyond just himself as an individual and the humorous, ironic joy he and his compatriots experienced in their overwhelmingly dire situation. “You never think about dying,” he told us that night. “If you think about dying—about how you can avoid dying—you’re going to die. We simply did what we had to do, what the circumstances demanded of us. When we had time to think about things—which wasn’t often—we simply cracked each other up with off-the-wall jokes.”

He continued, “We had a military scanner to monitor the U.S. communications taking place. Problem was, our scanner was about a minute or two delayed from real time, so it was useless. The scanner would say, ‘100’s of hostiles approaching from a mile away,’ when we were already killing the b*st*rds as they tried to scale the walls. Then the scanner would say, ‘Spectre [C-130 gunship] is on the way,’ but it never showed up. Then the scanner would say, ‘F-16’s incoming from Aviano’ [the U.S. Air Force base in southern Italy, the closest airbase to Libya], but they never came. Pretty soon we were joking, ‘Hey, Christmas is coming,’ because that’s what you do, that’s how you react in these situations. You never think about dying or how to stay alive; you just think about what you have to do and you stay loose.”

Could I do that? Could I pass that test and simply do what had to be done without regard for myself? I’ve never served in the military or been a firefighter or a policeman. My dad was on the front lines in combat in World War II, as a member of the 338th Field Artillery Battalion in Italy. He was literally on the very front lines of combat, serving as a forward observer, watching as his company’s cannon shells fell on German positions and relaying radio instructions back to the gun battery, so they could adjust their fire for the best results. The Germans hated the American forward observers, obviously, because they were the ones zero’ing in the destructive artillery fire down on their heads.

One day, the Germans spotted the house on the hill where my Dad and his squadmates were, and they trained their 88mm artillery on that house and leveled it with explosive fire. There were lots of American casualties and that event was where my Dad earned his Purple Heart for being wounded in action. He didn’t speak about his actual combat experiences very much at all and I never pressed him on it. But the soldiers did their jobs, without hesitation, day in and day out, without any fanfare or expectation of attention or adulation. My dad did, however, have a never-ending stream of amusing wartime stories to tell me, about finding food in the countryside as they traveled northward up Italy during the Po campaign, about going off on wild Jeep joyrides in their off hours, about grabbing small souvenirs along the way and then being told, “Hey, you can’t take that,” and many other tales of friendships and shenanigans. Perfectly in keeping with Paranto’s telling of crazy jokes to keep them balanced and focused.

There is nothing in my life experience that compares to this. The “question” for me is frustratingly unanswered. Yet I do have one instance to draw upon, however peripheral and superficial it might be.

It is this:

Way back in 1980, I went to work for Panasonic, the big Japanese electronics company. It was an outside sales position and Panasonic provided company cars to their on-the-road sales force. I was only 26 at the time and having a major-league sales position with a major-league company like Panasonic was a really, really big deal to me at that time. The company car was icing on the cake—I used to think that only big-time salespeople who’d been with their company for 20 or 30 years and were really high achievers got a company car. Our neighbor when I was growing up, Sherm Cohen, was a long-time salesman for one of the big paint companies (I think it was Sherwin-Williams). He was the prototypical 1960’s salesperson—gregarious, aggressive, humorous, larger-than-life. Every year, a brand-new Pontiac Gran Prix graced his driveway at 26 Lawler Road. I was always in awe.

My Panasonic car was a brand-new Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a 2-door coupe with air, a big V-6 and fancy wheels. Quite a car. I never could’ve afforded this kind of car on my own at that point in my life. I felt almost uncomfortable driving around in it, as if people were thinking to themselves, “What is that young kid doing with a car like that?” when I got out of the car in a shopping center parking lot after stopping for lunch.

I’d been with Panasonic for maybe a month or two when I went to visit my sister. My sister was three years older than me, and had always been, shall we say, “spirited.” She’d led an incredibly tumultuous life, with substance issues, relationship issues, kids at a very young age, all kinds of things. You can fill in the blanks in your mind and you wouldn’t be far off. If at all.

Anyway, she and her husband at that time had just lost their apartment, for the usual reasons. They were barely earning enough to maintain a household, much less one that included three kids, ages four, six and eight. Out of money and options, they were on public assistance and newly living in the so-called “projects,” in a small ground floor 4-room apartment in a two-story building. I went to visit, quite mindful that this was the bad side of town, so to speak, but this was my sister and I wanted to be there.

I pulled up in front of the building and parked on the opposite side of the street, the only side parking was allowed. It’s dusk-ish and the sun will set in about an hour. The street is buzzing with people from the neighborhood, playing ball, laughing, talking, hanging out. My shiny new Monte is as out of place in this setting as a tuxedo is in the Fenway bleachers. As I walk up to my sister’s front door, I feel the piercing stare of 40 eyes on my back. It’s a relief to be inside.

We visit. The kids are happy to see Uncle Steve. The youngest two are delightfully unaware of their circumstances; the oldest, close to nine, knows what’s happening and is very quiet. My sister, her husband and I exchange stories: they tell me of their overly-optimistic, somewhat unrealistic plans to make things better for themselves; I tell them pleasant generalities about my new job and some of the amusing people I work with, including my Mafioso/Godfather-like sales manager at Panasonic. It’s a nice enough visit.

I’m there for easily two hours, maybe more. All the time I’m there, I’m keenly aware of where I am and I’m listening intently out of the corner of my ear to see if anything untoward is happening outside. All the while, it looks like my full attention is focused on the conversation with my sister and her kids, but I’m always surveilling the situation, on the lookout. For what, I don’t know. Just on the lookout.

It’s probably a little after 10:00 p.m.. It’s totally dark outside. I’m thinking I should be going. I hear the sound of kids’ voices, not little kids, older kids, around 10-14. They’re laughing. It’s a malevolent laugh, an up-to-no-good laugh. I’m thinking to myself, “Kids that young should not be out on the street alone at that time of night.” It’s a weeknight—a “school night.”

The laughing seems to be coming from right in front of my sister’s apartment, right where my car is parked. I hear the sound of breaking glass, like a bottle dropping onto the pavement, followed by high-pitched, frenzied laughter and what sounds like the commotion of kids running away in all directions when they’re fearful of being caught committing vandalism.

I jump to my feet when I hear the breaking glass and bolt to the apartment’s front window. There, I see a broken, flaming wine bottle—a crude Molotov cocktail—rolling toward my car. In about two or three seconds, the flaming bottle will be right underneath my car—my brand-new Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the one I’ve had for all of two months at my new job.

It’s funny how fast—lightening fast—your mind works in extreme crisis situations. Thought after thought, scenario after scenario, outcome after outcome are all ricocheting through my consciousness:

  • “The bottle will just roll to the curb on the other side of the car. Nothing will happen”
  • “The road is pretty flat. It’ll come to rest right under the car.”
  • “If it stops under the car, how long will it take for the fire from the bottle to ignite the grease and oil on the underside of the car’s chassis?”
  • “If the car catches fire, the fire spreads to the gas tank and the car blows up, will I get fired?”
  • “If I run across the street now, can I unlock the door with the key (that’s the way it was done in 1980), get in, put the key in the ignition without fumbling from nervousness, get it into Drive and pull safely down the street, away from the flaming bottle?”
  • “What if the car catches fire while I’m in it? Will it blow up? Will I die? Is this worth it? Shouldn’t I just let whatever’s going to happen happen?”

I didn’t hesitate. As I looked out of the front window of my sister’s apartment and all these thoughts raced through my mind, I decided I had enough time, it was worth the risk, and my chances of success were high enough to satisfy my instantaneous risk-reward analysis.

So I ran across the street, key in hand. Incredibly nervous but steady-handed enough, I inserted the key correct-side up into the door and unlocked it. I sat down very quickly behind the wheel and put the key into the ignition, wondering if I was about to be blown up or engulfed by flames (“Please let me die rather than be horribly disfigured by fire but still alive.”). The car started unhesitatingly and I pulled the column-mounted shift lever down to D without an uncontrolled adrenaline-induced overshoot to D2 or L. In a second or two, I was two houses down the street and the flaming bottle was safely in my rearview mirror, burning itself out.

From the time I heard the bottle break while talking to my sister until I was safely away from the bottle’s flame was probably 8-10 seconds, maybe less.

It seemed like a lifetime. Perhaps it was.

 

 

 

 

Perception is Reality

By

Filed Under General on Jun 3 

Perception Is Reality

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

“Perception is reality” is a truism in most areas of human experience, but perhaps more so in politics than any other realm. Zealots on all sides know that if they can create an enduring, indelible image—whether positive or negative—in the minds of the populace, that perception will supersede any inconvenient facts that are more reflective of the actual situation.

Here are just a few wide-ranging examples from the past half-century:

Perception: The Tet Offensive was a major defeat for the U.S. in Vietnam

The Vietnam War was a conflict born of Cold War sensibilities and doctrines that said that the spread of communism anywhere in the world was an existential threat to the national security interests of the United States and therefore that threat should be stopped. Very generally speaking, that was the impetus for our taking the lead role in supporting South Vietnam resisting the aggression of Communist China-backed North Vietnam. U.S. involvement started in the early 1960’s under President Kennedy. Following Kennedy’s death in 1963, President Johnson greatly expanded the scale of America’s engagement, with hundreds of thousand of U.S. troops deployed. The war itself enjoyed reasonable public support since it appeared that we were making solid progress in weakening the opposing forces and diminishing the communist threat.

That impression of U.S. progress was shattered in January 1968 when 85,000 communist fighters launched a multi-pronged offensive against several South Vietnamese cities and strongholds. The attack—which came to be known as the Tet Offensive, so named for the Vietnamese New Year holiday period—came as a great surprise to American military leadership, who’d previously thought the communist forces were incapable of mounting such an attack. In America, public opinion for the war turned sharply negative, since the perception was that the communists had scored a great victory and dealt a huge setback to our mission.

Reality: The truth is that after a very brief interlude of initial enemy success, American and South Vietnamese forces inflicted very substantial casualties on the communist forces and quickly regained the initiative, taking back virtually all the territory that was briefly lost to the opposing side.

Nonetheless, the perception of a great defeat for America persisted, reinforced by the U.S. news media, who began saying that they’d been mislead in the past by overly-optimistic Government reports on the war’s progress. Now, the “truth” was out for all to see: The U.S. Government couldn’t be trusted, the communists had achieved stunning, unexpected success on the battlefield and the war in Vietnam was going to slog on interminably at great cost and with no realistic prospect for clear-cut victory. Anti-war protests, draft card burning and draft-dodging escapes to Canada became the norm. A fissure in American society materialized that many say has since lead to countless debilitating intergenerational social conflicts, and that the country’s view of the mainstream media and the government’s honesty has been irrevocably damaged as a result.

Perception: Robert Bork was racist and misogynist, and that’s why he was rejected for the Supreme Court

Robert Bork was a highly-respected scholar and judge who was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987 by President Reagan to replace the retiring Lewis Powell. Powell was known as a moderate, a swing vote in closely-contested decisions. Although Bork’s innate intelligence and basic legal qualifications were not in question, Democrats were aghast at the prospect of the conservative Bork replacing the moderate Powell and thus tilting the balance of the Court sharply to the right. Powell had voted in the majority of the 7-2 January 1973 decision that affirmed a woman’s right to have an abortion. Should R v W or any variant thereof come up again, Democrats were certain that Bork would vote against their interests.

The same day that Bork was nominated, Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy of MA made a speech on the Senate floor that lives to this day as possibly the high water mark for the most outrageously partisan, gratuitously insulting, completely divorced-from-reality personal hack job masquerading as a serious policy address ever given in the annals of Senate speeches. In words that accurately define forever his true colors of “Partisan advantage first, always and only,” Kennedy said,

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.

Astonishing words coming from a supposed highly-respected leader of the country.

Reality: Bork was highly qualified, but was never defended by the Republicans

In reality, Bork was nothing like Kennedy described. He was, in all honesty, a more conservative judge than Powell, and no doubt would have taken a somewhat more originalist standpoint on many issues than Powel had taken, but that did not in any way diminish his fitness to serve on the Supreme Court.

The Republicans never did mount an effective rebuttal to Kennedy’s unfounded attack. They never really defended Bork. This incident arguably began the modern era of Democratic mastery of the art of using the major media to their advantage, since Kennedy’s speech was played again and again on TV and radio, without an effective or serious response by the Republicans, who just didn’t seem to have any idea how to deal with it.

The reality of Robert Bork’s intellectual and legal qualifications may have been one thing, but those qualifications were utterly and completely swamped by the popular perception of his unsuitability for the position brought about by Kennedy’s deftly delivered character assassination on the Senate floor and Kennedy’s instinctive understanding of how to leverage a liberally-leaning media to his advantage.

Perception: The rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes

This issue is a staple calling card for Democrats, who continually imply that all wealthy entities—Republicans, mainly—duck, dodge and otherwise avoid their responsibility to pay the taxes they rightfully owe. Democrats are only too happy to put forth the idea that rich Republicans use all manner of shady, questionable tax loopholes to evade their tax obligations, thereby forcing the “average guy” (who doesn’t have access to sophisticated, expensive tax advisors) to shoulder the burden of paying the majority of the nation’s taxes. This overall sentiment is summed up perfectly by leading Democrats as they cite their favorite example, their proposed “Buffet Rule.” Democrats claim that billionaire investor Warren Buffet pays a lower percentage in income taxes than his secretary, so there should be a “rule” that above some arbitrary income level, a so-called “rich” person must pay an arbitrarily-set high percentage of income tax—above the percentage that a secretary would ever pay. That Rule, say the Democrats, will ensure that the rich always pay their fair share, which as everyone knows they’re not paying now. That’s the perception.

Reality: The reality, of course, is that the rich are paying their fair share and more. Far from a disproportionate amount of tax burden falling on the low-to-middle income wage earners, the rich pay the vast majority of taxes in this country, “loopholes” and “accounting tricks” notwithstanding. As seen here, the top 10% of wage earners pay over 70% of Federal Income Taxes. When the Bernie Sanders of the world say, “We’ve got to make sure the rich pay their fair share,” that’s just code-speak for raising taxes on the upper income earners to fund more Democratic vote-buying Government handout programs. The reality, of course, is that Democrats are never in favor of raising taxes in order to buy more F-22s; they want to raise taxes on “the rich” in order to fund more social spending programs, which will influence votes in the Democrats’ favor.

Conclusion: These are all completely different cases, but the common thread among them is that the facts of each circumstance are wildly at odds with the popular perception of them. In each situation, an erroneous, inaccurate version of reality was deliberately and fraudulently forced upon the public by partisan factions in order to shape popular opinion and manufacture support for a favored political position.

The exponential growth in the past decade of alternative news sources and social media beyond the traditional network TV news broadcasts and major big-city newspapers is a double-edged sword. While one can certainly ferret out more detailed and balanced information on any given topic by exercising some rigid intellectual discipline along with healthy doses of skepticism and common sense, there is an even bigger rise in the easy availability of rumor-, innuendo- and agenda-driven “news.” This makes the danger greater than ever that inaccurate perception-based stories will become popularly accepted as authentic, while the reality of the situation—either less interesting or not as convenient a fit into a pre-determined narrative—fades unceremoniously into the background.

What’s in a Name?

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Naming. The final frontier.

Either Marketing has identified a brilliant long-range strategic opening that will revolutionize everything or Sales has won their argument and we’ll be producing a “me-too” fast-tracked defensive response product to counter our biggest competitor’s latest gizmo.

Either way, Industrial Design comes up with some pretty concepts of what it might look like, Engineering designs the actual thing so it will perform the way it needs to, and finally, Mechanical Engineering makes sure it all fits together and the factory can actually manufacture it.

Marketing decides how much it will sell for (based on the material and labor cost and market conditions), Sales gives their forecasts (it would have been more but Marketing priced it a little too high), and Purchasing places the order with the overseas factory, telling them to put a ‘rush’ on it (as if that will really make a difference, as if every single customer they have doesn’t tell them to ‘rush’ everything).

But….somewhere along the way, this gadget has to have a definite, hard-and-fast, unchangeable name. It’s got to be called something. Lots of things need to be molded or printed or created digitally: logo badges, names on the product’s chassis, boxes, user manuals (ok, no one reads them, but still), price lists, web pages, ads….lots of stuff.

A name. We need a name.

How do you name something? How important is the name? Does the name really affect the sales and market acceptance of a product one way or the other? Naming is a difficult thing. People have wildly differing views on the topic, based on their own experiences and their perception of their own expertise.

Product naming falls into a few major categories, so we’ll look at each one. Bear in mind that everyone is a bloody expert on the subject, with ironclad, unimpeachable reasons, examples and logic as to why their thoughts and opinions are beyond any second-guessing whatsoever. Really. There are lots of very smart, insightful people involved in this, and none of them can possibly be wrong. It’s very important to understand that from the get-go. There’s only one certainty: Everyone thinks their own ideas about product naming are correct. Just roll with it.

Here are the naming categories:

Alpha/Numeric

(Audi) A4

(Atlantic) IWTS-30 LCR

(Sony) XBR-49X900E

(Acoustic Research) AR-3

(Honda) CR-V

This is the model number approach. The simple method is to use easily-remembered, short model numbers that can take on an identity of their own. Audi’s A4 is a perfect example. Acoustic Research, the famous stereo speaker company from the 1960’s-70’s, used their own company initials (“AR”) and a short model number.

Audi and AR illustrate two different ways a company can go about creating model numbers: Either in ascending/descending order of price/performance (the Audi A3, A4, A5, A6 etc. go up in price/performance as the model number increases) or in time/sequential order: the AR-1 came out first, followed by the AR-2, AR-3, AR-4, etc. This was not a price or performance order: the AR-4 was the least expensive of them all, followed by the AR-2. If a product is truly excellent and garners great critical acclaim from reviewers and strong word-of-mouth from consumers, then the model numbers take on a life of their own, without even having to mention the company name. If a car aficionado asks what you’re driving and you say, “An A4,” they’ll know what you’re talking about. Ditto the Honda (although this is neither sequential or price ascending): Say, “I have a CR-V and I love it,” and people know exactly what you’re talking about. No mention of “Honda” is necessary.

Then, given the brilliant insight and unquestionable logic and expertise of certain senior business executives one has been privileged enough to work with over lo, these many years, you learn that there are certain so-called “heroic” model numbers that must be reserved for very special products and circumstances: 1, One, 10, 20, 50, 100, 1000. Don’t waste those on ordinary products. At the same token, don’t miss the opportunity to bestow upon your ground-breaking, paradigm-shattering invention the heroic model number it so richly deserves. Who knew?

There’s another category of alpha/numeric model numbers. These are created when the company doesn’t expect the model number itself to be a consumer-facing bit of information. Usually, it’s just a series of numbers and letters that make sense mostly to order-placers and inventory-takers. In these cases, the company’s general category description carries the weight for the consumer, not the actual model number. The Sony XBR-49X900E is a perfect example. It’s a Sony (well-recognized as being a good TV), it’s in the XBR family (Sony’s ‘better’ TVs), but that long number is not intended for the end user. It’s not a marketing device.

In this alpha/numeric model number category, there are often instances where the model number itself is somewhat descriptive of the product. Panasonic, for example, had a series of color televisions some years ago that were very precisely described by their model numbers:

CT-25R stood for Color Television 25-inch, Remote control. The CT-19R and the CT-19 were the 19-inch models and one of them had remote control. Guess which one….

Another major category is the Proper Name category. In this naming convention, the product is given an actual name. Not “John,” but a proper name nonetheless. Like these:

Proper Name

(Honda car) Accord

(Toyota car) Camry

(ION speaker) Block Rocker

(Diamondback mountain bike) Cobra

(Boston Acoustics radio) Receptor

 

Cars seem to go back and forth between Proper Names and Alpha/Numeric model numbers:

Buick LaCrosse

Cadillac Eldorado

Cadillac CT6

Toyota Corolla

Toyota RAV4

Chrysler Pacifica

Chrysler 300C

Mazda Millenia

Mazda CX-9

Honda Civic

Honda CR-H

BMW 330i

Mercedes-Benz C300

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Then there is a naming category that combines a Proper Name with an alpha/numeric number. In these cases, the Proper Name is usually the name for a category of products, and that is the name by which the product is best known.

Excellent examples of this are the iPhone and the Galaxy. The model number denotes the variant, the size, how much memory it may have, screen dimension, etc.

Combination Proper Name-Alpha/Numeric

(Samsung) Galaxy S8+

(Apple) iPhone 7S

MacBook Pro 13-inch

MacBook Pro 15-inch

“I have a Galaxy. I used to have an iPhone but I think the camera’s better on the new Galaxies.”

“Which one? The one with the exploding battery? Ha!”

“No, the new one, with the big screen. What is that—the 8?”

See how that conversation works? They never mention ‘Samsung’ or ‘Apple’ because “Galaxy” and “iPhone” carry the weight of identifying what they’re talking about. The Samsung owner didn’t say “8+,” they just said “8” with ‘the big screen.’ That’s enough.

So those are the general categories that product names fall into. Does the name really make a difference to the success or failure of a product?

No.

Sorry, but the bottom line is no, it doesn’t really matter, howls of violent protest to the contrary notwithstanding.

Here’s a story for you old-timers, you close observers of political history. This is a political truism, but it applies perfectly to product marketing also.

Back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for President, he hired two incredibly insightful people as political strategists and operatives: James Carville and Paul Begala.

Smart cookies, they were. They set up a nerve center that became known as the War Room. Here, Carville and Begala would sift through all the news reports, press releases, headline stories, reports from their field personnel, etc. every day, and then they’d respond immediately to anything that was negative. Clinton’s team would answer even the slightest negative story with full force and quash it before it could get a head of steam.

They were a brilliant, aggressive, proactive political team. They had their eyes and ears open, their finger on the pulse. They knew what was really important to voters and what was just so much noise, to be ignored and swept aside. They identified what the hottest issues were and they had Clinton speak to those issues and not waste time with minor distractions.

Carville came up with one of the most memorable lines in the history of political campaigning:

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

That’s what the voters were most interested in. Did they have a job? If they had one, did they feel secure and did they have a good feeling about their future prospects? Would the economy stay strong and expand? Would their kids get jobs? That was the big issue leading up to the November 1992 election.

Remember, we’d just defeated Saddam Hussein in February 1991 in Desert Storm, the first Gulf War. The U.S. military had performed magnificently and came home in well-deserved glory, to great adulation. But by the summer of 1992—with the country just pulling out of a mild economic recession—the Gulf War 18 months earlier might as well have been 18 years earlier, for all the difference it made in the 1992 Presidential Election.

Carville and Begala recognized this: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Key in on the economy. Speak about that, first, last and in between.

Good lesson. No, great lesson. For people in product marketing, it translates to this:

“It’s the product, stupid.”

The product. That’s what matters. Eventually, everything else will fall by the wayside if the product itself isn’t right: The price, the name, the color, where it’s available, everything—sooner or later—becomes meaningless if the product itself doesn’t do its job.

Let’s look at the Honda Accord and Honda Civic. Fine cars, well-built, competitively priced, great resale value, good fuel economy, peppy, roomy, reliable, nice handling, pretty good-looking. Perennial best sellers, deservedly so.

Would there be any difference whatsoever in their sales performance if the names were switched and the smaller car was the Accord and the larger car was the Civic? Nope, no difference. Know why? It’s the product, stupid. These are great products. They do exactly what great automotive products are supposed to do. They have a great reputation because they’ve earned it.

(By the way, a “product” doesn’t have to be a physical thing: It can be an insurance policy, a vacation package, an investment mutual fund, anything. Those are all products.)

There are some common-sense guidelines for product naming.

  • Make sure the name doesn’t have a double slang meaning that renders it a laughing stock or have some cultural/religious connotation that might be inappropriate to a meaningful portion of your market (like a model 666).
  • If it’s going to sold internationally, make sure the name doesn’t translate or read as something nonsensical or offensive in another language.
  • Make sure it’s not a resurrection of a famous failed product from the past. I doubt Ford will ever come out with another “Edsel,” but they could come out with a new “Thunderbird.”
  • If it’s alpha/numeric and you want people to remember it, keep it short and, well, memorable. BMW’s 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series do that well.

Get over the idea of “heroic” model numbers. There’s no such thing. The product makes the name or number, not the other way around. If you come out with this terrific gizmo that performs great, looks great, is a real value, makes everyone feel great about owning one and it never breaks, then people will remember the name, whether it’s “2” or “Spitfire” or “EPI-100.”

In point of fact, far too many people assign far too much importance to the subject of product naming. Products make their name memorable when they hit their intended market spot-on and score a bulls-eye, not the other way around. No clever product name ever rescued a bad product. Ever.

When someone in your company or organization gets on their high horse and starts pontificating about the vital life-and-death importance of the correct product name, do your best to just listen and smile. You know better. The most valuable thing you can do is don’t let the naming process bog down the development/introduction timeline. Pick a name and move on. Just don’t let any “666’s” get out the door

The 2020 Democratic Bench

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

It’s never too early to speculate. The Democrats are fired up for the 2020 Presidential election in a way they haven’t been in years. The pall of Hillary Clinton’s loss to the supremely unqualified, fraudulent shell of a candidate that was and is Donald Trump hangs over the party as a constant reminder of a nightmarish reality, brought about by an unimaginable string of unforced errors, miscalculations and unpreventable random outside events that conspired together to produce the greatest upset in American political history.

Is it hyperbole to say that never in the history of Democratic politics has an election loomed larger and more important than 2020?

There are three 70-something nationally-known potential 2020 Democratic candidates right now, but to any objective observer, they seem stale, predictable and shop worn. It’s unlikely that Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could put together a support coalition across the generational boundaries that would prove strong and vital enough to constitute an actual winning majority. Are any of them a surprise in any way? Do any of them hold even one position on any issue that isn’t already known in advance by everyone? Do any of them inspire the undecideds or strike fear into our international adversaries?

Warren, in particular, may not even live to fight until 2020. Although her national standing is quite high among the hard-core far-Left wing of her party, her personal shortcomings, shrill unlikeability and hypocrisy are becoming increasingly apparent even to her MA base. It’s widely felt that a strong MA Republican Senate candidate, with good funding and a sharp communications strategy, will give Warren a very difficult time indeed in 2018. From her living the lifestyle of a privileged 1%-er while railing against “the rich,” to the embarrassingly shallow understanding of foreign policy she demonstrates whenever she speaks at length on the subject, to her deception of her ethnic background as a “native American” that she used on her application to Harvard, she’s a “target-rich environment,” ripe pickings for a sharply-run opposition campaign. As Republican Charlie Baker’s overwhelming election to the Governorship showed, MA will elect a Republican if the Democrat is deemed personally unworthy, unknowledgeable or out of touch. Warren is arguably all three. As a MA resident, I can see that Warren’s 2018 Senate re-election is far from a sure thing.

So if the 70+ sect is not properly equipped, who is? Where will the Dems turn?

Two names jump out as possibilities: VA Governor Terry McAuliffe and MA Congressman Seth Moulton. There are others, no doubt, and some that no one has even thought of yet. But let’s look at these two for starters.

Terry McAuliffe

Currently the Governor of VA, McAuliffe is a long-time Democratic operative and high-profile figure in the Party. A prolific fundraiser and rabidly partisan but highly effective public speaker, McAuliffe was co-chair of President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, Democratic National Chairman from 2001 to 2005 and chair of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. He won the VA Governorship in 2013 by a close 2-point margin over former VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. As governor, McAuliffe has maintained his high profile, making a dramatic national splash with his declared intention to restore the voting rights via Executive Order of more than 200,000 ex-felons in Virginia—a naked attempt on his part to “stack the VA voting deck” in the Democrats’ favor. His order was overturned, but the very fact that he would even think of doing this is a testament to his aggressive creativity with regard to hardball partisan politics.

McAuliffe’s persona can come across as a bit of a “used car salesman” to those pre-disposed to viewing him negatively, but few Democratic politicians have their base more squarely in their sights. Even more importantly, McAuliffe’s opportunistically-contrived reasonableness (he recently gave Donald Trump a “Gentleman’s C” when asked to grade him so far, in contrast to virtually every other Dem who’d have unhesitatingly said “F”) will get many undecided voters to think, “Hmmmm…not so bad,” which is the key to any hope for victory. He’s a tough cookie who knows the ropes. Republicans should not underestimate him.

Seth Moulton

A 2001 Harvard graduate, Moulton joined the Marine Corps in 2002 and served four combat tours in the Middle East, earning the Medal of Valor and Bronze Star for bravery under fire. He won his Congressional seat in 2014 and takes all the perfectly-Democratic positions on gun control, women’s/LBGTQ rights (yes, including “Q”—perfect), the environment, healthcare, student loans, etc. Perfectly positioned, on every single issue.

As this Boston Globe article shows, there is some talk right now of his candidacy in the next Presidential election. Granted, in 2020 Moulton will only be 42 and assuming re-election to the House in 2018, will have just six years under his belt as a junior elected representative. Nonetheless, his personal résumé is nearly unimpeachable with regards to his military service credentials, his having “saved” a Democratic seat from the failings of a corrupt incumbent and his central-booking rugged good looks. If he’s not the Democratic nominee in 2020, a surefire sign of the Democratic establishment’s opinion of Moulton’s potential as a future high-office candidate will be whether or not he is accorded a prime speaking role at the 2020 Democratic Convention. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were similarly groomed before they achieved main event status.

President Trump is not yet six months into his first term. If three years from now his presidency has been even modestly successful at growing the economy, improving health care, reducing taxes and curtailing illegal immigration, he will prove to be an extremely tough candidate to beat. Although truly hard-core anti-Trump far-Left Democrats will never cede even a micrometer of legitimacy to his presidency, an electorally-significant fraction of the so-called “swing” electorate will have acclimated to his presence and will, in fact, vote on 2020 results rather than a by-then-irrelevant cartoonish cliché from 2016.

However, as interesting as these two potential Democrats may be, absent the next coming of JFK, the Democrats’ chances in 2020 rest more on President Trump’s actual first term performance than the inherent attractiveness of their candidate.

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

It’s human nature: When Person A finally takes the action or adopts the position favored by Person B, the inclination is for Person B to continue to be dissatisfied with Person A and not give them any credit for their move. Person B will very often change the basis on which the original issue was based in an attempt to preserve a legitimate reason to reject Person A’s action.

To Person B, being able to reject Person A and disagree with them is more important than the actual issue itself.

Such is definitely the case with Democrat politicians, activists and the liberal media regarding President Trump. An excellent example of this occurred in early April on the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News when he was speaking to Democratic Congressman (CA) Brad Sherman. Carlson put forth the fact that Trump’s missile attack on Syria was unequivocally damaging to Putin’s ally Assad, thereby proving that President Trump was not “in the pocket” of Putin as so many Democrats have claimed. Carlson challenged Sherman to simply admit that.

Sherman refused, aghast at the prospect of absolving Trump of his biggest “sin”: the Democrats’ contention that he colluded with Russia to sink Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Instead, Sherman was trying desperately to maintain that Trump is still “guilty” of some vague-but-grievous campaign violations, even though Sherman agreed with the missile strike. He was trying to have it both ways.

Another perfect example of trying to have it both ways is when then-candidate Trump named Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager. The entire subject of women’s progress in the professional world, the “wage gap,” the Glass Ceiling, women entering previously male-only fields, etc. is a vital cornerstone of the Democratic platform. Add to that the Democrats gleefully revelling in their leaking of the 12-year-old Trump “grabbing” audiotape and it adds up to a very convenient narrative for them: “Trump disrespects women and his presidency will harm women’s standing in all aspects of American life.”

But then Trump does something that doesn’t comport with his opponents’ preferred depiction of putative misogynist white male Republicans—he names a woman to mastermind his campaign. If a male Democrat had named a female campaign manager, he’d be hailed as a modern stereotype-breaker, a person who courageously breaks with outmoded, stubborn tradition and embraces the enlightened new way, seeks fresh perspectives, knows how to justly recognize the talents and insights that only a gender-balanced team can deliver and so on.

Yet, for Democrats, the negative image of Trump as an old-time womanizer was just too juicy and appealing to let go of. So not only did they not give Trump “credit” for elevating a woman to a well-deserved critical position in his campaign, they employed the all-too-common device of changing the basis on which the original issue was based: they savaged Conway herself, calling into question her intellect and honesty. Since Trump’s election win, Conway has stayed on as a high-level advisor and the Democrats’ and liberal media hysterical criticism of Conway has continued unabated. The profoundly unfavorable attacks directed at Conway wouldn’t be tolerated for even the briefest of seconds if she was a Democrat. But as is always the case, the Democrats try to have things both ways. They criticize Republicans for their supposed refusal to promote women to high positions and when they do promote them, Democrats claim that it “doesn’t count” for some frivolous reason and continue to perpetuate their original criticism.

Another example is Trump’s changing position on NATO. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly called NATO “obsolete,” and criticized other NATO countries for shirking their financial commitments with regard to their own defense spending. This predictably brought forth howls of denunciation from Democrats, who admonished Trump for disparaging “the most successful, longest-lasting alliance in history” (or words to that effect). It’s not that Democrats had any great interest in actually committing U.S. forces to lethal combat should NATO member Estonia be attacked (most Democratic politicians probably couldn’t even find Estonia on a map without the help of Google Earth). Instead, they were just looking for something on which to criticize Trump, to point out his unsuitability for President.

But recently, in light of Russia’s intransigence regarding Syria, Trump has shifted his position and now says that NATO is very important. Do the Democrats who condemned his prior anti-NATO stance now give him credit for changing? Of course not. Democratic politicians and the liberal media call him a flip-flopper, an opportunist, someone who is easily influenced by the latest input he receives.

This illustrates another truism in American politics: When a Democratic politician reverses their position, it’s cast as an attribute, an indication of intellectual growth. Both Hillary and Barack Obama were on record as being against same-sex marriage, but when it became politically-expedient for their positions to shift, they did. The always-supportive liberal media said that their positions “evolved.” Neither Clinton nor Obama did anything as disingenuous and unsophisticated as “flip-flopping.” No, they took in the latest information, made a careful, thoughtful analysis of the new data and they evolved, the same way every higher-order life form does as it adapts to a new environment. It’s always so positive for Democrats.

The Democrats’ strategy is to try to always have things both ways while trying to make certain the Republicans simply don’t have it any way. There are no two ways about it.

 

 

 

 

 

President Trump: Seriously vs. Literally

 

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

Some politicians are Charmers, like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and JFK. They have charisma, a personal attractiveness that makes them appealing to a wide swath of voters of all races, genders and ethnicities. Voters of their own party are absolutely sold; Independents are enthralled and interested, and even a fair number of the opposite party can see themselves voting for this candidate. Charmers are always Democrats, since by definition, no purveyor of hard-hearted, business-oriented Republican positions can “charm” anyone.

 

Then there are politicians who base their candidacies on a mastery of the issues, logic, and personal competence. Although these candidates can often come across as stiff, overly measured, too cautious and uninspiring, their appeal is that they appear know what’s going on, they understand the details and minutia and they not only make sure they cross the t’s and dot the i’s, they revel in it. Their competence and attention to the small stuff gives their supporters a tremendous level of confidence in them, a feeling that “things will be handled.”

 

Finally, there are the Tough Guys, the ones who won’t take any guff from anyone, who will never be taken advantage of, who will show everyone “who’s the boss.” The Chris Christies and Donald Trumps of the world fall into this category. This is a tricky category, because in order to be able to win the confidence of a majority of voters and prove to the always-skeptical liberal media that they are worthy, the Tough Guy candidate must establish their bona fides regarding their mastery of the issues and knowledge of details very quickly and definitively, or else they’ll be painted as being all-bluster-but-no-substance. In addition, tough can’t be perceived as cold or unsympathetic; in order to be successful, “tough” can only be relentless and uncompromising in getting things—the right things—done.

 

This brings us to the wildly disparate views of Donald Trump. Rarely have the supporters and detractors of a president been separated by so wide a gulf. His detractors think he’s patently unqualified and no amount or degree of favorable economic or foreign policy progress will ever convince them otherwise. To them, his personal transgressions alone disqualify him from even the most fleeting of serious consideration, and his subsequent daily demonstrations (to them) of his total lack of understanding of basic Presidential governing principles only adds to their absolute conviction of his embarrassing unfitness for office. The word that best describes their feeling is horrifying. If there is a stronger, more descriptive word, then they’ll use that.

 

His most ardent supporters think his approach and style are exactly what has been missing from the ultra-cautious, overly-soft, pathetically politically-correct governance we’ve suffered under for far too long. His supporters—remember, enough to have won the Electoral College very, very convincingly—feel that America has veered so far off course economically, socially, militarily and judicially that only a “tough guy” can set it straight (or at the very least, stop the bleeding).

 

A descriptive phrase emerged from the campaign that perfectly sums up the Trump phenomenon:

 

His detractors take him literally but not seriously, while his supporters take him seriously but not literally.

 

I admit to not knowing who originated this phrase (it wasn’t me), but it’s amazingly accurate.

 

Let’s look at two recent examples of this:

 

  1. The “Look what happened in Sweden last night” comment. On February 18th, 2017 while addressing a rally in Orlando FL, Trump uttered that phrase and the liberal media was quick to pounce. They shouted in unison that nothing specific or reportable happened in Sweden on February 17th“last night”—and so they were quite satisfied with themselves for proving, yet again, that at best Trump has a very poor command of the facts and issues and at worst he willfully and intentionally lies to mislead his audiences. Just the latest in a long string of such occurrences.

 

A perfect example of taking him “Literally but not seriously.”

 

His supporters are quick to point out that they understood that Trump was not necessarily referring to “last night February 17th,” but instead, he was referring to what’s happening now in Sweden as a result of the overwhelmingly unvetted immigration of Muslims and refugees, and how that is having a huge negative impact on Swedish society and culture: the non-assimilation of >99% of those immigrants has caused a huge increase in gun violence, rape and property damage. The implications of Trump’s comments are obvious to his supporters—we must not allow a huge influx of that kind of immigration here, or we’ll suffer the same consequences. They take him seriously but not literally. That Sweden has since suffered explicit acts of terrorism only adds to the credence and legitimacy of Trump’s underlying contention.

 

  1. “Obama wiretapped me at Trump Towers.” From a literal standpoint, this will never be proven to be true. First of all, Obama would never allow his fingers to be caught in any sort of wiretapping or espionage cookie jar. He’s far too crafty a political operative and if any such action was conducted, Obama would have several layers of plausibly-deniable distance between himself and any wrongdoing. “Obama wiretapped me at Trump Towers” will never be proven to be literally true.

 

It doesn’t have to be. From the very first non-denial denial (“President Obama never ordered any wiretapping on Trump”), the Obama Administration has been careful to parse, slice and dice their exact wording very carefully. Of course Obama never ordered any such thing—presidents don’t do that. They nudge-nudge/wink-wink and let “what needs to be done” be done, but without their specific knowledge. Since Trump’s original allegation, the entire Susan Rice fandango has exploded, where we now know that the Democrats did “something” untoward, dishonest or unethical with regards to illicit intelligence gathering on their Republican political opponents during the 2016 campaign. Trump’s contention of being wiretapped is entirely correct, if wiretapping means the unlawful electronic collection of campaign information. It’s inaccurate if it’s taken to mean that President Obama ordered a trap be put on Trump’s phone so Obama or someone from his administration could personally listen in.

 

Once again, it’s the perfect distinction between “seriously” vs. “literally.” Trump’s opponents will never cede the point. His supporters understand it instinctively.

 

Liberal media double standards are alive and well, of course. When Obama said during the 2008 campaign that he’d visited “all 57 states,” there was hardly a mention of it to be found anywhere. Even though every 2nd-grader in the country knows there are 50 states, Obama’s “literal” gaff was ignored with an accommodation that no Republican would have been afforded. When Obama outright lied—quite intentionally, since he knew the ins and outs of his ‘signature legacy achievement’ better than anyone—by saying, “If you like your doctor and your plan, you can keep them,” not one damaging criticism of his literal lie was trumpeted by the liberal media.

 

Trump is a big picture corporate CEO. He envisions overall strategy but his subordinates execute the niggling details in his businesses. As head of the Trump conglomerate, he is not used to the media hanging on and parsing every word for nuance and implication on an hour-by-hour basis. Will he get better at this and not be trapped as often by the hostile minions at CNN and the NY Times? Perhaps a little, but never better enough to satisfy them of his competence and mastery of the issues. Will the 60-odd million who voted against him ever be convinced or swayed? No.

 

But his supporters know the difference between literally and seriously. They take Trump’s policy proposals seriously, even if what he said literally may not be precisely accurate to that exact moment or specific situation.

 

He has named the extremely competent Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia. He has re-authorized the Keystone XL pipeline. He has rolled back punitive, job-killing environmental regulations on businesses (regulations that didn’t really help the environment, instead serving only to buy Green votes). He has pressured big corporations (Lockheed, Boeing, Ford, Carrier, etc.) into reducing prices, keeping factories in America, and expanding their investment in this country. He has shown Assad (and all our adversaries worldwide) that crimes against humanity and contrary to American national interests will not stand and that America will respond quickly and forcefully, without telegraphing its punches weeks in advance. He has redoubled our support for Israel. All this in under three months.

 

To his supporters, this is serious. To them, that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why the Doolittle Raid Still Matters 75 Years Later

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All Rights Reserved.

History is always relevant if we’re willing to learn from it. A good example is the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo Japan on April 18th, 1942. By way of quick background, the United States was forced into World War II after the surprise Japanese attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan had been aggressively moving against other countries in the Pacific realm for several years, taking territory and raw materials to satisfy its expansionist aims. The Japanese correctly saw the US Pacific Fleet, stationed at Pearl, as the biggest threat to their continued activities and so devised a plan to mount a surprise attack on December 7, 1941 against our forces. The surprise worked. The attack sank or disabled eight of the nine battleships in the Fleet (only the USS Pennsylvania, in dry dock, escaped major damage), destroyed dozens of aircraft on the ground and killed over 2300 US military and civilian personnel, all for the loss of only 29 Japanese aircraft.

The following day, December 8th 1941, the Japanese attacked our main air base in the western Pacific, Clark Field in the Philippines, destroying dozens of US fighters and bombers on the ground, effectively neutralizing our military strength in that region. Therefore, in less than two days, the Japanese dealt the US military two huge defeats, setting the stage for the fall of the Philippines and leaving the entire Pacific essentially unprotected from Japanese attack.

What is less known but unquestionably just as significant as the dual attacks on Pearl Harbor and Clark Field is the Japanese sinking of the British battleships Repulse and Prince of Wales in the South China Sea, just three days after Pearl Harbor, on December 10 1941. The British had dispatched significant naval forces to protect their interests in the Pacific, especially then-colony Singapore, from Japanese aggression. Britain, although a small country in terms of land mass and population, had long been among the world’s pre-eminent naval powers. From Admiral Nelson’s many decisive victories in the late 1700’s-early 1800’s (culminating with his defeat of Napoleon’s fleet off of Trafalgar in 1805) to Admiral Jellicoe’s leading the British Grand Fleet in all-out battleship warfare against the German’s High Seas Fleet at Jutland in 1916 to the powerful mastery of the seas enjoyed by the Royal Navy right through the beginning of World War II, British naval tradition was a source of national pride and identity, very much part of the fabric of their culture.

Only seven months prior (in May 1941), Prince of Wales had played a central role in one of the greatest wartime triumphs ever achieved by Britain: the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. The Bismarck—a fast, modern, heavily-armed ship—was intended to be a North Atlantic commerce and cargo ship raider. If it managed to break out into the vast undefended expanse of the North Atlantic, it would be free to extract potentially crippling losses from the nation-saving material assistance coming over to England by convoy from the United States. “Sink the Bismarck!” became a national rallying cry in Britain in May 1941, as the deadly German ship attempted to make its way into the open waters of the Atlantic.

The Brits sank it, and the Prince of Wales played a major part, inflicting the initial damage on the Bismarck that led to its eventual demise. If ever an inanimate object—a warship—could become a national hero, the Prince of Wales did.

As stunned and shocked as America was after Pearl Harbor and Clark Field, Britain’s response was one of utter disbelief and horrified astonishment over the sinking of Repulse and Prince of Wales. As 1941 turned into 1942, the Philippines were falling to the Japanese in yet another humiliating defeat for America, Britain was deadlocked in a bitter struggle of attrition against the Germans in North Africa and Germany was inflicting incredible casualties on the Russians on the Eastern front.

The allies—led by America and Britain—were losing everywhere. Morale was low. Eventual victory seemed impossible. Something needed to be done. A bold, unexpected stroke to rock Japan back on its heels and give a beleaguered public something to cheer about.

President Roosevelt and Army Air Corps Lt. Colonel James Doolittle came up with a daring plan: Strike Japan from the air, using carrier-launched planes. Attack Tokyo, right over the heart of Japan, when Japan was at its militarily-invincible height. In a stroke of immeasurable luck, America’s aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack. They were out at sea on maneuvers. In a stroke of immeasurable strategic shortsightedness, Japanese Admiral Nagumo elected to withdraw his forces back to Japan instead of ordering a follow-up strike, in spite of the fact that Pearl’s air cover was gone. A follow-up attack could well have finished off the US Navy completely, since the carriers returned to Pearl later that day.

But the Japanese didn’t strike again and America’s carrier force was intact. So the plan was this: assemble a task force centered around the carrier USS Hornet and sail towards Japan. Once the force was about 400 miles away, they’d launch their planes and then reverse direction for a fast escape.

The Navy had no planes that could fly 400 miles to Japan, then fly several hundred more into China, where the plan was they’d land in more-or-less friendly territory and the crews would then somehow make it back home.

Doolittle decided to use 16 twin-engined Army B-25 medium bombers to fly off the Hornet. The B-25 had the range and payload capability that was needed for the mission, far in excess of any Navy plane then in service. Flying a large 2-engine medium bomber off a carrier’s deck had never been done before. The crews of five practiced for weeks on land airstrips painted to the Hornet’s dimensions. The B-25’s themselves were stripped of all unnecessary weight to make the task easier: The bottom gun turret was removed, the upper and side guns were taken out and replaced with wooden broom sticks painted black to look like guns, the heavy precision Norden bombsight was removed and replaced by a lighter, simpler device, and extra fuel tanks were installed to extend the planes’ range.

En route to target, the ships encountered a Japanese fishing trawler about 800 miles out from Japan. (Different reports over the years have put this distance anywhere from 170 miles beyond the 400 mile out launch point—570 miles out— to 400 miles short of the launch point—800 miles out.) The boat was quickly sunk by gunfire from an accompanying U.S escort cruiser, but there was no way to determine if the trawler was just a harmless fishing vessel or a radio-equipped spy ship disguised to look like a fishing boat. Unsure if their cover had been blown, Doolittle’s planes either had to launch immediately or the task force had to turn around.

All 80 of the B-25 crews said, “We go now!” Not a single dissent among the group, all of whom had volunteered for what was almost certainly a suicide mission.

Incredibly, all 16 planes—heavily-laden with fuel and bombs—took off successfully and headed towards Japan. They achieved complete surprise, struck a factory complex and flew away towards China without a single loss to Japanese defenses. It was a total success and the Japanese military planners and public alike were indeed awe-struck and rocked back on their heels. Not even five months after Pearl Harbor, amidst never-ending catastrophic news from every front around the world, American boldness and unfathomable bravery struck a blow for the allies and their people, lifting the morale and spirits of everyone, everywhere, to an incalculable degree.

This was Presidential leadership at its finest. Roosevelt understood the need for our country, and the British too, to have a ‘victory,” to buttress the will of the people to go on fighting, to end the string of bad news. The Doolittle mission didn’t accomplish anything of great material significance—the number of planes was too few, their bomb loads too small—and the idea of risking the loss of an invaluable American carrier task force for what was, in all candor, simply a publicity stunt was total lunacy, from both a logical and strategic standpoint.

However, rallying public support behind a difficult nationally-shared concern of major import is as important a task as a president has. George W. Bush was able to garner similar support and enthusiasm when he stood among the 9-11 ruins with a bullhorn and said, “..and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Presidents Kennedy and Reagan were similarly and legitimately inspirational, any number of times.

But recent Presidents seem instead to get caught in the lower-level minutia-du-jour, whether it’s saying that a local town police force acted stupidly or proclaiming that a hoodie-wearing trouble-maker “could be my son,” or sending out electronic communications regarding an individual’s physical appearance. It’s been a while since we’ve heard a President lead a rally for public support of a great national scientific effort or deliver a reassuringly-fatherly address after a national emergency or tragedy, or present the country with a reasoned, logical, non-condescending explanation of why the country is about to embark on a difficult course that will result in the betterment of our situation in the long run.

History is a good teacher. Roosevelt’s decision to green-light the seemingly illogical Doolittle Raid serves as an excellent example of the sort of bold, big-picture, for-national-benefit actions a President should take. Actions that today seem to get lost too often in the instantaneous chaos of media-driven small-minded partisan conflict.

 

Epilogue—Results of the Doolittle Raid:

All 16 planes made it safely out of Japanese airspace, but being low on fuel because of the greater-than-planned flying distance, all crash-landed in either eastern China or eastern Russia. Three crewmembers were killed during the landings. Eight crewmen were captured by occupying Japanese soldiers in China; three were executed and five were imprisoned, one of whom died in captivity. The rest eventually made their way back and resumed their military service. Doolittle thought he was going to be court-martialed for losing all 16 planes and failing to get his crews home quickly, but instead, he received the Medal of Honor and a promotion to brigadier general when he returned home in June 1942.

 

Sources

Famous Bombers of the Second World War, © 1959 William Green, Doubleday & Co.

Airwar, © 1971 Edward Jablonski, Doubleday & Co.

Air Force © 1957 Martin Caidin, Bramhall House

American Combat Planes © 1982 Ray Wagner, Doubleday & Co.

The Two Ocean War © 1963 Samuel Elliot Morrison, Little-Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the Votes

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

There’s an old cliché that applies to many situations: “Follow the money.” This means, of course, that many actions, statements and rationalizations are best understood when the observer realizes that the initiator has their own financial self-interests at heart as they undertake various acts and then attempt to explain them.

In the current political environment, there is a close corollary to Follow the Money: Follow the Votes. Many issues cause politicians and activists on both sides to engage in logic-defying, contradictory actions and statements in their transparent attempt to convince voters.

Global Warming is certainly a prime example of this. Whether it’s Barbara Streisand maintaining her famously lavish, energy-intensive homestead, or Leonardo DiCaprio flying in an “eyebrow artist” 7500 miles from Australia to make himself look pretty for his Oscars attendance or Global Warming Champions Al Gore and Robert Kennedy Jr. famously taking fuel-gulping/pollution-spewing private jets to various events, the degree of hypocritical actions and statements in support of pet political causes is nothing short of incredible.

The hilariously-but-tragically labeled subject of “choice” is another perfect case. The apparent utter disregard for human decency and compassion that leads supposedly “Catholic” Democratic politicians like John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi to support unrestricted late-term abortion—essentially the birth of a full-term child who is then mercilessly killed upon delivery, just seconds before qualifying as a legal “life”—is a horrifyingly excellent illustration of “Follow the Votes.” We must have choice, after all, and we must capture the voters who support that.

However, as spot-on as the above examples are, there is one subject that defines Follow the Votes better than any other. That issue is immigration. Specifically it is the leniency towards illegal immigration espoused by Democrats.

By current estimates, there are somewhere around 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Most have come through our southern border from Mexico and other Latin countries. U.S. southern border security is less than Berlin Wall-esque tight, to put it mildly. Republicans and Democrats alike decry our immigration system as “broken” and constantly cite the need for some vague, sweeping “comprehensive immigration reform,” the details of which are frustratingly never delineated in an actual bill.

The crux of the illegal immigration issue is the fact that children born to illegal immigrants residing in the United States automatically become U.S. citizens, with all the rights and privileges that that status confers—including the right to vote. Democrats’ vehement defense of sanctuary cities, their oh-so-concerned, outraged protests over Republicans’ supposed desire to wantonly deport illegals and cold-heartedly break up families, the Dems’ dramatic assertions that illegals “play an indispensable role in our economy, pay taxes and do jobs that Americans won’t do,” it all amounts to nothing more than a disingenuous smokescreen in an effort to obscure their actual intent: to grow the ranks of future Democratic voters.

Latinos are the fastest-growing American demographic group and the prediction that the United States will become a “majority minority” country within a generation is based in large part on the growth of the Latino segment. Democrats can read predictive demographic trends as well—or better than—Republicans and have therefore oriented their illegal immigration strategy accordingly, realizing full well that illegal immigrants are low-income people whose families will be in need of Democratic-sponsored entitlement programs. The citizen offspring of illegal immigrants will be guaranteed reliable Democratic voters.

This brings us to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which is offered as the rationale for why children of illegals become U.S. citizens. When the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868, its primary intent was to ensure that newly-freed slaves were accorded full citizenship and rights under the Constitution. It is the famous opening clause,

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

that is cited as the primary reason for the U.S.-born offspring of illegal immigrants being accorded full citizenship.

Some Constitutional scholars assert that illegal immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Rather, they are subject to the jurisdiction of their native country, since they have entered the United States illegally without any formally-recognized renunciation of allegiance to their own country, and therefore the “jurisdiction” reasoning of the 14th Amendment does not apply to them.

Nonetheless, in 1982, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan Jr.—a staunchly liberal justice who supported abortion rights and opposed the death penalty—made a ruling that read, “…no plausible distinction with respect to the 14th Amendment ‘jurisdiction’ can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful.”

This addendum by Brennan is widely regarded as the modern-day legal justification for the citizenship of children born to illegal immigrants. No argument is being made here as to the logic or defensibility of Brennan’s 1982 ruling. But that ruling has given rise to a concerted Democratic political strategy spanning the last 35 years: Maximize—by any means needed, by any remotely-plausible argument, by demonization as inhumane anyone who opposes it—the presence of illegal immigrants in the U.S. so that they have as many citizen children as possible to swing the future voting pendulum permanently in favor of the Democrats.

Follow the votes. Every Democratic position, utterance and policy proposal regarding illegal immigration is geared towards that goal.

 

 

Rare Political Self-Conversions

 

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

It’s been said that the American electorate can be divided into three roughly equal parts:

  • 1/3 that pays virtually no attention to politics and policy, and if they vote, they either vote by habit or by whatever impression happened to catch their attention
  • 1/3 that are somewhat attentive, and have a rudimentary understanding of issues and the candidates’ stances
  • 1/3 that are rabidly attentive and involved, active in supporting and campaigning for their chosen causes

A strong case can be made that for the last two groups—the 2/3 that identify with a Party and an ideology—are very often are born into and grow up with a “baked in” voting ideology. It’s a rare occurrence that an individual makes a 180° ideological turn from their upbringing and converts to the “other side.”

There are two demographic groups in particular that are reliable Democratic voters, mainly because of their upbringing and environment: Jews and African-Americans.

For Jews, cultural/ethnic considerations play a large role in their liberalism. In his book “Why Are Jews Liberal?” author Norman Podhoretz posits that in the mid-20th Century, Jewish immigrants from Europe were drawn to American liberals, who had a kinder, more welcoming feel than the hard-hearted governments of Europe from which many Jews fled. This caused European Jews to identify with American liberals—Democrats—even though Jewish family tradition and culture is at least as close to modern-day Conservatism as it is to current Liberalism. The Conservative-leaning tenets of completing higher education and striving for significant achievement in respected, high-paying professional fields (law, medicine, finance, business, etc.) are staples of American Jewish life. Indeed, the humorous American Jewish clichés of, “You’ll go to college, you’ll get a good job, you’ll make us proud!” and “My son, the doctor!” are directly and accurately reflective of this.

Yet the Jewish vote since 1960 has been reliably around 80% Democratic. The only exception is the outlier year of 1980, when Ronald Reagan beat the hapless Jimmy Carter. But even that year, Carter won the Jewish vote 45-39%.

African-Americans tend to be an even more monolithic voting bloc than American Jews, siding somewhere around 90% with the Democrats. When President Obama ran in 2008, being the country’s first Black Presidential candidate, he garnered around 96% of the African-American vote. President Trump, having made a concerted effort to address that bloc with his now-famous “What have you got to lose?” line, managed to reduce that number by Hillary Clinton to about 88%, which is still an overwhelmingly lopsided figure.

The reasons surrounding the African-American community’s current status in modern American culture are complicated, without question, and difficult to pin down to just a few obvious causes. The long-term systemic prejudice and discrimination that has operated to their detriment in all aspects of American society are well documented and need not be recounted here. The reaction to these wrongs has been the creation and implementation of numerous Government “solutions,” be it welfare, Affirmative Action, various tax and grant programs (ostensibly open to any group but in reality targeted to minorities), and the like. The efficacy of such programs and entitlements is not the issue here. However, it can be convincingly argued that the very existence of—and indeed, expansion of—Government handout programs has contributed to a motivation-reducing entitlement mentality among the very groups such programs are intended to help.

Democratic politicians know that the African-American community has become dependent on these Democratic-sponsored assistance programs. The more cynical observer will unabashedly call it vote buying. But as someone once said, “No one will ever vote to end their own entitlements.”

If liberal doctrine is to offer tax-funded Government programs and financial assistance as the answer to society’s shortcomings and Conservative doctrine is to offer “opportunity to all” via the more difficult path of personal initiative and self-reliance, then it’s fascinating that some African-Americans—born and raised in an environment and culture that teaches them to play the victim, waiting for the inevitable, deserved Government payout—become Conservatives.

That African-American group—Liberal-born, waiting-for-the-handout—who become Conservative and eschew Government largess in favor of self-made gains, is a uniquely compelling group. They have traveled the farthest ideological distance of any voter, a full about-face journey from one extreme of the ideological spectrum to the other extreme. In making that long, emotionally-unsettling, restless journey—often as a young adult—they see things along the way that challenge and threaten the very truths they were brought up to believe. It takes an incredible degree of self-confident open-mindedness and intellectual courage to accept contradictory external evidence and allow it to change one’s philosophical allegiance.

Likewise for the small number of American Jews, born into inordinately liberal households, who nonetheless become conservative. Like their African-American counterparts, they voluntarily undertake an emotionally- and intellectually-arduous quest and manage to counteract their inherited political/social teachings in order to arrive at a philosophical destination diametrically opposed to the one in which they grew up.

African-American conservatives like Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, John McWhorter and Ben Carson, along with American Jewish conservatives like Charles Krauthammer, Mark Levin, David Horowitz, Dennis Prager, William Kristol and Ben Stein among thousands of others, have a clarity of conservative thought and expression—evidenced in their writings and speeches—that has unquestionably been brought about by the egotistically-challenging, eye-opening travails of their own personal ideological journey.

To put it simply, those African-Americans and Jews who have self-converted from Liberal to Conservative have developed an amazingly clear and effective way of explaining exactly why they now favor the conservative position.

There has unquestionably been some self-conversion the other way, from Conservative to Liberal. Media Matters founder David Brock went from right-leaning investigative journalist to loyal Clinton devotee in the late 1990’s. NY Times columnist David Brooks has, according to many, made a definite transition from “token NY Times Conservative” to “garden-variety Liberal.” However, most Conservative-to-Liberal self-conversions appear to be individual occurrences, not an outright rejection of the one-sided structural circumstances into which they were born and raised.

Indeed, for many born-and-raised Liberals, being Liberal comes easy and is never even given a second thought. For those individuals that undertake the arduous, voluntary journey from born-Liberalism to self-discovered Conservatism, it is an eye-opening trek that imprints on their consciousness an incredibly deeply-held conviction of their newly-discovered philosophical stance. With that conviction comes the ability to express and advocate on behalf of the Conservative cause in a persuasive manner that few people on either side of the political spectrum can match. The actual process of becoming “self-coverted” makes for extraordinarily impressive spokespeople.

 

 

Landmines Abound for Republicans in Obamacare Replacement

 

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Now that Republicans control of both houses of Congress as well as the presidency, the process of Obamacare repeal and replacement has begun in earnest. Once the ACA is formally, officially repealed, the Republicans will “own” the healthcare issue and the pressure will be on for them to deliver something better than Obamacare.

As the alternatives for a new Act fly back and forth, the obvious trap for Republicans is crafting a piece of health legislation that is actually better, not merely different. Wider coverage, easier access, more provider choices, lower costs, more provider accountability, less wasted mandated coverage (no maternity coverage for post-menopausal women, for example), no religious/moral/Government mandate conflicts, etc.

The list of must-have items for a successful replacement plan is long. Crafting a plan that satisfies all those requirements is a monumental task and will likely take several iterations past this initial effort.

However, regardless of the details of the actual replacement plan, gaining widespread public acceptance and overcoming structural anti-Republican bias is going to be at least as big a challenge as crafting the legislation itself.

There are three essential public relations issues with the Republican alternative to Obamacare that are problematic, any one of which by itself could spell doom in terms of widespread public acceptance. All three together mean disaster.

  1. Obamacare is President Obama’s “signature domestic achievement” as they call it. It’s his crowning glory. Supporters claim it comes closer to providing universal health care than anything that has come before. it’s President Obama’s achievement. He personally gets the credit for it. His supporters and cheerleaders love this, and do not want his so-called legacy jeopardized by having it dismantled. To repeal it will leave millions without medical coverage in the immediate short term, and because of the potential administrative and logistical time lag before a replacement plan is in place, millions may fall through the cracks and be left without any workable, affordable coverage whatsoever. Republicans must deal with this quickly and effectively.
  1. The liberal mainstream media is virulently anti-Republican/anti-Trump and is loathe to run stories that cast either the President or Republicans in a good light. These media outlets include not only the traditional liberal media like the broadcast networks, major papers like the NY Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe, cable news like CNN, MSNBC, but also social media sources like Zuckerberg’s Facebook, which has been exposed for downplaying conservative stories, and the supposedly “neutral” Internet resources like Snopes, a “fact-finding” site which has been caught multiple times putting forth a liberally-sympathetic version of the facts and being very slow to change when the conservative-favoring side of the story proves to be true. Any proposed Republican alternative to Obamacare, regardless of its actual merits, will be dismissed by the liberal mainstream media as unacceptable, in order to preserve their pro-Obama narrative.

The liberal media is always going to highlight and key in on any aspect of a new Republican plan that they deem inferior to the existing ACA, while ignoring any benefits or advantages. We’re already seeing headlines like, “Why Republicans’ health-care plans are bad deals for Americans” (Washington Post 3/9), “GOP health-care bill would drop addiction treatment” (Washington Post 3/10), “Doctors, hospitals rip health plan” (Providence Journal, 3/10).

Liberal media headlines like these are as predictable as a Brady win in the playoffs.

  1. The Republicans always seem focus on tax credits as a way to help pay for healthcare insurance. In order to receive tax credits, an individual or family must earn enough money such that offsetting the tax they owe is a relevant and attractive proposition. In the Hartford Courant on 3/10, they reported, “CT Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman (D) criticized the tax credits proposed by House Republicans to subsidize health care as useless to Connecticut’s poorest residents. ‘If you don’t pay taxes, what do you get a credit for?’ she asked.”

The underlying, undeniable-but-rarely-admitted liberal position is that Obamacare—which is essentially just affordable insurance that the Government will largely pay for if the party can’t afford to pay for it on their own—is a partway measure at best. What the Democrats really want to do is to find a way to flat-out give healthcare away to everyone, regardless of their tax status or income. Democrats want single-payer (Government-run) healthcare, not the private system involving for-profit insurance companies that we have now.

Any of these three—a threat to Obama’s legacy, relentlessly inaccurate, biased reporting by the liberal mainstream media or the perception that the Republicans are against the poor because their favored tax credit-based approach assumes employment and sufficient earnings—give Democratic lawmakers more than enough ammunition for high-profile public grandstanding.

How do Republicans avoid their usual PR disaster?

First, the final version must be a good bill, a legitimate improvement over the existing ACA. This submission is the first step, but it won’t be the final bill.

Then, the Republicans need to learn a lesson that they seem incapable of learning: They need to understand that the merits of the issue do not carry the day in the court of public opinion. It’s the 10-second soundbite that wins the attention of the casually-attentive swing voter. Democrats are very good at that—“Tax cuts for the rich,” “Bush lied, people died,” “Big pharmaceutical companies are ripping you off,” etc.—especially since the liberal media never hold the Democrats to account for the veracity of their statements. Republicans have the challenge of not only crafting a 10-second soundbite that distils the complex essentials down into an easily-memorable clip, but they also have to be accurate and truthful, because the liberal media will not let them get away with the same fuzzy math that they let slide for the Democrats. Tall order, but it’s about time Republicans learned how to play this game.

Third, they must be unified. They need to avoid the destructive public infighting that gives the liberal media the opportunity to say, “See? Even the Republicans don’t like it.” When Rand Paul declares that the House version is “Dead on arrival” in the Senate, he plays right into the Democrats’ hands and the liberal media pounces right on cue. The Democrats are much better at standing unified on legislative issues than the Republicans are, and this works against the Republicans’ PR interests.

Fourth, strike first and strike often. Set the tone and terms of the public healthcare discussion. Be proactive in speaking about why the new bill is a huge improvement, point out the current ACA’s shortcomings and failures again and again and keep the pressure on the Democrats about that. Make the Democrats respond to you, not the other way around. They are already behind the curve on this, but they can reverse that with something as basic as calling a press conference—today!!—and outlining their plan’s advantages. Then, all of a sudden, the Democrats will be forced to play, “But wait….” catch up.

The actual ACA replacement bill is an interesting proposition, but even more fascinating to veteran political observers will be watching how the Republicans present and defend the progress of their bill, and how they deal with the inevitable negative reaction of the liberal media.

 

 

Global Warming Is Irrelevant

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

There is probably no subject (outside of abortion) that has engendered more passion for a longer period of time—decades now—than Global Warming. Here are some of the issues and talking points:

  • Settled Science or Junk Science
  • Warmest Year on Record vs. hiding faulty or contradictory evidence
  • The threat of actually jailing Deniers (they even have a name, complete with a capital letter)
  • International conferences and accords
  • New regulations for businesses and equipment
  • Complicated Carbon Trading schemes
  • Dramatic declarations by politicians of Warming being a greater threat than ISIS
  • Photographic “evidence” of impending doom and impact on nature/wildlife
  • The routine, unquestioned conflation of daily weather events and long-term climate change

All of these are examples of the highly-charged, deeply-held views on the subject. I recognize and appreciate the intensity and vehemence with which the respective parties hold to their positions.

However, for the purposes of this article, let’s simply concede that anthropogenic Global Warming is real, not just a coincidental occurrence of cyclical climate patterns on earth and the relationship of those patterns to solar activity and the like. Let’s take the “Is man-caused Global Warming real?” question off the table and admit its existence.

However, even if there is certainty regarding the reality of man-caused Global Warming, it probably doesn’t matter.

Here’s why: The very same profit-driven capitalistic Western businesspeople who seem to stoke the ire of the Warmists so intensely are the ones who are well on their way to ending Warming—and long before it becomes any kind of permanent threat to mankind’s well-being.

Fossil-based fuels are simultaneously the most economically-efficient source of energy and the most politically-troublesome and ecologically-controversial source of energy. Historic relationships between nations, current foreign policy and military decisions, ecological impacts, everything is tied up in a convoluted, indecipherable cause-and-effect Gordian Knot because of fossil fuels.

Yet it is the popularly-maligned free-market capitalistic system, with its unsavory profits, rewards and unapologetic income inequality, that is the key driver to finding the eventual solution to our reliance on ecologically-detrimental carbon-based fuels. A veritable free-market fortune awaits the individual or company that delivers the first viable alternative energy system, one that is easily deployable on a mass scale across large geographic areas.

That promise of capitalistic reward has many companies feverishly pursuing different solutions. The potential of virtually unlimited free-market profits and a superior competitive market position are spurring private for-profit companies to find a viable alternative to carbon fuels. That’s undeniably true, and it’s happening primarily here in the U.S., primarily because of our freest-of-all-markets system.

An example is Lockheed Martin Corporation and their work in developing a new compact fusion reactor. L-M says a reactor small enough to fit on the back of a truck could produce 100 megawatts of electricity—enough to power a small city, without any carbon emissions. L-M estimates they’ll have a workable prototype within five years. Let’s double their likely-overly-optimistic estimate and say within ten years.

Electric cars, battery technology and solar panels are also improving all the time. They may not be totally economically-feasible in the free market at this time without Government tax subsidies and, yes, there is the undeniable irony that the electricity needed to recharge a Tesla or Chevy Volt usually comes from a greenhouse gas-producing fossil-fuel power source, but things in the battery/solar area are improving all the time. The percentage of U.S. energy provided by these “alternative” sources has increased from less than 5% before 1990 to over 13% in 2014 and will continue to increase in the future.

The Answer is out there and it’ll happen pretty soon, likely within 50-100 years, I’d confidently guess. Companies and individuals are working day and night to find The Answer—because of the rewards they’ll reap.

50-100 years is a nanosecond in terms of earth-geological-climactic time. A fraction of a nanosecond. When The Answer comes along 39 or 64 or 97 years hence, whatever minor “warming” has actually taken place, whatever small amount the seas have “risen” will all be halted and reversed.

The argument against that position is that we’ll soon reach some irreversible “tipping point,” after which no cure or remedy to the permanent destructive effects of Warming is possible. Yet there is no scientific proof of that, nor is any “proof” possible. That’s merely a totally unsubstantiated talking point, designed to rally the Believers and scare the Deniers. This, however, is scientific fact: 50-100 years is a nanosecond in terms of earth-geological-climactic time. And the practical, usable, non-carbon, non-warming Answer will certainly be discovered and deployed on a significant scale within that timespan.

Therefore, the entire anthropogenic Warming issue—whether real or imagined—is a non-issue. Profit-driven technology will solve it. As ironic as it seems, the Western capitalist economic system will be the savior of the earth.

Big Deception on Both Sides of Roe v. Wade

 

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All Rights Reserved.

 

There are lots of practical and philosophical differences between the two major political parties in America. Some are real differences, some are more perceived than real and some are just clichés that one side likes to perpetuate to the detriment of the other:

 

  • Taxes
  • Free-market capitalism vs. Gov’t-controlled safety net
  • Affirmative Action
  • Immigration Policy
  • Health Care
  • Foreign policy/use of military force
  • Education
  • Woman’s/minorities/sexual orientation rights/pay inequality
  • Law enforcement/legal issues
  • Energy policy/Environmental/Climate Change issues
  • Media coverage

 

Those are the broad categories on which most elections are based, and at least within some limited range, negotiation/compromise between the two parties is theoretically possible, and actually happens from time to time.

However, there is one topic that is not on the list above, because compromise hasn’t been possible to this point: Abortion.

Abortion is the Democratic Party’s Line in the Sand.

The abortion constituency is a—no, the—major voting bloc for the Democrats. It cuts across all ethnic, racial, age, gender/orientation and economic lines in a way that no other important Democratic issue does. Liberals of every stripe are in favor of it, although perhaps for wildly different reasons. Nonetheless, they all arrive at this same destination, even though it’s often by dramatically different routes. The unquestioned availability of abortion is the common denominator of all Liberal voters. Some Democrats may be more business-oriented and like low taxes and limited restrictive regulations; some may be low-income/minority but have high-achievement children, so Affirmative Action is their thing. Some may perceive a wage gap or gender/orientation discrimination or feel strongly that we shouldn’t drill into the earth and strip Her bounty just to turn on the lights. And so on.

The common thread among them all: The continued legal availability of abortion. Many voters—too many—base their Presidential vote on this issue of so-called “choice,” mistakenly believing that the party of the President determines the availability and legality of abortion.

For the Democrats, a Presidential Supreme Court appointment means only one thing: the preservation of Roe v Wade, which Democrats feel preserves unfettered access to abortion. This issue, more than welfare, affirmative action, higher taxes on the rich, stiffer environmental regulations, relaxed immigration rules or gay rights, is the cornerstone of the Democratic platform. Strip away everything else, and the Democrats know that their core constituency will always vote for them as long as they can deliver the abortion issue. They may euphemistically shroud the issue with phrases like “women’s health,” or “choice,” etc., but it all means the same thing: the Democrats are the Party of Abortion. To justify it, they use the scare tactic of saying they will fight to “keep abortion safe and legal,” implying if the Republicans win the Presidency and appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court, abortion will suddenly become unsafe and illegal.

This is a perfect example of politicians using the ignorance of the majority of the voting populace to further the party’s goals. What a majority of voters don’t seem to realize is that if Roe v Wade were overturned by the Supreme Court (as incredibly unlikely as that is), the abortion issue would then simply become one of states’ rights, with the voters of each state deciding the particulars by referenda. Constitutional scholars point to the 10th Amendment, which reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Would the specific details that govern the procedure vary from state to state? Quite possibly—that would be up to the voters in that particular state. But some evil, unnamed Government power wouldn’t force the decision upon the voters. The states would decide it for themselves.

Abortion would not become “illegal” if Roe was overturned. Instead, the fifty states would simply decide for themselves how to handle it. The overwhelming likelihood is that in virtually all states, abortion would continue to be available and performed much as it is today, especially in strong Democratic states. It’s hard to imagine any states actually voting to deny access to the procedure, since it is accepted law and had been for many decades. Certainly, it would never be outlawed or restricted in New York, Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, Oregon or any other strongly blue state.

No judgment is being made here on the relative appropriateness of abortion, so we need to resist the temptation to veer off topic. This is not a discussion “in favor” or “opposed” to the availability of abortion. Rather, this is simply the observation that a change in the Supreme Court’s position on Roe won’t have the legal/illegal effect on abortion that both sides imply it would.

However, the Democrats politicians who know this (and, unfortunately, not all do) are worried that this information might actually become common knowledge, because if it did, their vice-grip on their constituents because of the abortion issue would be broken. Overturning R v W will not push abortion into the threatened “back alley,” and—giving Democratic politicians the benefit of the doubt with regard to their legal grasp and understanding of the issue—most of them know this. They’re simply using the issue as a reprehensibly disingenuous way to prey upon a mostly-ignorant public’s fears.

Interestingly, the Republican Party is just as reluctant to level with its core supporters regarding abortion as the Democrats are to level with theirs. If the Democrats don’t want their voters to realize that a change in the Supreme Court’s position on Roe wouldn’t really affect the availability or safety of abortion, then the Republicans feel exactly the same, but for exactly opposite reasons: Republicans appeal to much of their base by implying that a change in the courts will result in abortion “finally being outlawed,” but that isn’t true—if Roe were overturned, abortion would still be available. It may well vary a bit from state to state and the availability of funding from third parties might be somewhat affected in the details, but abortion’s actual availability would not be impinged. Like the Democrats, the Republicans don’t want that to be widely known.

Obviously, this is a tremendously complex issue. New technology that makes fetal survival after 20 weeks a real possibility (unimaginable in 1973), partial birth abortion, parental notification, and concerns for the mother’s health (emotional as well as physical) are among the components that imbue this subject with its infinitely varied shades of gray. Stripping away the deceptive veneer of abortion politics that both sides currently employ exposes the reality that neither national Party has the power to change the general availability of abortion. Peoples’ votes should be based on national security, immigration, energy policy, taxation/Government spending, etc. Those are the things that the office of President can influence in a major way, not the availability and access to abortion. A Presidential vote—either way— based on “abortion” is an ill-informed, wasted vote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That phrase is in the news a lot lately, referring, obliquely, to some “tide” about prevailing opinion on gun control.

The “tide” against big-capacity ammo clips?
The “tide” against allowing gun rampages by out-of-control nutcases?
The “tide” against the ‘gun ownership culture’ of this country?

We’re having a “national conversation” about some “tide” that is “turning.”

I know I’m convinced, especially now that we’re having that long-overdue conversation. If only we’d spoken sooner. I agree with everyone who is against mass murder, especially when committed against school children. I didn’t realize that that was a tide that needed to be turned, but if so, then I’m there.

Read more

From Mark Steyn’s 11/19 column:

“….Hence the urge to get on the right side of America’s fastest-growing demographic. Only 27 [sic] percent of Hispanics voted for Romney. But all that could change if the GOP were to sign on to support some means of legalizing the presence of the 12-20 million fine upstanding members of the Undocumented-American community who are allegedly “social conservatives” and thus natural Republican voters. Once we pass amnesty, argues Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, “future immigrants will be more open to the Republican Party because, unlike many immigrants who are already here, they won’t have been harmed or insulted by Republican politicians……”

There’s a popular, simplistic theory floating around these days that supposedly explains the Republican loss on Nov 6th and thereby presents the “answer” to winning future national elections:

Read more

Bill Kristol had an interesting take on the Fiscal Cliff last Sunday November 11th on FNS–His position was, sure, give Obama his wish and let the top marginal tax rate on the top “2%” of wage earners rise back to where it was under Clinton, from today’s 35% to 39%.

Doing so accomplishes many things, some political, and some practical.

From a political standpoint, it removes the “Republican obstructionism/intransigence” label from Congress, thus denying President Obama of his straw man bogeyman. Obama has said all along, “We need a ‘balanced approach,’ some increased revenues and some spending cuts. I’m asking the wealthiest 2% to pay just a little more and I’ll preserve the tax cuts for everyone else.”
Read more

Peggy Noonan’s column sums things up nicely:

It puts forth the reasons why the first debate performances fundamentally altered the race and illuminates some basic character traits in Obama that probably hinder his ability to realistically access a political situation. She further discusses Bob Woodward’s new book “The Price of Politics,” which goes into this angle even more deeply.

Any individual, from whatever ideological background, will likely have difficulty dealing effectively with unpredictable, challenging, random situations when most of what they’ve faced previously has been tightly-controlled, somewhat orchestrated for them, and they’ve been made to always feel (deserved or not, immaterial) that they’re “the smartest person in the room,” as the old saying goes.

Read more