Archive for August, 2023

Another Real Crime Problem

Recently, with all the publicity surrounding the charges against Donald Trump, there’s been a great deal of commentary on a “two-tiered” system of justice, where those with fame and money are treated far differently that those without either. That’s indisputable. It’s also always been the case – anywhere in the world.

What seems to get overlooked is just how long it takes for so many criminal cases even to get to trial. Recently, a CBS News investigation uncovered a massive backlog of court cases. Data from courts and district attorneys’ offices in more than a dozen major American cities showed that “pending” criminal cases jumped from 383,879 in 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, to 546,727 in 2021. In California, New York, Florida and Michigan, the number of “pending” cases in 2021 totaled nearly 1.3 million.

The indictments against former President Donald Trump join a major backlog of cases, since Trump’s case in the D.C. federal district court is just one of the more than 6,000 pending criminal cases there. Trump may be the best known, but he’s far from the first defendant charged in connection with crimes related to the 2020 election. More than 1,069 people have been charged with crimes related to Jan. 6, which the indictment says Trump’s actions helped fuel.

But this isn’t just a Washington, D.C., problem. In one Georgia case, a man charged in a shooting spent ten years in pre-trial detention, finally had his case heard, with the result that the jury couldn’t reach a verdict, leaving the defendant facing another trial. Even in Utah, the current case backlog in just the state courts is over 10,000 cases.

In many cases, defendants spend more time in pre-trial detention than they potentially could serve if convicted. Is it any wonder that some innocent (usually minority) defendants who are unable to make bail “plead out”, rather than spend months in detention before trial? It’s also why many who are convicted get “credit” for time already served.

But whether it’s Trump or someone we’ve never heard of, waiting months, or even years, to even get to trial is a disgrace… and suggests that our justice system is anything but just, since the poorest are the ones most penalized by such seemingly endless waiting – except in the case of Trump, where he hopes waiting will allow him to escape justice.


The ultra-conservatives and many in the right wing of Republican party tout all sorts of conspiracies, including 9/11 being a clandestine government operation, the “liberal” deep state (with various acts purportedly associated), the “stealing” of the 2020 election,” that the January 6th insurrection was an antifa operation, that liberals, including Hillary Clinton, ran a child porn operation, and that Joe Biden is the head of a family crime ring.

There are, however, significant problems with all these purported conspiracies, principally that not a shred of hard provable evidence exists to back up any of them, despite years and years of trying to find any hard evidence — and this is in a country that can’t keep anything secret for long and where cellphone photos are everywhere.,

Yet, despite the lack of hard evidence beyond unprovable rumors and repeated lies, the true believers in all these “conspiracies” persevere in their beliefs.

What’s so amazing about all of them is that they ignore the biggest conspiracy of all – that Donald Trump conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election. So far, Trump has been indicted and arrested on ninety-one criminal counts in four separate jurisdictions so far, on both state and federal charges. He’s currently out on bail, awaiting all those trials.

And there’s plenty of evidence, unlike in all the Republican conspiracy theories. We have Trump being recorded asking an election official to find him over 11,800 votes, and his attorneys documented as fabricating false slates of electors. There’s video and documentary of him retaining classified information, as well as paying hush money to a porn star not to reveal their sexual encounters.

And, oh yes, Trump’s even lost a civil case involving his sexual assault on a woman.

None of this is speculation. There are thousands of pages of documentation, as well as hundreds of video images.

Yet the right-wing conspiracy types not only insist that Trump didn’t nothing wrong, but they’ve gone so far as buying mug-shot mugs and donating even more millions of dollars to Trump.

All the evidence in the world won’t change their support of Trump, not surprisingly, since, where Trump’s concerned, those who actually have minds lost them long ago.

The Problems with the Illusion of “Instant Gratification”

From even before the founding of the United States, Americans, in general, have been an impatient lot, and technology has made us even more impatient. With the arrival of cellphones, Amazon, and the internet, more and more people want what they want now, regardless of reality.

My wife, the music professor, encounters this all the time, with students who just want to Google an answer or who want to sing better instantly. They don’t want to hear that learning how to work out the answer develops skills that they need. Nor do they understand that it takes time to train muscles to produce the best singing, or to learn music – because, whether in a musical or in opera, you can’t Google the music while you’re on stage.

But the problems of wanting instant results also bleed into other areas. A few years ago, if you had the money – or the financing – you could go to a car dealer or other sources and get a car of your choice, or close to it, in days, if not hours. Now, depending on the make and model, people may have to wait months. Assembling parts and systems to produce a car takes most manufacturers around two workdays, but what gets overlooked is that the average car consists of around 30,000 parts, which come from different sources, and all of those parts take time to manufacture and ship to the assembly plant, and after assembly, the finished car has to be transported to a dealer. But until COVID disrupted the supply of certain critical computer chips, very few people understood or cared how long the entire process for building a car took. They just paid their money or financing and got a vehicle quickly.

Most products – even produce – get to the end consumer in a similar fashion, and most consumers don’t give the slightest thought to the process, or to the fact that nothing of value is produced instantly, even information on the internet.

The problem arises when there are glitches in the system… or when the system can’t produce the desired results. But the present system is relatively recent, especially historically.

I’m old enough to remember when the only items most people bought on credit were homes and cars. I didn’t even get a credit card until several years after I graduated from college, and in those times, it was difficult for women to get credit cards in their own names. Most people could only get what they could pay for in cash or check, and often you had to save for a time to afford large purchases.

Credit cards and then the internet changed all that, and, curmudgeon that I am, I’m not so sure that the instant credit and purchase system serves most people all that well, especially given the massive growth in personal debt and the seemingly ever-growing anger when instant gratification is denied.

Viewpoints and Knowledge

As with many, if not most, of my books, the “reviewer” reviews of Contrarian include those reviewers who often review me but didn’t, to those who didn’t like the book very much, to those who liked it, and those who liked it very much.

As some readers may know, more than thirty years ago, after having published eight novels and nine short stories, all science fiction, over the previous seventeen years, I took on a new challenge, that of writing a fantasy novel with at least semi-realistic economics and politics, and a logical and internally consistent magic system integrated within the economics and politics of that world. That novel was, of course, The Magic of Recluce.

At that time (1989), there were few fantasy novels that even attempted the goals I set out. And then, and even today, many readers were looking for escapism unconstrained by reality. In either arrogance or naivete, if not both, I thought it was possible to write a fantasy novel with realistic people, economics, politics, and logical magic that some readers would buy and enjoy, and I think it’s fair to say that I’ve done so repeatedly, or at least come close.

But along the way, I’ve come to realize that many of the readers and even some professional reviewers who reject more “realistic” fantasies don’t reject them because they’re realistic, but because they don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, certain aspects of the real world.

That’s why one reviewer of the Grand Illusion books can term them taut political thrillers while another rejects them as boring and unrealistic, why one person smiles knowingly when reading about a seemingly boring vote on agricultural subsidies or “incidental” appropriations and another puts down the book.

In the end, how interesting and exciting a book is – or isn’t – depends not just on the author, but also what the reader brings to the book… or doesn’t.

The Problem With “Now”

People are angry, and they’re unhappy with the state of the economy. So they blame the current President. That’s not only unfair; it’s also stupid.

The current state of the economy is largely determined by events in the past. Most of the inflation we’ve suffered in the past two years was rooted in decisions and actions that occurred in the Trump Administration, but people blame Biden because they’re hurting now.

This is hardly new. George Bush senior made unpopular tax increases, but those tax increases were beneficial. Unhappily for him, they took effect in the Clinton Administration and boosted Clinton, not Bush.

But the internet and instant everything has made people even more impatient. When people can order something online and get it in days, if not sooner, they tend to think everything can be done quickly, not even considering that they’re ordering something that was already manufactured.

Biden pushed through the inflation reduction and the infrastructure act over a year ago. With the time that it takes to determine what projects can be done, to let the contracts, finalize the plans, get the permits, and assemble the right workforce, any project takes time, and most of those projects are just beginning. They’re barely breaking ground on the first of the new computer manufacturing facilities.

This also isn’t new. At the beginning of WW II, it took time to change auto plants into aircraft factories… and then there was a recession when the auto plants had to retool back to producing automobiles.

But the “I want it now” mentality, unfortunately, isn’t just limited to politics and industry. It’s pervaded everything.

I’m astounded at the number of automobile accidents, many of them fatal, caused just in southwest Utah by drivers speeding through yellow and red lights or not even stopping at stop signs. That doesn’t include those caused by speeding – and I mean really speeding, like at 100 mph. All of which are caused by impatience and the “I want it now” mentality.

Some people want environmental improvement now. Others don’t think the environmental conditions aren’t that bad. Both types fail to understand, or accept, that decades of using fossil fuels and greenhouse gases can’t be undone any time soon, and possibly not at all, given human nature.

Some people on Maui are already getting impatient at the “slowness” of disaster relief and the lack of housing for those whose homes burned, while “property sharks” are trying to gobble up burned-out properties even before authorities and families have sorted out who’s dead or missing, but Maui is an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and all the necessary goods, tools, and personnel have to be flown or shipped in. That takes time.

Some Americans are now getting impatient that Ukraine hasn’t been more effective against Russia, apparently without considering that Ukraine has stalled one of the largest military forces in the world, and without having adequate airpower. And these impatient Americans are wondering why the U.S. can’t get the F-16s to Ukraine quicker. These folks don’t seem to realize that it takes the U.S. a good nine months to train a pilot in the F-16. U.S. military experts have consistently made the point that it will take 4-6 months to adequately train a Ukrainian pilot already proficient in flying a MIG 29 – and that’s if the pilot’s fluent in English. Compressing that training much will just result in dead pilots and lost aircraft.

Lots of times, you just can’t have it now, but too many Americans can’t or won’t understand, and then they blame whoever’s in charge, even when it’s not the fault of who’s currently in charge.

Salt Lake Signing

Friday, August 18, 2023
From 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at

Marissa’s Books
3302 South 900 East
Millcreek, Utah 84106


Another Rich Myth

For more than fifty years, the Republicans have been preaching that tax cuts, especially for the wealthiest Americans, are good for the country. Yet years of research all across the world show that tax cuts, possibly except when the marginal tax rate is above 70%, actually hurt the poor and the middle class, while benefiting the rich.

A recent report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also rejects the trickle-down theory and states that “increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20% results in lower growth—that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down.”

Why? Because the expenditures of middle- to-low-income sectors are the drivers of the economy, and increasing the incomes of low-income earners increases gross domestic product (GDP), while increasing the income of the top 20% of high-income earners decreases GDP.

Not surprisingly, U.S. tax cuts over the last thirty-five years have resulted in almost no increase in real income for typical working families in the U.S., while the wealthiest one percent of Americans became $29 trillion richer, and more and more assets flowed into Wall Street and the financial community.

A study from the London School of Economics says 50 years of such tax cuts have only helped one group — the rich. The study compared countries that passed tax cuts in a specific year, such as the U.S. in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes on the wealthy, with those that didn’t, and then examined their economic outcomes. The incomes of the rich grew much faster in countries where tax rates were lowered, but that “prosperity” didn’t even trickle down to the middle class, let alone to the working poor.

Research from two prominent economists, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California, published in 2019 shows that for the first time in a century, the 400 richest American families paid lower taxes in 2018 than people in the middle class. Even before the pandemic, income inequality had reached its highest point in 50 years, according to Census data.

And since the pandemic began, the combined wealth of America’s 651 billionaires has jumped by more than 25%, that growth exceeding $1 trillion, according to Americans for Tax Fairness.

Yet while we’re still not catching up on collapsing bridges, highways, and other infrastructure, or the medical needs of veterans, and quite a few other needs, America’s billionaires are doing just fine, and the GOP is pushing more tax cuts for the wealthy and benefit cuts for the working poor and increasing deficit spending as well to finance those tax cuts – while blaming it on the Democrats.

What’s more… most people seem to believe the GOP about tax cuts and have for fifty years, despite all the research findings to the contrary.

Impeachment Hypocrisy? Again?

House Republicans are pursuing an impeachment “inquiry” against President Biden, largely on the grounds that his son, Hunter Biden, cashed in on his father’s name. While millions of dollars were paid by foreign entities to Hunter Biden and others while Joe Biden was vice-president, so far, the House Republican Oversight Committee has found no financial links to President Biden.

House Republican Oversight Committee Chair James Comer insists that payments to family members to corruptly influence others can constitute a bribe.

There are several problems with this. First, there’s no evidence Joe Biden benefitted. Second, there’s no evidence that he was influenced to do something. Third, Washington, D.C., is flooded with family members cashing in on elected officials’ positions, and that’s been the case for generations on all sides of the aisle.

But what’s even more hypocritical is that the House Republican Oversight Committee is ignoring even more obvious and blatant examples of corruption in Republican appointees to the Supreme Court.

Over the last twenty years, Clarence Thomas accepted from wealthy individuals at least 38 vacations, 26 private jet flights, eight flights by helicopter, a dozen VIP passes to sporting events, as well as stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica. In addition, Harlan Crow, a Texas billionaire, not only paid for many of Thomas’ vacations, but also his mother’s house and a nephew’s tuition payments. Wayne Huizenga, another billionaire, provided cost-free flights on his personal jet to Thomas.

Justice Samuel Alito went on a fishing trip to Alaska with hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, a Republican donor with cases before the Supreme Court. Alito traveled to the remote Alaska site on Singer’s private jet, along with Leonard Leo, a longtime leader of the conservative Federalist Society. And the salmon fishing lodge that they all stayed at was owned at the time by another big Republican donor, Robin Arkley II, who footed the bill for Alito’s lodging. Alito did not subsequently recuse himself from a case involving Singer’s legal interests before the court.

Neither justice disclosed any of this.

Justice Neil Gorsuch tried for years to unload a 40-acre property he co-owned in Colorado. Nine days after he was confirmed to the Supreme Court, the property was purchased by the CEO of a law firm that has had numerous cases before the court — and whose clients Gorsuch has sided with much more often than not.

Now, while it may be that Congress cannot “regulate” the ethics and conduct of Supreme Court Justices, Congress can impeach justices and remove them from the bench – but there’s not a word or a hint that the Republicans have any interest in looking to impeach justices who have documented evidence of receiving payments, services, and goods from wealthy donors, especially when all of those donors appear to have had cases or issues before the Court.

But the Republicans seem determined to take on Joe Biden, while, at the very least, indicating that Republican corruption is perfectly acceptable.

And they’ll probably get away with it, just as they have by refusing to deal with Trump’s crimes.

Clichés Because They’re Repeatedly Accurate

Too often, a judgment or commentary on an event or action is dismissed because it’s a cliché, but often clichés are applicable precisely because human nature tends to repeat itself, particularly in how we make mistakes.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, swinging for the fences comes from baseball and is a term for trying to hit a home run every time at bat. It’s usually accompanied by busting a gut (another cliché), and for most hitters, it doesn’t work nearly as well as making contact with the ball with a solid swing.

This sort of excessive effort isn’t confined to baseball or even to sports. Singers making an additional effort to hit that high note usually work against themselves because extra effort tightens muscles in the throat and squeezes off the note (if I’ve remembered correctly what my wife the opera singer has told me), which makes it even harder and creates a strained and often ugly sound.

It’s also true in writing where the excess often results in “purple prose.”

“Repeating a big lie often enough that people believe it” is a cliché, given the examples of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and, of course, Trump, who lies and exaggerates to such a great degree that almost everything he utters in public is at best a great exaggeration and at worse an outright falsehood (lately, especially, most likely the latter).

True professionals in any field make the most difficult of tasks appear easy, even when they’re not, and when excessive effort destroys technique, the result is almost always a diminution in results, or, as put in another cliché, “trying too hard.” It’s much better to stay “in the groove.”

Wince at time-worn clichés, if you must, but don’t dismiss their applicability to a situation just because someone used a cliché.

Another Kind of Stupidity

Way back in time, in my first year in college, I took the introductory course in Political Science in a school that was known to have a strong department, and I was stunned, because, for the most part, the course dealt almost exclusively with the Executive Branch. So did the majority of courses dealing with U.S. politics, and none of the professors seemed really to understand grassroots politics, and some actually minimized the electoral side of politics, which struck me as a form of arrogance.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised because most of the professors teaching, those who had any experience in government, had been political appointees in the Executive Branch. At that time, I didn’t have, obviously, that kind of experience, but my father had been a city councilor and acting mayor of the town where I grew up, and my mother was an executive board member of the League of Women Voters for the state of Colorado.

Later on, after I finished my tours in the Navy, and after being less than successful as an industrial market research analyst and real estate salesman, I got involved in local politics as a precinct committeeman, and then as a researcher for a political campaign for Congress, which led to a job as a legislative assistant to a congressman (the campaign was successful) and staff director for his successor. In turn, that led, after ten years, to an appointment in the Reagan Administration as Director of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. EPA, after which I spent another ten years working for a high-powered D.C. consulting firm.

The head of EPA when I was there was an intellectually brilliant attorney who’d been a noted and successful state representative in Colorado. Although she thought otherwise, she didn’t know squat about how the federal government worked. Neither did a great many of the senior Reagan administration appointees who came out of state governments. The result was a political nightmare, with the result that almost all of the political appointees at EPA, including the Administrator, either resigned or were fired [two of us out of 36 survived], and one assistant administrator went to jail. Also, the Secretary of the Interior and a few others were canned.

Why? Because all these people who’d been successful elsewhere carried an air of arrogance, a definite feeling that they knew better than all those elected officials and federal bureaucrats. They assumed that intelligence and past experience would suffice… and they also didn’t listen to those who’d been there. Just like the Freedom Caucus and the Trumpists.

This is scarcely new, but what is frightening to me is that the current Trumpist/populist wave is also being led by a group of arrogant grassroots politicians who understand nothing about how government works. One can complain about Biden being a creature of Washington, D.C., but in two years he got more substantive legislation passed than Trump did in four years and, from what I can tell, more than Obama did, as well.

Not only do the populists not understand government, but they don’t want to. The fact that they excuse/ignore the January 6th insurrection and the three indictments and forty charges against Trump is a good indication of their indifference and arrogance. In addition, they essentially want to destroy the U.S. rule of law because they don’t like the results, but they also have no constructive plan about what to do once they have.

So far, neither Trump nor his GOP allies in the House have yet to accomplish anything except to attempt to significantly cut federal spending with no real understanding of what cuts might be useful and what would be disastrous and to seek to impeach people they don’t like, while defending the greatest liar in American political history.

What’s happening with Trump and the Trumpists is because too many people know too little about how government works while dismissing the knowledge and experience of those they don’t like and believing they know far more than they do.

And we’re all going to pay for that arrogance.

Anger and Politics

Years ago, and often since then, I said that anger makes smart people stupid. Unfortunately, it does even more to people who aren’t that bright or those who are willfully ill-informed.

That creates a considerable political problem, especially in a democracy, where there’s often little check on stupidity fueled by anger.

Yet, today, another indictment was served to Donald Trump, the man who tried in every way he could to overturn a fair election – an election called fair by Republican local election officials from coast to coast. Trump’s also been caught on a recording asking, indeed demanding, that the Georgia Secretary of State “find” 11,780 votes. The Trump companies were found guilty of 17 years of tax evasion. Trump was found guilty of sexual harassment and defamation. He’s set a record of over 31,000 documented lies or misstatements in his four years as President. And Trump’s repeatedly called Vladimir Putin a genius and a good man.

Yet today, he’s the front-runner to be the Republican candidate for President in the next election, and recent polls show he’s running neck and neck with Joe Biden, despite the fact that, legislatively, Biden’s accomplished far more than Trump ever did when President.

So… how is that possible?

It’s possible because the Republican base is angry – furious, in fact, with the Democratic “establishment,” so furious that Republicans in the House of Representatives seem to spend most of their time trying to find ways to “get” Biden, rather than deal with the nation’s problems, so furious that they pursue ways to ban abortion totally at a time when the electorate has shown in election after election that they don’t share that view, so furious that Republican politicians, even highly intelligent ones, either share that anger or fear to oppose it.

And that kind of stupid anger can destroy a nation, and those who spread that anger are made so stupid by their anger that they’re unable to even consider that possibility.