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October 2018

Of Congress and Inside Straights

    Ages ago my sainted mother taught me to never draw to an inside straight. Since the odds of success in a game of five card draw poker are 8.5% (4/47), I've long used that as the dividing line beyond which I dare not hope.  Based on that criteria, the Senate is secure, and there is a very real chance that the Republicans can hold the House.  

    The Senate is easy: Democrats are defending 26 of the 35 seats up for election; 10 incumbent Democrats are in states carried by Trump in 2016; Trump is campaigning non-stop in places where he is popular. (This is the polar opposite of President Obama who did nothing to build his party or gain favor with Congressional Democrats.)  The strong likelihood is that Republicans will increase their 51-49 lead by two or three seats.  Beyond being able to approve federal judges, the majority will provide a bulwark against any silliness coming from a potential Democratic House. And, it will set up a 2020 election where Republicans must defend 22 largely-safe seats to 12 for the Democrats, making a Republican senate likely through at least 2022.  

    The discussion is about the House where the Democrats need to gain 23 seats to take control. While there may be last-minute disruptions - pipe bombs; Honduran caravans; stock market volatility - there are a few key items driving momentum away from the purported "blue wave": 

        - Democrats had a strong run-up to the election season, with some 40 Republican members retiring, success in recruiting good candidates, and record-setting fundraising with the majority of small donor contributions coming through Act Blue, a web site designed to facilitate giving to competitive campaigns outside of the donor's district.  Hundreds of millions have come into the field on both sides in the past month, ensuring that every voter will know that every candidate is a scoundrel. 

        - The Kavanaugh hearings on September 26, are generally regarded as a turning point, with their presumption of guilt with no corroboration, abuse of the nominee's character, and Democratic-encouraged mob action in the Senate chamber and at the Supreme Court; 

        -  Both parties have predictable agendas: Nancy Pelosi with expanded health care, legal status for Dreamers, infrastructure spending, and gun control; Republicans with more tax cuts and support for the Trump agenda. Those liberal Democrats who cannot be muzzled promise open borders, investigations, and impeachment. Nobody promises fiscal integrity. 

        - The president's popularity is on the rise - to 44% in the latest Gallup polling, about equal to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton at this point in their presidencies, and above Ronald Reagan. Pessimists should note that Obama's Democrats lost 63 House seats in the 2010 election. 

        - Much as the media would like attention directed elsewhere, the economy is booming with clear credit belonging to deregulation and tax cuts.  Tariffs get the most discussion, but there are a thousand small victories - like this week's successful confrontation with the International Postal Union which sanctions concessionary "developing country" rates for shipment of small packages from China.  

    Data can be overwhelming - particularly polling which is of varying accuracy and is useless in the aggregate where huge Democratic majorities in coastal Democratic enclaves distort the political reality. A better source of insight is the digested district-by-district predictions of "experts".  The following are offered in approximate descending order of objectivity. 

        - Based on the polls which they view as credible, Real Clear Politics has 205 seats "likely or lean" Democratic, 199 "likely or lean" Republican, and 31 "tossups". Of the tossups, 29 are currently Republican. Essentially, Republicans have to take 19 of these 31 seats to get to 218. 

        - The Cook Political Report  has 192 Solid, Likely, or Lean Democrat, 194 Solid, Likely, or Lean Republican, and 49 "Tossup or Worse". They project a majority of the leaners and tossups as going Democratic, with an overall result that they project the Democrats gaining 25 to 35 seats (with 23 needed.) That is down about 10 from the "most likely" scenario of two weeks ago. 

        - The University of Virginia's Sabado's Chrystal Ball has 213 Safe, Likely, or Lean Democrat, 201 Safe, Likely, or Lean Republican and 21 Tossups with many paths for the Democrats to get the five needed. 

        - Rasmussen Reports' polling indicates that American "likely voters" expect by a 56 to 37 percent majority that the Democrats will win the House, and that on a generic ballot 47% prefer a Democratic House to 44% who prefer Republican control. Both are national numbers, and do not reflect the 30 or so districts which will determine he outcome. 

        - Nate Silver, whose Democratic- leaning  538 web site gained prominence for correctly predicting the first Obama election but has been mediocre since, has 215 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and 21 tossups with an 84% chance of getting the three extra seats that they need. 

    Some personal leavening can be added. For example, these national experts predict that the Democrats will gain three to five of their target seats in California where Republicans face a wipe out on state-wide races. Nevertheless,the Public Policy Institute of California, the premier California pollster, gives Republicans a 49 to 44 percent lead in 11 competitive districts, including those which the experts call toss-up or leans Democratic. Trump doesn't campaign out west, but last week he did order the Department of the Interior to adopt policies which would reallocate water from fish to farmers who make up the backbone of Republican strength in the Central Valley. As the Democratic path to 218 narrows nationally, a Califrornia surprise is likely. 

    My mother wouldn't object to me calling a Republican threading of the needle. . 


   This week's bonus video is an update on the anonymous $1.6 billion lottery winner in South Carolina. Since there is a cluster of readers in South Carolina, I would like to announce that we can keep any contribution to RISF quiet, and apply it to a lifetime subscription. 

bill bowen - 10/26/18


Democratic Incivility

    A friend from Florida recently asked for an explanation as to why California politicians (Diane Feinstein; Nancy Pelosi; Kamala Harris; Gavin Newsom; Maxine Waters; Attorney General Xavier Becerra; and a hundred lesser lights) do not feel an obligation to follow the direction of the federal government. The same answer extends to the rash of offensive behavior by Leftist agitators over the past few months. 

    The rationale for Resist.

        - The American democratic system does not work. The president should be elected by national popular vote - unlike the electoral college victories of George W Bush over Al Gore in 2000 and Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016. It is unfair for each state to have two Senators when California has 39 million people, and Wyoming has 600,000. House district boundaries should be redrawn to compensate for the fact that inner cities are overwhelmingly Democratic while suburban and rural districts tend to be more evenly balanced. The compromises of 1789 should be revisited.

        - A "just" society requires that the benefits of our prosperity be more equally distributed - including to immigrants. That requires satisfying the grievances of women, African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, the LGBTQ community, Palestinians, victims of gun violence, the homeless - all of whom suffer from wrong-headed Republican policies.  

        - Donald Trump is a schmuck. And everybody who supports his government is complicit in his boorish behavior and misguided policies. 

        - It is fun to rail against the establishment, particularly when it can be done without penalty, and with the encouragement of academia, the media, and the liberal political establishment.    

    The call to incivility. 

        - Maxine Waters, dubbed one of the most corrupt people in Washington a few years ago for banking and campaign finance misdeeds, has become a champion of the Left, calling for liberals to confront Trump administration officials wherever they are found, and vowing impeachment if the Democrats win the House.  

        - Hillary Clinton , reprising her "irredeemable deplorables" comments, declares “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.” She added that if Democrats retake a house of Congress, well, then, “that’s when civility can start again.”

        - Eric Holder claims that "When they go low we kick them. That is what this new Democratic Party is about.

        - Corey Booker seeks favor on the Left by willfully disclosing confidential Senate documents - which had, perchance, been declassified the day before.  

    The Academy Awards of the Democratic Leadership-encouraged Mob Acting Out. 

        - The most serious: Much of this is childish; the 2017 shooting of Republican House Whip Steve Scalise and four others by a left-wing activist provides a warning of what lurks in the shadows.  

        - The most concerning: The left-leaning semi-organized thugs of Antifa, who make it their mission to suppress conservative speakers and demonstrators in the name of battling authoritarianism. 

        - The most gouche: Michelle Wolf's attack on Sarah Huckaby's appearance and integrity at the Washington correspondents dinner. 

        - Runners up
            -- The physical attack by a staffer for the Soros-funded American Bridge 21st Century on the female campaign manager for Nevada GOP gubernatiorial candidate Adam Laxalt. 

            -- The mobs that have chased Ted Cruz, Sarah Huckabee, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and Kellyanne Conway out of restaurants. 

            -- Liberals who physically attacked two candidate for the Minnesota state legislature. 

            -- The seven Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee who insist that they will further investigage Justice Kavanaugh if they take control. 

            -- The chorus to impeach Trump. 

    National polling has been trending Republican since the Kavanaugh hearings to the point that Republican retention of the Senate is highly likely, and the likelihood of the Democrats capturing the House is narrowing as Republican enthusiasm catches up to Democratic enthusiasm. Leaders like Pelosi understand that swing voters don't like open borders, impeachment, and violence against political opponents, but they are having a hard time keeping the lesser lights under control. In 2016, establishment prognosticators did not understand the extent to which average voters were tired of being bullied by political correctness advocates; in 2018 they may be surprised by the extent to which those voters are put off by the incivility of the Resistance. 


    This week's bonus video is the Secretary of State of the Cherokee Nation's criticism of Elizabeth Warren's claim to Indian heritage based on a 1/1024  DNA test.  By re-raising the "Pocahontas" subject in a slick video, she showed that she has not learned the lesson so painfully demonstrated in the 2016 Republican primaries - and provided a humorous diversion from the grind of the mid-term elections.  

bill bowen - 10/19/18

















    One would think that recent highly visible government failures in San Francisco would lead to a period of self-reflection and a political opening for Republicans. Let's recap the sad truth. 

    During the past decade no city in North America has presented such stark failures of basic government functions as has San Francisco. 

        - The Bay bridge.

        - The millenium tower.

        - The Transbay terminal. 

        - Homelessness. 

        - Property crime. 

         - Roads. 

        - Hunters Point. 

      And there may be more to come:

         - Water supply. 

        - Lowell

    What are the common threads? It's all about politics, and San Francisco politicians play it very well. In a state of 38 million, the San Francisco political machine dominates. Pelosi; Feinstein; Harris; Newsom. Chronicle. Burtons; Willie Brown. 

    Wealth - $11 billion; free healthcare; free city college. 

    Transient working population without ties to the community. 

    So, what is on the ballot in the November election?

        - Board of Supervisors - one Republican; acknowledge well qualified, but dismissed for his party. 

        - Prop C

        - Pushing for state initiative on rent control


Nikki Haley: A Warm Good-bye

     Good-bye Nikki, we hardly had time to know ye. Truth be told, I first met Governor Haley at a Red State Gathering in Austin in 2011, and she spoke at a couple of Bay Area Republican events as a guest of now Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon a year or two later. She was smart, soft-spoken, full of accomplishments, and politely ambitious. That was before she burnished her national reputation by taking down the Confederate flag at the capital in Columbia, and by appointing Congressman Tim Scott to replace Jim Demint in the US Senate. And long before she joined the tumultous Trump administration as Ambassador to the United Nations. 

    Haley had a very difficult job at the UN, representing a president who is highly unpopular with the domestic and international foreign policy establishment. She worked with a Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who had no government experience and who had a mission of dismantling the State Department. She worked with a difficult series of National Security Advisors - Lt General Michael Flynn; Lt General HR McMaster; John Bolton. She was required to defend policies which were internationally unpopular - withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords; scrapping of the Iranian nuclear agreement;  withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership. International trade policy is largely managed elsewhere, but the background of conflict with friends and foes alike has made the United Nations job more difficult.  She had to deal with an antagonistic liberal press eager to criticize her for issues as large as supporting the president, and as small as installing expensive curtains in her office - which were ordered during the Obama administration. 

    Haley elevated the stature of the office. Despite her opposition to Donald Trump during the Republican primaries, she had direct access to the president and helped to formulate as well as to implement foreign policy. She demanded and received a seat in the cabinet - a stature generally granted, but not by either of the Bush presidents, and opposed by John Bolton.  She played a key role in convincing Russia and China to institute sanctions which drove Kim Jong Un to negotiations.  While leading efforts to maintain sanctions on Russia for their behavior in Ukraine, she was a consistant advocate for a Syria policy which would protect anti-Assad elements, and highlight Russian misbehavior. She has calmed the waters following the decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, enhancing a relationship with Jarred Kushner and Ivanka in the bargain. 

    The theatrics of the resignation were well orchestrated - plaudits all around; defusing thoughts of any incident by disclosing that the decision was discussed months ago; disavowing any intention to run for office in 2020; displaying apparent sincerity of a wish to spend more time with her teenage children. With voters approving her job as UN ambassador by 63 to 17 percent (55% among Democrats), her ability to remain in Trump's good graces while occasionally challenging him, and the Republican need for a young, accomplished, conservative woman, she will not be on the bench for long. Governor? - been there; Senate? - two seats filled by capable youngish conservatives; vice president? - now that's something that candidate Trump will need in 2020. (Sorry Mike.)  


This week's bonus is a compelling advertisement of Fresno California Republican House candidate Elizabeth Heng -  the daughter of Cambodian immigrants - which was originally banned on Facebook. 

bill bowen - 10.12.18

Engaging China

    First, some very macro thoughts:

        - It is a good thing that some 400 million Chinese peasants have risen from poverty in the last couple of decades. There are several reasons for this progress - political stability following centuries of foreign control, civil wars, and Mao's Cultural Revolution; successful centralized planning for infrastructure and industrialization; tight internal by the Communist Party; and an outside world eager to buy cheap Chinese-manufactured goods. 

      - American global hegemony since World War II, and particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is a rare phenomenon in modern history. The United States represents some four percent of the world's population and about 20% of the world's economy. Economic ascendency has allowed military, political, and cultural ascendency. China, with 19 % of the world's population, also represents about 20% of the world economy - having grown at about 10% per year for four decades. 

        - The United States' trade deficit with China of some $375 billion annually represents about half our overall trade imbalance. Primary imports from China include consumer electronics, machinery, and clothing. Primary exports include agricultural products, aircraft, and electrical machinery.  America's advantage in intellectual property is being greatly eroded by requirements for American companies doing business in China to share their technology, by the education of some 350,000 Chinese students in American universities and thousands of others employed by American companies, by hacking of American data bases, and by installing spyware in Chinese-manufactured electronics.  Republicans and Democrats have both let the problem grow. 

        - The American and Chinese economies and societies operate under fundamentally different systems.  Many core industries in China are dominated by state-owned companies (often run by the military); the Chinese government is centralized, without our checks and balances; the current president, Xi Jinping, recently had his term limits removed so that he can be "president for life"; China operates on Five Year Plans with strategic allocation of resources; dissenting opinions and minority populations are suppressed. (The desirability and long term viability of decentralized capitalist democracies versus centralized socialist dictatorships is a subject for another day.)  

        While the United States slept, China has openly advanced several initiatives designed to surpass the United States as the world's most powerful country by the middle of the century. While far ranging, the total effort is predicated upon ongoing substantial trade surpluses. 

        - The Belt and Road Initiative. Beginning in 2013, the $4 to 6 trillion dollar program to build roads, railroads, and ports supporting economic, cultural and political  connections between China, Eastern Europe, the Persian Gulf, Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia has been the centerpiece of Chinese foreign policy.  Underpinned by the China Investment Corporation which manages some $5 trillion of foreign exchange reserves, China shares development costs with the 60 participating countries, but is able to play a dominant role - as have the United States and Europe through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund which were established after World War II.   

        - The "Made in China 2025" initiative which was announced in 2015 intends to surpass the United States in the key technical fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, and biotech within a decade. Elements include the education of engineers (some 350,000 studying in the United States), and national R & D spending of 2% of GDP (greater than Europe.)  

        - Traditionally a "continental" country, China has expanded its navy to the point where its ships outnumber the United States Pacific fleet. The current flashpoint is the Chinese-constructed island military base in the South China Sea between the Philippines and Vietnam, designed to extend claims to mineral rights and control of passage. The larger threat is to Japan whose economy is dependent upon an exposed supply of oil via tanker routes around Southeast Asia and up the Chinese coast.  

        - As much as the French would like for the euro to replace the American dollar as the world's reserve currency, the Chinese would like to see the yuan become the global standard. With our federal government debt surpassing $20 trillion, annual budget deficits of some $1 trillion, and trade deficits of $800 billion that is not an unreasonable goal.  

      Enter Donald Trump. Lost in all of the daily crises and breathless reporting is a strategy. First he withdrew from President Obama's Trans Pacific Partnership which would have joined together a dozen countries in a trade agreement which excluded China, believing that the United States can do better with bilateral agreements where our dominant position is maximized. (The others have gone on without the United States.) Then he negotiated a beneficial trade agreement with South Korea - finalized in September. Then he negotiated a revised NAFTA - finalized last week. Then he got President Abe to agree to open trade negotiations which will impact our $69 billion deficit with Japan. In time he will bring in the Southeast Asians who are fearful of Chinese domination and who benefit as increasing Chinese manufacturing costs drive production to lower-cost havens - Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia. 

    In the spirit of Lenin's alleged quote about capitalists selling the rope with which the communists would hang them, many "Free Trader Republicans" see China as a huge potential market rather than a fierce competitor. Trump gets it; Boeing doesn't.  The outward battle is about tariffs and trade deficits, but the implications for the world order in the 21st century are much greater. 


    This week's bonus is the memo which sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell wrote after cross examining Dr. Blasey Ford. With hindsight, her questioning and this memo were not aimed at the media or the general public; they politely explain to Senators Murkowski, Collins, and Flake why Dr. Ford's allegations are not credible.  

bill bowen - 10/5/18