The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Troublemaker

The prevailing narrative vis-a-vis Iran and its attacks on tanker traffic in the Gulf of Hormuz is represented by Aaron Miller:
The Iranian regime is authoritarian, ideological and repressive, a serial human rights abuser and regional troublemaker. But we now find ourselves in a dangerous situation largely as a result of a great unraveling begun by the Trump administration's unilateral decision last year to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.

The accord — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — was flawed, to be sure, and didn’t address Iran’s aggressive regional behavior or its ballistic missile programs. Even so, it was still a highly functional arms control agreement that imposed significant constraints on Iran's nuclear program for at least for a decade or more.

Campaigning hard against the agreement, candidate Trump vowed to renegotiate or leave what he deemed the worst agreement ever negotiated. Then as president, he pulled out of the agreement and launched his "maximum pressure" campaign. The administration reimposed sanctions on banking and petrochemicals and, in the past several months, has made a major effort to reduce Iran's lifeblood — its oil exports — to zero. As intended, all of this has wreaked havoc on the Iranian economy.
Let's consider this position for just a second. The previous administration established a "deal" that would allow an "authoritarian, ideological and repressive, a serial human rights abuser and regional troublemaker" a clear path to nuclear weapons over a ten year span, suggesting—with a level of naivete or stupidity that was breathtaking—that same "Troublemaker" would somehow reform itself during that time, eschew nuclear weapons, and make nice to everyone in the region. To cement the deal, the previous administration bribed the mad mullahs with pallets of hard cash, secretly flown into Tehran in the middle of the night. But the Trump Administration is somehow culpable for Iran's current troublemaking because they wouldn't buy into to the fantasy of the previous administration.

So now, the Democrats, GOP #NeverTrumpers, and their trained hamsters in the media are all clutching their pearls and talking all-out war in the Middle East. After all, Iran is doing what repressive (Islamist) regimes always do—they're throwing a tantrum because Trump's sanctions are working.

Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh comment on the situation:
Iran is in no shape for a prolonged confrontation with the U.S. The regime is in a politically precarious position. The sullen Iranian middle class has given up on the possibility of reform or prosperity. The lower classes, once tethered to the regime by the expansive welfare state, have also grown disloyal. The intelligentsia no longer believes that faith and freedom can be harmonized. And the youth have become the regime’s most unrelenting critics.

Iran’s fragile theocracy can’t absorb a massive external shock. That’s why Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has, for the most part, adhered to the JCPOA, and why he is likely angling for negotiation over confrontation with the Great Satan.

The ruling clerics, Mr. Khamenei in particular, are competent strategists. They appreciate the need to enhance their leverage before any talks. Terrorism has always been the regime’s preferred method of inflicting pain on adversaries ...

The regime also has at its disposal foreign militias such as Hezbollah, which it uses to target regional foes without admitting direct responsibility. And there are more-direct means to increase negotiating leverage. The attacks in recent weeks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman are probably the handiwork of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s naval units, which train regularly in the use of mines. The most recent shipping attacks have had their intended effect. European officials, Democratic politicians and much of the American press are pleading for dialogue.

The key to dealing with the Islamic Republic is to appreciate that it is an exhausted regime, perhaps well on its way to extinction. A vulnerable, resentful enemy is a dangerous one. The U.S. should shore up its military might in the region and harden defenses around bases and diplomatic compounds. But the regime’s essential weakness means it can’t muster sufficient strength for a prolonged conflict with a determined superpower. The mullahs’ clenched fists, slogans of martyrdom, and staged demonstrations shouldn’t be confused with real power. The Trump administration’s strategy of maximum pressure shouldn’t be diluted as the two sides edge closer to the negotiating table.

Despite the criticisms from Democrats and Europeans, Mr. Trump’s Iran policy has had considerable success.
As Aaron Miller correctly stated, Iran is a bad actor—"authoritarian, ideological and repressive, a serial human rights abuser and regional troublemaker" and the previous administration deal with it was deeply "flawed." Why on earth would the Democrats, the #NeverTrumpers, and the trained hamsters in the media take Iran's side over the rather measured actions of the current administration?

UPDATE-1:
----------------

Like any good blackmailer, Iran has announced that it will increase enriched uranium production with the clear implication that it will produce nuclear weapons downstream. The Democrats, GOP #NeverTrumpers, and many European allies and their trained hamsters gasp in horror and try blame it all on our exit from the "Iran Deal." That's laughable, given that Iran has continually demonstrated that it cannot be trusted and has likely violated both the terms and the spirit of the "Iran Deal" repeatedly. Of course, the Dems and the Euros would prefer their fantasy that all was sweetness and light until the evil Trump arrived to roil the wonderful deal between the mad mullahs and the West. Instead we now see the reality that is Iran—not a responsible nation, but a country that is "authoritarian, ideological and repressive, a serial human rights abuser and regional troublemaker." That reality collides with the Dem/Euro fantasy, but reality will prevail no matter how loud the accusations that it's all Trump's fault.

UPDATE-2:
------------------

The usual suspects along with their trained hamsters in the media would have us believe that Trump's foreign policy is purposeless and that he is setting the stage for regional conflict (psychological projection from the past administration?). Walter Russell Mead has a different take:
The latest crisis with Iran illustrates an important but widely neglected point about world politics: Amid all the talk about American decline, American power in the international system has actually grown. Even five years ago the U.S. could not force Iran out of world oil markets without causing a devastating spike in oil and gas prices that would destabilize the world economy. Today, world energy markets are so robust that Brent crude prices have fallen since the first set of attacks on oil tankers in May.

Simultaneously, the U.S. has developed the ability to globalize unilateral sanctions. Washington doesn’t need the support of its allies to isolate Tehran economically, because “secondary sanctions” can effectively compel other countries to comply with the U.S. effort. That the administration has accomplished this while also engaged in trade battles with nearly every important American trading partner underscores the magnitude of U.S. economic power and the administration’s determination to bring it fully to bear on Iran.

As the shades of Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy can testify, however, great power does not automatically confer wisdom. Having demonstrated an impressive ability to squeeze Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, the Trump administration now needs to translate raw power into policy success. This goal remains elusive with all three countries so far, and the path forward is anything but clear.
All of that is true. Trump must proceed carefully. He must not be goaded into kinetic action, and immediately be characterized as a "bully" and a "warmonger." But Iran must not be allowed to threaten a major trade route and develop nuclear weapons. The balance between restraint and resolve is difficult. Restraint cannot (as it diod under the previous administration) become paralysis. Resolve cannot lead to a war that is cannot be won (give our current politics). The answer lies somewhere in between those two poles.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Census

The United States Census is conducted every ten years with the intent of collecting data that allow all of us, including politicians in Congress to better understand the makeup of our population, the needs of various constituencies that are part of that makeup, and very importantly, to understand where concentrations of those constituencies exist. But the census also collects lot and lots of detailed data on education, income, age, race, ... you name it.

For some strange reason, the Democrats have become hysterical over a simple question that probes a respondent's citizenship or lack thereof. The Dems have decided that asking a question about citizenship will suppress the response of illegal immigrants and as a consequence, lead to undercounts that "disenfranchise" those same illegal immigrants. This is analogous to the idiocy surrounding voter ID in which the Dems take the condescending and racist view that minorities are incapable of getting a valid government ID, and because of that, IDs suppress the minority vote.

A challenge to the census question is currently under review by the Supreme Court, and in an attempt to influence that court, the Dems have decided to create a "scandal" and hold members of the Trump administration in contempt of congress.

Kim Strassel comments:
Democrats have convinced themselves that if the administration is allowed to include the question, illegal aliens will shy away from the census, resulting in an undercount in urban areas and fewer Democratic House seats. The party is uninterested in the substantive policy reasons for the question. As New York’s Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez admitted in Wednesday’s hearing: “This determines who has power in the United States of America.”

When the Census Bureau announced last year that it would add the question, liberal attorneys general and advocacy groups rushed to sue and won some lower-court rulings. But in April the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Department of Commerce v. New York. The court’s conservatives seemed to take the view that the Commerce Department, which oversees the census, has broad authority over questions.

Liberals have been conducting a court lobbying/intimidation campaign ever since. Only a few weeks ago, they went to a lower court with “new” evidence—a 2015 study by a deceased GOP consultant—that they claim shows the citizenship question was a Republican plot to take over the House. Democrats suggested that the Supreme Court would lose its “legitimacy” if it rules in the administration’s favor.

Mr. Cummings is now flanking this effort. He insists this is about oversight, but one of his own committee members unhelpfully acknowledged in March that the committee demands were about trying to find a smoking gun to aid the litigation. Rep. Jimmy Gomez of California told NPR in March he hoped testimony from Mr. Ross “reveals something that the courts can use.” Unfortunately for Democrats, my congressional sources tell me none of the documents or interviews have revealed anything shady.

So now the goal is delay. Wednesday’s oversight hearing and contempt votes were designed to provoke the Trump administration into exerting executive privilege over a few confidential legal memos. This allowed Democrats to claim the administration is “hiding” important information—and to suggest the justices are missing vital information that could weigh in their decision.
It's worth stepping back from this for just a second and asking the following questions:

1. Is not the intent of the census to better understand the distribution of constituencies that makeup the U.S. population?

2. Why would anyone lobby to make data collected about that distribution less accurate?

3. Why would a party that tells us it cares so much about illegal immigrants want their numbers to be under-represented?

4. What, exactly, frightens the Democrats so much that they'd be willing to purposely advocate an undercount?

5. The Dems keep telling us they'll retake the presidency in 2020. Given that, wouldn't they want to know the number of illegal immigrants so they could craft caring programs to help them?

Like most things, this whole affair has nothing to do with concern for immigrants and everything to do with (quoting Rep Ocasio-Cortez) "... who has power in the United States of America.”

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Compulsion

At best, there are some democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential nomination who feel mildly uncomfortable with the "democratic socialism" espoused by the likes of Bernie Sanders or Liz Warren. But the majority of the candidates are cowards, afraid to offend their rabidly left-wing base (who just love socialism), and therefore tip-toe around the subject.

They tell us that "democratic socialism" isn't really 'socialism.' They scoff when those of us who don't agree with their ideology relate stories of the the many countries who have tried it, including modern day Venezuela. They claim that it can't happen here, and won't happen anyway because they're in charge and their brand of socialism is benign.

They're trying desperately to rebrand socialism into something different, but it's the same old thing—compelling people to give up many freedoms so that democratic socialists can gain control and sculpt the society and culture to their norms. The problem, of course, is that at least half the country doesn't agree with their norms or their methods for compelling compliance.

The Editorial Board of Issues & Insights comments the Democrats' attempt to rebrand socialism:
The big question that never gets addressed regarding these and other “explanations” of socialism is: Why do the self-identified “democratic socialists” feel it’s OK to force those who’d rather be free into their collective?

The system [Bernie] Sanders wants to force on this country of ostensibly free people requires more coercion than that which we are already under. Without force, both real and threatened, socialist systems cannot work. They require governments to take from some and give to others. Its subjects are obligated to participate.

National Review’s Kevin Williamson calls socialism “solidarity that is enforced at gunpoint, if necessary.”

British novelist Kingsley Amis, who was a young Marxist before he became a supporter of Margaret Thatcher and friend of the Adam Smith Institute, said that “if socialism is not about compulsion, it is about nothing.”

The Adam Smith Institute itself reminds us that “whenever socialism has been tried it has involved compulsion, as it attempts to make people behave in ways they would not freely choose to do.”

In the “Dostoevsky Encyclopedia,” author Kenneth Lantz explained that “lacking any spiritual basis for human brotherhood, the socialists must resort to compulsion to establish it.”

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul once asked if violence was inherent to socialism, to which he responded: “I think the answer is absolutely yes.”

And, finally, legendary economist Milton Friedman wraps up our argument.

“The essential notion of a socialist society is fundamentally force,” said Friedman. “If the government is the master, you ultimately have to order people what to do.”

America wasn’t built on coercive government. It was conceived and founded on liberty, and opportunity created by freedom, not artificially manufactured by the state. It has worked far better than any system implemented by man.
But our government has changed over the past four decades. It's gotten bigger, more intrusive, and certainly more profligate. And that's without socialism!

Just imagine what would happen when "compulsion" to the norms of a Bernie Sanders and his congressional compatriots is the rule of the day. Trillions upon trillions of dollars for a health care system that all would be compelled to join. Additional trillions to excuse debt that was entered into freely. Still more trillions for "free" programs that are almost certain to fail and guaranteed to have unintended negative side effects.

Here's the thing. All of us recognize the need for government and the need for some government programs. After all, we need law enforcement, infrastructure, and a a military. We need to protect our borders (although Democrats seem to be unconcerned about this); we need centralized agencies to track disease, to protect the environment, and for some other things. But we need these to be as small and non-intrusive as possible. Under Bernie or Liz, exactly the opposite will happen, and if they can pull it off, all of us will be compelled to participate.

In a harsh summary to their article, the Editorial Board states:
First, all of these “socialist” components can exist — and have existed throughout history — without government involvement. They might not be identical to what we see today, and in many cases would be an improvement. But they are not products unique only to socialism.

Second, we know, as economist Donald Boudreaux explains, that “government provision of public goods crowds out a sizeable portion of private investment in public goods.”

If Americans learn nothing else about socialism, they should at least know this. “The goal of socialists,” writes William L. Anderson, “is socialism — not prosperity.” In other words, the objective is to use promises of abundance and a better life to do nothing more than amass raw political power.
At some level, I suspect that the majority of Americans over the age of 30 suspects this. One can only wonder about the generational cohort that follows them.

UPDATE (6/15/2019):
-----------------------------

Over the past few days, I've noticed a meme (using the original definition of the word) that is being used by some Democrats and their many advocates in the media. When a post like mine is offered, an angry response goes like this:
People are trying to mislead the public and characterize us and our proposed programs and policies as "socialist" but that's not what they are!
Hmmm. Every poll of the Democratic base indicates widespread support for socialism in general and policies that have all of the attributes of hard-left socialist thinking. Almost every candidate for the 2016 Democrat presidential ticket panders to that base.

But there's something else. If socialism is such a good idea; if history indicates that it has worked so well in so many places; if the programs and policies offered under its broad ideological umbrella are so beneficial to so many over the long term; if it does NOT compel everyone to opt into its programs; if it does NOT operate to silence or at least suppress opposing views, then why is the suggestion that Democrats are veering toward socialism a bad thing?

UPDATE -2 (6/15/2019):
-----------------------------

Almost a decade ago, conservative commentator Andrew Klavin commented on the new presidency of Barack Obama and the concommitent ascendency of the Left:

His words then are equally true today as social media sites work hard to "shut up" views that oppose Leftist orthodoxy (a.k.a. socialism) by labeling those views as "hate speech." The intent, of course, is to be sure that social media criticism of Democratic candidates for president is muted or in the extreme, eliminated entirely.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Paid, Solicited and False

It's amusing to watch the faux-outrage over Donald Trump's latest comments on foreign influence in the electoral process. Ed Rogers writes:
President Donald Trump said the wrong thing again Wednesday, and of course some in the media – and practically all the Democratic presidential candidates – are spun up about it. Specifically, he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he might listen to a foreign government offering opposition research on his political opponents at home and not tell the FBI. His exact words when asked whether his campaign would accept damaging information on his opponents from foreign governments – such as China or Russia – or hand it over to the FBI were, “I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening.” That was the wrong thing to say. No campaign should accept compromising information from a foreign government.

That said, the media’s tunnel vision and failure to pursue the natural line of questioning about foreign influence in the 2016 campaign are surreal. Think for a moment if Hillary Clinton had to answer a similar question truthfully. If she were honest, she would have to answer something like, “Why, yes, my campaign would, through the general counsel’s law firm, employ a foreign national to contact sources in the Russian government and try to develop opposition research to use against my opponent, and then take it to the FBI and the media in order to disrupt my opponent’s campaign.” Is there something about this I am missing?
Yeah, Trump should have acted like a typical politician and lied through his teeth, saying that he NEVER even listen to oppo research, NEVER!!!! I sure that's what every Democrat candiate would say—after all, they would NEVER use oppo research, would they? Past Dem candidates for President have NEVER done that, have they?

The question, posed by the Dems' trained hamster, George Stepanopoulos, asked whether an unsolicited, unpaid offer of oppo research from a foreign entity should be immediately reported. The operative phrase in all of this is unsolicited, unpaid. Stephanopoulos never suggested that the oppo research was solicited or paid for, did he?

Interesting that all of the Dems along with the usual collection of establishment elites who are clutching their pearls over Trump's less-than-measured response, seem generally unconcerned about Hillary Clinton's use of paid, solicited and false oppo research from the Russians. BTW, that's not conjecture, its hard fact, supported by reams of written evidence and investigative testimony. Well, at least Hillary had the results of her paid, solicited and false oppo research (a phony dossier) turned over the the FBI in an effort to submarine Trump's candidacy.

I wonder, where was Stepanopoulus after that story broke? Why hasn't the media asked Hillary for detailed comment? Why aren't there calls for an indictment?

In the fantasy world of the Dems, let's assume for a moment that Hillary won the election and is now a sitting president. Let's further assume that the truth of the phony dossier came to light (yeah, I know that's VERY unlikely, but work with me here). Would the Dems and their trained hamsters be calling for her impeachment on the same grounds that they're using to condemn Trump for a simple opinion?

UPDATE:
-------------

Over and over and over again, Donald Trump becomes a mirror of psychological projection on the part of Democrats. In fits of near hysteria, they repeatedly accuse Trump of sins that they themselves or their leadesr have committed (with not a single peep of concern from them or their trained hamsters in the media). As noted in the body of this post, the Dems now suggest that Trump would work with foreign sources to dig dirt on his political enemies—one headline trumpets, "Trump Claims No Collusion but He is Pro-Collusion." Of course, Hillary Clinton did more than simply state she was pro-collusion, she actually coordinated and paid for collusion with the Russians. Psychological projection, anyone? But there's more ...

John Solomon recalls another 2016 case with a Democrat president:
In July 2016, the Obama administration accepted unsolicited information from Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat who just happened to have helped arrange a $25 million government donation to the Clinton Foundation years before. Downer said that he had witnessed a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, bragging about some dirt that the Russians supposedly had on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Though Downer’s claim was reported two-plus months after the alleged event, and was only hearsay gathered at a London tavern, the Obama administration gave it to the FBI which, in turn, thought it was weighty enough to justify opening a counterintelligence case against the lawfully elected Republican nominee for president.

In other words, the Democratic administration accepted dirt from a foreign friendly and used it to justify investigating its GOP rival.
Solomon suggests that Trump isn't guilty any impeachable offense, but he is guilty of "plagiarizing the [2016] playbook" of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Actually ... no. Trump may have talked about dirt recently, but he never paid for dirt, he never initiated spying on his opponent, HRC, and he never (as far as Robert Mueller could tell) colluded with foe or friend to defeat Hillary.

As I've stated dozens of times in this blog, there are two set of rules and two sets of outrage—one for Trump and by extension, the GOP, and another for the Democrats. That won't change, but it is worth continually pointing out the breathtaking hypocrisy in the Dems' narrative on all of this.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Few Questions

The Democratic Presidential "debates" are scheduled to begin soon. Understandably, the Dems are trying hard to structure the debates so that their candidates look good. They want Bernie and Liz, Joe and Beto, Kamala and Pete to get softball questions, and if one of the Dems' trained hamsters (e.g., George Stephanopolous or Rachel Maddow) asks a probing question, they need to be assured that there will not be an unfriendly follow-up.

Given that, let me assume that the hamsters will try to do a professional job (hah!!) and suggest a few questions for the "journalists" who will be asking them [one plus sign (+) represents a core question and two plus signs (++) represent a follow-up]:

The Economy

+ During the previous Democratic administration we were told that GDP in the 1 to 2 percent range was the "new normal." Why has that changed for the better under the Trump administration?
+ By every reasonable measure, the U.S. economy under the Trump administration is strong. Do you agree?
++ If not, please explain how 3.6 percent unemployment and GDP growth of 3.2 percent are bad things? Then explain how your policies would improve the economy.
+ Has the Trump economy benefited African Americans and Latinos?
++ If not, how do you explain the fact that both groups are experiencing the lowest unemployment and the highest wage growth in history?
+ Has the Trump economy improved the wages of middle class workers?
++ If not, what specific policies would you implement to improve on the 4.4 percent wage growth of the past four years?
+ Have women been sidelined in the Trump economy?
++ If yes, how do you explain that women have experienced the lowest unemployment rate in history over the past two years?
+ Deficits and debt have grown during this administration and your party has indicated that it is against both. Do you think that reduced federal spending is an effective way to reduce the deficit and the debt?
++ If yes, what specific federal spending would you reduce?
++ If no, would you raise taxes to reduce the deficit and the debt? How would you implement the tax increase? With respect, please provide us with actual numbers, not broad platitudes.

Socialism

+ Please describe for the American people your definition of the term, "Democratic Socialist?"
++ Do you consider yourself a Democratic Socialist and why?
++ Is capitalism a good system that benefits the middle class?
+ Do you support the notion of Universal Basic Income?"
++ If yes, how can you explain a recent study by Public Services International, a decidedly left-wing, pro-Union organization, that came to the conclusion that UBI is unworkable and doesn't improve the prospects of those who receive it?
+ Did Venezuela's rapid adoption of socialist policies under Hugo Chavez and then Nicholas Maduro have anything to do the economic collapse of the country and the resultant humanitarian disaster? Please explain your answer.
++ Should Nicholas Maduro remain in power, and if not, why not?
++ Why do you think it is that a current presidential candidate, (i.e., Bernie Sanders) once praised Hugo Chavez?
+ Democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders or Liz Warren ignore the failure and repression in socialist countries like Cuba or North Korea, Venezuela or Nicaragua, but instead use Scandinavian countries as examples of"successful socialism." Yet the leaders of those countries argue that they are NOT socialist but rather free market economies with some generous social programs. Do you honestly believe that generous social programs that work in, say, Denmark, a country that has a relatively homogeneous population that is smaller than that of many major US cities can be scaled up to a country of 320 million people?
++ If yes, please explain how you would accomplish such scaling.
+ Do you agree that socialism, even when instituted with the best intentions, has a tendency to go bad, sometimes, very very bad.
++ If you disagree, how would you characterize the millions who died by oppression and starvation under Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong, or the utter destruction of a country and economy under Cuba's Fidel Castro or Venezuela's Nicholas Maduro?
++ Why is it, do you think, that large centralized government control sometimes leads to very bad things (e.g., Mao's Great Leap Forward policy which led to the deaths of up to 45 million people)? How can you assure the American people that some Democrats' brand of socialism won't ultimately lead to very bad things.

Medicare for All

+ Are you in favor of eliminating private health insurance in conjunction with universal health care, a.k.a. Medicare for all?
++ If yes, how can you assure the American people that the same federal government that has been shown to be less than efficient in its programs and services (e.g., the VA) will somehow provide exemplary medical care?
++ If yes, how can you assure the American people that the "cost controls" that are inherent in such a system won't result in doctor shortages that are now occurring in the United Kingdom?
++ Since all 320 million citizens will now be on Medicare, how will your administration ensure that care will not be rationed or that waits will not be overly long?
++ What level of additional taxation will be required to pay for your Medicare for all program? Howe much will the program cost over ten years?
+ Will participants in "medicare for All" be able to keep their own doctor?
++ Why is it, do you think, that President Obama made that promise but didn't keep it?
+ Are you in favor of price controls for big pharma?
++ If yes, do you think that big pharma will reduce the amount of R&D it currently performed to develop new drugs? If you don't think that will happen, what incentive will you provide to have them continue at their current rate for R&D when their revenues go down?

Taxation

+ It is the position of many Democrats that the "rich" don't pay their far share of taxes. Given that the top 10 percent of all taxpayers currently pay about 70 percent of all federal income taxes, what percentage should they pay? 80 percent, 90 percent, 100 percent? Please be specific.
++ Some in your party have suggested that people making over $50 million a year pay a 70 percent "mega-millionaires" tax. Do you agree?
++ If yes, will the money raised appreciably reduce our deficit?
++ Others in your party have suggested that becoming a billionaire is somehow immoral. Do you agree?

Income Inequality

+ Many members of your party have made much of income disparity in the United States. Some have suggested that a corporate CEO should earn no more than 15 or 20 times the pay of the average worker in their company. Do you agree?
++ Would you suggest the same 15 or 20 times pay multiple for entertainers who currently make tens of millions of dollars for movies or music tours or for professional athletes who are paid very large salaries?
+ Do you think it's fair and appropriate that ex-presidents or other politicians are paid very large speaking fees after leaving office?
++ Specifically, is it fair that Barack Obama was recently paid a reported $700,000 for a one hour speech?
+ Who specifically would you hold responsible for income inequality?
+ Can you identify a period in world history where there was no income inequality?
+ Why is it that government workers have average salaries that are considerably higher than equivalent average salaries in the private sector?
++ Is that an "inequality?
++ Should it be remedied by decreasing government worker pay rates?
+ In the interest of reducing income inequality, would you endorse the notion that members of congress be paid a salary that is in line with the average wage in their congressional district or state?
++ If it's worth considering, would you be willing to endorse the idea of a rather substantial pay cut for members of congress to make that happen?

The Living Wage

+ Are you in favor of a mandatory "living wage" of $15.00 per hour, even for entry level jobs?
++ Can you explain how that number was derived and why it isn't higher, say $20 or $30 per hour?
++ How do you explain the fact that in locales that have implemented the living wage, entry level jobs have decreased in unprecedented numbers?
++ Given that, how has the living wage helped those workers who no longer have a job?

Immigration

+ Many in your party argue that they are NOT for open borders but want high tech solutions to illegal border crossing rather than physical barriers. Can you describe the "high tech" solutions and provide evidence that they will, in fact, reduce illegal crossings?
+ Members of your party have suggested that border walls are ineffective or are "against American values?" Do you agree, and if so, will you pledge to take down already-constructed walls on our southern border since they are ineffective and against our core values?
+ Many in your party suggest that asylum be granted liberally. Do you agree? And if so, under your administration, how many asylum seekers would be admitted each year? Please provide an order of magnitude—10,000, 100,000, 1 million, 10 million?
+ Is there ever a reason to deport an undocumented immigrant? If the answer is no, why? If the answer is yes, what crimes would qualify as deportable offenses?
+ Do you agree that ICE should be abolished?
+ Would you be in favor of deporting a known member of the murderous gang, MS-13, if he or she was proven to be an illegal immigrant?
+ Do you believe that the 2020 census should ask each respondent whether or not they are a U.S. citizen?
++ If not, why not?
++ And if you argue that the question should not be asked, please explain why the suppression of important measures of our population is somehow a good thing?

Law Enforcement

+ Everyone agrees that there are racial incidents that do occur in law enforcement, but do you believe that there is systemic racism throughout the law enforcement community?
+ Do you believe that the FBI and U.S. intelligent agencies should act against a duly-elected President of the United States because they do not like his political positions or his personality?
++ If the Republicans developed a dossier on you, would you be comfortable allowing the FBI to use it as the basis for an investigation of your campaign? And if you were elected, your presidency?
++ If a special prosecutor were named to investigate your administration would you be comfortable with a prosecutor whose entire team was composed on GOP lawyers?
++ Do you believe that James Comey, John Brennan, and James Clapper are honest and non-partisan members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities?
+ Do you believe that senior members of law enforcement, intelligence, and DoJ plotted against Donald Trump both before and after he was elected president?
++ If not, how do you explain the evidence recently brought to light by ongoing IG investigations within the FBI and by the DoJ?
++ If you suggest that thise investigation are bias, are similar investigation by Democratic House committees also biased?
++ If not, please explain why that is.
+Do you believe the special counsel's finding that Donald Trump did not collude with Russian in any way? If not, do you know of any evidence to contradict those findings, and if you do, can you provide a brief summary of that evidence?

Supreme Court

+ During the hearings for Judge Kavanaugh, your party had no problem probing his high school record. Many members of your party also noted that it is incumbent upon everyone to "believe the woman," regardless of any lack of supporting evidence. Will you go on record right now supporting the notion that any Supreme Court nominee you name should be investigated all the way back to his or her high school yearbook and that any untoward behavior during high school would be disqualifying for that nominee regardless of their lifelong achievement and record?
++ I wonder if you'd comment on the sexual abuse allegations leveled against VA Lt. Governor, Justin Fairfax, with specific emphasis on why we should not "believe the woman" and demand that he resign immediately?
++ Why do you think that both individual remain in office in VA?

Anti-Semitism

+ Your party has not explicitly condemned or censured Rep. Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitic statements? Are you willing do so now, and if not, how would you explain your reticence to Jewish supporters of the Democratic party?
++ If you argue that Omar's statements are NOT anti-Semitic, do you believe that support of organizations like CAIR—a rabidly anti-Israel group—is appropriate for a member of congress?
++ Would you endorse CAIR's positions on Israel?
+ The New York Times published a decided anti-Semitic cartoon a few months ago. Would you reject an endorsement from the NYT because of that.
++ If not, would you condemn any GOP opponent who might accept the endorsement of a media source that, say, published a racist cartoon.
+ Do you support the BDS movement, a movement supported by some of the Left that tries to boycott, divest, and sanction the State of Israel?
++ If not, would you be willing to reject those on the left that do endorse BDS?
+ Do you think that someone can be anti-Israel, but at the same time, not anti-Semitic?
++ Regardless of your answer, is it also possible to be anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, like, say, the palestinian group Hamas or the leadership in Iran?

Race

+ Some in your party have suggested that reparations be paid to African Americans for slavery. Do you agree, and if so, how would you implement this policy?
+ Are racial preferences in education and business a good thing?
++ If yes, can you cite specific research or evidence to support your position?
+ Do you subscribe to the belief that our country is systemically racist?
+ Do you subscribe to the belief that "white privilege" is the dominant reason for economic disparity between the races?

The New Green Deal and Climate Change

+ Many in your party have taken the position that anthropogenic climate change is the existential threat of the 21st century. Some have suggested in the New Green Deal that we have 12 years to act or catastrophe will occur. Others have suggested that we should mount a WWII level effort to correct the problem. We understand that the New Green Deal is "aspirational," but what aspects of it would you implement in your first term in office?
++ Given the threat of climate change, would you be willing to impose sanctions on or take military action against, say, India or China because they are the world's primary polluters?
++ Since climate change is an existential threat, and private jet aircraft are notorious polluters, would you be willing to forego all private jet travel for the remainder of this campaign?
++ What increase in electricity rates across the nation would your administration be willing to accept to save the planet from climate change. Please be specific and provide a percentage.

The Vote

+ Are you in favor of voter ID laws to eliminate even the appearance of voter fraud?
++ If you oppose such laws because of claimed "voter suppression," please explain why the requirement for an ID doesn't suppress applications for other government programs, air travel, using a credit card, cashing a paycheck, or getting a driver's license?
++ Please explain how the argument that members of one group are incapable of getting an government ID isn't condescending and racist?
+ Are you in favor of the constitutionally mandated electoral college?
++ If you are in favor of abolishing the electoral college, please explain what the phrase, "tyranny of the majority," means to you?
++ If you are in favor of abolishing the electoral college, are you also in favor of limiting states rights and allowing a central government to control most aspects of our society?
+ Do you believe, as many of your party indicated in 2016, that failure to accept the results of a properly conducted election is anti-democratic and wrong?
++ If so, can you explain how the continuing efforts of democrats to remove a duly elected president from office isn't simply a failure to accept the results of an election?

International Relations

+ Can you identify the actions that caused Libya to become a failed state?
+ Can you identify the actions that caused Syria to become a failed state?
+ Why is it, do you think, that so many Muslim majority countries in the Middle East are failed states or economically crippled?
+ Do you view Israel as an "oppressor?"
++ If not, what would you say to members of your own party who think that it is?
++ Do you believe that some elements of the Left are anti-Israel?
++ Do you support the BDS movement?
+ Do you believe that trade negotiations with China are a good thing?
++ If that's the case, what would you do if negotiation broke down?
+ Many in your party defended Barack Obama's Iran Deal and condemned Donald Trump when he nullified the deal. Where do you stand on Iran and what would you do if they continue their development of nuclear materials and/or ICBMs?
+ Many in your party have criticized Donald Trump for his interactions with North Korea. Do you agree with that criticism?
++ If you do, what would you have done differently if you were president in the same circumstances?

Censorship and Free Speech

+ Do you agree with Antifa activists who shout down conservative speakers in the name of anti-facist action?
+ Do you agree that a university has the right to charge conservative student groups a "security fee" to protect the speakers they invite on campus from progressive activists who might try to disrupt the speaker?
++ Why is it, do you think, that progressive groups are not charged the same fee?
+ Do you agree that political views different than yours have a right to be heard?
+ Should private corporations in the form of major social media players, who are now analogous to public communication utilities, be able to censor speech they do not like?
++ If yes, how do you define hate speech or incitement?
++ Why is it, do you think, that the majority of those banned from Twitter or Facebook come from the conservative side of the political spectrum?
++ If so, who, if anyone, should make a decision on whether those views will be heard?

Election Interference

+ Many members of your party have suggested that the Russians helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election. Earlier they claimed that Trump colluded with them in that regard. Yet, Robert Mueller found absolutely no evidence of collusion. Do you accept that finding?
++ If you do not accept Mueller's findings, what evidence can you offer to refute Mueller's conclusions?
++ If you do accept Mueller's findings, do you think that members of your party who claimed the evidence was compelling—Rep. Adam Schiff comes to mind—should apologize for making spurious, unsupported claims of collusion?
+ Many members of your party have suggested that an unsolicited offer of "dirt" on an opponent from a foreign adversary MUST be reported to the FBI. Do you agree?
++ If you do agree, how would you characterize a covert paid solicitation of "dirt" on an opponent from a foreign adversary, for example, the Clinton campaign's paid solicitation of a salacious dossier on Donald Trump built on Russian-supplied disinformation. Is that the same or worse?
++ If you agree that it's the same (or worse), do you endorse a full-blown federal investigation into Clinton's actions in 2016?
++ If you think it's not as bad, explain your reasoning.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Tariffs and Tone

Donald Trump's use of tariffs as a policy weapon has the establishment on both the right and the left warning of apocalyptic consequences—trade wars, the death of trust among allies and adversaries, the wreckage of a growing economy, the loss of jobs, and worse. Except as we have seen repeatedly during the Trump presidency, the establishment's predictions and concerns never actually pan out, and Trump continues to win—sometimes indirectly, but win nonetheless.

Mexico, at long last, has begun to take action against Central American illegal immigrants flooding their southern border with the intent of ultimately entering the United States. Mexico's actions should help reduce the flow of illegal immigrants across our southern border. That's a good thing, long overdue. It's also a win for Trump. Oh ... BTW, he never had to apply tariffs against Mexico—the threat was all that mattered. All of the establishment's handwringing was—um—wrong.

Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt comments on another tariff related concern:
Assume that voters know our competition with China is far more than an economic race, but rather a complex geopolitical rivalry that both sides wish to keep contained short of open conflict and that is waged through proxies, cyber-confrontations, intellectual-property battles, freedom-of-the-seas disputes and the relative size and power of our armed forces and those of our allies. In that context, tariffs on Chinese goods are just part of an overall negotiation toward a new normal that is in everyone’s interest. So “tariffs bad, free trade good” is simplistic. “Free trade is good and agreed-upon international conventions are required for genuinely free trade and tariffs may be necessary to achieve those conventions” is accurate. And widely understood.

“Alliances are good” is simplistic. “Alliances in which allies actually do what they promise with regard to percentage of GDP spent on national defense while not increasing dependence on Russian natural gas” is complex but accurate.

Hard as it is for the Manhattan-Beltway echo chamber to believe, sounding sophisticated isn’t actually being sophisticated.
But the elites worship the right sophisticated, nuanced language, the right style, and the right intonation. They want a "Presidential" look. No matter that all of this often leads to bad decisions, few if any actual accomplishments, or worse, significant harm to our country's interests. The previous presidency is a classic example of exactly that.

It's the tone that matters to the elites and their trained hamsters in the media. Trump's tone is certainly not the best, but his harsh language and not-so-vailed threats often result in actual accomplishments—and it makes the Democrats, the media and GOP #NeverTrumpers crazy because it demonstrates their failure in strategic and tactical thinking.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

June 6, 1944

June 6th. There will be brief mentions of this day in the media, there might even be a TV special or two. The usual politicians will say the usual words, and for those old enough to remember the significance of this day, there will be a moment's pause, an almost imperceptible shake of the head, recalling the enormity of it, the inherent risk, and the ultimate sacrifice and outcome.

June 6, 1944. 75 years ago. It was D-Day, the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany, the allied forces invasion of Europe. It was brutal beyond imaging (4400 U.S soldiers killed in one day). It was necessary. To combat a spreading evil.

For most younger Americans this is ancient history. My guess is that one in ten Americans younger than 40 would know the significance of the date or be able to discuss it for more than a minute. That's to be expected.

Richard Fernandez writes:
[The men of D-Day] won and by winning shut out an infinity of possibilities and set us on the path we are on today. And what a long way it has been. Three generations ago the French and British empires still existed. The USSR was an ally. Churchill had not yet coined the term "Iron Curtain." On the Los Alamos plateau, physicists still wondered whether an atom bomb would work. The only electronic computer in the world was at Bletchley Park, a guarded secret. Space travel was as yet a fantastic dream.

Seventy-five years later, most universities teach those empires were things of horror. The USSR is no more. "A fifth of British teenagers believe Sir Winston Churchill was a fictional character, while many think Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur and Eleanor Rigby were real." The atom bomb waxed, waned and waxed again. Nearly everyone carries a computer in his pocket orders of magnitude more powerful than Bletchley's Colossus. Man landed on the moon 50 years ago.

And what of D-Day? Like the fading black and white chemical film on which its images were captured, modern culture has lost the detail, emotional tone and context once provided by living memory. What still remains is posterized, compressed and pixellated to the point where, to paraphrase Tennyson, "they are become a name." The Longest Day grows less distinct with each passing year.
Walt Erickson, commenting on D-Day at The Belmont Club, writes:
Destiny is earned, by men as well as by nations. We do not live in an alternate universe where D-Day failed because our destiny was earned. The future is not inevitable. The future, our destiny, will also be earned, if not by us then by others, and whatever that future happens to be will be seen by those experiencing it to be inevitable. But it is not inevitable ... Destiny is an ever spinning coin toss that has no heads or tails.

... The men who went ashore that day, onto a hostile beach, onto a hostile continent, are far removed from us in time and space, for they knew who they were, they knew what they were fighting for, and more importantly, they knew what they were fighting for was important. Not so today, when far too many of us here in the West believe nothing is worth fighting for, that there is no difference between us and the people who are trying to kill us.
I have, on numerous occasions suggested that radical, extremist Islam is a 21st Century equivalent to Germany's Nazis. It is a supremacist ideology, authoritarian, and virulently anti-Semitic. Over the past few decades, it reared its head, but was beaten back by the ancestors of the same people who stormed the beaches at Normandy. It has "waxed, waned and waxed again."

But unlike the aftermath of D-Day which saw the Nazis crushed, radical Islam was not defeated. It went underground, allowing its apologists to suggest that alarm over its existence is "islamophobic." That its threat, if there ever was a threat, had passed. When it re-emerges—and it will re-emerge—will the West have the will to take on the inherent risk and make ultimate sacrifice to achieve the only outcome that is acceptable? Is our destiny yet another D-Day, different in substance and form, no doubt, but similar in its affect on our future?