Archive for January, 2017

Trump a threat to civil liberties? Look elsewhere.

While the left frets and fumes about Trump and some of his policies, the real damage is done elsewhere and the left is either clueless or complicit. The real damage to the Constitution and our individual liberties comes from, mirabile dictu, the courts.
First, in an update to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, there is an expanded Rule 41. But first, a little background on the FRCP.
The rules are a way for the federal courts to standardize practices in all the federal courts across the US. They cover a panoply of matters, most of little interest to non-lawyers. A committee for the Judicial Conference of the United States promulgates the rules. The Judicial Conference adopts the rule, and then punts the issue to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court then passes the proposal to Congress, which can either disavow the change or it becomes the rule governing every federal court across the country. This is part of a statutory process through which federal courts may create new procedural rules, after giving public notice and allowing time for comment, under a “rules enabling act.”
The new Rule 41 says that “A magistrate judge with authority in any district where activities related to a crime may have occurred has authority to issue a warrant to use remote access to search electronic storage media and to seize or copy electronically stored information located within or outside that district if: (A) the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means…”
Under this rule, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will be able to search multiple computers across the country with a single warrant. Until the adoption of this rule, the government could only carry out a search of computers located in the district where the federal magistrate had authority, usually only in the district where the judge is sitting.
Remember, the Fourth Amendment specifies that a search warrant requires “particularly describing the place to be searched.” That is apparently no longer required under the new rule. So, be careful. If you conceal the location of your cell phone by not using, on iPhones, location services, a judge can issue a warrant to the FBI to search your phone no matter where in the world your phone is located. So much for the Fourth amendment.
Speaking of the Fourth Amendment, in a case heard by the entire panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Circuit has decided that if you avail yourself of your Second Amendment rights, you forgo not only your Fourth Amendment rights, but other rights as well, including the First Amendment.
In the case of The USA v. Shaquille Montel Robinson, United States Court Of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit, the court decided that if you are armed legally, you can be searched, even in circumstances where such a search would otherwise be prohibited.
In an opinion concurring in the judgment, one judge wrote that, “the majority decision today necessarily leads to the conclusion that individuals who elect to carry firearms forego other constitutional rights, like the Fourth Amendment right to have law enforcement officers “knock-and-announce” before forcibly entering homes. Likewise, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that individuals who choose to carry firearms necessarily face greater restrictions on their concurrent exercise of other constitutional rights.”
So it appears that if I follow the law in Florida and go armed, I forfeit other rights. And you know what, none of this was done by Trump. If you really want to protect your liberties and America’s ever-declining freedoms, don’t look at the President, look to the Courts.
Demand justices and judges who adhere to the constitution. Every time we celebrate a ruling because we like it, whether or not it agrees with the Constitution, we risk losing more of our freedoms.

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Trump fails to see the real budget problem

         Our nation has a financial problem. We are in debt to the tune of 20 trillion dollars. This in a country whose GDP is 18 trillion dollars.And with our continued insistence on deficit spending, we are going to be unable to dig ourselves out of a hole we continually enlarge.

But President Trump has a plan, or so he says, to make 10 trillion dollars in budget cuts over the next ten years. And I applaud the things he plans to cut. For example, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Legal Services Corporation would be eliminated, and the budgets for agencies such as the Departments of Energy and Commerce would be slashed. All worthy and necessary goals; the problem is it can’t be enough.

If he were to cut all non-defense discretionary spending, that would amount to only about 16 percent of the federal budget. Cutting it all, even if politically possible, would get nowhere near his proposed level of cuts. Nor would defense, which was also about 16% of the budget. Elimination our entire military wouldn’t put a significant debt in our problem.

The only way to cut enough of the budget to make a dent in our debt is to take a look at Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. The two of them combined are facing deficits of some 80 trillion dollars in the near future. These are the programs that are causing our debt crisis. In FY 2015, SS and Medicare accounted for 2.3 trillion dollars of spending, or about 60% of all federal spending.

The first SS recipient paid in a total of 25 bucks into SS. After retirement, the government paid her some 23000 dollars in benefits. One is tempted to draw a Santayana-esque lesson from that. You know, not learning from history and all. This year, there is a difference of some 84 billion dollars between FICA payments into the system, and payments made to beneficiaries. That shortfall is made up by investment income on federal T-bill owned by the SSA. However, that will change over the next few years as the shortfall gets bigger and the SSA is forced to sell those T-bills to fund payments to beneficiaries.

There are varying projections, of course, depending on whom you talk to, on when the program will exhaust it’s resources. Some say 2020, others say 2030 0r 2034. But one thing is clear; the liabilities of SS/Medicare will have to be addressed before the economics become completely unmanageable.

Trump may have made some grand promises about knocking down our debt, but unless we undertake radical reforms of SS/Medicare, we will continue to deficit spend ourselves into insolvency.

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Trump’s Inaugural Address

Even before Trump had been sworn in, the lunatic left was up to their standard antics. Police pepper-sprayed “protestors” who were busy breaking windows while denouncing capitalism. Their protests, of course, being organized on various products of capitalism like iPhones, Androids, and tablets. I’m sure there was little self-awareness of the irony.
There were also the leftists who are in favor of anything, as long as it hurts America or her allies. There were the knuckleheads with the orange jumpsuits, protesting on behalf of the terrorists that Obama had not yet released. There was the anti-Israeli contingent, with their “Free Palestine” signs, as well as the climate change protestors, Black Lives Matter, and feminist groups.
But aside from that, the 58th Presidential swearing-in ceremony went off smoothly.
Notably, Trump laid out a few core principles in his speech. And some tolerable insights that he would do well to remember as his term in office progresses.
First, I would note his statement that, “Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.” I’m not sure that Trump realizes it, but what he invokes here is more than mere populism. Trump is appealing to the principle of subsidiarity; that is, the principle that government ought to be exercised at the lowest level possible, since that is the level most directly accessible and responsive to the citizen.
Second, his statement that, “At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens.” If by “serve” he means a continuation or expansion of an ever-growing welfare state, he would be wrong. If, however, he means that a nation has certain duties that inhere in its very essence, such as defense, civil order, and the like, then he is correct. Especially if he means to reinforce the principle that governments are “instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” I would hope the latter, since it is the people that create the state, and not the converse.
Third, the statement that, “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” I believe this to be not only a right of a nation, but a paramount duty of any nation. This goes hand-in-hand with the principle of the preceding paragraph.
Finally, he ends with an appeal to unity, at least on a racial basis. Between him saying, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice,” and “It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” I believe he is calling to end the increasing divisive nature of racial politics that drive us ever-nearer to an irreparable fault line.
Now, granted, these are all words and they may mean nothing in the long run. But I think it would be hard to argue with the principle involved. And, if Trump sticks to these principles, I can’t help but think that every one of us, and by extension, America, will be better off.

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