GadgetMania RSB http://gadgetdon.com/ The thoughts and musings of Donald Brown longer than 140 characters What should happen today http://gadgetdon.com/article/6647133/What+should+happen+today Thu, 07 Jan 2021 10:26:58 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/6647133/What+should+happen+today Here's what should happen today. Mike Pence should go to Donald Trump with four letters. Two are resignation letters. One claiming he's resigning after seeing the actions of yesterday and feels it's time for an end, one claiming continuing effects from COVID make it impossible to continue doing the job. A letter issuing a full and unconditional pardon to Donald Trump, his children, Jared, and anyone else Trump wants to add to it, in order to have a fresh start. And a letter calling for the 25th amendment to be implemented and Trump to be removed because he is not able to do his job properly.

Pence would then explain, if you sign one of the two resignation letters TODAY, I will sign the pardon TODAY. You leave TODAY for wherever, Ivanka and Jared can take care of packing up your final belongings here. Alternatively, I distribute the 25th amendment letter TODAY, you are removed form office TODAY, and there is no pardon.

If Pence did that, and stayed firm, I think Trump would take the resignation plus the pardon, his sense of self-preservation is high. Sadly, I doubt Pence will do that.

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Bringing back consequences - Use of Force board http://gadgetdon.com/article/5799750/Bringing+back+consequences+-+Use+of+Force+board Fri, 16 Oct 2020 08:51:54 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/5799750/Bringing+back+consequences+-+Use+of+Force+board

Here's what I'd like to see to deal with the issue of police using deadly force when it apparently wasn't necessary. Create a database of incidents, and Use Of Force review boards. I'm undecided about whether there should be a national board or one per state, but the key is to get them out of the control of the police forces that would be involved.

The boards would involve every incident where there was a use of deadly force (whether the target survived or not) or where there was a complaint. They would review body cam videos, videos taken by witnesses, witness statements, security cameras, and so forth.

After review, the boards would issue a report with a number of possible findings. Here are the findings I've got off the top of my head, there might be others justified:

(1) Action was justified. The actions were taken due to the subject showing an intent to harm the officer or others and the only option to stop the harm was the one taken. This will presumably be the most common result.

(2) Honest mistake. The officer believed that there was an intent to harm, and believed the action was required - but in retrospect, they were wrong. No punishment, but a record noted in the database. If an officer gets more than a certain number of such mistakes, then actions will be taken, up to and including permanently being barred from law enforcement or security jobs.

(3) Reckless. The officer had may have believed there was an intent to harm, but the actions taken were excessive given the situation and no attempt to de-escalate the situation. The wild firing into the apartment of Breonna Taylor would, based on public action, fall into this category. In addition to noting the record in the database, the board can order a suspension without pay, removal of the officer's qualified immunity (they were not acting in accordance to the requirements of a police officer, so don't get the immunity), or in extreme cases, prosecution.

(4) Abusive. The officer abused his or her authority and took action without justification. The board refers for prosecution, and the officer is either suspended without pay or barred from future employment in security or law enforcement.

There will be methods to appeal the decisions. Lying to the board or in public statements, or failure to use a body cam, will be viewed as reasons to increase seriousness of conclusion or for punishments.

Law enforcement organizations are encouraged to do their own reviews and take action as they see fit. Their reviews will probably be faster than the board. But it's clear that we need an independent voice that is not subject to the thin blue line or police unions.

Whole raft of details, such as how the board members are picked to ensure fairness and methods to appeal the decision. And there will be some who will still be unhappy when cases are not referred to prosecution. But there will be a uniform method of review that takes misuse of authority as a serious matter.

Thoughts?

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Business immunity http://gadgetdon.com/article/8805517/Business+immunity Tue, 12 May 2020 17:41:53 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/8805517/Business+immunity Republicans want to give businesses immunity from COVID related issues if they open up. I get that. A business can do everything right and lose everything to a lawsuit. On the other hand, immunity removes the incentive to do everything right. So, here's a proposal that should make both sides, if not ecstatic, at least tolerable.

1. Business get immunity against lawsuits for cases of COVID if they follow recommendations for safety: Specifically provide face masks/gloves to employees and require face masks of customers. Also, to the extent possible, set up traffic flows for social distancing.

2. Employees can choose not to return to work if they are unwilling to risk the disease without losing their unemployment benefits.

3. All adult Americans who have a Social Security number or an ITIN will receive a check for $2000 each month starting in May, plus $500/month for each minor child. (This will probably need to be negotiated down to only Social Security Number or perhaps a lesser number for ITIN).

4. Any resident of America who develops COVID will be automatically enrolled in the state's Medicaid program for the treatment of the disease and related issues. This will automatic enrollment will last for one week after a test shows negative for the disease - with at least two followup tests to avoid the risk of false positives. The Federal government will cover 90% of those enrollees.

So, businesses get the immunity they want, and it's not on the worker's backs. Everybody happy?

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Open protests - a bad idea done poorly http://gadgetdon.com/article/2924500/Open+protests+-+a+bad+idea+done+poorly Sun, 03 May 2020 10:02:41 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/2924500/Open+protests+-+a+bad+idea+done+poorly First, an admission: I'm a Walmart cashier, so I'm considered "essential", have a job, go out daily, am making money. So I am not experiencing the financial stress os many others are. Of course, I'm also worried that I'll get sick from being essential.

That said, I think the idiots saying "back to normal now" are insane. This is still a deadly disease, very contagious, and we have no natural immunity nor no vaccine.  It kills people, it puts far more in the hospital and causes lifelong issues. Yes, we're going to have to start loosening the lockdowns when it's clear the spread has slowed down a lot, but that's loosening.

I see those people protesting to "open up now", and they might as well be advertisements about why we need lockdowns. They gather tightly without protection, they're going to be spreading the virus among their groups, they carry signs that make it partisan, and they look like a mob.

If I was on their side, here's how I'd organize the protests:

  1. Everyone wears masks. Properly, over mouth and nose. If you can't wear a mask, you don't participate.
  2. Everyone dresses up as if they were going to an office or church. We're sending the message that we're serious people with serious concerns.
  3. All signs must be non-partisan and about the economic distress being caused. If you bring a pro-Trump sign or an anti-Democrat sign, it will be taken and you'll be asked to leave. Here's a list of messages you can adapt.
  4. There will be taped marks on the street, six feet separated. You go to a mark and stay there, unless you're called upon to speak. We're showing that we can be smart without being locked down.

 

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Changes in my life - my legs and feet hurt http://gadgetdon.com/article/3241047/Changes+in+my+life+-+my+legs+and+feet+hurt Wed, 09 Oct 2019 10:23:47 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/3241047/Changes+in+my+life+-+my+legs+and+feet+hurt Some of my friends know this already, but here's some updates.

I've discovered that nobody wants to hire a 60 year old programmer (and I am out of touch with some newer web technologies), so for the past four months I've been a cashier for Walmart. I'm finding I enjoy the job more than I expected, particularly bantering with the customers. My favorite new bit - when someone talks about how little they got away with spending, I declare that Walmart has instituted a (x) dollar minimum - would you like to buy a candy bar to bring you into compliance? Most get the joke and laugh, a few looks shocked and I have to quickly say I'm joking. There's the occassional customer from hell (not just nasty - but if you plan to buy $30 worth of goods with quarters, your cashier will not be happy), but those are rare, most are nice.

My legs and feet, though, are not fond of this new system and want me to find a desk job, any desk job. Usually I've got a pad that helps the feet, but after three hours of standing, it's really hard to reach down and pick up something.

I'm living in a room in a duplex in Cathedral City with T.C., currently my only furry companion. T.C. was a stray at the mobile home park I used to live at (don't laugh, mobile homes are actually very nice these days). He got upset when the landlord moved in with his three cats, so he's happy to be the only cat of the household. We do have a disagreement on whether he's an indoor cat or an outdoor cat.

Not exactly what I expected at 60, but it's not a bad life.

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A deal to be made, @realDonaldTrump http://gadgetdon.com/article/2538611/A+deal+to+be+made%2C+%40realDonaldTrump Sun, 13 Jan 2019 10:44:39 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/2538611/A+deal+to+be+made%2C+%40realDonaldTrump OK, here's a deal that could happen.

First, government would have to be reopened while details worked out. When that happens, one bill that does the following:

$5B for fencing on public lands that are not ecologically sensitive.

$20B for non-barrier border security, with at least $10B to be spent on staffing for border patrol and immigration courts

Dream Act passed. Ideally with path to citizenship, but one gets what one can get.

 

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Mr. Trump, Put up or shut up http://gadgetdon.com/article/3931381/Mr.+Trump%2C+Put+up+or+shut+up Mon, 17 Dec 2018 07:40:44 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/3931381/Mr.+Trump%2C+Put+up+or+shut+up It's common during political campaigns, and Trump did a lot of it. "I will solve this problem and it will be GREAT!" It's not totally useless, it at least is recognizing where there is a problem in need of a solution. Some general details would help, but no concept survives completely intact as it becomes law. So, during a campaign, you can forgive some vagueness on details.

But the campain is over, Mr. Trump. It was over more than two years ago. You can't just promise a "great solution" without saying what that solution will be. So Trump's morning tweet about "We need the Supreme Court to kill the ACA so we can replace it with something better" is particularly enraging to those like me who depend on the ACA's protections for those with pre-existing condition. You've HAD two years to come up with something better, and everything you proposed would make things WORSE. Fewer people getting coverage. Much weaker protections.

It's the same thing with immigration. "We need to kill the diversity lottery and family reunification visas in order to replace it with a merit based system" - WHAT is the merit based system? Is it really about merit, or is it "people who look like me have merit".

You are the President, Mr. Trump. Time for details.

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A pro-life bill http://gadgetdon.com/article/3839305/A+pro-life+bill Sat, 27 Jan 2018 18:55:25 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/3839305/A+pro-life+bill I am pro life. Here is what I think needs to be law.

Support for mothers and children

  • Full prenatal care provided for mothers who cannot afford it.
  • 6 months paid maternal leave with guaranteed access to job afterwards
  • Child care for those who need help.
  • Fully fund five star public education for every child
  • If needed, full funding of nutrious food for kids growing up and health care.

Other forms of supporting life

  • Mandatory blood donation unless doctor certification that they cannot donate.
  • Mandatory bone marrow donation if needed.
  • Mandatory organ donation upon death.
  • Universal registry and mandatory live kidney donation when needed.

Everyone will support that right? Because they believe in supporting life. They aren't really punishing women for getting pregnant, are they?

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I'm working on my health and it's going great http://gadgetdon.com/article/2604980/I%27m+working+on+my+health+and+it%27s+going+great Thu, 25 Jan 2018 23:21:48 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/2604980/I%27m+working+on+my+health+and+it%27s+going+great 4 years ago I got off the diet merry-go-round and I've never been healthier or happier. There were a few who assumed that meant I was going to go crazy eating and gain hundreds of pounds, but nope - that's part of the merry-go-round ride. Here's what I'm doing.

Step one. Love your body. I've got a MAGNIFICENT body. It's a gift. With it, I can walk, run, dance (not well but who cares). I can lift things, move things. When I'm upset, I can breath deeply and it helps calm me down. I love this body. And it deserves taking care of.

Step two. My body deserves to be feed good stuff. It needs vegetables, it needs good lean meat, it needs grains, it needs to be fed properly so it can do all those wonderful things. So, eating better is a goal in itself. I've developed a fondness for carrots and bananas (separately, one attempt combining the two did NOT go well). No taste for brocolli, but that's fine, so many wonderful things to eat that I love.

Step three. My body deserves to be active, because that makes it stronger. So far, I've been going for long walks. Would love to scrape together the money for an adult trike (balance isn't that great for a bike). I do this because my body gets stronger and because I enjoy it.

"But wait", some say, "What about your weight goals? What weight do you want to get down to?"

There are none. I treat my body well, the weight will take care of itself. According to the doctors I've lost a little weight, but that's irrelevant. It's not to change the shape or size of my body. It's to make my life and my body even better than it is now.

No, it's not easy and there are slips. I've got 40+ years of programming. My body is my enemy. There's a skinny person inside that fat shell struggling to get out. The size of your body means you have FAILED, and you must punish it into something else. Count calories to make sure your body is getting less than it needs to maintain itself. And every bite you eat, you need EXERCISE as punishment for eating it.

But I recognize the programming, and I understand the slips, and I get back on the dance as soon as I can.

Will this turn me into a skinny person? No, but 40+ years of yo-yo dieting didn't do that either. This is to become the best me I can be.

If only we taught kids this. Love your body. Good food is a reward to your great body. Being active is fun and make you stronger. Instead it's clothing size and weight, they get very messed up relationships with their body, and mentally and physically they suffer.

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Why businesses hire people http://gadgetdon.com/article/3462091/Why+businesses+hire+people Tue, 28 Nov 2017 08:49:00 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/3462091/Why+businesses+hire+people There are two reasons businesses want to hire people.

First, "I need more people but I just can't afford them" -Jobs are constrained by money

Second, "I see an opportunity to make a great profit by meeting consumers' demand for some product, and I need to hire people to meet that demand" - Jobs constrained by demand: if there are customers for Gizmos® I'll hire people, if there aren't customers for Gizmos® I won't.

In the current climate, most large corporations aren't really constrained by money. Many have cash just sitting around in liquid assets. Those that don't have assets that can be used for loans. So, if they say the opportunity to meet demand, they'd already be hiring the people to meet it. A tax cut for them won't create jobs, because it won't change demand.

Small businesses ARE constrained by money, they have limited cash flow and limited ability to borrow. So yes, tax cuts for them CAN create jobs.

And, of course, tax cuts for consumers are the best bang for the buck, because consumers buy stuff. Put more money in their hands, they'll buy more stuff, creating demand which creates jobs.

The current Republican Tax plan gives some consumers a small tax break - for now. Not all. If you have significant expenses for healthcare, or education/student loans, or morgage interest rates, or other deductions that are going away - your taxes may go UP. And those who are getting a small tax break, those are all temporary. The doubled standard deduction gets phased out. Tax cut rates, phased out. The Republicans are doing that to get under an arbitrary increase in the deficit - and are trusting future Congresses to make them permanent (thus increasing the deficit even more) but that may not happen. So this bill does NOTHING to boost demand and to some degree reduces it.

The part that is permanent is a HUGE tax giveaway to the large corporations and benefits for very rich people (by sheer coincidence, Donald Trump). Who aren't constrained by money before the tax cut so no jobs will be created.

If we were in a crashing economy, where even large corporations were cash constrained, a tax cut like this might make sense. Reagan and Bush tax cuts were made in troubled economic times. It's questionable how much they actually helped, but it was a time where "We've got to do something" was obvious. But, as Trump tweets every morning, we've got a strong economy. Huge profits. Soaring stock market. Low unemployment. Workers may not be doing so well, the jobs that are available aren't great and don't pay enough, but for the corporations who get the big tax cut - things are GREAT. The tax bill will just move more money out of the hands of most of us and into the hands of the rich guys.

Which is the goal - but not what they're saying. They are LYING.

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In defense of Vernon Dursley http://gadgetdon.com/article/9363707/In+defense+of+Vernon+Dursley Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:58:03 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/9363707/In+defense+of+Vernon+Dursley Vernon Dursley is one of the cruelist characters in the Harry Potter series. He treated Harry horribly, he hates magic, doesn't like anything that isn't "normal". JKR has said that Dudley couldn't have a child that is a Wizard because nothing related to magic could flow from his lineage.

Forgive me, but I think she's wrong. Because he's got one redeeming factor. It's a huge redeeming factor in this universe. It's love.

Vernon loves his wife greatly, and she loves him. He loves his son, though he expresses it poorly and spoils the boy. In the first volume, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when Hagrid breaks into the hut on the island, Mr. Dursley stands in front of his family, hiding them from this apparently threat (not quite successfully for Dudley). He fears magic, but he wants to make sure that anything done hits him first.

Let's turn the story around Vernon's standpoint. He met this woman, and fell in love with her. He lives a quiet normal life and expects to continue living it. Yet when Petunia tells him about her very very non-normal sister, he doesn't storm out demanding Petunia never see him again. He accepts Petunia. Meeting the husband of her sister goes badly, he doesn't understand what is going on in this man's life (and I find it unlikely the leader of the Marauders wouldn't have pulled off something on him). He loves Petunia, but he hates magic, he finds it terrible. And he really hates James.

Then, on November 1, the day after Halloween - a child is left at their doorway. The son of Petunia's weird sister and her terrible husband. There's a note included saying that their parents were killed by magic (magic's no good, just like I always thought) and that the boy will grow up to be a wizard. The rational thing for Vernon to do is insist that the boy be dropped off at an orphanage, let them deal with the risks of a magical boy. But no, it is Petunia's relative, so they raise him.

Strange things do happen around the boy growing up, the boy was becoming one of those terrible wizards. He made the window go away and risked the life of their dear boy! And soon after the boy uses his magic to threaten his boy, letters come to ask the boy to come to Hogwarts. No, absolutely not.

They try to avoid the letters (why can't they accept NO for an answer), go to an island, and this giant breaks down their door, threatens the family, gives Dudley a pig's tail, and then takes their boat leaving them stranded on the island. Nothing there to make him feel better about magic.

Then there's a FLYING CAR AT HIS PROPERTY that can be SEEN, ripping out the bars he put in. Destructive magic.

His nephew turns his sister into a balloon and THREATENS HIM!

In Goblet of Fire, the ruddy magicians blow apart his living room!

There's nothing in Vernon Dursley's life to make him think better of magic in all of his encounters. (Conceivably, that could change while he's on the run with his family in Deathly Hallows, just as Dudley came around once he realized Harry had saved his life.) That nephew has been a constant problem, disordering his nice ordered life and causing problem after problem.

And he keeps his nephew anyway. Probably at the insistance of Petunia, but he keeps his nephew. He puts up with all of it.

That is love.

No, I am not saying he is a good man. He can be cruel, he has very little imagination. He has no tolerance for things that don't fit in his ordered life. But he has love. Tom Riddle's story makes it clear that the ability to love is what makes one redeemable.

If I could talk/bribe JKR into writing one more story in the Harry Potter timeline, it would be to know what happened in Deathly Hallows when they were on the run. He'd have to see magic being used to protect, to serve, to do good things. He'd have close and continuing contact with two wizards who were risking their lives to protect his family. I think he'd still like his ordered life (without magic, thank you very much), but I think he'd also appreciate that there are good wizards who kept his family alive.

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Tax Plan (revised) http://gadgetdon.com/article/7681250/Tax+Plan+%28revised%29 Sun, 08 Oct 2017 16:12:54 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/7681250/Tax+Plan+%28revised%29 Trump's minions are out lying about his tax plan. So here's one that would do much of what he's claiming.

First, double standard deduction. That can simplify a lot of people's taxes. As for other deductions, we can discuss, but they were put in place because standard deductions don't always accurately reflect someone's available income. State and Local tax deduction stays - no one should be required to pay a tax on a tax.

Corporate Tax Rates - Right now federate corporate tax rates vary from 15% to 35%. I'm very much open to changing the income levels where the the various rates hit (if you're earning less than 100,000 in a business, 15% is very reasonable). But cutting them all to 20% is unreasonable, and excessive. Politics being the art of the possible, I'd be willing to cut it to 32%/33%, something in that range.

Non-corporate business taxes, also known as "pass-through" rates. Trump actually has a bit of a point, that small businesses often use pass-through rates and that they can be a real impediment to doing business. But, not all pass-through businesses are small. So, have a special tax table for pass-through businesses. Simple solution: same tax table as Corporate tax Rates.

Alternate Minimum Tax - it says, though I wouldn't be opposed to tweaking the income levels and rates.

Capital Gains: Long Term gains will be defined as capital goods purchased more than 5 years ago - this will be phased in (2 years in 2018, 3 in 2019, etc). Long term rate remains at 15%. Short term gains are treated as normal income.

Personal Tax Rates: (This is changed from the first publication). All current tax rates are cut by 20% (rounding up to a tenth of a percentage point). So the 35% tax rate goes to 28%, current top rate of of 39.6% becomes 31.7%.  BUT...

  • New bracket, for income over $600,000 - 50% - relive the great old days of Reagan
  • Another, for income over $1,000,000 - 70% - remember the great days of Camelot?
  • Final bracket, income over 10,000,000 - 90% - Everyone loved the 50s!

(Note: for those not aware, this means 50% of income AFTER the first $600,000, 70% of income AFTER the first million, etc.)

Also, three huge new tax deductions.

  1. Money invested in a new business in a way that they cannot take it back is fully deductable INCLUDING from AMT calculations. If you pay a year's rent for a building, purchase equipment, etc. - both a personal deduction AND a company deduction.
  2. For the first ten years of a new company doing regular business, the tax is prorated: 0% first year, 10% second, 20% third, etc.
  3. Major expansions/new divisions can apply for the same discounted tax of that portion of the business as above for new businesses. 

(Those will require technical skill in writing to be sure that it cannot be abused by creating a "new business" that is actually an old business)

Estate Tax: Covered elsewhere. Converts tax on estate into income for recipients, capital goods are acquired with a basis of 0. Taxes paid when sold, but nothing need be sold to pay taxes.

Great deal of negotiation to be done, and neither side is getting everything they want. But this would be a rational bit of tax reform without throwing money at the rich.

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Immigration Plan http://gadgetdon.com/article/4429804/Immigration+Plan Thu, 14 Sep 2017 22:16:45 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/4429804/Immigration+Plan McConnell challenged Trump to provide his plan. Well, I'm not him (a fact I think the Lord for daily), but how's this.

(1) We restore DACA as it was under the executive branch, with one exception. On the fifth renewal, they get a green card and can apply for citizenship. This means that, five times, they've passed the background check that they don't have a criminal background. They aren't living on the public dime. They've shown themselves to be good productive citizens, so let's make them that.

(1a) We can put in some public service into the plan if necessary. Serve in the military or some other system of giving to the community with service. Oh, those who were out rescuing people from Hurricanes in Harvey and Florida - they've fullfilled that requirement.

(2) We do a significant boost to the budgets for the border patrol and coast guard, and determine if ICE needs a budgetary boost. (Yes, immigrants do come in boats.)

(3) We budget one million dollars towards the development of a virtual wall. Cameras, radar, ground sensors - and stations for quick response. This should be FAR more cost-effective than the physical wall, won't interfere with migration, can share land with ranchers whos land would be taken away for the wall, and actually be more actually effective against things like ladders, tunnels, balloons, drones, and so forth. We'll still call it a wall, so you know who can brag that he did build a wall.

(3a) Anyone suggesting land-mines shall go to the nearest blackboard and write one million times, "I will not be evil".

Simple. Win win win. Anti-immigration people get increased budgets to stop it, and a cost-effective way to catch them without wrecking the economy, the ecology, or stealing people's land. Pro-immigration people get DACA, no budget-busting physical wall - and something to build upon.

And the third win? Trump gets a win to notch in his pocket, gets a practical wall so that's another success, and actually looks human.

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Let's compare private vs. public http://gadgetdon.com/article/7682909/Let%27s+compare+private+vs.+public Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:01:55 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/7682909/Let%27s+compare+private+vs.+public Whenever universal or single payer health care is mentioned, those on the right always say "Oh, it'll be terrible, free market always better!". So let's do a test. Here's my replacement for the ACA

(a) We're going to start with doubling the expansion of Medicaid, paid for with other savings from ACA and, if necessary, excise taxes on pharmaceutical company profits. This doubling may not be necessary going forward, but we're priming the pump.

(b) Under the ACA, those up to 250% of the poverty line are eligible for Medicaid coverage. Those people will remain covered. For those above 250% of the poverty line, people may purchase Medicaid coverage. The rate will be the average cost for covering per person, plus 10%. However, a person's (or family's) premium will be capped at 10% of their after-tax income.

(c) Six months after this program is enacted, much of the ACA (other than the expansion of Medicaid) ends. No more subsidies, no more required benefits, no more requirement to set premiums based on cost.

(d) Two requirements will be added to nationwide private health insurance policies. (1) Every plan must have a consumer-friendly clear-text description of exactly what is and isn't covered. (2) No more lifetime caps. Instead, insurance companies may specify a cap (cannot be less than one million dollars) which, when reached, increases the normal premium (up to an additional 100%).

(e) After a year, additional services will be added to Medicaid to cover missing aspects (dental care, eyeglasses, etc.)

It won't be a full check of single payer (no mandates so those temporarily healthy may not by in at all), but at least a check of "can the government provide good health care". So what do you say, Republicans, want to prove what you've claimed?

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It's time to federalize elections http://gadgetdon.com/article/1276916/It%27s+time+to+federalize+elections Wed, 25 Jan 2017 14:55:26 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/1276916/It%27s+time+to+federalize+elections OK, the Resident in the White House is all concerned about voter fraud because that special snowflake just couldn't have gotten fewer votes than Hillary, he just couldn't have!

Very well, time to federalize elections involving candidates for the US Government (President, Senator, House of Representatives) - and might as well have the state elections handled as well. Here's what I'd do.

(1) National ID card, done in a way that any citizen can get one. By that I mean, in every community, there will be opportunities to get the card without losing a day or two of wages, liberal proof needed to get one (basically, needs to be proven you aren't a citizen to be denied one, rather than you must prove you are a citizen to get one). Frankly, I'd do without it, but that's not going to fly so we need an ID done right in a way that isn't discriminatory.

(1a) The National ID card has a strip readable by a computer. You can vote anywhere and you will get your local ballot, at least for the federal offices. This system will make sure that the same card can't be used in multiple places. If someone moves, a simple system of changing their stored "home" location will be provided.

(1b) Should a holder of a National ID card later be determined not to be a legal voter, their card will be voided and no longer able to be used for voting.

(2) Every community gets enough voting places that nobody has to take a long trip to get to their voting place, enough that long lines aren't required. The polls will be open from Sunday at 6pm local time through Tuesday at 6pm local time. All voting at booths will be done with marked paper ballots which are electronically read and counted. The paper ballots must be preserved for 5 years after an election. Early voting will be provided at times appropriate to the communities served. Absentee voting will also be allowed.

(3) For the Presidency, electoral college votes will be distributed in this way: The person winning the most votes in the state gets two electors. Each congressional district is counted separately and the candidate getting the most votes in that district gets one elector.

(4) The US Geological Survey will be responsible for the drawing of all Congressional districts, to ensure that all districts are drawn without political bias. A set of standards will be drawn up and approved by a bipartisan commission, the USGS will apply those standards to draw the districts.

See? All possibility of voter fraud removed. And in the process we get fairer elections. Exactly what Trump and the Republicans want, right?

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Trump - time for some debates http://gadgetdon.com/article/1999040/Trump+-+time+for+some+debates Fri, 11 Nov 2016 08:56:27 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/1999040/Trump+-+time+for+some+debates One of the many concerns about Trump being President is his willfull ignorance. That won't do. He needs to learn a lot about a number of issues, and not just from his echo chamber. So here's an idea that won't happen, but would be good at any time of transition.

Hold some debates.

Pick issues where there are people who disagree. Climate Change, Fracking, Trade, whatever. Find the experts on both sides (and let the advocates of a side pick their experts and presenters) and hold debates. Each side gets 45 minutes to make their best case, uninterrupted by the other. No in-studio audience (but air it on the web and C-SPAN). Then, 15 minutes of back and forth discussion, asking questions of each other and letting the other side answer. A moderator only exists to keep time and stop overtalking. Each side also prepares a website with their presentation and additional data supporting it.

Even if the President-Elect ignores what he heard and goes with his echo chamber, there'd have been a chance for new information to seep in. And should the President-Elect choose to reverse course on a policy, he's got things to point to about WHY.

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I still support the Electoral College http://gadgetdon.com/article/6240962/I+still+support+the+Electoral+College Fri, 11 Nov 2016 08:46:12 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/6240962/I+still+support+the+Electoral+College As anyone who knows me in person or followed me on any social media site, I'm not happy with how the election turned out. (Better descriptions would be infuriated, appalled, and scared shitless.)  Since Hillary won the popular vote, many people are saying "Do away with the electoral college" and there's even an end-run being tried to effectively do away with it without the public debate and messiness of actually amending the constitution.

I disagree. I support the Electoral College. Not to say it can't be improved, but I think it's good for the country. Why?

(1) We are a geographically and economically diverse nation. It IS important that the rural states with their different needs than big population urban centers get listened to. Without the Electoral College, candidates will go where the people are, the big cities, and pay little to no attention of the rest.

(2) We are a very closely divided country on the right and the left. The differences in popular vote are always, as a porportion of the total vote, very small. Elections are like trials - their most important task is to render a decision, give some finality to the process so we can move on.

(3) We are unfortunately diverse in how we count votes, and there are errors in how they are counted. You know when pollsters talk, they give "bounds of error" meaning that they know their numbers are near reality but probably not exactly right. Well... vote counts are like that too. That's why we do recounts in close elections, and even those recounts are open to error. A standardized voting system would have real advantages (particularly one setting forth number of voting areas needed per capita, number of booths, etc.) though potentially be more subject to hanky panky - and in any case I don't see that happening soon. The times when the Electoral College "got it wrong" is when the popular vote difference was VERY small. Yes, I'd say within the bounds of error.

Here's my fear if the Electoral College was ended. Right now, the election is over. My side lost and a horribly wrong person was elected, but it's a fact. Now we make plans for how to deal with the next four years, how to put pressure on Trump to limit the damage he'll do. Without the electoral college, we'd see recounts and challenges and court cases until January. It wouldn't even matter if, within a district, if the election was close. Picking up a few thousand more votes is just as good in a district where your candidate won in a blowout as a tight district or where you lost in a blowout. No candidate would be able to start a transition plan. At some point the courts would have to step in and say "The election results stand as they are" and won't THAT be a popular decision for the losing side.

Again, I don't think the Electoral College is perfect. Every state gets one EC voter per congressional district plus two for the two senators. I think ending winner-take-all is a fine idea, instead have two votes go based on the state-wide popular vote and then have each district pick a EC vote.

But if we're going to get incised about how we do elections, I'm MUCH more interested in standardizing and fixing the way we do it.

First, any required ID has to be easy to get, whether you're a middle class person who has had a driver's license all his life and a birth certificate in a safe deposit box, or a poor person who has never had a driver's license, the birth certificate was lost in a fire or maybe your parents never got one and the DMV is two bus rides away meaning you have to take a day off work to get it.

Set standards for vote by mail, number of polling places per capita, early voting so EVERYONE has a chance to vote. And an idea to consider - make it a voting week, 7 days. In high population areas, consider 24/7 voting. Nobody should have to choose between voting and working. Nobody should have to spend hours in line to vote. Nobody should have to stand in a half-mile long line to vote. We're better than that.

Use a computerized national system to track any instance of double-voting. Make that a felony. It'll be a huge waste of money for a problem that doesn't exist, but if I can get the rest I'll throw the right a bone.

And... END GERRYMANDERING. Put every redistricting plan to a non-partisan commission with a judge having to approve them. Every congressional district needs to be poportional to the state's population, as geometrically even as possible, and where possible make the political and ethnic diversity within the districts match the state as a whole.

But DONALD, I hear some whine, that will cost money for the states who can't afford it. OK, make the feds pay it. Feds pay for it, Feds run it. Our elections are worth it.

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Two from Earth-2 - Macgyver and Lethal Weapon http://gadgetdon.com/article/6770220/Two+from+Earth-2+-+Macgyver+and+Lethal+Weapon Sat, 15 Oct 2016 14:39:03 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/6770220/Two+from+Earth-2+-+Macgyver+and+Lethal+Weapon There are two reboots this season. I like to think of reboots as the "Earth-2" version. (If you don't know, in the DC universe, there are multiple earths with slightly or significant differences of the heroes we know - and if you don't know, I'm curious why you find my stuff interesting.) Both of these shows have some of the same touchstones - but only one really gets the feel.

First, the good - Lethal Weapon. No, this show is not high thoughtful drama, but neither were the movies. They've created a new arc for the characters, but the same interplay, the same chemistry - and the same tendency for things to go horribly wrong resulting in car crashes, windows blown out, and usually an explosion. It's just for popcorn munching - FUN popcorn munching.

Then the bad - Macgyver. I really want to like this, and I haven't completely given up on it. The guy playing Macgyver, he's got the patter right, he shows the confidence when pulling off a Macgyver trick. But... Mistake #1 - he's got a team as opposed to Mac going into a situation alone. Mistake #2 - Mac hates guns, won't use them. In one episode of the old series, he got a gun and disassembled it to use the parts. Earth-2's Mac doesn't like guns either - but that's OK, one of his teammates is a young Jack Dalton who always carries multiple guns and uses them with abandon.

But biggest mistake - in the pilot his girlfriend is on the team, but things go wrong and she's shot - except whoops, she wasn't really, she was in on the plot and so Mac's got a tragic backstory and is looking to track her down. Wrong. Mac has a settled mind, usually, so sees the solutions no one else does, how to put things together no one else can. He's got some history that on rare ocassions arises - but it's the exception as opposed to the norm. The real Mac is a happy geek making things happen.

And yet... there are bits where they get it just right. When recruiting a hacker from jail, he describes his role as "That stuff you do with computers? I do it with everything else." So I'm still watching it. But the towel waiting to be thrown in.

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Just WTF does Trump think the Generals have been doing http://gadgetdon.com/article/1477552/Just+WTF+does+Trump+think+the+Generals+have+been+doing Thu, 08 Sep 2016 01:40:40 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/1477552/Just+WTF+does+Trump+think+the+Generals+have+been+doing OK, I have HAD it with Trump's stupidity.

"I'll ask the generals to give me a plan within 30 days to destroy ISIS." IDIOT! You think until the Great Snakeoil Salesman gives they order they haven't worked on plans to destroy ISIS????

Here's my guess what they'll say:

Sir, we do not need 30 days, we do not need 30 minutes, here are the plans that represent our best thinking.

Plan 1 - Invasion. Massive numbers of boots on the ground. We take all of the ISIS controlled territories. Casualties will be significant. One issue will be separating out the ISIS members, can't even say it's a combatants vs. non-combatants because there's also a civil war going on. We almost certainly will wind up in a fight with the Syrian forces, Assad would not stand for another army in his country. There will almost certainly be massive civilian casualties which will radicalize the survivors creating the next terrorist threat.

Plan 2 - Massive bombing runs. Flatten all ISIS controlled territories. The ordinance required will probably require manned bomber runs and so will have some casualties, though less than Plan 1. Massive civilian deaths, survivors and relatives radicalized and quite ready to inflict what damage they can do to us - and to be honest, if someone did that to our country trying to take out some group, I'd feel the same.

Plan 3 - What we're doing now. Targetted drone attacks on leaders, provide support for armies in the area, and work to negotiate a resolution for the revolution in Syria. It's not fast, but it's working, ISIS has been forced out of most of the territory they had held. Minimizes civilian deaths, because the armed forces are neighbors may be viewed less as an invasion force and any desires for revenge will focus on the countries supplying troups.

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On the nature of dictators http://gadgetdon.com/article/1091617/On+the+nature+of+dictators Thu, 04 Aug 2016 02:17:43 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/1091617/On+the+nature+of+dictators Was having a discussion with someone on Twitter about whether dictatorships were left or right and things got past the 140 character limit. So I'll put my arguments together here.

Dictatorships can be recognized by an assumption of absolute power. No opposition is allowed. The population only has what rights the ruling person/party allows (and usually can withdraw those "rights" as desired). But there are several paths to dictatorship in our modern world, and no, they aren't all leftist. (I'm leaving out more historical methods like conquering territory or hereditary kingships/emperors)

Communist Dictators

These gain power with a message that the common man gets a raw deal because the rich have all the money and own all the businesses and treat everyone else as serfs to be abused. Lenin and Mao are the best examples. Once given power, they have the ability to seize anything and parcel it out "for the common good" that tends to be for the rulers' good. No opposition is allowed because the Party is the worker's party so any other party would be against the workers. (Yeah right). These dictatorships are strong left wing. Under them, while the common man's condition may improve from prior conditions (if you were poor and don't offend The Party), only members of The Party will thrive. Absolute top-down economic plans just don't work.

Side note: not all leftists are working towards communism or a dictatorship. No, socialism is not a synonym for communism.

Strong Man Dictatorships

In these cases, the general populace feels put upon but rather than a primary economics argument, the dictator promises to protect the people. They'll bring "Law and Order". They'll make the country great again. Often, they'll also talk about rebuilding the military and make the country strong. There will often be a scapegoat to blame for the country's problems (Jews, Communists, whatever) and they promise to crack down on that group. Opposition parties are "discouraged" and eventually banned because Our Fearless Leader is the one who knows where our country must go so anyone challenging him wants to take the country in the wrong direction.

Once in power, these dictators often don't fiddle much with economics and those with property can keep it (unless you're a member of the scapegoated groups). Businesses may thrive under the new regime, so they support it's continued existence. And even the general populace may prosper (again, the general populace not in the scapegoated groups) and the dictator may be popular for quite a while. But eventually the despotic nature asserts itself, Lord Acton is proven right again, and they're set for revolution.

Under the normal classification of political philosophies, these dictators are right because they aren't trying to run the economy and support capitalism (within limits). Examples of strong man dictators include Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and Pinochet. (And yes, Hitler was a classic right-wing strong man dictator. The fact that he called his movement National Socialism has as much meaning as The Democratic Republic of Vietnam which was neither Democratic nor a Republic.

Religious Dictatorships

Or for a shorter word, theocracy. We must live under the rules of God as the ruling party believes them to be. No opposition is allowed because they want to take the country away from God. The economical system is dependent upon the religious belief system, though usually restricted capitalism will take place.

In modern times, these dictatorships are almost completely Muslim. But there have been Christian dictatorships (and there are those who speak as if they want to institute it here.

Is Israel a religious dictatorship? I don't believe so, because while it does identify as a Jewish State and many laws clearly favor jews (particularly orthodox jews), one can be a citizen in good standing and yet be in a member of another religion.

In theory, theocracies are neither inherently left or right. They are almost always the more conservative wing of the religion, but that's not the same as economic conservatism.

After the revolution

Once a dictatorship is in firm control, they do start to resemble each other. Whatever the initial justification for seizing power, holding onto that power becomes the top priority. Informers, harsh punishment for those who threaten the state, etc. The early ideals (if they were ideals as opposed to just political points) become less important than staying in power. As Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt and abbsolute power corrupts absolutely."

 

 

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Three Good Trailers from SDCC http://gadgetdon.com/article/8882879/Three+Good+Trailers+from+SDCC Tue, 02 Aug 2016 14:23:54 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/8882879/Three+Good+Trailers+from+SDCC As the three regular readers of my blog know, I was at San Diego Comic Con last year. Probably won't go back, I knew going in that I dislike crowds and long lines and learned I really hate crowds and long lines. But it does have some of the geekiest stuff released there. A bunch of trailers came out this weekend:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This is my "Must See" movie of the year. It's in the Harry Potter Universe, but placed several years ahead of the stories in the books and has a plotline completely separate from the books. First, I'm a big Harry Potter fan, love the world she created. Love the books but thought the films suffered a bit, because they just couldn't put all that stuff in the movies. J.K. Rowling wrote this screenplay, so it's designed for the screen. It's part one of a trilogy and looks like a lot of fun.

Justice League

I've been REALLY skeptical of this movie. I hated Man of Steel and didn't like Batman v. Superman much more. So the news of building into a Justice League movie sounded bad. But... this trailer gives me hope. It's not nearly as dark as the first two, either in the color scheme or in tone. And yet they're clearly preparing for an epic fight. And yes, Aquaman is a badass as the King of the 7 Seas should be. It's just a trailer so plenty of time to mess it up, but there's some hope.

Wonder Woman

Similarly, as part of the fruit of the poisoned tree of Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, I've been skeptical but the buzz has said that this would set its own tone. This trailer sets that. I'm loving that the Amazons are WARRIORS. Yes, they go into war in completely inappropriate garb, but it's a comic book. As for Wonder Woman herself, I like the way the costume works in action. And the shield standing up to the rifle shots, great. (Probably made of vibranium) I hope the glow on the magic lasso gets toned down a bit as they finish production, but other than that, look and feel is spot on.

And it also does have it's lighter side. Etta Candy was always good for a laugh and it's now a laugh with some snap. Steve Trevor is properly confused and off his game dealing with the Amazon Princess.

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Gun Control - taking shit seriously http://gadgetdon.com/article/6601251/Gun+Control+-+taking+shit+seriously Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:26:17 -0700 http://gadgetdon.com/article/6601251/Gun+Control+-+taking+shit+seriously OK, it's time for some serious gun control. Here's my plan. No, the NRA won't like it. This is a feature, not a bug.

Definitions

For the purpose of this act, a gun is defined as any weapon that fires projectiles at high speed with the potential to kill. This includes handguns, rifles, semi-automatics, etc.

Regulation of sales

#1 Anyone who sells more than one gun in a year (other than to a registered and licensed gun seller) must be registered and licensed as a gun seller. An unlicensed seller can only sell a gun owned for over a year. Licensed gun sellers must be licensed by the federal government and the state government. ANY infraction of laws concerning gun sales will result in a permanent loss of the license to sell guns. As part of the licensing, a gun seller must post a bond which will be forfeit if the license is revoked for cause.

#1a A gun sold by a non-registered gun seller must have been owned for one year. The seller is responsible for ensurring that the new owner register the gun to avoid the implications of Section 5.

#2 A registered and licensed gun seller must submit a potential buyer to a full and complete investigation. This will explore (a) criminal convictions, (b) mental health issues, (c) restraining orders, (d) recent passage of gun safety program, (e) inclusion in the terrorist watch list, (f) whether a gun has been purchased in the past 60 days. This investigation may take up to two months.

#3 Any individual can only purchase one guy every 60 days. Exceptions will be made for registered gun clubs, security companies, or other organizations as set forth by Congress.

#4 Anyone purchasing a gun or getting a carry license must have taken an approved gun safety course. This course will include graphic depictions of the victims of gun violence, safety issues, the law, and passing a “shoot/don’t shoot” simulation (the simulation can be done on a computer). A 51% score will be considered passing to purchase a gun, a 95% score will be considered passing to get a carry license.

#4a Every gun will be sold with a locked case. The code for the case will be sent to the owner 12 hours after the purchase, by SMS message, email, or paper mail.

Responsibility of gun ownership

#5 If a gun owned by a person is used to kill or seriously wound someone else in any situation other than self-defense, the gun owner is subject to negligent homicide charges. This includes the gun being stolen, a child finding the gun and accidentally killing someone, suicide by other than the owner, other accidental shots, etc. If the owner is a corporation, the president of the company will be subject to those charges. Exceptions can be made for on-site use at gun clubs or training organizations provided the person shot had signed a waiver.

#5a All guns must be registered with the weapon type, serial number, picture, owner name, address, social security number.

Carry restrictions

#6 Within the boundaries of a city with a population over (size to be determined), all guns taken out of the owner’s property must be carried within a locked gun safe. Anyone caught with an unlocked gun will have that gun seized and be arrested for 30 days. Individuals can apply for a license to carry up to two handguns. Applications must include reason for carrying the gun, passage of a gun safety course with a 95% score within the past six months. Any carry license shall be suspended while under a restraining order, and for one year after hospitalization for mental issues. States and/or cities can add additional requirements for receiving the license. In 2020, these carried guns must be equipped with smart technology ensuring that only the owner can operate the gun.

#6a Members of security organizations can issue more powerful weapons to members on duty. These guns must be collected from security officers at the end of shift. The responsibilities and penalties of Section 5 still apply.

#7 Outside of the the cities listed in #6 - Any state, county, municipality, or property owner can demand that the same limitations on carrying be upheld. Clear signs must be posted telling gun owners of this fact, unclear signage can be used as a defense. Additionally, property owners can ban the carrying of guns even with license. Again, clear signage is required.

#8 No limitation is placed on guns kept on the owner’s property. Those who feel the need to build a large collection of weapons for hunting or protection or other reasons may do so, albeit very slowly. However, the penalties of Section 5 would apply even on the gun owner's private property.

Implementation

#9 In the first six months of this act, gun owners may turn in their guns for a tax deduction equal to the market value of the gun prior to the passing of this act. These guns must be turned into a recognized law enforcement agency that must ensure the destruction of the weapons. Any guns turned in that were not destroyed and used under circumstances listed in #5 will subject the leader of the law enforcement agency to the penalties listed therein. Guns not turned in or sold to a licensed gun seller must either be registered within these six months or be made permanently inoperative.

#10 In the first twelve months of this act, the license requirement is waived under Section 6 (though restriction on weapon types still applies).

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My proposed debate format http://gadgetdon.com/article/4493939/My+proposed+debate+format Sun, 28 Feb 2016 06:52:02 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/4493939/My+proposed+debate+format (1) The candidates are put in soundproof booths. They can hear all that goes on, but the mic is controlled

(2) Only one candidate's mic is live at a time. A candidate can signal the moderators that he or she would like to respond to something.

(3) When a candidate starts throwing around insults, or saying something known to be false, the microphone is shut off.

(4) If the microphone has to be shut off three times, the booth is lowered from the stage and the debate continues without that candidate.

(5) Any candidate refusing to participate will be the subject of at least 5 prime-time television ads describing them as a coward who apparently doesn't have the self-control to think they'll be able to handle the debate format.

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Are you for America or not? http://gadgetdon.com/article/7042269/Are+you+for+America+or+not%3F Thu, 25 Feb 2016 09:01:26 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/7042269/Are+you+for+America+or+not%3F I've been arguing in various forums the pro-rights side with regards to the Apple vs. FBI disagreement. Someone responded with "It's Principle. Are you for America or not?"

Here's my reply:

Oh yeah. "Are you now, or have you ever been a communist" "America, Love it Or Leave It" - Sonny, I'm 56 years old and I've seen that felgercarb thrown around time and time again by people who don't have an actual argument but hope they can scare people into supporting them.

Oh, and yes, I am for America. A country founded on the idea that citizens are not serfs or the property of the state, but free individuals with inalienable rights. Some of those rights are listed in the Bill of Rights, but as the Bill of Rights itself points out, it is not an enumeration of the rights of the citizens but a few called out for special concern.

Privacy is key to those rights. Self-determination is also at the core. The FBI is asking the court to take away the self-determination of those at Apple to create the code they choose to build reflecting the values of Apple and its employees and instead create a tool that Apple considers immoral and dangerous, one that endangers the privacy of every Apple customer - and insists that Apple give it their approval by digitally signing it.

I say NO! NO! This is America. This is a land of rights. This is wrong.

Does that mean some bad guys may escape justice, even very very bad guys? Perhaps (though it should be a message to the FBI to pursue other leads, which they are doing). But we have many protections for individuals that sometimes let bad guys escape justice. We don't let the police beat confessions out of people. We let people talk to lawyers, doctors, and priests and have those conversations beyond the reach of the law. We allow companies to sell and individuals to buy paper shredders. We do this because the horrific acts of bad people, even terrorist attacks like San Bernadino or even 9/11, do not change who are unless we let it. We remain America after attacked. But if we turn our back on our heritage and our fierce determination to protect our liberty, we would no longer be America.

It's principle. Are you for America or not?

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It's not a great night for Trump http://gadgetdon.com/article/5096457/It%27s+not+a+great+night+for+Trump Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:06:55 -0800 http://gadgetdon.com/article/5096457/It%27s+not+a+great+night+for+Trump First, yes, it's a good night for Trump - any win is a good night. But I don't think it is as great as it seems.

This is a weird year. Normally, after Iowa, a third to half of the field is ready to fold their tents. Then New Hampshire puts the final nail in the coffins of the weaker candidates, we're down to two or three candidates with potential and maybe another dead man walking. I was sure that was what would happen after Iowa, but after tonight's result, there are five or six candidates who still see a chance - only Carson and Fiorina are clearly out of it. (And even they might see a reason to keep going.)

But eventually the winnowing will happen. We'll be down to two or three candidates. And those supporting the candidates leaving the race will switch to other candidates. And with the possible exception of Carson - I don't see any non-Trump candidate whose followers would gravitate to Trump.

If the winnowing happens in time. South Carolina will be like New Hampshire, Trump won't get close to 50% but the other candidates will split the non-Trump vote and so it will look like a significant win. The important date is March 15th - primaries after that date are "winner takes all" so even a 33% win gets all delegates.

 

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