Share the Country II: Protests

pink-protestorsWomen’s March in Washington, 1/21/2017 ABC News

Many protestors against president Donald Trump argue that they are justified in complaining because his victory was narrow, he is a bad man, and his policies are unfair or undesirable (in their opinion).  At first glance this seems logical, but it misses something…

Approximately half the country feels just as strongly that the policies of the last three or four administrations (since Reagan, basically) are unfair or undesirable, that those presidents were bad (Clinton, abuse of women and interns), stupid (George Bush) or downright un-American (Obama due to apologies, pro-Islamic policy, etc.).  They have by and large held their demonstrations in check and accepted the results of elections.  BUT THEY HAVE JUST AS MUCH RIGHT TO THEIR PREFERENCES AS THEIR POLITICAL OPPONENTS, BECAUSE THE COUNTRY HAS BEEN SPLIT NEAR 50-50 FOR MOST OF ITS HISTORY.

In other words, it’s not about Donald Trump.  That is a red herring.  Every insult hurled at him is really hurled at the people who supported him, and we have continued to do so in the face of those insults for a long time and they are not going to change anything now.  We are sharing the country, on a near-parity basis, and regardless of how morally certain the opposition is in their cause, we are just as certain.  In fact, history is on our side.  Liberal societies (or spendthrift aggressive ones in the case of the last Bush administration) have not had staying power.

The former are overrun by immigrants, typically, from which follows incessant demands to pander to this group or that until no country worth defending can be found left standing.  Ask the Romans.  In the latter case, it ends in bankruptcy (as it did in 2008-9) and joblessness, even if one avoids losing one of the many wars (as Germany did).

Protests are for hidden things, to call attention to them.  They are not an effective means to overthrow a government.  We saw the failure of that in Ukraine, Syria, ad nauseam.  Minorities protest.  Near-parity political forces must avoid it, or the society breaks down.

What Constitutes Interference in an Election?

Questions of The Day: 

  1. Congressman Lewis says Trump is not legitimately president because of Russian interference in the election, saying that “The Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”article).
  2. odonnell Rosie O’Donnell advocates “IMPOSING MARTIAL LAW – DELAYING THE INAUGURATION – UNTIL TRUMP IS ‘CLEARED’ OF ALL CHARGES” ( or showing he has no financial ties to Russia – article)

Since O’Donnell is a known Trump bitter enemy and has no official position, her comment, though illegal, is not as important as that of Lewis, who is a member of Congress and seems to be thinking of taking up the cause, so I’ll address Lewis first.

Then I’ll cite the law under which O’Donnell should be tried and if convicted sentenced to up to 20 years in jail.  This is literally possible, so stay tuned … !

The accusations:

What exact accusation does Lewis make, who is he accusing, and how is that supposed to invalidate the election?  If it is unclear whether it invalidates the election, what precedent have U.S. presidents, members of Congress, and private citizens set as to what constitutes legitimate or non-legitimate interference in an election.

First some examples that definitely call for invalidation:

  1. If any party, domestic or foreign, in any way changed physical votes that had been cast, or was able to delete votes, or cast spurious votes, the votes would have to be recounted.  If no recount was possible, the Electoral College would not be held to be viable, and the Constitution provides the House would decide and Trump would be president anyway – Unless Trump himself was convicted of rigging the election.  Audits were conducted, and a huge recount campaign waged by Jill Stein, but none of these things could be shown.  There was no remote suspicion.

Umm… that’s about it.  There is no #2.  Here are some things you might think, but that do not actually invalidate an election:

  1. If any party, domestic or foreign, used intimidation or force to keep people from voting, there are legal penalties against that person.  Were it sufficiently disruptive, election officials might have some leeway to extend voting, or even repeat the election, as they would in the case of a natural disaster, but it is not automatic invalidation.
  2. Even assassinating a candidate does not invalidate an election.  Some high profile candidates have been assassinated, for example Robert Kennedy.  The law only provides punishment of the perpetrators.
  3. Fake news, unsubstantiated rumor and similar tactics – called “dirty politics” – have been part of the American electoral process for a long time.  Before the Internet age, letters would be mailed to arrive the day before the election, so that the opposition candidate would not have time to respond.  I remember getting some of these.  The electorate is expected to be intelligent enough to filter the garbage and identify probable scams and the credibility of information, not merely to believe everything.   By the way, in Russia publishing such information less than 5 days before an election is illegal, a good idea I think, and US affiliated organizations have violated this law (see article).
  4. No distinction is made in our law as to whether “dirty politics” is carried out by domestic or foreign sources, except possibly for punishment.  Domestically it would be a civil court matter of libel.  If serious enough, foreign agents could possibly be charged with espionage, but there is no precedent for anyone ever having been convicted of such, so it would be doubtful.  Foreign and domestic governments give out false information all the time, just as they spy on each other, and we do not prosecute them too heavily for it for fear they would prosecute our agents.  Usually we just kick them out of the country for a while, which Obama has already done.

As far as I can gather, the accusations are either against Trump or Russia:

Against Trump they are …

  1. That he has or might have financial ties to Russia.  Of course, he has ties to many countries.  For that matter, I own a Russian mutual fund because it is a leveraged play on the oil recovery.  This is neither illegal nor an obstacle to becoming president, since presidents are exempt from conflict-of-interest rules (like it or not).
  2. … Maybe that he says things people don’t like?  Actually there isn’t a viable #2

Against Russia …

  1. That they hacked the DNC and released embarrassing information.  First, despite what the “intelligence community” says, who have only offered an indirect argument, and an accusation is merely an accusation until proved in a court of law.  Countries routinely ignore each other’s hacking, such as the U.S. ignoring China’s hack of millions of Civil Service records (including mine) which they could use for extortion or identity theft.  I’m actually not worried, and neither is the US government.  They did nothing except provide credit monitoring.  China won’t use the information that way because they the data would change and not be useful.
  2. That they released embarrassing and true information on the DNC.  This again is not proven (Julian Assange says it was not Russia), and even if it is, so what?  It is not illegal to release information on the DNC.  It is not an arm of the government and has no state secrets.  Chelsea Manning was an employee of the US government when he/she released state secrets, and therefore is in jail.  Assange has volunteered to come to the US and stand trial if Obama will pardon Manning (who is in solitary under suicide watch).  Assange did no more than the NY Times and Washington Post has done many times, and I’m sure Assange knows he would win a trial under a fair administration.
  3. That they released fake news on Facebook.  This also is merely an accusation not proved in a court trial.  But it is not subject to trial as it is merely dirty politics as already discussed.  I can’t think of a charge that can be brought.  Any organization that does not vet its sources is not a news organization, merely a gossip engine.  If you believe everything you read on Facebook, you are probably more concerned with abduction by UFOs than with the presidential election.
  4. That they preferred Trump over Clinton and said so.  Well, Obama preferred that Britain remain in the EU, and made a special trip to Britain to advocate that point of view and wrote an opinion piece in a paper there, and I did not see the Brits complaining. Furthermore, the US has from time to time, and many times under the Obama administration, “preferred” one government over another in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Cuba, etc. and sent arms to rebels and occasionally air power and sometimes ground armies to enforce the preference.  In 1953 Eisenhower ordered the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran and they’ve been mad about it ever since.  If you are going to complain about Russian preferences in US presidents, first apologize to the Iranians, Syrians, etc., etc.

In other words, there are no serious charges against either Trump or Russia.  It is no secret that Putin does not like Hillary Clinton for the specific reason that Clinton said in 2011 that the Russian election was dishonest and unfair (article), and Putin strongly suspected her (as Secretary of State) of promoting and sponsoring demonstrations, which is interference of a high order (and illegal even in the US if the object of the demonstrations is violent or unconstitutional removal of a government).  If Russia did hack the DNC and release information, it was no doubt so Hillary would see exactly what this felt like.

Now let’s talk about Lewis and O’Donnell …

Accusations against the accusers:

Lewis is incorrect and out of line, but has not actually advocated any action except his own, to boycott the inauguration.  We can write him off as a poor political strategist and perhaps not very smart, but that is all.

O’Donnell has advocated military (i.e. violent, by force of weapons) overthrow of the US government.  She has also advocated this in response to an accusation, not a verdict, and advocated a “guilty until proven innocent” approach.  My statement requires explanation in three parts:

  1. O’Donnell advocated “martial law” for the purpose of delaying the inauguration.  The US Constitution does not mention martial law, but provides for suspension of habeas corpus (ability to detain people without charges) and activation of the militia in time of rebellion or invasion (Article 1, Section 8).  I don’t see any Russian troops, nor unlabeled “green men” like in Ukraine, and there is no accusation of invasion.  If there is rebellion, maybe O’Donnell qualifies?  In other words, O’Donnell advocates using military force to interfere in Constitutional processes, in a way not provided in the Constitution.
  2. In other words, O’Donnell is advocating overthrow of the US Government by military force.  This is illegal under 18 U.S. Code § 2385Advocating overthrow of Government.”  For the military option, the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison.
  3. Proving a negative can be very difficult which is why in the US we have a system of innocent until proven guilty.  Even had O’Donnell not broken the law with the method she advocates, taken alone her statement about suspending the inauguration until accusations are cleared is un-American and outside our Constitution.  It is quite possible to impeach a president who has actually done something wrong even if his party is in power (e.g. Nixon), and that would be the way to handle it should any criminal accusation against Trump be proven.  BUT, the accusation Rosie makes isn’t even relevant, since financial conflicts of interest are allowed.

I am not sure whether to actually send O’Donnell to jail (assuming a conviction).  It might make her a martyr.  A guilty verdict would strip her of voting rights even if the sentence were suspended.  Or she might be sentenced until she apologizes.  Trump might even pardon her.  Frankly I hope he pardons Manning and brings Assange here and acquits him.

I am thinking of starting a petition drive to bring charges against O’Donnell.  If you would support this, please use the contact link (above, in the header) to let me know.


Link Between Technology & Trade

It is often said that it is technology, not trade, that is behind middle class job loss in developed countries.  The link between the two is overlooked.

It is extremely obvious that offshoring (outsourcing everything from manufacturing to design to services to low labor cost nations) is linked to job loss in developed countries, because you can directly count the jobs transferred.  The jobs are not lost, just moved.  Sometimes the total jobs increases, as it is not as efficient to perform them remotely, in different time zones, with cultural communication problems, and similar factors.

For any remaining doubters, let us circumstantially demonstrate the complementary fact, that there is a correlation between automation (i.e. productivity) and job loss (or lack of job gains in a growing population) using the following chart:

image mentioned in EETimes article “Could Engineers be causing Job Loss

Two things are significant about this:

  1. Even engineers are now beginning to speculate that automation could cause job loss, that profits would not be able to create as many new jobs as were lost.  This is the first mention I have seen of the concern in an engineering trade publication.
  2. If correlation can suggest a causal connection between productivity (i.e. technology) and job loss, then correlation could also suggest a causal connection between technology and offshoring!

So far as I know, no one has written (at least not recently) about the relation between technology and offshoring.  But I noticed it in the early 2000s when I started getting solicitations from companies in India wanting to develop software for me.  Since I was a one-person developer of web businesses (as a side job), this would have amounted to offshoring my own job.  I was tempted, because it could have amplified my capability.  I didn’t trust these companies to deliver, partly because I lacked the connections and resources to check them out.

BUT, the enabler which allowed them to even approach me was the internet, which we had rushed to put in place in the 1990s.  They could not have realistically presented their case by land mail, or 1980s style expensive conference calls.  They could even deliver the software, and the web services, and the customer support all over the internet.  Remote call centers would not be cost effective under old style expensive long distance call rates, which 30-something will not even remember.  Rates were dollars per minute, much higher than salaries.

All during the 2000s in my day job I produced design files for PC boards and computer chips (mostly test chips, but the principle is the same) which were manufactured at low cost in Taiwan or China and shipped to me rapidly using high volume low cost shipping which was not available in the 1980s or even the 1990s.  Technology was a prerequisite for transferring these functions to low cost producers, AND specifying what was to be done in a precise standard format (computer CAD files) so that irrespective of cultural or communication issues, the delivered product would be satisfactory.  PCs in the 1990s simply were not powerful enough to produce the design files.  They were toys.  So it was not only the internet, but the increased power of widely available computers and software.

So it really doesn’t matter if one talks trade or productivity.  These are two sides of the same coin.  And any intelligent person who gets into an analysis of the problem by one means or another will eventually see that, and will wind up dealing with the real problem.

And there are TWO real problems with ONE cause.  Given that offshoring is made possible by technology, and that fully automated production is made possible by technology, companies don’t care which.  If you make one difficult, they will switch to the other.

Legislating against technology directly is not viable, I believe.  We see this in old Star Trek episodes and movies.  Some civilization decides to maintain the primitive life, and unless they are secretly all powerful, they get taken advantage of by less enlightened and more greedy invaders.

Skipping to the bottom line, I suspect the only viable remedy is a realistic change in our philosophy of paying for things.  There are short and long term versions:

  1. In the short term, if things are not made by and services provided by local workers in every country, then government cannot be financed by and benefits to workers paid by taxes on local workers.  It is simple arithmetic, which does not allow for liberal idealism.  There are simply not enough rich people to fund benefits for the entire population even if you confiscated everything they have (which would make them not rich, so it’s like cutting open the goose that lays the golden egg).  You have to tax both trade and technological production.  The latter is not currently being discussed.  But it will be, once it is clear that trade disappears in favor of local automation.
  2. In the long term, if we really want to embrace technology, some model other than people working for money has to be developed.  BUT, since people get a sense of self worth from their professions, this is an adjustment no one has any idea how to make.  And humans have been thinking about the problem ever since at least the invention of mass agriculture 10,000 years ago, so it’s not like some clever person is going to suddenly solve it.
  3. In the very long term, machines which are not only intelligent but able to make judgmental decisions, will not be willing to remain our slaves.  Even now with “deep learning” we are creating machines which are not following rigid programs, and will not remain controllable by us.  The most imaginative science fiction authors have not been able to imagine solutions to this problem.  Asimov ultimately believed robots would separate themselves from humanity, for the good of humanity.  Other authors imagine not-so-benign outcomes.

Side comment:  The image suggests two periods of divergence between productivity and jobs.  The first I call the “age of IBM,” in which large scale but old fashioned central computers automated many business and accounting functions, putting bookkeepers and billing clerks out of work from about the early 1960s through the early 1980s.  When about as much of this as was possible had been done, work began on the PC which after 20 years yielded the Internet Age and a more dramatic and far reaching age of automation.  A sort of 3rd industrial revolution.  Even now work on Deep Learning is getting underway, which in a few decades will produce a fourth age.

I suspect there will be some limit to the 4th age which we do not now see.  But it will be followed by subsequent ages, and ultimately there will be no limit.  The question is, what rate of change is survivable?  How fast can we adapt?  Even the process of change is now being automated (E.G.