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Is Trump Irrelevant?

Those who had lauded the expansion of executive powers when Barack Obama was president perhaps now see the dangers of an imperial presidency with Donald Trump as president. It doesn’t matter if you are Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, because we all know what Lord Acton said about the corrupting influence of power.

In previous columns written during the presidential campaign, I observed that Trump is devoid of ideology. His appalling inauguration speech was loaded with vague objectives which he apparently thought he could achieve by edict. In his nomination acceptance speech, he recited a list of issues which he said, “… I alone can fix it.” That is some chutzpah and it is more revealing than Mr. Trump realizes.

I noted, “Trump follows a long line of populist leaders who use tired terms like ‘America first’ or the ‘Forgotten Man’ to incite their followers. They promise big and deliver little.” Populists sacrifice principles for power.

The chaos that is engulfing the Trump administration should be worrisome to all of us. Trump as president has revealed his true self and he is unlikely to change. Attempts to inject gravitas into President Trump have proven futile. Trump supporters enthusiastically welcomed General Kelly as Chief of Staff whom they thought would tame Trump and bring some order to the chaos that has been the hallmark of his administration. That has not been the case as we have seen in Trump’s Charlottesville tweets.

His supporters now similarly cheer the ouster of Steve Bannon, another agent of chaos, as a turning point in Trump’s administration. That would be wishful thinking. If we’ve learned nothing else from Trump, we know he is uncontrollable and will dig in and double down on his blunders.

One wonders why President Trump continues to sabotage himself. Any rational politician would wish to build a consensus of support in Congress to achieve his policy goals. Yet Trump seems pathologically incapable of doing that. The Charlottesville missteps have seen the Republican Congress backing away from him, afraid his noxiousness will rub off on them. Ditto with the business leaders on his advisory councils. Even worse, the press hate him and the long knives are out, digging for anything that would take him down. Why would a rational man keep doing this?

The answer is that he can’t help himself. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to see the inherent flaws in his psyche. He either has seriously defective judgment or he has some mental issues that cause his compulsivity. Whatever it is, it is something beyond his arrogance, narcissism, and thin-skinned ego.

Which leads me to wonder if he is becoming irrelevant.

He alone is sabotaging his presidency. He has alienated a Republican Congress, his key advisers are at odds with him, and he lacks an ideological vision of what really does makes America great. It is obvious that he will not be the agent of change that voters hoped for. This makes him irrelevant and it is likely that the result will be a do-nothing presidency.

Being irrelevant does not make him harmless. He has a penchant for lashing out without consulting his key advisers. One could argue that “lashing out” is just harmless rhetoric, but in the foreign policy realm it is not. His attempts to top Kim Jong Un’s empty commie-rants, his threat to bomb the s**t out of ISIS, his threats against China and Iran, and his cosseting of Putin present him as a potentially dangerous, unpredictable, and destabilizing force. We need friends, not enemies, in this world.

Other than blundering onto another war, the greatest danger he presents is his threat to disrupt free trade which demonstrates a shocking ignorance of economics. Withdrawal from TPP, trade sanctions against China, and his goal of destroying NAFTA will only serve to destabilize our economy and bring on recession and unemployment.

What can we expect of Trump’s legislative accomplishments? Apparently, nothing. He failed to articulate true healthcare reform and a divisive Republican Congress failed spectacularly to fill the breach. Perhaps they will do nothing and let Obamacare fail. Tax cuts are a possibility, but it appears that it will be driven by Congress not the Executive branch.

There is something to be said for legislative paralysis. The fewer the legislative “reforms”, the better the economy. Once businesses, the drivers of prosperity, believe there will be stability and predictability in government action, they can better plan and invest for the future. If they believe that the playing field will be changed (regime uncertainty), they are less willing to invest in future expansion.

That is not to say there are not significant problems that government needs to address, but there is no political will to solve them. No president nor any Congress, left or right, seem willing to sacrifice power for solutions.

As much as his detractors would wish it so, unless the press or Robert Mueller come up with a smoking gun, a dead body, and a cache of rubles, it is unlikely he will be impeached. We must assume the man will last for a full four-year term.

Trump risks becoming irrelevant because no one will take him seriously. He reminds me of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where, after warning King Arthur that, “None shall pass”, he keeps defiantly taunting Arthur even after the king chops off his arms and legs. Trump just had a leg chopped off; he might be limbless by 2020.

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This $586.56 San Francisco Lawsuit Could Destroy The Entire ‘Gig Economy’

When Raef Lawson filed his $586.56 lawsuit in San Francisco he probably didn’t realize he could potentially end up disrupting the entire ‘gig economy’ that subsidizes a plethora of Silicon Valley tech giants from Uber to DoorDash, but that could very well end up being the outcome. 

As Yahoo points out today, Lawson used to be a delivery driver for GrubHub but now he finds himself at the epicenter of an ongoing legal battle over whether 1099 contractors working for firms GrubHub and Uber should really be counted at employees rather than independent contractors.

In a windowless, 15th-floor courtroom in downtown San Francisco last week, GrubHub was defending its 1099 independent contractor employment model for its delivery drivers.


There’s no verdict yet, and there probably won’t be for at least another week. This trial, Lawson vs. GrubHub, is looking to determine whether or not plaintiff Raef Lawson, an ex-GrubHub driver, was misclassified as an independent contractor while delivering food for GrubHub.


Lawson’s lawyer, Shannon Liss-Riordan (pictured below), has spent a good chunk of time in this trial focusing on the amount of control she perceived GrubHub to have over Lawson during the time he delivered food for them. She’s trying to prove that Lawson’s employment met the conditions of the Borello test, which looks at circumstances like whether the work performed is part of the company’s regular business, the skill required, payment method and whether the work is done under supervision of a manager. The purpose of the test is to determine whether a worker is a 1099 contractor or a W-2 employee.



Of course, the entire business model for companies like Uber hangs in the balance as adding 1,000s of employees to their own payrolls would drastically change, if not completely destroy, their business model. 

For now, these employers bring on 1099 contractors to avoid paying taxes, overtime pay, benefits and workers’ compensation.  But, if that were to change, the cost of that Uber trip would suddenly look a lot like your taxi fare from 10 years ago.

Those who work as 1099 contractors can be their own bosses, meaning they can set their own schedules, and decide when, where and how much they want to work. Being a 1099 contractor can also be a solid, lucrative side-hustle because you could theoretically work for several companies at once. As noted in this trial, Lawson also delivered food for other gig economy startups, including Postmates. For employers, bringing on 1099 contractors means they can avoid paying taxes, overtime pay, benefits and workers’ compensation.


Although Lawson only seeks a small, estimated sum of $586.56, the result of the trial could potentially affect the employment models of companies like Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Caviar, DoorDash and many others.

Perhaps that’s why it makes sense that, as Yahoo points out, Uber’s undoubtedly high-paid “employment counsel team” has suddenly taken a very active interest in a tiny $500 lawsuit.

On day one, I noticed a member of Uber’s employment counsel team watching closely, taking notes about the trial. That makes sense, given Uber has found itself as the defendant in similar lawsuits that have ultimately been settled before needing to go to trial.

But, who knows if we’ll ever see a verdict in the Lawson vs. GrubHub trial…for some odd reason these types of cases keep get settled before a judge can rule on them.

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Somali troops flee to Kenya to escape Al-Shabab attack

Tue, 2017-09-12 03:00

MOGADISHU: Somali soldiers, some of them wounded, fled across the border into Kenya during an attack by militants on the town of Bulo Hawo on Monday, security sources said.
At least 12 people died when fighters from the Al-Qaeda-aligned Al-Shabab group attacked the border town, according to witnesses, while many soldiers fled westward a few kilometers to the Kenyan town of Mandera.
“We have several of the soldiers from Somalia who ran to Kenya after the attack,” said Mohamud Saleh, regional coordinator for north eastern Kenya. “Some are injured and have been taken to hospital.”
Another regional security official, who did not want to be named, said the Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers numbered “more than 100.”
The assault on Bulo Hawo followed standard Al-Shabab procedure with a vehicle-borne improvised bomb exploding at the entrance to the town’s main military post, followed by a coordinated attack by militants from several directions.
“Al-Shabab militants attacked Bulo Hawo early this morning and heavy fighting erupted inside the town,” said Ibrahim Dahir, a Somali army officer in the area.
Abdukadir Moalim, a local elder, said at least 12 people were killed, “most of them combatants.”
Bulo Hawo resident Ahmed Omar said that lacking reinforcements the SNA soldiers, left the town “and some of them crossed the border with Kenya.”
The militants stole vehicles and weapons before withdrawing.
In a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the raid saying it killed 30 soldiers and released 35 prisoners from jail.
Al-Shabab has been fighting to overthrow successive internationally backed governments in Mogadishu for the last 10 years, and also carries out occasional terrorist attacks in neighboring Kenya.

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Why Nobody Can Trust Facebook


It becomes harder and harder to overstate the corruption and treachery of the online ad industry. Lord knows I’ve tried.

Among its other accomplishments, Facebook has become famous for its lunatic metrics and bizarre rationalizations.

You would think a company that built its business on the promise of putting sophisticated data to work for advertisers would have the sense not to release numbers that are patently ridiculous.

But time and again Facebook has undermined its credibility by making claims that are easily proven to be false, and then defended these claims with statements that are absurd.

This week it was reported that Facebook was claiming to reach 41 million Americans between the ages of 18-24. If Facebook reached every American between 18 and 24 they’d still be 10 million short. There are only 31 million of them.

But Facebook’s ability to reach imaginary people isn’t just limited to its home base here in the US. According to their metrics, they have also developed the amazing  technology to reach non-existent people all over the world.

Below is a chart from AdNews in Australia that sums up Facebook’s “branded storytelling.”

We are so used to bullshit from the online ad industry that this latest round of nonsense should surprise no one.

The online ad industry — the most corrupt and fraud-laden medium anyone’s ever seen — famously gave us the wonderful acronym NHT for Non-Human Traffic. Now Facebook has given us NEP’s — Non-Existing People.

Facebook has been ridiculed all over the world for this obvious fakery. And they will pay the exact same price they’ve paid every time they’ve been found to be lying about their numbers — nothing, nada, zilch. The marketing and advertising industries have reached a point of such exquisite incompetence that nothing any of these creeps does has any consequences. They are liars and we are fools.

I loved Facebook’s explanation for their metrics:

    “They are designed to estimate how many people in a given area are eligible to see an ad a business might run. They are not designed to match population or census estimates.”

There must be a planet on which that preposterous nonsense makes sense, but I’ll be damned if I know where it is.

Is it any wonder Facebook is fighting to the bitter end to block 3rd party monitoring and auditing of its numbers? If the numbers they brazenly release to the public are this dishonest, can you imagine the horseshit they feed their credulous clients in private?


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Saudi Arabia, Japan hold talks to strengthen bilateral ties

Tue, 2017-09-12 03:00

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Japan held comprehensive talks in Jeddah on Monday on a range of issues including politics, trade, and ways to strengthen cooperation to implement the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030.
The talks between King Salman and Taro Kono, Japanese foreign minister, also focused on key regional and international issues.
“Kono, in his talks with King Salman, also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and sought support of the Kingdom on the issue of North Korea,” said Setsuo Ohmori, minister and deputy chief of the mission, at the Japanese Embassy. He said that “the Japanese minister stressed the importance of putting pressure on North Korea, which is destabilizing the whole region of east Asia.”
Hiromichi Kato, a spokesman of the embassy, said: “Kono also talked about the move to de-escalate tension between Arab countries and Qatar, intensify efforts for the Middle East peace process, and boost cooperation for implementing Vision 2030.”
During his two-day stay in Jeddah, Kono met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign minister; Adel Faqeeh, minister of economy and planning; and Majid Al-Qassabi, minister of commerce and investment. In talks with Al-Jubeir, Kono called for “an early resolution through dialogue to defuse the Qatar crisis.”
The Japanese foreign minister’s talks with Faqeeh and Al-Qassabi were aimed to devise ways and means to implement Vision 2030. To this end, Kato said that “the third ministerial meeting within the framework of the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030 is scheduled to be held in the Kingdom later this year.”
The spokesman also thanked the Saudi officials for easing the visa procedures for Japanese businessmen, which will go a long way in boosting commercial links between the two countries. The audience with the king was attended by several members of the royal family and ministers including Minister of State and Cabinet Member Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Saudi Ambassador to Japan Ahmed Y. Al-Barrak and Japanese Ambassador Norihiro Okuda.
The Japanese foreign minister’s visit to the Kingdom was part of his ongoing tour of five countries in the region, which kicked off on Sunday with a visit to Jordan.
During this trip, Kono sought cooperation of all Middle East countries including the Kingdom in dealing with North Korea, which conducted its most powerful nuclear test a few days back. He praised Kuwait’s move to suspend issuing new visas for North Korean workers and other measures to strengthen pressure on Pyongyang to end its provocations.

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Saudi Shoura Council calls to hire specialized women to issue fatwas

Tue, 2017-09-12 03:00

RIYADH: During its 49th ordinary session, the Shoura Council called on the General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta to open independent sections for women.
This ordinary session was held on Monday under the chairmanship of the president of the council, Abdullah Al-Asheikh.
It also called for hiring specialized women to issue fatwas, while providing the necessary human and material requirements to do so.
The council called on the presidency to take the necessary measures to complete the appointment of the muftis in the rest of the Kingdom and to adopt the necessary funds for the development of the library of the presidency.
During the session, the council called on the General Authority for Ports to transfer the advisory councils of the ports to boards of directors at each port and with all given administrative powers.
In its resolution, the council called on the General Authority for Ports, in coordination with the relevant authorities, to include in next reports its efforts to reduce the negative impacts on the marine coastal environment.
In another resolution, the Shoura Council called on the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) to direct its support to make use of the ADF’s initiatives in developing the agricultural sector in the Kingdom and to develop an advanced performance strategy.
The council discussed the report of the Hajj, Housing and Services Committee on the annual report of the Real Estate Development Fund for the fiscal year 1436/1437 AH.
In its recommendations, the committee called on the Real Estate Development Fund to accelerate the implementation of the royal order, which includes the development of the fund’s system to become a financing institution capable of providing financial instruments and innovative solutions.
The committee called for providing support and assistance to the Real Estate Development Fund to collect on its overdue loans.
One of the council’s members called on the fund to apply the decision of the Council of Ministers, which exempted applicants before 23/7/1432 AH of the provisions of the regulation of housing subsidy.
She also demanded that soldiers stationed in the southern borders be exempted from repaying loans to the Real Estate Development Fund.

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