The Danger of North Korea

userpic=divided-nationPresident Trump has just met with the leader of North Korea, and we need to be very very careful and be cautious…

…lest we shoot ourselves in the foot.

Perhaps I should explain. When I got up this morning, I was greeted with a barrage of posts from my friends on the right talking about the achievements of Trump in North Korea. I was also greeted from a barrage of posts from the left dismissing everything Trump has done there — he’s sold us down the river, he’s doing this to get a hotel, he’s doing this because I loves Kim, he’s being naive. Reading both side, it started this post welling up in me.

To my liberal and progressive friends, I want you to think back to those wonderful days when Obama was President. Are you in your happy place? Good. Now, think about how you felt when the right — the opposition to Obama — dismissed anything and everything he did. How in their book, Obama was a disgrace and it was impossible for him to get anything — a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g — right. How did that make you feel? How receptive did that make you to anything the other side side? How did that contribute to the growing divide between the left and the right?

Most of you are too young to remember Richard Nixon. He was a President during the Vietnam War, the man behind Watergate, and the only President to resign. He was an ardent anti-Communist, the VP under Eisenhower, at the height of the Cold War. Yet it was Richard Nixon that first went to China, and got us talking to that nation. It was often said, “Only Nixon can go to China”.

It may be that “Only Trump could go to North Korea”.

Whether initiated by the Democrats or the Republicans, talking to your enemy is a good thing. Establishing the dialogue. Remember when we were all in favor of it when Obama was President? Remember how we wanted him to talk to North Korea, but it was dismissed as dangerous by the right because he was too naive? Remember.

If we, as progressives, do not acknowledged the few things that Trump somehow does that are movements in the correct direction, anything we say will be dismissed out of hand. I like to say that even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day. Think of Trump as that clock. If Trump is able to open a dialogue with North Korea, he has achieved something. He may not be the reason the dialogue has opened, but if it serves to increase understanding between the two countries, if it reduces nuclear tension, that that’s a good thing. More important, if we do not acknowledge it as good thing, we will be doing something the Democratic Party has been expert in: self-sabotage. We won’t need the Republicans to lose us the upcoming the elections, we can do it to ourselves. We did it in 2016, and we can do it again.

It is vital for the success of this nation that we do not self-sabotage, that we acknowledge that “Only Trump could go to North Korea”.

There are also some important things to remember:

First, Trump and Kim have supposedly signed an agreement. But remember, if it is a treaty or an agreement, Congress must ratify it. How many treaties have past Presidents signed that Congress never ratified, and thus the country was never committed. Right.

Second, it could very well be that Trump is doing this so he can personally gain by building in North Korea. That, actually, is neither here nor there. Remember what I’ve said about collusion: It could very well be that Trump didn’t collude with Russia. Collusion means there is conscious working together to achieve a particular goal. But two organizations can have the same goal and not work together. Russia could have been working to get Trump elected and to get Trump in power for their own reasons — and that includes behind the scenes subtle manipulation of Trump. But that doesn’t mean that Trump was working with them; he just had the same goal. This is the same way that “Independent PACs” can work to get a candidate elected without being in coordination with the candidate’s campaign. Similarly, Trump might be doing this for the personal gain, but that doesn’t mean the end result might not also lower the tension in the region.

The key point here is this: If we are so “knee-jerk” that we can’t acknowledge an occasional stumble into success, we (i.e., we progressives) will be dismissed out of hand by the other side. That, in turn, will make it even harder for us to gain any concessions or make any compromises. It will further solidify the divide in this nation. It could very well keep Trump in power and hurt the Democratic party.

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Voting: The Who, The How, The Where, But Just Do It

Today is Primary Election Day in California: So first and foremost: Find your polling place, and make a commitment to vote today, before the polls close. If you need to see my detailed analysis of my sample ballot, here’s the link to the summary and recap.

That said, the model of voting is changing in California. At least here in Los Angeles, we’ve been voting at neighborhood precincts with pollworkers that have been there for years, and know the folks in the community. The tools we use for voting — Inkavote here in Los Angeles — have been in use for at least a decade. But come 2020, all is changing. The LA Times had a nice article on the changes today; evidently, they are being piloted in Sacramento County, as well as a few others.

Here’s how the LA Times describes it: Local precincts where you can only vote for one day are being replaced by a smaller number of voting centers that permit voting over a longer period. There is also a greater dependence on absentee (mail-in) ballots. The Times writes:

The law sets specific guidelines for the number of centers based on voter population. As election day approaches, additional locations are added to keep up with expected voter demand. A similar system is used statewide in Colorado but is untested in many other parts of the nation. The locations offer more than just in-person voting. Citizens also can check their registration status there or have a new ballot printed if they misplaced the one mailed to them. In some counties, they can visit a center to register to vote on election day.

Why are they doing this? The primary reason is cost: Voting equipment across California is rapidly aging and public dollars to replace it are scarce. Fewer centers mean less new equipment. In Sacramento County for this election, 550 neighborhood polling places have been replaced by 78 vote centers. Additionally, the staffing requirements for pollworkers are less (meaning less cost): About 600 people have been hired to run the vote centers, down from almost 2,500 poll workers in a traditional election.

Of course, publicly, the reason isn’t cost but participation. According to the Times, most voters already have migrated to voting by mail. Fifty-nine percent of ballots were cast somewhere other than a polling place in the 2016 primary. Two decades earlier, it was only 23%. This is also why you have propositions like 71 on the ballot: results are no longer known for sure on election day, as all those absentee ballots require counting, and can come in late.

Five counties — Sacramento, Napa, Nevada, Madera and San Mateo — piloted the new system for this election. Voters were sent multiple postcards alerting them to the change before receiving a ballot in the mail, which came with a map of the vote centers and numerous ballot drop-boxes sprinkled in locations such as libraries and community centers. Los Angeles County can join them in 2020. LA County currently has a project that is attempting to place the voting centers, and they want county residents to participate. They note that many factors must be considered in identifying locations, including geographic and demographic constraints that could present barriers to voting in particular locations or near sensitive populations. To ensure these considerations are accounted for, the following parameters have been established:

  • Same day registration at all vote centers.
  • 10 days before the election (minimum 8 hours/day) at least one vote center is provided for every 30,000 registered voters.
  • On election day and the three days prior (7 am – 8 pm), at least one vote center is provided for every 7,500 registered voters.
  • Every city with at least 1,000 registered voters would have at least one vote center.

So what are my thoughts on this process? I’m not sure that I like it. Being able to vote as soon as you receive your sample ballot, although they say that allows voters to be more informed, actually makes them less informed by compressing the time available to perform research, and to discuss the candidates. Having fewing voting centers makes it harder to vote in person, and makes it more likely that lines will be longer to use voting machinery, and the pollworkers will have a greater workload. It will also make it harder to find pollworkers due to increased time constraints. Increased mail in ballots makes it harder to know the final count as of election day, due to mail stragglers. Lastly, there is importance (I believe) in knowing your neighbors, and the local polling places provide that. I’ll have to see how it all works out.

 

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Some People Just Don’t Think Things Through: Trump, Pardons, and Indictments

userpic=trumpThe Internet-verse has been filled today with commentary about Trump’s statement that he can pardon himself but he won’t, and how this is such a miscarriage of Presidential power and such. I call Bullshit. Most of these folks don’t understand what the Constitution actually says; they are pontificating based on what they think it says or what they want it to say. A few points of clarification, based on my admittedly limited knowledge in these areas:

  • The only thing the Constitution prohibits the President from doing is pardoning from impeachment. It also restricts the pardon to be for Federal crimes.
  • Whether the President can pardon himself has never actually been tested. Presidents before have followed normal behavior and haven’t run into this.*
  • Whether the President cannot be indicted while in office has never actually been tested. Presidents before have followed normal behavior and haven’t run into this.*
  • However, what is clear is that even if the President does pardon himself, he can still be impeached and removed from office. Impeachment and removal is a pretty bad stain on one’s reputation, even with a pardon.
  • If the President does pardon himself, that is an implicit admission that something was done for which a pardon was required, increasing the likelihood of removal from office.
  • If the President does pardon himself, he can no longer ‘”take the 5th”, as there is no longer any risk of self-incrimination. He must tell the truth about what happened and answer the questions. By the way, this is also true for anyone he pardons.
  • If there is enough material to indict and convict the President, there is likely enough evidence to get him impeached and removed from office.
  • Once removed from office, the President is no longer the chief law enforcement officer and can be indicted and convicted, unless pardoned for the specific crime.
  • Once removed from office, the President can be indicted and convicted for state crimes, and can still be subject to civil suits and damages, even if pardoned for Federal crimes.

So, folks, please think things through before pontificating on subjects. Not every statement is what it appears to be.


*: There may have been opinions issued. However, as no President has actually issued a pardon for himself, and no indictment has been brought against a President while in office, the opinion has never been tested.

References: What Trump Can Teach Us About Constitutional Law. Episode 14, Prosecuting a President. Episode 13, Criminal Justice and the POTUS. Episode 5: Presidential Immunity. Episode 3: Pardon Power. Episode 10: Impeachment.

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June 2018 California Primary Analysis (VII): Recap and Summary

Whew! My analysis of the Sample Ballot is done. Over six posts on this subject, I have gone through the sample ballot for the “Statewide Direct Primary Election” on June 5. This post provides a summary of my conclusions. For some positions, there are a number of good candidates and I couldn’t strongly settle on a particular one. In that case, the choice order will be indicated by numeric notations ①, ②, ③, ④, and so on. Click on the header for each section of the ballot to go to the detailed analysis post that supports these selections.

June 2018 California Primary Analysis (I): Introduction and Gubernatorial

June 2018 California Primary Analysis (II): Other Statewide State Offices

June 2018 California Primary Analysis (III): District-Based State Offices

June 2018 California Primary Analysis (IV): US Senate and House

June 2018 California Primary Analysis (V): Judicial and County

June 2018 California Primary Analysis (VI): State Measures

Note: 📜 indicates Legislative Constitutional Amendments.

  • Prop 68: Parks, Natural Resources, and Water Bonds: [✓] Yes
  • Prop 69: 📜 Requires Vehicle License Fee and Diesel Sales Tax go to Transportation[✓] Yes
  • Prop 70: 📜 2/3rds Vote to use Cap-and-Trade Funds[✗] No
  • Prop 71: 📜 Sets Effective Date for Ballot Measures[✓] Yes
  • Prop 72: 📜 Exempts Rainwater Capture Systems from Triggering Property Tax Reassessment[✓] Yes
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June 2018 California Primary Analysis (VI): State Measures

I just got recently sample ballot for the “Statewide Direct Primary Election” on June 5, and boy, is it going to be a confusing election for people. We have two contests with enough candidates to take two pages (27 candidates for Governor, 32 for Senator, and two contests for our assembly district: one for the “short term” because the previous assemblycritter left early thanks to #metoo, and one for the “full term”, with the same candidates).There are going to be a lot of posts as I work through this. Here’s the sequence as I see it (note: links to articles not yet posted will not work or may be incomplete):

This post will cover the 5 propositions: Prop 68, Prop 69, Prop 70, Prop 71, and Prop 72. Note: All of these were placed on the ballot by the legislature. Initiatives will return with the Fall TV season for the November election. That’s how we do it now in California. Also note: There’s an error in the Printed and Online voter guide: for any references to www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov, omit the leading “www.” (sigh). Lastly, 📜 indicates Legislative Constitutional Amendments.

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June 2018 California Primary Analysis (V): Judicial and County

I recently got my sample ballot for the “Statewide Direct Primary Election” on June 5, and boy, is it going to be a confusing election for people. We have two contests with enough candidates to take two pages (27 candidates for Governor, 32 for Senator, and two contests for our assembly district: one for the “short term” because the previous assemblycritter left early thanks to #metoo, and one for the “full term”, with the same candidates). There are going to be a lot of posts as I work through this. Here’s the sequence as I see it (note: links to articles not yet posted will not work or may be incomplete):

This post will cover the Judges of the Superior Court (Offices 4, 16, 20, 60, 63, 67, 71, 113, 118, 126, and 146), LA County Assessor, LA County Sheriff, and LA County Supervisor (3rd District).

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June 2018 California Primary Analysis (IV): US Senate and House

I recently got my sample ballot for the “Statewide Direct Primary Election” on June 5, and boy, is it going to be a confusing election for people. We have two contests with enough candidates to take two pages (27 candidates for Governor, 32 for Senator, and two contests for our assembly district: one for the “short term” because the previous assemblycritter left early thanks to #metoo, and one for the “full term”, with the same candidates). There are going to be a lot of posts as I work through this. Here’s the sequence as I see it (note: links to articles not yet posted will not work or may be incomplete):

This post will cover the US House of Representatives (30th District) and the US Senate.

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June 2018 California Primary Analysis (III): State District-Based Offices

I recently got my sample ballot for the “Statewide Direct Primary Election” on June 5, and boy, is it going to be a confusing election for people. We have two contests with enough candidates to take two pages (27 candidates for Governor, 32 for Senator, and two contests for our assembly district: one for the “short term” because the previous assemblycritter left early thanks to #metoo, and one for the “full term”, with the same candidates). Then there are all the other state, county, and district contests, plus the propositions. There are going to be a lot of posts as I work through this. Here’s the sequence as I see it (note: links to articles not yet posted will not work or may be incomplete):

This post will cover the State Board of Equalization (3rd District), and the two elections for Assembly District 45: the Full Term and the Short Term.

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