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.

The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, one could argue, helped give birth to the administrative state, although it would take progressive presidents like Woodrow Wilson and his income tax, and FDR’s government works to really kick start the bureaucratic leviathan. Regardless of when it truly became a force in American political life, the administrative state is now and has been for some time a de facto branch of government. Separate for all intents and purposes, and if perhaps not quite equal, nonetheless often surprisingly powerful.

These past few days, then, have seen some major skirmishes – perhaps even battles – played out between Congress, the Executive and the Administrative State which theoretically and constitutionally should be a subordinate part of the Executive. Oh yes, and the courts too. A play in 3 acts one could say.

  • Act 1 & 2: The Supreme Court has sided with contractually based compulsory and binding arbitration as stated in the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925, and ruled against an employee of Epic Systems Corp of Wisconsin in the Epic Systems Corp v. Lewis case. A ruling in favor of collective bargaining rights would have held that the case should have been decided not under the Federal Arbitration Act but rather under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, passed by FDR’s Congress in order to boost union power and collective bargaining rights. It needed an independent agency to administer it’s quasi-judicial functions and so the National Relations Labor Board was born at the same time. The Supreme Court decision means that individual arbitration as enforced by employer contracts supersedes collective bargaining rights. It was a 5-4 split decision with the dissenters apparently bitterly opposed to the majority, and with Gorsuch writing the majority opinion. A blow to the power of quasi-judicial independent agencies like the NRLB.
  • Act 3: On Monday President Trump signed a Congressional resolution that negates an administrative guidance – it didn’t even rise to the level of a regulation – issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It dealt with dealer mark-ups in car loans and apparently was meant to correct what was seen as racial bias on the part of auto dealers when establishing rates for car loans. The industry objected and said the studies (one by the CFPB itself) used dubious methodology. Despite just being guidance the CFPB enforced their guidance with an avalanche of lawsuits to ensure compliance. In Congress, Republicans and some Democrats used the Congressional Review Act from 1996 to vote to repeal the guidance under a simple majority. Here’s what Sylvan Lane wrote in The Hill:

The move caps off an unprecedented use of congressional power, as lawmakers had never before passed such a resolution to revoke informal guidance from a federal agency.

Ok, just a second. Yes, maybe it’s unusual given Congress’ propensity as of late to hand off the details of legislation to independent agencies and to let the courts eventually rule on the matter. But unprecedented? It seems more like a case of Congress returning to it’s original precedent. Debating and passing the nation’s laws, in as much detail as necessary to make the laws function and be understood by voters.

And of course, the Mueller probe is increasingly becoming about how independent the Department of Justice – created by Congress and part of the Executive power and therefore beholden to the White House – really is rather than whether there actually was any collusion with Russia. And also how partisan the FBI – which operates under the jurisdiction of the DOJ – has become.

So, it could be that some 135 years after the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act – which was meant as a way to prevent patronage in government appointments – has found it’s bookend, marking the end of its useful life. Of course, it will live on for years, but at least now it’s usefulness can finally start to be questioned.

The Liberal Media Cause the Left’s Incivility towards Conservatives

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ford Doesn’t Have a Better Idea

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

They came at night, the Lakota choppers crossing the dry srcubland and setting down in a hostile, violent region where borders dissolved in the desert hills and those wishing to harm America moved quietly and quickly through the darkness.

As U.S. Central Commander General Joseph Votel said:

But again, the hard part I think is in front of us, and that is stabilizing these areas, consolidating our gains, getting people back into their homes, addressing the long-term issues of reconstruction and other things that will have to be done.

Hence the National Guard arriving at night. Like in Iraq.

Oh, right. General Votel wasn’t talking about the Southern Border. He meant Syria. And how silly to expect that the U.S. military would be concerned about securing its homeland’s borders when there is an urgent need to attempt the fool’s errand of building a nation state from the rubble of Syria. Here’s what Matthew Brodsky writes in National Review in the latest iteration of neocon-speak:

Chasing every Sunni jihadist down a desert rabbit hole misses the larger and more threatening trend that the Pentagon already identified in January in its own National Defense Strategy, namely, that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.” In other words, the decade-long U.S. focus on counterterrorism strategies enabled and empowered dangerous adversarial states such as Iran and Russia at the expense of America’s position in the world.

That is why a premature withdrawal from Syria would likely match the disastrous and hasty American exit from Iraq and be far worse than President Obama’s efforts to “lead from behind” in Libya. In fact, it would double down on Obama’s worst mistakes, which set the table for the Islamic State’s rise and enriched and enabled Iran while allowing Russia to transform itself into the region’s chief powerbroker.

The security experts will always find a compelling reason to increase and spread the presence of American troops around the world, like the blossoming of a thousand PhD theses detailing yet another new world order. Be wary of the wonks and cautious about extended stays in the Middle East.

The Middle East dissolved in flames because of the Iraq War. Troops arrived in Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein, and then found their mission had expanded to include reconstructing a state that no longer existed and was deeply divided by hostile factions with the fatal fault line of Sunni-Shiite divisions running throughout the territory that was once a unified country. Unified by a bloodthirsty madman. Obama’s early withdrawl, in other words, may not have been as vital to the emergence of ISIS as is thought. But we really have no way of knowing if more boots on the ground for longer would have greatly helped stabilize Iraq. Remember the troops that helped crush ISIS did not go in there to help reconstruct Iraq or Syria. They went in to destroy ISIS.

So moving those metaphors North and slightly West, and ahead in time by basically a decade, we now have Syria as the next must-fix nation in the region. With the bood-thirsty madman called al-Assad still in power. And supported by Russia as well as Iran. That should be a clear warning. To experts like Brodsky, it’s a wonderful new opportunity.

But sending a few hundred National Guardsmen and women to help secure America’s southern border is seen as a foolish impulse on the part of President Trump. A crazed policy put into motion by a restless set of early morning Tweets. To be resisted by progressive governors who seem to care more about defending their cities’ sanctuary status than aiding in trying to keep the border a safe and well-managed frontier.

There is no resource more vital to the United States than it’s men and women of the military. Even, perhaps, more-so than its creativity and its innovating genius. A military that is governed by an elected civilian government and places those men and women in harm’s way reluctantly – or should – only to help the government secure its most pressing objectives. Partisan sneering at a reasonable redeployment of the National Guard, and expert doom-mongering over a reasonable questioning of how long troops should stay in Syria, reduces those men and women to bargaining chips in a policy debate where their lives will be at risk.

Send the Guard and bring back some more of those troops from Syria. They are both reasonable decisions by the President. And while we’re on the topic of Iranian influence in Syria, let’s look at that Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action, which has helped fund Iran’s terrorist and hegemonic activity.

Speak now, or forever hold your peace. And forever is a short time away when you’re 97 years old. Consider the case of two men who are 3 years (actually a little less) away from turning 100 years old, and what they have felt compelled to speak about recently.

John Paul Stevens is the retired Supreme Court Justice (1975 – 2010) who has written an op-ed in the New York Times calling for the repeal of the 2nd amendment. Here’s a quote from the article, a quote that refers to the SCOTUS case that explicitly enshrined or at least confirmed and supported an individual’s right to bear arms:

In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.

In other words, prior to D.C. v Heller, and especially the period after 1939’s U.S. v. Miller, the Supreme Court’s view of the right to bear arms was essentially a collective right, one that was based on a narrow reading of the 2nd amendment and which placed emphasis on the 2nd’s opening two clauses:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,

Never mind that – as David Harsanyi in the Federalist points out – for the Founders, the threat of disarmament of its citizenry was the real threat. And that overbearing government regulation of individual rights to bear arms is not what that the words well regulated refer to.

After D.C. v. Heller an individual’s right to bear arms became the emphasis and John Paul Stevens – a dissenting vote on that case as he says – wishes to overturn that decision by repealing the 2nd. He says it would be easy, in fact.

Ok, one can assume his mind is still fairly agile but to think that the legislative requirements to repeal an amendment to the constitution – especially the 2nd – would be “easy” seems a stretch to put it politely. Plus the left is furious at Stevens for giving the game away. We lied, we’re gunning for the 2nd!

The other 97-year old is George P. Shultz – Reagan’s long-serving Secretary of State. And he also has a really big plan to deal with climate change: the Carbon Dividend Strategy. Here are its four pillars if you will:

  • A rising carbon tax
  • Carbon dividend payments “to all Americans”
  • Rollback of environmental regulations now that the price of carbon-based fuels and products that use them would have the so-called externalities of their environmental costs included in their price
  • Border adjustments to take into account the carbon content of imports

Easy-peasy just like repealing the 2nd right!?

Senator Tom Cotton for example would love how WalMart would have to pay way more for it’s imports from carbon-luvin’ China and the senator would never engage in legislative moves that stalled any and all attempts at bringing the legislation to a vote on the floor. To mention just one senator. Never mind state governments. And industry associations. What’s the carbon content of Facebook by the way? And do they use any Russian-sourced Gas to power the turbines that create the electricity that keeps FB’s servers that hold all your personal data humming along?

And the federal bureaucracy and Congress of course would eagerly roll back all sorts of environmental regulations now that consumers could make rational decisions based on the adjusted price of the carbon content in any product and service they consume.

And it would be a piece of cake to figure out what the carbon content of every product and service in America and the World actually is. And carbon dividends would never turn into an enormous entitlement that would be perpetually underfunded because Congress keeps diverting the monies from the carbon tax to instead use in their unrolled back regulations and pork barrel spending.

Will these two nonagenarians shift the debate on climate change and gun control? They likely already have, but actually trying to make either of their ideas work may be more of a nightmare than a dream. But speak they must. And speak they did.

Nobody says thea-tuh anymore. Not even people my age. Maybe grandma when she’s making fun of someone or has had a tipple too many.

So I won’t say that David Marcus works in the thea-tuh (as well as being a correspondent for The Federalist and publishing elsewhere, like the NYTimes occasionally.)

I’ll just say he runs a thee-tur company in Brooklyn apparently, and has an interesting take on Pennsylvania’s 18th District Special Election this Tuesday. The one in which Connor Lamb narrowly appears to have beaten Rick Saccone, the GOP’s disappointing candidate.

While the GOP and the media in general are anguishing, or delighting themselves, over the possibility of a Big Blue Wave in the coming mid-term elections, Marcus points out quite reasonably that the Democrat party has to decide what kind of platform they’re going to run on this fall.

  • Hard-left identity politics? Or …
  • Moderate and centrist policies like those held by Connor Lamb?

That would include pro-life positions or at least, in Lamb’s case, a stance that identifies as pro-life while accepting the left’s idea that Planned Parenthood should continue to receive funding from taxpayers. That’s not very pro-life, but it’s a ways to the center from what appears to be Democrat orthodoxy that claims abortions as healthcare. That also includes knowing how to handle an AR-15, something more than a few of us can’t lay claim to, but that Connor Lamb can, and he showed voters that he did on video for his campaign..

So after all the celebrating by progressives and left-leaning media over the victory of a pro-life and not-gun-phobic candidate in Western Pennsylvania, the question then becomes: will candidates like Connor Lamb be the exception to Democrats’ campaign for the mid-terms? Operating at the margins and only praised when they win an election and then shut down by party leaders the rest of the time? Or will the Democrat Party grudgingly accept that in many districts which they want to flip, radical candidates will not do the job?

Right now that question has been pushed to the background amid all the gloating over how supposedly Trumpism only works for Trump and maybe no longer even that. It’s all about how Trump undercuts candidates and has staked his presidency on mistaken candidates in Alabama and now Pennsylvania. Yes, the GOP is being roiled every week by President Trump, but the divisions on the other side are real and do matter. They will matter even more if Democrats take back either or both Houses of Congress.

The Democrats have to decide if they will continue to ignore large swaths of America that they are openly hostile towards under their current progressive leadership. And who Hillary continues to blame for her loss in 2016, to such an extent that many in her party truly and heartily wish she would shut up.

So let the celebrations continue over a district that will be re-drawn and which Connor Lamb will have to contest once again. Who and what the Democrats are is just as much a question as who and what the Republicans are.

Play Ball!

© 2018 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Here’s a thought and I’d love to hear some responses.

There are about 120,000,000 households in the US. That’s about 2.75 people per household, since the total US population is around 330,000,000 people.

Now, the poverty rate is around 15% or roughly 50,000,000 people living in poverty. I realize that poverty is a relative term, whose meaning changes over time and in comparison to other countries. There is a huge difference between living between “poverty” here and living in poverty in one of the poorest countries in Africa. The meaning and nature of “poverty” can also be said to be quite different in the 1930’s to what it is today.

Nonetheless, let’s not get bogged down in those semantic particulars. Let’s just agree that “poverty” means whatever you understand it to be.

Liberal Democrats are always carping about so-called income inequality, the gap between what the richest and poorest make, or the difference between a CEO’s compensation and that of their average employee. In reality, it’s a non-issue since one person’s income is pretty much totally independent of another’s. Your neighbor’s financial fortunes do not affect yours. If they suddenly hit Powerball, the income inequality between the two of you has abruptly skyrocketed to astronomical proportions, yet, for you, nothing has changed. Your financial ability to provide for your family and pay your bills is totally unaffected by whether your neighbor’s income is equal to yours or 1000 times greater than yours. The economic concept of “income inequality” is a hoax, a straw man, vaporware. It’s merely a liberal pretext to justify higher taxes on the wealthy and create evermore income redistribution policies to buy voting support.

However…what if there was a solution to poverty? Immediate, total, complete, permanent? There is.

Jeff Bezos Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Warren Buffet. They own Amazon and the Washington Post, Microsoft, Apple and Berkshire Hathaway. They have lots of dough—combined, over 500 billion dollars. Bezos’ personal fortune alone is estimated to grow by 2.8 billion dollars/day, an amount normal people can’t actually comprehend.

They could combine to give everyone in the country a few thousand bucks. and they wouldn’t even notice. $76 billion (that’s four thousand bucks to every person in America, young, old, black, white, brown, chartreuse, any/all genders, etc.), to them is ppfffftttt, nothing. That’s 76 billion. They’ve got 500. In a month, they’ll have 75 billion more. In two months, 150 billion more.

In English: It’d be like giving away 76 dollars if you had 500 bucks in your pocket. It’d be like buying dinner for yourself and a friend.

Tomorrow. They could do this tomorrow. They’re generous, caring, feeling, compassionate, concerned, green, altruistic, liberal icons. So they should, right?

Let’s look at households—120 million. 15% are in poverty, so that’s 18 million households living in poverty. How much debt are they in? Let’s look at that realistically. What will it take to get them out of debt, pay off their bills? One thousand each? 5 thou? 10 grand for each household to get the lights back on, buy some decent clothes, fix the ’02 Olds, send Jr. to community college? Just enough to get them out of poverty. Let’s say an average of 10 grand for 18 million households.

That’s 180 billion. They have 500 billion now. In two months, they’ll have 650 billion. Two months after that, they’ll have 800 billion. They can easily afford the 180 and still fly first-class to Marseille for vacation.

The interesting thing is why no Democrat/liberal politicians have called for this. The Dems seem to favor wealth re-distribution to directly help the impoverished. Here is income-redistribution to the nth degree, exactly like the Dems like it. It’s perfect. (I have a sneaking suspicion that Dem politicians only resent Republican fortunes, like those infamous brothers they’re always complaining about. It seems as if Democratic/liberal fortunes get a pass.)

Nonetheless, the Big Four—liberal or not—could make their donation directly to the Treasury, who has all the data, names and addresses of each family living below the poverty line. The Four could make a wire transfer tomorrow. Checks could go out in two weeks. Poverty would be over by the beginning of the baseball season.

Play ball!