Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Can the two sides talk?

Situation of two sides not talking
The ability of the two political sides to talk to each other is declining towards zero.

The political and media spokespersons for the two sides speak only to their own sides. The spokespersons slant and misrepresent facts and characterizations as validates their side's positions. The listeners listen only to their side's facts (or purported facts) and their side's' extreme interpretations and characterizations.

The situation has deteriorated so that there is ostensibly genuine belief by many on each side that their facts (or purported facts) are true, and contradictory facts genuinely believed by many on the other side are false. There is widespread unwillingness to consider information that would establish that a fact believed to be true is in fact not true. Beliefs in contradictory facts have become unalterable in a pervasive way.

The purpose of political conversation is to address problems and formulate solutions and courses of action. Such conversation cannot proceed without agreed facts. When there are unalterable beliefs in contradictory facts, conversation stops in the face of there being no agreed facts. As a result there is widespread non-conversation between the two sides.

The spokespersons are a major contributing factor to the inability of the listeners on the two sides to converse with the other side. It is unclear the extent to which the spokespersons themselves genuinely believe in their respective contradictory facts or the extent to which the spokespersons  know they are purveying falsehoods and extreme characterizations which are not "fair and balanced".To the extent they know they are doing the latter, the spokespersons would appear to intend for the listeners on the two sides not to be able to talk to the other side.

Regardless of whether the spokespersons are knowing and intentionally culpable or they are stupid in their beliefs, the effect is the same, that is, to render their listeners unable to talk to the other side.

The inability of the two sides to talk to one another needs to be judged for its consequences.

In the absence of political conversation, problems cannot be properly addressed and formulating solutions and courses of action cannot be accomplished.

The two sides not talking to each other heightens polarization in the country and hyper partisanship in Congress, making Congress dysfunctional and unable to act.

Causes of the situation
One cause of the situation is human nature that has an affinity for the stimulation and exhilaration of conflict, participating in conflict, and identifying with one's "team" in the conflict. This needs sides in opposition to each other. This aspect of human nature gets fulfilled in the culture war and political polarization that is going on in the country, and that many in the society seem to desire.

Talking with the other side can lessen conflict. Not talking to the other side keeps conflict going. Thus there is reason the two political sides not to talk to each other.

Not all the citizens desire conflict to the same degree. The extremes desire the conflict more, and the extremes are more in control of the political activity on the two sides, and their not talking to each other is dominant.

Second, it is probably the case that the political leaders of the two sides advantage themselves personally by there being a divided, polarized electorate, and these political leaders and spokespersons foment division, including by speaking to their followers in the one sided ways described above. The more they do that, the more they are elevated and empowered by their listeners who desire conflict.

On the other hand, political leaders who want to lessen division and wish to speak moderately are sidelined.

The media spokespersons also are a contributing factor that grows out of the above affinity that human beings have for the stimulation and exhilaration of conflict. The media is at bottom a commercial enterprise that depends on audience, conflict attracts greater audience, and so the media and their spokespersons pick sides and purvey one sided messaging to their respective audiences in the way described above that keeps conflict stirred and gains audience. The owners of the media  profit from the division and polarization in the electorate, and the owners pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, to the anchors and hosts on the owners' political news shows.

Information is coming to light that other countries which are adversaries of the United States are employing "active measures" to incrase the political polarization in the United States and endeavor to manipulate the same to the advantage of such other countries.

Can anything be done?
The collective good of the country is not well served by the two sides not being able to talk to each other.

The forces of human nature, and of personal political interests and media commercial interests being promoted by political warfare, are potent impediments to altering the situation of the two sides not talking to each other.

At a minimum, the causes of the situation should be publicized, and the culpable perpetrators (the political and media spokespersons on the two sides who purvey the one sided messaging) need to be called out. They need to called out either for their stupidity if they believe what they say, or be forced to acknowledge they do not believe what they say but they say it nonetheless to further their personal interests and not for the good of the country.

All TV political talk shows, and their anchors and hosts, are not equally culpable in fomenting division and polarization. They should be judged comparatively, those shows, anchors and hosts who have more egregious practices should be harshly called out.

Also people need to think more about the "active measures' of other countries who are adversaries of the United States and are endeavoring to increase and manipulate to their advantage the political warfare in the United States. The spokespersons for the two political sides need to forge a joint recognition of the threat and harm to the country and join hands to defend against the "active measures" programs of the other countries.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Let's talk guns

[2/14/18 Scroll down for survey that AL law enforcement is being asked to respond to]

There have been horrific shootings going on in the United States for decades.

There have been untold efforts to have conversations about more effective gun control.

According to Wikipedia information, gun homicides in the United States peaked at about 14,000 in 1993. Gun homicides declined to about 8000 in 2001, and in 2013 there were 11,208 gun homicides. Wikipedia says, "Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher."

Decades of shootings have passed. There continues a regular onslaught on the TV news of more shootings, perhaps more frequently, and sobbing relatives and friends of victims. There are the especially painful killings of school children. There are also domestic violence and workplace shootings. There are scared police who go out to protect the citizens, who don't know what they may be encountering, and who shoot guilty and innocent persons as a result of hyper vigilance that the police may be shot at, and there are the police who themselves are killed in their efforts to protect the citizens.

Possibly a tide is turning, and more and more Americans are saying, please get rid of the guns. I don't want a gun, and this is too much to bear.

Possibly the conversations about gun control are getting more serious.

At the moment, there is no reason to think that the United States is going to reduce gun homicides without much stricter gun control than there is currently. Further, the prospects of increased gun control seem poor at the moment.

So, maybe more Americans want more conversation about gun control.

The reasons for guns would seem to be:
1. Defense of one's own person and property;
2. Resistance against tyrannical government;
3. Sporting pleasure; and
4. Psychological affinities and satisfactions that many Americans have from owning guns.

Let's put to the side for the moment reason number 2 of defense against a tyrannical government.

On reason number 1, defense of one's own person and property, if guns were outlawed, it is reasonable to believe that people would feel much safer and would think they don't need guns to protect their person and property. There would be much more effective policing for protecting citizens if every police call out was not suffused with fear of police being shot. Other advanced countries have increased safety of one's own person and property with gun restrictions.

Collectively, Americans need to decide whether their persons and property are safer in the current circumstances or whether they would be and would feel safer with strict gun control laws.

That leaves reasons 3 and 4. Reasons 3 could be accommodated under a regime of strict gun control laws. Reason 4 also might be accommodated.

The tide may be turning in favor of tight gun control. The tide may be so turning that an amendment to the Second Amendment could get adopted if that was needed to get sufficiently tight gun control.

Here's a proposal: Amend the Second Amendment so individual states could pass gun control restrictions as they chose, and no guns could be brought into the state that would violate the restrictions.

Those persons for whom gun ownership was a paramount source of happiness and well being could move to and congregate in states that had no gun restrictions.

Those for whom gun ownership was unimportant and who thought they would be safer where guns were restricted could move to states with tight gun controls.

Whether a state had tight gun controls or not could affect company decisions about where they wanted to be located. States with lax gun control laws could suffer economically because companies would not locate their facilities in those states in the belief that their employees preferred states with tighter gun controls.

Let that play out as it may, and let people make their choices about how important gun ownership was to them and which states they decided to live in.

That would seem to be a fair compromise.

Update 2/14/18
Survey of AL Law Enforcement re Police One March 2013 survey of what police officers think about gun control

It would be appreciated if offices and personnel in Alabama law enforcement would review the below March 2013 survey by Police One and answer the following three questions:

1. Are you aware of anything happening in the country that would lead you to think there is going to be a reduction of gun homicides to a much lower level than 8000 to 14,000 level of the past 20 years (say down to 3000 or below)?

2. If the Second Amendment was amended and individual States were permitted to ban guns, do you think States banning guns (or having extremely tight restrictions) could achieve much lower levels of gun homicides than they have had during the past 20 years?

3. Do you think law enforcement and safety would be much better in a State in which guns were banned (or which had extremely tight restrictions)?

PoliceOne's Gun Control Survey: 11 key lessons from officers' perspectives

Never before has such a comprehensive survey of law enforcement officers’ opinions on gun control, gun violence, and gun rights been conducted
Apr 8, 2013
In March, PoliceOne conducted the most comprehensive survey ever of American law enforcement officers’ opinions on the topic gripping the nation's attention in recent weeks: gun control.
More than 15,000 verified law enforcement professionals took part in the survey, which aimed to bring together the thoughts and opinions of the only professional group devoted to limiting and defeating gun violence as part of their sworn responsibility.

Totaling just shy of 30 questions, the survey allowed officers across the United States to share their perspectives on issues spanning from gun control and gun violence to gun rights.

Top Line Takeaways
Breaking down the results, it's important to note that 70 percent of respondents are field-level law enforcers — those who are face-to-face in the fight against violent crime on a daily basis — not office-bound, non-sworn administrators or perpetually-campaigning elected officials.
1.) Virtually all respondents (95 percent) say that a federal ban on manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds would not reduce violent crime.

2.) The majority of respondents — 71 percent — say a federal ban on the manufacture and sale of some semi-automatics would have no effect on reducing violent crime. However, more than 20 percent say any ban would actually have a negative effect on reducing violent crime. Just over 7 percent took the opposite stance, saying they believe a ban would have a moderate to significant effect.  
3.) About 85 percent of officers say the passage of the White House’s currently proposed legislation would have a zero or negative effect on their safety, with just over 10 percent saying it would have a moderate or significantly positive effect.
4.) Seventy percent of respondents say they have a favorable or very favorable opinion of some law enforcement leaders’ public statements that they would not enforce more restrictive gun laws in their jurisdictions. Similarly, more than 61 percent said they would refuse to enforce such laws if they themselves were Chief or Sheriff.
5.) More than 28 percent of officers say having more permissive concealed carry policies for civilians would help most in preventing large scale shootings in public, followed by more aggressive institutionalization for mentally ill persons (about 19 percent) and more armed guards/paid security personnel (about 15 percent). See enlarged image
6.) The overwhelming majority (almost 90 percent) of officers believe that casualties would be decreased if armed citizens were present at the onset of an active-shooter incident.
7.) More than 80 percent of respondents support arming school teachers and administrators who willingly volunteer to train with firearms and carry one in the course of the job.
8.) More than four in five respondents (81 percent) say that gun-buyback programs are ineffective in reducing gun violence.
9.) More than half of respondents feel that increased punishment for obviously illegal gun sales could have a positive impact on reducing gun violence.
10.) When asked whether citizens should be required to complete a safety training class before being allowed to buy a gun, about 43 percent of officers say it should not be required. About 42 percent say it should be required for all weapons, with the remainder favoring training classes for certain weapons. 
11.) While some officers say gun violence in the United States stems from violent movies and video games (14 percent), early release and short sentencing for violent offenders (14 percent) and poor identification/treatments of mentally-ill individuals (10 percent), the majority (38 percent) blame a decline in parenting and family values.
Bottom Line Conclusions
Quite clearly, the majority of officers polled oppose the theories brought forth by gun-control advocates who claim that proposed restrictions on weapon capabilities and production would reduce crime.
In fact, many officers responding to this survey seem to feel that those controls will negatively affect their ability to fight violent criminals.
Contrary to what the mainstream media and certain politicians would have us believe, police overwhelmingly favor an armed citizenry, would like to see more guns in the hands of responsible people, and are skeptical of any greater restrictions placed on gun purchase, ownership, or accessibility.
The officers patrolling America’s streets have a deeply-vested interest — and perhaps the most relevant interest — in making sure that decisions related to controlling, monitoring, restricting, as well as supporting and/or prohibiting an armed populace are wise and effective. With this survey, their voice has been heard.

About the author
Doug Wyllie is senior contributor for PoliceOne, providing police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community.Doug hosts the PoliceOne's Policing Matters podcast, and is the host for PoliceOne Video interviews.Doug is the 2014 Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column, and has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).Contact Doug at

Contacting Police Departments

I live in Mountain Brook. Per the below email, I have requested the Mountain Brook Police Department to hold a citizen seminar about what police think is needed to reduce gun violence. Others in Alabama should make similar requests to their police departments.

From: Rob Shattuck <>
Date: Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 7:55 AM
Subject: Request for citizen seminar re reducing gun violence
Dear Sir,
I am a Mountain Brook resident.
I would like to request that the Police Department hold a citizen seminar in which the Police Department discusses its views about what the Department thinks is necessary for the country to reduce its gun violence.
I am aware of a 2013 Police One survey of what police think about what will reduce gun violence, and a seminar might take that survey as a starting point.
I have incorporated the Police One survey at the following blog link of mine:
Please let me know whether the Police Department will schedule a seminar as I have requested.
Thank you.
Rob Shattuck

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Joint town hall script

This lays out a script for a joint town hall of Rep. Gary Palmer and Rep. Terri Sewell, which script concerns the immigration issue.

The motivation of the script is to create conversational engagement of Rep. Palmer and Rep. Sewell in a way that overcomes barriers to their talking about and agreeing on a compromise between the extremes of stopping all immigration and having "open borders."  The script involves saying things that are usually not said, in order to achieve clarity that the immigration impasse is not what is wanted by the large majority of the citizens. With such clarity, the will of the large majority of the people to have something in the middle may prevail.

On the matter of immigration, below is a suggested list of things that Rep. Palmer and Rep. Sewell need to say, many of which are usually not said.

1. Demographic trends are such that whites will cease to be a majority in the country, probably within the next 25 to 35 years. There are whites for whom this is a very bothersome thought.

2. Different people have different preferences, including the degrees to which they will choose to associate with persons of the same religion, race, ethnicity, and/or social and economic class.

3. There are some people who adamantly want to stop all immigration, and there are other people who adamantly want "open borders."

4. Of the people who are "adamant" there needs to be separated out the politicians who are "adamant" for the strictly political reasons to get votes (or prevent the opponent from getting votes), be in elected office, and gain the power of elected office. In the immigration context, there are potentially votes to be gotten from the Hispanic community by favoring increased immigration and paths to citizenship and the creation of new voters.

5. Putting aside the politicians, the people who adamantly want to stop all immigration are expressing that they have a high degree of preference to be with and associate with persons of the same religion, race, ethnicity, and/or social and economic class. Put in other terms, some people desire to delay the time when whites will cease to be a majority in the United States, and stopping all immigration can help with that.

6. Putting aside the politicians, the motivation of those who adamantly want open borders is an expression of strong "one world" beliefs that the world will be a better place if there are open borders.

7. With all the things affecting people's lives and their goals and desires, a large majority of people, in thinking about immigration and thinking about all the other things important to them, likely think they are not very adamant one way or the other on immigration and can fairly tolerate almost any compromise in the middle between stopping all immigration and having open borders. The problem for this large majority of the people is that the politicians and the small minority of the people who are adamant on the two sides have control of the politics and the political decision making. The politicians and the "adamant" people foment much "sturm and drang" about immigration, create Congressional impasse, and prevent the large majority of the people from getting a compromise that they prefer to the impasse that currently exists on immigration.  The small minority who are adamant, plus the politicians and the news media, should not be allowed to prevent compromise from happening.

8. The large majority understand there are possible consequences and trade offs in how immigration (including illegal immigration) is worked out. The large majority understand that immigrants (including illegal immigrants) may be a source of cheap labor and make some goods and services cheaper, may take away jobs from other citizens, may provide skill benefits for the American economy and also impose burdens, and may commit crimes. The large majority do not believe the possible consequences and trade offs justify Congressional impasse and inability to reach a comprehensive immigration reform law.

9. The large majority of the people need "politicians" to lead them who are not the above "politicians" on the two sides who use immigration for their own political purposes and who foment sturm and drang for their respective political advantages. The large majority need to reject such politicians and have a way to show they reject such politicians.

For those in the 6th and 7th Congressional districts, the foregoing should be sought to be done by  getting Rep. Gary Palmer and Rep. Terri Sewell to hold a joint town hall in which they are called on to affirm, or not affirm, the matters listed above about immigration, and Rep. Palmer and Rep. Sewell need to declare themselves either (i) that they use immigration for political purposes and they are for the "sturm and drang" that fulfills what the small minority of people want, or (ii) that they eschew using immigration to get votes from the extreme elements, they oppose "sturm and drang" on immigration, and they will get to compromise as is desired by the large majority, which compromise they will jointly recommend to the large majority.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Larry Nassar and AAG election

The Larry Nassar case prompts important questions for the candidates for Alabama Attorney General to answer.

I. General
The questions are in the context of the mechanisms that society has to try to  to protect its members from wrongdoings of others in the society.

The mechanisms include the law for punishing the wrongdoer with incarceration and monetary fines and also making the wrongdoer liable to the victim for loss caused. Such punishments and liabilities provide justice that, if there is a loss to the victim, the wrongdoer should pay for it, and also retributive justice. The punishments and liabilities further serve a deterrence purpose to deter future wrongdoing by others. Outside of the law, society uses religious and moral instruction and social condemnation and shaming of wrongdoing to prevent wrongdoing from happening and to fulfill retribution.

The Alabama Attorney General has an important role in shaping and implementing the societal mechanisms aimed against wrongdoing.

There are differing ideas about what is "just" in particular cases and will work best for deterrence purposes.

It is appropriate for candidates for Alabama Attorney General to spell out their views for consideration by the voters.

Several aspects of the mechanisms aimed against wrongdoing are especially deserving of comment by the candidates and educating voters. These include that:

1. There are degrees of intentional, negligent and "innocent" wrongdoing.

2. Some harms are susceptible of objective monetary quantification; other harms are not.

3. There are varying degrees of societal/moral outrage as to particular cases of wrongdoing and these affect the quantum of punishments and liabilities that get imposed on the wrongdoer under the law.

4. Sometimes the wrongdoer receives a benefit from the wrongdoing; sometimes not. Sometimes the victim has been a contributing factor in the harm received by the victim.

5. Where corporate wrongdoing is involved, there are officers and employees who plan and implement the wrongful corporate acts, and also there are stockholders and other officers and employees who don't know about and are not involved in the wrongful corporate acts. Fines and liabilities imposed on corporations are ultimately borne by stockholders, employees and customers in the form of reduced dividends, reduced wages and/or increased prices.

5. Citizens may be victims and also may be on the "wrongdoer" side, and citizens have an interest that the mechanisms have a "fair and balanced" structure.

6. Wrongdoing may also get punished by social condemnation, shaming, and job termination, which happen outside the law.

7. The concept of deterrence calls for consideration of how the threat of fines and liabilities will deter the doing of wrongful acts, and particularly whether corporate officers and employees who plan and carry out corporate wrongful acts will be deterred by fines and liabilities imposed on the corporation that are not borne at all by such officers and employees.

Putting all the foregoing together is complicated.

II. Basic questions
While it is complicated, there are some basic questions that can be posed, and the Larry Nassar case is an excellent example for using to pose the questions.

Nassar is an intentional wrongdoer. He received benefits from his wrongdoing The harms to his victims are not susceptible of objective monetary quantification. Nassar's wrongdoing has provoked a very high level of societal/moral outrage. Nassar has been criminally prosecuted. The societal/moral outrage has been reflected in Nassar's sentencing punishment. Nassar's victims may bring a civil lawsuit against him to get monetary damages for the harms Nassar did to them. Nassar may have very little in the way of personal assets to pay his victims, and a civil lawsuit against Nassar for monetary damages may not be worthwhile.

Beyond Nassar, the gymnastics association and its officers, Michigan State University and its officials, and independent coaching programs and facilities are being looked at for applying society's mechanism for protecting its citizens from wrongdoing.

The high level of societal/moral outrage is resulting in significant "punishments" being received. Officers of the gymnastics association have resigned, and the President of MSU has resigned. This has not been pursuant to criminal or civil actions brought against them, but as a result of the extremely high level of social/moral outrage at Nassar's wrongdoing. How much knowledge and culpability these persons actually had has not been subjected to the rigors of judicial application of the law, and may never get subjected to that. While there may not be judicial application of the law, MSU has its own internal administrative processes and standards for investigating and passing judgment about knowledge and culpability.

Ultimately one or more of the persons who have resigned may have a great deal of "innocence" and be collateral victims of Nassar's intentional wrongdoing.

Civil lawsuits seeking large monetary damages against the officers of the association and University may or may not happen. Likely those officers don't have assets that would much satisfy large monetary damages the victims would seek.

To satisfy a large monetary liability, MSU is a good candidate for a civil lawsuit. The gymnastics association may have a sizable bank account, or may not.

Financial benefits that MSU received from Nassar are appropriate for consideration of what fines and liabilities should be imposed on MSU. Liabilities and fines in excess of the financial benefits received by MSU are legitimately viewed as being imposed on "innocent" parties, such as students, faculty and funders of MSU.

Here are three significant questions for candidates for Alabama Attorney General:

1. Should an Attorney General advocate that punishments be pursuant to law and should an Attorney General endeavor to damp down societal/moral outrage because unfair punishments may result outside the law?

2. Should an Attorney General advocate for the law to have legal standards for culpability for officials, officers and employees in situations where there is wrongdoing by a corporation or other entity such as MSU and the gymnastics organization, and advocate the bringing of legal cases as appropriate against those persons, with attendant punishments of them such as fines?

3. Should an Attorney General advocate that a prerequisite for holding a corporation or other entity liable for wrongdoing be that officers and employees who planned and carried out the wrongful corporate acts be held individually liable under the law for their participation in the wrongful corporate acts, with the caveat that such prerequisite should not apply to the extent the entity received benefits from the wrongdoing and that benefit passed through to the parties who will bear the burden of the liability?  This is on the theory that deterrence is mainly effective when punishments are imposed on the individuals who intentionally (or negligently) participated in the wrongful corporate acts.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"Fixing" Alabama legislature

My focus is on "fixing" Congress.

I don't follow the Alabama legislature.

I don't what people's views are about whether the Alabama legislature needs "fixing," or, if so, what should be done to fix it.

The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for an Article V convention of states for proposing a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Congress. This evidences that the Alabama House thinks Congress needs "fixing."

Does the Alabama House think anything needs fixing about itself?

It seems appropriate to inquire of incumbents and candidates running for the Alabama House and the Alabama Senate this year what they think about whether Alabama legislature needs "fixing."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Trump's forgotten people

The President has now delivered his tremendous, beautiful, tax cut Christmas present to the American people.

Now he and the Republicans have to sell the tax bill to Trump's forgotten people.

In the campaign, Trump championed America's forgotten men and women to the hilt. Trump ran as a Republican, competed in the Republican primaries, and focused his attention on the forgotten people on the Republican side.

Bernie Sanders championed America's forgotten people on the Democratic side, but Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee, and Bernie Sanders could not carry on his fight as a Presidential candidate.

Many of Bernie Sanders' forgotten people decided to take a chance and voted for Trump.

After being elected President, Trump could have dedicated himself to championing all the forgotten people, Republican, Democrat and independent.

There was, however, a big problem for Trump to do that. Not only was Trump's win a surprise, it was also a surprise that the Republicans won the Senate and the House.

Now, everyone knows the Republicans in control of the Senate and House do not champion America's forgotten men and women, and those Republicans are not going to pass a health care law or a tax cut bill that looks out for the forgotten men and women in the country.

Trump knows that the Republicans are not champions of his forgotten men and women, but he allied with the Republicans in his quest to show he can "get things done."

Trump could not tell his forgotten men and women that the Republicans he was going in with would not be be championing them and would not be looking out for them.

To the contrary, and true to form, Trump lied to his forgotten people that the health care law he was pushing with the Republicans, and the tax cut bill he and the Republicans passed, do look out for Trump's forgotten people.

The Republicans are hardly going to contradict the lies that Trump is telling his forgotten people that he  is looking after them.

So, Trump and the Republicans are locked arm in arm to purvey and defend the Trumpian lies.

Will Trump's forgotten men and women continue to believe Trump cares about them and is looking out for them and other things Trump tells them during the next 11 months?

If Trump's forgotten people conclude that Trump conned them, they will surely take it out on the Republicans in November.

Keep tuned.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Gary Palmer review

Doug Jones won in Alabama Tuesday night. Full attention for those interested will now be turned to the 2018 mid-term elections. I am in #al06, and this blog entry shall serve as my review and critique of my representative Congressman Gary Palmer.

(For what Rep Palmer has to say about what he has done in Congress, see his press releases at

Regulatory reform
I will start my review on a positive note of a leading active role that Rep. Palmer has taken on  regulatory reform.
Part of the "Swamp" is the bureaucratic regulatory apparatus in Washington DC that has its own conflict of interest between serving its own sense of self-importance through over-regulation and a lesser amount of fair and balanced regulation which better serves the interests of the American people.
Regarding Rep. Palmer's town hall this past February, I commented how most Americans had similar countervailing considerations that were in need of balancing in the regulatory regime but that the "system" failed Americans in that regard. See Town hall questions. In that blog entry, I asked Rep. Palmer these questions:
1. To what extent do you agree with the above analysis that most Americans are similarly situated and have similar interests relative to many important issues for the country, and that there is a political polarization that is not warranted in light of how most Americans are similarly situated on the important issues?
2. Do you believe there has been political polarization in recent years that has impaired Congress in doing its job properly for the American people?
3. Do you think the way Donald Trump conducted his campaign, and the way he has conducted his Presidency in the first month, if the same is continued going forward, will deepen the political polarization in the country? Or do you think the way Donald Trump has conducted his Presidency in the first month, if continued, will work towards lessening the hyperpartisanship in the country?
4. [added 2/23] Does the second set of Donald Trump's immigration executive orders unnecessarily exacerbate partisan division that will make the job of Congress harder, and could Congress help the situation by doing its job and passing comprehensive immigration reform (as should have been done during the Obama years)?
I did not hear answers from Rep. Palmer to my questions. Until he answers the questions, I would say that Rep. Palmer's constituents should count that as a negative against him in their voting decisions in 2018.

Taxes [added 12/16]
Taxes have been covered at length in three prior blog entries, to wit, AL experts re tax cuts (posted 12/1/17 with updates 12/13/17 and 12/15/17); Repubs all in with Trump (11/27/17); and Deciphering taxes (11/19/17). The takeaways from those blog entries about the Trump/Republican tax bill are:
1. the tax bill is another case of Wall Street doing a number on Main Street;
2. Wall Street ("capital") has much of its tax cut benefits already deposited in its stock market bank account, with more to be deposited shortly once the tax bill is enacted into law;
3. Main Street ("labor") must wait for uncertain benefits and bears much risk of deficits and higher national debt;
4. economic inequality has been a growing problem for the country since the 2008 financial crisis as Wall Street fared spectacularly and Main Street lagged, and that economic inequality has already increased and will be further increased by what Trump and the Republicans have done with the tax cuts bill;
5. Congress had other choices that could have been pursued regarding taxes and tax cuts for helping the middle class and increasing economic growth, but the Republicans' donors (Wall Street; capital) would have gotten a lot less deposited in the stock market bank account, which they told their Republicans was not acceptable;
6. out of political desperation, the Republicans have rushed through the tax bill, have refused to give any thoughtful consideration to the growing economic inequality problem of the country, and have gone wholeheartedly in with Trumpian type lying about the tax bill; and
7. Rep. Gary Palmer has been knowingly and purposefully complicit in the foregoing regarding the tax bill.
Accordingly, on taxes alone, voters in the Alabama 6th Congressional district should vote Rep. Palmer out of office in 2018.

Culture war [added 12/16/17]
On November 28th, I sent the below tweet to Rep. Palmer asking whether he wishes to reduce culture war or make it rage hotter
Given Charlottesville and other signs that the President of the United States wishes to stoke culture war, Rep. Palmer needs to tell his constituents whether Rep. Palmer wants to reduce culture war or whether he is in with Trump and wants to stoke culture war. If Rep. Palmer is so lacking in courage that he cannot answer that question to his constituents, Rep. Palmer should be voted out of office in 2018 for his spinelessness.

If Rep. Palmer answers the question, his constituents can decide how they want to take Rep. Palmer's answer into account in the 2018 elections.

Health care [added 12/16]
First, I will quote in full Rep. Palmer's May 4, 2017 press release
“Today the House of Representatives took the first step toward repealing and replacing the misnamed Affordable Care Act and restoring access to affordable healthcare for all Americans,” said Palmer. “The amendment that I authored on invisible risk sharing will drive down the cost of health insurance premiums and helps ensure that those with preexisting conditions have affordable coverage. The option for states to choose to receive Medicaid funding as a per-capita cap or a block grant will provide states with more flexibility to meet the needs of their Medicaid eligible people and will reduce the waste of billions of Medicaid dollars to fraud, inefficiencies and mismanagement. The AHCA also gives states the option to establish work requirements for able-bodied adults without small children. Together, these additions to the AHCA are the most substantial entitlement reform in 50 years.  Although states, as they should be, are provided the option to seek waivers from certain federal mandates, states must certify that pursuing a waiver is for the purpose of expanding coverage or reducing the cost of healthcare.  There is no underlying intention to exclude people from coverage, including those who have been previously sick, and it is important to note that this bill will not exclude people from coverage. There is a little known provision in the bill which defunds Planned Parenthood for one year and will protect this lives of the unborn. This bill is not the end of our efforts to dismantle Obamacare and repair the damage done to our healthcare system. It is the first major step forward.”

In this blog, I have discussed health care in numerous entries. In the blog entry Alabama expertise re health care, I give the below statement of my own views.
The provision of health care in the United States is a monstrously difficult problem.
The existing system is badly fragmented, and that contributes greatly to difficulty in solving the country's health care problem. Obamacare has done little for lessening the fragmentation. The American Health Care Act is not going to do much either.
The United States system is hugely expensive compared to what other countries pay for their health care. In the United States, health care is in the range of 20% of the total economy, whereas other countries do with much less, in the range of 9% to 14%. This disparity in national health care costs is in dire need of attention and is a large component of the difficult problem the United States faces regarding its health care.
Cost is not the sole consideration, but getting health care for less cost should be in the fore of what Congress is doing. In reducing cost, attention should still be paid to what is needed to provide adequate health care. With that in mind, consider the following:
A. Things that can reduce cost
1. If medical malpractice is reformed, and defensive medicine is reduced, that will help reduce the country's health care costs. An estimate of the amount of reduction is something that responders can usefully inform Alabama voters about.
2. The government can play a role in reducing health care costs by exerting control over prices. The biggest impact could be regarding drug prices, which might start with Medicare negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies. This is a controversial step, which may be part of steps 2 or 3 of the Republican plan. Any such control will have ramifications, including reducing availability of some drugs and lessening the development of new drugs.
3. If there is a reduction in total demand for health care, prices will fall and premiums and deductibles should fall. The American Health Care Act will reduce government funds for health care by means Medicaid cutbacks and replacing higher subsidies with lower tax credits, and this will translate to a reduction of demand. Under principles of supply and demand, the reduced demand should result a reduction of prices but the amount of such reduction is very problematic and may be negligible. It is probably the wildest of imagining by the Trump team that this reduction in demand by cutting back Medicaid and people dropping coverage will result in more than a small fraction of what is in their minds for reduced premiums and deductibles. Further the reduction in prices, premiums and deductible is not due to increased plan choice, but due reduced spending and reduced health services, drugs and medical equipment being obtained.
B. Increasing plan choice is chimera for reducing cost
If there is more choice in insurance plans, people may plan they don't want certain services, drugs and equipment to be covered under their plan. and that can allow the insurance company to charge them less in premiums and deductibles.
That creates a problem, however, that, if those people are allowed to do that, the people who need the services, drugs and equipment that the first set of people forego will have to pay higher premiums and deductibles to have the services, drugs and equipment covered by their plan. In other words, plan choice can reduce premiums and deductibles for some people but increase them for other people.
The same applies as regards the Obamacare mandate and what happens if it is eliminated.The elimination of the mandate will reduce premiums for those who choose not to have insurance coverage. As is well known, under Obamacare, the mandate results in healthier people having to buy insurance and pay premiums. If healthier people do not buy insurance, that will result in higher premiums and deductibles for the unhealthier people who buy insurance.
It should also be pointed out that consumers are unaware of the substance of their plan choice and and ostensible competition in premiums and deductibles. Under Obamacare, where there are standard benefits, insurance companies have competed on premiums and deductibles by reducing their "networks." Consumers cannot make a meaningful comparison of slightly higher or lower premiums compared to the "value" of a larger or smaller network. If there is more plan choice, comparison of premiums and deductibles will prevent genuine competition from happening.
[Ed. 6/5/17 For further discussion of the "chimera" of increased plan choice, see Maine and this discussion:
There is an argument to be put forth that Rep. Palmer's proposal will result in increased plan choice and increased competition among plans, and that such increased competition will get translated into reduced provider charges.
It is submitted that this is a chimera, and the insurance companies best understand why it is a chimera. The insurance companies are most informed about provider charges, and the contracts they negotiate with providers about charges, and consumers are without information or ability to make meaningful marketplace choices about insurance plans that will filter through to impacting provider charges. Further, insurance companies are practiced in navigating the provider marketplace, out of sight of consumers, with a view to higher insurer profitability, and with little concern about consumer plan choice translating into reduced charges.]
In connection with the Alabama Senate election, I thought a public symposium would be useful as a means to educate Alabamians about health care. See Health care symposium.

In some form or fashion, Rep. Palmer, in connection with 2018 elections, needs to expand his engagement with Alabama health care experts and with his constituents about health care and decide whether his May 17 press release should be revised or expanded for the consideration of his constituents in how they vote in the 2018 elections.

Fears of Cong'l Republicans re Trump [added 12/16]
The Congressional Republicans, including Rep. Palmer, are currently all in with Trump. See Repubs all in with Trump. The Republicans are fraught with worry about what is going to happen to them in the 2018 elections.

The root of the worry should be the nature of Trump and the extent to which Trump cares only about himself and will wrongfully attack, damage, seek to destroy, and lie about, anything that threatens or opposes Trump, no matter what the legitimacy for the country. Or, in other words, the extent to which he is an autocrat or would be autocrat who wishes he had the power and control of a Vladimir Putin to do whatever he wants to do. Or, in further other words, the extent to which Trump does not wish to be subject to the rule of law.

Things are playing out and things are getting exposed. Let's describe what Congressional Republicans have to fear.

Trump ran for President championing the cause of a large segment of the population on the Republican side which thought they had been ignored by the establishment for a long time. (Bernie Sanders appealed to a similar segment on the Democratic side.) Trump promised many things, including more and better health care for everyone for less cost, and no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and jobs, jobs, jobs.

Trump has done much since becoming President showing that he was not genuine and he was conning those who voted for him. The two best examples are what Trump was prepared to do about health care and what he is about to do concerning taxes.

The con man Trump who cares only about himself has no problem lying to his voters that Trump's health care and tax cut ideas are in furtherance of what he promised to them in the campaign.

Republicans in Congress, on the other hand, believe in Trump's health care and tax cut ideas, even though they are contrary to what Trump espoused to his voters in the campaign.

That puts Congressional Republicans in a terrible box.

Congressional Republicans have seen that Trump cares only about Trump, that Trump conned his voters during the campaign, that Trump's health care and tax cut ideas and actions, among other things, expose Trump's con of his voters, and that Trump lies as President in telling his voters that his health care and tax cut ideas further what Trump promised to them in the campaign.

The Republicans great fear is that, prior to November 2018, Trump's voters are going to come to a realization about Trump's con and his lies to them, they will turn against Trump, and, in turning against Trump, the voters will exact terrible retribution on the Republicans in November 2018.

That is a terrible box for the Republicans. They can't tell Trump's voters that Trump conned them and he is continuing to lie to them to try to keep them conned. The Republicans are going all in with Trump's lies. The more the Republicans are complicit in Trump's con and lies, the greater the retaliation will be if and when Trump's voters wise up.

The eleven months until November 2018 are going to have a lot of sleepless nights for Congressional Republicans. They will be thinking about how long it will take for those  who believed in Trump and voted for Trump to come to the realization Trump cares only about Trump, does not care about them, lied to them in running for President, and has lied to them for 11 months as President.

The foregoing is what Congressional Republicans have most to fear about Trump. They should be more fearing about the damage Trump is doing to the country, and what the country should be most fearing about Trump. That will be covered next.

Trump's harming of country [added 12/17/17]
Many believe that Trump has greatly damaged the country and its institutions in how Trump ran for the Presidency and how he has conducted the Presidency for eleven months. For these people, it is a manifestation of how Trump cares only about himself and Trump will wrongfully attack, damage, seek to destroy, and lie about, anything that threatens or opposes Trump and his personal interests.

If and to the extent Rep. Palmer agrees Trump is wrongfully damaging the country and its institutions, Rep. Palmer should say so publicly. If Rep. Palmer disagrees, and he does not think Trump has done such things that warrant criticizing by Rep. Palmer, Rep. Palmer should publicly and specifically address the things, one at a time, that others say Trump has done and is doing that wrongfully harm the country.

Trump's conduct extends over two years that include his Presidential campaign and eleven months of his being President. While millions of people were appalled by things Trump said and did during his election campaign, there was a possibility that Trump would change when he became President. Their view is that Trump did not change, Trump became worse, and, as President, what Trump has said and done is inflicting real damage, and it must stop or ways must be found to hold Trump accountable.

Below is a list of things as to which many believe Trump is wrongfully inflicting harm and damage on the country, and as to which great effort needs to be made to stop Trump from great damage to the country.
1. Trump's attacks on the free press as an enemy of the people, including Trump's lying and impairing of truth and facts;
2. Trump's attacks on the intell community;
3. Trump's attacks on the Russia investigation;
4. Trump's attacks on the FBI;
5. Trump's position that "conflicts of interest" do not apply to him as President, and he can personally profit from the Presidency; and
6. Trump's stoking of culture war and division in the country.

Rep. Palmer needs to address publicly each of the above and say either, yes, Trump is acting wrongfully and Trump needs to stop doing it, or, no, Trump is not acting wrongfully and he, Gary Palmer, does not call on Trump to stop it and change what he is doing. Rep. Palmer should feel at liberty to give such explanations, reasons, and qualifications regarding his "yes" or "no" answers as he chooses.

If Rep. Palmer declines to say anything, that should be a reason to vote him out of office in 2018.

If Rep. Palmer gives answers, the voters can take the answers into such account as they choose in casting their votes in 2018.

The Swamp - Manafort; Flynn [added 12/17]
There has been a ton about the Swamp during the past two years. I have blogged a lot about the Swamp.

There is something current to say about the Swamp that Rep. Palmer should comment on.

I think most Americans, even cynical ones, were blown away by what they learned  Manafort and Flynn were charged with having done, a reaction of "my God, did they do that? Is that true?"

Reasonably followed by, "and to think those things may have never come to light if there was not the happenstance of involvement with Donald Trump and the Russia investigation that got started. Otherwise  Manafort and Flynn could have gotten away with it."

And further followed by, "and God, are Manafort and Flynn just business as usual in Washington DC? Are they the tip of an iceberg of horrors?"

And where has Trump been for the American people on this? Was Trump shocked by what he learned what Manafort and Flynn were charged with doing? Or was Trump not shocked because he knows a lot of similar things go on all the time in Washington DC?

Trump ran on draining the Swamp.

But Trump has made no comment to the American people, either that Manafort and Flynn are indeed shocking, but, based on in his personal knowledge and experience, and on advice from the Justice Department and the FBI, Americans should not view Manafort and Flynn as the tip of an iceberg of horrors, or, alternatively, Trump thinks that the American people should have concerns that Manafort and Flynn may be the tip of an iceberg, and that the Justice Department and the FBI need to bolster their efforts and resources to try to find out just how bad things may be.

But Trump has said nothing.

Rep. Palmer, can you say anything about the above to your constituents? Were you shocked by what Manafort and Flynn were charged with doing? Do you think Manafort and Flynn are a possible tip of an iceberg of horrors in Washington DC? Do you think the Justice Department and the FBI need to be bolstered to try to protect the American people against the likes of Manafort and Flynn?

Has Trump said nothing because he has skeletons lurking in his closet? Trump has been a wheeler dealer businessman for decades, who has done a lot of business in foreign countries. Who knows what all shenanigans he has engaged in.

Rep. Palmer, would you be shocked if, for example, Mueller came upon money laundering by Trump organizations? Foreign bribery? Other illegalities.

Frankly, it would not shock me one bit.

The country has no idea. Trump presumably knows if there are skeletons in his closet, but he is sure as hell going to do his best to keep them secret.

Millions of Americans don't believe a thing that comes out of Trump's mouth and would not trust Trump as far as they can throw him.

And so the country is mired in Russia.

What are you going to do about it, Rep. Palmer? Get the country more mired with more investigations going off in additional directions?

Speak to your constituents, please, Rep. Palmer.

Improper governmental payments [added 12/24]
I listened to the 12/20/17 podcast of Matt Murphy with Rep. Palmer, which podcast can be found at Rep. Palmer variously mentioned $140 billion and $500 to $700 billion of improper governmental payments, which add to national debt and should be stopped. I think the first figure was an annual figure that Rep. Palmer thought could be cut in half, and the latter was possibly what could be saved over a 10 year period. Working on stopping improper payments by the government would seem to be something that Republicans and Democrats can do together. I would request that Rep. Palmer discuss this with Rep. Sewell, and see if they can report agreement to Alabamians. This matter can go on the plus side for Rep. Palmer if there is progress in 2018.

Guns [added 2/12/18]
On December 6, 2017 Rep. Palmer voted for the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. He reported this in press release Palmer Votes to Defend 2nd Amendment Rights.
I think the United States would be a safer country if guns were outlawed.
While guns are not the only source of happiness in life, it would appear that many Americans receive psychological sustenance from owning gun. This needs to be weighed in the balance of what the United States should do about guns.
Here's what I advocate: Amend the Second Amendment so individual States could pass gun control restrictions as they chose, and a State may prohibit guns from being brought into the state that would violate its restrictions.
Those persons for whom gun ownership was an important source of happiness and well being could live in states that had no gun restrictions.
Those persons for whom gun ownership was unimportant and who thought they would be safer where guns were restricted could live in states with tight gun controls.
Whether a state had tight gun controls or not could affect company decisions about where they wanted to be located. States with lax gun control laws could suffer economically because companies would not locate their facilities in those states in the belief that their employees preferred states with tighter gun controls.
Let that play out as it may, and let people make their choices about how important gun ownership was to them and which states they decided to live in.
For more discussion, see Let's talk guns.

[to be continued]