Blogus clarkensis: Just a few observations and the occasional modest proposal. If you'd like to participate write to me. If it gets weird, consider that weird attracts search engines, and the site is really a test of search engines and of our system features.
(Many images can be clicked for a larger version.)
Pres. Trump has claimed that he had no pending deals in Russia after the beginning of his presidential campaign. Yet consider the Internet domain trumptowermoscow.com. It was registered in 2008 by "The Trump Organization" and has been renewed annually including three times (2015, 2016 and 2017) since the presidential campaign of 2016 began.
If indeed the project was to end before the election campaign of 2016 as Pres. Trump has asserted, why would registrants renew the related domain afterward, most recently in July 2017, through 2018? It certainly contradicts the statement that the candidate had no pending deals in Russia. It would appear that someone within The Trump Organization is at the very least hedging his bet, and as everyone knows, that "organization" is totally controlled by one person.
Two reasons for the contradiction suggest themselves: Either (a) that oft-cited, unnamed "low ranking employee who is no longer with the company" failed in his/her responsibility to cancel it, or (b) there was never any intent to abandon the project unless the presidential bid faiiled. Take your choice.
Of course there may be other possible reasons for the unnecessary renewal, such as poltergeists, an undiscovered email from Hillary or surreptitious actions by unnamed conspirators out to get The Donald.
Following is the WHOIS query —which anyone can execute— that shows the original registration and status (standard disclaimers & terms omitted). The standard terminal inquiry, which obscures the name of the registrant using a privacy device of the registrar, is followed by the public report from whoisxy.com (LINK) which reveals the name of the registrant.
As Deep Throat might have said had he lived longer, "follow the domain."
A high school friend has been commenting that proposed cost of living (COL) adjustments in pensions, social security, etc., seem to be immediately absorbed by rises in health insurance and other basic needs. Sad but true.
However, COL is meaningless without a comparison to gross domestic productivity ) per capita (GDPC). GDPC is now about $55,000/year. Of course not everyone works; GDP per WORKER (GDPW) is about $112,000 (World Bank 2016). If your family of 1-2 workers is not getting somewhere between $112K and $224K, you should be asking yourself (and your political representatives), who's getting the balance? The answer, of course, is corporate managers, successful financial speculators and the idle rich. These are political, nof financial, considerations. Unfortunately, the current political system seems to conflate the value of the person with the value of the job to enable the powerful to assert that the low earners are unworthy of a better life. Pitchforks, anyone?
Of course not all work is equally productive or valued, and one can live decently at 1/4 those numbers in the US except in the highest cost cities. Interestingly, 1/4 of GDPW turns out to be just about the $15 per hour minimum wage called for by the progressive wing of the political spectrum.
If each such worker (and all other earners) were assessed ten percent of income during working years, a pension of 1/4 of prior earnings would be easy to finance, and a modest additional personal savings plan should let even low-wage (minimum) workers have a decent retirement. It would take a generation to bring this into effect, and of course simple estimates like ten percent would need to be argued financially rather than emotionally. We have the financial strength to do such a plan; what we appear to lack is the will and the wisdom.
Almost from its founding, the US Supreme Court has been subject to political stress and strain, as successive presidents have sought to create a preference for their own views of both short and long-term issues. Recently the Senate leadership has used the requirement that it consent to judicial appointments to block or to accelerate the seating of new justices of the supreme and other courts, whether to liberalize or constrain the behavior of the courts purely for partisan reasons.
Recognizing the possibility that this might occur, the Founders’ only solution was to institute lifetime appointments to federal courts that would transcend the tenure of any given president or congress. That was in an era in which few citizens had ever left their own state, learned a foreign language, earned a university or law school diploma or indeed subjected themselves to the competitive aspects of a society of 300 million people, and when the primary criteria to be considered for a court seat were that one be adult, white, male and acceptable to the current power structure. In the modern world, that solution is inadequate and has often resulted in the appointment of relative non-entities to the Supreme Court. There are probably much better ways to manage a court system in the modern era.
Imagine a “Supreme Court System” to replace the current arbitrary grouping. The members of the court hearing any given case would be drawn from among a set of eligible justices on the various appellate courts -- from which many of the Supremes are now drawn anyway -- assigned at random. They need not all be in the same place, as they could share everything, both written and oral, by telecommunication, as most appellate cases are not heard but read, with oral argument being only a supplementary part of the review and often omitted. Where used, oral argument can be presented over the Internet, as was done in the recent Hawaii-based hearings on travel restrictions.
There are currently 169 members of the appellate circuits. If that number were increased, let’s say to 200, or even doubled, there would be adequate judicial time to hear the cases now before the Supreme Court (only a tiny minority of cases are ultimately resolved by the SC). Each case could be examined by a group of nine selected randomly (or perhaps five or seven for cases not involving constitutional or other truly national issues) from among the 200. For quality control, if necessary, eligibility for SC cases could be limited to the senior half of the appellate justices, whereby the qualifications of the justices on any given case would be at least comparable to the current politically selected jurists. Randomization effects would diminish partisan influence.
This approach could also make more cases suitable for SC review, giving both fairness and finality to many cases now declined by the SC. The SC could also be extended to a full work year; the current arrangement is determined in part by the awful summer weather in DC, which should hardly be part of a decision process that can involve life and death.
The Constitution does not prohibit such a change. It would be well within the law to change the role of the Chief Justice to one of administration and assignment of the five, seven, nine, etc., justices to individual cases (the Constitution leaves rules of court structure and management to Congress). The cost of the courts might rise somewhat, but the increased efficiencies and the reduced time and travel required of litigants, lawyers and judges would offset much of the increase, and litigants would be more likely able to get on with their lives. The suggested changes would also in a heartbeat increase the probable socioeconomic diversity of the members of the court hearing any given case, making the justices more like peers than superiors of the litigants.
Such a change should be acceptable across political lines. Both conservatives and liberals have been heard to complain about decisions being made in “far off Washington DC” that could be made closer to the action.
We are not well served by the current politically charged court. It is time to review the implementation of Article III of the Constitution and bring the Supreme Court into the 21st Century.
From our Irony Department: (Steve) Scalise has sponsored and cosponsored legislation protecting citizens' right to keep and bear arms. In the 112th Congress, Scalise introduced H.R. 58, the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act, which improves law-abiding citizens' ability to purchase firearms. The bills Scalise has recently cosponsored include National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, H.R.822, which would ensure national reciprocity for concealed carry permit holders. Congressman Scalise's pro-gun stance has earned him an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.
Estimated median income per household in 2017 in the US is $58,000.
The national poverty line (PL) is about $24,000; 110% is $26,400. Numbers rounded up to thousands for ease of interpretation. Of course these values vary from city to city and state to state.
E.g., 1: Given a minimum wage of $15/hr x 40 x 50, worker income is $30,000. PL - 30,000 < 0, so the subsidy would be zero. This family can manage on its own income.
E.g., 2: Given a single earner making $10/hr or $20,000/yr. PL - 20000 > zero, so subsidy is $7,000 or $583/mo. This family is in a world of hurt anywhere in America. If this were a family earning the median, and one relative had to provide support, that person would bear the whole $7,000 burden, which is about 12% of donor’s income.
But there are 200,000,000 working Americans. Which means that each such subsidized family costs the median household only $0.000035 per month (three ten-thousandths of a cent or essentially NOTHING!).
The number of households below the poverty line is about 11 million. Assuming they all qualify in this simple scenario for a $7,000 subsidy, what would that cost the median household? The answer is $385 per year or $32 per month or about a dollar a day or seven tenths of one percent of income.
The total cost of such a program would be about $77 billion per year. What would the recipients do with the money? They would spend it. Given standard estimates of the “multiplier effect” we would expect that outlay to generate about $400 billion in economic activity, most of which would be local. Some part of the money, or the funds liberated by the subsidy, would be taxable, so the donor class could even get some of it back in the form of lower taxes in a “trickle up” benefit that would drive supply siders berserk.
Of course this is an overly simplified scenario, but seems more productive that all 300 million of us put our minds to work improving it, not to reject the whole idea out of hand in a reactionary reflex. Several other countries are experimenting with such income guarantees, and preliminary results are positive.
I contend there is no family in America that has not within the past year made an impulse purchase of $385 that they later regretted. So why are so many so opposed to small income transfers, many even wanting to abolish Social Security?
I believe the reason is closely connected to Lyndon Johnson’s evaluation of racism, but applied to social status instead of ethnic origin. As long as A can keep B’s income low, B must come to A for help, meaning A will enjoy higher social status, based not on intrinsic worth or achievement but on an arbitrary allocation of that love of which is the root of all evil.
Here are some complaints about government you might recognize, updated and distinguished by "Ancient" and "Modern" to reflect the idea that the more things change the more they stay the same. It appears there is little to no difference between inherited monarchy and willful usurpation of authority.
The ancient "he" was George III. We leave identification of the modern "he" to you.
Ancient: Ancient: He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
Modern: He has made it exceedingly easy for States to avoid enforcing Federal law, and has neglected to attend to them.
Example: Allowing states to evade low income provisions of ACA.
Ancient: He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
Modern: He has with the connivance of his political affiliates sought to disenfranchise large numbers of voters based solely on complex and irrelevant documentation of eligibility or to favor certain forms of documentation over others albeit their equivalence.
Example: Arbitrary and discriminatory voter registration rules demonstrably for the purpose of restricting voting by classes of citizens.
Ancient: He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
Modern: He has conducted the business of state at undisclosed or private and inaccessible locations, for the purposes of his persoal convenience or to obscure the existence or content of such conduct.
Example: Numerous private meetings with business associates, intermediaries and foreign government officials at his own private venues.
Ancient: He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
Modern: He has declined to nominate managers or administrators of major and lesser Federal offices and judgeships, whereby the citizens are deprived of essential Federal services.
Example: After three months only a handful of the over 500 senior officials of the Federal government subject to Senate confirmation have been nominated and/or confirmed.
Ancient: He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
Modern: He has imposed untenable conditions on the Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to accommodate migration hither; ignoring the impending natural decrease of native-born populations that will inexorably lead to social and economic decline.
Example: He has ordered or proposed numerous discriminatory barriers to entry and naturalization based on such unconstitutional grounds as national origin or religion; preferring instead to base immigration policy on economic benefit to corporations and financial manipulators.
Ancient: He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
Modern: He with his political affiliaes has failed to appoint or confirm Justices of the various Federal Courts.
Example: As of May 13, 2017, 129 of 890 judgeships are vacent, and only nine persons have been nominated and eight confirmed.
Ancient: He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
Modern: He has essayed to make Judges answerable to himself on matters of law; and has impugned their legal decisions by derision or personal insult.
Example: He has denigrated numerous judges of the Federal Courts for a multitude of decisions, based solely on his personal disagreement with them, regardless of his utter lack of legal or judicial training.
Ancient: He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
Modern: He has rendered certain agencies impotent by leaving key positions unfilled, by ignoring his obligation to properly adminster the government; or he has appointed administrators who lack substantive knowledge of are in fact opposed to the purpose and practices of their own agencies.
Example: A secretary of commerce opposed to the regulation of financial institutions; a secretary
Ancient: He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
Ancient: He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
Modern: He has appointed military officials to civilian offices.
Example: J. Mattis as Secretary of Defense and H. R. McMaster as National Security Advisor; though many of the security challenges we face are non-military offenses by non-state actors essentially immune to military defense and better suited control by legal or police power or international cooperation.
Ancient: He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
Modern: He has entered into unexplained relationships with foreign dictators of countries inimimcal to our national interest; providing no or little explanation of the intent of such relationships or what quid pro quo may be involved.
Example: Can you name a good reason to praise Putin, Kim, Duterte, etc.?
Ancient: He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
Modern: He has charged his followers with imposing physical harm upon opponents of his personal beliefs, statements and actions during extra governmental rallies.
Example: Assaults on protesters at campaign and post-election rallies perpetrated by spoken approval of violence even against silent protesters based solely on their appearance or attire.
Ancient: ... A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Modern: There is no possible improvement on Jefferson's conclusion.
Now that we can look forward to “strict constructionists” on the Supreme Court genuflecting to “original intent,” I feel free to consider the prospect of remarriage after several decades. Allow me to explain.
When I was married the prospect of beating my wife seemed barbaric, and besides I never had reason or inclination to do so. But as long as we’re going back to the social and legal norms of 1787, it opens up so many possibilities. Back then wife beating was common and unrestricted. It was not until about 1920 that it became illegal across the country, and even those prohibitions were not strictly enforced for another fifty years.
Now instead of searching for a love match or a woman of admirable personal and professional qualities, I can expand the search and be less choosy. Candidate brides can perhaps be found in a wider walk of life. And if “she” turns out to be unwifely, unfaithful or otherwise unworthy, I can just give her what for.
The election of Donald Trump may turn out to be a godsend after all.
Anthony Scaramucci, who hosts a financial affairs program, is not a scientist, but he plays one (badly) on TV. One of his current themes as part of the Trump transition team is to assert that "science" once held to belief in a flat earth and therefore cannot be trusted to evaluate global climate change. The fact is that no well educated person in the western world has believed in a flat earth for over TWO THOUSAND YEARS.
The spherical shape of the Earth has been clear since before Eratosthenes first estimated its circumference in about 200 B.C. Depending on which estimate of the length of the "stadia" with which he measured distance, he erred on the circumference by only a few miles. At the time, such inquiries were part of a broad range of intellectual inquiry the Greeks called "philosophy" (Eratosthenes was a Greek Egyptian during the Ptolemaic dynasty following Alexander the Great).
The modern concept of "science" is not merely the aggregation of anecdotal observations. It involves the formation of hypotheses and repetitive observation and testing followed by more repetition until it becomes clear that a hypothesis is proven. Often later observations using new techniques may call the old hypothesis into question, so the whole process resumes and continues until the old or the new proves to be the better explanation of reality. Better tools yield better explanations; this does not mean the older investigators were fools or knaves.
Despite the fourth-grade story we all heard, Columbus and contemporary scholars were well acquainted with the spherical Earth; he did, however, apparently believe the Earth to be much smaller than it really is, leading to his assertion that he could sail directly to Asia. (There are many claims about what Columbus really knew, of course.) Whether ordinary people understood the truth is another question, but the matter was correctly understood by navigators and scholars.
It is likely that Eratosthenes will continue to be long remembered and admired. It is also likely that Scaramucci will be quickly forgotten once his TV caché and the never-happened belief of "science" in a flat-earth hypothesis has faded from our cultural memory.
Huffington Post has summarized some striking successes by the recent state government in Minnesota (link). Abandoning the "trickle down" economics of former Gov. Pawlenty, the state raised income taxes on wealthy households and increased minimum wages to a level comparable to that in Washington. The result has been a reversal of the state's economic fortune from stagnant to expansive.
The reason for this success and for the failure of tinkle-down is a fairly well understood principle of complex systems called feedback. Newton's observation that a process once in motion tends to remain in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force has applications beyond physics.
In economic systems, if an outside force tends to accelerate distribution of funds to a majority that has a propensity to spend or to create new businesses, then any given amount of income will be re-used often, creating new wealth and reducing inequality.
Conversely, if an outside force tends to concentrate income among even a minority that tends to conserve (read "hoard") it (does the phrase "preservation of capital" ring a bell?), then income will be sequestered or spent on luxury goods and will not be available for development, leading to greater inequality.
In an oligarchical society, one in which a small number of powerful people make rules for others, there is a historically clear tendency to choose the latter course. This manifests itself as “cut taxes” campaigns, reduction of social services and an increase in funds directed to authoritarian control, such as more police and military expenditures that are not driven by external threat. More guns, less butter.
In a democratic society, one in which the maximum number of people participate in decision making, there is a countervailing tendency to choose a redistribution strategy. This results in higher taxes, but the increasing wealth and power of the common family generally causes increase in spending on education, infrastructure and social services like old-age assistance and medical care. Marginally fewer yachts, massively more teacher’s aides.
Note from the article that only modest changes in income distribution have a large effect in either direction. As they might say in Hollywood: No middle class or working people were harmed in the production of Minnesota’s movie.
It's pretty easy to see the effects of political intervention by government. The adjacent graph (Source) shows the redistribution of income to the wealthy that has progressed under some administrations and slowed under others. I leave it to you to assess which party is (R)esponsible for the (R)egressive trends.
(Thanks to Glenda S for calling my attention to this HP article.)
Writing in Mother Jones magazine, David Corn has recently reviewed ads featuring business owners who were shorted or never paid for work done on Donald Trmp properties, mainly in Atlantic City, NJ. Here is one of the ads; the others are available at MJ; follow the link below.
Neoconservative columnist Robert Kagan warned in a Washington Post column (http://www.businessinsider.com/robert-kagan-trump-2016-5) published May 19, 2016, that the "Republican Party's attempt to treat Donald Trump as a normal political candidate would be laughable were it not so perilous to the republic.” and that Trump could be putting America on a path to "fascist” rule.
"Trump has transcended the party that produced him," Kagan wrote. "His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. ... Their allegiance is to him and him alone.”
In both republican and imperial Rome, contending factions were often allied with popular generals whose independent armies wrestled for control of regions or greater Rome itself for hundreds of years. Many of them used the traditional “fasces” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasces) as a symbol of their power and legitimacy. In the end, these internecine battles came to be more important than the defense of the empire, which was then dismembered by marauders from the margins.
In 1920s Russia and Italy, 1930s Germany, Japan, Spain…, one dictator after another came to power somewhat legitimately and then consolidated its power into an absolute form. Those countries are now in the fourth and fifth generation of atonement for their past. Italy’s political, religious and social fragmentation has lasted for 1,500 years.
The substitution of personal for national loyalty is always and unambiguously a threat to any political system. We are not immune. Kagan’s observations are especially noteworthy due to his conservative orientation and illustrate the nexus of conservatism and liberalism that have traditional formed the core of our transcendant national principles.