Tag: Opinion

Opinion | The GOP May Turn on Donald Trump

By Eric Varney

  • Bill Weld says he knows of at least six Senators who would vote to convict
  • Mike Murphy was told by an unnamed Senator that thirty would vote to convict if vote were held in secret
  • Republicans could use a surprise vote to convict as a way to defend themselves

 

     Moscow Mitch stated that he and his colleagues in the Senate have heard enough and that no witnesses should be included in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

He’s made it very clear that his intent is to lie for and with Donald Trump. Maybe he’s made it a bit too clear in a ‘thou dost protest too much’ way, while his private intent could be quite different. Let’s examine.

Back in late September, Fmr Senior Aide to both Mitt Romney and John McCain, Mike Murphy stated on MSNBC that a Republican Senator, in which he did not name, told him if a vote were held in secret, there would be thirty Republicans who would vote to convict.

Former Republican Governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld, stated on December 16th that he knew of six Republican Senators who are in favor of Impeachment.

This is the same Bill Weld that wants to primary Donald J. Trump in 2020. Clearly, he sees an opportunity to make something happen, even if it is a long shot challenge.

I predict now and have predicted in the past few weeks on Facebook that Trump will be convicted by a narrow margin and this will be followed by several Republicans announcing their retirement.

Just a few days before, McConnell also stated that he was “in full coordination with the White House.”

In my experience, nobody but Donald J. Trump is better at lying than the Republican party. So, please forgive me if this sounds a bit far-fetched, but what if Republicans are lying publicly to keep Trump off their backs until it’s time to make a decision and then pull a surprise vote to convict?

They would beat Trump at his own game- the lying game. Remember in 2016, when Trump insulted and lied his way to the GOP nomination? None of the other candidates in the field saw it coming. Total payback, a concept Donald J. Trump is obsessed with, could come in the form of the surprise F-U vote to convict.

The GOP would have every reason to do this. In fact, I can name three of them.

  • Donors
  • Filling any and all positions
  • Future Elections

They would still get what they wanted in a hypothetical President Pence that they’re getting now with a  low-information President Trump. Republicans would still get to funnel money to their super wealthy friends, they would still be able to fill any and all positions they can with their people, however unqualified they may be, and still rig future elections, just like they always have. We all know this, it would be business as usual.

A surprise vote to convict  would all them to morph from chaotically, incompetent evil to a more dangerous one of laser beam focus. One that could threaten things like Roe V. Wade.  Another acquaintance of mine, who I will not name, gave me inspiration for the  reasons above. 

The drawback to Republicans in this scenario is that they would not have a strong enough candidate to present a challenge the democratic nominee in the general election, and will, therefore, ride their power out with Mike Pence, giving the other side at least four years.

The advantage, however, to Republicans in this scenario, which was presented to me today on Facebook by a friend I do not have permission to name, stated “it would also allow them to pass the buck on what they’ve done. ‘No, we didn’t want to funnel money, it was corrupt Pres Trump. Aren’t you glad we took care of him?’ Dems will fall for that hook line and sinker.”

I’m not so sure that democratic supporters are going to fall for it hook, line, and sinker, but I do believe Republicans are capable of master class lying and will try to lie their way out of a rough passage in the history books. I believe Republicans can get rid of Trump, piss off Trump supporters, and still get these same pissed off Trump supporters to vote for them again and again, simply because a Democrat will hold an office- any office- if they don’t.

 

 

 

 

 

The President Show

…the pilot episode.

This President’s Day, I figured I would start a series on the presidency, maybe beginning with an introductory post and then following up, on an annual basis, with a profile of an American President, say, in chronological order from the very beginning.

Then it occurred to me that this would require forty-odd annual blog posts, which would run afoul of my remaining life expectancy.  I’d like to retire, at least, somewhere well short of president #30.

So instead I’ll just offer an introductory episode, including some thoughts on the current presidency, in the context of all those who’ve gone before.

  • To start with, 12 of the first 18 Presidents owned slaves (including four of the first five, and the last, Ulysses Grant, who defeated General Lee in the Civil War).
  • George Washington used force to put down the Whiskey Rebellion.  It’s worth pointing out, though, that the rebels fired first, and that Washington was opposed to the tax measure that sparked the Rebellion.
  • Bill Clinton engaged in perjury to Congress, for which he was impeached, in lying about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.
  • Ronald Reagan’s administration was found to have sold arms to Iran, in violation of an embargo, presumably in order to secure the release of American hostages held there.  Some funds from the sale were diverted to provide aid to Contra rebels in Nicaragua.  Congress’ investigation turned up nothing to implicate Reagan himself, although he did at least appear to be aware of the arms sale, at some point, as he later admitted in a public speech.
  • Richard Nixon resigned the presidency after being implicated in the burglary at Watergate, one in a series of paranoid actions against his political opponents.
  • The Teapot Dome scandal erupted under Warren Harding’s administration, in which his interior secretary, Albert Fall, was found to have accepted bribes and other compensation for awarding no-bid contracts for access to oil and gas in Wyoming, on lands that Fall had had the Department of the Interior secure for that purpose.  Fall was the first former Cabinet member to be imprisoned.  While Harding’s administration is widely regarded as the most corrupt (or at least the most scandal-ridden) in history, there is little to no evidence tying him directly to any wrongdoing.
  • The “Whiskey Ring” was a soak-the-IRS scheme cooked up by whiskey distillers operating during Grant’s second administration.  The conspiracy was wide-ranging, with 110 eventual convictions, and implicated Grant’s own personal secretary, Orville Babcock.  Grant’s testimony helped secure an acquittal, but the scandal was damaging nonetheless:  Grant’s administration is regarded as being second only to Harding’s in terms of corruption.
  • Andrew Johnson was impeached after refusing to obey a law passed specifically to prevent him from firing a Lincoln appointee, the Radical Republican and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.  The Senate procedure failed, by one vote, to remove Johnson from office.
  • The 1824 election involved a sordid quid pro quo operation between John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams (a Founding Father and second President of the United States).  A failure of the election that year to secure a winner resulted in Congress taking a vote and appointing Adams, largely on the strength of House Speaker Henry Clay’s speech.  After taking the White House, Adams appointed Clay to Secretary of State.  The resulting fallout galvanized Adam’s presidential opponent, Andrew Jackson, and his supporters, eventually resulting in the founding of the Democratic Party.
  • That was actually the second time the House decided the presidential winner; the election of 1800 required Congress to appoint Thomas Jefferson, defeating incumbent John Adams and ushering in a generation of Democratic-Republican rule (as mentioned in my ongoing series on the Constitution, thereby repudiating Federalism for years to come).
  • The 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was decided not by popular vote, nor by electoral college, but by the Supreme Court.
  • The 2016 election, in which Trump won the Electoral College vote despite not winning the popular vote, was likewise not the first of its kind.  Aside from the aforementioned Bush election, Rutherford B. Hayes (1876) and Benjamin Harrison (1888) were installed by the electoral vote, which bucked the popular vote.
  • George W. Bush’s administration pushed for, and got, an invasion of Iraq in 2003, nominally another front in the War on Terror, but of questionable justification.  Although there is no evidence that the administration fabricated evidence of a weapons-of-mass-destruction program operating in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and despite the fact that caches of chemical munitions were found on a number of occasions, the intelligence utilized by the administration in making that decision was of dubious quality, and evidently cooked up by Saddam’s own intelligence forces in order to promote the illusion that Iraq still posed a WMD threat to its hated enemy, Iran.
  • President Obama’s bumbling immigration policy resulted in its own “humanitarian crisis” on the southern border in 2014, although the administration did eventually find its footing. 
  • Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, however, is widely derided as being premature and misplaced, with even Nobel Committee members expressing remorse for the award in the wake of Obama’s expanding drone program and increasing involvement in conflicts throughout the Middle East.
  • On the continuing subject of Obama, we also have the IRS scandal, the hugely divisive Affordable Care Act and the various falsehoods (“keep your doctor”) associated with it, as well as the numerous unconstitutional provisions and actions thereof (such as unilaterally delaying the implementation of key provisions, a power not granted the President).

That’s the backdrop against which the Trump administration comes into play.  I haven’t even gone into the various personal warts of each president (other than to point out Nixon’s paranoia).  Most of these men had unfortunate character traits; Lincoln, for instance, privately espoused a kind of benevolent or neutral racism, and opined that he wished he could preserve the nation without freeing a single slave. 

By the same token, Nixon, despite his deep-seated distrust of political opposition, seems to have been a hell of a nice guy, willing to promote race relations quietly without exploiting his successes for political gain.

What I’d like us all to take away from this is that it sometimes seems as though greatness and assholery are intertwined to some degree.  Every great person has character flaws.  It’s almost as if you have to be a particular brand of prick in order to achieve much in this world, but the nature of some positions places checks on just how dicky you can get away with being.

I have the misfortune of being exposed, on about a daily basis, to news and editorial programming on CNN and MSNBC, with the latter predominating.  I think it’s safe to say that Trump occupies something like 80% of their air time.  It’s rare that Trump doesn’t lead off any program, and almost never that he isn’t mentioned at all.  Some programs, like those of Katy Tur and Nicolle Wallace, appear to have come into being specifically to cover the Trump White House, and Maddow, Hayes and Melber never stray far from the topic.

It may well be the case that Donald Trump is the single most scrutinized President ever to occupy the office.  This means in turn that We the People will eventually end up knowing more about him than any other (assuming we don’t already). 

Another way of putting this is that Donald Trump is going to be one of the most consequential Presidents in history.  This is true not only of his impact on the media (and , perhaps, on our lives as individuals), but also on the presidency itself, whether by dint of the avenues for action that he has opened up, or the policies and procedures that will be put in place by Congress in order to restrain the actions of later Presidents.

Think about that just for a second.  Love him or hate him, Trump may end up being the most epochal President in US history.

He’s of great commercial importance as well.  There’s an entire cottage industry, beyond the 24-hour news networks, in informing us about him.  On my parents’ bookshelves I can count at least five books, touted on MSNBC, CNN or the “Tonight Show,” discussing some aspect of his administration, behavior, or ethics.  My sisters have also undoubtedly bought some of the same works.  This industry, at least, might be expected to continue churning after Trump leaves office, although the NeverEndingTrumpShow television programming probably won’t.

Now, we can debate until 2020, or even beyond, the merits of Trump’s character and politics.  I personally subscribe to the view that what he does is far more important than what he says, and that his bragging of sexual exploit and abuse, his endless tagging and trolling of political opponents, and his perpetual stream of gaffes are all but meaningless drops in a rather large and sloppy bucket, itself almost entirely diluted by the much vaster tide of American history. 

The following meme (which may or may not have originated with Rush Limbaugh) seems applicable:

So cute to begin with, so eventually destructive.

Far be it from me to come between a leftist and outrage, but I think we might consider withholding our indignation for things it truly merits:  his actions.  In review:

  1.  Trump pushed for tax cuts which seem to have helped promote economic growth and reduced the average taxpayer’s tax burden.  (Complaints about this year’s tax refunds being smaller have been met with the objection that tax withholdings throughout last year were also smaller, meaning people kept more of what they earned.)  Although it was claimed (by some) that the tax cuts would “pay for themselves,” this hasn’t exactly happened.  A quick review of government spending reveals why:  although tax revenues are up roughly 0.5% since the implementation of the tax cuts, government spending has increased 9% in that same interval.
  2. The Trump administration implemented a zero-tolerance policy at the southern border for illegal immigration.  While different in scope from previous administrations’ policies, it did entail a continuing separation of minor children from their parents (not exactly a new thing).  There are sound reasons for detaining minor children away from adults in the chaotic environment of border detention, the administration botched it, effectively losing hundreds of children and precipitating a media-frenzy backlash, in turn galvanizing the pro-illegal-immigration camp.
  3. Trump has further exacerbated this problem by blocking entry of migrant caravans.  While the nation is well within its rights to turn away illegal immigrants, preventing petitioners for asylum from making their case is bad policy on several levels.
  4. He has evidently taken steps to impede or prolong the various investigations of his campaign’s possible ties to Russian saboteurs of the Democratic National Convention.
  5. He has instituted a “Muslim travel ban,” more of a moratorium, that stays ingress from selected Muslim-majority nations while travelers can be better-vetted (and the system for vetting can be overhauled).  This ban has been variously challenged, blocked, and eventually authorized as Constitutional.
  6. He has imposed tariffs on China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico, and has threatened to institute more.  The results have been mixed.  Some US industries and workers have suffered, due to shortages and retaliatory tariffs, although the targeted nations, particularly China, seem willing to work with the administration going forward.  I cannot regard tariffs as sound economic measures, but I do see them as having foreign-policy value, and that may be how Trump is using them.  In any event, he may have a solid rationale, based on the preexisting trade situation, for targeting China and Japan.  Tariffs just may not be the best solution.
  7. He has also renegotiated NAFTA, rechristening it USMCA and securing what seem to be more favorable terms for the US.
  8. He has issued a ban on the military service of transsexuals.  While this triggered trillions of progressives around the globe, there is a quite valid rationale:  deployability.  The military demands that every serviceperson, regardless of MOS, be ready and able to deploy anywhere in the world at any time.  People who are undergoing long-term therapies such as hormone treatments, or are on waiting lists for elective surgeries like gender reassignment, are not eligible for deployment.
  9. He appears to now be in the early stages of a sweeping gay-rights initiative, having launched a global effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality.  (Worst.  Homophobe.  Ever.)
  10. He has repeatedly fired, or pressured to resign, officials whom he has appointed to office or hired as staffers in his administration.  The high rate of turnover is a meme in itself, but there is also question about the quality of those he initially onboarded.  Whether the overall quality of the administration is improving over time remains to be seen.

That’s the list of major accomplishments:  the dos.  What about the says?  Has his speech provoked any dire consequences?  So far, the main result has been the continuing enragement of the progressive proletariat, and the enrichment of those news networks and authors.  One real casualty appears to be General James Mattis left the administration, in which he served as Secretary of Defense, after Trump announced his intention to immediately withdraw American ground troops from Syria.  Mattis, widely regarded as the Adult in the Room, is seen as a major loss for Trump and his credibility.

The question I want you to ask yourself is:  Has it been all bad?  I know that progressives will oppose most of these measures just on general principle, but the performance of the economy alone is enough to vindicate the actions behind that performance.  In a world in which we see Democrats gleefully rejecting the prospect of 25,000 new jobs being created in New York city, in favor of $3 billion in tax revenue that would easily have been recouped (to the tune of $27 billion) over the next few years, it’s hard to credit liberals with a surplus of objectivity or economic sensibility.

But can you put aside your disgust and your disapproval long enough to weigh the consequences of words against the consequences of actions?  Like any President, Trump will do some good and some bad while in office.  Opposing everything he does will land you on the wrong side of those good things. 

Like Nixon, Trump seems to be flailing largely due to his defensiveness.  He is constantly being attacked, constantly kept off-balance, constantly having to respond to criticism.  It’s not his strong suit, and I suspect that he overcompensates quite a bit. 

He can do better.  Much better.  He can start by listening to his advisers.  And by cooperating more with the political opposition, or at least giving an ear to their grievances in the interest of promoting bipartisanship. 

But frankly, he could also do much worse.

Although presidents do often leave office under a cloud of disapproval and even disgrace, history tends to be kinder.  Obama’s divisiveness appears to be an unintended consequence of his constant pursuit of legacy, and Trump’s is much the same.  The harder politics and the public push back on a president, the greater their perceived need for permanence.  The Border Wall may well be the ultimate vanity project, a literal monument to Trump’s ego.  The irony is that it might not even be an ongoing controversy had he not faced such strong opposition over the past two years…and that might not have happened had he not said so many things that pissed so many people off.

With the Wall steadily decreasing in probability, Trump’s legacy may well be limited mostly to things he says, rather than things he does.  I’ll continue to support the things he does right, and oppose the things he does wrong, but I’d very much like to see my fellow Americans giving much less of a shit about

guest columnist Jose Chung

Opinion | Crisis at the Border

No, not that border.  The one further north.  The one around Washington, DC.

President Trump is delivering a speech on the “crisis at the border” as I type, and it’s being carried by MSLSD, among many other networks.  I have the perennial misfortune of being in a position to hear these, hour after hour, even when they’re not additionally sullied by his voice.

While many of Trump’s specific claims about the “crisis” can and will be debunked in the coming hours, the basic premise is correct.  The ability to fairly easily cross the southern border creates an incentive for those of ill-will to do so.  Claims about specific, astronomical numbers of terrorists crossing illegally may be Trumped up, but that border is nonetheless as easy and economical a place to enter as any other.  At the very least, it provides a handy way to equip terror cells that are already in place.

And yes, the border is not the predominant mode of illegal entry to this country.  Here, the numbers become sketchy, since we’re dealing with estimates, and because we’re forced to consider two different, but overlapping, populations:  those who are currently already here illegally, and those who are coming here illegally more or less contemporaneously with this debate.  For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that approximately 43.5% of all illegal immigrants “becoming illegal” this country are doing so by overstaying their visas (this is a figure about halfway between the current estimate of 42% by the Center for Migration Studies and a somewhat older 45% figure produced by Pew Research).  But if you look at the larger historical picture, including illegal immigration of all kinds going back years, even generations, approximately half of the permanent illegal population can be shown to have crossed the southern border at some point (and quite a few will cross it several times over their lifetimes).

Given that the illegal population is estimated variously at between 11.1 million and 12.1 million individuals, that’s something between five and six million illegal border crossings…not counting the various, sometimes repeated, round trips.

Claims about diseases being brought here are overblown, as well, but it remains true that many parts of Central and South America are reservoirs of parasites and pathogens that have been, for the most part, eradicated in the United States.  The CDC lists several major health concerns endemic to Latin American nations, including a handful (such as Chagas’ disease) which are not directly communicable between humans.  Several more, including hepatitis B, syphilis, HIV, and gonorrhea, most definitely are human-transmissible, although these are also common in the United States, and so not particularly as grave a concern as “exotic” or “conquered” diseases might be.  But the list of tropical diseases, mostly spread via mosquito bites, is alarming:  dengue, eastern equine encephalitis, chikungunya, and Zika.  Concern about these is mitigated by the fact that mosquito-borne diseases tend to have specific vectors, most of which have not yet established a foothold north of the Rio Grande.  But as climate changes, and tropical biomes spread northward, this, too, will change.  (It’s worth pointing out that disease vectors themselves are not necessarily reservoirs of disease.  Mosquitoes require a blood meal from an infected host in order to transmit the pathogen to another individual.  In the absence of infected individuals, most mosquitoes are relegated to the role of loathsome pest.  So the spreading of mosquito populations northward, in and of itself, need not be a health issue.)

One figure of indisputable, immediate concern is the rate of tuberculosis infection.  The CDC points out that although hopes were once high for total eradication, the rate of decline is now too slow to expect that to happen within this century (of which we still have 81 years left!)  One potential factor:  more than 70% of all reported cases of TB are in foreign-born individuals.  While the Center does not break down figures for legal and illegal immigrants, we can infer, from the health screenings given legal immigrants, that most of this 70% occurs in illegals.  (Tuberculosis is ranked #1 among health conditions being screened out.)  Given that the risk of contracting TB among foreign-born individuals falls to about the national average around the ten-year mark, which can be regarded as a proxy for “permanence,” it is reasonable to assume that the subset of the population which is truly “migrant”—crossing and recrossing the border in a cycle lasting for years—is somewhat exempt from this security, and therefore probably contributes a disproportionate amount to that 70% figure.

So are illegal crossings bringing disease into this country?  Almost certainly, yes, but most likely at rates much lower than the Wall rhetoric would suggest.

What about drugs and violent crime?  Again, yes, these things are imported across the border (and, frequently, under it).  But we’re constantly subjected to objections along the lines of “most illegal drugs come into the country in shipping containers from overseas.”  While this is undoubtedly a route taken by not a few smugglers, the “most” qualifier remains in dispute.  Several readily-accessible sources, including interviews of DEA and Border Patrol agents, suggest that the southern border remains remarkably porous to smuggling efforts.  Some 224 tunnels beneath the border were found between 1990 and 2006.  One thing the opponents seem to have right is that most intercepted drug transports take place at official points of entry (some 328 of them), with the contraband found stashed inside vehicles of every kind.  This does not inform us, however, about the number of successful transports taking place elsewhere on the border.

While my preferred solution to the problem of drug crime would be to completely legalize all Schedule I drugs, I’m willing, for the time being, to grant that drug smuggling remains the kind of concern that pro-Wallers have in mind.

As for other forms of crime, yes, we know that gang members use the border to get into and out of the country illegally.  The Center for Immigration Studies has found:

  • Over a 10-year period (2005-2014) ICE arrested approximately 4,000 MS-13 members, leaders, and associates.  This represents about 13 percent of all gang members they arrested nationwide (31,000) during that period.
  • 92 percent of the MS-13 affiliated aliens arrested were illegal aliens.  Of those, 16 percent had entered illegally at least twice.
  • Just over half of the MS-13 affiliated aliens ICE arrested were citizens of El Salvador.  Among the others, 16 percent were Hondurans, 14 percent were Mexicans, and 8 percent were Guatemalans.
  • While MS-13 affiliated aliens made up 13 percent of all the arrests, they accounted for 35 percent of the murderers arrested by ICE.

While the Trump administration’s claim of “4000 terrorists” being intercepted at the border is evidently balderdash, it might be argued that they are (deliberately or otherwise) conflating MS-13 gang members with terrorists in this regard.  Either way, the freedom of violent gang members to come and go at will is a concern (one which can, again, be addressed in large part by legalizing drugs, although in the case of MS-13, there seems to also be an underlying ideological or racial motivation to the violence).

Another crime-related concern is human trafficking, and this is one not to be dismissed.  In addition to the coyotes (or “coyotajes”) engaged in bringing migrants to and across the border, there are prostitution and sex slavery networks, and the human toll here is almost too horrific to contemplate.  (And, I’m sad to admit, legalizing drugs probably won’t eradicate sex slavery, as it doesn’t matter whether the drugs used to addict child prostitutes are legal or not.)  This is a problem that has to be addressed head-on in as many ways as we can come up with, and clamping down on illegal border crossings is as good a way as any.

Even those who simply accept money from the desperate in order to get them into the States are a major problem.  The criminal element comprises a wide swath of motivations, and it’s safe to say that among its members are those who simply lack compunction or compassion.  Guiding people northward in order to “help” them across the border doesn’t preclude exploiting them along the way.  As Trump correctly points out, an inordinate number of female (and underage!) migrants are sexually abused by their coyotes along the way.  And this transit benefits the drug gangs as well; coyotes are compelled to pay tolls to them as they near the border, on the order of thousands of dollars per head.

And it’s also worth mentioning that illegal immigrants do, themselves, commit crimes during and after entry.  Statistics are frequently pointed out to the effect that illegals commit crime at a rate lower than that of the general population.  These figures are in dispute, not least because they can only be applied to known crimes and to those known to be in the country illegally.  Convictions are rarer than crimes, and we have, at best, only estimates of the size of the illegal population here.  At the same time, we know that illegals who accept payroll checks must do so via falsification of records, which amounts to felony crime.  Add to those the number who obtain Social Security numbers via stolen identities, and you start to see a very different picture from that of the benign worker, toiling away quietly and under the radar.  (The fact that nearly four times as many identities have been stolen in service to illegal immigration than the estimates of illegal immigrants currently living here should give you some pause with respect to accepting those estimates.)

The rabbit hole deepens when you take a close look at federal crime sentencing rates.  The US Sentencing Commission releases an annual report of criminal convictions at the federal level.  Breitbart, in 2014, and Sean Hannity, in 2016, both cited these reports in claiming that illegals accounted for 36.7% (in 2014) and 75% (in 2016) of federal convictions.   Interestingly, PolitiFact rates this latter claim as True, and the USSC’s numbers, regarding the former, can be added up by the intrepid individual (although the overview report appears to be unavailable to the “unauthorized” user such as myself, the fiscal-year quarterly report can be found online).  To drill down and examine the inevitable caveats, you can do the math yourself in the quarterly report:  non-citizens committed 42% of all federal (convicted) crimes, 14.7% of all murders, and 25.6% of all drug trafficking (and 80.5% of all simple possession).  Unfortunately, these figures do not segregate legal immigrants from illegals, but they do seriously undercut the “immigrants commit fewer crimes” meme.  Given that illegal immigrants comprise only about 3.7% of the population, it is undeniable that they contribute a disproportionate amount of crime (even if they only engage in a fraction of the total listed under “Non-US Citizen” in the report).

PolitiFact provides some greater insights, by way of approving of Hannity’s claims:  illegals were responsible, in 2016, for 18% of all drug trafficking convictions, 30% of kidnappings, 75% of drug possessions, and 5% of all murder sentences…and all of these numbers exceed the estimated portion of the illegal population, indicating that it commits these crimes at disproportionate rates.  If you eliminate federal sentencing for immigration-related crime, you’re left with some 14% of all federal crimes…a percentage approximately three times as great as that of the illegal population.

Leaving all those criminal and health concerns aside, what about illegal immigration itself?  Should we be concerned about those who make it here and simply attempt to live their lives?  I have to part ways with some of my libertarian brethren on some issues, and this is one.  I do not regard illegal immigration as harmless to society.  While the “illegals are only doing the jobs Americans won’t do” argument holds some water, some of the time, the fact of the matter is that during recession, there are no jobs that Americans won’t do.  More to the point, the disdain American laborers have for those agrarian positions is largely a matter of cultural conditioning, the fact that illegals have been willing to work under the table, for less than minimum wage, for generations.  As illegal labor becomes less prominent a factor in our economy, and new equilibria emerge, more and more Americans will step in to fill the gaps.

And there is the subtler sociological angle regarding assimilation into our culture.  In-group identification, lo these thousands of years after the advent of civilization, remains a thing.  People have to regard themselves as members of a society in order to be members of that society…and they likewise have to be accepted as such by that society.  Diversity is a fine thing, up to a point.  Beyond that point, we cease to be “a people” and become just people.  (One can compare and contrast crime and exploitation rates in culturally- and ethnically-homogeneous nations like Japan with those elsewhere in the world to see the result.  This isn’t to say that a diverse society will necessarily be divided and violent, but it does imply that society takes time to absorb newcomers, and newcomers take time to assimilate.)

But wait, say the progressives and pro-open-borders libertarians—isn’t immigration a net gain for the economy?  The answer, as is often the case, is “yes and no.”  By and large, immigration benefits the market, but like all economic factors, this is not true of unlimited input.  Every economic quantity can be expressed in terms of some optimal amount…and this optimum is never the maximum.  It is uneconomical for factories to produce, indefinitely, at their maximum capacity.  There is an optimal rate of production, which typically falls well short of the maximum.  So it is with immigration.  The greatest benefit to society can be found in the optimum level of immigration, which is well short of the actual numbers coming in during a given year.  To most benefit the market, immigration policy should attempt to steer the influx toward that optimal level, perhaps by annually calculating the market’s needs and then admitting only that number of persons in a given year.  However, this method is completely untenable when we cannot accurately track or control the numbers of people coming in illegally.  If “C” equals the optimal level of immigrants, and “B” equals the number of legal immigrants we admit, then given “A”—the number of illegal immigrants coming in—we can straightforwardly express C as the sum of A and B.  But if A remains unknown, so does B, even if we can calculate, on the basis of economic necessity, the value of C.  Properly managing immigration requires that we limit the illegal influx to a manageable level.

Moreover, there is indeed a cost to taxpayers.  We’re told that “illegals can’t receive welfare,” but somehow, despite bare assertion such as this, they manage to do so.  I refer you again to stolen and forged identities, which can be used to claim benefits.  I also refer you to the households that collect SNAP benefits for their children.  Children born here, irrespective of the legality of their parents, are (legally, for the moment) citizens, and legally entitled to welfare handouts.  But these handouts don’t go directly to minors; they are disbursed to their illegal parents.  Add to this emergency-room hospital care, which is the preferred means of securing treatment in some quarters, even for decidedly non-emergency conditions such as the common cold.  In one NIH study, involving patients at a specific hospital found that 8.6% of patients admitted were illegals, a number more than twice the portion of the illegal population.   FAIR estimates the cost to American taxpayers at $100 billion annually, although this burden is typically borne at the state level.  My home state of Texas is hit particularly hard.

And this cost doesn’t include the approximately $56 billion or so annually siphoned from the economy by being sent south of the border to the families of illegals currently residing here.

So there are obviously a number of valid “pro” arguments when it comes to border security, many of which can be applied to the specific question of whether to build a Wall.  (At the very least, there are a number of “pro” arguments with respect to limiting the illegal influx, which can be regarded as a slightly different question from whether a Wall is necessary.)  Of course there are numerous objections as well:

  • The expense (although this can be mitigated by the Cruz Plan, which would save the taxpayers the total expense and provide Trump a graceful way to assert, with minimal mendacity, that Mexico did, indeed, “pay for it”).
  • The ecological concerns regarding blocking animal migration routes and destroying or denying territories needed by large predators for hunting and mating behaviors.
  • The fact that a Wall wouldn’t, alone, prohibit illegal border crossings, since there are ways of circumventing one.
  • The problems inherent in utilizing Eminent Domain to acquire the properties the Wall would eventually occupy.

I can suggest that by “the Wall,” we need not assume a monolithic physical barrier, but rather a set of physical barriers in conjunction with other measures, such as onsite surveillance, drone surveillance, and technologies such as ground-surveillance radar, infrared sensors, and seismic detectors.  Integrated and used intelligently, these could track the digging and use of tunnels while funneling overland smuggling efforts toward bottlenecks that can be directly observed.  In such a way, problematic sites such as private properties and wildlife areas can be left open, while still adding difficulty and expense to border crossings elsewhere along the line. 

Critics of the Wall are absolutely correct in that it would never stop 100% of illegal immigration or smuggling.  But perfection is a pretty lofty goal, and we need not concern ourselves with attaining it.  The point of border security isn’t to effectively block every illegal entrant, but to limit the availability and affordability of illegal border crossings.  If crossing the border becomes more difficult, more time consuming, and more uneconomical, then incentives to do so will taper off, and with them, the number of crossings.  Think of the Wall as a sort of “border tax,” and bear in mind that when you tax a thing, you end up with less of it in the long run.

So I can remain cautiously open-minded about the employment of a “Wall” in the sense that I defined above, provided the cost doesn’t exceed the benefit.  If a physical barrier can be expected to cost taxpayers anywhere from $5 billion to $125 billion, then in an interval between much less than a year and somewhat more than a year, the Wall can pay for itself (assuming FAIR’s $100 billion figure to be accurate).

But is such a measure even needed?  Critics often point out that illegal immigration has tapered off in recent years, and they’re correct.  Not only is the absolute number (and population percentage) of illegals dropping over time, but the number of illegal border crossings is falling as well. 

And a large part of this reduction can be traced to the 2008 recession, with a perhaps much smaller portion assignable to increased border security and the political rhetoric thereof. 

But we can’t conclude that this is a permanent situation.  If economic conditions drive migrant behavior, then the pendulum must swing the other way as well.  And, as pointed out previously, the best way to counter economic inducement is to proffer powerful disincentives.  And by tilting immigration policy in favor of those who are willing to take an ethical approach to getting (and being) here, we can actually strengthen and improve society.

The right way.

So let’s put aside the media-fueled frenzy over the Wall, and over immigration, just for a moment.  (Oops.  I forgot to include “illegal” before “immigration” there.  That’s a leftist error.  My total bad.) 


Kids in cages, you say?

Let’s ask ourselves another question entirely:  What if none of this matters at all?  At least to the current Crisis at the Beltway?  What if the border is a giant tail, and the nation a big dog, and we’re all being wagged by the Wall?  What if I’ve TLDRed you over twelve pages of seeming irrelevance? 


Could you possibly forgive me?

It’s probably a foregone conclusion that unless the Cruz Plan goes into effect—and its remarkable simplicity is matched only by its apparent absurdity—then Trump will not get funding for the Wall during his first term.  So the “government shutdown” may or may not actually be relevant to border security.  Trump isn’t as stupid as his detractors claim; he’s simply egomaniacal, closed-minded, biased, populist, and unwilling to listen to advisers.  All of these things will necessarily impact his decision-making and policies, but they won’t necessarily impact his ability to discern hard truths.  I can’t assume that he knows at this point that he won’t get the Wall he wants; even if he does, he will still have to keep up appearances, vis-à-vis the expectations of his base.  So, after a dizzying hour or so of factual presentation, we finally get down to the opinion part of this piece:

Trump is probably using the shutdown to avoid Democratic intervention in his administration.

He has already admitted that he’s willing to keep it up for “months or years.”  To that, let’s add a tidbit from one of the MSNBC programs that was TiVoed last night, and which I overheard this morning.  Someone I took, in my pre-breakfast haze, to be freshman Congresswoman Elaine Luria was spoken of as being “only a shutdown Congresswoman.”  By this, it was meant that she was sworn in during the shutdown, and has seen nothing but shutdown over the course of her entire career.

Given that many Dems have sought and won office on the promise of either impeaching Trump or bringing his administration under heavy oversight, I have to wonder whether the entire shit-show is an attempt on his part to forestall the turning of the Wheels of Justice, or at least the Casters of Scrutiny (or perhaps the Ball Bearings of Bipartisanship).

As regards those seeking asylum, they don’t have to reach our border in order to do so; there are stops along the way in Mexico.  But by all means, yes, let’s help out as many refugees as we can, bearing in mind that poor economic conditions are themselves not real grounds for asylum.  Violence, crime, persecution:  yes.  But we can also admit that these things tend to have causes in common with poverty and corruption, and in so doing, we can acknowledge that maybe the best thing to do for those regions has already been covered:  ending the Drug War.  Mexico has decriminalized drug use to a broad extent, so it cannot be blamed for the inflated demand that drives drug violence.  At the same time, we have to be willing to consider the role of burdensome regulations, and in some cases, Marxist philosophy, in having created those conditions.  The best thing we can do for the poor, everywhere in the world, is foster the growth of markets.  And the best way to accomplish that is to apply political pressure to governments in order to compel them to strengthen and enforce property rights.  This would be a very real humanitarian triumph, in addition to greatly reducing the problems associated with illegal immigration.

Ponder that as you partake of Colbert and Noah this evening.  Meanwhile, the facts and figures presented during the preceding twelve pages remain relevant to the ongoing debate over illegal immigration, and that debate will persist long after the Wall has been prevented. 

 

 

Unless of course it isn’t.

Building the Perfect Constitution

                “Constitution” carries an immediately-understandable connotation, for just about anyone, anywhere in the world.  But the definitions vary considerably from society to society.  To a Briton, the Constitution is a loose collection of documents, scattered throughout time and geographical scope, outlining the operations of government.  To an American, the Constitution is a specific document, drafted at a specific point in time in response to specific historical events, punctuated by a couple dozen appendices (called “Amendments”), serving to explicitly enumerate the government’s responsibilities, and thereby restrict its actions to just those mandates.

                I’ve studied our own Constitution reasonably minutely over the years, and have also occasionally pored over others, such as the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.  I’ve noticed that the latter, while enshrining government approval of some practices more abhorrent than any we might observe in today’s federal government, does a better job in filling in the gaps in language and concept that have permitted our own federal government to so badly abuse the former.  In other words, although the CSA Constitution is not one we would in good conscience be willing to adopt today, it is, arguably, overall more efficient and effective in limiting federal power, and therefore has some lessons for us American citizens today.

                And this has got me thinking over the past few years.  If I were to design a model Constitution, how would I go about formalizing the requirements, filling in the gaps, and making the whole mesh together in a way that actually promoted individual sovereignty and protected individual rights?  Could such a thing be done in such a way as to avoid the long-running divisions and philosophical conundrums that have accompanied the enactment of well-intentioned legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or Court decisions like Roe v. Wade?  How best, in other words, to secure the blessings of tranquility and promote the general welfare for our posterity while still exerting what is essentially authoritarianism, a virtual monopoly on force, on the citizenry?

                In some my recent reading—Arthur Clarke’s The Songs of Distant Earth—it is mentioned that the Constitution of the United States had undergone several revisions—not just Amendments, but complete rewrites—prior to the time of the great human diaspora that provides the novel’s backstory.  Some of the human colonies established during this period of migration received what is called a Jefferson Mark Three Constitution—“utopia in two megabytes”—a designation that implies there was at least a Mark Two after the original (and even here, we might surmise a Jefferson Mark One could have been drafted at some point prior, the “Jefferson” label serving to distinguish it from the original Constitution, which was in fact drafted by James Madison).  The dialogue mentions that the civilization in question was “still on Amendment Six,” implying a degree of perfection (on the original homeworld) so magnificent that it still managed to apply to a colony, consisting largely of fishing and farming villages, some fifty light years away.

                It seems that Clarke, writing in 1986, had his own views on the perfection and permanence of the Constitution, while still regarding it as the model whence all other (good ones) must derive.  And, well, Clarke was one of those authors so astute and perceptive that he is regarded in some quarters —indeed, has been regarded for decades—as a prophet of sorts. He, too, might have some lessons to offer, despite his reticence to espouse any explicit partisan position on the issues.

                My reverence for the Constitution stems largely from its intent, namely, to constrain federal government by placing explicit limits on its power and capabilities.  (Bear in mind that the Founders had recently thrown a Revolution in order to wrest free of the yoke of burdensome government.)  But we all know that this intent has been violated, repeatedly, throughout the history of the nation.  Evidently the words on parchment are themselves not proof against abuse and encroaching authoritarianism. 

This guy. THIS GUY.

                Part of the problem seems to be that the Constitution lacks teeth for enforcing its restrictions.  Although nowhere is this stated as an assigned power in Article III, nor anywhere else, the Courts have long been regarded as the arbiter of what is “Constitutional” with respect to government action.  Jeffrey Segal and Harold Spaeth, authors of The Supreme Court and the Attitudinal Model, point out that there are three bases for SCOTUS jurisprudence:  “plain meaning,” or the most literal interpretation of the language in the Constitution; “original intent,” or what the drafters actually had in mind as words were put to parchment; and “stare decisis,” or precedent, which refers not back to the Constitution itself but to prior decisions made by previous Courts. And the long-running debate on the comparative merits of these approaches is, in some ways, part and parcel of the ideological divide in the United States.

                In an ongoing feat of authoritarian elitism, the Supreme Court has long assumed that its fundamental purpose is to interpret the Constitution.  Again, this is not a role defined anywhere within that document, and as such is an assumed power of the Judiciary Branch.  What is more explicit, and to my thinking far less controversial, is the Court’s role in interpreting law.  Obviously someone has to interpret the Constitution and the law, but I submit to you, citizen, that as citizens, we are all empowered to interpret the Constitution.  Let the judges and Justices, let the lawyers and interns and paralegals and flunkies interpret the law.  The abstrusity of law all but requires the existence of an entire industry of experts paid to interpret and argue its details and nuances; but the Constitution isn’t so large, nor so difficult, that we can’t all become experts, at least on those areas of special interest to ourselves.   Certainly the Framers had no intention of concealing any of its dicta from We the People.

                In any event, the Court’s self-appointed role in maintaining Constitutionality seems to be limited to striking down laws that it sees as invalid.  (I’ll continue to resort to Segal and Spaeth over the course of my career here, in order to demonstrate the flaws in this approach.)  There is little the Court can do, or at least does do, to inhibit burgeoning federal growth, or to prevent any future attempts to circumvent Constitutional restrictions. 

Father of the Country is not amused by your shenanigans.

                It will be my aim, over the course of the following nine posts, to bring you into greater understanding of our Constitution and its principles, by demonstrating its flaws and addressing them in a model Constitution of my own devising, and by demonstrating its strengths and showing how those have been realized in the success of our great nation.

Opinion | Democrat’s New Year’s Resolution: Make Trump Open the Government Without Border Funding

broken wall

 

January 3rd will mark the beginning of the era of ‘short leash’ Donald, where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of the incoming House dems will have subpoena power and a mandate from the American public to hold the alt-president accountable.

If Trump thinks he’s going to hold the country hostage to get five billion for his wall, he’s going to have a really big problem explaining why he said beforehand that he would be happy to shut it down, adding that he would not blame Democrats…And then he blamed Democrats.

For those who are just joining the political discussion, Trump painted himself into a corner with his last minute demand for $5B to fund a border wall that nobody wanted or currently wants to pursue.

Once his plan backfired and the partial shutdown started, he felt forced to stand his ground by declaring that he would shut down the southern border using (and essentially abusing the power of) the U.S. military.

shortly after submitting his empty threat, he made the desperate claim that the impacted federal employees actually supported the shutdown because they ultimately supported the wall. The alt-president’s claim was quickly shot down by Union leaders. After all, why would he tell his own supporters so coldly to trade their physical labor for rent?

He foolishly expects the Democrats to cave under the pressure he’s putting furloughed employees through. It won’t work.

And, guess what? He’s still not getting the wall and the government should be shut down until we get him to acknowledge his own failure by signing a bill to reopen without his border money. Yes, not simply less money for it. I’m saying absolutely  no border wall money at all.

As soon as he declared he would take less money for his wall, I knew then and there that I could give him zero and he’d be the one begging me. Trump would not have asked for less if he weren’t afraid on some level. Democrats must target that fear like a hunter to its prey.

This country doesn’t belong to Donald Trump or to the people who smile when they see a child gassed at the border. This country belongs to those who will tear the wall down and will see to it that those smiling faces are turned into ones of hopelessness. There’s only one true way to rid them of their happiness.

 

 

Opinion | Trump is Never Getting His Wall

the wall

 

Quick Takeaways

  • Trump could have avoided shutdown
  • Third shut down of 2018
  • Claims most federal employees support his border wall

 

It’s not that hard of a concept for alt-president Trump and his dwindling base to understand. America simply doesn’t want the wall. If he tries to put one up to contain the will of the people, it will be destroyed by those same people the day after we force him out of office. What a waste of money that will be… That five billion he’s asking for could more than save Flint, Michigan, if not put a dent in our homelessness epidemic.

All he had to do was keep his mouth shut and the government would be open today, but at the last-minute he made a five billion dollar threat that his administration couldn’t cash.

Some people thought Democrats in the House were just giving into Trump’s bullying tactics, but those members knew it wouldn’t get approval in the Senate.

From day one of this alt-administration, Republicans have had control of all three branches of government, yet haven’t gotten anything done. Democrats haven’t even taken over the House of Representatives yet (that happens January 3rd) and we’ve already had three shutdowns, the last of which looks to be quite a long one. If this were the great American game of Baseball, this bum would be out already.

On Christmas day, set to the Incredible Hulk’s ‘lonely man‘ theme, Trump stated he was going to keep government shut down until he got his wall funding, which means until the end of his first and only term, most likely. If that’s not painting yourself into a corner, I don’t know what is. If he backs down from this threat, he’ll look weak to his base and really weak to realists. If he gets his wall funding, whatever does get built will be destroyed the day after we force him out.

Final thoughts:

Trump is too incompetent to know when to resign. He thinks he’s fighting a war on illegal immigration, but he’s actually fighting a war on progress, and he’s going to lose. He may get some parts of his wall constructed but it will be a colossal waste of money because it will be destroyed.

By fighting this stupid delusional war, he’s actually making it worse on racists, xenophobes, and homophobes, because legislation protecting minorities and protected groups in the future will be stronger and have more teeth. If he thinks America is bad now because we value multiculturalism instead of bigotry, he’s going to really want to vomit when he sees America of 2050 and we’re even more racially, sexually, ethnically, and culturally diverse.  Open borders are inevitable because the people trying to get in are human and the people who are trying to keep them out are dying of old age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opinion | The Economy Will Collapse Before Trump is Forced Out of Office

dystopian-abandoned-cities-new-york-nyc-1024x574


Quick Takeaways

  • Trump fears that Fed’s policies will turn him into the next Herbert Hoover
  • The Dow falls with every Trump tweet, negative gains for 2018
  • Weak people blame everyone but themselves

 

The collapse of the U.S. economy has to be weighing on Trump’s mind or the name ‘Hoover’ would not have come out of his mouth. He’s worried that the Fed raising rates, which they normally do as the economy grows, will cause a recession.

To be fair to Herbert Hoover, he was at least legally elected president. Not only is Trump’s comparison inappropriate, it’s flat-out wrong. Hoover didn’t cause the great depression. However, Trump, with every stupid tweet and self-inflicted wound upon his own illogical goals, is causing the economy to slow and eventually sink.

He’s scared, we all know it, and his worst nightmare of him knowing that we know has already long come true. Now he wants to blame the Fed in the event of what’s beginning to look like collapse.

Trump’s economy began just over a year ago, and the Dow has lost all of its gains of 2018. Everyday is opposite day as he squats in the White House, waiting for the inevitable day when we fire him either by force-out or through his most likely defeat in 2020. The people and I were told that there would be so much winning that we would be tired of winning. Well, if this is winning, the nation got tired of it a long time ago.

The people and I were told a lot of things. Some of those people I’m referring to are farmers. The trade war has prompted China to retaliate by canceling orders of our corn, soybeans, and other crops this year. In other words, our bread basket is rotting as we have an over-supply and there’s nothing we can do about it but take the loss.

If these farmers can’t pay their bills, they lose their farm. Never mind that the farmers are being sent aid with their own tax money.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that in the coming years we’re going to see foreclosure after foreclosure of those farms and the low prices we are currently seeing from over-supply will flip and food prices will sky-rocket.

Not only are our farms failing because of his self-inflicted wound he calls a necessary trade war, the budget deficit has risen much faster than when Obama was president.  If our credit rating is down graded again, it will tighten access to things like home and student loans. The dominoes will continue to fall well after we get Trump out of office.

Not only will the housing market fail due to lack of access to credit, schools will face bankruptcy because attendance will fall across the nation. If people stop buying things, employment opportunities will dry up because we know demand is what ultimately creates jobs.

As he and his whole movement, the alt-right, fail miserably, his blame has fallen on everyone but himself. That’s no surprise as weak people have trouble recruiting strong people to work for them and have a tendency to blame everyone else but themselves when things go wrong as a result of their bad decisions.

The man who said that he alone could fix the system that he never bothered to learn the inner workings of in the first place, is being fixed by the system and we are needlessly suffering in the name of making his America great again.