300 Words

I write letters to the editor of my local newspaper. The newspaper arbitrarily limits letters to 300 words, and the newspaper web site strictly enforces the word-limit. At first I was annoyed, but annoyance turned to satisfaction when my letters became more concise and more effective.

Some of these letters do not reach a newspaper, but most follow the 300 word limit.

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(ukraine4) Standing with Ukraine

This essay was posted on 12/5/22.

There is a lot of noise on Twitter complaining that the war in Ukraine is not in the interest of the US, that Ukraine is full of corruption, and funding of the war will bankrupt the US. It’s all hogwash meant to distract us from the real reason we should continue to provide military arms to Ukraine.

Is Ukraine corrupted by oligarchs? Oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky supported Voldimor Zelenskiy’s campaign for Presidency, for example. But Zelenskiy has been diminishing the power and influence of oligarchs during his administration. Kolomoisky’s influence in Ukraine has virtually vanished.

Will the Ukraine war bankrupt the US? Probably not. Money now spent for military arms to Ukraine costs the US about $5 Billion per year. The war in Afghanistan cost the US as much as $100 billion per year over 20 years. Afghanistan didn’t break us and neither will Ukraine. The US economy will survive.

Is Ukraine in our sphere of interest? Maybe, now. Vladimir Putin’s pattern of expanding Russian influence westward into territory previously controlled by the Soviet Union is troubling. The invasion of a country threatens global stability, and doing nothing is tacit permission to invade another country in the future. Our national security is threatened.

The key reason for keeping US involved in Ukraine is elsewhere. Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb 2022. US aid ramped up immediately and has been steady ever since, and the aid has allowed the Ukraine army to push back on the Russians. If the US suddenly stops supplying Ukraine aid, the Russians will most likely take over Ukraine, and the US’s influence among the nations of the world will disappear overnight. That is exactly what Vladimir Putin wants to see.

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(basics) The Basics of Inflation

This essay was posted on 11/26/22.

Republicans tried to politicize the high inflation rate in the US during the last election. They blamed President Biden for the inflation and scorned the Inflation Reduction Act. It was all a ploy designed to distract from Jan 6 and other issues. Fortunately, the distraction was not successful. The voters were smarter than the politicians, who need a lesson in inflation basics. And the basics are easily derived from historical experience.

First, the causes of inflation are not limited to government spending. The 1946 inflation was caused by pent-up demand after years of war-time rationing. The 1969 inflation was caused by an economy that was growing too fast. Inflation in the 1970’s and in 2008 was caused by rising oil prices. The 1989-91 inflation was caused by the uncertainty of the Gulf War. The current inflationary period has pent-up demand after COVID combined with rising oil prices. A balanced budget, by itself, won’t fix inflation.

Second, reducing inflation takes time. An examination of the inflationary periods shows that it takes about a year to reduce inflation, under ideal circumstances. Magic fixes don’t exist. Biden’s inflation Reduction Act, for example, was passed this year, but the effects of the act won’t be felt until next year and thereafter.

Third, inflation is not the long-term problem. High prices are the problem, and reducing inflation will only level off prices. After inflation is down to a comfortable 2-3%, today’s high prices will still be here. Consumers will still have spending problems unless salaries are adjusted upward.

An unexpected and fast rise in inflation is a real problem, but pretending that there are simple solutions is dishonest chicanery.

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(2022) The 2022 Midterm Elections

This essay was posted on 11/20/22.

The 2022 elections are historic in that the party in power, namely the Democrats, did not lose a huge number of seats, which is common in off year elections. Nevertheless, both parties had something to celebrate. Republicans have a projected gain of 8 seats and a narrow majority in the House. And Democrats will retain the Senate and may gain a seat as well.

The real story of the elections is in the motivating factors of the voters. Republicans were concerned about inflation, immigration, and crime. Democrats were concerned about the Supreme Court, abortions, and health care, and preserving the election process.

The key issue in this election appears to be the big lie. Republican candidates who denied the 2020 election result often lost when running for governor, Attorney General, or Secretary of State in battleground states such as Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. 8 out of 12 election denying gubernatorial candidates lost, for example. The voters knew what they were doing.

The election denier issue was not limited to offices with authority over elections. 9 House Republicans who denied Donald Trump’s loss were targeted with ads that challenged their election denial, and 6 out of 9 deniers lost. The Republican margin in the House might have been bigger if these Republicans simply conceded President Biden’s election win.

It is too early to claim total victory. 185 election deniers won and some will be in positions that matter. We simply do not know what harm these deniers will do to our election processes. We only know that the cancer is still with us.

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(maya) The Trump Republican Candidate

This essay was posted on 10/30/22.

The following facts are listed in the spirit of Maya Angelou’s famous statement:
"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

In Arizona, Republicans who believe the election was stolen are intimidating voters who use drop-boxes to deliver their mail-in ballots. The harassers take pictures of the voters. Many harassers carry guns.

In Georgia, election officials are creating an alert system so that election workers can report threats from election deniers.

345 Republican election deniers are on the 2020 ballot this year. Many are running for offices that play important roles in elections. The Republican candidate for the Governor of Arizona is an election denier who could certify or not certify the 2024 election results. The Republican candidate for Secretary of State, Abraham Hamadeh brags about committing election fraud. Republican election deniers are running in Michigan and Pennsylvania, both important battleground states.

Republican candidates are courting extremists all too often. Washington Republican candidate for a House seat. Joe Kent had his picture taken with a white nationalist who extolls the virtues of Adolph Hitler. Marjorie Tayler Greene and Paul Gosar have white nationalist ties. And there are others, including Republicans in Michigan and New York.

Connections to white nationalists work in both directions. The Los Angeles Holocaust Museum received antisemitic threats after inviting Kanye West for a tour after West made antisemitic remarks. The threats to the holocaust museum are not isolated. Antisemitic attacks have increased in recent years. The connections between white nationalists and Republicans are ties that bind.

When you vote this year, ask yourself where Donald Trump is leading Republicans. Then ask yourself: Do you want to go there?

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(porter) A Voting Decision

This essay was posted on 10/20/22.

The economy and inflation appear to be the hot buttons in this year’s election, but politicians and the news media have side-stepped a crucial reason for inflation until US Representative (D-CA) Katie Porter explained it in a recent hearing. The key reason for inflation is corporate profits that are at a record high level of 53% of the cost of goods purchased by Americans. A normal percentage is 11%. But inflation isn’t the only factor in my voting decision this year.

The Jan 6 insurrection plotted and incited by Donald Trump and his inner circle is a key factor in my voting decision. The peaceful transfer of power and trust in the election process are cornerstones to our democratic traditions and Republicans are flushing them down a toilet.

Global warming is an existential threat for reasons more serious than rising sea levels and destructive storms. Global warming threatens livelihoods all over this crowded planet and will surely create an uncontrollable war. Republicans obstruct efforts to fix this problem.

The war in Ukraine must be won, because Vladimir Putin will not stop after a victory in Ukraine. Eastern Europe will be next. And China will understand that Taiwan and other countries can be taken without consequences from the West. Too many Republicans do not see the urgency.

Jan 6, global warming, and Ukraine all override the US economy and inflation in the long run. That’s why I am voting for Democrats this November.

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(reich) The Cause of Inflation

This essay was posted on 10/15/22.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will raise interest rates until inflation comes down. Republicans and Chairman Powell may be attacking the wrong problem, according to former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

Reich says that large companies, like ExxonMobil and Chevron are raising prices, in this case the price of oil, when their very high profits don’t warrant a price hike. ExxonMobil and Chevron both doubled their profits and are simply price-gouging.

Other large companies are raising prices without any real justification, Reich says. Kimberly-Clark and Proctor & Gamble in paper products raised prices as well as Pepsi and Coca Cola in the beverage industry all raised prices without any financial justification.

If these companies raise prices while making huge profits and hold onto their markets, Chairman Powell’s interest rate hikes are of small consequence. The solution to inflation may be imbedded in the reason why these companies can raise prices with immunity.

ExxonMobil and Chevron dominate the US oil market. Between them, they control 59% of the oil sold by the top 10 producers. While they may not have total control of the market, they are the most influential, and they made a combined $29.3 billion. Most of their customers need the oil badly enough to pay the higher price.

Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark also dominate their market. They control 75% of the baby diaper market. They raised their prices in 2021. Based on current birth rates of 12 births per 1000 people, the US will have 3.8 million babies this year and the demand for diapers will increase.

Robert Reich’s assessment of inflation makes the most sense. When two or more companies dominate a market that is in high demand, then they can control the price. Chairman Powell may need to look for better tools to reel in inflation.

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(venezuela) The Venezuela Problem

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 10/7/22.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis probably violated Federal and Florida law by sending mostly Venezuelan asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. The Martha’s Vineyard citizens fully supported the immigrants. They took good care of them and didn’t even seem to care that there were so many Venezuelans.

Problems in Venezuela have led to nearly 6 million refugees and migrants out of a population of over 28 million. The 6 million expatriates are going to neighboring South American countries, and many are finding themselves at the US border.

The reasons for leaving Venezuela are complicated. The main reason is the dysfunctional government that can’t control a failing economy and an increased level of violence, but weather changes are a growing factor.

The consequence of increasing temperatures and declining rainfall is chronic drought that makes farming more difficult, hydroelectric generation less reliable, and coastal flooding from rising sea levels. The weather-related problems make the political and social problems much worse, so many Venezuelans are becoming refugees.

A problem for the refugees is finding a place to land. Many of the neighboring countries also have severe droughts and similar societal pressures that the Venezuelans are facing. The Venezuelans heading north end up in the US, but the US has its own weather problems.

Global warming is truly global, but the major greenhouse gas emitters are few: the US, China, and the combined European Union countries. The largest per capita emitters are the US and Russia. The way to keep Venezuelans in Venezuela is to reduce global warming by converting to renewable energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. That will take decades to complete. In the meantime, we need to look at the immigration problem as something that will not go away.

First, we need to find a way to accommodate asylum seekers, because simply sending them back to Venezuela is not working. Second, we need to help the failing countries do a better job of stabilizing their economies and their societies, and the help must come with conditions, including the establishment of a true, democratic government.

We must recognize that global weather and food insecurity are our problem too. If we ignore them, the people of the world will flood to our doors, because they have no other place to go.

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(think) One Person, One Vote Part Two

This essay was posted on 9/29/22.

If computer-driven gerrymandering is so successful, can computer-driven redistricting work to reverse gerrymandering? Maybe.

An alternative method is a computer-driven process that depends on nonpartisan demographic information such as population centers and racial or ethnic groupings. The model, starting with population centers, differentiates between urban-based districts and rural based districts. Because urban centers tend to be more liberal than rural areas, the population model appears to address the problem of diluting an urban area among multiple rural districts. Voters prefer the non-partisan population center approach, but redistricting, by itself won’t fix the underlying problem that voting habits are too predictable.

Predictable voters are carefully honed by the two major political parties. At least three factors use bad messaging to shape modern voting habits. First, wedge issues like abortion and gay rights tend to overshadow other, equally important issues. Second, attack politics focuses on the other candidate at the expense of the real issues. Finally, the influx of too much cash from anonymous donors feeds the dysfunctional political messaging.

Fixing the messaging problem is never easy. Stopping the political ads is almost impossible and most likely unconstitutional. The only way to fix the problem is to fix ourselves. While wedge issues are important, they are not the only problem. The climate crisis is real, but it won’t be addressed by focusing on a wedge issue. Most attack ads are full of hyperbole, and many are simply dishonest. Judge a candidate on what you see, not by the gossip you hear.

Bottom line: We need to think for ourselves and not let others think for us. If we look at both sides of the story, maybe we will surprise ourselves and become less predictable. And our vote will not be owned by a self-serving politician.

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(onevote) One Person, One Vote Part One

This essay was posted on 9/22/22.

This gerrymander journey begins with Nick Seabrook’s book One Person, One Vote. The book establishes a persistent tradition of gerrymandering legislative districts in the US from the 19th century to the present time with a brief interlude in the 1960’s when a liberal Supreme Court tried to intervene. The modern version of gerrymandering uses election data and max-min algorithms on computers to create favorable legislative districts. With the right tools, modern politicians are very good at gerrymandering.

Modern voters are trying to take redistricting responsibilities away from politicians by forming redistricting commissions. 15 states have full-functioning commissions and there are a few advisory-only commissions.

Redistricting commissions try to form legislative districts that are compact and approximately the same size. They avoid gerrymandering tricks and base their planning on public input and population data. In the Virginia redistricting law, the legislature votes on the redistricting plan on an up or down vote without amendments. If the commission and the legislature can’t agree, the State Supreme Court decides. What could go wrong?

Redistricting commissions are not immune to political interference. Politicians can still run their algorithms offline, and they can interject preferences to the commissions. Some commissions have both pollical and non-political members, and the politicians will vote for redistricting options that match their party goals. Politicians can also share their preferences with like-minded voters who then present the political preferences to the commission as their own. Redistricting commissions can moderate gerrymandering, but politicians are not going away without a fight.

Is the goal of one person, one vote achievable? More to come.

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(lgbt) The Freedom Holiday Lesson

This essay was posted on 9/12/22.

A number of people protested an online lesson about gender identity featured on the Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education (MOOSE) website. The lesson is aimed at young elementary students, including kindergarten.

The Maine Department of Education and Governor Janet Mills agreed that the material was not suited for kindergarten, so they removed the video. Nevertheless, the Republican Party is playing an ad implying that Maine is teaching its students about sex instead of basic reading, writing and arithmetic.

The MOOSE website doesn’t cover basic studies, but provides additional material meant to fill out a student’s knowledge. An assortment of areas is covered including; nature, environment, community, culture, life, etc.

The political ad left out important facts about the deleted lesson, which is one in a series dealing with freedom holidays including Independence Day, Juneteenth, and Women’s Equality Day. The deleted lesson covers the freedom to be LGBT+. The lesson explains what it means to be LGBT+ and, asserts that, despite a 2014 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriages, the LGBT+ community is not free.

The teaching community should respond honestly to students of all ages when they ask why another student’s parents are both men, and the response should support the 2014 Supreme Court ruling. Otherwise, the student and the parents will not enjoy the freedom they deserve.

The LGBT+ lesson’s assertion that a doctor might make a mistake in assigning gender identity is bothersome. Doctors use the only evidence available to them. But, removing the lesson is extreme. Some age-neutral editing would be a better solution.

The world is changing rapidly. Children of same-sex couples are coming to schools, and children are openly experimenting with their sexuality in all grade levels. Children, even in kindergarten, are much more aware than we might imagine.

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(delusion) Donald Trump's Reality

This essay was posted on 9/4/22.

Donald Trump has lost touch with the real world, if you connect some of the dots.

Let’s start with Trump’s second impeachment trial in Feb, 2021. Trump’s team of lawyers asserted that Trump could not be removed from office, because he was a private citizen after losing the 2020 election. Trump’s legal case is spurious, but the case itself is not important here. The important issue: Trump’s case depended on the accurate claim that he lost the election and was no longer President.

Fast forward to the classified document case and Trump’s request to have a special master review the stash of government documents. Trump’s team argued that Trump still has complete control over his documents. In their 36-page brief, the DOJ lawyers argued that Donald Trump lost his control over the documents when he became a private citizen. Search for ‘Armstrong’ in the DOJ brief for the details.

In a strange way, Trump’s claim that he still has control over the documents is reasonable if you believe he is still President, or at least deserves a do-over election. First, Trump claimed that the 2020 election contained millions of fraudulent ballots, and now he claims that the FBI and DOJ hid crucial evidence that would have enabled his victory. Trump still thinks and acts like he is President.

Donald Trump cannot be a private citizen for the impeachment trial and then be President for the classified document case, unless he is off his rocker or desperate.

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(freedom2) Freedom House Part Two

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 8/29/22.

From 2016 when the Freedom House adopted the current scoring method until now, US freedom declined from a score of 90/100 to 83/100. The decline started earlier. Freedom has been declining since George W Bush won the Presidency in 2000. During this decline, a sharply divided Congress was unable or unwilling to stem the steady loss of our freedoms. How are we, as a country, going to repair our political ills?

If the 25 criteria in the Freedom House analysis is the arch that holds democracy together, then the criteria representing the election process comprise the keystone that holds up the arch. The first step is to fix the problems in the election process. Freedom House identifies 4 problems; the electoral college; the counting and approval process, gerrymandering, and voter suppression. A 5th problem not specifically covered in the election process section is partisanship in the administration of elections.

Over the course of our country’s history, every political party has been guilty of rigging our elections one way or another, but right now, today the burden is on the Republican Party. They are caught in the dilemma of a changing demography in the US coupled with political views not in line with the Republican Party.

Republican politicians are disconnected from the public with abortion (61% approval), renewable energy (over 80% approval), LGBTQ in schools (60% approve teaching LGBTQ in schools), racial inequality taught in schools (62% favor some or a lot). With the electorate becoming more disenchanted with Republican talking points, politicians must choose between changing themselves or changing the electorate.

Our election process will not be fixed until we have an undivided Congress, and the only path is a voter revolution in which enough sitting Republicans are replaced by Democrats at the state and federal level so that the Freedom House issues can be resolved. Enough Democrats, but not so many that Democrats begin to think about 1-party rule, like the current batch of Republican radicals.

If the election process can return to a freer and fairer election system with more accountable politicians, then many of the other issues identified in the Freedom House report will take care of themselves.

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(freedom1) Freedom House Part One

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 8/22/22.

Can Democracy Work? By James Miller describes the evolving definition of Democracy. At its simplest level, democracy implies that the people rule, unlike aristocracy in which the elite rule. But the lessons of history show that democracy is more than just about ruling.

Miller takes us through the struggles with democracy in ancient Greece and in the 18th, 19th, and 20th century revolutions inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s concept of the general will. The concept of democracy evolved into the 20th century, ending with an approach very different from the democracy of America’s founders or France’s revolutionists.

Miller’s final chapter concludes that modern democracy is more about effectiveness than form. A representation of this concept is found in Freedom House, a US government funded non-profit dedicated “to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.” Freedom House rates over 200 countries and territories on their adherence to the principles of democracy according to 25 criteria.

The criteria are divided into 2 parts. The first part uses 10 criteria to measure a country’s effectiveness in maintaining the political rights of the people through free and fair elections. The second part uses 15 criteria to measure a country’s effectiveness in maintaining the civil liberties of individuals.

Each criterion is rated from 0 to 4. A country’s score is the sum of the 25 criteria and can range from 0 to 100, where 100 is the most democratic and 0 is the least democratic. In the 2022 ratings, the Scandinavian Constitutional Monarchies of Finland, Norway, and Sweden received top ratings of 100. Three countries, with three different styles of government, South Sudan, Syria, and Tibet received a bottom score of 1, indicating a non-free state.

The US had a score of 83, tied with Panama, Romania, Samoa, and South Korea for 59th place. 4 of the 5 countries have some form of a constitutional republic. Surprisingly, the US, the birthplace of modern democracy, is the 59th most democratic country, and the US rating has declined in recent years.

An analysis of Freedom House reports offers an opportunity to make our country and our individual freedoms more secure. More in Part Two.

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(article5) Amending the Constitution

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 8/12/22.

Beware of the Constitutional Convention pushed by two conservative groups, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wants to amend the US Constitution by adding very conservative amendments. ALEC proposes giving states the right to repeal a federal law or regulation if two-thirds of the state legislatures vote to do so. ALEC also proposes that the federal budget must be balanced. And there are other amendments. A liberal group, Wolf-PAC proposes an amendment to reform campaign-finance laws.

Proposing a Constitutional Amendment through the legislative process takes the consent of two-thirds membership from both houses. With a deadlocked Congress, creating a radical Constitutional Amendment without support from both parties is impossible. The whole country is deeply divided, so why are the conservatives pushing for a Constitutional Convention?

With the Constitutional Convention process, the numbers favor conservatives. The ground-rules for a convention are not set in the Constitution, so they are an unknown element. If the convention gives each state one vote, then passage of the Republican amendments would be likely. Republicans control the legislatures in 30 states.

There is still the ratification process that requires three-fourths of the state legislatures to ratify amendment proposals. Republicans believe they can flip enough states to ratify the amendments in time, or they might declare the amendments law without ratification. The future is unpredictable.

Set aside the relative pros and cons of the new amendments. The assumption that Congress is hopelessly deadlocked is a red herring. Congress overwhelmingly voted for aid to Ukraine and for the addition of Sweden and Finland to NATO. Congress can come together on bipartisan issues that are also good for the whole country. These same criteria should be applied to any new Constitutional amendment.

Conservatives know their amendments are highly partisan, so they are using the Constitutional Convention process to bypass the legislature, which will not provide the necessary two-thirds support. The new amendments from both sides of the aisle are highly partisan, and too partisan to be enshrined in the Constitution for the foreseeable future.

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(lion) Lions and People

This essay was posted on 8/4/22.

The Last Lions of Africa by Anthony Ham tells stories about lions and people dealing with each other in Africa. The stories tell about how Africans are trying to keep lions from disappearing while they also want the human population to be safe.

Two of the stories relate the experiences of former lion killers, who use their skills to keep lions in conservation areas alive. The stories tell a lot about the strange and strained bond between Africans and African lions.

While the efforts to make lions and people coexist are having some successes, the problems of a growing human population show how fruitless this task can be. If current population trends continue, lions will lose their hunting territories and disappear from the wild.

Killing off alpha predators is a pattern with humans. In his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Harari comments that humans tend to exterminate the alpha predator everywhere they go. Lions in Africa and tigers in India have no special pass on extinction in the wild.

Lions are the canaries warning of the danger caused by too many humans, and they are joined by other canaries. Bees are disappearing. Birds are less numerous. Butterflies are not common. Coral reefs are threatened. The oceans are warming. Whales are endangered. All of these canaries are pointing to the same problem: Too many humans.

Mass extinctions are not new to earth. There have been five of them. The earth always recovers, and recoveries always bring major changes. But none of the mass extinctions was caused by a species that should have known better. Maybe we have time to fix all of these problems, if we live up to our name, ‘a wise man’.

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(originalism) The Originalism Problem

This essay was posted on 7/25/22 and appeared in the Portland Press Herald on 8/1/22.

The Supreme Court worships originalism now, and the court is making bad decisions. Originalism isn’t bad. It simply states that the Constitution should be interpreted literally and as the founders intended. While the concept sounds reasonable, originalism should not be the only determining factor in legal decisions. The law is too complex.

Take murder, for example. Murder is illegal unless there are extenuating circumstances. You cannot kill your neighbor unless your neighbor tries to kill you. Self-defense turns a murder into a justifiable homicide.

Extenuating circumstances are important in recent cases involving pregnancy and the abortion ban in many states. One circumstance is an ectopic pregnancy. If the baby is not aborted the pregnant woman will almost certainly bleed to death. In another circumstance a pregnant woman’s water broke 16 weeks into her pregnancy. She was forced to go through a long child birth to deliver a nonviable fetus. In both instances, the anti-abortion laws do not recognize extenuating circumstances. These women cannot defend themselves against failed pregnancies.

The Supreme Court decision fails, not because abortion is right or wrong. The decision fails because it depends on the false presumptions that human rights must be absolute and derived from the Constitution. Rights are always subject to limitations and depend on situational rules. And rights don’t need Constitutional affirmation to be allowed. The Ninth Amendment acknowledges that other, undefined rights are also protected.

Originalism, by itself, hinders our struggle to form a more perfect union.

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(rhodes) Connecting the Dots

This essay was posted on 7/18/22.

The Jan 6 hearings brought out two apparently disparate events that have not received the attention they merit.

The first event involved Oath Keepers militia leader Stewart Rhodes. Former Oath Keepers spokesman Jason Van Tatenhove was asked about when Rhodes ‘publicly implored’ Donald Trump to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act and call up the Oath Keepers as a militia. Rhodes turned the false claim of election rigging into a rebellion. Van Tatenhove said that Rhodes was spoiling for an armed revolution. Rhodes was apparently prepared and ready to support Trump. He brought weapons and tactical gear to the Washington area just in case.

The second event involved Donald Trump. White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson described a tense altercation between Trump and his Secret Service protectors. Trump apparently wanted to fulfill the promise in his speech to join the crowd in their march to the Capitol. Hutchinson said that the Secret Service agents refused Trump’s order, and Trump went into a rage. The Secret Service denied that the event happened, but a police officer corroborated Hutchinson’s testimony. While Hutchinson’s account might have gotten some of the details wrong, the altercation was real.

I connect the dots with the simple question: Why was Trump so irate because he wasn’t taken to the Capitol? Maybe Trump wanted to enable the Oath Keepers to hunt down so-called rebel Democrats and Mike Pence. Maybe the Oath Keepers could create enough chaos to delay the election process and justify martial law. Maybe the Secret Service unwittingly quelled a rebellion.

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(elections) The Power over Elections

This essay was posted on 7/11/22.

A group of prominent Pennsylvania Republicans are throwing their support to the Democratic candidate for Governor this year. These Republicans prefer a moderate Democrat they can work with over the Republican candidate that supports Donald Trump, but the stakes may be a lot higher.

The Supreme Court has decided to hear a case to determine if the North Carolina legislature has the power to override its own Supreme Court in matters related to elections. Normally, the State Supreme Court can kill a law by finding it unconstitutional. The case going before the Supreme Court could remove the State Court’s power over election matters and give the state legislature total control over election issues. This ruling could apply to other states as well.

MSNBC Commentator Lawrence O’Donnell strongly suggested that the Pennsylvania Republicans were worried that an unchecked partisan legislature would, in effect, choose the winner of an election, regardless of the actual outcome.

Eight states have already shifted some election powers to legislatures, effectively increasing partisan influence over elections. Many states are poised to quickly take advantage of a Supreme Court ruling favorable to partisan legislatures.

The Supreme Court will probably rule for the state legislature in this case. The Supreme Court could easily have refused to hear the case on the grounds that state elections are controlled by the states, but they accepted the case, instead. I expect that the conservative block on the Supreme Court plans to rule in favor of the state legislatures.

The courts might not be the only problem. The Supreme Court could also make state legislatures veto-proof in election-related laws. A governor might not have the power the control the legislature in election matters.

The integrity of our elections could be shredded by an unwise Supreme Court ruling.

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(epa) The Politicized Supreme Court

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 7/3/22.

The Supreme Court ruling that limited the EPA’s power to regulate the greenhouse emissions of US electric generators is a classic case of judicial overreach by the conservative majority. The culprit in this case is the so-called Major Questions Doctrine.

The Major Questions Doctrine says that Congress cannot delegate its authority on issues of “vast economic or political significance.” In plain English, the Major Questions Doctrine says that the EPA cannot make regulations of vast economic or political significance without specific guidance from Congress. But there are some serious questions about the doctrine.

To start, the doctrine is a legal theory not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution but created by conservative originalists in an effort to dampen the impact of government regulations on corporate income. The doctrine is just a theory, and it has flaws.

The first flaw lies in the Supreme Court’s lack of expertise in science and economics. The Court’s implication that the EPA regulation of electric generators as having vast economic and political significance does not consider the significant impact of not regulating the electric generating companies. The lack of regulation will throttle the transition to renewable energy and thereby create bigger hurricanes, hotter weather, more flooding, more destructive tornadoes, and more refugees from the South seeking a cooler climate. Many more people would be impacted by the lack of regulation than by the regulation. The Court’s ruling only makes power executives richer.

The second flaw is about an appropriate level of power exercised by the Supreme Court. In this case, the Court presumes that there is an imbalance of power between the other two branches of government that needs fixing. The responsibility for fixing power issues between Congress and the Executive branch is not the business of the Supreme Court, which is only a coequal branch. The Constitution clearly sets methods in each branch of government to take care of its own house. When the Court interferes, it politicizes the law.

The result of court packing done by Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump is a Supreme Court that cares too much about political ideology than the rule of law. The only reasonable way forward is to unpack the Supreme Court by adding three new Justices and by invoking term limits on the Justices.

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(pence2) Mike Pence's Choice

This essay was posted on 6/23/22.

Donald Trump wanted Mike Pence to save Trump’s Presidency by breaking the rules. He wanted Mike Pence to choose alternate electors with improper certifications on the Jan 6 Electoral College count In Congress. Mike Pence had other ideas. Experts not aligned with Donald Trump advised Pence to ignore the alternate electors because they are illegal. Mike Pence had no choice, if he wanted to follow the law. At least that is what seems to be the case.

The National Archivist received alternate slates of electors from seven states. The archivist did not include the alternate slates for the Jan 6 count, but alerted State authorities, instead. Arizona and Michigan reported receiving the documents from the National Archives. The other states would have followed the same pattern.

Senator Ron Johnson’s Chief of Staff alerted the Pence team that Johnson wanted to deliver slates of electors from Wisconsin and Michigan, because they were not delivered to the National Archivist, he said. The move by Johnson’s team would have avoided the National Archives. The Pence team declined the offer.

Mike Pence was not handed any alternate slates during the Jan 6 count. Pence had no choice, because he didn’t have the opportunity to choose.

Mike Pence could have testified before the Jan 6 Committee, but he chose not to. Instead, he is busy preparing a run for the White House in 2024. I wonder, if Pence were actually given a choice on Jan 6, what would he have done?

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(giuliani) Consequences of the Big Lie

This essay was posted on 6/17/22.

Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Fox News are all accused of defaming Dominion Voting Systems, maker of the Dominion voting machines. Giuliani, Powell, and Fox News played key roles in the propaganda campaign that followed the 2020 election. Giuliani, et al tried to instill the false idea that Donald Trump actually won the election. A big part of their narrative was a series of preposterous claims that the Dominion voting machines cheated to the tune of a few million votes, and they ignore election checks and balances and the multi-party oversight of voting and counting.

The propaganda campaign failed to keep Trump in power, but the relentless attacks on the 2020 election are beginning to bear fruit. In New Mexico Republican election officers refused to certify a county election over unproven Dominion voting machines. A primary candidate in Kentucky who lost by 36 percentage points wants a recount because she wants to check the voting machines. A Nevada Gubernatorial candidate refuses to concede while trailing by 11 points and talks of claiming voter fraud if he loses.

Except for the Trump faithful, the accuracy of the Dominion machines is not a real issue. Dominion has active defamation claims against Giuliani, Powell, and Fox News. The Fox News trial is scheduled for April 2023, after the 2022 elections.

Even outlandish lies can become real when repeated often enough, and the effectiveness of propaganda methods are working very well for Trump, so well that the facts laid out in the public Jan 6 hearings might not penetrate the propaganda fog.

One last note: I can’t determine whether the three instances of voter machine paranoia are consequences of the propaganda campaign or orchestrated events designed to keep the voter machine paranoia active. Today, the truth is never clear.

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(s2992) Innovating Technology

This essay was posted on 6/9/22.

Large companies often have modest beginnings. Apple Inc. started with two techies and a new idea. Microsoft Inc. started when two techies adapted the BASIC computer language to a personal computer. These modest beginnings grew into two of the most influential companies in the tech industry today.

The American innovation and Choice Online Act (S.2992) is a bipartisan effort in Congress designed to address the tech market dominance by Microsoft, Google, Amazon and others. The bill gives small tech companies a better chance to compete against the big companies.

The tech giants must be nervous, because there is an aggressive ad campaign full of scary hypotheticals meant to frighten the average citizen and meant to provide a politically safe reason for a Senator to vote against the bill. Past history seems to indicate that the big companies already know how to maintain a grip on their market share, even when faced with difficult regulations.

In the 1990’s Microsoft Explorer was competing with Netscape for market share. In 1996, Netscape was the dominant browser. Four years later MS Explorer was the king. For some reason, Microsoft inserted some non-standard features in their version of JavaScript, a common browser language, and web developers learned these features in training sessions. Netscape used a different version of JavaScript, so web pages developed by Microsoft-trained developers often failed in Netscape. I imagine that intermittent glitches on Netscape may have soured users on the once popular browser.

Bills like S.2992 will foster some change in the tech industry, and some new innovations will be made. But in the end, the big companies will probably find a way to stay big.

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(perjury) The Michael Sussmann Case

This essay was posted on 6/1/22.

Michael Sussmann, a lawyer formerly representing Hillary Clinton, was found not guilty of a perjury charge filed by Trump-appointed Special Counsel John Durham, ending a long legal fiasco.

The story starts when Michael Sussmann reported to former FBI General Counsel James Baker that he had computer data showing a possible back-channel between the Trump campaign and Russia. Durham indicted Sussmann for perjury and included so-called factual background information about the case. Sussmann’s information did not lead to any significant finding by the FBI.

Right-wing conspiracy theorists ran with the so-called factual information in the Sussmann indictment and claimed the Clinton campaign tried to infiltrate Trump Tower. Trump ranted that the Clinton campaign tried to fabricate a link between his campaign and Russia. Trump claimed that this scandal was bigger than Watergate.

The reporting of the trial exposed the smoke and mirrors. Durham’s perjury charge was not about Trump’s alleged nefarious links. Durham only charged that Sussmann lied when he asserted that he brought the information to the FBI as a private citizen and not as a representative of the Clinton Campaign. The perjury charge had absolutely nothing to do with the supposed factual background information that Durham felt obligated to reveal.

False right-wing conspiracy theories are nothing to laugh at. Just last week I received a tweet proclaiming that the allegations against Michael Sussmann proved Trump’s innocence. Now we learn that the allegations against Sussmann prove nothing, not even Durham’s charge of perjury.

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(trail) Trail of Hate

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 5/19/22.

All of the following quotes and excerpts, with one exception, are examples of the most sinister lie, a lie that uses exaggerated facts to instill fear and induce violent behavior.

“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists… People are flowing through. Drugs are coming across. Flowing across. We’ll make our borders twice as strong.”
--- Donald Trump 2016 campaign speech

"I think this will be the last election if I don't win. I think this will be the last election that the Republicans have a chance of winning because you're going to have people flowing across the border, you're going to have illegal immigrants coming in and they're going to be legalized and they're going to be able to vote and once that all happens you can forget it. You're not going to have one Republican vote. …"
--- Donald Trump, 2016 interview with David Brody

‘The Jews will not replace us.”
--- Chanted by white supremacists at a rally in Charlottesville, VA, August, 2017.

“Try to impeach [Trump]. Just try it. You will have a spasm of violence in the country. An insurrection like you've never seen. Both sides are heavily armed, my friend. Yes, absolutely. This is not 1974. These people will not stand for impeachment. A politician who votes for it would be endangering their own lives. I’m not advocating violence, but I’m predicting it.”
--- Roger Stone interview.

“The left, not only the gatekeepers on Twitter – become hysterical when you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. They’re trying to change the population of the United States. .. Our country is being invaded by the rest of the world. The country is being stolen from the American people.”
--- Tucker Carlson on Fox News, May, 2022.

To top it off, they want to grant amnesty and a path to citizenship to 8 million illegal aliens. Yes, there is definitely a replacement theory that’s going on right now. We are killing American jobs and bringing in illegal aliens from all over the world to replace the Americans who will not comply with the tyrannical orders that are coming down from the White House.
--- House Rep. Lauren Boebert, May, 2022

On 5 December, he wrote, “I will carry out an attack against the replacers, and will even livestream the attack.”
According to his messages, many of which were featured on the platform Discord, Gendron identified Buffalo’s Tops grocery store as “attack area 1” due to its proximity to a predominantly Black neighborhood. He also identified two other locations in Buffalo as places to “shoot all blacks.”
--- Payton Gendron, Buffalo shooting suspect

My father was Doctor William Pierce. He was considered the most dangerous and influential white supremacist or neo-Nazi in North America over a 30-year period. He was physically and emotion ally abusive from the time I was probably 2 years old. He was also the author of the book The Turner Diaries where a white nationalist overthrow of the US government happens. There were a lot of parallels in that book and what happened on January 6. Hate is a disease. Hate is a mental disease. It’s the product of a deluded mind. I would offer that there’s an alternative. There’s a different choice that you can make. We all have a choice.
--- Kelvin Pierce, YouTube video, Jan 4, 2022

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(ninth) The 9th Amendment

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 5/9/22.

Justice Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court draft opinion arguing for overturning Roe V Wade was leaked. While the leaked document is subject to changes, it foreshadows a historic vote and has led to protests across the country. In the end, someone’s version of the law will prevail. I can’t guess whose version that might be.

In 1973, the Supreme Court established the right to have an abortion in a 7-2 decision. The decision argued that the 14th Amendment’s protection of an individual’s right to privacy and protection against prosecution without due process made prosecution of an abortion case unconstitutional, presumably because the Texas law in question would invade individual privacy and deny due process, in the court’s opinion. The 1973 ruling was more about striking down the anti-abortion law than in creating an abortion right.

Justice Alito claims that the 14th Amendment’s statements about life, liberty, and property are too abstract to be construed as applying to the right to an abortion. Alito claims that a right not specifically identified in the Constitution must be established by historical usage and practices. He claims that abortion doesn’t qualify as a right, based on historical practices.

Alito’s claims lead to the 9th Amendment:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

The 9th Amendment has been largely ignored, possibly because lawyers have overcomplicated it. To me, a simple, direct interpretation of the text says a lot. The amendment says that any potential right should not be denied simply because it is not specifically identified in the Constitution, and any potential right should be given the same respect as the listed rights. The denial of a right, therefore, can only be made based on the rules in the Constitution, as is the case in the 1973 decision.

Justice Alito could argue that, under the current environment with publicly accessible abortion clinics, that the privacy and due process rules no longer apply. True. But the environment would change if abortion is made a crime. Alito’s argument misses the legal points that the 9th Amendment requires.

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(nukes2) Disposing Nukes

This essay was posted on 4/29/22.

Absent a treaty, Western countries won’t step in with troops to help Ukraine defeat the Russians because nobody wants to start WW III – except Russia. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia gives the world a clear message that Russia puts expansion ahead of world peace. So, the US and its allies provide help to Ukraine in the form of military equipment. The additional equipment is making a difference, because Ukraine soldiers are inflicting heavy damages on the Russian army and are holding the line on significant Russian advances. Putin responds by threatening to inflict nuclear warheads on the Western powers.

The NATO countries helping Ukraine are in a quandary. Putin’s invasion must be defeated, but the prospects of a nuclear war make it hard to calibrate just how much help is prudent. Putin has a similar problem. Nuclear saber-rattling is not deterring Western arms suppliers, and Russian forces are stalled. Putin may need a nuclear weapon to force a victory in Ukraine. He wants to win in Ukraine, but not at the expense of having his lavish palace on the Black Sea vaporized in a nuclear retaliation. Both sides have their own catch-22.

The threat of a nuclear war makes the Ukraine war too dangerous. We must abolish nuclear weapons if we do not want another nuclear showdown in the future. The disposal effort should be managed by all nuclear powers under the control of the UN.

Disposing all nuclear weapons seems like an impossible task. There will always be trust issues and the threat of a rogue state secretly making a bomb will continue. But the Ukraine crisis shows we have no choice if we want a stable future.

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(carbon2) Declining Carbon Emissions

This essay was posted on 4/21/22.

Since 2005, carbon emissions in the US have decreased by about 12%. Since 2005, the US has decreased carbon emissions more than any other country. But achieving President Biden’s goal of 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 will require changes that the country may not be prepared to make, even though a 65% majority of Americans want a better plan from Washington.

How did we get here? 2005, at the beginning of George Bush’s second term is an interesting starting point because carbon reductions didn’t kick in until at least 2007. Since then, most of the reductions come from savings in electric generation; from renewables and mostly from windmills and from a switch from coal-fired electric generation to natural gas.

There was a big carbon emission dip in 2020 because the economy shut down over COVID, but there was a subsequent rebound in 2021. The primary reason for the bump was a shift from natural gas back to coal in electric generation, because of higher gas prices.

Now we are in a place where a significant chunk of President Biden’s carbon reduction initiative lies on the Senate floor because two Democrats sided with Republicans. Washington DC does not have a historically consistent energy policy. Carbon reduction leadership belongs to a few states.

13 states have initiated 100% clean energy policies and many municipalities and counties throughout the country have done the same. Most of the credit for US progress belongs to the states and municipalities. It is now long past the time for Washington to stop playing partisan politics with carbon emissions.

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(geese) Geese in the Spring

This essay was posted on 4/13/22.

Early this morning, I heard honking geese, a sign that spring is here and summer is coming. At first, I picked up a honk in the background noise. Just one honk, then I heard the sound of wings flapping in the air.

When I walked through the garage, I heard more honking. When I went out in the morning drizzle to pick up the paper, the honking grew louder. I looked down the street in the direction of the noise. In the distance two big birds were flapping their wings as they strutted around discussing what to do.

They saw me. The next moment, the two geese jumped into the air and flew in my direction, honking in unison, the same way they sailed through the drizzle. They flew over me, just twenty feet away and soared off and to the left in perfect formation. They shouted, “Spring is here. Spring is here.” At least it sounded like that.

Once almost extinct, Canada Geese are now abundant enough to be a problem in some parts of Canada and the US, thanks to the efforts of conservationists and government policy. When we fix the problem of too many geese, we need to do it so they stick around. Geese in the spring are too important to lose.

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(spending) The COVID Spending Package

This essay was posted on 4/5/22.

Republicans and Democrats finally reached an agreement on the COVID spending package. We need the spending package now, because current funding will run out before the pandemic runs down. I would be happier if the package were closer to the $20 Billion requested by President Biden.

The bottleneck in the COVID package was with Senate Republicans who wanted offsetting cuts to other programs as a way to keep spending under control. Initially, Democrats objected to offsetting cuts in other COVID programs.

The new $10 Billion package is entirely offset by spending cuts agreed to by both parties. I hope this passes soon, because the pandemic is still an ongoing problem. The US has experienced a steady 32,000 daily case rate for the last three weeks. Over the same period COVID-related deaths have been around 700 reported deaths each day. On an annualized basis, the current daily rates project to 11 million new cases and 250,000 deaths. The pandemic may not be in the news, but it is not over.

Republicans exaggerate fiscal problems. A small increase in debt won’t bankrupt the largest economy in the world, and the inflation problem is caused not by spending but by the pressures of COVID and the Ukraine war. Current inflation issues are widespread over many countries, including the US.

I am not advocating fiscal irresponsibility. Government expenses should more or less match income, but holding expenses down to the current income level is only one way to maintain a balance. Raising taxes is another way.

Raising taxes is anathema to Republicans. It seems that holding the line on taxes is more important to Republicans than keeping people safe from COVID.