Crush Your Enemies

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Magic of the Merlin

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Left and Right—Again and Always

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There are so many fundamental issues that serve as sharp lines of demarcation between left/Democratic thought and right/Republican thought. It’s been this way for years and those essential differences do indeed mark the boundary between liberal and conservative ideology:

  • Free-market capitalism vs. Government-controlled industries
  • Low taxation/personal freedom vs. confiscatory tax policy with high Government spending
  • Pro life vs. pro abortion
  • Strong military vs. anti-military
  • Desire to crack down on illegal immigration vs. open borders and unrestricted immigration
  • Merit-based admission and promotion vs. racial quotas and belief in social engineering
  • Goal of energy development/independence vs. stance that fossil fuels are inherently bad and harmful
  • Thought that climate variations are natural and not controllable by man vs. unwavering adherence to the doctrine of anthropogenic global warming

There are other issues that define the chasm between left and right as well. And in perfect candor, most average voters are some degree of purple between these red and blue extremes. It’s primarily the politicians and news media that are relatively monolithic in their philosophical beliefs. However, in an effort to whip up public sentiment and set the opposing side in as unflattering and negative a light as possible for purposes of partisan advantage, the left never fails to cast the important issues of the day as a choice between the correct/moral liberal side and the foolish/immoral conservative alternative.

So it is now, once again. The issue du jour is the re-opening of the economy after the country’s lockdown in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. We will leave aside for now the fact that the so-called pandemic never even came close to realizing the worst outcome in this country that many had predicted. The rate of infection and death rate have both been markedly lower than the early-on models predicted. In the country’s three hardest-hit areas—New York City, northern New Jersey and the Boston area—hospital capacity hasn’t even come close to being stretched to the breaking point. The US Navy ship Comfort just left NYC after barely being utilized at all and the field hospital set up in the Javits Center turned out to be totally unnecessary.

In Boston, the 1000-bed field hospital created at the Boston Convention Center was barely 20% utilized at its opening and the usage dropped to less than half of that shortly thereafter, as reported to me first-hand by the senior attending nurse.

The fact of the matter is that the coronavirus turned out to be a deadly disease that primarily affected the elderly (infection rates for those over 80 were many times higher than those even in their 60’s—see attached chart) and people with serious underlying conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. The same can be said for any given year of the seasonal flu. And the country doesn’t shut down for the flu, nor is there any irrational, non-medically-legitimate frenzy over the wearing of facial coverings when driving alone in the car or walking outside in the breezy fresh air and sunshine.

Macintosh HD:Users:stevefeinstein:Desktop:COVID death by age.jpg

The virtually complete shutting down of our economy—questionable as it certainly looks in retrospect—has had its predictably calamitous effect on the economy and our daily social activity. Major industries have been decimated. Entertainment, cultural and sporting events have hit a brick wall. The population has had it now that they realize that so much of it was arbitrary and unwarranted. President Trump said he’ll leave the re-opening of the economy up to the governors of the respective states, as long as they do it with caution and common sense. And so, many states, in the face of declining new cases and the realization that their healthcare capacity is not threatened, have begun to relax their lockdowns and allow the re-emergence of private economic activity.

The subject of re-opening the states’ economies is now somehow deemed controversial, breaking down along party lines. Democrats and the liberal mainstream media criticize the re-openings, cautioning in a condescending manner that Republicans are more interested in re-opening the economy than they are concerned with the public good. High-profile public protests in Michigan and Massachusetts are being portrayed by the liberal media as coming from conservative hard-line Trump supporters, their actions characterized as out of step with the majority of the level-headed public. The battle lines are clearly drawn: Re-opening the economy is a Republican activity, reckless, dangerous, putting money ahead of humanity in classic uncaring conservative fashion. Remaining in lockdown until the landscape is totally safe, with no possible danger of a second wave, is the more compassionate, more sophisticated, more intellectual thing to do. Clearly, that’s the liberal position. (Interesting, isn’t it, that the original goal of the sequester was simply to “flatten the curve.” It was flattened weeks ago. Now the new goal—very conveniently unprovable—is to ensure that no new widespread re-infection resurfaces at any point in the future.)

A few years ago, liberal comedian Bill Maher said it would be worth it to have a recession in order to get rid of President Trump. Now, brought on by the global fear engendered by China unleashing the Wuhan virus on the world—whether intentionally or by their own incompetence—we have a recession. The afterburner-boosted economy, which had been President Trump’s crowning achievement amongst a veritable cornucopia of worthy accomplishments—has now come to a crashing halt, from a source no one could have foreseen, in a manner no one thought possible.

It’s no wonder the Democrats and liberal media see the re-opening of the economy as a bad thing: the Democrats’ electoral fortunes are directly inversely related to the direction of the economy as November draws near. If we’re still languishing in recession, with the airlines, cruise lines, concerts and baseball season still shuttered and people still dependent on Government handouts in order to pay their rent, the Democrats win.

If the economy has regained its footing, has arisen from the mat, beaten the count and is up and punching back, then President Trump’s future looks good.

There is an old French saying that goes, Qui bénéficie?  Roughly translated, it means, “Who benefits from this?” The answer is clear.

Biden Might Actually Win

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

When you think of it, it’s nothing short of incredible that Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party. One might have thought that 2016 would have been Biden’s year (if he was ever going to have a time at bat), since Barack Obama’s two-term presidency had just ended and most vice-presidents who try for the top spot do so immediately following their boss’s departure. But, as is often the case in politics these days, party nominees can result from when the party decides that it’s someone’s “turn.” That was the case the last go-around: The Democrats decided that it was Hillary’s turn, after she dutifully lost to Obama in 2008 so the country could elect its first non-totally-white president. The election in 2016 was supposed to have been Hillary’s—the first woman president.

But it didn’t turn out that way. Hillary was revealed to be perhaps the most unlikeable, condescending, entitled and out-of-touch major party candidate in recent memory. Perhaps ever. Donald Trump tapped into an unfulfilled want in the electorate the way precious few supposedly well-seasoned, veteran politicians ever have: He recognized a widespread desire for a plain talking, honest, America-first leader. People wanted a president focused on real needs—jobs, lower taxes, a drastic reduction in nonsensical, unproductive political correctness, an end to expensive foreign excursions, a desire to expand American energy production and sever the destructive reliance on tenuous overseas oil suppliers and finally, someone who would put a halt to runaway illegal immigration with its tax-draining cost and social disruption.

President Trump spoke about all those things in plain language and punctuated it with his trademark motto, “Make America Great Again.” The liberal mainstream media went absolutely apoplectic, trying vainly to imbue the phrase with racist implications like “Make America White Again,” and other total nonsense. He meant nothing of the sort, of course. He meant exactly what he said. And indeed, the stampeding Trump economy that exploded under his leadership from January 2017 through February 2020 delivered the very best Black and Hispanic unemployment results in our history. The country was flourishing. Everyone was working. The stock market was at an all-time high. And make no mistake—the biggest beneficiaries of the high stock market were the millions and millions of Democratic public union members—the firefighters, the teachers, the state and municipal workers whose cushy life-long pensions and 100’s of accumulated unused sick days waiting to be cashed in were safely funded by the equities markets, without any danger of default or shortfalls. The very people who almost unanimously voted against President Trump and are his most vocal detractors are the ones whose retirements are safe and secure, thanks to his stock market. Consider the irony of that.

But then, without warning, China unleashed the coronavirus. We’ll let others debate whether it was a total accident from a random occurrence at a so-called “wet market” or whether it was a deliberate release of a bio-weapon made in some nefarious Chinese weapons lab or something somewhere in between those two vastly-separated extremes. It actually doesn’t matter.

The completely unforeseen coronavirus event has paralyzed the American economy and brought it to a screeching halt. Tens of millions of Americans are suddenly out of work and no resolution is in sight. When will things return to “normal?” How far and how quickly will things come back? No one knows. The pace, timing and scale of our economic re-opening is pure conjecture.

The virus has, however, completely re-shuffled the 2020 presidential race. It’s no longer a referendum on President Trump’s performance in office, on his handling of traditional issues like job creation, energy production, taxes, foreign relations or judicial appointments.

Instead, it is now a referendum on President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Predictably, the liberal media shifted their former cries of Russia, Russia, Russia! to outbursts of Ventilators, Ventilators, Ventilators! President Trump handled that perfectly and the ventilator issue went away. Now it’s been replaced with Tests, Tests, Tests! Tomorrow it will be something else, possibly Open too soon, Open too soon, Open too soon! or Second wave, Second wave, Second wave! It will always be something and it will always have racial/discriminatory overtones.

Enter Joe Biden. Despite Hillary having lost in 2016 and the Democratic Party seemingly obsessed and totally committed to their identity politics narrative, somehow from an opening field filled with females and non-whites, they ended up with yet another old, straight white guy in Biden, a Washington DC insider, a multiple-time presidential candidate flop, someone with perhaps the most forgettable, inconsequential multi-decade Senatorial career in American political history. That he is certainly too old and well past the point where he’s mentally up to the task doesn’t even need to be mentioned.

Yet, incredibly, Biden might win. The impact of the over-the-top liberal media can’t be discounted. The Jim Acostas, Jonathan Karls and Maggie Habermans of the world do their best every day at the Coronavirus Task Force press briefings to trap the president and make him look bad with relentless ‘gotcha’ questions, despite how infantile and unintellectual it is. They’ve pushed the narrative that President Trump has been slow to respond to the pandemic and the more outlandish hosts on CNN and MSNBC have gone so far as to say that, “President Trump has blood on his hands” and “Americans are dying today because Donald Trump is President.” Utter nonsense, provably false. But the old cliché of, “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes true in some peoples’ minds” is happening once again.

The polls show that Biden is competitive—even leading—in several crucial battleground states at this juncture. Real Clear Politics shows Biden with leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida. Now, there is no question that Trump’s support in polls is and always will be understated by 5-10 points, due to a combination of polling/sampling bias and the reluctance of some Trump voters to admit to poll-takers—even under the shield of anonymity—to supporting President Trump. It is also true that April is a very long way off from November and at this point, the national liberal media has been largely successful in hiding Biden’s egregious mental lapses and unquestioned diminished capacity from the still-inattentive swath of undecided voters.

Yet with all that being said, the fact that old, Caucasian, barely-coherent Joe Biden is actually leading President Trump shows how politically fortunate the Chinese coronavirus has been for the Democrats’ electoral chances in November. Such are the ever-shifting vagaries of presidential politics.

What is it with the Democrats?

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

It is indeed a strange phenomenon: With the country—indeed, the world—embroiled in a health emergency of what could be epic proportions, the Democrats are unquestionably more fixated on bringing about Donald Trump’s political downfall than they are interested in defeating coronavirus threat.

Let’s be clear about this: Democrats are not likely rooting for more people to become deathly sick and die. But they are hoping for the Chinese coronavirus outbreak to recede into insignificance without a scintilla of political credit accruing to President Trump whatsoever. The Democrats want the virus danger to disappear independent of the President’s efforts, not because of them.

At the daily Coronavirus Task Force press briefings, Vice-President Mike Pence, Drs. Anthony Fauci, Debra Birx and FDA head Dr. Stephen Hahn (among others) all give detailed information about the current status of the outbreak, the direction and future tendency of the “curve,” progress on possible vaccines and current treatments. It’s a great briefing, full of up-to-the-minute information, the latest happenings and discoveries and the Administration’s latest medically-approved moves to counter the danger. It is so effective and non-partisan that hyper-anti-Trump sources like CNN and MSNBC have taken to cutting away from coverage, because the daily briefings cast President Trump in a positive, commanding light. CNN and MSNBC refuse to report on anything that reflects positively on the President. The liberal media reporters that are there, like the infamous Jim Acosta of CNN and Jonathan Karl of ABC, simply engage in aggressive, unfounded “gotcha” questioning, relentlessly attempting to make the President and his team look bad.

One of the widely-discussed treatments—one that has shown unequivocally promising results in anecdotal small-scale usage scenarios, is the drug Hydroxychloroquine, a long-standing drug that is an effective treatment for autoimmune diseases such as malaria and lupus. It is thought to be even more effective against the coronavirus when combined with Azithromycin. President Trump has touted its use and has encouraged doctors to administer it on a widespread basis, stating, “What have you got to lose? It’s a safe drug. It’s been around for 50 years. It’s never killed anybody. Let’s try it in conjunction with your doctor’s recommendation. Why not?”

The Washington Post and USA Today immediately pounced on him with headlines like, “Trump Pedals False Hope with Unproven Drug” and accusations that Trump was pushing “snake oil.” Hosts on CNN and MSNBC piled on the President, denouncing his support of giving the drug a chance and accusing him of playing doctor. The nightmare scenario for the Democrats and the liberal media is not that the virus will run out of control. No, their nightmare scenario is that the President will somehow get credit from the American people for providing reassuring, productive leadership and helping end the crisis. For liberals, their hope is that the danger passes, Trump is proven wrong on all counts and that the ultimate solution arises either from a well-known Democratic expert or totally independently of anything either President Trump or his Task Force have proffered.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is a perfect example of these Democrats. Every day, Cuomo puts on a very high-profile public presentation on the status of the New York coronavirus situation. New York, especially New York City, is definitely the nation’s “hot spot” in terms of both the number of coronavirus cases and deaths. Cuomo, in his deliberately overly-dramatic, angry, inappropriately-flamboyant manner, preaches daily about NY’s need for tens of thousands of ventilators, millions of N95 medical-grade masks, thousands of additional hospital beds and the like. Wildly exaggerated demands, designed to be a requirement that no administration could ever completely fill, certainly not in the ridiculous timeframe demanded by Cuomo. It’s all designed to be one big “Ah ha!” against President Trump and the Republicans.

In fact, President Trump has marshaled the nation’s substantial manufacturing resources–partly by his own considerable powers of persuasion and partly by him invoking the Defense Production Act—to concentrate on the production of ventilators and PPE. We’ll be swimming in them all very soon. But any objective observer could plainly see the abject disappointment in Cuomo’s demeanor as he reported that the rate of new hospitalizations in New York had slowed and the state’s need for emergency medical equipment wasn’t going to be quite as great as it looked like it would be two weeks ago. Like all hyper-partisan Democrats, Cuomo was at least as interested in pinning damaging political blame on President Trump as he is interested in ending the suffering of his fellow New Yorkers. He could hardly grunt out the words that the NYC hospitals, did, in fact, have all the medical supplies and equipment they needed.

That the Democrats and the liberal media are demonstrably as interested in scoring political points against President Trump as they are in pulling together in a united effort as in such dire times as these is truly telling. As that brilliant Democratic intellectual Bill Maher said in an unintentionally prescient way a few years ago, “One way to get rid of Trump is a crashing economy…bring on the resession.” Maher’s words speak for Democrats today. The coronavirus has stalled the economy, at least for the moment. For the Democrats, that is good news, especially if enough Government assistance comes forth to keep people’s heads above water. Combine that with an end to the virus that can’t in any way be a result of any Republican idea or policy and you have the ideal Democratic scenario.

That is where we are now: One of our two major political parties (and the 45% of the electorate that blindly supports them, no matter what) is both pleased at the temporary economic slowdown and is openly rooting for the President and his staff to fail at rectifying the current hardships.

What is it with the Democrats?

The Rise of Democratic Idiocracy

© 2020 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

As the 2020 campaign season heats up, the candidates are staking out their respective positions along the political continuum, looking to occupy precisely the right slot, the one that will appeal to a winning swath of voters come November.

President Trump has chosen his position: He’s taking the “Make actual day-to-day life better for people by strengthening the job market, reducing taxes, making energy more plentiful and affordable, reducing the negative economic impact and civil disruption caused by rampant illegal immigration, improving our national security by re-building our military and enhancing the country’s balance-of-trade situation by renegotiating failed agreements such as NAFTA” position.

It’s a strong position for him to take. He’s been remarkably successful at accomplishing these goals, to the tangible benefit of working American citizens across every demographic group there is—Men, women, old, young, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Euro/Caucasians, everyone. Despite the liberal mainstream media’s best efforts at constantly berating him and supporting the manic, obsessive attempts by elected Democrats to somehow reverse and nullify President Trump’s 2016 victory over the increasingly-pathetic Hillary Clinton, President Trump continues to make huge progress on a wide front of issues. In the privacy of their own thoughts, far away from the shrill obligatory denunciations they shout with such utter predictability day after day, Democrats must realize that under President Trump’s leadership, things are going very well in the country.

This realization creates a conundrum for Democrats: They must somehow convince an electorate that is working at well-paying jobs and pretty happy with the way things are going with most aspects of their lives that somehow they’re not really happy after all, and things aren’t as good as the reality of their own lives tells them it is.

So the Democrats have done something inventive and unique: They’ve created a new reality. They’ve created an idiocracy. The Pop Culture Dictionary defines idiocracy as “a society run or made up of idiots.” In this new Democratic world, the absurd is now the accepted norm, totally illogical thought becomes completely rational, scientific fact is discarded for the purpose of political expediency and historical fact is a tiresome inconvenience that can be ignored as needed.

Some examples:

Freshman representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is clearly the Thought Leader of the current Democratic Party. Her almost daily pronouncements are laughably detached from any semblance of reality (“We only have 12 years left to correct Global Warming! This is our World War Two!”), yet her philosophies and utterances somehow serve as the guideposts for all the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates. She spouts all the usual clichés: capitalism is bad, America is evil and deeply flawed, only the wealthy are doing well, etc., but the Democratic candidates parrot every single one of them. They may put their own individual twists on them in order to distinguish themselves from one another, but the overriding “America is unfair, it’s racist, and a Republican-run America will ruin the world’s future with its greed unless we stop it” theme is common to all the contenders. Idiocy.

Bernie Sanders

When asked by Norah O’Donnell of CBS —as  friendly a liberal media TV interviewer as there could possibly be—what his universal Government-run health plan would cost, Sanders replied, “I don’t know, no one knows.” She was incredulous (which is kind of incredible in and of itself). He calls himself a “Democratic Socialist,” but is never asked to specifically explain exactly what that means, or what percentage “democratic” and “socialist” things are in his imaginary world. Like the cost of his healthcare plan, Bernie doesn’t know. His plans and thought processes are idiotic.

Joe Biden

Poor Joe. Is he even still in the race? He gives every indication of not knowing exactly what world he’s in from moment to moment. He lurches from so-called “moderate” to “Freebie-Joe” as the exigencies of the moment change. However, there is no question that Joe is trying desperately to find that magical thinnest sliver of unfulfilled need—which simply may not exist—in the minds of those critical swing voters so that he can come to their rescue. He’d have a better chance if he knew what state he was in. The term “idiot” comes to mind, which is perfect for the party that is frantically building an idiocracy as fast as it can.

Michael Bloomberg

Conveniently disavowing the conservative governing principles he embraced to great advantage while serving as Mayor of New York, Bloomberg has tried to fall right in line with current Democratic talking points. But an unexpected audio clip of him enthusiastically defending the effective ‘stop-and frisk’ practice some years ago has given lie to his credibility as a minority-loving candidate in the Democratic mold. His advertising theme is emblematic of the difficulties the Democrats face: ”Mike will get it done.” Get what done? Reduce unemployment, especially in the minority community? Increase wages? Reduce minority poverty and their need for food stamps? Make us energy independent, immune from world-wide oil shocks? To “Get it done,” Mike will have to create a new Bizzaro world, a world where everything is different. In the real world—the one where we all live—President Trump has already gotten it done. Sorry, Mike. See Joe Biden, above.

Nancy Pelosi

She rips up her copy of President Trump’s SOTU speech and it’s ok. Nary a comment of criticism from any Democratic politician or the liberal media. (One can only imagine the horrified outcry had a Paul Ryan done the same to President Obama.) This from a person who says she is Catholic and there is no hate in her heart for the president. For Pelosi and the idiocrats, it’s fine to invoke religion when rationalizing their preferred behavior, but when pinned down about the conflict between their support for abortion and Catholic values, Pelosi and her ilk quickly retreat to that tired argument of supporting established law vs. holding their own private personal opinion. ”Established law” can easily be changed by a vote of conscience, if it mattered to you. Sort of like the way the Jim Crow laws were changed. Got that, Nancy? So in the Democrats’ new reality, their idiocracy of anti-Trump, all the time, since Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats are such disingenuous hypocrites, she is reduced to uttering such nonsense as, “Hip, hip hooray, unemployment is down. What does that mean to me in my life?” That was in 2018 and Pelosi was referring to lagging wage growth. Now, of course, we enjoy very strong wage growth, and the strongest increases are at the lowest end of the wage scale, where Democrats have traditionally mined votes with their giveaway programs. Another issue whisked away from the Democrats and pocketed by President Trump.

President Trump has cut off the political escape routes for any rational election opponent: Minorities are doing better economically than at any time in our history, we’ve reduced carbon emissions more than any country on earth, wages for all are rising and we’re energy-independent. Every aspect of American life is getting better and better. The Democrats have no real openings. So they’re reduced to fabricating an idiocracy where their candidates recite total nonsense and they think we’ll fall for it.

Conventional Retirement Wisdom is Wrong!

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There’s an awful lot of retirement information and advice floating around out there. If you use a computer during your work day and have a look at any of the popular business websites (like MarketWatch, Forbes, Investor’s Business Daily, CNBC, etc.)  from your laptop, they all have articles on retirement strategies, reports of how many Americans are or aren’t saving enough for retirement, commentaries on the best places to retire, sponsored ads with “retirement savings” calculators showing you how much you need to put away to reach some arbitrary nest-egg savings goal, and so on. It’s dizzying.

For the average private-sector worker who is not independently wealthy, Social Security is a major component of their overall retirement income picture.  Estimates are that Social Security will constitute from 33-50% of the retirement income for most middle-class working Americans. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to make the assumption that Social Security remains solvent for the foreseeable future, for the scope of this discussion. That may be an erroneous assumption, but by all accounts, Social Security, as presently structured and funded, is 100% good through around 2030, so this article concerns retirees within that time horizon.

The issues regarding extending the solvent date of Social Security are a combination of inexorable demographics (the ratio of workers currently funding SS to workers claiming it is around 2 ½:1, compared to a ratio of more than 10:1 in the 1950’s) and political will. Social Security can be made solvent by either raising or removing the income cap to which the tax applies ($132,900 in 2019) or increasing the percentage of the tax itself, or some combination of the two. Politicians will have to come to grips with this soon, regardless of the “third-rail” aspect of the matter.

In the meantime, the facet of Social Security that seems to garner the most attention from financial retirement “experts” is when: when is the best time to take one’s Social Security payment? As most people know, a person may begin to take Social Security at age 62 (early retirement). At some point a few years after that (a sliding scale, depending on the person’s year of birth) there is their full-retirement age (FRA). For Baby Boomers retiring now, their FRA is 66. For every year that the retiree delays claiming SS past age 62, their payment will increase by about 8%/year and continue until age 70. That’s when a retiree’s SS payment will be maximized.

During “early retirement” (age 62-65), the amount of money that a person may earn as regular working wages is limited before those wages are counted against one’s SS payment. For example, from age 62-64, a person may earn $17,600 without any effect on their SS payment. Every two dollars earned above that amount reduces a person’s SS payment by $1.

So, let’s use a typical (but hypothetical) example to illustrate what happens. Let’s say a 62-year-old person—an accountant at a downtown firm—earns $70,000 a year. They’ve had a good career and they’re looking to collect at 62 but they want to keep working. Their Social Security income—based on their personal earning history–will likely be somewhere around $2200/month, or $26,400/year. If they were to continue working at $70,000/year while collecting SS, they would collect nothing. Nothing.

Here’s why:

$70,000 salary – $17,600 Social Security exclusion = $52,400. At the 2:1 reduction, that will eliminate $26,200 of that person’s Social Security payment—virtually all that they were scheduled to receive in the first place.

Therefore, the experts are quick to tell us, if you delay collecting until your FRA, then your payment will increase by nearly 8%/year and your lifetime total income lines will “cross” at around age 78. You’ll collect more over your lifetime if you delay the date at which you start taking Social Security. In addition, there is no earned wage “exclusion” limit at one’s FRA—no matter how much you earn, those earnings will not affect or reduce your Social Security payments.

This is why the conventional wisdom tells us, “Don’t take your Social Security until 66. Even better, don’t take it until 70. You’ll receive much more over your lifetime that way.”

That thinking is wrong. Back-loading one’s Social Security payments—especially starting them as late as age 70—is exactly the wrong approach for the average middle-class working person (the person earning between, say $50-60k/year and around $120k/year).

There is one thing that none of the so-called experts and financial websites ever take into account when recommending a Social Security timetable. Unfortunately, it is the critical thing, the only thing that really matters at all in the final analysis of retirement planning.

When recommending that retirees delay Social Security until 66 or 70 based strictly on the lifetime “numbers,” the experts fail to take into account this all-important consideration: Quality-of-life. It’s an indisputable and inescapable fact that as we age, our health deteriorates and our energy level diminishes. Our motivation to travel, our desire to learn and accomplish new things, our willingness and zest for socializing with others, all of that is far lower at age 75-80+ than it is from 65-70. It makes no sense—none—to optimize one’s retirement income for a time when it is of far less actual value to people. What good is having more money available to travel at 83 when your arthritis is so advanced that you can hardly travel into the kitchen without your walker?

Fortunately, there is an excellent solution. Remember the income exclusion amounts we spoke of earlier? From age 62-64, the income exclusion was only $17,600/year before it began to reduce a person’s SS payments.

But there is a little-known and inexplicably glossed over fact of the Social Security income exclusion and it is this: during the calendar year when a person goes from age 65 to 66 (their full retirement age), that income exclusion amount rises from $17,600 to $46,900! This has absolutely huge implications for SS planning.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that a person turns 66 (their FRA) in July and they earn a nice middle-manager salary of $85,000. Certainly, that’s a common situation that describes millions upon millions of workers. That person could begin taking their Social Security payments a full six months before their FRA while continuing to work and earning their full salary, without any reduction in their SS payments. In July of that year, they turn 66 and there is no income exclusion, so they can work earn and collect SS at the same time or they can retire.

But for the six months prior to their FRA, that person is collecting a very substantial portion of the full-retirement SS payment (age 65 payments are over 92% of the age 66 FRA payment) and they’re earning their full salary as well. That’s the key: by timing one’s SS collection to a $46,900 block of time before your FRA (in this example, six months), you come out well ahead by virtue of this “double-dipping.” Most importantly, it gives the person a truly meaningful, substantial retirement income when they can make the best use of it and need it most—in their mid-late 60’s.

This six months’ worth of “extra” Social Security collection for those six months prior to FRA more than makes up for delaying SS collection until FRA or later.

If this person’s SS payment at age 65 is, say, $2300/month, then for those six months they will have collected $13,800 in “extra” SS payments—while still collecting their full salary. They have that extra money in their pocket at age 65. An 8% increase at age 66 from $2300 to $2484/month is $2208 more per year. It will take that person over six years to make up that difference (13,800/2208 = 6.25 years) had they waited. Instead, they have the extra money when they are most able to make the best use of it and enjoy it: from age 66 to 72. If they continue working past their FRA, they will be even further ahead, since there is no income exclusion at one’s FRA.

Taking into account the Quality of Life consideration, it makes the most sense for a healthy individual to front-load the Social Security component of their retirement plan by taking SS for a $46,900 block of time prior to reaching their FRA in that calendar year. Such a strategy balances the conflicting but highly-desirable objectives of early retirement age vs. maximizing lifetime earnings in the most advantageous manner.

Don’t Fight the Other Guy’s Fight

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She nervously agrees, fearful that something is coming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AOC is the Democrats’ Voice

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

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

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

Some of her more pointed declarations:

The Green New Deal:

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

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

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

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

Medicare for all:

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

Blocking Amazon’s New York City headquarters:

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

 Abolishing ICE:

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

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

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

Probably not.

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona’s Department of Child Safety is Out of Control

In Arizona at the end of February, a family lost custody of their 3 children to the Department of Child Safety, or DCS, because of a fever. And now in late March they still don’t know when or even if they will regain custody. That will be decided by the DCS and the state’s court system. Not by the children’s parents.

This is about the state’s (in both the general and the specific sense of the word) treatment of parents who do not abide by their rules and regulations. And yes, it’s also – tangentially – about anti-vaxxers.

Let me be clear. My 8-year old son has been vaccinated thoroughly. As a child in Venezuela in the oil fields way back when, I along with my brother and sister used to get big mutha booster shots every year (with a bar of chocolate afterwards if I didn’t kick the nurses – imagine what happens today in our militarized world if a 7 or 8-year old kicks at a nurse). While my ability to do statistics or differential calculus is to be polite, limited, I don’t seem to have developed autism.

Are there some children who may be more vulnerable to conditions like autism, and who are affected by vaccinations, which might be a factor amongst others in their developing the condition? Perhaps yes, although that’s a debate that’s still ongoing. Should parents vaccinate their children? Yes, at least from some fairly serious diseases.

Like meningitis, for example.

Last February 25, a family brought a young child to a doctor in Tempe, Arizona because of a fever. Here’s azcentral.com with the story:

On February 25, the mother took her 2-year-old boy to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine clinic in Tempe, according to Chandler police records.

It was dinner time. But the toddler’s fever had spiked to over 100 degrees.

The doctor asked if the child had his vaccinations.

The mother said no.

Concerned that a lethargic child with a fever and lacking vaccinations could have meningitis, the doctor instructed the mother to take the child to the emergency department at Banner Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, according to attorneys at a March 7 court hearing following the removal of the children.

The child reportedly improved while at the doctor’s office and the parents took the child home and took its temperature and found the fever had gone. They called the doctor to say they wouldn’t take the child to the hospital, but the doctor insisted they should.

What followed was a staged escalation going back and forth between the DCS who had been informed presumably by the doctor and the family and the police. It ended like this, as azcentral.com reported:

It was after 1 a.m. when officers kicked down the family’s door. One officer carried a shield, while another was described as having “lethal coverage.” Officers pointing guns yelled, “Chandler Police Department,” and entered the house.

The father came to the door. Officers placed him in handcuffs and took him and the mother outside. Inside, they found a juvenile who said she was sick and had thrown up in her bed.

Officers said the home was “messy” with clothing piles and concrete floors. In the parent’s room, a shotgun lay next to the bed, according to police records.

The caseworker spoke with two of the children without their parents present. He told officers it was “necessary to obtain a temporary custody order” for the parents’ two other children, according to police records.

Since there was no “criminal incident” and because the mother refused, no photos were taken inside the home, according to the police records.

Neither of the parents was arrested.

Officials took the parents’ three children to Banner Cardon Medical Center.

Next stop for the 3 kids: foster care, as in 3 separate foster homes for them. Separated with strange people in a strange home because their sister or brother had had a fever (and apparently had RSV, a respiratory disease which can cause serious problems … like most minor infections can).

According to the parents’ attorneys the DSC is out to punish the parents because of their lack of cooperation with the bureaucracy that indeed has the power to remove and hold your children. And they can and will use a SWAT team to achieve that.

But the problem is far deeper and broader. It’s the fact that the DSC exists at all. That a government agency has extensive powers which it can and does abuse by reaching into homes and tearing apart families. Arizona passed legislation requiring warrants before this type of home invasion by DSC officials and police could be done, but it hasn’t helped much. Here’s azcentral.com again:

DCS placed 4,649 children into the foster-care system in the six-month period that ended December 2018, according to DCS data. In the six-month period prior to the July law, DCS removed 4,887 children.

That’s down from a high mark of 6,815 in fall 2015, when nearly 19,000 children were in the foster-care system and families and child-welfare advocates began pushing for a warrant law.

Is the anti-vaxxer movement a conspiracy-ridden fringe group? Maybe in some eyes, like that of the family doctor or the DSC officials, or the police officers or even the judge. But when you read the facts of this story, it’s hard not to think that anti-vaxxers’ paranoia is sometimes justified.

What is the situation like now?

On March 15, the father told The Republic that DCS had placed their three children with his parents.

“We get to see them again,” he said. “Thank God.”

He still can’t shake the night police kicked down their door and entered his home with guns drawn. He still can’t believe they took all three of their children.

He said he has asked DCS why the caseworker never presented himself and showed a warrant for removal, but he hasn’t received a clear answer.

“I know people have the right not to let the police into their home,” he said. “But if the caseworker had called me or knocked, and shown me their warrant, I would’ve let them in.”

He said home security video showed police had stated they had a DCS warrant for removal, but the family didn’t hear them because they were sleeping in the back bedrooms with their sick children.

The judge’s approval of DCS’ request for psychological evaluations has created another barrier to regaining custody of their children, he said. The wait for an evaluation is months, he said.

Just to be clear, the psychological evaluations will be done on the parents to ensure they are “fit” to have custody of their children. This is Gestapo/Soviet tactics. Break down your door in the middle of the night. Take away your children. Evaluate you and your spouse psychologically to see if you answer the right way and then decide if you can have your kids back.

This is an out-of-control bureaucracy acting in conjunction with a police force in a state that has something of a reputation for heavy handedness in its police departments (the exterminator from out of state that was shot in an apartment or hotel hallway as he crawled on his belly towards heavily armed policemen, as he was trying to satisfy the psychotic instructions of an unseen sheriff, for example). The result has been a nightmare for those parents.

There’s another story about anti-vaxxers in Oregon whose son came down with tetanus (lockjaw it used to be called because that’s what happens when muscles clench uncontrollably in your body) after getting cut playing in the yard. Here’s Alex Berezow of ACSH (American Council on Science and Health a sort of activist pro-all-things-chemistry/science group that does some interesting work) on his opinion of the parents of that boy who came close to dying a horrific death and who still reportedly hasn’t had a tetanus shot:

In my opinion, this is a clear-cut case of child abuse. There’s no moral difference between this case and that of parents who for bizarre religious reasons decide not to provide medical care to their children. The parents should lose custody of the boy, and they should do time in prison.

If you’re an anti-vaxxer, there should be consequences for your irrational, self-centered, destructive behavior.

In other words, the traditional weight of a family has zero valence here. And even in the case in Arizona, I suspect. That’s the thinking that leads to the DSC ripping 3 kids from their home.

Yes, perhaps at some point authorities have to intervene to protect children. But the possibility of abuse, as illustrated in Arizona but not in Oregon, is an unintended consequence we should all be wary of.

I’m sorry, that’s not right. The abuse of power by agencies like the DSC in Arizona is not an unintended consequence. It’s the raison d’etre:

To “rationally” deconstruct the family rather than only interfere in clear-cut cases of abuse.

I remember writing about the young girl in grade school who thought her parents were sleeping and was worried about getting to school and getting her homework in to the teacher on time. Her parents weren’t sleeping of course.

They were dead of an opioid overdose.

How do you deal with that? How do you try and prevent the opioid crisis that is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year?

It seems you DON’T do what the government has done over the past year or so. Especially the decisions that were taken by ex-AG Jeff Sessions who basically decided that the DEA would be the best qualified agency to ensure that a severe, chronic-pain sufferer’s dosages are adequate. Here’s why the former AG and the government in general have created unintended consequences as a result of their policy prescriptions for the opioid crisis.

They believed the myth that opioid abuse – the heart of the crisis – is essentially a case of patients abusing their pain medication.

It’s not. As Henry Miller and Josh Bloom write in their article in the Washington Examiner:

“True addiction in pain patients is rare. Many scholarly reviews have concluded that the addiction rate is less than one percent even in patients who have required long-term opioid medication for severe pain due to injury or illness. The current death toll from opioid use is largely the result of abuse, not medical use, of these drugs. And yet, as of last October, 33 states had instituted laws that restrict opioid prescribing in some way.”

And this misguided belief has led to true pain sufferers to be deprived of the medication that makes their lives bearable. As Miller and Bloom write:

“Enter the law of unintended consequences. Opioids, including fentanyl, morphine, and hydromorphone, some of our most important and potent analgesics, which are commonly used in patients with advanced cancer and for pain control after surgery, are now in shortage, according to the Food and Drug Administration. All of these drugs had their manufacturing quotas reduced by the feds
.
Thus, the feds’ actions have succeeded not in ameliorating the scourge of opioid abuse and overdoses, which results from drugs made in China and elsewhere abroad smuggled across our borders, but in unnecessarily causing several other problems. These include a shortage of critical drugs produced by legitimate manufacturers and expanding the market and boosting the street price for illegal, dangerous imports.”

The real problem is twofold:
• People who for a number of reasons are already substance abusers turning to illegally-made, smuggled opioids to get high, and often dying as a result.
• A flood of those illegally-produced and smuggled opioids entering America with China bearing much of the blame as well as both ports of entry in general and the southern border also being responsible for the crisis.

By having the DEA decide what the level of prescription opioids should be, the government is ignoring the complex nature of painkillers and how each individual patient reacts differently, not only based on weight and body mass index but also on other factors like their metabolism which affects how they absorb the painkiller. You can’t impose standardized dosages on patients. And because the DEA is effectively doing that, real pain sufferers are going without sufficient painkillers. Their lives are literally unbearable in many cases.

As Miller (a physician and molecular biologist) and Bloom (a PhD in organic chemistry) argue:

“The decades-long war on drugs, which has never succeeded in controlling abuse or addiction, has now mistakenly declared American drug companies and doctors to be the enemy. In the name of addressing a crisis, we are focusing on the wrong targets and sacrificing freedoms in a new, dangerous way. That’s a prescription for disaster.”

Yes Mr. ex-AG Sessions, there is a moral problem here that’s also a societal problem. Healthy, happy and reasonably fulfilled people don’t take opioids for the fun of it. They have a problem. But the blunt instruments you and the DEA put together don’t even target the real culprits (who are also the victims of this crisis of course). They go after honest patients trying to deal with unbearable pain and the doctors and pharmacists who help them – a few notorious over-prescribers excepted.

Sessions and the DEA mis-diagnosed the problem. But of course, they would. They’re lawyers, bureaucrats and cops. Not doctors. What do we call that?

Quacks, I seem to remember was the term.

As the House passes a resolution condemning a fought-over list of bigotries – including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and white supremacy – with reportedly 23 GOP members voting no because of the inclusion of Islamophobia and white supremacy in what was originally supposed to be a Democrat-controlled response to Representative Omar’s remarks, there is an interesting idea for a further resolution.

Supreme policy wonk Mark Jacobs (who has burrowed deep and wide into the details of healthcare policy for the GOP) suggests in The Federalist that the GOP use a Motion to Recommit (a procedure whereby the minority in the House gets a final shot at amending a bill brought forward by the majority) to force a vote on the Green New Deal. This would be the flipside of the tactic used last week when the GOP used a motion to recommit to get moderate Democrats to agree to notify immigration authorities when illegals try to purchase guns. Supposedly we all want less guns because they say that means less violence, right? What’s not to like about that?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blew a gasket at a closed-door meeting, according to the Washington Post:

Ocasio-Cortez, the unquestioned media superstar of the freshman class, upped the ante, admonishing the moderates and indicating she would help liberal activists unseat them in the 2020 election. Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, said she told her colleagues that Democrats who side with Republicans ‘are putting themselves on a list.’

‘She said that when activists ask her why she had to vote for a gun safety bill that also further empowers an agency that forcibly injects kids with psychotropic drugs, they’re going to want a list of names and she’s going to give it to them,’ Trent said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

So now by using a Motion to Recommit which entails a vote on the Green New Deal the GOP would be appealing to radical progressives in the Democratic Party to vote for the enormously expensive and poorly thought-out plan, and force moderate Dems to decide if they would really vote for this sort of top-down ecological Maoism.

Yes, it’s theatrics and it’s meant to prod and provoke and reveal the divisions within the Democratic Party. But the fascinating question is, how would AOC react? I have an idea it might go something like this:

If you think I’m letting a bunch of old white guys get to decide when and how we save America by banning the internal combustion engine and slaughtering farting cows and selling Amtrak to the Chinese so they can build high-speed trains where our highways once stood, you have no idea who you’re dealing with! This resolution is immoral because of who you guys are. Not because of what it contains! Don’t you guys get it?

That’s the thing about intersectionality. Hypocrisy disappears because it is now irrelevant. You see you can change an idea, or a policy stance perhaps based on evidence that has convinced you to shift your position. Or on the polls and the fact that now your party has the majority. But changing who you are is much harder (and more expensive) to do. And we the identity police will decide who you are. Not you. You don’t even have control of who you are. We do. Ha. Ha.

So, as delicious as Mark Jacob’s idea is, it won’t work. The Democrats who would actually have the decency to be uncomfortable with the blatant hypocrisy of not voting for a Motion to Recommit on the Green New Deal (which will supposedly save us from destruction) are now cowed into silence. It will be AOC and her Gang of Three who will explain why hypocrisy is gone, dead, vanished, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible.

When identity is everything, then hypocrisy is nothing.

Of course, AOC would vote against such a Motion to Recommit without a trace of guilt or discomfort. She’d in fact do it in a bout of righteous rage. It’s all about who she is and the crazed paradises she’s pointing towards, not what she says or how to get there.

Danger Abounds for 2020 Democratic Presidential Contenders

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Washington Post’s Daily 202, penned by James Hohmann, tried today to put the focus on another Paul Manafort screw up that may perhaps indicate some sort of cooperation with Russia on polling data. Unfortunately for Hohmann, the sources he quotes actually admit that most of that data was public anyway. Here’s the Daily 202:

“A person knowledgeable about the situation” tells the Times that both Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Trump clinched the Republican nomination: “Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person. Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said.”

Anonymous sources who have at least 2 or 3 degrees of separation from whatever actually happened are telling us that perhaps some of the data was not publicly available. This sure feels like Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS still hard at work feeding pliant journalists to ensure the Mueller probe stays front and center.

Again, Paul Manafort seems to be the type of lobbyist who would do whatever he thought would bring him economic benefit short of commissioning a hit on somebody or planting bombs in apartment buildings to get elected, something Putin is suspected of having engineered back at the turn of the century. But as of yet there is hardly any real clinching evidence that Manafort was looking for Russian help to get Trump elected while at the same time hoping to pay off supposed debts owed to people in Russia.

Is it impossible? Of course not, but let’s wait for the final report.

However, Hohmann seems to have failed in his quest to get the media to maintain the Mueller probe at center stage, because all the buzz right now is about Trump walking out of a meeting with Pelosi and Schumer because of Nancy’s rigid insistence on not a penny for a wall.

The Mueller probe is already a rerun on declining ratings, slipping out of people’s consciousness unless it produces some dramatic evidence.

It’s not The Apprentice. It’s no longer even The Probe.

It’s The Wall everybody.

And the Wall is just a symbol (it’s more than that of course, it’s part of any comprehensive solution to border security but it’s mostly a symbol right now) for deep divisions over what America’s immigration policy should be. Which of course begs the question of what exactly is the Democratic Party’s position on immigration?

But the issue has been ripped out of the hands of politicians who were, on the whole, never that eager to have rigorous application of the law as well as ripped out of the hands of those in business who don’t mind paying cheaper wages. It is now in the hands of hardline activists who like any good radical will continue pushing out the envelope on what constitutes immigration and what rights a sovereign state should have over its borders until the envelope (that is the bundle of rules and regulations that control a nation’s immigration) is a shredded, flapping bit of recycled paper blown along the sidewalks of Laredo.

Trump took on the evasive and hypocritical conventional wisdom on immigration and its economic consequences and was in large part elected because of that. And now he’s facing the hard left who have a vision of borders and sovereignty that is orders of magnitude beyond anything Democrat and GOP Senators proposed a few years ago. So, this fight does truly matter and if President Trump really did mean what he said (despite the inflammatory rhetoric he loves in order to provoke) then he should keep fighting this fight.

Congress is another matter. And independents – as Byron York has pointed out – are also another matter and a key and diminished constituency that he has to convince in order to win the War of the Wall.

Did his speech do that? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fight continues regardless. And that may now mean considering using emergency powers to get the border wall funded.

Which will mean a whole new fight in the courts perhaps all the way up to SCOTUS.

That may not be a bad thing in the longer run. In the shorter run, it will get a little rough, to say the least.

At Tarleton State University in Texas, a student journalist at the university paper reported on apparent unwanted advances by a professor towards a student. Her adviser – assistant professor and long-time journalist Dan Malone – was sanctioned by the university for running afoul of Title IX regulations at the school. That’s because according to the regulations, any alleged sexual harassment must be reported to university authorities first.

Title IX started as a way to end discrimination against women in sports at universities, but it now has become a framework for all sorts of administrative rules and regulations that universities are increasingly using to clamp down on free speech. Here’s a part of an article in Real Clear Investigations by Steve Miller:

Although Title IX requires schools to create their own policies guided by federal law, it gives them leeway in how they are shaped. This has led to a mish-mash of policies. “Some universities have chosen to remain silent on mandatory reporting,” said Jill Engle, a professor of clinical law at Penn State University and the author of a 2015 paper on mandatory reporting. Others have crafted their own approaches.

The University of Northern Iowa simply requires any employee who is “aware of” incidents involving harassment to report them, while students are “encouraged” to do so. At the University of Oregon, an employee is obligated to report an incident if he or she has “reportable evidence” of a problem. At Texas A&M, all employees must report “alleged or suspected” activity.

Administrative law – which is essentially what Title IX is – does not have the checks and balances of the Judiciary because it operates under the Executive as part of the administrative state where rules and regulations by the boatload are churned out continually. It is more quasi-judicial so the rights one has in the standard criminal or civil proceedings are not enjoyed here. They are far more conditional and therefore not really rights at all.

The solution to this seems to be what a Texas A&M (Tarleton is part of the A&M university system) spokesperson suggested:

A private sector journalist is one thing, but a university employee isn’t covered [by the state shield law. If someone wants an exception, he will probably have to get the law changed.

One can imagine the furious pushback should the GOP mention the possibility of modifying Title IX to avoid the spreading censorship on campuses across America. Perhaps it will take a centrist Democrat – a woman of course – to take that bull by the horns and amend Title IX. But that’s a long way off for now. Meanwhile, campus journalists be warned. Your rights to free speech do not exist as a university member. You may express yourself, but only as long as you ask permission from the proper university authorities. And they may very well say no.

Just one more example of how free expression is far more difficult at most of America’s universities and colleges than it is off campus. That might sound like a tiring conservative cliché, but it’s real and should be troubling to most of us.

The Court’s One-Way Drift

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

The Trump Economy and Buyer Psychology

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

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

He has done so. The facts are irrefutable:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

No Such Thing as “Democratic Socialism”

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Miller was of course a trusted aide of then-Senator Sessions before he moved to Trump’s team in early 2016. And hardline views on illegals were something he, Senator Sessions, and Candidate Trump agreed on wholeheartedly. So, it’s hardly a surprise that Miller seems to be taking credit for the zero-tolerance enforcement policy that went into effect this April and which apparently has resulted in heart-breaking scenes of young children taken from their parents.

If you listen to AG Sessions, this zero-tolerance application of the law is a good in and of itself and is so because of moral reasons. Quoting Romans 13 – the 13th chapter of Paul the Apostle’s letter to the Romans – Sessions stated:

I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.

In other words, it is righteous to obey the law because laws ultimately flow from God’s authority. This has, of course, unleashed a flood of criticism from both sides of the aisle and from Presidents past and even their wives. And even some cautious criticism from within the White House, on the part of people like Kellyanne Conway. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has voiced concerns of children “exposed to irreparable harm and trauma” and the Southern Baptists Convention has called for family unity to be a priority of urgently needed immigration reform.

At National Review, Dan McLaughlin, a Catholic, delves into Paul’s epistle to the Romans, and links chapter 12’s ending to the beginning of chapter 13 to underscore the limits of Christian submission to earthly authority.

The problem is, to President Trump the separation of children from their parents when they cross the border between the official border crossings (at the actual border crossings you reportedly can ask for asylum and you will not have your children separated from you as your request is processed) is not a moral problem, but rather a tactical weapon to force Democrats to bargain with the White House and pay up for a border wall and further measures to tighten enforcement.

This is classic Trump double-down and hit back harder tactics. Will it work this time?

It may resonate with some of his base, but it seems he has picked the wrong target – young, helpless children – to try and gain leverage for his goal of greater border enforcement. While crimes committed by illegals that have been released back into the community, or that have been deported and have returned multiple times, are stories that tend to gain support with many conservatives, populists, and some independents, screaming and terrified children do not fit that bill.

This is a godsend to Democrats, and a bit of a nightmare for Republicans. One assumes that this story will dominate – which Trump doesn’t seem to mind at all – and one assumes that polling will not be favorable to the President. But there’s another factor at play, just as in the case of the DACA deadline back in March that suddenly became irrelevant, and that’s because of the courts.

Will a lawsuit produce an injunction ordering the White House to undo its executive order (whether there was an actual order or not) that started requiring zero-tolerance application of the laws? Or is Nancy Pelosi busy on the phone begging her pals on the Ninth Circuit, and is Senator Schumer pleading to any other Circuit that will listen to him, to please NOT rule on this for at least a few months until mid-terms are almost upon us?

Of course, Congress could rewrite immigration laws and the Senate could gather across the aisle to pull together enough votes to make their immigration reform law veto-proof. Which is kind of what the Constitution suggests should happen. Unfortunately, with politicians focused on getting re-elected, it seems much more likely this will end up very quickly in the courts. The question is, what will this issue do the GOP? Good luck with the vote on the two immigration bills. Speaker Ryan’s work has been blown up real good by the President.

But that, in the end, is the point. Immigration is a very divisive issue for America, and only the GOP is really showing both sides of that debate. The Democratic party, on the other hand, has long settled on one side of the immigration debate. Will this still be an issue by Labor Day? It very well could be, despite the unending roller-coaster ride through one issue after another with this administration.

Or will Trump somehow turn pictures of wailing and helpless kids, separated from their parents by uniformed officials, to his advantage? A ridiculous possibility. But not impossible.