The Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) was established in 1789 by Article Three of the U.S. Constitution, and defined in the Judiciary Act of 1789.

There are no explicit requirements in the U.S. Constitution for a person to be nominated to become a Supreme Court justice. No age, education, job experience, or citizenship rules exist. There is no requirement in the Constitution for a Supreme Court justice to have a law degree.

Supreme Court justices are nominated by the sitting President, and confirmed by the sitting Senate for a life appointment to the court.

None of this has been a concern to the viability of our nation until now.

SCOTUS 2022

We’ve recently witnessed some absolutely surreal SCOTUS decisions.

On 6/23, they gave permission for anyone and everyone to ‘pack heat’: Open season on concealed carry.

Then on 6/24, a majority of our Supreme Court judges eliminated what most of us believed was a Constitutional right to obtain an abortion, casting aside 49 years of precedent that began with Roe v. Wade.

The vote to overturn Roe v. Wade was 5-4, on a decision written by Justice Samuel Alito.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined Alito’s opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts did not join the opinion. He agreed with the majority that the Mississippi abortion restriction at issue in the case should be upheld, but in a separate opinion, he argued that the court should not have overturned the Roe v. Wade decision.

This decision employed fully twisted logic claiming the Roe decision was wrong ‘because the U.S. Constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights.’

That’s not surprising. Back at the end of the 18th century — when we had just 13 states and the only people who had voting rights were White Men who were land owners — the Constitution also made no mention of television, airline travel or record-high gasoline prices.

And then, on the following day, June 24, 2022, “in a concurring opinion that raised concerns the justices might roll back other rights, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas urged the court to reconsider past rulings protecting the right to contraception, legalizing gay marriage nationwide, and invalidating state laws banning gay sex.”

Yet, Justice Thomas made no mention of a revisit to the controversial Loving v. Virginia decision?

Clarence Thomas has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a Genuine Sanctimonious Prick.

Only Franz Kafka could do this story justice.

A recent post by Mark Sumner on Daily Kos both caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2022/6/17/2104655/-Donald-Trump-operates-on-One-Simple-Trick

I’m retired, so I have plenty of time to read, reflect and think about things. I try not to let the intensity of the moment get to me. I’ve found it’s better for me to stop, think and express my feelings in words. It may not change anything, but it does soothe me and help keep my blood pressure under control.

Here is my reaction to Mark Sumner’s excellent observations:

It seems that Trump has much in common with each of the historic figures (below).

They represent a rare but dangerous sub-species: Charismatic leaders who lack any social conscience, and are further devoid of the ability to empathize and identify with others on a genuine personal level.

In classic terms, these folks are narcissistic psychopaths, and most satisfy some of their urges by torturing and/or killing others. They are high-functioning individuals each of whom developed a rich repertoire of very effective coping mechanisms which allowed them to ‘fool some of the people all the time’.

Where Trump deviates from the rest of these folks is that he just isn’t very smart.

He refuses to read, study and listen to experts which limits his ability to develop a deep understanding of the world around him, thus leaving him incapable of originating, advancing and executing a productive and original strategy.

Trump is evil but shallow; he acts entirely on impulse. He treats his closest advisors like cannon fodder. Throughout his long career of grifting, pillaging and piracy, he never saw a bridge he wouldn’t burn.

I believe if Trump does live another 5 years, he will experience a precipitous fall from grace dwarfing even the saga of Bernie Madoff.

However the future unfolds, Trump will most certainly join this list of very bad actors for all of eternity:

Adolf Hitler; Joseph Stalin; Vlad the Impaler; Pol Pot; Heinrich Himmler; Saddam Hussein; Idi Amin; Josef Mengle; Ivan the Terrible; Genghis Kahn; Ayatollah Khomeini; Vladimir Putin; David Koresh; Charles Manson; Jim Jones. And the list goes on…

The former Clipper Motel, 1850 North Harrison, Clearwater, FL

This property – a 50-unit vacation destination – was acquired by the Church of Scientology FLAG Service Organization in 1996.  Although it is currently assessed for $2.3 Million, it has been off the tax rolls since 2013. That’s right. This 50-unit waterfront motel is tax exempt for religious purposes.

The property is now gated and clearly not accessible to the public, yet it appears to be well-maintained and suitable for its intended use as temporary housing for travelers.

In a post from November 2020, Mike Rinder looked deeply into the concept of awarding tax exemption to the Church of Scientology (Scientology’s Tax Exemption (mikerindersblog.org)

I am resident, voter, property owner and taxpayer in Clearwater, FL where the Church of Scientology has directly and indirectly acquired hundreds of properties, taking many off the tax rolls thus shifting the tax burden to others.

I don’t wish to debate the validity of the religious exemption Scientology won from the IRS, yet I do want to debate the practice of hiring and using an army of lawyers to fight property assessors who attempt to determine that some of the properties owned by Scientology are not used for religious or charitable purposes, and thus not eligible for property tax exemptions.

I also question many of the activities of Scientology which seem to confer ‘excess benefits’ to Chairman Miscavige and others who occupy senior positions in the Organization.

Having received tax exemption from the IRS as a religious organization, the Church of Scientology and its many affiliates are also exempt from filing an annual Form 990 “Information Return” with the IRS:

‘They are encouraged to file, but not required to file.’

The 990 provides a treasure trove of information, including executive compensation, benefits, governance, etc.

If I was a gangster posing as a religious leader, I would want to be exempt from any public disclosure, including the requirement to file a 990.

If I was an honest, fair, selfless religious leader I would hope to be fairly compensated for my education, wisdom and service so that I had adequate shelter, nutrition and safety for me and my household, but I wouldn’t object to disclosing the financial affairs of my organization, which would include disclosure of my personal compensation and benefits.

This goes well beyond Scientology as there are more than a few Exempt Religious Organizations which opt into the nondisclosure arena.

Despite that loophole, a rather large number of religious organizations which have received tax exemption from the IRS continue to file their 990 forms every year.

This seems to be another serious, dangerous and egregious loophole in our Federal Tax Code that needs to be addressed.

We, The People, ought to know what is going on behind the curtain, particularly because we are left paying the piper when those few tax-exempt organizations every year stray from the garden path.

In her recent opinion piece published in the NY Times (6/11/2022: ‘Donald Trump, American Monster’) Maureen Dowd compared Donald Trump to Frankenstein, suggesting that Trump willfully planned to overthrow our government.

Maureen has been in her business for a very long time, and – like a good marksman — she rarely veers far from center of the target.

There is an overwhelming body of evidence which confirms that Donald Trump is self-centered and lacking in empathy, the basic ingredients of a narcissistic personality.

Over the years, Trump developed an entire repertoire of very effective coping mechanisms which allows him to ‘fool some of the people all the time’, enabling him to convince about 30% of American people (mostly of European ancestry) that he actually cares about them. And, that he understands their frustrations related to the growing influence of immigrants and other non-Europeans on U.S. society and our economy; and the growing influence of ‘the deep state’ which blocks the voice of the people.

In her essay, Dowd acknowledges Trump as a narcissist, and she comes quite close to the bullseye.

What she may have missed is that Trump is the most dangerous of the species, what some have called, ‘the toxic narcissist’.

Clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD. describes a toxic narcissist: “… continually causes drama in others’ lives at the very least and causes pain and destruction at the very worst.” Mayer notes that a subset of toxic narcissists, known as psychopaths, are ‘unstable, aggressive – often violent — and will show no remorse for their behavior’.

Dowd seems to have veered slightly off the trajectory toward the bullseye when she allowed the possibility that “Trump was deadly serious about overthrowing the government.”

Although Maureen is correct that his actions (if successful) would result in an overthrow of our government, it’s doubtful that idea never ever entered Trump’s mind. He was, is and continues to be focused on the potential personal shame of losing. As a Toxic (and likely Psychopathic) Narcissist, Trump won’t back down and/or stop until he is abducted by aliens or is reinstated to the oval office.

Meanwhile, Trump has helped to inspire and energize a (mostly quiet) army of people – often identified as members of the Evangelical Christian faith — who just want everything to return to the American Promise of 1957.

Until these wayward folks can be helped to understand that our world in 2022 is much different from 1957, they are an extremely dangerous factor and they must be very carefully dealt with as the January 6 Commission saga continues to emerge.

Stock Prices, Inflation, Recession & Economic Cycles

Economic cycles – also known as business cycles — are a reality, and they can be tracked over time.  They generally are predictable, although not in precise time frames. Economic cycles consist of four identifiable phases or stages:  (a) Expansion; (b) Peak; (c) Contraction; and (d) Trough.

Every economic cycle includes a period of euphoria and exuberance marked by a sustained period of economic growth; followed by a period of uncertainty and lethargy linked to a period of economic decline.

When Donald Trump took office in January 2017, he inherited an economy in its 91st month of economic expansion following the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. That expansion continued into 2020, becoming the longest period of expansion on record, peaking at 128 months in February 2020.

We know that Donald Trump never fails to speak his mind.  During the campaign leading to the 2020 presidential election, Trump proclaimed, “If (Joe Biden) is elected, the stock market will crash!

[In 2018, Trump said, “When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win.” In late January 2020, Trump also said, “We have it (coronavirus) totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”]

Facts are facts:

  • The S&P 500 fell from 4,766 in late December 2021 to 3,900 today, a 20% loss;
  • We’ve seen the price of gasoline hit $5.00 per gallon, up from $3.00 just a year ago;
  • Case-Shiller recently reported a 34.8% price increase for housing in the Tampa Bay area (where I currently live) from March 2021 to March 2022;
  • The most recent CPI report reflects an annual rate of 8.6 percent through May 2022, the fastest rate in four decades.

What’s really going on?

There are a number of pieces to this puzzle, including:

  • The lingering effects of a Pandemic;
  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine;
  • Aftershocks (direct and indirect) from draconian tariffs enacted beginning in 2018;
  • Ongoing ripple effects from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA); and
  • Various supply chain issues, both domestic and international.

But, the root cause of our current intersection of inflation and stock market volatility likely traces back to 2010, when the Fed launched “QE2” – quantitative easing – essentially increasing liquidity in the domestic economy to stimulate economic growth. One of the outcomes from QE is a decrease in bond prices due to falling interest rates, combined with a run-up in stock prices as investors search for yield.

When the Fed announced its QE2 plan in November 2010, 30 year mortgages were at 5%; and the S&P 500 index was 1,200.  Over the course of the next few years, rates on 30 year mortgages dropped as low as 3.3%, and the S&P 500 index toward 2,010 (which it reached in September 2014).

Meanwhile, the CPI from 2010 to the end of 2020 remained relatively calm, reflecting the lagging effects of the economic recovery which began in mid-2009.

It is relatively easy to look into the rearview mirror now to observe that the Fed’s response to the impact of Covid on our economy helped to create an environment which fueled the inflation we are facing today.  In March 2020, in addition to a promise to inject a $ Trillion into the U.S. banking system, the Fed cut the federal funds rate to a range of 0% to 0.25%.

Those actions of the Fed likely saved our economy from implosion, but also helped to inspire a dramatic run-up in stock prices:  The S & P 500 index rose from 3,000 in early March 2020 to reach 4,700 in November 2021. (Stock prices were further affected by massive stock buybacks enabled by the 2017 TCJA).

While it seems convenient for some to blame Joe Biden for high gasoline prices; rapidly rising consumer prices; the stock market ‘meltdown’ — even for supply chain dysfunctions – history tells us there is a rather significant lag between the point when policy actions take place, until begin to see the results from those actions.

The Biden White House has pledged to fight against inflation and has stubbornly refused to blame the Fed for our current economic symptoms.

Although there are plenty of contributing factors, the real truth is over a decade of relying almost entirely on monetary policy to steer the ship brought us to this moment, not 18 months of Democratic control in the White House.

Chair of the Select Committee Rep. Bennie Thompson (D, MS) & Co-Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R, NV).

Today is June 9, 2022, the first day of a series of public hearings convened by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, Chaired by Thompson, with Co-chair Cheney.

They are an Unlikely Duo, truly polar opposites in most ways, yet bound together by at least one common thread: an oath of office where they individually affirmed a solemn promise to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”.

Thompson began his service as a Member of Congress in 1993 representing the 2nd Congressional district of Mississippi.  He is a black male; currently age 74; born, raised and still a resident of Bolton, MS: a small, rural and hard-scrabble town in Hinds County, approximately 20 miles from Jackson, the state capital.

Thompson’s voting record has been solidly ’liberal’. His legislative platform is and has been focused mainly on agriculture and rural issues; civil rights; homeland security; equal education; and health care reform.  He is a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Cheney began her service as a Member of Congress in 2017, representing the Wyoming at-large Congressional district. She is a white female; a lawyer; age 55; 3rd generation Wyoming resident on her mother’s side. Her father, former U.S. VP Dick Cheney, represented WY in Congress for 10 years.

Cheney is known as an “ideological conservative”, and a solid representative of the Republican establishment, noted for her focus on national security; support for the U.S. military; a pro-business stance; hawkish foreign policy views; and fiscal and social conservatism.

Prior to her ‘fall from grace’ for refusing to capitulate to the “stolen election theory”, Cheney chaired the House Republican Conference, the third-highest position in the House Republican leadership.

It seems perfectly clear from watching and listening to this first public hearing jointly moderated by this Unlikely Duo that the January 6th Insurrection is a seditious conspiracy against the Constitution of the United States.

It seems entirely plausible that House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell have continued to advance and support blatant political lies — fully disproved by both facts and the courts —aimed to support what has come to be known as the “Big Lie”: an imaginary alternative outcome from the 2020 presidential election.

Are Kevin and Mitch potentially guilty of Sedition themselves, or merely complicit in their disruptive and subversive actions?

Most sad:  Rod Serling could have produced an entire season of The Twilight Zone off the McCarthy/McConnell fabrications.

A Mitch McConnell scout on patrol

Mitch McConnell is no stranger to massacres involving semi-automatic assault weapons.

In 1989, a workplace massacre in downtown Louisville took the lives of eight and wounded 12 using an AK-47, and it remains the deadliest mass shooting in Kentucky history.  McConnell, well into his first term as a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, said he was “deeply disturbed,” declaring, “We must take action to stop such vicious crimes.” And he added: “We need to be careful about legislating in the middle of a crisis.” And in the days and weeks after, he did not join others in calling for a ban on assault weapons like the AK-47 used by the shooter.

Following the Sandy Hook massacre of 2012, the Obama White House embarked on a robust policy response.  McConnell — then the Senate minority leader — vigorously downplayed that effort.

Fact is:  McConnell has never wavered on his absolute objection to any sort of gun control legislation.

On the day after the Uvalde elementary school massacre, Senate minority leader McConnell took to the Senate floor to declare himself and the nation “sickened and outraged by the senseless evil” that left at least 19 students and two teachers “innocent young lives murdered for no apparent reason at all.”

No mention of guns or any potential legislation, just the statement, ‘Words simply fail.’

After tasking Sen. John Cornyn (R, TX) to negotiate with Democrats on potential legislative actions to stop the epidemic of gun violence in America, McConnell went on the record stating, “Background checks and ‘red flags’ will probably lead the discussion — those are for sure two items that will be front and center.”

What?  No mention of high-velocity high-capacity semi-automatic military style weapons?  No mention of high-capacity magazines which allow the shooter to mimic a machine gun?  No discussion about military style ammunition which launches at 3,000 + feet per second, and has the likelihood to fragment and/or expand to create an exit wound the size of an orange?

What?  No mention of studies on human brain development which have proved that female brain development occurs at a more rapid pace than males of a similar age? 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.

We know that: (1) Over 85% of U.S. homicides are committed by males; (2) Male brain development is delayed to early adulthood; and (3) The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 25 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s).

Yet, McConnell stays focused.  “We have a Second Amendment to the Constitution. We take it seriously. There’s the right to keep and bear arms in this country,” McConnell said.  “And so what I’ve done is encourage some bipartisan discussions that are going on. In fact, I just had a call with one of the members of it to see if we can find a way forward consistent with the Second Amendment that targets the problem.”

And another McConnell soundbite: “I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution that’s directly related to the facts of this awful massacre. I’m going to keep in touch with them, and hopefully we can get an outcome that can actually pass and become law rather than just scoring points back and forth.”

Translation:  McConnell will encourage and support activities related to school security and mental health, but don’t expect him to ever say “gun”. Mitch may be the very best Silver Tongued Orator we will ever encounter live and in person.

The time for action on responsible gun control has long passed, yet the opportunity is front and center.

Wayne LaPierre carved out a very lucrative career for himself based on a concept that former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger called “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public.”

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.

Human Brain Development: Despite a paucity of research on gun violence, we can look to dozens of studies on human brain development which have provided a rich array of data strongly supporting 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.

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.”

The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 25 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s).

Although we lack irrefutable proof of causality, it seems reasonable to postulate that eliminating the availability of firearms, accessories and ammunition which are derived from and/or modelled on military grade assault weapons would likely reduce — and eventually eliminate — the opportunity for young American males to obtain and/or use these deadly weapons.

Silver tongued orators: While many of our elected officials in Congress have used their silver tongues to concurrently placate the people and please the NRA, our nation has been violated by domestic terrorists, generally armed with AR15-style weapons.

AR-15: The small-bore, high-velocity AR-15 rifle was originally designed for military use under the mandate: “high-velocity; full and semi auto fire; 20 shot magazine; 6lbs loaded; able to penetrate both sides of a standard Army helmet at 500 meters.” When it entered Army service in the 1960s, it was renamed the M16.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994) outlawed the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” for civilian use. Unfortunately, that Ban expired in 2004, and since then we have observed the NRA (and some other groups) spending millions of dollars annually on lobbyists to quash any attempts to even discuss rational and reasonable gun control measure.

Example:  An Assault Weapons Ban bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein with 37 co-sponsors (S.736 — 117th Congress) was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary in March 2021 where it has languished ever since.

NRA response to Feinstein’s bill:  ‘Outlawing commonly owned semi-automatic rifles every day Americans use for hunting, recreational shooting, and self-defense will not reduce gun crimes or firearm related homicides. The ban she’s currently offering is just one more attack on the rights of law-abiding gun owners that will have zero effect on crime.’

The NRA has long taken the position that semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 are used for “recreational target shooting, hunting, and home defense” and states that ‘law-abiding firearms owners shouldn’t be penalized because of homicidal loners who use semi-automatics like the AR-15 for criminal purposes.’

The vast majority of independent firearm experts don’t support this position.

Recreational target shooting?  Sure.  Who could refute the adrenaline rush of firing a weapon that is as close to a machine gun in operation as you can legally possess?

Hunting?  Not so much.  The best practice guideline for hunters incorporates a ‘quick clean kill’ which ideally is a one-shot kill, resulting in an immediate downing of the animal; minimizing suffering; reducing damage to the meat; and making the harvest and field dressing much easier.

The AR-15 variants are often effective due to their ability enable anyone to ‘Spray and Pray’ – not for conformance with the one-shot kill preferred by responsible sport hunters.

Home defense?  Not in my home, and hopefully not in my neighborhood. Although the AR-15 is a ‘relatively short’ long-gun, it can be tough to maneuver and aim in tight quarters. With a muzzle velocity in excess of 3,000 fps, it will over-penetrate, sending bullets through the walls of your house, endangering family members and possibly into the walls of your neighbor’s house.  When equipped with a quick-change 30 round magazine — and firing at a rate of 45 rounds per minute — it’s not hard to imagine how many rounds can be launched in a very short period of time.

The core solutions to put a halt to senseless massacres — primarily orchestrated by young domestic terrorists — are well-known.  Eliminating assault weapons is # 1.

Congressional Focus and Priorities:  Instead of working collaboratively to fix a myriad of strategic and critical domestic problems, a rather sizable number of our U.S. elected officials seem to prefer to focus their time and effort on banning books; legislating elementary school curriculum and content; and punishing those who don’t agree with them.

It’s time for our Congress to tell the NRA that they will support rational legislation on 2nd Amendment Rights, with the caveat that in a modern, polite and peaceful society, there is no place for civilian possession and /or use for firearms, accessories and ammunition which are derived from and/or modelled after military- grade assault weapons.

President Biden:  You are absolutely on the right track.

Members of Congress:  No more groveling; no more boot-licking; no more vacillating at or with the NRA.  You still have the time and ability to redeem yourselves as decent human beings. Please don’t squander this opportunity.  Support, fast-track and pass S. 736.

Let me be very clear: I am a gun owner, a member of the N.R.A. and a supporter of the Second Amendment.

I recently wrote an impassioned letter to Senator Marco Rubio imploring him to support a permanent ban on military-style assault weapons, similar to the (now-expired) Federal Assault Weapons Ban which outlawed manufacture of AR-15 and other assault-style weapons for civilian use.

My research confirms a strong and direct correlation which connects a small number of domestic males under age 25 with AR-15-style weapons and military-grade ammunition to mass shootings across the U.S. The massacres in Uvalde; Buffalo; Sandy Hook; Aurora; Boulder; Parkland; Las Vegas; San Bernardino; Sutherland Springs; Nashville; Midland–Odessa; Poway; and the Tree of Life Synagogue each support the hypothesis.

Sen. Marco Rubio holds an A-plus rating from the NRA and has received at least $3.3 Million of NRA campaign money, thus I thought it might be an uphill battle trying to engage Marco Rubio in an honest debate regarding the probability that AR-15 style weapons might be a root cause of the U.S. epidemic of gun violence.

Instead of responding to my observations which are directly and irrefutably confirmed by exhaustive research (including my own), Sen. Rubio went right down the NRA rabbit hole.

Sen. Rubio said to me, “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

His entire reply to me is attached.

I’m not right off the turnip truck, yet I remain flummoxed, baffled and bewildered that we continue to support and elect cyborgs like Marco Rubio hoping for rational and productive governance of our nation.

In addition to having a single point of entry guarded by multiple armed police officers, or if need be, military veterans, and a mandate that schools install bulletproof and locking doors to each classroom, recruiting and training responsible middle and high school students is the next logical step.

Deploying highly trained and armed middle and high school students, fully prepared for combat situations, into every school in America will put an immediate stop to the terrible events we’ve witnessed over the past decade, or so.

Never forget: “A well trained Student Militia, being necessary to the security of our public Schools, the right of the middle and high school students to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

A public service announcement brought to you by The Ted Cruz Academy of School Safety