Author: Darren Smith

Weekend Photos: The Fire And The Resurrection

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Having decided to go on a long road trip, I came across the remnants of a wildfire and the subsequent rebirth of rolling fields of grass. The fire burned through this rural neighborhood yet to my amazement I could find no lost homes or outbuildings in or around the path of destruction. I initially attributed this to a supremely adept firefighting operation. Yet in the end, according to a resident there who I spoke with, it was more nature that took care of its own.

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L is for Layoffs: San Francisco’s Proposition L will Encourage Outsourcing and Tax Avoidance

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Voters within the City of San Francisco passed Proposition L, a measure designed to tax corporations having CEO compensation in excess of 100 times the median compensation of line employees. City analysts estimate the measure would raise between sixty and one hundred million dollars per year confiscated from large for-profit companies employing over one thousand persons nationwide and having administrative offices in San Francisco.

According to the San Francisco Voter Information Pamphlet:

• For a business that pays the Gross Receipts Tax, if its Top Executive Pay is more than 100 times Employee Pay, the business would pay an additional tax from 0.1% to 0.6% of its San Francisco gross receipts.

• For a business that pays the Administrative Office Tax, if its Top Executive Pay is more than 100 times Employee Pay, the business would pay an additional tax from 0.4% to 2.4% of its San Francisco payroll expense.

The Proposition invoked from a hearing of July 28, 2020 where the Board of Supervisors voted 11 to 0 to place Proposition L on the ballot.  The government wrote:

The more inequity between the top executive and their workers, the higher the surcharge. Corporations can avoid the tax by simply paying their executives less or by raising their employees’ wages.

We believe that big corporations that can afford to pay their executives million-dollar salaries every year can afford to pay their fair share in taxes to help us recover. Over the last 30 years, executive salaries in the United States have skyrocketed by 940 percent. But regular workers’ salaries have grown by just 11 percent. Prop L incentivizes companies to invest in their workers, not just their executives ~+~

That’s quite an incentive? Yes, I would agree: Laying off workers is the incentive that might actually come to mind at some companies.

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Turkey Flips Out Over Charlie Hebdo Cartoon

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Lion RoaringThe power of the cartoon seems to rival that of a division or more of soldiers, an economic boycott, or even a well-funded bribe. It only took one such cartoon to enrage Turkey such a degree that it effectively caused a worsening of diplomatic relations with France. We have to wonder what is more significant in these interesting times: the strength wielded by a free press satire newspaper, or how easily a dictator can be manipulated as a result of his unchecked ego and power.

The row between nations stemmed from a rather risque cover on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper of October 28th, 2020. A caricature depicts a randy, lecherous looking President Erdoğan sitting in his underwear upon an armchair while lifting the hijab of a laughing woman to expose her bare buttocks. The Turk seemingly takes delight in this, saying “Ouuuh! Le prophète!” A caption reads: “Erdogan dans le privé, il est très drôle” (A possible translation is “Erdoğan in the private sector, he is very funny.” )

Turkey and its president released the Kraken of its bureaucracy, prosecutors, and diplomats to counter the Charlie Hebdo cartoon threat, with his Communications Directorate proclaiming, “Our people should have no doubt that all necessary legal and diplomatic steps will be taken against the caricature in question. Our battle against these rude, ill-intentioned and insulting steps will continue until the end with reason but determination.”. Erdoğan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun wrote “Macron’s anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit! We condemn this most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred.” Yet not to be outdone or outshined by his own underlings, President Erdoğan was more succinct and measured in his learned analysis, voicing a week ago that French President Macron ‘needed a mental health check’ for his pledging to defend secular values and fight radical Islam, prompting France to recall its ambassador.

Erdoğan could add to that mountain of wisdom by lending an ear to his cohort Saddam Hussein who during trial proceedings memorably orated, “The lion does not care about a monkey laughing at him from a tree.” and just let it go.

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Apparently, It Is Now Necessary To Use Artificial Intelligence To Reform U.S. Federal Regulations

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

It seems that the regulatory web that envelopes United States federal regulations has grown so complex and gigantic, reform necessitates the use of artificial intelligence to tame the dragon.

Reuters reports the White House Office of Management and Budget last Friday announced that federal agencies will use Artificial Intelligence technology to “eliminate outdated, obsolete, and inconsistent requirements across tens of thousands of pages of government regulations.”

The project follows success found in 2019 using Machine Learning and Natural Language algorithms with software at the Department of Social and Health services in identifying hundreds of technical errors and outdated requirements in agency rulebooks

In a manner of speaking we have reached a point where the regulatory morass was allowed to become so formidable, that ordinary human-powered rule making is no longer capable of restraining or modernizing the red tape.

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Government Agencies Should Stop Using Facebook And Twitter

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor.

Twitter LogoFacebook LogoThe below is a reprint of an article I authored four years ago concerning the hazard government agencies face in their reliance on censorship wielding organizations such as Facebook and Twitter to disseminate official information to the public. While it offers a quick, cheap, and easy way to offer news to the public, the price demanded in terms of arbitrary third-party rules, ownership of information, public records keeping liability, and reliance on a platform that could remove individual or all postings without prior notice is a risk the public should not be expected to bear.

There are extant messaging protocols that are not dependent upon third-party proprietary services. These include methods such as RSS Feeds, list based e-Mail servers to push information in addition, and standard web pages. Each more than adequately can fulfill the needs of the informed public. But as long as social media companies act as arbitrary and capricious gatekeepers to official information that information is at risk.

It really is also a matter of controlling the integrity of the information. Governments and agencies are opening themselves up to failure and censorship by taking the easy way out and not deploying these technologies in-house. If either of these supposedly “too big to fail” social media platforms suddenly collapsed (either financially or technologically) it would cause an immediate breakdown of a messaging system spanning governments globally. It can be one of the worst forms of single-point failure imaginable. Yet if each agency or government maintained their own system, if one individual server broke down the damage would be rather benign.

The most immediate problem before us presently is the proclivity to censor by social media outfits which might be at odds with legislation or rulemaking relating to public records and news announcements by government.  It is not a duty of the social media companies to edit or formulate this information.

Here is the article:

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What Will Our Words Today Afford Us In Five Years: Blessings or Discord?

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

I thought this week I would share with you an important life-lesson I experienced decades ago. What will the words we express today afford us or others five years in the future? This is how I learned then the virtue of good teaching and how I’ve come to realize in the strife of much of today’s discourse that sowing discord is the antithesis of prosperity.

In my case it was a simple lesson that had a profound outcome.


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A Suggested Strategy For Working With People Experiencing Hallucinations Or Mental Illnesses

Joseph Friedman, M.D.

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

I found recently a video produced by the Parkinson’s Foundation that I believe offers both the general public and emergency responders an engaging primer toward accepting a beneficial mindset and foundation toward working with patients who experience hallucinations resulting from medication usage or have mental health issues.

The below video was published on YouTube in 2018 by the Parkinson’s Foundation and narrated by Joseph H. Friedman, M.D. Director of the Movement Disorders Program at Butler Hospital and of the Department of Neurology, Alpert Medical School of Brown University. The presentation consists of Parkinson’s patients relating their experience with sensory hallucinations manifesting as the result of side-effects invoked via prescribed medication to treat their movement disorder. Dr. Friedman offers the viewer advice and insight as to why these experiences occur, which is of course valuable information, but in the larger scope of the human condition he provides a way for us to broaden our thinking and be more accepting of these conditions and relating to their challenges.

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CA Governor Issues Exec. Order Banning by 2035 New Gasoline and Diesel Vehicles Sold In-State

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

California Governor Gavin Newsom last Wednesday issued Executive Order N-79-20 establishing a state goal that “100 percent of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks will be zero-emission by 2035”. The order also establishes extensive regulatory goals and practices mandating research and reporting standards extending to energy generation facilities such as petroleum extraction, public transit, and environmental protection. The proffered policy guidance does not mandate, at least in its current format, that existing non-zero-emission vehicles be forceably withdrawn from service by a hard date. There does seem to be an implication that constraints mandated against petroleum generally might as a consequence be unviable to the consumer and usher them into zero-emissions vehicle ownership.

California has over the last several decades established itself as a de facto policy maker nationally given the size of the state in terms of market share and the state’s jurisdication over such share. The Executive Order presents a very large reach given the current dependence on petroleum fueled Internal Combustion Engines for passenger vehicles. The goals could be achievable. Whether or not the implementation cost is something the public is willing to accept remains to be seen.

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Driver Using “Autopilot” Technology Criminally Charged After Collision

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

A driver reportedly relying on the “Autopilot” function of a vehicle was cited for driving with criminal negligence after his passenger car struck a legally standing police patrol car. Though anecdotal, I believe this incident demonstrates what I believe to be a legal fatal flaw in the foundational concept for vehicles equipped with autonomous navigation and driving technology–that they can cause either the “driver” or vehicle owner into criminal liability for essentially the passive act of allowing the car control over the journey.

Ars Technica reported this most recent collision where a Massachusetts driver was cited for driving with criminal negligence after his autonomously operating vehicle crashed into the rear end of a patrol car on a traffic stop. Though the officer was outside his SUV at the time of the collision, he suffered minor injuries when his patrol car was pushed forward into the stopped vehicle. State Troopers said the driver of the colliding vehicle was “not paying attention”. The mechanics of the collision showed the officer was lucky to have escaped death.

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WA Police Recruit Steps Up To The Plate, And Inspires

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

In my travels I happened along a small act of community caretaking that brought a smile to the both of us. It was not so much what was done for a motorist with a disabled vehicle, but the degree of enthusiasm and resolve shown by a young police recruit in stepping up to the plate for a citizen in need that I found inspirational. So here’s a “hats off” to her and the WA Criminal Justice Training Commission for fostering such spirit.

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Bigfoot Endorses President Trump

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

It seems the Trump 2020 campaign has successfully taken the cryptozoological demographic as evidenced by at least one prominent display in rural Washington State: “Bigfoot ‘Luvs’ Trump”.

The significance of this announcement cannot be understated, for it shows how even the most disaffected, and disinterested citizen of this state literally “came out of nowhere” and made it plainly clear that he was dissatisfied with the situation in the woods of Western Washington.

This dramatic shift should be a wake-up call for President Trump’s opponents in the race for the White House.

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Weekend Photos: Fond of the Lake

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Having seen the weather outside to be both glorious and inviting, I suddenly realized it was necessary for me to engage once again in “essential travel necessary to maintain critical infrastructure within the state’s economy”. So I hitched up the boat and took it to a scenic lake.

Once on the pond, I realized I should have brought my fishing pole as in some areas near shore the fish were occasionally jumping out of the water–just begging to be caught and eaten for dinner. Sadly I couldn’t accommodate their aspirations. Nevertheless the water was surprisingly warm and the air was filled with a pleasant waft of the forest and something that was blooming. A couple bald eagles circled in the distance, keeping their watch. I do not speak “Eagle” so I could not introduce him to the fish I saw earlier.

Still, it was as it always is, enjoyable to be away from it all, and snap a few shots.

Click each to enlarge

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Weekend Photos: Today’s Column, The Basalt Of The Earth

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Once again I needed to “make essential travel to facilitate commerce related to critical infrastructure.” *** So I loaded up some tools and headed down the highway. For me I find the semi-arid coulees to be relaxing and soul-resting. Unless someone or natural events disturbs the area, it otherwise will remain nearly identical to what it was ten or twenty years earlier. Wildland fire seems to be the main cause of change and even in that example only a few years are needed for restoration. Time moves at a lichen’s pace.

Click on each photo to enlarge.

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WA Parents File Lawsuit Against Gov. Inslee Alleging Emergency School Closures Are Unconstitutional

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee

Last week several parents on behalf of themselves and their minor children filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of Washington seeking injunctive relief and for the Court to declare the closures unconstitutional as the governor’s proclamations violate the “paramount duty on the part of the state to make ‘ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

The underlying information alleged within the lawsuit presents facts that Plaintiffs assert demonstrate that the current state of the COVID-19 virus’ threat no longer credibly constitutes an actual emergency and that the governor’s Proclamations as a result lack a foundational basis to remove children from schools. The suit further states the governor applied a wide brush to declare all Washingtonians as being at risk when the epidemiological evidence shows that the COVID-19 infection and death rate mirrors that of Influenza and Pneumonia infection rates of past years yet no public emergency was declared then. Furthermore, the illness and death rate for those less than twenty years in age is non-existent in the state and nearly everywhere else sampled. Plaintiffs proffer that the failing of the governor to limit the scope of application of the Proclamations to those actually vulnerable to the virus, the elderly and sick, infringed upon the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and other children who have physiologically shown no significant vulnerability to the virus yet suffered the violation of their right to education resulting from an overly-broad inclusion under the declarations of state of emergency.

The complaint also mentions the sub-par nature of the education provided the minor Plaintiffs by the state, equating in one example only an hour of education and that much of what is expected is for grade school children to self-initiate and self direct their own education. One child, resides at times with a parent who has no Internet service at his residence and thus cannot facilitate an ample accomodation to meet the child’s special educational needs.

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Weekend Photos: The Tide is Low But I’m Holdin’ On

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Though the state ordered us to Stay at Home and cower, it was of great necessary for me to drive to the Washington State Coast on “essential business travel related to maintaining critical infrastructure”. Yet, I did manage somehow to find a few moments during this noble duty to brave hazardous viral shoals, and pandemically mutated Coho-vid Salmon to bring you a few photographs of the infested outdoors. Please, do not worry for me–I had my cloth facemask somewhere in the glovebox and Geiger counter on a shelf in the garage, so I was protected.

Click on each to enlarge.

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