Saturday, September 19, 2020

Soul

 Soul has ceased to something that people think or talk about, as life becomes less spiritual and more materialistic.  Soul should be thought of as a divine spark within each person.  Dictionary.com says soul is “the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.”  It also says it is simply “a human being; a person.”

Wikipedia says:

The soul, in many religious, philosophical, and mythological traditions, is the incorporeal essence of a living being.[1] Soul or psyche (Ancient Greek: ψυχή psykhḗ, of ψύχειν psýkhein, "to breathe") comprises the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking, etc. Depending on the philosophical system, a soul can either be mortal or immortal.[2]

Soul has been an important concept to almost all ancient religions, from the Greeks up until a generation ago.  Today, as fewer people are religious, the religious concept of soul is seldom considered.  If the word is used at all, it is in with the meaning of a human life.  People say, “Five souls were lost in the accident.”  If souls were immortal, they would not have been lost, but would have moved on.  People today reject a divine connection to, or influence on, human beings.

Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife, there is still the idea of a special, moral quality within man that makes him special, more than an animal or a piece of protoplasm.  This loss of a moral center may account for some of the problems we have today.  We haven’t had any world wars, but perhaps because we can’t unite enough to have gigantic faceoffs.  We have our smaller, fractious disagreements, which mean continual warfare on a personal scale.

I don’t think people today even think much about the concept of soul, of something more than you can see or feel, and society is the worse for it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Schiff’s Whistleblower and the Mueller Report


The whistleblower complaint against President Trump alleges acts very similar to those examined by the Mueller Report which occurred during the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between the Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump, Jr., and several other participants.  In both episodes there was the possibility of a foreign government giving Trump opposition research information relevant to his campaign opponent. 

The Mueller Report examined the June 9, 2016, meeting in great detail.  Its conclusion was that there was no violation of campaign finance laws.  The same conclusion should apply to Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.  The Report said:

Accordingly, taking into account the high burden to establish a culpable mental state in a campaign-finance prosecution and the difficulty in establishing the required valuation, the Office decided not to pursue criminal campaign-finance charges against Trump Jr. or other campaign officials for the events culminating in the June 9 meeting.
In particular, on the question of whether opposition research provided by a foreign government constituted a thing-of-value, the Muller Report said:
… no judicial decision has treated the voluntary provision of uncompensated opposition research or similar information as a thing of value that could amount to a contribution under campaign-finance law. Such an interpretation could have implications beyond the foreign-source ban, see 52 U.S.C. § 30116(a) (imposing monetary limits on campaign contributions), and raise First Amendment questions. Those questions could be especially difficult where the information consisted simply of the recounting of historically accurate facts. It is uncertain how courts would resolve those issues. 
The Democrats working on impeachment refuse to mention the Mueller Report, although it is clearly relevant to their investigations.  Since the factual situations are so similar it is important to review the Mueller Report’s extensive analysis of the June 9, 2016, meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya.  The Democrats would no doubt argue that they are different because Trump threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine, but in fact, Trump asked Zelensky to do him a “favor.”  A favor is not something you pay for.  It is something done at the other party’s discretion, and need not be done at all.  Zelensky did not do anything in response to Trump’s request, and Trump did not withhold the aid.  In that sense it was like the June 9 meeting in that nothing happened with regard to providing opposition research. 
Because it is so relevant, following is the complete text from the Mueller Report of its legal analysis of the June 9 meeting. 
Begin quote:
3. Campaign Finance
Several areas of the Office's investigation involved efforts or offers by foreign nationals to provide negative information about candidate Clinton to the Trump Campaign or to distribute that information to the public, to the anticipated benefit of the Campaign. As explained below, the Office considered whether two of those efforts in particular- the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump
Tower Harm to Ongoing Matter ---:-constituted prosecutable violations of the campaign-finance laws. The Office determined that the evidence was not sufficient to charge either incident as a criminal violation.
a. Overview Of Governing Law
"[T]he United States has a compelling interest... in limiting the participation of foreign citizens in activities of democratic self-government, and in thereby preventing foreign influence over the U.S. political process." Bluman v. FEC, 800 F. Supp. 2d 281, 288 (D.D.C. 2011) (Kavanaugh, J., for three-judge court), ajf'd, 565 U.S. 1104 (2012). To that end, federal campaign- finance law broadly prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions, donations, expenditures, or other disbursements in connection with federal, state, or local candidate elections, and prohibits anyone from soliciting, accepting, or receiving such contributions or donations. As relevant here, foreign nationals may not make- and no one may "solicit,' accept, or receive" from them- " a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value" or "an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election." 52 U.S.C. § 30121(a)(l)(A), (a)(2).1283 The term "contribution," which is used throughout the campaign-finance law, "includes" "any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office." 52 U.S.C. § 30101(8)(A)(i). It excludes, among other things, "the value of [volunteer] services." 52 U.S.C. § 30101(8)(B)(i).
Foreign nationals are also barred from making "an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication." 52 U.S.C. § 30121(a)(l)(C). The term "expenditure" "includes" "any purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money or anything of value, made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office." 52 U.S.C. §,30101(9)(A)(i). It excludes, among other things, news stories and non-partisan get-out-the-vote activities. 52 U.S.C. § 3010I(9)(B)(i)-(ii). An "independent expenditure" is an expenditure "expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate" and made independently of the campaign. 52 U.S.C. § 30101(17). An "electioneering communication" is a broadcast communication that "refers to a clearly identified candidate for Federal office" and is made within specified time periods and targeted at the relevant electorate. 52 u.s.c. § 30104(f)(3).
The statute defines "foreign national" by reference to FARA and the Immigration and Nationality Act, with minor modification. 52 U.S.C. § 30121(b) (cross-referencing 22 U.S.C. § 61 l(b)(l)-(3) and 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(20), (22)). That definition yields five, sometimes- overlapping categories of foreign nationals, which include all of the individuals and entities relevant for present purposes-namely, foreign governments and political parties, individuals
outside of the U.S. who are not legal permanent residents, and certain non-U.S. entities located outside of the U.S. ·
A and willful[]" violation involving an aggregate of $25,000 or more in a calendar year is a felony. 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(l)(A)(i); see Bluman, 800 F. Supp. 2d at 292 (noting that a willful violation will require some "proof of the defendant's knowledge of the law"); United States v. Danielczyk, 917 F. Supp. 2d 573, 577 (E.D. Va. 2013) (applying willfulness standard drawn from Bryan v. United States, 524 U.S. 184, 191-92 (1998)); see also Wagner v. FEC, 793 F.3d 1, 19 n.23 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (en bane) (same). A "knowing[] and willful[]" violation involving an aggregate of $2,000 or more in a calendar year, but less than $25,000, is a misdemeanor. 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(l)(A)(ii).
b. Application to June 9 Trump Tower Meeting
The Office considered whether to charge Trump Campaign officials with crimes in connection with the June 9 meeting described in Volume I, Section IV.A.5, supra. The Office concluded that, in light of the government's substantial burden of proof on issues of intent ("knowing" and "willful"), and the difficulty of establishing the value of the offered information, criminal charges would not meet the Justice Manual standard that "the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction." Justice Manual§ 9-27.220.
In brief, the key facts are that, on June 3, 2016, Robert Goldstone emailed Donald Trump Jr., to pass along from Emin and Aras Agalarov an "offer" from Russia's "Crown prosecutor" to "the Trump campaign" of “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to [Trump Jr.'s] father." The email described this as "very high level and sensitive information" that is "part of Russia and its government's support to Mr. Trump-helped along by Aras and Emin." Trump Jr. responded: "if it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer." Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov had follow-up conversations and, within days, scheduled a meeting with Russian representatives that was attended by Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner. The communications setting up the meeting and the attendance by high-level Campaign representatives support an inference that the Campaign anticipated receiving derogatory documents and information from official Russian sources that could assist candidate Trump's electoral prospects.
This series of events could implicate the federal election-law ban on contributions and donationsbyforeignnationals,52U.S.C.§3012l(a)(l)(A). Specifically, Goldstone passed along an offer purportedly from a Russian government official to provide "official documents and information" to the Trump Campaign for the purposes of influencing the presidential election. Trump Jr. appears to have accepted that offer and to have arranged a meeting to receive those materials. Documentary evidence in the form of email chains supports the inference that Kushner and Manafort were aware of that purpose and attended the June 9 meeting anticipating the receipt of helpful information to the Campaign from Russian sources.
The Office considered whether this evidence would establish a conspiracy to violate the foreign contributions ban, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 ; the solicitation of an illegal foreign- source contribution; or the acceptance or receipt of "an express or implied promise to make a [foreign-source] contribution," both in violation of 52 U.S.C. § 3012l(a)(l)(A), (a)(2). There are reasonable arguments that the offered information would constitute a "thing of value" within the meaning of these provisions, but the Office determined that the government would not be likely to obtain and sustain a conviction for two other reasons: first, the Office did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted "willfully," i.e., with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct; and, second, the government would likely encounter difficulty in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised information exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation, see 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(l)(A)(i).

i. Thing-of Value Element
A threshold legal question is whether providing to a campaign "documents and information" of the type involved here would constitute a prohibited campaign contribution. The foreign contribution ban is not limited to contributions of money. It expressly prohibits "a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value." 52 U.S.C. § 3012l(a)(l)(A), (a)(2) (emphasis added). And the term "contribution" is defined throughout the campaign-finance laws to "include[]" "any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value." 52 U.S.C. § 30101(8)(A)(i) (emphasis added).
The phrases "thing of value" and "anything of value" are broad and inclusive enough to encompass at least some forms of valuable information. Throughout the United States Code, these phrases serve as "term[s] of art" that are construed "broad[ly]." UnitedStatesv.Nilsen,967F.2d 539, 542 (11th Cir. 1992) (per curiam) ("thing of value" includes "both tangibles and intangibles"); see also, e.g., 18 U.S.C. §§ 20l(b)(l), 666(a)(2) (bribery statutes); id. § 641 (theft of government property). For example, the term "thing of value" encompasses law enforcement reports that would reveal the identity of informants, United States v. Girard, 601 F.2d 69, 71 (2d Cir. 1979); classified materials, United States v. Fowler, 932 F.2d 306, 310 (4th Cir. 1991); confidential information about a competitive bid, United States v. Matzkin, 14 F .3d 1014, I 020 (4th Cir. 1994); secret grand jury information, United States v. Jeter, 775 F.2d 670, 680 (6th Cir. 1985); and information about a witness's whereabouts, United States v. Sheker, 618 F.2d 607, 609 (9th Cir.
1980) (per curiam). And in the public corruption context, " ' thing of value' is defined broadly to include the value which the defendant subjectively attaches to the items received." United States v. Renzi, 769 F.3d 731,744 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations recognize the value to a campaign of at least some forms of information, stating that the term "anything of value" includes "the provision of any goods or services without charge," such as "membership lists" and "mailing lists." 11 C.F.R. § 100.52(d)(l). The FEC has concluded that the phrase includes a state-by-state list of activists. See Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. FEC, 475 F.3d 337, 338 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (describing the FEC's findings). Likewise, polling data provided to a campaign constitutes a "contribution." FEC Advisory Opinion 1990-12 (Strub), 1990 WL 153454 (citing 11 C.F.R. § 106.4(6)). And in the specific context of the foreign-contributions ban, the FEC has concluded that "election materials used in previous Canadian campaigns," including "flyers, advertisements, door hangers, tri-folds, signs, and other printed material," constitute "anything of value," even though "the value of these materials may be nominal or difficult to ascertain." FEC Advisory Opinion 2007-22 (Hurysz), 2007 WL 5172375, at *5.
These authorities would support the view that candidate-related opposition research given to a campaign for the purpose of influencing an election could constitute a contribution to which the foreign-source ban could apply. A campaign can be assisted not only by the provision of funds, but also by the provision of derogatory information about an opponent. Political campaigns frequently conduct and pay for opposition research. A foreign entity that engaged in such research and provided resulting information to a campaign could exert a greater effect on an election, and a greater tendency to ingratiate the donor to the candidate, than a gift of money or tangible things of value. At the same time, no judicial decision has treated the voluntary provision of uncompensated opposition research or similar information as a thing of value that could amount to a contribution under campaign-finance law. Such an interpretation could have implications beyond the foreign-source ban, see 52 U.S.C. § 30116(a) (imposing monetary limits on campaign contributions), and raise First Amendment questions. Those questions could be especially difficult where the information consisted simply of the recounting of historically accurate facts. It is uncertain how courts would resolve those issues.
ii. Willfulness
Even assuming that the promised "documents and information that would incriminate Hillary" constitute a "thing of value" under campaign-finance law, the government would encounter other challenges in seeking to obtain and sustain a conviction. Most significantly, the government has not obtained admissible evidence that is likely to establish the scienter requirement beyond a reasonable doubt. To prove that a defendant acted "knowingly and willfully," the government would have to show that the defendant had general knowledge that his conduct was unlawful. U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses 123 (8th ed. Dec. 2017) ("Election Offenses"); see Bluman, 800 F. Supp. 2d at 292 (noting that a willful violation requires "proof of the defendant's knowledge of the law"); Danielczyk, 917 F. Supp. 2d at 577 ("knowledge of general unlawfulness"). "This standard creates an elevated scienter element requiring, at the very least, that application of the law to the facts in question be fairly clear. When there is substantial doubt concerning whether the law applies to the facts of a particular matter, the offender is more likely to have an intent defense." Election Offenses 123. ·
On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful. The investigation has not developed evidence that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign-contribution ban or the application of federal law to the relevant factual context. The government does not have strong evidence of surreptitious behavior or effo11s at concealment at the time of the June 9 meeting. While the government has evidence of later efforts to prevent disclosure of the nature of the June 9 meeting that could circumstantially provide support for a showing of scienter, see Volume II, Section II.G, infra, that concealment occurred more than a year later, involved individuals who did not attend the June 9 meeting, and may reflect an intention toavoidpoliticalconsequencesratherthananypriorknowledgeofillegality. Additionally, in light of the unresolved legal questions about whether giving "documents and information" of the sort offered here constitutes a campaign contribution, Trump Jr. could mount a factual defense that he did not believe his response to the offer and the June 9 meeting itself violated the law. Given his less direct involvement in arranging the June 9 meeting, Kushner could likely mount a similar defense. And, while Manafort is experienced with political campaigns, the Office has not developed evidence showing that he had relevant knowledge of these legal issues.
iii. Difficulties in Valuing Promised Information
The Office would also encounter difficulty proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised documents and information exceeds the $2,000 threshold for a criminal violation, as well as the $25,000 threshold for felony punishment. See 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(l). The type of evidence commonly used to establish the value of non-monetary contributions-such as pricing the contribution on a commercial market or determining the upstream acquisition cost or the cost of distribution-would likely be unavailable or ineffective in this factual setting. Although damaging opposition research is surely valuable to a campaign, it appears that the information ultimately delivered in the meeting was not valuable. And while value in a conspiracy may well be measured by what the participants expected to receive at the time of the agreement, see, e.g., United States v. Tombrello, 666 F.2d 485, 489 (11th Cir. 1982), Goldstone's description of the offered material here was quite general. His suggestion of the information's value-i.e., that it would "incriminate Hillary" and "would be very useful to [Trump Jr.'s] father"-w as non- specific and may have been understood as being of uncertain worth or reliability, given Goldstone's lack of direct access to the original source. The uncertainty over what would be delivered could be reflected in Trump Jr.'s response ("if it’s what you say I love it") (emphasis added).
Accordingly, taking into account the high burden to establish a culpable mental state in a campaign-finance prosecution and the difficulty in establishing the required valuation, the Office decided not to pursue criminal campaign-finance charges against Trump Jr. or other campaign officials for the events culminating in the June 9 meeting.
Mueller 183-188

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Diversity

With the decline of organized religion, moral guideposts that were based on the Bible are disappearing, and new age ideas are replacing them.  One of these new ideas is diversity.  The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself, but it doesn't say that that you should live among other people who are different from yourself.  Most of the Bible tells Jews that they should stick together and not mingle with the other peoples that they lived among.

There is no Beatitude that says, "Blessed are the diverse...."

Diversity is a new virtue which has not been espoused by moralists and philosophers over the millennia since Plato and the Jewish prophets thought about such issues.  It's arguable that increased diversity in the Roman empire as it grew larger and larger was one of the factors that led to the "decline and fall" of the Roman empire.  It's also arguable that one of the most diverse countries recently was the Soviet Union which spanned eleven time zones.  Political turmoil has reduced the Soviet Union to a more homogeneous Russia, spinning off Georgia, Kazakhstan, and other "stans" as separate countries.  The same thing happened to the old Yugoslavia under Tito, which degenerated into several countries after a vicious civil war.  It may also be the case in the animosity between Sunnies and Shiites in the Middle East today.  It's not clear that history shows that diversity is a virtue.





Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Solar Energy

I have begun to realize that almost all energy is solar energy.  People and animals do work; their fuel is food.  Food grows because of sunlight.  Plants take the solar energy and convert it into food.  Meat just requires an extra step; the animals eat plants and convert them into meat.  So, animals and men run on solar energy. The plants themselves can produce energy, for example by burning wood. 

Hydrocarbons are also solar energy.  Coal, oil and gas are simply old plants that have been under pressure underground for millions of years, but the energy they contain also came from the sun.  Other sources of energy from chemical reactions, e.g., rocket fuel made from hydrogen and oxygen, usually require energy input from traditional (solar) sources to create the chemicals that create energy when they combine.  Hydrogen and oxygen have to be separated using energy before they can be combined later. 


Nuclear energy is about the only type of energy that does not come from the sun.  There are some relatively unimportant sources of energy that are not based on solar, for example geothermal energy that comes from volcanic heat underground.  Ocean tides rising a falling similarly could produce a small amount of energy.  However, wind and even wave energy is basically solar, caused by uneven heating of the earth by sunlight.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Fareed Zakaria on the Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Fareed Zakaria has a new book on the value of a liberal arts education, and has been promoting his book and his ideas.



http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/video/fareed-zakaria-defends-liberal-arts-education-29990282


Easter in Indiana

It’s odd that the political fight between the Christians and the gays in Indiana happened on Easter weekend.  The gays are the new Jews, opposed to the Christians.  The gays pretty much have to reject the Bible, since there is so much in the Bible rejecting gay sex, starting with Sodom and Gomorrah.  Some gay sex even gets its name from the Bible story of Sodom.  This view pretty much puts Indiana Gov. Pence in the position of Pilate, and he has pretty much played that tole.  His first response was like Pilate’s, “I don’t find anything wrong here.”  But under pressure, Pence yielded to the gays (Jews), “Okay, if you think this is so bad, I’ll let you do what you want.”  Happy Easter.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Need Liberal Arts

The decline of a liberal arts college education is a bad sign for America.  People not only need jobs; they need to think about political, social, and cultural issues using the background of thousands of years of history -- ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, Christianity, the Renaissance, the British Empire -- of art and literature -- Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Tolstoy, Plato, Faulkner -- of science -- Euclid, Einstein, Galelio.  We need to be able to put today's issues into context.  Those who don't know history may be doomed to repeat it.