Monthly Archives: January 2018

How the GOP can keep control of the House and Senate in 2018 (without bombing North Korea)

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, January 31, 2018)

One trade trick economic forecasters employ in their analytic arsenal is updating their forecasts on a frequent basis.

That is why, without apologies, is revising its 2018 midterm election forecasts regarding the partisan control of the U.S. House and Senate:

The Forecasts

Under current conditions — presidential approval at 41% and our forecast of a 2 percent average quarter-to-quarter change in real disposable personal income (RDPI) in the first half of 2018 — we predict the following:

  • U.S. House: Democrats gain 39 seats (+/- 27 seats).
  • U.S. Senate: Democrats gain 4 seats (+/- 6 seats).

As of now, the Democrats are likely to regain control of both chambers. Of course, these predictions have large margins of error and are subject to modification as presidential approval and RDPI change.

As for the statistical models used to generate these predictions, the U.S. House forecast model employs four variables:

  • Presidential approval (Gallup) — % approve
  • Quarter-to-Quarter Change in Real Disposable Personal Income (RDPI)
  • Seats held in U.S. House by President’s Party
  • Net change in U.S. House seats for President’s Party in previous election (2 yrs. prior)

Our U.S. Senate forecast model employs three variables:

  • Presidential approval (Gallup) — % approve
  • Quarter-to-Quarter Change in Real Disposable Personal Income (RDPI)
  • Indicator variable for a ‘lame duck’ president

Details on how we estimated our forecast model can be found at the bottom of this article. You can also access our online midterm prediction calculator here.

The Implications

The good news for the Republicans is that as presidential approval and the economy change, these forecasts can change. There is still time.

The bad news for the Republicans is that we lied about the good news. There really isn’t time to change presidential approval (or the economy) enough to save control of the House or Senate. Not for this president.

But the fundamental dilemma for the GOP is not low presidential approval, it is the nature of midterm elections themselves. Coming only two years after a presidential election, they almost inevitably result in the president’s party losing a significant number of seats. Since 1950, the president’s party has lost an average of 24 seats in the House and four seats in the Senate in midterm elections.

Dwight Eisenhower in 1954 saw his party lose 18 seats in the House even though he had a Gallup job approval rating of 62 percent heading into the election. More recently, Barack Obama had 45 percent job approval in October 2010, slightly more popular than Trump now, and watched his party lose 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate.

There are two recent midterm elections — 1998 and 2002 — where the president’s party did gain House and Senate seats. In the case of 2002, the nation was barely a year removed from the 9-11 attacks and poised for a land war in Iraq. That is an easy case to explain.

The 1998 midterms are more interesting, however, in that Bill Clinton had just been impeached by the House under the shadow of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Yet, in October 1998, Clinton enjoyed 68 percent job approval — arguably, a function of a congressional Republicans over-reaching on the Lewinsky scandal and eliciting sympathy for the president among many voters. If that doesn’t give today’s Democrats pause about the 2018 midterms, I don’t know what will. The American voters will turn on a party they perceive as doing an injustice to a president — even one they don’t otherwise like or agree with.

That was then, this is now

Back to the present, yes, the tax cuts will help the Republicans in 2018 by increasing voters’ disposable incomes. Our prediction model quantifies the electoral impact of changes to RDPI: For every 1 percent increase in RDPI, the Republicans will save 3 House seats and 0.4 Senate seats.

Likewise, for every 1 percent increase in presidential job approval, the Republicans save 1 House seat and 0.2 Senate seats.

To be frank, it will not be easy for the Republicans to keep control in either chamber. But if they did, how might it happen?

The easy answer is starting a war or getting attacked by a foreign entity. For this discussion, we assume those events are off the table.

Instead, our model focuses on two components: presidential approval and the economy. While the latter factor is affected by public policy over the long-run, the former is more variable in the short-term and is under more direct influence from political actors.

Political scientists have identified the major influences on presidential approval as:

  • Economic Events: Strikes, labor unrest, commodity price shocks, income growth, stock market movements
  • Administration Scandals: Congressional hearings, indictments, special prosecutors
  • Domestic Policy Accomplishments: Major tax legislation, civil rights protections.
  • Domestic civil unrest: Riots, protests, marches, crime
  • Foreign Policy Accomplishments: Peace treaties, trade agreements.
  • US-initiated Foreign Conflicts: First Gulf War, Iraq War, air strikes.
  • Enemy-initiated Foreign Conflicts: Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Iran hostage seizure, 9-11 attacks.
  • Escalation of Foreign Conflicts: Subsequent expansion of U.S. military involvement in an on-going foreign conflict (Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen).

Any one of these factors (or some combination) could change the dynamics of the 2018 midterms in a short period of time. In reality, however, large shifts in presidential approval on a scale the Republicans need by November 2018 are relatively infrequent and are, in many cases, short-lived.

For the past two presidents, George W. Bush’s approval had three significant spikes upward (9-11, the start of the Iraq War until “Mission Accomplished,” and Saddam Hussein’s capture). Obama experienced more gradual but sustained periods in approval growth (Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016).

As yet, Donald Trump has not demonstrated he can sustain approval growth for more than a month (see chart below). More problematic for the midterm elections, Trump’s Gallup approval numbers have never exceeded 46 percent.

Source: Trump Approval Ratings (Gallup Poll)

To keep control of the House, our forecast model indicates President Trump needs a presidential approval rating near 49 percent, along with a quarter-to-quarter change in RDPI around 4 percent [the current economic expansion average is 2.1 percent]. Short of a hot war with North Korea, that increase in presidential approval between now and Election Day would be exceptional — though not unheard of.

More favorable for Trump is the economy. The Trump tax cut will increase RDPI, but to what extent? In the current 32-quarter economic expansion, 28 percent of quarter-to-quarter RDPI changes have exceeded 4 percent. With help of the Trump tax cut, averaging 4 percent RDPI growth in the first half of 2018 is within the realm of the possible, but far from certain.

As for keeping the Senate, presidential approval will need reach close to 50 percent with a quarter-to-quarter change in RDPI at a 5 percent rate. At Trump’s current 41 percent approval rating, RDPI quarter-to-quarter growth needs to be close to 9 percent for the GOP to keep the Senate.

The data looks very gloomy for the Republicans right now. An eight- to nine-point rise in presidential approval would require no more setbacks for the president between now and Election Day, and would benefit from at least one large-scale ‘rally-around-the-flag’ event.

Given the Robert Mueller investigation will wrapping up between now and November 2018, short of a complete exoneration of Trump and associates, it is doubtful the Mueller investigation will result in a net positive for Trump’s approval levels. But, again, not impossible. Recall Kenneth Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton and how the American people actually rallied around their president when the House voted to impeach and the Senate failed to convict.

Foreign events are a more likely source for positive movements in presidential approval and Trump, in his short time in office, has already stoked a few fires worldwide that may yield positive results (Israel/Palestine? A new Iranian revolution? A further decline of radical Islamic forces?). Or it could all go horribly wrong…

Short of events of that magnitude, it is not likely President Trump can increase his approval or juice up the economy enough to save either chamber for the Republicans by Election Day.


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About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

For those readers that want the forecast model details

Our prediction from last fall was that the Republicans would lose 25 House seats and narrowly lose control of the chamber to the Democrats. [We did not make a Senate prediction.]

Since then we have revised our U.S. House forecast model by explicitly modeling the tendency of large House majorities to be trimmed back by voters and for large partisan shifts in previous elections to be countered with shifts in the opposite direction in subsequent elections.

Our U.S. House linear model has only three variables: (1) Average presidential approval in October of the midterm election year, (2) the average quarter-to-quarter percentage change in real disposable personal income (seasonally adjusted) in the first two quarters of the election year, and (3) an interaction term for the relative size of the president’s party in the House and the number of House seats gained or lost for the president’s party in the previous House election.

Our U.S. Senate linear model also has three variables: (1) Average presidential approval in October of the midterm election year, (2) whether or not the president is a lame duck (i.e., not running for re-election), and (3) the average percentage change in real disposable personal income (seasonally adjusted) in the first two quarters of the election year.

We modeled seat changes for the president’s party since 1950 in the U.S. House and Senate (n = 17).

The model estimation equations and fit statistics are as follows:




Other model diagnostics available upon request to:


For those interested in our data, here is the dataset:

The Megyn Kelly Interview With Vladimir Putin We Deserve

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, January 27, 2018)

In Europe and America, there's a growing feeling of hysteria. 

Conditioned to respond to all the threats. 

In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets.

-- From the song "Russians" by Sting.

In 1985, when Sting wrote “Russians,” there was still a Soviet Union. Besides that difference, today’s Russia hysteria is familiar and, as long as the Trump-Russia collusion probe continues, it is not likely to subside.

The histrionic headlines on Russia’s election meddling are numerous:

Our democracy is under threat from Trump and Russia,” cries a headline from The

Russia and the threat to liberal democracy,opines The Atlantic‘s Larry Diamond.

And if you want the gory details about how the Russians attacked our democracy, there is an article by Wired’s Garrett M. Graff: “A Guide to Russia’s High Tech Tool Box for Subverting US Democracy.”

The American media see Russian meddling and interference everywhere, often where it doesn’t exist.

When the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag exploded on Twitter earlier this month, Democratic leaders pumped up a story on the major news networks suggesting Russian twitterbots were promoting the hashtag, giving the appearance that Americans (on Twitter at least) wanted the release of the Nunes memo on FBI/Dept. of Justice malfeasance during the 2016 election.

The truth? According to Twitter, it wasn’t the Russians. It was normal, everyday Twitter users. Oh well, doesn’t matter in today’s media environment. Nobody needs to apologize. No politician loses credibility for launching a false narrative about Russian twitterbots. That’s the journalistic system we live in right now.

“So we got the story wrong. But what about that time Donald Trump lied about…….?” is now a common retort following acts of journalistic malpractice.  Move along citizens. Nothing to look at here. Trust us.

Now back to the Trump-Russia collusion story…

As the American media sautés in its own juices over the Russian threat, the American people dutifully fall in line. According the Gallup Poll, today, 70 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Russia, compared to only 29 percent at the start of the George H. W. Bush presidency.

What happened?

Well, we know the proximate reason for this rise in anti-Russia sentiment: the hacking of the 2016 presidential election, the evidence of which is still based almost solely on government leaks and classified intelligence kept outside the public domain.

Again, our government and media elites tell us in near-unanimity: “Trust us, the Russians hacked our election. How do we know? Because sources we can’t reveal told us so.”

After a year of the FBI and journalists investigating the Trump-Russia collusion story, the only known felonies linked directly to the Trump-Russia investigation are the ones committed by (presumably) U.S. government sources who are leaking classified intelligence to the media.

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation has issued indictments for activities tangential to actual Trump-Russia collusion — none related to any conspiratorial act by the Trump campaign involving collusion with the Russians. That could change, but as of today, no conspiracy has been uncovered.

But, even the government and the news media have earned our skepticism, the public information that is available does paint a compelling, though incomplete, picture of what happened in the 2016 election.

The gestalt view is that the Russians mucked around our election through a combination of email hacks, social media botnets spreading ‘fake news,’ and, increasingly evident, the flooding the U.S. intelligence community’s human- and signals-based raw information reports with rumors, half-truths, and other deceptions. The Christopher Steele dossier being the most public example of these Russian efforts.

The Russians’ fusion of modern cyber tools with good old-fashioned, Cold War-perfected spycraft is impressive.

Equally impressive is Russia’s apparent long-game perspective. Russian intelligence’s interest in Donald Trump goes back three decades, according Politico and other reports. And it isn’t that Donald Trump was perceived as a ‘future U.S. president’ thirty years ago. He was just another wealthy American businessman traveling to Russia. And Russian intelligence was there to greet him and shower him with praise, prostitutes, and promises of business deals.

The Russians are known for throwing wave after wave of intelligence officers, social elites, businessmen and even prostitutes (whatever it takes) to get their hooks into a potential intelligence asset. It has less to do with sophisticated technology or spycraft and more to do with smart, long-term investing.

We will eventually learn how deep Donald Trump and his organizations are financially entangled with the Russians. It may be surprisingly little. It may be substantial. We won’t know until the Mueller investigation reveals what it has learned — and, even then, the conclusions will most likely include incomplete information and a lot of analytic hedging.

But, as we wait for Mueller, we can still piece together a fair assessment of what most likely occurred in 2016 and speculate on what Vladimir Putin would tell us if he broke out of character and came clean.

If only someday Russian president Vladimir Putin would sit down with Megyn Kelly (again) and tell the real story of the 2016 hacking of the U.S. presidential election.

It might go something like this:

Megyn Kelly: Thank you Mr. President for sitting down with me.

Vladimir Putin: (Through a translator) It is always a pleasure to talk to you Megyn.

Kelly: Let’s get right down to it, Mr. President. Did your country hack our 2016 presidential election?

Putin: Of course we did. We meddled. We hacked. But, probably not to the extent Donald Trump’s critics want to believe, nor as little as Trump’s allies suggest.

Kelly: How exactly did you meddle in our election?

Putin: Before I tell you how, you need some perspective. You must understand these facts. My country is surrounded by enemies, particularly on our western borders. All attempts therefore by the U.S. and her allies to penetrate, militarily or economically, our Soviet-era partners, is viewed by us as a hostile act. No less hostile than anything we may or may not have done during your presidential election.

Kelly: So you feel justified in attacking a U.S. election?

Putin: As justified as your country feels when it intervenes in the domestic affairs of the Ukraine or any other former Soviet partner. As justified as you felt when you helped Boris Yeltsin win the Russian presidential election in 1996.

Kelly: What the U.S. did in 1996 was out in the open.

Putin: Really? Did your country advertise that it sent California media consultants in the spring of 1996 to live in Moscow’s President Hotel and, behind a guard and locked doors, run Yeltsin’s media campaign? If it did, it did so after the election.

Kelly: The U.S. had a compelling national interest in Russia becoming a stable democracy.

Putin: Do you want to talk about national interest? Russia has an economy the size of Italy’s but with twice the population. An economy built largely around gas and oil exports, along with a first-world defense technology industry. The U.S. spends eight times as much on defense as we do. So we must do more with less when defending ourselves. We must also stay focused on the long-term, instead of wasting too much money and effort on short-term threats. America can afford overkill. We can’t.

Kelly: Cyber attacks are a relatively low-cost weapon, yes?

Putin: Cyber warfare is but one tool and useless without a long-term perspective and strategy. And if you don’t understand your enemy, even that won’t be enough. That is why we have studied your country’s greatest defensive genius and have used this learning in our long-term strategic planning.

Kelly: You studied Patton? Sherman? Marshall? Ridgeway?

Putin: No. Belichick.

Kelly: The Patriots’ coach?

Putin: Yes. And this is what we learned from him: You don’t need the most money or the best talent to win. Instead, first and foremost, you have to get into the head of your opponent. It is the ultimate force multiplier.

Kelly: A force multiplier?

Putin: The Patriots put 11 men on defense, just like everyone else; but when the Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has to make ONE decent offensive call from the two-yard line to win the Super Bowl, he’s calls a goddamn pass play?!

Kelly: It was the one-yard line.

Putin: That reinforces my point. You could see in Carroll’s eyes that Belichick was dancing on his cerebral cortex. Suddenly, Carroll thinks he has to out-think the thinker and thinks up the biggest mistake of his coaching career. An offensive call a 11-year-old, on simple instinct, would have gotten correct — go beast mode and send Marshawn Lynch straight off left tackle. How goddamn hard was that? But Belichick was in Carroll’s head. He was fighting more than 11 defenders at that point.

Kelly: So the paranoia many Americans feel about Russia is, in part, just in our heads?

Putin: Before I answer that, let me finish my football example. More recently, the Jacksonville Jaguars have the ball in Patriot territory, up 14 – 3, with less three minutes to go in the second half. After a timeout, the Jaguars can’t get a play off in time and, instead of first-in-ten inside the 30-yard line, they have a third-and-long. They end up punting and the Patriots score a touchdown to end the half. Score 14-10. What could have easily been a 17-3 score at half was now a close game. Why? Because the Jaguars were over-thinking during the timeout. Belichick, again, was in the head of the opposing coach. Jaguars lose and Patriots go to the Super Bowl.

Kelly: That’s football, not nation-state politics.

Putin: Perhaps, but think back to the 2016 election. Rumors of our involvement in the hacking of the DNC and Podesta emails were presented as indisputable fact by your media. Whatever their sources, strong inferences were being made. Not just ‘what ifs’ or ‘maybes.’ The U.S. media had concluded by October that we stole the emails and flooded your social media with ‘fake news,’ amplified by our botnets. The facts didn’t matter; the interpretation through the media is what mattered.

Kelly: So your hacking was more about disruption than any deliberate attempt to change people’s votes?

Putin: If we thought we could dictate your election outcome, Bernie Sanders would be president right now. We focus, instead, on what we know — on what we do well — spreading misinformation and chaos. Your own investigations found that 90 percent of the Facebook ads attributed to us were “issue” ads that didn’t endorse either candidate.  We were provocateurs trying to sow social discord, not choose your president.

Kelly: But some have claimed you employed very sophisticated market targeting methods with your Facebook ads and Twitter posts. Did you, in fact, target ‘battleground states’ with these Facebook ads and tweets?

Putin: You give us too much credit. Your own Senate Intelligence Committee said five times as many of our ads were sent to Facebook users in Maryland than in Wisconsin. If we were targeting battleground states, clearly we weren’t very good at it. Furthermore, according to Facebook itself, half the ad buys attributed to us weren’t even seen until AFTER the election.

Kelly: And your country was also implicated in the use of Twitter bots, correct?

Putin: Again, your own country’s analysis attributed about 202,000 tweets to our Twitter bot army between 2011 and August 2017. Is that a lot? Well, Twitter calculated that 1 billion election-related tweets occurred between August 2015 until Election Day. That means the tweets attributed to Russia accounted for 0.02 percent of all election tweets.

Kelly:  But if well-targeted, these tweets could change votes, yes?

Putin: If your election outcome was determined by 0.02 percent of all tweets, your country has bigger problems than Russian election meddling.

Kelly: Then why do it?

Putin: Because the Russia election hacking myth is more powerful than the reality. As long as you think we affected the election outcome, we win.

Kelly: But your cyber agents did steal the DNC and Podesta emails?

Putin: Of course. That was easy. And don’t think those are the only emails we have stolen. Our intelligence operatives steal emails all the time. As your GEICO commercial might say, that’s what we do.

Kelly: Those emails blunted any momentum Hillary Clinton tried to develop. A reasonable person could conclude that alone may have affected the vote.

Putin:  Pure speculation. To us, it simply doesn’t matter. The goal was disruption and having Americans, and the world, question the legitimacy of that election.

Kelly: Disruption is fine, but you still wanted Donald Trump elected, right?

Putin: That was our best case scenario. But we never thought that was actually possible. We just wanted to introduce chaos into the American election. To make the Americans see Russian influence even when it wasn’t there. To make Americans question the security and validity of their own election. To draw into question the entire concept of liberal democracies.

Kelly: Lets put aside the election meddling issue. Do you have kompromat on Donald Trump that you could use for blackmail?

Putin: It doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you think we do.

Kelly: But since you are clearly happier with Trump as president and not Hillary Clinton, I have to believe you have something compromising on Donald Trump?

Putin: As your intelligence services know well, we play all sides. You don’t think the Clintons have financial ties to us? As your Republican Party tries to push the Uranium One story, we sit back and laugh. We just wanted the very profitable Kazakhstan uranium mines. It is your toxic partisan environment that turned that story into more than it really is. As long we insert ourselves into the mix, your partisan politics does the rest of the work. We are the boogeyman, and as every kids knows, the boogeyman is everywhere.

Kelly: How can we protect against future Russian operations against U.S. elections?

Putin: You can’t. At least not in the way you think. As long as the internet exists and as long as we have a pipeline into every American home, we will be there. If you think the U.S. government working with Facebook or Twitter to censor internet content is the answer, you are doing our work for us. We couldn’t be happier that you think Facebook and Twitter can be trusted to censor the internet. When you lose freedoms, we gain power. All autocrats gain power when open societies start to trim their freedoms.

Kelly: You are saying we should do nothing?

Putin: We don’t care what you do. The Europeans have faced the same election-time attacks as the U.S., but somehow they have resisted turning those attacks into anti-Russia propaganda. Instead, they treat their voters like adults and expect them to educate themselves about Russian interference. Education is the best defense against Russian election hacking. Training people to distinguish good information from bad. To filter the noise on their own instead of relying on government bureaucrats and internet companies to do it for them.

Kelly: Education? That is not exactly a sexy idea that U.S. politicians can get behind.

Putin: No, it’s not. That’s why Americans will always be vulnerable to us, or anyone else with an internet connection. Rachel Maddow gins up the Russian scare, but the Chinese, the Saudis, the Iranians, the French, the North Koreans, and the U.S., of course, are all in the same game. And then there’s the Israelis. We’re even in awe of what they’ve done. But, at the end of the day, we’re all doing basically the same thing, some better than others, of course.

Kelly:  Are you saying, American elections will always be subject to external influences — meddling, if you will — and attempts to censor bad actor-sourced information will actually do more harm than good?

Putin: It’s like that whack-a-mole game you play at carnivals. Close down our twitter bots? We’ll find something else to do. Stop our Facebook ad buys? We will find other ways to get our messages out there. If an American voters wants to get their news from and tweet it out to their friends, how can you stop them and still call yourself a free country?

Kelly: In general, we believe the marketplace of ideas will sort out the falsehoods from the truth. But when we know there are bad actors out there, we owe it to our people to identify them and stop them.

Putin: Fine. And if you censor a few legitimate actors as well, what is a little loss of freedom in the big picture? I guess we will find out if your country really does believe in freedom of speech. Good luck.

Kelly: Mr. President, I thank you for your candor and your time.

Putin: My pleasure Megyn. Do svidaniya!


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About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.


Note to Tom Perez and the DNC: Tulsi Gabbard and the progressives aren’t going away

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, January 25, 2018)

Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard doesn’t resort to name-calling, sticks to the known facts, and focuses on problem-solving through inclusion and compromise. In other words, she seems completely out of place in today’s partisan political climate.

She also provokes party elders when she exposes the Democratic Party’s hypocrisy, be it how the Obama administration helped in arming Islamic terror groups in Syria or the undemocratic super delegates the Democratic National Committee (DNC) includes in the selection process for the party’s presidential nominee.

“Gabbard has managed to put together a coalition that is unheard of for Democrats,” says The Hill’s Michael Starr Hopkins. “Never before have we seen a Democrat who has managed to receive praise from Bernie Sanders and Steve Bannon at the same time. Gabbard clearly has no fear when it comes to upsetting the leadership of her party.”

Underwriting her many qualities is her instinctive aversion to elite-sourced, media-propelled group-think. When the U.S. media was quick to condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for chemical attacks in Khan Shaykhun, Gabbard said the U.S. needs to pull the reins before jumping deeper into another regime change war in the Levant.

Based on her suggestion the U.S. should get the facts before jumping deeper into a Middle East civil war, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean said she shouldn’t even be in Congress. So much for the Democratic establishment trying to mend the deep divisions in the party following the 2016 election debacle.

The establishment wing of the Democratic Party, led by Obama and Clinton acolytes and funded by Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Big Pharma power brokers, is on a poorly-disguised mission to excise the Bernie Sanders-inspired progressives from the party.

As for former DNC-chair Dean, he is nothing more than the establishment’s hatchet man who is funnel-fed talking points by his puppet masters before every CNN or MSNBC appearance — a political bottom feeder desperately seeking approval from an elite club to which he has never been fully accepted.

Yet, for all her criticism of the Democratic Party establishment, Gabbard is in truth a natural team player whose consensus building skills were honed as an officer in the U.S. Navy. She doesn’t just launch arrows at power elites for the sake of it, but instead seeks solutions to endemic problems. It is what any well-trained military officer or concerned citizen would do.

With an officer’s discipline and an outsider’s swagger, she doesn’t shrink when confronted by people like Dean. At the same time, she refuses to burn the house down in the same vein as Donald Trump’s populist takeover of the Republican Party.

Gabbard is a loyal Democrat more than willing to criticize her own party when she thinks they are going astray, but unwilling to discard the party’s post-Great Depression heritage as the party of the working class and socially dispossessed.

When in October 2017 the DNC chair Tom Perez announced the party would purge the apostates from its ranks (i.e., Bernie Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison supporters), Gabbard called Perez out:

Click on picture to watch video

“Last year’s presidential primary revealed deep divides within the Democratic Party that went far beyond substantive issue differences,” said Gabbard as she outlined her differences with the Democratic Party establishment and its new chair Tom Perez. “Now I wish I could say things have gotten better, but its just not true. Recently the DNC chair, claiming diversity, removed a number of people from the Executive Committee, including Jim Zogby, the only Arab-American, while allowing lobbyists and consultants to keep their positions.”

What did those removed from DNC leadership have in common? They were supporters of progressives like Bernie Sanders and Minnesota’s Rep. Keith Ellison.

Unfortunately for Gabbard, her entreaties towards the Democratic Party have been drowned out by the angry mob forming around the Donald Trump administration.

Trump has sucked the oxygen out of the political atmosphere to the detriment of Democrats, like Gabbard, who still have meaningful issues with how their party is being managed.

The #Resistance provides the Democrats’ its juice right now, but Trump hysteria is not a substitute for real ideas. After two years of Trump-driven anti-immigrant tumult in the Republican Party, it is still easy to know what else the Republicans stands for: lower taxes, less government and a stronger military. You don’t have to agree with those ideas, but its hard to deny the Republicans’ ownership of them.

It is still hard to summarize the organizing theory behind the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign. Her campaign was built on a resume, not ideas. Bennie Sanders, in contrast, was all about ideas — even if some (most?) were fiscally infeasible.

At some point, the Democratic Party must open up an internal debate centered on ideas across many viewpoints. For the party to benefit from such a dialogue, the range of ideas considered cannot be artificially constrained using a top-down approach directed by the narrow priorities of Wall Street, Big PharmaSilicon Valley, health insurers and defense contractors.

The #Resistance does not — cannot — address that problem within the party. Nor can purging the party’s leadership of progressives.

“The most pitiful thing in the world is a mob”

Democrats would be well-served to reacquaint themselves with Mark Twain who wrote about the social disutility of mobs in Huckleberry Finn.

As a child of the pre-Civil War South, Twain was dubious of mobs. In fact, he saw them as largely populated by “laggards, frauds, hypocrites and cowards.”

In Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, a store owner, Colonel Sherburn, guns down a local drunk, prompting an angry crowd to gather outside his store.

As the mob grows larger and starts calling for the Colonel’s lynching, the Colonel emerges from his store with a shotgun in his hand and promptly delivers a pointed rebuke about the mob’s supposed courage:

“The most pitiful thing in the world is a mob,” chides the Colonel. “That’s what an army is, a mob. They don’t fight with the courage they’re born with. They fight with courage borrowed from their numbers and from the leaders.”

In the end, the leaderless mob in Twain’s story backed down.

But, in reality, mobs don’t always go away quietly and can sometimes change history, especially when manipulated by savvy political elites. Plato in fact theorized that all democracies will eventually turn into tyrannies once political elites learn how to control the mob’s passions.

Today, Plato’s warnings are ominously cited with the rise of Donald Trump. Whether Trump is exemplary of tyranny’s eventual rise is debatable, but it is impossible to deny his ability to capture the hearts and minds of millions of Americans.

But its not just Trump that can appeal to the masses. The Democrats have proven equally adept at it.

The #Resistance and #MeToo rallies across the U.S. marking Trump’s first year in office were large and passionate. It is not a phony outrage being expressed in these marches. And they certainly aren’t mobs, in the negative sense. These marchers are genuinely frightened about the person occupying the White House.

Women’s March rally, New York, USA – 20 Jan 2018 (Credit: Photo by Erik Pendzich).

However, lurking beneath the legitimate concerns of millions of Americans participating in these marches is a more cynical force, opposed by Gabbard and other progressives, that aims to co-opt the Resistance‘s energy and money for its own narrow partisan purposes.

Establishment (or corporatist) Democrats, represented by former Obama administration officials, former Hillary Clinton campaign operatives, and senior congressional leaders, are deeply wounded by the Trump presidency and determined to regain control of the government.

To do so, they believe they must first assert total control of the Democratic Party — except with one caveat — they can’t make it appear like that is what they’re doing.

Women (of all ages) and millennials are the fuel behind the #Resistance. While survey data is still sketchy on the political preferences of the #Resistance, it is a reasonable assumption that many are Bernie Sanders-aligned progressives.

The corporatist Democrats therefore have to be careful how they handle the progressive wing of their party — the wing that in 2017 raised much of the over $522 million taken in through the ActBlue fundraising platform.

Alienate the progressives and you may create a meaningful third party in this country, not large enough to win elections necessarily, but large enough to tip the balance in favor of the Republicans in electorally competitive states and congressional districts.

So when recent polling data shows Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the U.S. — this fact does not go unnoticed within the Democratic establishment and its bureaucratic arm, the DNC. In a January 2018 Fox News poll, Bernie Sanders received a favorable rating from 61 percent of respondents (compared to only 32 percent that gave him a negative rating), giving him a net positive rating higher than all other politicians in the poll.

More distressing to corporatist Democrats is the knowledge that Bernie Sanders’ supporters in 2016 skewed young and did not turn out in numbers high enough to earn Hillary Clinton the presidency. They never loved Hillary the way they loved Barack Obama.

Therefore, how do you handle the progressive Democrats if you are part of the party establishment that needs their votes (and money), but not their attitude?

First, you purge their ranks from the party’s top leadership organs, including its Executive Committee and Rules and Bylaws Committee. Citing diversity issues, new DNC chairman Tom Perez announced in October 2017 the removal of:

  • Ray Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic chairman and longtime DNC official who ran against Perez for chair before backing Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), from the Executive Committee and DNC Rules Committee;
  • James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute and prominent Sanders backer, from the Executive Committee;
  • Alice Germond, the party’s longtime former secretary and a vocal Ellison backer, from her at-large appointment to the DNC; and,
  • Barbra Casbar Siperstein, who supported Ellison and Buckley, from the Executive Committee.

The ‘diversity’ rationale for their removal is curious given two are women and one is an Arab-American. What they do have in common is their past support for progressive candidates, like Sanders and Ellison.

Soon after these dismissals, comedian-turned-podcast-pundit Jimmy Dore asked, “Imagine if Trump got rid of the only Arab-American on their executive commitee?” The Democrats would have launched a holy-crap-fest on CNN and MSNBC; but, Tom Perez and the DNC do it and there is silence, except for one congresswoman from Hawaii with a wolverine’s tenacity.

Even Sanders and Ellison were mostly quiet during Perez’ progressive purge.

“The DNC’s move to cast out those who haven’t fallen in line with the establishment and were actually demanding real reforms is destined for failure,” says Gabbard. “We must make sure our voices are heard now as we fight for a path forward that is more inclusive and actually strengthens our democracy.”

If purging Berniecrats from the party leadership wasn’t enough, Perez and the DNC have yet to rollback, much less eliminate, the undemocratic super-delegate system that has been so crucial to the anointment of the party’s past presidential nominees.

Perez has indicated his support for the Democratic Unity Reform Commission’s December 2017 recommendation to reduce the number of super delegates by 60 percent. However, as of late January 2018, the Democratic Party’s super delegate system remains in place and cynics can be forgiven if they believe Donald and Melania will sleep together before the Democratic Party gets rid of super delegates.

The disproportionate power of super delegates is hard to ignore.

In terms of all 2016 convention delegates  Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by 913 delegates (2807 to 1894, respectively). However, Clinton benefited from a 602 to 48 advantage in super-delegates, and while Clinton still would have won without her super-delegate advantage, their omnipresent status suppresses the fundraising potential of non-establishment candidates like Sanders who, otherwise, might  have a legitimate chance to secure the nomination.

“We need to get rid of the undemocratic system of super-delegates who literally have the power to swing an election, making up one-third of the votes any candidates needs to secure the nomination,” says Gabbard, who is calling for an “open, inclusive and transparent Democratic Party that best represents and serves the people.”

“Tulsi, good luck with that,” chides Dore, who has openly feuded with other progressive activists, like The Young Turks founder Cenk Ugyur, by advocating Berniecrats break from the Democratic Party altogether and form a third party.

Gabbard, to her credit, doesn’t entertain such self-destructive notions. She is a Democrat and fully intends to rise or fall, politically, as a Democrat.

Still, when DNC chair Tom Perez and the Obama-Clinton wing of the party continue to stonewall on changing the party’s closed, exclusive and secretive nature, even Gabbard must have doubts about her own role in the party’s future.

“Name-calling accomplishes nothing…lets focus on policy”

Gabbard’s distance from Democratic Party’s mainstream couldn’t have been more evident than during Trump’s “shithole” controversy when congressional Democrats were lining up on the cable news networks to call Donald Trump ‘a racist.’

When it was Gabbard’s turn to address Trump’s immigration-related comments, she didn’t parrot the Schumer/Pelosi-approved talking points. Instead, we heard this:

“Do you believe the President of the United States is a racist?” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Gabbard.

“I think name-calling is beside the point and doesn’t actually accomplish anything,” Gabbard replied. “What (the American people) are concerned about is what do Donald Trump’s policies mean to them.”

Click on picture to watch video

Had that answer come from any other congressional Democrat, Blitzer would have pressed the issue, but in Gabbard’s case, he knew she wouldn’t take the bait. She’s not that kind of Democrat. Everyone knows that…even Wolf Blitzer.

Gabbard refuses to burn down the entire D.C. political house just for some short-term partisan advantage. In other words, she’s a not a good establishment Democrat.

As of today, Gabbard leads a lonely rebellion for the soul of the Democratic Party. Are the Democrats going to continue their allegiance to big donors from Wall Street, Big Pharma, Silicon Valley and Hollywood? Or will they become a genuine leftist party dedicated to representing the interests of working-class and progressive Americans?

Establishment Democrats are using misdirection to hide their true intentions

Magicians use misdirection to draw the audience’s eyes away from the trick that is actually going on.

Establishment Democrats are doing the same with the grassroots-driven #Resistance and #MeToo movements. These movements are being exploited by Democratic Party leaders in order to keep progressive voters solidly in the Democratic fold, even as the same leadership works day-by-day to expel progressives from prominent roles within the party.

As former Bernie Sanders operative Nick Brana says, “The Democrats would rather lose to Donald Trump than win with a progressive at the top of their ticket.” But Perez and the DNC have found a way to keep that fact away from rank-and-file progressives: Keep their attention focused on that shiny object called Donald Trump.

The #Resistance and #MeToo movements are also a convenient vehicle for establishment/corporatist Democrats to distract the party’s progressives from the substantive economic and foreign policy issues that still divide the party.

Even the collective horror of the Trump administration can’t make these divisions in the Democratic Party go away.

For example, Sanders’ push for a ‘Medicare-for-All’ health care system is getting effete, costless support from congressional Democrats, including likely presidential candidates Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), but there is zero indication that such a plan is embraced by the Democratic Party’s biggest donors in the insurance, health care, and investment bank industries. Bernie can slouch through a thousand CNN town halls on ‘Medicare-for-All,’ it won’t convince establishment Democrats that such a plan is feasible in today’s political and budgetary environment.

The New York Times opined a ‘Medicare-for-All’ proposal would sink the Democratic Party in the 2018 and 2020 elections and has suggested a more modest increase in Medicare coverage would be more feasible. And if the opinion comes from the editorial board of The New York Times, its as good as coming from Chappaqua, New York itself.

But its not just economic policy where the Berniecrats separate from their Democratic establishment sisters and brothers. When the Trump administration signaled that there would be an open-ended U.S. military presence in Syria until the Assad regime is overthrown, no Democratic congressional leaders voiced disapproval at this policy change. Of course they didn’t…Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama created the original policy!

If you loved the neocon-inspired regime change wars of the George W. Bush presidency (and their semi-reluctant continuation under Obama), the establishment Democrats are already lining up for a new one in Syria to be administered by the next Democratic administration.

Gabbard, not surprisingly, stands virtually alone in the U.S. Congress fighting our country’s bipartisan regime change policies in Syria and North Korea. Even Sanders takes a back seat to Gabbard’s vocal and consistent call for this policy change.

The #Resistance brings in the money, but will it unify the Democrats?

As small donor money rolls into the anti-Trump movement and to other grassroots Democratic organizations — though not to the DNC whose fundraising continues to lag seriously behind the Republican National Committee’s totals — Perez supervises the party’s progressive purge.

Gabbard’s calling out this DNC policy, as yet, has had little impact. Quite the opposite, it just prompts her critics to cycle through the old criticisms:

However, Gabbard’s real apostasy has nothing to do with her issue stances or how she identifies the world’s terrorist threat. She earned the ire of the Democratic elites when she supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic nomination race. That’s a sin that will never be forgiven by the Clintonistas. Never.

Besides her foreseeing the impending Clinton train wreck against Trump, Gabbard also had the audacity to question Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’ leadership of the DNC (which, given what Donna Brazile revealed about the party’s near-insolvency under Wasserman-Schultz’ guidance, was exceptionally observant on Gabbard’s part.).

“In this toxic political climate, rife with blind allegiance, Gabbard has made it clear that she is indebted to no one and unwilling to be just another Democrat,” writes Starr Hopkins. “Tulsi Gabbard is no snowflake. She is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum and could potentially be the future of the Democratic Party.”

Don’t worry Bernie fans. Bernie Sanders still carries the progressive banner for the Democratic Party. But, on principle, Sanders is not a team player. He continues to operate outside the Democratic Party establishment, which is one reason he is so highly regarded among many Democrats, Independents and even some Republicans.

But for the Democrats to finally ascend to their demographic-powered electoral supremacy, marginalizing Gabbard and other progressives is a grievous error. Pundits in the Huffington PostVox and Politico echo chambers have convinced themselves the Donald Trump horror show means the Democrats have little need to pursue working-class or Republican-leaning voters.

Such a strategy may work in 2018. In fact, it probably will work. But 2020 is the real prize and a Democratic Party that wastes energy on fratricide attacks against imaginary internal enemies is a party that would rather see a second Donald Trump term than allow progressives to compete for the party’s leadership.


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About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Banal Quote of the Week

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, January 19, 2018)

In’s latest installment of ‘Banal Quote of the Week,’ with great hesitation we are not selecting CNN’s Chris Cillizza, who could almost every week win this award.

Instead, we select White House Legislative Director Marc Short, who lamented at a Friday morning press conference that the budget bill wasn’t getting through Congress because “the reality is that this is not about policy, but politics.

It is always humorous when politicians (or the people working for them) complain about not being able get things accomplished because of “the politics.” That is like an accountant complaining, “I could get my work done if it weren’t for all these numbers.”

This is not a personal attack on Mr. Short, by the way. He is one of the stars in the Trump White House: Smart. Articulate. Telegenic. And able to stay on message without the cringe-inducing obsequiousness of White House staffers like Stephen Miller or Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Whatever happens to this administration, Mr. Short will survive with his reputation and integrity intact.

Besides, there were plenty of other politicians this week that made similarly empty statements about the politics of this budget impasse: Doug Collins (R-GA), Tom Cole (R-OK), etc.

And, of course, Chris Cillizza, never one to avoid making the obvious sound profound, used his CNN column to list a few of the problems behind the current government shutdown crisis, only to conclude: “And a big chunk of it is politics.

Clearly, he thought it was a profound insight since he gave the sentence its own paragraph.

But, Mr. Cillizza’s article did give us a clever (though impossible to recreate without a Japanese syllabaryshrug emojii: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

So, for now, Cillizza avoids the “Banal Quote of the Week” award. However, we are confident he will be a finalist again next week.

K. R. K.

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About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.



The Looming Government Shutdown & Why the Democrats Can’t Let it Happen

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, January 19, 2018)

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With a federal government shutdown looming on the horizon, I am reminded of one of Hamlet‘s most iconic lines:   “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

The ‘lady’ in the present context is the Democratic Party and their protestation is over the damage to the Republican Party (!) that will result if the Congress and Trump administration do not come to a timely deal on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and border security in order to avert a shutdown.

CNN’s Chris Cillizza writes: “If House Republicans can’t find a way to wrangle their always-fractious conference to support legislation that would avoid a government shutdown by Friday night, they are likely to bear the brunt of the blame for the closure and pay a serious political price as well.”

And why?

“Republicans control the House, they control the Senate and they control the presidency,” Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy told CNN. “The government stays open if they want it to stay open and shuts down if they want it to shut down.”

“The Republican gambit to blame Democrats — who control neither the House, Senate nor White House — for failure to keep the government running was always a long shot,” opines The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin. “They’ve tried to convince dubious voters that Democrats are creating a shutdown because of that party’s desire to protect dreamers under the Obama-era DACA…That’s daft since, once again, a majority of Republicans are available to vote for a spending bill with no DACA fix.”

Daft? I don’t know, but disingenuous for sure.

In truth, congressional Democrats know the Republicans do not fear government shutdowns the way they do. Granted, it backfired on the Republicans with Clinton in 1995. But that was a different time and the Democrats had a once-in-a-generation leader at the national podium to argue their case.

This is 2018 and establishment Democrats are terrified at this new government shutdown threat, as they have been with every government shutdown in recent memory (we’ve had four since 1990). Why? Because of this potential outcome: the American public might barely notice.

That is why, if it happens, the media will bury the public in stories about how the Henderson family from Iowa, on their first vacation since the tornado destroyed the family farm, were turned away from Old Faithful. Or the 98-year-old World War II veteran that loses his last chance to visit the WWII memorial in D.C. because some mean-looking, underpaid park employee put up a “Closed Due to Gov’t Shutdown” sign on a $30 sawhorse being used as a makeshift barricade.

All those ‘non-essential’ federal government employees that will have to stay at home and wait days, maybe weeks, to find out they will ultimately be paid for their unscheduled time off during the shutdown.

Yes, there will be sad stories to be told. And they will be told..over…and over…and over again.

For the other 95 percent of Americans, when the federal government does shutdown, Social Security checks still get cut and sent, our men and women in uniform continue to protect U.S. interests throughout the world, and our borders remain secure (…with that last clause, feel free to fill in your own joke here: ___________________).

The Republicans know what they are doing and they don’t care

In the past year, the federal government has been undergoing a real-world experiment at the behest of the Trump administration which wants to know:  Do we really need a Department of State, Interior, Energy, Education, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Labor or Transportation?

Department of State

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has all but established himself as a one-man Department of State. We may still have diplomats posted overseas and Foggy Bottom bureaucrats writing memos, sitting in meetings, and getting paid. But they have been neutered by a Secretary that openly ignores their expertise and guidance.

The result? Early signs are looking positive that North Korea will come to the bargaining table which may lead to their giving up their nuclear ambitions. It is still early, of course, but it is beginning to look like all that Foggy Bottom expertise we’ve been told to admire for the previous 30 years isn’t worth all that much. From this desk, the foreign-policy-expert class seem best at maintaining a status quo that keeps them at the top of the policy-making pyramid and benefits few others.

Department of Interior

When Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke isn’t blocking his own employees from attending professional meetings related to their scientific fields, he’s avoiding his own meetings. Just this week, 10 out of 12 members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service quit because Secretary Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year. How can we paralyze your leadership if you won’t even meet with us?!

Environmental Protection Agency

And let us not forget the Environmental Protection Agency. Current EPA Director Scott Pruitt is another Trump appointee that doesn’t like to show up for meetings. Apparently, it’s hard to make environmental policy in private with Exxon-Mobil when you’re dragged into all those long, boring meetings that go on the public record. Besides, those EPA meetings can get so sciency.

If the federal bureaucrats were smart, they’d schedule meetings in exotic places on short notice so Zinke and Pruitt are forced to fly to them using chartered flights on the taxpayer’s dime.

It is not cynical or unwarranted to conclude, Trump’s political appointees don’t care about saving taxpayer dollars or making their bureaucracy work smarter. Moreover, they think you’re a bunch of envious philistines that would be doing the same thing if you had done what it takes to get into their position in life.

The GOP hasn’t been hiding their plan

Within the intellectual crucibles of the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute in the 1990s, the Republican Party’s literati class openly formulated a plan to reorganize American civil society. These various plans had four steps in common: (1) Starve the federal government of its power source (i.e., taxpayer money), (2) deregulate the economy, (3) protect funding for the national defense and security establishment, and (4) watch the rest of the federal government die on the vine.

It’s not like they were hiding their intentions. They’ve talked about all of those policy elements every day since…forever. At least since the early 1990s, Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Antonin Scalia, and more, have to varying degrees openly advocated for the destruction of the activist State.

In Donald Trump, they have their ultimate avatar and now they are doing what they’ve talked about doing for more 30 years.

Will the Democrats be able to defend the State this time?

For all of his many flaws, Bill Clinton was never fooled by the Republicans when he was president. (OK, yes, the Republicans stole his lunch money on health care reform and the Democrats paid a steep price for that failure…but after that Hillary-led debacle, Bill Clinton was rarely fooled again.)

From his founding of the Democratic Leadership Council in the 1980s, he warned the Democrats about this Republican project to de-legitimize government solutions to social problems. When Ronald Reagan brought his charismatic brand of anti-government liberalism to Washington, D.C., he struck at the core of what animates the post-Watergate Democratic Party that had come to believe only the federal government can really solve problems. Leave problems to the states, and you get states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

Clinton’s belief in the power of government to do good things, tempered by a respect for the ability of private economic interests to obstruct this power, fueled the Clinton compromise: A constant advocacy for ‘government-private sector’ cooperation. You could call it the ‘if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em‘ approach to public policy– featuring expansive deregulation in the private economy, real reductions in the size of the federal government, and tax cuts for the middle class. Whatever you call it, Clinton’s experiment in the 1990s led to one of the longest U.S. economic expansions since World War II.

My father called Bill Clinton the greatest Republican president of his lifetime. Being an FDR Democrat, he said that as a put down. But his critique of Clinton was more deft than he realized. Somehow, Clinton was able to sellout almost every identity group in the Democratic coalition (African-Americans, the LGBTQ community, working-class Democrats) and still leave office with near record high approval ratings. The Gallup numbers don’t lie. NAFTA may have accelerated the gutting of this country’s manufacturing base, but you wouldn’t have known it by talking to the very people hurt most by those anti-labor, globalist policies. Bill Clinton and the neoliberal ideology he popularized “bestrode the world like a colossus,” foreign policy experts Manfred Steger and Ravi Roy once wrote. A strong economy and an inept opposition party will do that.

But here we sit in 2018 with a similarly strong economy and a presidential administration prepared to finally carry out the GOP’s four-step-plan.

Can the Democrats count on the ineptitude of the Republican Party this time around to prevent the wholesale deconstruction of the State?

The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC want you to believe it is Newt Gingrich and the Contract on America all over again. Our much-maligned fourth estate thinks they are exposing the Republicans again as a bunch of bumbling, stupid, racist, and misogynist hillbillies. Thank God their voters only live in the ugly, middle parts of our country, they say to themselves.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, some important elements today are different. For one, the Republicans control, if only nominally, all the branches of government.

Second, their leader, as vulgar and ill-spoken as he can be, inspires extreme loyalty among a third of the American public. Name somebody else that has that level and breadth of support behind them?

Donald Trump reminds me of former Dallas Cowboy offensive lineman Larry Allen, who some consider to be the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history. Allen was so dominant in the 1990s that he would actually go into his offensive stance mimicking a train whistle anytime a running play was going in his direction. The defensive lineman knew the play was going through Allen and they still couldn’t stop it (…it helped having Emmitt Smith as the running back).

That may be what the Democrats face today. Trump is telling them what he intends to do: Starve the government; neglect and abuse D.C.’s bureaucratic establishment, and unshackle the private sector from government (and public) perlustration. Shutting down the government doesn’t preclude any of those goals.

So when Trump says he’s willing to risk a government shutdown to get his ‘Wall’ and whatever else he comes up with between now and tomorrow, he means it.

This is why it is not the congressional Republicans that need to worry about the impending government shutdown. It is the Democrats.


K. R. K.

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About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

The Steele Dossier Has Done Real Damage to Western Intelligence Gathering on Russia

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, January 16, 2018)

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U.S. and British intelligence services may have lost valuable insights into Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s government due to the publishing of Fusion GPS’ Trump-Russia dossier, according to sources within the U.S. intelligence community.

One intelligence source connected to the Putin regime already has died due to the dossier‘s publication, said a lawyer representing Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson during closed testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in August 2017.

Since being released to the public by BuzzFeed in January 2017, the dossier has fueled wild (and mostly uncorroborated) speculation about how deep Donald Trump’s ties are to Russian interests and how Russian intelligence may be using kompromat to blackmail Trump.

Lost in the din of Democrats’ outrage at the still unsubstantiated claim of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russians is the possible loss of important intelligence assets identified in the dossier.

If true, more damage to U.S. interests may result from the loss in these intelligence assets circling the Kremlin than from Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Based on FusionGPS personnel’s own testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the proximal blame for the loss of possibly one intelligence asset rests with FusionGPS and Christopher Steele, the former MI6 intelligence officer who compiled the dossier between June to December 2016. By actively leaking the dossier to the U.S. media, Fusion GPS and Steele compromised U.S. and U.K. intelligence efforts in Russia.

On December 26, 2016, Oleg Erovinkin, a former KGB/FSB general, was found dead in his car in Moscow. Erovinkin was a key liaison between Igor Sechin, head of state-owned oil company Rosneft, and President Putin. Steele has acknowledged that one of his primary sources for the dossier was an Sechin associate.  According to Christo Grozev, a journalist at Risk Management Lab, a think-tank based in Bulgaria, the circumstances of Erovinkin’s death are consistent with methods used by Putin to control leaks within his government.

The media has reported Steele’s sources for the dossier were at least partially developed over his long-career within MI6, the U.K.’s foreign intelligence service, where he was regarded as a top Kremlin expert. If true, the damage done by the public release of the Trump-Russia dossier may extend beyond one intelligence asset and may have compromised multiple assets financed and cultivated by MI6.

This is doubly problematic for U.S. and U.K. intelligence efforts in Russia given the historic difficulty Western intelligence agencies have had in developing reliable intelligence assets in Russia and the former Soviet Union. As Putin continues to increase his country’s intelligence and espionage efforts around the globe, the U.S. and U.K. have been forced to play catch-up.

Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, may have over 150 operatives in the United States, according to one U.S. intelligence source interviewed in a September 2016 Washington Post story. “The CIA, by contrast, has at most several dozen case officers — the term for agency employees responsible for stealing secrets abroad — based in Russia, with several dozen more scattered across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states,” reported the Washington Post.

To compensate for lower numbers, the CIA is more aggressive when recruiting Russian officials as intelligence assets for the U.S., according to one U.S. intelligence officials cited in the Washington Post story.

This aggressive approach, however, has recently led to reports of harassment and even arrests by Russia of suspected spies working for the U.S.

In June 2016, an American diplomat returning by taxi to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was assaulted by a Russian security guard. In May 2013, Russia expelled a U.S. diplomat they accused of attempting to recruit a Russian agent for the CIA.

Given this renewed need and effort to develop assets in Russia, the compromising of existing assets by Fusion GPS and Steele has become particularly painful to Western intelligence services. The question keeping them awake today is whether MI6 allowed one of its former intelligence officers to exploit assets it had cultivated on UK taxpayers’ dime, or did Steele develop these assets wholly independent from MI6 after his retirement in 2009?

According to one U.S. intelligence source, it is improbable Steele developed assets for the dossier from scratch and most likely leveraged relationships he had developed while working for MI6.

If so, the potential damage to Western intelligence efforts in Russia from propagandizing of the dossier by U.S. political actors may be substantial and long-term.

The blame for that will go well beyond Steele and MI6.

One intelligence expert cautioned the U.S. government in 2011 that the growing privatization of important intelligence functions by the U.S. intelligence agencies, if not properly controlled, could threaten the quality of U.S. intelligence reporting and collection in the future.

Armin Krishnan, a political science professor at East Carolina University, warned in a 2011 article about the dangers of privatized intelligence:

“The trend toward intelligence privatization and outsourcing is a cause for concern for many reasons. First, it breeds corruption and gross inefficiency. Second, it has resulted in massive abuses of civil liberties and human rights. Third, it weakens the quality of intelligence products, as national intelligence becomes dominated by private interests with strong incentives for biased reporting. Fourth, it creates difficulties for the control and oversight of intelligence activities, as it is more difficult for the government to monitor contracted companies and private companies have less obligation to turn over information to congressional oversight bodies. Fifth, in the long term, it will cause a loss of core competencies and expertise to the private sector, especially as it concerns technology.”

The Steele dossier highlights Krishnan’s third concern in that it was political opposition research commissioned by Trump’s political opponents. Not only did that put the dossier at risk for being biased — Fusion GPS and Steele were getting paid well for their efforts and wanted to their work to seem worth the money — there was a strong incentive to include as much rumor and as many giant leaps of inference as possible in order to make the client happy.

The dossier was never meant to be a high quality intelligence product meeting the analytic standards of MI6 or any U.S. intelligence agency.

While Krishnan’s concern over intelligence privatization is focused on U.S. intelligence services using private interests to achieve their missions and goals, the bigger problem with the Steele dossier is that it was motivated outside the U.S. or UK governments’ intelligence needs and requirements. Furthermore, it was funded by political actors with purely partisan impulses.

Regardless if Steele, through his dossier research, became so concerned about Russia blackmailing Trump that he ran straight to the FBI, his noble instincts were undercut by whatever forces decided to take his dossier and pass it around U.S. media elites in October 2016.

By doing so, those forces substantively hurt U.S. and other countries’ intelligence efforts focused on Russia. It is harder today, because of the dossier, for Western intelligence services to recruit well-placed assets in Russia.

Anyone involved in leaking the dossier and other related U.S. intelligence information need to be held accountable for what they did. They did real harm.

K. R. K.

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About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

The Israelis and Palestinians are Heading Towards a One-State-Solution (Part 2)

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, January 11, 2018)

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Since 1967’s Six Day War, the status quo in Israel and the Palestinian Territories has been enforced through Israel’s military superiority supported by the auspices of the United States.

Today, that status quo sits at a crossroads. Does it continue as is? Or does it address the unacceptable and unsustainable conditions currently existing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Suppressing future Palestinian prosperity, the World Bank reports a 29 percent unemployment rate in the Palestinian territories, including a 44 percent unemployment rate in Gaza, which is twice the rate in the West Bank. It should be especially concerning to the Israelis that the unemployment rate in Gaza for those aged between 15 and 29 is over 60 percent.

Social order is difficult to maintain at those levels.

According to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index (HDI), Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza rank 114th out of 188 countries.

The HDI is a summary of human development that assess within every country its capacities and protections for collective action, sustainable development, media autonomy, human rights, and personal security.

By comparison, Israel ranks 19th and the U.S 10th, while Israel’s neighbors, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, rank 76th, 86th, and 111th, respectively. Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark represent the Top 5, in that order, respectively.

But to fully comprehend Palestinians’ lives in the West Bank and Gaza, other statistics are more informative. For example, a 2017 study by Abdel Aziz (Al Quds University) and Panos Vostanis (University of Leicester, England) found that post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were reported by 60 percent of parents in Gaza, while 70 percent of their children indicated PTSD symptoms.

According to a study published in January 2017, 54 percent of Palestinian boys and 47 percent of Palestinian girls aged 6-12 years old are estimated to have emotional and behavioral disorders — the highest levels among any country or region in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR). Other studies have shown that more than forty percent of Palestinians suffer clinical depression, making it among the highest rates in the world.

“In Palestine, chronic exposure to trauma and violence over a 50-year period has led to a crisis in mental health,” according to journalist Charlie Hoyle who has covered this issue closely over his long career in the region.

He contends a primary driver of these mental health disorders in Palestine is the arrest of children by Israeli military forces which, studies show, leads to high rates of anxiety, depression, educational difficulties, and suicide.

And, yet, the Trump administration’s policies on Israel and Palestine, led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, require us to believe the problem is centered with the dismal leadership of the Palestinians.

If only the Palestinians would get their act together, is a common Trump administration refrain.

Fair enough. There is some truth in that statement, but it’s central premise is cruelly misguided, historically biased, and simply unhelpful.

While Palestinian leadership under the Palestinian Authority (PA) leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has been weak and unproductive for the Palestinian people, it is not the source of the Palestinians’ problems. Nor is Hamas, Gaza’s elected authority, responsible.

The ineffective leadership of the PA and Hamas is a symptom. The root of the problems in the West Bank and Gaza is the occupation itself which perpetuates the systematic disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people from control over their own lives.

Without a fundamental reinvention of their social and economic system to something where the Palestinian people are given more autonomy, there is no political process currently in place to relieve the Palestinians of their current situation.

They must, instead, for practical and survival reasons, look to the most dominant and successful country in their region for help, Israel, who has shown no ability or inclination to provide that level of help.

Yet, at this juncture, what other option exists? A Two-State-Solution where the Palestinian state’s primary source of revenue will be international aid? Such a solution will force the new Palestinian state to start out its existence as a ‘failed state.’ Hardly a solution.

Under realism’s dispassionate gaze, the only workable outcome that benefits both the Palestinians and Israelis will be a One-State-Solution where Israel officially annexes the West Bank (and possibly the Gaza Strip).

Here is why that outcome will be profoundly difficult to implement…

The Significant Barriers to a One-State Solution

There are many impediments to a One-State-Solution, the biggest being Israel’s need to preserve the State’s unique Jewish character. No solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can involve the institutional redefinition of the Jewish State.

(1) Unacceptable demographics

The demographic upheaval a One-State-Solution would impose on Israel is ostensibly a deal breaker. Currently, Jews account for 74.6 percent of Israel’s 8.8 million people, compared to 20.9 percent for Israeli Arabs (mostly Palestinians).

Source: Central Bureau of Statistics, State of Israel, Dec. 31, 2017

Though a controversy exists over the exact population size in the Palestinian Territories (the Palestinian estimate is higher than the Israeli estimate), the differences do not substantively change the problem.

Source: Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics

If a One-State-Solution, with full citizenship extended to the nearly 5 million Palestinians in the Territories, were implemented today, it would change Israel’s very essence. Whether Israeli Arabs would become an ethnic majority depends on the actual populations in the Palestinian Territories. Even if the lower Israeli estimates are accepted as fact, it would only be a matter of time, perhaps less than a decade or two, for Israeli Arabs to become the ethnic majority.

An alternative One-State-Solution option, sometimes advanced so as to prevent Israeli Arabs from becoming a majority, sees Israel annexing the West Bank, but not the Gaza Strip, which would either remain under Israeli control or become an administrative territory controlled by the Egyptians.

To varying degrees, both One-State-Solution options still raise the specter of apartheid. Would the five million new Israeli citizens have full enfranchisement and equal citizenship rights under the Israel’s unwritten constitution — while still maintaining the Jewish character of the State?

Jimmy Carter’s 2006 book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” set off a sharknado of criticism when he suggested the Israelis were engaging in a “worse form of apartheid” than what he witnessed in South Africa decades earlier.

“When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa,” said Carter during an interview on Israel Radio in 2006.

“The greatest commitment in my life has been trying to bring peace to Israel,” Carter told the Atlanta Press Club at an earlier stop on his 2006 book tour. “Israel will never have peace until they agree to withdraw [from the territories].”

While Carter’s critics generally accept his sincerity, most dismiss his criticisms of Israel as either rooted in a personal bias favoring the Palestinians or just being naive. Carter adamantly (and rightfully) rejects the bias criticism, but what he can’t ignore anymore is the growing irrelevancy of the Two-State-Solution he has championed since his presidency.

(2) Status quo works for the Israelis

A second significant barrier to considering a One-State-Solution is the inherent advantage of the status quo to Israel’s immediate security interests. The dividing walls constructed over the past 20 years that separate Palestinians in the West Bank from Israeli settlers has achieved its strategic goal. Violence in Israel coming from the Palestinian Territories has plummeted and remains low since construction of the walls began in earnest in June 2002.

Source: Johnston Archive

Terrorism-related deaths in Israel surged during the 2nd Intifada from 44 persons in 2000 to a peak of 452 persons in 2002. With the building of the separation walls annual deaths since 2005 have exceeded 40 persons in only two years (2015 and 2016).

What is the incentive for Israel to disrupt the status quo at this point? With the walls and its immense security apparatus — Israel spends 16 percent of its GDP on defense and security spending, more than any other advanced industrial economy — Israel has never been more secure.

As Israel continues to build new homes for Israeli settlers on the West Bank — hundreds more were approved just last week — the Two-State-Solution is dying a death of a thousand cuts.

Yet, at this point in time, it is hard to see what will lead Israeli leaders to the conclude that ‘two nations under one state’ is the best path to long-term peace and security within the region. But that day will come. The Trump and Netanyahu administrations are accelerating the forces that ensure that outcome.

(3) Israel already has an inequality problem (as most advanced economies do) — a One-State-Solution will make it worse

Finally, the difficulty of integrating five million West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians into Israeli society would be a titanic challenge within a country already struggling with issues of inequality.

And this inequality problem is not helped by a Knesset bill now being considered that would officially designate Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people,” thereby institutionalizing the second-class status of Israel’s Arab population and demoting the Arab language from “an official language of Israel” to a language with “special status.”

While the impetus for this bill is driven by Israel’s far-right parties, tentative support is also coming from other segments.

“I would rather be a second-class citizen under a Jewish state than a first-class citizen in an Arab state,” said Amir Shalayan, a Christian Arab Knesset member who has supported versions of the “nation state of the Jewish people” bill in the past.

Ishmael Khaldi, an Israeli Arab and the nation’s first high-ranking Muslim in the Israeli foreign service, wrote in a 2009 essay for the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I am a proud Israeli – along with many other non-Jewish Israelis such as Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims, who live in one of the most culturally diversified societies and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Like America, Israeli society is far from perfect, but let us deal honestly. By any yardstick you choose – educational opportunity, economic development, women and gay’s rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation – Israel’s minorities fare far better than any other country in the Middle East.”

While this sentiment may not be representative of most Israeli Arabs, there is a large number of Israeli Arabs, particularly among the young, that recognize their lives in Israel are superior to their brethren in the West Bank and Gaza or other parts of the Arab world.

In a 2016 survey, 55 percent of Israeli Arabs said they are proud of their Israeli citizenship, though 76 percent also said they reject the definition of Israel as a “Jewish state.”

Contrary to what many of Israel’s critics believe, the civil rights of its non-Jewish citizens are protected by its laws and the Israeli Supreme Court has consistently interpreted “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty”[ and “Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation (1994)” as guaranteeing equal rights for all Israeli citizens.

However, Israel remains socially bifurcated and inequality is systemic.

A few statistics reinforce this point:

But even in the presence of this inequality, it is equally true that Israel’s Arab citizens are largely integrated into Israeli society as seen in these facts:

  • Israel is a democracy and Israeli Arabs do possess full voting rights, accounting for 14 percent of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. [In a perfect world, Israeli Arabs would make up 20 percent of the Knesset. However, as someone from a country that allows U.S. congressional districts to be drawn like those in North Carolina, I do not judge Israel’s democracy in a harsher light than that of my home country.]
  • Israeli Arabs are granted all fundamental civil liberties, including freedoms of religionspeech, and assembly, and in fact enjoy more civil rights than Arabs living in any other Middle Eastern country.
  • Israel is also the only country in the Middle East where Arab homosexuals can live without fear of prosecution, which is why many Palestinian gays have fled for Israel.
  • As of May 2017, 42% of all nursing students in Israel were Arabs, 38% of pharmacists in Israel were Arab, and 38% of medical students at the Technion in Haifa were Arab.
  • Arabic, like Hebrew, is an official language in Israel (though that status could change if the Knesset passes the “nation state of the Jewish people” bill).

A common language is particularly important and indicative of a society’s level of social integration and national unity. In the case of Israel, Hebrew is the unifying language as 90 percent of Israeli Arabs speak Hebrew (though only 3 percent of Israeli Jews speak Arabic).

In much the same way English fluency correlates with economic success among Hispanics in the United States, for the One-State-Solution to have any chance of success, it will require Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, particularly the young, to learn Hebrew.

That is not a trivial task. The vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have little background in Hebrew. English is much more likely to be a second language for these Palestinians, as it is compulsory in most West Bank and Gaza schools.

Should West Bank and Gaza Palestinians be brought into the Israeli state as full citizens, this language gap will pose a serious barrier to their educational opportunities and economic prospects. It will be hard for older Palestinians in the Territories to learn Hebrew, if they haven’t already — but, for Palestine’s large youth population, under a One-State-Solution it will be prerequisite for economic advancement.

So what will bring the Israelis and Palestinians to embrace a One-State-Solution?

The barriers to a One-State-Solution are formidable. But, for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the status quo has become so unsustainable that it is not hard to imagine a growing interest among average Palestinians in sharing the same economic bounty as their brothers and sisters already living in Israel. It will, most likely, require a new generation of Palestinian leaders to make this profound psychological leap.

For the Israelis, it is harder to see what forces bring their leadership to explore (much less accept) a One-State-Solution. The Israelis have proven they can maintain their internal security while occupying the West Bank and containing Gaza. It is also implausible that another intifida or a coordinated military action with Lebanon’s Hezbollah will change Israel’s security posture to such a degree that they will be forced to the bargaining table.

Instead, for Jewish Israelis, the motive for considering the One-State-Solution is more likely to come from a moral imperative to end the occupation and an economic imperative to leverage the significant human capital potential in the Palestinian Territories.

Israel remains diplomatically isolated, though we saw with the U.S. deciding to move its embassy to Jerusalem a growing number of countries eschewing a reflexive condemnation of Israel in the United Nations vote on the U.S. decision.

Still, among many in the world’s diplomatic class, Israel is a pariah and this does restrain its economic growth. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) also remains a force actively trying to make Israel feel an economic cost from its occupation of the West Bank and isolation of Gaza. However, evidence that the BDS movement has harmed Israel’s economy is sparse.

Someday the Israeli business community will make a persuasive economic argument that the State of Israel could benefit by annexing the Palestinian Territories and extending equal rights to all residents in these areas.

In combination with Israel’s growing confidence in its military ability to deter and repel any hostile attack from its regional enemies, Israel’s political leadership may soon take a longer, more serious look at the One-State-Solution and not simply dismiss it out-of-hand, as they do now. Of course, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will need to make a similar cost-benefit calculus if they are to also consider the One-State-Solution.

To those who say such a solution is impossible in today’s political environment — and it is hard to say they are wrong — I say, keep your minds open. Big changes may be coming to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it must, and will, benefit both the Palestinians and the Israeli people.

K. R. K.

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About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Israelis & Palestinians are Heading Towards a One-State-Solution (Part 1)

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, January 9, 2018)

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Last week, the U.S. State Department reportedly froze more than $100 million previously committed to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and its work in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Prior to this funding pause, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the money would not be forthcoming unless Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas comes to the peace table.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reinforced Haley’s UN speech with his own reported support of a gradual cutback of American funding to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees.

As unsurprising as the unity between the Donald Trump administration and Netanyahu might be, it is more interesting that mainstream Israeli opinion on cutting back funding to UNRWA is more thoughtful and measured.

Representative of this more temperate view, journalist Amos Harel for writes:

“U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s declaration that the United States intends to cut aid the Palestinians, and possibly to UNRWA, is no less worrying to Israel than it is to the Palestinian Authority. Officially, Israel has come out time after time against UNRWA employees’ flirtation with messages supporting terror and the funding the agency provides for the grandchildren of the original Palestinian refugees from 1948. In practice, however, the agency funds educational activities and medical services for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and a sharp cut in its resources could bring thousands of them into the streets to confront the Israeli army.”

On the ground, it is the U.S. and UNRWA partially subsidizing Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Without this aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians would lose access to vital education and health care services and the expectation is Hamas, the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip, would most benefit from the subsequent social discontent.

According to a December 2016 U.S. congressional report, the U.S. has historically provided around $400 million per year to the Palestinians, though for 2017 it was around $363 million. UNRWA, in turn, provided $248 million to the Gaza Strip and $113 to the West Bank in 2017, with around $130 of that aid being part of the U.S.’s $363 annual aid to Palestinians. In total, about $600 million is provided to the West Bank and Gaza Strip through UNRWA and the U.S.

The UNRWA and U.S. aid is critical to sustaining Palestinian civil society and, should it go away, would be shifted in all likelihood to the Israelis whose 2018 national budget is around $119 billion. In other words, UNRWA and U.S. aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip would account for less than 1 percent of the Israeli annual budget.

Israel can afford taking on an additional financial burden with respect to the West Bank and Gaza Strip; but, by doing so, would be making a sotto voce acknowledgement of its sovereignty over those territories.

As of now, Israel and the Palestinians are not prepared to make the psychological leap necessary to entertain (much less implement) a One-State-Solution — but that is where the two parties are headed and it is not obvious what will stop its current momentum.

The Trump administration’s policy towards Israel is presently led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Neither is trained nor in possession of the substantive experience required to broker negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians — yet, that is the conceit of the Trump administration.

If there is any doubt of the Kushner team’s lack of qualifications to broker a deal, click on the photo below to watch Kushner’s interview with Haim Saban, an Israeli-American billionaire, who hosted the Saban Forum 2017 at the Brookings Institute in December 2017. Kushner was so stunningly ill-prepared to address the conflict’s basic issues that what started as a sympathetic audience turned openly hostile to Kushner’s lightweight responses to Saban’s questions. Like his father-in-law, Kushner keeps his stable geniusness under tight wraps, far out of public view.

[Click the image below to watch Kushner’s interview with Haim Saban]

Jared Kushner being interviewed by Haim Saban at the Brookings Institute (Dec. 2017)

Many Middle East observers think Jared Kushner is unfit for a diplomatic role this important. On the job for almost a year now, the Saban interview demonstrates he has acquired only superficial knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

With dilettante diplomats like Kushner and Friedman at the helm, the best outcome the Trump administration can hope for is to maintain the status quo in the region without causing any unnecessary crises or disruptions. Of course, unilaterally moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem carried significant risk to do just that — but, so far, it has not.

From the Israeli perspective, the status quo serves their short-term interests just fine. They’ve been doing the diplomatic rope-a-dope for 50 years now, why stop now?  But the amateurishness of Kushner’s negotiation team poses a significant long-term risk to the Israelis if the Kushner/Friedman team’s undisguised allegiance with the Israelis convinces the Palestinians that the Two-State-Solution is finally dead and negotiations towards that end pointless. If that day arrives, and some observers think it already has, there will remain just two possibilities for the Israelis and Palestinians: (1) Perpetuate the status quo indefinitely, or (2) pursue some form of a One-State-Solution.

Neither side is close to publicly considering the second option, but that is where the arc of history is taking them.

Part 2 of this essay will discuss the many barriers to a One-State-Solution and why it will ultimately work.

K. R. K.

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About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.


Don’t look now, but the Trump rebound may have started

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, January 4, 2018)

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In the latest Gallup Poll, President Donald Trump has reached a 40 percent job approval rating for the first time since late September.

While not great — no elected president has been this low this early in his presidency — it does represent a significant improvement for Trump from the low 30s he saw in early December 2016.

Are we at a pivot point in Trump’s presidency where more and more independents and weak partisans are starting to give Donald Trump and the GOP another chance? Is the passing of the Trump tax bill, the growing strength of the U.S. economy, and the territorial defeat of ISIS giving some Americans a reason to reconsider their view of this president and his party?

In just a few months, some Americans will see perceptible increases in their after-tax disposable income as a result of the new law — especially in red states where the Republicans need to rebuild and reinforce their support going into the 2018 midterms.

Still, the Democrats and #TheResistance are not going to yield an inch to Trump and the GOP for an imbalanced tax cut that gives 50 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent of Americans. And, on the objective merits, they shouldn’t.

But for a large swath of the American electorate, when it comes to taxes, they simply are not the ideologues the Democrats want them to be. They are too busy working hard and paying bills and they just don’t begrudge wealthy people getting wealthier.

If the Democrats are convincing themselves that the GOP will pay dearly at the ballot box for passing the Trump tax bill, they may be disappointed on the morning of November 7th.

When New York Senator Chuck Schumer says, “Republicans have directed a lion’s share of the benefits to the already wealthy, the already powerful corporate America and the rich,” he may be factually correct, but he fails to appreciate an almost vicious streak of schadenfreude that colors the views of many Americans.

That’s a bit harsh, I suppose. But when you compare American attitudes to Europeans’ about personal responsibility, empowerment, and economic outcomes, Americans are much less likely to believe their life’s outcome is determined by uncontrollable social forces (Source: Pew Research, 2011).

As to their society’s priorities, Americans are also much more likely than Europeans to prioritize “freedom to pursue life’s goals” over eliminating poverty (Source: Pew Research, 2011).

Collectivism and empathy simply do not define American culture. If they did, would we be ignoring this country’s opioid epidemic, or shrugging off the millions of Americans that will once again (though often by their own choice) not have health insurance, or turning our backs to the consequences of the Syrian civil war we helped instigate?

We can be generous in our charity. According to Gallup, 85 percent of Americans give money to charities each year.

But charitable giving is not the same as empathy and it should not surprise us when tens of millions of Americans walk into the voting booth next November and vote for the party led by a man who is an alleged sexual assaulter, shows more compassion towards racists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia than Puerto Rican Americans still reeling from the aftermath of a Category 4/5 hurricane, has no fear of nuclear brinkmanship, shows little capacity to empathize with others, and has only a casual relationship with the truth or the basic knowledge necessary to be president.

The America people have a staggering capacity not to give a sh*t about most things.

This cynical assessment of the American people, while not entirely fair, moderates my expectations for the Democrats in the midterm elections.

Yes, standing just eleven months out from the midterm elections, it is hard to fathom the Democrats not crushing the GOP in November. The media’s coverage of #TheResistance and #MeToo movements in 2017 is far more positive than its coverage of the Tea Party in 2010.

Yet, I can feel it in my bone marrow. The Democrats are going to blow it — and on an Hindenburg/Titanic scale.

But what are the data telling us?

The PredictIt futures market gives the Democrats a 64 percent chance of gaining control of the U.S. House and a 45 percent chance of controlling the U.S. Senate.

But that is the same futures market that predicted a Hillary Clinton landslide electoral college victory a day before Election Day last year.

This is partly why we prefer econometric models for election predictions.

In an earlier column, analysts offered a simple predictive model for U.S. House midterm elections. The model variables are as follows:

  • Dependent variable: House seats net gain/loss for president’s party in midterm elections.
  • Independent variables:
    • Gallup’s presidential job approval average from August to October in the election year,
    • real disposable personal income (RDPI) growth (average for 1st two quarters of the election year, seasonally-adjusted),
    • an indicator variable for post-Watergate Republican administrations, and
    • the incumbent party’s net gain/loss from the previous midterm election.

The statistical model’s specification is as follows:’s current prediction, where Trump approval is at 40 percent and real disposable income growth at around 3.6 percent (which is historically high), is that the GOP will lose 25 seats in the midterm elections — right at the cutoff point where the Democrats regain control of the House.

The model puts a heavy emphasis on the economy and our current assumption of an unusually strong economy in 2018 is critical to its midterm prediction.

The bottom line is, if the economy continues to grow at a steady pace where people feel it and Trump can find a way to get his approval numbers over 41 percent, the GOP has an even chance of keeping control of the U.S. House.

After almost two years of breathless coverage of the Trump-Russian collusion investigation, and an almost daily offering of ill-considered Trump tweets or other manifestations of Trump’s cruel brand of narcissism, the Democrats may still find themselves in the minority in the U.S. House after the midterms.

If that happens…there will be hell to pay in the Democratic Party.

Well, rather, there should be hell to pay…

K. R. K.

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About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

How did the Justice Department justify spying on the Trump campaign?

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, January 4, 2018)

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If it wasn’t there already, the Trump-Russia collusion narrative has officially entered the Twilight Zone.

We can thank the entire news and media establishment for our collective decline in understanding what really happened in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Most recently, The New York Times now wants you to believe the U.S. intelligence communities’ inquiry into the Trump-Russia collusion started with an Australian diplomat’s passing on a conversation he had with Trump campaign surrogate George Papadopoulos.

This assertion is absurd on its face. Prior to working on the Trump campaign, Papadopoulos’ biggest foreign policy achievement was participation in the Model UN, an educational simulation in which students learn about diplomacy.

And, if you swallow the new ‘Papadopoulos started it all’ story line, you also have to believe this young man in the middle of the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy thought it was OK to tell a senior Australian diplomat about one of the key elements in the plot (i.e., obtaining Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 deleted emails). Drunk or not, it is utterly implausible that someone could be that stupid. If it had been Eric Trump spilling the beans, maybe I could believe it.

From that farcical story premise, we are now told (by The New York Times‘ anonymous sources) that a FISA judge used information from that source to authorize the U.S. intelligence community to spy on anyone associated with the Trump presidential campaign. If a FISA judge approved that request, he or she needs to be immediately removed from the bench.

By all accounts, Papadopoulos was a foreign policy expert wannabe who, through a serpentine network of social and business connections, wormed his way into Donald Trump’s informal circle of campaign foreign policy advisers. That this could happen is a serious indictment of the Trump campaign’s competency.

More importantly, the Papadopoulos story suggests the Trump campaign’s desire to find “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the Spring of 2016 was relegated to the lowest ranks of the campaign operation. Amateur-level political chicanery this may have been, but collusion with the Russians this was not.

The National Review’s Andrew McCarthy lays waste to the Times‘ story:

McCarthy writes:

“Papadopoulos was told that the Russians had ’emails of Clinton.’ But the hacked emails that were published (in Summer 2016) were not Clinton’s emails; they were those of the DNC and John Podesta — exceedingly few of which Clinton was even included on, much less participated in. Given the amount of misinformation the credulous Papadopoulos was given (one of his interlocutors falsely posed as Putin’s niece), the likelihood is that he was being toyed with: Remember, there was much speculation at the time, including by Trump himself, that the Russians (and other foreign intelligence services) might have hacked former secretary Clinton’s unsecure private server and obtained the 30,000-plus emails that she refused to surrender to the State Department; it is probable that these were the emails Papadopoulos’s dubious Russian connections purported to be dangling.

In fact, rumors that the Russians possessed Hillary Clinton’s 30,000-plus deleted emails had been circulating as early as the Fall of 2015. A CBS News report on the rumor was published on September 30, 2015.

McCarthy further writes:

“There is no evidence that Papadopoulos or the Trump campaign was ever shown or given any of the emails the Kremlin purportedly had. The evidence, in fact, undermines the collusion narrative: If the Trump campaign had to learn, through Papadopoulos, that Russia supposedly had thousands of emails damaging to Clinton, that would necessarily mean the Trump campaign had nothing to do with Russia’s acquisition of the emails. This, no doubt, is why Mueller permitted Papadopoulos to plead guilty to a mere process crime — lying in an FBI interview. If there were evidence of an actual collusion conspiracy, Papadopoulos would have been pressured to admit guilt to it. He wasn’t.”

So what possibly could have inspired the Trump campaign to condone a marginal figure like Papadopoulos to represent the campaign on foreign soil?

In all likelihood, the campaign leadership didn’t. [That is what President Trump has been saying]. But if the campaign did, it was most likely part of a broader effort to find as much “dirt” on Hillary Clinton as they could find. All avenues of inquiry were probably considered, including Russian-sourced.

It is even possible this meant active coordination with Putin surrogates; but, as yet, there is sparse evidence of that level of cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

The media spotlight has been especially focused on a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, then Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. Veselnitskaya’s claim to have “dirt” on Hillary Clinton proved erroneous, according to Trump Jr.

Not widely emphasized in media reports on the Trump Tower meeting is the connection between Veselnitskaya and the firm hired by the Clinton campaign to do opposition research against Donald Trump.

What we know is that the Clinton campaign helped finance an effort to collect “dirt” on Donald Trump through Fusion GPS, a commercial research and strategic intelligence firm based in Washington, D.C., and Christopher Steele, a retired British intelligence professional.

Curiously, Veselnitskaya had met with representatives of Fusion GPS both before and after the Trump Tower meeting, presumably as part of a contracted lobbying effort to repeal The Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law intended to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky.

I’d almost believe the Russians and Clinton campaign worked together to set up the Trump campaign. Or, perhaps, the Russians were working both sides of the equation, making the 2016 election a win-win proposition regardless of the electoral outcome.

As for the Steele dossier, it is little more than opposition research commissioned by political actors dedicated to discrediting Donald Trump. It is not serious intelligence reporting, even if created by a respected former British intelligence officer. Any senior FBI intelligence analyst or FISA judge would recognize the Steele dossier as less than reliable intelligence. Yet, we know it was used to some degree by the Justice Department to authorize intelligence collection on Trump campaign surrogates.

The dossier’s existence and its orbit around a FISA request to collect intelligence on the Trump campaign begs the following questions: (1) Did the FBI verify the dossier before using it in an application to the FISA court? and (b) did the Justice Department even tell the FISA court who produced the dossier?

Before we tear down another presidential administration, the American people have the right — and need — to know the contents of the Justice Department’s FISA Court request.


Are there any credible theories left in the Trump-Russia collusion story?

Three million dollars have been spent so far by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of FBI investigators and four people have already been indicted or plead guilty to charges filed.

More indictments and guilty pleas are in the pipeline, according to the usual unnamed sources.

The indictments so far have focused on financial misdeeds unrelated to the Trump-Russia collusion story and the guilty pleas have been related to process crimes, not conspiracy crimes.

There is still no evidence of any conspiracy or collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

But that doesn’t stop the conjecture.

Journalist Michael Wolff’s forthcoming book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” quotes former Trump adviser Steve Bannon as saying the Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., and Veselnitskaya was “treasonous.”

As currently reported, it wasn’t.

It may have been ill-advised, ham-handed, and stupid…but it was not treasonous. Did Donald Trump himself know about the meeting? Probably, but so what.

There are other more important questions surrounding the Trump campaign that will not go away any time soon.

First, the FBI is reviewing the financial records of Trump himself, The Trump Organization, Trump’s family members, and his campaign staff, including Trump’s real estate activities as the relate to Russia. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is considered by many observers to be a central figure in this element of the Mueller investigation.

Few of us would survive unscathed from an FBI audit of our tax and financial histories and, if Bannon is correct, Kushner’s financial interests are so “greasy” they will attract significant Mueller probe attention.

In hiring some of the country’s top money laundering experts, including Andrew Weissmann, a former senior Justice Department official with expertise in financial crimes, the Mueller probe is going in a direction that is hard to predict. Early conjecture is on the investigation taking a deep dive into the Trump organization’s Deutsche Bank loans, which added up to $364 million at the end of 2016.

New York University law professor Ryan Goodman suggests that Mueller could be determining if Trump has bank loans guaranteed by Russian interests. Considered in isolation, that would not be a financial crime; but, if the loans are Russian-backed, it would underscore a larger narrative that President Trump’s repeated acquiescence to Russian leader Vladimir Putin is at least partially tied to business debts.

Second, it doesn’t take an actual conspiracy for Mueller to catch Trump and his associates on process crimes. General Michael Flynn can attest to that. Undoubtedly, lawyers have already advised any Trump associates before their FBI interviews, including the President himself, that lying to the FBI while under oath is a federal crime. Regardless of the warning, someone always screws up.

Third, President Trump has committed enough unforced errors surrounding his firing of FBI Director James Comey to suggest it was done to impede the Mueller investigation. Some legal experts argue this would be obstruction of justice. We will see if Mueller feels empowered enough to bring down a president over an executive action that is allowed by the Constitution.

Finally, and perhaps the most unreported aspect of the Trump-Russian collusion story, did the Trump campaign coordinate with the Russians (or their proxies) in the promulgation of Russian-created propaganda on various social media platforms?

Specifically, did the Trump campaign feed voter data to the Russians in order to maximize the impact of Russian propaganda efforts? As of now, this theory is without substantive supporting evidence — though one of Twitter’s most prolific Trump antagonists, @TeaPainUSA, has offered forensic data from various servers controlled by the Trump organization and Kushner’s business interests showing unusual repeated “contact” between those servers and servers purportedly located in Russia.

At this point, the @TeaPainUSA server data analysis is unverified and it remains mere conjecture that the Trump campaign’s database operations were in direct communication with databases in Russia for nefarious purposes.

What is not conjecture is that the Mueller investigation has spent too much money and is building too many reputations too end up with just a few financial and minor criminal indictments. All roads are pointing towards more indictments.

They will not lead, however, to the end of the Trump presidency.


It was an old-fashioned cabal, not Papadopoulos or the Deep State, that initially powered the Trump-Russia collusion investigation

The Trump-Russia collusion investigation starts with the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration and not with the Papadopoulos’ chance meeting with an Australian diplomat in a Kensington wine room.

The evidence in support of this conclusion remains circumstantial, but it grows with every New York Times Trump-Russia collusion story exclusive.

Once it became evident in the Spring of 2016 that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president, the Obama administration went into action. FBI agent Peter Strzok’s text to a fellow FBI agent that an “insurance policy” was necessary to stop a Trump presidency was possibly an artifact of a larger bureaucratic effort to obstruct the Trump rise.

In this context, the Papadopoulos-Downer meeting most likely represents the operational imperatives of an undisciplined Trump campaign that knew it was at war with the entire Washington, D.C. political establishment. That the Trump campaign was so amateurish in its execution is indicative of its inability to fully comprehend the forces arrayed against its success.

Just as Hillary Clinton’s reckless use of a private server is the distal cause of her ’email’ problems in the 2016 campaign, including the infamous Comey letter, Donald Trump’s willingness to make deals with sketchy business types, including perhaps the Russians, is the root cause of his current troubles. And, yes, the Clinton campaign and Obama administration were more than happy to exploit these Trump associations for political purposes.

That his son and son-in-law may go to jail as result will haunt Donald Trump through his last mortal days. For those eagerly awaiting Trump’s pound of flesh, their patience will be rewarded — but will it be justified?

More Mueller investigation indictments are coming, not because the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, but because Trump campaign operatives were too inexperienced to know how vulnerable their actions were to discovery by opponents eager to exploit that information.

Furthermore, a much bigger issue is at stake in the alleged Trump-Russia collusion story:  Why are the original FBI’s original FISA requests to collect intelligence on the Trump campaign not released to the public? And, more importantly, to what extent are we going to allow the U.S. Government to employ classified information and sources to destroy the reputations of individual American citizens?

Our Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights are rendered impotent if the evidence used against us hides in the shadows. If they weren’t genetically wedded to the federal government, The Washington Post might want to change its tumid new motto ‘Democracy Dies Darkness’ to a more relevant phrasing: ‘Our Liberties Die in Darkness.’

The U.S. intelligence community contends the protection of sources and methods is paramount to national security. But does releasing the substance of the FBI’s original FISA requests to spy on Trump operatives undermine these security imperatives? The U.S. government has processes designed to redact such information without losing the substantive value of bringing the FISA requests to light.

The intelligence community will resist, but without seeing the original FISA requests, reasonable people will have the right to assume the FISA warrants were approved under specious circumstances and not because of the sanctity of sources and methods

After one year into the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, many of us are exhausted by the New York Times’ and The Washington Posts‘ unending dependence on anonymous sources. It is time, for the good of national sanity, that the federal government come clean on exactly what happened from their end between April 2016 and Election Day.

Exactly what prompted the FISA court to authorize the FBI’s spying on the Trump presidential campaign? The American public is on a need-to-know basis.

Absent verifiable fact, it is impossible to independently know if the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians or if the Clinton campaign and Obama administration exploited the Trump campaign’s buffoonery to invalidate an election outcome they didn’t pre-approve.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC want you to believe collusion occurred. Don’t ask how they know, just take their word for it. They have reliable government sources.

Unfortunately, their unwillingness to explore the political motivations of their anonymous government sources puts our liberties at risk.

I.F. Stone famously said “All governments lie.” If he were alive today, he’d amend that to “All governments lie and all journalists are easily misled.

K. R. K.

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About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.