The Personal Website of Mark W. Dawson


Containing His Articles, Observations, Thoughts, Meanderings,
and some would say Wisdom (and some would say not).

Political Issues

Table of Contents

Campaign Finance ReformTOC

The call of campaign finance reform rings throughout the land, especially when there is a national or close election. Who isn’t concerned about influence peddling by politicians, or undue voter influence by special interest groups (Political Action Committees - PACs or Issue Advocacy Groups - IAGs) that do not reflect the will of the people, not to mention that we all don’t want the rich to decide the outcome of an election. But campaign finance reform has inherent problems within its constructs.

Restricting donations to political candidates is a suppression of our free speech rights (as the freedom to spend our money as we see fit is the freedom of expression), as well as our ability to support or oppose a public policy. You should be able to advocate for or oppose any public policy position of your choosing and in any amount of monies that you choose to donate for or against these policies. And this includes supporting or opposing a political candidate who espouses a public policy position

Public Financing of elections has been proposed as a possible solution to this problem. However, it is a well-known fact that ousting an incumbent politician is more difficult than retaining an incumbent. It takes more effort, and more monies, to successfully challenge an incumbent. Public financing of campaigns, or restricting donations to a campaign, provides an inherent advantage to an incumbent and makes it less likely that they will be ousted. Therefore, Campaign Finance Reform has the unintended consequence of being an Incumbent Protection Act (another example of the “The Law of Unintended Consequences” rearing its ugly head).

As for the rich determining the outcome of an election, it should be noted that there are rich donators on both sides, and they tend to cancel each other out as far as monies contributed. Those that oppose the rich donations, or PACs or IAGs donations, are often opposed to the other candidates’ rich donators, PACs or IAGs, and often overlook their own candidates’ rich donators, PACs or IAGs.

As for transparency within a political campaign, I would direct you to my observation on “Transparency” as a starting point. Transparency of political donations is a personal transparency right. As such you have the right to choose, or not choose to reveal your personal contributions to a political campaign. I would support the reporting of PACs or IAGs contributions to a political campaign, but not the reporting of the individual contributors to the PAC or IAG.

If you, as an individual or group, earned your money in a legal, moral, and ethical manner, you or your group has the right to spend your monies as you see fit. This right includes donations to a political candidate that you support, or against any political candidate you oppose, in any amount that you see fit. I am therefore opposed to Campaign Finance Reform.

Climate ChangeTOC

I believe in climate change. I believe the climate has changed in the past, the climate is currently changing, and the climate will change in the future. This is a meteorological and geological scientific fact. The question is whether human activity is causing the current climate change. This may be true, or may not be true, depending upon your interpretation of scientific facts and hypothesis. If you had read my observation on the "On the Nature of Scientific Inquiry" you know that I have a scientific orientation to my thinking, and I apply that scientific thinking too many of these observations. I have also wriiten more extensively from a scientific perspective in my science article "Climate Change". I would encourage you to read this scientific perspective at your convenience.

To examine this issue we must first look at the geological and meteorological history of the earth. When the Earth was first formed it was molten and volcanic. It cooled and simply became hot. It cooled even further, and then warmed, and at times in our Earth's geological history, the earth’s climate varied tremendously. At different times the earth was covered in ice, at other times it had a tropical environment and was covered in lush vegetation and animal life, and the climate has been in all states in between.

In recent geological history (the last 10,000 years) we have exited an ice age and entered into a more temperate climate. During this time the earth has been cooler and been warmer, varying as much as 3° or 4°. Until the 20th century, no one would say that human activity has been the cause of this variance. The largest human activity that could have affected the climate is in deforestation and/or the burning of forests. Even when this happened the Earth's climate did not change significantly.

It is only in the 20th century that climate change proponents have declared that human activity is affecting the climate. Even during the 20th century, we have had periods where the Earth's climate has been cooler or warmer by about 1°. During the 20th century, the climate change has been generally an increase in temperature. The real question is - is that increase outside the normal range of what you should expect given the short time frame (100 years) in which you are measuring? The answer to that question is - no. What concerns climate change proponents has been a steady increase within the normal parameters of the century of meteorological activity, and the possibility that this increase will continue and we will have to deal with the serious effects upon the Earth's climate.

The proponents of climate change often use statistical analysis and computer modeling to show that this is going to happen. It should be remembered that statistical analysis and computer modeling are tools of science and not actual science. In my observation on the "On the Nature of Scientific Inquiry", you know that observation and experimentation, along with predictability and falsifiability are at the core of science. Both the proponents and opponents of human activity causing climate change are constantly debating the observations and experiments regarding climate change.

I, however, would like to comment on the predictability and falsifiability of the proponents of human-caused climate change. I know of no computer model for climate change has a high level of predictability, especially when you consider the entire history of the world. Even for the last 10,000 years, their predictability has been very low. All you have to do is go back 20 or 30 years and review the predictions they made for what today's climate would be. Even predictions made just 10 years ago have not been borne out by the facts of today's climate. As to their falsifiability, it seems whenever new observations or experiments do not fit within their model they often adjust the model to fit the new observations or experiments. Constantly revising your model is a scientific exercise that should be done, but it is also an indication that your model is incomplete, incorrect, or insufficiently comprehensive to be correct or scientific. Also, the constant readjustment of data and algorithms should be very carefully scrutinized. There is an old saying in the computer sciences of GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out).

Therefore, I am skeptical of the claims of human activity causing major climate change. I am, however, concerned that this could be a possibility. I believe that much more scientific research, both pro, and con, must be done before we make large-scale changes to our economy in the hopes it will prevent possible human activity climate change. I also believe that technologically reasonable and economically feasible efforts should be implemented to reduce pollutants into our climate as a matter of good social policy.

And remember they have been wrong before:



Environmental ImpactsTOC

Everything causes environmental impacts, whether it be solar activity, geothermal process, earthquakes, storms, precipitation, tides, etc... It is the nature of Nature to have environmental impacts. The issue here is the impact of human activities on the environment.

Humans do have an impact on the environment, mostly minor, but in some cases major. And it is these major cases that we need to be concerned with. The production of goods and services, as well as the production of the energy required to produce goods and services, will always have environmental impacts. The question is how can we reduce or minimize these environmental impacts. The other question is what is the cost of reducing or minimize these impacts, and is the result worth the costs. This is often the most difficult and contentious question when discussing environmental issues. And it is this question that I will be discussing in this observation.

It is often easy, but not always, to determine the costs of reducing environmental impacts. The cost of implementing environmental regulations in both monies spent, increased the cost of goods and services as a result, potential job losses, and other items can often be determined. The reduction of environmental impacts benefits is sometimes clear, but are often murky. It can be difficult to ascertain these cost benefits of environmental impact reduction, as they are often a quality of life issue, which is not often definable in costs. It should always be remembered that it is not possible to have an industrial and technological society (i.e. the world we live in) without having environmental impacts. The question, as always, is it worth it to reduce the environmental impact given the costs of doing so?

This question must always be carefully analyzed before introducing environment laws and regulations. A robust, but respectful and intelligent debate, should occur before these laws and regulations are passed and implemented. People on both sides of the issues must be willing to listen to the intellectual reasoning of the other side. This should be done as outlined in my observation “Criticism vs Critiques”, and without getting into Demonizing, Denigrating, and Disparaging the other side as outlined in my observation on “Dialog and Debate”.

It is only after this robust debate has occurred that a decision should be made if the benefits outweigh the cost, and only then should new environmental laws or regulations be passed. It is up to the legislative and executive branches to explain their reasoning to the American people as to why they made their decision, regardless of what the decision was.

You should also be cognizant that any cost increases to businesses to implement environmental laws and regulations are passed on to the American consumer in increased prices for the goods or services that we utilize. Therefore, it is ultimately the American consumer that pays for environmental laws and regulations. The American consumer must be willing to bear this increase for any environmental laws and regulations that are passed or implemented.

We must also be careful that we are not exporting environmental impacts to another country. This most often occurs in the mining and production of raw materials to create the products that we utilize (and don’t forget the energy cost increases and their environmental impacts in the other country). This also occurs if a factory is moved to a foreign country to escape burdensome environmental laws and regulations. When these events occur you are not reducing environmental impacts, you are just shifting it to a location where it is unseen or permitted to happen. Therefore, there is no benefit to the environment when this happens, and the loss to our economy could be substantial!

My personal opinion is that we should do our best to reduce and minimize environmental impacts when the cost of doing so is not too steep, or the environmental benefit is great enough to warrant the costs.

FascismTOC

Four key characteristics of Modern American FascismTOC

Academics have fought passionately over how to define fascism, but scholars generally focus on four crucial characteristics. First fascists were nationalists: They believed the nation, rather than individuals (like liberals) or classes (like Marxists), was the key actor in political life; that it existed above or separate from the citizens composing it; and that it had a special mission or “soul” that needed to be nurtured and protected from internal and external enemies. They were also Anti-Capitalists, Anti-Liberal and Anti-Democratic, and accepted using disruption and violence to achieve their goals. Often this required a strong leader with dictatorial powers to implement Fascism.

However, today's fascists have evolved into slightly different characteristics as follows; Political Tribalism, Controlled Economy, Anti-Individual and Anti-Democratic, and Disruption and Violence. 

Political TribalismTOC

First, Modern Fascism is no longer Nationalistic. Membership in modern fascism is determine on your political ideology and beliefs such as; Abortion, Anti-Capitalism, Anti-Israel and Pro Arab, Anti-Military, Anti-Police, Anti-Religiosity, Climate Change, Free Education, Free Healthcare, LGBT Equality, Marijuana Usage, Modern Feminism, Open Borders, Racist America, and the evilness of those who disagree with modern fascism. If you are a modern fascist and do not hold to all the beliefs of modern fascism you are intimidated or harassed into changing your beliefs, or you are ostracized from modern fascism. No dissent on beliefs is permitted, the only dissent permitted is on the means to achieve modern fascism goals.

Controlled EconomyTOC

Second, fascists shared a deep suspicion of capitalism because it is antithetical to modern fascism. They, therefore, advocate a level of state intervention in the economy unsurpassed in American history. Individual Liberty and Freedom to pursue your dreams through capitalistic success must be subsumed to the goals of modern fascism.

Anti-Individual and Anti-DemocraticTOC

Third, modern fascists were deeply anti-individual and anti-democratic. Traditional Liberalism is rejected for its promotion of individualism and individual rights, Freedom and Liberty for all, its emphasis on reason and rationality, and its acceptance of pluralism. Freedom and Liberty are only to be permitted for modern fascists. All others are to be restricted to only the Freedoms and Liberties that do on contravene modern fascism.

Disruption and ViolenceTOC

Fourth, fascists embraced violence as a means and an end. Modern Fascism is revolutionary: It aims not to reform but to fundamentally transform the modern world — and for this, a constant and probably violent struggle may be necessary. Disruption and Violence was not merely the method through which revolution would be accomplished; it was valuable in and of itself, providing modern fascist supporters with a powerful “bonding” experiences and “cleansing” society of its weaknesses and decadence.

Democratic elections that not produce results that they favor are to be resisted. Only modern fascists should be permitted to run and be elected. Modern fascists in positions of political power are the only acceptable results of a democratic election. Disruption of the political process is acceptable and encouraged if modern fascists are not in political power.

Free Speech and Free Assembly is only permitted for modern fascists. Any attempt by Non- modern fascist to speak or assemble is to be violently resisted. Gangs of Jackboots are to be assembled to convince the sponsor of free speech and free assembly to cancel an event. If the event is to go forward the Jackboots attempt to prohibit access to the event. If the event proceeds than the Jackboots will attempt to shout down the speaker(s) and prevent the audience from hearing what is said.

Those non-modern fascists in political power are not to be permitted to enjoy a peaceful personal life. Any attendance in a public arena by a non-modern fascist is to be disrupted with aggressive verbal assaults and threats of intimidation on the non-modern fascists. The non-modern fascists may not even enjoy a peaceable personal lime in their own homes, as the Jackboots may assemble outside their homes and issue verbal assaults and threats of intimidation. Not only are the modern fascists disrupting the non-modern fascists home life, but they are disrupting the neighbor’s home life as well. And most wickedly all is this disruption and violence is permissible to happen to the family members of the non-modern fascists.

Fascism ConclusionTOC

Modern fascism does not want to be confused or confronted by the facts, they only want what they want. Unpleasant facts and truths that contravene their beliefs are to be ignored or obfuscated away. Double talk, smoke and mirrors, illogic, or unreason are to be utilized by modern fascism in achieving their goals. They often accuse those that oppose them as being Nazis or Fascists due to the evil connotations of these labels, without the modern fascists understanding the true meaning of these labels.

Because Fascism has such a bad reputation and connotation in today’s society modern fascism does not recognize that they are fascist. Instead, they have given themselves a new name – “Modern Progressives”.  But make no mistake, Modern Progressives are Modern Fascists.

Gun ControlTOC

The United States Constitution, Bill of Rights - Amendment II:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

So much argument and discussion, smoke and mirrors, and misleading statements have been applied to this statement. My observation is that we need to compare this amendment to the First Amendment:

United States Constitution, Bill of Rights - Amendment I:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The First Amendment has often been described as the right to free expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. This is an encapsulation based on a broad interpretation of the meaning of the amendment. A broad interpretation of all the amendments to the Constitution is the appropriate way to ensure the freedoms and liberties we all enjoy. It has been the standard that we have employed throughout our history.

As such, we must employ a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment. Even if we do not employ a broad interpretation the Second Amendment can be interpreted literally. The Second Amendment, gun rights, is stated in two parts; the reason for the amendment, and the right to be guaranteed. Some who have advocated gun control have interpreted this amendment to only apply to people who are in the militia. This is a misreading of the amendment. The right of the people very explicitly says that the people have the right, to keep and bear arms, and it is not to be infringed.

Therefore, it is my opinion that any gun regulation or control must be constrained by the right of the people to keep and bear arms. This constraint is regarding, but not limited to, people who have committed criminal acts, or people who have certifiable mental illnesses. We should also be reminded that there are many gun laws in effect and that these laws rarely prevent criminal acts or malfeasance by individuals. The truism is that gun laws often constrained lawful citizens, and rarely constrain unlawful citizens.

Therefore, my observation of gun laws is that it must be limited by the right of the people to keep and bear arms. My other objection to gun laws is that it is not very practical.

As of 2009, the estimated total number of firearms available to civilians in the United States is approximately 310 million: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns. Per capita, the civilian gun stock has roughly doubled since 1968, from one gun per every two persons to one gun per person. It must also be remembered that most gun owners often have at least a dozen rounds of ammunition per weapon, many having many dozens of rounds. This would mean that there are approximately 7 to 10 billion rounds of ammunition in the hands of Americans. Data from a variety of sources including the BATFE, Congressional Research Service, NRA, and others all tend to confirm or reinforce that number.

Given the sheer number of firearms and ammunition in the United States, it is almost an impossible task to implement significant gun laws that would in any way restrict the ability of unlawful persons to obtain firearms and ammunition. Even confiscation of all firearms and ammunition would be an impossible task, as people who are unlawful would hide and hoard firearms and ammunition. This would lead to a situation in which the lawful people would be unarmed, but the unlawful people would be armed.

So, what is to be done about gun violence? We must first review a few facts about gun ownership in the United States. About 30,000 people a year die by firearms, but the number of gun deaths every year has been declining since the 1980s. It is estimated that firearms are used 2 to 2.5 million times annually for self-defense. It has also been estimated that approximately 500,000 deaths or serious bodily harm have been stopped by the intended victim displaying or brandishing a firearm for self-defense purposes. This means that firearms are 16 times more likely to save a life and/or prevent serious bodily harm than to take a life. Those that are willing to restrict guns are therefore willing to accept the 500,000 potential deaths or serious bodily harm in order to potentially save the lives of 30,000 people. This, for me, shows that the harm of gun control far exceeds the benefits of gun control. These statistics should be compared to the rate of motored vehicle deaths which is substantially larger at 42,000 deaths a year. Tobacco is still the #1 killer in the United States causing an average of 440,000 deaths a year.

As Archie Bunker once said to his daughter Gloria (in the TV show "All in the Family") when given that number of gun deaths:

"Would it make you feel any better little girl, if they was all pushed outa windows?"

Some gun control proponents have suggested that we confiscate all guns and make the United States a gun free zone. This would require we repeal the Second Amendment, and compensate gun owners for the confiscation of their firearms. It is highly unlikely that we would repeal the Second Amendment, and is highly impractical to confiscate all guns in the United States. Even if we were to successfully confiscate 99% of the firearms and ammunition in the United States this would still leave approximately three million firearms and several hundred million rounds of ammunition. Practically all of these firearms and ammunition would be in the hands of the unlawful persons, as the confiscation would only affect the law-abiding citizens. This would make us internally less safe having that number of firearms and ammunition in the hands of people who would do us harm.

It should be noted that if someone wishes to kill another person the presence or absence of a gun is not much of a restriction of their intent. Evil will find a way to accomplish its goals; either through a gun, a knife, a blunt object, a bomb, or many other devices that can inflict death, evil will find a way to commit murder. Gun Control is not the answer, as criminals will find a way of committing violence. As previously stated the FBI statistics report that every year 500,000 acts of criminal activity are thwarted by the intended victim brandishing a gun, and possibly another 2 to 2.5 million unreported criminal activity was thwarted by the intended victim brandishing a gun. Those that wish to control guns usually control the guns of lawful citizens and not the criminals. To implement gun control is to risk the lives and safety of the two to three million law-abiding citizens in order to possibly save the lives of a few thousand. Gun control under this circumstance is untenable and morally wrong. All law-abiding citizens have the right to defend themselves and their families against criminal activity.

Some gun control proponents have suggested that we have a national registry of all firearms, and perhaps ammunition, that is in the United States. Anytime someone in the United States interacts with law enforcement and is in possession of a firearm, the police would check this database and if the firearm is not registered properly it could be confiscated. While this sounds like a solution, and in practice, it would probably be impractical. To create this registration database, and to keep it current, would be very difficult given the nature of how firearms are purchased, traded, gifted, and transferred from one lawful person to another. It would also overwhelm the justice system with appeals as to whether the confiscation was proper or not. It also raises the specter of the government interference in the private affairs of a citizen.

The impact of gun control is disproportionately unfair, affecting mostly the poor and women. This is because of the environment in which they live. A middle or upper-class environment is often a safer place to live. The crime rate is less, and the police can often respond faster as there are more police per capita, and the territory they patrol is smaller so their response time is faster.

The poor are affected because a large majority of them live in urban neighborhoods in which the rate of crime is much higher. A poor person is more likely to be the victim of a violent crime such as assault, robbery, burglary, murder, and rape. Calling the police when these crimes occur is not very effective, as it takes several minutes for the police to arrive, if they are could at all. A firearm in the hands of the intended victim is a much more effective way to stop a crime before it is committed.

Let's face it, woman are different. They are equal to men in their human rights and mental capabilities but are generally unequal in their physical abilities. In general, a man who assaults a woman is most likely to be successful in the assault. A properly trained woman has a better chance of fending off the assault, but in many cases will still not be successful. A woman confronted by a man who intends to assault her is in a much better position to defend herself if she possesses a firearm.

Guns are not the problem, it’s the violent nature of the people who use them. They will find another means to commit their unlawful acts if they don't have guns. Registration or Gun Control won’t help because most of the guns used to commit unlawful acts are not legally obtained or registered anyway.

The issue of mass murder is not an issue of gun control, rather it is an issue of mental illness. A mass murder occurs throughout the world, even in countries with strict gun control laws. Mass murderers have a history of severe mental illness and/or drug problems that lead to their psychosis, which leads to them committing mass murders. No gun control law can stop a mass murderer from obtaining weapons to commit their dastardly deed. A mass murderer will find a means to commit their murder, and if not a firearm they will utilize knives, machetes, blunt objects, bombs, or any other weapon they can obtain. We need better mental illness laws, and for the general public to recognize a person who is suffering from mental illness, and report them so they may receive treatment before they become violent.

As Dr. Ben Carson said after the tragedy of the mass murder of the black church members of Charleston SC in June of 2015:

"I think we have to start is going to the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is not guns. The heart of the matter is the heart. The heart and soul of people. You know, this young man didn't wake up yesterday and suddenly turn into a maniac. Clearly there have been things in his background, in his upbringing that led to the type of mentality that would allow him to do something like this. And one of the things that I think that we really need to start concentrating on in this country is once again instilling the right kinds of values particularly in our young people. You know, we're so busy giving away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness that we have people floating around out there with no solid foundation or beliefs. "

To which I say - Amen!

Homosexuality and MarriageTOC

HomosexualityTOC

As to the nature of homosexuality, I believe that there are three bases for homosexuality. The first being nature; a gene or genome sequence that predisposes a person towards homosexuality. The next is a psychological trauma that turned a person towards homosexuality (see note). Finally, in today's society, I believe some people choose homosexuality as a lifestyle. It is not uncommon to choose homosexuality as a lifestyle as it occurs throughout history. Most notably in England in the 1920s (a very good novel "Brideshead Revisited" dealt with this subject in English society).

Imagine if you would that scientists determine that there is a gene or genome sequence that predisposes homosexuality. We could next imagine that there could be a scientific test to determine if that gene or genome sequence exists in a person. If we gave that test to all persons claiming to be homosexual what do you think would be the percentage of those people who had those gene or genome sequence. I would wager a large amount of money that it would be less than 100%. That raises the question of whether those persons claiming to be homosexual are indeed homosexual through genetics. What is to be done, if anything, for those persons claiming to be homosexual that does not have this gene or genome sequence? Would they then be adjudged to have a psychological condition that may require therapy, and should this therapy be mandatory (I certainly hope not as I believe that no person should be forced into therapy unless they present a danger to themselves or others)? The larger question then would be how to deal with those persons claiming to be homosexual and not having the gene or genome sequence.

Another large issue would be that if they can determine if a zygote/embryo/fetus has this gene or genome sequence. Would it be morally acceptable for modern medical science to correct this situation? After all, we do correct other physiological and genetic situations prenatally if it is possible. What is the morality of the parents deciding to correct this homosexual gene or genome sequence situation?

Finally, there has been much debate on how widespread homosexuality is in the population of the United States. Some claim that it is up to 10%. If this is true then any random group of people, for instance, an audience of 100 people there would be 10 people in that audience that were homosexual, or that 10% of your coworkers were homosexual. Does common sense say that this number is correct, or is it smaller than the 10%? I would again wager a large amount of money that the actual figure is less than 10%, and indeed may be less than 5%.

These observations also hold true for the entire LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) community.

Note - Psychological trauma simply means that an event has occurred that has changed a person. This event could be positive or negative, but it is an event that has changed a person.

Homosexuality and MarriageTOC

Much has been debated, argued, and misrepresented on the nature of homosexuality. The question of nature or nurture is very important to this discussion. Some say that homosexuality is inherent in our nature via a genetic trait or genome sequence. Others say that homosexuality occurs because of some psychological trauma that occurred in the life of a homosexual. I intend to discuss my beliefs about homosexuality, and the rights of the homosexual.

If you had read my article about "A Hierarchy of Rights" you know that I believe that there are three kinds of rights; human rights, constitutional rights, civil rights. Every person has these rights, including homosexuals. The human rights and constitutional rights of a homosexual are the same as any other person that resides in the United States.

Today homosexuals are accepted within society and are free to engage in homosexuality. The topic of debate is do homosexuals have the right to marry. To properly analyze this question, and derive an answer, requires that we think about the nature of marriage.

The first question is, is a marriage a human right? There is no question that as humans we have the right to freely associate with anybody we choose to. This association may be in any form that both parties are agreeable to. Therefore, homosexual associations are a human right. There is also a human right to privacy. What you do in the confines of your own home is your business, as long as it does not violate the human rights of others who may reside in your home. The government has no business of being involved in what happens in your free associations or privacy rights, except to protect the human, constitutional, and civil rights of others who you are involved with.

The next question is, is homosexuality a constitutional right? Nowhere in the Constitution is sexuality or marriage addressed. The closest thing within the Constitution is Amendment XIX: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”. When considering homosexuality as a constitutional right we must bear in mind Amendment X: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”. As the Constitution and its amendments do not directly address sexuality or marriage it can be inferred that this is reserved to the states or to the people. As to the equal protection argument you should review my thoughts on "Equal Protection and Equal Justice Under Law".

So, is a marriage a civil right? To discuss this properly we need the answer to the question of "What is the governmental purpose of marriage?" Some people believe that marriage is to affirm the love and commitment and the sharing of a life between two people. The sharing also includes all the legal and economic benefits of being recognized as partners. However, what business is it of government to affirm the love and commitment between two people. There may be governmental interest in the legal and economic benefits to be recognized as partners. To get back to the question of the governmental purpose of marriage, the original reason for government involvement in marriage is to establish a legal and economic framework for a man and a woman to reproduce, and to raise children, and those children to be the next contributing members of society. In the event of something happening to the marriage, such as divorce, abandonment, death, physical or mental cruelty, etc. the government needed to have the means to protect the children of that marriage to the best of its abilities.

As a homosexual couple cannot reproduce (except by artificial means), nor raise children (except through the auspices of adoption), there is no governmental reason to be involved in homosexual marriage, other than securing the legal and economic benefits of being recognized as partners. Securing the legal and economic benefits of being recognized as partners can also be accomplished through the power of attorney (although that method is somewhat cumbersome in practice). Therefore, homosexual marriage is not a civil right unless a state wishes to make it a civil right. There may be good reasons that a state wishes to do so, but it is up to the state legislature, as representatives of the people, to determine if they wish to do so. It is not up to the judiciary to determine this, as this is a right reserved to the state or to the people, enacted through the normal legislative process.

A state may wish to create another institution for homosexual coupling so that a homosexual couple can secure the legal and economic benefits of being recognized as partners, and they have every right to do so. This may raise other issues and concerns such as adoption, the right of a heterosexual couple to avail themselves of this form of union (and what happens in the event of pregnancy of a heterosexual couple that does so), the disposition of property and assets when the union is dissolved, etc... These issues and concerns must be fully investigated and incorporated into the laws that are created to allow for a homosexual union.

Please note that I have not expressed my opinion on the desirability or undesirability of homosexual marriage or unions. I have simply explained my reasoning on whether this should occur or not occur, and by what means in which it should be implemented.

I believe that a State, or States, can allow for a homosexual marriage if this allowance is done through the normal legislative process (i.e. not court action) of the State or States. To do so otherwise is to infringe upon the liberties and freedom of the people to determine what is permissible, or not permissible, within their state.

Given the Supreme Court ruling on homosexual marriage, I would propose a Nullification Statement as outlined in my "Government Of The People, By The People, and For The People" observation, and allow the Legislatures of each State to resolve this issue.

Illegal ImmigrationTOC

Illegal immigrants (and I deliberately did not use the word alien, as this has a negative connotation in today's society) are in this country illegally, not undocumented. Their first act upon entering this country was an illegal act, entering without legal permission. It does not matter if they came in across the Mexican border or the Canadian border, nor if they came by sea or air or land, nor their country of origin, nor overstayed their Visa or did not return with a Passport, if they do not have permission to reside in the United States they are illegal immigrants. Most illegal immigrants came to this country to escape the poor economic conditions and political corruption of their country. This is an indictment of their country, and we should be trying to improve the economic situation and politics of their country so that the desire to emigrate is lessened. Most illegal immigrants are good people trying to provide a better life for themselves and their families. This is the reason that most of the people who immigrated to this country came here for. As such we should be understanding of their motivations. I suspect that they will follow the path of immigration that occurred with other groups of immigrants in American history such as the Irish, Italians, the Jews, the Asians etc. have followed (distrust, discrimination, and then acceptance).

Illegal immigration has both a positive and negative impact on our country. The positive impact is that we have increased the labor pool for low-paying jobs that provide better goods and services to our citizens. Many of these jobs are often below minimum wage (an indictment upon the minimum wage law), or of such menial task that most legal American citizens do not wish to perform them, so they are performed by illegal immigrants. The negative impact is that illegal immigrants do not contribute, via taxes, to the many benefits that they receive. Benefits such as health care, education, and other entitlement programs are often given to illegal immigrants. This cost the taxpayers of the United States thus increasing the burden on American taxpayers. They often perform low skilled jobs that other residents of America could or would perform, thereby increasing the unemployment rate amongst the lowest income people of America (most often in the Black or Hispanic population).

I also believe that employers have a legal obligation to follow all employment laws, which include paying all taxes that are required for the employment of their workers (payroll taxes). If you are not paying these taxes you are in violation of the law, and you should be punished appropriately. I realize that this will increase the cost of the goods or services that you provide, which will increase the costs for American consumers. However, that is the price of doing business in America, and those increases are part of your overhead of doing business. All Americans should be cognizant of this as part of preserving a civil society.

Unfortunately, we have also seen an increase in the number of illegal immigrants who are coming to this country for nefarious purposes (mostly drug trafficking). Illegal immigrants with criminal records in their country of origin who come here for the purpose of committing criminal acts in the United States are on the rise. We must get a handle on the situation to protect all people residing in the United States from these criminal acts. These people need to be stopped before they enter the United States, which will require more border security. Any criminal act committed by an illegal immigrant once they are in America should result in punishment to the fullest extent of the law, and immediate deportation upon their release from their punishment. To not do so is absurd. For those illegal immigrants who are concerned about deportation upon discovery of their illegal status, I would remind them the best way to avoid discovery is to commit no illegal acts. Follow all the laws, including traffic laws, and you will have a significantly less chance of your illegal immigration status being discovered.

The other issue is the integration of these illegal immigrants into the American belief system (Truth, Justice, and The American Way). Illegal immigrants tend to cluster and to hold one to their distinct heritage and culture in order to preserve and protect themselves. Their children often integrate into American society, as they are living it while they are growing up. If you came to the United States for the betterment of yourself or your family you should integrate into American culture, but that does not mean you give up your culture. You must subsume your culture within the United States culture, and not make your culture superior to American culture.

As the first act of the illegal immigrant was a crime against the United States I am opposed to giving citizenship to people whose first act was an illegal act. I am in favor of providing a legalization path, but not citizenship, to illegal immigrants who have resided in this country for many years and have committed no criminal violations. If you were a minor, under the age of 18, who accompanied your parents in illegally immigrating to the United States than consideration should be given to you obtaining citizenship under a strict protocol defined by the law and as passed by Congress and signed by the President.

Marijuana UsageTOC

This observation is not about the harmful use of marijuana. It is instead about the societal impacts of the increase of marijuana usage. I believe that marijuana use is harmful to the psychological and physiological well-being of the user. Just as I believe that alcohol use is harmful to this psychological and physiological well-being of the user. I covered this in my observation "Addiction" later in this book. In this observation, I wish to cover three areas of increased marijuana usage that the proponents of this are not addressing; The Liability issue, The Social Services issue, and the Rule of Law issue.

The liability issue is both a criminal and civil issue. The criminal issue is fairly well resolved, in that anybody who commits a criminal act under the influence is more liable and more likely to receive a more severe sentence as a result of this criminal act. The civil issue, however, has not been fully resolved. This issue mostly impacts the insurance liability of a person or business. The following are a few scenarios that would be helpful in discussing this impact.

Let's assume that you are an occasional user of marijuana in your home. One night you are smoking marijuana and go to bed with a high. The next morning you wake up and you feel much better but there are undetectable residual effects of your marijuana smoking. Effects that you are not fully aware of. You decide to go out to breakfast, get into your car, and headed for your favorite diner. Along the way, because of the residual effects, you make a poor or slow decision and you are involved in a traffic accident. This traffic accident could result in damage to your car or the other car, or perhaps an injury or death to you or the people in the other car. After the police arrive you are giving a drug test and it is determined that you were under the influence of marijuana. What is the civil liability, or the insurance liability, for the damages that you have caused? The injured party will most likely want to make an insurance claim or sue you, for their damages. Will your civil liability be larger because you were driving under the influence of marijuana, and/or will your insurance cover you for the damages? Most people would assume that their insurance would cover the damages as if it would if it was an alcohol-related accident. This is probably the case, but it raises the issue of insurance rates. With an increase in the utilization of marijuana, there were also be an increase in the number of accidents because of the increased utilization of marijuana. Insurance companies are well aware of this, and as a result, they will have to increase insurance rates to cover the increase in the number of accidents that will result from increased marijuana usage. This rate increase will impact all who have automobile insurance, not just those who utilize marijuana.

Another scenario is that you are having a party at your house where you and your guests are utilizing marijuana. Due to the impaired judgment because of marijuana usage and accident occurs (such as a fire, personal injury to you or a guest, etc.). Again, does your homeowner's insurance cover the damages because of this accident? Most people would assume that it will, but that again means that insurance companies are going to have to increase their homeowners’ insurance rate to cover for this possibility. And again, this will be borne by all homeowners, not just homeowners who utilize marijuana.

Therefore, with the increased use of marijuana in our society, there will be an increase in the automobile and homeowners’ insurance premiums that will be borne by all Americans. This needs to be fully explored to determine what the impacts are. It may only be a few dollars, or tens of dollars, for all homeowners or automobile insurance policyholders, but it will be an increase. Some would say that if we cover this for alcohol we should also cover this for marijuana, as it is only fair. However, fair or unfair is not the question. The question is do we as a society wish to undertake this additional burden, and how much it will cost us?

The other issue of insurance liabilities is regarding business owners. Let's assume that you own a small business of a fleet of vans that provide transportation to senior citizens. You are very careful about who your potential drivers. You check out their traffic record, as well as any criminal record they may have, to weed out anybody who you think may be a risk in hiring. If a driver shows up for work one day and he is visibly intoxicated by alcohol or has physical signs that he is hung over from alcohol, you would not allow him to take a van out as he has impaired judgment and could be involved in a traffic accident. However, if the driver shows up for work one day and he has been smoking marijuana (either earlier in the day or the night before) he will most likely not show visible signs of intoxication from marijuana. Having no means to determine if they are intoxicated you allow them to go to work and drive a van. Because of their marijuana impairment, they make a poor decision and the van is involved in a traffic accident. Not only is the van damaged, but perhaps some of the senior citizens on the bus were injured and possibly some were killed. The other vehicle was also damaged, and possibly the passengers of the other vehicle were killed or injured. The police investigate and determine that the driver of your van was under the influence of marijuana. As there is no physical impairment while under the influence of marijuana, as there is while under the influence of alcohol, the business owner had no way of determining if the driver was fit for duty. The question is what is the legal liability of the business owner? The business owner, and possibly the insurance company, could then claim that they have no legal liability as they had no control over determining if the driver was intoxicated by marijuana. This claim is based upon the business owners being diligent to ensure they would responsibly hire a driver, and responsively make sure their drivers did not work on those days in which they believed they were unfit to drive. What are the legal ramifications of this claim, and can this defense be successful? Not being a lawyer, and not having sufficient knowledge to answer this question, I can only offer some speculation. I do know that the legal system does not like to assign responsibility to persons or entities that had done their due diligence, and had no direct control over the situation, and there may be a legal basis for this claim. Either way, this turns out it will have a large impact on society. If the business owner is not responsible (which means that the insurance company is not responsible) then the only course for the damage parties to recover their damages is to sue the individual driver. Given that most drivers are not well off you would probably only collect a very small amount, and probably insufficient to cover your damages or losses. If the business owner is responsible for this situation then the insurance company will need to increase its rates to cover the possibility of this occurring in the future. And you can be assured that the insurance companies will increase the rates for all businesses in which an employee may put the business at risk if they are under the influence of marijuana. This results in an increased cost for the businesses for insurance premiums, and that will result in increased prices for the products or services for all.

Another example of the impact on businesses for the increased marijuana usage of employees is that of a company who owns a building, factory, warehouse, construction site, etc. If that company did its due diligence in hiring employees to work in these facilities, and its due diligence in only allowing employees who are fit to work are allowed to work, and an employee was impaired through the utilization of marijuana which was undetectable, and an accident occurred the business owner could suffer losses. Perhaps the building or its contents were damaged, or perhaps other employees were injured or killed, or innocent bystanders were injured or killed, then its losses could be fairly large. As in the previous example is the insurance company responsible for those damages, or is the employee responsible. If the insurance company is responsible for the damages you can be assured that they're going to raise their rates on the business and other businesses to cover these possible damages. This will result in increased insurance premiums for all businesses and a corresponding increase in the price of their services or products which will be borne by all Americans.

This is not to mention the decrease in productivity by an employee who is impaired by marijuana usage. And the possible impact on liability insurance, and errors and omissions insurance, if the employee makes a mistake due to this impairment that impacts a business.

Do we as a society wish to incur the increased cost to business of the increased insurance premiums due to the possibility of increased marijuana intoxication on the job? These increased costs will be passed on to all the clients and customers of the business, which means that all products and services within society will increase. This impact needs to be examined in full in order to reach a rational decision to allow increased marijuana usage in our society.

The other issue is that if an employer assumes responsibility does the employer have the right to do random drug testing of his employees. If an employee is then determined to have used marijuana does the employer have the right to fire the employee, as a risk to his business that they do not wish to incur? If the employee is fired is he eligible for unemployment compensation, and what are the other impacts on society of people being fired for this reason (welfare and unemployment benefits come to mind)? Again, we need to examine this issue to determine its impact on our society.

What about the impacts on society for the increased utilization of marijuana by its populace. We know that the increase in alcohol and hard drug addiction in our society has placed a burden on society. This burden is in the increased cost of social services for the addict, the increased medical cost of the long-term impacts of addiction abuse, the emotional burden upon the family of the addicted, and the economic impact of more citizens being incapacitated by addiction. Can we expect the same impacts from increased marijuana utilization in our society? I suspect so. We must account for this increased impact in our decision to allow or disallow, marijuana usage in society. Some would respond that this is already occurring and will continue to occur and increase whether we allow or disallow marijuana usage. While this may be true, I suspect that allowing marijuana usage will accelerate this trend. We must carefully consider all these factors in determining which course to take.

Finally, there is the issue of the rule of law. I remember when Pennsylvania implemented the Right Turn on Red traffic law. The mayor of Philadelphia was adamantly opposed to this law, as he felt that it would increase traffic accidents and potential harm to pedestrians. He decided to unilaterally declare that all streets in Philadelphia were no turn on red. The law stated that a Municipal Authority had the ability to post signs on streets that the Municipal Authority determined were dangerous for a right turn on red, but there was no allowance for the Municipal Authority to do this for all streets. A lawsuit ensued in which Philadelphia lost, as it could only restrict right turn on red on those posted streets it was determined it would be dangerous to allow this. The Municipal Authority was not allowed to act outside the constraints of the State law, as so it should be in our legal system. The Municipal Authority lost because State law trumped Municipal law, just as Federal law trumps State law. To allow otherwise is to invite chaos, as then any government entity can do whatever they want if they feel it's the best thing for their citizens. And so it is with marijuana laws. The federal government has laws and regulations that deal with marijuana usage. It is detrimental too, and a violation of, the rule of law for a State to override a Federal law or regulation of its choosing. If this is to be permitted regarding marijuana usage it can be permitted in regard to anything. This is chaos personified.

As to the utilization of marijuana for medical purposes, I believe that this should be allowed. But the Federal law should be changed to allow this, and this usage should be under a doctor's supervision as there are medical issues in the utilization of marijuana. The ruse (and it is a ruse) that States are allowing their citizens to utilize marijuana for medical purposes is just a cover-up. The vast majority of people that are using marijuana in States where it is legal to do so are not doing it for medical purposes, but are doing it for recreational purposes. Anybody who would tell you differently is utilizing the Obfuscation, Smoke, and Mirrors technique that I have discussed in a previous observation.

Slander & Libel on Social Media and JournalismTOC

In the 21st century, we have entered into the era of social media and 24-hour news cycles. While this has provided many benefits to the consumer there has been a downside to this era.  This downside has been the posting or reporting on baseless information on individuals regardless of the facts or evidence. This has resulted in emotional distress, loss of reputation, deprivation of educational opportunities, impingement of career advancement, possible verbal or physical assaults, and their negative financial impacts. It has often been done as a means of bullying or intimidation, suppression of free speech rights, and to disparage, denigrate, or demonize an individual they may disagree with or dislike. It is much more egregious than a vicious rumor mill, as it is posted for the entire world to see or hear for perhaps forever. A retraction or correction often does not reach the same audience who read or heard the original posting or reporting and usually does not alleviate the damage caused to the affected person.

This situation must be addressed as it not only harms the person targeted but also leads to an uncivil society. The intense polarization and partisanship that we see in today's society are often fueled by this baseless posting and/or reporting. The law, so far, has not been able to assist the aggrieved party because the slander and libel laws were written and evolved in a different environment than social media and 24-hour news cycles.

As such I would propose that we change the laws on slander and libel to accommodate the realities of the 21st-century social media and reporting. I would do so in a manner that applied the following two criteria:

If you say or write anything about another person that you know not to be true, or have no evidence of its truth, you have committed slander or libel and you may be sued for such by the aggrieved party. The social media provider must provide the real name and other information to identify the person being sued. If the social media provider does not provide this information than it is an accessory to the slander or libel and may be sued as a contributing party to the slander or libel.

If a journalist says or writes about a person, without having evidence to the truth of what was said or written, or has not done their due diligence to confirm the facts, then they may be sued for slander or libel. The publisher of the journalist report may also be sued if they did not do their due diligence in confirming the veracity of the report.

Many social media platforms would respond that they are only forums and cannot control what is written or said. I agree, but I am not suggesting that they control what is written or said. I am only requiring that when someone has written or said something that results in a lawsuit for slander or libel that they help identify the alleged defendant of the lawsuit, as they may be the only party that can accomplish this identification. If they try to withhold the defendant information they then are assisting in perpetuating the slander or libel. This they should not be allowed to do and, therefore, they should be considered as a party to the slander or libel.

I am well aware of the current actual malice standard for a public official or public figure to sue for libel a journalist or publisher from the "New York Times Co. v. Sullivan" Supreme Court decision of 1964.

"New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that established the actual malice standard, which has to be met before press reports about public officials can be considered to be libel; and hence allowed free reporting of the civil rights campaigns in the southern United States. It is one of the key decisions supporting the freedom of the press. The actual malice standard requires that the plaintiff in a defamation case, if that person is a public official or public figure, prove that the publisher of the statement in question knew that the statement was false or acted in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity. Because of the extremely high burden of proof on the plaintiff, and the difficulty of proving the defendant's knowledge and intentions, such claims by public figures rarely prevail."
- from the Wikipedia article on this subject.

The last sentence of this description (the high burden of proof required is such that lawsuits rarely prevail) is the 21st-century journalistic problem. Too often modern journalism in a rush to report has not done their due diligence on their reporting or reports on reports from other journalistic outlets that have not done their due diligence. They often caveat their reports with statements such as if true, or not independently verified, or we cannot confirm, etc. Thus the report is repeated, even if untrue, and forms a lasting impression on the viewers or readers that no retraction or correction can undo. There is also the 21st phenomena of many websites that have appeared that claim to be news reporting but are primarily rumor mills filled with unsubstantiated reports. These websites hide behind the  "New York Times Co. v. Sullivan" Supreme Court decision of 1964 to insulated themselves from slander or libel lawsuits.

The question would be "What constitutes due diligence in journalism?". This can be a legally nebulous statement. However, I believe that legislators can provide general guidelines in the legislation that would be interpreted by the courts, and adjudicated during the individual trials of slander and libel by the judge and jury. It will eventually work itself out through court rulings and become settled law.

This situation needs to corrected to assure a more just and civil society. Thus, I believe, Congress must rewrite the slander and libel laws to accommodate the realities of the 21st century. These new laws will and should be, challenged up to the Supreme Court. This will allow the Supreme Court review the "New York Times Co. v. Sullivan" Supreme Court decision of 1964, and to assure that the new laws are constitutional and protects the freedoms and liberties of all Americans.

The Patriot ActTOC

The Patriot Act, a misnomer if ever there was one, has been much discussed as to its constitutionality. These discussions have become more heated as it was revealed what the government was doing under the Patriot Act. It is just and proper that we as a people have the discussion of what the government is allowed, or not allowed, to do constitutionally within the Patriot Act. My observation of the Patriot Act constitutionality is limited to what I have extensive experience and knowledge of. Namely the bulk collection of telephone and e-mail records (or in my experience the bulk collection of data).

I have spent my entire life in the information technology field, with extensive knowledge and experience in database management systems. I have also worked in the Military Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (MC3I) arena when I was employed at GE Aerospace systems. I have also had a historical interest in Intelligence and had done much reading on the subject. I, therefore, believe I have something to contribute to this discussion.

On one side of the issue of bulk collection of this data is the people who claim it is a violation of the fourth amendment right to legal search and seizure. These people are correct. On the other side are people who claim that without collecting this data it is more possible for a successful terrorist attack to occur, and if you are dead you have no fourth amendment rights. These people are also correct. Therefore, we seemingly have a Catch 22 as to the constitutionality of bulk data collection. I would propose a means to eliminate this Catch 22.

There are two ways to interpret the Constitution; a strict interpretation or an expansive interpretation. In the past we have employed both ways of interpreting the Constitution, depending upon the circumstances. Usually, this interpretation is based on the intent of the framers of the Constitution. I would, therefore, under the circumstances, suggest that we use the expansive interpretation of the bulk collection of data under the Patriot Act, but a strict interpretation when utilizing this data.

I am fully aware of the difficulties of obtaining data, massaging the data to be stored, and the utilization of data once it is stored. The efforts required to obtain, then massage, and utilize data can be difficult and time-consuming. It is difficult because data comes from various sources and in various formats, and the sources and formats must be massaged to fit into a uniform format that is useful. This massaging often takes a considerable amount of time to do to make the data useful. Even the simplest task can take hours or days or weeks to accomplish. When you are dealing with multiple sources and multiple formats you are adding a considerable amount of time and effort to achieve your goal. I would, therefore, use the expansive interpretation of the Constitution in order to allow for the collection of this data so that it is available on a timely basis to help prevent terrorist attacks.

The opponents of the bulk collection of data often say that this data is not helping to prevent a terrorist act. This is probably true, but it also contains a misunderstanding of what Intelligence can or cannot do. Intelligence is a very imprecise activity and can lead to incorrect or incomplete information. Very rarely is it precise and definitive. Most often it is more correct when you have a broad base of information to reach generalized conclusions. Usually, there is no single piece of information that allows you to take actionable activities. You should also keep in mind that only rarely do you hear of the successes of an intelligence activity. On occasion, you hear of the failures based on Congressional investigations, whistle-blowers, or perhaps a deliberate leak by an intelligence agency to provoke a response from the enemy.

This is best illustrated by an intelligence activity at the start of World War II. The Americans had broken the Japanese naval communication codes and were able to read these communications. However, this process was often time-consuming and imprecise, and there was a lot of communications that had to be waded through to obtain useful intelligence. These communications were rarely specific for actionable combat usage. The military intelligence based upon these communications were used to help determine a pattern of activities of Japanese naval forces, in the form that could help them to determine if the Japanese were planning a naval attack and invasion. They knew from other intelligence that the Japanese were planning a large-scale attack, and they were even able to identify the target by its code name Target AF that was being used in many disparate Japanese naval communications. They did not know the location of AF, nor were they sure of when this action would occur. They suspected the target may be Midway Island, as it made sense for the Japanese to seize this island and its airfield, to utilize it for more aggressive Japanese actions in the Pacific. They then intercepted a Japanese surveillance plane transmission that reported that it had passed by Target AF and there was no activity worth reporting. Their tracking of Japanese surveillance planes led them to believe the only one plane that could have reported this, and it had only flown by Midway Island. In order to confirm this suspicion, they decided to create a ruse to see if they could pinpoint target AF. They had Midway island openly transmit over the radio that their fresh water supplies were low because the desalinization plant was broken (and untrue statement). The Japanese military intelligence picked up this transmission and then reported that target AF was having fresh water problems due to the failure of the desalinization equipment. Military intelligence now knew that the target of the invasion was Midway Island. When they discovered the Japanese fleet had left port they knew approximately when the invasion was to occur, based on the time it would take the fleet to reach Midway Island. Adm. Nimitz (the Supreme Naval Commander in the Pacific) then ordered a fleet opposed invasion, target Midway (despite the concerns of the military brass in Washington as to the accuracy of the intelligence), and the American fleet was able to bushwhack the Japanese fleet. This resulted in the destruction of four major Japanese aircraft carriers, the loss of many Japanese airplanes and pilots, and various other sinkings of Japanese military vessels. This was a great victory, and stopped aggressive Japanese Naval operations in the Pacific, and led to a shortening of the war effort. All this military intelligence effort was done by the collection of vast amounts of information, and putting it together into actionable intelligence.

This is why today's intelligence needs to bulk collection of phone and e-mail messages. They need to gather a large amount of data so they can find a pattern, and focus on this pattern so that they can create actionable intelligence. We, the American people, will never know the success or failures of this intelligence as it must be kept a secret to be useful. The members of Congress who are responsible for the oversight of these activities should be fully informed as to the successes and failures to determine the efficacy of these efforts. We, the American people, must trust the elected officials who are providing this oversight to preserve, protect, and defend our rights during this collection and utilization process.

But we, the American people, need to know the broad outlines of how and what they are going to be confident that our elected representatives are doing their job in monitoring the intelligence agencies. This is where I will propose a strict interpretation of the Constitution regarding the utilization of the bulk collection of data. I would propose the following broad outlines as a means of instilling confidence in the American people that their rights are being reserved, protected, and defended.

In the information technology arena, it has often been pointed out that there are only three basic things that information technology does. They are; input, processing, output. I would utilize this model as the basis for the bulk collection of data. The following diagram will be helpful for this discussion:


Meta-data information would be received into the Secured Input Facility from a Telecom company, and be stored on a portable hard drive. A data massager would then convert this data into the standard format to be included in the database, with the converted data being stored on the same portable hard drive as the Raw Data. The Processing Container facility would be a secure facility with NO telecommunications capabilities, to ensure it cannot be hacked. The Raw and Massaged Data portable hard drive would be transported and stored in the Processing Facility. The Database Operators would take the massaged data and load it into the Data Base, then store the portable drive in a secure location within the Processing Facility. The Database Analysts would be Intelligence Officers who would be responsible for searching the Data Base to find patterns of possible terrorist activities. Once a pattern is discovered they then obtain a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court order to obtain the data on individuals and/organizations that the FISA court has authorized. This data, and only this data is retrieved from the Data Base and saved on a portable hard drive, which is then physically transported to the Output Facility. The Output Facility would be responsible for the intelligence analysis of the retrieved data under the current standard operating procedure and laws. A Legal Chain of Custody would be implemented for all steps and phase for this process in the event of a prosecution.

To reiterate, the Processing Facility has no external electronic communications capabilities to assure that it cannot be hacked. The Input and Output Facilities have electronics communications capabilities, in the most secure manner possible, so that they can perform their tasks.

However, I believe the FISA Court needs to be reorganized to assure the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans are being protected. Today the FISA Court is composed of Judges and Government Attorneys who present their case to the Judges. There is no counterbalance to the Government Attorneys to assure American rights are being protected. I would add Civil Rights Attorneys whose job would be to challenge the Government's case to assure the Judges receive all possible points of view. I would also allow for an Executive Order to initiate a Data Base retrieval in the case of an immediate threat to our security. However, the Executive Orders would be reviewed by the FISA Court in an expeditious manner to determine their proprietary and legality. This entire process would be under Congressional Oversight, with the appropriate Congressional committees receiving regularly scheduled briefings on all that has occurred since the previous briefing.

All the people involved in this process would be under severe criminal prosecution if they fail to obey the rules, regulations, and procedures to assure that this information is protected, and the rights of Americans are guaranteed. I believe if all these steps are implemented then Americans can be assured that their rights are being protected, and their security is enhanced.

TaxesTOC

Our TaxesTOC

Taxman

by The Beatles

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.

Don't ask me what I want it for
If you don't want to pay some more
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman
And you're working for no one but me.

Songwriters: GEORGE HARRISON

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

For non-commercial use only.

Death and Taxes is a truism of life. Now they even tax you after death in the form of Estate Taxes. And you should never look at a statue of a politician with his hand in his pocket and think it is realistic, as his hand is actually in your pocket.

Taxes are a necessary evil. Evil because they force a person to hand over their hard-earned money through threats of fines or imprisonment. Necessary because the proper and needed functioning of government is essential to ensure a peaceful, justice, and a civil society and taxes are required to operate the government.

Our Tax SystemTOC

Prior to the 16th amendment of the Constitution, Federal taxes were indirect taxes. This was because our Founding Fathers knew that a direct tax was on individuals was an opportunity for the government to abuse an individual’s freedoms and liberties. Direct taxes on an individual meant the possibility of direct control of an individual, and direct control of an individual was abhorrent to the Founding Fathers. And so, the Constitution did not allow for direct taxes, as stated in Article I, section 9, of the Constitution:

No Capitation, Or Other Direct, Tax Shall Be Laid, Unless In Proportion To The Census Or Enumeration Herein Before Directed To Be Taken.

Note – a Capitation is a tax levied on the basis of a fixed amount per person.

However, as government grew and expanded at the beginning of the 20th century indirect taxes were insufficient to support the proper and needed functioning of government So Congress passed on July 2, 1909, and the States ratified on February 3, 1913, the 16th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This amendment states:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

And that is one breathtaking statement. It effectively says that Congress can tax any income, at any rate, and without any regards to any other factors. There is also no checks and balances within that statement to protect the freedoms and liberties of the American people. The only restriction on this power is The Equal Protection Clause that is part of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. And a legal argument can be made that any amendment to the Constitute supersedes any previous amendment, and if this is so the 14th amendment protections may not fully apply to the 16th amendment powers.

At the time it was passed it was implemented innocuously, and with minimal impacts on American society. But as time went on, as is the case with all government activities, more and more sources were taxed, more and more people were taxed, more and more tax rates were increased, and more and more special interest exemptions were included. And today we have one of the most bloated, convoluted, least understandable, economically impactful, preparation time and money consuming, and oppressive tax codes in the world. And it is harming all Americans. The only people it seems to help are the politicians who run for or against it or parts of it, the special interest groups who benefit from its exemptions, and of course the government bureaucrats who administer it.

The IRS is also not only a collection agency but an enforcement agency. It has its own rules, regulations, and procedures for enforcement, not subject to prior judicial approval before it acts against suspected tax cheats. The IRS must have only a suspicion that a tax violation has occurred, and it can seize your assets (money, property, business, etc.) before proving the suspicion in the Tax Court, and even without prior notification of the seizure to the suspected tax cheat.

In criminal cases, the government can confiscate assets only after a conviction. Under “civil forfeiture”, however, it can grab first and ask questions later. Property can be seized merely on the suspicion that it has been involved in a crime. Citizens have no right to a swift hearing. For an individual or small business, this can be fatal. In many civil-forfeiture cases, the agencies that seize the assets keep most of the proceeds and can use them to pad their budgets. It is hard to know how common this is, but some reputable studies estimate that this may be between five hundred million to a billion dollars a year. And the IRS operates its enforcement under the doctrine of civil forfeiture.

The United States tax court is a federal trial court of record established by Congress under Article I of the U.S. Constitution, section 8 of which provides (in part) that the Congress has the power to "constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court". The Tax Court specializes in adjudicating disputes over federal income tax, generally prior to the time at which formal tax assessments are made by the Internal Revenue Service. Though taxpayers may choose to litigate tax matters in a variety of legal settings, outside of bankruptcy, the Tax Court is the only forum in which taxpayers may do so without having first paid the disputed tax in full. Parties who contest the imposition of a tax may also bring an action in any United States district court, or in the United States court of federal claims; however, these venues require that the tax be paid first and that the party then file a lawsuit to recover the contested amount paid (the "full payment rule" of Flora v. the United States). Tax court judges are appointed for a term of 15 years, subject to presidential removal for "inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office...." the U.S. Tax Court "is not an agency of, and shall be independent of, the executive branch of the government."

This effectively means that regarding taxes you are presumed guilty, until you can prove your innocence, and the government can do as they wish with your assets until you prove your innocence. And the legal and financial efforts to prove your innocence can be very burdensome and time-consuming.  And the economic impacts of not having control of your assets, as well as proving your innocence, can often result in bankruptcy or impoverishment. And if it turns out that the IRS was wrong in its judgment, well, you may get an apology - but don’t hold your breath waiting for one.

Our Tax PoliticsTOC

“Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree!”
- Russell B. Long

The cries of Reform the Tax Code, Make the Rich Pay Their Fair Share, Middle Income Tax Relief, Tax Relief for the Poor, Flat Tax, Fair Tax, National Sales Tax, Value Added Tax, blah, blah, blah, ring throughout the land, especially during an election season. And yet nothing significant ever happens. Inertia is certainly one of the reasons for this inactivity, but inertia is not the major reason. The major reason is “Factionalism”.

Political party factionalism, special interest groups’ factionalism, socio-economic factionalism, business factionalism, and even racial factionalism is the major reason for this inactivity. Everybody has their pound of flesh in the tax code, and everybody wants to protect their pound of flesh. And so, nothing of any significance gets done.

Many people implore the government to start over again with the tax code and do so in a bi-partisan and common interest manner. But as is so often the case in bi-partisan and common interest calls, it is bi-partisan and common interest utilizing their precepts and protecting their pound of flesh. And so, nothing of any significance gets done.

The problem is not one of just the tax code needing reformation, but the larger issue of what is the proper taxes to be levied? Until we can answer this question we cannot reform the tax code. Until a large consensus is reached on what taxes are proper and required in today’s society there will be no reform of the tax code. And until the people elect in large majorities those politicians who answer this question to their satisfaction there will be no reform of the tax code.

So, if you wish to reform the tax code you had better get your answer straight. And you had better demand that politicians support your answer, and you had better work for the election of politicians who support your answer, or at least the un-election of politicians who do not support your answer. Until this is done there will be no significant reform of the tax code.

As far as the fairness of the Individual Income and Corporate taxes you should consider the charts on the next two pages. As can be seen from these charts the issue of “fairness” in both revenue and spending is one of your perspective on what is “fair”. For those who would say that you should not count Payroll Taxes as revenue as they are paid back to the taxpayers (eventually), I would say as those payments are part of the Federal Governments spending so should they be included in the revenue. This is not including the fact that the revenue of the Payroll taxes is not keeping pace with the expenditures to the recipients’, leading to fiscal deficits in these programs.





Answers for Tax ReformTOC

Although I have no definitive answer for tax reform I do have some comments. I am waiting for smarter and wiser persons than myself to provide a definitive answer I can support. Until then these are my comments.

Taxes should be a shared responsibility of all people residing in the United States. Of course, there should be much lower rates for the poorer citizens, but there should be taxes for all citizens so that they share in the responsibility of supporting the government. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to prepare our current tax forms, and in many cases the expense of hiring a tax consultant and to assure you are doing so properly. It also is administered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that relies heavily on fear and intimidation for compliance. No government agency should rely on fear and intimidation of the citizens of the United States, and this should end.

To respect the freedoms and liberties of Americans I believe that we should change the rules, regulations, and procedures regarding civil forfeiture. The IRS should no longer be able to initiate a civil forfeiture of its own volition. If it has a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing it should go to the Tax Court and present its suspicions. The Tax Court would have Civil Rights attorneys on staff that would challenge the IRS suspicions or reasoning. The Tax Court judge would then issue a ruling, and if they found in favor of the IRS then civil forfeiture proceeding could begin. This process needs to be done without the knowledge of the potential target, so as not to alert them so that they could not flee or divert their assets before civil forfeiture has begun. I believe that this solution is the most practical one to protect American freedoms and liberties. I also believe that if a civil forfeiture has occurred, and at the end of the process it was determined that no criminal violation had occurred, the IRS must forthwith return what was forfeited, issue a public apology of record, and make restitution for the financial damages that occurred because of the civil forfeiture. The IRS must also pay for the reasonable legal fees the defendant incurred because of the IRS actions. Although some would say that this a harsh penalty for the IRS getting it wrong, it is also an excellent motivation for the IRS to get it right, and to assure for the protection of the freedoms and liberties of all Americans.

The other issue with tax reform is that whatever you change with taxes it has a ripple effect throughout the economy and society. Increasing taxes on a product or service may decrease the consumption of the product or service, and possibly reduce the total tax revenue collected. Decreasing taxes on a product or service may stimulate more consumption of the product or service, and possibly increase the total tax revenue collected. Increasing income taxes could mean more tax revenues but result in less consumption of products or services, which could mean less tax revenue from the product or service. While decreasing income taxes will reduce income tax revenues it may stimulate the consumption of products or services, which could mean more tax revenues from the product or service.

Therefore, tax changes are not what economist refer to as a “zero-sum game” (If you refer to a situation as a zero-sum game, you mean that if one person gains an advantage from it, someone else involved must suffer an equivalent disadvantage.) In tax changes, a change cannot be predictable, as people and companies alter their purchases as a tax positively or negatively impacts what people or companies purchase. Therefore, estimates of the impact of a tax change are most often wrong, as nobody can accurately predict how people or companies will react to a tax change. You can only guess and hope what the impact of a tax change will be. And, as usual, as I explain in my article on “The Law of Unintended Consequences”, very rarely can you know what the consequence of a tax change will be beforehand. Tax changes will influence the economy and society. The greater the changes the greater the effects. These can be both positive or negative on the economy, as the economy may expand or contract, which ultimately will impact all Americans.

I would, therefore, be in support of a replacement of the tax code of the United States. A fairer and flatter tax, that is easily understood and filled out, would free up all those efforts and expenses of the current system for more productive purposes. For individual taxes the only items that should be taxed our wages and salaries, government benefit income (see Note 1) interest income, dividend income, and capital gains and losses (see Note 2). The only deductions I could support would be the home mortgage interest, automobile purchase interest, medical and prescription costs, and charitable contributions. These things are essential expenses for living in our modern society, and should not be taxed. A standard deduction for an individual or spouse, and for children up to the age of 18 would also be incorporated. For the Corporate taxes, I would support a low tax rate on all revenue, with no deductions. The current deductions that corporations can utilize should be viewed as the cost of doing business and should be incorporated into the price of the goods or services rendered, and should not be utilized for tax purposes.

Note 1 – Payroll taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid taxes should not be viewed as taxes. They should be viewed as an insurance policy. Something that you pay into to receive a benefit when you are eligible. Therefore, they should not be subject to the tax code. Any governmental benefit payments a person or family receives are income and should, therefore, be taxed. Given the exemptions that would be allowed in this reform, governmental benefit payments may or may not be greater than the income to be taxed. If the governmental benefit income is greater than the exemption allowed than the income after exemptions should be taxable, and conversely, if the exemptions are greater than the income there would be no income tax. For example, if your income, including governmental benefits income, is $40,000 per year, and your exemptions are $24,000 per year, your taxable income is $16,000 for the year, and you would owe taxes on $16,000. If your income, including governmental benefits income, is $20,000 per year, and your exemptions are $24,000 per year, your taxable income is -$4,000 for the year, and you would owe no taxes for the year.

Note 2 – We currently tax capital gains at the full amount of the gain, but only allow capital losses of $3000 per year that can be rolled over from year to year, in our current tax system. This is totally unjust. Capital gains are based upon a risk to the investor takes with their own monies. Sometimes the risk succeeds, and sometimes it fails. But in taking the risk the investor is also contributing to the economic welfare of the United States. Most of these risks taken result in the creation of new or improved goods and services, which also results in increased employment, and a better economic environment for all. When the risk fails it still had a beneficial effect on the economic environment while it was ongoing. Therefore, I support deducting the full amount of the failure, while taxing the full amount of the success, in the year in which the capital gain or loss occurs.

Note 3 – I would propose five tax brackets, with each bracket having a different tax rate. These brackets would be 1) up to $50,000, 2) $50,000-$250,000, 3) $250,000-$1 million dollars, 4) $1 million to $10 million, and 5) over $10 million dollars. The income amounts of the tax brackets would be adjusted every 10 years along with the United States Census. The tax rates for each bracket would also to be determined at the time of the income bracket adjustment, based on the needed revenue to support government activities. To those who would say that the government may require additional income during the period between census adjustments, I would say the government should be concerned with expanding the economy to generate additional revenues, and reducing their expenditures during this time period, rather than attempting to raise tax rates or change tax brackets. Of course, during a time of a declared war or declared national emergency the government may adjust the tax bracket or tax rates. But it must be a constitutionally declared war or national emergency before they change tax brackets or tax rates.

Given the above comments I also believe that we could replace the 16th amendment of the Constitution and substitute it with one that reflects these comments as follows:

“The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, at the same fixed rate for all citizens, up to but not to exceed 20% of said income, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration. The Congress may exceed the 20% limitation in times of a declared war or national emergency, by a 2/3 vote approval by the House and Senate for a declared war or national emergency, and such excess shall end within one year of the termination of the declared war or national emergency.”

I believe that this Constitutional Amendment will protect the freedoms and liberties of all Americans.

please note that the Tax Reform legislation past at the end of 2017 is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done as I have noted earlier in this Observation.

EntitlementsTOC

"Don't take away your entitlement, don't take away my entitlement, take away the entitlement of that fellow behind the tree!"
- a variation on Russell B. Long tax reform quote

General PrinciplesTOC

Social Security, Healthcare (Medicare and Medicaid), Health Insurance, Food Stamps, Education, Public Housing, Aid to Dependent Children, Unemployment Benefits, etc., etc., etc... All of this was done with the good intention of helping people in need, during a time in which they could not afford to help themselves. But it must be remembered that “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Our good intentions of helping people when they could not help themselves have morphed into helping them all the time. Thus, the nanny state has evolved. It is now possible that you can live a very modest life doing nothing to support yourself or your dependents. This is economic and social madness.

The goal of entitlements should be to help you in times of need and to help you get off the need for entitlements. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to have a robust economy, an economy in which there is a demand for employment or self-employment. Employment or self-employment, that allows you to support yourself and your dependents, allows you to afford housing and food, allows you to obtain or purchase health insurance, and allows you to obtain or save for retirement.

The current entitlement system is economic madness as there is, and cannot be, sufficient tax revenues to support a nanny state. It must be remembered that the government doesn’t make money, the government takes money. It, therefore, must take more money from working people to give more money to non-working people. And the working people will then have less money to support themselves and their families, and may themselves become more dependent on government entitlements. And I do not believe that the government has the right to take the monies of hard-working people to support non-working people unless it also has a plan that makes for the transition of the unemployed into the employed.

It is social madness as it rewards being nonproductive. Nonproductive people lose a sense of self-worth, and gain a sense of dependency on the government and not themselves. This dependency erodes their personal freedoms and liberties and allows more governmental control of their lives. And as entitlements effect more than a 1/3 of Americans, and more people are becoming dependent on entitlements, the government is gaining more control of our lives. And the more people get for free the more they want for free, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. You give up self-worth, independence, and freedoms when you become dependent on entitlements and government. You also negatively impact the financial lives of those who monies you have taken to support your dependency. Those people whose money you have taken to support your dependency have less money to support their families, less money to send their children to good schools and colleges, less money to purchase goods and services, less money to purchase better housing, less money to save for a rainy day, and less money to save for retirement. It is therefore morally wrong to take monies from others to support your dependency if you have no intention or plan to unshackle yourself from the dependency.

Excessive entitlements and increased taxes to support them leads to the erosion, if not outright failure, of our Constitutional Republic.  The words of Scottish political philosopher, Alexander Fraser Tytler, were so prescient, and relevant to where we are today in our Constitutional Republic, America:

 “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.”

More Economics of Entitlements

In all commerce, there are three types of exchanges that can occur. They are:

First Party Purchases
I pay for something with my money for services or products that I will consume for myself.

Second Party Purchases
I pay for something with someone else’s money for services or products I will consume for myself. Or I pay for something with my money for services or products someone else will consume.

Third Party Purchases
I pay for something with someone else’s money for services or products consumed by someone else.

It should be noted that these types of purchases are neither good nor bad, or fair nor unfair. They are simply descriptive of an exchange between two or more parties. It should also be noted that if all parties are satisfied with this exchange then it is probably both a good and fair exchange. And these types of exchanges occur in consumer, company, industrial, and all forms of commerce.

For example, let’s assume the consumer purchase of a home coffee maker as follows:

Your coffee maker breaks and you need to replace it. You look at what you need in a coffee maker and what your budget is for the purchase of the coffee maker. You then search (and research) for the best coffee maker that meets your needs, that is within your budget, and purchase the coffee maker with your own money that is within your ability to pay for it. The manufacture of coffee makers knows this and attempts to provide a coffee maker with the most capabilities at the lowest price so that you will choose their product for purchase. This motivates the coffee maker manufactures to drive down prices and increase capabilities of a coffee maker, which gives you the most bang for your buck. This is a First Party Purchase that benefits both you and other purchasers of coffee makers.

Your friend is getting married and you decide to purchase a coffee maker as a wedding gift. As you will purchase the coffee maker, and another person will utilize the coffee maker, your primary concern will be the purchase price, and your secondary concern will be the capabilities of the coffee maker. Or, your coffee maker breaks and a friend or relative offers to buy you a new coffee maker. In this case, your primary concern will be the capabilities of the coffee maker, and your secondary concern will be the price. The coffee maker manufactures also are aware of these scenarios and will produce coffee makers with different price/capabilities ratios that can meet this need. This is a second party purchase that benefits both you and other purchasers of coffee makers.

Finally, a limited giveaway of coffee makers is sponsored by a coffee maker manufacturer, or a coffee company, or a civic group you are involved with, etc. to a charitable institution for their usage. They request a small contribution from you and others to purchase these coffee makers for the charitable institutions. You decide to donate a modest sum for this charitable cause. In this case your, and others, monies are being utilized, but someone else is determining which coffee maker to purchase, with what capabilities, and who will receive the coffee maker. The coffee maker manufactures may be aware of this activity, but it is extremely difficult to adjust the price/capabilities to meet this need as they cannot determine the quantity or price level to meet this need. This is a third-party purchase, in which there is no motivation for a coffee maker manufacture to meet this need, and produce a more cost-efficient and/or better coffee maker.

All government spending on entitlements is a Third-Party Purchase. The government takes money from the taxpayers and determines what is to be spent and who will receive the benefit. As such, there is no motivation (except altruism) to tax and spend wisely. There are no economic, political, or bureaucratic constraints to assure the most efficient utilization of taxpayers monies, and the scope of the benefits and beneficiaries of the entitlement programs. Indeed, many politicians are generally interested in increasing entitlements, as this will help their re-election chances. Many bureaucrats are interested in expanding entitlements as this increases their power within the government. And the beneficiaries of the entitlements are more than happy to receive increased benefits. The negative consequents of this situation are borne by the taxpayers from decreased income through increased taxes, and the general economy from the expansion of government (a non-wealth producing economic actor) to the contraction of the private economy (a wealth-producing economic actor). 

Many people claim that the side benefits of entitlements are worth, or may exceed, the costs of the entitlement. However, this is economically very difficult to quantify, and more difficult to prove. And even if this is true there is still no way to assure that the entitlement spending is being done efficiently and effectively (what in government is efficient or effective).

These economic and social factors must be accounted for in the creation and expansion of entitlements. But it is easy for the proponents of the entitlements to expound on the benefits of the entitlement, and much more difficult for the opponents of the entitlement to expatiate the costs of the entitlements. After all, everybody wants to do good for their fellow citizens. But doing good must always be tempered with the possible bad impacts of doing good, both socially and economically.

Social SecurityTOC

Social Security was designed for the economy of the 1930’s. An economy when people obtain a single job for life when most people did not live beyond the retirement age when many workers supported few retirees and families help support their aging parents and grandparents. None of these conditions exists today, and therefore Social Security is collapsing under the weight of its faulty premises. It is, therefore, time to reform Social Security to adjust it to fit the facts of life in the 21st century, and I would propose the following general principles to reform Social Security.

Allow, and plan for, the fact that people will have multiple jobs in their lifetime. Require that people establish commercial (not governmental) Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA’s) that they must contribute too during the course of their employment and self-employment life (for example the employer pays 2% of wages and salaries to Social Security, the employee pays 2% of wages and salaries to Social Security, the employee pays 2% of wages and salaries to an IRA, and allow for the employer to optionally contribute additional monies to the IRA as a benefit of employment). Allow for the roll-over of company retirement benefits to their IRA when they change jobs. Establish and regulate these commercial IRA’s to assure their economic viability and longevity, so they are available when a person retires. Mandate that the commercial entity that manages these accounts obtain insurance in the case of financial difficulties of the commercial entity. If a bankruptcy occurs for the commercial entity that manages these IRA’s the first debtors to be paid in the bankruptcy court would be the holders of the IRA. Do not tax the monies placed into these IRA’s, and do not tax the monies withdrawn from the IRA (both principle, dividends, interest, or capital gains) after you reach retirement age (this will have the added benefit of self-motivating people to invest in IRA’s during their work life).

Index the retirement age for Social Security benefits (but not IRA benefits), to the year of birth, to reflect the increasing longevity of the American people.

Means test the amount of benefits payments based on your economic status when you retire. Everybody who contributed to Social Security during their employment life will receive a minimum amount of benefits, but the lower economic retiree will receive increased benefits up to a maximum amount.

And finally, remove the cap on the amount of wages and salaries that can be taxed for Social Security purposes.

The details of how this would be accomplished are beyond my knowledge and experience to expound, and I await more knowledgeable and experienced persons to propose them. When this occurs I shall support the changes to the Social Security system that benefits all Americans. But I believe that the above general principles are the starting point for these reforms.

Healthcare (Medicare and Medicaid)TOC

Healthcare for the elderly and healthcare for the disadvantage (economically or physically) are fine and noble ideals. But ideals do not often equate to results. And so it is with Medicare and Medicaid. As the cost of health care has risen, as the number of people on Medicare and Medicaid has risen, so has the cost of Medicare and Medicaid exploded. Exploded to the point of economic inviolability, and the quality of care within Medicare and Medicaid has dropped. And nothing we have done to correct this problem has helped. The problem with Medicare and Medicaid is twofold; politicians and general health care cost increases.

Politicians love to hand out benefits to Americans as it often results in increased votes for them, and they are loath to decrease benefits as it could mean the loss of votes for them. And so, they nibble at the edges of Medicare and Medicaid to contain costs, while increasing the benefits or the number of people utilizing these benefits. This approach to resolving Medicare and Medicaid costs is doomed to failure, and when it fails all will be hurt.

The increase of health care costs due to additional treatments, increase technology and pharmaceuticals, and overhead costs of administrating the healthcare system, not to mention the increased cost of medical liability insurance due to increased lawsuits and settlements, has exploded the costs of the healthcare system.

Until we face up to both problems we stand no chance of resolving the crisis of Medicare and Medicaid costs.  Politicians are going to have to educate the American public that major changes are required to save Medicare and Medicaid and that some (if not many) people will be impacted. The partisan bickering over changes will have to be reduced to make the changes before the system collapses and all Americans are negatively impacted. Included in these changes are who and what is covered, changes to the healthcare system to reduce costs, and tort reform on medical liability must be addressed. Supplemental insurance for people on Medicare and Medicaid to cover cost not associated with Medicare and Medicaid will also have to be addressed.

Unfortunately, I do not have much hope that this will happen, and I expect it will only change when the imminent collapse of Medicare and Medicaid is upon us.

Health InsuranceTOC

Much has been said for and about the Affordable Health Care Act (ObamaCare), a misnomer if ever there was a misnomer. Much that is beyond my poor power to add or detract, and this observation is not about ObamaCare. It is instead about what the role and responsibility of Government are in health care. Is it a Human Right, a Constitutional Right, or a Civil Right?

With all my readings and knowledge of human history, I cannot recall a single instance where health care within a society or government has even been brought up as a human right. I think that we can, therefore, conclude that health care is not a Human Right.

As to it being a Constitutional right, I cannot find any mention of health care in the Constitution. Only those who believe that the Constitution is living, breathing document could interpret the Constitution as covering health care, and then only by vigorous contortions and convoluted logic can they make this claim. I think that we can, therefore, conclude that health care is not a Constitutional Right.

As to being a civil right, there may be some reasoning to this. If the Congress, with the approval of the President, wishes to create a health care civil right it is within their prerogative to do so – as long as it does not conflict with the Human or Constitutional rights of the People or States. Of course, no contortions and convoluted logic on Human or Constitutional rights should be utilized to circumvent these rights.

So, if the Congress wishes to establish health care as a civil right they should do so – but they should remember that forcing a solution on the American people is very unwise. The people will resist and rebel against any forced solution. The Congress needs to build a consensus of the American people for a health care civil right. The Congress also needs to keep in mind the societal and economic impacts of this civil right. And there will be many societal and economic impacts of a health care civil right. And "The Law of Unintended Consequences" will rear its ugly head and reign supreme (see my observation on this subject). We have already seen Consequences in the impacts of ObamaCare as a good lesson on this law.

For those who wish a single payer or governmental control of health care you need look no further than the Veterans Administration Health Care to determine the most likely outcome of this policy. For those that wish for health care to remain the province of the free market and individual, you need to keep in mind that not all people can afford proper health care, and you must make allowances for them.

And what is my answer to health care? I have none. I am waiting for smarter and wiser persons than myself to provide an answer I can support.

EducationTOC

The more we spend on education, the more education costs. A truism if ever there was one. In this observation, we must distinguish between K-12 and Higher/Continuing education. My thoughts on K-12 Education are in my observation of “Public Education” and I would direct you to that observation. This observation is about Higher/Continuing education.

The reason that Higher/Continuing education costs so much is because we put no restraints on how this money is spent, nor establish any goals on effectiveness. As a result, we have Higher/Continuing education that is expensive, and often is not preparing the student for the world after Higher/Continuing education.

In Higher/Continuing education we also have a potpourri of student loans, student grants, school subsidies, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. This money is obtained through the cooperation of the government, schools, students, and parents.

There have been many proposals as to how to improve this system, but they all retain this systemic approach of governmental, educational, and student co-dependence upon each other. I believe that this systemic approach is wrong and that it will not resolve the problem. The correct approach is to dissolve the systemic approach and replace it with a direct approach. I believe that we need to take the monies out of the hands of government politicians and bureaucrats and school administrators and put it directly in the hands of the student. The student would then determine the best and approved Higher/Continuing education institute that would meet their goals. The Higher/Continuing education institutes would compete for this money from the student, and to hold costs down to attract this money they would have to be more efficient and effective to entice the student to their institution.

This approach would not be difficult to implement. I foresee a person interested in obtaining this money visiting the US Department of Education website, and entering their personal information, economic information, sociological information, and educational achievements, and have the website determine what monies, and how much money would be available to them. The person could then apply to the Higher/Continuing education institute with this information, and if they were accepted, and they accepted entrance in an institution, this money would be transferred to the institution on behalf of the student.

If the student, during the course of their studies determined that the institute was not meeting their needs they could transfer to another institution, along with their monies. I would also have the Higher/Continuing education institute report on a regular basis predetermine, national standards, statistical information on their student body achievements in both their college education and post-seven-year college achievements. This would assist the student in determining which institution to attend.

WelfareTOC

Welfare by the state is the taking of monies from people who have earned it, and giving it to people who have not earned it, as I have previously stated. The more the state gives (welfare) the more the state must take (taxes). If the number of people you give to increases, or if the benefits increase, you will have to take more money from the people who give. If the number of the people giving decreases you have to take a larger amount from those that give. In economics, this is known as a Ponzi scheme. And like all Ponzi schemes, it is doomed to fail, and there will be dire economic consequences when it fails. This is an economic fact and certainty, and not a possible outcome. And unfortunately, our current welfare system is following this path.

We must, therefore, reform our welfare system t assure that it does not collapse. Welfare by the state needs to be severely constricted to those in dire need, and all efforts need to be undertaken to help those in dire need to lift themselves out of need and become self-supporting. Failure by the state to do this will eventually lead to a general economic collapse and a severe depression, and then most Americans will be in dire need, with no way for the government to assist them.

If welfare is required to support the poorest citizens of the United States, it should be done at the State or Local government level as allowed by the State Constitutions or Municipal Charters. This should be done at this level because the local and state people involved in doing so are better attuned to what is required to help the welfare recipient obtain what they need, and to help them overcome their need, and they are more attuned to the local resources to help the welfare recipient overcome their need for welfare. The federal government is ill-suited to determine any of this. I also believe that the people of the United States have shown that they are very charitable, and will rise up and support those citizens in need of charity through their own efforts and giving. This charity is also done better and the local and state level, as it is more attuned with the welfare recipient’s needs, skills, and abilities to help them overcome the need for welfare, and the local resources that could assist the welfare recipient in overcoming their need for welfare. This charity must be combined with welfare to assure that we help those most in need. 

As politicians being politicians, they are reluctant to make any changes, as it may impact their re-electability. But we as American citizens must demand that they make these changes. Not only because of the economic viability of the current welfare system but the moral imperative of helping people become self-sufficient. Therefore, we must reform our welfare system.

The reasons for reforming all entitlements are greater than the excuses for not doing so. And always remember when reforming entitlements:

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to entitle.”

VotingTOC

Voting in AmericaTOC

Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me,
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been.

- From the Grateful Dead – Truckin'

And what a long strange trip it’s been regarding voting rights in the United States. From “Free white landholders with a religious affiliation” to “One Man, One Vote” it has been a tortuous journey full of twist and turns, and sometimes backsliding, to reach where we are today. The litany of voting rights abuses, of disenfranchisement, and of voter suppression and intimidation, “We the People of the United States”, have been through it all regarding voting rights.

Protecting Your Right to VoteTOC

So here we are today, and today we still have voting rights problems. Fortunately, not as severe as in the past, but still with us. So, before I begin to comment on these problems let me firmly state my beliefs on voter rights:

Every citizen of the United States who is legally eligible to vote should be permitted to vote. And no impediment of their legal right to vote should be permitted. Any person or persons who would impede a person’s vote needs to be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And all governmental laws, rules, regulations, and procedures should be crafted to assure a person’s legal right to vote.

Protecting the Integrity of the VoteTOC

Without the integrity of the vote, you have corrupted the democratic process and the will of the people. Regarding this, the first key phrase in the above statement of “Protecting Your Right to Vote” is “legally eligible to vote”. If a person is not legally eligible to vote they need to be stopped from voting. For if they are allowed to vote than the vote they cast negates the vote of a legally eligible voter cast on the opposite side of an issue or candidate, which effectively disenfranchises the legally eligible voter. And this violation should be treated as harshly as you would treat a person or persons who impedes a legal voter.

Many people want to make it easier to register and to vote. But being able to easily register and vote is not the only consideration. You must first assure that the person is legally eligible to vote. For without this assurance you have violated the integrity of the vote.

The integrity of the vote should also be protected by establishing several Voting Rules of Thumb:

  • That no one shall be a pinch hitter and vote in place of another.
  • That no one should experience happy-feet and vote more than once in a single election.
  • That no poltergeist be allowed to vote.
  • That the dead shall not have died to vote from the grave.
  • That no ineligible player gets to play and help determine the outcome of the game.

And for this purpose, I am in favor of establishing photo Voter ID’s. A Voter Id should certify that you have the legal right to vote, and you are the voter who is legally casting your vote. And for this purpose, the Voting Commissions and Voting Boards should be held legally accountable in that they only issue Voter ID’s to legally eligible voters. They should also be held legally accountable if they establish any rules, regulations, or procedures that would interfere with a legally eligible voter obtaining a Voter ID. For those that would say that this is discriminatory against the poor I would remind them that if a poor person can make it to a government office to apply for government benefits, they can make it to a government office to obtain a Voter ID. For those that would say that this is racists I would refer them to the chart that follows this observation, and I would accuse them of using “Obfuscation, Smoke, and Mirrors” (as in my observation on this topic) to justify their position. For those who say it may be difficult to prove your legal eligibility, I would say that given today’s modern technology and database record keeping this is not as hard as you imagine. And for those that say that this could be expensive, I would say the integrity of the vote is more import than the expense of assuring it.

And there are others that say that this is not a big problem and rarely impacts the vote. To those, I would say there is no way of knowing how big a problem this is until you have had a vote that you were sure of the integrity. And although it may not be a big problem it can become an impactful one. Remember that the 2000 Presidential election was decided by about 500 votes in the State of Florida. Any and all voter fraud in this election could have resulted in the election of a different President of the United States

The final topic of voting integrity is the actual casting of your vote. Remember that the 2000 Presidential election demonstrated that the way we cast votes in this country is a mess and shameful. We must find a way to cast votes that are unambiguous and properly counted. To not do so is to disenfranchise the voters, and is a corruption of the democratic process. To achieve this purpose the Voting Commissions and Voting Boards should be held legally accountable to assure that ballots are unambiguous and properly counted.

By legally accountability in these topics I mean that a person or persons on a Voting Commissions or Voting Boards, or person or persons who work for them, would face criminal prosecution, and if found guilty would be sentenced to stiff fines and severe imprisonment for failing to meet their legal obligations.


Early VotingTOC

Much has been written and said about the positives and negatives of early voting. Early voting was established for the purpose of getting more people to vote and involved in our electoral process. But I believe that early voting has created more problems than it has solved, and is the wrong approach to resolving this problem. How often has it been that information on a candidate has come out in the last few days or weeks of an election that may change your mind on who you would vote for. Early voting locks your vote in and does not give you the ability to change your vote. Early voting is also much more susceptible to fraud and abuse than poll voting.

Voting is a civic duty that all registered voters should engage in. I believe that the easiest way to accomplish this is not early voting, but to make Election Day a national holiday. If most voters had the day off it would be easy for them to find the thirty or so minutes during the day to cast their vote. It would also give the voter more time to consider who they should vote for. I would also not allow for the casting of votes other than at a polling station. Having votes cast at a polling station helps reduce fraud and abuse of the voting process, and protects the integrity of the vote. Of course, absentee ballots would be permitted for those who are truly absent from their voting district during election day.

The economic cost of an additional national holiday is well worth the benefit of getting more people involved in the electoral process.

Voting WiselyTOC

And So, My Fellow Americans, Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You; Ask What You Can Do For Your Country.
- John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address

Making Wise Choices when you are preparing to vote can be exceedingly difficult. There are so many factors when considering who to vote for. If ever you needed to apply my observations on “Think About Things “, “Obfuscation, Smoke, and Mirrors”, “Political Advertising And Sloganeering”, and “With Facts, Intelligence, And Reasoning” it is when you are deciding who to vote for. Remember to not get caught up in the hype of a candidate, but make a dispassionate analysis of a candidate. And always choose a candidate who would be best for America, and not best for you. But besides these observations, you need to consider the following.

The perfect candidate is never to be found, just as a perfect person is never to be found. You will never agree with a candidate’s positions on all the issues, or you may dislike some of the personal traits of a candidate. And you need to be exceeding honest about the candidate’s stances on the issues, and the personal traits of a candidate. You also need to be exceeding honest about your stance on the issues, and the personal traits you want to see in a candidate. Therefore, it is important to utilize the observations from above to choose a candidate.

The issues are the issues important to you. The traits are the traits that are important to you. Whether the issues or traits are in the following table or not, you need to jot down the issues and traits that are important to you and prioritize these lists.

Issues:

Abortion
Affirmative Action
Business Privileges
Climate Change
Economic Growth
Educational Reform
Gun Control
Health Care Reform
Homosexuality and Marriage
Illegal Immigration
Income Inequality
International Relations
Judicial Appointments
Law Enforcement
Medicare and Medicaid Reform
National Security
Private Employee Unions
Public Employee Unions
Social Security
Spending and Spending Reform
Subsidies
States Rights
Taxes and Tax Reform
Term Limits
Terrorism
Voting Reform
Welfare Reform

Traits:

Attractiveness
Demeanor
Electability
Fidelity to the Constitution
Fidelity to the Law
Honesty
Integrity
Likeability
Personal Morality

So how can you pick a candidate? I have found that if you chart the candidates it helps. It is better to chart this on paper, as this helps you clarify your thoughts and opinions. It is best to chart it in a spreadsheet program, as a spreadsheet will do the math for you, and you can go back and change things and have the spreadsheet recalculate the math for you.

For simplicity sake on the following charts I have used rounded numbers, but you can certainly use decimal numbers in the scale so that the chart more accurately reflects your opinions. You also need to be careful that the total percentage adds up to 100%, and the scale is from least to most important.

The first chart is the candidates’ stance on the issues. If you list the issues, then rate the candidates’ stance on the issues in relation to your stance on the issues, then total and average these numbers, you start to have a better idea of where a candidate stands in relation to where you stand.

 

Stance on Issues

     

 

Issue

Scale

Candidate A

Candidate B

First Issue

1. Disagree

5.00

3.00

Second Issue

2. Mostly Disagree

4.00

4.00

Third Issue

3. Half-And-Half

3.00

2.00

Fourth Issue

4. Mostly Agree

4.00

1.00

Fifth Issue

5. Agree

2.00

5.00

Total Points

 

18.00

15.00

Average Points

 

3.60

3.00

Of course, not all the issues are of the same importance to you. The next chart shows where a candidate falls in the relation to importance to your importance of the issues. Give the issues a percentage of importance, then multiple the percentage against each of the Issue Points to get the Weighted Stance Points.


Weighted Stance

   

 

Issue

% Importance

Candidate A

Candidate B

First Issue

33%

1.65

0.99

 

Second Issue

33%

1.32

1.32

 

Third Issue

18%

0.54

0.36

 

Forth Issue

10%

0.40

0.10

 

Fifth Issue

6%

0.12

0.30

 

Weighted Stance Points

100%

4.03

3.07

 

Now we have a much better idea of where a candidate stands on the issues in relation to where you stand on the issues.

But the issues are to the only factors we utilize in choosing a candidate. We often factor in the personal traits of a candidate in determining who we will vote for. This too can be charted. As in the Issues Cart list the Personal Traits of a candidate, then assign the candidate points based on a scale. Then total and average these numbers, and you start to have a better idea of Personal Traits of a candidate.

Personal Traits

     

Personal

Scale

Candidate A

Candidate B

First Trait

1. Bad

4.00

3.00

Second trait

2. Poor

3.00

4.00

Third Trait

3. Average

5.00

1.00

Fourth Trait

4. Good

2.00

5.00

Fifth Trait

5. Excellent

1.00

5.00

Total Points

 

15.00

18.00

Average Points

 

3.00

3.60

Again, not all personality traits are equal in importance so as in the Weighted Stance chart we create a Weighted Traits chart. Do the math in the same way as the Weighted Stance chart and you obtain a Weighted Traits chart.

Weighted Traits

     

Personal

% Importance

Candidate A

Candidate B

First Trait

14%

0.56

0.42

Second Trait

27%

0.81

1.08

Third Trait

40%

2.00

0.40

Fourth Trait

12%

0.24

0.60

Fifth Trait

7%

0.07

0.35

Weighted Average

100%

3.68

2.85

Finally, the importance of the issues and traits in your decision of who to vote for is also weighted. To find the Total Score of a candidate you create a weighted chart of issues and traits, with the percentage of importance to your vote, then total these numbers to get a final score for the candidates.

Total  Score

     
 

% Importance

Candidate A

Candidate B

Issues

67%

2.70

2.06

Traits

33%

1.21

0.94

Total Score

100%

3.91

3.00

And finally, you get to a candidate who most closely reflects your issues and traits, and the one you should probably vote for.

Congratulations, not only have you found your candidate, but you have also become more familiar with statistics and their application in everyday life. This Microsoft Excel spreadsheet can be downloaded here.

Spreadsheet Note 1 – When scaling the issues for a candidate most of the time it will be a 3 or all 3’s for a candidate. And that is all right. Worry about getting the 4 and 5, and the 1 and 2 correct.

Spreadsheet Note 2 – It is not possible to sort the issues and traits detail information, as these two charts need to be in the same order of the detail Scale and Weighted items, and it is not possible to do this with this spreadsheet. If you do this the results will be incorrect and meaningless. A more complex spreadsheet could do this but this is beyond the scope of this observation.

Spreadsheet Note 3 – Remember SOS (Save Often Stupid). Whenever you finish assigning scales or weights for a bunch of data SOS. It is not recommended that you delete a detailed issue or trait row, but if you do so make sure you delete the same issue or trait row in both the scale and weighted charts and make sure you SOS before doing so. An SOS is even more important if you should decide to try and sort the data (not recommended if you don't know what you are doing so don't do it, or ask your kids for help).