Menu

Paul's View

Leadership for the few isn’t exactly leadership for us all

the signSee if you can spot the common denominators.
Stephon Clark, 22, was fatally shot by Sacramento police in his grandmother's backyard on March 18; police officers involved in the incident claim to have confused Clark’s cell phone for a gun.
Philando Castile, 32, was fatally shot by a Minnesota police officer on July 6, 2016 while reaching for his driver's license after informing the police officer that he had a licensed gun in the car.
Alton Sterling, 37, was selling CDs outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 5, 2016 when he was fatally shot by police after having been wrestled to the ground.
Nineteen-year-old Tony Robinson of Madison, Wisconsin was unarmed and fatally shot by a police officer on March 6, 2015, as was 34-year-old Rumain Brisbon of Phoenix, Arizona while reaching for a pill bottle in his pocket on Dec. 2, 2014.
Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Ohio had been holding a BB gun outside a recreational center when he was shot and killed by a police officer on Nov. 23, 2014.
Seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald had been holding a knife and walking away from Chicago police when he was fatally shot 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014.
Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, was fatally shot by police on August 9, 2014.
As you may have guessed, all of the aforementioned fatalities were African Americans.

Read more...

Don’t tell me what I need to know - Just tell me what I want to hear!

tax celebration 1The current occupant of the White House is far from hesitant about demanding loyalty from those who serve in the White House, his cabinet or Congressional Republicans. If you don't believe me, you can just check with former FBI Director Jim Comey or read his new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” or ask those, like Reince Priebus, who sat around the table in the White House and took turns sharing how honored they were to serve the president.
If you need another example of the rampant sycophancy crucial to dealing with this president, you can also check with the swarm of Congressmen who took turns coming to the microphone on the South Lawn of the White House praising the president in the aftermath of passing that horrendous tax bill.
Senator Orrin Hatch even went as far as stating Trump may be the greatest president ever. Really, now!

Read more...

Mr. Zuckerberg goes to Washington

PHOTO BY PAUL K. SCHWARTZI recently had the opportunity to attend the Senate's combined hearing by its Judiciary and Commerce Committees, during which Facebook owner and creator Mark Zuckerberg fielded some five hours of questions.
Clearly the concern of the some 42 senators was user privacy and the protection of personal information in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the personal information of some 87 million Facebook users was improperly taken and used for unauthorized political purposes during the 2016 presidential election.
While a comparison was made by some Republican senators to the voter targeting done during the Obama presidential campaigns, the difference here is the deliberate flood of misinformation done by Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 Trump campaign.
Certainly user privacy and the protection of personal data are a concern of major proportions. Facebook is an enormously large company with over $40 billion in annual income, more than 25,000 employees and more than 2 billion monthly active users.
However, as I listened to the testimony I couldn't help but think that the true overarching issue is more than privacy; it is responsibility. What is the responsibility of platform providers to manage the content of those platforms?

Read more...

Democrats face a messaging problem

safe imageThe biggest issue facing Democrats as they head toward the 2018 midterm elections and their quest to retake both the House of Representatives and the Senate is to identify what Democrats are for and not just against. The search is for a rallying issue, so to speak.
The difficulty is that it is sometimes a bit challenging to distinguish the two especially when dealing with such a destructive force as the CONmander-in-Chief.
There are a couple of good places to start, however. First, simply look at all of the Obama Administration actions that have been, item by item, undone by the current administration. Re-entering the Paris Climate Accord since we are the only nation, and I said only nation thanks to Trump, who is not a signatory is one easy issue to adopt for Democrats. Climate change, by the way, is real, and not being part of the solution implies we are part of the problem. Current efforts to roll back automobile emission standards are a prime example.
Rescinding President Obama's executive order on DACA, Deferred Actions on Childhood Arrivals, only served to create an unnecessary crisis. How this issue will ultimately be addressed remains to be seen, but it is likely that it will leave casualties no matter how it is addressed, if at all.

Read more...

We all should be "Mad as Hell" again

bs md house budget 20180322What's that you say?”
“Come again?”
“I can't hearrrrr youuuuu!”
That is, in essence, what our state legislators have said to taxpayers in the state of Maryland. Basically, their message is: I can't hear you, and even if I did, I don't really care!
As previously mentioned in this column, the recently-released federal tax plan hits the taxpayers of high-taxed states such as Maryland particularly hard. It is estimated that, as a result of the federal tax plan, Maryland taxpayers will see an increase of approximately $400 million in state taxes owed for the 2018 tax year.
What to do, what to do, what to do? Well, the state legislature has apparently decided to spend it and not return it to the taxpayers who, if nothing is done, will see an associated increase in their state tax bill come April 15, 2019.
Using the 2014 Personal Statistics of Income from the Comptroller's table for itemized deductions, the average increase in state and local returns for Marylanders with an adjusted gross income of $150,000 or less would average about $1000 in additional state tax per return.

Read more...

And now gun rights for everybody!

NRAphoto3Have you ever wondered just how our legislators receive their gun lobby ratings? You know, A-plus through F-minus. Clearly much depends on their voting record on gun-related legislation, whether in Congress or in the state legislatures. Well there is another element that factors into the rating and that element is official candidate surveys.
A while back I toyed with the idea of running for the soon-to-be-vacated District 6 Congressional seat currently held by John Delaney. I considered running because I sincerely believed that my experience with both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government exceeded the experience of any of the candidates currently running for that office.
However, I decided against running for two reasons. One reason is the current political environment in which money does, indeed, talk and all too often the most money talks the loudest and focusing on gathering campaign contributions is not something I wanted to tackle at this time.
The other reason is that I would have had to give up the platform that the Montgomery County Sentinel has provided me for the last several years. That decision may have made some readers happy, but giving up my front-row seat to observing history is something I did not want to do at this time either.
True, the history we are watching emanating from the Oval Office is similar to watching the Hindenburg explosion over a prolonged period of time, but it is history nevertheless.

Read more...

Keep your hands off the pension, dude

download 2Back, way back, in the early 1980s, the New York office of the United States Customs Service experienced a full-fledged scandal concerning illegal kickbacks, graft, extortion and more, much more, including obstruction of justice. High-level customs officials went to jail.
The Area Director of the Port of Newark was charged with illegally raising the prices a bit extra, shall we say, for licenses and permits in the port. The extra proceeds, apparently, were directed to his personal coffers, not the government's. Other high-ranking officials were indicted for other illegal activities such as outright theft of imported goods and, as did the Area Director, served time in prison.
While I was working at Newark I recall quite vividly the morning anxiety of wondering who was going to be taken away in handcuffs that day, the goal of which was to put all employees on notice. (Note to my right-wing readers: no, I wasn't among them.)
What was not done, however, was not allowing those who were eligible to retire and collect their earned pensions. The pensions had nothing to do with the penalties for the crimes committed. That was determined in a court of law. Yes, people lost their jobs but, if they were eligible, they did not lose their pensions because one thing had nothing to do with the other.

Read more...

Everyone needs to establish standards

trump hotelThere are certain expectations we, as citizens, have for the individual occupying the White House. We expect that they have a certain level of integrity, honesty, morals, intelligence, experience, judgment and so forth even if we do not always agree with positions, political or otherwise, they may take.
Clearly there have been times in which we may have been let down by occupants of the White House, but just as certainly failure to live up to expectations should not result in lowering our expectations. We should always demand the best of our elected officials even if, at times, we are let down by their actions and judgment.

Read more...

Back to the Future via Biff - or Trump

downloadQuite the uproar was created recently with the announcement by the current occupant of the Oval Office of his intention to impose an across-the-board 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. His stated target is China for “dumping” steel on the U.S. market.
“Dumping” is actually a formal term and refers to a product being “dumped” on a foreign market by selling it at less than fair market value as a means of cornering the market in that foreign country. The price of the product in the importing country is far less than the price of the same product being sold domestically, in this case, China.
Back in the 1980s, the threat to our domestic steel industry was Japan. Trump, in his wisdom, is claiming that China is currently dumping steel on the U.S. market and his across-the-board tariffs are intended to address that unfair practice. Problem is that China currently accounts for only about two percent of our imported steel, so the across-the-board action is actually hurting allies such as Canada, which accounts for almost 50 percent of our imported steel.
A few months back, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross discussed imposing anti-dumping duties on Canada for its exports to the United States of softwood lumber. Anti-dumping duties are targeted to a specific country to counter the effect of the less than fair market value pricing. It seems baffling that if Chinese steel exports were the true culprit, then imposition of anti-dumping duties should have been the preferred course of action, if applicable.
Imposing or raising tariffs on imported products are designed to protect a specific industry. The United States Customs Service was created in 1789 to collect tariffs on foreign goods as a means of protecting the fledgling industries of the newly-created nation. In today’s global economy the rules are a bit different.

Read more...

Rex Tillerson actually got this one right

MC DC NRAs Solution to EverythingAdmittedly, I was not a fan of naming the head of Exxon-Mobil as the head of the State Department, but I must give credit where credit is due. Rex Tillerson was exactly right when he described the current occupant of the Oval Office as a moron. The president proves the accuracy of that assessment on an almost daily, if not hourly, basis but no example is better than his current cure-all for eliminating gun massacres in schools: arming teachers!
Now, to be quite honest, if I were a teacher in a classroom and there was a shooter with an assault rifle in the hallway firing at will, I would definitely wish I had in my possession a firearm. That goes without saying.
However, simply adding the arming of teachers, as some eight states currently allow, into the broader discussion is not what makes Trump a moron. It is his sincere belief that he just came up with the solution that seemed to have eluded everyone else other than the NRA. The expression on his face when he shared this brainstorm with the survivors of school gun violence is priceless.
The fact that he is incapable of assessing the full range of ramifications of his, in his mind, brilliant solution is truly frightening coming from a sitting president. Not realizing the complexity of the issue and the need to implement a broad range of actions, including fewer guns, to address this epidemic of mass shootings is what truly makes him so unfit for the office he now holds.

Read more...