My Blog List

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A Recidivist President

The Mueller report did not exonerate Trump. But he, his co-conspirators and co-dependents in the GOP, with a little help from the corrupt Attorney General William Pelham Barr, created a propaganda campaign to make it look like it did. They succeeded enough so that Trump decided he'd beat the rap and been "exonerated." Instead Trump shakes down the newly elected Ukrainian President Zelensky, in a shakedown over delivering promised military assistance. He does this, knowing that Ukraine is fighting trench war within it's country on the border with its Donbas provence, where the Russians have Tanks and military forces and regularly shoot at any Ukrainian who raises his head out of the trenches or happens to be in the path of an artillery shell. The USA promised to let them buy Javelin Anti-tank Rockets. Trump deliberately held up those missiles, after the State Department had certified that they'd complied with anti-corruption requirements to try to force investigations into 3 subjects:

  1. An investigation into Burisma intended to go after Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden, who had been put on Burisma's board in order to curry favor with the Obama administration. That could be true, but not illegal and had no influence on Joe Biden.
  2. They also claimed that Biden got a Prosecutor General of Ukraine fired in order to stop a Burisma investigation. This is false. The prosecutors fired were not doing investigations into corruption, but were themselves corrupt and shaking down targets. His ultimate replacement did investigate Burisma. Biden was proud of instigating reforms, not doing nepotism. Trump doesn't care about nepotism. You can ask his children.
  3. The Cloudstrike allegations, is worse. It is part of a Russian Disinformation campaign that made up a false story that the DNC Server somehow ended up in Ukraine. The Emails were "in the cloud", but the DNC server is now in their basement along with the Watergate file Nixon's burglars broke into. Cloudstrike is a US security firm. One of it's top people was born in Moscow, not Ukraine. The whole story was a megilla designed to shift blame from the Russian Hackers to a Russian Target, Ukraine.

It turns out there is a whole lot of corruption going on. I was trying to draft mock up articles of impeachment based on what I knew when we found out about what Trump is doing in Ukraine. It just keeps getting more surreal. The latest news is that Giuliani is in Ukraine making a movie “documentary” about all this, a sort of Citizens United 2.0 Biden edition. That Barr is going around the work trying to put the USA Intel community on trial, put the 5 eyes intel sharing agreement into the shredder, and dig up dirt on those who informed the Mueller investigation so they can be discredited, prosecuted or driven out of office.

Ukrainian Impeachment Report:
https://intelligence.house.gov/report/
PDF: https://intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/20191203_-_full_report___hpsci_impeachment_inquiry_-_20191203.pdf
Mueller Report:
https://www.npr.org/2019/04/18/708850903/read-the-full-mueller-report-with-redactions

Monday, November 25, 2019

Cruelty is the Point Vs Reform

Dear David Trone:

Unfortunately for me, I've had family members who've been jailed or imprisoned. I live in a relatively decent State, Maryland, yet prisoners, both convicted and those merely jailed, suffer treatment similar to that experienced in West Virginia, referenced in this article by Rebecca J. Kavanagh:

“People incarcerated in West Virginia prisons will soon be charged $3 an hour to read books and $15 an hour for video visitation with their families.” DrRJKavanaugh
“Prisoners in West Virginia are paid between 4 and 58 cents an hour for their labor.” DrRJKavanaugh
“Do I really have to write a bill to ban charging prisoners to read?”Trone Tweet

David, You probably do need to write some laws, including repealing laws:

  • that reduced access to exercise rooms and libraries.
  • Resourcing libraries,
  • counseling,
  • Psych and recovery detention centers separate from prisons.

The reason they do things like this is that cruelty is the point. They are trying to run prisons as for profit plantations. The idea is to indebt inmates by refusing them access to basic needs like books or exercise, charge them for these things, and then allow them to borrow the money only to treat them like slaves even after their time is up. Not paying them for their work advances that, plus enriches the administrators.

And they do some of this in Maryland too. If we let our Piratical, Freebooting, "Republican" privateers, they'll privatize prisons here too.

It's a racket, and the officials are the racketeers. As I've been warning! These are:

Privateers! If they can't rent it, put tolls on it, extract loans against it, they destroy it. Modern day pirates, perfectly legal thieves!
Reason Article
https://reason.com/2019/11/22/west-virginia-inmates-will-be-charged-by-the-minute-to-read-e-books-on-tablets/

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How to fix our Taxation system

Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax, probably would be deemed unconstitutional. It is also unnecessary. What is needed is a mix of reforms and restoring what worked before.

We had progressive taxation. It has never been perfect. But at one time people at least understood the basic principles.

Basic Principles

To get to just taxation a number of basic principles need to be properly defined, applied and traded off against one another:

  • Tax unearned income more than earned income.
  • Recognize that "wealth in the course of production" is capital.
  • Define as capital, only wealth used to buy actual capital goods, stock, tools, machinery and buildings, and being used as intended.
  • Recognize that wealth from renting wealth is not capital except to the people employing that wealth.
  • Recognize that natural resources, and land itself, are a common property that needs to be used wisely and for the benefit of the whole people as well as for those doing the extraction.
  • Recognize that the right to ownership is an inalienable right, but not an absolute one.
  • Recognize that work is what conveys a stake in ownership, that labor – of all kinds – is prior to capital, and that it is sacred and deserves to be adequately rewarded.
  • What a person earns, is theirs and deserves to be paid in treasury direct notes or coin.

Therefore we need to:

Bring back progressive taxation on net income calculations. Tax unearned income from owning property (rents). Don't tax business property that is in the course of production. Don't tax wage gross wage income
  • Stop treating Wall Street Stocks, Bonds, real estate property, etc... as if they were capital, and focus tax exemptions and deductions on capital used as capital,
  • Income from economic rent is not earned. Only the portion of economic rent that has been earned by the effort of the people owning the property (net income) being rented should be exempted.
  • and on protecting wages from labor. A person owns what they earned and should be able to live off of it.
  • Every person earning income, should be able to keep enough of what they earned (net) to live a complete life.
  • Therefore we should set a universal exemption at the poverty level, and deduct basic food, transport, shelter and basic comfort (clothing, heating/cooling) from gross wages before applying net taxation.
  • These rates need to be indexed for inflation. When wages and costs inflate, it isn't fair to tax them like they are rich when they aren't.
  • Tax rates are indexed, which means that the net for each rate level should be taxed, not the whole amount.
  • At the same time a net income greater than a million should be taxed at a millionaire rate (indexed for inflation), a 10 million net rate, a 100 million net rate and a billionaire top net income rate. That top rate should be something like 90%.

  • The first tax bracket should start at the wage which is the average of all wages in the country (mean) after exemptions and deductions.
  • Further tax brackets should attack unearned wealth with rates high enough to level out net incomes.
  • I would suggest using standard deviation calculations from the mean net income.
  • So called capital gains should be taxed as ordinary income on the net income taken out of capital. This encourages people to keep money wealth and resources in the market.
  • Tax earnings from Gift or inheritance at point of transfer or death, as ordinary gross income.

Now payroll taxes may be needed to pay for social security and healthcare, because people are going to have to save for or pay for healthcare and their retirement anyway. But if we focused taxes on unearned income.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Shootings and Reform -- The latest shooting and Gun reform

Another shooting in another school. This time at Saugus High School with a 45 caliber handgun. The gunman opened fire, killed 2 people and wounded 3 others. After the shooting he ran away and then shot himself when the police were closing in. This is a tragedy. It happens too often in this country.

The good news is he didn't have access to a semi-automatic long gun or the count could have been higher. California controls over weapons are the strictest in the country and the State is big enough that it is harder to smuggle weapons in. Though that happens.

Normalizing or Stopping Mass murder

The bad news is that these incidents are far too common and hard to prevent without hardening schools and controlling entry. The further bad news is that the risk of mass murder is still alive and well in most of the country because we do not properly regulate arms. We let people run around armed, while denying them a formal role in the security, self defense and emergency responses of our local and national land divisions and homes.

Security is a Collective Duty

Security is something that is supposed to be the collaborative responsibility of the Federal, State, and local governments,

and we the people

The constitution says that Congress has the duty of:

... “organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia,”.... [Article 1, Sec 8 COTUS]

To which the Second Amendment clarifies:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” [2nd Amendment]

That:

“the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,”

must be enabled and regulated.... So that law abiding people are part of the process of protecting their own homes and communities, local and general.

Palladium of Liberty

When the founders called the militia the “Palladium of Liberty”, they were referring to the reality that "militia" was intended to be a check on the power associated with standing armies. Standing Armies being a term that applies in a modern context to professional police forces, bureaucrats with coercive powers, and even security forces in private employment.

For more on the Palladium of liberty see:

https://holtesthoughts.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-palladium-of-liberty.html

Badly formed, Constituted, government

Regulating arms is not only in the constitution, it is a collaborative duty of a Democratic Government. That this issue is confused is because the original constitution of militia had different meanings and uses in different parts of the country. The Militia was initially vital for defense against immediate enemies. As the country became more generally settled, the idea of butchers and bakers, coachmen and candle makers, meeting weekly for drills and marching, made less and less. The original form of militia became outdated. At the same time the problem of standing armies and military forces as oppression never really went away. The national guard became a kludgy substitute for militia at the Federal and State level. Indeed the National Guard is pointed to when people think of Militia. But the concept was so muddied that private militia and even private armies, which are problematic expressions of militia, are posed as if they were what the founders were thinking of.

And so, the individual right to carry weapons has been made something blanket, that allows unregulated, undisciplined and sometimes criminal elements to engage in tyranny and oppression. Exactly the opposite of what the founders wanted.

And of course, even if the founders thought local tyranny was a good thing, all this goes against their own principles, the basic principles of a democratic republic that they expounded.

For more on this see:
Select Militia and National Guard

Turning the Second Amendment on its head

We have a system where extralegal violence is glorified. Where the right to bear arms for the common defense has been transformed into an individual right to shoot up shopping centers and police stations. From "Dirty Harry" thru "Barretta" to hundreds of examples of vigilantes and aggrieved revenge seekers, the lone criminal with a gun is glorified as some sort of hero. These media glorify cold blooded murder, revenge and grievance. Worse right wing propaganda also glorifies “standing ones ground” against strangers. It is telling that the “stand your ground laws” only seem to apply to murder situations where the [usually white] murderer can claim that his victim [black, gay, different] was at fault for being shot. It is no wonder that young men like this one in early November 2019, somehow saw something romantic in revenge murder. The propaganda is immature and appeals to teenage angst, and it encourages terrorism. Folks dress up in black. Try to look like ninja or their favorite hollywood mass murderer and attack. While hollywood may not the cause of gun violence, blood soaked fantasies fill the air nationwide. Thoughts lead to words, words lead to deeds. The propaganda builds on the frustration of people feel powerless. Powerless is the result when left out of self government. Militia was supposed to be an antidote to tyranny. The Second amendment has been turned on its head.

Second Amendment Badly decided

The Right to Participate in Government Functions is Democracy

The other reason that the militia clauses did not work as intended (at least by the defenders of the constitution) is that the militia did not always live up to its intended purpose as "the palladium of liberty" for everybody. Militia were associated with Slave patrols in the South. Militia were often used in "posse comitatus" actions. So much that in 1878 a law was passed to put a stop to it.

The Posse Comitatus Act states:

“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws...”

It was intended to reduce the risk of the Government using the military to enforce martial law or arrest political opponents. But militia had been regularly used for posses and for “hot peace” civil warfare against indigenous peoples, immigrant communities and in internal disputes between rival settlements on the frontier. These have not been “well regulated” militia. Standing armies are dangerous, undisciplined militia are “no better than a mob” [Can't remember source of quote, will look later]. A well regulated militia is the palladium of liberty. Undisciplined or private militia and standing armies are dangerous to liberty.

For more on this see:
Selective Service vs Standing Armies
and:
Select Militia & National Guard

Stopping the Glorification of Violence requires Participation

Children will do stupid things. But by glorifying violence, the combination of culture and access to weapons makes it more likely, not less, that an angry and confused young person will do something vile and vicious. Preventing that is difficult, but shoring up the democratic and just aspects of our economy can, maybe, change the culture. At the very least, when weaponry is well controlled, but available when needed, the incentives to keep unsecured arms around the house can be removed. To get to that point. We have to respect the first amendments original meaning and respect the right and duty of the people to participate in their own affairs, their own defense and their own security. Guns are supposed to enhance security, not be used to gun down other kids a confused and deluded kid is angry at.

Voluntary Service and temporary Service are Militia

Expanding the National Guard, volunteer service, using national service to train health providers, teachers, and the militia system to bring communications and transportation personnel into the Emergency management system would go a long way to changing our culture. Democracy = "People" [Demos] + "Rule" [kracy]. Our involvement as volunteers, compensated for, “organizing, arming, and disciplining” those in service to the United States, is democracy. Jury Service is Democracy. Poll worker service are democracy. If we want to reduce gun violence, access to them must be regulated. And only those trained and sworn to use them in service to community and country, or in active self defense, should carry them. And only militia, and services derived from the militia, should bear arms in a fight or peace keeping role.

This kid should not have had access to a 45 caliber weapon outside of an armory.

It is time to differentiate between settlements, where guns need to be in secure locations, like Armories under control of legal & supervisory, local, authority, and less secure locations, where a person should be able to keep a weapon in a locker or other secured location in his own home. It doesn't even make sense to let people carry weapons into super markets and shopping centers, other than security trained people. Let's make sure everyone is participating in their government, so the second amendment has rational meaning again.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

No More Substitute Teachers!!!

When we won back the House in 2006, the hope of regulating the Republicans was restored, somewhat. Unfortunately, nobody had the stomach to raise the stakes on the Republicans and go after their crimes. Why? Because Democrats, as Pelosi said at the time, despite the fact we'd been treated unfairly by the GOP when they had the majority:

“are not about getting even” with Republicans. Pelosi NYT

The leadership, perhaps mistakenly, thought that with the Republicans electorally rebuked in 2006, the Republicans would behave like normal people. For that reason despite the fact that the GOP had:

“frequently excluded Democrats from conference committee hearings and ... blocked attempts to introduce amendments, would not suffer similar treatment. Pelosi NYT

We knew that the country could only prosper if the two parties can work together and so she:

“pledge[d] civility and bipartisanship in the conduct of the work here and we ... partnerships with Congress and the Republicans in Congress, and the president — not partisanship.” Pelosi NYT

Bipartisanship and getting the work of a functional Government was more important, to her, than duking it out with partisan Republicans. We really thought we could work with the Republicans.

Equal Application of the Law IS Justice

The trouble is, they had revealed who they were when they had the majority during the Bush Administration, and before, when they had impeached Bill Clinton on petty charges when they had a majority before. Extending an olive branch to unreconstructed bullies, just encourages them to escalate. As my Wife had explained about teaching:

“If you show up on the first day of class extending an olive branch and talking about how much fun the semester will be, some students might respond well, but most will see that as weakness and walk all over you.”

My Wife would lay down the law on the first day of class. Her students either loved her or dropped the class, but they learned from her. And most came to love her because she enforced discipline. The constitution is an overarching discipline, ethic, that shouldn't require external power to enforce, but when it does, it has to be done from the beginning of a person's tenure or it is lost.

Winter Coming

Winter is coming. It may seem pessimistic to think that during the high heat of August. But actually the thought gives me comfort on a hot steamy night. I know I can stop belly-aching about how hot it is and instead complain about the cold. One benefit of getting old is that one doesn't notice either hot nor cold so much, as the fact that one doesn't have the stamina one had when one was in decent shape and young. I hear if I exercise enough I can get some of that back. But mostly that ship has sailed. I'm left with creaky bones and joints that tell the weather. Winter is coming, and we must be prepared.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Impeachment as Regulation

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

The other day you were talking about impeaching Donald Trump. And you said that not all impeachable offenses should be impeached. That may be true tactically, even strategically, but morally is another matter. Impeachment is a regulation tool for dealing with corrupt, criminal and abusive officers of the executive or the courts. It has a purpose that is separate but parallel to the courts and the founders put it in the constitution to serve that purpose.

For a long time congress has been loathe to use its impeachment powers. But, if anything we need to expand the toolbox of remedies for corruption and abuse of power, and systemetizing impeachment for disciplining the government. With William P. Barr, and some of the recent judge appointments, a mean has to be created for removing unfit officers.

  • Clearly defined Entry points
  • Clear Guidance on what is impeachable.
  • For Judges, codifying "during good behavior."

We Democrats have erred in not using the impeachment power when high crimes were committed in the past. An argument can be made that what is going on with Donald Trump, is a direct consequence of past abuses:

  • Precedents were established when the country failed to stop past abuses of power and people got away with outrageous behavior.
  • Faulty doctrines were created in the shadows and continue because they weren't established at inception.
  • *** examples are the unitary state claims.
  • While it might not be expedient to impeach a President, impeaching officers engaged in bad behavior sends an important message to those who might be in a position to be tempted to commit the same crime later.
  • Also, while removing from office and barring from future office might not seem a sufficient punishment. In the case of corruption, it can prevent people like William Barr from a life of corruption.

  • Censure and rebuke is necessary along with impeachment, when important constitutional principles are under assault.
  • Such disagreements are not merely “policy matters” they are serious.
  • Impeachment can be analogous to losing one's bar license. Indeed, lawyers should lose their bar license on conviction in an impeachment.

If the President Does it, it's legal

This pernicious doctrine, advanced by Richard Nixon, demanded impeachment, censure and rebuke. Yet, he was allowed to resign, pardoned, and as a result many of his co-conspirators were able to go on to long careers continuing to cause mischief. I know that President Ford felt he was saving the country and that that in itself was, maybe, understandable, even virtuous. However, this doctrine of “If the President does it, it's legal” remained underground. Worse the notion that the President is above law was written into an Office of Legal Counsel opinion and has corrupted efforts to hold President's accountable ever since.

Iran Contra

The conflation of national security with personal enrichment remained an underground project among a faction of politicians and operatives, and during the Reagan Administration we had the Iran Contra Scandal, which involved the same disregard of checks and balances and the powers of the Congress. Eventually the abuses of power involved in Iran Contra came out, and the Walsh investigation. However, a gross injustice occurred when George H.W. Bush pardoned everyone involved.

Pardons as Gross Injustice

When we didn't conduct an impeachment inquiry into the Bush Administration in 1992, William Barr, the current Attorney General, was able to go to President George H.W. Bush and induce him to pardon the perpetrators of the Iran Contra Scandal. They were able to obstruct Walsh's investigation completely. Barr would go on to make millions lobbying for piratical monopolies and then re-enter politics to become Trump's AG and do the crimes he is doing now. Barr firmly believes Nixon's doctrine that "if the President does it, it's legal" and we see this pernicious and unconstitutional doctrines being argued before the courts. The people involved in Iran Contra avoided jail time, and there was no rebuke of them.

Impeachment is About Accountability

The people involved in Iran Contra, were scoundrels. Maybe George H.W. Bush didn't deserve impeachment, but the reprehensible conduct needed to be rebuked formally and the perps barred from further office unless they recanted doctrines like "Unitary State" and Presidential Immunity. These doctrines, themselves, are more dangerous than the particular actions that people like Trump and Giuliani carry out. They need to know that if they abuse their power, they will be held to account. Congress should rebuke the behavior.

It's not expedient to impeach the President sometimes. But a formal system for disbarring people from public office for such behavior is needed. Judges serve on "good behavior." Executives, will repeat behavior, or others take lessons from prior abuses. If we successfully impeach Trump for what he did in Ukraine, that will still leave a host of violations that may go unpunished because they are not illegal, but impeachable.

An example of what happens if you don't impeach abuse of power, is what William Barr is doing investigating the "origins of the Russia Investigation." It is also what happened to Bill Clinton when Democrats decided to "move on" after the Reagan/Bush years. Failure to be strict in enforcing law, emboldens criminals to abuse their power to strike back anyway. The Republicans flipped the script after years of impunity and criminality to investigate everything about Bill Clinton and his administration.