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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Circular Firing Squad

The Democratic Party debates last night in Las Vegas had the appearance of a circular firing squad, not unlike some of the GOP debates in 2016. The difference is that the participants in last night's show are all proponents of Big Intrusive Government (B.I.G.) solutions to problems that are described selectively so that high cost "fixes" will give the appearance of seriousness. Those high cost solutions demand much higher taxes that will be funneled into a B.I.G. machine that will take its share (enriching the party faithful within the deep state) and then redistribute taxpayer money to anointed groups (defined, of course, by the Dems) who are said to deserve it.

The best description of the show I've seen this morning was written by Paula Bolyard:
Not only did Dems unselfconsciously brag about their Marxist/socialist plans, but they displayed their utter contempt for capitalism. When Bloomberg tried to defend the economic system that has raised more people out of poverty than any system in the history of the world, the other candidates on the stage groaned—and many in the audience booed.
Yep ... that's the new Democratic Party.

Good luck with that.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Socialism-Lite?

As the candidacy of Bernie Sanders rockets to the top of the polls, it would seem that the best way to assess the efficacy of the increasingly socialist model proposed by Bernie (and if we're really honest, many of the remaining Democratic candidates) is to examine the success of the blue governance model (in essence, it's socialism-lite) in practice across blue states. The socialism-lite model stresses ever growing centralized government, a regulatory regime that establishes increasingly anti-small business policies, high tax and a spending philosophy that makes unsustainable wage and pension commitments to the Democrats' most avid constituency (government unions). As a case in point, consider my ex-home state of Connecticut. The Nutmeg State has had large Democrat majorities in its legislature for 30 straight years. As a consequence, it's a perfect laboratory for examining socialism-lite.

Ryan Fazio describes the problems facing Connecticut. He writes that the current governor, Ned Lamont, suggests that he's changing course to address CT's serious problems, but in reality, it's simply not true.
First, the budget touted by the governor raised taxes on Connecticut residents by about $1.7 billion over two years, mostly in the form of various new sales taxes. It was the fourth biennial budget of the last six with significant tax increases — themselves on the heels of enormous income tax increases in the 1990s and 2000s.

Second, in order to alleviate the budget deficit in the near term, Lamont “refinanced” pension payments to state employees. The agreement with the unions doesn’t reform the system but shorts contributions by $2 billion through 2032, only to increase the taxpayer’s obligation by $5 billion from then until 2047 ...

Their third transgression included a 6.5 percent pay increase for state troopers and an 11 percent increase for assistant attorneys general. All the while, real household income has actually declined slightly since 1991 for the families who are forced to pay ever-higher taxes. It’s hard to imagine anything more unfair.

Fourth and finally, Democrats imposed some of the most onerous labor regulations in the nation on Connecticut workers this year. The state already had the fourth-most burdensome regulatory environment for small business in the US. Now, it will also suffer a $15 statewide minimum wage and workers will be hit with a new 0.5 percent payroll tax to fund a mandatory paid-leave program. The former passed despite no state having fully implemented one to date and the latter despite being the most expensive in the nation of its kind. Sadly, they will kill jobs and opportunity for the working poor most of all.
It's comical to listen to Democrats talk about "social justice" and then watch how they actually govern. They aggressively grow government on the backs of a less mobile middle class (who are hard-pressed to vote with their feet) while wealthy taxpayers flee the high tax, anti-business atmosphere they encourage in the state. Demcorats accede to union demands with concessions that hurt the working poor, and they otherwise build their fiefdoms at taxpayer expense.

Connecticut is a beautiful, well-situated state that is in dire need of a turnaround. Its population is falling, its financial liabilities are abominable, and its outlook for the future is less than bright. Fazio writes:
It is often said that the definition of insanity is trying something over and over again and expecting different results. Only devotion to a radical worldview could compel politicians to force upon their constituents the same failed policies that make no sense in reality. Until state officials change course, Connecticut stands no chance of a true turnaround.
And remember, Connecticut's travails are what socialism-lite governance renders. Can you image what true socialism (or the Dems' reasonable facsimile of it) will yield at the federal level?

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

But wait, argue true believers, Bernie's brand of socialism will work on a national level. That has never happened, but what has is the ruination of every country that has tried it. Spare me comparisons with Scandinavia—they're simply not analogous in kind, in population, in size or in fact.

Aldo from Lema, Peru recently published the following tweet, "Evolución 1990-2019 del PIB per cápita en Sudamérica a Paridad de Poder de Compra (PPP), dólares de 2011." It provides a measure of per capital income for all South American countries since 1990. In the 90s Venezuela (in yellow ) was at the top of the graph—a rich and vital country. Then Bernie's favorite socialist demagogue, Hugo Chavez, came into power in 1999, followed by another man Bernie praised, Nicholas Maduro. Watch what happens throughout the first two decades of this century -- turn the sound on.

Evolución 1990-2019 del PIB per cápita en Sudamérica a Paridad de Poder de Compra (PPP), dólares de 2011


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

It's worth noting that even among those who reject socialism, the growth of the federal swamp is inexorable. Spending cuts are near-impossible to make because every cut is politicized with hyperbole suggesting that the 'world will end' (think: the hysteria over minor 2 percent cuts that were part of the "sequester'). The greatest single failure of the Trump administration has been its inability to reign in federal spending. Niv Elis writes:
The federal budget deficit for 2019 is estimated at $984 billion, a hefty 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and the highest since 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently said.

The difference between federal spending and revenue has only ever exceeded $1 trillion four times, in the period immediately following the global financial crisis.

The deficit, which has grown every year since 2015, is $205 billion higher than it was in 2018, a jump of 26 percent.

The CBO has warned that the nation's debt is on an unsustainable path. Higher levels of debt increase borrowing costs, make it harder for the government to battle economic downturns and increase the share of future spending devoted to paying off interest costs.

Since President Trump took office, the GOP has passed a massive tax cut package that reduced revenue, while Democrats and Republicans have agreed to increase spending year after year.

Budget watchers note that the main drivers of the deficit, however, come from automatic spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The swamp rules, and until that changes (if it ever does), we're on an unsustainable fiscal path.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Ambush

Partisans within the government who oppose Donald Trump , exemplified by members of the DoJ who were leftover's from the previous Democrat administration and/or career civil servants who lean heavily Democratic, have used one dominant strategy in their efforts to derail Trump's presidency—ambush. It began with the DNC and Hillary Clinton who colluded with Russian sources to develop a phony dossier that accused trump of sexual deviance and financial wrong-doing. That was the predicate that allowed a corrupt FBI Director, James Comey, to ambush Trump by telling him about a dossier that he knew was bunk. After that meeting, Comey leaked the details of the dossier to a compliant media.

When that ambush failed with the revelation that the dossier was garbage, Trump fired Comey, but that set yet another ambush. In what can only be called the epitome of irony, the Dems then accused Trump of "collusion" and demanded a Special Counsel to investigate him. The ambush continued for over two years with additional firefights that enveloped his Supreme Court nominees and cabinet appointees.

The investigation set still another ambush when Trump rightly complained it was a partisan "witch hunt." The Dems claimed his comments amounted to "obstruction of Justice" and hyperventilated about "a threat to democracy" and "unconstitutional behavior." That ambush failed when the special counsel couldn't find any collusion or obstruction. But he did word his report to set yet another ambush by implying obstruction.

When that ambush failed, the Dems found a deep state, deeply-partisan "whistleblower" who set yet another ambush by suggesting the Trump had demanded an investigation of Joe Biden—a quid pro quo. Trump's reaction (he charged into the ambush) allowed the Dems to create yet another ambush and impeach him, but even that ambush failed miserably.

Just recently, the sentencing recommendation for smear-meister Roger Stone set yet another ambush—more on that in a moment.

Ambush, after ambush, after ambush—all failed with Trump stronger than ever.

Conservative firebrand and ex-infantry officer, Kurt Schlichter, offers an explanation. He relates a simple infantry doctrine that states: When ambushed, you charge toward the fire rather than away from it. It's your best chance of survival. Schlichter contends that Donald Trump understands that doctrine at a visceral level. He uses the Roger Stone case as an example:
Here’s how these [DoJ] weasels laid their ambush. These rump doofuses on the Mueller coup accomplice team were preparing a sentencing memo for the judge in the Roger Stone case. Now, let’s leave aside the fact that the ghastly, targeted prosecution of this harmless gadfly treated justice like hobos treat the sidewalks of the Cesspool-By-The-Bay. Let’s pretend this was not a scummy political persecution for “crimes” that establishment suck-ups commit with impunity. Let’s forget all that and pretend his conviction was legit rather than another seedy attempt by Hillary-loving bureaucrats to get at Trump via his associates.

That’s a lot of disbelief to suspend, but go with it. Okay, the sentencing memo gives the government’s perspective on the appropriate sentence based on such factors as the sentencing guidelines, the effect of the crime, the prior crimes of the convict, and other factors like age. For these non-violent offenses by a first-time offender of age 67, which caused zero harm, and were related to the “collusion” that even Mueller’s pack of scummy Democrats were forced to admit was a lie, you would expect somewhere from a few months to a couple of years in Club Fed. And apparently that’s what the persecutors briefed to their bosses, because in a high-vis case like this, flunky attorneys brief their bosses at the DOJ.

These hacks instead asked for 7 to 9 years.

Literally no one on earth could say in good faith that was remotely appropriate for this case. None, at least not without lying. It’s equal to a death sentence, but then it’s a Trump associate so there are apparently special rules. And you’ll notice few of the Dems whining about this say this is an appropriate sentence – at least not with a straight face.

They did it to make Trump react. They knew the establishment and its submissive media would freak out. They thought they could derail his most epic run ever.

Well, Trump reacted. He tweeted the manifest and undeniable truth – that the liberal persecutors were treating Lady Justice like Harvey Weinstein treated eager starlets, except without the sop of a minor supporting role in a Gwyneth Paltrow flick.

Trump charged right into the ambush.

The reaction was predictable, especially after the DOJ brass realized these punks had bait and switched their sentencing recommendation. The DOJ promised to revise the recommendation and the media and liberal pols went nuts. .. Then [Trump] questioned the judge’s impartiality, which you are not allowed to do because of reasons unless it's Gorsuch or Kavanaugh. Then it’s totally principled, the principle being “the elite gets its way.”

So, we got the #ImpeachBarr hashtags and the Very Serious Lawyers on Twitter and CNN explaining how undoing this breaking of norms and rules is a terrible breaking of norms and rules. As a lawyer, let me give you some free advice – take Twitter lawyer advice with a grain of salt. And that grain should be approximately the size of Mothra.

Today, the New York Times
celebrates the Roger Stone ambush by telling us that 1,000 DoJ lawyers wrote a letter demanding AG William Barr's resignation. Oh my, that was surely spontaneous, just like the letter they all wrote when the FBI IG found that DoJ officials lied to the FISA court in order to conduct surveillance that led to other ambushes. Oh wait ... there wasn't any letter, was there? Yeah, the outrage of Democratic deep state lawyers is a bit selective, isn't it?

What the deep state #Resistance fighters don't realize is that every ambush exposes unethical and/or corrupt behavior among the partisan deep state [think: Crossfire Hurricane scandal], the Democrat elites [think: Joe Biden and son], and their trained hamsters in the media [think: CNN or MSNBC or CBS or ABC or NBC, ...]. The ambushes highlight the viciousness and dishonesty of Trump's political opposition. And as important, the ambushes highlight another clear reality about his attackers and Trump himself. The attackers lose—every time, and Trump wins—every time. In fact, in at least some cases (the Roger Stone case being one of them) it almost seems as if Trump purposely walks into the ambush ... and then charges forward while his attackers are decimated (think: collusion, obstruction, Kavanaugh, impeachment, and now Stone). In a strange way, it's fun to watch.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Progressions

At the moment, Bernie Sanders is rising in polls of Democratic voters (which are NOT indicative of his acceptance across America as a whole), and some moderate democrats are beginning to get nervous. There are however a set of hard realities that will surface if and when Bernie becomes the Dem nominee. These have as much to do with socialism itself as it does with Bernie himself.

In his critical assessment of socialism, Iain Murray writes that whenever anyone notes the historical failure of virtually every attempt at socialism, socialists who have won or are running for election throughout the West invoke a standard response which can be calls a progression. He summarizes this in a comment at Instapundit:
... [If the socialists actually win and gain power], the first progression goes:

-- Avowed socialists set up brave new socialist world
-- The wheels start to come off. This is blamed on “wreckers” and foreign agents.
-- The economy seizes up. Eventually people starve and the gulags get set up.
-- Socialists explain this was never a real socialist system in the first place
But prior to winning an election, socialist must overcome the natural resistance to a really bad idea. As an example, consider left-wing economist, Paul Krugman who recently claimed that Bernie really isn't a socialist. Murray introduces the second progression:
... Krugman’s intervention appears to be a different form of denial that I identify in the book:

-- Socialists set out to win an election
-- Recognizing the unpalatability of a socialist platform, socialists claim they actually only want to be “like Denmark or Sweden.”
-- Socialists deny desirability of a thriving Nordic free market model that includes things like school choice in Sweden.
-- Socialists unveil a platform that looks more like traditional socialism than anything currently on offer in Scandinavia.
-- People who point out the discrepancy between 3 and 4 are vilified as supporting inequality, racism, etc.

If the socialists-but-not-socialists-really then win an election, expect things to progress as in the first progression.

Or, as Toby Young puts it, “socialism always begins with talk of the international brotherhood of man and ends with having to eat your own pets.”
If Bernie actually does gain traction and wins the nomination expect the Democratic party to become shrill in its invocation of the second progression, and if they win, you can bet your life that we'll hear plenty of the first progression as the years pass. Both progressions are based on lies, of course, but that's been the stock in trade of the Democratic party for at least the past three years.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Nine Years

It is true that Roger Stone is an unsavory character—just like dozens of Democratic and GOP smear-miesters (Glen Simpson of Fusion GPS comes to mind) who operate daily in Washington, DC, making millions for their efforts. But Stone had a problem, he was connected to Donald Trump and as a consequence, he became a target of Mueller and Justice Department lawyers who are sympathetic to the Dems and loath this president. They worked to convict Stone of process crimes (something that can be done to virtually anyone who has testified before the FBI or Congress), succeeded, and then recommended a prison sentence not to exceed a nine-years (!!)

Donald Trump did what he always does, he expressed his outrage at the excessive sentencing request, and now we have yet another "scandal." As they always do, the Democrats tripped over themselves expressing their "outrage," and even AG Barr told Trump to back off. In the end, the story you hear from the trained hamsters in the media is far from the truth. As she always does, Kim Strassel provides accurate background:
Democrats claimed Mr. Trump politically interfered with justice, bullying the department into going easy on a political crony. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proclaims “a crisis in the rule of law.” Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Impeachment) declared another “abuse of power.” The press is casting it as Example A of how a postacquittal Trump feels emboldened to ignore the law.

This has it entirely backward. Here’s what actually happened: Justice sources tell me that interim U.S. Attorney Tim Shea had told the department’s leadership he and other career officials in the office felt the proposed sentence was excessive. As the deadline for the filing neared, the prosecutors on the case nonetheless threatened to withdraw from the case unless they got their demands for these stiffest of penalties. Mr. Shea—new to the job—suffered a moment of cowardice and submitted to this ultimatum. The filing took Justice Department leaders by surprise, and the decision to reverse was made well before Mr. Trump tweeted, and with no communication with the White House. The revised filing, meanwhile, had the signature of the acting supervisor of the office’s criminal division, who is a career civil servant, not a political appointee.

This is Mr. Barr getting rid of politics in justice—as he promised. In his confirmation hearing, the attorney general vowed an “even-handed application of the law” rather than judgments based on politics or favoritism (see Clinton investigation vs. Trump investigation). Before the president’s tweet, even liberal commentators were acknowledging the initial recommendation of up to nine years in prison was harsh, given that Mr. Stone is a first-time offender. The request came from a prosecutorial team—which included two members of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s staff—that wanted to punish Mr. Stone for his ties to a president they loathe.

And don’t forget the mitigating factors. Remember how Mr. Stone ended up in the Justice Department’s crosshairs. It was after Team Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and Fusion GPS weaponized the Federal Bureau of Investigation to go after political opponents. Mr. Mueller could easily have unraveled this ambush. Instead, he rampaged through dozens of lives, and—unable to find collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, his original charge—obtained indictments for process crimes. That’s no excuse for Mr. Stone’s behavior, but his sentence ought to reflect that he was prosecuted by an overzealous, politicized Justice Department.

Mr. Barr also promised accountability, and the permanent bureaucracy is displaying its contempt for that mission. Line prosecutors made clear up front that they’d cause a political spectacle unless their demands were met. When overruled, four went on to withdraw. In a Washington Post op-ed, former Justice Department employee Chuck Rosenberg summed up the resistance to supervision: “We all understand that the leadership at the top of the department is politically appointed, and we make peace with that.”
The core of this story has NOTHING to do with Roger Stone. At its core we again see partisan deep state operatives (in this case Justice department lawyers) operating as rogue agents who sole job it is to embarrass and/or harass members of the political party they don't like. They need to be stopped, and it's the job of leadership in government departments to stop them. That's what Bill Barr is trying to do, and Donald Trump's tweets on the Stone sentence (although absolutely accurate in the main) won't help one bit.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal state: "The danger for Mr. Trump is that Mr. Barr will resign because he is tired of having his credibility undermined by a President who can’t control his political id no matter the damage it causes." They're not wrong.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Disconnected

As I and millions of other Americans watch the race for the Democratic presidential nomination unfold, there are a few very reasonable questions that need to be asked: Exactly what do the Democrats stand for? What do they want for our country? What do they see that's good, and admirable, and optimistic for the future?

Yeah, I know. Hardcore Dems will gasp and say, "that's obvious." They want social justice, income equality, better education, better health care, the elimination of racism, the effective equivalent of open borders, and a plethora of "rights" that are nowhere to be found in our constitution. But the Dems are at a disadvantage, because the American public has been observing their actions for the past few decades, and has really taken a hard look at their actions and words over the past three years.

On the political front, all we have to do is look at the major U.S. cities and states that have been governed by Democrats for a decade or more. In those places, the role of government has been elevated to an overbearing entity. Daniel Henninger comments:
So what, other than hunting Donald Trump, does the Democratic Party stand for?

A recurring argument of this column is that in the U.S. and Europe, the presumed efficiency of governments has been worn down by the programs and responsibilities they’ve created for themselves, some with good intentions. By now, it’s just too much.

During the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt struck a defining bargain with the public: Cede to the government expanded powers over the details of American life, and government will administer it efficiently. For the public, giving government the power to regulate and rule was supposed to be a net plus.

The bargain behind Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All, funded by new taxes on the middle class, is that it too will be a net plus. Come Election Day in November, will 50% of the electorate actually believe Democrats today could competently administer a national health-care system in the U.S.?

Mr. Sanders, who filed as a Democrat for this election, isn’t that much of an outlier. All his rivals, including the “moderates,” are proposing more additions to the already massive government labyrinth they’ve built for decades.

But in those places where the modern Democratic Party is in charge, they often govern badly or incompetently on a grand scale. Misgovernance related to crime, homelessness, poor schools and affordability has become the symbol of Democratic control in large U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, Chicago and St. Louis.

U.S. census data shows people voting with their feet, moving out of the Northeast and Far West into the less bureaucratized Southern and Mountain states. A major reason for these internal refugee flows is that Democratic legislatures and city councils—New York, Seattle, San Francisco—reflexively pass progressive policies disconnected from commercial or social reality.
And therein lies the rub. The policy proposals offered by the Dems are "disconnected from commercial or social reality" and at some level, the general public recognizes that. They know that government is NOT efficient, is NOT caring, and is generally NOT capable of avoiding waste and abuse when it uses their tax money. They know this in their bones.

But there's something more. The Dems project a dark feeling of doom. They contend that the United States is a "racist" place in which "privilege" dictates everything. Where certain classes of people are "victims" and other classes are "oppressors." Where dependency is a good thing and should be encouraged and celebrated. Karlyn Borysenko, a long time Democrat, wrote this about a Trump political rally:
“It was more like attending a rock concert than a political rally. People were genuinely enjoying themselves. Some were even dancing to music being played over the loudspeakers! It was so different than any other political event I had ever attended. Even Obama in 2008 didn’t feel like this. . . . With Trump, there was a genuinely optimistic view of the future. With the Democrats, it was doom and gloom. With Trump, there was a genuine feeling of pride of being an American. With the Democrats, they emphasized that the country was a racist place from top to bottom.”
I suspect that the general electorate wants optimism, and rejects the notion that their country needs a complete "transformation." They'll also reject the "doom and gloom" projected by the Dems and look for someone who can define a bright future that is not "disconnected from commercial or social reality". The Dems are headed for trouble, and I think at some level they know it. They just can't get out of their own way.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Look South

As the results of the New Hampshire Democratic primary come in, some in the media will swoon over the prospects of the Dem's socialist candidate, Bernie Sanders. It appears that Sanders will get at least 25+ percent of the vote and is likely to win the primary. Bernie is the darling of the Dem's hard-left base, a champion of young people who are naive enough to believe his promises of lots and lots of free stuff, and the choice of far too many Democrats who, driven by Trump Derangement, will vote for a man who wants "revolution" at a time when the economy is booming, people of color are doing well, the United States is not embroiled in any major conflicts, and poll after poll indicates that the American people are generally happy with their lives.

The problem with Sanders voters is they refuse to look South to the wreckage that socialism created in South America's once-richest country, Venezuela. James Freeman writes:
If questioned on the horror that is now Venezuela, Mr. Sanders will surely claim that it does not represent his kind of “democratic socialism.” But how will he explain the support he provided to the strongmen of Caracas as they went about trashing Venezuelan democracy and prosperity?

In January of 2003, as Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez was cracking down on regime opponents, he was thrilled to receive support from a few extremists in the U.S. Congress. Pascal Fletcher reported for Reuters:
Chavez on Sunday read out a Jan 9 letter of support sent by 19 U.S. Congress members recognizing him as the legitimately elected president of Venezuela.
“If Abraham Lincoln or George Washington were alive and here today, they would be on our side,” he said.
In their letter, the 19 members of the U.S. House of Representatives - 18 Democrats and one independent - told Chavez they strongly opposed attempts to remove him from office and condemned Bush administration officials who appeared to support the short-lived coup against him in April.
The authors of the letter included Reps. John Conyers of Michigan, Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and independent Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
It’s hard to calculate how much better off Venezuelans would be today if the resistance to the thug Chavez had succeeded in 2002. But even then, Mr. Sanders should have known that U.S. actions in the country did not deserve condemnation.
But Bernie doesn't like his own country very much, at least in its current non-revolutionary form. He hates, hates those who succeed in life and harangues them constantly about "paying their 'fair share.'" He tells us, much as Chavez and then Maduro told the people of Venezuela, that it is moral and good to give a vast centralized government control over everything from their health care to their education to their wallet.

Freeman continues:
What is not defensible is Bernie Sanders continually standing up for brutal regimes. In 2006, Mr. Sanders engineered another public-relations coup for Venezuela’s socialist government by arranging a deal with regime-owned Citgo to provide subsidized heating oil in Vermont. Whatever it cost the Venezuelan government was surely worth the propaganda value. Mr. Sanders helped the regime embarrass the U.S. Government, which had been trying to alert the world to the rising authoritarianism and economic destruction occurring in Caracas.

Sen. Sanders has a history of supporting socialist tyrants. Now voters must decide what kind of socialism he would inflict on the United States.
Should the Dems lose their minds and actually nominate Sanders, I have no doubt that his opponent will tell us exactly the kind socialism he'll inflict should he be elected. The political commercials almost write themselves.