John Bolton

John Bolton has not yet taken up his position as President Bone Spurs National Security Advisor but I have read numerous reports that he is an uber-hawk who has, in the past, advocated bombing both Iran and North Korea. This raises very serious concerns since Trump has voiced similar ideas in the past.

There is a very good chance that Trump will withdraw from the treaty with Iran under which Iran agreed to stop developing nuclear weapons in return for which the United States would drop trade sanctions against Iran. Oddly enough such a withdrawal will have very little effect. This is because the European Union is also a party to that treaty and I can guarantee that EU will not also withdraw. That means that the primary effect of a US withdrawal would be a slight disruption of the Iranian economy as they shift the small amount of trade they do with the US, 137 million dollars in 2017, to the EU which would result in a small loss of jobs in the US.

John Bolton, however, would also have us bomb Iran and possibly invade Iran. An invasion of Iran would be a bigger disaster than Iraq, but the the Boltons of the world don’t learn from their mistakes they double down on them instead. Aside from the fact that it would be a very bad idea to bomb Iran it would be an act of war and the Constitution gives Congress sole authority to declare war. The founding fathers explicitly explained why they did that. They did not want a single individual, specifically the President, to be able to take the country to war. This means that bombing Iran without prior congressional authorization would be a blatant violation of the constitution worthy of impeachment.

Next, North Korea. Not too long ago there were leaks coming out of the White House that Trump was considering the idea of bombing North Korean nuclear production facilities to give them ‘a bloody nose’ and thus discourage them from continuing further development of nuclear weapons. I have all of the same objections to bombing North Korea as I mentioned regarding the possible bombing of Iran. But there is a further complication with North Korea. There is no peace treaty with North Korea. What was signed on 27 July, 1953 was an armistice agreement which has held for over 64 years. Bombing North Korea would be a serious violation of that armistice and would have the potential of restarting the Korean War. I think the odds of the Korean War restarting are rather low, mainly because of China. China is still a communist dictatorship as it was in 1953, but China is now much more economically developed and much more involved in world trade. As such they would have much more to lose than in 1953, but both China and North Korea would probably feel the need to demonstrate to the United Sates that US cannot expect to violate the armistice without repercussions. I do not know what those repercussions would be but with two people as unstable and unpredictable as Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un it would be a very tense and dangerous situation.

Where would bombing either Iran or North Korea without congressional authorization go on the list of impeachable offenses that Trump has already committed? While blatant corruption is bad, as long as it does not establish a precedent for future presidents it will cause no long term damage, except, of course, to the reputation of the United States. Similarly with obstruction of justice, while Trump has tried to obstruct justice, he has not succeeded in doing so and if he would actually do something like fire Robert Mueller the repercussions would be enough to deter future presidents. Oddly enough I do not think that getting away with collusion with the Russians would be a problem for the future because I don’t believe there will be a future president with as many financial ties to foreign countries as Trump. But getting American military personnel unnecessarily killed and wounded would put bombing either Iran or North Korea without congressional authorization right at the top of the list. The American people are sick and tired of unnecessary wars and neither Iran or North Korea are serious threats to the US.

So, if you agree with what I said above, I would urge you to go to the websites for your congressman and both senators and leave them a message saying that you object to any bombing of Iran or North Korea without congressional authorization and also that you would object to any such authorization.

Now, I think that there is a very real possibility that that Bolton won’t last long enough to cause real problems because Bolton is very much a hardliner regarding Russia. I don’t know what strings the Russians have attached to Trump but I cannot imagine they like the idea of a hardliner vis-a-vis Russia as National Security Advisor. I think what will happen is that Bolton will become the next NSA but that he will very quickly start to clash with Trump over a number of issues but specifically Russia. As soon as such clashes become known to the public, and this White House leaks like a sieve, Trump will end up firing Bolton. Oddly enough, by having Russia pulling Trump’s strings to get Bolton fired they would be doing us a favor. Such is life under President Bone Spurs.

President Bone Spurs

‘President Bone Spurs’ is what Tammy Duckworth, US Senator from Illinois, started calling Trump after he accused Congressional Democrats of treason for not applauding his State of the Union address. Tammy Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of her right arm when her helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq. Trump, on the other hand, got five draft deferments for bone spurs, which miraculously disappeared as soon as he could no longer be drafted.  That was the last straw. I will no longer refer to Trump as President Trump. It will be either just plain Trump or President bone spurs.

Industrial Plan

As soon as you say the words ‘Industrial Plan’ the Republicans will start screaming ‘government interference in the economy’ at the top of their lungs. But the fact of the matter is that we already have an industrial plan. But it’s a plan that has been implemented piecemeal over a few decades with little or no thought about how the pieces fit together.

For example, there is a federal subsidy of home installation of solar panels. In a rational world that would be considered part of an industrial plan. So would the federal subsidy of methanol. So far so good, we are subsidizing a renewable source of energy and a bio fuel.¹ But we also subsidize oil, it’s called the oil depletion allowance and it is a tax deduction available to owners of oil stocks. Now those three subsidies combined make no sense, but as I said there has been little or no thought as to how the pieces fit together.

So the first step in developing the AWCP industrial plan would be to research and document the existing industrial plan. Once that is complete the next step would be to simplify the existing industrial plan as much as possible. Only then would there be any move by the AWCP to make any additions to the industrial plan and you can make a good case for making no additions, just let the market determine the winners and losers without any interference from the government.

 

The American Working Class Party Platform

The American Working Class Party (AWCP) is a purely hypothetical party I created so I could control the AWCP platform.

This post lists the proposed planks in the AWCP platform. When I write up the details for a plank, I will update this post to provide a link to the post for that plank. I may also occasionally update this post to add new planks.

By the time I have completed AWCP platform you will have a very good idea of what what my political beliefs are.

Secession Procedure

War Tax

New Social Security System

Libel Reform

Industrial Plan

Big Banks

National ID

High School Curriculum Reform

Tax Reform

Corporate Short Term Thinking

Value Added Tax – Part 1

Value Added Tax – Part 2

NAFTA

Medicaid

Gun Control

Guaranteed Minimum Income

Illegal Drugs

Workers Rights

Military Spending

Ideas already out there which I support

  • Free College
  • 15$ Minimum Wage
  • Single Payer

 

 

 

Inverse DOMA

Now that the Republicans have full control of the federal government and managed to steal a supreme court nomination from Obama I think that DOMA, or a slightly tweaked version of it, may well rear it’s ugly head again.

What is interesting is that there is at least one government agency with regulations similar to DOMA, but with important differences.

My first job after I got out of the Army was with what was then the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs, as a claims examiner at the VA Chicago regional office. I started with education cases and was later given disability and pension cases. Most people are aware of the VA disability program and most are also aware of the education program, but I would guess that most people are not aware off the VA pension program. That is a means tested program which pays a modest monthly benefit to indigent elderly veterans. If a veteran died and was married his widow could receive a widow’s pension.

By the early part of the twentieth century a problem had developed with the widows pension program. Single young women were having death bed marriages to elderly civil war vets. When the vet died shortly thereafter the widow could receive widows pension for the rest of her life or until she remarried. To solve this problem the VA implemented a regulation such that the VA would not recognize a marriage unless at least a year elapsed before the veteran died or that the widow had a child as a result of the marriage.

Superficially this is just like DOMA but there are large differences between the two. DOMA prohibited all Federal agencies from recognizing a gay marriage. In addition DOMA allowed states to refuse to recognize a gay marriage performed in another state. The VA regulation, on the other hand, was narrowly written to solve a specific problem in a specific program. Also, while DOMA showed animus towards gays, the VA showed no such animus towards the young women other than preventing them from gaming the system.

Another problem that came up in the widow’s pension program was related to provision mentioned above that if a widow remarried her widow’s pension would be terminated. What some widows started doing was to do things to convince her friends and neighbors that she had remarried without actually getting married. To illustrate the problem consider a widow named Mary Smith who gets romantically involved with a man named John Jones. She would change her legal name to Mary Jones. She would get a new driver’s license in the name of Mary Jones. They would put Mr. & Mrs. Jones on the mailbox. They would tell everyone, except for the VA, that they had gotten married but they would never actually be married. This would allow them to avoid the stigma of an unmarried couple living together while allowing her to continue to receive widow’s pension. As a result of this type of conduct the VA implemented a regulation stipulating that if a widow ‘held herself out as being married’ then the VA would treat her as if she had actually remarried and terminate her widow’s pension. This is the inverse of DOMA and the previous situation where the VA would refuse to recognize a marriage unless certain conditions were met even though the state in which the marriage was performed recognized the marriage without those conditions. Here the VA would treat a widow as if she had remarried even though she was not legally married in any state.

I actually processed a case like this towards the end of my time at the regional office. I wrote up a decision terminating a widow’s pension retroactive five years. Any decision generating a large repayment was automatically sent to the VA central office in D.C. for review. Shortly after making that determination I transferred to the VA data processing center at Hines, Illinois so I never found out the result of the review. Since the evidence was solid, plus the fact that my boss had to cosign the decision, I firmly believe that central office held up the basic decision to terminate the benefits. On the other hand I would not be surprised to find out that they adjusted the retroactive date of the termination. The VA would probably never get back the full amount due in the first place, plus, the widow in question was not exactly flush with money. I suspect that they adjusted the retroactive termination to be a few months instead of five years. That would be enough to make repayment hurt a bit without actually bankrupting the couple. That would be fine with me since I doubt whether widows receiving pension were terribly well informed of the prohibition against ‘holding yourself out as being married’. If anything it was probably buried in a two or three page document filled with legal jargon which the widow received when she first started getting widows pension. Such documents are like the terms and conditions you agree to when you access a website, rarely actually read by anyone.

 

Donald Trump is Toast

There has been a great deal written about Robert Mueller investigating whether the Trump campaign, possibly including Trump himself, colluded with the Russians to influence to last Presidential election. There has also been a lot written about whether Trump has committed obstruction of justice. Mueller is also investigating Trump for income tax fraud and money laundering. The main stream media has largely ignored those last two issues but Mueller has assigned FBI agents specializing in tax fraud and money laundering to his team so it is obvious that Mueller is seriously investigating Trump in those two areas.

One interesting thing about the Mueller investigation is that he has convened not one but two grand juries. I am assuming that he has two simply because a full blown investigation into four different issues would probably be too much disparate information for one grand jury to handle.

I think he has split up the work between the two grand juries as follows:

One grand jury is handling Russian collusion and obstruction of justice while the other grand jury is handling money laundering and tax fraud. This split would also separate the investigation of Trump the candidate/President from the investigation of Trump the private citizen. The reason I think this is important is that during the Ken Starr investigation of President Clinton the question arose whether you could indict a sitting President. Ken Starr assigned one of his staff to research that issue and her conclusion was that, yes, you could indict a sitting President but only for things unrelated to his presidential duties, a conclusion which I agree with. The grand jury split mentioned above would have one grand jury handling issues related to Trump’s presidential duties while the other grand jury would be handling issues unrelated to his presidential duties

This split would also result in one grand jury handling people oriented investigations and the other grand jury handling document oriented investigations.

Document oriented  investigations move faster. Consider how long it would have taken Mueller to get copies of Trump’s tax returns from the IRS, and he does have copies of those returns, and compare that to how long it is taking Mueller to arrange an meeting with Steve Bannon. This means that the investigations of the Trump family tax returns and possible money laundering will almost certainly be completed before the Russian collusion investigation.

Ordinarily an investigator such as Mueller would wait until an investigation is complete before having the grand jury issue any indictments of the main target of the investigation, but if there were any ongoing related investigations the indictments would be sealed until all other investigations were complete.  In this case, however, Trump has threatened to fire Mueller and some Republicans in Congress have called for Mueller to be fired and the investigation into collusion with Russia by Trump or his campaign terminated. As a result I think that Mueller has decided that as soon as he has solid evidence sufficient to justify an indictment of Trump for either money laundering or tax fraud he would have the grand jury issue a sealed indictment even while the money laundering and tax fraud investigations were ongoing. Furthermore I suspect that Mueller has told the grand jury that if he, Mueller, is fired then unseal all indictments and issue them. This would act as insurance against Trump firing Mueller or Congress moving to terminate the investigation, say by cutting off all funding.

To sum up, I think there are probably already sealed indictments of Trump for money laundering and/or income tax evasion, but Trump just doesn’t know it.

Libel Reform

Under current libel law there are two classes of people, public and non-public. If someone publishes¹ something about you which is not true and you are a non-public person you can sue for libel and win if you can prove that what was said about you was not true. If you are a public person you can still sue for libel but you have a distinctly higher standard to meet. You must not only prove that what was published was not true but also prove actual malice on the part of the publisher, or, to put it another way, you must prove that the publisher knew it was not true but published the story anyway².

The problem is that people have figured out how to libel a public person and remain impervious to a libel suit. Here’s how it works. Say I am a radio personality, such as Rush Limbaugh, and I want to malign a public person, such as Hillary Clinton. I can’t simply make something up without potentially leaving myself open to a libel suit so what I do is take something sent to me by a demented listener and publish that without making any attempt to verify the information. In that way I can honestly say that I didn’t know that the information was false which makes me virtually invulnerable to a libel suit. This has led to a situation where all manner of obviously untrue things are published about people who are public persons with little fear of being sued.³

My proposed solution is allow a public person to sue using the same criteria as a non-public person, but not for damages. They could only ask the court to force the person/organization to issue a retraction of the libelous statement and an apology. The key thing here is that the retraction and apology must be as prominent as the original statement. For example, if a newspaper prints a libelous statement on the front page of the Sunday edition then the retraction and apology must take up the same amount of space on the front page of the Sunday edition. If a radio show host goes on for two minutes at 8 PM on a weeknight then the retraction and apology must last for two minutes and be broadcast in the same time slot. If the original statement is repeated then the retraction and apology must be repeated the same number of times.

What effect would such a reform have? I obviously can’t be certain, but I can’t imagine that Rush Limbaugh, if forced to make a genuine retraction and apology, would not be at least a little more cautious about what he said on the air. In any case I think we need to do something to tone down some of the ridiculous things being broadcast and printed.

 

  1. I am using the word publish to include any method of conveying information to include print media, radio, TV,  the internet, and speech.
  2. I am not a lawyer so if my terminology or my description of the current libel system is a little off take my non-legal background into consideration. The details of the current libel system are not as important as the fact that there are two different criteria for a public and non-public person to prove libel and recover damages.
  3. You can’t get much goofier than the accusation that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were operating a child pedophile ring out of the basement of a suburban Maryland pizzeria. If nothing else, the pizzeria in question didn’t even have a basement. It sits on a concrete slab. Also, in this case, the totally false accusation had real world consequences since a man with a gun showed up at the pizzeria in question and started firing shots into the ceiling demanding to be shown the room where the child pedophile ring supposedly existed.