Saturday, May 12, 2018

Teddy Roosevelt's Realpolitik

3 prisoners came home from North Korea with Pompeo.  NPR and the other MSM outlets were totally incapable of saying "congratulations" to Trump and Pompeo.  Instead, they've been trying to find ways to "suspect NORK of bad intentions": maybe this is all Trump will get, etc.

Amazing.

Well, not really.

Meanwhile, the MSM's "NUCLEAR WAR WITH IRAN!!!!PANIC!!!OMG!!!" drumbeat is getting louder and louder.

What the MSM doesn't understand is that Iran came to the table because of sanctions, not because they were being browbeaten by Obama (um... heh...).  They left the table because they were paid (off) by Obama - whose envoy, Kerry, sent pallets of cash (yes, really, pallets of cash) and came home empty-handed.  At least 3 Americans were left behind as hostages in Iran.

A hostage situation with a multi-billion dollar payoff - and Obama didn't even get the hostages back.

Once upon a time, there was a TV show named Star Trek.  Don't laugh: some of the writers had already "made their bones" as bonafide published authors in fiction & science fiction.  In one episode, Kirk is being held hostage by a government that wants to, er, put Kirk "out to stud", so to speak.  In a brilliant bit of script writing, Nimoy (as Spock) makes the following observation:

"We must acknowledge once and for all that the purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis."

Sometimes you have to stop trying to speak softly... and start swinging TDR's "big stick".

Trump, whose reputation as a "disruptor" is well earned, has been using his disruptive influence and (not really) unpredictable nature to put America's opponents off-balance.  As a partial result, Kim sent home 3 hostages without anything more than a promise for a possible meeting.  That's a foreign-policy success, no matter how you cut it.

Iran is a different situation.

I think that the Iranian regime might fall by the end of this year,.  It already has serious domestic problems and significant internal unrest.  Iran's economy has become so resource-stretched with its attempts to "change the face of the Middle East" that its financial footings are upside-down: it can't sell enough oil to support all of its anti-peace initiatives.  There is widespread unemployment, modern goods are becoming impossible to get, and inflation is in (at least) double-digits per quarter.

And now, with Trump pulling out of Iran's blackmail scheme - aka the JCPOA - Iran is looking straight at another set of sanctions.  And the power of those sanctions is strong because they threaten to end business relationships between the US and any country or corporation that does business with Iran.  It's a chain reaction: if a company in Germany sells to Iran, they will be banned from selling to the US.

If you think that's not a threat, think about this: between the US and Iran, which country has a strong economy capable of paying its bills?  And which country do you really want to do business with on a long-term basis?

Exactly.

The US spent the USSR into bankruptcy.  The USSR fell because it had no financial or political support from member countries, and internal disharmony was tearing it apart.  Reagan and Gorbachev were "there at the end": Reagan pushed the last domino over and the USSR fell.  Gorbachev allowed a "soft landing" rather than starting a nuclear war.  Together, they both realized the futility of continuing the cold war.  The time had come to "move on" - they both realized it and ran with it.

The difference between the USSR and Iran is that Iranian Mullahs look forward to being martyrs to the cause of Islam.  But they and their hard-core supporters are the only ones looking forward to the end of the world and a reward in paradise.  If you look beyond Iran, you find that the Iranian Mullahs are widely despised and hated for spreading terrorism and endangering everyone - Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Yes, there are pockets of Muslims whose core belief is to "be a martyr to Islam!",but they are being depleted through their own suicidal activities.  Rather than building up huge armies of new followers, they're becoming outcasts and are being abandoned - by Muslims and no-Muslims alike.

Islam may still be an actively anti-modern religion, but so was Christianity - in the Middle Ages.  Christianity went through The Reformation, and the "murder all the pagans everywhere" ethic was abandoned in favor of teachings that mostly concentrated on living in peace (the exceptions prove the rule - again).

Islam has not yet undergone its own Reformation, but there are true Islamic moderates who actively seek a way to put aside the Qu'ran's demands to "kill the unbelievers" and concentrate on teachings about peace.

There's a reason that G-D made the Hebrew slaves wander in the desert for 40 years.  He wanted the generation who had grown up as slaves, and who could only think of themselves as slaves, to die off.  In the movie "Look Who's Coming To Dinner", Sidney Poitier tells his father "You think of yourself as a black man.  I think of myself as a man".  Look at Sharpton and the other black activists of his generation, most of whom are incapable and/or unwilling to acknowledge that they are the ones keeping race hatred alive.

It takes time for things to change.  But, change will happen.  It's inevitable.  It's the primary process of life.  Change is unstoppable.

There are very few American Muslims who came here legally, became citizens, and want to commit Jihad.  The overwhelming majority came here to get away from the requirement to "kill thy neighbor" and just want to live peaceful and quiet lives (once again, the exceptions prove the rule).  Yes, there are organizations - such as CAIR - that aim to promote Islamic-based hatred of nonbelievers, just as there are Sharptons who want to keep race hatred alive.  But they are the exceptions - there are far more American Mullahs who love America and preach a quiet and peaceful life.

Just as with Christianity, Islam needs a Reformation.  It will happen to American Muslims.  It's already happening to them.  I have met some local Muslims (mostly at cultural events) and I have politely asked questions.  They all universally answer that they just want to be left in peace - to live quiet lives where they believe they are safe from the secret police and the incredibly evil "if you are a true Muslim" demands from fundamentalists.  Talk to some of the Somali immigrants (I've met many at cultural events).  They're some of the nicest folks you'll meet, and most will make amazing American citizens.

It is the average American Muslim who most fears what Iran is teaching the world about Islam, and who would be the first to beg the Iranian Muslims to stop preaching hatred and war.

The day of the Iranian Reformation is coming.  And when it does, the average Iranian will be glad to rid Iran of nukes, terrorist activities, and the evils of Muslim fundamentalists.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Persecution of the Law-Abiding

I'm sure you heard about Kyle Kashuv, one of the "Parkland" students, being interrogated by school administrators after posting a picture of himself at a gun range with his father (and being called a Nazi by one of his teachers).  Now, another school in the US (Lacey, NJ) may have disciplined two student for posting pictures of safe gun use at a range during non-school hours.  The circumstances of the NJ students is unclear, but it appears that they were suspended and, after legal threats, the suspension was wiped from their records.

The term I'm going to use for both of these incidents is "malicious persecution".

It's one thing for schools to be upset about wrongful or illegal student actions on school property, whether those actions were taken during school hours or not.  And a second thing for schools to be upset about students committing crimes during non-school hours.  In both cases, I would require definitive proof that the students did indeed commit the offenses.  And if the proof existed, I would have no problem with disciplinary action.

But when a student is safely and properly exercising a Constitutional right during non-school hours, in the proper venue, and with competent adult supervision, the school administrators need to FOAD learn to live with it.  I understand that guns are a hot topic right now, and that the overwhelmingly liberal teachers' unions are vehemently anti-gun.  Too many ideologically-driven grade school teachers are willing to preach against Constitutional rights and spend classroom time ranting about how evil guns are.  The result is the intentional miseducation of their students.

Punishing students for exercising their Constitutional rights is wrong - and, if I had anything to do with it, I would censure, suspend, or fire any school administrators who are overstepping their bounds in order to make a political point.  In loco parentis does not mean usurping and, in the case of Kyle Kashuv, completely ignoring the will of the real parents while insulting both the children and the parents.

The overwhelming number of grade school teachers do the job they were hired to do: they teach.  But there are "bad apples" in that barrel too.

So, a word to those "bad apples":  stop forcing your personal political views on students.  Your job is not indoctrination: it is education.  These two concepts do not belong together in a grade-school classroom.

And here's a thought for you:

If you don't think anyone under 21 is mature enough to own a rifle, how can you then say that those same under-21 individuals have "something valuable to say"?  Is it possible that they're merely repeating what you have been saying, and doing it without understanding why you're saying it?

And, for that matter, is it possible that you're merely repeating what others have been saying, and - as an adult capable of mature and logical reasoning - you're doing it without understanding what you're talking about?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Exceptions should not become the rule

A federal judge wants Trump to justify the cancellation of the unconstitutionally implemented DACA program.

The backward logic is astounding: Obama signs an EO to keep the parents of illegal aliens from being deported (DAPA), a lower court places an injunction on DAPA thus permitting those here illegally to be deported,  and the case goes to the SCOTUS where a 4-4 decision allows the lower court decision (they may be deported) to stand - thus invalidating DAPA.

But:

Trump wrote an EO canceling DACA, another program established by an Obama EO meant to grant non-deportation, permanent residency, and job permits to children who were brought here illegally when their parents entered illegally.  However, this time, a federal judge won't let Trump cancel DACA without justification.  Hence, this federal judge is forcing the federal government to not deport those here illegally if they are "protected" by DACA

A federal judge is forcing the DOJ to walk away from the enforcement of immigration law.

[This isn't the time or place to get into whether Trump's "travel ban" is legal or not.  That's not even remotely germane to this issue, and I reject and joyfully burn down any such straw man arguments meant as a distraction.  Sorry, but you lose.  Back to the subject at hand.]

The justification for canceling DACA is based in the text of the Constitution itself.  Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 charges Congress with the power "To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization..."

There's nothing in the Constitution that just as clearly gives the President the ability to create new immigration policies on-the-fly (there are references to specific issues regarding foreign policy).  No text providing a plenary or executive power to exclude a class of individuals from prosecution - as Obama did when he created DAPA and DACA.  Only a law passed by Congress and signed by the President can create and then protect an entire class of immigrants.  An EO can't do that - hence Obama's entirely correct at-the-time declaration that he couldn't do what he did (but he did it anyway - and that's why we're in this mess).

The President is charged to "...take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed...".  By canceling an EO that usurped the power of Congress to make immigration law, Trump is executing his job as President.  He is ensuring that the laws are "faithfully executed".

The old adage goes, "if you don't like the law, change it".

In fact, Trump tried to change it.  He tried to work with the Democrats to pass a law protecting those eligible under DACA.  In return, Trump wanted to make (to borrow the anti-gun activist term) "common sense reforms" to immigration law as well as build a barrier to (mostly) prevent future illegal entries into the United States.

The Democrats told Trump to go pound sand (appropriate, considering much of the land on the southern border of the US).

Having been rebuffed after trying to do what he felt was right, Trump decided to obey the law - and now a judge has told him to violate his oath of office by not enforcing the laws of the United States.

The President can make the easy case that excusing an entire class of lawbreakers from being charged - regardless of the crime - is beyond "prosecutorial discretion".  Let's be clear here: illegally entering the United States is a crime.  Hence, even though DACA and DAPA selectees may be good people and may make good citizens, they are here illegally.  In some cases ("job permits" - remember?), they're taking up the spot of someone who wants to come here legally and has been waiting in line for their chance to enter the United States and eventually become a citizen.

Rewarding lawbreakers sets a bad precedent: if we do not enforce a law, then why should we enforce any laws?  Telling Trump and the DOJ that they may not enforce this law is tantamount to saying that there are no laws that may be enforced.

I fully support the prerogative of prosecutorial discretion.  However, it must be taken on a case-by-case basis and not because someone has been declared to be a member of a "class".  Otherwise the precedent "why me and not that person" can become a nightmarish but legitimate defense.

If the White House legal staff can't make an argument that "Congress passes law - the Executive enforces it" in front of the judge, then they all should resign and go home.

And the judge who directed the administration to violate the law should be censured.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Anthropomorphizing the inanimate

I hate to say this, but it is impossible to "stop school shootings".  The progressives' dream - eliminating all guns - will never happen in the US - and the hate-driven, panic-spouting progressives know it.  Hence, it is progressives who do not want to face reality and implement realistic measures to protect students.

We can reduce the number of in-school incidents committed with weapons such as guns and knives.  But the first step is to stop memorializing past incidents in an obviously politically-motivated attempt to drum up blind anger merely to "do something".

If we're going to "do something", then let's spend time analyzing previous shootings, determine exactly what could have been done to prevent those previous shootings, and use that analysis to drive policy in a realistic manner.

And if we look at previous shootings, we already know that there are some common factors that stare us right in the face.  I don't need to review them here.

When we're ready - really ready - to do something about school shootings, it is those common factors that will lead us to the first steps we should take.

Let's not blame an inanimate object for its misuse by a human being.  That way lies tyranny.  We've been there before.  Let's not go there again.

Please.

Because blaming the first inanimate object for its misuse will lead to blaming the next inanimate object for its misuse.  And then the next.  And the next.  It's human nature: when we can blame something or someone else instead of ourselves... we do.

One of my favorite movies is the 1960 production of "Inherit the Wind" (Spencer Tracy, Frederick March, screenplay by Young and Smith, from a play by Lawrence and Lee), a fictionalized dramatization of the Scopes "Monkey Trial".  During a scene in that movie, Tracy (playing Henry Drummond, the defense attorney), has been questioning March (playing Brady, a religious zealot) about the law that forbids teaching evolution in public schools.

This short excerpt says EVERYTHING about religious zealotry in the public arena, whether that religious belief is about religion itself, or "manmade climate change", or gay rights, or... gun rights:

==

(Emphasis mine.)

Henry Drummond: I say that you cannot administer a wicked law impartially. You can only destroy, you can only punish. And I warn you, that a wicked law, like cholera, destroys every one it touches. Its upholders as well as its defiers.

Judge: Colonel Drummond...

Henry Drummond: Can't you understand? That if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books and newspapers. And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other. Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we'll be marching backward, BACKWARD, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Water, electricity, and information all "flow"

(I wrote a post on this subject before the "recent unpleasantness" and well before I started this blog.  As the post's original author, I have decided to repost it here and update it accordingly.)

Throughout American history, people with great (and not so great) ideas have formed companies to make products available to the masses. Some of those products became so widely used that they became indispensable to the American lifestyle: electric lighting, telephone, and water systems come immediately to mind.  As they became ingrained into American life, and as Americans became dependent on them, access to these products were regulated to ensure their fair distribution.

But communication systems - devices and interconnections that have a direct effect on society and play a part in the political life of America - have always been treated differently.

Because radio, television, and other forms of telephony play a part in spreading information, and since the spread of information is protected by the 1st Amendment, companies that are responsible for "speech that influences" have often come under regulation to ensure that their "product" is fair and factual (although, to be sure, it doesn't always work out that way).

The Federal Communications Commission was formed to regulate and coordinate international use of the electronic airwaves,  Over time, it was charged with the responsibility for regulating "speech that influences".  It has sometimes unfairly regulated "speech that influences", but has (for the most part) managed to find a balance between allowing the free exercise of speech while enforcing some rules to keep the speech from becoming offensive (e.g. regulations against profanity and so on).

Today, "speech that influences" is communicated over a medium that was never considered at the time the FCC was instituted: the Internet. Originally created for military use, and designed to withstand both widespread natural disasters and nuclear war, the Internet has become indispensable as the primary method for information flow. Today's Internet has the reach and the influence that radio had in the 1930s and TV had in the 1960s.

But the Internet doesn't use the airwaves, so there are no rules permitting the FCC to regulate Internet traffic.  Hence, the Internet is entirely unregulated. The FCC's attempt at "net neutrality" was based on cost of access to content, not the content itself.  But the content itself?  Whatever anyone wants, regardless of how biased, factual, or profane.  The FCC isn't involved.

In many ways, the Internet is the ideal model for the 1st Amendment: free and unfettered speech.

BUT, with the recent hubbub over Facebook, is it time for the FCC to begin to examine whether some Internet content should be regulated? Is it time for the FCC to examine whether companies like Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, Comcast, and other "providers" are using their power to decide who has access to the Internet and whether that access is being fairly and equitably provided by those companies?

And whether, both as Internet access providers and purveyors of "speech that influences", whether they should at least follow some ethical standards regarding that speech?

Facebook, which has a reach far exceeding that of the yellow papers of the early 1900s, has decided to be an arbiter of what its subscribers see.  As a private company, it certainly has the right to do so.  And people have the right to not use Facebook if they don't want to.  But, for the moment, it is the means to share information between users on the Internet.  It is the equivalent of the "alphabet networks" of the 20th century: it is the equivalent of one of the "big three", but for Internet users.  And it has become the "town square", the place where people congregate to talk among themselves and to be heard by others.

When Google or Facebook, which have become so powerful as to be considered utilities, decide which content they will allow and which they will deny, they enter the realm where they exercise control over political discussion. And by entering this realm and deciding which information they will and won't permit on their services, they exercise control over the political process.  In fact, one of the subjects of the recent Facebook hearings was exactly that question: was Facebook used to influence the 2016 election?

Is it time for the FCC to step in and determine how the Internet should be regulated?  They stepped in to determine how the original Bell Telephone needed to be regulated and how radio and TV were regulated.  Is it now the Internet's turn?

Google and Facebook are not public utilities. They are privately owned.  But they have shown that they will use their own influence over hundreds of millions of users to guide the political discussion by making decisions on what their users see and what they don't see.

As much as it pains me to say this, they need to be declared "common carriers" to force them to stop making decisions about who may or may not use their services, and to force them to stop "filtering" information according to the whims of those who manage those services.  Just as utilities cannot arbitrarily turn off one person's electricity for no reason, Google and Facebook have become too powerful to be able to arbitrarily ban someone's political ideas merely because someone in the company disagrees with them..

Does this mean that ISIS might have a free hand on Facebook? Yes... and no. Facebook may not like what ISIS posts, but it should not be in the business of blocking it. The same with neo-Nazis and alt-right extremists. And the same with antiFA, BLM, BAMN, and other alt-left extremists.  Facebook should remain neutral on content - but should be free to contact authorities when it feels that content presents an immediate danger to others.

The same with "fake news": Neither Google nor Facebook should not be in the business of deciding which news is "fake" and which news is "real". It must become a "common carrier", and needs to stop choosing what is seen on its network.

Yes, it sucks to build a tool that is adopted by thousands, then millions, then hundreds of millions around the world - and then be told that "you have too much influence to be allowed to continue to operate according to your personal agenda." But that's where we are today: hundreds of millions of people around the world getting their information "filtered" through the minds of a select few who determine "what's best" for their subscribers.

The time has come for Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other highly-influential organizations to be told that they need to get out of the "regulating and choosing content" business. They have become too big and too influential, and need to be operate as "utilities".  If this means that they need to be subjected to regulation, then so be it.

Sometimes there is a place for government. And when it comes to ensuring that all people have the same right to have their political speech be heard, the 1st Amendment must be the guiding principle. In this country, your right to free speech must be protected. And when companies (are you listening, Facebook?) or city governments trample on those rights (are you listening, Berkeley?) it is time for the federal government to step in and restore those rights.

Highly recommended

https://borepatch.blogspot.com/

Go read BP's historical posts, and you'll find a wealth of information - his analysis of the "debate" over global warming climate destruction climate change naturally-occurring and ecologically-based global temperatures is both eye opening and damning.

Hockey sticks belong on the ice.  Real ice - and, in most cases, manmade ice.  Ya can't play that pucking game anywhere but on ice.... which is why I've always found the term "hockey stick chart", when used to describe an uptick in temperatures, to be both hypocritical and ironic.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Iustitia's missing blindfold

Mueller pushed the NY district court investigators to invade the offices of one of Trump's lawyers (Cohen).  They did so because of a claim that the lawyer was "not acting as a lawyer" and may have been violating tax laws.  The investigators took everything: every piece of paper, every record, every computer.  Everything.  They treated the lawyer as if he was a drug dealer or someone suspected of being a serial murderer - not as a lawyer with clients other than Trump (yes, he does have other clients).

Ok, so he was Trump's lawyer.  I get it.

But he was also someone else's lawyer (a name has already been floated).  A person who may be a truly uninvolved someone.  A person who has nothing to do with Trump.  Someone who lives an honest life.  And someone who was a client of the same lawyer.  The reason that someone chose Cohen as his lawyer is immaterial.  Unless that someone has been charged with a crime, and even if he had, busting into a lawyer's office and confiscating all of the lawyer's records, including that uninvolved someone's records... Just. Isn't. Done.

The legal records of that someone are now held in a district court and will be viewed by investigators as they search for (ahem) "wrongdoing".  That person - the uninvolved person - has had their right to the lawer-client privilege destroyed.  That person was not served with a warrant.  That person was not told that they were under suspicion.  That person has now been dragged into a wholly-unrelated situation.  And that person's records, and any deep, dark, legal, intentionally-hidden secrets, have now been exposed.

Because Trump.

This is why Dershowitz is so angry and why the ACLU's silence is so loud.  If this warrantless and unconstitutional action is allowed to stand unquestioned, then the lawyer-client privilege is dead.  A precedent has been set that "the state is all powerful" and gets to decide who may (and may not) use the 5th Amendment's prohibition to protect themselves from self-incrimination via the use of the lawyer-client privilege. The doctor-client privilege could be next... and, if some overzealous judge decides to get involved, the sanctity of the confessional could vanish as well.

Because... Trump.

Regardless of how you feel about her, there was an expectation of privacy of Clinton's records on Clinton's private server.  The same was not true of Abedin's laptop.  Abedin's laptop didn't belong to her.  It belonged to the government.  Thus, there was no expectation of privacy for any information on it: it was a government-owned system and the assumption is that anything on it was owned by the government (that's one of the reasons I rarely use company systems for anything other than emails that I don't mind if other people read).  The reason that her government-issued phone and other government-issued phones were physically destroyed with hammers was to prevent the extraction of information from those phones.  It doesn't matter whether it was government information or personal information.  The devices were destroyed against government rules.

Clinton's personally-owned and maintained email server did not belong to the government, was not located on government property, was not maintained via government funds, and was thus private.  Her use of that private server for sending and receiving government emails was obviously meant to defeat government rules regarding government information.  But because the server was privately owed and operated, there was an expectation of privacy - which was respected.  Hence, a subpoena was issued to get the contents of the server.  It was not until the refusal to turn over that server's records that the subpoena demanded the physical hardware itself.  But in any event, Clinton claimed to turn over all of the government emails and was not compelled to turn over anything she claimed was private.

And that's the difference: Clinton was given the opportunity to decide which emails to turn over.  Trump's lawyer was given no such opportunity.  Clinton was directly violating State Dept rules.  Trump's lawyer may have violated campaign laws but there is no direct evidence he had.

So we are left with a problem that has caused the scales of justice to become seriously unbalanced: the personal feelings and opinions of a few have overcome the obligation to administrate the law fairly and without bias for everyone.

And the people that exemplify this problem, who have put their thumbs on the scale, and who have destroyed any belief that "justice is blind" are the same people in whom we put our trust: the highest level bureaucrats in the Department of Justice and in the FBI.

Because... Trump.