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.

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?

Some have said that Donald Trump is ‘a stranger to the truth’.

On a daily basis, Mr. Trump publicly provides a broad variety of ‘alternative facts’ to the world through twitter posts; impromptu press briefings; speeches at public events; and appearances at Trump rallies.

It seems clear that Trump resides in his own detailed imaginary world, sometimes known as a “Paracosm”.

Mr. Trump seems to have a complex and deeply felt relationship with his own subjective universe, which includes a rather large number of: imaginary characters; concocted occurrences; and untested political, economic and behavioral theories.

Trump’s particular recollection of 9/11 from the reservoir of his own personal Paracosm by itself is troubling; yet when combined with an endless river of similar and related public pronouncements over an extended time frame leads many of us to conclude that Donald J. Trump is probably unfit to carry out the duties of the Presidency

Today, Rudy Giuliani said he’s afraid his epitaph will say he ‘lied for Trump’

Rudy and Donald have a lot in common. Among other things, they were born in NYC; they are “Geminis”; and they are members of the “3 wives club”.

It does seem likely that Rudy may have taken up residence in the Trump Paracosm, the place where Donald’s mind has created an entire alternate universe.

The Trump Paracosm is a place where Sirens reside, Sirens who are able to use their enchanting music and singing voices to lure a percentage of political creatures to become residents of the Trump Paracosm.

Once in residence, Putin and his brother Satan are able to permanently infect the souls of those who refused to block their ears from the enchanting songs of the Sirens.

Rudy himself had a rather shady past; his legacy is further diminished and defined by his alliance with The Donald.

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.

Vice President Mike Pence toured a Border Patrol facility in McAllen, Texas on July 12, 2019 where he observed hundreds of men standing in crowded cages.

“The stench was horrendous,” White House pool reporter Josh Dawsey wrote of the brief visit to an outdoor portal at the McAllen Border Station.

Dawsey reported that nearly 400 men “..were housed in sweltering cages so crowded it would have been impossible for all of them to lie down. Some of the detainees shouted to reporters that they had been held 40 days or longer and complained that they were hungry.”

“This is tough stuff,” Pence said at a news conference later.  “I was not surprised by what I saw,” he said. “I knew we’d see a system that was overwhelmed.”

This, on the eve of a planned siege in communities around Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco where representatives from the Trump Gestapo are poised to raid neighborhoods where suspected undocumented immigrants may be living.  The raids are expected to start Sunday (July 14) and continue through July 18.

Instead of fixing the existing system that is already overwhelmed, Trump and his thugs have doubled down with Satan to intimidate and dehumanize our newest neighbors, and to create, nurture and perpetuate an atmosphere of fear among residents in these communities.

Separate parents from their children?  Only Satan would approve of that.

Trump’s claim that the ICE raids are targeted to ‘look for bad players’?  In a press conference on July 12, Trump said, “We’re really looking for criminals as much as we can. Trying to find the criminal population, which has been coming into this country the last 10 years.”

He touted his administration’s removal of members of the violent gang MS-13, claiming he’d deported them “by the thousands” and further stated that ‘we are also looking for people who came into our country not through a process, they just walked over a line. They have to leave.’

I’ve lived in the U.S. for many years, and I’ve experienced a great deal of good, bad and ugly.

This entire Trump administration charade centered on MS-13 as a justification for extreme immigration enforcement is the ugliest of ugly – it clearly is directly connected to Satan (a.k.a. Beelzebub; Mephistopheles; Lucifer; Prince of Darkness; Ash-Shaytan; Diablo; Devil), and it is clearly disconnected from facts or reality.

Trump – true to form – is scapegoating any and all people with connections to Central or South American as ‘Undesirables’ (or worse).

Pick your label:  There is no place in American ideology which supports rounding up a class of residents and subjecting them to subhuman treatment with no process of law.

Mike Pence, who was raised in a religious household and educated in parochial schools, has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” and as “a born-again, evangelical Catholic.”

If Pence is unwilling or unable to step forward to demand a stop to these Satanic atrocities and to organize a strategic fix to our existing immigration enforcement system which is already overwhelmed, then it is clear that he has sold his soul to Satan.

How very sad….

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 Pennsylvania State University (Penn State).

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 concepts.

From an economic perspective, the presidency of Donald Trump will likely be remembered primarily for his America First posture, which has influenced immigration, tariff and tax policies.

Immigration:  Trump administration policy decisions focused on immigration have dramatically hurt domestic agriculture, food processing, hospitality, tourism and other low-wage, entry-level service occupations.

Tariffs:  Tariffs imposed on imported goods and materials are nothing more than a tax paid by the end user, in many cases, the American consumer.

Tariffs can be effectively used as a component of a strategic long-term plan to reposition the competitive position of American manufacturers on the world stage.

There is no known evidence that tariffs have ever brought any long-term value-added when arbitrarily and capriciously applied.

Trump administration subjective tariffs on imported steel and aluminum (justified as a means to “protect our country and our workers”) have proven to be a financial burden on several high-wage value-added U.S. industries, including: Automotive; Aerospace; Construction; and Manufacturing.

Tax Cuts:  The signing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017 was lauded as landmark legislation which would: (a) lower taxes on businesses and individuals; (b) stimulate higher wages and more jobs; and (c) result in a larger and more dynamic economy as a result of dramatically increased domestic business investment in plant and equipment.

Almost two years after the passage of TCJA, it seems clear that some near-term economic stimulation was achieved, but the long-term impact on gross domestic product (GDP) will be modest, if at all. The impact will be smaller on gross national product (GNP) than on GDP because the law generated net capital inflows from abroad that must be repaid in the future.

The expectation touted by elected officials in their frenzy to pass the TCJA envisioned some $4 Trillion being repatriated, generating new and potent investment and jobs in the U.S.

Most recent estimates reflect $3 Trillion (or more) in profits that U.S. companies have left parked overseas, with about $465 Billion in “repatriated” cash returning to the U.S. to enjoy a tax rate of 15.5% (vs. the 35% prior tax rate) on profits returned to the U.S. from overseas.

A good outcome?  Sure, in the short term.  Capital investments? Plant and equipment? Not so much.  There is virtually no evidence that any of the repatriated cash was invested in job creation.  It was invested in executive bonuses; stock buy-backs; debt repayments; and some dividend enhancements.

Please stay tuned, there is more to come…..

No one understands the nuances of immigration better than Donald Trump.

Donald’s research begins in 1996 when Melania Knauss — also known as Melanija Knavs — arrived in the U.S. from Slovenia on Aug. 27, 1996, on a B1/B2 visitor visa.  She was 26 at the time, highly regarded by those who knew her in her native Slovenia as quite intelligent, beautiful and very ambitious.

Melania was paid for 10 modeling jobs in the United States in 1996 before obtaining the necessary documents to legally work in the country, earning $20,056 before she obtained an H-1B work visa on Oct. 18, 1996, according to an investigative report completed and published by the AP in 2016.

The report, which AP said was based on accounting ledgers, contracts and other related documents, reveals that “the modeling assignments would have been outside the bounds of her visitor visa.”

In March 2001, Melania was issued a green card in the U.S. through the EB-1 program, which is sometimes called a “genius visa” or an “Einstein visa.”

EB-1 Visas are intended to encourage individuals who demonstrate extraordinary accomplishment in their field of endeavor, and/or sustained national or international acclaim to become permanent U.S. residents.

Melania Knauss married Donald Trump in January 2005; she is now known as Melania Trump.  She became a U.S. citizen in July 2006.

Viktor and Amalija Knavs are Melania’s parents. Viktor was born in 1944, and the majority of his working career involves automotive transportation activities. Amalija worked as a pattern maker at a textile factory. They are now retired.

Several reliable sources report that Viktor and Amalija primarily reside in the U.S., and their immigration status is undetermined.  They may be here on an IR-5 visa, which grants legal permanent residency to parents of a U.S. citizen.

Meanwhile, with the expertise he has acquired from his own family situation, President Trump has guided his own administration to become vehemently opposed almost all immigration to the U.S., particularly to extended-family chain migration, which is exactly how Melania’s parents apparently have established permanent residency in the U.S.

Although POTUS Trump apparently has no direct experience in the separation of immigrant children from their parents, he believes that his overall experience and knowledge fully qualifies him to an expert level on immigration policy.

Amazing stuff, isn’t it?

Dennis Rodman is Angry

June 30, 2019

And, Rodman has a right to be angry.

Rodman is a basketball legend, having earned a spot in 5 NBA championships over a 14 year NBA career.

Rodman began his professional career with the Detroit Pistons in 1986, spending 7 years with the franchise earning a reputation as a real team player and the team’s primary defender and rebounder, despite his propensity for off-court drama.

After Rodman joined the Chicago Bulls, he helped that team win the NBA title three years in a row:  1996, 1997, and 1998.  He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2011.

Since 2013, Rodman has served as the unofficial U.S. Ambassador to North Korea, doing his best to create an open line of communication with Kim Jong Un, a noted fan of basketball.

Generally, Rodman travels on his own dime, with some financial support from Vice Media, an online gambling outfit and a marijuana cryptocurrency company.

By all accounts, Rodman used his celebrity and his charm to engage Kim Jong Un in friendly banter and sports talk, ultimately helping to defuse some of the geo-political tensions created as a result of the unilateral withdrawal of the North Korean regime from established world political platforms.

Despite a rather clear separation between former President Obama, Dennis Rodman and the North Korea relationship, the Chicago connections can’t be ignored.

We’ve recently witnessed the intrusion of a political newcomer – a man with very tiny hands who is at least 5 inches shorter and 80 pounds heavier than Rodman – a man who has unapologetically usurped the role of Dennis Rodman as unofficial U.S. Ambassador to North Korea.

This political newcomer is Donald Trump, and he is using the full power of the U.S. Treasury to fund his assault on Dennis Rodman’s unofficial domain.

Is it possible that the Donald decided that Obama and Rodman, two black men with a solid Chicago connection, are his enemy?

Although Donald Trump himself has yet to demand the release of Dennis Rodman’s birth certificate, there are rumors that Trump son Eric has questioned Rodman’s history of achievements in the NBA, and has publicly wondered about Rodman’s place of birth.

How very sad that Donald Trump is unwilling or unable to work with an accomplished athlete to build on an established positive foundation toward a better world for everyone.

No one should be surprised when the Rodman-Trump dichotomy surfaces into a major political cleavage.  How very sad, indeed.

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?

On Wednesday, May 29, 2019 Robert Mueller broke 2 years of silence to speak to the American public about the Special Counsel Report which bears his name.

Mueller advised Americans to read his report if we want to understand what really happened in 2016. “We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself,” he said.

The pressure is on. We need to read the Mueller Report.

The Mueller Report is huge, and it is written in ‘legalese’ – well beyond the interests and/or abilities of most American adults. You want footnotes? Volume I of the Mueller Report includes about 199 pages of text, illuminated by 1,283 footnotes.  Volume II adds another 182 pages of content with almost 1,100 footnotes.  That is almost 2,400 footnotes!  Yikes!

According to the national not-for-profit organization Reading is Fundamental, 93 Million American adults read at or below the basic level needed to contribute successfully to society.

I have to guess that the majority of these 93 Million American adults lack the motivation — and the skills — needed to read, comprehend and analyze the contents of the Mueller Report.

I’m retired and I have plenty of discretionary time.  I have read significant portions of the Mueller Report.  It is not an easy task.

Yet, I discovered that Volume I provides a powerful and comprehensive look at the events and evidence related to foreign election interference.

Volume II documents a number of actions directly or indirectly initiated by Donald Trump intended to impede or obstruct the FBI investigation into foreign election interference, and further actions intended to obstruct the Special Counsel investigation.

I predict that the Mueller Report will become a significant historical document for U.S. history scholars.

As it stands, it is just too academic and complex to become a widely-read, popularly acclaimed explanation of current events for most American adults.

Thankfully, all is not lost!

In its May 29, 2019 issue, The Atlantic published a synopsis penned by David Frum which helps bridge the gap between legalese and the typical American adult’s willingness and ability to read, comprehend and understand the conclusions reached by Mueller and his team.

I encourage you to make the time to read Frum’s article.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/05/mueller/590467/?fbclid=IwAR0ACFoJqo0UmmdOg0YXQt3ajGqeZ4XC2hEsIPRalVb6Ycoi8-P6hJbO9-0