Dumb Struck
Dumb Struck

Are We There Yet?

Blog From
July 24th, 2018

Passengers in cars that are on very long road trips often tire of the journey. A familiar question, especially from the backseat brigade, is, “Are we there yet?”

Normal Americans who have been made to suffer through the long, drawn-out Mueller meanderings are asking the same question. The point of that trip is to determine whether the President, or someone from his team, colluded with the Russians to defeat Hillary in 2016. Mueller should have reached that destination a while ago. After all, it’s not a long road.

Instead, he’s still out on the highways and mostly byways tooling around. He’s taken a lot of detours, found himself staring at dead ends, hit a few potholes and seems no closer to the destination.

But, the fact of the matter is he passed it by. He didn’t recognize the destination, of course, because it’s not in his expected location. It isn’t here. It isn’t there. It’s nowhere. Out in nowhere there is no evidence of collusion, no President to blame, no historic headlines to grab. By now, Mueller should have realized that he missed the turn.

There’s a bit of speculation about Mueller’s failure stop where the road sign indicated. After all, the end has been there from the beginning.

Perhaps he missed the sign because his sojourn was mapped out so poorly. The topography was heavily influenced by that pesky FISA warrant which relied, in no small measure, on Hillary’s political smear job known as the Steele Dossier. The road signs it laid out were all pointing in the wrong direction. The sojourn never got on the right track.

So, are we there yet? We are, but Mueller is still driving around, now in the gathering darkness, with his maps upside down and little chance of finding his way. The rest of us should just go home. We’re seen this ending before.

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Dumb Struck

The Immigration Mess: The Audacity of Audacity

Blog From
May 17th, 2014

LFU_DumbStruck_Smash_vFIn 2001, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001), a seminal ruling on immigrant deportation. A five-justice majority held that those under deportation order could be detained in custody only for a limited time before being either deported or released. The decision applies to “aliens” in the U.S. both legally and illegally and whether criminal offenders or not.


The Zadvydas Court applied due process rights to all immigrants inside the U.S., whether here legally or illegally. Due process requires that after deportation orders have issued continued detention must be reasonably necessary to effect deportation. If deportation is not reasonably foreseeable, detention cannot continue. The Court found that six months is a presumptively reasonable “removal” period, which could be extended if justified by the facts of a particular case.


An example of an unreasonable detention is the case where there is no repatriation agreement with the country of citizenship. Another example is the case where the country of claimed citizenship denies the fact of citizenship. Finally, the Court ruled that release of an immigrant under deportation order may be conditioned on supervision such as monitoring or other methods.


Fast-forward twelve years to 2013. In that year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released over 36,000 immigrants from detention while waiting for the outcome of deportation hearings. No orders had issued. According to ICE statistics, the 36,000 had amassed almost 88,000 convictions including more than 28,000 from driving under the influence to homicide.


ICE is the principal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security or, as some call it, the strong arm of DHS. As the strong arm, ICE should be able to respond honestly that the release report was in error. But, apparently, it cannot because it responded, instead, that the releases were mandated by the Zadvydas case.


ICE further stated that, in some (unspecified) instances, the releases included supervision such as GPS monitoring, telephone monitoring (the released call in) or bond. The percentage of those supervised was not given.


The common sense deconstruction of Zadvydas will have to wait another day because ICE is using it incorrectly. Unlike the facts of that case, the released 36,000 were not under deportation order. They were waiting for the outcome of deportation hearings. Zadvydas does not apply to the pre-deportation order stage. The Court there was interpreting a federal statue dealing with the period after deportation is ordered. The justices in the majority inferred the limited removal period in its reading of the statute.


Apparently, ICE prefers to release even violent offenders back into U.S. society rather than deporting them after orders are issued. Instead of being the DHS enforcement arm, it seems more like the helping hand of immigrants who threaten the safety of U.S. citizens.


Meanwhile, on March 31 of this year, a former U.S. Marine was incarcerated in a Mexican jail on alleged weapons charges. In San Diego for PTSD treatment, he mistakenly drove into Mexico with three guns in his truck. While Mexican authorities were searching his vehicle, the American called 911 for help. The 911 operator declined as he was already in Mexico under Mexican detention. He is still waiting for his first court appearance.


Too bad for him that he isn’t a Mexican caught inside the U.S. with three guns. Under the Interior Repatriation Initiative, the U.S. would put him on a plane bound for Mexico City and pay for his ticket. Mexican authorities would then fly him the rest of the way to his hometown. But, he isn’t that lucky.


The Interior Repatriation Initiative was a pilot program begun in 2012. It was created, at least in part, in response to complaints from Mexican border towns about deported criminals being released into their cities. The Program became permanent in 2013, the same year that the 36,000 were released back into U.S. cities and towns.


Isn’t that great. Mexican border towns have more pull with DHS than communities in the U.S. By all means, let’s pay to keep them safe while letting our own citizens fend for themselves against known violent offenders.


It doesn’t get more audacious than that. We’re all simply dumbstruck.

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Dumb Struck

The ACA Con: Livin’ La Vida Loca

Blog From
February 9th, 2014

LFU_DumbStruck_Smash_vFIn 1999, Livin’ La Vida Loca sent singer Ricky Martin to the top of the pop charts. The song was about a young guy seduced by a woman who makes him forget his troubles and live for the moment. Fifteen years later it is the perfect theme song of the ACA Con with its seductive message of the crazy life on your neighbor’s dime. But, will it send the Affordable Care Act to the top of voter polls?


At this moment, it doesn’t look likely. There’s been a lot of negative fall out swirling around the President’s signature legislation. It came first from the website, then from Obama’s implementation delays and finally from the ugly reality of the law’s impact on most people’s lives. Not only are doctors, hospitals and policies lost. But, the cost of the law is not borne by the “rich”. It is shouldered by the upper 80% of those getting a pay check.


The 21% – 50% income range is not usually described as “upper”. People who fall into that category should be ecstatic about finding themselves on a higher rung on the American dream ladder. This happy circumstance will doubtless be showcased in ACA promotionals very, very soon.


But in the here and now, it seems that every week, if not more often, another Obamacare bomb blows up. Just last week, people were up in arms over the law’s encouragement to stop working. They were even more upset about the Dems hallelujah chorus of approval.


But, the endorsement is not new. In March 2010, even before the law passed, that verse of the ACA Con was in full throat. Then Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, made the same stop-working argument in favor of Obamacare. Her spiel of going on the dole was as seductive as Madam Speaker could make it:


“Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance or that people could start a business and be entrepreneurial and take risk, but not job loss because of a child with asthma or someone in the family is bipolar—you name it, any condition—is job locking.”


That politicians don’t miss a beat in spinning obviously harmful laws to their own advantage is not the most surprising outcome of ACA’s anti-work bias. The most surprising thing, stunning really, is that able-bodied, employed people will actually choose to live on their neighbors’ income. Hardly the spirit that settled the West or any place else except on the couch.


Among those with no apparent problem with the idea are the Millenials. Those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s have been shaped both by the Great Recession’s depravations and commonplace displays of opulence. These opposite ends of the spectrum send a single message – being supported by others, whether the government or parents, is one of life’s natural accommodations. It’s hardly surprising that they are described as confident, upbeat, liberal and receptive to new ideas and ways of living.


On Friday one of their number was on TV celebrating the prospect of taking from others while searching for something to be “passionate” about. Hopefully, it will be a job, but the jury is still out. Meanwhile, there’s a Get To Work poster that’s been around for quite a while. It admonishes, “You aren’t being paid to believe in the power of your dreams.” That sentiment is definitely losing traction in some quarters. 


Champions of the crazy life chat up a companion argument that claims the jobless provide an economic advantage. This pitch has been around at least as long as Pelosi’s life-of-an-artist patter. Back in July 2010, the Speaker asserted that benefits paid to the unemployed are “one of the biggest stimuluses (sic) to our economy.”


That statement may be true in a parallel universe, although probably not, but it’s definitely untrue in this one. The unemployed spend their money on necessities not on investments in industries that build genuine economic power such as technology, energy innovation, construction or manufacturing. And, whether calculated directly and/or indirectly, they contribute very little to the Federal revenue stream that funds scientific advances.


To put it succinctly, eating more Big Macs didn’t get us to the Moon. Although, to be fair, the Big Mac was introduced nation-wide in 1968, the year preceding the first lunar landing. But you get the point.


There’s one other thing. If unemployment benies were such a boon to the economy we’d all quit working and create a huge economic surge. Of course, there wouldn’t be anyone flipping burgers any longer so we’d just sit around gambling away our benefits checks to kill time. La vida muy loca.

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Dumb Struck

Income Inequality And Other Vacuous Notions

Blog From
January 6th, 2014

LFU_DumbStruck_Smash_vFCritics of income disparity, wider now than at any time since 1928, most often decry it in moral terms. Both the poor and the rich are said to be “undeserving” – the poor of their less than modest circumstances and the rich of their opulence. We’re told that the poor deserve – are entitled, have the right – not to be poor. The rich remain merely undeserving – not worthy – of their lavish existence. They have no entitlement.

Income disparity is also called income “inequality”. Equality and inequality are legal terms of art. The latter has also become, thanks to our disgraceful history of race discrimination, one of the great emotional trigger words in the national conscience. It is a much more damning indictment than mere entitlement denied or riches unwarranted.

When politicians use the word inequality they mean it to be a showstopper, an argument ender, a crushing blow to the opposition. No supporting rationale is required. Clichés, such as, “the decent thing to do”, are justification enough. No thought need be given to contrary positions. All minds should be focused, instead, on remediating the unfairness at hand, which, of course, means government intervention and control.

This tact works too often. After all, who wants to waive the rah-rah flag for indecency? Income inequality decision points become the definition of “poor” and “rich” and how to balance the scale. What amount of money must be transferred from the latter to the former to create equality? Is the goal actually income equality? What about simply the rule of communism – from each according to his ability to each according to his needs?

Hold it right there. The trigger strategy, befogging as it is, should fail even in the absence of thought because there is no such thing as income inequality. Why? There’s no such thing as entitlement to a specific income level. The entitlement is to the opportunity to earn more than you have. But nothing gives you the right to take from someone else because he or she has it and you don’t.

Consider the consequences of applying the income equality thesis in other contexts. Take vacations. The President and his family probably enjoy more luxury vacations than any other family on earth. Several have been to the Hawaiian Islands. If Obama were truly concerned about equal circumstances, he would stay with his half-sister while in paradise. After all, bunking with relatives is what us poorer people do. But, he prefers to luxuriate in richer environments. Not exactly the equality he has in mind for the rest of us.

How about shoe inequality? Most likely, Michelle Obama has more shoes and more expensive shoes than the bulk of people on the planet. One thing is for sure. She doesn’t seem too concerned about the unequal shoe plight of the poor.  After all, she did wear those $540 “tennis” shoes to a soup kitchen. And she kept that pricey footwear on her own two feet. No sharing there.

In fairness, perhaps the First Lady was going for a conspicuous show of wealth to demonstrate income inequality more clearly. We know how impactful visual aides can be, especially of stark contrasts.

Then there’s weight inequality. Skinny people are so unfair. Shall we make them obese like a growing number of the rest of us? How about taxing them instead? The tax thing works on three levels. First, it’s a natural for the government.

Second, the skinny make the fat feel badly about themselves and that’s no good. Fat we can have but not negative self-images. So, here’s the skinny – punish them. Third, because fat people are the heaviest burden on the healthcare system, we need all the revenue sources we can get to support the cost.

What’s the solution to intelligence inequality? With healthcare resources and costs being what they are, lobotomies for the smarties among us are out. Perhaps this inequality will be resolved as in the 2006 movie, Idiocracy. Intelligence will simply be bred out of the human species. We seem to have a good start on that right now.

That opportunity to succeed is more readily available to some than it is to others is a fact. But, it is also a fact that some people are taller, healthier, faster, stronger, quicker, brighter and just plain more talented than others. Good for them. They can succeed easier than their peers in many walks of life.

The rest of us simply have to be more motivated and work harder in the pursuit of success, however we define that term. If we aren’t willing to do that, someone else’s money won’t matter.

Posted in Dumb Struck