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.

Puerto Rico

I am amazed that I have not read a single article/blog post explaining why Donald Trump has displayed such a disgusting attitude towards the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Puerto Rico namely that he is a racist. Look at the names most frequently referenced. The name of the territory is Puerto Rico. The capital is San Juan. The mayor of San Juan is Carmen Yulín Cruz. The Governor of Puerto Rico is Ricardo A. Rosselló. Those are all Hispanic names. During the presidential campaign Donald Trump virtually promised to be a racist vis-a-vis Hispanics, he is now fulfilling that promise.

Secession Procedure

Article IV Section 3  of the U.S. Constitution states:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

Note that the criteria for admitting a new state to the Union is strictly up to Congress unless it involves an existing state at which point  the state legislatures become involved. Note also that the Constitution is silent on the issue of seceding from the Union.¹ This proposal would create a formal procedure for a state to peacefully secede from the Union. The steps in this proposal are as follows:

  1. Only those states which border on another country or have a coast line on the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico would be eligible to secede. The purpose of this restriction is to avoid a state seceding and creating a new country which is completely surrounded by the the remaining United States. As such the states initially eligible to secede would be: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Vermont, Alaska, and Hawaii (31 states). Those states not initially eligible to secede would be Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky (19 states). If a state were to secede that would change the above lists. For example, if Texas were to secede that would make Oklahoma and Arkansas eligible to secede.
  2.  The state wanting to secede would hold a referendum on the issue. The votes in favor of secession must be at least 55% of the votes cast. (the exact per cent required is less important than that it be a significant super majority; you’re not going to break up the union on a fifty per cent plus one basis). There must be at least three months notification of the date of the referendum.
  3. No voter suppression is allowed. Any U.S. citizen who is a resident of the state in question would be allowed to vote. There would be federal monitors at all precincts to observe only. If their observations result in a finding that the was any significant voter suppression then the results would be thrown out.
  4. If the referendum fails, or the results are thrown out due to voter suppression or any other irregularities a new referendum could not be scheduled for at least one year.
  5. If the referendum succeeds then Congress must also approve of the secession by the same super majority as the referendum. The reality is, however, that I cannot imagine the Congress rejecting the secession if the referendum passes with a super majority.
  6. If the referendum passes and Congress approves then the secession process would proceed over a three year period.

Consequences of secession:

  • All federal offices in the seceding state would close. This would include all military bases, Coast Guard bases, VA facilities, and border posts. All aircraft, vehicles, ships, etc. would be removed to the U.S. but all federal facilities would remain intact including any infrastructure such as radar units, network cabling etc.
  • There would be no dual citizenship. Anyone who becomes a citizen of the seceding state would forfeit his/her U.S. citizenship. If you dislike the Union so much that you want to secede then it makes no sense to allow you to continue to remain a U.S. citizen. Any U.S. citizen who is a resident of the seceding state who does not become a citizen of that state would remain a U.S. citizen but would obviously have to obtain a U.S. passport some time in the three year period if they did not already have one.
  • The seceding state would have to agree in advance to pay half of the moving expenses of any resident of the state who would not want to be a resident after secession. If any of the red states were to secede I cannot think of a good reason why any member of a minority group would want to remain a resident of that state after the three year transition period.
  • There are two programs in particular that anyone voting in a secession referendum should be aware of.
    • Social Security – You can receive social security if you are living outside of the U.S. but I don’t know if you can have the payments direct deposited in a foreign bank account. In any case that is an issue which could be negotiated during the three year transition period. The real problem is that as soon as you stop paying into the social security fund the amount would receive when you retire starts to decline and someone who is middle aged or a young adult would not get very much when they reach retirement age.
    • Medicare – This is a bigger problem since Medicare will not pay for any treatment outside of the United States. This means that even if you are already enrolled in Medicare and you are a resident of a state that secedes you would have to travel back to the U.S. for treatment or pay for it yourself.
  • There are many other issues involved in a secession such as where do you draw the offshore boundaries for a state such as North Carolina. Most of these would be settled as part of a negotiating process during the three year transition period.

While I am completely serious about creating a formal procedure for a state to secede from the Union I will admit to having an ulterior motive for establishing such a procedure. Current Governor Abbot and his predecessor Gov. Perry have both said they would consider having Texas secede from the Union. I want to call their bluff because I think they are both modern Texas cowboys – all hat and no cattle.² Implementing a formal procedure would send a message to Gov. Abbott to either put up or shut up. Unfortunately I don’t think he would either put up or shut up.³

  1. It is important to note that at the beginning of the secession process which started the Civil War the seceding states made no attempt to secede peacefully. They started the process by shelling Fort Sumter and killing Union soldiers. In short, they wanted a civil war, not simply to secede.
  2. It would be interesting to find out how many people in Texas wear cowboy hats compared to the number of Texans who are actually cowboys. The ration has to 1000 to 1 at least.
  3. The fact is that most of the red states are moocher states. I am using Mitt Romney’s definition of a moocher which is anyone who receives more in Federal benefits than they pay in Federal taxes. Most red states, Texas in particular, receive more in Federal spending than the residents pay in Federal taxes. In the case of Texas, consider San Antonio which has five military base in the area. If Texas were to secede those five bases would all close and San Antonio would dry up and blow away.

 

 

 

 

 

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War Tax

My proposed war tax would consist of up to a five percentage point increase of the income tax rate for the second highest tax bracket and up to a ten percentage point increase for the highest tax bracket in the event of the United States going to war with another country or becoming involved in a war within another country.

The United States would be considered at war with or within another country if either of the following conditions are met:

  1. Three or more American military personnel or mercenary forces are killed within that country for three consecutive months.
  2. Ten or more people are killed by American military personnel or by American mercenary forces or by any group at war within that country to which the U.S. Government is supplying weapons or by U.S. drones for three consecutive months.

The exact amount of the tax increase would depend on the cost of the war. The current drone war is not costing nearly as much as either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars so the tax increase needed to pay for that drone war would not be anywhere near the five or ten percentage points. If the five and ten percentage point increases are not enough to pay for the war then the increases would remain in place until the war is completely paid for.

Now, why the definition of a war? Think back to the beginning of the Iraq war. George Bush would never have agreed to a tax increase on the rich under any conditions so he would have come up with some explanation, no matter how ridiculous, as to why our invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was not a war. Even with a definition of a war you still would have to depend on honest accounting by whatever administration is in power of the cost of the war both in terms of casualties and dollars.

The poor and middle class of the United States are already paying for our wars with the blood and lives of their children, fathers, mothers, etc. The rich are the ones pushing the most to get us into these wars, so let the rich pay for these wars with their gold.

One more thing, I think you can make a case for applying such a tax increase for as long as necessary to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the entire cost both of which were put on the good old U.S. credit card without a peep out of those folks who love to complain about government deficits.

Update:

First of all I want to explain in more detail how the tax would work. Consider the Afghanistan war. After 9/11 George Bush sent troops into Afghanistan, a move which I agree with. At the end of the fiscal year the government would calculate the exact amount of the tax increase on the top two brackets, maintaining the two to one ratio, based on how much the war had cost in the previous year and the estimated tax revenues from the top two brackets. The five and ten percentage point amounts represent the maximum increase for any year.

I also want to add that I believe this proposed war tax, if implemented, would greatly reduce the likelihood that the U.S. would get into another unnecessary war. If the rich knew, in advance, that they would have to pay for the war they would work very hard to keep us out of that war.

Next up: Secession Procedure

 

Living in a Remote Area

Living in a remote area is not nearly as much of a problem as it was twenty or thirty years ago. Vehicles are much better and more reliable that they used to be, although rough roads will still beat up the suspension. Communications have improved even more. The cell network in that part of Mozambique was well developed to the point that there were three cellphone providers in Massinger, the nearest town. In addition, I had satellite internet, so I could also communicate via email. Finally, I had a solar power supply consisting of solar panels, a set of batteries, and an inverter. The net result is that I was living quite comfortably.

What all of that means is that these days living in an area like it is more of a hassle than anything else. So, how much hassle would you be willing to put up with to have the experience of driving around a curve on a single lane dirt road and coming to a stop fifteen meters in front of a giraffe standing in the middle of the road looking right at you. So you sit there in the vehicle for 30 seconds to a minute watching the giraffe watch you and then you get out of the vehicle and stand behind the open door. Now that is a very different experience than sitting in the vehicle. You are no longer surrounded by the vehicle and you are no longer looking thru the windshield and across the hood at the giraffe. So you and the giraffe watch each other for another thirty seconds to a minute until finally the giraffe turns and walks off into the bush.

One thing you must understand is that an experience like this was not an everyday occurrence. You would see wildlife practically every day, but not as close as this. But the inside of the curve had some dense foliage, so the giraffe could hear me coming but not see me coming. That is why he was looking my direction when I came around the curve. Plus, I managed to stop quickly enough to avoid spooking him. Even then, most of the time the giraffe would have run away immediately, but this one stood his ground. So this was an unusual set of circumstances.

Earlier I asked how much hassle you would be willing to put up with to have such an experience. It should be obvious that I was willing to tolerate quite a bit of hassle and, in retrospect, I think it was well worth it.

The Racism of Donald Trump

I have an unusual background to comment on the racism of Donald Trump. I worked in Mexico City for a year and a half as a database consultant. I came away from that experience with the knowledge that Mexicans are, on the whole, honest, hard-working, intelligent people. Later, when I first retired, I moved to live in Xonghile Game Park, a private game park in Mozambique. I came away from that experience with the knowledge that Africans are, on the whole, honest, hard-working, intelligent people.

Note that I say ‘on the whole’ because any country or ethnic group will contain people who are dishonest, lazy, or unintelligent. Which is the same thing as saying they are comprised of human beings in all their glorious, and inglorious, variations.

What the racists do is to point out that some blacks are unintelligent and proclaim that all blacks are dumb, or that some Mexicans are violent and say that all Mexicans are violent, all the while ignoring the unintelligent, lazy, violent whites in their midst.