Category Archives: Congress

Congressional Democrats’ impeachment efforts gave Trump a little room to put hit on Soleimani

The eye-catcher….

Have efforts by the Congressional Democrats to impeach President Trump given him space to launch the type of military attack we saw last week against Iran?  While the U.S. House Democratic caucus asserts that it can walk and chew gum at the same time , apparent failures to move legislation sponsored by Democrats to the House floor may have provided the President with the cover he needed to carry out the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani.

Talk of impeachment, which has been occurring since Mr. Trump took office in January 2017, sucked up a lot of media oxygen within the last few months with congressional hearings coming to a head last December with the impeachment of Mr. Trump.  What has received far less coverage by the media and the public at large are attempts by Democrats to head off escalation of tensions between the United States and the Republic of Iran via legislation.

H.R. 2354…

On 25 April 2019, U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California, introduced H.R. 2354, the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019. The bill notes the Republic of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and that Iran’s missile tests could lead to increased tensions with Israel and Saudi Arabia as well as the United Nations.  The bill also found that the Republic of Iran threatens maritime activity and puts U.S. naval and commercial assets at risk.

Concerned about President Trump’s tweets promising severe action against the Republic of Iran for its military actions and threats in the Middle East region, the bill reminds the President and the American public that the power to declare power lies solely in the Congress.  Pursuant to the bill, no funds for kinetic (conventional) military action would be authorized without an authorization from the Congress to take action against the Republic of Iran.

Mrs. Eshoo’s bill is a companion bill to S.1039 introduced by Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of Utah.  His bill was introduced on 4 April 2019 and contains the same language as H.R. 2354.

Both bills currently sit in each chambers respective foreign affairs committees.

Trump maximizes his political capital in a legislative vacuum ….

President Trump’s approval ratings have been pretty much consistent since May 2018, hovering around 42% for the past 19 months.  He campaigned on an “America First” platform which includes reasserting American dominance in world political and economic affairs.  His actions against Iran have not eroded his political capital with his base and arguably with his European allies as the European Union struggles with what to make of this latest move.

Does the American electorate see actions against Iran building up goodwill between themselves and the president? Back in June 2019, a poll by Politico found that 36% of Americans supported military action in Iran after the Iranians shot down a US drone.  When views toward action in Iran are viewed via partisan eyes, 59% of Republicans favored action against Iran while only 23% of Democrats and 28% of independents supported a strike against Iran. It should be noted that Mr. Trump, at the last minute, decided against a military strike against Iran believing the cost in lives on both sides was not worth the loss of the drone.

An analysis in Bloomberg points out that the hit seven months later on Soleimani may have given Trump leverage by making the Administration appear unpredictable. Political actors in Europe and the Middle East may have less of an idea as to Mr. Trump’s responses to certain events or his endgame. For example, Iran has hit tankers with no American response but out of the blue a hit on an Iranian general in alleged retaliation for attacks on American drones and the death of an American contractor.  Iran may have thought it had the US figured out but the willingness to surgically remove an important member of Iran’s military hierarchy may give Iran pause.

But given public attitudes toward military involvement in and with Iran, Democrats in Congress have let fester a legislative void, failing to promote aggressively legislation that would have restricted Mr. Trump’s actions to continued use of soft force while eroding his influence with the American electorate.

The takeaway on political capital …

Tough to tell whether it was luck or political skill, but Mr. Trump, so far, has been able to take a risky military action without apparent loss of political capital.  Over the next few months we will be able to get a better idea as to whether his resources and power built on his actions, relationships, and influence will erode as a result of the action.  Something else we should be mindful of is the ability of an executive to operate in what amounts to a political “no-fly zone” where the legislature hasn’t taken any initiative to head off potentially disastrous events by enacting law leaving an executive to operate freely.

 

Black creatives should apply constant lobbying pressure on Congress…

The concern: Theft and appropriation ….

The internet has provided opportunities for black creatives to create music, art, film, and writings, and distribute these products all over the globe.  When I set up my first website over 20 year ago, it took an employee at a local print shop to drive home the point with me that I was no longer local, as my mailing address on my new letterhead would imply.  My web address and e-mail he pointed out now took me to another level.  I was now global.  To this day I am still amazed and humbled when I hear from someone in Eurasia or Africa who either needed legal advice, sought some business representation, or read a blog post.

For black creatives in particular the opportunity to share our art and culture and dispel myths about our people is equal to and probably outweighs (slightly) the potential to increase the income for doing what we are good at; for doing what we love.

Centuries of oppression, for being negatively targeted physically and economically because of who we are can manifest itself in anger when our art is appropriated by the majority culture without acknowledgment or compensation.  Ironically, it is that same majority culture that has no problem asserting that blacks have no culture while stealing and re-engineering the culture we have created for the purpose of communicating with and consoling ourselves.

I think this problem, of cultural appropriation, is not relegated to blacks in America alone.  To varying degrees this problem also occurs in other parts of the Diaspora, but because I have spent my entire adulthood in the U.S., I will speak to the impact raiding black culture has on black America.

My concern in the United States is that the sharing economy may seep itself into intellectual property developed and sold by black Americans via inappropriate legislation or the misapplication of current rules applied to copyright, patents, and trademarks.  Blacks in the U.S. need to be aware of the business model that has been emerging in technology and media over the last two decades: appropriating what is considered “public” information or data and re-engineering it for resale.

There is a faux libertarian attitude among many young liberals in media and tech that everything produced should be considered as part of some commons where anyone with the capital and technology can sweep in and extract.  This is the same attitude behind “net neutrality”, where large content aggregators want to transport exabytes of data over public broadband networks for free and if these content providers can’t get their way i.e. send millions of cat and twerker videos over these networks for free, they will then argue that the democratic rights of their subscribers are somehow being violated.  Networks as well as content provided by their subscribers are simply there for free extraction.

This same liberal view toward content, in my opinion, poses a threat to black creativity.  Black creatives in America who do not take action to push back against this attack will find themselves back in the chattel-like slavery of their ancestors.  Whereas their bodies were used for slave labor in the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, their intellectual property, their creativity, will suffer the same fate in the 21st century digital economy.

Taking the property rights approach ….

Blacks own between two to three percent of private capital in the United States.  Giving away our creativity would be tantamount to suicide.  Lobbying pressure should be maintained on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. Copyright Office, the U.S. Senate Sub-committee on Intellectual Property and the U.S. House Sub-committee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet.

Action cannot be reactive. It must be proactive.  Black creatives must take action to ensure that legislation is being monitored and where threats are trending, be prepared to draft and present legislation to members of these committees for their consideration.

As creatives we tend to live in our heads, but we must make the concerted effort to keep our third eye open and on the Administration and the Congress.

Balkanizing internet regulation is out of step with the uniformity needs of financial technology

The eye-catcher ….

In two weeks, state utility regulators will convene in San Antonio, Texas for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners annual meeting to discuss how they can leverage a recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals-DC Circuit that the Federal Communications Commission cannot preempt state regulation of concerns over consumer access to and privacy on the internet via broadband.

Some states such as California have moved ahead with their own net neutrality laws, hoping to enforce consumer protections by prohibiting internet access providers from lowering traffic speed from certain websites or preventing internet service providers from favoring their own content by blocking a consumer’s access to content that the consumer prefers.

The state-by-state approach problem

The problem with a state-by-state approach for a financial technology firm is the uncertainty that data and capital face when they traverse state borders. Will a content delivery firm tasked with storing and transmitting financial data on behalf of a financial technology firm have to enter into different interconnection agreements per state because of the differing consumer privacy laws encountered in each state?  Will differing requirements on paid prioritization result in financial data traffic slowing down depending on which state border it crosses?

There is an irony that on a global basis, the United States is a staunch proponent of freer cross-border data flows, but would run the risk of subjecting those same data flows to a hodge-podge of regulations that create digital toll roads for financial data traffic.

The changing consumer taste in banking

What federal and state policy makers should be focusing on is ensuring the amount of bandwidth necessary for digital transmission of financial data and capital is available.  Our use of digital banking services will not be shrinking anytime soon.  MediaCom Business cited data in a blog post that 92% of millennials make their choices as to where to bank based on the digital services a bank offers.  Legacy banks hoping to compete with digital upstarts are accepting this type of demand an, as found by consulting firm Accenture, are exploring how best to integrate and deploy technology necessary for meeting this demand.

Recommendation: Seamless versus Balkanization

The supply of digital banking and payment systems services combined with increasing demand for these services means more bandwidth is needed in order to optimize the consumer experience.  State and federal policy makers can facilitate this need for increased bandwidth by focusing policy on ensuring the delivery of this infrastructure.  Coming up with 50 different rules on net neutrality is more distraction than help.

What should be spawned in next month’s NARUC meeting is a recommendation for national legislation on consumer privacy.  Consumer privacy concerns should no longer be leveraged to create 50-plus fiefdoms for net neutrality.  Transmission of information, data, and knowledge should be a seamless experience for consumer and firms that use financial technology to transmit value and capital.

Representative democracy has failed black people in America

The growth of political capitalists …

Representation means nothing if the spoils of society are not being delivered for each vote provided by citizens.  Black voters in particular are interested in optimal physical safety, a need stemming from violence perpetrated on them during the Jim Crow era; optimal access to capital, without which economic security is near impossible or very difficult; and the right to exist as a unique and thriving culture.

What I see being exchanged for each vote delivered by black citizens is the acquisition of a title by one or two elected representatives.  Representative democracy has created political capitalism, where owners of the political factors of political output are not creating political outcomes that address protecting uniqueness of black society, optimal black economic security, or optimal protection from violence.  Government, rather, is a feeding trough for black political representatives, with the number of voters they can persuade to vote for their party serving as the tickets for admission to the political feeding spots.

Government as a club you swing, not a club you join …

Blacks should not look at government as a club to send their smoothest talking salesman to.  Rather, blacks should look at government as a club that can be swung in order to generate capital access, physical security, and economic empowerment.  The outcomes should be a result of pressure politics.  This means that black political leadership should not be found embedded in the political machinery.  Black political leadership should be manipulating the political machinery from the outside.

Blacks in America need only go back to 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, vacated the ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, holding that segregated educational facilities were unconstitutional.  This major landmark civil rights action did not flow from the efforts of black members of Congress.  There were hardly any.  This ruling was the result of blacks taking alternative action in the courts, an approach that was focused and targeted on, in my opinion, the most important branch of government.  It is here where the social and public policy goals of law are interpreted and in some cases, where current social policy is brought to light and used to overturn precedent.

Creative chaos versus status quo ….

When black representatives allow themselves to be embedded in the current electoral structure, their priorities shift to satisfying congressional leadership and mining votes for their national parties.  These activities serve the interests of a majority white congressional leadership versus the black constituents black representatives are supposed to be advocating for.  Take for example U.S. Representative Al Green’s attempt to bring forward articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.  The articles were blocked by the House with Mr. Green, Democrat of Texas, not being able to bring the majority of his own party on board with the proposal.

Mr. Green’s actions were in keeping with the status quo of congressional politics.  But did his actions result in any benefits for black constituents?  Did they lead to an increase in physical or economic security?  Did they lead to increased influence of blacks in the national Democratic Party?

What is likely is that Mr. Green lost political capital and as a political capitalist he must realize that a decreased ability to bring voters with him to the trough means lessened prestige in the Congress.  The other issue he has to face is how his constituents will deal with the knowledge that their congressman has wasted scarce political capital on a go nowhere initiative all because being embedded in the machinery creates the obligation of delivering outcomes that don’t serve them.

Conclusion: Representative democracy is failing blacks …

Representative democracy has failed black people in America.  The representatives from the black community in Washington have been converted into agents for their respective party’s leadership, securing the votes needed so that they can pull up a chair at the trough.  Just like social media has turned subscribers to social networks into resource and product for advertisers, the electoral system has turned black voters into lumps of coal with black congressmen acting as the conveyor belt carrying the coal to the primaries and the national elections.

The question is, what is the alternative approach?