Fact-based Research?

August 8, 2019

When I was in school, there was zero tolerance for opinion-based research.

You either backed up your work with validated facts from reliable sources, or you didn’t pass the class.

In 1996, under extraordinary pressure from the NRA and other pro-gun rights factions, Congress essentially shut down support for CDC-supported-research into the causes of gun violence.

Why is this important?

The commonly accepted proactive method to solve difficult problems is known as “Root Cause Analysis”.  It relies on a rigorous independent methodology to identify the Root Cause of an intractable situation; that is, zeroing in on the primary factor that is the foundational cause of the dilemma.

Removing the Root Cause of a problem prevents the problem from recurring.  Removing a causal factor (one that may affect an event’s problematic outcome) certainly can improve an outcome, but it does not prevent its recurrence with certainty.

More than 2 decades after the Congressional ban on gun violence research, the paucity of research leaves some of our elected officials and media pundits to conjecture that ‘violent video games’, ‘mental illness and hatred’, ‘soft targets’ and plenty of other ingredients contribute toward increasing occurrences of domestic gun violence events.

A surprising number of elected officials have recently emerged, seemingly unable or unwilling to consider that access to military-style weapons could be the Root Cause of our gun violence problem.

Instead, we read or hear assertions that…‘racism, bigotry and white supremacy is the trigger. It’s not the gun’.

Research provides fact-based evidence.

There is no research which supports any notions that video games, mental illness or racism play a primary role in domestic gun violence incidents.

Despite the arbitrary Congressional moratorium on public funding toward the causes of gun violence, we have seen some compelling research from small private colleges and universities.

One research paper from an independent private college published in 2015 asserted that, “Men commit over 85% of all homicides, 91% of all same-sex homicides and 97% of all same-sex homicides in which the victim and killer aren’t related to each other.”

Many studies on human brain development have provided a rich array of data which strongly supports the fact that female brain development occurs at a more rapid pace than males of a similar age.

Specifically, the frontal cortex — the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act — develops later in males than in females.  The majority of research tells us that females tend to reach maturity toward the end of adolescence; where in males, the frontal cortex is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

If we know that:

(1) Over 85% of U.S. homicides are committed by males;

(2) Significant scientific research supports the theory that male brain development is delayed to early adulthood;

(3) The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 30 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s);

Lacking any specific research, what should we do right now to put a halt to these massacres?

Institute an immediate ban on the production, sale or civilian possession of military-style assault weapons, military-style ammunition and high-capacity magazines in the U.S.

AR-15 (AK-47, and similar weapons) have no place in a civil society, except perhaps for military and limited law enforcement use.

Removing assault weapons from civilian access on a temporary – say 5 year time-frame – will provide a window of opportunity to conduct meaningful contemporary research.

Is there a precedent to this “call to action” at the federal level?

Yes, there is.  The Public Safety Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (1994) prohibited the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” as well as “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” — defined as “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device” which had “the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition”.

That legislation passed in September 1994 with a sunset provision for the assault weapon ban section. The law expired on September 13, 2004, and nothing has occurred at the federal level over the past 15 years to reign in the proliferation of civilian ownership of assault weapons, military grade ammunition and high capacity magazines.

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As a nation, we have everything to lose – and nothing to gain – by refusing to face the facts we have at hand, and to engage in proper research to help guide our future policy.

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Today’s massacre in El Paso contains some common elements to dozens of similar occurrences.

Who are these killers?

The statistics tell us that they are most likely to be U.S. born while males, generally under 30 years of age.

A number of studies have shown that the male brain reaches maturity significantly later than females. The key brain region believed to be primarily responsible for reasoning and helping us to ‘think before we act’ is the pre-frontal cortex, which develops later in males, and is generally still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

What sort of weapons do these mass killers prefer?

Military-style assault weapons with high-capacity magazines.

What should we do right now to put a halt to these massacres?

Institute an immediate ban on the production, sale or civilian possession of military-style assault weapons in the U.S.

AR-15 (AK-47 and similar weapons) have no place in a civil society, except perhaps for military and limited law enforcement use.

Is there a precedent to this “call to action” at the federal level?

Yes, there is.  The Public Safety Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (1994) prohibited the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” as well as “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” — defined as “any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device” which had “the capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition”.

That legislation passed in September 1994 with a sunset provision for the assault weapon ban section. The law expired on September 13, 2004, and nothing has occurred at the federal level over the past 15 years to reign in the proliferation of civilian ownership of assault weapons, military grade ammunition and high capacity magazines.

I refuse to stand by and wait for someone to go hunting with an AR-15 at the school which my grandchildren attend, at the mall where my family shops, or at the house of worship in my neighborhood.

Please join me:  Step up and demand common sense gun regulations from your elected officials.

Now!

A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts about our current President and his economic credentials.

Donald John Trump was one of 366 student members of the class of 1968 who was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania.

Other than his bachelor’s degree and some experience working in the family real estate business, there is no evidence that Mr. Trump has pursued additional education, credentials or capabilities in the field of economics.

Trump’s paucity of bona fides in the world of economic theory and practice has not deterred him from taking an active role in testing new economic theories and concepts.

Below, I introduce a new chapter in my observations on Donald Trump’s economic strategy:
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July 31, 2019 (Wednesday):  Federal Reserve Chairman Powell reluctantly announced a 25bp cut in the federal funds rate, the first rate cut in over a decade (December 2008).  In his announcement, Chairman Powell cited, “implications of global developments for the economic outlook as well as muted inflation pressures”.  The Fed also referenced an apparent global economic slowdown; uncertainty around U.S.-China trade negotiations; and ‘stubbornly low inflation’.

August 1, 2019 (Thursday):  Donald Trump announced (in a series of tweets) that the U.S. would impose a new 10 percent tariff on certain goods from China beginning on September 1, 2019, following the news that trade talks with the China have failed to make sufficient progress.

These new tariffs will apply to the $300 Billion of Chinese goods which had not before faced a tariff. Another $250 Billion of Chinese goods will continue to be tariffed at a 25 percent rate.

This abrupt and unusual move roiled the equity markets, creating a major sell-off.

Since late 2018, the U.S. economy has been showing signs of slowing — bond markets are flaccid; GDP has slowed; new home sales are generally flat; and business investment is anemic, at best.

Virtually every main-stream economist agrees that Trump’s trade war is contributing to the domestic economic malaise, although it’s too early to determine by how much, and if the damage is permanent.

The Fed rate cut on Wednesday was accompanied by a caveat that one purpose was to help create a barrier to prevent Trump’s trade wars from toppling our domestic economy.

Thursday’s surprise announcement by Trump reveals a new, arbitrary, capricious and  unilateral decision by the White House which will result in higher taxes to Americans on imports; and further expand uncertainty for businesses which need significant time to manage their supply chains.

The agricultural sector in the U.S. – farms and ancillary industries, suppliers, manufacturers, etc – are already fighting the unexpected impacts of climate and weather on production.  Then, they were handed a potential death sentence by a White House which is guided not by strategy and planning, but by impetuous and arbitrary policy changes driven by Trump’s narcissistic compulsions.

If Trump’s Trade War battle plans were conceived within a coordinated environment (i.e. in concert with the Fed and the Congress) perhaps we would be able to see a pathway toward successful outcomes.

Trump is consistent in his bravado that he – and he alone – has the vision, wisdom and solutions to create equilibrium in the trade accounts between the U.S. and China.

According to a BBC analysis from May 2019, “Trump’s decision to take on China could lead to adverse effects for consumers in the US and in China, but also worldwide. An economic showdown between the world’s biggest economies doesn’t look good for anyone.”

Article I of the US Constitution vests the power to set tariffs in Congress, thus Congress has the power to stop this President from continuing his arbitrary and impetuous trade war.  The question remains:  Will elected officials in Congress wake up, do their job and use that power, or will they continue to abdicate legislative responsibilities to this President?

Emerging GOP Leadership?

July 28, 2019

The week of July 22, 2019 encouraged a new lineage of evil to emerge from the Republican dugout.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R, CA) has long been the lead mealy-mouthed obsequious patsy for Trump and his acolytes; Reps. Devin Nunes, Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan are consistently reliable venomous vassals who worship at the alter of Trump, and who can be counted on to viciously attack anyone who dares to question the rapidly evolving, confusing and often contradictory Trump doctrine.

One of the emerging subservient scumbags — based on his memorable performance at the Robert Mueller inquisition on July 24 — is Rep. Louie Gohmert (R, Texas) who distinguished himself as both a dubious orator and an accomplished reprobate as he admonished Mueller for never before imagined fantasy behaviors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8g1Ynhiyag

The inability to remain calm, cool and collected in a stressful situation is not an attribute worthy of an elected official at any level.

In closing, Mueller presented the world with a new and quite smart response to a Kellyanne Conway-worthy soliloquy: “I take your question.”

Yes, thank you Congressman Gohmert for emerging from the shadows and sharing your serious psychological impairments with the world.

Let us hope you are able to find suitable help and intervention before your GOP colleagues manage to entirely repeal the ACA.

Meanwhile, we extend our sincere thoughts and prayers to your constituents in the First Congressional District of Texas who are relegated to represention by you in Congress.

The Grim Reaper?

June 18, 2019

The U.S. Senate consists of 100 members – 2 elected from each state — independent of population.  Under the Constitution, our elected Vice President serves as the President of the Senate, and presides over the Senate’s daily proceedings, and only the Vice President has the authority to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Over the past 2 decades, I’ve become more and more befuddled, baffled and bewildered by the apparently bad behaviors of some of those elected to represent us in the U.S. Senate.

Currently, it seems that one of the 2 Senators elected from Kentucky – Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell – has acquired extraordinary power over the operation and functionality of this key part of the legislative branch of our federal government!

While it is perfectly clear that McConnell has usurped extraordinary power over the functionality of the Senate, he could have only acquired this power from the spineless reptiles who worship at his feet.

How can it be possible that one person – elected from the great state of Kentucky – has the arbitrary and singular power to schedule — or not schedule – votes on bills by the Senate?

How can it be possible that one person – in this case, the Senate Majority Leader – has obtained the power to fully obstruct a government of the people, by the people and for the people?

The arbitrary and unilateral power of the Senate Majority Leader is not derived from the Constitution, from any law, or from formal rules of the Senate.

Instead, it is entirely based on informal, colloquial and unwritten rules established over time by a collection of precedents, beginning with an informal ruling by then-Vice President John Garner in 1937 which created a “right of preferential recognition”.

Vice President Garner – serving in his Constitutional role as Senate President – may have been trying to create order within a body of highly assertive and opinionated elected officials from very diverse geographic and economic backgrounds.

Regardless of intent or motivation, the Garner precedent continues to serve as the foundation upon which Majority Leader power is based in the Senate today.

Today, there is one person  — elected by some voters in Kentucky — who has the power to obstruct a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Very recently, Mitch McConnell proclaimed that no issues which he objects to would be voted on in the Senate.  He said, “So think of me as the Grim Reaper” — the guy who is going to make sure that we fully support the agenda of our current President.

Is this what the American people really want?

Mueller Report

May 29, 2019

Several of my friends have wondered:  What part of “… this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” supports the “No Collusion, No Obstruction” response from the Trump White House.

My theory is based on a variety of academic studies over the past 2 decades which have determined that an ‘average American adult’ reads at (or about) the eighth grade level.

The reading skills of American adults are significantly lower than those of adults in most other developed countries, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development based on a sample of 160,000 people from two dozen developed nations.

The Mueller Report is an academic treatise written at a level which clearly exceeds the abilities of most American adults to engage; read; analyze; and conclude.

The ability to read fluently, critically and for understanding— to be able to learn from text— may be the most important foundational skill for U.S. adult citizens’ health, well-being, and social and economic advancement.

Critical reading skills are the gateway to lifelong learning, education, and training.

The internet and social networking currently operate through the written word, thus reading literacy provides access to an infinite and readily accessible library of the world’s knowledge, as well as the ability to communicate with friends, family, and employers.

The digital revolution provided access to information which is the foundation for an informed society — except for those adults who continue to struggle to read and/or comprehend.

We have a crisis in America.  The Mueller Report is written at a level which exceeds the skills of the majority of Americans — including many of those currently serving in Congress — to understand, analyze and arrive at critically informed conclusions.

The Pew Research Center recently reported that adults with a high school degree (or less) represent the majority (37%) of U.S. adults who report not reading books in any format in the past year.

I have to wonder – and I hope you will join me —  How many of these 37% of adults who don’t read books (and perhaps don’t read critically?) are members of the Trump Base?

 

 

 

 

 

We Have a Winner!

May 24, 2019

Competition for the coveted “Horse’s Patootie” award this week was fierce, almost resulting in a hung jury.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the freshman congressional class of 2019, narrowly emerged as this week’s winner.

Following Senate passage (85 to 8) of a long-awaited $19+ billion disaster aid bill, Mr. Roy refused to grant his accord for the House to pass a unanimous consent resolution to move the bill to POTUS for his signature into law. (President Trump had already agreed to approve the bill as passed in the Senate.)

Although new to Congress, Roy served for several years as chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), including that period in 2013 when Cruz led a campaign which led to a 16-day government shutdown as a symbolic means to force repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Most ironic, perhaps: Even Cruz voted in favor of this 2019 disaster aid bill citing its importance to Texas, as about 20% of the $19 Billion in aid is destined to parts of Texas prone to hurricane damage.

It has been reported that Mr. Roy will be staying in D.C. over the Memorial Day holiday to avoid a “Tar & Feathers” party promised by his Texas constituents.

President Trump threw a temper tantrum today in the White House Rose Garden, forever preserved in the digital media universe.

Through his actions and words today, President Trump has provided clear and irrefutable evidence that he is unable to separate questions about his personal character from the primary duty of his current and sworn role to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” which I translate as an obligation to provide competent and impartial leadership for the entire population of the United States.

His public pronouncement that, “I don’t do cover ups” is clearly false.

Following that statement, the first image that flashed into my head was recorded for public record on Air Force One (early April, 2018) when President Trump responded to a reporter’s question about the cover-up payment(s) to Stormy Daniels that, ‘I know nothing about that’ further referring any questions to his then-Attorney, Michael Cohen.

Another indelible image again involves Air Force One and the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., various Trump campaign people, and a Russian lawyer.  In early July 2017, while flying home from Germany aboard Air Force One, President Trump personally dictated a statement on behalf of Trump Jr. which said that Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” in June 2016, further stating that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”

That meeting has continued to be a constant thorn.  In late July 2018, following public testimony by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to respond to some negative press reports, “I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don Jr….”

He didn’t know?  Cover up?  I think yes.

The most egregious example of Trump cover ups is his obstinate refusal to allow the public release of bank records, tax returns or any relevant financial records pertaining to his personal and business activities.  We know from public information that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization and/or entities controlled by him:  (a) Declared bankruptcy 6 times; (b) Have been shunned by most traditional banking organizations; (c) Consistently sell condominiums and other developed properties in ‘all-cash’ transactions, often to anonymous entities connected to Russia or former Soviet republics.

I applaud Speaker Pelosi for her insistence on a thorough and methodical process to follow and identify all of the facts. Indeed, no one is above the law, including the President of the United States.

I strongly encourage our elected officials to stay the course and to demand full disclosure and independent comprehensive review of Trump family and Trump Organization financial records.  The American People deserve nothing less.

I live in Clearwater, FL and my elected Congressional representative is Charlie Crist.  Here is a copy of my letter to Rep. Crist regarding the obfuscation by Steven Mnunchin:

April 25, 2019

No law requires presidential candidates to release their tax returns, but historical precedent does.

In November 1963, then-presidential candidate George Romney started this trend when he released 12 years of tax returns, a full year prior to the 1964 election.

When George’s son Mitt ran for president in 2012, he released his own tax returns.

According to PolitiFact, only 7 presidential or vice president candidates since 1976 have not released any tax returns. (Jerry Brown, Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee, Steve Forbes, Rudy Giuliani, Richard Lugar, Ralph Nader, none of whom were elected to the position they sought.)

When Donald J. Trump voluntarily announced (June 2015) his candidacy to run for the office of President of the United States, he voluntarily left a sequestered world of privacy to become a public figure.

Americans have come to rely on full transparency from Presidential candidates, including voluntary public release of federal tax returns.

Since June 2015, Trump has been asked many times to release his tax returns, and he has often replied in specious and vague generalities, frequently citing “under audit” as a primary barrier.

Fast forward to April 2019: Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) sent a written request to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig seeking six years of President Donald J. Trump’s personal and business tax returns.

Chairman Neal issued a concurrent statement explaining his request:  “Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, has a duty to conduct oversight of departments and officials. The Ways and Means Committee in particular has a responsibility to conduct oversight of our voluntary Federal tax system and determine how Americans – including those elected to our highest office – are complying with those laws. It is also our duty to evaluate the operation of the Internal Revenue Service in its administration and enforcement of the tax laws.

“The IRS has a policy of auditing the tax returns of all sitting presidents and vice-presidents, yet little is known about the effectiveness of this program. On behalf of the American people, the Ways and Means Committee must determine if that policy is being followed, and, if so, whether these audits are conducted fully and appropriately. In order to fairly make that determination, we must obtain President Trump’s tax returns and review whether the IRS is carrying out its responsibilities. The Committee has a duty to examine whether Congressional action may be needed to require such audits, and to oversee that they are conducted properly.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to ensure that IRS Commissioner Rettig met a final congressional deadline of April 23 for turning over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to lawmakers, the second time the Trump administration missed a House deadline for the tax returns since Neal requested them on April 3.

After the deadline lapsed, Mnuchin released a letter to Neal in which he pledged to make “a final decision” on whether to provide Trump’s tax records by May 6 by which date Mnuchin expected to receive a legal opinion from the Department of Justice on the propriety of Chairman Neal’s request.

Mnuchin further stated he was concerned that the efforts by Democrats to release the president’s tax returns were ‘politically motivated’.

The powers delegated to the Chairman of Ways and Means under IRS code are clear.

Steven Mnuchin and Charles Rettig are violating the laws of our country and ought to be charged as such; arrested; and imprisoned until such time they comply with this legitimate Congressional request.

If Congress fails to act quickly and assertively to take control of this situation, then Congress is complicit in the continued efforts of the Trump administration to usurp the very essence of our Constitutional Republic.

Thank you for making time to consider my opinions on how our federal government could better serve the best interests of the people.

The Untouchables

April 23, 2019

The Untouchables television series debuted in 1959 loosely based on a memoir written by Eliot Ness, chronicling his career as a federal Treasury enforcement agent in the 1930’s.

The TV series starred Robert Stack (as Eliot Ness) as the leader of a team of Prohibition Agents employed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury following their efforts to bring down the bootleg empire of “Scarface” Al Capone.

The team of agents was nicknamed “The Untouchables” because of their courage, moral character, and incorruptibility; legend said they could not be bribed or intimidated by the Mob.

The Untouchables was a landmark television series that spawned numerous imitators over the decades, including S.W.A.T.;  The F.B.I.;  Crime Story;  the original Hawaii Five-O;  and countless more.

Those were the days when the American public proudly looked up to…

  • Our elected leaders in Washington;
  • Their appointed cabinet heads; and
  • The career public servants who signed on to protect our country against rascals, scoundrels and scofflaws.

Today (April 23, 2019), U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to meet a final congressional deadline for turning over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to lawmakers, setting the stage for a possible court battle between Congress and the Trump Administration.

Last week, we witnessed William Barr — the current Attorney General of the United States – in a nationally televised press conference deliver a fully fabricated introduction to a 400+plus page summary of a Special Counsel independent investigation (“The Mueller Investigation”) into allegations of Russian government  efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

We have a sitting President who has frequently and publicly besmirched, criticized and/or called into question the abilities, intentions and loyalty of the entire U.S. intelligence community, including the FBI, CIA, Treasury Department and National Intelligence Agency,

Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan in August 2018 – apparently in retaliation to Brennan’s comments that Trump was incapable of managing the office of POTUS – is cast in complete juxtaposition to the forced security clearances for Jared and Ivanka.

Make America Great Again?

Yeah.

Let’s go back to the time when Eliot Ness and his team of Untouchables were revered by virtually all Americans, and when we were willing and able to unite against Mobsters and Criminals who threatened the very essence of our Constitutional Republic.