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Updated: 2017-04-26T12:41:04Z

 



President Trump: Seriously vs. Literally

2017-04-26T12:41:04Z

  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 […]  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:   The “Look what happened in Sw[...]



A Job Suggestion for Jason Chaffetz

2017-04-22T00:23:07Z

Did we overlook the Oversight Committee when everyone was caught flat-footed in the kitchen having a cup of coffee when suddenly Jason Chaffetz decided to bail on a promising political career? Is that really what the Utah Republican’s surprise announcement is all about? The theory goes that Chaffetz – chairman of the House Committee on […]

Did we overlook the Oversight Committee when everyone was caught flat-footed in the kitchen having a cup of coffee when suddenly Jason Chaffetz decided to bail on a promising political career? Is that really what the Utah Republican’s surprise announcement is all about?

The theory goes that Chaffetz – chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – was all geared up to chair a long and continuing investigation of President Hillary Clinton’s various scandals. Especially the email scandal. In other words, Chaffetz was sure that Hillary would win, and he saw a great political future in Hillary’s victory. One where his chairmanship of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee would give him a platform to launch any further political ambitions he may have had.

So he made the wrong bet and saw his party’s own candidate win. Now what the heck was he going to do with all that research on Hillary? One anonymous Utah Republican told The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins that:

Aside from Trump and Clinton, nobody’s fortunes changed more on presidential election night than Jason Chaffetz.

You have to wonder if that anonymous quote comes from Evan McMullin, who is on record as considering helpfully whether he should be possibly stepping in to run for the apparently soon-to-be-empty seat. But if Chaffetz is indeed returning to the private sector here’s somewhere he might make some good money by filling in a suddenly slightly empty schedule:

Fox News.

Of course, it’s hard to see how Chaffetz could ever be as compelling a media figure as Bill O’Reilly has been for much of his career – even before he became a centerpiece of Fox’s strategy. And Chaffetz would have to have his own show and build his own brand. And his show would be all about: Hillary and her scandals. All that preparation could suddenly be put to good use without the bother of all those House rules, so to speak.

Look. The First Amendment is the keystone of the constitution. But that means that everyone has a shot at being obnoxious – within some limits. That means that media companies that pulled their advertising dollars from O’Reilly’s show had and have every right to do so. Even if it makes people think they are rushing to judgement in order not to earn the wrath of pressure groups, like O’Reilly attorney Kasowitz is claiming. Kasowitz may be right. He is certainly at least half-right. And his job is to defend his client’s reputation against negative speech. But that negative speech has every right to express itself in various and sundry ways. Including the liberal groups who went after O’Reilly after the NYT story came out last month.

But does Reilly’s reason for being let go have to do with free speech? Or bad behavior? He settled, so it can’t be litigated in a courtroom. Unless Kasowitz finds some way to sue someone for something. Which he probably will. Loud speech about facts which aren’t quite clear. More information will come out, and it will likely paint O’Reilly as an insult-hurling and demanding boss. Was he abusive? We don’t know at this point.

So maybe Jason Chaffetz can have a new show at Fox News where his first guests are … Hillary and Bill O’Reilly. Let the free speech roll!




Georgia’s 6th the Run-Off Election and Black Swans

2017-04-19T18:47:19Z

By the time Democrat hard-left progressive poster boy John Ossoff faces off against GOP contender Karen Handel – former Georgia Secretary of State – in a June 20 run-off election in Georgia’s 6th, a few things may or will have happened: Government will have been shut down – temporarily but how long is anyone’s guess […]

By the time Democrat hard-left progressive poster boy John Ossoff faces off against GOP contender Karen Handel – former Georgia Secretary of State – in a June 20 run-off election in Georgia’s 6th, a few things may or will have happened:

  • Government will have been shut down – temporarily but how long is anyone’s guess should that happen. It will likely be due to the president not renewing the so-called CRS which are subsidies to insurance companies under the ACA. Defunding Planned Parenthood might also be pointed at as the cause of a lack of an agreement.
  • Government will not have been shut down, because Democrats and maybe a few Tuesday Group Republicans will have ensured that CRS – Cost-sharing reductions – remain in place. Those much-loved subsidies to insurers under Obamacare that subsidize their money-losing policies.
  • The Supreme Court, with Justice Gorsuch in Scalia’s old seat may, by June 20 although it’s not likely, have ruled on religious freedom, in Missouri’s Trinity Lutheran Church vs. Pauley case. Which has to do with paving school playgrounds. Which has to due with government handouts for doing things like paving a school playground with suitable, even ecologically friendly, surfaces. Ok, it actually involves recycled rubber tires in order to make playgrounds safer. How friendly recycled rubber is to your kid’s health is another matter. And it involves state funds, and who gets that bag of goodies: public schools AND religious organizations. Or just secular state institutions.
  • Oh, the new governor of Missouri ruled that religious institutions CAN get that bag of goodies. So the suit is moot in a local, immediate political sense. But not in a broader political sense seeing other states have similar programs with possible lawsuits arising from one side or the other.
  • America fought a short war with North Korea and Seoul was spared the horrible damage through quick decisive action by America and its allies in the Pacific region. Kim-Jong Un was hanged upside down by his own people. Like in Romania. And Italy, a ways back.
  • America is fighting a war with North Korea and things are out of control with millions dying in Seoul and elsewhere. Nuclear weapons have been used by both sides. China is on … wait for it …. red alert but has not undertaken any direct military action. Yet.
  • Russia invades Estonia. NATO declares war. Swedish leaders blame Western islamophobia for the Russian invasion, then hide in bunkers that last saw a fresh coat of paint in 1986.
  • Russia hacks Estonia – again. Julian Assange through Wikileaks raises suspicions about possible fascist ties to the Estonian government.

So there will be plenty of fodder – not to mention other possible black swan events – for Handel and Ossoff to debate in the run up to the June 20 run off election in Georgia’s 6th. If things get really crazy elsewhere, we may not even pay much attention to the run off when it comes. Let’s hope we do.




Why Doolittle Matters After 75 Years

2017-04-19T17:25:19Z

Why the Doolittle Raid Still Matters 75 Years Later © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All Rights Reserved. History is always relevant if we’re willing to learn from it. A good example is the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo Japan on April 18th, 1942. By way of quick background, the United States was forced into World War II […]Why the Doolittle Raid Still Matters 75 Years Later © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All Rights Reserved. History is always relevant if we’re willing to learn from it. A good example is the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo Japan on April 18th, 1942. By way of quick background, the United States was forced into World War II after the surprise Japanese attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan had been aggressively moving against other countries in the Pacific realm for several years, taking territory and raw materials to satisfy its expansionist aims. The Japanese correctly saw the US Pacific Fleet, stationed at Pearl, as the biggest threat to their continued activities and so devised a plan to mount a surprise attack on December 7, 1941 against our forces. The surprise worked. The attack sank or disabled eight of the nine battleships in the Fleet (only the USS Pennsylvania, in dry dock, escaped major damage), destroyed dozens of aircraft on the ground and killed over 2300 US military and civilian personnel, all for the loss of only 29 Japanese aircraft. The following day, December 8th 1941, the Japanese attacked our main air base in the western Pacific, Clark Field in the Philippines, destroying dozens of US fighters and bombers on the ground, effectively neutralizing our military strength in that region. Therefore, in less than two days, the Japanese dealt the US military two huge defeats, setting the stage for the fall of the Philippines and leaving the entire Pacific essentially unprotected from Japanese attack. What is less known but unquestionably just as significant as the dual attacks on Pearl Harbor and Clark Field is the Japanese sinking of the British battleships Repulse and Prince of Wales in the South China Sea, just three days after Pearl Harbor, on December 10 1941. The British had dispatched significant naval forces to protect their interests in the Pacific, especially then-colony Singapore, from Japanese aggression. Britain, although a small country in terms of land mass and population, had long been among the world’s pre-eminent naval powers. From Admiral Nelson’s many decisive victories in the late 1700’s-early 1800’s (culminating with his defeat of Napoleon’s fleet off of Trafalgar in 1805) to Admiral Jellicoe’s leading the British Grand Fleet in all-out battleship warfare against the German’s High Seas Fleet at Jutland in 1916 to the powerful mastery of the seas enjoyed by the Royal Navy right through the beginning of World War II, British naval tradition was a source of national pride and identity, very much part of the fabric of their culture. Only seven months prior (in May 1941), Prince of Wales had played a central role in one of the greatest wartime triumphs ever achieved by Britain: the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. The Bismarck—a fast, modern, heavily-armed ship—was intended to be a North Atlantic commerce and cargo ship raider. If it managed to break out into the vast undefended expanse of the North Atlantic, it would be free to extract potentially crippling losses from the nation-saving material assistance coming over to England by convoy from the United States. “Sink the Bismarck!” became a national rallying cry in Britain in May 1941, as the deadly German ship attempted to make its way into the open waters of the Atlantic. The Brits sank it, and the Prince of Wales played a major part, inflicting the initial damage on the Bismarck that led to its eventual demise. If ever an inanimate object—a warship—could become a national hero, the Prince of Wales did. As stunned and shocked as America was after Pearl Harbor and Clark Field, Britain’s response was one of [...]



What Do Kansas’ 4th and Georgia’s 6th Special Elections Mean?

2017-04-14T17:28:18Z

It’s all over for the GOP. 2018 will be a disaster. We’ll lose the House. Why? Kansas. Kansas will lose us the House? No, Estes! Estes or Kansas? Estes is in Kansas! And he, what? Lost an election? No, he won the election. And that’s why we’ll lose the House? Yes. Because Estes won. By […]

It’s all over for the GOP. 2018 will be a disaster. We’ll lose the House. Why? Kansas. Kansas will lose us the House? No, Estes! Estes or Kansas? Estes is in Kansas! And he, what? Lost an election? No, he won the election. And that’s why we’ll lose the House? Yes. Because Estes won. By only a 7% margin.

Methinks they worry too much. Or doth cheer a little too lustily in the case of Democrats.

Ron Estes won a special election in Kansas’ deep Red 4th District, because former seat holder Mike Pompeo is now at the CIA giving Julian Assange some double-barrelled criticism. The race was unexpectedly close and support was required from the White House and Senator Ted Cruz, no less. The former State Treasurer beat back a challenge by Democratic candidate James Thompson by margin of 53% to 46%.

So what does this mean? Can we extrapolate all sorts of grand trends from this one election? Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende cautions from reading too much into this special election. Local factors on the ground, like Governor Sam Brownback’s low approval ratings and Thompson’s relatively conservative stance on issues like 2nd amendment rights, were important in squeezing the margin. However, Trende also warns that if President Trump’s ratings remain relatively low going in to the midterm elections in about 18 months, then that could be a problem in terms of the GOP holding on to the House.

So Speaker Paul Ryan has Georgia on his minds now. And has apparently helped raise $22 million. The problem is, the GOP field is almost as crowded as the presidential primaries in the fall of 2015. The seat formerly held by Tom Price now at Health and Human Services, will be contested with all the candidates on one ballot and a runoff between 1st and 2nd place, if no one gets to 50%.

At last count, 11 Republicans and 5 Democrats have thrown their hats in the ring. That’s a lot of hats. Right now the media is all hot and bothered over liberal Jon Ossoff, born and raised in the 6th district. He attended Georgetown and LSE, and was an aide to Hank Johnson, who represents Georgia’s 4th district. A perfect young progressive wonk (he’s 30) and a native son.

Money is being spent on ads, and early turnout is high. Will Ossoff pull off an upset in another red district? If he does, you can be sure that the media’s joyful lamentations over the demise of the GOP will be deafening. Will it, however, signal a wave of House seats being flipped to Democrats in 2018? The mid-terms are 19 months away. That’s several life times in politics. We’ll just have to see.




How Real Is the Bannon-Kushner Battle?

2017-04-11T23:34:48Z

It’s time to take a closer look at Jared Kushner. Not just the photos of him that lately have shown him as a gaunt and alert presence – a little like a tall, much better looking Nosferatu, gazing darkly at some perhaps unsuspecting target. The problem is, this liberal, New York, (yes he’s from New […]

It’s time to take a closer look at Jared Kushner. Not just the photos of him that lately have shown him as a gaunt and alert presence – a little like a tall, much better looking Nosferatu, gazing darkly at some perhaps unsuspecting target.

The problem is, this liberal, New York, (yes he’s from New Jersey but he’s New York), Democrat is gaining power by the day if not the hour in President Trump’s White House. And the president trusts Jared it seems, as much as he does Steve Bannon. And not only that, Jared has shown an uncanny ability to emerge relatively unscathed during these stormy early days and weeks. Somehow deflecting attention away from himself by being impressively agile and discreet during the epic battles on healthcare, the immigration executive order, and the Russia investigation. Jared Kushner is very un-Nunes and un-Bannon let’s just say.

Until now perhaps.

Yes, call the plumbers, the White House is leaking again. The point being that someone inside is leaking to the press about an apparent slug-fest between Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. And it’s no surprise that there may be some open conflict between the scrappy, elder Irish populist and the young, urbane and seemingly ruthless liberal. The policy direction of the White House is at stake.

Who does Trump trust just that little bit extra?

No, the question should be this: what are Trump’s core political beliefs? And while any healthy does of skepticism regarding anyone’s core beliefs in Washington D.C. might lead one to dismiss the question, that would be a little too cynical. President Trump is … the president. Of America. There’s nowhere he can hide his opinions and beliefs. Nor is he inclined to. And his core beliefs matter. And that’s where most of the criticism from the right focused their contempt for Trump’s candidacy on. He’s a Democrat. He’s a New York Liberal. He’s not one of us. He can’t be trusted. While the left attacked him lustily on the very grounds he was claiming: nationalist populism and a sort-of America First recycling of earlier movements. Even as they shared a sort of disbelief with the right at his rise through the primaries and the election itself.

At this point, Trump has assembled an impressive and mostly conservative cabinet and group of advisers. With Bannon as a fire-breathing populist apparently in various key positions. Until his demotion this week at the National Security Council. Right at the same time as Kushner seems ascendent in the Trump White House.

Has Kushner carefully cultivated relationships with officials and cabinet members as he studiously avoided the limelight? We don’t really know. Is he advising the president to move left on healthcare and work with Democrats? We can’t really tell. Is he helping shape policy in the Middle East, in places like Syria? We have no idea if he travelled there to be a faithful observer for President Trump, or if he has an agenda.

It’s time to shine a little light on Jared Kushner. Perhaps the following weeks and months will bring some needed details on what the President’s son-in-law’s role, or roles, in the White House really are. And it may be that some conservative media outlets on good terms with Bannon will be more than glad to take up that task.




Follow the Votes

2017-04-13T23:49:48Z

Follow the Votes © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.   There’s an old cliché that applies to many situations: “Follow the money.” This means, of course, that many actions, statements and rationalizations are best understood when the observer realizes that the initiator has their own financial self-interests at heart as they undertake various acts […]Follow the Votes © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.   There’s an old cliché that applies to many situations: “Follow the money.” This means, of course, that many actions, statements and rationalizations are best understood when the observer realizes that the initiator has their own financial self-interests at heart as they undertake various acts and then attempt to explain them. In the current political environment, there is a close corollary to Follow the Money: Follow the Votes. Many issues cause politicians and activists on both sides to engage in logic-defying, contradictory actions and statements in their transparent attempt to convince voters. Global Warming is certainly a prime example of this. Whether it’s Barbara Streisand maintaining her famously lavish, energy-intensive homestead, or Leonardo DiCaprio flying in an “eyebrow artist” 7500 miles from Australia to make himself look pretty for his Oscars attendance or Global Warming Champions Al Gore and Robert Kennedy Jr. famously taking fuel-gulping/pollution-spewing private jets to various events, the degree of hypocritical actions and statements in support of pet political causes is nothing short of incredible. The hilariously-but-tragically labeled subject of “choice” is another perfect case. The apparent utter disregard for human decency and compassion that leads supposedly “Catholic” Democratic politicians like John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi to support unrestricted late-term abortion—essentially the birth of a full-term child who is then mercilessly killed upon delivery, just seconds before qualifying as a legal “life”—is a horrifyingly excellent illustration of “Follow the Votes.” We must have choice, after all, and we must capture the voters who support that. However, as spot-on as the above examples are, there is one subject that defines Follow the Votes better than any other. That issue is immigration. Specifically it is the leniency towards illegal immigration espoused by Democrats. By current estimates, there are somewhere around 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Most have come through our southern border from Mexico and other Latin countries. U.S. southern border security is less than Berlin Wall-esque tight, to put it mildly. Republicans and Democrats alike decry our immigration system as “broken” and constantly cite the need for some vague, sweeping “comprehensive immigration reform,” the details of which are frustratingly never delineated in an actual bill. The crux of the illegal immigration issue is the fact that children born to illegal immigrants residing in the United States automatically become U.S. citizens, with all the rights and privileges that that status confers—including the right to vote. Democrats’ vehement defense of sanctuary cities, their oh-so-concerned, outraged protests over Republicans’ supposed desire to wantonly deport illegals and cold-heartedly break up families, the Dems’ dramatic assertions that illegals “play an indispensable role in our economy, pay taxes and do jobs that Americans won’t do,” it all amounts to nothing more than a disingenuous smokescreen in an effort to obscure their actual intent: to grow the ranks of future Democratic voters. Latinos are the fastest-growing American demographic group and the prediction that the United States will become a “majority minority” country within a generation is based in large part on the growth of the Latino segment. Democrats can read predictive demog[...]



Syria Must not Trap America in a Quagmire

2017-04-06T20:54:24Z

As the Senate Majority party – the GOP of course – exercises the nuclear option and allows cloture with a simple majority vote, there is an interesting historical connection that arises. One that seems very relevant today. Cloture – the ending of debate on Senate bills – came into being in 1917 during WW I, […]As the Senate Majority party – the GOP of course – exercises the nuclear option and allows cloture with a simple majority vote, there is an interesting historical connection that arises. One that seems very relevant today. Cloture – the ending of debate on Senate bills – came into being in 1917 during WW I, over the blocking of legislation by a group of senators that would have allowed merchant ships to arm themselves. Against whom? The Kaiser’s U-Boats of course, who were pursing a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, sinking merchant ships, passenger ships, and naval ships of any allied or even neutral countries. It was a scorched-earth policy carried out underwater, as a way to try and gain some control of the seas against the Royal Navy. And in a rather eye-opening piece in the Federalist, John Davidson compares America’s current dilemma with that which the emerging superpower found itself in in 1917. The sinking of the Lusitania and the Zimmerman telegram which exposed a mad plan by Germany to support a Mexican invasion of America’s southern border (remember the Mexican-American War was a far more recent event in those days), with a possible alliance (or axis if you will) with Japan as well. The public demanded America defend herself and she entered the First World War and became an ally of the U.K. Something America had arguably not been up until that point. Now we have the southern border as a deeply divisive domestic issue, as well as the Middle East and ISIS, looming over any decision on foreign policy that Trump’s administration might make. And of course, Syria is the latest heart of darkness, following in the bloody tradition of Afghanistan and Iraq. And once again, Syria presents us with horrifying images, cruel enough to make the humanitarian in each of us want to weep and them grab a weapon and go hunt for Assad. Pronto. President Trump has signaled he wants action on this. But what action? Davidson’s warning in the Federalist essentially says that you need a very clear set of policy objectives before invading a country like Syria. Or entering a World War. In another related article also at The Federalist, Sean Davis lists a dozen questions that should be asked before committing to invading Syria. All of them tough and all of them hard to answer. And Rob Tracinski (yes also at The Federalist) models a possible approach on America’s support of Afghan rebels in the 80’s. When Osama Bin Laden was one of the famed mujahadeen. Ok. Yes, America can start a proxy war in Syria and we can all feel we are helping those wounded children – the ones who survive the gas attack that is – and as the operation bogs down and the “rebels forces” America supports in yet another proxy war, become indistinguishable from ISIS terrorists, what then? Do you send in American ground troops (some are already there by the way)? Do you start WW III with Russia and unleash a nuclear conflict? And unlikely outcome, but not impossible. Or – at best perhaps – does Syria turn into another Afghanistan. Always just a few policy and defense tweaks away from becoming stable and not a nightmare patchwork of corruption, tribal betrayals, and islamic terrorism? Do you send in a Navy Seal team to somehow kidnap and bring Assad back to, say, Guantanamo Bay? And then what happens in Syria? Peace? From one day to the next? Justice and revenge are linked. Let’s not kid ourselves. But they are not the same. And thinking[...]



The Gorsuch Nomination and That Little Bat in the Senate’s Rafters

2017-04-04T21:18:11Z

Listening to Democrat Senators threatening and cajoling their colleagues on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, you would think that the 60-vote cloture rule was enshrined in the Constitution way back in 1789 or thereabouts. Sorry. Not true. Cloture and the filibuster have always been procedural and therefore tactical rules of engagement in Congress, especially in the Senate. […]Listening to Democrat Senators threatening and cajoling their colleagues on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, you would think that the 60-vote cloture rule was enshrined in the Constitution way back in 1789 or thereabouts. Sorry. Not true. Cloture and the filibuster have always been procedural and therefore tactical rules of engagement in Congress, especially in the Senate. That means that they have been modified from time to time. Usually as the result of anger at a filibuster, or anger at the failure of a filibuster. And for much of the 20th century, that anger came from Southern (often Democrat) senators who were not keen to see civil rights legislation spread too far or wide in America. In the late 40’s cloture thus required a hefty two-thirds vote. A filibusterer’s paradise, if you will. But by the mid 70’s (after the failure to filibuster the 1964 Civil Rights Act into oblivion by Senator Robert Byrd among others) that threshold for ending debate was reduced to three-fifths, or 60 votes in today’s senate. So now we are faced with the nuclear obliteration of the filibuster – at least in relation to Supreme Court Nominations – to use the language of Democrats and much of the media. And the GOP as well, if you’re being honest. Because both sides don’t mind the theatre that such a simile produces. And the media loves it of course. But is it really the procedural equivalent of an A-bomb being dropped on a legislative body? Hardly. Ask yourself this question: Is the filibuster a vital parliamentary tactic that we would be wise to keep? It really doesn’t seem so. Constructive debate is the cornerstone of a parliamentary democracy, and Congress fulfills that role in America’s republic. And filibustering is the tactic used when the votes aren’t there, after the constructive debate has run it’s course. It’s all about delaying, laying siege to the intentions of the opposition and hoping to drain the lifeblood out of any proposed legislation. Think of the filibuster as a little bat that hangs in the rafters of Congress until it’s time every now and then to swoop down on the procedural process, and suck the life out of a bill. Yes, the Democrat’s base is howling for blood. Like rabid wolves on the steps of Congress hoping to wake up that little bat in the rafters, and then watching with glowing eyes, as the proposed nomination dries up like a desiccated corpse. Good luck. Not going to happen. And therefore, we are again at a point where the filibuster is about to change. It starts with Supreme Court nominations. Does it end there? Or will it eventually be gone forever if Democrats follow through and refuse to give Gorsuch the 60 votes for any (theoretical) cloture? It’s close and the next few days will see whether the filibuster survives. If it dies, will Democrats insist on keeping Justice Ginsburg on life-support (literally) if – God forbid – she succumbs to a life-threatening disease. Will her votes be recorded by the beeps on her heart monitor? How many beeps make a yes? A no? Silly perhaps. But because of the need to placate their base, Democrats may regret not giving Gorsuch the 60 votes. Let’s hope they do, for the sake of procedure, and that little bat in the rafters. Even if its presence is hardly the Senate’s most glorious feature. [...]



Is Mike Flynn Asking for Immunity to Testify?

2017-03-31T16:45:12Z

Why is Mike Flynn asking for a deal whereby he testifies to the Senate Intelligence Committee (as well as the House Committee and the FBI; although Nunes’ spokesman has denied the report and the FBI won’t comment) in return for immunity? This according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. This is, if true, […]

Why is Mike Flynn asking for a deal whereby he testifies to the Senate Intelligence Committee (as well as the House Committee and the FBI; although Nunes’ spokesman has denied the report and the FBI won’t comment) in return for immunity? This according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

This is, if true, is troubling. Maybe. We’ll find out if and when Flynn finally does indeed testify. And perhaps the request for immunity – again if true – had to do with his failure to register as a foreign agent. Likely of Turkey, and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin’s company, for whom Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group Inc, did over $500,000 worth of lobbying.

Was Flynn working for the Turkish government? Alptekin insists that his firm has nothing to do with Turkey’s government. DOJ and perhaps FBI officials who seem to have pressured for Flynn to do the registration perhaps have a different view. And these would have been Obama administration DOJ and FBI officials doing the pressuring.

However, the specific issue Flynn’s consulting firm was charged with lobbying on seems to have been exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen who currently lives in Pennsylvania. And who Turkish President Erdogan blames for having a role in the attempted coup in Turkey last year, and wants extradited back to Turkey.

Is this the matter that Flynn wants immunity on? Or does it deal with Russia? We don’t know at this point. And it is a rather uncomfortable lack of knowledge. Is this a thread that will unravel in a dangerous way exposing contacts that Flynn wants to hide?

Or does General Flynn have a healthy distrust of the prosecutorial zeal of people like Adam Schiff of the House Intel Committee? After what happened to Scooter Libby, about 10 years ago, Flynn has every right to want protection. But so far the Senate Committee has apparently been unwilling to grant him immunity.

Again, we have lots of emerging speculation on the part of the media, and almost no hard data. Again, the fact that it is an intelligence investigation and not a criminal investigation (until it is), means most of the data/evidence is not publicly available.

And again, as much information as can be released without clearly damaging American intel interests, should be released. Flynn needs to testify. With or without immunity.




How Democrats Want to Intimidate Nunes Off the Intel Committee

2017-03-29T23:25:37Z

This is Susan Hennessey, a former lawyers for the NSA, talking about classified information and leaks: The way the system works is that it is classified until there is an affirmative decision to declassify it. So a leak or public disclosure doesn’t declassify it, and it doesn’t allow people who are aware of it to […]

This is Susan Hennessey, a former lawyers for the NSA, talking about classified information and leaks:

The way the system works is that it is classified until there is an affirmative decision to declassify it. So a leak or public disclosure doesn’t declassify it, and it doesn’t allow people who are aware of it to then discuss it publicly.

This is Kafka, pure and simple. The context of Hennessey’s quote is Chairman Nunes and whether his acknowledgement in his press conference of the fact that there is a FISA surveillance warrant related to the documents he saw on the White House grounds, is itself an unauthorized release of classified information.

Get it? The administrative state, or the bureaucracy or whatever you want to call it, has been leaking without pause in what is most likely an attempt to frustrate, thwart and perhaps even destabilize the Trump administration. And Nunes mentions that there is a FISA warrant in existence somewhere out there, and he may now be subject to an investigation?

Another edifying quote from the story in The Daily Beast, (where else?):

The existence or non-existence of a FISA warrant is a classified fact.

This courtesy of Bradley Moss, a lawyer specializing in classification. The point isn’t that Chairman Nunes may have fumbled a fine point. That will surely come out, especially with a little help from Democrats under co-Chairman Schiff’s oh-so-benevolent guidance. Who now are likely to launch an ethics committee investigation.

And that’s the main point. Nunes is being intimidated by any lawyerly squeezing and media-shaming necessary in order to push him off the intelligence committee and let Schiff conduct a witch hunt of anyone in the Trump administration who may have talked to Russians. And protect the leakers in, around, and throughout the beltway bureaucracy.

How will the GOP fight back? Well, expect Nunes to hold his ground. With something less than full support from GOP senators like Graham and McCain, who have once again been quick to criticize where they see an opportunity to embarrass the president.

Of course, Graham and McCain might just be right. Maybe the House Intelligence Committee is now dysfunctional due in large part to partisan maneuvering. And in fact, the Senate Intelligence Committee has just announced that it has drawn up a list of 20 “people” – at least they didn’t say “suspects” – to be interviewed in the coming days. Senators Burr and Warner told the media they will go wherever the facts lead them. Side by side. Sturdy, dependable, senior and wise, and bipartisan. We hope.

While yet another House failure occurs. Is the House burning down? While the Senate takes up the task of governing?




Can Process Ever Bridge This Divide on Healthcare?

2017-03-28T00:14:20Z

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. […]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[...]



Rare Political Self-Conversions

2017-03-28T13:18:52Z

Rare Political Self-Conversions   © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.   It’s been said that the American electorate can be divided into three roughly equal parts: 1/3 that pays virtually no attention to politics and policy, and if they vote, they either vote by habit or by whatever impression happened to catch their attention […]Rare Political Self-Conversions   © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.   It’s been said that the American electorate can be divided into three roughly equal parts: 1/3 that pays virtually no attention to politics and policy, and if they vote, they either vote by habit or by whatever impression happened to catch their attention 1/3 that are somewhat attentive, and have a rudimentary understanding of issues and the candidates’ stances 1/3 that are rabidly attentive and involved, active in supporting and campaigning for their chosen causes A strong case can be made that for the last two groups—the 2/3 that identify with a Party and an ideology—are very often are born into and grow up with a “baked in” voting ideology. It’s a rare occurrence that an individual makes a 180° ideological turn from their upbringing and converts to the “other side.” There are two demographic groups in particular that are reliable Democratic voters, mainly because of their upbringing and environment: Jews and African-Americans. For Jews, cultural/ethnic considerations play a large role in their liberalism. In his book “Why Are Jews Liberal?” author Norman Podhoretz posits that in the mid-20th Century, Jewish immigrants from Europe were drawn to American liberals, who had a kinder, more welcoming feel than the hard-hearted governments of Europe from which many Jews fled. This caused European Jews to identify with American liberals—Democrats—even though Jewish family tradition and culture is at least as close to modern-day Conservatism as it is to current Liberalism. The Conservative-leaning tenets of completing higher education and striving for significant achievement in respected, high-paying professional fields (law, medicine, finance, business, etc.) are staples of American Jewish life. Indeed, the humorous American Jewish clichés of, “You’ll go to college, you’ll get a good job, you’ll make us proud!” and “My son, the doctor!” are directly and accurately reflective of this. Yet the Jewish vote since 1960 has been reliably around 80% Democratic. The only exception is the outlier year of 1980, when Ronald Reagan beat the hapless Jimmy Carter. But even that year, Carter won the Jewish vote 45-39%. African-Americans tend to be an even more monolithic voting bloc than American Jews, siding somewhere around 90% with the Democrats. When President Obama ran in 2008, being the country’s first Black Presidential candidate, he garnered around 96% of the African-American vote. President Trump, having made a concerted effort to address that bloc with his now-famous “What have you got to lose?” line, managed to reduce that number by Hillary Clinton to about 88%, which is still an overwhelmingly lopsided figure. The reasons surrounding the African-American community’s current status in modern American culture are complicated, without question, and difficult to pin down to just a few obvious causes. The long-term systemic prejudice and discrimination that has operated to their detriment in all aspects of American society are well documented and need not be recounted here. The reaction to these wrongs has been the creation and implementation of numerous Government “solutions,” be it welfare, Affirmative Action, various tax and grant programs (ostensibly open to any group but in reality targeted to minorities), and[...]



Obamacare – It’s Still Alive!!

2017-03-24T23:16:40Z

It’s still here. The Affordable Care Act has been taken off the operating table; Doctor Price and Doctor Ryan (yes only one of them is a real doctor) have taken off their scrubs and headed home after a presser or two. And The President did not look nearly as disappointed as the Speaker of the […]

It’s still here. The Affordable Care Act has been taken off the operating table; Doctor Price and Doctor Ryan (yes only one of them is a real doctor) have taken off their scrubs and headed home after a presser or two. And The President did not look nearly as disappointed as the Speaker of the House, after the vote was called off this Friday afternoon. By the President on advice of the Speaker. Or by the Speaker on advice of the President. Or something like that.

So as the patient with ACA on its hospital wrist band is suddenly given leave to head out the sliding doors pf the hospital and wander through the cities and towns of America, the question becomes: is it a zombie just waiting until its head explodes? And until it scatter its broken pieces around every state of the union? Or is it really kinda healthy and therefore there are many people glad that Obamacare is … still alive!!

President Trump did indeed state at various points during the electoral campaign that he thought perhaps the best thing would have been to let Obamacare collapse until there was no option left but to have a bipartisan bill that was able to clean up the mess of exiting insurance companies, skyrocketing premiums, and high deductibles. Now the president has had his wish come true.

Did President Trump invest political capital in Ryan’s AHCA? Of course he did. Quite a lot. We’ll see exactly how much as the weeks and months pass and Congress and the White House move on to attempt tax reform and infrastructure spending. But the tax savings that would have, theoretically at least, been achieved with the AHCA will now not be there to fund a program of tax cuts.

Plus the wounds and scars of a failed attempt at passing a major piece of legistlation – how about just getting it out of one of the houses of Congress, never mind actually passing it – will also make cooperation between GOP members of Congress a lot more prickly as they try to pivot and “roll forward” in the optimistically steely words of Texas’ Kevin Brady.

But the really noteworthy aspect of this first major failure for the Trump Administration and the GOP Congress is that the president seems more than willing to work with Democrats. Once Obamacare becomes manifestly unsustainable, that is. He said as much in his brief press conference in the Oval Office, shortly after Speaker Ryan had given his.

Would Senator Schumer, or Nancy Pelosi, be interested in sitting down with President Trump? Right now, one doubts that very much. But it could happen. It depends on how much salt they decide to rub into the wounds. And how any attempt at a bipartisan reform of healthcare in America gets framed. Would it be fixing the flaws in Obamacare? A little nip and tuck here and there so the zombie looks nicer?

Or would it be a case of digging in that scalpel and going for the bone? Maybe some amputations. Artificial limbs. A new head. For example. Or how about burying the zombie once and for all? Sorry, Chuck and Nancy can’t do that. Can they? Neither can Colins and Murkowski. And it may be that a clear majority of voters want some sort of a healthcare entitlement zombie alive and walking the streets of America. As of now, they have their wish.




FBI Investigations: an Epic Battle to Shape Narratives

2017-03-23T18:16:27Z

Comey filled the Potomac riverbanks with fog. Now Devan Nunes has unleashed some rocking dry ice to really help clear things up. The GOP Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee held a press conference after briefing the White House (and not his colleagues in Congress) where he stated that “incidental” surveillance of Trump’s campaign team […]Comey filled the Potomac riverbanks with fog. Now Devan Nunes has unleashed some rocking dry ice to really help clear things up. The GOP Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee held a press conference after briefing the White House (and not his colleagues in Congress) where he stated that “incidental” surveillance of Trump’s campaign team was collected in November, December and January. The investigation was a legal one (that surely means FISA approved) and targeted foreign nationals. But the investigation(s?) were not on Trump’s team’s possible coordination or collusion with Russian actors. He thinks at least. The information was leaked to Nunes by intel operatives who were concerned that this information should be given to his committee. In other words, those rumors last summer of a war inside the FBI between senior leadership and lower to mid level officials might have just been accurate. This seems to be a pushback, perhaps from FBI officials (although it might have come from several possible agencies) against Comey’s penchant for secrecy. Does this prove that President Trump was at least half-right when he tweeted about being spied on by Obama’s administration? Not really. This seems to be incidental data – but we’ll just have to take Nunes word for it right now – obtained by an investigation targeting other people. But it is hardly reassuring, for any of the actors involved: The FBI and the intel community at large, Trump’s associates like Manafort and Stone, and the president himself. Watergate had one deep throat, who of course, we know now was a senior FBI official. We now have legions of deep throats leaking continuously. Trump Towers (despite sounding like a cheesy mid-80’s soap, it’s more a post-modern free for all) has become an epic battle for the control of narratives. By powerful people/groups mostly in the government. Who all have a vested interest in this confusing affair. Is Director Comey brave and resolute? Or defiant, arrogant and controlling? Is Manafort an unlucky scapegoat in an attempt to impeach a populist president the elites hate? Or is he a dubious hustler who has been in the pay of oligarchs and autocrats? Does the president honestly (and disturbingly) admire Putin? Or are there further interests at play? For the most part, we don’t know. While there is more evidence in Manafort’s case, there is still mostly suggestion and smoke and precious little light in this investigation. There is an attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare that is hanging in the balance. Tax cuts and regulatory peelback await. Infrastructure spending? Jobs and manufacturing? Jobs are happening of themselves. But it would sure help if a few policies to encourage spending and growth in America were put in place. And oh yes, a Supreme Court nominee is likely to find the rest of his hearings much nastier than the opening salvos fired by Democrats. One of the more aggressive attacks by liberal Democrats is the claim that Russia stole the election and also that the GOP “stole” Garland’s seat. The first claim is false in almost any reasonable sense. The second claim also patently untrue. But who can tell with all this fog? Expect Gorsuch to be asked more absurd questions ab[...]



Gorsuch Hearings Are About Partisan Baiting and Soundbite Fishing

2017-03-22T17:31:42Z

How far is Senator Schumer willing to push these hearings? As every response of Gorsuch, and the question that brought about Gorsuch’s response, is parsed and commented on, the main question is how politicized are the Democrats willing to make these hearings? Because much – if not almost all – of their questioning has been […]

How far is Senator Schumer willing to push these hearings? As every response of Gorsuch, and the question that brought about Gorsuch’s response, is parsed and commented on, the main question is how politicized are the Democrats willing to make these hearings?

Because much – if not almost all – of their questioning has been about the political consequences of applying the law in cases Judge Gorsuch as ruled on. Not whether the law was faithfully applied. The Kansas professor battling cancer for example. One can argue about how politicized confirmation hearings were in past times, but clearly Congress is reaching a new low water mark here.

And much of their base – the left that is – is demanding they do this. It’s not about Judge Gorsuch’s abilities as a judge, which have been roundly praised by almost anyone who has had dealings with the judge. No. It’s about his views – or the assumptions made about what his views are or might be – that matters.

Aren’t they just being honest? The Democrats that is. Of course he’s pro-life, pro-gun rights, favors religious freedom, and does not view business as guilty until proven innocent through the flaying purgatory of high taxes and detailed regulation. That’s why he was nominated. He’s a conservative who will – if and when appointed to the Supreme Court – take Scalia’s place on the bench and ensure America doesn’t have a liberal-leaning SCOTUS. That’s the whole point.

Isn’t it?

Not quite. Yes the administration wants a conservative justice. But you need both of those words. A conservative economist? A conservative talk-radio host? A conservative judge from the lower courts whose rulings have been conflicted and who has been accused of corruption or having submitted to influence-peddling? No one would suggest any of these examples are anything but ridiculous.

You need an eminently qualified jurist. That seems obvious, but when partisan litmus tests – like the ones Senator Schumer has been pushing for Congress to adopt – become the whole point of any hearing, then any nominees ability as a judge becomes secondary. A distant second.

Yes, what should matter is a judge’s philosophy. Her or his view of how the constitution should be read and the law applied, based on that philosophical view. But her or his ability to follow the law faithfully as a judge has to be front and center. Congress – especially these hearings – is more of a red-meat circus with lion tamers poking the animals in their eye. Like Senator Franken, defender of Colorado sheep and lame sarcasm.

So human-interest stores and partisan grilling that pretends to be lawyerly is what the hearings become. Somehow, Congress has to ensure that a qualified Supreme Court Justice emerges from all this partisan baiting, and soundbite fishing. It’s getting harder every time.




Is the Woman in Trump an Islamophobe?

2017-03-17T22:26:23Z

Unless District Judge Derrick Watson of Honolulu is a really, really fast judge when it comes to thinking on and writing up rulings, he had this one locked and loaded in his chamber for at least a week or so. Perhaps since the very day the revised executive order on the travel ban came out. […]Unless District Judge Derrick Watson of Honolulu is a really, really fast judge when it comes to thinking on and writing up rulings, he had this one locked and loaded in his chamber for at least a week or so. Perhaps since the very day the revised executive order on the travel ban came out. That’s because his 43 page ruling was delivered about two hours after a request for a temporary restraining order by the State of Hawaii. Now that’s fast! And rather than dithering on silly things like possible economic harm to the great state of Hawaii – although that was part of the request, naturally – he went straight to the heart of the matter. He doesn’t like what Trump said during the campaign about banning Muslim migrants to America. Religious animus. Get used to those two words. If Judge Watson and his colleagues in the 9th circuit and elsewhere have their way, religious animus and the Establishment Clause (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …) shall be the main litmus test for any policy that has anything to do with immigration. Animus is defined as either: hostility or ill-feeling OR the motivation to do something But don’t let’s stop there, please. According to Carl Jung’s analytical psychology: The anima and animus can be identified as the totality of the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a man possesses, OR the masculine ones possessed by a woman … There can therefore only be one conclusion if you follow Judge Watson’s logic – which is that Trump, while campaigning, had betrayed religious animus in both senses of the word towards Muslims everywhere on the planet and the travel ban must be stayed forever. And that conclusion is: the woman in Trump is an islamophobe. Silly you say? Well yes, it kinda is. Isn’t it? Because the notion that the revised travel ban is unconstitutional cannot stand on any true legal ground. So why bother? Go straight for Jung. Use psychology. Use media stories, headlines, and soundbites. Because that is the raw data that Judge Watson’s ruling is grounded on. Wallow in Trump’s animus. Maybe surf? But leaving the waters of psychology and returning to the law, even a passionate Trump critic like David Frum – writing in The Atlantic – clearly recognizes that Judge Watson is essentially globalizing the First Amendment as Frum puts it. Provided that any religious group has adherents residing (legally?) in the U.S. then they are afforded constitutional protections. American constitutional rights. But should this judicial overreach shock? Isn’t it merely identity politics celebrated by activist, progressive law making? Isn’t that what any progressive wants? The First Amendment everywhere? Or at least using the First Amendment as an excuse for identity politics: Trump white male bad; Unvetted Muslims in Syria good. Isn’t that what the U.N. – shameful hypocrites – claim they want? A district judge in Hawaii can save the world from President Trump! Maybe not. This is headed to the Supreme Court. And in the end, this decision will be found wanting. Legally. Constitutionally. And psychologically. [...]



Standing Tall in the Weeds of Healthcare

2017-03-16T21:22:21Z

If the GOP used to be divided between conservatives and moderates, but is now divided between libertarians and populists, then any legislation as important as the AHCA is next to impossible to achieve. Or at least very, very difficult. Democrats don’t even need to be part of this tower of babel. Although they can’t resist […]If the GOP used to be divided between conservatives and moderates, but is now divided between libertarians and populists, then any legislation as important as the AHCA is next to impossible to achieve. Or at least very, very difficult. Democrats don’t even need to be part of this tower of babel. Although they can’t resist joining in, naturally. Speaker Ryan’s AHCA will have to modified to have a reasonable chance of passing both Houses of Congress. But in which direction? President Trump – in other words – has to decide what philosophy he wants to support as he uses his executive weight to convince, persuade, and threaten enough House members and every single GOP senator to sign off on the bill. A GOP conservative perspective, make that a libertarian perspective, admits that more people will be uninsured as a result of repeal. But with taxes, mandates, penalties, regulations, and subsidies eliminated or drastically reduced, private market solutions will drive down premiums and force providers and insurers to create innovative solutions across state lines. And in the end, there may not be anywhere near the number of newly uninsured patients that CBO estimates predict there will be as result of repeal. A true populist – on the other hand – wants adequate, or better, coverage for just about everyone who is a legal resident of America. That is one tiny step from single-payer universal coverage. The means might differ, but the goals are the same as Bernie Sander’s vision of a socialized American healthcare system. How the heck do you bridge those two views? When they are essentially inside of the same party? Yes, that’s pushing the populist perspective of Trump Democrats, for example, who basically want Obamacare to be fixed and do not trust its top-heavy centralized system of mandates and penalties. But their views are a long, long way from Senators Paul, Cruz, and Lee. Who does President Trump listen to, as he decides how to push the as-yet-to-be amended version of Speaker Ryan’s AHCA through Congress? So far, he seems to be more concerned with getting Paul’s, Cruz’s, and Lee’s votes. Repeal as completely as possible now. And then replace with something as conservative, or libertarian, as possible in a month or two. Maybe. Perhaps. Could the president pivot towards a more populist healthcare proposal? Throughout his campaign, he was clear that he was no conservative when it comes to healthcare. His newfound sympathy for conservative/libertarian concerns is something fairly recent, and definitely post-election. Of course, being a businessman who worries about costs, it would have been fairly straightforward for members of his administration – once they moved into the White House – to lay out some of the unfunded liabilities associated with the ACA. as well as Medicaid and Medicare. That might have helped turn the president. With healthcare, especially this bill, once you get down in the policy weeds, it’s hard to ever come back up for air and a little perspective. The amount of commentary and policy ideas clash and conflict over differing perspectives on what healthcare insurance actually means. And then what to do, given your view of w[...]



Landmines in Obamacare Replacement

2017-03-12T16:04:02Z

Landmines Abound for Republicans in Obamacare Replacement   © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved. Now that Republicans control of both houses of Congress as well as the presidency, the process of Obamacare repeal and replacement has begun in earnest. Once the ACA is formally, officially repealed, the Republicans will “own” the healthcare issue and […]Landmines Abound for Republicans in Obamacare Replacement   © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved. Now that Republicans control of both houses of Congress as well as the presidency, the process of Obamacare repeal and replacement has begun in earnest. Once the ACA is formally, officially repealed, the Republicans will “own” the healthcare issue and the pressure will be on for them to deliver something better than Obamacare. As the alternatives for a new Act fly back and forth, the obvious trap for Republicans is crafting a piece of health legislation that is actually better, not merely different. Wider coverage, easier access, more provider choices, lower costs, more provider accountability, less wasted mandated coverage (no maternity coverage for post-menopausal women, for example), no religious/moral/Government mandate conflicts, etc. The list of must-have items for a successful replacement plan is long. Crafting a plan that satisfies all those requirements is a monumental task and will likely take several iterations past this initial effort. However, regardless of the details of the actual replacement plan, gaining widespread public acceptance and overcoming structural anti-Republican bias is going to be at least as big a challenge as crafting the legislation itself. There are three essential public relations issues with the Republican alternative to Obamacare that are problematic, any one of which by itself could spell doom in terms of widespread public acceptance. All three together mean disaster. Obamacare is President Obama’s “signature domestic achievement” as they call it. It’s his crowning glory. Supporters claim it comes closer to providing universal health care than anything that has come before. it’s President Obama’s achievement. He personally gets the credit for it. His supporters and cheerleaders love this, and do not want his so-called legacy jeopardized by having it dismantled. To repeal it will leave millions without medical coverage in the immediate short term, and because of the potential administrative and logistical time lag before a replacement plan is in place, millions may fall through the cracks and be left without any workable, affordable coverage whatsoever. Republicans must deal with this quickly and effectively. The liberal mainstream media is virulently anti-Republican/anti-Trump and is loathe to run stories that cast either the President or Republicans in a good light. These media outlets include not only the traditional liberal media like the broadcast networks, major papers like the NY Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe, cable news like CNN, MSNBC, but also social media sources like Zuckerberg’s Facebook, which has been exposed for downplaying conservative stories, and the supposedly “neutral” Internet resources like Snopes, a “fact-finding” site which has been caught multiple times putting forth a liberally-sympathetic version of the facts and being very slow to change when the conservative-favoring side of the story proves to be true. Any proposed Republican alternative to Obamacare, regardless of its actual merits, will be dismissed by the liberal mainstream media as unacceptable, in order to pr[...]



What Is America Doing in Syria Senator McCain?

2017-03-12T15:24:34Z

In a small Syrian city called Manbij, Syrian army personnel, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and Russian military men met. And danced. No, this is not a Monty Python video, but rather the latest chapter in the Syrian Civil War, and specifically the strange bedfellows that any alliance against ISIL seems to produce. Whatever the […]In a small Syrian city called Manbij, Syrian army personnel, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and Russian military men met. And danced. No, this is not a Monty Python video, but rather the latest chapter in the Syrian Civil War, and specifically the strange bedfellows that any alliance against ISIL seems to produce. Whatever the celebratory dancing meant – likely that the ISIL rump state seems to be collapsing in Syria as well as Iraq – the dancing will not go on forever. Or even more than a very short time. There are also at least two other major forces present in the town. American forces are now there to prevent Turkish forces – whose border is a short distance north of Manjib – from launching an assault on the Kurdish-led forces. America needs the Kurds to decisively crush the Islamic State in Iraq. But as Matthew Continetti points out: what does that imply about America’s policy towards an independent Kurdistan? Which would affect not only Turkey – which has suffered a lengthy terrorist campaign by Kurdish extremists – but also Syria, Iraq, which is in constant danger of fracturing into warring regions like Afghanistan, and God forbid, Iran. Kurdistan as the Balkans of the Middle East? You wish. The Balkans and their various wars are a cakewalk compared to the dangers surrounding any possible attempt at establishing an independent Kurdish state. What is America’s position? Secretary of State Tillerson will have to get back to us on that one. But maybe that’s asking the wrong person. FiveThirtyEight has a malicious but interesting analysis of the power centers in the White House. It counts 8 of them. Perhaps they go a little overboard, being a rather liberal, if reliably wonky and usually data-driven, political site. But there are clearly a number of decision-making foci, if you will, around the West Wing. And also in Congress. Which brings us to what the fivethirtyeight story labels as the McCain wing. Or the stand-up-and salute-em crowd. Senator McCain works with – in this view – Defense Secretary Mattis, DHS Secretary Kelly, and National Security Adviser McMaster in promoting, that means mostly talking up at conferences – a more robust defense posture on the part of America. Compared to the president’s nods towards a more neutral pragmatism. That also means putting boots on the ground in Iraq in the final takedown of ISIS. And it now seems to mean sending a military presence – on the ground and in the air – into Syria to keep Turks and Kurds from shooting at each other after ISIL has been defeated. Did Mattis lay out a detailed plan for the president on America’s presence in Manbij? Did it include dancing lessons for tank commanders? Did it – rather more seriously – include a little history on America’s presence in the Lebanese Civil War in the early 80’s? Which ended badly, as we all know. In other words, how much of the details does Defense Secretary Mattis get to keep to himself, and not trouble the president with, when it comes to placing American assets in the middle of the (winding down it is true) Syrian Civil War? Because if[...]



Is TrumpCare Repeal? Reform? or Replace?

2017-03-09T02:39:05Z

The American Health Care Act – or ACHA; or TrumpCare if you must say it that way – takes a modest middle-of-the-road approach to reforming some aspects of Obamacare. It is therefore reviled by the left for cutting back subsidies slightly by replacing them with refundable tax credits. It is therefore reviled by the right […]The American Health Care Act – or ACHA; or TrumpCare if you must say it that way – takes a modest middle-of-the-road approach to reforming some aspects of Obamacare. It is therefore reviled by the left for cutting back subsidies slightly by replacing them with refundable tax credits. It is therefore reviled by the right for replacing subsidies with refundable tax credits rather than standard tax deductions. TrumpCare makes modest attempts to reign in some of the Medicaid expansion that has been a key driver of Obamacare’s expanded coverage. The freeze is delayed to 2020, and incentives are therefore given for people to sign up now before the freeze goes into effect. This angers conservatives. But it also angers progressives because the health care security (an oxymoron by most standards, and one which really means health care entitlements paid for by the government) of Obamacare has been replaced by something just slightly more market-oriented. And the toughest conundrum of them all: risk pooling. In other words, how in goodness name do you incentivize younger healthier people who are unwilling to take on Obamacare with all it’s conditions and mandates? Because if you don’t, you’re left with the older, sicker patients who drive up costs exponentially and push premiums skyward. In the Washington Post, Paul Waldman penned an attack article on TrumpCare where he focused on the 30% penalty the current GOP plan imposes if you go without health insurance for 2 months (as opposed to Obamacare’s mandate that penalized people without insurance in a slightly more severe fashion). He writes this about Trumpcare: If young people make that calculation en masse, the risk pool winds up confined to people who are older and sicker, premiums skyrocket, insurers flee and the whole thing collapses. Does this sound slightly familiar? As in exactly what has been happening with Obamacare? As in the key weakness of the ACA, a weakness which has been driving up premiums and causing the exchanges to collapse in state after state? This is partisan grenade throwing over relatively minor adjustments to health care policy. Vox, a progressive/radical beacon of activist muck racking journalism – for crying out loud – said this: A curious thing has happened to the Republican replacement plan as it evolved through multiple drafts; it has begun to look more and more like Obamacare itself. The bill keeps some key features of Obamacare, like giving more help to lower-income Americans, and the Medicaid expansion, in a scaled-back form. Is TrumpCare true repeal? No it is not. Senator Cruz has outlined in Politico a cohesive plan to use reconciliation to repeal most of Obamacare’s features and replace them with expanded HSA’s (which TrumpCare does do to an extent) and a nation-wide insurance market where lower income people can buy cheaper disaster insurance (high deductibles) and use their HSA money to pay for regular medical expenses. It is truly conservative and runs straight in the face of the progressive view that health care is an entitlement, not a service. TrumpCare tries to bridge the enormous gap between conserva[...]



A Zombie Prosecutor, a Scandal Up From the Deep

2017-03-09T02:39:32Z

The Russia Scandal that President Trump brought back up from the deep with his now infamous tweets this past weekend has left his ship of state between two deadly shores, as Andrew McCarthy has pointed out: President Obama personally ordered (leaving aside the legal parsing of the term ordered and the chain of events that […]The Russia Scandal that President Trump brought back up from the deep with his now infamous tweets this past weekend has left his ship of state between two deadly shores, as Andrew McCarthy has pointed out: President Obama personally ordered (leaving aside the legal parsing of the term ordered and the chain of events that have to proceed according to FISA and involving the DOJ) a wiretap – including electronic surveillance – of candidate Trump last year. OR Trump’s team was knowingly and actively complicit with Putin’s regime in somehow undermining the American electoral process, including the elections themselves, in order to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and place a Kremlin ally in the White House. A reasonable person looking at the lack of evidence supporting either outrageously disturbing claim would say neither is true. A conspiracy buff feeding on the media frenzy would pause a moment from his (or less often, her) browsing of UFO websites and say: Yes! They’re both true! Awesome! When do the little green men appear?? But neither President Trump nor the media are in any mood to be reasonable with each other, nor with this scandal, which so far is not supported by any concrete evidence. And the Democrats who have all but said they will disrupt and even end the Trump administration’s term by any means possible, except hired guns triangulating at Mar-a-Lago, are also calling for a special prosecutor. Both Schumer and Pelosi agreed to let the special prosecutor legislation die in 1999, very conveniently for then President Bill Clinton. Now they want to bring it back, like a zombie from the grave, to ghoulishly pour over the scandal from the deep. And they will surely find a way to justify disarming any special prosecutor act once a Democrat is safely in the White House. Has Putin sent flowers to Schumer and Pelosi yet? And most every other player in Washington DC? Or is even he slightly troubled by what is starting to spin out of control? These are deadly serious accusations that in the end do merit a congressional investigation with some sort of credible neutral panel, as Carl Cannon has suggested. Good luck. Any investigating commission will have every member pulled and pried apart by the media or by Trump himself or by leaks even from the intelligence community who has a lot of skin in this dangerous game. Any commission’s credibility will inevitably be undermined by one or other powerful D.C. player. And the public will likely be as partisan as ever in judging any commission or any of its individual members. Cannon also suggests immunity for those investigated, because as he rightly says, the focus has to be on the integrity of America’s electoral process. Not whether contacts by former or current Trump associates might have been unseemly and therefore – in the logic of today’s divided, venal, and outraged environment – treasonous. Because there has so far been a lack of evidence supporting either of the two scenarios outlined above – as even articles in the NYtimes usually admit somewhere near the last paragraph – the truth is likely t[...]



Keeping GOp’s Health Plan under Wraps From Assassins

2017-03-04T00:11:18Z

One would assume that Senator Rand Paul is unable to take his gun collection into the halls of Congress. Without some sort of special permit and with all live ammunition carefully separated from chambers or clip-ons. Or maybe not at all, forget about it senator, keep them at home. So the image of Senator Rand […]

One would assume that Senator Rand Paul is unable to take his gun collection into the halls of Congress. Without some sort of special permit and with all live ammunition carefully separated from chambers or clip-ons. Or maybe not at all, forget about it senator, keep them at home.

So the image of Senator Rand Paul in hiding in some supply deposit on the Hill waiting for the GOP’s healthcare plan to come out of it’s locked down hiding place, and whisked down the hall on an open cart, quickly escorted to a conference room, so that he can unload a cartridge or two into it’s clean shiny font and splatter the proposals into oblivion is perhaps a little dramatic.

But make no mistake. The GOP’s Obamacare Repeal and Replace is under locked guard for fear of assassination. And that would include triangulation from Democrat Senators and House members as well.

Is this fair or reasonable?

The better question is should it even be? Well yes, perhaps it should, but we’re dealing with healthcare and we’re dealing with revamping or replacing or reforming a piece of legislation that impinges on voter’s and their families’ health. It’s healthcare. It is complicated. Always.

But here’s the problem. Between Senator Rand Paul’s and GOP House conservative members’ vision of health care in America – a robust one that hinges on responsibility and competition – and moderate GOP members’ as well as Democrats’ and state governments’ vision, there is an enormous gap. There will have to be trade-offs. There is no other way, especially with health care.

Is any sort of compromise possible? Feasible that is, when counting up votes on the Hill. Forget about Democrat support. Maybe a few senators up for re-election in 2018, can be shifted to vote yes. Maybe.

But unless the GOP itself can coalesce around a plan – one that by definition will have to compromise between conservatives and moderates in the party – there will be precious little achieved with Obamacare repeal. Maybe replace will be delayed. But that will mean no positive plan in place for the GOP to justify repealing Obamacare.

In other words, would it have been smarter to have let Obamacare collapse? State by state? Rather than replace it immediately? That, of course, would have meant turning back a key campaign promise. Not a possible route, given Trump’s brand is very much wrapped up with his being someone who actually does what he says.

And all this will have to be done with Democrats howling and screaming about how their wonderful ex-president’s plan has been discarded by cruel Republicans.

A compromise is coming. We just don’t know what the details will be. But it will be a costly one, unfortunately. It’s healthcare.




Trump’s Address Was not a Repudiation of His Inaugural Speech

2017-03-02T23:00:37Z

You can’t separate out the two speeches and say: this one good and virtuous, this one dark and divisive. The inaugural address being the dark and divisive speech, according to much of Washington and the media. President Trump’s address to Congress being the virtuous and good speech, grudgingly accorded so even by people like Van […]You can’t separate out the two speeches and say: this one good and virtuous, this one dark and divisive. The inaugural address being the dark and divisive speech, according to much of Washington and the media. President Trump’s address to Congress being the virtuous and good speech, grudgingly accorded so even by people like Van Jones. Who basically told Democrats to watch out. If Trump can do this then he will win. Again and again. The inaugural speech was Trump’s promise to his supporters to take on the establishment. It was dramatic, and it parts it was dark in its portrayal of America. But it was a concise and powerful call to action. And a shot across the bow to that very establishment. Who responded in every devious way possible with yet more attempts to undermine and even overthrow by any (legal one presumes) means possible, Trump’s nascent administration. President Trump’s address to Congress was the perfectly pitched acknowledgement that America’s government functions on the basis of the separation of powers. The address to Congress was not a contradiction or a denial of the inaugural speech. Precisely because Trump’s proposed reforms to the administrative state – that large and unaccountable bureaucracy that decides how voters’ lives are to be lived in the most painstakingly detailed and intrusive ways – would be a return to a true balance of power. Closer to that envisioned by the founding fathers. But Trump has taken on the establishment – even as he reached out in sober and occasionally gracious fashion to possible allies – and that means that most Democrats will oppose Trump on everything. They are now the real Never Trumpers. Not some of the writers at the Weekly Standard, or a few of those at RedState. For example. Democrat members of Congress’ partisanship – driven by fear of their own progressive base that howls continually over any perceived intrusion into their radical utopias – means they cannot clearly state that they support infrastructure spending, or defending workers from the presence of illegal migrants in the labor market, or encouraging US companies to invest at home. And must spin every Trump proposal as somehow racist and divisive. Will the Trump Resistance ever turn or soften? Will Democrat senators up for re-election in 2018 cede on some appointments or issues? They may have to – given that Lindsey Graham is turning out to be one of the biggest obstructions to Trump in the Senate. Almost as much as Chuck Schumer, but more flying low and spraying the occasional guided missiles, only when he finds it convenient. And other GOP senators are already slowing down and gumming up Trump’s attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare. So President Trump had to reach out, precisely because of the venue and the audience. And the nature of America’s Republican Constitution. And he did so with a skill that was shockingly admirable to his slightly stunned Democrat members. Recall Nancy Pelosi nervously chatting to her neighbor with a surpr[...]



Uber Wanks – Bannon Stays on Message

2017-02-28T18:18:13Z

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 […]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. [...]



Global Warming Is Irrelevant

2017-02-26T16:28:51Z

Global Warming Is Irrelevant © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.   There is probably no subject (outside of abortion) that has engendered more passion for a longer period of time—decades now—than Global Warming. Here are some of the issues and talking points: Settled Science or Junk Science Warmest Year on Record vs. hiding faulty […]Global Warming Is Irrelevant © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.   There is probably no subject (outside of abortion) that has engendered more passion for a longer period of time—decades now—than Global Warming. Here are some of the issues and talking points: Settled Science or Junk Science Warmest Year on Record vs. hiding faulty or contradictory evidence The threat of actually jailing Deniers (they even have a name, complete with a capital letter) International conferences and accords New regulations for businesses and equipment Complicated Carbon Trading schemes Dramatic declarations by politicians of Warming being a greater threat than ISIS Photographic “evidence” of impending doom and impact on nature/wildlife The routine, unquestioned conflation of daily weather events and long-term climate change All of these are examples of the highly-charged, deeply-held views on the subject. I recognize and appreciate the intensity and vehemence with which the respective parties hold to their positions. However, for the purposes of this article, let’s simply concede that anthropogenic Global Warming is real, not just a coincidental occurrence of cyclical climate patterns on earth and the relationship of those patterns to solar activity and the like. Let’s take the “Is man-caused Global Warming real?” question off the table and admit its existence. However, even if there is certainty regarding the reality of man-caused Global Warming, it probably doesn’t matter. Here’s why: The very same profit-driven capitalistic Western businesspeople who seem to stoke the ire of the Warmists so intensely are the ones who are well on their way to ending Warming—and long before it becomes any kind of permanent threat to mankind’s well-being. Fossil-based fuels are simultaneously the most economically-efficient source of energy and the most politically-troublesome and ecologically-controversial source of energy. Historic relationships between nations, current foreign policy and military decisions, ecological impacts, everything is tied up in a convoluted, indecipherable cause-and-effect Gordian Knot because of fossil fuels. Yet it is the popularly-maligned free-market capitalistic system, with its unsavory profits, rewards and unapologetic income inequality, that is the key driver to finding the eventual solution to our reliance on ecologically-detrimental carbon-based fuels. A veritable free-market fortune awaits the individual or company that delivers the first viable alternative energy system, one that is easily deployable on a mass scale across large geographic areas. That promise of capitalistic reward has many companies feverishly pursuing different solutions. The potential of virtually unlimited free-market profits and a superior competitive market position are spurring private for-profit companies to find a viable alternative to carbon fuels. That’s undeniably true, and it’s happening primarily here in the U.S., primarily because of our freest-of-all-markets system. An [...]



Why CPAC Matters and Yiannopoulos Doesn’t

2017-02-24T23:49:51Z

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 […]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?[...]



Saving America From Regulatory Dark Matter

2017-02-24T19:23:33Z

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 […]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 ap[...]



Political Deception on R v W

2017-02-19T15:29:26Z

Big Deception on Both Sides of Roe v. Wade   © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All Rights Reserved.   There are lots of practical and philosophical differences between the two major political parties in America. Some are real differences, some are more perceived than real and some are just clichés that one side likes to perpetuate […]Big Deception on Both Sides of Roe v. Wade   © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All Rights Reserved.   There are lots of practical and philosophical differences between the two major political parties in America. Some are real differences, some are more perceived than real and some are just clichés that one side likes to perpetuate to the detriment of the other:   Taxes Free-market capitalism vs. Gov’t-controlled safety net Affirmative Action Immigration Policy Health Care Foreign policy/use of military force Education Woman’s/minorities/sexual orientation rights/pay inequality Law enforcement/legal issues Energy policy/Environmental/Climate Change issues Media coverage   Those are the broad categories on which most elections are based, and at least within some limited range, negotiation/compromise between the two parties is theoretically possible, and actually happens from time to time. However, there is one topic that is not on the list above, because compromise hasn’t been possible to this point: Abortion. Abortion is the Democratic Party’s Line in the Sand. The abortion constituency is a—no, the—major voting bloc for the Democrats. It cuts across all ethnic, racial, age, gender/orientation and economic lines in a way that no other important Democratic issue does. Liberals of every stripe are in favor of it, although perhaps for wildly different reasons. Nonetheless, they all arrive at this same destination, even though it’s often by dramatically different routes. The unquestioned availability of abortion is the common denominator of all Liberal voters. Some Democrats may be more business-oriented and like low taxes and limited restrictive regulations; some may be low-income/minority but have high-achievement children, so Affirmative Action is their thing. Some may perceive a wage gap or gender/orientation discrimination or feel strongly that we shouldn’t drill into the earth and strip Her bounty just to turn on the lights. And so on. The common thread among them all: The continued legal availability of abortion. Many voters—too many—base their Presidential vote on this issue of so-called “choice,” mistakenly believing that the party of the President determines the availability and legality of abortion. For the Democrats, a Presidential Supreme Court appointment means only one thing: the preservation of Roe v Wade, which Democrats feel preserves unfettered access to abortion. This issue, more than welfare, affirmative action, higher taxes on the rich, stiffer environmental regulations, relaxed immigration rules or gay rights, is the cornerstone of the Democratic platform. Strip away everything else, and the Democrats know that their core constituency will always vote for them as long as they can deliver the abortion issue. They may euphemistically shroud the issue with phrases like “women’s health,” or “choice,” etc., but it all means the same thing: the Democrats are the Party of Abortion. T[...]



Susan Collins, Andy Puzder, Elon Musk, and Regaining Dignity

2017-02-16T21:19:33Z

While Kelly Ayotte is helping Neil Gorsuch to walk the halls of Congress and meet and greet senators, Susan Collins is suddenly becoming a royal pain in the backside for this administration. The moderate Maine GOP senator has been on the no side for 2 Cabinet choices. Her no vote did not manage to prevent […]While Kelly Ayotte is helping Neil Gorsuch to walk the halls of Congress and meet and greet senators, Susan Collins is suddenly becoming a royal pain in the backside for this administration. The moderate Maine GOP senator has been on the no side for 2 Cabinet choices. Her no vote did not manage to prevent Betsy DeVos from being successfully nominated to Secretary of Education. But she was also part of the GOP four (along with Alaska’s Murkowski who also opposed DeVos, South Carolina’s Tim Scott, and Georgia’s Johnny Isakson) that have effectively forced Andy Puzder to withdraw his nomination for Secretary of Labor. The optics on Puzder weren’t worth going to battle over for the administration, even though it adds up to a rough couple of days for the administration. Now Senator Collins is indicating that she will also give a thumbs down on EPA nominee Scott Pruitt. Do the current storms battering the White House mean she is suddenly emboldened? Or would she have voted this way, regardless? And is she as bound to labor unions in general as she clearly is to the teacher’s unions? She may be, but her opposition on Puzder is perhaps a little more understandable than her no vote on DeVos. Especially from the perspective of the White House. That’s because under-employed and unemployed, and not-even-looking-anymore, white males with high school or less were and are a key part of Trump’s supporters. And in a world that fetishizes disruption and ignores marginalized workers, any doubts about a potential Secretary of Labor resonate a lot more strongly than they might have in the mid-90’s, for example. In a world where Elon Musk – at a World Government Summit in Dubai no less – pronounces that we must Borg ourselves or be incinerated. In a world where if you drive a truck or taxi, you are probably old and need to die anyway to make room for progress. Where anyone with an IQ less than 120 – never mind 100 – needs to get an implant. In this type of world, it matters what type of signals you send to working men and women, and to those who would like to work, and especially to those who have given up trying to obtain work. But that does not mean continuing to feed the welfare monster that might write checks to the marginalized, but has not been truly successful at helping them regain a productive and satisfying life. Arthur C. Brooks has just published a wonderful article on not just what to do to help those who are in poverty and marginalized, but why we do it. The what is a fairly pragmatic but rather inclusive list of conservative common sense proposals: from welfare reform, to lowering taxes to encourage job creation, to giving parents options when seeking schooling for their children. But the overarching theme has to be one of giving people back purpose. As Brooks so clearly points out: The most compelling reason for tax reform and further welfare reform is to create more op[...]