Showing posts with label Trump. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trump. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Trump's Most Deranged Tweet Yet

Not only is this comment completely asinine since it doesn't make sense, it's also fake news. The very opposite is true. In fact, Amazon paid lobbying firm Patton Boggs $500,000 to lobby congress for the enactment of the Marketplace Fairness Act in 2013, which would allow states to force out of state retail companies to collect sales taxes for them. Jeff Bezos stands to profit from internet sales taxes because it would force smaller competitors, who cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars filing monthly sales tax returns in every state, out of business. Internet sales taxes would also force consumers to pay taxes in states they do not reside in to governments they do not receive public services from. It would violate one of the very foundational principles of this country, one which emboldened Americans to throw off the chains of the British empire; no taxation without representation. The only truth Trump has revealed here is that he is an petty thug who has no principles nor concern for the common man, just grandiose promises he doesn't plan on keeping. He says he'll stand up for the middle class and cut red tape that holds small businesses back all while proposing legislation that would destroy small businesses owned by middle class people.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Political Superstitions (part 6): The President Does Not Manage The Economy

Or at least he's not suppose to, unless you live in a country like Venezuela (in which case I would advise you to get the hell out of there). In fact, the constitution delegates very little to the president; Article II section 2 provides a very short summary of powers and duties delegated to the president:

  1. Commander and chief of the Armed Forces when called into service
  2. Power to grant reprieves and pardons for crimes against the U.S. except
    in cases of impeachment
  3. Make treaties with the concurrence of 2/3 of the senate
  4. Appoint Ambassadors, public Ministers, Consuls, and Judges of the supreme Court
    with the consent of the senate
  5. Fill any vacancies in the senate during recess

That's it. The president isn't suppose to be some kind of superhero out to save the world; he's not suppose to create (private sector) jobs, or bring peace to the world, or control gas prices, or help you pay your rent. The president was simply meant to be a constitutional officer who signs bills into law and protects us from foreign and domestic enemies. If Trump had only promised to eradicate ISIS and enforce immigration laws by building a wall on the southern border he would be tops in my books, but like the typical egomaniac he had to promise the moon. He promised to bring back coal mining, bring back manufacturing jobs (which have been on a slight uptick for the past 5 years), and now he wants to bring back apprenticeships. Trump recently signed an executive order to create a White House initiative to expand apprenticeships; the only problem is that it's based on the same fallacious reasoning as his other far fetched promises. It is private companies that generate profits that enable them to expand their businesses and hire more employees or apprentices. Now the president can certainly facilitate this process by cutting red tape and reducing fiscal burdens, but he in no way generates the profits of millions of companies that contribute to economic growth in the aggregate and increase the demand for labor. The president's job, and the function of the federal government as a whole, is to maintain a hospitable environment for the private sector. Trump would have to be omniscient in order to manage the economy. He would have to know the time and circumstances of every transaction, the daily output of every business in primary industry as well as those in secondary industry; he would always need to know final domestic demand, not just in aggregate, but for every consumer and capital good conceivable, including ones that have not been invented yet. He would have to manage thousands of assembly lines, oil wells, retail spaces, mutual funds etc. while also performing the duties assigned to him as president. The truth is that one man doesn't create jobs; millions of market actors pursuing disparate interests create jobs, and to the effect that the president can make this process easier he can be said to be a catalyst for job creation, but he is not creating jobs.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 33)

Trump Plans To Impose 20% Tarrif On Canadian Softwood Lumber

Source: NewYork Times

Link not included because it's pretty much in every major newspaper. I first heard about it from NYT.

The new tax, and that's what it is, is supposedly being levied in retaliation for Canada subsidizing their softwood lumber products. Oddly enough, the U.S. government also subsidizes the U.S. lumber industry but don't let facts get in the way of Trump's protectionist charade. Also keep in mind that this is the same shitbag who wants to take away property rights from American citizens (through eminent domain) so a Canadian company (TransCanada) can export it's tar sands oil here, which will eventually find its way to foreign markets. To think Trump has any principled objection to Canada subsidizing it's lumber industry is laughable and naive; something consigned to mental incompetents who think public officials act from altruistic motives. Regardless of Trump's motives, the new tax on imported lumber serves a purely sentimental benefit for people with incoherent ideas about fairness. In the long run, consumers are always the losers in trade wars and it is American consumers who will pay this tariff in higher lumber and real-estate prices. Protectionism, like it's first cousin socialism, is based on the false notion that the government can create jobs and therefore wealth by taking money from one industry and giving it to another (i.e. the broken window fallacy). We might see a spike in domestic lumber production, but we won't see that there is less disposable income available for other industries. The net difference is zero when we take the latter into account.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why Federal School Vouchers Are A Horrible Idea

10 Reasons Why Private School Vouchers Should Be Rejected Americans United

Why Federal School Vouchers Are a Bad Idea (from Cato Institute during W.Bush admin)

Why School Vouchers Are a Bad Idea (Ron Paul)

Above I have included links to other articles that argue against school vouchers. There are many reasons to reject school vouchers as an education policy, especially if it is enacted at the federal level, but the most pertinent reasons have yet to be summarized in one article and that is my purpose here.

Federal School Vouchers Would Just Be An Expansion of The Welfare State

Before I go any further, I would like to make it clear what vouchers actually are. Vouchers are not, as school choice proponents like to claim, giving parents their money back to spend on a school they think is best fit for their child. In reality, since vouchers are provided to low income children the parents are more often than not getting more than what they contributed in taxes, so vouchers are in fact demand side subsidies, not tax credits as school choice proponents falsely claim. Furthermore, only a select few parents, who fall below the arbitrarily defined poverty line, will have any chance of receiving a voucher, only a fraction of whom will be selected by lottery. If school vouchers were actually about giving parents back their tax dollars to spend on a school they think is best for their children, it wouldn't be exclusively targeted at impoverished parents. Middle class parents and even some wealthy parents also send their children to public schools but they don't stand to benefit from the proposed $20B in federal school vouchers, which is only targeted at 11 million children that live below the poverty line. So the nature of school vouchers is really more akin to benefit payments than it is to a tax credit. School vouchers, even at the state level, are no different in principle than HUD's housing choice vouchers, TANF, SNAP, or any other welfare programs. School voucher programs are simply outsourcing public education to private institutions; it does not make education a private affair anymore than outsourcing military services to private defense contractors makes the war in Afghanistan a private war. The government still decides which schools get the goodies and which parents get to make a choice. On top of that school attendance is still compulsory so the child has no choice in the matter. This doesn't give children and parents more autonomy, it just makes private schools dependent on government funding and introduces the perverse incentive to compete for subsidies. Competing for subsidies is not a market-oriented approach no matter how much mental gymnastics Betsy Devos and other school choice hacks do to frame it as such. The only thing that will result from a federal school voucher program is a Private/Charter School lobby that will petition for more goodies and accreditation requirements to keep out as much competition as feasible.

Federal School Vouchers Would Be Unconstitutional

Among the many reasons why Trump's plan to provide $20B in federal school vouchers as block grants to states should be rejected, the most important reason is that such a program would be unconstitutional. Article 1 Section 8 details a short list of powers delegated to congress and subsidizing private schools isn't one of them. Yes, congress has drastically deviated from what was originally intended of it, but thousands of wrongs don't justify an additional one. The objection that federal school vouchers should be accepted because congress has already exceeded its constitutional limits is simply the tu quoque fallacy writ large. It is akin to arguing that murder should be permissible because people do it anyway, and sometimes getaway with it, despite legal and moral prohibitions. The 10th amendment dictates that powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the State's respectively, or to the people. Education, especially primary education, is a state and local issue that should be controlled and funded at the state and local level. Having a public school system funded by property taxes might still be a bad policy but at least it isn't outright unconstitutional like Trump's federal school voucher proposal.

Separation of Education and State

School voucher programs are not unconstitutional at the state level unless they are written to only benefit religious schools or exclude some religious schools from the program. However, even at the state level they still delegate to the government more control over their citizens' lives than what is necessary to protect their natural rights. Ideally, education should be a completely private affair. A school voucher program, even at the state level, does not make education any more private then replacing government employees with government contractors makes any government undertaking a private one (e.g. private prisons and defense contractors). It is still directed and allocated by the state, but even worse, it subjects private schools to more state regulations such as anti-discrimination laws and laws concerning what they have to include in their curriculum. The best education is self-education. The education you provide yourself is intrinsically motivated and more conducive to learning than education motivated by fear of state violence and negative societal evaluation. Autodidactism has never been easier than in the information age with free E-learning resources, like Khan Academy and Academic Earth, online journal databases, and online Universities. The first step towards making education private is to make school attendance voluntary. A generation that takes interest in it's own education instead of having it hammered into them will naturally become less subservient to the state and work towards a freer society.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Non-combatant Civilian Deaths Caused By U.S. Airstrikes Spike Under Trump


Washington's coalition Has Killed 5,000 Syrian and Iraqi civilians since 2014. This is a conservative estimate calculated by Airwars, a civil society group that tracks civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria. Between 8,000 and 11,700 have been attributed to the U.S. coalition though these claims have yet to be confirmed. The 4,834 fatalities caused by Washington warplanes includes about 700 children and 400 women. Non-combatant civilian deaths caused by U.S. coalition airstrikes has drastically spiked since Trump took office. Thus far, the Trump administration has killed 245 civilian non-combatants in Iraq and 378 civilians in Syria from February till April. This only takes into account confirmed and fair reports where there is a reasonable amount of evidence from multiple sources on the ground and does not account for ongoing investigations which may inflate these numbers. The spike in civilian fatalities caused by U.S. airstrikes is due in most part to the fact that the Trump administration has taken less precautions and, as much as it pains me to say it, has done less thinking and more knee jerk reacting than Obama. Trump has ordered airstrikes at a rate of one per day since he took office while Obama averaged an airstrike every 5.4 days during his two terms. Furthermore, Trump has discarded many rules of engagement that minimize civilian fatalities in airstrikes.

Trump was never less hawkish than his predecessor or Clinton. Even Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail made Obama look dovish by comparison. He used the guilt by association fallacy to suggest that it was permissible to kill the families of ISIS fighters, a statement which, if followed to its logical conclusion, would mean, among other things, bombing families in European countries as well as 'ally' Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan. It would also mean killing family members that may have shunned their ISIS relatives or just killing random people who Trump claims are related to ISIS fighters. As early as 2015 he suggested drastically increasing military spending which practically translates to more bombing, more boots on the ground, and more boogeymen to fight. To recall that Trump supporters thought this guy was an 'non-interventionist' is laughable on face value not only in light of his past statement on the Iraq war, which he made Howard Stern, or his past statement on the war in Afghanistan, or his flip flopping on the intervention of Libya, which is stuck in a state of perpetual anarchy, but also in light of the more probable motive that Trump simply criticized these police actions to score brownie points against his primary opponents. Trump doesn't really have any principles; his ideology is egotism. Whatever benefits Trump is good and whatever hurts his reputation is bad or FAKE NEWS! That is the extent of his rationale, and if you're too stupid to see that I feel sorry for you.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

New Pipeline Battle On The Atlantic Coast

Source: Indian Country Media Network and NC Policy Watch

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a natural gas pipeline that will run 550 miles from the fracking fields in West Virginia to Robeson County, North Carolina. It's construction will be undertaken by Dominion Resources and the pipeline will be operated by Duke Energy, with an estimated cost of $5B. Trump expedited approval for the pipeline back on January 25th when he signed EO to expedite environmental reviews and approvals for 50 high priority 'infrastructure' projects, the most prominent of which were the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an environmental impact statement for the project back in December, but has not yet issued a permit for construction.

As with almost all pipeline projects, construction cannot begin without using the guns of the state to steal other people's property. Many landowners along the proposed route have already mobilized and formed coalitions to stop the pending eminent domain seizure of their property. Landowners in Halifax County and Northampton County Virginia have already organized into the Concerned Stewards of Halifax County group to oppose the pipeline. The ACP already filed lawsuits against 27 Virginia landowners, in 2015, for permission to survey land that fell along the proposed route. The pipeline is also planned to run directly through Lumbee tribal lands in Robeson County, North Carolina. The Lumbee tribal council has yet to take a stance on the Atlantic Costal Pipeline. The Lumbee are not a federally recognized tribal nation so it is very unlikely they will be consulted when the pipeline is built through their land and even less so with Trump as president.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Trump Signs Away Your Privacy Rights As A Broadband Customer

In what could only be described as a culmination of events that began during the Bush Administration, President Trump signed Senate Joint Resolution 34 into law, which reversed an FCC rule that protects the privacy of Broadband customers. Republicans used the Congressional Review Act to reverse the rule, approved by the Obama Admin back on January 3rd, and prevent to FCC from writing a similar rule for privacy in the future. The FCC rule prohibited ISPs from selling their customers' web browsing history and location data to third parties without their customers' consent. It also prohibited them from delivering targeted ads to their customers and required them to protect their customers'data from hackers. The rule expanded the privacy requirements for telecommunications companies, already established in the Communications Act of 1934, to ISPs, and reclassified them as a telecommunications service. Established telecommunications privacy rules already prohibit telecommunications companies from disclosing individually identifiable customer proprietary network information except with the customer's consent or as required by law.

Except as required by law or with the approval of the customer, a telecommunications carrier that receives or obtains customer proprietary network information by virtue of its provision of a telecommunications service shall only use, disclose, or permit access to individually identifiable customer proprietary network information in its provision of (A) the telecommunications service from which such information is derived, or (B) services necessary to, or used in, the provision of such telecommunications service, including the publishing of directories.

A telecommunications carrier shall disclose customer proprietary network information, upon affirmative written request by the customer, to any person designated by the customer.

The FCC rule on broadband privacy extended these same requirements to ISPs:

The rules require carriers to provide privacy notices that clearly and accurately inform customers; obtain opt-in or opt-out customer approval to use and share sensitive or non-sensitive customer proprietary information, respectively; take reasonable measures to secure customer proprietary information; provide notification to customers, the Commission, and law enforcement in the event of data breaches that could result in harm; not condition provision of service on the surrender of privacy rights; and provide heightened notice and obtain affirmative consent when offering financial incentives in exchange for the right to use a customer's confidential information.

Now that Republicans have repealed this FCC rule, ISPs can sell their customers' browsing history and location data to third parties, mostly advertisers, without their knowledge or consent, which, among other problems, puts broadband customers at greater risk of identity theft.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trump Is Wrong About The Snoop Dogg Video Being A Crime

I am no fan of rap. I despise rap for many reasons of which the glorification of a criminal life style is one, but I am a big fan of constitutionally limited government and the freedom to engage in artistic expression no matter how grotesque the expression may be. The latter is protected by the first amendment of which the former should not violate.

The video in question doesn’t even depict Snoop Dogg assassinating Trump. The video shows him firing a bang flag gun at the Trump impersonator, and the following scene shows the Trump impersonator tied up with a chain, implying that he was not assassinated in the video. Of course, Trumpbot hacks like Mark Dice, a professional shock jock, cut the rest of the scene and only showed the flash of the toy gun before descending into an incoherent diatribe about the 2 second clip.

Even if Snoop Dogg had advocated violence against the President, which it is not clear he did given that the Trump impersonator was not shown dead, it would still be protected by the first amendment. Music videos are recognized as Symbolic speech under Stromberg v. California, which first recognized non-verbal gestures as a form of speech. Furthermore, the ruling in a case concerning the advocacy of violence, Brandenburg v. Ohio, protects the advocation of violence and criminal behavior under the first amendment, except when it incites imminent violence or is likely too do so. Since Snoop Dogg did not explicitly tell people to assassinate Trump and his music video will not likely cause Trump to be assassinated, it logically and inescapably follows that his music video is protected by the first amendment.

Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.

When arguing about whether an action should be legally permitted, the argument should not be contingent on whether it is already legally permitted, but whether it should be legally permitted. Moral law, the law of equal freedom, is independent of and superior to the laws of nation states. We can only have constitutionally limited government if we start from the premise that the role of government is to be an agent of justice not an inventor of justice, since absolutism logically follows from the latter. Advocating violence in a music video may be reprehensible, but it does not violate the law of equal freedom. Snoop Dogg did not aggress against Trump’s person or property nor did he clearly incite others to do so, nor was violence against Trump’s person or property imminent. Thus, while his actions may have been imprudent and tasteless they were not unjust. However, the feds would violate moral law if it imprisoned Snoop Dogg for making the video.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Trump Administration Escalates Illegal War In Syria

Sources: 21st Century Wire, Army Times

Five days ago, the 3rd Ranger Battalion was spotted heading towards the city of Manbij. The U.S. rangers were presumably deployed to join the SDF, a coalition of Kurdish militias operating in Northern Syria, in their siege against the ISIS occupied city of Raqqa. At around the same time, the Pentagon deployed 400 marines of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit to also join the Kurdish forces fighting to push ISIS out of Raqqa. 6,000 U.S. troops are currently operating between Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon plans to deploy an additional 2,500 troops to Kuwait as backup for the forces in Iraq and Syria.

The invasion was started by the Obama administration in December of 2015. By the end of his last term, Obama had deployed a total of 500 Special forces into Syria to assist the SDF. The recent deployments are thus not a change in policy, but simply an expansion of an Obama era policy. Obama also sent special forces to three other countries (i.e. Yemen, Iraq, and Libya).

Article I Section 8 Clause 11 of the Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war; being the commander and chief does not give the executive office the prerogative to start wars on a whim because the president does not have the power of the purse (for obvious reasons). Furthermore, the War Powers Resolution statute requires the president to notify congress within 48 hours of deploying troops and to remove all troops within 60 days if the commitment does not receive formal congressional approval. In this capacity, both president Obama and Trump have violated the law.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Trump May Create A Secret Police To Spy On Muslim Citizens

Sources: The New York Times, Associated Press, ACLU, Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat

To Put this in context, the first tweet from April 2014 is in reference to the NYPD discontinuing the Demographics Unit (later renamed the Zone Assessment Unit),which was created a year after the 9/11 attacks to conduct suspicion-less, blanket surveillance of Muslim communities in New York City. The New York Times put out an article about this a week before Trump sent out a tweet lamenting the end of the surveillance program. The Demographics Unit sent informants to infiltrate mosques and muslim student groups as well as plainclothes officers, called rakers, into the muslim community to eavesdrop on conversations at muslim owned establishments, which they considered hotspots for radicalization.They would ask provocative questions about U.S. foreign policy in an attempt to elicit what they would consider indicators of radicalization. The intelligence gathering effort also included conducting video surveillance outside of mosques, and noting who was entering and leaving and recording their license plate numbers. The information gathered during these investigations was used to compile a database of where muslims that wore traditional Islamic clothing shopped, ate, prayed, and worked as well as documenting their conversations. The Demographics Unit went so far as to designate entire mosques as suspected terrorism enterprises, which allowed them to record sermons, conduct video surveillance outside the mosque, and record license plate numbers of people who went to the mosque. According to the NYPD, and contrary to what Trump believes, the surveillance program never led to charges that any mosque or muslim organization was a terrorist enterprise, and it never generated a lead.

The Strategy of the Demographics Unit was based on the report Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat. The report touted the notion that homogenous muslim communities were fertile breeding grounds for radicalization andserve as ideological sanctuaries for the seeds of radical thought.

The Demographic make-up of a country, state, city, or town plays a significant role in providing the fertile ground for the introduction and growth of the radicalization process. Enclaves of ethnic populations that are largely Muslim often serve as ideological sanctuaries for the seeds of radical thought(22).

A bit further down, we are informed that anyone who lives within an ethnic, muslim community is suspected of being a jihadist, that is to say, just for being muslim in a homogenous muslim community.

Individuals, who are attracted to radical thought, usually live, work, play, and pray within these enclaves of ethnic, Muslim, communities - communities that are dominated by Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian cultures(22).

In theory this could have led them to target specific individuals who advocated violence against Americans online, but the criteria for radicalization provided in earlier pages was so vague that it could apply to just about any muslim who lived within a homogenous muslim community. This was even more true of what they considered to be locations that are rife with extremist rhetoric, which included cafes, cab driver hangouts, flophouses, prisons, student associations, non-governmental organizations, hookah bars, butcher shops and bookstores; just about any place non-jihadists would hangout as well, except for prisons. It is no coincidence that Demographics Unity targeted certain demographics, as the name implies, for blanket surveillance.

Trump sent out the second tweet after being interviewed by a Yahoo News reporter who at one point asked Trump if he would create a muslim registry if elected. As usual, Trump was short on policy specifics and gave an ambiguous answer. The FBI already maintains a terrorist watchlist and the DHS maintains the No-Fly list. Furthermore, Americans are already under constant surveillance by multiple alphabet soup agencies (not just the NSA) so its not clear what Trump would do that’s new. Although Trump has never explicitly called for blanket surveillance that targets muslim communities, I wouldn’t put it past someone as unprincipled and egomaniacal as Trump to implement a program like the Demographics unit. He would only have to wait for the right opportunity to present itself. If there is another major terrorist attack in the U.S., like the one in San Bernardino, in the next four years, I would expect Trump to use it as leverage to implement a secret police that spies on muslim communities.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Trump Skirts His Own Ethics Rules

Source: ProPublica

It should come as no surprise that a man who does not have any ethics will ignore even his own rules. Recently, Trump hired three former lobbyists to work on the ‘specific issue areas’ they had previously lobbied for. However, since the term ‘specific issue area’ is not defined in executive order ‘Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Appointees’, this section of the ethics rules is ultimately unenforceable. Shahira Knight lobbied for Fidelity on a range of retirement and tax policy issues before becoming Trump’s special assistant for tax and retirement policy. Michael Catanzaro was a lobbyists for American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers on fuel standards and greenhouse gas regulations just a few months ago before becoming Trump’s special assistant for domestic energy and environmental policy. George Banks, though not a registered lobbyists, lobbied on environmental issues for the American Council for Capital Formation before becoming Trump’s special assistant for international energy and environment. There is no record of any of these three receiving an ethics pledge waiver and even if they had the OGE would not have to disclose this information to the public since Trump eliminated the requirement that they publish a report disclosing the waivers and public interest justifications for them.

As discussed in previous posts (here and here), Trump has done the exact opposite of what he promised to do during his campaign in regards to appointing and hiring lobbyists to his administration. Time and again, Trump used the narrative that his opponents were all beholden to lobbyists and special interests as a stick to beat them with, but since then he has ‘pivoted’ on his campaign promise like every other politician does once they are elected to office.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Does Trump Really Support The Right To Bare Arms?

Do you remember Trump's response to the Orlando shooting back in June 12th of last year? He had a lot to say about the incident including that he 'appreciated the congrats for being right on radical islamic terrorism', a comment that received the most media attention. A few days later he made the less conspicuous comment above. For a guy that bills himself as a defender of the 2nd Amendment and the constitution he consistently does neither aside from providing lip service like every other politician. In this instance, he condoned the same gun control policy being pushed by House Democrats and Hillary Clinton, but despite his agreement with Hillary Clinton and House Democrats the 2nd Amendment is not really the issue here. It is the 5th amendment, not the 2nd amendment, that is at stake here.

'No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.'

'No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.' When a person is placed on a watchlist without their knowledge, the chance to contest that decision or any other requirements of 'due process of law' and that watch list is used to prohibit them from purchasing a firearm, that person is deprived of liberty without 'due process of law.'I wouldn't put it past a guy who thinks the constitution has 12 articles to lack concern for the fifth amendment or any other part of the bill of rights. Trump doesn't care about the 2nd amendment anymore than he puts on the appearance that he does to placate his GOP base. Just like a typical politician, Trump is an unprincipled man that uses the constitution when it is convenient to further his own egotistical ends, but otherwise discards it when it becomes an obstacle.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Does Trump Understand How The Federal Budget Works?

You'd think someone as politically savvy as Trump would at least understand the basics. The Obama Administration's last fiscal year is the current year. Bush's last fiscal year was 2009, so Obama actually inherited a $200B increase in his first month and Trump inherited a $12B decrease in his first month. The debt level also fluctuates with changes in economic output among other factors. Even if Trump were to reduce the national debt by $12B in 2018 it would be insignificant in the grand scheme of things considering that the national debt is nearly $20T.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trump Didn't 'Drain The Swamp': He Conned His Gullible Supporters

One of the most reoccurring themes of the Trump campaign, aside from illegal immigration, was that only he would remove 'special interests' from control of the executive office, but Trump quickly reneged on his campaign promise and filled his cabinet with 'special interests' of a conservative bent. The only question is where is all the faux outrage from Trumpbots who criticized other candidates for what they perceived as a weakness that made Trump unique. All of the Trumpbots that criticized Clinton for being bankrolled by Goldman Sachs were silent or even supportive when Trump appointed several Goldman Sachs veterans to his cabinet including Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce, Diana Powell as senior counselor for economic initiatives, Gary Cohen as an economic advisor, Jay Clayton as head of the SEC, and Steve Bannon as his chief strategist. If Hillary had won and done the same thing they would be throwing a shit fit right now. The point is not that their criticisms of Hillary were illegitimate, I assure you most of them were, but that they were hypocritical in light of recent events and their corresponding silence on the matter. If you recognize the pattern you'll understand why Betsy Devos, a woman who has never taught in her life, was appointed as the Secretary of Education. For one thing, she is the sister of Erik Prince, the infamous Blackwater founder, who just happened to donate $150,000 to Make America Number 1, a SuperPac that backed Trump after he became the inevitable nominee in April, and historically her family has been big donors to GOP candidates. Rick Perry is also a strange pick for a position he wanted to abolish four years ago, but couldn't remember, and is no less a sketchy figure given the fact that he was on the board of directors for Energy Transfer Partners not too long ago. It seems like Trumpbots have a bias memory and attention just like every other kind of partisan hack. Their 'GodEmperor' isn't going to save America; like every other president, he'll just be another puppet to 'special interests' and 'donors', as Trump said of Jeb Bush.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Refugee Resettlement is Just An Expansion of The Welfare State

A little over a year ago, the Center for Immigration Studies assessed the cost of refugee
resettlement in the U.S. and discovered a number of startling findings using data from the numerous federal agencies involved in the resettlement process.

Key Findings by the Center for Immigration Studies
  • Each refugee will cost taxpayers $64,370 or $257,481 per household after five years. 
  • 91% of refugees will be dependent on food stamps.
  • 68% will be dependent on cash assistance. 
  • The average refugee only has 10.5 years of education: less than a high school education
As if having 44 million people dependent on food stamps in the past year and spending 740 billion on means tested benefits wasn’t enough, the rolls will be expanded to include 85,000 non-citizens who have no cultural or political affinity to the U.S. While feigning concern about the constitution on the subject of Trump’s immigration moratorium, the left has failed to realize that taking from citizens to pay aliens who have no allegiance to this country is unconstitutional. The constitution doesn’t grant the federal government any power to provide charity to its own citizens much less foreigners. The argument for accepting refugees, unlike the argument against it, is not based on its constitutionality or any sound reasoning, but the appeal to emotion fallacy, which is commonplace on the left. If we were to consistently consider the constitutionality of every act of government, the vast majority of our alphabet soup executive agencies would be abolished.

The sole purpose of government is not to become a charity for the world or engage in nation building; it's to protect the individual rights of its citizens. Had the Obama admin not waged an illegal proxy war against Syria by funding Al-Qaeda front groups like the FSA and Al-Zenki the war there might have ended by now and we would not have this mess. As usual, expanding government purview in one area has lead to its expansion in other areas in a vicious cycle of ever-increasing control over our finances.

Trump has proposed several unconstitutional and immoral things, but banning Syrian refugees isn’t one of them. The Anti-Trump Movement is just as unprincipled as the man they are protesting. If one group of authoritarians protests the actions of another group of authoritarians of a different flavor, it does not make the former the victim and the latter the aggressor; if the roles were reversed, as they were in 2009, you would hear them singing a different tune dismissing any concern about the constitutionality of the president’s actions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trump Cites Non-Existent Law In Executive Order And Weakens Appointee Ethics Commitments

In an executive order from January 28 titled Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Appointees, Trump referenced the term 'particular matter' used in the appointee ethics pledge to U.S.C. title 28 section 207, which does not exist
Section 1. Ethics Pledge. Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2017, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee: 
"6. I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts. 
(r) "Particular matter" shall have the same meaning as set forth in section 207 of title 28, United States Code, and section 2635.402(b)(3) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.
The executive order prohibits executive branch employees from lobbying the specific executive agency they worked for within five years of their termination. However, as Propublica points out, the pledge does not prohibit appointees from working at executive agencies they formerly lobbied; it only prohibits them from participating in any 'particular matter involving specific parties' that they formerly lobbied for. The Office of Government Ethics defines particular matter as 'any matter that involves deliberation, decision or action that is focused upon the interests of specific persons, or a discrete and identifiable class of persons.' Particular matters may also include matters that do not involve specific parties, though Trump restricts the applicability to the first category, which is particular matters that involve specific parties. Former lobbyists that fall into the second category, particular matters that do not involve specific parties, include those who 'at least focus on the interests of a discrete and identifiable class of persons, such as a particular industry or profession.' Thus, former lobbyists of the second category can participate in particular matters that they formerly lobbied for. According to Propublica, both categories were excluded from participating in particular matters they formerly lobbied for under the Obama administration's ethics pledge, which meant that former lobbyists were not permitted to work in the executive agencies they formerly lobbied with the exception of a few waivers.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Trump Plans to Create New Crimes And Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Trump's most recent executive orders are an ominous warning to Americans of things to come. All three new executive orders deal with law enforcement. The first one directs Jeff Sessions to create a crime reduction task force that will among other things
(iii) identify deficiencies in existing laws that have made them less effective in reducing crime and propose new legislation that could be enacted to improve public safety and reduce crime;
In other words, continue ditching constitutional principles in favor of more expedient measures. Given Trump's recent comments on Civil Asset Forfeiture, his past comments on constitutional rights, and Jeff Sessions stances on mass surveillance, the drug war, and encryption, this is probably the intention of creating this task force. And did I mention that national crime rates are, despite a recent spike, much lower than they were 47 years ago? Trump is entitled to alternative opinions, but not alternative facts.

The second executive order supposedly prevents violence against law enforcement and proposes, among other things, to define new crimes and creating new mandatory minimum sentences for those crimes. In all likelihood incarceration rates will reverse their current downward trend and the private prison industry will boom again under the Trump administration.
(d) following that review, and in coordination with other Federal agencies, as appropriate, make recommendations to the President for legislation to address the protection and safety of Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, including, if warranted, legislation defining new crimes of violence and establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for existing crimes of violence against Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, as well as for related crimes;
None of the provisions in the third executive order caught my attention as particularly noteworthy; it's the same old war on drugs schtick that's been failing for the past 40 years, which is also around the time when there was a dramatic spike in crime rates that peaked at 10.2/100,000 murder rate nation wide in 1980.

An institution that is itself a criminal enterprise does not stop criminal activity; its only concern is gaining a monopoly over criminal activity and becoming the sole purveyor of injustice.

'As long as mankind continue to pay "national debts," so-called -- that is, so long as they are such dupes and cowards as to pay for being cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered -- so long there will be enough to lend the money for those purposes; and with that money a plenty of tools, called soldiers, can be hired to keep them in subjection. But when they refuse any longer to pay for being thus cheated, plundered, enslaved, and murdered, they will cease to have cheats, and usurpers, and robbers, and murderers and blood-money loan-mongers for masters.' 
- Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Faux Outrage Over Trump's 'Muslim Ban'

Since I am subscribed to a number left-wing civil society organizations ( e.g. HRW, Amnesty International, ACLU, ProPublica) and media outlets (e.g The Intercept and Global I have been bombarded with the righteous indignation of bleeding heart liberals for the past week. The objections run the gamut of standard leftist talking points about 'discrimination', 'hate', and 'racism.' The ACLU has gone so far as to claim that the 'Muslim ban' is an unconstitutional violation of the establishment clause, which I can assure you it is not. But first we need to recognize this particular executive order for what it is: a moratorium on immigration from seven predominately muslim countries, which include Syria (for obvious reasons), Iraq (same reasons), Iran (given its relations with Washington), Libya (for even more obvious reasons), Somalia (needs no elaboration), Yemen (obvious reasons ad nauseum), and Sudan (less obvious but similar circumstances). If you're privy to current events (a task that is fairly easy in this information age) you'll notice that 6/7 countries are embroiled in war and one of them has less than friendly relations with Washington. Not ALL muslims are barred from entering the U.S.; in fact, the vast majority of muslims are still allowed to immigrate here. Do bleeding heart liberals understand the categorical difference between SOME and ALL? Now, you could say that Trump's immigration moratorium was poorly devised because it fails to ban citizens of countries that have actually committed acts of terrorism on American soil such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, but you cannot say that it is a dragnet 'muslim ban', which is factually incorrect.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The immigration moratorium on seven Near East countries is not only not a muslim ban, it's also not unconstitutional. The Bill of Rights was meant to protect WE THE PEOPlE  from despotic government, not foreigners. The logic is that since the U.S. was founded as a religiously diverse country, the government should not impose a particular religion on us or subsidize a particular religion. Providing federal grants to catholic schools is a clear violation of the establishment clause. The state of Texas funding faith initiatives is also a violation of the establishment clause. Temporarily banning citizens from a handful of muslim countries is not a violation of the establishment clause because they aren't U.S. citizens. It is not possible to have constitutional rights if you are not a U.S. citizen.

Here is a vlogger (Roaming Millennial) who I think does an excellent job explaining why the U.S. cannot accept immigrants and refugees from unstable, war torn countries.

Escaping The False Dilemma of Mainstream Politics

If you stick around this blog long enough, you will notice that there is a common theme in every entry. Yes I am anti-government for the most part and condemn every violation of Constitutional or moral law at the federal, state, county and municipal level, but government is not the only aggressor. The recent DAPL conflict and the earlier KeyStone XL Pipeline conflict demonstrated that corporations could seize private property under the false pretense of providing a public utility: an action made legal by the ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, a case in which the private developer never made good on their promises after they evicted the homeowners. The war in Afghanistan is mostly a private war, in which private contractors outnumber troops 3 to 1, or about 29,000 contractors to 9,000 troops. Chiquita hired death squads to murder labor activists in Colombia. If all governments hypothetically collapsed the next biggest entities, public corporations, would fill in the power vacuum, and we would be left with a despotism even less accountable to the people.

The common theme here is not anti-government, but opposition to the concentration of power, within any agent or corporate body, whether governmental or private. Due to the volatile nature of U.S. politics, I am constantly refining what this means. Up until 2014, the  Democratic party was the dominant contender in Washington, but the rise of populism, the election of Donald Trump, and a Republican sweep of both the House and Senate, along with a pending Supreme Court nominee, has not only shifted U.S. politics to the right, it has also split the left and right further apart. But no matter who is in charge, the concentration of power in Washington is always abused to the fullest extent tolerable by the electorate. No matter whether we have a Republican administration or a Democratic one, our constitutional rights are gradually diminished, the scope of the executive office grows, as does the overall size of the federal government, and lobbyists set their policy priorities. Their values and rhetoric may be different, but their outcomes are the same. Both share a common strategy of divide and conquer and as long as we are distracted by recycled platitudes about 'personal responsibility' and 'christian values' or 'social responsibility' and 'lgbtq rights', we are inevitably stuck in a vicious cycle of choosing lesser evils.

Expediency is the mother of despotism 

Neither party has a coherent theory of justice. No matter who is in charge, their arguments for expanding the scope of their office is usually the same; it's for 'national security', 'public safety' or 'job growth'. All are appeals to expediency. The soundness of their arguments is inconsequential; their shoddy justifications are not meant to appeal to our rationality. Fear of an external threat and anxiety over financial security is the best way to garner compliance with expedient policies. By keeping the electorate in a constant state of fear and anxiety, the political class can bypass the high road*, avoiding conscious processing, and appeal to their survival emotions (amygdala). The intended result is a collectivist mentality willing to surrender natural rights for 'security' and 'the general welfare' until the external threat or source of anxiety is removed, which is never the intention of people in power, because political power is addictive* and tends to reinforce itself. The craving for it can only be gratified by incremental power at the expense of the electorate, who will eventually find themselves under the heel of an absolutist state if they don't speak out against the early warning signs.  The electorate is being gradually conditioned to except incremental government oversight over their affairs, so that they seem commonplace.

* According to Ledoux Theory of Emotion there are two pathways for emotion: the direct pathway (low road) from thalamus to amygdala and the indirect pathway (high road) from thalamus through the cerebral cortex to the amygdala.

*Dr. Ian Robertson, in his study of baboon hierarchies, has found that feelings of power/dominance over others triggers the release of dopamine, which reinforces power grabbing behavior.

Politics is Just Another Form of Tribalism

It is a curious thing how the anti-war left went silent once Obama took over and expanded Bush's wars and continued to build his surveillance state, but now that these powers have been handed over to Trump they've completely lost their mind. The left was silent when Obama sent special forces to fight in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen without congressional approval and killed hundreds of civilians through drone warfare. The same conservatives that loudly protested Obamacare were cheering when Bush signed the largest expansion of Medicare into law. The same conservatives were silent and even dismissive when Bush turned a $120B surplus into a $1.4T deficit and added $6T to the national debt, but pretended to be deficit hawks under the Obama administration. For both sides, any policy they admonish when they don't control the White House is ok as long as it's their guy doing it. They are unprincipled men whose only precept is in-group loyalty at any cost. This is not to suggest that both parties are the same; a cursory glance at their platforms would demonstrate otherwise. What is meant here is that how party lines are drawn depends on who is in power; in particular, it depends on who controls the executive office. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Trump Keeps His Promise to Kill The Families of Terrorists

Sources: The Intercept and Reuters

Donald Trump has made good on his promise to ‘take out their families.’ In a raid on Al Qaeda leader Abdulraoof al-Dhahab’s house in Yemen, authorized by Trump, Seal Team Six killed 8 women and 7 children along with 14 combatants. According to anonymous testimony corroborated by a Yemeni security officer and local official, everyone inside Abdulraoof al-Dhahab’s house was killed, presumably this was done indiscriminately. The raid was initiated with a drone strike on the Al Qaeda leader’s house so it is not clear how many women and children were killed in the drone strike and how many were killed by gun fire.

‘Take out their families’ was Obama’s MO before Trump adopted it

Although Trump promised to kill civilians during his campaign, this policy is not original to him. As I noted in a previous post, Obama set the precedent for this behavior including killing American citizens without a criminal trial. Obama exacerbated the current war in Yemen between the Houthi rebels, who formed a political council that was ratified by the Yemeni parliament, and the Wahhabi terrorist state by aiding the latter in indiscriminately bombing Yemeni civilians and blocking food and humanitarian aid from reaching their victims. Claiming to fight against Al Qaeda while simultaneously supporting a state (Saudi Arabia) that finances its Syrian affiliate (Al Nusra) and providing weapons to militias that act as front groups for Al-Nusra (Free Syrian Army) is as disingenuous as one can be and another sign that the war on terror is a racket. If it's any consolation, a Trump presidency will bring Obama’s abuses of power to light through Trump’s actions.

As for the one commando killed, I have only this to say: