Sunday, April 17, 2011

Let the Birther Issue Go Away

Stanley Ann Dunham, a brilliant 18 year old Constitutional Law scholar, was lying in labor in a Nairobi (or was it Mombassa?), Kenya hospital. She had a problem. Her gift of prophecy told her that her first born, Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., was destined to become President of the United States, her birthplace.

She had everything planned, but you never know. After giving birth, with barely seconds to spare, Baby Barry’s umbilical cord would be cut. They would race to the airport in a waiting ambulance. A private charter jet (or was it a prop? – we’re not sure) was waiting to fly her non-stop to Honolulu International Airport, and then grab a private ambulance to the Kapi’olani Maternal and Gynecological Hospital.

Presto, Baby Barack would be recognized as a live birth in the United States on August 4, 1961.

Even if you ignore the facts that Ann was not wealthy, did not know Constitutional Law, and that no record exists of the Obama child being born in Kenya, none of this theory has a shed of credulity to it.

I checked our sons’ birth certificates recently. The one we have for our youngest son is not technically a birth certificate, but a certificate of live birth. It was good enough to get him a United States passport.

The certificate of live birth, similar to the Massachusetts certificate for our son, of President Obama is what the birthers are complaining about. Donald Trump, a publicity maven, is riding high on the birther balloon right now, but it will burst soon.

Here are other non-birthright issues that have not been an issue in the past.
Senator Barry Goldwater was the Republican nominee for President in 1964. The Senator was born in Arizona, but the territory of Arizona was not yet a state. About the only charge not leveled at the Senator was that he was not a native-born citizen of the United States.

Republican Governor George Romney unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 1988. The Governor was actually born in Mexico City, which clearly is not in the United States, but his parents were both citizens of the United States.

Questions were raised about Senator John McCain’s qualifications for the Presidency early in the campaign because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone, and not in the United States.

Give it up!

President George W. Bush was the duly elected President in 2000. President Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. is the duly elected President today.

The President was born in Hawaii. The Birther Movement is a sad distraction, right up there with either President George W. Bush or the Israelis blowing up the Twin towers, or Vice President Johnson masterminding the assassination of President Kennedy.

Those of us who thought Senator Obama was unqualified to be President because of his ultra-liberalism, pacifism, lack of leadership qualities, and inexperience have sadly had our views validated. He is the second coming of President Jimmy Carter.

President Obama’s record should be the basis of the 2012 election – not the bogus birther issue.

Friday, April 15, 2011

You Can Still Partake of the Royal Wedding Festivities Without an Invite

You’re disappointed, if not a tad miffed, that you are not of the 1,700 who received an invitation to the Royal Wedding. Relax, you can still participate in the festivities and contribute to the British economy in the process.

Just buy a unique Royal Wedding Souvenir with the images of Prince William and the commoner, Kate Middleton.

Look for something special, if not unique.

Anyone can purchase one of the usual cups, mugs, bowls, glasses, spoons, stamps, and commemorative coins. These will soon find their proper place on EBay and Amazon. That’s too déclassé. Besides, they’re mostly made in China – not even Hong Kong, the former British colony.

The Royal family only licenses gifts with class, taste and refinement. The official standards are “good taste, free from any form of advertisement, and no implication of royal custom or approval.”

Therefore, some of the kitsch is tasteless, garish, gaudy, and grotesque. Cash trumps class.

The official rules forbid T-shirts. Thus, no official “My parents went to the Royals and all I got was this cheap T-shirt.” Fear not though, British entrepreneurs are as scornful of trademarks and copyrights as the urchins who show up outside conventions in this former colony with instant T-shirts

There’s rings, and then there’s the brass knuckle engagement rings.

For the truly young, cell phone, mousepads, and I-Phone/Pad apps exist.

The even younger have Pez dispersers, comic books, toy trucks (If only Matchbox could have held survived)the William and Kate Dress Up Dolly Book, jigsaw puzzles, the Franklin Mint Middleton Doll, a teddy bear with the engagement ring, his and her Halloween masks, and bobble heads of the crowned heads.

Kate Middleton wannabes have finger nail decals, “No more Waity Katie Nail Polish,” and perfume.

Ah, but if you can combine many of the royal wedding souvenirs into one, such as going to the Will and Kate fridge, pulling out two “Kiss Me Kate” beers, applying the Will and Kate bottle opener, lying on a Will and Kate cushion (mini or large depending on the gluteus maximus) while placing a Royal celebration CD or DVD in the player. Then retire into the boudoir for the Crown Jewel Heritage sheaths of distinction condoms as you make love with the soft ambiance of Will and Kate Yankee Candles under the Will and Kate Clock. Imagine the newlyweds looking down on you as you copulate.

Why not put also a pair of life-size Will and Kate cardboard cutouts in the room? Some of the past royals have been living and breathing cardboard cutouts.

Take down the American flag proudly hanging in front of your house. Replace it with a large Will and Kate Flag blowing in the wind.

You’ve had too much to eat; proceed to the Will and Kate Royal Toilet Seat, perhaps in memory of Sir Thomas Crapper.

You’re disgusted by now. That calls either for the Will and Kate barf bags, or a look at the royal caricatures.

Bored- the Will and Kate Playing Cards will pass the time with the mystery of who’s the joker.

The proper set, perhaps the Queen herself, can drink tea from Will and Kate tea bags in a Will and Kate teapot in Will and Kate teacups with Will and Kate marmalade on Will and Kate coasters with dainty, but totally unauthorized Will and Kate tea-towels.

You may also have a piece of Will and Kate cake or pie, but they don’t go well with tea or the Will and Kate ale. There's also the classic edibles from Baskin-Robbins, Dunkin Donuts and papa Johns.

Read all about it in a graphic novel.

I swear on my Will and Kate Bible that all these items exist.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reflections on the Civil War

The Civil War, the War to Save the Union, the War Between the States, the War of Northern Aggression, That Recent Unpleasantness, the Lost Cause formally began 150 years ago at 4:30AM when Confederate batteries in Charleston Harbor shelled undermanned and ill-supplied Union officers and soldiers in Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

Call it what you want, the North won and the South lost.

The ensuing brutality of the war can be summed up in General Sherman’s pithy statement: “War is Hell.”

Secession actually began earlier with South Carolina voting on December 20, 1860 to leave the Union, followed by 10 other Southern states.

The split was inevitable. The differences between a free north and slave south were unbridgeable. The United States, unlike Great Britain, could not peacefully resolve the differences. England’s slave economy was in a few colonies – not inside England itself. Thus, England under the impetus of William Wilberforce could ban the Slave Trade in 1807, and then totally ban slavery within the British Empire in 1833, buying out the slave-owners. The United States joined England in 1808 in banning the slave trade, but it could not follow up by legislatively ending slavery. Slavery was not the lynchpin of the British economy, unlike the Southern and Border States in the United States, nor of its international trade.

The increasingly industrializing North and the single, cotton economy of the South were losing the ties that bind.

Even the nation’s founding fathers knew slavery was a festering sore, but to keep the states together they entered into the Constitution the first of several compromises that inevitably led to the war. The gulf between North and South widened over the decades in the wake of successive compromises.

Military lessons from the War included the value of railroads in moving large masses of soldiers, the rise of ironclads and the demise of wooden sailing ships.

As wars go, the United States was magnanimous in victory, perhaps too magnanimous. Almost every other winning power in a civil war would have executed the leaders and thousands of supporters of the failed rebellion. The British certainly showed no mercy in suppressing the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 in India.

We learnt that a democracy often lacks the will at the end of a war to carry through, such that the North effectively gave up on securing the freedom of the former slaves.

Victory in war does not always resolve underlying issues, and the Civil War was no exception.

The Civil War at its essence was a war to decide the fate of slavery.

The Civil War emancipated the slaves, but the Freedman was not necessarily free. Slavery was replaced by segregation, Jim Crow Laws, the Poll Tax, the KKK, and lynch mobs, and not just in the South. Anti-miscegenation laws were enacted and discrimination in housing a national reality. Equal opportunity did not exist in employment or college enrollment. Back of the bus was a way of life. Public accommodations were segregated and major college and professional sports teams were white only.

Over a century was necessary for America, and not just the South, to change. It took a Southerner, a Texan no less, to lead Congress into legislating equality. President Lyndon Baines Johnson ushered through Congress a series of civil rights statutes coinciding with the Civil Rights Movement. The United States Supreme Court became a champion of the Civil Rights Movement in a series of cases even before the 1960”s. It was no longer the Court of Plessey v. Ferguson or the Dred Scott decision.

Separate but equal was no longer the law of the land.

The conflict between states’ rights and federal supremacy continues, but the Civil War titled the scales to national preeminence.

The War also ushered in, or accelerated, a number of non-racial changes in America.
The Republicans, in the absence of the Southern Democrats, were able to authorize the construction of the transcontinental railroads, which united the vast American continent. The Morrill Act of 1862 created America’s great public land grant universities. 18 historically black institutions subsequently received land grant status.

The war propelled the United States in becoming the world’s greatest industrial power, and a nascent military colossus. It unified the nation. The United States was now on the way to becoming a true democracy.

However reluctantly, the South was dragged into one America for the South had decisively lost the war and a large percent of its male population. It could sullenly resist, but as generations passed, the flying of the Confederate Flag was no longer a state imperative. The lowering of the Flag is highly symbolic. The South can never return to what it was.

The United States 150 years later has an African-American President and an African American governor of Massachusetts. South Carolina and Florida have elected Republican African –Americans to Congress. Louisiana has a male Indian as Governor and South Carolina a female Indian as Governor; both are Republicans. Virginia earlier had a Democratic African-American serve as Governor. Four African-Americans (three Democrats from Illinois and a republican from Massachusetts) have served in the Senate in recent years. An African-American is the third highest ranking Democrat in the House.

America has come a long way since the Civil War.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Granny in Georgia Cuts Off Armenia

Armenia was cut off from the internet on March 28.

It wasn’t the usual suspects: black ops, Borat, Bulgarian hackers, Chechen terrorists, Chinese computer scientists, CIA/NSA jamming, Israeli geniuses, AT&T drop zone, teenage computer prodigies, Turkish animus to Armenia, or the Russians replaying their invasion of Georgia a few years ago. It wasn’t a virus, Trojan horse, or worm.

It was a shovel, a plain, vanilla shovel without any electronic bells or whistles.

Imagine the power of the shovel. It can blackout an entire nation.

75 year old Hayastan Shakarian, a Georgian pensioner, who claims ignorance of the net, possessed felonious intent. We could, as some, call her a scrap metal hunter or dumpster diver, of which America possesses thousands. She was trying to dig up copper piping in Ksavi, 40 miles from the capitol of Tbilisi, to then sell on the scrap market.

She wanted the metal, whether it was in use or not. You can’t dig for gold in Georgia, but copper is abundant.

She did it without the ubiquitous metal detector, found on our tourist beaches, but rather blind luck.

She dug up something even more valuable than copper: the fiber optic cable which connects the internet from Europe to the southern Caucasus – all of Armenia, and much of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Alas for Hayastan, the fiber optic cable had minimal value compared to copper, but triggered alarms in Tbilisi. She was caught in copper delecto.

She was arrested, and acquired a new nickname: the “Spade hacker.” The prosecutor said she will stand trial, but in the meantime because of a mitigating factor, her age, she was released. She faces a fine, community service, or a year in prison. Hayastan is fortunate in that her Georgian predecessors, Stalin and Beria, would have had a different fate for her.

Ironically, her ancestry is Armenian. Hence she is a Georgian-Armenia spade hacker, or GASH for short, symbolic of the fiber optic gash.

Friday, April 8, 2011

On Wisconsin, Again

The Late Returns From Waukesha County Save Justice Prosser’s Seat

Justice David Prosser’s bid for retention on the Wisconsin Supreme Court was dead Wednesday. A 204 vote victory, out of one and a half million cast, seemed to change the political future of Wisconsin. The conservative lost to a liberal, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg; the composition of the Wisconsin Supreme changed from 4:3 conservative to 4:3 liberal. Governor Scott walker’s union busting bill was judicially dead. The unions sent a message; don’t mess with them.

The unions did their thing. They funded Kloppenburg’s campaign. They got the vote out – a 50% turnout in Madison and Milwaukee. They were on a roll.

The trial lawyers were also celebrating.

Justice Prosser would have demanded a recount, and the election lawyers would have racked up thousands of billable hours. History tells us the Secretary of State (Katherine Harris in Florida and Mark Ritchie in the 2008 Minnesota Senate race) play a critical role in recounts. It is not easy to win a recount when the Secretary of State is of the other party.

The Republican incumbent Senator, Norm Coleman, was ahead by over 700 votes on election night and certified as the winner by 215 votes in the Minnesota race. Then came the recount, supervised by the Democratic Secretary of State Ritchie, and suddenly Senator Coleman lost by 312 votes to a tax-dodging comedian, Al Franken.

Justice Prosser would have had a nearly impossible task to overcome the 204 vote deficit. A circuit judge would supervise the recount, with the judge being appointed by the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the Honorable Ruth Abrahamson.

The Chief Justice and Judge Prosser do not like each other. He once called her a “total bitch.” Chief Justice Abrahamson has never felt bound by legal precedence in judicially legislating.

But suddenly, the late returns from Waukesha County, just like the fabled “late returns from Chicago” changed everything. The Waukesha County Clerk, Kathy Nickolaus, said 14,000 ballots had been counted, but not reported due to human error. Assuming no voter fraud or other misconduct, Justice Prosser is ahead by 7,500 ballots, probably an insurmountable lead.

The voter surge is being questioned -more billable hours for the lawyers.

The unions have to fight this battle to the end. A win for them provides great momentum in their next fight to recall 8 Republican Senators in the state. The following step would be to recall Governor Walker while the Wisconsin judiciary strikes down the law.

For now, they have to demonize Kathy Nicholas as a long term incompetent, political operative. The problem for them is that every one of her actions was overseen by a Democrat. In addition, Waukesha County is heavily Republican. It often votes 2-1 for Republican presidential candidates. A heavy turnout in Waukesha County reflected the conservative voters’ reaction against the demonstrations and unruly conduct by the unions in Madison. Turnout works both ways.

Vice President Richard Nixon believed he lost the 1960 Presidential Election to Senator John F. Kennedy because of voter fraud by Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson in Texas and Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago. The late returns from Chicago and the Hill Country were highly suspect.

The 14 Democratic Senators who fled to Illinois forgot to bring the late Democratic returns from Chicago with them.

The 214 votes or the 7,500 votes decide the political future of Wisconsin.

One final twist is that if the recounts and legal battles ensue, then the case will ultimately go to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Justice Prosser would have to recuse himself. The Court would then be split 3:3. Who knows what would then happen?

On Wisconsin!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Reflections on Libya - I'm Confused

What is the mission?

Is it regime change, non-regime change, regime change, or is the answer blowing in the wind?

Is it a regime change when we only want Qaddafi out?

Why are France, Great Britain, and Italy waging war, once again, against the Arabs in the Mideast?

What does Germany know that France, Great Britain, Italy and the United States are missing?

Why are Christian countries again attacking Arabia?

Why not Iran, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Ivory Coast, or Zimbabwe?

When did Syria's Assad become a reformer?

What if Gaddafi does not leave?

Who are the rebels?

Is president Obama becoming the second coming of President Carter?

Will Egypt or Libya become President Obama’s Iran?

Is President Obama the successor to President Wilson and Carter on moralistic foreign policy?

Did President Obama really win the Nobel Peace Prize?

Can democracy work in a secular state?

Why is Israel the only democracy in the Mideast?

Is the United States the world’s policeman?

Does the CIA not count as ‘boots on the ground”?

Do liberals now believe in the CIA?

Can we go to war with a country without knowing who is the opponent - Qaddafi, Gaddafi, el-Qaddafi, Gadhafi, Kadafi, or Kaddafi?

Why would Foreign Minister Moussa Kosssa seek political asylum in Great Britain when he is associated with the bombing of Pan Am 103?

At what point did the public start tuning out President Obama’s speech?

If President George W. Bush had commenced hostilities against Libya without consulting Congress, would impeachment proceedings be brought against him?

Would President Bush have been accused of blood for oil?

If Colonel Qaddafi is so evil, then why did the Obama Administration and the British Government push a year and a half ago to release the Libyan Bomber of Pan Am 103?

When will the Obama Administration figure out how to evacuate American citizens?

Do the Marines really want to return to the shores of Tripoli?

What if the Muslim Brotherhood ends up controlling Egypt?

When is the last time Congress declared war?

Exit strategy? What exit strategy?