The Rod Martin Report – April 15, 2017
Don Trumpleone Settles the Family’s Business
The Persuasion Frame, Plus MOAB
The Wiretapping and Russia Scandals
Supreme Court/60-Vote Rule Wrap-Up
Stuff’s Gettin’ Better. Stuff’s Gettin’ Better Every Day
Three Tech Revolutions About to Change Everything
And Don’t Miss The Rod Martin Show
- Rod Martin Show
Happy Easter everyone. It’s going to be a (relatively) short Report this week, but we do have a lot to cover.
Do you remember that scene at the end of The Godfather — and the similar, even better one at the end of Godfather II — when Michael “settles all of the family’s business” on a single day?
Don Corleone, meet Donald Trump.
Lots has been made of the Syria strike, in which the President responded to Russian client Bashar Assad’s use of WMDs against his own people by striking the base from which they attacked. Trump took out 20% of the Syrian Air Force without a single U.S. casualty, and promised to do far worse if Assad again crosses the “red line”.
Oh, and he did it on almost no notice to Russia, while Chinese President Xi Jinping shared dinner with him at Mar-a-Lago.
Politics makes strange bedfellows. Many of Trump’s most vociferous opponents — in both parties — cheered. Some of Trump’s supporters decried his “going into Syria” (as though 59 cruise missiles constitute an invasion); a few even condemned his failure to seek a formal declaration of war (for a one-off strike?!), while others — particular on Facebook — became utterly hysterical in fear of World War III (because Russia, which completely sat out our attack on its ally, is so likely to trade Moscow for New York over it).
And of course there were the predictable discussions of whether a Tomahawk strike was cost-effective, whether it would accomplish anything, blah blah blah.
All of that completely missed the point.
Even this reconstruction won’t fully capture Don Trumpleone’s big move.
First, the Syrian strike was genuinely “America First”. That seems counterintuitive, but it isn’t. Allowing anyone to use WMDs encourages more use, and the more people have them — not to mention use them — the more people have to have them, and the sooner one gets used on the New York City subway.
Barack Obama was right to designate chemical weapons use as a “red line.” But then he lost all credibility by doing nothing when Assad crossed it. Donald Trump just showed you can take decisive action in support of this vital aim, without the giant land war Obama, McCain and Graham wanted. This was a page straight out of Ronald Reagan: remember his 1981 Libyan showdown? And by explicitly enforcing Obama’s “red line”, he drew a contrast between himself and his predecessor no serious person, here or overseas, missed. They won’t forget it.
Second, Assad may have been punished, but Vladimir Putin was humiliated. For all the World War III talk (mostly from Millennial libertarians), don’t you find it odd that none of America’s cruise missiles were shot down? Either Russia entirely abandoned its ally, or its much vaunted S-400 air defense system is a dud. Either way, if you’re Iran — which depends not just on Russia but on its older S-300 system — Israel and the U.S. just got a whole lot scarier.
Oh, and if you’re the Russian arms industry — an essential source of Putin’s cash in an age of permanently fracked oil prices — you probably need to expect a lot of foreign orders to get cancelled.
Third, did I just mention Xi was sitting beside Trump, eating a lovely chocolate cake in the latter’s Florida home, when all this went down?
Syria was a most unexpected addition to the menu. North Korea, in the middle of another round of war threats, was not.
The normal course of the perennial North Korean crises is a good-cop bad-cop routine, in which North Korea acts crazy and threatens to nuke the world, while the Beltway Establishment — RINOs and Democrats alike — marvel that anyone would act this way (this sort of behavior being out of place on Martha’s Vineyard, after all). Since they can’t comprehend it, they beg China to help them apply pressure to the NORKs. The Chinese resist this, and then pretend to relent in exchange for trade concessions. The Beltway guys are thrilled, having averted a fake war by giving both China and the NORKs all kinds of expensive goodies.
We’ve been doing this since Bill Clinton. We’re not doing it anymore.
The effect of Trump’s Syrian reprisal was profound. Almost immediately, after months of pretending compliance with a UN resolution, the Chinese cut off NORK coal imports, and even started turning back NORK freighters. Coal is Kim’s biggest export by far, and its hard to build a nuclear ICBM program without cash.
Oh, and from where did China replace that NORK coal? That’s right: they bought American.
Then, after what was described as “a productive phone call between Trump and Xi”, Chinese state media reported yesterday that the ChiComs are massing 150,000 troops on the Yalu River. And if that weren’t enough, a CCP-run newspaper baldly stated that if the NORKs cross China’s “bottom line”, China will take out North Korea’s nuclear sites itself.
One day: Syria, Russia, Iran, China, North Korea.
Two words: Moe Green.
So why the Chinese turnaround? Or perhaps more precisely, why did Xi take Trump seriously when neither he nor any of his predecessors thought of any of Trump’s recent predecessors as anything but suckers and marks?
Well first of all, Trump’s strike in Syria makes the possibility of a pre-emptive strike against the NORKs believable, not so much highly probable as actually possible. That’s a distinct change. The Chinese, like everyone else, know that the most likely pre-emptive strike against North Korea’s hardened bunkers would be nuclear, and even if it wasn’t (perhaps especially if it wasn’t) the chaos on its border would — at best — be catastrophic for the teetering Chinese economy.
That might be a slim risk, but it is a risk, which was never true under Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama.
But second, Trump did what Trump does: he designed all of this for maximum persuasive value. With Assad in the rubble and Putin humiliated — all while Xi watched surprised from Mar-a-Lago — Trump then sent what he termed “an armada” toward North Korea, and allowed senior officials to talk about decapitation strikes, basing nukes in the South, and other things that sounded…real.
As Scott Adams puts it, Trump changed the frame. Before, it was “please, China, please help us, and we’ll give you stuff.” Instead, Trump is saying, “If you’re too weak to get your own neighborhood in order, we’ll come all the way across the Pacific and sort it for you.”
Yes, just like back during the campaign, Trump is questioning Xi’s manhood. And as with Liddle Marco and “Low Energy” Jeb!, it’s working. It would be hard, if not politically impossible, for China to go easy on Kim from this point on.
Which brings us to this:
As the whole world knows by now, MOAB — or “the Mother of All Bombs” — is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever created. This was its first-ever deployment in battle. Trump’s use of it against an ISIS cave complex killed something like 100 terrorists and destroyed a huge weapons cache, in addition to ruining an underground transit network in use since the early days of the War on Terror.
But obviously, MOAB is really about North Korea.
Some claim that MOAB is not well-suited for destroying the NORK’s hardened nuclear bunkers. And maybe that’s true. But once again, that also entirely misses the point.
The point of the MOAB strike is not whether MOAB would be useful against NORK targets. The point is that Trump’s choice of this particular Afghan target at this precise time forces Pyongyang and Beijing to wonder whether Trump might be battle-testing it for use there.
“Everyone knows” it would take a super bomb to destroy the NORK bunkers, and presumably that means nuclear. It stretches credulity to believe an American President would actually nuke the NORKs, particularly preemptively. But it’s Trump, and so for all the reasons just discussed and more, they’re not so sure.
But now he’s dropped the world’s biggest conventional bomb — which we’ve had for years but never used, and was certainly not part of their calculations — on an underground target, successfully.
That forces them to think Trump believes he has a conventional solution, and that this might be part of his plan. And that forces them to think there might actually be a plan. And that forces them to consider the cost of continuing as they are.
Testing a nuclear gravity bomb yesterday, delivered by F-16, might make them think Trump has a backup plan too, just in case.
Just a footnote. Our guys over here at Eglin Air Force base — just across the bay, out my window — designed and tested MOAB. The lead designer went to school with Sherri. We’re pretty proud.
Even before all this, the Trump-Russia story was imploding. There is still not one shred of evidence — after six long months of innuendo — and when even #NeverTrump sites like Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire are calling a halt, you know the jig is up.
Post-Syria, though, the left descended into total moonbattery. MSNBC was not the only leftist organ to simply lose its mind, claiming all of this was an elaborate set-up to throw Rachel Maddow off the trail. They gravely assured us she would not be thrown off.
Here’s the thing: as with 9/11 Trutherism (also embraced at MSNBC, most notably by the racist anti-Semite and very much cancelled host Touré), this is the sort of thing that makes normal people write you off as a raving loon.
Fortunately for us, as Larry the Cable Guy would put it, “you can’t fix stupid.” So Larry O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow are our RMR Idiots of the Week.
By the way, the same goes for the Trump-Obama wiretapping scandal. As the aforementioned #NeverTrump site puts it, Trump has been 100% vindicated on wiretapping. The ugliness uncovered about the semi-police state Barack Obama was running — a foretaste of which we saw with his criminal abuses at the IRS — is pretty horrifying, and evidence is mounting that not only was Obama spying on his domestic enemies during the campaign, but that the White House politicized intelligence to affect the outcome of the election.
Let’s just say it’s a good thing we won.
John Nolte’s article on wiretapping is a must-read. Take a minute and see what I mean.
The promise that got Donald Trump elected was to faithfully replace Antonin Scalia with a worthy conservative successor: this was the central reason Trump won Evangelicals 80-16. On Monday, Neil Gorsuch was sworn in, fulfilling Trump’s solemn promise and restoring the status quo ante.
Right or wrong, the Court matters more than anything else Donald Trump could possibly do. Losing Scalia’s seat would have meant a swift rewriting of the Constitution, starting with the wholesale elimination of the First and Second Amendments. I have repeatedly said, only half-jokingly, that if Trump gets this one thing right, I don’t care if he spends the rest of his term fornicating with a goat on national TV.
The Court shouldn’t be everything. But in our precarious national situation, the Court is everything. Trump kept his promise. He may get to keep it several more times. And Gorsuch will have an immediate impact, on some very big decisions.
I would be horribly remiss not to take this moment to publicly thank Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley, something I’m not exactly prone to doing.
Very few believed that McConnell and Grassley would be able to stand against the pressure to hold hearings on, and ultimately confirm, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland 14 months ago. But they did. Even when they believed we were going to lose the election, they stood strong, kept hope alive and demanded that the people get to decide the composition of the Court.
But for McConnell and Grassley, Garland would be seated, Hillary would be President, and America as we know it would be gone.
Then, last week, when Chuck U. Schumer committed the enormous blunder of organizing a filibuster against Gorsuch’s confirmation, whereupon McConnell led the Republicans to “nuke the filibuster”, or at least the 60-vote rule with regard to Supreme Court nominations.
It’s important to understand that distinction. The 60-vote rule is not the filibuster, which remains perfectly intact. And even there, the filibuster is not in the Constitution: it’s old, yes, but it’s just a Senate rule, not “part of the Founders’ vision” as some pretend. Neither the 60-vote rule nor the filibuster is a “principle” on which anyone needs to stand. The Democrats invented the 60-vote rule for their own purposes while we were out of power, and they subverted it in 2013 when it suited their purposes to do so.
(And don’t forget: Tim Kaine promised to nuke it once Hillary was in.)
In any case, it is no stretch to say that by their actions, these men saved the Republic. And for this reason, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley, however improbably, are our RMR Heroes of the Week.
We keep hearing about an Administration in disarray, that can’t get anything done. Reports of palace intrigue abound, Bannon is in the crosshairs again (perhaps for real, but how real was it in November?), and Trump is supposedly losing his base.
I’m not suggesting there’s no trouble in paradise. New administrations have constant problems. I’m just recalling all these same stories being written about all of Trump’s Republican (and even some of his Democrat) predecessors. The intensity is different: these guys really hate Trump. But the story is the same.
Nevertheless, Gorsuch may be the cake, but there’s a whole lot of icing:
1. The U.S. economy added 263,000 new jobs in March. Small businesses led the way with over 200,000 of them. Unemployment hit 4.5%, the lowest level in a decade, before the Great Recession.
2. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of “catch and release”, Obama’s notoriously lawless immigration “enforcement” practice. Sessions further promised to bring stiff criminal charges against repeat illegal aliens and smugglers.
3. As if on cue, the AP reports that in March, illegal border crossings hit their lowest level in 17 years. And that’s even before the Wall, because…darnedest thing…when you stop begging people to come and start telling them there will be consequences to their crimes, lots of them stop coming. (And don’t let anyone fool you: Trump is building that Wall.)
4. Trump’s State Department defunded the evil UN Population Fund, which promotes abortions around the world and forced abortions in China. UNFPA, of course, is a sacred cow to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who never saw a dead baby they didn’t like (because we’re overpopulating the planet or something).
5. Better still, Trump signed into law an act allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides precisely zero mammograms and little if any prenatal care but makes a quarter billion each year as an abortuary and provider of babies’ body parts, while receiving half a billion dollars in taxpayer funding.
Now ignore all the awful things I just mentioned except the first one: how unconsitutional can you get, to force states to give taxpayer money to a private group, no matter who they are? Did Obama force your state to give your church tax money? Your NRA chapter?
No, and he shouldn’t have. But public funding of leftist groups like Planned Parenthood is how a small leftist minority steals from you to greatly magnify its reach and thus its numbers.
It has to stop. Trump, unlike most Republicans, gets it.
6. Also under #DrainTheSwamp: Ben Carson just uncovered over $500 BILLION in Obama-era “accounting errors” at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, another taxpayer-funded leftist slush fund.
I guess this means brilliant brain surgeons are qualified to run government agencies after all.
Expect heads to roll.
7. Donald Trump demoted the ABA, taking away their heretofore special privileges regarding the vetting of judicial appointments. This is a big step: the liberal lawyers guild has been improperly influencing judicial picks for decades. Trump, as we’ve repeatedly noted, prefers the solidly conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation; but regardless, refuses to give deference to his enemies, as most Republican Presidents (even Reagan) have.
8. Health care is still very much on the table. So is tax reform (and yes, we know it’s Tax Day: God knows reform is needed). Back in the day, Reagan would negotiate with the Democrats and get to a deal. Now the Democrats just want to “resist”, and Trump has to negotiate with the RINOs. But still, he is, and this is far from over.
9. Fitch Ratings announced that, contrary to its earlier warnings, Trump isn’t a threat to the world economy after all. Similar updates are expected regarding Brexit, and possibly even Ronald Reagan, as early as next decade.
10. Racial reconciliation took a big step forward in Ferguson, Missouri. My buddy (and former Reagan speechwriter) Joe Duggan reports.
Oh, and this:
Here at the Rod Martin Report, we strive to give you the inside information you need to make good decisions. To that end, we’ve unearthed this United Airlines training video. We hope it helps:
This week, Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors became America’s largest automaker by market cap. It is an amazing achievement, and a ringing endorsement of a technology set to revolutionize both the auto and energy industries.
Critics pointed out that Tesla is still losing money. Somehow they conveniently forgot GM’s recent semi-nationalization and bankruptcy.
Tesla is at the leading edge not only of the EV revolution but of the coming transformation which is self-driving cars. But it’s not alone: yesterday, Apple received a permit to begin testing its own self-driving technology in three Lexus RX 450h luxury hybrid SUVs.
EV technology will ultimately make cars far safer, while diversifying the number and kind of energy sources available to power them, thus greatly decreasing the geopolitical importance of places like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia. Some conservative luddites fail to see this promise, purely because EV technology is seen as tree-hugger stuff. But they’re wrong.
Self-driving tech is even bigger still. It will virtually eliminate car accidents (and moving violations, unfortunately: I will miss speeding). But it will also increase maximum safe speeds on the highway by more than double: 150 MPH dedicated lanes will shrink distance like nothing since the invention of the car itself, with all the socio-economic shifts that implies. Gone too will be the rubbernecking and lollygagging that snowball into traffic jams in the most densely populated areas.
It gets better. Imagine a business model somewhere between Netflix and Uber: we’ll call it Carflix (and don’t use that: it’s mine). Most families own two or three cars, and they mostly sit idle all day. With Carflix, you’ll be able to pay a small monthly fee, and there will always be a self-driving car available to deliver every family member exactly where they need to go, exactly when they need to get there.
Many families will be able to dispense with car ownership altogether, vastly increasing average family disposal income while improving both speed and efficiency.
That’s coming. And just like the fullness of the automotive revolution was just around the corner in 1917 but didn’t seem like it yet, this is already happening. And it will happen before you blink.
Last time, we devoted quite a bit of space to, well, space, specifically the real and vast significance of a different Elon Musk revolution: his successful reuse of a Falcon 9 booster.
Now comes news that the cost of this launch was about half of normal. This was the first, and note well, it was only the first stage. That means SpaceX put tons of effort and money into refurbishing and relaunching its rocket that presumably won’t be needed once the bugs are worked out of the process.
For example, it will take a while to figure out what does and does not need refurbishment (and how much, and how often) after a flight. One part may need very minor repair one out of five times, but another may need extensive repair every time. You can’t know till you’ve done this a while. So in the beginning you can’t help but overspend. Plus, most of SpaceX’s boosters are still new, and the upper stages are not yet recoverable.
But get a fleet of these going, work out the kinks, and costs are going to drop through the floor. This is what we talked about last week: a 214-fold cost reduction in space launches — and thus 214X increase in the amount of stuff (and people) that can be launched for the same money — over the next decade or so.
So we talked about that last time. Here’s what we didn’t talk about, and it goes hand in hand with the EV & self-driving car revolution I just described.
Watch the video just above. It’s awesome. But as you do, ask yourself this question:
Why is Elon going to all the trouble to land his rockets on a tiny ship at sea, instead of on a great big landing pad at the Cape? And in fact, why did he go to all the trouble to build ships on which to land those rockets when he didn’t have to?
Musk is not the sort of man who wastes money.
There’s an answer. For all the very real transformation that’s about to come from what Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and others are doing in space, imagine this: a 25 minute trip from New York to London. Or a 45 minute trip from any spot on Earth, to any spot on Earth. Passengers and cargo.
Delos Harriman — the Robert A. Heinlein character who’s the obvious inspiration for all of these guys — had just such a company, which used reusable rockets to largely replace airplanes all over the world (incidentally, in addition to this and to his space ventures, Harriman also owned a company that’s remarkably similar to the hyperloop).
But back to the question. Why land on a drone ship off the coast? Noise restrictions: you can’t be operating rockets out of LaGuardia.
So add in that hyperloop. Add in cheap, ubiquitous space travel (and manufacturing, and mining, and settlement). Add in 150 MPH self-driving cars.
Heinlein is happening before our eyes.
This is Easter weekend, during which we celebrate Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the Cross and His resurrection, conquering death and Hell, witnessed alive by almost a thousand people, and after 40 days ascending to the right hand of God the Father where He reigns over all Creation.
The Son of God is God, and through Him and by Him were all things created. He is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Him. Every one of us has sinned and fallen short of His glory, but He has shown His great love for us in this: that while we were yet sinners, He died in our place. And as many as receive Him, to them He gives the right to become the Father’s own children, not slaves, but daughters and sons.
I hope you will come to know and love my Savior. He has been far more than faithful in His dealings with me.
And if you are a skeptic as I once was, I encourage you also to go to your theater. Last weekend, Lee Strobel’s biography was released in movie form as The Case for Christ. It is excellent (Movieguide review here). A Yale lawyer and an award-winning investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune, Strobel was an atheist who set out to disprove the resurrection.
Instead, he more-or-less proved it. And very much despite himself, he became a Christian.
Go see The Case for Christ. You’ll be impressed. And take friends.
Happy Easter. Christ is risen indeed.
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