CHALLENGE
THE PREMISE

Newsmakers

LATEST FEATURES

Issues, News and Views


NEIL GORSUCH
JOINS SCOTUS




Gorsuch
Sworn In
April 10, 2017




A Tremendous Day for
sound jurisprudence and
our Constitution!



Watch the swearing-in
and savor the prospect of
a Supreme Court Justice
who will defend our
Constitution:




Below is our rating of
Supreme Court justices
based upon judgement of
their fidelity to the
Constitution:


As the chart illustrates,
there are too many rogue
justices on the Supreme
Court. These appointed,
life-term judges take it
upon themselves to
arbitrarily unilaterally and
autocratically over-rule the
will of the people. They are
the equivalent of tyrants.

It is crucial to our
Democracy to fill all open
seats on all Courts, as
they arise, with true-to-
the-law judges. With
originalist, textualist
judges who apply the law
as passed by the
representatives of the
people.

It is NOT the role of judges
to over-rule laws they just
happen to dislike. As
Gorsuch said at the
ceremony:

"A judge who likes every
outcome he reaches is
very likely a bad judge..."



Gorsuch
Confirmed
April 07, 2017






A Supreme Court seat
opened with the passing of
Antonin Scalia just months
before the 2016 election.

President Obama
nominated Merrick Garland
as a replacement, but
Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
blocked the nomination,
claiming that the voters
should decide.

Elections have
consequences. Democrats
were certain they would
hold the White House and
regain the Senate in 2016,
thereby giving them full
control of the nomination
process.

But the GOP held the
Senate, and won the
White House, against
all predictions.
Republicans campaigned
on the Supreme Court
issue, and won.

And that's why Democrats
lost the Supreme Court
nomination: because they
didn't win the election. The
people spoke. As it should
be.



Gorsuch
Nominated
January 31, 2017




President Trump has
nominated Neil Gorsuch to
the United States Supreme
Court. View the
proceedings at the White
House:


As the President so
appropriately remarked at
the nomination ceremony:

"I have always felt that
after the defense of our
nation, the most important
decision a president of the
United States can make is
the appointment of a
Supreme Court justice.
Depending on their age, a
justice can be active for 50
years and his or her
decisions can last a
century or more and can
often be permanent."


We anticipate that Neil
Gorsuch will be an
outstanding Supreme
Court Justice, just like
Antonin Scalia, the great
man he will replace.

Neil Gorsuch: a judge who
understands both what a
judge's role is; and what a
judge's role is not.

CHINA - AN ENEMY?

2018/03/27 - The great hope of the foreign relations establishment group-think is that the best way to transform an autocratic world power into a liberal democracy is by what was once called "détente", by engaging with them in peaceful coexistence - trade, diplomacy, cultural exchanges, sports, and any other relationship-building experience folks can dream up.

The truth is that we have no examples of this peaceful coexistence transformation-by-engagement détente model ever actually working. Nazi Germany was overcome by militarily defeating them. Imperial Japan was defeated by nuking them. The threat posed by the Soviet Union was overcome only when Reagan gave up on detente and explicitly and aggressively sought to economically overwhelm them.

The lesson is this: we topple enemy regimes by toppling them; we strengthen enemy regimes by cooperating with them. Seriously. This should seem intuitive, axiomatic, yet it is a lesson that the really smart people in our State Department never seem to learn, as if something so obvious was something that even needed to be learned.

Ignoring the looming threat of and trying to get along with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan turned to be a bad idea. It is good to "give peace a chance", and maybe even a few more chances, but how many chances? When is the right time to give war a chance? In the 1930's the Europeans gave peace a few too many chances.

In the early 1970's when the idea and use of the term of détente was in vogue, President Nixon decided to reach out to Communist China. The visit was important for many reasons, not the least of which was that it ended 23 years of silence between the two countries. Not only did the visit drive a diplomatic wedge between the Soviet Union and China, it set the Chinese nation on a path to modernization and the Chinese state on a path to maturation.

The timing of Nixon's visit was good as well. It gave a tailwind to reformers who were more inclined to cooperate with the United States, and when the tyrant Mao Zedong died in 1976, it created the opportunity for the moderate Deng Xiaoping to eventually maneuver his way to the top leadership position.

A brief note on Mao for those not aware: he is probably responsible for the deaths of more people than anyone else in human history, ever. Ever. Even Hitler was a 3rd Rate killer clocking in at only 20 million or so corpses, while Stalin was a distant second, bagging the silver medal at about 25 million deaths. Estimates for Mao are in the 50-75 million range. At least Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's 3rd Reich are no longer with us; unfortunately, Mao's Communist Party of China still rules the People's Republic of China.

The once denounced and purged Deng introduced many reforms both economic and political. One of the reforms introduced in the 1982 amendments to the Constitution was term limits for the leader: two five-year terms for the president, that's it. Along with the idea of an orderly, non-violent, non-retributional transfer of power. Deng's design was intended to assure that there would not be another Mao.

After Deng resigned his positions, he was replaced in turn by Jiang Zimin (1993-2003), Hu Jintau (2003-2013) and now, unfortunately, Xi Jinping (since 2013).

We say "unfortunately" because we worry that Xi may be heading not up the path of the moderate reformer Deng, but down the path of that dangerous dictator who preceded him, Chairman Mao. Xi is like Mao in direction but far worse in magnitude. Unlike Mao, Xi is not a peasant leading a backward, starving, poverty-stricken nation, but an ambitious leader of a technologically advanced, economically empowered, militarily potent nation embracing its "manifest destiny" of a Chinese Century.

PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE

When you see the title "President-for-Life" it's pretty hard not to think of really bad people, the worst dictators who lead the worst regimes, responsible for inflicting mass casualties on its own people. And simultaneously, it's difficult to name many, if any, Presidents-for-Life who were good leaders, who respected individual rights, who lead nations that were good global citizens.

So this winter we watched with dismay and foreboding regarding the constitutional changes that occurred in China. In February a proposal was brought forth to eliminate the constitutional term limits on the office of the President that were ushered in by Deng's reforms.

On February 25, at the National People's Congress, at the start of Xi's second term, a proposal was brought forward to eliminate China's presidential two-term limit. On March 11, the vote was held and it passed 2,958 to 2, the kind of result to be expected from totalitarians, from fake Communist elections.

People's Republic of China President Xi Jinping is now President-for-Life. Get used to that name, he's only 64, he'll be around for a few decades probably. Or you can call him Mao II.

As we said, President-For-Life is almost always a bad thing, and almost as often, a very, very bad thing. They say "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". We can only wonder what direction Xi might embark upon with his newfound strength and power.

Can we make any inferences as to Xi's ambitions? It's always hard to tell. When a third of Germans voted for Hitler in 1932 did they know he would launch World War 2 in just seven years? Of course not. It's annoying, or course, to compare everyone and everything to Hitler, but on the other hand, how else do we learn and apply the lessons? The lessons are worth learning and remembering.

Hitler maneuvered his way to appointment as Chancellor by early 1933. In February civil liberties were suspended by the Reichstag Fire Decree. And March brought us the Enabling Act which gave us Hitler as a president-for-life of Germany. Just like 85 years later, February and March would give us Xi as President-for-Life of China.

SOCIETAL CREDIT

So whither Xi? What can we infer? One thing we know is that individualism and freedom are enemies of an autocrat. Free peoples demand accountability from their leaders, and thus must have the right to dispose of failing leaders and choose new leaders.

A president-for-life is an autocrat, since by definition he is not accountable. He does what he chooses, for well or for ill. Whether he is competent or not, benevolent or not, empathetic or not, is irrelevant; he is still an autocrat.

A President-for-Life is the enemy of free peoples, and free peoples are the natural enemies of autocrats. The autocrat knows this and needs to suppress freedom. The people cannot be free, it is necessary to suppress their freedoms and oppress them. And this is what Xi has done, already.

Early in his presidency, in 2014, Xi launched the Societal Credit program. The basic idea is that everything that anyone says or does is tracked, and people are scored, on the basis of whether it is deemed beneficial - however that may defined - to society.

This program is not, in theory, unlike our consumer credit scoring system in the United States and elsewhere. Our credit scoring industry is a competitive business with three major players (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) competing against each other to supply the best consumer creditworthiness information to lenders, with the government acting as referee to ensure that the rules are followed by the competitors.

Xi's Societal Credit system starts with the same basic concept, and on the surface its objective might not sound so bad. The idea of incentivizing constructive behavior sounds pretty good. And when initially rolled out, the program gave awards to good citizens, which of course helped the program to be received with at least some positive reaction.

But you can also see how this can go horribly wrong. First of all, the government - for all intents and purposes the Communist Party of China (CPC) - is both the player and the referee. There are no competitive pressures. The government writes the rules for its benefit, and enforces the rules for its benefit. The Party gets what the Party wants.

And it goes well beyond credit scoring. It scores many other aspects of life as diverse as driving records and even parking tickets, and social media interaction. And it can go far beyond that. More and more sensors - such as but not limited closed circuit cameras - using biometrics and facial recognition to monitor who is where and doing what.

Can it really get that bad? Well not exactly, since it actually is that bad already. The South China Morning Post reports that jaywalkers are under surveillance in Shenzhen, a provincial town of a mere twelve million people. A project involving artificial intelligence, closed circuit cameras, facial recognition, social media platforms and cell phone carriers will identify jaywalkers and notify them of their fine via text message - in real time!

Good cases can be made both in support of and opposition to jaywalking, but jaywalking isn't our point. Our point is that an incredibly efficient, effective, persistent and pervasive automated system is being created for the purpose of controlling any aspect of human's behavior and bending society to the benefit of its rulers - the totalitarian autocratic Communist Party of China and President Xi.

Eventually every action of every person will be tracked and scored but even now we are already seeing outcomes. For example, people with low scores are being blocked from purchasing higher level train and plane tickets. It's already happening.

Again, some folks may think that issuing tickets to miscreants for jaywalking, or not issuing first class airline tickets to said miscreants is not such a bad thing. But of course it won't end there. It never does.

The Communist Party will be able to monitor every one of China's people in real time and compile a data cache on each person. It will be able to recognize emerging internal threats and eliminate its enemies before any harm is done.

Since, ultimately, it is the autocrat Xi who defines what is beneficial to the Party, you can guess that speaking negatively about Xi will harm your score. So forget about anything like the freedoms in our Constitution. To the extent there was any hope of liberalization in China, you can kiss that good bye.

Or consider this: Xinhua openly admits that since Xi came to power in 2013 more than 3,000 Chinese have been repatriated from foreign lands and rendered back to the homeland. Apparently Xi felt those hapless souls were in need of some administrative procedures. They call it rescue. We would call it abduction, kidnapping. And there is growing concern in the US intelligence community that PRC agents are now actively rendering lawful US residents back to China.

Xi has recently made comments about "opening up" but that is just propaganda for the consumption of our brain-dead western media. The Communist Party is tightening its grip, not relaxing it.

Xi's Societal Credit system is expected to be fully operational by 2020 and by then their goal of a dystopian 1984-style society will have been achieved. The Party - specifically Xi - will be able to exert full and absolute control over the people to the extent that it chooses to. And of course, it will.

RAMIFICATIONS

What then? Well, probably war, eventually, or maybe sooner.

A sense of loss of freedom is accompanied by a feeling of enslavement. Slaves don't work very hard because they are not motivated to. Even the prospect of material gain is a hollow inducement. So the Party will need an external enemy to rally the people, just like in 1984. And that enemy would be Japan. Or us. It's a pretty short list of candidates, there are only two countries on it.

Or maybe not. But as Xi inevitably exerts his growing power - you do because you can - China will become ever a more oppressive totalitarian state. And Maoist tendencies will reemerge - decline, purges, and blaming foreigners for failures caused by the Party's oppression of the people. The Party will need to find enemies or make them up, enemies both foreign and domestic.

Consider the visit of Kim Jung-Il to China. The Soviets are gone (sort of) leaving the Chinese as North Korea's main benefactor. Xi has mended his fences with Kim, and is now pushing a denuclearization-for-recognition deal between North Korea and the United States. This is a terrible deal for us that should be summarily rejected, yet Xi through the official Xinhua news agency has reiterated its support for the hideous North Korean regime.

In reality China and Russia should both be ashamed of themselves for creating, nurturing, defending and supporting North Korea. North Korea is owned and operated by a hideous regime that needs to be eliminated.

But Xi sees no shame in supporting the worst regime on earth. What else might Xi do that he won't be ashamed of? Kim is currently the worst dictator on the planet, his regime is the ugly spawn of Soviet and Chinese Communists. And truth be told the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

CONCLUSION

We are concerned about what is going on in China. Maybe we shouldn't be, but we are. We are very concerned about Xi. He is not like Deng, he is like Mao.

But make no mistake, the Chinese leadership is not particularly Marxist. They are nationalistic. They love China more than they love Marx. They are mercantilist rather than internationalist. They are more like Hitler's Nazis than Stalin's Communists, except without an obvious domestic scapegoat like the Jews. So they need a foreign scapegoat.

As Xi seeks to consolidate his power at home he will need foreign enemies to distract the citizens dissatisfied with their loss, not only of their freedoms, but worse, their loss of hope for a free future.

The Chinese population is even more nationalistic than its leadership - they love China and the idea of a Chinese Century, and couldn't care less about Marxism, Communism or Internationalism. They want a Chinese Century, they want to recapture their former status as the greatest country on earth.

There may come a point where China needs a war.




Analysis


April 16, 2018 - I can't stand Starbucks. Now I can't stand that slimey socialist far-left freak show that trades under the ticker SBUX more than ever.

If you go to Starbuck you have to buy something to use the restroom. If I owned a coffee shop I wouldn't have that policy, but many, many restaurants and coffee shops do have that policy and that is certainly their rights.

A few years ago I went to the Starbucks at 85th and Lexington in Manhattan because I needed to go to the bathroom. I said I would purchase after going to the restroom - I have a hygene issue with taking food to the toilet (duh!) - but was nonetheless denied access by the African-American male associate. I did not attribute this to racism, rather, rigid enforcement of a standard company policy.

Again, I don't agree that the policy is good customer service, but I have no problem with their right to implement and execute that policy if that's what they choose to do.




April 11, 2018 - We are concerned to see the price of US crude oil drifting north of $66.00 per barrel this morning.

Fears are that the heinous Syrian chemical attack over the weekend will broaden US involvement in the Mideast and escalate tensions between the USA/Israel/KSA alliance and the Syria/Russian/Iran thug gang.

Oil below $50 per barrel - which we encountered between 2015 and 2017 - is stimulative to the economy as a whole but does not provide adequate returns to justify ongoing capital investment and deployment in the energy sector, setting up the potential for future supply shortages.

Oil above $70 per barrel - which we seem to be heading toward - acts like a tax on consumers and a brake on the economy, and could potentially nudge us toward recession.

Paradoxically, rising energy prices tend to push the stock market up, at least in the near term: the direct immediate winners, the energy stocks, are easy to identify, so their stocks surge which in turn creates a positive market sentiment, a rising tide which lifts all boats.

Oil in the $50-$70 range is optimal. While no windfall for consumers, it is not burdensome either. And that price range provides producers with adequate returns to justify future expansion, continued supply, and job creation.



April 04, 2018 - America reflects upon the assassination of Dr. Mark Luther King 50 years ago today.

I watched a documentary on one of the cable channels about housing discrimination in Chicago. Fifty years ago blacks were trying to move into other ethnic neighborhoods, and facing resistance. Their efforts to break through was called "desegregation" abnd it was good.

And then there's New York State Assemblywoman Diana Richardson who marked King's legacy by delivering an anti-semitic speech complaining about Jews invading and gentrifying her African-American neighborhood.

So let's get this straight - when blacks want to move into another ethnic neighborhood that's desegregation, and that's good; but when other ethnic groups want to move into black neighborhoods that gentrification, and that's bad... ...really?

So what is it? Equality for everyone; or, discrimination based on ethnicity? It goes without saying that Dr. King would reject Richardson's racist views, and advocate for the former.

Let's see if the African American community that Assemblywoman Richardson represents has veered so far from the true spirit of Dr. King that they re-elect her in November.



March 28, 2018 - Make America Great Again! The final read on GDP for the 4th Quarter of 2017 clocked in at 2.9%.

The final read reflected a positive revision of +0.4% above the prior estimate of 2.5%.

The economy continues to show strength. You know that the economy is strong because the anti-Trump media is ignoring it, and instead talking about other things. Anything that doesn't shed light on the good things the President is doing.



March 22, 2018 - You're fired. You thought Mitt Romney enjoyed firing people? Today President Trump announced the dismissal of National Security Advisor Herb ("H. R.") McMaster.

Better yet, John Bolton has been tapped a McMaster's replacement. This is a good thing, and a great follow up to the replacement of Rex Tillerson at State with Mike Pompeo.

Trump had a lot of enemies, and got a lot of bad advice, at the time he took over the oval office. Now he is finding and hiring the people that he needs and wants, rather than the folks the Deep State would prefer.

Mattis at Defense, Pompeo at State, Bolton at NSA, Haspel at CIA, and Haley at the UN. This is good, and getting better and better. Much stronger than the B-Team Trump started with, and immensely better than Obama's failure-stricken F-Team.



March 14, 2018 - In a race that's still too close to call, Conor Lamb (D) currently holds a 641 vote lead (49.8% to 49.6%) over Rick Saccone (R) in Pennsylvania's 18th District special election.

This is a shame because Lamb ran on a platform mostly of NOT reforming entitlements, and, as we pointed out yesterday, if there is one thing America needs to do sustain our economy into the future, it is to reform entitlements.

Reforming entitlement is tough business. It doesn't help when liars like Lamb denigrate the idea of reform, and instead - like a true Democrat - promise more and more free stuff to the people that we cannot afford. It's worse when people believe his lies.

We need to continue revising public policy toward paychecks, and away from foodstamps. We don't need policymakers who entice people to become more dependent on government.

A pox on the political career of Conor Lamb. The Kermit Tyler of domestic policy.



March 13, 2018 - The Federal Government's Monthly Consumer Price statistics were released this morning - and Trumponomics just keeps on rolling.

Inflation continues to be modest, with February checking in with a 0.2% increase, keeping the annual rate at 2.2%.

We've said it before and we'll say it again - this is about as good as it can get. Low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment and robust job growth.

So what more could we ask for? Entitlement reform. The government deficit is way too high. The government has a spending problem - it simply must promise less, and must deliver less.



March 12, 2018 - You're fired. President Trump has relieved Rex Tillerson of his position as Secretary of State, and announced Tillerson will be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

This is a good thing, though the national media will use the event as a delivery system for further attacks on our President.

Though Tillerson is a good man, he is an internationalist and his instincts are quite different from the President's, and thus they tended to disagree on virtually every major issue, from climate change to North Korea.

Tillerson seems too badly to want to get along with bad guys, like for example North Korea, the worst regime on earth. Trump on the other hand seems more inclined to want to eliminate bad guys, and so does his new Secretary-to-be Pompeo.

But it gets better - Trump has also announced that Gina Haspel will be promoted from Deputy Director to take over from Pompeo.

Good moves. Pompeo is definitely an upgrade at State, and we expect Haspel will be every bit as good as Pompeo running the CIA.



March 09, 2018 - The Federal Government's Monthly Employment statistics were released this morning - could the news possibly be any better?

Headline number was 313,000 new jobs - Awesome! But it doesn't stop there. January's number was also revised upward by 39,000.

But wait, there's more - labor force participation rate increased from 62.7% to 63.0%, a sign that more workers are re-entering the workforce, expecting to find jobs. As such the unemployment rate held steady at a very good 4.1% rate.

The work week increased from 34.3 hours to 34.5 hours, also good news.

And wage inflation continues to be moderate, with a sequential monthly increase of 0.1% bringing the annual rate to 2.6%.

This is about as good as it can get. Low inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment and robust job growth.



Archives

© Copyright 2018 Challenge The Premise. All rights reserved.