Monday, March 19, 2018

GOP said to consider a complicated Internet sales tax that would burden small retailers with compliance costs

Jessica Melugin writes, on Foundation for Economic Education, that some in the GOP are pushing for a full Internet sales tax where the state in which the consumer lives has a right to collect the tax or share it with the tending state.
Big retailers support the tax because it would be costly for small Internet business to comply with them. Retailers might pay Amazon to do the tax, or possibly a system would be developed that would allocated the taxes properly through a portal.
This could be a problem for authors of self-published books who try to sell the books online themselves (as many do); likewise for some independent filmmakers. 
The overall tone of the tax is anti-competitive and tends to favor existing big business power structures.  Think about it in the way Hollywood wants to attack Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor (main blog today).

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Why the Second Amendment remains so sacrosanct in the U.S,

Here are a few more stories of relevance on the gun debate.

In the Sunday Washington Post there is a long story (“Primed to Fight the Government”) by Kevin Sullivan about the Second Amendment, doomsday preppers, and “the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard”, bordering on sovereign citizens, link here
In Ohio, a student winds up with a suspension notice when he stay in his classroom instead of going aon a walkout which the school says was a memorial service for the Parkland victims.  The student did not want to be forced into political speech on either side of the gun control issue after a tragedy, Washington Post story by Marwa Eltagouri here
David T. Jones has an interesting perspective on gun control in the Epoch Times, mentioning an ideological case for repealing the Second Amendment on more modern moral grounds, on the theory that individuals should not own weapons of personal destruction. 
Then Robert Leonard weighs in on the New York Times, “Why gun culture is so strong in rural America.  It’s personal responsibility.  It’s not guns, it’s just the gunmen. Of course, is it "personal responsibility" for the victims, in an existential sense> 

Monday, March 12, 2018

The demands for action and "revolution" from the radical Left become ever more dangerous: ending "structural racism"

Nils Gilman’s article “The Collapse of Racial Liberalism” in the American Interest comes at you like a warning   It fits perfectly into David Brooks’s “Understanding Student Mobbists

Suddenly ideas of meritocracy and personal responsibility fail, to be replaced by collective reparative justice, tribalism, and expropriation.  This sort of reasoning comes from the “No Spectators” crowd (like in the film “Rebirth”), that demands “take action” from everyone and threatens to try to shut down all the individualists, who refuse to recognize the personal privilege they inherit from "structural racism." 

Golman links to lengthy "The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nahesisi Coates in the Atlantic, June 2014. Note the metaphor of "pirate flags" in Section IX.  He also links to "While I'll Never Apologize for my White Male Privilege" in Time, May, 20014.   I seem to have taken up this subject (the idea of discounting content because of the identity or privilege of the speaker) in my own DADT-III book (Feb. 2014).  But I have always seen this more as a matter or personal rightsizing or "paying your dues" that accountability for belonging to a group with sins of the past to pay for.  
But I used to hear the same from radicals in the early 1970s - like the People's Party of New Jersey. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

NBC4 Health Fair in Washington offers "OneTest" for cancer; vendor unaware of Andraka's work

At the NBC Washington Health Fair today, there was a booth for “One Test”, “a blood test for early detection of multiple cancers”, including liver, lung, colon. Kidney, pancreas, and prostate.

The test looks for certain protein markers and may be given at intervals by physicians.  The test comes from Genesys Biolabs in Rockville, MD.

The people manning the cubicle were not aware of JackAndraka’s mesothelin level pancreatic cancer test.  There wasn’t any information quickly online on the progress of the test in getting approvals and patents, but CNN has a recent story.

There was an ALS booth that was empty and not manned. 

There was also a bariatric chamber on display. 
NBC4 has moved the event from January to March.  

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

The Far-Left uses ostracism to win the culture wars despite losing the political ones in 2016

David Brooks has several recent pieces about millennials in which he seems to touch on Amy Chua’s ideas about tribalism (without mentioning her book by name), but this one is particularly interesting: “How Progressives Win the Culture War” 

Brooks discusse the polarizing public behavior of the Parkland teenagers (David Hogg is charismatic and he isn’t the only one  -- Jack Andraka and Taylor Wilson are similarly charismatic on actual science and accepted truth as if the hardliners on the NRA caused the conservatives to dig in further.  (There is an unbelievable proto-fascist video attributed to NRATV:)

Yet, the left leaning progressives, he says, are winning the culture war and ignoring the political one. 
  They are making it socially unacceptable to even mention certain positions (like race and gender together with biology – Brooks obviously thinks Google should not have fired James Damore) because they keep dangerous possibilities (especially to their own minority groups) in circulation and make it possible that they can come back.

Brooks himself keeps a lot of ideas in circulation by mentioning them occasionally, just like I do.  And Brooks doesn’t seem interested in belonging to a tribe.  Neither do I.
The Left has made it OK to call the president “Poopiepants”.  And Brooks himself calls Trump “a child”.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Trump's autarky (really ex-Bannon's): tariffs and trade wars

Donald Trump has dived into protectionism and threatened to expand it into a trade war.
The Wall Street Journal today in an op-ed (“A Lovely Little Trade War:, explains “autarky” and belittles Trump’s idea “we win, you lose”, because trade isn’t a zero-sum game. Yup, in Trumpland, when you create winners you also create losers and have to take care of them.

Trump is now threatening to tariff European vehicles.

A Facebook friend has unearthed papers saying that tariffs could have caused the Great Depression.
Blomberg points out that the Trump tariffs would affect only 2% of imports but can have a much bigger economic impact.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Supreme Court won't hear lower court "stay" of Trump's DACA cancellation

The US Supreme Court has declined to hear a direct appeal of lower court rulings, where lower courts found Trump’s cancellation of DACA arbitrary and capricious.  That means DOJ appeals have to go through normal appeals court rulings. (NBC story)   Robert Barnes has a more detailed story Monday in the Washington Post. 
The court injunctions protect existing Dreamers from deportations and mean that renewal applications must be considered. But new applications may not be taken.

Dreamers may tend to have more employment problems and need financial and housing community support due to their uncertainty.
Trump has been reported to say that he does not expect to see deportations.
Cato (Alex Nowrasteh) has reported a Texas study that shows that immigrants, including illegal persons, have lower conviction rates for serious crimes that native born Americans, despite wide publicity for some selected incidents. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

"Cowardice" in the sheriff's department in the Broward County shooting, but that only supports the NRA's existentialism (bad training?)

Jake Tapper reports on the growing scandal which started with the fact that an assigned sheriff’s deputy did not enter the school, but that several  (at least three) other deputies did not enter. When Coral Springs police arrived. The story is here

We can rant about personal cowardice (Trump used the word), but indeed this seems to be a case of armed law enforcement not doing its job.

But there are other things to say.  The fact that some people on the right wing feel that they can’t count on police to defend them is one of the drivers of the NRA side of the argument – even the doomsday prepper crowd.  It also raises the question of personal karma – who is willing to become a police officer or firefighter – particularly in volunteer fire departments.

We’ve heard a lot about the idea of arming some teachers, as Trump suggested. That creates a problem if guns in the school some day getting stolen.  It can make it harder for swat teams to respond.  Furthermore, it discourages a lot of people from entering teaching, if they think that the culture has changed to the point that you’re really expected to be able to defend students with weapons.

I did have issues with disciplining a few students when I worked as a sub;  there were few problems in high school (as opposed to middle school) but there was one (with someone very disturbed probably) that contributed to one of my resignations (from one county).  It takes only one incident to have serious consequences.

Should teachers (even subs) be expected to be able to do CPR, defibrillation, and water rescues?  (I declined a special ed assignment one time "on the deep end" of a pool. 
President Trump said teachers will do a better job than police because they love their students so much. Huh?? Really?? 
I have no problems on campuses where there is a policy of allowing weapons with permits, like the University of Texas grad student who discussed the policy on PBS Independent Lens one time. 

Update: Monday, Feb. 26

The attorney for the sheriff's deputy says he thought this was an outside firecracker (NBC News detailed story); Trump says he would have run into the building even without a gun (link). 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Teachers would have to be capable of physically protecting students with their own lives, as the world turns now

Teachers (and that may include unlicensed substitutes in many states) are now being challenged to act as class bodyguards or student shields, as explained in a front page story in the New York Times on Tuesday, February 20, 2018, by Julie Turkewitz.

You can add the fact that teachers need training in first aid, CPR, use of defibrillators, and possibly water and swimming rescues.

And some more extreme people on the right think teachers should be armed (Milo Yiannopoulos, for example).  Maybe some teachers, maybe all.  Teaching would be like military service with bootcamp. I haven’t subbed since 2007, and I have no plans to.  I decided to stop finally on my own, and security was one of the issues on my mind even then.
You would wonder how programs like Teach for America would fare.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Student protests on the lack of gun control set for Saturday, March 24

I was away today in New Jersey for a “business meeting” (more about that later, including an idea of a "social media fairness doctrine"), but I wanted to note the student protests at the White House today as reported by WJLA7 in Washington. 
There will be marches in every city on Saturday, March 24.  The slogan is “Am I next?”
Here is Fareed Zakaria’s take.  Zakaria does point out that there is a correlation between the number of guns per person in a country and deaths from gun violence

But there is also a downside to the argument.  In Europe, where gun laws are stricter, there may be more exposure to systematic terrorism, since it is difficult to keep guns away from committed (often foreign) terrorists or gangs (like MS13).
There is no simple policy solution to the gun problem, as there are so many other risks to be “next” fir,  Hyperindividualism, inequality, and asymmetry are big factors.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

How should individuals take action on "narrow" but compelling issues, as now with gun control?

Ohio governor John Kasich (Republican and a primary candidate in 2016) excoriated Congress for its inability to get anything done about guns (possession of Ar-15’s by civilians), as well as DACA. The CNN link is here.  He spoke to Brian Stelter.

And Donald Trump put out a self-serving tweet his morning, about the FBI’s dropping the ball on earlier reports on the suspect.  Here is one energetic response to Trump’s tweet. 
Let me give a little personal reaction.  Of course, it’s “easiest” for everyone if Congress bans the AR15 and similar military weapons from civilian ownership in most circumstances.  Ohio’s John Kasich says that states may be more responsive than Congress.   Fine.  I wish Clinton’s assault weapons ban had renewed so it wouldn’t be a controversy now.  

But then, people plead, even with me, to join them on one issue.  The problem from my perspective, is that fixing just one issue won’t really fix the problem.  That’s true here.  As offensive as it sounds, some people on the Right don’t have enough confidence in the stability of civilization to think they can do without these weapons.  Call them the doomsday prepper crowd if you like.  Some are friends on Facebook. 
So, I generally won’t join single-issue campaigns under my own name on anything, because I’ve lost my turn for later.  Others may say this is an indirect sign of complacence to elected officials:  you either join us or you’re the enemy.  I come back and say, let’s make sure we don’t have a nuclear war on our soil in the next two years or an EMP attack.  I’ve spent a lot of “speech capital” on those.  Guns alone are far from our only personal and national security issue. How about missile defense that actually works and deters? 
I agree that with too many uncommitted “Me’s” around, it is harder to organize people around any one specific issue in reaction to a specific tragedy or urgent need.  It may be harder to get volunteers when it’s all “you’re on your own” and “suck up” and remain stoic, pay your dues and run your gauntlet when you have to. Remember how the Vietnam era draft used to work? .
But on this gun issue, it’s clear that Congress is intimidated by the NRA lobby – and the NRA museum is maybe 15 miles from where I live, it’s right at 66 and US50.  So you can talk about campaign finance reform – but we say that back in the early 2000’s, with the threat even to blogging, and now it comes full circle with the Russians.

A former Republican congressman David Jolly from Florida offers this warning
Finally, an AR-15 ban just by itself, if reinstalled now, won’t fix a lot. But I wish it hadn’t lapsed.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Conservative media undermine their own positions with graphic coverage of the Florida school shooting today

The media, especially CBS News, has made graphic video and accounts made of the “Columbine-like” event (The Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting)  at the high school in Parkland FL today.  I found the video when it was retweeted by One America News today.
Milo Yiannpoulos also patched together some of the graphic coverage from news accounts 
For a moment, it seemed ironic to me that conservative media sites were showing the innards of gun violence, almost defeating their own arguments against gun control.

This would have been horrific to live through, as the videos show (I won’t embed). 

We are learning that the suspect had an AR-15 assault weapon. We don’t have information on the motive other than that he had been a former student with discipline problems.

President Trump made a lukewarm statement about the event.  How does someone so unstable get assault weapons today?

When I was working as a substitute teacher in northern Virginia 2004-2007, there was less concern about the possibility of incidents like this than there is today. I would not be equipped, as a substitute, to properly handle an emergency like this, go given conditions today it’s a good thing I don’t work in this capacity any longer.
I was in Broward County in November, 2017.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Why did the CIA mess around with Comey regardless of Trump and Hillary?

If you want to get an idea how the CIA sometimes goes fishing, look how Brennan looked into the FBI, Comey, foreign allies, and only then Russia, story in TableMag    This showed up in my Twitter inbox a few minutes ago.

What’s hard to figure is what the ultimate point of all this was.  You might do this if you were looking for proof of aliens (not  the kind stopped by a Wall – extraterrestrial – the good kind).  This seems to have little to do with Donald Trump per se.   Something like this “plot” here in this article happens in my novel as I first drafted it around 2008.  (It’s called “Angel’s Brother”, hope to have it ready by late summer, but might have to travel a lot more.  Don’t overlook Finland.)

Unfortunately Hillary Clinton was careless with her emails, and Anthony Weiner put us all at risk with his sexting.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Libertarian-learning authors urge conservatives to vote Republicans out of office "mechanically" in order to rid GOP of proto-fascism and nativism

Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes have a rather bombastic article in the Atlantic for February, “Boycott the Republican Party”. Then “If conservatives want to save the GOP from itself, they need to vote mindlessly and mechanically against its nominees.”  I thought, there really exists a Mechanicsville, VA (near Richmond). 
The GOP, it argues, is badly infected with the nativism of Trump’s base that put Trump in the White House and that facilitated Russian interference with the whole process, from fake news bots in social media down to possibly trying to interfere with actual voting stations (CNBC story). 
The far Left is bad too, but not an existential threat to democratic processes. 

But it is very difficult to vote “passively” against someone – go to partisanship – if it means extolling the idea of lessening personal responsibility under the cover of claims of group oppression or “intersectionality”.  But I think a lot of conservatives have to deal with the feeling that meritocractic norms add meaning to their own lives:  it’s important to believe that other are judged by the same norms that “we” are;  it’s difficult to come out of that shell born of upward affiliation with “winning” to really “care” about people not in our normal orbits.

Particularly disturbing is the alt-right notion that journalists are enemies "of the people".  That's mostly been applied to the mainstream networks but later it could come down on individual writers and bloggers, as in China, in an attack against intellectual elitism and abstraction (which ironically sounds Communist -- Nazism was national "socialism"). 

Rauch had been the author in 1995 bookGay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America” from Times Books.  A singleton, he had argued, is an accident waiting to happen. Partisan politicians know that.  

Thursday, February 01, 2018

The Nunes Memo mess: it's all in the details

Well, this is getting complicated.  Here is the CNN story on Peter Strzok’s lead-in to Comey’s release of a letter to Congress on Hillary Clinton’s emails on a laptop associated with Anthony Weiner on Oct. 28, 2016.  (Redacted emails  ).

What is confusing is that Republicans had accused Peter Strzok of being partisan for Democrats. 

The letter arguably helped change the momentum so that Clinton would lose the electoral vote in Blue Wall states. It may have ended any likelihood I would participate in asylum seeker hosting (see International today) which I had sent an email offering to consider on Oct. 26.
And for the day-long saga on the Nunes Memo, CNN has detailed coverage here
Here is a complete 9-point analysis by Vox of the Nunes memo (Zack Beauchamp and Alex Ward).  It’s a mouthful, but at stake is whether partisanship will taint law enforcement and keep it independent of oligarchical demands of loyalty. ''

Eric Swalell (D-CA) told CNN that the president is going after the FBI because the FBI is investigating him.  Democracy -- the rule of law -- can't tolerate that. 
I think the administration needs to spend its energy right now on North Korea. 

Update: Feb 2:

Here is a link to the actual memo. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Does the Texas Interconnection set a good example for the rest of the nation on power grid management?

Vox has a short promotional film (2 minutes), sponsored by J. P. Morgan Chase as an advertorial, about the Texas Interconnection, its own power grid. The development of the grid follows the state’s own history of independence.

It is economically less dependent on cross-state-line sales and may be more resilient from solar storms or enemy attack (whether cyber or EMP) than the other two major grids.  It’s structure could be challenged by the addition of more solar energy.


I had two job interviews with Texas utilities in the late 1980s when I was living in Dallas. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

How wobbly is American democracy?

Steven Levistky and Daniel Ziblatt put on their David Brooks hats in the New York Times Sunday review and ask, “How wobbly is our democracy?” 
The writers note that as time passes in many democracies, opposing parties become more tribal and start taking it personally.  They give the history of the coup in Chile in 1973.

And they think we've been unraveling ourselves for a long time, although we recover. They talk about two unwritten norms: mutual toleration, and forbearance.  

One problem is that the people “in the middle” tend to be less combative and less interested in running for office.  They tend to see the people at the extremes as personal “losers”.  Political culture has become unacceptable as a self-fulfilling prophecy, because many of us deserted it.

The writers are authors of a book “How Democracies Die” .

Update:  Feb. 2

Ezra Klein notes that racial inequality got built into the American idea of bipartisanship, here. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Digital currencies could eventually force taxation only of consumption

Richard Holden and Anap Malani write, “Why the I.R.S. fears bitcoin”, link

The basic issue is that the block chain, while public, allows the transaction actors to remain anonymous. So there is no way to track the bitcoin economy.

If digital currency really becomes the norm, governments would have to switch to all consumption taxes, which would be bad for lower income people.
Any alien civilization would have mastered the blockchain concept (and thought of it first).  That leaves us with the speed of light to get around in a galactic financial system. 
But consider the video above. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Government shutdown: what about the debt ceiling, about to be critical?

Well, members of Congress get paid, but TSA workers and soldiers and sailors don’t? 

Here is a rundown on how the shutdown affects “YOU”.  
This is more dangerous now, than ever.  North Korea is watching? 

For someone like me with a trust and beneficiaries, there is a remote chance in some cases that I could be expected to cover other people’s losses.  That is the responsibility that comes, however rarely, with “inherited wealth”. 
Nobody in the media has mentioned the debt ceiling, which needs attention NOW. 
Trump tweeted that Democrats spoiled by birthday party at Mar a Lago.  I haven’t been invited anyway. 
Update: Sunday Jan. 21

WJLA reports on a candlelight vigil by about 40 Dreamers on Sunday night at the Capitol, as reported by Kimberly Suters and Jim McRae video, link. . Antonio Juaregui speaks as one of the participants.  The crowd also wants to protect the parents (who did behave illegally).  The symbol is the ButterFly Wings. 

Update: Jan. 23.  

Oh, the shutdown ended for now.  But what about three weeks from now.  An immigration compromise seems far off

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Hawaii false alarm leads to conversations about missile defense, and not allowing Trump first strike use of nukes

Back to the days of “Duck and Cover” in the movie “The Atomic CafĂ©”? 

By now, everyone has heard about the false missile alarm in Hawaii, as detailed in the CNN story here. It was caused by one employee pressing a wrong button at change of shift, buy it took the state 38 minutes to get the message out.

So the next time there is a missile alert, I’ll assume it’s a false alarm. Seriously, I don’t want to survive a nuclear attack anyway. I would not belong in the world that remains.  So much for my own resilience.

There would logically have been a possibility that the missile was a DPRK test with no warhead.
But wouldn’t such a missile have been shot down?

Nothing less than 100% missile defense will do.  I wrote a missive "manifesto" on this Wednesday.  Three days later, we have an incident.

On CNN this morning, Rep. Tulsi Gappard from Hawaii, on the House Armed Services Committee, said that we have to face why we are under a nuclear threat from an unstable enemy.  In fact, it's conceivable that North Korea could have interpreted this as an impending pre-emptive strike.  It's also possible an early warning system could be hacked. 

This is a good place to mention HR 669, S220  ,  link , “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act”. 

I was most recently in Hawaii in 1980. 
By Spc. Jacob Kohrs -, Public Domain, Link