22. December 2018 · Comments Off on Trump’s Policy of Darkness · Categories: Economics, Environment, Politics

For two years I have been responding to enthusiastic ovations for Trump’s economic “policies” with the sobering reminder that it takes a year or two for policies to actually have a measurable affect on the economy and that the robust markets we’ve seen in Trump’s first two years have more to do with actions taken by Obama than those taken by Trump. That’s because the economy is like a large ship at sea that simply can’t stop on a dime. To avoid icebergs you have to make adjustments to the course, well ahead. And sure enough, now that the economy has had a chance to digest Trump’s line-crossing policies, we can see it starting to choke. I expect the ovations will soon subside and I won’t feel so compelled to respond to them.

But Trump’s assault on existing norms isn’t limited to economic policy. What happens is that economic performance is so easy to measure it makes it a popular focus for administrations riding on bull markets, in a sense saying “look what WE can do!”, the media reacts to that and the economy becomes the fixture of focus. But there are much larger ships out there. One of which happens to be the environment. On this ship, policies can take decades to have their effects which makes it hard for any four-year administration to measure and claim credit for improvements so the concern turns into a fringe issue.

This is unfortunate for a short-sighted culture obsessed with immediate returns because the environment overrules everything else, including the economy that takes things like natural resources for granted. If this ship is headed for disaster there won’t be anything a culture that realizes too late can do to reverse it’s course before throwing everything else into chaos. The lesson we need to learn here is that if we wait to actually see the icebergs it will already be too late to avoid hitting them.

And this is where Trump has been a far greater threat to the entire human race than any of his followers are willing to consider – because it’s not just a matter of steering the ship through a roll-back of environmental regulations, it’s also the fact that Trump is intentionally taking down the radars and early-warning systems that we need to see far enough ahead to avoid disaster.

Two years ago after Trump took office, Scientific American published an exposé of some of his earliest assaults, including orders to the scientific community within the government to basically keep quiet. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under direct orders from Trump, e-mailed staff to inform them that they may no longer discuss agency research or departmental restrictions with anyone outside of the agency—including news media.

The USDA has also dictated that their in-house research office, the Agricultural Research Service, would no longer release any “public-facing documents” including but not limited to “news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds and social media content.”

A year later, Time Magazine published an article on the condition of the EPA website, which until Trump came along functioned as a feature of government transparency and public education. It was a view of the iceberg fields we can’t see yet. But since Trump took control, mentions of climate change have been removed and language that so much as hints climate change has been tweaked to avoid the suggestion.

So, it’s hard for me not to ask the question… Why? Staying quiet about existing research doesn’t save any money, so why do it? Why would anyone intentionally blindfold the American people unless they intend to do something bad they don’t want people to see, such as risking the lives of millions if not billions of people for the sake of personal gain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18. November 2018 · Comments Off on U.S. Constitution: Rules for Government · Categories: Analysis, Law, Politics · Tags:

I wish more people understood that the U.S. Constitution is not the top-level law of the land. In fact, it doesn’t even apply to the people at all. The top-level law that applies to the people is a completely different set of rules called the U.S. Code. This enormous set of laws is established and enforced by the government and applies to the people. In other words, the U.S. Code contains laws that WE have to follow. The Constitution is the reverse… a minimal set of laws that the GOVERNMENT has to follow… Not the people… the government.

So when hate speech is shut down by a private school it is NOT a violation of the Constitution’s 1st Amendment, because a private school is NOT part of the government and therefore NOT obligated to the Constitution. Nor is it a violation of the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment when a restaurant insists on a “no firearms policy” because the restaurant is NOT part of the government either. Same thing for bakeries and flower shops that reserve a right to refuse service based on bigotry.

So… when people advocate smaller government and more privatization they are effectively advocating a weaker constitution by shifting matters into private hands with no obligation to the rights established in the Constitution. The oligarchs won’t tell you this because the oligarchs want better control over you without interference from the Constitution.

Just, something to think about

12. November 2018 · Comments Off on Trumpian Delusions: Birthright Citizenship · Categories: Politics · Tags: , ,

Some politicians, including Trump have recently been suggesting that they can end birthright citizenship. Other’s say that would be a direct violation of the 14th amendment which says… “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.”

Trump has suggested that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” is the escape clause based on the premise that illegal immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. This is ironic because it’s the jurisdiction of the United States that determines their legal status in the first place. In other words, the ONLY way they can be classified as illegal immigrants is if they ARE subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

I am assuming that Trump and his allies already KNOW how stupid their logic is but are hoping the American people are stupid enough to buy it. I hope that isn’t true.

09. October 2018 · Comments Off on Viral Memes and the Left/Right Delusion · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture, Wiping Off Spit · Tags:

Have a look at this ugly but viral meme…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve probably all seen this before… I know I have – enough to where I feel compelled to explain a few things for the sake of preserving our language and our national sanity…

First of all, let me just say that no one should be educating themselves with memes… This one in particular is a sock puppet denial of a traditional perspective. Which isn’t so much a problem in itself until you start using it to bash people who identify with the left because those people are using the traditional perspective not this viral nonsense.

The fact is, your teacher had it right (at least in the traditional sense) but they probably failed to explain it, so I’ll do that now. The big thing to note is that it’s not a question of how much government… It’s a question of how much representation. The sentiment on the left is that everyone should be represented, where on the right there is always a push to exclude people from representation. In fact, it’s the harsh exclusion of non-Aryan people that puts the Nazis on the hard right.

If you’re not so sure about this, here’s a fail-safe litmus test you can do with respect to a person’s attitude toward diversity. See how they feel about Jews, Muslims, blacks, Mexicans, atheists, homosexuals, immigrants or transgenders, for instance. If a person’s politics feature any kind of resentment or repression toward any of these unfamiliar demographics, it’s almost a guarantee that they identify with the right. Go ahead and try it. It’s pretty easy and of course the amount of government has nothing to do with that. In fact it can be argued that Republicans have created more government than Democrats as indicated by the massive debts the government incurs under Republican management. And when it’s the people who identify with the right that are trying to pass laws to exclude gay people from marriage or empower law enforcement to coral immigrants, it’s hard to imagine them as advocates of little government and big freedom.

So, I suppose I need to address the fact that the Nazis were socialists. Fine, but lets also remember that during the end of the Weimar Republic when the Nazis were rising to power though a democratic process, every opposition party in Germany was also socialist, if not communist. Bear in mind, this was the 1930’s when socialism was extremely popular among the working classes. Even in the U.S. it was difficult for any political faction to gain any traction without some homage to socialism. So it’s dishonest (or ignorant) to cite socialism as a difference when it was much more of a constant. The more significant difference was indeed the militant repression of non-Aryan people and again, that’s what puts the Nazis clearly on the right.

Another point to make about this idiot meme is that the top part erroneously implies that the left is more “liberal” while the right is more “conservative”. The terms, “liberal” and “conservative” refer specifically to the attitudes regarding change, not ideology. Whether or not one side is more liberal or conservative than the other depends on context, which is why the alignment is different in so many other countries. Some political analysts are pointing out that in today’s context, at least in America, the Democrats are actually more conservative than what we are currently calling the alt-right. No where is this more obvious than the alt-right’s attack on Democrats for supposedly defending the “deep state”. In this context, the alt-right is the liberal, even radical side. We can also look back on history and find the first Republicans referred to themselves as “Radical Republicans”.

 

 

 

 

 

08. August 2018 · Comments Off on Voter Fraud and Stupidity · Categories: Noise, Politics

So, I read this argument that Hillary Clinton didn’t actually win the popular vote in 2016 because those 3 million extra votes she got all came from California, a state that supposedly allows and even encourages illegal immigrants to vote. Now, it takes a certain tenacity to cling to such an outrageous claim. But I did what I always try to do and investigated the matter on my own. It should be easy enough to figure out, right? I’m pretty sure that the immigrants who enter illegally KNOW they’ve broken a law, so there would have to be a very compelling reason for them to risk being caught just so they can cast a vote for the white lady. Something that compelling should be easy enough to see.

So, I started with California’s Secretary of State, Alex Padilla. His website makes it pretty clear that a voter would need either a California driver’s license, state ID or a Social Security number… But this is only enforced at registration, not at the polling place, unless an ID is NOT checked at registration time in which case, ID will be checked at the polling place… But this is only if the registration process that deferred verification was a first-time registration.

So… for the kind of people who insist Hillary was operating a child pornography ring under cover of a pizza parlor, this kind of loosey-goosey law leaves plenty of room for conspiracy theories. All anyone needs to do is point to the glaring fact that an ID isn’t required at the polling station except for the “first-time registration without ID” exception. That’s an easy headline. Still, if you really think the process through, you can see the integrity of the system.

Voters in California are registered and then notified which polling place to report to. So there is some control through that process, much like a bank sending a verification code to your phone and of course, your name won’t be on the list if you aren’t registered and even if you didn’t verify your identity when you registered, they can still check to see if you registered previously and if you didn’t, THEN the polling station needs to check; otherwise it can be assumed that you are a citizen due to the permanent nature of that status.

But… why not just check for ID at the polling station? Just as a safeguard? Well, because it’s kind of pointless when the majority of California voters mail in absentee ballots. So just maybe the registration process IS the right place to do all the vetting.

However… there is still that chance that someone finds out the name and Social Security number of someone else and votes before the real McCoy gets there. I believe both votes under the same identity would be disqualified, but I’m not sure. I found a website https://www.usa.gov that supports a chat agent. Cool, I’ll see if they can help me.

I asked if someone can vote if they use my name and social security number. They answered with…

Alexandria: We provide information on how to report voter fraud on the following link.
https://www.usa.gov/voting-laws#item-36047
4:40:53 PM

Alexandria: I hope the information I sent you helps. Do you have any more questions?
4:40:57 PM

Well, it didn’t really because a link to report voter fraud is only useful AFTER it happens. I was looking for the measures taken to PREVENT voter fraud. So, I thought I’d be a little more direct.

Me: I’m not a citizen… I’m just checking to see if I can slip in a vote. Apparently, I can as long as no one takes the time to report voter fraud.
4:42:02 PM

Alexandria: You cannot
4:43:00 PM

Alexandria: You can only be registered as a citizen
4:43:14 PM

Ugh… yes, I KNOW that… I’m not looking for the rules, I’m looking for the safeguards. So, sticking with the direct strategy…

Me: Again… what’s to stop me?
4:43:42 PM

Alexandria: We take all threats seriously. information about this chat session will be turned over to law enforcement authorities for further investigation.
4:43:48 PM

The agent has ended the chat

I didn’t get a chance to say anything more. I was literally cut off and left wondering if my name is now being passed around through law enforcement or worse. Maybe the direct strategy wasn’t such a bright idea, lol… I any case, I wasn’t able to find any safeguard against an illegal immigrant hijacking a citizen’s vote, but again, that would require the citizen that took the time to register to not be bothered with voting AND an illegal immigrant to have access to that citizen’s information AND risk being caught while committing fraud. Given these circumstances, 3 millions votes seems like a lot.

26. July 2018 · Comments Off on The Unconstitutional Trump · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: ,

Article 1 Section 9 of the U.S.Constitution has proved to be a law, contrary to the actions of the most recent Republican presidents.

For instance, George W Bush suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus as applied to suspected terrorists picked up in various locations throughout the world. What does Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution say about this?

Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution:
2: The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

So to remain “constitutional” the Bush Administration would have had to qualify the terrorist suspects as threats to public safety, which may have been an easy argument to make on the momentum of their “terrorists versus the world” narrative, but there was no clear recognition of any invasion or rebellion, which the Constitution makes very clear, is the context that matters.

But whether a president is constitutional or not seems to matter less to the Republican side of the increasing divide between Americans.

Today, we have another example as Trump continues to profit from his hotels, even encouraging foreign dignitaries to stay at his hotel in Washington DC. What does Article I, section 9 of the U.S. Constitution say about this?

Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution:

8: No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

So for Trump to remain “constitutional”, Congress will need to provide consent for Trump to profit from the foreign dignitaries that stay in his hotel. Until this happens, Trump will be exposed to the charge of violating the Constitution and indeed it appears the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia are doing just that.

The Trump Administration has appealed to the courts with the assertion that the profits come from an exchange of services provided and therefore cannot be counted as a “present”, “Emolument”, “office” or “title”. But while the profits are clearly not a present, or an office or a title, the question remains as to whether they qualify as an emolument.

The Trump Administration has approached the courts with the assertion that “emolument” means “gift”. Of course that would suggest redundancy in the language of the Constitution since another word for “gift” is “present” which is already included in the clause. But let’s break out the dictionary…

An emolument is defined by Webster-Merriam as:

1. the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites
2. archaic: advantage

The first definition is clearly not the equivalent of “gift” but rather a description of “returns”… which is another word for “profit”.

The second definition is as broad as they come… “advantage”. It can certainly be said that Trump gains economic advantage when foreign dignitaries choose to stay at his hotel… unless the hotel room and all it’s services are provided to such dignitaries free of charge and even then the question would remain, would Trump’s business gain advantages in the form of historic significance and/or reputation? Fortunately, we don’t have to split that hair because the foreign dignitaries did NOT get free service, the foreign states that sent their diplomats paid Trump’s business for services.

And just in case anyone gets pedantic about Merriam-Webster’s “archaic” qualifier, it must be understood that Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution WAS written over two centuries ago.

Indeed, In his opinion, Judge Peter Messitte of the US District Court of Maryland sided with Maryland and Washington, DC’s definition of emolument as an “advantage.”

We know by now that the Trump administration isn’t one to accept the opinions of others, so we shouldn’t be surprised if they appeal to a higher court but it would be a shock to Americans if the highest courts capitulate to what I’m just going to call a ridiculous notion that an emolument can only be defined as a gift.

One more thing to point out about this particular clause is the emphasis on breadth of meaning… If you look at the language, you will notice the repeated use of the word “ANY” and the phrase “ANY kind WHATEVER”. This is not the language of narrow specifics; this is the emphatic language of inclusion… “No advantages of ANY KIND!!!!”

This is further enforced by the very purpose of the clause… to prevent Presidents from being tempted with foreign provided motives which can arrive in many forms, hence the use of a broadly defined word like emolument.

Violating the Constitution worked out OK for Bush because no one stepped up to actually prosecute him; probably because doing so would have been be a political risk given how little the American people know about obscure legal terms cloaked in Latin and how consumed they were about the “threat of terrorism”.

In contrast, I don’t see how Trump’s violation can possibly be construed as a matter of public safety or anything other than a personal gain. Trump may have to rely on the cult-like obsessions of the rabid-right to come out of this one. As long as he continues to attack liberals he can score points with liberal-haters and so long as these liberal-haters come close to 25% of the American people, there is a gaming chance that Trump will stay on top… Maybe with a little help from the Russians.

27. May 2018 · Comments Off on Mandatory Arbitration and the Supreme Court Decision · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: , ,

 

Some of you may have heard slight mutterings in the media regarding the recent Supreme Court decision that allows private companies to force their workers to sign mandatory arbitration agreements. It sounds pretty boring. Let me rephrase: The Supreme Court just gave private companies the power to treat their workers anyway way they want without any regard for federal, state or local laws.

The court decision was applied to three separate cases, all of which involved similar arguments where an employer violated state or federal labor laws. At least two of the cases involved an employers refusal to pay overtime as required by state laws. You would think this would be any easy one… If the law says they have to pay, they have to pay, right?

However, in all three cases, the employers simply refused to comply with these laws. OK, so this is where the employee takes the dispute to court, right?

Well in all three cases, the workers had signed arbitration agreements which according to the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 means that the employees have to duke it out with their employers in private arbitration. That basically means the employee and the employer sit down to work out a “deal”. Of course the employer always has the leverage, like… “do you want to keep your job?”. Without the protection of the law, they really don’t have any other leverage.

In 1935 this had become such a pressing problem that Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act, which provided the worker with the right to collectively arbitrate. In other words, in answer to that question about keeping a job the worker can now say, “do you want to keep producing?” Collective arbitration is what made the U.S. such a great place to work. You didn’t even need government regulation because entire crews can bargain with their employers on an equal footing.

But in recent years, some companies have started adding a clause to their arbitration agreements saying that workers can only arbitrate as individuals, not collectively. But isn’t that a violation of the National Labor Relations Act? Why, yes it is but underpaying workers is also a violation of law so why would this be any different? The challenge is finding a way to enforce the laws and to do that you have to take it to court, but wait… they CAN’T take it to court because of the arbitration agreement.

So in 2018, the four liberal members of the Supreme Court, while judging appeals, tried to make the case that the provision in the National Labor Relations Act to allow collective arbitration supersedes FAA’s command to enforce arbitration agreements. This was essentially the only path back to any kind of leverage a worker might have.

But the majority opinion, led by Neil Gorsuch, stated that the NLRA only provided the right to collectively bargain, not to supersede the FAA. The contention is that this interpretation is too literal, which does make sense… Think about it, Congress in 1935 obviously didn’t take in to consideration the possibility that a company would simply write a clause in their arbitration agreements that puts them beyond the reach of very law they were enacting.

Nevertheless, all three cases were decided on a soft argument that because 77 years passed from the enactment of the NLRA to the first case where it was used to challenge the FAA, the legitimacy of the challenge is “doubtful”. The conservatives took the “when in doubt go with what is clear” option, saying that the FAA clearly forces arbitration, with no option to appeal. Then they took a quick lean on the “don’t legislate from the bench” argument, even admitting that while the decision may not result in the best policy, a different decision would require a different law.

So from a technical stand point, I can understand the decision but from a moral stand point it’s pretty disappointing, especially given how “arguable” the decision is and how significant the impact will be.