Feds Want to Unify Thought
This week, in testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Federal Government, journalist Michael Shellenberger revealed that "US And UK military contractors worked to both censor and use sophisticated psychological operations and disinformation tactics developed abroad against the American people. The Supreme Court ruled that the government may not induce, encourage, or promote private persons to accomplish what the government is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish. Yet, there was a regular organized stream of communication between the FBI, DHS, and the largest tech companies to flag content in enormous numbers involving spreadsheets of accounts that ran into the hundreds of thousands of pages."
"Now, Jack Smith, the Department of Justice attorney prosecuting Donald Trump for allegedly inciting the January 6 'insurrection' is also targeting everyone who likes or forwards his tweets on social media," Shellenberger added. "The scope, power, and law-breaking of the surveillance and censorship for the purpose of election interference are worse than ever."
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas called these intrusions "necessary to defend our democracy from the MAGA terrorists who are abusing freedom of speech to manipulate voters into rejecting the heroic efforts of President Biden and the Democratic Party to save the country from the counterrevolution against progressive policies that former President Trump is trying to force on America. Impeding the spread of wrong ideas is a vital component for achieving the kind of cognitive security that President Biden says is essential for unifying the people behind the common good."
Interestingly, the most frequently censored presidential candidate this year has been Robert Kennedy, jr. Mayorkas cited this interference as "proof that our efforts are non-partisan. It isn't only the right-wing extremists of the MAGA Republicans that threaten our democracy. Mr. Kennedy's rabid opposition to the President's successful measures against the covid pandemic undermine the public's confidence in the President's efforts to encourage the frequent vaccine boosters needed to protect their health."
Can Feds Be Prosecutor, Judge & Jury?
This week, the US Supreme Court heard arguments from hedge fund manager George Jarkesy, in his appeal that the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) fining and barring him from the industry for securities fraud violated his Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. Michael McColloch, attorney for Jarkesy, argued that "the procedure in which the SEC acts as prosecutor, judge, and jury is fundamentally unfair. The person accused by the SEC has the burden of trying to persuade people who already deem him guilty that he's not. His right to be judged by an unbiased jury of his peers has been denied."
Brian Fletcher, principal deputy solicitor general for the Justice Department representing the SEC, argued that "combining the prosecutor, judge, and jury functions into one self-contained process is more efficient. Twenty-seven federal agencies have been using this method since New Deal legislation during the 1930s authorized these executive agencies to exercise judicial powers. It's not as if Mr. Jarkesy is being sent to prison. Having to pay monetary penalties and losing his source of income are purely civil matters."
Justice Neil Gorsuch expressed skepticism, saying "a right to a trial by jury is a check on government abuse of power. Confining an accused person's recourse within the bureaucratic agency that has charged him, found him guilty, and pronounced punishment sacrifices justice to efficiency. Levying a huge fine and putting a person out of business is not a mere 'slap on the wrist.'"
Chief Justice John Roberts questioned whether "allowing the government to bypass the right to a jury trial because it is inconvenient isn't one of the powers explicitly granted to the government in the Constitution. In fact, the Seventh Amendment specifically preserves the right of the accused to a jury trial where the monetary consequence of an unfavorable outcome exceeds $20."
Michigan Bans Fossil Fuels
Michigan's Democrat majority legislature passed and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed a new law that will require all electricity utilities to be 100% clean by 2040. All fossil fuels will be banned thereafter. Clean power sources include wind, solar, nuclear, and natural gas systems that can capture at least 90% of their emissions.
Whether solar and wind will ever generate enough electricity to supplant coal-fired electricity is doubtful. The problem lies in the mismatch of supply and demand. When the sun is shining and the wind is blowing there is plenty of electricity. However, at night or when breezes are light there is a shortage. Currently, coal-fired back up power can meet this shortage. Doing away with coal would require a hefty investment in batteries to store the solar and wind generated electricity. Building a wind/solar/storage electricity system would cost 10 to 20 times as much as a system with coal-fired back up power.
Whitmer dismissed the mismatch issue, saying that "I believe the pressure generated by outlawing fossil fuels will inspire scientists to invent cheaper ways to store solar and wind produced electricity. And even if I'm wrong we can still turn to nuclear or gas-fired methods for producing round-the-clock electricity."
Unfortunately, another Democrat constituency--environmentalists--are opposed to both nuclear and gas as energy sources. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that we will need to spend $3.5 trillion--the equivalent of the global oil and gas industry's entire revenues--on carbon capture to limit global warming. Greenpeace opposes nuclear power "because it is an unacceptable risk to the environment and to humanity."
EVs Fail to Impress
President Biden's attempt to persuade drivers to buy electric vehicles (EVs) has run into some serious headwinds. Nearly 4,000 automobile dealerships have signed a letter requesting a slower approach be taken.
Their letter pointed out that "electric vehicle demand is not keeping up with the large influx of EVs arriving at our dealerships that has been prompted by the current regulations. Early enthusiasm has stalled. The supply of unsold EVs is surging. Even with deep price cuts, manufacturer incentives, and generous government incentives unsold EVs are stacking up on our lots. The attempted electric vehicle mandate is unrealistic based on current and forecasted customer demand. It is time to tap the brakes on the government EV mandate, to allow time for the battery technology to advance, for EVs to become more affordable, for the development of domestic sources for the minerals to make batteries, for the charging infrastructure to be built, and for the American consumer to make the choice to buy an electric vehicle."
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called this letter "disrespectful and unpatriotic. President Biden is trying to transform the way people live. It is everyone's obligation to follow his lead and make that happen. The insistence of these money-grubbing car salesmen on making a profit must not be permitted to thwart or even delay our march into the brave new world The President has envisioned for us. If driving these profiteers into bankruptcy is one of the outcomes, so be it. My Department of Transportation stands ready to step into the breach and allocate EVs on the basis of need. This will both reduce the cost of transportation by eliminating the requirement that people would have to pay to get one and result in a more equitable distribution of the privilege of owning and driving a vehicle."
In related news, a Consumer Reports survey of 330,000 EV owners discovered that these vehicles have 79% more problems than conventional gasoline-fueled cars. These problems include long charging times, a shortage of charging stations, issues with the lithium-ion battery, outer and interior parts not fitting properly, and more frequent engine failures.
Declining Quality & Value of Education
Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) signed legislation repealing the basic skills test that had been previously required for college graduates to be certified as teachers in the state's public schools. "Forcing people to prove they are proficient in reading, writing and math in order to be accepted as teachers is out-dated," Murphy said. "In today's world these are no longer essential skills. Tik Tok videos and texting are the main methods of communication used by today's youngsters. This is what our teachers need to be using."
Angela Morabito, a spokesperson for the Defense of Freedom Institute and former press secretary for the US Department of Education disagreed, saying "If teachers cannot read, write, and do math, they have no hope of instilling those skills in the rising generation. A nation cannot be both ignorant and free."
In related news, a survey of 800 US employers found that 55% have already eliminated college degrees for new hires in jobs that previously had required them. Among the 55% percent who eliminated degree requirements, 70% did so for entry-level roles, 61% for mid-level roles and 45% for senior roles. A representative survey response cited "the dwindling skill levels of many of the college graduates we interview. They can't do the simplest math, write a coherent sentence, or comprehend articles written for eighth-grade readers. Yet, they expect to receive six-figure salaries, come-and-go as they please, and retire early. So, why should we pay more for people with such poor skills?"
Significance of Testimony Disputed
This week, New York Attorney General Letitia James' case against Donald Trump for bank fraud was seriously undermined by testimony from Deutsche Bank managing director Dave Williams. Asked whether his bank had ever considered the loans to be in default, Williams replied "no. Though there was a gap between the Trump organization's estimated $5 billion net worth and our $2.6 billion estimate, these kinds of differences are not unusual. Our lower estimate still showed that the firm's net worth was well in excess of our minimum requirements."
Williams' answers prompted Trump's attorney Christopher Kise to request that Judge Arthur Engoron "issue a verdict of not guilty. The bank based its decision to lend the money on its own assessment of the Trump organization's ability to repay the loan. The loans were repaid on time. The bank profited from the transaction. No one was defrauded by these transactions."
Engoron characterized Williams' testimony as "irrelevant. My decision that Trump is guilty was rendered before this trial began. The only matter to be resolved is the magnitude of the punishment. Attorney General James wants to impose a $250 million fine and cancel of all of the firm's licenses to conduct business in the State of New York. I haven't heard any testimony proving these proposed penalties should be decreased."
James argued that "the issue is whether the will of the people shall rule. I ran on an explicit campaign promise to get Trump. This means I have a mandate to harm him in any way I can. A verdict that would absolve Trump from suffering any punishment would disenfranchise the voters of New York and be attack on our democracy. The question is whether the will of the people or the most evil person to have ever been president shall prevail. None of what Williams said in court refutes my duty to fulfill my promise to the voters."
In related news, a four-judge panel with New York's Appellate Division, First Department reinstated the gag order on Trump that Appellate Judge David Friedman had lifted on freedom-of-speech grounds. Engoron vowed to "rigorously and vigorously enforce the order now that it has been reinstated" and hit Trump with a $15,000 fine. "It could get much worse," he warned. "A little more than 100 years ago presidential candidate Eugene Debs was sent to jail for violating the government's gag order on his criticism of its decision to enter the First World War. So, there is a precedent for cracking down on unwarranted dissent against the government by opposing political candidates."
BLM Leader Endorses Trump
Mark Fisher, a co-founder of a Black Lives Matter chapter in Rhode Island and founder of Black Lives Matter, Inc. announced he is supporting Trump for president in the 2024 election, saying "I like Trump. President Biden is just a deep disappointment. I have disdain for him and I really dislike the Vice President Harris, as well."
"Black Americans have been mental slaves to the Democratic Party, who have abused us for so long," he added. "We're tired of being relegated to the welfare plantation. We want to create wealth and leave something for our children. Trump understands how to create wealth and allow people to build their own lives. He's not gonna stab you in the back like the Democratic Party loves to do."
Presidential Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized that "Mr. Fisher is a distinct outlier among Blacks, the vast majority of whom are solidly behind President Biden's open borders, government subsidies, free abortions, vaccine mandates, increased regulations, and military support for Ukraine. Fisher's endorsement of Trump will backfire as he finds himself ostracized by the Black community for being out of step."
In contrast to Fisher, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Ut) has endorsed "anybody but Trump. I'd be happy to support virtually any one of the other Republicans. Maybe not Vivek. But uh, the others that are running would be acceptable to me. I'd also be happy to vote for a Democrat. Anyone one of them would be an upgrade from, in my opinion, from, uh, Donald Trump."
In related news, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos blasted his network for hosting an interview with former President Donald Trump. "We cannot normalize behavior that threatens democracy and the Hispanic community, or offer Trump an open microphone to speak directly to the Hispanic community," he complained. "We risk frittering away a lot of the hard work we put into destroying his political viability since his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election."