Not Enough Fraziers

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maria Butina was a Russian lobbyist. If there was possibly any other believable evidence of any other covert schemes on her part, they would have been leaked all over the media. There hasn’t been. She’s essentially been handed an 18-month sentence for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist. Should Tony Podesta get twice as much for his dealings with the Ukraine and with some of the same people Manafort worked for?

He won’t of course, and in a sick way that should give some small measure of comfort. The fact that her tough sentencing is merely a hypocritical way to somehow justify the Russia collusion narrative. A narrative that should be under ground and not moving but keeps getting yanked up to the surface and shot through with voodoo mojo to keep it wandering through editorial rooms and media sites like a ghost of scandals past.

But one should be careful to hope this is a onetime thing and will disappear when President Trump moves out of the White House, although one doubts that these collusion myths will ever die. But there’s a much more serious and long-lasting consequence to this.

When you set a precedent in an English-common-law-based legal system, it settles in and becomes nearly impossible to uproot with every passing judgement that builds on that precedent. And there most definitely a legal precedent being set here:

A foreign lobbyist in America now has to prove they are not a spy.

Do the two professions meet and mingle in places like D.C? Of course they do. But there seems to be a disturbing lack of evidence of Butina actively engaging in any form of espionage, rather than somewhat naïve attempts at winning friends and influencing people in the city where it is most valued out of anywhere on planet Earth. Here’s what the prosecution said last week when they called for an 18-month sentence, a sentence that Judge Tanya Chutkin upheld this week:

(Butina)was not a spy in the traditional sense of trying to gain access to classified information to send back to her home country. She was not a trained intelligence officer … [but her] actions had the potential to damage the national security of the United States.

These are chilling words. Potentially – if this precedent is upheld and by the sound of Butina’s legal team and her own “confession” in court over how she destroyed her life by not registering as a Russian agent there likely will not be any appeal – then any foreign investigative journalist, any academic, or any businessperson who’s looking to establish connections could be accused of conspiring with someone in their own country and by so doing potentially harm America’s interests.

And the media is happy to go along with the ride because it seems like a juicy morsel in the endless effort to keep the zombie collusion theory going. Here’s the BBC:

Butina began travelling to the US for NRA conventions, apparently armed with a plan called The Diplomacy Project, aimed at setting up unofficial channels aimed at influencing US policy.

In 2015 she attended a Trump campaign event in Las Vegas, asking the presidential candidate about his views on US sanctions in Russia.

In December 2015 she invited NRA officials to Moscow, and they held meetings with “high-level Russian government officials” organised by Mr Torshin.

Alexander Torshin is a former Russian Senator and Deputy Central Bank Governor. Here’s the BBC again:

Mr Torshin was placed under US Treasury sanctions in April, and is being investigated by the FBI over allegations of funnelling money to the NRA to aid the Trump campaign.

Although unnamed in the plea deal, Mr Torshin is clearly the Russian with whom Butina has admitted conspiring.

By this measure Christopher Steele should be on Interpol’s most wanted list with an extradition order and a seat next to Julian Assange on the next Black-Ops overnight flight to Washington from London. Steele isn’t and never will be.

But this petty and nasty warning shot across Russia’s bow will have legal and political consequences for a long time to come. There are better ways to tell Putin and his spies to screw off than to hammer a kid from Siberia who likes guns and the NRA. Even if she could have become a bona-fide Russian agent at some point.

It’s Not About the Money

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at some of these Democratic phrases—

“It’s not a partisan issue.”

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

“We can all agree on this.”

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

“It’s not about the money.”

It’s precisely about the money.

“We want a fair and open process.”

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s a manufactured crisis.”

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

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

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

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

Refreshingly, President Trump Says What He Means

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

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

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

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

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

“A country without borders is not a country.”

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

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

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

Five years before Mark Zuckerberg was born, I was feeding cards (yes, those little cardboard-paper-with-holes-in-them thingies) into a large machine in order to do a regression analysis for my undergrad economics thesis on an energy pipeline’s feasibility. I suppose it was a mainframe. Maybe an IBM. I’m not sure. When Zuckerberg started up Facebook in February of 2004, I had a PC and the extent of my programming skills was manipulating a few basic commands in IRC-Chat.

In the decade and a half hence, I have tried to learn a few basics of code – python, SQL, and Html/CSS – with limited success. I have admittedly achieved far less than those who have had to learn to program for work or educational reasons, or both. But we all feel a little like we’re chasing or being chased, by something far too big to really understand.

Maybe in part that’s because Zuckerberg over those 15 years has changed the world.

And apparently destroyed some really vital things that helped us form civil society, as we’re beginning to realize. As all of us try to keep up. Even many of the employees at Facebook itself, or at Google, for example.

James Poulos – the LA-based musician/writer/commentator has unleashed in an opinion piece at the Washington Examiner, a devastating and depressing assessment of the effects of social media, and particularly of Zuckerberg’s destruction of what had been mainstream media, and what still is in some ways. But with an important difference:

Major publications have to go begging at the feet of Facebook, and that has changed how we think and deal with each other. Here’s Poulos:

Whether it’s injecting creative works into the market, opinions into the maelstrom of the online discourse, or corrective lectures into raging debates, the potential payoff for all these sorts of activities is plummeting.

The culprit is not simply digital tech’s propensity to glut markets until demand collapses. In our era when just about anyone can write, record, produce, and release a single, a movie, a podcast, or a video show, the barriers to entry are so low that the market space has filled to the brim with content that’s almost totally inessential to nearly all would-be consumers.

Most content on the net is close to zero in value, according to Poulos. That is, when you measure value as people’s willingness to pay for something.
As well, the revenue that media used to earn from advertising have been swallowed up by Facebook in the years following Napster and the collapse of the music industry. What used to be aggregators – like evil record companies and righteous monopolistic media companies – are now 2nd rate players who no longer create a shared space – one with restricted access where not just anyone could write for a newspaper or record an album – a space where we can consume and critique and think about our shared entertainment and news. And share a common culture.

Social media (and that includes video games if you think about it) blew it all up real good. Something increasingly evident over the last couple of decades.
As a result, what we are also seeing over these last few years is how social media has played a key role in the tribalizing of society into hostile factions. Here’s Poulos again:

Television is now so democratized and secularized that it has become little more than ammunition for cultural skirmishes, losing even superficial commonality. Social media, too, is faltering; influential “creatives” and creative “influencers” have begun to realize that posting their hard work for free brings them little more than fleeting attention, often of the hateful or irrelevant kind. And in the high-prestige, high-pay “knowledge work” industries that depend on mass participation in communications and culture markets, even the most expert of elites have very little idea what to do about it.

In other words, a network of over a billion users has turned us inward not outwards and made us retreat from the offline world where eye contact and conversation matter. Nowadays, eye contact and conversation are possible, but sometimes a little tricky or even dangerous, especially if political opinions collide.

Of course, if James Poulos had written his wonderful essay over 20 years ago, I likely wouldn’t have read it unless he was lucky enough to have been published by the right media players and then to have appeared on prime-time television, just when I happened to be watching. And I had then driven to some bookstore or convenience store that carried a magazine that contained that specific article and had bought the damn thing as opposed to a newspaper or a couple of Kit Kats. An unlikely series of events. Poulos is much easier to reach and to read because of the very processes that also make getting paid well a distant reality for most.

And finally, without our globalized and digitized world, you wouldn’t be reading this opinion, because there wouldn’t be anywhere for me to write it.

Yes, for most of us, making a reasonable living as a content provider is not an option. There’s too many of us, quite simply.

I’m not sure most consumers of social media mind that in the least bit. Consuming what you want, or at least what’s within easy reach and for free aside from the ads, is not a business model that the billion plus users of Facebook have any problems with.

So maybe it’s only journalists, writers, musicians, film directors, and the endless and various content providers who wish more people would read them, see them, hear them, feel them, touch them and please, please, please, pay them that is the problem. And that would be their problem. Our problem. Not yours.

So, the question becomes how do we rebuild functional forms of workable consensus in an age that is deconstructing mono-culture media at a savage pace?

I wonder if, as I read my own question again, things like broad and lasting consensuses on almost anything is possible any longer. Someone my age worries that today’s youth is too inward, too indoors, and too uninterested in the offline world. One they still live in, but hardly notice anymore between the selfies and games.

I’m wrong about that of course. The so-called indoor generation will remake the world as they grow up and get jobs, the way boomers, then gen-X’ers and now millennials like Zuckerberg have remade the world. I’m just not sure if I’ll understand or like what my son’s generation does.

I just hope and pray they’ll like and understand a few of the things that made life wonderful in my youth. Like playing Monopoly after dinner.

Oh. That’s in fact what my son’s asking me to do tonight. Play that odd game Monopoly with him. He might even turn off his play station he says. Or at least put it on pause while we play. That’s not a bad start, even if it’s a tiny one.

I’ve Got Good News and I’ve Got Bad News

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

There are lots of important stories in the news every day, but the truly fascinating thing is way that they’re covered and the positive/negative spin that’s assigned to the major political groups.

Economic news is certainly a significant political football. The party out of power generally hates it when things are going well in the economy. If the economy is good, there is a far greater likelihood that people have a job and are providing for their family or themselves. Pocketbook issues are by far the most important to the average voter; everything besides a job is merely a theoretical intellectual indulgence. If you’re paying your rent, buying clothes and food, making car payments, sending the kids to college and perhaps even saving a little for retirement, then all is right with the world. Only when those boxes are checked do people enjoy the luxury of worrying about things like global warming, gay/trans rights, Supreme Court rulings and whether or not we use military force to settle a conflict in some overseas backwater.

Economic activity—whether it’s consumer spending by individuals or investment/capital outlays by major corporations—depends in large part on their perceptions and expectations of current and future economic conditions. If entities have reason to believe that economic conditions are solid and stable (and likely to stay good for the foreseeable future), then they spend and invest with confidence. Retail activity is high. Investment in equipment and systems increases. Home and car buying is strong. Factories are busy. Employment is high. It’s a matter of perception and expectations.

Given the political importance of the economy, it’s little wonder that political combatants have such a strong vested interest in portraying the economy—good or bad—to their electoral benefit. All the participants play their role: the politicians themselves will criticize or praise cherry-picked aspects of the economy to their liking. Their media allies will support or oppose those positions as expected.

There is a story—urban legend, its verity unprovable at this point in retrospect—from around 2006. A cable TV reporter was interviewing a Democratic operative (perhaps James Carville) about the upcoming Christmas shopping season. The reporter said, “Wouldn’t it be great for the country if we had strong holiday sales this year?”

To which Carville replied in his distinctive Southern drawl, “I don’t cay-ahh what’s good for the country! I cay-ahh what’s good for the Democratic Party!” Whether or not it was specifically Carville in exactly 2006 is unimportant. The sentiment is unerringly accurate.

This brings us to a major aspect of today’s economy and how the media and competing politicians react to it: the stock market.

Competing political interests—which includes the media— will either extol or berate the markets’ performance, depending on how it serves their political purposes. When the markets weaken, the out-of-power party is very quick to point out the loss of wealth in the average person’s retirement account or the potential default on a life-long city worker’s pension and claim that the party holding office doesn’t care about the “little guy.” When the markets are strong, to the political benefit of the party in power, the opposition tends to either dismiss it as a fluke or, more often, they don’t talk about it at all.

Such is certainly the case now. It’s quite normal and expected that Democratic politicians don’t talk about the stock markets’ excellent performance, since that would redound to the Republicans’ benefit. But the mainstream liberal media are irresponsibly silent on the matter, since the economy—which includes the markets—is a topic that occupies the most important spot in the minds of the average voter. “Irresponsibly” silent, but not “unintentionally” silent. The liberal media’s silence on the stock market is very intentional.

In January 2012 the DJIA was 12,720 and the S&P500 (a broader index of the entire market) was 1315. When Donald Trump took office in January 2017, those figures were 19,827 and 2271 respectively. Today (Dec 4, 2017), they are 24,290 and 2639, an average increase of 92% since January 2012. Incredibly impressive—nearly double in less than six years. Granted, no president is totally responsible for the performance of the market or the economy as a whole, but the market does take its cues from the president’s policies and approach. The business community—including the market—loves certainty and low costs of doing business. When an administration throws unpredictable, inexplicable, politically-motivated regulations and higher taxes in the path of companies, those companies hunker down and play things close to the vest, frightened and unsure of what’s coming next. Hiring and capital investment slows to the bare minimum. This administration, in contrast, 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 markets’ performance and the GDP’s growth (finally, consistently above 3%, something that eluded the anti-business Obama administration)..

The current market is definitely gratifying and reassuring to 46-year-old Joe Average who has a retirement 401k with his employer of 17 years. It’s also a brow-wiping “Whew!” to institutional investors whose job it is to keep millions of dollars’ worth of State and Municipal pension funds stable and solvent. This market performance is flat-out good news to anyone who has any financial involvement at all in the markets—which is virtually everyone who has investments or a retirement plan of any kind.

Yet the major liberal media virtually ignore this aspect of the economy (along with the closely-related aspects of strong job creation and low unemployment), simply and transparently because it benefits the Republicans. When the market pendulum swings the other way—and it will, without question—all of a sudden, the markets’ negative performance under a supposed business expert Republican president will be front and center in their news reporting. Right now, the economy—the most important issue to virtually every voter, without a doubt—is doing well, so Democrats and their allies don’t want to touch it. Better for them to obsess over “collusion” or the First Lady’s heels or trying to blame every shooting in America on Republicans.

It’s a nice racket the liberal media have carved out for themselves: Cover only good news for Democrats and only bad news for Republicans.

Yes it must be tres jolie to fly to Paris and save the world from a possible 1.8 C increase in temperature over a multi-decade period. And then indulge in some of the City of LIght’s notorious (and no doubt notoriously expensive) temptations. But we shouldn’t assume that climate lobbyists and experts are quite at the level of a Dominique Strauss-Kahn. They may even be rather self-righteous zealots, in their own way.

Here’s the thing though. The future of environmental guidelines, rules, regulations, laws, by-laws, penalties, and general brow-beating may not be determined in places like Paris or Washington going forward. At least not in America.

Andrew Cuomo has launched a pledge (to go along with a presidential bid most likely in oh say 2+ years) to unite Jerry Brown’s California and Washington State under a set of regulations that will promise substantial reductions in emissions over the coming years. They will be the Three Musketeers of Climate Change, clasping hands in a holy trinity in order to save the exiled Prince’s Clean Power Plan.

You know something Andrew? Go for it! If your voters in the good state of New York want to burden themselves with additional taxes and regulations in order to reduce emissions that may be contributing to a slight increase in temperature, then they have that constitutional right. As a proud state in the United States of America.

And if the voters of the good state of West Virginia for example see otherwise and plan to support America’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord, ca c’est parfait aussi. Sure, Senate ratification – something Obama skipped because it would have been voted down and something Trump could theoretically use to deep six the Paris Accord – is a constitutional guarantee that any treaty has to have broad support. But how about if environmental standards became mostly a state matter?

Yes, pollution flows across state lines, but imagine trying to establish the level of a fine based on scientific estimates of what level of pollutants are estimated to have moved from somewhere inland – like Ohio – to say New York. Breaking News! Pollutants are now over Newfoundland! Canada demands reparations! Ohio tells them to get lost! Also happening right now! Juarez and El Paso sue each other!

Environmentalists would have us feel guilty for drought in Somalia. And give 70% of what we have to cure the problem, and give a few private-client bankers in Zurich some new customers. Everything is connected. Especially in Zurich.

How about instead, every state in America decides it’s own level of environmental regulations? Gasps of horror and denouncements from progressives/environmentalists. You can’t do that! Well, Cuomo just did. Didn’t he?

 

President Trump: Seriously vs. Literally

 

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Let’s look at two recent examples of this:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reconciliation. Senate Parliamentarian. The Byrd Rule. As President Trump has found out, process is a fetish in Washington D.C. And of course, now there are indignant howls from critics on the right about how process was botched by Ryan, Price, and The White House. You should have moved slower. You should have held more meetings. You should have taken more notes. You should have especially taken notes when Freedom Caucus members of Congress talked at those theoretical meetings.

You should have followed the norms of process! (apologies for the tautology). See what happens when you don’t spend at least a year?! Joe Klein at the Washington Examiner, for example, gazes back fondly at how the Obama administration handled and manipulated and fondled and rammed the Affordable Care Act through Congress with nary a GOP vote. Ramming slowly it seems is best when it comes to healthcare in America. Other critics are demanding that the process be more transparent next time. Transparent ramming. Done slowly. Now that’s process!

Wonderful. Conservative critics are lambasting the Trump administration for not being more like the Obama administration when it comes to how they manage the legislative process for healthcare legislation.

But here’s the problem. Or at least, here’s one of main questions that arise from the smoldering ashes of the GOP’s quick-march to the exits on AHCA: has the substance of healthcare policy become so divisive that no process in 21st century America can cover the enormous divide between a moderate GOP member of congress and a House Freedom Caucus member? Never mind Bernie supporters and their push for Canadian-style universal coverage.

Everyone is very eager to remind poor President Trump how complex healthcare policy is. But why is that the case? Isn’t the complexity all about covering up the harsh trade-offs that must be made when any democratic legislature has to put together a broad healthcare plan? Cheap, available, good quality. You get 2 of 3 at best. But why tell voters that?

Theoretical solutions flourish like so many weeds, each cultivated by an eager over-informed wonk who just knows she or he has the solution to all that ails America’s healthcare system. But every one of those individual theoretical solutions would have an impossible chance of ever being the basis of a successfully propagated piece of legislation, signed into law by the president. It’s about aggregating the trade-offs between competing players with conflicting interests. And that is becoming an almost impossible task. Yes, Obama managed to do it, but barely and with loads of goodwill. And he sank his own party as a result.

Insurance companies vs. doctors vs. hospitals vs patients vs state governments vs House members vs Senators vs Senior administration officials vs HHS bureaucrats vs FDA vs big pharma vs large employers with benefit plans vs small to mid-size employers vs independent workers vs young people vs wealthier older people vs poorer older people vs veterans.

Healthcare in America has become the planet’s most elaborate entitlement scheme, a jigsaw puzzle that’s always a few pieces short of being finished. Or falling apart. It could be – and is by some – viewed as catastrophe insurance. It could be – and is by some – viewed as a universal right. But maybe the only way to resolve it will be to devolve down to the state level. And let individual states internally fight and bargain to find their own solutions. But for now, don’t expect any big plans for a new health policy by the GOP. Too tough a puzzle to solve. For just about anyone. Let alone a bipartisan congressional committee.

Rick Wilson – who learned nasty at the feet of Lee Atwater – was wrong. It’s not the alt-right supporters of Trump who are single men self-stimulating to anime porn. It’s the senior management at Uber. As lawsuits and insider stories emerge about an out-of-control culture at the oh-so disruptive ride-sharing company, should people be surprised?

When leading-edge tech companies have a contempt for anyone who is not obsessive and high-IQ and ready to do anything to make an idea work, is the fact that west-coast techie males view most of us as surplus flesh really a shock? And with liberal and even most conservative media dutifully recording their every word as if it was truth and wisdom, is it any surprise that this media is blatantly hostile to anyone who believes manufacturing jobs can be recovered in America’s heartland/rustbelt? At least a reasonable percentage of them.

Given this background then, Steve Bannon’s (who by Rick Wilson’s reckoning should have been handing out bags of Cheetos at CPAC) appearance was a refreshing glass of water in the face of those who harbor deep hostility towards the president and his administration.

In a sit-down (somehow called a speech by much of the media) Bannon explained the basic structure of the New Nationalism (to use Matthew Continetti’s and Rich Lowry’s terminology). He was articulate, affable, and soft-spoken. No horns on his head – as Charles Krauthammer pointed out. And this clear statement of policy and philosophy:

…that we’re a nation with an economy, not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders, but we are a nation with a culture and a reason for being …

What strikes you as more reasonable: that statement by Bannon, or the invective from both the left and the alt-right? Now Bannon, through his association with Breitbart, has been associated with unsavory characters. Some of those associations may not be fair, but Bannon’s delight in provoking – as a tactic in his war on the establishment – is in part to blame.

No better way then to put daylight between the dark prince reputation – as portrayed by writers like the insufferable Richard Wolffe of the Guardian – than a clear concise presentation of the philosophy emerging behind Trump’s Nationalism.

Because, as Continetti points out, unlike Reagan who had decades of intellectual capital formation, if you will, before finally storming the walls of DC, Trump has stormed the walls with a far more incipient philosophy. Steve Bannon will be one of the men whose job it is to put meat on the bones. And he is being and will be pilloried for so doing. But now is the time for explaining the reasons behind the actions Trump’s team is taking. Not provoking needlessly. Because confrontation aplenty is already awaiting at every step this administration takes. No need to inflame it any further than absolutely necessary, to get the message across.

Bannon’s CPAC appearance was a good start.

Milo Yiannopoulos is a little less fabulous in these final days of February. And the storm that has – for now at least – sunk the British-Greek provocateur, is one that should be the kind that sink careers. Or even end up with jail time, if more than words are involved. Because it dealt with underage sex. Whether Yiannopoulos claims that a 13 year old boy having sex with a man in his mid-20’s is consensual – as he does – or not. It is pedophilia, as degrading and evil a crime as there is. And Yiannopoulos himself, as he seems to admit, seems to have been a victim of abuse as a young teenager. Even as he rails against pedophilia. Yes, that involves children, Milo. But drawing a clear line between pedophilia and underage sex involving young teenagers is the first step towards attempting to normalize the former and promote the latter.

So, Matt Schlapp’s invitation to Yiannopoulos to attend CPAC was a bad mistake. While the First Amendment gives Yiannopoulos the right to say what he says, it does not by any means give CPAC the obligation to extend yet another platform for Yiannopoulos to parade on.

And no, it’s not very productive to call out the left’s hypocrisy on this. They are right to denounce Yiannopoulos for his dangerous, careless speech.

But don’t stop there. Please.

Keep heading west, all of you denouncing Yiannopoulos, Especially left-wing critics who at least claim to be aghast. Keep heading west, until you hit Hollywood and Vine. Or more precisely, some fabulous sprawling home in Encino. For example.

But don’t stop at the scandals over male teenage actor/models being manipulated and abused by Hollywood power brokers, who happen to be gay.

Go right back in time to Hollywood’s earliest years. And look for it.

The first casting couch. Well before talkies. As the silent-film era unspooled it’s reels of film and created cinema’s first golden era, there it was. Repeated across Hollywood. The casting couch. Many, many, many of them.

For every tantalizing scene – from it’s earliest suggestive modes that draw easy smiles from today’s sophisticates right through to increasingly explicit scenes that now blur the lines between pornography and so-called love scenes – for every one of those there likely is a woman. She’s young, she may be in the scene. Or perhaps auditioned for it. Or perhaps is merely part of the crew, or someone who is looking to break out in La La Land. And she’s had to endure abuse, in the face of a culture that relativizes intimacy until it’s merely a matrix of perversities that one can pick and choose from. And how dare you judge an S&M inter-generational sex fan!

Pornography is indeed the wallpaper in our society, and our culture is now dangerously close to normalizing pedophilia. And entertainment media – whether in Hollywood, or in Manhattan advertising media, or in Europe and elsewhere – is leading the way.

Did the founders of America imagine such possibilities? We can only guess, but it is our duty to exercise our First Amendment rights and choose better ideas and thinkers in places like CPAC. It’s not enough that Yiannopoulos made the left really mad. Sometimes violently so. Rather, CPAC can go back to offering plenty of substance.

Like Governor Scott Walker talking about how to grow an economy in the face of organized resistance by the State of Wisconsin’s bureaucracy and unions.

Or like Texas’ Kevin Brady talking about getting tax reform done so that America can rise from it’s anemic growth rate.

And yes, like the president whose speech on Friday will be parsed over and over again in order to question how conservative he really is.

Any and all of the above are why CPAC matters. And Yiannopoulos doesn’t.

Have you heard of regulatory dark matter? Sub-rosa regulations? As in secret?

Are you the owner of a small business, for example, who has received a threatening letter from a federal agency or a branch thereof that you’ve never heard of, and been forced to settle under the implicit or explicit threat of penalties? Then you have had a close encounter with regulatory dark matter. They say it is not very pleasant.

Here’s another way to think of how widespread federal agencies are. No one in Washington D.C. – and that means members of agencies or government departments that register these agencies and release reports on this – can say with any exact certainty how many there are. And they are operating beyond the control of Congress, or sometimes even of the rule-making process at the agencies themselves. Here’s Robert Rogowski from a few years back:

An impressive underground regulatory structure thrives on investigations, inquiries, threatened legal actions, and negotiated settlements … Many of the most questionable regulatory actions are imposed in this way, most of which escape the scrutiny of the public, Congress, and even the regulatory watchdogs in the executive branch.

Congress has handed authority over much of the daily rules that govern everyone’s daily lives to an extortion racket run by unaccountable bureaucrats who most people even in D.C. don’t even know exist. Until they send you a threatening letter.

Congress, and the Executive, and the Courts, all need to take back power from what has become the 4th branch of government. The Regulatory State.

The Courts, unfortunately have made it very hard to fire federal agency heads or employees thanks, in part, to a 1935 Supreme Court decision involving FDR and a Federal Trade Commissioner, William Humphrey, who was insufficiently enamored of the New Deal. FDR wanted to fire Humphrey, who insisted on showing up to work regardless of the fact that FDR had told him in writing that he was fired. FDR lost the case. And by ruling the Federal Trade Commission was a quasi-legislative body, the Supreme Court made it all but impossible to fire heads of agencies who refuse to carry out the president’s policies.

To combat regulatory dark matter, and plainly visible regulations as well, changing civil service laws is another route. But that means getting Congress to pass a series of laws or one big bill, that will provoke the army of bureaucrats and their allies in the mainstream media. And these enraged and privileged elite won’t have far to go to assemble on The Mall, for example.

But maybe that’s what is needed. A Million Well-Paid-Wonk(ette) March on Washington. Let them emerge from the shadows of regulatory dark matter. Let them walk in the sunlight and demand to America’s taxpayers – especially those who face economic uncertainty and anxiety on a daily basis for much of their lives – that they deserve their privileges. That they are a breed apart. A nobility who merit favors paid for by the rest of us.

And then let Congress see if they have the mettle – or cojones – to do the right thing and reform civil service laws.

Millennials would rather hang with Gary What’s-a-Leppo? Johnson than Hillary. Trump has for some unknown reason decided to dig up the birther zombie again and annoy mainstream media at the same time with his version of what a press conference is. And Nate Silver just doesn’t know; as he asks us to wait another week for the data to show some trend that might impact the final, actual, pull the-damn-lever, vote on November 8th.

What five thirty eight’s data guru seems to mean is that, while the polls have gyrated around a trendline or mean of a Hillary 5 point lead, it is almost impossible to suggest this pattern will continue in the final weeks of this very unique election. There is no long term equilibrium seems to be Nate Silver’s big worry. Trump is not a GOP-typical candidate, so you can’t compare him to any other Republican when trying to detect a statistical pattern.

At the same time, will Hillary’s ground game overcome the noticeable relative lack of enthusiasm among her supporters? Given that her base of support is far more urban and therefore concentrated, while Trump’s is far more rural and dispersed, will Trump’s enthusiasm advantage translate into actual votes? Doesn’t Trump’s much smaller team (or the RNC structure to be more accurate) have to literally cover way more real estate to get out a similar number of votes?

Or is there a silent army of Trump supporters who will drive (rather than walk a few city blocks) to the polls and surprise the predictors?

All these questions are producing far more stress than a few months ago, because it is no longer clear that Hillary will be president. The experts – as personified by Silver – are suddenly unsure of the final result in a way that they haven’t been before. And there is now more than a little panic.

Among Republicans that is. Not just Dems and MSM pundits. Even as the GOP see their grip on the Senate perhaps being just firm enough to hold on to a slim majority.

Never mind Charles Blow or Rachel Maddow. Jim Geraghty of National Review fame listed a very funny but pointed list of some of the consequences of a Trump victory. The finger pointing within the GOP if Trump wins and the Senate is lost would be ugly. Or if Trump loses and the Senate also goes Democrat. Or, if Trump does win, aside from imagining the transition between Obama’s and Trump’s administration, the legacy of Obama’s 8 years would be in tatters. How could a prosperous, happy America elect someone like Trump?, the progressives who adore Obama right now would howl.

And Hillary.

If she loses to Trump – though the odds still are that she probably won’t – she will be reviled and attacked like no other Democrat. Not even McGovern. With both liberal and conservative media piling on about what a terrible candidacy hers was and how could the Democrats have nominated her? All the questions that were angrily dismissed after her sunny yet righteously angry convention just a few weeks ago will come roaring back in the very mouths of those who dismissed them back in late July.

This is starting to look like the election with no winners, precisely because of much of the media’s contempt for Trump. And its partisan water carrying for Hillary. That’s a pessimistic view and hopefully – whoever wins – America can face and solve some of the challenges she faces. Let us hope and pray for that. And let’s hope for a vigorous debate and not just nasty name calling on September 26.

Isn’t the point – for Trump and his supporters – that endorsements don’t matter? As Donald Trump picks up his first lonely endorsements, should this cause any concern? If voter anger is real and sustainable, then presumably it is directed at the very people who tend to do the endorsing: established governors, or senators, or other members of the federal and state governments across the USA. As well as party insiders and powerful donors. Especially powerful donors it seems.

So, given that the wave of voter anger he is expertly riding is aimed straight at endorsement-types, what should Trump do with these incipient acts of official recognition? To put it in stark terms; if Marlene Ricketts and the Our Principles PAC suddenly, somehow, started running ads praising Trump (relax, it’s only a theoretical for rhetorical purposes), would his supporters crow with vindictive delight? Or stampede straight to Ted Cruz’s camp?

Is the raging bull that Trump is riding one that can be controlled, and eventually corralled within a traditional GOP party structure? That doesn’t seem likely, but if Trump rides triumphantly out of the March primaries, and the GOP stalwarts give up the good fight and abandon Rubio, and Ted Cruz dies a noble but painful political death, what happens to all that anger?

In the best of outcomes, Trump convinces his supporters that in no way will it be business as usual when he occupies the White House. And of course, then reminds voters of Clinton, and redirects all that anger Hillary’s way, reminding them that there’s the tiny matter of a general election to take on.

So here’s the question: is GOP voter anger fungible between the primaries and the general election? If Trump wins, does that anger dissipate dangerously, and leave GOP voters – and especially Trump supporters – drained just as the national election gets underway? It has been, and will be, such an unprecedented battle for the GOP nomination that it has been entirely consuming. People like Kevin McCarthy complain of Trump sucking up all that life-giving oxygen and it taking away from candidates like Jeb Bush and Kasich. But is the brush fire of voter anger sucking up oxygen that could be used in future battles? As in the national election?

Or will this bare-knuckles nomination brawl produce a hardened army of supporters who will eagerly launch themselves into the election campaign, and, get … out … and … vote! How Trump manages his supporters as the GOP slowly bends his way, is going to be fascinating to watch. Because if he can successfully manage the transition from nomination to general election, politically he will be ready for the Presidency. Whether you like him and his policies, or not.

Iowa matters if you really need a win or a surprise, but it’s New Hampshire that has had the much better track record of picking GOP winners. So there’s high-fives and maybe a toast or two with Biff and Scooter celebrating that Jeb Bush has suddenly surged in the Granite State. At least according to one outlying poll by Emerson College, Jeb is now in 2nd place at 18% behind Trump who is still sitting pretty at 35%.

It’s one poll only, and an outlier compared to other samplings, but it could signal some final shuffling of preferences among the pragmatic voters of New Hampshire. Is the old-fashioned attack apparatus brought creaking but finally functional and into action by the GOP elite starting to have an effect? The emerging wisdom of this campaign has been that attacks on Trump tend to backfire fairly quickly. Could this finally be changing? With Trump at over a third of voters and almost double Jeb in this poll – never mind the others where Jeb’s numbers are closer to a sampling error – are the attacks on Trump capable of producing serious damage?

Or will any damage that Trump suffers be entirely of his own making? Like skipping the Iowa debate. Assuming, of course, that his no-show does not prove instead to be a brilliant tactic. At this point, it appears to be a mistake. But almost every commentator has been wrong about Trump’s tactics so far.

The other interesting fact, is Massachusetts seemingly constant need to comment on politics in their neighboring state. Chris Christie polled 5% despite an endorsement by the Boston Herald, and Emerson College is located right in dowtown Boston. The communications-focused institution is of course perfectly suited to produce polls, but one wonders whether this need has more to do with the restrictive regulation-bound state’s worries about it’s low-tax, libertarian neighbor. Imagine the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with a tax structure put together in Concord. How would that poll in Boston?

We’re at war. How many ways does this have to be restated? How many planned and horrifically executed suicidal attacks on democratic societies, on societies around the world, will be needed for Obama to state this simple truth? When will he realize that politically correct appeasement on the grounds of diversity, cultivated within the exclusive confines of Harvard and other academic institutions is counter productive? That it endangers lives, rather than provides the essential security necessary for any state to function.

Terrorist attacks decades ago had clear objectives. A marxist state, for example. ISIL is equally clear: a caliphate whose bloody borders seem to continually expand within the fanatical hate-filled minds of its leaders and followers. A return to a distant past where the only authority is a crazed man. They are hypocrites of course. Their lives have little to do with the world as it existed under the Ottoman Empire centuries ago. But their need for vengeance against a system that requires rationality and personal responsibility, will clutch at any excuse necessary.

Our kingless kingdoms for a liberal with Tony Blair’s clarity. But that type of language that stated the problem with passion and focus in the hours following the attack on 9/11, has been absent from Obama’s administration. It’s like a forbidden zone, where they fear to tread. Just in case they might find themselves agreeing with Senator Graham, or Ted Cruz.

Obama’s response is to label the media as hysterical for its coverage of the events of days past. It makes sense doesn’t it? If one digs – reluctantly – into Freud’s work with the term one finds that hysteria seems to be – for Freud and others – a social disease caused by a poor early childhood environment. Entirely psychological. Rather than a feminine physiological malfunction, a concept which was used as a sickening weapon against women in the early and mid 20th century. Both conceptions of hysteria have done a great deal of damage.

Perfect isn’t it? Just like that screaming student in the quad at Yale, we are all victims of unsafe environments. Why does the media insist that ISIL or ISIS is a grave danger to our free societies? Because we didn’t get enough hugs before kindergarten.

As the brave and dedicated men and women in various security forces in Europe and over here, stay up all night gathering the data, or risk their personal safety, in order to prevent further attacks and track down these crazed terrorists, one does not feel they are too worried about the hugs they got in early childhood.

Mr. President, leave Freud wallowing in the sewers of the unconscious world that he dreamed up. Say it clear. We are at war.

If you google “shake up of team Hillary” the first thing you get is a link at salon.com that speculates on the possibility of Liz Warren endorsing Bernie Saunder’s campaign. It’s a touch out of date with a July 1, 2015 dateline. You then get a link from April of this year on another earlier shake-up of the Clinton campaign. Next comes an article from June about how Jeb Bush was going to shake up his campaign to better take on Hillary. Then two links later, you finally get to the dailykos’s article on Hillary’s latest shake-up. At least with a September 1, 2015 dateline, you can reasonably assume it’s the latest Hillary shake-up. And then you get a link to the Atlantic talking about Hillary’s shake-up of her campaign; the 2008 campaign that is. That’s a good deal of shaking up from what seems to be a less-than-flawless effort to date.

Even her supporters admit Hillary is no Bill. And her team has apparently been well aware of this, and tried to steer the campaign towards the facts regarding her experience. There’s a few problems with that strategy. In the first place, they couldn’t have picked a worse presidential campaign to choose to run on insider experience. In the second place, Hillary’s experience – both as First Lady and as Secretary of State – have a few skeletons in the closet that are admittedly being dragged out into the open by her opponents. But they revolve around issues like Whitewater and Benghazi and do not present someone who is likely to earn an independent voter’s or an undecided voter’s trust. Or even the trust of an increasing number of Democrats who are increasingly turning to Sanders.

Is Chelsea Clinton to blame for all this? While there may be some bungling by her daughter, the issue of the political adivsor class is a hot one and an angry one this time around for Hillary and all candidates. There may be revolts in both parties – there is certainly one among GOP voters – and rejection of beltway expertise and slick campaign tactics is, for now at least, behind much of the gains by Trump and Carson, and Fiorina. And by Sanders as well. Will this last? Or fade and be fondly known as the summer of fifteen by the political class relieved by the retreating and fading glow of all that rebellious anger as fall and winter wear down the rebellion. The beltwayers hope so. The voters may yet have more to say.

Will New Hampshire rescue Kasich, Christie, and Graham? Or is the McCain miracle of 2008 a unique, one-off case that should not be extrapolated beyond that one-time context 7 years ago? New Hampshire is intimate and every vote counts, but do New Hampshire GOP voters allow any old outsider into their minds and hearts? Clearly not. In other words, how big a base outside of the Granite State do they need in order to do well in New Hampshire? And even if they do, will it be sustainable?

But there’s another way of looking at the New Hampshire primary: what if other primaries in 2016 become more like New Hampshire’s? It seems impossible given the cost structure of media exposure in other markets and the primary calendar itself. But 2016 may just be different enough and GOP voters may just be willing enough to vote for a far wider range of candidates to make it possible. Imagine a GOP field still fairly crowded by the time March rolls around. After South Carolina in other words. Imagine it stays crowded through March. Impossible? Perhaps by Super Tuesday, March 1, it will have been decided as usual.

Imagine if not? While concentrating primaries into staggered schedules helps candidates focus time and money, it also means the contest is over by March. And it’s the party structure that decides and allocates delegates. Delegates may be local but it’s all about how they get chosen. And that gets decided at party headquarters. Maybe it’s cruel to outsiders – and one can argue how much of an outsider in terms of the party structure McCain really was – but its supporters would say it ensures a winning GOP candidate. And that, they say, is the only goal that matters. That attitude does not sit will with conservatives, be they Tea Party supporters or not. And it has not always produced winning candidates either. So will New Hampshire matter? Undoubtedly it will. Even if does not rescue Christie, Kasich, or Graham.

Is changing your position on an issue as the facts change a sign of flexibility? Or is it blowing in the wind like a weather vane? Hard not to think of Bob Dylan as Jeb Bush digs in and kicks out just a little at those who supposedly are mere populist panderers. At least according to Jeb in his latest Fox interview. Iraq still looms large with ISIS now ravaging, now retreating, through swaths of Iraq and Syria. Not to mention taunting crazed lone wolves into action in America and Europe. One can argue that a lack of commitment to maintaining a military presence in Iraq by the Obama administration has brought renewed violence to the region. But the question Jeb Bush was asked was: would he still recommend an invasion, given what he knows now? His firm “Yes” seems a bit like renewing an old argument over the 12-year old decision to go in. In spite of the intelligence failures that now seem to be common knowledge.

And that’s where it gets a little uncomfortable for those hoping Jeb Bush shows how presidential he is. To engage in what feels like a justification of his brother’s decision to invade Iraq is not the best way of showing how he will be a new and refreshing change of perspective should he become the next occupant of the Oval Office. It’s not quite Family Feud, but it’s something that belongs in a debate over Geroge W. Bush’s legacy. Not in a campaign that will be decided in 2016 – whether that be the nomination or the actual election. Was it an obvious loaded question laid out before him to see if he would take the bait? Of course it was, but Jeb Bush should have known better than to burden his response with too much history. Stubbornness is not necessarily spine, especially given the fate of post-invasion Iraq. While Jeb Bush has apparently assembled a very experienced group of advisors, it seems he’s indicated he’ll seek his brother’s advice on some matters of foreign policy. Like Hillary will surely seek the advice of Bill. Maybe George W. will tell his younger brother that it’s time to move on and admit the mistakes that were made in Iraq. Will Jeb listen?

Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) are essentially accusing the ATF of racism with their FIREARM Act. The ATF, it turns out, asks information on race in the paperwork a gun buyer has to fill out, and it is a troubling accusation. But one sees more than a few ridiculous questions in the questions asked in Form 4473. “Are you a fugitive from justice?”, “Are you an alien illegally in the United States?” are two examples. Maybe, just maybe, a really dumb buyer who is also a criminal or illegal, answered yes to those questions. Maybe the criminal didn’t fill out a form in a licensed dealer’s store when he bought his weapon in a back alley from a fellow drug dealer, say.

How long has this been going on? Quite a while in fact. Since 1968. The way the game works is the store owners keep the buyer profile – is there any other way to describe this information other than profiling? – on file in case that information needs to be used in an investigation. If the store owner fails to comply, they could be shut down. So the ATF gets the gun dealerships to act as an outsourced bureaucracy charged with maintaining an on-demand data base. And it all started in a year marked by riots and other political violence, some of it race-based. From the other side of the aisle, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told The Hill that “there is a limited place for race and ethnic data in situations that don’t infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.” That’s a measured response to profiling on something as important, and yes controversial, as Second Amendment Rights. Does the ATF really need to keep those questions on Form 4473? And will other voices from Senator Booker’s side of the aisle also speak up on this issue?