Chief Injustice

When the founders designed the Federal government, they thought carefully about how to ensure that at least one branch would be protected from electoral pressure – the Judicial Branch.

The other branches of government have staggered turnovers: the House of Representatives every other year, the Senate every six years, and the President every four years. The idea was that the longer the term, the more resistant to public pressure. It is for this reason that the Senate prides itself on being the “greatest deliberative body in the world.”

But the federal judiciary serve lifetime terms because they are intended to be immune to political pressure. They need not consider how a decision or opinion from the bench will affect their electoral prospects. This allowed the Supreme Court, early in the history of nation (Marbury vs. Madison), to claim the role of deciding whether the actions of the other branches were legal under the terms of the highest law of the land – the US Constitution.

The founders understood that political actors would use the powers of office to secure their position. In other words, the founders understood that every act by a elected official would have political consequences. In the hoped-for outcome, good policy would lead the voters to re-elect the official. In the unfortunate case, exposure of misconduct would cause the voters to deny the official their office.

Unfortunately, that requires that the misconduct be revealed. The founders again provided diverse methods for that to occur. The first is the free press. The second is the balance of powers: each of the three branches has the opportunity to check misconduct in the other branches.

The Supreme Court is intended to be the branch most immune to pressure when it exercises that responsibility. Unfortunately, it has abdicated that role. Under the guidance of “Chief Justice” John Roberts, the justices selected by Republican presidents have decided that they wish to avoid “political involvement.”

This is absolutely childish. Every act of the federal government has political outcomes. That one party or the other claims a case is “political” is natural, but irrelevant. The job of the court is to decide whether the actions of officials in the other branches is legal under the Constitution. To abdicate that role is absurd, childish, and cause for impeachment. It is the reason that the Supreme Court exists.

This is not idle speculation. The Court, considering the national conspiracy to disenfranchise electors in 2010 (The GoP “Red Map” project), determined that it was “nonjusticiable.” In other words, the Court would not decide whether the plan violated the Constitution right to vote in free and fair elections.

Similarly, the conservative members of the Court have avoided intervention to enforce Congressional subpoenas that are essential to exposing criminality in the Executive Branch.

This injustice is a political act. The chief proponent of that policy, John Roberts, is woefully ill-suited to his role. Claiming that the Court should avoid political entanglements is absurd. When a question of legality or legitimacy is brought before the court, the only criterion that the Court can consider is the Law, with the Constitution as the ultimate standard for legality.

Postal, Going

In the run-up to Henry V’s invasion, the French state was weakened by the reign of a delusional king. Charles VI went through long periods as an alternate personality. The court politics was organized around ensuring access to the king during his initial moments of coherency. The lucky individual had complete control of the affairs of state.

What is pathetic in the current era is the obvious manipulation of our Chief Executive by the unscrupulous. Trump is a paranoid delusional, his antagonism to government reinforced during impeachment by the parade of public servants who came forward to expose his malfeasance.

The fear of destruction justifies all selfishness. In an executive, it is thus the crowbar used to destroy institutions. The characteristic attitude of selfishness is “I do not care what it cost to make this. I do not care how much damage its loss will cause. If I want it, I will take it; and if it threatens me, it will be destroyed.”

Trump’s usefulness to the selfish is no more evident than in his decision to abandon the Postal Service, the largest non-profit public service institution in America. With the threat of universal vote-by-mail kept in the shadows, he manufactured a charge that the Postal Service subsidizes Amazon deliveries. Delivered with absolute conviction – as was his assertion that injecting disinfectants would cure COVID-19 infections – clearly the same process is in play: he was given a brief by someone, and passed the information on to the public as true.

The Postal Service has been under attack by private delivery services for many years. Much as in the health insurance market, they want to carve out the low-cost delivery operations in urban areas, abandoning the rural communities. That those communities, already deprived of health care services, would be further cut adrift and disempowered electorally, is of no concern to them. They simply seek profit.

Indentured to Incompetence

When the Clinton Administration briefed the incoming Bush team, they emphasized the importance of sending a clear response to the bombing of the USS Cole. The Bush foreign policy team sneered, proclaiming the Cole a “Clinton failure,” and went merrily about strong-arming Russia and China to modify nuclear weapons treaties to allow the design, test, and deployment of a nuclear missile shield. Remembering the inanity of the designs promoted during the Reagan and Bush era, I shook my head. Some in positions of influence tried to trumpet warnings: Tom Daschle, Democratic head of the Senate majority, stood on the Capital steps late in the summer of 2001 to voice his concern that the Bush team was baiting the wrong bear.

Daschle’s priority was international Islamic terrorism. It took only a month for his fears to be realized, horrifically, with the event known now simply as “9/11.”

The cost multiplier for inaction was astonishing, and certainly enormously satisfying to bin Ladin and those inspired by his an example. A meaningful response to the Cole would have cost perhaps $10 million. The response to the coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Congress – involving two wars, time-consuming and costly restrictions on travel, and interruption of international commerce – mounted into the trillions of dollars. For every dollar not spent on prudent prevention, we spent nearly a million dollars.

Swallowing their criticism, the rational party accepted the outcome of the Bush Administrations incompetence as “the new normal.”

Today, with the nation’s economy smothered by pandemic, the apologists for the Trump Administration insist that this is “the new normal.” But step back into the last Democratic executive, a man excoriated by Trump’s “Birther” movement, and we see that this is nothing normal at all. The Zika and H1N1 threats were effectively neutered by the Obama Administration. The total number of lives lost was in the low thousands, with no significant impact on the economy.

The lessons learned from those efforts were institutionalized in protocols for international cooperation led by a team directly in the White House itself.

While I respect the Office of the Presidency, my scorn for Trump is complete due to his utter contempt for the office itself. The Presidency is not a man, it is an institutional process for coordinated decision-making and action. Information is fed into the White House and plans flow out. Trump has not only besmirched the office, he has decimated the processes built over two hundred years to empower presidents to accomplish the nation’s goals. The motivation for those willful acts is Trump’s record of corrupt business dealings, evidenced even during his campaign as he attempted to wield his political prominence to influence civil cases already in progress. Once in office, he systematically bent the powers of his office toward destruction of the institutions assigned to prosecute his corruption.

While the politicization of the security and foreign policy services may be the longest-lasting of those institutional rapes, in real time we are finding ourselves again indentured to incompetence in the Executive Branch. Elimination of Obama’s pandemic action team left the world without a leader in the reaction to COVID-19. The early response to the disease has already cost trillions of dollars, and we can expect the death toll to rise toward 100,000 American lives. Millions of jobs have been lost under the weight of business failures. The obligations of missed payments and unfulfilled contracts will take years to unravel in the court system.

And Trump’s supporters shrug their shoulders and mourn “This is the new normal.” No it’s not. It’s the old abnormal. Wake up, and if you’re unwilling to vote for a Democrat, at least stay home until your party can prop up a candidate with at least minimal competence. I, for one, am tired of being indentured to your blind loyalty.

“We Will Get Through This”

No we won’t, Donald. Hundreds of thousands of us will get sick, perhaps 100,000 will be unable to resume their previous life because of lung damage, tens of thousands will die.

All because you did not act when the Democratic caucus advised you on February 5th that you needed funding to plan for the outbreak. All because you downplayed the danger and allowed people to continue to congregate. All because you did not act to ensure supplies and equipment were in place.

You can “play by instinct” and do your word salad and monitor your Tweet likes to find out what plays well with your base. You may escape blame. But the hospitals and governors will assemble the numbers and you will be called to account in the next election.

You said we’d “win so much you’ll get tired of winning.” Well we’re dying instead, and even Twitter won’t save you from that contrast when November comes around.

WTFU

I’ll re-iterate yesterday’s point in secular terms. Prior administrations, recognizing the disastrous costs of a future pandemic, established an office directly within the White House to ensure international coordination when new diseases are detected. This reflected recognition that the primary spawning ground is currently Southeast Asia. It is in tracking Asian outbreaks of influenza that we build our current flu vaccines.

Prior administrations used the White House office to prevent the spread of MERS and SARS and Ebola. The Trump Administration, in some kind of “Make America Great Again” isolationist pique, dismantled that office. Thus when COVID-19 reared its ugly head, there was no one to lead the response. Worse, the President downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, and deflected blame to others when it began to make inroads in American communities.

The end result of this strategy was visible in yesterday’s CDC press release. In the most ridiculous display of sycophancy imaginable, the CDC head spoke fawningly of Trump’s initiative in helping to “flatten the curve” of infection. What this means, people, is that they recognize that the disease is out of control. 60-70% of Americans will be infected, with fatalities up in the high hundreds of thousands or low millions. Their only goal is to slow the rate of infection to avoid saturating the American health care system. If that happens, fatalities could reach into tens of millions.

To characterize this as a laudable outcome is simply absurd. That it is being touted in press conferences is tantamount to admission that Trump behind the scenes is threatening to fire anyone who does not flatter his leadership. He is holding the American public hostage to his ego. Obviously the President does not recognize that he abdicates leadership with statements that he’s “not responsible for anything.” Followed by “someone in my Administration did it,” it’s clear that his paranoia has grown from the “Deep State” to blanket his own people.

Those in the Republican Party who projected this faker into the Oval Office have much to answer for. You should have helped the Democrats throw him out on his ear.

The Abyss

They don’t love him because he speaks for them, or because he entertains them.

They love him because through him they deploy the only strategy that seems to work any longer – the strategy of terror.

“Take care of us or we’ll blow our country up.”

Ignited by anger, driven by fear. The worse the corruption and criminality, the more heartened his supporters. They glory in the hand-wringing and hypocrisy of legislators and judges who step into line to ratify his conduct.

Through him they have power. They have meaning. They are seen. People have to pay attention.

We are become our own enemy. And the Madih resting at the bottom of the Indian Ocean smiles in delight.

Trump Pump and Dump

A “pump and dump” scam is a method used by unscrupulous investors to take money from “get rich quick” investors. It was common in penny tech stocks during the ’90s, and is openly advocated by virtual currency (“E-coin”) investors today.

Pump and dump starts by sending the victims a notice that an asset is “ready to move.” A large purchase is placed to drive up market valuation. When the victims pile on to take advantage of the “opportunity,” the price continues to rise. The scammer sells back into the market, reaping profits. When the victims run out of money, the asset valuation returns to its original value, leaving the victims with nothing.

Now we might not be terribly sympathetic to the get-rich quick investors, but it is worth noting that Trump has a history of association with Mafia pump-and-dump operators. With him as president, they have a bold opportunity.

This one relies on the futures markets using a technique called a short-sell. Organizations wishing to secure the price of an asset will place an order today, taking the risk that the price will fall in the future. A virtual seller can reap a profit by taking the risk, hoping that the price will indeed fall so that they can buy the asset for less than the buyer paid for it.

As the futures markets have evolved, they have come to include almost every financial asset, include stock market exchanges.

Now imagine that you have a president that likes to make threats of trade wars. You notice that the market drops like a bomb on the day of the announcement, recovers for a couple of days, then tanks again when a new announcement is made. Investors that know the timing of the announcements can short the index, reaping profits each time the market falls.

Of course, we don’t need such imagination. We have such a president, who excels at saying alarming things that destabilize markets. Now add his association with mafia market manipulators, and you have to wonder…how much money is his family making (including the Kushners) each time an announcement is made? How much money is Carl Icahn making?

Armed with Love

The Monastery is the forum maintained by the Universal Life Church. As a non-denominational sect (anybody can become ordained), it attracts people with diverse agendas. One of them posted an article on youth standing up for gun rights. The dialog in the forum was deprecating on both sides. I wrote a long response that emphasizes my perspective as a Christian, but couldn’t post it. After reconstructing it after the first failure, I tried several more times, but kept on getting an “invalid security token” message.

Alas: I’ll post it here.


 The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their peers are involved in a sacred purpose. They are confronting the insanity of a culture that celebrates death, and seeking to assert their preference for a culture founded upon love and hope.

The culture of death is pervasive. It includes the military (who now dominate our police and the larger private security services), the defense industry, the gun industry, much of our entertainment industry, and a political party that motivates its base through messages of fear. This is why the gun rights advocates are so strident and persistent in forums such as this: they have a vested interest in continuing to exploit paranoiacs that hate government.

For this is the central issue they raise: the untrustworthiness of government. Modern governments don’t need a military to control their populations (as foreseen in 1984). They have the tools of propaganda, public utilities, corruption and foreign conflict. When these are exercised, there is no need for military tyranny. That these are exercised most zealously where gun rights advocates hold power is indicative to me. But were those tools to be renounced, I would imagine that most gun buyers would prefer to take a vacation in Hawaii. This is the hope held out by our youth.

As for God, when Jesus led his disciples out of the Last Supper, they sought weapons for protection. One sword was found, and then a second, and then Jesus intervened: “Two is enough.” So he was clearly in favor of arms control. When one of them was actually used, we should note that the hardened warriors of the Temple Guard did not respond. They were overawed by Jesus’ grace. So he healed the wound and offered his Last Teaching before his Passion: “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”

This is to warn us that heaven will not accept the fear that motivates us to rely upon weapons, or the fear we create thereby in others. Instead, we are not to resist evil (as he taught more than once) but to submit and infuse the situation with love. This He did himself on the cross, submitting to death and suffusing it with love. His command was that we should do the same. To those that follow, there is no fear in death, for they see their Savior waiting there to welcome them into a place forever without fear.

As I stated, our youth are engaged in a sacred purpose. I went out to MSD HS, and on the Friday of their return to school sat across the street and prayed over them. I can testify that I have never encountered a group of people more open to the healing power of love. Those that rail against them need to look into their own hearts and consider the state of their souls. Complain not of the mote in your neighbor’s eye.