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Updated: 2017-05-25T18:10:13Z

 



The Great Bozeman Incident and Escalation in America

2017-05-25T18:10:13Z

What shall we call them? The Gianforte Tapes? Does that sound just a little Nixonian? For all you public-hearted Democrats like Connecticut’s Jim Himes. Democratic Representative of the people of the good state of Connecticut. Who has helpfully de-escalated a handbags incident in Bozeman between Gianforte and Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs. By saying that all […]

What shall we call them? The Gianforte Tapes? Does that sound just a little Nixonian? For all you public-hearted Democrats like Connecticut’s Jim Himes. Democratic Representative of the people of the good state of Connecticut. Who has helpfully de-escalated a handbags incident in Bozeman between Gianforte and Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs. By saying that all mean-hearted Republicans should have a moment of clarity over the incident. And just hand over, oh say, 25 or 30 seats in the House of Representatives to his party. Right now, in a mass special election. Why wait 18 months for the mid-terms?

Ok. So we have an audio. What will become a notorious audio. A skit on SNL, possibly this weekend? A symbol of a deeply divided nation. Which is the fault of the president of course. And a great excuse to paint the Montana special election as a turning point in Democrats’ fortunes at the congressional, state, and local level.

But what exactly happened in Bozeman?

Did Ben Jacobs walk in on an ongoing interview (with Fox News perhaps? A Fox crew was apparently in the room when the incident occurred)? Was it in fact a scuffle over a phone stuck in Gianforte’s face while the candidate was in the middle of giving or wrapping up another interview? A little guerilla journalism on the part of The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs? Or put another way, a little bit of rudeness and aggression on Jacob’s part?

I suppose we’ll find out, now that Gianfonte has been given a citation for a misdemeanor assault. The world – or at least a whole platoon of Ben Jacobs-like journalists will descend on Bozeman to cover this incident.

So. If you’re a conservative/libertarian speaker who is physically assaulted on campus, the media focuses on the perspective and excuses of the antifa or other radicals who did or provided the environment in which the assault occurred. If you’re a tired and fed up candidate who (wrongly) loses his temper over aggressive tactics by a journalist you deserve jail or a fine, or at least to lose the election. Or even better, to have your special election results – should for example Gianforte still win the election – nullified.

That really will be the question. If Gianforte wins, should his election be nullified? The fact that the question is even being asked about what was a little pushing, grabbing and shoving (called “horrifying” by the DailyKos – give me a break) is merely another escalation in the culture wars that have defined speech in America for nearly a generation now.




Never Reveal What a Russian Hacker Can’t Steal

2017-05-23T21:22:02Z

Have you heard of Automated Indicator Sharing capability? No? Well, rumors are that the Trump administration is hoping you get to find out a little more about this intel-sharing program run through the Department of Homeland Security. It apparently involves intelligence sharing between several intel actors in the international community. Does it include Russia? That […]Have you heard of Automated Indicator Sharing capability? No? Well, rumors are that the Trump administration is hoping you get to find out a little more about this intel-sharing program run through the Department of Homeland Security. It apparently involves intelligence sharing between several intel actors in the international community. Does it include Russia? That seems to be the question that President Trump would like asked of DHS. Perhaps as a pushback against the leaks that portrayed (rather accurately) the president as unwittingly sharing at least some classified information with top Russian officials. The way it works is companies provide information on hackers and potential vulnerabilities to DHS who then use the data to run super-duper-real-secret algorithms that analyze the data (which includes IP addresses) and thus create threat profiles that can be acted on before any planned hacks occur. As a former official (gee what previous administration might have he or she worked for? Bush 43?) stated: …there’s certain information out there that’s beneficial for everyone to have, like, ‘Hey, this Windows program has a bug.’ When we share cybersecurity information with the Russians, we’re protecting their systems, making sure that no one hijacks their planes and missiles. Ah. So in that case it’s cool to share, as long as you follow standard protocol. And yes, there is a logic there. You have to compartmentalize information and just give what you need to give. And no more. Fair enough. But guess what? There is a bug in a certain Windows program that’s been around for awhile. And boy did that little bug have consequences as the world has seen in the last few days. And who first found how to exploit that bug for their own intel gathering purposes? Who else but the NSA! Welcome to the worm-ridden world of SMB V.1, apparently a rather old bit of Microsoft code that lets users share files and other stuff. And which if you’re not still using Windows XP and have actually allowed Microsoft to update your operating system, is probably not on your laptop or other devices. But many people still love their XP and don’t like downloading every update from Microsoft. So we have a problem. What problem you say? Well, back around 2013 the NSA found out how vulnerable this bit of code – our SMB V.1 – could be and hijacked it to use to get inside the SWIFT banking system for transferring funds between banks. With a focus on the Middle East. Follow the money as they say. Unfortunately, the Shadow Brokers cyber criminal group released this flaw and other related tools in their notorious data dump a few months ago. And now we have the logical consequence of this meshing of private hackers and public spy agencies: WannaCry, the ransomeware that shut down Hospitals and Banks and Trains and PC’s on a couple of continents. And that seeks out and exploits that old bit of Microsoft code: SMB V.1; in order to search for and seal with an encrypting key any documents and other valuable files that your infected computer might contain. You get your files back if you deposit BitCoin at an address, with a conveniently located button on the screen that shows up on your infected machine. And it’s not impossible that WannaCry is being run by Russian hackers. So just one question for the DHS’ Automated Indicator Sharing capability folks. Did you get the IP addresses of the Shadow Brokers or whoever hacked the NSA and dumped all those vital software tools into the public domain? Or of the cyber thugs who launched the ransomeware? And will you help out the public in gener[...]



Ross Douthat Demands the 25th – Domenech Differs

2017-05-19T16:38:44Z

We’re back at the 25th amendment it seems. Thanks to the NYT’s Ross Douthat, who has followed up on fellow, so-called conservative David Brook’s assessment of President Trump as a child, with the only possible solution according to Douthat: remove President Trump from office by using the 25th amendment. The presidency has become too imperial […]We’re back at the 25th amendment it seems. Thanks to the NYT’s Ross Douthat, who has followed up on fellow, so-called conservative David Brook’s assessment of President Trump as a child, with the only possible solution according to Douthat: remove President Trump from office by using the 25th amendment. The presidency has become too imperial to be run by someone with the president’s character, according to Douthat. And he has plenty of proof he insists, from those who work in or near the White House. Interesting. Douthat receives a phone call or two, or calls someone in said position and hears them complain about their boss. Something that surely has been happening lately with increasing frequency. From that Douthat assembles a psychological profile, or polishes up Brooks and others caricatures of the president and uses it … as justification for an unprecedented use of a fairly recent amendment. All to remove the duly elected president. Has Douthat had a vacation from New York lately? In other words, intellectuals despise Trump’s characters, so off with the imperial president’s head. And Douthat is not alone, unfortunately, in this. The hounds from both sides of the aisle are already howling for blood, their appetites wetted by an increasing stream of leaks from the intel community. All that differs are the methods. An inquiry and then impeachment. Or … A special prosecutor and then impeachment. Or … A select committee that lasts until just before the midterms. Then Democrats retake the Senate and then impeachment. Or … Straight to the 25th after first trying to convince Trump’s own cabinet including the Vice President to declare their boss unfit to govern the country. Which is what the 25th amendment requires. Why unfit? Because maybe, perhaps, he unwittingly and clumsily gave out a few clues to the Russians. Yes, that was not a good move, but the 25th? Ben Domenech in his newsletter responds to Ross Douthat with a sternly ironic rebuke regarding frothing anti-Trump hysteria in the media. If such an attempt was made, Domenech points out, it would in fact truly be a virtual, political assassination. And one of the very man that heartland voters sick of coastal elites elected to the White House. Done by the elites to keep their grip on power. Why? Because Trump has such questionable character, as “everyone” from Park Slope to Beverly Hills knows. Not including points in between. As an antidote to this raving, rolling madness (with ex-Director Mueller now appointed as special “counsel” by DOJ’s deputy AG Rod Rosenstein) is a fascinating piece by Joel Kotkin and Michael Lind in New Geography about America’s heartland, or flyover country, or where “those” people live if you’re Ross Douthat. It provides compelling evidence that jobs and yes people are migrating back east or out west towards the Mississippi, if you will. To where companies – many of them manufacturing or industrial as well as the many companies that service or supply the supposedly vanishing manufacturing sector – are providing new jobs. Where taxes are lower and where homes are cheaper. And where it’s a good place to raise your kids. Could it be that as elites on the coasts are trying to find any non-violent way of removing a president the heartland elected, places like New York and California are losing people and jobs to that very heartland? Is this the final scattered cannon shots from a crumbling Bastille run by a self-important and decadent aristocracy who have no idea that their power may be far less[...]



What’s in a Name? Business and Politics

2017-05-17T13:56:49Z

What’s in a Name? © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved. Naming. The final frontier. Either Marketing has identified a brilliant long-range strategic opening that will revolutionize everything or Sales has won their argument and we’ll be producing a “me-too” fast-tracked defensive response product to counter our biggest competitor’s latest gizmo. Either way, Industrial Design […]What’s in a Name? © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved. Naming. The final frontier. Either Marketing has identified a brilliant long-range strategic opening that will revolutionize everything or Sales has won their argument and we’ll be producing a “me-too” fast-tracked defensive response product to counter our biggest competitor’s latest gizmo. Either way, Industrial Design comes up with some pretty concepts of what it might look like, Engineering designs the actual thing so it will perform the way it needs to, and finally, Mechanical Engineering makes sure it all fits together and the factory can actually manufacture it. Marketing decides how much it will sell for (based on the material and labor cost and market conditions), Sales gives their forecasts (it would have been more but Marketing priced it a little too high), and Purchasing places the order with the overseas factory, telling them to put a ‘rush’ on it (as if that will really make a difference, as if every single customer they have doesn’t tell them to ‘rush’ everything). But….somewhere along the way, this gadget has to have a definite, hard-and-fast, unchangeable name. It’s got to be called something. Lots of things need to be molded or printed or created digitally: logo badges, names on the product’s chassis, boxes, user manuals (ok, no one reads them, but still), price lists, web pages, ads….lots of stuff. A name. We need a name. How do you name something? How important is the name? Does the name really affect the sales and market acceptance of a product one way or the other? Naming is a difficult thing. People have wildly differing views on the topic, based on their own experiences and their perception of their own expertise. Product naming falls into a few major categories, so we’ll look at each one. Bear in mind that everyone is a bloody expert on the subject, with ironclad, unimpeachable reasons, examples and logic as to why their thoughts and opinions are beyond any second-guessing whatsoever. Really. There are lots of very smart, insightful people involved in this, and none of them can possibly be wrong. It’s very important to understand that from the get-go. There’s only one certainty: Everyone thinks their own ideas about product naming are correct. Just roll with it. Here are the naming categories: Alpha/Numeric (Audi) A4 (Atlantic) IWTS-30 LCR (Sony) XBR-49X900E (Acoustic Research) AR-3 (Honda) CR-V This is the model number approach. The simple method is to use easily-remembered, short model numbers that can take on an identity of their own. Audi’s A4 is a perfect example. Acoustic Research, the famous stereo speaker company from the 1960’s-70’s, used their own company initials (“AR”) and a short model number. Audi and AR illustrate two different ways a company can go about creating model numbers: Either in ascending/descending order of price/performance (the Audi A3, A4, A5, A6 etc. go up in price/performance as the model number increases) or in time/sequential order: the AR-1 came out first, followed by the AR-2, AR-3, AR-4, etc. This was not a price or performance order: the AR-4 was the least expensive of them all, followed by the AR-2. If a product is truly excellent and garners great critical acclaim from reviewers and strong word-of-mouth from consumers, then the model numbers take on a life of their own, without even having to mention the company name. If a car aficionado asks what you’re driving and you say, “An A4,” they’ll know what you’re talking about. Ditto the Honda (although this is n[...]



What Was Revealed? What Should Be Asked?

2017-05-16T22:31:09Z

If there is indeed a very unfortunate ISIS double agent – perhaps in Jordan whose King received a phone call from the White House during the past day or so it is reported – who is being or has been tortured to death because of the latest leak about Trump and the Russian ambassador and […]

If there is indeed a very unfortunate ISIS double agent – perhaps in Jordan whose King received a phone call from the White House during the past day or so it is reported – who is being or has been tortured to death because of the latest leak about Trump and the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, then whose fault is it?

Let’s put it this way: is a Washington Post headline story the best way to protect intel sources in the Middle East? Ones that are involved in the islamic terrorist scene in places like Syria, Iraq or perhaps Jordan?

It takes reading through quite a few paragraphs in said WaPo story to get to the following:

Russia and the United States both regard the Islamic State as an enemy and share limited information about terrorist threats. But the two nations have competing agendas in Syria, where Moscow has deployed military assets and personnel to support President Bashar al-Assad.

President Trump broke no law – he is allowed to share any information he deems vital to protecting America’s national security interests. What info did FDR share with Stalin during the later years of WW II for example? So the question is, in departing (perhaps) from standard protocol in these types of meetings did President Trump betray a naivety that undermines America’s crucial relationships in the international intelligence community?

And almost as importantly: what has been gained in terms of America’s national interests by this attempt to humiliate and expose an apparent faux-pax by the president? Or is that (or those) double agent(s) in perhaps Jordan who may be hanging by his fingernails and about to be tortured to death, mere collateral damage in the war between D.C. bureaucrats in the intel community and the Trump administration, or even between the media and Trump himself?

That depends on what your perspective is and what your goals are. Do you want to ensure robust relationships with allied intel communities? Then you deal with this fairly subtly. Yes, that means keeping things off the front page, for example.

Do you want to find any possible means – short of a military coup or an assassination – to end Trump’s presidency ASAP? Then you leak, leak, and leak. And do it with a hysterically righteous sense of purpose, like a Soviet actor in The Battleship Potemkin. Ok, that’s a little exaggerated. Just like the media and Trump. Isn’t it?

Look, if Trump did slip up because of a boast, and if he did so in front a couple of grinning Russian officials, whose minds are meanwhile working like Swiss watches lubricated by the finest Vodka you can buy in the West, then there’s a steep learning curve ahead for the president. (It’s actually a flat learning curve if you put time on the x-axis and knowledge gained on the y-axis but never mind, y’all know what I mean)

This raises an important question: have these sorts of unintentional slip-ups always been an unfortunate part of top-level meetings between officials of rival or even allied countries? And is Trump getting a rougher ride precisely because of the media, bureaucratic, Democrat, and academic campaign to portray him as unfit to be Commander in Chief? Or was this truly a cringe-worthy event? Because of the partisan warfare swirling around the president, that’s a really tough question to answer with any reasonable amount of objectivity.

But in something as key as counter-intelligence sources in the fight against ISIS, it’s a question that must be asked.




Trump’s Tweets on Comey and the Need for An Independent Investigation

2017-05-12T23:11:46Z

There are important reasons why Trump was elected President, that have to do with how the country deals with it’s rural and urban divides. Even as broad labels like rural and urban or coastal and heartland bely enormous diversity within even individual regions in America. These reasons may not matter much longer if President Trump […]There are important reasons why Trump was elected President, that have to do with how the country deals with it’s rural and urban divides. Even as broad labels like rural and urban or coastal and heartland bely enormous diversity within even individual regions in America. These reasons may not matter much longer if President Trump keeps using Twitter the way he has the last few days. Why fricking set up an institutional process (or at least claim to, to key journalists like Byron York and others) in order to determine that Comey should be fired, if Trump then tweets out contradicting reasons a few days later? Why carefully try to explain the president’s reasons or the administration’s reasons for the dismissal if the president himself both threatens to stop press briefings and to circumvent Spicer and his staff with printed handouts? It is precisely at key moments like this that the president needs to understand that business practices have to be applied to politics – especially presidential politics – with at least some regard for how Washington works on an institutional level and a cultural level. Yes, you want to drain the swamp. No, you don’t want to pump your basement full with swamp water because you thought you could avoid a mess by draining the growing swamp on the White House lawn that way. Trump has apparently threatened Comey with possible recordings, slapped down his communications staff, and is still furious at the media coverage, as if he actually expected his firing of Comey at this time to have resulted in a different sort of reaction from a media that is openly and hysterically critical of him. What was he thinking? And what truly sucks about all this is that there is still no real evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia. Yes, Flynn and Carter Page, and Roger Stone, and Manafort have displayed questionable ethics at best. Yes, the investigation should continue. But no, it’s not a criminal investigation. It’s an open-ended intel investigation. That means spy v spy. That means that much of what might be evidence can be kept from public view due to it’s being classified information. At least in the intel community’s judgement. Thanks to Trump’s blunders, it now feels like a criminal investigation has been thwarted. It isn’t one and it hasn’t. The investigation will resume, with more intensity and more coverage, and more witnesses – even if they merely rehash the same evidence. President Trump has fanned the flames of the investigation and continues to do so, with the clumsy banning of the press from his meeting with Russian foreign officials. The Russian news agencies published their photos of what had apparently been agreed to as a private event. Great optics guys. And then the president later tweets out the White House photographer’s pics in an angry reaction to the obvious move that Putin pulled on him. Not good. Again, this is not Watergate, but President Trump is doing his best to behave as if he was Nixon, and as if it was. There needs to be a Congressional committee charged with investigating this – not a special prosecutor please – so that this can be openly investigated – to hell with classified concerns; America needs this right now – and to finally put the issue to rest. If possible. Wherever the investigation does lead. It needs unpartisan – if that’s possible anymore – members. No Schumer. No Schiff. No Sessions. It needs to issue a report. We also need a credible new FBI Dir[...]



Comey, Putin, Fusion and Steele – Now That’s a Party!

2017-05-09T20:13:19Z

The Senate is not just the next pitstop for the TrumpHouseCare healthcare bill, now that it’s cleared the first hurdle. But there also is – among other things – that ongoing Russia investigation that seemed to be the only thing that mattered mere weeks ago. And a few days back. there was a very interesting […]

The Senate is not just the next pitstop for the TrumpHouseCare healthcare bill, now that it’s cleared the first hurdle. But there also is – among other things – that ongoing Russia investigation that seemed to be the only thing that mattered mere weeks ago. And a few days back. there was a very interesting exchange in the Senate Intelligence Committee between Senator Graham who is no friend of President Trump, and Director Comey. Comey had what seems a frustrating time at the hearing. His voice rose to a whiny, frustrated pitch while he used phrases like “mildly nauseous” to describe his feelings about Hillary’s email scandal and the election last fall.

But the nature of the exchange between Senator Graham and Director Comey involves quite interesting stuff.

As reported by Mollie Hemingway in The Federalist, it seems there is a complaint lodged with the Department of Justice that claims that Fusion GPS, the notorious opp-shop firm that was hired to dig up dirt on Trump, and was paid in part at least by … the Russians?!

The essential point is that Fusion GPS is now alleged to have done work for Russia. And perhaps even that Russia helped pay for and officially contributed to the infamous Steele Dossier with it’s lurid and often or at least sometimes untrue and unchecked claims. Senator Graham phrased the question in a way that focuses on the fact that Russia was an active, immediate and complicit partner in opposition research which may have altered the course of the presidential elections in 2016.

But the next question that arises is … and the FBI? Comey stonewalled Graham and has been reluctant – to say the least – to provide any sort of meaningful information on the apparently ongoing Russia investigation at his agency. But if any of this is at least partially true then we have the following:

The U.S. intel community is a complicit partner with Putin’s regime in spreading kompromat on a candidate in an American presidential election. Kompromat which is of doubtful authenticity in at least several notable instances. What does that say about the intel community?

In other words, if this is true, is this a one-off nasty campaign against President (or candidate) Trump? Or has this type of operation been used by American intel community actors in other elections? Elections in America that is. The intel community’s job is to interfere elsewhere if the conditions warrant it. But doing so at home raises troubling questions.

And the media? Has there been any focus on this as of late? Perhaps an acerbic story or two in the Daily Beast about how the Senate Intelligence Committee has supposedly stalled the probe. But not much else. This should not be a partisan concern. This should be a broad concern. But of course it very much is partisan, and on both sides. But in the end, if Putin is capable of hacking Hillary’s campaign it should hardly be surprising that the ex-KGB officer would play both sides of the aisle, and hack Trump’s campaign. Just in case. Isn’t that what Soviet active measures were all about? Sorry, what they are all about.

FBI active measures? Couldn’t be, could it?




The 2020 Democratic Bench

2017-05-08T12:38:18Z

The 2020 Democratic Bench © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved. It’s never too early to speculate. The Democrats are fired up for the 2020 Presidential election in a way they haven’t been in years. The pall of Hillary Clinton’s loss to the supremely unqualified, fraudulent shell of a candidate that was and is Donald […]The 2020 Democratic Bench © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved. It’s never too early to speculate. The Democrats are fired up for the 2020 Presidential election in a way they haven’t been in years. The pall of Hillary Clinton’s loss to the supremely unqualified, fraudulent shell of a candidate that was and is Donald Trump hangs over the party as a constant reminder of a nightmarish reality, brought about by an unimaginable string of unforced errors, miscalculations and unpreventable random outside events that conspired together to produce the greatest upset in American political history. Is it hyperbole to say that never in the history of Democratic politics has an election loomed larger and more important than 2020? There are three 70-something nationally-known potential 2020 Democratic candidates right now, but to any objective observer, they seem stale, predictable and shop worn. It’s unlikely that Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could put together a support coalition across the generational boundaries that would prove strong and vital enough to constitute an actual winning majority. Are any of them a surprise in any way? Do any of them hold even one position on any issue that isn’t already known in advance by everyone? Do any of them inspire the undecideds or strike fear into our international adversaries? Warren, in particular, may not even live to fight until 2020. Although her national standing is quite high among the hard-core far-Left wing of her party, her personal shortcomings, shrill unlikeability and hypocrisy are becoming increasingly apparent even to her MA base. It’s widely felt that a strong MA Republican Senate candidate, with good funding and a sharp communications strategy, will give Warren a very difficult time indeed in 2018. From her living the lifestyle of a privileged 1%-er while railing against “the rich,” to the embarrassingly shallow understanding of foreign policy she demonstrates whenever she speaks at length on the subject, to her deception of her ethnic background as a “native American” that she used on her application to Harvard, she’s a “target-rich environment,” ripe pickings for a sharply-run opposition campaign. As Republican Charlie Baker’s overwhelming election to the Governorship showed, MA will elect a Republican if the Democrat is deemed personally unworthy, unknowledgeable or out of touch. Warren is arguably all three. As a MA resident, I can see that Warren’s 2018 Senate re-election is far from a sure thing. So if the 70+ sect is not properly equipped, who is? Where will the Dems turn? Two names jump out as possibilities: VA Governor Terry McAuliffe and MA Congressman Seth Moulton. There are others, no doubt, and some that no one has even thought of yet. But let’s look at these two for starters. Terry McAuliffe Currently the Governor of VA, McAuliffe is a long-time Democratic operative and high-profile figure in the Party. A prolific fundraiser and rabidly partisan but highly effective public speaker, McAuliffe was co-chair of President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, Democratic National Chairman from 2001 to 2005 and chair of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. He won the VA Governorship in 2013 by a close 2-point margin over former VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. As governor, McAuliffe has maintained his high profile, making a dramatic national splash with his declared intention to restore the voting rights via Executive Order of more than 200,000 ex-felons in Virg[...]



You Can’t Have It Both Ways

2017-05-05T17:38:22Z

You Can’t Have It Both Ways © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved. It’s human nature: When Person A finally takes the action or adopts the position favored by Person B, the inclination is for Person B to continue to be dissatisfied with Person A and not give them any credit for their move. Person […]You Can’t Have It Both Ways © 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved. It’s human nature: When Person A finally takes the action or adopts the position favored by Person B, the inclination is for Person B to continue to be dissatisfied with Person A and not give them any credit for their move. Person B will very often change the basis on which the original issue was based in an attempt to preserve a legitimate reason to reject Person A’s action. To Person B, being able to reject Person A and disagree with them is more important than the actual issue itself. Such is definitely the case with Democrat politicians, activists and the liberal media regarding President Trump. An excellent example of this occurred in early April on the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News when he was speaking to Democratic Congressman (CA) Brad Sherman. Carlson put forth the fact that Trump’s missile attack on Syria was unequivocally damaging to Putin’s ally Assad, thereby proving that President Trump was not “in the pocket” of Putin as so many Democrats have claimed. Carlson challenged Sherman to simply admit that. Sherman refused, aghast at the prospect of absolving Trump of his biggest “sin”: the Democrats’ contention that he colluded with Russia to sink Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Instead, Sherman was trying desperately to maintain that Trump is still “guilty” of some vague-but-grievous campaign violations, even though Sherman agreed with the missile strike. He was trying to have it both ways. Another perfect example of trying to have it both ways is when then-candidate Trump named Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager. The entire subject of women’s progress in the professional world, the “wage gap,” the Glass Ceiling, women entering previously male-only fields, etc. is a vital cornerstone of the Democratic platform. Add to that the Democrats gleefully revelling in their leaking of the 12-year-old Trump “grabbing” audiotape and it adds up to a very convenient narrative for them: “Trump disrespects women and his presidency will harm women’s standing in all aspects of American life.” But then Trump does something that doesn’t comport with his opponents’ preferred depiction of putative misogynist white male Republicans—he names a woman to mastermind his campaign. If a male Democrat had named a female campaign manager, he’d be hailed as a modern stereotype-breaker, a person who courageously breaks with outmoded, stubborn tradition and embraces the enlightened new way, seeks fresh perspectives, knows how to justly recognize the talents and insights that only a gender-balanced team can deliver and so on. Yet, for Democrats, the negative image of Trump as an old-time womanizer was just too juicy and appealing to let go of. So not only did they not give Trump “credit” for elevating a woman to a well-deserved critical position in his campaign, they employed the all-too-common device of changing the basis on which the original issue was based: they savaged Conway herself, calling into question her intellect and honesty. Since Trump’s election win, Conway has stayed on as a high-level advisor and the Democrats’ and liberal media hysterical criticism of Conway has continued unabated. The profoundly unfavorable attacks directed at Conway wouldn’t be tolerated for even the briefest of seconds if she was a Democrat. But as is always the case, the Democrats try to have things both ways. They criticize Republicans for their supposed refusal to promote women to hig[...]



Do We Want a Bi-Coastal Media Bubble?

2017-05-03T23:26:55Z

Warren Henry makes a great point in his recent analysis of America’s infamous media bubble. No, there’s no quotes here around the phrase: media bubble. Because it is what it is. A big bi-coastal bubble. Here’s what Henry said in a newsletter a few days back: It’s worth noting that for many years, journalism was […]Warren Henry makes a great point in his recent analysis of America’s infamous media bubble. No, there’s no quotes here around the phrase: media bubble. Because it is what it is. A big bi-coastal bubble. Here’s what Henry said in a newsletter a few days back: It’s worth noting that for many years, journalism was considered a blue-collar job, one that could be done by ink-stained wretches without the artificial barriers of credentialing. It only became a gentrified, white-collar profession around the time people decided the job was more about being a paid left-leaning activist – “making the world a better place” in the post-Watergate argot. And since journalism became white-collar, these more-educated, often better-paid, white-collar journalists tend to go where the jobs in their industry are, on the two coasts of course. That’s a broad brush to paint an industry with, but it’s not an inaccurate statement when it comes to major, national coverage. Whatever the specific media might be. Maybe talk radio is a notable exception to the centralizing bi-coastal trend in media. But the trend is there nonetheless. And that means, again according to Warren Henry: The difference between those with a more globalist or nationalist viewpoint, between those with a conservative viewpoint or progressive viewpoint is both substantive and aesthetic, both economic and cultural. No kidding. The gap is real. People are self-sorting along the above-mentioned cultural and political divides, almost down to the neighborhood level. And perhaps as or even more importantly, they are self-sorting in terms of media consumption. No, I don’t want to follow MSNBC, or, no I don’t want to watch Fox News. I don’t care what they say anymore. But the division gets even more granular than that. In her already near-viral interview, Samantha Bee a few days ago basically admitted that she and her production crew make her shows for themselves and people like themselves. Is that who Obama was complaining about? Can this trend be modified? Does the general public – divided into cultural tribes – want it to be modified? Consider the NYT. A fricking cautious column by former Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens on how a modest, healthy skepticism towards any assertion by science – in this case, climate change – is a good thing, drew hysterical and angry denouncements by readers. Stephens didn’t even come close to saying climate change was fake or junk science. Just that science is not religion. It requires evidence and experiments that can be duplicated in controlled environments. Something hard if not impossible to do with climate. But even this modest column drew furious reactions from NYT subscribers and a movement to unsubscribe. Angry “loyalists” tweeted out how the NYT abandoned them. Scientists to the core, every screeching one of them. And this was due to the NYT’s editorial intent to reflect the reality of America under a Trump presidency. A reality they have been practically negating and heavily criticizing, until this timid attempt at some balance in their pages. Their colleagues at the New Yorker have gone the other way it would seem. In a smear job by Evan Osnos, they gleefully quote Never Trumpers, and even sucker NewsMax’s Ruddy into giving a quote or two, and then delve into the 25th amendment and how it could possibly be used to impeach Presiden[...]



Close Call on NAFTA? or Hardball Tactics?

2017-05-01T23:03:59Z

Who called who? As attention focuses on Congress and President Trump getting a one week extension on funding signed before midnight on Friday, there was a supposedly very close call with NAFTA this week. President Trump had an executive order ready to be signed that would have withdrawn America from the trade agreement. But then […]

Who called who? As attention focuses on Congress and President Trump getting a one week extension on funding signed before midnight on Friday, there was a supposedly very close call with NAFTA this week. President Trump had an executive order ready to be signed that would have withdrawn America from the trade agreement. But then he got on the phone with Mexico’s President and Canada’s Prime Minister and they agreed to work things out.

How close did America come to withdrawing from NAFTA? And, would Congress have to vote on any withdrawal from NAFTA by America? Article 2205 of the agreement states:

A Party may withdraw from this Agreement six months after it provides written notice of withdrawal to the other Parties. If a Party withdraws, the Agreement shall remain in force for the other Parties.

That sounds pretty clearcut, as well as being flexible and pragmatic. And it sure seems to give the president the power to withdraw. Writing in Atlantic however, Matt Ford quotes NAFTA wonk and advisor Jon Johnson as saying the use of the word may, means that a country is not bound to withdraw should, for example, President Trump have actually signed that executive order. And goes further to state that since Congress enacted NAFTA, it must have its say over any attempt by America to withdraw from NAFTA.

Sorry Jon Johnson, but that’s quibbling. Had Trump signed the withdrawal order, he would have put America at the doorstep and on the way out. He didn’t sign however, and it seems to be that the leaders of Canada and Mexico suddenly had an urge to dial up President Trump and see how he was doing.

Well maybe not quite. It was leaked and rumored and spread all over town that an executive order was being drafted and that it was a matter of days before it would get signed. And that seemed to work nicely. Senators spoke up against withdrawal. And suddenly Canada and Mexico were calling, and a deal to work on some sort of a deal to reform the trade agreement was reached.

Was this Pence reining in Bannon and Navarro? With Kushner telling his wife to call her boy pal in Ottawa and get him to call her father so that NAFTA would remain in place, maybe with a few changes? Frantic calls and who knows what the president will do next?

Or, was this a case of a White House that is coming together and figuring out who does what and when in order to achieve President Trump’s agenda?




A Begging Wall and the Other Walls

2017-04-26T23:25:34Z

This is a tale of two (sets of) walls. One wall is begging for funds. The other walls are being firmed up, at least temporarily, by a San Francisco, (if not a 9th circuit), court decision. The same people who want to tear down the wall that is now begging for funds, are the ones […]

This is a tale of two (sets of) walls. One wall is begging for funds. The other walls are being firmed up, at least temporarily, by a San Francisco, (if not a 9th circuit), court decision. The same people who want to tear down the wall that is now begging for funds, are the ones who cheer when the set of other walls gets buttressed by a judge’s decision. And yes, those who wish to strengthen the begging wall are the same people who would like the DOJ and the Trump administration in general to tear down the set of other walls.

It’s an apt description to call the southern border the begging wall. People begging to get in is the image the other-wallers would like to project when the public thinks of illegal immigrants, sneaking or being smuggled across the southern border. And the other-wallers (like mayors in San Francisco and Los Angeles and let’s not forget Chicago, among other cities) love it that the begging-wallers have to hope that funds can be raised in Congress. A hope that is looking much less likely at mid-week with the stop-gap funding running out on Friday.

It looks like the Trump administration has given up – for now at least – on getting what is a very low sum of money when considering federal budget numbers in the temporary budget deal, in order to shore up the southern border with things like fencing and additional border personnel.

What’s left is talk that the GOP is trying to get a trade-off getting some additional money for border security (GOP members of Congress say it’s in there; Democrats say it isn’t) in exchange for keeping the subsidies to insurance companies for covering money-losing customers (the CSR or Cost-Sharing Reductions). So yet another feature of Obamacare is being accepted by Congress while what amounts to pennies on the dollar for some non-wall types of border security are ushered into the budget deal disguised with wigs and masks.

Clearly the GOP could not get enough, or even any, moderate Democrat Senators to agree to funding for a border wall. I’m sorry, that would be moderate GOP senators as well.

And a San Francisco federal court judge, William Orrick, has ruled that the loss of funds resulting from President Trump’s executive order would cause sanctuary cities “to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction.” So he did. Block the executive order that is. There will be an appeal, no doubt, but it is another (hopefully temporary) setback handed to the administration by the very liberal west coast circuit.

So where the money counts in the budget and where the lower courts are concerned, identity politics rules uber alle. Perceived discrimination by American border patrol or customs officials matters more than upholding the laws of the country. Cutting off funds because of a lack of cooperation by local police with ICE officers is a major pecado in the eyes of progressive judges. So. The begging wall will go begging. The other (set-of) walls around sanctuary cities will stay in place or even be raised further by municipal policy and lower court decisions, until the higher courts decide at some point in the future.

How dare conservatives ask for a wall, or for free speech? That’s only for liberals.




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 [...]



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,[...]



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 ou[...]



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 th[...]



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 pa[...]



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[...]



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[...]



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 a[...]



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. An[...]



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 aggr[...]



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. – s[...]



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 presiden[...]