Community Log & News Digest
Shifting Seattle to public transportation
Some advocacy group has been posting photographs supposedly of alternative modes of transportation in the Seattle. Note to the noncognoscenti: these photographs show the only level street in all of downtown Seattle, specifically on Second Avenue.
Any other route—for example any street crossing Second Avenue itself and continuing more than a block or so—requires climbing hills at 45° angles. It is a popular fantasy of the sandals and ponytail set that cars can be completely replaced by other means of transportation. The reality is that residents of the urban area travel not in straight lines as shown but in thousands of sporadic and random trips among millions of random destination. Most of those trips originate and end outside the municipality of Seattle in other municipalities whose local governments' propensity for competition exceeds their desire for cooperation.
By far the greater problem is the storage of all the needed vehicles between trips; paradoxically, Seattle is allowing high-density construction without parking, which adds to the backup in congested areas. Walking or cycling on the few level streets in the metropolitan area may be a healthful alternative for twentysomethings, but it is surely inappropriate for taking children to after-school activities or elderly residents to appointments or shopping.
Greater Seattle and surrounding counties are in the process of building a fixed-rail transit system, whose origins and destinations in addition to downtown Seattle include several suburban shopping malls, many of which are in decline under pressure from online purchase and delivery systems. That system, like many in older eastern cities, maybe come maladapted to future residential working patterns.
Happily a better solution is on the horizon in the form of autonomous vehicles that are not owned by their occupants but instead respond to short-term demand for travel between random origins and destinations without regard for arbitrary starting and ending times such as the eight-hour workday. In the interim, buses are the alternative that offers both predictable routing and flexibility. The challenge is not technological but social, as buses hardly confer high social status on their riders.
Sadly, the political battle is the most intractable part of this problem. The overwhelming disparity of the funds available to the automobile and gasoline lobbies compared to the alternative approaches makes it unlikely that rationality will prevail.
Lindsey Graham Deprecates Impeachment Inquiry Transcripts
A friend posted on social media a link to a social media article labeled "Lindsay Graham says he won't read impeachment transcripts," and he has also full-throatedly supported Tr*mp in other forums. Another friend asked, "what happened to him? John McCain must be turning over in his grave."
It seems rather obvious: He's positioning himself as Tr*mp's successor, knowing he'd whomp VP Mike Pence in primaries. By appearing to support Tr*mp now, he can preserve rapport with the crazies while potentially appealing to a wider audience.
Would a deposed Tr*mp support Pence or Graham?
TRUMP TOWER MOSCOW 'Net Domain Renewed During, After Campaign
Pres. Trump has claimed that he had no pending deals in Russia after the beginning of his presidential campaign. Yet consider the Internet domain trumptowermoscow.com. It was registered in 2008 by "The Trump Organization" and has been renewed annually including three times (2015, 2016 and 2017) since the presidential campaign of 2016 began.
If indeed the project was to end before the election campaign of 2016 as Pres. Trump has asserted, why would registrants renew the related domain afterward, most recently in July 2017, through 2018? It certainly contradicts the statement that the candidate had no pending deals in Russia. It would appear that someone within The Trump Organization is at the very least hedging his bet, and as everyone knows, that "organization" is totally controlled by one person.
Two reasons for the contradiction suggest themselves: Either (a) that oft-cited, unnamed "low ranking employee who is no longer with the company" failed in his/her responsibility to cancel it, or (b) there was never any intent to abandon the project unless the presidential bid faiiled. Take your choice.
Of course there may be other possible reasons for the unnecessary renewal, such as poltergeists, an undiscovered email from Hillary or surreptitious actions by unnamed conspirators out to get The Donald.
Following is the WHOIS query —which anyone can execute— that shows the original registration and status (standard disclaimers & terms omitted). The standard terminal inquiry, which obscures the name of the registrant using a privacy device of the registrar, is followed by the public report from whoisxy.com (LINK) which reveals the name of the registrant.
As Deep Throat might have said had he lived longer, "follow the domain."
©2017 A. R. Clark
Big Energy Has another Option
The Guardian reported (earlier in October) that "a renewable energy revolution could end the world’s rising demand for oil and coal in the 2020s, decades ahead of forecasts from oil and mining companies."
Comment: With the tiniest nudge from the US government, which still sets the tone for the world economy, the rate of conversion to sustainable energy could be accelerated. Even the current energy companies could benefit: Though they have historically made $ by the sale of fuels and related products (plastics, another problem area), they have also created the world's greatest systems of logistics and commodity management.
So why are they dragging their feet? Converting to this service function as their primary function could guarantee their continuation regardless of the decline of fuels. One would think shareholders who value long-term appreciation would support this approach in huge numbers. As for the speculators, who gives a damn?
Trump, Flynn and the Nature of Lying
I cannot be the only one who has realized Donald Trump has incriminated himself.
Headline: “Trump tweets from motorcade he fired Flynn for lying to Pence, FBI.” (Chicago Tribune ). See also accompanying “Tweet” from Dec 2.
This appears to be prima facie evidence from Trump’s own tiny fingers that he knew of Flynn’s lies to the FBI well before they were publicly documented.
Supposedly the FBI discovered the lies in the summer, and Flynn’s guilty plea became public only last week. If Trump knew in February and did not reveal his knowledge, he clearly participated in a conspiracy to cover up Flynn’s crime. Both ignorance and knowledge of a fact cannot simultaneously be true.
The problem with lying, to the FBI or to the nation, is that one cannot keep the lies straight. In this case, Trump cannot have known in February that Flynn would lie to the FBI later in the spring or summer. So either he knew in February that the lies were coming — a clear indication of conspiracy — or he made up his prior knowledge yesterday. Either way, he either was or is a liar.
A Day in the Life of Joe the Conservative
"Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffee pot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good, because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.
With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take, because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised. All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan, because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.
He prepares his morning breakfast: bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat, because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.
In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents, because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body.
Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean, because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.
He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees, because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.
Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation, because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays for these standards, because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.
If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get worker's compensation or an unemployment check, because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home, because of his temporary misfortune.
It's noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured, because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.
Joe has to pay his insured mortgage and his below-market student loan, because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.
Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world, because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards.
He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration, because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.
The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.
He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension, because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.
Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Conservatives have fought against every protection and benefit Joe has enjoyed throughout his day.
Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."
(Republished after Facebook; original venue unknown.)
Interior Dept. Shamed into Abandoning Fee Hike
Alt National Park Service Reports:
Attn: Your voices have been heard! The Interior Department is backing off from substantially raising the entrance fee for national parks after more than 100,000 Americans wrote to complain about the proposed hikes. Last October, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed raising the entrance fee for 17 major parks from $25 to $70, a change that would mark the largest price increase since World War II.
The idea that public parks should show a profit is as public policy patently insane.
As of 2016, the National Park Service has an annual budget of about $3 billion and an estimated $12 billion maintenance backlog. The National Park Services budget is divided into two primary areas, discretionary and mandatory spending (Wikipedia). That annual budget is about $10 per citizen. For another $2 each per year (total about $1 per month per citizen) we could create a sinking fund that would clear the repair deck in about 40 years, leaving the National Parks as they were in my childhood. Maintaining that $12 fee or (saints preserve us doubling it to a whopping $24 per year could make the parks free to all forever. (Feel free to suggest a progressive income related rate structure.)
The (R)eally selfish people who came up with the fee increase idea don't care a whit about the parks. The Secretary of the Interior who oversees this is the beloved Ryan Zinke (often referred to as Who?, yes the guy who took a batallion of security agents along on his European vacation at public expense), the same guy who wants to strip mine most of North America and charge bargain rates to industry for whatever is exposed. Like most of the current Cabinet, he was appointed not as a steward but as a liquidator of the national patrimony (if this were the 19th Century I'd have added "upon the altar of Mammon," but I won't go there.)
Training and arming classroom teachers as school guards; costly, bad idea
Donald Trump, ever our protector, has proposed arming 20% of school teachers as part-time guards. That's 600,000 teachers. We can evaluate the proposal superficially rather quickly (fearless analysis: this article has taken longer to write than DT has thought about the issue).
Average teacher salary in US (2014) is $56,383 plus benefits. With est. fringe of 25% = $70,000.
Average training period for a sworn police officer is six months; we might assume three months for limited-duty training. There is ample reason to doubt that police-training agencies could gear up for this effort, but we won't count that for now.
Cost of training = one-fourth of a teacher's annual salary plus cost of training a police officer. Averages $7,000 across the US. Total with three months teacher salary $18,500 approx. The trainees might reasonably ask for a bonus for giving up their summer vacation, but we won't count that.
Presumably the teachers accepting the risk would get combat pay, let's say 25% bonus for half their career span. Figure 25% of $70,000 for 20 years or $300,000. Of course that would raise their pensions by a commensurate amount; est. 10% rise in pension cost; we won't try to calculate that permanent cost either.
So to summarize.
Ban and collect all "assault" weapons (define it yourself).
Government(s) might reimburse owners @ $400 each (currently advertised price of used AR-15 on 26 Feb 2018). (This is a good deal for most owners, whose guns are mostly hidden in closets, improperly maintained and rusting away.)
This would put a lot of money into circulation, almost entirely at a scale conducive to re-spending, which could be a boost to the economy, or perhaps equally to savings, which has lagged in recent decades.
If 10M are in circulation the one-time cost would be (400*10M)=$4 billion — about one-fifth of the armed-teacher plan — with no annual incremental cost.
To assuage anti-"Big Gub'mint" fears, there could be a federal license to carry with reasonable qualifications, e.g., an age limit; training requirement and certification; documentation while in possession; storage and protection obligations... Such a license might carry fees roughly equivalent to a passport, around $200 initially plus a periodic renewal. Further open and honest dialogue could work that out. Thus we protect the Second Amendment, as we should for a host of reasons.
Summary of Alternative
The nay-sayers are probably right that nothing can entirely eliminate the possibility of mass shootings, but this is about probabilities, not metaphysics, and imperfection is no excuse for inaction..
DJT Immigration Pronouncements Ring Hollow
Trump stated that the U.S. should admit more immigrants from Norway. In a recent meeting with the leader of Norway he announced the sale of F52 fighter jets, planes that only exist in a video game. However, the main problem with his statement is that very few people from Norway WANT to immigrate to the U.S.
I'm reminded of the time Lyndon Johnson misread the name of the RS-71 as SR-71 during a speech, whereupon the Pentagon renamed the spy plane (on the fly, as it were) to Johnson's version. Today, of course, our Fearless Leader would change its name to TRUMP FIGHTER 1 and try to charge the government for the use of his name.
Depoliticize the US Supreme Court
Almost from its founding, the US Supreme Court has been subject to political stress and strain, as successive presidents have sought to create a preference for their own views of both short and long-term issues. Recently the Senate leadership has used the requirement that it consent to judicial appointments to block or to accelerate the seating of new justices of the supreme and other courts, whether to liberalize or constrain the behavior of the courts purely for partisan reasons.
Recognizing the possibility that this might occur, the Founders’ only solution was to institute lifetime appointments to federal courts that would transcend the tenure of any given president or congress. That was in an era in which few citizens had ever left their own state, learned a foreign language, earned a university or law school diploma or indeed subjected themselves to the competitive aspects of a society of 300 million people, and when the primary criteria to be considered for a court seat were that one be adult, white, male and acceptable to the current power structure. In the modern world, that solution is inadequate and has often resulted in the appointment of relative non-entities to the Supreme Court. There are probably much better ways to manage a court system in the modern era.
Imagine a “Supreme Court System” to replace the current arbitrary grouping. The members of the court hearing any given case would be drawn from among a set of eligible justices on the various appellate courts -- from which many of the Supremes are now drawn anyway -- assigned at random. They need not all be in the same place, as they could share everything, both written and oral, by telecommunication, as most appellate cases are not heard but read, with oral argument being only a supplementary part of the review and often omitted. Where used, oral argument can be presented over the Internet, as was done in the recent Hawaii-based hearings on travel restrictions.
There are currently 169 members of the appellate circuits. If that number were increased, let’s say to 200, or even doubled, there would be adequate judicial time to hear the cases now before the Supreme Court (only a tiny minority of cases are ultimately resolved by the SC). Each case could be examined by a group of nine selected randomly (or perhaps five or seven for cases not involving constitutional or other truly national issues) from among the 200. For quality control, if necessary, eligibility for SC cases could be limited to the senior half of the appellate justices, whereby the qualifications of the justices on any given case would be at least comparable to the current politically selected jurists. Randomization effects would diminish partisan influence.
This approach could also make more cases suitable for SC review, giving both fairness and finality to many cases now declined by the SC. The SC could also be extended to a full work year; the current arrangement is determined in part by the awful summer weather in DC, which should hardly be part of a decision process that can involve life and death.
The Constitution does not prohibit such a change. It would be well within the law to change the role of the Chief Justice to one of administration and assignment of the five, seven, nine, etc., justices to individual cases (the Constitution leaves rules of court structure and management to Congress). The cost of the courts might rise somewhat, but the increased efficiencies and the reduced time and travel required of litigants, lawyers and judges would offset much of the increase, and litigants would be more likely able to get on with their lives. The suggested changes would also in a heartbeat increase the probable socioeconomic diversity of the members of the court hearing any given case, making the justices more like peers than superiors of the litigants.
Such a change should be acceptable across political lines. Both conservatives and liberals have been heard to complain about decisions being made in “far off Washington DC” that could be made closer to the action.
We are not well served by the current politically charged court. It is time to review the implementation of Article III of the Constitution and bring the Supreme Court into the 21st Century.
Copyright © 2017 A. Rees Clark
Rating Trump's Eligibility for Immigration on his own Scale
They're baa-aack. Now it's the RAISE Act (look up the stupid acronym yourself.)
You need at least 30 points to be eligible.
Hypothetical review for a certain person living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC.
How old are you?
> 50, 0 points.
What’s your highest level of education?
US bachelors, 5 points
What’s your English ability?
Good, 10 points
Do you have a job offer?
No, 0 points
(It is unlikely anyone would offer this person a job based on prior service or current recommendations.)
Do you have a Nobel Prize or major international award?
No, 0 points
Have you won an Olympic medal in the past 8 years?
No, surprisingly given this person’s status as the most fit leader in US history, 0 points
Do you plan on investing money (foreign currency) in the US?
No. Despite substantial purported foreign currency holdings, this person prefers to invest abroad in countries with authoritarian, non-democratic governments, and repatriating such holdings would require reporting via IRS, 0 points
I make that 15 points.
Trump, Weak on Health Care
Trump on Health Care. Interesting: Apparently Obamacare was passed before Obama was first elected. (Watch today's speech by DJT in which he alludes to "seventeen" years of Obamacare.) And nothing but what's wrong; little or at best hype about what's coming to replace it.
It’s easy to find anecdotal examples of failure to help a particular individual in any system. In the aggregate O’care has made about ten percent more Americans eligible for insurance. The whole concept of insurance revolves around the greatest good for the greatest number; it can never promise perfect outcomes for every person. There is no functional issue keeping insurers from participation in exchanges; they just don’t want to cut their marginal profits or — heaven forbid — actually have to deliver on their policies.
Insurers must be required to adhere to minimum standards and compete on quality, not on cost minimization. That is the only way they can ultimately avoid a government takeover of the health care system.
Here are some complaints about government you might recognize, updated and distinguished by "Ancient" and "Modern" to reflect the idea that the more things change the more they stay the same. It appears there is little to no difference between inherited monarchy and willful usurpation of authority.
The ancient "he" was George III. We leave identification of the modern "he" to you.
Ancient: Ancient: He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
Modern: He has made it exceedingly easy for States to avoid enforcing Federal law, and has neglected to attend to them.
Example: Allowing states to evade low income provisions of ACA.
Ancient: He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
Modern: He has with the connivance of his political affiliates sought to disenfranchise large numbers of voters based solely on complex and irrelevant documentation of eligibility or to favor certain forms of documentation over others albeit their equivalence.
Example: Arbitrary and discriminatory voter registration rules demonstrably for the purpose of restricting voting by classes of citizens.
Ancient: He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
Modern: He has conducted the business of state at undisclosed or private and inaccessible locations, for the purposes of his persoal convenience or to obscure the existence or content of such conduct.
Example: Numerous private meetings with business associates, intermediaries and foreign government officials at his own private venues.
Ancient: He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
Modern: He has declined to nominate managers or administrators of major and lesser Federal offices and judgeships, whereby the citizens are deprived of essential Federal services.
Example: After three months only a handful of the over 500 senior officials of the Federal government subject to Senate confirmation have been nominated and/or confirmed.
Ancient: He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
Modern: He has imposed untenable conditions on the Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to accommodate migration hither; ignoring the impending natural decrease of native-born populations that will inexorably lead to social and economic decline.
Example: He has ordered or proposed numerous discriminatory barriers to entry and naturalization based on such unconstitutional grounds as national origin or religion; preferring instead to base immigration policy on economic benefit to corporations and financial manipulators.
Ancient: He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
Modern: He with his political affiliaes has failed to appoint or confirm Justices of the various Federal Courts.
Example: As of May 13, 2017, 129 of 890 judgeships are vacent, and only nine persons have been nominated and eight confirmed.
Ancient: He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
Modern: He has essayed to make Judges answerable to himself on matters of law; and has impugned their legal decisions by derision or personal insult.
Example: He has denigrated numerous judges of the Federal Courts for a multitude of decisions, based solely on his personal disagreement with them, regardless of his utter lack of legal or judicial training.
Ancient: He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
Modern: He has rendered certain agencies impotent by leaving key positions unfilled, by ignoring his obligation to properly adminster the government; or he has appointed administrators who lack substantive knowledge of are in fact opposed to the purpose and practices of their own agencies.
Example: A secretary of commerce opposed to the regulation of financial institutions; a secretary
Ancient: He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
Ancient: He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
Modern: He has appointed military officials to civilian offices.
Example: J. Mattis as Secretary of Defense and H. R. McMaster as National Security Advisor; though many of the security challenges we face are non-military offenses by non-state actors essentially immune to military defense and better suited control by legal or police power or international cooperation.
Ancient: He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
Modern: He has entered into unexplained relationships with foreign dictators of countries inimimcal to our national interest; providing no or little explanation of the intent of such relationships or what quid pro quo may be involved.
Example: Can you name a good reason to praise Putin, Kim, Duterte, etc.?
Ancient: He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
Modern: He has charged his followers with imposing physical harm upon opponents of his personal beliefs, statements and actions during extra governmental rallies.
Example: Assaults on protesters at campaign and post-election rallies perpetrated by spoken approval of violence even against silent protesters based solely on their appearance or attire.
Ancient: ... A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Modern: There is no possible improvement on Jefferson's conclusion.
Thorough Investigation of Russia Connection to Trump Campaign Is Essential
I am recalling CA Rep. Charles Wiggins (R) nearly dissolving into tears as he cast his vote for impeachment of Richard Nixon in 1974 along with several of his Republican colleagues, putting country ahead of party. He was not alone in his emotions, as both Democrats and Republicans voted for impeachment with difficulty. In those days, Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage" still resonated with the citizenry and its leaders.
Like most Americans, I hope the implications of the importune interactions with Russian government officials and intelligence operatives turn out to be innocent. Perhaps Michael Flynn acted alone, but as with L.H. Oswald, we need to know. Flynn’s own assertion that he is a scapegoat implies otherwise.
So far the present Congress is silent, letting the current scandals over Flynn and other Trump associates fester without prospect of investigation by the people's representatives. This reticence is disappointing at best. One awaits with curiosity the first volume of "Profiles in Pusillanimity." --Rees Clark