03/16/2017

Presidents Jackson and Trump

by Jeff Brinckman

President Andrew Jackson, put on a militia uniform at age 13, during the American Revolution, and was quickly transformed into an angry young man, upon being captured by the British, and marched 40 miles to a wretched stockade, where his brother would die. He was then cut by a sword for refusing to polish an English officer’s boots. After a case of smallpox, he acquired a lifetime cough from TB, which would remind him from then on of abuses he would never forgive.

President Donald Trump, who has Jackson’s portrait in his office, also had his personality shaped as a teen. Although he avoided the army, despite being of draft age throughout the Vietnam War (1964-73), he was such an incorrigible behavioral problem by age 13, that his parents sent him to the NY Military Academy (1960-64), where he was drilled into an angry dictatorial type we see today. Trump has since looked up to Jackson as a role model, and has followed his playbook.

Jackson did not hide his violent personality. When he married Rachel in 1791, it turned out her divorce papers had not been completed, and she was still her first husband’s wife. After Jackson remarried her in 1794, she was subjected to name-calling. When Charles Dickinson used a choice word to describe her in 1806, Jackson took the law in his own hands, got a gun, challenged him to a duel, and killed him. Jackson would become President despite this well-known homicide.

Trump was also elected despite several well-publicized scandals involving women. His three marriages were to: 1) a Czech model (1977-90); 2) an actress (1993-99); and 3) yet another model (2005). During the campaign, when a political blogger speculated that an older man like Trump could not have married a gorgeous model 24 years his younger, unless she was a high-priced call-girl, Trump defended her honor, sued for libel, and settled recently on favorable terms.

As a candidate, Jackson was radically different from his predecessors. The first six Presidents were well-educated, diplomatic, and enlightened philosophers. Jackson on the other hand was unschooled, undignified, and tactless. He had just joined the Senate in 1823, and when he first ran for President in 1824, he lacked experience. His quick temper and violent propensities sharply distinguished him from the Founders. He was called hot-headed, unfit, and dangerous. He wasn’t taken seriously, as his only claim to fame was his military celebrity from the War of 1812.

Trump’s background also led to assertions he was unqualified, as he totally lacked any government experience, not even a political apprenticeship. During the 2016 campaign, he gained attention by insulting his Republican primary opponents and then Sen. Clinton. He was known basically for his TV celebrity, as he gained headlines with unsupported outlandish claims about the issues.

Jackson’s income came mostly from buying and selling land and from gambling, but instead of casinos, he bet on his own race horses. As a realtor, he knew the Native Americans west of the Appalachians held some of the best farm lands, and he resented it. Although the first six Presidents granted treaty rights to the Indians, Jackson advocated the deportation of all natives from the Appalachians to the Mississippi, and rural whites elected him on that platform in 1828.

Trump’s wealth likewise came primarily from land deals. As a real estate tycoon, he also profited from gambling casinos, multiple bankruptcy filings, a low-level university, and by fighting tax audits. Interestingly, as soon as Trump became President, he figuratively went to war against Native Americans in North Dakota, over a dispute between their treaty rights and an oil pipeline.

Despite a personal conflict of interest as a realtor, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act (1830), which the Cherokees challenged in the Supreme Court, as contrary to treaty law that shielded them from deportation. Five Justices, appointed by the Founders, along with Jackson’s first nominee McLean, ruled (6-1) for the tribe in Worcester v Georgia (1832). But instead of enforcing the law, an outraged Jackson declared: “Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!” As the Indians were pushed west across the Mississippi in IL and WI, the Black Hawk War (1832) broke out, and in the South, a Trail of Tears followed, as natives were marched on foot to Oklahoma.

Trump pursued a similar white racist campaign, as he pledged to deport millions of Hispanics, even though many had ancestors who occupied the Southwest long before the first Anglos arrived. He promoted a populist fiction that North America was originally all-white, as he waged a dog-whistle campaign promising to “make America great again.” Trump’s racism was not limited to Latinos, as he routinely suggested our first black President was not an American, despite Hawaiian newspaper baby announcements that clearly showed President Obama was born there in 1961.

Jackson’s real estate background led him to accuse the East Coast bankers of rigging the money supply to make it difficult for western farmers to obtain mortgages. Upon becoming President, he refused to re-charter the U.S. Bank, arguing it was unconstitutional, despite contrary Supreme Court rulings. When Jackson ordered the Treasury Dept. to withdraw all funds from the U.S. Bank and transfer them into State Banks, Secretaries McLane and Duane both refused, until Roger Taney finally carried out the deed, in an act that would earn him a Supreme Court seat.

As to the banks, although Trump promised to drain the financial swamp, he quickly got knee-deep in the muck by working with the Republicans and Wall Street bankers on a repeal of the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Law, which was designed to prevent another Great Recession.

Jackson resumed trade with the British West Indies (1830), made a treaty with Russia (1832), and negotiated the first trans-Pacific trade arrangement in Siam (1833). Despite his free trade policies, he also took a middle ground by enforcing tariffs. When Sen. Calhoun of South Carolina threatened secession over tariffs, Jackson responded: “If you secede from my nation, I will secede your head from the rest of your body.” Congress quickly gave Jackson a military force to collect tariffs.

Trump also made trade a centerpiece, as his anti-free trade pitch won the election for him in the industrial Midwest. As President, he quickly dumped the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We can soon expect some kind of a deal with Russia. Even if Trump abrogates NAFTA between Mexico, Canada and the U.S., all three nations agreed to the same free trade terms under in the World Trade Organization Treaty, so nothing much will change, and Trump will likely take a middle course.

As to the Supreme Court, in Jackson’s eight years, he nominated six Justices, most of whom negatively impacted jurisprudence. Taney, Wayne and Canton joined in the horrendous Dred Scot (1857) majority, where a (7-2) Court held Congress unconstitutionally infringed on slave owner property rights by banning slavery in the territories. Only one Jackson Justice, McLean, dissented.

Trump will also have a lasting imprint on the Court, as two liberals Ginsburg (83) and Breyer (78), and swing vote Kennedy (80), are already beyond normal life expectancies. In addition to his nomination of Gorsuch (49), if Thomas (68) resigns, Trump may send four more right-wingers to join Alito (65) and Roberts (61), leaving just two liberals, Sotomayor (62) and Kagan (56).

Jackson’s victory in 1828 triggered political party realignments. He didn’t destroy Thomas Jefferson’s “Democratic-Republican Party,” he merely hijacked it and renamed it the “Democratic Party.” A coalition of his opponents formed the Whig Party in 1832. Although the populist Jackson won again in 1832, as did his successor Van Buren in 1836, the Whigs finally took the White House in 1840 and 1848, and later merged with the new Republican Party in 1854.

Trump’s win in 2016 will also lead to party realignments. He didn’t destroy the Republican Party, he simply did a “hostile takeover” and now it’s his. It’s not the Republicans who need reinventing, for that already happened. The Democrats will now need to choose to put on a white face and talk about rural blue-collar economic concerns, or double down on urban social issues for blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, gays and women, and perhaps lose again, yes, to Trump. He may be re-elected, unless something unforeseen happens, like a depression, or a death in office.

Our first great depression was caused by Jackson’s tinkering with the money supply. When he ordered the acceptance of only gold or silver as payment for government obligations, his 1836 policy created gold shortages, triggered inflation, and raised interest rates. The depression that hit just as Jackson was leaving town in 1837, would be blamed on his successor Martin Van Buren. Only time will tell if Trump’s policies will trigger a depression.

As to death in office, Jackson’s closure of the U.S. Bank led to the first assassination attempt on a sitting President. Richard Lawrence, who thought he was King Richard III, and believed the U.S. government owed him money, blamed Jackson for not being paid. So, he took two shots at Jackson outside the Capitol in 1835, but since his gun misfired twice, Jackson was able to subdue Lawrence by using his cane to beat the living daylights out of him.

With modern Secret Service protections, it’s unlikely Trump will be shot, but since he’s over 70, the prospect of a natural death is not outside the realm of possibilities. If Trump survives, and chooses to run again in 2020, he’ll certainly follow Jackson’s playbook. If the Democrats are smart, they’ll take him seriously, and will begin right now studying how Jackson won his second term.

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12/26/2016

WHAT WILL TRUMP DO ABROAD?

China: In 1971, after the UN voted to recognize the mainland People’s Republic of China in lieu of the Nationalist Chinese government on the island of Taiwan, Nixon visited Mao Tse Tung in 1972, and agreed to withdraw 8,000 U.S. troops from Taiwan. President Carter then recognized the People’s Republic as sole legitimate government in 1979, and the U.S. severed all official ties to Taiwan. The U.S. then started doing business in China under Reagan in 1980, and in 2001, George W. Bush helped them get into the tariff-free World Trade Organization. After the 2016 election, Trump didn’t realize that by communicating with the Taiwanese leader, he would be setting off a storm. Trump’s lack of knowledge of international law and history is a great concern.

Foreign Trade: The U.S. has had trade deficits with foreign nations since 1981, when Reagan took office. Trump said he couldn’t believe how much they’ve soared. While there is some truth to the need for better balance, Trump has not seriously thought through the issue. He speaks a good nationalist populist line, but he does not demonstrate an understanding of global economics. He talks about imposing 15% to 35% tariffs on goods imported from abroad. Most Republicans oppose such taxes, arguing they’d only be passed on to American consumers in the form of higher prices. Cheap clothing from abroad would suddenly cost a lot more. So would TVs, radios, and electronics. Prices for the vast majority of things purchased from abroad would increase. The bottom line is if tariffs are imposed, all American consumers will pay. When people talk about NAFTA, (which only affects 3 countries), it means they don’t understand trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the real player, since almost all nations belong. If the U.S. imposes tariffs, all WTO members will be authorized to punish the U.S. with retaliatory tariffs, and our exports to other nations will be priced out of the market. Bullies don’t get their way in trade—it’s a two-way street Donald.

Mexican Deportations: If Trump commands the army to go door-to-door to round up millions of Mexican workers, who may be in the U.S. illegally, there is a strong likelihood his order will be disobeyed. It would take an extremely long time to carry out, and the costs would be astronomical. We are a nation of laws, not dictators. Detainees would be entitled to due process before deportation. While Trump may stage some “show trials,” he would never rid the country of all illegals. Although he may continue to make verbal broadsides by calling “all” Mexicans rapists, without supporting evidence, the courts are not that abusive. The main reason nothing much will happen to illegal aliens is that the Republican business community needs them now more than ever. Certain segments of our economy would simply collapse without them.

Mexican Wall: Trump made the ridiculous assertion that he was going to build a wall from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California, a distance of 1,553 miles. He then added the absurd idea that he would make Mexico pay for it. The Great Wall of China stretches more than 1,500 miles and it is about 25 feet high. It took the Chinese literally hundreds of years to complete it. Even with modern equipment, building a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico would take an extremely long time. A baby born today would never see it. The cost of constructing such a wall would be astronomical, bankrupting the U.S. Treasury. Maintaining it with guards posted at every tenth of a mile or so, 24 hours a day, would also be extremely pricey. The smarter members of Congress laughed at Trump’s silly idea, as there is absolutely no chance of it being implemented.

Middle East: Trump has not shown any inclination to be an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians, or the rest of the Muslim world. As a result, he will have a tough time doing anything useful in the Mideast. He talks about defeating ISIS, but how does one defeat an attitude? How does one stop an individual suicidal bomber? One has to first acquire an understanding of the enemy mind. Thus far, Trump has not shown any intellectual capacity to even begin to understand.

Military: Trump said the military could be supported for much less than we spend on it. While he’s certainly correct, the Republican Congress is not going to propose any spending reductions, so nothing will change in that regard. We will continue to waste millions. The bigger problem is Trump’s ability to draw us into a shooting war. Although Congress holds the power to declare war, Presidents with hot heads, like Trump, can force their hand. Though Trump never served in the army, he went to a military academy as a teen. My suspicion is that he was arrested for battery or sexual assault as a teen, and his father kept him out of a juvenile court reformatory by asking a sympathetic judge to send him to a military school. Trump’s background bothers me, since the best predictor of future behavior is past conduct. Have no doubt, Trump will use military force.

NATO: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was originally set up as a check against a perceived Soviet threat in Western Europe. Their mission has now morphed into areas outside Europe. While all NATO nations need to belly up to the bar to pay for the treaty organization, and efficiencies could be made, Trump was mistaken to threaten a U.S. withdrawal. I doubt the Republican Congress will end our commitment to NATO.

Russia: Godless Russian communists are seriously our best friends against the fundamentalist religious Islamic fanatics. The old Soviet Union included areas where Islam was practiced and they have people who could easily infiltrate terrorist organizations. Having said that, Putin has suppressed free speech, manipulated elections, and violated international law by invading the Ukraine, conduct an American President cannot condone. Trump and his Exxon Sec of State see nothing but an oil deal with Russia. Sadly, energy alone should not govern our relationship.

Tanzania: There are 52 independent nations in Africa. One would expect a President to have at least a minimal understanding of each. One important country is Tanzania, where our U.S. Embassy was bombed by terrorists in 1998. On April 27, 2016, Trump pronounced Tanzania “Tan-ZAY-nee-uh,” instead of the correct “Tan-zu-KNEE-uh.” This elementary school gaff was troubling, as it indicates Trump has no real working knowledge of even important African states, like Tanzania.

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12/26/2016

WHAT WILL TRUMP DO AT HOME?

Abortion: Trump will soon have the power to nominate Supreme Court Justices. One constitutional issue remains a woman’s lawful right to an abortion. At one point in the campaign, Trump was of the opinion that women who have abortions should be jailed. While that will not happen, the Court is now likely to further restrict 5th and 14th Amendment liberty rights as to abortion. On top of that, the Republican Congress will cut funds for Planned Parenthood, even though 90% of their activities have nothing to do with abortion.

Campaign Finance: With a Republican Congress, there is no hope any useful legislation restricting big money in politics will be enacted. Nothing will change. Lobbyists will continue to inhabit the swamp. Big money will not be drained out of it, as Trump promised.

Cities: Nothing much will change in black inner cities. The Republican Congress doesn’t care much about them and Trump himself knows little about how poor people actually live. Trump said blacks would have to be crazy not to try something new with him, but they knew better, and most voted for Clinton. While Ben Carson and other token blacks will be paraded around by Trump, nothing much will improve in minority communities.

Citizenship: Trump said he wanted to end constitutionally protected “citizenship by birth.” With regards to persons born in the U.S., the 14th Amendment makes it crystal clear that they are both citizens of the U.S. and the state where they reside. Trump apparently doesn’t understand how difficult it is to amend the Constitution. Outlawing citizenship by birth will never happen.

Economy: Trump talks about creating a 6% to 7% growth rate. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing. He’s not going to be able to stimulate such high growth. The greater fear is that his lack of understanding of international trade may trigger another recession or depression.

Environment: There is no doubt the oil and coal industries will benefit under Trump. With an Exxon chief running the State Dept., they will get what they want in global trade. Environment treaties that are in the way will be abrogated. The Keystone Pipeline will be completed. Any Native American who gets in the way will be dealt with the same way the U.S. has always dealt with Indians.

Government: Like most Republicans, Trump said he would eliminate some government agencies and departments. Sadly, the Republican Congress will only propose eliminating the most effective and useful regulatory bodies, and they’ll expect Trump to sign such bills. Since I doubt Trump will actually read any law presented to him, he’ll probably just go along with whatever they give him.

Guns: There is no hope during the next four years that anything useful will be done regarding the proliferation of guns, or the massacres they routinely generate. The Supreme Court will uphold the right wing’s twisted view of what the Founders intended by the Second Amendment.

Health Care: Trump repeatedly said he would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The question is with what? He said he opposes the more efficient single-payer model. So, if we continue using private insurance, how are we going to keep working people insured without subsidies? The only alternative is to regulate prices in the health care industry. Since “regulation” is a dirty word to most Republicans, no useful law will come out of this Congress. Health savings accounts are not going to cover galloping inflation rates in the health care industry. There is also little chance a Republican Congress will break up the virtual monopolies that exist in the health care delivery system, or in the pharmaceutical sector. Without subsidized insurance, people will either just die, or they’ll return to the more expensive government-subsidized emergency room.

Presidency: Since Trump has not previously been elected to anything, not even dog catcher, he will be on a tremendous learning curve. He will soon learn that the 435 House members and 100 Senators collectively have much more power than he does. While he can use the “bully” pulpit (a description that certainly fits), Congress controls the purse strings, and nothing happens without money. To be sure, Trump will continue to blame everyone but himself, but in the end, he may be forced to deal.

Religion: The U.S. Constitution endorses no religion. It doesn’t even mention the word “god” or “Christianity.” It speaks of religion in only two places. First, it bars all religious tests, and second, it prohibits an establishment of religion, such as Christianity. A Muslim U.S. Citizen, who happens to be a follower of Islam, is fully protected under our Constitution. Trump cannot do anything to them based on faith alone. He is not going to round up Muslims, or make them register, or do any such things to American citizens.

Retirement: During the campaign, Trump said he would not touch the retirement age. The problem is the Republican Congress doesn’t appreciate how much ordinary elderly people need their Social Security checks, and they will propose to raise the age. If this happens, I would hold Trump to his word and ask for a veto.

Supreme Court: While campaigning, the Republicans made Trump sign a paper promising to nominate one of 11 pre-approved right-wingers to the Supreme Court. Any one of them will be readily accepted by the Republican Senate. As a result, for perhaps another generation, the Court will remain conservative, particularly if Kennedy, the remaining Republican swing vote, or one of the four Democrats retires or dies.

Taxes: Like a typical Republican, Trump promised to lower everyone’s taxes. I’m sure the Republican Congress will gladly give him several tax reduction bills, and he will sign them. As a real estate tycoon, Trump will first and foremost help the real estate industry (as if they need additional tax breaks). He will also cut taxes for big business. The problem with taxes is the Republicans love to spend on costly military adventures, but they fail to raise taxes to pay for them. One thing is almost certain, Trump will not even begin to move us towards a balanced budget, or a lower national debt. The debt will almost certainly get much worse under Trump. I’m still hoping that some whistle-blower at the IRS discloses Trump’s tax records, so we can finally see who he’s been dealing with, and what if any taxes he’s paid.

Transportation: Although the Republican Congress has no use for public works projects that might put regular people to work (as evidenced by their failure to support Obama’s Great Recession proposals), they will throw Trump a bone, and they’ll give him something to sign creating some jobs, fixing roads and bridges in rural areas. This will be so he can say he did something.

Wages: While Trump acknowledged that working people have not had any real wage increases in a long time, there are only a few ways to increase incomes. One is to raise the minimum wage, which is something the Republican Congress will never do. Another is to strengthen unions, which again the Republicans will not do. So, it is unlikely wages will improve under Trump. The only possibility is that they go up due to supply-and-demand employee shortages. If this occurs, it won’t have anything to do with Republican policies or Trump.

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07/26/2016

TRUMP IN A WORD

by Jeff Brinckman

WEALTH: inherited; FINANCES: bankrupt; TAXES: undisclosed, suspicious, evasive; PHILANTHROPY: greedy, self-centered; BUSINESSMAN: gambler, speculator, profiteer; TRUMP UNIVERSITY: corrupt, fraudulent, phony; SHOWMAN: carnival barker, “step right this way,” elixir salesman; MILITARY: deferred, 4-F, unfit; HAIRSTYLE  awful, nasty, ugly

CANDIDATE: opportunist, pretender, impersonator; EXPERIENCE: apprentice, amateur, beginner; QUALIFICATIONS: trumped-up; KNOWLEDGE: minimal, superficial; SPEECH: arrogant, loud, obnoxious; RHETORIC: alarmist, extremist, outlandish; HABITS: exaggeration, repetitiveness, “excuse me”; POSITIONS: contradictory, opinionated, outrageous; SOURCES: inaccurate, incorrect; SKILLS: lacking.

COURTS: litigious, accusatory, argumentative; JUDGES: contemptuous; CREDIBILITY: deceptive, misleading, unbelievable; MORALS: unethical, unprincipled, unscrupulous; HONESTY: crooked, deceitful, untruthful; REPUTATION: character-assassin, shady.

PERSONALITY: disturbed; DELUSIONS: self-importance, grandeur; MENTAL DEVELOPMENT: adolescent, immature, incorrigible; MANNERS: annoying, insulting, rude; RIGIDITY: difficult, obstinate, stubborn; SELF-IMAGE: egocentric, self-absorbed, self-righteous; SELF-WORTH: boastful, conceited, pompous; TEMPERAMENT: hotheaded, irritable; DIAGNOSIS: abnormal, maladjusted, unbalanced; PROGNOSIS: incurable, hopeless.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: dictatorial, tyrannical, totalitarian; FOREIGN POLICY: dangerous, reckless, risky; DIPLOMACY: tactless, imprudent, uncompromising; USE OF FORCE: aggressive, belligerent, naïve; POSITION ON TORTURE: barbaric, uncivilized, against international law; WATERBOARDING: abusive, cruel, misguided.

MUSLIM BAN: bigoted, intolerant, unconstitutional; HISPANICS: judgmental, narrow-minded, prejudicial; OBAMA: birther nonsense; WOMEN: discourteous, insensitive, offensive; RELATIONSHIPS: divorced, promiscuous, disrespectful.

OVERALL: despised, disliked, unpopular; CANDIDACY: absurd, laughable, ridiculous, total disaster; HISTORICAL PLACE: footnote, inconsequential, also-ran; TOMBSTONE: loser.

 

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02/14/2016

OBAMA ENTITLED TO COURT APPOINTMENT

Since the death of Supreme Court Justice Antony Scalia, the Constitution requires a replacement nominated by the President. Assuming an academically qualified nominee, the Senate should approve. The fact that President Obama is in his last year is irrelevant and no reason for the Senate to refuse to consent.

During President Washington’s eighth and final year, he named two Justices to the Court, Samuel Chase on Jan. 27, 1796, and Oliver Ellsworth on March 4, 1796. President John Adams sent Chief Justice John Marshall on Jan. 31, 1801. This was after he lost the Nov. 1800 election to Thomas Jefferson and before the President-elect was sworn-in in March.

In 1836, President Jackson’s final year, Justices Roger Taney and Philip Barbour both started on March 15. Jackson also elevated Justice John Catron on March 8, 1837, after President Van Buren won the Nov. 1836 election and while Jackson was packing his bags. President Tyler picked Justice Samuel Nelson for the Court on Feb. 14, 1845. This was after President Polk won the 1844 race and Tyler was going home.

In his last year, President Hayes presented Justice William Wood to the Court on Dec. 21, 1880. He did this after President-elect Garfield won the Nov 1880 election and Hayes was a lame duck. President Cleveland put two Justices on the Court in 1888, namely Justice Lucius Lamar on Jan 16, 1888, and Justice Melville Fuller on Oct. 8, 1888, just one month before Benjamin Harrison defeated Cleveland.

During his final year, Republican Ben Harrison named Justice George Shiras on July 26, 1892. He also added Justice Howell Jackson, on Feb. 18 1893, after losing the Nov. 1892 contest. During his last year, President Taft sent Justice Mahlon Pitney on March 13, 1912. President Hoover elevated Justice Benjamin Cardozo on March 2, 1932, before being soundly defeated in November.

President Franklin Roosevelt picked Justice Frank Murphy on Jan. 18, 1940, during his eighth year, and before announcing an intent to seek a third term. During the last year of his first term, President Nixon appointed Justice Lewis Powell and Justice William Rehnquist, both on Jan. 7, 1972. President Reagan nominated Justice Anthony Kennedy, who assumed the bench on Feb. 18, 1988, during Reagan’s eighth and final year.

We had elections in 2008 and 2012 as to who should name our Supreme Court Justices. Obama won both. We don’t need or want another referendum. The fact that Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky vowed to deny Obama his constitutional right to replace Scalia is frankly no surprise. McConnell is a crusty old Southern obstructionist, born in Alabama. Some bad attitudes just never die.

While Wis. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, can be relied on to consent to Obama’s nominee, the same is not true of Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. If he joins McConnell and obstructs the will of the people, this November, every Wisconsin voter should help former Sen. Russ Feingold drive Johnson from office.

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12/24/2014

Constitution of U.S. in 1750 Words or Less

The U.S. Constitution created a House and Senate. (1-1-1) House terms are for two-years. (1-2-1) House members are directly elected by the people. (1-2-1) Representatives must be at least 25 and citizens for at least seven years. (1-2-2) House seats are apportioned equally based on a census taken every 10 years. (1-2-3) Washington DC receives one House seat. (A-23) Vacancies are filled by elections called by state executives. (1-2-4)

Senate terms are for six years. (1-3-1) Senators, initially chosen by state legislatures, are also directly elected. (A-17) Senators must be at least 30 and citizens for at least nine years. (1-3-3) Each state is entitled to two Senators, regardless of population. (1-3-1) Senators are divided into three classes; one-third are elected every two years. (1-3-2) The Vice-President serves as the President of the Senate (1-3-4)

The time, place and manner of elections is determined by Congress. (1-4-1) Citizens 18 years of age may vote. (A-26) Those born in the U.S. or naturalized are citizens. (A-14) Congress may write rules for naturalization. (1-8-4) No one may be denied the right to vote due to race or sex. (A-15, A-19) No poll taxes are permitted. (A-24)

No member of Congress may be subjected to a religious test. (6-3) Members are compensated. (6-1) Pay changes cannot become effective until after the next election. (A-27) The House and Senate determine if those elected met the qualifications for office (1-5-1) Members may not simultaneously retain other offices. (1-6-2) They cannot accept gifts or titles of nobility from foreign states. (1-9-8) Senators and representatives may be disciplined for disorderly behavior and expelled if two-thirds agree. (1-5-2)

Congress convenes on Jan. 3 and is in session at least once a year. (1-4-2) A majority constitutes a quorum. (1-5-1) While in session, neither body may adjourn for more than three days. (1-5-4) Members may not be questioned about their House or Senate speeches or debates. (6-1) They are privileged from arrest. (6-1) A journal records all proceedings and votes. (1-5-3) The Vice-President votes only to break a tie in the Senate. (1-3-4)

The President must be a natural-born citizen. (2-1-5) He must be at least 35. (2-1-5) Each state receives Electoral College electors equal to their number of representatives and Senators. (2-1-2) Elections are held on the same date in every state. (2-1-4) A majority of electors choses the President. (2-1-3) If no candidate receives a majority, the House elects the President. (2-1-3)

The Presidential oath of office, written into the Constitution by the Founders, makes no reference to god. (2-1-8) The President may not be subjected to a religious test. (6-3) The President is entitled to compensation. (2-1-7) He is elected to a four-year term that begins on Jan. 20 (2-1-1). He can serve no more than two terms. (A-22) If he already served more than two years of another’s term, he is limited to one term. (A-22)

The President defends the Constitution. (2-3) He is Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy. (2-2-1) He may use the militia to suppress insurrections and enforce the laws of the union. (1-8-15) He appoints ambassadors, officers, and Supreme Court Justices. (2-2-2) He fills vacancies, including Vice-President. (2-2-3) He may grant pardons. (2-2-1) He gives a State of the Union address, which recommends legislation. (2-3) He can make treaties. (2-2-2) No state may sign treaties. (1-10-1) The President may veto bills (1-7-2)

The President may be impeached for treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors. (2-4) The crime of treason must be supported by two witnesses or a confession in open court. (3-3-1) The House has the sole power to file impeachment charges. (1-2-5) The Senate has the exclusive power to try and convict cases of impeachment. (1-3-6) The Vice-President becomes President if the President dies or is removed from office. (2-1-6)

The House and Senate have legislative powers. (1-1-1) Congress has several enumerated powers. (1-8) They may also pass laws necessary for carrying out the delegated powers. (1-8-18). They may legislate for the District of Columbia. (1-8-17) They may make rules for U.S. territories. (4-3-2) They may admit new states. (4-3-1) They may initiate constitutional amendments by a vote of two-thirds in both bodies. (5) Presidential vetoes may be overridden by a two-thirds majority in both bodies. (1-7-2) The Senate may ratify or reject treaties. (2-2-2)

All revenue bills begin in the House. (1-7-1) Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes. (1-8-1) They may use income taxes. (A-16) Direct taxes must be proportional (1-2-3) Congress, but no state, may coin money. (1-8-5, 1-10-1) They may punish counterfeiters of U.S. coins and securities. (1-8-6) They may borrow money. (1-8-2) They may pay the debt. (1-8-1) They may write uniform bankruptcy rules. (1-8-4) Money from Treasury must be appropriated. (1-9-7)

Congress may regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states (1-8-3). They cannot tax exports (1-9-5) There shall be free trade within the U.S. from state to state, without preferences or tariffs imposed on ships (1-9-6) States cannot impose tariffs on imports from abroad or exports headed overseas. (1-10-2)

Congress may promote the progress of science and useful arts by protecting inventors and authors. (1-8-8) They may build post offices and postal roads. (1-8-7) They cannot prohibit intoxicating liquors. (A-21) They may provide for the general welfare. (1-8-1)

Congress provides for a common defense. (1-8-1) They may declare war. (1-8-11) They may raise and support armies for two-year periods. (1-8-12). They may create a navy. (1-8-13) They may organize the militia to repel invasions. (1-8-15, 1-8-16) Militia members cannot be denied a right to bear arms. (A-2) They may grant letters of marque and reprisal. (1-8-11) States may not. (1-10-1) Individual states may not maintain troops. (1-10-2) Congress may erect forts, arsenals, and docks, (1-8-17) but may not quarter soldiers in homes. (A-3)

The Congress may make rules for land and sea forces. (1-8-14) They may make rules for enemies captured on land and water. (1-8-11) They may punish offenses against the Law of Nations. (1-8-10) They may punish felonies on the high seas. (1-8-10)

The Constitution created a Supreme Court. (3-1-1) Tribunals inferior to it may be created by Congress. (1-8-9) Supreme Court Justices serve for good behavior. (3-1-1) They must be compensated.

The judicial power extends to cases where the issue involves the U.S. Constitution, federal law, a treaty, an ambassador, admiralty or maritime law, where the U.S. is a party, two states sue each other, or citizens of different states are involved. (3-2-1) Federal courts cannot hear cases between a state and citizens of another. (A-11) The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction, and only a limited degree of original jurisdiction. (3-2-2)

Each state is guaranteed a Republican form of government. (4-4) States cannot grant titles of nobility. (1-10-1) They cannot enter into confederations with other states (1-10-1) They cannot enter into agreements with foreign powers or other states. (1-10-3)

Federal law is the supreme law of the land. (6-2) States reserve only those powers not delegated to the federal government, or barred by the U.S. Constitution. (A-10) States may initiate amendments to the Constitution, if two-thirds of the state legislatures agree. (5) A constitutional amendment becomes law, if three-fourths of the states ratify it. (5)

States must grant full faith and credit to the laws and judgments of the other states. (4-1) They cannot impair the obligations of contracts. (1-10-1) If they take private property for a public purpose, they must pay just compensation. (A-14) In civil cases at law, jury trials cannot be denied. (A-7) States cannot deny citizens the privileges and immunities of citizens of the other states. (4-2)

States cannot deny liberty, which encompasses many freedoms. (A-14) Liberty includes a freedom from religion, as well as the free exercise of it. (A-1, A-14) The government cannot deny free speech, or a freedom of the press. (A-1, A-14) They cannot deny a right to assemble to petition for a redress of grievances. (A-1, A-14)

The Founders made possible the abolition of the slave trade by inserting a provision that allowed it to be terminated in 1808, which is exactly what Jefferson did as soon as he could. (1-9-1) Slavery itself was ended by Lincoln’s efforts in 1865. (A-13) Persons cannot be denied the equal protection of the laws. (A-14) The enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution, does not mean others retained by the people are denied. (A-9)

Neither Congress nor any state may single out a person and convict them through a Bill of Attainder (1-9-3, 1-10-1) Neither Congress, nor any state, may change the rules of the game after the fact by passing Ex Post Facto laws. (1-9-3, 1-10-1)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (A-4) One state may ask another to extradite an alleged fleeing felon. (4-2-2)

A person accused of a crime may not be denied liberty without the due process of law. (A-5, A-14) He is entitled to the assistance of counsel. (A-6) Writs of Habeas Corpus, which bring the accused out of a jail and before a judge, cannot be suspended, except in times of rebellion (1-9-2) While awaiting trial, the accused may not subjected to excessive bail. (A-8)

One accused of a felony must be indicted by a grand jury, or a judge must find probable cause to bind him over for trial. (A-5) He must be provided with the information that sets forth the nature of the accusation. (A-6) He is entitled to a speedy trial (A-6) He is entitled to a trial by jury. (3-2-3) The jury must be impartial. (A-6)

The trial must be held in the state where the alleged offense occurred. (3-2-3) The trial cannot be conducted in secret and must be open to the public. (A-6) The defendant cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself; in other words, he has a right to remain silent. (A-5) He has the right to confront witness against him. (A-6) He has the right to use the compulsory subpoena process to obtain witnesses for his defense. (A-6)

If a jury finds the defendant not guilty, he cannot be subjected to same offense twice (A-5) If the defendant is found guilty, he cannot be subjected to excessive fines, or exposed to cruel and unusual punishment. (A8)

12/17/2014

Guantanamo Bay Base: Give It Up

The U.S. has a Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, on the island of Cuba, has been operated illegally, against the wishes of the Cuban government for 117 years, should now be torn down, and the port should be returned to the Cuban people.

As far back as 1854, the U.S. has made frivolous claims to Cuba. When Franklin Pierce (1853-57) was President, future President James Buchanan, a member of his administration, issued the Ostend Manifesto, which claimed the U.S. had a right to seize the island by force, if Spain refused to sell it. Buchanan was afraid a slave rebellion would turn the island into a disorderly republic, like Haiti, but his real motive was to create another slave state.

After a revolt broke out in 1895 between the Cubans and colonial Spain, the Maine, an American ship, was blown up in Havana Harbor in 1898, and though there was no proof the explosion was caused by the Spanish, the U.S. invaded the island and won the Spanish-American War.

When the Americans first occupied the island, they were greeted as liberators, but the mood soon changed, as the newly liberated people were forced, under the Platt Amendment (1901), to grant the U.S. a right to intervene in their internal affairs. Although President Theodore Roosevelt granted independence, under the Cuban-American Treaty (1903), the catch was the Cubans had to give the U.S. a perpetual lease to Guantanamo.

A generation later, President Franklin Roosevelt offered to annul the right to intervene, provided the Cubans signed the Treaty between the U.S. and Cuba (1934), which continued the unwelcome U.S. military presence at Guantanamo. Realizing they would never get a better offer from conservatives in America, the Cubans accepted a half a loaf from the liberal FDR, instead of nothing at all.

The Cubans have since continued protesting the American military presence on the island. When Fidel Castro took over in 1959, he escalated the objection by shutting off the water to the base, in an attempt to get the U.S. to go home, but the Americans started filtering seawater through a desalination plant (1964). Cuba does not cash rental payment checks from the U.S.

The U.S. has no legitimate right to use the Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, as the lease was forced upon Cuba under what international law would refer to as an unequal treaty. Since President Obama promised to close Guantanamo, now would be the perfect time to give it back.

12/17/2014

Cuba: End of U.S. Trade Embargo

The U.S. has had a trade embargo against Cuba since 1962 and it is time to end it. After 52 years, it has no purpose and most people now have no idea why it was imposed in the first place.

The story begins with Gen. Batista, who came to power in a coup backed by the U.S. (1952). He ran a dictatorship that censored the press and suspended constitutional rights (1953). Fidel Castro, a lawyer, led the overthrow of Batista’s regime in the Cuban Revolution (1953-59). While Castro’s dictatorship had some of the same faults as Batista’s, most Cuban people accepted Fidel, because at least he eliminated illiteracy and provided health care.

Anger at Cuba from abroad was not because Batista was removed, but instead due to Fidel’s subsequent confiscation of land from foreigners and the nationalization of U.S.-owned oil refineries, sugar mills, casinos and utilities. What Castro did was not however unique. Scores of nations that declared independence at that time also nationalized their natural resources and industries.

In any event, diplomatic relations with Cuba were severed. When President Kennedy took office, anti-Castro exiles unsuccessfully staged a military invasion at the Bay of Pigs (1961). Once the U.S. banned trade with Cuba (1962), Castro turned to Moscow for help. The Soviets said Cuba had a right to be free of foreign interference and supplied Cuba with weapons for their defense. This is when U.S. reconnaissance observed nuclear weapon sites in Cuba, triggering the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). Although the weapons were removed when the U.S. Navy blockaded the island, the friction between the U.S. and Cuba continued.

The U.S. now trades with the People’s Rep. of China, Vietnam, and other communist countries. There is no logical reason not to trade with Cuba. Fidel Castro recently turned the presidency over to his brother Raul (2008), and soon both of them will be gone.

Today, the streets of Havana still show the effects of 1962 embargo. Most cars pre-date the 1959 revolution and there are no recreational boats in the harbor. Opening trade would not only benefit the Cuban people, it would create jobs for many U.S. businesses and their employees.

04/05/2014

Badger Team: Next National Champ

What does it take to be a national champion in college basketball? Since Bo Ryan coached four national title teams in Div. III at UW-Platteville between 1991 and 1999, I’m sure he knows, and I suspect he is well-aware his current Badger squad has a real chance to go all the way in Div I.

This season, Wisconsin already demonstrated a physical ability, as they defeated some of the best, with wins over Florida, Virginia, Michigan, Michigan St., Oregon and now Arizona. The Badgers are tough enough to get the job done. Against Oregon, Dekker took hard blow to the jaw, and Jackson was literally thrown to the floor, but they got back up. They moved on.

Wisconsin is tough, because each starter can sink 3-point shots. Our smothering defense keeps most at bay. Even when an aspiring NBA player, like Joe Young of Oregon, tallies up 29 points (unconsciously and with his eyes closed I might add) the Badgers still win, because they avoid turnovers, draw fouls, sink free throws, work the clock, and confuse opponents with a well-balanced attack. Since no one knows which Badger may lead the scoring on a given day, opponents have a hard time defensively.

Even though UW has the physical ability to win it all, it won’t happen now at the Final Four level, unless we gain a psychological edge, by getting our minds right. TV talking heads, who know little about UW, will pigeonhole our guys, and after Arizona, they’ll talk up Kaminsky, as if he was the only Badger all season. They’ll ignore Brust, Gasser, Dekker and Jackson, as if they weren’t even on the court. But our guys can’t let that kind of talk get into their heads. Frank should never even think his performances alone will determine the outcome. It’s too heavy a burden to carry. Likewise, Ben, Josh, Sam and Traevon can never be led to believe they can be mediocre, since the media declared Frank will do it all. All five Badgers are equally essential to a win, and if one isn’t playing well, the other four must pick up the slack.

What most outsiders don’t know is the Badgers are a team of five players. The sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts. Wisconsin had a great season as a team. They advanced to the Final Four as a team. Now, if they continue to play as a team, they will win the National Championship. PS: Bo: No more technicals!

05/11/2013

Immigration: 200 Years of Law

Although immigration is once again being debated, it’s an issue that’s been discussed on and off since the founding of our nation. Before Congress and the President pass another bill, perhaps it’s time to review the federal laws previously enacted.

Let’s start with the U.S. Constitution. The score here is one right and one wrong. The Founders got it right when they delegated to Congress the power over Naturalization and Citizenship and thereby federalized the issue (Art I, Sec. 8). It would have been a mistake if they had allowed each state to write their own laws.

The Founders, however, got the idea of Citizenship wrong when they counted only 3/5ths of slaves and initially limited immigration to only free white persons (1790).

Congress got it right as they required immigrants to first reside in the U.S. for five years before they could become citizens (1795). They got it wrong by extending residency to fourteen years (1798), but then corrected the error, by returning to five (1802).

Congress got it right in the mid-1800s, when they ignored the Know Nothing Party and their Protestant members, who wanted Irish immigrants excluded, simply because they were Catholic.

America got it right after the Civil War when the 14th Amendment made all persons born or naturalized here, Citizens of the U.S. and of the state where they resided. Citizenship by birth, regardless of the nationality of their parents, was the right thing to do.

Congress got it wrong as they passed laws that excluded Chinese and other Asians based on nothing more than race (1875-92)

Congress got it right when they made some knowledge of the English language a condition of citizenship (1906). There is nothing wrong with requiring English reading tests (1917). Some civics is also not too much to ask from someone who wants to become a U.S. Citizen.

Congress got it wrong after WWI when they limited entry of newcomers to small numbers, by establishing quotas based on the nationalities of those already in the U.S. (1921-24). Ironically, the exclusion of foreigners, willing to work for low wages, helped organized labor in the U.S., by giving American citizens more job opportunities and greater bargaining power during the roaring 20s.

America got it right after WWII, when millions of homeless and orphaned displaced persons were taken in from war-torn Europe.

Congress got it wrong in the McCarthy Era (1950s) as suspected subversives were deported, and blacklisted people, like future Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, were kept out.

Congress got it right in 1965 when they abolished the nationality quotas established in 1924, and started focusing instead on immigrant work skills, regardless of country of origin.

Congress got it right in 1986, as they imposed sanctions against employers who hired illegal immigrants. But they got it wrong by giving amnesty to three million illegal-aliens, as this had the unintended effect of encouraging even more to enter unlawfully.

Congress got it right in 1990 when they increased the annual number of legal immigrants from 500,000 to 700,000.

Congress got it right in 1996 when welfare and immigration reform made immigrants here illegally ineligible for most forms of federal assistance, including many types of Social Security.

We’ve learned from history the federal government, and not the states, have exclusive jurisdiction over immigration policies. These laws should not reject people on the basis of race or religion. Immigration policies must properly require newcomers to learn civics and to read and write English. People with useful skills should be allowed to enter the work force, as the U.S. needs a steady flow to insure a gradual rise in population. Caps on the annual flow are needed, however, so unemployed American citizens are able to find jobs, and not be displaced by excessive foreign labor, willing to work for less. Employer sanctions must be enforced, so everyone pays into the Social Security System. The underground economy must be destroyed to end cash payments under the table, so everyone contributes income taxes.