Swedish massage on President’s Day

As President’s Day draws to a close in the US, my mind is drawn to the butchered English spoken with a French accent in the 1980’s BBC comedy series ‘Allo ‘Allo! Like the police officer in that series, I also ‘ave a massage for you. In fact, I have a Swedish “massage” and I hope my message is clear to everyone.

On Saturday evening, US president Donald Trump made a remark about Sweden that the some media outlets immediately made in to a big story. As someone who was born Swedish, grew up in Sweden, and regularly returns to Sweden, I have an opinion about the remark. But I also have opinion about the reality on the ground in Sweden and in the US. When you have finished reading this article, I hope to have convinced you that the latter is more important than the former.

Trump said the following at a rally in Melbourne, Florida, on Saturday evening:

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Here’s the bottom line. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris. We’ve allowed thousands and thousands of people into our country and there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing. So we’re going to keep our country safe.

If you want more context, see the full transcript of Trump’s speech here.

Trump was referencing a TV program that had aired in the US the night before his speech, and he said so in a Tweet the following day. Clearly, Trump misspoke, and his manner of speaking in incomplete and disjointed sentences is hardly news.

But did Trump actually claim that a terror attack took place “last night” in Sweden? That is what some in the media wants you to believe. For example, Huffington Post led with “Trump falsely suggested at a Florida rally Saturday that Sweden had suffered a terror attack the previous night”. I don’t see that Trump did so, and more importantly: I don’t buy what the legacy media is trying to sell here.

obamaPlease recall Obama’s  “you didn’t build that” comment from 2012. I always thought it unfair to use it against Obama because it was clear from the context what he meant. In that faux pas, Obama’s mistake was that he used what grammarians called a “vague pronoun reference.” Obama’s grammatical mistake has been exploited by his opponents to this day to suggest that he is deeply ignorant about private enterprise.

The difference between how the media treated Obama’s faux pas and Trump’s is stark. In Obama’s case, the old-line media was either silent, or they came to Obama’s defense (as the New York Times did here). Yet now that same New York Times proclaims in their headline that “Trump’s Remark Baffles a Nation”. Their article begins with “Swedes reacted with confusion, anger and ridicule on Sunday to a vague remark by President Trump.”

Yes,  that’s exactly what I recall that my fellow Swedes and myself doing on Sunday mornings when I was a child growing up: reacting with “confusion, anger and ridicule” to a “vague remark” by a foreign head of state. Sure.

The dying portion of the media wants you be upset over Trump’s verbal faux pas, but not upset about a different faux pas by a different president. Instead, please cut the press out of your decision process on this and every issue, judge for yourself and focus on what matters. Trump’s remark is not really important because words are always less important than reality. And what is the reality in Sweden?

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During the last 4 months, we’ve had three couples from Sweden visit us. All live in different parts of Sweden, and all 40 years old or above. I asked them all the same question, indepedently of one another: in the area where you live, have people altered their normal patterns of behavior, for example in terms of when they go out, as a result of a perceived or real increase in crime.

All answered “yes”, and one gave an example of thieves running into his parents’ house and stealing items while they were out in their own yard.

Speaking of crime in Sweden, the New York Times wants you to think that Trump’s comments were only about crime. “Trump Pursues His Attack on Sweden, With Scant Evidence”, announces the NYT headline and reports how the crime rate is flat in Sweden. But no thinking person in Sweden (and many other Europeans countries) believes the official crime statistics because they have knowledge, sometimes personal knowledge, that the police actively discourage you from reporting crime.

desperate_times_politiciansMore importantly, the debate in Sweden isn’t just about crime, it’s about limited resources and how those resources are being used. The central government in Sweden is allowing large numbers of non-European migrants in to Sweden, immediately putting them on public assistance and labeling anyone who questions these policies as being “racist”, “islamophobic” or at the very least: simply wrong. This tactic has been used for 25 years or more, but the population is increasingly resistant to that particular tactic.

Swedish retirees are not getting the services they need, the health care system is under strain, housing shortages are worse than ever, and many school classrooms have a majority of children who don’t speak Swedish (every pupil suffers as a result). All this is happening because resources are being directed at “helping” migrants. The voters are also well aware that the politicians making these decisions are not exposed to the consequences of their own decisions. Hence the rise in this decade of the Sweden Democrats, a political party skeptical of immigration from outside of Europe and deeply skeptical of islam.

Many Swedish workers feel like fools going to work every day so that one more “unaccompanied minor” muslim, claiming to be a “refugee”, can live on public assistance. I personally know retirees in Sweden who have voted for the Swedish labor party for over 50 years….but not any more. These retirees feel like they are being treated like idiots by lecturing and hectoring  career politicians. Their vote for the Sweden Democrats is a loud protest vote…..but the establishment isn’t listening.

Many municipal pools  in Sweden are offering women-only swimming hours to accommodate new muslim arrivals. There is a general bowing down to islam in Sweden. Just 10 days ago, Swedish trade minister Ann Linde traveled to Iran with the prime minister. That is Linde in the picture below, speaking to Iranian prime minister Ali Khamenei, as the Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven looks on.

lofven-iran

When a high level female Swedish government representative dons clothes she would never, ever wear, just so as to please the leaders of an islamic dictatorship, the message to the islamists is clear. That message is: you are stronger than us. Perhaps that is why German foreign minister Ursula van der Leyen didn’t wear a head covering when she visited Saudi Arabia last December. Yet the average establishment politician in Sweden sees no contradiction between being in favor of “women’s rights” while simultaneously submitting to people who seek to deny women those very rights.

Trump’s larger point about Sweden was correct. “Sweden, who would believe this,” Trump said. Well, I believe it, Donald, because I have been following immigration issues in Sweden for a long time. Already in 1994, I wrote to the Swedish minister for refugees and immigration and expressed reservations about government policies. The letter has been recorded in the Swedish national archives, but here is a copy of it.

In 1994, I asked for a reply to my respectful letter, but received none. The political establishment in Sweden didn’t listen then, and they aren’t listening now. Like some of their elitist counterparts in the US, they are of the opinion that democracy is sacred..unless the voters deliver the “wrong” outcome. Then the will of the people must be subverted. If your parents, retirees with decades of hard work and life experience behind them, should suffer real harm as a result of the government’s unicorn and rainbows policies, that’s just too bad. You’re still wrong….and a racist.

citizenship_swedish_retirement_1106405

Many Europeans don’t understand why many Americans stand by Trump no matter what he says. The reason is simple: they are more interested in what he does than what he says. Europeans should consider applying that same age-old “don’t listen to what they say, look at what they do” principle to their own politicians.

The volcanic eruptions in Iceland in 2010 actually increased tourism long-term for that island nation plagued by rotten weather. Maybe Trump’s remark will do the same for Sweden? Let’s hope so. And that is all I have to say about Trump’s remark on Sweden.

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Do we have a “living constitution”? Look in your fridge for the answer

Some people, like this U of Chicago law school jurist, argue that the US has a “living Constitution.” By that they mean that the Constitution must change without formally amending it because society experiences great changes and “it is just not realistic to expect the cumbersome amendment process to keep up with these changes.”

The evidence that this argument is false can be found in the Constitution itself.  Article II, section 1 specifies the exact oath of office the president must swear before taking office. That oath is shown immediately below.

presidential_oath

Notice the word “preserve” in the oath.  When you think about the meaning of the word “preserve”, what do you think of? Consider for example your local historical preservation society, and what their mission is.

If you are still in doubt about what the word “preserve” means, open your fridge and consider the “preserves” in your fridge, and what the manufacturer of them means by the word “preserves”. Consider also that the meaning of the word “preserve” has not changed since the US Constitution became the law of our land.

Searching Google, I found nobody else making the above argument. So I did.

preserves

When pigs fly – a compromise on immigration terminology

In discussing the hot button topic of immigration, many on the right use the term “illegal immigrant”. On the other hand, many on the left use the term “undocumented immigrant”. As shown below, the groundwork has already been laid by others for a better term, a term that is hopefully a term that all can agree on. That term is “unlawful immigrant”.

Before you decide whether to continue reading, please note that the compromise term “unlawful immigrant” probably has zero chance of catching on. However, you might learn a fact or two by reading the rest of this short article.

usimmigrationpolicy

The Oxford English dictionary defines the word “illegal” as meaning “contrary to or forbidden by law, especially criminal law.” In the word “especially” lies the problem: when people hear the term “illegal”, many will think that a criminal act has been committed. In fact, it isn’t a crime. As shown below, the Supreme Court expressly agrees that it is not a crime to “be here illegally”.

Being in the United States “illegally”  is neither a misdemeanor nor a felony. It is, however, an infraction, one which carries no fine. Should a person return after being deported, then they commit a felony under federal law (8 U.S.C. § 1326).

Now being in the United States “illegally” is a deportable infraction….but given that there is no fine associated with it, you could argue that a speeding ticket is worse. In my view, we should not use the term “illegal” because many will presume that a crime has been committed. Similarly, we should drop the term “undocumented” because that term incorrectly implies that the people in question are simply missing some documents that they somehow are legally entitled to.

Since both sides use the word “immigrant” in their respective terms, I respectfully submit that “unlawful” would be a better term than either “illegal” or “undocumented”. The term “unlawful” does not carry the implication that a crime has been committed.

The right should not object to the term “unlawful” because the Heritage Foundation already  uses the term “unlawful immigrant”. Libertarians should also not object because the  Cato Institute uses the term “unlawful immigration”.

Democrats have also used the term “unlawful”.  United States Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Lucille Roybal-Allar, to name just a couple, have used the term “unlawful” to describe immigrants in bills they submitted. See Shaheen’s bill here and Roybal-Allar’s bill here.

In Arizona v. United States, the hotly debated 2012 Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision, both liberal and conservative justices used the term “unlawful” in their opinions. The liberal majority talked about “unlawful immigration” and “unlawful presence”. Now the liberal justices also used the term “illegal immigration” in their opinion (!), but let’s focus on the fact that the term “unlawful” was used by both liberal and conservative justices in describing those unlawfully present in the US.

SCOTUS was very clear: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable [legalese for “deportable”] alien to remain in the United States.”. That is exactly the point I made above, and their statement isn’t exactly news. It has been the case for a long time, perhaps going all the way back to July 4, 1776.

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Because people are so divided on what they think government policy should be on immigration, there is little chance that the term “unlawful immigrant” will catch on. Both sides will fear that they lose an edge in the debate. But I for one do use the term “unlawful immigrant”.

League of Women Voters e-mail fingers “particularly resistant candidate”, falls silent when questioned

The League of Women Voters (LWV) claims to be fair and non-partisan in all that they do. Their local activities include organizing debates, putting together voter guides, performing voter registration drives, just to name a fee things. One of the local organizations that perform these allegedly “non-partisan” activities is League of Women Voters St. Peterburg Area (LWVSPA)

Yet despite their claims of being honest brokers, LWVSPA Voter Service Committee Chair Raechel Garafalo inadvertently referred to me (Tom Rask) as a “particularly resistant candidate”. This occurred in an e-mail accidentally sent to the me instead of its intended recipient.

Garafalo’s characterization was apparently based on a 2014 e-mail exchange between us when I ran for the Pinellas County Commission. There appears to be nothing in the exchange that would warrant such a negative characterization, but you be the judge.

Before publishing this article, I asked Garafalo these and other questions:

+ What does the LWV think I was “particularly resistant” to when I ran for office in 2014?
+ Does the LWVSPA have a list of “particularly  resistant” candidates? If so, please provide that list.
+ By which criteria does the LWV classify candidates in this fashion.
+ The person named Delia who you intended the e-mail for – is that Delia Miller? If not, who is it?
+ Do you intend to resign as Voter Service Committee Chair?

No response was received by the time of publication of this article. LWVSPA claims it “does not support or oppose any candidate for elective office”, but they seem to have a rather obvious internal bias towards some candidate(s).

The LWV of Florida has faced increasing criticism in Florida as they have advocated for Medicaid expansion and and opposed private school voucher expansion. They have similarly faced charges of having a leftist bias in Colorado.

LWV_parody

The League has also run ads attacking Republicans in tight races and Democrats in safe races, and called such criticism evidence of their non-partisan nature.

Some people think I see out controversy, but here I was just minding my own business on a Tuesday evening when the LWVSPA e-mail arrived about events more than two years in the past.  They may have the memory of an elephant, but elephants they are not, if you catch my drift.

Tax Collector Diane Nelson calls herself “beloved”, spends tax dollars spreading the word

Pinellas County Tax Collector Diane Nelson approved a tax-dollar funded press release calling herself “beloved”. In announcing her retirement, a press release on March 30th had the following headline and subheadline:

It’s the end of an era

BELOVED PINELLAS COUNTY TAX COLLECTOR, DIANE NELSON, ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

A public records request shows that Diane Nelson approved this wording. The press release calling herself beloved was sent out using public funds and resources. In approving what turned out to be the final draft, Nelson wrote “it reads very well.”

Susie Blanco, Senior Executive Assistant to Diane Nelson, questioned the used of the word “beloved” in an e-mail at 7:50 A.M. on March 29th. Blanco wrote to Public Affairs Manager Brenna Haggar and said “I wonder if we can find another word”.

However, Haggar didn’t alter the press release and didn’t respond to the e-mail questioning the choice of the word “beloved”. Instead, Haggar sent a final draft to Nelson and Blanco at 5:51 P.M. that same day and Nelson approved it at 6:43 P.M. The press release went out the next day. One can be certain that “recommending oneself” is something Ms. Manners would not recommend….or approve of.

Many internal e-mails on March 30th, the day of the press release, contain statements by Tax Collector staff expressing sadness over Nelson’s departure, or admiration for her. However, no one questioned the use of public funds and public resources to distribute a what best can be described as a hagiography produced using public funds.

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Politicians care most about their reputations, and that’s why we can’t give them a pass when they tell us how wonderful they are. Nelson has been a passive tax collector, and done her constituents a disservice in the process. Some examples:

1/ Although systems exist elsewhere in the world that would allow people to not have to turn in their license plates when they are not driving a vehicle, Nelson has been all talk and no action since the idea was first raised with her in 2009.  She claims to be for it, but then does nothing to advance the cause. Citizens continue having to visit her office much more often than they would have to under a more efficient system.

2/ Nelson’ audit staff failed to spot hundreds of thousands of dollars of  undercollection and underpayment of taxes by Innisbrook resort . A citizen had to place it under their nose for them to find it.

When clear evidence was presented to Nelson’s office that Innisbrook willfully failed to amend their returns upon their discovery of their error, Nelson’s office still didn’t refer the matter for criminal prosecution. “Willfulness” is a key element in showing that the failure to pay was deliberate.

3/ A public records request further showed that Nelson’s office has not referred a single case for criminal prosecution for many years. Think about that: in all that tax collection they do in all of those offices, they want you to think they never found a single case of willful tax evasion. It looks like that what Nelson cared about most was “being liked”.

The person campaigning to be our new tax collector, Charles Thomas, claimed that their agency’s failure to spot any criminal wrongdoing “is actually a credit to our taxpayers. We have found our taxpayers to be cooperative and forthcoming in our dealings with them.” Most are “cooperative and forthcoming”, but some aren’t. Their unwillingness to spot those who aren’t is a sign of a poorly run and mediocre agency.

4/ While playing nice with the big resorts, Nelson nonetheless found time in 2013 to incorrectly assert that a local vacation rental agency owed a five figure amount in back taxes. Nelson based her assertion on a Florida Department of Revenue ruling from 1996.

At no charge, I agreed to help the vacation rental agency with the case. Without much effort, I discovered that the underlying Florida Administrative Code rule cited in the 1996 revenue ruling had changed. Nelson’s office had not bothered to check. In the end, no taxes were due, but I wouldn’t be surprised if her office continued to use that same inapplicable revenue ruling to collect taxes (and penalties….and interest) from other small businesses.

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Charles Thomas, a Republican, is almost certain to be our new tax collector because he has no opponent and isn’t likely to have one. Thomas’ record and past comments suggest you can expect more of the same that you saw under Nelson. Which menas: more inefficient last-century administrative procedures, more of your time time unnecessarily spent going to and waiting “at DMV”, special treatment of large businesses, and harassment of smaller businesses who usually lack the resources to prove the tax collector wrong.

We the taxpayers fund all this mediocrity and corruption. If it was a B-movie, it would get 9% on RottenTomatoes.Com.

— Tom Rask

Cruz closing gap to Trump



Above is a headline that the establishment media won’t write. You can see the establishment headlines below. Ted Cruz narrowed the gap against  Trump last night, and now on March 6th has 295 delegates to Trump’s 378 (Rubio has 123).

Yet as you can see below: none of the headlines talk about the gap narrowing. Both NBC and Slate even claim that Cruz’s win is a boost for Trump. Slate’s argument is that “Cruz will have more trouble solidifying an anti-Trump coalition than Rubio” and that  “Cruz’s success may also mean that the GOP establishment, which despises the Texas senator, will not go all out to stop Trump.”  

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Now why would “the GOP establishment” (as Slate calls the Republican establishment) despise someone who is “off-the-charts brilliant” in the opinion of his liberal Harvard professor, famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz. Why would they despise such a person? Could it be because they are afraid that Cruz will upset some apple carts?

If so, then there must be some serious money in them apples. Of course the establishment doesn’t want to give up its patronage and privilege, that’s why they’re fighting so hard to preserve the status quo.

Cruz received twice the number of votes than Trump in Kansas last night, even though the so-called “polls” showed Cruz trailing Trump by 6% as late as Friday. So much for the polls, huh? And so much for the presstitutes in the establishment media, a dishonorable group of sellouts who almost always have a hidden agenda in whatever they do. They’ll lie about Trump and Cruz, they lied about Carson when his numbers were good. They’ll lie about any non-establishment candidate who they perceive as a threat to their ruling class masters.

Some times, they don’t lie. They just remain silent. At 8:20 A.M. this morning, there was no mention of Cruz’s big victory last night on their website. This on the website of Florida’s largest newspaper. Not a word. Everybody know’s why – the Tampa Bay Times is bought and paid for, which became quite clear when their owner accidentally released this information two years ago.

Never mind the lying because it won’t stop the winds of change from blowing. If we don’t get that change in 2016, we’ll get it in 2020. And if we don’t get it at all, then the specter of bloody unrest looms. Nobody wants it to come to that.

Finally, a shout-out to Donald Trump for calling on Rubio to drop out so that the primaries become a clear choice between Trump and Cruz. This could prove to be detrimental to Trump, and I’m not a Trump supporter. But I commend Trump for calling on Rubio to drop out because he is 100% correct on that point.

 

Trump – a Creature of the Swamp

You may heard the story that Washington D.C. was built on a swamp. It turns out that this story is an urban legend. However, it’s clear that Washington D.C. is  a swamp infested with corruption and dishonor. Our politicians suffer from malaria odipopulus, or in common parlance “a feverish and pathological hatred of the people”. Perhaps that’s why the politicians continually subvert the will of the people.

From day one, the political establishment figured that The Starship Donald would fall from orbit and burn up on re-entry into the Realpolitik atmosphereWell, they were wrong. It isn’t the first time “the elites” were completely wrong.

swampcreature.Swamp dwellers of D.C.: look yourselves  in the mirror, because YOU are to blame for what you now lament. YOU created a path for Trump by subverting the will of the people for so many years. In the end, Trump is therefore a Creature of YOUR Swamp.

Like the woman on the bed in the picture to the right, many Americans are wondering: what will happen next? Will he savage me or carry me to safety? Time will tell…

The establishment is trying to fool all of the people all of the time. That won’t work, Lincoln knew so when he famously said “you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” We need to look no further than to Lincoln to understand the anti-establishment wave.

Yet I will look further: should Trump be elected, it wouldn’t be the first time in human history that a strongman with a five-letter name was elected to “clean things up”.  No, I’m not thinking of Hitler, although he was indeed elected. No, I’m thinking of the Roman dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who actually was elected to the post as dictator by the Roman Senate.

sullaSulla (pictured on right) went about “cleaning things up” in a rather brutal way, yet managed to walk the streets without body guards once out of office.

The point is: Sulla definitely had popular support. That was a different time and place, but human nature has not changed that much in 2,000 years. You can’t subvert the will of the people forever.

In more recent times, the establishment was asleep as Jimmy Carter locked up the nomination in 1976 before Ted Kennedy could get out bed. An an aside, the world still wonders whose bed Ted Kennedy was late getting out of.

On the Republican side in that same year, Ronald Reagan came very close to taking the nomination from President Gerald Ford. My point is this: the establishment isn’t nearly as smart as they think they are. In fact, they’re fat, dumb and happy. The establishment usually is.

dailynews-frontpage-0616I’m a bit of an oddball: a non-religious supporter of Ted Cruz. Some call me stupid because of that. But even old stupid here understands that trying to insult an insult comedian won’t work.

The New York Daily News should ask itself how much sway it really has in light of the continued surge in popularity for Trump since their juvenile front page in June of 2015. Members of the Dead Tree Society, like the Daily News, can then go back to going out of business and increasing irrelevance.

I would describe Donald Trump as running a vulgar campaign. That term is meant to be descriptive, not an insult to Trump supporters, nor is it meant as a snobbish comment. And given the state of the nation, I’ll vote for a vulgarian candidate over any establishment candidate.

To be sure: I will hold my nose and cross my fingers, but at the end of the day I will vote for the machine-breaker. I will do so precisely because I hope he is a machine-breaker.