Dozens of polls and studies reveal general agreement among American adults which favors sensible gun control reform legislation, incorporating a variety of strategies such as:  (a) increased funding for mental health services; (b) universal background checks; (c) a national ‘red flag’ law; (d) training and/or licensing requirements; (e) more consistent rules across state lines.

Each and all of these would likely contribute toward reducing senseless gun violence. Yet, the Root Cause of our present dilemma seems to center around one specific type of firearm, often called “AR-15 style”.

These are high-capacity military-style weapons which can be fired semi-automatically and/or have the capability of being easily transformed into a rapid fire weapon. There is no legitimate purpose for these weapons in a civil society, and the ultimate goal to remove this Root Cause from the equation ought to be a total and complete ban on the civilian purchase, sale or possession of such weapons.

The next critical variable is ammunition. There is no logical or defensible reason to support civilian sale, possession or use of military grade ammunition categorized as: hollow point; full metal jacket; armor piercing; green tip; black tip; or any other sort of ammo which is not used by regular gun owners for target shooting or which is appropriate for legitimate hunting purposes.

As painful as it might seem to Wayne LaPierre, Jason Ouimet and others at the NRA, these AR-15 style weapons and military grade ammunition seem to continually and disproportionally fall into the hands of a few people who have really bad agendas.

If we eliminate the very weapons and ammunition which seem to attract the interest of folks with bad agendas, we will be making some real progress.

Please listen carefully, NRA.

The great majority of us don’t want to take guns away from our neighbors; we don’t harbor animosity toward responsible gun owners; and we often are gun owners and NRA members ourselves.

We do believe there is a balance – a sensible equilibrium — which respects, supports and honors the American tradition for people to keep and bear arms in a manner consistent with a civilized 21st century society.  

Let’s work together to find that balance.

Don’t Say Gay

April 26, 2022

a.k.a. Parental Rights in Education

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed House Bill 1557 “Parental Rights in Education” a.k.a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

DeSantis stated, “Parents’ rights have been increasingly under assault around the nation, but in Florida we stand up for the rights of parents and the fundamental role they play in the education of their children.”

Former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo further said, “Parents should get to decide what their children are taught, not the government or teachers unions.”

And, I absolutely agree. Public schools are available to everyone, and public schools are a compromise between cost and value. For those who have unlimited resources and who want a custom experience for their children, there are a variety of private schools to choose from. And, home schooling is an option for some.

Typical governance of public schools is through an elected school board comprised of residents in the District who take an oath to represent all who are stakeholders in the District.

Thus, parents have a strong voice in deciding what and how their children are taught. Parents can get actively involved in who is running for school board, and to support candidates who most closely mirror their personal values.

Take a look at this school board Oath of Office from Illinois:

“I, (name of member or successful candidate), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of member of the Board of Education (or Board of School Directors) of (name of school district), in accordance with the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and the laws of the State of Illinois, to the best of my ability.

“I further swear (or affirm) that:

“I shall respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district’s assets;

“I shall encourage and respect the free expression of opinion by my fellow board members and others who seek a hearing before the board, while respecting the privacy of students and employees;

“I shall recognize that a board member has no legal authority as an individual and that decisions can be made only by a majority vote at a public board meeting;

“I shall abide by majority decisions of the board, while retaining the right to seek changes in such decisions through ethical and constructive channels;

“As part of the Board of Education (or Board of School Directors, as the case may be), I shall accept the responsibility for my role in the equitable and quality education of every student in the school district;

“I shall foster with the board extensive participation of the community, formulate goals, define outcomes, and set the course for (name of school district);

“I shall assist in establishing a structure and an environment designed to ensure all students have the opportunity to attain their maximum potential through a sound organizational framework;

“I shall strive to ensure a continuous assessment of student achievement and all conditions affecting the education of our children, in compliance with State law;

“I shall serve as education’s key advocate on behalf of students and our community’s school (or schools) to advance the vision for (name of school district); and

“I shall strive to work together with the district superintendent to lead the school district toward fulfilling the vision the board has created, fostering excellence for every student in the areas of academic skills, knowledge, citizenship, and personal development.”

For those parents who desire a more hands-on role in how their children are educated, there are a number of additional options: (1) regular and active participation in PTA; (2) regular and active participation in parent teacher events, including parent/teacher night and parent/teacher conferences; (3) active and regular daily involvement in children’s homework and assignments; (4) regular and active involvement in after school activities, including sports, band, debate, theater, etc.

As to the quote from Mike Pompeo, it must be taken in context to Pompeo’s personal history and beliefs:

Pompeo is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, where he has served as a local church deacon, and taught Sunday school. In talks before church groups, Pompeo has said that Christians needed to “know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world” and that “politics is a never-ending struggle… until the Rapture.”

Until the Rapture.

Yes, this is an amazing story, not quite at the top of what DeSantis is engaged in, but pretty close.

There is an old saying that, ‘there is nothing lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon wheel rut’ and DeSantis is jousting with fellow snake Texas Governor Abbott to see who will reach the bottom of the rut first.

You’ve got to hand it to DeSantis on his ability to generate national headlines, following the model perfected by P.T. Barnum in the 19th century: (1) ‘I don’t care what people say about me as long as they say something’ and, (2) ‘There ain’t no such thing as bad publicity’.

Let’s not forget some of the other Governors running in the 2022 Race to The Bottom.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) recently signed a new law making it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion.  Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed laws banning transgender girls from high school sports; restricting the way schools teach about race and gender; and eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) recently launched campaign advertisements which double down on Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ false statements about the 2020 election results.

Several other conservative incumbents who have used scorched earth strategies in their policies and practices – like it or not — now find themselves in the high visibility arena:  Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R); Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R); Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R); and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) all face primary challenges, fueled by more main-stream Republican contenders.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Kimmel probably did the best retort to the Florida math textbook situation.

He said, ‘The Florida Department of Education rejected dozens of math textbooks because they made reference to Critical Race Theory.  If you don’t know what Critical Race Theory is, don’t worry – neither does Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.’ And Kimmel’s monologue goes on from there…

[>>> Watch the Kimmel monologue here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QgdS-G8pi8

Alvin Bragg:  You now are the District Attorney of Manhattan.

Did someone get to you?  Were there threats against your family?  Was there the promise of a payout that was just too rich to deny? Maybe some of each?

Donald J. Trump has gotten away with crimes in New York for decades. Witnesses, opposing counsel, judges get bought off, threatened or promised business will be sent their way later if they back off, disappear, and/or change their tune.

Donald J. Trump combined his exceptional skills in rhetoric and oratory with his propensity for self-dealing.  His narcissism is well documented.  His penchant for litigation is legendary.

It seems clear that Donald J. Trump deserves nothing less than a complete and thorough investigation of the veracity of his annual financial statements, and a thorough presentation to a grand jury which would provide the public with a complete and transparent look into allegations which have simmered for the past 3 decades, at least.

It’s no secret that — despite Trump’s historic focus on New York City real estate — none of the Money Center Banks have made a loan to Trump or a Trump affiliate for ages.  His creditors are Deutsche Bank and several non-bank syndicates.

Money Center Banks tend to be highly focused on the accuracy of financial statements and the creditworthiness of principals involved in any transaction.  Silence and lack of interest from Money Center Banks toward the Trump Organization should not be interpreted as modesty, indifference or ignorance.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence which most informed observers would interpret as aggressive intent by the Trump family and the Trump Organization to bamboozle taxing authorities and potential creditors through creative asset valuation techniques.

We – the public – are forced to sit on the sidelines confident that you – an elected District Attorney – will seek justice within the bounds of the law, serving the public interest while acting with integrity and balanced judgment to respect and protect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons, including suspects and defendants.

We believe your recent choice not to pursue charges is unfair to Mr. Trump, the Trump family, and the general public.  A definitive outcome of this case is both needed and required.

The Florida bill which would severely impact the ability of women to make personal choices about their own reproductive health (known as HB5) passed its first House committee hearing on January 19, 2022, and it is now heading to new committees for further discussion.  (The companion bill in the Florida Senate is SB-146).  Among other things, the bill will place severe restrictions on women’s access to abortions in Florida.

Florida Representative Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) perhaps said it best, “This bill is terrible for all Floridians, particularly for those who are low-income, live in rural areas, or are people of color who have historically faced inequitable access to quality healthcare, or low-income people who cannot afford to travel out of state for a safe abortion. It is not the government’s place to interfere with one of the toughest decisions a person will ever make. That private decision is one of faith, healthcare, personal freedom, and protecting the emotional and physical future of women and their families. Tallahassee politicians should not be involved.”

Kudos to Rep. Driskell for speaking out clearly and eloquently on basic human rights.

HB 5 will be presented in the Florida House ‘Professions & Public Health Subcommittee’ on January 19, 2022.

This proposed bill has a very clever title.

The real purpose of the bill is to codify into Florida law, “A physician may not perform a termination of pregnancy if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks.”

HB 5 is a direct affront on the rights of all women to make personal decisions relative to their own lives.

Whenever arbitrary restrictions are imposed on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, the actual outcomes have disproportionate adverse economic impact — and direct deprivation of human rights — on young women; low-income women; and women of color.

These are socially and economically disadvantaged women, almost always members of a protected class.

The great majority of published public opinions opposing open and unrestricted access to comprehensive reproductive health care over the past 4 decades – including both contraception and abortion – center on personal ethical, moral or religious values.

Nationally, the loudest voices opposing open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services come from a small minority of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians.

When people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing illegal, unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have been granted the Constitutional right to pursue their own – perhaps significantly different – beliefs.

I am aware of no rational person who considers abortion to be a primary means of family planning or birth control. Abortion is a last resort, a means to be employed only when all other options have failed.

I’m hopeful that you will reach a conclusion similar to mine on this Bill:  Florida’s government should focus on supporting our residents and improving health care, not taking away their rights, especially rights that can materially impact their health, livelihoods, and futures.

I encourage you to join me in asking members of the Florida Legislature to carefully and objectively examine the broad implications of HB 5 prior to taking a position on the Bill.

During my college years, I was introduced to the writings of Franz Kafka; that may help explain my rather bizarre sense of humor.

Day by day, week by week: The behaviors of many of these elected officials devolves toward the bottom, the base, the nadir.

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.