Are you scornfully offended over the allegations in Fire and Fury? Because of what Trump’s administration perhaps, possibly, maybe did in its first months in office? Or are you incensed because Michael Wolff does things like misspell “public” as “pubic” on what seems to be more than one occasion in what is a rushed and sloppy, often inaccurate, as well as a nasty, gossipy, insider’s/Bannon’s-knifing-in-the-kidneys of a book?

Never mind.

Does stable-genius make you laugh or cringe?

Doesn’t matter anymore. Why?

Oprah is coming. In 2 years, 9 months, and 25 days. On November 3, 2020, Oprah will save us all with a warm smile, a big hug, and maybe a new car!

Suddenly Tom Steyer says he will focus on funneling tens of millions into Democratic candidates’ campaigns. and will not run for office. Is he thinking of a cabinet level job? Imagine Joe Biden’s face as he watched the Golden Globes and “the speech.” Imagine Kamala Harris thinking: I can’t even think of running anyway and hoping for Vice President because Oprah will likely have to pick a guy as her running mate. Imagine Bernie Sanders thinking: what do I do now? Will my base still stick with me?

Because none of them and the other less known but qualified candidates – like Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper who has policy chops and a fair bit of legislative experience – would ever think of trying to run against an Oprah campaign. Would they? Or pointing out that her policy experience is nil. Would they? Or having their backers fund a little opposition research on her: and not just going back through the thousands of hours of tapes of her show, but really digging up some dirt. Maybe something financial? Tax liabilities anyone? Undeclared income? (even if it’s a case of oversight). Relationships with Hollywood abusers. Would they?

For the most fought over job in the world, in which people are willing to do almost anything to get elected as President of the United States of America, yes they would. At least some of them would. Maybe even the GOP too. Is Fusion GPS is getting a lot of calls?

Oprah, like Trump is going to have to expend her brand, her capital, almost immediately. It’s already started in the media in fact. She’s going to have defend and answer and deal with a level of scrutiny that only someone like Trump, or her friend Obama can advise her on what that feels like.

Is she tough enough to deal with that? Maybe she is, but we will certainly find out, one way or another. Is she nasty enough to swing hard when cornered? Swinging back can be with any tone you can manage to put together: remember noxious Harry Reid who sounded like a concerned elementary school teacher while setting off fire storms in the Senate. Is Oprah flinty enough to eviscerate a Kamala Harris during a debate with a warm smile and a compassionate tone?

Or can she somehow rewrite the rules once again – after Trump rewrote them by breaking them and still getting elected? How would that look? What would that sound like? Before we talk about a possible President Oprah, we need to consider Candidate Oprah and how that would work out.

But wait a minute. Can we actually say Candidate Oprah?? Isn’t it Candidate Winfrey? Wouldn’t it be President Winfrey? Doesn’t have the same ring, does it? Sounds like the frustrated goal of a cautious small-c conservative from the Mid-West who might have lost the nomination to, say, William Jennings Bryan in 1896.

Oprah – magnificent, compassionate and generous – would have to become Winfrey, with at least a handful of policy issues, or a few ideas, to rally those pre-disposed to her around her quest for nomination and subsequent run at the presidency. What those issues could be is still up in the air. She and/or her advisors would have to narrow them down and choose from among them, some sort of platform.

And in doing so would have to expend her precious and substantial personal capital on accumulating enough political capital to survive a campaign against her rivals and then against President Trump.

Goodbye Oprah. Hello Winfrey.

Then again, this is all just speculation that a current set of rules in politics will continue to hold. And that she will in fact run. Will Oprah instead somehow remain Oprah? Could she manage to become – not the first female and second African-American president of America – but rather the first First-Named President of the United States?

What’s in a Last Name? Right Oprah? Liberate us from the tyranny of family and tradition that have been painstakingly built up over generations by hard-working American families and now are under siege by the current flood of identity-politics radicalism. Freedom from family! We give you a shining new dawn:

The Age of Oprah. President Oprah.

This was a brazen act, a defiant challenge to the powers that be that was slapped down with a swift ferocity within a short while of it’s being released to the public.

Oh yes, and also today on Wednesday there’s news about Steve Bannon’s spat with President Trump.

But let’s return to the first case: Paul Manafort’s lawsuit against the Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller for overstepping their authority. It’s a long shot, given that Manafort has been charged with 12 violations of the law, an admittedly dramatic beefing up by Mueller’s team of what are essentially charges of money laundering and lying. And what is essentially a result of failing to register as a foreign agent, a crime that is usually dealt with by requiring the offending party (often lobbyists) to duly register. Not this time however.

Does Manafort’s past list of clients provoke at the very least uneasiness on the part of most of us? Of course. Do the charges against Manafort have anything to do with any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin’s regime in Moscow? Not so far. And that’s essentially Manafort´s legal strategy apparently. The order signed by Rod Rosenstein back on May 5, 2017 is now being attacked in Manafort’s lawsuit as too broad, seeing it in part says:

(b) The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intellligence on March 20, 2017, including:

(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and

(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and

(iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. 600.4(a).

(c) If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.

It’s parts (ii) and (iii) of (b) and (c) which may prove to be most damaging for Paul Manafort, seeing that the order basically allows Mueller’s team free range to dig into financial transactions of any sort that they deem of interest. Not sure Manafort is keen on that.

Yes, (b) (ii) and (iii), and (c) are fishing expeditions for the most part. Is that appropriate for a special counsel? The courts will decide and so far opinion has been dismissive of Manafort’s lawsuit. But it will be interesting to see how the courts rule and what their rulings might imply about a special counsel’s reach in general.

On the other hand why bother with details of lawsuits concerning special counsels and deputy AG’s when you have Steve “Fire and Fury” Bannon using the T word in Michael Wolff’s soon to be released book? One can imagine the curious mixture of wonder, glee and apprehension in Democrat (and Special Counsel) circles …

How do we spin this without seeming like Nazi-loving alt-right white supremacists?

The specific quote in question that apparently infuriated the president is the one where Bannon tells Wolff that Donald Jr, Jared Kushner, and Manafort should have high-tailed it to the FBI as soon as they finished their meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin. Because they didn’t, and because – according to Wolff’s book – Bannon thought they would have loved to set up a meeting with Trump right there and then, they therefore engaged in a “treasonous” act.

So. The President is furious with Bannon. Some Never Trumpers like David French are proud of the President’s angry dismissal of all things Bannon. And Steve Bannon himself may find himself at the receiving end of a subpoena ordering him to appear before Mueller’s investigators.

Is the Mueller investigation metastasizing into vicious and petty inter-party and intra-party partisan dueling? Or is Steve Bannon potentially an important witness now? Or is he just a disruptive and opinionated outsider as far as the Russia Probes are concerned?

Keep in mind, this is a book by Michael Wolff about Steve Bannon’s time in the White House. It is not a Comey memorandum written on a laptop in a limousine after a meeting with the President. It is far less than that, and Bannon’s words should be viewed with the same disgusted skepticism by his legions of detractors as they were viewed before this book was pre-released. They won’t be of course. Bannon will now be taken far more seriously.

Finally, the last part of Trump’s written statement in reaction to the leaked quotes is interesting. It says:

We have many great Republican Members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.

Is President Trump finally realizing what a noxious thing equivocating with the alt-right was?

The Hezbollah crime syndicate that was let off the hook by pressure and slow-walking or stonewalling by the Obama administration. At least until the Iran Deal was in place.

Next to nothing in mainstream media.

The evidence that is slowly accumulating on the very real possibility that the “insurance policy” FBI agent Peter Strzok mentioned in a text message to then FBI lawyer Lisa Page in a conversation about a meeting almost definitely held in Deputy Director McCabe’s office in the summer of 2016, was quite possibly the very Steele Dossier that they had started to receive at the FBI?

Mainstream media? Next to nothing.

The fact that the House Select Committee on Intelligence is demanding evidence from the FBI and the DOJ to clear up the role that various members of Mueller’s team have played? Now that’s big news. Why?

It’s the anti-Mueller feedback loop!

You guys decry Ben Rhodes for his echo chamber (that was Rhodes’ language by the way: he’s the one who coined the phrase)? Well we’re (CNN’s Brian Stelter to be specific) going to coin a phrase too! And we’ll get Perry Bacon Jr. to write about the evil plan in the wonkish fivethirtyeight’s blog. And use phrases like:

It’s not clear that the anti-Mueller campaign is coordinated, in the sense that Congressional Republicans, White House officals and Fox News executives sat in a room together and planned how to attack Mueller and his team.

Of course not Perry, you’ll just let that image sit uncomfortably in your readers mind as you inevitably make comparisons to Nixon’s attempts to discredit Watergate investigators, because it’s basically the same, right? Sorry this is way worse, right? Russia is involved!

Keep it about process. Imply nefarious motives at every turn. And avoid actually talking about the evidence that Mueller’s team has so far failed to turn up, or at least disclose. And especially avoid talking about the evidence that Mueller’s team appears very much biased in favor of the Democrat Party establishment. Ignore further evidence like:

  • The Steele Dossier it turns out was opposition research paid for by the DNC and Hillary’s campaign and contracted out through Fusion GPS who likely helped leak details of its existence and then of its contents.
  • The evidence in the Dossier is often second or third hand heresay. Andrew McCarthy hi-lites this gem from the Dossier: Another source, apparently Russian, told Steele that an official “close to” Putin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov had confided to “a compatriot” that Igor Diveykin (of the “Internal Political Department” of Putin’s Presidential Administration) had also met with Page in Moscow.
  • And apparently Divekin at that supposed meeting had told Carter Page that Russia had kompromat (compromising material) on both Hillary and Trump so they should make a deal with Russia on sanctions.
  • Follow the bouncing ball: Igor tells a friend of Sergei that he talked to Carter Page. Sergei’s friend tells an unknown Russian. The unknown Russian tells another unknown Russian. Unknown Russian #2 tells Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy. Steele’s dossier then possibly becomes, in part at least, the basis for a FISA court order to surveille Carter Page – perhaps continuing into the transition period.
  • Nellie Ohr, wife of then DOJ associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr, was working for Fusion GPS as a Russia expert, probably on the opposition research being conducted on the Trump campaign. The Ohrs seemed to be friends with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson.
  • Did James Baker – FBI top lawyer who’s now been reassigned – lead Mother Jones reporter David Corn to the Steele Dossier?

But why talk about any of this? Stick to process. Talk about the anti-Mueller feedback loop and use the word “echo” in your reporting. Never mind careful attention to detail – like Andrew McCarthy at National Review; Byron York at the Washington Examiner; or Josh Meyer at Politico. Even if Meyer covered the Iran Deal rather than the Russia story. Woodward and Bernstein didn’t write a few hot stories about the Watergate investigation. They persistently and over many months wrote a series of detailed articles – with the help of their FBI source – that helped reveal the truth about Watergate.

Because the facts are still being revealed and because some of the key players involved are using stonewalling tactics or partisan posturing – on both sides – it will be a while before the final truth about the Russia story is revealed. But the partisan divide is so strong, that I doubt either side will agree with the other side when the evidence is completely revealed.

In other words, there may never be closure on this, because neither side wants it. Democrats pushed by their base seem to want nothing less than impeachment on the basis of character seeing no real evidence of collusion with Russia has as of yet been revealed.

Republicans are increasingly seeing the Russia story as a Democrat-Hillary scandal rather than as the feared Trump scandal. And they don’t yet want – in their majority at least – for President Trump to fire Mueller. Nixon analogies are inevitable on this point, (Nixon’s firing of key Watergate investigation officials backfired on him), even if these are two very different situations.

So the risk here is that a discredited or unfairly attacked (choose your side) Mueller probe will leak further details about it’s own problems along with further details that may or may not compromise former Trump campaign officials or even Trump administration officials. It will then become a zombie investigation, lacking real integrity but still alive and issuing subpoenas.

That’s a scary thought, but special counsels or special prosecutors in Washington D.C. may just no longer (or ever have been) be a viable way to run an investigation. There may not be any viable, trusted way of running any investigation, in many voters eyes. Because Mueller’s – or Comey’s – worth seems to depend on who he makes life miserable for.

And that is hardly justice.

 

Random Thoughts on Recent Happenings

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

No. 1—The Tax Bill

Buried away in a postage stamp-sized small parcel of this bill was the authorization to –finally!—open up the ANWR region for oil exploration. If you’ve paid attention to this issue over the last, oh, 30 years or so, I don’t have to explain that very tongue-in-cheek reference I made as to the size of the bill.

It’s not going to “ruin the environment.” The existing Alaskan Pipeline hasn’t disrupted your precious caribou nor has it besmirched the Alaskan countryside with all manner of nasty accidents. The irony is that we just may not really need ANWR’s oil at this point. When geological experts first predicted that the ANWR region like held a treasure-trove of billions of barrels of crude oil, fracking had not yet come of age. The world was still getting its oil the old-fashioned way: by drilling down for it, with conventional wells.

Fracking would come of age decades later, with horizontal as well as vertical drilling technology and the ability to drill several miles to reach the oil. Then, by injecting high-pressure water into the fissures of oil-soaked shale rock, the oil is released and able to be recovered. Not as easy and uncomplicated as those simple vertical wells in the Saudi desert, but we’ll take it. Shale fracking’s contribution to the world’s oil supply is directly responsible for the world-wide drop in oil prices that has made your gasoline $2.47/gal today, a far cry from the $4.08/gal you were paying in the pre-fracking days of 2008.

Tapping ANWR’s massive oil reserves will ensure American energy independence for decades to come—oil-based independence. It’s just that with the emergence of EVs like Tesla and the Chevy Bolt, gasoline (oil)-powered cars are on the decline. How long before oil-based transportation is no longer the dominant format? 20 years? 40 years? It’s coming, and fast, so ANWR looms as a less important piece of the American energy puzzle than seemed possible just 20 short years ago. Twenty years ago, no one could have predicted either fracking or EVs. That’s how fast things move.

No. 1a—The Tax Bill

All through its gestation, up to and including its no-Democrats passage, the bill was denounced by its political opponents with every tired, trite, incorrect reason that Democrats always use to criticize any Republican-sponsored tax-reduction bill: It will only benefit the ‘rich,’ the Republicans are doing this only to reward their fat-cat donors, the middle-class gets nothing, it’s a sham, etc., etc. We’ve heard it all before. The only thing more remarkable than the predictable inaccuracy of their criticism is the certainty that Democrats will gladly take the tax relief and pocket it to their own personal benefit. As they should. But wouldn’t we all be impressed to see some liberal business owner give back the 14% break they got from the Gov’t (from 35% down to 21%) on their corporate taxes? To quote every liberal when you back them into a logic-based corner from which there is no escape: “Well, that’s different…..”

No. 2—The Move to Recognize Jerusalem and Nikki Haley’s Shredding of the UN

U.S. Presidents from Clinton onwards have stated with unequivocal certainty that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and America will formally recognize that and move its embassy there. Except that no President, R or D, has had the nerve to actually do so. Don’t want to upset the Palestinians, since obviously the peace process is going so well, all the terror attacks against Israel have stopped and all the Arab/Palestinian organizations have decided to formally accept Israel’s right to exist.

So, Donald Trump announces that the U.S. will move its embassy to Jerusalem, in accordance with long-stated American policy. But because it’s Trump, the liberal media go wild with criticism and condemnation and American Jews—reflexively, incongruously liberal to the core—jump on the “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy let’s criticize Trump” bandwagon. Never mind that Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu applauded the move. American Jews are opposed, and to the liberal American media, that’s what counts.

The UN introduced a resolution denouncing Trump’s move and the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution, declaring our recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to be “null and void.”

In response, Nikki Haley, our mince-no-words UN ambassador, said the U.S. will not forget who voted for the resolution. “We’ll be taking names and watching the votes.” The unmistakable implication, of course, was that since the U.S. alone provides over 20% of all UN funding and also props up the economies of dozens of countries around the world with our generous-to-a-fault foreign-aid programs, this aid should no longer be considered automatic in the future.

The American public is generally pretty annoyed by the one-sided way in which the UN takes advantage of America’s generosity and the way the UN has become little more than a self-congratulatory forum for anti-Israel, anti-capitalistic, pro-globalist, pro-socialist platforms. As an organization, the UN does essentially nothing to promote world peace, but it does spend a lot of time and effort promoting countries like Syria and Iran to seats on the Human Rights council.

Haley called them out. But because she’s from the Trump administration, 50% of the American public and 95% of the liberal media will criticize her statements—even though in the privacy of their own thoughts, virtually everyone agrees with her.

About a week ago, writing in National Review, Andrew C. McCarthy rose to the defense of his former profession as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York: a prosecutor in other words. His point was that political bias or passion cannot possibly be a reason for disqualifying a prosecutor or an agent of the FBI. It would set a dangerous precedent. That was on December 6, when his piece was published, and he was referring of course, to Peter Strzok the FBI agent who exchanged around 10,000 text messages with then FBI attorney Lisa Page, some of them very critical of Trump.

McCarthy said this:

Are we now saying that whether a prosecutor or agent is qualified to work on a political-corruption case depends on his or her party affiliation or political convictions? That would be a terrible mistake. It would do more to intrude politics into law enforcement than remove it.

Yes Andy, it sure would. And you suggested in the same article that we should wait to see more evidence. The facts please. Unfortunately, the facts are starting to suggest that it was precisely their political leanings and/or affiliations that seemed to matter whether they were picked to be part of Mueller’s team charged with investigating any possible Russia collusion. In other words, the political test was applied before the team even started. It was already baked into the very process of this increasingly dubious investigation.

Victor Davis Hanson sums up the accumulating evidence against Mueller’s team – One Mueller-Investigation Coincidence Too Many in National Review – and how each individual demonstration of bias, or outright opposition research in the case of Bruce Ohr’s wife Nellie, is rationalized away, until the long trail of denial becomes too obvious to wish away or normalize. Like the case of Andrew Weissman – Mueller’s right-hand man in the investigating team – praising Acting AG Sally Yates’ refusal to implement President Trump’s travel ban. In other words, openly praising resistance-like actions that were clearly an act of insubordination as Yates disobeyed her constitutionally-mandated boss, President Trump.

But the fatal piece of evidence (we only have information on around 375 text messages out of a total of about 10,000) is a single text message that reads:

I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office that there’s no way he gets elected – but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event that you die before you’re 40 …

Peter Strzok sent the text message to Lisa Page. “Andy” is likely Andrew McCabe, the 2nd in command at the FBI . “He” (as in “he gets elected”) could very well refer to Trump, at that time in the heat of the campaign against Hillary. Strzok had texted Page on August 15, 2016 with the message above. But what was Peter Strzok referring to when he wrote “It’s like an insurance policy”? What the hell is “It”?

I can hardly wait to read Byron York’s next column on the matter. He’s been quietly and methodically piecing together the disparate strands of evidence that seems to suggest there may have been a plot from the time Trump was nominated to undermine him. A plot that may turn out to be the real collusion story. Because it sure seems that FBI Agent Peter Strzok was working out ways to make sure Trump would never be elected President of the United States.

But because it may very well involve the FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Justice, working with the DNC, Hillary’s campaign and Fusion GPS; who were working with the Russians through Christopher Steele’s contacts in Moscow, the puzzle will be spread out all over the place in hard to reach places. Places that are protected by government secrecy clauses or by the arrogantly absurd insistence that they can’t reveal the information as successive FBI Directors have been doing, and as Jeff Session’s Department of Justice has been doing. Slow-walking or stone walling Congress.

In his December 6 article, Andrew McCarthy defended the character of prosecutors and agents in general, saying:

If an investigator knows he or she cannot be fair to a suspect, or that the investigator’s participation in the case would create a reasonable perception of bias, the investigator is obliged to recuse himself – and, failing that duty, the supervisor must disqualify the investigator.

And when the investigator knows he (and she in this case) cannot be fair, because the objective of the investigation is to produce a political outcome (the defeat of candidate Trump in the election)? The whole point seems to be not to be fair.

If half of this turns out to be true, it will be the FBI and the DOJ who have shredded their own ethics and credibility. From the inside. That will do enormous damage to America, but it may be unavoidable if we are to have an FBI and DOJ and intel community worthy of voters’ respect and worthy of a reasonable and workable degree of trust that voters place in them in order to see justice done.

Yes Roy, God is in control. If I may quote the good book:

A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Good Lord directeth his steps

Proverbs 16:9

Many of those telling you to fight on can quote the Bible with far more facility than a rather unchurched conservative like me, admittedly. And there is an abundance of quotes therein. And many of them that support you are understandably alarmed by Doug Jones’ view on a woman’s right to abortion. But having Doug Jones as Alabama’s next junior senator will not change Roe v. Wade one iota.

Yes, the Senate advises and consents to SCOTUS appointments; but having you, Roy, in the Senate wouldn’t have necessarily made it any easier for President Trump to get anything done, including appointing another Justice should someone like Ginsburg or Kennedy finally retire. The Supreme Court of the United States will, perhaps, take on Roe v. Wade at some point in the future. Perhaps. Perhaps not, or not for a long while yet. On the other hand, any investigation into Planned Parenthood’s resale of baby parts is a far more important battle for pro-life proponents at this point in time. And that does not require Roy Moore in the Senate.

Because the battle for life is cultural above all, and how that pre-political culture works its way into the judicial decision making process. Did I say pre-political? Sorry. The pre-anything is political in today’s fevered progressive/radical worldview. So the battle is literally in the streets and homes, not in the court room. In other words, until life is truly valued in a clear majority of society at large, it will be next to impossible to overturn what is considered settled law by many in the judiciary and also considered settled law by a slim but solid majority in the Supreme Court.

President Trump kept his distance from you then winked at you across the poker table during the last hand, and put all his chips on you. He lost. You lost. Now the Democrats are quickly filling in the details on the jackpot narrative they will steamroll through and over and around mainstream media.

  • First step: Expel Franken and Conyers and proudly contrast yourself with the Republicans.
  • Second step: Paint the GOP as the party of sexual abusers, precisely because of your example Roy. Although Congress and state and local legislatures are likely filled with examples from both sides of the aisle. We’ll see about that.
  • Third step: Make sure the media revisits Trump’s own accusers from last year’s presidential campaign.
  • Fourth step: Have over 50 female members of the House Democratic Caucus demand an investigation into accusations of harrassment or abuse by President Trump from years gone by.
  • Fifth step: If the Russia probe fizzles even on its obstruction of justice charges against Flynn and potentially President Trump, use the newly commissioned sexual abuse probe to try and impeach Trump. Strike while the iron of outrage is melting hot.
  • Sixth step: Accuse now-President Pence of being oppressive in his views towards women because he’s a practising Christian who doesn’t party without his wife. And who’s idea of a party is likely a quiet get together with his family.
  • Seventh step: Get Hillary to shut up and shame America into electing Kamala Harris in 2020.

Long term strategies seem impossible in the current political climate but that’s more a reflection of the daily outrage/controversy that’s keeping profits nicely plump at large media groups. But longer-term strategies are being planned and will at least be attempted. You can bet the Democratic war rooms are basically working on something like the list above.

So do you concede or don’t you Roy? The twenty odd thousand write-in votes are almost identical to Doug Jones’ margin of victory. Perhaps the election will be clearer once the write-in votes are all counted. If the write-in votes narrow the margin enough to bring it to 0.5% then it seems your state’s electoral laws will allow a recount. I will assume that any concession speech from you, Roy, will have to wait. But keep in mind a proverb or two. You might need to reflect on them fairly soon.

Any bill that funds the governments business requires 60 votes in the Senate. That means that 60 minus 52 = 8 Democratic Senators will need to sign on to any funding bill the GOP puts forward in the upper chamber. And, unfortunately, it’s wiser to write out the formula rather than say that 8 Democrats will be needed with no further qualifications.

Why?

Because the GOP in the Senate has a hard time agreeing on anything. They miraculously managed to agree on tax reform – but we’ll see how the final bill is shaped by the time it leaves conference and heads to President Trump’s desk for signing.

So Republicans might need more than 8 Democrat senators in order to keep government open if, say, a Susan Collins objects to the demands that Dreamers – the children of illegals and many illegals themselves – not continue to be given the protection that the Obama administration handed them a couple of years ago. But of course, there is also plenty of disagreement on the Democrat side when it comes to how to respond to any funding bill the GOP put forward.

Will Senator Schumer bend to the will of the angry, activist wing of his party and demand that DACA be kept intact in exchange for keeping the government open? In other words: you want to keep government open? Open up the borders and keep them open! That seems to be where these negotiations are heading. DACA is essentially an entitlement – an entitlement to be above the law if you were brought to America illegally as a younger child or if you were born to illegals. And trying to curtail or roll back an entitlement – like Obamacare – has proved impossible at the federal level since LBJ’s Great Society in 1965 brought the modern welfare state into existence.

It’s almost a given that Schumer will take the activist side of the Democratic Party and ignore those senators who are facing re-election in Trump friendly states and whose voters have concerns about DACA. You can imagine Schumer’s and Pelosi’s soundbites: Republicans build walls and elect child molesters! Although the matter of Roy Moore’s election still has to be decided on December 12, but if another stopgap measure is passed and the government funding deadline moved out to December 22, then Chuck and Nancy will have about a week and a half to claim their party are the party of the pure having ejected Conyers and Franken. And then to demand DACA be maintained in exchange for the votes necessary to pass a funding bill.

Never mind that Conyers left with no admission of guilt and appointed his 27 year old son to take his place, and that Franken has barely apologized; why look at that Roy Moore! Imagine Schumer with his arm around a bright university student who happens to be a Dreamer solemnly denouncing the GOP for allowing a predator into their chambers. And no, Chuck will make sure he doesn’t squeeze any cheeks if the Dreamer happens to be cute. This is some of what Moore’s presumed election to the US Senate will bring.

There are never any peaceful moments in this administration. Not even at Christmas.

Tuly Borland is an associate professor of philosophy at Ouachita Baptist University, apparently located in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, a little south of Little Rock. Borland has caused a firestorm with an article in The Federalist entitled: Why Alabamians Should Vote for Roy Moore. It will likely infuriate you or just disgust you, or make you very uncomfortable. But if you’re a voter in Alabama, you may possibly agree with at least some of what the professor writes.

Roy Moore is again leading, in perhaps a majority of polls, despite what seem to be very credible allegations that he molested and/or assaulted underage girls. His polling numbers are a fact and it’s (with uncertainty surrounding the exact level of voter support that Moore may or may not have) a fact that will likely impact the Senate, who may very well have to deal with an elected senator that they have from all sides denounced and demanded resign from the race, something Moore has refused to do.

Needless to say, the firestorm has been mostly directed at The Federalist – especially publisher and commentator Ben Domenech – for publishing the article. From Salon to National Review, the denouncements have hailed forth like small artillery, raining down on Domenech and his staff. To his credit, Domenech has defended the reasons for publishing the article: an attempt to understand how in the world Moore could be anywhere close to Jones much less leading in many polls, after a series of sexual assault allegations.

Domenech has stated clearly that he disagrees strongly with Borland’s arguments but he published his article precisely to try and gain insight into local voters’ reasons for still supporting Moore, much of which revolve around Doug Jones’ – Moore’s opponent – support for abortion.

Does Borland’s article do that? That’s hard to tell, because all of us who are not from Alabama cannot presume to know the thought processes going on there. I won’t get into the details of Borland’s article, you can read it if you want, but David French’s response in National Review (Borland was in a way responding to an earlier French article) includes the following:

I’m not urging any person to vote for Doug Jones. I would never vote for a pro-abortion politician. But if you believe this election will make any material difference in the prevalence or legality of abortion; then you need a civic education. In fact, it’s far more likely that electing a man like Moore will damage the pro-life cause.

French advocates voting for third-party candidate, writing someone in, or staying at home. But never voting for someone who may turn out to be a sex-offender. It’s a powerful piece and concludes forcefully. I suggest reading it.

It has been repeatedly said that issues like abortion are decided more on a pre-political, upstream, and cultural basis before they actually get to the courts. Domenech himself has also written that the GOP needs to collapse in order for new political alternatives to take it’s place. Moore’s election may be such a step towards the GOP’s coming collapse, as perhaps Trump’s election also was. In this context the just announced endorsement of Moore by the RNC and Trump’s recent endorsement go directly against the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s stance on Moore. Civil War in Alabama? And D.C?

The Federalist is right that we can’t hide from the issues that Moore’s possible election raises, but perhaps the Federalist might have leavened their unquestionable courage with an editorial disclaimer prefacing Borland’s article. Anxious for the fray indeed.

My first question regarding the showdown at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is this:

If you are a CFPB staffer who quickly took Acting Director Mulvaney’s offer of a Dunkin’ Donut and trundled up to his office to partake, will you go on a Democrat black list? Will you find your career as a beltway bureaucrat from now on strangely stymied over and over again by the opaque, clutching hand of the administrative state of which you, until recently, were a proud member?

How does a CFRP staffer accept a donut from the man who called your beloved agency a “sick joke”? How ingratiatingly do you smile and how eagerly do you bite down on the proverbial apple, if you will allow the mixed (up) metaphor?

Because whether you like it or not, you treasonous muncher of sweets, you are and have been in the center of a grand struggle over what the administrative state’s reaches are or should be. And most likely you are perfectly aware of the struggle which has been waged since the CFPB was brought into existence in 2010.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is Senator Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild. She did the wonky academic groundwork as a Harvard Law professor, publishing her work around 2007, on the cusp of the financial meltdown and subsequent Great Recession. Senator Warren – as an academic at Harvard, as a member of the Congressional Oversight Panel that was in charge of keeping track of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (or TARP), and as a senator, has been pushing for and getting increased regulation of the financial industry. It’s her goal and her baby.

Who has been fiercely critical of Mulvaney whose appointment as an Acting Director of the CFPB has been public news for a few weeks now – the White House knew that ex-CFRP Director Richard Cordray was going to pull a fast one at any time – and which spurned Cordray to do what he did last Friday?

Senator Warren.

Who did recently appointed Deputy Director Leandra English (until Friday she was Cordray’s Chief of Staff at the CFPB) go see on Monday, along with, naturally, Chuck Schumer?

Senator Warren.

The CFPB was put together in a way that was designed to make it as independent of any Congressional oversight as constitutionally possible. Did I say constitutionally? Sorry, sorry. There is at least one case winding it’s way upward that is based on the complaint that the CFPB is not constitutional, given the way it’s Director has broad sweeping powers not typical of an agency.

The specific issue is who has the authority to appoint an Acting Director at the CFPB. There is a conflict between Dodd-Frank and 1998’s Federal Vacancies Reform Act. But both White House counsel and the CFPB’s own legal counsel – General Counsel Mary McLeod – agree that the president has the authority and that the Vacancies Act takes precedence over Dodd-Frank, in this matter. McLeod has published a memo in which she considers the implications of both pieces of legislation and concludes that:

… the statutory language, legislative history, precedent from the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice and case law all point to the conclusion that the President may use the Vacancies Reform Act to designate an acting official, even when there is a succession statute under which another official may serve as acting.

On the other hand, contrast General Counsel McLeod’s compelling clarity with Deputy Director (and supposedly Acting Director if you take the Democrat side in this) Leandra English’s lawsuit filed on Sunday:

Ms. English has a clear entitlement to the position of acting director of the CFPB.

Interesting. Leandra English is entitled not necessarily authorized to be Acting Director. Even her own damn lawyers know full well this a political move, not really a constitutional one, although they wish it were. In other words, English should be Acting Director because her heart is in the right place; seated beside her mentor and master Senator Warren.

Should the White House prevail in this appointment tussle over an acting director at an administrative agency, this will mark a key victory in their attempt to roll back the administrative state. This is about way more than donuts, and you know that, you white-mustachioed staffer. Welcome to the right side.

Donald Trump’s Crimes

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

President Trump is indisputably guilty of many crimes against the societal and political norms of this country. These crimes are profound and grievous and they shake the very foundations upon which acceptable Presidential behavior has always been based. His actions and demeanor are so abhorrent and antithetical to the fundamental Progressive doctrine espoused by the Democratic Party and their supporting liberal media that his very presence in the Oval Office is regarded by them as not merely an interim occupational tenure by the opposing party, but as proof of a moment of temporary national insanity from which we may never recover.  A closer look at the worst examples of Trump’s criminality will be instructive for what the country should be on guard for, should we want to avoid such behavior in the future.

Accusation: Denying a Female Access to the Highest Office

Verdict: Guilty

President Trump didn’t get the memo that 2016 was the Year of the First Female President. In a time period where same-sex/transgender rights, glass ceilings, Title IX and the well-publicized/amply documented Republican “War on Women” dominate the gender cultural landscape, Donald Trump had the temerity, the unmitigated gall, to disregard all those signs and campaign as if gender didn’t matter. He campaigned on what he’d do for the country and why America—and American workers—would benefit from a Trump presidency.

During the campaign, he took full advantage of Clinton’s lack of qualifications. As I wrote back in June 2016,

So what exactly, besides her Democratic femaleness, is her candidacy based on? Hard to say. She has no real, tangible accomplishments to point to, either as Secretary of State or NY senator. There are no Clinton Acts. There are no Clinton Accords. She has no military service, no heroism under fire, no great business and/or managerial accomplishments, no outright high-level expertise in any technical or economic or social or scientific field. She’s never started a business or run anything or managed a great number of people or made difficult, fast-paced life-or-death decisions. She gives every impression of being situationally dishonest, opportunistic, loyal only to her own self-advancement.

Candidate Trump ignored the directive that in 2016, America will elect its first woman president. Guilty as charged.

Accusation: Recognizing the Average American’s Desire for Strong Borders and Strict Immigration Policy

Verdict: Guilty

Trump tapped into a strong national craving for a return to immigration fairness and verifiable national sovereignty. Americans are the world’s most generous and compassionate people. The degree to which we help others—whether it’s an international disaster or local charity—is well-documented. Our innate sense of altruism and human kindness is unprecedented. We fight wars to help others gain freedom without taking territory or materials in return. But Trump also recognized that Americans were tired of being taken unfair advantage of, especially with regard to illegal immigration. The financial and social stress placed on average law-abiding citizens to provide monetary benefits, educational opportunities and social privileges to people who broke our laws and came into the country illegally was simply wrong. Americans are eager to help the legitimately needy or those caught in dire circumstances not of their making. But Americans resent being played for fools.

The Big, Beautiful Trump Wall—whether one looks at it metaphorically or literally—was a recognition on his part of the concerns of the average citizen for their government to put the American citizens’ needs and concerns above those who break our laws and violate our sovereignty.

Accusation: Using the Military to Further America’s National Interests

Verdict: Guilty

Unlike the weak-willed Obama administration that drew lines in the sand which were then washed away by the shifting winds of liberal political expediency, Trump strongly punished the Assad regime in Syria with a blunt, untelegraphed cruise missile attack in retaliation for Assad’s repeated crimes against his own people, while simultaneously putting the world on notice that under a Trump administration, America will act forcefully and swiftly—without warning—to protect its vital interests. In a further show of our new-found military/national will, we have flown numerous B-1 Lancer supersonic bomber sorties over South Korea, and have an unprecedented three naval aircraft carrier groups off the Korean coast, demonstrating American military strength and national resolve in service to a critically-important foreign policy objective in a manner unheard of during the Obama years. Indeed, in the eyes of many, it was eight years of weak, inattentive behavior by President Obama that is a root cause of the ever-worsening North Korean nuclear situation.

Additional Crimes

There are certainly other strong examples of President Trump’s transgressions:

  • Being in favor of American fossil fuel development and reinstating the Keystone Pipeline
  • His desire to lower taxes on both individuals and businesses (doesn’t he understand that the successful are supposed to be “punished” with high taxes and their ill-gotten wealth should be redistributed to the favored Democratic victim group-du-jour?)
  • The elimination of many anti-business nanny-state regulations that were intended by Obama to buy the voting affections of various Green and “Social Justice” lobbying groups
  • And of course, Trump’s shamefully disrespectful, “unpresidential” treatment of the liberal mainstream media, as I’d previous outlined.

These multiple examples of guilty behavior are prime reasons that President Trump is spurned with such disdain in the rarefied, haute social orbits of the Progressive intelligentsia. As horrifying and unfathomable as it is to the hard-core Progressive faction, it was exactly such actions and proclamations by candidate Trump that won over the votes of previous Obama supporters in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida and gave Trump his commanding, decisive 306-232 electoral-vote triumph. If the radical-left wing of the Democratic Party—whose thoughts and policies unquestionably represent the mainstream positions of their party these days, make no mistake—think that the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Bernie Sanders or former First Lady Michelle Obama are going to woo those decisive voters back into the touchy-feely, anti-business, globalist clutches of the Democratic Party in 2020, they may be in for a very rude awakening indeed.

Sometimes, crime pays.

 

Around the world, from Colombia to China, from Denmark to South Africa and from New Zealand to Uruguay to Canada, euthanasia, or Physician Assisted Suicide, is now legal. In America there are a handful of states as well, with Oregon as the first one to legalize assisted suicide.

Now the state of Victoria, in Australia, is joining the list. Here’s what former Ozzie Prime Minister Tony Abbot had to say:

Only a morally mixed-up society would approve suicide when it’s doctor assisted and doctors should not be expected to forsake their vocation … this idea that we should end the lives of people who have failed our test of usefulness or who have failed our test of what constitutes a decent quality of life is absolutely dead wrong …

Advocates of assisted suicide will say that there is no slippery slope and that a patient’s consent is always assured and carefully monitored and that assisted suicide will never lead to even darker avenues of eliminating suffering in all its forms by eliminating the sufferer.

The fact is it’s far too early to tell despite Oregon’s handful of decades experience with this morbid use of science. But even if we can be sure that no one will needlessly die – which is an absurd belief to have; people are already needlessly dying as revealed by the very disturbing account from Holland of a 40-something married man with kids agreeing to euthanasia due to his depression and alcoholism – this assurance even if it were possible, does not take into account a basic fact.

When someone “assists” you in committing suicide, it’s no longer suicide, it’s murder. And the consent you give is essentially allowing someone else to take your life. It is now a very different matter, because it is no longer the case of a lone individual taking some deliberate physical action that results in their death. Someone else is intervening.

And not just someone else. The full force of the state is behind that physician administering the lethal drug. Now, physician assisted suicide advocates try to make the point that the patient “self-administers” the lethal drug. So apparently it’s no longer euthanasia. Sorry, that’s cutting it a little on the precious side. Who fills the syringe with the lethal drug? Who manufactures the lethal drug? Who transports it, stores it, assures it is of sufficient quality to do what it is designed to do? Who then brings the correct dosage to the area where the patient is to be killed? Who ensures that everything is in order before a patient – perhaps very ill and/or of advanced age – does the nominal final “administering” of the drug?

A whole process is now in place to ensure an efficient way to end a patient’s life. Much like the process to apply the death penalty to a criminal duly convicted of crimes that warrant such a penalty.

We despise pain in our post-modern society because we often don’t have the moral compass to accept and deal with pain. I have trouble even handling a headache without a little pain relief. Never mind broken ribs and weeks and weeks of every agonizing breath keeping you awake at night as in the case of Senator Rand Paul. Never mind the indescribable pain that a terminal cancer patient suffers. So if I were in their shoes, I may very well wish for a quick way out of that debilitating pain.

But by reducing pain and trying to make the world one big safe space – a futile effort even for Scandinavian countries who perhaps are the closest thing the world has to safe space on a big scale – we risk seeing human life, filled with pain and struggle, as itself being an unwanted intrusion. This of course is the view of radical ecologists and environmentalists. And we also no longer see struggle as really worth it. Too painful, too disappointing. Too dangerous. Too risky. We seem to need to reduce life to an omnipresent, suffocating array of rules and regulations to ensure that life is no longer tragic – or painful. We’re not there yet, but that’s where we’re heading.

So as we give thanks for the Puritan’s overwhelming courage in the face of severe winters and starvation and their faith in God and therefore in their own struggles; as we give thanks for the faith that underlay the genius of the founding fathers; as we give thanks for family, for mothers and fathers and sons and daughters; for friendships and for true love, how about we give thanks for life itself which we are blessed with. With all it’s imperfections and with all its pain.

Have a great Thanksgiving Weekend!

Louis CK liked (and surely still likes) to expose himself to women, often it would seem, with zero consent on the part of the unlucky and harassed co-workers. So did Harvey Weinstein. Remember Anthony “The Messenger” Weiner? He almost seems like a long lost innocent fool compared to what’s being brought to light every day, lately courtesy of Roy Moore of course.

So, as far as Giant of the Senate Al Franken (I never really found him that funny years and years ago on SNL but maybe I missed some of his puns if you will) is concerned, does his requesting an ethics probe of himself over his own harassment of LeeAnn Tweeden qualify as ethical wanking? That’s getting so far out in front of the story that you’re naked.

It’s absurd and who knows how this will work out for Senator Franken or what other stories may emerge, but the underlying event – his groping of Tweeden on a USO tour with the excuse of “rehearsing” a kiss for a skit – is not funny. Nor is the foto that she produced. You can see it everywhere on the net. Look at the expression on Franken’s face. More creepy than funny.

About a decade or so back I recall Franken cracking a joke (was it on Conan O’Brien’s show?) about how a woman had to be at least as old as his daughter for him to stare at her backside. The audience laughed, I may have laughed a little. Never really was funny, especially if you’re being stalked by an older creep. Not at all funny now.

Scientology-worshiping actors. Film Producers. Bible-thumping Alabama politicians. Wheelchair-bound ex-presidents. Wall Street financiers. Ex presidents whose wives would have been president. IMF heads who were part of the D.C. and NYC sex-swapping scene – that case involving the very French Dominique Strauss-Kahn. There’s a long, long line up of women who have a story to tell. And they’re not being intimidated anymore. I feel sorry for a freshman who says a slightly tart comment on campus and ends up being hounded out of his chosen university. My heart goes out to the children whose fathers’ actions have disgraced their lives.

I do not feel sorry for Franken or Roy Moore, or any of the others being named.

So if Senator Franken wants to wank his way through a self-referential ethics probe by rending his garments and beating his chest, go for it Al. Maybe you’ll convince us you’re truly sorry. But I can only feel sorry for you.

Authoritarian International is a term now being used to describe how China – and Russia – use their influence, and economic power in China’s case, to support other authoritarian regimes around the world, from Venezuela to Turkey, from the Philippines to Ethiopia. Many of these regimes may have had some form of communist or socialist government or may currently have some form as in Venezuela’s case, but the glue that holds them together is not really marxist economics and ideology but rather strongman rule. A rule that China abstains from condemning on the international stage and a rule which China along with Russia provide military and economic aide to as well as trade ties. Real Clear Politics has a great read on this by Richard Bernstein.

It’s a repudiation of the optimism of the 90’s where it was thought that economic freedom would lead naturally and inevitably, guided by the invisible hand of enlightened self-interest, towards political openness and eventually full democracy. Unfortunately that hasn’t worked out, especially in China’s case where strict one-party rule has accompanied astonishing growth. Yes, at some point the corruption and state-subsidized spending should produce the long-awaited downturn or even crash. But people have been predicting China’s economic collapse for about a decade now.

Which brings us to a rather ugly little episode being followed in the Washington Free Beacon concerning Chinese dissident billionaire Guo Wengui (who has been exposing the very corruption that is undercutting China’s economy) and an interview he gave some time ago to Voice of America’s Chinese language broadcasts. The live interview was cut off in mid stream by senior VOA management and the Chinese VOA journalists (who appear to have been working out of of NYC where Guo is currently living) were suspended and now they have been fired for “insubordination.”

VOA Director Amanda Bennett refused to comment on the matter citing “privacy” concerns. Guess who Bennett is married to? Donald E. Graham, chairman of Graham Holdings which runs an educational publishing business which does a fair bit of business in … China. The fired Chinese VOA ex-employees also claim that VOA has hired James McGregor, a former journalist with close ties to Chinese Politburo heavyweight Wang Qishan.

Look. Everyone and his brother, sister, aunt, and cousin have or are falling over each other to suck up to China and try to actually profit from doing business in that authoritarian state’s enormous consumer market. Some have even made money. But frickin’ Voice of America?! Do they have to join Eric Schmidt, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg and all the rest in kneeling before the Grand Dragon?

It appears that the key event at the start of the 90’s was actually not the fall of the Wall in Berlin. Rather it was a few months earlier in June of 1989 with the Tiananmen Square massacre by army units loyal to China’s ruling communist party, the cardboard mock ups of the Statue of Liberty and the candles crushed under the military might of authoritarianism. So China’s population made a deal with their leaders: they got stunning growth in exchange for the shackles on free expression that were firmly maintained, even as those shackles grew in the sophistication of their methodology.

Those shackles now extend to Voice of America. Rex Tillerson, do you have anything to say? Apparently not. When pressed by Senator Rubio to explain a $4.5 million cut to the semi-official Radio Free Asia’s Mandarin language broadcast, Tillerson said:

I can confirm that to my knowledge, it had nothing to do with our relations with China.

From Alaska to Texas, they’re saying Roy step down. If the stories are even half-true. That is, GOP senators from across America are clearly demanding that Roy Moore step aside from his run to be elected in Jeff Sessions’ seat in Alabama, if the stories of sexual harassment are true.

Roy Moore himself has produced a defiant email refusing to step down and essentially claiming that this is a political witch hunt courtesy of the Washington Post. Of course, that defiant email was a fund raising email sent to supporters. What will he be saying in a week’s time? What will he be saying tomorrow?

This all depends on the veracity of several women, starting with Leigh Corfman who has come forward to talk about some clearly abusive groping and fondling on the part of Moore in the late 70’s when she was barely a teenager. Right now one has to take her words very seriously. Yes, Roy Moore is innocent until proven guilty but if more women step forward with what appear to be legitimate claim, it seems impossible for him to continue. Even if the Corfman story is surely the result of frantic oppo research that could have been funded just as easily by Mitch McConnell’s backers as by Democrats.

Roy Moore was 32 when the incidents with Corfman took place in 1979. He was an assistant DA by then, 2 years out of law school and 5 years out of the military as a captain in the military police. Unfortunately, there have been times when such behavior – if it is indeed true – was disgustingly easy to get away with for even minor officials, as well as theatrical agents, film industry folks, managers, etc. etc. etc. Have been? It’s still happening, and there’s a flood of stories coming out about harassment which means those days finally seem to be coming to an end thanks to liberals turning on their own rich, powerful and lecherous icons like Weinstein.

It’s long past time that abusive or harassing behavior be called out and punished wherever and whenever it occurs. When it really occurs, that is. University campuses have been plagued by false accusations and kangaroo courts, but the way to solve that is by due process. Whether on the one hand it’s mattress girl’s victim, or whether on the other, it’s Roy Moore’s accusers or Kevin Spacey’s victims. Due process applied carefully but forcefully, where evidence is given without shame and considered without hysteria.

But of course we need to be sure Moore did indeed do what he has been accused of. Because that is impossible to do without a full trial, which means possibly years of lawyers battling it out in court in a he-said she-said situation, we therefore don’t have that sort of time. Moore has to be honest with himself and decide what kind of a man he wants to be, despite what kind of a man he may very well have been.

And finally, what if Moore refuses to step aside, the accusations remain but somehow he gets elected? Or, on the other hand, if he does step aside and his rushed replacement loses the election, or if Moore stays in the race and loses? Then we essentially have a split Senate.

In other words, is Roy Moore merely the byproduct of the messy dismembering of the GOP as we know it? In which case, politically, it doesn’t really matter what sort of a man he is.

Yes, the officials at Holloman Air Force Base made a grave error when they forgot to place Devin Patrick Kelly’s name and criminal history with the FBI’s database. How many files do they have responsibility for at that one base? How possible is it that hundreds of similar oversights are out there in cyber no mans land waiting to be filed correctly? Hundreds? Thousands? This one was the wrong one to overlook. True. But if you rely on filing and data entry procedures to feel safe, you will be disappointed.

But at the same time, perhaps had they filed that data correctly, Kelly would have had a harder time purchasing weapons. Would he have bought weapons (perhaps even more powerful automatic weapons) on the black market instead? There is no way of knowing. Yes, you can point to statistics, but we are talking about individual, unique profiles if you will. On average, proper enforcement of a reasonable rule might help. On average.

Mass shooters are not average, however. That’s the whole point about them. So constructing a system of rules and regs designed to stop them will likely fail and cause a lot of problems and stress for law-abiding owners. And yes, a mass shooter – unlike Kelly – might be law-abiding until he (always a he) starts shooting. This is not like trying to lower the risk of car crash fatalities from DUI accidents.

So any rule or regulation or law should start from that premise. But even that would bring howls from those who want gun rights severely restricted.

So it seems that no shooting will bring some limited, reasonable compromise within the framework of the 2nd Amendment, precisely because the gulf is too wide between those who want to limit – if not outright ban – the overwhelming majority of gun ownership in America, and those who believe that any rule, regulation, or law will prove insufficient at stopping a massacre under certain conditions. And that an acceptance of the fact that there is evil in this world and that a faith strong enough to prevail despite such evil is all that matters.

In other words, there is no reasonable ground for compromise. If you try to gather up most people’s guns – the way they did in Australia – you would surely meet resistance of a very stubborn and yes, lethal kind. Because people truly believe in the power of the 2nd amendment as a way to securing their freedoms from the very government that the Constitution created.

So we have an impasse. As Ben Domenech put it in The Transom: one side says your laws are B.S. The other side says your faith is B.S. And the impasse deepens and hardens with every shooting.

Maybe gun rights should devolve completely to the state level. That’s already happened to a certain extent. Yes, local 2nd probably scares some in the beltway. As well as gun owners in liberal/progressive states. But is there any other way for America’s great variety of local communities and state governments to deal with how to best handle and defend against the possibility of a unique, one-in-tens-of-millions chance of a mass shooter?

New York City is gripped by an evil fear apparently. Their heroic mayor Bill de Blasio is doing his best to ensure that this evil does not overcome their virtuous defenses. But the evil is apparently not an Uzbek immigrant driving a truck into innocent pedestrians on the Lower East Side, while screaming “alluah akhbar” out the window, just in case anyone on the planet could possibly ever be confused as to his motives for the terror attack.

No. The evil apparently is islamophobia, which all New Yorkers must now be vigilant about. They must bond together against anyone demanding tighter immigration policies. They must not just bond together, they must seek out anyone who is saying anything they deem offensive. Nothing like a terrorist attack to bring out the thought police in full force on social media. Oh, by the way, extreme vetting is fine, according to Mayor de Blasio: But as he says:

We support very thorough vetting – not of groups of people just because they belong to a group.

Ok. So that condition would eliminate any process of rigorous vetting from discriminating against anyone based on what country they come from, or what religion they espouse. For example. Or even what terrorist group they belong to: ISIS, al Qaeda, etc. That’s a mighty big exemption that the mayor is demanding, isn’t it?

But this is what happens when identity politics confronts the reality of extremism based on an ideology – or a virulent interpretation of what a specific faith – Islam – means, in this case. The sanctity of diversity must be maintained. Not necessarily the real diversity that has been flowing and pulsing through America’s daily life for many, many generations. No, this is about an official story, a narrative that must be maintained at all costs. With white-oppressor villains and a glorious rainbow of heroes on the other side, of course. Never mind that the gender-bending diversity of that rainbow gets you thrown off buildings in regions where Sayfullo Saipov’s worldview predominates. Never mind that this worldview is a threat to almost every corner of American political, intellectual, and cultural life. The narrative must be maintained at all costs.

And the most vile of those costs is the death of innocent civilians, caught up by the murderous hatred of terrorism. So NYC Mayor de Blasio has to try and get out in front of President Trump’s demands for extreme vetting. We couldn’t possibly have someone denied entry to America because of their fanatical beliefs. That’s unconstitutional right?

Wrong. The First Amendment and the rest of the constitution applies to American citizens and America herself, as universal as they should be. But those freedoms are not universal. Saipov’s Uzbekistan, for example, is an authoritarian state that denies it’s citizens the very freedoms that allowed him to plan and purchase and carry out the attack on American soil. So how to protect America from these kinds of attacks while respecting the constitution? It can be a tricky balance, but one in which careful vetting has a perfectly legitimate role.

And that’s why extreme vetting is so important. Foreign terrorists are by law treated differently than American terrorists. And the first line of defense is making sure someone from abroad with a questionable background from a country with poor record-keeping, perhaps undercut by corruption, is made to jump through a lot of hoops before gaining his or her first crucial right: the right to legally live and work and study in America.

Islamophobia already has a whole array of institutions lined up to guard against it in Western Democracies and especially in America. How about half of that zeal being put into being reasonably prudent about who is being let into the country?

Who the hell is George Papadopoulos? We’re going to find out it seems. He’s someone who was associated with Trump’s campaign back in 2016, although he doesn’t appear to have been anything like a key player. What he did do, however, was apparently lie to the FBI in January of this year regarding his contacts with Russians or with those who had or have contacts with Russians who may themselves have had or who may have contacts with the Kremlin.

Apparently Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about his contacts with a professor. Who exactly this professor is remains unknown to us mere mortals. Is the professor American? Russian? According to The Washington Examiner he’s an “overseas” professor. Is there a sworn cabal of red-robed journalists who are forbidden to say the word “Russian”? Is he some other nationality? What is his (he seems to be a he but who can tell at this point?) field of expertise and how did this professor happen to have inside information on Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, specifically on the fact that the Russians had information on her emails, as seems to be suggested by the indictment of Manafort?

It’s this promise of information on Hillary’s emails that spurred Papadopoulos to set up or to try to set up meetings between Putin associates and Trump associates. Did he help set up the meeting between Donald Jr., Jared Kushner and Natalia Veselnitskaya? She being the Russian lawyer who was lobbying on behalf of Putin in order to get the Magnitsky Act overturned. A lobbying process that involved Fusion GPS of course, who by the way were initially hired by Paul Singer’s Washington Free Beacon. Is there anyone in Washington, London, Moscow or Caracas who hasn’t hired or worked with Fusion GPS? Just wondering …

So Papadopoulos has been talking to the FBI since at least early October, after having been arrested at Dulles International back in July of this year, and has subsequently pleaded guilty in what must have been some form of plea bargain. If he actually revealed some sort of provable connection between Russia and the Trump campaign then this will presumably come out. If not, then maybe he’s being squeezed to scare others into testifying. Remember it was the lie that jailed Scooter Libby, not anything he actually did or didn’t do.

The series of Russia probes may end up being a rolling series of dramatic announcements with no real compelling case for collusion on the part of Trump’s campaign. The Hillary dossier has now been pushed to the side of the stage, for example, by the indictment of Manafort and Gates. A new announcement will push Manafort and Gates to the sidelines at some point in the future one can fairly safely say. But this circus still has a ways to go.

Until and unless there is a clear decision one way or the other, however, and one that is based on a reasonable view of the evidence, these probes will only deepen the partisan divides across America. But at this point, there’s no turning back.

David French talks about the unbearable weight of grief combined with the sudden thrust into the public spotlight for Gold Star families – those who have lost to combat a son or daughter who were serving in the armed forces. And he rightly says that it is a shame to politicize such an event the way Congresswoman Wilson did in the case of Sergeant La David Johnson. And the way the president responded with a typical Twitter slug fest.

Allow to me to respectfully disagree with David French on certain aspects of what may very well turn out to be a symbolic turning point in not just how we view combat casualties, but how the war on terror itself is viewed.

In the first place it is more than reasonable to ask what the hell those marines were doing in Niger. The answer seems to be twofold.

  • Boko Haram – an Al Qaeda and/or ISIS affiliate – operates in Southern Niger and Northern Nigeria.
  • Nigeria is a major oil producer and should it’s corrupt democracy – with a history of authoritarian governments and military intervention something like various Latin American countries in past decades – fall to radical islamic terror groups like Boko Haram, then those groups will have their hands on at least part of Nigeria’s considerable oil wealth.

Does this mean that the Niger-Nigeria region is at risk of becoming another Syria within a few years? Or a few months? With French, American and possibly Russian forces competing for influence and territory through proxy forces or directly? So yes, it is more than reasonable to politicize Sgt. Johnson’s death. It’s how you politicize it that matters.

That’s why Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford’s press conference was so key. In marked contrast to Defense Secretary Mattis, he promised as much transparency as possible on why Sgt. Johnson and his cohorts – along with Nigerien (that means soldiers from Niger as opposed to Nigerian which of course means from Nigeria) army personnel – were there in Southern (or Southeastern) Niger. In other words, tax payers, voters, and yes Gold Star and other military families deserve to know if America is being pulled into another low-level war in West Africa. As well as more specific details on what went wrong in that ambush by Boko Haram terrorists.

This the key point. The sacred honor that is justly and righteously (in the true and virtuous sense of the word) bestowed on those men and women who give their lives for their nation does not mean that any questions on how and why and who and what Sgt. La David Johnson’s patrol was doing in Niger are somehow inappropriate. It is a great temptation to use that honor as a shield against civilian scrutiny.

Yes, it is a tricky balance. Debating in public the roles of intelligence assets on the ground in places like Niger and Afghanistan and elsewhere, for example, is often impossible for obvious reasons. But America’s military does not need to be stripped of its honor in order to be a little more forthcoming about its multiple engagements around the globe. And President Trump could be a little more creative and diplomatic when it comes to the impossible and thankless job of contacting Gold Star families. And that’s despite the fact that Democrats want to turn the Niger ambush into a Benghazi for the Trump administration. There are better ways to shame Congresswoman Wilson. Just ask your Chief of Staff, Mr. President.

And rather than just give a speech, perhaps George W. Bush could give the president a phone call and share some of the harsh attacks from Gold Star families that he himself had to deal with. It would be more than a gesture. It would be the right thing for Bush 43 to do, regardless of whether President Trump takes his advice or not.

The sacred honor of the military exists to defend freedom of the press and freedom of expression in all its unruly forms. Not the other way around. Even as this ideal is often compromised, it must remain as the guiding principal.

The only way the Fusion GPS story really takes over the mainstream media is if the mainstream media turns on itself. After recycling Fusion GPS’ smear stories, large media organizations and key journalists within those organizations will have to come clean about how the game worked with Glenn Simpson’s dirty tricks squad. About how they could never reveal that their anonymous sources were in fact a paid communications shop that used incredibly sleazy tactics to turn a story in favor of a client. Clients like the Kremlin or corrupt Venezuelan oil industry contractors. Among others who remain, for now, in the shadows.

The Hill has been at the front of some of this latest change in the reporting on Glenn Simpson and GPS. One can’t really say that The Washington Post or CNN have been as equally rigorous in covering this side of the Russia story as they are in obsessively covering how much Russia spent on Facebook ads. But as we segue towards less of a Trump-Russia scandal and towards more of a Russia-on-its-own scandal, most mainstream media are not really coming out and saying that the evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign team and the Kremlin is not really there, regardless of what Adam Schiff likes to imply. And that the real evidence is in fact pointing exactly the other way:

Towards Hillary’s campaign, and the Obama administration’s knowledge of an FBI investigation into bribes, kickbacks, and money laundering by Kremlin associates; all tied to the sale to Russia of a key stake in Canadian-owned uranium mining company, Uranium One.

The story of Uranium One runs through Kazakhstan and involves Canadian billionaire Frank Giustra a Clintons donor who managed to get Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help out his operation in Kazakhstan which around 2010 was being squeezed by Putin who wanted control. Giustra had leveraged uranium mining rights he had managed to previously extract from Kazakhstan’s leadership into a 3.5 billion mining company with operations in South Africa, Central Asia and North America. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton had benefited from Giustra’s donations so it was natural they’d come to his aid now.

A deal was worked out needless to say, and much of the background sleaze surrounding the deal would have remained under wraps with Obama’s FBI and DOJ dutifully keeping mum about ongoing FBI investigations into Vadim Mikerin’s racket to bring American companies into the now Russian-owned Uranium One’s fold.

But by 2014, with Putin’s Crimea grab and his slow-burn war with Ukraine in its opening phases, Vadim Mikerin was finally arrested but was able to plea bargain down to one single money laundering charge. Read Andrew McCarthy’s piece on this in the National Review, to get a veteran prosecutor’s view on how ridiculous a travesty of justice this was. The story was reported on, but nothing like the Trump Russia story.

Well now the Uranium One story is back, and it may have assumed too much critical mass to be able to be wished away by ex Obama officials, especially those at State. Of course, if things get too uncomfortable, and if the real Russian collusion turns out to have been with Obama and Hillary Democrats and not Trump’s campaign team, perhaps they can fight back the only way left to them.

They can hire Fusion GPS, assuming Glenn Simpson isn’t too busy defending himself in criminal court.

Should one be grateful for Senator Thad Cochran’s return to the upper chamber after his recent health issues? The senator was apparently rather confused when reporters asked him a few simple questions in the halls of Congress, one of which supposedly was where the Senate chambers were located. No matter. His aides whisked him away, although it’s hard to imagine the verb ‘whisking’ applying to a 79-year old man recovering from health problems.

On that frail mind and body depended yesterday’s budget vote that now paves the way for tax reform. One that may very well fail, but at least has a chance to be voted on in the Senate without needing Democrat support. But the Senate shall make its own rules, and that’s how the future of tax reform hangs on the vote of someone who should be in bed, being attended to by his nurses.

Should we be angry at Kentucky’s Senator Paul, for being ideological instead of pragmatic on such an important issue for Americans and the economy? Perhaps, but his condition to get to a yes vote was pretty simple: keep to your own spending caps. A solitary voice saying you have to control spending to make any tax cut truly effective in terms of its longer term impact on the American economy. But that would require a simple commitment to not raise spending. Or at least by not too much. And even that slight nod towards the other side of fiscal discipline – spending restraint – is seen as disruptive by the media and by the Republican party. Easier to talk about cutting taxes by closing loopholes – unless the loopholes are deemed to important to key constituencies to be able to close.

So Rand is a disruptive radical for insisting on spending caps. And if you want to close all those loopholes in the tax system you need to realize this:

Some loopholes are apparently Too Big To Close (TBTC if you like). Look at the mortgage interest deduction. Consider high-tax states like New York and California and the angry reaction of those states’ GOP Members of Congress to plans to eliminate deduction of state and local taxes. How dare they? Every loophole has an army of lawyers/lobbyists defending it’s purpose, and the longer the loophole has been around the deeper it’s roots on K Street.

Does this sound like a Senate that’s ready to tackle substantial tax reform?